Saturday, April 12, 2014

Talking About Exaggerated Praise

Krishna and Arjuna“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13)

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Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13Inquisitive Mind: This Bhagavad-gita really is an interesting book.

Helpful Friend: It sure is.

IM: I’ve always had some belief in reincarnation. I like how Krishna describes it in terms of the changing bodies.

HF: It’s an easier way to understand it, for sure. Our initial tendency is to think of reincarnation only in terms of past lives. “Was I a king before? Did I live in a different country? Was I a bird who could soar into the sky?”

IM: And Krishna says that even in this body there is reincarnation. There is the change from boyhood to youth to old age. Then the next change takes place at death. I also like how He says that for one who takes birth, death is guaranteed and that for one who dies, birth is also assured.

HF: Yes. Those things are true, and knowing them makes it easier to deal with the loss of a loved one, which I believe is what led you to picking up a Gita, no?

IM: Correct. But you know me, I always have doubts. And I often like to bring those doubts to you, if you don’t mind?

HF: Go for it.

IM: The truths that Krishna presents make sense to me. The thing about the frustrated desire leading to anger and then from anger one does stupid things, I TOTALLY get that. I always think of how things would turn out when I would play tennis. I had a desire on a specific day to play a certain way. Then when I had trouble, I got angry. After enough anger, I threw my racket, which then broke. That was a completely stupid thing to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I was so frustrated. From Krishna’s teachings I understand the reasoning behind that now.

[broken tennis racket]HF: Yeah, frustrated desire brings us to do so many things we normally wouldn’t.

IM: And I like how Krishna explains that we should be honest, kind, truthful and the like. I have some issues with the devotional aspect, though, especially the surrender.

HF: That’s not surprising. That’s the most difficult thing to accept.

IM: I mean, we have similar statements in other religious texts. Isn’t it possible that Krishna is speaking metaphorically there?

HF: No.

IM: Like maybe He means we should surrender to the Krishna within us? He means the higher force living within, who is meant to guide us?

HF: That sounds nice, but there is no such thing as a “Krishna within.” Did you read about the Supersoul, the Paramatma.

IM: That rings a bell, but I don’t remember exactly.

HF: The Supersoul is Krishna’s expansion who resides within the heart. We are individual soul, or jivatma, and He is supreme soul, or paramatma. If there’s anything that closely matches the “Krishna-within” concept, it’s Paramatma. However, and this is very important to understand, Paramatma IS Krishna. It is not separate from Him. It is the same person.

IM: So we’re all Krishna?

HF: We’re all parts and parcels of Krishna. We all have Krishna living with us. We just can’t see Him. The collection of individual spiritual sparks is also another way to understand Krishna, but He is still always an individual personality, a separate living entity.

[Krishna and Arjuna]IM: I see, but isn’t that just your interpretation? Don’t other commentaries on the Gita deny that fact or explain it differently?

HF: Ah, I see. That’s your problem. There is only one interpretation. Everything else is bogus. You don’t have to take my word for it. Arjuna himself says that Krishna is supreme. There is a verse where he praises Krishna very nicely, calling Him the Supreme God, the original person, and so many other laudatory terms.

IM: I did see that. Krishna gives Arjuna all this wisdom, and then Arjuna praises Krishna to the hilt. But keeping with my doubts, isn’t it possible that Arjuna was exaggerating a little? They were friends prior to this discussion, no?

HF: Very good friends.

IM: And friends sometimes like to praise each other, especially if someone does something good.

HF: That’s true.

IM: And here Arjuna had a specific interest. He was doubtful prior to a great war. Krishna removed those doubts. So naturally Arjuna would want to embellish Krishna’s qualities a little bit, to repay the favor done to him. That’s what any good friend would do.

HF: Friends are known to act that way. Even strangers, if they have favors done for them they will exaggerate the qualities of the person who helped them.

[Rigatoni Vodka]IM: Exactly. Let me tell you a quick story. Many years back our company was forming a partnership with an overseas company. They were going to use our software in their call center. This company had offices spread throughout their particular country, so this deal had tremendous potential. One week they sent their leading people to come visit our facility. One of the days we took them out for lunch at this Italian place. It was a little upscale, and we were semi-regulars there. After being seated, we made some recommendations to our guests on what to order. When the food came out, their leading guy took one bite from the pasta and declared it to be the best Italian food he had ever tasted. The people from our company gave each other a subtle look of disbelief. We understood that this guy was a little full of it, that he was just trying to be nice to us for the purpose of making this deal. I mean he had barely touched the dish. The food was good, but a typical person would not declare it to be the best food they had ever tasted. As it turned out the deal didn’t go through, but we always remembered that incident. We’d always joke to each other, “This is the BEST Italian food I’ve ever had.”

