Saturday, December 28, 2013

Misunderstanding Dharma

Sita and Rama“Other than you, who in the three worlds would even think of desiring me, for I am the wife of that pious-soul, as Shachi is to Indra?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.14)

māṃ hi dharmātmanaḥ patnīṃ śacīmiva śacīpateḥ |
tvadanyastriṣu lokeṣu prārthayenmanasāpi kaḥ ||

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Householder life embodies a material existence. Though ideally this stage of life is meant to be an ashrama, one where spiritual realization is furthered, it is a time where enjoyments for the senses are available in the largest quantities. The householder lacking a spiritual consciousness is always contemplating how to enjoy eating. “Where will I eat tonight? What will I cook for dinner?” The hosting area is also of tremendous importance. This is the headquarters for enjoyment. So naturally other questions are, “What kind of house can I find? How many rooms is enough? Can I get a bigger house than my friend?”

Interior decoratingAside from the possible rise of a host of negative emotions, such as envy and hostility towards others, there is the danger of misunderstanding dharma. The original definition of the Sanskrit term is “an essential quality.” Since the essence of everything is life, dharma also applies to the essence of the living spirit. The procedures and policies used to reawaken that essence and maintain it are also known as dharma.

If I know nothing of spirit due to the fact that I am illusioned by the temporary manifestation covering myself today, I’ll mistake dharma for a system used to gain material benefits. “I worship God so that I can get stuff. The goal is to get stuff, not really to worship. I worship every now and then, but not too much. I don’t want to make it a fulltime thing. I think that eating, sleeping, and mating are the most important things in life. Since I can only enjoy in this life, defending is also essential.”

This is a misunderstanding because the purpose to following dharma is to regain one’s essence. In that pure consciousness, there is hardly any desire to enjoy the senses. Therefore renunciation is a natural byproduct of following dharma. In the pure state, there is devotion to the Almighty, the source of all matter and spirit. His association is the ultimate reward of dharma; it is the fruit of all mysticism, work, and study. His association is then maintained through devotion. There is no other way to keep Him by one’s side.

Bright flame and shadowRenunciation and knowledge follow the devotee like the shadow that trails behind a bright flame from a lamp. They are aftereffects, comparatively insignificant to the object of interest. In the devotional consciousness one naturally loses taste for material opulence. They don’t really care about eating the finest dishes. They don’t worry too much about intoxicating beverages. They enjoy eating spiritually, so to speak. They drink up the visual nectar of the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their ears bask in the sound vibrations glorifying the Supreme Lord. They feel the touch of sacred garments presented on the altar and smell the fragrance of the lotus flower offered at the lotus feet of the deity on the same altar.

Lord KrishnaThe materially attached person cannot understand such practices. They don’t know that there is a higher taste. They may even engage in dharma, but they still don’t know the ultimate reward. This was the case with Ravana, who is addressed in the verse referenced above. He is being rebuked here by the wife of a pious soul, dharma-atma. Everyone in the world knew her staunch devotion to her husband Rama. They also knew of Rama’s qualities, which were all good.

Ravana couldn’t understand Sita’s consciousness. He took her by force back to his kingdom of Lanka, hoping she would agree to become his chief queen. She kept refusing him, and so he kept upping the offer. He thought that maybe she was playing hard to get. Perhaps she was negotiating for a better deal. Ravana considered eating succulent meats, drinking fine wine, and enjoying with many women to be the summit of an existence, the best it has to offer. He had previously engaged in rigorous austerities in what appeared to be part of a life in dharma. He had a specific purpose in mind, however. He wanted strength which he could then use to rule the world. Thus his understanding of dharma was not right.

He couldn’t understand why Sita kept rejecting him. She tried her best to explain it to him. Rama was a dharma-atma, a soul who knew the principles of righteousness. If she was His wife, it meant she knew those principles as well. In the material sense, the guiding principle for a wife is devotion to her husband. At least this is the case in ideal circumstances. The husband and wife share in spiritual merits, so if the wife can support the husband in following dharma, she benefits tremendously.

