Saturday, October 12, 2013

Adulthood for the Consciousness

Devotional service“Unless a living entity forgets his real identity, it is impossible for him to live in the material conditions of life. Therefore the first condition of material existence is forgetfulness of one's real identity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.12.2 Purport)

A material existence has duality. One person is my friend and another is my enemy. Today I am happy and tomorrow I am sad. Today there is birth and tomorrow there is death. Nothing is fixed. Despite the fact that the essence is constant, that life continues on infinitely, the external changes create an illusion, making one fearful over things that aren’t worth fearing. This illusion fosters forgetfulness of the actual position of the living entity, and only in forgetfulness can one continue to live in the material conditions of life.

An example can help us see how this forgetfulness is necessary for the continuation. Pick your favorite professional sport of choice. Even if you don’t follow any, think of one that you know that you might be interested in if you were compelled to. In that sport of choice, there is a season. They don’t play games all the time, though it may seem like it. There is a season, which culminates in the championship round. Someone wins. They are better than everyone else for that season. Thus the goal for every player and team during the season is to be the champion.

But what happens when there is victory? The winning team celebrates, but then they are immediately asked about next year. “Do you think you can repeat? How will this team look going forward? Can you become one of the greatest teams of all time? Can you become a dynasty?” These questions are built on forgetfulness. Previously the questions related to whether the team could win that year. Then as soon as they won, the victory was more or less forgotten. Essentially, everyone is playing so that they can have the same worry going forward. There is never a fixed position.

Coin tossForgetfulness is the only way one can continue playing. The winners can’t remember that their previous victory didn’t bring lasting happiness. The losers are even happier to forget, for who wants to remember losing? Just one victory erases the memory of all the previous losses. And then one stinging defeat erases the joy of the previous victory.

Material conditions are like this, but across all spheres. The first victory is birth and the last defeat is death. We see that defeat always wins out. At death, everything is erased. The cherished car that took so much hard work to purchase does not follow the individual after death. That car is never to be seen again. The same goes for the cherished relationships, the association of people we hold so dear.

Intelligence, which remembrance helps to increase, progressively leads to different activities. Why don’t grownups watch television programming for children? In the past they used to watch cartoons and be interested in certain things that no longer interest them. Indeed, they will never be interested in these things again. The answer, of course, is that their intelligence increased. As they grew wiser they no longer took an interest in things targeted for those with a lower intelligence.

Heathcliff cartoonDevotional service, or bhakti-yoga, can be thought of in the same light. It is the activity for the grownups in terms of consciousness. The grownup here knows about their true identity, their svarupa. “Aham brahmasmi” says that I am Brahman. Brahman is the Sanskrit word to describe spirit, and more accurately the collective spirit. The abstract of all spirit combined is Brahman. Jivatma is the term to describe the individual spirit, the one that resides locally and gives life to a body.

Svarupa is the self-form of the jivatma. There is a nitya-svarupa, a form that is eternal. The form of the living entity suffering through material conditions is not eternal. The form we have right now is actually different than the one we had five minutes ago. Perhaps we are not consciously aware of this at the moment, but the fact cannot be denied. The body changes at every second. And yet I am the same person from five minutes ago. My identity has not changed. Therefore my identity must be fixed; it is not material.

One of the pillars of bhakti-yoga is remembrance. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates bhakti-yoga as “Krishna consciousness.” Krishna is just a name for God. This God is not Hindu, as the less intelligent would have you believe. The word “Krishna” says that God is all-attractive, and who can deny this? And what is the harm in remembering someone who is all-attractive? Would you rather think of something repugnant all the time? Actually, you would try your best to forget it. Material life rewards forgetfulness, whereas spiritual life rewards remembrance. The best reward is the ability to constantly remember the one person who is all-attractive. Spiritual life practiced up until the time of death brings precisely that.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.5“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Worshiping GodBhakti-yoga is adulthood for the consciousness. One who keeps the all-attractive Lord in their mind has no desire to go back to something of temporary significance. Why chase after money when you need to do something with it afterwards? Why work so hard for something that won’t give you lasting happiness? Indeed, the previous engagements in material life become dull and boring for the bhakta, the person who practices bhakti-yoga. We all have a right to do what makes us happy, and nothing makes the jivatma happier than serving God. All other kinds of service are but derivatives of the pure service in bhakti-yoga, and these derivatives aren’t nearly as potent. The real thing is what gives the gem of a result, residence in the planet of constant remembrance of Krishna.

