Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Choice

[Bharata War]“Tulsi says that one who insults Hari has their entire society and kingdom go to dust, like with what happened to Duryodhana, his family, and everyone associated with him.” (Dohavali, 67)

tulasī hari apamāna tēṁ hō'i akāja samāja |
rāja karata raja mili ga'ē sadala sakula kurūrāja ||67||

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It’s funny what a little power does to people. In the case of Duryodhana, it wasn’t acquired through his own effort. He took advantage of a situation, a tragic one at that. The father of his cousins passed on, leaving the family to fend for themselves. Little did that family know that their greatest enemy would be their uncle and his sons, led by Duryodhana. The fiend usurped land that didn’t belong to him. Caught in the fever of power, he made the grave mistake of going against the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The wronged party, the Pandavas, would never think of committing such an error.

As Goswami Tulsidas points out, insulting Shri Hari leaves you and your family in the dust eventually. Duryodhana coveted land so much that he behaved sinfully at every turn. These events are described in the Mahabharata, which is an epic Vedic text. Due to its length and rich philosophy, it is often known as the fifth Veda, or branch of important knowledge passed on since time immemorial. In the Mahabharata we get a true understanding of Duryodhana’s character, which has at its foundation envy of the Supreme Lord.

[Lord Krishna]The land in question belonged to the Pandavas. The father Pandu was the rightful heir to the throne, and so upon passing away his sons should have taken control. But those sons, headed by Yudhishthira, were cheated by Dhritarashtra, Pandu’s brother. Duryodhana was the leading son of Dhritarashtra and he executed many plans intended to get rid of the Pandavas. But those brothers survived each time due to their devotion to Shri Krishna, who is the same Hari mentioned by Tulsidas above.

As the events played out, war became inevitable. As one last attempt to prevent the hostilities, Shri Krishna made an overture. He visited Duryodhana to try to broker a peace deal. Duryodhana and Karna decided to try to bind Krishna, to make a fool out of Him. Of course Krishna is not of the material world. The fools are those who think that He has assumed His form, not knowing His changeless nature.

Krishna showed a partial version of His universal form in response to the pathetic attempt. This was one example where Duryodhana directly insulted the Supreme Lord. In another instance, he had the choice of either Krishna or Krishna’s army. In fighting a war, obviously you want to have more men than the other side. Therefore the choice seemed obvious to Duryodhana. Yet Arjuna, the leading warrior for the Pandavas, took Krishna immediately. The Supreme Lord had stipulated that He would not fight; He would simply give His personal presence. Arjuna understood that where there is Krishna, there is victory. Duryodhana had no desire for Krishna by his side.

The result of the war is what Tulsidas speaks of above. The entire family, what to speak of Duryodhana himself, ended up in dust. The land they treasured so much became their final fate. The Pandavas regained their kingdom, but the lesson shouldn’t be misunderstood. The Pandavas did not covet land; they fought to uphold righteousness. Death is guaranteed for every individual, so the difference between the Pandavas and Kauravas related to the sustained devotion to God.

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ

ye janāḥ paryupāsate

teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ

yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In the Bhagavad-gita, which is found inside the Mahabharata, Krishna says that He gives the devotees what they lack and preserves what they have. The non-devotees don’t enjoy the same benefit. Duryodhana’s land was not preserved. His power also left him quickly.

[Krishna and Arjuna]One may question Krishna’s response. Is He a mean God? Why should insulting Him result in losing everything? The answer is that the reaction is built into the action. There is no divine intervention required. Duryodhana insulted the Supreme Lord in the same way that the atheist thinks that everything occurs by chance. In that mentality their first instinct is to exploit. They become so power hungry that they forget from where everything came. The mentality is what leads to their demise.

In the case of the Kauravas, the Supreme Lord was there to be consulted. They could have asked Him for advice. They could have sought His opinion on matters. They didn’t have to stay in the dark; they chose to. In this material existence, it is indeed my choice to live as I see fit. Those choices have their consequences, and in the case of the Bharata War the results are clear to see.

