Saturday, February 7, 2015


[Sita Devi]“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)

sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |

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When you hear the title “goddess of fortune,” what comes to mind? Money sounds about right. Fortune has to have some value. Your fortune could include a large estate and many automobiles. Though these aren’t cash, they can be exchanged for it; hence their high value. There is a goddess of fortune described in the Vedic tradition. Though the typical depiction shows money being handed out, you would be surprised to learn that one of the ways to describe her is vana-charini, or forest-dweller.

[Lakshmi Devi]Monkeys live in the forest. So do elephants, bears, tigers, lions and the like. You wouldn’t expect to find human beings there. For a person to take up residence in the wilderness is to accept great austerity. Some would say the austerity is needless, as what is there to prove? If you are renounced, why do you need to make a show of it? Why do you need to risk danger in your effort to renounce things?

These are good points, but in the case of the goddess of fortune, there was no choice. Her husband was ordered to go live in the forest for fourteen years. Moments prior, He was about to become the new king. Nothing is fixed in life, which means that plans are known to change. Rama is Bhagavan, so He possesses renunciation among other opulences. He has no problem shifting situations, even if the change wasn’t planned.

Bhagavan is married to the goddess of fortune. Many of His names reference this relationship. He is Madhava, or the controller of “ma,” who is the mother of the universe. He is Shridhara, or the controller of Shri, which is another name for opulence. He is Lakshmipati, or the husband of Goddess Lakshmi, who is the same Shri.

In His earthly pastimes, the Supreme Lord is Janakinatha, or the husband of Janaki, who is the daughter of King Janaka. Janaki is another name for Sita, who was not asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya. In fact, Rama requested her to stay at home, where she would be safe.

[Sita and Rama]As Sita is the goddess of fortune, couldn’t she have showered opulence on her husband prior to leaving? Couldn’t she have made it so that He had so much wealth available to Him, carried around like luggage going through an airport? What she did instead was follow Him. According to the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, she did more than that: she was ready to go ahead of Him.

Her living in the forest made her a vana-charini. This isn’t a description you would typically associate with the goddess of fortune. In another part of the Ramayana, Shri Rama refers to her as a sadharma-charini, since she is His partner in the adherence to dharma, or duty.

“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

In devotional service, switching roles like this isn’t out of the ordinary. Rama is God Himself, and sometimes He lives in a kingdom and sometimes He goes to the forest. Sita is sometimes the king’s precious daughter and sometimes she roams the forest, supporting her husband. Shri Hanuman sometimes acts as the minister to Sugriva, sometimes as a chanter of the holy names, and sometimes as a brave warrior, infiltrating the enemy territory of Lanka. Through Rama’s grace, anything is possible, which makes service to Him the most worthwhile engagement in life.

In Closing:

Fortune to money the same,

Thoughts with Lakshmi the name.


As a forest-dweller also should know,

Ahead of husband Rama would go.


For God happy to make,

Any role ready to take.


Through Lord’s grace anything possible,

Like Hanuman’s success in mission impossible.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Even Ahead Of A Great Man

[Sita Devi]“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)

sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |

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If asked to complete the sentence, “behind every great man is…”, what would your response be? Good parents? This is pretty easy to realize. We think that we do things on our own, that the results to our work are due to just that, our work. In fact, so many other pieces must cooperate for our desired outcomes to manifest. The different pieces, over which we have no control, must be favorable.

Another common response is “a great woman.” The idea is that there has to be support. No one can do everything on their own. Not that others are entitled to a greater share of the resulting fortune, but it should be acknowledged that life is difficult. A supportive woman is a great boon to a man thriving to be his best. In the case of the best man, the topmost purusha, the woman in the background is so eager to serve that she sometimes steps ahead of Him.

How does life continue on? Is it through eating? Is it through defense and protection? Is it through intelligence? The single word answer is “love.” The love of the parents allows the child to grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted. The love of mother nature nurtures man and the other species. Every seed is found in the earth, just as every star is found in the sky. Goswami Tulsidas uses this comparison as a way to explain how every kind of religion is satisfied in the holy name of Rama.

