Saturday, September 28, 2013

One Interpretation

Bhagavad-gita“A man working in Krishna consciousness in a factory does not associate himself with the work of the factory, nor with the workers of the factory. He simply works for Krishna. And when he gives up the result for Krishna, he is acting transcendentally.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.9 Purport)

“How can you say that there is only one authoritative interpretation of the verses of the Bhagavad-gita? How can anyone have the nerve to put the words “as it is” in the title of their translation? This implies that the others are not “as it is.” But how do we know that? How do we know that one interpretation is authentic and others are not?”

The Bhagavad-gita is an ancient Vedic work that chronicles a conversation that took place on a battlefield some five thousand years ago. The truths themselves are timeless, which we learn in the conversation itself. We learn that the truths that make up the conversation were also spoken at the beginning of known time, and that they were then passed on to successive generations. Since the Gita is a conversation, there is really only one interpretation of it. To say that there are many is incorrect. This doesn’t mean, however, that commentaries cannot be given. Changing times bring new reference points. As such, opportunities for describing the same truths in new ways are always present, though the original meanings don’t change.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.9“But he who performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit-his renunciation is of the nature of goodness, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.9)

In the ninth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that one should perform his prescribed duty but then renounce the attachment to the fruit. In simpler terms, this means do your work but don’t be affected by the outcome. Do your work because you have to. Everyone accepts a prescribed duty at some point. The mother must take care of the children. The husband must work to support the family. The student must complete the assignments for the class.

Mother Yashoda feeding KrishnaWhether the child is pleased or not should be of no concern to the mother. Whether the work is completely pleasurable or not is not much of a factor for the husband. Whether school is fun or not is not so important for the child. Each person may think otherwise in their respective situation, but the fact is that the prescribed duty leads to something better. When that duty is performed without attachment to the result, there is some kind of transcendence.

In the grand scheme the aim is to transcend birth and death. Birth and death are due to karma, which is fruitive work. So basically Krishna advises that one should act in karma but not be so concerned with the outcome. From that mindset, the karma eventually transforms into bhakti. There is work in both cases, but since the mindset of the person in bhakti is not so attached to the temporary results of the work, there is no future implication.

As a way to explain this verse, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada points to the factory worker. The person in karma cares about the outcome, such as in how much money they are making, when the day is going to end, and if they are improving their material situation. The person in Krishna consciousness, or bhakti, does the work as a matter of obligation. Whatever results they get go to Krishna, who is God. He is the same God for everyone, though He is more clearly drawn out. Krishna is considered the original form, though the Supreme takes many other non-different forms as well, all of which are just as worshipable. The term “God” is a way of addressing Krishna when the worshiper doesn’t necessarily know what He looks like. The worshiper has a foggy conception of a supreme controller, so the full effect of bhakti is lacking due to the missed interaction with the all-attractive features found only in the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Shrila PrabhupadaThis verse was spoken by Krishna to the warrior Arjuna some five thousand years ago. Factories most certainly did not exist at the time. Does this mean that Shrila Prabhupada has fabricated a purport? Has he conjured up a brand new interpretation? Actually, the meaning is still the same, just the frame of reference is a little different. Since people today know what a factory is, the reference to it helps to explain the verse. Someone else, in a different setting, can make reference to a corn field to make the same point. In more recent times, someone could make reference to the office desk and sitting in front of a computer all day to explain the same truth. Though the explanations may be different, the truth is not altered. Thus the single interpretation of the verses of the Gita remains intact.

The Gita is a conversation between two people. It is not a matter subject to interpretation. There are facts presented by the authority figure, namely Krishna, and they are then accepted by the humble disciple, Arjuna. Since there was an underlying culture during the time the Gita was spoken, explanations of the verses are required in subsequent generations. That culture is virtually absent today, so unless one is familiar with it, somewhat living in it themselves, they will not understand what the verses mean. It would be like eavesdropping on a conversation between two people and not knowing the context. Then the mind could go wild speculating as to the meaning.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe same is already done with the Gita, and the results are not very good. Unaware that the same Krishna is described in so many other Vedic texts, the foolish commentators speculate as to whether Krishna exists at all. “Perhaps He represents something more meaningful, like an abstract. And Arjuna thus might represent something else.” Such nonsense speculation is unnecessary, as the singular interpretation is still available from authorized sources. Since they know that their interpretation is the only valid one, they have no fear in titling their translation, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is.”

In Closing:

New explanations for time are legit,

Like to factory and in office to sit.


But interpretation of Gita only one,

Other meanings to verses none.


“As It Is” strong words to choose,

The acharya in their title to use.


