Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Disappear

Rama and Lakshmana“Along with Lakshmana my husband Rama will very soon draw out your life breath with His arrows, like the sun does a puddle of water.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.33-34)

kṣipraṃ tava sa nātho me rāmaḥ saumitriṇā saha ||
toyamalpamivādityaḥ prānānādāsyate śaraiḥ |

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“You want to know how powerful the sun is? Watch this. I’m going to drop a little bit of water on the deck. Today is the perfect day to do this. I’m going to make a puddle, taking water from this drinking glass. Here we go. Now we have a puddle on the deck. Don’t worry about cleaning this up. The sun will take care of it. Since there are no clouds in the sky today, the change will happen very quickly. The sun grabs up water from the ocean and turns it into rainclouds to feed the crops. Just by the sun’s arrangement we are able to eat. Without this magical system, we would not be able to survive. Nothing can compare to the cloud’s potency for distributing nourishing water.”

A little later…

“There. See! The puddle is gone. It is not there. How long did that take? Not long at all, am I right? What did I tell you? What you just saw will happen every single time. The sun doesn’t discriminate. A little water like that is no match for the sun. The sun sucks up the puddle without breaking a sweat, no pun intended. The sun doesn’t have to think. Its potency is so great that a little puddle like this is taken care of without much time passing. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, you probably wouldn’t believe how fast it occurred.”

The sun over the oceanThis example shows the sun’s potency with respect to a tiny puddle. The puddle here is a collection of water that pales in comparison to the great container known as the ocean. The sun takes water from both puddle and ocean alike, but the effect on the ocean is more difficult to perceive. You could stare at the ocean for hours on a sunny day and not notice the water being absorbed by the sun. But with a puddle you can see the difference very clearly. The water has to go somewhere. We don’t necessarily see the sun picking it up, but we know that on the sunny day the reaction occurs more rapidly than on a cloudy one. Therefore the sun must be responsible.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the beloved wife of Lord Rama continues to show her poetic brilliance. Always possessing the ability to string together the perfect sequence of words to both teach and insult as appropriate to the situation, Sita here wonderfully paints the factual contrast between her husband and the apparently powerful king of Lanka. We say “apparently” because this was a consensus opinion. Ravana had many beautiful wives as queens. He had a kingdom with opulence not seen anywhere on this earth. If you hear about the opulence of Lanka during Ravana’s time you’ll likely think it is a myth. “No way someone could have so many buildings made of gold. No way there would be crystals in the floors and along the walls.”

And yet that is exactly what Ravana’s kingdom was like. Shri Hanuman, the most trustworthy person in the world, vouches for this, for he saw the opulence firsthand. Ravana had also defeated many powerful kings. He was given boons by the celestials that granted him immunity in combat against the fiercest fighters. Therefore it was understandable for others to give Ravana an exalted status due to his strength.

Sita DeviHere Sita compares him to a small amount of water. The Sanskrit words used are toyam and alpam, which mean “water” and “a small amount.” Alpam is often paired with “su,” which means “auspicious” or “great.” A small amount of water can be a puddle, especially within the context of the sun’s ability to extract life.

Sita says that her husband’s arrows will soon extract the life air, prana, from Ravana. Rama will be helped by His younger brother Lakshmana, who also fires arrows of equal potency. These arrows will not have a difficult time extracting Ravana’s life. It will be like the sun, Aditya, drying up a small amount of water.

For that transformation to take place, time is still required. The puddle doesn’t vanish immediately, but it goes away nevertheless. The puddle evaporates sooner than the water on top of the ocean. The absorption into the sun is also an accurate way to describe what happens to spirit souls who die thinking of the Supreme Lord. The consciousness at the time of death determines the nature for the next existence, as is stated by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

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)

Krishna is the same Rama. The two are identical except for outward appearance. Though they look slightly different, they are still the same personality. Rama is God, the universal Lord. He is the heavenly father others often reference but don’t know much about. Rama is the saguna form, which is drawn out with attributes discernible to the imperfect vision of the human being. Even when He is not discernible, God is still with form, as He is originally a personality.

Shri RamaThe water of the puddle sees the sun as it changes to vapor. The water doesn’t actually cease to exist; it just shifts its location and shape. In the same way, the dying person only has their soul transferred elsewhere, to a different body. The next destination is determined by the consciousness. The dying man who thinks of God attains a nature similar to God’s.

There are different ways to think of God as well. In Ravana’s case, the mood would be enmity, for he was jealous of Rama. That is why he stole Rama’s wife Sita away in secret. He could never have her, though, and because of his crime he would lose everything. One who dies while fighting directly with God merges into the body of the Lord. This is a kind of liberation, but not the ideal destination.

