Saturday, August 3, 2013

Doing Your Homework

Sita and Rama“It is not possible for me to be tempted by opulence or wealth. I am undeviatingly with Rama, like the radiance with the sun.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.15-16)

śakyā lobhayituṃ nāhamaiśvaryeṇa dhanena vā ||
ananyā rāghaveṇāhaṃ bhāskareṇa prabhā yathā |

Ravana took Sita away while she was residing in the forest with her husband Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. What was a king’s son doing living like a homeless man in a thatched hut constructed by His younger brother? Why was His wife with Him? If you’re going to rough it, you might as well give up all enjoyable things. In the scope of material desires, nothing is more enjoyable than the association of an attractive member of the opposite sex. Thus the presence of Sita in the forest of Dandaka raised a contradiction, but an intelligent person would study the situation further before rushing to judgment.

Such study would reveal that Rama was compelled to bring both Sita and Lakshmana because of their refusal to stay home. Imagine if you were wrongfully convicted of a crime and the punishment was residing in a desolate area for fourteen years. Would you think of asking someone to come with you? Maybe if you didn’t like the person you would. Maybe if you thought they were the truly guilty one you would insist that they suffer along with you. But you wouldn’t ask people that you really cared about. To have affection for someone means to put their interests ahead of yours.

Lord RamaRama is the most unselfish person, so naturally He asked His dear wife to stay home. He gave the same plea to Lakshmana. The reasons provided suited each situation. With Lakshmana, Rama wanted him to stay home and watch after the kingdom. The king, Dasharatha, would be saddened by Rama’s absence. Though it was to protect the good name of His father that Rama agreed to the banishment, it was not Dasharatha’s choice. The king was painted into a corner by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who wanted her son Bharata to ascend the throne instead of Rama. If Lakshmana left too, then Dasharatha would be bereft of two of his four sons.

With Sita, the pitch was a lot easier. She was a woman, a beautiful one at that. It is the stereotype that women prefer to go shopping so that they can wear the fanciest jewelry and the latest designer clothes. Imagine if you’re a princess, where you have so much opulence around you all the time. To go from that life to the wilderness, where there would be nothing but the shade of your husband’s lotus feet, would be a stretch. Thus Rama, for Sita’s best interest, asked her to remain home.

“Whether it be residence on top of a palace, traveling on airplanes, or flying through the sky (via yogic powers), in all circumstances the shade of the husband's feet is by far superior.”  (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.9)

None of that opulence appealed to Sita. What would you rather have, your favorite food dish offered to you regularly or the association of someone you cherish? If you have the latter, then the former doesn’t really matter. Eating out at restaurants is enjoyable not particularly because of the type of food one consumes. In modern times, picking up food to eat is not an inconvenience. The outing to the restaurant is enjoyed because it allows you to spend time with someone that you like. Where you eat usually isn’t that important; it’s the association that matters.

Sita and Rama in the forestFor Sita, Rama’s association was most preferable. Indeed, His company is the most valuable gift for any person. The goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi, rests on His chest in His form of Lord Narayana, the source of men. Sita is the same Lakshmi, so naturally she has the same affection. What would jewels mean to her without her husband around? She wanted to look beautiful especially for Him. There was no need to look attractive otherwise. The opulence of the kingdom didn’t matter either. Rama was banished just when the kingdom was about to be handed to Him. The night before the unfortunate turn of events, Sita and Rama slept on the floor on a bed of kusha grass as a means of sacrifice for worshiping Lord Narayana.

Beyond just preferring to go with Rama, Sita made such a flawless presentation, relying on logic, reason, and Rama’s own past words and His dedication to dharma, that the Lord was forced to take her. Now, in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, she is explaining to Ravana how she can never be enticed by opulence or wealth. She is always with Rama, like the sunshine is with the sun.

Ravana took Sita when she was in the forest with Rama. It never occurred to him that Sita wouldn’t find opulence and wealth appealing. He didn’t stop to think, “Hey, I wonder what this woman is doing here. Why isn’t she back home? It’s not typical for a woman to accompany her husband in such a way.” Most likely he thought that Rama forced her to come along, that He was too attached to live without her. Perhaps Sita wanted the opulence and wealth of a royal kingdom but was forced to live without it.

Therefore Ravana made his many advances, but got rejected every time. The sunshine is so connected with the sun that it knows the sun very well. As Shri Rama is the original sun of spiritual effulgence, knowing Him means that one has full knowledge. Not that they know every nook and detail about every law of science and the workings of various machines, but they aren’t lacking anything with respect to knowledge that is important. I may know physics inside and out, but if I think that material opulence and wealth are the summit to an existence, I’m not very wise.

Ravana had so many beautiful wives. He had tremendous strength. The opulence of his city of Lanka was beyond description. Though he had it all, he was driven by his senses. He was a slave to them, rather than a master. If his high material position correlated with real intelligence, he wouldn’t have been induced to act sinfully, being moved around like a puppet.

