Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why To Extend Faith

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]“O Tulsi, your personal interest is met by Rama and your supreme interest by Raghuvira, who has valiant warriors like Lakshmana and the son of the wind serving Him.” (Dohavali, 55)

tulasī svāratha rāma hita paramāratha raghubīra |
sevaka jāke lakhana se pavanapūta ranadhīra ||

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Here Goswami Tulsidas provides further justification for extending full faith and trust to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Rama. It is one thing to have faith in someone to deliver a particular thing. I have faith in the newsperson on television to accurately report what is going on in other nations. I trust the weatherman to do his best to predict the weather for the next few days. We put trust in so many people, for meeting different things. Tulsidas leaves no doubt that with Rama there should be full surrender. Both the personal interest and the interest in the afterlife are met in Him, who is a heroic warrior served by the most valiant warriors this world has ever seen.

[are we there yet?]Svartha is personal interest. As soon as we emerge from the womb we become aware of this type of interest. We cry to have our hunger go away. We ask our parents to buy us toy cars for play. When we go on family trips, in frustration we repeatedly ask, “Are we there yet?” In adulthood we look for a nice dwelling, a fancy car, and an attractive life partner. In this way svartha continues, as to live means to desire.

Paramartha is the supreme interest. This is for the future beyond the foreseeable. Where will we go after death? What circumstances will we find? Will we be happy? Is there a way to ensure safe passage to the best destination in the afterlife? Paramartha takes care of this.

Each person has their own idea of supreme interest. To the atheist supreme interest is non-existent. Everything ends at death, so svartha is their supreme interest. To the religiously inclined, supreme interest is going to heaven in the afterlife. Rebirth is acknowledged by those who follow the Vedic tradition. So birth in favorable circumstances, such as in a mercantile family, a heavenly planet, or a family of transcendentalists, is considered the supreme interest to be met.

prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
yoga-bhraṣṭo 'bhijāyate

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)

[Goswami Tulsidas]Since he is supremely knowledgeable, Goswami Tulsidas understands that svartha and paramartha can both be fulfilled through one source. Though they are two terms, the only thing distinguishing them is time. Both are interests, but one is met sooner and the other later. In either case, the individual will exist. Therefore better it is to seek an interest that gives pleasure today that will continue into the future.

Svartha and paramartha merge when there is service to the Divine; otherwise they remain separate. In service to the Divine, svartha is met. The individual gets happiness right away. It arrives because the individual is happiest when serving. Service to the Divine, which can be done through something as simple as chanting the holy names, brings happiness immediately. The person who always chants “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” swims in the ocean of nectar that is the transcendental sound vibration representing the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The svartha turns into paramartha because the service never stops, provided the desire is there. Of course there is some concern here. How can we believe that the interest will remain? If I’m enjoying in my house right now, I know that one day the house will be gone. One day I will be forced to leave. Therefore I inherently understand that the svartha of enjoying in the house is different from paramartha. How, then, can the svartha of service to God in love become paramartha?

At the theoretical level, the two merge because the Supreme Lord is eternal in body and spirit. He is the lone individual who does not go through reincarnation. Time works at His direction; therefore it cannot operate on Him. In His original form of Shri Krishna, His transcendental body is described to be nava-yauvanam. He never ages past “pre-youth.”

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

[Lord Krishna]Krishna is also Rama, the worshipable form of choice for Tulsidas. When there is pure service to Him, the Supreme Lord offers protection. He brings to the devotee what they lack and preserves what they have. If they start to lack favorable circumstances, He brings them to a new situation. If they have enthusiasm and an undying will to continue in service, He preserves whatever progress they have made.

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

[Hanuman holding Lakshmana and Rama]Rama is also known as Raghuvira, which means “the hero of the Raghu dynasty.” How great of a hero is He? Rama has Lakshmana serving Him. Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and in fighting strength he is equal. Hanuman also serves Rama. Both Lakshmana and Hanuman are ranadhira, or great warriors. They are the greatest warriors in fact, and they both serve the hero of the Raghu dynasty. In this way Tulsidas gives assurance to both himself and future generations that one who loves God purely has no reason to fear. Their bhakti practice will be protected by Rama, who has Lakshmana and Hanuman standing by, ready to help.

