Saturday, February 22, 2014

Return Trip

[Worship of Rama's lotus feet]“Being restless, all of the men and women of the city prayed to the demigods. Again and again they asked when Rama would come again.” (Janaki Mangala, 163)

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khagabhara nagara nāri nara bidhihi manāvahin |
bāra bāra sasurāri rāma jehi āvahin।।

The scene is quite common to film. A young child eagerly anticipates Christmas. On the eve, they leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus by the fireplace. They try to stay awake through the night, but they usually can’t fight off sleep. Then suddenly they awake, as if by fate, and see Santa Claus in person: “Santa, it’s really you. I knew you would come. You must be so busy. Thank you for visiting my home.”

[Santa Claus]Then Santa replies with a few kind words of his own. After a brief conversation, it’s time for St. Nicholas to leave, to the sadness of everyone. The young child then innocently asks, “When will you come back? When will I see you again?” The audience can feel the distress, and it is due to a fear of separation. The fear is stronger because the meeting is rare; it is not expected. A long time back residents in Janakpur, both male and female and young and old, met the origin of matter and spirit. After His brief stay in their town, they too wondered when He would return.

In His avatara of Rama, the Supreme Lord doesn’t come bearing physical gifts. Children are enamored with toys, video games, puzzles and the like, but adults tend to value other things. Association is what they most cherish, and in that association they hope to engage all their senses to the full. Shri Rama gave this gift of association only briefly, and everyone was supremely thankful for it.

[Rama and Lakshmana]The lasting gift was His divine vision. It was accompanied by the equally as blissful vision of Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. The wise human seeks after this vision, even if they are unaware. As the Vedanta-sutra says, the human birth carries with it the call to know the Absolute Truth, athato brahma-jijnasa. The human birth is not the time for only accumulating a lot of wealth. It is not meant for enjoying the senses to the full, without limits and restrictions. It is not meant for sitting idly by as the years pass on.

These things can be done in other bodies. While wealth may be absent in the animal species, the fruit of wealth surely is present. If I have a large home filled with lavish furniture, to enjoy everything I must sit and do nothing. Taking rest, leisure time, is the enjoyment from having acquired so many things. As recently as two hundred years ago, the majority of today’s leisure activities weren’t even invented. There wasn’t television. There were no sports. If people played games, it was likely chess. There was no arguing over the saga of a baseball player accused of cheating the system. There was no outrage over a pop singer’s behavior at an awards show.

So the heralded progress of the human civilization has brought on much more time for idleness. Indeed, how to spend the idle time is of great concern today. But there is idle time in the animal species as well, as the bear hibernates for many months. Idleness thus does not require intelligence. The human being has an advanced intelligence, and it is earmarked for searching after the truth. That truth should be above national, racial, gender, and religious lines. It should be above blind faith and cheap sentiment. It should explain the meaning to everything and also enlighten the individual as to how to act going forward.

While it may not seem like it, in the scene referenced above the residents of a town have found the truth and are behaving accordingly. They have seen Rama and Lakshmana, who are not the exclusive property of any religion. Rama is Bhagavan and Lakshmana serves Him for all of eternity. Rama is beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation personified. Lakshmana is the service personified to such an owner of all opulences.

In seeing the truth before their very eyes, the residents hoped to see it more and more. They prayed to the gods they had previously satisfied for trivial matters such as good health, righteousness, economic development and dispassion. All traditions from all cultures and from all time periods have had such kinds of worship. Here the desire is finally purified, as it is for Rama’s association alone.

[Rama and His brothers]Rama, Lakshmana and their two other brothers were set to leave that day from Janakpur. They had all been married through King Janaka’s arrangement. Thus they would be returning home with beautiful new brides. The residents prayed to have Rama visit them again, to please their eyes with His enchanting vision. The magic of God is that His physical presence is not required for creating that vision. Just as a television image can show what is happening thousands of miles away, the holy name can create the association of the Absolute Truth very easily. The mood of the worshiper is what counts most, and in Janakpur the mood was as pure as it could be. So simply by saying the name “Rama” they would see Him again. We too can meet the objective of the human life by always saying Rama, as that wonderful name is included in the most sacred of formulas, the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

After priceless vision was earned,

Wondered when it would return.