In Closing:

Watching cartoons and running wild,

Common pastimes for young child.


Mature adult has a mindset new,

No longer same programs to view.


By remembrance to find this way,

Only with forgetfulness in past to stay.


In bhakti-yoga of the attractive Krishna think,

And no longer into forgetfulness’ land to sink.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Impersonal Understanding

Universal form“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)

Bhagavad-gita, 9.4The impersonal understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead acknowledges His presence, but not all the details are known. In the impersonal understanding one realizes, or at least recognizes, that there is a powerful spiritual force in all spheres. At the basic level, there is the acknowledgment of the complete whole. We may not be able to conceptualize everything, but “everything” does exist. Using the “panorama mode” on our smartphone or digital camera, we can create a wider image than we could normally, but no camera is available that can include the entire universe in one image. Yet such an image exists, and so one who realizes it has an impersonal understanding of God. At least they know that He is everything.

iPhone Panorama featureThis understanding is not very difficult to get, as miniature versions of it are present in everyday life. We can take the Stanley Cup as an example. This is the trophy awarded to the best team each season in the National Hockey League. There is only one Stanley Cup; there is not a separate trophy given each season. The players dream of one day hoisting the Cup, as it represents the pinnacle of the sporting life of a hockey player.

The players on the winning team and the members of the front office staff each get their name on the Cup. As presently constituted, the trophy can hold around fifty to sixty years’ worth of names from winning teams. This means that the trophy is like a museum exhibit as well. One could spend some time reading the different names and remembering their accomplishments.

Since 1995, each member from the winning team gets one official day with the Cup during the offseason to do with as they please. Though they could sit in their room all day and just admire the trophy, most decide to have public celebrations. Some players even have parades going through their hometowns. Much attention is there because the fans appreciate what the trophy means. It is a symbol of achievement. When there is honor paid to the Stanley Cup, there is an acknowledgment of the hard work of that year’s winning team.

Stanley Cup paradeOf course that acknowledgment extends out as well. There is appreciation for the players’ families, who helped develop them to the point that they could be champions. There is appreciation for all of the previous winners, the teams that set the bar for excellence. There is also subtle deference paid to the losing teams, for they provided the spirited competition that made winning the Stanley Cup worthwhile. The fact that you have to win difficult playoff games to hoist the Cup makes it something special. Anyone could make a replica of the trophy and hand it over to anyone else, but no one would really be interested in that.

Taking the largest scope, the reverence for the Stanley Cup is appreciation for a very large family, one including the entire National Hockey League and perhaps all of the communities that helped to build the winning players. If you take the same concept and apply it to the entire creation, you get the impersonal understanding. You honor the water, the earth, the sun, the fire, and the air since they came from an original source. You honor every single living creature, because they all have had their time in going through this maze called life. You honor even the enemies, for they make the pious more appreciable.

So by worshiping different trophies and communities, am I worshiping God?

In a sense one is still offering worship when there is no acknowledgment of God, but as with anything there is a specific result tied to a specific kind of worship. Indeed, everyone is a devotee of God to some degree. The staunch atheists are worshipers of His material energy, which is dull and lifeless. They specifically look for personal enjoyment, not caring for others or the issue of morality. The material energy is considered the inferior energy, as we’re told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, which summarizes His Vedas, which are the original scriptural tradition of the world. If you worship the inferior energy, you get inferior results. It’s like getting to play in mud all day if that’s what you want. To most, the mud is disgusting and dirty, but to others it is just fine.

If you worship the impersonal spiritual energy, which is all-pervading, you get its association. The impersonal understanding is of an abstract; there is actually no detail to it. It is a formless spiritual light of truth. Therefore one who gets its association must also become formless, devoid of nuance and variety in activity. As Lord Chaitanya so nicely says, the real form, the svarupa, of the living entity is servant of God. The impersonal understanding can help one to regain their real form, but if one doesn’t advance further, they are vulnerable to falling back into the material pool.

