Saturday, May 3, 2014

The One About Being Nice To All

[Kapiladeva]“It is not true that Sankhya philosophy is a new system of philosophy introduced by Kapila as material philosophers introduce new kinds of mental speculative thought to supersede that of another philosopher. On the material platform, everyone, especially the mental speculator, tries to be more prominent than others. The field of activity of the speculators is the mind; there is no limit to the different ways in which one can agitate the mind. The mind can be unlimitedly agitated, and thus one can put forward an unlimited number of theories. Sankhya philosophy is not like that; it is not mental speculation. It is factual, but at the time of Kapila it was lost.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.37 Purport)

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In his early adulthood years, Mahesh read up on many different philosophies. Looking to find himself, to get a true meaning to life, Mahesh picked up whatever book on philosophy there was at the local library. As such, he tried out many different systems and practices, some orthodox and some not so much. For a while he meditated on the sun as it rose in the morning. For a brief period, he avoided eating on certain days of the week. Then he tried surfing, calming himself through the waves of the ocean.

[Surfing]During one particular stretch, he decided to be kind to all. “I’m sick of arguing,” he told himself. “I will be nice to everyone I meet. I will not let others agitate me, like they usually do.” He had read a book on this sort of philosophy. It called for universal kindness and respect. Criticism was not allowed. Violence of any kind was not tolerated. The author of this book had reached the conclusion that kindness was the way to live a virtuous life, and that from a virtuous life one automatically pleases whichever deity there is, if there was one.

Mahesh got to test this theory immediately. One morning he noticed that the driveway wasn’t cleared to perfection. This was after the next door neighbor had agreed to take care of it for him. During the most recent snowstorm, Mahesh had cleared the neighbor’s driveway out of kindness. The neighbor was away at the time, and so when he returned, he didn’t have to face a snow-filled driveway. The neighbor was so pleased with Mahesh that he promised to return the favor during the next snowstorm. “Maybe he just forgot,” thought Mahesh. “Oh well, I won’t get upset.” Mahesh then cleared the driveway himself, which made him a little late for work.

On the drive to the office, there were a few aggressive drivers on the road that violated many rules. One second they were driving very slow in their lane, and so Mahesh decided to make a legal pass. As soon as he entered the other lane, the slow driver then sped up. “They are intentionally driving dangerously. This is messed up,” Mahesh thought to himself. Normally Mahesh would have gotten upset or made some sort of visible gesture to the other driver, but this time he refrained.

When he got to the office, his boss yelled at him for being late. “I don’t care if it snowed last night. You are supposed to be here at a certain time. There are no excuses,” he said. Mahesh thought of his neighbor who didn’t come through for him, but he didn’t say anything to the boss. He remained calm. Later in the day, Mahesh got a call from his wife, who said that her mother was coming to stay with them for a week. His wife volunteered their bedroom for her, which meant that Mahesh and his wife would have to sleep in the living room that night. Again, Mahesh kept silent.

The next morning Mahesh woke up with a sore throat. The living room was not as well insulated as the bedrooms, and so the heating system wasn’t as accurate. His mother-in-law had turned the heat down in the living room prior to going to bed, thinking it would save the family energy costs. While she was nice and warm in their bedroom, Mahesh and his wife were cold in the living room. In order to alleviate the distress from his potential cold, Mahesh picked up some soup on the way home from work that day. He put it in the fridge for eating later, while he took a nap after a tough day at the office. When he awoke, he anticipated eating his soup. To his surprise, it was no longer there. A few minutes later, Mahesh’s son came into the room and said that he had eaten it.

[Soup]“What do you mean you ate it?” Mahesh asked very angrily.

“I was hungry. It was really good too,” his son replied.

“That is unacceptable,” Mahesh then shouted. “How dare you eat someone else’s food without asking them? This is ridiculous. You are grounded for a month.”

“A month? Dad, that’s not fair.”

Mahesh then continued to yell, until his wife came into the room and calmed him down. “What has gotten into you?” she asked. He explained that he was fed up with everyone taking advantage of him. He wasn’t going to tolerate it anymore. And so from that episode, Mahesh gave up his philosophy of applying tolerance and kindness in all situations.

Many years later Mahesh relayed this story to his adult-aged grandchildren one day while they came over to check up on him. He explained, “You see, these philosophies are all based on mental speculation. Someone doesn’t know the universal truth, and so they try to reach it by dint of their personal experiences. I tried pretty much all of them, and none of them worked for me. But in fact, there is a real philosophy that applies to all situations. It is a philosophy that was never created by anyone, though famous personalities do descend to explain it to people from time to time.”

[Teachings of Lord Kapila]The grandchildren then asked for some examples of these personalities. “One is Kapiladeva,” Mahesh replied. “He is famous for the philosophy of Sankhya, which can translate to metaphysics. It describes the universe in terms of elements and how the spiritual component fits into everything. Though his philosophy has a specific name, it is actually not different from the eternal truth of the individual being a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. It’s just that Sankhya explains that truth in a specific way, one that meets the curiosity of those interested in the elements of nature.”