Shri HanumanThe king of Lanka offended Sita and Rama in the worst possible way and had to pay dearly for it. Hanuman, another central character of the Ramayana, also met Sita and Rama, but he had a different mindset. He studied the situation, as from his position in high intelligence he was rightfully curious. He heard the situation from Rama and Lakshmana and then deduced that risking everything to please the goddess of fortune is the most worthwhile activity. Unlike Ravana, he was able to bring her real happiness by delivering to her a message from her husband. From his exploits, we know that Hanuman too is forever linked with the spiritual sun, the sun of the sun dynasty, Shri Rama.

In Closing:

Wife in austere setting to see,

How happy could she really be?


Driven by lust, Ravana of singular course,

Took Sita back to Lanka by force.


Opulence and riches on the table placed,

Rejected outright, spit back in his face.


Hanuman instead chance at devotion to seize,

Showed proper way for God to please.

Friday, August 2, 2013

All Out of Tricks

Sita and Rama“It is not possible for me to be tempted by opulence or wealth. I am undeviatingly with Rama, like the radiance with the sun.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.15-16)

śakyā lobhayituṃ nāhamaiśvaryeṇa dhanena vā ||
ananyā rāghaveṇāhaṃ bhāskareṇa prabhā yathā |

The radiance is always tied to the sun. The sun is the source of that radiance. There is nothing you can do to change the relationship or eliminate the dependence. If you ask the radiance to go somewhere else, to separate from the sun, it ceases to be radiance. It turns into something else. As the radiance loses its intensity, it eventually withers away. With the case of Sita Devi, however, whatever one tries to do to her, her defining characteristic is always active, showing the difference between the liberated state and the conditioned state.

Conditioned can be thought of as contaminated. If something is in an impure state, it doesn’t function properly. It also can be changed. An unhealthy human being is more susceptible to disease. If you travel here and there, work out all the time to the point of exhaustion, and don’t eat properly, the diseases that are always lurking around take you as a prime target. If you are healthy, then you are strong. In full strength, it is difficult for others to attack.

The living entities are expansions of God, who is the original store of spiritual entities. He is the greatest spiritual entity, measured in terms of bliss, knowledge and eternality. We are smaller spiritual entities, which means that we inherit the same qualities but possess them at a lesser degree. In the conditioned state, we are rays from the sun that are not very strong. They can go astray, tempted into thinking that the sun doesn’t exist. In such a case, the radiance loses its potency; it is no longer soothing. It does not perform its function properly, and so all states discovered through unintended ignorance are miserable.

sun and radianceThe living entities who stay with the sun that is God in full knowledge cannot be tempted by any offer to leave their position. For the materialist who is an enemy of God, the strongest weapons used to entice others are opulence and wealth. You can use examples outside of religious life to see the same tactic in effect. Let’s say that I’ve joined a gym with one of my friends. Our intent is to go every day. We will work out sometime during the day and then gradually become fitter.

The problem is that only one of us is committed. Let’s say that it’s me. I want to work out regularly. I want to keep a regimen. I don’t like doing some things on some days and other things on other days. I’d rather generate a momentum of action. I know that lethargy gains strength the more one is inactive, like the principle of “a body at rest stays at rest.”

My friend has the opposite mentality. He hates working out. He’s regretting that we ever joined the gym. He is so happy if I have some other engagement that prevents me from going to the gym. This way he won’t have to go either. On the days where he really can’t find the will to work out, he’ll employ different tactics to get me to change my mind. He’ll make excuses. He might offer me some other opulence, like a good time somewhere else. As a last resort, he’ll try bribing me with a free gift. As we’re approaching the entrance to the gym, he might say: Hey man, let’s skip the workout today. Let’s go to your favorite restaurant right now. I’m paying. I swear. Please, let’s go.

Working out at the gymIf this last offer doesn’t work, it means that I cannot be bought off. It means that my will is too strong. When the living entity is fixed in devotional service, none of the bribes offered by the materialist can change their stance. Here Sita Devi confirms this fact. She says that she cannot be tempted by aishvarya [opulence] or dhana [valuables].

When we live in ignorance, it is very easy to be tempted by such things. If we’re not God conscious, we think that having a lot of money is the most important thing. With plenty of money, we won’t have to worry about working. Food, clothing and shelter will be accounted for throughout the rest of our stay on earth. We’ll also value opulence. “Let me have the biggest house. Let me have the fastest car. Let me have the most beautiful spouse. Then I’ll feel good about myself.”

But actually if one is not always thinking of God in the right way the journey through life is relatively the same for everyone. The animals eat, sleep, mate and defend without a problem. You can’t bribe an animal with money. You can’t give it so much food that it’ll change its habits. It goes by its instincts, which are not very refined. The human being has more intelligence, so to worry over trivial things like valuables and opulence is not very wise.

Sita is always with Rama. Her allegiance is undeviating. Because of her link in consciousness, she can be considered identical to Him. The two are worshiped together, Sita-Rama. Ravana tried to take Rama out of the picture. Yet just as the sun can’t be separated from the sunshine, so Rama cannot be removed from the spotless living entity who is Sita Devi. Her resolve was extremely strong. Her dedication to Rama defines her, so Ravana’s advances were pointless.

