Saturday, January 11, 2014


Marriage ceremony in Janakpur“The two daughters of Janaka’s younger brother were supremely beautiful. The elder one, whose beauty equaled hundreds of Ratis, married Bharata.” (Janaki Mangala, 153)

janaka anuja tanayā dou parama manorama |
jeṭhi bharata kahan byāhi rūpa rati saya sama ||

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There are different kinds of drunks. One is morose. They may be a happy person normally, but after a few adult beverages they tend to sit in the corner and sulk. Then there is the aggressive drunk. While they are mild and gentle during normal times, it’s as if their beers are cans of spinach going into the mouth of Popeye. They think they can fight anyone in the bar, perform any strongman feat, and endure any pain just because they’ve had a few drinks.

Popeye with spinachAnother kind is the happy drunk. Their love for the world comes out once they are intoxicated. They go up to everyone and hug them. They run through their contacts on their phone, calling each of them and telling them how they feel. From the king of education that is the science of self-realization we learn that deep down the soul wants to love. This is its feature of bliss, which is known as ananda in Sanskrit. Intoxication brings out the perverted form of the genuine sentiments belonging to the pure spirit soul. The soul is in its ideal state when loving God. That love manifests in service, and so when there is a chance to serve and the mood is pure, one is extremely happy. The purest form of the happy individual then gets shown to the world.

If you are genuinely happy and feeling so much love for someone else, you can’t stop in your offering of service. With the householder this mentality manifests in the continuous offering of food. “What, that’s all you’re going to eat? You didn’t like the food? No, you have to eat more. Here, take some more of this. You didn’t have enough of that, either. Here, now your plate is full again.”

Prasadam plateWith the member of a team, the love is shown in the offering of praise. If a player on a sports franchise is retiring after many solid years of service, it is not uncommon to hold a retirement ceremony for them. If the player is really special, he’ll be shown honor by all the teams that he played against. Past players will come out to offer praise and gifts. The fans will give standing ovation after standing ovation. The honor paid will reach the point of excess, where the honored will have to ask others to stop, lest they further embarrass them.

In ancient times, one of the ways to pay honor to someone else was to give away your daughter to them. Known as the kanyadana, or the donation of a maiden, this was a very nice gift for the groom. These marriages were in dharma and not kama as they are today in most cases. Dharma is duty. In its original meaning it is an essential characteristic. It takes on the meaning of duty when the principles followed help to maintain that characteristic. Dharma is thus also known as religion and righteousness.

In a marriage in dharma, both parties follow duties that will help to make the relationship fruitful. The sought after reward is not a happy home, time enjoyed in each other’s company, or even good progeny. Surely those things can be good, but the real objective is God consciousness. This is the real fruit of an existence, and it is also the most difficult to taste. There is the illusory energy known as maya that gets in the way. Maya tells us to chase after sense gratification instead. Earn so much money, find the spouse of your dreams, care for your young children and pets, find a hobby to lose yourself in - do anything except think of God.

One of the English translations for the Sanskrit word maya is “that which is not.” Maya is specifically not Brahman, or the truth. Dharma is for finding the truth and going beyond it to Parabrahman, who is the entity most of the world scantily knows through the term “God.” The path of dharma is not limited to renounced asceticism. It is not limited to study of esoteric truths found in a high philosophy. It is not limited to the difficulties of mystic yoga. Any aspect of life can be part of dharma, including marriage.

Sita and Rama's marriageIn the marriage in dharma, the chaste wife is a wonderful gift. She helps the husband stay on the righteous path. She supports him. He, in turn, protects her. The relationship is beautiful. As any relationship is difficult to maintain, if each party understands their role and the higher objective, the chances for maintaining that relationship and having it blossom increase.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we have an example of a person in total bliss. He is in ananda because he is getting to serve God directly. Parabrahman has appeared on earth in His spiritual form as a beautiful prince from Ayodhya. King Janaka is the fortunate soul here given the chance to serve. His essential characteristic visible to the world is adherence to righteousness. This was tested when he decided upon a contest for the marriage of his beautiful daughter Sita. Janaka vowed to give Sita away to whichever prince would first lift the amazingly heavy bow of Shiva.

By divine arrangement, Rama attended the contest and lifted the bow. Thus Janaka was able to give away his most precious Sita to God. But that wasn’t enough. His bliss was too high to be limited by a single offering. Rama had three younger brothers, all equal to Him in beauty, good character, and strength. They were chivalrous princes as well, and since the custom of the time was for the elder to marry prior to the youngers, these princes were without supporters.