“Why did He have to appear in this world and explain it?” his grandchildren next asked. Mahesh explained that the science as it is sometimes appears to be lost. “You see how many philosophies there are. It’s easy to lose sight of the eternal truth when mental speculators keep trying to outdo each other. Therefore, out of the kindness of the Supreme Lord, sometimes personalities descend to reintroduce the eternal truth, in a manner suited to the time and circumstance. In the present time period it is very difficult to understand philosophy, so the same potency arrives through the simple practice of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.’”

In Closing:

To understand my reason for living why,

So many philosophies there for me to try.


To be kind to all is method one,

Tolerance for harsh words none.


But quickly another method to use,

Since by others to be abused.


Not with philosophy of eternal truth stated,

From God, never from mundane mind created.


Repeated again from time to time,

Like with Kapila’s wisdom to shine.


Truth stays the same do know,

So in pure devotion to God go.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The One With The Sick Little Boy

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Nityo nityanam: He is the chief of all living entities; He is one, but He maintains many, many living entities. God maintains all other living entities, but no one can maintain God. That is His svacchanda-shakti; He is not dependent on others. Someone may call himself independent, but he is still dependent on someone higher. The Personality of Godhead, however, is absolute; there is no one higher than or equal to Him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.33 Purport)

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As it was a Saturday morning, Amit was all set to sleep in. The children usually awoke early to watch cartoons on television, and his wife knew not to bother him. But this morning was a little different. Amit was first awoken by the ring of the doorbell. Then a few minutes later his wife came into the room.

“Amit, you have to wake up.”

“It’s Saturday, you know that,“ he complained.

“Your father is here. You guys are painting the house today, remember?” she said.

“Oh great. I totally forgot about that.”

After getting up and using the bathroom, Amit felt something was off in his throat. He thought he might be coming down with something. His wife told him not to make excuses and that he had to help his father no matter what.

When he went downstairs, Amit’s brother Tarun was there as well. He had come over to help paint their house. It was going to be a family job, with the father in charge. Amit’s mother was there too, cooking breakfast for everyone.

“Dad, I don’t think I feel so well. I was around sick people at the office this week, and I think I maybe got something,” Amit said. His mother immediately rushed over to him. Feeling his forehead, looking into his eyes, with concern she told her husband not to paint the house.

[painting the house]“Dear, our boy is sick. He needs to rest. I’m going to call the doctor.”

“Oh, you always do this,” complained Amit’s father. “He’ll be just fine. He should be tougher.”

“That’s nonsense. How can you think of painting when our son is sick?”

“Oh, you were like this while they were growing up also. You coddled them too much. Now they’re too spoiled to even get their hands dirty. I think you want him to be sick. You need your sick little boy around so that you can take care of him.”

Amit didn’t like this verbal abuse from his father, and his brother’s laughing in the background did not help matters. Amit’s brother taunted him, speaking to him as an adult would a small baby.

“Alright enough. I’m fine, Mom. Let’s go paint the house already. You guys woke me up, so we might as well do this,” said Amit emphatically.

The father was like the drill sergeant, and the two boys were the loyal subjects. They didn’t like how their father treated them, but at the same time they knew that he was knowledgeable on such matters. If it were up to him, Amit would have hired professionals to come and paint the house. As the day went on, Amit started to feel worse and worse. Finally, after much begging, he was able to get a break in order to eat lunch.

Amit’s mother had lunch ready on the table. To their surprise, a family friend was also in the kitchen. He was a doctor, and Amit’s mother had called him to come to the house to do an informal checkup on Amit. The father was not too happy about this. He reiterated his theory that the mother was exaggerating things to have a child to take care of. He also believed Amit was convincing himself that he was sick in order to get out of painting. Tarun backed up his father.

To the father’s surprise, the doctor said that Amit was indeed ill. He was advised to immediately get rest. The father was then silent, while the mother shot him a dirty look. She then took charge of the situation. She told Amit to march on upstairs and get right into bed. She then made him some bread and soup, just to his liking. She took care of his every need, so much so that the brother became a little jealous.

“Mom, I think I’m coming down with something too,” he said while letting out a few coughs.

“Okay, you lay down on the couch. I’ll make you something.”

In this way the boys felt so good being cared for by their mother. They were happy to get out of painting, but more pleased to be maintained by someone who was an expert at caring for them. Their appreciation for their mother increased immensely, for even though they were adults she never stopped offering her motherly affection. Despite all opposition telling her to act otherwise, she was confident in her way of parenting.

“That was how my mother maintained us,” Tarun told a small gathering of people interested in bhakti-yoga many years later. “She was one person, but she could take care of our every need. It was such a comfort to have her there that I even pretended to be sick from time to time. My father accused her of wanting her boys to be sick, but in actuality we were the ones who enjoyed the attention.”