“And, O most fortunate one, He [Rama], who is self-controlled, is followed by His wife Sita, just as the highly-effulgent sun is followed at the end of the day by its light.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.11)

Sita and RamaA similar description of Sita was previously given by Lakshmana to Hanuman. Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother, and he follows Rama like a twin. His devotion also defines him, though it is practiced in a slightly different way. Hanuman’s devotion is also a little different in its implementation, but the defining feature is there all the same.

Every living entity is meant to have the same inseparable bond to the Supreme Lord. We are all God conscious originally, though at the moment transcendence seems far away. Through the resolve of Sita, know that wealth and good material attributes aren’t so important. They are not the goal of life. Ravana’s offers for sovereignty and control over the kingdom through becoming his chief queen were the last tricks in his bag. After that he had nothing left. Sita is Rama’s and there is nothing anyone can do about it. If we always chant the names of that beloved coupled, like the names found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the allurements of this distorted reflection of the spiritual world will not be able to deviate us from our devotion to the most beloved.

In Closing:

His hopes starting to sag,

Took out last trick from bag.


Riches and opulence to suffice,

Sita away from Rama to entice.


But like radiance always by sun's side,

Sita's heart with Rama only to reside.


In constitutional position not to break,

From her resolve valuable life lesson take.


With God too we are meant to be,

And not illusion of matter to see.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Avoiding the Uncertainties

Lord Krishna holding His flute“As stated in Bhagavad-gita (2.41), devotional service to the Lord is one, and the mind of the devotee is not diverted to the many branches of uncertainties.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.7.40 Purport)

With the advanced intelligence gifted to the human species, there is a wide range of activities available to us. We can choose in which direction our mental efforts will go and on which subject matters our knowledge will increase. The devoted souls are unique in that they remain resolute on the path of transcendence, with fixed intelligence. They know that all other paths represent branches of uncertainties and are thus not very fruitful. The path of devotion is the lone path of certainty, so anyone who remains on it is guaranteed of the desired destination.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.41“Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.41)

We can use so many examples to see where the uncertainties arise and how the valuable potential for advanced intelligence goes to waste. Let’s say that in the course of my life I get intrigued by history. Napoleon, Hitler, Caesar, Washington and the like grab my attention. Therefore I start to read more about them. I decide to study history in college and then teach it afterwards.

NapoleonWhat exactly can I teach? I can give others information about what has happened in the past. Surely that is important, as we can learn from human behavior. If someone made a mistake in the past, we know to avoid that same mistake in the future. And yet the study of history is riddled with uncertainties. The circumstances change, so whatever lesson we think we’re learning from an incident two hundred years ago doesn’t always apply to modern times. Moreover, the real influence of human behavior is glossed over, ignored, or completely rejected. Therefore what can really be learned from this study?

Then there is the study of science. Learn how the body works in accordance with the laws of nature. See how weather patterns develop over several decades and then make predictions about the future. Again, there are always uncertainties. One day the scientific community is in consensus that the earth is warming, and then the next twelve years we get the coldest average temperatures in a century. The model then has to be revamped. New predictions have to be made. Since the study ignores the origin of life, there are always uncertainties.

Of course that origin of life is God. He should not be considered a mythical character developed by religious traditions and their zealous advocates. He can be understood in scientific terms. The nature around us operates on a regular schedule. A schedule implies intelligence. If I am using a computer server and I need a task to run at a certain time, I set one up in the task scheduler that is built into the operating system. The operating system was created with intelligence, and so too was the scheduler. There is no question of randomness. How then can the days, years, months, seasons, and predictable behavioral patterns of the species all be due to coincidence?

Windows task schedulerCertainly there is some faith involved in understanding the spiritual science, but there is also faith in the studies riddled with uncertainties. We trust what the historians tell us and the lessons they want us to learn. This doesn’t mean that our trust is worthwhile. We put stock in the predictions of the scientists, but they are wrong quite frequently.

In the spiritual science that is devotional service, there is no harm in extending faith. You automatically acquire good habits and an outlook that all other disciplines try to create themselves. Their attempts are made while ignoring God, whereas in devotional service God is both acknowledged and relied upon as a guiding force. He is all-powerful and the objective is to be with Him, so why wouldn’t He protect the vows of His devotees?

If you remain firm on the path of transcendence, you become honest, kind, gentle and wise. You see things clearly as well. You know that every living entity is a spirit soul at the core. You know that the intrigue into various topics is due to the soul’s inherent knowledge. That knowledge is only uncovered when there is the turn towards God. In all other areas, the knowledge remains suppressed. The material nature is a separated energy, one which the human being can never gain control over. When they put their fate in the hands of the Supreme Lord, then the control is shifted to the one person who does indeed dominate the material nature.

