Saturday, June 6, 2015

Famous Pretenders

[pic of Ravana approaching Sita]“Tulsi says for one who doesn’t naturally love Rama it is useless to shave their head and leave home.” (Dohavali, 63)

tulasī jau pai rāma soṃ nāhina sahaja saneha |
mū'da mu।dāyo bādihīṃ bhā'da bhayo taji geha ||

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If the dress were everything in spiritual life, every person would shave their head. If the place of residence guaranteed winning the favor of the Supreme Lord, every person would leave home for the forest. At least those who are sincerely interested in advancing in the spiritual consciousness would follow this line. Though certain factors are more conducive to achieving the fruit of the human birth, real love and devotion are not dependent on anything. When the love flows easily towards the lotus feet of Shri Rama, the worshipable deity of Goswami Tulsidas, then one can live with or without a shaved head, in a palatial building or in a renounced forest.

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya
ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that a person who renounces everything externally but maintains attachment internally is a pretender. This makes sense. In certain areas, the externals are all that matter. For instance, in weight loss if I eat less, it doesn’t matter what my mind does. The decrease in caloric intake will lead to a decrease in weight.

[yoyo diet]But here even the mind plays a role in the aftermath. If there is still heavy attachment towards fatty foods, the weight will not stay off permanently; hence the concept of “yoyo dieting.” One day you are watching what you eat, and the next you are not. Therefore your renunciation is not permanent. You still have attachment to that which you’re trying to renounce.

In spiritual life, the symbol of formal acceptance of training under a bona fide spiritual master is the shaved head. Think of it like getting a haircut for entering the military or buying a specific uniform after enrolling in private school. The clean-shaven look is not a requirement for success, but it helps to maintain the culture of renunciation. The less distractions there are, the more time there is for assimilating knowledge of the difference between matter and spirit.

As there is free will in this world, there is the chance for cheating in every area. Just because someone accepts the garb of a spiritualist, it doesn’t mean that they are advanced in the discipline. They could be doing everything with ill intentions. In the Vedas there are many examples of this. One time a king named Pratapabhanu got fooled by the outer dress. He lost his way in the forest and came upon someone who looked like an ascetic. But in fact, this person was an old enemy to the king. Using his false guise to his advantage, this person steered the king in the wrong direction. That mistake ultimately led to the king’s being cursed to take birth as a man-eater in the next life. That Rakshasa’s salvation came when Shri Rama personally killed him.

Goswami Tulsidas shows us how to weed out the pretenders. He says that a person should have spontaneous devotion to Rama. God is one, but He appears in different spiritual forms whenever He so chooses. Since He has the ability to think, choose and will, He cannot be incorporeal. From His effulgence came a spiritual energy that lacks attributes, but the source can never be devoid of qualities.

[Krishna fighting Paundraka]Krishna is the same Rama, and during His time on earth there was an imposter named Paundraka. He dressed just like Krishna and even sent a challenge to the Lord. In this instance, if a person went simply off of externals, they might mistake the fiend for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Shri Krishna took care of the pretender and his challenge without issue.

The same Pratapabhanu used a false guise in his next birth as Ravana. He pretended to be an ascetic in order to win over the favor of Shri Rama’s wife Sita. She was hospitable towards him at first, but she soon found out his real intentions when he spoke. Ravana wanted to take Sita for himself. Instead of being renounced, he was driven by lust.

[Ravana approaching Sita]In these instances we see that speech gave away the true position of the cheater. Their speech gave an indication of their desires. In pure bhakti, the only desire is to serve the Supreme Lord. This is a difficult platform to reach; therefore the formalities exist to help the process along. The rules themselves are never superior, as Shri Rama Himself can break any of the rules of nature. He does so for the pleasure of His devotees, who can be found in any guise.

In Closing:

Ravana and Paundraka examples two,

With a false guise easily to fool me and you.


From dress as devoted souls to know,

But their speech true intentions to show.


