Saturday, May 9, 2015

Talking About All-Attractive Things

[Lord Krishna]“Ultimately, it is Krishna who is pleasing and all-attractive. He is the Supersoul of everything. And in order to give us this information, Krishna descends and tells us that the all-attractive center is He Himself. Without being an expansion of Krishna, nothing can be attractive.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 14)

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Friend-One: You know how the Sanskrit meaning to the name “Krishna” is “all-attractive?”

Friend-Two: Yeah.

F1: Well, I think I got a personal realization of that the other day.

F2: Really?

F1: But in a way that you normally wouldn’t think. I mean obviously Shri Krishna Himself is attractive. Some of the paintings you see of Him are breathtaking.

F2: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been stunned by a few of them. It got to the point that I couldn’t stop staring. I guess those make for the best altar pictures.

F1: The thing I realized is that just as Krishna is attractive, so is devotion to Him.

F2: For sure. That’s what makes Radharani so special. She is in full Krishna consciousness. There is no hint of anything else in her. Even if she’s upset, it’s because of something she thought relating to Krishna. She is never free. This is why sometimes the gopis of Vrindavana tell Krishna to go away. They can’t get rid of Him from their minds, even if they try.

[Radharani]F1: They are pretty amazing. I understand why Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that the worship of the gopis is the highest, the ideal example of devotion to God.

F2: So you see that in pictures too. I’ve had people tell me that they can see Radha’s pure devotion in a painting. They may not know everything about her, but they know that she loves Krishna so much.

F1: So you might like this, then. Krishna is all-attractive. So are Radha and the gopis. So is devotion to Him. And the realization I had - so is the book about Him.

F2: You mean the Krishna Book, the one authored by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada?

F1: Well, that’s attractive too, but I’m referring to the more famous book by the same author: Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

F2: Yeah, the translations and commentary are the best. There are Sanskrit sticklers who don’t like some of the translations, but there is no cheating involved. Prabhupada puts the synonyms first, the word for word translation. The English verse translation doesn’t matter so much after that, since it’s impossible to get the full meaning across from the original Sanskrit.

F1: See, you thought I was talking about the inside of the book. That’s interesting. What you said is true. There is no denying that for anyone who has read Bhagavad-gita As It Is with an open mind. But I’m referring to the outside.

F2: Like the cover and such?

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]F1: Yeah, just the whole presentation. I was sitting in someone’s home and they had it out on a side table. This was the first full edition published. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I marveled at how beautiful it was. The first thing that came to mind was “all-attractive.”

F2: Wow. That’s great. You know the effect is intentional, right?

F1: I realized that too. First off, anyone could have put the “As It Is” at the end of the title to their Bhagavad-gita book. I mean there are hundreds of translations. But only Prabhupada had the confidence or even the desire to add those three important words.

F2: Right. If you’re not following the final conclusion of the Gita, surrender to Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, you’ll think that your translation is as bona fide as anyone else’s. This is because your translation relies only on mental speculation, which any person can apply.

F1: And Prabhupada relies on the disciplic succession, which Krishna Himself speaks of in the Gita. He says to approach a guru to understand the truth. He does not say to mentally speculate on the matter and then reach a conclusion from within.

tad viddhi praṇipātena
paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

[Prabhupada and the disciplic succession]F2: Yeah. The “As It Is” is from the authority of parampara. Thus there is no fear in applying that description.

F1: I got to thinking that no other book is so attractive. No other translation of the Gita, either, though that is just my opinion. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder thinks that no other Bhagavad-gita book compares to Prabhupada’s. You can tell just by the outside.

F2: Since it looks so nice?

F1: Because it’s all-attractive like Krishna. It is just like Him. It is Him, if you think about it. Everything attractive in this world emanates from the all-attractive one. The book that displays that original attractiveness would best represent that person.

F2: I can’t argue with you. And the inside further substantiates your claim. You won’t find philosophy like that anywhere else. You won’t find every religion explained in a single book like that. In fact, each religion is trying to tell you that theirs is superior, without properly explaining everything about man and his tendencies and why the different species exist.

F1: Yeah, the five topics of the Bhagavad-gita make it a philosophy that is also all-attractive.

