Saturday, September 21, 2013

Not Enough Eyes

Lord Rama's lotus feet“When seeing Rama, they notice His beauty from head to toe. As all parts of Rama’s body are so wonderful, they thought of Indra and his many eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, 133)

nakha sikha sanudara rāma rūpa jaba dekhahiṃ |
saba indrinha mahan indra bilocana lekhahiṃ ||

“If only I had eyes in the back of my head. Then I could see what is going on behind me. If I was a football player, I could see the defense coming up from behind me to make the tackle. I could then get away from them. If I played hockey, I wouldn’t be duped into a big hit. I would be able to avoid the defense creeping up from behind me. In school, I would see others making funny faces at me. When pictures are taken, I could see if someone was mocking me behind my back. More eyes would thus help me.”

In Janakpur a long time ago, a section of women wished for more eyes, but not necessarily to see things behind them. They already liked what was in front of them. It was so beautiful that two eyes were not enough to soak in the beauty. They thought of Lord Indra and his thousand eyes. Even that wouldn’t be enough, but at least it would be better than two.

A similar lament is there with the bhakti poets. They wish they would have more ability in glorifying God. They wish they could spend the entire day glorifying the Supreme Lord with their gifted poetic ability. Despite their knack for putting phrases together in just the right way, they can only write so much in a given day. They still have to sleep. They still have to eat. They have to follow their sadhana, or regulative practice. If they don’t chant the holy names a sufficient number of times, they feel that they won’t be able to properly glorify God. No matter how much they want to, if the dedication to the holy names is absent, then the rest is merely academic.

Poetry appGlorifying God is not an academic exercise; at least not to the devotees. It is the one thing that brings the highest pleasure. It causes everything else around them to increase in quality. Ordinarily, if we see a flower we may not notice it. We see flowers all the time, so what is the significance in seeing another one? However, if you’ve spent the whole morning glorifying God, when you see a flower later in the day, your mindset might be different:

“Look at how beautiful this flower is. Only God can create something like this. By His arrangement, something so perfect is born from a tiny seed. No factory could produce this. It takes so much intelligence and engineering in order to manufacture an automobile. Even then, the particular model isn’t perfect. There is always something missing. There are also flaws that arise later on. Therefore the carmakers constantly look for ways to improve their product. Despite all their effort, the car is never perfect.

“But this flower most certainly is. It is created through nature’s will. No computer designs the flower. In fact, the computer tries to copy the flower, using it as a reference. The artist tries to draw the flower to the best of their ability. The lover plucks a flower to give to their beloved. The host places flowers on tables so that guests will feel welcome. All of this is due to God’s grace. His magnificent intelligence is beyond compare. I could meditate on this one flower for hours, because it reminds me of God.”

The personal form of the Supreme Lord is the origin of all beautiful objects. As much as the flower is impossible to describe fully, the transcendental body of God is infinitely more beautiful. The poet therefore feels more incapable of properly describing it. The twenty-four hours in each day are not enough. A limitation is there also with the one hand used for writing or the two hands for typing. Four hands would be better. This way glorification could continue on two paths simultaneously. One set could glorify God’s beautiful feet, while the other could focus on His face.

Glorifying RamaHere the female party in a wedding has direct access to the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Shri Ramachandra. They notice that Rama’s beauty is wonderful from head to toe. Looking at His feet is just as blissful as looking at His waist. All parts of the body are beautiful, and so they think of Indra, the king of heaven. Due to a curse, Indra was given a thousand eyes. This many eyes on a person makes them look odd, as if they have some disease. At the same time, this many eyes enhances the power of sight. “If only we had so many eyes. Then we could really enjoy this vision,” is what the women thought.

Ananta Shesha Naga, the original spiritual master and protector of the Supreme Lord’s interests, laments that even with his thousands of mouths he cannot properly glorify God. Since the beginning of time, he has been praising the divine features found only in the original person. Still, he has yet to reach an endpoint. As time and space are both infinite, so is the glorification of the Supreme Lord, who is worshiped today most prominently through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To soak in beauty each woman tries,

But how to enjoy with only two eyes?


Better would be if there were more,

Then mind more easily could adore.


On beautiful picture of Rama to go,

See His beauty full from head to toe.


