Saturday, July 12, 2014

The One With The Indirect Praise

[Krishna's lotus feet]“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)

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[Bhagavad-gita, 7.27]When someone accepts something to be that which it is not, they are under the influence of maya. Maya is a Sanskrit word that means an energy, but in the most commonly used context it refers to illusion. This specifically references the external potency, maha-maya. Though illusion is a bad thing for the living entities subjected to it, maya is actually a wonderful display of the supreme potency that belongs only to God. In the heightened state of awareness, instead of bemoaning the situation caused by maya, the devoted soul finds ways to use it in praise of their beloved, who always accepts such kind offerings.

Brahman is the opposite of maya; it is reality. Therefore we get a simple way to understand the plight of the living entity. They are Brahman but don’t know it. They are spirit at the core, but under illusion they think otherwise. The goal of the human being, which has the highest potential for sharpening intelligence, is to realize Brahman and its source, which is Parabrahman.

In this way we have a scientific basis for spirituality. You don’t need blind faith. You don’t have to accept a rubberstamp system run by an established institution. Spirituality comes down to consciousness, and namely awareness of the individual identity and its relation to the Supreme Identity, the force behind all forces, the cause of all causes. In the Brahma-samhita, that cause of all causes is described as Govinda, which is a name for God.

[Bhagavad-gita, 5.1]“Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.1)

[Gopala]One day Vishal was having a conversation with his friend about this topic. His friend posed an interesting question. “Where does art fit into all of this,” he asked. “Artists do a lot of good for the world; they shine light on important issues. But it seems they are only after satisfying their senses; that they too are selfish and not really advancing.” Vishal then tried to explain the role of art in the science of self-realization by relaying a story from his past.


My good friend and I were really into this band. We absolutely loved their music. We didn’t care so much about the lyrics; the songs themselves were so great. We loved the way the guitars sounded and how the songs had dynamic points interspersed. There were stops and starts, changes in tempo, and high and low points in energy.

Our appreciation for the band really increased when we saw them live. It was a totally different experience. At the arena I spontaneously started singing as loud as I could to the songs. I didn’t care who was around me. I essentially lost myself in the music. After that first concert, my friend and I both decided that we would take every opportunity there was to see that band play live.

[Kirk Hammett playing guitar]Of course the ways of material desire are such that satisfying one only creates so many more. So after we started seeing the band so many times, we wanted to meet the members. No longer was attending the concerts enough. Fortunately, one time we won backstage passes. They call these things “meet and greets.” You basically lineup and have with you the items that you want autographed. The band members then make their way through the line, talking very briefly with each person.

So I was pretty nervous when the lead singer made his way towards me. I was prepared, however. I was going to ask him about the meaning to a particular song, because I knew that he wrote all the lyrics. So when he came to me, I asked him my question. “Hey, so I’ve always wondered, what is the meaning to that song?” He responded, “It’s about a piece of wood. Isn’t that obvious from the title?” I smiled for a second, not knowing whether he was serious. Then he responded, “Seriously, though, it is always open for interpretation. I intentionally write lyrics that are vague. They mean different things to me depending on the time. I can’t tell you exactly what that song is about. Whatever it means to you, that is what you should go with.”

I was a little surprised with this response, but over the years I realized that it was in line with what other artists do. They are expressing their emotions, if you really boil it down. They have frustration, bewilderment, or elation, and they decide to express it in a unique way. Sometimes they are baffled by the way things work. They don’t know why people die. They don’t understand how someone could take a gun and purposefully try to kill other people in the name of war. They don’t know why some people are rich and others poor. And so they take to art to give voice to their emotions.

Vishal explained to his friend that such artistic expression indirectly praised God. “The material nature is very baffling. The living entities in this world are born into delusion, and they stay bewildered by the dualities of desire and hate. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Himself says this in the Bhagavad-gita.”

