Saturday, May 30, 2015

Variety In One

[Lord Krishna]“My dear friend, I have just seen an extraordinary beauty appearing in the person of Krishna. His blackish bodily hue appears just like the indranila jewel. There are reddish signs on His eyes, and small soft hairs are coming out on His body. The appearance of these symptoms has made Him extraordinarily beautiful.” (Kundalata speaking to her friend, The Nectar of Devotion, 26)

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What does it mean when we say that God is a person? What is the difference between personal and impersonal? Why is the Sanskrit word “bhagavan” translated as “Supreme Personality of Godhead” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada? One way to understand the distinction is to study the body of the Supreme Lord Krishna. He is the original form of Bhagavan, a personality but different from you and me in important ways.

Krishna’s influence is spread everywhere. For proof we can start with the fact that everything emanates from Him. He is the cause of the original “big bang” of the creation. Matter is dull and lifeless. It cannot do anything until spirit acts upon it. The living manipulates the nonliving. Though the living is under the control of the formidable material nature, that nature is directed by spirit as well.

[outer space]Picture dull matter, a collection of chemicals, at a starting point. Time is infinite both forwards and backwards, so the beginning referenced here is in relation to the presently manifest world. The glance of the Supreme Lord instigates that matter to start transforming. One reaction leads to another and then to another, and so on and so forth. The result is the seemingly endless variety we see around us.

Krishna’s influence is in everything since He is the beginning point. The sum collection of all particles of matter and spirit is known as Brahman. This is one way to know God. This is an abstract definition, a concept more than a recognizable object. This concept indeed exists. To deny the existence of Brahman is to deny the existence of the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets and the population of creatures.

Brahman is the impersonal aspect of God. Then there is the localized aspect, known as Paramatma. I am not you and you are not me. Therefore I don’t know what you are thinking and you don’t know what I am thinking. Through communication or mystic perfection we can learn about each other, but that is not the same as experiencing everything firsthand. As Paramatma, Krishna is inside of every person. He is there from the start to the end. He is the same individual within all creatures; thus He is not divided.

sarva-bhūteṣu yenaikaṁ
bhāvam avyayam īkṣate
avibhaktaṁ vibhakteṣu
taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikam

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

Krishna in His Bhagavan feature is the full realization. This is God the person. When we think we are speaking to God, Krishna is the one who hears us. He has expansions of His personal form, like with Vishnu, Rama and Narasimha, but they are identical to Him. God is so great that He can expand His personal body and still remain a single person.

So what makes Krishna so special? What is unique about Bhagavan? One distinction is that there is no difference between body and spirit for Krishna. That transcendental body features endless variety. Any aspect is a candidate for meditation for the living entity struggling hard in the material world with the six senses, which include the mind.

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)

[Krishna's feet]We can start with Krishna’s feet. They are compared to lotus flowers. The lotus is a symbol of purity and beauty. When it floats on the surface of the pond, it does not get wet. It essentially makes its own boat to stay afloat. Krishna’s feet are like the lotus flower in that they are spotless and beautiful. Those feet are also soft and feature auspicious signs on the soles.

“Your son possesses various wonderful fate lines on His palms. There are the signs of lotus flowers and wheels on His palms, and on His soles there are the signs of a flag, a thunderbolt, a fish, a rod for controlling elephants, and a lotus flower. Please observe how auspicious these signs are!” (A gopi speaking to Nanda Maharaja, The Nectar of Devotion, 21.2)

The person desirous of connecting with Bhagavan through meditation can then gradually move their way up. Next come the thighs. Those are covered by a pitambara. This is a yellow cloth that looks beautiful on the Supreme Lord’s body. The color contrasts nicely with the dark blue complexion of Krishna. Why is God blue? This is a common question. The straightforward answer is that He just is. That bluish hue is extremely beautiful. It is compared to the dark cloud about to pour down rain and the indranila jewel. Indra means “king” and nila means “blue,” so we can translate the word to “royal blue.” The indranila mani is the sapphire.

