Saturday, December 14, 2013

Platform of No Obstruction

Lord Krishna“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

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Bhagavad-gita, 3.6“I can’t stay in this room. It is insane right now. Kids are running around everywhere. Some radio program is streaming on the computer. The television is on, where talking heads are discussing the results to the latest game for hours on end. How many analysts do they really need? None of them are that smart anyways. They’ve predicted so many games wrong before. Now they talk endlessly about what they just saw, but if they were really wise they would have said the same things before they actually happened. Anyone can discuss things ex post facto. You don’t even need to be a former player to speak about things you have just witnessed.”

Television football analysts“Okay, now that I have moved to this other room, I think things are better. Time to get started. Oh boy, what is that sound now? Seems like the faucet is leaking in the adjacent bathroom. Water is dripping little by little. If it were falling in a steady stream, there wouldn’t be a problem. But the slow drip is very annoying. I start to anticipate the next drop, unable to concentrate at all. This room might be as bad as the previous one.”

“Alright, this room is quiet. No bathroom nearby. No people around. Time to get to work again. But oh boy, it is really hot in here. I’m starting to sweat. Now I’m getting tired too. This heat is unbearable. It’s all I can think about. I’m trying to block it out, but it is very difficult. Why is it that I can’t seem to catch a break? Wherever I turn there is a problem.”

For analysis purposes in this scenario the exact nature of the work isn’t so important. There is something that the individual wants to do, but for some reason they find obstructions everywhere they turn. In one place the obstructions are obvious and numerous, while in others they are subtle and few. From the differences, we can create a grading system; one room is better than another, and so forth. However, there is still always some obstruction. Religious life can be thought of in this light. It is the search for pleasure without obstruction. Just as everyone else is looking for unlimited happiness, so the spiritual seeker wants to find that area where the highest enjoyment can be found without any distractions.

OmNot surprisingly, often the initial inclination is to retreat. Leave the busy city so that you can meditate in the quiet surroundings. Chant the sacred syllable of om, which represents the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord. If you are turned off by organized religion or just don’t know what a Supreme Being looks like and how He acts, you can at least acknowledge the sum total of everything. There is a complete whole, though it is impossible to fully conceptualize. If someone lives in a single room inside of a house all the time, they may not realize that there are other rooms. They may not know what is on the other floors. Nevertheless, those other aspects do exist. There is a complete picture of the house that exists.

Om addresses the complete manifestation, including both physical objects and sentient beings. Om is difficult to concentrate on, so one naturally seeks shelter in areas where there is limited obstruction. There are several vulnerabilities in this practice. For starters, without knowing the person behind om, the attractiveness of the impersonal view isn’t so great. Without attractiveness there is hardly any attraction. Without attraction steadiness to the endeavor wanes.

Another issue is that even in an area with limited distraction, if there is still attachment to things which are not om, then obstruction exists. If I’m in a quiet room and my ears are ringing from tinnitus, I’m not really in peace, am I? If I’m in a loud room but my mind is focused on something else, able to block out the external noise, then I’m in a better position than the distracted person in the empty room. Thus the external conditions themselves aren’t everything.

All issues are resolved when the person behind the impersonal is understood. In the Vedas He is described by so many names. As He is a person like you and me, He is known as Purushottama. This means that He is the supreme person, better than anyone else. He never loses, so He is known as Ajita. He never falls down, so He is known as Achyuta. He is the source of all men, so He is known as Narayana. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, so He is known as Shripati. Since He is full of transcendental pleasure, He is known as Rama.

Lord KrishnaIncorporating all of His many wonderful attributes is the name Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” It is this feature that is considered the original, and it has a corresponding personality. He is bluish in complexion, unbelievably beautiful, ever youthful, always smiling and holding a flute in His hands. Service to Him is the pleasure everyone inherently seeks, though they may not be aware of it. Everyone seeks some kind of pleasure, and they try to find it where there is no obstruction. When they don’t practice bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, they always find some obstruction, be it in external objects, people, or the time factor itself. The person you think is enjoying the most today will eventually lose everything at the time of death. So how much are they really enjoying?

