Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gauri Ganesha

Gauri Ganesha“They prayed to Ganesha and Parvati for Sita and Rama. The king, the relatives and the people of the town were all happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 114)

sīya rama hita pūjahiṃ gauri ganesahi |
parijana purajana sahita pramoda naresahi ||

If someone tells you that they are praying for you, you know that it is a really nice gesture. Especially if they are actually praying and not just saying so, it means that in their most vulnerable state, where they submit to the will of the divine creator, they ask Him to bestow His welfare upon you. They could ask for so many other things; be it money, fame, fortune, or good health. Within that time of prayer, they instead think of you, and so to hear such a thing is very flattering. The people of Janakpur a long time ago were so innocent that they actually prayed for the welfare of the Supreme Lord and His wife. The divine figures who were petitioned for help are themselves devotees, so surely the prayers would not go unanswered.

Have we ever heard of such a thing? It’s like going to church and saying:

“Oh God, I love you so much. I think you’re the best. You’re the only one I’m devoted to. I prayed today for your fame and fortune to continue. I want you to be glorified all the time. I want that you should always remain with the people you love the most. I pray that whatever events you want to unfold go down without a hitch, to your liking. I know that these seem like silly requests, but they are what I want. I know that you give the devotees whatever they ask, that you will stop at nothing to please them. If you are really true to your nature, you will hear my prayers.”

Sita and RamaIn Janakpur, the prayer was even better because the people didn’t know the divine natures of Sita and Rama. There is only one God. No need to belabor the point, as the fact is obvious to any rational thinking human being who is not too puffed up with false pride. There is a singular controller, a guiding hand to the non-randomness we see in the nature around us. How to address such a person and how to know Him may be difficult to accept with confidence, but there is still the inherent understanding that there is a God. Even the staunchest atheist succumbs to the forces of nature at the time of death. In their case that very death represents their God. Thus everyone is a servant of a higher nature.

The Vedas say that there are many forms of the original Godhead. This is because so many activities take place through the desire for divine sport. And those activities are tied to specific features. In some forms the features aren’t as clearly laid out. Some forms exhibit more of the features, while others exhibit less. Some forms are more attractive to some, while others attract a different kind of worshiper. The idea is that no one should be shut out from worshiping, irrespective of where they live, who their parents are, or what language they speak.

Sita and Rama are God’s energy and the Supreme Lord respectively. This information is given in the Vedas. The bona fide spiritual traditions that emanate from the original person sometimes have different ultimate conclusions. Some take Sita and Rama to be the original, others take them to be incarnations of the original Lakshmi Devi and Lord Vishnu, while others take them to be incarnations of the original Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna. In whatever tradition you follow, Sita and Rama are still not ordinary. Their qualities alone make them worthy of worship.

The residents of Janakpur can attest to this. They knew nothing of Sita and Rama’s true identities. They were won over simply by their qualities. And what were those qualities? Rama was kind, sweet, chivalrous, brave, respectful, handsome, beautiful, and a firm protector of propriety, or dharma. Sita was the most beautiful woman in the world, very shy in her behavior, and a copy of her father Janaka in adherence to dharma. Thus Sita and Rama were a perfect match. When the opportunity arose the people in Janakpur wanted the two to wed.

Durga Devi as KatyayaniLo and behold, Shri Rama was the only prince to lift the bow in the contest at Janaka’s assembly, qualifying Him to marry Sita. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we get further descriptions of what went on in the town in preparation for the marriage ceremony. It is said that the people prayed to Gauri and Ganesha. They did so for Sita and Rama, not for their own benefit. Gauri is another name for Mother Parvati, who is also known as Durga Devi. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and she takes charge of the material creation. The material nature is like a fort that is difficult to overcome; hence the name Durga. The threefold miseries of life are symbolically represented in the trident held by Durga Devi. Those who want to feel less of a sting from the effects of the mind and body, the natural forces under the control of the celestials, and the influence of other living entities pray for Durga Devi’s kindness.

Ganesha is the respected son of Parvati and Shiva. He is pretty much the face of Hinduism, as he is known to so many. The reason his worship is so common is that he removes obstacles for his worshipers. And who wouldn’t want obstacles removed? Ganesha is a dedicated son, as he considers his blessed parents to be his life and soul. He is so respected by God that he is granted the high honor of being the first personality worshiped in all Hindu ritualistic functions.

The tricky part of worshiping Gauri and Ganesha alone is that, by definition, they only grant material benedictions. The material relates to the temporary body within the current lifetime. The spiritual relates to the integral animating force within all living beings. The spiritual relates to the soul, which is eternal and thus of higher importance. It is better to seek out the welfare of the soul than the body.

Were the people in Janakpur ignorant of their true identity, then?

Sita and RamaActually, during this time the Vedic culture was still very strong, so everyone worshiped Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and other divine figures as almost habit. The people were so pious that if anything good happened, they immediately attributed the success to the blessings of Shiva and his family. In this instance, they did not seek out personal rewards. They cannot be considered to be in the material consciousness, for they wanted the pleasure and safety of Sita and Rama.

Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the Janaki Mangala, is of like mind with the people of Janakpur. In his writings he often offers prayers to Ganesha as well, and he asks only to have the obstacles removed so that he can keep Sita and Rama in his heart. The people of Janakpur essentially asked the same thing, and in this style of worship there is no danger of material contamination. Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha act at the behest of Shri Rama, but they are devotees in their own right. They are more than happy to see the marriage of the divine couple, the glories of whom Shiva constantly describes to his chaste and beautiful wife.

In Closing:

To Gauri and Ganesha let us pray,

To make special Sita’s day.


Rama, of a beauty without compare,

His welfare too must be there.


Our prayers we know they will hear,

For to them Sita and Rama are so dear.


From their kind blessings to get,

In auspiciousness wedding to be set.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Dream Wedding

Wedding mandapa“The king asked the qualified people to erect a mandapa. The married ladies sang songs and auspicious music played.” (Janaki Mangala, 113)

guni gana boli kaheu nṛpa mānḍava chāvana |
gāvahiṃ gīta suāsini bāja badhāvana ||

This verse from the Janaki Mangala serves the purpose of building anticipation for the blessed event. Thus far there was already much anticipation, fear, uncertainty, triumph, joy, victory, and relief. Nevertheless, with the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s pastimes, the thrills are never-ending. Just because one part of a particular pastime completes doesn’t mean that there is boredom to follow afterwards. Just as the bride-to-be in modern times gets excited over planning every detail of her upcoming wedding, so the residents of Janakpur got thrills at every moment in preparing for the marriage of Sita to Rama.

Ideally, you only get married once. The event should thus be as glamorous as possible; at least that is the hope. For the woman especially, the marriage day is the one thought about for many years. Pictures will be taken, so many friends and family will attend, and a new life will begin. Why not make it as special as possible? Why not go all out and find the best hall to host the reception?

wedding flowersIn that hall you will want a certain theme. The plates and table settings must conform to the chosen theme. The flowers should be profuse and of the right kind. The guests should be seated in such a way that they will get along with each other. The food should be so good that no one will leave the place hungry. There should also be enough options to satisfy all the different tastes. The music should be perfect too. Either get a DJ or a live band to come and play festive songs. The hall should be in a nice area. If it has an outdoor section in the back, that’s even better. This way people can lounge outside during the appetizer portion of the evening. Let no one be bored at the wedding.

All of this shouldn’t really matter, as all that is happening is the acceptance of marriage vows by two people. Yet the hosts go the extra mile to enhance the joy from the occasion. With a marriage ceremony you have an excuse to invite your friends over. If it were an ordinary day, they may not be so willing to travel to wherever you live. Also, it would be difficult to get all of your friends and family to come on the same day. If you have the occasion of the marriage, why not take full advantage of it? What is the harm in celebrating?

For King Janaka, the occasion had more meaning. He was to give away his precious daughter Sita. Her future didn’t look so bright just a few moments before. Janaka knew that Sita was not ordinary. Her bodily features were auspicious, as was the way in which she came into his life. He found her one day while ploughing a field to perform a sacrifice. What an odd way to welcome in your first child. Janaka was thrilled nevertheless, and he named the newly found baby Sita because she came from the ground.

He couldn’t arrange her marriage in the traditional way, through matching up the qualities of the prospective grooms. He decided instead to hold a contest of strength. Whoever could first lift an amazingly heavy bow would wed his beautiful daughter. Only one man did. Named Rama, He hailed from Ayodhya, where His father was the king. Rama was the preferred choice upon first sight, so everyone in Janaka’s family was happy that He won.

Sita and Rama in wedding mandapaHere Janaka orders that the mandapa be prepared. This is the architectural structure that hosts important ceremonies in the Vedic tradition. It looks very nice from the outside, and it acts as a sort of temple. Marriage is based in religion. If it weren’t, it would have no purpose. The only reason the definition of marriage is up for debate today is because its use has been widely non-religious. No one has to teach a male and a female how to get together. The animals already mate without anyone instructing them. They have children and families without requiring marriage.

The marriage institution is passed down from God for the purpose of regulating behavior. Sex life is the greatest impediment towards understanding the living entity’s true nature and his purpose for living. The more sex life goes uncontrolled, the more into ignorance one falls. You don’t need to hear from the Vedas to understand this. Just see how quickly relationships in sense gratification dissolve. The difference between the relationship and the casual date is that sexual relations ideally occur more often in the relationship. And so even with regular sexual engagement available, there are disagreements, to the point that the two parties no longer can stand each other. If uncontrolled sex life were beneficial, then the opposite would hold true; the parties would become happier and happier as the marriage went on.

Of course it is possible to increase your happiness through marriage, but only when the aim is right. The marriage should help both parties advance in their spiritual awareness. At the same time, they get license to have children and become productive members of the community. Others are thus also benefited through their union. Sita would be Rama’s queen, and since Rama would one day take the throne, through marriage He would get an heir to keep the family line going. In finding Sita a husband Janaka would satisfy his duty of protecting his daughter.

Thus so many things would be taken care of through the auspicious occasion of the marriage. The ceremony would take place in a beautifully erected mandapa, and in the background would be auspicious songs sung by married women. Everyone was excited, as they waited for Rama’s family to arrive from Ayodhya. Janaka spared no expense for this occasion, making possible the dream wedding.

