Saturday, November 30, 2013

Still I Stand

Sita Devi“Applying the sindura, performing the homa, offering rice, circumambulating the fire, touching the stone - in doing all of this the enchanting murti of the dark-skinned groom stole the mind.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 18.2)

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sindūra bandana homa lāvā hona lāgīṃ bhānvarī |
sila pohanī kari mohanī manaharyo mūrati sānvarī ||

“These wedding ceremonies are interesting and all, but who actually follows the vows they make? They go through this giant production, following whatever the priest says, and then afterwards they get into so many fights. A squabble here and a squabble there - they are always fighting. In whatever tradition the wedding took place, the wife is generally asked to obey the husband. But come on? Are you kidding me? We all know that the wife runs the show. If she’s not happy, he’s not happy. He could be unhappy too, but that doesn’t matter. So why the attention on all the rituals then? Why so much attention to detail? Wouldn’t it be better to have a quick ceremony that changes the status of the people from single to married?”

Indeed, so many vows in life are broken, and the marriage vows are no different. To see an example of where they are upheld, however, look no further than the marriage of Sita and Rama. As this marriage is more about Sita than Rama, the poem to describe it written by Goswami Tulsidas is appropriately named the Janaki Mangala. In the verse above the author says that the ceremony took place exactly according to Vedic tradition, and in the process the dark-complexioned groom enchanted the mind.

As the husband to protect her, Rama applied sindura on Sita’s head, where the hair parts. Sindura is a vermillion powder or paste and by applying it to the wife’s head the husband promises to protect her. Both husband and wife sat through the fire sacrifice, the homa, in order to have the proper witness to their vows. All Vedic rites involve fire in some way, as the fire locks in whatever oaths are taken. Rice was offered at various times, and both husband and wife took the seven steps that are customary in a Vedic marriage ceremony. Sita also stepped on a stone to signify that her resolve in serving Rama would be as hard as stone. It would never break.

RunningFirst there are the vows and then there are the actions that show whether or not the vows are followed. If the latter action supports the former, then both are forever linked. If I train very hard to run a marathon, the end result is not guaranteed. If I complete the marathon later on, then the training is tied to the accomplishment. It is part of the complete picture. If the marathon isn’t completed, then the training is considered almost useless. It’s an isolated event of little significance.

Sita and Rama showed how the marriage vows can be upheld. It’s easy to have adherence when there are no difficulties. Husband and wife live peacefully together in a luxurious home with a steady income. As they always have money, they have no reason to fight. The wife is satisfied with the gifts the husband buys for her, and the husband is satisfied having his wife around. There are some children as well, so there is always something to do. Both husband and wife are not bored.

The example of Sita and Rama is not like this. They had everything thrown at them, every possible disturbance to provide an easy excuse to renounce their vows. As described in the verse above, when Rama married Sita people were enchanted by His vision. It stole the mind, meaning the people who were watching couldn’t think of anything else. A murti is a statue that is worshipable when placed in a temple, and since Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His spiritual form manifest before the eyes is rightly described as a murti. Since it is all-beautiful, it steals the mind of the pure-hearted soul who gazes upon it.

Murti of RamaRama was a prince, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Thus Sita, who came from royalty herself, married into royalty. Seems pretty easy to serve your husband when you’re living the good life, no? It’s not easy, however, when the same prince is banished to the forest for fourteen years, where He must live like a homeless man. It’s not so easy when later on you’re taken to an enemy land against your will and told that you’ll never see your husband again. It’s not so easy when this fiend who kidnapped you is trying to bribe you with material enjoyments and a high status within a very opulent kingdom. It’s not easy when after reuniting with your husband later on, others think that you weren’t true to your vow, when indeed you were.

Sita stayed true to Rama through it all. She did so not merely as a wife, but as a lover of God. She cannot live in any other consciousness; only God consciousness for her. Sita serves through the covenant of marriage. She vows to serve Rama in an official ceremony, but actually the ceremony is there just to show others how to take a vow that mimics Sita’s eternal devotion. The stone is hard and seemingly unbreakable, but actually Sita’s vow of service to Rama is harder than the stone. It is an object that is impossible to break. Not even Rama can stop her from serving Him. After being banished to the forest for fourteen years, He told her to stay home and be safe. She refused. In the end, there was nothing He could do to stop her from serving Him in the manner she preferred.

