Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Rising Sun

[Shri Hanuman]“Looking sideways, up, down and even below, she then saw that Hanuman of inconceivable intelligence, minister to the lord of monkeys, and the son of the wind-god, looking like the rising sun.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.19)

sā tiryag ūrdhvam ca tathā api adhastān |
nirīkṣamāṇā tam acintya buddhim |
dadarśa pinga adhipateḥ amātyam |
vāta ātmajam sūryam iva udayastham ||

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Shri Hanuman is many things. He is a friend. In fact, he is the best friend you could have. He’s willing to risk his life for you after having only been your friend for a short time. He is a warrior. He can fight the good fight without any fear. He has doubts sometimes, for sure. He is not always certain of which path to take. To clear the uncertainty, he deliberates fully, which shows his intelligence. That intelligence is described here as inconceivable; we can’t really compare it to anything we’ve seen.

Hanuman is also a minister. He gets orders from someone and then follows through on them. He doesn’t need to be told again and again what to do. Using his intelligence he derives the essence of the instructions and then figures out a way for the mission to get completed. Since he has faithfully and successfully carried out many tasks for his minister, he gets a vote of confidence from Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince who roamed this earth during the Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation.

“In all respects, the lord of monkeys [Sugriva] is certain about Hanuman's ability to meet the objective, and Hanuman is even more certain of his ability to carry out the work necessary for success.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.9)

[Rama giving ring to Hanuman]Hanuman is also a son. He is the offspring of the wind, which is a vital aspect of nature. Disease enters the body when the flow of the wind, or air, gets obstructed. To cure disease means to better allow the air to flow within the body. Perfection of mystic yoga is based on the control of this air. Being the wind-god’s son, it is not surprising that Hanuman would have full mastery over the perfections of yoga. Hence he is also a yogi.

The Ramayana gives us another description for Hanuman. He is like the rising sun. As we live in a world of duality, the rising sun can be either a good thing or a bad thing. If I’m a criminal who waits for the nighttime to commit my unlawful acts, the rising sun is not auspicious for me. On the other hand, if I’m surrounded by unwanted darkness, the rising sun is my savior. The sun gives me hope. Not only does it vanquish the horrible night, but since it is rising it leaves potential for the rest of the day. The setting sun would be helpful too, but since it is on its way down, I know that darkness again is imminent.

In this instance, the rising sun is auspicious for the person in question. This is because she had been surrounded by figurative darkness for a long time. Female ogres of cruel deeds harassed her day and night. She was already married but since they worked for the evil king, they were ordered to try to scare her into changing her mind. This woman refused. Named Sita by her father Janaka, she was known throughout the world for her chastity, for her unflinching vow of devotion to her dear husband, Shri Rama.

Hanuman found her in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Bearing a message from Rama. he introduced himself by first speaking of Rama’s glories from atop a tree branch. When Sita heard these words, she looked around everywhere. After gazing up, down and sideways she finally spotted Hanuman. To her he looked like the rising sun. This is true because of the darkness of the situation. The ogres lived in the mode of darkness as well. Three modes of nature govern behavior, and the lowest of the low are in darkness, or tamo-guna.

tamas tv ajñāna-jaṁ viddhi
mohanaṁ sarva-dehinām
tan nibadhnāti bhārata

“O son of Bharata, the mode of ignorance causes the delusion of all living entities. The result of this mode is madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.8)

Hanuman was like a sun on the rise since he was to vanquish that darkness. It cannot survive around him. It cannot survive around Sita, either. She remained in pure goodness and so did Hanuman. His news of Rama was like sunshine in that dark area. And so in any time where there is darkness of ignorance, where the people are lacking knowledge of their true identity as spirit and the ultimate purpose of the human mission, the sound of the description of God which arrives is like the rising sun.

