Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kissing The Ring

[Sita and Rama]“Anyone who loves Sita and Rama more than himself, Tulsi would gladly use the skin from his own body to make their shoes.” (Dohavali, 59)

āpu āpane teṁ adhika jehi priya sītārāma |
tehi ke paga kī pānahī tulasī tanu ko cāma ||

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Anyone aspiring to advance in a particular field sees that there are already people at the top. The successful provide an example for those wishing to reach the same height. There is valuable insight to be gained from such people, and therefore it is not surprising to see meetings between higher and lower. The concept of “kissing the ring” is paying respect to a higher personality in order to get their blessings. In the realm of bhakti literature, no one is higher than Goswami Tulsidas. And through this verse from the Dohavali he reveals that he is willing to become someone’s servant if they surpass him in the respective field.

Bhakti is love and devotion. It is superior to jnana, vairagya, dhyana, ashtanga and other kinds of transcendentalism coming from the Vedic tradition, the oldest in the world. Bhakti is often paired with the term yoga; the love and devotion are meant to be used in connecting with the Divine. The Divine is already all around us. Everything rests upon Him, like pearls strung on a thread. His influence is woven through the universe, in both the large and the small.

mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva

“O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)

Vairagya is renunciation. It is a means for achieving the end of devotion to God. Dhyana is concentration and ashtanga is the eight-fold system of mysticism commonly known today by the term “yoga.” Bhakti is always superior to the means because the means doesn’t necessarily bring the proper understanding. The Bhagavad-gita, the most famous Vedic text and the one cited as authority by anyone who knows the spirit soul in truth, says that the most confidential knowledge is the truth that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The person who knows this knows everything needed to be known.

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)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]This makes sense if we think about it. Karma is fruitive action. Action that brings results, either good or bad - that is karma. Our past karma determined our present circumstances. The travel through time, with the changing of bodies, takes place for the spirit soul, which is thus the identifying factor at the individual level. The exact manner in which the transport to the next body takes place is determined by the consciousness at the time of death. The reason the knowledge of Krishna is the most important is because consciousness of Him brings the best destination in the afterlife.

anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Renunciation doesn’t automatically bring this consciousness. I can be totally detached from the world, living in a remote cave and barely eating anything. I can be free of the demands of sex life in marriage, of society’s desire for my financial advancement, of the pressures to run a large state. But in the mind I still might have desires.

Similarly, I could be the wisest person, who knows how to solve complex math equations, who can figure out a way to cheat anyone with persuasive words. But none of these things will matter at the time of death. It is the consciousness which counts. You can be totally wrong about everything. You could have aligned yourself with the wrong political party your whole life. You could have thought incorrectly about good people through honest mistakes. Still, if you are conscious of Krishna, the Supreme Lord, and ready to serve Him in thought, word and deed, you have succeeded in life.

For such a person, Goswami Tulsidas is ready to give up his skin to be used as shoes. Those shoes would then adorn that person, who is a devotee of Sita and Rama. Krishna is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He expands into Shri Ramachandra, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Ramachandra’s eternal consort is Sita Devi, and this is the couple that Tulsidas worships.

[Sita and Rama]That worship is so pure that Tulsidas only seeks the pleasure of Sita and Rama. When he sees someone else worshiping them in the same way, he thinks that person is superior to him. This is the poet’s genuine humility. Rather than ask anyone to kiss his ring, he is willing to become their shoes. He is ready to serve them. Indeed, his beautiful works of literature are service to all of mankind, showing to them the knowledge, renunciation and self-control to help bring them to the bhakti platform, which is the height of an existence.

In Closing:

Since in his works God’s glories to sing,

Tulsi of high stature, benefit to kiss his ring.


But when others in same devotion seeing,

Ready to make their shoes from his skin freeing.


Part of his humility real,

Sita and Rama not for only one to steal.


