Saturday, January 10, 2015

Growing Up A King’s Daughter

[Sita Devi]“According to your particularly poor condition, your divine beauty and your clothes showing austerity, surely you must be Rama’s queen.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.13)

yathā hi tava vaidainyam rūpam cāpyatimānuṣam ||
tapasā cānvito veṣastvaṃ rāmamahiṣī dhruvam |

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It’s a paradox. You work hard. You sacrifice a lot. You could have spent your four years in college partying, skipping class, and having fun with your friends. Instead you spent that time studying. You worked also, so as to avoid a massive debt of student loans after graduation. You didn’t eat too much and you didn’t sleep too much, either. It was like you never had any free time.

Your austerity paid off. You made it. You became successful in your field. You married a really good person, and you now have children together. Here comes the difficulty. Your kids will grow up with a lot more than you had when you were their age. They will not know poverty. You’ve done so well financially, in fact, that if they don’t want to work, they don’t have to. They can live off of the interest from your savings and investments.

You did this work seemingly for them, but then you really don’t want them to be without austerity. You don’t want them to be spoiled. What good is that going to do them? If you indulged every one of your sense urges during youth there is no way you would have turned out successful. There was no one around to bail you out of irresponsibility. You had to live with the consequences of bad decisions. You realize that it was good to have that fear lurking in the background; it motivated you.

The problem presented here is not new. To have opulence and austerity simultaneously is nearly impossible. Now imagine if you are the daughter of a very pious king in an ancient time period. This king had real wealth. He had many cows in his possession. To be able to support a few children and a pet or two is not easy in modern times, and so just imagine if you had thousands of pets in cows to maintain. Each cow requires so much land for eating and moving, so we get an idea of the opulence King Janaka must have had to maintain his kingdom.

[Sita and Rama jai-mala]His eldest and most beloved daughter grew up in the lap of luxury. Whatever she wanted she could get. She got the best husband in the world, too. Not only was He the most beautiful and chivalrous, but He was the strongest as well. He proved that in a contest of strength, lifting the mighty bow of Shiva that had been passed on from generation to generation in Janaka’s family.

Despite having every amenity available to her, Janaka’s daughter Sita possessed austerity. She could renounce things whenever it was required. If you’re the princess to a wealthy prince, it’s not usually a good idea to show austerity for no reason. Such as if you’re hosting a dinner, it’s better to go all out with fancy plates and sturdy tables than to use paper plates and cheap folding chairs. Certain things are expected out of royalty, and skimping on luxury is not one of them.

At the same time, if Sita had to renounce all of the regal fare, she could. When her husband was unfairly banished from His kingdom for fourteen years, Sita insisted on coming along. She voluntarily gave up everything, in the same way that her husband did. She did not have to think about it.

“Always engaged in serving you, keeping my senses under control and observing the vow of brahmachari, I shall be with you, O great hero, in the forest fragrant with honey.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.13)

[Sita and Rama in the forest]Giving up fine food and drink is one thing, but the height of austerity is eliminating sex life. This is usually reserved for the renounced yogis and the students aspiring for advancement in the Vedic culture. Sita voluntarily took up this vow when following her husband to the forest. She was ready to live for fourteen years with her husband without engaging in sex life.

Shri Hanuman noticed the signs of austerity in Sita when he first saw her in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Particularly it was Sita’s dress that gave the indication. She was from royalty and married into it, and she was in an area where all the women were princesses. Yet she looked out of place, sad and distressed. She was in fact undergoing even more austerities, forcibly separated from her husband. She refused to eat and she did not sleep, either.

Indeed, Sita is originally the goddess of fortune. Her husband Rama is the Supreme Lord Narayana. This means that Sita has access to the greatest wealth. For her to be renounced means she has the most to give up. She follows her husband in this regard, as one of His six opulences is full renunciation, vairagya.

