Saturday, February 14, 2015

Talking About Approaching An Old Man

[Lord Krishna]“This nava-yauvana, or pre-youth, is the eternal transcendental form of Krishna. Krishna never grows older than nava-yauvana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.384 Purport)

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Friend1: Let me ask you this.

Friend2: I love that. I know I have to be alert whenever you start a sentence with those words.

Friend1: Yes, you love the challenges I present to you. Anyway, here’s what I was wondering about. When you were younger, when you first began thinking about God, what did you think He looked like?

Friend2: That’s a good question. You know, I don’t think I ever thought about that. I never considered what He looked like.

Friend1: Right, me neither. But I’m sure you’ve since seen Him depicted as an old man.

[God depicted as an old man]Friend2: Yes. I’ve watched those specials on the History Channel about the Bible and such things.

Friend1: They have paintings too. He’s old with a gray beard. He’s looking down on the citizens disapprovingly.

Friend2: And He sends locusts and famine whenever He is unhappy. Paints a pretty bleak picture, if you ask me.

Friend1: It’s interesting that you say that. So that’s exactly what I’ve been contemplating lately. If this is what God looks like to you, why on earth would you follow religion?

Friend2: Elaborate further, please.

Friend1: Well, what is the fundamental claim of all religions?

Friend2: That you’ll be better off in the future.

Friend1: Right, but more specifically that by following such and such religion you’ll reach a better destination in the afterlife. You’re going to go somewhere that is different from where you are right now.

Friend2: That’s true. I mean, that should be obvious based on the fact that we’re all going to die. But yeah, I would agree with that characterization. Religion promises a specific place that you will reach if you follow what you’re told.

Friend1: So think about it. If God is old and mean, and following religion will bring you to Him, why would you follow religion?

Friend2: Are you trying to tell me that you hate old people [smiling]?

Friend1: No, silly. I understand old people have a lot to offer. They have years of experience that generates wisdom that they can pass on to us.

Friend2: That’s known as the descending process of knowledge gathering. Rather than try to experience everything for yourself, and thus waste a lot of time in the process, you take knowledge from higher authorities. In fact, that is the only way to truly know God. The ascending process will never get you there.

Friend1: Okay, okay, we’ll get to that later, but hear me out first. In this world there are boundless opportunities to experience things that are fresh and new.

Friend2: I would agree with that. At least that’s how they look on the surface.

Friend1: You get a new car, a new phone, a new spouse even. If your dog dies, after a few days you go out and get a new one. You don’t have to be stuck with old things.

Friend2: Yeah, they come out with a new smartphone each year. Just when you get used to all the features, how to check your email and send texts, they change everything up on you. I hate that.

[iPhones changing]Friend1: You’re in this world where everything seems to be fresh and new, so why would you want to go to an old man? I would think you would want to avoid that.

Friend2: You know, I never thought of it like that, but you make a good point.

Friend1: Yeah, it’s just my daily speculation. You and I both know that old age is a product of a material existence. It brings you one step closer to the dreaded event known as death.

Friend2: And if God becomes old, it means that He is on the verge of death. But that can’t be true, since if He is God, He should never die.

Friend1: Exactly. That’s why the Vedic understanding makes more sense to me. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form is not the product of anyone’s speculation or imagination, is always the same age.

Friend2: Nava yauvanam; that’s the way He’s described in Sanskrit. He’s always newly in adolescence. This means that He’s not on the way towards transforming into anything else. In the Ananda Vrindavana Champu, it says that the infant and childhood forms of Krishna only manifest in this world. In the spiritual world, He’s always a teenager. One could then argue that His coming to this earth is more important than His staying in the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana. Anyway, that’s a different topic.

[Krishna with Yashoda]Friend1: It’s amazing that He’s always young. I’m sure you know that on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, He was like a great-grandfather or something. 125 years elapsed since He appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, and still He was not old. He did not have any gray hair. He was not walking with a cane.

