Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cheated In All Ages

[Shri Hanuman]“Seeing this unusual form and language of mine, Janaki, who was previously frightened by the Rakshasas, will again be fearful.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.20)

sā iyam ālokya me rūpam jānakī bhāṣitam tathā ||
rakṣobhiḥ trāsitā pūrvam bhūyaḥ trāsam gamiṣyati |

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The present age is known as Kali. The length of the creation is one yuga, and to better understand the proclivities of the members of society with respect to piety and how the behavior changes over time, that one yuga is then divided into four periods, which are also known as yugas. Kali is the last of the four divisions, and in this age there is darkness. Man is so blinded by ignorance in this age that he can’t distinguish right from wrong. He doesn’t know what is piety and what is sin. Making things even more difficult is the fact that even those who may appear to be pious on the outside are often ill-motivated. They conceal their true identity in the hopes of flipping things, of turning sin into piety. From the thoughts of Shri Hanuman quoted above, we see that though much more rare, the same problem was present in the Treta Yuga, or the second of the four ages.

Let’s pretend that I am not a good person. I cheat all the time. I have no remorse since I consider everyone else to be cheaters as well.

“Hey, if they’re going to cheat, why not me too? I’d be a fool not to follow along. Why should I let others walk all over me? If you think about it, I have as much a right to the property on this earth as anyone else. If the government sends a spaceship to Mars and then plants a flag there, do they suddenly own that planet? Can anyone own the moon? These are silly questions, for sure. So why should anyone be able to own anything on the earth? I should be able to take whatever I want from anyone else.”

Of course my forthrightness will not help me. More benefits will come if I mask who I am. Therefore, I ascend to positions of power, where I say things which appear to be correct, but in a hidden way. To justify my behavior, I try to turn the tide. I tell people that my way is righteousness. It is okay to cheat because this is the only way to get even with the cheaters who are worse than me. Those cheaters are hurting everyone else, so it is not only okay for me to follow this course, but I am compelled to do it. I affix all sorts of negative labels on those who go against me. Through this method, in the eyes of public opinion my enemies eventually turn into the bad guys.

Of course, there are flaws to my logic. As it is based in unrighteousness, it is the wrong course, no matter how I try to spin it. In addition, if others were to follow my example, it does not benefit me. I’m fine with cheating myself, but if others cheat me then I’m not happy. Real righteousness doesn’t have this defect. If am truthful, then others benefit from my truthfulness. If they are truthful towards me, I will appreciate it. The same goes for kindness and compassion.

In Lanka a long time ago, a dutiful messenger contemplated how to approach a princess in distress. She was there against her will, and it all started with a ruse. Her husband and His younger brother left the hermitage in the forest very briefly. During that intermission, the princess received a guest. He was dressed like an ascetic, a priestly man of the time. Thus the princess, Sita, offered him all hospitality. She didn’t have much there, but she promised the man that when her husband returned, He would give everything to Him.

“All blessings upon you, I am the daughter of Janaka, the great soul [mahatma] and King of Mithila. My name is Sita and I am the beloved queen of Lord Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.3)

[Ravana approaching Sita]It turned out that the ascetic was really a man-devouring ogre named Ravana. He came there specifically to take Sita away by force. Sita’s husband Rama and His brother Lakshmana were lured away from the hermitage through a ruse created by Ravana. Thus the fiend showed that he not only practiced duplicity, but he relied on it to get his most important work accomplished.

This messenger was in Lanka sent by Rama. He had an odd form as well. He was in the body of a forest-dweller, which resembled the monkey species. He also could speak very eloquently. Would we not flip out if a dog suddenly started speaking to us? In this case it wasn’t the talking that was extraordinary; it was the language itself. Hanuman, the messenger, knew Sanskrit, which was reserved for the most learned in society.

[Shri Hanuman]So the potential situation was that Sita, who was in distress, would be approached by a random monkey-like person who spoke Sanskrit. Naturally, she would be skeptical. She would likely think that it was Ravana playing another trick on her. It would be like the modern-day atheists who assume the garb of spiritual men. She would consider the speech to be like the flowery words emanating from such cheaters, who with their façade of sweet words try to present atheism and the false idea that God is not a person. Hanuman knew how Ravana acted and how low the enemies of the Supreme Lord will go to try to accomplish their objectives. Fortunately, he knew the right way to get Rama’s message to Sita without startling her.

