Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Foreign National Pigeon

[cows]“The brahmana and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, or an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as Paramatma, is present in everyone's heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18 Purport)

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The human being has free will. They have some independence in the form of how they choose to act, while being otherwise mostly dependent. They are dependent on the external nature for their sustenance. They have the intelligence to cultivate the field to survive off of its yield. They have the intelligence to work to earn a living so that they can pay for the same necessities. They are dependent on the heat and light of the sun, the rain from the clouds, and the cooperation of other living entities. Despite their dependence in so many areas, there is still some independence, and so not surprisingly there is variety in the activities of man.

One of those activities is observing the animal species. Imagine this scene. A college student of ornithology decides to take a field trip. They plan on walking into a nature preserve and observing the habits of the birds of the area. They will make a day of it. During the trip, with binoculars in hand, and carrying a backpack holding their pen and pencil, they decide to study a particular nest on this one tree. The nest is high above.

[bird's nest]They notice that the birds live there with their family. When an egg hatches and a new bird emerges, the miracle of life appears right in front of the eyes. Noticeably absent is a person on hand to record the date and time of the birth. There is no birth certificate for the bird. There is no passport issued declaring the bird to be of a particular nationality. If the bird happens to migrate to another area later on due to a change in weather, they are not issued an immigration card. If they choose to remain in that other area, they are not asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the new forest. They are not issued a certificate of naturalization that documents the time of their migration.

Yet these things are very common in the human species. Despite the advanced intelligence of the human being, at the time of birth the intelligence in the most important subject matter is no greater than the bird’s. Identification with the body is the first sign of ignorance, and this continues until there is proper education. The human being identifies one person as worthy of their affection and another as not. We love our mom and dad, but someone else’s mom and dad aren’t automatically as important to us. We love those who do good for our body and dislike those who cause us discomfort.

But in fact, we are all spirit souls. The birds are free to roam about, as they could never understand immigration laws. There is no karma for the birds. They do not have a heavenly destination in the afterlife as a reward for good behavior. They do not have punishment slated in hell in case they are bad. These things are found in the human species only, which means there is the opportunity for discrimination.

That discrimination is utilized properly only when determining what is good for the soul and what is not. The bodily identifications do nothing in this regard. Whether someone is born into poverty or into wealth makes no difference as to their true identity. That identity is as spirit soul. Spirit is above matter. While matter is dull, lifeless and always changing, spirit is eternal, full of knowledge, and always blissful. This does not mean that spirit lacks form. Every individual spirit soul has an original form, which is eternally what they are meant to be.

“As explained by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, jivera 'svarupa' haya-krishnera 'nitya-dasa': the real identity of the living entity is that he is an eternal servant of the Supreme (Cc. Madhya 20.108). As long as one does not come to this conclusion, he must be in ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.118 Purport)

[Krishna hugging Lord Chaitanya]Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that the spirit soul is eternally a servant of Krishna, who is God. Just as the same quality of spirit is found within every creature, regardless of their bodily stature, the Supreme Lord is the same for everyone. He is described as Krishna in Sanskrit texts because He is all-attractive. Everyone is a servant of His, even the less intelligent. When identifying with the body, the servant accepts the illusory energy coming from Krishna as their master. The result of this service is repeated birth and death, acceptance and rejection of temporary things.

When identifying as spirit, the individual has a chance to associate with the internal, superior energy of the Lord. The result is then bliss in service that is everlasting. As an added bonus, the servant gains the proper vision. They see that there is no fundamental difference between the man and the woman. They see that where someone is born does not determine their character. They especially have compassion upon everyone, whom they view as their extended family. They extend this compassion through giving the gift of the transcendental sound vibration representation of Krishna: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Bhagavad-gita, 5.29]“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

[Lord Krishna]Surely immigration laws and the like serve legitimate purposes, such as protecting the citizens from foreign attack, but in truth there is no difference between one person and another based solely on their country of origin. The quality of the bird is not determined by where they make their nest, and so where someone chooses to call home does not automatically make them an enemy or a friend. The Supreme Lord is the master of all the planets as well as all the divine figures. He is the supreme enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities. And most importantly, He is the well-wishing friend of every living entity. In devotional service to Him one realizes this very quickly, and they attain the equal vision of the humble sage as a result.

