Saturday, May 17, 2014

Challenge Accepted

[Parashurama]“On the way they met Parashurama. Holding a weapon in his hand, he yelled at them and showed his angry eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, 177)

pantha mile bhṛgunātha hātha pharasā liye |
ḍāṭahiṃ ānkhi dekhāi kopa dārūna kie ||

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God is one. This is not a new revelation emerging from the suddenly popular spiritual teacher. This is not the product of the mind which has contemplated matters beyond this lifetime. It is a truth that exists eternally, waiting to be heard and accepted by the living entity, who is godlike but not God Himself. It is a truth necessary to be understood by the devoted sentimentalist, who considers their religious path to be the only one worth adopting. It is a truth that must be accepted, even in the face of contradicting evidence, such as with the case of the meeting of Lord Rama and Parashurama. One is the son of King Dasharatha and the other the offspring of Jamadagni, but both are incarnations of the Supreme Lord. And at the time of their meeting, the original Lord remains safely in His own abode.

[Parashurama]How is this possible? If God is one, is He not a singular entity? How can He be more than one person? And who is superior, Rama or Parashurama? Rama is also known as Ramachandra, for He has a moonlike face and acts like the moon to the water-lilies that are the members of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Parashurama is the wielder of the axe, a raging mad fighter turned ascetic. He destroyed the warrior race twenty-one times over as revenge for offenses against him and his family. Rama is Vishnu Himself, but then so is Parashurama. So how could they possibly meet?

The meeting took place when Rama and His party were returning home to Ayodhya. Rama is the incarnation of Vishnu who is famous for having defeated the evil king of Lanka, Ravana. He is famous for many other things as well, including the lifting of the bow of Lord Shiva. That feat took place in the kingdom of Videha, in front of a host of other princes who were vying for the hand of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. That bow initially belonged to Devarata, and it was passed along in the family until it reached King Janaka, also known as Shiradhvaja. The contest was to see who could lift the bow. No one could except Ramachandra, and so then He married Sita. On the way home from the marriage ceremony, His group ran into Parashurama.

The priests in the royal party offered obeisances, but that did little to pacify the famous fighter’s anger. He made a proposition to Rama directly. String this other bow that was in his possession, and from there the two could engage in conflict. Dasharatha, Rama’s father, responded first, trying to defuse the situation. Parashurama ignored him and continued to address Ramachandra directly. Parashurama gave more information on the history of the bow which Rama just broke. He also spoke of this new bow that was brought into the equation. A long time back Vishnu and Shiva engaged in a conflict, being asked by the celestials to see who had superior prowess. Vishnu won the conflict by nullifying the strength of Shiva’s bow. Lord Shiva then passed his bow on to Devarata. The bow Vishnu used in the conflict was passed on to Jamadagni’s family. And so now Parashurama had that bow and requested that Rama draw an arrow to it. Rama had already strung Shiva’s bow, so now it was time to do the same with Vishnu’s.

[Lord Vishnu]Rama accepted the first part of the challenge. He put an arrow to the bow without a problem. He would not engage in conflict, however. He crushed Parashurama’s pride by accurately pointing out that the arrow had to destroy something now that it was drawn. Parashurama could lose either the regions he had won through asceticism or his ability to travel at the speed of the mind. Knowing that the sage Kashyapa had previously told him that the regions of the earth were not a suitable habitation for him, Parashurama opted for the former. His pride humbled, he realized that Rama was indeed Vishnu Himself. He then left the scene.

So through the meeting of two avataras, or incarnations, of the Supreme Lord, the supremacy of the Supreme Lord was established, namely in His incarnation of Ramachandra. Seems like circular logic, an unnecessary adventure that only serves to further confuse the less intelligent. But in fact, through curbing the pride of the angry Parashurama, Rama’s glory was further established, which allows one’s faith in Rama to increase all the more. A similar thing occurred during Shri Krishna’s advent, when He and Arjuna went to visit Vishnu Himself.

These contradictory episodes are only possible with God, who is above all the dualities we encounter on a daily basis. He is both here and not here. As Parashurama, He is both a kshatriya and a brahmana. As Ramachandra, He is both a pacifist and a courageous fighter. He is both respectful and disrespectful. He was initially respectful to Jamadagni’s son, but through stringing the bow He crushed the pride of the fiery-tempered wielder of the axe.

