Saturday, October 19, 2013

How Will I Know

Worshiping God“One has to conquer the mind, and one may do it by following the Vedic rituals and by performing different types of sacrifice. The ultimate end of all those performances is to attain bhakti, or the devotional service of the Lord. Without bhakti one cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.13.39 Purport)

Bhakti-yoga means to love God; it is nothing but that. Whatever follows or whatever is done to lead up to that point is all tied to that love. All recommended practices, procedures, guidelines, and rituals aim to keep one loving God, for only in bhakti does one truly know the Supreme Lord. Without that love, true knowledge of Him is absent, which represents a great loss on the part of the human being, who is filled with potential to do great things.

“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)

“I don’t want my children to be mediocre. Right now they are down on the country, thinking that the dream passed down from past generations is dead. They seem to be content living with very little. Rather than work hard to buy a house, they are fine with living in an apartment. Some of their friends don’t even want to buy a car. They’d rather get around on their bicycle. Some prefer to walk. I want my children to shoot for the stars. They have so much potential; it would be sad if they settled for mediocrity due to fear.”

Steve JobsIt is natural for a parent to want more for their children. That is the meaning to love, after all. If you want more for someone else than you want for yourself, it means that you love them. That is the generally accepted definition, anyway. And it is true that the human being has potential to do so many great things. A famous entrepreneur/inventor/businessman of recent times said something to the effect that one should realize that everything around them was made by individuals who were no smarter than they are. And if one should figure this out, they would be able to do so many great things.

Such a statement is required due to self-imposed limitations. “I can’t do this. I’m not as smart as they are. They are so much more capable than me. I could never come up with something like that.” The push from the elders to work harder to reach new heights asks the children to cast aside this fear and doubt. “Don’t think that you can’t do something; because if you don’t even try how will you ever know what your true potential is?”

The issue, of course, is in determining what exactly is exceptional. How do we know what the potential is to be used for? In the Vedas the objective is straightforward: bhakti. Have love for God. That is the ideal destination for every living spark. This goal is not just reserved for the human being. Every species should reach the stage of bhakti, but the human being is special because it has the best chance to do so.

In bhakti you know God. When you know God, you understand His nature, which includes His likes, dislikes, tendencies, and desires. God is great. This is common sense. By His very definition, He is a supreme being. This means that He can live forever. He can create and destroy universes simply by thinking. He can remember every incident, past, present and future. He witnesses everyone’s actions, even if the individual forgets them. Thus He is superior in all respects.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.5“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)

Lord KrishnaBut if my understanding of Him stops at the point of the supreme being aspect, I won’t know Him fully. As such, I will look to Him to fulfill orders. In dealing with friends and acquaintances, it is often the case that we desire to do something nice. “Let me help them. Let me ease the burden of work on them. In so doing, I will lose some of my guilt. They will appreciate my efforts and think of me as a good person.” The problem is that once you do something for someone else, they tend to expect the same from you going forward. Since you are dependable, they might also ask you to do so many other things. You will feel guilty saying ‘No,’ and so eventually you might just avoid that other person’s association. “Better to stay away from them than to anger them by denying their request.” And of course the other person will get upset if you don’t do something for them. Never mind all that was done in the past; no good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes.

Without bhakti, the relationship with the Supreme Lord tends to work the same way. “God, give me this. God, give me that. I know You came through for me before, so surely You can do it again.” Then, if just one time you don’t get what you want, God turns into the greatest enemy. “I can’t believe You denied my request. This is all Your fault. I’m suffering so much right now, and You can see it all. Either You don’t exist or You are a mean person. Whatever the case, I’m done with You.”

In bhakti, one learns that the Supreme Lord is ever-blissful. He is all-attractive, and so one of His many names is Krishna. His foremost desire is to enjoy, and naturally He prefers to enjoy with those who want to be with Him. Why would He hang around enemies all the time? Why would He constantly fight, when He is full of bliss and knowledge for eternity?

Lord Krishna with fluteIn bhakti one learns that the Supreme Lord is much more than an order supplier. The cable provider gives television programming when the payments are made on time. The grocer provides food in exchange for cash. Mother Nature automatically provides the elements necessary to grow food. The Supreme Being has no direct interest in such paltry things, especially when they are already provided by others who are not supreme.