To glorify God poets go on still,

Hearts of their readers with rapture fill.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mangala Arati

Arati lamps“They then went to welcome the groom with an auspicious arati on a decorated plate. They were happy like the golden lotus blooming at sunrise.” (Janaki Mangala, 132)

mangala ārati sāja bahari parichana calīṃ |
janu bigasīṃ rabi udaya kanaka pankaja kalīṃ ||

The arati is well known to followers of the Vedic tradition. It is an offering of light to a respectable personality. It is a central paraphernalia item in any ritual. The mangala-arati is most auspicious, as it occurs in the morning right before the sun rises. The sun is the maker of the day, and so without it we couldn’t begin our work for the day. Work is necessary for finding all other kinds of auspiciousness, and so the sun should get some of the credit for whatever benefits come later. To honor the sun is a nice gesture, and so it is a central part of the tradition that worships a personal God. In the above referenced verse, the very same person is offered worshiped directly, under the pretense of a marriage ceremony. The symbolism inherent in the gesture did not get overlooked by the wise poet.

If there is a God, we should worship Him. Is it not true? Who would argue against such a point? God, in whatever way one would define Him, would have to be the ultimate order supplier. Since He gives everything, it would make sense to say “thanks” for that. If you’re going to say “thanks” once in a while, why not every day? If you’re going to do it every day, you’re going to need different exercises to fill the various timeslots. Otherwise you’ll go through the motions for five minutes and then go back to doing whatever you were doing. Then the worship becomes more conducive to forgetfulness.

PrayingThe mangala-arati helps to start the day just right. Throughout the day we should worship God, but we have to work in order to maintain a living. We work to eat; there is really no other purpose. If we work to satisfy our senses, we will never be completely happy. This is because the senses are never truly satisfied. In fact, conditioning the senses to do with less is the better option. We condition the senses in order to lose weight. We do the same to keep the blood flowing strongly inside of the body. If we just went for straight satisfaction whenever there was an itch, we would not be happy at all.

If we have to work to eat, it means we shouldn’t have to work very hard. This is easy in theory, but in modern times the implementation is much more difficult. We do have to work hard just to survive. Bills pile up, costs for goods and services rapidly rise, and one brief bout of hardship can leave someone financially ruined. Therefore work is so important; at least that is how it is seen.

If you’re going to work hard to maintain a living, at least worship God in the morning. This is the start to your day. It sets the tone for how the rest will pan out. If you work first instead, then later on you might be too tired to worship. If you forget to worship, it’ll be easier to continue in that forgetfulness going forward. Pretty soon you’ll think that there is no God and that life is destined to be miserable.

The arati, which is the offering of fire usually emanating from lamps, is most auspicious in the morning; hence the name mangala-arati. The morning is the most auspicious time for all religious practices. Those practices shape your consciousness, which is the ultimate aim. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.6“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Deity of KrishnaIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the term “mangala-arati” is used, but not in the context of the morning ritual. There are different aratis throughout the day, which are especially observed in Vedic temples. The temple is where the deity resides, and the deity is considered the visibly manifest incarnation of the Supreme Lord. The deity allows us to understand what God looks like in His various non-different forms. It discredits the weak attempts by the mental speculators to define God. It strengthens the conviction of the devotees, who know that God exists and that He is all-attractive.

Here the arati is offered directly to God in His incarnation as a warrior prince named Rama. With the personal form there are activities, which are known as lila in Sanskrit. Ordinary lila may or may not interest us. If it does hold our interest, it will only be for a brief while. God’s lila is known as nitya, or eternal. It is enjoyable today, tomorrow, a week from today, a year from tomorrow, and a thousand years into the future. This arati was offered to Rama thousands of years ago, and it is still wonderful to hear about.

The arati was a lamp placed on a decorated plate. It was offered directly to Rama from the women on the bride’s side. Rama was the groom in this instance, set to marry Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. From this verse we also learn what happens when devotion is offered in the proper mood. Not surprisingly, it should make one happy. How happy? So happy that the reaction is spontaneous; not mechanical.

Golden lotus flowerThe spontaneous reaction is described through the comparison to the golden lotus. In the morning, this flower opens up. It does so at the sight of the sun. Thus the sun’s rising is what makes the lotus happy; otherwise it remains closed up. In the same way, in worshiping God and making an auspicious offering of a lamp, the face should brighten.

