Saturday, April 5, 2014

Calling Each Other Prabhu

[King Dasharatha]“Please do not take it ill of me that I sent for you. I know that I received all happiness by the glory of your grace, O lord.” (Janaki Mangala, 173)

bilaga na mānaba mora jo boli paṭhāyaun |
prabhu prasāda jasu jāni sakala sukha pāyaun ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

Such is the nature of fraternal organizations that the members address each other with notable terms. They are part of a unique club, so they honor each other’s preferred status by an identifiable form of address. “Brother” is the most commonly used term, and “sister” is the corresponding one for organizations of ladies. In devotional circles, one would be surprised to note that the English translation for the term of choice is “lord.” This is the word used in this verse from the Janaki Mangala, and it is offered by one king to another.

“Hello Prabhu; Prabhu, can I offer you any more prasadam; Prabhu, please accept my obeisances; Nice to see you again, Prabhu.” You can hear such statements quite often in devotional societies. If someone new to the scene doesn’t know what the word “Prabhu” means, they may think it refers to someone who is very dear. “They say Prabhu to every other guy, so it must be a nice way to address them. It also comes in handy if they don’t know the other person’s name. They can just say Prabhu and not get into trouble. It sounds like a nice word, so it must mean someone who is very dear.”

Indeed, if a word is always used in a specific context, others will start to identify that word with that particular context. But “prabhu” is a Sanskrit word that means “lord.” It is used quite often in Vedic literature, as it is synonymous with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Other corresponding terms are bhagavan, ishvara, and natha.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Those who are trying to serve the Supreme Lord with body, mind, and speech address each other as “prabhu” in order to remain humble. They won’t address their teachers in this way, for their acknowledged superior position earns them a distinct title. But all others are made to feel superior with the word that means “lord.” This helps to maintain the devotional attitude within the servant. “My objective is to think of everyone else as superior to me. Even if others are not practicing devotional service so much, I know that if they do take it up seriously, they will do a much better job at it than me. Plus, I have so much I can learn from them. I am only a pretender, for I harbor material ambitions on the inside. These are so difficult to renounce, and so I need to stay in the association of other prabhus. Also, I’ve noticed that if I spend some time chanting the holy names and reading important books, my ego gets puffed up. Then I start to think of myself as prabhu instead of dasa, which I really am. Therefore I look forward to any opportunity to address another as prabhu.”

From the behavior of King Janaka referenced above, we see one of the benefits to associating with someone whom we would address as “prabhu.” King Dasharatha is about to return home to Ayodhya. Janaka had originally called for him. Janaka was hosting a marriage ceremony for his daughter Sita, and Dasharatha’s son Rama was the chosen groom. Dasharatha was a powerful and respected king, so he was not under obligation to listen to anyone. Janaka kindly asked him to visit his town to consent to the marriage ceremony for Shri Rama and then take part in the festivities.

“Thereupon, after inviting my father-in-law, the elderly King Dasharatha, to Mithila and receiving his approval, my father gave me away to Rama, the knower of the self.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.52)

[Sita and Rama's marriage]Dasharatha was more than happy to accept, and he felt so much love for Janaka and his family. Therefore Janaka didn’t need to ask pardon for sending for Dasharatha. Here he does so anyway, and he explains why. He says that by Dasharatha’s mercy [prasada], all happiness came to him. Through the good king’s efforts, Rama was raised to be a righteous, courageous, and attentive prince. Through the king’s good will, Rama was allowed to marry Sita, which eased Janaka’s mind. The king of Mithila always worried about who would protect his beautiful daughter. He drew up a difficult contest precisely to find someone who would be strong enough to defend her against rogues and thieves. Rama was a godsend, and so through His victory in the contest, the honor got passed up the chain to the immediately preceding link, King Dasharatha.

This exchange between two kings reveals so many important truths. By doing good work, past generations are honored. By receiving the mercy of a pure soul, one gets all happiness in life. The disciple who kindly questions the spiritual master about the most important topics feels the same sort of happiness, for the guru gives them the ability to always worship. Janaka and Dasharatha were both kings, but Janaka genuinely felt himself inferior. From that position he was fit to offer all respects, and the King of Ayodhya was more than happy to receive such kind words. Based on their behavior it is no wonder that the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort appeared in their families. It is also not surprising that those kings are still remembered to this day, for they displayed exemplary behavior.

