Saturday, March 28, 2015

Talking About Where I’m Going

[changing bodies]“According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we can prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord’s.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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Friend-One: This life is a preparation for the next life.

Friend-Two: Yeah, duh.

F1: How do you know that for sure?

F2: Isn’t that the question everyone is trying to answer?

F1: It’s the great mystery.

F2: You don’t have to make things so complicated, you know. You’re thinking of the next life in terms of the next birth.

F1: Yeah, like what happens after death. Where do we go?

F2: A more detailed presentation of the same question would go something like this: What happens when time influences the individual in such a way that they completely give up their present body?

F1: What does that mean?

F2: The next life is simply the destination for the soul through the changes effected by time. To say that this life is a preparation for the next is really no different than saying that eating oatmeal this morning will keep you from being hungry in the afternoon.

F1: Still not sure I follow.

[railroad]F2: You go to school so that you can be educated later on. You take the train to the city in order to get to the office. Your work, or karma, leads to a result. That result doesn’t necessarily arrive right away. It may come many years after the fact, but there is still the initial cause.

F1: And so death is no different? Is that what you’re saying? What I’m doing now will affect where I end up after this life ends?

F2: Right. This “life” as we call it is merely a demarcation of time. It is the span between birth and death, but time itself has no bearing on the existence of the individual.

F1: I see. The thing is, right now I can perceive the results to my work. How can I know for sure where I’m going after this life ends? No one has experience of that.

F2: Ah, the thing is, you can’t perceive everything right now. You don’t remember the work your mother put in when you were in the womb. You don’t remember learning to walk. Do you remember what it was like when you didn’t know how to speak? You know that work was put in, because the results show it.

F1: In the same way, the end result of birth in particular circumstances shows that there was work done previously?

F2: Exactly.

F1: Interesting. There’s another issue to think about. People don’t like being told where they’re going to go after they die. They take it as preaching. They don’t want to be told that they’re being sent to hell for sinning.

F2: That’s funny. They don’t see that there’s hell right now.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: Do you think it’s good to form an attachment to someone and then have that person die? Do you think it’s heavenly to see the pain, suffering and misery that goes on in the world? Does it put a smile on your face knowing that so many people are literally killing themselves in order to live? Is it not hellish to spend the majority of your life stuck in an office, never questioning the meaning to your existence?

F1: Never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. So you’re saying that we’re already in hell?

F2: We experience degrees of heaven and hell right now. After death, you can ascend to a more heavenly region or a more hellish one, but the situation will be the same. Death won’t come again until many years, but it will still come. Then you’ll have to find yourself another home.

F1: That seems to differ from the viewpoint of being condemned to hell forever.

F2: And as far as people not wanting to be told about these things, that shouldn’t matter. If we see someone stepping on the wrong train, should we not tell them? If they want to go to Chicago and they’re on the train heading to Montreal, should we not say something?

F1: Right. What are they going to say in return? “Don’t tell me where to go, bro.” [laughing] That would be silly.

F2: So it’s the same way with birth and death. We have the evidence of shastra that life will go on. Whatever state of being you have when quitting your body, that state you will attain without fail. Shri Krishna says this in the Bhagavad-gita [8.6].

[reincarnation]F1: Knowing this, you’d obviously want to have the best state of mind while dying.

F2: So the person “preaching” is trying to help create that preferred state of mind. To deny that death will come is silly. To say that everything ends after that is similarly unintelligent. We continue to exist in this lifetime, despite the changes to the body. The body will change completely and we will still go on. The wise person accepts this information and tries to make use of it.

F1: What should that state of mind be? What is ideal?

F2: Well, it depends. What do you want? Do you want to go through the same experience of birth and death? Do you want to start off ignorant and have to gradually increase your knowledge? Do you want to risk appearing in the species of an animal?

F1: Probably not, but what other option is there?

F2: The spiritual consciousness. Become aware of the supreme spirit, understand His position, meditate on His transcendental qualities, and then go to Him after death.

F1: What is life with Him like? Is it better than heaven?

F2: Heaven can’t compare. The enjoyment is completely different. With the supreme spirit, you’re always serving. You’re always trying to make Him happy, and this in turn makes you happy. It is the best situation to find yourself in, and fortunately you can create something similar right now, before death arrives.

F1: How do we do that?

