Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Is The Supersoul

[Rama's lotus feet]“Whereas other masters become furious at merely hearing about the offenses of their servants, Shri Rama, seeing the offenses Himself, never keeps them in His heart.” (Dohavali, 47)

sāhiba hota saro।sa sevaka ko aparādha suni |
apane dekhe do।sa sapanehu rāma na ura dhare ||

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If you’re familiar with the science of self-realization taught from the bhakti school, which is based off of the Bhagavad-gita, you’ve likely heard the term “Supersoul.” The introductory tenet to students of Vedanta is aham brahmasmi. This translates to “I am Brahman.” Trying to figure out what Brahman is then accounts for the rest of the study and practice. At the individual level, Brahman is the soul. “I am Brahman because I am spirit soul.” This is a factual statement.

The Supersoul is different. This corresponds to Parabrahman. “I am the Supersoul” is an incorrect statement. “Super” is an appropriate prefix because the soul referenced is different from the individual one. The particle of Brahman that is the individual is known as jivatma in Sanskrit. Supersoul is paramatma.

The simplest way to understand the difference is to know that the Supersoul is singular while the individual soul is not. I am not you and you are not me. If I were you, then I could do things within your body. I could read your mind. I could do whatever I do in my body while inside of yours. Moreover, I would be able to do this with every single individual, from all species of life. As I can’t do this, the soul inside of me is limited.

The Supersoul is the same individual within all creatures. The sparks of Brahman are many, while the Supersoul is one. Another way to understand the Supersoul is to know that it is the all-pervading witness. In a criminal trial, if there are no witnesses to the alleged crime, it is difficult to get a conviction. It turns into a “he said, she said” predicament. Anybody can say anything. I can say that you came to my house this morning and tried to sell me flowers. You can deny it, but if there are no witnesses, who will resolve the issue?

[in doubt]The Supersoul witnesses all actions. This is true for the present time, the past, and the future. Karma is fruitive action. The results to that action come about through the laws of karma. If I shout too much at a rock concert, the next day I have difficulty speaking. This is action in karma. I decided to do something and later on there was a result.

The Supersoul is both the witness to this action and the distributor of the result. The Supersoul is impartial. Whatever is done in karma must have its corresponding reaction. The Supersoul does not make exceptions in this regard. From the verse quoted above, however, we see that the Supersoul is incredibly forgiving. By definition, He must be.

We say this with confidence because the Supersoul ultimately welcomes back any soul wishing to connect with Him. The Supersoul is but an expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, addressed here as Rama. You can only get Rama through devotion. There is no other way, precisely because in any other way the desire is different. In material enjoyment, I don’t want to be with God. I might pray to Him to clear my path, but after I get what I want I forget about Him. In renunciation, I want to get rid of things. I don’t want any distractions in my life. In mysticism, I want to be able to do amazing things, out of body stuff that relies on detachment from the senses tied to the body.

Only in bhakti do I want Rama. I may not know what He looks like at the beginning. I may not be sure what I will do when I gain His association. I may prefer to interact with His other expansions, such as Narasimha, Vishnu, or Krishna. Nevertheless, I want to be with Him. The desire is the beginning point, and the implementation is through service. Thus His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada nicely translates bhakti-yoga as “devotional service.”

[Rama's lotus feet]You don’t get Rama through challenging. His favor is not earned through direct combat. There must be service, and it requires submission. Thus you have a master and a servant. Goswami Tulsidas says that other masters get angry simply upon hearing of a servant’s mistake. This is only natural; they want something out of the servant. The relationship is dependent on outside factors.

Rama, on the other hand, sees all the offenses of His devotees and still forgives them. He doesn’t keep them in His heart. He does not see them even in a dream. For Rama to take anybody back, this has to be true. As Supersoul, He’s seen all of our faults. That time we lied to our parents, that time we took home a computer from the company office, that time we cheated on our exam in school - while no one else may have noticed, the Supersoul certainly did. We think that we got away with these things, but the laws of karma are strict.

And yet Rama is so forgiving. He is the controller of karma, so for His devotees He wipes the slate clean. And why wouldn’t He? The person in bhakti-yoga wants only to be with the Supreme Lord. Due to their past bad habits, they are bound to make many mistakes. They are bound to commit offenses accidentally. When the motive is pure, which Rama as the Supersoul can easily judge, then there is great leniency. No other interaction can claim this feature, which is all the more reason to desperately seek out the loving relationship to God in this very lifetime.