Shaved head and for forest fleeing,

From rituals alone devoted not being.


Judge by whether Lord’s praises to say,

For continued devotion only do they pray?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Not Excluding Anyone

[sankirtana]“Tulsi says for one who doesn’t naturally love Rama it is useless to shave their head and leave home.” (Dohavali, 63)

tulasī jau pai rāma soṃ nāhina sahaja saneha |
mū'da mu।dāyo bādihīṃ bhā'da bhayo taji geha ||

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An individual learns the true value of discretion as they grow older. This is the result of experience, after all. You try one thing, examine the result, and then decide if the same should be repeated or avoided going forward. One application of discretion is with respect to sharing good news. The issue to contend with is jealousy. Not everyone is going through good times. Therefore not everyone will be happy for you. Also touching on discretion is this verse from the Dohavali by Goswami Tulsidas. It subtly points out that spiritual life is for everyone, since it is a matter of the heart. One person may appear to be further along due to having accepted certain formalities, but the externals don’t always tell the full story.

Let’s say that you’ve just won the lottery. You think to yourself that you never win anything. Up until this point, life has been a game where the odds have been stacked against you. Therefore you can’t believe your good fortune. No more having to worry about paying the bills. No more having to go to work. No more being in want; at least you think.

[lottery ticket]Friends and family share our experiences. If we watch something good on television, we want to tell others about it. In the instance with the lottery, the news is really big. But the issue is that the reward is not shared by everyone. Life will remain the same for those whom you tell. There are bound to be some who become jealous. They won’t be happy for you. In their minds, what have you done? Why do you deserve to strike it big in a game of chance?

brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja

“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 19.151)

The greatest fortune in life is the meeting with the bona fide spiritual master. This seemingly chance encounter is brought about by the combination of sincere desire and the mercy of the Supreme Lord. Birth in the human species is auspicious, but for a specific reason. Only the human being can have jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation. The dog can’t read a book. The cat can’t decide to go on a diet. The human being has the facility for gathering knowledge and using renunciation as a tool to increase their happiness.

Not all knowledge is the same. Neither are all kinds of renunciation beneficial. One person uses knowledge to succeed in business, and that knowledge can cause others to go out of business. One person accepts austerity with ill motives. Vrikasura is a great example. He was austere to the point of sacrificing his own flesh. He took the risk so that he could get the ability to kill other people by simply touching their head.

“When the demon was offered this facility by Lord Shiva, he asked for a very fearful and abominable benediction. The demon was very sinful, and sinful persons do not know what sort of benediction should be asked from the deity. Therefore he asked Lord Shiva to be benedicted with such power that as soon as he would touch anyone's head, it would immediately crack, and the man would die.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)

[Vrikasura]Exiting the womb is considered the first birth, and the second birth is from initiation with a spiritual master, who is known as the guru. The second birth signals the beginning of assimilation of knowledge and the practice of austerities for the sole purpose of becoming further God realized. This is the true boon of the human birth, the ability to understand God and then serve Him voluntarily, with love and attention.

Tulsidas references this initiation by speaking of the shaving of the head. This is typically done prior to the initiation ceremony. The second part refers to advanced ascetics, who abandon home for life in the woods. A person who has done these two things is indeed special. Not everyone can make the sacrifice. The news that someone has been initiated may not make everyone happy, though. Even the well-wishers can become jealous, for not everyone is able to accept every formality of spiritual life.

Being the compassionate devotee of the Lord that he is, from this verse Tulsidas removes any reason for worry on the issue. What matters most is love for Rama, who is the Supreme Lord. That love should be natural; it shouldn’t be forced. It should be practiced spontaneously. In fact, that is the goal of knowledge and renunciation. In knowledge a person understands that God is the source of everything and that He is indeed a person. God never takes birth and He never dies. He is the life of everything that lives, and those living things are constitutionally fit to serve Him. This service is what makes them happiest.

