Saturday, November 22, 2014

Conquering The Unconquerable

[Damodara with Yashoda]“By such childhood pastimes as this He is drowning the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy, and is revealing to those devotees who are absorbed in knowledge of His supreme majesty and opulence that He is only conquered by devotees whose pure love is imbued with intimacy and is free from all conceptions of awe and reverence. With great love I again offer my obeisances to Lord Damodara hundreds and hundreds of times.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 3)

itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣaḿ nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvaḿ
punaḥ prematas taḿ śatāvṛtti vande

Download this episode (right click and save)

Know that Vedic literature provides many names to match the concept of “God.” This is because of fact and also to help those who are not God understand Him better. One of the names is Ajita. This means “unconquerable.” It is not so difficult to understand. If you are the Supreme Being, then surely no one can defeat you. If someone can, then it means that they are superior to you; hence negating the title. The Damodarashtaka says that Ajita is actually conquered by something, an apparent contradiction which teaches so much.

What force do we already know to be undefeated? What is something that we see every day that bewilders us? What takes place that we have zero control over, which we can’t prevent no matter how hard we try? In Sanskrit it is known as kala. Translated to mean “time,” a synonym is “death.” The scientists can today be working very hard to prolong life. This is surely a challenge to the undefeated death. Everyone from the past has died. We know this because they are not with us presently. By logical deduction, we understand that everyone living today will eventually have to die also.

But until that happens, we won’t believe it for sure. If only we can get rid of all diseases, then death will have a difficult time conquering us, no? If only we can find safe situations all the time; then death through accidents won’t happen. Though this is foolish thinking, if we accept the idea then it still doesn’t address the issue of time. Even if death is absent, there is still the changing body. Old age takes place, nonetheless. We can’t get back the body we had as a child. This means that time has already defeated us.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
kālo 'smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte 'pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye 'vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ

“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)

[Damodara]In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Being, known as Krishna, says that He is time. Time is one way to understand Him. The person who insists that God doesn’t exist still understands Him. They know Him as death, or time. They readily acknowledge the influence of time, so this means that to some degree everyone believes in God.

He is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. Since He is time, He can break its influence. Though He is always with His transcendental form of bliss and knowledge, He can seemingly subvert the influence of time and take on the form of a child. This would be like going backwards for us, whereas for God it doesn’t make a difference. He can change the time continuum and even stop it.

That undefeated person was once bound to a mortar by a loving mother. At the time, He was in a childhood form that was also very beautiful. It had just broken a pot of yogurt in anger. The mother chased after Him, who was her son. By tying Him to a mortar by the belly, the young child earned a new name: Damodara.

The Damodarashtaka celebrates that incident, and in one of the verses it says that God is conquered by bhakti. How can the unconquerable be conquered? The answer is that love and devotion win His favor. By His favor He voluntarily loses. Think of it like the father giving in to the child out of love. Think of it like the head of state reversing an order of punishment made by the courts.

[Damodara with mother Yashoda]Conquering through bhakti is very important because then even time loses its influence. The highest spiritual land is known as Goloka. There the same Krishna always plays with those who have conquered Him. He goes here and there, and the great enemy known as time has no influence. It does not create old age. It does not bring upon disease. It does not cause depression. Instead, everything remains fresh and new, just like the Damodarashtaka, which sings of the glories of the sweet mother of Vrindavana, who conquers the unconquerable with her pure love.

In Closing:

To clear up confusions any,

In Vedas names for God many.


Among them Ajita is one,

Means that conquered by none.


But in Gokula by Yashoda tied,

Caught though to run away He tried.


Means voluntarily by love defeated,

To this truth by Damodara treated.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Importance Of The Lila

[Damodara]“By such childhood pastimes as this He is drowning the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy, and is revealing to those devotees who are absorbed in knowledge of His supreme majesty and opulence that He is only conquered by devotees whose pure love is imbued with intimacy and is free from all conceptions of awe and reverence. With great love I again offer my obeisances to Lord Damodara hundreds and hundreds of times.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 3)

itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣaḿ nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvaḿ
punaḥ prematas taḿ śatāvṛtti vande

Download this episode (right click and save)

Question: Why should there be attention on Krishna’s lila? You don’t have this concept in other religions. Other faiths speak of an Almighty. They insist on surrender to Him. That is not new, but in this Vedic tradition I hear so much about God doing this and God doing that. He comes here, goes there, and displays His opulence everywhere. Wouldn’t it be better if you focused on more generic things? Wouldn’t it be easier to understand the less defined God?