In Closing:

The Supersoul in tiny ant and elephant tall,

All-pervading witness to actions all.


Saw that time when to parents lied,

And to cheat on test we tried.


When His lotus feet finally accepting,

Means all past errors Rama neglecting.


Who other to be so kind?

Such mercy in none else to find.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Overlooking Faults

[Rama's lotus feet]“Whereas other masters become furious at merely hearing about the offenses of their servants, Shri Rama, seeing the offenses Himself, never keeps them in His heart.” (Dohavali, 47)

sāhiba hota saro।sa sevaka ko aparādha suni |
apane dekhe do।sa sapanehu rāma na ura dhare ||

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Have you ever known someone who you think is full of faults? Perhaps they eat loudly, chewing with their mouth open. Perhaps they lack etiquette, telling you to your face if you’ve gained too much weight or lost hair. Perhaps they turn on the television to a loud volume in the morning while people are still sleeping, not caring about waking them up. And then that same person is the first to criticize an error in someone else. They don’t even have to see the mistake; just hearing about it is enough.

On the other side you have the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For His servants, those who are working hard to please Him, He may see the offense committed right in front of Him. He may witness the whole thing, and yet He will never reveal remembering it. He will never keep it in His heart. This is the opinion of Goswami Tulsidas, who says that God doesn’t even remember it in His dreams.

Does God dream? Isn’t that a product of the individual escaping from the temporary body and taking shelter only of the subtle body - consisting of mind, intelligence and ego? The comparison to the dream, sapanehu, used by Tulsidas is meant to explain that even involuntarily the Supreme Lord does not remember an offense of His devotee. We can try to forget things, but in our dreams they may come up regardless. We have no control over this. God does not forget. No aspect of Him is defective. It is just that He does not mind the offense. He knows the sincerity of the person working for Him.

[anger]Tulsidas says that other masters become furious with their servants right away. This should make sense if we think about it. In the employer-employee scenario, both parties are looking for something. The employer needs a specific job done. The employee wants to be paid for their work. When there is a mistake, the work of the employer is not done to their satisfaction. It may only take hearing of the mistake to make them upset. They will then reprimand their servant, the person working for them, and keep that mistake in mind. Consider the employee review that remains in a file with the human resources department. One outburst from the employee gets catalogued and can be used as grounds for termination at a later date.

Rama never terminates anyone from serving Him. Rama is the name used by Tulsidas here to address God. As we can see, it means that God is a person. Rama’s servants are engaged in work that brings the reward of increased devotion. With that devotion, they get to be with Rama more and more. So in essence, there cannot be an offense committed. There are mistakes for sure. There are accidents along the very difficult path of bhakti practiced in a world of duality. The old habits borne of illusion are not easy to give up. When the motivation is pure, when the desire is sincere, why wouldn’t Rama be so kind as to overlook faults?

api cet su-durācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)

The same truth is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Krishna, who is the same Rama but in a different form, states that the devotee can commit the most abominable act and still not have it hurt their progress. Of course this is not license to do anything and everything bad without fear. This is not the equivalent of thinking that since some higher figure died for your sins, you can now sin all you want. The meaning is that the seekers who really want to escape from the cycle of birth and death and take comfort in the amazing bliss that is the association of the personal form of God will find success eventually, even if they slip up from time to time.

[Monkeys building bridge for Lord Rama]No other path has this guarantee. Rama is not out for anything. He asks for jobs to be done every now and then. During His time on earth, the monkeys in Kishkindha searched for His missing wife Sita. They built a bridge out of stones. They fought against creatures who used black magic. They were not perfect fighters; sometimes they were defeated. Sometimes they didn’t succeed initially, but Rama did not mind. Neither did Sita, who holds Rama’s servants very dear. Those servants then instruct others on how to accept the same path, even giving tips on how to avoid the common mistakes. They are very merciful in this regard, and all they remember is the good, which in bhakti-yoga never gets erased.

In Closing:

That mistakes to be made understood,

So in bhakti remembered only the good.


For Rama all work to Him the same,

Nothing needed, not looking for gain.


Mistake with His own eyes seeing,

Then from memory immediately freeing.


