Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cheat On Death

The Grim Reaper“You may be spared by the excellent thunderbolt of Indra when released, and you may escape the god of death for a long time, but someone the likes of you will never be spared by Raghava, the lord of the planet, when He is in great anger.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.23-24)

varjayedvajramutsṛṣṭaṃ varjayedantakaściram ||
tvadvidham tu na sa kruddho lokanāthaḥ sa rāghavaḥ |

In the Vedas the Supreme Lord is described as achyuta, which means infallible. When the word is used as a name, it can’t really be confused for any other person, for there is only one infallible being. Others may have the name Achyuta as well, but in such cases they are named after the person who originally and exclusively has this feature. All aspects of Him are perfect, and anything separated from Him in any way is imperfect.

What are some instances of the imperfection?

Knife cuttingConsider weapons. If you throw a knife in a certain direction, the outcome will not always be the same. A knife can’t cut through everything, either. The late-night infomercials try to persuade us to buy a knife. They show what the knife can cut through, comparing it with ordinary knives which aren’t as strong. This means that there are varying levels of ability with respect to knives. If one outdoes the other, it means that the other wasn’t perfect. Soon thereafter another knife will come along that cuts even better.

Still, there is no such thing as the perfect knife. Enhanced ability in cutting also comes at a cost. Sometimes a knife that cuts one thing has a difficult time cutting something else. Sometimes you need a delicate touch in cutting, which the stronger knives are not suited for. The knife is one example, but the principle applies across all spectra.

ThunderboltsThe thunderbolt is extremely powerful. In the Vedas it is said to originate from the heavenly realm. It is hurled by a demigod known as Indra. His name means “king,” and it references his position in the heavenly realm. He is the leading fighter for the “good guys.” The good people go to heaven and the bad go to hell. But just because you’re in heaven doesn’t mean that you won’t have to fight. In hell too you will be surrounded by those who want to fight against the good. In the clashes between good and evil, each side will need their leading warriors. Indra is the leader of the heavenly population, and his weapon of choice is the thunderbolt.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.22“Of the Vedas I am the Sama-veda; of the demigods I am Indra; of the senses I am the mind, and in living beings I am the living force [knowledge].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.22)

Even if you don’t believe that there is a specific personality in charge of hurling thunderbolts, which are discharges of lightning followed by the sound of thunder, you can at least admit that the thunderbolt does not always strike whoever is in the vicinity. It is possible to escape lightning. Many golfers have been struck by lightning, as they are easy targets with their iron clubs. Nevertheless, many golfers have been in the same situations and not been struck by lightning. Many of those that have been struck have managed to survive. This means that one can escape the weapon known as the thunderbolt.

Grim Reaper from CastlevaniaDeath is another weapon of sorts. It completely destroys. Though it always meets its objective, it doesn’t always arrive right away. Therefore we hear terms like “cheating death” and “escaping death.” In the Vedas it is said that death is a personality. He is known as Yamaraja, or the king of justice, sort of like a Grim Reaper. Yamaraja is the law enforcement for the world. You can escape the police through a high speed chase, but Yamaraja is there watching your every move. Still, through the course of one’s life, it is possible to avoid death for a while.

One cannot, however, escape the wrath of the Supreme Lord when He is angry. This is the point made here by Sita Devi. Ravana up to this point had done many bad things. He had killed many rival kings. He had eaten the flesh of many sages. He had killed and eaten emissaries. Still, he managed to escape death. He also avoided the thunderbolts hurled by Indra, for Ravana’s son had defeated Indra in a battle. This victory earned Ravana’s son the name Indrajit.

Ravana wouldn’t escape Rama, though. Rama is the same Achyuta in His incarnation specific to a time and circumstance in the Treta Yuga, or second age of creation. Rama was angered because Ravana took away Sita in secret. Sita is Rama’s beloved, and so if someone does harm to her they have some major pain coming their way.

Lord RamaRavana had a glimpse of this hurt already. He had sent 14,000 of his best fighters to the forest of Dandaka to attack Rama. Rama singlehandedly defeated them all. These same fiends had been cheating death for a long time. They had previously attacked innocent sages and then eaten their flesh. They thought they wouldn’t pay for those heinous crimes, but as Rama reminded them, the ghastly reward for impious deeds arrives at the proper season, like the flowers that blossom on the trees.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

For Ravana, his gift would be wrapped in fiery arrows and would lead to the total destruction of his kingdom. Though he may have been able to escape a thunderbolt and the god of death, he would not be able to escape Rama. Sita gave him the alternative of surrendering to the Lord, who is very affectionate towards the devotees. By rejecting this option, Ravana’s destiny was sealed.