[Sita and Hanuman]From her example we see that any person can live with very little, provided they have love for Rama. A person can have so much and still not be very happy. The poor person is always longing for things, and the wealthy person keeps searching for that one thing that will give them lasting happiness. The person in devotional service can live in either condition, whenever necessary, as they have the real wealth in God’s association, which they maintain by chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When in royal opulence to live,

Renouncer the most in sacrifice to give.


Like Sita in royalty being raised,

Then to forest from Ayodhya parting ways.


Though supreme delight to Rama giving,

Under the vow of brahmachari with Him living.


All signs to Rama’s wife this pointed,

To Hanuman, Lord’s messenger appointed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Looking Sad

[Sita Devi]“According to your particularly poor condition, your divine beauty and your clothes showing austerity, surely you must be Rama’s queen.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.13)

yathā hi tava vaidainyam rūpam cāpyatimānuṣam ||
tapasā cānvito veṣastvaṃ rāmamahiṣī dhruvam |

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If someone we know has suddenly become sad, we can guess to the cause. This is because we know what is important to them. We know the things in life that they value. Their sadness must be related to a loss of something important. Perhaps they no longer have the association of someone dear. Perhaps they failed in something in which they really wanted success. A long time ago a servant penetrating an enemy territory knew he had found the person he was sent to locate. He came to this conclusion from the sadness described by her condition. Amazingly, he had not met her before, but he knew what was most important to her. In fact, it is the thing most important to every living entity, from the ant all the way up to the creator himself.

Dog is man’s best friend. Since it can’t speak, it can’t offend you. It can’t criticize you for what you’re wearing. It doesn’t bring up that one time many years back when you forgot its birthday. It is basically happy to see you all the time. It doesn’t mind how much or how little you want to play. It will be there for you.

[child with dog]The dog’s loyalty means that its passing brings tremendous sadness, especially in children. They may have heard of death, but the dog leaving them will likely be their first experience with this harsh reality of life. After coming home from a hard day at the office, the father can tell that something bad has happened based on the sadness of the child. If the child is sad for a prolonged period of time, that is an even greater indication that someone close to them has left.

Hanuman was searching for someone he knew would be sad. He knew this person’s husband. That husband was great in all respects. His character was amazing. He did not utter negative words. He did not bring anyone down. Ill-will and negative sentiments are due to anger, and anger comes from unmet desires. Hanuman’s new friend seemed to not have any desires. He did everything for others. He left home voluntarily to save the good name of His father. He looked after His younger brother. He was with His wife previously, but that wife got stolen away in secret. Now that wife had to be found.

[Lakshmana, Rama and Sita]Hanuman knew that the wife would be in a poor condition. Here he says as much when directly addressing her. This woman seems to be the only one in the land of Lanka who has these signs. There are many women living there, but they are in the false bliss of intoxication. They are under the protection of their husband as well. Their husband is the fiend who took the missing woman away, without fighting for her.

The woman Hanuman found is Sita Devi and her husband is Shri Rama. Though they are central characters to the ancient Vedic text known as the Ramayana, they are timeless. They are as alive today as they were when Hanuman interacted with them. They live in the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha, and they are known through other names and forms. Lakshmi-Narayana and Radha-Krishna are the same Sita-Rama.

Sita’s sadness shows how the people devoted to the Supreme Lord feel when separated from Him. Think of missing the best person you have ever met. Think of being without the person who gives you the most happiness. This poor condition caused by separation is the first sign of the person on the highest platform of spiritual understanding. They always feel this sadness, and they alleviate their distress by constantly chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Sita constantly said the name of Rama, and this brought Hanuman to her. Hanuman’s words about Rama were as good as Rama being there. This means that the cure for the sadness of the enlightened person is constantly hearing about God. In fact, the sadness continues for everyone, regardless of whether they know Rama or not. They may only know Him through His external energy that is the material nature. They may only vaguely understand Him, and so they look for ways to alleviate their sorrow that is actually rooted in separation from Him.