One catches His interest with devotion, or bhakti. When the desire is to always be in His association, His personal one at that, there is guidance, protection, and an overall helping hand from the man upstairs. The exact nature of this aid, along with numerous historical examples attesting to the fact, is explained in the thorough, detailed, and expansive Vedic literature. The enemies of bhakti-yoga will look for any single sentence or rule to try to discredit the Vedas, and this is all done so that they can continue on pursuing material opulence, in the process competing with God instead of loving Him. In such competition one can never truly know God, and so such foes can never transcend the dualities of birth and death. The devoted soul reaches the best end because they know Shri Krishna very well. Since they know Him, they never want to be away from Him.

In Closing:

So many rituals to do,

And many rules to follow too.


But without bhakti cannot know,

Knowledge of God elusive ever so.


As order supplier give me this and that,

When You fail revenge on You to exact.


His real position in pleasure and bliss,

Know Him in bhakti, your chance don’t miss.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Giving Up Worries

Radha and Krishna“Ananda-mayo 'bhyasat (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12). The living entities, like the Lord, are full of consciousness, and they are after happiness. The Lord is perpetually happy, and if the living entities associate with the Lord, cooperate with Him and take part in His association, then they also become happy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

“The worries began to mount in my childhood. Though I didn’t have a job or any real responsibilities and thus nothing to worry about, I thought I did. I worried about whether or not I would complete the current grade in school. Like so many others, I would have the recurring dream of where I showed up on the last day of class to take the final exam after having not attended the class all year. Obviously this dream was due to fear over failure, over not successfully completing the class.

“In young adulthood, the worries continued. College was so difficult. I wanted to hang out with my friends, but I had to study also. And the studying never stopped. One class was easy, but then the next was difficult. I saw others studying a lot too, so I needed to keep up with them. Then what was I going to do after I graduated? Where was I going to work?

Graduation“In adulthood, I took on the stresses of a regular job. It was nice to work, but then I never knew if the company would stay afloat. I never knew if my next paycheck would be my last. I had my spouse and children to worry about as well. Can you imagine if I had lost my job? How would I have supported my family?

“In retirement age, when the stresses of work were gone, I still had worries. Were my children okay? Were my grandchildren being properly taken care of? How was I going to spend my time? I sat around the house the whole day, but I had nothing to do. I tried going on long vacations, but those weren’t really fun.”

Science of Self-RealizationWhen given a book on the spiritual science, it is not uncommon to place it on the shelf for later reading. “I will get to it soon. Right now I have so many other important things to take care of. Once things ease up a bit, maybe I will give this a look.” This is the general sentiment, but as we see from the hypothetical course of events reviewed above, the worries never go away. From childhood to adulthood to old age, the individual never has to look too far to find something to worry over.

The idea that spiritual life should come after these worries subside is an illusion. Eating is necessary. So is sleeping. These are not mutually exclusive to working and meeting obligations. Indeed, if you don’t eat and sleep, everything else becomes more difficult. In the same way, spiritual life is meant to be practiced in conjunction with everything else. When it is practiced perfectly, all of life becomes spiritual, even mundane work. The worries change in nature as well.

In a land where spiritual life has to be explicitly practiced, two foundational principles are jnana and vairagya. These translate to “knowledge” and “renunciation.”

“Learn about who you are. Don’t just take someone else’s word for it about who we are meant to worship. Put in some sincere effort to figure out what it is exactly you’re supposed to do with your time. After all, everyone goes through the same worries. Everyone takes birth, everyone lives for some time, and everyone dies. Why does this all happen? Is there only one life to live? If that is the case, shouldn’t exploitation be the guiding principle? If you’re going to die, why not enjoy as much as possible?”

Ah, but what is the nature of the enjoyment? The only valid answer is available in the spiritual science. In fact, everyone is looking for enjoyment, but nobody really knows where to find it. In jnana, one learns their true identity as spirit, or Brahman. They learn that others are Brahman too, including the nonmoving and moving creatures of the lower species. They learn that the soul is ananda-mayo, or by nature blissful; hence the compulsion to search for enjoyment.

Through practicing vairagya, one’s enjoyment actually increases. Seems odd considering that one eventually gives up the seemingly enjoyable activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex life in order to make their spiritual practices fruitful. Knowledge supports renunciation and vice versa. Jnana tells you that the renunciation will be beneficial, sort of like how you know that not eating doughnuts in the morning will help you to lose weight and thus feel better about yourself. Vairagya increases your knowledge, sort of like how you can study more effectively when you are not intoxicated, when the senses are not constantly attacking you. You work better when you are focused on the task. This is not up for debate. So why wouldn’t your intelligence on the highest subject matter rise when you are not attached to so many outside things?