Hanuman serving RamaThe devoted souls are always merged in a sense. They don’t lose their identity, however. They retain a spiritual body that allows them to serve the Supreme Lord in the manner which they most prefer. Whether they are living or dying, they are always with Rama or one of His non-different forms. Instead of evaporating them out of existence, the powerful sun that is Rama continues to give them life to feed their devotional activities. This is what Rama and Lakshmana’s arrows would do for Sita and Hanuman, who continue to serve the Lord to this day.

In Closing:

Like when sun shining its way,

Stripping life of puddle away.


Without much effort to expend,

Water to new destination to send.


Life of Ravana Rama to extract,

With arrows meeting target exact.


Devotees merged always with Raghu’s sun,

In spiritual bodies keeping purpose one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Two Against One

Indra v. Vritra“If you were to have a quarrel with them, it is doubtful that you would be able to eclipse the two of them, like the quarrel between Indra of two arms and Vritra of one.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.32-33)

tasya te vigrahe tābhyāṃ yugagrahaṇamasthiram ||
vṛtrasyevendrabāhubhyāṃ bāhorekasya vigrahe |

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In professional wrestling, there are different styles of matches to whet the appetite of the attentive spectators. One style of match is called “handicapped” because the rules are not evenly applied. One side either has more men or more leeway in the rules. Thus the other side has less to work with; they are at a disadvantage throughout. In such situations, it is still possible for the handicapped side to emerge victorious. But in a quarrel where the opposing side consists of two formidable foes of superior prowess, victory is impossible, in spite of perseverance of the greatest magnitude. This is the point made here by Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama.

Short-handed goalIn ice hockey, if a team commits a foul, excluding a clear cut scoring chance on the goaltender, the player who committed the offense gets sent to the penalty box. This puts the team at a disadvantage for a period of time. The other team is allowed to keep the maximum number of players on the ice, while the team which took the penalty must subtract one from that number. Thus the offending team is considered “short-handed.” To score a short-handed goal is uncommon, but it still happens. If while short-handed, the team takes another penalty, they go down another man. To score a goal while down two men is indeed very rare. As in the professional ranks the players are of the utmost caliber, it is expected that continuously playing short-handed will not yield victory, no matter how much effort the short-handed players on the ice put in.

In the situation referenced above, at even strength the fiend Ravana did not stand a chance. He had tremendous power. In fighting, he was gifted with wonderful skill. Since he knew that he had these abilities, perseverance wasn’t difficult for him. Just as showing up does so much to increase the odds of success, confidence helps to keep one engaged in a conflict. If going in I think that I have no shot at winning, why will I continue to fight when things get tough? At the first sign of adversity, I will check out. On the other hand, if I know that I am better than the other side, if there is some slight hiccup, it won’t deter me from fighting on.

Ravana had amazing skill, so he would indeed continue to fight if the battle finally began. He was advised to not fight, however. The other side was Shri Ramachandra, the famous bow warrior from Ayodhya. Rama had already won the most handicapped match in history. He fought against 14,000 of Ravana’s best fighters. Rama emerged victorious. He did not even come close to losing. He fights without fear. He fights until the job is done and does not hold a grudge afterwards. He is dispassion personified. Because He is self-satisfied, one of His many names is Atmarama.

Lakshmana and RamaIn the verse previous to this, Sita tells Ravana that he wouldn’t be able to stand the mere presence of Rama, just as a dog runs away upon getting the aroma of a tiger. In this verse, Sita explains what will happen if Ravana should happen to get over that fear and actually take on Rama in combat. If Ravana were to put up the greatest fight, to continue on despite mounting casualties on his side, his victory would still be doubtful. That is because he would have to go against two great fighters: Rama and Lakshmana.

Ravana’s task is compared to what Vritrasura faced against Indra. The battle between those two is often referenced in the Vedas. It is described in many texts, including the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which was compiled many years after the events of the Ramayana. It is said that Vritrasura, though being a demon, was a devotee of God, and that a series of events led up to his conflict with Indra, the king of heaven. Indra lopped off one of Vritra’s arms, but the demon kept fighting. The conflict went on for many years, until Indra finally one. The two arms of Indra were too much for the one arm of Vritra.

Similarly, Ravana would have to deal with both Rama and Lakshmana, though Rama was enough to defeat Ravana easily. Sita knew her audience, so she purposefully mentioned Vritra, who was similar to Ravana in that he was a demon and had great strength. Ravana considered Indra an enemy, so he would relate better to Vritra. And yet he could take no solace from Vritra, since the demon died despite his great powers and perseverance.

Sita, Rama and LakshmanaSita is Rama’s beautiful wife who always serves Him in thought, word and deed. Here she had a struggle with Ravana, who tried to force her to come over to his side. She had Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana protecting her, and so that was enough to conquer any enemy. Similarly, the devoted souls who battle the dark elements of greed, lust, anger, wrath, vengeance and the obstructing forces firmly set against the godly principles take shelter of the same Rama, Lakshmana and Sita through chanting their holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Strength of husband and brother she knew,

Unbeatable was combined force of the two.