[Lord Rama]Just as He can exist in His eternal abode in the Vaikuntha planets and here on earth in two incarnations simultaneously, know that He can be with every single living entity at the same time. The deity in the home of one devotee is just as representative of God as the deity in another home. He can hear an unlimited number of prayers offered simultaneously, and He can rescue anyone, regardless of their background, their country of origin, their native language, or their level of intelligence. He always hears the prayers of the devotees, and just like in stringing both the bow of Shiva and the bow of Vishnu, He can accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of lifting even the most sinful person in the world into the heights of transcendental bliss and ecstasy that are known only to devotional service.

In Closing:

Existing simultaneously here and there,

As Supersoul Lord present everywhere.


Meeting of Parashurama and Ramachandra two,

One incarnation of Vishnu and the other too.


From angry eyes the challenge accepted,

His pride then curbed, leaving dejected.


Supremacy of Shri Rama by encounter shown,

Simultaneous presence find in God alone.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Show Must Go On

[Rama's lotus feet]“Words cannot describe that environment. All the people were full of sadness. Then to the very jubilant sound of drums, Dasharatha, the ruler of Koshala, proceeded home.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 22.2)

so samau kahata na banata kachu saba bhuvana bhari karūnā rahe |
taba kīnha kosalapati payāna nisāna bāje gahagahe ||

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As they say in show business, “the show must go on.” When bad things happen, if there is sadness, there is no point in dwelling on it for too long. What good will that do, anyway? You’ve got your life still, so you must act to maintain it. You must tend to your responsibilities or others will be harmed. In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, the lord of Koshala, King Dasharatha, is set to return to his kingdom. It is sad for the people being left behind, but on the other side there will be a jubilant celebration.

Imagine this scene. You’ve had a rough day. You heard some bad news at the wrong time. You didn’t have time to digest it all. The thing is, you have a concert to attend scheduled for this particular day. Your friend bought the tickets many months back. You didn’t foresee any problems. But that’s how life goes sometimes. The worst things happen at the worst possible times.

Since your friend spent so much money on the tickets, you decide to go to the concert anyway. You’re intent on not having a good time. You’re going to sit in your seat and just observe. But when the headline band comes out on stage, others around you start to get excited. Then the lead singer tries his best to pump everyone up.

[rock concert]“Alright, this is a hands up kind of gig. You’re not gonna just sit around. Everybody up. We need you to make some noise. You there, in the back. On your feet. Mr. Sourpuss back there, you need to get up. Everyone else around you is up and clapping; you have to join them.”

Embarrassed by the attention now upon you, you decide to get up. And eventually, after a few songs, you start to have a good time. You forget your troubles. You remember that you actually like this band, that there was a reason you wanted to attend this concert in the first place.

In the verse referenced above, we see that the people of Janakpur were extremely sad. Everyone was in bad spirits, as their beloved Sita and Rama were set to return home. Such are the ways of the world that no person’s physical association is fixed. At some point in time the Supreme Lord appears and gives pleasure to the residents of that area. Then He leaves and goes somewhere else, leaving the same people very sad.

In this instance, the event that brings sadness to the people of Janakpur will bring happiness to the people of Koshala. Therefore the sound of the drums is very jubilant as Dasharatha sets to embark. There is actually nothing to be sad about, as a wonderful pastime has just concluded. Everyone will remember how Rama lifted the bow to win the contest. They will remember how Rama and Sita looked perfect for one another. They will remember how the two fathers, kings of their respective lands, were equal in good qualities and affection for one another. They will remember how Sita accepted her marriage vows and how she never breaks her word. They will remember how Janaka arranged for the marriages of Rama’s three younger brothers as well, being swept away by the happiness of the occasion.

[Sita and Rama]Goswami Tulsidas says that words cannot describe that moment when Dasharatha and family were ready to leave - tremendous sadness combined with eager anticipation. The memory of that event would stay with the people, just as the memory of Rama and family remained with the people of Ayodhya. They hadn’t seen their beloved prince in a long time. Now He was set to return home with a new wife, the most beautiful woman in the world at that. The royal family would expand, which meant that the store of love found within the heart would have to expand as well. Each citizen would find affection in a reservoir thought to be empty to offer to Sita and the other beloved princesses coming to the city. Rightfully, the grand return would be accompanied by very loud drums, letting everyone know that the lord of the land had returned triumphantly and happily.

In Closing:

Person’s leaving sad for me,

But happy for others who will see.