There should be morality. We hear this from those who are worried about the direction society is heading. They think that without guardrails, everything will fall apart. They don’t necessarily explain the purpose of morals. It’s a gut feeling, an instinct that tells them. They’re not sure over the justification for having delineations between right and wrong, but they think they should be there nonetheless.

But a quick study of the matter reveals the answer. Think of any project where a goal is set. Take losing weight for example. You decide that you’re going to undergo some type of austerity. You will only eat twice a day. You will drink lots of water. You will avoid foods that are not good for you. You will avoid eating to the point of making your stomach completely full. Instead, you will leave some room for digestion. You will drink some water with each meal too. Maybe you will exercise a little also.

[exercise]These are all rules. They are guidelines. By themselves they would seem kind of silly. The outsider would wonder as to the purpose to them. From the goal, however, we understand the purpose. You follow the guidelines in order to reach the desired end, which will ideally make you happier. If you are fit and healthy, you will feel better than you do now.

The same applies to all rules and regulations. Morality is for increasing happiness; it has no other purpose. It is not to limit fun. It is not a way for the miserable to ensure that no one is happier than they are. It is not a way to maintain faith in old traditions that people follow blindly.

The activities described of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are meant to bring happiness. The word in Sanskrit is ananda, which means bliss. His activities, which He displays whenever He so chooses, drown the connected in an ocean of bliss. The Damodarashtaka provides this very description, and it is indeed true.

The generic God cannot do this. At most, one can appreciate Him. If you don’t know what God looks like, where He lives, what He likes, what He doesn’t like, how lovely His features are, and why you should be devoted to Him, under the best circumstances the most you can do is appreciate His opulence. He has created this and every other land. He makes a material nature that operates like clockwork. There is so much intelligence to it that the human being can spend lifetimes studying it. They can rely on this nature. They understand it so well that they sometimes foolishly think they can alter it.

With the generic God you can appreciate Him indirectly, such as through loving your friends and family. You are so thankful to have them in your life. If you’re a little intelligent, you realize that other people have friends and family too. So they also appreciate what their loved ones do for them. Through this knowledge your range of appreciation expands. You can continue appreciating in this way until you reach the complete whole, which is the virata-rupa.

You’ll only swim in an ocean of transcendental bliss when you know God’s lila, though. This is why in Vedic literature so much attention gets devoted to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, you can swim in this ocean of bliss without even knowing that God is God. You don’t need to understand the cycle of birth and death, the difference between matter and spirit, the temporary nature of things, or even the goal of life. Simply by witnessing these sublime activities, you’ll reach a happiness never before experienced.

Unfortunately, in your ignorance you might think that your life is not meant to be spent entirely in this ocean. You’ll think that perhaps you’re weird for appreciating how the Supreme Lord runs in the courtyard of mother Yashoda. You may not want to let others know that you cry tears of appreciation when you hear how God allowed Himself to be bound to the mortar as punishment for having broken mother Yashoda’s pot of yogurt. You’ll worry that you’re supposed to think of things other than the sweet child’s lovely face when confronted by His adoring mother.

[Damodara]Therefore the more generic knowledge is included as well. Morality and virtue exist to help convince you that Krishna’s own pastimes, sva-lila, is meant to be your home. He is so kind that He doesn’t always display the same form. Sometimes He is returning home to the loving inhabitants of Ayodhya. They celebrate in such a way that a new holiday is born: Diwali. Sometimes He delivers knowledge on a battlefield and gives birth to the most famous book: the Bhagavad-gita. The lila is endless, and it all belongs to the same personality. And it all has the same purpose: to drown the witnesses in an ocean of bliss, such as with the residents of Gokula, who saw God in His sweet form of Damodara.