In Closing:

By their mercy to be blessed,

So as prabhu kindly addressed.


Humbled, in attitude inferior,

Giving all respects to superior.


Janaka to Dasharatha this treatment gave,

By prabhu’s prasada, his vow to save.


Spiritual master also such mercy gives,

Humble disciple in devotional ecstasy lives.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Great Maintainer

[King Dasharatha]“With folded hands Janaka said, ‘Please take me as your own. You are the tilaka of the Raghu family, and you always take care of the destitute.’” (Janaki Mangala, 172)

kaheu janaka kara jori kīnha mohi āpana |
raghukula tilaka sadā tuma uthapana thāpana ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

When turning to spiritual matters, there are many levels of understanding. There is the concept of an original person, the entity from whom everything emanates. Then there is the personality from whom this specific universe comes. Then there are also the presiding deities within the creation. Once everything is made, someone is put in charge of destroying at the appropriate time. That is the nature of the material; nothing is fixed. What goes up, must come down. That which is born must eventually die. The time in between calls for maintenance, and the personality in charge of maintaining is Lord Vishnu.

[Lord Vishnu]Brahma is the creator and Shiva the destroyer. Interestingly enough, Vishnu is also the origin of everything. His role as maintainer in the material creation is in an expansion form. There are different Vishnus, though they represent the same personality. As a guna-avatara, or incarnation to manage a mode of material nature, Vishnu maintains the material creation. Yet He is never material, so He is also the maintainer of the surrendered souls, who have no attachment to the material energy.

What does it mean to be free of attachment? We can think of it like going to work every day and not being stressed out over the results. If our job is in maintenance, we will meet so many difficult situations. A customer may have done something ill-advised and caused great damage to their machine. If we arrive at their home to fix it, it may take a long time to get the job done. The longer it takes, the more frustrated the customer gets. Their harsh words won’t change the situation; the job is the job.

In other situations the job is easier. It is a routine fix, something over which the customer does not get angry. Whether there is good treatment or not, as a repairman I don’t let anything affect my job. I get my work done. I am not attached to the outcome, for what can I really do? I can try my best and then deal with the outcome.

[Copier repair]A person who is not attached to the material energy carries the same attitude into everything they do that is not directly related to serving the Personality of Godhead. He is above the material nature, as He is the opposite of temporary. He remains fixed in His position for all of time. Indeed, the human brain is incapable of truly understanding what that means. There is always a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. The Supreme Lord is the beginning of all beginnings, and beyond any end. He has always been the Supreme Lord and will always continue to be in the future.

As He is above the material nature, He is superior to it as well. Therefore He can maintain anyone. He indirectly maintains through the forces of nature, but that maintenance is not very pleasing. The rain pours down water in the Spring to make sure the flowers blossom. That same rain can bring pain to someone else who is relying on good weather. The direct maintenance, however, is always beneficial. Sometimes it is offered through a proxy, such as the king.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.1]“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

In the ancient time periods, the maintenance was carried out by the saintly kings. In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, two of those kings are saying goodbye to one another. King Janaka, an ideal ruler in his own right, kindly requests King Dasharatha to consider him to be his own. Dasharatha ruled the earth following the principles laid down at the beginning of creation by the Supreme Lord. Here Janaka describes Dasharatha as the tilaka, or sacred mark, of the Raghu family. Dasharatha’s line descended from the famous King Ikshvaku, and this line also had the famous King Raghu in it.

[King Dasharatha with children]Janaka says that Dasharatha picks up those who need to be lifted, and so he asks that Dasharatha consider him in this light. This is a very nice attitude to have, since by the chain of disciplic succession Dasharatha’s work is actually God’s. When the government agent collects taxes to be deposited into the treasury, he is doing the work of the head of the government. The head is ultimately responsible. In the same way, when Dasharatha maintains the surrendered souls, it is actually the Supreme Lord who is ultimately responsible.

In all his modesty, Janaka here hides the fact that he was a great maintainer as well, an equal representative of the Supreme Lord. He had the good fortune of receiving the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord as his daughter. Dasharatha was so blessed that he received God in a lila-avatara as a son. Dasharatha’s son Rama and Janaka’s daughter Sita wed in a grand ceremony in Janaka’s kingdom, and here the groom’s party is all set to return home. Both kings maintained their children very well, and Dasharatha is asked to extend his care to all in Janaka’s family.

