Saturday, November 1, 2014

What Should I Think Of

[Lord Rama]“Since with intelligence I have always been speaking the words ‘Rama’ ‘Rama’ and thinking of Him, in that manner I am seeing and hearing His story corresponding to that.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.11)

rāmeti rāmeti sadaiva buddhyā vicintyā vācā bruvatī tameva |
tasyānurūpaṃ ca kathāṃ tadarthā mevaṃ prapaśyāmi tathā śṛṇomi ||

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What should the mind focus on? What is most important? If the mind is consumed with thoughts of a particular subject, will only things of that subject remain manifest? If there are thoughts only of pizza, does that mean pizza will be all that I eat? If I think only of my beloved, will they always be by my side? It seems to be that way with the mundane, though not in actuality. While consciousness of something will keep it on my mind, it will not necessarily bring it to my vicinity. The case is different with the Supreme Lord, whose association is most cherished.

Success is difficult. This is because it requires effort. If you quit, then automatically you’re a failure. You can’t succeed in crossing over the bridge if you stay on the other side. If you give it a try, then at least you have a chance. Obstacles may get in your way, the bridge may have trouble holding you up, or you may get tired en route. Anything can happen, so the desired result is not guaranteed.

The more complex the task, the more potential obstacles exist to thwart success. Therefore people who have succeeded can do quite well for themselves trying to teach their secrets to others. One of the recommendations is to envision success.

“Get rid of negative thoughts. See yourself in a position of victory. Stop imagining defeat. Shed your pessimism. Whatever you want to happen, see it manifest in your mind first. Picture everything going the right way. Then you will have a better chance at success.”

Psychologically, this is easy to understand. If you’re predisposed to defeat, it will be easier for you to give up when things get tough. If you’ve imagined failure, you’ll recognize the first signs of it.

Success for the human life is getting God’s association. That association is already there; it’s just difficult to see. There is separation in terms of consciousness, not in physical proximity. He is there resting within the heart as the Supersoul. This is an unmanifest form to the eyes; hence it is often described as nirguna in Sanskrit.

asaktaṁ sarva-bhṛc caiva
nirguṇaṁ guṇa-bhoktṛ ca

“The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all modes of material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.15)

As the Supersoul is in my heart, I can try to think about it all day and hope to see it, but that will be difficult. How am I supposed to contemplate something which I think doesn’t have a form? It’s like trying to concentrate on the wind or the air. It’s like trying to keep the mind blank. The saguna form, which has features distinguishable to the eyes conditioned by material nature, is easier to remember. If you see it, it is easier to keep it in your mind.

The name addressing both the saguna and nirguna forms is so powerful that it can bring the desired association in consciousness very quickly. If you know what God looks like, that same name can help you remember Him. And as Sita Devi playfully speculates here, by saying that name over and over and thinking of the person it represents, the story of that person comes to life in front of you.

[Sita and Rama]Sita here is in distress, physically separated from the actual form of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Shri Rama. She has just heard stories about Him told very nicely by Shri Hanuman, whose visible form is that of a monkey. In this situation it’s natural to wonder if you are hallucinating. She wonders here whether or not she has actually heard about Rama or if it is due simply to her constant thinking of Him.

In fact that constant thinking does bring the result shown here. Hanuman or one of his representatives will arrive on the scene to describe Rama further. And Rama is dear to everyone. With some the appreciation is indirect. The person who loves their bottle of whiskey indirectly appreciates Rama; they have affection for an aspect of His external energy, the material nature. The person who loves the vague concept of God has a more direct appreciation, and someone who is always conscious of Rama Himself or one of His non-different expansions like Vishnu or Krishna has the most appreciation.

[Lord Rama]When asked of the person successful in life’s mission, the guidance offered will be along these lines:

“Always think of Rama. Then He will come to you. Don’t think that you are separated from Him or that He doesn’t exist. If you say His name with intelligence on a regular basis, then you will get to hear more and more about Him. If you sincerely desire to never be separated from Him, He will send someone to help you make that happen. Those people will help you to understand that the name of Rama is the same as the person Rama. The name Krishna is Krishna, and so the wise souls reach for success in life by always repeating the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

How God in mind to see,

When without form is He?