F2: The supreme controller, the living entities, material nature, time and karma - you won’t find these five things explained in a single work except for the Gita. Prabhupada and the disciplic succession explain these topics in a way that we’ll understand. We don’t live in the same culture that existed during the time the Bhagavad-gita was spoken to Arjuna. That is why we need things explained to us. That is the reason for the commentary.

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]F1: Yeah, and if you don’t see Krishna as the all-attractive, original being, your commentary won’t be valid. To present the Bhagavad-gita is to present Shri Krishna Himself, and I think Bhagavad-gita As It Is hits the mark.

In Closing:

What the purpose to translation writing,

When as all-attractive Krishna not sighting?


Bhagavad-gita to the Lord the same,

From Supreme words to Arjuna came.


From title and illustrative cover both,

Prabhupada’s book attractive the most.


And the same when looking inside,

No other place discussing topics five.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Talking About Rejecting The Starting Point

[Bhagavad-gita]“And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.70)

adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ
dharmyaṁ saṁvādam āvayoḥ
jñāna-yajñena tenāham
iṣṭaḥ syām iti me matiḥ

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Friend-One: It’s amazing that so much philosophy comes from such a short work.

Friend-Two: You read a new book?

F1: No, silly. I’m talking about the Bhagavad-gita. Though the authorized translations and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada make for a formidable read, if you took just the verses from the original text found in the Mahabharata the book wouldn’t be that big.

F2: Yeah. Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is turns into an encyclopedia or a reference book the more times you read it and the more you know about the philosophy. I see what you’re saying, though. Even the size of that book is due to the verses themselves; which shows how profound and deep the words of Shri Krishna are.

[Prabhupada teaching Bhagavad-gita]F1: I mean every discussion we have points back to that book in some way. You bring up death - boom, you have that verse describing how death is simply the shedding of the body, like taking off clothes. You bring up happiness - bam, you have that verse about how a person should be steady in both happiness and sadness.

F2: The death thing is really important. Everyone is initially afraid of it. And why wouldn’t you be? You have no idea where you’re going next, if anywhere. The fact that the Bhagavad-gita provides so much insight into that mystery makes it worth holding on to for the duration of life.

F1: Here’s a potential issue I see when discussing with others.

F2: Okay.

F1: What if someone doesn’t accept the Bhagavad-gita?

F2: Because they’ve never heard of it? That’s our job. To the inquisitive and open minded, who is finally sick of wandering through the cycle of birth and death many times over, who is looking for the meaning to the seemingly perpetual existence, who is looking for the shore after being stuck out in the vast ocean of suffering for so long - to them this philosophy is like a life-saving boat. Shri Krishna Himself says that He is the swift-deliverer of this rescue.

ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
ananyenaiva yogena
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
mayy āveśita-cetasām

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)

[Krishna offering a rescuing hand]Symbolically, and sometimes even literally, He arrives on His eagle-carrier Garuda and offers His outstretched arm, which is beautiful in every way.

F1: That’s pretty good, but it doesn’t solve the issue I’m talking about. Say that we bring up points from this rich philosophy, the secret of all secrets. Say that after doing so, the person responds with, “Well, the Bhagavad-gita is your book. I don’t accept it.”

F2: I see. So if you encounter something like dogmatic insistence, what should you do?

F1: Right. And to these people, we look dogmatic. We are worshiping a blue God who carries a flute and walks around with cows. I can understand why it would look strange to them. We seem to have a level of desperation too, asking people to immerse themselves in this philosophy or otherwise continue to be miserable.

F2: Well, here’s one thing. Any person can use the “my book says” argument. Anyone can use dogmatic insistence as justification for their way of life. The intelligent person would spot this and try to go beyond it. That’s really what the Bhagavad-gita is for. If you’re done with following blind faith, with just going along with the religion or way of life you inherited, this philosophy is worth reading. You will learn every other philosophy along the way. You will understand why there are different religions in the first place. You will see the face behind the abstract that is God. You’ll see the detail behind the bright light of transcendence.

F1: Again, that’s all true. But you’re not answering my question. What should we do if someone says they don’t accept the Bhagavad-gita as authority? We can’t really quote verses to them, then.

F2: But you have to think about what they are refusing to accept.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: The fundamental truth of Vedanta philosophy is that the living entity is not their body. That is what the Bhagavad-gita describes in the opening. This is done on purpose. This is the first mistake made by the living entity, and it remains until they are taught otherwise. Someone who refuses to accept the Bhagavad-gita as authority essentially rejects this fundamental truth.