[Sita and Rama]The devoted souls, who follow the teachings of God passed on in the Bhagavad-gita, are always ready to rescue the downtrodden, for they know that God’s mercy is without limit. The power in the holy name itself can deliver countless souls with a single utterance. Therefore in the modern era, where the saintly kings are no longer to be found, the maintenance of the greatest maintainer flows through the chanting of the holy names by His devotees: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Even when to spiritual subject to go,

Many levels, different ways to know.


In one role Vishnu as maintainer,

Of devotees also sustainer.


The saintly kings first acted through,

Understood Bhagavad-gita who.


Dasharatha one in that following,

Kind words to him Janaka offering.


Supremely blessed both were they,

Lord and wife in their homes to stay.


Through holy name maintenance now to come,

Chant always, other way there is none.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It’s a Tie

[Flowers]“With love and excitement, Janaka said to Dasharatha, ‘Please come back now.’ The kings then exchanged requests, with their words full of goodness.” (Janaki Mangala, 171)

prema pulaki kahi rāya phiriya aba rājana |
karata paraspara binaya sakala guna bhājana ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

It is not uncommon for a husband and a wife to argue. After all, they spend so much time in each other’s company. They know each other’s faults, and strong points as well. More importantly, they likely have a close relationship, so they do not feel shy in voicing their opinions. They are not too concerned with what the other person may think of them, since the relationship is as close as one can get.

Imagine a situation where the couple argues over which person has the better father. The husband begins.

“The glories of my father cannot be counted. He raised three boys with the help of his beautiful and faithful wife. He worked all day, tirelessly, without complaining once. He was kind to us, but firm as well. He instilled discipline in us, and more importantly he taught us to respect others. He was kind to all guests that came to the home, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like him. He is terrific in all respects. I can’t think of any other father like him.”

Hearing this, the wife feels compelled to respond. She has a terrific father too, she believes.

“Well, my father is the kindest person on earth. He never watches television. He never drinks. He never smokes. He’s always spending time with his children, helping them with whatever they need. His wife never has to yell at him because he never does anything wrong. On the weekends, he volunteers at various charitable organizations. He is well known throughout the community for his generosity. He never once laid a hand on any of us children growing up, but he still made sure we weren’t spoiled. He naturally loves everyone, even strangers. He has no problem pulling over to the side of the road to help a stranded motorist. He’ll do this even if he has somewhere he needs to be. He doesn’t get angry when others insult him. I think he is the best father in the world.”

A similar situation, which was more difficult to reconcile, existed in Janakpur a long time ago. Two fathers were meeting for perhaps the final time, as one was the guest and the other the host. The guest was returning home with his four sons, who had just been married through the host’s arrangement. The host was the donor and the guest the receiver.

[King Dasharatha]The guest was a defender of righteousness on earth. He had been called upon many times in the past to deal with the miscreant class. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone got along? Wouldn’t it be great if there was no war? Why can’t everyone live in peace?” These are yearnings of man since the beginning of time. Yet we see conflict nevertheless, as not everyone wants to play by the rules. Some have no problem cheating, stealing, and using violence. In such cases, the easy way to maintain peace is to give in. “Go ahead, come in my house and take everything. Go ahead, plunder the wealth of society. Go ahead, kill whomever you want.”

The innocent people are not safe unless they have defenders. The guest in this situation, King Dasharatha, was the greatest defender of the innocent. Therefore he was highly exalted, respected throughout the world. The host had his own set of good qualities. He was dispassionate. This meant that he never played favorites while administering justice. He didn’t change the laws on a whim to suit a campaign donor or to avert a drop in his poll numbers. Even if someone didn’t like what he did, he stayed with his decisions since they were in accordance with righteous principles passed on since the beginning of time.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.2“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)

The host, King Janaka, carried out his responsibilities, despite being known as an expert transcendentalist. Here we see that he also felt thrills from time to time. He was not above emotion. He didn’t force himself to act like a robot. He had love and affection for his daughter Sita, and that naturally extended to Sita’s new father-in-law, King Dasharatha.

In this scene Janaka is kindly requesting Dasharatha to stay. “Don’t go home yet. This is your home as well. You can stay here as long as you like.” This is the proper etiquette when dealing with a departing guest. Janaka was more than following etiquette here. As a pious king himself, he had so much respect for Dasharatha. The King of Ayodhya felt likewise about Janaka. Thus they exchanged many requests with each other, in pure goodness.