In Closing:

Why to Supreme faith to extend,

And in afterlife’s existence to pretend?


Personal and supreme interest get,

Through just a single source met.


That person on the battlefield brave,

Any from ocean of suffering can save.


Has Lakshmana and Hanuman standing by,

Give Him faith, on their strength too rely.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Wanderer By Profession

[Rama's lotus feet]“When your personal and supreme interests can be easily obtained from one place, it is not sensible for you in weakness to beg at the doors of others, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 54)

svāratha paramāratha sakala sulabha eka hī ora |
dvāra dūsare dīnatā ucita na tulasī tora ||

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To someone not familiar with the traditions of the Vedas the spiritual institution known as sannyasa might seem a little strange. At the most advanced stage in life, when there is maturity through both accepted knowledge and practical experience, a person abandons everything. They renounce wife, family, home and job. Instead of working for the food they eat, they beg from door to door. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas confirms that any person, including the sannyasi, can have their personal and supreme interests met by approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They have no need to beg from the doors of others.

Going door to door like this is apparently done in weakness. The sannyasi has no other means of survival. They are a beggar by occupation, one which they take up voluntarily. Why would anyone do this? Isn’t it demeaning? Especially someone who has a choice, why intentionally head towards destitution?

[coffee]In the material world, there is duality in everything. One day we hear that coffee is bad for us and the next a story comes out saying that it is indeed healthy, when consumed in moderation. Yesterday we heard that saturated fat leads to early death, and today a study says that saturated fat is not so harmful. In this way, anything we see that is good also has some bad aspects. The same goes for things which we consider bad; they have some benefits too.

As there is free will in the material world, anything good can be used incorrectly. We need a knife to cut vegetables. If an intruder should enter the home, the knife can be used as protection. Yet that same knife can be used incorrectly. That very intruder can use the knife as their weapon to commit their crime. The knife can also accidentally cut our skin in the kitchen.

Based on duality, there is potential for the sannyasa institution being used improperly. A person who wants to live off the mercy of others can accept the garb of an ascetic and go door to door. This is getting their svartha, or personal interest, met. The person who has no other recourse for food can tread the same path.

Goswami Tulsidas explains that the bona fide sannyasi is not a beggar at all. This is because they have surrendered fully to the Supreme Lord. They have let go all attachments. Vairagya, or renunciation, is a spirit more than a show. True renunciation is known to the individual from within, but the exhibition of it lessens the risk of attachments remaining. In the advanced stage of life to renounce everything is to leave more time for complete focus on God. Consciousness of Him is the purpose to the existence anyway.

Begging takes care of personal interest, but paramartha is not met. The two interests are really the same; it’s just that their arrival is staggered. The time factor creates the dichotomy. Svartha is interest that we see in this life and paramartha is for the afterlife. As the soul exists eternally, throughout the time continuum, the future eventually turns into the present. Thus paramartha eventually turns into svartha.

Both interests are met through devotion to God. That devotion is the eternal occupation for the spirit soul, which lives eternally to be blissful in knowledge. That knowledge is of the simultaneous oneness and difference between individual spirit and supreme spirit. In knowledge of the Supreme Lord’s all-attractiveness, the individual spirit can take up service and stick with it. This service meets the paramartha of the individual, and since the service is eternal, svartha is met at every step as well.