Bhagavad-gita, 13.19“Thus the field of activities [the body], knowledge, and the knowable have been summarily described by Me. Only My devotees can understand this thoroughly and thus attain to My nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.19)

In the spiritual science we learn that the Supreme Lord created the material universe to act as a sort of playing field for those who wanted to forget Him. As such there is a seemingly endless variety of activities. The activities give the illusion of being beneficial, but in fact they are not totally fruitful to the living entity, who craves the certainty of a better destination. The best destination is the spiritual sky, and the person who follows the devotional principles knows with certainty how to get there.

Lord Krishna and friends in VrindavanaThey always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” in order to think of the supreme being, who is all-attractive and the source of transcendental pleasure. They don’t shut themselves off from the outside world, either. Since they are on the straightened path, they know how all objects relate to the Supreme. They see the water as the gift from the Divine to be used in service to Him. It is to be used to quench one’s thirst so that they can remain fit in their devotional practices. It is to be used for cleansing and cooking as well, both of which are dovetailed with the same devotional service.

Objects generated by the sciences riddled with uncertainties can also be used in the same service. Thus the devotees are so kind that they allow for the accrual of spiritual benefits by even those who are not open to spiritual practice. Since such objects can be used to serve the highest person, the Supreme Lord takes note and offers some benefit to the creators of such objects. The glories of the devotees thus know no end. They show the proper path in life and they kindly help others to find it as well.

In Closing:

Why on uncertainties to depend,

When ears to God’s words can lend?


Predictions from scientists so long,

Never perfect, always something wrong.


With limited knowledge at best,

Most they can do is offer guess.


For devotees the future is sure,

To be with God when desires pure.


On path of transcendence straight,

With certainty know what they await.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It Is Good For You

blueberry muffins“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)

Bhagavad-gita, 6.16“A new study shows that eating tomatoes is good for you. It has the important ingredient known as lycopene. This is an antioxidant, which means its stops oxidation within the bloodstream. This oxidation of free radicals is what causes cancer, so antioxidants can thus prevent cancer from occurring. Green tea, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and so many fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. We don’t eat enough of these, but doing so will be good for us.”

“Exercise is good for you. Rather than sit around like a lazy bum all the time, get up every now and then to get the blood flowing. Go for a walk on a regular basis. Join a gym and use one of the cardiovascular fitness machines a few times a week. Play a sport, like tennis, basketball, or swimming. In this way avoid obesity, which is known to cause so many diseases.”

“Read the newspaper every day. This will be good for you. You’ll stay up to date with current events. When you meet with other people, you will know what they are discussing. You will seem more intelligent, and who wouldn’t want that? If they bring up something important to you, you won’t be left saying, ‘Oh, sorry. I don’t know anything about that.’ Reading this way will broaden your horizons. You’ll be forced to escape the narrow viewpoint of the world you’ve developed through living in your tight circle for so many years.”

newspaper appWe get recommendations for activities and habits all the time. The selling point is that these various things are “good for us.” And who doesn’t want to do something good? We don’t intentionally desire to be hung over from drinking. We don’t intentionally want to get fat, where we can’t fit into our clothes and we get tired from walking up a single flight of stairs. Yet these things happen anyway, as we are driven by our sense urges. The things that are “good for us” go against these urges. They also apparently eradicate some of the common problems we see in life.

From famous philosophical texts, when understood in the proper light, we learn that one way of life is the best thing for us. This discipline comes at us from all angles: spiritual, physical and mental. It accounts for exercise, eating, and knowledge. Interestingly enough, this philosophy is as old as time itself. Its principles apply to any person living within any time period because they address the core of the individual: the soul.

This philosophy says that one should neither eat too little nor eat too much. If you think about it, this is at the core of any weight loss regimen. One of the big problems with diets is that they work while one is on them but then stop working once one goes off them. In this sense the diet does nothing to cure the problem. It fixes it for a while, but then is needed again later on. All diets work as advertised, provided one follows them. They all involve some kind of control on eating, so why wouldn’t they work? If afterwards, however, that same control gets tossed aside, how is the weight supposed to be kept in check?

When one controls their eating all the time, their weight is controlled as well. This philosophy also recommends a control in sleeping. In this way the body is never weakened. There are no “all-nighters.” There are no long periods of lack of sleep. There is no day when the person sleeps for eighteen hours. At least none of these extremes occurs regularly. The body is thus kept fit. It knows what to expect and is not overextended. Good health is a natural byproduct of this.

SankirtanaThis philosophy recommends hearing and chanting. These account for knowledge and the need for exercise. Knowledge comes from hearing. When we read the newspaper, we’re actually hearing the words spoken by someone else. Those words come over in our mind’s voice, but we’re still hearing. Chanting is an activity of the gross body. It can be done to oneself in what is known as japa or it can be done with others out loud in what is known as sankirtana. Sankirtana can be accompanied by musical instruments, which require physical attention to play. The arena rock bands always speak of getting in shape before going out on tour. They do nothing more than play instruments on a stage, but this actually takes a lot out of them. There is physical exertion in holding a guitar and walking around for a few hours. The drummer gets an intense workout playing on the set for the same period of time. Even if the singer doesn’t play an instrument, the intensity of the performance causes him to sweat a lot.

