Saturday, May 24, 2014

The One With The Lead Foot

[Shrila Prabhupada]“Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura states that one should not care very much whether he is going to be liberated or not, but he should simply execute the direct order received from the spiritual master. If one sticks to the principle of abiding by the order of the spiritual master, he will always remain in a liberated position.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.20.13 Purport)

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“License and registration please,” the officer asked. Manny was nervous this time. It wasn’t the first time he had been pulled over. In fact, it was becoming a frequent occurrence. But one more violation and he was in serious risk of losing his license. “How will I get to work? Will I be stuck in the house all the time? I can’t lose my license. Please Lord, help me out of this one,” he thought to himself.

After being shown the necessary documents, the officer asked Manny if he knew why he was pulled over. “I’m so sorry officer. I was trying to drive at a decent speed, but suddenly this guy pulled up next to me. He was driving right by my side. It was so annoying that I thought if I passed him, he would leave me alone. I’m sorry.”

[Police car pulled over]“You know what,” said the officer. “I’m going to reward your honesty. Just sit tight, I’ll be back in a second.” Manny felt relieved. Indeed, this time he was telling the truth. He had been trying to drive slower, but the annoying driver that approached to the left of him made him lose his cool. Manny realized that the reason the driver suddenly slowed down was because he detected that there was a traffic policeman ahead. Manny didn’t know, and so he fell into the trap by speeding up.

“Okay, this is the lowest possible ticket I can give you.”

“Thank you so much, officer.”

“I need you to slow down. Don’t do any crazy moves.”

“I won’t. Thank you again.”

Having escaped this time, Manny took it as a sign from above. “I will seriously try to drive slower and safer from now on.” But in fact, what really changed his habits was his wife giving birth to their first daughter a few months later. On the ride home from the hospital, Manny drove extremely carefully. He told one of his friends about it a few days later.

[child in car seat]“I don’t know what came over me, man,” said Manny. “Suddenly I had this desire to protect. I was giving dirty looks to the other drivers on the road who I thought were going too fast.”

“Yeah, that’s bound to happen,” said his friend Jose. “I noticed a similar thing happened to me, except it wasn’t rooted in having a child.”

“Oh yeah? You were driving slower too?”

“I realized the change came about because of the vows I took. You know, the ones relating to my spiritual master.”

Manny didn’t recall immediately, so Jose explained to him how he had given up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex as part of his service to the guru he accepted to serve for life. He also explained how those regulations helped him in his more important vow of chanting the holy names a fixed number of times on a daily basis.

[japa mala]“So you chant that mantra for sixteen rounds every day,” asked Manny.

“Yeah. It wasn’t easy at first. I try to help others who follow the same path. Basically we try to serve as much as possible. And it’s real service; not just giving some basic help here and there. It’s reawakening the dormant God consciousness in everyone.”

“I see. With the way society’s going these days, that’s the most important service there is. It takes a lot to change behavior. I mean look at me. You remember how fast I used to drive. Not even repeat traffic offenses could fix me. It wasn’t until I had a responsibility to my daughter that it finally hit me.”

“Yeah, so it’s similar with me now,” said Jose. “I feel like I need to do whatever I can to keep serving my guru, who is so dear to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Whatever it takes to be able to chant the holy names every day, to serve others following the same mission, I accept. And whatever gets in the way of that, I reject. At first I just accepted the principles, without really thinking too much about them. I was attracted to the mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. But slowly I noticed that it made me a better person. I was nicer to the people I met. I didn’t indulge so much in eating and sleeping. I had more energy. I became more responsible overall because I had someone to be responsible for.”

Manny then explained how he had given up so many things since his daughter was born. No more did he spend nights out on the town with his friends. No more did he waste hours in front of the television set doing nothing. He had a fear, however. What would happen when his daughter grew up? What would happen after she left the house as an adult? Who would keep Manny responsible?