With brother Lakshmana by His side,

And now with Sita as His bride,

Made image of beauty the most,

To see again prayed to demigods a host.


Can produce same vision using only sound,

As all potency in holy name is found.

Friday, February 21, 2014


[Insomnia]“When the king’s wife heard that the barata party was leaving the next morning, being so sad that sleep couldn’t come to her the night passed.” (Janaki Mangala, 162)

prāta barāta calihi suni bhūpati bhāmini |
pari na biraha basa nīnda bīti gai jāmini ||

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Insomnia is the disorder where one cannot sleep. It is an identifiable disorder since usually the body goes to rest at night. After a hard day of work, study, play or a combination of all three, the human being needs to completely shut down, escaping from the gross body and taking shelter of the subtle body for upwards of eight hours. When this sleep doesn’t come naturally, there is something wrong. In the case of a queen a long time ago, the insomnia was due to worry over parting with her beloved daughters and their new husbands.

An easy way to have trouble sleeping is to psyche yourself out.

“Wow, when I shut my eyes and then open them several hours will have passed. All I have to do is fall asleep and then tomorrow will come. This is going to be great. But wait, now I can’t fall asleep. I keep thinking about tomorrow and that event that I am anticipating. If I don’t sleep, however, I will be too tired to enjoy that event. This is not fair. I just want to relax. I don’t need this pressure.”

A queen a long time back was worried over losing her daughters. She heard that the party of the groom was set to embark for home the next morning. They had stayed as long as the king could keep them. He was a gracious host. He offered them all sorts of hospitality. It was a genuine sign of affection, too. He never wanted them to leave. Now news broke that they were preparing to finally go home, where the town of Ayodhya would welcome their four handsome princes and their beautiful new brides.

[Sita Devi]Two of those brides were daughters of the queen in Janakpur, and with the eldest particularly capturing the hearts of everyone there. In thinking about losing her daughters, the queen could not sleep. It just wouldn’t come to her. And wouldn’t you know it, soon enough it was morning.

While typically insomnia is very troubling, this sort of sleeplessness is actually blissful. We have to think about something. As Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” if you’re not thinking then you’re not living. Even in the dreaming state the mind is fast at work. The process of falling asleep involves the mind working much faster, processing so many thoughts, jumping from one thing to another until there is no more control over the consciousness.

If you can spend your waking hours thinking of God, you are on the right path. Even if the thinking is in concern, it is to your benefit. It is difficult to explain precisely why this is the case. We know that water quenches our thirst on a hot day. We know that the space heater in the room makes us feel so good on a cold winter’s day. We can’t really explain why things are this way, but then again it doesn’t really matter. The reaction is there, and we can perceive it. What more is there to know?

In the same way, constantly thinking of Sita with loving concern is blissful. We can try to explain the fact by pointing out how Sita is the goddess of fortune. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. God has a partner. He is not limited to one, but there is a single individual who excels in devotion and so is thereby eligible to always be by His side. God is also not limited to a single manifestation. He is an individual, like you and me, but He can appear at different times and different places with forms to match the occasion.

[Sita and Rama]Sita is tied to Rama. Symbolically the bond is through marriage, which takes place in the kingdom of Janakpur. The affectionate mother, Queen Sunayana, prepared Sita for entering the bond of holy matrimony. At the first day that Janaka brought home the baby Sita from the field, she knew that eventually she would have to part with her beloved daughter. Then when Rama, the Supreme Lord walking the earth, lifted up the heavy bow to win the contest, she was again reminded how Sita would soon leave her.

Now the moment was fast approaching. Another mystery of devotional service is that thinking is as good as seeing. And seeing is as good as being by the side of. This means that in staying awake all night in worry over losing Sita, the queen never really lost her. Though the daughter was moving away to live with her new husband in Ayodhya, she remained in the mother’s heart.

[Hanuman's heart]In a similar manner, the divine couple always stays in the heart of Shri Hanuman, who is the greatest servant of Rama. The couple stays in the hearts of all the devoted souls who adjust their days in such a way that they’re always thinking of Sita and Rama. Thus whether sleeping or awake, Sita and Rama are always with them to stay.

In Closing:

With fear of separation to keep,

Queen through night couldn’t sleep.