[Lord Krishna]Krishna’s body is soft to the touch. His eyes and hands are like lotus flowers too. He wears a garland of flowers around His neck and He also sports the precious kaustubha gem. His hair is soft and black and from His ears hang beautiful earrings. Krishna holds a flute in His hands and the sound it makes is stunning. In this way Bhagavan possesses endless variety in His body alone, and one can only bask in it if they know that God is a person, one to whom everyone is intimately tied.

In Closing:

Soft hair, complexion dark blue,

Auspicious signs on soles too.


Wearing pitambara waist around,

Holding flute making magical sound.


Though Krishna a person one,

An individual lacking variety none.


That God is a person must first know,

Then meditate on body from head to toe.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Talking About False Ego

[Krishna's hand]“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

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prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate

Friend-One: When you hear someone described as “egotistical,” what does that mean to you?

Friend-Two: Hmm. That they’re full of themselves. That they think they are hot stuff.

F1: Right. They like to brag about their accomplishments. When discussing future matters, they always bring up how they’ll emerge successful. Even if no one is questioning their ability, they will remind others of what they have done.

F2: From the psychological standpoint, it’s pretty easy to see what’s going on.

F1: Yeah?

F2: They’re insecure. If you read Vedic literature, you’ll find areas where the Supreme Lord states that a hero doesn’t speak much.

F1: Krishna says this?

[Lord Rama]F2: And Rama. The statements are made prior to battle. The enemy of God is boasting; they are talking themselves up. Meanwhile, Krishna is standing by silent, ready to get the work accomplished. The idea is that the hero knows they are good. They have genuine confidence in their abilities.

F1: While the other guy is more or less scared. That’s why they are talking so much. They need to pump themselves up; otherwise they’ll wilt from the realization that they are not so great.

F2: Exactly.

F1: Okay, but where does false ego fit in? You could say that the egotistical person is under the sway of false ego.

F2: For sure. False ego is one of the three subtle elements covering the spirit soul. The body consists of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Since these are somewhat perceptible, they are considered gross elements. The subtle elements are mind, intelligence and ego, which are finer than the gross elements.

F1: But you also said that the hero is confident of their abilities. Isn’t that false ego too? Not to turn this into a bigger discussion, but I’ve always been a little puzzled by the false ego thing.

F2: Yeah? How so?

F1: Let me see if I have this straight. False ego means that you are deluded by pride. You think that you are your body, though it was given to you by nature.

F2: That nature is known as prakriti. The individual is jiva, or living spirit. Through the work that is done, the prakriti surrounding the living spirit changes. This work is known as karma and the changes in prakriti are effected through time, or kala.

F1: Okay, so the idea is that you shouldn’t be so worked up about your accomplishments. There is that verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna says that the living entity is not the doer. Material nature actually carries out the results to work.

[hands clapping]F2: Right. Take clapping your hands for example. You make the decision to put your hands together. You think that the resulting sound is due to your efforts, but you didn’t make the laws of material nature. So many things have to cooperate in order for the sound to emerge. This is one way to see that you are not the doer. You make the choice for action, but you don’t actually make everything happen.

F1: I guess my issue is with self-esteem. If you know that you are not the doer, then why will you choose to act? If you rid yourself of the false ego, then won’t it mean that you’ll be too humble to do anything?

F2: That’s a good question. So basically you’re saying that you need some type of ego in order to act.

F1: Exactly. If I don’t have an ego, what will drive me to work hard? Confidence is a huge part of success. I know that Krishna urges the yogi to work, saying that renunciation isn’t an excuse to stop lighting the fire of sacrifice, or something like that.

F2: Yes.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
anāśritaḥ karma-phalaṁ
kāryaṁ karma karoti yaḥ
sa sannyāsī ca yogī ca
na niragnir na cākriyaḥ

“The Blessed Lord said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic: not he who lights no fire and performs no work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.1)

The idea is not to eliminate ego altogether. You just have to remove the false part. In the real ego, you know that everything belongs to the Supreme Lord. You therefore know that everything should be used in service to Him. That is the meaning to work. When under the false ego, work is karma. When under the real ego, the karma turns into bhakti.

