Saturday, February 21, 2015

Explaining My Relationships

[Prahlada Maharaja]“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose external energy has created the distinctions of ‘my friend’ and ‘my enemy’ by deluding the intelligence of men. Indeed, I am now actually experiencing this, although I have previously heard of it from authoritative sources.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.11)

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śrī-prahrāda uvāca
paraḥ svaś cety asad-grāhaḥ
puṁsāṁ yan-māyayā kṛtaḥ
vimohita-dhiyāṁ dṛṣṭas
tasmai bhagavate namaḥ

Question: “Just as God is not impersonal, we are not impersonal, either. We have identity. We are individuals. Therefore, when I hear the teaching that we should not be so attached to our relationships, it makes me wonder. By saying that, aren’t we making the people we know impersonal? Isn’t there a difference between my relationship with my parents and your relationship with your parents? How can you put all relationships into the same category?”

One of the central teachings of bhakti-yoga philosophy, which fully describes Vedanta, is that God is not impersonal. He is a person, though of a kind we’re not accustomed to seeing. By saying He’s a person, it’s being acknowledged that He is an individual. I can never be you and you can never be me. In the same way, none of us can ever be God. Anyone who says as much doesn’t know what they are talking about. There is the concept of merging into God, which brings an end to the cycle of birth and death, but that does not mean that a person can suddenly become the origin of everything. Moreover, the person in bhakti does not want to merge at all; they’d rather maintain their individuality.

The cycle of birth and death shows that we cannot be the person we think we are right now. We have a name. We have parents. We have siblings and friends. We have pets, even. Due to death, which is one of the markings of time, all of these things change. After death, we get a brand new body. In that form, we get another name. There are new parents, new siblings. Worse still, we completely forget about our past life, though our consciousness comes with us.

śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

[carrying conceptions to the next life]Memory gets wiped clean, but consciousness comes with us. Consciousness can be shaped, however, so even that past conception of the mind can shift towards a new direction in the new body. The soul is what stays constant throughout. The soul is who we really are. When we say “I am”, the “I” refers to the soul.

The “am” is also a question mark. Without knowing the “I”, the “am” is impossible to decipher. From knowing that we are soul, we at least have a chance to learn the proper role for spirit. Is it to roam in different bodies, lifetime after lifetime, like the greatest world traveler? Is it to constantly experience things that are destined to be forgotten? Is it to form strong attachments to people whom we are guaranteed to never talk to again at some point?

God is a person and I am a person. As the greatest person, God is the greatest soul. He does not go through birth and death. He remembers everything. When He forms an attachment, it stays. This means that for Him attachment has a different meaning. The same applies to His eyes, ears, legs, hands, and other body parts. In this way there is no difference between spirit and matter for Him. He is one with all of the things connected to Him.

We know that this is not the case for us, which means that we are a smaller person compared to God. The smaller is meant to serve the bigger. This service should be voluntary, and it should continue without a break. It shouldn’t be difficult to picture this service since we offer service already to so many. That is likely how our relationships exist. The parents serve us at first, and in their old age we serve them. Our friends are based on their meeting some interest of ours.

“When plant life is green, there is grazing. When it becomes old, it turns into fuel for fire. When it grows and bears fruits, people grab at it with an open hand. Tulsi says that all are friends only when a personal interest is met, but Shri Rama meets the supreme interest.” (Dohavali, 52)

With God, the pure relationship is when we offer service and don’t expect anything back in return. In one sense it is impossible for God to not reciprocate. As He is a person, He has an original form. It is beautiful, sweet, soft, and enchanting. Since it is all-attractive, it is addressed as Krishna. It has other names too, like Rama and Vishnu. Just by serving Krishna there is the automatic benefit of bliss. Yet He is not required to give us anything material, nor does He promise to. This means that if we go in wanting things other than Krishna’s association, we may not get them.

[Lord Krishna]Yet the relationship still continues; this is the magic of God. He is the only friend that stays forever. Therefore the wise person recommends making a strong attachment with Krishna first. All others will go eventually. This is the sad reality of life. Other people are not impersonal. The interactions with them are real. The lessons taught to us by dear people are important as well. In the end, however, if they cannot bring us closer to Krishna, closer to fulfilling life’s mission, what have we really gained?