The women here were golden-complexioned; hence the comparison to the golden lotus. Rama was a prince who appeared in the solar dynasty; hence the comparison to the sun. The lotus flower is also the perfect symbol of beauty. It is strictly God’s creation. No mind could ever come up with something like it. No factory could produce it using a single seed. The flower can only be attributed to God. It is so pure that it spontaneously reacts to the vision of God’s representative, the sun.

Here the origin of all light and heat was seen, and the lotus-like devotees naturally reacted in joy. In devotional service, which is the highest form of religion, the aim is to be happy. When the worship is proper, when both internal and external impurities are removed, the happiness comes automatically. Something as simple as an offering of a lamp can brighten one’s day.

In Closing:

Worship of Rama from bride’s camp,

To come through offering of auspicious lamp.


Mangala-arati best way to start,

Day before to work to depart.


Auspicious is morning time,

Right before sun set to shine.


In offering at Rama’s beautiful sight,

Ladies spontaneously with faces bright.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Staying in the Background

Lakshmi and Parvati“Hearing this, Parvati, Lakshmi and the wives of the demigods became very happy. After disguising themselves as ordinary women, they went to the mandapa.” (Janaki Mangala, 131)

umā ramādika suratiya suni pramudita bhaī  |
kapaṭa nāri bara beṣa biraca manḍama gaī ||

“Hey, nice to see you. It’s been so long. Where have you been? Have you been hiding? We’ve been here every week and we haven’t seen you. We missed you. Tell us all about what you’ve been doing. Why haven’t you been showing up? Is your job stressing you out? Is it something that we said? Did you get into an argument with someone over here? Whatever it is, we are so glad that you are back. Now hopefully we will see you all the time.”

When a major event is going down, it’s sometimes nice to just blend into the background. This way no one will bother you. You will get to enjoy the event, soaking in all the precious moments. Think of it like being a celebrity who attends a big game in sports. You want to watch the game. You don’t necessarily want the attention. There is nothing you can do, however, as everyone will recognize you. In Janakpur a long time ago, celestials were anxious to attend a blessed event, to get up close to see and hear what was going on. Knowing that they would be recognized and thus garner attention, they decided to disguise themselves.

Presidential motorcadeWhen the President of the United States goes anywhere, he needs the entire security detail to accompany him. If he’s in New York City to give an address at the United Nations, so many streets are closed to accommodate his travel. If he is going to attend a sporting event, the security team needs to check out the area beforehand. He doesn’t walk in like an ordinary person. Presidents in the past have sometimes avoided attending certain events precisely because they didn’t want to take any attention away from the main participants. They didn’t want to steal the glory for themselves.

If the event is of greater significance, like a marriage or a religious observance, you don’t want to turn it into a social event. At least you don’t want that to be the most important thing. You don’t want to have to socialize while everything is going down. Maybe afterwards, in order to not appear rude, you will talk to various people. You will meet up with your friends. You will maybe make new friends while mingling. During the event, however, you’re there to experience everything. That’s the reason you attended.

“Lord Shiva is the husband of Durga, the controller of the material energy. Durga is personified material energy, and Lord Shiva, being her husband, is the controller of the material energy. He is also the incarnation of the mode of ignorance and one of the three deities representing the Supreme Lord. As His representative, Lord Shiva is identical with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.14.29 Purport)

For Parvati Devi and Lakshmi Devi, there was no way to attend a famous event without getting spotted. Both of them are worshiped figures of the Vedic tradition. Parvati is the beloved wife of Lord Shiva. Another one of her names is Durga, which means difficult to overcome. She manages the material creation, and her husband is charged with destroying it at the appropriate time. Through her various forms she is worshiped for so many different things, all of them relating to material life. She makes the difficult stay in the material land a little less painful, temporarily, for those who worship her. Thus if anyone sees her, they will immediately honor her and seek a benediction.

Lakshmi-NarayanaLakshmi Devi is the goddess of fortune. The fortune belongs to her husband, Narayana, who is a non-different expansion of the Supreme Lord. Lakshmi manages that fortune for Him. She liberally distributes it to those who worship her. The fortune is to be used for pleasing Narayana. Any other use is a misuse. She would have the same problem as Parvati if she were to attend the famous event. People would ask her for fortune.

There are many demigods, who are godly personalities but not quite the Supreme Lord Himself. They have their wives, who are thus goddesses. Any of these goddesses appearing at this famous event would draw some type of attention. That is not what any of them wanted. They heard the singing of auspicious songs from above. That sound drew them towards the ceremony.