Compassion as such in no other found,

Why devotees to His service always bound.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What About Me

[Rama's lotus feet]“O son of Dasharatha, those persons who remember you just once get all happiness bestowed upon them by you. Why, then, don’t you care about me, O ocean of mercy?” (Dohavali, 46)

bāraka sumirata tohi hohi tinhahi sammukha sukhada |
kyoṃ na sa'bhārahi mohi dayā sindhu dasarattha ke ||

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If you are not familiar with bhakti-yoga, the science of self-realization that culminates in complete surrender in devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, here are some key facts to know.

  1. God is a person. He is an individual like you and me, except His features are inconceivable.
  2. He lives within everyone through His expansion as the Supersoul. The person within the body corresponds to the individual. The Supersoul within the body is the same person within all creatures.
  3. The sound representation of the Supreme Lord is identical to Him; so is the deity form worshiped in the temple.

Keeping this in mind, how is it that those who practice devotion at the highest levels always feel inadequate, that they are not with God? Shrimati Radharani is the perfect embodiment of this spirit. She constantly feels separation from Krishna. God is one. He is not different for each religion. Perhaps the form of address varies, and so too might the detail to which He is known, but He is still always one person. The Vedic tradition says that the original person is all-attractive, and so the name Krishna suits Him well. Krishna expands into avataras which are identical to Him. One such avatara is Shri Rama.

God is the energetic and that which expands from Him is His energy. The energy falls into different categories. Radharani is the pleasure potency. She is a unique energy since she never deviates from Krishna. She always thinks of Him. She has no personal motives. Since she worships so perfectly, she is considered to be one with Krishna. Radha and Krishna; they are just two aspects to the same supreme spiritual force.

[Radha and Krishna]Radha is the most elevated transcendentally, and yet she never thinks that she has captured Krishna. She thinks just the opposite in fact. She considers everyone else to be more fortunate. Krishna loves them more, she believes. She always feels the pain of separation from her beloved. If she is always in pain, then how can pain be a sign of advancement?

The same sentiment is expressed here by Goswami Tulsidas. His ishta-deva, or worshipable deity, is Shri Rama, who is identical to Krishna. Tulsidas mentions a well-known fact in the first part of this verse. Rama is known to be so gracious that only by thinking of Him one time in the proper mood the person becomes the recipient of so much good fortune.

There are examples to back up the claim. The vulture Jatayu remembered Rama at the time of death and got liberated as a result. The wife of the sage Gautama simply felt the feet of Shri Rama and then became free from a curse previously placed upon her. The ostracized leader of the monkeys in Kishkindha agreed to be Rama’s friend and then immediately regained his kingdom. The Rakshasa Vibhishana renounced his sinful brother and took shelter of Rama. As a result, he got the kingdom of Lanka.

Tulsidas, a famous Vaishnava saint from the medieval period in India, remembered Rama all the time. You could not mistake his occupation for anything else. His life was only devotion. He was fully surrendered. He spoke about Rama, thought about Him, and also wrote about Him. How, then, could he feel that Rama forgot about him? Should not advanced devotion lead to more closeness to the Supreme Lord?

[Goswami Tulsidas]The explanation is that this intense longing is the equivalent of association. The person who feels they have captured Rama is not as likely to appreciate His association. If they feel proud over having received His mercy, they are susceptible to forgetting Him very soon after. The person who always longs for His association, however, never forgets Him. Tulsidas was never without Rama. Radha is never without Krishna. The famous gosvamis of Vrindavana, who practiced devotion in the mood of Radha, also never claimed to have captured Krishna. The charlatan spiritual leader will boldly proclaim that they are God, and on the other side the most bona fide spiritualists will always think that they have not done enough to win God’s favor.

The facts seem paradoxical, but to one who practices devotion in the right way everything is revealed eventually. The common bond shared by the devotees feeling the ecstatic pain of separation is that they hang on to the holy name as their life and soul. Whether they feel they are with God or not, they always chant the holy name, given to them in a specific mantra. The most efficacious mantra for the present age is the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Rama's lotus feet]How powerful is this short sequence of words? Whether you know who God is or not, by chanting these names you’ll get a huge benefit. Whether you feel separation or intimate connection, whether you know that you are spirit or not, whether you are proud of your accomplishments or feel wholly inadequate - the sound of these names will bring you the best result. Tulsidas does not stop chanting, even though he feels he has yet to get the mercy of Rama. Radha does not leave Krishna consciousness; she cannot give Him up. The devotional state is the constitutional one; meaning that once attained there is no other way to go for the person captivated by the enchanting glance of the all-attractive Lord.

