Saturday, June 29, 2013

Deity of Choice

Lord Krishna“The maha-bhagavata, the advanced devotee, certainly sees everything mobile and immobile, but he does not exactly see their forms. Rather, everywhere he immediately sees manifest the form of the Supreme Lord.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 8.274)

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 8.274

In Sanskrit the term ishta-deva means the “deity of choice.” The deity is that which is worshiped. The ishta-deva is the deity you most prefer to worship. You have a choice in the matter, as since you are a servant at heart, there are so many objects which can accept your service. There is an original source of all objects, and He has many non-different expansions. He also has many separated expansions that serve in the godly capacity. This leaves so many choices. Since the original is complete, worship of it automatically brings appreciation for everything else.

It doesn’t work the other way around, however. For instance, water comes from the original person. Water is a material element. There is also air, fire, ether and earth. You can choose any of these as your worshipable deity, but for this example we’ll use water. You drink it when you are thirsty. You pour it over your head in the morning to clean your body. You add it to other ingredients to make your favorite food dishes. On top of it you place a boat that you built. This way you can travel across long distances more quickly.

Lakshmana, Rama and Sita travelling by boatIndeed, transportation has always existed. We marvel at the ability to travel halfway across the country in a single day using an airplane, but this doesn’t mean that travel was prohibited in the past. It may have taken a little longer, but even many thousands of years ago people could travel long distances. Populations are typically larger around bodies of water. This is because of the increased convenience for travel. You build a simple boat and it can take you somewhere easily. You don’t need electricity. You don’t need to pay that much, either. In this way, we see that water can be worshiped.

The person who drinks the water to quench their thirst after a strenuous workout may not appreciate the water they have. This is an instance of indirect worship. We indirectly worship so many other things. The person who does appreciate the water is engaged in a more direct worship. They may pray to the “water gods” from time to time. They may think of how wonderful it is to have water, and so forth.

Indirect worship of combinations of the elements of material nature also takes place quite frequently. Money is worshiped indirectly when it is chased after feverishly. The body of the human being is merely a collection of these elements, and we know that these bodies are worshiped frequently by the less intelligent. Kama, or lust, is driven by the attraction to the material body.

Thus there are so many ishta-devas. But notice that knowledge of the complete whole doesn’t automatically come from such worship. In the Bhagavad-gita is found the apparently demeaning statement that those who worship the ordinary gods, the heavenly figures, are less intelligent. If right now I worship one of these figures regularly, I will certainly take offense to this statement. Who likes to be called unintelligent? Even the stupid don’t like being called stupid.

The statement is factual, however. The results of such worship alone validate the claim. The consciousness of the worshiper is also accounted for. The various devas, or gods, of the Vedic tradition provide more or less material rewards. From material rewards, we satisfy our lust. In lust, we don’t see things properly. We think one person is different from another. We think that one person is our friend and another our enemy. We think that money, wine, women, gambling, and animal flesh will bring us everlasting happiness. We become overly saddened upon the death of another, not realizing that the spirit soul inside never can be killed.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.24“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)

Lord KrishnaWorship of the origin of matter and spirit brings only one reward: continued devotion. That’s right. You worship so that you can continue to worship. Why wouldn’t you ordinarily be allowed to continue to worship? Well, so many obstructions could get in the way. In the Vedas, the obstructions are put into three general categories. There are those caused by mother nature. Think hurricanes, tornadoes, chilling winters, and brutal summers. There are those caused by other living entities. Think tyrannical governments, rogues and thieves, and nasty people you encounter in society. Then there are those caused by the body and mind. Disease is bad enough, but even if you are apparently healthy, your mind can prevent you from worshiping. You could get caught up with a trivial issue, like with something someone may have said to you. You could get caught up with worry over the future, though in reality everything will likely be alright.

From the best ishta-deva you get the continued ability to worship. And since you are worshiping your deity of choice, you are automatically happy. The choice here is made in full knowledge. This means that you know that this particular ishta-deva is full of all opulences. He is all-attractive and ever powerful. He is also the kindest person in the world. He will rescue you from any situation, in this life or the next. He will stand tall when your confidence is shaken. He will bring to you what you lack and preserve what you have. He will remove the obstacles from your path, which will be accomplished by either Himself or His representative, Lord Ganesha.

Lord KrishnaBest of all, if you make the original your ishta-deva, you’ll automatically appreciate all the other worshipable objects. You’ll appreciate the water. The taste of it will remind you of the original person. You’ll appreciate the friends you have, and how they support you in your worship. Even your enemies will get some positive acknowledgment. Goswami Tulsidas offers obeisances to his enemies in the beginning of his Ramacharitamanasa, which is a wonderful poem describing the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, an incarnation of the original person. Tulsidas does this because even the enemies help the devotee. They help the devoted soul to see the difference between material and spiritual life. They also keep the devotee humble, making sure they don’t get too puffed up. An inflated false ego is the surest way to ruin your devotional life.

