Saturday, September 7, 2013

Deserving God’s Affection

Lord Rama“It is known that He is a knower of religious principles and very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Thus you should make a friendship with Him, if you desire to continue living.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.20-21)

viditaḥ sa hi dharmajñaḥ śaraṇāgatavatsalaḥ ||
tena maitrī bhavatu te yadi jīvitumiccasi |

Everyone is eligible for God’s affection, as scientifically there is a relationship between the individual and the Supreme. Whether one belongs to a particular faith or not is of no issue. Even the vilest creature, who previously ate human beings, drank wine, terrorized the innocent, and committed the greatest offenses, can still get the affection, provided they make the proper turn.

Bhagavad-gita, 16.19“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the lowest among mankind, who are obstinate in their refusal to accept the righteous principles, are repeatedly cast into the lowest species and lower planets. This seems like a punishment, but it is actually just the proper reward. If you overcook the dish you’re making for dinner, the result is a burned food item. This seems like a punishment, but it is actually the right outcome. Some people prefer to have their dishes “well done,” which means “overcooked” to someone else. Once the food is overcooked, the person who wanted it less done will have no way of getting it back to the proper state. At the same time, the person who prefers “well done” will be more than satisfied with the outcome.

Well-done pizzaIn the same way, for one who is envious of the Supreme Lord and an enemy to those who are not envious towards Him, residence in the lower planets and lower species is required. The lower planets are the equivalent of what we normally consider hell. It is a miserable existence. Glimpses of hell are found in the nightclubs, where the music is very loud, the lighting is dim, and intoxication is a must for survival. This life is not considered hellish by those who don’t know any better. In the same way, the animals also don’t know that they are in a lower species. They don’t know that there is a higher taste to be had.

The above referenced words from the Ramayana were spoken to a person of the demoniac nature. He was in a lower species, namely the Rakshasa. He thought that he was God. He thought that no one in the world was more powerful than him. He had plenty of visible evidence to support his claim. He had tremendous opulence in the city of Lanka. He enjoyed constantly with his many wives. And who was there to stop him?

Ah, but one time he stepped too far, and that step would do him in. He tried to take the one woman he couldn’t have. He brought her back to his kingdom against her will. For this he deserved the harshest punishment. It was brought on by himself. No one else was to blame. He had enough wives. Why did he have to go to the forest and take away Sita, who was known for her devotion to her husband Rama?

Despite his transgressions, here Sita gives a surprising offer to the demon Ravana. She says that her husband is known for his dedication to righteous principles. One of the righteous principles is honesty. This means that what He says is true. He will not promise one thing and then go back on it later. This was important here because of the offer being made.

“Rama always gives in charity but never takes any. He always speaks the truth and never tells a lie. O brahmana, this is Rama’s highest vow and He is incapable of deviating from it.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.17)

Sita and RamaSita also says that her husband is affectionate towards those who surrender to Him. Surrender means to give up the fight; end the struggle and simply give way to Rama’s mercy, which was guaranteed to come even to Ravana. Despite what Ravana had previously done, Rama’s affection was there for him, provided he surrender. His mode of surrender would be the return of Sita to Rama. Seems simple enough, no? What would be the difficulty? No shame would be involved. Ravana would be famously known as a reformer afterwards. He could then use his position to sway others towards the path of transcendence. “Stop ruining your lives, my friends. I was previously like you. I committed the greatest offense. I ate the most impure food. I couldn’t control my senses at all. But simply through following the sagacious advice of the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I got the Lord’s affection. And now I take that affection as my most valuable possession. It is something I never want to live without. Whether in heaven or in hell, I will be able to survive as long as I have that affection.”

Sadly, Ravana would never utter these words. Nevertheless, we see that the issue is not a matter of faith. Ravana didn’t take Sita’s advice, though she said it would allow him to continue living. Sita does not speak falsehoods, either. Since Ravana lacked that friendship with Rama, he lost everything. Indeed, everything is eventually lost for everyone, so the special mention here was in relation to the offense Ravana had committed. More importantly, Rama had that affection for Sita, the very one she mentioned. From that affection, Rama made sure to protect Sita. He made sure to find her, defeat Ravana, and bring her back home. He did this through both His own effort and that of His servants, like the courageous Hanuman and the Vanaras of Kishkindha.

