Saturday, May 18, 2013

Green Tree

green trees“Auspicious singing, drums and sounds filled the air and the city. It looked like a desire tree blooming with whatever the mind desired.” (Janaki Mangala, 105)

nabha pura mangala gāna nisāna gahāgahe |
dekhi manoratha suratarū lalita lahālahe ||

The Vedas describe something known as a desire tree. In Sanskrit the word is either kalpataru or surataru. The latter mentions the suras, or demigods. They are residents of the heavenly planets. When the term “heaven” is invoked it must relate to something. In this case the heavenly aspect relates to increased material sense gratification. One way this is facilitated is through the desire tree, which immediately grants whatever the mind wants. Goswami Tulsidas chose to invoke this tree when describing the felicity that followed the lifting of the bow by Lord Rama.

It’s the winter. It’s cold outside. It takes you ten minutes to warm up your car. If you don’t have a remote starter, you have to run out into the cold, start the car, turn on the heat, and then run back into your house. Then you can get ready, eat something, and enter your car when it is warmed up. The car will be easier to drive, and there also won’t be the discomfort of the cold conditions.

Depending on where you live, in the winter months it could be so cold outside that the high temperature doesn’t even reach the freezing point. This is a little disturbing if you think about it. If you were to stay outside for an extended period of time, you would freeze to death. At least in the summer months if you stayed outside you would only be slightly discomforted. You could still survive. In the winter it is so cold that life cannot sustain itself without some means of heat generated by other forms of life.

winterAs life outside cannot survive in the winter, the leaves fall off the trees. This is depressing because the tree is meant to have leaves. A plant’s ideal destiny is to produce fruits. In the Vedas, the fruit-bearing trees are considered pious, and the ones without fruits are tagged as sinful. The fruit-bearing tree helps others to survive by providing food. The trees that only have leaves don’t really do anything for others besides providing oxygen and perhaps shade. Granted, these are necessary to sustain life, but if the tree could give fruits someone could rely on it for their livelihood.

When the tree is blooming, it looks better. Think of it like having a home that is nicely decorated. The interior and exterior arrangements make everything look better. In Janakpur a long time ago, it looked like a desire tree was in full bloom. A desire tree gives whatever the mind wants. If you want to eat something, you go up to the tree and ask for some food. They say that money doesn’t grow on trees, but if you go up to a desire tree, money will fall in bundles should you ask for it.

Now imagine that you had a city full of citizens kindly approaching a large desire tree. They simultaneously ask for their specific desire. The tree then responds by blooming all the things asked for. In this verse from the Janaki Mangala, Tulsidas says that beautiful singing and drums filled the air of the city. This was in response to the culmination of the contest of the bow. King Janaka vowed to give away his daughter Sita to whoever would first lift the bow of Lord Shiva. The prince of Ayodhya, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, Shri Rama, finally accomplished the feat, and everyone was so happy that joy filled the air.

The symbolic desire tree in this instance was not material. It was a tree that granted all the spiritual desires of the citizens. A spiritual desire is one that does not have any karma tied to it. If I ask for a tablet computer and I get it, the device then drives my actions. Since the device is related to matter, my subsequent actions are tied to matter as well, which means that I will have to accept a material body again in the next life. Lord Krishna, the same Shri Rama but in His original form, confirms this fact in the Bhagavad-gita, where He states that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they attain in the next life.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.6“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Celebrating Sita and Rama's marriageTo accept a material body in the next life is considered inauspicious because we are all spiritual at the core. Why not accept a spiritual body in the next life? The spiritual body is actually our original body; it is tied to our original consciousness. That consciousness is God consciousness, where we only think of the Supreme Lord and His interests.

In Janakpur the celebrating citizens were thinking only of Rama’s welfare, and also Sita’s. They wanted the divine couple to reunite, to stay together for all of time. They also wanted to celebrate Rama’s victory. Their desires were fulfilled by the only person who can fulfill all desires. By lifting and breaking that bow, Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, fulfilled so many desires simultaneously. As that desire tree was in full bloom, the scene was beautiful.

In Closing:

Whatever state you want to live,

To you the desire tree can give.


Money, glory and fame you like,

Or perhaps obstacles removed from sight.


Such trees in heaven to be found,

Large and small, all around.


For Rama lifting of Shiva’s bow an easy task,

Can grant any wish anyone could ask.


To celebrate His glories of desires the best,

Only reward of time to stand the test.


Thus the scene like flowering tree did look,

Joy from Sita and Rama’s marriage everyone took.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Spirited Debate

lotus flower“The well-wishers were happy and the enemies had crying faces. The poets describe the scene of the raising of the bow as being like a pond in the morning filled with so many chakava and chakora birds and kairava and kamala flowers.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 13.2)

hita mudita anahita rūdita mukha chabi kahata kabi dhanu jāga kī |
janu bhora cakka cakora kairava saghana kamala taḍāga kī ||

You’re at the local bar, watching the big game with a bunch of friends.  There are strangers there as well. The game is the biggest of the year; all eyes are on it. Each person watching has their own interest. There are the fans of the respective teams. There are the gamblers who have money riding on the outcome. There are also those who know one or several of the participants in some way. Some have a positive viewpoint in this regard, while others have a negative one. When the event is over, when the outcome is known, there will surely be some discussion. And the opinions are sure to vary. Some will be happy, while others will not. A long time ago, with the cracking of a bow that was heard around the world, the same variety in opinion was seen. The wise poet compared it to what is seen in a pond in the morning.