“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)

The earth nurtures like a mother. The biological mother ideally provides so much love to her child that no one else can come close to matching her in that child’s life, including when there is maturation into adulthood. A person may be proud of having become successful in material life, getting an advanced degree and enjoying with family. But they should know that their ancestors played a significant role in creating the conditions necessary for that success. Even if the individual starts off in poverty, at that point there is some culture, which gets passed down through family traditions. Indeed, this culture is so important that the wise warrior Arjuna worried about its dissolution due to fighting on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

manuṣyāṇāṁ janārdana
narake niyataṁ vāso
bhavatīty anuśuśruma

“O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.43)

[Arjuna]The good wife supports her husband. Her sacrifice allows her husband to perform the way he should. The glory goes to the husband, but the wife in the background is the energy. She is the better half. While this situation is certainly prevalent in material life, it is found in spiritual life too.

Shri Rama is famous. Aside from being the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a personal incarnation form who roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga, He also performed many heroic deeds. He once killed 14,000 fighters all by Himself. His closest family members with Him at the time were His wife and His younger brother. Rama sent both of them to a nearby cave, with the brother in charge of protecting the wife.

Rama lifted a famously heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. This feat earned Him the hand of Sita Devi in marriage. She was the daughter of the illustrious King Janaka, who was a true mahatma, or great soul. Rama also had a bridge built to the island of Lanka. This bridge was made of stones that floated. Rama also defeated the powerful King Ravana, whom the world feared.

[Vanaras building bridge]Though Rama did all of these things seemingly on His own, He had His energy supporting Him. To build the bridge, the Vanaras from the forest of Kishkindha did the work. The defeat of Ravana was to rescue Sita, who had been kidnapped by that fiend. It was for Sita’s sake also that Rama defeated the 14,000 attackers sent to Dandaka by Ravana.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that Sita does more than just sit in the background. She is ready to jump ahead of her husband when hard times come. Sort of like taking a bullet for your friend or standing up for a close one being attacked, Sita accepted the punishment of exile handed out only to Rama. He told her to stay at home, but she refused. As she explains above, she was prepared to depart the kingdom even ahead of Rama.

What did that departure mean? Sita went from being a princess to a forest dweller, vana-charini. Not just any princess, she was married to the heir-apparent to the throne of Ayodhya, ruled by Rama’s father Dasharatha. And she wasn’t going to be any old forest-dweller. She would live there for fourteen years, essentially accepting the life of an ascetic.

She did all of this without being asked. She did this to support her husband. From her example, we see that God is someone who gets support from the best people. The male aspect of the divine is the purusha, or the enjoyer. The female aspect is the prakriti, or the enjoyed. Rama is the supreme enjoyer and Sita the supreme enjoyed. Though purusha and prakriti respectively, they are both completely spiritual. They are one in interest, showing the true meaning to merging into the divine.

In Closing:

For every great man behind,

A support system you’ll find.


Like the mother care giving,

And wife for him sacrificing.


Sita though to Rama a wife,

For Him would give up her life.


Stepping sometimes even ahead,

Like when ready forest’s land to tread.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No Bribe Large Enough

[Sita Devi]“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)

sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |

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“Listen, I need to discuss something with you. It’s important. Are you ready? Okay, I think you’ve been too much into this bhakti-yoga thing lately. I’ve heard all your preaching and I’ve even read some of the books you’ve shown me. And you don’t need to convince me of the need for reading the Bhagavad-gita. I follow the teachings in my own life. I’ve had one on my bookshelf since before you were born. I’ve kept the image of Arjuna and Krishna in the chariot in my mind since before I can remember.

[Arjuna and Krishna on the chariot]The thing I’m concerned with is your total lack of interest in anything else. You are so young still. Instead of going out with your friends on a Friday night, all I hear from your room is ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.’ It sounds nice; I must admit that. I’m glad that you’re taking an interest in spiritual things. I’m proud of you for that.

