Saturday, November 8, 2014

Not Straying From Tradition

[Lord Rama]“The heart which does not melt upon hearing of the glories of Hari is like stone. The tongue which does not sing the glories of Rama is like the croaking of a frog.” (Dohavali, 43)

h।rdaya so kulisa samāna jo na dravai hariguna sunata |
kara na rāma guna gāna jīha so dādura jīha sama ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

It’s a paradox. You have self-realization. This is the awakening for the mind. Through the vehicle of the mind the soul becomes liberated. The mind, intelligence and false ego are material elements; they do not remain. They are as impermanent as the ever-changing body in which they live. The soul is the constant, and it is not meant to be trapped in misery. Self-realization helps to bring a level of freedom never before conceived. And yet this realization is achieved not through mental deliberation, experiment, or research. This awakening, the realization of the self, comes from following tradition, taking instruction that has been passed on since time immemorial.

We can take the above referenced verse from the Dohavali as an example to see how this works. On the surface, the couplet seems like a harsh assessment. Hari is a name for God. It means one who removes the obstacles from the path of the devotee. The devotee in this case is devoted to Hari. They are not devoted to eating well, to drinking constantly, or to their spouse. They may have respect for these things, and they may take enjoyment in them from time to time, but their guiding path is their love and respect for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Lord Vishnu]The author says that the heart which does not melt at hearing the glories of Hari is like a stone. What are some of His glories? Hari expands into so many forms. In His original form He is all-attractive, and so Krishna is another good name for Him. He is also Rama, which means one who holds all transcendental pleasure. There is the personality Rama as well, who is mentioned in the second half of this couplet from Goswami Tulsidas.

Hari’s glories are endless. As Vishnu He effortlessly creates this and many other universes. As Krishna He lifts the massive hill named Govardhana to save innocent people. As Vamanadeva He assumes control of the three worlds with a few steps. As Narasimha He protects the faithful five-year old boy named Prahlada. As the impersonal Brahman He pervades the entire space. In fact, there is no end to hearing of Hari’s glories.

The heart that doesn’t melt upon hearing these glories is like stone, but if you don’t know Hari so well you might think this interpretation is too strict. Tulsidas doubles down in the second part. He says that the tongue which does not sing the glories of Rama essentially croaks like a frog. We would never want to trade our ability to speak for the ability to croak only. A frog can’t really communicate, though its tongue does make a sound. Tulsidas says here that if we don’t sing the glories of Rama, we’re like frogs. The speaking ability of the human tongue becomes useless.

[Lord Rama]Hari-guna and Rama-guna are equivalent. Hari and Rama are the same person. One group may call this person God and another may have a different name, but the person is still the same. They are one. We know so many people who don’t sing the glories of Rama. In our youth our hearts likely didn’t melt when we heard the glories of Hari. So isn’t Tulsidas being a little extreme here? Isn’t he exaggerating a bit?

bile batorukrama-vikramān ye
na śṛṇvataḥ karṇa-puṭe narasya
jihvāsatī dārdurikeva sūta
na copagāyaty urugāya-gāthāḥ

“One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like the holes of snakes and a tongue like the tongue of a frog.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20)

You would find it interesting to know that these sentiments come down from tradition. The Shrimad Bhagavatam, a Sanskrit work compiled some five thousand years ago, basically says the same thing. Tulsidas is thus passing along something he has learned, though he wholeheartedly believes it too.

This shows the process for self-realization. There is the respect for the authority figures. They pass down the most valuable information. The recipient then implements the recommended practices. They accept the theoretical knowledge on faith at first. They then get full validation through their realized knowledge. The heart should melt upon hearing of Hari’s glories. No one is kinder than Hari. The feel-good story shown on the nightly newscast is nothing compared to the mercy shown by Hari on countless occasions. He is the best friend of every living entity, so there is no need to be jealous of Him or anyone else. He is ready to show that kindness to every single person.