That Krishna is real they know,

Not afraid to proclaim it proudly so.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Merging Into Transcendence

Altar for worshiping Krishna“The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.23)

Bhagavad-gita, 4.23Question: How can I continue to work in the material world and remain unattached? I don’t know how my knowledge of God will increase if I have to continue to work for a living. How am I supposed to find transcendence if I have all of this other stuff to do?

Developing Krishna consciousness, which is the original consciousness, is not easy for one who is conditioned. By definition, one who takes birth in the material world is considered conditioned. They operate under the rules imposed by the higher nature. There are hurricanes, earthquakes, diseases, military conflicts, and depression to contend with. The spirit soul is by nature free, so these things aren’t natural for it. When they are present, the same pure spirit soul is considered conditioned. To break out of the conditioned state and reach a liberated one is not impossible, though it may take some time.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

Contact lens case“My left eye is so blurry. It seems to be okay during the day, when I have my contact lenses on, but at night when I take them off it’s almost impossible to see. This is even with my eyeglasses on. I basically have to watch television with one eye. In the morning it seems to be okay, but if I use the computer for a little while, suddenly the eye gets blurry very quickly. When I’m wearing contact lenses, I can see okay.

“But lately even with the contact lenses on it’s been difficult to see. It feels like the lenses are losing their moisture very quickly. Something is definitely wrong. I tried going a few days without contacts, and the blurriness remained. Finally, I went to see an eye doctor. Right away they gave their diagnosis. I have ‘dry eye.’ Through so many years of contact lens wear and having spent so many hours in front of the computer, my eye has developed a problem. It is not getting enough moisture. The doctor has told me to stop wearing contact lenses immediately and to take these prescription eye drops twice a day. Then he’ll monitor the situation again after some time has passed.”

Fast forward a month…

Restasis“The problem still isn’t getting better. I have good days and bad, but I still have trouble seeing out of my left eye. Do you know how annoying it is to have only one functioning eye? I’ve been taking the drops, but there are no discernible results. The eye doctor says that my vision is improving and that I should give it a little more time. What other choice do I have?”

Fast forward another month…

“Wow, I can finally see again. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was a gradual change, though it seemed like a long period of no progress followed by a sudden cure. My left eye is very clear now. I don’t even need to wear my glasses most of the time now. I can see just fine. I guess I just needed to allow the prescription drops to work their magic. I am so happy right now.”

For one who follows the path of transcendental knowledge, when remaining steady eventually the work merges into transcendence. This is what Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Bhagavan, which is the complete realization of God. The invisible man in the sky who may or may not look old and punish the sinners is a vague concept. The spiritual energy that pervades the manifest world is also an incomplete realization. The localized spirit soul that is superior to the individual spirit soul within each body is also an incomplete realization. These features are subordinate to Bhagavan, who is the complete whole.

MusicTranscendence is the opposite of conditioned life. When your work merges into transcendence, it means that you are no longer materially affected by what you do. If I repeatedly sing a certain song all day long there are material consequences. My mind could eventually get sick of the song. I might neglect my other duties. I could develop an attachment to the words. Therefore the content of the song suddenly becomes important. If it’s about chasing women at all costs, I will be more driven towards something that is the opposite of transcendence.

On the other hand, if I always chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” I’m doing the same kind of work but getting an entirely different result. The name of Krishna is the same as Krishna. The name Rama addresses the same Krishna, but describes Him in a slightly different way. The name “Hare” also refers to Krishna but more specifically to His devoted energy potency, who though remaining a separate personality is still considered the same as Krishna because of the shared interest.

Smashed tennis racketChanting the aforementioned mantra is part of work in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti-yoga is itself transcendence, but in the beginning one may still be attached to the material modes of nature. These are the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. In ignorance I do stupid things without thinking and don’t get any benefit as a result. Think of the tennis player who smashes their racket in frustration. This is a stupid act because the racket is an inanimate object that is not culpable in the poor performance of the player. In passion I work hard to get a temporary result that doesn’t give me lasting satisfaction. Think of the team that wins the championship and then gets asked about the next season during the trophy presentation. They spent all this time working to reach the pinnacle of success for the season, and in an instant all of that is forgotten. They are right back where they started. Thus a neutral position is reached.

In goodness, I follow mundane principles of piety and religion in order to find a more comfortable position in life. I do things because they are considered “good for me,” though I don’t really know why. I worship God, or some kind of heavenly figure. I follow the rules and regulations of spiritual life. I understand that I am a spirit soul, part of the non-differentiated energy known as Brahman. Still, in my comfortable life in piety I am quite attached. I like where I am and where I am going.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.6“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)

One who is unattached to these three modes is attached to Krishna. They could be in a hellish place and still worship the Supreme Lord. They could be engaged in fruitive activity, where it looks like they are working for a temporary result, but still thinking of their beloved Krishna all the time. They could be studying the Vedas, the original books of knowledge, and becoming familiar with the principles of jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation, and still be thinking of Krishna the whole time.