Bhakti-yoga is the platform of no obstruction. Not that outside distractions immediately vanish. One who chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and avoids meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex will surely meet with trouble. Others may not like that they are now worshiping God. Others might also try to lure them back into sinful ways, as who wants to hang out with a “downer?”

Indeed, even in circles where everyone is supposedly practicing bhakti-yoga, there are so many obstacles. “Your guru is not as good as my guru. Your guru is not qualified; he is not pure. This organization only services the neophytes, people who are not very smart. This leader is sleeping around. This person is always cursing. That person is only interested in distributing books; his knowledge is not very high. That person is running a business on the side; he is not very pure.”

Such criticisms can dampen the enthusiasm of even the greatest lover of God. If many of those who practice bhakti-yoga are so critical and full of faults, how is there hope for anyone? But actually, the effect of the obstructions is gradually removed when the motives are pure. The purity is strengthened through continuous chanting and service. Most importantly, the more the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, is remembered, the more He enters the consciousness. His presence then strengthens that consciousness, which in turn strengthens resolve, thereby leading to victory over the attacking enemy known as obstruction.

In Closing:

Loud television, many a rambunctious kid,

Can’t find peace, to deserve this what I did?


From room to room then to go,

Looking for obstructions no.


Spiritual life platform of happiness real,

Limited obstruction, warmth of God to feel.


From bhakti even with so many others being negative,

In remembering Krishna, to prominence rises the positive.

Friday, December 13, 2013

When Less Is More

Lord Krishna“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.65)

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Bhagavad-gita, 18.65It is said that too much material opulence can hurt the chances for success in spiritual life. There is the saying relating to how difficult it is for the rich man to enter heaven, how it is easier to thread the eye of a needle with a camel. There is meaning behind the words, as one’s life changes when they find more success. Though it needn’t be the case, more wealth means more objects, which means more diversion of attention.

Success in spiritual life depends on fixed concentration. The Sanskrit term within the discipline of yoga is dhyana. “Focus your mind. Eliminate all outside thoughts. Fix your eyes on the tip of your nose. Do this while sitting erect on a cushion made of deerskin. The dead animal’s skin keeps the insects away. The posture must be held in a secluded place, where there are no distractions. No ringing of cell phones, no clamoring of pots and pans from the kitchen, no children running around demanding attention. There is nothing else to do but meditate. Even sleeping is difficult in the ideal place for meditational yoga.”

MeditationIn the present period of time finding such conditions is very difficult. Not everyone can afford the weekend retreat to a quiet area. Growing up with electronics, appliances, cars, televisions, and cell phones, how is one expected to suddenly drop everything and live in a renounced cave? Moreover, if the person meditating knows that they must return to their hectic suburban lifestyle upon weekend’s completion, their concentration will suffer. We can think of it like trying to sleep the night before something very important. It is a lot more difficult to relax in such a situation versus on a typical day.

God is for everyone. This theoretical assertion is supported by the factual presence of the Paramatma within every individual. We can accurately say that God travels with us all the time; perhaps not in His original transcendental form, but in a manifestation that is just as potent. This expansion, which resides in the heart next to the individual soul, or jivatma, does not intervene. It is there to act as an authority, a guiding force, a flawless consultant. This is all provided that one sees it as such. Based on the widespread distaste for religion, we see that just knowing that the Paramatma exists makes one very fortunate.

As God is always with us, we can connect with Him at any time. The key is the concentration. Despite living in a world with so many distractions, one can still find a way to stay with Him. Have we ever been in a room full of people and felt totally alone? Have we ever had only our closest friend with us and felt totally safe and comfortable? So the numbers on the outside don’t necessarily matter. A person can be living in a cave and still be very attached, just as someone living in a busy city can be completely renounced.

As the key is dhyana, whatever is around to attack that concentration thus becomes inauspicious. Someone who is suddenly materially successful might get distracted. They may start to think that they can achieve success on their own, one hundred percent of the time. The self-help guru gives guidance on how to be happy in life, but their recommendations are not perfect. The same goes for diet advice and words of wisdom on how to be a successful businessman.