In the material understanding, I take one person to be my friend and another to be my enemy. I only appreciate those who do good for me. If they fail to do what I want, despite having done good to me so many times in the past I will get angry. I will then change my outlook on who is good and who is bad.

In the impersonal understanding, one realizes that the material understanding is silly; it is not based in knowledge. In the personal understanding, one sees that the impersonal understanding is not enough. I can appreciate the complete whole for sure, but then what? What will I do with my time? Should I stay in a cave and just contemplate on “everything”? What should be my role in society? Should I be like those who have the material vision? I no longer have this vision, so why should I take a step back just because I can’t find anything worthwhile to do?

The personal understanding gives the complete picture. There is the spiritual energy that pervades everything, and that energy is rooted in a personality. Since He is the most powerful personality, He is a little different. His body and spirit are identical. There is no duality between spiritual and material for Him. All energies are one, because He is one. He is the complete whole. The dichotomies exist for every person except Him.

Maha-mantraFor those with the personal understanding, the dichotomies are removed. Such people understand that everything is sourced in the Personality of Godhead. From that understanding they know how to act, too. They make the effort to glorify and think of the Personality of Godhead using whatever is around them. They accept the real form of servant through following any of the nine methods of bhakti-yoga, the two foremost of which are hearing and chanting. Those are both accounted for in the recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Shri Krishna is one of the names of the origin of matter and spirit, the personal spiritual force. Worship of Him is automatically worship of everything else, whereas all other kinds of worship are incomplete. The pinnacle of worship brings the pinnacle achievement, the lifelong association of the personal spiritual force.

In Closing:

Seeing Stanley Cup parade passing by,

Celebrate players who so hard did try.


Communities also some credit to get,

And opponents whom in competition were set.


Extend out this attitude the same,

And impersonal understanding gain.


Know that from that point there is more,

Real identity as servant of God to adore.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

All Reflections Look the Same

The sun reflected“A reflection of the sun in a mirror or on water appears to be the sun but is not. Similarly, the material world is but a reflection of the spiritual world. Although it appears to be factual, it is not; it is only a temporary reflection, whereas the spiritual world is a factual reality. The material world, with its gross and subtle forms, is merely a reflection of the spiritual world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.118 Purport)

When lacking God consciousness, though one may see variety around them everything is actually a reflection of the same nature. All aspects of the manifest world are reflections of a different aspect of the inverted tree. The image of the inverted tree is found in the water, and as this is a reflection of a real tree, the analogy is used to describe the land that we presently inhabit. In the reflected land there is actually variety and nuance, but unless the consciousness is dovetailed with the Supreme Consciousness, it is not possible for one to see this.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.1“The Blessed Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.” (Bhagavad-gita, 15.1)

Inverted tree of creationWhen true God consciousness is lacking, the desires of the individual can be grouped into three categories. True God consciousness is where the individual actually thinks about the Supreme and in turn uses that thought process to guide all of their actions. They do not concoct a form of God that suits their whims. They do not have a desire to dominate, kill, or belittle others, with the justification that everything they do is somehow sanctioned by God. In true God consciousness, the thinking of the Lord comes first, and His desires are fulfilled through work. In all other versions of thought, the personal desires come first, which then drive activity.

There is the desire for bhukti. This is basic enjoyment. One person can’t wait to eat pizza for dinner. Another person can’t wait to go out to the nightclub to get intoxicated from a heavy night of consuming adult beverages. Another person can’t wait for their new tablet computer to arrive, so that they can spend hours playing with it. Another person can’t wait to go on a cruise ship for a vacation. They will get away from it all, eat whatever they want, and see beautiful, exotic destinations.

Pizza pieThere is the desire for mukti. This is the release from material life. Smaller scale versions of this desire are seen in basic renunciation. Mukti can be thought of as the opposite of bhukti. One person has had so much to drink that they swear off alcohol forever. Another person doesn’t want to eat so much anymore, as they are gaining weight. Another person has a garage sale to get rid of all of their junk that they’ve accumulated over many years. Another person wants to retreat to a place of solitude, where they don’t have to do anything and no one will bother them.

There is the desire for siddhi. This is the goal of the real yogis, not the ones who only do various exercises for the sake of bodily health. When there is a siddhi, one can do amazing things. They can become lighter than air. They can become heavier than a mountain. They can move to different places at the speed of the mind. It is difficult to imagine such things, but they are possible through meditational yoga practiced properly.