“Your concern shows intelligence,” said Jose. “So, devotional service is a fulltime occupation. The good disciple never abandons the service to their guru. This also gives a good way to test whether or not the guru is legitimate. If he gives you something you can do for lifetime after lifetime, something that will always make you happy and clean up your bad habits, you know that he’s on to something. If he simply gives you a secret formula after paying him a few dollars, he’s not a legitimate spiritual master. He should be able to correct your faults and give you a purpose that you’ll never abandon.”

[Shrila Prabhupada]Manny then had to leave, so the conversation drew to an end. He was very eager to hear more, so he made Jose promise that they would meet up again very soon and continue their discussion. As they were parting, Jose said with a smile, “Alright man. See you soon. Drive safe.”

In Closing:

With new responsibility to come,

With bad habits finally done.


For another person now to care,

So to do wrong not to dare.


With service to guru the same,

Who kindly bestows holy name.


Chanting and following regulative principles four,

Removing all bad things, knowing God more.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Always An Auspicious Time

[Rama's lotus feet]“With the great auspiciousness and good aura, the demigods rained down flowers. The city was filled with sounds of rejoicing, and the men and women were very happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 181)

hohiṃ sumangala saguna sumana sura baraṣahiṃ |
nagara kolāhala bhayau nāri nara haraṣahiṃ ||

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This verse from the Janaki Mangala says that the time of Shri Rama’s return to Ayodhya saw auspiciousness everywhere. All the omens were good. This means that it wasn’t snowing. It could be the first day of Spring, the beginning of baseball season in America, but this doesn’t mean that the weather will automatically cooperate. It could also be very warm on an autumn day. The setting isn’t always ideal, and in life not all moments are auspicious. But here everything is just right, and it is not surprising considering that Rama is the Supreme Lord Himself.

[Rain on a farm]In fact, there can never be an inauspicious moment for Rama. The term does not apply to Him. Inauspicious means something that is not conducive to meeting the objective at hand. If your job is to put a roof on a housing structure on a particular day, rain is inauspicious for you. The rain will get in the way of doing your job. For the farmer, the opposite is true; the rain is auspicious. Therefore good and bad are relative. The same occurrence, rain in this case, can help one person and hurt another.

When the discussion turns to the spiritual, auspicious and inauspicious relate to the afterlife. “Is God going to be happy with what I’m doing? Will I go to hell if I do this?” Then if I do something nice, like open up a hospital for sick children, I wonder how much benefit is set to come my way. “Boy, I better make it into heaven now. This is a really good thing I’m doing.” If we refrain from eating meat, someone may ask us, “So, if you eat something that has meat in it, are you going to hell?” Similarly, if we perform a specific ritual in the home, someone may ask, “By doing this, are you guaranteed a spot in heaven?”

[Bhagavad-gita, 8.16]“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Rama, in His original form of Shri Krishna, explains that even this idea of heaven and hell is relative. The auspiciousness and inauspiciousness of spiritual life, where the objective is still on material enjoyment and the avoidance of material distress, are thus not absolute. There are many heavenly planets, and several hellish ones as well. Residence in any of these places, from the highest to the lowest, is not temporary since birth and death take place there.

Rama is aja, or unborn. He is also ajita, which means unconquerable. No one can say that God was born on a particular day. And no one can say that He has ever been conquered by time. Time has no influence on Him. In His home the concept of an appropriate time has no meaning. There is no such thing as an inappropriate place since nothing can ever harm Him.

Knowing this, why would the demigods rain down flowers as He returned to Ayodhya during His earthly pastimes? Why would there be auspicious omens everywhere, with the citizens celebrating His return home? The only conclusion is that the auspiciousness mentioned here is to give an indication to others that the Supreme Lord in a most wonderful form is within vicinity. He is never outside of any area, but we don’t always notice His presence. In fact, we almost never notice it, though it is always within our heart, where He lives in His expansion as the Supersoul.

As the Supersoul is more difficult to notice, and as it is possible to have an inauspicious aura when the Supersoul is present, we get further justification for the truth that the personal manifestation, the incarnation or God Himself as Krishna, is superior in all respects. Whenever the personal form, in a visible manifestation, is there for the eyes to relish there is auspiciousness all around.

