Saturday, April 18, 2015

The One With The Entanglement

[Lord Krishna]“The more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence. The best way to disentangle oneself is to always engage the mind in Krishna consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5 Purport)

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In devotional service, one of the goals is to be so attached to the Supreme Lord that you become entangled by Him. Your love becomes so strong that there is nothing you can do to break away. It’s as if you’re burdened constantly, without any let up. It’s like trying to outrun an oncoming train, where you only get little spurts of rest here and there.

Of course this burden is a good thing. It is beneficial, as it meets the eternal occupation of the soul. The individual has certain characteristics that exist perpetually. One person is born in one nation and another is born in a different land. One person is born a man and another a woman. While these distinctions bring unique characteristics, through the workings of time things change.

Not so for the spirit soul. It is always blissful and full of knowledge. It always maintains a relationship to the Supreme Soul. Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu describes that relationship as simultaneously one and different, achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. The individual soul is equal to the Supreme Soul, but at the same time unequal. Devotional service is the ideal engagement resulting from this relationship, and those who have found it are happily entangled.

Bhima was trying to explain this to his friend one day. Bhima described how man already gets entangled in so many things without realizing it. Better it is to get caught up in the web of transcendental love and devotion. He attempted to illustrate the point by bringing up a recent incident from his life.

[roads in India]I was in India visiting relatives. Though I have gone more frequently in recent years, it’s still always a bit of a shock. The roads are what get me every time. Picture driving in New York City. Then multiply the chaos by a factor of ten. That’s really not even accurate, but it’s a way to help you understand.

I think I ran out of toothpaste one day so my uncle said he would go out and buy me some. I felt like getting out of the house so I asked if I could join him. The ride was interesting enough, as we passed by so many things on the road. At one point we pulled over to the side of the road and asked if the vendor had any fruit. Seeing that all the fruit looked rotten, my uncle chastised the man and then drove off. I got a big kick out of that.

We got the toothpaste, but as we were returning home my uncle stopped somewhere else. He was looking to get a dog for the house. Simple enough, no? Suddenly we were in this back alley that had a narrow road in the middle. We had to walk to this outdoor market that had a tent over it. I almost got hit by scooters and motorcycles as we were standing in front of the shop.

I can’t tell you how weird this place was. There were all these chickens in a cage in the front, with some pigeons as well. My uncle went in the back with the store owner to look at dogs. He was gone for quite a while. Random people would come up to me, asking for stuff. I couldn’t understand them. Then the chickens started making a lot of noise. I didn’t have a cell phone on me. I was pretty much helpless. I asked myself, “Where am I and how did I get here?”

My uncle eventually came back and things were okay again, but the episode got me to thinking. Something as simple as picking up toothpaste got me entangled in a situation foreign to me. There are so many other entanglements resulting from material desires. We get caught up in stuff without even knowing why.

Bhima explained that at least in devotional service, the entanglement is beneficial. If one creates the routine of chanting the holy names, then soon they won’t be able to give it up. Wherever they are, at least in their mind the song will always be playing, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ
nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)

[Lord Krishna]The most important knowledge will be there, that the Supreme Lord is all-attractive. There will be renunciation since the devotional practices will take precedent. It’s difficult to be addicted to sinful life when the entire day is filled with devotional activities. In this way the wise choice for every person is to follow bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

Entangled in unexpected ways,

Changing but mental turmoil stays.


With circumstances suddenly to flip,

Trouble even during a routine trip.


Follow bhakti-yoga instead,

And into transcendence be led.


In the lotus feet of Krishna find,

The elusive peace for your troubled mind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

All The Things You’ve Chased

[Nagapatnis praying to Krishna]“Dear Lord, the dust of Your lotus feet is very wonderful. Any person who is fortunate enough to achieve this dust does not care for heavenly planets, lordship over all the planetary systems, the mystic perfections of yoga, or even liberation from material existence. In other words, anyone who adores the dust of Your lotus feet does not care a fig for all other perfectional stages.” (Naga-patnis, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.16.37)

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“Alright, let’s say I’m willing to acknowledge that thus far I haven’t made the best choices in life. I wanted money, and I got it. I wanted fame, and for a while I had that too. I wanted people to look up to me, and that has happened also. I’ve chased after so many things, and I’m still not happy. I don’t feel any peace. There’s no satisfaction.