In Closing:

Devotee feeling intense separation pain,

Advanced, but how this a sign of gain?


When thinking that God has been caught,

Not to appreciate what to them brought.


When always for His favor seeking,

In consciousness ecstasy peaking.


Blessed those keeping Rama only once in mind,

Imagine then favor for one thinking all the time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Seeing Something Different

[pic of Rama's lotus feet]“O Rama, those eyes which do not fill to the brim with tears upon hearing the great glories of Yours should be filled and rubbed with fistfuls of dust.” (Dohavali, 45)

rahaiṃ na jala bhari puri rāma sujasa suni rāvaro |
tina ā'kina meṃ dhūri bhari bhari mū।thī meliye ||

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Imagine this situation. You’re sitting down to a meal with a friend. These meetings are frequent; you have them to maintain steady contact. This time isn’t any different. As usual, you exchange stories. Your friend speaks first, and you listen attentively. Then they mention something about their grandfather. At the mere sound of the word, your mind goes elsewhere. You think of your own grandfather, who recently departed. He was so dear to you. You wish you had more time to spend with him. You wish you could have told him how much he meant to you.

Suddenly tears start streaming from your face. Meanwhile, you’ve totally shut out your friend. They stop their story and ask why you are crying. They were speaking for a few minutes, actually, but you had no idea what they were saying. Your mind was elsewhere. You tuned them out. You can take this experience and use it to try to understand how the mind of the devotee works. Since they are always thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are not distracted by the outside world.

kūṭa-stho vijitendriyaḥ
yukta ity ucyate yogī
“A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything - whether it be pebbles, stones or gold - as the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.8)

What sorts of distractions are there? The obvious one is the call to take up any path in life besides devotional service.

“Why are you chanting all the time? Why are you living so renounced? Don’t you want to enjoy life? Here’s an offer for you. Come with me tonight to hang out at my house. We’ll have a good time. I’ll pay for everything. Abandon your vow to chant the holy names just for one night.”

[japa beads]The person who is fixed in transcendence will not even get angry at such cajoling. This is because in their mind is always playing the pastimes of the Supreme Lord, who is indeed a person. He is the best person, so He is the ideal one to remember. By remembering Him, one can block out so many negative things. Insults will no longer matter. The satisfaction of the stomach isn’t so important anymore, either.

Though such a person is seeing something special, it is not with their eyes. Their eyes view everything on the outside as equal. They don’t make distinctions between man and woman. They don’t go up to one animal and hug it and then take a knife to a different animal. They see the Supersoul within each creature. This Supersoul is God’s expansion kindly residing within everyone. There is the Supersoul [God], the individual soul [the person in the body], and the maya in between. The person always seeing God on the inside is no longer hindered by maya.

The obvious question then is how one reaches such a position. The above referenced verse from the Dohavali gives a clue. Here Goswami Tulsidas says that someone who doesn’t shed tears of ecstasy and love at the sound of Rama’s glories should have their eyes filled with dirt and then rubbed. Besides being somewhat humorous in its exaggeration, this instruction reveals the proper way to connect with God.

Though eyes are mentioned here, the corresponding action is hearing. Tulsidas does not say that the eyes should have to see God. Simply hearing of Rama’s tremendous glory, sujasa, should bring tears to the eyes. This is because the glory is so great. It is wonderful to remember. Hearing it brings it to memory again. And constant hearing means it always stays in the mind, creating the condition of the equal vision where the individual is unaffected by the outside world.

The author practiced what he preached. He heard of Rama’s glory all the time. He wrote them down, categorized them, and created a mechanism for them to be heard on a regular basis by the entire population of the world. Another personality follows this instruction as well: Shri Hanuman. He saw God as Rama. He met Rama personally. Yet he does not insist on seeing Rama all the time. He does not demand that Rama, a beautiful incarnation of the Lord, appear before him whenever he wants.

[Hanuman reading Ramayana]Instead, Hanuman always hears about Rama. He does this by reading the Ramayana. He shows that the ancient Vedic texts have the purpose of creating the internal vision of the Supreme Lord. This vision cures all ailments, as it keeps one protected from the temporary distractions that constantly arise. This vision is the pinnacle of achievement, and it comes to anyone who hears on a regular basis.