But I don’t want you giving up on life so early. You should enjoy a little. Man has responsibility to his society, to his community. We’ve discussed this before, so I won’t go into great detail again. Let me ask you this: what will it take to get you to tone down the bhakti a little? I don’t want you to forget God. I don’t want you to suddenly think that this world was created through some random collision of chemicals and that through some intelligent manipulation of those chemicals you can somehow cheat death. No, no, I want you to stay pious.

But just relax a little. Don’t go so crazy. What is it going to take to get you to bring it down? I’m willing to do pretty much anything. Name your price. Don’t consider me to be a bad person. I’m only looking out for you. Go ahead, don’t be shy. What do you want?”

This hypothetical situation isn’t difficult to imagine. When having children, who actually imagines them growing up to be surrendered souls to the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Who hopes to get lessons on detachment, karma and the material nature from their young offspring? When bhakti-yoga practice reaches the stage of purification, no amount of money can convince the person to shift their attention elsewhere.

In this situation, the offer is from a parent, but consider the material nature as a whole. What if you could get whatever you wanted? To more easily comprehend just what is available to be had, take the three categories of bhukti, mukti and siddhi. In bhukti you can get anything material to enjoy. Think of it like having a first class chef living in your house. You don’t need to go online to shop; the retailers make house calls. They bring you samples of the latest items as soon as they are released. The top fashion designers come to your home to get your input on future designs.

[clothes shopping]You don’t have to wait on the long lines at the airport. You have your own private jet. A driver whisks you away to wherever you want to go. A personal assistant handles all communication. If someone wants to speak with you, they must go through the assistant first. Their job is to always reject initially. You have trouble saying “no,” so you pay someone to do it for you. This begins to explain the life of full enjoyment in bhukti.

You can get the opposite as well, namely mukti. You won’t have anyone to bother you. You’ll get residence in any isolated area of your choosing. You’ll be able to mature to the point that you won’t have to do anything. Think of it like an out of body experience. No more pressure of waking up early in the morning. No more worrying about that pain in your stomach. No more fretting over eating right and following the straight and narrow path. You’ll get a stateless existence, which you think will make you happy.

There is siddhi also. Here you get perfection in mystic yoga. More than merely a way to maintain health, if you practice the postures and breathing of meditational yoga properly you can get amazing abilities. You can fly through the air and leave your body behind, become very large, shrink to a small size, and even get whatever you want at a moment’s notice.

Sita Devi cannot be bribed with any of these things. In this verse from the Ramayana, she discusses bhukti, the height of which is available in the heavenly realm. “Be a good person and you’ll go to heaven. Believe in God and you will surely spend eternity there.” But what exactly is heaven? What are its conditions? From the Vedas we learn that the heavenly region is a place where material delights are available in abundance. In essence, you can get your fill of bhukti.

Sita lived in a heavenly area on earth called Ayodhya. This was the regal life; she enjoyed everything there is for man to desire. Yet she renounced it in a second. This was in favor of service to her husband Rama. And by the way, Rama tried to point her in the other direction. He asked that she remain home, without Him. He had to leave the community due to promises made by His father. Rama wanted Sita to remain safe. He didn’t want her to suffer.

[Sita and Rama]Here she says that life without Him is suffering, even if living in heaven. She is correct, as Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a seemingly human form. Though He roams this earth in the second time period of creation, His thoughts, words and deeds are timeless. So is the devotion to Him shown by Sita, who exhibits a level of allegiance unfathomable to the materially conditioned mind.