Hanuman and Vanaras building bridge for RamaIt seems that every religion recommends surrender as a way to achieve transcendence. But without knowing God, how can there be surrender? How can the surrender be real if you don’t know what it is you’re relinquishing? In the Vedas we get so many descriptions of God, too many to consume within a single lifetime. Yet just from a little knowledge, such as that presented in texts like the Ramayana, one gets a glimpse into the Supreme Lord’s nature. One learns that He is for every single person, regardless of where they were previously, and that His affection is guaranteed for one who gives up the fight against Him.

In Closing:

Not just matter of faith is His affection,

Guaranteed for any who turn His direction.


Despite what you did or who you were,

Best reward to come from surrender.


For this gift Sita gave the chance,

Ravana chose his fame not to enhance.


Thus responsible for destruction that came,

For demoniac’s fate God not to blame.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A High Class Person

Lord Rama“It is known that He is a knower of religious principles and very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Thus you should make a friendship with Him, if you desire to continue living.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.20-21)

viditaḥ sa hi dharmajñaḥ śaraṇāgatavatsalaḥ ||
tena maitrī bhavatu te yadi jīvitumiccasi |

Who is a high class person? Is it someone with a lot of money? How about someone who is very skilled in a difficult craft, like a doctor or a lawyer? Is it someone who is born into a high family? Is it a member of a particular race or gender? If you believe in a supreme controller, you would have to admit that anyone who had the favor of such a controller would be in a preferred status. If that favor was in the form of affection offered from the supreme controller, the stature of the recipient would increase all the more.

From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that to receive such affection is not very difficult. It simply requires surrender. That affection then brings you the most preferred status, making you the highest class person. Based on the requirement, we see that the preferred status is open for any person to take. No one is excluded based on birth, race, gender, ethnicity, income, country of origin, or other such external factors.

Of course those who do not surrender will tell you otherwise. Through their ignorance they will tell you that there are classes determined by birth. Depending on who your ancestors were, you belong to a specific classification within society. Others will make the same distinctions based on the amount of money that you have, which college you went to, what kind of food you eat, or what you like to do in your spare time.

food_money_ancestry_collegeBut the truth on the matter is found in the verse itself. The person offering this truth is the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort. On earth she plays the role of a wife. The term “wife” indicates a relationship that is entered into at some time. It also implies a relationship where each party makes the choice to live up to vows. The person offering this truth is actually eternally with God. There is no choice for her. Her love for Him is what defines her. His affection for her is guaranteed. There is no way to break the relationship.

The recipient of these words tried his very best to break the condition. While she was on earth with her husband, in their respective forms of Sita and Rama, the fiend named Ravana took Sita away in secret and brought her back to his home in Lanka. Having a poor vision and thus seeing her beauty in the wrong way, he mistakenly thought that he could enjoy with her. Though Ravana already had so many beautiful wives, he was infatuated with Sita.

Sita and Rama in the forestBecause of her defining characteristic, her true nature, Sita could never be with Ravana. She could never give him affection in the way that he wanted. Ravana here has already committed the greatest offense. Sita was innocent. She had done nothing wrong. She was living peacefully with her husband Rama. Rama too had done nothing to anyone. Both Sita and Rama deserved to be left alone. As he was a great offender, we would think that Ravana would be forever prevented from attaining the highest class status.

Though his father was a priestly man of a high stature, Ravana was born with the qualities of a Rakshasa, which is like a man-eater. Think of someone who is so messed up in the head that they have no problem killing other human beings and eating them. All the while they think that they are the pious ones in society. Everyone else has it wrong, in their view.

These two conditions, one based on behavior and the other on inherent qualities belonging to a species, would apparently preclude Ravana from being a high class person. And yet Sita says that through just one act all of that could change. She says that her husband Rama is known to be well-aware of the principles of religion. He is also known to be very affectionate towards those who surrender unto Him.

Rama with HanumanSurrender here is in the context of friendship. It is not a basic profession of faith followed by complete forgetfulness of the relationship. It is not the act of attending a religious gathering once a week without putting your heart into it. Surrender here is determined by a kind act of friendship, where Ravana would return Sita to Rama. Rama would then forgive everything. He would be very affectionate towards Ravana, not caring for the demon’s past mistakes or his social status as a Rakshasa.