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

Renunciation helps to reinforce the dedication to that service, which is known as bhakti-yoga. If after shaving the head and leaving home one does not naturally love God the person, they are simply wasting their time. They could have saved themselves the trouble by staying at home. If a person who lives at home has natural love for Rama, then they have no need to accept any formality. They have bypassed everything.

[sankirtana]At the same time, the advanced souls still follow the majority of the traditions. Tulsidas indeed left home and became a fulltime wanderer, a sannyasi. He begged from door to door in order to spread the message of divine love. Through his authored works, so many people got to hear about Shri Rama. Their status, gender, intelligence, and level of renunciation did not matter. The poet made sure that everyone got the chance to develop spontaneous love for God, which is the goal of human life.

In Closing:

Shaved head when guru to accept,

To roam free, comfort of home to reject.


But others not some jealousy to take,

Since same sacrifices they can’t make?


Tulsi saying that no reason to fear,

Key is to Shri Rama to remain dear.


Then whether living in forest or home,

The Lord gladly to call you His own.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Shaving the Head

[Goswami Tulsidas]“Tulsi says for one who doesn’t naturally love Rama it is useless to shave their head and leave home.” (Dohavali, 63)

tulasī jau pai rāma soṃ nāhina sahaja saneha |
mū'da mu।dāyo bādihīṃ bhā'da bhayo taji geha ||

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A person formally initiated into the timeless discipline of devotional service typically shaves their head at the beginning. In an ashrama filled with initiated disciples, there are many shaved heads to be seen. The outsider will naturally wonder, “Is it necessary to get rid of my hair in order to find God?” The question they’re really asking is, “Does the external appearance make a difference when practicing spiritual life?” Goswami Tulsidas gives the answer. He says that what is on the inside matters more. On the inside there should be love for the Supreme Lord that flows easily.

Why the shaved head? Why needlessly go through something like that?

The simple answer is cleanliness. Just as students enrolled in a private school wear a particular uniform, so a person formally accepting the guidance of a spiritual master dresses in a certain way to begin their training. In the military as well, there are specific uniforms and the hair is generally kept short.

[ambulance lights]The shaved head, the tilaka on the forehead, and the tulasi beads around the neck also serve to make the devotee easily recognizable. If we get into a car accident, we know help is on the way based on the appearance of certain cars. The ambulance has a specific look and an accompanying siren. The same goes for the police car. If we run into trouble on the street, we can find a police officer based on their uniform.

Similarly, if we’re looking for devotees who follow bhakti-yoga, we can spot them with their shaved heads and the devotional paraphernalia on their bodies. An easier way to find them is by sound, as they are always blissfully chanting the holy names of the Lord: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

It’s important to remember, however, that the dress doesn’t make everything. Goswami Tulsidas makes mention of this in the verse quoted above from the Dohavali. The second part of the couplet addresses the shaving of the head and leaving home. No hair on the head is a sign of renunciation. You’re giving up vanity. You’re not trying to look attractive for anyone. In the same way, attachment to home and family is an impediment in spiritual life. Therefore in the past leaving home for the forest accompanied the shaving of the head. Today, often the same renunciation is accomplished through moving into the temple.

The first part of the couplet says that there must be love for Rama. Who is Rama?  He is the Supreme Lord. That love should flow easily; it shouldn’t be forced. At the beginning the requisite level of affection may not be there; hence the training. The culmination stage is pure love for God. If there is no desire even to love God, then what is the point in shaving the head? What use is served by becoming an ascetic? In the opinion of the author, the effort becomes a waste of time.

Indeed, many famous personalities in the Vaishnava tradition did not renounce home. This means that the external changes are not a strict requirement. As Shrila Rupa Gosvami advises, anything favorable for devotional service should be accepted and anything unfavorable rejected. There is also the concept of phalgu-vairagya, or fake renunciation. The monkey lives in the forest, but no one would consider them to be an ascetic. An old man loses his hair and becomes bald, and that doesn’t necessarily make them spiritually realized.

