Saturday, March 1, 2014

Using All Your Intellect

[Krishna books]“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)

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Bhagavad-gita, 7.17Question: “In the history of religion in Europe and parts west, for the longest time science, intellectualism, and philosophy were considered taboo. You basically had to accept whatever the church thought, attend the various functions, and resign yourself to the fact that you were the lowliest sinner who ever walked the planet. The Enlightenment period followed by the breakthroughs of modern science did much to tarnish the image of established religion in these regions, for past ideas were discredited through discovery and application of the intellect. Where does the intellect come into play in bhakti-yoga? What about scientific discovery?”

The term “bhakti-yoga” can be translated in so many different ways. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, himself a true renaissance man, preferred the English translation of “devotional service.” He also coined the term “Krishna consciousness,” for the devotion in bhakti is meant exclusively for God. One of God’s many names is Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” Full attractiveness is for an object that is animate, and animation thus means that the object of service in bhakti is a distinct personality.

[Shrila PrabhupadaAs consciousness is the true objective of bhakti-yoga, which is considered the culmination of all religious practice, anything can be used in forming it. Science and intellect are but aspects of nature, after all. If my goal is to eat to my satisfaction for dinner tonight, whatever ingredients exist in nature are at my disposal. I can utilize flour, sugar, butter, fruits, vegetables, etc. The objective is to eat, which brings a certain taste.

Krishna consciousness also has a taste, and it can be generated through the temporary body that we possess. We didn’t order this body. We didn’t go to the store and pick it out. We didn’t sit naked as a spirit soul and beg for someone to bring us a covering. It came to us through nature’s arrangement. In this way we know that we are inferior to nature. Even the person who denies the existence of God at least acknowledges the higher power of nature. Their supreme authority is the nature which always controls them.

[Science magazine]The arrangement of nature delivers our body. In this body we have an intellect, which is sharpened through knowledge. One form of knowledge gathering is experiment. Come up with a theory, run a test, and then study the results. This works for any type of knowledge, not simply that relating to the physical world. To say that science is forbidden in a practice meant to please the original controller of nature is quite silly. Indeed, the majority of knowledge acquired throughout the time in life is from practical realizations, where very small, informal experiments take place on a regular basis.

As intellect and experiment can be used to be conscious of God, they can also be used to forget Him. It may have been that such prohibitions in the past were implemented with this fear in mind. Nevertheless, the person who is fully knowledgeable actually takes the greatest delight in devotion. In the Bhagavad-gita, the personality Krishna says that four types of people initially approach Him. There are those who want money, those who want relief from distress, those who are inquisitive, and those who are already knowledgeable. It is this last group which becomes most dear to Krishna, for they are free of all material desires.

“Free from all contaminations of material desires, the distressed, the inquisitive, the penniless, and the seeker after supreme knowledge can all become pure devotees. But out of them, he who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth and free from all material desires becomes a really pure devotee of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17 Purport)

[Lord Krishna]For reaching the goal of God consciousness, one is fully encouraged to exercise their intellect.

“Question everything so that when you are sure that there is more to life than just sense gratification you will be ready to take up devotional service to God in earnest. Blind faith may help you for a while, but if you aren’t fully convinced of the authority, glory, and superiority of bhakti-yoga, you won’t get the full taste from it.”

We can look to some early experiments in the history of electricity to see how science can be used to help one better understand God. For the longest time, it was believed that lightning was a direct attack from God on those who are sinners. In one sense, there is some validity to the punishing aspect, but in the Vedas the clearer explanation is provided. The material nature operates within three modes and inflicts three types of punishment. These exist for every person living here, regardless of time or place. The results are administered by godly personalities in charge of the material elements, and those results arrive accordingly with karma, or action and reaction.

When such facts aren’t known, one has no choice but to speculate. Therefore previously the consensus opinion amidst the less intelligent was that lightning was directly coming from God and that it intended to hit its targets. A printer living in America in the 18th century was spending much of his retirement conducting scientific research. He was fascinated with electricity, of which little was known at the time. He proposed the idea that lightning and electricity were one and the same. He devised some tests that could be used to see if this was true, as he had seen how pointed objects attracted electricity and carried the electrical charge through a wire that was grounded. He proposed several experiments that could be done with lightning to test this theory. These experiments were proven in France and later on by himself in the most famous flying of a kite in history.