How in my heart can He stay?

So small area, no possible way.


Better if on the form you concentrate,

Distinguishable features your ignorance to penetrate.


With intelligence repeating always the name,

Story of husband Rama to Sita came.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nara And Nari

[Lord Rama]“Since with intelligence I have always been speaking the words ‘Rama’ ‘Rama’ and thinking of Him, in that manner I am seeing and hearing His story corresponding to that.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.11)

rāmeti rāmeti sadaiva buddhyā vicintyā vācā bruvatī tameva |
tasyānurūpaṃ ca kathāṃ tadarthā mevaṃ prapaśyāmi tathā śṛṇomi ||

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  1. “You can’t get to heaven unless you believe in so and so.
  2. Only people born into this religion can be a member of it.
  3. Women are not allowed to hear this sacred sequence of words.
  4. Children are too young to understand a supreme controller and life and death.
  5. The lower class men, who work in dirty areas and are too busy seeking sense gratification, are not intelligent enough to understand the difference between matter and spirit.”

Perhaps we’ve heard one or more of these statements before. Maybe we have been a victim, on the receiving end, left puzzled as to why we are prohibited from understanding the person from whom everything has come. This verse from the Ramayana proves that the Supreme Lord is for everyone and that He can manifest anywhere and everywhere. This is the true import to the philosophy of the Ramayana, and it is confirmed in many other works as well.

The person speaking here is Sita Devi. She is the wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on this earth in a full incarnation form many thousands of years ago. Their marriage in the earthly realm is described earlier in the Ramayana itself, both by the author Valmiki and by Sita when speaking to Anasuya, the wife of the rishi Atri.

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

“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)

[Sita and Rama's marriage]The same marriage has been described many times since then, including several times by a single author, as in the case of Goswami Tulsidas. In the last verse of his Janaki Mangala, the famous poet says that singing of the auspicious event of Rama’s marrying Sita will bring all auspiciousness every day. He specifically mentions nara and nari, or men and women.

The men part should be obvious. They are referenced often in famous works. Usually the term represents a whole, like the entire human society. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America contains the famous line, “all men are created equal.” This means that Tulsidas just as easily could have referenced only men and not been blamed for it.

Yet he mentioned women as well, and it was done on purpose. In traditional Vedic culture, women did not receive a formal education. Education itself was different than it is today; each person learned knowledge that was vital to their occupation only. The workers generally didn’t need to go to school; they could learn by watching others. The mothers taught their daughters how to be mothers and wives. The men who received the highest education were brahmanas. They were taught about Brahman, the singular spiritual force whose sparks appear in various bodies. Every living thing is Brahman, and Brahman is the same. This means that the cat and the dog are the same constitutionally. The human being and the deer are identical also, and so the women and men within each species are naturally the same on the inside.

The wife gets the same destination as her husband, so if the husband is spiritually realized, there is no explicit need for the woman to learn about Brahman or other concepts from Vedanta, the highest philosophy. Bhakti-yoga, which is the soul’s eternal yearning, transcends all designations. It is simply love for God. Love is not the exclusive property of any race, gender, or species.

[Sita and Rama]The Janaki Mangala is a work of love for God, so Tulsidas attempted to make it available to as many people as possible. If the women were not allowed to read the original Ramayana or prohibited from studying the Vedas, they could sing his work about the marriage of Sita and Rama and receive auspiciousness every day.

How that auspiciousness comes is explained by Sita in this verse from the Ramayana. She has just heard a monkey describing the great deeds and character of her husband. As it is odd to hear such a thing from such a source in any circumstance, Sita thought that maybe it was all a dream. Here she speculates that maybe since she has been saying Rama’s name constantly and been thinking of Him, she is seeing Him now and hearing a discussion about Him.

This is not mere speculation, but a fact that can be proven by experiment. If someone says Rama’s name over and over again, with intelligence, they will surely see Him. Intelligence means knowing that His name is not an ordinary sound vibration. It means understanding who Rama is and His divine nature. It takes intelligence to constantly repeat that name, since one should at least theoretically know that the name is non-different from the person itself.