Soon beloved daughter to be gone,

On this thought over to dwell upon.


Though sleep for our benefit is meant,

Blissful was this time for mother spent.


In her heart beloved daughter is found,

So to mother Sita is always around.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Welcome Never to Wear Out

[Welcome]“Again and again he requested the barata party to stay a few more days. Janaka continued to offer hospitality of so many kinds.” (Janaki Mangala, 161)

kari kari binaya kachuka dina rākhi barātinha |
janaka kīnha pahunāī aganita bhāntinha ||

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“Oh, they’re coming to stay with us for a week? That is going to be so great. I’m very excited right now. I’ll help you prepare their room, dear. We can go to this place on the first day they are here. We can go to that place on the second day. We have to eat at this restaurant, as since they moved away they haven’t been able to get their favorite dish. How great will it be to have them back in our home?”

…a week into their stay

“Man, they’re still here? I feel very bad for saying this, but I can’t wait until they leave. I haven’t been able to do anything. It’s like I’m trapped in my own home. I have to entertain constantly. I don’t get any alone time. My routine is entirely thrown off. Their visit gives me pause to reflect on how my life is in general. I guess I don’t really like idleness at all. I’m always doing something, and I prefer it that way. It’s been great seeing these guests, but now I’m through with sitting around. I want to be doing things on my own terms again.”

[Poor Richard's Almanack, 1736]In the famous Poor Richard’s Almanack, a publication which was released yearly for a while in colonial America in the 18th century, there is a particular saying from the author that has relevance to hosting and dealing with guests. It says that guests and fish both start to stink after three days. Fish is a kind of flesh, and so naturally it starts to rot if not eaten very quickly. There were no freezers during that time, so it wasn’t like the food could be preserved for very long.

The guests don’t literally stink; but their presence starts to become a nuisance after three days. This is not a knock on the guests or the host; it is just the general situation. If the guest stays longer, they are more permanent residents, which means that everyone else has to adjust to having new people living in the house. From this sagacious advice from Poor Richard, we see how to both plan trips to the homes of our friends and family and how to deal with hosting them ourselves.

If anyone could buck the trend, it would have to be the Supreme Lord. Indeed, in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that when He visits some place, He never wears out His welcome. Indeed, what starts to happen is the host gets nervous at the Lord’s impending departure. He begs and begs for the preferred guest to stay a few more days.

[Lord Rama]The beseeching host in this instance is King Janaka. The guest party consists of Shri Rama, His three younger brothers, His father, and the accompanying royal entourage that travelled to Janakpur. They were there to witness the marriage ceremony of Sita to Rama. Sita was Janaka’s beloved daughter. So in this case Sita was now a guest as well; she was ready to depart back to Ayodhya where Rama lived.

In Vedic culture, it is the etiquette to always ask the guest to stay longer. “You can’t leave right now. I will make some food to eat. Why do you have to leave tonight? Spend the night here and leave in the morning, when you won’t be as tired.” There is religious merit earned from being a good host. It is a shared value also, as the same practice is present in other cultures as well.

Here Janaka went beyond the etiquette of asking Rama to stay longer. He kept providing hospitality in different ways. The ways were uncountable, as Goswami Tulsidas notes. If I entice you to stay at my house for a day longer by promising to take you to a Broadway show, that might work for only a day. But what am I going to do after that? I will have to come up with another way to keep you interested in staying. In Janaka’s case, there was full variety. He made the guests so happy that they didn’t want to leave.

[Sita and Rama deities]Alas, Rama and His family would eventually have to return. It is not possible for them to overstay their welcome, and so one never tires of hosting them. For this reason in the homes of the devoted souls are found deities of God and His family that are worshiped daily. This way the Supreme Lord becomes the permanent and most exalted guest in the home, someone who never has to leave. He is not expected to lift a finger either, just stay there in His sweetness, which is immeasurable. And just as there is spiritual merit from serving guests, by loving and honoring the permanent resident of the Supreme Lord and those closest to Him the worthy householder ascends to the supreme destination in the afterlife, all the while enjoying the company of the most beloved during their time on earth.

In Closing:

Though at first very excited to see,

Like fish, guests to stink after days three.