In Closing:

In danger but destruction not to meet,

Thus one foolishly thinks death can cheat.


Thunderbolt hurled by Indra’s wrath,

Still possible to avoid its path.


From Rama’s weapons nowhere to hide,

Hit target since with His intelligence to guide.


Destruction for Ravana at the proper time,

Fiery arrows like bells of death to chime.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Best of the Raghus

Lord Rama“You will get all blessings if you act thusly towards Rama, the best of the Raghus. Doing otherwise you will certainly obtain death, O Ravana.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.22-23)

evam hi te bhavetsvasti sampradāya raghūttame ||
anyathā tvam hi kurvaṇo vadham prāpsyasi rāvaṇa |

The King of Lanka a long time ago went on a worldwide fighting tour to cement his position as the best warrior. He challenged the rival kings from the different lands, including in other planets, and came out victorious due to the boons he received prior from offering sacrifice. One of the kings he defeated belonged to the Raghu dynasty. As he was leaving his body, the slain king vowed to avenge his death through someone in his own family. Here Sita Devi hints at that prediction by mentioning that her husband, Shri Rama, is the best of the Raghus.

For Ravana, this means that though he previously defeated a king in the dynasty of the Raghus, he had not yet faced the best one. Indeed, no one is a better fighter than Rama. You may use a machine gun to defeat many opponents singlehandedly. With a naval ship you can attack from the water. With a tank you could defeat so many others while fighting on land. With a fighter jet you can attack from the sky and remain more or less safe. And yet Rama, a single man, could do all of these things by shooting a single arrow from His bow.

Rama's arrowsHis arrows were empowered by mantras, or sacred chants. This was the external cause for their potency, but in reality they were powerful due to their source. They originated from the wonderful bow carried by Rama, who is an incarnation of God. We know that the Supreme Controller can create a giant banyan tree from a tiny seed. With a little earth, water and sunlight He makes a giant field capable of producing so much food for consumption. With His superior brain He creates the beautiful lotus flower. Paint, a brush, a canvas, perfect vision and dexterity in artistic talent are required to merely recreate that same flower. If the person who simply copies the flower needs talent, why would it be absent in the person who first created it?

Though His arrows were so potent, Rama hardly used them. He would not fire unless circumstances called for it. At this point Ravana deserved to be slain by those arrows. He deserved to have one shot at his chest, and he deserved to have it rip through his heart. This is because he stole Sita away from Rama in secret, against her will. He then tried to win her over instead of returning her.

Despite his offenses, Ravana had a chance to get Rama’s mercy. All he had to do was treat Sita well and bring her back to Rama. Nothing else was needed. Rama wouldn’t even punish him. Rama is very forgiving, for that is the Supreme Lord’s nature. Who among us hasn’t sinned? Who among us has not told a lie, stolen from someone else, or spoken ill of someone who was undeserving of it? All such actions violate the righteous principles. The original sin is the forgetfulness of God, which first happened so long ago that we can’t even remember.

“The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.1 Purport)

Through all our offenses, with a single kind gesture that is genuine the slate can get wiped clean. It’s difficult to believe, but it is true. Otherwise Sita would not have made the offer to Ravana. She would have told him, “There’s no hope for you. You are a horrible person. Rama will never forgive you for what you did. He will destroy you and your entire city. You might as well end your life now, because the clock is ticking.”

TimeInstead, she gave him sound words of advice on how to reform. If he chose to ignore that advice, if he did anything else, he would obtain a slaying at the hands of Rama. In this way the eventual calamity would be Ravana’s fault; not Rama’s or Sita’s. This is instructive for our own lives as well. The calamities we see befall us or others on a daily basis are due to personal actions, not the Supreme Lord’s vengeance. If He is all-powerful, why would He require worship from anyone? What would be in it for Him to look to punish others? Rather, the punishment is automatic from ignoring the righteous principles.