While attachment to Krishna is not harmful, maintaining strong attachment to others can be. What if our friends are not interested in self-realization? What if they have yet to figure out that life and death is an endless cycle? What if they are not bewildered by the days and months repeating, with no tangible progress being made?

We all have identity. This means that others around me are spirit soul as well. They are meant to experience the same bliss from surrender in devotion, sharanagati. They are meant to fulfill life’s mission of regaining the original consciousness, Krishna consciousness. All are invited to practice chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In the end, if the attachment to Krishna is not made, then rebirth will happen again, and the difficult struggle to find purpose in life will reemerge. Therefore the wise look to Krishna first, knowing Him to be the savior of the fallen souls.

In Closing:

Relationships to others real I know,

But with death eventually all to go.


Consciousness with them coming,

So new temporary identities becoming.


As spirit soul for Krishna I am meant,

So no longer time in rebirth spent.


By this knowledge to others giving,

Friends and family relationships fulfilling.

Friday, February 20, 2015

How To Make Others Happy

[Krishna's lotus feet]“By the spell of illusion one tries to be happy by serving his personal sense gratification in different forms which will never make him happy. Instead of satisfying his own personal material senses, he has to satisfy the senses of the Lord. That is the highest perfection of life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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The soul is happiest when serving. This property is known as its dharma. The word “dharma” does not directly mean “to serve,” but when the true definition gets broken down as it relates to the individual, then there can be no other meaning. Dharma is the essential characteristic. Consider fire. How do you know that you’ve seen fire? How do you know that you are in its presence?

“The fire has heat and light. Fire burns. Only fire can behave like this. If I see heat, light and burning, then I know that fire is in front of me.”

[fireplace]If we take these features away, the fire ceases to exist. The essential properties are its dharma. Similarly, in water there is wetness. In clouds there is fog. In grass there is the green color. So many distinguishable characteristics are there for the many varieties of objects we see in front of us.

The human being is an interesting species because of its intelligence. It is not as fast as some animals. It cannot eat as much as others. It may not live as long as the trees. It does not have the ability to live in the ocean or survive subzero temperatures for long. Yet it has intelligence. With this tool at its disposal, it can find ways to adapt that other species can’t.

Even with its advanced intelligence, it cannot live forever. It must die, just like the other species. The other species eat, sleep, mate and defend. This means that an advanced intelligence is not required to do these things. Within the human being, the enhanced ability is to be used for finding a unique kind of happiness. There is the question of “why do I exist?” The human being can ask this question, but if it does not find a suitable answer, it will be forever unhappy.

The answer comes through dharma. The essential characteristic of all sparks of spirit is service. In the lower species, so much ignorance covers up the vital spirit soul that knowledge of this characteristic gets lost. The human being has less ignorance covering it, so it has the chance to remember this characteristic and act accordingly.

We have evidence to go by for seeing the essential characteristic. Let’s take this exercise. Who is happier, the person who always looks to eat nice things or the person who cooks nice things for others? Who is happier, the person who only buys things for themselves or the person who tries to put a smile on someone else’s face? In general, the person who serves others is happier. During tough economic times, the person interviewed on the street answers that they are doing okay, but that they are worried about their neighbor. They are concerned with the suffering they see on television. They may have hardships of their own, but they think that others are worse off.

Using a little intelligence, we see that the best way to make others happy is not to simply give them things. If I have things and am not fully satisfied through them, it means that those things aren’t so important. Rather, it is the service I find that makes me happier. By extension, others will be happy through service also.

In comes bhakti-yoga. This gives a chance for service to every living entity. Large or small, old or young, wise or not so bright - no one is excluded. Bhakti-yoga translates to “devotional service” in English, and the devotion is towards the Supreme Lord. His essential characteristics are eternality, bliss and knowledge. He is meant to be served, and all other souls are meant to serve Him. This is the natural order. Any deviation from this leads to misery. Conversely, any approach made towards the center of the reality leads to bliss.