F1: I see. And though it is included in a book that is considered religious or mystical, the truth is actually easy to see.

[Lord Krishna]F2: Precisely. Krishna doesn’t just tell us things. He shows us how they are true. That is the reason for all the comparisons. He is the one that tells us that death is like getting rid of clothes. Arjuna says that taming the desirous mind is like controlling the wind. Krishna describes the impersonal Brahman, which is equivalent to the concept of God that most people have. These are things that people accept already; they live within these laws of the material and spiritual natures.

F1: Oh, that’s good. I like that.

F2: The situation you described - it’s like trying to teach science to someone who refuses to accept gravity. It’s a waste of time. If someone told you that they refuse to accept that one plus one equals two, what use would teaching math to them be?

F1: No use at all. If they don’t accept something basic like that, how will they learn anything else?

F2: Krishna gives so many pathways in the Bhagavad-gita. He doesn’t even dismiss the worship of the impersonal Brahman outright. He does not force surrender. You can read the Bhagavad-gita and keep your obstinacy, but your ignorance won’t remain for long. It begins with a little open-mindedness. If that is missing then so is the chance of becoming truly enlightened, which only the human being has the potential for.

In Closing:

Bhagavad-gita everything to explain,

Knowledge of all religions to gain.


If at the outset to reject,

And basic facts not to accept.


If unwilling towards truth to be led,

Then no point in moving ahead.


Like for math two plus two knowing,

From soul’s identity then going.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Talking About Banana Peels

[banana slices]“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

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Friend-One: Alright, this time I’m forwarding a question from someone else.

Friend-Two: What, you weren’t able to answer it? Aren’t you the expert now? The other day you were telling me how much caffeine is in chocolate, as if I didn’t already know.

F1: And don’t forget the theobromine. Is it my fault that I get excited by this stuff that I knew nothing about before?

F2: So let me hear it. I bet you could have answered it correctly.

F1: Okay, so this person asked me if I knew what Krishna’s preferred drink is. For instance, does he like coconut water? What about mango juice? They wanted to know if from Krishna’s pastimes I could tell His favorite beverage.

F2: And what was your response?

[Krishna with butter]F1: I honestly couldn’t come up with a good answer. I thought for a second. I remembered that He likes butter. I think everyone knows that. It’s part of what makes Krishna so endearing. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet He appears as a naughty child in Gokula and runs around stealing. He likes the butter so much that He eats it straight out of the pot.

F2: Yeah. I’ve eaten butter like that a few times while at restaurants. I did it without thinking and my friends would always chide me. “You realize that’s not civilized behavior, right?” That’s what they would ask me [laughing].

F1: That’s funny. So the butter was the only thing I could remember. I thought maybe you could shed some light.

F2: You obviously forgot about the verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna talks about offerings.

F1: I didn’t. He says that one can offer Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water and He will accept it. He isn’t specific, though.

F2: But why will He accept it? Is He looking to eat? Do you mean to say that God is starving for food and He expects others to deliver it to Him?

F1: The key is love and devotion. The mood of the offering is what is important.

F2: Bingo. That’s the reason He likes the butter so much in Vrindavana.

F1: Ah, so it’s because of the cows and the people? Their hearts are full of pure love for God, and that’s why He goes so far to make schemes to steal the butter. I totally overlooked that.

[Rama with Shabari]F2: Yes, you did. In His descent as Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord accepted wild berries at the hermitage of Shabari. That was all that she could offer, but Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana did not mind. The Supreme Lord never puts stock in the material quality of an offering. To Him there is no difference between material and spiritual; everything is the same to Him. He looks for love and devotion. Through that, something typically considered low quality becomes high quality. In the same way, an object of otherwise high quality but offered without love and devotion is rejected by Him.

F1: So the right answer would be that Krishna will drink whatever fruit juice you offer, provided you have devotion to Him?

F2: What to speak of fruits, He’ll even eat the peels. There is the famous story of the visit to Vidura’s house. The five Pandava brothers were Krishna’s cousins. They are the central characters of the famous Mahabharata, in which the Bhagavad-gita is found.

F1: Vidura was an uncle to the Pandavas, right?

F2: Yeah. So Krishna visited one time. Now there are variations to the story. The pastimes of the Supreme Lord take place eternally, spanning all of space. This means that right now He is stealing someone’s butter in some Vrindavana of some universe. It’s not that the pastimes only take place on this earth. So since the events take place so many times, there are little variations here and there.