Thinking of KrishnaIn the beginning stages of practicing bhakti-yoga, one likely isn’t situated in transcendental knowledge. This knowledge is difficult to absorb because it’s so different from anything else that is taught. And still, through enough dedication, knowledge will come. And when there is no attachment to the three modes accompanying this realization of transcendental knowledge, the work performed merges entirely into transcendence.

In the beginning stages it didn’t seem like this, but just as the eye took some time to heal, the formula of chanting and hearing the holy names and following bhakti-yoga in general eventually yields the best result. To merge into transcendence means to transcend the dualities of the material nature, which makes us think that one person is our friend and another our enemy. It makes us think that one kind of job is better than another and that birth in a particular situation is superior to birth in another. In transcendence, the Supreme Lord’s unmistakable presence is seen everywhere, and since He is all-attractive, seeing Him all the time brings the most pleasure to the individual spirit soul.

In Closing:

No progress in treatment to feel,

Still blurry, my eye not to heal.


Finally can see, no longer afraid.

Because on treatment path I stayed.


Transcendence to work the same way,

Work merges when holy names to say.


Effects of material nature no more,

Mind only charm of Krishna to adore.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Time I Am

Time“No one knows where time began and where it ends, and it is time only which can keep a record of the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material manifestation. This time factor is the material cause of creation and is therefore a self expansion of the Personality of Godhead. Time is considered the impersonal feature of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.10.11 Purport)

In spite of millions of dollars poured into scientific research and the ensuing studies, no one is sure about the origin of the creation. Even if someone says they are certain, there is no way to prove their claim. As they rely on perception alone, since no one alive today was alive during the purported time of the origin, the claim has to be accepted on faith. The limitation is due to the time factor, which in the Vedas is explained to be a representation of the Lord, an impersonal one at that.

What is the difference between a personal and an impersonal representation?

If I stay over your house for a weekend, when you see me for those few days you get my personal association. My words and activities tell you that I am in front of you. Though in actuality these are only part of the material covering on my soul, for the sake of discussion we’ll say that this is the personal representation.

Upon returning home, I realize that I left some things at your house. I forgot a shirt and a pair of pants. When you find these in your home, you get my association, but in an impersonal way. The shirt and pants are dull and lifeless. They don’t have the ability to move, speak, grow, or die. And yet the clothes bring me to the mind since they belong to me. This is an instance of the impersonal representation. The object of interest is somewhat related to me, but it is not me.

Shirt and pantsThe Supreme Lord can be understood through the various objects that belong to Him. The earth, the sun, the moon, water, air, fire, etc. all originate in Him. This is part of His definition, that He is the origin of everything. For this reason the wise always thank God for their good fortune. They know that they require sanction from a higher authority in order to enjoy any outcome. Even something as simple as getting up in the morning and taking a shower requires the cooperation of higher authorities. The temperature must be right, the shower in the bathroom must dispense water, and the alarm clock has to function properly. If the alarm clock is on a smartphone that suddenly won’t turn on, it will be difficult to wake up in the morning, even if there was no problem getting up for the previous hundred or so days.

All objects originally come from God, and the word “origin” implies time. The changes we see around us are an indication of the time factor. Time causes things to change. As these changes are used for analysis, to cause both happiness and sadness, time is a very powerful force of nature. That time factor is also an impersonal representation of God. It is a factor that cannot be changed, removed, or defeated.

image“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)

Pizza pieThe person who doesn’t believe in God must still adhere to time. They must suffer the changes to their own body. There is no reason for these changes to occur other than time. Why can’t the body remain forever youthful? Why can’t the pizza pie you baked tonight remain fresh tomorrow morning? Why can’t your smartphone work forever? Why can’t the smartphone you have now be the newest version for years and years? These “can’ts” are all due to the time factor. Time affects everything in its wake, and thus it is a superior force that deserves the utmost respect.

The person who claims that there is no God completely ignores the time factor. If they say that at the origin of the creation a bunch of chemicals collided, where did the chemicals come from? There is an origin to the origin, as that is how time works. You can say that the chemicals were just sitting there, but how did they get to that resting state? What caused them to come into existence?

