Saturday, March 29, 2014

The One With The Postmark

[Shri Hanuman]“Even a plan destined for success will be vanquished if it contradicts with time and place when reaching the hands of a confused messenger, like darkness at sunrise.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.37)

bhūtāḥ ca arthā vinaśyanti deśa kāla virodhitāḥ ||
viklavam dūtam āsādya tamaḥ sūrya udaye yathā |

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It was getting late. Things had been hectic at the office that day. It was the end of the week, as well, so all the tasks that were put off earlier in the week now came due. “This is what we get for procrastinating,” said a frustrated John. “It’s like that snowstorm last year,” chimed in his brother James. “We thought we’d let all the snow pile up first before going out and shoveling, but that turned out to be the wrong strategy.”

[Winter]The day was drawing to a close and most of the office tasks had since been completed. John had one personal errand that he missed, however. He needed a letter mailed out. He also needed it postmarked. It was very important. John and James worked together but they lived separately. They were going to meet up that night at the home of their parents. John knew that James lived very close to a post office, so he decided to ask for a favor.

“Hey, on your way home, can you stop by the post office for me?” he asked.

“Sure, what do you need done?” replied James.

“I need this letter mailed out. It doesn’t necessarily matter when it arrives at its destination, but I need it postmarked today. Since you live near the post office, I was hoping you could do that for me before it closes.”

James was a little hesitant, for he had never had anything postmarked before. He wasn’t even sure what to say at the counter, but rather than reveal his ignorance to his brother, he simply agreed.

[Postmarks]At the post office there was a line of people, all rushing to beat the closing time. When he approached the clerk, James asked to have the envelope in his hand postmarked.

“Okay, no problem,” said the clerk. Then, as the clerk went to put the envelope in the back, James stopped him and asked, “You’re going to mail that out? I just need it postmarked. I’m not sure it has to be sent out today.”

The clerk looked puzzled. “Well, once it’s postmarked it has to be sent out. If I give it back to you, I will have to open the envelope.” Not sure what to do, James again agreed, taking back the opened envelope and returning home.

That night at their parents’ home, John asked if the letter had been sent.

“Well, I got it postmarked,” said James, who was ready for an argument. “But then the clerk wanted to mail it out, which I wasn’t sure was what you wanted. So I brought it back here.”

John was not happy. “Why on earth would you not mail it out?”

[Letter opener]“Well, you never said that. You just said to get it postmarked,” said James, who was now very angry. “Maybe if you weren’t so lazy, you would have just done it yourself.” Though lobbing these abuses, James was more angry at himself for having messed up on so simple a task.

The memory of that event came back to him many years later while hearing from the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit poem describing the life and activities of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Lord Rama, the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya. In a particular section, Shri Hanuman, Rama’s trusted messenger, remarks on how even a plan that is sure to have success can get foiled when the confused messenger goes against time and circumstance.

“Yup, that was me, for sure,” James thought to himself. “That day when John asked me to get that letter postmarked. How simple a task that was. Who would mess something like that up? Well, he put the task into the hands of a confused messenger, and therefore everything was ruined.”

[Shri Hanuman]Then, he couldn’t help but appreciate Shri Hanuman and how fortunate Rama was to have someone like him. “It’s amazing that Hanuman would worry over such a matter. He is not a confused messenger at all. Though here he’s not really sure what to do, as he has a few options. He could approach Sita and talk to her or he could just return home without giving her Rama’s message. He’s worried that by talking to her, the enemy will be tipped off that he is there. He’s worried that the ensuing conflict will jeopardize Rama’s chances to regain Sita, who was taken to Lanka by the evil king named Ravana. But Hanuman is great. He will succeed because he has love for God, which defeats confusion. It also helps one to reach success, for the servant gets guidance from within, from the chaitya-guru, who is God Himself. That Hanuman will succeed shows that he is dear to Rama, who protects him from failure.”

In Closing:

To carry out important task,

A trusted messenger to ask.


But if in course to be confused,

As failure by others could be abused.


Hanuman over this point thought too,

When in finding Sita deciding what to do.


Service for Rama, so help from within to come,

Hanuman never fails, like him there is none.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The One About Seeing Particles

[Changing bodies]“Change of body by the atomic individual soul is an accepted fact. Even some of the modern scientists who do not believe in the existence of the soul, but at the same time cannot explain the source of energy from the heart, have to accept continuous changes of body which appear from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth and again from youth to old age. From old age, the change is transferred to another body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22 Purport)

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Ashton’s vision was not getting better. For a while there, he thought it might be allergies. Perhaps it was the season that made it difficult to see out of his left eye, especially during the nighttime. Then he read up on a condition called “dry eye.” Perhaps it was that. He tried going without contact lenses for one day, but that didn’t seem to help the situation.

[Eye drops]Finally, things got so bad that even with his contacts on, he could barely see out of his left eye. Within a few hours of wear, the lens itself became so uncomfortable that it had to be removed. After years of neglect, Ashton made an appointment with the eye doctor. On the day of his appointment, he entered the office, filled out his name, and was then surprised to see a good friend seated in the waiting room.

“Hey, how’s it going? What a small world, eh?” said Ashton to his friend Reed. “How have things been with you?”

“Pretty good,” said Reed, as he put down the magazine he had been reading. “Been having trouble with my vision lately, so I thought I’d make an appointment. How about you?”

“Yeah, my left eye has been really blurry. I’m not sure if it’s related to contact lenses or not. It’s good to see you, though, even if it’s with only one eye.”

“Haha, yeah, same here.”