“I shall go with you today to the forest.  There is no doubt about it.  I cannot be prevented, O greatly fortunate one.  I am ready to go.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.15)

Sita and RamaIn the marriage ceremony, she stood tall on the stone to show that she would be faithful to Rama, and after the many trials and tribulations she endured later on, she still stood tall. As such, she is the best wife, the most worshipable devotee, and the dearest to Rama.

In Closing:

Enchanted by Rama’s vision the clearest,

During marriage ceremony to Sita His dearest.


One part for wife on stone to stand,

Her vow to new husband to understand.


Harder than stone, resolve not to break,

Never her beloved husband to forsake.


In conditions not so easy vow to test,

Stayed true, in Sita Rama has wife the best.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Famous Marriages

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati“Taking the oath, Janaka gave away Sita to Rama in all politeness and happiness in a beautiful scene that was reminiscent of when the king of mountains gave away Parvati to Shiva and when the ocean gave away Lakshmi to Vishnu.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 18.1)

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sankalpi si rāmahi samarapī sīla sukha sobhāmaī |
jimi sankarahi girirāja girijā harihi śrī sāgara daī ||

The marriage of Sita and Rama is likely the most famous of them all, so what comparisons can be made to try to accurately describe it to someone else? Even the following description isn’t sufficient: “Wow, this marriage was better than anything ever before seen. The uniqueness was in the beauty of the scene, especially at the culmination, when the bride was given away to the groom by the father. Everything in the scene was perfect. There were no reservations. Everyone was happy. The father took an oath in front of fire to give up protection of his daughter and hand that responsibility over to the new husband. He did everything properly, with attention to etiquette, and with a happy heart. That scene was so beautiful, but what can I say to describe it?”

Goswami Tulsidas understands this dilemma, and so he invokes other famous marriages. These marriages come close to the fame of the marriage of Sita and Rama, and they are also of the divine nature. These marriages were safe ground; using them as comparison points would not sully the image of the beautiful Janaki joining with the handsome Rama. In the process, the mind gets to remember those blessed events, which is always beneficial.

Tulsidas says that the beauty of the scene of Janaka giving away his daughter Sita to Rama was like when the mountain-king gave away his daughter to Shiva. This marriage is described in many places in the Vedas, including by Goswami Tulsidas. The Janaki Mangala is the song glorifying the marriage of Sita and Rama and the Parvati Mangala is the work of the same author glorifying the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. Also, in his most famous work, the Ramacharitamanasa, the same author very nicely summarizes the same wedding, glorifying Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Himavan in the process.

HimalayasHimavan is the Himalayan mountain range. Though we think of mountains as inanimate objects, according to the Vedas they are powerful personalities. The famous Govardhana Hill is also a personality. The same goes for the Mainaka mountain, which was once petitioned by the ocean to provide respite to Shri Hanuman on his difficult journey to Lanka.

“O Sita, see the golden lord of mountains [Mainaka], which is golden-peaked and which rose up, piercing the ocean, to provide rest to Hanuman.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.18)

That offering took place well after the marriage described here of Sita and Rama. Nevertheless, from the Ramayana we get evidence of how mountains are personalities too. Even if one is skeptical of the claim, they can at least acknowledge that the larger collections of matter don’t suddenly appear on their own. The mountains give so much to humanity, so to show respect for them shouldn’t be so odd. We give respect to famous sports trophies like the Stanley Cup, when we know that they are nothing but collections of different metals. It is what they represent that brings the attention, and so the mountain ranges like the Himalayas can be appreciated in the same light.

Himavan and his wife had a beautiful daughter who was named Parvati. This name means the daughter of the mountain, just as Janaki means the daughter of King Janaka. Another name for Parvati is Gauri, which references her beautiful fair complexion. She is also known as Durga, as through her union with Lord Shiva she manages the material creation, which is difficult to overcome. Goddess Durga acts as a fort who uses the threefold miseries of life to keep others from climbing over the walls. Those who propitiate her are able to tolerate these pains a little easier.

Goddess DurgaParvati was actually Sati in her previous life. Sati was Lord Shiva’s first wife. Since he would later marry Parvati, technically Shiva only has one wife, eka nari vrata. Sati burned herself in a fire after her husband was insulted. In the next life she would not accept any other husband but Shiva. Since Shiva also has the most chaste wife, Parvati performed tremendous austerities to earn his favor. In her youth the famous Narada Muni told her father that Parvati would be fit for marrying Shiva. Gauri took these words to heart, considering them as coming from her spiritual master, who is a representative of God. Shiva’s attendants tested her commitment several times, once even offering Vishnu as a husband. Parvati kindly declined and held firm to her vow.