Estate planningToo much material opulence brings additional responsibilities. “How will the estate be managed? Who will inherit my wealth after I am gone? How can I make sure the company stays profitable going forward? What kind of car am I going to buy? How soon until I should buy a new one? Where should I live? I have so much money now, but so many new decisions to make.”

All of the new objects that get attention are in a sense offered a kind of worship. Worship comes down to attention, after all. It is attention of a good kind. If I get a new car that is very expensive, I will obviously give it a lot of attention. The same goes for a large house. Therefore my material opulence creates so many new objects for worship, and these objects are not God. Most often these objects are not even people, so what can they really do for me?

Lord KrishnaThe person who is unfortunate in the material sense often has an easier time accepting the one and only Lord as their exclusive object of worship. They don’t have anything else to distract them, so they are actually very fortunate. The objects of material opulence will eventually vanish, as will the body itself. The attention to the Supreme Lord doesn’t have to, however. It stays with the devoted soul into the next life, as the Paramatma reveals its original spiritual form as an all-attractive being. Known as Bhagavan, His association is the most valuable, making all other objects and possessions insignificant.

In Closing:

In casino from roulette wheel’s spin,

Great fortune, so much money to win.


Now to go buying this item and that,

Protecting car, clothes measuring exact.


Though not aware, in worship of such to live,

Since after all so much attention to give.


For spiritual life hinged upon concentration,

Above all else dhyana the foundation.


Sometimes with misfortune the Lord to bless,

More time for Him when objects less.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why Is There Anything

Lord Krishna's lotus feet“One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.64)

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Bhagavad-gita, 2.64“We can’t make sense of it all. Why does the father abandon the wife and infant suddenly? Don’t they realize what that does? Don’t they feel a sense of responsibility? Why are some people poor and others rich? Why do people die? Everyone lives for some time but then eventually passes on. Why do I have to think? Why can’t I just sit around and do nothing? Why the constant anxiety? Why is there even anything? Why is there an existence?”

After hearing explanations on the origin of matter and spirit, the nature of a truth that is absolute, and the way to escape birth and death and their accompanying miseries, the question as to the reason for an existence might remain. But applying a little intelligence coupled with an ounce of humility gives the answer.

The fact that we have to ask such a question means that we can never truly know. If everything already exists anyway, and I have no clue as to why, what is asking the question going to do for me? I have arms, legs, a belly, and a face. I have to breathe to stay alive. My heart must keep beating. I have to eat to make everything work. I can question why it is this way. I can be angry over the fact that I have to sleep every night and that I can’t remember everything that happened today, yesterday or ten years ago.

pillowThat lamentation doesn’t get me anywhere. Whether I lament or not, everything does still exist. Why not then try to find a way out? That is the call to arms for the human being who is fortunate enough to be sober and coherent after birth. Athato brahma-jijnasa, “Now is the time for inquiring about the Absolute Truth.” The time was not right in the animal body. The animal can’t really question anything. They just act. It’s called instinct. They neither overly lament their present circumstances nor look for a way out of them.

When in the human body the consciousness is finally awake enough to ponder over the matters of duality. Heat and cold, light and dark, health and sickness, happiness and sadness - nothing is absolute. Everything changes, going from one extreme to the other. The many shifts are encompassed in the broader transformation from birth to death. It is in the time between these two events that the sober human being can inquire into the Absolute Truth.

Upon approaching the proper knowledge, we learn that everything emanates from a single source. This source is beyond duality. It is an enjoyer, so it is a male in the way that we understand males. It is a distinct personality in the way that we understand personalities. There are similarities to the human being since the human race comes from this original source, but there are stark differences as well.

Lord RamaThe original source does not encounter birth and death. He exists forever in His spiritual form. He expands to other spiritual personalities who have the same properties but may look slightly different. He never has to wonder why things exist because they always do. He is the only entity with perfect knowledge. The living beings emanate from Him, and so they are like Him but not the same in abilities.