Sita compares her situation to Shachi Devi’s. Shachi is the wife of Lord Indra, the king of heaven. No one would think of taking her, since everyone knows that her heart is given over to Indra. What enjoyment would you get from someone who doesn’t want anything to do with you? Using force in such a case would be a waste of time.

Sita and RamaRavana proceeded anyway, for he couldn’t understand the devotee’s heart. He didn’t realize that Sita would never be enticed by material opulence if it came at the price of Rama’s association. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. He is the goal of dharma, and on earth He plays the part of a righteous son, brother, husband and leader to show everyone the proper path in life. Sita teams with Him to make the perfect couple, an object for devotion. Ravana saw her as an object of personal enjoyment, and this faulty vision would ruin him.

In Closing:

Having husband of pious soul,

She too righteous in wife’s role.


Only when one in depths to sink,

That to have as wife they’d think.


Dharma not for my material gain,

Or simply to ease unwanted pain.


Love for Rama Sita’s only way to be,

Deluded soul Ravana fact could not see.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Of Unsound Mind

Sita and Rama“Other than you, who in the three worlds would even think of desiring me, for I am the wife of that pious-soul, as Shachi is to Indra?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.14)

māṃ hi dharmātmanaḥ patnīṃ śacīmiva śacīpateḥ |
tvadanyastriṣu lokeṣu prārthayenmanasāpi kaḥ ||

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If you’ve spent enough time around drunk people, or have been one yourself on occasion, you surely have a few stories featuring stupid behavior. The internet is full of videos of drunkards making fools of themselves. Perhaps they mistook an area of an outdoor restroom for a sink. Maybe they tried to eat something that wasn’t meant for human consumption. Maybe they tried to talk to something that wasn’t animate. In all such cases there wasn’t sound thinking. The mind was somewhere else. Kama, which is the Sanskrit word for lust, can also have the same effect, as noted above by the beloved wife of the pious-souled Rama.

PizzaKama can also mean desire. “I want ice cream. I want pizza. I want a pony.” These are desires. If you fulfill them, your kama is temporarily satisfied. Kama turns into lust when the desire is intense enough to take you off the righteous path. If I want ice cream enough to rob a store, I am under the influence of lust. If I want pizza so badly that I will eat it every day for an entire year, lust controls me.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.62“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

Lust’s strongest influence is in the area of romance. From the ancient Sanskrit texts of India, we learn that there is a direct correlation between the control of lust and sobriety. The more you can control your temptations, the more soundly situated your mind will be. And who wouldn’t want to be of sound mind? Would we rather be stupid all the time? With intelligence we can do things that are good for us, even if they don’t seem to be so at the outset. School is an example of this. To the child school seems like a waste of time. It may even seem that way to the adult. With a sound mind, however, one can look past the immediate hardship and see the ultimate benefit an education has to offer.

Lust in romance is so strong that it can make you do ridiculous things. Case in point Ravana with Sita. At the time she graced this earth there was no internet. There was no printing press. Newspapers weren’t circulated around the world on a daily basis. And yet everyone still knew her. The word of mouth was very powerful. In order to remember a sacred event, poets would compose songs. Songs are easier to remember than paragraphs and books.

Marriage of Sita and RamaThrough glorification of her wedding to the prince of Ayodhya, Sita was known throughout the world. She got the name Sita from having been found in the ground as a baby by King Janaka of Mithila. From marrying her, Rama too earned so many new names, which referenced His relationship to her. He became known as Sitapati and Janakinatha, both meaning “the lord of Sita,” who was Janaka’s daughter.

When she followed Rama to the forest for fourteen years, Sita’s fame increased. She became known as the most chaste wife. In modern terms she would be considered the most devoted lover. We say that we love someone today, but would we stay with that person after they rejected us strongly? Probably not. Sita’s love for Rama defined her. She would not leave His side, even if He kindly asked her to. She knew better than Rama what was good for Him, so Rama could do nothing to stop her from loving Him.

Though the world was well aware of her character, Ravana still tried to take her away and make her his wife. Sita was a little perplexed by this. She knew that no one else in the world would try this. Only Ravana, whose lust consumed him, would attempt something so foolish. It was the equivalent of taking the key to the office and trying to use it to open the front door of your house. It was like putting a USB cable into a Firewire port. Any example of trying to use something in a way that is not intended applies here.