Marriage of all four brothersJanaka took care of that by then giving away the daughters of his younger brother. The eldest daughter married Bharata. She was supremely beautiful, parama manorama. Manorama means “to please the mind,” and the adjective parama indicates that she was the best at pleasing the mind of another. This came from her beauty alone, which rivaled that of hundreds of Ratis. Rati is the consort of Kamadeva, who is the equivalent of a cupid. Kamadeva is the god of desire, and he is very beautiful. His wife is naturally very beautiful as well.

Not meant to be an insult but a way to praise further, the beauty of Bharata’s wife was like one hundred times that of Rati’s. This was fitting for Rama’s next younger brother. Bharata was of a dark complexion, just like Rama. Janaka had already given everything to Rama, so the brothers were next to be showered with gifts. They are also partial incarnations of the Supreme Lord, so in this act Janaka’s devotional service continued. Whether one is a king or a pauper, whether they are wealthy or modest, if their desires in devotion are pure, know that the Supreme Lord will create endless opportunities for their service to continue and flourish.

In Closing:

Devotional sentiment in king only grew,

So next gave brother’s daughters two.


In Bharata’s new wife to find,

Supreme beauty to steal the mind.


To eldest brother so strong and brave,

A beautiful wife Janaka already gave.


Not pleased until married were all four,

Chances for service God gave to him more.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Take Your Pick

Suradhenu“Auspiciousness on top of auspiciousness, when that happened [all four marriages] the picture enchanted the mind. The amazing beauty was like having a heavenly cow, the moon, a heavenly jewel, and a desire tree all together.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 19.2)

kalyāna mo kalyāna pāi bitāna chabi mana mohaī |
suradhenu sasi suramani sahita mānahun kalapa tarū sohaī ||

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Those who are uncultured or not very mature in consciousness may chuckle at various statements made in scripture. While attending church if a priest reads a passage from the Bible, they may find the descriptions of different enjoyments and purposes to be ridiculous. The voluminous Vedic literature would serve as great fodder for such folks, but upon further study even that which seems out of the realm of possibility is actually assigned only secondary status in importance. The above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala gives one instance.

If you’re a good person you go to heaven. If you’re a bad person you suffer in hell. This is the basic understanding of those who are not intimately familiar with the purpose to religion, and more importantly, the meaning of life. Indeed, even some who are supposedly very devout don’t know much beyond this. In heaven you’re supposed to enjoy. In hell you’re supposed to suffer. The Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world, give more details into the exact nature of that enjoyment. Since they also deal with the essence of individuality, they put that enjoyment into the proper context.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.20“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20)

In the Bhagavad-gita, which is the best summation to Vedic teachings, one learns that in the heavenly planets there is tremendous material enjoyment. There is a beverage called soma-rasa, and one is allowed to drink it at their leisure. All the beverages are higher in taste than what is found on this earth. One of the heavenly planets is the moon, which modern science believes to be uninhabited. In the Vedic definition, just because the living entities cannot be seen with the human eye doesn’t mean that they are not there. The many planets are considered heavenly personalities, which means they govern using intelligence.

There are also heavenly cows and desire trees. Both fulfill the same purpose. The heavenly cow, known as the suradhenu or kamadhenu, provides whatever one asks for. The trees are all kalpatarus, which means they grant whatever material desire one has. If you go up to one of these trees and ask for gold, you will get it. If you want a drink of water, it will appear on the spot. All the trees are like this, including the small and strange looking ones. On our way to work in the morning, we may pass by hundreds of trees and not notice them. On the roads in heaven, however, even the tiniest trees are most significant and thus honorable.

“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the streets in the heavenly realm are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)

TreesTo round out the enjoyment there is the heavenly jewel, suramani, as well. Again, you can get whatever you want from this jewel. While all of this may seem like mythology or symbolism to the less intelligent, even if accepted as just a theoretical exercise one can take away valuable lessons. While there is so much material enjoyment in heaven, residence in that realm is not permanent. Reaching that land is never purported to be the ultimate objective in life. It is simply the reward to pious behavior. Piety is doing something the right way. If you play the game right, you might get a reward, like a trophy. Next year, the trophy is given to someone else if you don’t win it again. Life in heaven is sort of like this. The duration of residence there is commensurate with the number of pious credits one accumulates. Once the time is up, the individual must fall back down to the earthly region, forced to work again for their so-called enjoyment.

Here Goswami Tulsidas puts the heavenly enjoyments into the proper context. He says they sort of resemble the image of the four couples newly married in Janaka’s kingdom. He indeed compares a single image to having a wish-fulfilling cow, a desire tree, a magical jewel, and residence in the heavenly realm of the moon all at once! Strangely enough, this barely suffices as an accurate comparison. Rather than come close to the side of exaggeration, it leans more towards the side of underwhelming with respect to accurately describing the value of the image of the four couples.

