Saturday, August 24, 2013

Planning for the Next Life

The changing bodies“According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we can prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord's.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

“Okay, I need to take my car in to get serviced tomorrow. I’m going on a trip this weekend to my old college, and though it is a only a few hours away, I want to make sure there is nothing wrong with the car. In the past I’ve had issues on road trips; a tire went flat or something in the engine started acting up. It wasn’t fun. I like to be prepared, so I will need to get the oil changed and make sure the tires are in good condition.

“I need to juggle my schedule around a little bit. The best time to bring the car in is the morning of a weekday. But then I have work too. I can work from the car servicing place with my laptop, so I should be okay there. I have no meetings tomorrow, so that should be the ideal day to bring the car in. Then I also want to squeeze a workout in. It keeps me calm to have a short workout on a regular basis. It helps me focus better on other things. But the gym is near the office; not near where I live. So I will have to plan for a long trip to the gym after getting the car serviced.

Auto repair“Then I want to visit my preferred house of worship in the evening. That too is far away from my home. I will need to figure out how I am going to do this. All of this planning is in relation to my trip for this upcoming weekend. I need to get away every now and then, otherwise the repetition of the weeks starts to get to me. Who wants to feel trapped in endless monotony? No, I would rather make plans; it keeps me excited.”

This is a very common experience. We have to make plans; otherwise we will be left unprepared for so many of life’s situations. Without preparation, dealing with issues becomes difficult. In the swoon of plan-making, it is easy to overlook the obvious fact that we expect to be alive in the future. What is the point to making plans if you won’t be around? There is no guarantee, as death can come at any moment, but we nevertheless assume that our existence will remain going forward. It is a gamble on our part, but one considered safe due to knowledge gathered from past experiences. Using the same mindset, we can prepare for the afterlife.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.13“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that the spirit soul, who is the individual residing within, the vital life force, continues its existence perpetually. As this is a difficult concept to grasp, the analogy is made to the changing of clothes. The body puts on clothes in the morning, wears them throughout the day, and then takes them off at night. At least this is the common practice of those who are hygienically inclined. Young male college students may act otherwise, but even they change their clothes eventually.

The changing bodyIn the same way the spirit soul accepts a body, wears it for some time, and then discards it. There is the analogy to the transformation through life as well, such as the change from boyhood to youth. Death is the visible indication of the shedding of the clothes, or body, and birth is the visible mark of a new body being accepted. We don’t change who we are when we change clothes, and in the same way the individual does not come into being at birth nor does it cease to be after death.

Just as we can make plans for what we will do a week from now, we can make plans for how we will act in the next life. This is the objective of the spiritual science, which explains to us about the universe beyond our perception. It is not a place earned through a simple profession. You don’t just sign a contract and enter into the spiritual kingdom. There is a specific mentality of the residents of the spiritual kingdom, and without adopting that mentality, which is more accurately described as consciousness, there is no chance of entering.

The activities planned for next week don’t have to be limited. We can travel to a different country or remain where we are. The choice is ours. In the same way, residence in the spiritual kingdom is not the only destination for the soul who has just shed its clothes. The more likely outcome is rebirth in the present land. Stay where you are, but just with a different body. You don’t have to be in the same species either. You can become a cat, a dog, a monkey, or a tree. You were likely one of these things before. Only in the human species can you take actions that directly influence your next destination.

There is some faith involved in accepting this knowledge and then acting on it, but we already put faith in the higher powers to allow us to remain alive in the future. If I plan on going to lunch at 1 pm today, I am putting faith in other living entities to not destroy me in the meantime. I’m trusting that the forces of nature will not end my life and that no disease will kill me from the inside. Lunchtime isn’t that far away, either, and yet I must rely on these other factors to cooperate. Imagine, then, how much faith is involved in things like marriage, family life, and retirement.

In the spiritual science planning for the next life involves only consciousness. What you think of at the time of death is what you will get. You already think of so many things right now, so it is the collective that reveals your true consciousness. If you think of sex all the time, at the time of death you will be focused on a life full of sex. Therefore you’ll likely get the body of a dog or a monkey in the next life. If you think of money all your life, you’ll get the body of a businessman in the next life. And yes, there is a specific body to a businessman, as certain traits are required for success in profit/loss ventures.

If you think of the spiritual kingdom, that’s the destination you’ll get. As the spiritual science helps us to best plan for the next life, it allows us to change our consciousness. And that change occurs through activities. Instead of planning for how you will enjoy food and wine this weekend, plan for how you will think of God. Plan for how you will serve Him. Plan for how you will associate with people devoted to Him. This association will force you to be God conscious for at least a little while. Hopefully that will inspire you to make plans to maintain that consciousness going forward.

Krishna speaking the GitaThat same association is passed on in the written instructions of the Supreme Lord and His devotees. The speaker of the Bhagavad-gita is the Supreme in His original form, which is a personal one. He has many non-different expansions as well, but even if such a personality is difficult to comprehend, one can hear the Supreme without difficulty. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one feels the divine presence.

