Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just A Single Offering

[Mother Yashoda feeding Krishna]“Just see how all Your playmates of Your own age have been cleansed and decorated with beautiful ornaments by their mothers. You should come here, and after You have taken Your bath, eaten Your lunch and been decorated with ornaments, You may play with Your friends again.” (Mother Yashoda speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.19)

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paśya paśya vayasyāṁs te
mātṛ-mṛṣṭān svalaṅkṛtān
tvaṁ ca snātaḥ kṛtāhāro
viharasva svalaṅkṛtaḥ

Question: “Why is it necessary to offer something to God? If He is the Supreme Lord, doesn’t it mean that He has everything? What could He possibly need from me? I’m the one who is suffering. I’m the one who is constantly in trouble. Worry never leaves me. He should be helping me out instead.”

One would be surprised to learn that the bhakti-yoga philosophy says that a single offering made to the Almighty in the proper mood yields the best results one could ask for. This is meant to be taken literally. One offering; that’s it. Not many in succession, though that is surely not prohibited. As you would help a stranger on the street who is down on their luck, as you would feed your own children - if you make just one offering to God in this attitude, you will reap benefits like you’ve never seen before.

Of course the first question is why. Why does this work? Why should I offer something to God? The answer is found in the act of raising the question itself. The attitude of the living entity is to ask for things. Seeing that a person has everything and is all-powerful, the less powerful seeks some help. Yet what is the attitude behind that request? If I ask the Supreme Lord for help in financial matters, what will be the result if I get what I want?

[asking for something]I will forget Him. This is the fact. I know this based on how I’ve forgotten all that so many have done for me previously. The tablet computer I use every day came to me as a gift from someone. Yet I don’t remember that on a daily basis. My closet is full of clothes that others gave to me on special occasions. I don’t remember who gave me what. Where is the gratefulness, then? Where is the gratitude?

Requesting from God in this manner is a kind of exploitation. It is like seeing the door to a bank vault open and going in and taking some money. The money belongs to someone else. They earned it. I’m taking it for my own pleasure and not even giving thanks in return. And so this entire creation is the property of God. This means that He is the richest person, which is one of the six opulences that go into the definition of Bhagavan, which is one name for Him in the Vedic tradition.

Now if you make one genuine offering to the Lord, it means that your attitude is a little different. It means that you seek His welfare, not your own. That is the definition to love, at least as we know it. A single offering means that you know that there is a higher power who is all-merciful. It means that you’ve sacrificed a moment of your time to spend with God. It means that for a brief period you’ve escaped your pit of selfishness, where you only think of yourself. Even when you’re working to help others, the motivation is personal; you want to feel better about yourself.

God indeed doesn’t need anything from anyone. We have already established that He is the wealthiest person. He is also the strongest, the wisest, the most beautiful, the most famous and the most renounced. As He is the wisest, there is nothing that we can teach Him. He is more beautiful than anyone we can imagine; hence His name of Krishna. He is so strong that He doesn’t need anyone to support Him. He is so famous that everyone in the world knows about Him in some way. And despite having rightful claim to everything, He can live without anything. This includes our offerings to Him.

[Mother Yashoda feeding Krishna]If you know all of this and still make the offering with love, you win in life. This is because you get the association of God in the proper mood. And that association stays forever, beyond this lifetime. Even if you slip back into the mode of selfishness, that one gesture is never forgotten. You’ll get the benefit again at some later time. For this reason on special occasions like Janmashtami, the appearance day anniversary for Shri Krishna, so many devotees line up to pour liquids on top of the deity form of God as part of the bathing ceremony known as the abhisheka. So many line up to only briefly pull a swing which holds the darling Krishna on it. So many remember the way mother Yashoda feeds Krishna, thinking of His welfare day and night.