In Closing:

Independent, choice is mine,

From there consequences to find.


When Supreme Lord against going,

The lesson from Kauravas knowing.


Family, friends and kingdom to dust,

Mistake in Duryodhana to trust.


Pandavas showing the proper way,

Trusting Krishna, theirs to stay.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Insulting Hari

[Bharata War]“Tulsi says that one who insults Hari has their entire society and kingdom go to dust, like with what happened to Duryodhana, his family, and everyone associated with him.” (Dohavali, 67)

tulasī hari apamāna tēṁ hō'i akāja samāja |
rāja karata raja mili ga'ē sadala sakula kurūrāja ||67||

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One of the great things about the Bhagavad-gita is that the information transmitted can be understood both theoretically and practically. There is symbolism in everything the Supreme Lord does. Sort of like the concept of life imitating art, Shri Krishna is the original artist. He has the most intelligent brain to use in His creative powers. Therefore whatever He does automatically teaches at the same time. His actions reinforce the principles He sets forth for the benefit of man. The actions of those who are against Him also validate the key points of the Gita’s philosophy.

The main issue is allegiance. Are you with God? If you don’t know who He is then the answer is “no.” If you think that He is a mean person who allows bad things to happen to innocent people, then the answer is the same. If you think He is a figment of the imagination of the bewildered mind, then you’re on the same side. When allegiance is there, all good things result. The reverse side to this truth is that the absence of allegiance brings all negative things.

The first consequence is a descent. Like falling from a mountaintop, the envious spirit soul falls into the ocean of material suffering, where the wheel of rebirth spins and spins until desire changes. The existence is considered miserable for the very fact that nothing is fixed. Attachments form, and they become so strong that they lead to great sadness upon separation. Yet at one point the object to which one is attached wasn’t around. Therefore the pain of separation is unwarranted; it is not supported by intelligence.

The anchor of that attachment is lust, which Krishna describes as the all-devouring enemy in this world. One is advised to control this lust, from the very beginning of life. The role of the parents is to say “no.” Two parents are better than one in this regard. The extra guardian means an extra person to deny requests. The more the child is taught to control the urges in kama, the better off they will be.

Everything negative in life is due to kama, and that kama came from enviousness of the Supreme Lord. In simpler terms, if you go against God, you will never win in the end. Everything that you have will turn to dust, like in the case of Duryodhana. This is the point made by Goswami Tulsidas in the Dohavali verse quoted above.

Shri Krishna is Hari, or the Supreme Lord. Hari is also Shri Rama, the worshipable personality of choice of Tulsidas. Basically Hari is the personal God. You can only go against a person. You can only have attachment to a tangible, living figure. Hari is incorporeal in the sense that His bodily parts are not temporary. They are not the product of falling down into a material ocean due to envy. In fact, only the fools think this of Him. The wise know that His nature is changeless and supreme.

avyaktaṁ vyaktim āpannaṁ

manyante mām abuddhayaḥ

paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto

mamāvyayam anuttamam

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

[Lord Krishna]There is the theoretical side that going against Hari brings you to the material ocean, where whatever you gain goes to dust in the end. There is also the practical to prove the same. That example is found in the larger book that contains the smaller, more famous work known as the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna’s teachings are nestled inside of a larger story that illustrate the principles taught.

The premise for the Bharata War is the nefarious character Duryodhana. There are many bad apples in the world, but Duryodhana was notable for his behavior towards Krishna. He directly insulted Krishna. He started by taking land that didn’t belong to him. Krishna tried to broker peace. The land rightfully belonged to the Pandavas. This side, which consisted of five brothers and their mother, was wholly devoted to Krishna. Though they lacked a kingdom and seemed to find danger wherever they turned, they were destined to win in the end.