One ability that is limited is knowledge. The human being cannot know everything. If he did then he would be God. If he were God, then the rest would be academic. There would be no need to search for anything. There would be no need to inquire into the Absolute Truth since the human being would already be that truth.

If you don’t know why things exist, it means that you are not God. Better to know and serve Him than vie with Him for intelligence. Rather than view God as a competing team in a trivia contest, use Him on your side to find the answers to the important questions of life. “How do I escape birth and death? How do I find a state where I don’t have to question why things exist?”

The answers are there for the human being. The most sober person will take to the direct path of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. In this path there is service from beginning to end. There is direct connection with God, though in the beginning one may not feel it completely. Gradually, through following regulative principles of freedom and sacrificing time and effort in various methods recommended by the spiritual master, the presence of God is revealed further and further.

Lord KrishnaThose who are not attracted to devotional service can still make advancement. There are guiding principles for all persons, of all occupations and levels of intelligence. Just as the teacher says to study this book and prepare for that exam, without necessarily informing the students why the topics are important, so others can make advancement in following principles of renunciation, such as staying away from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Even only visiting a house of worship on a regular basis brings advancement.

After sufficient time, with the devotional consciousness in full gear, the individual realizes the purpose to everything. So many things exist to be used in service to God, who is known as Krishna since He is all-attractive. He is known as Rama since He holds full transcendental pleasure. His confidential servants are described as patita-pavana, for they rescue the sincere seekers from the dangerous waters of the material ocean. While struggling to remain afloat, one bemoans the fact that anything, including themselves, should exist, but after the rescue the existence is cherished for the opportunity it brings for service to the lotus feet of the Divine Creator.

In Closing:

Why happiness, sadness and the rest?

Why after life only with death we’re left?


Everything exists, so to question why?

Better for escape from perils to try.


Chance for rescue in human life begin,

With right consciousness over ignorance to win.


Follow principles if to divine love you are averse,

Then know God and life’s purpose, the trend reverse.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taking the Antidote

Lord Krishna“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

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Bhagavad-gita, 16.19In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated clearly why the jiva soul is cast into various species that bring so much pain. These species are described as lower, which refers to the place on the ladder of success in consciousness. On the lower rungs there is increased forgetfulness of God, and because of that there is increased misery. On the higher rungs there is increased remembrance of God, which brings all good things. When that remembrance occurs at the time of death, there is no more rebirth.

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

The language is quite clear. Whether one accepts the statements or not is a different story. Perhaps there is a sectarian boundary that prevents one from even hearing the ancient Sanskrit text that summarizes and perfectly explains the original spiritual discipline for all of man, the dharma of the individual soul. Perhaps one thinks in terms of “my God” versus “your God,” and thus doesn’t want to hear about the transmigration of the soul, the three modes of material nature, the reason that anger is harmful, the pitfall of aversion and attachment, and the source of both material and spiritual worlds.

But even when the statements are accepted, there is still the curiosity to investigate further into history. “When did I first come here? I understand now that reincarnation continues for as long as I am not purely God conscious, but when did my impure consciousness begin? When did I separate from God? When did I first fall to the material world? Did I come directly from the Lord’s company in the spiritual realm? Did I simply expand from His transcendental body and then make the choice at random, like the flipping of the coin?”

First aid kitWhen rushed to the emergency room with an ailment, there is little time for the responders to delve into the cause. They may ask what had happened. Nevertheless, the emphasis is on treatment to eliminate the problem. If there is a heart attack, the doctors and nurses must figure out how to get the heart running again. Never mind what caused the cardiac arrest. So many things could have happened. Perhaps it was a sudden shock or maybe it was years of unhealthy eating. When the treatment is available, however, there is no hesitation in applying it.

