Saturday, November 16, 2013

Selectively Applying Principles

Sita Devi's hand“O vile one, you entered that ashrama only when those two brothers, lions among men, were absent from having gone out to the forest. Only then did you take me away.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.30-31)

aśramam tu tayoḥ śūnyaṃ praviśya narasimhayoḥ ||
gocaraṃ gatayorrbhātrorapanītā tvayādhama |

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A person who is a thief for a living has at least some credibility. You know how they are going to act. You know that they won’t change their behavior. They wait until no one is looking and then take what doesn’t belong to them. They do this on more than one occasion. At least they are consistent. No one would mistake them for an honest person. The lowest among men, however, selectively apply principles. They boast about being honest, strong and intelligent, and yet when driven by their senses they cast everything aside. Then, a few minutes later, they want everyone to forget about their transgression. “That was in the past. Let’s just move on already.”

The saintly characters know better. They don’t obey the order to move on, for if they did they would get burned again. Here Sita Devi remembers Ravana’s iniquitous deed. He was the king of Lanka and very proud of his fighting prowess. He conquered so many rivals. He drove his own brother out of Lanka. He did not fire a shot in that case. Kuvera left Lanka because he knew of Ravana’s invincibility in fighting. No need to waste time in a battle that he was going to lose.

Roulette wheelThe gambling addict employs a similar approach with applying selective memory. They will only tell you of their winnings. “Oh, I predicted this game right yesterday. The odds makers had it going the other way, but I knew that this team was going to lose.” “Oh, I did so well at the blackjack table last night. The casino authorities eventually had to come and tell me to go home; that’s how well I was doing.” They won’t remind you of their many losses, however. They won’t bring up the many games that they predicted incorrectly.

Ravana, in trying to woo Sita, failed to mention his most cowardly act. He chose to boast of his fighting prowess and his many conquests instead. The initial view of his kingdom seemed to back up his claims. Shri Hanuman, a faithful servant sent to look for Sita, noticed this beauty upon first entering Lanka. He was so awestruck that he thought about returning home immediately. The opulence in Ravana’s city was so intimidating, what to speak of Ravana himself.

“Seeing that city to be as such and difficult to overcome for even demigods and demons, Hanuman, sighing again and again, reflected.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.36)

Shri HanumanBut how did Sita get to Lanka? Did she just magically appear there? Ravana seemed to forget what had happened. He seemed to have amnesia with respect to her sudden appearance in the Ashoka grove. Of course Sita did not forget. This is because she always remembers her husband, Shri Rama. Rama is complete with every opulence. He holds them simultaneously and to the fullest degree, being thus worthy of the name Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the more complete term for the elusive entity we generally refer to as “God.”

Sita remembered how she got to Lanka because it was the beginning of her separation from her husband. Despite his vaunted fighting prowess, Ravana did not combat Rama face to face. Rama and His younger brother were lions among men. They were not afraid of anyone. Nor were they afraid of many people attacking at the same time. Rama previously had appeared on earth as a man-lion aptly named Narasimhadeva. Lakshmana was there too providing shade as Ananta Shesha Naga. The two are not scared of anyone and in character they are straight and predictable. They are always chivalrous. They are always brave in combat.

Contrast this with Ravana, who created a ruse to first lure the two brothers away from the ashrama in Janasthana. This is where Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were staying, not bothering anyone. Only when the lions among men were not on the scene did Ravana pounce. He first disguised himself as a priestly mendicant, and then revealed his true hideous form to take Sita back to Lanka by force. Where was his famous courage? Where was his famous strength? They were conspicuously absent during a moment in Sita’s life that she would not forget.

Sita and RamaSince she has the saintly qualities, Sita always remembers Rama. This is her foremost characteristic, and it is entirely predictable. She doesn’t only remember Him when times are tough. When times are good she rejoices in His company as well. The predictable saints are thus always better to follow than the miscreants who selectively apply principles based on their whims. Would we rather depend on someone who is dependable or someone who is not? Would we rather follow the advice of someone who is benevolent or someone who is selfish?

In rebuking Ravana, Sita rightly predicted that the two lions among men would eventually arrive to her rescue. They swiftly travel to the devoted soul today as well, provided that one is courageous enough to constantly think of them. That thinking is best strengthened through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” One who regularly chants this mantra becomes very predictable in their saintly behavior, making their association so beneficial for anyone fortunate enough to have it.