[Goswami Tulsidas]So why the need for sannyasa? Goswami Tulsidas speaks to himself in this verse, since he was a sannyasi in adulthood. He begged from door to door. He apparently did so in weakness, but that was not the case. The sannyasi in this situation is actually not begging. They are spreading the mercy of the Divine to those who are less fortunate. To be consumed by thoughts of making money and protecting possessions is not very auspicious. The soul is meant to be happy, and without peace there cannot be happiness.

nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

If there is constant worry over how the bills will be paid, how can there be peace? The sannyasi mercifully goes from door to door to give the message that the valuable human life is meant to be spent in consciousness of the Supreme Lord, who is a person with distinguishable attributes. God is an individual, but unlike other individuals His influence is spread everywhere. He appears to be divided, but He remains one; such is His greatness.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Under the pretense of begging, the sannyasi travels from home to home. The householder donating to the sannyasi’s cause is greatly benefitted. Instead of having to search out a remote area where a wise person may have taken up residence, they get the highest wisdom arriving right at their doorstep. In the guise of a professional wanderer, the sannyasi sacrifices everything so that others also learn the secret that svartha and paramartha are both met in service to the lotus feet of Bhagavan.

In Closing:

Though appearing as destitute so,

Sannyasi as beggar not to go.


Without attachments living,

So that highest knowledge giving.


Svartha and paramartha the same,

Just through time with different name.


With ways of devotion the wanderer versed,

Knows that God the one to approach first.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Staircase Versus The Elevator

[Lord Vishnu]“When your personal and supreme interests can be easily obtained from one place, it is not sensible for you in weakness to beg at the doors of others, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 54)

svāratha paramāratha sakala sulabha eka hī ora |
dvāra dūsare dīnatā ucita na tulasī tora ||

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often compare bhakti-yoga to taking the elevator to the highest destination. All other forms of religion, even those based in the Vedic tradition, are like taking the staircase. With all things being equal, the elevator is the better option. If the elevator is operating properly, then as an option it requires much less effort. It brings you to the desired destination more quickly, and it carries little to no mental strain during the journey. Here Goswami Tulsidas makes a similar comparison in saying that the Supreme Lord Shri Rama provides all that is needed, both in the present life and in the one to come later.

“One should directly approach Krishna, for that will save time and energy. For example, if there is a possibility of going to the top of a building by the help of an elevator, why should one go by the staircase, step by step?” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.18 Purport)

What are some of the other kinds of religion? Meditational yoga is one. In this process, a person focuses their mind on God. To do this effectively, outside distractions need to be blocked out. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna describes the basic parameters necessary for success in this path.

śucau deśe pratiṣṭhāpya
sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ
nāty-ucchritaṁ nāti-nīcaṁ

tatraikāgraṁ manaḥ kṛtvā
upaviśyāsane yuñjyād
yogam ātma-viśuddhaye

“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusha-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.11-12)

[Krishna in meditation]The yogi has to find a secluded place. They have to be completely free of sex life. They have to sit erect and focus the eyes on the tip of the nose. And by the way, these conditions should exist for the present and the future. Yoga is not meant to be an exercise routine followed for only a few minutes each day. The foundation of this yoga is concentration, after all, so if anything breaks the connection to the Divine, the work is not fruitful.

Another path is worship of divine figures with a motive. This is where you set up a ritual according to authorized guidelines. You prepare what’s needed for the divine figure you are worshiping. You then do everything according to plan and wait to get your reward. The rewards can span the full imagination of the mind. You can ask for anything from good health to full enjoyment in the afterlife.

Then there are paths outside of religion. This is where you’re looking for personal interests to be met. We don’t realize this, but everyone in this world is a beggar of some sort. We require the cooperation of others to have our desires met. When I drive to work in the morning, I’m counting on the fact that other drivers on the road will obey the traffic laws. I’m a beggar at the office since I need the employer and other employees to do their jobs correctly. From the government I beg the strict enforcement of the law. This way if someone cheats me, they get punished. The threat of punishment itself is enough to prevent the cheating.

Generally speaking, begging in religious life is done for meeting the supreme interest and outside of religious life it is for meeting the personal interest. Tulsidas says that both can be met in one place: devotion to God the person. And actually, to a person who is fully realized, svartha and paramartha are identical. They are two separate terms only for those who don’t see the eternal existence of the soul. They are different with respect to time only. Svartha relates to the present life and paramartha to the afterlife.

na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ
durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ
andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās
te ’pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ

“Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Vishnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.31)

[Lord Vishnu]Prahlada Maharaja, the famous son of the king Hiranyakashipu, concurs with Tulsidas. He too is a great devotee and he says that the svartha of the living entity is to go to Vishnu, who is the personal God. Vishnu is the same Rama worshiped by Tulsidas. He is also the same Krishna worshiped by Prabhupada and those appearing in that line. The external vision varies slightly, but there is always one God, who is a personality.