Devotional service at the local level can follow one of nine different methods. The principal ones are hearing and chanting. I can sacrifice some time to hear about God. This is devotion if I’m hearing properly. If I hear that I am God or that anyone can become God, then my hearing is not in bhakti-yoga. If I chant the name of anyone except God, then my service is in kama, or lust, and not bhakti.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

[Lord Krishna in the forest]An easy way to hear and chant simultaneously is to recite the holy names in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The best way to serve others is to give them the chance to hear and say these names. Giving this gift is also service, as it increases the range of the devotional culture. So as part of my bhakti-yoga, I’m giving someone else the chance to serve as well. From my own experience I know this to be the true means towards happiness. I will see others happy, and that will come back to me as well. It’s a win-win situation, and it continues endlessly. Dharma always stays with the object in question, and the object that is spirit soul never gets annihilated. It is not slain when the body is slain.

In Closing:

What the best thing to give,

So that others happy to live?


From object to object no taste,

Limited pleasure, effort like a waste.


From service to get happiness true,

That opportunity can give to you.


From bhakti-yoga, service in devotion,

God conscious soul stopping rebirth’s motion.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Talking About Putana

[Lord Krishna]“The innocent cowherd women thought that she was a goddess of fortune appearing in Vrindavana with a lotus flower in her hand. It seemed to them that she had personally come to see Krishna, who is her husband. Because of her exquisite beauty, no one checked her movement, and therefore she freely entered the house of Nanda Maharaja.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

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Husband: I was reading about the pastime with the witch named Putana again.

Wife: That’s great. Did you like it?

Husband: I always like it. It seems that every time I read it, I gain a different perspective.

Wife: Krishna’s pastimes are like that. It’s another way to know that He is God. He is truly unlimited. He is beyond our comprehension, yet He acts in ways that increase our knowledge and appreciation of Him.

Husband: All true, but you know I have a few issues to raise.

Wife: Don’t you always? I can’t wait to hear this. I’m sure this will not be like any other viewpoint I’ve heard yet.

Husband: You might get mad at me for this one. I’m just warning you.

Wife: Okay. It better not be offensive. I will not tolerate that.

Husband: If I border on that, then stop me. Still, I think these questions are worth asking.

Wife: Alright. This is what I get for giving you that book. You always have to be difficult. Go ahead.

[The Krishna book]Husband: Okay. Now it says that Putana was this amazingly beautiful woman. She absolutely enchanted everyone when she came to Gokula, the home where baby Krishna was staying.

Wife: That’s correct. This is one ability of the Rakshasas, the demons who are mired in the mode of ignorance. They can change their shape at will. Being ordered by Kamsa, the king of Mathura who wanted Krishna killed, Putana transformed into a beautiful woman and headed towards the home of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda.

Husband: Alright, I’m glad you mentioned Yashoda. She is a loving mother. Krishna just appeared to her. Yashoda gave birth to a child, but she wasn’t sure about its gender immediately due to the exhaustion from labor. Vasudeva transferred Krishna, the Supreme Lord, to Gokula and placed Him in Yashoda’s care.  He took with him the girl who was born to Yashoda.

Wife: Right. Nanda and Yashoda were foster parents. Vasudeva didn’t want Kamsa to kill Krishna, which he would have attempted if Krishna stayed in the jail cell in Mathura. Can you tell me your first question already? I have to start on dinner soon.

Husband: Oh, what are you making? Macaroni and cheese?

Wife: It will be brussel sprouts and water if you don’t hurry up.

Husband: Okay. If Yashoda is such a loving mother, how could she let Putana enter the home? Putana is a stranger. Though she was so beautiful, that doesn’t mean the mother should drop her attention on her son. Also, Putana came to feed breast milk to Krishna. Isn’t that a little weird? What kind of mother allows someone else to feed their child that way?

Wife: Wow. Yeah, I must say I’ve never heard this line of inquiry before. You never cease to amaze me. You realize that this is Gokula-Vrindavana, right? You understand how wonderful all the people there are, right?

Husband: Sure, of course. But does that mean that you would let a stranger come to your home? Would you let someone you didn’t know come and feed our son when he was a baby? I don’t think so.

