Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Garden of Eden

[Sita holding flower]“Seeing that devi, situated like a divine lady in the Nandana Gardens, the Vanara then reflected over many thoughts.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.2)

avekṣamāṇaḥ tām devīm devatām iva nandane |
tato bahu vidhām cintām cintayāmāsa vānaraḥ ||

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Ravana thought he had heaven on earth. He was a king, which meant he held the highest post in the material world. A king gets whatever they want; that is generally the case anyway. No one could unseat this king either; he was the most feared throughout the world. The king had plenty of enjoyments available, but one definitely eluded him. He finally procured it, bringing its physical form to his kingdom and placing it in a beautiful garden. Thinking he had found the “eden” of earth, he was ready to enjoy. Ah, but this was no ordinary divine lady. Spiritual in every way, her beauty is meant to be enjoyed by only one person. This is her constitutional position that can never be broken.

[Haricuts]Sex life is the greatest pleasure in a material existence. By “material” we refer to the covering of the individual. Whether that individual is in the species of an ant, a cat, a dog, a cow, or a human being, there is a material covering that allows others to make a physical identification. But at the same time the covering doesn’t accurately identify the individual. We know this for a fact based simply on the haircut. If I go and get a haircut today, I don’t suddenly transform into a different person. Simply the appearance of the hair on my head changes.

And yet if a woman gets a makeover, she may become much more appealing to the opposite sex. Therefore this attraction is part of material life. It is based on a covering only. The same adult who once had a full and thick head of hair loses all or most of it in old age. The same female who once had slender hips and firm and raised upper portions turns overweight with a sagging upper portion during old age.

As the physical beauty is guaranteed to diminish, those who don’t know any better try to enjoy as much as possible while there is still attraction. Unaware of the true nature of the individual, they use the same lens when assessing spiritual life. They think that if there is a God and a heavenly life, that the reward for pious behavior will be an enhanced enjoyment in sex life. “Let me do good work now so that I can enjoy eternally in heaven. I know that enjoyment today consists of eating and mating, so perhaps it is the same way in heaven.”

“Even on the earth there are different types of women who are enjoyed by different types of men. But on higher planets there are women many, many millions of times more beautiful than the women on this planet, and there are also many pleasure abodes where they can be enjoyed. The best of all of these is the Nandana Gardens on Svargaloka. In the Nandana Gardens - a "Garden of Eden" - those who are qualified can enjoy varieties of beautiful women called Apsaras.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Mukunda-mala-stotra, 4 Purport)

[Flowers]Indeed, the Vedas describe many different heavenly planets, where the material enjoyment is beyond compare. On the heavenly planet of Svargaloka, there is an area called the Nandana Gardens. In that garden one finds the most beautiful women, who are meant to be enjoyed by the residents. The setting enhances the enjoyment of the participants. No cares in the world; just free fun through bodily association.

And yet even this enjoyment doesn’t last forever, for it is material. The material is dull and lifeless. When placed on top of the spiritual, it is only temporarily manifest. We know this inherently, but we don’t think that there is anything beyond it. Ravana, the king of Lanka a long time ago, also was unaware of the true nature of spiritual life. He had taken part in many religious ceremonies, even following austerities many times. Still, he thought the whole point was to find increased material enjoyment. He thought wrong.

Here Shri Hanuman looks upon Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Since she is in a beautiful garden at the time, she is compared to a divine lady situated in the Nandana Gardens of the heavenly planets. This comparison is made only to try to describe her beauty. It is also fitting for how Ravana viewed her. However, she is not material. Her body does indeed identify her. It is no different from her spirit. The two are identical because every aspect of Sita is used for service to the original Divine Being, the Supreme Lord. Since she is always in the devotional consciousness, her body and spirit are one in the highest interest.

[Sita and Rama]Though these events took place on the earthly realm, it was like heaven on earth for Hanuman too. For Ravana, the “heaven” was an illusion, something unreal. He mistook Sita for an ordinary beautiful lady who could be bought off by opulence, strength and hollow words of praise. Hanuman saw Sita in full devotional ecstasy, feeling separation from her beloved husband, Shri Rama. In his spiritual body, Hanuman got to serve by offering thoughts, words and deeds for the benefit of both Sita and Rama.

Here he enters into a series of thoughts as to what to do next. In his heaven on earth, Hanuman did not simply sit back and enjoy. He acted, showing that in the devotional consciousness the guiding mentality is to serve instead of be served. Real heaven is the ability to always serve the Supreme Lord, basking in his transcendental features and courageously accepting the tasks He bestows. Hanuman unhesitatingly accepted a very difficult task for Rama and always looked beautiful as a result. He saw Sita for who she was, and so his service to her benefitted the entire world, not just himself.

In Closing:

With a desire to enjoy women in mind,

The most beautiful in heaven to find.


In Svargaloka a Nandana garden,

Equivalent to a one of Eden.


Sita in Ashoka grove this way looked,

Glance at her Shri Hanuman took.


But different, of body and mind one,

Thoughts only of Rama, deviations none.


