Saturday, August 9, 2014

Never Prohibited From Redemption

[Krishna dancing on Kaliya]“You came here out of fear of Garuda, who wanted to eat you in the beautiful land by the ocean. Now, after seeing the marks where I have touched your head with My lotus feet, Garuda will not disturb you.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 16)

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It is inevitable that the famous personality will one day be asked to write a book. The work doesn’t have to be lengthy; a basic memoirs will suffice. They don’t even have to author it. A few question and answer sessions with an established writer will provide everything needed. Using the input, the writer will shape a more compelling narrative. When the book gets released, the press immediately searches for any interesting details, like any disparaging remarks about others. One or two sentences then make the headlines, though the issue of focus likely only makes up a small portion of the book.

[math class]The difficulty with compiling such memoirs is that people change. Outlooks and perspectives also differ greatly based on age. In high school, I may despise my mathematics teacher for being so hard on me. I don’t like how they keep picking on me, asking me to go up to the blackboard and solve problems. If I were to write my memoirs at that time, I would likely have very bad things to say about that teacher. As the years pass, however, I learn that to instruct in this way is often a good thing. I realize that the toughness helps me to become better at problem solving. Therefore my perspective changes. My memoirs later on would say something very nice about the exact same person.

Indeed, even if the person was bad all the time, it doesn’t mean that they are prohibited from redemption. The spirit soul is pure. It is neither good nor bad. It is not happy or sad. It is not dry or wet. It is always in a transcendental state of bliss and knowledge. This is difficult to see because of the covering the soul adopts when placed in the material world. From the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we see that even with the worst kind of covering, a soul can still tie back to its original position of devotional service.

We have the instance of Shri Krishna dancing on the head of the snake named Kaliya. A snake body isn’t very auspicious. The snake is known for biting people without cause. It slithers around, barely detectable. To compare a human being to a snake is not to compliment them. In Vedic philosophy, birth in a snake body is a punishment for past sins. It may also be a step in the evolutionary chain upwards towards the auspicious human birth.

[Kaliya]As bad as a snake is, it can still become liberated. It can still feel the soft lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. This was the case with Kaliya. He had poisoned the Yamuna river with his venom. The innocent cowherd boys of Vrindavana accidentally drank the contaminated water and were on the verge of death. Their hero once again came to the rescue. He revived them and then dove into the water to deal with the culprit.

A major struggle ensued, and the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, eventually emerged victorious. To show the ease of His victory, He danced on the head of Kaliya. The snake’s wives then petitioned Krishna for clemency. They wanted their husband to be pardoned, and in their prayers they mentioned how they had the good fortune to serve Krishna, despite having taken birth as snakes.

Just as a snake has the opportunity to taste the boon of devotional service, the many living entities, filling so many different occupations, all have the same chance. They may be bad today or bad in the future, but they still have the opportunity for worshiping the lotus feet of God. This method of devotional service is known as pada-sevanam. Kaliya felt the pada of Krishna directly, and in an indirect way He offered service. The footprints left by Krishna also saved him, as he then became immune from the attacks of Garuda, who is Krishna’s bird-carrier who feasts on snakes. Kaliya had gone to the Yamuna river to flee from the attacks of Garuda.

[tilaka]The reformed living entity similarly accepts the footprint of Krishna on their head, marked by the tilaka symbol. This allows them to remember the beloved Lord, and the sign also allows others to know that a Vaishnava is near, someone who is dear to everyone. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that such a soul who works in devotion and remains pure is dear to everyone and everyone is dear to them.

[Bhagavad-gita, 5.7]“One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses, is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.7)

Such a person works, but they are never entangled. Kaliya worked in the inauspicious form of a snake, and though his deeds were wicked, through his devotion he was not entangled. Similarly, the human being who takes up devotion can be part of any caste or gender and not have their work affect them. This is because they maintain devotion to Shri Krishna, which they practice through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Teachers in youth hard on me,

That beneficial I can’t really see.