In Closing:

When of generic God to hear,

Towards awe and reverence to steer.


Not just to punish the mentality,

For happiness exists morality.


From appreciation go beyond,

The sva-lila ponder upon.


Then in an ocean of bliss you’ll swim,

Damodara with Yashoda, always thinking of Him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Talking About Senior To All By Birth

[Arjuna and Krishna]“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)

Download this episode (right click and save)
arjuna uvāca
aparaṁ bhavato janma
paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ
katham etad vijānīyāṁ
tvam ādau proktavān iti

Friend1: Do you really think there is a God?

Friend2: Are you serious?

Friend1: No, no, I understand what you’re all about. I’ve read all the books, too. I know your philosophical conclusions. I must say, the knowledge I’ve found in works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam is unparalleled. I never thought religion could be so intellectual. Not only does this philosophy challenge my ability to comprehend, but it teaches me to think in ways I never considered before.

[reading]Friend2: So why are you asking me if there is a God or not?

Friend1: You don’t have any doubts? Not even a little?

Friend2: Maybe in the beginning, but certainly not now. After chanting the holy names for so long, I’ve developed a little faith. I’m by no means a liberated soul, but I have confidence in the existence of the Divine. I feel His presence in the name itself. Don’t you feel it too?

Friend1: By saying Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, certainly I feel something different. It’s a feeling of comfort, of security. It’s pleasure and enthusiasm mixed into that as well. It’s ecstasy really, especially if I’m not distracted by the mind while chanting.

Friend2: Right. So that is your proof. Why do you still harbor doubts?

Friend1: Well, I just know that if other people hear things like “Krishna lifting a giant hill with His pinky finger,” they’re going to think it’s mythology. And a blue God? They’ll say that it’s a legend. And in the worst case, they’ll tell me that I have no evidence for God’s existence. Science has proved God to be a myth, they’ll tell me.

[Krishna with flute]Friend2: First off, what has science proved? There is no empirical evidence showing that chemicals are God. They can’t reproduce something simple like a sun, so why should we believe what they say about the origin of the creation? If chemicals made everything randomly, why not put some chemicals together in a laboratory and make a sun? I don’t need a big one, either. Just a tiny one will do. Make sure that it stays in place for eternity, that it never requires maintenance, and that it gives off heat and light without interruption.

Friend1: I see what you mean.

Friend2: And surely the brain of the scientist is superior to randomness? If you randomly put the parts together, you won’t get a smartphone. If you have the intelligent engineer, however, the same parts come together to make a very powerful device. So the intelligent scientist should be able to create on a much grander scale than the nature that supposedly operates on randomness.

Friend1: Okay, but how do you prove that Krishna is God? Or anyone for that matter - how can we believe their claims? People want to see God; then they’ll believe in Him.

Friend2: I agree with your claim. People do seem eager to see God. But have you ever considered what it would be like if the Supreme Lord manifested before someone today and revealed His identity?

Friend1: Not sure where you’re going with this.

Friend2: Well, let’s assume for this argument that all the people involved acknowledge the existence of a God. They simply want to see Him to make sure, to remove any doubt.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: So say that God comes before me, where I am playing the part of someone who needs to see to believe. He shows up and tells me that He is God.

Friend1: Right, so you will ask Him to prove it.

Friend2: Exactly. So maybe God will do something amazing. Maybe He’ll lift a mountain. Perhaps He will read my mind. Maybe He will hold His breath for a very long time.

Friend1: Yeah, those things are pretty amazing. He’ll do some miracles. But I think that wouldn’t prove it. Am I wrong? I mean some mystic yogis can do some pretty amazing things right now, and we know that they are not God.

Friend2: I like the way you’re thinking here. So there is more to God than just doing amazing things. One thing we would have to agree on is that God is ageless. He never takes birth and He never dies.

Friend1: Absolutely. And from meeting Him we already know that He exists. The key is to see whether or not He dies.

Friend2: Yes. This is a very important point. So let’s say that I go up to God and challenge Him to prove that He never dies. Can He do it?