She cannot be bought off. God Himself tries to persuade her to serve Him through forgetting Him in some way, and she refuses. Sita shows how the fully-surrendered bhaktas feel. They don’t mind heaven if it comes to them. They won’t refuse a siddhi if they should happen to possess it. Renunciation is fine as well, as Sita describes here how quickly she accepted the role of vana-charini, or female forest-dweller.

tapasvibhyo 'dhiko yogī
jñānibhyo 'pi mato 'dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

“A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.46)

The necessary ingredient is God’s association. Then any condition can be fulfilling and rewarding. Otherwise, even life in heaven will not bring lasting satisfaction to the soul. The individual soul seeks this link with the Supreme Soul, a link which is known as yoga. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna advises Arjuna to be a yogi for this very reason. Real yoga transcends everything material.

In Closing:

When with material life had enough,

Then even with bribe a sell tough.


To the pool of ignorance to go back,

In devotion the soul nothing to lack.


So Sita hurriedly prepared to go,

When of Rama’s exile to know.


No match are bhukti, mukti and siddhi,

When practicing perfectly yoga’s bhakti.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Not Your First Idea Of Religion

[Sita Devi]“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)

sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |

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What is your concept of religion? What do you think it is for? If you are against it, what are your reasons? If somehow you are one of the fortunate few to have found the proper meaning through contact with a spiritual master in the glorious line of disciplic succession originating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, what were your notions prior to becoming enlightened? In a single verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi gives the true meaning to the concept, whether referred to as religion, spirituality, duty or faith. It is an attitude more than anything, and it is one that would surprise the casual observer.

Since religion attempts to explain that which is considered unexplainable, the most common way to describe it is as a kind of faith.

“This person is of the Christian faith. They believe in Christ. They put all their trust in him. This person is of the Islamic faith. They pray to Allah five times a day in the hopes of salvation. This person belongs to the Hindu faith. They follow rituals and rites in the hopes that the next life will be better. This person is of the Buddhist faith. They seek the ultimate reward known as nirvana.”

[Different religions]Even if religion is considered a faith, there is a hope for some kind of future. That future existence is supposed to be better. We’re not really sure how or what or where, but things are not supposed to be as bad as they are now. We’re not supposed to see pain, suffering and misery. There is only supposed to be enjoyment. The object of faith will grant that enjoyment as reward for allegiance.

The skeptic of religion will use this common understanding as the basis for their skepticism.

“Religion is really for the less intelligent. Those who can’t make it on their own presently turn to the magical man in the sky to solve their problems. They think that by suffering right now all of their problems will be solved in the future. They give up fun for no reason today and then try to get everyone else to do the same. They speak of heaven, but they have no idea what it is. They say that the people who don’t believe will be punished in hell, but to me hell is having to listen to these people. They’re really no different than anyone else; it’s just their means of searching for happiness is different.”

The Vedic tradition, which is the root of all religious traditions, including the faith of Hinduism, explains both material and spiritual life. Material life is that which is not related to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. Material life is an art form that operates on the nature consisting of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The mind, intelligence and ego are the subtle elements of this nature, making psychology and similar studies art forms as well. Material life is briefly covered in the Vedic tradition, for in life outside of spiritual knowledge the material is the sole focus.

[Praying]The coverage of spiritual life is more comprehensive, and there are varying levels of it. It all depends on what you want. If you want peace of mind, spiritual life can give it to you. Do you want to find a better place in the afterlife? Do you want to be free of stress? Do you want to see peace and harmony, at least in your own life? Follow religion at the basic level, where you believe in the supreme controller, who is known as Ishvara, Allah, God, the Almighty, or by some other name that similarly lacks specifics.

The essence of spiritual life is different from all faiths and all arts of material life. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the constitutional position of the living entity. The living entity is the individual life force that can appear in many different species. Each living being is the same at the core, though from appearance it seems otherwise. The constitutional position is devotion, which is pure love. This love is not dependent on outside factors, and when exercised purely it cannot be checked, even by the powerful material nature.

Sita Devi shows us how this works. She is the goddess of fortune, who is the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan is a more accurate term to describe the man in the sky whom we can’t know much about without consulting authorized information. Mental speculation alone will never bring us to understanding God the person and the people who are devoted to Him.