In Closing:

Marriage decided, in elated state,

Now worry over how to celebrate.


All friends and family occasion to bring,

So ordered making of mandapa did the king.


Every preparation had to be just right,

So that patrons to go back home in delight.


Rama and Janaka’s daughter an ideal pair,

Their wedding to be a dream affair.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Little Discomfort

scroll with writing“Worshiping Vishvamitra, explaining things and getting his permission, the king became happy. Then the tilaka and wedding details were written on a decorated scroll and given to the family guru for being sent to Ayodhya.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.2)

kausikahi pūji prasansi āyasu pāi nṛpa sukha pāyaū |
likhi lagana tilaka samāja saji kula gurahiṃ avadha paṭhāyaū ||

The easiest thing to do is give in to your emotions when they flare up. If you are angry, just let it all out. If you’re upset with someone, let them have it with a verbal tirade. If you don’t like someone else, don’t offer them any respect. Don’t even think for a moment that anyone else could be superior to you. As is often the case, the easier route isn’t always the best one. Conforming to the proper code of conduct, even if it sometimes might bring a little discomfort, serves to better our condition. Such was the case with a famous king a long time ago.

“That country is looking so beautiful, and the Vedas have described its purity. Known in the three worlds, Tirahuta [Janakpur] is the tilaka of the earth.” (Janaki Mangala, 4)

The king in question was named Janaka. He ruled over the territory known as Mithila. This area still exists. It is also known as Tirahuta, and as Goswami Tulsidas kindly informs us, it is the tilaka of the earth and known throughout the three worlds [heavenly, earthly and hellish realms]. The place was sacred before Janaka ruled over it, and based on what would happen there on one particular day its fame would increase even more.

image“From Hrasvaroma came a son named Shiradhvaja [also called Janaka]. When Shiradhvaja was plowing a field, from the front of his plow [shira] appeared a daughter named Sitadevi, who later became the wife of Lord Ramachandra. Thus he was known as Shiradhvaja.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.13.18)

King JanakaJanaka was one king in a long line of kings known as Janaka. He was also known as Shiradhvaja. He was very famous during his time even before he received any children. Kings in those times were selected not simply off birthright. If I am a doctor by profession and so is my wife, if we have children then they will be predisposed to the physician’s culture. They will grow up in a household of doctors, so they will be exposed to various aspects of medicine.

Birthright alone, however, won’t anoint them with the title of Doctor. That they will have to earn in the same way that the parents did. They will have to go through years of schooling, pass the necessary board examinations, and complete training under the tutelage of other doctors. Only then will they be known as doctors.

In the same manner, kings during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, ascended to the throne after they received the proper training. This implies that there were qualifications necessary. Some of those qualifications are provided to us in the Bhagavad-gita, which, among many other things, summarizes the ancient Vedic culture. The kings had to be noble, chivalrous, brave, and impartial. They were the administrators; the people in charge of administering justice. Justice is supposed to be blind; in its constitutional form it cannot play favorites. The same should hold true for the person administering it. If we walk into a courtroom and see the judge fraternizing with one of the attorneys, we have a feeling that the case will not be judged fairly. Sadly these unfair trials are quite commonplace, but in the ideal situation the people in charge of determining guilt and innocence shouldn’t have any bias.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.43“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)

Janaka met all the necessary qualifications for a leader. He had a few special distinctions as well. He was a rajarshi, which is a saintly king. He was well versed in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. He was also expert at meditational yoga. He could withdraw the mind from the senses and thus remain unattached to what was going on around him. Despite his expertise in transcendentalism, he still did all the necessary work in his kingdom. He didn’t use his status as a yogi as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities.

As a result of his behavior, Janaka was well-respected throughout the world. No one could really surpass him in character. When the time came to determine the husband for his beautiful daughter Sita, Janaka decided on a self-choice ceremony. This self-choice would be made for the bride through the vehicle of a contest. Whichever prince attending the ceremony could lift the extremely heavy bow of Lord Shiva would win Sita’s hand in marriage.

Lord RamaAgainst all odds, after it looked like no one would win, Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, lifted up the bow. This delighted Janaka and his wife. It also thrilled Sita and all the residents of the town. At this point, Janaka easily could have just handed Sita over to Rama and started the wedding ceremony. He could have said, “To heck with all this protocol and tradition. Rama is my preferred choice anyway. He won the contest, and Sita obviously is fond of Him as well. What is there to stand in our way? I’m a very respected king. No one can say a bad word about me. Why should I have to listen to anyone else right now?”

From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that Janaka did not think this way at all. Though for all intents and purposes the marriage was already determined, Janaka still worshiped the feet of the guru Vishvamitra, who had brought Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana to the ceremony. Janaka also got Vishvamitra’s permission for the marriage. Though Janaka had all the power in the world, he did not abuse his position. With great power comes great responsibility. Part of that responsibility is setting a good example for others. If someone like Janaka makes the voluntary choice to pay homage to saintly people like Vishvamitra, who are we to not respect those who are worthy of it?