[Shri Hanuman]And the more that sun shines, the more the previously dominant darkness stays away. No longer is there fear that the life will go in vain. No longer is there a strong attachment to the temporary, which is always changing and is destined to leave. No longer is there the misery of repeated days of unfulfilled dreams. The sound of the description of God brings eternal hope. Even if the previous day saw joy, the next is not automatically worse. Instead, the happiness is always increasing. Hanuman is indeed the rising sun to dissipate the darkness of Kali Yuga, and from hearing the Ramayana repeatedly the brightness from that sun increases further and further.

In Closing:

Hearing words about Rama a surprise,

Spotted Hanuman looking like sun on the rise.


Message of husband to Sita to give,

So that no longer in fear to live.


True mission of life we don’t know,

So roaming in darkness we go.


Hanuman the same light on us to shine,

For devotion is meant this life of mine.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who Is Smart

[Shri Hanuman]“Looking sideways, up, down and even below, she then saw that Hanuman of inconceivable intelligence, minister to the lord of monkeys, and the son of the wind-god, looking like the rising sun.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.19)

sā tiryag ūrdhvam ca tathā api adhastān |
nirīkṣamāṇā tam acintya buddhim |
dadarśa pinga adhipateḥ amātyam |
vāta ātmajam sūryam iva udayastham ||

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What makes a person smart? Have you ever considered this? Perhaps we know a few people who we believe have a higher intelligence than the average person. On what basis do we make this determination? Perhaps they are quick to figure out the proper wiring for connecting the new television set that we purchased. Perhaps they can fix our computer when it starts to malfunction. Maybe they score very high on a standardized exam. This verse from the Ramayana describes a person as having inconceivable intelligence. This means that it is not possible to measure; that’s how smart he is. From the context we see how that intelligence is used and why he earns this unique distinction.

[Shri Hanuman]By the way, the person addressed here is in a monkey’s body. According to some theories, the humans evolved from the monkeys. The smartest ones gathering together, generating offspring, leaving a more advanced species in the next generation - the idea is that from something less intelligent you get something more intelligent.

But actually, how are the human beings more intelligent? The monkey does not worry over mortgage payments. It does not lament the breakup of fictional characters on a television show. It does not get angry when someone insults it. In fact, it doesn’t really worry very much. This is the case with most animals. They eat, sleep, mate and defend.

The so-called intelligent human being may be able to solve complex math equations and even deduce that their own death is imminent, but do they know how to make the best use of their life? From their advanced intelligence they find new ways to exploit the material nature, which is meant to be used by all. In previous generations, man could sit down to a meal in peace, holding a conversation with others at the table. Thanks to the work of the smartest among us, now man constantly checks their mobile telephone, incapable of breaking away from it. They have to be warned to not send messages on their phone while driving. Thus through intelligence there is less peace.

Though the person addressed here is in a monkey’s body, he has intelligence which is beyond measure. The context explains the reasoning for this description. Here he is in a foreign territory, but that isn’t so noteworthy. Monkeys are known to jump from tree to tree. The monkey here is on a tree branch, also.

The person here is looking down at a distressed princess. Again, nothing too amazing. If you can climb up a tree, certainly you’d be expected to look down on the people at the ground level from time to time. The person here hid himself. This takes a little more intelligence, but that doesn’t make the monkey noteworthy. Anyone who is in a place they shouldn’t be will try to conceal themselves.

The various aspects to this scene become important once we see the mission assigned to the monkey. That’s right. He wasn’t simply roaming around looking for food. He wasn’t going through a typical monkey day where they steal from others. The monkey named Hanuman leaped across a massive ocean to reach this small garden of Ashoka trees. He was not to be discovered. If others found out, the mission would be jeopardized. There was no book to consult. There was no best-selling author who could guide him on how to reach an island far, far away, enter it, and then find a person who was being hidden from everyone else. There was no smartphone to use for looking up directions. Hanuman had to go it all alone.

Consider also that the reconnaissance wasn’t enough. It takes a smart person to find this missing princess, but then he had to also speak with her. It is after introducing himself in some way that he gets the description of inconceivably intelligent, achintya buddhi. He figured out a way to speak to this princess without startling her. He gave her very important news about her husband, from whom she was separated for a while, against her will. That news made her so happy.

