Saturday, March 14, 2015

Not Seeing Him As God

[Lord Krishna]“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

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Question: “Why all the analysis in bhakti-yoga? Why do you have to know that Bhagavan means one who possesses six opulences simultaneously and to the fullest degree? Why can’t you just worship God? The majority of the world knows of the man upstairs in this light. They aren’t so interested in the detail. They’re not concerned with the various rasas, like shanta, vatsalya and madhurya. Don’t you think it would be better to simplify things and just worship God in general?”

Bhakti-yoga is the constitutional engagement. You don’t have to acquire it from some outside place. It belongs to you always. Just as the soul remains in existence through the time continuum, so the engagement of bhakti-yoga remains constitutional. Since it is so intrinsic to the living entity’s existence, when accepted it is joyfully performed.

rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

[Lord Krishna]If you’re happy, you can’t help but want to see others happy in the same way. If you’re finding happiness through something that lacks a perceivable form, you have no way to give that happiness to others besides explaining to them. Therefore in the bhakti-yoga tradition there is seemingly endless explanation. God Himself is infinite, so you will never finish in the task of trying to explain Him to others.

Devotion is equal to Him, and those who practice devotion actually ascend to a higher position. So to describe that devotion and the devotees is to explain on and on, all the while remaining in joy. Part of the explanation involves the nuance and detail of devotion itself. We learn that there are different moods in which the person who loves God connects with Him.

The introductory mood is shanta-rasa. This is neutrality. Think of being stunned by the vision of something beautiful. Think of being so respectful that you will not utter a word, fearing that you might offend. In shanta-rasa, there is awe and appreciation for the Supreme Lord. To appreciate means to know that He is God. It means understanding that as the Supreme Lord of all the planets and the demigods, He is capable of doing anything.

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 5.29)

Those who know of God only in the generic sense are in shanta-rasa. They acknowledge that He exists, and through the tradition of spirituality they inherited from their parents they try their best to follow guidelines. They try not to sin, and they try to live up to the self-anointed title of “God-fearing person.”

Shanta-rasa, without any motives, qualifies as bhakti-yoga. Of course to maintain the purity is difficult. In fact, as long as you know that God is the Supreme Being, you will not taste all that bhakti-yoga has to offer. The reason is that if you know someone is so great, the first inclination will be to ask them for things. And why wouldn’t you petition the highest being when you are in trouble? You know that He can deliver. You know that He has yet to fail; hence His name of Achyuta. You know that He can create innumerable planets with a single exhalation. You know that whatever He does is effortless.

“If I narrate about Rama, her dear husband whose actions are effortless, she will not be frightened, as her mind will be absorbed in thoughts of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.41)

[Shri Hanuman]In the other rasas of devotional service, the inclination to offer dominates. You’re giving to God instead of taking from Him. Shri Hanuman follows dasya-rasa, where he acts as a servant. He knows very well that the incarnation of Shri Rama is God, but Hanuman does not ask anything. In a higher rasa, his desire for Rama’s welfare suppresses his knowledge of Rama’s divine nature. He knows that Rama is so wonderful, and so to keep Rama happy he does brave things like search for Rama’s wife Sita with great swiftness.

Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja are in vatsalya-rasa, offering love in the mood of a parent. Krishna’s friends are in sakhya-rasa and the gopis in Vrindavana are in madhurya-rasa. In these rasas there is no conscious awareness of what amazing things Krishna can do. Though He swallows forest fires for them and battles poisonous snakes, the devotees here still think that He is at risk. They think that without their affection, Krishna will not survive.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]One can only enter the higher rasas if they first know that God is a personality with distinguishable features. So essentially you must know God in order to later forget that He is so great. The worship of the generic God is thus limiting. When limited, you are susceptible to returning to the ocean of material existence, where you look for the same service to perform joyfully, only to find misery at every step since the consciousness of God is lacking. Therefore the vast description of bhakti-yoga provided for the benefit of all fallen souls is integral to finding increased happiness and regaining the constitutional engagement in the mature stages.

In Closing:

Though knowing God as Supreme Being,

Bhaktas this aspect not constantly seeing.