Rama and His brothersThis is because the couples are all God Himself and His immediate expansions. Rama is the leader; the eldest brother. He is the Supreme Lord Vishnu in an incarnation who appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago. Rama’s three younger brothers are also expansions of Vishnu. Vishnu does not reside in the heavenly realm. His position is fixed, so He never has to leave His home. In His realm the enjoyment comes through association with Him and serving Him. Material enjoyment has no place there since the residents have rightly cast it aside as being insignificant. In the highest realm Vishnu lives in His original form of Shri Krishna. There the residents roam a beautiful forest, where materially there is not very much, but everything is spiritual in nature. Therefore everyone is supremely blissful all the time.

A sampling of that bliss is available in the earthly region during the time of the divine descents. Rama and His brothers have the most beautiful wives, whom they accept at the occasion of Sita’s svayamvara in Janakpur. That event puts the material rewards into the proper perspective, teaching one and all that no reward conjured up by the materially afflicted mind could ever compare with the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and those who love Him.

In Closing:

Heavenly cow, wish-fulfilling tree,

Moon and jewel bring all gifts to see.


To image of couples not to compare,

Rama with brothers and wives so fair.


Full devotion to them offer,

And in this time genuinely prosper.


That heaven not everything they teach,

Target instead land of devotion to reach.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stealing Treasures

Rama with brothers“Stealing the auspicious treasures by looking at the divine couple, the people of the city received the benefit of having eyes. When they heard that Janaka gave away brides for the other three princes, they became filled with bliss.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 19.1)

mangala nidhāna biloki loyana lāha lūṭati nāgarīn |
dai janaka tīnihun kunvara bibāhi suni ānanda bharīn ||

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“How is no one else taking advantage of this? Though there is so much available in the material world to use for so-called enjoyment, nothing equals the reward of bhakti. To be able to glorify and worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead day after day is the real treasure of life. You don’t need a secret map to find this gem. It is not hidden from people. In fact, from what I have learned, the treasure is as close by as the heart in the chest. It can be found through repeatedly creating a sound vibration with the tongue.

“By enjoying God’s association on a daily basis, by basking in His transcendental qualities that bring me so much happiness, I feel as if I’m getting away with something. How are others not availing themselves of the same opportunity? I worry for them, as based on their personal testimony I can see what is missing in their lives. Though they are much more capable than me in all important areas, though they have so much in terms of potential for action, they are not meeting the true objective in life. They are not receiving the benefit to having an existence. I feel as if I am hoarding a treasure all to myself. Though I mostly fail even when trying my best to tell others where to find this treasure, I still won’t give up enjoying it. If others want to snooze, they will undoubtedly lose out on the real enjoyment that life has to offer.”

Radha and Krishna deity worshipThis is the general sentiment of the devotee who is immersed in bhakti-yoga, which is devotional service. The important things in life are abundantly available and inexpensive, relatively speaking. Milk and grains are easier to procure than wine and steak. At least this is how nature arranged it. When the opposite condition exists, it means that the actions of the people are guided by atheistic tendencies rather than the authorized words of scripture, which are available to one and all across different lands and in different languages.

Bhakti-yoga is the most readily available form of spiritual practice. It reaches more people than knowledge gathering, sitting in gymnastics postures, and working for a gain to be renounced later on. Indeed, its availability is greater than all other forms combined. Bhakti-yoga is like the sun of spiritual practice, dispersing its effulgence everywhere. The sun is but a tiny representation of God’s potency. Since the sun goes everywhere, it is like God. In the same way, since bhakti-yoga awaits utilization by every single spirit soul, it is non-different from God. All other forms of spiritual practice come from God, but don’t represent Him fully.

Treasure chestIn a typical adventure film featuring a treasure hunt, the goal is to find the treasure chest and open it up. The seeker is rewarded with whatever is inside. The first person to find it owns it. “Finders keepers,” as the saying goes. Pirates then try to steal the map or the treasure itself, understanding the value of the jewels and gold that are likely inside. The devotee who worships God in His personal form on a regular basis feels as if they have found the real treasure in life. Through some good fortune, which actually comes from God Himself and His representative, the means for finding the treasure are revealed.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)

Then through even more good fortune, namely in the form of further association and dedicated practice in bhakti-yoga, the treasure arrives in the palm of the hand. They then own it. They make the best use of it, not wanting to give it up. Since it is from God, this treasure is available to every single other person as well. If I find a treasure chest in the desert, once I lay claim to it no one else can. When I take possession, others lose out. Not so with the treasure of devotional service. If I find it, others can as well. When others don’t take to it, I will feel as if I am stealing, but that is actually a good sentiment, showing a level of appreciation necessary for truly loving God.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the people of the town continue to enjoy the treasure of the vision of Sita and Rama. That image gives to them the fruit of their eyes. Eyes are used to see. To make the best use of the eyes, it would make sense to always look at the best thing. Nothing beats the vision of the personal form of God sitting next to His eternal consort. Sita and Rama fit that vision, though there are other non-different forms of Godhead and His energy as well.