Goswami Tulsidas is the poet here, and he refers to a poet describing the event. Tulsidas is famous in India, where he is hailed as a saint by many and appreciated by countless others for his poetic ability. He himself was only interested in devotional service, the highest occupation for man. Worship of God is not monolithic, and it is not exclusive to any one region. There are many worshipers of the Supreme Lord in His personal incarnation of Shri Rama, but not all of them follow the same path. Some choose to meditate quietly on Rama’s form. Others like to remember His pastimes, while others enjoy describing His glories to others.

Goswami TulsidasTulsidas was so immersed in thoughts of Rama that he enjoyed writing wonderful devotional poetry about Him. As Rama’s many names were required in this endeavor, the poet was automatically a dependent on the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Lord. As these poems described Rama’s pastimes, Tulsidas also regularly remembered Rama’s activities. As the poet injected his own opinions, which are merely new expressions on the same truths that exist eternally, he also participated in glorifying Rama.

From this verse from the poet’s Janaki Mangala, we get a mental picture of what the scene was like when Rama lifted and broke Lord Shiva’s bow. Why would Rama do such a thing? Actually, everyone assembled in Janakpur that day was waiting for someone to lift Shiva’s bow. That darn thing was so heavy that no one could even move it. All any of the princes had to do was lift it and string it to win the contest.

The prize warranted the massive attendance. So many princes from around the world arrived so that they could have their chance to win the hand of Sita Devi, the beautiful daughter of King Janaka. The anticipation reached a crescendo when Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, took His turn. Of all the princes there, Rama seemed the least likely to win. He was so beautiful, and young too. He was a teenager, while the bow was like a mountain. Granted, so many of the spectators, including Sita and Janaka, wanted Rama to win, but there was the quiet fear that it just wasn’t going to happen.

With God, one should always expect the unexpected. When the unexpected does arrive, however, the emotions are always stronger. Since we know that Rama is God based on the statements of the Vedas and their authority figures, the tendency is to think first of the positive reactions to Rama’s feat. He lifted the bow without a problem and broke it while trying to string it. This was the same bow that no one else could move. Obviously Sita was happy, as were the other well-wishers. The king, the queen and their attendants were thrilled. The people of Janakpur were happy as well. But there were enemies watching too. They weren’t pleased. They had crying faces.

Rama lifting the bowWe get this mental picture from the first line of the above referenced verse. To give us more clarity, poets often invoke analogies. Here Tulsidas says that a poet would liken the scene to a pond in the morning. This particular pond would be filled with chakka and chakora birds and kairava and kamala flowers. These birds and flowers are referenced quite often in Vedic literature, especially with respect to the Supreme Lord and His pastimes. The saints who composed these works also often lived in the forests, so they would witness so much in nature and tie what they saw to God. This is how one truly becomes one with the nature around them. Everything is God, but at the same time everything is separate from the Lord. The simultaneous oneness and difference is best understood when everything around us is used in glorifying God, an act which is part of serving Him, which is the soul’s constitutional engagement.

“Because the blue lotus flower blossoms with the rising of the sun, the sun is the friend of the blue lotus. The chakravaka birds also appear when the sun rises, and therefore the chakravakas and blue lotuses meet.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 18.98 Purport)

The birds and flowers mentioned are opposite in behavior. The chakkas, which are often referred to as chakravakas, are like geese. These birds particularly prefer the morning time, when the sun rises. This is the time period used in the analogy. The chakoras, on the other hand, prefer the moon. Shri Rama appeared in the solar dynasty, and in this instance the breaking of the bow was like the sun rising for Janaka and family. It was also the beginning of the marriage of Sita and Rama. Therefore the well-wishers are like the chakkas, while the enemies are like the chakoras, who were upset that the sun rose.

The kairava is a water-lily that opens up at the sight of the moon. The kamala is the lotus flower, and it behaves in the opposite way. The kamala opens up at the sight of the sun, so the well-wishers were also like the kamala flower. The enemies here are like the kairava; both their pride and their hopes closed up once Rama broke the bow. He was like the dreadful sun to them.

The kairava and chakora are often used in glorifying Shri Rama as well, but here the references were befitting the occasion. Whereas in the outcome to material events all the opinions are more or less equal to one another, here the side of the well-wishers was better situated. They had the right reaction, one that has since been passed on to generations of saintly people who never tire of hearing of God’s triumphs.

In Closing:

When in Rama’s hands bow did break,

Varying reactions in audience to make.


Enemies of faces crying,

Well-wishers in happiness flying.


Like pond of chakka and chakoras it seemed,

When morning sun rises with rays to beam.


On friend and foe alike shined Rama’s glory,

Enemies blinded, devotees rejoice in the story.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dancing in the Rain

Krishna's lotus feet“One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equiposed in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn't care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.18-19)

image“Is your belly expanding? Just cut out carbs, especially simple sugars. These are commonly known as empty calories because they provide little lasting satisfaction. They go straight to your gut when you consume them in excess. And to top it all off, you’re hungry again shortly thereafter. Your blood pressure seem too high? Don’t eat so much salt. Put away the potato chips and avoid canned soups. Feel as if your circulation isn’t as good as it should be? Get rid of saturated fats. These clog up your arteries and make blood flow a lot more difficult. Whatever it is that is causing you pain, get rid of it. This way you’ll be better off.”

