Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gaura Purnima 2014

[Lord Chaitanya with mother]“Most of his contemporary biographers have mentioned certain anecdotes regarding Chaitanya which are simple records of his early miracles. It is said that when he was an infant in his mother's arms he wept continually, and when the neighboring ladies cried Haribol he used to stop. Thus there was a continuation of the utterance of Haribol in the house, foreshewing the future mission of the hero.” (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Prologue)

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“Haribol!” This is the request of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appeared in the age of Kali to deliver the fallen souls, who were deep in the clutches of the illusory energy of God, maya. Committing errata after errata by considering the material energy to be superior, by worshiping for temporary rewards instead of seeking transcendence, and by denying the transcendental form of the Supreme, the people in Kali had become most unfortunate. Fortunately, in the month of Phalguna on the full moon night during the year of 1486, the rescuer of the fallen souls arrived in this realm, bringing with Him His closest associates, who would save the people through begging them to chant the holy names of the Lord.

[Lord Chaitanya's advent]“Do it for me.” This is the line used by those who really want to get something done in a circumstance where other forms of persuasion are less effective. This line works when there is mutual affection. If I have a friend who is particularly dear to me, they may not be friends with all of my other friends. In the hypothetical situation of a gathering I am having at my home, this friend may not want to attend. “I hate that other guy who is coming to your house,” they will tell me. “If he’s coming, then I’m not. Sorry, man.”

I can try different means of persuasion. “It’ll only be for a few hours. You won’t have to talk to him. You guys should just bury the hatchet, reconcile and become friends again.” If his animosity is so great, these words will not persuade him. If I lean on his affection for me, however, I might get somewhere. “Okay, I know you don’t like this person, but what about me? Can you do this for me? We’ve been friends for so long. I would feel awful if you didn’t come. Don’t let your quarrel with him take away from our relationship. It would mean so much to me if you could cast aside your differences for one night.”

When all else fails, this method has the greatest likelihood of succeeding. Now imagine if the situation is one where I’m persuading someone to do something that will be to their benefit. Perhaps the persuasion is for a child who doesn’t want to go to school. Or maybe it is for someone who is too afraid to take an exam, but that exam is what they need to pass in order to enter their respective field. In such cases, I will lean on my good relationship as leverage for getting that person, who is near and dear to me, to do what is ultimately for their own good.

[Lord Chaitanya]This explains the situation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to some degree. The comparison is not completely accurate because what Mahaprabhu begs for others is that which will give them the highest benefit. He persuades others into following their constitutional occupation, which is devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Moreover, He is a friend to everyone. He has love for every single creature, whether they praise Him or curse Him. To those who are obstinate, He begs in the humblest manner. He persuades them through His own chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.31“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.31)

Lord Chaitanya is unlike any other avatara, or incarnation, of the Supreme Lord, for He takes the impetus to arouse people from their sleep in maya, or illusion. Other incarnations appear amongst devotees and use force to rid the world of evil influences. The devoted souls then have accounts of activities to remember in limitless ways. They also receive teachings to apply in their daily lives. As Lord Chaitanya, God accepts a humble guise, one that is more difficult to envy. In an apparently weaker position, He has more leverage in getting others to follow His instructions. He goes to “where the sinners are,” as the saying goes, instead of having the sinners come to Him. He inspires countless future generations to follow the same example, and they do so without receiving much fame or appreciation. Just like Lord Chaitanya, they know that if others say the names of Hari, or God, everyone will be supremely benefitted.

[Pancha-tattva]Lord Chaitanya accomplished this task even as an infant. Shortly after appearing from the womb of mother Shachi, He sometimes would cry on purpose. The well-wishing members of the community would then try every which way to pacify Him. But only one method would work. When they had failed with everything else, they chanted the names of Hari. Hearing that sound, the child, who was known as Nimai, immediately would stop crying. He gave them the secret to His heart. Without offering a single word of instruction, without delivering a single sermon or pointing them to a single book, He got them to follow the eternal instruction of “Haribol.”

On the occasion of Gaura Purnima, we remember Lord Chaitanya and the ocean of mercy He created, one that continues to flow to this very day. We say the names of Hari over and over again to please Him. And by pleasing Him, we bring the ultimate benefit to ourselves, finally breaking free of the illusion that has tricked us for too long into following so many erroneous paths.

In Closing:

As child, crying was His way,

To get others Hari to say.


Other methods work did not,

Only by hearing Hari crying to stop.


As adult following method the same,

Humbly begging others to chant holy name.