In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita says that when she heard her husband Rama had been banished to the forest, she prepared so quickly that she was ready to go even before Him. This is humorous in a sense, as Rama was the only one ordered to leave. He was ready to have Sita stay at home. He told her as much. Sita’s description given here to Shri Hanuman says that she was prepared even before Rama tried to convince her to remain at home and be safe.

Sita gives justification for her decision. She says that even residence in heaven would not be preferable to her, should it mean separation from her husband. This is the meaning to bhakti-yoga. This is the real definition of religion. When the spirit soul has found true love in devotion to God the person, material life completely loses significance. Someone could offer you millions of dollars and many years of enjoyment of wine, food and the like. Someone could offer you complete safety, without any worry for necessities. The catch is that you will be without the Supreme Lord. If you are in the devotional consciousness, you will not even think about accepting this.

[Sita and Rama]This attitude is different, difficult to understand at first, and unfathomable to those who only know of religion as faith. There is no faith involved here for Sita. She is ready to leave before Rama, which means that she doesn’t care what He says. She will not be bought off by the luxuries of royal life. Sita plays the role of a princess and Rama a prince. Though she is originally the goddess of fortune, she has no attachment to that opulence. Her thinking is one way: devotion to God. Even if it means living in the forest, which is the embodiment of renunciation, she is not afraid. The devoted souls have this confidence because they know that the true purpose to an existence is the association of the all-attractive and all-merciful Supreme Lord, who is God for everyone.

In Closing:

As faith religion’s first impression,

Heaven for worldly desires’ suppression.


The real meaning from Sita take,

How better today and tomorrow to make.


By her having devotion strong,

Ready for renunciation long.


Not even Supreme Lord to stop,

Consciousness of Him never to drop.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Waiting Forever

[Lord Rama]“Giving up His very valuable upper garments, that very celebrated one put aside any thoughts of the kingdom and told me to stay with His mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.26)

sa vihāya uttarīyāṇi mahāarhāṇi mahāyaśāḥ ||
visṛjya manasā rājyam jananyai mām samādiśat |

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One good trick when dieting is to give yourself something to look forward to.

“I’ll eat light throughout the day and then reward myself at night. A little austerity now for some real pleasure later on - this way I can stick to the diet.”

[Doughnuts]Indeed, that is what it means to have motivation. In order to go through some tribulation, you must want something in the end. Without the cherished objective, why endure the trouble? In the Supreme Lord we find full renunciation, vairagya. This means that He does not bide His time, hoping to indulge later on.

What is wrong with indulging? Why should a person have renunciation?

Bhoga and tyaga are like two sides of a pendulum that swings constantly. One second we want something and the next we don’t want it anymore. Sometimes we just want something else, which automatically means renunciation of that which we currently have.

In this swinging, there is no judgment as to which side is better. Consciousness is present in either situation. Even if there were no swinging, wherein the mind was in a steady state, consciousness would still be present. The mind would need something to contemplate. Therefore what is the harm in swinging from attraction to aversion and the reverse order?

Vairagya and jnana are valuable when one tries to understand their constitutional position. By definition, this means that the opposite conditions are not beneficial. Ignorance is bliss only if someone with intelligence is protecting you. Lack of self-control is only fun in the short term. Later on you’ll pay for your overindulgence, such as through obesity, unwanted pregnancy, and chemical addiction.

Jnana gives you the theoretical understanding of your constitutional position as spirit soul, part and parcel of God. You are not the body. That body is constantly changing, so you can’t really identify with it anyway. If you are a child now and think that the child’s body is what defines you, pretty soon that will change. If you are overweight now and consider yourself a fat person, if you lose some weight then your identity changes.

But actually you are spirit soul throughout. This identity cannot change. The soul cannot be cut, it cannot be burned, and it cannot be made wet. You can take the sharpest knife in the world and stab at the soul all you want, but you’ll never terminate its existence. What we know as death is only the temporary shifting of the soul’s position, going from one place to another.

nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi
nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo
na śoṣayati mārutaḥ

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]Jnana brings the theoretical understanding of your spiritual position, but without some renunciation you won’t get the practical realization. If you are overly attached to your own body and the bodies of others, your understanding has little value. Vairagya is helpful in bringing the sobriety of thought necessary to have a practical realization of the constitutional position.