As there can never be an inauspicious setting for the Supreme Lord, the same holds true for devotion to Him. While we consult with the proper authorities for the proper date and time to hold an important function like a wedding, something like chanting the holy names can be done anywhere and at any time. There is never a loss. In fact, the greatest loss is giving up the chanting of the holy names in favor of something else, something which keeps one away in consciousness from the Supreme Lord.

“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)

[Worshiping Rama's feet]The people of Ayodhya understood the greatest gain they received in the triumphant return of Rama, His brothers, and their father Dasharatha. The same mentality is held by Rama’s staunchest supporters today, who take advantage of the valuable gift of devotion passed on to them by the highly merciful spiritual teachers of the Vaishnava tradition. Such fortunate souls never pass up an opportunity to chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Since in His world duality without,

Auspicious is everything about.


Extends also to presence physical,

Return to Ayodhya thus moment magical.


Overjoyed when saw His party coming,

People’s hearts on pure love running.


All-auspicious also is holy name,

Chanting it brings benefit the same.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Hero’s Welcome

[Lord Rama's feet]“With the great auspiciousness and the good aura, the demigods rained down flowers. The city was filled with sounds of rejoicing, and the men and women were very happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 181)

hohiṃ sumangala saguna sumana sura baraṣahiṃ |
nagara kolāhala bhayau nāri nara haraṣahiṃ ||

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The aura was perfect for the return of Dasharatha and his four sons. All the omens were good. There was nothing negative looming. Not too long prior, the omens were mixed. There were ominous signs that troubled the king and his party. There were auspicious signs which cancelled those out. The guru pointed out the auspiciousness, and his prediction was validated when Rama averted the potential disaster of an angry Parashurama. But now the aura was all-auspicious, fitting for the triumphant return home.

Perhaps you have a difficult time believing in God. Even if you do accept that He exists, you’re not really sure what He looks like. Is there only one manifestation? Can’t He have more than one appearance? Therefore your idea is vague. Still, if someone were to tell you that God was planning on visiting your home, what would you do? Most likely you would straighten up. Time to throw out that pizza box that’s been sitting on the kitchen table for the past few days. Time to organize all the junk mail that you have yet to sort through. Time to fix up the living room and make sure there are clean towels in the bathrooms.

[offerings for Govardhana Puja]Actually, you would do these things for any important guest. But God is the most important person to ever come to your home. Therefore you have to go the extra mile. You’ll decorate further. You’ll put flowers everywhere. You’ll make every room smell pleasant. You’ll set aside a path for the Supreme Lord to walk through as He enters. You’ll have a nice seat awaiting Him. You’ll make sure that the best food and drink will be on hand, in large amounts. God creates the oceans without blinking an eye, so He can easily drink up that same volume of liquid. He consumes the clarified butter poured into official sacrifices in His honor. He accepts the foodstuffs kindly prepared and set in front of His many temple deities around the world. He accepts these things simultaneously, all the while staying one.

“The Lord is situated in everyone's heart as the Supersoul. Does that mean that He has become divided? No. Actually, He is one. The example is given of the sun: the sun, at the meridian, is situated in his place. But if one goes for five thousand miles in all directions and asks, ‘Where is the sun?’ everyone will say that it is shining on his head. In the Vedic literature this example is given to show that although He is undivided, He is situated as if divided.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.17 Purport)

Though He rests within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul, He is one. He is never divided. He can expand, for sure, but this doesn’t mean that His original form loses anything. He is Ramachandra, the eldest son of Dasharatha, but this doesn’t mean that while He’s on earth as Rama He is suddenly no longer Krishna. And when He lifts Govardhana Hill in Vrindavana, it doesn’t mean that He is no longer Rama.

[Lord Rama]In the same way, though He is the Supersoul residing in my heart, He is also within yours. It is the same person. Therefore He sees more than anyone else. Take all the newspaper reporters in the world, combine their eyesight, memory, and ability to craft stories describing what they’ve seen and you get some idea of how amazing God is in just His role as the Supersoul.

