Saturday, March 22, 2014

The One With The Pranks

[Krishna and Balarama stealing butter]“If we keep our stock of yogurt, butter and milk in a solitary dark place, your Krishna and Balarama find it in the darkness by the glaring effulgence of the ornaments and jewels on Their bodies. If by chance They cannot find the hidden butter and yogurt, They go to our little babies and pinch their bodies so that they cry, and then They go away. If we keep our stock of butter and yogurt high on the ceiling, hanging on a swing, although it is beyond Their reach, They arrange to reach it by piling all kinds of wooden crates over the grinding machine.” (Gopis speaking to mother Yashoda, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

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As is natural for children in the course of growing up, clown-related material, gadgets, gaffes, tricks, and pranks become intriguing at some point or another. Cliff’s children were no different. Joseph and Paul were fifteen and eight respectively, and during a particular time they were very fond of pranks. They played them on each other, on their friends, and even on their mother. Then one day they decided to try them out on Cliff.

[Hand buzzer prank]“Hey Dad, how’s it going today?” Paul asked, as he held out his hand with a curious smile. Cliff could tell something was going on, so he responded, “I don’t know. You tell me.” He then took Paul’s outstretched hand and pressed it against Paul’s stomach. Immediately a buzzing sound occurred, and everyone in the room laughed.

“How did you know?” Paul asked.

“I know everything. You should know better than to play tricks on your dad.”

Of course, for the enthusiastic children this was not the end. Their father having baffled their trick only gave them more motivation to try again. In the ensuing weeks, they tried all the classic pranks. They put a whoopee cushion underneath Cliff’s seat at dinner. Joseph asked Cliff to reach for a handkerchief that was attached to his pocket. Paul wore a flower on his jacket and asked his dad to have a closer look. In all such cases, the father foiled the trick. And every time he was anything but a gracious winner. “Will you guys just give it up already? I will always outsmart you. You can’t trick the master; I’ve done all these things and more in my life.”

The children had one more trick up their sleeves. This one would surely get their father, they thought. To make sure this was the case, they enlisted the help of their mother. One day they approached her in the living room while she was watching television.

“Mom, what can we do to finally get Dad?” they asked. “He’s been rubbing it in our faces all this time.”

“Hmm, I don’t like all this trickery, but I too would like to wipe that smug look off his face. You know what would get him, is if one of you did something that he really hates.”

“Oh this is great, what should we do, Mom?”

“Let me think. Well, you know how your father really doesn’t like tattoos? Maybe one of you can get a fake one. But it would have to be one that looks almost real.”

“Mom, they have those, you know,” responded Joseph. “I’ve seen kids in school with them. They’re like these sleeves that go on your arms. The kids would get into trouble, and then take them off in front of the principal.”

“Oh this sounds great. Okay, so I think Joseph, you should get one of those and reveal it after dinner. Your dad is sure to flip out.”

The kids and their mom thought they had a foolproof plan to finally get Cliff. The only problem was that Cliff happened to overhear this conversation from the kitchen. He knew everything that was going to happen, and so he planned accordingly.

[Fake tattoo sleeves]At dinner the next night, according to plan Joseph revealed his fake tattoos by taking off his sweatshirt. “Look what I got today, Mom and Dad. Don’t you like it?” Both the mother and Paul pretended to be shocked and outraged. On the inside they were giggling, as they awaited Cliff’s tirade. What they got, however, was just the opposite.

“Wow, son, that looks great,” said a seemingly pleased Cliff with a smile on his face. “The only problem is that you got this tattoo on only one arm. You need symmetry, my dear boy. A friend of mine is a great tattoo artist. We’ll go to him tomorrow. He’ll do your other arm for you. We’ll get something really nice.”

Joseph was now mortified, as was the mother. She was as much against tattoos for her children as Cliff. “Cliff, honey, don’t you think this one set of tattoos is enough?” “Nonsense, my dear,” responded Cliff. “The boy will look like a fool walking around school with tattoos on only one arm. Tomorrow we will go and fix him up. I am very excited.”

So afraid of the prospect of getting a real tattoo, Joseph started to cry. Both the mother and Paul also were on the verge of tears in pleading with Cliff to change his mind. Then, while smiling ear to ear, Cliff dropped the hammer. “Of course, I’m not sure if my friend can do this kind of tattoo.” Cliff then ripped off the fake tattoo sleeve that Joseph was wearing. Cliff then pointed in his son’s face and said, “Got ya! I told you. Don’t mess with the master.” Paul and the mother begrudgingly laughed, and Joseph was now so relieved to not have to get a real tattoo.

That night, as Cliff was tucking him in to sleep, Paul started praising his father.

“Dad, you really do know everything. It’s amazing.”

“Well, in all honesty son, I’m not all-knowing. I overheard your little plan from the kitchen.”