The tongue which sings the glories of others and speaks of nonsense topics is essentially wasting effort. Kali Yuga, the present time period, is known as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Argue about anything. It doesn’t really matter since tomorrow the argument will shift to something else. The argument is a way to pass time; hence it has no lasting value. In this way the comparison to the croaking frog is accurate.

[maha-mantra]The tongue and the heart are there in the body to be used properly. One can make full utilization of the tongue by regularly chanting the names of Hari: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The heart will gradually soften as a result. It will reach the point where simply hearing a name of Hari will cause it to melt, validating the timeless pearls of wisdom passed on by the Vedic tradition.

In Closing:

Hearing Hari’s glories heart melt it should,

If knew His nature then surely it would.


When spontaneous reaction not shown,

That heart then compared to stone.


Like frog on mundane the tongue is wasted,

When sound of Rama’s name not tasted.


Not a concoction from Tulsidas mind,

In Shrimad Bhagavatam same you will find.


Self-realization not from solo effort to make,

First instruction from valued tradition take.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bringing Life To The Lifeless

[Lord Rama]“When remembering Shri Rama, while fighting in a war, while paying obeisance to the guru’s feet - those who on these occasions do not feel a thrill in the body are essentially lifeless, though living in this world, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 42)

rāmahi sumirata rana bhirata deta parata guru pāya' |
tulasī jinhahi na pulaka tanu te jaga jīvata jāya' ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

A human being feels emotion. This is one of the effects of being alive. It would be great sometimes to shut off the outside world. If you’re an athlete visiting an opponent’s city, you will likely get jeered. The crowd will shout obscenities towards you; they will not want you to succeed. Blocking out those sounds will help you to be successful. It is difficult, of course, as the human being has emotions. It reacts to what is around them. Here Tulsidas says that certain emotional responses are only natural, and if they are missing it’s as if the person is not even living.

Goswami Tulsidas is known to be a spiritual person. His title means that he is in control of his senses. This is difficult to do; by default the senses control us. We know that if we eat too much we will gain weight, yet we continue to eat so much anyway. We know that if we don’t get to sleep on time, we will be tired the next day. Yet we still stay awake late into the night watching television.

[tulasi plant]“Goswami” means one who has mastered the senses. They keep the senses in check in order to better serve God. And how does that service take place? With Tulsidas, his given name means “servant of tulasi.” Tulasi is the goddess of devotion appearing before us in the form of a plant. So the personality mentioned here has mastered their senses and used their controlled behavior to constantly worship a plant. Seems a little silly to the outsider, but in fact this is all it takes to achieve perfection in life.

What is the result of that perfection? A thrill. The thrill is in happiness; it gives renewed excitement. How can we understand what that thrill is like? Tulsidas helps us. He says to think of the warrior on the battlefield. There has to be a thrill within the body. The reason is that death can come at any moment for the soldier. There is heightened awareness because they are fighting for their life. They have to attack the enemy and defeat them before they are defeated. If you don’t feel a thrill during this time, it means that you’re not really a soldier.

Tulsidas says the same thrill should come when offering obeisance to the feet of the guru. There is so much instruction from this one comparison. The thrill is not from sitting with the guru at an equal level. It is not from looking at the guru and trying to win a staring contest. It is not from arguing with the spiritual master in the hopes of defeating their logic. The thrill comes from paying full respect to the guru’s feet. The thrill comes when the gesture is genuine. The guru has the power to lift us from darkness, and this humble submission is the first step in attaining that elevation.

tad viddhi praṇipātena
paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

[Lord Rama]The same thrill should come from remembering Rama. He is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The thrill is actually greater when remembering Him, but there is no way for us to compare the interaction to anything we’ve experienced. The thrill is great because Rama is great. He is kind, sweet, gentle, always available, and incredibly merciful. He is also strong, brave, perseverant, and fully capable. He is a fighter Himself, assuming the role when the time calls for it. He is God with qualities. In our ignorance we speculate what God may or may not be. We wonder what He looks like and what He wants from us. The incarnation of Rama on earth removes those doubts. Though Rama also comes as Krishna, Vishnu and other avataras, the qualities do not change. God is sach-chid-ananda, eternally blissful and knowledgeable.