Friend1: Sure. If He’s God, then He’ll never die.

Friend2: But don’t you see the problem?

Friend1: What?

Friend2: If I have to die myself, how the heck am I going to know if God stays around after me? If I can’t live forever, how can I ever tell if someone else does?

Friend1: Oh man, that is so true. I never thought about that before!

Friend2: This means that you can never prove God’s existence by seeing. We are all destined to die, so we can never perceive everything there is to perceive.

Friend1: Wow. So what do we do then?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: This was addressed in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna told Arjuna that He spoke the ancient science of self-realization to the sun-god at the beginning of the creation. Arjuna was perplexed by this since he thought that Krishna was his contemporary. He asked how Krishna could have spoken to the sun-god back then, since the sun-god was apparently senior to Him by birth.

Friend1: Yeah, especially if Arjuna wasn’t around then, how would he trust that Krishna was telling the truth?

Friend2: So then the Lord told Arjuna that both of them had appeared many times on the earth previously. The difference was that Krishna could remember those appearances, but Arjuna could not. Hence God has perfect memory. We don’t, so we will never be Him.

Friend1: And even if we lived for a long time, we couldn’t remember everything from the past. So if we saw God, it would be very easy to forget Him later on.

Friend2: Right. So that’s why in the Vedic tradition there is not much stress placed on seeing. Hearing is more important. You can hear God from the words of the Bhagavad-gita, which live on to this day. More importantly, you can hear Him in the sound of His name. You’re going to put faith in somebody regardless; might as well make it someone who provides timeless wisdom and gives protection which no one else can offer.

In Closing:

How a God there can be?

Insist on in person to see.


But thinking this way before,

Consider how endless He’ll endure.


When death somewhere else myself to send,

How to prove that He lives til the end.


Put faith in words and intellect use,

The wise sound prefer to choose.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It Was Magic I Know

[Damodara]“[Seeing the whipping stick in His mother's hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother's pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 2)

rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha
sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham

Download this episode (right click and save)

Some five thousand years ago, Gokula was a somewhat dangerous place. Though the wise consider it the ideal destination, in reviewing some of the events that took place there on the surface it looks like the place invited only trouble. The odd thing was that the person in the center of every dangerous situation seemed to survive unscathed. He really shouldn’t have, considering that He was a small child, a helpless infant. The danger was created by different nefarious characters, attackers with ill motives. They came to catch the young child and harm Him, and they failed. Yet the darling mother of that child, who wasn’t nearly as deceptive or equipped with special powers, was able to catch Him from behind one time and tie Him to a mortar.

Was it magic? Some would say “yes.” First there was a problem with the rope. The mother tried to bind her naughty child several times. Each time the rope came up short by the length of two fingers. Then one more time she tried. Finally she was successful. It was as if the boy gave His sanction for being tied to the mortar. He had broken a pot of yogurt in anger, so He knew that punishment was due. He showed all the signs of fear – rapid breathing, tears streaming from His eyes, running away quickly.

yadāsīt tad api nyūnaṁ
tenānyad api sandadhe
tad api dvy-aṅgulaṁ nyūnaṁ
yad yad ādatta bandhanam
“This new rope also was short by a measurement of two fingers, and when another rope was joined to it, it was still two fingers too short. As many ropes as she joined, all of them failed; their shortness could not be overcome.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.16)

[Mother Yashoda tying Krishna]The same boy who could survive attacks from an evil whirlwind, a witch who put poison on her breasts used to kill children while nursing, and a demon hiding in a baby’s cart now was tied to a mortar by an innocent mother. She was not known to run very fast, yet she was able to catch Him. She had not a vengeful streak in her. None of the people in Gokula did. They were all pure of heart, which is one reason this child delighted in living there.

This was no ordinary child. For centuries upon centuries yogis have been trying to catch Him. They’ve left home to live in remote caves. They’ve meditated for years, with no distractions, following the proper procedures as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita.

samaṁ kāya-śiro-grīvaṁ
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
diśaś cānavalokayan
praśāntātmā vigata-bhīr
brahmacāri-vrate sthitaḥ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ

“One should hold one's body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)

[Meditating on God within the heart]Still, these meditators have met with little success. The fruitive workers have been searching for Him through enjoyment in a temporary land. The mental speculators have tried to find Him through philosophy and study of the nature around them. Yet of all these people, it was a simple mother in a farm community who not only caught Him but kept Him bound to a mortar, earning Him the name Damodara.