Just like her husband, Sita does not speak falsehoods. Therefore if it is possible for Ravana to have affection from God, then the same must be available for everyone else. The enemies of God are known as asuras, and the friends as suras. From the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the dormant God consciousness within everyone reawakens. From that fire being sparked, the asura can turn into a sura very quickly, as with the divine consciousness one gets the helping hand of the affectionate friend known as God.

In Closing:

To principles of piety paid no heed,

Committed worst crime, unthinkable deed.


In spite of impious thoughts mind to fill,

For affection from God chance for him still.


Basic kind act towards Rama did need,

Then with affection from God to proceed.


No matter your money or from where you came,

Know that opportunity for favor there all the same.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sharanagata Vatsala

Rama hugging Hanuman“It is known that He is a knower of religious principles and very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Thus you should make a friendship with Him, if you desire to continue living.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.20-21)

viditaḥ sa hi dharmajñaḥ śaraṇāgatavatsalaḥ ||
tena maitrī bhavatu te yadi jīvitumiccasi |

In spite of the best attempts made, no one can be entirely objective when giving opinions. They have some worldview that they hold, and that worldview then creates the lens through which they see life. As such, their opinions will be slanted. If one of our friends gives a recommendation in favor of one of their other friends, obviously the friendship between the two will factor into the judgment. This doesn’t mean that the recommendation is bogus or that the person being praised is unworthy. It just means that the person assessing the recommendation will automatically keep in mind the source of the recommendation.

The wife recommending the husband would have to be viewed most skeptically. She is very close to him after all. She sees him all the time, knows his good and bad traits, and obviously has an interest to serve. If she loves her husband, she will not do anything to jeopardize his reputation in the world. For a princess a long time ago, being taken completely seriously when discussing her husband was a little difficult on the surface. For starters, she was known as the most devoted wife. Therefore why would she ever say anything bad about her husband? Also, her husband was without flaws. This meant that she could only speak good things about Him. If we hear someone only say good things about someone else, it’s natural to be skeptical. In this case, the princess was wise enough to point to the fact that the qualities in her husband were known throughout the world.

What were some of those qualities?

fireHe was a knower of religious principles, dharmajnah. In the way dharma is used most commonly it means religiosity. In its root meaning, however, dharma is an essential characteristic. Both definitions still apply, as religiosity means that set of principles which allow the essential characteristic within all of us to remain vibrant. Think of it like having a fire that you need to keep lit. The lit fire is the essential characteristic. The policies you put in place to allow that fire to remain lit constitute the religiosity of the situation. Thus dharma here refers to both the fire being lit and the guidelines that others must follow in order to meet that condition.

Someone who knows the religious principles is superior to someone who doesn’t. This only makes sense. It’s better to know the right way of doing something. It’s better if I know how to drive a car than if I don’t. It’s better if I know how to speak the language in a foreign country than if I don’t. Knowing religiosity means you know how to keep active the essential characteristic within. Since this is the best thing to know, you naturally have the greatest gift to offer others. Therefore simply by being a knower of dharma you are a valuable person in society.

The princess also said that her husband was very affectionate towards the surrendered souls, sharanagatah vatsalah. This feature applied especially to the situation at hand. The princess was being held captive against her will by a fiendish king. The princess asked to be returned to her husband. She wasn’t lying to get what she wanted. Her husband is indeed the most affectionate towards those who surrender to Him. And that affection is without conditions, provided the surrender is legitimate. Though this king had committed the most heinous crime, he would be forgiven by the husband of the princess because that is His nature.

Since the king was desirous of living, it was in his interest to make friendship with Rama. The princess made this point in case the other two points didn’t appeal to the king. “Even if you don’t care that my husband knows dharma and that He is kind to His devotees, at least you should care about your own wellbeing. If you want to keep living, you should become friends with Him. Though He is very forgiving, my husband will hand you a punishment like you’ve never seen before. This is because you took away His wife in secret, without putting up a fight. You deserve punishment for sure, but it can be avoided if you make friends with my husband.”

Sita and RamaThis was a special case, as her husband is generally neutral towards all conditioned souls. The princess is named Sita and her husband Rama. Together, they are the Supreme Lord and His energy. Rama doesn’t specifically punish those who ignore Him, but since the king, Ravana, had offended Rama’s wife, he was due punishment from Rama Himself. Even with such a horrible offense, Ravana had the offer to get affection from Rama. That same Rama was affectionate to Sugriva, the distressed Vanara king in Kishkindha. He was affectionate to Shabari, the female ascetic in the forest. He was affectionate to Vishvamitra, the powerful sage who was being harassed by wicked creatures of Ravana’s ilk.