Time is spent in life regardless. Whether you are rich or poor, you must go through the journey of life. If you’re going to get on the train anyway, why not make the trip enjoyable? The spiritual science aims to make this life and all future ones the most enjoyable. We already had a childhood. It is done. It is gone forever. We can’t get it back. Having survived it, should we have spent it playing on the fields all day? Should we have tried every video game there was instead of going to school? Obviously not, since the schooling and guidance of our elders helped prepare us for the next life, namely adulthood. In the same way, this entire life serves as preparation for the next. The “one life to live” concept is invalidated through knowledge of the spirit soul, which is timeless.

Two hourglassesThe soul is always alive, even at the time of death. If there is always an active state, why should there be constant worrying? The endpoint is the changing of bodies anyway, so there should be enjoyment right now, today, tomorrow, next week, and so on. The highest spiritual science of bhakti-yoga aims to make this enjoyment a reality. Bhakti is the greatest mercy of God since it is available to every single person. Even the child, who lacks the developed consciousness needed to accept higher knowledge, can practice bhakti-yoga through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Knowledge and renunciation do help, but devotion to God is not dependent on them. In fact, devotion is not dependent on anything except the mood of the worshiper. In a life spent in worry, the mood is always fearful, and so God stays far away. In bhakti, He is always close by, so there is no choice but to take dose after dose of enjoyment, which gives real meaning to life.

In Closing:

Timeline of life fast it went,

Why in so much worry then spent?


Soul enjoyment always should feel,

Why illusion then bliss to steal?


Knowledge and renunciation take,

For life of enjoyment to make.


Devotion open to those with means lacking,

Supreme Lord Himself their efforts backing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Good Person

Gopis of Vrindavana“But suppose someone says, ‘I can't see Krishna. How can I love Him?’ Chaitanya Mahaprabhu answers, ramya kachid upasana vrajavadhu-vargena ya kalpita. If you want to learn the process of worshiping Krishna, of loving Krishna, just try to follow in the footsteps of the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest for Enlightenment, Ch 7c)

It is natural to think that someone is a good person if they meet one of our interests. When bringing my car in to get fixed, if the person behind the counter is very nice to me and gives me different options for repair, naturally I will think that they are a good person. I will want to bring my business back to that shop in the future. The same applies for pretty much any interest. If someone is considered good by meeting my desire, it would make sense that someone who meets everyone’s desires would be the best person. The gopis of Vrindavana fit this description. Through their example of worshiping Shri Krishna fully they help everyone to find the best end.

If someone doesn’t meet my interest, then I consider them an enemy; if not an enemy, then at least someone I don’t want to deal with on a regular basis. The enemy could be someone who was friendly before. It is common for disagreements to occur in this way, where previously someone was meeting the interests of another and then suddenly stopped. They got tired of being asked for favors. Though they granted the favors many times in the past, they did so because of the bond in friendship. “They are my friend, so I have trouble saying ‘No.’ I’d rather do this for them so they’ll get off my back.”

But then one time the friend decides to say ‘No.’ They refuse to do what the other friend asks. All of a sudden, the friendship now breaks. The interest is no longer served, so what is the need for the relationship? So in this sense the definition of “good” is based on the feelings of the recipient. A really good person in the selfish view would be someone who always meets interests. The politicians are judged in this light. As long as they continue to deliver what they promised to the various constituency groups, the people will keep electing them to office. As soon as they turn their back just once, even if it is for the good of the community as a whole, the people will turn.

Ballot boxA really good person meets my interests and someone else’s as well. Their association is beneficial to more than just me. The expansion of the meeting of interests gives birth to the concept of a saint. The boss in a company is ideally beneficial to all. Still, he is only concerned with his company. The welfare worker expands their interest to the “disadvantaged,” which can be a larger group of people. The community leader, the president of a nation, and the healer who travels across the world from village to village meet interests at a larger scale.

The gopis are the best people because they meet every person’s interest. They accomplish this through their example. They don’t want money. They live in the farm community of Vrindavana, which sustains itself through farming and cow protection. There are thousands of cows in Vrindavana, and they are not killed for food. Rather, they are honored and allowed to have as much enjoyment as possible. They are almost equal citizens in a sense.

Krishna with cowWhen a cow is allowed to love, it produces an abundance of milk. Love is what makes milk magical. Milk is not produced for any other reason. In the presence of the calf, the mother cow comes to the rescue with life-sustaining food. She is able to produce so much milk that there is plenty left over for consumption by human beings. Instead of killing the cows, the people of Vrindavana protect them and use the surplus milk products as a commodity to be traded for other necessities. Nevertheless, no one is really interested in money or goods. They are happy in their simple life.