Sita always thinks of Rama, so she doesn’t need to bring Him to her through saying His name or thinking about Him. Rama is always with her. Here the event nicely symbolizes the truth which is for all others to understand. Sita heard of Rama through the words of Hanuman, who is Rama’s representative. Similarly, one who daily sings the glories of Sita and Rama will attract their bona fide representatives roaming the earth at the time. The representatives increase the scope of hearing, creating many new devotees to swim in the auspiciousness of the divine mercy.

[Lord Rama]No one is prohibited from saying Rama’s name or any other name that addresses the same person. Man and woman alike can regularly repeat that name and have the Lord manifest before them. It is for this reason the saints of the Vaishnava tradition, who follow bhakti-yoga as their principal way of life, ask that we always chant the holy names in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

In Closing:

Though containing the word men,

To address all society is meant.


Still, sometimes women excluded,

Like from education not included.


Since cycle of birth and death to end,

Bhakti all designations does transcend.


Benefit coming to men and women the same,

Rama’s presence through chanting His name.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Seeing Through The Name

[Lord Rama]“Since with intelligence I have always been speaking the words ‘Rama’ ‘Rama’ and thinking of Him, in that manner I am seeing and hearing His story corresponding to that.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.11)

rāmeti rāmeti sadaiva buddhyā vicintyā vācā bruvatī tameva |
tasyānurūpaṃ ca kathāṃ tadarthā mevaṃ prapaśyāmi tathā śṛṇomi ||

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If you run into a bhakti-yoga teacher, they will surely present a lot of philosophy to you. Most of the points you’ve likely never heard before.

  1. You are spirit soul.
  2. You are not the body.
  3. The aim of human life is to be God conscious. The others species don’t have this chance, which means that the humans shouldn’t imitate the animals.
  4. The world came into existence due to the desire to compete with God. Once that desire is gone, you leave this temporary and miserable place.

Though familiarity with such facts is important for accepting the path of devotion with faith and steadiness, the devotion itself is what matters most. You can lack all knowledge even, not knowing how to read or write, and you can still find perfection in life. The teacher will tell you that above all else you should chant the name of God. There are many names to choose from, and in this verse from the Ramayana Sita Devi shows us the power in chanting that name.

[Lord Krishna]The two names of choice in the bhakti tradition are “Krishna” and “Rama.” Krishna means “all-attractive” and Rama means “the source of all transcendental pleasure.” As these are Sanskrit words they can be used as names for any person. You can name your child Krishna or Rama and thus remember the name of choice easily. These names also address real, historical personalities. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To distinguish Him from others with the same name, He is also known as Yashodanandana, or the son of mother of Yashoda. He is Gokulananda, or the person who gives bliss to the residents of Gokula.

Rama can refer to Krishna’s older brother Balarama. He too lives in the area of Gokula, pleasing the same residents. Rama is a short form address for Balarama. Rama also refers to Shri Ramachandra, the prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty. This Rama is the same Krishna, just appearing differently on earth due to the time and circumstance. To distinguish Him from others with the same name, Rama is also known as Sitapati. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi, who is the daughter of King Janaka.

The word “Hare” means a call out to the Lord’s pleasure potency. Hari is another name for the same Krishna and Rama. That which belongs to Hari is the pleasure potency, who is a personality. With Krishna, Hare is Radharani. With Rama, Hare is Sita. One of the best ways to always chant the name of God is to repeat the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The recommendation is to chant this mantra as often as possible. You’re advised to make a routine out of it, for through routine you build strength and hopefully ability. If I practice something the wrong way, it doesn’t matter how much I repeat the same action, I won’t get the desired result. If I practice the correct way, then after a while that which was previously difficult becomes much easier. It sort of works the same with chanting the maha-mantra. The more you practice correctly, concentrating on hearing the names, then the more benefit you get out of it.

And what is that benefit? You will see God and you will hear others talking about Him. This fact is confirmed by Sita Devi in this verse from the Ramayana. Though her words are humorous in a sense, they confirm this timeless principle of Vedic philosophy. She considers that she is miraculously seeing Rama and hearing about Him from above, through some hallucination perhaps. She feels this way because she is in so much distress, awaiting a death sentence from the King of Lanka for not giving in to his amorous desires.