Sita and RamaThe core righteous principle is love for God. Violation of this then leads to all the negative conditions we see in life. For Ravana, the reformation process involved surrender to Rama through returning Sita to Him. For everyone else the same surrender is available, and it best occurs through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This chanting brings about a change in consciousness, which is the goal. Surrender cannot be real unless it exists within the consciousness. A mere physical gesture is meaningless if the attitude of the person is still inimical. Through chanting, hearing, remembering, offering prayers and other processes of bhakti-yoga, the consciousness changes for the better, attracting the divine mercy of the best of the Raghus.

In Closing:

At dying breath’s time,

Vowed revenge through line.


Along would come another king,

Of whose glories world would sing.


With arrows from bow released,

King of Lanka soon to be deceased.


Easy to prevent imminent attack,

If Sita to Rama returned back.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Karma Forgets

Sita and Rama“Do you seek the mercy of this Rama, who is very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Always keeping proper attention with me, please do return me to Him.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.21-22)

prasādayasva tvaṃ canaṃ śaraṇāgatavatsalam ||
māṃ cāsmai niyato bhūtvā niryātayitumarhasi |

The Vedic term “karma” is pretty well known in the common vernacular. It is associated with results to action. “You get good karma if you do something good. You get bad karma for doing something bad. You should keep karma in mind when doing something, for the results can come at an unexpected moment. When you have something bad happen to you, know for sure that it is due to some bad karma you accumulated from a previous act.” This is generally how things work, and what’s interesting is that once you get your due reward or punishment, the previous act is essentially forgotten. The slate is wiped clean. With one person, however, work done in His direction has a permanent effect. It is remembered forever.

Think of the sports team that tries very hard to win a championship. The players arrive at training camp full of hopes. They proclaim that this season will be better than last. They promise to boost their performance. They will learn from the previous mistakes. The front office has made the necessary tweaks to personnel. Gone are the players past their prime and newly arrived are those bursting with potential. Everything looks good for the upcoming season.

World Series trophyThrough the grind, through a difficult regular season and an even more difficult playoff run, the team wins the championship. The trophy is the fruit of their work. It is the result of their collective karma. Then fast forward to the next season. A bitter defeat in the playoffs can leave the same team saddened. Players that one year before had hoisted the championship trophy are now left to ponder over what might have been. In this way the previous karma was forgotten. There was work done, there was a reward earned, and then the work started anew.

Of course there are so many effects to a single act, and so not all results arrive at the same time, but nevertheless the results are short-lived. Even if they have a lasting effect for the duration of life, at the end of life the slate is wiped clean with the shedding of the body. This body is compared to a set of clothes, something to be put on and then taken off through the course of reincarnation.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.22“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

Since so many results to karma continuously arrive, one forgets act after act. With work done for the benefit of one individual, though, the results to a single act continue to arrive. This is because this individual does not ever forget that act. He has no desire to, as He is so pleased upon any single kind act shown His way. He is the most powerful person, so if He decides to reward someone, that person will never be lacking the essential items of life.

This is the point Sita Devi tries to get across to a fiend in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana. Here she asks Ravana to seek the mercy of Shri Rama, her husband. This mercy isn’t difficult to get. One need only surrender to Rama. The Lord takes it from there. He is very affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Ravana had accumulated a lot of karma from his past deeds, and when those results arrived, the deeds were essentially forgotten. If he received Rama’s mercy, though, his rewards would never vanish; no one would forget what he did.

Lord RamaTo get that mercy he would need to return Sita to Rama. The couple was separated due to Ravana. He stole Sita away in secret. She did not want to be with him. If you take something from a store by accident without paying for it, once you realize what you did you should return the item. This is common sense. In this case Sita’s refusal of Ravana’s advances could be taken as an indication to Ravana that what he had done was wrong. Realizing that, if he should return Sita to Rama all would be forgiven.

The previous sinful act in karma for Ravana would be forgotten, but reuniting Rama with His wife would not. Rama would ensure the safety of Ravana. He would make sure the kingdom of Lanka was full of opulence all the time. He would make Ravana famous for being such a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. Rama is God in His avatara as a warrior prince. This information is provided to us in the Ramayana, which is a sacred and essential work of the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world.

Unfortunately, Ravana didn’t listen. He remained stubborn in his desire to have Sita. Since He didn’t please Rama, he would have to lose everything that he worked so hard to get. The kingdom, the wives, the opulence, the position of prominence - all gone through a single offense. In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama but in His original form of Krishna says that He brings to the devotees what they lack and preserves what they have.