F1: Got it.

F2: So with this visit, sometimes it is Vidura who greets Krishna with offerings and sometimes it is Vidura’s wife. Anyway, the lesson is the same. As a good host, Vidura immediately looks to offer some food to Krishna. He is so happy because he has so much love. So he goes to the kitchen to give some bananas, but in his joy he brings the banana peels instead.

F1: That’s funny. So he left the bananas in the kitchen and brought with him the peels?

[banana peel]F2: And Krishna just eats it as if there’s no problem. He did not say anything. The Supreme Lord teaches many lessons in a single interaction. Here we get the example of how to be an ideal guest. If the offering is made nicely, even if it supposedly tastes bad we should not say anything.

F1: What happened to the bananas?

F2: Vidura eventually came back to normal consciousness and he saw his mistake. Krishna still insisted that the banana peels tasted great. The other version to the story is that Vidura’s wife is the one who makes the offering of banana peels. The outcome is still the same.

F1: Wow. That’s a heartwarming story. Really unbelievable.

F2: I know. You could meditate on that for years. Goswami Tulsidas says that Shri Rama is a mine of politeness. The mine is a good comparison because it means that there is so much there to take. So Krishna gave a glimpse into that politeness when at Vidura’s house.

F1: I was just thinking something. If the offering was made without love and devotion, Krishna would have reason to be upset.

F2: Why is that?

F1: Because obviously the host would be looking for something. They’d be expecting a reward. And so with that motive in mind, the quality of their offering suffered. It means that they are a miser or that they are blinded by their passion to get something from Krishna.

F2: That’s a good point. Yeah, Vidura is a pure devotee. He doesn’t want anything in return. That’s the determining factor for whether or not Krishna will accept the offering.

In Closing:

For His pleasure to think,

What is Krishna’s favorite drink?


If with love given seat,

Even banana’s peel He’ll eat.


Like with Vidura shown,

When invited to his home.


For love and devotion just seeing,

Then pleased with offering being.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Having Compassion For God

[Rohini and Yashoda]“After this purificatory process, the gopis, headed by mother Yashoda and Rohini, chanted twelve names of Vishnu to give Krishna's body full protection from all evil influences. They washed their hands and feet and sipped water three times, as is the custom before chanting mantra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

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Why should there be compassion for God? Is He poor? There is the concept of daridra-narayana, that the Supreme has fallen into a lowly condition and thus should be served through helping the poor, but this has no validity when logic is applied. He is never poor. Narayana is with the goddess of fortune Lakshmi. If He wants, He can create innumerable universes. It is we who need the compassion. It is we who are struggling. Despite all of this, the gopis of Vrindavana have tremendous compassion for God. Their example shows another way in which bhakti-yoga stands above all other kinds of religion.

Can there be different kinds of religion? Is God not one? If I say that a single person created everything and everyone, it doesn’t really matter what I call them. They are still the same person worshiped, regardless of tradition. If it’s the same person, how can there be more than one religion?

[judge's gavel]The varieties arise due to desire and resulting relationships. We can take the high court judge as an example. They are one person, but they play different roles to different people. In the courtroom they are respected as the final arbiter to adjudicate disagreements. Prior to that they were a student in the classroom of a law college. When they go home from work, they are a husband to a wife. They are a father to children. In the town council meeting, they are a concerned citizen.

There are relationships specific to each of these roles. There are specific things desired as well. In the same way, though God is one, there are different ways to view and approach Him. Some consider Him an enemy.

“You have ruined my life. You gave me trouble right from the start. People say that you are a mine of politeness, but I beg to disagree. You are mean and vindictive. Otherwise, how could you allow so many bad things to happen? If you exist at all, you are not as intelligent as people say.”

Most commonly He is seen as an order supplier. We give payment in business transactions to exchange goods and services, and in a similar manner the method of payment for receiving things from God is prayer.

“O Lord, please help me. I’m in a lot of trouble. I don’t ask you for things too often. If you come through for me this time, I swear that I’ll be good from now on. I’ll stop doing so many bad things. Please give me a sign that you hear me.”