Even if our pride is swelling and the bad voice inside is telling us to toss aside the standard code of conduct, the slight discomfort of showing respect to the proper authorities will benefit us in the end. Janaka showed respect to Vishvamitra at the beginning of the ceremony. When the sage arrived, Janaka offered beautiful thrones to sit on. After the contest was over, Janaka again showed respect. As a result, an auspicious time for the wedding ceremony to take place was drawn up. The written announcement was then given to Shatananda to take to Ayodhya. Shatananda was Janaka’s family guru, and so he would represent the king’s family in the talks with Rama’s family in Ayodhya.

Lord RamaLord Rama is the Supreme Lord, and Vishvamitra was His representative in this situation. The same kinds of representatives exist in the world today. We can identify them by the signs of Rama they carry with them. Rama is also known as Vishnu and Krishna. These are the personal forms of the Supreme Lord. The representatives today sometimes wear an image of Rama’s footprint on their forehead. They may also wear a necklace made of beads from the sacred Tulasi plant, which is very dear to Rama. Even if these signs are absent, there is still an easy way to spot them. They are always talking about Rama and chanting His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

They ask only one thing from others: to chant the same names of their beloved. To chant the names just one time with full sincerity is the best way to offer respect to the Lord’s representative. And the more respect we offer, especially in the form of a formal interaction between guru and disciple, the more benefits we receive. In Janaka’s case he received Rama as a son-in-law. Later on Rama would leave the kingdom and take Sita with Him, but Janaka never forgot about either of them. His devotion to God makes him known today as one of the twelve mahajanas, or authorities on devotional service.

The chanting of the holy names, which may be a slight inconvenience in the beginning, brings us the same association. Chanting these names is also a way to respect the Vaishnava authorities. The chanting, which is part of the transcendental engagement known as bhakti-yoga, also gives respect to Janaka, who gave respect to Vishvamitra, who is Rama’s representative. In this way know that a little respect offered in sincerity to one belonging to the chain of devotion that originates with God brings so much auspiciousness.

In Closing:

Glories of Shri Rama they sing,

His presence to world they bring.


Offer them the slightest respect,

Without anything in return to expect,

And auspicious blessings receive,

To reach state you won’t believe.


King Janaka followed protocol’s line,

With Sita and Rama his kingdom to shine.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Contract Talks

writing - scroll“Worshiping Vishvamitra, explaining things and getting his permission, the king became happy. Then the tilaka and wedding details were written on a decorated scroll and given to the family guru for being sent to Ayodhya.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.2)

kausikahi pūji prasansi āyasu pāi nṛpa sukha pāyaū |
likhi lagana tilaka samāja saji kula gurahiṃ avadha paṭhāyaū ||

In professional sports, when a player’s contract is up, negotiations begin for a renewal. Since the player is a public figure and someone who knows the management and its affiliates very well, often times he won’t negotiate the contract himself. Everything will go through the agent. The two parties have different interests. The owner’s side wants to limit the value of the contract. They also want to avoid getting locked into an expensive long-term deal that could leave them stuck with a bad player. The player wants to make as much money as possible, for as long as possible.

Each party will have to talk down the other if they are to be successful. The player may say, “Well, look at what other players in the league make. They aren’t as good as me, so why shouldn’t I get paid more? Such and such is the price tag now for a player of my caliber.” The owner’s side will say things like, “This was your best year so far, but other years haven’t been so good. We’re ready to make a fair offer, but we don’t think that you will be so great. Take this deal now and perhaps we can renegotiate in the future.”

Rather than let tensions mount to the point that both sides dislike each other, the agent is inserted into the equation. Representing the player, he can say pretty much whatever he wants and not have it affect the relationship between the player and the team. The agent looks out for the player’s interests. The player trusts the agent to get him the best deal.

A similar thing took place in Janakpur a long time ago, except all of the parties involved were pure. There was no haggling necessary, but since the parties were so pious, they went through the proper channels as a mere formality. This tells us that someone whose piety is rooted in real religious principles is automatically respectful. They don’t have to separately endeavor for acquiring the trait of respectfulness.

The agreement in question did not relate to a contract to play anything. The agreement related to something as old as man himself: marriage. King Janaka vowed to give away his daughter Sita to the first prince who could lift an extremely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. Many princes tried, but only the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, managed to lift it. When the bow subsequently broke in Rama’s hands, the sound of victory filled the air. Everyone on Janaka’s side was thrilled, as were the residents of Janakpur. The rival princes were sad in defeat, but Rama’s side was happy too.

Rama winning the contestWhile Janaka had his whole family around to celebrate the occasion, Rama’s entourage consisted of only His younger brother Lakshmana and the famous sage Vishvamitra. The guru became the representative in this instance. In the Vedic tradition the guru is the representative of God; he speaks the Lord’s message based on the authority of the disciplic succession he belongs to. The genuine disciplic succession originates in God, so the bona fide guru’s message is always valid.

Here the guru also acted as Rama’s representative, but in His direct presence. Rama is the Supreme Lord in the spiritual manifestation of a warrior prince. Rama and Lakshmana served Vishvamitra like respectful disciples just to show the proper code of conduct to the world, but Vishvamitra’s role as representative couldn’t be masked completely. After Rama lifted the bow, the marriage could have started immediately, but King Janaka followed protocol. It was Vishvamitra who brought Rama and Lakshmana to the contest. He was the elder as well, so Janaka wasn’t going to follow through on something without his permission.