In Closing:

One day kind words to give,

And then after as thief to live.


Thus talking giving only service to the lip,

When convenient, righteousness to skip.


Like Ravana who proclaimed he was strong,

But cowardly took Sita when husband was gone.


In behavior Rama’s wife always straight,

For her rescue not much longer to wait.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Courage of a Lion

Narasimhadeva“O vile one, you entered that ashrama only when those two brothers, lions among men, were absent from having gone out to the forest. Only then did you take me away.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.30-31)

aśramam tu tayoḥ śūnyaṃ praviśya narasimhayoḥ ||
gocaraṃ gatayorrbhātrorapanītā tvayādhama |

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Here Sita Devi continues to paint a wonderful contrast between the fiendish king of Lanka and her dear husband. Not accidentally, she also again makes reference to one of her husband’s other forms, namely that of Narasimhadeva. Her husband is the Supreme Lord, the origin of all matter and spirit. He appears whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice or whenever it is necessary to protect the pious and annihilate the miscreants.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.7“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

NarasimhadevaHe famously appeared as Narasimhadeva to do away with the terrible king named Hiranyakashipu. This person was so puffed up with pride and so devoid of righteousness that he repeatedly tried to kill his own son of five years of age. The son’s only crime was his devotion to God; which is in fact what protected him from harm. The subtle protection came first in the inability of Hiranyakashipu to kill his son, and the gross protection manifested in the Lord’s form of a half-man/half-lion, which finally did away with the king of demoniac tendencies.

The story of that incident is described in great detail in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It’s a historical incident that occurs in every creation. The world we live in goes through cycles of manifestation and dissolution. In each go round, the Supreme Lord appears at certain intervals to give the pious souls a chance to have His association. The divine appearances, whether in the original form or in avataras [incarnations], serve many other purposes at the same time.

Narasimhadeva was specific to Hiranyakashipu, who was previously safeguarded from injury through various boons. No animal could kill him. No human being either. He couldn’t be killed on land or in the air. He couldn’t be killed in the daytime or at night. There’s always a loophole, though. Material conditions are never absolute. The Supreme Lord came as both a man and a lion, so He wasn’t a beast or a human being. He killed Hiranyakashipu by taking him on His lap; thus the death did not occur on land or in the air. The demon was killed at dusk, so it wasn’t during the daytime or at night.

The lion was also a perfect symbol of the Supreme Lord’s courage. God is not afraid of anyone. On the other side of things, the whole world was afraid of Hiranyakashipu. No one dared mess with him, lest they risk losing their life. As the Supreme Lord is not fearful at all, when He appears on earth it would make sense that He would have lion-like behavior. He goes head to head with the demons when He sees fit, and as Ajita, He is never conquered.

“I am faithfully engaged in the service of Rama, who is a lion among men [nrisimham], has a broad chest and powerful arms, who treads the earth like a lion and who is like a lion in prowess.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.35)

Shri Rama is the same Narasimhadeva. He is a lion among men, as pointed out by His wife Sita on several occasions. The demon Maricha even noted Rama’s fearlessness during an incident at Vishvamitra’s ashrama. Vishvamitra was a peaceful sage living in the wilderness. He had no means to defend himself. He required protection since Maricha and his ilk were keen on destroying the religious observances of the priestly class. Maricha was a demon like Hiranyakashipu, and he worked for Ravana, the king of demons in Lanka. These fiends were Rakshasas by species, which means that they loved to eat human flesh.

“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra's ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)

Lord RamaRama, who was the Supreme Lord appearing in a human form to eventually do away with Ravana, was barely a teenager at the time of Maricha’s attack on Vishvamitra. And yet as the demon himself notes, Rama readied His bow without hesitation. He was not fearful at all. Maricha had tremendous power as well. He was not a fluff competitor. As a lion among men, Rama courageously roared with the swift flight of the arrow released from His bow. This weapon protected the ashrama and hurled Maricha away some eight hundred miles.