Worship of other divine figures does not qualify as worship of the personal God since the arrangement is different. These divine figures work at the behest of Vishnu to distribute material rewards to their worshipers. The process is not much different from begging from people we meet in our world. A person can pray to a demigod to get good health or they can give money to a wellness expert. The processes are practically identical. Payment is made in both cases and there is svartha met. The main difference is that the divine figure here can also give material benefits after the present life is over.

The soul’s satisfaction is what we really need, and in bhakti this objective is met, and quickly at that. All other forms of worship are meant to culminate in pure bhakti-yoga. When there is bhakti, there is no need to beg from others in weakness. Tulsidas mentions approaching the doors of others because he was in the sannyasa ashrama later in life. This was his occupation. We can liken it to a person who volunteers to become homeless. Sannyasa helps to keep the level of renunciation necessary to ensure that bhakti is practiced purely.

[Sita and Rama]Tulsidas was not a beggar in weakness, but he mentions it to remind others in the same ashrama that they are actually working for the Supreme Lord. Bona fide sannyasis have their personal and supreme interests met by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their begging brings facility for spreading the message of divine love to those who are prone to forgetting it. This message is most important, and to one who hears it with faith, attention and respect the doors to the elevator to the supreme destination kindly open.

In Closing:

Ideal destination for all the top floor,

But to take stairs or enter elevator doors?


Working elevator the choice smart,

Ease and speed there at the start.


Bhakti by Prabhupada in this way compared,

So of needless effort and risk be spared.


Tulsidas and Prahlada on this concurring,

To worship Supreme directly preferring.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Knowing Us Better

[Sita and Rama]“Both personal interest and supreme interest are met by Sita and Rama. Why then, O Tulsi, do you approach the doors of others to have your desires met?” (Dohavali, 53)

svāratha sītā rāma so paramāratha siya rāma |
tulasī tero dusare dvāra kahā kahu kāma ||

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In the journey through life we come upon many advisors. The successful will give us tips on how to make it through the tough times. When others bring us down with their negativity, with their mocking, with their ignorance, the people who have persevered can give us the strength to carry on. They speak from experience, after all. Others too give their advice based on what they have seen and heard. Yet do any of them really know us? Goswami Tulsidas says that Sita and Rama are the ones to approach to have self-interest as well as interest for the afterlife met. One of the reasons this couple is mentioned is that they know us better than anyone else.

Even our best friend doesn’t know everything about us. Their advice to us is targeted, sort of like the recommended purchases section on an ecommerce website. Those recommendations are based on calculations, determined through analyzing past purchasing habits. There is a data mining algorithm which looks to see what other people bought after purchasing the same item. There is also an internal query done to see the customer’s past purchases.

[recommended items]Our well-wishers act in a similar manner, using memory instead of a computer. Our good friends don’t like telling us what to do, but when asked they won’t be shy in speaking up. Most importantly they know our likes and dislikes. If we don’t like eating onions, they will not include them in dishes offered to us. If they know we can’t stand conflict and confrontation, they will not recommend that we enter such situations.

Yet even the best friend in this instance is limited in what they can do. They are not inside of our mind. It is not possible to do this. I am not you and you are not me. Yet both of our experiences through life are real. Someone else views me from the outside. I have no idea what that viewpoint is, and they have no idea how others view them. This uniqueness is due to the soul, which is the essence of identity.

The soul accepts a material covering with certain qualities at the time of birth. These qualities are known as gunas, and they can be in one of three varieties: goodness, passion or ignorance. Those qualities can combine in different proportions, so it’s rare to see a human being who is exclusively in any one of the gunas.