HF: That’s a funny story.

IM: So isn’t it possible that Arjuna exaggerated on who Krishna was since he was so happy to have received transcendental knowledge?

HF: Well, again, only a cheating commentator would opine as such, since in the very next verse Arjuna backs up his claim.

IM: What do you mean?

HF: As if he knew that people would not believe him because of his friendship with Krishna, Arjuna gave supporting evidence. He said that great sages of the Vedic tradition all said the same things about Krishna. Asita, Devala, Narada and Vyasa all agreed with Arjuna.

IM: Vyasa? That sounds familiar.

HF: Yeah, he compiled almost all of the Vedic literature. Some of the same fools who deny Krishna’s existence also say that Vyasa didn’t exist. This is because they can’t believe that a single man wrote so much. But he did exist, he did write so much, and he says that without a doubt Krishna is all those things that Arjuna described Him to be.

[Lord Krishna]IM: I see.

HF: And let me tell you something. If you stay hung up on this point, if you think that Krishna isn’t real or that there is some Krishna-within that should be worshiped instead, you will not get anything from the Bhagavad-gita.

IM: Really?

HF: Seriously. There’s plenty of other things to read, including parts of Vyasa’s very own Mahabharata, on how to deal with stress, be kind, be virtuous, and find material success in life. The Bhagavad-gita is different because it is meant for the fulfillment of the soul’s true desires. The message is potent both because of the content and the messenger.

IM: Great, thanks for clearing up my doubts. I’ll be sure to bring any new ones to you, should they arise.

HF: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In Closing:

For friend who helped in countless ways,

On them to heap endless praise.


To claim that they are this and that,

In kindness no worry on being exact.


Arjuna to Krishna did this too,

Except words were totally true.


For support to sages of repute referred,

To Krishna’s supreme standing they all concurred.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The One With The Starter Motor

[Lord Vishnu's disc]“An atheist may argue that God is no more expert than a watchmaker, but of course God is greater because He can create machines in duplicate male and female forms. The male and female forms of different types of machineries go on producing innumerable similar machines without God's further attention. If a man could manufacture such a set of machines that could produce other machines without his attention, then he could approach the intelligence of God. But that is not possible, for each machine has to be handled individually. Therefore, no one can create as well as God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.1 Purport)

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“How did she do this? There’s no way this can be right. Can it?” These were the questions Patrick asked of himself as he looked over the homework assignment completed by his twin sister Anna. The two were enrolled in a basic automobile repair class at the time. In the recent months, they had run into much car trouble. The tires weren’t maintained very well on the family car. Their parents themselves weren’t very much up to speed on how to take care of a car. Therefore the twins decided to take matters into their own hands.

[Auto repair]Though they both enrolled in the class, Patrick assumed that he would excel. “Women aren’t so great with this stuff,” he thought to himself, as he noticed that Anna was only one of two females in the class. “I’m sure Anna will need my help.” But as the course went along, it was Patrick who had trouble. Anna seemed to already be familiar with the different parts of the car. She picked up on new things very quickly. Patrick’s progress was slower. He didn’t pay much attention to the lessons of the teacher, thinking that he would be able to figure things out for himself.

Then came the big project. Each student had to construct a starter motor, which would then be tested in the classroom. Anna finished hers very quickly, while Patrick couldn’t figure out how to do it. In looking at Anna’s completed motor at home, Patrick thought that maybe if he took it apart he would be able to construct his own by himself. Just as he was about to take it apart late at night, the light went on in the kitchen.

“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Anna.

“Umm nothing. I was just checking out your motor. I wanted to make sure it was done right. I didn’t want you to get embarrassed in the class tomorrow,” responded Patrick.

“Uh huh. Sure. If you need help with yours, you can just ask.”

[Starter motor]“I don’t need help. Someone probably helped you. I think this is impossible to construct. The teacher didn’t give us all the necessary parts. He probably built yours for you.”

Anna smiled as she heard these sour grapes from her brother. “Well, I’m going to keep this in my room tonight, if you don’t mind.” As she left the room with her finished motor, Patrick was now out of luck. He couldn’t figure out how to construct his own motor. Resigned to the inevitable failure, he went to sleep. Early the next morning Anna woke up and secretly constructed Patrick’s motor for him in the kitchen. Later on, Patrick was surprised when his motor worked in the classroom. Anna eventually told him what she did, and Patrick was sincerely touched by the kind gesture.

A few months later the entire episode was brought up again when Patrick went to his grandfather’s house one afternoon for lunch. His grandfather was known to be very pious, keeping religious paraphernalia around the house. He was always chanting on these beads, repeating, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” After the meal Patrick decided to give voice to some of his curiosity.