As a result, one day Himavan arranged for her marriage to Shiva. Since he was getting the most chaste wife, Shiva was very fortunate. Since the mountain-king’s daughter was completely in favor of the marriage, the scene was beautiful. Though her lady friends and elders felt sorry for her that she had to marry someone who is so renounced, Parvati did not pay any attention. Lord Shiva’s only desire in life is to meditate on the lotus feet of Vishnu, who is the personal form of the Lord dressed in full opulence and having four hands.

Lord VishnuVishnu’s marriage is referenced here as well. Once the demigods and demons churned a large ocean of milk in order to get various items from it, including an elixir to grant immortality. One of the objects that emerged from that churning was Goddess Lakshmi. She appeared from the ocean, so she is considered the ocean’s daughter. In actuality she eternally stays by the side of her husband Lord Vishnu, but in the material realm it was seen that she came from the ocean. The proud father, the ocean, then gave Lakshmi away to Vishnu in a very beautiful scene.

Only those two marriages could rival the beauty of Sita and Rama’s. From the comparisons made by Tulsidas we see that nothing was missing in the union of the divine couple. Everything was extraordinary, including the final act of Sita leaving Janaka’s custody and entering Rama’s. Rama is the same Vishnu and Sita the same Lakshmi. They are God and the goddess of fortune respectively, and so naturally their marriage would be the most famous of them all.

In Closing:

Sita given over to Rama marriage seen,

How to describe this most beautiful scene?


Reminded of when offering the ocean made,

Lakshmi with Vishnu thereafter stayed.


And when after so much austerity done,

Parvati to Shiva, of vow of wife only one.


Sita joining Rama, happy were they all,

Most blessed of marriages forever to call.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

As Fire As My Witness

Fire sacrifice“Going in front of the fire, King Janaka took kusha grass and water. According to ritual, he made the oath and gave away his daughter.” (Janaki Mangala, 144)

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agini thāpi mithilesa kusodaka līnheu |
kanyā dāna bidhāna sankalapa kīnheu ||

Everything at Sita’s wedding was done according to tradition and the Vedas. Nothing was overlooked. By following tradition and the Vedas to the letter, you hopefully mitigate any potential problems that may arise later on. Think of it like tightening all the screws when constructing something within the home. Think of it like following a recipe when making a food dish. It’s like dotting all your “i”s and crossing all your “t”s. Why leave any vulnerabilities, especially with something so important?

The burden here was on King Janaka. Though it was a marriage, it was Janaki’s mangala, or her auspiciousness. Janaki is the daughter of King Janaka. This name especially speaks of how dear she is to King Janaka. And Janaka is dear to the people of Mithila, which means that Janaki is dear to them. Imagine having to part with someone whom you love so much. You have to give them away in a ceremony, one which has rules and regulations. If you really love that person, you will take great attention and care.

Fire sacrificeHere Janaka went before a fire and took kusha grass and water. All three items are common to a Vedic sacrifice. The fire is the witness to the ceremony. Personified, the fire is Agni Deva. In the name of his wife, Svaha, he accepts oblations poured into him. Those items are then passed on for enjoyment by the heavenly figures. The fire consumes whatever is placed into it; so you visibly see that whatever you are giving is being taken somewhere else.

In Vedic culture, taking an oath in front of fire is as good as signing a contract. Holding sacred kusha grass and water, which is purifying, Janaka here takes the oath to give away his daughter. She is leaving him to live with her new husband, Shri Rama. Rama will protect her now. Rama will make sure that she is safe. Rama will create conditions suitable for her happiness. Such things are easy for Rama to do since He excels in every single category we can think of. Sita’s happiness was secure because every person is happiest when in God’s company. Rama is the personal form of Godhead especially dear to those who value righteousness.

Rama upholds the vows of the pious. In an ancient time, a priest takes an oath to live an austere life in the wilderness so that they can better worship God. They survive on bare essentials like fruits, roots and bulbs. They wear torn rags for clothing and live in a thatched hut. Obviously there is no air conditioning. The scorching hot days of summer must be tolerated. The same goes for the pouring rain of the monsoon season. The chilling winter has to be endured by the ascetic who has taken a vow for a life of penance.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.9“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

Lord RamaAs God, Rama is the life of everything. Therefore He is the penance of the ascetic. Without some kind of austerity, the renunciate living in the forest is a pretender. Think of it like putting on the jersey of your favorite hockey player. It has their name and number on it. You can also put on the rest of the gear, like the shoulder pads, shorts and skates. But does this mean that you can skate on the ice in a real game for that team? Obviously not, for you don’t have the skill to play at the level of the athlete whose jersey you wear. You could even try wearing a jersey with no name, but still you are not a real hockey player.