[Lord Krishna]Vishal told his friend that the same artistic expression could be used in direct praise of God. With this practice, there would be definitive meaning to the output. Through wonderful art, the perplexities of life are magnified. In devotion, the same art magnifies the glorious qualities of the Supreme Lord, to whom everyone is intimately tied since time immemorial. Indeed, the Vedic tradition is rich with culture, art, music, drama, and philosophy. Nothing is missing in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, since the supreme artist serves as the inspiration. Therefore art, like any other aspect of the material world, gets purified when it is dovetailed with service to the Divine.

In Closing:

Like portraits depicting many a face,

Art in devotional life, where its place?


Emotions of artists through work expressed,

How by life, death and love always perplexed.


From this manner offering praise indirect,

In devotion take art in approach direct.


Love for God your work done for,

Heartfelt emotions into expression pour.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Speaking To The Future

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Being an associate of Lord Krishna, Arjuna was above all ignorance, but Arjuna was put into ignorance on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra just to question Lord Krishna about the problems of life so that the Lord could explain them for the benefit of future generations of human beings and chalk out the plan of life. Then man could act accordingly and perfect the mission of human life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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The Supreme Lord is not an old man who holds a grudge against His sons and daughters who ignore His will. He is not spiteful; He is not mean. We know this from Vedic literature, which tells us that He has a transcendental form that is eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. What separates Him from us is a lack of separation, namely between body and spirit. His spirit and form are identical; whereas for us the difference is always there. Just as His body is timeless, so are the words of instruction He passes on.

Imagine this situation. It’s the first day of the semester in college. This term you’ve enrolled in a creative writing class. You’re not much of a writer, but this elective satisfies one of the requirements necessary for graduation. Creative writing should be easy, you think. There’s no wrong way to think, is there? Some students are more creative for sure, but at least you should be free to write about things which interest you. You won’t be stuck reading books from hundreds of years ago, from authors you’ve never heard of.

[creative writing]Not wasting any time, on the first day of class the teacher gives the first assignment.

“Class, I want you to write an essay for the future generation. Imagine that this work will be read two hundred years from today. You can write about anything you want. Obviously, it should be important, because the people reading it will not know much about you. They won’t be able to relate to your exact circumstances. Use your imagination. Think long and hard about your topic. The assignment is due next week.”

On the way home, you can’t stop thinking about the assignment. The topic is what’s bugging you.

“What should I write about? I can’t think of anything. Do I discuss the hockey game I saw on television last night, how my favorite team came back to win in overtime? If I’m going to write about last night’s game, I might as well write about the one from ten years ago. To the people of the future, it won’t make a difference.

“Should I write about the argument I had with my relatives? We were going to organize an event together, and at the last minute they expected me to pay for everything. That seemed quite ridiculous, as that was never discussed beforehand. The event was for their daughter too, so why should I have to foot the bill? But will people of the future be interested in that?

“Should I write about my occupation? Should I tell them about what goes on at the office each day? Does that really matter, though? Will people care about that? Even I don’t find the stuff at my office to be too interesting. Gossip stays relevant for only a few days. Maybe I could discuss what’s in the news, but even that isn’t so important. What does it matter to the people of the future who the president of the country is today?”

[newspaper front page]For someone who really cared about the content, this assignment would be difficult. Fortunately, we have some valuable work to consult for reference. There are people who have already completed such assignments, as their words are relevant today and will remain so for as long as the earth stays around.

Take the Bhagavad-gita. This Sanskrit work is the “Song of God,” as it translates into English. The setting for this work is a great battlefield, and the speakers are a chariot driver and the warrior riding on the chariot. The setting and the occupations of the characters alone do not make the work relevant. Rather, the words themselves, the topics discussed, are what count. In the Bhagavad-gita, we learn about the soul, the material nature, the difference between the two, how to achieve perfection in life, and who God is. Many other things are discussed as well, and the words are relevant across all times and circumstances.

If you read the Bhagavad-gita, you’re essentially sitting in front of Shri Krishna and hearing from Him. He is speaking to you, though the actual words first left His beautiful mouth some five thousand years ago. Then there is the voluminous Vedic literature, which consists of important works authored thousands of years ago. And Vedic literature expands through works of more recent times which discuss the same principles.