Through this sound gradually an attachment develops, and with an attachment one feels the need for more association with God, who is described more fully in texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana, which provide the scientific understanding for His position as God and give details into His pleasurable activities. Those activities await the devoted soul who plans a return trip to the spiritual kingdom.

Even if we are hesitant to accept the concept of rebirth, know that just as there is every likelihood that we will continue to be alive tomorrow, there is every chance that life will continue on after death. Living entities continue to appear in this world, and they are not placed into bodies randomly. They came from somewhere. This means that we will go somewhere after death, and in following bhakti-yoga, the complete spiritual science, we can choose the best “somewhere” to be.

In Closing:

In future living being moving here and there,

Means that still we must be somewhere.


Same concept spiritual science takes,

Teaches how best somewhere to make.


If of God always to know,

Then surely to Him you will go.


Simple declaration not the way,

Must desire for with God to play.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Two Fathers

Dasharatha and Janaka“In the three worlds, nothing could compare to the two. Dasharatha was equal to Janaka and Janaka equal to Dasharatha.” (Janaki Mangala, 129)

tīni loka avalokahiṃ nahiṃ upamā kou |
dasaratha janaka samāna janaka dasaratha dou ||

In order to have the perfect wedding, the parents must be there. You can’t control events, for the world we live in is temporary. This means that the things you want the most may not be around when you need them. You may want your parents there on your special day, but if circumstances dictate otherwise, you are bereft of the cherished association. A famous marriage a long time ago was perfect in every way, as it was arranged by the master coordinator, the person who passively directs the movements of the material creation and passionately takes the helm for the affairs of His devotees.

There are two sets of parents in the ideal wedding; the bride’s side and the groom’s side. So many things can get in the way. Perhaps the bride’s parents are not happy with the choice the bride has made. Perhaps the groom’s parents think the son is making a terrible mistake. Then there are class distinctions to consider. What if the bride comes from a rich family and the groom from a poor one? If the bride is accustomed to a certain lifestyle going into marriage, how is she going to survive on the modest income of the groom?

There are social conventions in play as well. The classes generally stick together. If the classes are determined by income level, then it would make sense that those with a low income would spend more time around those with a low income. The same for those in a higher income group. Friends are made among equals, so it is difficult when there are differences in stature. If the statures of the two families going into a marriage are markedly different, how are the bride and groom supposed to form a friendship?

In Janakpur a long time ago, the match for a beautiful bride was left up to a contest. Forget trying to find the perfect husband through family tradition and horoscopes, which were the tried and tested methods during this particular time period. This bride had special circumstances surrounding her birth. Her father essentially adopted her. She didn’t belong to anyone before. As a baby, she was found in the ground. The king was ploughing that earth with the intention of performing a religious sacrifice, a kind of worship. What he didn’t know at the time was that he found the most special girl, the best object of worship for those who have real intelligence.

Sita DeviHolding affection for her immediately and then taking her into his family, with time the king knew that she was something special. Therefore he decided that her wedding wouldn’t be arranged in the traditional way. Instead of worrying over finding the ideal match, he decided to hold a contest. Strength would be tested. In this way the victor would prove to be the most capable of protecting the precious daughter, who was named Sita because she was found in the ground.

Since the husband was to be determined from a contest, there was every possibility of a non-traditional match being found. Janaka was the king, and he was famous around the world for his character. He had the highest stature imaginable. A king is a ruler, and Janaka was no slouch in this area. He could protect his citizens very well. He also gave high deference to righteousness. He never committed a sin. He followed his occupational duties with detachment. He wasn’t swayed one way or the other by personal desires or worries over missing out on fun. He knew what was right, and in that way he set the best example.

What if the winner of the contest came from a family that wasn’t so high in stature? What if the father of the groom was evil and wicked-minded? It wouldn’t be a good match for Sita. Janaka wasn’t so worried on this front, as the contest was very difficult. The winner would be the first person to lift an extremely heavy bow. There was every chance that no one would be able to do it.

From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that the match in family for Sita could not have been more perfect. Here the two fathers are meeting. Shri Rama from Ayodhya won the contest. His father was King Dasharatha, who was invited to Janakpur to attend the marriage ceremony. Goswami Tulsidas says that there is nothing in the three worlds that can compare to that image of the two fathers meeting.

Dasharatha_with_RamaImagine if you found the perfect person. Alter the definition of perfect to suit the circumstance. In this instance, Janaka was the perfect king. He had no flaws in him, and his daughter was an extension of his greatness. Now imagine that you found an identical match and had him meet Janaka. It’s like getting a pitcher in baseball to pitch two perfect games in a row. It’s like having a bowler bowl two consecutive games of 300. Actually, this meeting was even more difficult to imagine, as both Dasharatha and Janaka were equal to one another. Dasharatha was pious like Janaka, and Janaka had wonderful children like Dasharatha. It was as if God had ordained that the two families should be joined.

