Saturday, April 4, 2015

Talking About A Vow Of Silence

[Krishna holding His flute]“One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn't care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.18-19)

samaḥ śatrau ca mitre ca
tathā mānāpamānayoḥ
samaḥ saṅga-vivarjitaḥ

tulya-nindā-stutir maunī
santuṣṭo yena kenacit
aniketaḥ sthira-matir
bhaktimān me priyo naraḥ

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Friend-One: I’ve got a few questions about silence.

Friend-Two: People told you that you talk too much again? I knew I wasn’t the only one [smiling].

F1: Very funny. No, I mean in terms of spiritual life.

F2: I think I know where you’re going with this one. It’s pretty easy to explain, but let’s see if I’m right first.

F1: Okay, you have many people who take vows of silence. And you see this across the different faiths.

F2: Like the Buddhist monks and such?

F1: Or even Christians too. And isn’t there something in Hinduism called the mauna vrata?

F2: Yeah. People go off to the mountains and live in seclusion. If anyone else should happen to come by, they don’t speak at all. Prahlada Maharaja has an interesting take on that.

F1: Oh yeah?

[Prahlada Maharaja]F2: When addressing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation of Narasimhadeva, Prahlada said that he would rather speak the glories of the Lord and liberate others in the process than remain silent [Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.44].

F1: Okay, so I guess that begins to answer my question. Prahlada was a child, though, so what could he possibly know? [sarcasm]

F2: That is the power of bhakti-yoga. It works at any age. Prahlada actually got full wisdom while within the womb. He didn’t need to sit under a tree. He didn’t have to spend a lifetime in tapasya, or penance, in order to reach a higher state. He got everything he needed within the womb while hearing from the enlightened Narada Muni.

F1: Have you ever heard the expression that talking is silver and silence is gold?

F2: Yes. It has validity in a lot of circumstances. Even Shri Krishna has several times said that a true hero does not speak much. Such a person is confident in their abilities, and they carry out their duties with detachment. If they are free of doubts, what need is there to boast?

F1: Right. So that’s one in favor of silence. But what about the other viewpoint, the one that criticizes silence? If a person aspiring for success in spiritual life takes a vow of silence, isn’t that a good thing? They’re not bothering anybody. They’re making advancement. What am I missing?

F2: It’s good only if they are prone to speaking too much nonsense. I’m sure you’ve been in those situations. You’re with someone who can’t stop talking. And what they’re telling you has no value, either.

F1: Some would say I am that person [laughing].

F2: Some, but certainly not me [smiling].

F1: So if you don’t blabber on and on about trivial topics, there is no need to be silent?

F2: Think of it this way. Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita says that someone who is always silent is very dear to Him. Silence is included in the list of qualities that make a person dear to Krishna.

F1: Okay, and there can’t be a higher authority than Krishna. He is the Supreme God, the detail behind what so many others only know as an abstract.

[Lord Krishna]F2: Correct. But how did we find out that someone who is always silent is dear to Krishna?

F1: Umm, you just told me.

F2: No, silly, how did anyone find out?

F1: Krishna said it.

F2: Exactly! You can’t say something if you’re remaining silent. After hearing this from Krishna, did Arjuna never speak again?

F1: No, he certainly spoke. He did not take a vow of silence.

F2: So you have to apply common sense. Someone who is always silent in regards to speaking nonsense is very dear to Krishna. If you see your child about to do something dangerous, are you going to keep quiet? If you see money fall out of someone’s pocket, should you keep your mouth shut? Will that be considered pious?

F1: I see what you’re saying.

F2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that one should speak only essential things, and the most essential topic is the Supreme Lord. When glorifying God, there is no need to be silent. Vedic literature is voluminous for this very reason. Sages of the past, who did not speak nonsense, spoke so much about God that we can’t consume everything they said in a single lifetime.

F1: This is starting to make sense. That’s why Prahlada didn’t want to keep quiet. He would rather put his speaking ability to good use.

[Radha-Krishna]F2: That’s what separates bhakti-yoga from other disciplines of spirituality. You can use anything that you have for advancing in the spiritual consciousness. If you can speak, put it to good use. If you know that God is great, there is no need to remain silent about it. If you know that He is attractive, kind, merciful, knowledgeable and always living in the heart as the Supersoul, tell those who are interested.

In Closing:

Like parrot with perpetually moving beaks,

Silence recommended for one who too much speaks.


Dear to Krishna this making,

This knowledge from Bhagavad-gita taking.


But this fact from Lord Himself indeed,

Means that for speaking also a need.


Like Prahlada glories of Krishna share,

Speak so that others to become aware.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Talking About Knowing Our Future Desires

[Krishna holding His flute]“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api

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Friend-One: Let me ask you about the demigod thing.