[Goswami Tulsidas]The formalities recommended for advancing in the spiritual consciousness are not required, but many undergo them anyway. They do so for the benefit of others, to help spread the mission of devotional service, which is every person’s birthright. The soul should love without conditions. It is meant to be happy in that service, which it has forgotten since time immemorial. When the various external signs help others to remember their lost relationship to God, then the devotee’s tremendous sacrifice has paid dividends.. For this they are duly rewarded with increased love and devotion to the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Necessary to shave my head,

And into forest life be led?


Practice bordering on extreme,

Why devotion for others to be seen?


Tulsi saying for love of God meant,

Otherwise useless in rituals spent.


Preachers for others undergoing still,

So that in them bhakti culture to instill.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Offering For Our Benefit

[flower for Krishna]“We cannot bribe the Personality of Godhead. He is so great that our bribery has no value. Nor has He any scarcity; since He is full in Himself, what can we offer Him? Everything is produced by Him. We simply offer to show our love and gratitude to the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.24 Purport)

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Bhakti-yoga is love and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Love involves sacrifice. You give of yourself. It’s difficult to get up in the morning without some motivating factor. If you have to be at a certain place at a specific time, then it’s easier to arise. If there is no pressing matter, it’s easier to remain in bed. Sacrifice in love is to work specifically for another’s benefit. And in the Supreme Lord, the beneficiary already has everything; therefore the sentiment is most appreciated.

It’s a common scenario. An officer is abiding by the letter of the law. They cannot grant your request. On a technicality, you missed qualification for the specific thing that you want. You know that the stipulation in the law preventing your progress is minor. The officer can make an exception this one time; they won’t get in trouble.

Ah, but you have to find a way to influence the officer first. If they help you this one time, they should do the same for everyone in a similar predicament. If they did that, then the law would have no meaning. To get what you desire, you try some flattery. You praise the officer for their adherence to the law. You tell them that the nation needs more people like them. Then you promise to never bother them again, that granting this one request will make you so happy.

This is the art of persuasion, and it is seen in many different areas. In the most egregious examples it turns into bribery, and in the innocent cases it is known as “buttering up.” The practice is seen in religious life as well. There is the famous example of Vrikasura. He wanted to please Lord Shiva, a powerful god of the Vedic tradition. As a person, Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of the personal form of God. Shiva is always in meditation, and he is a great speaker on God’s glories. If you were to invite him to your home to discuss the pastimes and qualities of the personal and original form of God, his words would move you to new heights of bliss.

[Lord Shiva]Shiva’s occupation involves things seemingly outside of devotion. His work still qualifies as devotion since he takes up his duties at the behest of God. One of those duties involves giving material rewards to worshipers. In the material existence, there has to be potential for achieving the full limit of opulence. That is the nature of the area. Just like a person playing golf has the potential to win every tournament during the calendar year, the person living in the material world has the ability to get as much wealth, strength, power, fame, beauty and knowledge as there is to be found.

It is impossible to get these things without the help of higher authorities. The person rising to prominence in business had to be raised by parents. They had to have others helping them along the way. There had to be cooperation from the three sources of misery: mother nature, the body and mind, and other living entities.

Vrikasura knew that Lord Shiva is easily pleased. Shiva’s name of Ashutosha means that he doesn’t want to be bothered so much. He understands that material rewards aren’t so important. Whatever people want, he’ll generally give to them. So Vrikasura sacrificed so much, to the point of offering his entire body for Shiva’s pleasure. Mahadeva finally arrived on the scene and agreed to give Vrikasura whatever he wanted.