[Franklin lightning rod]When the theory was proven, the people of France in particular rejoiced. They then put up lightning rods on their buildings, especially on the taller ones. Previously there were church bells rung whenever there was a lightning storm, as the hope was that the sound would ward off the storm or that the bell would alert others to seek safety. Lightning was causing a bit of a problem, as many tall buildings had been damaged through lightning strikes. So many of the men ringing the church bells also perished, for no one realized that since the church towers were often the highest buildings in the area, they had the best chance of being hit by the lightning. The lightning rod thus helped to save so many lives.

There was some who were not happy about this, however. One notable personality wrote that the lightning rod was now going against God’s desire to punish people with His lightning. The soon to be even more famous printer from America responded that the same offense would have to be made by any person who ever erected a roof, for rain is also God’s will. If one seeks shelter from rain, why would they not from lightning?

"Surely the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, Hail or Sunshine of Heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs & Shades without Scruple." (Benjamin Franklin, Letter to a friend, 1753)

Though this scientific discovery disproved common church teachings at the time, it can be also helpful in so many ways in understanding God. One can use the lightning rod to aid them in their devotion, in the same way that the roof on top of the temple allows the residents to continue to always contemplate the beautiful features belonging to the Personality of Godhead. The resourcefulness of the printer shows that man has advanced intelligence, more so than the animals. That intelligence can be used to do good. The greatest good is to allow the mind to always think of God. Despite all the obstacles, even those which are sometimes offered by organized religions, one can figure out a way, through applying their intellect, to stay devoted.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.6“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

[Lord Krishna]By knowing that lightning is electricity, one can also more fully appreciate the Supreme Lord and His potencies. Lightning is but a small representation of His immense strength. The collective material nature indeed is more powerful than the lightning, and that nature is also a rather insignificant energy of God’s. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that in Krishna’s eternal abode electricity is not needed; the realm is self-illuminating. Thus through applying the intellect, gathering transcendental knowledge from Krishna Himself, and understanding everything in terms of the larger picture, one can ascend to the realm of self-illumination to always bask in the sweetness and intelligence of the original author of everything.

In Closing:

To avoid science should we try?

Or the intellect we should apply?


Of the four who to Krishna first go,

The wise are the most dear to Him so.


So your full intellect and observation use,

Blessed are the intelligent who devotion choose.


But with material energy time best not spent,

To land of self-illumination devoted souls are sent.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Karma Yogi

[Flowers offered to Krishna's lotus feet]“A person who works very hard, no matter in what occupation, and who offers the result of the work to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is called a karma-yogi.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.34 Purport)

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Imagine a person who seeks to be good. Perhaps you are this person or it is someone you know. Maybe it is someone who lived a very long time ago. Their goal is to always do the right thing; never any sin. If the word “sin” offends you, think of anything that invites censure. The mindset of such a person is to reach ultimate perfection as a human being, doing no wrong in the process.

This is indeed a worthy goal, as the good people among us are those who try their best to lead a virtuous life. The issue, of course, is which authority to take in determining right and wrong. The thief who steals from others considers their behavior to be virtuous. They make up whatever excuse they can. “Oh, I need these things for my sustenance. The world has been very cruel to me. Everyone else has plenty anyway. They don’t really suffer from my theft. I am therefore justified. I am virtuous.”

Similarly, the person trying to do good, who doesn’t steal, will justify certain things that they do. Hearing bits and pieces of information about virtue and truth, they may consider a typical life in sense gratification to be pious:

“I have heard of the term ‘karma’. In Sanskrit, this means work. I have also heard of yoga, which is the linking to the supreme consciousness. Karma-yoga is my religion; I don’t blindly follow any sect. I do good and honest work, and since I am of the right mind, it is called karma-yoga. I don’t cheat anyone. I don’t lie unnecessarily. I don’t spend too much money on enjoyable things for myself. I take care of my spouse and children. I earn an honest living and entertain guests in the home. Thus I am following karma-yoga.”

In the Vedic tradition there are different paths offered for reaching the ultimate truth. These are not borne from speculation; rather they are passed on in a chain of dedicated teachers. The multitudinous activities and desires of human beings are grouped and sorted into four basic categories: karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti. Karma is work, jnana is knowledge, yoga in this context is meditation, and bhakti is devotion. You can attach the term “yoga” to any one of these. Thus you have the choice of karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, meditational-yoga, or bhakti-yoga as your path for reaching a truth that is absolute.