[Krishna's lotus feet]F2: Follow bhakti-yoga. Learn about God, understand who He is, and take up some small service to Him. Gradually build upon that service, with your enthusiasm increasing. Get His association through something as basic as sound, and then spend all your free time with Him. Create that sound by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

“Your preaching my ears don’t want to hear,

Of eternal damnation I have no fear.”


That already hellish life not seeing,

In relative good and bad are all beings.


Even if right now too blind to see,

A future after this life there will be.


Knowledge to them the compassionate bringing,

Showing path through holy names’ singing.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rama Navami 2015

[Building bridge to Lanka]“Describing how material nature works, the Brahma-samhita says that the sun moves as desired by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently, for Lord Ramachandra to construct a bridge over the Indian Ocean with the help of monkey soldiers who threw great mountain peaks into the water is not at all wonderful; it is wonderful only in the sense that it has kept the name and fame of Lord Ramachandra eternally celebrated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.16 Purport)

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How do you define the indefinable? That which is the source of everything, the only being who is timeless in both spirit and body, who effortlessly causes the creation and then just as easily destroys everything - is there any one word that suffices? Is there a specific form or name that encompasses all aspects? The descents of the Divine provide clarity. Like having a number written out instead of being shown only the digit form, the Supreme Lord’s appearances clear up any misconception about who or what He might be. The occasion of Rama Navami celebrates one such descent.

“Neti, neti.” Those who are familiar with Vedanta philosophy have come across this expression many times. It means “not this, not that.” It is used as a way to explain the unexplainable, the original being from whom all others emanate. The expression is very informative. It says that wherever you turn, you have not found God.

Do you think He is the tree? No, He is not that. Do you think He is the famous head of state who has expanded the territory of jurisdiction through valiant fighting and triumphs over formidable foes? No, He is not that. Do you think He is the loving mother who nurtures her child and provides unconditional affection throughout life? No, He is not her either. Do you think He is the impartial mother nature, which nourishes the crops with rainfall and brings the heat of summer to drive away the bitter cold of winter? No, He is not that. Do you think He is some mysterious planet lying deep in outer space that man has yet to find? No, He is not that. Do you think He is a light of transcendence, devoid of attributes? No, that is not completely accurate in describing Him either.

yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

[avataras of Krishna]If He is not this and He is not that, does it mean that He is not an individual? Is He not even a He? In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the origin of everything is a personality. He is Bhagavan, a Sanskrit term which His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada nicely and accurately translates into “the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Of course these are just claims. Anyone can say anything. Therefore the speaker of the Gita gives further evidence. He says that He descends to earth in His personal form. He does this whenever He likes, but externally the apparent cause is the decline of religion and the rise of irreligion.

One of those descents was as Shri Ramachandra. “Neti, neti” says what God is not, but Shri Ramachandra says what God is. Ramachandra is also known by the shortened name of Rama, which appears in the famous maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Rama is identical to Him. Rama is Krishna with a different visual, with certain features more pronounced and others suppressed due to the time and circumstance.

Rama appeared as the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. This king was part of the celebrated dynasty known as the Ikshvaku. Dasharatha was approaching old age and had yet to get a son to whom the kingdom could be passed. After performing a sacrifice at the advice of a brahmana, the king’s three wives became pregnant. Rama was the first one to appear, and so He immediately became the rightful heir, the crown prince.

Rama’s life and pastimes are chronicled in the Ramayana, a book authored by Maharishi Valmiki. As God is great, so many people appreciate His deeds to the point that they will also offer recollections and written plaudits. Therefore Rama’s activities are described in many works of the Vedic tradition, with some featuring more detail than others.

If you want to know who is God, you can say that He is the eldest son of King Dasharatha. There is no flaw in this statement. “Neti, neti” stops at Rama. You can go around pointing the “not this” finger at every object you see, but it won’t work with the moon of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the delight of Queen Kausalya.

If you want to know who is God, you can say that He is the life and soul of Lakshmana, another son of Dasharatha. God is the beloved elder brother to Bharata and Shatrughna as well. If you’re interested in finding out who is the supreme person, you can say that He is the protector of the sages in the forest, tapo-vana. The most prominent of these sages is the venerable Vishvamitra Muni.

[Rama and Lakshmana slaying Tataka]Rama is the slayer of the demons Tataka and Subahu. He is one part of an illustrious pair of fighters who give support to the pious. Lakshmana is Rama’s partner in battle, and the two brothers make for a splendid sight. When they traverse the forest, flowers rain from the sky. This is the appreciation of the devatas, the godly personalities who manage the various aspects of the material creation.