When applied universally, to all activities, this philosophy is known as shunyavada in Sanskrit. It means to negate everything, leaving only void. It is the natural response to a negative situation. If there is a sharp pain in your side from something pressing up against it, just remove the object causing the pressure. If you try this approach with everything in your life, you’re eventually left with nothing. And that is not the original intent. No one purposefully wants to sit in an empty space and do nothing, and yet that is precisely what will result if everything unwanted is negated. The better option is to figure out how to live in the existing surroundings. You have arms, ears, legs, and a face, so why not use them for good instead of ignoring them?

There is the famous saying: “life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” If you desperately want to do something on a particular day, should you let the pouring rain stop you? Granted, time and circumstance do dictate what is appropriate and when, but life is full of so many storms. What if you want to drive to a friend’s house? What if you have to get to work? If you wait for the storm to pass, the precious moments of opportunity are lost. If you wait for the storm to pass, then pretty soon the night will fall. Then you’ll have to wait for that to pass too. Thus your wait ends up being double what it should be.

If you learn to cope with the rain, however, you trade a little discomfort for a higher benefit. The spirit soul, the essence of identity, can use this valuable lesson to reach the best end in life. There will come an end to life, make no mistake about it. If there is a beginning to life, then there certainly must be an end. We haven’t reached that point yet, and so we’re not consciously aware of it, but since when did awareness have any bearing on a factual occurrence? We don’t think about our eyes blinking, but they do anyway. We don’t think about the sun rising tomorrow, but it will happen. In the same way, life will come to an end, even if we choose to ignore it.

In recognizing inevitable death, one can find the best situation for that time. As we don’t know exactly when it will come, why not find the best situation now? This way if the end of life should suddenly arrive, we’ll be in the place we want to be. Ah, but where is that place? What is the ideal situation? This we don’t know until it is revealed to us. The fruitive worker thinks that the best situation is a palatial building to call home, which is filled with lavish furniture and good company and which rests on a large estate. The mystic thinks that the best situation is one where amazing abilities are exercised. Floating in the air, holding your breath for hours, or reading minds seems like the best place to be. The empiricists think shunyavada, or nothingness, is the best place to be.

In all such cases, there is the time factor to consider. If you have a palatial building, how long will it give you happiness? What if death doesn’t arrive right away? What will you do with your home that has so many square feet? If you have the ability to read minds, what will that get you? An ability must be exercised; otherwise there is no tangible purpose to having it. In the exercise of the ability, there must be an end to reach. If you don’t know that end, then you’re in the same boat as the person who doesn’t have the ability. If you’re doing nothing, what will happen in five minutes? What about ten minutes? Will you not want to act eventually?

Worshiping GodIn the bhakti school, the best end is God consciousness. This end is also a beginning. If you ask someone who is truly immersed in divine love, where they only think of the best person in the world all the time, about their life before divine love, they have a difficult time remembering. They will think: “Wow, that was such a long time ago. I was a different person back then. Life was so boring. I tried this thing and that, and none of it was any fun. What was I to do, though? I gambled, drank beer, chased women, and ate meat because that’s what everyone else was doing. How was I to know that there was a better life out there, one where such behavior wasn’t even required? My existence really started to have meaning when I found God and then took to serving Him.”

The service aspect is the key. That is the “after” to the “before” of meeting God. Time is always a factor, irrespective of where you are. Time is a frame of reference marked by its influence in change. If you find God somehow or another, time will still take hold. If five minutes later you forget God, then what did finding Him really mean? On the other hand, if you serve Him afterwards, then meeting Him really made a difference.

Hanuman serving Sita and RamaShri Hanuman is the best example in this regard. A famous figure of the Vedic tradition, he once met the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince named Rama. Hanuman met God face to face. He was impressed with what he saw. He was mesmerized, enchanted, and warmed to the heart. His existence didn’t stop there, however. Hanuman already had full knowledge and mastery of the mystic perfections of yoga. Forget sitting in a hundred degree room and practicing stretching exercises for an hour, Hanuman was a real yogi. He could change his shape, become light, lift heavy objects, and do all sorts of other amazing things. Yet none of this meant anything to him until he took up service to Rama.

In that service he met so many obstacles. There were many “storms”, so to speak. He didn’t just hope for them to pass. He didn’t let them get in his way of serving God. Rather, he danced in the rain by facing these obstacles head on. Whether leaping across an ocean, hiding in a tree in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, or fighting off enemy combatants who were the lowest among mankind, Hanuman was always thinking of Rama. He was serving him throughout, making the most to his existence.

We can follow his example through keeping conscious of God. The easiest way to maintain that consciousness is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Serving God is in the soul’s constitution; it is the real meaning to an existence. The potent spirit soul becomes fully vibrant when lovingly serving the beloved creator of this and every other universe. In that ecstatic condition known as bhava, treated equally are both the presence and absence of storms.

In Closing:

For storm to pass let me wait,

To be drenched not an ideal state.


After storm another to come along,

Then again to sing waiting song.


Better if in the rain you can dance,

This way success not left up to chance.


Many storms in Hanuman’s path came,

Served Rama, treated them all the same.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Discovering New Worlds

world map“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

Bhagavad-gita, 10.8“We’re fed up. We’ve had it here. We can’t stay here for another minute. The government is out of control. They take upwards of fifty percent of our income. They don’t let us practice our religion. There are no jobs anywhere. They just unilaterally passed a law where they can take ten percent of our bank account balance. There was no debate period either. This is blatant confiscation of property. Let us discover a new world, where we can live free.”