[Hanuman's heart]The most intelligent person in the world uses their brain for serving God. They do not work so hard for the sake of science, which is used to explain that of which already enough is known. The lesser intelligent species don’t have science to study, and they seem to survive just fine. Service to God is the boon of the human existence, and only the truly intelligent will take it up. Hanuman of an inconceivable intelligence excels at it; he figures out ways to make God happy every single day.

That intelligence can be our guide as well, showing us the way towards real happiness, which comes only in service to the origin of all things. Sita is His wife in their play on earth, and she is with Him eternally in their spiritual home. Hanuman uses his intelligence for pleasing her, which pleases her dear husband Rama too. And those who please Hanuman get the gift of the light of knowledge to be used in pleasing the same Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

Across ocean a journey unbelievable,

Then showing intelligence inconceivable.


In words to Sita Devi sending,

Through sound her broken heart mending.


To please Supreme Lord way finding,

Obstacles thrown his way never minding.


Hanuman, of great qualities a host,

Pleases Sita and Rama using intelligence the most.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


[Rama's lotus feet]“Hearing those words of that monkey, and looking around at all quarters and all regions, Sita was remembering Rama fully and obtained a supreme thrill of delight.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.18)

niśamya sītā vacanam kapeśca |
diśaśca sarvāḥ pradiśaśca vīkṣya |
svayam praharṣaṃ paramaṃ jagāma |
sarvātmanā rāmamanusmarantī ||

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How great is Hanuman, you ask? Where does he stand amongst historical figures? Actually, it’s not possible to describe him fully in one lifetime. Though he is single-minded, his glories cover all areas of importance. It would be too simplistic to say that he is a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. It would be almost insulting to remember him only as a very strong individual, capable of lifting mountains. If you were forced to choose one thing to remember about him, you couldn’t go wrong by recalling the time he allowed Sita Devi to remember her dear husband in full.

[Shri Hanuman]Anusmaranti - this is the Sanskrit word used in this verse from the Ramayana to give us an indication of what resulted after Hanuman described Shri Rama to the distressed princess in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Hanuman was not entirely sure who this woman was. He had to base his judgment on outward symptoms. He had not met her previously. Yet the most important people in the world to him were counting on his pattern matching abilities. He was the last man standing in a search that spanned the world and consisted of thousands of eager, loyal and capable warriors.

They were true warriors in that they were fearless. Their only worry was that their leader, Sugriva, would be extremely upset at them for not succeeding. This concern could only be relieved by Hanuman, who was the lone Vanara from the Kishkindha kingdom to make it to where Sita had been taken against her will. By finding Sita and seeing her, he was ready to give a wonderful account of his journey to his friends, once he would see them again.

Before he would return, he was intent on letting Sita know that her husband was looking for her. Thinking that she would have no way of knowing if he was a friend or foe, Hanuman chose the surefire way to accurately reveal one’s character: attempt to describe God. So many ways to describe the infinite there are, so what was Hanuman to do? Well, Sita knew God very intimately in His incarnation of Shri Ramachandra, the eldest son to the king of Ayodhya, Dasharatha.

Hanuman described that Rama to the best of his ability. And how effective were his words? Did he do a good job? Here we get the answer. Sita felt a supreme thrill of delight. This came by remembering Rama in all ways. From birth up until that point in the timeline of Rama’s appearance on earth - Hanuman covered everything beautifully. He allowed for Sita to remember.

[Lord Rama]The anusmaranti shows that there is a way to have the association of a very dear person without them being nearby. We are greatly saddened by the loss of a loved one. That they have left this world means that we now have a void to fill. Also, it is chilling to think that we will never talk to that person again. We will never again be able to express to them what they mean to us. Death is so final for the living.

From anusmaranti, we can bring back that person’s association. With Rama you have the best person to remember. We think that He is not with us right now, for we lack the vision necessary for perceiving the Divine. We think that we can’t talk to Him and that He can’t hear us, so we lament and instead choose to make gods out of ordinary living entities.