Though inheriting certain material qualities at the time of birth, the desires of the individual are not etched in stone. We see examples of this in gender analysis. Not all women behave the same way. They don’t all enjoy shopping.  And not all men prefer to watch sports. There may be similarities, but every person is an individual, free to desire as they wish.

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

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

The material body changes, though the soul inside does not. The body goes from boyhood to youth to old age. This means that desires are guaranteed to change. The adult no longer finds the cartoons viewed during childhood to be appealing. A person who partied hard in college no longer enjoys going out; they’d rather stay in with their family.

Since our desires are bound to change, how can any single person know us completely? Sita and Rama know who we really are, that we are spirit soul. Rama is the Supreme Lord, the definition behind the abstract. In the gross arena He kills the bad guys with the arrows shot from His bow, and in the subtle arena He defeats the doubts borne of ignorance. By arming us with knowledge, He removes the desires that don’t match our spiritual nature.

[Sita and Rama]Sita is His eternal consort, the energy of God, if you will. She distributes rewards to help in serving Rama, which is what makes the soul happiest. This service is the soul’s dharma, the essential characteristic. It is not so only for adults, men, women, or children. This dharma is universal. Therefore we see God worshiped so widely, in a variety of ways.

Tulsidas provides a unique perspective. The typical approach towards God is made in search of self-interest. This is the kind of desire discussed above, the kind that always changes. There is the interest in the afterlife as well, as to where the soul will end up. Sita and Rama can actually meet both interests. There is no reason to approach anyone else. There is no need to beg from anyone of this world or the heavenly realm, which features many gods, or divine figures.

[Sita and Rama]Rama is antaryami, or the witness of everything. He lives inside of every individual through His expansion of the Supersoul. We don’t have to worry about whether He knows us or not. He takes care of personal interest, svartha, by merging it with supreme interest, paramartha. No one else can do this. Sometimes Rama gives things and sometimes He takes them away. Sita brings those gifts through her role as the goddess of fortune. She gives the more important gift of the example of ideal devotion. From studying the divine couple and approaching them only, all interests that ultimately matter to the undying spirit soul are met.

In Closing:

Friends our interests to know,

Thus advise not and where to go.


But since my body to adulthood matured,

Desires changed, boredom in new way cured.


So well-wishers limited in this way,

Not Sita and Rama, who inside me stay.


Svartha and paramartha becoming one,

When in devotion their favor is won.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Others Can Do For Us

[Sita and Rama]“Both personal interest and supreme interest are met by Sita and Rama. Why then, O Tulsi, do you approach the doors of others to have your desires met?” (Dohavali, 53)

svāratha sītā rāma so paramāratha siya rāma |
tulasī tero dusare dvāra kahā kahu kāma ||

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It is only natural to feel grateful for our benefactors. The vitality in man is due to the animating force within, the spirit soul. That soul is identical with the individual, but through ignorance this knowledge remains far away. Though the soul has great ability, when combined with a material body the individual cannot do everything on their own. They need help. They need cooperation.

Asking for help is a form of begging. “I beg your pardon.” “Pardon me, would you mind giving me a hand?” These words likely don’t come from those who are financially destitute, but there is something being asked for nonetheless. One individual needs help and another provides it; this gives the situation of a beggar and a benefactor.

Goswami Tulsidas says that one should beg from Sita and Rama. That divine couple will provide for both the short term and the afterlife. Svartha is the short-term interest. Any form of begging in the material world is for fulfillment of svartha. We approach someone on the street for money. We sit in a job interview and beg to be hired for the position. We write an essay that accompanies the application to college; this is begging for admittance.

[writing essay]The benefactors in these instances cannot give us paramartha, or the supreme interest. By definition, this has to be true, since the benefactors are beggars themselves. They too require help from others to survive. The person hiring for the position likely was hired once in the past. The person giving food to the poor was once fed by their parents. The person granting admission to college likely had to fill out their own application when they were a prospective student.