[Yashoda and Krishna]Wife: This is a different time. We are all suspicious of one another. We’re not pure in our habits. The type of community in Gokula at that time can’t be found anywhere right now. People weren’t suspicious of one another. They all spontaneously loved Krishna. He was basically everyone’s child, though He lived in Yashoda’s home. Though she carried Him in her arms, everyone carried Him in their hearts. Everyone was so innocent; hence there was no suspicion. This is what happens in the spiritual world. There is no envy of the kind that we know.

Husband: I see. So it was because of her innocent nature that Yashoda allowed Putana to walk in? Fine, I can accept that. It was a different time.

Wife: What’s your next question? I know you’re going to try to top yourself in ridiculousness.

Husband: We know what happened next. Putana put poison on her breasts and fed Krishna. Yet instead of Krishna dying, it was Putana who did. Krishna sucked the very life out of her. When she realized what was happening, she pleaded for help. She wanted Krishna to stop. Yet He didn’t. Eventually the witch revealed her true form, which was gigantic. Finally, she died, with her falling body creating a terrifying sound as it hit the ground.

Wife: Yes. Isn’t Krishna so nice? He gives liberation even to His enemies. Since she thought of Him at the time of death, Putana was liberated.

[Krishna crawling on Putana]Husband: Okay, fine, but shouldn’t Krishna have let go when Putana started crying for help? Isn’t God all-merciful? Shouldn’t He have forgiven her? After all, Putana was in the mode of ignorance. She did not know any better. Why did she deserve to get punished like that? Doesn’t it show that Krishna is mean?

Wife: Wow, once again you’ve entered the realm of absurdity. You understand why Putana was there, don’t you?

Husband: Yes. To kill Krishna.

Wife: Who was how old?

Husband: Still an infant.

Wife: And you know that she had done something like this before, right?

Husband: Yeah? Oh, I guess that’s pretty bad then.

Wife: Pretty bad? Even if this was her first attempt, she still carried through with her plan. It’s not like she had a change of heart at the last second. The truly demoniac never learn their lesson. So if Krishna had pardoned her, she would have tried again some other day. Actually, by sucking the life out of her, Krishna showed her tremendous kindness. People would be lined up for days and months to get the same benediction if they knew it were available. To be killed directly by God is a great boon.

Husband: I see. I guess you’re right. I didn’t think of it that way.

Wife: Sometimes you have to carry out justice. There is no other way. It may not be pretty, and you may be well aware that the person committing the crime is not of sound mind, but you can’t worry about that. You have to protect the people. That’s what Krishna does, and the people love Him even more because of it. Even after this happened to Putana, Kamsa did not learn his lesson. That is more proof for you.

Husband: What do you mean? Don’t ruin the story for me!

Wife: You know all of this anyway. Kamsa kept sending more demons to kill Krishna. That shows you that the true enemies of God will never learn their lesson. Krishna continues to baffle them, which makes the devotees even happier. It’s always a win-win.

In Closing:

Putana to home coming to feed,

But for another mother what need?


When caught called for Krishna to stop,

But to suck life from her not to drop.


In first instance Lord not for mother alone,

Each thinking He was child their own.


And pardon to do nothing for the witch,

Demoniac of steady mind, never to switch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The One About Arranging A Meeting

[flower garland offering]“In some of the Puranas the evidence is given that if someone is simply meditating on devotional activities, he has achieved the desired result and has seen face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 10)

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Deity worship is a time honored practice of the Vedic tradition. “Be conscious of God.” This is the tag-line, the slogan, if you will, for those who follow bhakti-yoga. It seems simple enough. Consciousness is not dependent on tradition. It is not restricted to nationality. Both men and women have consciousness, so gender is not an issue either. God consciousness is the original consciousness, so whatever tools can be used for regaining it, for once again bringing to mind the closest and dearest friend, who is the Supreme Lord of all planets and the best friend of everyone, become worthwhile.

To prohibit deity worship is to prohibit the exercise of love itself. In traditions which ban this practice, in ignorance the thought is that an idol gets worshiped. But in fact, some worship must take place. There must be some obeisance paid, at least in the mind. If there is worship in the mind, why not in the flesh? Why not in a formal way, towards an object that depicts some of the transcendental goodness of the person of whom we are trying to be conscious?

[Worshiping Radha-Krishna deities]Parvati was trying to explain this to her friend one day. She described deity worship in terms of arranging a meeting. The worshiper and the object of worship should never be separated, she explained, because they are meant to be together. Simply arranging that meeting can do so much. She relayed a story from her own life to further illustrate the point.