At the time of Sita’s wedding, Rama had already shown how He protects vows. Vishvamitra Muni and other sages were living in the forest and being harassed by night rangers. These were wicked creatures who changed shapes to aid in their clandestine attacks against the innocent. Vishvamitra Muni was especially of strong vows, and now these night-rangers were hampering his ability to stay true to his nature. Rama was asked to come to the forest, and He did so along with Lakshmana. Though the boys were very young, they successfully defended against demons like Tataka and Subahu. Rama’s protecting Vishvamitra was a precursor to Him being led to Janakpur, where the self-choice ceremony for Sita’s marriage was taking place.

And now here was Rama ready to protect Janaka’s vow. The father was charged with protecting his daughter, and so if he found her an unsuitable husband he would be partially liable for any misfortune that came her way. Rama made sure that would never happen. If anything, through having Rama as a husband, Sita’s fame would only increase, thereby raising Janaka’s stature as well.

Sita and RamaIn the future Rama would uphold the vow of truth of His father King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Caught in a pickle, King Dasharatha either had to banish Rama to the forest for fourteen years or be validly labeled a liar by his youngest wife. Dasharatha didn’t have the heart to give Rama the order; the words could not come out of his mouth. Since he had a son like Rama, they didn’t have to. The protector of the vows of the devotees took it upon Himself to protect the good name of His father. He voluntarily left for the forest, despite the objections of His well-wishers. Sita, showing again how she was Janaka’s daughter, insisted on following Rama. She would help Him uphold His vow to uphold Dasharatha’s vow.

In giving Sita away Janaka did everything properly, but what actually held everything together was the nature of the husband. Since He was at the center of the rituals, there was success. Know also that in any activity you take up, if the Supreme Lord is the beneficiary, then everything will be considered done properly, even if there are a few innocent mistakes made along the way.

In Closing:

To give Sita away, time was now,

In front of fire king took his vow.


Some water and kusha grass holding,

Ritual of marriage perfectly unfolding.


For worry need there was none,

Rama protector of vows number one.


Munis protected, father’s word intact.

In Rama Janaka found match for Sita exact.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Balance In Reserve

Meditation“The temporary comforts of the body are not the goal of life, and it is due only to darkest ignorance that people become enamored of the glimmering advancement of material comforts.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)

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“Boy, I don’t know what to get them for a gift. I know that I have to bring something. I was invited to the party because I am important to them. They enjoy my company. Through all the years we’ve managed to remain friends. Since I don’t see them all the time, it’s difficult to determine what they will like. Plus, in adulthood a person can more or less purchase whatever they want. Other than high end items like a fancy car or designer purse, if there is something of interest, a person who has a steady income can purchase it.

“You know what? I’m going to get them a gift card. It will be specific to a store or restaurant that they like. This way I know they will like the gift. It will be better than giving them straight cash, for that would look like I’m paying to attend the party. The gift card is easy enough to carry. I can put it in an envelope along with the card marking the occasion. Problem solved. This will work perfectly.”

Indeed, the gift card is such a popular item for giving as a present that there is a large variety of them in supermarkets and convenience stores. You’re not really on the map as a store until you can offer gift cards that people can purchase in large quantities. Since the material is ultimately tied to the spiritual, even the gift card can teach us a valuable lesson about which is the superior path to follow in life. The gift card example shows how something that seems very difficult is so because it is not meant to be practiced by the majority of the people.

Gift cardsIf something is not meant for everyone, it means it does not completely represent God. Regardless of one’s religious persuasion or disinclination towards it, if we are to acknowledge a supreme being, He would have to be inherently tied to everything. This means the tree, the ants, the birds, the beasts, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, and the human beings alike would have to be related to Him. The more inclusive a specific aspect of nature is, the more closely it resembles God.

For instance, those things we actually need in life are abundantly available and inexpensive, relatively speaking. This shows God’s benevolence. The Supreme has put things into place to allow life to continue. The newborn gets the mother. Simply with the milk from the mother, the child can survive. There is no cost for this. There is no difficult procedure for acquiring this. As soon as there is life, there is a parent.

Water, milk, grains and fruits are cheaper and available in larger quantities than meat, wine, fish and eggs. This means that the former is sufficient for survival and the latter unnecessary. Knowing this helps in putting the different ways for spiritual connection into ascending priority. Those methods which are difficult to practice and have prerequisites that are rarely found must not be necessary.