In Closing:

Age of Kali known for constant fight,

In blindness wrong taken to be right.


Even in second age by some cheated,

Like Ravana, whom by lust defeated.


As to the lowest depths Rakshasas to sink,

Hanuman’s words an illusion Sita to think.


Messenger knowing way that was right,

To convey Rama’s message of hope and light.

Friday, June 6, 2014

When In Rome

[Shri Hanuman]“For the words to be meaningful, it is necessary that I use the language of the human beings, for there is no other way to console this blameless lady.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.19)

avaśyam eva vaktavyam mānuṣam vākyam arthavat ||
mayā sāntvayitum śakyā na anyathā iyam aninditā |

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There is the famous saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Depending on your mindset, you can take this to be an excuse to do anything. “Well, the Romans ate meat and drank wine all the time, so let me follow them.” “Well, the Romans fought each other just for sport, so let me engage in that as well.” A more salient lesson to derive from the saying would be that one should adjust their behavior to their surroundings if they are to accomplish their objectives. In this regard no better example comes to mind than Shri Hanuman.

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

In Lanka, Hanuman first had to mask his shape. He is in the form of a beautiful monkey. As the Bhagavad-gita says, someone who is humble and wise, through use of their true knowledge they are able to see so many different living entities equally. They consider the dog, the dog-eater, the elephant, the cow, and even the learned man in society to be equal. The equality is in the ultimate source of identity. Each living entity is a spark of spirit at the core. What covers that spark is just that, a covering.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman has the odd covering of the body of a monkey. Still, since he is always engaged in devotion to God, even that covering is beautiful. It is one with him in the sense that it serves the greatest interest of the living spark, that of divine love. With that transcendental body, Hanuman leaped over a massive ocean. He overcame the obstacles of demons looking to obstruct his path. In short, he had nothing to be embarrassed over. His form was worth viewing, honoring, remembering, and worshiping by every single person.

Still, to get his objectives accomplished, Hanuman masked his shape. Using the anima siddhi of yoga, he became very small, the size of a cat. This enabled him to search all through Lanka and eventually find Sita, the gold in the treasure map. She was a blameless lady, unfortunately held captive in Lanka against her will. She longed for the association of her dear husband Shri Rama, but she knew nothing of His whereabouts or intentions after having separated from him due to the wicked deeds of the king of Lanka, Ravana.

Hanuman was Rama’s messenger; thus his presence alone could remove some of Sita’s worries. Having found her in the Ashoka grove, he could now console her. In this verse from the Ramayana, he deliberates on how to best go about offering that consolation. First he considers speaking in Sanskrit, for that is the language of man. Then he worries that Sita will take him to be Ravana if he suddenly appears and starts speaking the language of the twice-born, the priests. Ravana also had the ability to change shapes at will, and he previously had pretended to be an ascetic in order to evoke Sita’s sympathies.

Hanuman had every right to simply go up to Sita and tell her what was going on, in any language of his choosing. Still, he decides on the language of the people, Sanskrit, for there is no other way to console Sita. Adjusting to the time and circumstance, not letting pride get in the way, Hanuman chose the right course of action. And he indeed had much to be proud of already.

[Shri Hanuman]If even Hanuman adjusts to the time and circumstance, then so can anyone else. It is said that in the present age of Kali, there is no way to self-realization other than the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” We may prefer knowledge gathering, meditational yoga, or work with the fruits renounced, but nothing is as effective as hearing the holy name. These holy names are also in the language of the people, and just like Hanuman’s words to Sita, they are soothing to the blameless among us.

In Closing:

Even if all intelligence in one to find,

Should give attention to place and time.


When Hanuman in Ashoka grove like,

Of Rama’s wife having direct sight.


She to be skeptical from being abused,

So appropriate words by him to be used.