Sita and RamaThe people appreciated what they had in front of them. Since only a select few were there, they felt as though they were stealing these treasures. Sita’s father then announced that three more girls would be given away, to Rama’s three younger brothers. This made the people even happier. In the Vedas it is said that Rama and His brothers are all expansions of Lord Vishnu, who is the Personality of Godhead in His manifestation of opulence. While Vishnu wears glittering gems and has a glaring effulgence that causes others to view Him with reverence, Rama and His brothers have human-like forms, which elicit stronger loving sentiments from the devotees.

The consorts of Rama and His brothers bring out even more loving feelings, as these beautiful women are dedicated to the brothers in thought, word and deed. The treasures from that day continue to be stolen by the sincere poets of the bhakti tradition, who give countless others the opportunity to time travel and enjoy that wonderful scene. That same opportunity is available to one and all today through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

My joy without bound,

Since this treasure I have found.


Why not others also to take?

And fruitful their eyes to make.


Since beautiful Sita and Rama to see,

Most fortune in the world came to me.


Bhakti-yoga to others also can give,

So whole world in harmony to live.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Question Everything

Shrila Prabhupada“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.34When one matures past the stage of childish enthusiasm to enjoy constantly in various games, they hopefully begin to question the purpose to everything. “Why am I alive? Why do I have to go to school? Why do people get married and have children when they reach a certain age? I’ve figured out that I am going to die eventually. Why? If we’re all destined to die, why do we even take birth?” These questions gave birth to philosophy, where the intelligent among us try to answer these questions. Some answers are fairly obvious, but as soon as the philosopher reaches a point where they do not know the answer, where they introduce “perhaps” and “maybe” into the equation, they admit their fallibility. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is therefore recommended that the sincere seeker of the truth approach someone who knows the truth, someone who is self-realized because they have seen the truth.

Shrila PrabhupadaSelf-realized means to realize the self. To realize means to absorb the knowledge versus just knowing it as an answer to a question. To know that two plus two equals four means to be able to give the answer to the question on a test. If someone asks me, “What is two plus two?” and if I can give the answer of “four,” then I know the fact. To realize the same truth, however, requires understanding of the principle. This means that if I have two dollars today and someone gives me two dollars tomorrow, I understand that I will have four dollars. This is the same question from before, but here the truth is practically realized. If I don’t know that I will have four dollars tomorrow, it means that I have not realized this specific truth. It means that my knowledge is only theoretical.

The theoretical is known in Sanskrit as jnana. The practical understanding is vijnana. The Bhagavad-gita says to approach someone who has realized the self. Does this mean that one should realize what their name is? What about their age? What about where they live? What about their position within a community? What about their standing within a family? Even within the family the individual can be known in different ways. To one person they are the husband. To another they are the father. To another they are a brother. To another they are a nephew.

The true self cannot be any of these temporary designations. The advanced philosopher can speculate that the self is the soul. “That essence of everything is the self. It is what animates the inanimate. It is what gives life to that which is otherwise dead.” The self-realized soul goes beyond this. They have seen the truth, meaning they see the spiritual essence within all life forms. They make no distinctions between the cat, the dog, the cow, the human being, and the ant. They obviously treat them differently because of the differences in outward behavior, but they are not foolish enough to think that one species has a self and another does not. They realize that their self is the same self in quality in others.

Bhagavad-gita, 5.18“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Lord Krishna with cowsTo know the self means to give the proper answer to the question of “who am I?” The answer is “Brahman,” which means “spirit.” The more complete definition is “a fragment of the complete spiritual energy known as Brahman.” To realize the self means to act in a certain way. It means to know that Brahman is but a way to view a higher force. It is a way to slightly understand that which is impossible to fully understand. The Brahman realization is the mercy of the all-powerful Bhagavan, who is always self-realized because He can never be in ignorance. Ignorance and understanding, heat and light, happiness and sadness, and other such dual conditions only exist for the Brahman sparks. And then only for those sparks which become conditioned by a temporary world.

Philosophy is ultimately the science of science. Real philosophy hovers above all other sciences, for it gives an explanation into why those sciences exist. The genuine philosopher therefore questions everything. They ask about higher truths, wanting to know why they exist. This philosophical inquiry is unique to the human species. It cannot be made while in an animal body. The animals can migrate to foreign lands and set up communities and means for procuring food and the like. The human beings are not unique in this area. Where they stand apart is in their ability to ask why certain things must take place.