The human mind, which is itself subject to the time factor, is incapable of grasping this concept. The infinite nature of time and space is too difficult to grasp. Indeed, the mind takes pleasure in any activity that allows it to lose conscious awareness of time. “I played video games for hours the other day. It was so great. Suddenly it was nighttime; the time passed so fast.” “I love my job. The time flies when I am there. It’s not really work if you enjoy what you do. I never look at the clock when I’m at the office because there is so much to do.”

Playing video gamesThe personal is superior to the impersonal. This only makes sense. My shirt and pants that I left at your house can’t really do anything. They can’t tell jokes, go to the movies, or drive a car. My personal representation can do all of these things, and so to my friends and well-wishers this personal representation is preferred. In the same way, the personal representation of the Supreme Lord is preferred to those who wish Him well. Though He has everything already, the pious souls look out for His benefit. They cherish His all-attractiveness, a feature which rightfully earns Him the name Krishna.

These same souls look to help other souls gain the same personal association. They know that will make others happiest. It is said that the time factor is absent in the spiritual abode. Time, of course, is still measured but it has a different effect. It doesn’t destroy; it instead creates renewed opportunities for association with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The body and spirit are identical for each individual in the spiritual abode. As this is the original home for all, we see that every individual’s real form is a spiritual one, where the outside covering is not susceptible to the destructive time.

Krishna and friends in VrindavanaThus the personal representation is also more benevolent; its influence is always beneficial to the individual. The impersonal time doesn’t act in the same way. Sometimes it creates, sometimes it destroys, and eventually it must destroy everything. That is the nature of something that is created; there must be destruction. Not so for the spiritual consciousness that is reawakened through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and then maintained by the personal representation of God, Shri Krishna, in the spiritual realm.

In Closing:

If God’s nature like to know,

No further than time to go.


Create, maintain and destroy,

All in hands of time just a toy.


Representation of God but incomplete,

Personal is Lord Himself, full and complete.


Since blissful sounds from flute in His hand,

Time no influence in enjoyment in His land.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Know Someone Is Great

Krishna devouring forest fire“On the very night of the day of the chastisement of the Kaliya snake, when the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi were sleeping carefreely, there was a forest fire ablaze due to dry leaves, and it appeared that all the inhabitants were sure to meet their death. But the Lord, along with Balarama, saved them simply by closing His eyes. Such are the superhuman activities of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.29)

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.29“How do I know that this player is great? Look at his history. Look at what he’s done in the playoffs, when the games mattered most. In the bigger games, it’s more difficult for the top lines to score. They are often matched up against each other, and so in that struggle quality chances are hard to come by. Therefore if you want to win, it’s the second and third lines that have to score. This player always came through in the clutch. Though he was known as a checking center, look at how he always outscored his opposition. He shut down the opposing team’s best lines, and then added some timely scoring himself. Look at how he scored the winning goal in the final game of the playoffs. That’s how you know his importance to the team.”

Sports Illustrated Cover“How do I know that this politician is great? Look at what he did when in office. For starters, he won two landslide elections. This means that the people overwhelmingly supported him. Do a before-and-after comparison of the state of the country. See how bad things were when he came into office and see how good they were when he left. Sometimes good luck follows a person, but this president passed specific legislation that dramatically shifted the role of government in the economy. All the economic indicators were better after he left office, and so we know that he was a great leader.”

“How do I know that this actor is great? Look at the movies he’s made. Every one of them is top notch. He is versatile too. In one film he played a villain and in another a hero. One movie was a drama while another was a comedy. He has been recognized countless times by critics for his achievements. His many awards tell of his greatness. His resume speaks for itself.”

Indeed, if you want to know how great someone is, you look to their activities. These activities include accomplishments and achievements. Others give endorsements as well, but these are also based on activities. Since the greatest person is God, the same exercise can be used for analyzing Him. Discussions on Him needn’t be limited to mental speculation or theoretical expositions. The Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world, discuss His activities at length.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillYou can know that God is great because one time He lifted up a mighty hill. This wasn’t part of a strong man competition. This wasn’t to show off His strength, either. The achievement occurred at the most opportune time, when there was danger. Lives were on the line. Innocent people of a simple farm community were in danger of being washed away by a torrential flood. The rain kept coming too, so it looked like there was no hope. God, in His original form of Shri Krishna, effortlessly lifted up a massive hill and held it aloft to act as an umbrella. The helpless residents of Vrindavana took shelter under this hill, which was held in the air until the rain finally stopped.

You can know that God is great because one time He fought off wicked creatures who used black magic. In conventional combat, there are rules that the participants follow. One of the principal rules is that you give the appearance that you are engaged in conflict. This is done to protect the civilians. You show up wearing a uniform so that the other side knows how to identify you. If you have no scruples, however, you will not want to give away your location to anyone, including those not engaged in combat. Better if they can’t spot you. A gang of night-rangers many thousands of years ago cast aside decency in favor of deception. They masked their shapes and then finally revealed themselves right at the time of attack.