Friend-Two: That’s perpetually a hot topic.

F1: I’ll come at it from a different angle this time. Trust me, I know who the demigods are.

F2: They are godlike, but not God Himself. They are elevated, advanced beings, living in the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. They reside in the heavenly realm, which sees delights similar to what we experience here, except the duration is much longer. The people live for a long time, and they enjoy for just as long.

F1: And being empowered, the demigods can grant anything material. If I want money, wealth, success in a profit-loss venture, or education, I can approach a demigod and have my wishes fulfilled.

F2: Exactly. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise you the frequency with which these divine figures are worshiped. They are quite popular.

F1: That’s what I was getting to. I mean so many people worship them. If you put that worship on a scale against any other kind of spirituality, the side of demigod worship would tip over immediately.

F2: Even religions where they don’t have the concept of a demigod, you see basically the same practice. “God, give me this. God, give me that. Please save me.” He’s been made out to be exactly like a demigod. Whereas in the Vedic culture there is some effort required to make the worship fruitful, in the “generic God” concept all you have to do is pray.

F1: If so many people are following this line, don’t you think it’s risky to call them unintelligent? I understand that Krishna says so in the Bhagavad-gita. I know that He thinks people who worship the demigods are of small intelligence, alpa-medhasam.

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]F2: What’s the problem, then? The whole point of the Bhagavad-gita is to follow Krishna. The person who heard the Bhagavad-gita directly was told by Krishna moments prior to worship Goddess Durga for success in battle. Then in the ensuing discussion, Krishna tells the same Arjuna that demigod worship is for the less intelligent. Contradictions appear here and there, but the key is to always have faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the chief deva.

F1: Okay, but if you’re going to play the faith game, you’re on my turf. I can battle you without a problem, since each faith says that theirs is superior. Their leader is the one and only, and everyone should follow.

F2: Well, you can prove Krishna’s statement through logic. Applying a little intelligence you can reach the same conclusion yourself.

F1: How so?

F2: Think of it like this. By calling the demigod worshiper less intelligent, He’s just describing how they are going to feel in the future.

F1: You mean they will realize that they were less intelligent at some point later on?

F2: Recall the incident of Govardhana Puja. This was Krishna’s lila meant to instruct, which it did in so many ways. The people of Vrindavana annually worshiped Lord Indra, the king of heaven. They did this to get sufficient rainfall for their crops and grass, which in turn supported the cows. The Indra-yajna was a staple in the community, and the people followed it without deviation.

F1: Okay.

F2: Then one year Krishna advised them to skip it. He told them to worship the neighboring Govardhana Hill instead, since it did so much for the cows. Like happiness and sadness, rain and drought come on their own, so what need is there to explicitly ask for them? In such an endearing childhood form, the Supreme Lord could not be denied.

F1: So they skipped the Indra-yajna, right?

F2: Yes. Indra then retaliated. He got so mad that he tried to destroy the whole town with rain. Just think about that for a second. He didn’t show any appreciation for the past worship. He showed no concern whatsoever for the people, his past worshipers.

F1: And Krishna protected them?

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]F2: Absolutely. He lifted Govardhana Hill, making an umbrella out of it. So any person in that situation would surely consider themselves unintelligent for having worshiped Indra all that time. It was only until they felt Krishna’s protection that they came to the realization.

F1: So by doing demigod worship, I am on a risky path?

F2: Let’s say that you are successful. Since you’re asking for material things, you won’t derive long-term satisfaction. Someday you’ll realize that the stuff you’ve been asking for isn’t necessary. You’d rather get something else. Krishna is there to offer that, in the form of prema-bhakti.

F1: Devotional service.

F2: Exactly. If you worship the generic God, you run into the same problems mentioned previously. One day what you ask for will not come. Then you’ll get angry at the God you’ve made and turn away from Him. Then you’re actually worse off compared to where you started.

F1: Will people be patient enough to hear this presentation? I can’t see them sticking around long enough to get over their anger at being offended. Once they’re called less intelligent, they’ll stop listening.

F2: Whether or not they accept does not matter in the end. Shri Krishna will not bend the truth in order to accommodate the obstinate. He gives them demigod worship to start, for at least it creates some culture, some austerity. In the Bhagavad-gita, He speaks the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The wise person seeks His shelter, for they know that even when asking Him for material things, there is no loss.

F1: Why is that?

[Lord Krishna]F2: Because Krishna sometimes says “no.” He sometimes denies requests. If the desired object will lead to further forgetfulness of Him, He saves the devotee from the potentially harmful situation. Therefore worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always the wisest choice, one made by those with the highest intelligence.

In Closing:

Demigod worshipers of intelligence small,

Is not risky with this insult to call?