For a brief moment there is escape from the miserable world that is full of fear. With birth there must be death, and so each person has to fear the inevitable end to their life. Krishna is timeless. He is deathless. Devotion to Him, bhakti-yoga, is the same way. This is very difficult to understand when one is covered by illusion, and so with the single offering made with love there is hope that the illusion won’t last much longer. There is the potential for escaping darkness and finding the light. There is the chance that a desire will emerge to make many more offerings. Even if they are not in front of a deity form or attending a formal ritual, that person can still sacrifice their time and energy by chanting the holy names with full faith and attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Possessor of all, better if from Him taking,

Why then insist an offering making?


What exploitation to you to give?

No happiness found in that way to live.


Just make a true offering one,

And see how forever His favor is won.


In bhakti with love again and again showing,

True happiness when His kind nature knowing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Talking About Teaching Us To Forget

[Prabhupada as child performing Ratha-Yatra]“My father was a pure devotee of the Lord, and when I was only four or five years old, my father gave me a couple of forms of Radha and Krishna. In a playful manner, I used to worship these Deities along with my sister, and I used to imitate the performances of a neighboring temple of Radha-Govinda. By constantly visiting this neighboring temple and copying the ceremonies in connection with my own Deities of play, I developed a natural affinity for the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.30 Purport)

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Friend1: I’ve been thinking about a particular teaching lately.

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: Where it is the duty of the parents to raise God conscious children.

Friend2: Yeah, that’s a good one. Reveals a higher purpose.

Friend1: Right. Typically we first think of the material happiness of our children, like making sure they have enough money, enough food, and enough protection. This objective is a little different.

Friend2: Because sometimes having less possessions opens the door for spiritual awakening. If you’re not tied up with sense enjoyment all the time or if you have grown sick of it, there’s more potential for choosing the imperishable path of bhakti-yoga, which is the soul’s eternal occupation.

Friend1: So what I’ve been thinking about is that if the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles accept this teaching seriously, they’re essentially offering love and affection in the hopes that they’ll be forgotten.

Friend2: What do you mean? We shouldn’t forget what others have done for us. Though it’s easy for us to forget, still we shouldn’t. This is one of the ways that God is so amazing. Goswami Tulsidas mentions repeatedly how Shri Rama never forgets even a single act done for Him. He rewarded Jatayu, Sugriva, Vibhishana, Shabari and many others based on only a limited interaction. Gratefulness is a sign of godliness.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Jatayu]Friend1: No, that’s all true, for sure. Think about it this way. Bhakti-yoga means consciousness of God, right?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: So consciousness means thinking, no?

Friend2: Correct.

Friend1: So if I’m teaching a dependent of mine to always think of one thing, or in this case one person, obviously that will leave less time for them to think of me. Moreover, do I really want them thinking about me all the time?

Friend2: I see what you’re saying. Like what is there to think about really?

Friend1: I don’t want them meditating on my form. I don’t want them making a god out of me. I don’t want them worshiping one of my pictures every day. In fact, I’d rather they not be obsessed with any single one person. God, on the other hand, is meant to be thought of all the time. So if I’m doing my job as a parent correctly, then one day my child won’t have time to think about me. They will be consumed with thoughts of the Supreme Lord. They will remember how Rama always appreciates even a single kind gesture made His way.

Friend2: That is a very interesting point. Especially when we lose a loved one, we think about them for a while in the aftermath. Eventually though, in the healing process, we’re supposed to forget about them again.

Friend1: Forget as in not always being conscious of; but it never means discounting all that they’ve done for us.

Friend2: Right. We should always appreciate our forefathers. We are like animals when we exit the womb. Any good characteristics we have in adulthood are due to the training that the elders provide. Therefore we owe them so much. You could say we owe them everything, in fact.

Friend1: And the affection they offer is out of our hands. We can’t control who our parents are. This means that the good parenting is an extension of the Lord’s mercy. It is God’s hand shown in a unique way.

Friend2: So we can think of forgetting them later on in life in favor of remembering God as a way of honoring them too. It’s a way of saying “thanks.”