If there is surrender, there are no preconditions to Rama’s affection, as every individual has made some offenses in the past; “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Surrender to Rama is the best because He is the knower of dharma. Those souls surrendered to Him thus also receive the best knowledge. They get Rama’s protection and they maintain their position in safety through serving Rama. He is the best friend to have, as He doesn’t ask anything in return. Yet He still gives back so much, something the poor fellow in Lanka could not see, though the rest of the world knew it to be true.

In Closing:

In surrender life to change in a minute,

To His devotees Rama always affectionate.


This Ravana easily could become,

Instead by his sins to be undone.


Friendship with Rama the only way,

For him to prevent Lanka’s doomsday.


Of your previous life Rama not to care,

Only that enmity towards Him to forswear.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Fitting Friend

Rama holding His bow“It is appropriate for you to make friends with Rama, that best among men, if you wish to continue in your current state and if you want to avoid a ghastly slaying.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.19-20)

mitramaupayikam kartum rāmaḥ sthānam parīpsatā ||
vadham cānicchatā ghoraṃ tvayāsau puruṣarṣabhaḥ |

“Why should I be friends with God? He has been nothing but cruel to me my whole life. Everything I’ve ever wanted He never gave me. When I was younger, I had trouble talking to people. I couldn’t give speeches in public due to intense stage fright. I would pray to God to save me, but that rescue never came. I was left embarrassed and ashamed. He doesn’t exist, didn’t hear what I asked, or doesn’t like me.”

Stage fright“Why should I be friends with God? I have everything I could ever want right now. I never went to church. I never read any religious books. Through my own hard work I achieved success. I have the best possible job in the world. My spouse and children are wonderful too. I live in an area where the sun shines bright in the sky the majority of the year. It never gets too hot or too cold. The restaurants in this area are great too. I’m living the good life. What do I need God for?”

“Why should I be friends with God? I have no desires whatsoever. When you boil it down, friendship means getting something in return from someone else, sort of like a barter system. I scratch your back, and you scratch mine. I come to you with something that I need because previously I helped you out with something that you needed. But I don’t need my back scratched anymore. I live a very renounced life. I meditate all day. I eat whatever is around that doesn’t cost too much. I don’t want money, women, wine, gambling, fame, a big house, or a lot of friends. I’m fine with how things are right now. I don’t need anything from God.”

Here are three common mentalities. One person never gets what they want, so they are miserable. Another is materially set, while another has no desires at all. Despite what the person thinks, in each case friendship with the Supreme Lord is worthwhile. Only in our ignorance do we think otherwise. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi informs a very impious king that making friends with God will preserve what he has and prevent calamity for both him and his kingdom.

Sita and RamaSita knew her audience. Making friends with Rama, who is her husband, is beneficial simply because of who Rama is. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the origin of all life and matter. Though He is a singular personality, He takes to various forms that are preferred by His devotee. Each individual has an eternal relationship with God. That relationship is also tied to a specific non-different manifestation of the Supreme Godhead. Rama is worshiped by so many, including, of course, His beautiful, chaste, sweet, and very knowledgeable wife.

Rama is all-beautiful. One look at His smiling face can cure the dreaded disease that is the false ego, or ahankara. The ego is false when there is no knowledge of the Supreme Lord’s existence. It is false when one thinks that they can go it alone in life and be just fine. It is false when one thinks that God doesn’t exist since they weren’t granted things at specific times. Just because you don’t get what you want for your birthday doesn’t mean that your parents don’t love you. As God is the Supreme Father, sometimes He doesn’t give to the devotee something that will not help them in the long run.

The ego is false when it thinks that through hard work alone everything is secured. I may work very diligently and honestly for something, but it doesn’t mean that I will get it. In sports, so many players work hard and follow the guidance of the coaches and still end up losing. Taking entire careers, even the greatest players don’t win most of the time. In business, even the wealthiest businessman must keep an eye out for the competition. They can’t remain on top forever, as others work hard to dethrone them. A good idea and a good work ethic don’t always produce a winner.

The person who doesn’t desire anything still must maintain an existence. Their ego is false when they think that a higher power isn’t maintaining their livelihood. It is false when they think that renunciation alone is the be all, end all. They may be proud of their distaste for material life, but without the help of knowledge of the origin of matter and spirit, their renunciation is vulnerable at every second.  Indeed, the monkey also lives in the forest, without any possessions, and yet no one would consider the monkey to be renounced.