In Closing:

When new bird in nest to stay,

Laws of immigration not to obey.


Not needed is certificate of birth,

Land of home not to determine its worth.


With intelligence human being to see,

That spiritually equal all living things that be.


To Supreme Lord Krishna all connected,

For bhakta equality in spirit easily detected.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Validated Life

[Krishna holding flute]“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)

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imageHave you ever done something or accomplished something of which you were very proud, only to have others not share the same sentiment? One of those situations where you were fully confident in your decision, where you knew that what you were doing was right - but still everyone close to you did not agree? Indeed, this is the nature of the world we presently inhabit. One person, who is fallible, looks for validation from another, who is also fallible. The person offering the judgment in this case looks for validation from others for their own work. In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the ultimate judge is the Supreme Lord, who looks only at consciousness at a particular time to determine whether the life was successfully lived or not.

[Mario Kart]Let’s say that I am very proud of having passed my driving test. For the longest time I wanted to drive a car. I saw my parents operate the family vehicle since I could first remember.

“How come I can’t drive,” I would think to myself. “It doesn’t look so hard. I have no problem playing videogames like Mario Cart. I’ve ridden go-carts as well. It seems like a lot of fun. For some reason they won’t let the kids drive. I can’t wait until I am old enough.”

When you take your seat behind the wheel for the first time, however, things aren’t so easy.

“Wow, so I always thought that when you hit the brake, the car automatically stops. That is not the case, especially if you already have a lot of speed. If you hit the brake, it slows down the car, but once you let go, it speeds back up again. This will take some getting used to.”

After hours of practice with your mother and father, who patiently look on, saying a prayer every now and then for everyone’s safety, you finally get to the point where you take the driving test. You are very nervous. If you fail, you won’t get to take the test again for another month. You anxiously await the driving instructor taking his seat. When he does, you follow the directions he gives. Finally, at the end, he takes out his little paper, writes something on it, and says the magic words, “Congratulations. You passed.”

[Driving exam]Now, the happy moments in life aren’t truly worthwhile unless you can share them with others. So, naturally, you share your good news with your friends and family. They seem happy, for sure, but then you notice that they don’t think it’s that big a deal. “Yeah, they pass everyone eventually. So you can drive now. That’s nothing to be overly excited over.”

A little perturbed, you swear that the next time those same friends tell you about something good happening to them, you’ll return the favor. “Oh, so you got into your college of choice? That’s nice, I guess. But they probably admitted you because they had a quota to fulfill. Maybe they’re lessening their standards for which students they allow in.”

Man is fallible, after all. Man knows this based on the fact that he can’t avoid death. No matter how many machines are hooked up to the body, no matter how many malignant body parts get removed, nothing can be done to extend life indefinitely. At some point death arrives. It is a mystery as to when. Some people in remote parts of the world easily live for one hundred years. They don’t visit doctors. They don’t take vitamins. They don’t spend hours on the treadmill. They live a simple life, eating and sleeping in moderation, and don’t stress themselves out too much. In other parts of the world, those with access to advanced medical machinery have trouble staying healthy even at a young age. And so it’s a mystery as to why some can live for a long time and others cannot.

Besides his inevitable death, man knows that he cannot get everything that he wants. One moment he’s happy and alert, and the next he has a nagging headache because he hasn’t had enough caffeine in the day. One moment he’s got a safe and secure job and the next he’s scrambling to find a health insurance policy that won’t leave him bankrupt. And so it is no wonder that he seeks validation from others.

At issue is the fact that others are seeking the same validation. They are equally as fallible. There is one perfect being, however. He is the Almighty. From within He gives validation for the life properly lived. The proper way to live is to be conscious of Him. Think of Him, worship Him, offer everything that you do to Him. In this way, you will come to Him.

[Bhagavad-gita, 9.27]“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)

[Radharani holding flowers]The question then remains, if others are not providing validation for devotion practiced properly, how will one know that they are on the right path? The consciousness is what counts. The methods for the proper implementation of life’s work cannot be concocted by the mind. They must come from someone who knows them. And when that someone provides the information, the recipient can test to see if the methods are working. The test is the consciousness. “How much am I thinking of God? How much am I attached to Him? How much do I want to continue to serve Him and those dear to Him?”