Meditational yoga is the most difficult of the different paths of spiritual connection. Yoga means connection, and it always relates to the union of the individual spirit soul with the Supreme Soul, the benevolent God whose influence cannot be removed from any space. Real meditational yoga bears the fruit of a siddhi. This translates to a “perfection,” which in this context means a sort of ability.

“The highest perfection of mystic power is called kamavasayita. This is also magic, but whereas the prakamya power acts to create wonderful effects within the scope of nature, kamavasayita permits one to contradict nature - in other words, to do the impossible. Of course, one can derive great amounts of temporary happiness by achieving such yogic materialistic perfections.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)

Nectar of DevotionThere is a fruit to any kind of work. If you build a house, the reward is a house. If you drive to a certain destination, the reward is reaching that destination. If you practice meditational yoga, you get the reward of a perfection, or siddhi. Perfections are abilities. You can become very light. You can become very heavy. You can travel outside of your body. You can get something just by wanting it.

These things seem far out to us, but from reading the Vedas and studying the behavior of some special mystics of today we can find examples of these abilities. Since the siddhis show a kind of magic, it is easy to mistake a mystic for a realized soul. Indeed, the public display of these abilities has often led to the mystics being mistakenly identified for God Himself.

But the siddhi is not different than the gift card balance, if you think about it. If you receive a gift card for your birthday, what does it really mean to you? It’s actually just a piece of plastic. It’s no different looking than a credit card or an identification badge for school or work. The gift card takes on its meaning when it is used. When the balance is transferred for purchase of specific objects, the card becomes valuable.

In the same way the siddhi is meaningless unless you can do something with it. If one person who is not a yogi can become very light by losing weight, and the mystic can do the same after intense yoga practice, what is the difference? How is one person spiritual and the other not? Has the mystic transcended birth and death, the two main problems for a spirit soul in a material existence? Has the mystic found true happiness?

In karma there is work for a fruit to be enjoyed by the senses. In jnana there is renunciation and the assimilation of high philosophy. In yoga there is the siddhi that must be used in order to have value. Bhakti-yoga is the superior discipline because it gives meaning to all other yogas, philosophies and work. It is also available to everyone. It is not restricted to only those who can practice austerity. It is not reserved solely for those who can work very hard in fruitive endeavors. It does not discriminate based on intelligence, gender, or age.

Hanuman lifting mountainIn bhakti-yoga, you can still have a siddhi. You can have millions of dollars. You can also have high knowledge. In whatever condition you find yourself, you worship God. You worship through service, which means dedicated action. The service may be something basic like chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It may also be something very difficult like lifting a mountain with your hands and carrying it somewhere else. Since in bhakti-yoga the consciousness is fixed on pleasing the Supreme Lord, guidance from both within and without is provided on how to use whatever abilities one has. Bhakti-yoga shows even the adept mystic how to advance for real, so in all respects it is the superior form of yoga.

In Closing:

Gift card for birthday I got,

Until I spend value it has not.


Fruits of mystic yoga in way the same,

Ability alone not worthy of spiritual name.


Whether to work, study or stretch issue not,

Focus on link to supreme consciousness got.


When to serve Supreme Lord in love you choose,

Whether rich or poor, all abilities suitable to use.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Always Something New

Krishna with mother Yashoda“Krishna is always remembered, and His name is always chanted by millions of devotees, but the devotees never become saturated. Instead of becoming disinterested in thinking of Krishna and in chanting His holy name, the devotees get newer and newer impetus to continue the process. Therefore Krishna is ever-fresh. Not only Krishna Himself, but also Krishna’s knowledge is ever-fresh.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 53)

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“So, I hear you’re unhappy at your new job. That’s not very surprising. Who actually likes being told what to do? Maybe some husbands are accustomed to this treatment from their wives, but in general the living spirit prefers freedom, where they get to choose how to act. As they say, it is the yearning of the human spirit to be free, and so the difficult job at the office, with its many deadlines and requirements, clamps down that freedom to some degree.

“The money is not good either, you say? The key, then, is to see what you are getting out of the job. Are you learning new things? Are you expanding your knowledge? You are still young, so you shouldn’t expect to have a stable career from the outset. There’s a reason the veterans in the business world generally make more money. They gather experience. They learned from their previous jobs. They put in the long hours and met their deadlines. They endured the harsh treatment from the boss so that they could get ahead. If you’re learning new things, then perhaps this job isn’t so bad in the short term.”