Eventually the philosopher will reach a point where they cannot answer a question. And not something relating to a trivial issue such as “what did the president’s son eat for breakfast two and a half weeks ago,” this question pertains to the meaning of life, the existence of God, the destination for the soul after death, or the like. The self-realized soul can answer these questions to the best of man’s ability to understand. They can impart knowledge unto the sincere spiritual seeker because they have seen the truth. Not that they concocted the answers on their own, through some magical revelation, they simply accepted the same words of wisdom from their own self-realized teacher.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.3“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.3)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita, the speaker describes the chain of teachers and how sometimes that chain breaks with the passage of time. He gives that knowledge again to the sincere seeker, Arjuna, because he is a devotee of the speaker. Thus we see the proper way in which the knowledge is to be accepted. To question everything is a sign of real intelligence, and when the person asking the question finds the proper match in a teacher, the result is a true awakening into the matters of the material and spiritual worlds. Apprised of what awaits the devoted soul who sees the spiritual component to everything, the mindset changes from questioning to acting. The action is devotional service, and its most effective implementation in the present age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Beyond tendency to only play,

To question is the philosopher’s way.


Why all such things to exist?

What after death to persist?


But from reaching a confusion one,

Philosopher can find answer none.


Real knowledge from Gita’s chapters eighteen,

Chain of teachers each the truth has seen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Avoiding Death

Narasimhadeva with Prahlada“Superficially it may be seen that a yogi is attacked by a deathblow, but by the grace of the Lord he can overcome many such attacks for the service of the Lord. As the Lord exists by His own independent prowess, by the grace of the Lord the devotees also exist for His service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.18.15 Purport)

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Hiranyakashipu thought that his son was an advanced yogi. Otherwise, what could explain his amazing ability to cheat death? Who has ever heard of a young child not dying after being thrown in a pit of snakes? What human being could survive being thrown off of a high mountaintop? What young child doesn’t succumb to death after ingesting poison? No, Prahlada must have been a yogi. There was no other way. Or perhaps he propitiated some higher power, who then granted him this ability. This is how the king thought, and since he couldn’t see the Supersoul within Prahlada or even himself, he thought wrong.

“Let me try yoga. I’ve tried lifting weights. It helps to continuously burn fat throughout the day, but I noticed that my flexibility decreases. For instance, the day after I do chest exercises, it is very difficult for me to put on my jacket. My arms lose something in the range of motion. Also, my body is constantly sore. I’ve heard that this is how the muscles grow. You work them to the point of exhaustion so that they get tired, and it is through atrophy that they become stronger.

Weighlifting“I’ve tried doing cardiovascular exercises, but I get other problems. For starters, it is kind of boring. I have to do the same thing for at least half an hour in order to feel an effect. Then I’m extremely tired afterwards. I feel weaker, not stronger. I become more prone to illness as a result. I want to try something different, and I’ve heard only good things about yoga. I’ve heard that it increases flexibility, helps with circulation, and brings an overall calmness to the body.”

Perhaps our view of yoga is like this in the modern time, but in the genuine version of it you get amazing abilities. Those abilities are known as siddhis, or perfections. Sort of like your savings bond hitting maturity after a certain amount of time, if you practice meditational yoga properly you achieve perfections. These siddhis are things most people wouldn’t believe, but they can actually occur. You can become light as a feather or heavy as a boulder. You can leave your body, travel around using only your essence, the soul, and then reenter that body. You can get anything simply by desiring it.

So it wasn’t surprising that Hiranyakashipu thought that his son was an advanced yogi. With the ability to move the soul outside of the body, one can dodge death. This comparison is used in the Shrimad Bhagavatam to describe how easily Varahadeva dodged the blow of a mace coming from His enemy. The mace is a very powerful weapon, and so to elude it is not an easy task. For the yogi it is, for the yogi can even get out of the way of death.

VarahadevaWhat Hiranyakashipu didn’t realize was that even the ability of the yogi comes from somewhere. His son Prahlada was a yogi, but not the kind the father was thinking of. Varahadeva is a beautiful incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just as in His manifest pastimes the Lord can dodge a physical weapon like a mace, His devotees can cheat whatever deadly attacks come their way. This is due to God’s grace only. He has bigger plans for His surrendered souls.

Hiranyakashipu was trying to kill his son because of the son’s devotion to God. Prahlada was only five years old. He wasn’t bothering anyone. He wasn’t launching a conspiracy to overthrow the government. He wasn’t telling the palace guards to secretly attack the father while he slept at night. He wasn’t even constantly preaching to the father about the ways of devotional service. The boy simply spoke the truth when asked. He shared his preferences. It is seen that if one reveals their preferences in supporting sports teams, eating fine dishes, drinking adult beverages, vacationing, working, playing, etc., they will not meet much opposition. As soon as the topic turns towards worship of the origin of matter and spirit, of fulfilling the destiny of the enlightened living spirit within the auspicious human body, there is resistance on the other side.