For Kali’s age maha-mantra say,

For deliverance no other way.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Skilled In Illusion

[Shri Hanuman]“But if I use the language of Sanskrit like the twice-born, Sita will think me to be Ravana and thus become fearful.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.18)

yadi vācam pradāsyāmi dvijātiḥ iva sanskṛtām |
rāvaṇam manyamānā mām sītā bhītā bhaviṣyati ||

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“Can you please make up your mind already? We reach the same point every time during these deliberations. I throw out a place and you shoot it down. When you throw out a place, I accept it, and then you renege. It’s like you don’t want to go anywhere. You’re always doing this. If you deliberate too long, you won’t make any decision. One second you say one thing, giving the arguments in favor. Then the next you contradict yourself. Can you imagine if all the great leaders of the past had acted the way you do? Where would this country be if George Washington remained paralyzed in fear of making the wrong move? What if the delegates to the Constitutional Convention simply gave up because of all of their disagreements? Moreover, what if that famous hero from the Ramayana, Hanuman, didn’t press forward because of the worry over making the wrong decision? Where would we be today?”

Constitutional ConventionThe irony in this sentiment is that great leaders of the past have indeed deliberated quite at length on many an occasion, including with the most important decisions. Deliberation in these instances is merely a byproduct of great intelligence. Shri Hanuman had the most intelligence, and so he considered all aspects when carefully entering the enemy territory of Lanka and approaching the missing princess of Videha.

In this verse from the Ramayana, the deliberation is about if, when, and how to approach. The “if” part was settled first. Though Hanuman was only sent to look for Sita and report back on her location, he used good judgment in choosing to approach her. She was in great distress, missing her dear husband Rama terribly. It’s one thing if you know your kids are somewhere, playing with their friends or going to school. You still might worry, for that is the nature of a good parent. Nevertheless, you understand where those dependents are, what they are likely doing, and when they will be returning home.

Now take your love as a parent and multiply it by the largest factor conceivable, strip away any personal motivations for reciprocation, and you get some idea of the love Sita felt for Rama. She worried, and she had no idea where He was. She was unaware if He was looking for her or not, for she suddenly went missing from His side due to the ill-conceived master plan of Ravana, the king of Lanka. The first part of the plan worked, namely that of bringing Sita back to his home. But getting her to change her heart, to become the chief queen of Lanka, failed miserably.

[Sita Devi]Hanuman next resolved the “when” issue. He would approach Sita when there was a lapse in attention of the female-ogres. They were ordered to harass Sita, to scare her into submission. They couldn’t use physical force, but their mental torments were much worse. These Rakshasis were both literally and figuratively in darkness, so eventually they would fall asleep. Sita had conquered sleep through her constant loving thoughts directed to her husband, who is the life of all that lives and the singular supreme consciousness that pervades all of space.

Here the issue for Hanuman is “how.” He first thinks it wise to speak in Sanskrit. He is in a monkey form. That alone may tempt one to discount the accounts of the Ramayana as mere fiction, an adventure story conjured up by a creative author from ancient times. But here we see that a talking monkey is not necessarily considered fake; it is more likely equated with a fiend, a master of illusion. The enemies of God always strive for skill in illusion, for otherwise they would have to admit their fallibility like everyone else. What is more magical, a talking monkey or a giant astral body that floats in the sky for all of eternity and dissipates unimaginable heat and light? What is more magical, a creature that can change shapes at will or a giant collection of matter that contains seeds within it which ensure that life continues without break?

Ravana and his type were skilled in illusion. They could quickly mask their shapes at will. Indeed, Ravana assumed the guise of a twice-born person, a brahmana, when he first approached Sita in the Dandaka forest. If Hanuman too would start speaking the language of the highly learned priests, she might consider him to be Ravana. It’s noteworthy here that Hanuman doesn’t cover hallucination. He doesn’t say, “Sita may think it all to be a dream, for how can a monkey talk?” He knows that she will likely think that he is Ravana, an enemy of God, who believes that skill in illusion, in faking being the Supreme Controller, somehow makes him superior. It’s like the actor who plays the President of the United States and then thinks himself to be important in real life, of an equal stature, due simply to that role.

