Saturday, July 26, 2014


[arati]“Staring again and again at their four sons and their wives, the mothers waved the arati lamps.” (Janaki Mangala, 185)

badhuna sahita suta cāri'u mātu nihārahiṁ |
bārahiṁ bāra āratī mudita utārahiṁ ||

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We all know of the “mother-in-law” problem. They are our mother, but not really. We are not biologically related to them. In adulthood, or close to it, we get a brand new authority figure enter our lives. They have motherly affection for our spouse. They’ve shown this affection for a long time. They know that after the marriage of the son or daughter they should let go a little, but can any single event ever stop us from loving our offspring? This means that the mother-in-law is sure to give us trouble, for she wants to ensure that her child is still okay, even after moving in with their spouse. This presents somewhat of a problem for us, for we can’t push back fully, for otherwise our spouse will get upset. This scene from the Janaki Mangala gives us a mother-in-law’s perspective. She too has a lot to worry over, but here she is more than pleased with the new member of the family.

Indeed, in this situation there are multiple mothers and multiple daughters-in-law. Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were the four sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. There were three mothers to these four brothers. Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi to Bharata, and Sumitra to Lakshmana and Shatrughna. But there was no rivalry amongst either the brothers or the mothers. No one thought that this mother is not my birth mother and this mother is. No one thought that this child is really my son and this child isn’t.

[four sons with parents]That’s a nice situation to be in, having three loving mothers. It means the family extends, and with a large family you have a large support system. In the Vedic tradition, the marriages are arranged, which means that when the wives come home after marriage, it is their first time in that area. Here the mothers are meeting the wives of the four brothers for the first time. The brothers got married away from home, in Janakpur. The mothers were in Ayodhya, and from the verse above we get their initial reaction.

They kept looking at the daughters-in-law. The new wives were very beautiful, and perfect in behavior. Imagine moving in with your husband and seeing that he has three mothers around to protect him. This would be a daunting situation for anyone, but Sita and her relatives acted as if they were coming home again. It was Sita’s marriage to Rama that set everything in motion. From there, Sita’s father arranged to have Rama’s three brothers get married at the same time.

Just as each mother in Ayodhya considered Rama to be their son, they considered Sita to be their daughter. “In-law” had no significance here. Sita’s nature is such that anyone with a sober mind will have affection for her. She has no bad qualities. She is virtuous in every way. It would make sense that she is a perfect match for Rama, of whom even enemies have difficulty speaking ill.

“I have not seen any person in this world, be they an enemy or one punished for heinous sins, speak ill of Rama, even in His absence.” (Lakshmana speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 21.5)

If you love God, you get the perfect son, if you so desire. This was the case for the wives of Dasharatha. Rama is the Supreme Lord in a special incarnation appearing in the Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation. His three younger brothers are partial incarnations of God, so all the elders in Ayodhya were uniquely blessed.

If you love God, you get the perfect daughter-in-law, if you so desire. Your “cup runneth over” with love. Though you previously thought you couldn’t love anyone any more than you did God, you make more room for His wife. In bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, you make even more room for those dear to Rama, like Hanuman. Then you make further room for those who are dear to Hanuman, like Goswami Tulsidas.

[Sita and Rama]Then you increase your love for those who support the devotees of Hanuman, who facilitate the spreading of the glories of Shri Rama and those who work for His interest. In this way the love always increases in devotional service; the opposite of how it is in material affairs. If I love my wife, I may not love another’s wife. If I love my husband, I have less affection to give someone else. And love in devotional service never breaks; the mothers in Ayodhya kept their love for their daughters-in-law. In the not too distant future, they would have to live without Sita, but they maintained a strong affection for the blameless wife of the prince of Ayodhya. Anyone who does so gets supremely benefitted.

In Closing:

So much affection for child to feel,

Difficult then after marriage to deal.


For new spouse caretaker another,

To clash with the in-law a mother.


Sita coming home to new mothers three,

But from her character of problems free.