“Oh, that’s funny. We thought we were going to get you good.”

“But you know there is one person who is all-knowing. He is the Supreme Lord. One of His names is Krishna. When He roamed this earth a long time ago, He was also a kind of prankster. In His sweet, childhood form He would steal butter from the homes of the neighbors in Vrindavana.”

[Krishna stealing butter]“He was a butter thief, Dad? That’s really funny.”

“Yeah, but the neighbors thought they could outsmart Krishna. They knew He was special; though they didn’t fully realize that He was the Supreme Lord Himself, who rests in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. Since He was in their hearts, He knew everything they were doing. They tried very hard to hide the butter from Him. They would put the butter pots in the cupboard and place them very high up, somewhere young children couldn’t possibly reach.”

“Did Krishna outsmart them, then?”

“He sure did. He and His friends devised a scheme where they would assemble on top of one another, sort of like a human pyramid. Krishna and His brother Balarama would then reach up and poke holes in the butter pots. Then the butter would effortlessly flow into their awaiting mouths.”

“I bet that tasted so good! Did they ever get caught?”

“Sometimes they did. Krishna and Balarama were beautifully decorated with jewels by their mothers. So in that dark room there was still plenty of light. They were sometimes caught by this light, and the neighbors would then bring Krishna to His mother, Yashoda, for punishment.”

“Did He get in trouble?”

“The ladies would make their accusations to Yashoda, but then while looking at Krishna they would lose all of their anger. They would be so happy instead just by looking at Krishna. Such is the magic of the Supreme Lord. Even in so-called stealing He pleases others.”

[Lord Krishna]Paul asked to hear more about the adventures of Krishna, and Cliff promised to reveal a lifetime’s worth of stories in due time, for the glories of the topics of the darling of Vrindavana are without limit. The butter thief knows all, and so if one desires His association, Krishna finds ways to give it to them.

In Closing:

As in each and every heart to reside,

To find butter even when others to hide.


One upon each other the boys stacked,

Jewels from mothers giving light they lacked.


Sometimes by gopis Krishna caught,

And in front of Yashoda was brought.


Changed their minds after making punishment’s appeal,

Pleased were they that their butter Krishna did steal.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The One With the Dominion

[Prasadam]“In the Bhagavad-gita (9.26) the Lord directly states that He accepts vegetarian food from the hands of a pure devotee. Therefore a human being should not only become a strict vegetarian but should also become a devotee of the Lord, offer the Lord all his food and then partake of such prasadam, or the mercy of God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, 1 Purport)

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Ralph was very jealous. His elder brother Ed just got a new tape recorder for his birthday. Ed didn’t mind showing it off, either. He started taping everything, from conversations to music playing on the radio.

“Listen to this song, Ralph,” Ed would say. “I heard it on the radio before, and thanks to my new tape recorder, I can listen to it all the time.” The young Ralph wasn’t very amused. On the outside he looked on with quiet attention, but on the inside he wanted one for himself.

[Tape recorders]One day he decided to approach his father. “Dad, do you use that tape recorder that’s just sitting there on your desk? Ed has one, and I want one too.” “What are you going to do with a tape recorder?” asked his father. “Your brother already has one, so if you need to tape anything, just ask him to borrow it.”

A few weeks passed and Ralph kept nagging his father about the tape recorder. Finally, his father assented. His wall of opposition worn down from the many requests, the father said Ralph could use the tape recorder he asked of as he saw fit.

“So it’s really mine, Dad?”

“Yes, son, it is.”

“I can do whatever I want with it?”

“Yes, it’s all yours. Now go play in your room.”

Ralph was just a young child, so he didn’t really have much use for the device. He didn’t really have anything to record. He tended to follow his elder brother Ed, so whatever Ed was interested in Ralph was too. If Ed already recorded something, there was no need for Ralph to do the same.

[Fantastik cleaner]One day Ralph decided to do a little experiment. He had seen his mother using a bottle of cleaning solution and spraying it throughout the kitchen. Ralph figured his tape recorder could benefit from the same treatment. Just as he was about to start, Ed happened to walk into the room.

“What are you doing, Ralph?”

“I’m going to try spraying this bottle of stuff on my tape recorder.”

“Are you crazy? You’re going to break it.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you will. Dad is going to be furious with you.”

“Well, he said it’s mine. I can do whatever I want with it.”

So Ralph went ahead and sprayed the solution all over the device. He sprayed the outside, the inside, and even the little holes designated for the microphone and earphones. Sure enough, the device stopped working. Ed couldn’t pass up the chance to look righteous, so he told their father what had happened.

“Ralph, did you spray cleaning solution in here?”

“Yes, Dad, I did.”


“I wanted to.”

“Well, you can’t do that. I think it’s broken now. These things are expensive.”