Duryodhana seemed to be gaining everything. It looked like there was no punishment coming. Yet he insulted Krishna by refusing to accept the peace deal. He didn’t just politely decline, either. And actually, the manner in which the refusal was made didn’t matter so much. Arjuna and his brothers were dear to Krishna, so they were protected by the divine hand throughout. For them victory was guaranteed, even if they didn’t have a burning desire for it.

[Arjuna and Duryodhana meeting Krishna]Duryodhana and his clan were the losers in the greatest war in history. They took to the sinful route to gain things that were destined for destruction anyway. The Pandavas chose the pious route. They gained back their kingdom, but their true wealth was their devotion. That remains to this day. Krishna tells Arjuna to boldly declare that the devotee of the Lord never perishes. Tulsidas reminds us of this eternal truth by giving warning to those who might think of insulting Shri Hari.

In Closing:

Words of Tulsidas trust,

Or watch fortunes go to dust.


Like with Duryodhana’s end,

After insult to Krishna to send.


Pandavas even reluctant to attack,

No burning desire to have kingdom back.


Protected since safely on Hari’s side,

Over their wellbeing always to preside.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fire and Brimstone

[Sita and Rama]“If you don’t serve Sita and Rama and lack devotion to Gauri and Shankara, then your birth is lost; in vain you approached the doors of others.” (Dohavali, 66)

seye sītā rāma nahiṁ bhaje na saṅkara gauri |
janama gam̐vāyo bādihīṁ parata parā'ī pauri ||

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“Isn’t this statement just like the others we see? Isn’t this a threat? If you don’t worship so and so, you’re going to hell. What kind of encouragement is that? It’s rooted in fear. How will you get others to listen to you? Why should they, in fact? Anyone can say that unless you follow such and such you’re condemned.”

Goswami Tulsidas gives his opinion in the verse quoted above, and the same conclusion can be reached using some sober analysis. Let’s begin with the purpose to an existence. Is it to do as we please, all the time? We know that won’t work. If I want to take property that belongs to others, I’ll get in trouble. At least if I try to take it by force, the authorities will come after me. I could go the backdoor route and ask the government to pass a law making my theft legal, but there is still difficulty.

Since I have to respect others and their property, I can’t always do what I want. There has to be some limitations. Therefore what should those limitations be? What is their purpose? There is also the issue of knowledge. I learn so many things throughout life. Some things I acquire through directly observing and others through hearing. If I’m gathering knowledge as I pass through life, what is the purpose? For what end should that knowledge be used?

Desire in Sanskrit is known as kama. One of the other English translations for this word is “lust.” We can think of kama in terms of the things that we want. Those things don’t have to be big or only for the long term. The dream of a better life is a kind of kama and so is wanting to eat pizza for dinner. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that this kama is the all-devouring enemy in the material world.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

kāma eṣa krodha eṣa


mahāśano mahā-pāpmā

viddhy enam iha vairiṇam

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

[Bhagavad-gita]We don’t need Krishna to tell us; we already know this from experience. We’ve tried to satisfy so many desires in the past. Did that bring us happiness? In many cases, the desires emerged again almost immediately and their intensity was far greater. This goes back to the stealing example. We can’t always do what we want. Satisfying kama is not the reason for our existence.

In any system of religion, there is restriction on kama. Knowledge is there as well, and it is for the purpose of advancing in consciousness. Strong family traditions and culture are respected, and at the same time the integral role of restriction is overlooked. In the modern day, progress means abolishing traditions that are considered outdated and prohibitive, but at the foundation of all the aspects of the original culture is the restriction on kama.

This brings us to the opinion of Goswami Tulsidas referenced above. He says that one should serve Sita and Rama. These are the goddess of fortune and God respectively. Sita and Rama are not Hindu gods. Perhaps they are worshiped more frequently in specific areas of the world, but they are in their positions for everyone’s benefit. In an intelligent discussion, there is no place for the “your god, my god” thinking. God is one and He is for everyone.

