Saturday, February 15, 2014

Talking About Why We Fight

[Home in the winter]“Actually, the conditioned souls, in ignorance in this material world, are simply guided by sex life, and as soon as they get the opportunity for sex life, they become attached to so-called home, motherland, children, wealth and opulence. As these attachments increase, moha, or the illusion of the bodily concept of life, also increases. Thus the idea that ‘I am this body, and everything belonging to this body is mine’ also increases, and as the whole world is put into moha, sectarian societies, families and nationalities are created, and they fight with one another.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.18 Purport)

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Inquisitive Mind: So, what is your view on sex? Is it to be restricted? Is it to be enjoyed? I know that Hindus are famous for the kama-sutra, which is the essential book of love. So I’m thinking the viewpoint must be a little different than what we are used to.

Helpful Friend: Actually, it depends on which level you are on. There is religion for every person, including the least intelligent who has ill intentions. The thief even gets some type of religion provided for them.

IM: Is the religion assigned to the thief the same as that to the saint?

HF: As the mindsets are different, the recommendations are different as well. Think of it like different kinds of therapy. The person in a drug rehabilitation center is closed off from the world and also offered some drugs with very harsh side effects. Perhaps they get nausea, sickness in the stomach, and loss of appetite from taking these medications. This therapy is necessary to cure them of their addiction, whereas the healthy person doesn’t have to follow the same system. They have something different assigned to them that might not work so well for the diseased person.

IM: So what are the different views on sex? What is it for the saint and what is it for the lower person?

HF: The lower and higher are determined by consciousness, or put more simply: the clarity in vision. The lower person identifies with their body. They think that their hands, legs, eyes and ears completely identify them. What comes next is only natural. If you think that your body is everything, you will do whatever it takes to make that body happy. If the stomach wants to eat, the individual will eat. If the eyes are attracted to another person’s body, the individual will move in that direction.

IM: What about the saint? They don’t think that they are their body?

[Reincarnation]HF: The saint knows that they are spirit soul. This is an elevation in consciousness. They know that their body is always changing, from boyhood to youth, to old age. The body similarly changes at death, and since they are dhira, or sober or self-realized, they are not bewildered by such a change. This is said in the Bhagavad-gita [2.13]. Thus the saint acts a little differently. Their behavior maintains their clarity in vision, where they can see themselves as spirit and others in the same light as well.

IM: How does the lower person view sex life?

HF: Interestingly, studying the different ways that sex are viewed is a good way to assess the clarity in vision, the purity of the consciousness. When discussing religion, often times there are only extremes. On one side you have to go to church every Sunday, avoid premarital sex, and accept so and so as the savior. If you fail to do any of these things, you are condemned to hell. The other side is complete rejection of these things. As you don’t want to be compelled to do anything, you are naturally rebellious of every principle you hear of. In this mindset sex life is extremely important, so much so that its improvement is the sole focus. The individual finds ways to have sex even when the wife is pregnant.

IM: And this is a bad thing?

HF: The Vedas give an analytical study more than a straight doctrinal presentation. It is said that sex life of this kind is based on illusion, for the feelings come from the vision of the temporary body. And from that illusion, so many attachments form. The individual is tied down to family, community, nation and so forth. It is said that wars and the like can all be attributed to this illusion.

IM: So sex life is prohibited then?

HF: Illicit sex life is what is prohibited. Man has potency to give seeds and woman has potency to nurture these seeds. These potencies are not without purpose. We have the ability to speak, walk and move. If we use them incorrectly, obviously we will not meet good ends. On the other hand, if we use them properly we can reach the ultimate destination. So sex life fits in with all this. Use your potency only for generating offspring. The responsibility doesn’t end there; the offspring are to be elevated to the higher consciousness through following regulative principles throughout life.

IM: What about sex life for the person who is not a saint?

HF: The principles apply all the same, but if one is very materially driven, they will not follow what is ultimately good for them. Kama-sutra and other such things are meant to increase the chances that sex life will be fruitful. There are recommendations for enhancing wealth, staying physically fit, and finding an ideal spouse as well. Such knowledge and procedures are not necessary by any means, but if you can follow some Vedic process, the hope is that eventually you will be open to the higher truths that will help you break free of the bodily designation. Like taking medicine when you’re young because your dad promises you candy afterwards, eventually the reward of transcendental knowledge will help you give up the desire to eat the candy of illusion.

IM: What is that ultimate destination you mentioned previously?