Bad things to say about them,

But later change perspective then.


With bhakti-yoga chance at any time,

Whether in body of snake or heavenly shine.


On Kaliya’s head Shri Krishna walked,

With lotus feet thus snake marked.


Having even body of the worst kind,

Possible for liberation to find.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Knowledge In Devotion

[Lord Jagannatha]“O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29]As far as Vaishnava saints go, Lord Chaitanya is one of the more famous ones. With a name meaning “one who is fully spiritual,” the son of Shachimata and Jagannatha Mishra is also known as the “great Lord,” Mahaprabhu. He is also a mahapurusha, or great person, showing Himself to be human while in fact being non-different from the Supreme Lord. Known especially for His spontaneous and wonderful display of genuine devotion to God, Lord Chaitanya’s actions and teachings lack nothing in terms of knowledge. One of His famous Shikshashtaka instructions teaches of the eternality of the soul, which is the fundamental truth of Vedanta philosophy.

[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.102)“Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited?” (Sanatana Gosvami speaking to Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.102)

[Lord Chaitanya meeting Sanatana Goswami]The intelligent person asks about their true identity and why they are put into miserable conditions. Sanatana Gosvami asked these questions of Lord Chaitanya when the two met in Varanasi. In this interaction, there is an acknowledged teacher, a superior authority. The junior does not debate contentiously with the senior. The junior is not eager to show off whatever knowledge they think they have. The junior is submissive, and they are genuine in their desire to seek the truth.

The truths pertaining to this subject matter come up in the introductory instructional phase of Vedanta, which means “the end of knowledge.” You go to the bookstore and choose a title on how to fix common problems around the house. This is a do-it-yourself guide. Another day you pick up another book on how to code a website for e-commerce. Then you get a cookbook for preparing Thanksgiving meals. These books are all knowledge, but none of them represents the end. The end is the point at which you cannot go further.

The end of all knowledge is Vedanta, which not surprisingly deals with the soul. The soul is who we really are. Since the soul is not perceptible to the blunt senses it is difficult to identify. Just as we can’t see the wind, we can’t see the soul. And actually, there are subtle aspects to our body that aren’t perceptible as well. We can’t see the mind, the intelligence, or the ego. The soul is finer than all three of these.

[Bhagavad-gita, 3.42]“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.42)

When we don’t know the soul, we don’t know who we really are. The soul is beyond the temporary changes that affect the body. The body itself is temporary. We get a new one after death. The present one is not fixed. My body was different five minutes ago than it is right now. The contrast doesn’t become stark until more time passes, but the change takes place nonetheless.

The position of the soul with respect to the temporary nature, the elements of that nature, the changing of bodies, the cause of the creation – Vedanta covers all such topics. Lord Chaitanya is known for bhakti, which is devotion. He practices and teaches bhakti-yoga, which is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul through devotion. On the outside bhakti-yoga appears to be lacking full knowledge; there isn’t so much of a focus on philosophy. Lord Chaitanya barely spoke philosophy with anyone, and yet since bhakti-yoga is non-different from its beneficiary, the Supreme Lord, it is full of knowledge.

[Lord Chaitanya]As an example, in one of Lord Chaitanya’s instructions, He asks to only have unmotivated devotional service to God in lifetime after lifetime. He eliminates the common requests coming from those who lack spiritual knowledge. He does not ask for material wealth. He does not want many followers who are looking for material benedictions. He doesn’t even want a beautiful wife. He wants devotion without motivation. This means service to God without considering the consequences. It means loving God for the sake of loving Him, knowing that such love is the greatest boon to an existence.