You may be tempted to think that this behavior was justified since the other side was equally desirous of victory in combat. Actually, the other side consisted of innocent priests living in the renounced forest. They didn’t have smartphones or tablet computers with them to pass the time. They didn’t have a comfortable bed to sleep on. They didn’t have air conditioning or a nice heating system, either. They hardly had anything, and that was fine by them. They chose this austere lifestyle so that they could better concentrate on worshiping God. Not even the snakes were bothering them, so you would think that they were safe.

The night-rangers made sure this wasn’t the case. As Rakshasas by birth and nature, they had no problem eating human flesh. They also took the priestly class to be the greatest enemy. The staunch atheist will always feel this way. It is not enough that they don’t believe in God; they want to make sure no one else does either. They want to make sure that no one worships God, for the Supreme Lord is their number one competitor. He has everything, and the Rakshasas want to be in the same position. They would rather everyone worship them instead.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting demonsGod, in His incarnation of Lord Rama, protected the peaceful sage Vishvamitra from these attacks. Again, the form of the Lord was a child, though one slightly older than the one that would later lift the massive hill in Vrindavana. Shri Rama effortlessly cast aside Maricha and Subahu, two fiends who were not accustomed to failure. They had previously carried out many such attacks without a problem. They wouldn’t have the same luck with Rama around, though.

You can know that God is great because the wisdom He once supplied to a hesitant warrior applies to every single living entity, past, present and future. It was delivered at the beginning of the creation to the sun-god and then again to Arjuna some five thousand years ago. Unlike the newspaper stories released today or the blog posts about some current event, the words of wisdom provided by Krishna are eternally relevant. They are still studied to this day, and through an authorized study they are used to find the best end in life.

Of course there are so many more examples of God’s greatness. In each of His personal activities, the work is done for the same purpose: to help one or many practice devotion. There is no concept of liberty versus tyranny or freedom to pursue happiness in the material sense. The animals already are relatively free. They can enjoy their senses to their heart’s content. They don’t have religion. No one is speaking to them about philosophy or how to improve life.

Krishna delivering Bhagavad-gitaThe philosophical aspect exists for the use of the human being, who is endowed with the potential for a higher intelligence. Shri Krishna protects the ability to practice devotion to Him because devotion is the mature fruit of an existence. It is a destination difficult to reach, and so philosophy and explicit practice are often necessary. Even when there is practice in earnest, others can prove to be obstacles, and so the Supreme Lord, in all His glory, intervenes to protect the vows of the devoted. In the process He reaffirms His position in greatness and shows why the truly wise worship Him with body, mind and speech.

In Closing:

By scoring goals in pressure time late,

Player shows why others call him great.


Famed politician country’s spirits to lift,

Improvement of economy a worthwhile gift.


Greatness of God understand the same,

See why He has Girivaradhari as name.


See also night-rangers He defeated how,

Know that always to protect devotee’s vow.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Matter of Scale

Periodic table“He is an undifferentiated entity as there is no distinction between potency and the possessor thereof. In His work of creation of millions of worlds, His potency remains inseparable. All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe, at one and the same time. Such is the primeval Lord whom I adore.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.35)

Brahma-samhita 5.35The ant is very tiny. It is so small that sometimes we can’t even recognize it. And yet it is moving on its own. Though its mass isn’t so great, whatever it does possess can be used to maintain the body. To the ant the dog is very large. The dog is like a humungous being, something incomprehensible. It looks like a giant-type figure, something out of a dream. And yet the dog is the same as the ant in that it has its own mass. That mass consists of so many atoms. The number of atoms is greater in the dog, and so the dog appears much larger than the ant.

The human being is larger than the dog, and in the same way it too is a collection of atoms. This point is not disputed. In fact, modern science relies on the study of these atoms to figure out how to treat the body. If there is a disease, it means that some atoms have entered and are fighting against other atoms already living there. If you inject some other atoms in the form of drug treatment, then the intruder atoms will go away. Sometimes treatment means the prohibition on certain atoms entering the body, like food and drinks.

Water moleculeWhen the time arrives for discussing God, the concept is so out of this world that it is relegated to the category of faith. “Science is for understanding what we can see. Faith is for understanding that which we cannot. Faith is for you to take comfort in, since you are so unsure of the afterlife, if there is even one. Your God may not be the same as my God, so naturally it is up to faith to decide. To each their own.”