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

Ravana thought he didn’t lack anything and that he could preserve all of his possessions on his own, even without paying attention to the standard codes of decency. What he did lack was a spiritual consciousness. His kingdom wasn’t necessary for acquiring this consciousness, and so in this sense it wasn’t really necessary to preserve.

Vibhishana meeting RamaRavana’s younger brother Vibhishana was pious. He did surrender to Rama. Under mundane morality, Vibhishana was a traitor for turning against his brother. Though that is an act that brings bad karma, it had no effect on Vibhishana because of the superior influence of Rama. The Lord maintained Vibhishana’s devotion and made it stronger by handing over Ravana’s kingdom to him. Thus the fiend who was always so anxious to protect material possessions lost everything, despite hearing the best counsel. And meanwhile the devotee who had a guileless heart got the same kingdom easily and without coveting it. To this day Vibhishana is still heralded as a great servant, showing that his one kind act brought a reward that is never to vanish.

In Closing:

Since his heart on devotion set,

Vibhishana throne of Lanka to get.


Gifted and maintained through kind act one,

More merciful than Rama there is none.


Through so many acts kingdom to win,

Yet all forgotten, Ravana undone by sin.


Karma to forget but Rama will not,

Attention on devotees never to drop.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rama’s Mercy

Sita and Rama“Do you seek the mercy of this Rama, who is very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Always keeping proper attention with me, please do return me to Him.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.21-22)

prasādayasva tvaṃ canaṃ śaraṇāgatavatsalam ||
māṃ cāsmai niyato bhūtvā niryātayitumarhasi |

Prasadam is a Sanskrit word that means “the Lord’s mercy.” It typically refers to remnants of offerings directly made. Say that you have a flower that you think is pretty. Before getting a whiff of its nice aroma, you place it on an altar in front of a picture or statue of the Supreme Lord, as He is defined in Vedic texts. He is all-pervading for sure, and He does have a formless aspect, but there are personal forms as well, which directly represent Him. When these offerings are made in an authorized manner, what gets returned is known as prasadam.

PrasadamOf course the trick is to figure out how to make the offering authorized. If you stole the flower from a store and brought it home to be offered, it is tainted. If you smelled the flower first, used it for a few days, and then made the offering, the intention is opposite of what it should be. You’re essentially giving God your mercy, which He doesn’t need. He is complete in Himself. He is described as atmarama, which means one who is self-satisfied. There is nothing He needs from us, because He has everything. And still He is so kind to accept our offerings, which are tiny in the grand scheme. Nevertheless, He happily looks upon us when we want to give Him something nice.

“That thing which comes to Me at the destruction of friends or relatives I do not accept, just like food mixed with poison.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 97.4)

If the offering is at the expense of another living entity, then there is no prasadam. This explains why meat cannot be offered to the Supreme Lord. Animal flesh comes at the expense of an animal’s life. According to higher knowledge, all living beings are souls at the core. Therefore the animal is a soul too; it just looks different to us because of the body type that covers that soul. The plant is a soul too, but its body type has been designated for the consumption of the higher species. This consumption shouldn’t be without restriction, however. The food should be eaten in a controlled way, for the purpose of maintaining the body. The best way to control eating is to offer food to the Supreme Lord; hence the procedures for deity worship and the honoring of prasadam.

Lord RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi tries to persuade the King of Lanka, Ravana, to seek the mercy of the Supreme Lord, in His form of Shri Rama. Rama is also Sita’s husband. She tells Ravana for the second time that Rama is very affectionate towards those who are surrendered to Him. This fits with the concept of prasadam. Though Rama doesn’t need anything, He still accepts offerings made with love. This is a sign of affection. The offering shows surrender, and so the affection is automatic from Rama’s part.

Sita also says that Ravana should keep proper attention on her. This means that surrendering to Rama after treating Sita poorly is not an authorized way. Ravana took Sita away from Rama in secret. If he were to surrender, he would have to bring Sita back in the same condition. If he did something bad to her, why would Rama consider his approach surrender? The affection from the Supreme Lord is contingent upon the devotee’s having the proper mood when making the offering.