As I am a beggar today, I can also become a benefactor at some point in the future. I am a conditioned soul at present, so I cannot grant someone interest that goes beyond the present lifetime. Religion exists for this purpose. Religion also goes by such names as dharma, duty, religiosity and spirituality. The idea is that you approach a higher being to take care of your affairs in the afterlife.

Goswami Tulsidas intentionally mentions Sita and Rama. They are not like ordinary benefactors. Sita is the goddess of fortune. This means that in the realm of svartha, she can grant anything, without limits. She can give more wealth than the greatest philanthropist. She can create circumstances that no benefactor can. Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the husband of Sita. The fortune granted by Sita is meant to be used for Rama’s pleasure. As Rama is God Himself, He can grant anything desired for the afterlife.

[Sita and Rama]Yet these qualifications are not the sole reason for the recommendation made by Tulsidas. The famous Vaishnava saint knows that only Sita and Rama look out for the welfare of the beggar. They assess both svartha and paramartha in terms of the overall wellbeing of the individual.

How does this work exactly? If a criminal approaches a home and begs for the personal interest of temporary shelter, the benefactor is not really helping society by granting the request. The homeowner also isn’t helping the criminal, as punishment will do them good. Hiding from the law and getting away with crimes is not beneficial for the criminals in the long term.

If a religiously inclined person approaches a divine figure and asks for life in heaven after death, they do so without the understanding that even heaven is part of the material world. The eating, drinking and merriment they see right now will be experienced in greater quantities in the heavenly region. But the time of residence there is commensurate with the pious credits accumulated. Consciousness is not a factor. The payment is piety, and once time runs out, the balance needs to be replenished.

Rama knows that the best interest for the living entities, who are His sons and daughters, is to be conscious of Him. Rama is the Supreme Lord in a personal form. He has other forms that are non-different from Him as well, such as Vishnu and Krishna. Devotion to the personal God is in the best interest of every individual. Svartha and paramartha are separate only in terms of time. One deals with the present and the other deals with the future. Yet time does not determine existence. If I am happy today, I can be so tomorrow. What difference does the actual time make?

[Sita and Rama]Devotion to God brings happiness today and also in the future. Sita provides the means of support for the devoted soul to remain in devotion. The husband and wife work in tandem to give the best reward to the beggar who is wise enough to approach them. Goswami Tulsidas approaches them first, and then he begs from door to door merely as a pretense, as a way to shower the divine mercy on those who are only temporarily fulfilling the role of benefactor. It is Sita and Rama who give first, and it is they who empower the saints of the Vaishnava tradition, the devotees of God who no longer consider the dualities of svartha and paramartha. Their desires are merged into one, identical with the Supreme Lord’s.

In Closing:

Though a beggar today,

To be benefactor some day.


Thus a limit to what you can get,

So of afterlife’s interest forget.


Approach Sita and Rama instead,

And into transcendence be led.


Have svartha and paramartha merged,

Provide happiness to soul deserved.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Talking About Dueling Attachments

[Lord Rama]“O son of Dasharatha, those persons who remember you just once get all happiness bestowed upon them by you. Why, then, don’t you care about me, O ocean of mercy?” (Dohavali, 46)

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Friend-One: Can you have success in material life while simultaneously progressing in spiritual life?

Friend-Two: What is your definition of success?

F1: You know, like going to a good college, earning a decent amount of money, having a nice family.

F2: Sure, why wouldn’t you be able to have that?

F1: Well, doesn’t it go against the theme of spiritual life? You’re supposed to be conscious of God, especially at the time of death [Bhagavad-gita, 8.5]. Instead of thinking of yourself, your body, or the bodies of others, you’re supposed to be fixed on the spiritual energy, which emanates from the person that is Krishna.

[Lord Krishna]F2: That is all true, for sure. Let me ask you this, have you ever been talking to someone and not listening to what they were saying?

F1: I’m sorry, what did you say? [smiling]

F2: Very funny. You see what I mean, though?

F1: Not quite.

F2: If you’re thinking of something else while talking to someone, it means that your mind is more powerful than the circumstance. From this ability, you could be conscious of God in any situation. Your material success or lack thereof should not be a factor.