Indeed, such situations have been the cause of the discovery of new lands since time immemorial. In an ancient work called the Shrimad Bhagavatam, even simple village girls mention how citizens leave a country when the government stops offering protection. The human being is a free spirit, so its natural reaction is to flee when freedom is encroached upon. What’s forgotten in the heat of the moment, however, is that the same negative conditions gradually emerge in the new area, nullifying the prior difficult journey and subsequent discovery. The key ingredient that is missing is God consciousness, and when it exists any area can turn into the cherished panacea.

“It is very natural and psychological that a prostitute does not care for her paramour as soon as he loses his money. Similarly, when the citizens find that a government is incapable of giving them full protection, they leave the country. A student, after finishing his education, gives up his relationship with the teacher and the school. A rich man, after taking his reward from his worshiper, gives him up.” (Gopis speaking to Uddhava, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 46)

Why is God consciousness so important? Isn’t religion about faith? If I’m travelling to a new area, isn’t that putting faith in God? Why is that bad then?

Since it is believed that the truths of religion can’t be proved in a scientific experiment, the whole exercise is considered one of faith. Indeed, that is one of the ways to discount any of the things said in scriptural works. “Oh, that’s just what your faith says. My faith says something else and that person’s faith says something entirely different. Who are we to reconcile? Therefore let’s keep religion out of this. Faith has no business in public policy or in guiding human behavior.”

As it is an integral aspect of all relationships, faith does not make religion unique at all. Real religion must be scientifically based for it to be valid. Real religion consists of nothing more than laws and guiding principles aimed at achieving a better destination. There is always religion, though the ones that are manmade go under the umbrella of secularism. In secularism, some of the sins are discriminating against the races, failing to recycle, and not paying enough in taxes. In secularism, the aim is to exploit the material nature as much as possible without feeling guilty about it. Make the successful feel guilty, but the rest can be considered victims. In secularism, there are distinctions made between race, gender, ethnicity and nationality.

In real religion just the opposite conditions are present. The rules and regulations are not created by man. They are passed on since time immemorial. Man can’t even figure out when the original transfer of information took place. The laws passed down are applicable to any time period as well. Two plus two equals four. That is true today, it is true tomorrow, and it will be true a thousand years into the future. It was also true one million years ago. The same goes for the law of gravity, the properties of nature, and the tendencies of the different species.

the changing bodyThe central truth of real religion is aham brahmasmi. This is a Sanskrit aphorism that means “I am a spirit soul.” There is no reliance on faith here; this is a truth understood through basic observation. We know that we look different today than we did when we first emerged from the womb of our mother. Yet our identity has not changed. Our body, therefore, cannot identify us. The body has completely changed and yet we are the same individual. Thus the vital source inside is what identifies us; not any external factors. To take identity only from external factors is thus a fallacy.

The individual is considered alive when there is a free spirit inside of the body. And we can tell the free spirit is there through involuntary movement and also through the presence of consciousness. And consciousness is never tied to any external condition. Think about this. Say that you work hard and achieve all your goals in life. At an old age you sit in your living room and watch television. How are you any different at that point than the person who didn’t really go for all of their goals but sits in the same situation? You have two people of an old age who are alive and generally in the same health. If they both took different paths in life but ended up in the same destination, it must mean that the paths relating to material acquisition are not that important. The rich man and the poor man both die. They also both grow old and contract disease. Therefore distinctions made off of opulence in terms of beauty, wealth, strength and fame should not be used for identification.

In real religion the ideal aim is pure God consciousness. No one will ever be happy without this condition achieved. Real God consciousness is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic. It is like the heat and light properties of fire or the wetness of water. You can’t take this property of the soul away, though you can mask it. The shade can somewhat hide the brightness of the lamp and the clouds can cover the sunlight. The light still exists in these situations, but to external objects there is some covering.

lamp with krishnaThe situation with the conditioned living entities is similar. When the spirit soul is placed in a temporary and perishable body, the original dharma is covered up. While this has no bearing on the soul, it does influence the way the individual in the body acts. That effect is seen in consciousness. We get glimpses of the original consciousness when there is a desire for freedom. Thus the drive to discover new areas at least confirms the notion that without God consciousness one is not in line with their essential characteristic.

If that God consciousness is not created in the new area, the same unwanted conditions are sure to crop up again. Think of it this way: The place you’re desperate to leave was once not so bad either. But through time, with enough cheating and malfeasance, which were spurred on by the lack of real God consciousness, the place went from desirable to undesirable. The same thing will happen anywhere, even if the residence is in outer space.

Radha and KrishnaOn the other hand, if there is real God consciousness, any place can turn into Vaikuntha, or a realm free of miseries. Shrimati Radharani lives in Vrindavana in apparently unpleasant circumstances. The person she loves the most is not with her. He stays within her mind, but externally she must remain with people who are against the love of her life. And yet through constant thought of Him, which is known as yoga, she is always consumed with affectionate feelings. These are transcendental feelings since they relate to God. Radharani is always in complete God consciousness, so nothing can mask her immeasurable love for the Lord.

Shri Hanuman, another person who loves God without motivation and without interruption, finds happiness in a solitary cave. He doesn’t have a fancy house or a large bank balance. He doesn’t even have so many people around him for company. He simply chants the name of Rama over and over again and reads from the Ramayana. Rama is a powerful and descriptive name for God and the Ramayana describes the Supreme Lord’s pastimes on earth from an ancient time when He appeared as a pious prince named Rama.