The gopis are the cowherd women of the town. They manage the households and they are nice to everyone. They have no malice in them whatsoever. Though they are the kindest people, they never think that they are better than anyone else. They feel that they are the most fallen since they don’t get to always see their beloved Shyamasundara, the darling child of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. They think that they must have cruel hearts since they are bereft of the beautiful Girivaradhari’s protective hand. They think that all others are superior to them since they are not scorned by the slayer of the witch named Putana.

The gopis are humble in the truest sense of the word. They meet everyone’s interests because they are entirely Krishna conscious. Krishna is God. He is the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes. He is the origin of all forms of the divine. He is the spiritual storehouse, the place from which all matter and spirit come. When blinded by the dense fog of ignorance, the living entity knows Krishna as the material energy, whose most attractive force is the illusion of the opposite sex. When a little wiser, one sees Krishna as the complete whole, the universal form. When ignorance further dissipates, He is seen resting within the heart as the Supersoul.

Lord KrishnaWhen in the original consciousness, one sees Him in His all-attractive form, who is known as the Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. The gopis know only this form. They serve Him with thought, word and deed. Their goodness in terms of behavior and thoughts is due solely to their Krishna consciousness. No one can consider the gopis an enemy because the gopis give an example that benefits all. Some may not realize that benefit until after many lifetimes have passed, but it is still there to be taken nonetheless. The well in the community gives water to anyone who goes there. Someone who does not know that the well is there does not get the benefit, but this does not mean that the well is suddenly an enemy to them.

The most benevolent saints follow the example of the gopis. They too devote life and soul to Krishna. As He is the most powerful living entity, He distributes His influence everywhere. One thinks they cannot connect with Him now, but when the longing is there, the association comes automatically. That longing is actually known as worship in separation, and it is the method of worship practiced by the gopis inadvertently. It is the method recommended by Shri Krishna Chaitanya, who says that the path of the gopis is the one to follow.

In Closing:

Restaurant owner to offer nice seat,

With a friendly smile my party to greet.


Since my interests they meet,

Considered with goodness replete.


Best is one whose kindness does extend,

Interests of all, to each person a friend.


This example the gopis do give,

In full Krishna consciousness they live.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Diverse Energies

Lord Krishna“One who has diverse energies and activities and a wonderful brain is known as the sahasra-shirshnah. This qualification is applicable only to the Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, and no one else.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.13.5 Purport)

Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead has the combination of a wonderful brain that utilizes diverse energies and participation in diverse and wonderful activities. This fact means that anyone can share His company at any time. Whether they are high or low in stature, whether they are very wise or not too up to speed with what is going on around them, the Supreme Lord is not too far away. And of all the people with whom one can connect, why not choose the most powerful?

Does the ordinary living entity have diverse energies?

I have my ability to act. I can do work, which is karma. I can also use my brain to increase my knowledge, which is jnana. Perhaps I can take up difficult yoga practice and thus acquire mystic perfections, or siddhis. These are the different ways I can use my singular energy. I have no ability to take part of my essence outside of me and place it somewhere else to act at my direction.

The living being can extend its influence through people working in tandem. It can also generate byproducts, and in that sense keep their family line going. But in all such cases the energies are completely separate. The person working at the office is an extension of the company leader’s energy, but the boss can’t control everything that they do. Once the employee leaves, that extended influence of the boss is gone.

It is known that the Supreme Lord has diverse energies based on the mere fact that we are part of those energies. We are a singular force, while He has multiple energies. We can be considered part of the singular energy that is Brahman, or pure spirit, but God is Parabrahman. He generates Brahman. In the Vedas Brahman is considered to be the light shining off His forever luminous body. His body is so bright that in the original spiritual realm there is no need for external lighting. Neither a sun, nor a lamp, nor electricity is required there.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.6“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

Lord KrishnaFor the purpose of our understanding, the Lord has three main energies. There is the internal potency, which directly represents Him. There is the external potency, which still emanates from Him but is not directly under His interest. Then there is the marginal potency, to which we belong. We are marginal because we can choose between the internal and the external for shelter. The internal is the wise choice, because that is where we originally belong. The external is the material land, where ignorance can increase to the point that the internal potency is completely forgotten. The person who thinks that they can do whatever they want without worshiping God suffers from this ignorance. They don’t realize that they can’t create anything on their own and that everything they have will eventually be destroyed.

Though there are three energies, they are still all controlled by the Supreme Lord. If it weren’t for His sanction, none of the results within the external potency could manifest. The marginal potency can choose to act in different ways, but first the Supreme Lord, as the Supersoul residing within the heart, must give His permission. He grants the results to action because He does not force the marginal potency to associate with Him.