“Yeah, but Dad, you said that it was mine now, that I could do whatever I wanted with it.”

“That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and break it. That’s not what control means. I expected you to be responsible with it. Why would I give something to you if you only want to destroy it?”

Many years later, when Ralph was an adult, that incident came to his mind again. Ralph had his friend Marshall over to the house, and they were watching a football game on television. Marshall had just attended a wedding the night before, and so that came up in the discussion at one point.

“So, what kind of food did they have last night?” asked Ralph.

“The usual choices were there. I had checked off ‘chicken’ on the invitation card,” said Marshall.

[Wedding invitation food choices]“Oh, I see. Yeah, the last wedding I went to had the same card. My friend told me to not check anything off and that the venue would make something vegetarian for me.”

“Yeah? What did they make for you?”

“It was some avocado, potato thing. I have no idea what it was, but it didn’t taste too bad.”

“You vegetarians. It must be tough eating out.”

“It is. That’s why I usually eat at home.”

“So, what’s the reason for the vegetarian thing again? It’s just family tradition? It’s your religion?”

Ralph then explained that while his family was mostly vegetarian, the tradition had its roots in righteousness. The principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, especially with respect to unnecessary violence, was strongly adhered to in the Vedic tradition that Ralph’s family inherited.

“It’s more of a respect thing,” Ralph continued. “There’s no need to kill other animals for food, if you really think about it. The cow is especially dear since it is a mother. It creates milk simply out of love. It is considered very bad to kill a mother.”

“I see. But what about the concept of man having dominion over the animal kingdom? The animals kill each other, so why shouldn’t we kill them?” asked Marshall.

[Lord Krishna with cows]“Well, then I can ask why we should act like the animals, who are less intelligent than us. I see someone jumping off a bridge, does it mean I have to do the same? And dominion doesn’t give a blanket license to kill. It means that man has control over the animals, for the purposes of habitation and the like. If a bear comes to my home and attacks, I have a right to defend myself. If I want to cultivate the land and start a community, I am allowed to keep out wild animals for safety purposes. But dominion doesn’t mean that I have the green light to systematically round up all the creatures that taste good and then kill them.”

“I see. That makes sense. I mean it’s not like we kill all animals. We take care of cats and dogs, almost treating them like humans.”

“Yeah, exactly. So the Vedic idea is to extend that same compassion to all creatures, for every living entity is a spirit soul at the core. Dominion means responsibility. There is an incident from my childhood which sort of illustrates this point. One time I begged my father to give me a tape recorder…”

Ralph then proceeded to tell the story of how he had destroyed the tape recorder after it had been given to him.

“Oh man, I can’t believe you did that,” said a seemingly incredulous Marshall. “What did you think the cleaning solution was going to do? How did you think that it wasn’t going to break?”

“Hey, I was only eight years old, man. But anyway, that sort of explains how we should treat those we have responsibility over. In our family we don’t eat meat also for a larger reason. We try to offer the food that we eat to God first. He doesn’t need this from us, but He is kind enough to accept it. In the Bhagavad-gita, He says that He accepts fruits, flowers, leaves, or even a little water if it’s offered with devotion. He doesn’t accept meat. So if you really want to know, that is the origin of vegetarianism. It’s the natural diet of the yogi, or one who is trying to connect with the Supreme Absolute Truth.”

[Prasadam plate]In this way Ralph continued describing the ins and outs of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, to his good friend. The afternoon was spent very happily, so much so that the football game on the television went practically ignored. And best of all, that embarrassing incident from his childhood ended up giving Ralph an opening for discussing his beloved Krishna.

In Closing:

Intelligence in man the highest,

Dominion over creatures to lowest.


But how such power to be used?

Kill any and all that one to choose?


Like over dependents to protect,

Compassion Supreme Lord expects.


Origin of vegetable diet this principle,

Offering to Krishna practice’s pinnacle.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The One With The Pregnancy

[Prahlada Maharaja]“When he was in the womb of his mother, Prahlada Maharaja listened to the words of Narada Muni. One cannot imagine how the baby in embryo could hear Narada, but this is spiritual life; progress in spiritual life cannot be obstructed by any material condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.7.1 Purport)

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Madri was overjoyed. Finally, her dream had come true. In fact, it was the dream shared by both she and her husband.

“Mom, it finally happened,” said an excited Madri over the phone to her mother. “You are going to be a grandmother!” Her mother was thrilled beyond belief. That night Madri and her husband had her mother and father over for dinner. They were the new proud grandparents-to-be. They had been waiting for this day.

“Now, you’re going to have to prepare for many big changes,” advised Madri’s mother, who was always in a parental mood around her daughter. “Your body is going to change. Your mood swings will be sudden and often. You will have to be very patient.”