I know you’re going to tell me to look to the spiritual, but I don’t see how that’s going to help. Isn’t it the same thing? You go after something, get it, and then remain unsatisfied. How is it any different? Why should I invest time in that process? What good will it do for me?”

According to the wives of the serpent Kaliya, the highest attainment in life is the dust of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The vision of His feet is enough, as those feet give the chance for endless service to the one person who is worthy of service from every living entity. The dust is better, as it is more humbling. It is a kind of magical substance that keeps the fire for service alive, and it is in that service that one finds the peace that otherwise eludes them.

[Krishna's lotus feet]How do we know that without getting the dust of God’s feet we are unsuccessful in life? There are two methods of gathering knowledge. One is the ascending process. In this route you start from nothing. Sort of like the child who has to learn different letters and words before being able to read a book, in the process of ascension you gather bits and pieces of information and work your way up.

Indeed, the life around us is so complex that the ascending process never seems to end. New studies get conducted for this very reason. One study debunks a previous one. Progress means that the previous point was imperfect. You can only progress from something that is incomplete. If there is perfection, there is no need to progress.

The other method of gathering knowledge is the descending process. This is where someone tells you the information directly. You don’t need to experience it. If someone tells me that one plus one equals two, that is the descending process. If I figure out that by taking one slice of pizza today and one slice tomorrow I have eaten two slices, that is the ascending process.

Each method has its strengths and weaknesses. If your authority figure is flawed, the descending process will hurt you. Think of someone who either misinforms you or lies to you directly. In the ascending process, you can at least figure things out for yourself; you put trust in your own perceptions and judgments. Of course the descending process saves a lot of time, especially when the authority source is bona fide.

The catch with spiritual life is that the ascending process will never work. Even if you don’t believe in a supreme being per se, there is still the existence of the complete whole. We tend to think of this in terms of space, but there is time to consider as well. Think of everything that has ever happened to every single living entity that has ever existed. Then think of everything that currently exists. Take these two together and you have an understanding of God. You may refer to Him as the complete whole, but the idea is the same.

In the ascending process, it is impossible to know this complete whole. First of all, there is the race against time. There is not enough time to study everything that has ever happened. One person can’t read all the works that have ever been published. Indeed, to read the works of a single author like Vyasadeva would take an entire lifetime. Then there is the processing of the information. Then there is the remembering of all the key points. In this way we see that there are great limitations.

[Vyasadeva writing]In the descending process, you take the idea of God on authority. The idea of God is very complex, and it includes the tendencies of the human beings. In the famous Bhagavad-gita, important topics like the individual soul,the Supreme Controller, the relationship between the two, the material nature, karma and time are covered.

Through the descending process you can save a lot of time. So many others have chased after so many different things. From their experiences we can tell the result, namely of remaining unsatisfied. Much smaller in comparison is the number of individuals who have attempted to get the dust of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though they are fewer in number, their recollections are still accessible.

From accessing that information, we learn that devotion is the only path towards peace. It is the only thing worth chasing, because the gift is the person who created this and every other universe. More than simply getting a vision of Him, devotion offers the opportunity for endless engagement. One victory after another, bliss added on top of bliss, and enthusiasm that grows stronger every day - these are the real rewards.

The path leading to this goal is laid out as well. In the present age there are too many distractions that get in the way of following all the rules and regulations of spiritual life. Man is generally short-lived, unfortunate, and not very smart. He makes identifications based on skin color, country of origin, religious tradition inherited from the parents, and even sexual preference.