Using His internal potency, the Supreme Lord takes part in diverse activities. Sometimes He is resting comfortably with His closest associates. Sometimes He is running through a field with His friends who are in childhood spiritual bodies. Sometimes He is fighting with demons. The combat does not take place in His realm, for the conditions of the place make it impossible. No one in the original spiritual realm holds envy towards the Supreme Lord. Thus there is no concept of a demon there. It’s like if I lived my whole life around my friends. Then I wouldn’t know what an enemy is. Someone could try to explain it to me, but I would have no experience to use in trying to understand them.

Krishna and Balarama with friendsDemons exist in the external potency. Using His internal potency, the Supreme Lord either appears Himself or in a non-different expansion form to battle these demons. His activities are amazing. Sometimes He lifts a massive hill and holds it above His head for seven days. Sometimes He fights with ghoulish creatures who use black magic. Sometimes He even outsmarts the demons, as He did with Vrikasura. This demon received a boon from Lord Shiva that allowed him to kill anyone by placing his hand on their head. The demon tried to then kill Shiva, but Vishnu intervened. Vishnu didn’t have to kill the demon directly, either. Vishnu, who is non-different from the Supreme Lord, used His wonderful brain to trick the demon into testing the boon on his own head. Thus the fool killed himself.

“But if you have faith still in the words of Lord Shiva, my dear king of the demons, then why don't you make an experiment by putting your hand on your head? If the benediction proves false, then you can immediately kill this liar, Lord Shiva, so that in the future he will not dare to give out false benedictions.” (Lord Narayana in the guise of a mendicant speaking to Vrikasura, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)

Lord KrishnaBecause He has all-attractive features that are displayed in His diverse activities, the best name to describe the Supreme Lord is Krishna. This name addresses a spiritual form, the origin of all potencies. Krishna’s wonderful brain was also on display on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago, where He delivered the famous Bhagavad-gita to a distressed warrior named Arjuna. Faced with the toughest challenge of his life, Arjuna took shelter of Krishna. He accepted the Lord’s words of wisdom. This instruction helped both himself and future generations of man.

Krishna’s diverse activities are wonderfully documented in the voluminous Vedic texts. There is such a wealth of information available that one couldn’t consume all of it in a single lifetime. His association is available even to the illiterate and those who don’t have time to read. They can connect with the person of diverse energies through using sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This sound is so potent that it is considered the best way to connect with God for all people. This sound vibration is itself the internal potency, which is powerful enough to lift anyone out of the pit of the material existence.

In Closing:

As controller of universe,

Krishna of energies diverse.


Activities and also a wonderful brain,

For friends pleasure, for demons pain.


This combination in man not found,

Singular potency can’t disperse around.


Of Krishna’s energies we are a part,

So from this day on devotion start.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Four Legs of Religion

Studying religion“Student life is meant for acquiring the best education; household family life is meant for gratifying the senses, provided it is performed with a charitable disposition of mind, retirement from household life is meant for penance, for advancement in spiritual life, and renounced life is meant for preaching the Absolute Truth to the people in general. The combined actions of all members of society make the whole situation favorable for the upliftment of the mission of human life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.12.41 Purport)

Dharma is the Sanskrit equivalent for the term “religion.” It is not an exact match, as the unexplainable is not merely left to a matter of faith. Dharma speaks to a real truth, something which always exists. It is the essence of something, and in the most inclusive scope it is the essence of life. Dharma is also the system that one follows to either reignite that essence or maintain it. Dharma is described in many different ways in the Vedas, and the reference to four legs is often found. Sometimes this refers to how adherence to dharma loses its standing within society as further time from the beginning of the creation elapses. The four legs can also refer to the pillars of pious behavior: austerity, cleanliness, compassion and truthfulness. In other areas the four legs refer to education, charity, penance and truth.

These last four sustain religiosity. Without religious life, or attention to the spirit soul within all of us, there is really no intelligence to guide activity. The animals lack religious life, and so they have no problem eating one another. They don’t mind having as much sex life as possible, for what higher taste is there? The human being has the same vital force within but also a higher potential for intelligence. Only through religiosity is that potential reached.

BlackboardThe first leg is education. This should make sense, for how can you practice something unless you know what it is? The institution that corresponds with education is brahmacharya. As a Sanskrit word, this means following the principles of Brahman. Brahman is spirit. Since spirit is the life of an existence, Brahman is found everywhere. In practice, brahmacharya specifically refers to celibate student life. Without the distractions of the opposite sex, the young student learns what Brahman is. They stay in a simple life, serve their teachers, and become educated along the way. There is always some kind of education, but with brahmacharya the focus is specifically on seeing the presence of Brahman everywhere, which ultimately means seeing all living beings as equivalent spiritual entities.