His ocean of mercy flows to this day,

Pleases Him when names of Hari we say.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Everywhere Are His Eyes

[Sita and Rama]“Generally there will be affection for that which is visible. And for that which is not visible there is no affection. The ungrateful are capable of destroying their affection in this way, but not Rama.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.43)

dṛśyamāne bhavetprītiḥ sauhṛdaṃ nāstyapaśyataḥ ||
nāśayanti kṛtaghnāstu na rāmo nāśayiṣyati |

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It is said that man inherits four defects at the time of birth. He has a tendency to cheat. Knowing full well his inability to rule everything, there is always some insecurity. This fear manifests in cheating to some level. Man commits mistakes; he is not perfect. He is also easily illusioned; things and people are always tricking him. That pizza pie on display in the store looks so tempting, but in fact eating the whole thing will lead to discomfort later on. Still, casting aside all the previous bad memories, the person goes ahead and orders the whole pie for himself.

[Pizza pie]The fourth defect is imperfect senses. We can’t perceive everything. We have no idea what is going on in the room next to us unless someone tells us. We don’t know what our son or daughter is thinking at this moment. Since they are full of life, we know that they are indeed thinking something. We can’t even remember our own perceptions. “What did I eat for breakfast a year ago today? How did that verse from the Bhagavad-gita go that I was supposed to memorize for my weekly class?”

With imperfect senses we rely on sight alone for observation and emotion. Sita Devi here references one of the results of that reliance. There is the general tendency to have affection only for that which is seen. If I see my dog, I think about it. If I see my parents, I remember all the sacrifices they made for me while growing up. If I see my friends on a daily basis, I try to do good for them. Once the objects are no longer within sight, however, the affection diminishes. The more ungrateful a person is, the easier it is for them to lose their affection in this cause-and-effect circle. One person has His eyes everywhere, however, so He is never ungrateful in this way.

The “what have you done for me lately” saying is another way to describe the same tendency. We ask our friends for favors. This is only natural. If you can’t ask your friend to lend you some support every now and then, who can you ask? So our best friend picks us up from the airport. They run to the house when we have forgotten something. They look up something online when we are in an emergency situation. They come to pick us up when our car has stalled out and we are stranded on the side of the road.

[Roadside assistance]Ah, but that one time that they fail to grant us a favor, we get upset. The many past sacrifices are no longer visible. They are distant memories only. What is perceivable in the present is their failure. Indeed, another issue is that by coming through for us so many times in the past our friend raised the level of expectation in us. We just assume that they will always get the job done. We don’t think that they may not like bailing us out all the time. We don’t consider their feelings as much. It becomes “what have you done for me lately” instead of “thank you for all that you have done for me in the past.”

This attitude may or may not apply to us completely. It depends on how ungrateful we are. All of us have imperfect senses, so there is no way to always remember everything that someone has done for us. Sole reliance on sight isn’t the right way to go all the time, but it is indeed a habit. The husband of Sita was not ungrateful in the least. He remembered every single good deed done for His benefit. Goswami Tulsidas makes particular mention of this quality in Rama. The poet remembers how Rama gave so many wonderful benedictions to those who did only a single good deed for Him. In contrast, others quickly forget a host of benedictions offered to them, ungrateful souls that they are.

[Lord Rama]Sita knows Rama’s nature. Here she is in a very difficult situation. Female ogres surround her and threaten to eat her up. They regularly ate all kinds of flesh, so these weren’t empty threats. The king of the land, Ravana, wanted Sita for his chief wife. She refused him completely, over and over again. Therefore the king resorted to threats of abuse. He ordered his grim-visaged female attendants to harass the innocent Sita until she caved.

Sita is here addressing those ogres. She is letting them, and the world for that matter, know that though man is generally only affectionate towards that which can be seen, in Rama there is no such defect. This is because Rama is the Supreme, the personality behind the concept of an attributeless energy of truth. Only a personality can remember. Only an individual can be without ungratefulness and have full affection for both the seen and the unseen.

Technically, there is nothing unseen by Rama. His eyes are everywhere, though He has no eyes. This is how the Upanishads describe Him. There is no limit to the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord. He is described as nirguna since no material quality could ever be attached to Him, as there is duality in every quality that we encounter. There is grateful and ungrateful. There is happy and unhappy. The Absolute Truth is above duality.

[Lord Rama]At the same time, Rama is saguna. He has spiritual attributes which are visible to man with imperfect senses. There is no difference between the nirguna and saguna; just the latter helps to give an idea of what “attributeless” really means. Rama is supremely grateful. He remembers everything done for Him and does not let sight play a role in determining His disposition.

He has eyes, but they are not material. The range of perception in His eyes is not limited. He can see millions of miles away. He can see the microscopic and the macroscopic. Moreover, He remembers all that He sees. He always remembers the boundless affection that Sita has for Him. He remembers every devotional act of the sincere spiritual seekers. He remembers a single utterance of His name made in innocence by even a young child who has yet to fully understand the dualities of the material world.

[Sita and Rama]Indeed, there is none more grateful than Rama, and so it is not surprising that the people of the world who are the most pious are forever devoted to Him. The ogres in Lanka could not understand Sita’s nature, and so they harassed her and tried to get her to move her attention away from Rama. They also couldn’t understand Hanuman, who was secretly perched on a tree at the time watching what went down. As Rama is grateful, Hanuman and Sita never stop loving Him. As such, anyone who follows the devotional path is assured of remaining in the good graces of the Supreme Lord, whose transcendental eyes see everything.