“Grandpa, do you really think there is a God?”

“Sure I do.”

“But what about all the bad things that happen to people? We see tragedies on the news all the time. If there is a God, how could He allow that to happen?”

“Well, things aren’t so simple. You have to know karma and the difference between matter and spirit to understand how everything fits into the larger scheme.”

“Grandpa, I will admit to you that I don’t really believe in God. I’ve had too much trouble in my life. I think man just invented God as a way to deal with the horrors of life. I don’t think there is a God, otherwise we would be able to see Him.”

His grandfather then took the opportunity to bring up the incident with the car motor, which took Patrick by surprise. “Well, dear son, do you remember that automobile class you took with your sister, and how she was able to construct that motor and you weren’t?”

“Oh no. Who told you? I bet it was Mom.”

The grandfather laughed. “Yes, but don’t worry. That stuff happens to all of us. Your sister is very intelligent, and so you should be proud of her for that. Anyway, in that incident I heard that you were so frustrated that you accused your sister of cheating. You said something to the effect that it was impossible for any person to build that motor, that she must have received help. Am I right?”

“Yes. I was angry. I’m not proud of what I said.”

“That’s okay, but the atheist attitude is very similar. They are frustrated with what they see in life. They don’t always get what they want. More importantly, however, they don’t follow protocol. If you follow the divine path, you’re actually able to see God. If you don’t, then you’ll think that it’s impossible to see Him and that He doesn’t exist.”

His grandfather then went into an explanation of the difference between matter and spirit. He explained how the individual is Brahman, or pure spirit, and how everything else is maya, or illusion.

“When the atheist is driven by illusion, how can they expect to see clearly? They drink, they kill innocent animals, they cheat, and they don’t control their senses. Actually, we all have these tendencies. When someone follows the regulative principles of devotional service, thereby developing austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness and austerity, they can actually see God. They follow the right path and thus witness what they previously thought to not exist.”

“Oh, I see,” said Patrick. “I never thought of it like that before. That makes sense, though. I kind of coasted in that class, and so that’s why I didn’t know how to make that motor properly. Anna, on the other hand, listened to everything the teacher said. She was a good student.”

“So while creating a motor is a kind of art form that requires some discipline and instruction, understanding and seeing God is infinitely more complex and difficult. It is a genuine science and not so much an art form. You have to follow the principles as they are handed down through a chain of teachers. In this age especially it’s very difficult, so the umbrella principle, the one that covers everything, is the chanting of the holy names, which you’ve probably heard me do.”

[Japa bead bags]Patrick pointed to his grandfather’s bead bag that was around his shoulder. “So is that what you’re always chanting on those beads? You’re following the method to see God?”

“Yes, the sound of the holy name creates His presence. Don’t ask me how that works. I was skeptical at first also, but through enough practice I can definitely feel Him here. And once you do, you never want Him to go away. You understand how everything else works, also. The big puzzle becomes easier to understand.”

After talking a little more, Patrick prepared to leave. “I have a lot of homework to do, Grandpa, but I want to talk more about this the next time I am here. Is that okay?”

His grandfather happily told him to come by any time.

In Closing:

Though to make machine simple,

For reference require example.


In wrong way becoming impossible,

Through proper path easily possible.


When in life’s journey frustrated,

Fools to think God man created.


Regulative principles, taking way that is right,

See God always, be blessed with divine sight.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The One With The Counseling Session

[Krishna's lotus feet]“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.22)

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Bhagavad-gita, 5.22Judy wasn’t feeling herself for the past few weeks. To the outside observer, she had no reason to feel this way. She lived in a happy home with her husband, who was very dear to her. Her children were all healthy. The older ones were married, with one having children on the way. The youngest one just went away to college.

Unable to pinpoint the cause of her melancholy, Judy took a drastic step. She made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Very nervous on her way into the office on the day of the appointment, she felt a little embarrassed while sitting in the waiting room. When the receptionist said those magic words, “The doctor will see you now,” the gravity of the situation finally hit her.

[Psychiatrist's office]When seated on the couch and facing the doctor, realizing that this was a complete stranger Judy felt comfortable enough to vent some of her problems.

“So why are you here, Mrs. Smith?”

“Well, lately I haven’t been feeling myself.”

“Okay. Can you explain a little bit more?”

“Well, my husband is working all the time. I love him dearly, don’t get me wrong. It just seems that his job, which is very stressful, takes up too much of his time. When he comes home, he really doesn’t feel in the mood to go out or do anything.”

“Okay. Have you tried talking to him about this?”

“Well, I don’t feel like burdening him with my problems. I don’t want to give him another reason to feel stressed. Also, maybe it’s not him. The children are all out of the house now. Maybe I’m suffering the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. The kids would always come to us with their problems. They always needed help. I had something to do all the time. Now I feel empty. I feel without a purpose.”