Bhagavad-gita, 5.18“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

The second leg of dharma is charity. This has significance to the first leg. If the students humbly serve their guru, how are they going to maintain a living? They don’t have money themselves. Obviously they must accept some kind of charity. Thus the corresponding institution for the second leg is grihastha. This is married life. Consider it the equivalent of living in a home today and earning a salary. You have your spouse and children with you, who generally soak up a lot of your income. The rest should be spent in charity. This purifies the worker, allowing them to realize that though they work for something, ultimately the reward does not belong to them. Everything comes from a higher being, and so charity is a great way to release the tension associated with false proprietorship.

Charitable donationsThe third leg is penance. You need penance to atone for any mistakes you’ve made and also to purify yourself of any misgivings you’ve gathered along the journey through life. Vanaprastha corresponds with penance. This comes after grihastha life. The Sanskrit word means “living in the forest,” and the connotation is that after living at home for so long, one retires into the woods. Perhaps their family continues to provide them nominal support through provisions and the like, but the entire life is a kind of penance. Who wants to spend retirement on a never-ending camping trip? And yet this is what vanaprastha is like. Through penance one again breaks free of the false notion that everything is theirs.

The fourth leg is truth, and more specifically living it. In brahmacharya you learn what the Truth is, but in the ashrama of sannyasa you actually live that truth. You are immersed in it fulltime. To wherever you go and to whomever you meet, you speak about the Truth. In this way, under the order of the great knower of the Truth, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, you become a guru, or spiritual master. Sannyasa is full renunciation; no family, no job, and no home even. In the classic system, one would beg for food from a home that they didn’t know very well. They would never take more than a day’s worth of food; no stocking up for tomorrow. And no visiting the same home everyday; begging was not to be like going to the local restaurant and getting a lifetime free pass.

Living the Truth means always being in the association of Parabrahman, the source of the spiritual energy. If one lives with Parabrahman in thought, word and deed, they are automatically a sannyasi, though they may not officially be in that stage of life. Thus we see that the legs of dharma are mechanisms for reaching an end. Since Parabrahman is the complete spiritual potency, it can never be restricted to anyone based on what stage of life they are in. Whether one is single or married, a man or a woman, educated or dumb, they can still find Parabrahman.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.32“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.32)

Chanting beadsThe way Parabrahman can be found even if the four legs of dharma are absent is through bhakti-yoga, which is devotional service. This is also a kind of dharma, known as bhagavata. The ultimate goal is bhakti, but it is very difficult to reach. To practice it is easy, just chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” But who wants to chant all the time? Who will even believe with certainty that this mantra represents something great? Who is willing to change their direction in life from accumulating as much wealth as possible to practicing as much devotion as possible?

And so we see why dharma and its four legs are vital. Those who are not interested in devotion to Parabrahman can at least make some progress in consciousness through the support of the four legs of dharma. These legs work together to help uplift the entire society into the divine consciousness, which is the ultimate goal for all spirit souls.

In Closing:

Knowledge of spirit you need,

Also society’s members to feed.


Penance after leaving the home,

In sannyasa immersed in truth alone.


Thus come legs of dharma four,

To give rise to bhakti, devotion more.


Life dedicated to God is found rare,

So to four legs give attention and care.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Symptoms of a Disease

Reminders“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)

If you tell someone that you are suffering from a disease, they will ask about the symptoms. For instance, if you have some type of cold or flu, there is likely a fever. In the absence of a high body temperature, how can you be suffering from the disease? In that case, your condition is the same as the healthy person’s. For the individual who suddenly turns forgetful of God, there is an immediate symptom: birth. The disease is the forgetfulness and the first symptom is birth. The cure is, not surprisingly, remembrance.

Bhakti-yoga brings the required remembrance. In the spiritual world there is no concept of bhakti-yoga. The term has no value. All activities are already in bhakti. All the participants are of pure motives. They want only one thing: to serve God. Each serves to their best capacity. The tree lacks features to allow it to do things like move and communicate, but this does not preclude it from offering service. It takes on the noble role of providing shade to the Supreme Lord and His closest friends when they play in the forest.

Krishna resting underneath treeThe highest spiritual planet is itself a forest-like area. It is known as Vrindavana, which means a forest where Vrinda Devi is prominent. She is the goddess of devotion who takes the form of the tulasi plant, which is a kind of basil. As this is the spiritual land, the nature isn’t exactly like that of an ordinary forest. There is no chance of a devastating fire consuming everything. The bugs don’t bite the young children that play. The scorching heat doesn’t do anything to harm anyone. Time, as a reference point, surely exists, but it has no influence. No one is going anywhere because they are happy where they are. They are consumed with loving thoughts of their beloved Krishna, who is the darling of Vrindavana.