Love for God then expanding to His wife too,

Seeing new daughters, love in mothers only grew.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Up To You

[Rama's mothers]“Kausalya, Sumitra and all of the beautiful women of the court were happy in the mind. Decorating themselves and preparing everything, they rushed towards Rama, walking like mad elephants.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand, 23.2)

mana mudita kausalyā sumitrā sakala bhūpati-bhāminī | 
saji sāju parichana calīṁ rāmahiṁ matta kun̄jara-gāminī ||

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Is God mean? Is He perpetually angry? Does He insist that we submit to His will? Is He just waiting to punish us for our transgressions? When we finally come around, do we have to pay homage to Him every day? Are we supposed to cower in terror every time we’re in His presence? This verse from the Janaki Mangala gives us an idea of what it’s like when the individual consciousness is dovetailed with the supreme consciousness. There is spontaneous devotion, and the only fear is over missing wonderful moments due to the quick passage of time.

[Kausalya with Rama]Here Goswami Tulsidas describes the women of the court in Ayodhya. There is Kausalya. She is the eldest queen to King Dasharatha. Her son is Rama, the Supreme Lord Vishnu in an incarnation form. That God incarnates as a human being should not surprise us. He expands to create this amazing universe. Though the living entity seemingly emerges from the womb of the mother, the wise person knows that the seed from the father is required first. And prior to that, some other force is necessary. The father cannot simply combine any aspect of his body with a mother’s womb and get a child.

The entire creation thus sprung from someone else. The material chunk, if you will, is known as the mahat-tattva in Sanskrit. This total material substance is also Brahman, which we typically equate with the spiritual energy. The spiritual side of Brahman enters the mahat-tattva to give us the universe that we barely perceive with our eyes. Our planet is very small in comparison to all that is manifest. We can barely see what’s going on across the street, let alone what is taking place across the globe.

[Bhagavad-gita, 14.3]“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.3)

If you took all that is possible to be seen, you get the full combination of Brahman and matter. God expands to accomplish this: both the material and spiritual energies come from Him. The living entities are separated expansions of His and the divine incarnations are the personal expansions. Shri Rama is different from other living entities in that He does not have to enter into the mahat-tattva and go through the typical cycle of birth and death. He simply appears, and His form is always transcendental. There is no difference between body and spirit for Him.

[Kausalya]Kausalya plays the role of Rama’s mother. Then there is Queen Sumitra, who is also married to Dasharatha. From her womb appear the brothers Lakshmana and Shatrughna. The third queen is Kaikeyi, and she is the youngest. She gives birth to Bharata, making four beautiful sons for Dasharatha. Rama is Vishnu Himself and the other three are partial expansions of Vishnu. Rama is the eldest and their leader, and in this scene all four brothers are returning home as newly married men.

Tulsidas says that all the women in the court were happy in the mind. And why wouldn’t they be? Their sons were returning home. Rama was especially missed, as He had been away for a while. The women all dressed up for the occasion. Rama was greeted by the ladies as would a king on his ascension to the throne.

It is said that when the women went towards welcoming Rama and His brothers, they all walked like mad elephants. This seems like a strange comparison to make, but in Vedic literature a statement like this appears quite often. “Gaja gamini” means the walk of an elephant, and when applied to a woman it is a way to describe the beautiful way in which they walk. In this situation the women were compared to mad elephants, indicating that their beautiful walk was of a brisker pace.

They were not compelled to attend this ceremony. They did not do so out of fear. They were not worried about incurring God’s wrath. Instead, they worried that they would miss the chance to celebrate one of the great moments in His life on earth. They feared that time would get the best of them. For this reason they hurried, thinking of Rama the whole time.

[Lord Rama]In the devotional consciousness, the minutes sometimes do seem like hours, especially when there is separation. In separation one’s fondness for God increases. During this time thoughts develop as to how one will please and serve Him when His association comes again. And so in this very lifetime the same thoughts can come to us if there is a desire to regain His association. This is the meaning to life, to love God and want to serve Him. There is no reason to fear Him, as in Ayodhya Rama could do nothing to stop the kind offerings of the queens, who were His mothers. In devotional service one can act as a friend, a parent, an admirer, or even a lover of God. There needn’t be any fear, as simply from the sound of the holy names the proper view of the Supreme Lord comes to the mind: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Many roles in bhakti-yoga to find,

Holy name alone bringing clear vision to mind.