Prahlada faced the most resistance this world can offer. His own father tried to kill him in so many ways, as he was so against worship of anyone except himself. Prahlada survived the attacks because the Supreme Lord gave him the ability to do so. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t understand this, though informed so directly by Prahlada. The king would eventually have to learn the hard way, as though he had many boons protecting him from death in many different ways, he had no way of escaping the claws of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Narasimhadeva.

Narasimhadeva killing HiranyakashipuIf all abilities are originally sourced in the Supreme Lord, and with one of those abilities one can temporarily get out of the way of death, why wouldn’t everyone be devoted to Him? Why take chances with anything else? Prahlada was not given this amazing ability so he could continue a life in sense gratification. Indeed, he didn’t even specifically ask for this ability. He simply thought of his beloved Supreme Lord, who is originally with a spiritual form of all-attractive attributes. That thinking alone saved him.

The devotees exist for service to the Supreme Lord, and because of this they are protected by Him. The yogi may acquire the ability to avoid death after so much practice in meditation, but with one single moment of remembering God in a pure way, the same ability comes to the devotee without a problem. Moreover, after they avoid death they continue in their devotion, which is what makes every person happiest. The fortunate are those who realize this profound truth after hearing it from the bona fide spiritual master. Prahlada was that teacher for his father, but unfortunately the father did not listen.

Prahlada’s devotion is technically known as bhakti-yoga, which is the superior form of yoga. It is well above and beyond meditational yoga, which is light years advanced over yoga as an exercise routine. Avoiding death is a trivial reward for the devotee, for the spirit soul continues to live on regardless. Death is merely the changing of the bodies, and so whatever body the protected souls find themselves in, their devotion continues and flourishes. In the body of a five year old, Prahlada taught lessons to remain valuable for as long as man remains fallible.

In Closing:

For as long as man remains fallible,

Lessons from Prahlada to remain valuable.


With success from in meditation to stay,

Yogi can dodge oncoming death’s way.


Still, ability from God only to come,

Like with Prahlada against attacks done.


More important how with vitality to live,

For devoted soul protection Lord always to give.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What If You’re Wrong

Lord Krishna“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.40)

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.40“What if you’re wrong about everything you’ve told me? What if the entire thing is a lie and you’re just the last person to figure it out? What if reincarnation isn’t real? Won’t you have wasted your life worrying about the afterlife? What if this one life is all we get? What if the Supreme Personality of Godhead isn’t originally a beautiful youth, who holds a flute in His hands, wears a peacock feather in His hair, and sports an enchanting smile? What if everything you’ve read from your sacred texts was made up by creative artists in the vein of the modern day science-fiction writer? Won’t it all have been a waste?”

These are common questions posed to all believers, be it of a spiritual tradition or not. It is natural to worry over an effort going to waste. Especially with respect to the most important thing in life, the reason for living and how to go about meeting it, who wants to be wrong? Who wants to waste their time, effort, faith, hope, and vitality on a lie? But actually, the fear itself can help us to solve the problem. As in math and science it is often helpful to disprove the negation, seeing how faith is currently invested sheds some light on the matter.

What do we mean by this? Well, if the question of “what if you’re wrong” is posed to the sincere spiritual seeker, it can be returned to the doubting soul as well. It is only fair that if you get to ask me a question, I can ask the same one back to you. To the materialist, we can be just as inquisitive. Here “materialist” covers the broader spectrum of the “non-devoted.” One person may crave more wealth, opulence and fame than another, but if both are ignorant of the true purpose of an existence, they can be lumped into the “materialist” category. A more accurate definition would be “someone who knows only maya, or illusion.” Maya is the Sanskrit term to describe “that which is not,” with the “not” referring to the Absolute Truth, the non-differentiated energy that gives life to everything.

“So, my dear friend, what if you’re wrong about this person being good? What if you’re wrong about that band being the best in the world? What if you’re wrong about this athlete being honest, kind, charitable, and an all-around good guy? What if you’re wrong about this president being different? What if he really does lie, cheat and steal like the rest of them? Then what? What are you going to do? Won’t all your worship have been a waste? And yes, it indeed was worship, for you offered undivided attention. You forked over so much money as well in buying what they were selling. Therefore, will you not waste your effort?”

Indeed, by definition so many have been wrong about so many things since time immemorial. They continue to be wrong to this day. For example, in recent times the public gave so much attention to notable athletes. These athletes had a good public image. They said the right things. They supported the right causes. If polls were taken, their favorability numbers would be through the roof.