Fortunately, the devotees of the Lord are very liberal in this regard. They are eager to share the potent methods with any and all. They spread the message through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and deliver countless souls in the process. The recipient reciprocates by following devotion, by chanting these holy names themselves. And they get the ultimate validation at the end of life, where Shri Krishna, the Supreme Lord Himself, assesses their consciousness and rewards them accordingly with a future life in full consciousness of Him.

In Closing:

Looking for validation that others to give,

To know that properly this life I have lived.


But fallible man to offer how,

When also looking for same now?


Consciousness of Lord the path proper,

Start by thoughts, words and deeds to offer.


At time of death Krishna your mind to measure,

His eternal association then your gift to treasure.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Same Three Questions

[Hanuman's heart]“How can I ensure that the purpose of my task does not get destroyed? How shall I avoid mental disparity, and how do I ensure that my crossing of the ocean does not go for naught?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.39)

na vinaśyet katham kāryam vaiklavyam na katham bhavet ||
langhanam ca samudrasya katham nu na vṛthā bhavet |

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Who wants to have their work get spoiled? Who wants to be careless? And who wants to have previous successes go for naught? Shri Hanuman here asks three questions of himself to ensure that these important errors are avoided. No one is perfect against preventing them, as to ere is human, but in devotional efforts, the guiding hand of the all-perfect being is there. And so simply by having the desire to avoid these errors, Hanuman was guaranteed of succeeding.

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]Hanuman’s work was to find Sita, the missing wife of Shri Rama. Not like an ordinary reconnaissance mission, this search spanned the entire globe. There weren’t informants stationed at key locations who could give him information. There wasn’t a tracking device available to give him her exact location. There was no GPS navigation, either. He had to look anywhere and everywhere, taking clues from wherever he could get them. He had other Vanaras from Kishkindha working with him, but that hardly made the task easier.

Hanuman wanted to be thoughtful because he was on the verge of completing the mission. Here he has finally found Sita. She is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, held there against her will by the king, Ravana. Hanuman had been thoughtful up to this point. He was the lone member of the search party who could reach Lanka. Upon reaching Lanka, he hid his form from the inhabitants. In simpler terms, no one knew he was there. No one knew who he was anyway, including Sita. Therefore he had many smaller successes already under his belt. Now a careless mistake could ruin everything.

Hanuman didn’t want his leap across the ocean to go in vain. This is the second time he worries over such a matter. Indeed, this verse spoken here and two preceding it were also spoken by Hanuman previously.  They can be found in the second chapter of the Sundara Kand of the Ramayana. The repetition means that Hanuman maintains the proper focus at all times. He knew that his leap to Lanka was no small feat. He knew that ordinarily things like that didn’t happen. Ravana had an aerial car that he used to take Sita back to Lanka. Lanka was an island, far away from any mainland. Not only did Hanuman make the giant leap, but he passed through several obstructions thrown his way. The celestials watched from above in amazement, and the mountain Mainaka even tried to offer some assistance as a way to honor Hanuman.

“O Sita, see the golden lord of mountains [Mainaka], which is golden-peaked and which rose up, piercing the ocean, to provide rest to Hanuman.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.18)

As Hanuman was on a search mission, it is not so difficult to compare his predicament to ordinary ones we encounter in our lives. The closest match is to the mission of the human birth, that of becoming God conscious. The Vedanta-sutra says athato brahma-jijnasa, “now is the time for enquiring about Brahman, or the Absolute Truth.” This means that the human birth is not for acquiring a lot of wealth. It is not for eating sumptuous food and enjoying with members of the opposite sex to no end. It is not about being envious of another’s lot in life, and it is not about making more and more distinctions, such as those based on race, gender, ethnicity, language, or religion.

The human birth is for seeing Brahman, which is the all-pervading spiritual energy. The human birth is where intelligence can reach its full potential. Thus going in reverse order, the human being has to keep an eye out for making their birth go in vain. Just as Hanuman crossed the ocean, the living entity crossed through many other species to reach the auspicious human life. If no Brahman realization occurs, then the past journey gets nullified to a degree.