Friend2: Another point to mention relates to what you were saying about this world. It seems like it is always changing. It seems like a better place to stay, especially when juxtaposed with the alternative of going to an old and vindictive man in the sky. Prahlada Maharaja says that we’re actually chewing the chewed here.

Friend1: Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that.

Friend2: [punah punash charvita-charvananam, SB 7.5.30] We think we’re switching to new and better things, but since it’s all in material life, devoid of God consciousness, we’re actually just doing the same thing.

[Indra Sharma painting of Krishna with cows]Friend1: All the more reason to take up bhakti-yoga, where the destination is the ever-fresh Supreme Lord, who brings the devotee so much happiness day after day.

In Closing:

Angry and vengeful we’re told,

Supreme Lord man in the sky old.


If that being the case,

Why that destination to chase?


Krishna aging from youth never,

In fresh and new form remaining forever.


That the right destination to be,

His all-attractiveness always to see.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Telling Us Who Is God

[Lord Krishna]“Bhagavad-gita, which is the science of God, is spoken by the Personality of Godhead Himself. This is perfect knowledge. Mental speculators or so-called philosophers who are researching what is actually God will never understand the nature of God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.33 Purport)

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Any person can come up to us and say anything. That is the nature of free will. My good sense is what keeps me in check. My conscience prohibits me from doing horrible things, though when lust runs strong, the defense of the conscience starts to weaken. Therefore people are known to tell lies. People cheat, they have imperfect senses, they are easily illusioned, and they commit mistakes. In the matter of the origin of everything, the entire universe and its whole population, any person can step up and lay claim. Shri Krishna is different because He actually describes how He is God.

Let’s suppose someone comes up to us and claims that they are God.

“I am the origin of the universe. I am the truth and light about which you speak. Surrender unto me and I will show you the way.”

Naturally, we could ask them why they are roaming around this miserable land if they are so great. We would also ask them to read our minds and tell us everything that occurred in the past. We’d ask them why they created this land, populated it with creatures, and forced us to live here. We’d ask them what happens after death, and why death takes place to begin with. We’d ask them why we see variety around us. We’d ask why there isn’t only one species. We’d ask them to explain the purpose to our existence.

The pretender will not be able to answer these questions. At best they could show us some mystic power. Maybe they could put a curse on us which causes our health to decline for a brief period. Maybe they could make fire come out of our hair or levitate for a few moments. Such amazing things already happen through nature, so the fact that a human being can do the same doesn’t mean very much. The less intelligent person may be fooled by such a show, but the rational thinking person won’t.

[Lord Krishna]Shri Krishna claims that He is God. He has a bluish complexion, like that of a dark raincloud. He came to this earth in His personal form some five thousand years ago, but He was here before that. He sports an enchanting smile, carries a flute with Him, and is known to defeat the pride of the proudest among us. He is always young, never growing old. His body is eternal, full of knowledge, and always blissful. He remains in His form all the time. There is no difference between matter and spirit for Him.

He claims to be God only in private. He doesn’t walk around beating His chest. He doesn’t insist on surrender. In fact, He will only look for it in certain places. He does not disturb those who are too mired in a life of ignorance. We find out about His claim in a book called the Bhagavad-gita. This chronicles a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna is a warrior in distress at the time, and Krishna, His dear cousin and friend, offers Him sound words of advice after being asked.

The work is studied and speculated on widely today, but it is meant to be heard by only those who are open to spiritual life and not inimical towards Krishna. Lacking these two things, the reader will never understand what is being said. Krishna says that He is God, but not at the outset. It comes after a thorough explanation. He says that He is the Narayana that is worshiped prominently in the Vedic tradition. From Him everything emanates. By Him everything is destroyed.

prakṛtiṁ svām avaṣṭabhya
visṛjāmi punaḥ punaḥ
bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam
avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

[Krishna creating]There is no ambiguity. It is not that Krishna initially referred to someone else doing these things and that many years later those sympathetic to Him claimed that it was Krishna Himself who is responsible. The Sanskrit word “mam” [me/my] is prominent in the Bhagavad-gita. It appears in the most famous and important verse, where Krishna says that Arjuna should abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Him.

sarva-dharmān parityajya
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Krishna reads Arjuna’s mind by knowing exactly what is bothering Him and the cause for it. Krishna explains how He has always been around, since the beginning of the creation, when He spoke the same Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god Vivasvan. Krishna explains that He can remember all of the past, while Arjuna cannot, even though both of them never die due to the nature of spirit.

