Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not Ready To Say Goodbye

[Sita and Rama]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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The Janaki Mangala is a short collection of verses that tells a story. Though a story, it is a summary, as the details from that one event alone would fill volumes. The original telling comes from the Ramayana of Valmiki, which was authored in Sanskrit. Since then it has been retold countless times, even by one of the main participants herself, Sita Devi. In the original Ramayana she offers her own summary to the wife of a sage. That sage’s wife already knew the story, but she wanted to hear it again. The same sentiment is shared by Tulsidas here, who blesses those who sing and hear of this tale over and over again.

"I have heard, O Sita, that your hand in marriage was won by the renowned Raghava on the occasion of the self-choice ceremony [svayamvara]. O Maithili, I wish to hear that story in detail. Therefore please narrate to me the entire sequence of events as you experienced them." (Anasuya speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.24-25)

[Sita Devi with Anasuya]Perhaps the following has happened to us on more than one occasion. We pick up a book that interests us. We heard about it on television, where the author was interviewed during a promotional tour for the release of the book. We liked them when they were in the public eye, and so since they now have a book out we’re interested in reading it.

It ends up being more than just a basic memoirs that give notes on events in chronological order. Instead, it is like a compelling story, a page-turner if you will. It is difficult to put down. We get emotionally invested in the outcome, where we are attached to the loveable characters and disgusted by the loathsome ones.

As we’re cruising through the book, something dawns on us.

“Hey, if I finish this book too quickly, what am I going to read later on? There’s only so much of this left. I will feel empty afterwards. I will feel alone. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should read more slowly. I will ration my reading; this way I’ll get to stay in the story longer.”

If we feel this way about an ordinary book with ordinary characters, imagine the attachment that comes from hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the most loveable character. He has beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the highest degree. Above that, He is the most merciful person. He is an ocean of mercy, and that ocean flows to those who love Him and are dedicated to spreading His glories throughout the universe.

Those wonderful qualities belong to His closest associates as well. So we wouldn’t blame someone for wanting to ration their hearing of the story of the wedding of Sita and Rama. Rama is God Himself and Sita is His eternal consort. The Supreme Lord can most certainly appear in the manifest world whenever He so chooses. Just because we can’t see Him now doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist. Indeed, even when He appears in an incarnation form like He did with Rama, He remains hidden from the eyes of the foolish and less intelligent.

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya
mūḍho 'yaṁ nābhijānāti
loko mām ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.25)

[Lord Rama]The highly fortunate see Him in all His glory. They record His activities and then pass on that information to others. There are people who didn’t witness the events firsthand. With the marriage of Sita to Rama, only the people in Janakpur directly saw what happened. The celestials from the sky also watched, but all others were shut out. Then there were the festivities in Ayodhya, Rama’s home. The people of Ayodhya warmly welcomed Sita to their home, who arrived there accompanied by Rama and His three younger brothers and their new brides.

From that story you hear of wonderful characters like Janaka. There was no other king like him, and in qualities he could only be matched by Dasharatha from Ayodhya. Thus it was fitting that Janaka’s daughter married Dasharatha’s son. Then you have the guru Vishvamitra, who kindly led Rama to Janakpur to take part in the contest of the bow. You have the devoted younger brother Lakshmana, who is always there to support Rama. You have the loving mothers in Ayodhya, who achieved the fruit of an existence by having motherly affection for Sita.

[Sita and Rama]The verse above is the last one from the Janaki Mangala. Does this mean that the story is over? Does it mean that one has to return to a life devoid of God’s association? To ease the worried mind, Tulsidas says that anyone who sings of these glorious events, Rama’s marriage and His training in the forest with Vishvamitra, gets auspiciousness day after day. This means that you can hear the story over and over again and not get bored. It is an exercise worth trying. The boon is made possible through the Supreme Lord Himself, who is an infallible and inexhaustible being. His name alone carries that potency, and so one can also repeatedly chant the maha-mantra and never have to say goodbye to their beloved Lord of their life-breath: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When swiftly a book you read,

Story towards ultimate end to lead.


But for more you yearn,

Why to life of sadness return?


Story of Sita and Rama never to close,

This Goswami Tulsidas knows.