For too long Ayodhya’s people had to wait,

Now Dasharatha to return, the head of state.


Sadness always in life to find,

With things from past left behind.


Memory of Sita and Rama forever to stay,

Jubilant even in separation this way.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Giving Him A Problem

[Lord Rama's lotus feet]“Hearing the request of ‘don’t give up your love’, Rama made many entreaties in return. After embracing each other with love, with a controlled mind Janaka returned.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 22.1)

jani choha chāḍaba binaya suni raghubīra bahu binatī karī |
mili bheṭi sahita saneha phireu bideeha mana dhīraja dharī ||

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Imagine a celebrity, someone who is very famous. Perhaps they are on the radio every day, holding an audience of millions, who listen with rapt attention and are given to comment on every opinion offered. The person could also be someone who has done good things for others, perhaps someone in a position of power who was able to save a valuable community landmark. Or maybe the person in question is a famous recording artist whose songs have touched the lives of many.

Regardless the person, the treatment from the general public is more or less the same: adulation.

“Oh, thank you so much for what you do. I can’t tell you how much you’ve changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for you. You are so wonderful. Please keep doing what you are doing. There is no way to properly express my gratitude for your presence. You are simply a terrific person. If more people were like you, we wouldn’t have so many problems in the world.”

This kind of praise isn’t hard to imagine, but what is more difficult to conceive of is being on the receiving end. How would you feel if random strangers came up to you and treated you this way? Sure, it would be nice, but what if you didn’t consider yourself to be so special. “Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m not that amazing person you think I am. I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like every other guy. I cry, I laugh, I get sick, I have fears, just like all of you out there.”

[Signing autographs]But in a quick meeting with an adoring fan, there is no time to explain. The celebrity in question gets overrun by the praise, and so they have to learn to accept it. They must find their own way to say “thanks” in return, to repay the debt of gratitude they owe. The more famous they become, the more great things they do, the bigger the problem is for them in returning appreciation.

This situation gives us a neat trick to use in giving a problem to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has done the most amazing things. By our estimation, this universe is quite complex. We can barely understand the cycle of the human birth and death, but there are so many other creatures as well. Then this planet is hard to understand, which has a constantly changing climate. Indeed, the fact that we think we can predict the climate means that there is some regularity to the workings of this planet. Patterns emerge from some intelligence, so through some design the earth exists in a state that can be studied.

[Globe]But in fact the complexity is too great to know anything with certainty. Then there is the moon, which is also complex. Throw in the other planets and you have generations’ worth of study to keep you busy. By the way, all that study doesn’t give a definitive answer as to the origin. We get that only from authorized books like the Shrimad Bhagavatam. In works like that we find that this amazing universe constantly comes and goes, and this happens through the breathing of the Supreme Lord.

God invites endless praise through His breathing alone. He exhales to create the universes, and He inhales to take them back into His gigantic body. He does many other praiseworthy things as well. In Janakpur a long time ago, for instance, He lifted an extremely heavy bow to win the contest for the hand in marriage of Sita Devi, the king’s daughter. There is no end to the glories of this achievement. No one else in the world could lift that bow. It was only Rama, who is the same Supreme Lord of tremendous breathing potency appearing in an apparently human form.

[Rama lifting the bow]That is not an ordinary human form. As a simple test for the validity of this claim, we can try offering praise to that form. The deeds and words of that form are always tied to it. So by constantly praising the heroic feat of Rama’s lifting of the bow to win Sita’s hand, we see that the form of Rama is not ordinary. Rama has a difficult time repaying the praise directed His way, but He is the Supreme Lord, so it is a nice problem to present to Him.

In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, Rama returns kind entreaties to Janaka, Sita’s father. The two embraced, and then Janaka regained his composure while returning to the rest of the guests, who were set to depart. A fallible human being has a tough time repaying kind words offered to them. At best, they can continue to do whatever it is that makes them appreciated. As the human birth is destined for destruction, so too is the work of any great man.

[Rama holding His bow]Not so with Rama, who though leaving the immediate vicinity, stays around forever through the accounts of His deeds. He remains in the sound vibration of His names as well. And so the ability to constantly chant mantras like “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, gives a chance at offering repayment. Even with this chanting, the devoted souls continue to offer praise to Rama, who then assumes more debt as a result. This is the kind gift the devoted souls happily offer to the Supreme Lord, who welcomes the problem of repaying kindness to such sweet individuals.