In Closing:

Stuck at work, can’t get free,

Can you do a favor for me?


All thanks to them now to give,

But in future forgetful to live.


Not the case with Sita’s husband indeed,

To remember forever just a single deed.


His eyes anywhere and everywhere to go,

As most grateful of all devotee’s know.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Never A Bad Time

[Sita Devi holding flower]“Shame on me, who am uncivilized, unchaste, and living a sinful life, for I continue to protect my life for even a moment without Him.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.7)

dhiṅmāmanāryāmasatīṃ yāhaṃ tena vinā kṛtā |
muhūrtamapi rakṣāmi jīvitaṃ pāpajīvitā ||

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One of the offenses to chanting the holy name is to equate the process with any ritual mentioned in the Vedas that is meant for material upliftment. To understand this better, we can look to the raising of a child. You would never equate waking up early to feed your child with some sort of health habit. Love for someone else is not for your personal betterment. Acts in love are done out of love; selflessly, with no personal motivation. Therefore love can never be wrong, can it?  Sita’s words above confirm this.

[Mother Yashoda holding Krishna]One person goes to school, starts a business, and then becomes extremely wealthy. Another person also finds material success, but in a way of their own. They don’t pray to God for anything. Therefore they think that God is for the “bitter clingers,” those who were previously unsuccessful in life. Or they think that perhaps He is for those who don’t know any better. “These fools think that if they speak to an invisible man in the sky that all their problems will vanish. They need to get out and work instead. They need to give up their make-believe.”

This foolishness is rooted in nearsightedness. Not necessarily in reading the letters on an eye exam, but more so with respect to time and cause and effect. In the short term, the latter group sees that material success comes without worship. But in fact past generations living in the same area were indeed more religious. They prayed all the time. The settlers to that land in question actually came there so that they would have freedom of worship. They left superior material conditions behind in favor of destitution, poverty, and isolation. They made this choice due simply to their desire to worship as they saw fit. Their efforts paved the way for the material success of the future generations.

[The Mayflower]When one is a little religiously inclined, they become familiar with different rituals aimed at achieving different results. If I want a healthy family, I do this certain worship designated for a specific time and place. If I want my child to enter adulthood with the proper consciousness, when they reach the appropriate age I will arrange for a priest to come to the house and do a specific ceremony. When someone in the family passes on, I follow specific guidelines for mourning. This is to show proper respect to both the departed and the Supreme Lord.

In the Vedic tradition there are so many such rituals. Every type of person is assigned some kind of religious practice. Even if you are a drunkard who can’t see clearly enough to avoid violence against innocent creatures, you get some rituals slated for your advancement in consciousness. That is the ultimate goal, after all, though it may not be revealed in the beginning. The first grade teacher doesn’t tell the students why they will need to know the alphabet. The teacher doesn’t go into great detail about how mathematics will be put to use all the time in adulthood. The children just accept the instruction, with the ultimate benefit coming later on.

So too the performers of the different religious rituals eventually work their way up towards full God consciousness; at least this is the case ideally. This consciousness is very difficult to instill in the beginning, for the living entity exiting the womb starts the discovery process immediately. They find so many things and then study them. They try this thing and that; whatever is appealing. They then constantly accept and reject these things, hoping to find that one thing that they will never have to reject; an acceptance which will bring real transcendence.

The innocent child doesn’t know any better, so if they are given real transcendence right away, they may mistakenly discount it as unimportant. They may assign something else a higher priority. Therefore the rituals help to gradually build the consciousness to the point that it can see things clearly. In this respect, the various rituals have appropriate times and circumstances. There are also times of impurity. For example, when a new child is born or when a family member passes on, the affected parties are considered impure. Therefore doing standard rituals is prohibited. The family should not do any kind of worship to procure material gain. We can think of it like not wanting to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.19“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

[Lord Krishna with cow]The ultimate objective is very difficult to achieve, and it can take many lifetimes. Once real God consciousness is there, the stipulations for time and circumstance vanish. This makes sense if we think about it. Is it ever a bad time to love someone? Is it inappropriate to think favorably of someone else? These actions can be harmful if the person in our mind is someone we should forget. The Supreme Lord, however, is the reservoir of all transcendental goodness. Therefore it is never wrong to think about Him. Indeed, it is an offense to ever equate thinking of Him in a mood of love with any ritual mentioned in the Vedas for material gain.

Doing so is an offense because real love for God is unmotivated and uninterrupted. Those who genuinely love Him never stop thinking of Him. And although they think of Him all the time, they feel like they are not worshiping Him enough. They feel as if they are the worst person in the world since they manage to continue living when He is not in their presence. This is the sentiment of Sita Devi referenced here from the Ramayana.