[maha-mantra]Sanskrit, the language of the twice-born, is for glorifying God. It is fit for the really intelligent, who use their strength in intellect to find more and more ways to glorify the master of reality, the person who is the source behind the factual strength, opulence and beauty we see around us. Hanuman deliberated for sure, but eventually he settled on a path, and since his heart was in the right place, since he knew both Sita and Rama very well, his service to them did not fail.

In Closing:

Seeing monkey with words to say,

May think part of Ravana’s play.


In illusion the Rakshasas skilled,

With deceitful ogres Lanka filled.


Sanskrit with glorification combined,

Then a friend in Hanuman Sita to find.


Language for Shri Rama befitting,

In praise of Him twice-born never quitting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Talking Monkey

[Writing the Ramayana]“As I am indeed very small, and specifically a monkey, I should now speak in Sanskrit, the language of humans.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.17)

aham hi atitanuḥ caiva vanaraḥ ca viśeṣataḥ |
vācam ca udāhariṣyāmi mānuṣīm iha sanskṛtām ||

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Sanskrit is the language of the gods. Here it is specifically referred to as the words fit for man, manushim. From the Bhagavad-gita we get a brief history of mankind. It is said that the father of man was named Manu; hence the term manushim for referring to man, or human beings. There is no contradiction raised by Hanuman here, as during the time period in question the human beings were mostly godlike, and they used their language for a specific purpose.

What is the purpose to words? What is the reason for communicating? Why do we have the ability to reason and formulate opinions? And why are we then able to express those opinions and desires to others? Instead of trying to work our way backwards, we can jump to the start. The claim is that Sanskrit is meant for glorifying God. The gods are those who are godlike. They are very powerful, and not just in physical might. Their strength is in consciousness, where they are able to remember the transcendental features of the Personality of Godhead in virtually any circumstance.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Since they are always conscious of the original Divine Being, naturally when they speak the subject matter is about Him. As one of His names is uttama-shloka, only the choicest words suffice in describing Him. In reality, any heartfelt sentiment is enough to please God. Saying, “God is great,” to our friends is very nice. Indeed, in today’s political and social climate such a statement is very rare to hear. Still, if you are always conscious of that author of everything good and decent in this world, you will want to expand on your thoughts a little. You will want to explain that greatness in more detail. To this end, you will employ every literary trick known to you, such as allegory, simile, analogy, and the like. Whatever you have experienced in life can be juxtaposed with the transcendental goodness of the Supreme Lord; thereby giving you endless reference points to use in your glorification.

Shri Hanuman is a wonderful example for seeing how Sanskrit really is the language of the gods and how those who are expert in it employ it when necessary. He one time had the good fortune of meeting the Supreme Lord face to face. God had appeared in a seemingly human form. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that fools deride Him when He appears in such forms, for they know not His true transcendental nature, how He is never born and never dies. The transcendental form is eternal, but it’s not always visible to us. We human beings have limited sense perception; though we don’t know any better. We think that our vision is perfect if we pass an eye exam, but actually if we had perfect vision we could see beyond the wall behind the chart. We could see infinitely into the horizon and would not require external light to do it.

“Glaring with the effulgence of the king of mountains, you two brothers look like demigods or those who belong in a kingdom, so how have you arrived in this countryside?” (Hanuman speaking to Rama and Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.11)

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]Hanuman saw the beautiful, transcendental form of Shri Rama and immediately went into praise. He composed the choicest Sanskrit verses on the spot, without thinking of them beforehand. He showed how Sanskrit is meant to be used. As it is the language of the gods, when spoken the subject matter is dearest to the gods. They enjoy only speaking of the glories of God, and so Hanuman showed how that language was suitable to him. He was in a monkey form, by the way. Though Sanskrit is for the intelligent human beings, it can be employed by anyone if their motives are proper.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman deliberates further on how he should proceed. He is again in his monkey form, and a small one at that. He is about to approach the same Rama’s beloved wife, Sita Devi. He considers speaking in Sanskrit, for that will be more fitting for the subject matter. Also, if he spoke an ordinary language, in being a small monkey Sita might not understand his real love for Rama. She might not understand that he comes in peace bearing the message from her beloved husband. This message says that Rama will indeed come to rescue her from the clutches of the evil king of Lanka, Ravana.