Ravana belonged to the class of men who is full of material desires. There was no point in preaching to Ravana about the need for renunciation. Describing Rama’s glorious character, His tremendous beauty, or His position above the influence of karma also wouldn’t change Ravana’s ways. Ravana was very lusty. He had a lot of stuff and he wanted to keep it all. Sita, therefore, rightfully told him that friendship with Rama would enable him to keep all of that stuff.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.22“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Shri Rama, but in His original form of Krishna, says that He preserves what the devotees have and brings to them what they lack. A devotee is a friend of Krishna. This means that if Ravana makes friends with Rama, the promise from the Bhagavad-gita will apply to him. Rama is the origin of matter and spirit. He can create thousands of kingdoms in an instant just by thinking about it. Preserving Ravana’s opulent estate in Lanka would be no problem for Rama.

Rama hugging HanumanSita also says that friendship with Rama will prevent a ghastly slaying for Ravana. That punishment was due him due to misdeeds. This again points to Rama’s position as God. Only the Supreme Lord can pardon an offense outright. If you do something wrong like stick your hand into a fire, you’ll have to wait for time to heal your wound; there is no way around it. Ravana had committed a greater sin in stealing someone else’s wife against her will. Sita had no desire to be with Ravana, and yet the demon kept her away from her beloved husband. He would have to pay for this.

Despite this being the worst transgression, Rama would forgive it in a second if Ravana formed a friendship with Him. This means that any person, regardless of how bad we may think they are, can turn their life around in a second through surrender to God. Surrender doesn’t mean a two-second profession of faith followed by a return to the old way of life. Surrender means giving up the fight to compete with God for supremacy. It also means handing over control of one’s emotional wellbeing to the best of men, the wonderful husband of Sita. In that friendship, one gains everything, including friendship with Rama’s beloved family, which includes the wise Sita.

In Closing:

One man happy with all that he’s got,

For another the desires never to stop.


For another every request denied,

Ignoring God all deluded by pride.


Not any condition alone one can get,

First sanction of God must be set.


At suggestion of Sita need not be surprised,

To make friends with Rama she advised.


Her wise advice Ravana not to heed,

Slaying for him and his kingdom indeed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Opportunity for Service

Sita and Rama“Very well then, Ravana, unite me, who am distressed, with Rama, as a female elephant gains the company of a great elephant in the forest.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.18-19)

sādhu rāvaṇa rāmeṇa māṃ samānaya duḥkhitām ||
vane vāśitayā sārtham kareṇveva gajādhipam |

We all need something to do. This only make sense. If you sit around all day and do nothing, you’ll eventually go crazy. Long periods of inactivity is symptomatic of depression, which is considered an abnormal condition. With the necessity for action, the natural question is what kind of action should be taken. If you take the wrong route, you can find so much trouble, as was the case with Ravana, a famous king from a long time ago. Here Sita Devi gives him a wonderful option, one that any person can avail themselves of. From the combination of Ravana’s past behavior and Sita’s offer made in person, we see that no matter what we may or may not have done in the present life, we are eligible for this sublime action.

The Vedic opinion on the meaning of life is as follows:

The human birth is the most auspicious. It is the fruit of the journey through the spiritual evolutionary cycle. Only in the human species can one reach the intelligence necessary to slightly understand God. With that intelligence they can take the necessary actions to always be thinking of Him, in effect changing their consciousness. The perfect consciousness is God consciousness, and when it is there at the time of death, the last and final stop is reached, a permanent destination. All other kinds of consciousness are subpar, and they are rooted in the innate competitive attitude towards the Supreme Lord.

This last part seems a bit out of left field. We’re competing with God? How can that be if we don’t even believe in Him? How are the atheists in competition with someone they think doesn’t exist?

Actually, the very denial of the existence of a supreme controller marks a challenge. If there is no God, as He is described in scientific terms in the Vedas, then man himself must be God. From that mindset, the competitive attitude is born, as there are many men and women on earth. There are other creatures as well. They will all vie for supremacy. Supremacy can mean a better way of living, which for one person is great material wealth and for another is the company of an attractive paramour.