Fortunately, the unsound mind can be very easily fixed. Rather than try to enjoy Sita for himself, if Ravana would have returned her to Rama, today there would be no end to his fortunes. Sita is the goddess of fortune and Rama the Supreme Lord. God appears in transcendental forms many times over the course of a creation. These appearances give a glimpse into His transcendental features, into the true meaning of nirguna, or without material attributes.

Hanuman with Sita and Rama in his heartSita stays in the heart of a devotee like Hanuman, whose mind is totally pure. Hanuman once accidentally saw Ravana’s many wives in their inner chambers of Ravana’s palace. This accident occurred during his search for Sita in Lanka, where the fiend Ravana had taken her. Though he saw these beautiful women, Hanuman’s mind did not change. He did not desire them, for he knew they were married to Ravana.

Alongside her husband Rama, Sita lives in Hanuman’s heart. This makes Hanuman very happy. Ravana could have roamed the world with impunity had he purified his heart. Instead, steered by lust he was headed for ruin, illustrating to everyone the destruction that uncontrolled kama brings. The wise souls know the secret in defeating this eternal enemy: devotion to God. By remembering Sita and Rama forever, lust loses all its power.

In Closing:

When in drunken stupor to sink,

To do oddest things you think.


Ketchup on ice cream to drop,

Calling all friends on phone nonstop.


King of Lanka’s actions just as dumb,

For world knew Sita of husband only one.


Lust even the strongest mind to steer,

In devotion this enemy never again to fear.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pioneers Take the Arrows

Lord Rama holding bow“Indeed, there is no person here who desires your welfare, no one to stop you from these reprehensible acts.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.13)

nūnam na te janaḥ kaścidasti niḥśreyase sthitaḥ |
nivārayati yo na tvāṃ karmaṇo.asmādvigarhitāt ||

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Devotion to God is at the very core of the living being. It is part of their constitution. For this reason real religion goes by the term “sanatana-dharma.” To serve God with full vim and vigor is the essential characteristic of every fragment of spirit for all of eternity. Both backwards and forwards in the time continuum, the individual feels happiest when serving. When assuming the constitutional position in full, devoid of impurities, that service can be practiced in even the most adverse conditions.

MoviesIf you spend an entire day watching movies, the next day you will likely talk about it with others. There is the off chance that you won’t see anyone on a particular day, but your mind still works. It will contemplate on what was observed the previous day. If there is conversation, you can’t help but talk about the movies. If the other person isn’t so receptive, you may halt for a little bit, but if you immerse yourself in the film culture for long enough, you can’t really avoid talking about it.

In the same way, if one is fixed in serving God, they can’t talk about anyone or anything else. As a shadow following a bright lamp, knowledge accompanies that pure devotion. This means that the person consumed with loving thoughts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will automatically be knowledgeable. Therefore if they see injustice, they will not only know how to right the wrong, but they will not be afraid to speak the truth; it will be second nature to behave this way.

Their words of wisdom will be forthcoming even if the circumstances are not ideal. We can think of it like doing basic things such as taking a shower and cooking. You need to bathe in order to clean your body every day. In the summer months this isn’t really a problem. The temperature is more in line with the body’s. The winter is a different story. It’s hard to get out of bed on a very cold morning. Leaving the safety of the covers immediately invites a cold front. Then the first few minutes of taking a shower are difficult, as are the moments immediately after.

WinterIn the winter months it might not be so difficult to cook. After all, the appliances in the kitchen provide heat. The warm soup and the carefully nursed beverage are ways to get comfort from the chilling cold. In the summer, things aren’t as easy. Who wants to stand in front of a raging fire when it is already hot inside the house? Who wants to sweat even more just so they can eat a certain kind of food?

In both situations the “show must go on,” as they say. You have to get out of bed and take a shower in the winter. You have to prepare food in the summer. The weather is no excuse. In Lanka a long time ago, the weather in terms of conditions and association was always bad for the princess of Videha. She was taken away from the side of her husband through trickery and force. Her new residence was a land where everyone despised her husband.