Since Ravana of all demoniac trait,

Story of Indra with Vritra to relate.


By Indra one arm was lopped,

So eventually in battle demon dropped.


Ravana to lose no matter how hard to try,

Victory from Rama and Lakshmana never to pry.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reversal of Fortune

Shrila Prabhupada“Seeing all these reverses affect devotees, one should not be disturbed; one should simply understand that in these matters there must be some plan of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Bhagavatam's conclusion is that a devotee is never disturbed by such reverses. He accepts even reverse conditions as the grace of the Lord. One who continues to serve the Lord even in reverse conditions is assured that he will go back to Godhead, back to the Vaikuntha planets.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.16.37 Purport)

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Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, known as the lion guru for his fearlessness in pushing forward the movement of devotional service to society at large, remarked that the path of devotion is set with thorns. The tendency is to think that the godly life must be better than the non-godly life, as getting a good job, maintaining a family and enjoying the senses don’t even bring lasting pleasure. Godly life must be something better, and it no doubt is. However, it is not without its difficulties, all of which serve to further strengthen one’s bond to the original Personality of Godhead. This is provided that one remains on the path, which they are advised to do.

What are some of the thorns that prick the feet of the person who treads the righteous path?

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ThakuraConsider the following scenarios:

“I can’t remain in the association of such people. They tell me to surrender to this guru or that, but I don’t think any of them are qualified. This one guy doesn’t know anything about shastra, or scripture. This other guy insults his own guru, diminishing his importance. This other person is rumored to be messing around with young ladies. All the while, the members of this group follow blindly. They don’t question anything that is going on. It is said in shastra that only a liberated soul can be a spiritual master. I don’t want to go along with this anymore. I want to go away from these people.”

“These people keep nagging me. They get up in my business about everything. They want to know how many rounds I’m chanting. They want to know what books I’m reading. Get out of my face! Who are you to tell me what to do? I will chant and read on my own good time. You don’t have to know everything about me. They are nagging me to start doing this service and that, though I have no interest in such things. They know I have difficulty declining invitations, so I’m in a bind. If I’m forced into service I’m not suited for, the experience will be so bad that I’ll give up meeting with these people entirely. I thought spiritual life was supposed to be blissful and not stressful?”

“I don’t know how anyone expects me to stay devoted to God. Everyone else around me has other interests. One person wants to gamble all the time. Sometimes they place wagers on professionals sports games, but other times the same practice is there with accumulating coupons, deals, airline miles, and stocks. Other people I know only think of what to eat and drink. The eating focuses on meat. The more expensive the restaurant, the better meat it supposedly serves. Drinking involves alcohol. Forget actually getting intoxicated for a low price, it is more important to sample the various beverages and thereby make intoxication a process, a lengthy experience. I have no interest in such things, but at the same time no one is interested in hearing about God. I can’t do this on my own. It shouldn’t be so difficult, but what am I supposed to do? Sometimes I feel like giving in and fitting in with the crowd.”

Liquor bottlesIn each of these situations, there are impediments towards devotional service, which is also known as bhakti-yoga. Bhakti is divine love, not to be confused with kama, which is material love, or lust. I say that I love someone else, but actually that love is checked. If they are incredibly mean to me, my love will switch to someone else. Bhakti cannot be taken back. Whether the Lord gives the devotee everything or nothing, the love is still there. It can be masked, forgotten, or stay in a dormant state, but it can never go away entirely. Indeed, kama is the inversion of bhakti. Sort of like having an upside down mirror, you see things in the wrong orientation, but the original object is still there. An upside down mirror is still a mirror; you just can’t get the true value of it until you flip it. The same goes for bhakti when it manifests as kama.

“In the Vedic scriptures, the neophyte devotees are advised to engage in nine kinds of devotional service, such as to hear and chant the holy name of God, to remember Him always, to chant on beads Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, to worship the Lord in the form of His Deity incarnation in the temples, and to engage in various activities of Krishna consciousness to increase the number of godly persons for perfect peace in the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.18.5)

Krishna deityThe flip occurs through devotional service, which is explicit practice. In the initial stage, it follows nine different methods: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the lotus feet, offering prayers, worshiping the deity, becoming a servant of the Lord, becoming friends with the Lord, and surrendering everything to Him. There are so many difficulties in just practicing one of these methods. There are many impediments, as the threefold miseries of life apparently have influence even on those who are on the divine path. There are the miseries of the body and mind, of nature’s forces, and of other living entities and their influence.

Faced with these difficulties, what is one supposed to do? Under a sober analysis, one sees that there is no choice but to continue on. If you’re in an emergency situation and it looks like time is running out, should you lament your potential failure? Lamentation can come later. Players in Major League Baseball repeat to themselves the motto, “Sleep in November,” which means they should get through the tough pressure of October baseball, the most important time of the season, despite the fear of failure.