Since He is so amazing, you must have an amazing welcome ready for Him. For an idea of how that welcome should appear, look no further than Ayodhya during the time of Rama’s return. Here Goswami Tulsidas says that all the qualities were good, saguna. There was great auspiciousness, sumangala. And the demigods rained down flowers. So the omens were good, the aura was good, and the physical appearance was good as well.

The sound of rejoicing filled the city, and the men and women were very happy. That in itself is the best welcome. If you arrive somewhere and the hosts are not happy to see you, how will you feel? “Oh alright, you can come in, if you have to. Don’t expect any food, because we’re almost out. Don’t sit on the couch; you’ll mess it up. Rather, sit on the floor. And don’t think of eating anywhere near the furniture. Stand over in that corner and eat whatever food you can find in here.”

This isn’t so nice a welcome. The opposite reception makes you feel so good. And so the excitement of the men and women made the welcome all the more special. They had plenty to be excited about. Rama and Lakshmana, two of Dasharatha’s four sons, were finally returning home. They had left to protect the sage Vishvamitra from the attacks of evil night-rangers. Now they were returning home safe and sound, married as well. The other two sons also came home with brides, and so the proud father had plenty to rejoice over.

[Rama and Lakshmana]One of Rama’s many names is Raghuvira, which means the hero of the Raghu dynasty. He is brave, righteous, and always concerned with the welfare of those who are under His protection. And so the hero got the perfect welcome in Ayodhya, where everyone spontaneously rejoiced at His triumphant return. He protected Vishvamitra, won the contest in Janakpur, married the beautiful Sita, and now finally came back.

In Closing:

If God arriving to you,

At your home what to do?


Obviously cleanup task to take,

So that perfect welcome to make.


In Ayodhya Rama like hero greeted,

After princes in Janaka’s contest defeated.


Most wonderful welcome people gave,

Image of Rama in their hearts to save.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Good Father

[Marriage party]“In this way all four sons were married, and their fame spread throughout the world. Giving happiness to the people along the way, the lord of Ayodhya came home.” (Janaki Mangala, 180)

ehi bidhi byāhi sakala suta jaga jasu chāāyau |
maga loganhi sukha deta avadhapati āyau ||

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Say that you’re expecting your first child with your wife. You prepared for this. You knew that you were ready to start a family. But as the time of the birth approaches, you ask yourself some questions. “Will I be a good father? How should I act? Am I cut out to give protection to someone so young and innocent? In fact, what makes a good father? How does he act?” The time and circumstance dictate the requirements, though love is what guides properly in all circumstances. The lord of Ayodhya a long time ago had a tremendous responsibility, which he fulfilled to the satisfaction of everyone.

“Just be there for them. That’s the majority of the parenting role. If you’re not there, you can’t guide. You can’t protect if you’re always away. Just be there for your kids, and they will figure out that you are the authority figure. They won’t expect that much of you anyway. Just having you around is enough.” King Dasharatha was around for his four sons. They came to him after a long time. It is not uncommon in modern times to marry at an advanced age. Dasharatha did not have this problem. He had three wives, which was not out of the ordinary during the more pure age known as Treta, the second of the four time periods of creation. With each successive period, dedication to virtue declines within society. Dasharatha loved and protected his three wives.

[Dasharatha's sacrifice]It was the son who was late in arriving. The king needed one to continue the family line. He was in a most famous family, one that traced its origin to the sun-god, Vivasvan. Finally, after performing a sacrifice for the purpose, Dasharatha received four beautiful sons through his three wives. He was there for those sons. He guided them. He protected them. He put them in the custody of the royal priest at the appropriate time.