One of the common criticisms of religion is that it restricts the mind and that it is rooted in fear. “Surrender to God or suffer eternal damnation in hell. Give up acting, the arts, singing, drawing, painting and exploring. Dismiss science as bogus. Just worship God instead.” In actuality, this accusation only applies to organized religion that is still at the neophyte stage. Surely some regulation is required, for when isn’t it? The artist even has to follow austerity and sacrifice in order to succeed. They can’t just get up whenever they want and decide to paint. They have to have some structure. The musician as well must spend significant time in the studio producing their songs. Creating the skeletons for the songs was easy, but then finally producing the songs and perfecting them to be shared with a larger audience is difficult work.

SongwritingIn a bona fide spiritual discipline, the mind explores the horizons and beyond. The mind is not restricted. It is not forced to remain simple. Though the practices may appear to be ordinary and without variety, along the way the consciousness expands through connecting with the origin of matter and spirit. He is the source of everything, so naturally in Him is found all variety. The “formless God” opinion has no validity. In the world around us we can perceive so much variety. This perception is from using our limited senses. Man inherits four defects at the time of birth, with imperfect senses being one of them. In simpler terms, this means that I can’t see or hear everything. I can’t see what’s going on across the globe right now. I can’t see your heart beating inside of your body. Therefore my sense of sight is limited.

With what I am able to perceive, I see plenty of variety. I see the millions of different creatures. I see ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, mountains, hills, fields, cows, crows, swans, humans, children, the elderly, soldiers, priests, politicians, athletes, periodicals, books, blogs, magazines, fruits, vegetables, grains, parents, grandparents, and the like. There is endless variety. If one is inclined towards purchasing a book to read, there is so much content available that categories are necessary. Within each category there could be thousands of different books, all written by different people.

Forest in the springIn the original spiritual consciousness known as bhakti, one understands that all the variety comes from God originally. When lacking the spiritual consciousness, everything is seen as separated from Him. Therefore sometimes there is variety and sometimes not. Sometimes one task is limiting, while another is not. Then the rejection of things that are harmful to the consciousness is mistakenly seen as a way to eliminate variety. It is seen as a way to shield the mind from so many outside things.

Since that endless variety comes from God, it is part of His definition. If He were formless, He would be subordinate to the creation. This creation is considered part of His external energy, which means that it can never be superior to Him. The same variety is there in the internal energy, but the perception of that variety is only available to someone in the pure consciousness. To regain that pure consciousness is the goal of the standardized methods of bhakti-yoga, which is also known as devotional service.

No meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex constitutes the most restrictive aspect of bhakti-yoga. This combines with the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to fix the consciousness on the Divine. With enough dedication, eventually the endless variety of the spiritual world is revealed.

In bhakti-yoga, one makes new discoveries every day: “Today I learned that Krishna is known as Shyamasundara because of His beautiful, dark complexion. Yesterday I learned that He is known as Damodara because one time mother Yashoda tied Him to a grinding mortar as punishment. The day before that I learned that He is known as Rama because of His incarnation who appeared on this earth during the Treta Yuga. The day before that I learned that He is the best friend of every living entity. The day before that I learned that He enchants the residents of the spiritual realm with the sounds from His flute.”

Damodara with mother YashodaThe list goes on and on, and the new discoveries continue even through the engagement of the senses with the external nature. With the divine eyes, the individual sees God’s influence everywhere, in the process finding new ways to appreciate Him. Everything is always fresh and new in bhakti-yoga, as it is the same with its beneficiary, Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

Religion of rules hard and strict,

Why my imagination to restrict?


Of the neophyte stage this is the view,

Not to know how God always fresh and new.


Follow the regulations four,

And take up chanting chore.


Then something new find in every day,

In endless variety of Shri Krishna play.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keeping Family Traditions

Arjuna“Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.42)

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Bhagavad-gita, 1.42One of the many virtuous qualities of a person in the mode of goodness is austerity. In the mode of goodness one sees things as they are, sort of like having a clear lens instead of a foggy one. Not just being able to identify the sunlight or make out different bird calls, in goodness one specifically notices the spiritual component in all life forms. Such a vision is very difficult to acquire, as many factors compete for the attention of the potent life force within. Austerity particularly is tied to regulated sex life, and from this austerity so many other good things come, including progeny that follows family traditions.