Jnana-yoga is pretty straightforward. You seek enlightenment through knowledge. You learn of the difference between matter and spirit and commit yourself to living with that knowledge. Let’s say that one of my children doesn’t know that boys and girls are equal human beings. They believe that the sexes are completely different. I then point out their flaw, and in an effort to correct the errata they always keep in mind that boys and girls are the same at the core; they are both human beings. In the same way in jnana-yoga one tries to see with the vision of Brahman, where one knows that every living entity, human and animal alike, is a spirit soul, eternal in its existence but temporary in its present manifestation.

Meditational yoga is also rather straightforward; you meditate in the recommended positions and at the appropriate times and places. You fix your mind on the Absolute Truth in hopes of having the same nature, merging into that truth.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Things get tricky with karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga. In the works of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the terms are often both translated to “devotional service.” This is not contradictory based on the fact that karma-yoga eventually turns into bhakti-yoga when the resulting rewards are no longer considered. Think of going to work every day and not caring what’s in your paycheck. Think of doing all of your assigned tasks and not even remembering what day you get paid. This is sort of how karma-yoga turns into bhakti-yoga.

Karma is work. So when we work, we get a result. When we seek to enjoy that result, it is basic karma. When we sacrifice that result for the service of the Lord, it is karma-yoga. The definition is very simple, and it is not concocted on anyone’s whims. If it were, then someone could go outside, kill any stray animal, cook it, think that God is great for providing such a hearty beast for consumption, and then categorize the entire episode as karma-yoga.

What makes the karma eligible for yoga is the sacrifice in service. Service is bhakti, so when the results of work are sacrificed for the sake of another’s or one’s own devotion to God, then it is karma-yoga. Understandably there is confusion between the two terms, and the reason is that bhakti-yoga can include just about anything. Bhakti-yoga is full devotion. The attitude of the person is always the same. They are always of the mindset of “how can I please my beloved Lord, who is not the exclusive property of any particular sect, and who wears a beautiful garland of flowers and presents an enchanting smile sure to defeat any person’s pride?” In this mindset, the person can work, study, or meditate; they are not restricted.

[Radha and Krishna worshiped]As we live with constant duality, there is no such thing as “the perfect being in virtue.” What is good to one person may not be so for another. What is appropriate for this situation may not be so for that. The karma-yogi is on the right track, as they are headed towards the Absolute Truth, the author of this world of duality. Working diligently and honestly sacrificing their results for the pleasure of that great author, their work eventually merges into bhakti-yoga, which is the handsome reward for the treasure seeker finally grown weary of a life of doubt in speculation.

In Closing:

World of duality, suffering in illusion,

Between karma and bhakti a confusion.


When dispassion for results to earn,

Karma-yoga into bhakti to turn.


Not some concoction of the mind,

Passed on from chain of teachers kind.


When only in devotional mindset to stay,

To bhakti karma eventually to give way.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dependent On The Son

[Sita Devi holding flower]“O son, don’t forget our love for You; keep us always in Your heart. Know that the king, his relatives, and this entire city are Your servants.” (Janaki Mangala, 168)

tāta tajiya jani choha mayā rākhabi mana |
anucara jānaba rāu sahita pura parijana ||

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The new child is a bundle of joy. You can’t get enough of it. How God could create so beautiful a creature, with its delightful features, limitless exuberance, and endearing gestures, is beyond you. You just want to stare at the new child all day, but then you also know that it cannot do anything on its own. It can’t feed itself. It can’t move to anywhere; not yet anyway. It can’t communicate its emotions. Therefore you and the elders must provide complete care. The child is fully dependent on you.

[Krishna bringing slippers to Nanda]The not-so-hidden secret, however, is that the elders are the servants. They are the ones who depend on the child. Though seemingly helpless, everyone is more than ready to offer it assistance. The person in adult life won’t receive the same treatment. If others walk past it on the street, they won’t even say “hello.” Indeed, if we get stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire and someone comes up to us, we are likely suspicious. “Who are they? What do they want? They know I’m stranded, so that leaves me vulnerable. Hopefully they are being kind and want to help me, but I can’t be sure.”