The marriage of his eldest son Rama took place through Vishvamitra’s direction. Vishvamitra was one of the priest-like men who was trusted by Dasharatha to guide his sons. Vishvamitra took care of Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana for a period. Though Dasharatha didn’t arrange for the marriage of Rama to Sita, he gave his consent. He also arrived for the ceremony, bringing along Rama’s two other brothers. The kind father of Sita, Janaka, was so swept away by the moment that he offered to have Dasharatha’s three other sons get married as well. So the king of Ayodhya went to Janaka’s city to agree to one marriage, and he returned home with all four of his sons married.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, it is said that the fame of those four marriages spread throughout the world. This can refer to the husbands and wives themselves and also to Dasharatha. Honor ascends. It cannot be passed on to future generations, because those generations have nothing to do with the act that warranted the honor in the first place. If you do something good, the praise extends upwards, in the direction of the parents. Through Rama’s marriage to Sita, the honor ascended to the father Dasharatha. The marriages of the three other brothers further increased the fame of the good father.

It is also said here that Dasharatha gave happiness to the people along the way back home. Think of it like the parade celebrating a notable personality. They travel on a car through the city streets, with so many well-wishers looking on and waving. They line up early just to get a brief look at the person in question. This is sort of how it was when Dasharatha and his sons returned home to Ayodhya. The people caught a glimpse of the triumphant party, who were led by the good father.

[Lord Rama]That father’s primary qualification was his love for the eldest son Rama, who is God. And so in all situations, whether one wants to be a good father, mother, brother, sister, friend, etc. - if they have love for God then things will work themselves out. To have love for God is not very difficult; it lies deep within us. It is a part of us that no one or thing can take away. It is aroused through devotional service, bhakti-yoga, which is best practiced today through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Happy in birth of child to see,

But how good father to be?


With love in all times give,

Then with protection they’ll live.


Sons through sacrifice Dasharatha earned,

Married happily to Ayodhya they returned.


Along city streets well-wishers took their spot,

Showing love for God that each of us has got.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Defusing A Tense Situation

[Lord Rama's arm]“Seeing the strength of Rama’s arms, the barata party became so excited. The king was so happy that the Lord allowed this to occur in his presence.” (Janaki Mangala, 179)

raghubara bhuja bala dekhi uchāha barātinha |
mudita rāu lakhi sanamukha bidhi saba bhāntinha ||

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Pick your favorite difficult situation. Something where you don’t see any option for things getting better, a situation where you’re in a lot of trouble and you can’t envision a way out. Know that in the worst of these moments, the Supreme Lord has the strength to rescue you and everyone else affected. This fact should be obvious, but within the moment it is difficult to see clearly. A party happily returning from a marriage ceremony for four couples suddenly faced a tense situation. They relied on the strength of the arms of the Supreme Lord, and thus they felt so excited afterwards.

You’re on a boat. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. Everything seems to be going well. You’re relaxing, for a change. No deadlines to worry over. No contemplating the projects that are due in the upcoming week. No screaming kids running around the house making a mess. Just you, your wife, and a few friends floating on the lake. Suddenly you notice a leak in the boat. Water is entering fast. No one knows what to do. Do you have to abandon the ship? Is there a way to plug the hole? Then one of your friends rides to the rescue, very calmly. He figures out how to stop the leak. Now everyone feels so relieved. The last thing they wanted to do was jump in the water and have to swim back to shore.

[boat with a leak]This is one example of an emergency situation, but the one faced by the barata party returning to Ayodhya was much more serious. It could perhaps be likened to a situation where a bomb is about to go off. The clock is ticking and the expert squad is called in to defuse it. With Parashurama, the extent of the damage could have been much worse. An incarnation of Vishnu himself, he previously had destroyed the entire warrior class twenty-one times over. He was known for his fiery temper, and his weapon of choice was the axe.

When he intercepted the barata party, he was again angry. Rama, the chief of the Raghu dynasty, had just lifted, strung, and broken Lord Shiva’s bow in the assembly of King Janaka. That bow had a famous history, and now Parashurama wanted to see if Rama could string the corresponding bow belonging to Vishnu. Rama was not scared. He was not worried. Previously, as an adolescent, he had faced a similar challenge while serving the guru Vishvamitra. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana lived with the sage for some time, acting as bodyguards in effect. One time the hermitage was attacked by the Rakshasa named Maricha. Maricha previously had carried out many similar attacks, and so he thought this one would be successful as well. He thought wrong.