Queens of Dasharatha as mothers to act,

Rushed towards Rama like elephants to attack.


Beautiful walk, so nicely dressed,

Rama by their offerings to be blessed.


With God interactions there are so many,

With love, no need for fear of Him any.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Happy Reception

[arati plate]“Planting auspicious trees, decorating with rice flour, filling the thalis with yogurt and grass for the arati, the lovely ladies looked beautiful with their fawn-like eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 23.1)

maṅgala biṭapa man̄jula bipula dadhi dūba acchata rōcanā | 
bhari thāra ārati sajahiṁ saba sāraṅga sāvaka lōcanā ||

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In the chand sections of his Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas sums up some of the preceding verses. Here we get a review of how Shri Rama’s return home with His new wife Sita was celebrated in Ayodhya, the dhama that is home to both the Raghu dynasty and all of Rama’s votaries. If the Lord’s devotees don’t live there physically, they at least remain there in spirit.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]And what do they remember when contemplating that lovely place? So many important moments in Rama’s life took place there. One of them was His return home from having gone on a lengthy journey with the sage Vishvamitra. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana also went along. The two left home unmarried, but returned home with beautiful brides, who happened to be sisters. Rama’s father, the family priest, and Rama’s two other younger brothers, who were now married too, also returned home.

When the four princes returned the residents of Ayodhya held something like a wedding reception. In the modern age, it is not surprising to find close family members spread apart geographically. One person lives in one country and another person lives across the ocean. Even when the family members live in close proximity, it is not a guarantee for frequent visits. If someone lives nearby, you think, “Oh, I can see them anytime.” Saying this repeatedly, enough time passes that the visits become rare.

As everyone is spread out and busy with their daily lives, for the occasion of a marriage it is not likely that all the important people can attend. The event might not fit into their schedule. Perhaps they don’t want to travel so far to witness a ceremony they have no real interest in. Perhaps there is an ongoing squabble with the person hosting the event.

Whatever the reason, a good way to satisfy the needs of many is to have multiple ceremonies. Have a ceremony in one place and a second one later on in a different place. This gives more people a chance to celebrate with you. All of the people of Ayodhya could not attend Rama’s wedding in Janakpur. They didn’t even know that He was there, for the Lord left their midst on a critical mission. He was asked to protect the peaceful sages residing in the forest from the attacks of wicked night-rangers. As police may be called to duty at any time and any place, so Rama and Lakshmana were expected to go anywhere they were needed.

As Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an incarnation form, He doesn’t require much to be satisfied. The gesture is what counts most, not the quantity or the extravagance. If a person from today were to time travel to Ayodhya during Rama’s time, they may mistakenly think that the people were poor. The people lived in simple dwellings, did not have electricity, and lived off the land. But based on the offerings made, we see that the people were anything but poor.

They planted pious trees all around. A pious tree is one that bears fruits. Conversely, a sinful tree is more or less for decoration. It does not provide nourishment. If you plant a pious tree, someone many years down the road can benefit from your work. If a banana falls from the tree and gives them food, you played a hand in feeding them.

Thalis were filled and made ready for an arati, or a ceremonial offering of a lamp. Everyone was decorated nicely, and this was the case in each home. Tulsidas tells us that the women in the homes arranged everything. They were housewives, working women and independent at the same time. No one told them to worship Rama. This kind of worship is spontaneous, and it is most appreciated. These women wanted nothing from Rama; rather they wanted only to give.

[Sita and Rama]And these were the most beautiful women, having eyes like a fawn. We know that the people of Ayodhya had shri, or beauty. Rama brought back shri personified in Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Sita is Lakshmi, who has many other names, with Shri being one of them. Where there is God, there is the goddess of fortune. Where there is Lakshmi Devi, there is opulence. And so it was fitting that the reception in Ayodhya was lacking nothing.

In Closing:

Since marriage took place in distant home,

Ayodhya to have reception of their own.


Though living life very simple,

Items of opulence there ample.


Pious trees, beautiful patterns drawn,

Arranged by ladies of eyes like fawn.