Instead thinking that on them dependent,

Not concerned with His power resplendent.


Like Hanuman to search for Sita going,

And as her darling son Yashoda knowing.


Knowledge of God first, then to set aside,

Pathway for in bhakti’s rasas to reside.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ending Preliminary Processes

[Radha and Krishna]“In the Vaishnava parampara it is said that if one is engaged in the devotional service of Krishna, then there is no need for a spiritual process to understand the Supreme Absolute Truth. He has already come to the post because he is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. He has ended all preliminary processes of understanding; similarly, if anyone, after speculating for hundreds of thousands of lives, does not come to the point that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that one has to surrender there, all his speculation for so many years and lives is a useless waste of time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 15.19 Purport)

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What if you could reach the point of understanding everything right away? Vedanta is the conclusion to all study. It is the culmination, the result of assembling all the building blocks of information properly. Think of solving the puzzle that started out as many disjointed pieces; this is one way to understand what happens when a person assimilates Vedanta philosophy. Bhakti-yoga brings a person to the conclusion right away; it is like solving the puzzle without studying the pieces. Bhakti-yoga, which automatically incorporates Vedanta, though appearing simple on the outside, represents a tremendous achievement, as through it one bypasses the need for undergoing preliminary processes.

What are these processes? What are the building blocks? What is it that one typically must first understand? We don’t need to go far to find them. The Bhagavad-gita discusses these topics. The first is Ishvara, who is the supreme controller. Every person is being controlled, regardless of their circumstance. In modern times the debate with respect to style of government is over liberty versus tyranny. Tyranny is where the citizens are oppressed in terms of economics. Someone is a laborer and they have a desire to be a business owner. Under tyranny they have no facility for improving their position. Under liberty, they can choose how far up the chain they want to travel.

[The Constitution]Of course even with liberty there is control. There is the cheating of politics. Natural law says that it is not right to take someone else’s property. A democracy pays no respect to such laws. Whatever the majority rules is what becomes legal. Thus a person could garner enough votes to steal someone else’s property and suddenly that theft becomes allowed. So even under liberty a person has to maintain a watchful eye on their possessions.

This is not to mention the higher forces of nature. There are the three sources of misery. A person has to endure the extreme heat and the bitter cold. They must tolerate the worries of the mind and the diseases that crop up from within. They must tolerate the intrusive behavior of others. In each of these categories the miseries can be extreme or they can be manageable. Regardless, there is never full control.

Ishvara is the supreme controller. It is the force that controls even the three sources of misery. Ishvara is not under the control of anyone else. Whether someone believes in Ishvara or not does not matter; there is an original controller ruling over all.

The second topic is the jivas, which have already been touched on. In the simplest definition, they are that which is controlled by Ishvara. The jivas, the living entities, have some control in their lives. They can choose how to act, how to think, even how to feel sometimes. They wield control over others to some degree, but they can never be the supreme controller.

The third topic is prakriti. This is the material nature manipulated by the controller. The jivas manipulate the dull matter that is their bodies. The fact that someone can appear overweight one day and skinny a few weeks later means that the person residing within the body is different from the body. The jiva is the life force, while prakriti is the inanimate matter. Another reason that Ishvara is supreme is because it controls both the jivas and the prakriti. In comparison to Ishvara, even the jivas are prakriti.

The fourth topic is time. This is how prakriti changes. If not for the influence of time, everything would remain the same. Time in Sanskrit is also synonymous with death. The sign of control is the ability to annihilate. The jiva is superior to prakriti because it can dictate whether or not something will stay with them. The ability to get rid of something means that the jiva is superior. This ridding is effected through time. In the same way, Ishvara shows its supreme control through all-devouring death, to which every jiva eventually succumbs.

The fifth topic is karma. This means action, and more specifically that action which yields results. The action of the jiva on prakriti which brings results seen through the influence of time, all overseen by Ishvara – this is the more specific definition of karma. Through karma living entities appear and disappear. These two events, also described as birth and death, go in cycles for both the inferior prakriti that is the material nature and the superior prakriti, which are the jivas.