F1: Which is devotion.

F2: Yes. If you want a good example of the difference between false ego and real ego, look at Arjuna before and after the Bhagavad-gita. Before speaking to Krishna, he thought he was the doer and that the carnage resulting from success would be his fault.

F1: That is interesting. The person who heard the lessons about false ego then afterwards fought heroically in battle.

[Arjuna]F2: Exactly. He had self-esteem, but it was rooted in devotion to Krishna. He took strength from the Supreme Lord and acted confidently along the righteous path. For him in that situation the right thing was to fight without fear of the results. Similarly, our path is to follow devotion to the Supreme Lord with full confidence that we are choosing wisely. The spiritual master, the representative of Krishna, gives us this confidence. If we are serving him, then we have no reason to feel ashamed or down about ourselves. On the contrary, we will continue to chant the holy names without fear, knowing that the words of Krishna and the guru are flawless: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When acting in confident way,

Not under false ego’s sway?


How work to be done,

When having confidence none?


Idea from Arjuna get,

Real ego in bhakti set.


Example from his path seen,

Work for Krishna with self-esteem.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Talking About Going To The Temple

[Radha-Krishna]“One should go to a temple or church as a matter of duty, offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offer flowers and eatables. Everyone thinks that there is no use in going to the temple just to worship God. But worship for economic benefit is not recommended in the scriptural injunction. One should go simply to offer respect to the Deity. That will place one in the mode of goodness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11 Purport)

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Friend-One: You know I’ve been having a hard time lately.

Friend-Two: With what?

F1: I like bhakti-yoga. Trust me, I do. Though there’s so much going on in my life, I’m glad whenever I get the chance to remove myself from everything and focus on the Supreme Lord.

F2: That’s why it’s called Krishna consciousness. Your consciousness is what determines your mental disposition. You can be happy from fixing the consciousness alone.

F1: What I’m struggling with is getting others to join me. They throw every excuse in the book at me.

F2: Like that they’re too busy? They’ll go once things settle down?

F1: Yeah, that’s a pretty common one.

F2: They don’t see that things will never calm down. They are worried about something today. Okay, we’ll acknowledge that. But when that thing gets resolved, a new issue will emerge. And then another one will come after that.

F1: It never ends.

F2: Exactly.

F1: One excuse I’m having trouble responding to is the need for going to temples. People tell me that you don’t need to go to these houses of worship. Attendance is not a way to determine if someone believes in God.

F2: Technically, what they’re saying is correct. The Supreme Lord is within and without. He is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. The famous Prahlada Maharaja wasn’t known to visit temples in his youth.

F1: And he was perfectly Krishna conscious.

F2: Right. He worshiped while danger stared him straight in the face day after day. The boy had no one to help him. The father was antagonistic. The royal servants turned into goons who tried to kill Prahlada. Yet he was still able to concentrate so well that the Supreme Lord Himself finally arrived in the form of Narasimhadeva.

[Narasimhadeva]F1: So are you saying that this excuse given to me is legitimate?

F2: The question is, are they using this logic as an excuse for not practicing devotion? That’s what it sounds like to me. They think the worship that goes on in the temple is for getting stuff. Instead of worshiping, people can put in some hard work and get the same results.

F1: Exactly. I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking.

F2: Worship in the temple is supposed to be in the mode of goodness. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that sacrifices conducted without expectation of reward are in the mode of goodness.

aphalākāṅkṣibhir yajño
vidhi-diṣṭo ya ijyate
yaṣṭavyam eveti manaḥ
samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ

“Of sacrifices, that sacrifice performed according to duty and to scriptural rules, and with no expectation of reward, is of the nature of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11)

In one verse Krishna defeats their logic.

F1: How so?

[Radha-Krishna deities]F2: Even if you have everything materially, you should still go to the temple and offer your respects. It’s a purification thing. You’re supposed to worship God without wanting anything back. That is the meaning to bhakti-yoga. This attitude is the foundation. It’s what makes bhakti-yoga unique from all other kinds of religion.

