Saturday, June 1, 2013

It’s You and It’s Me

Ravana“Having thus spoken to Ravana, Vaidehi, that celebrated wife, turned her back to Ravana and again spoke these words:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.5-6)

evamuktvā tu vaidehī rāvaṇam tam yaśasvinī ||
rāvaṇam pṛṣṭhataḥ kṛtvā bhūyo vacanambravīt |

Here Sita Devi adds insult to injury in her reply to the fiendish king of Lanka, Ravana. The injury came from her harsh rebuke of his advances. Think of putting forth your best plea to someone and having them reject you in the worst possible way. The pain of rejection is stronger in this scenario. The classic response of “It’s not you, it’s me” emerged from the desire to soften the blow of rejection on the hopeful party. In this instance, the desire was just the opposite. Sita wanted Ravana to know that there was no possible way she would be with him. Such an emphatic denial was necessary because the proposed relationship was impossible to create.

Think of a situation where a child on a commercial airplane asks to step into the cockpit and man the controls. Sure the behavior is cute and endearing, but there is no way the idea should be entertained in the least. The results would be disastrous. Think of any situation where the thing desired is completely incongruous. With the worst possible situation imaginable, know that it still doesn’t compare to what Ravana requested. Indeed, there was no way for him to get what he wanted.

RavanaIn his mind it didn’t seem so. He just wanted the company of a woman. This had never been a problem up to this point. As a powerful king he had conquered many other powerful kings around the world. The boon of those victories was the wives of the conquered kings. Thus Ravana had the most beautiful wives in the world. They were devoted to him, and they served his every need. As he liked to get drunk off wine every single night, they would follow suit. A glimpse into their world of partying is provided in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana. Shri Hanuman, who went to search for Sita, stumbled upon Ravana’s nightlife inside of the opulent palaces of the city.

As Ravana always got what he wanted in terms of female association, he thought he could have Sita in the same way. Though he didn’t conquer over her husband, he felt like he didn’t have to. If we see a glass of water on the kitchen counter, we shouldn’t have a problem drinking it. Just pick it up and enjoy, no? The close proximity of Sita Devi’s physical body gave the illusion to Ravana that he could have her association without issue. Just as it was impossible for him to have Sita, there was no way for him to defeat Rama, her husband, in a fair fight. Fortunately for him at the time, Ravana didn’t try to go that route. He instead created a ruse to steal Sita away. He forcefully took her from the side of her husband. Though she hadn’t done anything wrong and didn’t desire his company at all, he took her anyway.

As he used physical force to bring her to Lanka, he thought it wouldn’t be a problem to win her over. Rama was the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya and was known throughout the world for His fighting prowess with the bow and arrow. And yet Rama was residing in the lonely forest at the time, divested of His kingdom and the opulence it provided. Ravana thought that Sita was being forced to suffer at Rama’s behest. In the demon’s mind, there was no way that the princess enjoyed living in the renounced forest. Ravana had an opulent kingdom, so that would appeal to her more.

Sita DeviHe practically begged her to become his wife. He openly declared that he would become her slave if she gave in to his advances. He would do anything for her. What Ravana didn’t know was that Sita would do anything for Rama. And that wouldn’t be to satisfy her material desires, or kama, for kama doesn’t exist in Sita. Her desires are considered prema, or pure love, because they are directed at the Supreme Lord, who happens to be her husband. Thus what Ravana requested was impossible; it wasn’t going to happen.

In her initial reply, Sita advised Ravana to keep his focus on his own wives. She compared him to a person who has sinned all their life asking for salvation at the end. She told him that she was incapable of doing anything so wrong, for she was born into a pious family and then later on married into one. In this verse from the Ramayana, we see her make a subtle physical gesture before continuing on with the rejection.

To turn your back to someone while talking to them is considered very rude. In this instance, it gave the impression to Ravana that Sita didn’t even want to look at him. She didn’t turn her back in shyness; she did so in disgust. After turning her back, she would continue with harsh words that were rooted in the truth. The “it’s not you; it’s me”, line didn’t hold true here. It was more like, “It’s you and it’s me.” “You are a disgusting creature full of sin, and I am the religiously wedded wife of the most pious man in the world. You can never be with me and I can never be with anyone except Rama.”

In the same way know that through following devotional service, one’s love for the Supreme Lord, who is the best friend of every living entity, is what defines them. In that highest platform of consciousness, there is no way for the devotee to accept any other protector. And by the same token, the materially attached, especially those who are direct enemies of the Supreme Lord, become too disgusting to even look at. Better it is to keep the vision of the beautiful Sita and Rama than to even think of gazing upon the vile Ravana.

In Closing:

Reduce sting of rejection to try,

To other party give famous lie.


“It’s not you; it’s me” softens the blow,

So that real flaws they’ll not know.


To Ravana not offered in the same way,

Turning her back first, Sita rejection to say.