While Rama was a lion among men, Ravana was cowardly. Sita reminds him of this fact. Ravana one time took Sita away from Rama, but in a backhanded way. The same Maricha created a diversion, whereby Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana left the hermitage and went out into the woods. Ravana then arrived in disguise and forcibly took Sita back to his kingdom of Lanka.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita refers to both Rama and Lakshmana as lion among men. Ravana, on the other hand, is a coward. He couldn’t face the roar of the lion, so he had to sneak around to get what he wanted. While the clever burglar may take such words to be complimentary, for a king who boasts of his fighting prowess such words are very insulting.

That was Sita’s objective, after all. Helping matters was the fact that her statement was truthful. Nowhere did she exaggerate. She merely pointed to a factual incident from the past, and in so doing she extolled the virtues of her husband and His younger brother. She also exposed the king of Lanka for the coward that he was. There is a famous saying from C.S. Lewis that “Above all else, the devil cannot stand to be mocked.” This means that fiends have no sense of humor at all about themselves, for they inherently understand their inferiority. In being made fun of, their vulnerability in the ego is exposed.

Sita and RamaRavana deserved this, as he had done a horrible thing. Those same lions among men would eventually come to rescue Sita, in the same way that Narasimhadeva saved Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada. The same way that Rama protected Vishvamitra’s religious observance, He would protect Sita’s vow of chastity. And today, the same Rama protects the ability of the devoted souls to remain true to their lifelong vow of always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Rama and Lakshmana, lions among men,

Coward Ravana afraid of their den.


Only came when ruse to stage,

Took Sita when in guise of sage.


Devil cannot be mocked else above all,

For this reason the incident Sita to recall.


Like with Prahlada and his devotion strong,

Rama eventually to make Lanka’s journey long.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Land of the Dead

Lord Rama“O Rakshasa, when your Rakshasa army had been killed in Janasthana, turning it into Hatasthana [land of the dead], being powerless you committed this wicked deed.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.29-30)

janasthāne hatasthāne nihate rakṣasāṃ bale ||
aśaktena tvayā rakṣaḥ kṛtametadasādhu vai |

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If one has a name that is related to a common object, expression or attribute, it is sometimes fun to make a joke at their expense, taking advantage of the specific name. For instance, if a hockey goaltender has the last name of Quick, if they give up a bad goal, the commentator could say something like, “Quick was too slow on that one. Not as fast as he normally is. Quick seems to be slowing down.” Such comments are made in good fun, but in the verse referenced above the humor is meant to insult a fiendish king in the worst possible way. The lady offering the insults was quite clever indeed, giving a new name to an area previously governed by the fiendish king himself. The new name was not very flattering, as it reminded him of an embarrassing defeat.

The name of the area was Janasthana. In Sanskrit, this means “a place of the people,” or taking it more literally, “a place of the living.” Janasthana is in the Dandaka forest. The area still exists to this day in India, and millions of years ago it was the scene of a terrific battle. There was only one army involved. It consisted of 14,000 of the best fighters in the world. They were capable, strong, and not fearful. They also employed black magic as a primary tactic. Using different skills honed through practice and austerity, these creatures, who were manlike but still ogres in behavior, could change their shapes at will. They could disappear from sight and then reappear suddenly. Keep in mind that there were 14,000 of these fighters in the only army on the battlefield.

Lord RamaBy the way, that entire army was slain. They were defeated not by an opposing army, but by a single man. He didn’t use black magic. He didn’t have to hide from the vision. Everyone could see Him. He was right out in the open. He used His single bow and arrow set to defend Himself. He had done nothing wrong. He wasn’t the aggressor. The aggressor sets the rules in a conflict, but for Rama this isn’t a problem. Previously, His step-mother had turned aggressive and changed the rules for how He would live. Instead of ascending the throne of Ayodhya, following the protocol of succession and taking over for His father King Dasharatha, Rama now had to live in the forest as an ascetic. He could take His bow and arrow with Him, but not much else. His wife Sita came too, as did His younger brother Lakshmana. They did so of their own volition; in fact Rama tried to persuade them in the opposite direction.

The three set up camp in Dandaka, and they were minding their own business. The King of Lanka was the head of these 14,000 fighters. His sister started their demise by coming to Dandaka and attacking Sita. Sent away disfigured, she complained to Ravana, who then retaliated by sending his massive army. Rama told Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave so that she would be safe. Rama then proceeded to defeat all of Ravana’s men who came to Janasthana. Thus the land known for living people was soon strewn with the dead. In order to avenge the loss, Ravana came there in secret and took Sita away using a ruse.