[Sita and Rama]In the household of Sita and Rama, a hypothetical debate over who has the better father cannot be settled. It would end in a draw, as the goodness found in each father is without limit. It is no wonder then that Sita and Rama are adored by superior authorities on all matters of life, like Shri Hanuman.

In Closing:

With debate not to bother,

Can’t know which father is better.


One defended against demons’ attack,

The other not a single virtue to lack.


Blessed indeed are their offspring,

Poets, sages and wise their glories sing.


Janaka and Dasharatha in competition a tie,

No need for debate, of virtues so high.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


[Sita's lotus feet]“Janaka embraced Janaki and instructed her on everything that needed to be instructed. Going to his ministers, guru, and relatives, he brought them to the farewell procession.” (Janaki Mangala, 170)

janaka jānakihi bheṭi sikhāi sikhāvana |
sahita saciva gura bandhu cale pahuncāvana ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

Janaka held affection for her when he first found her on that famous day in the field. He was looking to please God by holding a sacrifice. To that end, he had the field ploughed. To his surprise, God rewarded him with a brand new baby daughter. The Brahman-realized king momentarily fell from his position in dispassion by harboring so much paternal affection for this precious gem. But in fact he was actually rising to the platform of bhakti-yoga, where one is protected directly by the Supreme Lord.

Since He offers that protection, the Supreme Lord is described as bhakta-vatsala. Vatsala is the affection offered in the mood of devotional service known as vatsalya-rasa. Awe and reverence aren’t the only options for souls looking to connect with God. In the more intimate dealings, one can become God’s friend. They can become His lover, and they can also become His parent.

[Mother Yashoda holding Krishna]In the role of the parent, the affection offered is unique. The good parent always thinks about their child and how they will protect them. Instead of looking to take, they seek any opportunity to give. Even when the child is grown up and ready to enter the real world, the good parent never stops giving. They offer help in guiding the child through school and work. They offer care even when the child has children of their own. Whatever the situation, the mood of paternal affection remains.

In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, Janaka has his last opportunity for offering direct affection to his daughter Sita. She is married now, set to leave for her husband’s kingdom. He offers her good instruction, all done with love. He is Sita’s protector, though she is so powerful that she doesn’t require one. Just as one can become the father or mother of the Supreme Lord, the same opportunity is there for the Lord’s eternal consort.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as bhakta-vatsala. He is never described as jnani-vatsala or yogi-vatsala. He is always described as bhakta-vatsala because He is more inclined toward His devotees than toward other transcendentalists.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.29 Purport)

Janaka was the protector of Sita while she was raised in his kingdom of Janakpur, and throughout his life Janaka was protected by the bhakta-vatsala, the Supreme Lord. In the Vedic scriptures God is not described to be the protector of the theoretician. He is not the supreme benefactor of the mental speculator. Nor does He explicitly protect the yogi, the kind who meditates. He is specifically affectionate towards the devoted souls, and His protection is offered with intelligence, even if it seems otherwise.

[Sita Devi]As Sita’s protector, Janaka provided a good home for her. He kept her safe and showed her the proper example to follow. Janaka’s protection was seen by the eyes, but what was more subtle was the protection offered by God Himself. He arranged to have Sita enter Janaka’s family. Through her presence, Janaka gained Rama as a son-in-law. Rama is the bhakta-vatsala in person. He gives a manifest version of the protection offered by God.

He cared for Janaka by maintaining the king’s vow. For Sita’s marriage, Janaka had decided on a contest. Upon seeing Rama, however, Janaka wanted Sita to get married to Him right away. That would have broken the rules of the contest, and so Rama protected everything by winning the contest Himself. He looked over Janaka’s fortunes, the same way that Janaka oversaw Sita’s protection from childhood until marriage.

The same affectionate hand is not offered to the yogi or the jnani because there is a vital desire inherently lacking in those pursuits. The jnani is after knowledge first, and the yogi after control of the senses. In bhakti, or devotion, one doesn’t have to be knowledgeable. One doesn’t even have to be very renounced. In bhakti, due to the efforts of the bhakta-vatsala, there is success under any circumstance. Whether one is literate or not, whether they can concentrate for hours on end or not, since they have devotion they can always love God. He specifically shows them the ways that are best suited for them.

[Krishna's lotus feet]That bhakta-vatsala gives protection to any soul in the Kali-yuga in the form of the holy names. One need only regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” with firm faith, conviction, and a desire to please the Lord, and the direct affection is guaranteed to come.