She says that she has always been thinking of Rama. This makes sense because she loves Him so much. He is her beloved husband, so why wouldn’t she think of Him? She has also been saying His name over and over. The result was that Hanuman, Rama’s messenger, came to the Ashoka grove and introduced himself while hiding in a tree branch above. The introduction came through a speech about the glories of Rama and His family.

[Sita and Rama]Sita is always with Rama, thus she does not need to explicitly practice anything to get this benefit. Simply from her mind she can recite perfect and beautiful Hari-katha, or discussions about the Supreme Lord. She sees Rama always because she never stops thinking of Him. Still, this verse teaches us so much. There is indeed a way to see God. There is a way to hear about Him, also, which is even better. The high philosophy or strict austerity is not necessary. The name itself is powerful enough to deliver the presence of the Divine. The name is identical to that person, though we have a difficult time believing it. From Sita’s words, we should know it to be true.

In Closing:

By Rama’s name always to say,

Lord now to her making His way.


Through sound is that approach,

Just in time, after giving Ravana reproach.


Not required knowledge or renunciation,

Through name alone with proper pronunciation.


Rama seeing through sound of hearing,

Sita’s example our doubts now clearing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Darkness Playing Tricks

[Lord Rama]“Indeed, this is not a dream, for I certainly cannot sleep, tormented by grief and distress as I am. Certainly there is no happiness for me when I am devoid of the association of He who has a face resembling the full moon.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.10)

svapno api na ayam na hi me asti nidrā |
śokena duhkhena ca pīḍitāyāḥ |
sukham hi me na asti yato asmi hīnā |
tena indu pūrṇa pratima ānanena ||

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Since it is dark I can only guess as to that sound I heard within the room. There is no light indeed, so how am I to know for sure? That same darkness prevents me from knowing the exact time in the day. I don’t know how many hours are left until daylight unless I have something like a clock to help me. In the bigger picture there is the darkness of the material existence covering the otherwise knowledgeable soul. As Sita Devi points out, the image of the Supreme Lord is like a full moon to vanquish that darkness.

Do I know who I am? What does “I am” mean? Who is this “I” that gets constantly invoked in my speech? Who is that “you” addressed when others speak in my direction? Covered by darkness, in confusion I think that the “I” relates to my country of origin.

“I am an American. I was born in the greatest land on earth. No one has ever been so free. We have the most unique system of government ever devised by man. Previously the majority of the world lived under tyranny. There was no hope for them. Whatever they were born into, they were stuck in. There was no mechanism to get ahead. Then a little miracle happened known as the Constitution. It granted rights to every citizen, supported by the Declaration of Independence, which stated that all men are created equal. I am proud to live in such a country.”

[USA map]Indeed, official documents identify me with the country of origin. So this identification is valid in many instances, confirmed by higher authorities. But what about people from a different nation? Do they not feel happiness and sadness? Do they not get excited over upcoming events? Do they not go through the same cycle of birth and death? Of course they do, which means that my identification based solely off of country is not complete. Others take birth in different lands, and so that does not make them inherently different.

Then there is identification based on occupation:

“I am a doctor. I love what I do. I heal the sick. It took a lot of work to earn this title. I spent many years studying. Not just a few nights here and there, I had to memorize so much for so long. Then I had to go through years of training, all the while racking up a mountain of debt. Now that I am a doctor, I feel so satisfied. Everyone refers to me as ‘doctor’ and I love it. I am respected throughout the community.”

[doctor]Again, this identification is valid in certain circumstances, especially at the place of business. But what about the carpenter? How about the policeman? Are they inherently different because they perform different work? Obviously not, since they just use different skills in their place of business. So occupation is not the sole criteria for identification, either. As occupation is related to work and achievement, we can rule out any identification based on similar characteristics.

The real identity of the individual is spirit soul. The only way to regain knowledge of that identity is with the help of the Supreme Lord. Since He is a person, purusha, who is above the mode of darkness, tamo-guna, one of His many names is Purushottama. In the verse quoted above He is referenced as Ramachandra, the prince of the Raghu dynasty who has a moonlike countenance.