Through a beautiful description of Him, however, we can remember Him in full. And that remembrance brings so much delight that it can’t be measured. In this way we see how great Hanuman is. He leaps over massive oceans for his friends. He uses his mastery over mystic yoga to figure out how to enter an enemy territory unnoticed. He uses his skill in Sanskrit composition and poetry to put together a flawless extemporaneous speech that allows another person to fully remember God.

[Hanuman lifting mountain]But most of all he shows that love for Rama is what guides him. And that love is all he needs, which means that the same applies to everyone else. We can make the most of this single life by retrieving the association of our best friend. He is the only well-wisher of every living entity, from the criminals to the saints. He is the supreme enjoyer to all sacrifices and austerities, which means that our best friend should be the beneficiary of our work. And He is the Supreme Lord of everything, all the planets, so we can take comfort knowing that the person who wishes us the best has control over everything; no one surpasses Him in anything.

One way to know His greatness is to observe Hanuman, who brings delight to blameless goddesses like Sita. He brings delight to those who want to remember Rama, who feel as if life is slipping away from them if they don’t get to remember Him on a daily basis. Hanuman allows for that remembrance to happen in full, which means no one can surpass him in kindness.

In Closing:

Association of loved one we’ve lost,

To bring them back would pay any cost.


To remember is way one,

Same with Supreme Lord is done.


Hanuman told of Rama while in tree to hide,

So Sita remembered though not by His side,


Facilitated by Hanuman’s wonderful narration,

Extemporaneous speech of Lord’s glorification.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dying a Happy Man

[Sita Devi's hand]“Hearing those words of that monkey, and looking around at all quarters and all regions, Sita was remembering Rama fully and obtained a supreme thrill of delight.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.18)

niśamya sītā vacanam kapeśca |
diśaśca sarvāḥ pradiśaśca vīkṣya |
svayam praharṣaṃ paramaṃ jagāma |
sarvātmanā rāmamanusmarantī ||

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, you can’t stay in your present body forever. To let you in on another little secret: you’ve already discarded so many bodies. You’ll never get your youth back. You’ll never again be the same size you were when you first learned to walk. Since you can look back on that time today, it means that whatever it is that defines you does not relate to the body. The event known as death is when you have to give up everything related to this body, including memory. That memory is part of the subtle body consisting of mind, intelligence and false ego. The soul is transcendental to all of this, and so it remains alive after this current body gets left behind for good.

bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

Since you, I, and everyone else are destined to give up our bodies, what is the best way to live? More specifically, is there one thing that we could accomplish that would allow us to die in peace? The phrase, “Now I can die a happy man,” speaks to this issue. Perhaps if you live long enough to see the birth of your great-grandchildren you will feel as if everything is alright. Perhaps if you met all your financial goals, where you had enough money to support you and your family, you would feel at peace at the time of death. From this verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman again teaches us so much. By this description we see that he has reached the best achievement in life. Indeed, anyone who accomplishes the same can very easily die a happy man. Yet Hanuman continues on, showing that in the highest state of consciousness the activity is endless.

[Lord Rama]What exactly has he done that is so special? He simply described Rama. He started by describing Rama’s father on earth, King Dasharatha. Why should talking about a king be so important? Hanuman accurately described that famous ruler of Ayodhya appearing in the Ikshvaku dynasty. Though he roamed this earth so many thousands of years ago, Dasharatha led an exemplary life. He fulfilled his commitments to his citizens, his preceptors, the governors of material affairs residing in the heavenly realm, and the forefathers. He did everything with detachment, keeping an eye on everyone’s welfare at the same time.

To that great king appeared a son named Rama. Not an ordinary person with a Sanskrit name that means “the source of all transcendental pleasure,” this was THE Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a wonderful incarnation form. So while sitting atop a tree branch, hidden from view in the Ashoka grove, Hanuman described Dasharatha and Rama. Though such an exercise brings so much joy on its own, Hanuman had another purpose. The words were meant to reach the ears of Sita, Rama’s wife.