In the human birth there is the ability to act with thoughtful consideration, accepting right and wrong from the highest authority source. Thus there is the need to watch out for thoughtlessness, which again would spoil the chances for success. If you stay on the Brahman path but then fall down due to mental disparity, all your hard work gets nullified for a time.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman would succeed due to his love for Rama, who is Parabrahman. Rama is superior to all abstract conceptions of His potencies. He is superior to the material energy and is the highest spiritual force. He is the chief eternal amongst all eternals, nityo nityanam chetanash chetanam. Therefore from His favor alone one can achieve success in the highest endeavor to become God conscious and make this life fruitful. And in that pure consciousness one takes up service to Him, like Hanuman did. Again and again, Hanuman works for Rama, and every time Shri Rama ensures Hanuman’s success; such is the wonderful nature of their relationship.

In Closing:

The purpose of mission how to keep,

So that for naught not to go giant leap?


To avoid also disparity of the mind,

Hanuman’s three questions again to find.


Since working for Shri Rama’s side,

Soon in bountiful success to preside.


In human birth too same questions to ask,

To be God realized assigned is the task.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rules For A Messenger

[Shri Hanuman]“Even a decision on what should be done and should not be done made with intelligence does not bring good results. Indeed, messengers who falsely consider themselves to be learned ruin the task at hand.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.38)

artha anartha antare buddhiḥ niścitā api na śobhate ||
ghātayanti hi kāryāṇi dūtāḥ paṇḍita māninaḥ |

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Shri Hanuman in this instance is acting as messenger for Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, it is said that the Absolute Truth can be realized in three different features. There is Brahman, which can be thought of as the sum total of all individual sparks of spirit. The sparks are individuals, and taken collectively they are Brahman, which is one way to understand the Absolute Truth. Then there is Paramatma, which is the localized aspect described as the Supersoul or Supreme Soul. Rama is Bhagavan, which is the Supreme Lord in His personal feature. From the personal comes the impersonal, just as the sun is the source of the sunshine. Bhagavan is the complete whole, and Paramatma and Brahman are partial realizations. Though working here for Rama, Hanuman had prior experience as a minister, and so the validity to the truths he presents is verified through many past successfully completed tasks.

To better understand what Hanuman is saying, we need look no further than the task given to him that led him towards his first meeting with Rama. There was a genesis to Hanuman’s present assignment, where he is searching for Rama’s missing wife Sita. Sita was taken away from Rama in secret while the couple were residing in the Dandaka forest. These events took place millions of years ago, and so the creatures on the earth were constituted slightly differently. The forest dwellers were monkey-like, but they had hints of civilized life in them, such as the ability to speak and reason. They looked like monkeys, but they were an advanced race.

There was another race of creatures known as Rakshasa. They were also human like, but looked like ogres. Their claim to fame was their total ignorance of basic etiquette. Though they had government, they didn’t behave properly. They had no problem eating any kind of flesh, including human beings. Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka, was so degraded that he stole another man’s wife while He wasn’t in the vicinity to protect her. With Sita missing, Rama began a search for her. He and His younger brother Lakshmana roamed through the forests to find where she went.

“Who wouldn't become fearful seeing these two, who have prolonged arms, possess large eyes, wear arrows, bows, and swords, and who look like sons of demigods?” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 2.20)

[Hanuman meeting Rama]When they entered the Kishkindha forest and approached the Mount Rishyamukha area, the leader of the Vanaras, the forest-dwelling monkeys, noticed them. He asked his minister to go down and see who they were. Hanuman was the minister and Sugriva the leader. So the task was assigned: meet the two princes and see what they wanted. Sugriva was afraid they were enemies who were coming to kill him. Sugriva was living in exile at the time, afraid of the vengeful wrath of his brother Vali.