In Closing:

Friend’s story going on and on,

But your mind something else to dwell upon.


Tears even streaming from your face,

Forgetting totally the time and the place.


By this situation of devotee somewhat described,

In ecstasy when chanting japa rounds prescribed.


The vision of God hearing to create inside,

Then equally seeing all on the outside.


Rama’s glory preferred for Tulsidas to hear,

From that sound Hanuman’s Lord always is near.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talking About When I Was Your Age

[Krishna's lotus feet]“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

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bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

Friend1: I’ve come to a realization.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Not everyone’s experience through life is the same.

Friend2: You’re realizing this now?

Friend1: [laughing] You know what I mean.

Friend2: I’m not sure.

Friend1: I tend to compare others to myself, especially if they are younger. For example, when I was a teenager, I was terrified of having to drive. I thought that I would never get my license because I was too afraid. So I waited until I was 18 before I started.

Friend2: And you could have gotten it sooner?

Friend1: Yeah, about a year before that. When I see kids today learning to drive at 15 and a half sometimes, I wonder how they are able to do it. I can only go from my own experience, in which I was very afraid.

Friend2: Yeah, a lot of kids are fearless. Especially when you’re younger, you think you can conquer the world, that nothing is going to harm you.

Friend1: I tend to do the same projection for almost everything. If I studied all the time while in school, I can’t relate to those who don’t. I always did my homework on time; I never left anything until the last minute. I see others who procrastinate constantly, and I can’t relate.

Friend2: Their attitude is totally different.

Friend1: And then think about those who don’t go to college. They work straight out of high school. Or maybe they go on an extended road trip. I don’t know what that’s like. I knew that I had to go to college after graduating high school. There was no other choice. I couldn’t imagine what I would have done otherwise.

Friend2: The old “when I was your age” speech probably applies here. That makes it difficult to relate to others.

Friend1: So I’ve realized practically that the experience through life is not the same. Some might become more intelligent than me at an earlier age. In some cases, it might take them longer to realize the same thing.

Friend2: I hope you know that you’re making an interesting point about how spiritual life is perceived.

Friend1: I don’t. Please explain.

Friend2: Think about it. A person decides that they’re done hankering after material rewards. They don’t want to accumulate more than the next guy. They know that finding a significant other and settling down is not the pinnacle achievement in life. They take to renunciation as a means of increasing their spiritual awareness. They give up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. On Friday nights, instead of heading out to the local pub they’re gathering with like-minded people and congregationally chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[sankirtana]Friend1: I think I see what you’re saying. Who is going to relate to that if they’ve never done it?

Friend2: Right, because that is not a phase of life for most people. The outsider won’t look at the sincere seeker on the bhakti path and think, “Oh okay, that’s what I went through at that age. It’s good that they’ve found this.”

Friend1: They’re going to think the opposite, in fact. “What in the world are they doing? At their age, I was partying all the time, enjoying life. I wasn’t escaping from the world. I wasn’t forcing myself into poverty and hoping that some sacred chant was going to fix everything.”

Friend2: Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the meaning to life, but if someone has never tasted that sweet fruit, how will they be able to relate? At any age, if a person is still miserable swinging on the pendulum of hankering and lamenting, how can they possibly understand the unmotivated and uninterrupted love the devotee offers towards their beloved Shri Krishna, the all-attractive Supreme Lord?

Friend1: Didn’t Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu take sannyasa at the age of twenty-four? I bet you no one during that time could relate to Him.

Friend2: Who ever takes to the renounced order of life anymore? That institution is mostly filled with cheaters who use the garb as a way to eat without having to work. Full renunciation is the last stage in life, so not surprisingly a person is usually quite old when they enter it. For such a young person to give up everything was quite impressive. No one could dare say a word to Him, since no one could possibly relate. That made His message all the more powerful. There was gravitas behind His words.

[Lord Chaitanya]Friend1: Hmm, I just had another realization.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Though someone like me can’t relate to the young sannyasi like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Ramanujacharya, they can relate to me.

Friend2: Oh, most definitely.