It was a few years after we were married. We were living in this tiny apartment. Ishan and I were relatively happy. We got along well. He would work long hours and come home tired. I would always have dinner ready. Still, since we were so close, we were bound to have disagreements every now and then. The one I remember most vividly was when my mother came to visit.

Now maybe this was bad on my part, but I didn’t want to hear his negative reaction. My mother was going to come and stay with us for a few weeks, and I didn’t tell Ishan. He doesn’t get along with her at all. My mother can be tough to deal with sometimes, but still, I love her. I like having her in the house, especially since Ishan is gone for most of the day.

Anyway, he came home and saw her and that was it. He went ballistic. He started screaming at me, making a scene. My tendency in these situations is to fight back. So I yelled at him, telling him that he was being rude. My mother intervened too, which didn’t help matters. As a result, Ishan stormed out of the house, taking some of his clothes. He went to stay with one of his friends.

I felt bad about what happened, but I wasn’t going to apologize. I was fuming for days. My mother told me to at least see him, as he had tried calling. He wanted to talk, but I didn’t. She explained to me that if we simply met, since we loved each other so much we would forget everything that had happened. Sure enough, that’s exactly how it ended up. He came home one day to pick up some clothes, and as he was leaving we bumped into each other. Instantly, we both apologized. We hugged and made up, and the cause of the disagreement was forgotten quickly.

Parvati told her friend that the living entity is similarly attached to God since a long time back. Worship of Him is as natural as marriage, friendship or any other close relationship. In fact, it is the best relationship, one from which all others are derived. Going to worship in the temple is a way for arranging this meeting, especially for those who have completely forgotten about God.

[Radha-Krishna deities]Parvati acknowledged that sometimes the temple culture can be tainted by mismanagement or social pressures caused by seeing the same people on a regular basis. So she told her friend that even superior to deity worship is chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The sound of these names can reawaken the dormant God consciousness, and change the life of a person in an instant. Worship can take place even within the mind, so no one is ever restricted from reuniting with God.

In Closing:

Though to worship deity seeming strange,

Consider it like meeting of lovers to arrange.


Known to us since a long time back,

Misery when consciousness of Him to lack.


At the deity with love and devotion see,

And from ignorance instantly be set free.


If difficulty in this process to find,

Know that can worship also in the mind.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Virat Purusha

[The universal form]“Although we may have clay, water and fire, the elements take the shape of a brick only when we labor to combine them. Without the living energy, there is no possibility that matter can take shape. Similarly, this material world does not develop unless agitated by the Supreme Lord as the virat-purusha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.51 Purport)

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In Sanskrit the word “purusha” means enjoyer. The corresponding term is “prakriti.” Purusha dominates prakriti. One is superior and the other inferior. The two terms also refer to a person and the field on which they act. Each individual is purusha at the local level, but in the higher scheme they are prakriti. All of prakriti is dominated by the complete purusha, which is known as virat. This virat-purusha is a form of the Supreme Lord, and without Him nothing can happen.

[bricks]The brick house example helps us to understand this concept. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada rightly points out that bricks don’t manifest on their own. There is clay, water and fire. They are found in many places; they are not scarce. Yet this doesn’t mean that bricks get created on their own. There is no explosion that automatically creates a brick house. The construction requires intelligence. Though the brick may not be as complicated as the smartphone, it still requires some human intervention. And that human acts with intelligence.

The creation is infinitely more complex. The earth, the sun, the rivers, the lakes, the hills, the mountains, the clouds, the trees, the leaves - these cannot come to be through randomness. It is simply impossible, as the variety alone is breathtaking. With that variety there is tremendous complexity, and yet it can all be studied. This means that within the variety there is order. Order and variety going hand in hand for billions of years is never an accident. The wise person understands this, whereas the less intelligent will keep trying to find other explanations.

[fall leaves]It is interesting to note that the cause of the creation is attributed to just a form of God. The virat-purusha, the person managing the complete whole, acts effortlessly. He does amazing things, and yet He is not God completely. He is but an incarnation, which means that the complete form of God is much more powerful.