She of highest character, Ravana vile,

Remember her only, she of sweetest smile.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Making the Parts Move

Shrila Prabhupada“When the car is ready, the driver sits in the car and moves it as he desires. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61): the living entity is as if seated on the machine of the body, and the car of the body is moving by the control of material nature, just as the railway trains are moving under the direction of the controller. The living entities, however, are not the bodies; they are separate from the cars of the body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.32 Purport)

On an episode of the popular comedy television series, The Big Bang Theory, the group of scientist friends made an experiment of being able to control a robot using computer commands. The robot could do basic things like pick up items out of a bag of takeout food and move here and there and use its arms. To the scientists, the experiment was really interesting; a breakthrough in intelligence in fact. To the audience there was still the joke that to do a simple thing with the robot required so many commands to be entered into the computer first. Nevertheless, the robot was eventually able to do what was asked. The parts were moving at the control of a more intelligent being, which actually shows us what is more important to study.

What do we mean by this?

robot on Big Bang TheoryThe robot moves and does things with its arms, but without a controller, the robot would be just an ordinary pile of metal that is uniquely constructed. It would be a work of art, meant to be viewed instead of utilized. The person who created the robot is more important. The person who controls it after its construction is just as important. Without such a guiding force, there is no importance to the parts. In the same way, the living entities consist of moving parts coupled with an intelligent guiding force. If you ignore the superior force, you are essentially wasting your time in the study.

Think of how much research is done into the parts. All of the daily stories in the newspapers about preventing this disease and that relate only to the parts. Controlling cholesterol means manipulating the part that is the arteries. These carry blood from the heart, which is an essential function. Without blood going to the other parts of the body, the heart would not be able to survive. Therefore ensuring that the arteries aren’t clogged up is very important.

Controlling the weight of the body is a way to manipulate the parts as a whole, shaping their appearance. Obesity is the condition where there is too much “stuff” in the body for it to handle, sort of like a bag that is about to break from being overloaded with items. With weight loss, you learn how to decrease the burden on the component parts, thus making life for the resident within the body more peaceful.

But what about the resident? Where is the curiosity into its origin, its properties, and its travels? Where did this resident come from? Was it just a random collision of other body parts that caused its birth? And at the time of death, it will cease to be?

From the Vedas we learn that the resident is eternal. It is blissful and knowledgeable as well. The fact that the resident remains the same despite whatever changes occur to the parts is one way to prove the eternality of the resident. The resident is the same when there are fully functioning parts during youth as when there are malfunctioning parts in old age. And the parts will indeed malfunction. Despite the best mechanic, a car will eventually drive its last mile. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to drive it another inch. In the same way, the car that is the body will eventually pass, while the resident will be left to look for a new car.

“We can’t see the resident. Therefore how can we study it? We can rely on your Vedas for scientific explanations of its properties, but what will that knowledge gain us? How can we be sure that the information is true anyway?”

PizzaFor starters, sight isn’t the sole means for perception. I know pizza by its taste, a flower by its smell, and cotton by its touch. The living being announces its presence through five different sense objects. I know someone is home by hearing them; I don’t have to necessarily see them. The soul’s presence is indicated in the same way, as the soul is the identifying force within every living being. Though we can’t see the wind, we know that it exists based on its influence on other objects. Though we can’t see the individual soul, we know it is there based on the effect it has on the parts that make up the body.

We take information on faith all the time, so we can follow the same line with Vedic teachings relating to the soul. The soul is meant to serve the higher soul, who is described in different ways depending on time and circumstance. In His full feature, He is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the origin of everything, the existence of existences. Just like the individual soul, He too can be studied. We can use any frame of reference to better understand Him. While we are individual souls, He is the Supreme Soul. He resides within everyone, while we only reside within ourselves. We have a temporary body that we foolishly choose to study instead of our true identity, while He has an eternal body that is non-different from Him. We need light in order to see, while He is self-effulgent. His realm doesn’t even require electricity.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.6“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

Study of the soul is endless because study of the Supreme Soul is so. Knowing Him, one automatically knows the individual soul. And if you know the individual soul, you know all you need to know about the parts that make up the body. More than anything, those parts are to be used for serving the Supreme Soul. In any other endeavor, the parts will not be utilized properly. Exclusive study of the parts is itself a kind of misuse, a misguided attempt of the subtle part that is the mind. That same mind can be used to study the Supreme Soul through consultation of the Vedas. And through application of Vedic principles, the practical realization of both souls occurs, which allows for the greatest end to life.

In Closing:

Still alive when sitting around and lazy,

Thus to think legs and arms superior crazy.


Why then focus on them and how they move,

All parts useless when occupier removed.


Its properties more important to know,

For such knowledge to Vedic literature go.


Learn that chief occupant the soul inside,

Supreme Soul also within to reside.