If you want to know who is God, you can say that He is the giver of liberation through removing curses. Simply by feeling the lotus foot of Shri Rama, Ahalya gained release from her curse. She was in the form of a stone for an offense she had committed previously. Meeting Rama freed her from the curse. Rama is also the one with the strongest arm in the world. His arm is the only one capable of lifting the heaviest bow in the contest of King Janaka.

[Sita and Rama]Rama is the life and soul of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. He is Sita’s beloved husband, and the person whom she serves lifetime after lifetime. Rama is the protector of the sages of the Dandaka forest, who are constantly harassed by the evil night-rangers coming from Lanka. Rama is the friend of Sugriva, the Vanara king from Kishkindha.

[Vanaras building bridge for Rama]If you want to know who is God, you can say that He is the leader of the Vanara-army which built a bridge made out of floating stones. Rama is the slayer of Ravana, the one of a terrible roar, who kept the innocent people of the world in fear for many years. Rama is the savior of Vibhishana, the pious-souled Rakshasa who succeeded Ravana after the demon’s demise. Another way to know God is to say that He is the person the brave Hanuman loves and serves with spotless devotion for all of eternity.

[Shri Hanuman]As “Neti, neti” applies to everything we see around us, it seems to be much greater than a single individual. But that is the glory of God, for through one lifetime He displays greatness that far exceeds anything we could imagine. The glories of Rama know no end, and so the descriptions of Him are larger in volume than that which describes what He is not. The occasion of Rama Navami is an opportunity to remember that greatness.

In Closing:

“Neti, neti” not this to mean,

God not anything that we’ve seen.


Applies to all Rama except,

Who tapasya of sages protects.


God to this world descending,

And to be human being pretending.


So that true understanding of Him we’ll receive,

Doing things we could never believe.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The God Who Might Fail You

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

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ
sūyate sa-carācaram
hetunānena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

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When addressed by name, Ishvara is the Supreme Controller. He is the person to whom everyone and everything must answer. All that we see around us comes from Him originally. Though we are ishvara within the present body, eventually the laws of nature will force us to take another body. Indeed, at present the body itself is always changing; nothing remains fixed. At the time of death, the larger change of getting a brand new body takes place.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
tathā dehāntara-prāptir
dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

Ishvara is not subject to such changes. It is His material nature to begin with; it operates under His direction. It produces all moving and nonmoving beings, and under its rule the manifestation gets created and annihilated, repeating in cycles. Ishvara is not subject to time or karma. He is the greatest god, the person whom the other gods worship.

[Demigods worshiping]His relationship to the other gods is different in more ways than one. Just as there are many ways to describe His supremacy, there are many ways to see how He stands out amongst the many empowered living entities of this universe. For this discussion one does not have to accept the fact from the Vedas that there are many thousands of divine beings operating in different capacities across different planetary systems. If this fact seems too much to grasp, if it too much resembles mythology, then the same concept can be understood in other ways.

In our present dealings we meet people who are ishvara-like to varying degrees. There is the teacher. They are the controller of the classroom. There is the local government, which has jurisdiction over how homes are built, over where roads are placed, and over how much citizens pay in taxes. There is the ishvara at the office, who guides the ship known as the company. There is the controller in the home known as the father, who gets support from the mother. That father has his own parents, and the entire population is under the protection of the head of state.

Then there are subtle ishvaras; entities to whom the relationship doesn’t seem so obvious. We make payment to the cable and satellite television companies. Without this payment, there wouldn’t be service. The same goes for the supermarket, the gas station, and the online retailer. The relationship is one where things of value are exchanged. One party has something that is needed, and the other party pays the necessary price to get that something.

The relationship to the many gods of the universe is very similar. Take your god of choice. You will make the decision based on what you want. If you desire to do well on an upcoming examination, worship the goddess of learning. If you want a good husband, worship the destroyer of the universe, who takes on other roles as well. If you want good rainfall to increase the bounty of the upcoming harvest, worship the person responsible for sending clouds to their respective places. This person has the cloud of universal destruction at his disposal as well.