Judy continued speaking in this way until the hour was up. To her surprise, the doctor reached for his prescription pad.

“You’re giving me pills?”

“Well, these might help. It could be that there’s a chemical imbalance.”

Perplexed, Judy shyly took the prescription paper and went home. In her mind, her problems were not solved and she really didn’t feel comfortable taking any medication. “My problems can’t be related to chemicals, can they?”

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]A few years back, one of Judy’s good friends had given her a Bhagavad-gita As It Is to read. “This will change your life and answer all your questions. From everything to birth and death to happiness and sadness is covered in this work,” said her friend Jane when handing the book to her. Judy appreciated the gift, but she wasn’t much of a reader. She also thought that Jane was a little more into exploring than she was. Judy considered such things to be “new age” and not necessarily within her realm of interest.

Now more curious and in a little distress, Judy considered picking up the book to read, but the sheer volume of it overwhelmed her. She decided to do the next best thing, meet with her friend Jane. Judy called her to come over the house the next day.

When Jane arrived it didn’t take long for the good friends to get down to the heart of the issue.

“I can tell something is wrong, I can just feel it,” said Jane.

“How did you know? Yes, I have been distressed lately,” replied Judy, who then went into detail about her problems. She repeated practically verbatim everything she had told her psychiatrist. She also explained that he gave her a prescription.

“What do you think? You think I should take these pills?” asked a worried Judy.

“Well, I’m not going to pretend to be a doctor, so I can’t speak on the pills. I will say that your problem sounds pretty common. Remember that Bhagavad-gita I gave you a while ago?”

“Yes, I was actually thinking of reading it.”

“Okay, so there’s a verse in there which says something to the effect that a wise person doesn’t take part in things which are the sources of misery, because those sources have a beginning and an end. It basically means that everything in material life comes and goes. One second we are living in happiness and the next we are in sadness.”

“Oh, okay. I feel that way now. I was happy and now I’m really sad. I’ve done so much and had so much around me, but I still feel a kind of void.”

“Yes, that’s totally natural. The philosophy presented in that book is that we are all individuals, spirit souls at the core. Our natural inclination is to serve, and only in service to the Supreme Soul do we find transcendental happiness. Since we’re born into ignorance, we take the bottom up approach first. We love our parents, our siblings, our pets, our spouse, our children, etc. In the top-down approach, you worship and love God first, and then that automatically makes you affectionate for others.”

“Interesting. So basically that void I’m feeling is the lack of a loving relationship with God?”

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Right. It’s hard to realize. It’s difficult even for someone to accept that God exists. So the void is always there to some degree. You’re very fortunate, if you think about it. Most people will try to ignore the problem, throwing themselves into this thing and that. The least fortunate make the mistake of relying on chemicals to give them a false escape.”

“You know, hearing that from you makes a lot of sense. I’ve always wondered about these celebrities who have everything and then take to drugs and alcohol. It must be that their fame and fortune do not equate to happiness.”

“Yes, so the philosophy is that love for God, which is known as bhakti-yoga, is a fulltime occupation. You can practice it anywhere and everywhere. It is the eternal occupation, sanatana-dharma.”

The two friends continued to converse in this way for the rest of the afternoon. Judy was so happy to have called Jane. As Jane was leaving for home, Judy promised to make time to see her more often.

“I feel so much better now. I’m so glad I called you. Hopefully we can see each other again. You can keep me from going crazy and I can keep giving you questions to answer.”

“That sounds like a deal,” said Jane with a smile as she departed.

In Closing:

Material pleasures with beginning and end,

Wise soul thus takes no part in them.


That initial oncoming happiness,

Bound for ending made of distress.


How with such cycle to cope?

Devotional service the only hope.


A life dedicated to God make,

Hold of better future in hands take.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The One With The Haughty Messenger

[Shri Hanuman's hand]“Even a decision on what should be done and should not be done made with intelligence does not bring good results. Indeed, messengers who falsely consider themselves to be learned ruin the task at hand.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.38)

artha anartha antare buddhiḥ niścitā api na śobhate ||
ghātayanti hi kāryāṇi dūtāḥ paṇḍita māninaḥ |

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Dilip’s two sons, Agraj and Anuj, were enjoying their Saturday, which was usually reserved for play and relaxation. They were in school and old enough to start receiving homework on the weekends, but for this particular three-day holiday weekend they didn’t get any homework.

“Seriously, your teacher gave you nothing?” asked Dilip.

“For real, Dad. We didn’t get any homework,” responded the two sons, who pleaded with their father to believe what they were saying.