[Sita Devi]Sita is Hare, or the energy of God. She can never not think of her beloved husband, Shri Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord in the spiritual form of a warrior prince who roamed this earth during the ancient time period of the Treta Yuga. Though His lotus feet graced this earth so long ago, He continues to live on here through His names, forms, attributes and pastimes. He is always roaming a land somewhere, as there are innumerable universes in existence. Thus one can always think of Rama, wherever they are.

It is never an offense to worship Rama in love. This worship is known as bhakti-yoga, and it can take place anywhere. Here Sita Devi gives an example of bhakti-yoga practiced amidst enemies. She does not have a priest in the vicinity. She does not have an altar on which to direct various prayers. She does not even have a new dress to wear to the occasion of worship. Indeed, she is not even really praying. She is simply remembering her dear husband. She is thinking of how in comparison to her He is so great. She considers herself so low for not being a good enough wife. She feels bad for putting Him into distress, for He is presently looking for her. She had gone missing in the Dandaka forest after the fiendish king of Lanka stole her away in secret.

Even in lamentation one can worship the Supreme Lord. Even in circumstances that “try men’s souls,” one can remember the beloved husband of Sita. Not only is it not an offense to think in such a way, but it is a sign of a pure consciousness, one that no longer needs to rely on the rituals targeted for this benefit or that. Saying the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is an act of divine love. Therefore it is an offense to ever equate this chanting with any ritualistic process. As God is omnipresent, eternally existing, and ever benevolent, He can accept worship from any person, at any time, and at any place.

In Closing:

Offense against the holy name to make,

When to ritualistic process to equate.


Divine love fit for any time anywhere,

For gain or loss in devotee not a care.


Even amidst ogres of visages grim,

She thought of Rama, always devoted to Him.


Most humble Sita Devi even in circumstances sad,

Showed that for bhakti never a time bad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Am I Doing Enough

[Sita Devi's hand]“Shame on me, who am uncivilized, unchaste, and living a sinful life, for I continue to protect my life for even a moment without Him.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.7)

dhiṅmāmanāryāmasatīṃ yāhaṃ tena vinā kṛtā |
muhūrtamapi rakṣāmi jīvitaṃ pāpajīvitā ||

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One person goes to church every Sunday. They make the sacrifice because they think it is good for them. They skip the football pregame shows on television and the chance to sleep in on a day off. They instead visit their specific house of worship with their family. Another person swears allegiance to a specific religious organization. They get married through that institution and though they may not explicitly practice very often, they consider themselves to be God-fearing. Another person refuses to associate with any group that is considered cult-like, for they are a free spirit. They find out for themselves who the Supreme Lord is. They either read famous books or mentally speculate as to the cause of this creation.

From the discipline that descends from the rishis of India of ancient times, we learn that the true measure of religiosity is consciousness. In simpler terms, how often are you thinking of God? More specifically, how often are you actually thinking about His interests as opposed to what He does for you? If you get a good grade in school, you may thank the Lord for your good fortune. If you’re in trouble and you look to the heavens in distress, you may think that is religious as well. But how often do you actually contemplate His features? How often do you remember His pastimes, His disposition, His ability to transcend material dualities, and His supreme benevolence upon all creatures, large and small?

[Praying hands]The latter is considered legitimate consciousness of God, where each of the former aspects may eventually lead up to the ideal destination. The ancient science of the relationship to the Supreme was originally spoken at the beginning of the creation. This is the “beginning” for our understanding, for the shrewd mind picks up on the fact that time is infinite in both directions. We say there is a beginning, but there is always a beginning to that. There is always an after to any result as well. Human beings are baffled by infinity, which is one way to know that we can never be God. The Supreme Lord is the beginning of all beginnings and the end of all ends. One of the names for the science that describes Him is Vedanta, which means the end of knowledge. It is the conclusion to all theorems, postulates, and ideas for how things work.

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

That ancient science of the relationship to the Supreme also goes by the name “yoga.” To distinguish it from any exercise system concocted in the modern world, it can also be called “bhakti-yoga.” Bhakti-yoga is God consciousness. It is always thinking of God in a mood of love. Love does not mean always asking for things that we want. Love means offering. It means sharing and sacrificing. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that one of the principal methods of practicing bhakti-yoga is the sacrifice of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Lord Krishna]There is no need to be scared off by these Sanskrit words, as they are merely beautiful descriptions of the Supreme Lord and His attributes. “Krishna” says that He is all-attractive. And who can deny that? This world has attractiveness in rivers, ponds, lakes, forests and flowers. Why, then, should attractiveness be absent in the author to all these things? “Rama” says that the Supreme Lord is full of transcendental pleasure which can be shared with those willing to accept it. The participants in the playful pastimes of pleasure are known as the Lord’s energy, or Hara. “Hare” references this energy, of which there is a singular personality who excels in pleasing the Lord. She is the speaker of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana.