What more is there to do? What can be more powerful than the sun, an object from which we must remain a great distance? What can be more complicated than science, which studies the things created by the virat-purusha?

The original person can bring the cure to birth and death. He can transcend the entire creation. When He appears within it, He is not subject to its laws. This seems like a myth. We have difficulty believing this. Sure, we see people do amazing things all the time. The mystic yogis can hold their breath for over an hour. They can read minds and they can go months without eating. Yet even these feats are nothing compared to what God Himself can do.

When He appears, He defies the law of gravity by holding up a massive hill with His tiny finger for seven days in a row. He singlehandedly fights off 14,000 of the most skilled combatants, using only His bow and arrow set. He does not get disturbed by having a front-row seat to the greatest war in history. He does not lament over big losses and He does not get elated over the greatest gains. He is always a cool customer, and He is not enamored by the creation that He instigates through His glance.

sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā

“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)

[Krishna and Arjuna on chariot]As He is responsible for this creation, it would make sense to study Him instead of endlessly observing the inferior nature that He dominates. His qualities can be known to some degree. It is for this reason that in the Vedas He has many, many names. No one name can describe Him fully, but the name “Krishna” is pretty close. It means “all-attractive,” and it speaks to how in God the individual gets everything they are looking for. Power is only useful when there is something on which to act. The potency of the human being is meant for service rather than exploitation. The living entity is always a subordinate, since Krishna is always the most powerful.

Krishna’s attractiveness draws the mind away from the futile attempt to explain the creation as being a random occurrence. The sound emanating from His flute brings the mind back towards the eternal engagement of devotional service, which results in happiness beyond comprehension. The beautiful words coming from Krishna bring the requisite knowledge to take up that devotion in sincerity, and the enlightened souls who follow that devotion bring the association necessary to maintain steadiness in that practice.

In Closing:

Purusha on prakriti to act,

This workings of nature exact.


For the entire creation way the same,

Material nature through virat-purusha came.


So many species, an endless variety,

Still can be studied that complexity.


Sign of intelligence through this shown,

Just a sampling of God’s standing alone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Talking About A Fantasy World

[BG Sharma painting of Balarama and Krishna]“While taking charge of the calves, sometimes the two brothers played on Their flutes. And sometimes They played with amalaki fruits and bael fruits, just like small children play with balls. Sometimes They danced and made tinkling sounds with Their ankle bells. Sometimes They made Themselves into bulls and cows by covering Themselves with blankets. Thus Krishna and Balarama played.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)

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Friend1: Do you believe in life in Vrindavana?

Friend2: What do you mean by “believe”? Do I think that I will get there in this lifetime? I wish. One can only dream, but at the same time I’ll keep working.

Friend1: No, you are a saint, everyone knows that [smiling]. I’m asking if you think that Vrindavana really exists.

Friend2: Why wouldn’t I? You think I’m chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” just to pass the time?

Friend1: Doesn’t it seem a little too good to you? It has similarities to the fifty virgins awaiting you in heaven and the promise of a utopian paradise, does it not?

Friend2: Oh, I see what you’re saying. So since it describes a pristine land where cows, birds, butterflies, bees, rivers, hills and trees all work in perfect harmony, it must be a fantasy land.

Friend1: Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I love thinking about it. It would be great if we could go somewhere where there is a leader whom everyone adores. I would love to hear the music that Krishna plays on His flute. I would love to see Him go to the top of a hill and get all the wayward cows to calm down and come to Him. I would love to see how He and Radha are so happy when meeting each other.

[Krishna playing His flute]Friend2: You don’t realize it, but the way you’re describing it proves that it is real. You can’t make up such a wonderful land.

Friend1: But couldn’t you? Hmm, I think I see what you’re getting at. Yet it all seems too convenient, no? You follow bhakti-yoga, give up material desire, always serve the guru, keep the association of saints - then suddenly you’re no longer in the cycle of birth and death. You’re Krishna conscious, so you get Krishna in the next life. And please don’t quote the 66th verse of the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad-gita for me. I’m very familiar with it.

Friend2: Are you? It sounds like you aren’t.

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, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Friend1: Yes, thank you. Let me put the question to you another way. Are you familiar with the people who play fantasy role playing games?