As this path is based in ignorance, it is riddled with flaws. The mentality to compete with God starts at the time of birth, where the infant doesn’t know anything. As they are in ignorance, they don’t know their limitations. So many difficult lessons await them in life. At the root of each lesson is the fact that the human being is limited. You think that you can play every day away, but then you are forced to go to school. You think you can get whatever job you want, but then sometimes people won’t hire you. You think you can start your own business, but then you have so much difficulty maintaining a profit. You think you can marry whomever you like, but then they reject you in favor of someone else. You think that earning millions of dollars will make you happy, but then you are left with a void afterwards. In this way the human being is checked so many times, embarrassed over and over again. The final blow comes at death, where the individual is forced to exit their situation they worked so hard to create.

The path of transcendence is rooted in a contrary viewpoint, but this doesn’t mean that there is no action; just the beneficiary changes. Here we have two completely different individuals. One is the fiendish king of Lanka. He was very powerful. He thought he was God because his strength was so great. He ruled over an opulent kingdom, had many beautiful wives, and ate and drank whatever he wanted. He had defeated so many powerful kings, which made him think that he was the strongest person in the world. He hadn’t met very many defeats yet, so his lesson on not being God was awaiting him.

Sita DeviSita, the wife of Lord Rama, was ready to hand that lesson to him. Ravana thought he could take her away from Rama and make her his wife, but she refused. Though he stole her away and brought her back to his kingdom to be held in captivity, Sita still gave him an option for reformation, as shown here. Ravana really didn’t deserve this, but the saintly characters in this world know that behavior in fiends like Ravana is due only to ignorance. If such fiends can find the right path and stay on it, they will reform themselves.

The option put on the table was this: return Sita to Rama. She was very distressed, and so being reunited with her husband would make her happy. It would be like a female elephant meeting the king of elephants in the forest. The female is under the care of the strong hand of the male in the wild, and in this condition she is very happy. The male is also pleased to have her back with him. Sita would be so happy being with Rama, who was the most powerful person in the world. Ravana had this chance to bring them together again.

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t take it. He would have to learn the lesson the hard way: through death by hundreds of arrows shot by Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His avatara as a warrior prince in the second time period of creation, the Treta Yuga. Since He is all-pervading, He can be worshiped simply by sounding His names. Sita is always with Rama. In other forms, she is known as Radha and Lakshmi. One of God’s names is Hari, and so His energy is referred to as Hare. Sita is that energy. Therefore by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one brings the divine couple together.

Sita and RamaOutside intervention is not required for this union, but if others do take action they get some benefit. They learn that they are not God. They learn that the struggle through the material existence is due to ignorance of the existence of Sita and Rama. They learn that every person is happiest when serving the Supreme Lord. That service can be to one of His servants as well, such as in the case of Ravana having the chance to serve Sita. He instead tried to make her his servant, and in that ignorance his giant ego and kingdom would both collapse.

In Closing:

Inactivity when nothing to do,

Indication of depression too.


Vedas say act in way that is right,

Escape darkness and enter the light.


Supreme Lord and His energy unite,

No longer against divine forces fight.


Sita this chance to Ravana gave,

Sadly nothing his demise could save.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Targets for Knowledge

Maharishi Valmiki“I am the appropriate wife for Him, the lord of the earth, just as education is appropriate for those who are knowers of the self and absorbed in their vows.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.17-18)

ahamaupayīkī bhāryā tasyaiva vasudhāpateḥ ||
vratasnātasya viprasya vidyeva viditātmanaḥ |

When picking up a magazine while waiting in the lounge at the doctor’s office, we aren’t likely to find anything about the laws of physics. The magazines won’t touch on chemistry, biology or computer science in-depth. These disciplines represent higher knowledge in the material sphere, and so the information they present is targeted for a specific audience, namely one that has the proper understanding going in. In the same way, the higher knowledge that is the spiritual science is appropriate for those who are steady in their vows and knowers of the self.

What does it mean to know the self?

It means to know who you really are. Knowing your name, age and place of birth is not enough; these are external features. The name is just a sound vibration used by others to address you. Your age indicates how much time has elapsed since you exited the womb of your mother. Your place of birth says what country you belong to.

How can these things really identify you, though? Some people have many names used to address them. In the National Hockey League, for example, players on the same team are rarely addressed by either their first or last name. The coaches and players use nicknames for each other. Sometimes the names are merely derivatives of the player’s first or last name, but sometimes they are based on the player’s style of play. Thus knowing your one name doesn’t necessarily mean you know who you really are.