[Lord Krishna]He continued, “Just imagine then how great God is. He is the chief living entity. He maintains all, but no one maintains Him. And taking shelter from Him is even more comforting. One who surrenders to Him in full becomes directly maintained by Him. The truly surrendered souls abandon hopes for material gain. They no longer desire mystic perfection or full transcendental knowledge, for they know that the chief maintainer has everything covered.”

Tarun told them that the surrendering process is through the chanting of the holy names, that through the name itself one can be protected from all dangers impeding the progress towards full ecstasy in devotion. He then led the group in the congregational chanting of those holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In God power for all wounds to heal,

By His protection supreme comfort to feel.


By Him maintained living entities all,

But none for Him, as supreme stands tall.


Even if to fully surrender you can’t,

With some attention holy names chant.


In this way find progress slow,

And soon His caring hand know.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The One With The Close Proximity

[Krishna's lotus feet]“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

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Bhagavad-gita, 15.15For the serious student of genuine spiritual life, the first philosophical instruction is “you are not your body.” This instruction is required at the outset because without this knowledge, none of the other truths will make sense. Sort of like having to know that 2 + 2 = 4 in order to understand calculus, the seeker of the truth should at least theoretically understand the difference between matter and spirit. They, including every other individual, are spirit, and everything else is matter. This spirit is known as the atma, or soul.

As one gains further knowledge, that soul is known by a more specific term: jivatma. This refers to individual soul. The distinction is necessary because of the presence of a higher soul: Paramatma. Paramatma lives side by side with the individual soul within the heart of the living entity. As the term “living entity” applies to any life form, we see that the jivatma and Paramatma exist in every creature, large and small, human and nonhuman.

Paramatma translates to “supreme soul” because it has a notable distinction. It is one. The soul in my body is different from the soul in your body. That’s what makes us individuals. The Paramatma, however, is the same in both of us. It represents the same individual. Paramatma is one way to understand Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Paramatma is His feature as the all-pervading witness. It is the mechanism through which God sees everything.

One day Amarnath was discussing these topics with his friend and classmate Parth during a long car ride back to their university. Amarnath spoke of the aforementioned facts, and Parth listened intently but still had a few doubts.

“But how do we know that the Paramatma is there? I know that there is a soul in my body based on the fact that I am living. You know that I’m here because I’m alive and speaking to you. But how do we see Paramatma?,” asked Parth.

“It’s just one of those things you have to accept first and then realize later on,” replied Amarnath.

“Yeah but if something like that is so close by, I would think that you could realize its presence without a problem. I’ve read other philosophies that say something to the effect that the individual souls are all actually one. They don’t mention a Supersoul. This makes more sense to me, as the individual souls can be noticed based on the close proximity. How do I believe that God’s expansion of the Supersoul is so close by if I can’t even notice its presence?”

[Shirt and tie]Seeing the difficulty in getting this vital point across, Amarnath then tried to explain using a few stories from the life of his friend Kumar. Kumar worked at a business where there was a large call center. His duties pertained to management of the IT infrastructure. He was in charge of the network maintenance and also purchase and development of software for the company. While the majority of the company dressed casually, in his office Kumar always wore a shirt and tie. He had a few others with him in his department, and they had their own area in the building.

The company had an entire building for themselves, and the entrance to that building was the same for everyone. However, after walking in there were two paths: one for the people who worked in the call center section and one for the higher ups. Naturally, Kumar always took the path leading towards the management offices. Though so many people worked in that company, Kumar hardly knew any of them. He was close with the higher ups, and they were the ones running the show.

Kumar shared his office with other IT staff, and they were all on good terms. One time a guest arrived in the office. They seemed to know one of the IT staff members very well. When that guest approached Kumar’s desk, Kumar got up, shook his hand, and introduced himself. This made the fellow IT staff member in the room at that time laugh hysterically.

“Kumar, you don’t know this guy?” asked the IT staff member, barely able to contain his laughter.

A little embarrassed now, Kumar responded that he didn’t. This guest knew Kumar very well, however. He worked in the call center, on the other side of the building. In fact, most of the people working on that side knew who Kumar was. This guest was a little taken aback by the fact that Kumar didn’t know who he was, though the two worked at the same company and arrived at the same office complex every day for many years.

Another story involving Kumar related to important things at his house. Kumar lived with his wife and her parents. Kumar didn’t do much at home, since he was at the office all the time. His wife handled all the finances. She took care of the different repairs at the home. Kumar hardly ever picked up the mail out of the mailbox, even. This all made for an interesting adventure when one time Kumar’s wife and her parents went away for a weekend.

This took place in the dead of winter, and so one night upon returning home Kumar noticed that there was no hot water. Guessing that the problem might be related to the heating system, which relied on oil, Kumar decided to call the oil burner maintenance shop. His wife had left him a few numbers to contact in case of emergency, and this certainly was an emergency situation.