[Lord Krishna]HF: Union with God. He is ultimately a personality, though for those who are very materially driven and attached to so many things in illusion, this point is very difficult to realize. Therefore not every religious tradition reveals that God is ultimately a person. Whether it is revealed or not makes no impact on the factual situation. The Supreme Lord is full of bliss and knowledge, and lives eternally in His transcendental form. One who is conscious of Him at the time of death attains His abode, where there is endless play. Reaching His abode is the real objective for everyone. It brings the transcendental happiness that each person inherently seeks.

In Closing:

Truth from Vedas an interesting one,

That all conflict from sex desire comes.


In using God-given potency in way that is wrong,

To find difficult situations, painful and long.


Instead transcendental knowledge humbly take,

And from the illusion of ignorance gradually break.


Though many religions, objective the same,

Union with God, man’s goal to attain.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A History of Knowledge Transfer

[Prabhupada books]“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.68)

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[Bhagavad-gita, 18.68]Question: “Why is it so important to have association with devotees, people who have dedicated their lives to serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Why is it important to hear from them?”

When we emerged from the womb, we were not talking right away. We could not verbalize our feelings to the adults, most of whom made funny faces and strange noises as they looked at us with love. We couldn’t speak out what we wanted to eat, when we wanted to sleep, or where we wanted to go. Communication had to be learned, as did the process of reasoning and making rational decisions. To learn about the Absolute Truth, that which goes beyond this temporary life amidst temporary objects and fleeting attachments, has the same requirement. It must be learned. The issue is where to go and whom to approach. The Vedas recommend that we approach a saintly person, who is generally found in a holy place of pilgrimage. If we consider the history of knowledge transfer, the logic behind this recommendation becomes quite clear.

[Search engine results]Let’s say you’re in school today and you get an assignment to write about something like the history of computers. Where will you go? Based on the advancements in technology, you might not even have to leave the classroom. Just take out your smartphone that your parents purchased for you for emergency contact purposes, and pull up the internet browser. Then provide the words “history of computers” into the search engine. Then you get a series of hits. You could spend days and days studying the information this way.

No less than twenty years ago the process was different. The internet was not readily available. There weren’t so many computers around, and even if you happened to own one, you didn’t have anywhere to navigate to in order to get information to complete assignments for school. Your best bet was the library. Open to the public, you could go there and flip through the card catalog to find the books that matched your subject of interest. You could read any of those books while in the building. As that isn’t always practical, you could take the books home with you in what was called a “check out.” The library people knew where you lived, so if you didn’t return the book in time, you were charged a fine. As the length of the violation increased, so did the fine.

[Library card catalog]Now go back even further in time, say two hundred years or so. A young printer in the city of Philadelphia had formed a club with his friends. The goal of the club was to seek knowledge, with a strong stipulation being that no prejudice be given to religion or religious doctrine. Blind faith was not the order, as that could be found at the local churches, of which there were enough for each of the major denominations. The members of this club would meet every week and periodically submit essays for argument based on the books they had read.

The person who started this club, which was called the Junto, realized that it was a little cumbersome to have each person own their own copies of the books on the reading list. This was because books weren’t so prevalent in those times. There wasn’t a big-box retailer who carried every title known to man and could deliver it with free two-day shipping. Bookstores were scant, and so just acquiring the books on the list was difficult.

The leader and founder of the club came up with a scheme: book sharing. The members would share books. In order for this to work, there had to be a place to house the books, and there had to be plenty of books. Hence came the idea of a subscription library. People of the community would contribute to the project, and the books would be housed in a specific location. The members could then “check out” the books, and would be charged a fine of double the price of the book if they failed to return it. Hence the path was cleared for the modern day system of public lending libraries.

[Ben Franklin's library company]Now go back before this time, a few hundred years again. If you were interested in the real truth, such as the origin of everything, where would you go? Say you were interested in understanding the meaning of life. You wanted to know why we take birth and why we die. You were particularly interested in the highest philosophy, something that goes beyond just worship of an abstract figure insisted on out of fear of eternal damnation in a very hot place.

There was nowhere to turn but the saints of the Vedic tradition. They carried this information with them. The books of the highest knowledge, such as the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana remained in temples devoted to the Lord. The knowledge was encoded in the Sanskrit language, so even if someone were to get their hands on these books, they would have a difficult time understanding them. It was the saints who really knew the information. It was they who could describe it to others.

And so we see why association with saintly people is so important. The Absolute Truth is above any art. Community projects, social improvement, and promotion of the general welfare are arts, for conditions in society change all the time. What works in one area of the world may not in another. There is the time factor to consider as well. Computer programming is an important field today, but one hundred years ago it had no relevance whatsoever.