With excitement repeatedly sing,

All auspiciousness to you to bring.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sharing With The World

[Tulsidas writing]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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If you are fortunate enough to come across the king of education, raja-vidya, that is Vedanta and understand it perfectly, knowing full well that everything emanates from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, you should share this wisdom with others. This is to save both them and yourself. Your speech will show how much you know. Not so much facts and figures, but your true understanding - that will be revealed. And the message will be so powerful that others will be enlightened in the process. Goswami Tulsidas, not requiring self-purification due to his constant engagement in devotional service, here gives a benefit to all of humanity, sharing the secret to life with so many, both contemporaries and those yet to take birth.

Let’s pretend that you agree to this assignment that I give to you. You are to be liked. That is it. I’ll pick a specific sphere of influence, and you do the rest. It doesn’t have to be in an entire society; only in a limited area, like your place of work or school. How will you go about accomplishing the task? One option is to give gifts to people. Find out what each person wants and then go out and buy it. This will win you some friends in the interim, but it is an expensive option. What if someone wants a car? What if someone wants to go away on a vacation? How are you going to pay for this? Moreover, why will you want to when all you’re getting is their approval? And that approval will only be based on something you give to them; it has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

rajo rāgātmakaṁ viddhi
tan nibadhnāti kaunteya
karma-saṅgena dehinam

“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

[pizza]Material desire is such that it will never be satisfied. If you’re craving pizza today, once you eat it you won’t all of a sudden stop craving pizza. In the future, you will want to eat it more; it will take more indulgence to reach the same level of temporary satisfaction. And so by giving gifts to others, they may like you for only a short period of time.

Another option is to do favors for them. Ask each person what they want accomplished and then go out and do it. Again, this is an expensive road to travel, as you will have a difficult time doing so much for so many. They may not appreciate you after a while, also, for they will want something else done. Since you came through before, you are expected to do so again. If for some reason you don’t, then you’re not liked, more so than if you hadn’t done anything for them to begin with.

The easiest way to complete the assignment is to remain silent. Just don’t say anything. Smile when you see the other person. Listen to them attentively. Whatever opinion they volunteer, agree with. Don’t pass judgment. Be supportive. In this way you will be liked quickly. What can anyone say about you? You have no opinions and you rarely speak. They have nothing to criticize.

In this way your silence buys the confidence of others. But what if you know that they aren’t meeting life’s true mission? What if you know that their constant intoxication is a sign of defeat against the illusory forces of maya? What if you know that their abilities in so many different areas would really be useful once they were directed towards devotional service, which is an endless occupation?

The benevolent saints take the risk of spreading the glories of the Supreme Lord. They speak out when necessary. They assert the superiority of the devotional path, bhakti-yoga. They know this choice will make them unpopular with many, but since they’ve realized for themselves that devotion is the best way to go in life, they are undeterred. Here Goswami Tulsidas tells everyone how to find auspiciousness day after day. And this auspiciousness is for everyone, regardless of their present circumstances. Whether they are from India or not, whether they even believe in God or not, in following his formula they are guaranteed to be benefitted.

[Tulsidas writing]That auspiciousness comes from regularly singing about the auspicious events of a training period and a wedding. The training, upavita, was for Rama and Lakshmana, two brothers who roamed this earth a long time ago. The wedding was for the same Rama to the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Tulsidas himself took great delight in singing of these two wonderful incidents. He easily could have kept the information to himself. He could have remained silent in the presence of others, for that would have made him very popular. He could have sung to himself in a small room in a house, and thus not be phased by the constant comings and goings of the living entities, who must die after taking birth.

Tulsidas shared his wisdom with many others. He wrote his own song of the events so that the message would travel more quickly and to more areas. That writing transcends time, as it is available to this day. Thus the message continues to travel. The revelations of a genuine saint withstand the test of time. Guided from within by God Himself, they find the best way to share the message with as many as possible. They give others a hint on how to accomplish the same. “Glorify God. Be happy in His service, and give others the same gift.” All of that is accomplished today through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Works like the Janaki Mangala give us the meaning to these names.

In Closing:

When sublime wisdom to find,

Fair to keep hidden in mind?


Or to share with others better yet,

For seeing how life’s goal to be met?


Easy to be liked when quiet to stay,

Towards path to hell not to get in the way.


Saints of Vedic tradition all risks take,

Tell of Sita and Rama, auspicious life for us make.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Doing The Work For Us

[Hanuman chanting]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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“We’re supposed to think about God. We’re supposed to remember Him at all times. If we’re having trouble remembering, then make a plan to remember throughout the day; in essence remembering to remember. They say to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Repeat this mantra all the time, and all good things will come. But I can’t do this. I need more. I can’t see how the enjoyment will come that is necessary to continue on.”