In Closing:

With so many praises their way to go,

Giving thanks, supreme debt they owe.


Supreme Lord most amazing work has done,

In comparison to breathing alone like others none.


So praise to His way send,

And in bliss this life spend.


Rama in Janakpur lifted the bow,

Praise it forever, give Him debt to owe.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The One With The Good Advice

[Krishna speaking to 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, 4.42]“How could Krishna advise Arjuna to fight? How can God advocate violence? That doesn’t make sense.” These were the accusations lobbed by Rick towards his friend Ray. The two liked to discuss philosophy whenever they met, and lately Ray’s portion of the discussion had been dominated by the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita.

“You don’t understand duality,” Ray responded. “You can’t just say that violence is always good or always bad. There’s a time and a place for everything. Krishna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knows just the right potion to administer at just the right moments. Violence was called for in that situation. It doesn’t mean that everyone should be pro-war or anti-war.”

[Krishna and Arjuna]To that Rick stubbornly shook his head. “I can’t accept that,” he explained. “Violence is never called for. Not under any circumstance. Nonviolence is compassion, and I am a compassionate person.”

“You think that you’re compassionate, but you’re really not.”

“How’s that?”

“Let me tell you a quick story.” Ray then told of a flight he had taken a few years back.

I was so tired, man. It was one of those red-eye flights. You know, one that looks good when you’re first booking it. “Hey, this is great. I’ll just sleep on the plane, wake up, and be ready to go to work.” That’s what I thought when I made the reservation online, but it turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for.

So, for starters, I couldn’t fall asleep. Something about being seated upright and all the movement didn’t allow me to fall asleep. I wasn’t the only one who had this problem, it seemed. What didn’t help matters was this child seated a row in front of me and to the left. He would not sit still. He was maybe five years old. He kept poking at the head of the guy in front of him. The guy looked back a few times, but still didn’t say anything. Finally, after it looked like he had fallen asleep, the kid poked his head again. This time, he wasn’t so polite.

“Excuse me, miss, can you keep control of your son,” he said in a not so happy mood.

“Oh don’t mind him. He likes you,” the mother responded.

“Yeah, but I don’t care. He shouldn’t be doing that. Do you have any control over him?”

“My husband and I don’t believe in punishing. He’s just a child after all. If we were to reprimand him, it might hurt his feelings.”

The situation calmed for a few hours until the kid started poking at the head of the next guy over. After doing it a few times, the man turned around and yelled at the kid. “Don’t you ever touch my head again. If you do, I’ll smack you in the face.”

The child was so frightened that he started to cry. The mother then started yelling at the man. “How dare you speak to my child that way? You made him cry.” The man, not afraid, began to yell at her as well. “Let me tell you something. Someone better discipline that child. You’re going to have a lot more trouble on your hands in the future if you don’t get a hold of these kinds of situations. You think you’re being nice, but you’re only ruining life for him.” The mother was still angry, but the tempers subsided. The child did not bother anyone for the rest of the flight.

Rick heard the story, but didn’t see a correlation. “So you’re comparing disciplining a child to going to war? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Ray responded, “It’s the attitude that’s similar. The parents thought they were being compassionate, but they really weren’t. That was a simple situation like a kid acting up on an airplane, but imagine the same kid not being punished for stealing, cheating and the like.”

“And then they would be a bad adult?”

“Yeah. And so what seems like compassion, really isn’t. It’s similar with Arjuna. He was in the warrior class of men. He was a warrior by quality, not just by birth. It was his duty to defend righteousness. The other side were the aggressors. They had taken land that didn’t belong to them. What did you want Krishna to tell him?”

“He could have tried diplomacy.”

“Already tried it. The other side wasn’t budging. They thought they were in the right. They wouldn’t give Arjuna and his brothers even an inch of land.”

“Hmm. Krishna could have told Arjuna to forget about it? Why sink to the level of your enemies?”

“Okay, if we follow that logic, then the police should never respond to any attacks. They should stay back and not resort to violence.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

[Lord Krishna]“No, but the principle is the same. Anyway, I don’t want to get sidetracked. The Bhagavad-gita is not pro or anti violence. It is about the science of self-realization. It is about following the orders of the highest authority. Arjuna was deluded by the material covering, and so Krishna corrected that in Him. We get the same correction from the people who follow devotion to Krishna. They tell us to understand the Bhagavad-gita and take up the mission of devotional service. Only this will permanently clear us of the illusion that strikes at our intelligence. And that devotion today is best followed through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whether we are scared, indifferent, or eager towards finding the ultimate objective in life, we should always chant these names. They will lead us to victory in the human birth.”