“Shri Madhvacharya says: ‘The Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, Mahabharata, Pancharatra and the original Valmiki Ramayana are all works of Vedic literature. Any literary work following the conclusive statements of these Vedic scriptures is also to be considered Vedic literature. That literature which does not conform to Vedic literature is simply misleading.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 6.147, Purport)

Saints like Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Valmiki, Tulsidas and Vyasa wrote works that are essentially addresses to future generations. They knew the value of their words, since those words describe and glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In reading those works today, one essentially gets to sit with those wonderful personalities and hear from them directly. Nothing can compare to this boon, as a moment’s association with a perfectly realized soul can transform a life spent into delusion into a life spent in enlightenment.

[devotional writing]And isn’t that what the future generation should get out of your words, enlightenment? Only truths about the Supreme Lord and His energies can remain relevant at any time. The temporary goings on of today are not so important even to us. After a while, we forget about the arguments we had with others. The years we spent in school don’t come to mind every day.

But we can remember Krishna every single day. He is the definition behind the abstract concept of God. He is a personality, which means that He speaks and empowers others to speak. And their speech is recorded in wonderful books and poems that give future generations the much needed rescue from the material ocean of suffering.

In Closing:

Message to future to give,

So that with wisdom they’ll live.


About what topics to write now?

Today’s news to apply to them how?


From Vedic literature lesson take,

How your words transcendental to make.


With saints from past have a seat,

Through their mercy life’s mission meet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


[Krishna on Putana]“After consulting with his demonic ministers, Kamsa instructed a witch named Putana, who knew the black art of killing small children by ghastly sinful methods, to kill all kinds of children in the cities, villages and pasturing grounds. Such witches can play their black art only where there is no chanting or hearing of the holy name of Krishna. It is said that wherever the chanting of the holy name of Krishna is done, even negligently, all bad elements - witches, ghosts, and dangerous calamities - immediately disappear.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

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To underestimate is to improperly assess something else, favoring the side of inferiority over superiority. If you underestimate the weight of something, it means that it will feel heavier to you than you thought when you go to lift it. “Misunderestimate” is not a valid word, but it has been introduced into the vernacular through a mistake made by a politician of recent times. To seriously underestimate someone can lead to very negative consequences, and so the meaning to the concocted word of “misunderestimate” is applicable to many situations, including with King Kamsa a long time ago.

The less intelligent person thinks that this body gets created through sex desire alone.

“You take the right parts in contact with one another and you get a life. You plant the seed in the soil, add a little water and sunlight, and soon you have growth. When the body ceases functioning, the living entity is no more. Everything finishes at death.”

This is the thinking of those who do not know the presence of spirit, which is immutable, unchangeable and primeval. The spirit soul is not slain when the body is slain.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.20]“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

As the body is nothing more than a lump of matter, it is easier to handle lesser lumps of matter than greater ones. This means that if you have something unwanted, better to get rid of it soon, before it grows. Bugs and insects are pesky; their size makes them difficult to catch. Once caught, however, they are very easy to dispose of. Thus the philosophy of the exterminator is to get rid of these creatures, especially while they are young.

Sometimes this sort of violence is necessary, but it should be understood that spirit is always present. When thinking that the body is everything, the less intelligent consider the killing of a smaller creature to be less offensive than a larger one. An animal is okay to kill, provided there is some tangible benefit that results, like sumptuous food. It is also okay to kill the child in the womb, for that gets rid of the unwanted growth that is the human baby.

A king a long time ago was so lost in consciousness that he had no problem killing the infants that survived the time spent in the womb. A prophecy had told him that his sister’s eighth child would kill him. Not wanting to take any chances, he decided to kill every one of his sister’s children. He waited until they were born and then threw them against a stone slab. So degraded was he in consciousness that he had no clue how heinous his crime was.

When you think that this body is everything, you will not understand God. He is the Supreme Spirit. He is not matter. He is not the temporary body. For Him, the soul and the body are identical. There is no duality for Him. There is no difference between energies because everything emanates from Him anyway.