So what if we don’t feel that thrill right now when remembering Rama? Does it mean we are dead inside? Does it mean we are lacking emotion? It means that our life’s purpose isn’t yet fulfilled. Thankfully the guru can show us the way. They can instill in us the discipline necessary to always chant Rama’s names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They can help us to get rid of our bad habits, to start controlling our senses. Through the routine established in bhakti-yoga, we can know how, when and what to remember with respect to Rama. Therefore the guru can perform the greatest miracle, bringing life to the lifeless.

In Closing:

When mind with thoughts of Rama to fill,

Naturally, without effort, should feel a thrill.


Like soldier when on battlefield rushing,

Or disciple the guru’s feet touching.


Though reaction right now there is not,

Still, without hope we are not.


Servant of Shri Rama find,

And learn how to keep Lord in mind.


Through passing on instructions timeless,

Guru to give life to the lifeless.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Appealing To Emotion

[Rama's pastimes]“While remembering Shri Rama, the heart that does not melt should be broken apart, the eyes that do not shed tears should be smashed, and the body that does not get thrilled should be burned - what is the use of these then, asks Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 41)

hiya phā।tahu' phū।tahu' nayana jarau so tana kehi kāma |
dravahiṃ sravahiṃ pulakai nahīṃ tulasī sumirata rāma ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

If you can’t taste, what is the point to having a tongue? If you can’t see, why even have eyes? If you can’t feel anything, why have a body? These questions are logical enough, but when armed with the real knowledge that is Vedanta, one realizes that these various parts of the conditioned living entity are meant to function in a more specific way. The heart is there to do more than just keep the body alive. The heart can appear in any species. Why is it there in the human being, then? There must be a higher purpose.

The same goes for the eyes and the body itself. In the verse quoted above, Goswami Tulsidas appeals to our emotions to get us to understand. When our logic keeps us far away, we need a wakeup call to bring us back to reality. We may hear of someone doing something awful like striking their spouse, but it is not until we see the video of the incident that we really understand the severity of the act. Pictures tell a thousand words; images better appeal to emotions.

Goswami Tulsidas, though writing in a time when still images were not available, appeals to our emotions anyway by describing vivid images, like that of a heart bursting, eyes being blinded and a body burning. He says these should happen when there is no spontaneous reaction to hearing Rama’s name and remembering Him. Rama is God. It is one name for Him; there are many others also.

There is Rama the personality as well. He descends to this universe in a visible form whenever He feels like it. His activities and teachings are then documented in sacred texts like the Ramayana and Puranas. So there is a way to remember God. You don’t have to rely on an abstract understanding. You can hear the names Rama or Krishna, and you can always remember what they did while walking amongst us.

If you remember these things with the proper consciousness, you will get the reactions described by Tulsidas. Your heart will indeed melt. How can it not? When you hear of Rama’s love for His wife and His brothers, you will be moved. When you remember how Rama left home to save the good name of His father, tears most certainly will come to your eyes. When you remember how Rama valiantly defeated the evil king of Lanka, Ravana, and rescued His wife Sita your body will feel a thrill.

[Rama pastimes]If these reactions are absent, Tulsidas says that there is no point to having the body parts mentioned. Why have a heart if it does not melt when hearing about God? What else does it melt at? If you get a lot of money, that will not last forever. The association of your friends and family will not, either. Pick any person you know today. One day you will never talk to that person again. This is guaranteed to happen.

The temporary body is a gift from God and it is meant to be used in service to Him. That service brings us happiness that is evident through spontaneous reactions. If those reactions are not there, then this body is no more important than the animal’s. We might as well not even know how to talk. What is the use of education if we’re using it to live just like an animal, who is ignorant of God’s existence?

Fortunately, the heart does not have to burst. The eyes do not have to be blinded and the body does not have to be burned. Redemption is possible. That is the whole point of the human existence. If we were meant to only enjoy, nobody would take care of us. They would let us roam free in the wild. They would never teach us how to read and write. There would be no such thing as schooling.