For the disease of reincarnation afflicting the spirit soul, who travels through so many different bodies spanning millions of years, Shri Krishna provides the cure in the Bhagavad-gita. He says to think of Him. Thinking of Him is difficult, so there are recommended practices, regulations and guidelines. He says to offer all the results of work to Him. He says that by acting this way, we will automatically come to Him.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.34“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.34)

Krishna's lotus feetTo prevent the disease from coming back, it is surely helpful to figure out what caused it in the first place. With the fall to the material world, the “why” is actually already provided. We know that there was forgetfulness. The urge to trace the history is for deciphering the “when.” Relating this to the disease of the body analogy, it would be like learning that one’s appendicitis was caused by eating certain kinds of bagels. These bagels were consumed on a regular basis, so the patient would have no issue accepting the root cause diagnosis. But then if they spent so much effort in trying to remember when they ate the bagels, it wouldn’t be such a worthy use of time. If the “why” is already known, then “when” usually isn’t so important.

In the spiritual sense, the “when” of forgetting God can never truly be known. This is because full knowledge is only available to God. The Bhagavad-gita is spoken by Shri Krishna to a liberated soul named Arjuna. This means that Arjuna, though temporarily distraught and forgetful of the real principles of religion, is actually never forgetful of Krishna. He simply plays the role of disciple on one occasion in order to teach future generations of man the timeless principles of yoga, which is linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.

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!” (Bg. 4.5)

ArjunaArjuna learns that he has lived so many previous lives, but whereas Krishna can remember those lives, Arjuna cannot. If even the liberated soul who is Krishna’s constant companion in so many manifest pastimes on earth does not have perfect knowledge of history, who are the individual spirit souls, who are currently not in Krishna’s company, to gather perfect knowledge of either their own history or anyone else’s?

Consciousness is adjusted in the right direction through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This accounts for thinking of Krishna. It is also a sacrifice of time and energy. It is a kind of work as well. How the fruits of labor are ultimately used determines the nature of that labor. If I work hard simply to be able to drink adult beverages and eat meat all the time, my work enables my forgetfulness of God.

On the other hand, if I work to support my devotional life, which begins and ends with chanting the holy names, then the work is spiritual in nature. Though externally it may appear to be material, by supporting the devotional culture the work is actually a sacrifice for the Supreme Lord. Enough sacrifice, over enough time, brings the desired pure consciousness at the time of death, which is the ultimate solution to the miseries of life.

In Closing:

Leaving God, falling from grace,

My history back let me trace.


Though solution from Gita I know,

Still towards finding complete account I go.


To Krishna than Arjuna none is more dear,

And yet even to him such history not clear.


Solution there, emergency treatment take,

Chant holy names, disease of forgetfulness forsake.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Treasure Mine

Sita and Rama“The group of young girls and queens stayed there in this way, receiving every auspicious treasure looking at Sita and looking at Rama.” (Janaki Mangala, 152)

jubati jūtha ranivāsa rahasa basa ehi bidhi |
dekhi dekhi siya rāma sakala mangala nidhi ||

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The vision of the couple just married is a treasure. Therefore in a traditional wedding ceremony in modern times, there is the reception that follows the religious portion. The taking of wedding vows in front of a man of the clergy is enough to satisfy the requirement for marriage, but the well-wishers desire more time with the new couple. They wish to see them again and again in their wedded bliss. The same held true a long time ago in the marriage ceremony performed in the earthly realm for the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort.

To hold on to the memory of that special day, there are pictures and video taken. The day after, the attendees recount what happened the previous night. “Oh, did you see that person on the dance floor? Did you hear what that other person told me? What did you think of the food? Wasn’t the church ceremony so nice? I couldn’t believe all the nice things the bride had to say about the groom. She must really love him very much. The pair is a perfect match. They complement each other in qualities. One is bold and assertive and the other is calm and steady. I can’t wait to see the wedding video to again experience the festive occasion. If only we could relive that night again and again.”

Understanding the importance of the moment, the young ladies and queens at the marriage of Sita and Rama kept stealing glances at the divine couple. Normally, it is considered impolite to stare. “Would you like it if someone were looking at you all the time? After a while it would be a little creepy, wouldn’t it? Therefore you shouldn’t do that to someone else.”

Sita and RamaSita and Rama didn’t mind. They possess every virtue, every quality in goodness imaginable. If there is any object worth staring at, it is them right after they have officially been joined in the sacred city of Tirahuta. The women in the wedding party had a unique enjoyment due to their level of access. They got to lead Sita and Rama to the wedding chamber, where the couple got to know each other through playing traditional games. The women had the chance to make fun of the two mothers, ribbing them when their child lost a particular round.