Friend1: Yeah, I mean if you think about it, we want our children to be happy, no? What can make any person happier than the association of the Supreme Lord? I’d rather my children be always remembering Shri Krishna and His various pastimes than constantly praising me. I’d rather they be focused on remembering Bhagavan all the way up until the time of death than constantly lamenting the loss of my association.

Friend2: I must agree with you. Just shows you how much appreciation the good parents deserve. It is a truly selfless act to raise a child in the proper way. More so with the grandparents and extended family, you don’t get to see the returns. The children fly off into another world, and your lone comfort is knowing that you played a role in their happiness.

[Devaki and Vasudeva]Friend1: Yeah, even in the earthly pastimes of the Supreme Lord, which are still transcendental and not to be considered mundane, we see how the parents are left behind. Vasudeva and Devaki did not get to enjoy Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. Krishna appeared from Devaki’s womb in the jail cell in Mathura, but then He immediately was transferred to Gokula. Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja became the foster parents and they got to enjoy Krishna and His brother Balarama for many years, but even for them there was separation. The boys eventually went back to Mathura and Dvaraka thereafter.

Friend2: Yeah, and then with Shri Rama, who is the same Krishna but in an incarnation form, there was the unfortunate passing of the father Dasharatha. He did not get to celebrate in Rama’s triumphant homecoming after fourteen years in exile. He did not get to hug his son Rama after He had shown His unmatched fighting ability. The king did not get to meet Hanuman and the rest of the courageous Vanaras who helped Rama defeat the evil Ravana.

Friend1: Yeah, so many lessons taught from those accounts of historical events. Association comes and then one day it leaves. Might as well make the best impact on others during the brief time that you have that association.

Friend2: And nothing makes a bigger impact than implanting the seed of devotional service within the heart and then helping it to grow by regularly chanting and hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Parents to children so much love give,

So that hopefully one day forgetful to live.


Goal to make them of God conscious,

Fulfilling destiny of human life so precious.


How this kindness to repay?
No end to their glories to say.


From happiness of bhakti found,

Benefits to all ancestors redound.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Talking About Sadhana

[japa beads]“The process of devotional service - beginning with chanting and hearing - is called sadhana-bhakti. This includes the regulative principles that are intended to awaken one to devotional service. Devotional service is always dormant in everyone's heart, and by the offenseless chanting of the holy names of the Lord, one's original dormant Krishna consciousness is awakened. This awakening to Krishna consciousness is the beginning of sadhana-bhakti.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.117 Purport)

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Friend1: Well, it happened again.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Another ridiculous experience at the temple.

Friend2: Again? That place is full of stories.

Friend1: This might have been the most entertaining visit there yet.

Friend2: What happened?

Friend1: The same political games, but this time it got really heated. There was a large group of attendees there, most of whom don’t come very often. They wanted to take the temple, saying that it actually belonged to them. I was sitting right in the middle of it. I thought a fight was going to break out.

[anger]Friend2: Unbelievable. This was in front of the deities?

Friend1: The curtain was closed for most of it. At one point the pujari stuck his head out from behind the curtain and started shouting at one of the guys. So the deities were visible at that time, but then one of the people asked the pujari to close the curtain before he continued shouting.

Friend2: That is nuts.

Friend1: It makes me wonder. I know that you urge me to keep going, but I think it is getting to be a bit much. I don’t know if I’m getting any value from this.

Friend2: I know what you mean. It’s sad that these places are run over by politics and the like. It seems to be this way everywhere.

Friend1: I talk to people who visit other places and they tell me the same thing, so you might be right. Can you tell me again why I should continue going? [smile]

Friend2: [laughing] Well, the ultimate benefit is hearing the holy name. If you get to hear it at least once a week, then that’s a very good thing. Even a second’s worth of hearing in the right mood can change your life.

Friend1: I know what you’re saying, but the people there seem to be a little too aggressive. They’re always asking me about my personal life. They want to know what I do every day. If I don’t show up one week, they want to know why. It’s eerily similar to a cult.