The original person is known as Krishna. He is a personality, and a supreme one at that. Krishna’s avataras are also worshipable, and sometimes devotees choose one of the avataras as their ishta-deva, such as with Tulsidas and Rama. Works like the Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Bhagavad-gita help one to understand Krishna better, making the choice much easier. You can worship inanimate matter or a personality who can bring an apparently better combination of matter to you. Or you can worship the origin of spirit and matter, who is so attractive that worship of Him will make you reach a level of happiness never thought to exist.

In Closing:

Tasting water worship indirect,

Honoring it then worship direct.


Fire too an element to use,

In worshipable object you can choose.


Only one to give knowledge of the rest,

Thus worship of Him only the best.


Worship Him for your devotion to go on,

This ability only which need rely upon.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I’m Counting On You

Arjuna“The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34 Purport)

“I’m counting on you to take care of this. Please don’t let me down. I don’t know anyone else who is so reliable. If reliability is lacking, this particular job won’t get done. The job is important too, so I’m putting my best man on it. I know that you won’t disappoint me, because you haven’t yet.”

If you hear such words, they will surely be encouraging, but they might also inspire some tension. It is one thing to go about your day without any worries or pressures. You just chill. You do whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re not constrained by time. You may impose some deadlines for yourself, but if you don’t meet them, the only person who is harmed is you.

When someone else counts on you, however, there is the added pressure to get the job done. The request made from another person who is respected automatically inspires service. In the Vedas we learn that it is in the very constitution of every living entity to serve. To serve is to be. You think and therefore you are, but your thinking is tied to your essential characteristic, which is to serve. Knowledge of this core property automatically increases the importance of the spiritual master, who kindly finds ways to inspire others into service. Through creating some pressure, through creating a dependency of circumstances, the guru gives someone else the chance to reach their true potential.

PrabhupadaThe individual is identified by the spirit soul. It is this soul which has the core property of service. The soul is also eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. Every living being is a soul. This means that the plant wants to serve as well. The ant, the dog, the cat, the chicken, and the tiny microorganism all want to serve.

Of course the capacity to serve is severely limited in these species. You can tell a tree that you’re counting on it to look nice the next day. You’re counting on it to stand tall and offer shade from the intense rays of the sun. The tree, however, can’t act on this service. It may or may not be there the next day; that is up to nature’s arrangement. The tree can stand there for thousands of years; so it has a long duration of life. The lengthy lifespan itself doesn’t indicate superiority, though, due to the service factor.

The human being has the potential to serve without motivation and without interruption. The human being can serve with confidence. The pressure applied by others also instills a work ethic and creates a sense of urgency. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. The idea is that only when you really need something will it get invented by someone. In the same vein, if someone is relying on you to take care of a task, you will find a way to get it done. Forget the weather, your level of fatigue, the possibility of missing your favorite show on television - since the other person is relying on you, you will make it happen.

Though the human being is superior through its ability to discriminate and then act, there is still the possibility of taking up the wrong service. The person in the mode of ignorance thinks they are serving themselves by drinking heavily and sleeping long hours. They get angry and do stupid things like destroy objects that are important to them. The person in the mode of passion serves themselves by feverishly pursuing fruitive rewards, like money, fame and wealth. The person in the mode of goodness tries to work towards knowledge, where they see the difference between matter and spirit in all aspects of life.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.45“The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.45)

The thief even thinks they are serving. They offer service to their benefactors by taking the property of others. In this way we see that service should be of some value; it should follow some line of authority. Without that authority, anyone’s preferred service is as good as another’s. If my family member is sick and has been told not to eat certain foods, if I foolishly offer those prohibited foods to them as an act of service, I am actually doing them harm. Thus serving itself isn’t so important; it is the type of service that matters.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe spiritual master is the representative of God. They are known as the guru, which as a Sanskrit word can also mean “heavy.” They have gravitas; they are respected because of their knowledge, both theoretical and practical. They speak of God’s glories with passion, conviction, and deference to their previous teachers. I may say that I don’t want to bow down to anyone or respect anyone else as superior, but this is actually quite silly. I must accept authority so many times throughout the day. I must obey the laws of the state and the strict rules imposed by nature. I must listen to my employers, my customers, and my family members from time to time.

The guru is not so foolish as to think that high knowledge was magically revealed to them. They accepted the information through humble submission before their own spiritual teacher. They took in the wisdom from hearing and then realized it through serving. The guru offered them the chance to serve, and so naturally they return the favor by offering others genuinely interested in spiritual life the same opportunity.

God Himself sets the best example in this regard. Just as in a charity drive sometimes the wealthy person leading the petition will kick things off with a substantial donation, the Supreme Lord, who is the original spiritual master, shows the proper example by Himself offering others a chance to serve. In His avatara of Lord Rama, He gave the opportunity for service to Shri Hanuman, who was very anxious. Rama counted on Hanuman to find Sita Devi, Rama’s missing wife. He counted on Hanuman to not jeopardize Sita’s life in trying to find her. He counted on Hanuman to return to Kishkindha with information of her whereabouts.