In whichever category one belongs, the reflections look the same since the destination is more or less identical. In bhukti, the future destination is continued material enjoyment. There is no lasting satisfaction from this kind of enjoyment. If there were, there would be no such things as diet and exercise regimens. There would be no such thing as divorce. In a marriage one should ideally have no problem getting the carnal enjoyment one craves. In mukti, the future destination is the same. Release from troubles can only make one happy for so long. Eventually they will want a taste of enjoyment again. The same goes for siddhi, as with a mystic ability one will need an area in which to use it. It’s wonderful if someone gives me a gift card worth hundreds of dollars, but the gift doesn’t mean anything until I spend the money on something.

Gift cardsWith the spiritual consciousness, the reflections start to look different. The review of the three categories of desires is one example of this. These categories were not conjured up by anyone who was driven by them. Rather, they were revealed to enlightened beings, who understand the origin of matter and spirit. The root of the tree is the Supreme Lord, and the material creation descends from that tree. The tree is inverted because a temporary land full of branches and leaves that more or less look the same would never be considered superior to the root area. The downward growth means that the further and further you get away from the root, the worse off you’ll be.

In the material land, one actually thinks that spiritual life is dull and boring, that it is a lifestyle where all reflections look the same. In fact, the opposite is the case. The person in the spiritual consciousness knows that all creatures are spirit souls at the core. They know the purpose to the creation and how it represents an inverted tree. Most importantly, they know how to get back to the root. Though in physical distance the journey may be too great for a single man to conquer, one can reach there through using the mind. The mind helps to forge the consciousness, and that link in consciousness is known as real yoga.

Lord KrishnaBhakti-yoga is the linking to the Supreme Consciousness in a mood of love. It is the culmination of all other kinds of yoga. Without bhakti, yoga is not complete. Unlike other kinds of yoga, bhakti is not expensive or difficult to practice. God is the most benevolent saint because His association is available to one and all, regardless of the gifts of nature they may or may not possess. The essential items in life are relatively inexpensive and abundantly available. Those things we don’t really need are more expensive. Bhakti-yoga is an essential item that can be practiced through something as simple as the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The highest knowledge is found in a very concise work known as the Bhagavad-gita, which reaches the conclusion of bhakti-yoga through a systematic explanation of the origin of the universe and the mission of the human being within it. Thanks to the efforts of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples, this work is widely available today in so many different languages. This work gives one the root of the tree, whose association allows one to see the spiritual component in everything, which in turn gives rise to the endless variety made possible by the most creative brain of God.

In Closing:

Today pizza pie I’ll eat,

Or friend at nightclub to meet.


In trance to take my yoga seat,

Or in renunciation no more to eat.


All such reflections look the same,

Since Supreme’s company not to gain.


Root at the top in the inverted tree,

Reach it and spiritual component see.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Tree Falls In a Forest

Rama's arrows“Those arrows, decorated with the feathers of a heron, will strike this city from all sides, sparing no space, and destroy the Rakshasas.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.26-27)

rakṣāṃsi parinighnastaḥ puryāmasyāṃ samantataḥ ||
asampātaṃ kariṣyanti patantaḥ kaṅkavāsasaḥ |

There is the famous philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The question is meant to provoke deeper thought into the meaning of perception and existence. If you’re not around to hear something, what is the point to sound? Is not the sound without purpose then? This verse from the Ramayana provides an answer.

From the Vedas we know that the Supreme Spirit is antaryami, which means He is the supreme witness. I am the witness for only the local area. If the fan is on in my room, I hear it. If I go to work and forget to turn the fan off, it still makes a sound, but I am not in the room to hear it. Thus my presence cannot extend; I have a limited range of perception.

Oscillating fanAs I am the same in quality as everyone else, the same defect is present in everyone. My friend can only perceive locally as well. With the help of modern technology, we can maybe hear a sound coming from thousands of miles away, but again that sound is more or less relayed to the local area. It originates somewhere else, but then travels. This is sort of like the car alarm or the thunder from the clouds above. We can hear it locally, but that’s just because the sound is so great that it can travel to where we are.