From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that Vishvamitra gave his consent after being duly worshiped by the king. The sage then drew up the announcement of the wedding and gave it to Janaka’s family priest, Shatananda. That announcement was then sent to Ayodhya. In the Valmiki Ramayana, which contains the original accounts of this most glorious wedding, Sita recounts how Rama first got His father’s permission before proceeding with the marriage. Rama’s representative in this instance was the catalyst for receiving that permission.

Rama participated in the contest after Vishvamitra got permission from King Janaka. Now Sita would marry Rama after Janaka got Vishvamitra’s permission and Rama got Dasharatha’s permission. Very respectful were all the characters associated with Rama. Later on, after several years of marriage, Rama would be exiled from His kingdom for fourteen years. Sita very badly wanted to come along and she was finally able to do so after taking permission from the superiors. Lakshmana accompanied Rama after getting his mother’s permission.

“After obtaining the permission of the elders, I must go accompany You.  If I am separated from You, O Rama, I will surely renounce my life.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.5)

Sita and RamaSo much respect was shown during this ancient time, but today the channels of communication aren’t nearly as strong. Families can easily go many years without talking to one another. If something good happens to you, then it is easy to proceed without notifying others. Despite the degraded condition of the modern age, the respect shown to the spiritual master is still required. The compulsory nature of the approach towards a bona fide guru is mentioned quite often in Vedic literature because it especially prevents one from mentally speculating about God. Without approaching a guru, one is left to their own imagination to think of God and how to connect with Him.

The guru follows authority. Vishvamitra was worshiped by Janaka, but that alone didn’t suffice for consent in the marriage. Even Vishvamitra, a brahmana, gets permission from others, so who are we to think that we can approach God without first learning about Him from someone who represents Him? And the kind representatives of the Lord, who are the real saints of the world, are more than happy to divulge information about Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord who is full of opulences. They make one stipulation, however. They ask that we be sincere in our inquisitiveness. If our desire is to deceive the world with a concocted form of religion, the guru’s words will not be so forthcoming. We won’t even be able to properly understand their message should it come to us in written form. The respect offered by the interested parties at Sita’s svayamvara teaches so many lessons, including on how to make the most out of life.

In Closing:

Tilaka and wedding details on scroll set,

But first permission of Dasharatha to get.


Janaka for marriage of daughter was ready,

First offered worship to sage of vow steady.


Protocol went up the right chain,

Then only Rama Sita to gain.


Understanding of God through representative to flow,

Otherwise His true nature heart never to know.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Finding What You Want

Sita and Rama“Rama went towards the guru, and the king, queen, men and women all filled with bliss, like thirsty male and female elephants entering a cool ocean of nectar.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.1)

gae rāma gurū pahiṃ rāu rānī nāri-nara ānanda bhare |
janu tṛṣita kari karinī nikara sītala sudhāsāgara pare ||

“This life has been unfulfilling. When I was younger I was told that I could be anything that I want to be. I could grow up to be a policeman, a firefighter, a baseball player, a stock broker - the sky was the limit. Though I didn’t go for any lofty position, now in adulthood I have a steady job that provides a sufficient income. I can more or less eat whatever I want, whenever I want. When I’m not working I can do anything my heart desires.

“And yet I’m still not satisfied. I tried playing recreational sports for a while. I joined this league and that, for I thought that since I enjoy these sports with my friends, it would be even better to have a regular meeting of the sorts. The result was just the opposite. I hated having yet another engagement to pay attention to. Showing up on time for work is enough of a burden for me; I don’t need any additional pressures relating to time.

recreational sports“I’ve tried reading different books. I like philosophy and government. I love to read biographies, to see how other people weave their way through life. The philosophical works kind of bore me after a while and the biographies always make me sad at the end. I’m left thinking, ‘Is that all there is to life? Even these very successful people didn’t really seem to do much. At the end of life they were left with the question of what to do with their time.’

“I think there is something out there that I really want, but I can’t seem to pinpoint it. I know that I haven’t found it yet, because if I had I would never look back. I wouldn’t doubt anymore. It’s sort of like how they say you can tell you’re in love when you don’t have to question it. If I know that I have found what I’m looking for in life, I won’t have to jump from one thing to another. I will only want that one thing and nothing else. It will bring me so much happiness.”

The people in Janakpur a long time ago might not have gone through the same series of events in their quest for the one thing missing in their lives, but they found that invaluable treasure nonetheless. It was so wonderful to them that it was like they became filled with bliss upon receiving it. A famous Vaishnava poet compared the amount of bliss to an ocean, the gift itself to nectar, and the people to thirsty elephants.

“Seems like an odd comparison, no? When would thirsty elephants ever find an ocean of nectar? Nectar is a premium beverage, so by definition it isn’t available in large quantities. To use modern terms, it would be like finding an outdoor pool filled with Cristal champagne. That is highly unlikely, as the beverage is too expensive for anyone to buy in that large a quantity for only filling a pool.”