Most importantly, the women were able to look at the bride and groom over and over again. Since Sita and Rama are divine, the goddess of fortune and the Supreme Lord respectively, others are not only allowed to stare at them, but encouraged to do so. Physical proximity is not a requirement for having the vision. Here the women got to stare at the couple sitting directly in front of them, but others have the same opportunity in visiting the temple.

Sita and Rama deitiesRather than speculate as to who the heavenly father is, and rather than remember only the sacrifice of life given by a son of God, in the temple one can see the transcendental features of God drawn out. There is no limit to these features, so the rendering is never completely accurate. Moreover, man is limited in the materials he can use to create the worshipable form. For instance, if God is everything, His height cannot be limited. And yet when making a statue of the original Lord or one of His many incarnations, the height must have a limit.

The form is still worshipable if it is created and installed in an authorized way. The deity is the mercy of God, giving the individual a chance to worship Him. That individual is not God; so it has limitations. He has a difficult time seeing the presence of the divine that is everywhere. Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, in his Dohavali explains how the personal form of God is superior to the impersonal precisely because the personal form eliminates room for error. The comparison is made to the number, and how it looks different based on how it is presented. The numeral form looks different than the written out word. Both forms represent the same number, but the numeral can more easily be distorted. This is why both versions are presented on a check payment.

Sample checkIn the same way, the deity version of the incarnation removes the doubt in the mind of not knowing exactly who God is. The deity allows for the eyes to continuously stare, receiving every auspicious treasure in the process. The jewel of a reward in this life is devotion to God. Devotion is strengthened by attraction, and attraction automatically comes from opulence. The deity is worshiped in all opulence, attracting the mind with its features, activities and qualities.

“After having rested on the worshiped arm of the Lord of the world, how can I now take rest on the arm of any other?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.16-17)

bookcoverThe deity of a just-wedded Sita and Rama attracts the mind to the sacred time in Tirahuta when Shri Rama, using His most powerful arm, which is the only worshipable arm for Sita, effortlessly lifted the heavy bow to win Janaka’s contest. It attracts the mind towards Sita’s undying devotion to Rama. It attracts the mind towards the kind attendants of Sita, who took so much pleasure in her auspicious day. Most importantly, it attracts the mind towards devotion itself, which is life’s ultimate reward.

In Closing:

“To look at me in this way you dare,

Don’t you know it’s impolite to stare?”


With Supreme Lord such behavior acceptable,

When seeing deity with features perceptible.


Mistakes removed when attributes drawn out,

Learn that form Supreme God not without.


Friends at Sita and Rama repeatedly stole a look,

Serving divine couple most of opportunity took.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Overwhelmed by the Moment

Sarasvati Devi“With a happy heart Sita’s mother waved the arati lamp. Who can describe that pleasure, for even Sarasvati was overwhelmed by the moment?” (Janaki Mangala, 151)

sīya mātu mana mudita utārati ārati |
ko kahi sakai ananda magana bhai bhārati ||

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If there is an important event taking place, camera crews and reporters from various news organizations rush to the scene. Similar to how the emergency personnel must behave, these workers must not be affected by the event. They cannot be swayed one way or the other, for they are supposed to describe what is going on to others who are not there. In modern times there is the reporter on the scene who gives a live, eyewitness account. There are also those who will put their description to pad or computer screen.

Obviously the journalists are expected to be capable at their craft. They should have a way with words. They should know how to describe what’s going on in a succinct manner, but not missing any of the vital details. They should answer the five questions of who, what, where, when, why and how. If they get too absorbed in the moment, then there is no one to properly describe what is going on. This is similar to what occurred in the scene referenced above, except the reporter on the scene is the most eloquent speaker in the world and the subject of the scene the most enchanting vision.

iPhone usesIn the Vedas there is a goddess of speech and learning. You worship her in the hope that she can share some of her gifts with you. Though she distributes her rewards very liberally to anyone who pleases her properly, she still would like to see her gifts utilized in a certain manner. If you manufacture smartphones for a living, you are pleased when the purchasers use the phone to speak to their loved ones. You are pleased when they can send a text message very quickly or snap a picture of a crime scene to help catch a criminal. You are pleased if they can use the phone to be productive at work so that they can support their family.