The auspiciousness related to Sita’s marriage. For this reason, the work that describes these events is known as the Janaki Mangala, or the most auspicious occasion for the daughter of King Janaka. She was known as Sita, and is considered an incarnation of Lakshmi. From this verse Goswami Tulsidas tells us that Sita is more than Lakshmi, though she is non-different from her. Lakshmi herself is drawn to attend Sita’s marriage. In the same way, although Narayana is the same Rama, still Narayana is interested to see Rama’s marriage to Sita. In the spiritual world, such differences are not contradictory, while in the material sphere they are difficult to comprehend.

Narayana dropping flowers at weddingLakshmi, Parvati and the wives of the demigods decided to go in disguise. They would look just like the other women in the mandapa, which was the structure under which the marriage was to take place. In addition to allowing them to enjoy the festivities without being bothered, this masking was also a kind act. The women that were already there weren’t upstaged in beauty by Lakshmi and Parvati, who are beautiful beyond compare. If the two goddesses appeared as is, they would outshine all the other women. Thus we see how kind and respectful Lakshmi, Parvati and the wives of the demigods are.

They were drawn in by the singing of auspicious songs, and their interest was maintained by seeing Sita wed Rama. No one bothered them at the time, and afterwards they were able to go back to their posts as worshipable figures. They got to see the beautiful Sita, who was without flaw. They got to see the lovely Rama, who was perfect for Sita in every way. They got to see the pure-hearted residents of Janakpur rejoice in the day soon to be known as their favorite.

Sita and RamaThey stayed in the background so that nothing could break their focus. Their behavior reveals what is most important to them. They are of the godly nature, and they are powerful as well. They grant wonderful benedictions that the mind can’t even fathom. And yet to them none of these benedictions are important. These personalities are not puffed up by having so many worshipers, either. They simply enjoy seeing and hearing about God and His eternal consort. From their attendance at the wedding they also showed great intelligence in figuring out how to allow that worship to continue. From their behavior we learn the true meaning of life: to be immersed in the devotional consciousness.

In Closing:

When important event to attend,

Desire not participants to offend,


When others their vision to take,

Immediately some obeisances to make.


Parvati, Lakshmi and wives thus came,

But disguised, not with vision the same.


Enjoyed the marriage in peace from the back,

Showing that devotees intelligence not to lack.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Keeping with Tradition

Flower decorations“In the queen’s palace they are decorating for the auspicious occasion. With voices like cuckoos, they are singing and joking.” (Janaki Mangala, 130)

sajahiṃ sumangala sāja rahasa ranivāsahi |
gāna karahiṃ pikabaini sahita parihāsahi ||

In each culture there are specific traditions involved in a wedding. Not all wedding ceremonies are the same, and the different traditions date back to previous times. Vedic culture is no different in this regard, as the traditions go so far back that one can’t even trace their origin. The setting of the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala is a kingdom from many thousands of years ago. The culture during that time was steeped in tradition, which the people followed with faith.

The people are preparing for a marriage. The participants had just been settled upon. The host of the ceremony, King Janaka, knew that his daughter would be the bride, provided that a groom was selected. If no groom fit the bill, then there would be no wedding. To find the perfect groom, Janaka set up a contest. Thus there was naturally some anticipation. There was excitement, as anything could happen.

The different sports bring their unique moments of tension. In basketball, there is the last second shot. Just one shot, one toss of a ball, can determine whether a team wins or loses. If the shot goes in, the player who shot the ball scores a victory for his team. If it misses, then his team loses. In American football there is the last second field-goal kick, and in baseball there is the bottom of the ninth inning.

Celebrating OT winner in hockeyIn hockey there is the sudden-death overtime. When the score is tied at the end of regulation in a playoff game, the two teams skate an extra period. The period is twenty minutes, but the clock is irrelevant; it is more for bookkeeping. As soon as someone scores, the game is over. This means that if a player heads down the ice on a breakaway, all by himself, there is a chance that he can end the game right then. But if he doesn’t score, the game could continue on for another hour. Nobody knows. For this reason, the overtime period is exciting. If the first overtime ends, then another one commences. This repeats until one of the teams finally scores.

In Janakpur the day started with the hope that Sita would get married. There was anticipation. Her husband would be determined by a contest. Whoever could first lift a heavy bow in front of others would win. As the day continued, it looked like Sita might not get married. None of the princes could even move the bow. How was anyone going to lift it?