Friend1: Though the person practicing bhakti-yoga might be way younger than me, they know all about hankering and lamenting. They are familiar with chasing after a reward, getting it, and then remaining unsatisfied. Though they have a different experience through life, they are able to relate with anyone.

Friend2: Makes you appreciate them all the more, doesn’t it? So fortunate are we to have them in this world. Blessed are the works which describe their life and teachings, which live on forever and which relate to people of any time period.

In Closing:

Same thing happened to me too,

Stage of life also I went through.


Uniform all experiences are not,

Other perspectives some have got.


Shows that difficult to know from outside,

Bhakti-yoga, pure love for God at heart’s inside.


The bhakta with all to relate despite age,

Armed with eyes of shastra and wisdom of sage.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What Do You Really Have

[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

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Go to school. Study. Do well on your exams. Get into a better school after that. Dedicate so much of your life for attaining a goal. Go into large amounts of debt, but as long as you make it to the end then it is all worth it. But what do you really gain? What is it that you’re living for? What do you really have, if you’re lacking the love that mother Yashoda offered to her darling child Krishna?

Let’s review some of the things that we can have. A brand new car. A talk show host will give this away to their guests as a kind gesture. Young men will keep pictures of their favorite car on their phones and computers, hoping for the day when they can afford to buy it. But what is the car really? Once you have it, what have you gained? What is there to be enjoyed?

We can make the reward more generic. Wealth. If you have a lot of money, you will be happy, no? You will be able to live without worry. No more wondering if you’ll be able to pay the bills. No more fearing that you’ll starve to death due to lack of funds. But then the animals already eat. They already have shelter. Their defense is not perfect, by any means. We can acknowledge that. The animal can’t defend itself from every attacker, especially if the human being comes at it with a rifle. Yet the human being isn’t entirely safe either. No amount of money can prevent death. The best security scheme in the world doesn’t prevent accidents.

Another reward is renunciation. Forget all the stuff that’s caused you so much pain in your life. No more women to give you grief on a daily basis, telling you how you are the worst person in the world. No more men to treat you poorly and break your heart. No more things; just the simple life. Living in this world of void, what is there to do? There must be some activity to occupy the time. Living means having time. Without doing something, that time is not well spent; the life goes to waste.

If we take a step back and look at it from the higher point of view, all of these rewards manipulate the system in a sense. Getting a lot of things is exploitation of the resources that already exist. Renunciation is trying to win at the same game, but taking a different approach. There is another reward as well: mystic perfection. Again, the ability earned is a way to take advantage of that which is already there.

There is another option. It involves appreciating the person who created everything. It is offering love to Him without motivation and without interruption. The person who loves Him this way wants nothing to do with winning at the game of life. They want nothing to do with exploiting resources for their personal gain or running away from things that cause them pain. They just want to love God; they want to have Him.

Devotion is the only way to have Him. And having Him means having everything. Whatever thing you want, you’ll get. That is what the Supreme Lord does for His devotees. They only want Him to be with them, so it is immediately granted. A factual event from ancient history nicely symbolizes how this works.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]In Vrindavana some five thousand years ago, mother Yashoda bound her child Krishna to a mortar. This was punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. She wasn’t going to beat Him. She didn’t tie the rope very tightly, either. Simply she wanted Him to stay put for a while. Krishna allowed this to happen. He is the origin of everything. As the wealthiest person in the world, He owns every single expensive object. Since He is completely satisfied in Himself, He does not need anyone else to make Him happy. As Yogeshvara, He is the supreme mystic, capable of doing the most amazing things.

Yashoda had pure devotion to Krishna. This is what pleases God the most. Knowledge and renunciation are means to that end, but they don’t guarantee the destination. You can be very knowledgeable about the material nature and you can be completely unattached to the constant changes that life throws, but this does not mean you will be devoted to God. You have a better chance at it for sure, but devotion is never dependent on anything.

Yashoda’s devotion brought her Krishna. This is the only reward worth seeking. He is the king of all kings, and He presides over the entire creation without effort. Though being so opulent, He still descends to the village of Gokula and plays in mother Yashoda’s courtyard. By catching Krishna, she has the whole world.  He can be caught by anyone who has pure devotion, which is shown in the constant chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Mystic ability, opulence pronounced,

Or other side completely renounced.


In material life what to be gained?

Chewing the chewed, everything the same.


Better if origin of all by your side,

Then real peace over you to preside.