You are not pleased, however, if the purchasers use your product to commit a crime. If they use the smartphone to organize a large scale drug run or the robbing of a bank, you will lament the tragedy and the small hand you played in it. Your product is still sold to anyone. You can try to have the purchaser sign a statement promising to use the device a certain way, but there is no means of enforcement. Thus you choose to conduct the transactions blindly. As long as there is payment made, the ownership transfers legally.

In the same way Goddess Sarasvati distributes the gift of learning and speech to anyone who pleases her. Still, there is an ideal use for her gifts. From this scene we see what catches her eye. Here she is absorbed in the moment of a bride’s mother waving the arati lamp in front of her daughter. The arati lamp is a common component of worship in the Vedic tradition. It is a sign of welcome, a way to heartily greet someone. Here the mother prays that her daughter’s marriage to her new husband will be auspicious.

Arati lampThe mother does this out of love only. She is not looking for wealth. She is not looking for fame. She likely may never see her daughter again, as the daughter now belongs to a new family. Thus the waving of the lamp is for the daughter’s benefit. The mother has so much love that she wants God to always protect her beautiful daughter. That wouldn’t be a problem, as the daughter’s new husband was God Himself in His incarnation of Shri Rama.

It was the nature of the participants that caused Goddess Sarasvati to be absorbed in the moment. A person may manufacture and sell smartphones for a living, but at night they could take pleasure in something else. The business is their “day job,” a way to carry out their obligations to their society and family. Just because they work in a certain way doesn’t mean that they limit their enjoyment.

Sarasvati is a divine figure, so she possesses the quality of goodness to a very high degree. In ignorance one doesn’t know what to do. They do such things as break useful objects out of anger and curse important people only to repent later. In passion one works very hard for a temporary result; thus reaching a neutral position. In goodness one sees things as they are, and so they are better situated for appreciating the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Think of it like sitting in church and watching the proceedings. If you’re intoxicated, you are more prone to being disrespectful of things that warrant the highest respect. If your mind is consumed with thoughts on how to make money and enjoy later on in the day, you will also not relish the nectar of topics of Godhead. If your mind is rightly situated, appreciating everything you have around you and knowing the common spiritual force that pervades everything, you will get more out of the experience.

The experience here is in bhakti, which is above even goodness. The poet says that the pleasure of Sita’s mother cannot be described accurately, for even the goddess of learning herself was absorbed in the moment. If the person who has the most ability to describe something is fully absorbed in an event, who else can even come close to properly describing it?

Sita and RamaIn God’s pastimes there are many such moments, but the saints immersed in bhakti still try their best to describe them. Sarasvati is more than happy to see her gifts utilized properly in this manner. The life-giving works of the saints of the bhakti tradition bring so much glory to the world that the benefits return back to Sarasvati as well, who delights so much in the marriage of Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

Focused camera and steady pen must be,

When journalist live news event to see.


If even they are by vision taken,

Chance for others to learn forsaken.


Though Sarasvati goddess most skilled in speech,

At wedding overwhelmed by arati’s wave each.


Difficulty to describe offering to Sita of queen’s.

Something special in Lord’s pastimes it means.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hear Our Jokes

Sita and Rama“The wise ladies taught them how to play the wedding games. Winning and losing, they made accusations and gave a ribbing to both queens.” (Janaki Mangala, 150)

juā khelāvana kautuka kīnha sayāninha |
jīti hāri misa dehiṃ gāri duhu rāninha ||

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When Sita loses, her mother gets made fun of. When Rama loses, His mother takes a ribbing. “Who taught you how to play? It’s as if your family doesn’t know anything. You lost this one time, and you will lose again going forward.” Such jokes are allowed at the festive occasion of the wedding, and surprisingly here they are directed at the divine couple, Sita and Rama.