In the Supreme Lord we find full knowledge and full renunciation. The full knowledge isn’t difficult to prove; simply read the Bhagavad-gita. This is the song of God, whose truths are timeless, though to our understanding they were first written down after a conversation between Shri Krishna and the warrior Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Even in that conversation, Krishna references how the words were spoken before.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave 'bravīt

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.1)

[the disciplic succession]You will not find the truths of the Bhagavad-gita anywhere else. If you hear about topics like the supreme controller, time, the material nature, the living entity and reincarnation from someone who doesn’t reference the Bhagavad-gita, it should be known that they are simply concealing the fact. They got the knowledge from Krishna, but in the flawed hope to remove His transcendental attributes, gunas, they present the knowledge as if it were their own. They might also refer to only a generic God, some figure that can be defined based on preference.

The verse quoted above from the Ramayana gives proof to God’s full renunciation. Here Sita Devi says that Shri Rama completely put aside any thoughts of the kingdom when He left Ayodhya for fourteen years. Sita does not just accidentally stumble upon this realization. This fact is significant because ordinarily the tendency is to accept renunciation for only a limited time, with a benefit awaiting at the end.

This was not the case with Rama. Though He was the rightful heir to the throne occupied by His father Dasharatha, Rama did not hesitate to leave when asked to do so. He was told to leave due principally to the fear of Queen Kaikeyi. She worried that her son Bharata might get overthrown should Rama stay in the vicinity. The people were loyal to Rama. After all, He is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form, so the pious souls will naturally be attracted to Him.

[Sita and Rama]Rama did not leave for fourteen years with the hope that He would come back and become king. He completely renounced everything, including Sita. He told her to stay with His mother, Kausalya. Ah, but vairagya is not limited to God alone. His dedicated servants have it as well. Though they are detached from material comforts, they are fully attached to serving His lotus feet. Therefore Sita insisted on following her husband, and He could not refuse her. In the same light, the devoted souls who always chant the holy names and think of Rama can never be abandoned by Him, despite His possessing full renunciation.

In Closing:

With purpose this renunciation of mine,

For end reward to bide my time.


With Shri Rama not the case,

Thoughts of kingdom to erase.


By father’s order to the forest sent,

Without any possessions He went.


As God, the wrong eventually to be right,

To residents His coronation a welcome sight.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sannyasa and Women

[Sita and Rama]“Giving up His very valuable upper garments, that very celebrated one put aside any thoughts of the kingdom and told me to stay with His mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.26)

sa vihāya uttarīyāṇi mahāarhāṇi mahāyaśāḥ ||
visṛjya manasā rājyam jananyai mām samādiśat |

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Situated right beneath the purest system of living that is bhakti-yoga is varnashrama-dharma. Real love and devotion to God is difficult for anyone in the conditioned life to reclaim, so there are ways to help reach that elusive destination in a gradual process. What separates man from the animal community is religion, which also goes by such names as religiosity, duty and piety. Undoubtedly the most difficult institution to accept and follow in the varnashrama system is sannyasa, which is complete renunciation. The foundation of this institution is separation from women, especially attachment to them. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi confirms that the Supreme Lord is always as good as a sannyasi in mind, even if the less intelligent think otherwise.

Why is sannyasa necessary? What are the other institutions?

The first is brahmacharya, or student life. Taking the duration of life to be one hundred years, each phase gets allotted twenty-five years. So the first quarter of life is spent learning. What conditions are conducive to learning? Living with the spiritual master, not having outside distractions of marriage and family life, and remaining completely celibate - these are vital for thriving in student life.