In the present age of Kali, real God consciousness is virtually absent. New religions, or systems with guiding principles, are constantly created, with some even saying that sex between the same genders is a way to reach a good end. And one who argues against such a practice is considered intolerant. If what is wrong is considered right and what is right is considered wrong, how is anyone expected to be happy? The God consciousness that is inside all of us can still be reawakened, though. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” our immediate surroundings can slowly turn into Vaikuntha. And with the improved surroundings we acquire the wisdom that allows us to maintain that peaceful existence wherever we go.

In Closing:

“That our government becoming oppressive we know,

So let us leave, to a new land we’ll go.


Religion in freedom can practice there,

For general welfare everyone will care.”


Before going stop for a moment and think,

How present land into oppression did sink?


Through historical accounts backtracking,

Understood that God consciousness lacking.


In new area maladies the same to arise,

If to God consciousness citizens not to rise.


Like Radha and Hanuman holy names take,

And into Vaikuntha your surroundings make.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Pastime Umbrella

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“O sober Vidura, King Indra, his honor having been insulted, poured water incessantly on Vrindavana, and thus the inhabitants of Vraja, the land of cows, were greatly distressed. But the compassionate Lord Krishna saved them from danger with His pastime umbrella, the Govardhana Hill.” (Uddhava, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.33)

When you hear that someone has a “pastime umbrella,” you probably think that it’s a smaller object turned into an umbrella for play. Either that or it’s an umbrella used only for fun, not necessarily for protection against the rain. You know, such and such person walks around with an umbrella for no reason, like Linus from the Peanuts with his blanket. Or such and such child loves to play with their tiny umbrella, which allows them to imitate the adults. For the Supreme Lord, the pastime umbrella is a magnificent hill that is so large that it takes many hours just to circumambulate.

Why would you think of circumambulating a hill? Where would you get that idea? What purpose would that serve?

Parikrama, or circumambulating, is a way of showing respect in the Vedic tradition. If we see our parents or grandparents after a long time, we may give them a hug. Indeed, this is a sign of respect. If you just say, “Hey, what’s up?”, you’re not really showing so much respect. That’s how you treat acquaintances. That’s how you treat people who you don’t know that well. The hug is a gesture of true affection. It is thus reserved for people you really care about.

Sita Devi honoring AnasuyaIn the Vedic tradition, you greet parents and elders by touching their feet. This is more than a sign of affection. It is a gesture of honor. It is a way to worship, to acknowledge the superiority of someone else. It requires humility on the part of the person offering the worship. There are reciprocal benefits as well. The elders are pleased by the show of humility. They are then more favorable to you. Their favor is important because they are likely wiser than you. They have lived longer, so just based on the strength of their experiences they have a leg up on you. If you are mean to them, if you are disrespectful, why would they feel comfortable openly sharing valuable insight into life’s troubling questions?

The show of humility also benefits the individual personally. The false ego, or ahankara, is both the initial cause of the fall into the material world and the cause for the continual stay in the land that is known for birth and death. There is an ego for sure, as we are all individuals. As an individual, I refer to myself as “I”, but under the sway of the false ego I don’t really know who that “I” refers to. I think it refers to my body, my strength, my vision, and my intelligence. I even sometimes think it refers to my house, my family, and my income.

The “I” really refers to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. That soul is the same in quality in me as it is in you. You and me are equal when you strip everything away. Ah, but to strip such things away without actually physically removing them, thereby only removing their influence with respect to vision, is very difficult. Humility offers us a way to remove the “false” aspect from the ego. If I openly admit with sincerity that someone else is superior to me, that I am obliged to touch their feet, I recognize that I am not everything. I don’t have everything, and neither will I ever. I should show respect because others are the same as me, and when I reach an older age, I will appreciate respect offered to me by the younger generation.

Circumambulating is a better way of offering respect. It is a tradition not typically applied today to other people. It is shown more towards objects of reverence, such as deities, temples and places of pilgrimage. We can understand the purpose to circumambulation as it relates to showing respect by looking to a famous story involving Lord Ganesha. By circumambulating his parents three times, he acknowledged that he had acquired all knowledge. Shiva and Parvati are the guardians of this material world, which is known as durga, or difficult to overcome. By respecting them, one is able to live here very nicely. Ganesha circled them three times, showing that they were everything to him.

Ganesha worshiping his parentsToday, devotees often circumambulate a famous hill in Vrindavana. It gained its worshipable status directly through the influence of the Supreme Lord. He declared that it was non-different from Him, and so one who worshiped it worshiped Him at the same time. He is the creator of the material world. Earning His favor allows one to leave this land of birth and death and achieve a realm that is changeless. That realm is considered unmanifest, or avyakta, in comparison to the change that we see in the material land, but there is still all variety in activity available there, for everyone has spiritual bodies.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.21“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.21)

This hill in Vrindavana was once the Supreme Lord’s pastime umbrella. He lifted it in sport after the king of heaven became angry over being slighted. The residents didn’t purposefully set out to anger him. Shri Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead, was manifesting His pastimes on the earthly realm at the time. He was in Vrindavana as a young child, taken care of by Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. Krishna asked Nanda one year to skip the annual Indra puja and instead worship the neighboring hill named Govardhana. Nanda and the residents agreed, and everyone was happy afterwards.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillExcept Indra. He ordered that a massive torrential downpour hit the residents. About to float away from the floodwaters, they took shelter under a very large umbrella. That umbrella was the just-worshiped Govardhana Hill, which Krishna lifted to save the residents. If He can create all of the universes and their many planets, why can’t He lift a hill? Indeed, for Him such a massive hill is like a toy in the hands of a child. The skeptic won’t believe in such an incident, and they will chalk it up to mythology, but if you really think about it, if Krishna is God, why wouldn’t He be able to lift a hill? He was God before and God after, so He had to be God during as well. He didn’t become God by lifting the hill; He was already all-powerful.