F1: Wow, that’s good. You know, that makes sense if you think about it. If you’re already Krishna conscious, why wouldn’t you visit the temple anyway? What are you going to lose? Would Prahlada Maharaja advise us against going? There’s no way.

F2: The mind is like Hiranyakashipu, subtly attacking us with the weapons of doubt and desire. We can take strength from Prahlada and the words of Krishna. Worship in the mode of goodness gradually becomes pure goodness when there is love for the Supreme Lord.

F1: I could see another objection being raised.

F2: What’s that?

F1: Well, how many people in the temple actually worship in goodness? So many of these priests are working there as a way to earn money. It’s obvious that getting donations is their first concern.

F2: So you’re worried about corruption? There’s no doubt that exists. There’s a simple answer to that. Just do the worship at home then. Make a part of your home like a temple and worship on a regular schedule. Just as you don’t forget to go to work or finish your assignments for school, don’t forget to offer respects to the Supreme Lord.

F1: I like that. It takes care of the problem.

F2: Exactly. Since time immemorial man has been making excuses for not surrendering to the Supreme Lord.  Bhakti is difficult to take up in earnest, but once you do it you’ll see that the benefits can’t be found anywhere else.

In Closing:

What benefit worship in temple to do?

God within all, even inside of you.


To avoid bhakti and obeisances paid,

Since forever by man excuses made.


Worship in goodness, not anything expecting,

With love for God devotional path accepting.


Then soon of impurities to be free,

And benefits like no other to see.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spoken To An Extraordinary Man

[Arjuna]“It is not possible for an ordinary man to leave home and go to a secluded place in the mountains or jungles to practice yoga in this age of Kali.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.33 Purport)

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The famous Bhagavad-gita was spoken to an extraordinary person. Though that person was in need of help, though he was bewildered moments prior to a great conflict, though he was dependent on the words to come from his teacher - by all other accounts that person, Arjuna, was amazing. He was to lead his side against a formidable foe. He was an elevated soul, a good friend to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna. Being extraordinary, Arjuna’s opinion on the system of meditational yoga, practiced correctly, is instructive.

What is this meditational yoga? How is it practiced? What is its goal? The goal is easy to decipher. We simply have to look at the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna is in distress. He’s not sure what to do next. He’s not afraid of losing. On the contrary, he’s pretty sure his side has a good chance of winning. He’s not afraid of doing the wrong thing; he understands that his side is with piety. They are the rightful heirs to the throne in Hastinapura. He and his four brothers were tortured many times by the rival party. That side, led by Duryodhana, tried to kill Arjuna and his brothers in different ways. But Arjuna’s side, known as the Pandavas, escaped alive each time.

Arjuna is afraid of what will happen when his side wins. In the party of the Kauravas are respected personalities as well. One of them is Arjuna’s teacher. Arjuna thinks that victory won’t make him happy. He’s contemplating giving up, casting aside his bow and arrow and taking up residence in the forest. There he will live like an ascetic. He won’t be part of a ghastly war, and therefore he’ll be free of the sin incurred from killing his fellow man. At least this was his logic supporting his desire.

It was to this person, in this situation, that the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. Yoga is an integral part of that discussion. Though Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, when He presents a discourse He follows the system of etiquette adhered to by great teachers since the beginning of time. He explains all possible options and He cites authority each time. He does not simply demand faith from everyone else. He gives the best explanation possible for the time and circumstance.

amaṁ kāya-śiro-grīvaṁ
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
diśaś cānavalokayan

praśāntātmā vigata-bhīr
brahmacāri-vrate sthitaḥ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ

“One should hold one's body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)

[meditational yoga]Within that explanation is found the proper procedures for executing meditational yoga. This yoga is for linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. There is no other purpose. Exercise is an afterthought. Arjuna was already fit. Pacifying the mind wasn’t the main concern, either. The mind is a product of the material body, after all. Yoga is for transcending the material, for becoming immersed completely in the spiritual.