Tiger Woods and Lance ArmstrongAnd yet, as is the nature of man, they proved to be fallible. Their transgressions made it into the public spotlight. And what was the reaction of the previously adoring fans? Was it support? Was it forgiveness? For most, it was anger. And why wouldn’t you be angry if you were completely fooled by someone else? Those covering the news obviously choose to gloss over their mistake in judgment, as they simply shift their faith to someone else in the future. When that person fails to live up to the “godly” status, the same adoring fans will turn the other way.

If people weren’t wrong all the time about their preferences and likes, there would not be any hate. There would be no need to moderate comments on websites and blogs. There would be no need to steer clear of “haters.” Indeed, many in the public eye are so famous that they have groups of haters, who look for any excuse to criticize. A famous rock band originally had a small group of adoring fans, but as their popularity increased and others became envious, they soon acquired so many haters. The haters are worshipers also, in a sense, but they were previously fans. By their own behavior they admit that they were horribly wrong, that their preference resulted in a complete waste of time.

Those deluded by maya have shown themselves to be wrong so many times. The summit to an existence in maya is increased opulence. Well, so many who are extremely beautiful are incredibly unhappy. The same goes for those who have a lot of money. Previously, the young adult longed for the day they would find wedded bliss, but in adulthood they find marriage to be very difficult. Simply living with someone else all the time and compromising desires and preferences is a tough task.

And what comes from being wrong? Is there an increase in knowledge? Time was spent immersed in something, for sure, but then again that time could have been spent elsewhere. More importantly, at the time of death, the living entity is no wiser than when they started as an infant. Gifted with a birth in the most intelligent species, the living entity failed to open their eyes to the reality of the world in time to make the most of their vitality.

In the devotional life, there is real love. This means that it cannot be checked. The corresponding Sanskrit term is “prema.” Prema is distinguished from kama, or material love, by the fact that the object receiving the love can never do anything to remove the sentiment in the person offering the love. In simpler terms, this means that the devotee can never be made to feel wrong. If someone always chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” in a pure manner and under the guidance of proper authority figures, when reaching the mature stage nothing can take them away from their chanting. They hold on to the holy name as their life and soul, for they know the name is identical to the person it addresses.

Lord KrishnaThe name Krishna is the same as the person Krishna, who is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. Everyone is attracted to Him in some way; it’s just that the devotees know more about Him. They find His internal nature appealing, whereas the non-devoted are taken in by the external nature. In the latter there are constant mistakes, for the objects in that energy are not the original blissful personality. In the former, one can never be wrong, for the Supreme Lord is the Absolute Truth.

There will always be skeptics, and so for even those worried that a lifetime in devotion could end up leaving the worshiper with nothing, note that the time spent is blissful as well; the reward is not solely reserved for the end. It is in the nature of the spirit soul to serve. One is happiest when they are serving others; this fact cannot be denied. Only in devotional service, the peak of religious practice, does one get to serve without motivation and without interruption. By definition, this makes one extremely happy. Therefore bhakti-yoga becomes the most wonderful utilization of time in this short, but auspicious lifetime. If one is always doubtful they will not take up bhakti-yoga, and they will make the worst possible mistake in missing out on the Lord’s constant association.

In Closing:

What if everything is wrong,

And wasted is your effort long?


Instead of opulence to taste,

Your faith in God went to waste.


In truth wrong is the way right now,

Otherwise hatred towards figures how?


In devotional service nothing to lose,

Blissful is life when love for God to choose.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Scant Understanding

Wine“Although in one sense nothing is bad, liquor is bad because it creates bad effects. In America there are many drunkards. There is no scarcity of them. But I may request even the drunkards, ‘When drinking wine, kindly remember that the taste of this drink is Krishna. Just begin in this way, and one day you will become a saintly, Krishna conscious person.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, 5 Purport)

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“How are the popular religions different? Aren’t they all just the same thing? ‘Surrender to such and such person and be saved. Think of God instead of thinking of other things.’ You know, be spiritual and all that stuff. Each religion says theirs is the superior one, so in that sense they all seem the same to me. How do you make distinctions?”

This is a common area of misconception that can be cleared up rather easily. Indeed, to be genuinely religious is better than to believe that man himself can become God. The most successful person materially must eventually face defeat at the hands of death. They can cheat their friends, their family, their community, their nation, their shareholders, and their adversaries from other parts of the world, but they can never outsmart the forces of nature. That nature’s greatest weapon is time, which is most visibly manifest in the force known as death.