Though the words spoken here are real and part of an amazing history documented in the Ramayana, they also nicely symbolize the struggle of the living entity conditioned by material nature. Sita Devi is Rama’s wife. She is a divine figure, incapable of ever not thinking of Rama. Thus she is never in darkness. She knows her identity all the time, and so she is never in ignorance.

The factual scene also symbolizes the struggle for the living entity. Sita is in Lanka, which is full of darkness. The people live in total ignorance of their true identity, mistaking wine and meat for their reason for living. The leaders consider enjoying with as many women as possible to be the true achievement in life. The king, Ravana, tried to enjoy Sita for himself, but she refused him. Therefore Sita found herself alone in a grove of Ashoka trees, longing for the association of her husband.

[Lord Rama]Here she says that Rama’s face resembles that of a full moon. In the night sky, that moon provides a soothing light. And so Rama would dissipate the darkness in Lanka. He would fix everything, bringing hope to an otherwise dreary situation. Here Rama’s presence is felt in His name and also in His representative Hanuman. Hanuman came to give Sita news of Rama, which is the same as shining the bright moonlike face of that handsome prince.

The name that Sita always remembered also gave her hope in an otherwise dreadful situation. So the living entities suffering in darkness can always chant the holy names of the Lord and wait for the association of His representative. The signal for help is the sound of the holy names repeated in sequence: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In which country birth to take,

My true identity it can make?


Varied, with work the foundation,

What about then my occupation?


Since characteristics to change all the time,

Flawed this way to get identity of mine.


A spirit soul is who I truly am,

To remain the same through time’s span.


In darkness this I do not know,

Waiting for light to shine ever so.


In Lanka, the one with the moonlike face,

To save Sita, her agony by joy to be erased.


Darkness of ignorance, all others in boat the same,

To be rescued by chanting her husband’s name.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Talking About Inventions

[Prabhupada talking]“By hearing only can we make proper use of that which already exists. The principle of hearing to properly utilize preconceived materials is applicable to spiritual paraphernalia as well. We must hear from the proper spiritual source.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.32 Purport)

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Girish: So tell me about the hearing process?

Shankar: What do you want to know?

Girish: Well, I hear, no pun intended, that hearing is the most effective way to absorb information about self-realization.

Shankar: Yes, it’s the quickest way towards transcendence.

Girish: Does that mean that seeing is useless?

Shankar: It’s not as effective.

Girish: So if I watch someone on television talking about the need for satisfying the soul and how there is an always changing body, including at the time of death, I won’t be as benefitted as if I were to hear the same information?

Shankar: Right. Reading goes along with hearing. Though you’re seeing the words, it’s essentially a translation. You see the word, read it in your mind, and thus hear. Seeing is different. Not that it’s ineffective entirely, but hearing is the traditional path, and it is less vulnerable to defects.

Girish: What are the defects?

Shankar: If you’re watching the guy on television, you’re judging his appearance. If he seems very young to you, you might not appreciate the message as much as you should. If you’re stuck on his appearance, you won’t pay attention as much to what he’s saying. Then you’re assessing whether he’s mean or nice, whether he’s interesting or not. You’re also looking at the people looking at him. There’s so much going on to serve as distractions.

Girish: And with hearing I have to pay attention. If there’s a distraction, I won’t be able to hear, which will make me upset.

Shankar: Yup.

Girish: So I’ve also read, or heard, in the commentaries by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that in order to figure out how to use the body given to us by nature we similarly have to hear.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Shankar: Yeah, and that shouldn’t surprise you. There are preconceived materials. Sort of like a jumble of objects on the floor of a room. Unless someone tells you the right way to use those objects, you won’t be able to figure it out.

Girish: That makes sense, for sure. I mean someone had to teach me how to drive. I didn’t know what all the different parts to the car were and how they worked together. Someone had to teach me how to read and write. These are all preconceived materials, and without hearing I wouldn’t have known how to use them.

Shankar: There you go.

Girish: There is one thing to consider, though.

Shankar: What is that?