Shrila PrabhupadaKnowledge of the Absolute Truth is always important. Therefore the association of the saints who know the Absolute Truth has a value that cannot be measured. With the evolution of knowledge transfer, that same valuable information is now passed on in other forms, but the effect is the same. The association is still there, and it is what counts most. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada put so much emphasis on the printing and distribution of his books for this very reason. That which was previously hidden in remote areas and thus available to only a fortunate few, now could be disseminated to the societies at large, to multiple nations and in multiple languages.

If you were a truth seeker living in the eighteenth century or before and residing far away from the saints of the Vedic tradition, you really had no chance for finding true knowledge. The best you could do was speculate and hope to find derivatives of the summit of knowledge known as Vedanta in other works that you read. Now today the world is very fortunate, for the number of books glorifying the Supreme Lord and His personal form has increased. There is also an army of selfless servants of the acharyas, leaders in the spiritual movement of divine love, who try to distribute transcendental knowledge to as many people as possible. Thus the association comes even if we’re not purposefully seeking it out, making even the people of Kali, who are generally unfortunate and short-lived, very blessed indeed.

In Closing:

On internet for class assignment given,

In past to library by mom would be driven.


And then go back centuries before,

To find real knowledge a difficult chore.


Saints have provided an easier way,

To know Absolute Truth now and today.


Continuously working, intellect’s hunger to feed,

Thus even Kali’s population becoming fortunate indeed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Party Every Day

[Sankirtan party]“The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today or tomorrow; therefore the body is not as important as the soul. One who knows this is actually learned, and for him there is no cause for lamentation, regardless of the condition of the material body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.11 Purport)

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Reflections of a reformed partyer:

“In my senior year of college, I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. The major field of study I had chosen upon entering school no longer interested me. I was on the path to earning my degree for sure, but it wasn’t going to be useful to me. At the time I had a bigger problem. As I stayed at the university which was many miles from my home, I had developed a close knit group of friends with whom I shared many fond memories and experiences. Now that was all coming to an end.

[College campus]“In coping with the impending change to circumstances, I partied quite frequently. What was before reserved for weekend nights now occurred on a regular basis. In many weeks the number of nights spent partying outnumbered the nights spent studying. I also was not financially responsible. It is easy to spend money that you don’t have or have never earned. The credit card afforded me this luxury, and there was no thought given to the future implications.

“The motto was to live in the moment. ‘Forget about tomorrow, because you will never get this time in your life back. Enjoy it while it lasts, for soon it will all be over.’ Thus I ate until dullness quite often, so much so that my weight ballooned to the highest point it had ever reached in my life. I drank until elevation quite frequently as well. With the corresponding lack of judgment I did many silly things, fortunately none which harmed me that much.

“The issue that I ignored, of course, was that there WAS going to be a tomorrow. After graduating from college, I had nothing. I had a degree that didn’t do much for me. My health wasn’t so great. My work ethic was nonexistent. All that time spent partying didn’t benefit me much at all. Indeed, continued living only hurt me; it brought a cold reality check.

“As many years have passed since that time, I look back now and see that the flaw was in the motto itself. If you live like there’s no tomorrow, you may enjoy that one night, but when the tomorrow comes it will bring a rude awakening. Tomorrow does exist, even if we don’t think it will come. If the sun sets tonight, we can try to go out and have fun, but eventually the sun will rise again.

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]“In reading the Bhagavad-gita, I’ve learned that the individual always has another day. The shifts occur all the time, as the day doesn’t suddenly appear on its own. The clock is ticking, so to speak, all the time, so at every moment there is change. From the time I began writing this to right now my body has changed. The beginning period could be considered the ‘today’ and the present moment the ‘tomorrow.’ I am still alive. I am still the same person, though my body has changed.

“In the same way, after death the essential force of life shifts to another body. It is like the changing of clothes, as Shri Krishna so eloquently describes. From having read the Bhagavad-gita, translated and commented on by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I now know that there is always a tomorrow. The work I put in right now gives shape to that tomorrow. I know now that there are always consequences to actions.

[Shrila Prabhupada]“My goals today are different. As I know that my consciousness will exist tomorrow, I try to do today whatever I can to make sure that consciousness is blissful. Everything else is relative anyway. I can try to work hard to earn money, but even if I get to retire early what am I going to do with my time? I could order so much food at a restaurant and stuff myself, but then sleeping will be so difficult that night. If I drink myself into oblivion, I will feel awful afterwards.

“The objective now is to do things that will help me to think of Shri Krishna in the future. I start by chanting the holy names in the morning: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I continue by reading from sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. I hear the wisdom years of practice have brought to self-realized souls of the same tradition. I accept their counsel and I make my own little experiments daily. Sort of like a young Benjamin Franklin keeping a chart of virtues, I gauge my progress every day to see how well I am doing in reaching my goal of always thinking of Krishna.