“On the seventh day, the demon Vrikasura decided that he should cut off his head and offer it to satisfy Lord Shiva. Thus he took a bath in a nearby lake, and without drying his body and hair, he prepared to cut off his head. ” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)

The worshiper in this case was ill-motivated; he wanted to be able to kill anyone simply by touching their head. Ashutosha granted this request and Vrikasura then proceeded to chase after the person he just worshiped. He wanted Shiva’s wife Parvati for himself. Eventually the Supreme Lord intervened and tricked the demon into placing his hand on his own head; thereby killing himself.

[Radha-Krishna]The Supreme Lord cannot be bribed in such a way. Bhakti-yoga is for pure devotion. The purity is in the motive. There is no desire for sense gratification, renunciation, or mystic perfection. The only desire is to please God. The entire process is for increasing devotion, which is what makes the individual happiest. And when the devotion is pure, there is no need to put on an act to persuade. The all-attractive Supreme Lord Krishna feels indebted to the devotee to the point that He will do anything for them. The ideal example of devotion is Shrimati Radharani. Krishna Himself admits that there is no way He can repay the love that Radharani offers.

In Closing:

Despite flattering words to make,

Your bribe Supreme Lord not to take.


For pure devotion bhakti is meant,

Not in chasing rewards to be spent.


To Krishna what offering can be?

Full of pleasure and opulence is He.


Benefit in devotion to come back to you,

Supreme rewarding a sincerity true.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Seeing In Goodness

[Krishna with cows]“Since the individual soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, in that sense the Lord is living in every body, and, as Supersoul, the Lord is also present as a witness. In both cases the presence of God in every living entity is essential. Therefore persons who profess to belong to some religious sect but who do not feel the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in every living entity, and everywhere else, are in the mode of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.22 Purport)

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The Sanskrit word “brahmana” has a specific meaning. There is no reference to birth within that meaning. Nothing is said about honor automatically descending. That meaning does not mention a position within a system of castes, which is a sort of pecking order. The word references Brahman, which is the universal spiritual energy. Brahman is what animates every living being. Covering the vision of Brahman is maya, which is the illusory material nature. The brahmana is a person who understands Brahman; they see spirit within everything. This immediately makes them truly religious and in the mode of goodness.

“If the real brahmana, one not determined solely by birth, is religious in the true sense of the word, what is someone who is only halfway religious? If the brahmana sees in the mode of goodness, which mode are the less advanced in? In what way do they view the world?”

The brahmana is also a pandita, which is a learned person. In today’s vernacular a pandit can also be an occupation, like a priest who is called upon to perform rituals. But once again the original Sanskrit word gives us the real meaning. In the Bhagavad-gita, the vision of the pandita is described.

brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

[vision of the humble sage]The pandita views with equal vision so many different species. He equates the wise brahmana with the dog. He sees the cow and the elephant as being the same. There are obvious differences between these species. You can’t expect an elephant to behave in the same way as a cow. You can’t talk to the dog in the way that you talk to a human being.

In the same verse, the explanation for the vision is given. The pandita, the humble sage, sees this way because of true knowledge, vidya. This knowledge is what puts them in the mode of goodness, which is higher than passion and ignorance. Passion is pretty easy to understand. Think of the distinctions drawn when taking part in a competition. The competitors try their best to beat each other, going to the point of cheating even. They view everyone else as competition, not understanding that the rest of the field is no different than they are. Each person is the same; it’s just that the nature of competition has made it so that viewing with differences is beneficial in the short term.

The term “religion” connotes intelligence with relation to the spiritual. The religious person is synonymous with the pandita. Therefore to limit the presence of spirit to only a few species is religiousness in the mode of ignorance. Spirit comes from God, and to say that spirit is only in a few types of animate bodies is to say that the potency of God is limited and absent in certain living things.

For instance, it is quite common to see the presence of God in the child. The process of a new life coming into this world seems like a miracle. Their departure is similarly amazing, as within a second a person can go from being alive to being dead. To see God in the newborn is to see with an advanced vision.