Of course that is exactly what had happened. Rama is the Supreme Lord and Sita His wife. Rama is an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead, who is all-attractive and thus known as Krishna. Krishna can accept an unlimited number of wives, while Rama accepts only Sita. As Sita and Rama thus have a unique relationship, the relationship between the two fathers is not surprisingly unique as well.

In Closing:

At vision of kings meeting you stare,

Realize nothing in three worlds to compare.


Janaka ideal in every way,

Same of Dasharatha to say.


Since contest outcome not known,

Possible mismatch in Sita’s hand to own.


As if God Himself did ordain,

Perfect match of Shri Rama came.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

All Glories

Celebrating“Full of all good qualities and equal in all respects in the relationship were the two fathers. When they met they felt tremendous happiness. Looking at them, the demigods, men and sages kept saying, ‘All glories!’ and ‘Wonderful!’” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 16.2)

guna sakala sama sama samadhī paraspara milana ati ānanda lahe |
jaya dhanya jaya jaya dhanya dhanya biloki sura nara muni kahe ||

If you visit a Vaishnava temple, you will often hear the exclamation, “Jaya.” This means “all glories” or “victory” and it is usually preceded by a name or place. The person leading the offerings says it first, and then the members present follow along. Similar to the practice of singers on stage at rock concerts, this call and response type offering allows others to voice their love and appreciation for the objects in question. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the spectators and participants got to directly offer their joyous congratulations to the people involved. They didn’t have to wait until afterwards, and since the people involved were so wonderful, the offerings kept coming, from all different directions.

“Amen, my good brother.” This means “I agree. I wholeheartedly support what you are saying.” “Jaya” goes a little beyond that, as it is both a sign of agreement and a way to offer praise. In the temple, the congregation members are obviously worshipers of a similar mind. They see the deity or picture representation of the Divine and then automatically feel appreciation. When it comes time to glorifying that Supreme Person, they are more than happy to follow along. They may also give support to the glories offered to the spiritual master, the holy places, and the people assembled there for the worship.

Radha Krishna templeThe ceremony referenced above didn’t take place in a temple. It wasn’t an explicit religious function either. And yet the entire culture at the time was rooted in spiritual life. If you advise that people keep religion and science separate, you will get many supporters. “Religion is faith, and so it has no place in science. We believe in God, but that should have nothing to do with how we use science.” If you think of religion only in terms of faith, then surely this logic makes sense to you. But as more rational thought is applied, the advice loses its legs.

For starters, religion is intended to be about God. This shouldn’t be a controversial point. If we’re talking about God, then we’re talking about the person who is the source of everything. The name you use for that source isn’t so important here. The acknowledgment is there that life came from a higher form of life. The creation didn’t just evolve from elements randomly colliding.

Now, if we’re saying that God is the origin, why should He be shut out of any aspect of His creation? If He is really God, He must have a place in all aspects of life. Life is made by Him. Without His presence, there is no such thing as life. We are spirit too, and when we are somewhere, the neighboring collection of matter has life. When we are absent, the previously animate covering immediately turns inanimate. This transformation goes by the name of death, which is the exit of life from a specific area.

The sunriseI may have faith in this person or that, but faith has nothing to do with the spiritual science. The sun has specific scientific properties. This is true of the overall nature too, which science seeks to understand. If you ignore the hand of the creator of the nature, then your study will always be deficient. Indeed, the desire to keep God out of your scientific discussion proves that you have no understanding of God. It is an obvious indication that you want to use science to manipulate matter for your own personal enjoyment, keeping God out of your life. If this weren’t the case, you would have no problem including in the discussion the creator of the nature. And that creation must have a purpose as well, as the non-randomness to the properties of the creation shows an intelligence. If even unintelligent actions of ordinary people are done with a purpose, then surely the work of the most intelligent being would have a tangible purpose. And surely it wouldn’t be to have His own influence later be ignored.

Though the people in Janakpur were celebrating a marriage, they did anything but keep God out of it. They knew that marriage wasn’t merely a contract for sex life, a way to put into writing the amorous feelings shared by two people. If you think about it, what reason is there for God to include discussions on eating and sex life in any of His scriptures? Animals already follow these behaviors without a problem. They don’t know anything about God, marriage, sacrifice, or charity. They go off their animal instincts. For God to include these things in written word means that there is a purpose to these activities in the human species that goes beyond furthering animal life.

Marriage is a sanction for sex life. It is a way to curb it. It is also a way to properly use it. The human being has potency, after all. The potencies are different for the male and the female. If the potency of the male is matched with the potency of the female in a marital relationship, the result is good progeny. Given the choice, isn’t it better to have children who are wanted, loved and nurtured?