Though the child is in the inferior position, it is the one being served. The parents, relatives and siblings are the servants, especially if they have love in their hearts. Through love in service, the child is able to reach maturity, hopefully acquiring values like honesty, cleanliness, compassion and austerity along the way. There is no ego in the servant-like adults. They are more than happy to cater to the child’s every whim. This service is what makes them happiest.

Along similar lines, an entire community, including its king and queen, were servants to a newly welcomed son. He wasn’t a baby, though He exhibited all the beautiful features of youth. He wasn’t helpless, but He didn’t talk very much. He spoke when necessary, and then only words that were appropriate.

The son already had a family. He came to the city accompanied by His younger brother, who was just like Him in features and demeanor, with the lone exception being that his skin color was golden while this new son’s was dark. The son already had a loving father back home. That father had three wives, giving the son three loving mothers. They had so much affection for the son that it was difficult to tell which one was the biological mother.

[Rama and Lakshmana eating]The son also had an entire city that loved Him. When He and His younger brother left for a brief time to accompany a notable sage in the forest, the people of the town prayed that the boys wouldn’t get hurt. They asked the higher powers to not let a single hair on their heads be harmed.

“They pray to God to grant them blessings: ‘May You garner fame and return victorious. May You not lose a single hair while bathing.’” (Janaki Mangala, 29)

Despite everything the boy had going for Him already, the people of this sacred town of Janakpur eagerly served Him. He was welcomed into their lives through winning the contest of the bow. That made Him the favored son-in-law to King Janaka and his wife Sunayana. Here the queen makes a heartfelt plea to the new son-in-law, Shri Rama, just as He leaves for home. Rama was returning with His new wife Sita, the daughter of Janaka and Sunayana.

The mother asked Rama to never forget their love for Him. She did not give Him demands as to what He should do at home. She did not order Him to take care of her beloved Sita. Just the opposite in fact; she asked Rama to consider all the people in Janakpur to be His servants. Whatever He would want, they would do, without hesitation. Though He was younger than them, a newlywed in fact, they were ready to protect Him, take care of Him, and make life enjoyable for Him in every way.

The Janaki Mangala is the story of the marriage of Sita, who is also known as Janaki, to Rama, the beloved son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. It is of importance due to the nature of the main characters. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an avatara specific to the second time period of creation. Sita is His eternal consort; she is otherwise known as Lakshmi Devi and Shrimati Radharani. Sita is the goddess of fortune, always linked to the Supreme Lord, who is the husband of the goddess of fortune.

[Sita and Rama]Now that we know the nature of Rama, we see that the people of Janakpur considered themselves to be servants of God. They asked nothing from Him; they only offered to give more and more. They asked only that He keep them in His heart. If Rama can create billions of universes simply by exhaling, how difficult is it for Him to remember His devotees? It is His most pleasurable duty to always protect the surrendered souls, remembering all they have done for Him. And so the queen’s request was most certainly granted, and the same is available for all souls, regardless of age, income, ethnicity, race, or gender. While Rama was apparently their son, He was their beloved Lord and master, whom they would serve without motivation and without interruption.

In Closing:

“This child now our reason to live,

With innocence happiness they give.”


Though parents seemingly the superior,

Are fully dependent to the inferior.


With new son to queen too was this way,

Town offered everything on departing day.


That He remember them only thing to ask,

For Supreme Lord an easy and welcome task.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From Taking To Giving

[Rama's lotus feet]“Entrusting Sita and all daughters to Him, again and again looking at Rama, with folded hands she requested:” (Janaki Mangala, 167)

sīya sahita saba sutā saunpi kara jorahin |
bāra bāra raghunāthahi nirakhi nihorahin ||

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In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that four kinds of people approach Him when they are initially interested in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Some want money. Some are distressed and want to attain peace. Some are genuinely inquisitive, and some actually know things as they are and want to know more about God Himself. Regardless the initial reason for entering genuine spiritual life, once safely inside the constitutional engagement, the attitude changes from wanting to giving. Here we see the queen of a famous land entrusting her most precious daughters to the Supreme Lord, and she would not be the loser for it.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.16“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

It is quite natural to ask for things from God. “O Lord, please give me the strength to fight through this. O Lord, hear our prayer for the wellbeing of our friends and family. O Lord, this person is really struggling. Please shower your mercy upon them and lift them up from peril.” A step above asking for things is giving thanks for what you already have. “O Lord, thank you for the wonderful feast that sits before us. Thank you for our kind family. Thank you for our health. We pray that we may never forget what You have done for us.” Along these lines, there is the weekly visit to the house of prayer. Just following a basic practice like this makes one unique in society.