Upon making the call, Kumar had no idea what to say to the person on the other end. They asked him if there was oil in the tank. Kumar said he didn’t know. They asked where his tank was. Kumar said he thought that maybe it was at the side of the house. They then asked him to go to the tank and read the gauge to let them know if there was any oil. Kumar said he would check and call them back.

[Snow]So Kumar went outside hastily and attempted to get in the backyard. He noticed there was a new fence put in. He eventually figured out how to open the latch to the fence door. But then the door wouldn’t open. He couldn’t even get his hand through the opening. The problem was that it had snowed recently. Kumar took the responsibility to shovel the driveway and neighboring areas, but didn’t even think of the backyard. In fact, he hadn’t been in the backyard in a few years.

Realizing that snow around the fence door area had turned ice-like, Kumar climbed up using a garbage can and then jumped over the fence, landing on his back. Picking himself up and dusting the snow off his body, Kumar then dug out the snow, which then allowed the fence door to open. He was only halfway there, as next he had to figure out how to open the lock that was on the cap of the oil tank. After fifteen minutes, struggling through the freezing temperatures and using a flashlight to see, Kumar finally got it open. That was it for that night, and the next morning he scheduled an oil delivery. Then a technician had to come and get the oil burner restarted. All of these things were known to his wife very well, and though Kumar lived in the same house, he was unfamiliar with them.

[oil tank]Amarnath referenced these stories to show Parth that it is indeed possible to have something close by for a very long time and not notice its presence.

“See, it’s the same way with the Supersoul. He travels with us from lifetime to lifetime, even if we have no idea that He’s there,” he told Parth.

“I guess that makes sense. That Kumar sounds like a piece of work. Good thing he’s got his wife taking care of stuff for him,” Parth replied.

“Yeah. He should get her two dozen roses every year on Valentine’s day.”

“So how do I see the Supersoul. How do I connect with Him, as He is so close by?”

Amarnath then explained that through following the principles of bhakti-yoga, by chanting the holy names on a regular basis, eventually the vision comes.

[maha-mantra]“If you chant ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare’ and take the mercy of a spiritual master, who is like the visible version of the Supersoul’s influence, then the situation becomes one where the Supersoul notices you. You won’t have to notice Him specifically. And that connection to Him is known as yoga, and in yoga one finds transcendental happiness.”

In Closing:

How presence of Supersoul to believe,

And how its causeless mercy to receive?


Understand that a soul inside of me,

And others too living easy to see.


But of next-door neighbor consider,

Of whom might be known little.


Just because in proximity next,

Presence not automatically to detect.


Supersoul through theory first know,

Then see when in bhakti-yoga to go.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The One With the Cookie Competitor

[Lord Krishna]“Everyone thinks of things in a relative way, in his own terms. This is the meaning of ‘frog philosophy.’ The frog is always thinking of things in relation to his well. He has no power to conceive of the Atlantic Ocean, because his well is his only experience. God is great, but we are thinking of God's greatness in our own terms, in terms of relative greatness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, 6g)

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Kumari was hard at work in the kitchen. There was a big event upcoming at the local temple that she and her family attended. She agreed to make a large batch of cookies for offering to the temple deity, Shyamasundara, the form of the Personality of Godhead looking ever youthful and always beautiful.

[Shyamasundara]Kumari’s daughter was in the kitchen helping her on this day. She knew that her mother always worked hard to serve the Lord, but as she was still a young child, she wasn’t exactly sure who God was or why they worshiped Him in the temple in the way that they did.

“Mom, how great is Krishna?” she asked.

“Oh, His greatness is unlimited, “ Kumari replied. “There is actually no way to understand Him completely. So we just serve Him as best we can and then pray for His mercy.”

Not completely satisfied with the answer, Kumari’s daughter pressed on. “But how great? Is He good at everything? He is better than you at cooking? He is more beautiful than the people we see on television?”

Kumari then told a story to her daughter. This was from Kumari’s time in college, and it related to the same activity they were engaged in that day: baking cookies. “Let me tell you a story, dear,” Kumari began. “This will give you an idea of how we view things and why we’re not able to fully understand God’s greatness.”

In her first year of college, Kumari had made quite a name for herself amongst her friends. She attended school far away from home, so she and other students lived in a dormitory. The nearby dining hall was where they took most of their meals, but the food was not high quality by normal standards. When studying for exams or just spending a night late hanging out, they would often order food from outside. Pizza, Chinese food, Mexican - whatever was inexpensive and would deliver they had no problem ordering.

During one particular cramming session for a big exam, Kumari decided she would bake cookies. The residence hall had a small kitchen area at the end of the first floor, and so very quietly Kumari gathered the necessary ingredients. She had experimented with cooking a little while growing up, and so she had a basic cookie recipe that she would rely on from time to time.