“As the director of different kinds of clouds, Indra called for the samvartaka. This cloud is invited when there is a need to devastate the whole cosmic manifestation. The samvartaka was ordered by Indra to go over Vrindavana and inundate the whole area with an extensive flood.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)

[Krishna book]Just as when we make payment to the online retailer we expect to get our items, when we worship these divine figures properly the result is supposed to arrive. Just as the store can only give us what they have in stock, the divine figures can only grant what they are empowered to. With so many worshipable divine figures, you can achieve the full breadth and scope of material benedictions. Indeed, with the nature of the material world, it must be this way. You have to be able to get whatever you want that is temporary in some degree or another. You can try for it through your own effort or you can ask someone in a position of power to help you.

With this understanding, we shift the discussion to the supreme controller, the ishvara who stands above all. One way to define Him is to say that He is the lone God who will sometimes fail you, intentionally. Other gods can fail, but it is due to limitation in ability. For instance, if I ask for immortality, the divine figure doesn’t have that for themselves, so how can they grant it to me? Also, if I ask to get the job I applied for, others can ask for the same reward. The god of choice might give out the reward to someone else first, which means that there is scarcity in the things I ask for.

Ishvara will intentionally deny my requests, even though He can grant anything. The whole universe operates under His direction, so He is never incapable. The word “impossible” has no meaning with Him. So why would He deny requests? Why would He punish His worshipers in this way? Ah, the answer is that His mercy is unlike anything else. The online retailer isn’t really nice to us when they send us a package. They’ve only given us something after we’ve given them something. The divine figure only gives out the reward after they have been worshiped. And if you fail to worship them just one time, they might get offended and try to do you harm.

Ishvara looks at the situation first. He sees whether or not the thing asked for will actually benefit the person. He is not bound by the rules of any position. No one inserted Him as Ishvara. Nothing will happen to Him if He fails to deliver. His oversight is considered mercy because it helps the individual break free of the material mentality. The spiritual is where their true interests lie. The self-interest of the living entity, along with the long-term interest, is served by being a devotee of Ishvara, who is more accurately described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Lord Krishna]He is the supreme amongst all the controllers, and He is a personality, a distinct individual. He substantiates His supreme standing in many ways, including with the display of His transcendental attributes. By employing discrimination with the prayers of His devotees, He shows that He operates with intelligence. He is not like a part of an assembly line, which must do the same thing at allotted intervals. He looks out for the welfare of the devotees, and for this reason one who approaches Him is considered very fortunate. Ishvara is the god who might fail me on occasion, but whatever He does is for my overall benefit. Therefore I am wise to always seek out service to Him through chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

All the Supreme Lord Ishvara hail,

The god who will sometimes fail.


Not that in ability He can’t,

Just my wish might not to grant.


For my welfare looking out,

Knows that some things better without.


No other god this mercy to give,

So in devotion to Him I’ll live.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Talking About How I Can Forget

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The living entities, as separate parts and parcels of the Supreme, have a purpose to fulfill. Having forgotten that purpose, since time immemorial they are situated in different bodies, as men, animals, demigods, etc. Such bodily differences arise from forgetfulness of the transcendental service of the Lord. But when one is engaged in transcendental service through Krishna consciousness, one becomes at once liberated from this illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.35 Purport)

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FriendOne: I came upon a pretty grand realization today.

FriendTwo: Yeah? Not just ordinary grand? Let me guess. You really like ice cream.

F1: No, silly.

F2: You really like pizza.

F1: Well, that’s obvious. Everyone knows that. Seriously though, I’m talking about spiritual matters.

F2: Surely you can’t be serious? And don’t call me Shirley. Okay, okay. It’s good that you have these realizations. As long as they are correct from the point of view of shastra, it is beneficial to share them.

F1: That’s why I’m running it by you. You’re my shastra-checker.

F2: I’ve been called worse.

F1: Okay, let me set the table here. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna explains a lot of things.

[Krishna and Arjuna]F2: Time, the material nature, the individual soul, karma, and the supreme controller are the main topics.

F1: Exactly. And the presentation is systematic, thorough, and yet concise too. There’s even questions thrown in there by a wise and helpful warrior named Arjuna.

F2: Helpful for our sake. As you know, Arjuna is a liberated soul. He is never outside of Krishna consciousness. Sometimes yoga-maya manipulates circumstances to meet the desires of Krishna. By Arjuna asking those questions, future generations would get the answers that they would be looking for.

F1: Though there is all this explaining going on, Krishna sums everything up nicely. He tells Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Him.