Krishna lives forever into the future, but since we must die and take birth repeatedly, we have no way of testing that claim. We take it on faith, which is strengthened by knowing that Krishna continues to teach the Bhagavad-gita to this day. The same original words spoken are there to consult, with the spiritual teacher in the line of teachers following the mood of Arjuna there to explain them to us.

[Shrila Prabhupada]There is much more to understanding Krishna and His teachings, which are collectively known as the science of God. Yes, it is indeed a science, as blind faith is neither required nor recommended. We are advised to bring every doubt that we have to the table. We’re not supposed to suppress the objections we have based on apparent contradictions we hear. Being in the auspicious human species, we are to use all of our intellect for understanding God, as Krishna describes Him. In so doing, we find out the true nature of the Supreme Spirit, a nature which is all-merciful and always inviting.

In Closing:

Claim of God anyone to make,

How their word for it to take?


At Shri Krishna have a look,

And words from Him that Arjuna took.


All aspects of Divinity to him explained,

Through applied intellect knowledge gained.


When described is He in such detail,

To know the Supreme Lord without fail.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Talking About Where To Live

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Kuntidevi says, yesham na chanyad bha vatah padambujat: ‘We have no means of protection other than Your lotus feet.’ This is full surrender.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings Of Queen Kunti, 20 Purport)

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Friend1: I think I want to move.

Friend2: Away from me?

Friend1: Well yeah, that too [smiling].

Friend2: Trust me, the feeling’s mutual [sarcastic].

Friend1: I think I’m getting sick of the climate.

Friend2: This winter has been pretty bad.

[winter]Friend1: That’s an understatement. I always tell people, it’s a little scary when the high temperature outside is the same as what a freezer is set to.

Friend2: It’s remarkable, if you think about it.

Friend1: If you get stuck outside during that time, after a while you won’t be able to survive. In the summer, it may be a little uncomfortable at times, but you’ll at least live. In the winter, there is no way. You need to get indoors, where there is heat.

Friend2: So you want to move to somewhere warmer?

Friend1: I’m thinking about California, but it has its problems too.

Friend2: Yup. There is the chance of an earthquake at any time.

Friend1: Florida is an option also, but you know what happens there.

Friend2: Carry your umbrella wherever you go. Plus, remember all those hurricanes? You might have to evacuate your home every now and then.

[rain]Friend1: The Midwest seems nice. They get winters like here, but at least they are landlocked. It’s called the heartland for a reason.

Friend2: True, but you have the risk of tornadoes. Some of the most ridiculous rainstorms I’ve ever been in were in the Midwest.

Friend1: Darn. Then there’s the Asian countries, like India.

Friend2: True. You get monsoons, though. Also mosquitoes will be around you. Not sure if you could handle that.

Friend1: England? I know, I know. It rains all the time, and the sun hardly comes out.

Friend2: [laughing] Yeah, it’s like Seattle.

Friend1: There really is no good place to live.

Friend2: You know what the Vaishnava would say?

Friend1: No.

Friend2: Krishna’s lotus feet. That is the safest place to live.

Friend1: Let me guess, you live there by serving. Bhakti-yoga, devotional service, that’s all you talk about.

Friend2: Thank you. You’re paying me a compliment. And you’re correct, of course. One of the methods of bhakti-yoga is vishno-smaranam. This is remembrance of Vishnu, who is the same as Krishna. It basically means remembering God all the time.