Shri personified to home bringing,

Glories of Her and Rama singing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pious Trees

[mango tree]“In home to home they set up altar areas and hoisted flags. They planted trees bearing fruits, blossoms, and other auspicious signs.” (Janaki Mangala, 184)

bandana vāra bitāna patākā ghara ghara | 
rōpē saphala sapallava maṅgala tarūbara ||

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Trees are good for us. This only makes sense. Aside from being integral to a beautiful backdrop, providing the proper setting for a nature scene, they provide shade to the weary traveler. They give the comfort of shade on a hot summer’s afternoon. They give a resting place for the bookworm who enjoys being outdoors. And in the scientific analysis, they provide the vital oxygen that is necessary for breathing in the human species. Still, there are grades of trees, with some considered pious and others impious. The scene referenced above speaks of pious trees.

[Amazon Kindle logo]Sin gets you further away from your true identity of spirit soul, which is part and parcel of God and thus servant of Him for all of eternity. Sin isn’t so difficult to understand. There are sins in just about every category of activity. If you put the wrong type of gasoline in your automobile, you’re committing a sin. The reason is that the mistake will lead to a negative reaction, something particularly unwanted. Putting the right type of gasoline in the car is piety; it yields a desired result. Piety is auspicious and sin inauspicious.

In terms of trees, a sinful one does not yield fruits. Every living entity survives off other living entities. This is nature’s way. There is something called the food chain which basically explains the same concept. The human being is the lone species that has discretion. It has a choice in its diet. Just because it has dominion over other creatures doesn’t mean it has license to kill without limits. Just as the human being does not normally kill other human beings and a few selected animals like cats and dogs, when in a state of sobriety it does not kill any other animals for food.

This leaves the vegetables. But even then there is some sin involved, as the vegetables are cut away, made lifeless, when the time is right for consumption. The only kind of diet that is totally free of violence is one based on fruits. The fruits fall from the trees at the appropriate time. Shri Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation form famous for ridding the world of the evil Rakshasa named Ravana, once remarked that for the mature human being there is no other fear than death. He compared it to the ripened fruit, which has no other fate than to fall.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

[Lord Rama]The fruit’s fateful descent, its inevitable fall from the tree, does not involve violence. By approaching the tree, one who picks up such fruits and eats them can survive. Indeed, a person could survive just remaining near such a tree. Therefore the fruit-bearing trees are considered pious in the Vedas. They are better than the non-fruit-bearing ones, which are thus considered sinful. The fruit-bearing tree is also found in the heavenly realm. There you can ask for anything from the trees and receive it immediately. Thus these trees are known as desire trees [kama-taru, sura-taru, kalpa-vriksha].

In this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we read that the residents of Ayodhya planted trees that bore fruits, blossoms and other auspicious signs. They did this as a welcome for the Supreme Lord, who was returning to their town after having been away for a while. In home to home they set up altars and flags as well. Home is where the heart is, and so when there is worship in the home, the heart is properly situated. It remains connected to God, even though it may be far away from a formal devotional atmosphere. It may be many miles away from others practicing devotion, but the heart can stay just as connected with God through the altar in the home.

In the same way that the pious trees are those which produce fruits, there can also be pious books. Those works which yield the fruit of devotion to God, bhakti, are the most pious. Every page, which likely originates from a tree, is filled with descriptions that bring the heart closer to the eternal occupation of devotional service. Conversely, the mundane literature keeps one away from God. Those works keep the mind unfortunately situated in maya, or illusion. And so one cannot survive on such works; they need to constantly shift their attention.

[Tulsidas writing]The pious works stand alone in greatness. They become the main source of sustenance for the devoted soul and they also pass the test of time, bringing future generations so much joy. The mango is the king of fruits, making the mango tree the most pious on earth. Devotion to Rama is the king of all fruits given in literature, and so those works which describe Him have a value that cannot be measured.

In Closing:

Accompanying names of Rama chanted,

Pious trees Ayodhya’s people planted,


Mangos and blossoms to bear,

To provide shade, comfort and fare.


Pious and impious books too there can be,

From effect on consciousness one can see.