The age is simply a measurement of time. Today you are a certain age and tomorrow you could be another year older, but what has really changed? Are you not the same person in both time periods? Of course you are, so how can age represent your true identity?

Your place of birth could have been anywhere. It happened to be in a certain land, but that in and of itself doesn’t determine who you are as a person. In the eyes of the government you are entitled to certain benefits because of where you were born, but how a higher authority treats you should not determine your identity.

One who knows the self knows that the self is spirit. Hence they know that they are a spirit soul, part and parcel of the supreme collective spirit known as Brahman. Since they know Brahman, such persons are referred to as brahmanas. Since these brahmanas are wise, they are also known as vipras.

Reading the Bhagavad-gitaThe vipras are worthy of vidya, or education, after having been initiated in their vows. This is the fact mentioned in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana. Sita Devi says that the vipras first become immersed in their vows. The word “snatasya” can mean taking a bath or becoming absorbed in. In Vedic rituals, typically some kind of bathing ceremony takes place at the outset. This cleanses the participants, making them ready for following whatever vows they accept. One who follows such vows is sober in mind, or dhira.

As the vipras know the self, they are worthy of education. Sita says that she is like that education to Rama, who is the lord of the earth. That education is not fit to be given to someone who is not a knower of the self. The animal cannot understand the higher truths of the spiritual science. Someone who is driven by lusty desires will not know how to use knowledge of spirit and matter. Think of it like giving lessons on quantum mechanics to a child. In that scenario that child can mature and increase their knowledge in math and science to eventually make themselves eligible, but with Vedic education the qualification is initiation into vows. Without those vows, the knowledge will not be properly understood, which means it will not be properly utilized.

Ravana is here compared to an animal-like person, one who is not absorbed in the right kinds of vows. Instead of a vipra, he is a mudha, or fool. He exhibited his mudha position by taking Sita away from her rightful husband. She was fit for Rama and none else. Rama was dhira, or sober, and He was so strict in His vows that He voluntarily left His kingdom of Ayodhya to uphold the good name of His father. He was completely renounced, though He didn’t need to be. He was the lord of the earth, which meant that He was more powerful than anyone.

Lord RamaRavana thought that he was the ruler of the earth, so here Sita debunks that notion. She basically says that Ravana is inferior and therefore not deserving of her. The Ramayana itself represents the sort of education that belongs to the brahmanas, except it is presented through a real-life story format. The education deals with God Himself, Shri Rama, and His eternal consort, Sita, so it is actually beneficial to every person. This education is more than just esoteric knowledge, for God transcends all bounds of knowledge, renunciation and ability.

If one is not of sober mind, however, they will not derive the true benefit from the Ramayana. An example of how this manifests today is seen in the bogus commentaries and mental speculations that come from those who are not properly fit to hear about Sita and Rama. They speculate that Rama is not a real person and that the Ramayana refers to the “Rama” within all of us. Some even are angry at Rama for having defeated Ravana, who was very powerful in the material sense.

Lord Rama - The Shelter for the SaintsThough he wasn’t worthy of her, Ravana tried to have Sita as a wife anyway. This caused ruin for both him and his citizens. In the same way, the words of Sita and Rama are meant for the devotees, who become eligible for such education through sincerity and pure motives. All others who try to accept the same words will not derive the proper benefit. In their ignorance they will lead others astray as well, pushing them further and further away from the constitutional engagement that is devotional service.

In Closing:

Knowledge of Vedas for vipras meant,

Who in following vows time spent.


To take knowledge first one must be ready,

Useless for one of resolve unsteady.


For Sita to drive point home,

That she was for Rama alone.


In humble submission your mind set,

So right benefit of Ramayana to get.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Maintainer of All

Krishna's lotus feet“The Supreme Lord, Purushottama, or Shri Krishna, is the maintainer of all, in both the transcendental and material worlds. He is the life and friend of all because there is eternally natural affection and love between the living entities and the Lord. He is the one friend and well-wisher for all, and He is one without a second. The Lord maintains all the living entities everywhere by His six transcendental opulences, for which He is known as bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.9.22 Purport)

Comparatively speaking, the ant doesn’t stand a chance for survival. It is much smaller than other insects and animals, especially the human being. Without even trying, the human being can kill the ant. When we walk on the sidewalk or sit down on a park bench, there is every chance of squashing the poor little creature. The ant doesn’t know any better, however. It doesn’t know what large and small is. It has no idea of the force that a human foot can apply when it hits the ground.