The parents are our first guide, and if they do their job properly they eventually bring us to the spiritual guide. Taking instruction from this person signals the beginning of the second life. Thus there are two births, with the second one being more important. In that second life we learn about God. We learn about who we are, that we are spirit at the core, living beyond the dualities of desire and hate and birth and death. We learn that we will live on forever, no matter what happens to us.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

[Lord Rama]If we are fortunate, the spiritual guide tells us how to connect with God. They teach us about His features, and how He is Bhagavan. This word means one who possesses all fortunes. We know of different fortunes from our limited experiences, so we can compare those fortunes to what God has. We can then hear about Him on a daily basis. Most importantly, we can connect every day through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By following this route we soon realize the purpose to our body, and we make the best use of the different parts, feeling thrills throughout by using the valuable technique offered by Tulsidas: remembering Rama.

In Closing:

When intellect true understanding to shield,

Need towards emotion making appeal.


Eyes should tear and the heart should melt,

When remembering Rama thrill should be felt.


If not then why to us this body given?

By ignorance all other species driven.


Follow bhakti from spiritual guide,

To true purpose have opened your eyes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Turning Karma Into Bhakti

[Shri Hanuman]“Then that highly-resplendent Hanuman, who is the son of the wind-god, having a coral colored face, appearing humble and indigent, descended from the tree. He respectfully raised his folded hands to his head and said the following sweet words to Sita:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.1-2)

so.avatīrya drumāttasmādvidrumapratimānanaḥ |
vinītaveṣaḥ kṛpaṇaḥ praṇipatyopasṛtya ca ||
tām abravīn mahātejā hanūmān māruta ātmajaḥ |
śirasi añjalim ādhāya sītām madhurayā girā ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

Every living entity works. Even if they are completely renounced, living in the forest with no possessions, they must do something to maintain their body. If they go out looking for fruits that have fallen from the trees, it means they are working. If they are sitting in meditation throughout the day, fasting from food and drink, they are still doing something. Everyone does some kind of work, but who knows for sure to whom that work should be offered. Shri Hanuman here gives us the answer, showing us that abilities used in any kind of work can be easily transferred to the spiritual realm.

As everyone does work, everyone has some kind of ability. Some are better at speaking than others. I get up in front of the classroom to deliver my book report, and as soon as I see the teacher I get nervous. My legs start to shake and I am barely able to speak. Meanwhile another student doesn’t even have a prepared speech, but they are able to talk eloquently for quite some time.

[public speaking]I have some ability but I don’t know how best to use it. Ordinary work is known as karma. The results of karma are known as fruits in Sanskrit: karma-phala, the output to your work. If I am lucky, I have a firm belief in God. I know that He exists. I offer Him salutations during the appropriated times in the day. I have so much respect for Him that I will never speak ill of Him.

But is that all? What should I work for? Should I try to satisfy my senses? Should I try to eat nicely and sleep on a comfortable mattress? Should I take care of my friends and family, keeping an eye out for their wellbeing? Should I engage in welfare work, where I help the poor and the needy?

Bhakti-yoga provides the answers. In the process, it turns karma into devotion. Put more simply, your abilities take on their true value when you use them in devotional service. Take Shri Hanuman for example. In this verse quoted from the Ramayana, we see that he has splendid characteristics. The color of his face is like coral. It is a beautiful reddish color. Hanuman is highly splendorous, maha-tejah. Tejah can also mean potency; so Hanuman can stand up to anyone in a fight.

Though he is maha-tejah, here he intentionally appeared humble and pitiable. He is preparing to offer sweet words to Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. He is raising his joined palms to his head. This is all work. It is coming from someone who is very potent. We know from the following verses that Hanuman is very skilled in speech as well. So he has the ability to fight against highly estimable foes. He has a beautiful color to his face. He has very good parentage; he comes from an important god of the Vedic tradition.