In Closing:

Violence never to choose,

Diplomacy prefer to use.


Compassionate I am this way,

But means only bad guys to have final say.


To fight Krishna advised,

For Arjuna the course wise.


Not applicable to situations all,

For restraint other times to call.


Follow Krishna’s orders is Gita’s message real,

Then permanently stop reincarnation’s wheel.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The One With The Fill In The Blanks

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

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[Bhagavad-gita, 10.8]George got to the airport early. He didn’t need to, but that was how he liked to do things. He was visiting his grandparents, whom he hadn’t seen in almost a year. The airline had changed the boarding process up a little bit. Previously, there were three boarding groups, determined by how soon passengers checked in for the flights. Anyone in the particular boarding group, however, could get to the front of the line. So the airport gates were always packed with passengers who were lined up well before the boarding times.

[Southwest boarding groups]Since then they divided up each boarding group into sections. Each passenger was assigned a number within their group. George was A16, and so when the announcement was made to line up, he was able to stand in his spot without a problem. Upon boarding, George took the first available aisle seat. “This way it’s easier for me to get up and use the restroom,” was his thinking.

The flight crew made an announcement after George took his seat. “Folks, we are going to be a full flight today. So please, take the first available seat. Don’t try to save the one next to you, because it will be taken by someone.”

Shortly thereafter someone took the window seat in George’s row. When the boarding drew to a close, and as all the passengers seemed to be already boarded, the seat in the middle was still empty. Just as they were about to close the cabin doors, the final passenger arrived. He saw the empty seat next to George and asked if he could take it. George happily obliged, getting up to allow the man in.

[Airplane cabin]“Hi, I’m Alexander,” said the man to George as he took his seat. “I’m George. Nice to meet you,” replied the usually friendly George.

The flight crew made another announcement that take off would happen shortly. But in fact, they would have to rescind that statement. Every five minutes or so, they kept making another announcement that things were delayed just a little bit. Finally, after about half an hour, a dejected flight captain got on the PA system.

“Folks, it looks like there is a big logjam at the front of the runway. We’re not going to be able to take off for at least another half hour. Please feel free to relax, move about the cabin, and use the restrooms. Again, we apologize for the delay. We’ll get you in the air as soon as possible.”

George used this as an opportunity to take out his favorite book. From his bag stored in front of him he took out a Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, opening to the page with the verse he was previously reading. After about five minutes, a curious Alexander inquired about the book.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but that book looks very important. It has such a nice cover also.”

“Yes,” replied George. “It’s called the Bhagavad-gita. It’s one of the most famous philosophical books in the world. It’s from around five thousand years ago, and it was originally presented in Sanskrit. This is an English translation done by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who also gives short commentaries to the verses.”

[Shrila Prabhupada]“Oh, I see. So is that like the Hindu equivalent of the Bible?” asked Alexander.

“Hmm, maybe,” replied George hesitatingly. “It’s not that accurate of a comparison, though.”


“Yes, because the Vedas, which are the original scriptural tradition that is the origin of the modern vernacular term of Hinduism, describe God and His qualities in so many different places. There isn’t just one book.”

“Oh really? How many are there?”

“Actually, too many to count. The Bhagavad-gita is a quick summary of the basic teachings. It is the most well-known book because it is delivered directly by God. It is said that in His original form He is a beautiful youth, with a blackish complexion, who holds a flute in His hands and wears a peacock feather in His hair. Since He is all-attractive, Krishna is the perfect name for this form. He is the speaker of the Gita, and its wisdom is timeless. It is written down in this specific book, but actually the verses have no date of origination. Like God, they exist forever, infinitely both backwards and forwards in the time continuum.”

[Lord Krishna]“Wow, that’s interesting,” said Alexander. “How can there be so many books, though? Have you read them?”

“I’ve read quite a few actually. I can’t get enough of this stuff.”

“But don’t you get bored reading about the same person all the time? I’m a hockey writer myself. I like that every year I have new things to write about.”

“I definitely don’t get bored. God is the greatest person, so I love hearing about Him. It’s interesting with your job, though. If you think about it, are the stories really any different year to year?”