Worshipers with this impression left,

When after time of happiness still bereft.


And appreciation from demigods lacking,

Like when Vrindavana’s people Indra attacking.


His devotees Krishna always protecting,

Like Govardhana, shelter for them projecting.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Talking About Extortion

[Worshiping Radha and Krishna]“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness - these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ
brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

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Friend-One: I think I’ve figured out who the biggest cheats in the world are.

Friend-Two: People who sell cars?

F1: Nope. They’re not even close to the top.

F2: Really?

F1: At least you have some idea what you’re getting with them. Everyone knows that the person selling the car isn’t going to be totally honest with you.

F2: So the people at the top of your list are more dishonest?

F1: Absolutely. They don’t tell you there is a price going in. They appear innocent and saintly at the start. They guide you here and there. They tell you to do this and do that. Then when you’re about to leave, they demand money. If you give a little, they want more. If you refuse to give more, they tell you that what you’ve done thus far is a waste.

[deity worship of Radha and Krishna]F2: Ah, you must be talking about the priests that you find in the temples in India and the like.

F1: Bingo. This is strong language, I know, but to me they seem like thugs. They do the greatest cheating and in the name of religion. Isn’t one of the qualities of a brahmana to be truthful?

F2: Yes, satyam is truthfulness. Arjavam means honesty. The qualities are described in the Bhagavad-gita.

F1: These guys are the most dishonest. Have you experienced what I’m talking about?

F2: Absolutely. You walk in this direction and there’s somebody giving you a garland. They don’t tell you how much it costs. They tell you to offer it to the deity. Then on the way out they demand some money. They will follow you out, like they are members of a gang.

F1: I can’t believe this goes on. I just assumed everyone would realize how ridiculous this is. Why would anyone go to these temples, then? This would turn off so many people to believing in God, which is so important.

F2: A lot of people can overlook it. They realize the situation. They come prepared, with enough money to offer. They don’t mind getting cursed at on the way out. It’s all part of the deal, in their eyes.

F1: Yeah, but it doesn’t sit well with me. At least be honest from the start. I’m not trying to cheat anyone. I have no desire to be stingy. I’m not a miser. Ask me nicely for a donation, that’s okay. Don’t sit there and tell me that everything’s ruined, that my worship will not matter, if I don’t give you enough money. That is extortion.

[Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati]F2: I hear you. But listen, that’s just the way it is these days. His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that it is better to work a simple job like sweeping the streets than to show the deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the purpose of making money.

F1: He must have known very well what goes on in these temples.

F2: I think this should give everyone more appreciation for the imperishable path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Shri Krishna advises that we always think of Him [Bhagavad-gita, 9.34]. He doesn’t say that you have to worship in a specific manner, especially when there is so much dishonesty going on.

F1: I don’t feel like going to these places ever again. I’d rather chant the maha-mantra at home: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I think giving these guys money is only encouraging their thuggery.

F2: Like I said, some people can look past it. The Supreme Lord is so merciful that He never insists on any specific mode of worship. You can create a pure environment at home to do the same worship. If you’re with like-minded people, then everything is fine. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada put so much emphasis on the distribution of literature like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam to save people from this cheating.

F1: Yeah, thank God for him.

[Prabhupada's books]F2: So there’s no excuses. Like you said, you can chant anywhere. You can think of Krishna anywhere. If you’re so inclined, you can create a pure atmosphere for others to gather together for worship. Many people have done that already. There are institutions that provide much better facility for advancing in the divine consciousness, where there is less of the cheating you’ve encountered.

F1: It still fumes me, I must say. I guess it also explains how devotion is more important than asking for this thing or that.

F2: Yeah. People will try to tell you that you won’t get the result if you don’t do things a certain way. Fine. They may be correct. But if your goal is to increase your consciousness of God, there is nothing lost from a little mistake here and there. If you think about it, how can there be?

F1: Right. Whatever happens, at least your consciousness of the Supreme Lord is increasing. You don’t need some cheater’s blessing for that. I’ve heard you describe so many people from the past who were always thinking of God. They didn’t specifically do this ritual or that.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]F2: Even Krishna Himself rebelled. When He told Nanda Maharaja to skip the Indra-yajna one year, that was an act of defiance. Like the cheating priests you met, the king of heaven did not tell the people that if they skipped his worship one year they would get punished so severely that there wouldn’t be any traces of life left in Vrindavana. The people had faith in Krishna, in following the worship of Govardhana Hill that He prescribed. They were in danger only from the material nature, but Krishna gives all protection to the surrendered souls.

In Closing:

Than deity for purpose of money to keep,

Better if honestly the street to sweep.