If one is not so religiously inclined, they may not be able to relate to having to stay at a place where everyone hates God. Still, we can use the loving relationship as a reference for understanding. Imagine if you were at some place where everyone hated your significant other and that significant other meant the world to you. Would you not be unhappy? If you were forced to remain there, would you not worry about the future?

Sita, the daughter of King Janaka, faced such conditions. Though she was worried, she did not stop speaking the truth. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, she notes how no one in Lanka is a true well-wisher to Ravana, the king of the land. This is because no one seems to be stopping him from his despicable actions. First he took Sita away in secret, and now he is threatening to kill her if she doesn’t come over to his side.

Sita DeviThey say that the pioneers take the arrows. If you are the first person to discover something or succeed in it, so many others will attack you. You become a prime target due to your notoriety. Here Sita is a pioneer in the sense that she is the first one to offer wise advice to Ravana without reservation. Love for God is what defines her. Her husband is the Supreme Lord in His avatara as a warrior prince. She cannot act any other way. Her knowledge is secondary to her bhakti. If she sees someone doing the wrong thing, she will speak the truth to them.

In Ravana’s case the truth had to be delivered straight, without any apologies. Sita took all the arrows in the form of the torture directed by Ravana’s grim-visaged female attendants. Rama’s fearless servant, Shri Hanuman, was watching all of this perched on a tree in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. He saw Sita’s resolve amidst the trying circumstances, and he used it as further motivation to succeed in the mission handed to him by Rama. He too was a pioneer in infiltrating Lanka and going against the authority of its king. Since they had devotion on their side, both Sita and Hanuman emerged successful.

In Closing:

In prime discovery to make,

Pioneers then arrows to take.


Others their position to see,

To criticize and target they’re free.


Giving real wisdom to king of deeds worst,

Sita wise counselor of Lanka’s first.


Despite shots Sita on righteous path to stay,

Rama’s messenger with help soon on the way.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing You the Best

Sita Devi“Indeed, there is no person here who desires your welfare, no one to stop you from these reprehensible acts.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.13)

nūnam na te janaḥ kaścidasti niḥśreyase sthitaḥ |
nivārayati yo na tvāṃ karmaṇo.asmādvigarhitāt ||

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If you really care about someone, you will give it to them straight. If you know they are heading down the wrong path, instead of turning a blind eye, you will deliver the cold, hard facts to them. Since you wish only the best for them, you correct them when they veer off the righteous path. In Lanka a long time ago, it was obvious that there was no one who was a real well-wisher of the king, as no one prevented him from following the road to peril.

If you have a young child and you see them about to stick their finger into an electrical socket, will you just sit idly by? Will you allow them to drink a poisonous chemical that is kept safely underneath the sink in the kitchen? Will you encourage their drinking and smoking at a young age? Will you not say something when they fail to do their homework on time?

These questions are worth asking because of the expected resistance in opposition. If you prevent the child from touching the electrical socket, the child will not be happy. They will try to do the same thing again, and you will have to prevent them again. Pretty soon you are viewed as a tyrant, someone who prohibits fun. The same goes for taking steps to prevent underage drinking, smoking, and neglect of school responsibilities.

When you really care about someone, you will not let the reception deter you. After all, what does it matter if someone doesn’t like you for speaking the truth? Especially if you are speaking true words for the other person’s benefit, there is no reason to be upset by any harsh rebuke you receive in the aftermath.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe bona fide guru desires only the best for everyone. Their mercy is not expensive, and anyone can take advantage of it. Those who aim to get the real benefit are then known as disciples, either formal or informal. To be a disciple one must have discipline, and this entails following the instructions of the spiritual master. The guru’s guidance here is for achieving the highest end in life. The guru is interested in the true welfare of their dependents.