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

This is a basic overview of the five topics of the Bhagavad-gita. Within each one is seemingly endless nuance. The materialistic scientist spends an entire lifetime studying prakriti, figuring out its laws and how to manipulate things for the benefit of the jiva. The mental speculator, the philosopher, spends so much time trying to understand Ishvara, wondering if it is a person or just an undifferentiated, impersonal force. The person worrying over the future and lamenting over the past is enamored by time, and the person faithful to the prescribed duties of religious life in the hopes of ascension to a heavenly realm is interested in karma.

Yet it is not until one takes to devotional service that the understanding becomes complete. This devotional service is so powerful that the preliminary processes are not necessary. If one simply surrenders unto Shri Krishna, the supreme Ishvara, then everything else is taken care of. Of what use is intimate knowledge of time for someone who blissfully always chants the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare?

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)

[Lord Krishna]What need is there to study a material nature which is actually an inferior energy coming from Krishna? What need is there to be enamored with the jivas and their karma when worship of Krishna eliminates karma and reunites the jivas with their original companion? Shri Krishna Himself says that surrender to Him is the most worthwhile activity, that one should abandon all other dharmas, or systems of understanding, in favor of it.

In Closing:

In surrender preliminary pass by,

No need for intense study to try.


Bhagavad-gita of topics five,

But why not at conclusion arrive?


That to Krishna devoted become,

And worry over karma have none.


Material nature, time, jivas and Ishvara too,

Chant holy names and have the end brought to you.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The One Purusha

[Lord Krishna]“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

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The basic understanding of spiritual life is that there is a difference between matter and spirit. “You are not your body.” You need this told to you because the default thinking is otherwise. From the time of birth there is association with the body, and it continues until there is an inquiry made or exposure to knowledge of the real nature of the living beings. It is for this reason that the initiation into spiritual life is considered the second birth. Those who formally accept this knowledge are known as dvija, or twice-born.

There is spirit and there is matter. It’s easy to correctly guess which one is which. Our identity is as spirit, and that which we falsely identify with is matter. In Sanskrit two corresponding terms of relevance to this discussion are purusha and prakriti. Purusha is spirit, and it can also be translated to mean “person.” Prakriti is matter, and it is also known as “that which is enjoyed.” Purusha is the real enjoyer and prakriti is that which purusha can manipulate.

[hierarchical tree]In the classroom the teacher is the superior and the students are the subordinates. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual who is the teacher will always be in the superior position. At home they may have their own parents to answer to. Then they have the school board who is above them. Superior to the school board is the local government, and above that is the government running the entire nation.

In the same manner, the individual purusha becomes prakriti when the discussion turns to the original purusha. This is one way to understand God; He is the purusha for the entire creation. He is the original person. He is one, undivided, though His influence is spread everywhere. He is the ultimate enjoyer, while everything which emanates from Him is enjoyed by Him to some degree or another.

The original purusha is also known as the Supreme Brahman. These terms provide a little more clarity into the vague concept of God, but not much. The supreme being is the original enjoyer; that gives us a new way to define Him, but still we don’t know much from this definition. I can turn any person into the original purusha. Whomever I currently worship, I anoint them as the Supreme God.

“Who are you to deny the fact? This god is the Supreme Brahman. He is the same as your god. That is why I worship them. All these gods are the same. They are different manifestations of the same original purusha. You can’t tell me otherwise.”

The living entities struggling hard in this world are described as prakriti in the Bhagavad-gita, which is a work spoken by Shri Krishna. He is the Supreme Brahman, the one purusha. Just by reading the Bhagavad-gita, we get a better understanding of Him. Who is God? He is the person who speaks the highest wisdom that is actually timeless, though delivered from time to time, such as with Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago.

“There is a great misconception about the gods or demigods of this material world, and men of less intelligence, although passing as great scholars, take these demigods to be various forms of the Supreme Lord. Actually, the demigods are not different forms of God, but they are God's different parts and parcels. God is one, and the parts and parcels are many.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12 Purport)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]This Bhagavad-gita and works like it give the understanding of the difference between purusha and prakriti. The worshipers of other divine figures cannot point to similar statements made. Through sentiment or even basic ignorance they claim this person or that to be the one God, but there is nothing substantiating their claim. Any person can say they are God. Any person can claim to be the original purusha, the Supreme Brahman.