Hanuman in a unique way also his glance,

Ecstasy at serving her getting the chance.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The One With The Stage Fright

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

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[Bhagavad-gita, 3.27]When he was in the fifth grade, Tim had one particular day in school that really surprised him. He experienced something very troubling and new to him, and he wouldn’t know what the exact problem was until many years later. One day his class was reading the famous novel called The Scarlet Letter. Tim was a fairly decent student, so reading or math assignments didn’t worry him. He would regularly complete them on time and get some of the highest marks in the class.

[George Washington]But on this day the class was going to read a chapter from the book out loud. And not just one student would be given the task. They would go around the room. One person would read a few paragraphs, and then the person next to them would continue. Up until this point in his life, Tim, who though being extremely shy, had no problem doing such things. He had acted in a school play a few years prior, playing the role of George Washington, which he enjoyed very much.

On this day, however, he felt extremely nervous. Tim’s heart seemed to stop as the task grew nearer. “Oh no, I’m so nervous,” he thought to himself. “I better read this well. I hope I don’t mess up any of the words.” It was now his good friend’s turn. He was seated next to Tim. After he finished the last word in the paragraph, it was Tim’s turn.

The whole class waited for him to go. They would have to keep waiting. No words came out of Tim’s mouth. “Just say it. What’s wrong with you? You can do this,” his mind kept saying. However, the nervousness was too great. He couldn’t even utter the first word. “I know if you get the first sentence out, the rest won’t be a problem,” were his mind’s words of encouragement. Yet nothing happened. The class started laughing. The teacher called his name a few more times, and still no words came from his mouth. Finally, they moved on to the next reader.

[The Scarlet Letter]At the end of the class, Tim’s friends congratulated him on a joke well played. “That was funny, man,” they told him. “You just refused to read. Yeah, this book is pretty stupid. I didn’t want to read, either, but I don’t have the same courage as you.” Tim couldn’t believe it. Somehow they didn’t detect that he was nervous. They had no idea that he was simply unable to speak the words. “I’ve never had a problem like this in the past, so that’s probably why they had no idea,” he thought to himself.

As the children were filing out of the classroom at the end of the day, the teacher asked to speak with Tim.

“What happened during the reading today? Were you trying to play a joke?” asked the teacher.

“No. I’m sorry; the words just weren’t coming out of me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I was so nervous. I’ve never had that happen to me.”

“Oh, okay. Just try to relax. Think about something else. I knew something was going on,” she said to him very calmly.

During the remaining years of his schooling, similar problems occurred, but not on a regular basis. In the seventh grade, the teacher had the students read a play in class. Tim was assigned a particular role, and when it came time for him to read, he once again couldn’t utter a word. The class laughed and assumed that he was remaining silent in protest of the role assigned to him. Once again, after class he had to explain to the teacher what had happened. She had a difficult time believing him, since he had not shown signs of nervousness previously.

Tim struggled with the problem his whole life, even into adulthood. Sometimes he would have trouble saying his name to someone when asked. He would sometimes freeze when speaking on the telephone to order food. He had developed little tricks here and there. He also learned that the problem he had was known as “stage fright,” which so many people suffered from, though not all to the same degree as Tim.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Not until reading the Bhagavad-gita in adulthood did Tim fully grasp the reason behind his problem. Tim developed a habit where he would read one verse from the book in the morning and then think about it for the rest of the day. In meditating on the verse which says that the living entity is not the doer, Tim couldn’t help but reflect on his problems over reading out loud in school.

“I think I understand this verse,” he thought to himself. “It’s like when I was in school. All I had to do was read words out loud. It wasn’t that hard of a task. In fact, it had never been a problem before. It was almost involuntary. But my mind got in the way. Though the mind told my tongue to vibrate words, nothing happened. This means that I am really not the doer, though I think I am. I can choose how to act, but the results come from material nature. That nature is controlled by God, who is superior to me. Without His sanction, nothing can happen.”

[Throwing from second base]“So many others have similar problems, “ he continued thinking. “I grew up healthy, but some kids get diseases in their youth. This means that we’re not fully in control of our fate. We can try our best to stay healthy, but if nature doesn’t cooperate, nothing can be done. The same goes with stage fright. Some have it and some don’t. I know some baseball players even had it. They could make the throw from the second base position to first base without a problem for so many years. Then suddenly one day it became too difficult. Only when they were in emergency situations, like turning a double play, could they make the throw. That is because the mind got out of the way then. So even within the body, which we think we have control over, impediments exist towards reaching the desired result.”

[Krishna and Arjuna]Tim considered that since the outcomes to actions are out of his control, he might as well desire outcomes that will please the controller. “Since God is ultimately in charge, I should try to act in ways to please Him. Then He will take charge of making the outcomes manifest. I will get the benefit, thinking myself the doer, when in fact He will be helping me out. Krishna teaches us that we are not the doer, that nature carries out the results to action. For the devoted soul, Krishna Himself takes charge, like He did with the great warrior Arjuna. Later in life, when Krishna had returned to His transcendental abode, the fighter of tremendous skills, Arjuna, met with defeat. He immediately realized that it was Krishna who had done all the work in the past, the work that made Arjuna famous. So from now on I will try my best to please the Lord by chanting His names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and following devotion to Him. Stage fright or not, I will not give up in this quest to please the beloved Lord of the universe.”

In Closing:

Think control of outcomes in you,

But actually nature is the one to do.


Like when suddenly difficult to speak,

Or from disease to feel weak.