Despite the mood when initially approaching God, He is still the same person. There are different relationships, but this does not mean that God multiplies into different personalities. He is surely capable of this, but He is always one. He already expands into each heart as the Supersoul. As an individual soul, we remain localized to the body we accepted at the time of birth. Apart from the rare instance of mystic perfection we cannot spread our influence to other bodies. God already does, and He remains singular at the same time. This is His greatness.

Bhakti-yoga is unique in that it is the lone relationship with God where the Supreme gets viewed as a dependent. You can only have compassion on someone if you think they are capable of being in danger. You can only have this attitude towards the Supreme Lord if you are not always consciously aware of His stature, which is as the highest person in all the universes.

[Mother Yashoda]We can look to the example of the gopis. They see the Supreme Lord in His original form of Shri Krishna. This form is perpetually in bliss and it is all-attractive. If there is one thing to know about God, it is that every aspect to Him is attractive. Everyone follows Him to some degree, even the atheists. In the lowest stage of understanding, He is known as all-devouring death, and in the highest stage as the adorable child of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja.

ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
mama vartmānuvartante
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ

“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

[Everyone following Krishna]The gopis might see Krishna do amazing things from time to time. In Gokula Vrindavana some five thousand years ago, He thwarted the attacks of powerful enemies. Krishna was displaying the body of a small boy at the time. The gopis, the cowherd women of the community, knew that Krishna was special, but they did not keep conscious awareness of His divine nature. They worried for Him. They were so compassionate that they prayed to God for His welfare. Once when Krishna survived the attack of a powerful witch, the gopis chanted the names of Narayana for His protection. Krishna is the same Narayana, but they did not see this.

This relationship to God is considered a higher stage of worship since there is more enjoyment derived. When you look at the Supreme as only an order supplier, the relationship you have to Him is not bringing much enjoyment. After all, anything material must go away at some point. Therefore what you asked for from God brings you little satisfaction; you approached Him and didn’t get the full benefit of the exchange. The highest taste is bhakti-rasa, where you love the all-attractive one so much that your first inclination is to give to Him in compassion.

In Closing:

With different intentions to go,

So varying ways for God to know.


Bhakti-yoga to the all-attractive one,

The stage where asking for things none.


Compassion to Him giving,

So He with protection living.


Like after Putana the gopis in Vrindavana,

For Krishna chanted the names of Narayana.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Talking About Too Many Celebrations

[Mother Yashoda with Krishna]“Shukadeva Gosvami said: When mother Yashoda's baby was slanting His body to attempt to rise and turn around, this attempt was observed by a Vedic ceremony. In such a ceremony, called utthana, which is performed when a child is due to leave the house for the first time, the child is properly bathed. Just after Krishna turned three months old, mother Yashoda celebrated this ceremony with other women of the neighborhood. On that day, there was a conjunction of the moon with the constellation Rohini. As the brahmanas joined by chanting Vedic hymns and professional musicians also took part, this great ceremony was observed by mother Yashoda.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.7.4)

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śrī-śuka uvāca
kadācid autthānika-kautukāplave
janmarkṣa-yoge samaveta-yoṣitām
cakāra sūnor abhiṣecanaṁ satī

Friend-One: I’ve heard it said that in bhakti-yoga the Supreme Lord helps you out.

Friend-Two: If you are sincere.

F1: Does that mean you don’t get help if you’re not in bhakti?

F2: What would you need help in?

F1: You know, for success. Like if I want to do well on an exam, if I pray to the Supreme Lord Krishna, He might not help me, right? Because that kind of prayer doesn’t qualify as bhakti.

F2: The material nature already handles that. Karma determines the results. Approaching Him is never a bad idea, but He might not help you in the way that you think.

F1: Why not?

F2: You can’t predict the future. You don’t know if passing that exam will ultimately do you good. You think the request is innocent enough, but if that success has the potential to lead you in the wrong direction, the Supreme Lord will actually intentionally deny your request.

F1: So then He does help in that situation. So even if I don’t want love and devotion, by going to Him I’m essentially practicing it?

[Krishna's lotus feet]F2: Your devotion is not pure, that is for sure. Hey, that rhymes. [smiling] The idea is that when you have sincerity in the bhakti path, you get a lot of help along the way. In any other path, you’re at the mercy of the material nature and karma. Most people in the situation you described will not go to Krishna. They know that He might not agree. Therefore they go to other divine figures, gods assigned for specific rewards.