The saints of the bhakti-yoga tradition recommend chanting the aforementioned holy names of God on a set of japa beads as part of a daily practice, or sadhana. Depending on the exact tradition followed, the recommendation may vary slightly, but His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples say to chant the maha-mantra at least sixteen rounds a day. This means saying the mantra one hundred and eight times multiplied by sixteen. This is quite a formidable standard to maintain. To help in the effectiveness of the chanting and the focus necessary to stay true to the vow, sincere seekers of the Truth are advised to give up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

[Chanting beads]One who follows these regulations has sufficiently established the baseline standard recommended by the saints of the bhakti-yoga tradition. Does that mean everything stops there? Does the person suddenly become perfect in all ways? Do they never have to do anything else? Actually, it is quite natural for one to wonder if they are doing enough.

“I chant sixteen rounds a day, but is that all? Should I not be associating with other saintly people? I try my best to get out to visit these people when they gather together in homes and temples, but it is hard with my hectic schedule. I have a job to go to and a sadhana to keep up. I feel like I’m not doing enough. What can I do to be a better devotee? What can I do to be more in the favor of the Supreme Lord?”

One way to answer this question is to look to those who are always in God’s favor. Those who are loved by Him so much that the love cannot be measured can give us an idea of what it takes to feel satisfied in devotion. Of course, it is a trick question, as shown by Sita Devi. Here she laments her situation by speaking on her poor qualities. In truth, she is the greatest devotee. She is the Hare addressed in the maha-mantra. She is the original goddess of fortune, sometimes manifesting as Radha to Krishna and Lakshmi to Narayana. Whatever her external manifestation, she is always purely God conscious. She thinks of no one but her beloved Lord. She doesn’t need to explicitly practice any yoga. There is only one way for her to live: devotion.

[Sita Devi]Does she think that she is superior? Does she think that since she only thinks of her beloved husband Rama that she is the greatest devotee in the world? Actually, she thinks that she is unchaste, uncivilized and living a sinful life. She is none of these things, but her sentiment is genuine. She thinks these things because she has managed to live after being separated from Rama for a moment.

If God is great and full of attributes to which we are all attracted, and I consider myself pure in consciousness of Him, how is it that I can survive in His absence for a single second? I lament when my favorite sports team loses a big game. I get sad when someone says something mean to me. I am upset when my desires are frustrated. And yet these things aren’t close in comparison to a second’s loss of association of the beloved Personality of Godhead. If I am such a great devotee, how is it that I can continue to live when not personally in His company?

[Sita and Rama]Sita’s attitude is very nice, and it reveals a secret to success in devotion. The more inadequate one feels in their devotional practices, the more advanced they are. Sita is always with Rama, for His name alone is enough to qualify for association. He is always in her mind and she in His. Here she is in difficult circumstances, kept in a foreign land against her will. She is unable to rub Rama’s lotus feet, make Him smile with her gentle behavior, and enjoy with Him the springtime blossoming of flowers. She feels that she shouldn’t be alive after having been separated from Him, but actually Rama never stops thinking of her. He will come to rescue her, and so the same fate awaits the devoted souls who always look for ways to increase their consciousness of God.

In Closing:

Daily chanting sixteen rounds,

Keeping my practices on solid ground.


But am I actually doing enough?

To keep sadhu association is tough.


As Sita considered herself low,

That she is most advanced know.


Devoted soul always looking for more ways,

Catching favor of Lord, with them always stays.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gang Mentality

[Shri Hanuman]“Hiding himself in the Shimshupa tree, that monkey Hanuman listened to the Rakshasis frightening Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 24.14)

avalīnaḥ sa nirvākyo hanumān śiṃśupādrume ||
sītāṃ saṃtarjayantīstā rāksasīraśṛṇot kapiḥ |

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There are certain truths that we know inherently. Others don’t have to convince us of them. We don’t even question them. For instance, stealing is bad. You shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you. This only makes sense. Would we like it if someone else took what we have? If someone came into our home and stole our computer and television, would we like it? Therefore why would we want to do that to someone else? There are many other basic truths established in the same way.

As there is some independence in the material world, any person can act in any way they choose. Not that they will always get the desired result, but they can still opt for any behavior they wish. This means some will have no problem with stealing. They will make up every excuse in the book as justification. Meanwhile, it is simply their lust or their cheating propensity which drives them to their behavior which goes against basic truths. Nevertheless, in their minds they think they are behaving righteously.

It’s difficult enough to argue with someone who is completely wrong on a basic value issue. It’s even more difficult when there is the gang mentality matched up against righteousness. If you know that stealing is wrong, but you’re in a room full of people who think the opposite, the situation is very frustrating. You can be completely sinless, full of virtues such as honesty, kindness and compassion, and the other side will still bully you until you give in to their position. This was the case a long time ago in the Ashoka grove in Lanka.