In Closing:

Supreme affection in his heart filled,

So proper values in Sita instilled.


One last time instruction to receive,

As for husband’s home now ready to leave.


Just as affection to Sita Janaka gave,

King’s own efforts God to save.


Same affection for today’s souls is there,

Need only chant holy names here and everywhere.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Calming Worries

[Flowers]“To the beating of drums, it was announced that the king was returning to Ayodhya. The many demigods rained down flowers, the aura was good, and everything looked beautiful.” (Janaki Mangala, 169)

pare nisānahiṃ ghāu rāu avadhahiṃ cale |
sura gana baraṣahiṃ sumana saguna pāvahiṃ bhale ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

As nothing in life tends to remain fixed, there is uncertainty, which ironically enough is constant. That brings worry, which then leaves the concerned hoping for signs from above that things will be okay. In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, all parties involved are very sad at having to part. But for those being left behind, the sorrow is greater, and so any indications to show that things will be alright are welcome. The demigods in the sky provide just that, the needed omens to calm everyone’s fears.

[Winter]Imagine this scenario. It’s a cold winter’s night. You come home from a hard day’s work. You went to the gym after your day was over at the office to get in a good workout. Now you’re at home, ready to take a shower to freshen up. There’s only one problem: no hot water. “Oh no,” you think. “What do I do now? Everyone is away on vacation, so if I don’t do something about this, no one will. Taking a shower is one thing, but soon the whole house will reach the freezing point.”

You go downstairs to the basement and try to manually start the oil burner. It kicks on, runs for about thirty seconds, and then shuts off again. “Well, I’m going to have to call someone,” you say to yourself. The problem is that it is late at night. The oil delivery company is closed for the day. They won’t be able to come until the morning at the earliest. Then you will have to keep your fingers crossed that the filling of the oil tank will solve the problem. There could be a burner issue instead. That requires a call to another company. In the meantime, you have to make it through the cold night. So worried are you that you naturally look to the heavens for help.

“O Lord, I can’t believe how cold it is. Why is this happening to me? I’m not the right person to handle these responsibilities. Can you give me a sign that things will be alright? I worry too much as it is, but anything you can do to allay my fears will be greatly appreciated.”

While such situations occur regularly, in Janakpur a long time ago the sorrow was over losing the association of a beloved princess. She, her sister, and their cousins had just gotten married at the same time to the four sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. The good host, King Janaka, got the guests to stay as long as he possibly could. Everyone was so happy in each other’s association, in having a new family, but alas there were other responsibilities to tend to. King Dasharatha and his sons had to go home eventually and here the sound of drums indicates that the time for their departure has arrived.

In such instances, the pain of separation is typically stronger for the party being left. They are seeing their guests leave, so they will naturally feel an emptiness afterwards. Here the signs from above provide some comfort. Things will be okay, as the scene was beautiful and the omens all auspicious. The residents of the celestial region dropped flowers on the departing guests. This was quite common already, as Rama was in the group. He is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation specific to a time and circumstance. In the spiritual world, it is said that all speech is song and all movement dance. And wherever the Lord goes, beautiful sounds play in the background and flowers are laid out.

[Rama's lotus feet]The same applies to His descents in the material world, the realm we presently inhabit. The flowers are dropped whenever something good is about to happen or whenever there is cause for celebration. Though this was a bittersweet moment, it was worth celebrating, since it marked the union of two wonderful families. It was the conclusion to the timeless pastime of Shri Rama’s marriage to Sita, Janaka’s eldest daughter. Though the townspeople were losing a beloved princess, they had gained a family to keep in their hearts for all of time. The auspicious omens of that moment told them that it was indeed proper for Sita to go to Ayodhya with Rama. And more importantly, it was auspicious for everyone to remember that beloved couple, who is still honored to this day.

In Closing:

Look to God when problem in house of mine,

That help on the way please give me a sign.


Sita’s departure auspicious they could tell,

Since flowers from celestial region fell.


No more in their kingdom her presence to find,

Good omens eased worries, calmed their minds.