The option of genuine meditational yoga carries strict requirements. The yogi should find a secluded place. They should sit erect on a mat made of deerskin. They should shut the eyes, but not completely. They should focus their vision on the tip of the nose. They should have no traces of sex life. And these conditions taken together should be permanent. They should not be for five minutes a day. Krishna does not make any mention of going on a yoga retreat.

arjuna uvāca
yo 'yaṁ yogas tvayā proktaḥ
sāmyena madhusūdana
etasyāhaṁ na paśyāmi
cañcalatvāt sthitiṁ sthirām

“Arjuna said: O Madhusudana, the system of yoga which you have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.” (Bg. 6.33)

Listening to everything carefully, Arjuna does not accept this path. He thinks that it is impossible to conduct. This is not the path that Krishna wanted him to accept, either. So Arjuna’s decision was the intelligent one. He correctly noted that the system was impractical for the time. As mentioned previously, Arjuna was not an ordinary man. There are no fighters like him around today. It takes great concentration and skill to do the things Arjuna could do. This means that his mind was already controlled. Though he showed mental frailty at the beginning of the Bharata War, he was actually extremely mentally tough.

[Arjuna]Meditational yoga was impractical for such an elevated person living in a much purer time, some five thousand years ago. The natural deduction is that the system is even more impractical in the modern age. The culmination of all yogas is bhakti anyway. Mental speculation, fruitive work with the results renounced, and meditation with sitting postures and breathing exercises are all meant to end in pure love and devotion to the Supreme Lord.

The other paths are viable options since it is difficult to surrender to a higher personality in the beginning. From the time of birth man is focused on svartha, or self-interest. The interest in the afterlife is known as paramartha, and it is also a kind of self-interest; one that merely arrives at a later time. The different yogas allow for spiritual advancement while the focus remains on self-interest. Bhakti-yoga is true selflessness, and it is the only system that merges svartha and paramartha into one.

Leaving home is not required for practicing bhakti-yoga. Neither is remaining in seclusion. Arjuna practiced bhakti through fighting heroically in a war. The gopis of Vrindavana were in bhakti through association with God personally. Yashoda and Nanda practiced bhakti through parental affection. Meditation is always an option, but it is not the only means. Especially at present, when times are turbulent and it is difficult to find any peace, the recommended pathway is the sankirtana-yajna, which is practiced in association with others who have a mentality similar to Arjuna’s. Chant the holy names with faith, love and devotion and become a perfect yogi: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In fighting ability Arjuna extraordinary,

Recipient of Gita thus not a man ordinary.


To him meditational yoga described,

But not path by Krishna prescribed.


Difficult for even Arjuna to do,

Then the same for modern age too.


Better on path of devotion to set,

Same results and more to get.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Talking About How Intent Matters

[Arjuna]“For a kshatriya, a military man, shooting arrows at the enemy is considered transcendental, and refraining from such a duty is demoniac. Therefore, there was no cause for Arjuna to lament. Anyone who performs the regulated principles of the different orders of life is transcendentally situated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.5 Purport)

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Friend-One: I was watching a funny episode of Growing Pains the other night.

Friend-Two: Yeah? That’s back on television?

F1: I found it on one of the channels. It must have just come back.

F2: Which episode was this?

F1: The one where Jason’s mom has that new love interest, Wally. Jason, though a psychiatrist by profession, nevertheless succumbs to some of his insecurities. He feels like Wally is replacing his dad, who passed away many years prior.

F2: There were several of those episodes, right? Jason doesn’t like Wally at all. I distinctly remember him going to the kitchen in one episode and talking about succotash.

F1: [laughing] Yeah, it’s him being passive aggressive. Anyway, something in this episode caught my attention. The character of Wally formerly served in the military. Taking this opportunity to make a dig at him, Jason asks Wally if he killed anyone while in service.

F2: Oh man. That’s bad. You’re not supposed to ask military people that.

F1: Exactly. That’s why it was so funny. Anyway, I saw this episode several times when I was a kid and that line never stuck with me. But now it sort of does. It makes you think. What must it be like to kill another human being? I mean isn’t that considered the greatest crime, normally?