As a few months went by, the words from the mother bore out on schedule. There was morning sickness, sudden cravings for food, and wild mood swings.

“Mom, I don’t know how you dealt with this four times. I’m having trouble, and this is only my first child,” Madri said to her mother one day over the phone. “The other day Vijay brought home some flowers for me and it made me so happy I started to cry. Then he said he was going out that night for his weekly bowling match with his friends. All of a sudden I started yelling at him uncontrollably. Later on I apologized, but I wish I could have better control over myself.”

“I think I have just the thing for you,” responded the mother. “I’ll come over sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, try to stay calm. The key is to be active. You don’t want to sit around all the time. I know it’s tough carrying my grandchild, and so it’s easier to not do anything. If you stay active, however, it’ll be better for both you and your child. You should also avoid spicy foods.”

[Krishna book]The next day Madri’s mother paid a visit. Madri noticed that she had an extra bag with her. “What’s that, Mom? Did you bring me a gift?” “Yes, just a few things,” said the mother as she started to open the bag. “This is a book that I want you to read.” She handed her daughter a copy of the original Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

“What’s this, Mom?”

“It’s a book about Krishna. It’s filled with delightful pastimes. I read a similar book in India back when I was around your age. It is our family tradition that the women who are pregnant with child read or hear about the Supreme Lord. That makes the pregnancy very auspicious.”

“Why is that?” asked Madri.

“The child has a good chance of retaining that knowledge when they are born. There is the famous story of Prahlada Maharaja. When he was in the womb of his mother, he heard instructions on devotion to God from the celebrated Narada Rishi. When the boy was born, he was instantly a devotee. He was such an exalted soul that he remained protected by God directly. So by reading this, hopefully your child will be born a devotee as well.”

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]The mother then took out a picture of a young Krishna being held in the lap of mother Yashoda. “I also want you to meditate on this picture for a little bit every day,” instructed Madri’s mother. “My mother gave me a similar picture when I was pregnant. This is also part of our family traditions.

Madri had always held her mother in the highest esteem, so she followed her instructions without any opposition. Every night she would read from the Krishna book, which is a summary study of the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, an ancient Vedic text. Though she was initially reading only to satisfy her mother’s desire, pretty soon Madri took an interest. She especially liked the pastimes of Krishna with mother Yashoda. Madri was soon to be a mother herself, and so she hoped to love her child the same way that Yashoda loved Krishna.

When she had gotten married, Madri learned various rituals for worship from her mother. Thus she was already somewhat familiar with the image of Krishna. She would perform arati, or the offering of lamps, every morning and night. She would offer a little fruit and then distribute the remnants to her husband and any guests who would come. In her home, this was known as persadi. “You never say ‘no’ to persadi,” is what Madri would tell others, for this is what she heard often as a child from her own mother.

But now in reading the Krishna book and taking time to meditate on the sweet image of Yashoda’s delight, Madri started to see beyond the rituals. She began to develop an attachment to Krishna, who is described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Krishna book by its commentator, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. She relished the book so much that she read it a few times during the course of her pregnancy. She couldn’t get enough of Krishna, and so she never tired of hearing about Him.

[Lord Krishna with cow]Eventually the time for her child’s birth arrived. After a short time in labor, Madri became a mother for the first time, giving birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. In consultation with a family priest, the boy was named Govinda, which is one of the names for Krishna. It means one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. Govinda indeed was the delight of Madri, and not surprisingly, shortly thereafter it was seen that he had an automatic attraction for the worship his mother performed on a daily basis. In his childhood years, he would always ask to be allowed to perform some service. He relished ringing the bell for Krishna in the puja room, and he particularly liked distributing persadi to others.

At family gatherings, others would marvel at the boy’s natural inclination towards devotional service. “Oh Madri, blessed are you, for your young child is spontaneously attracted to Lord Hari. We pray that one day he grows up to be a great devotee. You must have taught him well.” Some had a different take. “Oh, you better be careful. He will grow up to be a sannyasi and then leave home. He won’t want to get married, and you won’t have any grandchildren. Better to keep the sacred books away from him.”

Madri was not concerned. “I’m just happy that he is happy. Whatever path he chooses, we will support him. The good Lord has indeed blessed us.” She knew the real secret: that the boy had heard of Krishna while in the womb. For that benediction, she remained forever thankful to her mother. From that one book alone, the family was blessed with the appearance of a devotee in their household, who invigorated everyone with his enthusiasm to always worship God and chant His names. Through motherly affection, both Madri and her son always swam in the ocean of bliss that is devotional service.

In Closing:

A new child to mother to come,

How to make impurities none?


Of Supreme Lord good for mother to read,

With Krishna-bhakti child in womb to feed.


For spontaneous attachment then the chance,

Through devotion glory of family to enhance.