[Rama and brothers in Gurukula]The next phase is married life, which is followed by retirement. Sannyasa is after that, and it is something like becoming homeless voluntarily. You can’t accept too much charity, no matter how much someone is willing to give you. You’re not supposed to rely on any one person for your livelihood. You beg, but not at places where you know you will get a lot. You move around, not staying in one place for too long.

The point is that without distractions and attachments you’ll be better able to focus on God, which is the goal of the birth to begin with. Sannyasa is towards the end of life since the closer you are to death, the more important your consciousness becomes. Better to be conscious of God at the end of life than at only the beginning, since with the passage of time you can forget.

Sannyasa benefits others outside of the institution also. That is the real reason for the prohibition from association with women. Sannyasis are best equipped to teach others the fundamental truth of the spiritual science: you are not your body. You are spirit soul at the core, transcendental to the changes that occur to the covering that you have. Others possess the same covering, and so they are spirit at the core also. In this way everyone is equal, going through the same cycles of birth and death, repeatedly, under the laws of karma, until there is a change in consciousness for the better.

anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

A sannyasi should teach from a position of authority; namely, they should show that they know that they are spirit soul. The greatest indication of ignorance is attachment to someone else’s body. Sex attraction is based on this attachment. If a sannyasi maintains intimate association with women, his power to teach gets diminished a little. Though consciousness is what matters most, reputation helps in getting a message across. The sannyasi becomes a prime target for the ad hominem attack if he shows any signs of attachment to the body.

In His incarnation as Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord set the ideal example for others to follow. He followed dharma very closely, though He didn’t necessarily go through the phases in the typical order. He accepted vanaprastha, retired life, shortly after being married. He did this out of someone else’s choice; namely His father, who was driven to the decision by a jealous wife.

From reading the Ramayana, it is known that Rama did not enter vanaprastha alone. He had His wife Sita Devi with Him. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana also came along. This makes Rama a ripe target for the enemies of religion. They could say that since He is attached to His wife, He is not spiritually inclined. Though Sita repeatedly describes Him as a knower of the self, the enemies of Rama will say that He is a knower of the body instead, since He had His wife always with Him.

[Sita and Rama in the forest]Here Sita clears up any confusion. She tells Hanuman that Rama asked her to stay at home. Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya and not return for fourteen years. The order applied only to Him. Sita was not to be affected, so Rama told her to stay under the care of His mother.

In this way Rama is not attached to body. Since He is God, body and soul mean the same thing to Him. At the same time, by Sita coming along, we learn something else about the Supreme Lord. Varnashrama-dharma is not everything. It is not the system that pleases Him the most. In pure devotion, sometimes piety, duty and religiosity get violated. Sita insisted on accompanying Rama. A short argument ensued; one which Rama did not win.

God is won over by devotion. There is no limit to what He will do to please His devotees, who by definition only want to serve Him, think of Him, and be with Him. In this regard, Rama will always be underestimated. The fiend Ravana in Lanka was different. He was always attached to the illusion of maya, and there was no persuading him to do anything proper for someone else’s favor. Sita asked him to return her to Rama, from whose side he had secretly taken her. Ravana refused. Rama gave in to Sita’s requests because He loves His devotees. Through Hanuman, He would find Sita and then come and rescue her.

In Closing:

Since sannyasi from authority to speak,

From women to keep a distant reach.


Attachment to body a mistake,

As spirit soul your identity take.


Rama with Sita and Lakshmana going,

Prime target by those knowledge forgoing.


Actually Sita at home told to stay,

But to bhaktas Rama ready to give way.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Giving Up Valuable Things

[Sita and Rama]“Giving up His very valuable upper garments, that very celebrated one put aside any thoughts of the kingdom and told me to stay with His mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.26)

sa vihāya uttarīyāṇi mahāarhāṇi mahāyaśāḥ ||
visṛjya manasā rājyam jananyai mām samādiśat |

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There is no doubt that renunciation brings some respect. An easy way to build a good reputation is to voluntarily give up things. The more valuable those things are, the faster the reputation builds. A person who is known to all, irrespective of language, country of birth, and period of time, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Given a bad name by the ignorant and praised to the hilt by the wise, He is not phased by what others think of Him. All are His children after all, so His affection is without limitation and without conditions. Part of that affection is giving them an idea of His nature, and one aspect to that nature is full renunciation. In His descent as Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord provided some clarity into the meaning of full renunciation.