Marriage ceremony of Shiva and ParvatiIn the Vedas marriage is known as a spiritual institution, the grihastha ashrama. It is a way for both parties to continue in their spiritual advancement, which ideally started from the time of birth. Therefore marriage is a joyous occasion, where the well-wishers can rejoice in the beginning of a future journey for the bride and groom. The parents of both families also join in the celebration, and if they are an ideal match, the union means a wonderful way to extend the families.

Here the men, demigods and sages kept saying “Jaya” and “Dhanya” while observing the meeting of the two fathers at the marriage ceremony. King Dasharatha’s son Rama was marrying King Janaka’s daughter Sita. It is said by Goswami Tulsidas that both men were full of good qualities, or gunas. The relationship between them was equal; neither one was superior. And this is a difficult thing to say considering the gloriousness of both men. Who would think that you could find an equal to King Dasharatha, one of the leading fighters for the demigods? And who would think that you could find an equal to King Janaka, known throughout the three worlds for his dispassion and his dedication to dharma?

The people weren’t in a temple specifically, but they offered their obeisances nonetheless. They repeatedly shouted “all glories” to express what they were feeling. Rama is the Supreme Lord, the very origin of the creation that scientists are so interested in. Sita is His eternal consort, His energy. When the two meet, the area turns into a temple-like ground, a place of pilgrimage. And the time surrounding that meeting becomes one to remember through the ages.

In Closing:

With bowing heads on the ground,

To respond to leader with “Jaya” sound.


Means “All glories” for objects to hear,

Holy places, saints and God so dear.


Expected for this in temple to sound,

But why at marriage in background?


In all aspects of life God should be,

Not just in faith His vision to see.


Kings for each other so much respect,

Equal in every way when they met.


“Dhanya” and “Jaya” for them others gave,

Blessed time in your mind protect and save.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Building a Lasting Relationship

Lord Shiva dropping flowers“They remembered the guru as they went. The demigods rained down flowers and carpets were rolled out. Every kind of welcome was offered by Janaka to Dasharatha, as love overwhelmed his heart.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 16.1)

cale sumiri gura sura sumana baraṣahi pare bahubidhi pāvaḍe |
sanamāni saba bidhi janaka dasaratha kiye prema kanāvaḍe ||

It is the accepted custom to show hospitality to a guest. The guest is away from their home. That home may be many miles away or within just a short-distance, like next door, but still they are not in their comfortable environment. Therefore the host tries every which way possible to make the guest feel at home. It is just the polite thing to do. King Janaka a long time ago was indeed very polite, but based on the love he felt we know that his gestures were genuine; they went beyond mere protocol.

There were gestures made from above as well. First, the guest-party remembered the feet of their guru. Through his advice, the eldest prince Rama went to the forest with the venerable Vishvamitra Muni, a sage living in the forest at the time. The king, the father of Rama, did not want to let his son go. Rama was barely a teenager. Why should He go off and defend anyone at such a young age? Why should He be put into harm’s way? It wasn’t that Vishvamitra was asking that Rama be part of an army. He wasn’t asking for Rama to be trained up and then learn by following others on the job. No, Vishvamitra wanted Rama to be the sole defender against the wickedest creatures in the world. More than just fighting a lion or tiger with your bare hands, Rama was expected to use His bow and arrow to ward off creatures who were expert in black magic. These fiends had no qualms about killing innocent sages either. They would eat human flesh regularly, so fighting dirty was not an issue for them. The young Rama was expected to fend off these fighters all by Himself. Why would the father Dasharatha sanction that?

Vashishtha MuniUnable to give a blanket denial, the king was first speechless. Then he tried persuading Vishvamitra in another direction. Finally, the guru Vashishtha advised Dasharatha to not fight it any longer. Vishvamitra knew what he was doing; he wasn’t making this request on a hunch. He knew that Rama would defend him. He also knew that Lakshmana, Rama’s devoted younger brother, would come along as well. And so Dasharatha reluctantly gave in.

And now here he is walking towards the marriage ceremony for his son Rama. This was the first time seeing Rama since He left home. A lot had happened in the meantime. Rama and Lakshmana cleared the worries of the sages in the forest by slaying wicked characters like Subahu and Tataka. They earned the favor of Vishvamitra, and through following him they ended up in King Janaka’s home. There Rama lifted the bow of Shiva and won the hand in marriage of Janaka’s daughter Sita. It was for the marriage occasion that Dasharatha and family were called from Ayodhya.

Dasharatha went from intense worry to unbridled joy. In his happiness it was not surprising that he remembered the guru, along with Lord Shiva, Parvati Devi, and their son Lord Ganesha. The demigods, for their part, were so thrilled that they started dropping flowers from the sky as Dasharatha approached the marriage ceremony. He was the chosen father of the Supreme Lord Rama, who had descended to earth to enact wonderful pastimes. The demigods are all devotees; they worship God. They know that He exists and they work at His direction. They don’t foolishly turn a blind eye towards the unexplainable phenomenon that is spirit. They don’t think that the sun and the moon came into existence on their own. They inquire into why things in nature work, rather than try to exploit its presence.