The personal side to God is superior because it greatly removes the chance to cheat. We know that Krishna is the original purusha because He describes the difference to us in the first place. He repeatedly refers to Himself in the Bhagavad-gita when discussing God. Other divine figures do not do this. Vedic literature is the most voluminous scriptural tradition in the world. In fact, no other tradition can compare to even a single Vedic work, the Mahabharata, in comprehensiveness and knowledge.

These works consist of many pages, and in them we do not find any ordinary person claiming to be God. The difference between matter and spirit is explained in many areas, for that is the fundamental teaching of the spiritual science. The personal side to God is also described in many areas, and it is done to remove doubt. The Supreme Brahman is never limited to one manifestation, but He is always a singular identity. The purpose to knowing Him is uniform also.

That purpose is to connect with Him. The ideal occupation of the prakriti coming from the original purusha is to be enjoyed. The enjoyer mentality leads to difficulty; it brings separation from the original enjoyer. That Supreme Brahman in His personal form reveals the path back towards the eternal occupation. Getting to know Him makes accepting that path easier; it clears the doubts as to who is God and what our relationship to Him should be.

[Radha and Krishna]The purusha enjoys through accepting the service of prakriti. The devoted souls serve without motivation and without interruption. They have no desire to cheat God by claiming to be supreme themselves. They don’t make false supreme gods and then worship them as a means of exploitation. They rather innocently look upon the Supreme Brahman with love and devotion, taking any chance to serve, always remembering through hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

An original purusha existing one,

From Him all prakriti has come.


To be enjoyed by Him meant,

In challenge to material world sent.


In Bhagavad-gita this all explained,

Wisdom by Arjuna and fortunate gained.


With a purpose, not just chest to beat,

So that with ideal occupation to meet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Have I Been Wrong

[Lord Krishna]“The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust, which veils the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.40)

indriyāṇi mano buddhir
asyādhiṣṭhānam ucyate
etair vimohayaty eṣa
jñānam āvṛtya dehinam

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“I get what you’re saying with the whole bhakti-yoga thing. I like that it is about meditation, focusing your mind on something. I like that it’s helped people kick their drug habits; that’s always a good thing. But still, it seems a little out there for me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole ‘God is a person’ thing. Bhakti-yoga appeals to the logical side of me, but the impulsive side of me is pulling me in a different direction.”

The living entities fall from the spiritual world. They were once in the friendliest of confines, enjoying the company of the person who is the beloved of everyone. Even if the person who has good fortune is your best friend, you might be a little envious. You want what they have, be it a beautiful spouse, a satisfying career, or peace of mind. With Krishna, there is no jealousy. His happiness is yours. That is the meaning to living in the spiritual world. As soon as there is a hint of envy, the fall to the material world takes place.

[Lord Krishna with cow]A material existence is defined by this envy. Indeed, as soon as the envy vanishes, the spiritual world is home again. The previously miserable material existence turns into a haven featuring endless love, compassion, and service, and the previously dreaded end known as death simply brings a change of scenery for the service to flourish even more.

Since envy is what brings us to this world, to get rid of it is very difficult. If we hear of something that will permanently remove that envy, it makes sense that we would be a little skeptical initially. The default position is service to anything and anyone except Krishna, who is God. The skepticism is so great that we can’t fathom that God can be a person. “How can He be bluish in complexion and play a flute,” we ask ourselves.

To help make the decision easier, there is a preponderance of evidence pointing to the validity of the bhakti-yoga path. The other paths are easier to discount, even if they are viewed as religious. If a supposedly spiritual person prays to God to grant their wishes, another person who succeeds without praying can shine the spotlight of doubt. The person who got all that they prayed for and then still found misery can question whether their time spent in prayer helped them. “What good did prayer do for me,” they will ask.