The welfare does not relate to money. Any person can do well in business after applying a little work. The welfare is not for furthering relations with the opposite sex. Some are able to attract beautiful partners and others are not. The welfare does not relate to having a life full of enjoyments, both at home and at work. Those enjoyments come about on their own. Like the onset of summer and winter, each individual goes through ups and downs. One second we are successful and the next we are not. One day we are happy and the next we are sad.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.14“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)

Winter and summer seasonsThe highest welfare is consciousness of God. He is the sum total, the origin of everything we can think of. If He is everything, then He would have to be capable of granting any material reward to any of His dependents. These rewards pale in comparison to God’s association itself, however. Therefore the guru targets the reward of association for his disciples. He knows that associating with God is the best thing for any person. That association can be in various moods, but devotion is the common thread. The devotion is what maintains that association once it is gained.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita wonders whether there is anyone who wishes the highest welfare for Ravana, the king. This relates to both spiritual and material. Since Ravana had taken Sita away from her husband and refused to give her back, he was obviously inimical towards God. Rather than desire God’s association, he wanted to compete with Him. Since no one can defeat God, Ravana thought he could enjoy with His wife. This will ruin anyone’s chance at association. And, as mentioned previously, that association is the highest gain.

Lord RamaRavana’s reprehensible act also damaged his material fortunes. If his advisers in his kingdom were averse to devotional service, they still should have prevented Ravana based on Rama’s strength alone. As the husband of the goddess of fortune, Shri Rama is full of opulences, with one of them being strength. As Ravana took His wife away, Rama was surely to come and exact revenge. He would destroy Ravana’s opulent kingdom in Lanka.

There were a few counselors in Lanka who advised against Ravana’s plan of taking Sita in secret. Ravana didn’t listen to them, and so there was nothing they could do. In front of Sita no such protest was present, and so she had no choice but to think that the city was devoid of genuine well-wishers. In this present age, thankfully there is the timeless vani, or instruction, of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to take advantage of. His sincere disciples and well-wishers continue to spread his teachings throughout the world, giving us words of wisdom that provide the ultimate benediction in life, God’s association.

In Closing:

From king’s actions Sita could tell,

That none in kingdom wished him well.


Others why allowed Maricha to be sent,

Why secret action not to prevent?


Desires the well-wisher real,

That association with God to feel.


Since enmity with Rama to keep,

Punishment his kingdom to reap.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Snake Oil Salesman

Sita Devi“The more sweet a man is towards a woman, the more agreeable she becomes. Yet in this case the more dear words the speaker has used, the more disregarded he has been.” (Ravana speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.2)

yathā yathā sāntvayitā vaśyaḥ strīṇāṃ tathā tathā |
yathā yathā priyam vaktā paribhūtastathā tahā ||

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“Listen pal, I’m not buying what you’re selling. You can keep doing your pitch, but the more you talk the more convinced I am of my stance. If what you are selling is so great, it shouldn’t take so much convincing, should it? If a person is thirsty after walking through the desert, they don’t need to be convinced to purchase a drink of water. The initial glimpse alone is enough to make the sale. Since you’re talking so much, I’m only becoming more skeptical.”

Indeed, if a highly anticipated electronics gadget is released, customers flock to the store in droves to purchase them. Sometimes they will camp outside of the store for days just to be the first in line. The same goes for movie releases and concert tickets. The customers understand what they are getting. They don’t need to be convinced further to make the purchase.

Line outside apple storeIn the scene of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, a person was selling something that didn’t appeal to the potential buyer. The more the seller made their pitch, the more the buyer was turned off. This makes sense to us in the exchange of goods and services, but here the offer was for material opulence at a very high level. Think of it like someone offering you millions of dollars. Here there was more than just money. The buyer would get comfort, protection, jewels, riches, housing, and above all else, control. She would be in control of the king of Lanka, who was feared throughout the world.

Yet to her this was the equivalent of snake oil. “Snake oil” is an expression used to describe something that lacks authenticity or that is not really needed. The seller knows that the product is bogus, but in their desire to earn a profit, they go ahead with their pitch. Here Ravana didn’t necessarily know that material opulence was unnecessary. Since he cherished it so much, he figured everyone else did as well.

The stereotype is that women can be persuaded with flattering words and expensive gifts. Actually, who isn’t softened by kind words offered their way? It is certainly preferable to hear someone say nice things about us than not. Here Ravana is perplexed that Sita has bucked the trend. The kinder he is to her, the harsher her rebuke of him becomes. She cannot be bought off with expensive jewels. Flattering words will not soften her stance.