Let all in bliss of devotion spend,

All paths meant in bhakti to end.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Organ Donation

[Sita and Rama]“Anyone who loves Sita and Rama more than himself, Tulsi would gladly use the skin from his own body to make their shoes.” (Dohavali, 59)

āpu āpane teṁ adhika jehi priya sītārāma |
tehi ke paga kī pānahī tulasī tanu ko cāma ||

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It is said that the neophyte in bhakti-yoga thinks only of their own, small universe. That is to say when they worship, they consider that the only things of importance are themselves and the object of worship. This viewpoint is helpful in the beginning, as since childhood the identification is with the individual and its interests. Known as svartha in Sanskrit, there is an accompanying term called paramartha, which relates to the same interest but arriving in the afterlife. In bhakti-yoga, the focus is on someone else’s pleasure, and the more one matures in serving the more they appreciate the same relationship that others have.

The concept is not so difficult to understand. We can take the example of our parents. We’ve likely known them the longest. If both our parents were there when we exited the womb, then they get the distinction of being the first people we knew in our journey through life. They protected us when we were young. They guided us along the straight and narrow path. They had no fear in saying the one word that every parent must say over and over in order to be effective at what they do: “No.”

In youth the parents are everything to us. It’s natural to love them very much and worry over their future wellbeing. As we get older, however, we start to appreciate what others do for our parents. If aunts, uncles and family friends make our parents happy, we think those people are good. We may not have close relationships with them, but if they are good to our parents, they are good in our estimation as well. It is similar to how a quick way to make friends with someone is to befriend their dog. If their dog gives the approval, then the owner is more likely to think highly of you.

In bhakti-yoga, the concentration is on the personal side of God. The impersonal comes from the personal. The impersonal consists of less-defined or aggregate concepts like the universe, material nature, and an undivided energy that animates everything. The impersonal side helps us to appreciate the personal even more, as from a single individual has come so much variety that is equipped with flawless intelligence seen in such things like the behavior of the species and the predictable functioning of the powerful elements of nature.

[Radha-Krishna deity worship]The Sanskrit term of “bhakti-yoga” translates to “devotional service.” You do things like worship a materially manifested depiction of the Supreme in order to get closer to Him. God could never be limited to the form of a statue. His height is unimaginable. He has hands and legs, but we don’t know how long they are. He is incorporeal in the sense that no corporeal object could ever satisfy for a suitable form on Him. Yet the physical object worshiped is His mercy upon the fallen; it facilitates love and devotion to Him, which is the aim of life.

If you really love someone, you will want them to be happy. By extension you will have appreciation for those things which make that person happy. Here Goswami Tulsidas exhibits that sentiment to the highest degree. His object of worship is Sita-Rama. They are the female and male aspects to the one God respectively. Sita is the pleasure-giving potency of Rama, who is the original Supreme Lord. Both Sita and Rama appear in other forms that are non-different, like Lakshmi and Vishnu and Radha and Krishna.

From having worshiped them so much and gotten to know them so well, Tulsidas appreciates anyone who loves Sita and Rama. He declares that for a person who loves Sita and Rama more than themselves, he is ready to donate the skin on his body to be used as shoes. Far from thinking he lives in a universe that exclusively features the Supreme Lord and His wife, Tulsidas knows that bhakti-yoga is for everyone. Indeed, he genuinely feels that others can love the beloved couple more than he does.

[Sita and Rama]He understands that selfless devotion is what makes God the happiest. He knows that having Sita by His side is what gives Rama so much pleasure. It is for Rama’s benefit that Sita appears next to Him in the altars found in homes and temples. Anyone who makes Rama happy by keeping Sita next to Him makes Tulsidas happy too. The noted saint is ready to give everything to help such a person continue in their devotion. For this reason he writes such wonderful poetry and enables its distribution through accepting the sannyasa-ashrama. Indeed, all Vaishnavas, devotees of the personal God, behave similarly with respect to their fellow man. They are willing to even give up their lives to see others happy in the bliss of surrender known as sharanagati.

In Closing:

Deity with fixed eyes to see,

Worshiping God, just you and me.


When on this path to advance,

Know that others too should have a chance.


When with full love of Sita and Rama to live,

To them Tulsi skin for shoes ready to give.