Hanuman serving RamaHanuman had a very difficult time, though he was very powerful and intelligent. Had he been only working for himself, he might not have been successful. Since Rama counted on him, Hanuman felt added inspiration to continue. He didn’t want to let Rama down. Rama was adored for His qualities. Hanuman only knew Him for a brief period at that time, and just from that he was so dedicated in service.

We can learn of the same Rama, along with His other non-different forms like Krishna, Vishnu, Narasimha and others, through consulting Vedic texts, which are the oldest scriptural works in existence. They don’t have a date of inception since they come from God Himself. In hearing about God, we learn that He is the most beautiful, the most wealthy, the most wise, the most famous, the most strong and the most renounced. Though He doesn’t need anything, the devotees always think that the Lord is counting on them. The Lord wants them to be devoted to Him. He wants them to try to bring others into devotional service as well, for that is the constitutional engagement, the purest version of service.

He speaks this message through His representative, the guru. The guru then offers so many opportunities for service. Lord Chaitanya is the Krishna avatara for this age, the Supreme Lord in the visual manifestation of a spiritual master. He could have delivered the whole world, but He left the job unfinished so that others could urgently take up the cause, so that they could confidently know that Lord Chaitanya was counting on them. And just like Shri Gaurahari, His humble followers try to deliver the world 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:

If not to mention I’d be remiss,

Know that I’m counting on you for this.


To someone else task could have gone,

But I know you’re the best to rely upon.


Since your devotion on solid ground,

I know that you won’t let me down.


Urgency in service of this type,

Ensures tasks to get done right.


Guru the same opportunity gives to all,

Serve him so in knowledge to stand tall.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Better Than Yours

Krishna's lotus feet“God is one. He is neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian. The Vedic injunction is ekam brahma dvitiyam nasti: ‘God is one; He cannot be two.’ So whether you are Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, God is one. This is to be understood.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest for Enlightenment, Ch 2f)

“My team is better than yours, man. They won the title the last three years. When was the last time your team won? Did you see how they choked in the playoffs last year? This year is not going to be any different. My team will wipe the floor with your team. Our players are better; our coach is better; and our fans are better. You should just give up hope right now, because you don’t have a prayer.”

Similar rivalries exist between followers of the various religious traditions around the world. It’s understandable to show support in this way. Others who do not follow the same allegiance as you are automatically grouped into the larger category known as the opposition. As you really believe in the person you worship, you will be vociferous in your support. In this show of support, there are bound to be arguments, and in those arguments you can be helped by pointing out the other side’s weaknesses.

In reality, though, there is no reason for the rivalry. “My God is better than yours” is the sentiment, but this thinking ignores the fact that God is one. He is the same God in all the traditions; though the worshipers might not know it. Without alluding to specific personalities and times and circumstances, we at least know that God’s position is scientifically understood. By science, we refer to basic experiment and observation.

I first know who the president of the company is by what others tell me. Since anyone can say anything, since anyone can make any claim, I can also do some experiments to see if what they say is true. Does the president call the shots? Is he involved in the important decisions? Does he represent the company at important events? Does he control who gets hired and fired or does someone else?

The president is also known by different names to different people. The secretary calls him “boss.” So do the other employees. Friendly associates refer to him as a colleague; a person with whom to do business. The wife calls him “Sweetie,” the children call him “Dad,” and the parents call him “Son.” There are different names, but the personality is always the same. Imagine if the child were to argue with the co-worker and say, “My dad is way better than your boss. My dad is here all the time and takes care of me. What does your boss do?” The argument is silly because the person referred to is the same on both sides.

When we speak of God, we refer to a Supreme Controller. He is the origin of matter and spirit. Just as a giant banyan tree springs from a tiny seed, so this entire creation, which is too vast to comprehend, sprung from the original person. In Him is found the potential for all action. All research, discovery, thought, argument, ability, and production originate in Him. If any of these features were absent, He wouldn’t be God. If He wasn’t God, then the arguments of His supporters would be meaningless.

In the Vedas we are told that the original person expands and expands in so many different ways. He personally expands and also impersonally expands. His personal expansions are Him; they are identical. You can refer to the original as God or one of the expansions and you’re referring to the same person. The impersonal expansions, which are more technically known as separated expansions, also originate in Him but don’t represent Him fully. The piece of wood gotten from a tree comes from God originally, but it is not God.

Demigods worshipingThe same goes for many elevated personalities. They may even be worshiped by genuine followers of a religious tradition. This doesn’t mean that they are automatically God. In the Vedic tradition, so many gods are mentioned. They all originate from the Supreme Lord, but they are not all equal to Him. Some are equal, as in the aforementioned personal expansions. But the majority of them aren’t. The arguments in this area, wherein followers of a non-God expansion go up against a follower of a personal expansion, are indeed flawed.