For parent best way for love to show,

Guiding beloved child to Krishna ever so.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Star of The Book of Beauty

[Shri Hanuman]“The mighty Hanuman had overheard everything in truth of what was said by Sita and Trijata, as well as the threats of the Rakshasis.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.1)

hanumān api vikrāntaḥ sarvam śuśrāva tattvataḥ |
sītāyāḥ trijaṭāyāḥ ca rākṣasīnām ca tarjanam ||

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In the famous Vedic text called the Ramayana, the section featuring the exploits of a heroic messenger gone in search of a missing princess is known as the Sundara-kanda, or the book of beauty. In the opening segments a warrior in a monkey form suddenly realizes his mastery over the eight-fold mysticism known as ashtanga-yoga. He then fearlessly leaps across a massive ocean, making for an amazing and beautiful sight. Yet the section of the work also features torment, lamentation, and threats and insults directed at an innocent princess. Does this not pose a contradiction?

[Shri Hanuman]Indeed, the princess was gentle and sweet. She was known throughout the world as the daughter of King Janaka. No one could say a bad word about that king. He never swerved from the virtuous path. A king has all the power in the world. At their direction people’s lives can end. With a simple edict, land can be confiscated and lives can be ruined. With great power comes great responsibility. If you are the leader, everyone will look to you in times of trouble. If there is any problem in the community, the citizens will think of any mistake the leader may have made. An ordinary person can make a mistake and not have it do much harm. If the leader makes a mistake, the entire fabric of society slowly unweaves.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.21“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

Janaka always followed the righteous path, and so did his daughter. She had malice towards none. She never addressed another person in harsh tones. She had respect for all creatures, including those living in the wilderness. She was thus the perfect match for her husband Rama, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Rama too never harmed anyone without cause. He applied force only in defense of the innocent.

[Sita and Rama going to the forest]To that Rama and that Sita came the unfortunate fate of banishment from their beloved kingdom. Imagine being evicted from your home after you have done nothing wrong. You paid off the mortgage, kept up with all your bills, and were generally loved throughout the community. You had to leave because of a mistake someone else made. This is sort of what happened to Sita and Rama, and they accepted the order without issue. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along as well.

In the Sundara-kanda we find descriptions of Sita’s great lamentation from being separated from Rama. Though an innocent lady, she finds herself amidst ghoulish creatures who regularly feast on human flesh. They are constantly intoxicated, keeping in line with the behavior of their leader, the king of Lanka named Ravana. In this section of the Ramayana, we also find the threats and insults hurled at Sita by these grim-visaged ogresses. They repeatedly try to scare her into submission, into accepting Ravana’s offer to become his chief queen.

Sita was in Lanka against her will, taken away by Ravana in secret. Therefore Hanuman, the courageous star of the Sundara-kanda, went to go look for her. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that he has heard all the insults of the Rakshasis and the lamentation of Sita. He has also heard in full the description of the dream of Trijata, the lone Rakshasi who seemed favorable to Sita. Trijata spoke of a dream she had where she saw Rama emerge victorious and the entire kingdom of Lanka destroyed due to Ravana’s deed. She advised the other Rakshasis to seek Sita’s forgiveness before it was too late.

Such awful words hurled at Sita did not change the complexion of this section of the Ramayana, for they were heard by Hanuman. Love is what maintains life. The love the parents feel for their children allows those children to grow up to be healthy adults. The love the law enforcement officers feel for their fellow man allows the citizens to roam the streets without much fear. The love that mother nature feels for her creation allows others to feed off of her land. The human beings get food not from the factory, the office, or even the government treasury. They survive from the land itself, which allows crops to be planted and maintained through the cooperation of other important forces of nature like the sun and the rain.

[Shri Hanuman]The dream of Trijata, the cries for help from Sita, and the insults of the Rakshasis increased Hanuman’s love for Sita and Rama. The scene aided in his eventual success in the mission. He had already found Rama’s wife, and so now he would deliberate on how best to proceed. Should he speak to Sita or return right away to let Rama know where she was? From the title of this particular section, we know that the decision reached would be a beautiful one, as would be the deliberation itself.

In Closing:

Though with insults and ogres of grim look,

Beautiful is this Ramayana’s book.


Describes Hanuman of courage without bound,

And how in Lanka Sita Devi he found.


Though harassment from ogres she took,

Love increased in him by having a look.