Friend1: Pada sevanam, that is also one of the methods, right?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Yes. This means “serving the lotus feet.” You can either remember those feet or serve them directly. Both have the same effect. Those feet are soft, like the best cushion you’ve felt in this world. They are beautiful, more beautiful than anything you’ve ever seen. Anything that comes in contact with those feet becomes purified, like the Ganga river.

Friend1: So you’re saying I can live anywhere, as long as I’m clutching on to those feet?

Friend2: Well, think about it. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that when there is birth there must be death [Bg 2.27]. As far as I know, you were born at some time. You haven’t proven to me yet that you are superhuman. I’ve also taken birth. This means that both of us must die.

Friend1: That’s obvious.

Friend2: Death is guaranteed, but nothing is stipulated about where and when it must take place. This means that death can occur anywhere. Continuing with the logical deduction, this means that the worst event possible can happen in any city, in any country.

Friend1: So no place is actually safe?

Friend2: Exactly. Make your home the lotus feet belonging to Krishna. That is the supreme shelter. The Vaishnavas take shelter of those feet. This allows them to live anywhere. Members of the highest order following the rules and regulations of spiritual life actually don’t have a fixed home. They continuously travel. This affords the freedom to spread the message of bhakti to every town and village.

Friend1: That’s true. It’s not like they can stay away from a place because they don’t like the weather. They continue to move on.

[Lord Chaitanya on sankirtana]Friend2: They can do this because they’ve made Krishna’s feet their home. They remember that safest of homes, the cure for birth and death, by always chanting Krishna’s names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Of this winter cold I’m sick,

To plan of moving now I’ll stick.


But where to go?

Problems everywhere I know.


Vaishnavas with lotus feet stay,

Of Supreme Lord Krishna, the only way.


Protection to them always giving,

Village to village with bhakti living.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Talking About Anger At Death

[birth and death]“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

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jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye 'rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi

Friend1: Do you ever get angry when someone dies?

Friend2: What do you mean by angry? I’m upset sometimes, for sure.

Friend1: Do you look up to the heavens and show a clenched fist to the man upstairs? I’ve done this a few times.

Friend2: Everyone has, I think. Yeah, when the death happens unexpectedly, to someone we care about, we’re bound to run through a whole range of emotions.

Friend1: Yeah, I was thinking over this the other day. It seems irrational, though.

Friend2: What does? Death or the anger?

Friend1: Being angry. Because what is the alternative?

Friend2: The person who died stays with you?  They don’t die?

Friend1: Right, but for how long? Say that they didn’t die and they are back with me. Does that mean that they will never die?

Friend2: No.

Friend1: Of course not. Exactly. So what justification do I have for being angry? I thought of the alternative and it seems even more scary.

Friend2: What is that?

Friend1: Oh okay, this is a good game to play. Imagine if God, the all-powerful, gave you the boon of everything staying the same. The house that you live in, the people around you, the job that you work at - everything would remain that way forever. There would never be a change.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: So no one would willingly accept that, would they? They would feel trapped.

Friend2: Of course. If you don’t have some kind of change to look forward to, you’ll go nuts. It’s like you’re stuck in prison.

[prison bars]Friend1: Exactly. That’s the conclusion I reached. This means that we can’t really be mad at God for death. He’s kind of doing us a favor. We don’t realize it at the time, but it’s true.

Friend2: You know, this makes for a good segue into the issue of liberation.

Friend1: The end of birth and death?

Friend2: Right. In the school of impersonalism, the belief is that when there is liberation, you get nothingness. You merge into the truth of Brahman. You lose your identity, essentially. No more activity, no more variety, no more anything.

Friend1: That doesn’t seem like it would be fun.

Friend2: Exactly. They’ll tell you that fun is a concept in duality. There is no such thing as “fun” in liberation. There is no anything; just the light of Brahman. Of course that’s not really true. Why would you seek out liberation if it wasn’t a better situation than the one you’re in now?