With God, the presence is extended everywhere. Therefore the premise of the tree question is itself flawed. There is always someone around to hear the tree fall. The plants are spirit souls as well. Due to their body type, they are severely restricted in their motions. There are moving and nonmoving creatures. The plants are part of the latter category. Even if you think that there is no plant life in this forest, there is still a witness. If, for some odd reason, the forest has only this one tree that is about to fall, the tree itself is a symbol of existence.

TreesWithin that tree are two souls. One identifies the tree and the other the Supreme Lord. If the tree should happen to lack the sense of hearing, the Supreme Witness is still there to hear what happens. This is important to note because when others are not around, we tend to think that we can get away with things. “If I eat a forbidden food on a certain day and no one sees me, how will I get the negative impact?” Actually, if the food is forbidden for whatever reason, the act of taking it itself will violate whatever rule was in place. Therefore the negative reaction will come.

Eating forbidden food in secret seems like a harmless enough act, but in the case of an infamous king a long time ago, the acts were many and the punishment seemed to be lacking. It was so missing that one wondered if it would arrive at all. This king’s sinful life culminated in the taking of another man’s wife. He took her away in secret, without fighting for her. He was too afraid to battle her husband one-on-one. He seemed to get away with the act, too. He brought her back to his island kingdom and tried his best to woo her. She would not budge. She insisted that she be returned to her husband. Such an act would forgive the offense.

The fiend didn’t listen, and so here the beautiful princess informs him of the future. Her husband was the greatest bow fighter of the time. In fact, there has never been such a fighter on this earth. Her husband is famously known as Rama, and He is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just as He is all-pervading in His travels with each individual soul, His weapons can reach any destination. Here Sita tells the fiendish king Ravana that Rama’s arrows will attack him on all sides. No space will be spared. There will be nowhere to hide. Destruction will come about for all the Rakshasas, not just the king. The Rakshasas were the species inhabiting the island at the time. Ravana was a Rakshasa as well.

Lord RamaSince he took Sita away in secret and nothing bad came of it right away because no authority figure saw it, Ravana thought he was in the clear. His act can be likened to the tree falling in the forest with no one around. But the Supreme Lord has eyes and ears everywhere, so every act committed by every single person is recorded. If one acts to intentionally thwart the devotional efforts of an innocent soul, then there is direct intervention from the Divine. In all other cases, the laws of karma take care of distributing the appropriate results.

Bhagavad-gita, 13.14“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)

The Supreme Lord is the figure central to an existence. As He sees all bad deeds, He sees all good ones as well. Even if we think that He can’t see us, if we stay devoted to Him through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” glorifying Him to others, serving those devoted to Him, and remaining always conscious of Him, He will surely reward us with the gift that we are desperately seeking: eternal devotion to His lotus feet.

In Closing:

If in forest to fall a tree,

Sound there if no one to see?


Question to ponder for the mind,

From Sita’s words answer to find.


Since to take beloved wife to dare,

Rama’s arrows not an inch to spare.


That He is everywhere this means,

Always to hear sound at every scene.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sparing No Space

Rama's arrows“Those arrows, decorated with the feathers of a heron, will strike this city from all sides, sparing no space, and destroy the Rakshasas.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.26-27)

rakṣāṃsi parinighnastaḥ puryāmasyāṃ samantataḥ ||
asampātaṃ kariṣyanti patantaḥ kaṅkavāsasaḥ |

“How can a lowly forest-dweller cause me any harm? I was able to trick Him into chasing after a golden deer. That deer was none other than my associate Maricha in disguise. Then I was able to take away His beautiful wife without a problem. He is only a single man. Thus far I have not had any trouble routing my rivals. They have all submitted to my will, which is tremendous. I live on a far away island, with the vast ocean as my fortress. There is no way for a weak man like Rama to come and hurt me.”

This sums up Ravana’s mindset. Based on visuals alone, he had reason to feel safe. He didn’t see God. He didn’t see that the Supreme Lord’s influence is everywhere. What he saw was God’s beautiful wife in her incarnation as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Ravana also saw his own tremendous opulence won through the use of excessive force. He applied that force whenever he desired, and not necessarily when it was called for. Taking all these factors into consideration, Ravana thought that he could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Among those desires was insulation from sinful behavior. Sita here reminds him that such security was not possible.