In bhakti-yoga, the attitude reaches the pinnacle of perfection. Never mind what we seek from the Lord for our personal benefit. Never mind giving thanks for what He has already provided us. In pure devotional service, the attitude is to offer everything that one has for the Lord’s satisfaction. And whether He directly reciprocates or not, the offerings continue. In fact, there is nothing He can do to stop the outpouring of affection. There is no way for Him to repay the deeds of His devotees, who thus earn a very exalted status. They control God instead of the other way around.

In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, the queen Sunayana looks like she is about to ask God for something. So does that put her in the neophyte category? Does she want money? Does she want good health? Actually, here she is entrusting the care of her daughters to Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in a personal form so kind that He walked this earth and allowed noted biographers like Maharishi Valmiki and Goswami Tulsidas to employ their mastery over poetry to preserve those sacred deeds for all future generations of man to reference.

[Valmiki writing the Ramayana]Those daughters, headed by Sita, were the most important people in the world to the queen. Sita was the eldest and she was marrying Rama. As the new husband, Rama was to protect Sita for the rest of her life. No more could the mother give guidance on a daily basis. Sort of like seeing your kids off to their first year of college away from home, the queen would never have her daughters living in her home again. With love in her heart she offered everything to God, and she did not lose anything.

Here she is about to ask Him to remember her and all the people in Janakpur. If the devoted soul is willing to make such a kind offering, then how is it possible for the Lord to ever forget? Indeed, just a sacrifice of time is enough to catch His eye. The souls who have passed through the stages of asking for things from God and merely thanking Him employ their time in chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They act in such a way that Rama will never forget them. They entrust their thoughts, words and deeds to Him, and He not only takes care of them but grants them His association in the consciousness, an association to remain forever.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.26“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.26)

[Flower offered to Rama]As recently as a few hundred years ago, land ownership was quite common, even encouraged. As the poorest person still had a small plot of land, they had the ability to make a genuine offering to the Supreme Lord. A flower, a leaf, some fruit, or even a little water offered in honesty and love is wholeheartedly accepted. In the so-called advanced times, where land ownership isn’t as common, one can still go to the local supermarket and pick up a single piece of fruit for an offering. It is the sentiment which counts most, and in the mother of Sita the love for Rama was completely pure.

In Closing:

In initial stage humble prayer to make,

As desire is gifts from Lord to take.


When to advance through stages higher,

In giving everything to God never to tire.


When Shri Rama to home about to leave,

Wonderful prayer from queen to receive.


Asked that in their hearts He’d always stay,

Wish granted, their affection not possible to repay.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ecstasy in Loss

[Rama's lotus feet]“Then when she heard Rama ask for permission to leave, she became filled with sadness. Without hesitation and with much love and ecstasy she touched His feet.” (Janaki Mangala, 166)

mānge vidha rāma ko taba suni karūnā bharīn |
parihari sakuca saprema pulaki pāyanha parīn ||

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A material life can be likened to a swinging pendulum. You are never in a steady position. One minute you accept something and the next you reject it. In Sanskrit, the two corresponding terms are bhoga and tyaga. I enjoy the ice cream someone offers me so much that I don’t stop them from serving me more and more. The next day I’m in such great physical discomfort that I swear off things like ice cream for a long time. “Never again,” I tell myself, only to break my rule the next time the same enticing dish is placed in front of me.

[cookies n cream ice cream]The acceptance and rejection isn’t exclusive to personal desire. It can relate to comings and goings as well. One minute we are sad and the next we are not. One second we accept something wonderful and soon after we have to part with it. We don’t want the latter, as the former gave us so much happiness. But these are the ways of the world, so we have no choice. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, it appears that there is the sadness of parting that immediately followed the ecstasy of a welcome. The difference, however, is that the interaction is spiritual, so even the moment of parting is a time of ecstasy.