Devotion for God and energy this life meant,

To show us Vaishnavas to the world sent.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Upward Mobility

[Rama's lotus feet]“One who has great love and affection for Rama, whose only goal is Rama, who has attachment to Rama’s feet - to such a person the creator has given the fruit of taking birth in this world, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 58)

rāmapremakī mahattā rāma sanehī rāma gati rāma carana rati jāhi |
tulasī phala jaga janama diyā bidhātā tāhi ||

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Are you stuck with the circumstances of your birth? If from childhood all you know is poverty, is that what you will face in adulthood? Is there no way out of destitution? In the United States, there is the concept of upward mobility. More of a byproduct of the formation of a new land than an intentionally conceived benefit, the idea is that you’re not forced into circumstances based on birth. If you want to improve your lot in life, you can do so. Though applying principally to economics, the concept known as upward mobility gets its real application in spiritual life. And the highest point to reach is a situation one wouldn’t typically equate with success.

The mobility relates to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. Without knowledge of the spiritual science, the materialist theorizes about how the species came to be. Perhaps there was an evolution of sorts. From the less developed species came the more developed ones. Over time, in analyzing fossil records it is theorized that since there are similarities in the species, the fitter ones gradually evolved into more adaptable beings.

The Vedic version of evolution is different. For starters, it is not based on mental speculation. There is no “perhaps” in the Bhagavad-gita or works derived from it. Vedanta philosophy is the end of knowledge; it is the conclusion of all conclusions. The material isn’t considered to be so significant. There are higher and lower, for sure. There is destitute and affluent, small and tall, and light and heavy. But these things are relative positions. They are temporary manifestations of the workings of time on the material nature populated by living entities who are eternally related to the supreme controller.

The species we see in life are merely different types of bodies. They are all created by a person, who has materials and intelligence at his disposal. The bodies don’t create other bodies. Without a spiritual injection, matter is dull and lifeless. Life comes from life. This fact cannot be denied by the rational thinker.

Goswami Tulsidas confirms this truth of Vedic philosophy. He references vidhata, or the creator, in discussing birth in the material world and how to make the most out of that birth. We had no control over our body type. No one asked us if we wanted to be a boy or a girl. No one gave us the option of being born in America, India, Russia or China. We had no say over what our body would look like.

Vidhata determined all of this. He took into account karma, or fruitive action. He used the three modes of material nature to craft our body. He does this for every single living thing that we see. The difference between the ant and the tiger is matter only. They are both soul on the inside. The person who lives in poverty is actually the same internally as the person who is wealthy. The soul is the animating force; without it the previously living body becomes dead.

The human birth is indeed an evolution of sorts. It is ideally the final destination for the spirit soul travelling through the many different species. The human body given by the creator is meant for one purpose: love and affection for God. This is the first condition mentioned by Tulsidas. There should be prema for Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. The incarnation of God is not material. That body is not given by the creator. For God, there is no difference between matter and spirit.

Rama is the same as Krishna. Rama is the same as Vishnu. These are personal forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahman is the generic God, an energy if you will. Brahman comes from Rama but it does not represent Him fully. It is simply a way to realize Him. Consider the sum total of everything. All the people you see, all the planets in space, and all the things that have happened in the course of history - this collection is one way to understand God.

But love is only for a distinct personality. Rama-prema is part of the condition necessary for meeting life’s goal. There should be sneha, or affection, as well. The person aspiring for moving upward in life should have Rama as the goal. There should be no questioning this fact. Why not aim for the highest point? Why not go for someone whose body and spirit remain together, who is not influenced by all-devouring time?

The third condition is that there should be rati, or attachment, to the feet of Rama. This explains the relationship that comes from meeting the objective. If you succeed in finding God, what will you do? Will you ask Him for things? Know that those things will keep you separate from Him. Thus you will fall back down and have to start over. There is no guarantee what kind of body the creator will give you next.

[Rama's lotus feet]Attachment to Rama’s feet eliminates the risk. These three conditions in one person make their birth successful. The creator himself, Lord Brahma, gets credit for the successful achievement. Brahma’s work has been validated when the resulting combination of spirit and matter is used in selfless service to the Divine, who appreciates every effort made on His behalf.

In Closing:

Your goal up to you to choose,

Upward with mobility you can move.