After catching up on what each other had been up to, Reed brought up something he had just read from the magazine he was holding.

“These doctor’s offices are all the same,” complained Reed. “They make you wait for so long. I just read an interesting article, though. Scientists are saying that in the future the earth is going to be obliterated. We’re all going to be particles at that time. That’s kind of strange, if you think about it. I know you have a different take on things, right?”

“Well, the real question is, what are you right now? Aren’t you particles at the present?” asked Ashton.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“We’re actually spirit souls, which are this tiny in size,” explained Ashton, as he held his index finger and thumb very close together in his hand. “So we’re a particle right now covered up by a lot of other particles. We’ve been the same size in the past, as well.”

“Can you prove that?” asked Reed.

“You know that you were in the womb of your mother, right? You know that you were the size of a football as an infant. That means you were a smaller collection of particles. From the Vedas we learn that those particles are just covering the smallest particle that is the soul.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. How do you know the size of the soul? Can you see it?”

“It is said that matter is what is most easily perceived. Finer than matter is the mind. Then intelligence is finer than the mind. Ego is finer than that, and finally you reach the soul, which is the finest. If you took the tip of a hair and divided it into ten thousand parts, the soul would be the size of one of those parts. So basically we’re the size of the smallest particle you could conceive.”

Reed seemed genuinely interested, as this conflicted with all that he had ever been led to believe. Never did he hear anyone speak of the difference between matter and spirit. “I always thought the body identified us. Everyone I know has always operated under that assumption. The stuff you’re saying sounds pretty logical, but how can you prove it? These scientists will want proof of the claims.”

[The universe]“You can make an experiment out of it, though. There is something called the Brahman vision. You take the principles on faith at first, practice them, and then gradually clear your vision. Science accepts things on faith all the time. You can’t go back and relive the experiments of the past. You have to accept those findings on faith.”

“That’s true,” responded Reed, “but at least you can reproduce those experiments. It’s reasonable to assume that I emerged from the womb of a mother since I see that’s how others come into this world. How can you test to see whether or not God created everything? How can you run a test to see that spirit is different from matter?”

Getting more and more excited at the chance to explain the science of self-realization, Ashton stood up taller in his chair.

“First of all, the scientists can’t prove their theory that we are all just a bunch of particles of matter. They can’t produce life from only matter. They promise that they’ll be able to do it, but there has been no such successful experiment to date. I’m not asking for much. I’ll take a simple sun. Make that in a laboratory. I don’t need a human being. Secondly, we can test to see the presence of the soul.”

“How so?”

“From the moment I walked in here until now, your body has changed, as has mine. Yet we are still here. It means that what identifies us is not related to this body. Imagine that when you went home today you left your jacket here. And then I start speaking to your jacket. That would be silly, right?”

“Yeah, of course. Just because my jacket is here doesn’t mean I’m here.”

“Exactly. So this covering of the body is like a jacket. This body is covering the soul right now. When I die, the covering remains but the soul leaves. That means that the tiniest of particles is what identifies me. I can see this through proper training. I can feel the presence of the soul, even with my one good eye,” said Ashton with a smile. He was about to continue when the nurse made an announcement.

“Mr. Watkins? The doctor is ready to see you now.” At that Reed got up from his chair. “That’s my call, pal. I’m really intrigued by this topic. Can you stick around afterwards? Maybe we can talk some more.”

“Sure thing,” said Ashton. As Reed was being escorted to one of the examination rooms, Ashton could faintly hear him talking to the nurse. “Did you know that you and I are really this small, and that everything else is just a bunch of particles? No, I didn’t hit my head on something this morning. Why do you ask?”

In Closing:

Using eyes that can see near and far,

Considers that just particles we all are.


In the future the same to be,

But past changes cannot see.


Actually, a spirit soul very small,

Essence in bodies short and tall.


First with some faith accept,

Then through practice detect.


The soul the animating force,

To travel to new body in nature’s course.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The One With All The Toys

[Lord Krishna]“Dear Yashoda, why don't you restrict your naughty Krishna? He comes to our houses along with Balarama every morning and evening, and before the milking of the cows They let loose the calves, and the calves drink all the milk of the cows. So when we go to milk the cows, we find no milk, and we have to return with empty pots. If we warn Krishna and Balarama about doing this, They simply smile charmingly.” (Gopis of Vrindavana, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

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She heard it again. Another pleasant night’s sleep broken by noise from the other room. She looked at the clock with hesitation. It was 6 am, again. “This boy really doesn’t like us,” she thought. The noise was a little different this time, but it was just as annoying.

“Shiv, can you check on Rudra, please?” Ambika asked her husband, who lay next to her fast asleep on the bed. “Dear, I’ve gotten up the last three mornings to play with him. I worked all night at the hospital, so I really need to rest. Can you please go?” mumbled Shiv, who sounded barely awake.

Not happy, but realizing that her husband did indeed have a demanding job, being a doctor and all, Ambika woke up to play with her son, who was approaching two years of age. Rudra’s sleeping schedule did not mix well with the parents’. He got between eight to ten hours on average, but he would fall asleep much earlier in the night than his parents. This meant waking up while the parents were still sleeping. Recently, he was given the green light to go play by himself in the adjacent room, which had all his toys in it. The parents thought this would give them more time to sleep. It didn’t.

[Toy cars]“Good morning, my dear son. What are you playing with?” Ambika asked as she entered the room. Her child had a new toy in hand. It was a pet rooster that spoke a different phrase every time you touched its belly. Rudra was enamored by it. He kept pressing the button to hear the rooster talk. The mother realized that this was the sound that woke her up this morning. Thinking that her tired husband would likely be awoken by the same sound, Ambika carefully guided her son towards another toy.