This is not to say that He limits Himself to certain places and cultures. Sita and Rama are famous in India because they appeared in that land many thousands of years ago, but this does not mean that they are to be worshiped only in India. The goddess of fortune gives rewards to anyone who worships her properly. Rama gives His association to anyone who surrenders to Him, even if they are from a vile family.

"It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me saying, 'My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours,' and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on." (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 18.33)

[Parvati and Shiva]Tulsidas says that there should also be devotion to Gauri and Shankara. This divine couple is the energy and the destroyer respectively within the material realm. They work at God’s command and they are entirely devoted to Sita and Rama. One should always respect God’s deputies. Disrespect of Gauri and Shankara only leads to doom, as it displeases the Supreme Lord.

If this combination of service and devotion is lacking, the life is considered a waste. Tulsidas says that in vain people approach the doors of others. The renunciation and knowledge are useless if the vital energy of the living spirit is used for begging from those who are not worthy of it. In kama, the begging is for enjoyment in the form of sex. The poor person begs for food, as does the rich person. The indigent go door to door, while the business owner pleads with the customer base and the shareholders.

[Sita and Rama]Begging there will always be, so why not approach Sita and Rama instead? Why not feel their mercy through surrender? Why not understand their compassionate nature through the instruction of Gauri and Shankara? The warning of a life gone to waste is the wakeup call for fulfilling the true destiny of the human spirit: pure devotion to God.

In Closing:

Not just poet’s words have to take,

Valid assessment yourself can make.


For doing as you please is life meant?

Take others property and jail-time spent.


In any case restriction there to be,

So their purpose from shastra see.


Devoted to Gauri and Shankara then know,

How in serving to make life fruitful so.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why Am I Here

[Sita and Rama]“If you don’t serve Sita and Rama and lack devotion to Gauri and Shankara, then your birth is lost; in vain you approached the doors of others.” (Dohavali, 66)

seye sītā rāma nahiṁ bhaje na saṅkara gauri |
janama gam̐vāyo bādihīṁ parata parā'ī pauri ||

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You have to get up out of bed. Otherwise the day will be wasted. You have to eat something. Otherwise you’ll be extremely hungry throughout the day. You have to go to either school or work. Otherwise how will you pay for the things that you need? How will you have the knowledge necessary to maintain yourself and your family? You have to do so many things throughout an entire lifetime, but why is that lifetime there in the first place? Why are you here on this earth? Goswami Tulsidas gives a nice answer.

His opinion is supported by Vedic philosophy, which is known as Vedanta. Veda means “knowledge” and anta means “the end.” Vedanta is the final conclusion, the end point that comes after stacking together every other truth discovered in life. All individuals are struggling through the same life. There is no difference between the rich person and the poor person. The dark-skinned individual is fundamentally no different than the light-skinned one. You should be nice to people, because this is how you would want them to act towards you. All of these teachings are included in Vedanta, which goes way beyond the temporary.

Indeed, this existence is temporary. I was somewhere five minutes ago. That moment is gone forever. In a few years’ time, it will be the distant past. It will be a faded memory. Though the original experience wasn’t all that noteworthy, simply through the passage of time the classification shifts. The best indicator is the photograph. Moments after taking it, the image doesn’t look so strange. But years later, the exact same image, viewed by the exact same eyes, elicits a different reaction.

[polaroid camera]Things constantly change and there is nothing we can do about it. Why do they change? Why don’t they stay the same? Vedanta philosophy says the reason is the nature of the realm. The place in which we reside is temporary and miserable. The same description applies for all places of residence that we know of. The constant factor cannot be described in the same way. That constant is what allows us to analyze different phases of time. It allows us to see into the future, predicting the reliable event known as time’s winding, which brings eventual death.

An indication of the constant factor is consciousness. The difference between something alive and something dead is consciousness. The part that is alive is known as spirit. The inanimate is matter. Spirit always has consciousness and matter always lacks it. We identify objects that move based on the presence of the consciousness coming from the spirit within. Vedanta ultimately deals with spirit, which is superior to matter.