To divine service efforts redirect,

In yoga both souls eternally connect.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is It Really Me

Shrila Prabhupada“When I say ‘my book,’ this, indicates that the book is different from me. Similarly, it is ‘my table,’ ‘my eye,’ ‘my leg’, ‘my this,’ ‘my that’ — but where am I? Searching out the answer to this question is meditation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, the Reservoir of Pleasure)

“Looking in the mirror right now, what do I see? Is this person really me? How do I know for sure? I look so weird in this mirror. I move my mouth and suddenly the image changes. I raise my arm, and the image changes again. If I saved this image right now and looked at it again a year from now, I would think a little differently. I would say, ‘Who was that guy? Why did he wear his hair that way? What was he thinking about at that precise moment?’ And yet right now I’m not thinking any of those things. I’m wondering if the mirror is telling me the truth.

“Does the mirror reveal my true identity? Does it give insight into why there are changes? Is the image a reality or just an illusion? I know that my body has changed since the time of birth. I am different today than I was when I emerged from the womb, and yet I am still the same person. The mirror gave a different reading on the child. It showed something completely different. Was that not me back then? Does my reality only begin right now?”

From this worthwhile and sober comparison, we see that the body parts cannot identify us. It’s strange if you really think about it. Your hand is not you. The eyes that are viewing these words are not you either. The ears that hear the sounds outside don’t represent you. You know that this is true based on the changing vision in the mirror. You know that right now your hair looks a certain way, but if you get a haircut, the mirror will give a different image. But you haven’t really changed at all; only your appearance has.

The question then remains, “Who are we?” The Vedas give the answer: aham brahmasmi. This is a Sanskrit phrase that means “I am Brahman.” Translating further, Brahman means “spirit.” It is not matter. Matter comes from spirit. In that sense, matter too is Brahman, but it is more of an expansion. Matter is what constantly changes, like clay that is shaped and molded. The clay has no life of its own. Its destiny is shaped by the guiding hand of spirit, though that spirit may be encased in its own manipulation of matter.

Why is it even important to know that I am Brahman? What is the relevance? So what if I take the person in the mirror to be who I am? What’s the harm?

traffic lightIn any situation, if you can properly identify yourself and others, you will be better situated. The stoplight signals whether or not it’s relatively safe to go through the intersection. If you misidentified a green light to mean “stop” and a red light to mean “go,” you would be in a lot of trouble. The same trouble is there when we mistake our temporary body to be the source of our identity. The ignorance is so strong that we fail to even realize that it is the mistaken identity which yields so many negative results.

What are some of the negative results?

They can be grouped into four categories: birth, old age, disease and death. Birth doesn’t seem like a negative, so we’ll review the other three first. Who wants to get old? Maybe when you’re younger you want to become old enough to drive a car or vote, but after reaching the desired age the body starts to deteriorate. No one prefers to have something important to them lose potency.

Disease also is very unwanted. Do we like getting sick? Do we like having to deal with a runny nose, a nagging cough, or a crippling fever? Such things are not desired, and yet they arrive nevertheless. The same goes for death, which represents the ultimate end to everything. It is the permanent removal of the temporary life situation. Once death arrives, everything relating to the temporary body is erased.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.27“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Birth is subsequent to death, though we tend to think the opposite. Birth is the renewal of a body, a fresh change of clothes. It is considered a negative consequence because birth automatically leads to old age, disease and death, which are already known to be unwanted. All four defects are due to misidentification only. One who is truly Brahman realized no longer has to take birth.

Lord KrishnaBrahman is reality, and it is sourced in Parabrahman. While the mirror gives an illusory version of yourself, Brahman makes everything real. Without Brahman, there would be nothing. And without Parabrahman, there would be no Brahman. In Sanskrit, another name for Parabrahman, or the Supreme Spirit, is Krishna, which means all-attractive. Krishna is what makes this dreamlike existence a reality. The dream is temporary, but the experiences within it are real in their effect. If I get scared during a nightmare, the situation may have been false, but the fright was real. In a similar manner, the experiences in the temporary world are here one second and gone the next, but their impact on the living entity is real.

While Brahman is an apparently attributeless energy, Krishna is a personality with form. This means that one can visualize Him. You can hear Him as well through His name alone. For this reason, those who are looking for true reality, both in terms of personal identification and meaningful activity, always chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krishna is tasted through the remnants of foodstuff offered to Him, and He is felt through His divine presence found in those who are devoted to Him.

One who is devoted to Him has found the real meaning to their existence. Krishna’s position is not based on someone’s mental speculation or their personal desire. He is the universal Lord, who can be found and understood by any person. When linked in service to Him, the man in the mirror becomes easily identified as a servant of God, someone who will never be bereft of the Supreme Spirit’s association.

In Closing:

“Mirror mirror, what is this I see?

Is the person standing here really me?


Image changes if I move up or down,

Face contorted then shows a frown.


That this isn’t my identity I feel,

Changing image shows what is not real.”


When to Vedic scriptures go,

Identity as Brahman know.


Beyond Brahman there is more,

Shri Krishna, of charming face to adore.