[Krishna on Putana]Kamsa could not understand the transcendental nature of the form of Krishna which emerged from the womb of his sister Devaki. This was her eighth child, the one that would kill Kamsa. The king was afraid again, and so he ordered his men to kill the young Krishna, who had managed to escape Mathura for the nearby town of Gokula. Kamsa was the ruler of Mathura, and so he ordered several of his most clever henchmen to go to Gokula and kill Krishna before He became any larger.

How difficult should it be to kill an infant? It hadn’t been a problem for Kamsa before. Ah, but he “misunderestimated” the Supreme Lord. Krishna is just as powerful in the form of an infant as He is in His universal form, which is the sum collection of all the planets and demigods. The Putana witch tried to kill Krishna by administering Him poison. But He instead sucked the very life out of her. The whirlwind demon took the young boy high into the air, but upon returning to the ground it was only Krishna who survived.

The gross underestimation is not only towards Krishna, but His associates as well. For instance, His servants are known to be poor and humble. While the worshipers of Lord Shiva, the greatest devotee of Krishna, are known to be wealthy and expert in ability, the followers of Krishna are more renounced. On the surface, the Krishna-bhaktas appear to be weak, but this is a mistake in judgment. The bhaktas of Krishna are actually extremely powerful, with their strength coming from devotion. That devotion is identical to the infant child of Devaki; and so it can withstand any attack.

[Krishna on Kaliya serpent]The devoted souls look to empower others as well. Anyone who is willing to be strengthened has the opportunity, as the transformation starts with hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The holy names are identical with the Lord, and so they carry the same potency as His personal self. The wise will realize this and take advantage, while the foolish will continue to think that through a little effort Krishna’s influence can be removed forever. The same tiny finger which held up the massive hill named Govardhana also supports the exercise of devotional service. The same infant who withstood the attacks of Kamsa’s friends shields the devotee from failing, thus providing a level of mercy which cannot be properly estimated.

In Closing:

Identity with body they take,

To pay dearly for this mistake.


Demons to Gokula Kamsa sent,

With hopes of success they went.


Though appearing in body small,

Stature for Shri Krishna always tall.


Putana fell, though victory expected,

Devotees by same darling protected.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Pressure of High Expectations

[Dasharatha with family]“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)

rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||

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If nobody expects anything out of you, failure isn’t that big a deal. Sure, you don’t like not succeeding in something that is important to you. You would rather emerge victorious than be handed stinging defeat. Yet if no one else seemed to think you had a chance, then the pain of losing isn’t as bad. In the opposite situation, the pressure for succeeding increases all the more. One king a long time ago had all the expectations in the world placed upon him, and due to his good qualities and his respect for higher authorities, he met and far exceeded all those expectations.

Consider this situation. The new school year starts and you notice that the teacher assigned to teach mathematics is the same one your older brother had previously. This teacher is very fond of your brother. On the first day, he asks you about him.

“Oh, how’s your brother doing? Tell him that I said ‘hello.’ He was one of my best students, you know. I didn’t have to worry about him. If I could, I would let him teach the class. He was very enthusiastic about the subject. I recognized that your last name is the same as his. Hopefully you will perform just as well.”

[Math class]You know that math is not your strong suit. If this were an art class, you could ace all the assignments. But math presents a challenge. After performing poorly on one of the exams, the teacher calls you out in class.

“You know, I’m disappointed in you. Perhaps you should have studied more. If you needed help, you could have asked me. You know, your brother would never perform like this. In the future, I’m hoping you can be more like him.”

This increases the pressure you feel, and there is not much you can do about it. You can’t change who your family members are. It is considered a boon to be born into a good family, but there is the downside as well. There is increased expectation to live up to the good family name. In Ayodhya a long time ago, a man was born into a very famous line of kings. How famous? Well, its patriarch accepted the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita towards the beginning of the creation.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.1]“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

That wisdom applies for all situations and all people. The saintly kings safely held on to it at first, for they had to protect the citizens. Though they were kings and thus fighters by trade, they could follow the instruction and keep good counsel at the same time. They were pious men. The chain continued, and thus the science as it is made its way further down the line. The kings in Ayodhya were part of this line, and they each lived up to the good name of the immediate predecessor.