Lakshmana and RamaAnd how would that security break down? How would his fortress of solitude be torn asunder? The attack would begin with swift arrows shot from the bow of her husband. The arrows would also come from her husband’s younger brother, Shri Lakshmana. Those arrows would arrive from all directions, not leaving an inch of space safe. The arrows would be decorated with heron-feathers, which would allow them to course through the sky very quickly.

Ravana lived on an island called Lanka. It was surrounded by a vast ocean. Ravana brought Sita there by a celestial airplane. Rama travelled by foot. He initially went to the forest by chariot, but pretty soon that chariot was sent back home to Ayodhya. Rama voluntarily accepted this renounced lifestyle, though Ravana couldn’t understand how any person of the princely order would leave opulence like that at the drop of a hat.

Rama ate fruits and roots and did not engage in amorous sports, though travelling with the most beautiful woman in the world. These were the conditions set by a promise granted to Rama’s step-mother Kaikeyi. Rama followed these guidelines to uphold the good name of His father, the famous King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Ravana, on the other hand, wanted to be famous for his ability to terrorize. Through fear alone he gained his reputation.

While he aroused fear in others, he thought that no one could make him afraid. Here Sita tells him that he has good reason to fear. Whether he lived in Lanka, the heavenly realm, or many miles underneath the ground, he would not be spared the arrows from an enraged Rama. Rama would forgive Ravana if the fiend returned Sita to Him. If Ravana didn’t, he would face the onslaught of the beautiful arrows, which would have the names of Rama and Lakshmana on them.

In our own lives it’s very easy to think that no one is watching what we do. Therefore we can do whatever we want. If we take money from someone else, without them knowing about it, what’s the harm? If we lie to our friends and family about certain things, who is it going to hurt? If we eat the flesh of innocent animals that someone else killed, who really cares? If we don’t think of God all the time, how is it going to harm us?

In actuality, the spirit soul is constitutionally fit to be a servant of God. The punishment is automatic when the constitutional position is denied. If I am a member of a certain team, but I act as if I’m on a different team, just from my mindset I will meet so many negative conditions. If I’m driving on the left side of the road when in that nation I’m supposed to drive on the right side, I will meet with trouble. In the same way, if I’m not serving God, not thinking of God, or worse, denying His existence, my punishment is automatic. The negative consequences are due to arrive no matter where I am; no place is safe.

Sita offered Ravana a chance for forgiveness. In a humble attitude, surrendering to Rama all the past mistakes would be forgiven. Ravana didn’t choose this option, and so his punishment was set to arrive. He did more than just forget God. He went beyond ignoring the existence of a supreme controller. He directly offended Him by causing harm to one of His dearest devotees. Therefore the punishment was to be more severe.

Lord RamaWhile Sita’s words paint a bleak picture for Ravana, who is of the miscreant class, they offer something very positive for the pious. As there is no escape from the punishment resulting from sinful activities, there is no way to run away from the rewards of pious behavior. If I regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the Supreme Lord will take notice. If I talk about His glories, as they are presented in works like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana, even if no one else is in the room, He will hear me. Then, whether I want His favor or not, it will come to me. It would come to Sita as well, though she was many miles away from Him at the time.

In Closing:

Heron-feathers to quicken the pace,

Rama’s arrows to spare no space.


Since on distant island to reside,

Thought that from God he could hide.


Since on keeping Sita Ravana’s heart was set,

Due punishment from Rama to get.


Devotional activities Lord also sees,

So on chance to chant holy names seize.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Collector’s Item

Lord Rama's arrows“Soon will be falling here well-jointed arrows that are swift, blazing like serpents, and bearing the names of Rama and Lakshmana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.25-26)

iha śīgraṃ suparvāṇo jvalitāsya ivoragāḥ ||
iṣavo nipatiṣyanti rāmalakṣmaṇalakṣaṇāḥ |

If you keep an object long enough, it might turn into a collector’s item; especially if not too many of that object were made. Perhaps technology made that object obsolete. Or maybe the manufacturer found a better way to produce the same object, eliminating certain pieces. As more time passes, these older items increase in value due to their rarity. They are popular items amongst collectors, so much so that there are now television shows that cover the buying and selling of these items. Often times there is one aspect to the object that makes it a novelty, a unique piece. A long time ago, there were weapons used that could be considered antiques today. They are a novelty now not because they fell out of favor with men of the military. They are rare indeed because of their unmatched potency, not to be found in any other weapon.