In this simple prayer, Lord Chaitanya reveals that the soul is eternal. There are things the individual, the soul, desires at all times. In a future lifetime, desire will remain. So why not ask for a gift that will still be there at that time? The rewards of the material world will not last. One day you are enjoying the company of your beautiful wife, but then suddenly you could get separated. You want material wealth today, but tomorrow you see that it hasn’t brought you lasting happiness. People adore you today, but tomorrow you realize that it’s only because they can get something out of you. Their interest is not pure.

The soul is eternal. It is fixed in its position of bliss and knowledge. When coming in contact with the material energy, the soul gets covered by ignorance. It is not very difficult to remove that ignorance; simply the contact has to change. Lord Chaitanya shows us how to make the change happen, and He also shows the symptoms that indicate when that transformation has taken place. His simple prayers teach so much, as do His amazing displays of genuine devotion. As such, it is no wonder that Sanatana’s brother Rupa has properly assessed Lord Chaitanya’s position as the most munificent avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

Saint by the name Chaitanya to call,

Known as avatara most munificent of all.


Freely love for Krishna gave,

For all of humanity to save.


Be fooled not from ecstatic dancing seeing,

For full knowledge in bhakti-yoga being.


Mundane cancelled from Mahaprabhu’s prayer,

Devotion best gift today, tomorrow and everywhere.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lord of the Universe

[Lord Jagannatha]“O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29]The name Jagannatha means “Lord of the universe.” This is one way to address God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He runs the show. He is the big boss. Jagannatha also refers to a specific deity manifestation of God residing in the original temple in the holy city of Puri, which is also known as Purushottama Kshetra. In one of the verses of His famous eight instructions, Lord Chaitanya addresses the Lord of the universe through the name Jagadisha. And He requests something very important from that controller of the land.

If you go up to the Lord of the universe, you can obviously ask for whatever you want. Not that you’ll necessarily get it, but the potential is there. If I go up to a poor man and ask for a piece of chipped rice, he will likely be able to get it for me. That’s provided he is willing to part with it. In the Bhagavata Purana, a poor brahmana once visited the Supreme Lord in Dvaraka and could only offer such chipped rice. Though he had nothing, and felt embarrassed even trying to pass off so measly an offering, he did so nonetheless. Due to the nature of the recipient, he was rewarded for his gesture.

“I simply offered Him a morsel of chipped rice, and in exchange He has given me opulences greater than the opulence of the King of heaven.” (Sudama Vipra, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 26)

[Sudama Vipra visiting Krishna]If you ask the same poor person for a giant mansion, even if they like you a lot there is not much they can do. This is the way of the material world; everything is limited. What we see before us is the finite. The infinite is beyond this realm. It belongs to the Lord of the universe. As He has control over everything, He can very easily grant any reward to any person.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu addresses Jagadisha and asks for one thing. First He lists the things that He doesn’t want. He has no desire for material wealth. This seems like an odd thing to state. Who doesn’t want money? Who doesn’t wish to be safe and secure in their finances? Lord Chaitanya played the role of a mendicant, so His statement shows that His acceptance of the renounced order was not due to misfortune. He knew what He was doing.

Lord Chaitanya also says that He doesn’t want materialistic followers. Who wouldn’t want loyal people following behind, ready to offer service at a moment’s notice? Who wouldn’t want an adoring posse following them wherever they went? A materialistic follower in this sense means someone who wants something. Thus such a follower is always waiting for payback; their service is not pure. Lord Chaitanya has no use for them.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu does not want a beautiful wife. He had one at home prior to accepting the renounced order. He harbored no ill will towards her. And she loved Him very much as well. Yet Lord Chaitanya has no desire for a beautiful wife to be enjoyed in the material sense. He knows there is a higher purpose to life. He also does not want fruitive activities, which aim to bring temporary sense pleasure.