It is noteworthy that an elevated soul of the upper crust of society did not go to Lanka to find Sita, who had gone missing due to the wicked deeds of Ravana carried out in secret. It was a lowly forest dweller, someone considered not even civilized by normal standards. Humorously, we see monkeys on television performing various tasks that humans do. No one would consider the monkey to be anywhere near as intelligent as the human.

[Shri Hanuman]Here the monkey is not ordinary, as he has pure love for God. He was more than a forest dweller as well, and since it was an ancient time those creatures had the ability to speak and reason to some extent. Hanuman was special because he could even speak Sanskrit, an ability suitable to his mental disposition. In modern times, where learning Sanskrit is very difficult, the choice poetry can be composed in any language, provided the sentiment is genuine. And even if we lack that ability, there is one Sanskrit mantra in particular that is easy to remember, easy to recite, and complete in its potency to deliver consciousness of the person most dear to both Hanuman and Sita: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Words of language do exist why,

And in communicating do I try?


Sanskrit language of gods meant,

For glorification to Supreme Lord sent.


Well this language Hanuman knew,

Would use it in praising God too.


Words for beloved Sita to hear,

To give her hope, remove her fear.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slow and Steady

[Shri Hanuman]“So I will stay here and wait for a break in the attention of the Rakshasis. Then I will slowly console her, who is in so much distress.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.16)

antaram tu aham āsādya rākṣasīnām iha sthitaḥ |
śanaiḥ āśvāsayiṣyāmi samtāpa bahulām imām ||

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“I tell you, my friend, one thing I lack is patience. It is for this reason that I have trouble building anything complex. One time I bought an exercise machine for the home. It was on sale, and I figured it would be easier for working out than paying a monthly fee to a health club that I would never visit. The only problem was that the machine required some assembly.

[hydraulic stepper]“Initially I wasn’t afraid, as I consider myself adequately equipped to take and follow instruction. I went through the manual that was included in the box. There were just so many steps. Eventually I lost my patience. I didn’t tighten one of the bolts well enough, that is for sure. It just didn’t seem to fit right. I started applying brute force. Anyway, I was able to use the machine for a while, but then one day it collapsed. Luckily no one got hurt, but it was due to my faulty assembly.

“Many similar things have happened to me. I received a used printer as a gift from a friend once. I tried connecting it to my computer, but the cable wouldn’t fit. Rather than patiently look behind the computer to see what the problem was, I kept trying to jam the cable into the port. Long story short, I ended up breaking the pins inside of the cable. I was using the wrong port. Thus in my haste, in my lack of patience, I ruined something of value.”

One messenger a long time ago didn’t have room for error with his issue. He had great anticipation, too. He had searched for this one person for so long. He had risked his life even, and all hopes for success lay with him. So many were counting on him. And still, he could foil everything by a lack of patience. From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that his patience was always there, and so he never jeopardized the mission.

[Shri Hanuman]Here the messenger Hanuman decides to wait for a gap in vigilance. The watchful eyes of the female ogres in Lanka remain focused on the princess of Videha, Sita Devi. She is in much distress, and so the Rakshasis don’t have to work that much harder, or so they think. Their job is to break her spirits to the point that she will submit to the demands of Ravana, the king of Lanka. Once she finally caves, it’s mission accomplished.

Hanuman is the lone well-wisher for Sita in this beautiful grove of Ashoka trees inside of Lanka. He wants to console her, to let her know that Rama will come to rescue her. Hanuman has many different names due to his heroic feats, his impeccable qualities, and his heartfelt emotions. One of those names is Ramadutta, which means “messenger of Rama.” In the Shrimad Bhagavatam a similar kind of messenger is described, the Vishnuduta. Both act in service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vishnudutas arrive to rescue the departing soul who is conscious of God’s personal form, which is the source of the impersonal manifestation known as the Brahman energy. The personal is also behind the abstract conception of “God”, a heavenly father, or an original divine being not well defined. The personal is the detail to the abstract.