[Lord Krishna]“I also try to help others make this their goal as well, for everyone is happiest when serving. Service to man in general is limiting and not an exact science. Service to pets, family members and friends is also limiting in that the beneficiaries can leave our company at any moment. Krishna is God, the personal aspect behind the veil of abstraction concocted by the hopeful mind. Anyone can serve Him at any time, and so now I try to do that with all my thoughts, words and deeds. It makes me very happy, and it makes tomorrow always a better today.”

In Closing:

For studying to university was sent,

But seemingly wasted the effort went.


Lived like tomorrow there was none,

But rude awakening when four years done.


Know now that tomorrow always to come,

Eternal existence, no need from future to run.


Always now of Shri Krishna to contemplate,

Better today and tomorrow, fears to obliterate.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living Like There’s No Tomorrow

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)

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Bhagavad-gita, 18.54“Sure, pal, pour me another one. I’ve got nothing pressing right now. I’m in no rush to get anywhere. In fact, I’m trying my best to forget everything that has just happened. Why me, you know? I don’t think I deserve all this. I’ve been a standup guy my whole life. I don’t think I’ve bothered too many people. And now all of this happens. It’s not fair.

“I’ve heard the old adage, ‘Live like there’s no tomorrow.’ Well, let’s put that to use right now. In computer programming, which I have some proficiency in, there is the concept of a class, which is like an abstract representation of some real world thing. But the class isn’t really anything; it’s a description, a concept. You have to instantiate the class, create an object of it, in order to get any use from it. In the same vein, I’m going to make use of the ‘living like there’s no tomorrow’ motto. I’m going to drink until I drop. I’m going to party with different women as if there are no consequences. No worries. I’m going to pretend like tonight is the last night of my life.”

[beer]Indeed, there is a benefit to dropping worries. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that the self-realized soul no longer hankers nor laments. Gone is kankshati, the constant hankering for things. “I want this, I want that.” Also gone is the constant worry, shochati. “I don’t have this or that. How am I going to survive? What if I lose this thing that is most precious to me?” The key, however, is to jump to the next logical step. Otherwise, when tomorrow does come, it is quite painful.

What do we mean by this? In the above hypothetical scenario, if the person does wake up the next morning, they won’t find a pleasant situation. The tomorrow that he tried to ignore came anyway. Now he’s left to pick up the pieces. He has to get rid of the headache from the hangover. He has to deal with whatever person he randomly met and forged a relationship with. He has to mend the relationships he may have broken out of haste, erroneously considering that he no longer needed them.

From this example we see that if you live with the motto of “forget about tomorrow,” then continued living is a punishment. It is better to die immediately than to have to deal with the consequences. Another example to think of is the patient who gets the diagnosis that their illness is terminal:

Sir, you have only a few months to live. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.

Doctor, are you sure? I’m definitely going to die?

Again, I’m sorry, but there is really no chance that you will live much longer than that.

The patient then decides to go on a spending spree, maxing out every credit card they have. After they have bought everything under the sun using credit, and after they have quit their job, cursed our their landlord, and done some unspeakable things, they get a call from the doctor:

I’m sorry, sir, but it looks like there was a paperwork mix-up. You are going to live in fact. These things happen from time to time. I’m sure the news is a relief to you.

[Credit card debt]Ah, but it can’t be a relief. Here continued living is a punishment. The flaw is the mentality that the individual ever ceases to live on. With death only the visible manifestation disappears. The consequences to the actions are still due as well. The thief thinks they have escaped from their latest heist, but the laws of nature are not so easily bypassed. Eventually, at the appropriate time and place, the just punishment will be handed out.

In the life of bhakti-yoga, continued living is not a punishment. Death is not needed to escape responsibility. This is because the bhakta lives a pious life. He is free of the burden of speculating on how to please God. Without information of the personal aspect to the Supreme Deity, the best one can do is come up with the motto of “service to man is the best way to please God.” The idea is to do “good works” instead of relying on blind faith.

The problem is that “good” is not easily defined. I think that I am doing good for myself by letting go of my troubles and worries, but in fact that does me harm later on. The thief thinks they are doing good work by taking someone else’s money for their personal benefit. The philanthropist thinks they are helping someone else, while they in fact may be creating an excuse for idleness, thereby supporting a life without purpose.

Bhakti-yoga is equivalent with God. It is non-different from Him because it brings His association. It is all-encompassing. The right thing to do in any situation is to follow whatever keeps the bond of love with the Supreme Lord, remaining within the bounds of propriety established by authorities in the line of disciplic succession that started ages ago with the Supreme Lord Himself.