Friend2: There’s no doubt about that. Sadly, that’s the way it is. I still think you should try to tolerate it.

Friend1: Yeah? Even with the overbearingly evangelical attitude?

Friend2: Well, if you think about it everyone is trying to sell you something. Some are more subtle, but each person has reached a conclusion as to the mission in life. By default it is sense gratification; “seek as much of it as you can.” It is not surprising that those who have tasted something higher would be eager to share that secret with as many people as possible.

[maha-mantra]Friend1: In my heart I know that you’re right. If I look at things objectively, my life has changed since regularly attending. I do find myself humming the maha-mantra to myself throughout the day. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is what immediately comes to mind whenever I’m in trouble.

Friend2: Right, the bhakti-yoga stuff is good, but the rest of it seems to get in the way?

Friend1: Exactly. Sometimes I feel it’d be better if I didn’t go.

Friend2: Well, you realize that the books are there to save you from this, right?

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The books on bhakti-yoga allow you to connect at any time and at any place. It’s like sitting down with a saint and giving them your undivided attention. When you sit down for the lecture each week, surely people are coming and going.

Friend1: Most of the people show up late, right before it’s time to eat. But I see what you’re saying; at least one person is listening.

Friend2: Yeah, I always get a kick out of the late-arrivers who are there just for the food.

Friend1: And then you’re sitting there and people’s cell phones start ringing, they whisper something in your ear, or their baby starts crying. It’s hard to pay attention. I like sitting in the back, out of the spotlight, but then there are more distractions.

Friend2: So if you read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, it’s like you’re listening to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, with him sitting right in front of you. It’s like he’s talking to you only, no one else. That’s pretty neat if you think about it.

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]Friend1: But is that as good as going to the temple? Is that as good as chanting the maha-mantra in congregation?

Friend2: In many respects it’s better. With more focus, you will learn more quickly. That’s why the people who practice bhakti-yoga in the line of succession descending from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu put so much emphasis on the distribution of such literature.

Friend1: So I should just read the books and not go to the temple?

Friend2: I wouldn’t say that. The more you read, the more you will want to go. The more you hear from Prabhupada, the more you will want to chant. It’s just nice knowing that if things ever turn sour, you have the books there to guide you. The temple helps to keep you in a routine. Sort of like going to see a movie in a theater versus watching it at home.

Friend1: I see. At home I might go on the internet instead. I might pick up the phone or flip the channel to something else. It is a chore to go to the theater, but then at least I know that I will watch the movie.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Right, so if you chant congregationally it’s like having someone there to build your routine. There are difficulties for sure, but at least it gives you some level of sadhana, adherence to regulative principles. And through sadhana the bhakti hopefully matures into bhava and beyond. Devotion to God is at the soul’s core, and in its ideal state it is spontaneous and unmotivated. No one will be able to stop you from being with the Supreme Lord if you really want it.

In Closing:

Since with politics never to quit,

Tainted is recurring temple visit.


Why not at home to stay,

And from trouble remain away?


Prabhupada sacrifice for this took,

To create his presence from reading a book.


Alone with so many things distracting,

Together easier for sadhana practicing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Needing A Little Help

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 6)

namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnaḿ batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

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Satyavrata Muni is no ignorant fool, though he declares himself to be one in his Damodarashtaka. That song is famous, having been passed on to so many future generations through the Padma Purana. It is said that a wise saint of the Vedic tradition can see past, present and future. With this in mind, why would Satyavrata Muni want so many people to know that he wasn’t very wise? Why would he deprecate himself in such a manner, especially when engaged in the glorious activity of praising the Supreme Personality of Godhead?

First there is the question of seeing God. Can you do it? Do you see Him now? What does He look like? How about when you drove in to work this morning? Did you see Him then? Did He appear in your dreams last night? These seem like loaded questions, as philosophers since time immemorial have been searching after the divine vision, with no luck.