Remember Sita and Rama at times any and all,

Morning or night, auspicious their names to call.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear To Everyone

[Sita Devi]“As Sita was leaving, the people of the town, the women, the horses, the cows, the birds and the deer became restless. Having heard the request of the mother-in-law, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty kindly solaced them and then went to where His father was.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 21.2)

siya calata purajana nāri haya gaya bihanga mṛga bihula bhae |
suni binaya sāsu prabodhi taba raghubansa mani pitu pahiṃ gae ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that one who works in devotion, being a pure soul, remains dear to everyone and everyone is dear to them. The Sanskrit word to reference the “everyone” is bhuta, which means living entities. The soul working in devotion maintains control over the mind and the senses, and so they are not entangled by their work. They maintain compassion for all living entities as well, not just human beings. From this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get a real life example to give proof to the claim made by Shri Krishna in the Gita.

Bhagavad-gita, 5.7“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)

[Sita Devi]Here the beloved Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, is preparing to leave the kingdom she has called home for many years. She is moving away permanently, never to return. The people knew this day was approaching. As a good king, Janaka paid attention to the rules of propriety. It was protocol to get the daughter married when she reached an appropriate age. With Sita the task was difficult due to her extraordinary nature and the amazing way in which she was found. There was no horoscope available for Janaka to match. Her character was so splendid that no prince in the world seemed a good fit.

The father decided on a contest of strength, and Shri Rama from Ayodhya won it. He was the ideal match, even before stepping up to Lord Shiva’s famous bow. Thus the people were thrilled that Sita got the right husband. Still, sadness was imminent, and here began the sorrowful departure of their beloved Sita, who was ready to go to Rama’s home in Ayodhya.

Sita was dear to the people of the town because of her nature. She loved everyone, as they were all protected by her father Janaka. She was dear to the women as well. They looked at her as their precious daughter, even though she already had a mother in Queen Sunayana. Sita was gentle in behavior, respectful in association, and virtuous in mind. She loved every single person, and so everyone loved her as well.

When she was about to leave, the horses, the cows, the deer and the birds all became restless. The horses had seen her often, as they were employed in pulling the royal chariots. The cows provided milk to the community, and they were protected by the royal family. The deer also loved Sita very much, as she was originally from the forest-like environment. Janaka had found her one day while ploughing a field. Nature was Sita’s original home, and the inhabitants of that nature all held affection for her. The birds had witnessed her sweet speech and her charming childhood play. In calling out to one another, they would describe her wonderful activities, which culminated for them in the marriage ceremony to never be forgotten.

Rama, the new husband, saw all of this. He heard the request of Sita’s mother made moments prior. The mother asked Rama to always remember them, to accept Sita as a kind offering. One of the many other names for Rama is Bhagavan. This Sanskrit word means “one who is most fortunate.” That name befits Him based on His marriage to Sita alone, for He received a companion for life who was dear to everyone in the town she called home. She would be very dear to Rama as well.

[Sita and Rama]From this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we also get a good way to judge whether someone is indeed dear to everyone or not. We also know whether they are at the height of saintliness. Sita wasn’t kind only to the human beings. The animals were so much respected as well. Just as the family pets are sad to see the owners leave for a day of work, the many animals in Janakpur were restless when they saw Sita about to leave them for good. This means that she treated them all as affectionate family members, which gives further indication of her saintly character.

Sita works only in devotion, since her mind is always tied to Shri Rama’s interests. Along the same lines, anyone who works for the satisfaction of Sita and Rama becomes dear to everyone. As they hold the beloved Janaki so dear, they are also benevolent to the creatures that are under the protection of her husband, who is the Supreme Lord, the source of all men, and all living entities in fact.

In Closing:

From sadness of animals clear,

That Sita to everyone was dear.


To mothers and fathers not just,

In birds, deer, and cows also trust.


That Janaka’s daughter possessing,

All virtues, so her departure distressing.


To that Sita and Rama service give,

And then dear to all creatures live.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Judging Offerings

[Rama's lotus feet]“’O you who know the people, please keep love for them who are offered to you’, were the loving words sounded by the downtrodden mother. Again and again the queen brought the children to her heart and hugged them.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 21.1)

jana jāni karaba saneha bali kahi dīna bacana sunāvahīn |
ati prema bārahiṃ bāra rānī bālikanhi ura lāvahīn।।

Download this episode (right click and save)

“I can’t believe how dedicated that person is. You know that they’ve been a pujari at this temple for almost three decades. Every day, without fail, they’ve gotten up at the appointed time and tended to the wonderfully resplendent Lordships of the building. They bathe the deities, change their clothes, offer flowers and lamps, and make sure they look beautiful for the many visitors who walk through the gates every year. Can you imagine having that level of dedication? This person is so much better than me. All glories to them.”