Making matters worse, in entered a beautiful prince. He was so handsome, and His character matched His beauty. He was youthful as well. It was said that He was very capable in battle. The sage Vishvamitra relied on Him for protection. The younger brother Lakshmana too took shelter of the same prince. Thus this youth, who was named Rama, was perfect for Sita in every way. Now if only there wasn’t that darn contest getting in the way.

Not to fear, as Rama ended up lifting the bow with ease. The Vedas reveal Him to be the Supreme Lord, the God for all of humanity. In the tradition we inherit at the time of birth, we may only know of God as a blank canvas, an all-powerful figure who can do pretty much anything. In the Vedas, some details to the abstract are provided. He is described to be all-powerful for sure. And if someone asks, “How powerful?” the response can be, “Powerful enough to lift the extremely heavy bow in Janaka’s contest to win Sita’s hand in marriage.”

Rama lifting the bowRama’s family arrived from Ayodhya and met Janaka’s family. The princess, Sita, placed the victory garland around Rama and then returned to her palace. In the above referenced verse we get an idea of what was going on leading up to the eventual marriage ceremony. In the queen’s palace, people were putting in place all the decorations. These decorations were auspicious, or sumangala, to match the occasion. The poem containing this reference is known as the Janaki Mangala, which translates to the “auspiciousness of Janaki,” who is the daughter of Janaka. The “mangala” here specifically refers to her marriage, as it was an auspicious occasion due to the nature of the participants. It wasn’t merely a codification of a relationship in sense gratification. It wasn’t done at the desire of Sita or Rama. It wasn’t done to show the world that they loved each other. It was an auspicious occasion because it marked their union on earth. Sita would serve Rama and Rama would protect Sita. The two would forever be happy in each other’s company.

In preparation, the people in the queen’s palace sang and joked, sounding like cuckoos. The cuckoo’s call indicates that spring has come. In this instance, their cuckoo-like voices announced the presence of the spring of their lives. The cold winter represented by the uncertainty of the contest gave way to the spring of Rama’s victory. In that joyous time, Sita would come to life, as she would join with her ideal match. The joking and singing was commonplace for a wedding of the Vedic tradition, showing that everything about the occasion was perfect.

The devotees of Sita and Rama are similar to the cuckoo, as they sing nice songs about them. These songs announce the presence of the divine couple as well. In that ancient time, the singing in the queen’s palace signaled the beginning of Sita and Rama’s wedded life on earth, and today the singing of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” signals the arrival of the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort into the lives of the devoted souls, who always look for ways to celebrate them.

In Closing:

Spring means flowers to rise from ground,

Season indicated by cuckoo’s sound.


Since Sita to them was everything,

Her marriage like arrival of spring.


Ladies like cuckoos noise made,

Image of Sita and Rama with them stayed.


Like cuckoos also are devotees of today,

Pray that Sita and Rama happy always stay.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five-Star General

King Dasharatha“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 ||

“Whom should we select as our leader? I want a five-star general, someone who is a war hero. War isn’t good, but if the other side is not willing to compromise, what choice is there? Should the innocent just roll over and give up? Should we allow others to come into our homes and seize our possessions? We may not be willing to fight, but our protectors most certainly should be.

“The general who has been recognized for his accomplishments proves that he is willing to sacrifice everything for others. The leader of the nation must show this dedication. If he isn’t this dedicated, who will be? The military hero will also act as a great deterrent. Enemies will have to think twice before attacking. They’ll know not to mess with us, because we have someone who is ready, willing and able to defend.

“I also want someone who is impartial to lead our country. It is very easy to be partial. I love my wife. I love my children. I love my friends. They are so good to me. They pick me up when I am down. They celebrate with me when I am happy. They are there for me when I need them. Why wouldn’t I be partial to them?

“But actually, every person is the family member of someone else. Every person is also the friend to someone else. Therefore my partiality shouldn’t take precedent over someone else’s. I love my family and you love yours. Is my love more important than yours? It shouldn’t be. This is especially true for the governing body, for their implementation of favoritism is much more harmful. They control the purse-strings. They say that the single largest collection of wealth in the world is found in the national treasury. This is the sum total of all taxes, fees and service charges. Therefore when the government plays favorites, it can use a lot of money and make a large impact.