The king referenced here by Shri Hanuman is named Dasharatha. He made the family famous by valorously defending against the attacks of the demon class. The good guys, the piously minded men, called upon him for help. Since he could fight against chariots from the ten directions simultaneously, he earned the name Dasharatha.

[Dasharatha]He was born into the famous Ikshvaku dynasty, so he had a lot of expectations placed upon him at birth. He met and exceeded them through his good qualities. Here Shri Hanuman also says that Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, who is also known as Purandara. Indra is the king of the residents of the heavenly realm. The concept we have of heaven and hell is mirrored in the Vedic tradition, with the noticeable difference being the extra detail provided. There are residents in both realms, and naturally heaven features good guys and hell bad guys. Indra is the leader of the good guys, and he has to protect against the bad guys, who are always attacking. Therefore Indra must be very strong. If he isn’t, he won’t do a good job and the bad guys will eventually prevail.

Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, and so he made for a terrific ruler on earth. As we know, there are good guys and bad guys in our present realm. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to experience good and bad. Everything that is available in some other world is found here as well. Even devotion to the Supreme Lord, offered in a pure mood without any motive, can be found here. This was also exhibited by Dasharatha.

Hanuman here describes that famous king to set the table for the tale of the appearance of Shri Ramachandra. Rama is God, the personal form. He is separate from every living entity, but also identical to them in qualitative makeup. He is apart from the individual soul, but always near them, accompanying them as the Supersoul. Bhakti-yoga, or divine love, corresponds with the personal form of God. The impersonal energy cannot be loved; it cannot be served. The Supersoul in the heart does not engage in wonderful pastimes; it does not appear in a manifest form in any family.

[Lord Rama]Only Bhagavan does those things, and when He does the associates are of the highest quality. So before even going into a description of Rama, Hanuman reviews the qualities of Dasharatha. In this way Sita would not mistake the person Hanuman was identifying. Dasharatha, coming in a line of great kings, further enhanced the glory of that family by acting as the father to the Supreme Lord Rama. And Hanuman, though appearing in the community of monkeys, showed that service to Rama is not restricted to anyone. The good qualities must be there, and especially the motive must be pure. Then the devotion can be so wonderful that Rama’s associates, like His wife Sita, can be made pleased by it.

In Closing:

To succeed in work hard you try,

More pressure when expectations high.


Weight of the world on Dasharatha placed,

Heroic against ten directions’ enemies faced.


From the responsibilities met,

In His kingdom Rama’s feet set.


Love required, Shri Rama for any person to see,

Whether king, pauper, or monkey they be.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In Austerities Like a Sage

[Dasharatha]“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)

rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||

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“This human life is meant for austerities.” You will hear a saintly person following the Vedic tradition repeat this instruction almost like a mantra. What does it really mean, though? Are we supposed to suffer? We’re supposed to look forward to bad things happening to us? We’re supposed to punish ourselves in order to find a better destination in the afterlife? As with every other injunction passed on from authorized works and the people who are knowledgeable in that regard, the purpose to austerity is ultimately to find happiness. And that happiness does not have to wait for the afterlife.

Of the followers of religious principles, the sages are known to be the most austere. Even in modern times that feature industrialization, the priestly class is known to be more restricted in their behavior. They live in a certain place and don’t engage in all the behavior typical to a material life. In ancient times, the sages of the Vedic tradition preferred the remote wilderness for habitation. In the same place the animals lived the sages would voluntarily take up residence.

This was the ideal place to practice austerity. How can you eat too much when there is hardly any food around? If you’re living in a forest, you don’t have large tracts of land to cultivate. You don’t have many cows with you, for they will have no place to graze. You barely have a dwelling; a thatched hut may be your lone option. You don’t have many possessions, so survival itself is the focus. With a minimalist lifestyle, you are more austere than those living in the cities and on the farms.