All of this bears mentioning due to the incredible potency of prasadam. It has a wonderful taste, a transcendental one at that. Thus whatever can be done to get that mercy should be undertaken. In Ravana’s case, it required a proper handling of the Supreme Lord’s wife. In the case of the conditioned souls in general, the requirement is a change in consciousness, a shift from master to servant. Rather than constantly seek new ways to enhance the pleasure from eating, sleeping, mating and defending, the mind can shift towards meeting the desires of the Supreme Lord. His foremost desire is to have association of His friends and well-wishers. This should make sense, as we like to have the same kind of association. Rama, or God, is the best well-wisher of everyone, and those who are devoted to Him inherit that trait. Thus to keep association with devotees, follow regulative principles, and always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the surefire way to capture the wonderful taste of prasadam.

From that potent mercy the son of a maidservant was transformed into a famous travelling reformer named Narada Muni. Through making such kind offerings, the female ascetic Shabari was granted liberation. Through making an offering of hospitality, the village-dweller named Guha received the full blessings of Shri Rama. From a kind offering of a piece of chipped rice, the poor brahmana named Sudama gained the world through the grace of God in His original form of Krishna. Therefore the opportunity to offer is there for anyone, as we also learn from Sita. Ravana unfortunately didn’t choose wisely. Instead of the Lord’s mercy, He received His wrath, which rescued Sita in the process. The outcome was always known. Sita would reunite with Rama. She gave Ravana the chance to get some of the credit for it, in the process tasting the wonderful mercy of God. Therefore she can never be blamed for the king’s misfortune.

In Closing:

Since on sinful ways mind set,

Ravana Rama’s mercy not to get.


Wrath from fatal arrows’ blow,

This merciful to Sita ever so.


Water, flowers, fruit, or milk thick and dense,

Suitable offerings not from another’s expense.


Matters most what you have in mind,

Seeing devotion forever Rama to be kind.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good People

Krishna's friends in Vrindavana“Without understanding the intricacies of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and without knowing His uncommon spiritual opulences, the innocent cowherd boys and men of Vrindavana began to discuss the wonderful activities of Krishna which surpass the activities of all men.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 26)

The people of Vrindavana were good. They never bothered anyone. They did not commit sin. They were not interested in hoarding possessions, defeating the competition, exploiting earth’s resources, or making others feel less important. Each person had their assigned duty, which they accepted from proper authority figures. Each person did their duty to the best of their ability. The rest they placed in God’s hands. Indeed, it was this surrender to God that made their work easier to do. It’s what made their consciousness pure. Instead of being harmed by what others may call blind faith or willful ignorance, the people were benefitted tremendously. They were good people by all accounts.

What is a good person? Is it someone who is particularly skilled? Is it someone who is wealthy? Is it someone who does things that I ask of them?

A good person would be someone who is beneficial to all. The local business may be good for the employees, the customers, and the community at large, but it is not necessarily good to the competitor. It is not good to the person who wants another type of product purchased. The person who is good to all businesses would be considered superior. The person who benefits every single person, regardless of their interest, would have to be considered the best.

This brings us to the definition of a saint. A saintly character does not want anything for themselves. If they did, then others could chip away at their exalted status. If a saint was primarily interested in eating very nicely, then others would criticize them. “Oh, look, they’re only nice to people so that they can fill their belly. They aren’t really trying to help anyone.” If a saint was primarily interested in earning money, others would attack them for their gains. “Oh, look at how much money they have. They get all this praise for the work they do, but in the end they’re just looking to score financially. They are no different than the street vendor, except the vendor on the street is more honest. At least others can identify them for who they are.”

Lord ChaitanyaThe saint with the highest stature in traditional Vedic culture is a sannyasi. This is their occupation, as a saint can be found in any class or nation. The sannyasi is materially renounced. They don’t have a home. We can think of sannyasa as like voluntarily becoming homeless. And by the way, the sannyasi cannot accumulate anything. They are not allowed to. They beg for their food, but they should not take more than a day’s worth. They are not to stock up for the future. Thus hoarding is prevented. They are also not supposed to go begging in a place known to be charitable. In this way they beg only to maintain their existence, and if the mercy of others is not forthcoming, it is taken as a sign from above that more austerity is required.

Austerity may be a key feature of the preferred occupation, but there is more to being a saint than just being free of material desires. It is the association of the saint that is beneficial. Their association helps any person, regardless of their interest. The person who wants money is benefitted by knowing the saint. So is the person who doesn’t want money, i.e. the person desiring renunciation. The person seeking knowledge of higher truths is also benefitted, as is the person who is already knowledgeable and looking for a purpose to their actions.