Instead, all He wants is unmotivated devotional service to the Lord of the universe, life after life. In this request, Shri Gaurahari subtly reveals an introductory fact given to students of Vedanta philosophy. There is another life. Indeed, there is a life after that one. There was a previous life as well. There was a life prior to that one. The soul is the constant; it never perishes and it never takes birth. Only the outside covering changes.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.22]“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

[Lord Chaitanya]The outside coverings vary, which brings different circumstances. In the covering of a lion, there is only so much I can do. If I am born in the ocean, I likely can’t survive on land. Chaitanya asks that wherever the soul ends up, it should be allowed to have devotional service to God. And that service should be without motivation. This means no desire for money, wealth, fame, or fruitive activities.

If those things are absent, what is left? What will occupy the day when there are no material desires?

With this boon granted, the soul gets to have devotional service, all the time. This is what makes the soul happy. Thus Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s request is applicable to everyone, regardless of age, gender, or religious tradition. The soul actually wants unmotivated devotional service. When pursuing material rewards, the inherent desire is for pure devotion. The love of the romantic relationship is the distorted form of the pure love, or prema, that naturally exists for God.

The Lord of the universe can easily grant this wish; though hardly anyone will ask for it. After many births, one finally takes up devotional service to God in full knowledge. Such a soul is very rare. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita by Krishna, the same Lord of the universe in His original form.

[Bhagavad-gita, 7.19]“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.19)

[Shri Shri Nimai Nitai]Shri Hanuman asks for the same gift. The same goes for Prahlada Maharaja and Goswami Tulsidas. Actually, any smart person would ask for the same thing. The soul is happiest when serving, and when in devotional service there is no end to the service. Jagadisha is the Lord of many other universes as well. If this universe has somehow found its fill of praise for Him, there are other universes to enter for offering the same praise. In this way Lord Chaitanya, the most munificent incarnation of Godhead, reveals the secret of life to anyone who is willing to hear it.

In Closing:

Anything Lord of the universe can grant,

Nothing which to deliver He can’t.


From Lord Chaitanya’s request see,

Of what things not to seek.


Material followers, fortune or fame,

Instead only attachment to the name.


Devotion in circumstances whatever,

Best gift to use wherever and whenever.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bhakti Is Knowledge

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.21)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.21]You see a group of people singing and dancing all day. They don’t have “real” jobs. They don’t pursue interests of this world, such as fame, money, women, wine, and travel. Rather, they chant a specific mantra all the time, maintaining oceanic smiles on their faces. They say they are in love with God, practicing devotion to Him. They must lack knowledge, you think. They must not be very smart; otherwise they would follow a different path. From the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, we see that just the opposite is true. To be able to chant the holy name of the Lord all the time requires that one be extremely knowledgeable.

[Jeopardy board]And what does that knowledge pertain to? Does the person who chants the holy name always win trivia contests? Do they score the most money on television game shows, like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune? Do they hold advanced degrees from prestigious universities? Do they know how to solve complex math equations without requiring much time? Are they skilled in physics and can engineer complex solutions like bridges, tunnels, gateways, and mechanical devices?

Any or all of these conditions may exist, but what makes the devotee knowledgeable is their understanding of the self. The self is the spirit. It is above matter. Matter cannot touch spirit. The vital difference between the two is that spirit has consciousness while matter lacks it. Matter is like the shirt I am presently wearing. I can take it off and wear another one. That shift will not alter my identity. Perhaps others may temporarily identify me in a different way, but ultimately my identity as an individual does not change.

“The difference between matter and spirit is that matter has no consciousness like the living entity; therefore this consciousness is supreme and eternal. Consciousness cannot be produced by a combination of matter.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.22 Purport)

The person who always chants the holy name also understands that all spirit has a source. That source’s name is Govinda, who is also known as the cause of all causes, sarva karana karanam. The sparks of individual spirit are known as Brahman, and Govinda is Parabrahman. There is a relationship between the two. One is subordinate and one is superior. The relationship always exists in this way, even if the subordinate lacks knowledge of their position.