At the outset, religion may seem to be merely a way of coping with death. “I don’t know where I’m going after I die, and I know that eventually I will die. Others have come to this realization as well, so they’ve sought comfort in religion. It gives them the peace of understanding the afterlife, and if others are cool with accepting this information then fine. To me it just seems like a way of dealing with things that are unexplainable. It’s a way of surviving through the madness that we call life.”

Different religious booksOne religion says that you’ll go to heaven after death if you accept such and such personality as your savior. Another promises the same heaven if you pray a certain number of times a day and follow strict rules and regulations. Another says something very similar, and another describes the annihilation of everything after many births and deaths; to eliminate everything is the highest achievement, bringing the state of pure enlightenment.

While a religion, or faith, may say this or that about the afterlife, the real distinctions come into play with the understanding of God. How much is revealed about the person behind the mysterious creation, with its many conditions in duality? What is good to me may not be so for another person. The quarterback on the football field praying to God for success at the end of the game may seem to be very pious, but if you break things down a little further you see that they are praying for the defeat of the other team. They are asking God to help make someone else miserable at the expense of their joy. This cannot be God, can it? The person may be praying genuinely and following a bona fide path, but how can a supreme controller give favor to one person over another over something as trivial as a football game?

Such practices follow a scant understanding of God. The acknowledgment of a higher power is indeed a step up from the animalistic attitude of “eat, drink and be merry before this one life is over.” The attitude of “you only get one life, so enjoy it as much as possible” is one the atheist follows. Therefore when the purportedly religious person adopts the same attitude it means that their understanding of God is limited. When the religious person blows up innocent women and children in a public market it means that they have no clue who God is. When the religious person sends millions of innocent mother animals to the slaughterhouses, it means that their understanding of God is lacking.

Slice of cheese pizzaWe can use pizza as an analogy to understand the differences. When I bake a pizza pie for my family, I hope that each member will enjoy it. When I place it on the dinner table, one child takes a slice and then proceeds to eat only the crust portion. They don’t want anything to do with the rest of the pizza. They just don’t know about its taste. Another child scrapes off the cheese and then eats the pizza. One child, however, eats the entire slice and thus relishes the full taste.

In the different religions with the scant understanding of God, we can think of the followers as knowing only about the crust of the pizza. They simply don’t see the rest. The crust is quite enjoyable compared to so many other foods, so the people eating are quite satisfied. However, the full taste is not relished. Pizza is a food in a world full of duality, so not everyone will like it. We can take any food that is preferable to see the same concept.

In one spiritual discipline, as much about God as can be understood is revealed. It said that He is a person, or purusha. He is spirit that dominates matter. He dominates everything actually, so He is the supreme purusha. We are purusha over the material nature, prakriti, but in relation to God we are prakriti, or that which is enjoyed by the purusha.

Lord KrishnaGod has a spiritual body. He has many spiritual bodies in fact, with one being the original. In that original feature, the form is eternal, full of knowledge, and blissful. It is described in Sanskrit as sach-chid-ananda. Since He possesses every wonderful attribute to the highest degree, He is known as Bhagavan. Since everyone is attracted to Him at some level, He is known as Krishna.

The materialists devoid of spiritual culture are attracted to different aspects of His material nature. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that among many other things, He is the taste of water. The drunkard can increase their understanding of God by remembering that He is the taste of their beverage of choice. The religious followers who hold religious principles in high regard are attracted to the regulations of spiritual life, which ultimately belong to God as well. The yogis who prefer meditation are attracted to God’s expansion as the Supersoul residing within everyone’s heart.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.8“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

The bhaktas, who have the highest understanding of God, are attracted to the Supreme Lord’s original feature of Bhagavan. Unlike the other features previously mentioned, Bhagavan is all-encompassing. If I am attracted to Bhagavan, I automatically see His influence everywhere. I thus have so many more things to appreciate. The bhakta on the highest level of understanding relishes the transcendental taste wherever they go. They are described as paramahamsas, which translates to “supreme swans.” This type of swan extracts the spiritual nectar out of any place, including those areas where the less intelligent think that God has no influence.

Lord KrishnaIf your understanding of God is scant, your religious practice will be scant as well. Therefore the solution is quite simple: increase your understanding. With the voluminous Vedic literature at our disposal, there is so much information available that the understanding can only increase further and further as more study is applied. Many lifetimes aren’t enough to fully understand the Supreme Lord, but even a little sincere effort will bring transcendental knowledge, which keeps one positively situated going forward.

In Closing:

To relish supreme taste you can’t,

When understanding of God is scant.


Like in pizza the crust only eating,

Full satisfaction not to be meeting.


As drunkard beloved is drink of mine,

Should know God is the taste of wine.


As Bhagavan more features drawn out,

Best end for devotee devoid of doubt.