“Kumari, these cookies are amazing,” her friends said to her the first time she made them.

“Oh, thanks, but you’re just saying that. You’re food deprived from all that studying,” she would respond embarrassingly.

“No, seriously. These cookies are great. You need to make these more often.”

[Cookies]And so began a tradition. Whenever the girls would have an exam to study for, the first thing they would do was have Kumari bake her famous cookies. She had a few recipes handy, and so pretty soon word spread beyond the circle of friends. Kumari was known as the expert cookie maker. Everyone considered her cookies to be the best in the world. So pleased that everyone appreciated her efforts, she would sometimes venture outside of the cookie realm and make brownies and cakes.

When the following year began, most of Kumari’s friends had remained in the same residence hall. So excited to see everyone again after the long summer break, it was expected that Kumari would go about making cookies again, especially as a welcome back for everyone. There were some new faces in the hall, however. One of them was a transfer student named Sheila. She entered the room that the girls were hanging out in one day and introduced herself. She also had a Tupperware container in her hand.

“Hi girls. I made these cookies. Please take some,” Sheila told them. The girls, including Kumari, happily indulged. They were amazed by the taste. Kumari was the first one to offer compliments.

“These cookies are amazing. You made these yourself?”

“Yes,” replied Sheila.

“These are really great. Kumari, it looks like you have competition,” Kumari’s friends said in jest.

But in fact, pretty soon Sheila’s cookies became more popular. There was no malice intended from her; it was just the way things worked out. Indeed, soon it was revealed that Sheila was great at cooking pretty much anything. She would regularly bake pizza for the floor, make elaborate cakes for people’s birthdays, and prepare entire meals.

One day while hanging out in one of her friend’s room, a person visiting from a different residence hall entered and asked Kumari if she had any cookies to offer.

“No,” interjected one of the friends. “Didn’t you hear? There’s a new sheriff in town.”

“Yeah? Who?” asked the visitor.

“Sheila. Her cookies are amazing.”

“Really? I can’t believe it. Better than Kumari’s?”

“Yes, for sure,” said Kumari, not giving her friends a chance to embarrass her further.

[cookies]In this way through Kumari’s greatness, Sheila’s position was established. By being known as someone who could make cookies that were as good as, if not better than, Kumari’s, she earned respect. In the kitchen that day many years later while making cookies with her daughter, Kumari related the story to understanding Krishna.

“See sweetie, I thought I was really good, but another person came along that was better. And then if someone else were to be better, they would be described as making cookies better than Sheila. This is how we understand greatness in all areas. One person is known to be great, and then another person comes and surpasses them. But actually, Krishna is greater than anyone we have ever met. We have no idea how great He is because His potency is inconceivable.”

“What does ‘inconceivable’ mean, Mom?”

“It means that you can’t even imagine it,” explained Kumari. “Like try to think of the biggest number you can. Then know that Krishna is more than that. If you put His greatness into a number, it would be a number that would be too big to understand.”

[Lord Krishna]“I think I see now. So we worship Krishna because we know He is the greatest, even if we can’t explain that greatness?”

“Yes, and part of His greatness is His kindness. Though He is so big, He kindly comes and lives in the temple, allowing us to see Him in a way that gives us a slight understanding of His greatness. He kindly allows us to make food for Him and offer it to Him with love.”

Satisfied for the time being, Kumari’s daughter went back to helping her mother bake cookies for the big event. When the job was done, the daughter had one more thing to say to the mother.

“Mom, I don’t care what your friends back in college thought. I know that you make the best cookies in the world. You make Krishna happy with your cookies, so how can anyone else’s be better?”

In Closing:

Limit in greatness not to stop,

For another to come along and top.


To understand ability in this way,

Better than such and such we say.


But God like this not known,

For all opulence in Him to own.


Better to worship and for mercy pray,

With love and affection His names say.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The One With The Student of The Week

[Krishna's flute]“Desire is a subtle form of conditioning of the living entity. The Lord fulfills his desire as he deserves: Man proposes and God disposes. The individual is not, therefore, omnipotent in fulfilling his desires. The Lord, however, can fulfill all desires, and the Lord, being neutral to everyone, does not interfere with the desires of the minute independent living entities. However, when one desires Krishna, the Lord takes special care and encourages one to desire in such a way that one can attain to Him and be eternally happy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.15 Purport)

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The school day was drawing to a close. Shambhu’s fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Drew, was wrapping up her instruction. She had an announcement to make before dismissing the class.

“Class, listen up,” as she tried to get the attention of the children who were packing up for home. “Starting this Friday, I’m going to give out a new award.” It got quieter. “I’m calling it ‘The Student of the Week’. I will name one student each week to get that award. So everyone has the chance to win it. Whoever I think is doing a really good job, who is always following my instructions, will get it. Good luck to you all, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

[School supplies]Shambhu didn’t have time to speak with any of his fellow classmates about the announcement, but it was all he could think about when his mom picked him up from school. He didn’t mention anything to her, however. This was because he had something special planned.