F2: It is. It’s an interesting point to study, as the Bhagavad-gita has this issue as the backdrop. The heroic fighter Arjuna doesn’t want to succeed in a war, even though he is not the aggressor. He’s afraid of winning, not losing.

F1: You know, that fact always seems to escape me when reading that book. You hear about the Supreme Controller, the living entities, the material nature, time and karma. The philosophy is so rich that it’s easy to forget the starting point, the setting to the famous conversation between Krishna and Arjuna.

F2: It makes you appreciate Krishna’s genius that much more. The philosophy is that birth and death, happiness and sadness, high and low - these are temporary. The concepts of good and bad, they’re relative. What better way to get this point across than to show how a person can do one of the most horrible things, kill other people, and not have it be wrong. Despite the massive killing, Arjuna and his party were behaving piously.

[Arjuna]F1: Because they were following Krishna, right? Krishna is God. Otherwise there has to be some sin incurred.

F2: Well, the Krishna part is certainly true. But in the general philosophy, the idea is that the action is authorized. It’s sanctioned by a high authority. People kill right now, without any thought of God, and they don’t get punished for it.

F1: Like with military people and police officers. But isn’t what they’re doing wrong? They’ve ended another person’s life.

F2: It’s the intent that matters. This is how the law works. If you’re killing in defense of the innocent, it’s not a violation. If you’re aggressive simply to satisfy your personal desires, then you’re at fault.

F1: I see.

F2: Think of the storefront window. A thief throws a brick into it in order to break it. They do this with the intent of going into the store and stealing. The widespread practice is known as looting, which I’m sure you’ve seen on television.

F1: I have.

[fireman breaking window]F2: Now take the same storefront window in the time of an emergency. If there’s a fire in the building and people are trapped, a fireman will break the window without hesitation. They are doing this to save lives. The intent is different. Though they both performed the same action, the fireman is a hero, whereas the thief is a criminal.

F1: Oh, that’s a good point. So that would work with something like the Rajasuya sacrifice, too? Someone was asking me about that the other day. They were wondering how Yudhishthira Maharaja is any different than say Alexander the Great.

F2: Because the Rajasuya sacrifice involves getting all the neighboring kings to acknowledge your supremacy? And because if they don’t acknowledge, they have to fight and risk being conquered?

F1: Yeah, this person was equating Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five Pandava brothers, with tyrants from history who were hungry to expand their empires. I think your point on intent clears things up, though.

F2: Yeah, Yudhishthira is very dear to Krishna. He performed the sacrifice at Krishna’s insistence. There was no desire to expand the kingdom or flex muscles. You need brave fighters in society. Others would simply rather complain about aggressors from the past. They don’t realize that such aggression can only be avoided with a competing display of strength. To display strength means to fight on occasion and win. So Yudhishthira wasn’t doing anything wrong. Neither was Arjuna. The devotees of the Lord are never handcuffed by mundane rules of morality created by the less intelligent.

F1: But what if you’re not a devotee? If you’re fighting to protect people, is that good?

[Shrila Prabhupada]F2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that a person who follows the principles of their respective order in life is transcendentally situated. This pertains to the reactions they get to the work. If you’re a warrior by character and occupation, if you perform the duties of that role, you are not implicated with bad karma. You are making some advancement spiritually. The fastest advancement takes place through pure devotion, but even in following prescribed duties there is a benefit. Again, it’s the intent that matters. The best intent is to work for Krishna under authority of a person who is dear to Him. To want to please God with your work is the best intent to have, and if it is sincere the desire alone will bring success.

In Closing:

Not simply for power to project,

Warrior the innocent to protect.


Reaction dependent on intent,

Whether sinful or in piety bent.


Arjuna principles of order in,

So work on battlefield not incurring sin.


To please Krishna intent the best,

Working for Him, Lord to take care of the rest.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Talking About Jealousy

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)

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śrī-bhagavān uvāca
idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ
pravakṣyāmy anasūyave
jñānaṁ vijñāna-sahitaṁ
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase 'śubhāt

Friend-One: Can I admit something to you?