Consciousness exists for bringing pleasure. This is the meaning to an existence. One doesn’t have to study Vedanta to know this. Each person is trying to find pleasure in some form or another. Even those who look to punish themselves take some enjoyment out of the process. There is the expression “misery loves company.” From this we see that when happiness is apparently lacking, there is still a way to find pleasure.

Consciousness brings sustained happiness when there is service. The best person to serve is God. He has an eternal consort who always serves Him already. As there is always service in this regard, time does not play a role in God’s existence. There is no past, present and future for Him since His body does not change. It is described as sach-chid-ananda, or eternally knowledgeable and blissful.

To whom should our service go? Where do we find this God and His eternal consort? Sita and Rama are the ones to serve, according to Goswami Tulsidas. Not that Sita and Rama are the only manifestations of the divine pair. And it is not that they are figments of the imagination, either. The Supreme Lord is so kind that He gives many outlets for the consciousness to find lasting happiness. Sita and Rama are the worshipable divine pair of choice for Tulsidas.

[Gauri and Shankara]The poet says that there should be devotion to Gauri and Shankara at the same time. This is another divine pair, who are noted for their devotion to Sita and Rama. Shankara narrates the glories of Sita and Rama to his wife, who is also known as Parvati. She underwent great austerities to get Shankara as her husband, and that effort paid off since Shankara is a pure devotee of God.

If service to Sita and Rama is lacking and there is no devotion to Gauri and Shankara, it is like the life has gone to waste. The reason is that someone else must be approached. Everyone is a beggar of some kind, even if they don’t realize it. We are at the mercy of others. We can’t completely protect ourselves; it is not possible. We can’t fully sustain ourselves, even if we live in a remote cave with a banana tree nearby. The bananas give us nourishment and the cave shelter, but the higher force known as nature must provide both of these things first. Therefore at the most basic level we beg from nature.

[Sita and Rama]Sita and Rama are also Lakshmi and Narayana. They are Radha and Krishna as well. Gauri and Shankara teach service to God to the fallen souls in this world. The idea is that there must be someone who teaches us about God the person. We can only know of Sita and Rama through someone who teaches us. We can only know about Gauri and Shankara in the same way. So the representative of the Supreme Lord is just as, if not more, important than the Supreme Lord. One who meets the bona fide representative and follows their instruction automatically respects Parvati and Shiva as they carry out their devotional service to the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort. Thus the guru all by himself can make this birth successful. Otherwise through time’s attack, the life slowly goes to waste.

In Closing:

Why on morning train feet to set,

Why up from comfortable bed to get?


Existence for pleasure seeing,

Service to God misery freeing.


The path coming from guru alone,

Supreme Lord can’t make up on our own.


Then to Gauri and Shankara devotion showing,

And with love to Sita and Rama going.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Devotees of Shankara

[Lord Shiva]“Tulsi says that one who abandons Hari and Shankara and worships ghosts and lowly persons becomes defamed in the end, like the son of a prostitute.” (Dohavali, 65)

tulasī parihari hari harahi pām̐vara pūjahiṁ bhūta |
anta phajīhata hohiṅge ganikā ke se pūta ||65||

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This verse from the Dohavali appears to present a contradiction. Lord Vishnu’s devotees are famous to the world, thanks to the estimable and voluminous Vedic literature. Hanuman, Prahlada, Janaka, Bhishma, Brahma, and Yamaraja are some of the more notable personalities who practice pure devotion to God. They are known as mahajanas, or great people. Lord Shiva, who is also known as Shankara, is included in the list of mahajanas. He has his own devotees, many of whom are infamous instead of famous. If Vishnu’s devotees are mahajanas and Shankara’s not always, how can the worship of the two be put on the same level?

Goswami Tulsidas gives the answer. In the verse quoted above he mentions abandoning Hari and Shankara for worship of lowly spirits and ghosts. He says this move is so bad that the end result is a lowering of reputation to the point that it is like taking birth as the son of a prostitute. The prostitute may be innocent. She may have fallen into the lowly profession out of necessity. The son is also not to blame in that instance, but the fact remains that the reputation takes a hit.