Antiques RoadshowSita Devi here describes the weapons in question. They are arrows. Bow-and-arrow is a primitive method of fighting. It was used before gun powder was invented. It was the means of warfare before tanks, machine guns, and fighter jets. Ah, but these were no ordinary bows and arrows. They were so amazing that no weapon can compare to them, either past or present. Even in the future you will never find such a weapon, as they act with a specific purpose in mind.

There is duality with all weapons. Think of the gun. In the hands of a criminal, it can turn into an object of mass destruction. A deranged teenager can bring it to a school and open fire, leading to a tragedy. At the same time, the gun can be used to defend against such lunatics. In instances where such shooters go on a rampage, they are finally stopped only once they meet someone else with a gun. Thus the gun terrorizes and also protects.

The weapons mentioned by Sita only protected. To the miscreants, they terrorized, but that terror was their just reward for nefarious behavior. Here the King of Lanka, Ravana, had invited the torment that was set to come his way. He had taken Sita away in secret, though she wanted no part of him. She was already married, and she and her husband were living peacefully in the forest. There was no reason for Ravana to bother them.

Despite all appeals to decency, Ravana would not return Sita to Rama. Therefore she simply spoke the truth, that Rama would come to destroy him. Ravana would first hear the thunderous noise coming from Rama’s bow being readied. Then would come the arrows. These would not be ordinary arrows. None like them were ever seen before by Ravana, and none have been seen by anyone else since.

These arrows were swift and well-jointed. This means that once they left Rama’s bow, they would get to their target very quickly. Since they were well-jointed, the force would be great upon impact. I can shoot a cotton ball very fast, but since it is so light it won’t make much of a dent. If I take a heavier object and do the same, the damage will be more. If that heavier object is fragile, it will break upon impact, which will lessen the effect on the target. If the heavier object is well-built, however, the force will be greater.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

ShriRamaThese arrows were also blazing like serpents. Sita wasn’t making anything up here. Similar observations were made previously by one of Ravana’s associates, Akampana. He saw these arrows firsthand when they were released from Rama’s bow in an amazing fight. Ravana had sent 14,000 of his men to attack Rama in the Dandaka forest. Though Rama had His younger brother Lakshmana with Him, He decided to fight alone. Singlehandedly He routed all of Ravana’s men. Akampana was the only one who managed to escape, and he reported back to Ravana what he saw.

These arrows would also bear the symptoms of Rama and Lakshmana. The word “lakshana” can mean that the arrows were symptomatic of Rama and Lakshmana. It can also mean that they carried the names of Rama and Lakshmana on them. In either case the arrows would be novelties, objects rare to this world. In this sense Ravana would be fortunate; he would get to see something unique. These amazing arrows are used by the Supreme Lord to protect His devotees. And so to take protection from these novelty items the wise always make sure they stay in the devotional consciousness by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Rare is this item ever so,

Its value with time to grow.


So in my possession to keep,

Windfall profit eventually to reap.


Ravana to see antique most rare,

At beautiful arrows of brothers to stare.


With names of Rama and Lakshmana inscribed,

Their potency to fiendish king Sita described.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hearing God

Rama's bow“You will hear the twang of Rama’s bow, which is a loud sound resembling the resounding vibration of the thunderbolt thrown by Indra of one hundred sacrifices.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.24-25)

rāmasya dhanuṣaḥ śabdaṃ śroṣyasi tvaṃ mahāsvanam ||
śatakratuvisṛṣṭasya nirghoṣamaśaneriva |

In Vrindavana the sound of a flute gives away the presence of the Divine. When the young cowherd boys are playing on the field and losing themselves in their fun, the sound of the flute reminds them of their beloved friend. The cows are protected by the wielder of that flute, and so when they hear the sound they gather together and know where to go. The sound emanating from the flute extends the presence of the player, who happens to be the Lord of Vrindavana.