In using the understanding of the atoms, however, we get a slight idea of who God is, something that goes beyond faith. In one view, He is merely the largest collection of atoms. The earth holds everything that we see right now. All the cats, dogs, ants, elephants, and human beings rest on the earth. The earth has its own atoms as well, and so we can just imagine how complex the earth is. And yet we wouldn’t consider the earth’s existence to be a matter of faith, would we? We wouldn’t say that your earth is different from my earth. That would be silly.

“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)

So now take the earth and add all the planets and the entire outer space to the equation and you further progress in understanding God. He is the complete whole, the largest collection of atoms. This view is confirmed in the Vedas, the oldest scriptural tradition known to man. As a Sanskrit word, the Vedas mean “knowledge.” They don’t mean faith. There would be no use in putting trust in something that may or may not be true.

“All the universes in seed are emanating from the breathing of the Maha-Vishnu, who is but part of a partial expansion of the Lord, and all the universes presided over by the Brahmas vanish when the Maha-Vishnu withdraws His great breath. In this way, the material worlds are being created and vanished by the supreme will of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.25 Purport)

Lord VishnuThe Vedas say that God is originally a personality. He then expands into other powerful personalities to carry out various functions. As Maha-Vishnu, He breathes out and from the innumerable pores on His body so many universes come. Those universes, which are just collections of atoms, emanate from the largest collection of atoms there is. Indeed, God is the origin of all matter and spirit.

The realization of God as the sum total of all atoms is known as Brahman. It is a basic concept that one who is not even spiritually inclined can slightly conjure up. They may not know that it is called Brahman, but they will understand that since everything is God eventually, everyone is equal to some degree. That equality comes from the fact that within each atom is the Supreme Lord’s presence. This further realization is known as Paramatma, which translates to mean “supersoul.” The sum total is a representation of God and so is the individual, both of which are rooted in the original personality, who is Bhagavan.

So denying God need not be the standard practice. From basic observation of the nature around us, so much of the spiritual component can be appreciated. For that appreciation to reach its most mature stage, one can hear more about Bhagavan, as He is described in famous Vedic texts and by the saints who are familiar with them. From that hearing, one learns that all the rules and regulations of spiritual life are meant to keep one always God conscious, for in that state one is not only wise but very happy as well.

Instead of needing to frantically chase after material enjoyment, one learns that the living entity can stay satisfied with very little. Not that there should be forced austerity to cause pain, but when one is fully immersed in God consciousness, so many desires and objects serve only to distract the mind. If my primary desire is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and I’m eating fine right now with a comfortable enough housing situation, what need do I have for change? Not that the change will necessarily hurt me, but once I progress to somewhere else, who is to say that I will be happier? And in the process I might jeopardize my steady devotional service, or bhakti-yoga.

maha-mantraThe supreme juggling act of managing many situations simultaneously can only be done by the origin of matter and spirit. For His innumerable children, the diminished ability requires that a choice be made: either go down the divine route or stay on the material one. The material route means difficulty in understanding even basic things. It means remaining blind to the spiritual presence, which lasts beyond the temporary material manifestation. The spiritual route means finding real knowledge, extending beyond the concept of faith and travelling towards firm conviction in the supporting hand of the greatest maintainer, the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

With science the atom to see,

Know that present in all that be.


That understanding then extend,

To complete vision knowledge send.


With all atoms God generating seed,

Creates universes when out to breathe.


God in all, come closer and closer,

To Bhagavan and become full knower.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Removing Miserliness

Giving gifts“When distributing gifts to the people of the town, they are not delaying. Looking again and again at His beautiful eyes, they receive bliss.” (Janaki Mangala, 135)

negācārū kaham̐ nāgari gaharū na lāvahiṃ |
nirakhi nirakhi ānandu sulocani pāvahiṃ ||

Like staying on a boat that has a leak, when living in Kali Yuga there seems to be a rapidly depleting supply of funds. There is always some bill that needs to be paid. As soon as money is earned, it vanishes. There is the bill for food, the bill for water, the bill for taxes, and so many others. Thus it is not surprising that miserliness would become almost a virtuous quality in such a time period. Know, however, that devotional service cures all ailments. When in the direct presence of the original person, who has beautiful eyes, instead of constantly worrying about the bank balance, fortune is liberally distributed to others.

Why is miserliness bad?

In the Shrimad Bhagavatam it is said that one who is miserly lives a hellish present life and is forced to suffer a hellish afterlife. The first part should make sense if we think about it. If my mind is consumed with thoughts on how to save money, get a deal, get something for free, cheat another person, etc., is that good? What does success in these endeavors really get me? If I am going to worry about something, that something should at least be worthwhile. If I get two doughnuts for the price of one, and in getting that I had to take so much effort, what is the use?