Sita DeviThis is the behavior of the wise souls. They analyze what is being offered to them to see if it can be utilized for the highest purpose in life. That purpose is serving God. Real progressive values are those which help the consciousness stay fixed in thoughts of the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. Sita is the eternal consort of that personality, so she is incapable of straying from the devotional path. During her earthly pastimes, through her behavior in different situations she shows how the devotee’s behavior is unique.

It is easy to say that such and such person is devoted to God, but that doesn’t give a complete understanding. If we say that the same person rejects material opulence if it comes at the expense of association of the beautiful Lord, then we have a better understanding. If we say that the same person becomes more opposed to the idea of separating from God the more it is presented to them, we pay them an even higher compliment.

Therefore Ravana here flatters Sita, though he doesn’t know it. He might as well be saying, “For some reason you are really devoted to this Rama, your husband. I’ve basically offered you the post of queen of the world, and you have rejected it. I thought that maybe you didn’t understand me at first, so I went into further detail about exactly what I was offering you. And who would ever think of turning down such an offer? A woman is attracted to beauty, strength and riches. Any of my other queens would have jumped at the chance. For some reason, you only seem to be getting more upset with me.”

Sita and RamaOf course the actual nature of the offer is what determined Sita’s stance. Ravana wanted her to forget her husband Rama. Ravana wanted her for himself; which is not possible. Therefore the opulence he offered was really an illusion; something not what it appeared to be. It was like snake-oil to someone who already had the real medicine. When in the pure devotional consciousness no amount of money can make the devotee abandon the lord of their life breath, their prana-natha. This staunch resolve indicates real strength, which can be found in any person, even a beautiful princess. Sita appeared weak to Ravana, but she was stronger than any person he had ever met.

In Closing:

With persuasion thought to his side could get,

But Sita stronger than any person he’d met.


Her intense rebuke his grand plan to foil,

Knew his offer for power just like snake oil.


Devotion to Rama the only opulence real,

To wise nothing else comes close in appeal.


Take Sita’s example as life’s lesson gift,

And to maya’s allures give rejection swift.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not After A Thousand Months

Sita Devi“The more sweet a man is towards a woman, the more agreeable she becomes. Yet in this case the more dear words the speaker has used, the more disregarded he has been.” (Ravana speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.2)

yathā yathā sāntvayitā vaśyaḥ strīṇāṃ tathā tathā |
yathā yathā priyam vaktā paribhūtastathā tahā ||

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You are a reflection of your association. At least this is the general rule. If you want to become a first class drunkard, frequent bars and nightclubs. Just as you would go to the gym every day to get your body into shape, make an appointment to sit on a bar stool for hours on end as the bartender continues to hand you drinks. Tell them that you never want to be empty-handed; as soon as a drink is finished a new one should be there waiting as a replacement. This rule on association is especially noted by spiritualists looking to advance to the state of pure consciousness, which is rarely achieved. For truly exalted individuals, who are always liberated from the influence of the material nature, even prolonged association of nefarious characters can’t change them. In fact, the more time they spend with such characters, the more they are repulsed by them.

A successful entrepreneur eventually has to work with others. Perhaps there are sales to make or the company grows to the point that extra help is required. If you really want to get someone to come to your company, what will you do? Let’s say that the coveted member finally becomes available. Previously they were locked up with another organization. They weren’t looking to move. In some cases, it might even be illegal to talk to such candidates. When they become free, the interested parties start what is commonly referred to as a “charm offensive.”

You send your best pitchman out to meet the candidate. You offer whatever gifts are allowed. You “wine and dine” the coveted candidate. If you had previously hurt them, you try your best to make that transgression a distant memory. Obviously you will use kind and gentle words. You will praise them. You will speak of so many good things to come in the future. You will promise all sorts of enjoyment. Whatever you think the person wants, that is what you will put on the table.

The charm offensive is especially employed by men seeking to enjoy with women. The male is viewed as the stronger party, so it is typically expected of them to be the seekers. The women, being generally weaker, are meant to be chased. If a woman is averse at first, the man just tries harder. He increases the charm. If he is strong-willed, he will not be deterred by countless rejections. Eventually, he might succeed, as who can keep turning down someone who is so nice to them?