[iPhone low battery]And there is a purpose to this austerity. The simple life clears the mind. You don’t have to worry about why your smartphone suddenly is draining battery like anything. You don’t have to look through which apps are updating in the background. You don’t need to research on the internet that specific problem you’re having where the display is not correct. You don’t have to fear your way of life becoming extinct due to an upgrade to the hardware or software. You don’t have to worry about what the future outcomes will be, since you have no outcomes to fret over. You can simply think about God. You can contemplate His features day and night. This is indeed a wonderful life, and anyone who comes to visit you will see the spiritual effulgence that you naturally radiate.

Keeping all this in mind, Shri Hanuman here tells us that a king a long time back was equal in austerity to the sages. This wasn’t an exaggeration. Hanuman is known to be truthful. Here his words are directed to someone who already knows the king in question. By speaking in this way Hanuman is revealing himself to be truthful. Sita, the person meant to hear these words, already knows that the king, Dasharatha, is equal to the sages in austere practices. The fact is that not many in her surroundings know this. She is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, held there against her will. The king of that land was not very austere. Sure, when he had to be, when he wanted boons to be used for material sense gratification, he could follow penances. But in general he was all about eating, drinking and being merry as much as possible. His merriment was such a high priority that he had no problem stealing another man’s wife to find it. He had no problem killing innocent creatures to get what he wanted.

Dasharatha was not like this. His austerity meant that he was not driven by lust. When keeping lust in control, one has tremendous powers. They rid themselves of so many problems. Dasharatha lived in an opulent kingdom, and yet wasn’t attached to any of it. To such a man appeared the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a beautiful incarnation form. This meant that Dasharatha didn’t have to wait for the afterlife to get his reward. His austerity equal to the sages, conducted while ruling a kingdom and protecting so many innocent subjects, earned him the highly sought after vision of the Divine. And this vision wasn’t a flash. It didn’t appear for a moment and then vanish, like the comet coursing through the night sky. Dasharatha got to serve; the vision was alive. It was God Himself, and Dasharatha took full advantage of having Him in his life.

[Dasharatha with Rama]Austerity that is in line with authorized spiritual practice is ultimately meant to bring the same reward, i.e. service to God. The abode in heaven is but a temporary reward that has a dazzling appearance for those who are not yet familiar with the science of self-realization known as bhakti-yoga. The cherished forest-dwelling is appealing for as long as devotional service is not fully manifest. Once there is devotion, the type of residence is no longer so important. Whether in a kingdom such as a Ayodhya, a forest such as Dandaka, or an enemy territory such as Lanka, the chance for service never vanishes. The staunch devotee is forever dear to Shri Rama, the beloved husband of Sita, and so they get His association wherever and whenever.

In Closing:

An austere setting to find,

To keep clear the mind.


Without so many a distraction,

Towards Divine hope to develop attraction.


To sages equal was the king,

In austerities not lacking a thing.


From that practice Supreme Lord came,

Not idle, service to Him Dasharatha’s real gain.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Best Among Saintly Kings

[Dasharatha]“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)

rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||

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It’s a rite of passage. Children get in trouble in school. They test the boundaries of authority. They have limited experience in the world, so they’re not exactly sure what happens if they break the rules. Will they really get into trouble? Will the people in charge really get angry? Therefore it is natural for children to get in trouble while growing up. Perhaps they skip a class during the school day. Perhaps they miss the entire day of school altogether; opting instead for fun.

The parent has a difficult task when dealing with the situation. The obvious choice is to punish. This is the wise choice.

“Dear son or daughter, what you did was wrong. You should know better. I can’t believe you would do something so foolish. Go to your room while we figure out the appropriate punishment for you.”

A mental conflict arises due to the fact that the parent likely did the same thing or worse when they were younger.

“You know, I skipped school more times than they did. Compared to me, they are a better student. They hardly get into trouble. Maybe I should go easy on them. They’re only growing up, after all. They’re going to make a lot of mistakes. How can I punish them when I know that they don’t know any better?”

This is actually not the wise choice, for even with the compassion of understanding the person in authority has a purpose to fulfill. The parent who carries out their duties faithfully, even while knowing the mindset of the children, is superior. They are wise in both directions, in knowing how the dependents behave and in how the person in the position of authority should behave.