[Sita Devi's hand]A well-wishing party had to watch as this all went down. He knew that stealing was bad. He knew that adultery was not called for. He knew that the lady situated in righteousness was correct in her stance. And yet he had to watch as grim-visaged female ogres harassed her. The pious lady was named Sita and she was already married. Her marriage was the issue at hand. The king of Lanka wanted her for himself. He knew that Sita was married to Rama, but that didn’t stop him from taking her away from Rama’s side in secret.

Sita did not budge from her position. She insulted Ravana by accurately pointing out his shortcomings. She spoke to him on the issue of basic decency, where one doesn’t force themselves upon another. She also reiterated the fact that she was a human being and thus not fit to be the wife of an ogre. Ravana was a Rakshasa, which is a species prone to man-eating. A person who eats cats and dogs is considered uncivilized in the community of meat-eaters, so we can just imagine how lacking in values a man-eater is.

Sita was right and Ravana was wrong. Ravana had to get his way, however. So he ordered his female attendants to scare Sita into submission. They surrounded her and peppered her with hypothetical scenarios and bleak futures.

“You should enjoy with Ravana while you still have your youth. Once your youth is gone, you will no longer be attractive. Rama is just a pauper. He lives in the wilderness, bereft of His kingdom. Why would you choose to be with someone so weak? Why not enjoy with Ravana, who lives in palatial mansions and has so much strength? You’re insane for not accepting his offer to become his chief queen. You will be so powerful if you accept his offer.”

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman was sent by Rama to find Sita. He was watching all of this while hiding in a tree right above. Imagine seeing someone you care about being bullied in such a manner. It will trouble you greatly, will it not? The question then is why Rama would subject Hanuman to this torture. We know from the Vedas that Rama is the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in an apparently human form. Sita is His eternal consort in the spiritual sky, and Hanuman is forever devoted to them both.

God works in mysterious ways indeed. For the devoted souls, every reaction to their actions is monitored by the Supreme Lord. This is a special mercy not available to the non-devoted souls. If one person wants to eat ice cream and another wants to eat pizza, why should a higher authority bother settling the dispute? In either case someone will eat. The enjoyment from such eating is temporary. Any variety of material enjoyment is temporary. The form and circumstance of the living entity facilitate the various reactions. Since the enjoyments are all temporary, they don’t catch the interest of the Supreme Lord.

The devoted souls only want one thing: continued devotion. This solves the mystery as to the situation at hand. Sita’s love for Rama increases through separation. Hanuman’s attachment for Sita increases through watching her endure a difficult situation, where her devotion is tested. Hanuman to this day constantly sings the glories of Sita and Rama. He remained hidden in that tree, just waiting to pounce on the opportunity to give life-giving news to Sita about Rama’s plan to rescue her. Later on, after Ravana was defeated and Sita freed, Hanuman wanted to exact punishment on those Rakshasis who had harassed Sita. He remembered everything he saw while perched on that tree.

[Hanuman worshiping]Though Sita prevented Hanuman from attacking the female ogres, kindly forgiving them and once again showing her compassionate nature, Hanuman’s concern for her welfare never diminished. And she in turn remained ever affectionate towards Ramadutta, the fearless, courageous, capable, and dedicated messenger of the Supreme Lord. The gang in Lanka thought they were getting to Sita, but all they were doing was further motivating a fierce fighter like Hanuman, who on being on the side of righteousness would eventually prevail.

In Closing:

Even when you know you are right,

Difficult when gang of foes to fight.


Not easy on your stance to stay,

Herd pressuring you to give way.


Hanuman saw all of this from tree,

Harassment of Sita, who of sin was free.


Attachment increased in that beloved servant,

To this day supporter of them most fervent.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Power By Worship

[Sita's lotus feet]“As you are very strong, the brother of the master of the treasury [Kuvera] and possess a great military force, why did you have to lure Rama away to come and do your wife-robbery?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand 22.22)

śūreṇa dhanadabhrātrā balaiḥ samuditena ca |
apihya rāmaṃ kasmāddhi dāracauryaṃ tvayā kṛtam ||

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One way to know the difference between the material and the spiritual is that the material relies on others for any potency to be exercised. This is true in the obvious sense that matter is dull and lifeless without a spiritual spark and also in the subtle sense when it relates to strength and opulence devoid of a consciousness connected with the Divine. In this instance, the checkmate style question is posed to the greatest materialist, one who thought he had all the strength in the world.

[Blackboard]In a material consciousness I don’t know about spirit. Perhaps I have never been made aware. In my youth, I was urged on in my education so that I could get a good job in adulthood. From a good job I could support a spouse and family and thus live happily ever after. As these were my priorities, whatever got in the way became a sort of enemy, something to be defeated. You defeat something by either fighting it head on or removing it from your path.

In another instance I am made aware of the spiritual science, that the soul is the vital force within everything and that life is meant to go beyond the temporary pleasures of eating and sleeping. After hearing such wisdom, I cast it aside out of ignorance. Perhaps I was already too immersed in the previous mindset of “rise in the material ranks as much as you can.” The wisdom itself became one of the aforementioned obstacles. Therefore I tried to eliminate it from my path.