Here Sita is rebuking him once again. The scene is the Ashoka grove in Lanka, where Ravana kept Sita in hopes of getting her to change her mind. Her mind is always fixed on Rama. It can never go elsewhere. If it did, she would cease to be. It’s like having a fire that doesn’t burn or an ocean without water. Such things cannot exist, and so Sita can never divert her mind from Rama.

Lord RamaIn this particular verse, she insults Ravana further by reminding him of his cowardice. He took her away in secret, which was a wicked deed, only because he was helpless. He became helpless because his 14,000 men were killed in Janasthana. Here she makes a humorous remark by referring to Janasthana as Hatasthana due to the defeat of the Rakshasas. Hatasthana means the “land of the dead.” The dead refers to Ravana’s army, which implies that Rama is capable of turning a living area into a dead one if He is attacked. It doesn’t matter the strength of the other side. The size of the army is also of no concern. Rama is unconquerable; hence one of His many names is Ajita.

The thief particularly hates anyone who calls out their behavior. As long as you leave the thief alone, if you keep giving them flattering words, they will not be angry with you. But as soon as someone points out their illegal acts, the ire is raised. Sita knew this very well, so she made sure to insult Ravana by pointing out his past defeats. A defeat would come again very soon, where Rama and His monkey army would turn the opulent Lanka into the land of the dead as well. The life of Lanka was soon to be out of season, and it was all due to the disrespect Ravana showed to Rama, the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince.

In Closing:

Defeat at hands of Rama earned,

Janasthana to land of the dead turned.


Rakshasas numbering fourteen thousand despite,

No match for Rama’s bow and arrow’s might.


After defeat towards trickery to resort,

Lust his memory of history to distort.


The same triumph soon again to repeat,

Due punishment fiend Ravana to reap.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Vamanadeva“My husband, who is capable of conquering the enemy, will soon take me back from you, just as Lord Vishnu took away the brilliant prosperity of the demons by using three steps.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.28-29)

apaneṣyati māṃ bhartā tvattaḥ śīghramarindamaḥ ||
asurebhyaḥ śriyaṃ dīptāṃ viṣṇustribhiriva kramaiḥ |

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For the ordinary living entity, doing anything meaningful requires some intense effort. If you want to lose weight, you must exercise strenuously or go on a strict diet. Since each is helpful, many weight watchers incorporate both into their weight loss regimen. In the exercise portion there are many steps taken, as that is what gets the blood flowing. In the diet portion, there are many days of fasting, which is either no food or a strict limit on the intake of food for one or more meals. For the Supreme Lord, nothing is difficult. As He can reclaim sovereignty over the entire universe using just three steps, He can just as easily get back His beloved wife from the clutches of a fiendish king.

It would make sense that God has an easier time of it. His unique ability here provides a further contrast between Himself and His innumerable sparks. We are included amongst those sparks, and since we are from Him we are like Him in so many ways. At the same time, we are different from Him. He creates the sparks; we do not. We can at best generate offspring, but even then we have little control over them. We can offer guidance during the early years, but in adulthood the children will go their own way. If they move somewhere else, taking a different shelter, we lose our influence over them.

The Supreme Lord’s children also have independence, but they are never completely separate from His influence. When taking shelter of the material energy, the children think that the father is no longer around. Since they can’t see Him with their eyes, they think that He doesn’t exist. And yet everything they rely upon for living is created, maintained and destroyed by Him. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction, so there is never any meaningful independence.

“As we generally say, not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus everything is moving under His will: by His will everything is being created, everything is being maintained, and everything is being annihilated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.6 Purport)

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillThe Supreme Lord can lift a massive hill and hold it above His head with His pinky finger for seven straight days. He can defeat 14,000 of the most powerful fighters in the world using only His bow and arrows. One time He even took back sovereignty of the three worlds using just three steps. Not that the lands were ever lost to Him, but at the time a king by the name of Bali was temporarily ruling over everything. He belonged to the asura race, which is a class of men that thinks that God doesn’t exist. The sura race, which has the opposite mentality, wanted control back, for they work directly for God’s interests.