The saints of the Vedic tradition indeed do make such recommendations. They believe so strongly in them that they’ll dedicate their whole lives to repeating the same message. Rather than stay bound to home and family, remaining safe from the scrutiny of the public, they abandon everything to facilitate extended travel. By moving about, they are better able to spread the message of divine love, which they say is awakened through the remembrance mentioned above. Some saints go one step further: they hand us information to help us in our remembrance.

[Tulsidas writing]We can take the example of the above quoted verse from the Janaki Mangala. Here Goswami Tulsidas says that singing of the glories of the sacred thread investiture of Shri Rama and His marriage to Sita will bring auspiciousness day after day. The singing should be done with attention, with some sort of interest. Since it will bring auspiciousness daily, obviously the singing should take place repeatedly.

This recommendation doesn’t come out of left field. We shouldn’t dismiss it outright, thinking it impossible to do. If there is a God, why not remember Him? If He is so great, what is the harm in remembering Him day after day? We claim that the difficulty is that we can’t see Him. Sure, His influence is everywhere. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. There cannot be life without His glance. In the Vedas it is said that at the beginning of the creation, according to our present timeline anyways, there was only a chunk of matter. Granted, it was a large chunk, but it had the properties of matter nonetheless. It was lacking consciousness. It was just awaiting change. Most importantly, it required the instigation of a spiritual force in order to do anything. That force came from God, who injected a portion of His potency into the material chunk, thereby giving birth to the life that presently surrounds us.

mama yonir mahad brahma
tasmin garbhaṁ dadhāmy aham
sambhavaḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
tato bhavati bhārata

“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)

We don’t remember being there at the beginning of the creation, so it’s hard to keep that event in our mind. So unless we see a personality who is God then we can’t really remember Him so well. But hearing is just as effective in spiritual matters; hence the recommendation for chanting. Chanting is kirtanam and hearing is shravanam. Together, they make the two most potent methods of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Yoga is the mission for the living entity. Yoga is complete concentration; it transcends laziness, fatigue, chaos, despair, hopelessness, and all other negative conditions. It is a firm link to the Divine, and it is best maintained through bhakti, or divine love. Indeed, bhakti-yoga is the culminating stage of all other yoga practices.

[Sita and Rama]Tulsidas recommends that we always sing of the glorious event of Rama’s marriage to Sita. But there are so many marriages that take place. Why not remember a marriage of a famous king from recent times? Why not watch our own wedding video over and over again? To help us in accepting his recommendation, Tulsidas provides information into the natures of Sita and Rama. Sita is the energy of God. She is the pleasure potency, and she acts only for God’s pleasure. Rama is God Himself, non-different from the original Personality of Godhead. Some may call Him Krishna, Vishnu, or by some other name, but the personality addressed is the same in each case.

Rama is God and Sita is His wife. Tulsidas gives information of how their marriage took place. His Janaki Mangala poem is dedicated to that blessed event that occurred many thousands of years ago. The Janaki Mangala also describes the training Rama received from the guru Vishvamitra. Rama is God, so He doesn’t need anyone’s help. Yet He is so kind that He pretends to need instruction from respected personalities. In this case, Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana took training in the military arts, conducted with the bow and arrow during the time period in question. The spiritual teachers could also instruct disciples in how to run businesses, govern a kingdom, and see the spiritual equality in all beings. Vishvamitra’s guidance was important because of his love for Rama. If the spiritual guide has love for God, then he is worth approaching.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]We have trouble remembering God. We would rather worry over the future of the economy of the nation. We would rather plan our upcoming week. We would rather spend hours zoning out, forgetting our troubles. But as Tulsidas says, remembering brings auspiciousness. There is no loss on our part, though we think there is. We think we will miss out on fun, but bhakti-yoga is the only actually fun activity. It increases the happiness of the participant, making more room in the heart for the love that overflows. That love first appears through hearing, and to make sure the love continues to grow, the benevolent saints of the Vedic tradition give us plenty to hear.

In Closing:

That to miss out on fun,

Means attention there is none.


Though good for us to hear,

To waste time the fear.


Saints thus in renunciation live,

So that much for hearing they can give.


Advantage of their mercy take,

And fruitful this life make.


Tulsidas so much of Rama writing,

Like His marriage and with demons fighting.