What was her secret? Was it really magic? Was it a miracle? Her desire was different. Rather than look for things for herself, she thought only of the child’s benefit. Rather than seek rewards to be enjoyed in the afterlife, she would intentionally harm her own fortunes if it meant that her child was made happy as a result. Rather than retreat to the desolate caves, she stayed amongst the people and always thought highly of her beloved son. Rather than speculate on the truth, in simply knowing that her son was great she was completely satisfied.

That son is known by many names and through many ways. The less intelligent in the human species know Him as the all-devouring death. They deny His presence everywhere else in life, but when quitting the body they must submit to Him. The slightly more intelligent understand that He is the highest force around, that He can make anything happen. The more intelligent worship Him in fear, understanding that He has attributes and that with those spiritual qualities He can do anything, including punish.

The most intelligent worship Him with love. This is axiomatic. Love for Him means real intelligence. It means finding the true mission to life, in any form. In the Vedic tradition He is known as Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” Yet He does so many things, comes to so many places, and interacts with so many people that He gets so many more names. Damodara is specific to this incident with the queen of Vraja, mother Yashoda. She plays the role of God’s foster-mother. She does not think that her son is God. This is a unique qualification. Her love is so pure that not even Krishna can stop it. He is helpless in her hands, so He immediately grants her wish to offer punishment to Him. He instigates that punishment, and the world benefits as a result.

[Damodara with mother Yashoda]Some would say this is magic, but in bhakti anything is possible. It is due to the reciprocal affection of God Himself. He can put the devotee in any position He likes. He can make the impossible possible through His will. That is seen to this day in the transformation of those who regularly chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, speaking different languages, and living in different nations, these souls come together and meet life’s mission by practicing bhakti purely, knowing only love for God and the spiritual master day and night.

In Closing:

So many demons to Gokula came,

In different forms, with motive the same.


Yashoda’s darling child to assail,

Yet each one of them miserably to fail.


So much ability but efforts meeting end tragic,

Yashoda bound Him, her effort to eyes magic?


Devotion to Damodara works always this way,

Anything possible when Supreme Lord gives His say.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What You Are Missing

[Damodara]“[Seeing the whipping stick in His mother's hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother's pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 2)

rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha
sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham

Download this episode (right click and save)

Question: “I hear that the living entities descended to this earth out of their own will. They were with God previously, but then they wanted a change. Their wish was granted, and now they struggle through the cycle of birth and death. But what is really to be gained from having God’s association? If I’m going to be reborn after I die, why should I worry? Why is that a bad thing? What am I missing really?”

If asked to describe what God means in a simple term, which would you pick? The Almighty? Surely He must be greater than everyone else. The unborn? Everything has a birth date, though in actuality the spirit soul never takes birth or dies. Still, there are various births of the soul in the material world and they relate to the temporary bodies accepted. God is the same as His body, and that body is never born. The wealthiest? Yes, God has more money than anyone else. He is also the most beautiful and the strongest. Of all the terms we could think of, likely the one that means “one whose belly is bound by a rope” wouldn’t cross our mind. Yet not only is this term accurate, understanding it gives a hint into what we’re missing.

What is bad with our current situation? Take whatever it is that you like. You must enjoy some activity. There must be some person’s association which you prefer. Now know that whatever it is you like will eventually leave you. This isn’t meant to frighten. It isn’t meant to make one think. It’s simply a statement of fact. The truth arises at the time of birth. Whenever you get something, you should know that one day you will be without it.

In this way life is a sort of torture. You enter a new world, find objects and people, form attachments, and then everything gets snatched away from you. This occurs in cycles within one lifetime, and then everything gets repeated in a subsequent life. Life after life, birth after birth, and death after death the same thing happens. The names and circumstances may change, but the result is always the same.