In the form of a dwarf, the Supreme Lord begged for land that would cover three steps. Bali Maharaja agreed to this request. What area could a dwarf cover anyway? How much land would He actually need? Bali Maharaja had the whole world to give, so this dwarf’s request wasn’t going to cause any problems. Ah, but the Supreme Lord immediately expanded into a gigantic form. With His first two steps He easily covered the earth and the regions of outer space. With no land left to give, Bali Maharaja offered his head, which Vamanadeva then kindly took His third step upon.

VamanadevaSince He received everything in three steps, this incarnation of the Supreme Lord is also known as Trivikrama. He is the incarnation referenced by Sita Devi in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. Her words are directed at the fiendish king of Lanka, Ravana. As a Rakshasa by quality and race, Ravana had the asura mindset, that of not believing in God. With much difficulty, he terrorized the leading kings around the world and concentrated his power on the island of Lanka. Ravana required many more than three steps to gain his opulence. And yet Rama would easily take it away from Him, just as He had previously done in His incarnation as Trivikrama.

Rama was not interested in Ravana’s sovereignty. The opulence of interest was Ravana’s possession of the goddess of fortune, Shri. Sita is Shri, who is also known as Lakshmi Devi. Previously Bali Maharaja had shri in the form of sovereignty, and Vishnu, who is the same Rama, easily took it back. Now He would easily get back Sita from Ravana. It would not be a difficult task for Him. In fact, He would cross the ocean using a bridge made of floating rocks. His army would consist of monkeys hurling trees and boulders. He would fight with a single bow and arrow set. With these simple methods, He would take Sita back, showing that for the Supreme Lord no task is too difficult.

The same Rama continues to rescue countless souls today through the potency invested in His holy name. The devoted souls who are harassed by the material energy and the enemies of the Supreme Lord always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Vishnu as Trivikrama took three steps to save the devas, but with the maha-mantra He arrives in only one step, showing the unique potency of the sacred formula.

In Closing:

What land a simple dwarf could take?

So agreeing king offering to make.


As Vamana taking steps three,

Opulence of asuras then set free.


Ravana the same should know,

That husband to win with arrow and bow.


Rama to Sita’s rescue would come,

Terror of Rakshasas to be undone.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Sita and Rama“My husband, who is capable of conquering the enemy, will soon take me back from you, just as Lord Vishnu took away the brilliant prosperity of the demons by using three steps.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.28-29)

apaneṣyati māṃ bhartā tvattaḥ śīghramarindamaḥ ||
asurebhyaḥ śriyaṃ dīptāṃ viṣṇustribhiriva kramaiḥ |

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In the Vedic texts the personal form of the Supreme Lord, which is the original, is addressed in many different ways. He is a singular entity, but the multifarious names allow for people with different perspectives and worldviews to get a better chance to know Him. Why should anyone be shut out from knowing the person to whom they are intimately connected since time immemorial? Indeed, only the Supreme Lord would be this generous, as there is no envy in Him. He wants all to return to His shelter, which is flawless in every respect.

One of the ways to address Him is Shripati, which means the husband of Shri, who is the goddess of fortune. The name has the literal meaning of the husband of a personality. Breaking down the terms further, we see that a husband is a controller, someone who protects. Bharta is another Sanskrit word for husband, and it means one who maintains. The Supreme Lord is the bharta of Shri, who as a personality is known as the goddess of fortune. She incarnates in the form of opulences, such as wealth, beauty, good parentage, and intelligence. Sovereignty over a kingdom is also a kind of opulence.

LakshmiHere Sita Devi, who is Shri personified, non-different from the beloved wife of Shripati, points out to a demoniac king that her husband will soon rescue her. As this king is of asura tendencies, she mentions a famous incident from the past when the same beloved husband of hers took away opulence from the asuras. He did so while in the form of a dwarf and using only three steps. That dwarf was an incarnation of Vishnu, as was Sita’s husband. Thus the same capability was there.

The reference to the dwarf is very suitable here because to Ravana, the fiendish king, Rama was like a dwarf in ability. Ravana lived in grand opulence. He had real wealth; not just a high bank balance. He didn’t rely on a retirement fund that is prone to tanking overnight based on the monetary policy of a centralized banking system. He had real wealth in the form of gold and jewels. His buildings were made of gold. There were crystals in the floors and along the walls. He had beautiful women everywhere, and he had the ability to protect everything with his own fighting prowess.