[maha-mantra]Though living in a degraded time period, man still has the opportunity for service to the Divine’s feet. The pathway is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Though simple and straightforward, this process has tremendous potency. The power in the sound is what eventually yields the best result. This chanting is a form of meditation, and it brings knowledge from both within and without. The descending process gives the idea of God, and the practice of devotional service brings the practical realization of His transcendental greatness.

In Closing:

All that is, was and will be,

Time and space much too big to see.


Thus defective is process ascending,

Knowledge better coming descending.


On faith first accept God’s existence,

And then realize through work persistent.


Benefit from only the dust of feet getting,

Then into eternal service, misery forgetting.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

For Rama’s Benefit

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsidasji’s hope is to become weak without devotion to Rama and to become strong with devotion to Rama. O Raghuvira, when will you make Tulsi like this, in the way of the fish and the water?” (Dohavali, 57)

tulasīdāsajīkī abhilā।sā rāma prema binu dūbaro rāma premahīṃ pīna |
raghubara kabahu'ka karahuge tulasihi jyoṃ jala mīna ||

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At the highest level, bhakti-yoga is practiced entirely for the benefit of someone else. The name “yoga” is there. “Bhakti” is also present, and so the combination automatically implies some type of self-improvement. We do yoga to fix problems with our body and mind. Bhakti is one way to practice yoga, so obviously the system must exist to help the individual who is struggling. The Bhagavad-gita confirms that all living entities are struggling in the material world. The trouble comes from the five senses, with the mind making the sixth.

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, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

[the universe]The same verse says that the living entities are the eternal fragments of God. This first part is necessary for understanding the second. The struggle is not natural. If we are part and parcel of God, children to Him in a sense, we should not have any trouble. Our father is the supreme controller. Time operates at His direction. The inconceivably vast and complex material nature, which scientists have studied for centuries and still only understood just a small fraction of, is the product of the brain of the Supreme Lord; thus making Him the smartest person in the world.

The survival instinct finds ways to avoid misery in this material existence. Yet without knowledge of the relationship to God, there is no such chance for permanent success. Even if physically there are no threats at the present moment, the mind is always there to give trouble. The two aspects causing this trouble are hankering and lamenting. One second we want something. If we don’t have it, we lament. If we are still unhappy after getting it, we start to hanker after something else. The cycle thus continues.

Bhakti-yoga helps to bring an end to the struggle. It is a way of linking the individual with the Supreme. The means is love and devotion. The other means are mental speculation, meditation and breathing, and work done with detachment. In comparison, love and devotion stand out. This is because they can include any of the other methods. You can be working and still be in devotion. Think of the mother who tirelessly looks after the family affairs out of love. She is constantly engaged in work, but she is not attached.

[digital weight scale]You can similarly be working your brain and be devoted. The Supreme Lord is described as adhokshaja and amita. The first means that His qualities cannot be measured by any blunt instruments. If you put Him on a scale, you won’t get an accurate reading of His weight. There is no way to measure infinity. God can become lighter than the lightest and heavier than the heaviest whenever He chooses. Amita means that His features are inexhaustible. Time and space alone prove this. No one knows the beginning of time or when it will end. The same goes for space.

You can surely meditate and be in devotion. Think of the famous prince named Bharata, the son of Queen Kaikeyi. He spent fourteen years living in a tiny hut, meditating on a pair of sandals the entire time. This was not done out of weakness. He was not down on life with nowhere else to turn. He was the ruling king at the time, but he did not like how that ascension took place. So at the consent of the object of meditation, he took to the renounced life.

[Bharata meditating on Rama's sandals]Those sandals belonged to Shri Rama, who is addressed in this doha from Goswami Tulsidas. Rama is Bharata’s elder brother, the rightful heir to the throne in Ayodhya during the time of King Dasharatha. Tulsidas makes a request. That is quite natural to do, as the Supreme Lord can fulfill any desire. Does Tulsidas ask for money? Does he ask for dedication to friends and family? Does he want to be a good citizen?