Bouqet of rosesOne may even be aware that they are being charmed. They may know that the words sent in an email to them were crafted specifically to persuade them in a certain direction. They may know that it is all an act, and yet still there is a softening of the stance. It is only natural to be pleased by such kind words. You think, “Maybe I am being a little cruel. Perhaps I should give this person a chance. They might be sincere.”

In the case of an infamous king a long time back, the more charm he tried to apply, the stronger he was rejected. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he says as much. His object of desire was the wife of another man. Previously that hadn’t been a problem for the king, who was named Ravana. He had plenty to use in his charm offensive. His arsenal consisted of personal achievements, physical strength, and tremendous opulence in the home.

The desired person, Sita Devi, was offered the post of chief queen. Ravana made his pitch stronger every time she rebuked him. He promised to be her servant, which is the opposite of the way marriages of that time typically went. Indeed, if a husband was too consumed with passion and was thus led by the wife instead of leading her, he was considered weak. Ravana didn’t care about how he appeared, however. He just wanted Sita, and he would do anything to move her to his side.

Sita DeviInadvertently, he pays Sita a very nice compliment here. His observation is also a testimony to his vile nature. Sita is like a beautiful swan who prefers to remain amidst lotus flowers floating on the pristine pond. Ravana is like a crow, which stays amidst rubbish. The more time she spent with Ravana, the more she saw his crow-like nature. If we enter a room with a foul odor, if we stay in the room long enough eventually we stop noticing the smell. Though the area is unpleasant, there is gradual assimilation.

This did not occur with Sita. The more she heard from Ravana, the more repulsed she was by him. The reason was not necessarily due to Ravana’s presence, either. She was separated from her dear husband Rama. The separation was due to Ravana’s shameful act of stealing her away in secret. As the time spent in separation from Rama increased, the more her devotion to Him grew. The more one is devoted to Rama, the more they are repulsed by anything not devoted to Him. Ravana is the quintessential atheist; he thinks there is no God and that Rama is just an ordinary man.

Therefore Sita did not want his association in the least. Ravana gave her two more months to change her mind. But he could have given her a thousand more months and her dislike for him would have only increased further. He had no shot of turning her around. The words he used had no effect, since whatever he offered only meant further separation from Rama. This was a deal she would never accept.

In Closing:

Striking beauty of female to alarm,

Lusty man then to apply the charm.


Constant rejection no issue,

In attempts only to continue.


Eventually might soften the hardened stance,

Thus kind words for success increase the chance.


Ravana despite concerted effort long,

Rebuke of Sita only became more strong.


From side of beloved Rama he took,

Thus Janaka’s daughter never to give a look.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It Tolls For Thee

Rama's arrow“Even if you go to the mountain abode of Kuvera or go to the assembly house of King Varuna, you will not be able to escape from Rama, as a giant tree, whose time of death has arrived, cannot escape a thunderbolt.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.34)

giriṃ kuberasya gato.athavālayam |
sabhāṃ gato vā varuṇasya rājñaḥ |
asaṃśayaṃ dāśaratherna mokṣyase |
mahādrumaḥ kālahato.aśaneriva ||

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“I love this tree. It is so tall. In the peaceful woods, this is my favorite tree to use for shade. I come here to get away from the stresses of city life. Even in the suburbs things can get hectic. Whether one has a job or not, there always seems to be so many obligations. It’s nice to get away and relax. My favorite spot is underneath this huge tree. I bring a blanket with me to act as a matt. Then I sit on the matt and read my favorite book.”

After some time has passed…

“No way? You’ve got to be kidding me? How is it that my tree is knocked down? I never would have thought this possible. This tree is so large that its fall must have created the loudest sound in the forest. Whether anyone was here or not makes no difference; that sound must have been tremendous. Obviously this tree was struck down by lightning. It had been here for so long. It was dependable. It did so much good for me. But alas, I guess its time was up. Nothing could be done to save the tree. Unless we built a giant structure around it, it wasn’t going to be spared the wrath of the thunderbolt. Even that protection would have been susceptible to the same influence of time. Time does indeed take away everything. When the time for leaving arrives, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.”