[Govinda]To always chant the holy name of the Lord, one must think that they are lower than the blade of grass. If you think you are very high, it means that you don’t really know who you are. If you are proud of your abilities, it means that you don’t know that your abilities come from a higher power. One may be proud of their parentage and the estate they inherited from their ancestors, but what role did they play in acquiring these? I did not choose my parents. I did not choose my place of birth. I did not choose to have a certain feature set. I did not get a say in how my face would look to others. Therefore how can I be proud of any of these things?

The person in knowledge considers themselves to be lower than the blade of grass because they know that everything they have comes from God. They also know that devotion to Him is the only way to find true happiness. They think that if they were really devoted to Him, they wouldn’t commit so many mistakes. In this way they accurately assess their own effort, considering themselves to be lacking the proper motivation, even after knowing so much about the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The person who always chants the holy name is more tolerant than the tree. Again, why wouldn’t they be? Only a person in true knowledge understands the difficulties that others face. I may have a certain way of doing things, specific preferences for eating, sleeping, travel and leisure. If I am not very wise, I will impose those preferences on others, not taking the time to consider that others might have their own preferences. The devotee understands that everyone is struggling hard in this material world, which is the inferior energy.

[Bhagavad-gita, 15.7]“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.7)

Since others are struggling, there should be tolerance. Not everyone will understand that life is meant for serving God, that the human birth is most auspicious and comes rarely, after so much time. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also says that the person who chants the holy name always extends honor to others but never expects it for themselves. I only demand honor if I don’t know the true nature of this world. I insist that others respect me only when my ego is too puffed up. If I truly know God and His merciful nature, then I understand that others are waiting to become perfect devotees, far superior to me. I know God and I still don’t fully devote my life to Him, whereas others don’t know Him very well and are thus innocent.

[Lord Chaitanya]With these qualifications one can always chant the holy names. Indeed, there needn’t be a separate endeavor, as the power of the holy name is such that all knowledge is revealed to the person who is attached to it. For this reason Lord Chaitanya did not speak much philosophy; He stressed the chanting of the holy name: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Devotee humble because to them known,

That results not from personal effort alone.


Considering lower than the grass’s blade,

From there all respects to others paid.


Personal honor for themselves not to expect,

False ego born of ignorance to reject.


From that position towards chanting going,

Potency of the holy name fully knowing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Not For The Honor

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.21)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.21]Who doesn’t seek honor? Who actually wants people to think less of them? Who wants to be known as weak and devoid of good attributes? Who wants others to say bad things about them? Thus it is natural to desire fame, attention, honor and privilege. But in pure devotion to God, one does not seek honor for themselves. In that ideal state they can always chant the holy name of the Lord.

By doing good works you become honorable. If you open a school or hospital, you may get your name on the building. Then others will honor you for as long as the establishment remains intact. You’re helping others, so of course they will want to repay the favor. But if you’re only doing this to get noticed, are you really that good a person? You have a personal motive. Your interest is not entirely focused on the recipients.

[Bhagavad-gita, 17.21]“But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.21)

[charity]In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes this kind of charity to be in the mode of passion. Basically you’re making an investment, where you want some return. Perhaps it is to improve your reputation in the community. Perhaps this charitable act will help you land deals in the future for your business. Perhaps you want the satisfaction of hearing praises come your way. Charity in the mode of goodness occurs when there is no expectation of reciprocation. You do it because it is the right thing to do.

So the same concept can be applied to genuine spiritual life. If you acknowledge that God exists, you’re taking an important first step. The Vedanta-sutra, a string of Sanskrit aphorisms describing the ultimate knowledge, says that the human birth calls to attention the need for understanding Brahman. Brahman is spirit. The other species cannot understand Brahman. When they want to eat, they eat. When they want to sleep, they sleep. They don’t question why these things must occur. They don’t worry over their inevitable death. They don’t lament for what they don’t have, and neither do they hanker after things.