Friend1: I totally agree with you. So does that mean that liberation is inferior to reincarnation?

Friend2: No, it just shows that their definition is incomplete. Liberation must have variety. Otherwise, it would be a punishment. Real liberation is service to God, known as bhakti-yoga. You’re always serving, doing this thing and that. Your conditions will change for sure, but the changes don’t have a negative influence.

Friend1: Hmm, that’s a little tough to follow. Can you explain further?

Friend2: Consider the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana. In the school of personalism, we’re told that this is the highest destination in liberation. Only the person who purely desires to be with the Supreme Lord in His personal form of Krishna gets to go there.

Friend1: Okay.

[Radha and Krishna in the forest]Friend2: The place doesn’t look all that different on the surface. There is a variety of living entities. There are houses. There are the same seasons, so time exists. The difference is that none of these bear any influence in the service to Krishna. Everyone there is happily engaged in serving Him, so much so that they don’t even know that He is God.

Friend1: Why wouldn’t they know that?

Friend2: It’s the influence of yoga-maya, the direct energy of Krishna. Here we are under the influence of maha-maya, where we forget Krishna and it ends up hurting us. Under yoga-maya, Krishna directly takes control, meaning that the energy helps us out.

Friend1: How would forgetting that Krishna is God be helpful?

Friend2: If you’re constantly aware that the darling child of mother Yashoda is the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, your service might not be so pure. You might be tempted to sit back and take from Krishna instead of give to Him. Taking won’t make you as happy, so the forgetfulness here is a great thing.

[Krishna and Yashoda]Friend1: And so life there is considered liberation?

Friend2: Absolutely. You’re not stuck in a single setting. You have endless variety. Even if you are a tree, you get to witness so much. Things are always changing, but there is the constant of Krishna’s presence and service to Him. You can create the same here through practicing bhakti-yoga. You’ll see that in chanting the holy names, that the pleasure increases more and more as time passes.

Friend1: That’s pretty cool. There’s nothing to be angry about then. Just like I was thinking, who would want to stay in this land devoid of Krishna’s company forever and ever? Why not go for the higher living?

Friend2: And it is indeed living. The soul is eternal, so it can never not exist. Vrindavana is the land that forgets time and space and remembers only the sweetness of Krishna and the sounds from His flute, a sweetness that can be matched through the sound of His names chanted in special sequence: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

At loss of a loved one to see,

Angry at Supreme Lord to be.


But at death what alternatively?

At the same setting living miserably.


Liberation meant to bring activity,

Not to be stateless in perpetuity.


In Vrindavana blissful changing scene,

With bhakti in this world also can be seen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Giving Delight To God

[Lakshmana]“Previous to that in fact, the greatly fortunate Saumitra, who is the delight of his friends, adorned with tree bark for preparing for the journey with his elder brother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.28)

prāg eva tu mahābhāgaḥ saumitriḥ mitra nandanaḥ ||
pūrvajasya anuyātrā arthe druma cīraiḥ alamkṛtaḥ |

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The complaints against organized religion should be familiar, and they seem legitimate if a thorough study of history is made.

“Religion has killed so many people throughout the course of human history. Look at all the major wars. See how many innocent people have been duped by frauds and cheats. Religion has been used to discriminate, to suppress, and to advance the agenda of a few at the cost of the many. It has been the recourse for the weak and the less intelligent, who didn’t want to actually work for what they got.”

[prayer]Indeed, one person approaches a certain god to get good health, and another person changes their diet. What is the difference between them? How is one any better than the other? One person prays to God to keep their ailing family member alive and another doesn’t pray at all. The person who prays doesn’t get their wish granted and the person who doesn’t pray is happy with the outcome to their problem.

Why should there even be different religions? Isn’t there a single creator who made everyone? If He made everyone, why would He want different kinds of worship? These contradictions make following any kind of spiritual life difficult. Adding even more complexity is the issue of the purpose to life. If there was a God, what would He want from us? We know that death takes everything away, that time operates on things to make them temporary as soon as they are born, so what is the point to doing anything?