“What do you mean? The champions change. The players are different too. Previously I was writing about Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky. Now I’m writing about Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Martin Brodeur.”

[Mario Lemieux]“Right, the players certainly change. But aren’t the stories the same? Someone is the leading scorer, so you write a story praising them. Someone breaks the shutout record and then you write about them. Someone wins the championship, and so you write a story of praise. Someone else loses, and you criticize them for what they did wrong. If you think about it, you could have all of next year’s stories written already. You can make a template out of them and just fill in the blanks after the fact. It’s like a cycle that never ends.”

“Hmm. I never thought about it that way.”

“With God, you’re glorifying the same person every day. You don’t need to rely on the latest news to glorify Him, either. He is the source of everything, the material and spiritual worlds. So anything can be used to glorify Him. He is the life of everything. It is His energy that allows people to play hockey. He is both the coveted victory and the heartbreaking defeat. He is the leading scorer and the person who can’t break into the NHL. But those things relate only to His external energy. His internal energy is more blissful to the heart. Hearing about it over and over again only increases attachment to Him. Tell me, do you still write about Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe?”

“Only if they’re doing something hockey related.”

“Right, exactly. So if they’re out of hockey, the two of them are essentially meaningless. That’s just the way of the material world. We praise someone for their temporary position of prominence, but when they are no longer in the limelight, we forget about them. That’s not the case with Krishna. He is always in His topmost position, and whatever He does is glorious. This Bhagavad-gita has valuable teachings and so many pearls of wisdom, and another wonderful benefit is the passing on of Krishna’s activities. From this book Krishna is further celebrated as the chariot driver of Arjuna, to whom He delivered the much needed wisdom. He is known as the best teacher in the world and the original spiritual master. His glories are endless, which means the writer assigned to His beat has a job to keep them happy for lifetime after lifetime.”

[Krishna and Arjuna]“This is interesting stuff, I must admit.”

Just then another announcement came from the flight deck. “Alright folks, we’ve been given clearance for take off. Flight attendants can you please prepare the cabin?” The flight attendants then asked everyone to take their seats and put away all of their belongings.

“I have to put this book away now,” said George. “But let’s continue when we’re in the air.”

“Sounds good,” said Alexander.

In Closing:

While playing opportunity for praise,

But not forever, limited are the ways.


Once retired and forgotten gone,

Another’s records to dwell upon.


In bhakti on the current news to rely not,

Endless glories and activities Krishna has got.


Through devotion always something to write,

Inspired simply by His transcendental sight.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Narasimha Chaturdashi 2014

[Narasimhadeva's hand]“The Personality of Godhead assumed the incarnation of Narasimhadeva in order to vanquish the great fears of the demigods. He killed the king of the demons [Hiranyakashipu], who challenged the Lord with a club in his hand, by placing the demon on His thighs and piercing him with His nails, rolling His eyebrows in anger and showing His fearful teeth and mouth.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.14)

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[Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.14]Man does not have full control over the outcomes to actions. Sure, he thinks that he does. He has been led to believe this through the folly of illusion from the eyes. In the past so many times he has turned the ignition in the automobile, which then led to the starting of the engine. From this cause and effect, the natural conclusion is that the human being’s hand, which turned the key, started the car. But in fact that hand relies on so many other factors for the desired outcome to manifest. All other parts must work in harmony, and the past action of construction at the assembly plant must also cooperate. Thus fate is always placed in the hands of one or many others, and so the wise choice is to ultimately take shelter of flawless hands. These only belong to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who one time showed just what His hands could do, ripping apart an evil king and protecting an innocent child.

[gold]A long time ago there was a king named Hiranyakashipu. This Sanskrit name is a compound word, consisting of terms that mean “golden” and “soft cushion.” Who wouldn’t want these? In the comfort of the soft cushion all worries vanish. The glitter of gold reminds one of their opulence. But in fact both are an illusion to the mind that doesn’t understand the difference between matter and spirit. Both are simply a collection of gross material elements. Those elements are earth, water, fire, air and ether. When you add in mind, intelligence and ego, you get living entities. But it is in fact the soul which is the only eternal object amongst all of these. The gold will not remain forever, and neither will the cushion. The person enjoying these, however, will stay the same, though not in their specific form. They will remain as spirit soul, destined to take birth in another body based on their karma.