This was a new school for Shambhu, as his family had moved during the previous summer. The move was so delayed that he started at this new school a week late. A shy child, Shambhu was nervous when he was first introduced to his new class. He was relieved when his mom let him stay home from school on the first day he was to attend. He made up the excuse that he wanted to stay home to get adjusted to the move, but in fact he really wanted to watch the men’s final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which was delayed by a day due to rain.

Though it was a new school, with all new classmates, Shambhu felt he was doing a good job in the opening few weeks. He always did his homework on time. He scored very well in the class. The teacher also seemed to have a liking for him, as he was well behaved. “I’m a good kid, I think,” he thought to himself on the ride home that day of Mrs. Drew’s announcement. “I should be a shoe-in for the award this Friday.”

More important than just receiving the award was the day it was to be handed out. That Friday was Shambhu’s mother’s birthday. As he was a young child with little money, Shambhu couldn’t think of any gift to give his mother. He was excited by the teacher’s announcement because he figured he could show his mother the award on the day of her birthday. “I’ll tell her, ‘This is for you, Mom’,” he dreamed to himself. “That will make her so happy. I can’t wait. I just know that I’m going to win the award.”

That Friday in school seemed to drag for Shambhu. He tried to pay attention, but his mind was elsewhere. As the day rolled on, there was still no announcement from the teacher. “Maybe she forgot about the award,” he thought to himself. “Or maybe she doesn’t think anyone in the class deserves it. This is messing with my plan.”

With about ten minutes to go in the school day, Mrs. Drew made an announcement. “Okay class, as you know, I gave you that writing assignment to do last night. If you’ll all just pass your homework forward to the person in front of you.” Then Shambhu saw everyone reaching into their book bags to submit the homework assignment. There was only one problem. Shambhu hadn’t done it.

“Oh no! How could I have forgotten to do this? Did she really assign this?” he asked himself. Shambhu had simply overlooked this one homework item. He had done the rest of his homework from the previous night. In fact, he always completed his homework as soon as he got home from school. This was simply an honest mistake. It would cost him dearly, though.

[Homework]When Mrs. Drew reached the row of students with Shambhu in it, she noticed that the number of papers collected didn’t add up. “There’s one missing,” she said. Shambhu then looked up very sadly and said, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t do it.” Mrs. Drew then said, “You? That’s very surprising. I would expect this from someone else, but not you.”

Now the entire class was focused on Shambhu. They were all looking at him. He was seated in the very rear of his row, and all the students had now turned around to see his face, which was filled with embarrassment. Mrs. Drew continued:

“Well, you know I had planned on giving you this award this week. But I can’t give the student of the week award to someone who doesn’t do their homework.” She then scribbled out his name on the certificate and wrote in someone else from the class, who then went up to the teacher’s desk to collect the award. Again, the eyes of the class were focused on Shambhu, who sat there quietly, completely devastated.

When he went home that day, a defeated Shambhu rested on the couch, still in disbelief over the whole incident. His mother asked him how his day was. “Fine,” he said, not wanting to reveal to her his embarrassment or how he had failed her. He had nothing to offer her for her birthday, though the mother didn’t seem to mind that there was no gift forthcoming.

Many years later, the entire episode came back to Shambhu as he was reading the Bhagavad-gita As It is. In one of the sections He read how the desires of the living entity are not always met. He learned that the results to action are determined by karma, that man inherently gets what he deserves. More importantly, he took note of how when the desires turn towards transcendence, and more specifically towards association with the Supreme Lord Krishna, the ultimate guiding hand takes a special interest.

[Lord Krishna]Shambhu reflected, “It’s like that time when I was in the fourth grade and I thought I was going to win that award for my mother. It was in the bag. I knew I was going to win it. And then suddenly I forgot to do one of the homework assignments. It was completely by accident. I thought I had control over everything, but I didn’t. My karma must have gotten in the way. That’s how life goes, I guess. Sometimes I prepare so much beforehand, only to forget something simple like filling up on gas. My personal experiences confirm the teachings of the Gita. Only if I turn my attention towards Krishna will I be assured of success, and then only if my desire remains genuine. So from this day forward I will try my best to chant the holy names on a regular basis: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Idea for success man to propose,

But not in control, only God to dispose.


Future plans for success to think,

Only to suddenly in despair sink.


To devotional service efforts direct,

And success from Supreme Lord expect.