This verse from the Ramayana says that Sita experienced a supreme thrill of delight. Paramam means “supreme” and praharsham means “supreme joy” or “thrill of delight.” Imagine the happiest moment of your life, when you felt a thrill. Take that moment and then put the adjective “supreme” in front of it and you get an idea of what Sita felt like from hearing Hanuman’s words.

[Sita and Rama]The words didn’t just sound good. It wasn’t like listening to an ordinary song with a nice melody. The words had a specific effect. They allowed Sita to remember Rama in full. Sarvatmana means “in all ways” or “without any reservations.” This is worth mentioning here because the situation was such that remembering anyone dear to Sita was difficult. At the time she was separated from Rama, and not by choice. The evil king of Lanka took her away by force in secret. Seeing that she would not give in to his sexual advances, Ravana ordered his cruelest attendants to harass and threaten Sita day and night.

Remembering Rama fully became viable because Hanuman described Him so well. So he brought Sita supreme delight in a situation where she really needed it. Thus Hanuman’s achievement stands alone. Bringing delight to someone so dear to the Supreme Lord is enough to fulfill life’s mission. Nothing can be done to take away that achievement, and so it is no wonder that Hanuman is so dear to both Sita and Rama.

And yet Hanuman’s work was not done. Though he had already accomplished more than was asked of him, he would continue to work to please Sita and Rama. This means that spiritual life is an endless engagement. It is not a race to the finish, for even meeting the highest objective of pleasing someone so wonderful as Sita does not mean that everything stops. Hanuman allowed Sita to remember Rama, and Valmiki allows us to remember Hanuman. And a saint in the line of spiritual succession allows us to remember Valmiki and other previous saints. The chain continues, with boundless excitement in store for whoever is fortunate enough to lend time to hearing about topics of the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Death to happen, my words believe,

So how life’s true mission to achieve?


A trick really, no end is meant,

When time in bhakti-yoga spent.


Hanuman to Sita bringing supreme thrill,

Thoughts of Rama in her mind to fill.


Though highest achievement he got,

In bhakti his work never to stop.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Wants To Be Happy

[Sita Devi's hand]“And she has been found by me, for with respect to her appearance, her complexion, and her beauty she is just as I heard from Rama.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.15)

yathā rūpām yathā varṇām yathā lakṣmīm viniścitām ||
aśrauṣam rāghavasya aham sā iyam āsāditā mayā |

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“If you want to be happy, you have to be God conscious.” The Vaishnava, the person who is always thinking of God, offers this instruction. Wherever they are, in whatever situation they find themselves, they can immediately call to mind the wonderful features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The form conjured up in the mind is identical with the original person. As His attributes are spiritual in nature, the Lord automatically becomes all-pervading. He can appear at any time and to any person. And just as His features give pleasure to the mind of the devotee, so too does the vision of those dear to Him, such as Sita Devi.

“You are following such and such sect. That may work for you, but it won’t for me.” This is the retort of the less intelligent, who understand not the true purpose to the human life. There is a mission, and it is the same for every individual. Just like the founders of a non-profit organization will craft a mission statement to let others know what they are about, about why they are different from a profit venture, the human being distinguishes itself from the other species through the mission of life. This mission is the same for other species as well, but they don’t have the cognitive power to understand.

In this human form of life, the time is ripe for understanding Brahman, which is spirit. You need this understanding to be happy. So in other words, the mission for the human being is to seek out the happiness that has thus far been elusive. The previous birth could have been in a human species as well. This means that the mission wasn’t met before. Never mind, though, as all the mistakes of the past get erased through the spiritual understanding.

“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

There are different paths for fulfilling the mission. There is jnana, or knowledge acquisition. There is karma, or fruitive work. There is meditational yoga. Each has its strong points, and depending on the nature of the person one path may be ideal while another may not. There is also bhakti, or devotion. Bhakti stands apart because it is the stage of culmination. All others reach bhakti eventually. If you start with bhakti, however, you save a lot of time. You don’t need the qualifications of the other paths, and you don’t have to wait as long for your result.