“Why would God create such confusion? Why appoint elevated personalities to be worshiped? Why not only give the world one God to worship?

There is confusion, for sure, but spiritual life is like any other endeavor. There is an evolution, which in this case relates to consciousness. In the beginning stages, who is actually ready to know the real truth, that the point of human life is to become devoted to God in thought, word and deed so that at the end of life you’ll reach the best destination? Who is ready to accept this style of worship, known as bhakti-yoga, in the beginning, abandoning hopes for fruitive gain, complete knowledge, and mystic perfection?

The animal instincts are prominent in the early stages of life. Therefore the first inclination is to enjoy the senses. In order to find such enjoyment, there has to be some work, which then brings rewards. Better it is if you worship elevated spiritual personalities for these rewards. “Let me worship such and such god. Then I will find the wealth that I am looking for.”

When sense enjoyment fails to provide lasting satisfaction, you turn your focus towards knowledge. “Let me read books of higher knowledge and find enlightenment that way. There is a specific worshipable personality or energy for this, and so I will fix my attention on that.” There may come a time where one wants mystic perfection attained through meditation. Again, there is a style of worship for this.

Only when one realizes that they want to serve God and no one else will they take to bhakti-yoga. To follow this route with firm conviction often requires some type of bad experience in one of the other routes. Maybe that experience took place in a previous life, but its taste is so bitter that one intensely hankers to have a completely different taste. Without such experience, it is difficult to really worship God purely, without any outside motivations.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.23“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

Lord KrishnaIn the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that those who are less intelligent worship the demigods. The word “demigod” is an English translation to the Sanskrit word “deva”. “Deva” just means god, so the reason for the “demi” prefix is that the Supreme Lord is described with adjectives added on. A “deva” is a lord, while God is the Supreme Lord. Krishna is the chief god, or deva vara. His personal expansions of Vishnu, Rama, Narasimha, and the like are non-different from Him; so they are chief as well.

You can accept this information as is, but you can also look to the rewards themselves to see which god is supreme. If you worship any of the demigods, all you can get is a material reward. Even impersonal liberation, known as mukti, is a kind of material reward, since it grants the negation of material interaction.

If you worship Krishna, you get Krishna. You don’t necessarily get anything else. You may or may not get material opulence. You may or may not get material liberation. In fact, since you get Krishna, you automatically get the real kind of liberation. Any life that is devoid of God consciousness can be considered bondage. And any life that is full of God consciousness is liberation, whether one lives in the earthly realm or in the spiritual sky.

The rewards themselves determine who is superior. Krishna is the Supreme Godhead because worshiping Him brings benefits both in the immediate and long term. He is worshiped in love; not just out of fear over eternal damnation. He is worshiped for His qualities, which are all-attractive. He is worshiped through the pleasing sound of His names recited in a mood of love: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In all respects my team superior,

Yours not good, perennially inferior.


In religious traditions rivalry also found,

But since God is one argument not sound.


In Vedas mention of gods more than one,

But still an original, need for confusion none.


By looking at rewards make a test,

To see worship of which is the best.


Worship Krishna and Krishna you get,

Then free from all miseries your life set.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Already Know

!BvLi!8Q!mk~$(KGrHqQOKnMEvyFryqulBMDdfi1(kQ~~_3“My dear Krishna, O infallible and most beautiful one, any human being who happens to hear about Your transcendental form and pastimes immediately absorbs through his ears Your name, fame and qualities; thus all his material pangs subside, and he fixes Your form in his heart.” (Rukmini Devi, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)

“Yeah, yeah, Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna some five thousand years ago. Arjuna was afraid to fight, but Krishna told him that good and bad results both come on their own regardless. We have a right to perform action but not to expect any type of result. We should work for the sake of working, not for the sake of earning.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know all about the Ramayana. I grew up in that tradition. Everyone in my family knows about Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman. Since I used to sleep for long periods of time when I was younger, one of my uncles used to call me Kumbhakarna, a reference to the heavyset and lazy brother of Ravana, the leading villain of the Ramayana. When we see brothers getting married on the same day, we automatically remember how Rama and His three younger brothers were all married on the same day in the kingdom of Janakpur. When we see two people who are meant to be with each other, who are a perfect match in every way, we automatically remember Sita and Rama.”

Sita and Rama“I know all of these things from Vedic culture, so what is the point in chanting? The emphasis on repeating the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, should be for those who are not familiar with the culture. If they have grown up in a life of drinking, gambling, and meat eating [in other words the life of a mleccha] let them hear the transcendental nectar that is Hari-katha, or discourses on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These rules and regulations don’t apply to me so much since I know these things already.”

If you are an expert in mathematics, perhaps the introductory course offered in college is of no use to you. You have surpassed that level of intelligence. You already have knowledge, so what is the point in hearing the same truths over and over again? As it relates to spiritual life, it is rare in the present age to hear about essential truths like reincarnation, the eternality of the soul, the four miseries of life, the difference between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, and the ultimate goal of life. If you are fortunate enough to hear these things, they should make an impact. They should change the way you behave. Indeed, one who really absorbs such information only takes greater pleasure in continuously hearing about it.