[Shri Hanuman]Though he can use any of these characteristics to increase his personal stature and comfort, he does not do so. His abilities go straight to the bhakti realm. He works, but it is for pleasing God. He acts, but he is not interested in enjoying the result. This verse also gives us the proper mood required for transferring our abilities in karma to the realm of devotion. Hanuman can assume any size, which means that he could have appeared frighteningly large in front of Sita. He chose to look humble and meek instead because this is the proper way to address someone important like the wife of Shri Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in a splendid incarnation form.

We use sweet words all the time. We speak nicely to our spouse so that we’ll get along with them. We try to charm the person working behind the counter at the takeout restaurant so that they’ll throw in some extra food for free. We praise our parents and grandparents for the wonderful job they did in raising us. If sweet words are used in these instances, why not towards Sita also?

yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam

“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)

[Rama Darbar]Hanuman has amazing abilities, but this does not mean that one needs to be as skilled as him in order to practice bhakti. The same sweet words that we use elsewhere can be offered in the temple. When praying to God, we can praise Him very nicely. We can offer our respects to His wife, His younger brother, and all those devoted to Him. We can do this each and every day, and in so doing we’ll transcend the bounds of the material world. We will feel a pleasure we’ve never experienced before, and we’ll realize that the purpose to our work is to please the Supreme Lord, who is the enjoyer of all sacrifices.

In Closing:

A clenched fist, intimidating face can make,

Shri Hanuman, any form can take.


Though of qualities great and tall,

In approaching Sita looking humble and small.


Addressing to her words right and sweet,

Informing her that Rama soon with her to meet.


Karma into bhakti quickly to change,

When sweet words used for God the same.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What Do The Demigods Think

[Demigods worshiping]“Let there be all obeisances to the lord of speech [Brihaspati], the carrier of the thunderbolt [Indra], the self-create [Brahma], and also the consumer of oblations in the sacrificial fire [Agni]. Let whatever words spoken by this forest dweller in front of me be true; let it not be otherwise.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.14)

namo astu vācaḥ pataye savajriṇe svayambhuve caiva huta aśanāya |
anena ca uktam yat idam mama agrato vana okasā tac ca tathā astu na anyathā ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

Not knowing any better, the human being first seeks rewards which are actually not difficult to attain. Praying for food to be put on the table each day seems like a wise thing to do, but then the same prayer is absent in so many who are able to eat without a problem. The animals know nothing of prayer, and they seem to find food to consume each day.

Food is one thing, but there are so many other rewards sought as well. The person who is a little religiously inclined understands that not everything comes through their own work.

“So many people work hard, but not everyone gets the same result. Some people aren’t as smart as others. Some aren’t as lucky. Some are born into more difficult circumstances. This means that we can’t control everything. There are higher powers who manage these things, and to gain their favor, I will pray to them.”

Indeed, this is a wiser choice than ignoring the existence of higher authorities. At the very least, the human being should know that there are three kinds of miseries which are beyond their control. Miseries come from mother nature in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and the like. Then we get miseries from other living entities, like the mosquitoes that bite us for no reason and the people who cut us in line at the post office. Miseries of the third kind come from within, like a restless mind or an upset stomach.

[hurricane]We have little control over these miseries, so it’s wise to seek help from those who can control them. Not only is there control, but there are specific rewards the seeker can get. There is speech, which is managed by Brihaspati. His name and knowledge of his personality come to us from the Vedic tradition of spirituality. Then there is rain to help the crops grow. Indra, the wielder of the thunderbolt, manages this. Then we have our material form consisting of the three gunas: goodness, passion and ignorance. The self-create, Lord Brahma, manages this area since he creates everyone. There is also the respect offered to all the gods managing the many different departments of the material creation. Agni, the god of fire, accepts these offerings and then distributes them accordingly.

Though there are many gods of seemingly equal importance, one stands above all. He is the origin of even Brahma, who comes to be through the stem of the lotus flower that emerges from the navel of said origin of all. There are many ways to know how and why this god is supreme. For one thing, He does not always grant what the worshiper asks. He knows that the material is not as important as the spiritual. The aim of the human existence is to become conscious of Him, not to constantly be seeking material rewards that provide little to no happiness.