Quitting in devotional service is the greatest loss. What does one have to gain in material life? Opulence, fame, prestige, a comfortable bed, some nice food? Such things don’t represent the pinnacle to an existence. If they did, everyone who had plenty of money would be happy. Everyone who got married would stay married. Everyone would be able to eat pizza and ice cream every day and never have health problems.

PizzaThe gain in devotional service is the best. It is the company of the Supreme Lord, who is ever-blissful, eternal and knowledgeable. His bliss is shared with His devotees. His eternality allows the sharing to continue without break. His knowledge is shared with the devotees, giving them the intelligence to figure out how to stay on the devotional path in spite of all the obstacles they face.

The Pandavas are the most famous example in this regard. A long time back they were rightful heirs to a kingdom. They lost their father at a young age. Then their uncle didn’t support them. He turned a blind eye, both literally and figuratively, to the illegal usurpation of the kingdom by his own sons, who were cousins to the Pandavas. To make matters worse, these cousins tried to kill the Pandavas many times.

The Pandavas were dear to Krishna, the personal form of God. Krishna is the detail behind the abstract. So the Pandavas should have had any easy time, no? Perhaps because of their troubles they should have renounced Krishna for having failed to save them from miseries? In fact, their devotion only increased as time went on. Their godly qualities never vanished, and so their connection to Krishna never did as well. They remain dear to Him to this day, and they are also famous for their example in devotional service.

The Pandava brothersChanting, hearing and remembering can take place anywhere. Whether one is in the midst of friendly devotees or unfriendly hedonists, they can still chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” They can hear about Krishna from famous Vedic texts and they can remember His pastimes simply by using the mind. The reward for staying on the path is far greater than any temporary comfort leaving the path may bring.

In Closing:

Of my devotion so much in the way,

Thinking of whether on path I should stay.


Since God supposedly to favor me,

Why hypocrisy and deceit from others to see?


In truth such obstacles due to Lord’s grace,

Resolve strengthened when tests to face.


Reward from staying on devotional path clear,

Like with Pandavas, who to Krishna remain dear.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just One More Hour

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

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Bhagavad-gita, 2.14You’re so tired. You can’t muster the strength to move your body out of bed. Plus, it’s so comfortable underneath the sheets. Wouldn’t it be great to lie there for the rest of the day? If you have to go to work, however, you will likely arise. No matter the conditions outside and no matter how fatigued you feel, if you have a deadline to meet, you’ll have no choice but to wake up. This example speaks to the mission in life and how the opportunity is for everyone to seize, regardless of their circumstances.

A child is stricken with cancer. Another loses their parents at an early age. One person grows up in poverty. Another has to work two jobs in order to support their family. Another loses a limb fighting for their country overseas. One person feels so much heartache after their wife has left them. Another person has just gotten divorced for the second time, left to wonder if their life will ever work out the way they had planned.

sunIn all such cases, the individual must go on. Quitting doesn’t solve anything. If it is a hot day, do we avoid going into the kitchen? Do we not cook food? Perhaps we don’t prepare our own dishes; we only eat at restaurants or what others serve us. Nevertheless, at some point in the chain someone needs to prepare the food. Should they avoid doing so because of the heat? If it is a very cold winter day, should one avoid taking a shower? Is bathing only reserved for those days when the weather is nice? Do we only work when we feel like it? Do we only sleep when we’ve run out of things to do in the day?

From this review we see that we already do so many things regardless of the external circumstances. They “must” be done; they are obligatory. In the same way the birthright of every individual is to be God conscious. That is the point to being alive. If I had the good fortune to wake up this morning, it means that I’ve been given another opportunity to learn about God. If I already know Him, I have another chance to serve Him. If I’ve already been serving Him, it means that I have been given more time to continue in that service.

Excuses are many. “It’s not fair; I don’t have the necessary intelligence. No one else is worshiping the Lord. Everyone around me eats meat, drinks, and smokes. They think the summit to an existence is to work like a dog all week and then forget their troubles on the weekend through intoxication. By going out to a nightclub, they are essentially paying to become stupid. Children have a leg up on them, as they don’t need to get wasted in order to be happy. So in this sense reaching adulthood is a punishment for them. How am I supposed to worship in such circumstances?”

As it is said, “the show must go on,” and with genuine service to God, any place can serve as the stage for the show. An elaborate stage preparation is not required. A captive audience isn’t even necessary. A long time back a distressed princess was surrounded day and night by ghoulish creatures who threatened to eat her. Imagine your worst nightmare playing out in real life. And by the way, she had no idea when this reality would end. The king of the area was holding her there against her will, trying to convince her to renounce her dear husband, Shri Rama.