The human being has the advanced intelligence, and it is meant to be used for inquiry into Brahman. Once that inquiry is made, there are a host of options available. To further increase knowledge, there is jnana-yoga. To help alleviate the distresses caused by the senses accompanying the encasing of the soul, there is meditational yoga. To help become free from attachment to the results of activity, there is karma-yoga.

In each case the motivation is not pure. It is like seeking honor for oneself through giving charity to some worthy cause. I am seeking some result for myself, which automatically equates to honor. Lord Chaitanya says that in such cases chanting of the holy name will not occur frequently. Perhaps in my search for jnana, or knowledge, I will say the name of Krishna, which is a Sanskrit word that means “all-attractive.” It perfectly describes the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[om]Once I get my knowledge, however, I won’t have much motivation to continue saying the name “Krishna.” The same goes for meditational yoga. I may recite the holy syllable of om, which is the impersonal representation of the same Krishna, but once my meditation fructifies, I won’t have any desire to continue saying this name. Through karma-yoga, once I establish myself in a higher material situation, I will forget entirely about the Supreme Lord, from whom everything emanates. Therefore I will neglect the chanting of the holy name.

What is so bad in giving this up? Does the college graduate need to remember all the rules of grammar and the equations they learned in math class? They achieved the end result, so why should they focus on something of lesser importance? Ah, but the holy name is both the means and the end. That name is fully invested with the potency of the Supreme Lord. That name is the Lord Himself. Therefore one who chants it gets the direct company of God.

It makes sense then that to always have God’s company means to eschew desire for personal honor. The mentality flips, wherein the worshiper seeks to give praise to others. And they don’t have to work very hard to do this. Thinking themselves to be very low, they marvel at how others can be so dedicated to honoring the material energy, which comes from God. They know that others can be so much better at devotional service, if only they are given the appropriate education and training.

[Hanuman chanting]Ironically, the devotee who always chants the holy name, maintaining the proper attitude, becomes the most honorable. Likely the most worshiped deity of the Vedic tradition is Shri Hanuman. Paintings of him are prevalent in India and beyond. Only the lowest of the low can think of anything negative to say about him. Both atheist and devotee alike have much respect for Hanuman. And what is he known for? Devotion, and nothing else. When not travelling to foreign lands to rescue Rama’s wife from the clutches of evil ogres, he is always chanting the holy names. His name of choice is Rama, which means “one who holds all transcendental pleasure.”

Lord Chaitanya is famous for always chanting the name of Krishna, as He is Krishna Himself in the guise of a sannyasi, or renounced monk. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never desired fame, but He is the most famous. The instruction that one should not seek honor for themselves comes from Him. As honor gets offered to the Supreme Lord, the same gets returned to those who honor Him. In this way, one should know that all problems get solved through devotional service, even if it seems otherwise at first. On the authority of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, one can take up bhakti-yoga and not have any regrets.

In Closing:

Charitably disposed to be,

But seeking only honor for me.


How praises my way to come,

And ill words for me none.


Routine of chanting holy name can’t keep,

When personal honor at same time seek.


When to others and God praises to give,

With His mercy eternally in devotion to live.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hard and Fast Rules

[japa mala]“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]To those who may not be familiar, the experience of visiting a temple in India is often not smooth. As they are run by priests of a full-time occupation, there is quite a focus on money. Simply looking at the deity will cost you some cash. Then when you walk out and get a blessing on the head, the hand again comes out, looking for payment.

[temple entrance]Then there are the rules for entry. Sometimes there are restrictions on nationality and religion. Sometimes entry is not allowed, for some service is taking place within the temple. There may be restrictions on attire as well. You must wear a certain outfit if you would like to gain admittance. Then within the temple, you have to follow regulations. You should bring an offering before the deity. If you have nothing to offer, no worries. There are plenty of spots where you can purchase offerings. You must make the offering in a certain way. The priest will ask for your name and family ancestry. Then they will recite various mantras and say that you are blessed.