We can make the question easier. Take anything that you prefer, be it your beloved spouse, pet, son, daughter, sister, or brother. The object doesn’t matter; the exercise is what counts here. Can you see that object all the time? Do you always see it, including in the situations mentioned previously? The answer is an obvious “no.”

[playing drums]So many things rush through the mind every second. Consider the drummer in a rock band who plays different beats with his limbs. The right hand is playing quarter notes on the high-hat, the right leg half-notes on the base drum and the left hand full notes on the snare drum. Then there are the various fills and changes in time. Even while all this is going on, the drummer can hear the rest of the band playing. If he is very skilled, he likely thinks of other things at the same time also.

That same experience is there for everyone at every moment. So how can we possibly keep a steady vision in mind? Moreover, there is the issue of access. What if we don’t have a picture handy? If I’m looking at a picture, I’m not looking at anything else. This means that I won’t be able to drive. I won’t be able to study for my exam or complete that expense report for the boss. So even with a high level of access, I don’t have the ability to constantly see.

Satyavrata Muni addresses himself as an ignorant fool because that is every person’s starting position. They lack ability, and in the most important matter, the mission of life, they lack awareness. They don’t know what to do with their time. They don’t know that finding increased enjoyment in eating and sleeping won’t make them any happier than they are right now. They don’t realize that the vital force animating them within is meant for a higher purpose.

Without knowing the higher purpose, how can they know God? They can insist on seeing Him, but what right do they have? Why should they get the divine vision when they won’t appreciate it? Satyavrata Muni knows that any ignorant person can get this vision, but only with help. The person helping them is unlimited. He is also all-pervading. The event glorified by that muni shows how that help manifests.

[Krishna being tied to a mortar]Mother Yashoda chased after her son. He broke a pot of yogurt and then ran away. Thinking that He shouldn’t get away with it, the mother ran after Him. She eventually caught Him. Then she tried tying Him to a mortar. Normally a simple task, this wasn’t happening for the loving mother. She couldn’t tie Him. It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t ignorance. The Supreme Lord simply cannot be bound unless He agrees to it. Seeing the love in His mother, the child finally gave His consent. From the incident He earned the name Damodara.

In a similar manner, He must give consent to have His vision manifest in the heart. Yashoda did not claim to be very wise. She tied God to a mortar, but she never boasts about it. She never claims that she is the supreme mother, the wisest person in the world who is fast enough to catch someone who moves faster than time itself.

Yashoda is simple-hearted, pure to the core in her desire to love God. The true devotees always think they are ignorant fools, because they know the nature of the divine. They know that not a blade of grass moves without His sanction; therefore how can they ever be overly proud of their accomplishments? That supposed ignorant fool authored a wonderful set of prayers containing words so powerful that the very vision desired jumps out to the eyes of the person hearing with faith and love.

In Closing:

Think that fate in hands my own,

That success through effort alone.


But know that first His consent required,

Like when in tying rope Yashoda tired.


Always too short, though one after another,

Finally Damodara to reward the loving mother.


Simple and pure, love to Him showing,

Towards His feet the wisest souls going.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Turning Duhkha Into Sukha

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 6)

namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnaḿ batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

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The advice from Satyavrata Muni is pretty clear. Focus on one person. You want to love, that is readily acknowledged. You want to offer affection in a way that isn’t hindered. You want to offer it unconditionally, i.e. without any requirements. Whether the beneficiary reciprocates or not is of no issue; just let there be love. The muni says to offer that love to Damodara, who is also known as Ananta and Vishnu. He is unlimited and all-pervading, and through devotion to Him that perpetual frown can get turned upside down.

[sad]Happiness and sadness are part of life, no? One day we’re happy that we get to exercise early in the morning. The clocks have moved back one hour due to daylight savings time. Since we’re accustomed to arising from bed one hour earlier, we take advantage by taking in some fresh air in the morning. We know that we have to arise at a certain time to get the benefit; otherwise we’ll miss our window.