As bhakti the soul’s long-lost treasure,

Books giving it of value without measure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Part Of Me To Stay

[rice flour designs]“They drew patterns using colored rice flour, laid down four kalashas, and hoisted flags, decorating everything nicely. In the street many kinds of jubilant music played.” (Janaki Mangala, 183)

cauṅkaiṁ puraiṁ cārū kalasa dhvaja sājahiṁ |
bibidha prakāra gahāgaha bājana bājahiṁ ||

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The Supreme Lord is part of me. He exists within me in His plenary expansion of the Supersoul, also known as the Paramatma. As such, I am never actually separated from Him. In ignorance of this fact, I have been roaming through different bodies in lifetime after lifetime. The properties apply to every other conditioned living entity also. Since He is actually part of us, serving God is not very difficult. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we see that basic items such as rice flour and flags suffice for perfect worship.

When I forget that God is part of me, I look for success without Him. I strive for material opulence. This is very difficult. One store location isn’t enough for the businessman. They must expand. Relatively high employment rates for a nation aren’t sufficient. If the total output of goods and services doesn’t grow from one quarter to the next, there is a panic over the economy.

As such, there must be progress. Instead of living simply and growing one’s own food on the land that they have claim to, the citizen must travel very far each day to earn a living. Instead of being content with a simple lifestyle that provides enough basic necessities, the individual must constantly buy new things. “Out with the old and in with the new.” And of course there is never enough. Even with such accumulation peace remains absent, and without peace there cannot be happiness.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.66]“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

In the devotional consciousness, there is peace no matter the situation. Whether one is living on a farm or in a penthouse apartment, they remember that God is part of them. Therefore they act for His interest first. They can have many cars or just one. They can have a lot of money or very little. They are not dependent on the objects. Satisfied in the relationship to the Supreme, they are known as atmarama.

[Lord Rama]To see how this works, we can study the behavior of the residents of Ayodhya a long time ago. They wanted to celebrate. They were so happy that their beloved son, Shri Rama, was returning home a married man. Rama’s father was the king. Dasharatha got all four of his sons married at the same time, so there was so much to rejoice over in the city.

The people did not require much. They used basic items like pots, flags and flour, and there was no deficiency in the celebration. The devotion is what made the atmosphere. They had pure and spontaneous love for Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation specific to a time and place. Rama is the very same Vishnu who resides in the heart as the Supersoul. He is the very same Krishna who roams the sacred land of Vrindavana, sweetly playing His flute and giving pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is the same Brahman, which is the impersonal effulgence of God that lacks definition. Rama is the definition behind the generic term of “God,” which is a vague concept.

These residents didn’t necessarily know that Rama was God. They didn’t have to. They knew that their lives depended on Him, and more specifically, their devotion to Him. Rama was part of their lives, the central figure in fact. Knowing this, the people had success in the things that mattered the most to them. Their success was seen not in their external wealth but rather in their display of affection.

And so that same affection can be shown by anyone, for the same Rama stays with every single person as the Supersoul. It is the etiquette when visiting temples of Vishnu, or God, to bring an offering upon entering. Something simple like a flower or a fruit is sufficient. It is the thought which counts. The neophyte thinks that God only resides in the temple, but the actual fact is that God is everywhere. This means that He can be worshiped everywhere.

[Sita and Rama]Through the simple chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one can worship God. This chanting can be done by any person, even one who doesn’t know the difference between spirit and matter. This mantra can be chanted for one second or for multiple hours consecutively. It can be recited by both the rich and the poor and the lucky and the unlucky.

One doesn’t have to travel very far to chant these names, either. The people of Ayodhya simply had to go out into the streets, where they played jubilant music. Rama was pleased by their welcome, and the citizens remained dear to Him forever. It is no wonder that the Almighty chose such a place to appear and call home for many years during the Treta Yuga.

In Closing:

Simple objects a celebration to make,

Rice flour, pots and flags to take.


Extravagance for Ayodhya not required,

By love for Sita and Rama inspired.


Of me and also you He’s a part,

With chanting devotion today start.