With respect keep that valuable gem,

Sing of Sita and Rama, have love for them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Training Exercise

[Rama learning to shoot arrows]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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The upavita is the sacred thread, which is worn around the shoulder. It has special significance, though commonly today one receives it as part of a ceremonial function. Sort of like the bar mitzvah or confirmation, those sons born into high class families go through a ceremony where they receive the upavita. From this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that the sacred thread is more than just an ornament. It means something, and who better than God to explain that meaning.

The upavita goes to the twice-born. What does it mean to be born twice? The first birth is obvious; it occurs from the womb of the mother. Everyone has this birth. To be alive means to have taken the first birth. The second birth is actually more important; it signals entry into spiritual understanding. Think of it like being admitted to school, except the education is the highest there is. The instruction deals with the difference between matter and spirit, the true position of the soul, which is the identifying agent within all creatures.

rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

[Prabhupada]The second birth comes from the guru, or spiritual master. Shri Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in a beautiful incarnation form many thousands of years ago, was of the royal order. Therefore His “second birth” related to learning the military arts. He was not expected to be a brahmana, which means one who knows Brahman, which is the non-differentiated spiritual energy. I am Brahman and so are you. In fact, so is the cat, the dog, the elephant, and the cow. Anything we consider to be life is Brahman, or spirit, in its true identity.

Goswami Tulsidas says that one who sings with excitement of the upavita of Shri Ramachandra gets all auspiciousness every day. The verse quoted above sums up what has been detailed in the work known as the Janaki Mangala. Interestingly, there is no previous mention of a sacred thread being given to Rama. There is no mention of an official ceremony where Rama, the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, gets a sacred thread from a guru.

Upavita is a compound Sanskrit word. Upa means “to bring closer” and vita can refer to “trained.” Combining the two, we get a definition of “bringing one closer in order to train them.” This is the more applicable meaning to the upavita mentioned here by Tulsidas. The great poet does describe how Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana received training in the military arts from the brahmana Vishvamitra.

So the sacred thread is more than just a decoration. It is more than just an indication of entry into instruction. The person getting the sacred thread must do something in order to earn it. As Rama is God, it makes sense that He was asked to do something extraordinary to earn His stripes. God does not require this training. He doesn’t need anyone to teach Him anything. Yet in order to give the proper lesson to future generations, He humbly served Vishvamitra and did whatever the sage asked.

[Rama and Lakshmana slaying Tataka]And what was asked of Rama? The sages in the forest of Dandaka were being harassed by evil night-rangers. These were ogre-like creatures who had no morals and could change their shapes at will. Using black magic, they could appear in one second and then vanish the next. They didn’t fight fairly. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were asked to defend against such attackers.

Rama’s training was successful, and through Vishvamitra’s blessings He eventually went to Janakpur, where He wed Sita. One of her other names is Janaki, and so we get the main subject of the work of Tulsidas. The training required for ordinary souls, who are not God, is not as difficult. We do not need to slay wicked night-rangers all by ourselves. We wouldn’t be able to accomplish such a task anyway, as our abilities are paltry in comparison to Rama’s.

To earn the vital second birth, one simply needs love for Rama. With love for the Supreme Lord, there is love for the guru, who is the spiritual master representing Rama’s interests on earth. If one doesn’t yet have love for Rama, if they don’t know who He is or are not certain of His divinity, faith in the guru is enough. Following their instructions, inquiring submissively and humbly serving their interests, one can pass the tests necessary to enter the second and more important life.

The guru is most pleased by the disciple who always chants the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting is identical with singing the glories of the upavita of Rama and His marriage to Sita. It is identical with love for God, which is the pinnacle achievement in life. This chanting pleases the bona fide spiritual master, and it opens the door to eternal spiritual life.

In Closing:

When sacred thread gaining,

Means from guru training.


Entry into the second birth,

Accepting knowledge of highest worth.


Rama the tests of guru passed,

By arrows from bow coursing fast.


Today from guru take holy names spoken,

And see doors to spiritual world open.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Show It Again

[Sita and Rama]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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The glories of the marriage of Sita and Rama know no end. Hearing about it is not enough. Each word used to describe that sacred event opens up so many avenues for study and discussion. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form and Sita His eternal consort, so this infinite expansion makes sense. The material world is like the branches coming from the inverted tree whose root is the spiritual sky, the imperishable abode of God in His personal form.

avyakto 'kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama

“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.21)

[Vrindavana]The spiritual realm is described as unmanifest in the Bhagavad-gita, the definitive word on Vedanta, the end of all knowledge. Unmanifest to us means unseen. It’s like the air. We know that it’s there, but we can’t see it. We have to perceive the effect it has on manifest objects in order to detect its presence. Since we cannot see the spiritual sky, we think that the “unmanifest” description means that there is a lack of variety there.