“I know every trick in the book. Don’t think your old man is a fool. I invented the ‘we didn’t get any homework’ excuse. You’re not going to get me with that one.”

But seeing that his sons were not budging from their stance, Dilip decided to extend them the benefit of the doubt. He let them play on Saturday as they wished. When Sunday came along, however, the father changed his attitude. After having seen his two sons, who were normally energetic and full of life, spend an entire day on the couch playing videogames and watching movies, Dilip decided it was time for a change.

[Tecmo Bowl video game]“Okay, listen up,” he said very loudly as he entered the living room. “The television gets turned off in an hour. Then Agraj, I need you to clean your room and vacuum upstairs. Anuj, I need you to rake the lawn. The leaves are piling up and it doesn’t look nice.”

“But Dad, it’s a three day weekend. We didn’t get any homework, either,” complained the boys.

“Exactly. So now you have free time to do some work. Agraj, I want the entire upstairs spotless. I want you to be diligent. And Anuj, make sure all the leaves are picked up. Once you get the piles together, put the leaves in trash bags and leave them by the curb for the garbage people to pick up tomorrow. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Dad,” said the two boys in unison. After an hour they reluctantly went about starting their chores. Agraj first cleaned his room. He put all his dirty socks, pants and shirts in the hamper. Then he threw out the loose papers and other odd things that he didn’t have a need for. Then he went about vacuuming his room and every other room upstairs.

[Raking fall leaves]Anuj’s task also went rather smoothly, at first. On the inside he was happy to have gotten the raking assignment. At least he got to be outside. He didn’t like vacuuming, either. His chore was very straightforward. He was told what to do and how to do it, but towards the end of the task, he had some doubts as to his father’s logic. Anuj thought to himself, “Why should I put all these bags of leaves on the curb? The garbage people might complain. A bird can come by and poke a hole, causing a mess everywhere.”

In looking around, the neighbor’s yard caught his eye, and an idea dawned on him. The neighbors had already raked their lawn. Instead of placing the bags by the curb, they had stored them at the side of the house, where they kept their trash cans. Anuj decided he would place his bags of leaves there as well. “No one will know, and this way there’s no chance of there being a mess on the curb.” He carefully placed each bag in the stash with the neighbors’ and then went inside.

Towards the end of the day, Dilip saw that everything was clean upstairs and that the lawn was free of leaves. “Good job, guys. I’m proud of you,” he told his sons. All seemed well until the doorbell rang in the early evening. Agraj and Anuj were in the living room, and so they could only hear the yelling that was coming from the front door area. They could hear their father saying, “I’m sorry,” over and over again, but they had no idea what was going on.

When Dilip returned to the living room, he looked extremely upset. “Agraj, please go to your room. I need to speak to your brother, alone.” Agraj quickly headed upstairs, all the while wondering what was going on.

“Anuj, this morning when I gave you your assignment, what did I tell you to do with the bags of leaves?”

“To place them by the curb.”

“Yes. So why did the neighbors just come over and yell at me for placing our trash in their pile?”

Anuj then explained to his father how he thought the idea of placing them on the curb wasn’t good. He thought it would be easier to mix the trash bags in with the neighbors’ pile. He thought that no harm would be done by this.

“Anuj, let me tell you a story. You’ve heard of Shri Hanuman, right?”


[Shri Hanuman]“Well, during one point in the Ramayana he offers us an intelligent truth about what happens when messengers think that they are smarter than they really are. He says that even if a decision has been made on what to do and what not to do, using intelligence, the whole plan could get spoiled by the messenger who thinks himself to be too intelligent.”

Dilip continued, “Your mistake today reminds me of Hanuman’s words. So in that sense I can’t be too angry at you, for anytime a person can remember Hanuman they gain a tremendous benefit. Still, you should take that lesson from him. I gave you a task to do. I gave you the instructions. You were so close to completing it. It wasn’t that difficult a task. But at the end you thought that you were smarter than you were, and so your ill-advised action ruined the entire plan.”

“But Dad,” interrupted Anuj, “what’s the big deal? It was just a bunch of leaves. There was no real harm done.”

“Well, this brings us to another lesson you can take from Shri Hanuman. As you know, Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, gave Hanuman the task of finding the Lord’s missing wife, Sita Devi. Hanuman was very careful in his mission. He never thought himself to be too smart, even though he is millions of times smarter than both you and I combined. He thought that even the slightest mistake would upset Rama, for whom he cared deeply. If someone as great as Hanuman is so careful when taking up tasks for others, we should be the same way. It is one of the many reasons that Hanuman is so dear to Rama.”

Though being reprimanded, Anuj was not so worried. He found that hearing about Shri Hanuman eased his worries over his punishment that was soon to come. He begged his father to tell him more about Hanuman and his adventures in pleasing Rama and finding Sita. Dilip gladly obliged, and soon Agraj returned downstairs and joined them in this most important history lesson.