Krishna all outcomes controls,

Fullest power in His hands holds.


Try then for in devotion to live,

Krishna success and credit to give.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The One With The Travelling Tirtha

[Vrindavana]“My Lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.” (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Vidura, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.10)

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[Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.10]One more stop to go. Lakshmi and her husband decided to take a different sort of vacation this year. They went to India, where Lakshmi’s parents were originally from. She and her husband booked a tour package that included visits to many of the famous sacred spots. So far in her trip she had visited places like Rishikesh, Jaipur and Haridwar. She and her husband entered many different temples and looked at so many religious figures, about whom they didn’t know much.

[Lord Krishna]Their last stop was Vrindavana. Lakshmi had heard that this is the land of Krishna, and that name she then heard constantly while in that sacred town. Again, she and her husband visited many different temples, saw various rivers and ponds, and walked past famous sites dedicated to saints from the past. She also did her fair amount of shopping, picking up shawls, bangles, and different religious paraphernalia. Her husband complained that she was buying too many things, that they didn’t have room for it all in their home, but she ignored him.

On the last day of their trip, Lakshmi decided to walk around Vrindavana by herself. Her husband stayed back at the hotel, as he was tired from all the walking. At one point in her touring, Lakshmi came upon a somewhat large gathering. She had been drawn in by the sound of chanting. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is what she heard from a distance. Upon locating the source of that sound, she found a group of people seated in front of a person dressed in religious attire. That person was leading the singing, and the crowd was responding.

Getting caught up in the festive atmosphere, Lakshmi decided to stay. She noticed that the men and women were divided, so she took her seat amongst the other ladies. When the chanting stopped, the person in front, an elderly man who seemed to be of Indian descent, began to speak. To her surprise, the discourse was in English. Lakshmi then heard information with which she was not familiar. In fact, these were teachings that went beyond sectarian boundaries. The teachings seemed logical to her; not simply Hinduism.

Among the things she heard from this man were that the soul is eternal, that it never dies. It never takes birth, either. That which we lament for at the time of death is simply an external covering. She listened as the speaker described how people come together at nature’s direction and then are separated in due course. She was instructed to not lament for either situation, for the attachments and aversions were only rooted in illusion. This illusion was described by the term “maya.” The true reality, this man said, was spirit. She then heard that Krishna is the name for the Supreme Spirit, and that the smaller collections of spirit are meant to serve Him in a mood of love. She learned that what they had been chanting previously was a mantra directed to Krishna. The chanting was a way to please Him and serve Him.

[Lord Krishna]When the discourse was over, another chanting session began. When that ended, Lakshmi spoke to some of the participants. They told her that this saintly person lived in Vrindavana, and that he discoursed on bhakti-yoga regularly. He had an ashrama there, which was like a school or spiritual institution. Lakshmi very much wanted to approach the speaker and ask more questions, but she realized that it was time for her to return home. She and her husband were taking an overnight drive to the location of their next hotel stay, which was in the city that their flight back was going to take off from. Meeting up with her husband later on, she described all that she had witnessed. On the flight home and over the next few weeks, she kept repeating the mantra she had heard that gathering sing.

As fate would have it, a few months later Lakshmi and her husband decided to eat out at an Indian restaurant for dinner. Lakshmi did not feel like cooking that night, and so her husband suggested a new spot that had just opened up. After a satisfying meal at that establishment, on the way out Lakshmi noticed a flyer on the wall. It was an advertisement for a Hare Krishna program with a certain guest speaker, a swami whose picture was featured. She told her husband that they had to go, and so the next week they went to the program.

To her delight, Lakshmi found that the group was singing the same mantra, Hare Krishna, over and over again. The guest speaker touched on topics similar to what was discussed by the saint living in Vrindavana. “How wonderful this is,” Lakshmi thought to herself. “That amazing knowledge which I found so far away from my home is now being spoken in my own backyard.”

After the program, during the time when food was served Lakshmi got to chatting with one of the other ladies in attendance. Lakshmi told her about the trip to Vrindavana and how the chanting of the holy names had caught her attention. She also told this woman about the unique knowledge she heard in that lecture.

“So how did you find this place?” Lakshmi asked, as their conversation continued.

“Actually, I ran into a person on the street. They handed me a Bhagavad-gita As It Is and a card inviting me to their program,” the woman responded.

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]“I heard the speaker mentioning that book. Have you read it? What’s in it?”

The lady then explained what she knew about the Bhagavad-gita. She directed Lakshmi to a table in that temple that had all sorts of books. As she was walking out, Lakshmi took one copy of the Bhagavad-gita and left a donation.

Upon reading that book later on that night, Lakshmi had a realization:

“Wow, I was so fortunate to have gone to Vrindavana to get this nectar of knowledge. Then I was more fortunate that the person who spoke at the program tonight has taken to travelling. He is like a sacred place of pilgrimage on wheels. And then this book might even be better, for it is the translation and commentary of a saint who knows Krishna. And this saint’s works can travel anywhere, even to places where there are no temples. This Swami Prabhupada has brought Vrindavana to the world. I am so fortunate to have come across his works and the people who support him.”

In Closing:

Travelling to places near and far,

Like moving pilgrimage spots they are.