George Washington leading his army“When the leader is impartial, we know that he is fair. Fairness is beneficial for everyone. Not that there will be an equality of outcomes. One person works hard and another does not. They shouldn’t artificially be made to have the same salary, especially if the output to their work is different. The fairness should apply to the enforcement of the law. The leader shouldn’t have anything invested in the outcome. Whether the pauper commits a crime or the wealthy businessman, the attention of the law should be the same. Otherwise the leader will set the wrong example.”

The wishes mentioned above seem impossible to come true. Who is actually impartial and courageous at the same time? Who isn’t swayed by the power of government? Who doesn’t get caught up in taking care of their political friends and family? From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get an example of when such conditions were met. They existed in two kings, who happened to meet each other at a marriage ceremony. As they were both full of the best qualities necessary for leadership, the image was indeed unique. Nothing in the three worlds could compare to it.

The earthThe three worlds are the heavenly, earthly and hellish realms. Think of it like up, down and middle. We are in the middle right now. Sometimes we enjoy heavenly life and other times our journey is hellish. One minute we’re enjoying pizza with our friends and family and the next we are staying late at the office to meet a deadline. One minute we are enjoying a peaceful walk in the woods and the next we are trying our best to get over a crippling disease.

The heavenly realm is where the enjoyments come nonstop, all the time. The hellish realm is where the miseries exist in full. Residence in any of the three realms is temporary. You can go here to there based on your work, or karma. The results of your work are temporary, so you can’t remain in any of the worlds permanently.

Here the reference to the three worlds is made in the context of space. One world is large enough. When there is a top athlete or sports team, we refer to them as the best in the world. This is only with respect to organized competition; as we haven’t really tested every single person or team to see if they indeed are not the best. With the meeting of King Janaka and King Dasharatha, you could actually search the three worlds and not find anything comparable.

Dasharatha was the father of Rama and Janaka the father of Sita. Dasharatha was famous as a ten-chariot fighter. Using only a single chariot, he could go against ten other chariots at the same time. He performed his tasks while fighting for the good guys, the demigods. He was thus the best protector anyone could ask for. He deserved to have Rama as a son, who was just like Him in fighting prowess. At the time of this meeting, Rama had already defeated several of the world’s most powerful fiends.

Dasharatha_with_RamaJanaka was known for his dispassion. He didn’t hold a grudge. He didn’t play favorites. He had no interest in riches, fame, or personal enjoyment. He ruled because that was his duty passed on to him from birth. He was also trained in how to be a king; therefore he was qualified in every way. People knew that he was a standup guy. Therefore princes from around the world gathered in Janaka’s city to stand up to the bow, which was central to a contest. The winner of the contest would get Sita’s hand in marriage.

Since these two kings met to celebrate a marriage, we know that Rama won that contest. People were very happy to see Sita and Rama wed, as they were a perfect match for each other. The fathers were perfectly matched as well. Neither one was superior or inferior. In the same way, Sita and Rama are equal. One is male and the other female, but neither one is lacking anything. Rama is the Supreme Lord and Sita is His eternal consort. Worship of either one in the proper mood qualifies as bhakti-yoga. Since they are always together, they are generally worshiped together as well. They are both referenced in the famous maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When two fathers did meet,

Nothing in three worlds to beat.


If all good qualities in leader you seek,

Find it in image of kings meeting unique.


Dasharatha to fight chariots ten,

Janaka to set example for all men.


Sita and Rama a match, fathers as well,

Story of their wedding one for ages to tell.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Space Saver

Japa beads“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)

Bhagavad-gita, 9.14Person 1: “I just can’t fit anything else in my bag. I only have enough clothes to last me a few days. I needed some t-shirts and shorts for sleeping and working out too. I put in extra pairs of socks, and I also had to pack my tablet computer. There is simply not anymore room. I had to work hard just to get everything to fit as is. And now you’re telling me that I can fit a lot more in there? I don’t see it.”

Person 2: “Well, here’s your problem. None of your clothes are folded. Were you absent the day they taught surface area and volume in math class? These clothes are just threads combined together. They can be bent and shaped in any way. How do you think they can sell the same pair of pants to thousands of different people? Do you think all the purchasers are of the exact same size and weight? Sure, they make different sizes based on waist and length, but still all the people who purchase one size aren’t exactly the same physically. The threads take the shape of their container. When no one is wearing them, they can be folded. When you do that, you can fit a lot more into your suitcase. There! Now look at how much room you have to spare. You could probably fit double the amount of clothes using this packing method.”