Friend-Two: Sure. But you don’t want me to tell anyone else?

F1: That’s a given.

F2: Okay, I won’t.

F1: I mean it. This is just between you and me.

F2: Who am I going to tell? I barely talk to anyone.

F1: Right, that’s what you always say. And then later on I come to know that everyone around me heard about my embarrassing incident.

F2: So what happened this time? Your car run out of gas again?

F1: [laughing] No. It’s more of something I felt. Namely, jealousy.

F2: You’re jealous of me? I think we’ve both always known that.

F1: Yeah, you wish. No, this is something I’ve been thinking about. I realized that I am always jealous to some degree, even when I have no reason to be. Take the example of a family visit the other day.

F2: Okay.

F1: We went to our cousin’s house. He and his wife just had their first baby.

F2: Oh, that’s good news. Boy or girl?

F1: Boy. Cute little guy too. I held him for a while and he smiled. Hardly cried. Anyway, after being there for a few hours, I began to get jealous of all the attention he got.

F2: That’s natural for siblings. But for adults? Not so much. You wanted to be the glory hog?

F1: I know! I felt bad afterwards. But in doing an honest assessment, I realized that there’s always some jealousy in me. If I hear that someone has bought a new home or a new car, I immediately think about my own situation. If my home is smaller, I start making excuses. “Well, I don’t need a big place to live in.” Or I’ll say, “Well, think of the headache they’re going to have in maintaining that car. I’m proud that my car is old. This way I don’t get any attention.”

F2: So you want to know if you’re a horrible person for feeling jealous? For starters, as long as you’re not acting off of it, I think you’re okay.

F1: What do you mean by acting off of it?

F2: Are you sabotaging the other cars? Are you suddenly working harder so that you’ll be able to buy a bigger house?

F1: Oh, I see what you’re saying. No. I still feel bad, though. I should know better. From studying the spiritual science presented in the Bhagavad-gita, I should know that material things aren’t that important. But I can’t help it, really.

F2: See, you’re focused on completely getting rid of envy, when that is really not necessary.

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]F1: No? Doesn’t Krishna say at one point that Arjuna is not envious of Him and that is why he’s receiving the king of education?

F2: He does.

F1: And since envy is rooted in ignorance, isn’t it something I should strive to remove?

F2: I’m not telling you to be jealous of everyone and everything. What I’m saying is that you can purify things like envy by shifting the focus. If your jealousy is in a particular area, it can actually help you.

F1: How so?

F2: Why not be jealous of the people who are immersed in bhakti-yoga? They always get to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They are essentially with God all the time, who is all-attractive. If anyone should be envied, it’s them.

F1: I see what you’re saying. But shouldn’t I appreciate their service? Isn’t that how devotees are supposed to act?

[Radha-Krishna deities]F2: Well, exactly. The envy comes from the appreciation. You see how much they please Krishna and you wish you could do the same. You see? The envy motivates you to be more like them.

F1: So that I’ll act in ways where I am more conscious of God? That’s interesting.

F2: If you’re comparing objects of value, nothing is worth more than the association of the Supreme Lord. Every person has it within their heart, but they don’t know it. That’s what it means to be in ignorance. Real knowledge is awareness of Krishna’s universal presence. It is knowing that He is an individual like you and me, only much greater.

F1: I’m assuming the same rule applies, about sabotaging?

[Prahlada and Narasimha]F2: [laughing] Yes. You don’t want to be like Hiranyakashipu. He tried to interfere with his son’s service to the point that Krishna Himself appeared on the scene to give protection. That example is illustrative of the point to take away here. The envy in that case was towards God, not really Prahlada. So that’s really what we’re trying to avoid. We’re riddled with faults, so it’s difficult to be completely pure in deeds, let alone thoughts. We’re also constantly filled with desires. If we can purify those desires, then the jealousy gets purified as well.

In Closing:

When success of others to see,

A little jealous inside to be.


Not completely rid, change instead,

Towards work of devotees be led.