To guide with most careful hand,

To lift even when difficult to stand.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ranging In Darkness

[Shri Hanuman]“It is not proper to speak with her while visible to the night-rangers. So now how am I supposed to proceed? I am indeed in great difficulty.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.11)

niśā carīṇām pratyakṣam akṣamam ca abhibhāṣaṇam |
katham nu khalu kartavyam idam kṛcchra gato hi aham ||

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“Have you ever wondered how we got here? Not just what caused our present birth in the present circumstances, but why there are people in the world at all? Why there is life? Why are there cats, dogs, trees, insects, birds, beasts and the like? And why are the human beings more intelligent than the rest? Why do they stand the tallest in terms of intelligence? And where do we go after we die? We’re all destined to die, so it’s a legitimate question to ask. It seems foolish to me to ignore the question, as if it’s a topic no one should ever discuss. Won’t we feel sad when our loved ones pass on? Won’t we feel scared when we can feel that the end is near? So why postpone that concern and that thought? Why not ask the tough questions now?

“While the common response we get to these questions is that faith covers these topics, in the Vedas there is some interesting detail provided. For starters, the Vedas are believed to be the oldest scriptural tradition in the world. Their original teachings are preserved in the Sanskrit language, which is the oldest known to man. In other famous texts, you can read the books, but they have been translated and changed many times over. In the Vedas we still have the original ancient sound vibrations, including the summary of Vedic teachings known as the Bhagavad-gita.

[Writing Vedic literature]“These teachings certainly bear similarities to others. You know, worship God and stuff, be a good person and all that. However, there is a cause given for the creation. The living entities are inherently jealous of God. At least that is the case with those residing in the earthly realm. This was a far out concept to me the first time I heard it. For starters, I myself had never thought of envying someone I didn’t know much about. But the more I learned about these teachings, the more I practiced some of the recommended principles for breaking out of the cycle of birth and death, more commonly known as reincarnation, the more the truth started revealing itself to me.

“Think about it this way. If you go up to your friends and praise some famous athlete, they may not object. Perhaps they will have a different opinion, but they will not be utterly repulsed by the subject. Talk to them about politics, the news, science, history, philosophy, the latest movies and television shows - any of these things and you’ll be on safe ground. Now, as soon as you mention God, the reaction changes. ‘Why are you preaching to me? I don’t need to hear about this. You’re telling me that God has a plan, but then why does He let some people die in horrible accidents? That’s what your faith tells you, but my faith says something different. Who are we to reconcile anyway? Religion should be separated from science; it has no place in that discussion.’

“The widespread disdain for religion certainly substantiates the truth of the origin of the creation relating to envy. However, it also makes it very difficult to spread information about this truth. Who will want to hear these relevant philosophical points? Who will want to hear about how to stop the cycle of birth and death, when by man’s very flawed desire they are essentially asking to stay in it? It certainly presents a challenging situation.”

This basically sums up the mindset of the devoted soul who knows the truth about the origin of the creation and all matters descending therefrom. The material world can be thought of as a place of darkness, which is represented by ignorance. It can be fully illuminated in my room, with the sun shining bright in the sky and the light entering the room through all the open windows, but I could still be in ignorance. The light itself doesn’t mean that there isn’t darkness in terms of knowledge.

[sunlight]When man is very envious of a person who has all wealth, all strength, all knowledge, all renunciation, all beauty, and all fame, he will not want to hear any praise of such a person. This situation was personified in the predicament of Shri Hanuman referenced above. Here he is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Aesthetically it was a very beautiful place. It had wonderful looking trees that were full of flowers and leaves. Residing in that grove was the princess of Videha, Sita Devi. She was there against her will, taken by force by the king of Lanka, Ravana. Hanuman was on assignment to learn of her location and report back to Sita’s husband Rama, who was looking for her.

In seeing her distress, Hanuman wants to console her. Therefore here he deliberates on how best to go about doing that. The first problem is that Sita is surrounded by female night-rangers. These were human-like creatures who had no values whatsoever. They would eat even human flesh, so where was the question of kindness, compassion, or honesty? If they saw Hanuman, they would alert Ravana and his mighty warriors in Lanka. That would foil the whole mission, as Hanuman had yet to be spotted.

So Hanuman was in great uncertainty as to how to proceed. In the end he would choose to speak of the glories of Rama. Still, he only did so in a place where the night-rangers couldn’t hear him. This explains the traditional practice of only revealing the science of self-realization to devoted souls. Why speak to a hostile audience all the time? You wouldn’t trust an untrained passenger to fly the airplane, would you? You wouldn’t put a drunkard who doesn’t know the first thing about right and wrong in the office of the presidency to lead the nation. So why should you share the most important information with those who are envious of God? It is never a good combination, for they will then mangle the message. They will distort the meaning. Indeed, it is only through such unfortunate sharing of information that we get the nonsense theories of today that say that God is ultimately impersonal, an energy of void, or an ordinary personality who is subject to birth and death.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.24“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

[Lord Krishna]Still, the Vaishnava saints are so kind in the modern age that they actively seek out the non-envious souls. They do this by regularly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” avoiding intimate association with the non-devoted, and happily sharing the glories of Shri Rama and Shri Krishna with those who are sincerely interested in acquiring knowledge. As the ideal Vaishnava, Hanuman found a way to overcome his predicament and succeed in spreading the message of Godhead, bringing some consolation to the woman who certainly deserved it.