When there is forgetfulness, the first outward indication of the disease is birth. Typically, birth is taken as a joyous occasion, the appearance of a new addition to the family. The birth brings so much potential. The new child can do whatever they want. They can become an astrophysicist, a chemist, a biologist, a politician, an inventor, etc. They can just be a very nice person who makes others happy. They can be a very good person for their family, raising nice children of their own. The potential starts with birth.

Lost in the joy, however, is the condition of the previous life. The newborn didn’t just emerge from thin air. They remain constant throughout their time on earth, and so they were a constant in the past as well. Today they are born, and tomorrow they will still be alive in most cases. This means that their existence continues into the future.

From the Vedas we get an idea of what the past life was. It was in a condition that saw forgetfulness of God. It could have been in the body of a different species, too. The cats, the dogs, the crows, the swans, the trees, and the parrots are also living entities. They can’t do the same things that human beings can, but that essence which gives them life is the same in quality as in the human species.

There is real potential for the newborn. Though birth is the symptom, the disease can be cured through actions taken in the current life. I may be suffering from a fever, but this does not mean that the fever has to stay with me forever. Following the doctor’s orders, I can accept a regimen of healing. This will eventually cure me. In the same way, following the spiritual doctor’s orders, I can make sure that this birth is the last one I will have.

The cure is bhakti-yoga. All other forms of religion, spiritual practice, mysticism, work for fruitive gain, and acquisition of knowledge are meant to culminate in bhakti. Bhakti-yoga is the easiest to practice but the most difficult to take up in earnest, for it requires a genuine shift in desire. Not just a signed statement attesting to the change of heart, bhakti-yoga requires a different kind of consciousness. That consciousness is measured at the time of death, where the judging authority cannot be fooled.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.30“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.30)

To change consciousness, one simply has to remember and then keep remembering. The best way is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The word “Krishna” addresses the darling of Vrindavana. Rama addresses both His elder brother Balarama and the Supreme Lord’s incarnation of Shri Ramachandra. Hare speaks to His divine pleasure potency, Shrimati Radharani. She is a permanent resident of Vrindavana, so fixed in bhakti-yoga that she knows no other way of life.

Radha and KrishnaWith the disease of forgetfulness, you get constant birth and death, both in terms of the physical body and the experiences within it. There is the birth of entrance into school and the subsequent death of graduation. There is the birth of meeting your friends for fun and then the death of separating from them. In this way everything in the diseased condition is temporary. In the healthy condition, the opposite is true, which means that remembrance of God is always superior to forgetfulness of Him. Through chanting the holy names and practicing bhakti-yoga as a way of life, that remembrance becomes easy and automatic.

In Closing:

When in diseased condition to be,

Some various symptoms should see.


Disease of forgetting God has symptom first,

Of entry into material land, painful birth.


Symptoms to vanish through cure,

Remember God for relief sure.


To spiritual land return back,

When supreme consciousness not to lack.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dussehra 2013

Lord Rama on chariot“Then a shower of flowers fell from the sky, covering Rama’s chariot, something difficult to accomplish and fascinating to see.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.28)

nipapātāntarikṣācca puṣpavṛṣṭistadā bhuvi |
kirantī raghavarathaṃ duravāpā manoharā ||

Ravana’s many men couldn’t do it. Though they were expert in black magic and thus capable of appearing on the scene one second and then disappearing the next, in this endeavor they were dismal failures. Ravana’s gigantic brother, who slept for the majority of the year, couldn’t do it, either. He had a tremendous mass, so much so that his accumulated food in the belly allowed him to hibernate for a long time. And then Ravana himself proved a failure. Despite his ten heads, twenty arms, famous fighting prowess, and boons granted from celestials, he was not able to accomplish this one task that was done very easily by the celestials. Though Ravana and his men used many arrows that were hard and swift, it was a shower of flowers that managed to finally cover Rama’s chariot. We celebrate that feat on the occasion of Dussehra.

In Sanskrit the material energy is known as maya. Its literal meaning is “that which is not,” though it is often paired with other words to give a more specific relation to an energy. In discussions pertaining to truth and reality, maya takes the side opposing God. Not exactly a devil, maya is that which is not directly God. Maya still comes from God, so she works at His behest. She acts through illusion, tricking others into thinking they are progressing along the proper path, when they actually aren’t.