Rajarshi is a similar type of person. This is a Sanskrit word that brings together two terms: raja and rishi. The raja is the king and the rishi is the saint. There is a gulf of difference between the two. The saint is typically nonviolent. They don’t make distinctions between friends and enemies. They have no allegiance to any nation. They keep affection for more than just their family members. Seeing the spiritual equality in all beings, the Brahman vision, they understand the inherent link they have to all creatures. They love the nature around them as well, knowing that God created everything.

The king is more limited in vision. This helps to carry out their duties. They have to consider some people to be enemies, for otherwise where would the impetus to defend come from? The enemy wants to take the property of the king. The king has to defend that property, and so the aggressor naturally becomes the enemy. The king must also distinguish between criminals and law-abiding citizens. He allows the citizens to live peacefully, while the criminals get punishment.

The rajarshi is a special individual because they have the vision of the saint while still carrying out the duties as king. They are a saintly king in that they don’t punish as a means of self-satisfaction. They don’t defeat enemies to pound their chest and to boast of their prowess. They understand the role they have in society, and they carry out their duties even while knowing the spiritual equality in all beings. They know why the thief does what they do. They know what anger and greed lead to. While having compassion for the fault-filled struggling human being, the saintly king does not let their compassion get in the way of doing what’s right.

Here Shri Hanuman says that King Dasharatha had the best qualities among the saintly kings. This is extremely high praise. Dasharatha had no hatred. He was free of duality. He did not consider one person to be his enemy and another to be his friend. He did not protect those loyal to his administration and punish those who didn’t like him. He followed righteousness in all cases, taking counsel from the saints who advised him.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.2]“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)

In ancient times, it was the saintly kings who accepted transcendental wisdom, maintaining responsibility for passing it on to future generations. The wisdom was not created. It was spoken by the Supreme Lord at the beginning of creation and then subsequently passed on. Since He is aja, or unborn, the knowledge describing Him inherits the same property. Knowledge of Him is most sublime, without flaw, and applicable to all situations, time periods, and conditions. Whether living under the rule of a saintly king or a modern tyrant, whether the laws are determined by democratic elections or imposed by a military, knowledge of God has the ultimate value. It is no wonder, then, that the saintly kings bore the responsibility of safeguarding that knowledge.

[Dasharatha with sons]As Dasharatha had the best qualities among saintly kings, it is not surprising that Shri Rama appeared in His family. Rama is Krishna, who originally spoke the king of education, the Bhagavad-gita, at the beginning of the creation. Dasharatha was in the line of kings coming from the sun-god who inherited that knowledge. From Dasharatha the next in line was Rama, who is an incarnation of God Himself. Hanuman is here speaking of Dasharatha in this way to set the table for describing Rama. The audience for these words is Sita Devi, Rama’s beloved wife. Just as Dasharatha fulfilled his role though lacking the vision of duality, the same applies to Shri Hanuman and his words. Though intended to be heard by Sita Devi, such beautiful descriptions give pleasure to any who are receptive to the message of transcendental light. Whether living many thousands of years ago or today, the glories of that saintly king still resonate with those who appreciate the godly qualities.

In Closing:

To defend the innocent without fear,

Saintly kings highest wisdom to hear.


For future generations then to keep,

So that fruit of existence they’ll reap.


Dasharatha, passing ten directions’ test,

Described as of saintly kings the best.


Truthful, from Hanuman coming praise,

In that king’s courtyard Supreme Lord plays.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

To Whom God Appears

[Dasharatha and Rama]“There was a king named Dasharatha. He owned chariots, elephants and horses, and was of a pure nature, very famous, straightforward, and of great reputation.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.2)

rājā daśaratho nāma ratha kunjara vājinām |
puṇya śīlo mahākīrtiḥ ṛjuḥ āsīn mahāyaśāḥ ||

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To the person unfamiliar with the standing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in scientific terms, a hurdle in getting that understanding is sight. The first question is often, “Can you show me God? If He exists, why can’t I see Him?” In this verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman gives an answer to that question. He explains exactly to whom God appears. He provides the qualities of such a person in great detail.