Hanuman descended from the mountain to the forest area and masked his form. He took on the garb of an ascetic, so as to present a more innocent face. He knew what to do and what not to do. He had made the decision with intelligence. But if one is too puffed up with pride, thinking himself to be learned when they really aren’t, they can spoil a task even if the prior decisions were made with intelligence. One can list all the pros and cons of a specific decision, and thereby show some intelligence, but if they think they are smarter than the person assigning the task, they can ruin everything. Thus Hanuman kept true to Sugriva’s instructions. He very humbly carried out his duties, and in the process Rama and Lakshmana were very kind to him. They were won over by his intelligence, poetic composition, and honesty. Eventually Hanuman revealed who he really was, that he was indeed not an ascetic. This decision was made with intelligence and it did not violate the purpose of the mission. Whatever decisions he made in his encounter with Rama and Lakshmana were not rooted in false pride.

Here in Lanka Hanuman faces a similar situation. He is trying to decide which course to take next. He has already found Sita, who is very distressed from having been separated from Rama for so long. He is ready to approach her, but he doesn’t want to spoil the mission by being discovered by the Rakshasas in Lanka. He knows that if he thinks that he is more intelligent than he really is, things will get foiled. Something apparently destined for success will get ruined. Sort of like taking matters into your own hands when a superior authority has already provided the proper path for you.

As the material world is full of duality, sometimes going against orders does indeed lead to success. In this instance, the task was for Rama, who is the most intelligent. He is the life of all that lives. In His original form of Krishna, He creates everything, both the material and spiritual worlds, without any effort. When He provides a task, an interesting thing happens to the messenger. If they are humble and have full faith in the potency of Rama, they get guidance from within on the proper course. The previously mentioned Supersoul acts like a witness to activities. It knows everything that we’ve ever done. At the same time, it can act like a guide, if the guidance is sought in earnest. In that role the Paramatma is known as the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master from within.

“One should not take any responsibility on his own but should be a soul surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who will then give him dictation as chaitya-guru, or the spiritual master within. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased to guide a devotee from within and without.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 8.79 Purport)

[Shri Hanuman]We all have that guru living inside of us, but only the wonderful souls like Hanuman, who is supremely intelligent and yet very humble at the same time, are expert in receiving guidance from it. His deliberation itself is so endearing to both Sita and Rama. He never wants to disappoint them, and since Rama ultimately disposes all that man proposes, He ensures Hanuman’s success in his devotional efforts.

In Closing:

With just one decision bad,

Can foil success you had.


Outcome already in the bag though,

But could be ruined by haughtiness know.


Task for him by Rama assigned,

From chaitya-guru coming guidance kind.


Mission of devotion from Shri Hanuman take,

And this very life fruitful make.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If You Want Things Done Right

[Shri Hanuman's club]“Even a plan destined for success will be vanquished if it contradicts with time and place when reaching the hands of a confused messenger, like darkness at sunrise.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.37)

bhūtāḥ ca arthā vinaśyanti deśa kāla virodhitāḥ ||
viklavam dūtam āsādya tamaḥ sūrya udaye yathā |

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The darkness looks very strong. You can’t see anything outside without using external lighting. In times past when visiting a friend or relative you had to sleep in a dark room. When you awoke in the middle of the night, you had no idea where you were. You kept your hands along the wall to feel your way towards the light switch. Those incidents remind you of how powerful the darkness is. Yet as strong as it may seem, at sunrise it goes away. The time and place are no longer favorable for the darkness. Shri Hanuman here worries that by taking the wrong action due to confusion, he too will go against time and place and thus foil a mission which was otherwise destined for success.

[Shri Hanuman]There is the famous saying, “If you want things done right, do it yourself.” The sentiment is very common, arising typically after someone has done something the right way. Think of a time in the past when you asked someone to do something for you. It could have been something complex or something very simple. Regardless, you put trust in them. You thought they could handle it.

For some reason or other, they ended up failing. Perhaps they went to the wrong airport to pick up someone very important. Perhaps they arrived two hours after they were supposed to. Perhaps they stopped by an area they shouldn’t have on their way back home. Perhaps they thought what you were asking for wasn’t worthwhile, so they decided to do something else instead. They thought you would be pleased by their change in plans; when in fact you had good reason to ask for the thing you did.