The “live like there’s no tomorrow” motto can actually be successfully implemented in bhakti-yoga if one so chooses:

I don’t know where I will be tomorrow. By some luck I have found this human body. We are a reasonable creature, so if we want, we can find a reason to do whatever the mind desires. This mind desires transcendence, that which goes beyond the dualities of attachment and aversion. This mind wants that transcendence now, for who knows what tomorrow will bring? Therefore this fortunate soul today has resolved to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and think of the Supreme Lord as often as possible, throughout the night.

[Chanting Hare Krishna]In this choice, there is no harm to continued living. The devotional consciousness only strengthens, which makes tomorrow very bright. Even if the next day is birth in another body, the consciousness carries over, which is the benediction of the Supreme Deity, whose presence makes every tomorrow bright.

In Closing:

Like there’s no tomorrow I will live,

No attention to responsibility will I give.


But if tomorrow does indeed come,

So much pain from what previously done.


From consequences to work never are we free,

And continued living punishment should not be.


Can seize the moment now when bhakti to try,

Bright tomorrow, whether in birth low or high.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Beyond Our Perception

[Six gosvamis of Vrindavana]“To know matters beyond one's perception, one has to learn from a superior authority in the line of disciplic succession. Just to know who is our father is beyond our perception. For that, the mother is the authority. Similarly, we have to understand everything beyond our perception from the authority who actually knows.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.9 Purport)

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For the longest time, lightning was not understood. So many took it to be the revenge of the gods, a way to terrorize people into submitting to the divine will, however that “will” may have been defined. Then a curious printer, who happened later on to also be known as an inventor and statesmen, decided to test his hypothesis that lightning was indeed electricity, just a form of it delivered from the clouds. With his proposed experiments tested at both home and abroad, the conclusion was reached: lightning is electricity.

Lightning strikeThis helped to demystify something that was beyond perception. At the time, who could actually travel up that far and look into the clouds? Moreover, if you could reach the dangerous clouds filled with lightning, what were you going to be able to perceive? Nevertheless, the correlation between lightning and electricity still doesn’t explain where the power comes from. Man is lacking knowledge of what powers up the human being itself.

Let’s consider the household appliances. We know that they have on/off switches. You flip the switch up, the power turns on. You do the opposite, the power goes off. Thus it is the power which gives life to the appliance; it is the light inside, so to speak. That power comes from somewhere. Maybe it comes from a battery, a device which gets its name from the same printer who famously experimented with electricity and lightning. Maybe it comes from an electrical socket. That socket then gets energy from a power source, which generates power in a variety of ways.

Still, eventually you reach a point where the perception stops, as it does with the study of the human being. We can be looking at someone one moment, admiring them for who they are, and the next moment that same person, with the exact same physical appearance, is no longer alive. Something has obviously left them; the vital power source is no longer present. Someone has turned the switch off. But who and why? We know that there was an animating force, but where did it come from?

And so we come to the word adhokshaja, which means “beyond the range of the perception of the senses.” This word is a name for God in the Vedic tradition. From this one word alone, we already know so much about God. We know that we can’t ever really know Him. This is our limitation, not His. We can’t see so much with our senses. We needed an experiment to test lightning’s relation to electricity. We couldn’t figure that out just by seeing the lightning. We needed guesses to understand that the sun rises and sets at regular intervals. If we had perfect ability in perception, we could have figured that out immediately.

[sunrise]If we have limited sense perception, how do we know that God is adhokshaja? Did someone perceive this? Actually, the information is passed on from authority sources. This method of acquiring knowledge is known as the descending process. Find someone who has the information and then travel upwards along the chain of transfer until you reach the original authority source. That person is God Himself; and so that which is passed down is flawless; it is truth.

We already accept the descending process in other areas. We believe the experiments that took place with the kite and lightning in Philadelphia in the 18th century because of the accounts of it passed on. We weren’t there. We can’t witness that event right now. We only know of it through the descending process.

[Ben Franklin's kite experiment]Unfortunately, the ascending process is the one most often employed when trying to understand what animates the soul. This leaves the hopes for understanding God to accumulated knowledge through scientific deduction, which can never reach the person who is beyond the range of measurement of any instrument.

In fact, through the descending process alone can He be known to some degree. And just a little knowledge of Him is sufficient to bring felicity in life, which is the ultimate objective for everyone. Knowing that He is adhokshaja allows us to appreciate His creation much more. It allows us to marvel at His creative ability, His brilliant imagination, and His immeasurable potency. Moreover, it can give us confidence in knowing that the immeasurable can certainly rescue any of us, who are puny in comparison to the giant whole.