[Bhagavad-gita, 8.6]“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

A king enjoying gold and a soft bed will eventually have to die. This is true of the man who has costume jewelry and a straw matt set on the floor also. Thus both are destined for the same fate; it is their karma which determines what type of body they receive next. Indeed, the present body is always changing. One day there is a full head of hair and another everyone is remarking on how the hair is vanishing. One moment all the clothes fit fine and the next the pants are impossible to put on. Thus karma operates constantly, making every ability and opulence relative.

[Hiranyakashipu]Hiranyakashipu reached a relative position of strength, fame, opulence and dominion. Everyone feared him, and rightfully so. No one could defeat him in battle. Not simply a bodybuilder who suddenly became stronger than everyone else, Hiranyakashipu couldn’t be defeated in a battle no matter what weapons were used. In modern terms he would be known as the “Invincible Man.” Nothing could defeat him.

He put his fate into his own hands, hands which were feared throughout the world. His young son, however, put his fate into the hands of the Supreme Lord. Now doesn’t everyone do this, at least indirectly? The difference is that the direct hands are more powerful than the indirect. They can override whatever outcomes are slated to arrive through the indirect. Hiranyakashipu did not understand this. He thought he was the final authority on all matters. He thought that his hands controlled all. They didn’t.

The first glimpse of this came when he tried to kill his son. The child, named Prahlada, had committed only one offense: love of God. The boy did not force his father to worship Vishnu, which is the name for God that references His personal form having four hands and pervading the entire universe. Prahlada did not insist that his father abandon his atheistic attitude in favor of worship. Sure, the boy spoke of the glories of devotional service. He could not suppress his love for the author of all things in this world. He spoke of the futility of material pursuits to his classmates in school. He spoke the truth when his father asked him about the most important things he had learned.

[Prahlada Maharaja]Hiranyakashipu was so insecure about his position that he could not tolerate even hearing about Vishnu. Eventually he was so fed up with Prahlada’s obstinacy in this area that he ordered the boy be killed. Hiranyakashipu did not act directly with his hands, but rather through the proxy of his loyal subjects. They had powerful weapons on them. They had other means as well. Nothing worked. Prahlada survived being thrown off the cliff of a mountain. He was not killed by elephants stomping over him. He even escaped a burning fire, though the same couldn’t be said of Hiranyakashipu’s sister Holika. Her death and Prahlada’s escape gave birth to the annual holiday of Holi.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]Prahlada’s devotion was so strong that he is actually responsible for two important holidays of the Vedic tradition. The second came when the wonderful hands of the Supreme Lord manifested in an odd, but beautiful looking form. This was a half-man/half-lion named Narasimha. It was God Himself, though not of the exact same appearance as Vishnu. This form had sharp nails on the hands, and those nails were used to rip apart the body of the powerful Hiranyakashipu. The king put his fate into his own hands, but the hands of Narahari prevailed. Vishnu’s hands acted with intelligence, to specifically protect the devoted boy named Prahlada. On the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi, we remember Prahlada and the faith he put into the hands of the Supreme Lord, who never fails to deliver for the surrendered souls.

In Closing:

Reign of terror to the world he brought,

His fate in his own control he thought.


Despite ruling for time long,

In the end to be proved wrong.


Son Prahlada put fate in hands of Vishnu,

Who came with nails of lion for Hiranyakashipu.


Thus hands of God to win in the end,

Always His surrendered souls to defend.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The One With The Guest Passes

[Shrila Prabhupada]“One should not think that he is freed from reaction because he has forgotten the actions of his past life. Reactions will take place, and what kind of reactions there will be is judged by the Supersoul, the witness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.45 Purport)

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“I don’t believe in this past life stuff. You’re telling me that we lived before and that’s what determined where we are right now?” asked a skeptical Jerry. He was in a friendly discussion on spiritual matters with his good buddy Richie.

“No, it’s true,” responded Richie. “You’re just thinking too far back. You lived two seconds ago as well. That is also the past.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re looking at me right now, thinking that everything is still. But in fact what you’re seeing is like a cartoon, which features multiple still images shown together in sequence. My body is changing right now, as is yours. There is always change.”

Jerry still wasn’t buying it. “Yeah, but I can remember what happened ten seconds ago. If I lived a past life, how come I can’t remember it? And if I can’t remember it, I don’t think there will be any repercussions. It’s probably an Eastern teaching designed to be understood symbolically, a way to impart a lesson.”