[Sita and Hanuman]Hanuman relieves the distress of those who miss Rama, and this contributes to his endless glories. Only he could find Sita because only he knew the mind of someone who loves Rama. The saints of the Vedic tradition understand our true nature, and therefore it is no wonder that they try to reacquaint as many as possible with their original best friend, who also happens to be the supreme controller of all worlds.

In Closing:

When beloved no longer to see,

Sad is that person to be.


Realized quickly by someone known,

Understands their feeling alone.


Sita in Lanka only queen with sadness,

Others suffering from intoxication’s madness.


This sign of devotee Hanuman detecting,

Wise Shri Rama that warrior selecting.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Buying Happiness

[Krishna holding fruits]“While Krishna was going to the fruit vendor very hastily, most of the grains He was holding fell. Nonetheless, the fruit vendor filled Krishna's hands with fruits, and her fruit basket was immediately filled with jewels and gold.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.11)

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phala-vikrayiṇī tasya
phalair apūrayad ratnaiḥ
phala-bhāṇḍam apūri ca

If someone gave you money every time you asked them, wouldn’t you have a high opinion of them? Wouldn’t you approach them whenever you were in need of something? Wouldn’t you offer respect to them on a regular basis? Within the Vedic tradition of spirituality there are different ways to procure money. One way is to do a prescribed ritual at the appropriate time and dedicate it to the right deity. Then you’re hopefully all set. With the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, however, things are different. Though He says that all work, sacrifice and austerity should be done as an offering to Him, He never promises to give money in return.

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

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

[offering of fruits]The specific verse in the Bhagavad-gita is spoken to Arjuna, who is the disciple in the conversation. The teacher speaks and the student listens. If it were the other way around, the roles wouldn’t make sense. If I’m teaching a class and a student corrects me on everything, if they interrupt my lessons, why are they in the class sitting down? They should be teaching instead.

Krishna did not insert Himself as teacher; there was no imposition. He did not tell Arjuna, “I am your guru; you must be submissive to me.” Arjuna asked for help, and Krishna kindly obliged. The verse referencing all work done as an offering applies to all living entities, not just to Arjuna. Why is this the case? Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the source of all worlds, both material and spiritual.

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 10.8)

If you make an offering to the creator of each and every universe, it makes sense that He could then give you anything in return. Yet that is not His promise. He is not a cheap god in this way. I could buy the affection of my children with toys, but that wouldn’t benefit them in the end. Money does not buy happiness. Neither does the removal of distress. In many cases, we don’t know what is good for us. Therefore we sometimes ask for things that we shouldn’t have.

Of all deities, only Krishna looks out for the welfare of His devotees. This is His mercy that no one else can replicate. Sometimes He gives opulence and related items, but never because someone demands it. And if the wealth might take the person away from what makes them happiest, He will never offer it.

We can look to the pastime with the fruit vendor as a case study. In Vrindavana a fruit vendor once came to the house of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. She had been there before. She was a member of the tight-knit community. She was like the letter carrier that you see every day or the clerk at the bank that you frequent.

[Lord Krishna]On this particular day, the darling child of the house ran out to purchase the fruits. He took with Him some grains. Since His hands were small and His enthusiasm great, most of the grains fell to the ground en route to the destination. Thus Yashoda’s Krishna didn’t have much to give to the vendor.

That didn’t matter, as she filled His hands with fruit. She did not want anything in return. She had not read that everything should be offered to Krishna, for the Bhagavad-gita had not yet been spoken to Arjuna. She was not told to worship Krishna as a way to get money.

The beloved child was so pleased that He transformed the contents of the vendor’s basket into jewels. This was real opulence; it would sell for much more than fruits on the open market. This was a kind reward, but it wasn’t the real source of the vendor’s happiness. She already had the thrill of seeing a smile on Krishna’s face, of keeping His hands full with delights.