The ant also doesn’t know about starving to death. It simply looks for food when it needs it. It doesn’t have an elaborate scheme to make sure there is enough food to allow for retirement. Indeed, the concept of retirement is absent in the animal community. They aren’t very intelligent; otherwise they would make schemes to provide for their necessities without working so hard. Despite their lack of intelligence, they are still able to survive. How is this so?

They are maintained by the maintainer of all. Not surprisingly, that maintainer is God. We think that the animals are supported by nature, but there is intelligence to what we take for granted. The sun, the moon, the stars, the rivers, the oceans, and the earth have scientific properties that we have discerned through experiment and observation. Funny thing is that these properties were always there, long before any person discovered them. They operate without deviation, indicating that there is intelligence in the background. Indeed, the intelligence is perfect, unlike that which we apply to our technological advancements.

SmartphoneThe smartphone can do amazing things, but it is not perfect. Though the apps load up fairly quickly, suddenly it could take a long time to pull up my music library. I can be browsing a web page and suddenly the browser app crashes. The programmers then get to work on fixing the problem, eventually releasing an update to the operating system. Then there is the newer smartphone that will eventually be released. This means that despite the initial intelligence that went into the creation of the smartphone, there were defects. The intelligence wasn’t perfect.

There isn’t a new sun, though. There are no updates required to make sure we continue to get sunlight. Huge oil tankers are not travelling to the sun to make sure it is full of energy. There are no scientific studies necessary to see how the sun is changing, because it isn’t. It is just as potent today as it was thousands of years ago. The same goes for the rain, the earth, and the moonlight. The maintenance provided by nature is thus without flaw. The animals rely on it without questioning it. Lacking intelligence they are more or less helpless, though they are helped anyway.

The human beings are maintained by the same nature, though through a little personal effort they think themselves to be independent. The human being can work hard in the factory to produce fancy cars and technological gadgets, but none of these objects can prolong life. The farmer at least produces food to be consumed, but without the land, the sun, and water there is no question of eating. These are provided by nature, which is guided by intelligence. The maintainer of all is that intelligence.

From this study we get one way to understand His position. Since He maintains everyone, He is automatically due respect from everyone. Only a miser would continue to take and take without giving some thanks for what they have. After all, none of us have created land. Though we may purchase some land and therefore take ownership, that land was there before we arrived. It will continue to remain after we have left this earth, so who are we to falsely claim full ownership over everything?

FarmingThe maintainer of all has kindly provided enough for everyone to live comfortably. Without elaborate schemes the animals find what they need. They don’t have to rely on a redistribution of wealth plan, philanthropic endowments, or charity fundraisers. If a human being were to live like them, they would be considered poor, but at the same time all the needs of life would still be provided.

If even the animals are maintained by the maintainer of all, there must be a higher purpose to fulfill for the human being. Why frantically chase after something that is distributed by a higher power? Why not find out more about that higher power first? From knowing Him, one sees that the view of Him as the maintainer of all is only a preliminary understanding. He is much more than a maintainer. He is the best friend of every living entity, for everyone naturally holds affection for Him.

He maintains specifically using His six opulences. Through wealth He is able to give anything to anyone. Through strength He can give protection to anyone who is surrendered to Him. Through fame He can be known by any person, regardless of where they were born. Through renunciation He can accept service from any person, regardless of what they may or may not have in their possession. Through knowledge He can be understood by any man, transforming the unintelligent into intelligent in an instant.

Lord KrishnaThrough beauty He can give satisfaction to any person. We all appreciate beauty, whether we see it in a wonderful view from a mountaintop or hear it from a well-composed song. The maintainer of all is the most beautiful. This is one aspect to His overall attractiveness that makes Him worthy of the name Krishna. Since He is all-attractive, His beauty is not limited to His personal form. His name is just as beautiful, and so are the mantras that contain those names. Therefore His beauty naturally extends to the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the mantra that maintains the bhaktas, who taste the mature fruit that an existence has to offer.

In Closing:

So tiny and powerless is the ant,

To make elaborate schemes it can’t.


Human being with hand can brush,

And by taking inadvertent step can crush.


Why then the less powerful to imitate,

Why not on higher power to concentrate?


Maintains all through His opulences six,

On any of His features your consciousness fix.