This philosophy recommends many other things as well, but there is one specific thing that ties everything together. The control on eating and sleeping is done for yoga, or the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The hearing and chanting are done with respect to the Supreme Soul. Don’t hear about just anything. I can hear about what a famous liar did and that won’t really advance my intelligence. It’s like monitoring a first grade classroom and seeing how all the children will behave. It may be entertaining, but in doing this on a daily basis what do we really learn?

Lord Chaitanya“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Lord Chaitanya)

Lord Chaitanya chanting the holy namesChanting about the Supreme Soul will be blissful to the ears and it will ensure that the chanting will continue. Chanting out loud actually accounts for the hearing as well. If you sleep and eat just the right amount, you’ll have the perfect energy level necessary for chanting all the time. One of the most famous proponents of this philosophy in recent times gave the instruction of kirtaniyah sada harih, which means “always chant the names of God.” “Always” is the goal, but “a lot” will suffice as well. In order to do something a lot, you need to shift your priorities. You need to sleep on time in order to get up for work or school the next morning. You need to eat right beforehand if you want enough energy to run the race.

In the same way, if you want to chant all the time, you need to adjust your life accordingly. For this and so many other reasons, chanting can be considered the best thing for us. Even if we have no taste for it in the beginning, if we bring some dedication to it, all good things will come to us in the end. The benefit is there immediately as well, as the sound of God represents Him fully. Chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is like hanging out with the coolest person in the world. He is all-attractive, so Krishna is a great name for Him. He is full of transcendental pleasure, so Rama works as well. He enjoys with His wonderful energy, which can be addressed as Hare. The name Hari refers to how He takes away the unwanted things from His devotees.

Something is good for us if it is healthy. But healthy doesn’t mean just having a body fit for sense gratification. I can live a long time and have a “healthy” body, but this doesn’t mean that I’m doing anything worthwhile with my time. The thing that is most good for us is having a body that is fit for devotion, as devotion is our constitutional engagement. It is what every single person is most happiest doing, though they may not realize it. Chanting is the most beneficial for us, as it allows us to create a body that is fit for always thinking of God, which is devotional service, the philosophy known as bhakti-yoga. This is the philosophy taught in ancient works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, and it is explained by those who have the eternally fit spiritual bodies that allow for the constant chanting of the holy names.

In Closing:

Benefits of exercise understood,

Because effect on health is good.


Read newspaper folded at crease.

For your knowledge daily to increase.


Yoga actually for you is the best,

Accounts for good habits the rest.


Everything at a moderate level keep,

Not too much food nor too much sleep.


Yoga of hearing and chanting take,

And a body fit for devotion make.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who Is Fortunate

Worship of Radha and Krishna“It is by great fortune that one comes to Krishna consciousness on the path of bhakti-yoga to become well situated according to the Vedic direction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.47 Purport)

“By some way or another they managed to chant ‘Hare Krishna.’ Never mind their personal circumstances. Whether we consider them intelligent or not doesn’t matter also. They may not know the law of the conservation of energy or the price of tea in China, but at least they know that they are not God. At least they know that there is a supreme controller. From knowing these things they’ve decided to chant His name and also the name of His energy. This will benefit them greatly. All others are most unfortunate, despite what they may think.”

We all have seen instances of good luck. Someone who gets this luck constantly is considered fortunate. If they failed to study for a test in school, somehow school gets cancelled the next day. Or the teacher gives the test but only puts questions that the particular student knows the answers to. Then another person finds money on the street, wins the lottery, or matches up with the person of their dreams. They are considered fortunate because they seem to always get what they want.

This definition of “fortunate” is based on the short-term view. There is immediate enjoyment, which is known as preyas in Sanskrit. Long-term gain is actually more important. This is known as shreyas, and it makes sense that it would be more important. If I do something that earns me five dollars today, I think I am happy. If I instead forgo that action, with the objective of earning a much larger annual salary in a few years, that is better. In that scenario, earning five dollars will be much easier. In achieving the higher goal, the lower goal seems so trivial that it will go unnoticed when earned.

MoneyIn the short-term, it’s difficult to think of the long-term. As they say, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. For life’s most important goals, we are given the eyes of scripture, shastra-chakshu. These eyes have a vision perfected through both personal observation and divine intervention. The divine intervention came first. The divine is responsible for the existence of shastra. The Supreme is one who can see infinitely into both the past and the future. As such, He has perfect knowledge of events.

Knowledge of the outcomes to actions is one thing, but knowledge of the qualities of the individual is another. Of course the Supreme has this knowledge as well, which He incorporates into His scripture. The shastras are lengthened by the teachings of those who are devoted to the Supreme. They realize the original truths passed on to them by practical application. They then note down their observations for the future benefit of mankind. Think of it like having a book written by your parents which tells you of all the pitfalls to avoid in life. The pitfalls are listed from their experience, which in this case is limited. Even so, the information will be helpful, as our parents have lived longer than us.