Create link to Him and from ignorance be free,

Then servant of the Lord in mirror you’ll see.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Burdens of Love

Mother Yashoda with Krishna“Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti describes the burden of love very practically. He says that the burden of the husband on the young wife, the burden of the child on the lap of the mother, and the burden of wealth on the businessman, although actually burdens from the viewpoint of heaviness, are sources of pleasure, and in the absence of such burdensome objects, one may feel the burden of separation, which is heavier to bear than the actual burden of love.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.3.14 Purport)

“My child is so innocent. Never before has there been any human being so beautiful. I don’t know what good work I’ve done to deserve Him in my life. He is my everything. Every day I wake up, I am so excited at the prospect of seeing Him. When He leaves for the day, I can’t wait until He comes back. At the same time, there is so much to do.

“My darling Shyamasundara has to eat. He must be properly fed. He keeps sneaking into the homes of the neighbors to steal their butter. Why won’t He eat at home? I must not be doing a good enough job as a mother. Then He spends the whole day with the calves in the pasturing grounds with His friends. I give Him lunch to eat, but it likely isn’t enough. He’s a growing boy. He needs His food. When He is at home, He wants my attention, but I need to manage the household affairs as well. The household is for His pleasure, after all. If I spent the whole time with Him, who would put food on the table? Who would prepare His bed so that He could enjoy rest?

Mother Yashoda and Krishna“He spends the day walking on the bare ground. His precious soles are too delicate to face such a burden each day. When I call Him home, He doesn’t listen. He just wants to play the day away with His friends and the cows. If the cows run away, if there is a chaotic situation, He climbs up a nearby hill and plays His flute. Then everyone listens. I must make this home more appealing for Him; otherwise He’ll never want to stay here. I will invite Vrishabhanu’s daughter to come and cook for Him. My boy really enjoys the dishes that she makes. I only want the best for my child.”

This represents the general feeling of mother Yashoda, a famous divine figure of the Vedic tradition. Though God doesn’t have a mother or a father, when He descends to earth to enact pastimes, He gives the wonderful benediction of parenthood to fortunate individuals. Yashoda plays the role of the Supreme Lord’s foster mother. And from her sentiments we see that she doesn’t simply admire the amazing qualities found only in God. She doesn’t just rest idly by and hope to have everything handed to her. Rather, having the all-attractive Krishna as her son serves as a burden. Since it is a burden of love, it is cause for so much pleasure. And fortunately for us, we can create the same burden at any time.

The business owner complains when they are stuck at the office all day with tasks. They have to manage this issue and that. The business is growing rapidly due to the profitable service offered to customers, so the increased growth means increased responsibility. A good wife takes care of the household, managing the kids, both large and small. The small kids are the children and the biggest kid is often the husband.

These responsibilities are very taxing at times, but what would life be like if they were absent? Would the businessman be happy if his company wasn’t profitable? You get rid of the profit and you get rid of the work. If the children leave the home, what would the mother do? Indeed, the resulting sadness was so commonplace that it gave rise to the term “empty nest.” What seemed like burdens before were actually welcome responsibilities. Each individual had a repeated opportunity to offer their love. It was expected of them, and so there was added impetus to offer it. In their minds, if they didn’t keep a close eye, something bad would happen.

Lord KrishnaAs love is at the core of every spirit soul, it is not surprising that the loving relationship with the Supreme Spirit would be the most worthwhile. It can also involve burdens, despite the fact that we tend to think that God is not around. In the absence of the spiritual vision, we might even be tempted to think that He doesn’t exist. Yet from the devotees and the love they feel, we know that God is real. We know that pizza is pizza based on the taste. We know that we’re listening to Beethoven through the sound that enters the ears. We know that we’re wearing silk by using the sense of touch.

In the same ways we can experience God. Sight is not our only option. Sight is susceptible to so much chicanery and illusion, so having sole reliance on it for validation of God’s existence is not very wise. We experience God through distinct actions, and when we make those actions a daily responsibility, we essentially create burdens of love.

What are some examples?

The spiritual masters who are devotees of the personal Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, advise their disciples to chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” a minimum of sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. This daily routine creates a pressing responsibility at the beginning of each day. Chanting this mantra so many times is not very easy. It takes time. To spend time requires a balancing of priorities. It also requires commitment. If you’ve reached the end of the day and you still haven’t chanted your rounds, you will feel a lot of pressure.

But what is the benefit in chanting?

Mother YashodaThe holy name is non-different from the Lord. Saying “Krishna” and “Rama” is like hearing God. You may not believe so in the beginning, but through enough chanting, through following the sixteen round routine, you begin to slowly realize this fact. You also enjoy the process more, becoming more eager to chant your rounds each day. Though the routine is a burden, it is one rooted in love. The mind thinks, “If I don’t chant today, my guru will be disappointed. Also, I’ll miss out on the opportunity to experience God through sound. What else in my life could be more important? If I miss my chanting, it means that I’ve assigned higher priority to some other activity. It means that I don’t love the Supreme Lord as much as I say I do.”