When from the home will they leave,

So that again privacy to receive?


Never was this the case,

With Dasharatha’s son of pleasing face.


Janaka gave hospitality in many a way,

Compelling them longer in kingdom to stay.


Eventually Rama with party home to go back,

Worship deity for His presence never to lack.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


[Brahmana]“Actors, singers, soldiers, sons, and the people who were watching all praised the king and spoke of his deeds. The king, with joy and without hesitation, gave away jewels and elephants to the groups of brahmanas.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 20.2)

naṭa bhāṭa māgadha sūta jācaka jasa pratāpahiṃ baranahīn |
sānanda bhūsura bṛnda mani gaja deta mana karaṣaiṃ nahīn ||

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The English term “demi-god” used by Thomas Jefferson in describing the group of men who assembled for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 gets a more complete definition in the ancient texts known as the Vedas. Demigod is the English term, while in Sanskrit the word is “deva,” which just means “god” or “godly.” The term “demigod” is a more accurate translation for “deva” because an ordinary god is always subordinate to the superior and singular Supreme Personality of Godhead. A godly entity is one who has more opulence and abilities than the majority of the rest of the living entity population in a particular region. The demigod possesses more of the qualities of the original God than do others.

[Constitutional Convention]When we hear that someone is godly, we immediately think of greatness. “Oh, they must live for a long time. They must have so much enjoyment where they reside. They must be able to grant wishes. If I’m in trouble, I should be able to pray to them for help. If I need guidance, a healing hand, or someone to rescue me from darkness, I should be able to go to them and find my way out through their intervention.”

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)

These are natural expectations of the demigods. In order to deliver on the requests of the not as godly living entities, the demigods should have extraordinary powers. Therefore the demigods have designated for them a separate residence, a heavenly realm. When we contemplate the idea of ascending to heaven after death, it would be to the region of the demigods. There one gets to enjoy more, in their preferred fashion.

In the verse quoted above from the Janaki Mangala, we see that there can be demigods on the earth as well. The term used here is “bhusura.” This is a compound Sanskrit word composed of the words “bhu” and “sura”. “Bhu” refers to the earthly realm, i.e. where we currently reside. “Sura” refers to demigod. A sura is distinct from an asura, or one who is not a demigod. The foundational characteristic of a sura is their belief in God. They have some idea of realized knowledge and some faith in the highest power to accompany it. Their devotion may not always be entirely pure, but whatever deviations they have are innocent enough. They are not envious of God, and nor do they think that He doesn’t exist. The material nature is difficult to overcome, so even demigods have a difficult time remaining pure in their devotion. The asura is the opposite in qualities of a demigod; their foundational characteristic is their envy of God or their flat out denial of His existence.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.40“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, Bg. 4.40)

[Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami]The demigods of the earth are the brahmanas. Interestingly enough, they are typically not very powerful materially. They may not even live for very long. In some areas of the world, they live like homeless beggars. The famous Sanatana Gosvami of the Gaudiya-Vaishnava tradition would often survive on a little amount of flour which he would beg for every day. He would then take that trivial amount and mix in some water from a sacred river. Having something that resembled dough, he would then bake the compound in a makeshift oven. The resulting preparation would then be offered to God and eaten as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. This was certainly less food than what is found in the modern day practice of “dumpster diving” of the homeless. Though the amount was little, it was more than enough for the very powerful saint, who worshiped the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed, writing so much about the science of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, in the process.

The work of such a brahmana is what makes them a bhusura, or a demigod of the earth. Though they may live completely renounced, not having a possession in the world, they can grant tremendous benedictions to others. One who approaches them humbly and inquires from them submissively can learn the truth. This is because the self-realized soul has seen the truth. They didn’t demand to see it right away, either. They didn’t insist that someone else show it to them. They instead followed the same process, accepting knowledge from a self-realized soul. By accepting that knowledge and carrying out the recommended practices, they were able to see the truth themselves. They acquired the eyes necessary to see the divine influence in everything.