Sita DeviThe strong lady, Sita Devi, did not budge. Her husband is God Himself in His incarnation made famous through the sacred Vedic work titled the Ramayana. She serves as a faithful wife. Obviously, to play the part of a wife one prefers to be in the company of the husband. Do things for the husband so that he may be pleased. The husband acts in the same way. Yet even in separation Sita was able to serve. Despite the fact that everyone around her was full of the worst qualities, she continued to speak as though she hadn’t left the divine association.

“Smelling the fragrance of Rama and Lakshmana, like a dog smelling a tiger, certainly you will not be able to stand.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.31-32)

She served the Lord by speaking about Him, offering sound words of advice. Though the audience wasn’t very receptive, her effort was not a waste. For starters, Shri Rama’s beloved messenger, the minister of the king of Vanaras in Kishkindha, observed her behavior from his perch on a tree in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Hanuman was sent to find Sita, for she had suddenly gone missing from the couple’s camp in the Dandaka forest. Sita’s behavior and words are found in the Ramayana, which means that her preaching lives forever.

The ascetics living in the Dandaka forest had the ideal conditions for worship. No outside distractions. No pressures of a family. No obligations for growing food, showing up for work, or maintaining a kingdom. They worshiped God in these conditions, and they continued to do so after being attacked. Their safe environment suddenly became dangerous through night-rangers coming from Lanka. Picture a prototypical villain from a modern-day movie based on a comic book. These creatures could change their shapes at will, and they had no problem eating human flesh. The victims were skinny, peaceful sages. Despite the mismatch, the sages stayed strong in their vows.

Lord RamaThe key in both instances was that the beneficiary of their worship was the Supreme Lord, who has a personal form. With that form He was able to arrive on the scene and protect the worship. Sometimes that protection arrives subtly in the shifting of external conditions. We may think that rituals and recommendations are just superstitions, like wearing your hat backwards in a baseball game in the hopes that your team will make a rally, but actually the real foolishness is to think that every reaction arrives only at random. We may pray for help today and not receive it, but this doesn’t mean that the prayer is fruitless. All reactions come at the appropriate time, like a tree that blossoms flowers. This truth is especially worth knowing for the sinful, who think that they can commit whatever crimes they wish and get away with them.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

In the present period of time, the origin of matter and spirit, the non-sectarian Absolute Truth, is best served through chanting His holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We find a way to shower in the winter, cook in the summer, get up for work when we’re tired, and dig out of our driveway after a snowstorm. Therefore we should be able to find a way to always chant the holy names. A person of strong resolve glorifies God no matter the circumstance. And that resolve is always rewarded, as has been shown time and time again.

In Closing:

Work even when hard to concentrate,

Winter and summer seasons to tolerate.


Shower, eat, sleep not only when to feel,

Responsibilities wait not for conditions ideal.


Worship of God the same you can know,

Sita spoke truth even when in Lanka to go.


For chanting holy names make the time,

Devotees with resolve find life sublime.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Unite

Krishna with the gopis“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.55)

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Bhagavad-gita, 18.55

“There are so many differences caused by factions. Or perhaps the differences lead to factions. Either way, you have this one particular faith and its many members. Then you have another faith, which has a different set of beliefs. Then you have the people of no faith, along with the people of limited faith. Let’s at least get a dialogue started. Let’s hold a conference, where we can air out the differences. This meeting will bring everyone together. Let’s see if we can find a way to unite, finding unity amidst diversity.”

Based on the number of conferences held since the beginning of time, this doesn’t appear to be a new idea. Different nations meet together to avoid conflict, and a nation is nothing more than a collection of people with a purported common interest. Take any interest, whether large or small, and bring people together to see if they can find common ground. But actually, it is the identification based on that interest which prevents the unity. The formula for uniting is already given in a famous work of the Vedic tradition. Beyond blind ideology, this formula is a way of life, a way to reap the true benefit to a human birth.

One side thinks that their God allows them to kill animals. Not cats or dogs, mind you. Those are innocent animals that can be kept in the home as pets. The homeowner feverishly races home in order to tend to such pets. The dog must be let out of the house to use nature’s restroom. The many accidents that will occur in the home need to be cleaned up. This is all fine, as it is a labor of love. Dog is man’s best friend, so protecting it is required.

Cats and dogsBut other animals can be killed. Not just once or twice a day in order to get a meal, there are schemes to kill these animals en masse. Never mind that the animals have families of their own or that they generate milk upon the mere sight of their children. Never mind that the scripture of choice has a commandment against killing. Based on what the current leaders say, this sort of killing is sanctioned.

Another side thinks that it’s okay to punish women severely based on some innocent mistake they may have made. Perhaps they forgot to cover their head in public. Maybe they accidentally spoke with a man who wasn’t their husband. Maybe they sent a text message using a mobile telephone in an area where such practices were prohibited. Never mind, as they deserve to be punished in the worst possible way. The scripture of choice sanctions such behavior.