“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra's ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)

[Lord Rama as child]Maricha was impressed by the fact that Rama strung His bow so effortlessly as the attack was going down. Rama did not flinch. He did not hesitate. The same occurred when He was challenged by Parashurama. Rama easily strung the bow and then curbed the pride of the fiery-tempered wielder of the axe. The barata party was so excited to see this. It was like a bomb had been defused. Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, thanked God that this scene was able to occur in front of his eyes.

We may not think we are in as much trouble, but the repetition of birth and death is itself an emergency situation, especially for the human being. The animal can’t make any strides in this area. They are more or less stuck with waiting it out. They don’t have the intelligence to understand God. More importantly, they don’t have any way to take shelter of Him. The human being can. They can get the same protection from the same very powerful arm, extended by the same chief of the Raghu dynasty.

That strength is passed on in full in the name itself. The name of Rama, chanted with faith, devotion and full dependence, can fix the emergency situation of the impending rebirth, which is guaranteed for the soul who is not conscious of God at the time of death. The rescue from the name of Rama brings the same excitement, which stays day after day through the constant chanting of those names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[maha-mantra]The change will surprise us. No longer will we invest our hopes for a better life in practices that are meant to only bring temporary results. No longer will we feel the melancholy from lacking a direction in life, a purpose to our actions. Instead, we will thank the good Lord for transforming us and allowing us to get a slight glimpse into His immense potency, which can defuse any tense situation, large or small.

In Closing:

Like expert defusing a bomb,

Rama calmed scene with aplomb.


Parashurama never afraid to attack,

Previously destroyed warriors with axe.


But Rama there this time,

Like always in victory to shine.


Rely yourself on strength the same,

Through chanting always His name.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dazzling Everyone

[Lord Rama's hand]“Rama pacified the anger of the sage and took his wrath away. Giving away the Sharanga bow, He left, providing the best fruit for the eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, 178)

rāma kīnha paritoṣa roṣa risa parihari |
cale saunpa sāranga suphala locana kari ||

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Having working eyes is extremely beneficial. If you lose your hearing, generally you can still be productive if your eyes are working. If you lose your sight, you will have a more difficult time managing, as others will need to help you out in many instances. The eyes are the gateway to the external world, allowing you to see objects, make identifications, and then act accordingly. So many things thus give pleasure to the eyes, and those things equate to fruits. The fruit is the resultant object of work, and the work of getting a human body endowed with eyes has many fruits in the form of pleasing visions. A best fruit, according to Vaishnava saints devoted in full consciousness, is the sight of a victorious Supreme Personality of Godhead when facing an apparently challenging situation. This suphala, or best fruit, is witnessed by only a rare few, but the descriptions of it are kindly passed on for future generations to relish.

Isn’t God challenged every day? Do not the transgressions of the rules of propriety attack the long established rules and regulations passed on by the Supreme Lord? If such challenges take place all the time, why are the constant victories absent? Actually, the challenges always fail. Whosoever thinks themselves to be God must eventually bow down to the undefeated champion known as death. Death is synonymous with time, kalah in Sanskrit, as time is what goes to work on any gain. I look forward to the Christmas presents my parents will give me this year, but eventually the holiday season will pass and the objects of excitement will lose their value. This is time at work.

[Christmas presents]The challenger to God loses to time every single day. Otherwise they would have no reason to fear. They would have no need to proclaim themselves the best, either. If they knew their prominence would remain forever, they would be at complete peace. They would be atmarama, or self-satisfied. Unfortunately for them, the only person who is always atmarama is the Supreme Lord, who once appeared on earth as Ramachandra, the dark-complexioned eldest son of King Dasharatha. His moon-like face made Him adored by all in His family.