The past sages know of all desires. How can a sage from thousands of years ago know that I want a new video game? How can they know what a smartphone or tablet PC is? Actually, both of these desires fall into the category of fruitive activity, or karma. More specifically, they are desires in the mode of passion, which leads to a neutral state. All such desires for personal sense gratification are in the mode of passion, which is a concept the past sages are quite familiar with. They also know the modes of goodness and ignorance, and the divine mode of goodness reserved specifically for those devoted to God in a pure way.

This last mode is the most important. The infinite wisdom of shastra aims to teach everyone that this objective is the most worthwhile. Thus one who somehow realizes this objective is considered most fortunate. They are the luckiest person in the world because despite all odds against them they found true gold. Even if they stumble upon this knowledge by accident, without knowing what they are striving for, since the process to achieve the stated objective is so powerful, they are guaranteed to eventually reach the best destination.

One who is considered fortunate in the standard definition may actually have their “fortune” work against them. The wealthy businessman is accustomed to getting what they want through hard work. What need do they have for worshiping God, then? The person with beauty finds it easy to attract members of the opposite sex. Why should they worship someone else, then? The person who is expert at mystic yoga can bend and shape their body in amazing ways. Why need God, then?

Prahlada MaharajaDevotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is for meeting shreyas, or the ultimate long-term benefit. Prahlada Maharaja, a famous teacher of bhakti-yoga, says that the personal, short-term interest of the living entity is also met through the same bhakti. He says that the best destination is Vishnu, which is a name for God. One who gets too much preyas can easily forget the time factor and how it erases everything. On the other hand, the poorest man, who has less distractions, can require less convincing to take up devotion, for what else do they have in life?

Bhakti-yoga is best practiced through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” There is nothing lost in this chanting. There is no reason for anyone to refuse to chant. If they have a specific allegiance that they don’t want to break, they can still chant this mantra and think of their worshipable personality. Sounds are repeated all the time, so what is the harm in repeating an ancient Sanskrit mantra?

Despite its innocuity, the chanting process will likely not be taken up in earnest, even with so much cajoling. Therefore one who does take it up should be considered most fortunate. They hear God through chanting, and since God is the greatest, the ultimate, what can be better than hearing Him? He has everything, so why couldn’t He share that with those who want to be with Him? All other fortunes quickly vanish, but the priceless gift of devotion remains forever.

In Closing:

Person with good luck always to see,

Think they are more fortunate than me.


Shreyas only a temporary gain,

But preyas repeatedly to bring the same.


Even though a person may be poor,

Know they are fortunate for sure,

If holy names always to say,

Towards God’s realm on their way.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Repaying Friendship

Ajamila rescued by the Vishnuduttas“My dear King, the order carriers of Vishnu, the Vishnudutas, immediately arrived when they heard the holy name of their master from the mouth of the dying Ajamila, who had certainly chanted without offense because he had chanted in complete anxiety.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.1.30)

In the initial stages of a serious study of bhakti-yoga, there are certainly many philosophical points that seem odd or even controversial. One of them is that friends, family, relatives and the like are bound to us through a specific interest. And once that interest is no longer served, the relationship severs. We don’t think of our friends and family in this way, but based on common interactions we see that the knowers of bhakti-yoga are indeed correct in their assertion. The point is made not to blaspheme the value of friendship, but rather to reinforce the ultimate truth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s unique position as the best friend of every living entity.

Think of any argument you’ve ever had with a friend. Did they offend you? Did they say something negative about your other friends? Did they lie to you? If so, then what is the big deal? Why should one or a few mistakes cause an end to the friendship? If the relationship can fracture so easily then it must be held together by something. When that something is gone, or missing at least one time, then the relationship ceases to be. This explains why divorce is so common. The couple struggling to keep the marriage alive doesn’t remember all the good things about the relationship. They don’t remember all the good deeds, kind acts, and sweet gestures. Just the latest transgressions are considered, for they are fresh in the memory.

The saying of “what have you done for me lately” arose because of the ease with which man forgets past good acts. If one of our friends asks us to do something and we do it for them, they are thankful. If we do it one more time, they are again pleased. But the one time that we say that we don’t want to do it, they will be upset. “Well, you never had a problem before. What’s the big deal now? I can’t believe you’re being so selfish.” And then we respond with: “I’m being selfish? Are you crazy? I only did those things for you because I thought you were in genuine need of help. I didn’t realize that you were taking advantage of me, trying to exploit our friendship for your personal gain. Now that I refuse one time, you’re getting so angry. This confirms my suspicion. You’re the one who is selfish.”

The tendency to forget past good deeds is only natural, as the material world is enveloped in illusion. Illusion goes hand in hand with forgetfulness. The drunkard heading out to the bar to get “hammered” doesn’t remember the past damage they did to themselves through drinking. If they did remember, they would think twice about doing it again. Without forgetfulness, so many bad things would be avoided.