The essence of Vedic wisdom is presented in a book called the Bhagavad-gita. It is part of a larger book known as the Mahabharata, and the wisdom is presented through the narration of a real-life story. A heroic warrior reaches a point of moral uncertainty. He’s not sure what the right course of action is. He’s a warrior, and his side is presumably innocent. There is a war about to take place, and his side is relying on him. At the same time, the warrior, named Arjuna, doesn’t want to fight the leading members of the opposing side, for they are friends and family. He would rather give up everything and live like a recluse than enjoy an opulent kingdom at the cost of their lives.

Bhagavad-gita, 1.31“I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.31)

Arjuna and KrishnaShri Krishna, Arjuna’s well-wisher, at Arjuna’s insistence steps in to clear things up. In the process, He explains the meaning of life. He answers the most important questions one could have, addressing the most difficult to understand concept first: death. Death is explained to be merely the shedding of clothes, a temporary change for the spirit soul. That soul is never born nor does it ever die. It always exists. Since the soul cannot be killed, there is no reason to unnecessarily grieve over the death of someone else.

At the same time, the soul inside of the material body must act. That action should lead to purification. Hence there is prescribed action. Sometimes the prescription is to refrain from action. As both aim to bring purification, sometimes there is action in inaction and inaction in action. Arjuna mistakenly thought that the inaction of giving up the fight was the proper course. There was really action in that decision, and it was the wrong kind of action. Krishna told him to fight, which was visible action, but actually inaction when taken up in the proper mood.

The Gita presents the philosophical basis for following dharma, or religiosity, and other Vedic works explain the object of religious life. That object is none other than Krishna Himself. The sacred work known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam first gives a lengthy explanation of Krishna’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the God that we all either know or choose to ignore. He is all-attractive, the fountainhead of the other non-different expansions of Godhead. He creates the many universes, populates them with creatures, and appears among them every now and then in forms suited to the time and circumstance.

The latter portion of the Bhagavatam deals with Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. The Ramayana, another sacred Vedic text, also deals with Krishna’s pastimes, but in His incarnation as Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Those who grow up in Vedic culture have the chance to become familiar with these pastimes without intentional effort. They know of Krishna without thinking in terms of religion. Therefore when there are actual discourses on topics relating to Him, they are quite familiar with what is discussed.

Krishna in VrindavanaJust as Krishna gave Arjuna a philosophical explanation followed by a chartered course of action, the discussion on Krishna’s teachings and His pastimes have a follow up. The audience is recommended to take up bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It may not seem like it on the surface, but this is what Arjuna took up as well. Bhakti-yoga’s implementation can vary. It is not very rigid, nor is it the same for every person. Arjuna served God through fighting in a war. Hanuman served by heroically searching through an enemy city. Prahlada served through thinking, and many others have served in ways unique to their circumstance.

The recommended devotional activities of this age are chanting and hearing. Chant the holy names, such as Krishna and Rama, and hear discourses about Lord Hari, which is another name for God. The benefits are there for both the neophyte and expert alike. The person who is very familiar with such topics actually derives more pleasure hearing them again if they are practicing devotion.

When implementing devotional principles, you take more pleasure from hearing the same discourses. Previously you may not have had so much of an interest, but if you are always serving God, then naturally you will be eager to hear about Him. Since He is unlimited, you can hear about Him over and over again. The change in outlook represents a real escape, where the material existence no longer has a negative effect on the consciousness. With a cleared consciousness, one is free to feel love for God, which is at their core. They are free to express their loving emotions and they are eager to hear their beloved glorified more and more. Thus the devotional principles are always beneficial, regardless of the level of advancement in the recipient.

In Closing:

“About Krishna and Dasharatha’s sons four,

I have heard all of their stories before.


I grew up knowing pastimes of this tradition,

On stage and screen seen many a rendition.


From hearing again what more can I get?

To hear the drunkards and meat eaters let.”


Actually, divine teachings a change should make,

From Krishna valuable life lessons to take.


In devotion desire to hear more and more,

Glorious is He whom you most adore.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On To Bigger and Better Things

Heavenly skies“After one enjoys the results of virtuous activities in the upper planetary systems, he comes down to this earth and renews his karma or fruitive activities for promotion. This planet of human beings is considered the field of activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 15.2 Purport)

“You ask, ‘What have I been up to? What’s new in my life?’ Well, I’ve started this new job. It’s way better than the previous one I had. The pay is better and so are the benefits. It’s closer to home, and the hours are great. On the home front, we’re looking to move to a bigger house, one that has more rooms. I want a bigger yard also. That way I can host parties. If my wife and I keep working this way, we’ll be able to retire with plenty of money to spare. Then we can really enjoy.”