Krishna can lift hills in sport and turn them into massive umbrellas, and He can also hear any prayer offered His way. Those which catch His ear are the ones that relate to serving Him. Service to Him is more than just a way to purify our existence. Service to Him is the very essence of our existence. In any other state we are impure. Thankfully Shri Krishna leaves Govardhana Hill and other important objects here to allow us to reclaim our essence.

In Closing:

Service to God is our real essence,

Thankfully we have Govardhana’s presence.


Served as pastime umbrella one time,

When residents struck by Indra unkind.


For Krishna it was easy to lift,

Delivering helping hand swift.


If such an object an umbrella He can make,

Then why not your prayers He can take?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Perfection of Occupational Duty

Lord Krishna“The perfection of one's occupational duty, whether in the sphere of duty to oneself, one's community or one's nation, is judged by the degree to which the Lord is satisfied.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.32 Purport)

How do we know if the work we’re doing is producing the desired result? How do we know if we’re doing something the right way? As there is service in all activity, even those which aim to please our own senses, we can tell if the work is done correctly based on the satisfaction of the object being served. As occupational duty at the individual level is an obligation to work, that obligation must come from somewhere. Not surprisingly, that origin is also the determinant of whether that duty is performed perfectly or not.

If there is service in all activity, it means that everyone is a servant. How does that work?

The student serves the teacher. Though they are looking to get an education, and thus become more knowledgeable, within the realm of the class their objective is to please the teacher. The teacher offers the instruction, and the student obliges by absorbing that which is heard and then applying it as it should be applied. The long hours spent on assignments and on studying are in service to the teacher. The teacher’s pleasure is shown through the grade they give the student. A passing grade means the teacher has been satisfactorily served, and a failing grade means their favor has not been earned.

school blackboardThe employee in a company serves the higher ups. The highest up, the proverbial owner of the establishment, is also a servant. They serve the customer. The restaurant owner hopes to sell products that customers will gladly pay money for. The CEO of a publicly traded company hopes to satisfy the shareholders, the actual owners of the business. The head of state, who is in apparently the most superior position, also is a servant. They are a servant of the public. The less they serve the public and the more they try to accept service, the worse off the people are. Indeed, in governments where the state is deemed to be the most powerful entity, and not the Supreme Lord, the greatest disservice is done to the citizens, who find themselves in ruin afterwards.

In the Vedas, the occupational duties of the human being are put into four general categories. There are the duties for the priestly class, who can be likened to an intelligentsia. They are the ones who have the deep-meaning discussions on the reason for an existence and why man acts the way he does. Then there are the administrators, the people in charge of government. They have to use force to protect against criminals, and in that application they must be both objective and skilled. They are not expected to be supremely wise, since they will have to administer justice without being softened by knowledge of human tendencies.

There are the ordinary laborers and also the merchants/businessmen. It was the behavior of members of this latter group during one famous incident that shows how the perfection of occupational duties can be achieved. You can say that the intelligentsia is materially superior to the ordinary laborers, but in the grand scheme such comparisons are not necessary. Every person has to work. This is a fact. The more you don’t work, the worse off you’ll be. People who work for a living usually don’t sleep into the afternoon and spend the rest of the day in front of the television. They also typically don’t expect to live off the work of others. Work is central to an existence. Even the most renounced yogis of the past, such as King Janaka of Mithila, also worked, though they didn’t have to.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.20“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)

cow protectionThe work performed by this specific group of citizens was perfect because the highest authority was pleased. By occupation they were merchants and farmers. Their duties involved cow protection, farming and the general conducting of business. That being said, we would think the perfection of their work would be a community where cows were protected, food was produced in abundance, and lots of profits rolled in from business transactions. These conditions were certainly met, but they alone did not earn the favor of the creator of the system of occupational duty assigned to members of the various classes, which are determined by inherent qualities and not just by birth. His favor was earned because they did their work to please Him.

So if two groups do the same work, with one doing it to please God and the other just to please themselves, the former group is superior? Why should the intent of the work matter?

The intent matters because the real purpose to work is to purify consciousness. In the Vedas you will not find mottos such as: “Work hard to achieve your goals; Make the most out of life by setting goals and then working hard towards achieving them; You can be and do anything in this life; you just need the will to strive for success.” The reason for the omission is simple: this world is temporary. Nothing is permanent and thus nothing is guaranteed. You can work your whole life towards something and still not get it. You can be entirely sincere as well. Just talk to the scorned lover for evidence of this harsh reality of life. Despite their best efforts to get the love of their life to reciprocate in amorous feelings, they were not able. If such failure is possible, why would any book of real knowledge recommend this path?