If you renounce something as simple as alcohol, you’ll get some reactions for sure:

“Wait, are you not drinking today or not ever again? What do you mean you won’t drink anymore? Is everything alright? Is your health okay? I couldn’t do it. That’s just too hard for me. I like kicking back and relaxing with a few beers after a tough day of work. If I couldn’t drink on the weekends, I’d have nothing to look forward to throughout the week. You are a special person indeed for having given this up.”

[No alcohol]If you renounce eating meat, gambling, and illicit sex you’ll get similar reactions. You might get some negative attention too, but in one area your respect will likely rise quickly. If you give away any kind of wealth, people will have little negative to say about you.

“I know that person is rich, but look at how much they do for charity. They’ve given millions of dollars over the years. They are determined to help the less fortunate in society. They drive around in an ordinary car, live in a small house, and don’t flaunt what they have. They are the ideal role model. They should be in government, if you ask me. We could use leaders like them.”

Every aspect of the Supreme Lord is valuable, especially in His majestic form of Narayana. Narayana is the source of all men, the entity from whom all other living forces emanate. He lies down to take rest, and effortlessly many universes manifest. This happens through His breathing, inhaling and exhaling. When exhaling, the planets come to be and get populated with creatures. When inhaling, everything gets destroyed. Thus time is an instrument working in between Narayana’s breathing, which to us is known to be an involuntary action. We don’t think about breathing. When we do, we start to panic.

[Lord Narayana resting]Narayana descended to earth as Shri Rama many thousands of years ago. He played the role of a warrior prince. He lived opulently in Ayodhya, but He was not attached to anything in His possession. He proved this one time when He was asked to leave the kingdom for fourteen years. Just prior to this He was set to be installed as the new king, by His father Dasharatha, who was the present ruler. Then plans changed suddenly.

Time works at Narayana’s direction, so Rama did not panic when He heard the news. Instead of being the richest person in the land, He would have to become the poorest. Sita Devi here says that Rama cast aside His very costly garments. If we have clothes that are old and worn out, it is pretty easy to get rid of them. Perhaps if they have sentimental value, we’ll hold on to them. If something is more expensive, we don’t want to just give it away. We should at least get something back for it, we think.

Rama took nothing back in return. As easy as one would cast aside something insignificant, Rama gave away His upper garments. He was to now live like an ascetic, which meant wearing the simplest clothes. Rama is not poor. He is not a daridra-narayana. He has Sita Devi as His wife, and she is the goddess of fortune. Wherever Rama goes, He can have expensive jewelry and clothes created on the spot.

In this example, He shows what real renunciation is. He shows that the only thing important to Him is the welfare of His children, and the highest welfare for them is remembrance of Him. They are all His amshas, or expansions from Him, and due to life in the material world they are struggling very hard. The senses give them trouble, and the mind is included in the list of senses. So when the mind figures out to remember constantly Rama, the troubles vanish.

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke
jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

[Lord Rama]Rama is willing to do anything to reawaken the remembrance that is naturally inside of every person. He gives up costly garments to show that in God there is full renunciation. He shows strength by not being attached to personal honors. He lives for the honor of those who live for service to Him, and in renouncing the kingdom as such He gave support to the father Dasharatha. The devotees return the favor by always praising Him and describing Him truthfully, as Sita does here for Shri Hanuman.

In Closing:

From lying down and breathing,

New universes gone and seeing.


For Narayana poverty never there,

Fortune goddess can create anywhere.


By Rama still full renunciation shown,

Gave away everything His own.


The honor of Dasharatha to protect,

One of Lord’s qualities for us to detect.