Words from Bhaktisiddhanta came,

Knew of cheating done in Lord’s name.


Consciousness of God should grow,

Meaning to all paths of bhakti so.


Even Krishna once the rituals defied,

Govardhana worshipers on His arm relied.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Talking About Lying To Your Children

[Lord Krishna]“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)

ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
rātriṁ yuga-sahasrāntāṁ
te 'ho-rātra-vido janāḥ

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Friend-One: I’ve figured out the key to good parenting.

Friend-Two: Sitting them in front of the television?

F1: [laughs] No.

F2: Giving them an iPad to keep them occupied?

F1: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have employed these techniques on occasion.

F2: Sometimes you have no choice.

F1: But I’m talking about a general philosophy. It’s a way to get through the tougher times, like when they ask you a question that you really don’t want them knowing the answer to.

F2: Oh, or like when they come up with logic against something you’ve asked them to do?

F1: That too. It puts me in a bind. My first instinct is to explain. Become a sort of preacher of the truth, sit them down and try to get them to understand the purpose behind the thing I’m asking them to do.

[Where Do Babies Come From book]F2: I’d have a tougher time answering the questions. Such as “why does so and so yell at their friends?” Or the famous “where do babies come from?”

F1: So I’ve realized that the best way to get out of these jams is to lie. At first I felt bad about it, but now I don’t.

F2: Listen, as a parent you’re fighting a losing battle against time. Eventually the kids will become wise enough to understand that they don’t have to listen to you. Might as well take advantage of their ignorance while you can.

F1: Exactly! I have no problem bending the truth here and there to get them to drop their opposition. I have no problem making false threats, either. If the threats are effective in pushing them along the right path, I have no regrets.

F2: My favorite is the “if you don’t improve your grades, I’ll send you to military school.”

F1: [laughing] I’ve definitely used a variation of that. I feel a little bad, because obviously I’m not going to send them to some school far away if they fail to do their homework. I know that they’ll live if they don’t eat their vegetables. I understand, also, that doing bad things from time to time isn’t going to ruin their lives permanently. Still, I think I know better, so whatever way I can get them to follow the straight and narrow path, I’m going to use.

F2: Trust me, everyone does this. It’s a wise decision, especially if you’re looking out for their interests. One day your kids will either figure out the truth on their own or you’ll tell them. And more often than not, they’ll appreciate you for having lied to them.

F1: Yeah. I know my parents lied a bunch. So anyway, I was wondering about something. Do you think Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, lies to us, His children? Do you think He bends the truth?

[Lord Krishna]F2: Hmm. I’d say that technically He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t tell us everything for sure. He doesn’t sit us down and tell us the story of our millions of previous births. If He did that, the present birth would go to waste. It would be like sitting down to read every newspaper that has ever been published.

F1: That would take forever to go through, and I’m not sure what good it would do.

F2: So Krishna certainly filters information. He knows, also, that the three modes of material nature dictate that not everyone will have the same capacity for understanding.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: The animals are His children too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is spirit inside animating the chicken, the dog, the cat, and the ant. If the spiritual force was lacking, no one would ever form an attachment to these animals, especially the bonds that arise at first sight. People write books about their dogs, for crying out loud.

F1: I think I see where you’re going with this. The dogs can’t understand topics like the supreme controller, the individual soul, the material nature and karma. Even if Krishna wanted to divulge this information to the animals, they would have no idea what He was saying.

F2: And think of the different kinds of human beings. The individual is as much a spirit soul during childhood as they are during adulthood. The body simply changes; the soul does not [Bg. 2.20]. You and other parents admit to using discrimination in speaking with your children. Krishna can speak to the same people too, and He uses the same discrimination.

F1: And we’re all His children, in fact. Even when we mature into adulthood, compared to Him we are like helpless kids.

F2: Absolutely.

F1: So you think He doesn’t lie to us? If He filters, what information does He hide?

[setting sun]F2: It’s not necessarily lying. There’s only so much we can understand. Take time for example. We understand it in terms of the rising and setting of the sun. This is how we mark off the days, which form the basis for the larger measurement of an entire lifetime.

F1: Right.

F2: So Krishna explains that real day and night refer to the time according to Lord Brahma, who is the creator. One cycle of existence, known as a maha-yuga, is millions of years. Take that cycle and multiply it by one thousand and you get one day of Brahma. The same amount of time is Brahma’s night, making his full day. Brahma then lives for one hundred years calculated in these full days. Therefore real time is practically impossible to conceptualize.

F1: Krishna is still honest enough to tell us about it, though.

F2: He is, but time and space are infinite. We can’t understand infinity; it is beyond the scope of the human mind. This means that Krishna can’t speak to us on an equal level; it is impossible.