The human being can purify his existence through work. That is the first purpose to the system of occupational duty. To start, we’re given occupational duties, which immediately eliminates the guesswork. It is much better to know what you’re doing on a job than not. If you show up to work on the first day and they don’t have anything for you to do, is that good? It’s much better if there are assigned tasks that need completion. The beauty of the system of varna and ashrama, or occupational duty based on quality and spiritual institution, is that the tasks provided will guarantee purification of the conditioned spirit if performed properly.

Worshiping Govardhana HillThese residents performed a worship for the first time. It was dedicated to a neighboring hill known as Govardhana. Now, any person can go up to a hill and worship it, but this inaugural worship was done at the urging of Shri Krishna, who was living in Vrindavana. He is the Supreme Lord, the detail behind the abstract. He is not the only Personality of Godhead, but He is the original. He has other forms that are personal expansions. These are the same as Him in potency. Then He has separated expansions. We’re included in this latter list, and so we’re not as potent as God Himself. Nothing can be completely separated from Him, as God is all-encompassing.

These residents worshiped Govardhana Hill by offering the results of their hard-earned work. The worship was entirely authorized, as it was arranged and conducted under Shri Krishna’s supervision. And yet there was a leap of faith involved, as this was the first time this specific hill was worshiped. Through their efforts in this sacrifice, Shri Krishna was pleased, which meant that their occupational duty was perfectly carried out.

In the case where work is done in the absence of consciousness of God, perfection is lacking. Even the animal works to satisfy themselves. They don’t know of a God. The beaver builds a dam to satisfy itself. The tiger goes out and hunts its prey in order to eat. The birds fly south for the winter and the monkeys have sexual relations with pretty much anyone who is around. There is no chance for a purification of existence because the requisite consciousness is lacking.

The human being has the ability to recognize that they are eternally a servant of Krishna, or God. More than just faith that is extended without inquisitiveness or critical thought, real religiosity involves service that scientifically makes sense. If in all other kinds of work someone else must be satisfied for the work to be done properly, why shouldn’t the same conditions exist in spiritual life? And since God is the origin of all matter and spirit, how can His satisfaction ever be considered anything but the primary objective?

Shri HanumanIf the boss is satisfied, the customers still might not be. Thus the business could go out of business. The same holds true if your boss is the leader of the country and the citizens toss him aside. But satisfying God has no defects. The work conducted isn’t always the same by everyone. Shri Hanuman leaped across an ocean and infiltrated an enemy territory to please God. This was his assigned occupational duty. The same Krishna, in His manifestation as Shri Rama, was so satisfied with Hanuman that Hanuman today is famously known as the greatest servant of Rama. There is no better opulence than this. This is the perfection of an existence. And from that post Hanuman only feels further compelled to serve and please Rama.

His primary method of service can bring the perfection of our occupational duties as well. Hanuman always chants the names of Rama and His wife Sita, who are both also represented in the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Whether we are a businessman, a police officer, a student or an ordinary worker, following the lead of the bona fide spiritual master we can recite these holy names and keep God’s pleasure in mind. From His satisfaction, which is guaranteed for those who are pure of heart, we can know for sure that our work is being done properly.

In Closing:

Can please boss by doing what you’re told,

But still the business can quickly fold.


The head of state even can try to satisfy,

But from pain and misery cannot indemnify.


Only the Supreme Lord is the controller of all,

His devotee never from grace to fall.


Like Hanuman work for His satisfaction,

Chant holy names for endless glorification.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Visible Proof

Krishna dancing on the Kaliya serpent“The inhabitants of Vrindavana were perplexed by great difficulties because a certain portion of the Yamuna was poisoned by the chief of the reptiles [Kaliya]. The Lord chastised the snake-king within the water and drove him away, and after coming out of the river, He caused the cows to drink the water and proved that the water was again in its natural state.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.31)

In spite of the fact that we accept so many truths on authority alone, when it comes to the highest truth, that relating to the origin of matter and spirit, the original cause of the animating force within this universe and in every one of its creatures, we insist on visual evidence. “Give me some experiment to show that God exists. I need something beyond faith. Sure, there is an animating spark inside all of us, but how can we prove where it came from?” The origin Himself knows of this tendency in man, and so He takes special effort to give extra proof whenever there is doubt, further illustrating His unmatched kindness.

“How can you prove that there is a God? Show Him to me if He exists. I need an experiment that I can conduct that shows that He exists. Show me some evidence from fossils that He roamed this earth. Give me some archaeological evidence that He created this earth.”

These questions are ironic, considering that documented evidence already exists. This evidence is not really a secret either. In the many spiritual traditions of the world, the origin is known as God, who is vaguely described. Then in the Vedas there is the most detail provided, where names, forms and pastimes are presented. They are passed on in an oral tradition originally and then documented in written word later on. Someone saw God, remembered their experience, and then described it to others. Others then accepted that information and wrote it down. Others followed with additional written words, which were then passed on from generation to generation. Where is the difficulty in believing that this could happen?

We today know that Shakespeare roamed the earth not because we saw him personally. We know he existed because of works attributed to him that are available today. His written word apparently held together from the time of its original composition. Also, others who saw him wrote down their experiences, allowing future generations to know of his existence. The same holds true for any historical personality.

In the Vedas, the same description of experiences exists, except they pertain to the highest being. To prove His existence and to give pleasure to those who believe in Him, He does amazing things. The amazing is always remembered more than the mundane. Therefore the mundane is hardly described in the Vedas. The amazing takes up much more space. All the evidence required is there. God can be seen in the words that describe Him.