Interestingly, the comparison made by Goswami Tulsidas actually does not go far enough. Sudha, or nectar, is mentioned because it is what we would consider the best drink for quenching thirst. The more thirsty you are, the more you will appreciate a higher quality beverage. If you are already full from drinking, being presented with nectar might not do so much for you. If you are thirsty, you will appreciate the wonderful beverage all the more. Still, nectar is just a drink; it is not necessarily required for maintaining life. You could survive on just water.

Sita with the victory garland for RamaSimilarly, the ocean may be very large, but it is still finite in size. The comparison is used here only to help the listener understand to some degree what it is like to see the Supreme Lord wearing a garland of victory after you thought you wouldn’t see Him in such a garb. In this scene He is also walking towards His guru, showing respect to someone else when He Himself is the most worthy of it.

God is impossible to fully understand, and so the parrot-like devotees love to discuss His glories endlessly. The impossible makes the endless glorification possible, a fact which adds on to God’s glories, thus increasing the magnitude of the impossibility in fully understanding Him. In simpler terms, talking about God in a loving way is fun, and since God is endless, the fun never has to end.

In this instance, the male and female observers at the assembly in Janakpur were like thirsty elephants finding an ocean of nectar. Water would have sufficed, but Rama is the best of everything. He explains the same truth in the Bhagavad-gita in His original form of Krishna. There He says that He is the taste of water, the fragrance of the earth, the penances of the ascetic, and so many other things. He also says that among the warriors, He is Rama.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.31“Of purifiers I am the wind; of the wielders of weapons I am Rama; of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.31)

The latter point has added significance to the discussion here. The king and queen in Janakpur, along with their protected citizens, were interested in finding the best prince for Sita, the king’s daughter. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is Rama among those who use weapons, which means that if one wants to find the best protector in the world, they have to get Rama. King Janaka was very pious and devoted to spiritual life. For his efforts, he received the goddess of fortune as a daughter. Sita thus can only be with Rama. Externally she received the best prince in the world when Rama lifted the bow of Shiva in the assembly. Constitutionally it could not have been any other way. Sita has only one husband: Rama. And Rama has only one wife: Sita. As Krishna He can accept unlimited consorts, but as Rama He accepts only Sita.

Sita and RamaThe king, queen and residents were well-wishers to Sita. They took her happiness to be theirs as well. When they saw Rama win the contest, especially after so many other princes had failed to move the bow, they were elated. Due to the other failures, they thought that Rama might not win either. If He didn’t win, He couldn’t marry Sita, and thus their cherished desire would be left unfulfilled. This is the condition that created the thirst. They became elephants in the sense that they wanted very badly for Rama to win. Their emotions raged, similar to the way they do in an elephant in the hot jungle.

They found the ocean of nectar in the vision of Rama, who was garlanded by Sita herself. That nectar filled them up, but since it was an ocean, there was no way to run out of it. The cool beverage of the vision was soothing to the eyes, and it filled the people with bliss. That bliss is what we’re all actually looking for, though it may take us many lifetimes to find it. There are different aspects to the Supreme Lord, who has unlimited names, forms and pastimes. The nectar doesn’t come only through the vision of Rama wearing the garland, but it alone is sufficient to fulfill the purpose of life. Such visions and more are given to us through the words of the Vedic texts. And more potent than the actual descriptions is the name of God.

The best names to recite for this age are kindly given to us by Krishna Himself. The most munificent avatara, the golden complexioned Lord Chaitanya, freely distributed love for God, which automatically includes God’s association through various visions from the past. Lord Chaitanya distributed this gift through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

From scorching heat sweating,

Relief hopefully soon getting.


When will the cool pond arrive,

So that into it quickly we can dive?


This the residents of Janakpur found,

When breaking bow made thunderous sound.


All past worries immediately gone,

Then beautiful vision to forever gaze upon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Cool Ocean of Nectar

Sita and Rama“Rama went towards the guru, and the king, queen, men and women all filled with bliss, like thirsty male and female elephants entering a cool ocean of nectar.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.1)

gae rāma gurū pahiṃ rāu rānī nāri-nara ānanda bhare |
janu tṛṣita kari karinī nikara sītala sudhāsāgara pare ||

In the Vedas, there is often reference to purity. That which is pure is beyond contamination; it has no defect. Pure things are also the best; nothing is better. In a land governed by duality, everything is double-sided. Nothing is totally good or totally bad. What we generally consider good is that which brings us closer to the endpoint of complete purity, but this doesn’t mean that the mechanism itself is free of flaws. For this reason, when making analogies to describe the behavior of those who get to personally witness God’s glorious nature, the ever-attentive saints make sure to amplify the emotions by pointing to the best, the purest form of something.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, an analogy is made to elephants finding a cool ocean. Imagine male and female elephants living in a jungle. It is very warm. These are elephants, so they can’t really think too far ahead into the future. They aren’t expert at making plans. They can’t tell themselves, “Okay, let me just tolerate the heat a little bit longer. This will be for my own good because then my senses will be trained to endure austere conditions. The stronger my senses are, the more capable I will be at handling adversity. As life is full of unexpected twists, sometimes bringing good fortune and other times taking away that to which we are attached, if I can survive through any condition I will be better off.”