Not stuck with life’s lot,

Advance with the intelligence you’ve got.


By Tulsidas given conditions three,

Love for God, with Him be free.


Love and affection, Rama as goal make,

Attached to His feet, most of this birth take.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blessed By The Creator

[Rama holding bow]“One who has great love and affection for Rama, whose only goal is Rama, who has attachment to Rama’s feet - to such a person the creator has given the fruit of taking birth in this world, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 58)

rāmapremakī mahattā rāma sanehī rāma gati rāma carana rati jāhi |
tulasī phala jaga janama diyā bidhātā tāhi ||

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Deep down we know that we’re not capable of doing everything. We know that we’re flawed and that we need help in order to succeed. Under the influence of the false ego, we boast of our accomplishments and take pride in our abilities, but if we had real confidence, we would never envy others. We envy what they have in terms of material success, but in fact the assessment is invalid. The true fruit of the human birth is met in the conditions described above by Goswami Tulsidas.

What are the things that we envy and how does that viewpoint miss the mark? We see someone who is happily married with children and we wonder when that will happen for us. Perhaps we are married already, but the experience isn’t that wonderful. We bicker with the spouse constantly. We expect certain behavior out of them and they seem to fail day after day. We see others getting along with each other and think that they are more fortunate.

[lotto ticket]We envy those who are materially successful. If they have a nice house, we want the same. If their job allows them to travel to different places month after month, we wonder why we can’t live the same way. We think that the rich have been blessed by a higher power, whereas we have been cursed. Others have won “life’s lottery,” whereas we’re still waiting for our winning ticket.

But in fact, if we are to envy anyone, it should be the person who has love for the Supreme Lord. According to Goswami Tulsidas, they have been given the fruit of a birth in this world. The birth does not automatically bring success. We can take birth among any of the 8,400,000 different species. Each one of those species is a life form. They appear, remain for some time, and then vanish. Some species are larger, some are quicker, and some are more intelligent.

The fruit of the birth is the same regardless. The type of birth is determined by the creator. Picture a painter seated at their easel, with a host of colors at their disposal. This specific painter is known as vidhata, or the creator of destiny. The colors they have are the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. They can mix these colors in so many different proportions, and the result is the variety of species we see in this world.

[painter's palette]The fruit of an existence is not to earn a lot of money. It is not to have a happy family life, either. These things aren’t necessarily bad, but the end result is the same even if they are not present. The dog eats, sleeps, mates and defends. It does not know about family life. It does not know about bank balance or high rise apartments. The human being basically does the same things, but in different varieties. The experience is more or less the same, though we don’t know it.

Tulsidas describes three conditions that make the birth truly worthwhile. He says that the person should have great love and affection for Rama. Rama-prema means love for the Supreme Lord. Sneha means “affection” and mahatta means “great.” Rama is the Supreme Lord in a personal incarnation form. You can’t offer service in love to an abstract. We say that we love our country, but that actually means loving each and every citizen, for those are the people who make up the country. When we say we love God, it means that He must be a person. He cannot be simply a light or a concept in someone’s head.

The second condition is having Rama as the goal, or gati. This person is fortunate because they don’t chase after illusion. Money and power are products of maya. They seem appealing at first glance, but talk to those who have them and you’ll find out that their life isn’t a bed of roses. Money is like a magnet. All of a sudden a distant relative whom you haven’t seen for ages gives you a call and asks for financial help. Competitors look to bring you down; they want the power that you have. To chase after Rama as the only goal in life makes a person very fortunate. They have seen past illusion and gone straight to the transcendental light that shines bright for the duration of time and beyond.

The third condition is having attachment to Rama’s feet. This describes the interaction that occurs after Rama has been attained. If we make God the goal in life, but the only reason we want Him is to ask things from Him, the fruit of the birth has not been attained. If we have love for Rama only until He starts giving us things, we haven’t succeeded. To be attached to Rama’s lotus feet is to desire to serve the Supreme Lord in lifetime after lifetime. This attachment is a sign of respect and intelligence as well. Those feet are beautiful and attachment to them will do us the most good.