Let’s pretend that today you are quite satisfied with your family situation. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents are all pious people. You love how they raised you. They instilled values in you that serve as your foundation. These values guide how you behave in life. Though at a young age you didn’t understand all the rules, regulations, rituals and traditions, you followed them anyway due to the respect you had for your elders. Today you understand the role these things played in making you the person you are.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaEventually the responsibility shifts. The student is the future teacher. The child is the father of man, as the saying goes. Now it’s your turn to keep the family line going. How will you handle this responsibility? How will you avoid messing everything up? Children are free thinkers after all. They are independent beings, though initially dependent on the protection of the parents. How are you going to force anyone to follow you? How are you going to compel the dependents to be good people?

Well, think of it another way. If you had sinister motives and wanted to destroy family traditions, how would you accomplish it? If you see others in society behaving so nicely, how would you help to turn the tide in the subsequent generations? Obviously, the easiest way is neglect. Don’t care about the children. Don’t teach them right and wrong. Don’t guide them along the proper path. Whatever they want materially, give it to them. If they mess up, tell them, “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.”

The easy way to do this is to not love the children at all. What is the surefire way to get unloved children? Unwanted children, of course. If the future generation in your family is not even wanted, if it appeared by accident, there is an easy excuse for not providing guidance. Without proper attention, the family traditions vanish. The basis for your present character goes missing in future generations.

Ice cream cakeTake this same concept and apply it to society as a whole. A society full of unwanted children has no culture at all. Instead, they are left to formulate their own rules, as if they are smarter than everyone else. They will deny the existence of a supreme being. They will follow some sort of religion for sure, but it will be manmade. The new sins will be failing to recycle and driving a gas-guzzling automobile. Distinctions will be made on race and ethnicity. The immediate satisfaction will rate higher in priority than the future good. Therefore any imposed short-term hardship, especially in children, will be considered cruel. It will be as if the children are running the show, where they’re allowed to stay up late, eat ice cream for every meal, and never attend school.

We see that the basic austerity of avoiding illicit sex gives so many ancillary benefits. In addition to allowing one to see things clearly, it gives the best chance for keeping family traditions going. Those traditions may be trivial or significant, simple or comprehensive, but at least they provide some foundation to guide behavior. Without them, the children may as well grow up in the jungle amongst the animals.

The other three main qualities of a person in goodness are compassion, cleanliness and truthfulness. All four combine to give the best chance for advancing to the mode of pure goodness, where the origin of matter and spirit is seen all the time. That vision is the best one to have. The eyes in that vision are anointed with the balm of devotion, and with devotion one extracts the sweet nectar out of everything. Nothing can be separated from the all-attractive Supreme Lord, as even His basic regulations intended for the non-devoted aspirant bring so many benefits.

Lord KrishnaIndeed, in studying all of the modern day movements that are rooted in godlessness, one sees that there is some breakdown to the family that results. The founders of such movements often had this as a stated objective, so no one should be surprised by the results. In the bona fide principles passed on since time immemorial through both family tradition and disciplic succession of spiritual teachers, the goals never have to be hidden. There are no secrets, as the teacher who is in the mode of goodness follows honesty. He plainly says that austerity will lead to good things, which will include a society full of wanted children. Wanted is always better than unwanted, as the first will get some attention and the second will not. Would you expect a plant to continue to grow without attention? Surely too much attention can harm it as well, but total neglect is never a superior choice.

The goal of all Vedic injunctions, which are the oldest guidelines of religion known to man, is to bring a person eventually to the devotional consciousness, which is the original one. Above all practices, rituals and regulations, it is devotion to God which makes one’s life fruitful. In the present age, where so many unwanted children roam due to the difficulty of acquiring austerity, there is still hope. It is through the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Pleased with family situation now,

But maintain tradition forward how?


To learn opposite turn first take,

How all traditions easily to break?


Easy, just no love to anyone give,

Without restriction allow them to live.


Even with society of children unwanted filled,

Chance for hope, discipline in chanting instilled.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Differences in Eating

Doughnuts“The four principal bodily demands - eating, sleeping, mating and defending - can be satisfied under any circumstances, whether one is born in an impious condition or in a pious condition. The problem, however, is how to become free from the four principles of birth, death, old age and disease.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Easy Journey to Other Planets, Ch 2)

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“You have no idea what life is like in that country. I’ve been there. I’ve seen their poverty. They don’t have any electronics, whatsoever. Their restrooms are unbelievably small compared to ours. The people rely on the food that they produce on their land. There are hardly any restaurants. You can’t import so many things. The people use a well for water. There is no such thing as indoor plumbing. I feel so bad for them. People in our country have no idea how poor these people are. We could never live like them.”