ElephantsThe animals are driven more by their impulses. This is why when we see someone eating uncontrollably, without giving concern to the future implications, we compare them to an animal. The same goes for uncontrolled sex life. The animals are less evolved in this way; it is their consciousness which is underdeveloped. They have no choice in the matter, as due to their body type inherited at the time of birth there is a ceiling to their intelligence. The human being’s ceiling is much higher; in fact it goes to the highest level for living entities.

The elephants in the hot jungle could really go for a swim in a cold pond. Imagine, then, what they would feel if they found a large ocean full of cool, refreshing water. The satisfaction to the senses would be instant and great. The delight would be greater than that which is felt on an ordinary day when a cool pond is found. Think of it like sitting down for a sumptuous feast when you are really hungry. Think of it like getting a cold soft drink when you’re really thirsty and suffering from the heat.

This comparison to the elephants is made by Goswami Tulsidas to describe what the men and women of the town of Janakpur felt when they saw Rama approaching His guru. The king and queen felt the same way. They were all happy to officially welcome Rama into their family, which was the result to His winning the contest of the bow. Rama lifted a bow that was so heavy that no other prince could even move it. His reward: the hand of Sita Devi in marriage. Sita was the king’s daughter. She was so beautiful that any prince would do anything to have her. Yet the rules made by her father, King Janaka, stipulated that Sita would only marry whichever prince could lift the bow in the arena.

Lord RamaSeeing Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation as a warrior prince, the people became filled with ananda, or bliss. The ananda was the pleasurable reward, and since the comparison was made to the thirsty elephants, it means that the people were highly desirous of that reward. They wanted very badly for Rama to win. They didn’t want any other prince to succeed. They were so invested in the outcome that they feared what might happen should Rama be unable to lift the bow. As Bhagavan, Rama possesses the opulence of beauty to the fullest degree. At this time, He was a charming youth with delicate features. The people worried that His tenderness wasn’t a good match for the hardness of the heavy bow.

Just as the thirsty elephants finally get water from a cool ocean, so the people of the town desirous of Rama’s victory got an ocean of ananda in His vision. At the same time, Goswami Tulsidas makes sure to say that the ocean is made of nectar. Nectar is the best drink; it is akin to the purest beverage, as nothing is better than it. Rama is the best because He is God. The bliss the residents received was unlike any other. This wasn’t the normal happiness that comes from relief. Rama’s image gave them purity in bliss at the time, and the memory of His image would stay with them forever.

The material existence is likened to an ocean of suffering. Sometimes there is scorching heat and other times there is biting cold. Sometimes we are with friends and sometimes we are alone. The conditions always change, as that is the nature of the world. Despite our sufferings, we too can find an ocean of nectar to quench our thirst for ananda. That nectar comes in the form of the Supreme Lord’s association, which is available through something as simple as a sound vibration: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

This verse passed on by Tulsidas is a sound vibration as well, and just through hearing it one can experience some of the same sweet bliss that the men and women of the town of Janakpur felt. What’s so wonderful about Rama’s image is that it really is like an ocean. The material ocean is full of suffering, so its vast length poses a formidable obstacle for the bewildered soul. On the other hand, the ocean of nectar produced by Rama’s association is full of bliss, so its unimaginable length is a welcome blessing that guarantees that there will be endless opportunities for happiness.

In Closing:

When elephants suffering in the heat,

For cool pond hurriedly make a beat.


Upon contact immediately refreshed,

Satisfaction that to them seems the best.


People of Janakpur for Rama were fond,

Sight of His image like dipping in nectar pond.


Reward from His contest of bow win,

Best pond for mind to forever remain in.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Testing the Material

Shri Rama's lotus feet“All kinds of flowers are raining down and in happiness everyone is saying, ‘Jaya, jaya.’ Love and happiness filled the world, and Rama went towards the guru.” (Janaki Mangala, 112)

baraṣahiṃ bibudha prasūna haraṣi kahi jaya jae |
sukha saneha bhare bhuvana rāma gura paham̐ gae ||

“Dude, have you lost your mind? You’re really celebrating that again? Haven’t you had enough? I understand it was a big deal when it happened. We were all there. We celebrated with you. It was a remarkable achievement given what you had to go through. But that was then and this is now. Normal people don’t remain stuck in the past. Most people forget about the occasion as early as a year later. If you keep celebrating it like this every day, people will think you are crazy.”

What exactly is this person referring to? Actually, it could be anything of importance. A graduation, a promotion, an award, a trophy, a triumph in sports, or even getting a driver’s license – these victories are celebrated on the day they take place, but soon afterwards they are forgotten. One can look back at those moments fondly, but to dwell on them every single day, expecting the same praise that others offered to you on the original day, is kind of silly. We mention this only because one person’s triumphs can actually be remembered every day, with the celebration marked by the repeated voicing of “jaya, jaya.” This uniqueness gives us another way to differentiate between the material and the spiritual.