Bhagavad-gita, 5.29“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

[Lord Krishna]While our range of perception is limited, God’s is not. In the Bhagavad-gita, which is a flawless presentation of knowledge accessed through the descending process, He says that He is the enjoyer of all sacrifice and austerity, the supreme proprietor of all worlds, and the best friend of all living entities. Be virtuous for His sake. Be temperate in your eating and drinking to please Him. Know that He watches all that goes on, for He lives within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. He cannot be seen in the heart, but He can be realized through following the instructions of those who appear in the line of succession that emanates from Him.

What we can see is the nature of the human being. We can do our own experiment, a before-and-after test as it relates to knowing God as adhokshaja. We can test to see whether chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and hearing of the Supreme Lord and His divine sports has a positive influence. Does it make us better people? Does it give us more peace and calm? Does it remove our doubts as to our direction in life and what the afterlife will be like? Does it put us in a better situation than if we never knew of Him at all? The test has already been conducted and the results known to so many, but it is waiting to be repeated by many others, who with their limited perception can still know all that is needed to be known about the great unknown.

In Closing:

Since so limited is perception my,

Need tests to know lightning in sky.


To electricity it is the same,

But wherefrom it first came?


For unknown turn to God’s direction,

Who is beyond range of perception.


Just from this feature alone knowing,

Towards enlightenment swiftly going.

Monday, February 10, 2014


[Ratha yatra]“Utsava means ‘pleasure.’ Whenever some function takes place to express happiness, it is called utsava. Utsava, the expression of complete happiness, is always present in the Vaikunthalokas, the abode of the Lord, who is worshipable even by demigods like Brahma, to say nothing of other, less important entities such as human beings.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.19.31 Purport)

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One of the wonderful things about Krishna consciousness is that there’s always something to celebrate. Every moment of the day is meant to be spent in blissful contemplation of the Absolute, whose transcendental features are attractive in every way, rightfully earning Him the name Krishna. To aid in that contemplation are limitless activities, some of which are kindly described in ancient Sanskrit texts. Poets and saints have come along the way to expand on those descriptions, adding in their own realizations in the process, all the while remaining true to the original message, that of divine love being the ultimate occupation for man.

The activities described are either of the original Lord Himself or one of His avataras. The Sanskrit meaning to the word is “one who descends.” Avatara does not mean one who suddenly puts on a material dress. It does not mean one who subjects himself to the threefold miseries of life, going through the cycle of birth and death like the rest of us. The avatara specifically descends from the spiritual world, which means that the identity of the personality is fixed, as is their position in greatness.

There are also partial incarnations, which are a specific kind of avatara. In these avataras, the potency of the original Lord descends in the represented personalities, who may not be exactly the same as the original Lord. God empowers these people to appear and deliver the society at large. If we think about our present circumstances, likely it was a few leaders of the past who formed the system of government we currently operate under. Basic things we take for granted like fire departments, lending libraries, electricity, fireplaces, and daylight savings time actually were discovered or significantly improved upon by a single man.

[Poster of Vishnu avataras]So these are the workings of the Lord, who arranges everything perfectly, to take place at the proper time. As the personalities who glorify Him are one with Him in interest, celebration of their appearance and activities is just as worthwhile as remembrance of God’s own amazing deeds. Depending on which tradition you follow, there may be many more or a few less celebrations throughout the year, but for the devotee of Krishna or Vishnu, some of the more common ones are mentioned herewith: [The dates fluctuate since the lunar calendar is used]

[Nityananda Prabhu]Around February or so, there is the celebration for the appearance of Nityananda Prabhu, the dear brother of Lord Chaitanya. Together these two, incarnations of God and His lead servitor respectively, revived the bhakti tradition in India some five hundred years ago. Unlike with previous incarnations, there were direct outreach efforts made. Nityananda Prabhu specifically begged anyone he met to chant the holy names of God.

[Lord Chaitanya]Lord Chaitanya’s appearance festival comes next, sometime in March typically. Lord Chaitanya gave the peace formula in a Sanskrit verse that best encapsulates the spirit of the Supreme Lord and His tremendous potency. That verse is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” As in the material world man is by default averse to devotion to God, thinking himself to be eligible for assuming the post of the greatest person in the world, Lord Chaitanya did not openly speak philosophy with everyone He met. He instead asked them to just chant the holy names. Lord Chaitanya was the most intelligent, so He could engage anyone in any argument. Sometimes He would even argue about something in many different ways, ultimately showing that the only correct explanation to anything is its relation to Krishna, or God.