śrī-prahrāda uvāca
matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā
mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām

“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

[Prahlada Maharaja]Just by knowing the cycle of birth and death, we see what God’s association is not meant for. Money will leave us, so why should we ask God for it? Our life will eventually move on to another situation, so what is the benefit to desperately seeking good health? Strength lasts for as long as the body, sometimes not even that long due to old age.

The benefit of being with God is the association itself. One way to understand that association is to think of the name Damodara. One time in the sacred land of Vrindavana a small child broke a pot of yogurt in anger. The pot was important. His mother was churning the yogurt inside it to make butter. It was hard work. Though she dutifully fulfilled her role as a traditional wife, she was anything but idle. She was a working woman; she worked at home the entire day.

Her son broke the pot on purpose. Knowing that He had done something bad, He ran away in fear. The mother caught Him, however. When she did, she tied Him to a mortar as punishment. The boy cried tears of fear, and He looked lovely the whole time. Since He was tied by the belly, He earned the name Damodara.

[Lord Krishna]That Damodara is the same Almighty. He is the only unborn one. He is invincible and unconquerable. He is without a beginning and without an end. He is all-attractive, so the best name to describe Him is Krishna. When you are with Krishna, you get interactions such as this in Vrindavana. He steals your butter and makes you chase after Him. He cries to show that He respects your authority. He eats your butter to show that your work is satisfying to Him. He looks beautiful in a variety of scenes, creating a collage of memories for your mind.

The soul mired in the cycle of birth and death caused by material desires misses out on these interactions. They miss out on offering love without motivation and without interruption. They miss out on appreciating the person who is most worthy of appreciation. They miss out on singing the glories of the one person whose glories are endless. They miss seeing true love in action, offered by the queen of Vraja, Yashoda. They miss out on swimming in the ocean of transcendental ecstasy that is devotional service.

[Damodara with Krishna]With material desires you can get pretty much whatever you want. If you’re having trouble, worship one of Krishna’s administrators, who are gods in their own right. But one thing you won’t get is pure love. You won’t get the gift that is most worth having. And yet it can all change in an instant, in one second. It can change today; no need for tomorrow. No need to wait for the afterlife, since the present life brings the opportunity to love the sweet child of Yashoda, who allows the devotees to bind Him with their ropes of affection. That Damodara is accessible to anyone who chants the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When affection not towards origin of all,

To the material world to unfortunately fall.


That which already chewed again chew,

In cycle of birth pursuit for happiness renew.


To this punishment there is more,

Missing out on Damodara to adore.


A name for God, though not one to expect,

With bhakti today with Him connect.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tied With Devotion

[Damodara]“[Seeing the whipping stick in His mother's hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother's pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 2)

rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha
sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham

Download this episode (right click and save)

The word “guna” in Sanskrit means rope. It has other meanings as well, which are similar. In the usual context, it means a quality. When referencing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it refers to His glories, i.e. only His good qualities. There are only good qualities in the Supreme, but for all others there is duality. Hence the qualities assumed by the individual spirit soul can become binding, sort of like a rope. Interestingly, when practicing bhakti-yoga purely, the situation turns around. It is God who gets bound up, and since He is all powerful it means that He does this voluntarily.

[cows]How can a quality be binding? Think of accepting the body of an animal. Pick your animal of choice. In whichever one you choose, intelligence is limited. You have the instinct that comes with birth. Very soon after emerging from the mother the calf knows how and where to eat. It does not need to be directed where to go; on its own it finds the udders for getting milk. The same goes for the human being even; no one tells us that we need to crawl or walk. This shows that there is some higher intelligence, which the Bhagavad-gita says comes from God.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

[Lord Krishna]In the animal birth, despite the best learned behavior, there is still no ability to talk, solve math equations, or think about the extended future. There is no questioning of why there is an existence and why there has to be birth and death. The qualities are what prevent this. The animating force, the spirit soul, is the same as in the human species. We can take this on faith and also through some observation. The infant human being is not very wise, yet the same individual as an adult can do amazing things. The identity of the person does not change, so it is the qualities that make the difference. In the human species the qualities can develop to the point that the intelligence belonging to the soul gets covered up the least, whereas in the animal species the covering remains composed mostly of ignorance.