For a spiritualist to discuss the material is quite normal. If you have no such interest for whatever reason then your knowledge hasn’t reached its full potential. Put a book of logic in front of an animal and they won’t know what to do with it. There is no possible way for them to understand. From what they inherited at the time of birth, the most they can do is eat, sleep, mate and defend. A human being, though, with the proper training can one day learn to open up that book and take away valuable lessons from it. That same book that looked like it was filled with gibberish soon speaks to the person on the inside, offering a way to hear what someone else previously said.

The most important books are those which discuss the difference between matter and spirit. Rare it is to hear such discussion, so one who is fortunate enough to get this information should take full advantage. The Vaishnava in the modern age feels that the information is so important that they try to distribute it to as many people as possible. The book of knowledge they rely on is the Bhagavad-gita, which chronicles an ancient conversation between a wise teacher and a sincere student. Right at the outset, the difference between matter and spirit is discussed.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.20“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

To illustrate the difference, the teacher makes mention of the most obvious indication of that difference. Death is what has bewildered man since time immemorial. On the particular day when the Bhagavad-gita was spoken, the same death perplexed a capable and knowledgeable warrior. The teacher, Shri Krishna, explained that the individual inside the body never dies. The soul is the identifying agent, and it is immutable, unchangeable, primeval, and not slain when the body is slain. That which appears to be destroyed is only the body, which consists of matter, or the material.

As the body is not spirit, it lacks the properties of spirit. The body changes all the time. It has a beginning and an end. Technically, it is eternal just like the soul, but that is because matter is rooted in spirit. For the purposes of our interactions, matter is temporary. One who knows the spiritual and the material can make the choice to associate with the spiritual. This choice is ultimately made through consciousness. The body is the vehicle to facilitate that association. From that decision, one also acts in such a way that their knowledge of the difference doesn’t get lost.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe Bhagavad-gita is high philosophy that not everyone will want to hear. We can derive the same lessons, however, from studying the manner in which celebrations take place. By noting that the occasion of a graduation is only celebrated one time we can see that the occasion is material. Graduation is the completion of some kind. It is a moment in time where we have just finished our courses; therefore we celebrate. But my identity as a graduating student will soon change. Afterwards, I may become an office worker, a doctor, or a lawyer. Then I will have new things to celebrate.

I can look back to that moment of my graduation as often as I want to, but no one will want to celebrate it every single day with me. At the original celebration, perhaps many people came over to the house and my parents gave me an expensive gift. Yet they will not behave the same way ten years later. This proves that the event was related to matter, which is temporary. To think of it another way, try to keep in mind that today’s celebration of something important will be forgotten very quickly. If you’re attending a festival that you’ll forget soon afterwards, how important can it really be?

The spiritual, being everlasting, can be celebrated millions of years into the future. The above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala is one example of the fact. Here the same Shri Krishna, in His form as Lord Rama, has just been given the garland of victory by Sita Devi, His eternal consort. The Bhagavad-gita is important not just because of its lessons. It is spoken by the Supreme Lord, God for all of humanity. He may appear differently to different people, and He may not reveal Himself fully to those who are envious, but He nevertheless does exist and is a singular personality. Krishna and Rama are the same person, though they have slightly different appearances.

Celebrating Sita and RamaThe verse above describes a celebration. Rama has just lifted an amazingly heavy bow to win a contest. None of the other princes gathered at the assembly could even move the bow. These were the most notable princes in the world. They all were in Janakpur to try to lift the bow. The prize was Sita’s hand in marriage. She was the beloved daughter of the pious King Janaka. As Rama is God, it wasn’t surprising that flowers rained down from the heavens after He won the contest. We see that the people repeatedly exclaimed, “Jaya, jaya,” which means “all glories, all glories” or “victory to you.”

Happiness and good feelings filled the entire world. After placing the victory garland on Rama, Sita went back to her place with her friends. Rama went back to the guru Vishvamitra, who was responsible for bringing Him to this contest. The “jaya, jaya,” mentioned here is significant because it is the way God is still celebrated to this day. If you visit a temple dedicated to Krishna or one of His non-different expansions, there will surely be many times where “jaya, jaya” is repeated by the congregation. This is done to celebrate the Lord, His devotees, His activities, and His various holy places around the world.

The Bhagavad-gita was spoken some five thousand years ago and Rama’s lifting of the bow took place many thousands of years before that, and yet we continue to celebrate both today. This means that the events couldn’t be material. You could actually celebrate Sita and Rama’s marriage day after day and not get sick of it. It is the constitutional position of the soul to be servant of God, and one way of serving is glorifying. This glorification provides so much pleasure that one wants to repeat it over and over again.

To be fixed in this glorification, to have dedication in devotion, one should be free of envy and know of the merits of the glorification. To hear is the best way to remove doubts and ignorance. Therefore the kind Vaishnavas have authored so much invaluable literature. They hope that everyone finds the ecstasy that is their birthright. That ecstasy comes when one is fully engaged in devotional service, where they repeatedly celebrate the spiritual.

In Closing:

After friends took Sita away,

“Jaya, jaya” all did say.


Flowers from heaven were sent,

Rama back to guru’s side went.


Of temporary significance is event of today,

Pleasure diminishes when the same to replay.


With the spiritual same defect not so,

For proof back in time to Rama’s victory go.