Spiritual atmosphere anywhere to make,

Since divine wisdom with them to take.


Presence only in books surpassed,

In sacred pages wisdom of ages passed.


Take advantage of them do you,

And make a spiritual home yours too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The One With The Bitter Lemonade

[Shri Hanuman]“If I offer auspicious words, which are in line with dharma, about the self-realized Rama, the most excellent prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty, saying these words in a sweet voice in hearing me she will believe me, for I will compose everything accordingly so.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.42-43)

ikṣvākūṇām variṣṭhasya rāmasya vidita ātmanaḥ ||
śubhāni dharma yuktāni vacanāni samarpayan |
śrāvayiṣyāmi sarvāṇi madhurām prabruvan giram ||
śraddhāsyati yathā hi iyam tathā sarvam samādadhe |

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It was a rare occasion indeed, as Sanjay was in his room on this night studying. It was his senior year of college, so as was known to happen to many others, a bit of “senioritis” had kicked in. He was missing classes every now and then. He was spending a lot of time with his friends, enjoying his few remaining months at the college he had called home for almost four years. “I’ll never have this kind of a life again, so I better enjoy every moment,” he told himself constantly.

But on this night he was studying for an exam. Therefore he was in solitude, away from his friends. Late in the evening strangely he received a call. “This is odd, my phone never rings. I wonder who this could be,” he thought to himself as the phone rang a few times. Finally, he closed the book he was reading and reached over to pick up the phone.


“Yo, it’s me, Samuel.”

“Hey man, what’s going on?”

“You’re not going to believe this. I got arrested.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Yeah, I got arrested.”

As Samuel confirmed this, Sanjay couldn’t help but laugh. In fact, he laughed heartily for the next thirty seconds. The two were good friends, so Sanjay couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Finally composing himself, the conversation continued.

“Yo, this is not funny,” said an upset Samuel.

“I’m sorry man. What happened?”

Samuel then proceeded to describe the course of the events from the night. Their friend Mario was in the partying mood. Mario was part of their small group of friends, which included Matt and Jose as well. Mario was the youngest in the group, and he had yet to reach the legal age for drinking adult beverages. This typically isn’t a problem in universities, for others are around who are more than willing to help. On this night, it was Samuel who was called to duty. Mario drove Samuel to the local store, and Samuel went in and bought the alcoholic beverages that Mario wanted.

“Yeah, so I got Mario’s stuff for him, and then he dropped me off at home,” continued Samuel, who lived off campus. “Then I get a call a few hours later asking me to come down to the campus police station. When I get there, they arrested me. Mario ratted me out. He told them I bought the stuff for him.”

“No way,” said an incredulous Sanjay. “What happened? Why would he do that to you?”

“They stopped him as he was walking back to his dorm. They saw what he was holding in his hands and asked him for ID. From his ID they saw that he was underage so they wanted to know how he got the stuff. Then he named me.”

“Wow, that is crazy. This story is insane. Did you tell the other guys?”

“No, not yet.”

When he got off the phone, Sanjay was still a little shocked. He couldn’t believe Mario had betrayed one of his friends in that way. At the same time, the incident seemed very humorous to him. The sentiment was shared by Matt and Jose, whom Sanjay spoke to over the next few days.

[school newspaper]As the incident took place on a weekend, the friends eagerly anticipated the edition of the school newspaper set to be published the following Monday. That paper always had a short column detailing the various arrests by campus police. The friends figured Samuel would be mentioned. What they discovered was even more surprising. Typically such stories were presented in one or two sentences on a small side column on one of the pages. This incident got better treatment, a written-up story. The title to the story was “Lemonade Turns Bitter For Two,” for the alcohol purchased that night was a brand called Mike’s Hard Lemonade. The story described the events that took place.

When Sanjay ran into Matt that Monday, the two immediately went into discussing the paper.

“Dude, can you believe they did a whole story on it?” asked Sanjay.

“I know, I was shocked. It’s so funny. I picked up like twenty copies. I’m going to save these. It will make for a great memory many years down the line,” replied Matt.

“I was a little surprised at the story. It said that Mario was relieving himself by a tree in the parking lot when the cops spotted him.”

“Yeah, that is a little strange. We’ll see him this weekend at Jose’s birthday party. Maybe we can ask him.”

All the friends were together the next weekend. While hanging out and playing videogames at Matt’s place, Mario arrived. At that point, Samuel, though initially furious at the betrayal, had already spoken with Mario about the incident. The two were on decent terms. The rest of the friends were still a little upset, however.

“How could you do that to him?” asked Sanjay.

“Hey man, it’s the cops. I’m not going to lie to them,” said Mario with a defensive attitude.

“I don’t know, man. That’s one of the most messed up things I’ve ever seen someone do,” said Matt.

“Come on, guys, cut him some slack. I probably would have done the same thing,” said Jose.

After everyone voiced their opinions on the matter, they got to asking about the details of the night. After all, of all of the friends, only Mario knew what really had happened.

“Dude, you were relieving yourself on a tree? You couldn’t hold it in until you got back in the building?” asked Matt.

“No, that part is totally made up. The cops added that part. I was just walking like normal and they saw me. They started interrogating me right away.”

The topic was not discussed again for a few hours. Later on in the night, Sanjay brought it up to Matt.