F2: And lest there be any worry over the matter, Krishna promises to deliver Arjuna from all sinful reaction.

F1: Exactly. This is likely the most famous verse of the Bhagavad-gita. It is the one the mayavadis, the atheists, and the enemies of Krishna wish had never been spoken. The non-devotees will never mention this verse. Or if they do, they will first try to redefine Krishna.

F2: Yeah. They’ll say that the surrender is to the Krishna within all of us; whatever the heck that means. They won’t acknowledge Krishna, the person, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

F1: It’s like they haven’t understood any of the Bhagavad-gita.

F2: Or they did understand it and they intentionally choose to mislead others.

F1: So anyway, I was meditating a little on a particular verse. After thinking about it for a while, I came up with something that is pretty comforting.

F2: Do tell.

F1: Basically, if the protection from Krishna is guaranteed, it means that if you actually abandon all varieties of religion and follow Him in bhakti-yoga, Krishna is compelled to protect you.

F2: Yeah, duh.

F1: [laughing] No, I didn’t mean it like that. Think of it this way. If I don’t follow all the rules and regulations of spiritual life, if I don’t necessarily join an established institution or formally take up training with someone who represents Krishna - if I still think about Him and devote myself to Him, as He is, then He’s obligated to deliver me.

F2: Well, you have to have real devotion. You can’t just make up some process and call it devotional service. You can’t take up philanthropy and declare it to be on an equal level with surrender to the lotus feet of the darling child of mother Yashoda.

[Krishna and Yashoda]F1: Right; that’s understood. I’m talking about always thinking of Him. If I’m conscious of Him throughout the day, chanting His holy names, associating with people who love Him, serving them in some capacity, then there is no way that He can abandon me. He is not allowed to, by His own rule.

F2: So what are you trying to say? That once you take up bhakti-yoga, you’re all set?

F1: Yeah. I mean it’s an interesting way to look at it. The rules aren’t that important, if you think about it. Krishna cannot abandon the devotee; it’s as simple as that.

F2: Ah, but you’re missing something very important here: the devotee can abandon Krishna.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: All those regulations, like chanting the maha-mantra a fixed number of times each day, avoiding meat eating, gambling and the like - those are meant to keep you from forgetting Krishna. God will never abandon someone who wants His company, but He doesn’t stand in the way of those who turn their backs on Him.

F1: Ah, I see. Yeah, that’s a good point.

F2: That’s the cause of the birth in the material world. Forgetfulness of God brings residence in a temporary land, wherein birth and death repeat in cycles. You’re also a little too optimistic here. Do you know how difficult it is for someone to accept the path of bhakti-yoga?

F1: It is difficult; I acknowledge that. I was coming at it from the perspective of someone who does take it up with some seriousness.

F2: It can take many lifetimes before someone is even interested in spiritual life. In the animals species there is no chance for it, except in rare cases. In the human species you typically have to at least wait until adulthood, where you start questioning the way things are done and the reason for your existence. Then you have to be fortunate enough to find the right people to teach you. You could take up spiritual life, but remain in an immature stage. You could ask for stuff from God or god-like entities, instead of offering genuine service.

F1: Yeah, and it would be a real shame if you forgot Krishna after finding Him. It’s like having a winning lottery ticket in your hand and trading it for a pack of cigarettes.

[Lord Krishna]F2: [laughing] Yeah, something like that. But you are definitely right about Krishna giving protection. It makes the choice for bhakti-yoga a safe one. The Supreme Lord will ensure that your practice will thrive, as long as your motives are pure. Consistent hearing and chanting of the holy names helps to keep the motives in the right place: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Once in bhakti situated so,

Supreme Lord of you not to let go.


This to Arjuna His promise set,

But devotee His grace can forget.


Fall to material world’s cause,

Led into birth and death’s jaws.


The promise of Krishna’s you’ve got,

Rules to help you forget Him not.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Look In And Look Everywhere

[Supersoul in the heart]“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

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Unfathomable are the depths to which the deniers of the divine presence will sink to try to support their claims. They will say that everything happened by accident, that there is no way to prove that God exists. They will say that pain, suffering and misery show that if there is a supreme deity, He is not very kind. He must be mean and spiteful if such things occur.