Sita Devi provides some answers in describing the history of how she ended up in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. She is the wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in the guise of a warrior prince. Rama is that true origin of all, who does not discriminate based on species, gender, ethnicity or the type of religion practiced. He loves every one of His children, and He shows this by staying with them as the Supersoul.

aham ātmā guḍākeśa
aham ādiś ca madhyaṁ ca
bhūtānām anta eva ca

“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)

His compassion can also be seen in the fact that the things most required in life are relatively inexpensive and high in availability. Water, milk, grains, fruits, simple linens and basic shelter are typically easier to procure than meat, wine, fine fabrics, expensive gadgets and large residences. Rama’s kindness is further shown in the material nature, which operates indirectly under His overall supervision. That nature gives all the things necessary for life to continue. Within the sky are all the stars, and within the earth are all the seeds.

“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)

[Lord Rama]In the same way, within devotion to Rama Himself is all dharma, or religion. Every perspective there is on spiritual life, every reward sought out, can be gotten through devotion to Rama alone. One who takes to this devotion is highly fortunate, maha-bhaga, because gradually they realize the importance of the person being worshiped as opposed to what is sought. In the many religions and philosophies the rewards sought are generally the same. Whether one is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Hindu, their requests can still be put into four categories: economic development, sense gratification, adherence to righteousness and ultimate salvation.

The ultimate religion actually transcends these four benedictions. That religion is unifying since it can be practiced by one and all. It does not require a change of allegiance or faith in a particular establishment. That religion is a way of life, a consciousness. In that thinking, one becomes most fortunate, since they get the benefit of God’s association.

This was the case with Lakshmana, who abandoned a comfortable life to be with his elder brother Rama. From studying Lakshmana’s situation, we see that he had many of the things commonly asked for in religion. He had religiosity; so much so that he was a defender of righteous principles. Lakshmana found tremendous economic development, having anything the mind could want available to him. He had ample opportunity for sense gratification, and through showing renunciation when needed he was well on his way towards ultimate salvation.

[Lakshmana]Yet Lakshmana abandoned these four rewards in a second to be with Rama, who was once asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya. Sita Devi says that Lakshmana was ready to leave even before her. She had the same desire, to simply be with Rama. Sita says that Lakshmana is a delight to his friends. This is particularly significant considering the fact that Lakshmana was to follow Rama into the forest for fourteen years.

His religion is giving delight to his brother, even if sometimes Rama asks for something else. The same goes for Sita. In fact, no one can delight Rama more than those two. Hanuman also delights Rama, but through the route of a servant. One of his tasks was to find Sita. He succeeded. His meeting with her brought the verse quoted above.

Devotion brings delight to Rama. The attitude is unique to all religions. The mood is to first give, not to take. It is to ask for more opportunities for service instead of looking to see what good results are coming from prayer and worship. The delight that goes to Rama gets returned to the worshiper, who can get the benefit even through worshiping Rama in one of His many other forms. The generic “God” references Him as well, but the delight isn’t as much as when the interaction is with a personal form. The service can be through something as simple as chanting the holy names, which anyone can do: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

So many religions to see,

A unifying purpose can there be?


Meant for to God to bring,

Delight, like His glories to sing.


At Lakshmana’s example just look,

To leave everything no hesitation took.


By Sita and Hanuman also shown,

Asked to serve, not for benefit their own.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The People Who Follow God

[Lakshmana]“Previous to that in fact, the greatly fortunate Saumitra, who is the delight of his friends, adorned with tree bark for preparing for the journey with his elder brother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.28)

prāg eva tu mahābhāgaḥ saumitriḥ mitra nandanaḥ ||
pūrvajasya anuyātrā arthe druma cīraiḥ alamkṛtaḥ |

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The Supreme Lord has control over all circumstances. He never accidentally falls into a bad situation. He never comes upon something unexpected. This means that one can analyze His different actions and take lessons from all facets. For instance, in the Ramayana, God in His seemingly human form of Rama one time left the kingdom of Ayodhya for fourteen years. The one incident speaks so much about God and His possession of the opulence of renunciation. It also shows His supreme love for those who are devoted to Him. There were two people who went with Rama, and we can learn something from them as well.