Bhakti-yoga does not promise that your loved one who is battling cancer will survive. It does not promise to make you rich. It does not promise to take away pain, clear your reputation, or make you large in stature. What it promises is endless love. That pure affection you have been searching for since before you can remember is finally found in devotional service. It cannot exist in any other way.

There is the historical evidence to study. You have many saints of the past who gave up everything to devote themselves to service to Krishna. Some of them were previously wealthy ministers. Some had beautiful wives. Some had no problems whatsoever, but on the inside they felt a void. They were lacking something, and through the combined good fortune of the guru and Krishna, they found the real gem in life.

brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja

“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)

[Haridasa Thakura]Though they all found bhakti-yoga, they did not all behave the same way. Some served Krishna by writing books. Others practiced devotion through elaborate worship conducted in a formal establishment. Others simply chanted the holy names day and night: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

It is this chanting which is most effective in the present time period. With the number of distractions growing by the day, the envy of God multiplies and expands to include other living entities. This makes understanding the spiritual nature of the living entity very difficult. Without understanding who we are, how can we know our relationship to God? How can we know that service to Him is our real mission in life?

The philosophical and historical evidence should be enough to at least give the bhakti path a try, but there is experiential evidence as well. We know that our judgment has failed us before. Have we ever tried something that we regretted later on? Have we ever made a decision that turned out to harm us in the end? This means that our senses are not perfect. The mind is a subtle sense, and it constantly fools us. Our intelligence doesn’t always guide us in the right direction, even if we think otherwise.

[Radha and Krishna]This means that perhaps our skepticism of the validity of bhakti-yoga is wrong as well. Maybe we really are meant to serve God in lifetime after lifetime. Maybe that service can be defined in specific ways instead of just by personal whims. Maybe the volumes of Vedic literature have had it right all along. Sense gratification has failed everyone, from the highest to the lowest. It has not brought lasting peace and happiness. Since it is not the constitutional path, how can it? Only pure love for the person who is most worth loving can bring that satisfaction.

In Closing:

On my senses and judgment relied,

So for happiness so many things tried.


But have any proved to succeed?

So why not advice of bhaktas heed?


Give service to the Divine a chance,

And see if consciousness to enhance.


Evidence of past saints take,

And with confidence this decision make.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Talking About Kama And Exploitation

[Krishna and Arjuna]“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
mahāśano mahā-pāpmā
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam

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FriendOne: What is your definition of kama?

FriendTwo: The Sanskrit term?

F1: Yeah. What else?

F2: You want the long explanation or something simple?

F1: I ask because sometimes I see it translated as “sense gratification.” It accompanies dharma, artha and moksha. These are religiosity, economic development and liberation.

F2: Right. Sometimes it gets translated to plain “desire.”

F1: Exactly. And then in the Bhagavad-gita, there is the famous verse where Krishna says that kama is the all-devouring enemy. He says that it later turns into wrath and impels one to sin.

F2: Yeah. That’s His answer to Arjuna’s question about what thing leads man to commit sin, as if being helpless to the matter.

F1: So in the verse containing Krishna’s reply, kama gets translated to mean “lust.” But aren’t lust and desire two different things? Why not use “sense gratification” instead?

F2: That’s a good question. How would you define lust?

[pizza]F1: I guess I’d say it’s when you really want something. If you lust after pizza, it means that you desire it very strongly. Whereas if I want it to be sunny outside tomorrow, that is an ordinary desire.

F2: That’s pretty good. You can apply both to the word “kama” and not really run into a contradiction. You can say that ordinary desire is what everyone has to some degree. Kama as lust is when that ordinary desire becomes so strong that it leads a person to do things that they know are bad. Think of the addict who steals money in order to buy drugs.

F1: I see. That makes sense. But why not use two different terms, then? Why not something else for lust instead of kama?

F2: Because deep down both are the same. You could say that kama is a desire to exploit for personal enjoyment. This definition takes care of desire, sense gratification and lust.

F1: Hmm, that’s an interesting way to put it. But where does the exploitation come in? Let’s say that I really want to eat pizza. Even if I lust after it, what am I exploiting really?