Friend2: Like on the computer? The nerdy types?

Friend1: Well, maybe those types, but it doesn’t have to be a video game exactly. I think they do it online. They go all out. They create a different universe, with its own calendar. The seasons are different, the creatures are different, everything is different. It looks like an ordinary society, but someone creates everything in their head. They are obviously trying to escape this world and go into one where the perceived problems are eliminated.

Friend2: Oh, I see. So you’re asking if Vyasadeva, the compiler of most of Vedic literature, dreamt up Vrindavana in his head? Did the brothers Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami pick random places in the area known as Vrindavana on this earth and say that Krishna did this here and did that there?

[Vyasadeva]Friend1: I know what you’re trying to do. I understand that there is a lot more to go off of for understanding Vrindavana. I know that there is a preponderance of evidence from the highest authority sources to use in justifying the existence of the afterlife known as the spiritual home of Shri Krishna. I also understand that these authority sources are of impeccable character. They were truly renounced; they never exploited the material nature for their own gain. They lived so renounced that if someone were to see them today they would feel sorry for them. They would probably put them in television commercials eliciting money to support some cause. I get that.

Friend2: Then why still the doubts? I don’t know how you could compare some fantasy world created online with Goloka Vrindavana?

Friend1: How are you so sure, though?

Friend2: Is not everyone within this world living a fantasy? Do you think the majority of the people act as if they know they are going to die some day? Do you think people understand that no amount of money will make them happy? This can’t be the case, because I see the widespread dismay upon the loss of a living entity. That loss is guaranteed to happen. That guarantee comes as soon as there is birth. I see the widespread indulgence in intoxication, which is a means of trying to forget. What are they trying to forget? That they’ve been fooling themselves their whole life? The intoxication itself is a fantasy, for from previous experience one knows that they will not be better off from it.

Friend1: Those are some good points.

[Indra Sharma painting of Krishna in Vrindavana]Friend2: I like how you mentioned the “virgins in heaven” thing before. The promised life in Krishna’s land bears no similarity to what we see on a regular basis. That supposed utopian paradise is a place where service takes place. You get to enjoy by serving. You are not the master there. Krishna is. This means that the promise is different. If there were anything else available in Vrindavana, it would mean that it is no different from our present land. Even in the highest planet in the material world, where the enjoyments are endless, there must come an end.

Friend1: Sort of like living in the mansion with a lot of money here. You’ve got everything at your disposal, and yet you’re still not happy.

Friend2: So you take up causes. You try to end poverty. You try to end suffering. These pursuits are ridiculous; I hope you know that. It’s like trying to end “down” and “last.”

Friend1: [laughing] What do you mean?

Friend2: Poverty is relative. It is the opposite end of wealthy in terms of income. So by trying to eliminate poverty, you’re trying to remove something that is relative to something else. The objective is absurd. It’s like playing a game and making sure there are no losers. As long as there is independence in action, you will have people who succeed and people who don’t. The only way to eliminate low is to eliminate high as well. The only way to eliminate both is to stop all action. Make everyone a slave to the state. Of course even then there is relativity, as the people in charge will be higher than all the subjects, who are supposedly equal.

Friend1: That’s true.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Though Vrindavana is beyond our comprehension, you can see glimpses of it in the present life. You don’t have to wait until after you are dead. Try devotional service right now. Only the fortunate will make an attempt. This is because only in bhakti-yoga are you truly trying to make someone else happy. Since He is the root of the entire creation, making Him happy makes everything else better. Serving Him is the only way to continue being happy, for it is in the nature of the soul to serve. It would make sense, then, that the reward for that continuous service would be residence in a land where that service would flourish. This is not a fantasy; it is not make believe. It is true, and through the spiritual science anyone can see how it is so.

In Closing:

Vrindavana too good to be true,

Of its existence doubtful are you.


No similarity to the material land,

Not like fifty virgins understand.


To serve Supreme Lord desire only,

Daily opportunity, ways a plenty.