Beautiful are aspects in Hanuman all,

Aptly this book a beautiful one to call.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Separation With Attachment

[Sita and Rama]“Blessed indeed are the great souls, the greatly fortunate sages who have given up all sins, conquered the mind, and for whom there is neither pleasure nor aversion.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.49)

dhanyāḥ khalu mahātmāno munayastyaktakilbiṣāḥ ||
jitātmano mahābhāgā yeṣāṃ na staḥ priyāpriye |

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“So you’re telling me that I have to first change my way of life, everything that I do on a regular basis, how I think, how I eat, how I talk, where I go, etc.? Then only after doing that I can know the Supreme Lord a lot better? I will be of sounder mind and body; ‘sober’ as you call it. Then from there the goal is to reach a point where I feel so much pain in separation from the same person I’m trying to know? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m getting to know Him so that I can miss Him? Isn’t everybody already separated from Him? If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t they feel happy right now, then?”

It does seem paradoxical that on the highest platform of the devotional consciousness one feels tremendous separation pain from their object of affection. The saying “tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” has some applicability here. The difference is that there is never a real loss once there is love for the person to whom we are intimately tied since time immemorial. The separation anxiety is more a longing, and the conditions are purposefully manipulated to increase the pleasure of the devotee.

Based on physical proximity, there is never any separation. From the ancient science of devotion, as taught at the beginning of the creation and then passed on through a bona fide chain of disciplic succession, we learn that the living entities come to the earth when they have even the slightest hint of envy of God. Long story short, we are here because we want to be here. We don’t know God because we don’t want to know Him. Just as the drunkard is always intoxicated because they want to be, even though it might be bad for them, we remain forgetful of the origin of matter and spirit because we think we will be better situated that way.

Thus the whole point to any religion is to remove that envy and regain the association of the only perfect being. The pursuit in competition with the author of everything good in this world is destined to fail since all living entities are imperfect. To ere is human, which means even the most advanced species in the material world commits mistakes. Man also has imperfect senses, becomes easily illusioned, and cheats from time to time. As God is not imperfect at all, so many of the names used to address Him are negations of other terms. He is known as Achyuta since He never falls down. He is described as anadi since He has no beginning. He is Ajita since no one has ever conquered Him. He is Aja since He is unborn.

As long as a body is living, there is the spiritual force inside. It is the residence of that force that determines life or death. We know someone is dead when the living force has left them. Someone can be on the verge of death, but if they are still alive, it means that the soul is still present. In the same way, no matter how low one has sunk due to their envy, God is always with them. He lives within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.20“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)

[Lord Krishna]Thus the separation is only in terms of consciousness. When one is not conscious of God, their separation is in detachment. It’s like walking around looking for money when you’re holding it in your left hand. Or like frantically searching for your car keys when they are in your pocket the whole time. This separation in consciousness leads only to negative outcomes. This is not done on purpose by God; it is the result based on the constitutional position of both parties. The living entity is meant to serve and God is meant to accept that service. Any other orientation does not work.

For the devotee, the separation is in attachment. This is always good since the chance for forgetting God is virtually eliminated. The separation may seem to be painful, but it is actually enjoyable. The person separated in attachment from God even envies others who are not in that attachment. They think, “At least that person doesn’t know what it feels like to be without the true love of their life. At least they don’t have to worry so much if they are serving properly. At least they don’t count the minutes and hours until the next time they get to see their beloved Lord of their life breath.”

[Sita Devi]In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita says that the renounced sages, of great intelligence, who are highly fortunate, are blessed since they have abandoned attachment and aversion. One of the steps towards regaining the constitutional devotional consciousness is giving up attachment and aversion. This only make sense, for what are we really attached to? In Sanskrit the objects of attachment in the material world are described as maya, which means “that which is not.” The goal is to be attached to “that which is,” or God.

There is no reason to have an attachment to anything which is not directly God. There is also no reason to have an aversion to anything, as aversion is just the opposite of attachment. In either case one is affected by another object. The renounced sages are not affected, and so they are in a superior position. However, Sita subtly reveals that their position is not the most superior. This is because they don’t yet feel the pain of separation from Rama, who is Sita’s husband. Rama is the personal God, the detail behind the abstract. He is an incarnation of Vishnu, who is an expansion of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedas go into great detail about all three, but in summary any of them equates to the concept we have of a supreme controller, a divine being.

[Hanuman worshiping]In pure devotion, the separation happens automatically through God’s intervention. Whereas in the separation in detachment, the Supreme Lord remains a neutral observer in His role as the Supersoul, in separation in attachment He takes an active role. This means that He shows more love towards the devotee. More love from the all-compassionate Lord means a better situation. Sita’s longing showed that she could never forget Rama. In the same way Rama never forgets her, and the fearless servant Shri Hanuman never forgets either of them.

In Closing:

With knowledge of Him be inundated,

So that eventually to be separated.


Illogical seems this path,

Why hope for painful aftermath?


In bhakti separation in attachment,

Unlike forgetting God, with detachment.


From Sita Devi supreme devotion see,

And how never without love she can be.