But that is actually not the case. The inverted tree that expands to create the material world is compared to a reflection of a tree seen in water. The reflection is not the real object. If you go to reach for the branches within the water, all you’ll get is water; you won’t get the branches. Similarly, the material world is temporary and always changing; so what you see is not completely real. The real thing is in the original object, which is the spiritual world.

Proof that there is tangible form in the spiritual world comes from events like those described in the verse above from the Janaki Mangala. Here we have glorification of a sacred thread investiture and a wedding. These are not ordinary events. The author, Goswami Tulsidas, says that one who sings of these events with great attention and excitement gets auspiciousness coming to them day after day.

The same events in the material world don’t have the same properties. Take this situation for example. You and your husband recently got married. It was a grand occasion. All your friends, close family, and even distant relatives attended. There were so many photographers there that a passerby would have thought a royal family from England was getting married.

[wedding video]After the ceremony, you and your husband moved in together. As is common for newlyweds in their new home, you invite so many guests to come over and visit. One day your good friends from childhood arrive. Due to a scheduling conflict, they couldn’t attend your wedding. When they come over, you play the video recording from your wedding. They enjoy the presentation very much, and they lament the fact that they couldn’t have attended.

Now imagine that a week later you invite them over to your home again. You decide to show them the same wedding video. Will they like this? Would you want to sit through the entire thing again? Maybe in the odd circumstance you’ll both get a kick out of seeing everything again, but once you reach a third or fourth viewing in so short a timespan, you get little enjoyment. There are diminishing returns; everyone will want to watch anything else.

With the marriage of Sita and Rama, the same event can be relived day after day. Goswami Tulsidas gives his blessing that you’ll get all auspiciousness, kalyana, by singing of the event with excitement. A very similar verse appears in the Ramacharitamanasa from the same author. In that book, the verse says that one gets auspiciousness from hearing about the wedding of Sita and Rama. Singing creates hearing, and so the two verses have essentially the same meaning.

[Sita and Rama]And why is there kalyana from repeated singing? There is complexity to the event. You don’t have only Sita and Rama. You have Janaka, Sita’s father. From hearing his name one time, your mind can go into contemplation of his great qualities. You can ponder how he was a detached yogi, expert in mysticism. You can then appreciate how he loved Sita instantly when he found her as a baby one day in the ground. If you get bored with that direction, you can remember how he is considered one of the twelve mahajanas, or great-souls, who are authorities on devotional service to God. Sita appeared as the daughter to such a mahajana, which only further increased his greatness.

Tulsidas mentions Rama’s upabita, or investiture of the sacred thread, along with the wedding to Sita. In the Janaki Mangala, we don’t get any descriptions of Rama being given a sacred thread by any teacher. The sacred thread comes at the time of initiation, and it marks the second birth, the one into Vedic culture, given by the guru, or spiritual master. We do get descriptions of Rama and His younger brother following the guru Vishvamitra into the forest and protecting him from the attacks of wicked night-rangers. This is the upabita that Tulsidas refers to, as it is the training of Rama and Lakshmana by a celebrated sage of the Vedic tradition. Thus one can contemplate on the exact meaning to initiation and the sacred thread. It is more than just a rite of passage. It is more than just a ceremonial function reserved for the higher classes. Upabita actually means something; it relates to specific training.

Rama does not require such training, but He undergoes it anyway to set the proper example. The tests He passed cannot be imitated by anyone, and neither can His marriage. This earth has never seen such a spectacle. Thankfully there needn’t be competition in this area. One can delight in the marriage of Sita and Rama as if it were for their two best friends, for God is the supreme well-wisher. His eternal consort favors those who are dear to Rama, and so by being happy for the beloved couple’s happiness, one is guaranteed to get auspiciousness day after day, as the author promises.

In Closing:

With excitement of event sing,

Then daily auspiciousness to you to bring.


Promise by author Tulsidas made,

In whose mind Rama-lila played.


Also from Vishvamitra receiving training,

Rama and Lakshmana upabita gaining.