He asks to be like the fish with the water. Tulsidas wants it so that when he has love for Rama he becomes stronger. And when he doesn’t have this love, he becomes weaker. This is not a typical request. The word used is “abhilasa,” which means an ambition or aspiration. Tulsidas knows how difficult it is to reach the position mentioned. The person situated there is in pure devotion. They have no other desires.

This ambition is not for increasing the fame of Tulsidas. The situation is desired because it is most pleasing to Rama. To say that we love someone is to give them a nice compliment. To say that we would die without their association is nicer. The height is to say that without their association we would be like the fish outside of the water. Shri Lakshmana, another younger brother of Rama’s, voiced this sentiment during Rama’s time.

“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

[Lord Rama]In essence, we could say that Tulsidas hopes to reach a situation that would pay the highest honor to the Supreme Lord Rama. In his humility he does not realize that the desire has already been fulfilled. Bhakti-yoga is unique in that the desire itself will bring success. The same is not true in jnana, yoga, or karma. No one will mistake the life of the poet for anything besides love and devotion to Rama. And so in true selflessness, the person in pure bhakti-yoga always gets what they want: increased honor for their beloved.

In Closing:

With unflinching devotion not to cease,

Actually honor of Supreme Lord to increase.


Tulsi not wanting for personal gain,

Bhakti to please God of Rama the name.


Like comfort of fish in safe water growing,

And going outside impending death sowing.


Tulsidas this situation already accepted,

By his words Rama’s fame further projected.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Never Claiming Elevation

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsidasji’s hope is to become weak without devotion to Rama and to become strong with devotion to Rama. O Raghuvira, when will you make Tulsi like this, in the way of the fish and the water?” (Dohavali, 57)

tulasīdāsajīkī abhilā।sā rāma prema binu dūbaro rāma premahīṃ pīna |
raghubara kabahu'ka karahuge tulasihi jyoṃ jala mīna ||

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It seems paradoxical. In bhakti-yoga, the more elevated you become, the less elevated you think you are. And the sentiment is genuine. It is not merely a façade, whereby one intentionally becomes more humble only because they want to become more dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the savior of the surrendered souls. The sentiment is not anything like making a show of humility with the underlying intent of wanting attention.

The rise in humility is only natural; it is the byproduct of knowledge. The ignorant person thinks their body is everything and that all the success they see is due to their own efforts. Surely, doing the work is what makes the result happen. Shri Lakshmana confirms this. He once counseled his elder brother Rama when Rama was in a moment of despair. Lakshmana said that the good and bad results to action can only occur when there is actually some action taking place.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

[Lakshmana]If I want to get to work in the morning, I have to first get up from bed. In this sense, the successful result of reaching the office is due to my efforts. However, the outcome is not certain. Just because I arise, it doesn’t mean that I will automatically be able to reach my desired destination safely. Just because the same action led to the same result hundreds of times previously, it doesn’t mean that it is guaranteed to happen again.

The person who is a little more intelligent understands that other factors have to cooperate. There are three sources of misery in this world. The mind and body can give us pain. Other people and animals can do us harm. Then there are the acts of God. I may be in perfect physical and mental health and there may be no one around to harm me, but a sudden winter storm can wreak havoc on my morning commute. On days when I am able to successfully reach the office on time, the three sources of misery have kindly cooperated with me.

[winter]The person with the most intelligence understands that there is a cause of all causes. In the Brahma-samhita, the term used is sarva-karana-karanam. We don’t know what good or bad things will happen as a result of work. I don’t know if shoveling the snow outside will clear up the driveway or cause a muscle spasm in my back. There is a chance for either or both, but the result won’t happen unless I make the effort first.

In the same way, the infinite number of results we see in this manifest world are due to the initial work of the Supreme Being. He is everything. He glances over the dull and lifeless material substance and thereby instigates the creation. Time operates on this dull matter, which is invigorated by the injection of spirit. The combination of individual spirit and gross matter does some work that has results. This work is known as karma, and the results are effected through time.