There were plenty of toys to choose from. “How in the world did all these get here? He has way too many toys,” the mother thought to herself. There was a mini piano that played songs when you would press the keys. There were plenty of toy cars and airplanes. There was a racetrack for the electronically powered cars. There was even a tiny drum set. Ambika became a little troubled by seeing all this. It suddenly dawned on her that her son might be at risk of being spoiled.

She brought it up with Shiv at breakfast later that morning.

“You know, I think Rudra has too many toys,” she started.

“Is this because he woke you up this morning? It’s not that big a deal,” said her husband.

“No, it’s not that, silly,” she said as she put another pancake on his plate. “I was walking through that room this morning and I realized that he just has too many things. I think he’s going to get spoiled.”

“Now that you mention it, I’ve been thinking the same thing. You know what it is, right?”

“No, what?”

“It’s all the people who come over. They’re always giving him things. I know they mean well, but it’s getting to be too much.”

“You’re right,” she said in agreement. “I feel bad telling people not to give things, because it comes from the heart. Maybe we should politely nudge them in the right direction the next time someone comes bearing gifts.”

Just then the doorbell rang. It was Shiv’s brother Vinayak. After being let in, he then entered the kitchen to greet his sister-in-law.

“Hello bhabhi, how are you?”

“I’m fine. Is everything alright?” replied Ambika, wondering why her brother-in-law was at the house so early.

“You guys don’t remember? I’m taking Rudra to the park today. You guys said you needed a day to yourselves to take care of household errands.”

“Oh, that’s right,” said a surprised Shiv. “Thanks so much for doing this,” said Ambika with a smile of relief on her face.

“It’s not a big deal at all. I love spending time with the little guy. We get along very well. Probably because we have similar interests,” said Vinayak jokingly.

Moments after the uncle left with the nephew for their day of fun, Ambika couldn’t help but notice the difference in behavior.

“You know, Shiv, your brother is different with Rudra. He doesn’t spoil him with toys. He plays with him, takes him out for fun, and just gives the gift of his friendship.”

“Now that you mention it, that’s true.”

“I wonder why he doesn’t spoil him. You think we should ask him?”

“Isn’t that kind of rude? ‘Hey man, why don’t you buy stuff for our son?’ That seems like an inappropriate question.”

The matter was tabled until later that night, when Vinayak and Rudra returned. The happy couple asked the uncle if he would be willing to stay for dinner. The entire family could then eat together. It was always difficult to get Rudra to eat, but if his favorite uncle was around, maybe it wouldn’t be so much trouble. Vinayak happily agreed, and a few minutes into dinner Ambika couldn’t help but ask.

“Hey Vinayak, I have a question to ask you, if you don’t mind?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

Ambika continued, ignoring the obvious look of disapproval on her husband’s face.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I notice that you don’t spoil Rudra with gifts, like everyone else seems to. We appreciate that so much. We’ve noticed that he has too many toys, and it’s because others keep giving them as gifts. We were wondering why you don’t do that. Is it intentional? Again, please pardon me for asking, but we’re trying to figure out the best way to deal with the issue.”

Vinayak was more than happy to share his philosophy on the matter. He started by explaining that it was quite natural for others to want to give some sort of physical gift. He mentioned the recent national tragedies and how the public rushed to donate blood, money and other items. Even if the people didn’t need these things, the desire to help was so strong that the people couldn’t help it.

[Krishna stealing butter]“As far as myself,” Vinayak continued, “I try to look to the example of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. As you may know, He roamed this earth some five thousand years ago in His childhood body. He played in the land of Vrindavana. If you think about it, He has the most to give. He could give everything to anyone. But what is most remembered about His time in Vrindavana?”

“His lifting of Govardhana Hill?” asked Shiv.

“His stealing of the butter from the neighbors?” volunteered Ambika.

“Or what about the time He broke the pot of butter and made mother Yashoda angry?” asked Shiv, trying to outdo his wife.

“Or what about when He and Balarama got all dirty by holding on to the tails of the cows and went for a ride in the mud?” asked Ambika, not to be outdone.

“See, you’re making the argument for me,” said Vinayak. “One could point to so many such things as memorable. Krishna was in the superior position. In whatever room He walks into, He is the superior person. Yet in the most intimate dealings in Vrindavana, He did not play Santa Claus and just give out stuff. He allowed others to be devoted to Him. He gave the gift of His association. Sure, there were times that He improved the material fortunes of others, like when He rewarded the fruit vendor with jewels and when He rescued the poor brahmana Sudama from poverty. But even such things were to improve the quality of their devotion. So maybe intentionally or unintentionally, I try to follow the same example. I’m not Krishna. I don’t have anything impressive to really offer anyway. So I try to give my association, because I know others will value that the most.”

[Krishna with the fruit vendor]“Oh, I see now,” said Ambika. “So is that what we should tell people? Is that how we should act? Just give Rudra our association instead of providing material support?”

“Well, listen. You guys are the parents. You have to protect your son. I’m just the fun-loving uncle. The most important thing is to give your dependents the same association that Krishna gave to others. You don’t need much for that. Just the name of Krishna itself is enough to change consciousness. If you give that name to your child, allowing him to hear it constantly, then surely in the long run that will benefit him more than anything else.”

Soon dinner was over and Vinayak left, promising Rudra to return again soon. As the couple put their beloved child to sleep that night, they couldn’t help but remember the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, and all the joy he brought to everyone. Mother, father and son all slept blissfully that night.