Happiness like that in Yashoda found,

By whose affection Damodara is bound.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Catching God

[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

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Take your house. You know how big it is. You know how many rooms there are. You know what furniture fills each room. You have a general idea of how big the house is in comparison with others. Now take the neighboring home. If you’re not sure which direction to go, take all of them. Go left, go right, go forward and go backward. Now you have several homes.

Extend that vision to the entire community. Now multiply that community by a very large number. Soon you have the whole nation. Then you get several nations, up to the point that you have the whole world. Then you get all the planets, including the sun.

[the earth]This vision exists. It’s hard to comprehend, for sure, but it is factual. This entirety, this vision of the maximum, is one way to understand greatness. To the person who doesn’t believe in a higher power, a supreme deity, they can at least acknowledge the presence of the whole.

Now imagine trying to capture this whole. It would seem a little silly, no? We can’t even wrap our arms around our house, so how are we going to take control of the entire universe? Sure, we can use cranes, pulleys and other mechanisms for moving and securing large objects, but to do that for the whole world is impossible.

In the Vedas, we learn that this universal form, the virata-rupa, is only one aspect to God. He is nirguna, which means “without material qualities.” He has arms, legs, hands, and a face. We can see Him if we wish, but we have no way of comprehending the nature of those qualities. His form can be small or it can be very large. The virata-rupa is the largest thing we can imagine, and yet He can expand to something much larger than this. He is smaller than the smallest as well.

So now imagine trying to capture God. The nirguna Supreme Lord is impossible to comprehend, so how are we going to even find Him? When He is apparently saguna, that is with a form that we can see in front of our eyes, it seems a little easier, but even then it isn’t very easy. Yet mother Yashoda did it one time. That person who is larger than the largest got bound to a mortar by a rope.

[Mother Yashoda]What was her secret? For starters, she was not interested in knowing His greatness. Not that she didn’t believe in God. Not that she foolishly thought she could create every outcome through her effort alone. She just didn’t feel the need to test. She did not need convincing that there is a person who is responsible for the cosmic manifestation, which has so many intricacies that work in harmony for predictability and sustainability.

What is wrong with trying to understand God scientifically? What is wrong with testing His greatness? These things are helpful in understanding Him, but they won’t work in catching Him. The less intelligent might ask what purpose is served by catching Him. The question itself reveals ignorance of the true nature of the Supreme Lord.

By definition, God is all-bliss. This refers to every aspect of His personal self. We work so hard to try to find peace. Peace is necessary for happiness. Yet if God is all-bliss, wouldn’t we be peaceful all the time if we had Him with us? This is the reason for trying to catch Him. If one tries to bind Him for the purpose of fulfilling their desires for money, strength, fame, prestige, honor, or longevity, they will always fail in their attempts.

Mother Yashoda bound her young child with ropes of affection. Indeed, the physical ropes weren’t sufficient. The first one she tried didn’t work. It ended up being too short, by the length of two fingers. No problem. She just got another rope; two of them now joined together. But alas, still short by the same length. Taking more ropes just led to the same result. Her friends started to tease her. She could dress her child just fine. She could tie a belt around His waist, but all of a sudden tying Him to a mortar as punishment was impossible.

Finally, it was Krishna Himself who gave the sanction. He was the one being punished. He knew the love Yashoda felt. He knew why she was trying to tie Him. He gives sanction to all results, including the rewards offered by the many demigods of the Vedic tradition. Not a blade of grass moves without His approval, so certainly He could not be bound unless He agreed to it.

[Damodara with mother Yashoda]Yashoda caught God in person after He broke a pot of yogurt in a tantrum. That darling child of hers would eventually grow up and leave home, but He still remains with her always. It is said that Krishna never leaves Vrindavana. When He goes elsewhere, He simply expands. In a similar manner, the devotees who love Krishna so much keep Him bound in their hearts, where He happily stays and listens joyfully to their constant glorification of Him. If they ever feel that the naughty Krishna, the origin of the universe, is slipping away, they recite the holy names to bring Him back: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Whenever feeling loneliness attack,

Chanting holy names to bring Him back.


In their hearts Damodara is found,

By pure affection He’s bound.


Like what in Gokula first occurred,

When by broken pot mother disturbed.


Punishment failing, ropes short by fingers two,

Krishna then agreed because mother’s love He knew.