Rama, on the other hand, was living in the forest as a recluse. He went there at the order of His step-mother, Kaikeyi, who had control over Rama’s father, King Dasharatha. For starters, an outside observer would think that Dasharatha was weak for being controlled by a beautiful woman. Then Rama looked weak for obeying such an order. Ravana would never think of doing such a thing. No one told him what to do. If anyone ordered him to leave, he would fight with them to the death.

Rama and Lakshmana in the forestRavana thought that Rama was a pauper, someone who wasn’t worthy of having the beautiful Sita for a wife. Though Rama wasn’t bothering anyone in the forest of Dandaka, Ravana sent 14,000 of his fighters to try to conquer the Lord. Rama defeated all of them singlehandedly. Still Ravana considered Rama to be a weak man. Not taking any chances, Ravana devised a plot to steal Sita away in secret. Ravana lived far away on an island, so he never thought that the apparently dwarf-like Rama would reach his kingdom and take Sita back.

Here Sita tells Ravana that he thinks wrong. If he doesn’t want to take her word for it, he can look back to the incident of Vamanadeva with Bali Maharaja. Bali Maharaja was the king of the asuras, who are the demons. More than just a race, an asura is known by their qualities, namely their disbelief in God. If you don’t believe in God, naturally you will think that you can become God through enough accumulation of wealth and strength. When the asuras get too puffed up, the original God, the only Supreme Lord, comes to the scene to restore order.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.8“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

VamanadevaLord Vishnu, who is the Supreme Lord in His four-armed form, descended to earth as a dwarf-brahmana. It is etiquette for kings to grant whatever a brahmana desires, for the brahmana is generally poor and doesn’t ask for much. They are priests by occupation, so what would they do with a lot of money and land anyway? Vamanadeva, the dwarf-incarnation of the Supreme Lord, asked for land that would cover three steps. Going against his spiritual master’s warning, Bali Maharaja granted the wish. Then Vamanadeva expanded Himself into a giant form and covered the earth and outer space. For the third stride, Bali offered his head, which Vamanadeva then kindly stepped on. Thus order was restored; the grand opulence of the asuras was taken away by Vishnu Himself.

Ravana had tremendous opulence as well, and it would be taken away just as quickly. Though Rama assumed the ascetic’s garb due to the rules stipulated by Kaikeyi, He was not lacking any opulence. He is Shripati after all, so opulence is always with Him. Using bows and arrows and the help of monkeys fighting with trees and boulders, He would fulfill Sita’s prophecy and restore order to the world.

In Closing:

Gold, jewels and adoring throngs,

Ravana thought to him this all belonged.


But controller over opulence is He,

Who is the husband of goddess of fortune Shri.


Demon-race from their prominence shook,

When as Vamanadeva Lord three steps took.


Sita’s husband to act in way the same,

By His arrows order the world to regain.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Finding Devotees Everywhere

Vishnu with Garuda“That very powerful Garuda in the form of Rama will swiftly uproot the great serpents in the form of the Rakshasa kings, just as Vainateya swiftly uproots serpents.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.27-28)

rākśasendramahāsarpān sa rāmagaruḍo mahān ||
uddhariṣyati vegena vainateya ivoragān |

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In addition to explanations of high philosophy, Vedic literature contains many historical accounts, which include details of military struggles of gigantic proportion. The side of the “good guys” often flies a flag that sports an emblem of a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the case of the Bharata War, the leading warrior for the Pandava side had a flag on his chariot with the emblem of Hanuman, the fearless servant of the Supreme Lord in His form of Rama. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi mentions the other personality often seen on those flags. Just like Hanuman, he flies to the scene with the utmost urgency and fills the enemy side with terror.

“The emblem of Hanuman on the flag of Arjuna is another sign of victory because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever Lord Rama is, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the goddess of fortune, are present. Therefore, Arjuna had no cause to fear any enemies whatsoever.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.20 Purport)

Hanuman on Arjuna's chariotAt the time that this verse was spoken, Shri Hanuman was actually close to meeting Sita. His monkey form did not preclude him from crossing a massive ocean and reaching Lanka. In that land the king of Rakshasas had set up camp. Known as Ravana, his kingdom was guarded by both the surrounding waters and his twenty arms. In his kingdom were also many other capable fighters, all of the demoniac tendency. Sita Devi, who was abducted and brought to Lanka against her will, seemed to have no hope for rescue. Her husband was wandering the forest in an ascetic’s garb at the time. He was quite powerful with the bow and arrow, but without access to His military back home in Ayodhya, how was He going to reach Lanka to rescue Sita?