Devotion incorporates more than just knowledge. A sign of devotion is thrill and delight at the chance for others to take part in devotional acts. Though they were envious of the bliss felt by Dasharatha and the other wedding participants, the demigods still dropped flowers as a sign of honor. King Janaka rolled out the red carpet for his guests. He was so happy to get Rama as a son-in-law. Who better to protect his precious Sita? Dasharatha was the father, so all the accolades owned by Rama increased the king’s fame as well.

Marriage ceremony of Sita and RamaWelcoming his beloved guest, Janaka felt so much love in his heart. What a joy to get to see Dasharatha, a person who was famous for his defense of the demigods. His name was earned from his ability to fight chariots coming in the ten directions. He could fight them simultaneously. Though he was powerful, he too was very pious. Imagine having the best person in the world as your defender. Imagine that they are also unbeatable in battle. Wouldn’t that make you feel good? Wouldn’t you feel pleased to have the association of such a person?

Since Janaka felt love, the hospitality he offered was more than just a formality. It was a sincere offering directed to a wonderful family. And such an offering never goes in vain. We may try to make entreaties with our enemies just for the sake of getting along, but sometimes this approach doesn’t work. They may not want a resolution. In the famous Bharata war, Shri Krishna, who is the same God but in His original form, tried to negotiate a peace settlement with the Kauravas, but they would have none of it. They were set on ruling and wouldn’t budge unless they were physically forced to.

The result of making an offering to God is that love fills your heart. And wouldn’t you rather live with love? Hate eventually destroys everything in its path, while love builds lasting relationships. The eternal relationship is the connection to the Supreme Lord, which is every person’s birthright. Through devotional service, which includes kind offerings like the one made by Janaka, that relationship is reawakened. And through the love in the heart, the relationship only strengthens with the passage of time.

In Closing:

Love filling his heart fast,

In building relationship to last.


Like offering carpet that was red,

On flowers from sky king to tread.


This welcome from King Janaka came,

For Lord of Ayodhya, of Dasharatha the name.


Love to fill heart in the devotional state,

Builds lasting bond, no more room for hate.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Disciplic Succession

Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha“The muni said, ‘Go and bring the King of Ayodhya here.’ The king then started, remembering the guru, Parvati, Shiva and Ganesha.” (Janaki Mangala, 128)

jāi kaheu pagu dhāria muni avadhesahi |
cale sumiri gurū gauri girīsa ganesahi ||

When we watch movies with our friends it’s not uncommon to have a discussion afterwards. “You know, I noticed that the car was really important to that old man. I think it was symbolic of his attitude. The car was just like him. It was a classic. It was old, but still in great condition. Everything around it was changing, but the car was always the same. It was trusted. It was reliable. That was a pretty deep point the film tried to make.” And then we can present countering viewpoints. Everything is up for interpretation. One person’s view is just as valid as another’s, as who is to say who is right? The tendency is to apply the same critical eye to the words of revealed scripture, but this is not a wise path. The Supreme Absolute Truth is neti neti, or “not this and not that.” He is not of this world, and so an endless amount of words does not suffice in accurately describing Him. Yet at the same time, mental speculation can never get anyone close to knowing Him. Information of Him is passed on through authorized channels, including personalities who through their important role become worshipable figures.

What is the harm in mentally speculating with the words found in scriptures? What is wrong with offering a personal interpretation?

Gran Torino movie posterWe can take the Vedas as an example. From the root meaning of the word, we see that the scriptures are not intended to be sectarian. Veda means knowledge. It does not mean knowledge for only the Hindus. It does not mean knowledge to apply only to an ancient time period. It does not mean knowledge that must be accepted out of fear. It is straight truth. Just like the law of gravity is scientifically understood, so too the knowledge of matter and spirit presented by the original system of knowledge, the Vedas, is meant to be accepted by the rationally thinking mind.

There is no ambiguity in the information transfer of the Vedas either. Today likely the most famous work of the Vedas is the Bhagavad-gita. It is widely known through its many translations that are available. The Bhagavad-gita is basically a conversation, one that took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra between a hesitant warrior and his charioteer. The charioteer later revealed Himself to be God. He explained His position in terms understandable to the audience, which includes both Arjuna and future generations of mankind. He explained Himself to be the origin of the creation, the seed-giving father to the population, and the ultimate shelter for all forms of life. He even showed His universal form to dispel any doubts others would have.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.39“Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being - moving or unmoving - that can exist without Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.39)

Krishna showing the universal formSo, where is the room for interpretation? The charioteer is named Krishna, and He is described in so many other Vedic texts as well. The Bhagavad-gita was passed on through an oral tradition. Its inception and subsequent transfer are both described in the Gita itself by Shri Krishna. Nowhere does the Lord say that He suddenly had a revelation and that the knowledge appeared to Him. He doesn’t say that He concocted the system on His own through trial and error. He does say, however, that saintly kings held on to the information and passed it on. Arjuna was to be a new link in the chain, someone who could be trusted with the information.