Tree fallingSita Devi references the tree being killed by time in the form of a thunderbolt to explain to Ravana how he will not be able to escape his own death, which would come in the form of illustrious arrows shot by her beloved husband, who is pious in every way. Rama would not kill Ravana without cause. His arrows of justice would rid the world of a terrorizing figure, who was so low that he took away another man’s wife in secret and then never told Him where she was. As time heals all wounds, the dreaded disease that was Ravana would be cured by time acting through Rama.

“No one knows where time began and where it ends, and it is time only which can keep a record of the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material manifestation. This time factor is the material cause of creation and is therefore a self expansion of the Personality of Godhead. Time is considered the impersonal feature of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.10.11 Purport)

Rama is superior to time. Rama is the personal and time is the impersonal. The personal represents a singular entity, though the visible manifestation isn’t limited to a single form. The original Personality of Godhead has two hands and a beautiful smile. Rama is considered an incarnation of the original, but the transcendental features are there all the time.

The impersonal emanates from the personal. It is like an effulgence, something that indicates the potency of the personal without representing Him fully. Time is but an impersonal representation. Known as kalah in Sanskrit, time is also death. Death is the exit of the spirit soul from the body, and while outwardly this is effected through various mechanisms, the actual cause is time. Therefore kalah is synonymous with death.

Shri RamaSita knew that her husband was the source of time. In His realm time has no influence. This means that in His realm there is no such thing as birth or death. No one fights against Him, so no one has to be destroyed. As no one has to meet destruction, no one has to die. If the Supreme Lord should happen to be desirous of combat, He descends to the material world and brings His associates with Him. The divine play then satisfies His desires for sport, while simultaneously teaching so many valuable lessons.

The lesson in this instance comes from the foreshadowing words of Sita Devi. Here she makes reference to Kuvera and Varuna as a way to describe the inescapable nature of time. Kuvera is Ravana’s half-brother. Ravana had actually driven Kuvera out of Lanka; that is how Ravana became the king of Lanka. As Sita points out, Kuvera’s home is in the mountains. He is the treasurer of the demigods, and the treasury’s location is in the mountains, where gold and other real commodities are found in abundance. Kuvera is also a guardian of one of the directions. Varuna guards a particular direction as well. He is the demigod in charge of the waters. He operates in an assembly, where he takes interest in justice.

“Kuvera is one of the eight demigods who are in charge of different directions of the universe. It is said that Indra is in charge of the eastern side of the universe, where the heavenly planet, or paradise, is situated. Similarly, Agni is in charge of the southeastern portion of the universe; Yama, the demigod who punishes sinners, is in charge of the southern portion; Nirriti is in charge of the southwestern part of the universe; Varuna, the demigod in charge of the waters, is in charge of the western portion; Vayu, who controls the air and who has wings to travel in the air, is in charge of the northwestern part of the universe; and Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods, is in charge of the northern part of the universe.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.39 Purport)

If Ravana were to travel to Kuvera’s mountain abode he would not escape the influence of time. The same if he were to travel to Varuna’s assembly in the water. In either case it looks like there is protection. Ravana would think that the mountain or the water would shield him from Rama’s arrows. But Sita appropriately mentions time and how it kills even the large tree. The tree looks like it is safe and sturdy. It looks like nothing will kill it. But the thunderbolt drops it instantly. Nothing can be done to save the tree in that instance.

Lord RamaIn the same way Ravana would not escape Rama’s arrows. Rama is referred to here as the son of Dasharatha, who was the king of Ayodhya. Dasharatha could fight in ten directions simultaneously, which is what earned him his name. Similarly, Rama’s arrows would penetrate all the directions, irrespective of who was guarding them. Ravana would have no place for comfort, as the time for his death was approaching.

In Closing:

When for death time has come,

To prolong life nothing to be done.


Like tree in forest standing tall,

Single thunderbolt to bring its fall.


For Ravana from arrows nowhere to hide,

Not even if in mountains or water to reside.


As Rama son of king who fought chariots ten,

No direction safe for Lanka’s king then.