The wise person understands all of this, and they naturally become humbler as a result. An example of that humility comes to us courtesy of Goswami Tulsidas. Here he wishes to have the same love and dependency that the fish has. The object of attachment for the fish is water. The fish cannot live outside of the water. It won’t be able to survive for long. A few moments outside of the natural habitat results in death for the fish.

Tulsidas wants the same for him with respect to love for God. He refers to this as “rama-prema.” Synonymous terms are “prema-bhakti,” “bhakti-yoga,” “krishna-prema,” and “bhakti-rasa.” The idea is to have love for God the person. Not that He is a person like you or me, but He is still a distinct individual. He is not an abstract. He is not some concept conceived in the mind. He is a real thing, a person who gives interactions and has likes and dislikes. He is a person, but a really great one. He is a person that is infallible and inexhaustible.

Tulsidas wants it so that with rama-prema he becomes stronger. And when rama-prema is absent, he wants to become weaker. This is not in relation to material strength and weakness. His personal history is a testament to this. According to legend, in early adulthood Tulsidas was a householder. This means that he had sufficient material wealth to maintain a wife and home.

[Tulsidas]In later adulthood, he became a sannyasi, which is like a mendicant by profession. He voluntarily took up sannyasa, so as to better focus on devotion to Rama. Thus in the material estimation, the situation was reversed. He seemed to become weaker the more devotion he had. The less time he had for service to the Supreme Lord, the greater his material wealth was.

But in fact, the sannyasi who follows devotion carries the most weight. They are known as the guru, which literally means “heavy.” The sannyasi has the facility to practice devotion fulltime by travelling from door to door. Under the pretense of begging for food, they teach others about devotion to Rama. They tell the preoccupied householders how to become bigger in the spiritual estimation.

Tulsidas already had the situation he wishes for. So this means that he didn’t think he was practicing devotion. The person who authored the most wonderful book in history, the Ramacharitamanasa, considered himself to be very fallen. He didn’t think that he was like the fish, but the mere request to Raghuvira showed that he couldn’t live without the Supreme Lord. The hero of the Raghu dynasty, Shri Rama, the elder brother of Lakshmana, is the life and soul of Tulsidas. The devotees can’t survive without Rama’s association, and in that height of devotional practice they consider themselves to be bereft of all good qualities. Their genuine humility is a true sign of their greatness.

In Closing:

In humility helpless feelings to grow,

When more of Supreme Lord to know.


But like paradoxical situation to see,

Since how less more can be?


Though like the fish and the water already,

Tulsi asking for that situation, devotion steady.


Without Rama hopes for living waning,

And with Him spiritual strength gaining.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Following Lakshmana

[Lakshmana]“Like the world is an enemy to the fish when it leaves the water, just think, O Tulsi, what your destination will be if you are without Rama.” (Dohavali, 56)

jyoṃ jaga bairī mīna ko āpu sahita binu bāri |
tayo tulasī raghubīra binu gati āpanī bicāri ||

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Lakshmana is one of three younger brothers to Shri Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Lakshmana is known to be the closest with Rama, with the remaining brothers Bharata and Shatrughna forming a bond since childhood. Lakshmana is known as the one who cannot be without Rama. In his youth he would not take his meals unless his elder brother had eaten first. He would not go to sleep unless Rama had fallen asleep already. Hearing of this brotherly affection warms the heart, but there is a greater meaning to be derived. Goswami Tulsidas confirms that meaning in this verse from the Dohavali.

“Like a fish out of water.” We’ve likely heard this expression before. It is quite popular. It is a quick, simple and easy way to describe the difficulty someone faces when in a situation foreign to them. For instance, if a student known for academic excellence in school suddenly gets placed on the football field, they probably won’t know what to do. Lacking knowledge is one thing, but in this situation the student is not suited for what is asked. They are not known to excel in sports; their expertise is in studies. A good way to describe their difficulty is to say that on the football field they are like a fish out of water.