And what is that result? What can the spiritual understanding do for us? It gives us a divine vision. From that vision we get energized to continue working in bliss. Think of it like getting a boost of energy from the morning bagel with cream cheese. Think of it like waking up refreshed from a long night’s slumber. The soul, the animating force within every living creature, is by nature blissful. It is for this reason that the human being seeks happiness. Eternal bliss only comes in devotion, or bhakti, and in the advanced stage there is never exhaustion. The enthusiasm to serve continues.

[Shri Hanuman]Case in point Shri Hanuman. He is always in bhakti-yoga, always linked to the supreme consciousness. He does not require rehabilitation. He does not need to have his mind made right. If we disagree with a particular political party, and if we are a person of influence, that party may send leaders to visit us to get us to change our mind. They will try every which way to convince us that we are wrong. Such are the ways of the material world that what we think is right isn’t always, and what so many others say to be true may not be so.

In spiritual life, the truth of the supremacy, kindness, and unmatched opulences of the Supreme Lord remains valid at all times. Denial of the fact means falling into the material ocean, the land of duality. Shri Hanuman knows God. He knows Him because he has met Him. Hanuman met Him in the Kishkindha forest. Immediately, Hanuman took up devotion. He accepted Rama as His guru, which is in fact the Lord’s position. He is the param-guru, the supreme teacher from whom all other spiritual teachers get their shakti, or potency.

The param-guru Rama told Hanuman about Sita, who is Rama’s wife. He told Hanuman what to look for when conducting the search for her, a search in which many other eager servants were also involved. In this verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman says that the woman in the Ashoka grove is the very Sita for whom he has been searching. Hanuman knows this because her beauty, complexion and overall appearance are just as Rama described.

[Sita and Rama]In the same way, know that the benefits of devotional service are just as the Vaishnava describes. There is happiness in serving the Supreme Lord. It is true, despite what we may think at the outset. Hanuman worked very hard, and in the end he found Sita. He maintained faith in Rama’s words despite every obstacle thrown his way. The Vaishnava’s words are originally Rama’s, just presented in a specific way to suit the time and circumstance. So when the guru asks us to always chant the holy names, we can take it with confidence that the practice will benefit us. We will fulfill the mission of life through the sound of the holy mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Features of lady completion to spell,

Just as to him Shri Rama did tell.


Like words from Supreme Lord true,

To bring success also instruction of guru.


Though at first see the end we can’t,

Still advised for holy names to chant.


Like when Hanuman Rama’s wife seeing,

Devotee in bhakti always happy being.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Family Affair

[Rama's lotus feet]“The tongue and its taste are the husband and wife, the teeth are the relatives, and the mouth is the beautiful home. Lord Shiva’s cherished syllables [Ra + ma] are the children, and natural love for them is the wealth, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 24)

daṃpati rasa rasana parijana badana sugeha |
tulasī hara hita barana sisu saṃpati sahaja saneha ||

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Families can drive us crazy, no? Since they know us so well, they don’t keep too much respect for us. While to the outside world we may be considered good, well-behaved, quiet and reliable, to our family we are never good enough. “Why didn’t you do this for me? Why did you forget that? Why are you spending so much time there?” Yet the support of the family is like no other, and so the comfort we feel in their company cannot be matched. Though it may seem otherwise at the outset, in spiritual life you have the support of family as well. You’re never forced to go it alone, for even if the whole world turns against you at least you have the holy name to hold on to for support.

The love of a close family member doesn’t have to be questioned. Even if you don’t speak to such a person every single day, even if they don’t know everything about what’s going on in your life, they are there for the important moments. If you are in trouble, they will arrive on the scene quickly. You don’t have to wonder what they are thinking. You know that they love you and that you love them. In this way the relationship is unique; no other can compare.

[Valmiki writing the Ramayana]One of the best homes for the spiritually conscious mind is the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit text that is mistaken for an epic story by the less intelligent. To be conscious of spiritual life means to take an interest in the beyond, what comes after the present life. Spirit transcends everything that we see right now. Prior to our birth life existed on earth. We know this because we see people being born all the time. We know that things happened before they emerged from the womb. And the funeral experience tells us that life continues after someone dies. Everyone moves on, including the individual who has departed.