[Rama's lotus feet]Tulsidas fails to mention himself in this couplet. A person who has found him is the most fortunate as well. Through the poet’s association, in the form of written word, one easily gets the three conditions mentioned. That love and attachment for Rama is due to the efforts of the Vaishnava saints, and so they alone help to make the rare human birth successful.

In Closing:

Make Rama the goal,

And His virtues extol.


For Him have love and affection,

To serving His feet make your direction.


Then fruit of birth getting,

No more in illusion’s path setting.


The poet who with devotion lives,

For fortunate rest this boon gives.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Talking About Rajasuya Sacrifices

[Bhima killing Jarasandha]“Unless we are victorious over all the kings, no one can perform this Rajasuya sacrifice. In other words, it is to be understood that King Yudhishthira cannot perform this great sacrifice without gaining victory over the belligerent King Jarasandha. The Rajasuya sacrifice can only be performed by one who has gained victory over all directions. Therefore, to execute both purposes, we first of all have to kill Jarasandha.” (Uddhava speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 16)

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Friend-One: I heard an interesting question today relating to kshatriyas and certain things they would do in ancient times.

Friend-Two: Kshatriya is an interesting word. You don’t really have that combination of letters in English words, so it makes it difficult to pronounce. The meaning is significant, though.

F1: It’s a warrior, right? Someone within the second of the four orders in the varnashrama system.

F2: Yes, but the root of the word has a specific meaning. It consists of the two terms “kshat” and “trayate.” The first means “injury” and the second means “to protect against.” So the kshatriya is one who protects against injury.

F1: Okay, that’s a perfect segue into the question I was asked. As you say, the person in the warrior occupation is supposed to protect against injury. Shouldn’t that also mean they don’t cause unnecessary injury to others?

F2: Absolutely.

F1: Aggression is good if you’re protecting, but if you use your powers for evil then the opposite situation results. It’s sort of like what we learn in those Karate Kid movies. Mr. Miyagi is expert at karate, but you rarely see him fight. He only defends.

[Mr. Miyagi]F2: Yeah, you have no disagreement from me here.

F1: So this is the issue. If you read Vedic texts like the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam you’ll come upon something called the rajasuya sacrifice.

F2: Oh, yes. That is considered very auspicious. A king who can pull that off is truly special.

F1: That’s how I’ve always known it to be. King Yudhishthira famously performed at it the urging of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So though it was an act of karma within the system of varna and ashrama, it also qualified as bhakti, or love and devotion.

F2: Because it was done directly at God’s request. The same goes for the Bharata War and the fighting of the Pandavas. The Bhagavad-gita has this issue as its setting. It’s the seemingly paradoxical situation. You have war and you have God. He speaks the highest wisdom, that which transcends bodily designations that change with the passing of time. Yet Krishna still urges Arjuna to fight. Trying to understand that is difficult.

[Krishna and Arjuna rushing on chariot]F1: Well, it looks like you’re trying to answer my question before I ask it.

F2: You were going to ask how fighting can be pious? How can a kshatriya make spiritual advancement if they are involved in killing people?

F1: No, I think I got that down. The Kauravas were the aggressors in the Bharata War. They had illegally taken their cousins’ property. The Pandavas were merely defending righteousness. It’s not that difficult to understand. This question is about the Rajasuya sacrifice in particular.

F2: Okay.

F1: From what I’ve read, the way it’s performed is to first have all the neighboring kings admit to the supremacy of the king doing the sacrifice. If they refuse to yield, they must fight. This is what makes the sacrifice difficult and risky. The king must be able to successfully defend against any other king who challenges his supremacy.

F2: Yeah. If you ponder the matter seriously, you’ll see why the sacrifice is so pious. If you try to put yourself in the shoes of the king, you’ll understand why the Rajasuya sacrifice was performed.

F1: Well, this is the question I was asked that I am now forwarding to you. In recorded history, we have so many examples of aggressors. There’s Alexander the Great, the British Empire, the crimes committed against the Native Americans, slavery with Africans - the list goes on. Isn’t the Rajasuya sacrifice similar to this? Isn’t demanding that other kings pay tribute akin to taking over their lands?