Another side thinks that God is without form. If forced to identify Him, He is more an energy if anything. He pervades the entire space. When we hear of a purported incarnation and its activities, it should be understood that the impersonal energy decided to take a form. With that form it was subject to the same defects of birth, old age, disease and death. All of us are part of the same energy, so in one sense everyone is God. The problem is that we don’t realize it right now, so the goal of life should be to understand how we are God, how we are originally formless as well.

Another side thinks that to eat, sleep, mate and defend is everything. There is no God. A bunch of chemicals randomly collided to create these bodies, and through the forces of nature and the influence of time the same chemicals will again disperse. Ash to ash and dust to dust. Therefore everyone should go for whatever they desire. Whoever is the most powerful should be accepted as the leader. Let them do whatever they want. Let there be no boundaries to human behavior. Cheat if you can. Lie if you have to. Just hope that you don’t get caught. This is the way to really enjoy life.

UN MeetingIn a meeting featuring members of these different factions, where is the common ground? One side says it’s okay to kill and another says it’s not. How do you reach a reconciliation from there? It’s like being in your home and protecting your stuff when a burglar enters. The intruder wants your television and jewelry and you want to keep it. You think you have justice on your side, whereas the thief follows the motto of “finders keepers.” How will you reconcile these differences?

A higher authority obviously enters and settles the dispute. The thief will not accept the higher authority, but they are generally outnumbered in such situations. There easily could have been harmony. The thief didn’t have to enter the home uninvited. They could have asked politely to watch television in the home as a guest. They likely would have been offered a hot meal, a cold beverage, and a comfortable seat. Instead, they took their own route and met trouble.

The conference featuring the differing factions will never reach unity precisely because of the clashing viewpoints. In the Vedas the formula for uniting one and all, man and woman, animal and human, rich and poor, king and peasant alike, is provided. The solution is surrender to God. Not a quick, two-minute statement giving allegiance or blindly following a particular leader, real surrender is changing consciousness. Think of God always, especially at the time of death. When you think of Him, others will see your good qualities, the best being your consciousness. From your consciousness alone you will help others, living in peace.

In this recommendation, one is told to give in. In essence, abandon everything and surrender unto God, who is described as all-attractive in the Vedas. The all-attractive God has an accompanying form, which is His original. It is spiritual in nature, never subject to the forces of the material energy, which is considered His external, inferior energy. This original personality is called Krishna, and He Himself makes the recommendation for surrender in the Bhagavad-gita.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.66“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Members of the different factions at the conference can surely each make the same recommendation. “Just surrender unto us and you will be fine. Follow our way and thus everyone can unite.” In surrendering to Krishna, everyone benefits. The cows are protected. The women are given shelter under suitable husbands. The children are taught about the impersonal Brahman from the time of birth, allowing them to have a real education, one that provides an extended vision to see the effects of action and the unity in spiritual quality shared by all species. The men are allowed to serve in the best way possible, in glorifying God.

Indeed, women are allowed to do the same. In the tradition of surrender to Krishna, it is women who set the example for devotion. The cowherd ladies of Vrindavana are considered Krishna’s greatest devotees. Some of them write songs, some of them cook food, some of them churn butter, some of them manage the household, and some of them meet and dance with Krishna. They show the endless variety available to the surrendered souls. Though the gopis are many in number, and thus have different desires in relation to Krishna, they all unite in their love for Him.

Krishna dancing with the gopisIn surrendering to the thief, the law-abiding citizens are harmed by having to live in constant fear of other plunderers. In giving in to the animal-killers, there is the loss of compassion throughout society, and without compassion there is no peace. In giving in to the impersonalist, the very transcendental qualities that emanate from the original person are ignored. If the origin of matter and spirit is said to be without form, then no one has any identity in life. How, then, can there be happiness?

Giving in to Krishna is very easy. One simply chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” as often as possible. The sound is as potent as the person. The name of God represents Him completely. Under His shelter all factions can unite, just as the employees work together best when the leader is there to watch over and guide them. In Vrindavana the sound of Krishna’s flute catches everyone’s attention and brings them together in their service. That service leads to so much pleasure, and in this world the same sound comes from the maha-mantra, which the devotees from all different walks of life always repeat.

In Closing:

Let’s allow all different factions to meet,

Each given chance at speaker’s seat.


Then no more will others fight,

In reconciliation all to unite.


From history meetings more than one,

Successful for unity there were none.


Give in to pious man or to the thief?

Each to have their own set’s belief.


Formula for peace Shri Krishna already gave,

Surrender to Him, time of argument to save.


Man, woman, child, leader and peasant to see,

Benefit in chanting holy names with offenses free.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Real Men

Arjuna“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

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Bhagavad-gita, 2.13“Real men are few and far between. They are difficult to find today. We are now a nation of wusses. There is no risk-taking. Everyone is playing it safe. In the process of avoiding risk, they are still worried. They want insurance for everything. Insurance for their health. Insurance for their car. Insurance for their home. How about actually going to work so you can prepare for a rainy day yourself? How about going out there and doing things for other people? Life itself is a risk, so why the increased worry over losing things?”