Where they go, why the leave, and the circumstances of their next life form the subject matter of spirituality. A more scientific term to describe this study is “self-realization.” Who am I? Why am I here? Why am I suffering all the time? Why am I so afraid of death? Why do I have to die? What am I supposed to do with my life? More than just a blind faith reserved for those who don’t know any better, spiritual life is meant to lead to a firm realization, something that you believe in as much as the law of gravity.

There are different ways to get this realization. You can study the difference between matter and spirit, prakriti and purusha. You can look for Brahman, the unqualified spirit that is distinct from the changing material energy. You can read books on Vedanta and try to remain consciously aware of the distinction. Another way to get this realization is to meditate. Find an isolated area, sit in a specific posture, breathe in a certain way, and simply block out the effects of the senses. Another way is to work with detachment. Do your work as you normally would, but sacrifice the results of that work. Instead of buying the latest Mercedes-Benz model, donate your hard-earned money towards a society that promulgates self-realization to those who are interested.

The simplest method for self-realization is hearing. Sacrifice time for hearing about the difference between matter and spirit. As that isn’t so interesting a topic, lend your ears to narration of the glories and activities of the Supreme Lord, the qualified spiritual energy. He is the source of the unqualified, and to Him there are no distinctions. He appears in a visible form from time to time and the wise poets record His activities in a way that so many others may benefit.

[Lord Rama]The Ramayana is one such work of documentation. Composed by the poet Valmiki, it tells of the life of Shri Ramachandra, the Supreme Lord in a special incarnation form. Just from hearing the Ramayana in the right mood, you become aware of your spiritual nature, your true identity. In the Ramayana you find tremendous family support. Sure, there is infighting as well. Momentarily falling prey to jealousy, a wife bans her husband’s favorite son from the kingdom for fourteen years. Rama doesn’t deserve this, but He accepts the punishment regardless.

Rama’s wife Sita refuses to allow Him to leave and wander alone. The same goes for Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Thus we see that God is always supported. There is the goddess of fortune and the servitor-god, who is the first expansion from the original Supreme Lord. Then Rama gets so much support while living in the wilderness. The sages happily accept His visits to their homes. Their life of asceticism bears fruit when they get the blessing of Rama’s association. Thus even though they lived alone, they never were. They always had God with them, who then manifest before them in one of His most beautiful forms.

When Rama needs help later on, He gets it from forest-dwelling monkeys. There are thousands of them, and they are led by the king Sugriva. Sugriva’s chief minister is Hanuman, who is today famous for his devotion. Hanuman is part of Rama’s family, even though appearing in a different race of creatures. There is infighting in the kingdom of Lanka, where the younger brother Vibhishana disagrees with the sinful ways of his elder brother Ravana. Sugriva has a mortal feud with his brother Vali. Both Sugriva and Vibhishana take Rama to be their primary family member, and so they are never alone despite being ostracized from their respective communities.

[Celebrating Rama's coronation in Ayodhya]And so one who adopts spiritual life in earnest is never alone. They have Rama for support, along with His large family. The entire family of the seeker of self-realization can accept the same shelter. The same support that existed previously can be used for helping the seeker advance in consciousness. The family can help to maintain the devotional culture, whose backbone is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In the case that the family is not supportive, know that Rama’s name alone suffices for support. As Goswami Tulsidas so nicely states in his Dohavali, the mouth can be considered the home, the tongue and the taste the parents, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the children. This lovely home is protected for lifetime after lifetime by a very large extended family, with Sita and Rama at the head.

In Closing:

If by devotional path inspired,

To go it alone not required.


To seeker same family can support,

Helping in transcendental home transport.


Even without outside help any,

Know that spiritual family members many.