F1: But what about attachment? If I’m attached to my family members, isn’t that a problem?

F2: Yeah, that’s a different story. You can’t have attachment for both. If your family members are also on the transcendental path, then that is a special circumstance. Then your attachment is good since the people to whom you are attached are headed towards the same destination that you seek.

F1: I see. Yeah, the family life thing I find quite puzzling. I see the attachment leading people astray all the time. Yet I feel like I’m the only one seeing it.

F2: Care to explain?

F1: Well, recently I was on a long flight and I was sitting close to a family. From overhearing their conversations, I came to learn that the father was doing everything. He was buying the children things. He was taking them to this place and that. He was feeding them nice food.

F2: I don’t see anything wrong with that. A father should be affectionate.

F1: The thing was, the kids weren’t appreciative. He paid for everything and yet he was the target of their hate. I couldn’t believe how the children were talking to him. They were making fun of him, calling him names, and saying that he was a cheapskate.

F2: Yeah, I can’t relate. I could never talk to my parents that way.

F1: I know! Me neither. I guess some families are like that. The members are so close with one another that there are no formalities. Anyway, the whole thing got me to thinking. The embodiment of the material way of life is the family, is it not?

F2: Yes.

F1: And so all your work goes towards satisfying your family. But the more you give them, the less happy they are. They don’t even appreciate what you do.

F2: That’s just human nature. We forget good deeds done for us. That’s just part of being fallible.

F1: I would think this would be further justification for accepting the path of devotional service. At least with God, your work will be appreciated.

[Lord Krishna]F2: That’s a great point. Goswami Tulsidas says that a person who remembers the Supreme Lord just once gets all happiness. One good deed is enough to get rewarded. One example is the fruit vendor in Vrindavana, whose basket of fruit was turned into jewels by Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

F1: I’m sure someone hearing our conversation would worry that we’re advocating abandoning the family altogether.

F2: The issue is attachment. We see that strong attachment doesn’t yield great results. The attachment directed towards the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord will actually benefit the family much more in the long run. So it’s a win-win.

F1: But as an example, won’t the family members get mad that the father’s attention is getting diverted?

F2: If the children are spoiled, they certainly will get upset. It takes great courage to accept the path of devotional service. Only after many lifetimes and many pious deeds does one get the opportunity to meet the spiritual master, who is God’s true representative on earth. And then one has to be fortunate enough to follow the instructions of that representative.

[Shrila Prabhupada]F1: If there is one instruction to follow for the present day, what would it be?

F2: Chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Shravanam and kirtanam, chanting and hearing - these are best at bringing attachment to Shri Krishna.

F1: How can you tell that your efforts are paying off?

F2: Consciousness. The more you think about God and His transcendental form, the more attachment you have. The more you are attached to Him, the more you will be detached from everything not directly related to Him. One side is Krishna and the other is maya. One side is appreciation for even a single effort and the other is ill-will despite a lifetime of giving.

In Closing:

Father to children so much giving,

In return disrespectful to him living.


When this affection flowing profuse,

If lacking benefit then of what use?


Krishna to remember deed just one,

By devotion only is His heart won.


Instruction of the guru desires fulfilling,

Since thoughts of Krishna into mind then filling.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Talking About Smartas

[Wives of the brahmanas offering food]“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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Friend-One: I hear a lot of talk about smarta-brahmanas.

Friend-Two: And?

F1: One: I’m not really sure what the term means. Two: the tone seems to be pretty negative.

F2: Along the lines of “the smartas do this and the smartas do that.”

F1: Yeah, and that we shouldn’t be like the smartas. From the context of the statements, I have some sort of understanding, I think.

F2: Care to share?

[double yellow line on the road]F1: The smartas are those who follow the rituals and rules strictly. Whatever the guidelines may be, the smartas do not deviate from them. It’s sort of like the rule in driving about not crossing the double yellow line. Sometimes you have to, though, like if there is a car in front blocking your way.