If I tell you something today and you remember it, you can repeat it verbatim to someone else in the future. To that person, the information is as good as coming from me. They may not have direct contact with me, but since the mechanism for transfer was not tampered with, they received the exact same message that I gave to you. In the same way, we can today hear from Krishna directly, though to us it seems like the message is coming indirectly. We simply have to approach someone in the chain of disciplic succession. They give us the only valid interpretation of Krishna’s words. They may present it differently based on time and circumstance, but the basic message does not change. Today I may hear the Bhagavad-gita translated into the English language, and I know that originally it was spoken in Sanskrit, but if the person translating the words understood the truths properly, there is nothing lost in the transfer.

On the other hand, if I simply pick up a Bhagavad-gita, read the verses, and then apply my own interpretation, the meanings will be lost. There is no way for me to conceive on my own the concepts of birth after death, the changing bodies, and the modes of material nature. I could never realize on my own that the vital force within all life forms is the exact same in quality. I could never figure out that spirit never dies and that death as we know it is only the changing of bodies. My interpretation of the Gita would be like eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and taking everything out of context.

Disciplic succession brings the necessary context for understanding, and since the understanding is of the highest knowledge, those within the chain are worshipable. King Dasharatha of Ayodhya shows the importance of honoring those in the chain in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala. Here he is being summoned to the wedding ceremony by King Janaka’s priest, Shatananda. Janaka’s daughter Sita was marrying Dasharatha’s son Rama.

Shiva, Parvati and GaneshaDasharatha had just arrived and was staying at the guest quarters in Janaka’s kingdom. Here he gets word that the time for marriage is approaching and that his presence is needed. Rather than haphazardly travel, Dasharatha first remembers his guru, Parvati Devi, Lord Shiva and then Ganesha. The guru is Vashishtha. He was the guru of the Raghu family, and so he was very important. He kept knowledge of the Vedas with him, and so his counsel was always appropriate.

Parvati, Shiva and Ganesha are important here specifically because of the nature of the participants of the wedding. Krishna is also Rama, the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of the personal form of the Supreme Lord, which is the original. Shiva’s preferred Vishnu form of worship is Rama. While there are many forms of Vishnu, we shouldn’t mistakenly consider any divine form to be God. The Vishnu forms are spelled out in the Vedas.

Parvati is Shiva’s wife. She is the controller of the material nature and also a devoted wife. She is the most chaste wife. Their son is Ganesha, and he serves his parents. Thus all three are linked to the Supreme Lord. Remembering them, combined with the guru, is always beneficial. Dasharatha prayed for their favor in the upcoming ceremony. He wanted his son and his future daughter-in-law to always be happy together. He specifically wanted that they adhere to dharma together. That is the point to marriage after all. If you degrade marriage to the point that it acts only as a sex contract, then surely others will want to have the chance to sign such a contract for themselves, even though they may not be of the proper gender combination.

Marriage is a religious institution, and religion is meant for advancing one towards pure God consciousness. Animals satisfy their desires for sex on a whim; they don’t need marriage. Marriage exists to curb sexual desires, to sanction it in a way that promotes the continuity of the population, providing for good children at the same time. A good child is one who knows God. One who doesn’t is animal-like, and so the business of the parents is to elevate their children from the animal consciousness.

Sita and RamaLord Shiva is one of the highest chains in the disciplic succession that knows God. He says that Rama is God, and so based on his position we can accept that as fact. Parvati Devi and Lord Ganesha also accept Sita and Rama, further buttressing the validity of the same truth. From Dasharatha’s example, we see that there is no need to speculate on truths. Follow the real guru, who will inherently be linked to Sita and Rama.

In the modern age, there are four primary sampradayas, or disciplic successions, that teach the true message of the Bhagavad-gita. Consulting a teacher in this line brings us the right information, freeing our mind from the burden of having to reach the proper conclusion on its own. This is the heaviest burden, as without the grace of the guru there is no hope for transcendental perfection.

In Closing:

Truths to Arjuna Krishna did give,

How he’s origin of everything that lives.


Without authority speculate will the mind,

The real truth thus never to find.


Just approach someone in disciplic chain,

Then wisdom of God easily gain.