The whole experience can easily turn an otherwise open-minded person into a skeptic of religious life, but in fact there is an ultimate purpose to all the rituals and regulations, regardless of whether one is outside or inside of a temple. The key is to remember, which is referred to as smaranam in Sanskrit. As we know all too well, there is nothing stopping us from remembering anything at any time. And so this can be used to our advantage in spiritual life, where with one method in particular there is no restriction on when one can receive the greatest blessings.

[cornerback beaten by pass]Have you ever been haunted by a bad experience? Obviously the experience only took place once, but the way it haunts you is through the memory of it. The cornerback in the National Football League has one job to do: stop the receiver in front of them from catching the ball. They could do a great job for the entire game, but then one slip up at the end ruins everything. One misplacement of the feet causes the receiver to get free. Their catching of the ball and running for a touchdown leaves all eyes on the defender and their mistake. If this error costs his team the game, the cornerback could be mentally scarred by the experience for quite a while.

You can also remember an experience of value. There is the potential for sadness here too, for by remembering a fond experience you realize that you no longer have that situation in life. Thus you lament over the changes that occur naturally with the passage of time.

With the holy name, you can remember something at any time and be happy about it. You may lament that the person being remembered is not with you at the moment, but to alleviate the suffering due to separation you can simply remember again. And how do you do that? Just chant the name.

[rain]Lord Chaitanya says that the holy name has full potency within it. We know of God’s potency in an indirect way. We see the massive heat and light that the sun gives off and we understand that whoever created the sun is someone special. We see the potency in the wind, which can topple even the sturdiest of buildings. The rain nourishes the field more quickly than we ever could.

While these examples show potency that we can appreciate, full potency is actually much greater. In His form of Shri Vishnu, the Supreme Lord inhales and exhales. Seems rather harmless, no? Who doesn’t breathe? With Vishnu’s breathing, however, innumerable planetary systems come into existence and then disappear. He does this effortlessly. He doesn’t even have to think about it.

The same potency of God is there in the holy name. This is because the holy name is God Himself. This is very difficult to believe, as the holy name is merely a sound. We can’t see it. We have trouble believing in things that we can’t see. So when we say the names of Krishna and Rama, we can’t understand how God can be with us.

[maha-mantra]The proof is in the example of the saints of the Vaishnava tradition. Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, but He played the role of a humble devotee who always chanted the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And what was the result? Was He poor? Was He destitute? Was He miserable? Though in the external guise of a renounced wanderer, Lord Chaitanya had more potency than anyone around Him. He could deliver any person, and He was always in ecstasy. This was because the holy name never left Him.

Getting the blessings from the temple priest may require some exchange of money, but that is not the case with the holy name. You can remember it at any time. There is never a bad occasion, as how can it be wrong to ask to be by the side of the Supreme Lord? If He is God, wouldn’t He accept anyone at any time, provided their desire is sincere? Chanting the holy names shows the sincerity in desire, and one who gives up the fear of rules and regulations in remembering the Supreme Lord becomes even more dear to Him.

In Closing:

Right dress for entry to clear,

Must pay up before coming near.


Rules for the temple are these,

An experience rarely with ease.


But remembering God not the same,

At any time can chant holy name.


To think of Supreme Lord never wrong,

Honor Chaitanya and sing maha-mantra’s song.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Unifying All Poets

[Tulsidas writing]“As the kumuda flower blooms at the sight of the moonrise, like that Ayodhya alighted in happiness. All the poets sing of the glories of Rama’s wedding.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.1)

bikasahiṁ kumuda jimi dēkhi bidhu bha'i avadha sukha sōbhāma'ī |
ēhi juguti rāma bibāha gāvahiṁ sakala kabi kīrati na'ī ||

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This one poet wants to write about love. They’ve been scorned too many times in the past. They’ve had many unpleasant experiences in the romance department. This other poet wants to write about nature. They particularly enjoy the spring season. The flowers in bloom, the honeybees buzzing about, the gradual departure of the cold winter chill - these things are ripe to be described in verse. With as many topics as there are for discussion, in those directions the various poets will turn. One topic, however, can unify all. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the kavis, the poets of sharp intellect, unify in praise of the wedding of Sita and Rama.