F2: That’s a pretty good understanding of it. Smarta comes from the word smriti, which means “that which is remembered.”

F1: Shruti is the corresponding term, right?

F2: Shruti is that which is heard. The Vedas are known as the shrutis, since they are passed down originally in an oral tradition. Books are helpful, but they are not required. The people living on earth in the early portion of the creation are so pure that they can remember things after hearing them only a single time.

F1: Wow, that’s pretty cool. So the smritis would be things that are not as easily remembered, things you need to write down?

F2: Yeah, observances and the like. Think of it like succeeding in something after a difficult journey and then writing down your experiences. If, after the fact, you made up rules based on your experiences, then those become a kind of smriti.

F1: And shruti comes directly from the highest authority, like the Supreme Lord?

F2: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, so a smarta is someone who follows smriti very strictly.

F1: Oh, okay. My understanding was pretty accurate, then. That being the case, I have some questions about smartas, especially as it relates to bhakti-yoga.

F2: Bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation of the spirit soul. It can never be bound by law codes, things that need to be remembered, or someone’s system of life developed off personal experiences.

[Lord Rama]F1: I understand that. The first issue I see is that Lord Ramachandra seemed to be a smarta. Though He is God Himself in an incarnation form, He followed Vedic teachings strictly. Why shouldn’t we follow Him? Why shouldn’t we be just as strict?

F2: It’s a different time and circumstance. Even so, Shri Rama sometimes broke the rules. He is the Supreme Lord, so He is never bound by anything. Sita and Lakshmana also showed this. They left home to follow Rama into the forest. They disobeyed Rama’s direct request. Rama was their superior, which would make them violators of the smarta system.

F1: I’ll accept that. Here’s a tougher issue to resolve. In the bhakti-yoga tradition, especially the one descending from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, I see so many rules and regulations. In fact, there are too many to keep track of. My head starts spinning when I think of them.

F2: There’s the four regulative principles: no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex. There’s the chanting sixteen rounds daily of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There’s the no offending of other devotees. There’s the no standing with your back to the deities. There’s the no putting the demigods on an equal footing with Narayana, who is the same Rama and Krishna.

[Hari-bhakti-vilasa book]F1: So you obviously know what I mean. There’s that book, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, I think it’s called. It’s got tons of rules. The Upadeshamrita of Rupa Gosvami seems similar. On the one side there’s criticism of the smarta-brahmanas and how their path is wrong. Then on the other side you get all these rules in bhakti-yoga. Seems like a contradiction to me.

F2: With all these rules you’re essentially creating a rival smarta system.

F1: Yeah. So how do you resolve the issue?

F2: Anytime there’s a rule, there’s a goal. The rule is to help achieve the goal.

F1: Okay.

F2: So in the smarta system, the highest goal you can achieve is the liberation of merging into the Brahman effulgence. That is difficult to get, so the more attainable goal is residence in the heavenly planetary system.

F1: And that’s really no different than where we currently live. The enjoyment is a little more, and the time spent there is greater too, but otherwise no difference.

F2: Exactly. In following the rules of bhakti-yoga, the goal is love for God. This is the highest goal of an existence; one rarely seen but still having the most value. Obviously love is never dependent on outside factors. You can follow all the rules you want, but it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get love. But the rules do help.

F1: I see. I guess the example of the yajna-brahmanas in Vrindavana would be appropriate to mention here. They followed the smritis so strictly that they refused to break from their rituals to feed God Himself. Krishna asked for food through His friends and these brahmanas said “no.” They were preoccupied.

[Krishna and Balarama fed by the wives of the brahmanas]F2: And the wives of the brahmanas said “yes.” They were devotees. They were in bhakti-yoga, even though they weren’t smartas. They cast aside the rules to serve God. That is a great example.

In Closing:

Smartas getting criticized so much,

Since bhakti’s path won’t dare to touch.


But Vaishnavas also with rules strict,

So from criticism not to contradict?


The highest goal of each just see,

Love never from rules only to be.


Smarta brahmanas to feed Krishna refused,

But their wives different, with bhakti infused.