In Closing:

When ill-advised action he takes,

Messenger mess of things makes.


Even if success obvious and foretold,

Spoiled by unwise move, risky and bold.


Intelligence in pleasing Rama use,

Then wisely in circumstances to choose.


Since to beloved Lord so dear,

Path to pleasing Him to become clear.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Keeping The Heart Calm

[Rama's lotus feet]“Then to Rama and His brothers Janaka requested many times. With tears in his eyes and a throat choked up, he tried to keep his heart calm.” (Janaki Mangala, 175)

bhāinha sahita bahori binaya raghubīrahi |
gadagada kanṭha nayana jala ura dhari dhīrahiṃ ||

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It’s a common scene. A famous athlete has decided to hang it up. The decision wasn’t easy. Once he ruled the sport. He was the leading scorer, the most valuable player, and accustomed to hoisting the championship trophy. Writers were in competition with one another to be the first to tag him as the “greatest of all-time.” But that same time went to work on his skills. Eventually, his abilities diminished to the point that he was no longer valuable enough to keep on a team.

[Jerry Rice retirement]A press conference is scheduled where the player is expected to announce their retirement. They step up to the microphone, offer a few pleasantries, and then explain why it is they no longer will compete in the sport that has been their life since a very young age. Though they try, at one point they begin to shed tears. “I promised so and so I wouldn’t do this,” they say, as they fight back the tears and the choked throat. But the moment is too intense for them to hold back. They think of all the sacrifices others made for them. They think of all that they will miss. Though they never cry otherwise, at that moment they cannot hold back.

Indeed, others feel similarly helpless in situations specific to their lives. When they least expect it, as if they have no control over their body, they begin to shed tears. King Janaka faced that a long time ago, except his loss of control was rooted in love for the person each one of us has loved deep inside for the longest time. The individual can be identified best by the spirit soul residing within the body. Though that is the last thing with which we choose to identify, it is the only force that remains steady. We have difficulty realizing it is there until it finally leaves, at the time of death.

All of the individual’s emotions are rooted in the soul’s natural love for God. Hatred, envy, anger and the like are the inverse of the loving propensity. Like an upside down mirror, they still belong to the same source as the converse emotions of affection, kindness, and attachment. When pure love for God reawakens, there is ecstasy. That emotion is so strong that it is impossible to control. It rushes in like a tidal wave, especially when one is in the presence of the loveable object, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Lord Rama]Here Janaka is bidding adieu to Shri Rama and His three younger brothers. All four were just married through Janaka’s arrangement. Thus they are leaving home and taking with them the precious daughters dear to the community of Janakpur. In this verse from the Janaki Mangala it is said that Janaka is constantly requesting Rama. His throat is choked up and tears fill his eyes, and he tries to keep his heart steady. If you don’t have control over your emotions, how will you speak? If you’re overcome with intense affection, it will be difficult for the words to come out.

Janaka steadied himself enough to make his heartfelt plea to Rama, asking that He always remember them. Unlike the individual living entity, God is without flaw. He never falls down. He never fails to deliver on something needed for the devotee. Since His presence within the consciousness is the most important boon anyone could ask for, it is granted immediately upon request. Especially when someone as pious and respected as Janaka asks, the gift remains manifest all the time, never to be hidden away through a temporary fall into the material ocean of attachment, aversion, greed, selfishness and envy.

Just as Janaka fought his emotions to make his kind request to the Supreme Lord standing in front of him, the devoted souls who always chant the holy names have a difficult time keeping their emotions in check. Just hearing the name “Rama” brings to mind the dearest son of King Dasharatha. When they hear the name again, they remember how happy He made Janaka by winning the contest of the bow. They have trouble keeping the tears from coming when they remember Rama’s dearest wife Sita, who is the beloved daughter of Janaka.

[Mother Yashoda with Krishna]When they hear the name “Krishna” they think of the darling of Vrindavana, who roamed this earth as the affectionate son of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. They get choked up thinking about how He transformed a humble fruit vendor’s products into jewels when they made a kind offering to Him. The name brings to mind the famous lecture on all matters of life that Krishna gave on the battlefield to the distressed warrior Arjuna. The name reminds them of the shelter Krishna provides through lifting giant mountains like Govardhana.

As the name brings so much joy, it is no wonder that the heart has a difficult time remaining calm in the presence of the Supreme Lord, who is non-different from His names. So many names are there to keep the devoted soul always in ecstasy, and so these souls never tire of reciting those names. Janaka was able to make his requests, and Rama immediately granted them. In the same way, Rama immediately comes to the souls who chant His names in a pure way.