Indeed, wealth in modern times is determined by net worth, the total value of all material possessions. A person living on a small plot of land obviously doesn’t have a high net worth. They are pitied for their less than extravagant way of life, but they are still eating. In one nation there is plenty of food to eat. In another, there is just enough. The former is considered wealthy and the latter indigent, but is there a meaningful difference?

Supermarket shelfConsider the supermarket. If we had to list what we needed to survive in terms of food, we surely wouldn’t think of having ten different kinds of pasta. We also wouldn’t have three or four different brands of milk. Just some basic bread, milk, water, fruits and vegetables would suffice. The meat eater also wouldn’t insist on such variety, for who actually purchases every product of every brand that is sold?

And yet the supermarket has so many brands. If you want gluten free pasta, you can buy it. It is in stock in most stores. If you want skim milk, that is available too. Someone else wants the full fat milk, which there is plenty of. The supermarket has so many varieties due to demand. There are people to buy the various products, and so the supply meets the demand.

In another part of the world, the variety isn’t so much, but the people eat nevertheless. Even in past ages, when there wasn’t the supermarket, the citizens ate. Thus the overabundance of food in one era doesn’t necessarily make a difference in quality of life, as food is necessary for survival. If the people are eating, they are living.

Does the greater supply of food solve problems? Basic observation answers the question. In the nations that feature the supermarket and its endless variety, is everyone happy? Is strife conspicuous by its absence? Are there no problems? In actuality, there are constant problems, with one of the biggest being apathy in the citizens. There is such an abundance of material wealth that people have time to be upset over what singers say, what they wear, and with whom they enjoy. Others then lament the degradation of the culture, and how there is no belief in a higher power. The erosion of moral principles is a cause for concern to those who are righteously situated. And this all takes place in a land with an overabundance of food.

Hatred of AppleEnvy increases when there is so much to go around. One person is jealous over what someone else has, though the envious person has plenty already. One business doesn’t like the other that is winning the competition for profit. The poor man envies the rich, and the rich man bemoans the high tax rates. Thus everyone is constantly unsettled, envious of their neighbor even and the car they drive.

For a sober analysis, the object for comparison needn’t even be the poor nation. The animals have enough food to eat. They are not considered poor. There is no such thing as a rich tiger. Through nature’s arrangement, every kind of species finds ways to get what they need to survive. Some live longer than others for sure, but that is true of the more intelligent human species as well.

Real advancement occurs with consciousness. The more developed one’s consciousness, the more superior they are in comparison with others. The fully developed consciousness always thinks of God. The symptoms of such a mindset are kindness, perseverance, tolerance, knowledge, compassion, and commitment to the truth. The politician has to lie from time to time in order to survive. The truth is often times unpalatable to hear, and if the citizens are offended by a particular statement they will not vote for the offending party. The businessman must also lie, for if they revealed just how much profit they were making selling a product or service, their sales could be hurt.

“As a rich man has his symptoms by which he is known as a rich man, as a diseased man has his symptoms by which he is known as diseased, or as a learned man has his symptoms, so a man in transcendental consciousness of Krishna has specific symptoms in various dealings. One can know his specific symptoms from the Bhagavad-gita. Most important is how the man in Krishna consciousness speaks; for speech is the most important quality of any man.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.54 Purport)

Prabhupada speakingIn God consciousness, there is no place for dishonesty. The ultimate truth is the Supreme Lord Himself. The God conscious person always speaks of such a supreme being, so they are always on the side of truth. They may run a business or hold political office even, but on the most important matter of the meaning of life and how to go about fulfilling it, they never shy away from speaking the undeniable fact that every spirit soul is inherently connected to the Absolute Truth through a similarity in quality. Every individual is godlike; eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. The difference is in the quantitative output of such qualities. In God the quantity is so great that it is unfathomable. In the individual it is great too, but there is a limit. The blissfulness and knowledge can be masked and the various forms assumed in the material world are temporary.

To keep the soul within the temporary body, each individual requires their own level of food intake. One person eats a single slice of pizza, while another requires an entire pie. Real rich and poor are not determined by the difference in consumption, and neither are they based on a marginal difference in availability. The superior person is one who has reached the pinnacle of consciousness. They are so kind that they teach others how to reach it as well, which allows the recipient to remove the illusion of rich versus poor.

In Closing:

Supply in food supermarket has much,

In poor nation not same variety as such.


That difference between two is presumption,

Based solely on level of consumption.


But actually eat both of them do,

Pain, misery, envy for them too.


Real advancement in consciousness only,

Fortunate thinks of God in time every.