To such demigods of the earth, King Janaka donated so many elephants and jewels. He did this after the wedding of his daughter was arranged and all were singing the glories of the occasion. In his royal kingdom, Janaka had supporters in singers, actors, poets, soldiers, sons, daughters, and everyone in the town practically. They were so happy that Janaka’s beloved daughter Sita found the perfect match in a husband. Rama is the Supreme Lord, the truth that the self-realized souls have seen. Through Janaka’s good character, Sita appeared in his family. Through his good works, Rama married into it. Thus the king’s glories know no end.

[Sita and Rama's wedding]By giving gifts to the brahmanas, Janaka pleased them. They in turn were able to better carry out their duties, which are the most important in a society. Though perhaps paltry in physical stature, the demigods of the earth can give the whole world to a disciple who is sincere. They can give the benediction of devotional service, which allows one to feel happiness that transcends the bounds of birth and death. There is no proper way to repay the brahmanas for this gift, but pious souls still give away whatever they can at the appropriate times. Any person, whether they are a king or not, can at least attempt to repay the debt owed to the bhusuras by chanting the holy names continuously: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Demigods, often is used the term,

From the Vedas its true meaning learn.


A god of the type ordinary,

Distinguished from the Lord extraordinary.


Not only in heaven, on earth as well,

Knowledge of real Truth can tell.


Janaka happily elephants and jewels gave,

For the demigods on earth nothing to save.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Satisfying Meal

[Prasadam feast]“On that beautiful night, they played sweet songs with melodious music. The king took his meal, received betel nuts, and then happily returned to the guest house.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 20.1)

so nisi sohāvani madhura gāvati bājane bājahiṃ bhale |
nṛpa kiyo bhojana pāna pāi pramoda janavāsehi cale ||

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What a day for King Dasharatha. He started by taking the long journey to Janakpur after learning that his eldest son Rama had won the contest of the bow. The king was previously worried when he gave permission to Rama to leave the kingdom for a journey into the woods with the venerable sage Vishvamitra. For young children to wander about in great fun is not out of the ordinary. It was Rama’s task in particular that caused worry in the father. From the joyous satisfaction described above, we see that the end result turned out to be very favorable.

[Forest]Not like letting your kids play baseball in the street until the sun goes down or even letting them venture into the woods for a camping trip, Dasharatha gave consent for Rama, who at the time barely had any signs of manhood on His face, to act as the guardian to an elder and wiser brahmana. A brahmana is a priest by trade, but their main qualification is the Brahman vision. We teach our young children not to discriminate. “Don’t make judgments based on race. Just because she is a woman doesn’t mean that she can’t do everything just as well as a man can. Just because this person speaks a different language doesn’t mean that they are less intelligent. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Find out what’s on the inside before you make judgments.”

The brahmanas extend this vision out to the largest scope. They see the spiritual equality in ALL beings. They don’t have affection for one kind of animal and then disdain for another. They don’t sanction the unnecessary killing of one kind of animal and then the protection of another. They see the spirit, or Brahman, within all creatures, and so they are generally nonviolent. They know that not every being will have this same vision, so they don’t always offer the same treatment. Nevertheless, they maintain that vision of Brahman. They can see past the cover and into the heart, where the soul resides.

Vishvamitra had issues with others attacking him. There were other brahmanas living in the forest who had the same problem. Night-rangers of the lowest consciousness would regularly attack them, kill them, and then eat their flesh. The lower consciousness means more discrimination. It means not seeing Brahman. It means judging everything simply based on appearance. It means being fooled by vision and ignoring words of wisdom that are best accepted through hearing.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]Vishvamitra asked Dasharatha to have Rama protect him. Therefore the brahmana knew something about Rama. He wouldn’t have made the request if he thought Rama would be in danger. But still, it was certainly an odd request to make. How was Rama going to take care of Himself, let alone defend against the worst creatures? These night-rangers already had no issue with killing innocent priests, so they certainly wouldn’t have mercy for Rama, an adolescent.

Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along. And so two of Dasharatha’s four sons left home to head into danger. They were trained in the military arts, which meant that one day they would defend the kingdom. What better test could there be for them? The king made a huge sacrifice, and he put all faith in Vishvamitra to make sure the outcome was favorable.