The sunThe original forgetfulness is of God. He should be the easiest person to remember, as His influence is everywhere. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. The sun rises and sets at regular intervals. The onset of the seasons is predictable. The movement of the sun is so nonrandom that we base our time measurements off of it. We take for granted the concept of a day, but this is completely based on the movement of the sun with respect to the earth. What if the earth stopped rotating? What if the sun were to stay in the same post in the sky all day? How would we count the days then? How would we count the years?

While we easily forget, the Supreme Lord does not. The Vedas back up this claim with historical examples. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam is found the story of Ajamila. He was a brahmana by birth and also by behavior in his earlier years. A brahmana is a member of the priestly class. They worship God for a living. As such, they are simple, well-behaved, non-envious, and very wise. You have to be wise in order to take up devotion to God as your life’s primary business.

Real devotion, where there are no tinges of desire for fruitive gain, esoteric knowledge or mystic opulence, is like having a friendship with God. As mentioned before, all of our friendships are based on the meeting of some common interest. When that interest is no longer served, the friendship can quickly dissolve. With the Supreme Lord, any kind act is remembered forever. He forgives all the subsequent bad behavior because He knows it is due to ignorance. The good behavior, however, if done in the proper mood, is forever rewarded, for it indicates a desire for association. That is the only desire worth having, as it is fulfilled directly by the original order supplier, the person who can create millions of universes without having to get up from His resting position.

Ajamila at the time of deathLater on in life Ajamila took a turn for the worse. He fell prey to the illusion of a woman. When the female is viewed the wrong way she can lead a man astray. In the incorrect viewpoint her external features are used to identify her, and if those features are attractive, the man is lured in to desire conjugal relations. Ah, but those relations come with a price, and a hefty one at that. To satisfy this lust, one must forget their devotion to God. The two cannot go hand in hand. And so Ajamila fell victim to the lust, forgetting his previous life as a brahmana.

In old age when on the verge of death, he happened to say the name of his son, Narayana. This name also happens to describe God. In one definition it means the source of all “naras,” or men. Narayana is a very powerful holy name, and one who recites it at the time of death escapes the clutches of karma. Ajamila was saved by the messengers of Narayana when they heard him say this name. Those messengers, known as Vishnuduttas, were working directly for the Supreme Lord.

The Supreme Lord Narayana remembered the previous good deeds of his friend Ajamila. Despite Ajamila’s voluntary turn for the worse, Narayana did not forget Him. When it came time to determine Ajamila’s fate, Narayana personally intervened. He does not do this for everyone. When we take shelter of karma, or fruitive activity, we are bound by the results to our work. If we did good work, we move upwards in the next life. If we did bad work, we move backwards. Good and bad are relative, as they have no relation to association with the Supreme Lord.

Rama and Lakshmana with JatayuIn His incarnation as Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord rewarded the kind acts of His friends Sugriva, Vibhishana, Shabari, Jatayu, Hanuman and others. Sugriva sent out a massive army to look for Rama’s missing wife Sita. Vibhishana joined sides with Rama to defeat the evil king of Lanka, Ravana, who had taken Sita. Vibhishana was Ravana’s younger brother, so his friendship towards Rama was formed against all odds. Shabari offered nice fruits to eat to Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. She did this while she had no means, as she was an ascetic who lived in the wilderness. Jatayu heroically tried to stop Ravana in his path back to Lanka after he had taken Sita. Jatayu sacrificed his life in this noble attempt. Hanuman risked his life in trying to find Sita.

Rama remembered each one of these kind acts. He gave His friends rewards specific to their desires and circumstances. Some of these friends did only one or two kind acts. They hadn’t been friends with Rama forever either. None of this matters to the Supreme Lord. He never forgets His friends, so why should we forget Him? Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” we find the best friend worth having, a friend for life.

In Closing:

With friendship walk a fine line,

Can break with argument just one time.


No matter how many things you did,

Your one mistake they won’t forgive.


With Supreme Lord not the case,

Not one deed ever considered a waste.


Past devotion of Ajamila to repay,

When on his deathbed Narayana did say.


Sugriva, Vibhishana and Jatayu to uplift,

Taking their friendship as precious gift.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Per Diem

Prahlada Maharaja“Prahlada Maharaja preached bhagavata-dharma among his classmates as soon as an opportunity was afforded by the absence of his teachers from the classroom. He said that from the very beginning of life, from the age of five, children should be instructed about bhagavata-dharma because the human form of life, which is very rarely obtained, is meant for understanding this subject.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.16.43 Purport)

“What do you mean you have no money for food? Dad gave us each twenty dollars for a meal. He specifically told us that the money was to be used for eating while we were on our trip. I don’t understand how you don’t have any money now. You spent it on playing video games at the arcade? Well, who told you to do that? Did you not realize it was wrong? How are you supposed to eat now? Are you going to blame Dad for this? It’s definitely not his fault. He gave you specific instructions on how that money was to be spent. Now that you did the wrong thing and screwed up, you’re going to have to go without eating. I could give you some of my money, but then how will you learn?”