“Matt, I think I know what happened with the Mario thing.”

“Yeah? What do you think?”

“I have a suspicion that Mario saw the cops first as he was walking back to the building. Feeling afraid of getting caught, he hid by a tree. They then saw him hiding and knew something was up. Otherwise why would they just stop a random person holding a shopping bag?”

“Yeah, that makes sense. I was wondering the same thing. And then later on, to justify why they stopped him, they made up the story of him relieving himself by the tree.”

“And did you notice Mario’s face when he was talking to us,” asked Sanjay. “I knew he was lying. Don’t ask me how, but I just got that feeling. He wasn’t entirely honest with us.”

“I got the same feeling,” said Matt.

Jose, who had overheard their conversation, weighed in on the issue. “Dude, I don’t think he was lying. You guys are reading too much into this. He got caught and ratted out Samuel. Big deal. Just get over it already.”

In this way no one was really sure what had happened. Were the police telling the truth? Was Mario dishonest? Eventually the incident became a distant memory, and all the parties involved went back to getting along as per normal.

Many years later the incident came to Sanjay’s mind again. This occurred while reading the ancient Vedic text, the Ramayana. In one particular section, a dedicated warrior who has an important message to deliver deliberates on the best course of action. His worry is over how the recipient will receive the news. Will she believe him? She doesn’t know who he is at that point in the story, which is an account of historical events put into wonderful Sanskrit poetry. She is surrounded by liars, cheats, frauds, and people of the worst character. Therefore her first inclination would be to discount any information given to her, even if it was good.

[Shri Hanuman]In reading the deliberation of the dedicated messenger, Shri Hanuman, Sanjay couldn’t help but think back to that incident from many years back.

“Hanuman is here worried over how his words will be believed by Sita, the distressed princess. Indeed, it is difficult to decipher the truth. This reminds me of that bitter lemonade incident from my college years. I couldn’t tell if Mario was telling me the truth or not. We couldn’t even believe the police, either, in whom we put so much trust. Even Samuel was dishonest in buying alcohol for someone who was underage.”

Sanjay took note of the decision Hanuman made. Hanuman decided he would speak of Shri Rama, the most excellent prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty. His words would be in line with dharma, or virtue, since they would be about someone who was self-realized. Most importantly, his words would be sweet, a tone Sita had not heard in a while.

“This incident tells me that the only way to know for sure if someone is speaking the truth is if they are speaking about God,” continued Sanjay in his thoughts. “Hanuman decides here to speak accurately about Rama, the Supreme Lord in a wonderful incarnation. Sita, a saintly personality and thus a great truth-detector, would know that Hanuman, though a stranger to her at the time, was speaking the truth. The message given to her would be accepted, and she would take hope that Rama was coming to finally rescue her.”

[Sita and Rama]Sanjay admitted to himself that even he had been dishonest many times in the past, and that perhaps the friends had been too hard on Mario many years back, for dishonesty naturally follows unclean behavior like drinking. Most importantly, he was glad to know the one surefire way to avoid dishonesty. “Simply speak sweet words about Rama. This is something I will try to do.”

In Closing:

Into lying so easy to go,

So real truth how to know?


When intoxication and gambling to seek,

So many lies without question to speak.


Sita, suffering in Ashoka ground,

With liars and cheats all around.


Hanuman deciding on possible way,

Glories of her husband Rama would say.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The One With The Team Captain

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.42)

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.42The players headed back to the locker room. It was a crushing defeat. Just one win away from making it to the playoffs, the team looked like they had it in the bag. The doubles matches were evenly split, and the same fate for the first two singles matches. Just one match remained, and it was the matchup that looked easiest on paper going in.

“We could have won that match,” said one of the players.

“Yeah, but I don’t know why the coach chose Johnson to play,” said another.

“It’s because they are friends. Walters was in that spot all year, but I think he and the captain got into a fight recently. The captain then decided to put his buddy into that spot and we see what happened,” added another player.

[tennis court]In this way the team members complained to one another about the job the captain had done. They didn’t like so many things he did, from the timings of the practices to the type of food served after matches. At one point in the discussion, one of the team members, Rob, proposed an idea.

“Hey, maybe I should get my own team together next year. Would you guys be down?”

After thinking it over for a while, they were all on board. There would be a new team next year, with a new captain. Things would be different. Things would be better. The players wouldn’t let a spot in the playoffs slip away due to quarrel and friendship. Rob would right every wrong committed by the present captain.

Jumping forward to the next year, Rob found the job of captaincy to be a little more than he bargained for. He opened up about the job to one of his teammates one time right after a practice that lasted a few hours.

“So, who are you going to play in the match next week, Rob?” asked Bill.

“I don’t know, man. I got everybody in my ear giving me advice. One person wants to play singles, whereas I think they would be better suited for doubles. Another guy isn’t sure he can make it, though he’s likely our best player. Our best doubles team can’t stand each other. They each told me separately that they refuse to step foot on court with the other guy.”

“Wow, Rob, I didn’t know you had all this to deal with.”

“Yeah, the job looks easy on the outside, but I’m the bad guy in pretty much all situations. I can never do anything right, as far as everybody else is concerned. I have so much more appreciation now for last year’s captain.”