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.26)

[Krishna with the fruit vendor]Money alone can’t bring happiness, and so the Supreme Lord never proclaims it to be a reward of much value. Bhakti has a value that is too high to measure. It is real love, in a relationship that never breaks. It can only be offered to Krishna, one of His non-different expansions like Vishnu or Rama, or one of His dearest devotees. This bhakti is identical with Krishna and it comes from Krishna. Those who make an offering to Him with love, not expecting anything in return, get it very easily

Other material rewards are equally as limiting as wealth. The wellbeing of the family can only do so much. Eventually the family will be gone. Every relationship we have will vanish at the time of death. Real peace comes from knowing the eternal life that is bhakti-yoga. The better today and the brighter tomorrow come through connection with the origin of the creation, who kindly shows us the way towards Him. Even in this age of degraded standards, where just believing in God is difficult, we can still find Him, through simply chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

As Supreme Lord of all that be,

Easily gift anything can He.


But this not promise of Krishna made,

Devotion reward of genuine obeisance paid.


Back in time to Gokula travel,

And at fortune of fruit vendor marvel.


Jewels in basket of value there were,

But loving sentiments more important in her.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Charity In Pure Goodness

[Krishna holding fruits]“While Krishna was going to the fruit vendor very hastily, most of the grains He was holding fell. Nonetheless, the fruit vendor filled Krishna's hands with fruits, and her fruit basket was immediately filled with jewels and gold.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.11)

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phala-vikrayiṇī tasya
phalair apūrayad ratnaiḥ
phala-bhāṇḍam apūri ca

Friend1: Charity is good, right?

Friend2: What do you mean by “good”?

Friend1: It’s good for you to be charitable.

Friend2: Sure. At the time of birth the living entity goes into exploitation mode due to ignorance. If you didn’t know that there was a higher purpose to life, why wouldn’t you be worried about others surpassing you?

Friend1: What do you mean by “surpassing”?

Friend2: If you find out that someone makes more money than you, aren’t you a tiny bit jealous?

Friend1: I am, I must admit.

Friend2: We’re jealous because we think that somehow they have gone ahead of us in reaching the goal of the human life. We also worry that if others have everything, we won’t have anything. Hence the rush to explore new lands. There is a competition to see who will plant their country’s flag in a new area first.

Friend1: There’s also the drilling for oil. There’s the protection of commodities and the competition to invent the new product that everyone will want.

[Smartphones]Friend2: So there’s all this exploitation going on. No one wants to divulge their secret; lest they throw away their advantage. In this light, being charitable is good. It removes us from the fever of competition for a brief moment.

Friend1: So if someone is charitable, they are serving God?

Friend2: Not necessarily. There are different kinds of charity: goodness, passion and ignorance.

Friend1: Oh, so like the three modes of nature? So there can be charity in darkness?

Friend2: Yeah. Think of it like giving money to a thief who is about to commit a crime. You think you’re being nice, but you’re actually helping them do something bad, like kill or steal. The recipient is not appropriate and neither is the time. There is no higher authority sanctioning your charitable act, either.

Friend1: What about passion?

Friend2: That’s pretty easy to understand. Think of it like giving charity to someone in the hopes that they’ll do you a favor later on. Or perhaps you want to receive a plaque from the organization which you can then hang in your company’s office. There is motive; you’re expecting some kind of return.

Friend1: And so goodness would be charity that is to the appropriate recipient, done at the appropriate time, and without any expectation of return?

Friend2: Exactly. Shri Krishna explains all of this in the Bhagavad-gita. Charity in goodness is sanctioned by shastra. It’s like following tradition, rites, or sacraments. You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

Friend1: So if that’s the case, the majority of charity that takes place is not in goodness.

Friend2: Even if it were, in the human life you want to transcend the three modes of nature. Obviously it is better to be in goodness, sattva-guna, than the other three modes. Still, even if you are in goodness you have to take birth again into the same environment of exploitation. That’s not a preferred reward.

Friend1: Can there be charity that is beyond goodness?

Friend2: Yes. Recall the fruit vendor in Vrindavana. She went to the house of Nanda Maharaja one day ready to sell her fruits. In exchange she would get grains. Nanda’s son had seen these transactions go on many times, so He decided He would give it a shot. Since He was so young, He could barely contain His enthusiasm. His tiny hands couldn’t hold all the grains that were necessary. So while running towards the vendor, most of the grains fell out of His hands.