In Closing:

As none here in God believe,

How much of light to receive?


By practicing recommended principles since,

Of the truth now I’m fully convinced.


Others too the truth should know,

To find the non-envious thus I’ll go.


So much comfort in this way to give,

Like with Hanuman, his triumph relive.


In Lanka the princess Sita was found,

Resolved to offer news of Rama abound.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


[Lord Rama]“And it is proper for me to console the mighty-armed Rama, whose face resembles a full moon, and who is desirous of the vision of Sita.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.10)

mayā ca sa mahābāhuḥ pūrṇa candra nibha ānanaḥ |
samāśvāsayitum nyāyyaḥ sītā darśana lālasaḥ ||

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The gravity of the moment keeps increasing with each successive thought revealed by Shri Hanuman in his mission in Lanka. Unlike any other task given to any other person in history, so much was on the line. Failure meant letting down an entire world of well-wishers, and success meant bringing a smile to the face of those who most deserved it.

If you’re having a get-together this Friday night at your home, you may be assigned the cooking responsibilities. Your guests will come hungry and there will be many of them. They will rely solely on you for eating. A meal is a gamble of sorts; if you choose incorrectly you’re stuck with the poor taste in your mouth for a long time. If you’ve eaten enough of the poor food, you can’t eat again until the next meal. If you haven’t eaten enough, you’re stuck searching for something better.

If you, as the host, must make the entire meal, you will likely have to multitask. Keep one eye on the rice, another on the vegetables, another on the dessert, and even one on the drinks. You will have to purchase multiple items from the supermarket at one time, and then figure out how to cook everything so that the dinner is warm when served.

[cooking]If you have only one item to cook, then it’s not so bad. You have your recipe and you stick to it. But the more items that get introduced, the more objects of attention there are. You can’t give too much attention to one item; lest the others get ignored.

This example is of a simple task like cooking a meal. It is not nearly a life and death situation, for if you mess up you can always try again some other time. Moreover, the attachment to the responsibility isn’t so wise. The fear of success or failure should not figure into how you perform your duty, for it is better to keep a level head.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.48]“Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.48)

[Lord Rama]Shri Hanuman did not have any of these luxuries. He was fully attached to the people he was trying to help. There was nothing he could do about that. He was won over by their qualities. And who wouldn’t be? The first person was mighty-armed and had the countenance of a full moon. His complexion was dark, like a raincloud ready to shower the starving crops with nourishment. Still, the face was bright, a paradoxical combination that can only exist in one person.

That moonlike person was married to another moonlike person, who had gone missing while she was in the company of her dear husband in the forest of Dandaka. Hanuman met the wife second, though he hadn’t really spoken with her yet. He observed her behavior while hiding in a tree above. That behavior related to enduring the torments of wicked female ogres. They were trying to scare the beautiful princess into submission, into giving in to the evil king of Lanka. That king had taken the princess there against her will, trying to make her his wife.

Hanuman felt great affection for the princess, seeing her plight. He was so eager to tell her that her husband was indeed on His way to come and rescue her. Hanuman was ready to reveal his identity as the messenger sent by the lady’s husband. Though he was only tasked with finding her and not necessarily speaking to her, he felt the need to console her, for she deserved it.

Here Hanuman says that Rama, the princess Sita’s husband, also deserved to be consoled. This was the counter argument, the one in favor of returning to the home base and reporting on what he had seen. Thus Hanuman was in a dilemma. He had attachment to his duty and the outcome based on the people involved. He couldn’t mess up now after having worked so hard to find Sita. The clock was ticking, so to speak, so any time wasted in any area could jeopardize the entire mission.

From this verse we are also again reminded of how well Hanuman knows Sita and Rama. Here he says that Rama is desirous of having the vision of Sita. Hanuman could not bring that to Him, but his words would be the same thing. He knew that Sita was desirous of seeing Rama as well. In this way Rama picked the best messenger, one who knew His true nature.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman knew that Sita’s vision would come to Rama through words describing her. Rama would be proud to know that she never wavered in her devotion, that she showed a level of resolve never before seen in the world. In the same way, the words of the Ramayana give us the vision of the beautiful Hanuman, whose courage, strength, and love know no bounds. Typically when one is very affectionate, their strength takes a hit. If one is very attached to an outcome, their resolve isn’t so great due to fear. All paradoxes are resolved in the Supreme Lord, who holds every opulence imaginable. And we see that the same traits get passed on to those who are devoted to Him, such as Shri Hanuman.

In Closing:

The Supreme Lord, of divine grace,

Dark-complexioned, of moonlike face.


Since separated from wife to live,

News of her Hanuman wanted to give.


This argument against previous to counter,

So dilemma now trusted servant to encounter.


Paradox in Supreme Lord and servants resolved,

Hanuman to describe Sita, problem now solved.