F2: Okay, that’s a good question. There is exploitation there, but it’s not easy to see. It comes down to the basic definition of sin.

F1: Sin is doing something that is prohibited.

F2: Good. But why is it prohibited?

F1: I don’t know, because the sacred books say so? The Supreme Lord says that we shouldn’t do this and we shouldn’t do that. If you follow what He says, you are pious. If you go against Him, you are sinful.

F2: That’s a good understanding of it, but why would God make these rules? What is the purpose behind them? Is He just amusing Himself?

F1: I’m not sure I see your point.

F2: Let me give you the more complete answer. Sin is anything that takes you away from your original consciousness, i.e. love for God.

F1: Really? So that pretty much makes everything and everyone sinful.

F2: Bingo. Now if you follow the recommendations of scripture, you’re avoiding sin. This means that automatically you’re becoming closer to God, even if you don’t know it. Consciousness of Him is never dependent on rules, but in the beginning it’s hard for us to see that.

[exam]F1: Sort of like how I shouldn’t need to do homework each night and pass exams each week to learn, but having them helps to keep me in line.

F2: Exactly. If you didn’t have those things, you would likely spend time doing other things. The pressure aids in making you more knowledgeable in the end, though you don’t necessarily need that discipline to attain the goal.

F1: Does this mean that desire, sense gratification and lust are the same thing?

F2: In the sense that they keep you away from God consciousness, then “yes.” Getting back to the exploitation, as soon as you have kama you want to enjoy separately from God. It is a desire to exploit since you didn’t create the object that is desired.

F1: Because God created it.

F2: It’s His property, so it should be used in a way that will make Him happy. Lust is using His property in a way that will make only us happy, though just in the short term. The desire is so strong that it makes us do things that we even know to be wrong, like lie and steal.

F1: I see. Then it makes sense that kama is the all-devouring enemy. It is the root of sin, it seems.

F2: Yeah. If you don’t have kama, you’re less likely to do things that will keep you away from God consciousness.

F1: Now if I really want to become God conscious, is that desire lust? Say that I love eating Krishna prasadam and chanting the holy names - does it mean that I’m overly desirous?

[Krishna prasadam]F2: No; that is not sinful. That is using the objects of nature in a way to please Krishna, the Supreme Lord. That is spiritual desire, or bhakti. Bhakti is never sinful. By definition, anything outside of bhakti is sinful to some degree. Even the people who are trying to become pious, if they lack devotion to Krishna, they harbor some desire to enjoy independent of Him.

F1: Is there a way to tell if one’s desire is kama or bhakti?

F2: Consciousness is the real indicator, but that is subtle. Externally the easiest way is to see if there is rebirth. Kama is sinful because it keeps one away from Krishna, which happens through rebirth, which can be in various species. Bhakti stops rebirth; it keeps one always by Krishna’s side, wherever they may dwell. One catch is that in bhakti the person isn’t even concerned with rebirth. They don’t mind taking birth hundreds of times; as long as they get to stay in bhakti they are happy.

In Closing:

Difference in desire and lust,

One a want, the other a must.


But the underlying sentiment the same,

To exploit nature, unaware from where it came.


That kama devouring enemy all,

Unwittingly into sinful life fall.


Bhakti as your weapon use,

And desire for Krishna choose.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The One With The New Car

[Lord Krishna with cow]“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always inclined toward His pure devotees, and by His action it is clear that liberation is not very important for the devotees. Lord Krishna easily gives one liberation, but He does not so easily give one the facility to become a devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.6.18 Purport)

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Dharma, artha, kama and moksha - those who are a little intelligent will take these four rewards to be the reason for living. Dharma is religiosity; adherence to right and wrong, following principles and the like. Artha is economic development; acquiring money, basically not being poor. Kama is enjoyment from the things in life; that for which money is spent. Moksha is final liberation; release from ever having to do these things again. One might find it interesting to know that God, who is the origin of everything, can grant any of these rewards very easily. What He reserves for the truly special is bhakti. That does not come so easily, and it is the thing most worth having. Its value cannot be compared to anything else.