So we’re very happy in this new routine. The exercise makes us feel good. We like getting to go outside. Then there’s a problem one day. It rains. Not just a slight drizzle, but a heavy downpour. Though we try to tough it out, we just can’t do it. It’s raining too hard for us to go outside. Therefore we are saddened. We are more sad than we would be if we had never taken up the new routine. Thus it seems like we got trapped into something, drawn by the allure of temporary happiness, only to have bitter disappointment waiting for us at the end.

mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
āgamāpāyino 'nityās
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

[fall leaves]Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita says that this happiness comes and goes like the winter and summer seasons. He also says that one should learn to tolerate the happiness and the corresponding distress without being disturbed. Obviously it’s easier said than done, but doesn’t this also paint a bleak picture of the journey through life? We know that the seasons come and go. We know that the present cold from winter’s approach will soon give way to the light and heat of spring. And then that won’t last long; soon thereafter it will be very hot in the summer.

If happiness and sadness come and go in the same way, what is the point to Satyavrata Muni’s advice? Why is he asking to focus on Damodara? Doesn’t he know that such focus will only bring him sadness eventually? He won’t get to be happy all the time; that we have realized through our experiences in life.

That focus is of a different nature. It is in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. One way to describe God is “ever-increasing.” You can say that the entire universe represents His width, length, and depth, but even that is inaccurate. Since time and space are infinite, there is no way to know God’s age or size. To say that He is ever-increasing is another way to say that He is unlimited, or ananta.

That “ever-increasing” property belongs to bhakti-yoga as well. If you’ve taken up a routine to start running every morning, gradually you can go for longer distances without tiring. Building up your stamina, you could even run a marathon if you wanted. Nevertheless, at some point you will stop. There will come a break, if not through your physical limitations then at least through time, with its all-devouring force known as death.

With bhakti-yoga, the devotion steadily increases. The pure love, known as prema, can be likened to an ocean which has rivers constantly rushing in. This ocean is impossible to fill up; it cannot overflow. One way to see how that works is to take a glance at the sweet vision of Damodara. This is God involved in a unique pastime. He is being tied to a mortar by His mother, Yashoda.

“God can have a mother? God can be tied up?”

Ah, this is why the prema continues to increase. How can God have a mother and a father? How can anyone catch Him and punish Him? He never does anything wrong, does He? He doesn’t actually take birth; otherwise He wouldn’t be God. He doesn’t need anyone to protect Him. How can this Damodara vision be real, then?

It is the very definition of real, in fact. The changing world is false in the sense that nothing will stay. Everything that you have right now will vanish eventually, including your relationships. God will always stay, including His pastime of being tied to the mortar in Gokula by mother Yashoda. The vision of Damodara will continue to be worshiped by the sincere followers of bhakti-yoga.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]It will continue due in no small part to people like Satyavrata Muni, who asks that such a vision remain in his heart. He does not want any other boon. He looks at Damodara again and again with amazement. The love Damodara has for Yashoda is immeasurable. Damodara is so kind that He allows people to pick Him up and place Him on their lap to feed Him. He allows people to tie Him so that they can get a better look at Him.

Best of all, He allows people to connect with Him through sound. By chanting a mantra, He comes to be with them always. Therefore the maha-mantra is the preferred mechanism for catching, keeping, appreciating and loving Yashoda’s darling child, who is the origin of the universe: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

One day happy when something new found,

When taken away into despair abound.


Like the seasons to come and go,

Of their cycle one should know.


Damodara vision not like this,

Steady that face Yashoda to kiss.


When devotion to Him to feel,

To understand the definition of real.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Network Of Material Miseries

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 6)

namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnaḿ batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

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Satyavrata Muni refers to this present land as a network of material miseries. Not only he, but everyone else is trapped in this place. They cannot find a way out, except for the causeless mercy of the person who is unlimited, ananta. Only with His help can one defeat the chain of cause and effect that seems to intelligently plot against the innocent person trying to find some peace and happiness.