Krishna's fluteVrindavana is the top of the spiritual world. It is a place where birth and death do not occur. Birth is for a material body. Think of it like the first day that a new building can be used. There is the construction involved in the building, and once that construction is complete, the building is free for others to occupy. Then, as time passes, the building starts to decay. There is maintenance when needed, but eventually, after enough time passes, the building gets destroyed completely. At that point the occupants must leave.

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)

The material body is the same way. The construction takes place outside of the scope of our vision, but it still takes place. We don’t see the development of the embryo within the womb, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. The spirit soul is the spark for that development. Without the presence of spirit, the development would never take place. Spirit has consciousness, while matter does not.

“The difference between matter and spirit is that matter has no consciousness like the living entity; therefore this consciousness is supreme and eternal. Consciousness cannot be produced by a combination of matter.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 10.22 Purport)

Lord KrishnaIn the spiritual land there is no such progressive development and destruction because there the body and the soul are one. They are of the same quality. The many planets of the spiritual world feature different kinds of activity. The interaction is with the presiding deity in each particular land. Vrindavana is considered the topmost spiritual planet because it is the home of Shri Krishna. He is the original Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of a God. His name means “all-attractive,” and when considering all of His features this name fits Him perfectly.

Spirit and matter are identical in Vrindavana because it is so with Krishna. His eyes are the same as His identity. The sound from His flute is also identical to Him. Thus those who hear this sound know that they are in the presence of God. They require no other form of association, though they get it from time to time in seeing Krishna’s body, watching His play, and hearing His talking.

Though in the material land the body is like a building destined for destruction, the occupant can still get the same kind of association. The sound of the name of Krishna is the same as Krishna Himself. It carries the same potency as the sound of the Lord’s flute. Hearing it has the same effect as seeing the beautiful smile on Shyamasundara’s face. Reciting that name in the proper mood has the same blissful effect as going up to Krishna personally and saying nice things to Him.

The flute is an object of peace, and there are also other objects associated with God’s personal forms. They carry out different functions, but the wise see that they carry the same presence. In His incarnation as Rama, Krishna carries a powerful bow with accompanying arrows. These are weapons; they are meant for defense. If you juxtapose a flute with a bow, you’ll naturally think that the flute is the object of peace and the bow the object of war. In terms of God’s association, however, both are identical.

Rama's bowRama’s bow makes a sound as well. It makes a twang when bent with an arrow drawn. The arrow is then released and seeks out its target like a missile. This arrow is only shot when needed. The arrow flies to protect the surrendered souls, those who only want to think of God in a peaceful mood. They want to always chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” remember His activities, glorify His associates, and practice devotion to Him. If any outside party should stand in the way, Rama will either send someone to help or come to the scene personally.

In the Treta Yuga, Rama shot His arrows many times to defend such innocent devotees. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi tells the greatest fiend that he will soon hear the sound of Rama’s bow. That will be a great sound, as loud as the sound made from the thunderbolt released by Indra. Indra is the king of heaven, and here he is addressed as the person of one hundred horse sacrifices. Sacrifice is an age-old practice common to all religions. The horse sacrifice in ancient times was said to bring great auspiciousness. The sound from Rama’s bow would be auspicious as well, though to the fiend in question it would spell doom.

Sita here is being held against her will in Lanka, the land ruled over at the time by a king named Ravana. She tried her best to appeal to the king’s sense of decency. She mentioned so many principles of morality and how Ravana should set a good example for the rest of the citizens. Then she mentioned Rama’s forgiving nature and how He is very affectionate to the surrendered souls. Here she mentions Rama’s strength. His force is so powerful that just the sound of His bow would instill fear in Ravana. That would be the sound of God. Though Ravana didn’t think that God existed, he would meet Him nonetheless. He wouldn’t have to see Him directly, either. Just the sound of Rama’s bow would be enough.

Lord RamaFor Ravana that sound would spell doom, but for Sita it would be another sign of the aforementioned affection that Rama has for the surrendered souls. That sound has the same potency as the flute in Vrindavana, as it reminds the distressed and pleased alike that God is on the scene and ready to save the day.

In Closing:

Flute the sound of peace,

Bow destruction to seek.


On God both are the same,

Carry presence like sound of His name.


Twang of Rama’s bow fiend to hear,

Sound alone to instill fear.


Destroy with a flight swift,

But for Sita life-saving gift.