Tying everything together is the saint’s devotion to God. This is what makes their association beneficial to everyone. We can look to the people of Vrindavana during an ancient time period to see an example. They hardly had anything, but what they did have was love for God. That was all they needed. Anyone who associated with them would be immersed in the devotional culture as well. The merchants were honest, the brahmanas dedicated to God, the kings dutiful in their protection of the citizens, and the servants always enthusiastic to help everyone else out.

Lord KrishnaThe people of Vrindavana heard from the Vedas regularly. They knew that there was a Supreme Personality of Godhead. They may not have known that He was living in their town as the darling child of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja, but their devotion was there all the same. From their example, we see that there is no harm in believing in God. What is wrong with thinking that a supreme controller is in charge of everything? What is the harm in believing in different destinations for the afterlife based on how one acts in the present life?

The alternative is exploitation. If you don’t believe in a higher power, you must assign the same status to a mortal human being. Since all of us are mortal, it means that anyone is eligible to be worshiped in this fashion; hence the feverish competition. The problem is that no one is all-powerful. No human being is perfect. The devotion and faith reposed in such a figure, who tries to assume the post of God on earth, is not fruitful. It creates a perpetual condition of fear, for the law of the jungle is what prevails in a godless society.

The innocent people of Vrindavana believed in God and that was enough to keep them happy. They didn’t have to drink alcohol because Shri Krishna was always with them. When He wasn’t in sight, He played in the field known as the mind. Through His names chanted in ecstasy, He danced on the tongue. Since Krishna was all-attractive, everyone was always in the company of greatness. They didn’t have to look any further than Krishna for their happiness.

Lord KrishnaAnd from that devotion the people had all good qualities. They were charitable, knowledgeable, controlled in their eating and sleeping, and equally disposed towards all. These qualities didn’t come to them accidentally. They arrived from the devotion to Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of God.

The people of Vrindavana believed that a hill was deserving of worship after being informed by Krishna. They did not question the validity of the inaugural Govardhana Puja. They put all their faith in Krishna, and in acting on that faith they were always protected. In any other kind of faith, there is always danger. Faith in science brings the danger of the uncertain future. Faith in members of the opposite sex brings the danger of scorn and rejection. Faith in the pursuit of knowledge brings the danger of a life spent in useless mental speculation. Faith in Krishna, however, is bona fide and it brings the best results, as was seen in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago.

In Closing:

Faith in God they always had,

With Krishna they were glad.


Because this they understood,

Association towards all was good.


When devotion in Him lacking,

In fierce competition others attacking.


Believe in God, what is the harm?
In Vrindavana’s people find goodness and charm.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Figuring It Out For Themselves

Lord Krishna teaching“They say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation and that there is no God in control. It is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8)

imageThe Sanskrit word “asura” means one who does not believe in God. The word is commonly translated as “demon” because from the rejection of the existence of a Supreme Controller all bad tendencies come. Even those who are purportedly religious can also be classified as asuras, for they can make an outward profession of faith and then act in totally the opposite way. After all, anyone can say anything. I might be lying through my teeth, but if I tell someone, “No, I’m not lying. I’m telling you the truth,” they might actually believe me. They might think that I am an honest person.

Whether there is faith in a higher power or not, there is always a foremost desire that guides each person. This means that the asura is looking to gain something as well. If they find out a way to achieve it, they will come up with rules that others may wish to follow to replicate the success. If the asura encounters obstacles along the way, then they include rules that will remove those obstacles going forward. Since the asura mentality denies the existence of an original source of everything, naturally the ultimate objective is to try to enjoy as much as possible. The person who enjoys the best is the superior person. Since other asuras will shoot for the same objective, there is guaranteed to be competition. Some will win and some will lose, though in the end everyone loses since no one is complete in the opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. And neither will anyone hold these attributes infinitely, for everyone must die.

Along their journey, the asuras come up with rules that are presented as absolutes. Others must abide by them, lest they be labeled as fanatics or nonbelievers. Of course then those rules are later overturned. For instance, at one time the asuras considered the earth to be flat. This they tried to figure out for themselves. If they had consulted authorized shastra, they would have realized that the universe is like an oval. The concept of a brahmanda was unknown to them. In Sanskrit this word means a realm of spirit, or Brahman, that is shaped like an egg. It is the word used to describe a single universe.