F1: And those gods don’t look out for you, right? It’s like buying a knife from a store. You give the store owner the proper payment and they give you the product. They’re not concerned with how you intend to use the knife.

F2: Exactly.

F1: So say that I am sincere in my desire to be devoted to God. How does He give help? Does He descend to earth? Does He appear in a vision to give me confidence?

F2: Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, but you’re thinking a little too much here. What is devotion to God? What is bhakti-yoga?

F1: I’ve heard it translated as “Krishna consciousness.”

F2: Consciousness. Exactly. So that’s how He’ll help you.

F1: He’ll make me conscious?

F2: Yeah, He’ll give you ways to always be conscious of Him. Think of the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

F1: Right. You chant this on a set of japa beads. You go around the string of 108 beads to complete one round. Then you try to do at least sixteen of these rounds in a day.

F2: That takes up some time, does it not?

F1: And during that time you’re conscious of Krishna, at least ideally. Okay, that makes sense to me. So you’re saying the japa mala is one way that He helps the devoted soul.

F2: There are so many ways that we don’t even realize. Think of the Vaishnava holidays.

F1: You know, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. It seems the other religions have way fewer holidays. Maybe a handful in a given year. In Krishna consciousness, it seems like there is one every single day. I mean how is that possible? Is there really that much to celebrate?

F2: That’s what happens when you learn that God is a person. When you know that He is all-attractive and living eternally, both forwards and backwards in the time continuum, how can every moment not be worth celebrating?

F1: But if you’re celebrating all the time, doesn’t the concept of a holiday lose its value? So many people watch the National Football League each Sunday precisely because the games are only on once a week. If the same team played every day, the ratings would be a lot lower.

F2: That’s an inaccurate comparison. Krishna is endlessly great. It is not that you celebrate Him on one day and then have nothing left for the next day. He is infinitely complex, and in each aspect there is sweetness. Do you know that in Vrindavana they celebrated when Krishna rolled over for the first time?

F1: Oh, you mean when He was living in the home of Nanda Maharaja?

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]F2: Yeah. Mother Yashoda held a ceremony when she saw her darling child attempting to turn around and rise for the first time. It meant that He was ready for His first trip outside of the home. So she invited people over to celebrate the occasion.

F1: You know, just thinking about this makes me feel good. It must have been a nice celebration. I’ve read that Yashoda was very good at cooking. It makes sense if you think about it. Shri Krishna Himself enjoyed what she offered to Him.

F2: Mind you, she always celebrated her son. While churning butter during the day, she would compose songs about His pastimes. She enjoyed when Krishna grabbed hold of the tail of a calf and got taken for a ride through the mud.

“Sometimes the naughty babies would crawl up to the cowshed, catch the tail of a calf and stand up. The calves, being disturbed, would immediately begin running here and there, and the children would be dragged over clay and cow dung. To see this fun, Yashoda and Rohini would call all their neighboring friends, the gopis.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

[Krishna holding cow's tail]She and her friends enjoyed when Krishna tried to speak words for the first time.

F1: By giving so many opportunities for celebration, He’s making it almost impossible to not be conscious of Him.

F2: If you’re observing these festivals, then “yes.” You don’t have to remember every single one, but you should know that in bhakti Krishna goes above and beyond what is required to ensure your safe passage back home, back to His kingdom.

In Closing:

If feet in bhakti’s path set,

Help from Krishna to get.


Like celebrations in calendar filled,

Then habit of devotion instilled.


When with rolling over delighted,

Friends to home Yashoda invited.


Lord’s mercy to never leave you alone,

Paving the path back to His home.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Destruction Of The Empty Spaces

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

prakṛtiṁ svām avaṣṭabhya
visṛjāmi punaḥ punaḥ
bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam
avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt

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Question: “I had a recent experience that got me to thinking. I was looking at old pictures of friends and family. Instead of making me happy, it only made me sad. Many of those people are gone today. The older generation doesn’t look nearly as good now as they do in the pictures. Then I realized that the time went by so quickly. The changes between the past and the present were right there in front of me to observe. And that picture is nothing more than a representation of the present at some point. Doesn’t this mean that life is depressing? What we have right now is destined to go away. Obviously I have known this all along, but seeing the fact facing me directly got me to thinking. What is the point to life?”