Girish: Invention. Think of all the great inventors in history. They learned from hearing; there’s no denying that. But then they also experimented. They went beyond what others were doing. They tried out new things and made amazing discoveries in the process.

[Thomas Edison]Shankar: That’s true. If it weren’t for their fearless exploration, so many things today wouldn’t exist. They also passed on that information through hearing, though.

Girish: What do you mean?

Shankar: The light bulb, the telephone, the automobile - these things were invented, but we only know how they work today by referencing the information passed on by the inventors. Hearing is required.

Girish: No, that’s true, but the origin was exploration, trial and error. It wasn’t hearing entirely.

Shankar: It is good that you mention this. So we have these amazing inventions. There is no denying that. I can hear a voice from thousands of miles away in an instant by picking up a device. How cool is that? When Prabhupada speaks of hearing for using preconceived materials for spiritual paraphernalia, he’s referring to the ultimate objective of life.

Girish: And that is? I know what it is, but I want to see if you do [smiling].

Shankar: Your question says it all. If we don’t know what the aim of life is, we’ll never figure it out by trial and error. No amount of scientific experimentation is going to give us the reason for our birth. We may make so many advancements and then pass on our findings through the hearing process, but this does nothing to solve the problem of birth and death. Thus the superiority of hearing is proven once again.

Girish: I knew you were going to say that. And didn’t the first living entity take everything in through hearing?

Shankar: Yes. Lord Brahma. The information came to him within the heart. The Supreme Lord helped Brahma out. Brahma then returned the favor by passing on the same information to others. He is the leader of one of the four sampradayas, or chains of disciplic succession, which teach the bona fide spiritual science.

Girish: So the iPhone, the iPad, the HD television, the streaming video service, the central air conditioning system - these things won’t help me reach the ultimate objective in life?

[Lord Krishna]Shankar: Not independently. If you hear about how to use the materials of this world properly, then of course you can reach the right destination. But it starts with hearing, and that hearing originates from the sound created by the Supreme Lord Himself, who is known as Krishna among many other endearing terms. That name means “all-attractive,” and it applies to His sound as well. The sound of transcendental wisdom is stored in the ancient texts of India, and the person who unlocks that sound and gives proper respect to hearing it will very quickly learn how to make use of the various materials they see around them.

In Closing:

From hearing knowledge to come,

Without it not knowing what to be done.


Even with many an amazing invention,

Not alone causing birth and death’s prevention.


From the Vedas coming the original sound,

In it knowledge of proper use to be found.


For service to God only this precious life meant,

That knowledge from disciplic succession sent.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Taking Everyone As Their Dear Friend

[Nityananda Prabhu]“He [the transcendentally situated person] accepts things that are favorable for his duty in Krishna consciousness, otherwise he has no necessity of anything material, either a stone or gold. He takes everyone as his dear friend who helps him in his execution of Krishna consciousness, and he does not hate his so-called enemy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.22-25 Purport)

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Question: How do I avoid envy? I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but sometimes I can’t help it. If I hear that my friend just got married, I immediately think of how they have beaten me to the punch, how they have succeeded in life while I have failed. The same goes for someone landing a good job or doing well in school. I know I shouldn’t think this way, but how can I avoid it?

Envy comes from lust. To lust after something means to want desperately to exploit it for personal enjoyment. If anyone or anything gets in the way, it becomes an enemy. If someone is enjoying the cherished object before me, it means that I am not happy. I don’t like that they have gotten something that I wanted so bad. If someone has a larger quantity of the same desired object, then I also feel envious. Only the transcendentally situated person can truly get passed envy, and along the way they turn the situation completely around: they view everyone as a friend.

Lust is due to ignorance. When I think that my body identifies me fully, I consider specific enjoyments to be worth pursuing. There is the obvious ignorance here in terms of identity, but there is also forgetfulness to consider. The alcoholic is the classic example in this case. They previously lusted after their beverage of choice. They know what the results to that lust were. They have empirical evidence to analyze. And despite knowing and experiencing the negative consequences that came previously, they once again lust after the same thing.