Some of their doubts seem to have more validity than others. For example, for many years the consensus of opinion was that the earth was flat. It has since been accepted that the earth is round. Then there was the issue of looking to the sky. “Tell your story to the man upstairs. He will hear you.” Thunder and lightning were thought to be the revenge of God, brought to punish the sinners. A soon to be famous printer in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century devised a test, whereby he was able to prove that lightning was nothing more than electricity. He then devised a system to help protect buildings against lightning strikes. Yet even this was met with opposition, as if it were an act of defiance against the great punisher in the sky.

[Ben Franklin kite experiment]Man continued in this path, inventing the airplane and the spaceship. These pierced the clouds in the sky and showed what was beyond. They didn’t find anyone. There was no large hand to greet them. There was no old man waiting to punish their deviant behavior. To the deniers, this meant that God was indeed a myth, created by those who are against fun. “The weak look to some invisible figure to solve their problems, while the strong take fate into their own hands.”

This is a belief anyway, but the Vedas give the actual understanding. The Supreme Lord isn’t so petty a person that He stands on guard from afar, waiting to torture His children. He isn’t only accessible via the aerial path, either. He is not situated miles and miles away, though He can live anywhere He chooses.

The Supreme Deity is resting within every heart. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, where the Personality of Godhead speaks the confidential philosophy known as the science of self-realization. It is the king of education, the secret of all secrets. It is the perfection of all religion, and those who practice it do so joyfully.

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)

[Bhagavad Gita As It Is]To do something joyfully means to act without fear. You are compelled to do something when you are afraid, and so there can be little joy in that case. The perfection of religion is pleasing because there is knowledge that the Supreme Deity is all around. There is also knowledge of God’s true nature; which includes compassion, kindness, protection and empathy.

He rests within every heart as the Supersoul. The individual is a soul at the core; jivatma. The Supreme Lord is paramatma, which is similar to the jivatma but also significantly different. I cannot enter into someone else and know what they are experiencing. That other person also has the same limitation. Paramatma, on the other hand, is the same. It is like a single person watching so many different camera angles at the same time.

Though distributed everywhere, Paramatma is undivided. Simultaneously, there is the Personality of Godhead Himself residing in His spiritual home. God is inside of us and also all around us. He is within every atom. He is within the earth, the water, the fire, the air and the ether. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction, and so He is in every single law of nature. Those laws that the less intelligent use to try to deny the existence of God actually have their origin in Him. Only intelligence could create such intelligence. The laws of nature are so perfect that they can be counted on, time and time again, without fail.

[praying hands]As God is within every heart, He is there for both the sinner and the pious man. He is there for the law-abiding citizen and the criminal. He hears both their prayers and their curses. He sees when a person looks up and also when they look down. He realizes their strong attachments and their aversions. Yet within the heart He stands by as a neutral observer. He is a witness to activities, but He does not directly influence them.

He is not incapable in this area. He can influence, but He does so only when asked.

How can He be asked if the person inside doesn’t even know that He exists? How can He help if every desire is for something that will further increase that forgetfulness of Him?

Indeed, He fulfills desires through the functions of material nature, but in that space the rewards are finite. Only one person fills the vacant position in that new company. Only one person is crowned the champion at the end of the season, despite many vying for it.

As God is all around, the request for His personal intervention in the matter of advancing in spiritual life is always granted. There is no race to the finish here, as everyone can enjoy His company. The easiest way to make the call is to always chant the Lord’s holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Krishna's lotus feet]The meaning to this mantra is different from what we would typically associate with religious life. This mantra asks God to come and be with the person and to allow service to take place. This mantra asks the energy of God for help in executing that service, in a mood that is pure, free of outside motives. The man who is both behind the sky and within the heart listens to this request, and the more times it is made, the more pure the person asking for it becomes, the quicker the divine mercy appears, giving a life of happiness beyond anything previously expected.

In Closing:

Not necessary to look in the sky,

Or beyond the clouds to fly.


Supreme Lord found heart within,

For both pious man and one of sin.


Within law of material nature each,

So not necessary for long to reach.


Humble call with holy names make,

And advantage of His association take.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Yoga With Determination

[japa beads]“The yoga practitioner should be determined and should patiently prosecute the practice without deviation. One should be sure of success at the end and pursue this course with great perseverance, not becoming discouraged if there is any delay in the attainment of success. Success is sure for the rigid practitioner.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.24 Purport)

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Question: “What if I don’t see success in practicing bhakti-yoga? Chanting the maha-mantra every day [Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare] for a fixed number of rounds is good at giving me some peace of mind, but afterwards I’m still attacked by my old nemesis: material desires. What should I do if I feel that I am not making progress?”