“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

[Lakshmana]What is the origin of the expression? Who was the first to utter it? That task is left to historians and researchers, but we know for sure that thousands of years ago the beloved younger brother of Rama invoked it. The expression appears in the Ramayana, which is a Sanskrit work that is thousands of years old. Lakshmana did not use it to describe awkwardness. He did not use it just to say how odd he would feel in a particular situation. The expression was used to convey pure love.

The fish is meant to live in the water. To take it out and put it on land is to remove it from its natural habitat. The fish doesn’t know what to do on land. It can’t fly through the air, either. But delving further, we see that the real issue is survival. The fish cannot live outside the water. It will die rather quickly. In this sense we could say that the relationship to the water is what defines the existence of the fish.

In the same way, pure devotion to God is what defines Lakshmana. When he used the expression, he included Rama’s wife Sita as well. Lakshmana referenced time also. He told Rama that he and Sita could not live without Rama for even a moment. This is the nicest thing anyone could say to another person. If the statement is genuine, then the recipient receives the highest honor by hearing it.

It is not surprising that such an honor coming from such an honorable person was directed at the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the real lesson to take away from Lakshmana’s behavior. He loves God without motive. He continues to love without interruption. He is known as an incarnation of the original guru, or spiritual master. All bona fide representatives of the Supreme Lord feel exactly the same way; they cannot survive without God’s association for even a moment.

The couplet of Goswami Tulsidas referenced here has Lakshmana for its support. Tulsidas is following authority; he is not concocting a new truth. It is not blind sentiment. Under the pretense of giving himself advice, the poet says that the world is an enemy to the fish. Not that the world is intentionally trying to harm the fish; it’s just that the water is the natural home. The water is safer; it’s where the fish is meant to live.

In a similar manner, the devotee is meant to be with Rama. This association is known as yoga, the real meaning to it. All different styles of yoga are meant to culminate in this association through love. Jnana-yoga, karma-yoga, hatha-yoga, ashtanga-yoga - the true fruit of practicing each is to reach bhakti-yoga, which is devotional service.

Tulsidas wonders what the destination will be if Rama’s association is gone. The fish is in danger outside the water, and it is moments away from peril. The enemy that is the material consciousness attacks for many lifetimes. Time operates on the material nature, and when the jiva is in a conditioned state, they seem to be perpetually stuck in the cycle of birth and death. This is all due to the lost association of God.

[Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman]But fortunately, the association is ready to be regained at any moment. The Supreme Lord rests within the heart as the Supersoul. He is actually with us all the time, but the key is to be conscious of Him. Consciousness is the factor that determines whether or not there is association. Just like Sita and Lakshmana, Tulsidas cannot survive without Rama. Therefore he follows bhakti to the Supreme Lord for lifetime after lifetime.

In Closing:

Like a fish out of water expression made,

By Lakshmana to Rama highest honor paid.


That can’t survive for even a moment one,

That life without Him having meaning none.


Like world an enemy to the fish being,

Perpetual danger when Rama’s feet not seeing.


Words of Tulsidas not made to stand alone,

Having support of Lakshmana’s strength his own.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Dangerous World

[Rama's lotus feet]“Like the world is an enemy to the fish when it leaves the water, just think, O Tulsi, what your destination will be if you are without Rama.” (Dohavali, 56)

jyoṃ jaga bairī mīna ko āpu sahita binu bāri |
tayo tulasī raghubīra binu gati āpanī bicāri ||

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Upon maturing in intelligence, we come to a truth that is bitter, harsh, and impossible to reverse: we are going to die. This happens to everyone. No matter how strong they look now, no matter how much they have already survived, no matter how much future planning they’ve done, they will one day be forced to leave their body. One of the consequences of coming upon this truth is the realization that this world must be full of danger at every step. Goswami Tulsidas confirms this, likening the experience to what happens to the fish when it leaves the water. The analogy is appropriate because there exists a safe place for the living entity.