The next thing he heard was that Rama was going to marry Janaka’s daughter. Thus everything did turn out well for Dasharatha. He and his family were received wonderfully by the hospitable host, King Janaka. After leaving home, through a series of events Rama had made His way to Mithila, where a contest was being held. The winner of this contest would get to marry Sita, Janaka’s daughter. She is also known by the affectionate name of Janaki. This name honors both Janaka and Sita. Janaka is famous for his dispassion; he never lets his emotions get the better of him. Emotions often override the intellect, and if you’re in a position of power you don’t want to allow this to happen. If your emotions win, so many others could lose. Even with his strong affection for his beloved daughter Sita, Janaka still followed his intellect in devising a plan to arrange for her marriage. Since his heart was properly situated, the Supreme Lord guided Him from within on the proper course.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.15“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

Dasharatha’s heart was in the right place when he allowed Rama and Lakshmana to accompany Vishvamitra. Janaka’s heart was equally as situated in righteousness when he arranged for the contest of the bow. The Supreme Lord rewarded both their choices by bringing them together in a family. Janaki joined with Rama, who then earned a new name, Janakinatha, to accompany His many others.

[Sita and Rama marrying]After the festivities were over, Dasharatha and his party had a satisfying meal full of variety. Others made jokes while they were eating, and at the end they sung wonderful songs that were accompanied by melodious music. The king received betel nuts afterwards, as was custom to complete a meal. He then returned to the guest house, feeling so happy.

Dasharatha’s example shows that in life the decisions aren’t always easy. There are many forks in the road, and deciding which way to turn isn’t so obvious. Janaka had similar issues, and since both kings were situated in righteousness, their decisions always favored them in the end. The root of their righteousness was their love for God. Dasharatha had love for Rama and Janaka for Sita, and since Sita and Rama are the energy and the energetic Supreme Lord respectively, the love the kings had was pure. The divine couple guided them along the proper path, as they guide any who are devoted to them in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

For King Dasharatha decision tough,

To let beloved son go to wilderness rough.


By host King Janaka seating,

And with pleasure eating,

To see that right outcome came,

Rama marrying daughter of Sita the name.


Right decisions of life never easy to know,

Through love for God be guided properly so.

Monday, February 17, 2014

See What He Asks For

[Hanuman worshiping Sita and Rama]“It is the devotee's inclination to worship a particular form, and he engages in devotional service to that form. In a verse in the Ramayana, Hanuman, the great devotee of Rama, said, ‘I know that there is no difference between the Sita-Rama and Lakshmi-Narayana forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but nevertheless, the form of Rama and Sita has absorbed my affection and love. Therefore I want to see the Lord in the forms of Rama and Sita.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.25 Purport)

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For a complete stranger he risked his life. To help his friends, he courageously leapt across an expansive ocean, filled with unknown dangers. For his minister, he mustered up the courage necessary to continue fighting. For the sake of a beautiful princess who was in sore distress he hid himself from attacking enemies, though he easily could have defeated them all. He did such things out of love, and the people he helped were capable of granting him anything for which he asked in return. What he ended up asking for is thus quite telling.

My boss gives me an assignment:

“Dear employee, I need you to migrate the current software system we use over to the new version. This is for one of our clients. They have not asked for this migration. They seem to be working just fine on the current system. However, I have already made the promise to them for the conversion. When this client is on the new system, I can then use that as a marketing tool. I can tell other potential clients that we have someone on the new system.”

[Lawn in the fall]My father gives me a chore:

“I need you to clean the gutters and rake the lawn. It’s autumn now, so the leaves are falling very rapidly. All you do is watch television on the weekends anyway. So I know that you have some free time on your hands. This will teach you some responsibility as well. It might take you the whole day, but I don’t want you to skimp. Everything must be done thoroughly and properly.”

My wife tells me to run some errands on the way home from work:

“Honey, can you pick up the dry cleaning? I didn’t have time to go today. By the way, my mother is coming over tonight. She is going to stay with us for a week. Don’t you dare make any comment! My mother is a dear, sweet lady. She loves you very much too; you should try being a little more friendly with her. After you get the dry cleaning, can you buy some extra sheets and pillows from the store? Also, we’re out of milk and bread. Please pick up those as well. And don’t take too long. I love you.”