Time works in both directions. The tendency is to think only of the past, but there is the infinite future as well. For example, when an athlete is crowned “the greatest of all-time” for their achievements, the true meaning is that up until the present no one has performed as well as them. The word “all” has a specific meaning, though. The title here implies that no one in the future will ever be as great as this player, which is something that no person actually knows. From the Bhagavad-gita we know one thing for sure: everything is destined to be destroyed.

That paints a rather bleak picture. Is the speaker of the Gita trying to make people sad? Is He trying to depress them? The fact is that as soon as something is born, it must die. The timer starts upon exit from the womb. We think that the timer relates to maturation. When will the child say its first word? When will it begin to crawl? What kind of person will it be in adulthood? How will it find happiness?

Actually, as time continues the newborn comes closer and closer to ultimate death. What exactly is that dreaded event? It is the end of everything within that lifetime. The individual remains the same. Between the points in time of childhood and adulthood they are identical. What changes is their covering, which consists of material elements. When we look at someone, we see this material covering. We can’t see the soul, which is finer than intelligence, ego and mind.

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur
indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ

“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.42)

As clothes start to wear out and grow old, the same applies to the material covering on the individual. This fact is only depressing when one doesn’t know their true identity. When they don’t know their real nature, they mistakenly take their temporary body to be everything. In this mindset they are guaranteed to be depressed, as loss is bound to happen. Just as that body is acquired, it must be rejected at some point.

[God creating the universe]The destruction takes place through time, which is one way to understand God. The term “atheism” is somewhat misunderstood, as it is impossible to entirely reject the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ignorance is simply the opposite side to intelligence. As everything is rooted in God, ignorance must be included. Atheism is simply a limited understanding of the Supreme, where the highest deity is understood through the impersonal force known as time, whose ultimate weapon is death.

The same God who destroys everything, including the cosmic creation at some point, causing depression can bring the individual’s spirits back to life. He does this through His personal presence. Knowledge of this personal presence is what equates to the term “theism.” The more you know, the more advanced you become, and the less depressed you are.

This presence is never the cause for depression. For this reason it comes primarily through sound. We see this and see that and then become depressed. Not right away, but eventually what we see will be the cause of depression. This is because we see only the material. God is completely spiritual, so we are not yet qualified to see Him, though He is around us everywhere. If we can’t even see our own true identity, how can we see the life of everything that lives?

He arrives through sound to rescue us. The sound can be of His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The sound can be the words of wisdom He gives, such as those offered to Arjuna in the famous Bhagavad-gita.

iti guhyatamaṁ śāstram
idam uktaṁ mayānagha
etad buddhvā buddhimān syāt
kṛta-kṛtyaś ca bhārata

“This is the most confidential part of the Vedic scriptures, O sinless one, and it is disclosed now by Me. Whoever understands this will become wise, and his endeavors will know perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.20)

[Lord Krishna]The sound can also be words that describe Him, such as those found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Brahma-samhita, the Puranas or any work derived from original Vedic literature. The sounds create His image in the mind and on paper. The image of the all-attractive Supreme Lord brings the depressed individual back to life, for it gives an indication of their blessed future. Should they choose to associate with the personal aspect of God, they get to enjoy in the place where time lacks a negative influence. They get to be with the controller of time, who slashes away the depression of ignorance with the joy of knowledge.

In Closing:

From old picture seeing changed face,

What of this life, destruction of empty space.


Reason that for getting true joy abound,

From the Vedas descending a sound.


In maha-mantra the Lord’s name,

And words describing Him the same.


Then ignorance to be none,

Since joy from this to come.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Talking About Spoiling Their Chance

[Radha and Krishna]“Everyone is eligible for the supreme destination. In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that even the lowest, who are called chandalas (dog-eaters), can be elevated by association with a pure devotee. Therefore devotional service and guidance of a pure devotee are so strong that there is no discrimination between the lower and higher classes of men; anyone can take to it.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32 Purport)

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Friend-One: I often hear the concept of a “sinful birth.” I’m not exactly sure what it means. I thought everyone is sinful for having taken birth?

Friend-Two: It just depends on which viewpoint you’re applying. For instance, every person is a purusha.

F1: Which means “person” or “enjoyer.”

F2: Right. This is distinguished from prakriti, or that which is enjoyed. I am a purusha and so are you. In fact, the Sanskrit word to describe human effort is “paurusham.”

F1: And that obviously derives from purusha.