Later that night, Rob’s wife could tell that something was troubling him. He did not speak much during dinner. Then they watched a movie on the couch, where he was again silent throughout. Finally, while laying in bed and reading, she decided to see what was up.

“Honey, is something bothering you?” she said while holding the book she was reading, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translated and commented on by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

[Bhagavad-gita, As It Is]“Oh it’s okay, dear. You can go back to reading. I don’t want to bother you,” Rob replied.

“Now that’s not going to make the problem go away. You should talk about it. I’m ready to listen. Is it about your tennis team? I think it’s been stressing you out lately.”

Rob then revealed everything to his wife. He shared his frustrations and how the job was getting to be too much for him. He even said that he regretted taking the job, that it would be easier to just sit on the sidelines and let someone else take all the blame.

“That’s awful, honey, but I don’t think you should quit,” she counseled. “Those guys count on you. It’s not easy to be a leader, but this is the responsibility you chose. You should not quit on them.”

“I think you’re right, sweetie,” Rob admitted.

“You know, I think this should make you appreciate leaders more. They take all the arrows. They offer instruction too, sometimes even if it means others won’t like them. Take Lord Krishna for example,” she said while pointing to the book in her hand. “In this book He gave sound words of advice to the distressed warrior Arjuna. Krishna actually advised him to fight. That was the right thing to do at the time, but to this day so many less intelligent people criticize Him for advising Arjuna in such a way. What if He just decided to sit back?”

“What do you mean?” Rob asked.

“If He just sat back and let Arjuna quit, would that have been a good thing?”

“No, probably not.”

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Exactly. The leadership position He took was for Arjuna’s benefit. This little episode you have only relates to a tennis league for older men who want to get out of the house, away from their wives.”

“No, that’s not true,” Rob said smiling. “Okay, maybe a little, but definitely not the case with me,” he said with a wink.

“Anyway,” she continued. “You should take your experience as a blessing. It should make you appreciate more the spiritual leaders that we have. I remember last week we went to see that swami give a lecture, and you were complaining that he talked too much about himself and his stories from his youth.”

“Yeah, but you know I was kidding. I have respect for him, don’t get me wrong.”

“No, that’s fine, but just see what someone like that has to go through. It’s a thankless task. He gets criticized by everyone, though so many benefit just from hearing his chanting of the holy names. So many benefit from hearing from Krishna, the original and supreme leader of mankind, but hardly anyone appreciates Him. Krishna spoke strongly to Arjuna at times, chastising him for his sudden ignorance of the laws of propriety. Think of how our friends feel if we say anything bad to them. But if we’re really their friends, we try to help them. In the same way, Krishna is a friend to everyone. So He left us His conversation with Arjuna and so many other teachings by those leaders who follow in His footsteps.”

[Lord Krishna]After talking some more, Rob felt a little better about his situation. “Okay, thanks dear. I do feel much better. Maybe once this season is over, I’ll try reading that book a little more seriously. You might have to buy me a copy, as I can’t see you parting with yours for a moment.” Giving her a wink and a kiss, he went to sleep.

In Closing:

By judgments and words to make,

The leader arrows from all to take.


Still the counsel they freely give,

So that others with knowledge to live.


Though Krishna chastised times some,

Victory over doubts by Arjuna was won.


So the leaders in bhakti appreciate much more,

Spreading glories of Lord a thankless chore.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The One With The Frozen Wiper Fluid

[Krishna's lotus feet]“In summary, to reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal, there are two processes: one process is by gradual development, and the other process is direct. Devotional service in Krishna consciousness is the direct method, and the other method involves renouncing the fruits of one's activities. Then one can come to the stage of knowledge, then to the stage of meditation, then to the stage of understanding the Supersoul, and then to the stage of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One may either take the step by step process or the direct path. The direct process is not possible for everyone; therefore the indirect process is also good.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.12 Purport)

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“All religions are the same,” Pete said very sharply to his father, who had been playing kirtana music in the car on their way to the local store to pick up hardware supplies. The father wasn’t up for arguing, for he didn’t feel the time called for it. “All paths lead to the same destination, so I don’t know why you keep talking to me about bhakti-yoga and stuff,” Pete continued. A few weeks later something happened that gave him a different understanding. It also gave Pete’s father an opening to elaborate on the glories of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, in more detail.

It was a typical work morning for Pete. It had snowed the night before, but based on where Pete’s car was parked, there wasn’t any snow to clear. He was ready for work, running a little late in fact. Though there was snow on the ground, the roads were more or less clear. “Okay, I should have a pretty smooth ride to work, “ he thought. But this would be unlike any other morning commute he had ever had.

[Salt on the windshield]Halfway through his journey, as per usual Pete got on a major highway. On that road the troubles started. Pete noticed that there was condensation on his windshield. He waited as long as he could until running the windshield wipers. Then he noticed some streaks that were left. “Ah, they salted the road. This has never been a problem before, so I should be fine.” As a habit, Pete hardly ever used his windshield wiper fluid that is standard in modern cars. He would get into debates with his friends over this practice. Pete would boast of how he could see through almost anything on the windshield and that he waited until true emergency situations to tap into the reservoir of wiper fluid.