In Closing:

Child’s room filled with so many toys,

From being spoiled hard to avoid.


Others to come over with gifts bearing,

With so much love at child staring.


But example from Krishna can take,

On how best offering to others to make.


Association most important of all,

That at end of life holy name can call.


Krishna Himself the most to anyone can give,

Prefers gifts allowing for service to Him to live.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The One With The New Company

[Radha and Krishna]“It is generally said that the gopis were attached to Krishna for sense attractions, and yet they became first-class devotees of the Lord. Kamsa, Shishupala, Dantavakra and other demons, however, were related to Krishna as enemies. But whether they associated with Krishna as enemies or for sense gratification, out of fear or as pure devotees, they all got liberation. That is the result of association with the Lord. Even if one does not understand who He is, the results have the same efficacy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.55 Purport)

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Jim had been worried for a long time. His company wasn’t doing so well. The vagaries of the software business are such that what is popular one day may not be so the next. There are always competitors to consider. Then there is the issue of changing technology. Having a popular software application suited for one platform may yield many profits today, but once a new platform comes out, with its own set of features, the software manufacturer must keep up, lest they risk extinction.

[SDK]Jim’s concerns over the future were validated when one day he got the bad news. He was being let go. He had worked for this company for a long time. He thought he was one of the vital employees, but sadly he was not part of the group that survived the latest round of job cuts. Jim didn’t even have a resume ready, as he had worked at this company for so long.

After a few weeks of soul searching and taking a casual glance at the job market, Jim had an epiphany. “Why don’t I start my own company?” he thought to himself. “I’m good at what I do. I can learn new technologies. I can be my own boss. I’ll get my own office and everything and set hours that are suited to my family’s needs. I won’t have to worry about getting fired. I have a lot to offer, so I know I can make it. This is going to be fun.”

He ran the idea by his wife, and she seemed on board. “I’m a little scared for you, honey, but this might be just the thing. We worried too long with your previous job, and what did that get us? At least if you’re running things, you’ll have some more control.”

Jim had already envisioned many of the key details of the new company. He knew of some office space for rent, he had the necessary equipment, and he knew what services he could provide. He was proficient in website design, so a lot of the things that are typically cumbersome for a new business wouldn’t be so for him. One vital issue remained unresolved, however.

[Company logos]“What am I going to name this company?” is the question Jim kept asking himself and those closest to him. It was the topic of discussion one day with his good friend Ron, who was over Jim’s house for lunch on a Saturday.

“I’ve been racking my brain with this issue. I have to tell you, I can’t settle on anything,” Jim complained to Ron.

“Well, what are some ideas that you have?” asked a genuinely inquisitive Ron.

“E-consulting, PowerApp, AppMakers, The Horizon Technology Group. I mean I’ve got so many names. I’m not sure if some of these are already taken or not. There really are endless possibilities. Then I could also just make up a brand new word and have that be the company name.”

“Yeah, that’s true. I wish I was good with this kind of thing. I couldn’t even decide on the names for my kids. We had to ask everyone in the family to help us,” said Ron with a laugh.

“The thing is, this name could be everything. I think of Steve Jobs and how he just decided on the name Apple. He knew that it would be ahead of Atari in the phonebook. And how cool is the name Microsoft? This name could make or break the company. It’s the first thing people will see. It will be on their minds immediately.”

[Apple]“It sure will. I would say just come up with a bunch of ideas and then try to make a pros and cons list, a la Benjamin Franklin. Maybe that will help you out.”

Jim then admitted that this issue was really consuming his thoughts day and night. It was almost an obsession, something which shaped his consciousness.

“I’m really ‘company name conscious’ right now, which I know isn’t a good thing. Whatever you are conscious of you automatically get in the next life, right?”

“Yeah,” responded Ron. “Krishna says that in the Bhagavad-gita. ‘Whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail.’[Bg 8.6]”

“I promise you, once I settle upon a name, I will try to be Krishna conscious. Hey, I’ve wondered this. How did that term come about? I know that originally everything was in Sanskrit, so how was it decided that bhakti-yoga would translate to ‘Krishna consciousness’ in English? Why not ‘God consciousness’?”

“That’s a very intelligent question,” replied Ron, as he settled in to give a detailed explanation. “From what I know, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came up with the term ‘Krishna consciousness’ as the translation for bhakti-yoga. When he first incorporated his society, there was a similar kind of deliberation on what to call it. Some suggested using ‘God consciousness’ in the name, but Prabhupada insisted on the name Krishna.”

[Shrila Prabhupada]“Oh really? I never knew that,” said Jim.

“Yeah, there’s great potency in the name, that is the main reason. As you know, Krishna is considered the original form of Godhead, but there are many non-different expansions of His as well that are identical to Him. If you’re reading the Shrimad Bhagavatam, there are a lot of passages which reference Krishna’s expansion of Lord Vishnu. In the translations to these verses, Prabhupada often inserts the word Krishna, even if the name doesn’t specifically appear in the Sanskrit verse.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. Is that for simplicity’s sake?”

“Perhaps, but I think it’s more so for the potency of the name. It is said that the name of Krishna carries all of God’s potencies. Saying it is as good as being with Him. In addition, even if an enemy has association with it, they are benefitted in some way.”

“Like, if someone just says ‘Krishna Krishna’ in passing, they get some kind of merit?”

“Yeah, exactly,” replied Ron, who then went into a story about a discussion he once had with a person who was very much against the practice of chanting the holy names of Krishna. That person wasn’t very familiar with the culture, but just from hearing the chanting, he was turned off. In talking to Ron, he described the Krishna people as “Curshnas,” which was his derisive term for them.