A network means things that are tied together; they are related. Think of the national television network. Originally, they are just one station featuring programming. What gives them strength is the relationship they have to other individual television stations. These are known as affiliates, and they agree to air the programming of the network at certain times of the day.

[television networks]There are advantages for each party. The stations don’t have to worry about filling up air time during critical moments of the day, when viewership is generally higher. The network can find a large audience for their programming, bringing familiarity and attachment. If the content is good, millions of people, perhaps even the majority of all television viewers, can be watching the same thing at the same time.

In the network of material miseries, different aspects of nature seem to be tied together. It is as if they conspire to prevent peace and happiness. It all starts with birth. The baby starts crying when it emerges from the womb. By instinct it knows that it is not safe. The cutting of the umbilical cord symbolizes the first broken bond. The mother will protect most likely, but it is not guaranteed. The child must depend on others in order to survive.

Then there is worry over education. The child must study in order to get ahead. They need this education in order to be self-sufficient later on in life. But the misery doesn’t end after that. Graduating is only one piece of the puzzle. Then they must find employment. They can start their own business if they like, but they are not guaranteed of success. Indeed, failure is a possibility during any stage in life.

Even if the individual makes it through all these uncertainties, they then must contend with disease. Old age also starts to creep in. No longer is it so easy to wake up in the morning. New pains emerge, sometimes for no reason. And then at the end there is impending death, which has been lurking in the background the whole time. Every success does nothing to keep this death away. Time works in concert with the network of miseries, and time’s most powerful force is death.

According to Vedic philosophy, this cycle repeats itself over and over again. So not only does one get trapped for a single lifetime, they fall into the same situation in the next birth. Satyavrata Muni is well aware of this, so he kindly prays to the unlimited to help him. The unlimited, ananta, is also known as Vishnu, which means “all-pervading.” He is everywhere and anywhere, and His abilities are not limited to one particular situation. He can help five thousand people simultaneously if needed.

And how does He help? The muni prays to Damodara, the darling child of mother Yashoda who gets bound to a mortar in the courtyard as punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. That Damodara is known for granting bhakti, or devotion. Bhakti is the way to stop rebirth. It is the way to escape from the network of material miseries. This happens through the direct intervention of Damodara.

[Damodara]His charming face changes the mind of the individual. Instead of looking to exploit the material nature, and thereby falling into the trap, they look for any way to make Damodara happy. They seek ways to remember Him, as if defiantly rejecting the allures of money, sex, wine, idleness and pride. Their desires transform to the point that they don’t even think of liberation so much.

They ask only to have the vision of Damodara again and again. The request is granted through the mercy of the Lord, who simultaneously gives rescue from the ocean of material suffering. How can there be pain and misery for one who knows God’s kindness in allowing His devotees to bind Him? How can the network trap them when they have the transcendental glory of Damodara to break attachments?

Does old age suddenly vanish for the devotee? Do they not have to meet with death?

The same cause and effect is there, but the end result is different. The system is also managed differently. Karma is fruitive action. Do something and then suffer or enjoy the consequences. The person who loves Damodara no longer comes under the influence of karma. They instead are under the protection of God Himself, who looks out for their wellbeing. He ensures that the situations they find are conducive to the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]He manipulates the nature of time so that the month of Kartika becomes very auspicious. It is the month when the Damodarashtaka is sung with love and devotion. He allows for that song to be recorded in books so that it can be read, studied, and relished at any time of the year. He gives full potency to the holy name itself, allowing the devotee to flourish no matter in which aspect of the vast network they find themselves.

In Closing:

In network material miseries tied,

Death no matter how hard tried.


By only one person can be saved,

Who tied to mortar when misbehaved.


Mother binding by belly with rope,

That His vision to stay the hope.