CoffeeAnyone who believed that they earth was not flat was ridiculed. Some were punished with death. Then, along the way the asuras figured out that the earth was round. Thus their previous rule that they found through basic observation was nullified. Now a new rule was made. This is only one example, but there are so many others as well. One need only peruse the health section of the daily newspaper. One day eating cheese is bad and another it is good. Wine is bad for you, but then it is not. The same with coffee and oat bran.

In this way there is never an absolute truth found, as the individual is imperfect. There are four defects that man inherits at the time of birth. He tends to cheat. Since man doesn’t know that ultimately everything will be destroyed at the time of death, he puts too much importance on temporary gains. Sometimes, the fear that this body is the only life brings the same mindset. Cheating is a shortcut way to find an advantage. Man commits mistakes. To err is human after all, and so when he comes up with absolute rules they are sometimes wrong. Man is easily illusioned. What he sees isn’t always what he gets. He gazes upon a beautiful woman in the present but he can’t see past her flesh to realize that her appearance will change as the years pass. He can’t see her for the spirit soul that she is. Man also has imperfect senses. These senses are used for making observations which then get used to formulate various rules. As the senses cannot possibly perceive everything, the gathering mechanism is itself limited. How then can the conclusions be without flaw? If you had a wonderful photo editing software on your tablet computer but no way of taking pictures, of what use is it to you?

The suras are devotees. They accept the Absolute Truth from the outset. They understand that He is the source of everything. All other truths descend from Him. Since only He is absolute, all others are relative. What is good for me may not be so for you. Honesty is the best policy, except when someone in danger has come to you for protection. If a thief comes to you looking for a house that he wants to rob, if it is your neighbor’s house will you give away the location? In this case dishonesty is the pious option. Medicine is the right food to take when stricken by a certain disease, but in other circumstances it is the wrong thing to take.

The ultimate conclusion of the suras never changes: worship God with body, mind and speech. And don’t just take someone’s word for it when deciding who God is. Don’t be swayed by the false notions of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism. If God is really God, He must be so for everyone. Indeed, the intelligent suras never speak of this “ism” or that, as they know that God’s position is scientifically explainable to a degree. The individual is spirit, and God is the supreme spirit. The individual goes through birth and death within the current lifetime. This is known as transmigration of the soul. The soul is in bed one minute and then at work the next. The soul has thus moved, but the individual is still the same. This is one way to better understand reincarnation, a way to take away its mystical aura.

Nowhere in this discussion do we see mention of Hinduism. That is a term used by the less intelligent, who consider spiritual life to be a matter of faith only. There is faith in anything, for sure, but the concept of a supreme controller is real, as we see intelligence to the workings of nature. The original person created that nature, so He must be the most intelligent. Taking devotion to Him to be the ultimate guiding principle, the suras are released from the burden of having to constantly conjure up new truths, rules which are later on revised or completely abolished. The suras practice devotion by always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” which is a practice whose effectiveness will never change.

In Closing:

With my observations to take,

A new principle with mind to make.


Then a newer perception will come,

My previous truth abruptly undone.


Asuras in this way always to try,

Since existence of God they deny.


Devotion to real God suras choose,

Chanting holy names time wisely to use.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No Consent Required

Lady Justice from ...And Justice for All cover“Every living being, whether a man or an animal or a bird, thinks that he is free by himself, but actually no one is free from the severe laws of the Lord. The laws of the Lord are severe because they cannot be disobeyed in any circumstance. The manmade laws may be evaded by cunning outlaws, but in the codes of the supreme lawmaker there is not the slightest possibility of neglecting the laws.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.42 Purport)

When you’re working with truths that are absolute, the consent of anyone else is not required for approval. The truths speak for themselves. Whether one person accepts them or a thousand others, there is no difference. Accepting these principles surely represents the greatest gain, and conversely one who ignores them has lost the most valuable thing in life.

“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)

Lord Rama's handThe foundational truth is the original spiritual entity Himself. He is beyond duality. He is neither right nor wrong. He is neither black nor white. He is neither up nor down. The conditions in duality are present in a realm where the truths are not absolute. With an absolute truth, you get only good. In Sanskrit this type of good is described as shuddha-sattva, or pure goodness. It is unlike any other.