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

MoneyThe existence is accurately described as hellish because being consumed with worry is not the right way to live. We go on vacation precisely so that we’ll have less worries. The good manager delegates responsibility so that he can stay more focused. If I am to focus on this thing or that all the time, when all those things relate to saving money, I am obviously missing out on life.

The afterlife will be more hellish because nothing in this world really belongs to us. I travel to some destination, find a spot that I like, and then mark the territory as mine. But I haven’t really done anything. The spot was there before. It will be there long after I am gone. This isn’t to say that the concept of property rights is invalid, but it should be inherently understood what it means to own property. Property is just a collection of matter - earth, water, fire, air and ether. We don’t create these elements. When we lay claim to something, it should be known to be on lease from higher authorities. We have to eventually give it up.

One who doesn’t understand this mistakenly acts like a miser, and thus they go against the standard code of conduct. Fortune is known as Lakshmi in Sanskrit, and it is named after the goddess of fortune. She has a unique character; she only serves God. She has no other interest. Her service is so pleasing that God keeps her with Him all the time. This is God in His personal form; His impersonal, unmanifest form pervades the entire universe.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.4“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)

The personal forms all have the original goddess of fortune or one of her incarnations with them. One who takes fortune and doesn’t use it for serving God, who is also known as Narayana, essentially steals Lakshmi. This theft is not good; it leads to bad things in the future. Whether we believe this or not, just see the same concept within our own sphere. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you or if you use it the wrong way, will you not meet difficulty eventually? So the same applies to the broader category of property on loan from the Supreme Lord.

Charity is one way to remove miserliness. The different kinds of charity are laid out in the Bhagavad-gita, which is a flawless presentation of Vedic teachings, which are the oldest in existence. Oldest in this case does mean best, as the ancient works from India speak to the constitutional properties of the living entity. Societal conditions evolve and change with time, but core properties of individuals do not. Pizza is pizza, whether it is baked today or in one hundred years. Similarly, the living spirit is the same in qualities whether living today or one thousand years ago. Therefore teachings which address these properties never become outdated.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see an instance of where miserliness is tossed aside. Not that the people involved could ever be accused of being miserly, but here they nevertheless do not delay in distributing gifts. The occasion is a sacred wedding, the union of the daughter of King Janaka and the son of King Dasharatha. So many rites and rituals are associated with a traditional wedding, and in this case one aspect involved giving gifts to the people of the town. It is said that charity given to the proper recipient, at the proper time, and with no expectation of return is charity in the mode of goodness.

Bhagavad-gita, 17.20“That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 17.20)

We can think of goodness as the right way to do something. Devotion is higher than goodness because it is more than just the right way; it is the best. The right way may land us in a better position materially, whereas the way of devotion sometimes appears to put us in a worse position. In charity in goodness, the understood benefit is that eventually the same money will come back to the donor multiplied by a large factor. In charity in devotion, there is no guarantee of the money ever coming back, but then it doesn’t really matter. In devotion there is love for God, which is the most valuable gift to have.

Sita and RamaThis verse from the Janaki Mangala explains the same truth. After not delaying in distributing gifts, the people in Sita’s wedding party received bliss over and over again by looking at the beautiful eyes of Shri Rama, the groom. Rama is Narayana and Sita is Lakshmi. Thus their wedding performed on this earth was a mere formality; the two are always together. In carrying out the wedding, the participants followed protocol. They gave charity when the time called for it. They were not miserly because they had both Sita and Rama there in front of them. Of what use is huge sums of wealth when you have the goddess of fortune in front of you? She is happiest when serving Rama. Would she not then be pleased with those who helped to make the union with Him a reality? If she is pleased, then there is no need to fear over destitution. She provides the devotee whatever they need to carry out their devotion. Here only the eyes were necessary, as the enchanting vision of Shri Rama was there for all to see.

In Closing:

From out of hellish fate to lift,

Be charitable in giving out gifts.


Appropriate time make sure to use,

And then the right recipient choose.


In devotion women liberally gave,

So that time with Rama’s vision to save.


Bliss moment after moment to come,

So happy that Sita and Rama one to become.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Never Satisfied

Sita's friends“With supreme love, they are doing the family rituals while walking like a great elephant. Not satisfied, the fortunate women continue to fill up with devotion.” (Janaki Mangala, 134)

parama prīti kularīti karahiṃ gaja gāmini |
nahiṃ aghāhiṃ anurāga bhāga bhari bhāmini ||

Lack of satisfaction with the consumption of something can lead to damaging effects. For instance, if in consuming adult beverages you are not satisfied, pretty soon you will be heavily intoxicated. That is never the real intent, as who wants to be so out of it that they don’t remember what they did the next day? Who wants to be made dumb enough to get behind the wheel of a car and risk their own life as well as the lives of others? If you are not satisfied from eating, you will risk gaining weight. You might also jeopardize your health. In all areas, not being satisfied can get you in trouble. With devotion to the Supreme Being, however, the situation turns around. The negative turns into a positive.