It’s a Friday night. The past week at work was difficult. You want to relax and forget about your troubles. You know that you have to do it all over again the next week. This is how time operates. It influences everything except the essence of identity, the spirit soul. This difference is one way to understand spiritual life. Before getting caught up in the different spiritual traditions, before even referencing the divine figures who operate at the direction of the one Supreme God, there is an easy way to understand religion: it is the study of the one thing on which time does not operate.

The weekend is when time gets forgotten. So you want to hang out with your closest friends, but there’s one problem. There’s someone else that wants to tag along. This is a friend of a friend. You find this person to be extremely annoying. They don’t stop talking. Since you have a difficult time speaking harshly to others, this person has made you the target for their nonstop blabbering. It’s as if they know they are annoying you and getting a kick out of it.

There’s nothing you can do in this situation. If you tell your friend, they will get offended. If you try to avoid the situation, you’re left by yourself. Therefore you have to tolerate. Just because you are with people, it doesn’t mean that you like all of them. The material nature operates in such a fashion that the preferred condition isn’t always present. Winter comes to take away the warmth of summer. Then the same summer arrives again to bring its scorching heat.

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)

[winter]Among His many attributes, God is nice. He is the very definition of kind. We know this from His travels as the Supersoul. The individual soul is the defining feature to a living being. Time operates on the body, but not the soul. Within that same body is another soul, and it is a little different in nature. It is supreme and identical in all beings. This superior soul is an expansion of God, which means that the Lord accompanies every living being, no matter where they go. The influence of time can bring them to the lowest species even, but God will still be there.

tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
saṁsāreṣu narādhamān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.19)

There is the kindness in the extension of the Supersoul to all species, and there is also the kind nature exhibited by the Personality of Godhead when He appears on this earth. Shri Rama is one such appearance, and He was known to be extremely kind. He was so nice that when something important was taken away from Him at the last moment without just cause, He did not get upset. He took the news in stride.

[Sita and Rama]The change in plans not only took away the kingdom from Rama, but it made Him shift residences. Instead of a palace, He would have to call the forest His home. Instead of a fixed address, He would have to roam from place to place. Two people came along with Rama. There was His wife Sita Devi, who described the situation many years later to Shri Hanuman, a friend of Rama’s. She told Hanuman that she prepared to go to the forest even before Rama, for she did not prefer to live without Him. You could put her in the heavenly realm, but if Rama wasn’t there she wouldn’t be happy.

Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana is the other person who came along. We know that Rama is nice. We know that He has a hard time refusing people. Does this mean that Lakshmana and Sita annoyed Him by insisting on following? How do we know that Rama preferred their company? Perhaps Rama was too kind to refuse them.

Sita Devi gives us the answer. She says that Lakshmana is the delight of his friends. He is also the beloved son of Sumitra, one of the queens in Ayodhya. She mentions these things intentionally. Sita wants Hanuman to know that Lakshmana came along to make Rama happy. Giving him higher praise than she gave herself, she also mentions that Lakshmana was prepared to go to the forest even before her. He adorned himself with the garb of an ascetic, which consists of clothes made of tree bark.

[Lakshmana]Lakshmana delights his friends, and Rama is much more than a friend. Lakshmana is the great delight of his elder brother, who is the delight of the Ikshvaku dynasty of kings. Sita makes Rama so happy as well, so He never minds when they come along. Rama’s nature is such that He never denies a soul surrendered at His feet. He never finds their service to Him annoying, which means that in bhakti-yoga one can be assured that their service will be pleasing to the person who matters most.

In Closing:

A night out with friends to make,

The annoying one with you to take.