F1: What about the bending of the truth to encourage good behavior? Does He do that?

[hourglass of time]F2: Yes, that is certainly more applicable with the son of Yashoda. You’ll see that in spiritual traditions the majority of the worshipers focus on asking for things. They pray, they worship, they do rituals, all in the hopes of getting something they want. Most of these practices weren’t invented; they are legitimate. They were passed down through authority

F1: So you’re saying there is a higher purpose to them?

F2: Yeah, the best comparison is to rewarding a child with candy or something similar when they take their medicine. The candy is insignificant; the medicine is what matters. Still, the medicine is bitter, so there has to be some short term incentive to induce the proper behavior.

F1: So Krishna gives rewards for certain rituals, all the while knowing that the rewards aren’t that important.

F2: They can’t be important when considering the day and night of Brahma. How is getting rich going to help me five thousand years from now? How is good health going to help me when I have to take birth again? Yet He gives these rewards, across different religious systems, so that people will become cultured and gradually progress in knowledge. Believing in God is difficult enough, and knowing that the purpose of an existence is to serve Him with love is even more rarely attained.

F1: So He picks and chooses what to tell in order to help the progression?

[Lord Chaitanya]F2: Either He does this Himself or He sends one of His representatives. The bona fide guru is so important for this reason; they know what works at what time and at what place. Fortunately Lord Chaitanya, who is Krishna Himself, came in this age and provided the remedy for everyone, regardless of where they live, what language they speak and what religion they inherited at the time of birth. That way is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The names are Krishna Himself; they do not hide anything. The person who chants in devotion gradually comes to realize this.

In Closing:

To keep them behaved to try,

To my kids occasionally to lie.


Does Krishna to us do the same?

Lying for our sinful tendencies to tame?


Not exactly, so much information ready to give,

But how the mind with such to live?


Like with Brahma’s day time example,

But actually infinite, representing only a sample.


For teaching the masses the representative recruited,

Giving education to time and circumstance suited.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Talking About Time

[Lord Krishna]“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)

ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
rātriṁ yuga-sahasrāntāṁ
te 'ho-rātra-vido janāḥ

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Friend-One: I know the stress in the Bhagavad-gita is on the future, the eternal one at that.

Friend-Two: Yeah, for sure. It’s like knowing the difference between shreyas and preyas.

F1: And what is that?

F2: Preyas is the immediate result, like satisfaction in the short term. Think of it like craving ice cream and then going to eat it.

F1: Shreyas would then be the long-term benefit?

F2: Yeah, it’s like thinking ahead. If you know that ice cream gives you indigestion, then the preyas isn’t really worth the trouble. If you concentrate on shreyas instead, you are better off.

[ice cream]F1: I see. And that’s what the focus on the future is about, to worry over shreyas?

F2: Shreyas with respect to a particular object, namely the soul. Shreyas for the living entity accepting a temporary body may relate to having enough money in retirement, but the soul is transcendental to employment, retirement, leisure, study and other such circumstances.

F1: There is one issue I could see coming up. It’s pretty obvious, too. Why should you worry about shreyas for the soul when you’re not confident of what the future will be? No one knows what’s going to happen after we die, so why focus on that?

F2: Yes, if you don’t know then surely you’re going to be skeptical. You just have to know that the soul is eternal; from there you’ll see the reason for giving priority to the long-term benefit.

F1: Okay, let’s say that I agree with you about the soul. It is eternal, primeval, and not slain when the body is slain [Bg. 2.20]. I’ll take Krishna’s word for it [smiles].

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]F2: That’s not a bad person to trust. The Bhagavad-gita addresses the properties of the soul right at the outset. If you lack this fundamental knowledge, you won’t be able to understand the other important topics.

F1: So the soul is eternal. Let’s say I agree with you. Still, I am conscious right now. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. My soul will exist going into the future, so why should I worry so much about where it will go? I think it’s better to focus on what I can experience at present. Let me worry about what I can perceive.

F2: Ah, I like those words: at present. Not to be confused with the word “presently,” which actually refers to the immediate future. Like if you come to my office and I’m on the phone, I’ll say, “I’ll be with you presently.”

F1: [sarcastic]Thanks for the English lesson.

F2: No problem. Anyway, let’s focus on what you said: at present.

F1: Okay.

F2: Since you’re agreeing to the soul’s eternality, you won’t mind it if I say that you were around somewhere in the past. Let’s take five thousand years ago. You were somewhere. Agreed?

F1: Agreed.

F2: Where were you?

F1: I have no clue.

F2: What were you doing?

F1: Again, no idea.

F2: If you were alive, you probably had things that you enjoyed and things you didn’t. You probably had desires and ways to satisfy them. Essentially, how you experience life at present is how you experienced it five thousand years ago.