Envy that with Krishna always living,

And pure devotion to Him giving.


From that example to make pure,

To get Lord’s association for sure.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Saying So Much From So Little

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

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rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

If you took only the text of the Sanskrit verses from the Bhagavad-gita, you would get a book that is pretty small. It could fit inside of a pocket, if need be. Yet that small work turns into a much larger reference guide through a bona fide commentary. The person who remains faithful to the verses and simply explains their significance to the respective audience, accounting for time and circumstance, can continue speaking, saying so much in the process. The resulting work is all due to a few short verses.

Why mention the ability of Sanskrit verses to expand like this? We know that there is so much to read already. A person at the office surfs the internet as a way to cure boredom. It is also a vehicle for procrastination. If they come to a point where they can’t think of any more sites to navigate, a friend can joke to them that they have reached the end of the internet.

[classic books]But in fact there is no end. The news is endless. Time accounts for this. If you finish reading today’s newspaper, there is always tomorrow’s. Then there is the one from two days ago. If you’ve read every newspaper since you were born, there are still the many that were published prior to your birth. Based on the newspaper example we see that there is so much available to read. This is without mentioning the classic novels, biographies, and historical texts that are also available.

What are these works saying? What does the newspaper teach? Someone dies. Someone lives. Someone attacks the character of someone else. Someone famous gets caught doing something bad. A politician breaks a campaign promise. It is revealed that a noted television news anchor has been a fraud. A war hero returns to his country and gets a medal. A sports franchise wins another championship.

Among other things, the Bhagavad-gita says that the soul does not die. It does not take birth, either. This is interesting. So what are birth and death, then? They relate to the body, which is temporary. That body does not identify the individual. When a specific body type arrives for a spirit soul and that combination then makes a visible appearance, we call the event birth. When the same body stops functioning, when the soul leaves for another body, that is called death.

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)

This one verse says so much. It has significance to practically everything experienced in life, for the combination of body and spirit is everywhere. This one verse speaks to the nature of time and space as well. The fact that the soul lives on means that time does not influence its existence. The body references space. The body is what we see. It is what roams through space, which is infinite.

So much new literature can be published that uses this verse as a foundation. This verse helps to explain everything we see around us. From this verse we learn that the great lamentation that occurs at the passing of a famous person is not necessary, since that person has not had their existence altered. We understand that the feverish pursuit for a temporary reward is not worth it, as the object’s temporary nature leads to its gradual loss of influence. Why work for something that you won’t get to keep with you for too long? And yes, in the grand scheme, the lifetime of the human being is small. It is like a tiny point on a chart; almost imperceptible.

[Prabhupada with books]This single verse from the Bhagavad-gita already teaches us that people come and go. Thus the volumes of literature focused on the material are not needed. To associate with the body is the default mentality. It does not have to be taught. A fascinating truth revealed by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada touches on the mention of sacrifice and austerity in religious works. The great guru says that things like eating do not need to be taught. Any person can figure out how to eat. The same goes for interaction with the opposite sex. These things are mentioned in religious works for restriction purposes only. With restriction, which only the human being has the intelligence to intentionally implement, the mind becomes more sober and better equipped to consider higher topics like birth, death, reincarnation, karma, the material nature and the Supreme Controller. The motto is simple living and high thinking.

A small work like the Bhagavad-gita provides lifetimes’ worth of education. The volumes of literature focused on the mundane may emerge victorious when the weight scales are the judge, but in terms of educational value there is no contest. The most important questions, the issues actually pressing for the individual, who is a spark of spirit emanating from the storehouse of spirit, get covered in Vedanta philosophy, which the Bhagavad-gita perfectly explains and more. The fortunate person will take advantage of this work and watch their intelligence ascend to heights never before reached.

In Closing:

Volumes of books and newspapers many,

But real value to them not any.


Because nature of soul not to address,

On temporary pleasures the stress.


From Bhagavad-gita’s verses few and short,

Vast knowledge, fear of death to thwart.


Through restriction to come the sober mind,

Then understanding spirit, matter to leave behind.