The gunas come in three varieties - goodness, passion and ignorance. In goodness, the individual can see the presence of spirit within all creatures. They are sober in thought. They know that there is more to life than just eating, sleeping, mating and defending. From the lowest quality of ignorance in the animals to the highest quality of goodness in the very wise human beings, the rope-effect is there. The gunas bind the individual to the cycle of birth and death.

It is only bhakti which grants release. Bhakti is known as pure goodness, or shudda-sattva. It is above the three gunas of a material existence. It should make sense that bhakti breaks the bounds of the material qualities. This is because the gunas only arrive when there is no bhakti. When you don’t have devotion to God, you get residence in a land of dualities. You can get whatever you want. If you can’t seem to do it through your own effort, you can ask a higher authority, all the way up to Lord Shiva. They are compelled to grant their worshipers whatever they want.

Yet the rewards will remain binding. Great strength, tremendous wealth, excellent beauty, and good scholarship will all vanish eventually. They must, in fact, since only God has these things in the greatest abundance. Only God never loses these things, either. As long as bhakti is lacking, the ropes of the material qualities will continue to bind the otherwise intelligent living entity.

Bhakti is so powerful that not only does it remove the binding effect of the material qualities, it can bind the Supreme Lord Himself. The factual example, which is symbolic at the same time, is the event that gave birth to the name Damodara. The Supreme Lord, who is a person with transcendental qualities, appears on earth every now and then, whenever He so chooses. Vrindavana is His favorite place, and Yashoda’s son is His favorite role to play. There are many reasons for this, with the primary being that the residents of Vrindavana do not want anything from Him. They simply want to love Him, and Yashoda offers that love in the mood of parental affection.

What would a parent be if they never punished their child? God is well-behaved, so when He does something naughty it is with full intelligence. He once broke a pot of yogurt in anger, which made Yashoda chase after Him. The darling Krishna, who had a necklace of pearls around His neck, scampered away in fear. But Yashoda caught Him, and as punishment she decided to bind Him to a mortar. The name Damodara means one who is bound by the belly. This name for God is celebrated in the Damodarashtaka.

[Damodara with Krishna]That work of eight verses says that Krishna was bound by ropes of bhakti, or devotion. That devotion belonged to His mother, and the incident shows that Krishna is controlled by that devotion. He follows whatever the devotees want, for inherent in their desires is His association. This means that one who always chants the holy names has no reason to fear the binding ropes of the material qualities. Whether in a high position or a very low one, whether completely covered by ignorance or not very much so, through devotion the release from the shackles of birth and death is guaranteed.

In Closing:

To this world sometimes to make His way,

Yashoda’s son His favorite role to play.


As God always in behavior perfectional,

Means His breaking of yogurt pot intentional.


So that after Him Yashoda to chase,

Damodara on purpose to lose the race.


With ropes of devotion then tied,

And some tears of fear He also cried.


Of situation’s reversal to us reminding,

In bhakti gunas no more to be binding.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lotus-like Hands

[Krishna's hand]“[Seeing the whipping stick in His mother's hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother's pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 2)

rudantaḿ muhur netra-yugmaḿ mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha
sthita-graivaḿ dāmodaraḿ bhakti-baddham

Download this episode (right click and save)

“What is with the comparison to the lotus? We hear that Lord Vishnu has eyes that are like lotus petals. The same comparison is made for Shri Rama, Vishnu’s incarnation who appears on earth during the Treta Yuga. We hear the same about Krishna, who is also Vishnu. His feet are referred to as ‘lotus-feet.’ The same goes for the feet of the guru, like Swami Prabhupada. Then in the Damodarashtaka, Krishna’s hands get the ‘lotus’ treatment. Isn’t that over doing it? Isn’t it exaggeration?”