Indeed, this sentiment is not uncommon today. In America especially, in past generations there were extraordinary hardships. There were world wars and economic collapses. Citizens sacrificed everything in order to save their fellow man. So obviously the sudden shift to a mindset of protection and fear must be due in large part to the different economic conditions. There is so much more to worry over now. There is a lot more to be afraid of losing. But the attitude underscores a deeper flaw, one rooted in vision.

The Great DepressionWhen one knows that they are not their body, they are not so concerned with losing everything. In fact, this body is destined for destruction. Think of it like an hourglass of time that gets flipped as soon as we exit the womb. Right now that sand is running. We can’t see the hourglass, so we’re not exactly sure how much sand we have left in comparison to others, but we know that time is indeed running out. Life is withering away.

Upon waking up to the fact that life is destined for destruction, if I think that this body represents me fully and that there is nothing after this, surely I will be afraid. “Why take a risk and end life now? Why not play it safe so that I can continue to enjoy what I have? Let me load up on insurance policies so that I don’t lose anything. Let others take the risks, for obviously they must not know any better. Let others deal with aggressors, for there is risk involved in combat. The defender could lose their life, and so they will lose their chance to enjoy their body.”

The sober person, however, understands that the spirit soul is the essence of identity. The soul passes on to another body at death, just as it passes through the different stages of life in the present circumstances. First there is the change from boyhood to youth. Then the shift is from youth to adulthood. Gradually, within adulthood, there is the change to old age.

Changing bodiesDoes anyone know exactly when they become old? In certain countries there is a specific age when government benefits kick in, awarding the status of “senior citizen.” But actually one could be in old age before that time. They could also be fully vibrant upon reaching the age of retirement. This must mean that the shift is gradual. With a gradual shift, there cannot be a change in identity. This means that though we are aging, we remain the same. We are in fact the same person we were when we exited the womb. We are the same person today who many years back played on the field all day with their friends. We are the same person who first entered the womb upon conception.

The sober person accepts the truth of the eternality of the soul and its constant transmigration from authorized Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita. The skeptic will claim that these are religious works based in faith alone. But where does the issue of faith come in when discussing the identity of an individual in different time periods of their life? Is it faith to say that I am the same person today than I was yesterday? Is it faith to say that the outside body constantly changes while the individual within remains the same?

Surely, there is some trust involved in accepting the fact that the soul will live on after this life is over, but that trust is strengthened by further immersing oneself in Vedic wisdom. The perpetual fear of risk is due to ignorance of the eternality of the soul. And we see that avoidance of risk does not prevent death. It prevents so many other basic things from taking place, and all in the name of fear of loss. But that loss is guaranteed for everyone, so the issue remains on how one should act.

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe Bhagavad-gita sees with the divine vision, where one can see their future. In this sacred work it is said that whatever one contemplates at the time of death, that state they will attain in the next life without fail. This means that there will be a tomorrow after the dawn of this life. Hearing this the wise person then follows their duty, for they know that there is no reason to shirk responsibilities borne of their qualities and tendencies. A person of valor, honor, courage, and strength is naturally suited for administration and defense of the innocent. A person of accounting sense, who knows profit and loss and how to manage assets, is naturally suited for business. A person of intelligence, who can see the spiritual equality shared amongst all life forms, is suited for acting as the brain for society, for giving guidance to everyone on how to make the most of life. A person who lacks all of these skills is ideal for offering service to others.

There is honor in service, especially in the service that one is best suited for. From following prescribed duties, one loses fear over the destruction of the present body. Society functions more smoothly as a result. The issue is that in this present age of Kali determining one’s proper role is very difficult. The woman desires to take over the role of the man, the man happily takes a back seat, the butcher wants to guide others on life’s objectives, and the intelligent man keeps quiet for fear of being reprimanded for speaking the truth.

Despite the turmoil, there is still a service that any person can take up, regardless of their external qualifications. That service is bhakti-yoga, which is the ideal occupation for all spirit souls. There are nine different ways to practice bhakti-yoga, with the most effective for this age being the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Krishna's lotus feetThis chanting changes consciousness, which is the goal for the bewildered soul. A soul conscious of Krishna, or God, at the time of death no longer has to struggle through the repeating cycle of birth and death, where each day sees gain and loss on a smaller scale. The soul who is conscious of Krishna is fearless, and so they accept the task to remain a servant of God under any circumstance. The real man is one who knows that God exists and that life is meant for serving Him. In whatever capacity they can, the real man fearlessly executes their service to the Lord, who rewards them with a spiritual body in the afterlife. Men, women, and even children have the opportunity to serve, which means that any person can go from being very fearful to completely fearless, understanding the temporary nature of all things in this world.

In Closing:

Where all real men have gone?

Instead only fear to dwell upon.