This is the basic sentiment of the fruitive worker. And why shouldn’t it be? Who wants to be stuck in mediocrity? If you don’t make plans for the future, why get out of bed each morning? You need excitement and anticipation in order to make life fun. In the Vedas, such action and reaction is known as karma, and those who engage in it exclusively are known as karmis. If they follow the proper path, their destination is the higher planets, where material enjoyment is increased. Whether one believes in the afterlife or not, it is seen that within the present life the same kind of destination is desired.

We can think of the higher planet as the bigger house. In the bigger house, there is more room to maneuver. There is more space for the kids to roam around. For material enjoyment, you need a spouse, a home, children, and friends and relatives. These components fill out the picture. Enhance the quality of each component and you apparently increase your level of enjoyment as well. “Bigger and better” is the motto. It works with the common worker and also with the businessman. The athlete and entertainer think the same as well. “My last album went gold, so my next one has to go platinum. During the last tour I played arenas, so the next step up is to play the large stadiums.”

rock concertWhile success is not guaranteed in the least, if it should happen to come the result is actually an increase in wants. In this model, I am basically working so that I can increase my desires. I may not realize it at the time, but it is most certainly true. I work today at my job so that I can get a better car. That desire is a want. Once that car arrives, I will want something better. Again I will work for it; thereby keeping the relationship of working to increase wants.

Is there another way? Should our work decrease our wants?

Desire is fundamental to an existence. It only makes sense to want things, but work itself shouldn’t automatically lead to more work that is more difficult. It shouldn’t increase the burdens. Moreover, it shouldn’t bring only temporary satisfaction. In the same Vedas it is said that once the karmi who follows Vedic principles reaches the heavenly planets, they eventually have to fall back down to earth. This occurs when the merits they accumulated from their pious work expire. Think of it like reserving a room in a fancy restaurant for an hour. When the hour is up, you have to leave. In the same way, when the time allotted for your stay in heaven is up, you have to go back down to earth. Even in the earthly realm, the same is seen. If you are the most successful person in the world, at the time of death you are forced to exit your body. The same applies to the least successful person in the world.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.21“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)

Karma is purified when there is a specific term attached. That term is yoga, which means a linking. Work so that you can link your consciousness to the Supreme Consciousness. Work so that you’ll always think of the origin of matter and spirit. Work not to promote yourself anywhere, but to instead elevate your way of thinking. Your consciousness goes with you. If you move to a different area to escape bad experiences or to look for a better climate, your consciousness comes along for the ride. If it was filled with negative thoughts before, those don’t automatically vanish with the move.

In karma that doesn’t have yoga, the consciousness is set on promotion. Bigger and better. This mindset stays with the individual wherever they may go. Just because you go to the top of a building doesn’t necessarily mean that your way of thinking has changed. When you reach the area of promotion, if the mind is set on more promotion, the eventual fall will be more painful.

In the elevated consciousness the desire is to serve more and more. When the motives are pure, no outside factor can inhibit this. To tell how pure the motives are, one sees how desirous they remain of material promotion. If I desire a big house or a fancy car, so many things can get in my way. The strongest inhibitor is time; which is the greatest subduer. The car manufacturer can cease production of the vehicle of choice. I could lose my job. I could get into an accident with the car.

“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)

Nectar of DevotionIf my desire is to serve the Supreme more and more, all I need is my mind. It is said in the Nectar of Devotion that a priestly man once only contemplated making an offering to the Supreme and somehow had it accomplished. He was lacking the means, so he could only daydream of the possibility of making the offering, which would be the best. He would come to find out that the offering was as good as made. In this way, nothing could stop him from serving.

What is the benefit to the elevated consciousness?

If on one side I need constant promotion to receive temporary satisfaction and on the other the mind alone is fully capable of meeting objectives, wouldn’t we say the latter is superior? Thus the elevated consciousness not only constitutes as spiritual life, it also relates to real and lasting happiness. These claims and more are supported by the vast Vedic literature left by those who had reached this consciousness themselves. They learned the art from their teachers and then kindly passed on the teachings to future generations.

As this present age is filled with so many souls who only want more and more in the chase for promotion, there is rampant quarrel and hypocrisy. Therefore just hearing of the need for transcendence is rare, and more rare is finding a situation where it is practiced. As mentioned before, only the mind is required, though to train the mind we can implement various physical practices. In times past, an entire culture of spiritual life, which was supported by knowledge and renunciation, could be created without issue. In today’s environment, the best physical practice is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” coupled with abstention from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Through a little sincerity and a concerted effort at the beginning, the elevation in consciousness quickly begins, leaving behind the life of unending wants.

In Closing:

How bigger and better to get,

On this my mind is set.


Once cherished items I do receive,

On improvement then ideas to conceive.


In heaven enjoyments stand tall,

Eventually back to earth must fall.


In devotional service defect not the same,

Mind alone required for pleasure to gain.