Poetry may not appear to be so valuable today, but its influence is still present, though one has to look a little harder to see it. As the noted playwright and poet Shakespeare quipped, brevity is the soul of wit. The less amount of words you can use to convey your message, the more powerful the message will be. Consider the song versus the book. If I can put my thoughts into a melodious song, it will be easy for others to repeat it. With a few lines, so many others will parrot my sentiments, even without knowing fully what the words mean.

[music]Meanwhile, the same sentiments described at length in a paper or book are not as easily consumed by the public. For starters there is the time factor. Listening to a song requires much less time than reading a book. You can listen to the same song many times in the same amount of time it takes to read the book just once.

So the power of poetry is still alive and well in the form of the song. In times past, poetry was also put into song, and the words became more meaningful due to the limited communications channels. In ancient times, there was no television or radio. There weren’t newspapers, either. If you wanted to describe something important, you needed to put your words into poetry and then hopefully be able to sing the resultant verses.

The kavis thus became very important. In the Vedic tradition, the kavi can be likened to a bard. It is said that the famous Homer had memorized his lengthy works like the Illiad and the Odyssey. He would recite them from memory when called upon. Similarly, Vyasadeva and Valmiki Muni could also recite their lengthy works without using reference tools. Hardly anything in history compares to the Mahabharata in length and substance, and Vyasadeva had the entire thing memorized.

[Vyasadeva dictating to Ganesha]The verse quoted above comes from a very short work known as the Janaki Mangala. It is authored by a kavi whose name is Tulsidas, which means “servant of the tulasi plant.” The tulasi plant is a goddess, and she is very dear to the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is the personal form of God, a clearer picture to give definition to the abstract concept of a supreme controller. Janaki refers to the daughter of King Janaka. Her name is also Sita, and she is the eternal consort of Vishnu’s incarnation of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya.

Thus the kavi who is a servant of Tulasi Devi, who is dear to Vishnu, authored a poem turned into song for glorifying the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama, particularly focusing on the marriage of Rama to Sita. From this verse we can gather that Tulsidas did not do anything new by authoring his poem. At the time of Rama’s wedding, so many kavis sung of the glorious event. They all united on the one subject matter. And they described the event very happily, for everyone in the town was happy.

[Tulsidas]The happiness of the people was like the blooming of the white water-lily at the ascent of the moon in the night sky. This means that the people of Ayodhya were spontaneously happy; no one had to tell them to react in a certain way. They were not afraid of the royal family. They would not get punished if they did not react appropriately. Rather, no one could stop them from being happy. Even if Rama were to tell them to stop celebrating, they wouldn’t. He was their bright moon, Ramachandra, and they were the water-lilies connected to Him. This relationship represents real yoga, the connection of the individual soul to the Supreme Lord.

Just as the spontaneous happiness of the people was a sign of perfect yoga, so too the singing of the kavis in celebration of Rama’s wedding gave an indication that they were not separated from God in interests. Poetry covering any other subject is limiting. It is not yoga since the connection to the Divine is not direct. There is a connection to God’s separated energy, known as the material nature. Sita Devi is the pleasure potency energy, and in the marriage to Rama the pleasure energy and the energetic unite. The energy that are the poets always sing of that wonderful occasion, showing that only in yoga is there eternal happiness full of activity.

In Closing:

One poet interested at nature’s sight,

Another about unrequited love to write.


But only on one subject all kavis to unite,

Devotion to Rama, like moon shining bright.


Happiness in Ayodhya rising at the wedding,

Like water-lilies vision of Ramachandra getting.


These words not concoction of mine,

Glorified too by poets of the time.