“Wow, that’s kind of a stupid thing to say, especially to you,” said Jim. “That must have upset you, no?”

“A little, for sure,” said Ron. “But at the same time, he did end up saying the name of Krishna, which meant he got some benefit. The same occurred with Krishna during His manifest pastimes on this earth. The gopis of Vrindavana loved Krishna very much, and so they were benefitted by this positive attitude. People like Kamsa and Shishupala, on the other hand, hated Krishna. Even in their enmity they were benefitted, since they only thought of Krishna all the time.”

[Lord Krishna]“So, just by using the term ‘Krishna consciousness’ over and over again, Prabhupada offered a spiritual benefit to so many people then. What a genius move!”

“Yeah, and the same kind of benefit is there with meeting a saintly person, someone who is devoted to the Supreme Lord. Have you ever heard of the story of Maharishi Valmiki?” asked Ron.

“No,” responded Jim.

“Well, I won’t go into the whole thing, but basically there was a guy a long, long time ago who was a highway robber by trade. One time he ran into a saintly man named Narada. He tried to rob Narada, but Narada didn’t have anything. Narada then convinced him to chant the name of Rama, which is another name for Krishna. The robber was so sinful that he couldn’t even say the name. Never one to give up easily, Narada told the robber to then chant the name backwards. In reverse, the name referenced killing, which the robber was familiar with. In chanting the reverse name over and over again, the robber heard the name of Rama accidentally. He then chanted for so long in ecstasy that he completely transformed. Narada then named him Valmiki, who is today famous for having written the Ramayana.”

[Maharishi Valmiki]Just then Ron got a call from his wife. She asked him if he could pick up the kids from band practice. “Alright, gotta go, man,” said Ron as he departed. “Let me know if you need any help. I’ll ask my wife if she can think of names for you.”

“Great, thanks. Maybe I’ll throw in a name of Krishna in there. This way, even if the company fails, I’ll have gained something,” said Jim with a smile.

In Closing:

Difficult when to think of a name,

Unique, something to others not the same.


Immediate impression in others to make,

Memory of it with them to take.


Potency in Krishna’s name the most,

Benefit even to one of sinful qualities a host.


In enmity of Him Kamsa always thought,

Shishupala too, fate of merging wrought.


To think of Him in love much better,

Like gopis, who with Krishna always together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The One With the Nagapatnis

[Nagapatnis worshiping Krishna]“Our dear Lord, we are offering our loving service unto You because we are all eternal servitors of Your Lordship. You can order us and ask us to do whatever You please. Every living being can be relieved from all kinds of despair if he agrees to abide by Your orders.” (Nagapatnis offering prayers to Krishna, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 16)

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Uma was new to Krishna consciousness. Previously, she had never really paid much thought to religion. Her career path was set early on, and she remained devoted to it. She worked diligently and passionately, and at night she more or less kept to herself. After a while, she started to notice a pattern repeating, with the years being seemingly identical. Then, as if by chance, she happened to stumble upon a Bhagavad-gita, the ancient Sanskrit work spoken by Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One of her friends recommended the book to her, and after a while she finally got around to reading it.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsSubsequently, her interest in all topics relating to bhakti-yoga increased to the point that she started attending a weekly gathering of like-minded folks. Together they would meet in someone’s home, chant the holy names of the Lord, have some discussion on verses from the Bhagavad-gita, and then eat holy food known as prasadam. Though she didn’t consider herself much of an expert on the philosophy, Uma felt very much at home in this setting. She particularly liked the congregational chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Every week there would be some announcements made, and at this one meeting some news caught Uma’s attention.

“Fellow devotees, we are pleased to inform you that a highly respected and elevated personality will be visiting us next week. We hope that you can attend and that you bring any friends and family that you can. Thank you.”

[Lord Chaitanya as sannyasi]Up until this point, Uma had not met any devotional leaders who were in the renounced order. The people who organized the program were householders, or those in the grihastha-ashrama. She was intrigued by the chance to attend a program led by this personality, whom everyone referred to as Maharaja or Gurudeva.

Uma attended the program the following week and she enjoyed very much the kirtans led by Maharaja. She also enjoyed his class. At the end of the program the organizer announced that Maharaja would be in the area for the next few weeks and would be holding similar programs at the homes of other devotees. Everyone there was invited to attend. “I must go to these,” Uma thought. “Hopefully some of his wisdom will rub off on me and I can start taking bhakti-yoga more seriously.”

Then another announcement was made. “Dear devotees, Maharaja has been practicing bhakti-yoga for a very long time, and is very dear to the Supreme Lord Krishna. Therefore if anyone has any questions, doubts, issues or concerns, please feel free to approach him. He is more than happy to talk to you.”

Uma was too shy to approach such an elevated and respected personality, so she sat back and watched others go up. As it was a small room, she could hear their conversations. The questions were all along the same lines. “What can I do to increase my devotion? How can I be a better yogi following bhakti? I want to do more, but I’m not sure what I can do.”

[Ananta Shesha Naga]Maharaja’s answers were not always the same. To one person he said:

“I hear that you are a writer by trade. If that is the case, why don’t you write about Krishna? He is the Supreme Lord, which means that He is limitless. It is said that the thousand hoods of Ananta Shesha Naga are always engaged in glorifying the Lord, but that there is still never an end reached. You can write articles and books explaining the science of self-realization, as you understand it. Certainly you should keep attention to make sure your conclusions don’t deviate from the chain of disciplic succession, but you should try to elaborate in terms that you can understand. This will help both you and those who read your works. And don’t feel overwhelmed by the task. If all you can write is one sentence a day, then at least do that. Say something as simple as ‘Krishna, you are great’ and your work will be effective.”