With His activities, Rama gave the fruit to the eyes. This fruit is for every kind of eyes, even the animals. Yet only the devoted souls relish the taste of the fruit. They recognize it for what it is, and so the Supreme Lord makes it available exclusively for them. He intentionally seeks the greatest challenges, situations which put fear into the devoted souls. These souls worry that He might not be able to accomplish the task. He could be ridiculed afterwards for having failed, which increases the worry.

One such situation occurred when Rama and His family were returning to Ayodhya from Janakpur. Rama had just married Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. He earned her hand by lifting and stringing a bow that originally belonged to Lord Shiva. Rama was so strong that the bow broke when He bent it with string. This raised the ire of Parashurama, who intercepted the group on their path back home.

[Parashurama]Parashurama is also God; an incarnation of the same Vishnu who appeared as Rama. So in this instance Vishnu created a challenge for Vishnu to solve. This can only mean that the purpose was to give the best fruit to the eyes. Parashurama is in a different visible manifestation; he also has a different mood. He is always angry. He carried around his axe like the sheriff in town eager to put away the criminals. Parashurama did not like that Shiva’s bow was broken, so he challenged Rama to string Vishnu’s bow. He offered it to Rama, and Rama then strung it so quickly that everyone was amazed. Then Rama said that the arrow now could not go to waste, and it would destroy either Parashurama’s ascetic merit or the regions in the heavenly realm that he conquered. Parashurama opted for the latter.

Parashurama’s pride was hurt, and in the process his anger subsided. Thus Rama did an amazing thing. He withstood a challenge from a person who had previously destroyed the warrior race on earth many times over. Rama then handed the bow over to Varuna, the demigod in charge of the oceans. That bow is called the Sharanga, and it is always associated with Vishnu. It has its own history, being passed on in a chain of famous personalities.

[Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.10.30]“All the sages said: Dear Dhruva, O son of King Uttanapada, may the Supreme Personality of Godhead known as Sharngadhanva, who relieves the distresses of His devotees, kill all your threatening enemies. The holy name of the Lord is as powerful as the Lord Himself. Therefore, simply by chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord, many men can be fully protected from fierce death without difficulty. Thus a devotee is saved.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.10.30)

Goswami Tulsidas allows any person to taste this fruit for the eyes, even if they weren’t there in the first place. This makes the saints of the Vedic tradition so kind; kinder than anyone we know. Others can provide different fruits for the eyes, but none of these are the best. The vision of a victorious Rama remains forever, even into future lifetimes. Time can never act against these visions. Time works at the beck and call of Rama, who says as much in the Bhagavad-gita.

[Bhagavad-gita, 10.30]“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

[Lord Rama]Rama is the same Krishna, the speaker of the Gita. He is time, which is His impersonal manifestation. As time cannot act against the best fruit of the eyes that is the vision of a victorious God, it means that the impersonal is always subordinate to the personal. The wise take shelter of the personal, which can handle the awesome bow known as Sharanga and then renounce it within a second, not needing any weapon to carry out its work.

In Closing:

Vision of victorious God for the eyes,

Relished by the saintly, the truly wise.


So many things with nature’s gift to see,

But only one the best, forever manifest to be.


Parashurama a bow challenge commanding,

Rama victorious, to Varuna bow handing.


Impersonal is time, which Rama controls,

The personal thus supremacy over everything holds.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Different Versions

[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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You’ve heard of the “telephone game?” In some regions it goes by a different name, but the rules are pretty much the same. You start with a point of fact. It can be something very simple, like say that I had the flu last year. I then whisper that fact into the ear of another person. They have one responsibility: relay that fact to one other person. They don’t have to do anything else. The chain continues until you reach a person who is many times removed from me. Then you ask them what was the fact that they learned, and it is almost never the same. They might think that I had a much more serious illness or that I am dead altogether.