The mouth make your cherished home,

And Rama’s name like children your own.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The One With The Restless Child

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.23)

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The human being should know Brahman. He has the ability to discern things. Like the baseball player reading the stitches on a fastball, a human being can quickly make identifications based on past observations. I saw how a leopard looks on a television program, so when I see one in real life I can identify it very quickly. The most important identification relates to Brahman, and the difficulty is that it lies beyond the range of perception. Once you are fortunate to know and see this undifferentiated spiritual energy, you still require activity.

This is where the personal aspect comes in. The personal is the source of Brahman, which is sort of impersonal. Brahman says that I am spirit at the core. Inside this covering we call a body exists an individual animating force. Since it seems to lack qualities, it is called nirguna in Sanskrit. The combination of the individual Brahman spark and a temporary covering is known as saguna. You take all the individual sparks together and you get the total Brahman energy. The personal aspect is the source of that energy, and in service to it one tastes the fruit known as liberation.

Liberation is the end to the cycle of birth and death. No more dying since you no longer take birth. Yet unless you have activities in that liberation, your achievement doesn’t last. More importantly, in connecting with the personal aspect at the outset, you automatically become Brahman realized. That which was previously difficult becomes very easy. Shanti was explaining this concept to her friend one day through relating a story from her own life.

I remember one evening at home I was very busy. We had just started our catering business and I had to prep for a large delivery the next day. The problem was that my husband was not home and my son Vraj was acting up. I couldn’t get him to stay calm. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I went straight for the surefire trick known to parents: television.

[Sesame Street]“Vraj, do you want to watch Sesame Street? Look, it’s Burt and Ernie. You watch this while Mommy goes in the kitchen.”

He watched for a little bit but soon he made his way into the kitchen. “Don’t touch that; it’s hot!” I told him. “Oh why are you going over there? You will break it.” I basically had to repeat myself for as many items as were in the kitchen. I felt bad after a while since I kept telling him to not do this and to not do that. There was only so much that he was going to listen to.

Finally, I decided that I needed a different strategy. Simply prohibiting things was not going to work. I gave something new a try. Perhaps he could help me. Being a small boy, the job would have to be simple. I also had to keep him away from anything sharp; so cutting was out of the question.

I had these cookies that were going to be given out to each guest. I bought a bunch of cellophane bags, and each one had to have a few cookies in them. “Vraj, you see those cookies over there? Put four cookies into each one of these bags and then tie it. Here, I’ll show you how to do it.” I didn’t have high hopes, for I figured he would lose interest. Just the opposite happened in fact. He was really good at it. He was much happier. He counted out loud for each bag, and he wasn’t making a mess.

Shanti explained to her friend that having this positive activity did way more for her son than simply telling him to stay away from this or that. “It’s sort of like the difference between trying to understand the impersonal Brahman and serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To know Brahman means to stay away from maya, or illusion. Don’t have attachments. Don’t get mad when things don’t go your way. Don’t have desires. Basically, sit there like a lump and focus your mind. Then you will be Brahman realized.”

“Serving Bhagavan is different,” she continued. “You get endless activities. In the process you automatically get detachment. Trust me, if you have love for the darling child of Nanda Maharaja you will want nothing more to do with the temporary. If tears stream down your face when you think of the love mother Yashoda has for Krishna, you will not be so attached to that which comes and goes.”

[Mother Yashoda with Krishna]Shanti told her friend that in bhakti-yoga the enjoyment continues, for it is not simply a vehicle for achieving an end. It is the end itself, since it is an endless engagement. It is the activity found in the liberated state. Before death and after it - the activity remains in both. And the attachment only increases, since the Supreme Lord is of the spiritual nature. His glories are always increasing, and so the person serving Him keeps getting more and more to appreciate, honor, remember, and serve. In that service they find liberation even before death, seeing the Brahman that was previously hidden behind the wall of maya.

In Closing:

Even when maya’s illusion to drop,

In liberation activity not to stop.


Else again into ocean to fall,

Despite previous achievement tall.


Better if from start with Krishna to connect,

In bhakti automatically the spiritual to detect.


Easy also for reaching the same end,

Endless activity in liberation then.