If I am not my body, then who am I? The ego, one of the three subtle elements of the body, can mean “I am.” In the false ego, the “I am” refers to the body. This temporary covering that came to us at the time of birth and has since constantly changed gets mistaken for the sole basis for identity. In the real ego the “I am” shifts towards Brahman, or spirit. The Vedic aphorism aham brahmasmi reveals the real identity of the individual. “I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the non-differentiated spiritual energy known as Brahman.”

The transcendentally situated person understands this theoretically and they also have practical knowledge of it. They can answer the question of “who am I” on a quiz, and they also act with knowledge throughout their daily affairs. One of the symptoms of that realization is the lack of envy. And why does envy go away? Does the transcendentally situated person just give up? Are they like the quarterback scrambling away from defenders in the pocket who simply decides to lay down and take the sack? Do they throw their hands up and decide that no enjoyment is necessary in this world since it brings the green-eyed monster known as envy?

In fact, the transcendentally situated person views everyone as a friend. How does this work exactly? To know Brahman is one thing, but to know how Brahman should act is another. The living entity is a spirit soul, and spirit is meant to serve the supreme soul. This solves all problems. Even if somehow you’ve avoided envy all your life and managed to prosper materially, you still need something to do in the end. Once everything is settled, you’re left with sitting in a room and having nothing to do, wondering if there is anything more to life.

Service to the Supreme Brahman is that “more.” In the constitutional state, that service takes place in a mood of love. So the transcendentally situated person finds ways to increase their service no matter with whom they interact. If they encounter an enemy, who is against the devotional path, they consider that to be a great blessing. “Ah, see how this person has chastised me. It means that my ego was getting too inflated. It means that the Lord is testing my tolerance, wanting to see how sincere I am on this path.”

Another basis for viewing the antagonist person as a friend is instruction.

“Just see how much they are teaching me. They are reminding me that the life devoid of devotional service is not worth living, that it doesn’t bring any happiness. If they were truly at peace, they wouldn’t have a problem with me chanting the holy names of the Lord: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I wasn’t bothering them. I know that the majority of the population is averse to devotional service, as they are stuck in the well of envy borne of ignorance. I have no hatred for them, and yet so many of them try to stop me. This is a great reminder that the path I am on is the right one. This person is thus a dear friend of mine.”

[Nityananda Prabhu saving Jagai and Madhai]The ideal example in this regard is Nityananda Prabhu. One time two drunkards attacked him for no reason. He could have retaliated, but instead Nityananda showed supreme compassion on them. And actually the thugs ended up reforming and becoming great friends to so many future generations of man. Their example showed that the mercy of the all-merciful Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is meant for all living entities, that the path of bhakti-yoga is not restricted to anyone.

In Closing:

When in transcendentally situated state,

All viewed as friends, no one to hate.


No more by hatred to be attacked,

Since of envy there is a lack.


Even antagonist shining the light,

Revealing that bhakti the path right.


Like Nityananda Prabhu by Chaitanya sent,

Showing that bhakti life for all is meant.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The One With The World As Your Driving School

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“By hearing only can we make proper use of that which already exists. The principle of hearing to properly utilize preconceived materials is applicable to spiritual paraphernalia as well. We must hear from the proper spiritual source.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.32 Purport)

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In the Vedic tradition hearing is very important. One might say that hearing is identical to the tradition itself, for knowledge originally comes from the highest authority source and then makes its way down to the future generations. Hearing is more important than seeing; which helps to explain why there’s a difference in knowledge-retention between those information consumers who primarily watch television versus those who primarily listen to radio and read books.

Hearing takes place through reading also, as the mind simply creates sound from looking at the written words. Therefore the authoring, publishing and distribution of transcendental literature is important in increasing the scope of the hearing process, which has proved to be the best way to give spiritual understanding to the otherwise ignorant living entity. Man is like a savage when exiting the womb; any good behavior assumed afterwards is learned.

The acceptance and subsequent assimilation of information offered from authority figures is a form of hearing. Joe was trying to get this point across to one of his friends one day. Not only did Joe want his friend to be familiar with the basic truth of the living entity being spirit and not their body, he also wanted his friend to regularly sacrifice some time for hearing the transcendental subject matter. To this end, he relayed a story from his own life.