Lacking knowledge of identity any,

With impending death fears so many.


Just as shift to adulthood from body of boy,

Death the spirit soul never to destroy.


Real identity as servant of God forever,

Knower of Krishna to fear again never.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Convenience Without An Inconvenience

Arjuna“O best of the Bharatas, now please hear from Me about the three kinds of happiness which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which he sometimes comes to the end of all distress. That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.36-37)

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Bhagavad-gita, 18.36-37“I had enough. I was done with squinting. Being relegated to hope to hear what was going on after having failed to discern the action from the images flickering on the screen was getting old. I was done with a recording device that crashed in the middle of my program so many times. I was done with the same device skipping over portions of the recording at random. This may have been alright with movies and comedy series, as those can be rewound and watched again without much lost in the experience, but with sports programming this was a major issue. If you skip over an important portion, you might as well have someone give you the final score. If you know the outcome beforehand, there is no point to watching.

HD tvs“So I finally decided to upgrade my television programming to high definition. The rest of the world had long since entered the twenty-first century, while I was one of the few remaining hold-outs. My television set was heavy, round, and deep. The stores didn’t even sell that kind anymore. I likely had no one to give it to, either, as the newer sets are relatively inexpensive and have more features. Moreover, my set wasn’t capable of carrying programming in high definition.

“The reason I waited to upgrade was that the process wasn’t simple. It wasn’t as easy as going to the store and buying a new television. It wasn’t as simple as having the programming provider swap machines in my room. Since I get satellite reception, I would need a new dish entirely. Also, I have other receivers scattered across the house. So I would need brand new receivers in each room. And my programming package would have to change. A new contract would have to be signed. So many inconveniences for a simple convenience. I finally went through the hassle, and now I am quite pleased. High definition is way better. I can see so much of the action now. This newer technology has improved upon the old technology significantly.”

Benjamin FranklinThis situation is of upgrading television programming and it affirms the old adage of “there is no convenience without an inconvenience.” This saying dates so far back that it is found in the writings of Benjamin Franklin, one of the famous founding fathers of the United States of America. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, takes the same saying and gives it its most important utility, allowing us to understand its full import.

Krishna says that the thing which appears to be like poison in the beginning but eventually turns into nectar, awakening one to self-realization, is happiness in the mode of goodness. This is the mode each person should strive for. It is not easy to attain by any stretch. Though there are many classrooms across the world that teach physics, there are many less PhDs in physics awarded. Yet the discrepancy doesn’t in any way invalidate the importance of physics. In the same way, though most will not reach the mode of goodness in a single lifetime, this in no way lessens the importance of that particular mode.

The mode of goodness can be likened to a platform of limited obstruction. The obstructions get in the way of pleasure. If I want to listen to some music but I’m stuck in a crowded and noisy room, there are obstructions. This can be like the mode of darkness, or ignorance. If I find a somewhat quieter room, but I have all these other thoughts in my mind, I’m in the mode of passion. If I find a quiet and peaceful room, where I can concentrate fully, it’s like I’m in the mode of goodness.

Headphones with musicFor genuine seekers of enlightenment in the present age of Kali, the last of the four time periods of the creation, the regulation that most closely corresponds with Shri Krishna’s statement is the restriction on meat-eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Giving these up is like taking poison in the beginning. Especially if one is accustomed to these behaviors, as is possible through inherited family traditions, then there is tremendous discomfort in giving them up. One might not even think that any of these activities is harmful. Though as recently as two hundred years ago temperance was considered a virtue, today it makes one an oddball. “Dude, you don’t drink? What happened? Are you okay? Is it for health reasons? Is there anything you can take that will fix the problem?”

These four activities are considered the most sinful, meaning they are considered the most detrimental towards finding pleasure without obstruction. They are the most potent obstructions. Giving them up is certainly an inconvenience, but when following bhakti-yoga under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, the end result is the best convenience. There is no better convenience than chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” in a pure way. There is no feeling like extolling the virtues of someone else, and since God has the best qualities coupled with endless activities, the devotee can feel so happy all the time by glorifying Him.

Shrila PrabhupadaGlorifying Him is actually happiness in the mode of pure goodness, which is above any of the three modes of material nature. What are inconveniences in the beginning turn out to be worthwhile sacrifices in the end, just as the doctors and lawyers are pleased with the end result after having studied for so many years. Shri Krishna can be studied, worshiped, and honored for a long time as well. Though one may be reluctant to follow this path, being blinded by stringent religious ideology enforced by the narrow-minded, the effort is worth it, as a never-ending pot of the sweetest nectar awaits at the end.

In Closing:

Who in world not after convenience?

But know that comes with inconvenience.


An adage from times back old,

Similarly in Bhagavad-gita told.


Bitter at start, nectar at end’s happiness,

Notable feature of material mode of goodness.


Following difficult regulative principles four,

Clears obstructions for Supreme to adore.