Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Charity and Respect

Barata party“With love he offered charity, respect and supreme respect to completion. Dasharatha and the barata party accepted everything politely.” (Janaki Mangala, 157)

dāna māna paramāna prema pūrana kie |
samadhī sahita barāta binaya basa kari lie ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

So many interesting truths one learns from a single review of the Bhagavad-gita, the short ancient Sanskrit text nestled inside a massively comprehensive work known as the Mahabharata. The fundamental lesson, the most basic truth required for understanding the higher truths, comes from the opening remarks of the speaker, teacher, and always realized soul, Shri Krishna. He declares that all living entities are equal in their original constitution, for they are spirit souls.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.25“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.25)

What does it mean to be spirit? For one thing, it means that the individual never dies. Just as the body changes from boyhood to youth to old age, the same soul similarly passes into another body at death. This individual is thus constant. This makes sense if we think about it. We don’t consider ourselves to be different today than we were yesterday. Perhaps this morning there is a muscle spasm in my left leg that wasn’t there the day before. Perhaps I don’t have as much hair on my head as I did five years ago. Yet from these changes alone to think that I am a different person is silly. Just as I have not changed my identity from five seconds ago, I am the same person I was when I was the size of a tiny pea in my mother’s womb.

The Changing BodyAll living entities are souls. We think others are different because of the outward covering. Sort of like a Halloween costume party, where everyone is dressed differently, from the perception granted to us by the eyes we make distinctions based on outward appearance. There is another similarity to all creatures as well. In addition to having the individual soul residing within, there is something known as the Supersoul. In Sanskrit the word for soul is atma. Atma can also mean body or mind, but it is generally used to reference the soul.

Though all souls are spiritual, there can be different types. The individual soul is known as jivatma. This other soul is paramatma. One is ordinary and the other supreme. An ordinary soul is obviously still amazing, for it retains its vibrancy throughout the changes in life, including the greatest change known as death. Paramatma is more amazing because its influence spreads to all creatures. Moreover, Paramatma, though residing within all the countless living entities, is still singular. Paramatma is one person. This means that I have something else in common with you. We both have Paramatma living inside of us.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.61“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)

Krishna with ArjunaFrom further study of the Bhagavad-gita, whose principles are not limited by faith and sectarian boundaries, we learn that the Supreme Lord is the very paramatma; it is one of His features. It is not His complete feature, though, for His actual transcendental attributes are not visibly manifest to the conditioned soul. From hearing I can get perfect knowledge. If someone tells me that putting my hand in fire will burn my hand, that is perfect knowledge. If I accept it, then I possess some knowledge that is free of flaw. In the same way, if I hear about the paramatma living inside of me and every other creature, I have perfect knowledge of it.

However, I still can’t necessarily see what Paramatma looks like. To get a vision of the attributes of the Supreme Lord, I need Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the same as Paramatma; the distinction between more complete and less complete is with relation to our external vision. On a cloudy day we can’t see the sun as clearly, but this has no bearing on the sun. The sun is always the sun, regardless of whether we can see it or not. So the same holds true with the Supreme Lord.

Since Paramatma is within everyone, we might make the mistake of treating everyone exactly the same. In mind I can understand that God is in the heart of the dog and in the heart of the priest, but to treat each the same way is silly. I wouldn’t ask the dog about the key questions of life and death. I wouldn’t go up to a priest and start rubbing its belly and asking it to go fetch a tennis ball.

Rubbing a dog's bellyIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, King Janaka exhibits behavior that follows realization of the divine vision. He is self-realized, so he both knows about Paramatma and can see it. Still, his behavior is tailored to the time, circumstance, and person. Here it is said that he offered charity, respect, and supreme respect to completion. This was right after his daughter married the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya. Janaka was the host of the ceremony, and from Ayodhya came a large contingent. They were so happy to see their beloved Rama wed the daughter of King Janaka, Sita.

Janaka too was so thrilled, and so he gave away beautiful brides to Rama’s three younger brothers as well. After the ceremonies were complete, he gave charity to those who deserved it. Charity is to be given to those who are in an inferior position. This only make sense. One of the common complaints of citizens living in democracies is the practice of handing out government money to wealthy businesses and businessmen. Commonly known as corporate welfare, this practice is frowned upon and yet still employed to maneuver power in government.

To those in the superior position, one offers respect, or mana. Dana is for the inferior and mana for the superior. Janaka also offered paramana, or supreme respect. There was a diverse crowd at this wedding. Dasharatha was in an equal position with Janaka, but the king from Ayodhya also had his family priests and his royal attendants with him. Janaka did not offer each of them the same treatment. He knew they had God living inside of them, and so he respected them in the proper way. We respect our teachers by hearing from them and carrying out their requests. We respect our children by guiding them, by imposing limits and protecting them. There is respect in both instances, but the implementations are different.

Sita and Rama's wedding in JanakpurJanaka’s behavior was indicative of his high consciousness. To have God consciousness is to reach the pinnacle of a material existence. It is said that a life form is superior to matter, something which shows signs of life superior to that, something with consciousness superior to that, something with sense perception superior to that, and so on. When you reach an object that has God consciousness, true awareness of the Supersoul and its origin, then you have reached the height of the evolutionary chain. In that supreme state, one offers respect to God through so many ways, including with how they treat others. It is no wonder then that the supremely intelligent Janaka received Rama, Bhagavan in His avatara as a warrior prince, as his son-in-law.

In Closing:

Though consciousness of Supersoul stayed,

Same offerings to all not made.

 

Charity to the inferior,

Respect to the superior.

 

From Janaka’s behavior to see,

Known as the way it should be.

 

To have consciousness of God evolution’s height,

No wonder that king welcomed Rama of arms of might.

www.krishnasmercy.org