F2: Yet in the Bhagavad-gita at one point Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, refers to the living entities as prakriti. They are a superior kind of nature.

F1: So we’re both purusha and prakriti?

F2: Purusha at the local level. We are the person animating the lifeless body. At the higher level, we are the energy of God, inferior to Him.

F1: Okay, thanks. I forgot my question now. You always do this.

F2: [laughing] The thing about sinful births.

F1: Oh yeah. So I’m guessing this has to do with your definition of sinful.

F2: We use the Bhagavad-gita again to figure this out. We learn that whatever conception of mind there is at the time of death, that state the individual soul attains without fail.

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

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

[Bhagavad-gita]Since we know for a fact that we were born here, it means that previously our consciousness related to this world, which is temporary and miserable.

F1: Hence, we’re sinners for having taken birth. I knew that.

F2: You shouldn’t move from this point so quickly. It gives you a good idea of piety and sin. Piety is what brings you closer to the desired God consciousness at the time of death, and sin is what takes you further away from it. Piety is helpful and sin is not. This is a much better definition than “you should do this and you shouldn’t do that because some book tells me so.

F1: Okay, but what are the sinful births that I hear about?

F2: So in that realm there is an assessment based on the potential for understanding God and achieving perfection in a single lifetime. As an example, an animal can’t understand God. It can’t follow principles. You can train a dog to do certain things, but it is not like it has decided one day to follow renunciation in order to meet a better end. It only knows animal instincts. So sinful here can mean “lower” and pious “higher.” The animal is in a lower birth and the human being a higher one.

F1: And then within the human species there is sinful and pious in terms of birth.

F2: Yeah. You’ll hear that being born a woman is sinful. The same for taking birth in a family of laborers; even businessmen are included. That’s not what you’d think considering the fact that in the industrialized nations each person is brought up to be a businessman of some kind. That’s really what the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” means. It’s essentially asking what kind of business do you want to go into when you’re an adult.

F1: I could see people getting offended over this, especially the woman thing. Isn’t everyone equal spiritually?

F2: They are. These are just generalizations that factor in tendencies and the sort. The idea is that certain births are more conducive to understanding the difference between matter and spirit. It’s as simple as that.

F1: Doesn’t Krishna also say that for devotion to Him, anyone can practice? Anyone can be rescued through that path.

F2: Exactly. He specifically mentions women, laborers and merchants. We have so many historical examples at which to look. In His incarnation of Shri Rama, His best friends were forest-dwellers. They were like monkeys in behavior. He gave mercy to the female ascetic Shabari and the tribal boatman Kevata. So in both theory and practice any person is eligible to be liberated in this very life. Indeed, when Krishna descended as Lord Chaitanya, many animals were liberated through His grace.

[Rama with Shabari]F1: And then I heard that in this age everyone is born in the lowest division, the shudra? They are the laborers, and they are known to easily lament over things, especially the temporary body.

F2: Exactly. Everyone is born into the dualities of desire and hate, which they determine by what gives satisfaction to their temporary body. A man is born with this tendency, as is a woman. The same for a priest and a laborer. It is not until you get some culture, some training in the spiritual science, that your birth really becomes worthwhile. That’s why the higher classes are known as dvija, or twice-born. The second birth is through initiation from a bona fide spiritual master.

F1: Alright, so here’s another question. The person born into a family of dvijas, they would be considered pious by birth. Yet if they don’t take to spiritual life, they would have to be more fallen than the rest, no?

F2: That’s a great point. Yeah, you would have to consider them to be more sinful than the person with the supposed sinful birth. These people are known as dvija-bandhus, which translates to “friends or relatives of a twice-born person.”

F1: I mean they had a great chance and they blew it. They have to be the lowest, in my opinion.

F2: They get the chance to grow up in a culture free of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. They learn about Krishna and Rama at an early age. If they don’t take up bhakti-yoga it is a real shame. And yet Krishna saves them as well. As fallen as they are, He will rescue them if they eventually take up devotion to Him. So that is also proof of the mercy of the Supreme Lord. It doesn’t matter from where you came; it matters to where you are going.

In Closing:

Mattering not from where you came,

All can have destination the same.


Women, laborer, merchant whether,

In bhakti one to other not better.


Example of Shri Rama just look,

How fruits from Shabari took.


Fallen the most the dvija-bandhu is,

Still can become Krishna devotee His.