But the wisdom is difficult to remove from the mind when there are others who are following it. Suffering from the fever of my pursuit, I then miss the obvious fact that seeing and hearing this wisdom should have no bearing on my material success. Whether others want to be spiritually immersed or not should not matter where I end up. But I think otherwise. There is competition for material success. Not every person can be the leader of the nation. Not every person earns the top dollars in a company. Top means the highest, and when there is a summit there is naturally so much underneath it. If everyone were at the top, there would be no such thing as a top.

Thus even without touching on the spiritual component, I notice that my success in material life is threatened by others pursuing their own success. Whereas I feverishly pursue a temporary position of prominence, the spiritualists remain to themselves. Outside of the odd fanatics belonging to organized institutions of religious life, for the most part the spiritualists are happy in their own worship space. I should have no reason to be threatened by them.

Ah, but their words can diminish my influence. If my desire is to be at the top of a specific field, that implies that others will honor me. If no one knows that I am the leader of the nation, what is the significance to the post? If I win a championship in a sport and no one watches the game or knows who I am, the joy of the victory is diminished.

[Deity worship]The genuine spiritual seekers do not suffer from this problem. Whether others know them or not is of no concern. Those on the godly side take their happiness from their relationship to the Supreme. He is defined in one way as the source of everything. Whatever you think is good in life, He is the original cause. Even if you are mired in alcoholism and can’t live without your beer, you can still appreciate Him, for without Him that taste you enjoy wouldn’t exist.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the speaker is of the godly nature. She was recently living peacefully in the remote wilderness with her husband and His younger brother. They weren’t bothering anyone. Prior to that they hadn’t done anything to anyone, either. And yet they met this cruel fate through the jealousy of her husband’s step-mother. Still, protocol dictated that they follow the orders of the elders without opposition. The trio did not have a problem renouncing home for fourteen years since they were all righteously situated. They didn’t need opulence to survive. They had their belief in God, and more importantly, they had service to Him directly in the form of Rama.

[Sita and Rama]Rama is Sita’s husband, and Sita is the speaker in this instance. Rama is also the Supreme Lord in a manifest form as a warrior prince. It is not that the attributeless supreme divine energy suddenly accepts material elements and then becomes subject to their influence. He is the source of the material nature, so He is never under its orders. In fact, the dichotomy of spiritual and material applies only to us, His innumerable children, sparks of spirit which emanate from Him. For God, there is only spirit, and that includes His transcendental forms which roam this earth from time to time.

By going to the forest and living peacefully and happily there, Rama showed that God does not require worship from anyone. If no one in the world is honoring Him, He is still in the same position. He is just as great when one person is worshiping as when the entire world is immersed in thoughts of Him. Indeed, in one sense everyone is always His devotee. It’s just that some choose to worship the external energy, which brings inferior results. Worship of the internal energy is superior, as one doesn’t even need the support of anyone else. In worship of the internal energy, what others are doing is of no concern.

Ravana was a worshiper of the external energy. He was a quintessential materialist. He knew the Vedas inside and out, supposedly. The Vedas are something like the Bible and Koran except they are much more comprehensive. They exist since time immemorial, and they are only written down when necessary for man’s remembrance. Ravana knew all the rituals and procedures of the Vedas, but he did not understand their essence. He maintained his materialistic view when executing religious rituals, and therefore he never let go of his fear and envy. He was envious of Rama. This factual emotion in him is also symbolic of the general attitude of the materialist; they are envious of God.

Ravana previously boasted to Sita of his tremendous fighting prowess and strength. He proudly mentioned his relation to Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods. He also spoke of his military force in the kingdom of Lanka. Despite having these, he had to use trickery in taking Sita away from Rama in the forest. Never mind that Sita wasn’t bothering anyone. Never mind that Rama was part of the warrior race, so He was more than ready to fight with Ravana. The envious materialist ruling the land of Lanka inherently understood that his capabilities were limited. Therefore he had to use backhanded means to achieve his objectives.

[Sita Devi]His success was only temporary. Though he physically took Sita back to his kingdom, he could never have her. Brute force was useless in that regard. Her heart is always with Rama. The pure devotee can never be bought off with money or promises of an opulent lifestyle. They cannot be forced to give up their devotion. This indicates real strength, one that comes only from genuine spiritual life. The materialist is always helpless in their pursuits, as when they are not supported by the entire world they feel threatened. Sita, on the other hand, was attacked by the greatest materialist and still never relinquished her position in greatness.

In Closing:

As God’s blessings they seek,

Spiritualist is considered weak.


Money instead they should go after,

Be happy now, mind not the hereafter.


But from Sita Devi just see,

How powerful devotee can be.