To see God in the dog and in the cat is also wise. The dog eats, sleeps, mates and defends just like the human being. There is something animating it. Brahman is there, and Brahman comes from God, who is Parabrahman. If the vision stops there, however, then it is a sign of ignorance. Why should God only be in the newborn, the cat and the dog? Why not the cow? Why not the ant? The types of bodies are surely different, but the animating force is not. We know this based on the life cycle of the human being. In infancy, the human being is less evolved than many animals. Yet the same individual matures to become wise. The bodies change, but the individual does not. The development of the body, therefore, cannot determine whether spirit is present or not.

The human being is meant to rise to the mode of goodness and beyond. That is in the nature of the type of body given. The other species do not have this advantage. They are limited in what they can understand. Religion is meant for elevation in consciousness. One who is religious and still sees with duality has not matured fully. Their behavior can often descend to levels lower than what is seen in the nonreligious. Killing innocent women, children and animals in the name of religion is the very definition of activities in the mode of ignorance.

[Krishna, the Supreme Lord]In the mode of goodness one sees the presence of spirit everywhere. That spirit comes from the Supreme Spirit. In fact, the Supreme Spirit is also within every creature through His expansion of the Supersoul. Therefore both the expansions of God and God Himself are everywhere. There is a benefit to seeing this way. The maturity in consciousness brings one closer to the eternal engagement known as sanatana-dharma. This dharma is the essential characteristic of the living spirit and sanatana means that it should be carried out eternally. Sanatana-dharma is service to the Divine, and it can only take place unconditionally and without stop when there is pure love and devotion. The mode of goodness is the platform from which one can again reach in full sanatana-dharma, which is joyfully performed.

In Closing:

Pandita with equal vision to see,

Spirit found in everything that be.


Cow, dog and elephant too,

Spiritually equal are me and you.


When the vision narrowly applied,

Then sadly mode of ignorance the guide.


Human life for goodness and beyond meant,

In bliss of eternal engagement to be spent.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Excusing Offenses Made Directly To Him

[Brahma praying to Krishna]“Everything is existing within the energy of the Lord, so the Brahma of this universe or the Brahmas of the many other millions and trillions of universes are existing within the energy of the Lord; therefore the Lord is considered to be the mother, and everything existing within the womb of the mother is considered to be the child. And the good mother is never offended with the child, even if he touches the body of the mother by kicking his legs.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 14)

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The concept of sin needn’t be misunderstood as widely as it is. More basic than doing something and then getting punished for a long time in the afterlife, sin is merely the wrong way. It is the path leading to the destination that is not desired. At the outset it may not seem this way. The patient suffering from stomach problems is told to limit food intake. Yet when eating dinner that night they think it wise to have more and more of what is offered to them. In other times this overeating isn’t sinful, but in this unhealthy condition the situation is reversed.

The sin in this case leads to the negative reaction of continued health problems. In the larger scheme, sin is what keeps the consciousness further away from the Supreme Lord. The association with the Divine is always there. He is around us right now, but we lack the eyes to notice His presence. He is the life of everything that lives. The individual soul animates the dead body, but without the hand of the Supreme Soul we wouldn’t be able to notice that something is alive or dead.

puṇyo gandhaḥ pṛthivyāṁ ca
tejaś cāsmi vibhāvasau
jīvanaṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
tapaś cāsmi tapasviṣu

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

The individual has the Supreme Soul residing next to it. Side by side, like best friends, we are meant to be with God. Though He lives so close to us, there can be a great distance between us. This is due to consciousness. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. We can be neighbors with someone for years and still not know their name. Someone who lives much further away can be closer to us since we are in constant contact with them.

Krishna consciousness is the original consciousness. Any other consciousness is the result of sin. More and more sin keeps the consciousness more and more away from its original state. This lack of association with the Supreme Lord due to the desires within the mind is an indirect sort of sin. It is not made directly in front of Krishna the person. It is subtly done, when we think He is not in front of us. To prove that He is the most forgiving, one time Krishna pardoned a great offense made directly to Him.