With love keeping close to you near,

Then to Lord forever remain dear.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Everything Stops

[Rama's lotus feet]“In the gates of the city, the steps by the river, and the stores they made decorations for a welcome. Sprinkling so much fragrant water on the roads, they sang of the great auspiciousness.” (Janaki Mangala, 182)

ghāṭa bāṭa pura dvāra bajāra banāvahiṁ |
bīthīṁ sīn̄ci sugandha sumaṅgala gāvahiṁ ||

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When visiting important pilgrimage sites in India, the word “ghata” comes up quite often. There is the ghata named after this person and the ghata named after that person. “You must visit these,” the tour guide will tell you. From the context used, it would seem that the ghata is a place of greater significance than what it actually is, steps leading to a body of water. The major rivers in India are considered sacred, like the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarayu. Bathing in them is considered very auspicious, as they are associated with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the steps that lead towards these bodies of water become very important.

[Ghat in Chitrakoot]Stores are where commerce takes place. If you own a store, you likely earn a living through it. In America it is said that the majority of jobs get created through small businesses, such as the storefronts found on the busiest roads of the city. Nothing is guaranteed in such ventures. Just because you are profitable today doesn’t mean that you will be tomorrow. If you become very profitable, you become a target for your enemies, who consist not only of rival businesses but politicians as well. Your employees have the freedom to leave your business and go work somewhere else. Therefore the store owners are always preoccupied.

The gates of the city give the first glimpse of your town to the foreign traveler. If they have never been to your town before, they will get the first impression from the gates. In modern times there are large signs on the roads leading in. “Welcome to such and such city,” the sign will say. Then it might list some interesting facts, things for which the city is famous.

[Welcome sign]In Ayodhya a long time ago, everything stopped for the arrival of a beloved son. The steps leading to the river were now decorated. So were the stores and also the gates to the city. It was like a holiday, where everything stops and the people get a break in order to relax. Here the break was for rejoicing. No one told them it was a holiday. Everyone acted spontaneously. They were so happy that Rama was back. He was coming home with a new wife, the beautiful Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Also coming home were Rama’s three younger brothers and their father, the king of the town.

The people sprinkled fragrant water on the roads and constantly sang of the auspiciousness. A clay field requires regular watering in order to stay loose and soft. Sort of like the maintenance of a clay tennis court, the dirt roads required careful attention in order to stay fit for travel by carts. The fragrant water used here provided for a nice atmosphere. Far from the congested and foul smelling city streets of today, Ayodhya on that day looked and felt wonderful, from home to home.

[watering clay court]Everything stopped because of the nature of Rama. The people loved Him so much. He had every good quality imaginable. He was kind. He was forgiving. He knew the truth. He was self-realized. He understood the difference between matter and spirit. He did not view one citizen as an enemy and another as a friend. He looked at everyone as a well-wisher, and in fact that’s what they were. He never ran from responsibility. No matter how difficult the task was, Rama would take it up when asked. He was not worried about losing anything. If he had to lose the whole world to protect His citizens, He would. And He would not be any sadder as a result.

These are some of the qualities of God. He is the ultimate well-wishing friend. He is the supreme enjoyer and also the proprietor of all the worlds. It is in the makeup of the soul to serve. This means that we feel best when we act for someone else’s enjoyment. In therapist speak, it is considered bad to depend on someone else for your happiness. “You’ll never be happy that way because you can’t control how someone else feels.” It may be the case that the recipient’s reaction is out of our control, but there is no denying that service is what lights up the otherwise disillusioned embodied soul stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of happiness and misery, which are neatly packaged inside of the two events of birth and death.

[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)

If you’re going to act for someone else’s enjoyment, might as well make it God’s. He is the supreme enjoyer. This means that He is the person who will appreciate your efforts the most. He will reward you accordingly. Not necessarily with a new car or a large balance of money, He’ll give you an even better gift: devotion. With that reward you can drop everything and prepare for a grand celebration in His honor at any time. With that gift you can be blissful even in a tense situation. With that reward you can concentrate on His lotus feet that traversed the fragrantly watered streets of Ayodhya. And most importantly, with devotion you can remember Him at the time of death, the time when what you think matters most.

In Closing:

Gates giving first glimpse of the town,

Ghata leading to rivers of renown.


Bazaars where commerce takes place,

All decorated for Rama’s arrival to await.


City streets sprinkled with water fragrant,

Pleasant aura for His return triumphant.