[airport pickup]The truth stated here by Shri Hanuman doesn’t fit his situation exactly. In all his humility, Hanuman considered his very dangerous mission of a very uncertain outcome to be a lot easier than it was. He also considered himself to be confused, someone who was careless. This was far from the truth. The fact that this cogent truth came to mind shows that Hanuman is very diligent. He does not act carelessly. He is not confused, though he sometimes does deliberate on what to do. There is a world of difference between not knowing what to do and carefully considering different options, weighing pros and cons.

Hanuman mentions this truth right after considering the negatives that may come from approaching Sita Devi and talking to her. She is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, kept there against her will by the king, Ravana. Hanuman’s mission was to find her. That part had succeeded, but the key was to return back to home base with the information of her whereabouts. At the same time, he wanted to console Sita, to let her know that her husband Rama was indeed searching for her and would come to rescue her.

The only way to let her know would be to speak with her. But if she became startled at his presence, that could foil everything. As he was in a monkey form, Hanuman would look strange to Sita, especially if he spoke in Sanskrit. Sita might mistake him for an enemy. Being thus startled, Hanuman’s presence in Lanka would get revealed, leading to conflict with the ogre inhabitants. The outcome to conflict is never assured, and so all the hard work it took to find Sita would go for naught.

Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so He chose wisely with Hanuman. Rama could have done the job Himself. He can do everything, in fact. He doesn’t require a single helper. And yet He has so many of them, for those souls are eager to please Him in any way possible. They have eschewed the dreaded life of material sense gratification, where there is always sadness, despair, chaos, and eventual embarrassment. They take thrills only from seeing a smile on Rama’s face, and so Rama duly rewards them with important tasks to complete.

[Lord Rama]Hanuman accepted the vital mission of finding Sita, and though he had to figure out some of the finer points on his own, he was never confused as to the purpose of his mission. He was not careless and he was not selfish. Keeping Sita and Rama in his heart, he made all the right decisions, thereby pleasing both of them. In the same way one who always chants, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and keeps the interests of Sita and Rama at the forefront will please them in the end.

In Closing:

With diligence proceeding he went,

Careful not to act time and place against.


After difficult journey now on Lanka’s soil,

Worried that mistaken judgment mission to foil.


Since heart situated in right place,

His work to give Rama a smiling face.


On chance to serve Sita and Rama seized,

By his work always they’re pleased.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sounds Like A Gamble

[Shri Hanuman]“Also, conflicts are uncertain, and uncertainty is not pleasing to me. And which intelligent person would without hesitation engage in an act which has uncertainty?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.35)

asatyāni ca yuddhāni saṃśayo me na rocate ||
kaḥ ca nihsaṃśayam kāryam kuryāt prājñaḥ sasaṃśayam |

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“What, are you crazy? You don’t quit your job when you don’t have another one lined up. Then you’re left with nothing. You should look for something else while you are working. This way there won’t be a disruption to your cash flow. Also, employers are more apt to hire someone who already has a job. If you’re on the sidelines for too long, they’ll think that there’s a reason no one wants to hire you. You’re not guaranteed to get another job, either. It’s a tough market out there, with uncertainty everywhere. You shouldn’t take such a risk.”

Perhaps we’ve heard advice like this from someone. Or maybe we offered it to one of our friends or family members. The idea is that following an action that has an uncertain outcome is not the wisest choice. This is true especially if you have something to lose. Though the option you’re contemplating may not look like a roll of the dice or a wager on a sporting match, it is essentially a gamble, which the wise avoid.

[roll of the dice]“No gambling” is one of the four regulative principles adhered to by the aspiring yogi in devotion. Though pure devotion is not dependent upon any one characteristic, practice, or bodily feature, certain principles do help the person mired in ignorance reach the stage where they only want to serve the Supreme Spirit. The restriction on gambling particularly translates to the virtue of honesty. If you’re not honest, how are you going to know something that is described as an absolute truth? This truth is beyond gain and loss, happiness and sadness, birth and death, heat and cold, and the like. It is what defines an existence. It is the existence of all existences.

[Bhagavad-gita, 7.9]“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

[Krishna's lotus feet]There has to be some dishonesty to have success at gambling. At the blackjack table, you don’t tell others what your cards are. The same goes for poker. If you’re wagering on a big football game, you likely don’t tell too many other people. If you did and they followed suit, the line on the game would change. The potential payout would decrease as well. In sports, the players try to guess what their opponents are going to do. They don’t make their strategy known to everyone.