[Vishnuduttas]Ramadutta acts for the personal form of God known as Shri Rama. Hanuman can also rescue if the situation calls for it. In this instance, he comes bearing a message. Rama, Sita’s beloved husband, is intent on finding her, for she had gone missing after Ravana secretly took her away while she was living in the Dandaka forest.

Hanuman here decides to quietly sit and wait it out. He will look for a lapse in attention. These were female ogres after all. They lived in darkness, constantly consuming animal flesh and drinking wine. Accompanying activities in the mode of darkness, or tamo-guna, is sleep. Therefore they would eventually sleep. Hanuman had conquered sleep because of his attention to the mission. He can beat any person in any competition as long as his victory will help or please Rama.

Not only did he have to be patient in waiting for the Rakshasis to back off, but he then had to slowly console Sita. He could not suddenly startle her. “Hey, how are you doing? I’m sent by Rama. All is going to be well. Don’t worry.” If you’re around strangers all the time who wish you harm, why would you trust another stranger who suddenly appeared before you?

[Shri Hanuman]This also helps to explain why God consciousness sometimes takes a long time to reach us. If we’ve been accustomed to thinking a certain way, accepting so many bad habits through our own experiences and those of our many ancestors, will we not be skeptical when hearing that the mission of life is to be devoted to God in His personal form? Will we not wonder what devotional service actually means? Will we not think that relinquishing attachment to meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex is a form of senseless torture?

The wise messenger of Rama knew enough to gradually introduce the message of Rama to someone who was already God conscious. We conditioned living entities are suffering from utter forgetfulness of the same Rama, so the benevolent Vaishnavas of today who spread the message of divine love use even more patience and deliberation in their task. Whatever the situation calls for, the messengers of God will adapt, and so their kindness continues to expand infinitely in greatness.

In Closing:

With threats inflicting mental pain,

Successful task to be Ravana’s gain.


Watchful eye on Sita Devi to keep,

But in darkness eventually to sleep.


With attention Shri Hanuman waited,

Soon to repeat what to him Rama stated.


Time in rescuing message to come,

Patience for knowing God with doubts none.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The One With The Four Groups

[Balarama and Krishna]“Since Krishna is the source of our generation, or the supreme father, no one can be a better friend than Krishna, nor can anyone be a better well-wisher. Krishna is the original source of creation and the ultimate rest after annihilation. Krishna is therefore the eternal cause of all causes.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.18 Purport)

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“Some way or other, be Krishna conscious.” This is the instruction first given by the prominent Vaishnava saints of the past. It was subsequently passed on to future generations in the chain of disciplic succession. The meaning is quite clear. There are many obstacles in life. There are many changes as well. There are many things to distract the mind away from the most important matter: spirituality. Therefore, despite whatever comes your way, despite whatever attachments and distastes you develop, think of God. Especially think of Him at the time of death, where you will be rewarded with the appropriate time and setting in the next life.

[Bhagavad-gita, 8.5]“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

[Lord Krishna]One of the reasons to be Krishna, or God, conscious in any possible way is that God is the best friend of the living entity. By definition, this has to be true. He is the only entity capable of accepting unlimited prayers. He is worshiped in one home through His deity manifestation, and also in another home in a replica form. I can worship Him in my room and my son can worship Him in another room, and Krishna will accept both. No other person can do this. He lives with me in my heart in this life and He will do so in all subsequent lives as well. No one else will do this.

Bryan was one day explaining all of this to his friend Ted. Bryan was explaining how Krishna is the only true friend and that all others come and go. To get his point across better, he explained to Ted about an important celebration his brother hosted a few years back and how he went about deciding whom to invite.

So my brother was telling me that he had to decide which people to invite. It was a dilemma since the event was taking place overseas. Not everyone would be able to attend. Plus, he didn’t have much time to plan things. The event was put together on a whim, as that is how things often work in this world. In deciding the guest list and the arrangements, my brother realized he had four distinct groups of friends.