F1: I mean the species might not have been the same, but I see what you’re saying. Yeah, it probably wasn’t that much different in terms of how things went.

F2: Okay, so chew on this fact: The present will some day be five thousand years in the past.

F1: Hmm, what do you mean?

F2: Everything you worry about right now, the things that you can perceive – this experience is guaranteed to become the distant past eventually. Just as you have no idea where you were five thousand years ago, five thousand years into the future you will have no idea where you were today. The preyas that you’re focused on now will mean absolutely nothing.

F1: I see what you’re saying.

F2: Indeed, you don’t need to go that far back. You focused on preyas as a child, for sure. Do you remember crying for milk when you were a baby? Do you remember where you were at every precise moment during childhood?

F1: I don’t. So it’s like since those things have been forgotten, they must not be so significant.

F2: Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, intelligently presents the Bhagavad-gita for the understanding of the sober person. In ignorance, we tend to think of time in terms of only the present and the immediate future. He points out that time is incredibly vast, in both directions.

F1: How vast?

[Lord Brahma]F2: To aid our understanding, He divides time into yugas. Each complete yuga, more commonly known as a maha-yuga, has four smaller yugas. In total one maha-yuga is 4,320,000 years. This maha-yuga is divided into four yugas because dharma, or religiosity, diminishes with the coming of each smaller yuga. Then everything resets with the onset of the next maha-yuga. Take these full cycles one thousand times and you get the day of Brahma, who is the creator.

F1: That’s a very long time.

F2: Everything in the world gets destroyed after Brahma’s day. Then there’s also Brahma’s night, which is the same amount of time. This gives you one full day, and taking 30 days for a month and 12 months you can figure out Brahma’s year. Brahma lives for one hundred of these years, after which the entire universe gets destroyed and recreated. So Krishna says that a person who knows the duration of Brahma’s day and night knows the actual meaning of day and night.

F1: We make all of our decisions in terms of day and night, based on the sun. But that day and night is nothing compared to the time based on Brahma. That’s really crazy, if you think about it.

F2: It’s a lot of years. Too many to fathom, but it’s a fact. There’s been so many years already in the distant past, and we have no idea where we were. There’s the future too, which we have some control over.

F1: As in we can determine where the soul will end up?

F2: Exactly. What other reason is there for understanding time in this way? You would go crazy if you thought about how long Brahma’s day is. The materially conscious become transfixed on this aspect of time, but that does little to help them. If you take the knowledge of this day and night as impetus for breaking free from the cycle of birth and death, then you’ve made the best use.

F1: Is there a place where this time doesn’t operate, where there are no cycles of creation and destruction?

F2: Krishna describes this a few verses after mentioning Brahma’s day and night. There is a higher nature which is eternal and is not annihilated no matter how many years pass. And the souls who reach that nature never come back.

F1: So if we go there, we don’t have to worry about this time again? I’m assuming you’re going to say that reaching that place is the very definition of shreyas for the soul.

[Radha and Krishna]F2: Absolutely. And it’s not that difficult to attain: just be conscious of Krishna. If that’s too much for you to do, if you think that Krishna is a sectarian God, then at least think of the person who lives in the realm that is unmanifest, which never gets created or destroyed. Think of that person through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Concerned of the present ever so,

But back a thousand years just go.


Where exactly were you?

Living and had desires too.


To become the distant past eventually is today,

Real time known through Brahma’s night and his day.


Go to the realm that annihilated never,

And live there with Shri Krishna forever.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Speaking Volumes

[Wives of the brahmanas feeding Krishna]“Being advanced by thinking of Krishna constantly, they were performing the greatest form of mystic meditation. All the wives then became very busily engaged in filling up different pots with nice foodstuff. Due to the performance of the sacrifice, the various food was all very palatable. After collecting a feast, they prepared to go to Krishna, their most lovable object, exactly in the way rivers flow to the sea.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 23)

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There is the saying that something “speaks volumes.” The expression is used in instances where not a lot is said in comparison to the meaning that can be derived. For instance, if someone of impeccable authority enters a situation where there is a scandal involving someone important, what they say matters. If they confirm the allegations against the accused, their testimony is said to speak volumes. Sometimes silence says a lot as well, such as when someone fails to stand up for someone else.

In the world of illusion that is a material existence, there is the constant search for transcendence. What is that one thing that will bring a permanent end to sadness and despair? How does one solve the problem of death and all the heartache that it brings? God has been the answer since time immemorial, but defining Him has been difficult. What does He look like? What is He called? Is He even a He? The Vedas consist of so much literature for the precise reason that everything related to the Supreme Lord speaks volumes. Vedic literature is the evidence that turns the symbolic expression into a literal one.