Into contemplation of these your mind,

And renewed inspiration in life to find.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Talking About Making People Honorable

[Lord Chaitanya worshiping]“Yashah, fame, should be according to Lord Chaitanya, who said that a man is famous when he is known as a great devotee. That is real fame.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.4-5 Purport)

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Abe: I don’t like to criticize people at all.

Billy: What do you mean?

Abe: I hate saying negative things about someone else. I don’t care who they are. I especially don’t like it when I hear bad things about them.

Billy: Do you mean like about family members and such? I don’t like that either.

Abe: Well, for sure. I can criticize my family, but you can’t, and vice versa. That makes sense. I’m talking more about chastising an entire group of people. When someone says they hate their country, it really makes me mad. Do they not realize that “country” just means fellow citizens? Their neighbors make up their country. So do the people they run into in the stores. This means that they automatically hate people they don’t even know.

Billy: Yeah, that is a little weird.

Abe: One of the things I’ve noticed is that those following spiritual life think that their sudden enlightenment gives them license to denigrate the entire population of humans. They are very confident in describing people as stupid, dumb, and wasting their time. I don’t like hearing such things.

Billy: I see what you mean. But if you don’t criticize, how will anyone change their ways?

Abe: What is there to criticize on such a large scale? I don’t see your point.

[outer space]Billy: Well, according to Vedic philosophy, this world gets created, maintained and destroyed in cycles. Thus to trace out the origin of this one creation is a little silly; whatever we see now will come to be again at some point in the future. Time and space are infinite.

Abe: Yeah. It’s freaky to think about that even at the beginning, there was still a beginning to that. And once you reach the end of space, there is still more to go.

Billy: Yes. So not only do we get the explanation of the cycle of creation, but we get the reason for it. Those who are envious of God come here. It’s as simple as that.

Abe: What do you mean by envious?

Billy: Whoever wants to be like God has to leave His physical association and move to another land. God is the greatest, which can be understood in so many ways. He is a person, or purusha, but the greatest person above the darkness of ignorance. Hence one of His names is Purushottama. The material world is in darkness, so the inhabitants don’t know what they are doing.

Abe: So are you saying that everyone is stupid?

Billy: Without doing anything, at the very outset we don’t know who we are. We don’t realize that we are spirit at the core. Therefore the actions we take will be based on a false identification. This is not a criticism; it is a mere statement of fact.

Abe: I see.

Billy: So if someone who knows these things from having humbly inquired from another self-realized person criticizes others for taking the wrong path, it is actually a very nice thing. It is an act of love.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Abe: Still, I cringe when I hear parents of others described as not knowing anything. I see that people are generally innocent. They are spirit soul, for sure, and they are temporarily in ignorance right now. One day they will come around. You and I both know that. It might not be in this lifetime, but eventually I feel they will come to God again.

Billy: Of course, they are spirit, so they must choose again the path of transcendence. We are technically God’s marginal energy; we can choose between spirit and matter. The living entities who are always spiritual always stay with God, at least in interest. They never make the choice for the material energy.

Abe: So if you think that you’re trying to help someone find spiritual life again, it’s okay to address them in harsh terms? I still don’t like it.

Billy: Well, the reason you don’t like it is because the words bring them dishonor. It brings a person down. You’re such a kind soul that you want to honor everyone. You can consider the criticism as a way to make the people honorable.

Abe: What do you mean?

Billy: By telling them that they have a higher engagement, that their valuable human life is meant for serving God in a mood of love, accepting the path voluntarily, then they are given the chance to become the most honorable. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that the greatest fame is being known as a servant of God. Think of Hanuman.

[Hanuman]Abe: Oh, I like him. He’s awesome.

Billy: For sure. He is famous not for his strength, intelligence, or mystic ability. Nobody can match him in these departments, but he is best known for using his abilities for serving God in His form of Shri Ramachandra, the prince of Ayodhya. Hanuman is the most honorable.

Abe: And Ravana is dishonorable for going against God.

Billy: Exactly. So those characters from the Ramayana, a book which describes actual historical events, nicely symbolize for us the choice we have in life. The saints of the bhakti-yoga tradition try to turn people towards the path of Hanuman, where they will be forever honorable. This is a nice thing. Their criticisms in this regard should be accepted as great mercy. The goal is to get others to always be conscious of God, who is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive.

Abe: Ah, so through criticizing you’re trying to get others to chant the maha-mantra?

Billy: Yes. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Innocently to be happy human tries,

So don’t prefer when them to criticize.