Her affection Ravana tried to buy,

But unshakeable since on Rama to rely.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The One With The Watched Pot

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)

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Bhagavad-gita, 9.14Jan was ready to go home. It had been a fun day. Her good friend Megan was getting ready to marry her sweetheart of many years, Steve. In preparation, Megan reserved a day for trying out different wedding dresses, and so she invited her closest friends to join her. They were in the wedding party as well, so they got to look at some of the bridesmaid outfits.

[Wedding dress shopping]Jan watched with her friends as Megan tried on dress after dress. The establishment kindly served wine throughout, and all consumed to their hearts’ content, with Jan being the lone exception. When it came time to go home, Sally asked if someone could give her a ride, as she did not feel fit to drive. Jan was more than happy to oblige. On the ride home, they chatted about the experience.

“Megan’s dress is so gorgeous,” said Sally.

“I know. She is going to make such a beautiful bride. I am so happy for her and Steve, “ replied Jan.

“It took him so long to propose. They are a cute couple, but don’t you think she talks about him too much? The whole day was just ‘Steve this’ and ‘Steve that’.”

“You’re right,” replied Jan laughingly. “It’s like she has Steve consciousness!”

A little later on in the ride, the discussion turned more serious.

“Thanks for giving me a ride home,” said Sally. “I was in no condition to drive, with all that wine they gave us. I drank way more than everyone else.”

“Oh, it’s no problem.”

“You’re so lucky that you don’t drink. I think I need to cut down. I had too much today. But then it tastes so good. How are you able to go without it?”

“It’s not that hard, really.”

“I see, but aren’t you tempted in the least? I’ll definitely give it up if I become pregnant, but short of that I can’t see going more than a week or so without at least one drink.”

“I really have no interest in it.”

“So, you’re not suffering?” asked Sally, who always wanted to know the real reason for her friend’s principles. This was as good a time to ask as any, she thought.

“Actually, whatever good feelings you get from drinking, I have a pure version of that feeling all the time, “ continued Jan.

[Lord Krishna]“Wow, that’s deep. How are you able to feel that way?”

“Well, I don’t want to get all religious on you, but it comes from practicing bhakti-yoga. Basically, one of the core philosophical points is that we’re all meant to serve somebody. In Sanskrit that property is called dharma.”

“What do you mean by serving? Like doing good to others?”

“Sort of, but not quite. Dharma relates to the soul, which is tied to the Supreme Soul, who is God. So the soul is really meant to serve God. It’s not based on faith or assumption or fear. It’s just the way things are. So if you serve God, you actually become really happy.”

“Oh, okay. But what does drinking have to do with it? Why can’t you drink and serve God at the same time?”

“The service can be in any kind of activity, but in order to qualify as bhakti-yoga, the consciousness has to be right. Like your heart has to be in it. Sort of like how Megan’s really into Steve and this wedding, when you’re serving God your consciousness has to be pure. Drinking makes the consciousness impure.”

Sally admitted she was having a hard time following, though she couldn’t disagree with any of the points Jan had made. She was still a little concerned that her friend was sacrificing too much.

“But don’t you think you’re missing out on a lot of fun? I believe in God too, don’t get me wrong. It just seems like you’re sacrificing a lot to meet some better end in the afterlife.”

“That’s the thing, though. It’s not only for the afterlife. It’s to be happy in this life. Service is what makes each of us happy, and when we serve God we are happiest. It means finding true happiness in this life.”

“Then what about the afterlife? Where do you go?”

“If you’re practicing bhakti-yoga purely, you don’t really care about that. In any other kind of service, even if it seems religious on the outside, you’re always worrying. Megan is so happy now, but going forward she will always worry about Steve and how their marriage is going. That’s only natural, because one day it has to end. We’re all going to die, so whatever we do outside of service to God is temporary, which means we’ll always be afraid.”

“So, you don’t worry?” asked Sally.

[Lord Krishna deity worship]“Not about the afterlife. It’s sort of like that saying ‘a watched pot never boils’. Whatever happens after death is in the hands of the higher authorities. I can only enjoy life now. And I choose to enjoy by serving God through chanting His names, reading about Him, and always thinking about Him. I leave the rest to Him. I am confident that this is the right way to enjoy, too. We’re all destined for the same fate of death, but if you’re always worrying, you’re not enjoying life, are you?”

“No, that’s true. This all seems pretty interesting, but I’m about to pass out. Promise me you’ll tell me more tomorrow when I’m refreshed.”

“You bet. Call me in the morning so that I know you’re okay.”

“Will do. Thanks for dropping me home.”

[Maha-mantra]After dropping off her friend, Jan went home and happily chanted on her japa beads: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. She pondered over her good fortune of having so many close friends and their tolerance for her lifestyle choices. Most of all she felt thankful for the opportunity to always serve her beloved Krishna by calling out His names and describing His glories to others.

In Closing:

When so many things to go without.

On life’s fun not missing out?


Devotees this way questioned,

When four principles mentioned.


But true happiness in service know,

Best when directed to Krishna so.


Joy in this life, during and after abound,

For devotion in whatever circumstances found.