The devotee was so pleased to hear this advice, as were the others who were gathered around Maharaja.

Uma followed through on her plan to try to attend all of Maharaja’s classes in the few weeks that he was in the area. At the next program, the same invitation was extended for asking questions, but again Uma was too shy. She listened attentively, though, as Maharaja gave notable advice to another seeker:

“So you made these cookies tonight? They are carob chip cookies? These taste amazing. Thank you so much for these. It appears that you have a talent for cooking. Even if all you can make is cookies, I advise that you cook and cook for the Supreme Lord. Offer them with love and devotion, and then distribute the remnants. As I’m sure you know, the food is sanctified. We call it prasadam because it is the Lord’s mercy. You have skill in this area, so I advise that you use it to the best of your ability. In that way you will please Krishna and you will always feel connected to Him, which is the aim of life.”

[Cookies]At the next program, it was the same story. Uma wanted to talk to Maharaja, but she just couldn’t muster up the courage. Again, she was satisfied in listening from afar. Maharaja surprised her with another unique set of advice:

“So, that opening kirtan you led sounded very nice. You must play all the time, no? I ask that you continue to play and play, as much as possible. Always be immersed in the nectar of the holy name. As you know, the chanting of the holy names is the prescribed method for spiritual salvation in this age of Kali. Men are generally unfortunate, less intelligent, and short-lived in this age. I talked for an hour today, but who actually listened? It’s difficult to accept philosophy when we’re so preoccupied with our daily affairs. Therefore the holy name is the gift from God to save us. Please try and present these holy names with enthusiasm to the general public. Even if this is all you do in your life, if you do it with faith and determination, you will please Krishna.”

[Harmonium]The next program Uma attended was Maharaja’s final one in his visit. He would be departing for another region the next morning. There were others who attended all of the programs as well, and since they kept seeing Uma, they convinced her to finally approach Maharaja with her questions. Uma felt very shy and small in front of someone she had grown to respect very much, but she was finally able to speak:

“Maharaja, thank you so much for visiting us. I feel so small in front of you and these other devotees. I’ve listened attentively to the advice you’ve given. You told one person to keep writing about Krishna. You told another to prepare wonderful food dishes. To another you advised that they continue to lead congregational chanting in a variety of settings. To that other person the other day you encouraged them to continue distributing transcendental literature like the Bhagavad-gita, a book which sparked my interest in bhakti-yoga. But Maharaja, I am so fallen that I don’t have any abilities to offer to Krishna. I pray that you will forgive me for this transgression. I wish that I could give something back to you, the Supreme Lord, and all these other wonderful souls who are filled with devotion, but sadly I am full of bad qualities. I am indeed less intelligent, and I humbly seek your pardon.”

Maharaja listened to her attentively. His face changed to a smile when he responded:

“Actually, your attitude is wonderful. The pure devotee always thinks that they are never good enough, that they have nothing to offer. I am not sure if you are aware of the story of the Nagapatnis. One time there was a poisonous snake living in the Yamuna river in Vrindavana, the land of Krishna. Krishna’s young cowherd friends accidentally drank some of the poison-infected water and thus were on the verge of death. Shri Krishna, though just a young boy at the time, jumped into the water and battled the serpent Kaliya, whose presence had caused this problem. Krishna danced on his head and thus subdued him.”

[Krishna dancing on Kaliya]As others listened with rapt attention, Maharaja continued:

“Feeling so much pressure from the feet of Krishna, Kaliya relinquished the fight and took to praising Krishna. Then the Nagapatnis, the wives of Kaliya, who were snakes themselves, offered their own prayers to the Lord. They lamented their pitiable position of being born snakes, who are known to bite people without cause. They felt they were incapable of properly worshiping God, but in fact their prayers are now very famous. This means that even in the body of a snake one has the chance to meet the objective in life. You should fear not, for if you have no abilities at all, which I doubt by the way, you can at least chant the holy names. If you can’t chant, you can listen. And if you remain sincere, then Krishna Himself will show you the proper way to please Him. He will reveal to you the amazing abilities that you never thought you had.”

Uma was very pleased with this answer, as were the others who were listening. They all felt very fortunate to have had the association of this saintly person, and his advice further motivated them in their devotional efforts, which brought them so much pleasure.

In Closing:

One with the ability to write,

Urged to publish volumes beyond sight.


One who best cookies can make,

Urged for prasadam to others to take.


Another tunes of holy names can sing,

Asked for audible nectar to others to bring.


The person not skilled in these what about?

How to act when many abilities without?


Nagapatnis show that even in body of a snake,

Wonderful prayers to Supreme Lord can make.


At worst case hearing of Krishna just go,

He’ll reveal abilities of which you didn’t know.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The One With The Conflicting Prayers

[Praying hands]“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.20)

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Bhagavad-gita, 7.20Brad was relieved. It was finally Friday. TGIF, as they say. “Thank the Lord” it was finally the end of the week. It had been rather hectic at work. Tax season was slowly approaching at the accounting firm, so Brad and the other accountants were loaded up with work. Each day featured long hours, to the point that Brad’s wife stopped waiting for him for dinner. “Just pick something up on your way home, dear,” she said to him as he left for work Friday morning.

Though times were a little hectic, the fever that took over the city was too intense to keep out of the firm. The buzz was all about the upcoming football game on Sunday. It was the conference championship game, featuring the Denver Broncos against the New England Patriots. The Broncos were usually the center of attention in the city of Denver, but this year even more so. Brad wasn’t so much into sports, but he still kept track of what was going on. He could hold his own in a conversation with friends and coworkers.