Damodara, the vast network controlling,

His divine glory the devotees beholding.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Benediction King

[Krishna with Yashoda]“O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 5)

idaḿ te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtaḿ kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitaḿ bimba-raktādharaḿ me
manasy āvirāstām alaḿ lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

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It is understood that someone who has things is capable of giving away those things as well. They probably don’t need that much for themselves. Such as if someone becomes wealthy in a short time, it’s likely that their friends and family aren’t sharing in the new situation. Thus it is natural for them to ask that newly wealthy person for gifts. The head of state gets petitioned to redress the grievances of the citizens. A fundraiser seeks the help of a philanthropist. It would seem silly, then, to not ask anything from the wealthiest person in the world. Why would you ask for a basic vision to remain in your heart, when you can get thousands of other things?

There is a saying that you should be nice to the people you meet on the way up since they will be the same ones you meet on the way down. If you make your way up the ladder of success, you’re bound to run into people from all walks of life. Today they might be of help to you, but tomorrow, when you are much wealthier, you may not need them. Does this mean that you should treat them differently? Are they not the same person in both circumstances?

[Lakshmi Devi]The saying is there since fortune is not known to stay with a person indefinitely. Personified she is known as Lakshmi Devi. One of her many names is Chanchala, which means one who is constantly moving. The stock price of your company may be very high today, but tomorrow there could be a crash. The competitor could release a better product, increase their sales, and thereby run you out of the market.

Then what will you do? If you treated the people on your way up poorly, why will they want to help you? Why will they suddenly treat you well? In life reversals of fortune occur all the time, with some being bigger than others. Knowing this, to ask for fortune from someone in power is not very wise.

“Why don’t you ask for fixed fortune, then? God should be able to take care of that. Just ask that He make you wealthy and keep you that way.”

Others ask for similar boons. They too wish to land the job they are interviewing for. If all the candidates for the position ask the man in the sky for success, how is it possible for everyone to get what they want? The material is limited in this way. Not only is fortune chanchala, but it is also finite in a world of duality. Moreover, sometimes not getting what you want can turn out to be a blessing. If you get promoted and then suddenly find yourself involved in a scam that cheats the shareholders, you could face serious punishment afterwards. You were better off before the promotion.

Satyavrata Muni asks only for the vision of Damodara to remain in his heart. What is so special about this vision? It is of a darling young boy tied to a mortar in punishment. In that vision, the boy’s mother repeatedly kisses Him on the cheeks. He has a bluish complexion, with soft black hair encircling His face. Words cannot accurately describe the image; it is too beautiful for anyone seeing it to tell another about it properly.

[Krishna tied to mortar]What does that vision give? Why is it more valuable than thousands of other boons? It gives devotion. Why is devotion important? It is the lone source of true happiness. The spirit soul is thirsty for that devotion. Money, influence, strength, beauty, and intelligence do not come close to bringing that level of happiness. The association of friends and family brings a similar feeling, but the interactions are not pure. Relationships can break very easily. Say the wrong thing to your husband and he won’t talk to you. You’ll then worry that he is trying to find another wife. One day your child will grow up and leave home. They will think of their own family instead of you.

Those relationships come together through karma and they eventually dissipate through the same force. The vision of Damodara, however, stays for anyone who wants it. If you have it in your heart in this lifetime, you will get it again in a subsequent one. Time will not destroy your bhakti. Time operates at the order of Damodara. Time is the great destroyer, but against bhakti it is no match.

In front of Damodara the loving mother is helpless. She is bound by affection, and she makes ropes of that affection to bind Him as punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. Damodara then binds the devotees who hear about this incident, since they can’t believe how kind He is in allowing mother Yashoda to do this. Then those devotees bind future generations with their artistic words of praise about the incident. In this way more and more fortunate souls find bhakti, which will never leave them when they truly want it.

In Closing:

Lakshmi is chanchala you should know,

Here today, but tomorrow she can go.


Therefore something better should request,

A boon to give lasting happiness, unlike the rest.


Satyavrata asks for an image in his heart to stay,

Where Krishna tied, to mother’s love giving way.


Whether high or low, this life or the next,

With sincerity, bhakti’s presence can expect.