[Hanuman deity worshiped]“I can’t believe how much that mother cooks for her Lordships. She prepares a grand feast every week, and all by herself. So many guests come to her home throughout the week, and then on that one day reserved for the formal gathering, she cooks for hundreds of people. She first makes the offering to the Supreme Lord, who then happily accepts it. And why wouldn’t He? He must love her so much. The mercy from the remnants of that offered food cannot be measured. I have trouble making a pot of herbal tea, and here is this dedicated lady cooking entire meals selflessly all the time. All glories to her.”

“I can’t believe how many books that person has written. They have a fulltime job, too. They’ve dedicated all of their leisure hours towards glorifying the Supreme Lord. They’ve travelled the world and done extensive research, using what they’ve found to further argue in favor of devotional service being the highest occupation for man. They’ve put their name to their work, and they’ve presented it to many respectable institutions. They don’t shy away from the pressure, and they continue to write to this very day. Their guru must be so pleased with them. The Supreme Lord Himself must be dictating the words from within. All glories to them.”

“I can’t believe how many books that person has distributed. Selflessly, without any personal motivations, and without fear, they’ve hit the streets to give the gift of transcendental knowledge. In centuries past, finding real knowledge was very difficult. Famous personalities would build libraries instead of churches to help further expand the intellect of the populace. Still, even in those libraries filled with thousands of books, one would not find transcendental wisdom. This is only available today to the masses due to the work of a sincere follower of the Supreme Lord in the devotional tradition. But even that effort wouldn’t have been enough. There needed to be an army of book distributors, ready to bring the most valuable knowledge to the people. I have trouble sending food back at a restaurant, not wanting to offend the waiter. Here this person is rejected constantly, by so many people. They have to work so hard just to get a single person to buy a book. They do this all for their guru, and so to me they are the best servant. I feel tiny in their presence. All glories to them.”

[Prabhupada books]In these scenarios, one person is praising another for the devotional service they offer to the Supreme Lord or one of His representatives. It is said that when one ascends to the higher stages of bhakti-yoga, they feel more and more humbled. They appreciate everyone else’s service more and more. This stands in stark contrast to material life, where more success means more competition, which means more envy of others. Rather than be happy that a competitor has entered the arena to sell the same product I’ve been selling, I try my best to knock them down. Their success is my loss, and vice versa.

Such is not the case in devotional service, where more competitors to the field only means more success for the people at large in changing their consciousness for the better. The world is a better place when more people are compassionate, austere, clean and honest. These four qualities are an afterthought in bhakti-yoga; they come very easily to one who always chants the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

It is only natural to try to judge offerings, to assess which are better than others. It is a good way to gauge one’s own progress. If someone else is doing so much, it serves as impetus to offer some more. In Janakpur a long time ago, a queen offered her daughters to the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Shri Rama. It would be very difficult to try to surpass such an offering, so the humble souls instead appreciate what a wonderful soul Sunayana was.

[Sita and Rama]Here she praises God for knowing the people, and she asks that He love her daughters very much. The eldest, Sita, married Rama, and Sita’s younger sister married Lakshmana, one of Rama’s younger brothers. The queen’s brother-in-law had two daughters also, who married Rama’s two other younger brothers. While these daughters would be considered cousins normally, to Sita they were like sisters as well. This is how things work in small communities following ancient traditions; the cousins, aunts and uncles spend so much time around each other that there are no divisions made as to which child belongs to which parent. Every child within the family is a brother or sister.

So Sunayana essentially offered four daughters to God; this was her service at the time. And these daughters would make the sons happy in so many ways. The mother affectionately embraced them again and again as they were leaving. The mother made the offering and then had to watch as her precious children left her, likely to never return.

The devotee can’t compete with Sunayana, or let alone with so many others, but the appreciation itself is worthwhile. The sentiment is what counts most to the Supreme Lord, so whatever genuine offering one can make, even if small the effect is the same as if the offering were of something much greater. The best sacrifice for the modern age is the chanting of the holy names, and so anyone has the chance to please the all-knowing Shri Rama.

In Closing:

For my own devotion to test,

Different offerings to assess.


This person does so much I see,

Incomparable, way better than me.


Like offering from Janakpur’s queen,

Daughters of beauty never before seen.


To Rama, knower of the people was made,

That He would love them always she prayed.