The Bhagavad-gita

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]There are God’s words themselves. He doesn’t need to speak a lot to say much. His direct instructions come to us courtesy of the Bhagavad-gita, which translates to “the song of God.” This isn’t merely a rundown of items of faith. This song systematically covers five important topics: the supreme controller, the living entity, time, karma and the material nature. The verses are short and to the point, but by the end you get to know the objective of life: surrender unto God, who is a person, and abandon all other kinds of philosophies and ways of life. Don’t be afraid in this surrender, because the Supreme Lord Himself will take responsibility for your protection.

Though the Bhagavad-gita is a relatively short book, discussion of it has created volumes of literature. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada could lecture on any verse in this work at any time of the day. He could give a different discourse off of the same verse. The same goes for anyone appearing in the same line of disciplic succession, which has Krishna at the root. Thus we see that God’s words, even when brief, speak volumes.


[Krishna dancing on Kaliya]The sacred land of Vrindavana speaks volumes. It is basically earth, with some trees and cows scattered around, so how can it talk? You can’t ask the land of Vrindavana anything, but by walking around you hear so much. In one place you find where the Supreme Lord took the calves every day for grazing. You get the sacred Yamuna River, which is so dear to God in His original form of Krishna. From the history of the Yamuna River, you get the incident of the subduing of the Kaliya snake. From hearing that pastime you learn that the marks of the footprint of Krishna keep one safe. Kaliya had those marks on his head, and it protected him from the acknowledged enemy of the snakes, Garuda.

Krishna’s finger

The pinky finger on the non-dominant hand of God speaks volumes as well. It was once used to hold up a massive hill, which then doubled as the world’s largest umbrella. The shelter was necessary since the king of heaven instigated a torrential downpour on Vrindavana, angry that the residents ignored worship of him just a single time. The universe and its planets go through cycles of creation and destruction, and when the time for destruction arrives, there is a specific cloud that pours devastating rain. Known as the samvartaka cloud, this was called upon by Indra to get his revenge on the innocent people.

[holding up Govardhana Hill]The pinky finger of Krishna held up Govardhana Hill for seven straight days. Mother Yashoda worried that her boy was getting tired from the effort, and so she asked Him to eat instead. Others thought that Krishna’s arm was tiring, so they put up sticks to help in supporting the hill. But it was Krishna the whole time who held it up, and He wasn’t tired in the least. The residents took a leap of faith in ignoring the Indra-yajna, and Krishna rewarded them with His close association in a seemingly perilous time.

Rama’s arm

The same Krishna appeared on earth once as a chivalrous prince named Rama. Rama’s acts speak so much that they fill up the many pages of the famous Ramayana, authored by Maharishi Valmiki. One work is not enough, and neither is one language. So we find also the Ramacharitamanasa of Goswami Tulsidas, describing the same Rama and His nectar-like actions. Then many Puranas, works of Vedic history, describe Rama’s life as well.

“Hearing the words of the vipra, my father brought the bow forward. Bending the bow in the twinkling of an eye and applying string to it, the mighty prince Rama, who was full of valor, quickly drew the bow at full length.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.47-48)

[Rama lifting the bow]Rama one time displayed strength that amazed everyone. He arrived at the svayamvara in Janakpur, where the husband for the daughter of King Janaka was being decided. Whoever could lift the bow in the middle of the arena would win instantly. All the princes of the world came, but none could even move the bow. Rama effortlessly lifted the bow. He then broke it while drawing a string to it. Rama’s arm is thus the most powerful one ever seen on earth, and praise of it can fill many volumes.


Devotional service is synonymous with God; it is non-different from Him. Strict adherence to religious principles is not the height of living. In Vrindavana during Krishna’s time many brahmanas were known to be expert at ritualistic sacrifices conducted for material purposes. Advancement in religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and ultimate liberation cover all the rewards in a material existence.

To show that devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is superior to even strict religiosity, Krishna once asked His friends to beg some food from these brahmanas, who were in the middle of a ritual. The priests refused the boys, even though they were told that Krishna was the one asking. The wives of the same priests immediately dropped everything and donated the best food for Krishna and His friends. The wives, who were considered less intelligent at understanding the esoteric truths of Vedanta, were situated in a position superior to their husbands.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Many similar incidents are there which describe the magic of bhakti-yoga. One devotional act, a single offering made with pure love, speaks volumes in terms of the glories of both the person making the offering and the beneficiary. Krishna doesn’t seek much. He doesn’t ask for great wealth or strenuous effort. The sentiment is what counts, and when it is there, the exchange is thrilling. It can never be described accurately enough, and so those incidents keep speaking volumes and volumes, filling the pages of the always expanding Vedic literature.