The supreme god is known by many names in the Vedas. One of them is Rama. This refers to His possession of transcendental pleasure and also to His incarnation that appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. That incarnation is described in detail in the work known as the Ramayana. The above quoted verse is from that work, and it gives proof to the concept of a singular deity which stands supreme.

[Lord Rama]In this verse Sita Devi, the wife of Rama, prays to various demigods to let the words of a forest dweller be true. The forest dweller’s name is Hanuman and he spoke these words in front of Sita. She did not know him prior to this encounter. She was worried about her husband at the time, and so the words of Hanuman were like nectar to her ears. Hanuman told her that Rama had sent him and that Rama was ready to come and rescue her.

The problem here was that Sita was surrounded by liars and frauds. The king of that particular land had used deception to lure her away from her Rama. So it makes sense that she would be hesitant to believe words coming from a stranger with a form that was out of place for the area. She asks that the important gods of the Vedic tradition validate Hanuman’s speech.

We know that the speech is indeed true, which means that the gods all confirm that Rama is the Supreme Lord. That is Hanuman’s more important opinion, as he serves Sita and Rama to this day without motivation and without interruption. Hanuman’s word is enough, as is Sita’s. Both are of impeccable credibility, proven through their thoughts, words and deeds. Yet Sita kindly offers the chance to the subordinate gods to support the glorious speech of Hanuman.

yo yo yāṁ yāṁ tanuṁ bhaktaḥ
śraddhayārcitum icchati
tasya tasyācalāṁ śraddhāṁ
tām eva vidadhāmy aham

“I am in everyone's heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.21)

It is natural for the person who seeks and gets material rewards from their particular god of choice to have some affection for that god. In the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Lord says that He helps such a person maintain their faith in their god of choice, though the rewards actually come from the original God’s sanction. With such a faith, it’s understandable if some would want to discount the notion that Krishna, Rama or Vishnu is a higher god. They will object to these claims, though they are supported by scriptural authority and the words of Hanuman.

[Shri Hanuman]In such cases, the gods themselves can be asked. They can be polled to see who they think is supreme. The answer coming back will be unanimous. Just as they were compelled to grant Sita’s wish, knowing that Hanuman’s words could not be untrue, they cannot lie about being under the control of the Supreme Lord. Thus the person whose faith is in a particular god can take the authority of that god to understand that there is a singular supreme being whose association is cherished by the wise.

In Closing:

Though to your favorite god you go,

A supreme being amongst all you should know.


Hanuman his story to Sita described,

To convince her of his message he tried.


To the demigods Sita then prayed,

That true would be speech Hanuman made.


No other choice, had to comply,

That Rama is God on their authority rely.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Carrying The Message

[Rama's lotus feet]“Perhaps since I always think of this and it is my desire, it has appeared so. I also ascertain the same using my intelligence. But the desire within the mind does not have form, and the person addressing me has a well-manifested form. What is the reason?” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.13)

mano rathaḥ syāt iti cintayāmi |
tathā api buddhyā ca vitarkayāmi |
kim kāraṇam tasya hi na asti rūpam |
suvyakta rūpaḥ ca vadati ayam mām ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

“How do you know that God is real? How do you know that what you’ve heard about Him is true? Isn’t it possible that it is all just a figment of the imagination? I mean talking monkeys, kids holding up hills as if they were umbrellas, demons changing their shapes at will - do you really think this stuff happened? Isn’t it possible that it’s all imagination and myth? Isn’t it possible that it’s all just in your head, meant to keep you from going crazy? Perhaps since you want God to exist so bad, you have made it so.”

One of the definitions of God is that He is beginningless. The Brahma-samhita says that He is anadi. There is always a beginning to a beginning. Scientists speculate that at the dawn of the creation there was only a chunk of matter. Or perhaps there were just chemicals which then randomly collided to create the universe as we know it. With the time factor, however, we know that there is a beginning to that origin. The beginning of all beginnings is God. That is one way to define Him.