[Rama Darbar]Sometime in April comes the appearance day anniversary of Lord Ramachandra, of the Ramayana fame. He is the Supreme Lord who appeared many ages ago to uphold virtue, protect the righteous, and destroy the miscreants, who were led at the time by the king of Lanka, Ravana. Lord Ramachandra is known by His closest associates, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, who are always celebrated along with His endearing memory. Lord Rama is the Rama addressed in the maha-mantra.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]Along with the flowers of Spring, May also brings the mahotsava for Lord Narasimhadeva. The same Rama and Chaitanya, He appeared in an interesting form, one that was half-man and half-lion. He protected the innocent five year old son of a king. The boy Prahlada was harassed by his father, and having no other protection, he simply remembered his beloved Vishnu. Finally the Supreme Lord arrived on the scene to do away with the powerful and evil king Hiranyakashipu.

[Lord Balarama with cow]Typically in early August the Vaishnava celebrates the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the elder brother of Shri Krishna. He is the same Nityananda and Lakshmana, the original spiritual master, or guru. By Lord Balarama’s grace one becomes fearless in their accepting and following of the orders of the spiritual master, and they soon turn from trying to stay on the devotional path to remaining on it with such a firmness that no one can ever knock them off of it. The Rama addressed in the maha-mantra can also refer to Balarama.

[Lord Krishna as a child]A few weeks later is the appearance day celebration for Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This occasion, known as Janmashtami, brings to mind the sweet and adorable child who lived in Vrindavana under the care of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda. The child Krishna enchanted all the town’s residents with His smile, the sounds of His flute, and His delightful play. He later on delivered the Bhagavad-gita to the distressed warrior Arjuna. This Bhagavad-gita is famous today, with its most authorized translation and commentary authored by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Speaking of His Divine Grace, Shrila Prabhupada appeared on this earth on the day after Janmashtami. His appearance day is celebrated as Vyasa Puja, or the worship of the spiritual master, who follows in a line of succession from Vyasadeva, who compiled all of the major works of the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world. Worship of the guru and worship of Krishna go side by side, on parallel lines. Thus Vyasa Puja is as important as any other festival throughout the year.

[Shrimati Radharani]A few weeks later is the anniversary of the appearance day of Shrimati Radharani, Shri Krishna’s eternal consort. Known as Radhashtami, this day brings to mind the love that Vrishabhanu’s daughter feels for Krishna. She never thinks of anyone else, and she is of the purest character. She has every trait desirable to Krishna, and since their love is so strong, they are considered one.

[Lord Rama returning home]In October or November comes Diwali, which is likely the most widely known festival of the Vedic tradition. In secular circles, it is described as the “festival of lights,” but those lights have a religious significance. They were first laid out as a welcome by citizens eager to again feast their eyes on the beautiful Shri Rama, who finally returned home after being away for fourteen years. He came home with Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and a host of other heroes who had helped to rescue Sita from the clutches of the evil Ravana. That initial celebration gave birth to Diwali, which is a tradition still honored to this day.

[Govardhana Puja]The day after Diwali is Govardhana Puja, which is a tradition instituted by Krishna Himself during His time on this earth. One year in Vrindavana He advised that the neighboring Govardhana Hill be worshiped instead of the king of heaven, Indra. Indra retaliated by trying to drown the inhabitants with a flood. Krishna then used the massive hill as an umbrella to save them. This festival is notable for its tremendous feast, which is served to all members of society, regardless of their social status.

These are just some of the important festivals in the Krishna conscious tradition, and they all serve the same purpose: to keep one conscious of God. That consciousness should be in love, and so the festivals are always times for the expression of complete happiness. As felicity in life comes more from every day improvements rather than waiting for a single fortunate occurrence, the same festive atmosphere is meant to be recreated every day by chanting the holy names, hearing about Krishna’s pastimes, and doing service to those kind souls who continue to pass on the message of divine light, pure love, and everlasting truth.

In Closing:

Told to be conscious of God now,

But with trouble this accomplished how?


Mahotsava the Lord to us gives,

So that in remembering Him we’ll live.


Many celebrations throughout the year,

Bring to mind Krishna and those to Him dear.


Take your pick and make favorite any,

Benefits from a single observance so many.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Origin of the Species

[Krishna's lotus feet]“As stated in the Vedanta-sutra (1.1.2), the Absolute Truth is the origin of everything. Therefore it is to be understood that all 8,400,000 species of bodily forms originate from the Lord, who is always adi, or the beginning. In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna addresses the Lord as adyam, or the original. Similarly, in the Brahma-samhita the Lord is addressed as adi-purusham, the original person. Indeed, in Bhagavad-gita (10.8) the Lord Himself declares, mattah sarvam pravartate: ‘From Me everything proceeds.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.19.31 Purport)

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“You know, I wonder where everything came from. Not just the trees, the grass, the clouds, and the sun, but the creatures too - what is their origin? I’ve noticed that they are similar in a lot of respects; humans are like monkeys and cats are like dogs. Today scientists perform many tests on lab rats with the assumption that the effects will be the same in the human beings. But how did the rat become similar to the human being? This seems like a prime area for further investigation.”