Follow bhakti and glimpses now see,

How living for Krishna, of personal desires free.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Causing The Creation

[Narayana creating]“In sex life, the combination of matter from the parents, which involves emulsification and secretion, creates the situation whereby a soul is received within matter, and the combination of matter gradually develops into a complete body. The same principle exists in the universal creation: the ingredients were present, but only when the Lord entered into the material elements was matter actually agitated. That is the cause of creation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.51 Purport)

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What caused the creation? Was it a big bang of chemicals? Surely there were chemicals; otherwise from where did everything come? If you believe that the explosion took place, what caused it? In every other explosion we have a cause. We have a tangible explanation. Typically there is the visible hand of an intelligent living entity who made the explosion happen. In the case of a forest fire lacking human intervention at the start, we can still decipher what things collided and why their collision led to the reaction. In the same way, with the cause of the entire creation there is intelligence, namely the injection of the most intelligent being into matter.

[forest fire]This is a pretty simple explanation. It is not difficult to believe. It is not hard to accept. Saying that God entered into the material elements is not anything like saying there is a magic sky wizard who created everything with the waving of a wand. Indeed, magic would only be present if there were no intervention at all. Even in the case of the forest fire, you have the higher forces of wind involved. Things don’t move on their own. A superior force causes things to shift.

To explain the same concept His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses the example of the birth of the living entity. We know that there is specific action that takes place. A baby does not come to be by accident. Perhaps the two parties involved weren’t deliberately trying for a pregnancy, but it is still their action which leads to the end result. Two people collide, giving off matter, and the combination yields a new life. It seems like a miracle, but since the same actions have led to the same result time and time again, the process of birth is not beyond comprehension.

Yet if you present the same explanation for the cause of the creation, you are greeted with skepticism, sometimes even hostility.

“What are you talking about? How can there be a God? Do you think God would want people to suffer from disease? You think He wants people to get hurt? I saw a football player on television the other day thanking God for saving his leg. The player was close to having his leg amputated, but luckily he got treated in time. He was all into God afterwards, but isn’t God also responsible for creating the problem in his leg in the first place? How can there be a God, then?”

Fortunately, Vedic philosophy is not so short-sighted. Though the less intelligent would describe it as a faith, what the Vedas present is actually a science. It is something to be understood first through hearing and then later validated through experiment and observation. Obviously we can’t test to see how the creation comes into existence, since no one can testify to having seen it take place. Still, we have the evidence of our current surroundings. We know that there is intelligence in everything created, and it involves the hand of other intelligent beings. Therefore it is rational to assume that an intelligent person is behind the creation itself.

The Vedas tell us that time is infinite in both directions. That act of creation with which we are so enamored actually happens all the time. There will be destruction, and then creation, and then destruction again. The cycle must repeat because that is the nature of time. The more important question is why the Supreme Lord enters into the material elements to create everything we see around us.

The answer is desire. His? No; ours. We want to compete with Him in a temporary land. Sort of like our parents building a playroom for us when we don’t want to stay with them, God manifests the phantasmagoria of the material creation through His external energy. It is like a dream, since it does not stay. Everyone around us will be gone at some point. That party we went to last night will be a distant memory rather quickly. No one will remember it, and no one will be around to tell about it. It won’t matter anyway, since everyone who attended it will be long gone.

The temporary creation creates temporary conditions. One second we are in a lot of pain and the next we are relieved. One second we are happy and the next we are sad. One second we are living and the next we are dead. Therefore the creation isn’t very important; it is the animating force within that has more potency. It lasts beyond the changes. It stays the same, no matter which body it enters.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

[Narayana creating the universes]Know that God instigates the matter to start creating the endless variety we see around us. Know that such work is not difficult for Him. Know that He ascribes more importance to how the souls in the material world act, seeing whether or not they show devotion. As soon as they do, He comes to the rescue. He brings escape from the hell of perpetual transience. He brings a permanent, blissful life, but only to those who want it. A vital step in wanting it is knowing that He creates everything. That all-powerful Lord can create the best circumstances for His devotees as well, which He does by bringing them to His spiritual abode, the Vaikuntha planets.

In Closing:

Prior to seeing infant’s smile bright,

Mother and father together unite.


With similar manner a combination,

From Narayana causing the creation.


Not so difficult to understand,

Purpose higher question at hand.


When upon competition set,

Sent to land conducive to forget.


So remember Him again and now,

And find liberation that way how.