[Peyton Manning]“I think this is Manning’s year to get revenge,” he told one of his colleagues at the water cooler on Friday morning. “Brady is good, but Manning set all sorts of records this year. He is out to exorcise all the demons of past playoff failures.”

As Brad’s firm was in Denver, most of his colleagues were naturally Broncos fans. This particular colleague seemed to have a vested interest in the outcome of the upcoming game.

“Yeah, man, I hear ya. From your lips to God’s ears, know what I’m saying?” responded Brad’s colleague, who showed signs of concern. “This Sunday when I go to church, I’m definitely going to say a prayer or two. I want the Broncos to win so bad. I picked them during the preseason to make the Super Bowl. I’m going to win a lot of money if they win this week.”

As Brad was cordial with all his colleagues, he had similar conversations throughout that Friday at work. Another colleague outside the break room struck up a similar conversation. This person was a Patriots fan, having moved to Denver from Boston just a year earlier.

“The Broncos look scary, dude,” said this colleague to Brad. “Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl since that whole ‘spygate’ thing. I’m really hoping he can pull it off this week. When I’m sitting in church this Sunday, I won’t be able to think of anything else. I’m sure to slip in a few prayers for the Patriots. I’ve been good this year, so hopefully the Lord will reward me.”

[Tom Brady]Brad couldn’t help but notice the conflicting requests. He kept them in mind when having lunch later that day with his good friend Gopal.

“Hey G-man, how’s it going?” asked Brad.

“Pretty good, how about you?” responded Gopal.

“Things are alright. Have you been swept up by this football game fever?”

“How could I not be? It’s all anyone’s been talking about.”

“An interesting thing happened to me this morning at work,” said Brad, as he went into the story of the two colleagues he had met that morning who were each praying for their specific team to win.

“So I thought I would bring this up to you, since this sounds like something you once brought up to me, about how the less intelligent look at God as an order supplier,” continued Brad.

“Right,” said Gopal. “So in one sense it’s good that they’re praying. In attitude, that makes them superior to those who foolishly think that God doesn’t exist. At the same time, they should realize that the Supreme Lord Himself is above such petty matters.”

“But then wouldn’t the same conflict apply to other matters too? Like if I’m a thief and I pray to God to help me steal, and someone else prays to have their stuff protected, it’s the same problem, right?”

“Yeah, exactly,” said Gopal, who then began to discuss how material results come from the actions themselves through the laws of karma. “Karma sort of acts automatically,” he explained to Brad. “Sort of like if you clap your hands, you hear a sound, if you act in a certain way, the outcome will arrive automatically, even without prayer. The game this Sunday features clashing karma from so many different people. Each player has their own history. Each player has their family members supporting them as well. In addition, the result is rather trivial. Whether someone wins or loses a football game doesn’t matter in the end. It’s like being happy that the sun is out or being sad that it’s raining. The individuals involved elevate the matter to an importance higher than is warranted.”

“Okay, that makes sense,” replied Brad. “But what should we pray for then? What do you pray for?”

“In the Vedas it is said that the Supreme Lord is originally a personality. He is not an old and vengeful man. Rather, He is ever-youthful, and all-attractive. Hence Krishna is one way to address Him. He is the source of all men, so Narayana is another appropriate name for Him. He is all-pervading, so Vishnu works as well for addressing Him. The distinction in worshiping Vishnu, or one of His non-different forms, is that the requests can sometimes be denied. In simpler terms, God sometimes hears prayers and explicitly denies them.”

[Lord Krishna]“Really? Why would He do that?”

“If someone worships Him directly, He takes it as a sign that they have some attachment to Him. Therefore He takes them under His wing, so to speak. He protects them from things that will harm them. Other divine figures don’t offer the same coverage.”

“Who are these other divine figures? Are they the many other gods we equate with Hinduism?”

“Yes. They are the worshipable figures who can grant temporary rewards, like victory, money, good health, intelligence for an exam, and so forth. They operate on a first-come, first-serve model. They also don’t take into account the future motivations of the worshiper. They give benedictions to whoever worships them properly.”

“I see. So these guys at my job would be better served worshiping these other gods?”

“Actually, it is said that even if one has material desires, he is better served by worshiping Vishnu directly. The other divine figures may deliver on the requests in a sort of business-transaction style, but there is no higher benefit to the worshiper. If my favorite team wins this week after I worship a demigod, I’m not really benefitted in the long run. If I worship Vishnu for the same reward, at least I spend some time in His association. And enough time spent with Him blossoms into the mature fruit of a human existence: devotion. This is really the only thing to ask for from God. ‘O Lord, please allow me to serve You, because I know that devotion is the only way I will be truly happy. Since You are the root of the tree of the material existence, I know that watering that root in worshiping You will also benefit everyone else.’”

[Krishna's lotus feet]His lunch hour drawing to a close, Brad thanked his friend for an enlivening conversation. “I knew you were the right person to come to for this. As usual, thank you for allowing me to bathe in your intellect.” Gopal got a good laugh at this comment and then returned the favor with a witty reply. “Don’t thank me, just allow me to bathe in your wisdom when it comes time to do my taxes.”

In Closing:

Worried about outcome ever so,

With prayers to Supreme Lord to go.


Same by other side is done,

A resolution for God seems none.


Such matters for demigods reserved,

Vishnu only devotional conditions to preserve.