Krishna and ArjunaThere are also the teachings presented by God in works such as the Bhagavad-gita. These works are manuals for life; guidebooks on how to go about living. Living involves fearing, eating, sleeping and mating. Living as a human being additionally brings thinking about the future, wondering about the past, and inquiring into the greater mysteries, such as life and death and the infinite time and space. All issues are addressed with certainty in the Bhagavad-gita, whereas in mundane works these things are just speculated on. The speaker of the Gita, Shri Krishna, does not wax poetic on these issues. He speaks with ontological certitude. He knows what He is talking about, and one who understands that follows His teachings with great sincerity. From their practice and the benefits that arrive afterwards, Krishna’s divine nature is further confirmed.

We accept so many things on faith alone. We don’t experience the rocket ship going into outer space, but based on the pictures shown on television, we accept it as fact. Comparing the population of human beings that have been in outer space to those who haven’t, the latter is much larger. And yet that same group widely accepts the testimony of the former. The news shows us so many images that we accept without hesitation. And mind you, the majority of the stories they present are either fed to them or purposefully sought out. We think that when the newscast shows people on the street being interviewed that the sample is randomly selected, but in reality there was an action line going in, and whichever respondents fell into that action line were the ones chosen to be aired. In political stories, the powers that be send out their spokespeople to feed the media with whatever line they choose. The media then dutifully reports on what they hear. Thus there is little honesty in journalism, and yet everything is accepted by the consumer of news without hesitation.

The insistence on visible evidence ignores the obvious defect in sight itself. The defect in sight is not just with the eyes either. The larger error is from the processing of what the eyes see. At the time of birth, man inherits a forgetful mind and imperfect senses. Maharaja Yudhishthira, a famous king, was once asked what he thought the most amazing thing in life was. He responded that despite seeing so many people die, the human being still thinks that he will live forever. He knows for sure that his ancestors are no longer living, and yet he still ignores impending death. This is the most amazing thing. This means that the consumption of visual evidence is not immune from defects. Despite seeing the effects that alcohol has on us, we still drink too much and pay the price afterwards. Despite knowing that eating too much will increase our weight, we still go ahead and overindulge in food. There was undisputed visual evidence at the outset, but it still wasn’t fully accepted, despite its prominent availability.

Krishna dancing on the Kaliya serpentIn Vrindavana a long time ago, the residents once saw an amazing act of a young boy. This wasn’t the first amazing act of His. Prior to this He had thwarted a demoniac creature who tried to kill Him using a whirlwind. They also saw Him survive the attack of a devilish witch who had placed poison on her breast. She nursed the young child, thinking that He would die, but the reverse occurred. The amazing little darling of Vrindavana sucked the very life out of her.

On this particular day the Yamuna river was poisoned by a serpent named Kaliya. The river was so important to the residents and the protected animals of the community, so this was a dangerous situation. The young child fearlessly dove into the river and subdued the snake. In the beginning He was under the clutches of the snake, but He freed Himself and then danced on its hoods. Those people of the town who hadn’t fainted from worry saw all of this take place. They were amazed at the young boy’s ability to take on a snake. In a snake versus a boy, the boy is the underdog, especially if the snake is powerful like Kaliya. And yet the underdog won again, without a problem.

The young child of Nanda and Yashoda drove Kaliya away, but since He knew man’s tendency to insist on visual evidence, He had the cows drink some of the water from the river. This way everyone could tell that the poison was gone. Subduing Kaliya should have gained the trust from the others. If the child said the water was fine, He should have been believed. But He left no room for doubt. He gave the visual evidence that man is so insistent on having.

Krishna showing the universal formHe has done the same many other times in fact. When delivering the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield, to prove that He wasn’t a hack mental speculator, an armchair philosopher exercising His mental muscles on a picturesque afternoon, He showed the universal form. This is a factual vision that is not possible to see with normal eyes. Think of the entire universe crammed into one painting. Such an image exists, though it can’t be properly painted. There is a picture of you available from outer space, though you can’t see it. The inability to see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Similarly, the universal form, which is one way to see God for those who are insistent on visual evidence, always exists. On one famous day, Shri Krishna showed it to Arjuna.

In Mathura, Krishna dragged the dead body of the evil king named Kamsa in order to prove to Vasudeva and Devaki, Krishna’s embattled parents, that Kamsa was indeed dead. As Lord Chaitanya, the same Krishna brought a page from the Kurma Purana to a brahmana to prove to him that Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, was never actually touched by the fiend named Ravana.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.119“Indeed, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu eagerly tore this page from the Kurma Purana, although the book was very old, and He later showed it to Ramadasa Vipra, whose unhappiness was mitigated.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.119)

Following the Lord’s lead, the kind Vaishnava souls of today try to give the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to as many people as possible. This is audible evidence of God’s existence. The same visual is passed on through the written words of the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Thus visible proof of God’s existence is available to anyone who is fortunate enough to want to see it.

In Closing:

If of God’s existence you care,

All evidence already there.


Of experiences with God saints wrote down,

Words create visual, proof of God through sound.


But insistence on sight the Lord knows,

So extra proof He always shows.


After Kaliya’s hoods from Krishna’s feet sank,

At Lord’s insistence, from Yamuna the cows drank.


Word of subduer of Kaliya enough to rely upon,

Still the Lord showed proof that poison was gone.


Holy names reveal that God is still around,

Therefore saints liberally vibrate that sound.