In Closing:

Govardhana with tiny pinky finger to lift,

From despair massive umbrella to uplift.


Just with powerful arm one,

Hand of beautiful Sita Devi won.


Wives of brahmanas in devotion living,

So without hesitation food to Krishna giving.


Acts of Supreme Lord volumes demanding,

Pages of Vedic literature thus always expanding.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Converting Your Love

[Radha and Krishna]“When one is situated on the transcendental stage, one attains the most coveted position - the stage of loving God. Lord Chaitanya taught that this is the highest stage of perfection for human beings.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Preface)

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Bhakti-yoga is translated as “devotional service” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Another translation is “Krishna consciousness.” Both have the same meaning, as they describe ways to connect with the Supreme Lord in a mood of offering pure affection. Love means offering some kind of service, and in love one is always conscious of the object of their affection. The issue, of course, is how to love someone we can’t see. How do we get reciprocation from someone who isn’t known to speak directly to us? How do we even serve someone who doesn’t give us feedback on our work?

[Shrila Prabhupada]The task is not impossible and we needn’t rely on blind faith alone. We can use present experiences and transition the lessons to the realm of bhakti-yoga. Consider the following sentiments of those offering service in the mood of love:

“I love my wife so much. She means everything to me. I don’t understand how she always stays with me and supports me, in times good and bad. She overlooks my flaws and shines the spotlight on whatever good qualities I have. I will never abandon her. I will try to repay that love in any way I can, but especially through remaining faithful.”

“I love my children so much. They are my world. I live for them. Though they don’t understand this, I don’t care. I will not stop nagging them. I will be in every part of their lives, for who knows what will happen in adulthood? I have knowledge from my own experiences. I know what they should avoid. I know what is good for them. Whether they hate me or love me, it won’t make a difference in how I guard them.”

“I can’t put into words what my friends mean to me. You’ll have to just believe me that they are everything to me. I am well situated, materially speaking, and it is not due to my effort alone. My friends have helped me so much. When I’m in trouble, I can count on them. I don’t have to worry about whether or not they will have time. Therefore no matter what I will give them the same support. I will not let anything bad happen to them.”

This is but a sampling of the different kinds of loving sentiments that already exist. We could add the dedication of the citizen who goes to war to defend the lives of the innocent in their nation. We could include the person who takes care of their pet, which is another kind of dependent. So there are many ways to love, and in bhakti-yoga the idea is to simply convert these ways. Transition them to the divine realm and see life in a whole new way.

Take the vow, for example. Just as we vow to serve someone special in our life, we can make the promise to always chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We will repeat this mantra for a fixed number of times each day. Missing our target is not an option; we must complete the minimum we have prescribed for ourselves. This is like showing up for something important. It is like meeting the promise made to someone who is very dear.

[japa beads]The motivation shouldn’t be difficult to find. The Supreme Lord provides everything to us. Though we may not be happy with every aspect of our present situation, there are things that we do like. We get food to eat. We get shelter. We get some kind of education. Everything is due to the Lord’s hand originally. He maintains life through the love of mother nature and the guardians during our youth. Since He gives us so much, we can promise to repay Him by remembering Him, reading about Him in Vedic literature, and trying our best to please Him.

How is He pleased? There are those who are already serving Him. There are those who have reached the summit of bhakti-yoga practice, wherein they have surrendered life and soul to Him. We can find ways to please such souls, helping them in their mission to give Krishna consciousness to others. We can lend support to institutions which help people to practice bhakti-yoga and attain life’s mission.

[Mother Yashoda and Krishna]We can reach even the level of the loving parent, who doesn’t take into consideration the reciprocation they get. Mother Yashoda in Gokula loves the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna in this mood. Whether her child is happy with her love or not is of no concern. The gopis in the same area have a similar mentality. They will make fun of Krishna like anything, as they feel safe in doing so. They know that they are always devoted to Him, to making Him happy, so they feel they have a right to say whatever they want to Him.

The reciprocation comes from consciousness itself. The more one thinks of the all-attractive son of Yashoda, the more pleasure they get in their service. The more one becomes attached to the beloved of Shrimati Radharani, the more they know that their work is paying off. The more dedicated they become in their service, the more their love strengthens. And that love is the most powerful; it transcends time and space. It compels the giver of life to put the devoted soul into the ideal circumstances in the next birth, where bhakti-yoga will flourish without obstruction. Indeed, even the present life becomes a sort of heaven on earth, where love is all around.

In Closing:

Since so much support to me to give,

To serve my friends and family I’ll live.


This same sentiment take,

And transition to bhakti make.


To chant the holy names vow,

To remember God tomorrow and now.


Then little heaven on earth to gain,

And most coveted position to attain.