As Rama is God, He is intimately connected to every spirit soul. The demoniac are those who do not realize this connection at all. Unaware of the Supersoul residing within their heart, they go so far as to say that God doesn’t exist. “I am God, don’t you see? We only get this one life, so I am going to make the most of it by enjoying as much as possible. If anyone gets in my way, I will kill them. If anyone tries to teach others that my way of life is wrong, I will get rid of them as well. No one can stop me.”

In the Kishkindha forest, though away from His home Rama was able to find more than capable servants. In just one person He found someone capable of amazing feats. Shri Hanuman reached Lanka all by himself. Then he scoured through the city looking for Sita, a person whom he had yet to meet. Since Hanuman was acting in Rama’s interests, he represented an extension of Rama’s potency. In this way Hanuman and Rama are not different; Hanuman’s arrival in Lanka was as good as Rama’s.

Here Sita compares Rama to Garuda and Ravana and his leading men to snakes. Garuda serves the same Rama in the form of Vishnu. Vishnu is the form of the Supreme Lord worshiped with awe and reverence. When we think of God as being completely great and awe-inspiring, we inherently think of His Vishnu form. Vishnu also has divine sports, and Garuda plays a major role in those. He acts as Vishnu’s carrier. Though a bird, Garuda is supremely intelligent. He uses all of his abilities for pleasing God.

GarudaGaruda instills fear in the snakes. He subsists on a diet of snakes. It is said that a saint does not protest the death of a snake. The saint is by definition kind to everyone. They have no enemies or friends. They see every individual’s inherent relationship to God, so they take pity on the miscreants. They know that eventually they will turn their ways. And yet the saints don’t mind if the snakes are removed because the snakes can slither into a scene very quickly and bite someone for no apparent reason.

Ravana and his ilk were snakes in behavior, and so Garuda in the form of Rama would arrive on the scene to uproot them. Indeed, a kind of Garuda had already arrived in the form of Hanuman. As events would unfold, Hanuman would instill terror in all through his burning tail. That tail would be set on fire first by Ravana as a way to embarrass Rama’s servant. The move would then backfire, and all would come to know of the potency of Rama through the amazing feats of Hanuman.

Hanuman burning LankaRama found a capable servant in Hanuman, who discovered Sita’s location. Rama then used the massive monkey army in Kishkindha to battle against the Rakshasas. Thus He found people to serve His interests in all times and all places, reminding the world once again why He is God. Rama’s servants can also cross all boundaries. Hanuman reached Lanka, and through his swift flight through the air Garuda can reach anywhere very quickly. Rama would be like Garuda in arriving in Lanka and rescuing His beloved wife.

In Closing:

Rama devotees anywhere can find,

Like with monkeys in Kishkindha aligned.


Even when looks like none are there,

Garuda to arrive swiftly through air.


Rama’s beloved to Lanka Ravana brought,

That safe from danger he mistakenly thought.


Like Garuda Hanuman for Rama to act,

In burning Lanka revenge to exact.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Feeling Your Pain

Prahlada Maharaja“The most important characteristic of a pure devotee is that he is not lampata, or licentious, and another quality is that he is always eager to mitigate the miseries of suffering humanity. The most obnoxious misery of a living entity is his forgetfulness of Krishna. A pure devotee, therefore, always tries to evoke everyone's Krishna consciousness. This is the panacea for all miseries.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.14.49 Purport)

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The power hungry politician is able to amass power through passing legislation that actually hurts people without them knowing it. The people directly affected in each instance may be acutely aware of the effect the new law will have, but others, who are not directly affected, will remain apathetic. The politician seizes upon that apathy to bypass principles of fairness, ultimately leading to a condition where so many are miserable. The truly wise person understands principles and therefore can see with an extended vision. They also have compassion on others, and because of this they try to rescue them.