If He is infinite in the backwards direction, the same would hold true of the forwards direction. In either way, we can’t know for sure that He exists. Even if He comes before us, how are we to believe that He lived before? In the Bhagavad-gita He tells Arjuna that He was there at the beginning of the creation and spoke the same words of wisdom to the sun-god Vivasvan. Arjuna had trouble believing this, thinking that there was no way that his good friend Krishna could have been alive so long ago.

arjuna uvāca
aparaṁ bhavato janma
paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ
katham etad vijānīyāṁ
tvam ādau proktavān iti

“Arjuna said: The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.4)

[Krishna speaking with Arjuna]In response, Krishna explained that both He and Arjuna had appeared many times on earth previously. Whereas Arjuna could not remember those previous births, Krishna could. This is firsthand information of a supreme controller coming to Arjuna. Yet due to the defect of memory in ordinary souls, there is no way to get tangible proof that Krishna is telling the truth.

So if God comes up to you today and reveals Himself, how are you going to prove that He will exist forever? If you must die yourself at some point, how are you going to know what happens after you leave? Since you won’t be able to perceive what happens after you are gone, the belief in God seems to lack a tangible form. From the verse quoted above from the Ramayana, we get an easy way to know for sure.

This verse assures us that God does exist. The person speaking here sincerely desires to be with God again. Her specific form of choice is Shri Ramachandra. This form is not created by anyone. It always exists. There is only one Rama, the husband of Sita. No one can become Him. No meditation or renunciation can transform a person into the highest personality that exists.

The distressed princess, Sita, thinks that since she wants to be with Rama so badly her thoughts have created an illusion. She is hearing about Rama, but perhaps it’s only due to her desire. She reaches this conclusion using her intelligence. At the same time, however, she notes that desire does not have form. Think about it. If you want to eat ice cream, what does the “want” look like? Can you show me your thoughts? Of course not; you can only speak about them to me.

[Lord Rama]Sita saw something that has a very-well manifested form. It belonged to Shri Hanuman. He spoke words that described Rama, Sita’s husband. His words, having a form, also delivered a message from Rama. Thus through sound coming from a well-manifested form, we can believe in the existence of God. The same message comes today, though through a different messenger. Sita too is a kind of messenger, with her words of wisdom documented in the Ramayana. Those words are like sound preserved on a recording of tangible form. That sound came from somewhere. The music playing in the car did not just appear randomly from nowhere. Someone had to produce it, record it, and then distribute it.

So the message of God travels the same way. Though we think that maybe He doesn’t exist since we can’t see Him presently, in fact He lives on through the visible forms that we encounter all the time. Life itself is evidence of His existence. There cannot be life without Him; He is the life of everything that lives.

puṇyo gandhaḥ pṛthivyāṁ ca
tejaś cāsmi vibhāvasau
jīvanaṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
tapaś cāsmi tapasviṣu

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

Rama’s form does not have to be imagined. People saw Him previously, and they kindly shared what they saw with others. Just as Hanuman shared what he heard, others have also since passed on the message of God, leading up to the present time. Those messengers today advise that the best way to believe in God and to see Him is to have faith in the sound that is the holy name: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

If from death not always to be,

How God’s eternal existence to see?


Better if to rely on sound,

Like in Ramayana’s pages found.


Desire without form existing in the mind,

Still Rama’s association Sita to find.


From words of Hanuman this came,

Today through holy name arriving the same.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

At The Constitutional Level

[Lord Rama]“I have a mind that has become thoroughly filled with thoughts of Him, with all my sentiments directed at Him. As I am constantly thinking about Him, in that manner I am seeing Him today and hearing about Him.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.12)

aham hi tasya adya mano bhavena sampīḍitā tat gata sarva bhāvā |
vicintayantī satatam tam eva tathaiva paśyāmi tathā śṛṇomi ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

“Get out of my head. Stop bothering me already. I don’t want to think about you anymore.” Those tormented by affection for a particular person know these sentiments all too well. Those who wish to forget a past incident also have likely said the same under their breath a few times. When the mind is consumed with thoughts of a particular object, it appears that the object comes to life. No matter where they look, no matter which way they turn, they keep seeing that one thing. When the object stuck in the mind is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in one of His many beautiful forms, then the apparent curse turns into the greatest blessing.