Packing a suitcaseAnytime you take on something new that is supposed to improve your life, the issue of juggling priorities comes into play. For the person taking up bhakti-yoga in earnest, the central practice is the chanting of the holy names. Though any authorized name will suffice due to the potency of the name itself, Shri Krishna Chaitanya has particularly blessed and endorsed a sequence of words known as the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In reading this mantra through a text-to-speech program, we see that it takes a bit of time to speak. It does not fly out of the mouth like the reactions of “Yes” or “No.” The program to speak the words specifically takes the attention to enunciate the vowels. It does not quickly run through the words precisely so that the listener can hear everything clearly. It is recommended that one chant this mantra a minimum of sixteen rounds per day. This doesn’t mean saying the mantra sixteen times. That wouldn’t be too difficult. It’s sixteen rounds. A round is one hundred and eight recitations, conveniently counted off on a set of japa beads.

Japa beadsDoing some basic math, we see that to follow the recommendation you will have to chant the mantra around 1,700 times a day. Is there any word that you say that many times? You may say some word over and over again inadvertently, but never do you repeat it in succession that many times. You would go crazy. And yet doing the same with the maha-mantra has the opposite effect: it purifies you. If this wasn’t the case, so many devoted souls, both past and present, wouldn’t have accepted and maintained the vow to chant this mantra every day for so many times. In fact, there is no bribe large enough that will change their minds. They will give up everything else before abandoning their routine of chanting the holy names.

The name is considered non-different from the person it addresses. This is only the case with someone who is all-pervading and all-powerful. Not surprisingly, only one person possesses this feature: God. A name is limiting and it is also assigned by someone else. We can try to name ourselves, but originally we had the name given by our parents. This means that we had no say so in what people called us in our early years. With God, the name is assigned based on His qualities and pastimes. Since He is everything, one name never seems to suffice. There is no way that all His glories could accurately fit into a single form of address.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillThe name is a benefit to us. It helps us to understand Him to a slight degree. For instance, the name Girivaradhari says that God can lift a huge mountain and hold it up with His pinky finger for seven consecutive days. The name Purushottama means that God is the supreme purusha, or person. He is spirit like us, except He is the best spirit. The name Rama says that He has full enjoyment. He never fails to enjoy and His enjoyment never leaves Him. The name Krishna says that He is all-attractive. Since this is a very inclusive name, it is considered the best one to chant. The name Hare says that God has an energy which accompanies Him at all times. This energy is also a personality, one whose association is most cherished by God.

Chanting the maha-mantra is obviously very important, but how do we fit the routine into our schedule?

Depending on how fast or slow you chant, it can take upwards of two hours to fulfill the sixteen rounds requirement. If you’re a parent with young children, how will you find time for this? From the suitcase example, we see that it is possible to change the way things inside of a fixed space fit. You have an empty room in the house, and based on how you orient the furniture it can look either small or large. If there is junk cluttered all over the floor, the room won’t look so big. If everything is arranged neatly, the same room looks larger.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaThe same rearrangement can take place with one’s priorities. A first-time parent likely doesn’t know much about taking care of children. They previously did whatever they wanted during the day. Now they have to shift priorities in order to take care of a new child. The desire itself is what drives the change. In the same way, if the will to chant the holy names is there, the knowledge from the inside will come on how to honor that vow. That internal voice is known as the Supersoul, and it is non-different from Krishna. It exists within all of us, giving us another way to understand the Supreme Lord, whose names are so important to hear and chant on a daily basis.

In Closing:

All clothes in suitcase did cram,

Anything more to cause zipper jam.


But if in folding one takes charge,

Can fit many items small and large.


For chanting routine shift the same way,

So that daily many holy names to say.


Supersoul to give guidance on how,

To maintain daily japa bead vow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Changing in the Name of Progress

Enjoying with Krishna“My devotee actually becomes self-realized by My unlimited causeless mercy, and thus, when freed from all doubts, he steadily progresses towards his destined abode, which is directly under the protection of My spiritual energy of unadulterated bliss. That is the ultimate perfectional goal of the living entity. After giving up the present material body, the mystic devotee goes to that transcendental abode and never comes back.” (Lord Kapila, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.27.28-29)

imageThe word “progress” itself speaks of an imperfection. If the original state was without flaw, there would be no need to progress to a better state. The small child is imperfect in knowledge. Therefore they must go to school, take education from teachers, and progress in intelligence. Gradually, they reach a more perfect state. And despite all the experiences that come with life, as much as intelligence can be sharpened, there is still always room for more progress. The same imperfection is not found in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His teachings.