F2: It’s not. The king here is not taking over lands. They are giving protection, first and foremost. The king is the ideal leader. To protect against injury, a kshatriya must be able to fight valiantly against anyone who challenges them. The king is the top kshatriya. In other words, he is the best at protecting the bodies of others.

F1: But where is the protection with the Rajasuya sacrifice? It seems contradictory. It is forced aggression, not defense.

F2: You are mistaken. The way you asked the question actually gives the answer, but you don’t see it.

F1: Please explain.

F2: You told me that history is riddled with tragedies relating to greedy rulers. These empires wanted to expand. They wanted to exploit the natural resources in other areas of the world. In the case of slavery, they wanted to take advantage of an entire race of people to get free labor.

F1: Yeah.

F2: Well, do you actually want to do anything to prevent that? Or would you rather just cry about it for eternity?

F1: What do you mean?

F2: What is preventing the same things from happening right now? If you know all of this has happened in the past, it must mean that it will happen again in the future. People haven’t changed all that much. The animal activities are still the same: eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

F1: I never thought about it that way.

F2: If you had powerful leaders who were capable of performing Rajasuya sacrifices, things like that would never have happened. You know there are going to be aggressors; that you have already established with your question. You fail to see the other side. How will you defend yourself against those aggressors?

F1: How is a Rajasuya sacrifice going to accomplish that, though?

[Bhima killing Jarasandha]F2: Take the case of Maharaja Yudhishthira. One of the kings he had to conquer was named Jarasandha. Krishna’s cousin Uddhava rightly advised that before even thinking of doing the Rajasuya sacrifice, Jarasandha would have to be taken out.

F1: He was killed by Bhima, right? That is Yudhishthira’s brother.

F2: Jarasandha was a great aggressor. He attacked Krishna and His kingdom repeatedly, only to fail each time. Under the pretense of Jarasandha’s attacks, the underwater city of Dvaraka was built. So by conquering Jarasandha, a dangerous aggressor was removed. This was part of the Rajasuya process.

F1: I see.

F2: Vedic philosophy is not based on bodily distinctions. It does not put practices into place that lay the foundation for blaming this group or that after the fact. The Rajasuya and other such things are for the defense of all innocent people. The kshatriya who risks his life to defend his people earns great merit. Even if he dies on the battlefield, he is guaranteed a place in the heavenly realm. Those who follow varnashrama make advancement in a gradual way. They follow the duties prescribed to them that allow society to function peacefully.

F1: So the Rajasuya sacrifice is basically a material thing?

[Maharaja Yudhishthira]F2: Yes. Everything can be either material or spiritual. There is the spiritual act of offering food to Krishna with love and devotion. But if you make the offering because you want to enjoy so much good food, you don’t get the benefit. Similarly, if you use the duties of your occupation as a way to satisfy your lust, then you don’t get the benefit. Therefore following Krishna and His representative is always the safest play. This is what makes Yudhishthira and his Rajasuya sacrifice special.

In Closing:

Ways of Rajasuya sacrifice made,

Obeisances by all kings to be paid.


Not way for dominion to extend,

Meant for innocent to properly defend.


Like Jarasandha people attacking,

Devotion for Bhagavan Krishna lacking.


By pious Bhima then taken out,

Material desires this without.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Learning From The Non-Devotees

[Krishna's lotus feet]“In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya there is a conversation between Prahlada Maharaja and his father, Hiranyakashipu, in which Hiranyakashipu addresses Prahlada in this way: ‘My dear son, association is very important. It acts just like a crystal-stone which will reflect anything which is put before it.’ Similarly, if we associate with the flowerlike devotees of the Lord, and if our hearts are crystal clear, then certainly the same action will be there.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 12)

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“I’ve heard quite often of the need to maintain the association of devotees. It is described as ‘sadhu-sanga’ or ‘sat-sanga.’ The ‘asat’ is non-permanent, like the material nature. Those who are ‘asat’ are interested in the temporary, so they are not aspiring transcendentalists. But doesn’t this restriction seem a little harsh? Aren’t there things we can learn from every person, regardless of their interest or lack thereof in spiritual life?”