Why is bhakti so difficult to obtain? Why are the other rewards so easy? Rewards other than bhakti are not very important in the grand scheme. Sure, in the present generation it’s difficult to find anyone who even wants dharma. Now dharma is up for a vote. It is determined by the community organizer, the activist for a particular cause. Never mind from where they came, what they do for a living, what their qualities are - if they can accuse others of being bigoted, insensitive or mean, they get to create a new system of right and wrong.

Artha and kama exist already for everyone to some degree. Liberation would seem to be the most difficult to get, but it is actually in the same category as the other three. It is simply the negation of kama. You want to enjoy something, and when you’re sick of that enjoyment you want to get rid of it. That avoidance is a kind of liberation. The whole cycle of birth and death ends with moksha; you won’t have to do anything anymore.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Bhakti is love. It is reserved exclusively for God. There cannot be bhakti towards anyone else because no one else can grant us what God can. No one else lives forever in their present form. No one else has lived forever in the same body. So love offered to anyone else cannot be pure; it must end at some point. Bhakti never leaves us, but it must be earned. It must be desired in earnest. It is not cheap. Girish was explaining this to his friend one day. He relayed a story from his past to try to get the point across.

Do you remember the first car you drove? Do you remember the first car that was yours? I certainly do. I got it after I graduated college. By “got,” I mean it was given to me. It had so many miles on it already.  It seemed to be on its last legs, but it was still mine. I didn’t treat it very well, though, I must say. A car was a must for me at that point, and I didn’t have enough money to buy one of my own.

This car soon became my extra closet. My clothes were on one side of the backseat. On the other side was my sports gear. The front passenger seat was like a garbage pail. All the receipts I got from dining out went straight there. I would sometimes drop empty soda cans in that spot too. I kept telling myself that I would get to cleaning it one day.

[new car smell]After owning it for about a year I bought a new car on my own. I saved up some money for this one. It wasn’t top of the line, but it was new. I had to finance the purchase. I tell you, I treated this car completely differently. I watched out for where I parked. I never allowed food inside. I wanted to keep that “new car smell” for as long as possible. I got it washed at least once a week. What a difference. Simply because I bought it, I treated it differently. I invested time and effort to purchase it for myself, so I wasn’t going to treat it so poorly.

Girish explained to his friend that the experience with bhakti is similar. It is love for God, so it is the most important thing to have. You can survive on that love, whereas all other rewards eventually vanish. If God simply gave it without thought, it wouldn’t mean that much to the recipient. If He forced it upon anyone, how would the relationship be considered a loving one? If He gave it to people without them wanting it, how would they appreciate it? They would toss it aside for other things.

“Mukti herself is standing with folded hands, waiting to serve the devotee.” (Krishna-karnamrita, 107)

[Lord Krishna]Indeed, it is difficult to regain love for God at the constitutional level, but it is possible. Through systems put in place by the acharyas, the teachers in the line of disciplic succession of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord, one gradually moves past the desires for religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and ultimate liberation. The famous poet Bilvamangala Thakura remarked that since he became so much immersed in bhakti, liberation stood in front of him, waiting to serve. He could get liberation easily, but he didn’t need it. He owned devotion, so what use was liberation to him? Devotion may not come quickly, but it can be practiced easily, through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It is there for anyone to own and cherish, should they want it.

In Closing:

Supreme Lord any gift can grant,

But give away bhakti with ease He can’t.


Tendencies of man to know,

Casting aside then elsewhere to go.


Better if something to earn,

Then its true value to learn.


The person in bhakti with firm understanding,

Liberation with folded hands to them standing.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The One About Predicting The Future

[hourglass]“Time is called kala - past, present and future. What is now present, tomorrow will be past, and what is now future, tomorrow will be present. But this past, present and future are the past, present and future of the body. We do not belong to the category of the past, present and future. We belong to the category of eternity. Therefore one should be concerned with how to attain or how to be elevated to the platform of eternity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Easy Journey to Other Planets, Ch 2)

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One interesting fact among many in Vedic philosophy is that a saintly character can see past, present and future. There is Lord Brahma, the creator. He is godlike, though not the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Every creature can trace their origin to Brahma. The person who doesn’t know that God exists attributes their origin to chance or chemicals. The Vedic tradition reveals that Brahma is the personality behind that chance, the person who uses the chemicals to make the variety of species.