In the disciplines that deny the existence of God, there is always room for progress. One day they believe the earth is flat. They tell everyone so. Anyone who doesn’t believe it is considered fool number one. If they remain insistent in their defiance, then other measures can be taken. “Violence and coercion are okay because what the scientists say is flawless. The earth is indeed flat, so the deniers should be duly punished.”

Ah, but in the future progress takes over and brings a new conclusion. The earth is round after all. It is not flat. The people who continue to hold on to the notion that the earth his flat are jeered as “flat-earthers.” That term is now used colloquially to describe anyone who doesn’t go with the opinions of modern science. Progress now is defined in terms of consensus. If a consensus of scientists believe that the earth is warming due to human behavior, it must be accepted as fact. If anyone disagrees, they are a “flat-earther.”

The earthOf course what is overlooked is the fact that if science were perfect, there would be no need for progress. There would be no need to evolve to any other position. Though man has cellphone technology and advanced medical machinery available today, he has not evolved to a better position. In times past, he would take to the simple life to take care of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Now such things are more difficult to maintain. As the human being is always in anxiety, his condition is more hellish than the animal’s. The animal is considered less evolved, but they have no trouble eating or sleeping. They are too dumb to understand scientific studies, and yet their necessities in life are provided just fine.

In the Vedas there is no concept of progression with respect to essential truths. The individual does progress through the different species. This is similar to the theory of evolution, except the changes are due to the spiritual laws of nature. The same individual goes from the body of a tree to the body of a fish. They eventually make their way up to the body of the human being, though none of this is due to their own work. They can’t control the sun, the wind or the moon. They can’t control how much water is on the earth or what the average temperature is for a year. How, then, can they control what features the different species will have?

Different speciesIn whatever state of being the individual finds itself in, the essential truth of life is the same. This truth is known as dharma, and since it applies to all time periods, it is also sanatana. Sanatana-dharma is the better term for religion. Religion is faith, putting trust in words from a book. Sanatana-dharma is a scientific basis for describing the inherent nature of the individual. The dharma of the individual is to serve. This is evidenced in all kinds of behavior.

The eternal dharma is to serve God, as this is the only service that can take place without cessation. Sanatana-dharma needs no evolution. The initial truth is without flaw, so there is no need for progression. Applying a little thought, how can one progress from the truth of the need to serve God? Perhaps over time the exact implementation can change, but the inherent nature of the relationship between the individual and God cannot. The truth is described by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means the truth of the inconceivable and simultaneous oneness and difference between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. We are the same as God in quality but vastly different in the quantitative measurement of the exercise of that quality.

Lord ChaitanyaThe truth is realized through yoga, and the different ages have preferred methods for practicing yoga. Even with the apparent progression in preferred implementations, the methods themselves are still applicable during any time period. Meditation is difficult in today’s time, but it still works if done properly. So does worship in a temple and performance of sacrifice for the benefit of understanding God. The best method today is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

From chanting the aforementioned mantra there is a progression in consciousness. The pure spirit soul is covered by ignorance when in a temporary body. The initial state is perfection, but just as gold can be covered up by dust, the consciousness can be clouded in such a way that the individual looks for perfection in all areas except dharma. The drift away from the original dharma is what leads to so many different religious systems, social causes, and searches for truth in the absence of God. These areas are all imperfect, and so progress is the name of the game. The common mantra is “One day we will find perfection. Just give us some time.”

Bhakti-yoga bookThe followers of sanatana-dharma say, “Take all the time you need. Even with thousands of years you’ll still not get anywhere.” They are indeed correct, as the propensity to serve will always be there. When this service is directed at God in a loving way, it is known as bhakti, which is the constitutional engagement. One who finds it again never has to let it go, progressing to the spiritual realm in the afterlife.

In Closing:

To progress from here to there,

Means that imperfection everywhere.


If what you say today is right,

In future not to be a change in sight.


Take a month, a week or a year,

But still to eat, sleep, mate and fear.


Real truth time’s test to last,

Valid in present, future and past.