The sinful act was carried out by Lord Brahma, who is the creator. We are products of Brahma’s work. We are individual soul at the core, so Brahma has no influence over that. But when there is a trace of sin in us, he gets to work at making the bodies we will reside in. These are like uniforms, and they have different features. Brahma uses the three modes of material nature as his ingredients. His work results in up to 8,400,000 different species.

[Brahma and Vishnu]Brahma is empowered by the Supreme Lord. First comes God, then Brahma, who emerges from a stem that grows out of the lotus-like navel of Vishnu. Krishna and Vishnu are the same; just different manifestations of the original personal God. Since Vishnu has this feature on His body, one of His names is Padmanabha, or one with a lotus-like navel.

Even though Brahma is given the task of creation, he too can sin. He did this one time when Krishna appeared on earth in the land of Vrindavana. The area was a farm community, and fitting in with everyone else Krishna would enjoy as a young child. Part of that play included daily trips to the pasturing grounds with the calves. Krishna would go along with His friends who were around the same age.

One day while the boys were taking lunch in the fields, they noticed that their calves had wandered away. Krishna went to look for them, but to no luck. When He came back, He saw that all His cowherd friends were gone. The Supreme Lord knew that this was Brahma’s doing, who wanted to see Krishna work His magic once again. Up until that time, many nefarious characters had come to Vrindavana to try to harm Krishna. Though a small child and thus seemingly no match against more powerful and deceitful demons, Krishna emerged victorious every time.

He would baffle Brahma on this occasion. Krishna simply expanded Himself to make copies of all the calves and cowherd boys. He returned home with them and continued with the game for an entire year. Finally Brahma relented and gave back the boys and the calves, who didn’t notice that an entire year had passed. A contrite Brahma then offered nice prayers.

[Brahma praying to Krishna]One of the things he mentioned is that the mother doesn’t mind it if the child in the womb starts to kick a little. In the same way, Krishna should not mind if Brahma played with Him in this way. And of course Krishna forgave Brahma. This offense was made directly at Krishna, involving His beloved friends and calves as well. If He is forgiving of Brahma, who is supposed to know better, He is certainly the same way with the countless living entities who have forgotten Him since time immemorial. He forgives the original sin in a second, provided the desire to regain His association is there. This is one way to explain the potency of the maha-mantra, which removes sin and redeems souls that have lost their way: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Conditioned souls who’ve lost their way,

With sincerity the holy names can say.


Forgiven for everything past transpired,

By pastime with Brahma be inspired.


Friends taken from the field though,

That work of Brahma Krishna to know.


Like mother child’s kicking not minding,

Supreme forgiveness in Padmanabha finding.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bringing Back To Consciousness

[entering Aghasura's mouth]“After the demon dropped dead, Krishna, with His transcendental glance alone, brought all the boys and calves back to consciousness and came with them out of the mouth of the demon. While Krishna was within the mouth of Aghasura, the demon's spirit soul came out like a dazzling light, illuminating all directions, and waited in the sky. As soon as Krishna with His calves and friends came out of the mouth of the demon, that glittering effulgent light immediately merged into the body of Krishna within the vision of all the demigods.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 12)

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada described the goal of bhakti-yoga in just three words: back to Godhead. This pithy phrase explains so much. The first word indicates that the destination relates to something from the past. You can only go back to something if you have been there before. The last word indicates that the Supreme Lord is one who can expand into many. This is but one aspect of His inconceivable potency. The word “to” speaks of a journey of some sort, travelling from one place to another. That word also applies to consciousness; a truth exhibited both literally and symbolically in the pastime of Krishna and Aghasura.

The word “agha” in Sanskrit means sin. We think of sin in terms of acts that are obviously bad. We shouldn’t steal. We shouldn’t commit adultery. We shouldn’t kill people, especially outside of the six areas where aggression is sanctioned.