Hanuman of God thinking in way the same,

Ecstasy from hearing only the name.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Impossible To Forget

[Sita and Rama]“Blessed indeed are the great souls, the greatly fortunate sages who have given up all sins, conquered the mind, and for whom there is neither pleasure nor aversion.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.49)

dhanyāḥ khalu mahātmāno munayastyaktakilbiṣāḥ ||
jitātmano mahābhāgā yeṣāṃ na staḥ priyāpriye |

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As devotion is at the very core of an existence, it is difficult to explain how it is practiced in the constitutional position. As words in a language are defined by other words, so various aspects and behaviors in this world can be used to explain the constitutional position of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are some paradoxes as well. For instance, the pleasure from devotional service increases when there is separation from the object of interest. Sort of like the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” concept, when there is an intense longing for the association of the all-attractive Supreme Lord, the ecstasy is considered the highest. This is the mood of Sita Devi shown here in this verse from the Ramayana.

Here is another paradox to consider. The person feeling the ecstasy of intense separation from their beloved Lord considers themselves to be the most inferior. They think that every other person in the world is better situated. They have a kind of transcendental envy of others who are not feeling the same separation pain. Sort of like how the adult envies the young child for their innocence and ignorance of the ways of the world, the pure devotee thinks that the materialist is better situated, for they are not subject to the intense pain of separation that occurs for the devotee who always keeps the Supreme Lord in mind.

[Sita Devi]Here Sita Devi says that those sages who are completely dispassionate are much more fortunate. Imagine if you could get rid of all your worries. Every anxiety that we currently have relates to some attachment. We are attached to our job. We are attached to our school. We are attached to our family members. Those attachments bring obligations. Obligations bring pressure, which brings worry. I have to wake up at a certain time tomorrow morning so that I can make it to my son’s soccer game. I have to study up on the latest technology so that I can do what I have to do at work. “This task is very important, so I can’t make any mistakes.”

With these pressures I am now more prone to sinful behavior. In order to relieve the tension, I take to drinking at night. I don’t have time to cook for myself, so I go out to eat a lot. Since I’m not cooking, and since my mind is focused on meeting my obligations, I’ll eat anything and everything. I’ll lie sometimes if I have to. And there is certainly no focus on the higher aspects of life, such as where my life is going. There is no time to ponder over why I am here and where I will go after death.

So the ascetic who renounces everything seems to find a better situation. They have no attachments. They are not averse to anything, either. They live a renounced life. Since they have less pressures, they can focus on avoiding sinful behavior. Therefore their sins eventually vanish. They are able to stay focused in renunciation because they have conquered the mind. The mind can take away the discrimination of even the most controlled person. To conquer the mind is like trying to control the wind, which seems impossible.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.67“As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.67)

It is noteworthy that the materialist doesn’t really envy the ascetic. They may marvel at how someone could live like that, but they don’t really think that the ascetic is in a better position. No job. No family. No home even. Who would think that is the superior lifestyle? It is meant for someone who is truly special. Sita, however, says that the sage is in the better position. This is because they don’t feel the pain of separation from Shri Rama. They don’t know what it’s like to be shut out from offering Him service directly.

[Lord Rama]Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. An incarnation of Godhead has all transcendental attributes. This means that the face is not an ordinary one. Neither are the actions and relationships. Sita is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. She is always with Him, if not physically then at least in spirit. She cannot live any other way.

During their earthly pastimes, Sita serves the role of wife to Rama. Since she is at the highest level of devotion, Sita feels the ecstasy of separation from Rama from time to time. In separation, she is unable to serve Him directly. Here she is in a foreign territory, held against her will. The evil king of Lanka wants her for himself. He wants her to be his chief queen, though everyone knows that she is Rama’s beloved. Brute force may help one to become very wealthy and eventually conquer the world, but it can never win over the mind of a devoted soul like Sita.

From this verse we also learn that the dispassionate sage, a great soul who is very fortunate as well, has a higher platform to reach. This is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita by the same Rama in His form of Shri Krishna. There He says that the person who is Brahman realized is well situated to take up devotional service. To be Brahman realized means to have no attachments or aversions. It means to see the spiritual equality of all beings. The Brahman realized soul has no hankerings and no lamentations.

[Janaka finding Sita]From Sita’s time on earth we get an example of a Brahman realized person who then went to a higher platform, one that brought attachments and longings. That soul was King Janaka of Mithila. Known throughout the world for his dispassion, he one day found a baby in the ground while ploughing that field for a sacrifice. He immediately held affection for her, so much so that he one day drew up the contest of contests to find her a suitable husband. That baby was Sita, and that husband was Shri Rama. And just as Janaka had affection for Sita, she would love Rama without motivation and without interruption, following the example of her sage-like father.

In Closing:

Devotional consciousness to bring change,

Envy of the non-devoted, an attitude strange.


Since without attachments to go,

Pain of separation not to know.