[Lord Vishnu]]Why not mention Hari alone? Hari is another name for Vishnu, who is the personal form of God. When we speak of God’s grace, His mercy, His kindness, His benevolence, His watchful eye, we imply a person. An abstract cannot do such things. An idea can’t have attributes. Though He is nirguna, Vishnu still has distinguishable features. This makes Him simultaneously saguna, or with attributes. Those features are on display in the personal form of Vishnu and also in the non-different expansions like Krishna, Rama and Narasimha.

Lord Shiva is in a unique position. He is not identical to Vishnu, but he is one with the Lord through devotion. One side does the worshiping and the other side accepts the worship. Lord Shiva is considered the greatest worshiper of Vishnu, with his form of choice being Lord Rama. Tulsidas has the same preference, making Shankara very dear to him.

Lord Shiva also carries out various functions in the material world. His most notable role is as destroyer. When the cosmic manifestation’s time has come to an end, Shiva destroys. Lord Brahma then creates, and Lord Vishnu maintains throughout. Vishnu maintains everything and everyone; therefore He stands above as the highest god.

Lord Shiva is also known as Ashutosha, which means “easily pleased.” Rather than have his meditation break to maintain attention on those who approach him, Shankara doesn’t require much from his materialistically-minded devotees. He basically gives them what they want very quickly in order to get back to his meditation on the names of Hare and Rama.

[Lord Shiva]When Shiva is worshiped purely, it is akin to worshiping Vishnu in the sense that there is association with a devotee of God. Shiva is also a founder of one of the four primary lineages of the devotional tradition. He is therefore a spiritual master, and worship of the spiritual master eventually brings the association of the Supreme Lord.

Impure worship of Shiva is akin to abandoning him. It is like leaving the shelter of the spiritual master, who is always willing to guide his disciples. Leaving the spiritual master is like leaving Hari, and so the result is the same. In Vedic history there are many examples of bad characters who first worshiped Shiva and then abandoned him. Their devotion was not pure; they wanted something from the great god. Vrikasura got a boon from Shiva and then immediately tried to kill him using that boon. Ravana got tremendous abilities from Shiva and then tried to use those against Rama.

When abandoning devotion to God, the default option is to be devoted to something material. Just like you can leave one job for another, every individual is free to choose where they repose their affection. Even ghosts and spirits are potential candidates for devotion. The wicked-minded go to them to get some ability in black magic, which is then used for evil purposes. This is never good in the end, even though temporary gains may be there.

[Lord Rama]Worship of Vishnu is so powerful that even ill motives in the beginning become purified. Therefore Vishnu should never be abandoned. Shiva should always be respected as the greatest Vaishnava. This combination of respect and devotion will be pleasing to Tulsidas, whose happiness will in turn please Shri Rama. God’s happiness is our happiness, and so it is no wonder that the devotee automatically achieves the highest reputation.

In Closing:

When God’s happiness to see,

The same in you to be.


Shiva as highest devotee respect,

And worship Vishnu with nothing to expect.


Abandoning for ghosts and spirits with a cost,

Like prostitute’s son reputation to be lost.


Make not the mistake, Tulsi’s words heed,

In Shankara and Hari everything you need.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Abandoning Vishnu and Shiva

[Shiva and Vishnu]“Tulsi says that one who abandons Hari and Shankara and worships ghosts and lowly persons becomes defamed in the end, like the son of a prostitute.” (Dohavali, 65)

tulasī parihari hari harahi pām̐vara pūjahiṁ bhūta |
anta phajīhata hohiṅge ganikā ke se pūta ||65||

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Material desire means to want some kind of enjoyment separate from God. Bhakti is the opposite, where the desire is to enjoy along with the Supreme Lord. The best enjoyment comes through pleasing Him first. The redounding effects are compared to what happens after watering the roots of a tree. The roots take the nourishment and pass it along to the component parts. Watering the parts does not have the same effect. Therefore the wise saints of the Vedic tradition strongly urge against satisfying material desires, as this brings happiness neither to the individual nor to anyone else related.