Mother Yashoda thinks that if she doesn’t cook for Krishna, the Lord will starve. Obviously Krishna can never starve, but notice that the Lord doesn’t do anything to change the mentality of Yashoda. She derives great pleasure from her responsibilities in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Why would the Supreme Lord, the object of that love, do anything to tarnish the relationship? In the same way, if He sees that we are sincere, He will give us so many tasks to complete on a daily basis. When we think that He will suffer if we fail to complete them, then we will be fully immersed in divine love, which is the soul’s constitutional position.

In Closing:

When so many great products to sell,

Of burden businessman will tell.


When for children and husband to cook,

Mother great responsibility on shoulders took.


But what if these suddenly gone,

On what object actions to hinge upon?


Burden in such cases actually sweet,

Pleasure in having obligations to meet.


Responsibility towards Krishna create,

And methodically reach the divine state.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Making Friends

Lord Krishna“Krishna's age, His beauty, His bugle, His flute, His conchshell and His pleasing attitude all provoke love in friendship for Him. His exceptional joking abilities, exhibited sometimes by His pretending to be a royal prince, or even the Supreme Personality of Godhead, also give impetus to devotees developing love for Krishna in friendship.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)

“This is my bro. He’s got my back. Whenever I’m in trouble, he’s there for me. We have so much fun hanging out. There’s nothing like sitting back, relaxing, drinking a few, and watching the game with my good friends. I cherish their association. And I am a better person for knowing them. They bring out the best in me. They push me when I need to be pushed. They console me when I’m sad. They are courageous enough to tell me when I’m wrong. They are such wonderful people, and I’m so happy they are in my life.”

Friends are made through common interests and experiences, but most importantly through attraction in qualities. If you value kindness, you will like someone who is kind themselves. If you value honesty, you will be drawn to those who are so honest that it is sometimes to their detriment. If you value intelligence, you will want to be around others who are at the top of their field, who are able to compete with you on an intellectual level. Friends are equals after all, so in this sense they must be equivalent in an area that matters to you.

Lord KrishnaIn the Supreme Lord you will find the best qualities. He is not an old man who angrily punishes those who defy His will. He is not an empty space, a void that is bereft of qualities. In His original feature, He is all-attractive. He is the reservoir of pleasure, and He gives transcendental pleasure to others. His direct energy expansion, which isn’t so deviated to the point that it forgets Him, is so attracted by His qualities that it stays immersed in them. In such a connection, the energy itself is full of all good qualities, thus forming a perfect match for God.

The Vedas give us the names “Krishna” and “Rama” for God. There are thousands of other names given as well, but these are considered the two best. Krishna says that God is all-attractive and Rama speaks to His transcendental pleasure. By definition we are attracted to Krishna. This is because all objects emanate from Him. Since every person is attracted to something, they are automatically attracted to the source of that something, namely Krishna.

Does this mean that everyone is religious? Does this mean that everyone is friends with God? What about atheists?

While the origin of all attractive objects is one, His objects of attraction are multi-faceted. When there is the attitude that denies God, the attraction is solely focused on the external energy. Think of dull matter, something that is lifeless. Instead of loving me, you love my house. Instead of valuing my association, you really like the car that I drive. In such instances, you still acknowledge that I exist, but that acknowledgment has little meaning.

In atheism, the individual pretends that God doesn’t exist so that they can worship inanimate matter. Even worship of the opposite sex follows this route, as the attraction is only based on physical attributes. Once those attributes diminish, as is bound to happen through the influence of time, the worship is shifted elsewhere, towards matter that is more attractive.

We say that the individual only pretends that God doesn’t exist. This is because at the time of death they must acknowledge the higher power. They also live within the limits created by nature. Nobody wants to die, but everybody has to. No one wants to be forced to sleep, and yet everyone has to. Thus there is acknowledgement of a higher power already, though in ignorance one pretends that the creation came into being through a random collision of chemicals.

The external energy isn’t nearly as attractive as the internal. That’s why there is the distinction made between external and internal. The same dichotomy exists at the individual level. What’s inside of the book is way more important than the cover. The spirit soul inside the body is the core functional unit. Whatever is on the outside is only dependent on the inside. Once the inside resident leaves, the outside starts to rot and decay immediately.

Krishna appearing before Vasudeva and DevakiThe internal energy is the object of worship for the servants of God, who are acknowledged believers. They do more than make a profession of faith. They don’t submit to the Lord out of fear of eternal damnation, either. They worship Him because they love Him. They are supremely attracted by His personal features. Shri Krishna is the best friend anyone could have. He once saved a distressed princess from the humiliation of being stripped naked in an assembly of kings. He saved a doubting warrior from the infamy of fleeing the battlefield of the greatest war in history. He protected the residents of a small farm community from a devastating flood. He freed a husband and wife couple who were wrongfully being held in jail by a wicked king.