Rama coming home now with new wife,

Rewarding everyone with eternal devotional life.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

All Good Fortune

[Govinda]“My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as Krishna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.16)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.16]Like an actor thrust into many roles, some of their choosing and others not, the human being encounters many different situations in their journey through life. One second they must act as an obedient son and the next they are the wiser, elder brother to a sibling. One second they are taught and the next they are teaching. Understanding these different roles, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has instituted a way in which all good fortune can come to any person, at any time. That way is the chanting of the holy name.

Imagine this situation. You’re at a party. It is the first birthday of the son of one of your good friends. You go to the party, taking your wife with you. As is bound to happen, you run into different people. To be polite, you strike up a conversation, telling them a little bit about yourself. Your nature is more to listen, so through this one experience you get exposure to many viewpoints.

The first person you meet is very conscious of the earth’s environment.

“Sustainability is the only way for the earth to survive going forward. Where do I live you ask? Actually, I travel around from place to place. I like to go where the cows are maintained and where they have organic farming. This is the most important service to me. There can be none higher. The cows are so precious, and if we don’t keep our farms eco-friendly, disease will overtake us all soon enough.”

The second person you meet has an interesting hobby.

“I’m an avid art collector. I go to all the showings in the city. I don’t mean to brag, but I think I have an eye for these things. I also sell some of the pieces I buy in auctions. It’s not that I’m trying to make money, flipping these paintings. It’s more that the enjoyment runs its course. I like what I see today, but in a year from now my perspective may be different. I still require the beauty of the visual art, so I never stop collecting. I simply change my focus.”

The third person you meet is into bodybuilding.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but I feel really good. I used to be quite skinny. I couldn’t even do a pull-up. Now I can bench press so much. I notice the other people in the gym staring at me when I bring back dumbbells from the weight rack. I have to eat a lot to maintain my physique, but it improves my self-esteem to have a good appearance. I also like knowing that I am stronger than most people.”

This is but a small sampling of the different desires found in living entities. Each person seeks good fortune, but there is only one means in the present age where everyone will be fully satisfied. That means is the chanting of the holy name. That name is non-different from the person it represents. I can change my name very easily. Perhaps someone gives me a nickname. Earvin Johnson became “Magic” in the National Basketball Association. Ozzie Smith became “The Wizard” in baseball. It is not so difficult to change a name; which means that a name cannot fully represent someone.

[Govinda]That deficiency is absent in the Supreme Lord. His name is Him in full. There is all good fortune thus in chanting that name, as it brings His presence in the nearest vicinity. And who wouldn’t want to be with God all the time? Since there is all good fortune in that holy name, the Lord kindly expands Himself to give so many names. To the environmentally conscious person, He can be addressed as Govinda. This name means one who gives pleasure to the senses and the cows. The cows are happiest when in the presence of Govinda. One can chant “Govinda” over and over again and maintain the vision of the Supreme Lord embracing and caring for the beloved cows in Vrindavana.

To the person interested in beauty, there is the name Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” No one is more beautiful than God. This feature in Him means that He is indeed a person. He is not nirakara, or without form. Nirakara is an accurate description of Him, but the meaning is often misunderstood. “Lack of form” in this sense means “without a material covering.” In the material world a covering is not always beautiful. Its applicability is limited as well. The spiritual form of Krishna is always beautiful. It has no defect; hence it cannot be material.

To the person interested in personal strength, the name “Girivaradhari” is there. This refers to the specific pastime of the lifting of Govardhana Hill, done by the same Govinda in Vrindavana. Girivaradhari is the strongest. As His strength is spiritual, it is impossible for us to fully understand. His lifting of a giant hill while in the visual manifestation of a small child gives us some indication. To those who appreciate strength, this name gives them great pleasure in hearing and saying.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]The names of Krishna are too many to count, as the good Lord kindly expands to distribute the good fortune to all the living entities. Through His appearance as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He expanded the practice of chanting the holy names. He gave the formula for peace, wisdom, strength, and happiness. He gave it away for free; not asking for anything in return. And He empowered so many others to spread the same good fortune. Those empowered souls can be easily recognized. They are always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

One person for art an eye,

Another to clean environment to try.


One in gym lifting weights heavy,

Thus in world interests a bevy.


But fortune to all only one way found,

When holy names of Krishna to sound.


From expansions many names to choose,

Saying with love all gain, nothing to lose.