This morning commute turned into an emergency situation very quickly. With the salt accumulating on the windshield, Pete ran the wipers again. This time there was a larger streak of salt residue left. It was getting very difficult to see. “No sweat. Let me run the wiper fluid,” he thought. But there was a problem. No fluid was coming out. It was very cold that morning, so there was the chance that the wiper fluid was frozen. “Aren’t these things not supposed to freeze,” Pete thought to himself. “I better pull over. This is getting ridiculous.” It was to the point that Pete could barely see the road in front of him. A very dangerous situation indeed, he was fortunate that an exit was fast approaching.

Taking the exit, Pete pulled into the first parking lot he could find. Getting out of the car, he took some snow that was on the ground and used it to wipe the windshield. “Boy, I hope I can make it to work. This is insane.” Stopping helped Pete for a little while, but once back on the highway the same problem arose again. Through good luck and a lot of prayer, Pete was able to make it to work, where he told his officemate Wade what had happened.

[Wiper fluid]“Yeah, your wiper fluid is probably frozen, though I find that surprising,“ surmised Wade.

“I mean I’ve seen the labels for those things. Aren’t they supposed to be good until negative twenty degrees?” asked Pete.

“They are, but you don’t know what kind of fluid is in there, right? When did you last fill it up with fluid?”

Pete explained that until that day he’d never once even opened the hood of the car, that the auto repair shop took care of all that for him. “Yeah, so they might have left the summer solution in there,” responded Wade. “They put different fluids in there because in the summer the winter fluid isn’t as good. It can evaporate and leave you in a similar predicament.”

Pete was still upset. He assumed that all fluids were the same. He also thought if there were indeed differences that the auto repair place would know which one to use. All that had to wait, though. He had a bigger problem ahead of him. The weather forecast showed that it wasn’t going to warm up again until the next morning. Worried of a similar terrifying commute on the way home, Pete called his father and asked for a ride.

After picking him up at the end of the day, Pete’s father heard the story of the morning commute.

“Yeah, so Dad, did you know that the wiper fluids are different based on the season?”

“Yes, I did.”

“That’s not right, though. Why not just keep the winter one in there all the time? Why don’t they tell people this?”

Pete’s father saw the chance now to continue the discussion from a few weeks prior about his son’s claim that all spiritual paths were the same.

“It comes down to desire, son. You made an assumption about the wiper fluid, but actually there is a reason for the difference. People have a different desire in the summer season as opposed to the winter. When you accept something, you have to know which desire it is suited towards. Just like with the discussion on religions we were having recently.”

“Oh boy,” sighed Pete. “Not this again.”

“Well, son, you should take this as a learning experience. The reason there are different religions and religious systems is that there are different desires. There are also different circumstances. In one era,the people may be more prone to killing. So the religion of that time focuses on sin and avoiding it. In another place, someone wants to be a great mystic. Another person in a different place wants a lot of wealth. So that’s why you get different systems.”

“What do you want, Dad? Are you saying that your religion is better than everyone else’s?”

“I’m not saying that I am anyone special, but the path of spiritual life I choose is tailored for those who don’t have any material desires. The sole objective is to connect with God, who is a personality. I have so many other desires and I think so many bad things, but I’m trying my best on this path. I know what it is, who it is suited for, and what to expect.”

Pete seemed a little more open to hearing his father out on this day. Perhaps it was the gratitude he felt for being saved from a dangerous ride home or perhaps he was genuinely interested. He continued to ask questions.

“But Dad, the wiper fluid example shows that in one time of the year something is favorable and in another time it’s not. Is your spiritual path missing something, then? Is it not appropriate for all time periods?”

“That’s a good question. Actually, all other paths are missing something. If you’re after money and wealth, you don’t have renunciation. If you’re after renunciation, you don’t have any possessions that could help you to do things. If you’re after mystic perfection, you’re lacking a guiding force once you get your abilities. The path I’ve chosen, which so many have followed since the beginning of time, is free of defects. It works all the time because it is the direct method of approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You can take the direct method or the indirect method. Eventually you may decide to accept the direct method after having perfected the indirect method, but still the direct method is superior in all circumstances.”

[maha-mantra]When there was a lull in the conversation, Pete’s father decided to turn on the stereo and play music. Pete could then hear his father repeating that familiar mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They both heard this sacred sound all the way home. The next morning, Pete returned to his car to find that the wiper fluid was now unfrozen. With his father’s help, he quickly drained the fluid and replaced it with a winter-specific version.

“Thanks for everything, Dad. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for this in the future.”

“No problem, son. And remember, anytime you’re in trouble, chant the maha-mantra. Chant it all the time, but if you can’t, then at least remember it when you’re in difficulty.”

In Closing:

Religions with different names,

In utility not all the same.


Depending on what exactly you wish,

Renunciation or opulence you cherish.


Follow bhakti when with all desires done,

A path complete, a defect not a one.


With regulations take method indirect,

Or straight devotion, success coming direct.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The One With The Awakening

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krishna consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5 Purport)

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It was a typical day at work for Brent. He was occupied in his programming and other daily tasks. In the office with him was Duncan, who was also hard at work. Things were going smoothly until Duncan complained out loud, “We’re getting snow again tomorrow.” The area had just seen a severe snowstorm, one that dropped a foot of snow where Brent lived. He particularly didn’t like to do manual labor. One of the reasons he chose programming as a field was because it allowed his mind to work. He didn’t have to get his hands dirty, so to speak.