That blessing explains how bhakti-yoga works at the constitutional level.

“What are the other levels? How is bhakti practiced at the non-constitutional level?“

[Typing]The word “practiced” reveals everything. When that word is present, the bhakti, or devotion, is not at the constitutional level. Take any particular field and consider the experts in it. The person who is very good at billiards likely doesn’t need to practice an easy shot. They don’t have to think. With a mind focused on something else even, they can line up their shot and make it almost every single time. The expert typist doesn’t have to look at the keyboard when doing their work. They don’t have to check to see that everything is coming across on the screen accurately. Their typing is at a level where it becomes second nature.

That highest level in bhakti is described as constitutional because it is the origin from which everyone has descended. This means that previously we were perfectly conscious of God. We never thought of competing with Him. The thought of surpassing Him in any area of opulence never entered our mind. We worried only about how His pleasure could increase every day. We used the days as a delimiter for systematically executing our schemes to please Him. The expert organizers in this area are Vrinda Devi and Paurnamasi, who know how best to bring pleasure to God in His original form of Krishna. They devise schemes in the spiritual land of Vrindavana to allow Krishna to meet with His beloved Radha in ideal settings.

[Radha and Krishna]Falling from the spiritual world, we get separated from the constitutional level of bhakti. To get it back we have to practice. In the beginning we follow rules and regulations. If we are fortunate enough to believe in God, we fear Him a little bit. Since we think that rewards other than devotion to Him are more important, we approach Him with requests. We ask that He keep our family members safe and healthy. We ask that He give us enough provisions to maintain our livelihood.

If we are doubly fortunate and hear from someone who is at the constitutional level of bhakti-yoga, we take our religious practices up a notch. In this step, we do what our guide tells us out of love and respect for them. We start to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We try to think of the Supreme Lord as often as possible. We believe in the fact that He is all-attractive, that any aspect of His personal self is worth contemplating. Though we still have desires for material enjoyment, we suppress them as best we can.

The constitutional position is one step further. Then there is no need for practice. There is no need for thinking of God in a certain way. The love is there, and it remains. It cannot go away. An example of what results comes to us courtesy of Sita Devi in the quote referenced above. From the famous Ramayana of Valmiki, this verse explains how Sita is consumed with thoughts of Rama, who is her dear husband. Rama is also all-attractive, carrying His bow and arrow with Him and revealing to His devotees a beaming smile that instantly cures the dangerous enemy known as pride. Rama is God Himself, and Sita is always with Him. Their relationship is in marriage, which means that Rama voluntarily binds Himself by duty to protect Sita. She too uses the excuse of following the duties of a wife to always remain with Him.

[Sita and Rama]The link between the two is so strong that one never forgets the other. The love for Rama essentially torments Sita. And that torment is a wonderful thing since it brings her husband’s association. Since she’s always thinking of Him, it’s like she sees Him everywhere. She hears of Him, too. Of course in this situation the seeing and hearing are not created by the mind. Hanuman is within vicinity, and he is describing Rama to Sita.

It is like music to her ears, as she will soon be reunited with Rama after a long period of uncertainty, which was created by the evil king of Lanka, Ravana. And so the long spell of misery triggered by the fall from the spiritual world, spanning many lifetimes, comes to an end when bhakti-yoga reaches the constitutional level. We will know it is there when we become helpless in our thoughts, when Sita and Rama will never leave our mind no matter how hard we may try.

In Closing:

No matter how hard to try,

Rama not to leave heart of mine.


Constitutional level explains,

In which Sita Devi always remains.


In whichever direction Him to see,

Of His association never to be free.


A boon is this helpless condition,

Bound always by God’s affection.