Maya is very difficult to overcome. She pervades a land ruled over by the feminine expansion of God known as Durga, whose very name means “a fort that is difficult to cross over.” Without God’s help, maya cannot be overcome. Think of wanting that toy when you were younger. You wanted it very much. You cried and cried in the store so that your parents would buy it for you. Maybe you were a good kid so this didn’t happen to you, but surely the same was seen in another child.

The child can’t get the toy because the parents won’t buy it for them. This is a limiting factor. It is a barrier. The parents’ consent is absent, so the child is stymied in their desire. Another option is to take the toy from the store. Again, there is a barrier, this time in the form of the store managers, who keep an eye out for shoplifters. Even if the child successfully takes one toy that they want, they can’t continue the pattern of behavior forever. They can’t steal everything in life and get away with it.

Maya is so powerful that there is no conquering over her without sanction from a higher authority. That sanction only comes when the nature of the individual’s desire changes. When one no longer hankers after supremacy in the areas of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation, they have a chance of living within maya peacefully. In that surrendered state, if they then desire to glorify the controller of maya, the origin of matter and spirit, the situation completely reverses. Instead of the individual being stymied in their efforts, it is the Supreme Lord Himself who can do nothing to stop the success of the determined individual.

The occasion celebrated on Dussehra is a wonderful example of this. Ravana was the fiendish king of Lanka during a specific time period within the Treta Yuga, the second age of creation. He wanted world supremacy. He was close to having it. He got a wonderful kingdom of Lanka, full of real riches. Not just a bank balance that showed he had a lot of a paper currency stashed away somewhere, Ravana had possession of physical commodities such as gold and jewels. Wealth attracts women, and Ravana had a lot of them as well. He had so many beautiful princesses as wives. He had so much enjoyment on a regular basis, and the world feared him, not daring to take him on in battle.

Maya’s spell is illusion, so when one thinks they have overcome her, they sink even further. In this sense it is more auspicious to be a constant failure with respect to material desires. If you get too much success, you might start to think that you are God and that you can conquer everything, including death. In the Bible there is the proverb about how difficult it is for the rich person to reach the kingdom of God. The obvious meaning is that the wealthy person thinks they have succeeded in life without God’s help, and so they will have no desire to advance to the higher destination in the next life. Lord Krishna gives the more complete definition of the same concept in a verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, where He mentions how the wealth of misers causes them misery in the present life and brings them to hell after death.

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)

Despite so much success, Ravana wanted more. He finally crossed the line when he stole a beautiful princess in secret while she was living in the wilderness with her husband and His younger brother. He had to steal her because she refused his advances. He also did the mission incognito because he was warned that the woman’s husband would destroy him in battle.

Lord RamaThough he carried out the act successfully, he would not get away with it. Ravana would eventually meet death at the hands of the beautiful princess’ husband, who was named Rama. From the Vedas we learn that Rama is God, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead. He is the controller of maya. Maya belongs to Him, so He is never under her influence. His physically manifest body is never composed of maya, either.

The controller of maya easily defeated the man most controlled by her in a fierce firefight, featuring swiftly-coursing arrows released from majestic bows. Each man fought from a chariot. Ravana’s goal was to cover Rama’s chariot. He did not succeed in this, but interestingly after Ravana’s defeat, the celestials from above were able to without a problem. They didn’t use arrows. Instead, they dropped a shower of flowers, and it completely covered Rama’s chariot.

Flowers are considered part of the material energy. If we want to cover our house with flowers, it might be a little difficult. We may succeed once, but only after great effort. At some point in trying to replicate the success we will meet with failure. When the same desire is applied to glorifying the Supreme Lord, there is never failure. Not even He can stop the success of the devotees, for it is in His nature to help the surrendered souls. He cannot act otherwise. If He did, He wouldn’t be God.

Flowers at Rama's feetOn the occasion of Dussehra we celebrate the defeat of Ravana at the hands of Rama, who was thus able to regain His beautiful wife Sita. We also celebrate the defeat of Rama’s chariot, which was covered by the flowers of devotion dropped by the celestials, who were ecstatic over His victory. That enchanting vision proves that there is only one way to overcome maya, and it is through pure and unmotivated love for the controller of maya.

In Closing:

Despite black magic, here and there to hover,

With arrows Rama’s chariot fiends not to cover,


Celestials did amazing feat with flowers,

From the sky came covering shower.


Maya’s illusion difficult to overcome,

Through God’s sanction only victory to come.


In devotion even Supreme Lord to conquer,

Ready on His devotees any gift to confer.