Incarnations, expansions, demigods, Vishnu forms, tattvas, the soul, the Supersoul, the material nature, reincarnation - Vedic culture is filled with complex terms that are certainly overwhelming in the beginning to someone who has never heard of them. Slowing things down, taking a more deliberate approach, gives us the opportunity to see the bigger picture and thus more easily understand the separate puzzle pieces, which can actually fit together well, working harmoniously within the mind of the aspiring transcendentalist looking for the perfection of the human form of life.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.7]“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that whenever and wherever there is a discrepancy in the practice of religion, and an accompanying rise of irreligion, at that time He descends Himself to the realm where there is the problem. This answers the question of when God appears and also what the conditions of society must be. The tricky part is knowing exactly what God looks like in those appearances. It is not that He changes. He is unchanging. He is also a singular personality. One appearance is identical to another. Simply the display of transcendental qualities varies with each appearance. That display fits the circumstances. It also meets the specific desires of the individuals most affected by that appearance.

The Ramayana describes the appearance of Krishna as Shri Ramachandra. Who is Ramachandra? He is the son of Dasharatha. And who is Dasharatha? Hanuman tells us. Dasharatha is a king who owned chariots, elephants and horses. This means that he was not a pauper among kings. To be a ruler means to have control. In order to have control you need a way to wield authority. You can’t have authority if you don’t have anything to use. I can be a high court judge, but if I’m missing a gavel, a robe, and a courtroom, I am a judge in name only. I can be the commissioner of a sports league, but if I have no way of getting the teams to listen to me, my title is meaningless.

Dasharatha is a real king. He could travel anywhere with his chariots. His name means “one who can combat chariots coming from the ten directions simultaneously.” One chariot attacks from the east. Another from the west, and two more from the north and the south. Then another four chariots come from the four corners. If that wasn’t enough, two more chariots attack from up and down. Dasharatha can defend against all of them. He uses his chariots, elephants and horses to defend.

And why does he defend? Because he is of a pure nature. He is also straightforward. This means that as a king he does not play favorites. He is not like the police officer who suddenly turns on the emergency lights because they aren’t patient enough to wait at a red light at an intersection. He is not like the judge who tries any which way to interpret the law so that their particular favored policy can become legal. He is not like the government ruler who sticks his henchmen on groups that he does not like. Dasharatha is pure; there are no faults in him.

Dasharatha is also very famous. When something happens to him, everyone hears about it. He has everything going for him as a king. When he reached old age, everyone knew that he didn’t have any sons. To this purest of kings, God appeared as Shri Ramachandra. Dasharatha did not demand to see God. He did not suddenly lose faith in righteous principles because he was lacking a son. He had done everything right. He protected all the people. He defended the innocent against the attacks of the wicked. He maintained three wives simultaneously, and still no son.

[Dasharatha with Rama]Krishna appeared to Dasharatha and delighted him with His transcendental form. Rama was like Dasharatha in qualities, and so there was naturally a bond of affection. Rama was Dasharatha’s life and soul. The rise of irreligion at the time did not have to do with the King of Ayodhya. It had to do with the King of Lanka, Ravana. Rama appeared to a pious man, and from there inherited the role of defender of the pious. Rama always has this role, but in this appearance on earth He gave the benediction of taking the torch from the wonderful father, the straightforward Dasharatha.

More than just doing away with Ravana and defending the pious sages who dwelt mostly in the forest, Rama increased the devotion of Dasharatha. The king did not have to know that Rama was God. The attachment was enough to give perfection in life. So the more important question is “how can I serve God?” This is more important than seeing Him. Here Shri Hanuman is serving. He has already seen Rama and accepted the order from Him to look for His missing wife Sita. These words are spoken to be heard by Sita, who is presently in distress in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. God appears to the most pure souls like Dasharatha, and He is served forever by the amazingly poetic like Hanuman.

In Closing:

How God to see,

When to appear before me?


From Bhagavad-gita learn,

How one His vision can earn.


Stock of Dasharatha’s qualities take,

How ideal king and father to make.


In such a king defending without any fear,

Beautiful Rama as beloved son to appear.