Tolerate them you must,

Lest you lose a friend to trust.


When of Rama’s exile knowing,

Lakshmana immediately set on going.


That brother to his friends a delight,

So Rama not annoyed in the slight.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Who Is The Goddess Of Fortune

[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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From the Vedic tradition of spirituality, we get the concept of a goddess of fortune. There are many gods and goddesses. You could fill an entire book with pictures of them. As many desires as pop into the mind of a single individual, multiplying that by all of the individuals that have ever graced this earth - there are that many divine figures to fulfill those desires. Among all of them, the goddess of fortune holds a unique position. She has tremendous love for God, love that is difficult to describe.

If there is a goddess of learning, it is pretty obvious what you can get from her. If you’re having trouble in school, pray to her for help. You want to do well on your upcoming exam? You want that paper you’re submitting in class to be well received? You want to finish high in the rankings so that you’ll proceed further in good standing? Go to her.

[Sarasvati Devi]You make requests to things that are living. You can’t ask a rock to move out of the way. You can’t tell a building to slouch down so that you can better see the horizon. So the goddess of learning is a person, and in the Vedic tradition her name is Sarasvati. There are gods and goddesses to fulfill other desires as well, and they are also individuals. They are like you and me, except they have special abilities.

When it comes to the goddess of fortune, the common name used to address her is Lakshmi. This name is synonymous with fortune. If you’re collecting funds for a spiritual purpose, such as building a temple or printing literature that glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the donations you receive are referred to as “lakshmi.”

She is also known as Shri, which means beauty or opulence. She is Padmini, as she has an affinity for lotus flowers. Though she grants fortune, what she is better known for is her relationship to God. She is essentially His wife, though dharma itself cannot completely explain their relationship. Just as a paper from the governing body gives sanction to the relationship in marriage, there is dharma, or duty, which establishes the principles of the sacred covenant of marriage.

This dharma is very important, for without it man is no different than the animal. Yet Lakshmi’s relationship to God goes far beyond duty. She has pure love for Him. This means that she puts His interests ahead of her own. When she plays the role of the goddess of fortune, the gifts she gives are meant to be used for pleasing her husband, who is known as Narayana.

[Sita and Rama]Narayana is also Rama, the seemingly human bodied son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Lakshmi is also Sita, the princess coming from Videha. Sita certainly played the role of goddess of fortune during her time on earth. Her husband had so much wealth, being a king’s son and all. Sita loved to give gifts to the priestly class, which in those times didn’t work to earn a living. They lived off whatever people gave to them.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get an example of how Sita’s relationship to Rama transcends anything stipulated by dharma. If she were to follow religious duty, she would have stayed home when Rama asked her to. He had to leave Ayodhya for fourteen years, and He asked that she remain there with His mother.

Sita not only refused, but she was ready to go ahead of Rama. She disobeyed her husband. She was not worried about the consequences. She was not worried about fortune, happiness, fine dining, or comfortable living quarters. She would not get anything materially nice in the forest, where Rama was to live for fourteen years. She still insisted on going, and this was one argument Rama did not win.

From this episode we see that one way to describe the goddess of fortune is “the person who loves God so much that she is not compelled to listen to what He says.” This is a highly advanced stage to reach, but it reveals the Lord’s true nature. The ignorant deny His existence completely, being bewildered by the material nature. The spiritually inclined believe in Him, and either ask Him for things or respect Him from afar, fearing His wrath.

[Rama embracing Hanuman]The devotees are the closest to Him, and they are anything but afraid of Him. The only fear they have is of a life devoid of His association. In a world where it is difficult to notice His presence, which is in fact everywhere, these wise souls keep Him close by through always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

For material desire to seek,

A demigod for every one each.


Shri the fortune’s goddess name,

Lakshmi and Padmini person the same.


But for devotion really she’s known,

Gifts meant for Narayana’s pleasure alone.


Disobeying Rama when ready to leave,

Lord’s true nature from this perceive.