But actually devotee in the highest stage,

The goal for even the renounced sage.


Sita, of Janaka most beloved daughter,

Love for Rama, to follow example of father.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holi 2014

[Prahlada attacked]“Hiranyakashipu planned a campaign to kill Prahlada Maharaja. He would kill his son by administering poison to him while he was eating, by making him sit in boiling oil, or by throwing him under the feet of an elephant while he was lying down. Thus Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his innocent child, who was only five years old, simply because the boy had become a devotee of the Lord. This is the attitude of nondevotees toward devotees.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.38 Purport)

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Down on your luck? Things not going your way? Have you tried everything, put in the best effort, and still keep failing? Such are the outcomes when under the control of the material nature; nothing is ever fixed. The same action yields the same reaction for one hundred consecutive times, but then one time the reaction is not there. Who can explain it? Who can understand it? In devotional service, even seemingly insurmountable odds are overcome, all through the favor of the Supreme Lord Himself. On the occasion of Holi we remember one particular hero who did the unthinkable, who escaped from a fire unscathed, baffling his attackers.

The aggressors were on the side of the material nature. Sort of like crossing over a border line, where with a single step you can go from one country to another, these fiends had the direct vision of someone completely fixed in the transcendental consciousness. Despite the good fortune of this vision, they were in a different world. The most basic truth could not be understood by them, though it was presented very eloquently by the victim in this case.

[Prahlada Maharaja]A five-year old son of a king was asked what he had learned in school. He responded to his father by speaking of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. He spoke of the uselessness of material pursuits, how one ends up continuously doing the same thing, hoping to find a better result. The boy likened the cycle to chewing the chewed. Taking a fruit that has already been eaten, one tries to taste it again, hoping for a different result.

The father did not like to hear this from his son. He first accused the boy’s teachers. “What have you been doing? You are traitors. You act like you have my best interests at heart, but you obviously don’t.” The teachers pled innocence. They had not instructed the child in this way. So the father, whose name was Hiranyakashipu, decided to kill the son. He ordered his attendants to get the job done. This was material life, so the outcome was never guaranteed, though the father thought otherwise. If I want to speak, my mind gives the command and my body obliges. It seems like a sure thing. “Talk,” I tell myself. But it doesn’t always happen. For some people, the ability to talk is not there. Some stutter, some have speech impediments, some have stage fright, and some have a disease preventing them from speaking.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.27“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is explained that the living entity is not the doer. They choose how to act, but the results come from material nature. Hiranyakashipu’s sister would learn this the hard way. The different attempts of the father to kill his son did not work. Every one was baffled except the boy. In one of the attempts, the father, Hiranyakashipu, decided to enlist the help of his sister. She had this ability, supposedly, to enter a fire and come out unscathed. So it was decided that the recalcitrant boy, Prahlada, would sit on the sister’s lap while she went in a fire.

Her name was Holika, and when she entered the fire, she perished. Prahlada survived. That miracle is remembered through the annual celebration of Holi. The father met only frustration in his attacks on the devotee son. The son, meanwhile, met only with victory, which he neither worked for nor requested. During all times he simply remembered the lotus feet of Vishnu, who is the Supreme Lord in one of His opulent forms. Vishnu is a personality, so He can hear, even though He doesn’t have ears in the way that we understand them.

[Narasimhadeva]He heard Prahlada’s prayers, and so He intervened personally. The material nature operates under Vishnu’s purview. Therefore if He likes, Vishnu can nullify the result to an action. Hiranyakashipu and his men could not understand this, so they continued their attacks on the innocent Prahlada. Finally, Vishnu Himself came to deliver the boy, removing Hiranyakashipu in the process.

Prahlada is the hero for all righteous souls. The path towards transcendence has many thorns. Many of these are placed there intentionally by nondevotees of the likes of Hiranyakashipu. It may seem like things aren’t going our way, even if we are always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It may seem like it is too difficult to maintain a job, a family, and a routine of devotional activities. It may seem like the gossip and idle talk even within devotional social circles is too much to bear. It may seem like quitting is the best option.

[Prahlada with Narasimhadeva]During such difficult times, Prahlada Maharaja and his triumph that gave rise to the festival of Holi are a beacon of light. He faced the most difficult circumstances, as he was helpless in the attacks against him. He was the much weaker party, and he was attacked from within. His own father turned on him, and only because of Prahlada’s devotion. Prahlada emerged from the fire, showing that in devotion one can triumph over even the raging flames of the material nature.

In Closing:

To help in attacks the sister to hire,

But she perished, boy emerged from fire.


Though having father of qualities bad,

Favor of the Supreme Lord Prahlada had.


What of material nature to speak,

Tough even when transcendence to seek.


Remember Prahlada on Holi’s festival,

And his protector Narahari most beautiful.