Absent consciousness of this absolute truth, man will try his best to avoid the dualities of life. He will try, through his mental speculation, to rise above heat and cold, light and darkness, and happiness and sadness. And yet the best he can do is reach a state of ordinary good, which isn’t guaranteed to last forever. This is because the realm in which he finds this good is itself destined for destruction.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.8“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

The ConstitutionIn creating truths that are not absolute, there is some compromise involved. The Constitution of the United States is a revered document by many. It was preceded by another respected document known as the Declaration of Independence. Both documents were created through trial and error, through bouncing around various ideas and then revising them. Though so many profound statements were made, still there were conditions. The freedoms designated to men did not apply to women. They did not apply to the slaves. The first ten amendments to the Constitution were very anti-government, limiting the powers of the newly formed Congress. And yet that same Congress was given so many powers, for that is inherent to legislature. Legislature passes legislation, which can thus cover any scope. The behavior that the framers of the Constitution previously loathed can be easily enacted through legislation in the future; something which has happened many times already.

The truth of aham brahmasmi was not created by any man. It was not revised or reworded. It is an eternal truth. It was true millions of years ago and it will remain so millions of years into the future. The translation of the Sanskrit is “I am Brahman.” Brahman is truth of the absolute variety mentioned previously. “I” refers to the individual. Every single one of us is truth originally. We collectively belong to the spiritual energy known as Brahman.

Another absolute law is achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means the individual spirit soul is simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Spirit. This relationship is inconceivable to the mind, though one can still act on it. The individual is Brahman, while the Supreme is Parabrahman. In the different ages the relationship between the two is best reestablished through a specific channel. In the first age of the creation the recommended channel is meditation. Not just five minutes of sitting in a quiet room, this meditation is in an austere setting and can last thousands of years. In the second age the channel is elaborate religious sacrifice and in the third deity worship. The present time period is the fourth age, and since dharma stands on only one leg, the channel for finding the Supreme Absolute Truth is much simpler. The path is through the chanting of the holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Whether one chants, meditates, worships, or completes a sacrifice, the beneficiary should always be the Absolute Truth. Otherwise the work will not yield the desired fruit. At best it can bring one to ordinary goodness, which always has conditions. The newly formed nation that followed the drafting of the Constitution brought the happiness of freedom from the control of the British, but in the course of time new obstacles would arise. The same British would be an enemy soon again. Indeed, without the pure goodness of connection with the Supreme Absolute Truth, there will always be some misery. The cruel hand of time is guaranteed to make that happen, as time eventually eliminates everything.

War of 1812Time does not kill the divine consciousness, however. This is another principle that is always true. One who thinks of the Supreme Absolute Truth at the time of death no longer returns to the world of birth and death. They attain a nature identical to the Supreme Absolute Truth. In that state they live the achintya-bhedabheda-tattva relationship all the time; thus they no longer have to live by rules and regulations.

Dharma means religiosity but it is also the essential characteristic of the individual. Dharma only requires explanation in a land where pure goodness is hard to find. Dharma is the constitutional state, so one who is in the company of the Supreme Absolute Truth has no clue of a distinction between dharma and adharma. If you’re always right, how can you know what wrong means?

For the conditioned souls who have difficulty finding even regular goodness, dharma is passed on by the Supreme Absolute Truth. The works which describe dharma are known as the Vedas, which mean knowledge. The summary of Vedic philosophy that is most famous today is the Bhagavad-gita. In addition to being concise, this work is spoken directly by the Supreme Absolute Truth in His original form. That form is worshipable for one and all regardless of what spiritual tradition was inherited at the time of birth. Indeed, since the speaker of the Gita is the origin of life and knowledge, all systems of religion ultimately trace back to Him. As He is the source, taking a straight line to Him is always the best option. He never came up with dharma; it is the way to get back to Him, who is eternal. As there are no compromises in His teachings, there is no possibility for defect. As He is the Truth, He is perfect in all regards, including His words of wisdom.

In Closing:

Challenge of writing document to take,

Despite words, some compromises to make.


To women and slaves not to apply,

Thus defect no matter how hard to try.


Absolute Truth above life’s duality,

Applies to more than just nationally.


For God required not is compromise,

In real religion no need to democratize.