In Closing:

So much potency in holy name,

To Supreme Lord it is the same.


Just by one time purely saying,

Pastimes in mind start playing.


As Rama and brothers to leave ready,

Janaka made requests, keeping heart steady.


Of pure souls wish immediately to grant,

To deny King Janaka and others He can’t.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rama Navami 2014

[Rama's lotus feet]“O ocean of mercy, O ocean of happiness, O crest-jewel of great souls, from time to time please remember us, dear son, and don’t let go of your love.” (Janaki Mangala, 176)

kṛpā sindhu sukha sindhu sujāna siromani |
tāta samaya sudhi karabi choha chāḍaba jani ||

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Shri Rama, the person honored on the occasion of Rama Navami, is the crest-jewel of all great men. Sujana refers to great souls, those who are wiser than most. Their wisdom is directly tied to their vision. They see the spirit within all creatures. This vision is stronger than x-ray. The doctor in the examination room can see the hairline fracture of a bone, but no image will give an indication of the presence of the soul. For that, knowledge and training are required.

Bhagavad-gita, 5.18“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

[Krishna and Balarama with cows]The wise soul sees with equal vision so many different creatures. The unintelligent cannot see this, for their vision is not sharpened. They make distinctions between man and woman. They offer affection to one type of animal and a butcher’s knife to another. They are kind to their family members but apathetic towards their neighbors. Such a dichotomy in outlook is understandable given the lack of pure vision.

Spirit is equally present in all forms of life, and so one who can understand this is very valuable to others. They are truly a great soul; they show their greatness in their behavior and also the wisdom they offer to others. Rama is the crest-jewel of such men since He always has the equal vision. Not only does He see everyone equally, He is the lone entity who witnesses everything. In His expansion as the Supersoul, He is the all-pervading witness, a neutral observer who is just standing by, waiting to offer guidance when asked.

“The Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, seated beside the individual soul, is the witness of the individual soul's activities and is the source of consciousness. The Supersoul gives the jiva an opportunity to act freely, and He witnesses his activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 8.4 Purport)

[Lord Vishnu as Supersoul]Rama’s travels with the individual from body to body also make Him an ocean of mercy. No one else is so kind to us. No one else knows everything about us, from our faults to our good attributes. We keep secrets from one another because revealing too much information may leave us vulnerable. Others may keep vital information with them, to be used when a favor is needed. It may also be used if an argument ensues. The Supreme Lord sees everything, and He remembers all as well. And He is still kind enough to travel with us, to stay close by our side. When one is fortunate enough to realize the need for connecting with Him, they find that He gives them an endless flow of mercy. He allows them to glorify Him without end, which is the most enjoyable aspect of life. One only really comes to life when they are glorifying God.

Rama is also the ocean of happiness. Just study the countenances of His closest associates, like Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. In service to Rama, Hanuman is always blissful. The only time he finds unhappiness is if he feels inadequate in serving. Still, he never gets discouraged, for he knows he will be happy in service to Rama only. The same applies to Sita and Lakshmana, who follow Rama wherever He goes. They are only unhappy when physically separated from Him, when unable to serve Him directly.

[Rama Darbar]In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, King Janaka rightly points out Rama’s glorious nature. He addresses Rama as the ocean of mercy, the ocean of happiness, and the crest-jewel of all great souls. Janaka asks that Rama remember him from time to time. Rama is here set to return home to Ayodhya, having just married Sita, who is Janaka’s daughter. Janaki is one of her names, referencing how dear she is to her father.

Janaka asks Rama to not let go of His love for them. This is a very nice request, and indeed it is impossible for Rama to ever forget those who are dear to Him. He doesn’t forget the souls who always forget Him, so He surely always remembers those who choose to remain with Him in consciousness. On the occasion of Rama Navami, which celebrates the appearance of Shri Rama into this world, the devoted souls follow Janaka’s lead and pray that the dear Lord remember them from time to time.

[Lord Rama]How does one tell that Rama hears their request? Indeed, the mere ability to recite His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, indicates that the ocean of mercy is flowing nearby. By reciting, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the person remembers Rama, who in turn always remembers them. Rama takes the vow to always give shelter to the surrendered souls, so it is not possible for Him to abandon the love He feels for great souls like Janaka. In a similar manner, those who love Rama never cease in celebrating Him, paying special attention on auspicious days like the one that marks His appearance into this world, the day the crest-jewel of the Raghu dynasty finally arrived, the day Sita’s husband appeared in this earthly plane, and the day Shri Hanuman’s life and soul first graced this realm with His transcendental form.

In Closing:

Ocean of mercy and happiness to call,

Crest-jewel of great souls them all.