And then there is the other negative aspect to gambling: uncertainty. You can’t be sure what the outcome will be. If success were guaranteed, the act wouldn’t be considered a gamble. And yet sometimes there is no choice. Here Shri Hanuman deliberates on the proper course of action going forward in a very dangerous mission. He doesn’t have anyone to consult. It’s him or nothing. Success is vital as well, as so many people are counting on him to find a forlorn princess, give information to her and then return to home base.

Hanuman has succeeded in the first part, that of finding Sita. Now he needs to find a way to give her the message that her husband Rama is committed to rescuing her. The problem is that Sita has no idea who he is. If she becomes startled after seeing Hanuman, that could alert the guards of Lanka of Hanuman’s presence. They wouldn’t take too well to that, for he infiltrated their city unnoticed. Then the outcome wouldn’t be known. Hanuman knows that this is not the behavior of the wise. The intelligent do not jump into something, without hesitation, when the outcome is not certain.

This verse reveals that Shri Hanuman is diligent and extremely intelligent, which is a natural byproduct of devotional service. Intelligence and renunciation, jnana and vairagya, follow devotion like the shadow trailing after a bright lamp. Hanuman had to take some sort of gamble. He had to either speak to Sita or not. Either course had uncertainty. Thanks to his pure devotion, even something uncertain and risky had a bright outcome. This is the result of serving Shri Rama, Sita’s husband. He is the Supreme Lord in a spiritual manifestation specific to the time period when Lanka’s king Ravana roamed the earth.

[Shri Hanuman]This situation further underscores the difficulty of Hanuman’s mission. Just one hasty mistake could ruin everything. It could erase all he had done thus far, which was quite a lot. But we see that there was no dishonesty in Hanuman. The eternal truth is that the individual is spirit and that spirit is meant to always serve God. This truth cannot be reversed, though in the atheistic mentality one tries their best to do so. Like trying to fit a piece of a puzzle in the wrong place, no amount of scientific research, sense gratification, experiment and observation, reading, or renunciation can bring one to the level of happiness that comes with devotion. That devotion protected Hanuman, who protects all those who choose the same path of devotion to Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

With outcome not exact,

Gamble not best way to act.


If to roll the dice you choose,

Some honesty also to lose.


For Hanuman gamble one way or the other,

One to see Sita, revealed to ogres another.


Success since love for Rama in the heart,

Proper outcome assured right from the start.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Further Deliberation

[Shri Hanuman]“Deliberating on it further, if I am killed I do not see any monkey who can leap over the great ocean, which is one hundred yojanas long.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.33)

vimṛśan ca na paśyāmi yo hate mayi vānaraḥ ||
śata yojana vistīrṇam langhayeta mahāudadhim |

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You’ve been meaning to clean the living room. There are old newspapers lying around. Some stray clothes are here and there as well. In fact, you haven’t seen the living room in this bad a shape in a long time. Your wife is away on a business trip, so you haven’t had anyone pushing you, urging you to clean. You’ve been eating out for dinner each of the nights she has been away, and the rest of the time you’ve been sitting and watching television.

There is one spot in the living room that is clean: your comfy chair for television viewing. The kitchen is also kind of a mess. The dishes are piled up in the sink, and the refrigerator is more or less empty. Every day that you come home from work you say the same thing to yourself: “Man, I really need to clean. This is getting ridiculous.” Of course the reason that you don’t is because nothing is really pushing you.

[messy living rooms]Then one day you hear that your parents are coming over for a visit. They are worried about you. They guess that you’re having a difficult time managing on your own. They want to come to help out. The proud person that you are, you don’t want them to think that anything has changed. Therefore the morning of their visit you get up early and clean up. All the chores that were put off due to fatigue now are top priority. You don’t feel tired anymore since the clock is ticking. You have to act, lest others discover your laziness.