Death is guaranteed but its exact time of arrival is unknown. This means that anyone can die at any time. Deducing further we see that danger is everywhere; there is no safe place. If we are sitting quietly at home, thinking that everything is alright, a weather event can suddenly change things. If we’re driving home late at night in the winter, if our car breaks down, we might be in a lot of trouble. We need the car to generate heat; otherwise we will gradually freeze to death.

[time]Disease can strike at any moment. There is mental pain as well. If we get scorned by a close friend, the sting of the betrayal can remain with us for a while. In the Vedas the causes of misery are put into three categories, which are basically sources. Those sources are the body and the mind, other living entities, and the forces of nature. These miseries are the immediate cause of death as well, though in fact the actual cause is time. In Sanskrit the word for time is synonymous with death: kala.

If this world is so dangerous, is there some place that is not? Is there a place where time does not operate?

A safe place does exist and it is described in the Bhagavad-gita. The person who actually understands time does so in terms of the day and night of Lord Brahma. That day and night is billions of our years in terms of the rising and setting of the sun. The universe gets destroyed after one hundred of Brahma’s years, but there is a place that neither gets created nor annihilated. In that place time has no influence.

paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo
'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati

“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.20)

Yet this does not mean that one cannot find shelter while residing in the land where time does have an influence. The way to get that shelter is the same as for reaching the higher land that is never annihilated. Goswami Tulsidas explains in this verse from the Dohavali, where he is kindly speaking to himself, while in the process giving priceless advice to all the living entities struggling in the world.

[fish in the water]He acknowledges that the world is dangerous. He compares the experience to how the fish feels when it is taken out of water. For starters, the fish cannot survive outside the water. Its body simply won’t allow for it. Secondly, it is only out of the water for one reason: to die. It gets tricked into biting at bait, which is a trap dropped by the fisherman. Taking the bait here is equivalent to taking poison.

If the whole world is an enemy to the fish, then it must have something that is friendly. That place is the water, which Tulsidas likens to devotion to Raghuvira, who is also known as Rama. Raghuvira is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the same individual who lives in that imperishable land mentioned previously. Not only does time lack influence in Raghuvira’s home, but it has no influence on Him, either.

Devotion to Rama is an extension of Him, and so time is similarly impotent against the work of the devotee. Tulsidas reminds himself of this because it requires remembering. In this dangerous world there is the bait of the fisherman all around us. The fish only sees it in the water, but we see it everywhere. The most alluring traps are meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

The name Raghuvira means “the hero of the Raghu dynasty.” The name is intentionally used here because Rama heroically stands by the devoted soul. If they take up devotion to Him, they have no reason to fear. If they voluntarily leave His company, however, there is no telling what their future holds.

Where will they end up? There are millions of species. These are nothing more than different kinds of bodies. Think of it like walking into the largest closet in the universe, where you can try on so many different outfits. Not all clothes are the same. Some feature greater speed. Some feature an extended duration of life. Some allow for living in the water and some for flying in the air. Only the human set of clothes, however, gives facility for understanding God.

[Lord Rama]If you understand Him, you can take up devotion to Him. With devotion, you can find real safety, protection against the undefeated force known as time. With the analogy to the fish and the water, we have a better understanding of both God and devotion to Him. The wise don’t take chances with the future; they happily accept the shelter that is devotion to Raghuvira, who always seeks what is best for them.

In Closing:

Towards the bait in water to come,

Taken away, by this the fish undone.


World for living beings similarly a dangerous place,

Threefold miseries to attack even in safest space.


Changes effected through force as time known,

But no influence on Lord’s abode His own.


Same protection for the devotees there,

Safety from Raghuvira’s attention and care.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


[Hanuman]“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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Though talking to himself here, Goswami Tulsidas actually gives the best advice for anyone looking to have an interest met. Whether large or small, arriving today or tomorrow, for this life or the next - the one place to go is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is one, but He expands into non-different forms as well. The form of choice for Tulsidas is Shri Rama. Rama is also known as Raghuvira, which means “the hero of the Raghu dynasty.” In the odd chance that complete faith in Rama is difficult to extend, the poet gives further justification for having no fear. He says that Raghuvira is served by valiant warriors like Lakshmana and Hanuman.

Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and Hanuman is the chief minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva. The word used to describe them here is ranadhira, which is a compound Sanskrit word. “Rana” can mean the battlefield and “dhira” can mean brave or thoughtful. “Dhira” appears in a famous verse of the Bhagavad-gita which describes how the body changes throughout life and also at the time of death.

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)

Just as the body changes through the time between birth and death, at death the body similarly changes. The person who is “dhira” is not bewildered by these changes. Dhira here is translated to mean sober or self-realized. The exact translations may differ slightly, but the meaning is basically the same each time. Dhira means cool-headed. It means not being in panic, not getting flustered.

It’s not so difficult to remain level-headed when everything around you is quiet and calm. The same can’t be said when there is grave danger facing you. There is the famous saying from Benjamin Franklin that it is difficult for an empty sack to stand upright. If you don’t have much, how are you going to rise? How will you behave morally if you’re always in want? If you’re constantly worried about surviving, how can you be expected to think clearly?

The time most warranting panic is when life is at risk. This especially occurs on the battlefield. The aim of war is to kill people and break things. This is the sad truth, as once the choice for armed conflict has been made, the rule is that you either kill or be killed. To say that Lakshmana and Hanuman are ranadhira is to say that they are extremely level-headed. In the face of the greatest danger, they do not panic.

[Rama and Lakshmana]Lakshmana’s exploits are described in detail in the same Ramayana that is dedicated to Rama. Lakshmana defends against the wickedest creatures, people who don’t adhere to standards. In armed conflict, there are some general rules the combatants adhere to. Everyone should wear a uniform. This helps to identify for which side the soldiers are fighting. It also helps to protect the civilians, who are innocent and not taking part in the conflict.

The night-rangers in the Dandaka forest did not readily identify themselves. They particularly chose to attack at night so that they wouldn’t be seen. They could also change their shapes at will. At one moment they would appear to be innocent and downtrodden and the next they would reveal their true hideous form. The night-rangers would appear one second and disappear the next. They could do this using black magic.

Lakshmana was not afraid of them. With Rama by his side Lakshmana killed many valiant night-rangers, including Indrajit, the son of Ravana. The most formidable night-ranger of them all was Ravana, the king of Lanka. Lakshmana was one of the leading fighters in the army that defeated that powerful king.

Hanuman too fought in the war. He acted as the carrier to Rama and Lakshmana. At different times, the brothers sat on his shoulders and fired their illustrious arrows. Hanuman also bravely entered the city of Lanka prior to the war, to scope out the scene. His life was in danger at every second, but he never lost his cool. He remained dhira.

[Hanuman]The two ranadhira servants mentioned by Tulsidas help to protect devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Svartha and paramartha merge when the desire turns towards connecting for real with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Naturally, there are some reservations at the beginning. Will I be able to eat if I launch myself fulltime into devotion? Will I have friends? How will I maintain steadiness in the face of so many distractions? How will I know that my efforts are paying off? What if I don’t succeed in becoming a perfect yogi by the time I die?

kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
śaśvac-chāntiṁ nigacchati
kaunteya pratijānīhi
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)

Raghuvira is powerful enough to Himself protect the devotee from all danger. In His original form of Krishna He tells Arjuna to boldly declare that the devotee never perishes. Since death arrives eventually for everyone, the meaning here is that the devotional service will never go away. The devotee will always have that available to them. If they fear that Rama is incapable of protecting them, they should take full comfort from knowing that the valiant Lakshmana and Hanuman are there to help also.

In Closing:

Since in constant wanting state,

Hard for empty sack to stand up straight.


This proverb to the battlefield apply,

And see for state of panic then why.


Ranadhira meaning even in that place cool and aware,

Like Hanuman and Lakshmana, never of enemies scared.


Of loss in devotional efforts don’t be afraid,

Never to perish when ranadhira servants giving aid.