I’ll never forget the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car. I’m ashamed to admit how it happened, but I feel it is necessary to share with you. It happened one day when I was very young, likely not even a teenager yet. My dad played on a recreational baseball team, and he took it very seriously. He wanted to improve his hitting, so he purchased this machine that would throw balls consistently into the same place. This would help with his technique. “If you can repeat the same action time after time, the muscles develop memory,” is what he would tell me.

One Saturday afternoon he headed over to the local high school to practice with this machine. My mom was out running errands, so there was no one home to watch me. This meant that my dad had to take me along. At the time, I was not much into sports, so I was dreading the trip with him. He had tried to get me into baseball before and it never worked. Fearing that I would be bored sitting on the bench outside watching him hit baseball after baseball, he let me stay in the car by myself.

[baseball field]“If you’re going to listen to the radio, then turn the car on. I’m leaving the keys with you. If there is any trouble, then honk the horn. I shouldn’t be long.” These were his parting words to me. They seemed kind of ridiculous at the time, as the parking lot at the school was completely vacant. Not a car in sight. The baseball field was adjacent to the parking lot. Yet it was still far enough away that you couldn’t see the players and the players couldn’t see the cars. Nevertheless, I was not worried.

I don’t know what came over me, but after some time, I got antsy and curious. I had always wanted to sit behind the wheel. I had no idea what anything was, but it looked really cool. Plus, the driver got to choose where to go. They were in charge. It looked easy enough. Thinking that this was my one opportunity to drive and that it shouldn’t be missed, I finally mustered the courage to move over to the driver’s seat.

I had no idea what I was doing, but there was a rush of adrenaline flowing through me. The car was already on since I was listening to the radio; that part was taken care of. I had seen other drivers move the knob from park to drive, so I gave that a shot. Suddenly the car started moving forward. I reached for one of the pedals, and then the car started moving fast. Oops. Just as I was about to run into some bushes, I figured out which pedal was the brake. Luckily I stopped in time.

I knew enough to put the car in reverse, so that’s what I did next. Still, I needed to get the car back into the previous spot; otherwise I was going to be in big trouble. But that wasn’t so easy. I needed to turn and move forward for that to happen. Turning was enough to get the job done; I was lucky that the parking lot was so empty. The car seemed to go very fast also. At one point when I thought I had everything figured out, I was headed straight for a lamppost. This looked bad. I slammed on the brake and stopped the car just inches from contact. Scared out of my mind, I finally put the car back in park and just sat there in shock.

[student driver]My dad eventually made it back over to the car and was quite angry, as I’m sure you can imagine. He yelled and yelled at me on the way home. He told me that I wasn’t old enough to drive. He said that I needed instruction, that I had to learn what the different parts were and how they worked. He said to me, “You can’t just get behind the wheel and figure out all this complicated stuff on your own. You need someone to tell you what everything is. What you did was very irresponsible.” Many years later my dad’s recollection has changed a little. He now laughs about the incident, telling the story to guests that come over the house, using it as a way to embarrass me.

After telling this story, Joe explained to his friend that every object in the material world is sort of like the machine that is the car. One has to hear in order to figure out the proper use. That’s why there is so much instruction. There are years of instruction for education on the basics, and then more education on top of that for specialization in a particular field.

[Lord Krishna]The material creation features endless nuance, and so without hearing from the proper authority source, man has no idea what to do. He has hands, legs, a mouth, and ears for a reason. These are all meant to be used in service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Every part of the living entity, and every aspect of the material creation, can be utilized in that service. It is an art form for sure, and thankfully there are many artists to provide guidance. The original artist Himself, Shri Krishna, gives the foundation in the Bhagavad-gita, and the acharyas, the experts who specialize in the field, expand on that foundation to suit the time and circumstance. The reward for the person who hears properly is the ability to make life truly fulfilling, building the best afterlife at the same time.

In Closing:

Your chance to drive, this is it,

Quickly behind the wheel you sit.


But the controls you do not know,

Car then without control forward to go.


Must hear first about part each,

An instructor techniques to teach.


Lesson of driving to all of life take,

Hear for sense of this world to make.


For service to God everything is meant,

To help you guru from Krishna is sent.