Krishna is considered the original form of Godhead, but through His internal energy He expands into many other forms, which are all just as worshipable as His original. As Shri Rama He defends the honor of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. He helps His friends Sugriva and Vibhishana become kings. He gives tasks to an able and eager Hanuman so that he’ll gain eternal fame. He sends Narada Muni to give the holy name of Rama to a pious soul who unfortunately turned to a life of thievery. That name then transformed the thief into a wonderful poet.

Hanuman and friends building bridge to LankaThe good qualities in God’s devotees are also too many to count. One can spend an entire lifetime glorifying, studying, worshiping, honoring, discussing, and remembering Shri Hanuman and still not reach a point of exhaustion. He is the only friend one could ever need. He always thinks of God in His form of Rama, so his friendship is as good as having Rama with you.

If someone is really our friend, we are so happy when good things happen to them. We also take great pleasure in speaking of their good qualities. With the Supreme Lord, we can remember all of His triumphs on a daily basis. We can also continuously glorify Him. The ability to do both shows that God is indeed our best friend. His qualities are all-attractive, and one who never forgets them will never have to be alone.

In Closing:

A person whom a common interest does take,

Appealing to us, ideal friend to make.


In Supreme Lord all good qualities found,

Beauty and kindness, of strength unbound.


Endless sari to Draupadi a gift,

For Vrindavana Govardhana to lift.


To Sugriva and Vibhishana kingdoms gave,

Sent Narada muni for dacoit to save.


All potency in His names does reside,

Chant them always, keep Him by your side.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blame Birth

Krishna's peacock feather“The miseries of life, namely birth, death, old age and diseases, are present everywhere within the material world. But one who understands his real constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Lord, and thus knows the position of the Personality of Godhead, engages himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.51 Purport)

“It’s not fair that some children in school have friends and others don’t. Do you know how demeaning it is to have everyone else in the class invited to a student’s birthday party except you? How would you feel? No, this should never happen. The stigma from that omission can have lasting negative effects. It is better if we just outlaw any birthday invitations from within the classroom. Also, no more making friends with only certain kids. No one should feel that rejection in the early years.”

“It’s not fair that one team loses and one team wins. These are just kids after all. Sports is meant to be fun. Why should one team feel good after the day and the other feel bad? What are we doing to our children? It is better if we don’t keep score. This way no one’s feelings get hurt. Everyone has a good time and we don’t cause any long-term mental trauma.”

“The tobacco companies need to pay for what has happened to so many smokers. Sure, the consumers made the decision to smoke, knowing full well that the habit wasn’t good for them. But still, the tobacco companies knew what they were doing. They are responsible for so many deaths. They caused so many diseases. Through a class-action lawsuit, there will be some redemption for the victims. The companies owe this money to them.”

Fruits and vegetables“Don’t eat saturated fat. It clogs your arteries and leads to heart disease, which is a leading killer among adults. Don’t fail to exercise properly; otherwise you will become obese, which is another leading cause of death. Eat enough fruits and vegetables every day; otherwise you will be in bad health. Stay away from the fast food restaurants, whose only objective is to earn a profit. They don’t care what they put in their food. If you get cancer and die, they won’t have any concern. They should be forced to be more responsible with their marketing. If it weren’t for them, people would live so much longer.”

In all of the above referenced situations, there is surely some truth to the claims, but the glaring omission is the inevitability of death. If there is really any blame to go around for negative outcomes in life, with the worst outcome being death, then it should lay squarely on the shoulders of birth. As soon as one takes birth, they are guaranteed to die. This is assured. Nothing can be done to stop the eventual death once the birth takes place.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.27“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Can we sue birth? Can we put birth on trial? Can we stop birth from taking place?

Delving into this last question will actually get us somewhere. All other attempts will only fail. In professional sports, in the past players often got injured in the head through collisions with other players and with the object of interest, such as the ball or puck. Helmets were then introduced, with the hope that this would solve the problem of head injuries. The result today, however, is that with the added protection players more liberally attack the game, flying at high speeds and colliding even more violently with other players. Concussions are now a major problem, so much so that the behavior in the games is being policed in such a way that there is strong restriction, inhibiting the natural flow of the games.

In human interaction, there are guaranteed to be unpleasant situations. Not everyone will be nice to us. Not everyone will have many friends. Not everyone will be liked. So many will be mocked, ridiculed, made fun of, and belittled. Policing the behavior of others will do little to stop this, as in any human interaction there are bound to be varieties. Have we never belittled someone? Have we never made fun of someone else? Surely we have, and so we are assured to be on the receiving end of the same behavior from time to time.

No matter what foods we eat, we are guaranteed to die. This is just a fact. If you eat carrots your whole life and nothing else, you will die. If you exercise all the time, watch your cholesterol, don’t overexert yourself, and stay level-headed, you will still die. Birth is the real culprit in this death. Others may form the immediate cause, in which case there is just punishment slated for them if they are guilty, but ultimately it is birth in the material land that causes the death.