The aspiring transcendentalist in Vedic philosophy is given many rules and guidelines to follow. These are necessary since the default condition is to be immersed in maya, which is illusion. There is the law of science which states that a body at rest will stay at rest. Inertia is a powerful force, so if you’re walking for quite a while, it’s easier to continue walking; stopping is more difficult. Similarly, if you’ve been in ignorance for so long, it’s the condition you’re more accustomed to. Thus when taking up something totally new like spiritual life, you need guidelines to help you stay on course.

One of those guidelines is to avoid the association of “asat.” These are the people who have no interest in making spiritual advancement. The astute observer will notice a problem right away. Due to the nature of the material world, practically everyone living in it is in the asat consciousness. It’s like everyone is stuck on the couch. When a person decides to try spiritual life in earnest, not out of fear but out of a desire to make the most out of their existence, then it is very rare.

bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

If you’re one of the rare few to get up off the couch, it means that pretty much everyone else is in a different mindset. How are you supposed to avoid them, then? Isn’t this like asking the spiritualist to give up all human interaction? Isn’t it like asking them to live in a remote cave?

To try spiritual life as a discipline is to attempt to assimilate the highest wisdom that has ever existed. You’re basically learning things throughout the process. The recommendation to avoid the association of asat is in place because there is nothing to learn from asat. The reason there is nothing to learn is because the person who is asat thinks that man can become God.

“Is this really true? I don’t hear people speaking this way?”

Ishvara is the Sanskrit term that corresponds to the concept of God. Ishvara means “supreme controller.” If a person doesn’t know that a supreme controller exists, naturally they will think that the post is up for grabs. Even if they supposedly believe in God, if they are not conscious of Him all the time, then the default mentality is the same as the person who doesn’t believe. This is the logical explanation for why a person would continue to accumulate, for why they would keep jumping from activity to activity in sense gratification.

The spiritualist sincere in their desire to understand the five important topics of the Gita has nothing to learn from the non-devoted. The sincere person knows that Ishvara, the living entities, the material nature, time and karma are more important to study. They know that these topics cover everything about an existence. These topics are more important than what kind of house someone owns, how many children a person has, where they go on vacation, or what they eat for dinner.

[Hanuman]The more advancement a person makes on this path, the clearer their understanding of Ishvara becomes. They come in contact with “sat” personalities like Shri Hanuman. In the material realm he could do anything. The person with an “asat” consciousness has a lot to appreciate in Hanuman. They see that the famous god of the Vedic tradition is very powerful. He can lift mountains without a problem. Hanuman can leap over vast oceans and change his shape at will. He speaks extemporaneously in the most difficult language, Sanskrit. He does this effortlessly and respecting the three Vedas at the same time.

“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)

Though possessing the eight perfections of mystic yoga and thus able to enjoy materially to any level, Hanuman is completely “sat.” He knows that Ishvara is a person, an individual. He knows that Ishvara expands Himself into different personal forms for the pleasure of the devoted. Hanuman worships Ishvara as Rama. In fact, everything Hanuman does is for Rama.

[Rama with Hanuman]A person like Hanuman is ideal for association. He has everything, but he is not so foolish to think that he has become God. The “asat” can never teach us about the true meaning of life. They can reinforce the truths we learn in spiritual life, about the inferior standing of the material energy and how true happiness in life comes from devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They can remind us that devotion is the proper choice, but they can never accurately tell us who is the supreme controller.

In Closing:

If for spiritual wisdom to yearn,

From the non-devoted nothing to learn.


Into depths of ignorance they sink,

Since possible to be equal to God they think.


Association of Hanuman choose,

Who every ability for God to use.


As the Supreme and His wife knowing,

Secrets of life to others bestowing.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Protecting Delicate Things

[Krishna with Trinavarta]“With Krishna grasping him by the throat, Trinavarta choked, unable to make even a sound or even to move his hands and legs. His eyes popping out, the demon lost his life and fell, along with the little boy, down to the ground of Vraja.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.7.28)

daityo nirgata-locanaḥ
avyakta-rāvo nyapatat
saha-bālo vyasur vraje

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Having the most delicate features and showing the body of an innocent, affectionate, and playful child, Shri Krishna was under great protection in the sacred land of Gokula. Mother Yashoda offered the protection for the majority of the time, but the neighboring mothers kept a watchful eye also. The entire community viewed Krishna as their child, as who wouldn’t be drawn to the all-attractive features possessed exclusively by the Supreme Personality of Godhead? That tiny boy with delicate features, who was protected by all, once took down a formidable whirlwind all by Himself, showing once again the inconceivable potency that can only belong to God.