Consider this situation: You are a new homeowner. You and your spouse decide that you want to have a dog in the house. The dog will provide someone besides each other to love unconditionally. You go out and pick the one that you both agree on. You are enamored by it, but at the same time you don’t want to spoil it. You need to train the dog. Your day now revolves around the care of this beloved pet.

[Dogs]The initial days are filled with excitement, and though that tapers off, the affection remains strong for many years. Then one day your dog falls ill. You try your best to treat it, but the veterinarian gives you the dreaded prognosis: there is no hope. The dog will die. The previous excitement now doesn’t come close to matching the intense sadness. You haven’t felt this bad in a long time. You can’t imagine going through this again.

From here it is quite easy to predict the next option: get a new dog. You repeat the whole cycle. You just replace the object of affection. You don’t think to yourself that the initial affection was essentially forced on a random object and that since the object can be replaced maybe the affection isn’t so real. You just push on. After a loss, you work again for another gain. Never mind that the gain will eventually vanish, leaving you sad once more.

In spiritual life, physical proximity isn’t required for association. This means that once gained, the company of the Supreme Lord never leaves you. In fact, He is always with us; we just don’t have the eyes to see Him yet. God is present in the rising of the sun, the falling of the leaves, the blowing of the wind, the onset of the winter and summer seasons, and the birth of a new child. He is the life of everything, so anywhere we look that gives signs of life automatically reveals the presence of the Almighty.

[fall leaves]There are times when there is a physical manifestation that makes it easier to notice and develop an attachment to Him. Such was the case with the movements of Shri Rama, who appeared in Janakpur to win the contest of the bow and marry the daughter of King Janaka. In the scene referenced above, Rama is about to leave for home, taking His new wife Sita with Him. Sita’s mother immediately becomes filled with sadness upon hearing Rama’s request to return home.

Juxtaposing this verse with the preceding one in the Janaki Mangala, we see that one moment the mother was filled with happiness and the very next with sadness. An interesting thing happened with the sadness, though. She did not look to replace Rama. She did not bemoan fate and how it was now torturing her. Instead, she immediately reached for Rama’s feet. She did this with love and ecstasy. So even in apparently losing the most precious gift of the association of the Supreme Lord, there are good feelings.

This is the meaning to Absolute. Happiness and sadness, acceptance and rejection, apply only to a material existence. In a spiritual existence, all is good. This doesn’t mean that variety is absent. You get supposed birth and death, comings and goings, but they are not of the same nature. Indeed, in apparent separation from God the ecstasy is stronger than in association.

[Rama's lotus feet]As the mother reached for Rama’s feet when He was in front of her, she remained attached to them even after He left. Rama took her precious daughter with Him. The mother was now all alone; having sort of an empty nest. She and her husband would only have the memory of their beloved daughter, who came to them in the most unexpected way. But they would be comforted by knowing that she was with Rama, whom she would serve without motivation and without interruption. They would remain in ecstasy by keeping attachment to Rama’s lotus feet, from which emanate the sacred river Ganga.

In Closing:

Painful loss to follow pleasing gain,

Replace object, repeat cycle the same.


Such are the ways of life material,

Not the case with dealings spiritual.


Happy to serve Rama was the mother,

Then sad that leaving with her daughter.


With love approaching His feet,

In separation staying in ecstasy sweet.

Monday, February 24, 2014

When It’s Polite To Stare

[Lord Rama]“The mother-in-law did the arati and offered gifts, following tradition. Looking at His dark face again and again, she felt happiness in the heart and great attachment.” (Janaki Mangala, 165)

sāsu utāri āratī karahiṃ nichāvari | 
nirakhi nirakhi hiyan haraṣahiṃ surati savari ||

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Sunayana’s eldest daughter had a beautiful, golden-like face. She was extremely fair, and so her countenance is often compared to the moon. The moon is kind to all, offering its soothing rays in the dead of night. For one stuck in the forest, this light is the only hope; without it wading through the wilderness at a time that is otherwise considered dangerous becomes impossible. The thieves prefer darkness to perpetrate their crimes, and the pious prefer light to carry out their prescribed duties. Being like the moon, Sita was a friend to the pious.

[Sita Devi]Her new husband, however, had a dark face. It is of the shyama color. This Sanskrit word typically translates to “dark-blue,” like the color of the raincloud about to pour down water. There is an atasi flower that also has the same color. In Vrindavana especially there are tamala trees, which has a color that so matches the face of Sita’s husband that it is often mistaken for His body.