Friend1: Oh, that’s too bad. What did the vendor do?

Friend2: She gave Him more fruit than if He had paid her properly.

Friend1: Why did she do that? To be nice?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: She had pure love for God. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Vrindavana, the residents are on such a high level of consciousness that they forget that Krishna is God. They are not afraid of Him. They do not ask Him for things. Instead, they constantly offer things to Him. They sacrifice the results of their work for His benefit. And actually, this is no sacrifice. The fruit vendor turned around and saw that her basket became filled with jewels instead of fruit.

Friend1: Oh wow. That’s pretty cool.

Friend2: This charity was done on a whim, so some may be tempted to say that it was done in ignorance. She also got the reward of jewels, so maybe it was in passion. She had no expectation of return, so maybe it was in goodness. But since it was done out of pure love for Krishna, her charity was in pure goodness. There is no inappropriate time for such charity. There is no inappropriate amount, either.

Friend1: Her attitude is quite instructive to me. I would think that losing that much fruit would cost her a lot. She probably didn’t make that much money to begin with.

[Krishna with fruit vendor]Friend2: So whether you make a lot or a little, if you withdraw for even a second from the mindset of pursuing profit and turn towards love for Krishna, you will be benefitted so much. This is the secret known to the bhaktas, who have abandoned all hopes for material enjoyment, renunciation, or mystic perfection. They remember the fruit vendor and the blessing she got from a single kind gesture. Therefore they try to make as many of the same offerings as possible every single day. Anyone can do this easily by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In ignorance with others always competing,

Charity for helping this attitude defeating.


In passion for something to earn,

In goodness not expecting return.


No thought when in ignorance descending,

Pure goodness all three transcending.


Like when fruits to Krishna the vendor gave,

Unmotivated, no thought of herself to save.


In bhakti never a loser to become,

Valued gem from genuine offering one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Plenty To Occupy The Mind

[Damodara tied with rope]“O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Shrimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 8)

namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

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If you could define an existence in one word what would it be? What is the fundamental difference between an object that is animate and one that is not? Both the moving and nonmoving would have to be included in the category of animate beings. Though it takes a long time for the tree to change shape, we can still tell the difference between one that is alive and one that is not.

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ
sūyate sa-carācaram
hetunānena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)

According to the Bhagavad-gita, all beings come from the same source. That which we see manifest before us gets created and annihilated again and again, repeating in cycles. Through outward symptoms we can perceive that both the moving and the nonmoving have spirit inside of them. It is this spirit which defines their existence, and that spirit is rooted in the Supreme Spirit, the source of everything.

[sleep]Spirit is what makes an existence, but how do you define the living experience? Is there one word that can accurately describe it? Consciousness seems to fit nicely. There are varying degrees of it for sure. The consciousness of a cat is different from the consciousness of a human being. The tree apparently lacks consciousness, but we’re not entirely sure, since we can’t measure it. We know for sure that the living being is conscious all the time, even while sleeping.

“At night we forget about the gross body, and the subtle body alone works. As we dream we are taken away from our home, from our bed, to some other place, and we completely forget the gross body. When our sleep is over we forget about the dream and become attached again to the gross body. This is going on in our daily experience.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Journey of Self-Discovery, 6.3)

If we go another step, we see that to have consciousness means to always be thinking of something. That’s right, no matter where you are, no matter what your surroundings look like, no matter which portion of the timeline of life you choose to analyze, there will always be thought. The knowledge acquiring senses help to shape, direct and manipulate consciousness, but the thinking factor is a constant.

The thoughts in the head determine how one copes with a situation. Internally, there is no difference between the person staying in a room all day versus the person who is outside taking in different scenery. In both situations the mind is constantly working. The same goes for the situation of watching television versus sitting in the same room with the television off. Thoughts are there in each; just the surroundings are different. The surroundings, i.e. the visible objects that can potentially shape thought, are different.