“According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: 1) a poison giver, 2) one who sets fire to the house, 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, 4) one who plunders riches, 5) one who occupies another's land, and 6) one who kidnaps a wife. Such aggressors are at once to be killed, and no sin is incurred by killing such aggressors.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.36 Purport)

No one wants to be called a sinner, and no one wants to be told that what they are doing will lead them to an undesired destination in the afterlife. But sin is actually much simpler to understand. It is the wrong way of doing things. Such as in driving, there are right and wrong sides of the road. To drive on the wrong side of the road is to sin. It brings a negative outcome.

At the granular level, sin is anything that keeps the living being further away from God. We revisit the phrase “back to Godhead.” Those who are not currently with the Supreme Lord are sinful to some degree. Rebirth can only take place when there is sin within the individual, whether a trace or large amount. That wrong way of doing something relates to consciousness, and namely forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord.

Synonymous with “back to Godhead” is the phrase “back to consciousness.” This seems odd at first, since pretty much everyone we know is conscious right now. The consciousness here relates to Krishna consciousness, awareness of the Supreme Lord. Krishna consciousness is the original consciousness and sinful life is a sort of unconsciousness.

“The state of conditioned life in the material world is just like a man lying unconscious, having been bitten by a snake. This is because both such unconscious states can be ended by the sound of a mantra.” (Garuda Purana quoted in The Nectar of Devotion, 10)

The incident with the Aghasura demon in Vrindavana nicely illustrates this. The Supreme Lord Krishna had descended to earth to exhibit His transcendental form and take part in instructional and heartwarming pastimes. During the period of youth, He remained in the farm community of Vrindavana. He would daily go out to the fields and play with His friends.

One day the friends of Krishna saw a large cave that looked strange. They thought it might be a demon in disguise, so they decided to enter the cave and see what they could do about the situation. That cave was indeed the demon Aghasura. He used the mahima siddhi of yoga to expand his body to a very large size. The opening to the cave was actually the mouth of Aghasura, who was in the shape of a serpent.

This is a historical incident that occurred on this planet, but there is symbolic meaning at the same time; such is the beauty of the Supreme Lord. His creativeness is such that He makes scenes in real life that are better than anything a storyteller could imagine. Aghasura’s name is a compound Sanskrit word. The first part is “agha,” which means sin. The second is “asura,” which means one who is against God. The second part seems redundant, but the asura can also be a particular species. This species is born with sinful tendencies; hence they have no problem doing such things as swallowing young children.

Krishna’s friends became unconscious within the mouth of Aghasura. This symbolically represents the effect of sinful life. As soon as there is contact with agha, the original consciousness vanishes. What’s left is the mentality to hoard, to exploit, to enjoy separate from God. That is the definition of sinful life, and since the power is so strong there is hardly a trace of remembrance of the Supreme Lord and all His glory.

[Aghasura pastime]Seeing the trouble, Krishna also decided to enter Aghasura’s mouth. By expanding His body, Krishna eventually choked the demon to death. The boys were thus brought back to consciousness, showing that God the person is the one who can remove the odor of agha and bring the individual back to their original state.

The devotees are often described as anagha, or sinless. The famous Arjuna was addressed this way in the Bhagavad-gita. They are steady in consciousness of Krishna. Their journey back to Godhead has already taken place, as they are always conscious of the slayer of the Aghasura demon. In this age, where agha has set up shop in the dangerous activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex, the only rescue is the sound representation of Krishna. This sound is identical to the Supreme Lord and it carries the potency to bring one back to their original consciousness. The wise souls always chant the holy names to create this sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When Krishna consciousness earning,

To the original state then returning.


Trace of agha causing the fall,

Material world home then to call.


Representing unconscious state,

But by Lord’s sound can instantly awake.


Like with Aghasura demon shown,

Krishna bringing to life friends His own.