Indeed, only the human being can make these inquiries. He is curious enough to delve deeper into the matter. He isn’t forced to accept everything as is, for that would mean living miserably. It is the smaller comforts that appear on a daily basis that generally provide more felicity to a man. Living in misery all the time and hoping for a giant fortune to magically appear one day is not the preferred choice. Therefore many search for answers to puzzling questions in the hopes that those answers will improve their lives.

Unfortunately, with the issue of the origin of the species the only option is speculation. Sure, we can conduct experiments today, and see how species modify their behavior over time and how new species even seem to emerge, but the origin is never known. It is the equivalent of trying to decipher the origin of the sun. Even with common objects, in trying to decipher their origin, we will likely come back to the question of the sun.

[Plums]For instance, if I see a plum sitting on the kitchen table, I can try to retrace the steps it took to reach there. “Okay, so the plum got on the table by my mom putting it there. She picked it up from the supermarket. They received it from a shipment arriving on a delivery truck. They picked up the plums from the local farm. The farmers had plum trees, among other things, on their property. They grow them by using seeds from previous plums.”

Thus the origin of plums is plums themselves. A circular reference indeed, so no answer is found. The plum tree grows by application of water and steady sunlight. Thus even in the output of a fruit, the sun is required. And from where did that sun come into existence? Can we make an experiment to see if another sun can be created? Can we take the chemicals that make up the sun and use them to reproduce a smaller version?

These things we cannot do, and so we are left with the scientific mystery. The non-scientific answer, so to speak, is that God created all of these things. “Have faith, my son. Believe in His grace, for He provides all that you need to survive in this life. It is through His will that favor will come upon you.”

[the sun]The inquisitive mind prone to scientific discovery is naturally averse to such thinking, for faith has been used as an excuse to oppress people, give privilege based on birth, and promote laziness. After all, if you’re putting faith in an unknown power to create the sun, the moon, the plants, the trees, and the creatures, then why not sit back and invest faith in Him to make your life better? Why do any good work at all? Just pray for the stuff that you want. Think of God like Santa Claus.

The Vedic answer to the question of the origin of the species certainly asks that some faith be extended, but more information is forthcoming. The answer is more detailed as well. For instance, take the boar species. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we get the answer that the boar species came into being through the Supreme Lord Himself, who one time descended to earth in the form of a boar. Known as Varahadeva, this amazing creature held up the earth after it had sunken under water. He then battled and defeated a materialistic enemy known as Hiranyaksha.

[Varahadeva]This information supports the claim that God is the origin of everything. Indeed, the same fact is restated in other areas of the vast Vedic literature. God is the origin of all energies, and the species are a combination of the external and internal energies. In the external there are three modes of nature, or three kinds of ingredients. These are goodness, passion and ignorance. Think of it like red, yellow and blue. You can take those colors and mix them up in so many different combinations and proportions. That is how we get paintings, where there is a palette of colors and an artist who creates images using only those colors available to him.

The species are like different paintings made from the colors that are the three modes of nature. What animates the species is the internal energy. This internal energy consists of individual fragments of spirit, spirit souls. The souls are all identical in nature. They are qualitatively the same as God, but quantitatively different. They are godly, but not God Himself. They are the same in quality no matter which species they enter. Thus the boar and the cow are actually the same type of individual, as are the human and the cat. The different species are only different kinds of bodies placed on living entities.

In either case, whether choosing the scientific method of ascending through various knowledge-gathering experiments or taking the descending approach of accepting Vedic wisdom, if you do find out the origin of the species you need to do something with the information. In knowing how the three modes of nature combine to create the various species and how God is the origin of everything, including the boar, we can use the information to break out of the cycle of birth and death. This means no longer accepting a form generated by the creative mind of the original creator. This means no longer accepting a covering of the external energy.

[Loving God]This release only comes about through a shift in consciousness, where one no longer challenges God but instead accepts His grace. In this consciousness, one does work as a matter of duty, and since they are always in concert with the wishes of the original Lord, who is personal in every way, their behavior is automatically pious. It is inherently good, and so it serves their fellow man as well, for what better gift can you give someone else than the divine consciousness that grants release from the temporary residences in the temporary bodies?

In Closing:

With experiments knowledge ascending,

But origin known only from descending.


Species of matter and spirit a combination,

Three modes of nature mixed in proportions.


Like paintings from most creative mind,

Species of similar natures we find.


When by this mystery no longer bewildered,

Serve God, from material world be delivered.