[yoga postures]The person afraid of being left alone with their thoughts does not like to be stuck in the same surroundings. They like to go outside at least once a day. They like to have an escape, a physical place to go that takes them away mentally at the same time. It would seem in bhakti-yoga, then, that the surroundings make enjoyment a reward lying far away in the distance. After all, the term “yoga” brings to mind some type of concentration. You’re either sitting in a weird position on the floor or breathing and focusing on something for an extended period of time. How are you going to be happy? How are you going to keep from going crazy? How are you going to fill your head with pleasant thoughts if you’re not moving?

Ah, we have now stumbled upon the secret to bhakti-yoga. There are many ways to define the Sanskrit term, and one of them can be “the discipline that leaves you with an overabundance of pleasant thoughts.” That is correct; there are too many pleasing things to think about. You are overrun. Your mind works constantly, and thus needs so much to ponder, and in bhakti-yoga you get many lifetimes’ worth of subject matter. And even then the mind is not fully satisfied.

[Damodara with mother Yashoda]The Damodarashtaka of Satyavrata Muni shows how this works. In the last verse, the muni offers praise to the rope that was used by mother Yashoda to tie Krishna to a mortar as punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. Krishna is the speaker of the aforementioned Gita, and while His words reveal His unmatched wisdom, you might be surprised to know that prior to His speaking that famous work He was a seemingly helpless child in the farm community of Vrindavana. Yashoda did not care for His intelligence, nor His strength. She did not care for His protests, either. She was the loving mother and she was not going to get bullied by her son. She knew better what was good for Him.

Part of parenting is punishing. If you don’t show your authority from time to time, what good are you to the child who needs to learn about how life works? Krishna broke a pot of yogurt on purpose, out of anger, and then ran away since He knew that He had done something wrong. Yashoda chased after Him and finally tied Him to a mortar. The ropes were not tightly bound, and in fact it was only due to Krishna’s sanction that they finally fit around Him.

The muni also gives praise to the belly of Krishna. Since that belly was used in this famous pastime, the new name He earned was Damodara. The muni also praises Shrimati Radharani, who is Krishna’s eternal consort. We’re starting to see the pattern. Krishna is God. He is the abstract behind the vague notion that every person has of a supreme deity, though they may not be willing to acknowledge it. He is the person behind the seemingly impersonal material nature. He is the person who hears and sees everything.

As a person, He can come and go, doing things along the way. So in bhakti-yoga you have so many thoughts of God the person and what He does. But it doesn’t stop there. Since God the person does so many things, there are associates too. Yashoda is one of them. She does many things. From a single incident, a muni got a lifetime’s worth of thoughts. Krishna being tied to the mortar gave him thoughts of Yashoda, of Vrindavana, of the personal side to God, of the cycle of birth and death, of the living entity’s position with respect to all that is around them, of the highest reward in life, and of other things as well.

[Radha and Krishna]The single incident elicited thoughts of the people who love Krishna so much. Radharani, who also lives in Vrindavana, excels in this love. One could spend a lifetime thinking of her alone. Then there is the time that Krishna and Radha spend together. There is Krishna’s Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to the warrior named Arjuna. There are Krishna’s personal incarnations who also appear on earth, who have their own pastimes and corresponding associates. Thus the mind which must think at every second can be overrun with pleasant thoughts, should the choice in favor of bhakti-yoga be made. The wise always make this choice, and they make things easier for others through the works they author and distribute.

In Closing:

Whether sitting alone or to other place brought,

No matter time, mind never without a thought.


From change or entertainment one thing to expect,

Pleasing the mind, the consciousness to affect.


In bhakti-yoga a plethora find,

Of pleasant things for contemplating mind.