Dishonor upon them to bring,

Rather of their glories to sing.


Best honor for as devotee to be known,

Told by Mahaprabhu, bhakta of His own.


Criticizing for the proper path to show,

Honor to come when towards Krishna to go.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good Engagements

[Bhakti-yoga service]“Unless one has good engagements in spiritual service, it is not possible to get out of the attachment to material service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.27 Purport)

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“I know that I shouldn’t be attached to material life, but I can’t help it. I’m not a robot who can simply shut off the outside world. I like having a connection to something real. I enjoy talking with people. I like to have projects to work on, tasks to complete. How can I succeed in spiritual life when I have these desires?”

At the outset of getting familiar with the science of self-realization, a person learns of their true identity. “I am” does not refer to the present body. It does not refer to the hands, the legs, the place of birth, the country of residence, or even the car that is owned. “I am” refers to the spirit soul, which is transcendental to everything. Theoretical knowledge of the fact is jnana, but how to get vijnana, or practical realization? Bhakti-yoga is the practical application of that knowledge, the culmination of all yoga practice in fact. It keeps one active, and it provides endless engagements.

Aham brahmasmi. This means “I am Brahman.” Brahman is spirit. Thus aham brahmasmi is the realization mentioned previously but in the Sanskrit language. If I am not my body, then the body probably isn’t so important. This means that I should be able to survive on eating basic foods. I don’t need to travel very far and spend a lot of money to keep my body fit. Since I am not my body, I probably don’t need to wear expensive clothes. I don’t need to be in total comfort all the time, since due to the senses there actually is never full satisfaction. Desires come and go, and one is more at peace when they don’t always try to satisfy these desires.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.70]“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]I am not my body, but yet I live in it. It is always with me. How am I supposed to just shut everything off? Indeed, this is a problem faced by those who do not know the source of spirit. If I simply try to remain Brahman realized, it will be very difficult for me to avoid material activities. Eventually, I will jump back into those activities, as I will have nothing else to do.

As an example, from my knowledge of Brahman, I know that charity and philanthropy aren’t so important. I see that someone is poor, but in fact they have plenty of food to eat. The difference lies only in quantity of possessions; they don’t have as many as others. Indeed, some of the most famous saints of the Vedic tradition, who were by no means weak, lived completely renounced lives. Their net worth was zero, nothing. They accepted this lifestyle voluntarily, and instead of being lamentable, they were rightfully praised by those seeking spiritual wisdom.

But since I don’t have good engagements, I will be tempted to do some work on behalf of others. I will think that opening hospitals and feeding children is the way to go in life, forgetting the fact that those who aren’t Brahman realized already take part in such engagements. They think the body is everything, and so in behavior I am no different from them. My knowledge of spirit has not made a tangible difference.

[Prahlada Maharaja]Bhakti-yoga provides good engagements. There are nine processes, as spelled out by Prahlada Maharaja in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. You can hear if you want to. That is a good engagement. Like reading a book or listening to a lecture, you can hear the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has endless play in His spiritual land of Vrindavana. You can chant. In fact, this is something you can do all day if you like. You’ll need some good names to chant, and thankfully the maha-mantra provides them: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

These two processes alone, hearing and chanting, can fill up the time in each day. You can hear and then use that hearing to chant. Chanting is also accomplished through describing. What you know about God, what you learned from hearing from Him and those dear to Him - relay that information to others. Present it in an as artful a way as you like. Music and film are just forms of expression after all. The content creators are trying to get a message across, and they do it in a way that is enjoyable to them and hopefully to the audience as well. So you can use the same means of expression for divine love.

[Lord Krishna]You can feed others through worshiping the deity [archanam] and distributing the remnants, the spiritually blessed food. You can travel to various pilgrimage sites. You can keep up with the news of how others in the same field of devotion are doing. You can daily appreciate the efforts of saints who came before you, who paved the way towards transcendence. When a king builds a bridge in a city, even the ants are able to cross over. Similarly, with the path towards eternal devotional life laid out by the saints of the bhakti tradition, things for us became a whole lot easier. The greatest difficulty lies in making the decision: to follow bhakti or not.

In Closing:

When knowledge of Brahman to get,

On renunciation’s path heart is set.


Divine vision, viewing all equally,

Then what, to sit only idly?


Better to have engagements good,

From which Brahman still understood.


Bhakti-yoga path giving full arrangement,

To fill each day with good engagements.