[Lord Vishnu]“There is a witness,” replied Richie. “He is known as the Supersoul. He sees everything, and He delivers the reactions to everything. As the individual, we choose to act, and the Supersoul witnesses and ensures the delivery of the appropriate reaction to our choices. And just because I can’t remember something doesn’t mean that I’m not due to get the reactions. Let me tell you a story.” Richie then proceeded to tell of an incident from a few years prior. He played in a band and they were on tour in the United States for the summer.

This was a great deal, actually. We were one of a few bands supporting this much bigger act. We got to play amphitheaters in the summer. That is a step up from playing the small clubs. They are like the equivalent of the hockey arena shows played indoors. You’re on this stage that is recessed, with a small section of flat seats right in front of you. That is known as the orchestra section. Then the rest of the seats go upwards, as per normal seating arrangement. Finally, above the seats there is a big lawn, where anyone can go as they please. People on the lawn look down at the stage. It’s a great style of venue for an outdoor show.

[Concert at amphitheater]So the shows on the tour were going pretty well. Touring is always a grind. It took a toll on my body, but the energy of the fans each night kept me motivated enough. What we were really looking forward to, though, was the last leg of the tour. We would be returning home, playing in front of our friends and family. I especially wanted my wife and son to come see us. About a week before the show, I called my wife from the road to check in.

“Hi dear, how are you? How’s everything back home?”

“Oh, things are okay,” replied my wife. “How is everything with you?”

“Well, we played another sold out show last night. We’ve gotten a lot of exposure this summer. People come up to us after the show and say so many nice things.”

“That’s great. I can’t wait until you guys come home and play here. That’s all Tommy’s been talking about.”

“That’s so nice to hear. I can’t wait to come home too. You guys will like the show. The other bands are really good.”

“So honey, the other parents are asking about where to get their tickets. Do they just show up the night of the show?”

“What do you mean ‘other parents’,” I responded, taken aback.

“The parents from Tommy’s class in school,” she responded. “You don’t remember? You said you would get all of them tickets to the show.”

“I really have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Tommy asked you if you could get tickets for his classmates. He was telling them that you were in this famous band and that you were going to play a show locally. You promised you would get him as many tickets as he needed.”

“Are you sure? I don’t remember this at all.”

[Concert tickets]“Honey, I was standing right there when you said it! And now I have the other parents calling me asking about the tickets.”

I felt my stomach drop. Did I really make this promise? I had no recollection. But there were two witnesses. I told my wife I would take care of it. After getting off the phone I immediately called our manager, who said that it would be difficult to get tickets so close to the date of the show. He said I should have asked him much earlier. I was in a lot of trouble. The last thing I wanted was for my son to be ridiculed by his entire class. The kids would never let him forget it.

In telling this story, Richie hoped to impress upon his friend Jerry that though one may forget things, it doesn’t mean that the reaction will not come. “See Jerry, I didn’t remember that at all. Yet there was a witness to what I did; two of them in fact. I could not dispute what they were saying. And that reaction was set to come my way, even though I didn’t remember what I had done. It is the same way with the Supreme Lord. He sees all, and delivers the appropriate reaction.”

“Ah, I think I get it now,” responded Jerry.

“Death is the total changing of bodies, but the reactions from the previous life remain. So it is said that one should try to remember God in His beautiful form of Krishna at the time of death. Though you lose your body while dying, you won’t lose the reaction to that auspicious act. You’ll get the reaction of Krishna’s association in the next life, which is the best boon. It gives you the chance to always love, no matter where you are.”

[Lord Krishna with cow]“Okay, makes sense to me,” said Jerry. “But what happened with the parents? Did they get furious with you? Did you tell them that you forgot about the tickets?”

“It actually worked out. We invited everyone to the show, hoping that we would come through by some miracle. I tried to get tickets from the other band members, but that wasn’t nearly enough. So I was about to give everyone the bad news. Then, at the eleventh hour, our manager came up with a brilliant idea. During our last song of the night, we would have a special chorus that would clap and dance in the background. We asked the guests if they would like to be on stage to fulfill this role, this way being part of the show. They were so excited about that, and so everything worked out. The good Lord saved me from my mistake.”

In Closing:

Though past life cannot see,

From reactions still not free.


Soon enough to come,

Seen by Supersoul one.


In this life witness the same,

Gives sanction to loss and gain.


Future reactions there will also be,

Act to please Krishna, benevolent is He.