Then there are those who follow Brahma, like Narada Muni. They have wisdom of the highest value, and due to their full immersion in bhakti-yoga, they can see what will come in the future. They know what is going on in the present, and they have knowledge of the past. Roger was explaining this to his friend one day. His friend asked if Narada and others can tell who is going to win the Super Bowl in the upcoming year or if they can select the mega millions lottery numbers.

[Malcolm Butler Super Bowl interception]Roger explained that the future vision is with respect to more important things, things that the individual either willfully ignores or is completely unaware of. For instance, the saint knows that no amount of sense gratification will make a person happy. Even winning the lotto or making all the right picks at the racetrack will not solve life’s problems. The saint sees into the future that though beautiful right now, a living entity will eventually suffer old age. More importantly, the saintly character in bhakti-yoga knows that death will eventually come for all.

Taking a story from his own life, Roger tried to explain how others have a similar ability to see into the future, and how they use it for their benefit.

I’ll never forget that time we arrived early to a concert. It was to see my favorite band, and they were playing a small venue this time. Due to their popularity at the time, they usually played large arenas and stadiums, but this was a special tour consisting of only a few dates. I was young at the time, so I was excited at the possibility of getting up real close at a general admission show in a small venue.

When they opened the gates, my friend and I rushed to the front. We were right at the railing. We couldn’t believe our good luck. We looked behind us and saw only an empty floor. It gradually started to fill, but things didn’t look so bad. We were estimating that the venue probably held only a few thousand people. It didn’t matter, though, since we were at the front. We were going to enjoy more than the others.

[front row at a concert]I started worrying a little when the opening act came on. There was pressure from behind. Picture a line of one hundred people pushing forward and you’re at the front. It was something like that. We were like pancakes being pressed into shape. I tried to will myself to ignore the pain. We were in the front, a place where others wanted to be. I wasn’t going to give this up so easily.

When the main act came on, it got even worse. I could no longer take it. I had no control over my body. Whatever direction the large crowd went, that’s where I was sent. Finally, a few songs in I had to ask the security guards in the front to pull me out. I don’t know how others handled the situation so calmly, but my ribs felt like they were going to shatter. Anyway, even pulling me out was difficult. I almost lost my shoe, as the crowd was so densely packed.

Years later, I went with my nephew to a similar concert. He was very excited to get there early, but I explained to him that things wouldn’t look the same going forward. He told me that I was worrying needlessly. He decided to go up to the front, while I stayed back. Sure enough, when the concert started, he felt the pressure from behind. I couldn’t see him; I was quite worried. I shouldn’t have let him go, but he was so enthusiastic. Fortunately, he was able to push his way to the back. When he saw me, he said that I was right. He was surprised that I could predict the future like that.

Roger explained to his friend that the saintly people who follow bhakti-yoga have similar vision, but of an extended timeline. They know what works and what doesn’t in life. They know that the departing soul will be conscious of something. They also know that whatever consciousness one has at the time of death, that state they will attain in the next life without fail.

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Narada Muni and others recommend that one always be conscious of Krishna. Krishna is God, the name addressing Him that means “all-attractive.” There will come a time when the individual baffled by the dualities of material nature will seek a higher experience. It may not come in the present lifetime, but at some point in the future it will. The person practicing devotion to God has foreseen that event and headed it off at the pass.

[Shrila Prabhupada]They also know that so many past lives went in vain, wasted in sense gratification. Seeing that service to the senses didn’t result in permanent happiness before, these wise souls vow to make the present fruitful through always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. With a present so blissful, the future is guaranteed to be the same.

In Closing:

With past present and future to see,

Can saint know who Super Bowl winner to be?


Of the nature of things detecting,

State of bewildered soul expecting.


That to material life coming an end,

And then to another birth nature to send.


Known that devotion right course now,

To make best future same way how.