Chanting and hearing tradition from Vedas take,

And quickly into peaceful home your mind make.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Different Kinds of Faith

Praying“According to one's existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.3)

Bhagavad-gita, 17.3“’Yes, we can.’ I believe in that slogan. This new politician isn’t like the others; he’s not anything we’ve seen before. He’s post-partisan. He’s post-racial. He will eliminate the bickering that goes on in the nation’s capital. He will get all factions together to really sit down and hammer out the big issues. I believe in his ability to heal. Once he is elected, the nation will be better off. No more discrimination. No more worrying over jobs. No more worrying about whether we’ll be forced to join a war.”

“I love her with all my heart. If she would only love me back, then everything would be alright. She is my everything. We would have so much fun together. We would go to this place and that. We would stay up late watching movies and talking. We would never tire of each other’s company. Without her, I can’t see myself being happy in life.”

“I believe in the team. I can’t do this on my own. I have abilities for sure, but not the ability to manage everything. I must rely on my teammates. I know that they will carry me through. They will bring us to where we need to go. Without them, I don’t think I can be happy. I’m comforted knowing that they are here to support me. We support each other in fact.”

The human being evolves so many different kinds of faith. The ones mentioned above relate to basic human interaction, but there are also different faiths with respect to spiritual life. Those are more or less the acknowledged faiths. “I belong to this religion or that, which I inherited from my parents.” After the acknowledgement is made, the individual returns to extending faith in human interaction. Interestingly enough, if one really learns the true nature of the head of spiritual life, they would see that He is a person as well. This means that we can invest faith in Him too. Unlike the other kinds of faith, faith in Him brings a permanent condition.

PoliticsWhen I invest faith in a politician and the situation they intend to bring, in the unlikely scenario that they are able to fully deliver on their campaign promises, the result is not permanent. Let’s say that I vote for someone because they promise to save my business. Okay, fine. The business is saved. Now what? Will the savior automatically make it profitable? Will my company continue to appeal to the general public infinitely into the future? Even the most profitable company in the world constantly has to watch its back. Competitors are awaiting their opportunity to pounce. They eagerly anticipate each quarter’s earnings report to look for any weaknesses.

If the politician supposedly ends discrimination, this is also a temporary condition. Understandably, discrimination is only viewed in the short term, and with respect to dominant and minority parties. What’s forgotten, however, is that the situations can change very quickly. Depending on time and circumstance, the same two parties can switch roles. Then what do you do about discrimination? The form of it that you loathed is still practiced; though you can’t recognize it because the discriminated against becomes the party doing the discriminating.

The association of the paramour seems like it is the only thing needed in life, but that is never the case. Sense gratification is not permanent. You eat pizza today and you want something better tomorrow. You watch a great movie today and you want to watch it over and over again to try to relive the excitement. The behavior of the couple who has been married for many years is markedly different from the newlywed couple. This is all due to the effect on sense gratification; an effect that is not permanent.

You can rely on your team to help you out, but the highest possible end with this route is limited. At best, you can hope for success. Okay, fine, but then what? What happens after you win? Can the team bring you lasting satisfaction? Can they give you something to do every day for the rest of your life, so that you’ll be invigorated each morning? Can they make you full of loving feelings that only increase with time?

Of course, the side arguing against these kinds of faith has the obvious leg up. The single point to end the argument can be mentioned at the beginning or it can be mentioned at the end, as a sort of checkmate. That point is that none of the above situations addresses death, which is the great eraser. In the Bhagavad-gita, death, which is also known as time, is described to be the greatest subduer.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.30“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

Death can devour anything. Think of it like the most powerful garbage disposal system. The garbage disposal is supposed to handle smaller items, like stray pieces of vegetables and the like that fall into the sink. You put anything larger through it and it will get clogged. Death is undefeated. It takes away whatever gains you have accumulated. It removes whatever relationships you have, no matter how much you value them.

There is a controller of death, though. He is the origin of time, which is another name for death. As mentioned before, He is a personality. This is known only to those who wish to know it. If you view God solely as an order supplier, once He apparently fails to give you what you want, you’ll turn to others. If you view God only as an impersonal force, you will be bereft of service. Others, then, will serve as objects of service. If you view God only as an object to be meditated on in quiet, again you will be lacking service, as there is seemingly no reciprocation to your effort.

Lord KrishnaIf you know Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-attractive in His features, then you can serve Him directly. You can invest faith in Him. This faith will yield the best results. Those results arrive under any circumstance as well. Once a five-year old son of a king was being tortured for having this faith. And yet the very faith saved him. A beautiful princess was once about to be shown naked against her will in front of an assembly of kings. Her faith saved her. A devoted warrior was once about to give up in his reconnaissance mission because he had failed to achieve success after so much time and effort had been spent. His faith saved him.