Those who teach bhakti-yoga, including the original preceptor Himself, Shri Krishna, say that the yogi should have determination. The idea is that if the yoga is practiced under the proper conditions, which help to eliminate desires of the material kind, then success is guaranteed. This is explained both in theory and also by example, such as with the story involving a sparrow and Garuda.

What is wrong with having material desires? Can a desire be of any other kind?

We can think of it in terms of wanting things for oneself versus seeking the happiness of someone else. The mother who works hard in the kitchen to prepare a nice meal for herself has a different desire than the mother who works just as hard to feed her child. The work is the same in both instances, but the results of that work are to be used differently.

[Mother Yashoda feeding Krishna]A material desire brings work that yields something for the benefit of the material covering of the individual. The soul is what identifies us. We each survived within the womb in the beginning. We can’t fit into a tiny space like that now. We can’t even fathom living like that for upwards of nine months. But it is a fact that we survived it previously. It was made possible by the eternal existence of the soul, which remains active at all times. When we think we can no longer see it, it has simply gone somewhere else. In the womb the soul is hard to see, but we mark its presence by the development of the fetus.

Elimination of material desires means stopping work that yields a result only for the temporary body. Think of it like working for the welfare of the soul instead. It is like building a home in which the soul will remain happiest, where the changes influenced by time will not be present.

Since in yoga there are recommended practices and attainable goals, we see that desire is still present. The call for determination and perseverance immediately implies desire. So desire never gets eliminated; simply its nature changes. In spiritual desire, one’s work yields results that help the soul. When the soul is rescued, other souls can be rescued as well.

The preliminary result of real yoga practice is the gradual changing of the nature of desire from material to spiritual. But what if we don’t see a change? What if we’re not successful in concentrating on the Supersoul within, who is an expansion of the Supreme Lord? What if we can’t understand that we are different from the Supersoul, that we are meant to have union with Him in a relationship of love? What if we’re having difficulty fostering devotion to the Supersoul?

The recommendation is to continue on. Have determination. Be confident that you will see the result. Like a disease that suddenly disappears completely after a long period of treatment, the all-devouring enemy known as lust, or material desire, will vanish in a person who stays the course in yoga, whose purpose is to unite the individual with their eternal occupation, devotion to the Supreme Lord.

To help us understand that determination, there is the example of the sparrow and the ocean. Once a sparrow was laying her eggs on the banks of the ocean, when the waves suddenly rose up and took the eggs. The sparrow asked for the eggs back, but the ocean refused. The sparrow then threatened to dry up the ocean; a vow for which she was mocked. She continued anyway, pecking away at the vast ocean little by little.

[Garuda helping the sparrow]What seemed like folly ended up pleasing Garuda, who is the bird-carrier of God in His personal form of Lord Vishnu. Garuda then came to the rescue of the sparrow, demanding the eggs from the ocean. Thus through strong determination, to the point of ridiculousness, the sparrow succeeded in her goal.

The person practicing bhakti-yoga will similarly seem ridiculous to others.

“How can you give up eating meat? Where will you get your protein? No drinking, either? Life will be no fun, then. You’re giving up illicit sex; whatever that means? And then no gambling also? You are taking away everything enjoyable in life. You are punishing yourself for no reason. God gave us this one human life to be enjoyed to the fullest. You’re going to regret your decision later on.”

Yet if there is the same determination as the sparrow, someone like Garuda will come to help. In his Upadeshamrita, Rupa Gosvami validates this, saying that determination while following the regulative principles is guaranteed to yield the desired result in the end for the devotee.

“The process of bhakti-yoga can be executed successfully with full-hearted enthusiasm, perseverance, and determination by following the prescribed duties in the association of devotees and by engaging completely in activities of goodness.” (Upadeshamrita, 3)

[The Nectar of Instruction book]The difficulty is that the desired objective is a change in consciousness, which is impossible to see. You can’t see someone else’s mind. You can’t tell how they think by only looking at their forehead. You get some indication of consciousness through activities, but in the end it is the individual who will have to judge. Only they can tell if material desires have left and been replaced by an undying will to serve the Supreme Lord Krishna and see a bright smile on His face. The mercy of God is such that the determination alone will bring success, as there is great potency in the help provided by Garuda and others who are devoted to the same Lord in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

Sparrow her eggs wanting back,

Pecking slowly at ocean her attack.