“O father, hear our prayer.” This is a common refrain when making requests to the man upstairs. He is the Almighty. He can create universes without a problem. He can then destroy them without even thinking about it. Just to build a house we require so much effort. We have to plan. We have to gather the materials. We have to chart out the construction, keeping a close eye on the schedule. Without the schedule it is difficult to do things in a timely manner. We complain about having to wake up early for school or work, but if the pressure wasn’t there we likely couldn’t get our work done on time. Thus the schedule helps to keep us active.

ScheduleThe Supreme Lord doesn’t require all of this. He doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake up. In an apparently sleeping state, just by His breathing in and out, so many universes manifest and then disappear. Since He is so powerful, it would make sense to seek His blessings. If we are in trouble, we go to Him for help. If we really want a loved one to be safe and protected, and we know that we can’t do so much on our own, we pray to the Lord to intervene.

The wedding is especially a time suitable for prayer. We see our loved ones entering a sacred covenant, a relationship to ideally last a lifetime. We pray to God that the newlyweds remain dedicated to each other, that they never forget their commitment to the relationship. We pray that God will protect them and allow them to enjoy family life.

Reverential worship of God is certainly superior to foolishly ignoring His existence, but the taste of interaction is sweeter when there is less fear. The leader of the nation certainly enjoys hearing praise from the citizens, but he takes greater pleasure in hearing the jokes from his friends and the loving complaints from his wife. Here the Supreme Lord is playing games with His eternal consort. In traditional Vedic weddings, the bride and groom don’t know each other going in. As a way to break the ice, to spend time with each other without it being awkward, the newlyweds play games. The intelligent ladies in the wedding party teach them how to play.

The enjoyment is enhanced through commentary, from both those witnessing and those participating. In basketball, there is the common practice known as “trash-talking,” where the opponents exchange verbal barbs in good fun. A player doesn’t want to perform poorly in fear that the other side will lob jokes. This is meant to be in good fun, as ideally afterwards everyone shows respect for one another.

Here the ladies showing Sita and Rama how to play the games offer abuses at the two queens after the outcome of the game. If Sita wins a particular round of a game, they make fun of Rama’s mother. If Rama wins, they make fun of Sita’s mother. Who would ever think of making jokes at the Supreme Lord’s family? Only those in the same family can do so. The enemies of God are not permitted, since they hold an inimical attitude. Those who only see God as an Almighty figure are also shut out from these delightful pastimes.

Sita and RamaOnly the devotees with pure motives can participate in such delightful joke-making. Such words enhance the pleasure of Sita and Rama, who like any other people enjoy the association of their friends and family. They are not conservative in this regard. They consider everyone eligible to be a friend, as they are intimately related to everyone. In each individual there reside two souls. One represents the person itself, and the other the Supreme Lord. This means that we all have God inside of us. We are not God Himself, but we are like Him and always tied to Him.

When we choose to ignore His presence, we miss out on His association. We think that He doesn’t exist or that He is a person to be feared only. Why fear Him when He is always with us? Why think that we could be God when we can’t even get what we want all the time? Better to be dedicated to Him in thought, word and deed. Better to be immersed in thoughts of Him. Better to please His dearmost associates, like Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and the many who follow their example of devotion.

Hanuman reading the RamayanaThe women in the marriage ceremony associated with Sita and Rama in a wonderful way. The divine couple blessed them with further association, for this is the best reward that can be offered. Both men and women alike can receive these blessings. Shri Hanuman, a being with perfect intelligence and unmatched strength, gets the same blessings in the form of support for his devotion from Sita herself. He delights in the wonderful marriage ceremony by hearing the beautiful poetry of Goswami Tulsidas, a person whom he personally inspired.

In Closing:

When of God to live in fear,

Hope that prayers He’ll hear.


“O Lord this painful condition relieve,

In your abundant mercy we believe.”


Here jokes to God’s family some did give,

Only because as intimate family to live.


Such words from devotees give pleasure a thousand fold,

To Supreme Lord, whose pastimes in works of Tulsi told.