Respect to gurus by Dasharatha was shown,

That their favor most valuable was known.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Marriage ceremony“Both family priests did the rituals according to the family traditions and the Vedas. Calling for the barata party, Janaka’s heart is full of joy.” (Janaki Mangala, 127)

beda bihita kularīti kīnhi duhum̐ kulagura |
paṭhaī boli barāta janaka pramudita mana ||

There is a God and He is for everyone. He is not the exclusive property of any sect. He does not only reside in one area of the world. He does not only hear prayers made in a specific language. His position is scientifically explained and at the same time His qualities are so great that they cannot be measured by any instrument. From the scientific aspect, we can understand that His properties involve laws, which apply to all situations. Just as the law of gravity does not take into account a person’s income, race, ethnicity, or level of intelligence, so the Supreme Lord’s presence is not dependent on any outside factor. At the same time, since our brains are limited, namely by the bounds of time and space, God is beyond our conception as well.

The family traditions help us to understand God to some degree. Complete understanding is impossible. Think about it for a second. If you had complete understanding, then you would know why you ended up being in a position to need complete understanding. After getting some knowledge, you could prevent yourself from needing complete understanding again. Ah, but there was a point where you needed complete understanding; therefore something must have happened previously. You’ll never be able to find that out, so therefore complete understanding is unavailable to you.

Car engine internalsJust a slight understanding of God is good enough to make a huge impact. Take two people. Both have no clue how an automobile works. They don’t know what a carburetor is. They have no idea about how to change oil, check the fluid levels, or change a tire. They are clueless in car maintenance. One person knows how to drive the car while the other does not. Does this make a difference? Neither one has complete knowledge of the car, but one knows enough to be able to use the car. Therefore the more knowledgeable person is superior; they can get the best use out of the car.

In the same way, if we know a little about God, we can use that knowledge to better our lives. But that knowledge is difficult to come by. Starting from the time of birth, our perception leads us to think that there is no God. Our parents take care of us and then our teachers instruct us. In adulthood we act seemingly independently and see the results of that independent action. Therefore we think that we are the sole cause to the consequences. If we eat right, we’ll change the way our body looks. If we read, we’ll get smarter. If we relax a little, our stress levels will go down. Therefore everything is in our hands.

In actuality, in every result there is a higher authority who gives sanction. We need to eat, but where does the food come from? Does the government create it? Does the farmer generate it? Actually, without nature’s arrangement, the farmer could not grow food. He needs nature to provide the earth, water and sunlight. And where do these things come from? It is easy to say God, but how do we know who He is? How will we even know to be conscious of the divine presence?

Lord Krishna's bathing ceremonyThis is where family traditions come in. Purificatory rites start from the time of birth in all traditions. Whether the family knows the purpose to the rites isn’t so important; as the attention creates a foundational culture. At least there is the consciousness of a higher power, the recognition that not everything is solely within one’s control.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we are reminded of the importance of family traditions. In this instance, there is no insistence that one family’s tradition is superior to another’s. Mind you, the families joining were both very pious and respected. They also belonged to the same Vedic culture, which is the original spiritual tradition of the world. The Vedas have no date of inception; they come from God, who spoke the truths at the beginning of known time. They existed prior to that as well; hence religion in the Vedic definition is known as sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man.

The daughter of King Janaka was marrying the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Janaka lived in Tirahuta and Dasharatha in Ayodhya. Each family had their specific ancestry and related traditions. They each also had their own priests. Here the priests are performing the rituals according to the Vedas and family tradition. Why not just rely on the Vedas? Well, it was the family tradition that led to the current situation. The attention to the tradition was a sign of respect. Neither party insisted that their family tradition was the only way.

Know that there are many paths to God, but the key in determining whether following a tradition is successful or not is to see if there is love for God. Without this love, the rituals are essentially a waste of time. The litmus test for love of God also gives a way to spot cheating religions and bogus religious acts. Blowing up innocent women and children in the name of God is not a religious act. It is pure ignorance. Such a tradition is not legitimate at all; it is a mental concoction.

Marriage ceremony of Sita and RamaThe rituals performed by the two families here were not drawn up on a whim. They had been performed since time immemorial. When Janaka called in the barata party, he had so much joy in his heart. This meant that he had love for God, as Dasharatha’s family had an incarnation of God as their jewel. Rama was marrying Sita, so the wedding here involved the union of the Supreme Lord with His eternal consort, His energy. Sita and Rama are always together, but sometimes they go through a marriage ceremony in the earthly realm to give pleasure to others.

The culmination of all religious traditions is bhakti-yoga. This is the original consciousness of the soul, to love God all the time. The traditions in Dasharatha’s family allowed the Supreme Lord to appear there, and in Janaka’s family the result was the appearance of the goddess of fortune. In this age of Kali, where so many traditions are vanishing or are completely lost, an easy tradition to create is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Chanting this mantra is so potent that one doesn’t have to wait many generations to see the Supreme Lord in their family. The name itself is non-different from Him, making this chanting the best tradition to introduce and maintain.

In Closing:

Some with different name do call,

But know for sure that God is for all.


True to family tradition to stay,

So gradually know God you may.


One tradition not any better,

Respect to have for also the other.