This hypothetical scenario, though isolated to a specific situation, sort of sums up the predicament of the living entities in the material world. There is a specific use targeted for the playing field that is composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. There is a specific way in which the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego are to be used. In the present age, due to the degraded condition, it is rare enough to merely find out about those uses, what to speak of implementing them. Nevertheless, the harm of ignoring the proper use is always the same.

Arcade gameIn the above referenced situation, whether the child knew about how to use the money or not does not matter in the end if they spent the money unwisely. Whether they know that the money is to be used for food makes no difference if it is squandered on playing games instead. Sure, the crime on the part of the person with the money is worse if they had knowledge beforehand, as they then deliberately ignored the instructions given to them. The instructions also could have been given to a higher authority, who then didn’t relay the information. We can think of the Kali Yuga, the present age, as the latter situation. Over time the rules and guidelines handed down by the original authority figure stopped being passed down. This was due to hubris on the part of living entities who thought they knew better than their closest authority figure. They didn’t, and as a result they brought both themselves and future generations down into a pit of misery.

The miseries start at the time of birth. The newborn who joins this earth is immediately subjected to intense heat and bitter cold, the interference of other living entities looking to compete for resources and enjoyment, the fear tactics employed by the mind, and the diseases created within the body. The original authority figure passed down helpful hints on how to make one’s life better, especially on how to ease the pain from these miseries. The ultimate goal was always to have everyone return back to His realm, the place which was their original home. Due to the threefold miseries, understanding this goal at the outset is very difficult; hence the need for a systematic way of knowledge gathering coupled with renunciation.

The methodical approach towards true enlightenment also explains why there are various religious systems in existence. It seems that deity figures of the various traditions have similar histories, and from that one wonders whether the figures are just mental concoctions. The similarities make sense, though, especially when you consider the different circumstances based on time. The world was vastly different five thousand years ago than it is today. It was even more different millions of years ago. We can’t, therefore, expect the prescribed rules and regulations for spiritual life to always be identical. The underlying principles certainly are, as they address an entity who is eternal in its existence, but the exact implementations can indeed vary.

From the Bhagavad-gita we get a summary of Vedic philosophy. Veda means knowledge, and Vedic philosophy thus refers to the study of knowledge. This isn’t knowledge on how to build an airplane, lose weight, or increase memory. This knowledge specifically pertains to the living entity’s true identity and where they are meant to live. Since the ideal home is not the land burdened by the threefold miseries, the philosophy delves into why residence in the present land exists and how one can change residences. The tendencies of the living entities, from good people to bad people, are all explained, as well as the benefits and detriments of each entity type.

Lord KrishnaMore importantly, it is understood that from learning Vedic philosophy and following its principles all good things come. The “good” is also properly defined for the first time. No more does one think of good only in terms of money, wine, women, victory in competition, and longevity. Good means to be more pure in consciousness. A purer consciousness thinks more about God, and in this way there is real happiness. He can be thought of at any time, by any person, from any background, and at any age. He is all-attractive, which means that the mind always has something to hold on to when contemplating Him. Because of this feature in Him, one of His names is Krishna.

Whereas following Vedic philosophy brings all good things, ignoring it brings the opposite. Indeed, every negative condition we encounter can be traced to this negligence. Sometimes it is mere forgetfulness, but originally it was defiance. That turn towards the worse may have taken place many lifetimes ago, but from the mere fact that we took birth in this life indicates that there was a turn against God made at some point.

In the negative outcomes that follow, the Supreme Lord is not to blame. This is hard to come to grips with, especially after tragedies like hurricanes, earthquakes, and deaths of family members due to disease. We don’t see the original cause, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. We eat fruits and smell flowers that are sold at the store, but we didn’t actually see those seeds get planted. But we know that such fruits couldn’t result without the planting of a seed. In the same way, know that a sinful reaction cannot exist without an original sin.

The concept of sin shouldn’t be exclusive to religion. The sin is just doing something the wrong way. Just as if you put your hand in a fire, you will get burned, if you ignore the philosophy that is meant to better the condition of the soul, you will see unfavorable consequences. If the field of the material land is used properly, however, all good things can come. In this age of Kali it is very difficult to rise to a position free of sin, especially given the rampant godlessness. Therefore the Supreme Lord in this age has made the process simple: just chant His names. Chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Through this mantra hear God. See Him within your mind. Take supreme pleasure in this process, so much so that you’ll rearrange the rest of your activities so that you can chant as much as possible. In this way reach the same endpoint as from the recommended practices of previous ages. Reach the goal of God consciousness, which is your birthright, your ideal destination targeted by the Supreme Father, who is always looking out for His children.

In Closing:

“Dad money to you gave,

So that for food you would save.


If arcade machines your cash did eat,

How desires for food will you meet?”


Though result of bad deed the same,
In this instance father not to blame.


Elements of this world for us God did allot,

But ignoring proper use misery we got.


From Bhagavad-gita philosophy learn the right way,

Reach God consciousness by Krishna’s name to say.