[winter snow]Duncan’s pronouncement didn’t sit well with Brent, who immediately wondered if he would have to dig his car out again the next morning. More importantly, if the snowfall was during work hours, he would likely have to stay home, something he didn’t like to do.

“How much are we supposed to get?” Brent asked with hesitation.

“They’re saying four to six inches,” Duncan responded.

“Hot darn, forty-six inches?” Brent said in a loud voice, referencing an inside joke between the two of them. Several years prior, Duncan was asked by a coworker about an impending snowstorm. When he informed her that the forecast was for four to six inches, she misheard him. Startled, she responded, “Forty-six inches? Hot darn.” Ever since then that phrase had been an inside joke with Brent and Duncan.

“This winter has been terrible. This snow has got to stop,” said Brent.

“Seriously. It’s supposed to drop in the morning.”

“I think I’ll try to come in, then. Hopefully it won’t be too bad.”

When the next morning arrived, Brent was so tired from the night’s sleep that he forgot about the forecast. He considered staying in bed the whole day, such was his fatigue. But he never felt good about wasting a day away doing nothing, so he finally got out of bed and looked outside. “Hmm, this doesn’t look so bad,” he said to himself as he looked at the streets and his car covered in what seemed like a small amount of snow. “I am really tired, but this snow doesn’t look like it’s too much. Let me go out there and shovel. After everything is clear, I’ll decide whether or not I want to stay home and sleep.”

[Removing snow]In comparison with the recent storms that had hit the area, this snowfall was not much. Brent quickly shoveled the area at the end of the driveway and the neighboring sidewalks. An interesting thing happened in the process, however. He didn’t feel tired anymore. “Wow, I feel great. I definitely want to go to work now. Who knew? All I had to do was get up and be a little active. That woke me up even when I thought I didn’t have the energy to do anything.”

With his driveway now clear, his car cleaned, and his spirits uplifted, Brent went in to work as per normal. That night he received a call from his friend Joel.

“All is good with me, man. I’m calling you because one of the swamis from the local temple is going to do a program at our home this Friday night. It would be really cool if you could make it,” said Joel.

“Sure, of course. Should I bring anything?” asked Brent.

“Just your enthusiasm, as per usual. Did you go to work today? I saw you guys got more snow than we did.”

“Okay. Yeah, I went in. An interesting thing happened to me in the morning.”

Brent then explained everything to Joel about what had happened. He told of how his energy levels changed so quickly, just from doing some work. “I think it was a sense of accomplishment. I got some physical work in and that got the blood flowing.”

“It’s interesting that you mention that,” said Joel. “I was reading recently of an incident in Benjamin Franklin’s life. When he was living in Philadelphia, at one point there were so many wars going on and so many attacks coming from this group and that. He decided to form a voluntary army, and then he got nominated to be the leader. On one of their exercises, he noticed that the men in the army were happiest and most well-behaved when they had work to do. When they were idle, they were more unruly and upset.”

[Benjamin Franklin]“Oh, that’s interesting,” said Brent.

“Yeah, and so that’s similar to your experience. But you know there’s even a spiritual lesson you can take away from it.”

“What’s that?”

“Have you ever heard of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati?”

“I think so, but I’m not sure.”

Joel then explained the concept of parampara, or disciplic succession, and how Bhaktisiddhanta was the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Joel explained further:

[Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]“One of the things Bhaktisiddhanta would say is that one who has got life, he can preach.”

“Okay. What does that mean?” asked Brent.

“It can be understood in different ways. Someone who is alive can speak on the glories of the Supreme Lord. Someone who is active can instruct others on bhakti-yoga and how it is the constitutional occupation for the spirit soul. But it also has relevance to your experience, I think.”

“How so? And you know, people are often turned off by that word: ‘preach.’”

“That’s true. The Sanskrit equivalent is kirtanam, which actually just means ‘to describe.’ Preaching in bhakti-yoga means to describe the Supreme Lord. And doing that actually gives life to a person. When you start glorifying God you feel enlivened. And in that enlivened state, you can go on describing, without stop. Just look at Shrila Prabhupada. He wrote so many books, and they’re all kirtanam, describing God.” Joel then went into detail on how many books Prabhupada authored, at what stage in life they were written, and the process that went into publishing them.

“That’s just astounding,” said an incredulous Brent. “I can’t believe that one man could write so much.”

[Prabhupada writing]“Yes, but we know that it happened. So many others continue kirtanam in their own way. Like that singer whose YouTube video you sent me last week. He travels the world fulltime with his wife, singing at programs and speaking about bhakti-yoga. He doesn’t get tired because he is enlivened by glorifying God.”

“It makes sense, because when I’m at these programs and singing along to the chanting of the maha-mantra, I feel like I could keep going for hours.”

“See, that’s because it’s kirtanam, which gives life. Well anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday. Let’s hope it doesn’t snow in the meantime.”

In Closing:

Though feeling tired are you,

Enlivened when some task to do.


Up bringing spirits your,

Welcome is newest chore.


This a spiritual lesson also to teach,

That he with life only can preach.


Glories of the Supreme always to sing,

Transcendental touch to others to bring.