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu describes the relationship between the sparks of spirit and the storehouse of spirit as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. For starters, there is division. The word bheda here means that the two objects being compared are not entirely the same. God is great and we are somewhat great. God never takes birth and never dies. The same goes for us spirit souls, but externally we go through this cycle in the material world.

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)

For God there is no distinction between matter and spirit, but for us there certainly is. Indeed, we have God living inside of us. We are parts and parcels of God. What’s keeping us from realizing these things is maya, or the illusory material nature. Thus we make distinctions such as youth and old age, friend and enemy, man and woman, human and animal, and at the foundational level, body and spirit.

The word “abheda” is also included. This is the negation of “bheda.” There is a lack of division as well. We are the same as God in quality. Like the drop of ocean water is the same in constitutional makeup as the ocean, we are samples of God; while the original is the sum collection of all samples. The analogy is not entirely accurate, as if you take enough drops of ocean water, you eventually get the whole ocean. The same is not the case for the Supreme Lord, who though expanding still remains complete in Himself.

The “achintya” term at the beginning means that the relationship is inconceivable. We have no way of fully comprehending this simultaneous oneness and difference between the living entities and the Supreme Spirit. We can try our best, exhaust every mental channel, but we don’t really know how something can be the same and different at the same time. It’s like how we can’t fathom the infinite nature of time and space. This is a limitation of the human mind.

The same combination of oneness and difference exists in the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. In Gokula a long time ago, He appeared in the body of a small child. We know that children grow. That is the hope anyway; as long as there are no health problems growth should take place. Krishna was healthy, and so in His childhood everyone enjoyed taking care of Him.

[iPhone case]He had very delicate features. Naturally, we protect delicate things. Think of the new smartphone that you purchase after waiting for hours in line outside the store on the first day that the product goes to market. The phone can do all of these amazing things, and so it is quite expensive. One slip up and the device can break. So you make sure to protect it by purchasing a case. You get one that is sturdy, durable and yet not too bulky as to interfere with basic functionality.

We protect expensive porcelain by placing it in a safe area in the house. Important documents get sealed and protected in a similar way. The original Constitution of the United States of America is written on paper, which is so delicate that a light breeze can blow it away. Therefore it is protected all the time, enough so that it gets preserved for future generations, hundreds of years after it is written.

The residents of Gokula provided such protection for Krishna, but sometimes the enemies of God seemed to break through. This occurred one time with the enemy named Trinavarta. He had the special ability to turn into a whirlwind. It seems ridiculous and something out of mythology, but through black magic and mysticism it is possible to do such amazing things.

Still, God is always more amazing. Though taken high into the sky by Trinavarta, Krishna suddenly became too heavy for the fiend to carry. For a powerful windstorm, a baby is no big deal. These storms take down tall trees and buildings, which weigh much more. There is the inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference in Krishna, so while He is in the form of a child He is still an adult. While He is baby Krishna, He is still the powerful Narayana, from whom the creation emanates.

[Krishna with Trinavarta]Trinavarta fell to the ground and died due to baby Krishna. He got his just reward, his punishment for mistaking Krishna to be someone who could find defeat. The same inconceivable potency exists in the sound expansion of God. Though lacking a perceivable form, Krishna’s name is as powerful as Him, and the proof is in its ability to rescue fallen souls from the darkness of ignorance. Therefore the reformed souls of this age, who are the wisest as well, always chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Baby form of Krishna the name,

To Supreme Lord Narayana the same.


Peace of Vrindavana’s residents shook,

When baby into air Trinavarta took.


Mistake in thinking He was weak,

Through Lord fiend his justice to meet.


Same potency in holy name coming,

Through chanting even lowest reformed becoming.