[Milk at the supermarket]If I satisfy the boss, I get to keep my job. He may even eventually promote me to a higher position. The promotion might lead to an increase in salary, which is never a bad thing. If I do the work to my father’s satisfaction, he will be pleased with me as well. He will be more inclined to provide me protection, to oversee my maturation into adulthood. If I make the wife happy, then, well, I get to survive in peace and harmony for another day. As the famous joke says, “If the wife’s not happy, you’re not happy.”

In each case, the satisfied party is still limited in their ability to reward the worker. This is simply the way of the world. Not everyone is a king who has millions of dollars and hundreds of servants at their disposal. One person, however, owns everything. His wife manages the inestimable wealth. She is therefore known as the goddess of fortune. Together, they can grant any benediction to any person. They have done so numerous times in the past, so the claim is not merely theoretical. There are many people who can attest to the generosity of the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort.

[Hanuman with Lakshmana and Rama]Shri Hanuman happened to do selfless work for both of them. And this work was both dangerous and difficult. He first met Shri Rama in the forest of Kishkindha. Hanuman was asked by his minister Sugriva to find out who Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were, as at the time they were strangers to the area. Hanuman immediately made an impression on Rama with his dexterity of speech and his artful poetic composition.

“O Saumitra, subduer of all enemies, welcome with pleasant words this monkey, who is a counselor of Sugriva and a knower of speech who uses words which are sweet, affectionate, and just befitting the situation.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.27)

Hanuman then learned that Rama was looking for His missing wife Sita. Hanuman knew that Rama would be helped by forming an alliance with Sugriva. In the course of the famous events to follow, Hanuman would leap across a massive ocean, clandestinely search through an enemy territory, carefully approach Rama’s wife in secret, allay her fears, fight with many powerful fiends, return to tell his friends and Rama what transpired, go back to the same territory to help rescue Rama’s wife, and then serve as Rama’s emissary on His return trip home to Ayodhya.

Indeed, no one in history has done so much for one person. Hanuman thus deserved everything the world could offer. Sita and Rama were ready to give that to him as well. But he only asked for one thing: devotion. Hanuman knew that there are many forms of Godhead. In the Vedas, the personal God is considered the original. He is the definition behind the abstract. He is the man behind the veil of a mostly misunderstood Supreme Controller. He is the supremely kind personality to correct the falsely concocted angry and vindictive God.

Amongst genuine followers of the Vedas, there is sometimes a disagreement as to what the original form actually looks like. Some say that it is a beautiful youth who holds a flute in His hands and wears a peacock feather in His hair. Others say that it is a four-armed form opulently adorned and worshiped in reverence. Some say it is the very same Rama that Hanuman so valiantly served. Shri Hanuman understands that there is no difference between these forms, which are described in the authorized Vedic texts. He knows that not all divine figures are God, but that the Vishnu forms are all identical in the personality they reference.

[Sita and Rama]Though knowing this, Hanuman prefers to worship Sita and Rama. And this gift is most eagerly bestowed upon him by that couple which loves him so dearly. Another powerful benediction granted to Hanuman is that he can give the same devotion, without asking nearly the same amount of effort. Just a sincere desire to please Sita and Rama is all he looks for, and upon witnessing such he makes the recommendation to the blessed couple, opening the gates to their sacred kingdom.

In Closing:

When happy is the wife,

Tolerable is your life.


When for chore father to ask,

Pleased when completed is task.


With boss of company the same,

Reward of promotion or salary gain.


To such benefits always a limit,

But not in God, who with fortune’s goddess sits.


To Hanuman anything they can give,

But asks only for in devotion to live.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

You Aren’t Real

[Krishna showing the universal form]“Another calculation is speculative. Those who are in search of knowledge also speculate on Krishna and consider Him to be less important than the universal form of the Supreme. Thus some think that the universal form of Krishna which was manifested to Arjuna is more important than His personal form. According to them, the personal form of the Supreme is something imaginary. They believe that in the ultimate issue, the Absolute Truth is not a person. But the transcendental process is described in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Two: to hear about Krishna from authorities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 11.52 Purport)

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Imagine that you lived a distinguished life. You lived it exactly how you wanted to. In whatever endeavor you preferred, you were able to succeed. The perennial enemies of fear, doubt, idleness, and overindulgence in unprofitable delights could not defeat you. You succeeded to the point that people ended up knowing who you were.