[Hanuman]As Vedic literature has accounts of talking monkeys, flying monkeys, sages drinking entire oceans, women giving birth to one hundred children, half-men/half-lion appearing out of pillars, and one man destroying an entire society many times over, it is natural to assign “myth” status to these works. The thinking goes like this:

“There was some original event that happened, and then the tale got passed on. Each person in the link wanted to outdo the predecessor in terms of poetic ability. If it was a boring event, no one will be interested in hearing about that. So they decided to exaggerate a little. They bent the truth, and then with each person in the chain following suit, you ended up with the descriptions that were not believable. It’s like the telephone game but spanning hundreds of years.”

This viewpoint seems to be validated by the contradicting stories of the same event found in Vedic literature. For instance, in the famous Ramayana, the central character, Lord Rama, breaks the bow of Lord Shiva to marry the daughter of King Janaka. On His way back home, Rama encounters Parashurama, an angry warrior turned sage, who is upset that Rama broke the bow of Shiva. He challenges Rama to string another bow, to which Rama happily accepts. Rama then crushes the pride of Parashurama. This is the sequence of events described above in the verse from the Janaki Mangala, which is a wonderful poem authored by the saint Tulsidas, who lived in India during medieval times.

[Parashurama]In a more famous work by the same Tulsidas, the meeting with Parashurama takes place earlier. It occurs while everyone is still in Janaka’s kingdom. There is some back and forth between Parashurama and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother. That dialogue is missing in the original telling of the Ramayana. The telling of Rama’s life with the meeting with Parashurama occurring earlier is found in other works of Vedic literature as well. So how do we reconcile these differences? Tulsidas himself has authored two different versions. Did he make one of them up? Was he a chain in the telephone game and then got the actual telling wrong?

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.12]“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

[Arjuna and Krishna]The nature of the material world sheds some light on the issue. This isn’t our first go around in a body. We have lived before. Never was there a time that I did not exist. That is a factual statement. It is told by Shri Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna can utter the statement and have it be accurate. So can Arjuna, so can I, and so can you. We may not have existed with the same height and hair color. We may not have even been in the same species. But we still existed. The distant past is really no different than the immediate past. I existed five minutes ago. I know this for a fact. Just extrapolate out and take it as fact that you existed at any point in the past.

This eternal existence is made possible by the properties of the soul. The soul is spirit, which is immutable, unchangeable and primeval. It is not slain when the body is slain. Since I am spirit soul, I will exist perpetually into the future. There are changes, though. These occur to the things which are not spirit, i.e. matter. So the natural conclusion is that the universe goes through cycles of creation and destruction, just as the bodies of the individual living entities do. With cycles in the creation, you get repeat births and deaths. Within these cycles, the Supreme Lord Himself appears and disappears, maintaining His nature, which is changeless.

[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, Bg. 7.24)

So in some cycles of the creation, Parashurama meets Rama earlier, and in some cycles the meeting takes place later. In some cycles, there is an argument with Lakshmana, and in some cycles there isn’t. In either case, the meetings are factual. The descriptions found in Vedic literature are also accurate; though they seemingly contradict. Something that takes place in a different era, and maybe in a different universe of planets, is still relevant to our understanding. And so wise saints like Tulsidas, who are fully aware of the nature of the material and spiritual worlds, have no problem passing on different accounts in different works.

[Lord Rama]The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and so the authenticity of a Vedic work which seems to contradict a previous work in minor details can be determined by the presence of God Himself. Is His name prominent? Are His activities in accord with His stature as the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Is the message the same, that devotional service is the highest engagement for humankind? So whether Parashurama was pacified in Janakpur or along the route back home to Ayodhya, the glory of Rama still shines. He is the superior incarnation of the Supreme Lord, and in either telling His victory is prominent, leaving no room for doubt that He is indeed Vishnu Himself, the chief of the gods.

In Closing:

In one version presented one way,

Then another telling a book to say.


Seems as if something telephone game-like,

Where to original no resemblance in sight.


But of the cycles of the creation know,

So that different accounts resolved so.


Rama met Parashurama after breaking bow,

And in another as towards Ayodhya to go.


In either case the lesson the same,

Superior is Dasharatha’s son of Rama the name.