In Vrindavana from single Damodara’s play,

To thoughts of Yashoda, Radha and bhakti gave way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

All Around Him

[Damodara bound with rope]“O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Shrimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 8)

namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

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On the way to work in the morning, we likely drive past many trees. There are too many to count even. The same goes for when we’re walking through a park with a trail marked out. As we don’t notice each tree, it means that we don’t find any individual one to be very important. We know the trees play a vital role in the maintenance of the ecosystem, but we don’t give special attention to them while passing by. Yet the same individual tree in the heavenly realm is famous and worshipable. You can approach any one of them and get the boon of your asking. That makes them desire trees, or kalpa-taru.

[Tree]These trees are so amazing that it doesn’t matter their size or abundance. You can find the smallest tree amidst a giant forest and still see the same magic. The trees are made important because of their residence. They are in the heavenly realm, a special place. The power of the small tree in the heavenly realm is used as a reference point by Goswami Tulsidas in describing how a person who is devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes worshipable and famous, regardless of where or to whom they were born.

“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the streets in the heavenly realm are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)

The comparison is necessary since in ignorance man discriminates off of so many factors that aren’t so significant in the end. Whether a person’s father is a carpenter or a priest shouldn’t matter when it comes to the potential for understanding spiritual life. As you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t make an assessment on someone based only on the circumstances of their birth.

The person devoted to God attains the stature similar to the desire tree in heaven because of association. The idea is that just as God is worshipable, so is anything directly related to Him. The same person who might discriminate based on ancestry readily acknowledges that food offered to the Supreme Lord is sacred.

“You must eat this. It is prasadam. It is the mercy of the Supreme Lord. It was first offered to Him and now He has returned it to us to eat. There is tremendous potency in this food; you should never refuse prasadam.”

[Prasadam offering]The land of the Supreme Lord is also worshipable. Therefore people visit places like Vrindavana, Mathura, Ayodhya, and Jagannatha Puri. The people with a clear vision, which comes through practicing bhakti-yoga purely, extend their appreciation even further. In his Damodarashtaka, Satyavrata Muni pays obeisance to a rope.

This looks a little silly, as what can a rope do? A rope does not have a name. It does not have parents. It is an inanimate object. It is part of the material nature. Yet the rope in question was one time used to tie the Supreme Lord to a mortar. The rope didn’t really do the trick; it was the devotion of the loving mother Yashoda. Her darling child, Krishna, agreed to be bound.

Nevertheless, that rope was the instrument used by Yashoda. It is symbolic of her strong affection. That rope helped to give a new name to Krishna: Damodara. This name means “one who is bound by the belly.” It is proper to give respect to this rope since it is intimately associated with the Supreme Lord.

[Radha and Krishna]The muni then pays obeisance to the belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. Then he continues by paying respect to Shrimati Radharani. If you really care about someone, you will respect their friends and family. You might even take an interest in their interests. Radharani is the person who makes Krishna the happiest. Since she is interested only in pleasing Krishna, she is essentially one with Him. Radha and Krishna are just two aspects to the same singular God.

By showing profound respect, Satyavrata reveals his high intelligence. He knows that the people associated with Krishna are very important. He doesn’t think that since Yashoda and Radharani are simple village women, he shouldn’t respect them. He doesn’t think that since a rope is not a person, he should not appreciate it.

The wise person knows that just as the food offered to Krishna is worshipable, so is the person who has offered body, mind and speech to Him. Whether they come from a high family or not, since they are always engaged in devotional service, they are famous and honorable. Even better than the desire tree in heaven, they can give the gift of bhakti, which is rarely sought out but has a value beyond measure. They can give the vision of Damodara, even many thousands of years after His appearance in Gokula. They can give the mechanism by which the image of Damodara will stay in the heart: the chanting of the holy names. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Desire trees in heaven many found,

Same whether tall or low to the ground.


From association this all coming,

Same concept when devotee becoming.


Birth not a concern, for everyone a hope,

Obeisance deserved for even a rope.