The first group consisted of the people with whom he worked. He saw them five days a week. In a lot of ways, we see our colleagues more than we see anyone else. So he couldn’t keep this event a secret from them. He had to tell some of them about it. After sharing the good news and inviting them, none of them could attend.

The second group consisted of his friends from the different clubs and associations with which he had affiliation. He saw these people perhaps once or twice a week. After getting declined by his colleagues, my brother decided not to even tell the people from this second group. What would be the point, he thought. They would only feel bad for not being able to attend. He could tell them about everything after the fact.

The third group consisted of his friends from college and before. These were his lifelong friends. When he told them, pretty much all of them agreed to come. It was short notice, for sure, but since he was so important to them, they made the sacrifice.

The fourth group consisted of his immediate family members. Brothers, sisters, parents, and some aunts and uncles even – they all instantly decided that they were going. There wasn’t even a need to ask. They weren’t going to miss this important moment in my brother’s life.

So from this event my brother sort of prioritized his friends. The group from work he saw the most, but in fact the relationships weren’t so great. In an instant they could switch jobs and then never see each other again. That had already happened to my brother several times.

The group from the associations was only seen once or twice a week. Also, they hadn’t known my brother for very long. The bond was only through the association, and once someone stops attending or chooses another group the relationship breaks. Again, the friendship wasn’t so strong.

The bond to the group from college and before was very strong. Though my brother seldom saw those people now, they could be counted on to come through for him. They knew him from a very young age, so the relationship wasn’t as dependent on outside factors.

Obviously the group consisting of family members was the strongest in friendship. My parents have known me and my brothers and sisters since we were born. They are always there for us. They may not know everything that is going on in our lives, but we can always count on them.

[Krishna with His friends]In relaying this story to Ted, Bryan pointed out that even the best friends, the family members, are tied to us through a temporary bond. Once this life is over, those friendships are gone. The link to the Supreme Lord, however, stays forever. Even the worst sinner, who has completely forgotten about God, has the Lord travelling with them. The difference with the devotee is that they take advantage of the friendship. They reconnect with the one person who is always there to stay, who has witnessed everything from this and previous lives as well. And so the wise earnestly take up friendship with Him by always chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Though many friends have we may,

None of them forever to stay.


Close we are more with some,

And with others real bond none.


Though living in heart difficult to see,

Know that Krishna to always travel with me.


To everyone friend the best,

There when departed have the rest.


In bhakti of His presence advantage take,

Chant His names, no more His kindness forsake.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The One With The Forged Gratuity

[Lord Krishna]“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

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[Bhagavad-gita, 12.5]The Sanskrit word “Vedanta” translates to “the end of knowledge.” It is the last word to any discussion of substance. That which goes beyond birth and death, the temporary ups and downs, the highs and lows of an existence in a destructible body, is the most important subject matter. Vedanta reaches the final conclusion, the truth that explains everything else.

Still, Vedanta is difficult to understand, and so there is confusion amongst the students. Some conclude that everything is ultimately impersonal. There is the spirit known as Brahman, and everything is part of this collection. In the realized state no one has an identity, because everything is part of the same thing. Right now the one Brahman is divided, and through the natural process of self-realization everything eventually merges back together.

Another side has the more accurate understanding, that there is both the impersonal and the personal. There is still the one Supreme Spirit, who is originally a personality. The impersonal emanates from Him. There is difficulty in accepting the personal, however, since this means that the individual must admit their fallibility. They must admit that they will never be equal to the origin of all life. They must admit that they are subordinate to Him and thus properly constituted for a service relationship to Him.

[Krishna's lotus feet]The impersonal cannot be denied, as it exists in fact. And so the path towards transcendence is not uniform. Not everyone will worship the personal God, either. So the debate is always there as to which path to choose. The Bhagavad-gita gives a suggestion by stating that the impersonal path is very difficult for one who is embodied. This means that you and I have a hard time understanding what “bodiless” means when we presently inhabit a temporary form.

Judy was having this debate with one of her friends one day. Her friend argued that the impersonal path was superior, because then at least one didn’t have to follow a fanatical religion or pretend to be devoted to something that was ultimately without form. Judy argued that the personal was the original anyway, and that the impersonal path was fraught with many traps that could ruin the progress. She relayed a story from her own life.