“The shyama color is not exactly blackish. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura compares it to the color of the atasi flower. It is not that Lord Krishna Himself appears in a blackish color in all the Dvapara-yugas. In other Dvapara-yugas, previous to Lord Krishna’s appearance, the Supreme Lord appeared in a greenish body by His own personal expansion. This is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Hari-vamsha and Mahabharata.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.337 Purport)

Shyama can also refer to green. There is no contradiction, as in some cycles of the creation Sita’s husband appears on earth in a greenish color, and in others in a dark-blue. Regardless, His is not the same as Sita’s wonderful complexion. And yet from this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that it was equally as pleasing to the mother, who felt so much happiness in the heart.

[Lord Rama]She looked at it again and again. It is impolite to stare. Our parents may have told us this when we were younger. We don’t need someone to explain it to us to realize why it is so. Would we like it if someone stared at us? If we were eating out at a restaurant and suddenly noticed a piercing eye pointed our way from a table across the room, would we be pleased? Perhaps if the person was attractive we may not think it so bad, but after a while even that would get annoying.

Hey, can I help you with something? Why are you staring at me constantly?

Well, I think you’re so beautiful that I can’t help it.

Thank you. That’s very flattering, but you need to quit it. Would you like it if I stared at you the whole time?

It was not impolite on the part of the mother in this instance since she had the excuse of offering an arati lamp. Rama was about to leave for home. He was going to take the mother’s daughter with Him. Sita was His new wife. The mother-in-law did not give Rama a hard time. She did not lecture Him about how to take care of her daughter. She instead worshiped Him, wishing Him only the best. She made offerings of coins and other gifts, similar to how rice is thrown in modern day wedding ceremonies. More important to her was the happiness she felt in her heart. Looking at Rama’s dark-blue face again and again filled her heart with happiness. She had tremendous attachment for Him.

[Sita and Rama]Attachment to Rama is the only one worth having. In some traditions and time periods He is known as Shri Krishna, who also has the same complexion. Sometimes He is known as Vishnu, who appears more opulently dressed but again has the same beautiful bodily hue. In some circles He is known only vaguely, as the “man upstairs” who is in charge of everything. In some areas He is barely known at all, and so people debate whether or not He even exists.

We see that the attachment in Sita’s mother came from looking at Rama again and again. This proves that the personal form is superior to the impersonal. It is practically impossible to be attached to something that we consider to be lacking distinguishable features. It’s like being attached to air or ether. It’s like being in love with the wind. These things don’t happen; attachment is to the corporeal.

With Rama, the corporeal is the same as the spiritual; hence the happiness it creates in the person who stares at it. Rama is so kind that He arranged for situations that sanctioned the otherwise rude behavior of staring. With great difficulty one finally accepts the personal form of God, and the reward is equal to the effort. In this age, where believing that God can be blue is very difficult, the personal kindly manifests through the sound of His name. When this name is chanted with faith, attention and resolve, the same attachment is sure to take form.

[maha-mantra]The name “Rama” references the dark-blue youth at whom Sita’s mother stared. The name “Krishna” addresses Rama’s original form of Krishna, and “Hare” humbly calls out to the beautiful Sita, who is always with Rama. As Shrimati Radharani, she is always with Krishna, and as Lakshmi she is always with Vishnu. One who always chants, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” sees Sita and Rama through the power of sound. With that enchanting vision, love fills the heart and the best attachment forms.

In Closing:

Though behavior usually impolite,

Mother stared at Rama in devotion’s height.


Arati lamp with pleasure waved,

And coins and other items gave.


Done as Rama with Sita set to depart,

Love and attachment in the queen’s heart.


Create vision of beautiful forms the same,

When with faith and attention say holy names.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Long Running Tradition

[Rama's brothers]“Janaka did all the rituals and made all the preparations for the departure. Then Rama with His brothers went to the king’s palace.” (Janaki Mangala, 164)

sakala calana ke sāja janaka sājata bhae |
bhāinha sahita rāma taba bhūpa bhavana gae ||

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This verse from the Janaki Mangala provides a hint into just how long a current tradition in Vedic culture has been in place. Though times change, the attitude of the saintly people of the world does not. Though carts pulled by horses are no longer the primary mode of transportation, the tradition referenced here still remains. Whether there is extra room or not, the departing guests should expect to bring back a lot of stuff with them.