Only in the spiritual science is there any attempt made to stop birth. It isn’t necessarily recommended that one act like a tree either. “If you don’t want to get hurt, just sit in your room all the time and say nothing. This way you’ll never experience defeat and you’ll never have anyone to blame for your problems.” As this goes against the nature of spirit, there is a better way to end birth and death. It involves tolerating the different situations in life.

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

A home during the winter seasonSummer and winter come and go like clockwork each year, and they each have their pros and cons. The living spirit must tolerate both seasons, in spite of the complaints. I can complain all I want about the heat of the summer, but I still have to live throughout. I have no other option. The same applies to the interactions with other living entities. It must be tolerated; there is no avoidance of the interaction.

How to tolerate it becomes the question. What is the tolerance supposed to bring? Should we all purposefully suffer?

The spiritual consciousness puts an end to birth and death. The spiritual consciousness is the original consciousness, so there is no harm in finding it again. In that pure state, one tolerates heat and cold, happiness and sadness, and praise and ridicule. They more than tolerate it; they are unaffected by it. If you have a higher purpose to fulfill with your actions, the unwanted elements of life will be like little distractions that you won’t want to pay attention to.

How do we regain the spiritual consciousness?

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThere must be connection with the Supreme Spirit. Only the human being has the ability to connect with Him through conscious action. The animals reach their limit with eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The nonmoving creatures can’t go anywhere. They are stuck where they are. The human being can find God through consultation with authorized works. In those works, the nature of the material land is explained, as well as the certainty of birth, old age, disease and death.

The purpose of birth is also explained. Birth is a way to try our hand at competing with God. As there is no way to surpass God in areas of opulence, birth is guaranteed to bring misery. The time factor erases everything eventually, and so whatever is gained is temporary. The body itself is not permanent, so its degradation and eventual destruction are causes for sadness for the person ignorant of the true nature of spirit.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.16“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.16)

The spiritual world is eternal and full of bliss. There is no birth there. Death does not take place either. Since there is no birth, there is no cause for sadness. There is no blame to go around, because the cause for blame is absent. Seems like a utopian idea based only on faith, but actually a replica of the spiritual atmosphere can be created in the temporary land. This gives a glimpse of the eternal life spent in the association of the Personality of Godhead, the origin of all life.

Nature is nature, there is nothing we can do to change it. We can escape it, however. We can work within its laws to find the best end: residence in the spiritual plane. The spiritual consciousness is best created today through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It is then strengthened through avoidance of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Through such a simple formula all good things are found.

In Closing:

So many problems, like games losing

Disease and friends others choosing.


With such things blame to go around,

Plenty, but initial cause not found.


Birth is what came first,

Then death, condition the worst.


Question then of birth to stop how,

Chant holy names and find answer now.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Radharani holding a flower garland“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

The Vedas say that the present age of Kali is known for quarrel and hypocrisy. Just turn on the news channels tonight to see evidence of this. In the time of Kali there is darkness, and it is the last of the four ages of the creation. Like the different time periods in each day, each creation and destruction of the universe goes through stages, where the legs of dharma, or virtue, break away, one by one, with each successive age. In the time period immediately preceding the eventual destruction, man is so lacking in virtue that he prefers to argue over the most trivial things. Even when there is no need for argument, it is engaged in just for sport. Like everything else in the material world, there is duality, and so with words one can use them to their advantage or disadvantage.

The examples of disadvantage are many. Think of blackmail. You have some “dirt” on someone else. You know something important to them that others are not supposed to know. You blackmail the person by threatening to reveal that information. The argument aspect here isn’t very sophisticated, and the victim is painted into a corner. Sometimes your own words can come back to bite you. This is especially true if you promise something. If you make a promise and then later on want something else, your opponent in the argument can easily point to your original promise to invalidate your position. In the legal field, a similar tactic is used by citing precedent. Find a past case which supports your claim and then use that as evidence to counter the claim of the opposing party.

the lawClose friends and family know intimate information about us. That is part of the reason their association is enjoyable. We can be “ourselves” around them. No need to put on the veil of formality. You can act as silly as you want because you trust them. At the same time, that trust can come back to hurt you if the other party feels like playing the lawyer game in order to get what they want. King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was a victim of this one time.

His unfortunate encounter is documented in the Ramayana, one of the most well-known works of all-time. It is a Sanskrit poem that describes the life and pastimes of Lord Rama. It is evidence enough for Rama’s existence. If I look outside today and see that it is cloudy, I can note down my observation in a book. Whether someone has pictures from today or not should make no difference on the accuracy of my claim. Just having the book is enough to get evidence, especially if I am known to be trustworthy. Whether someone reads that book tomorrow or in one thousand years has no bearing on the fact that it is cloudy today.