Pizza hut lunch buffetThankfully we have our body to stop us. Eventually the body malfunctions to the point that we can’t drink anymore. Our stomach can only hold so much food, so eventually we have to stop eating. On the other hand, a subtle aspect belonging to that same body is what tempted us to overindulge in the first place. The mind previously processed various sense perceptions, and the intelligence, which should have known better, then sanctioned the indulgence in adult beverages. The mind previously gave us information to tell us that overeating wasn’t good, and yet the intelligence gave the green light to overeat again.

So are we helpless? The mind and intelligence are part of the body as well. If they can’t stop us from overindulging, what will?

Devotion is the only area where overindulgence due to lack of complete satisfaction is a good thing. Devotion is also guided by intelligence. To outside observers, the actions of the devoted soul may seem to be mere sentimentalism. “As passion steers you into an amorous relationship, so the devoted soul leaps into worshiping God with full vim and vigor. The passion will eventually fade, for that is the way of relationships.”

Ah, but the inability to be fully satisfied just makes the passion continue elsewhere, showing that the passion is infinite in nature. Intelligence guides the devoted soul too, and in their case the intelligence is accurate. Therefore we know that the devoted souls are the most intelligent. Their past sense perceptions are duly recorded, and the intelligence knows how to properly process them.

If I eat something that is not tasty, the distaste will reach my intelligence. If the next time I reach to eat the same dish, my intelligence should stop me. If it doesn’t, it means that the intelligence is defective. Think of it like a computer that doesn’t work properly. The GPS device should give us the proper directions to lead us to our intended destination. If it gives us the wrong directions, it means that it isn’t working properly.

GPS deviceWe can get an idea of how devotion works from the verse referenced above. It comes to us courtesy of the Janaki Mangala, which is authored by Goswami Tulsidas, a famous saint from the medieval period in India. In this verse, women from the bride’s side of a wedding are doing the family rituals. The wedding is all set. Sita will wed Rama. Sita is King Janaka’s daughter. Rama is King Dasharatha’s son.

From the Vedas we learn that Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune. The fortune belongs to her husband, who is the Supreme Lord. They are both personalities, and so they act. In simpler terms, they like to do stuff. The stuff they do is not ordinary, and so it is pleasurable to remember even thousands of years after the fact. Here Sita and Rama are getting married during their time on earth. Theirs is the best wedding to look back on. In weddings today, if there is a video taken it might be shown only when guests come over to the house. Even then the viewing experience is rather boring, as you most likely just sit there and watch people dance the whole time.

Picture of Sita and RamaThe wedding of Sita and Rama is so wonderful that you never get tired of hearing about it. This is especially true if your intelligence is clear. From the behavior of the participants themselves, we see that there is never full satisfaction. In performing the family rituals, the women were walking like great elephants. This indicates that the women were very beautiful in all respects, including in how they walked. We see that they were not satisfied in their actions. In our childhood, perhaps our parents compelled us to attend various religious functions. They seemed boring to us, so we couldn’t wait until they were over. In this instance, as there was direct participation for the benefit of Sita and Rama, the women didn’t want to stop worshiping. They enjoyed performing these rituals. They were very fortunate to be taking part in this, as their devotion continued to fill up.

There is no such thing as too much devotion. Maharishi Valmiki compares the ears of a devotee to a great ocean. This ocean is filled by rivers represented by stories of the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Though the rivers continually rush in, astonishingly the ocean never swells up; it is impossible to overfill. This analogy was made just with respect to hearing, but it applies to all aspects of devotion.

In this instance, the women were worshiping. In that worship they were not satisfied, giving a valuable lesson for all of humanity. Though today we may not be able to attend the marriage of Sita and Rama, we are not shut out from devotion to them. Though we may not be able to travel to a temple, we are still not prohibited from worshiping. Thanks to the kindness of the Vaishnava saints, we know that all potencies in worship are invested in the holy name itself. From chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one can have their share of devotion. Since they will never be satisfied with that share, they will continue to chant, constantly filling their devotional reservoir.

In Closing:

Continued to worship Rama still,

With devotion constantly to fill.


Though they had their share,

Still at Rama wanting to stare.


Since beloved in front to see,

Where else better could be?


Same potency passed on in holy name.

Thus easy for in devotion to remain.