Address by King Janaka was made,

Highest honor to Shri Rama was paid.


“From time to time, us don’t forget,

And your love for us free don’t let.”


That Rama remembers know it’s true,

Lives in the heart alongside you.


Rama Navami a day to give praise,

The Supreme Lord glorify in endless ways.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bringing God Into My Life

[Vishvamitra's lotus feet]“Then the king offered prayers to Vashishtha and the other munis. Approaching Vishvamitra’s lotus feet, he offered many prayers.” (Janaki Mangala, 174)

puni basiṣṭha ādika muni bandi mahīpati |
gahi kausika ke pāi kīnha binatī ati ||

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A fully joyful man is known to do strange things. From his ecstasy he throws caution to the wind and starts to give thanks to anyone and everyone. Even if he is in a supposedly superior position, he feels so humbled by his good fortune that he offers respects to so many others. This verse from the Janaki Mangala is an instance of such a mannerism, except that the actor is following protocol at the same time. Though he is described as mahipati here, which means “protector of the earth,” he remains humble before others who are known as the godly figures of this earth.

Consider this scene. A man is out of work for a long time. He has not been able to find a job. More than just struggling to pay for his monthly expenses, he feels down as a person. He feels as if he is not valuable to society. Then one day through good fortune he is able to land a job. His brother knows someone who is in charge at a company. They are able to get this unemployed person employment. The newly hired man feels so happy to finally have gotten a job. He is humbled by the process, and feeling very thankful he offers all respects to both his brother and his new boss.

Consider another scene. A man holds his first child in his arms for the first time. After having been married for a few years, his wife finally got pregnant. Both husband and wife were eager to start a family, and they knew the struggles that lay ahead. Nevertheless, the first moment of holding his child made the husband overjoyed. Knowing that he was now in charge of protecting this innocent person instilled a stronger sense of responsibility in him. He is also very appreciative of his wife, who had been in labor for a long time. He offers her so much respect, love and attention. He is so thankful for her presence in his life.

Life is full of similar situations, but nothing can compare to having God enter your life. The term “God” is rather vague, as one can even mistake a basic auspicious occurrence with God’s direct intervention. With King Janaka, there was no vagueness. The Supreme Lord in a visible form appeared in his life. First came the Lord’s eternal consort, Sita Devi. She entered Janaka’s life mysteriously from a field. Janaka then gladly took on the role of father. Through arranging for her marriage, Janaka received Shri Rama as a son-in-law. Rama is Narayana, or the source of men. He is Krishna, or the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Vishnu, who is all-pervading and opulently adorned, served by many goddesses of fortune simultaneously. He is Janardana, or the maintainer of all living entities. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. Everything emanates from Him.

[Bhagavad-gita, 10.8]“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]In the scene referenced above, Rama is about to return home to Ayodhya. He is taking Sita with Him, for they are married now. Though Janaka is a powerful king, here he offers respectful obeisances to Vashishtha, who is the family priest in Ayodhya. He gives respects by offering prayers to the other munis, or sages, who are there. He then makes a special approach to the lotus feet of Vishvamitra. It was this forest-dwelling sage who was most responsible for Rama entering Janaka’s life. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were serving Vishvamitra in the forest when they were led by the sage to Janaka’s city. If not for the sage’s mercy, Rama would not have appeared at the contest of the bow and won Sita’s hand in marriage.

Simply by his words and his behavior Vishvamitra earned the respect of someone who protected the earth. The sage did not demand that others worship him. He did not tell others that he was their guru. He did not force Janaka to make obeisances. The wise king, who was so thankful to have the greatest gift in the world, Shri Rama in his life, knew who was responsible for his fortune. He was never puffed up by his stature, for he knew that all good things come through the mercy of the devoted souls, who are rare to this world and yet still carry a far-reaching influence.

[Sita and Rama]All objects in the material world are perishable. Brahman, or truth, is the only thing that remains. Narayana is the source of Brahman, so He is ultimately responsible for giving life to anything. In the darkness of ignorance, the conditioned living entity forgets the presence of Narayana. It is the humble sage who kindly awakens the bewildered soul, reminding them of both God’s presence and the eternal relationship as servant to Him. Through this kindness, the demigods of this earth automatically become worshipable, as shown by Janaka. With every utterance of the holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the magnitude of their mercy increases. By keeping love for Sita and Rama in his heart, Janaka offered the highest respect to Vishvamitra and the other sages associated with the Lord.

In Closing:

Supreme Lord, source of all things,

To contest of the bow with him to bring.


So much in outcome for king invested,

Pleased when competition by Rama was bested.


Shankara’s bow in arm to lift,

Rama in family most precious gift.


All by grace of Vishvamitra sent,

So Janaka towards his feet went.