The word Krishna means “all-attractive” in Sanskrit. It is considered the best name for God, as it is all-inclusive. You can never affix a single name to God, for He is never limited by anything. While we can’t see when it is cloudy outside, the sun still remains beyond. The limitation with sight means that we are not God. He can see everywhere and anywhere. He sees the biggest and the smallest. He sees everything simultaneously even, for He rests within every heart as the Supersoul.

gatir bhartā prabhuḥ sākṣī
nivāsaḥ śaraṇaṁ suhṛt
prabhavaḥ pralayaḥ sthānaṁ
nidhānaṁ bījam avyayam

“I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.18)

The individual soul is very small. How small? Take the tip of the hair and divide it into ten thousand parts. Then take one of those parts and you have some idea of how small the soul is. This tiny spark animates both the giant elephant and the small ant. The human infant and the human adult both have the same sized soul living within. By logical deduction, we conclude that the living entity is not their body. That body can be large or small, young or old, vibrant or decaying, and the soul stays the same, giving it life.

Within the heart is also the Supersoul. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, it is said that this superior soul is the size of the length between the ring finger and the thumb. Then in other places in Vedic literature the size is compared to the thumb itself. We know that some hands are larger than others, which means that this measurement is an approximation. It is a way to understand that the Supreme Soul, known as the paramatma, is larger than the individual atma.

“Vedic literature states that the Supersoul is sitting within the body of a living entity and is as big as a thumb. Therefore the argument may be put forward, how can something the size of a thumb be accommodated within the heart of an ant? The answer is that this thumb measurement of the Supersoul is imagined in proportion to the body of the living entity.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)

The size of the Supersoul is proportionate to the size of the heart of the living entity. God can take any size He chooses, and through this ability He is able to see everything. Ability is one kind of opulence, but “attractive” typically refers to beauty. So every part of Him is beautiful. What is the most beautiful thing that we know? The answer to this question helps us to better understand God. We require comparisons in order to understand; the simple helps to explain the complex. We use words to define other words. We use food to make other food.

“First a child is shown the branches of a tree, and then he is shown the moon through the branches. This is called shakha-chandra-nyaya. The idea is that first one must be given a simpler example. Then the more difficult background is explained.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 21.30 Purport)

[Fear of the Dark cover]In making these comparisons, taking an object from nature is more useful than something manmade. Nature’s objects stand the test of time. Someone living in a remote part of the world may not understand what a tablet computer is, but they know what a tree is. In one hundred years from now, the tree will still be known to everyone. The tree is not dated. The same goes for the lotus flower, which is uniquely beautiful. It rests on the surface of the pond, not getting wet. It opens at the sight of the sun and closes again at night.

As Krishna, God has beauty in every body part. It is not a stretch to compare His hands to the lotus flower. Those hands are quite beautiful, after all. They are very soft as well. They are good hands, in the true sense of the word. Sometimes what is good for me is not so for you. This is not the case with Krishna or His hands. He is pure goodness, and so whatever those hands do is for the benefit of others.

One time those hands picked up a pot of yogurt and dropped it to the ground. The yogurt was in the process of being churned into butter. The pot broke upon hitting the ground. [Sometimes Krishna uses those hands to throw a stone at the pot, which also causes it to break]. Then using His lotus feet, Krishna scampered away. The mother was persistent, though. She finally caught Krishna and then was ready to punish Him. Seeing Yashoda’s whipping stick, Krishna began to rub His eyes with His lotus-like hands.

[Damodara]That incident is celebrated in the Damodarashtaka. Another aspect to Krishna’s attractiveness is His play in Vrindavana. He comes as a small child and stays there for a while to delight everyone, including mother Yashoda. His pastime of breaking the pot of yogurt gives birth to the name Damodara. That Damodara has eyes like a lotus, feet like a lotus, and hands like a lotus. Yashoda gets to see those hands directly, and she feels their softness. The devotees, in turn, get to hear about those hands, appreciating even more the beauty of their beloved Krishna, who is affectionately known as Damodara when being cared for by Yashoda.

In Closing:

Alone describing not well to fare,

So to known objects to compare.


For God to the lotus the most use,

All body parts, comparison profuse.


To His hands also thus described,

Like when by Yashoda being tied.


As Damodara from then to know,

Like the lotus from head to toe.