Whatever the issue requests to Him take,

Your best fortune in the end He’ll make.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The One With The Forced Vacation

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses, is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.7)

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Bhagavad-gita, 5.7Tommy was running late for work. He overslept this particular morning, and so everything was rushed. He hurried out of bed, somehow managed to take a shower, and grabbed a banana as he headed out the door. As he was leaving he was surprised when he saw his good friend Albert in the hallway of the apartment building.

[Banana breakfast]“Going to work?” asked Albert.

“Yeah, I’m kind of in a rush. What’s up?” asked Tommy in an unusually impolite manner.

“Oh, lucky you. The company is forcing me to take my vacation days. I wish I could go to work, but I can’t,” said a despondent Albert.

Tommy didn’t have time to talk then, so he promised they would delve into the matter more later on. Tommy was still puzzled. “Why is he bummed about not having to go to work?” he thought to himself. “I’d kill for a few days off. I’d probably sit around and do nothing. Maybe I would go somewhere, too. You know, I have a few days off saved up. Maybe I can use them so that Albert and I can go somewhere. That will break him out of his funk, hopefully.”

Tommy later proposed the idea to Albert, who then reluctantly agreed. “I’m not big on vacations. I like my routine. I go to the office, get my work done quickly, and do other things that I am interested in. At home, I feel more tempted to sleep. So I don’t get as much work done.”

“You should just try to relax,” Tommy replied. “Tomorrow we’ll have a good time. You’ll get a good escape. I know this park that has beautiful scenery. It takes a while to walk through, and I know how much you like going outside and taking walks. We’ll pack some food and make a day of it.”

The next morning the two friends got ready at around the time they would normally go to work. They got into Tommy’s car, with one person eager and the other very apathetic towards the whole thing.

“I can’t believe your company has to force you to take vacations. You realize that you’re not normal, right?” asked Tommy.

“But you know how I am. I like my routine. I am generally happy with the way things are. Why should I force myself to break out of the routine just because it’s what everyone else does? I find life to be rather boring when I’m not able to do the things that I typically do.”

When they reached their destination, they parked the car in the designated area and then followed one of the walking trails. This park was quite expansive. It featured several forests, many large trees, and open fields full of beautiful flowers and tall grass. There were ponds as well. It was a very popular place in the area and also a desired stop for tourists. But since this was a weekday, it wasn’t as populated. This allowed Tommy and Albert to walk for a long time and really experience the park.

[State park]“So, are you bored yet?” asked Tommy.

“Not really,” said Albert to Tommy’s surprise.

“Wow, that’s nice to hear. You don’t miss your office and your precious routine?”

“I do a little, but some of the objects in this park remind me of so many wonderful things.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Then Albert proceeded to review some of the objects they had walked past in the course of the day and how they had reminded him of various historical events and personalities tied to the tradition of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

“Well, remember that small tree we walked past shortly after we parked the car?” asked Albert.

“Yeah, that’s a favorite spot for people to sit under and take picnics or read books.”

“That’s funny that you mention that. Well, as soon as I saw that tree I thought of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You’ve heard of him, right?”

[Prabhupada chanting in park]“Is he the guy who wrote those books you’re always trying to get me to read?”

“Yeah. So he started the Hare Krishna movement as it is known today throughout the world. He came to New York with barely any money, not knowing anyone. He was having trouble at first, but then one day everything changed. The transformation took place underneath a tree in Tompkins Square Park.”

“What happened there?” asked Tommy, whose interest was suddenly sparked.

“The swami very innocently was chanting the maha-mantra and playing some classical Indian instruments. Suddenly a host of people joined him. It was a gathering of peace and hope, and it was so noteworthy that the local newspaper wrote a story about it. Today I believe the mayor has placed a plaque underneath there declaring it the ‘Hare Krishna’ tree. From that famous day onwards the swami’s movement really took off.”

[Prabhupada tree plaque]“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, and there was another tree we saw today that got me thinking of Goswami Tulsidas. Have you heard of him?” asked Albert.

“I don’t think so.”

“He wrote a very famous work in Hindi describing the Supreme Lord in His avatara of Lord Rama. Anyway, during his days on this earth several hundred years ago, Tulsidas used to throw water at the roots of this tree every day as part of his morning routine of prayer. The legend is that one day the tree spoke back to him, being pleased with his service. The tree then gave him guidance on how to get the divine vision of Shri Rama, which then later occurred.”

“Man, that sounds very interesting.”

[Goswami Tulsidas]As they continued to walk the rest of the day, Albert found more sources of inspiration. A lotus flower reminded him of the garlands that are offered daily to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He explained to Tommy how that is an integral part of archanam, or worship of the deity. He described how archanam is one of the nine processes of devotional service, which is considered the pinnacle of all yoga. “You see, all the different kinds of yoga are meant to culminate in bhakti, or divine love. The spirit soul is meant to have union with the Supreme Spirit, who is God.”

On the drive home, Tommy couldn’t help but reflect on how good the experience was. He had been to that park many times, but never came away with such blissful feelings.

“Can you thank your company for me?” he asked Albert jokingly.

“Why is that?”

“For forcing you to take your vacation days. I had a great time today. Maybe we can go again sometime and we can see what further inspires you.”

“Sounds good to me. I wasn’t expecting all that to happen today; it just came out of me. I guess I could talk about Krishna and bhakti-yoga endlessly.”

In Closing:

In park to walk past a tree,

Then vision of the past to see.


Swami Prabhupada names chanting,

Shower of nectar to others granting.


Flowers in park also, blue and red,

To thoughts of archanam this led.


Endless ways for yogi to find,

To happily keep Krishna in mind.