Like one by Yashoda for her son to tie,

Through Damodara reaching a stature high.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Shelter Of The Entire Universe

[Damodara tied to mortar]“O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Shrimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 8)

namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

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Life got you down? Can’t seem to find your way? Intoxicants no longer doing the trick? Want to escape to something better, but you’re not really sure what that better is? The guaranteed death of every living entity is sure to make a person depressed on occasion. When armed with this knowledge, which seems to be a bad thing, why would anyone want to do anything? What is the point to living if everything ends up back at zero at the end? The belly of Shri Damodara is the abode of the entire universe, which means that it provides shelter for everything, including the despair arising from knowledge of impending death.

Right now you likely have attachments. There are people whom you love. You couldn’t imagine living without them. Previously they were not with you and you can’t account for the infinite past, but you’re not worried about these things. There is the future to be concerned over. There are so many diseases out there. There are so many ways that life can end. You just hope that it doesn’t happen to anyone you care about. You hope against hope, for you know that life must end at some point.

[Praying]You start off as nothing, a tiny speck living in your mother’s womb, and you end up as nothing, dust in the ground. What is the use of living, then? How should the time in between be spent? Obviously one would want to enjoy as much as possible. Why spend life miserably? Why not find a way to be happy? But how can there be happiness when it is known that everything is going to vanish eventually?

The shelter of the entire universe comes to the rescue. Your own problems are one thing, but think about the universe as a whole. Consider every other living creature, be it moving or nonmoving. Think of how the cow is separated by force from its children and sent to the slaughterhouse. Think of the tree that must survive every harsh winter. Think of the human beings born into poverty. Think of the people dealing with mental diseases, wherein even sitting still in peace and quiet drives them crazy.

One person is the shelter for all of this. He can bring the protection through any aspect of Him, including His belly. If it is to be the abode of the entire universe, then surely that belly must be very large. But in fact, it could be very small, belonging to someone who looks like a small child. Indeed, Damodara is not very big by our estimation. He is small enough to be caught by His mother and then bound to a mortar as punishment for doing something bad.

If the person to whom that belly belongs can get tied, how can there be shelter? How can Damodara do anything for us? From studying the Bhagavad-gita, we see that He creates this and every other universe. You could partially lay the blame on Him for our troubles, but then we learn that He only creates out of our desire. Since He is an abode Himself, we could live with Him. We could live where He always lives; then there are no problems.

Seems like the problem is solved. Just go to Him. Ah, but who will be willing to do that? So difficult it is to get someone to want to do that. In practical terms the shift isn’t difficult. Simply hearing the Damodarashtaka of Satyavrata Muni can deliver that abode. Since someone authored that set of prayers, it means that glorifying Damodara brings His association. Just thinking of Him creates that abode right now. His name itself makes it. That’s why the wise hang on to the holy names for dear life, taking shelter of it whether in good times or bad.

[Mother Yashoda]One needn’t rely solely on blind faith to understand the potency of Damodara and His name. He is indeed the origin of the universe, and through His pastimes in Gokula He shows that He can be captured. He can be reached, but through His own will. Yashoda won Him over through her pure love. Her devotion is not tainted with ulterior motives. She does not ask for a long life. She does not seek riches. She is not looking for victory in the human birth. Whether she does well or not is of no concern. She simply loves Damodara, who appears as her son. She only wants Him to be happy and healthy.

Yashoda has this love naturally, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be acquired by others. The love we feel for any object derives from the original relationship to Damodara. It is for this reason that a child can see a picture of Yashoda and Damodara and know that it is something special. They inherently understand the divine influence, though they couldn’t describe it to you.

[Damodara]Satyavrata Muni says that Damodara’s belly is the abode of the entire universe. That belly showed the pure love of mother Yashoda, who teaches everyone about the power of devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Only that yoga will deliver all people, curing all problems. Only that yoga will bring the shelter that everyone is looking for. That belly made famous by the queen of Gokula becomes the repository for the affection of the devotees, who remember Damodara by always chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Entire universe in His belly sits,

Around which rope by Yashoda fit.


His divine nature not knowing,

Incident her pure love for Him showing.


For all to follow that mother’s love stellar,

Becoming in Damodara’s abode a dweller.


Easy to execute, but a decision tough to make,

Confidence from words of Satyavrata take.