Valmiki Muni is extremely trustworthy, as he is merciful, truthful, austere and clean, both internally and externally. These four qualities make him a brahmana, or one of the priestly order. He is of the highest character, so when he describes the extraordinary life of Lord Rama, we can take the information as fact. He never makes mention of mythology and neither does he attempt to write a fictional tale. The story described is real, and since it is of the divine its significance lasts infinitely into the future.

King Dasharatha was Rama’s father. Kings during those times were the leaders of the military as well. One time he was in trouble in a battle and his youngest wife, Kaikeyi, helped him escape the battlefield in order to recuperate. Being very pleased with her, he offered her any two boons of her choosing. She had a guileless heart, so she didn’t feel the need to ask for anything.

Manthara manipulating KaikeyiYears later, Kaikeyi’s servant Manthara used those two boons to her advantage. Inspired by Sarasvati Devi, the goddess of speech, Manthara riled up the envy of Kaikeyi. This was on the eve of Rama’s coronation, the handing down of the throne to Him by Dasharatha. Rama was the eldest, so the king was following protocol. At the same time, everyone knew how much Dasharatha favored Rama. Kaikeyi had a son by Dasharatha too, but she knew that there was no rivalry between the brothers.

Manthara used clever logic and argument to turn Kaikeyi from joyous to envious. Through her influence, Kaikeyi manipulated events, putting the king in a bind. Kaikeyi brought up the two boons to Dasharatha, who immediately promised to come through on them. Then she lowered the boom: she wanted her son Bharata to ascend the throne and Rama to leave the kingdom for fourteen years, living as a hermit. Dasharatha was a man of honor, so there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t deny her wishes and then be known as a liar. Though her requests would lead to his eventual death, he stayed true to his vow.

From the same incident, we get an example of how to use logic and argument for the highest good. Rama’s beloved wife, Sita Devi, was asked by her husband to stay home. Rama did not want her roaming the woods for no reason. Why should a king’s daughter live in squalor? Kaikeyi’s order was not handed down to her. Yet Sita was not going to let Rama win this argument. She was going to go with Him. She relied on Rama’s extreme respect for the brahmanas. Sita mentioned to Him that during her youth brahmanas had told her that she would one day live in the forest. They also told her that her husband’s company would be most preferable, that he would benefit her in the afterlife as well. King Janaka, Sita’s father, also told her to follow Rama like a shadow, like a good wife would do. Also, Sita mentioned how Rama was known for being the best bow warrior in the world. Thus there was no need for Him to worry over protecting her. Sita even insulted Rama by comparing Him to a woman. He was crying over the fact that He had to leave her, and so Sita made fun of Him for being so weak of mind.

“I shall go with you today to the forest. There is no doubt about it. I cannot be prevented, O greatly fortunate one. I am ready to go.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.15)

Sita, Rama and Lakshmana leaving for the forestWith all such arguments presented, Rama had no choice but to allow Sita to come with Him. She wanted to serve Him. Every individual is happiest when they are serving. You see this even in the animals. They show affection for one another and are saddened when they are separated. It is in the constitution of the spirit soul to serve, but without knowing where to direct that service so many unpleasant situations are found. From Sita’s example, we see the right way to serve and how when one engages in that service fully, nothing can get in their way.

Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana similarly put Rama in a checkmate position through arguments. He also accompanied Rama in the forest, though Rama had asked him to stay home. Lakshmana rightfully told Rama that both he and Sita could not live without Him, like how a fish can’t survive when taken out of water.

“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

In the Bhagavad-gita is found the famous promise from God to His devotees. There He says that anyone who surrenders unto Him and abandons other varieties of religion will be delivered. They have nothing to fear. Lord Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead, the very same Shri Rama but in a different visible manifestation, made this promise. When we are separated from God in consciousness, there is a tendency to feel pressure from hearing this promise. “Why should I surrender? Who is Krishna anyway? All religions say the same thing, so I don’t see what the big deal is? What does surrender even involve? Do I need to sign a confessional statement?”

Actually, God is one, though He may be addressed differently according to tradition. And surrender means giving up the fight to compete with Him for supremacy in areas of opulence. It also means to hand over full control of your wellbeing to Him. If we take the lawyering techniques, we see that we can reach a position where Krishna has no choice but to protect us. If we surrender to Him by always thinking of Him and chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” He is obligated to maintain us. He is the most honorable person, who appeared once as the son of the trustworthy Dasharatha, so His promises with respect to the devotees never breaks. Sita and Lakshmana used His promise to their advantage, and so can we.

In Closing:

When from an argument been cornered,

Beaten by words, by foe been lawyered.


Blinded by age of Kali’s face,

Quarrel and argument commonplace.


For good or bad one can use,

Depending on which they choose.


From Kaikeyi’s envy Rama to forest sent,

With argument Sita and Lakshmana with Him went.


In Gita, promise for protection by Krishna given,

In full surrender, all sins immediately forgiven.


Use His promise for your good, highest gain.

Krishna to protect those who chant His name.