During my years in college I waited tables at a local restaurant. I worked mostly nights. We got all sorts of people coming in. Though they served alcohol at this place, parents had no problem bringing their children. It was a pretty friendly atmosphere, and it was a popular spot in the neighborhood.

I really had nothing to complain about with the job. It wasn’t difficult. Sometimes the customers would get surly on a busy night, but I never minded their comments. They had a right to be upset, I thought, as we were always a little understaffed. Sometimes people had to wait for a long time before anyone took their order. Then other times they were ready to leave and no one handed them their bill.

[Waiters in restaurant]The key to being a good waiter or waitress is having patience. You will deal with all kinds of situations, so it is best to maintain a level head. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita to this effect as well, that one should not overly rejoice at praise and good fortune and not become overly dejected when things don’t go your way [Bg. 2.57]. This rule applies to pretty much any job in the service sector. “The customer is always right,” is the saying that the customer knows all too well. Some will try to exploit it to their benefit.

So one night my coworker Brett got a really difficult table to wait on. This family was unruly from the beginning. They complained about how long it took them to get seated. They made comments about what the staff was wearing. They changed their minds on their orders after the fact, too. Even after the food arrived and Brett did everything right, they were still extremely rude to him. This behavior wouldn’t stand in any other situation. But as they were customers in our establishment, the rule was to keep your cool.

Brett kept his patience throughout, but he finally lost it when they stiffed him on the tip. They left him only a few dollars in cash on a bill that was over one hundred dollars. Fuming at the insult and thinking about all he had endured while waiting their table, he decided to exact revenge. The family had paid with a credit card, and as you know the way it works is that you run the charge first and then bring back a slip for the customer to sign. The first line has the total printed, the next line is empty for writing in the tip, and the last line is the final total, also written in by the customer. The total is what gets charged on the card. So the customer left the tip line blank since they put cash on the table. They wrote in their total, signed the copy, and then left.

[Credit card slip at restaurant]Brett decided he would get them back by writing in a larger tip. In the empty line he wrote in a number to his liking. What usually protects the customer in these situations is the final total at the bottom. Ah, but Brett simply forged the numbers. He subtly changed a one digit to a seven. He drew in an eight where there was a zero. In this way no one ever knew what happened. The customer apparently never found out about the larger total. If they did, they never showed up to the restaurant to complain.

I came to know of this a few weeks later. From what I learned, this sort of thing was not entirely uncommon in the restaurant business. A word to the wise, even if you’re leaving a cash tip, it’s best to fill out that second line on the credit card receipt. Even still, you’re not always safe, as it is easy to forge numbers. The same thing could be done on bank checks. That’s why they make you write out the total in words on the second line.

As Judy concluded her story, she used the incident to explain the difference between the impersonal and the personal aspects of the Absolute Truth. She told her friend that the impersonal path was susceptible to the same cheating. Through a clever forgery, someone could suddenly claim to be God. Through some show of magic, through some mystic ability acquired through yoga, a run of the mill cheat could fool the less intelligent into believing that they were God. The impersonal is by definition devoid of attributes. So this means that the mind has a harder time focusing on it. Without a clear understanding, any slight deviation leads to an incorrect understanding, which brings no benefit to the seeker.

[Lord Krishna]Judy explained that the personal path has less flaws since the features of the Supreme Lord are more clearly drawn out. Shri Krishna is the speaker of the Gita. If there are other people named Krishna, we clear up the confusion by referring to the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Krishna is the beautiful youth who holds a flute in His hands, who plays with the cows in Vrindavana. This is the person worshiped in the temples, and there is no mistaking Him for anyone else. He is the source of the impersonal, and so one who takes to worshiping Him directly reaches the proper end much more quickly than one who takes the risk of the path of impersonalism.

In Closing:

Brahman study of the impersonal,

Bhagavan in full feature personal.


As hard to understand a form none,

Impersonal difficult for embodied one.


Like with forged digit on check to deceive,

Easy for others wrong concept to believe.


Personal form to know God free from doubt,

To understand that features He is not without.