This scenario is quite common. The householder feels impelled to clean the house whenever guests are coming over. Otherwise, the situation isn’t so dire. The same concept works with deadlines. If the teacher gives us an assignment and tells us that it’s due whenever, no one would complete it. But when they say it’s due on a specific date, the time crunch forces action. A similar thing occurs in bhakti-yoga when one is seriously desirous of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The good Lord takes the impetus Himself to create the emergencies, and the results are splendid.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]Mother Yashoda takes care of Krishna in Vrindavana. She doesn’t have a job that pays a salary, but she works night and day. In fact, few could say they work harder than Yashoda. In the morning she rises early and prepares her darling child for His day of work and play. In the farm community, the young boys tend to the calves. It is not difficult labor, and they find it quite enjoyable. Krishna and His friends of the same age take this chore as an opportunity to play out in the fields. Sort of like having pets to take out for a walk each day, these animals are protected in the society and loved by everyone.

Yashoda makes sure Krishna is dressed properly. Sometimes her son’s friends come to the house early, when Krishna is not yet ready. She invites them in to come help, and they take great joy in this. While her son is out, Yashoda takes care of the household responsibilities. She churns yogurt into butter to be fed to her darling child. She meets with the other mothers of the community, who tell her about the playful antics of her child.

She works all day because she loves it, but also because she thinks that without her effort her young child will starve. She thinks He will die if she does not feed Him properly. She already worries that He doesn’t eat enough. It’s difficult to pull Him away from the fields; He’s like the child who wants to play baseball out in the street with his friends the entire day. She worries that Krishna’s delicate soles will be hurt by the hard ground. And then she sees all the nefarious characters who come to Vrindavana and try to harm her boy. Krishna manages to survive each of these attacks, while the assailants aren’t so fortunate. Still, the good mother thinks that without her intervention Krishna will not survive.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman has a similar attitude. Here he is deliberating on what course of action to take next. He was assigned the task of finding a missing princess in an enemy territory. That part of the mission has now concluded successfully. However, he was also told to give her a message, that her husband was going to soon arrive to rescue her. This is where things got tricky. This princess was here against her will. She was taken there by an ogre of cruel deeds who could change his shape at will.

Hanuman first decided to speak to the princess, Sita, in the Sanskrit language. He considered the pros of that decision. Sita could hear the message. She would think that he is learned, which he indeed is. But as a wise and intelligent person, Hanuman also weighed the cons. Sita might mistake him for Ravana, due to his odd form, that of a monkey, and corresponding speech, Sanskrit. Being alarmed, others would learn about his presence. Then Hanuman would have to fight off all the Rakshasas in the city, who were very powerful.

Hanuman knew he could defend himself, though he rightfully remarked that in conflict the outcome is never assured. Here he worries about being able to cross over the expansive ocean and reach his friends again. Could he do that after having fought so many enemies? He also concludes that none of the other monkeys would be able to reach this territory. His search party consisted of thousands of forest-dwellers from Kishkindha. These creatures were monkey-like, and so they could leap, but not that far. Hanuman had special abilities; thus he found himself in the enemy territory of Lanka alone. He was the only one who could leap across the massive ocean to reach Lanka.

[Shri Hanuman]In both of the situations mentioned, the object being served is God. Krishna is the Supreme Lord in His two-armed form of a beautiful youth who roams the land of Vrindavana. Rama is the same Krishna appearing in the Treta Yuga to do away with the king of ogres, Ravana. The Supreme Lord will not die if someone forgets to feed Him. Shri Rama easily could have retrieved Sita from Lanka. He did not need any monkeys to leap over an ocean for Him. Yet Hanuman thought that if he didn’t succeed, the mission would be foiled. Such thinking is encouraged in devotional service, and in fact even if apprised otherwise the devotee on this level will not abandon their attitude. Their love is actually stronger than any opposing force, even if that force is God. For this reason Hanuman is worshiped by so many to this day, for to the idea of not serving Rama, he emphatically replies, “No possible way.”

In Closing:

If to not serve Rama one would say,

Hanuman to respond, “No possible way.”


In love Hanuman of Rama to think,

That from failure His hopes to sink.


In emergency, of his effort a need,

Attitude his enthusiasm to feed.


Unbreakable the staunch devotee’s course,

Not swayed even by Supreme Lord’s force.