Though seemingly ridiculously fought,

Determination the attention of Garuda caught.


Yogi advised to have will the same,

To be steadfast in chanting holy name.


Success from consciousness to tell,

Transformed desire victory to spell.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Potential Weakness In God

[Rama's lotus feet]“Dwelling in the forest of Dandaka with Rama of immeasurable vigor, I, His lawful wife, was taken away by the evil Rakshasa Ravana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.30)

vasato daṇḍaka araṇye tasya aham amita ojasaḥ ||
rakṣasā apahṛtā bhāryā rāvaṇena durātmanā |

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Here Sita Devi confirms that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has vigor that is beyond measure. This is in the positive direction; the vigor is so great that you can’t quantify it. In the opposite direction, the total absence of a quality can be measured with the term “zero.” “Nothing” also suffices. “Infinity” is when the amount is too great to count, and since God is the all in all, infinity is the only way to describe His glorious attributes.

Sita, the wife of Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form, mentions something else here that seems to pose a contradiction. She tells Hanuman that she was residing in the forest of Dandaka. That is no issue, as God can surely live wherever He desires. He doesn’t require a palatial building. The temple is for the benefit of the worshipers, not the worshiped. He lives both within as the Supersoul and without as the same Supersoul of all creatures. He is in the movement of the blade of grass, the rising of the sun, and the constant onslaught of time.

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ
praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

Living in the forest, carrying His immeasurable vigor with Him, Rama failed to protect Sita. At least this is how it looks. Sita says that the evil Rakshasa named Ravana took her away. He perpetrated the iniquitous deed in secret, first luring Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away with a diversion. The immeasurable vigor seemed to lose to the evil one, duratmana.

The opponent of God views this example as an opportunity to shine the light on other similar defects. We see bad things happen to good people. Some tragedies are so gross that they are unspeakable. We see pain that we can’t imagine in people who seem to be good throughout. Then we see bad people rising to fame and prominence. Where is the vigor of God? Where is His protection?

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

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

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]The Bhagavad-gita clears up the confusion. The same Rama, in His original form of Shri Krishna, says that all living entities residing in the material world are struggling. He doesn’t say that only some people suffer only some of the time. He doesn’t qualify the statement by saying that people who deserve to be punished by the laws of nature get their just reward. He doesn’t say that the bad people struggle and the good people don’t.

Everyone has trouble, and it is due to the six senses, which include the mind. In the material existence, the senses are a source of misery. Even in so-called good times, there is fear over the future. There is worry over the inevitable, namely death. Then in so-called bad times there is suffering due to the interactions of the senses with external objects. From both situations we see that no one is prospering.

This does not show a defect in God. In fact, the perpetual cycle of birth and death and the renewed misery that ensues is another indication of the immeasurable vigor belonging to the Supreme Lord. The pain and suffering continue for as long as one desires a material existence. In the spiritual existence, no such suffering exists. The senses and the surrounding nature are used in devotional service, bhakti-yoga. This automatically brings an end to the suffering.

“Sita was with Rama, serving Him in the forest. She is always in devotional service. She does not know any other mentality. How then could she suffer in such a way? The six senses should not have given her trouble. She should not have been made to suffer at the hands of Ravana.”

The suffering here is of a different nature. It is blissful since it brings increased thoughts of the Supreme Lord. The show of weakness from Rama was intentional, as it allowed for other forces to come into play. The bond between Sita and Rama never broke. It never will break, as the devotional consciousness remains regardless of the circumstances.

[Shri Hanuman]The apparent lapse in the display of vigor allowed for the indefatigable Shri Hanuman to travel to Lanka to search for Sita. Hanuman is an extension of Rama’s might. Everything he does in devotional service is a credit to Rama. Sita also would not give in to Ravana’s advances. Though the fiend threatened her with death, she refused to give in. Thus she too has immeasurable vigor. This is characteristic of the devotees, who never stop in serving their beloved in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

Immeasurable vigor in Rama so,

But why weakness in Dandaka to show?


Sita away from His side taking,

Ravana, king who decency forsaking.


To struggle hard each person here,

None spared, even good crippled with fear.


By Rama’s blemish brave Hanuman sent,

And Sita with thoughts of Rama time spent.