The faith in these instances led to short-term success that was also tied to long-term satisfaction. In each case the ability to serve was protected. That is the ideal boon to faith. We are happiest when we are serving, and service to someone who is all-powerful is the best. All other faiths are extended to beings who are not all-powerful. Therefore such beings are not guaranteed to deliver on that faith in the first place, and if they do the result is situations that are tenuous at best. Such is not the case with the Supreme Lord, who protects what the devotees have and brings to them what they lack.

In Closing:

“This politician unlike any other man,

I believe in his ‘Yes, we can.’


Beauty of my beloved to sing,

Her association happiness to bring.


So fortunate to be on this team,

For support on them I will lean.”


These faiths through life evolve,

That they’re flawed in mind resolve.


With death they don’t deal,

So how results can be real?


The controller of death there is, faith He deserves,

Brings what you lack, what you have He preserves.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Haldi Kalash

Kalash“First applying turmeric, they are singing of the auspiciousness. They are doing the family rituals, filling the kalasha and applying oil.” (Janaki Mangala, 115)

prathama haradi bandana kari mangala gāvahiṃ |
kari kula rīti kalasa thapi tulu caḍhāvahiṃ ||

“In Hindu marriages the bride and groom get covered with dirt beforehand? They essentially put mud all over their bodies? What is the reason for this? How about all the pots that get laid out and the singing? Why such a big deal over a marriage? In a few years they’re going to despise each other anyway. I can see why people prefer the city hall marriages. Less fuss; no making a big deal out of nothing.”

Each tradition has their own rituals related to a wedding, and the Vedic tradition is no different in this regard. As it is the most ancient, it uses articles that are still commonly found today. There needn’t be a costly ceremony if basic things like turmeric, oil and pitchers are around. Regardless of the tradition, the purpose of the pomp is the same: to make the occasion more festive. And in Janakpur a long time ago, they had a lot to feel festive about.

You could go with the simple marriage. The bride and the groom show up in front of a judge, get their marriage license, and then go their merry way. You save a lot of money this way too. Of course the parents likely aren’t involved in such a ceremony. If they had any say, they would want some kind of celebration. After all, marriage is a lifelong journey, one not to be entered into lightly. Why not celebrate it? We have parades when our sports teams win championships. We have graduation ceremonies for people successfully completing school. We have a celebration when a new president enters the Oval Office. Is it too much to ask for a celebration for a wedding?

Rama and Lakshmana in the wedding processionThe wedding referenced above took place a long time ago. The arrangements were made by the King of Videha, Janaka. The two people getting married had no say in the arrangements. This event was for their parents, relatives and people of the town. Everyone in Janakpur knew Sita Devi, King Janaka’s beautiful daughter. They were very happy that she was marrying Rama, the beloved prince of Ayodhya.

From the verse above we see that the ceremony started with the applying of haldi, or turmeric. Seems strange to put mud all over your body, but such a practice is meant to bring auspiciousness. We see that in the background was the sound of auspicious songs. We get these descriptions from the Janaki Mangala, a poem authored by the famous Vaishnava saint, Goswami Tulsidas. Mangala means auspiciousness, and in this case the auspiciousness relates to the marriage of Janaki, which is another name for Sita.

All the family rituals also took place, with kalashas filled and oil applied. Haldi and kalasha are staples of the wedding in the Vedic tradition. Thus nothing was held back. The people of the town got to join in on the festivities. In an ordinary wedding, if we don’t know the participants very well, the most we can contribute is showing up to the actual ceremony. We sit through the religious part of the wedding and then enjoy the reception by eating and mingling with other attendees.

As this wedding related to God and His eternal consort, everyone got to participate. Never think that because you lack skill or notoriety that somehow you are then shut out from worshiping. There is no such thing as a big devotee or a small devotee in the eyes of the Supreme Lord. Sincerity is what matters most. In school, we can give identical sets of building blocks to students and then ask them to build something. The student who builds a castle will be praised more than the student who builds something much simpler, but in devotional service the distinctions are made based off the effort alone. As God says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is the ability in man.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.8“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

As He is the ability, one person may be blessed with more skill than another. Yet it is how that skill is utilized that matters in the end. In Janakpur, some people helped with the actual arrangements, while others just stayed in the background and sang. Their singing was just as important as the other work going on. In the same way, know that today any person can celebrate Sita and Rama’s marriage by remembering them and repeating their names over and over again. Rama is also known as Krishna in His original form. Sita is His energy, so she can be referred to as Hare. The maha-mantra thus addresses them both: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

All the effort may seem a little over the top, but in worshiping God there is no wasted effort. Every time His name is recited, one becomes purer. Every time one travels back in time and gets excited over the prospect of the most virtuous man in the universe uniting with the most beautiful and chaste woman, the consciousness goes one step closer towards reaching its constitutional position of servant of God.

In Closing:

To prepare for wedding of bride so dear,

First on her body turmeric to smear.


One could hear in the background,

Auspicious songs beautiful sound.


Filled golden pots put into place,

King, queens and people of smiling face.


Traditions gave wedding festive taste.

For Sita and Rama, never effort a waste.