[Biographies]They even wrote books about your activities. A biographer, someone who wasn’t tied to your family or friends, who wasn’t even interested in your particular line of work, decided to research your life and history. They took accounts of your activities from others and pieced them together to write their own version of your life. They read between the lines of your letters to your friends and family. They came up with their own narrative of your life’s path, though you yourself likely weren’t so cunning or manipulative as they made you out to be.

Then some time passes and someone says you don’t exist.

“Nah, he’s just a figment of the imagination. Someone created him. I don’t care what’s written. Don’t you see that people make up stuff all the time right now? This person was supposedly on the earth so many years ago. Times have changed greatly. People back then would make up stories all the time. If he did indeed exist, I think he was just an ordinary fellow. The admirers then embellished his accomplishments to make him look bigger. Regardless, I think he’s just a figment of the imagination.”

Indeed, as centuries pass, the conditions of society do shift drastically. We can hardly imagine today what it was like to live in the early centuries of the Christian calendar. And yet we know that people lived during that time. Therefore to blanketly say that any person from that time is fictitious is a little silly. Just as we know that we exist today, we can believe with firm faith that others existed in the past. This is called the continuation of life, where different souls travel to different bodies, from death to birth and so on.

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

There is a collection of sacred texts available today that are informally known as the Vedas. They originate from the area today known as India, and they describe many divine beings. The person considered the supreme is Shri Krishna. Described as Bhagavan in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and other works, the English translation for the word chosen by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is “Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

The use of this term is intentional, and for more reasons than just its accuracy. There is a class of transcendentalists supposedly following the teachings of the Vedas who think that Krishna doesn’t exist.

“He is simply made up, don’t you see? The sages living in ancient times knew the truth, but they also understood that the people in general are not very intelligent. Therefore they presented the truth in a hidden way, through allegory, simile, and mythology. Krishna is part of the mythological aspect. We are meant to understand the symbolism behind Krishna, not to take the verses of sacred texts literally.”

They also say things like, “We need to surrender to the Krishna inside us all. Krishna is light; Krishna is truth. He is the goodness that we all strive for.”

[Lord Krishna]Such commentary may sound erudite, but it has no basis in fact. Nowhere in the Vedas is it said that the descriptions of Krishna are mythology. Indeed, that supreme person who supposedly doesn’t really exist reveals truths that are timeless in their value. Nowhere else do we learn so much in so short a work as the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna speaks of reincarnation, the eternality of the soul, the relationship of the individual to the Supreme, and the ultimate objective in life. The principles themselves are flawless, and they come from a real person.

Those who follow Krishna’s teachings faithfully have good reason to feel offended when others say that the Lord doesn’t exist. So much more is written about Him than any other divine figure of notable fame. Krishna’s body of work is described in many texts, not just one. His direct words persist to this day in the original language they were spoken, Sanskrit. The works of the Vedas describe His features in meticulous detail, to the point that we have beautiful paintings available of Him today.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.7“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.7)

[Lord Krishna]The descents of the divine have a purpose. They teach so many valuable lessons and they facilitate connection to Him, which is what everyone inherently seeks. To deny the factual occurrence of these descents is to deny the existence of God itself. In that denial, the fool making the claim must acknowledge someone who is the most superior authority. The “everyone is God” model doesn’t work since everyone is flawed and must die. The only “God” left then is material nature, which even the less intelligent already accept as their deity.

And so the speculators who say that Krishna isn’t real or that He is an ordinary living entity greatly offend the original personality Himself and those who kindly wrote about Him. The devoted souls are more than justified in their repeated verbal attacks in defense of Krishna. Just as we wouldn’t like it if someone later on says that we never existed, so the saintly people who follow Krishna’s flawless teachings very much don’t like to hear anyone claim that their beloved Shyamasundara, the author of everything good in this world, never walked the sacred ground of Vrindavana, where He gave pleasure to the cows and the senses and enjoyed with His friends and well-wishers.

In Closing:

“In folly only you persist,

Don’t you know He didn’t exist?


That they saw Him others say,

But that it’s true no possible way.”


Of Krishna this the foolish will claim,

Though upset would be if treated the same.


Evidence of Krishna in Vedas found plenty quite,

So to always defend beloved saints have every right.