In marriage of Sita and Rama ceremony,

Rites of priest done according to family.


In today’s time start tradition of holy names to say,

You and future generations in divine nature to stay.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Different Kinds of Envy

Gifts“Janaka sent so many gifts of all different kinds. Seeing this, the demigods became envious over the bliss of the baratis.” (Janaki Mangala, 126)

paṭhaī bhenṭa bideha bahuta bahu bhām̐tinha |
dekhata deva sihāhiṃ ananda basarātinha ||

We know that envy is a negative emotion. We know this from the fact that it can cause us to do things that are unwise. We also know that envy is not grounded in logic. Just because someone else has something that we don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are worse off. Even if they are better off in that sense, there is no reason to feel displeasure. We would be happy if we were in the same situation, so why should we not take delight over someone else’s good fortune? As the material world is full of dualities and is a reflection of the purified form of everything, envy also exists in spiritual matters. Its nature is different, however, which is seen in what it leads to.

Wasn’t King Indra once envious over Shri Krishna? Didn’t this lead to something bad? How is that spiritual then?

One time the celestial named Indra became jealous over worship offered to someone other than himself. The worship traditionally went to him, but one year it didn’t. It was instead directed to a hill, with the residents not holding anything back. They cooked every delightful preparation, poured all their love into the festival, and then were supremely delighted in the outcome. Indra was so envious that he decided to retaliate. He tried to cause harm upon the citizens who ignored him.

Worshiping Govardhana HillThis is the wrong way to react to envy. It shows the darker side to the emotion. In this instance, the envy was still spiritually related because it ultimately led to a glorious act by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. To defend the innocent people given unwarranted torture from Indra’s wrath, Krishna lifted the worshiped Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella. This saved the sacred town of Vrindavana from the devastating flood. Thus Indra’s wrath led to something wonderful. Govardhana Puja is now an annual occasion, and the hill itself is considered to be non-different from Krishna, who is God. He is the real thing, not just a sectarian figure who is exclusive to the Hindus. He is the detail behind the abstract concept of a Supreme Lord mentioned in every spiritual tradition.

On another occasion, there was again envy from the celestials, but it didn’t lead to any harm. If anything, it made their longing to associate with the Supreme Being stronger. The envy is described in the verse from the Janaki Mangala quoted above. The same Shri Krishna was on earth as the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. Known as Rama, He was famous throughout the world for His family ancestry and His transcendental qualities. In this particular scene, He is about to get married to the beautiful daughter of King Janaka. Rama was famous for having lifted the bow in Janaka’s assembly. Being the victor in that contest qualified Him to marry Sita, as stipulated by the rules set by Janaka.

Janaka welcomed the groom’s party with the utmost hospitality. Goswami Tulsidas tells us that Janaka gave so many gifts to the baratis, the arriving party of the groom. Janaka didn’t give an overabundance of just one kind of gift. Considering it in modern terms, he didn’t hand out one million Rolex watches. Instead, he handed out thousands of jewels, necklaces, rings, and so many other items of opulence as gifts. The bliss of the baratis was so high that anyone viewing from afar would be jealous.

If I see my friend after a long time, and they have suddenly lost a lot of weight, looking real sharp, I will surely be a little envious. I have a choice in how to deal with this envy. I can intentionally offer them doughnuts and other decadent things to eat, hoping that they will get fat again, or I can take the impetus to improve my own health. The latter option is better because it brings a positive outcome to the envy.

In the same way, if we envy the closest associates of the Supreme Lord for the bliss they feel in His association, it can challenge us to purify ourselves to the point that we’ll get the same association. This association is a reward guaranteed by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, where He says that one who thinks of Him eventually will come to Him. He recommends that all of our actions be done as an offering to Him.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.27“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)

Offering to KrishnaThe offerings have to be authorized. We cannot go up to animals, kill them and then present them to Krishna. This is a mentally concocted style of offering, and it is indicative of impure motives. If we’re told to not do something, and we do it anyway, we can’t think later on that we’ll purify it by somehow connecting it to Krishna. The Lord doesn’t accept offerings of meat. He does accept grains, fruits, flowers, and water.

The best offering is thought. How nice is it if someone tells us that they’re thinking about us? Imagine then, the pleasure God feels when others always think about Him. An easy way to think of Him is to say His name. An easy way to say His name is to repeat mantras that contain those names, like the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The demigods were envious of the bliss of the participants at Rama’s marriage, but they still kept watching. They dropped flowers from the sky when the time was appropriate. Thus they had their own kind of service. They too had an enviable position, as they were able to watch the glorious wedding of Sita and Rama from above.

In Closing:

When friend in good position to see,

Natural if a little envious to be.


Key is from there knowing,

Towards dark or light to be going.


Seeing joy of participants many,

Demigods desired service any.


By dropping flowers along their way,

Close to Sita and Rama they did stay.