This situation may sound familiar to some:

“Auntie, please. I don’t need to take anything. Yes, the food was very good, but who will eat it at my home? Okay, fine. I will take it. What about the sweets, you ask? No, I’ve already eaten too much. Okay, well, since you just put it in my hands, I guess I will have to bring this home also. No, no, my sister doesn’t need any more jewelry. That sari isn’t necessary for my mother. You’re giving me too much to take back; there won’t be any room on the plane.”

Another similar situation:

“Oh, you’re going to visit such and such next weekend? Make sure to take this shirt and give it to their son. They will like it. I bought these bangles for your aunt. Give them to her. If you don’t have room in your carry-on, take a bigger suitcase. Give this shirt to your uncle. If it’s the wrong size, then maybe his son can wear it. I’ve thrown a few shirts in there. See which ones they like; let them choose. Here are some sweets as well. Give this to them for eating as prasadam. They can offer it to the Lord first and then everyone can partake.”

[Indian sweets]Prior to going on a trip, you can be so enthused about travelling lightly, about not carrying so many things through the airport. Even if you’re just driving somewhere, it’s a pain to pack the trunk up with so many things. But those insistent on keeping with tradition will not take “no” for an answer. They are more than happy to burden you with extra tasks for your visit. On the other side of things, the good host feels insulted if you leave their home empty-handed.

In a famed city a long time ago, a wonderful king prepared so many gifts to be taken home by his most beloved visitors. Whether they liked it or not, these gifts were leaving with them. The guests were not poor by any stretch. They hailed from the kingdom of Ayodhya, where everyone lived happily under the protection of Dasharatha. He was a leader famous for his ability to fight attacking enemies coming from ten different directions. When there is government tyranny we long for freedom through elections and the sort. But if a single person can rule justly, fairly and effectively, there is no need for voting. Everyone follows their duties without issue. Such was the case with the rule of King Dasharatha.

The guests who were leaving had just been married. There were four marriages arranged in that kingdom by its leader, Janaka. His eldest daughter Sita was the initial person getting married, but in his happiness Janaka arranged for her new husband’s three younger brothers to get married as well. So four couples were heading back to Ayodhya, and Janaka made sure to pack their caravans with heaps of gifts. Janaka had plenty to give, and the departing guests had no way of refusing anything.

[Marriage of Sita and Rama]There is a saying in Hindi which means “The name of Rama is the truth.” The name “Rama” addresses an individual who is beyond duality. He is beyond the temporary manifestations that bewilder us. We know that we are not our body, for our body continuously changes. We were once young and enthusiastic. Now we are older and more jaded. We have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and a tough time breaking from the daily routine. We have been the same person throughout, however. It is only rather difficult to see.

As difficult as it is to see our true position as spirit, seeing the entity who is beyond all the duality of this world is much harder. Therefore the name comes into play. Rather than fret over personal and impersonal, matter and spirit, illusion and reality, simply say the name of Rama. That name gives understanding even to the less intelligent. It provides the vision of the Truth even to those who are blind. Even those who have no desire to see it are blessed with it just by saying the name constantly.

“[O mystic] First know yourself, then realize the Supreme Absolute Truth, and then see the material nature standing in between. O wretch, without seeing these how can you understand what the unmanifested [invisible] feature of the Absolute Truth [alakh] actually is? Chant Shri Rama’s holy name instead, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 19)

[Lord Rama]Rama, the eldest son of Dasharatha, never refuses a gift made in earnest, without motive for gain. Janaka was a king in a wealthy kingdom, so he had nothing to gain from giving gifts to the four new couples. He did so simply out of love. Rama couldn’t refuse. He had to take everything back with Him. He also had to love Sita, who had the same amount of affection for Him. From this episode, we know that in the kingdom of God it is always the “era of good feelings.” That kingdom exists in the spiritual sky, but it can also be replicated here at any time and place, as it was in Janaka’s land a long time ago.

In Closing:

“Leaving now are you?

Take this and that too.


Sweets give your sister and brother,

And these bangles for your mother.”


Though prefer light in travelling to go,

That can’t refuse these gifts you know.


The same with Dasharatha and guests that were leaving,

When genuine, happily Shri Rama all gifts receiving.