Let’s take an example of a proposed law that will only affect a few. This law says that beverages of a certain size and sugar content will be banned from sale in convenience stores. The people who currently purchase these beverages will be outraged. They will raise opposition. Then there are those who are not affected. Their reaction to the legislation might be as follows:

“Oh, that’s the new law being proposed? That sounds terrible. Why are they legislating this? People will just buy two of the smaller size drinks going forward. This is not going to stop anything. Oh wait, you say this only applies to drinks with sugar in them? Oh, then I don’t care. I only buy diet soda. This law doesn’t affect me, so I’m not going to be bothered by this.”

A more egregious version of this mentality gives a blind eye to the neighbor’s home being raided by burglars. After all, the thieves have avoided that person’s home, so why should they care what happens to someone else’s property?

The New YorkerAh, but the wise person sees the principles behind actions. The law affecting beverage purchases may not affect me today, but that shouldn’t matter. The people affected are ordinary people just like myself. In addition, some day there will be a law passed that does affect me directly. Will I like it if others are then apathetic to my plight? They will have every reason to not care since I didn’t show any concern for their issue. If the burglars one day should happen to break into my home, would I like it if my neighbors didn’t do anything? Would it be nice of them to ignore the issue?

The devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead understands principles because they know that the root principle is the Supreme Lord Himself, who is known as the Absolute Truth. He is the lone force that is beyond duality. He is all-pervading, so His influence is to every single person. He is present within the heart of the cat, the dog, the elephant, the ant, and the human being alike. Therefore no one should ignore Him. In fact, all perils are due to the original mistake of ignoring the Supreme Lord, who is the best friend of every living entity.

Lord Krishna with cowsThe devotee sees the suffering someone else will face as the result of action. Therefore they feel compassion. Beyond ringing their hands, they try to alleviate that suffering. This is the superior method since it applies to all situations. If I ignore someone else’s pain because I’m not directly affected, others have reason to behave the same way towards me. On the other hand, if I don’t ignore them, then others may follow suit and help me when I need it.

The greatest suffering is forgetfulness of God. Every miserable condition we encounter in life is originally due to this. We see young children starving in foreign countries. The narrator of the television announcement tells us to give only a few dollars a day to help feed the needy. But how did such people become destitute? They live in areas which have plenty of fertile land. They could produce so much food on their own. Why are they hungry?

We investigate further into the situation and see that the government has confiscated the majority of the land, using the excuse that the previous land owners were greedy businessmen. So instead of people working to earn a profit, the land remains unused for the most part, while the leaders in government take everything for themselves. What, then, is financial aid from anyone else going to do?

Indeed, the unlawful confiscation of another’s property is due to forgetfulness of God, for the Lord is the original proprietor. He owns everything. When we think we own something, we have only a temporary lease on it, and this only for the purpose of coexisting peacefully with our fellow man. When one remembers God for real, then all good qualities emerge. The devotee is peaceful, kind, tolerant, humble, knowledgeable, and always looking to rescue others from misery.

If others don’t want to be rescued, why waste time on them? Why ruin your own devotion in the process?

In the crusades to stop hunger, eradicate poverty, and stamp out disease, if others do not follow the recommendations, there is some failure. If I get my struggling neighbor a job and they then refuse to go to work, my effort at helping them has not worked. The same goes for trying to feed others who then refuse the food. With devotion to God, however, no effort is wasted. The principal method in the present age for awakening everyone’s dormant God consciousness is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

SankirtanaKrishna and Rama are names for the Truth, which is the highest principle in all spectra and time periods. Therefore just in chanting this mantra out loud there is so much benefit. Even if no one else wants to hear it, there is no loss on the chanter’s part. Since there is no failure, there is no cause for lack of enthusiasm. Since Krishna is the Supreme Spirit, work done for His benefit only brings more pleasure with the passage of time. More pleasure brings a stronger conviction, which means that eventually at least someone else will be rescued from the miserable condition of birth and death, which sees so many smaller dual conditions, like heat and cold and victory and defeat.

In Closing:

New law passed seems not right,

Not to affect me, so why to fight?


But then what if the tables to reverse?

How to feel when others to help are averse?


Devotees with extended vision to see,

Attempt for others’ miseries to set free.


Since on reception success not based,

In devotional life no effort a waste.