How do we distinguish bhakti from kama? How do we know that our work is in devotion to God instead of for satisfying lust, which is material desire? In the Vedic tradition there are gods for the different desires. Based on whom you worship, you can tell to which category you belong. The effect of association with the Supreme God is so powerful that even if there is kama in the beginning, the worship is purifying. Goswami Tulsidas says the opposite is true if the Supreme God is abandoned in favor of worship of lower gods, which include ghosts and spirits.

[Narasimhadeva]Who is the Supreme God? One name for Him is Hari. This word can have several meanings. It is someone who takes away the distresses of the devotees. The word also means “lion,” which can refer to the Supreme Lord’s incarnation as a half-man/half-lion known as Narasimhadeva. Another name for this form is Narahari. The divine name of Hari addresses Vishnu, who is God in a personality. Since He has distinguishable and definable features, Vishnu is beyond the vague concept of the Supreme Deity that most have. He is the source of the impersonal energy known as Brahman.

In the verse quoted above Goswami Tulsidas also references Hara, which is a name for Lord Shiva. Shiva and Vishnu are one in the same way that yogurt and milk are of the same substance. Yogurt comes from milk, but at the same time it is not equal to it. You can’t offer someone yogurt and try to pass it off as milk. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna, who is another manifestation of the same Vishnu, explains what happens with the worship of the different gods.

yānti deva-vratā devān

pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ

bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā

yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.25)

[Lord Shiva]The idea is that you go to whomever you worship. If you worship Vishnu, you go to Him. His association means enjoying the bliss of surrender in devotion. Vishnu gives interactions in different moods, depending on the desire of the devotee. Similarly, if you worship Shiva purely you go to him. Shiva worships Vishnu constantly in his form of Rama, which is the worshipable form of choice for Tulsidas as well. Therefore going to Shiva means being in the association of a great devotee.

The person who abandons Vishnu and Shiva in favor of ghosts and spirits does not benefit themselves in the end. In fact, they end up with a very poor reputation. That is important here since desire for material rewards is the only reason to abandon Vishnu and Shiva. Fame is an opulence in the material world and it is an important aspect to reputation. The person who worships the ghosts and spirits becomes defamed, like the son of a prostitute.

It’s not fair in this situation, as the son hasn’t done anything wrong. They get dishonor attached to them due to the circumstances of their birth. Nevertheless, the stigma will be there. If they had the choice, hardly anyone would want to be born as the son of an illicit sexual affair. Worshiping ghosts and spirits brings infamy eventually in the same way, defeating the purpose of seeking material desires.

It should be noted that abandonment is stipulated. A person can worship Shiva with material desires and have those desires fulfilled. If they abandon Shiva afterwards, it means they are headed for the same fate. In Vedic literature there are many examples of Shiva worshipers who turned to the dark side after getting what they wanted. The same is not true of worship of Vishnu. Since He is the supreme deity, Vishnu looks out for the welfare of His devotees, whether they like it or not. Therefore abandoning Him is much more difficult; and whatever progress was made in purification remains.

[Lord Vishnu]The safest bet is to worship Vishnu or a Vishnu-devotee. Abandoning either leads to negative consequences in the end, as material desire can never be fully satisfied. It is the cause of rebirth in the ocean of suffering. This cycle, known as the samsara-chakra, continues until one is fortunate enough to return to the safety of devotion to the beautiful lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Instead of on Shiva and Vishnu to rely,

Towards ghosts and spirits turning the eye.


By material desire consumed the mind,

When to eternal benefit is blind.


Not to stay long even if gained,

Like prostitute’s son to be defamed.


Shiva the devotee, Rama his Lord so,

Towards that path with confidence go.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lost His Way

[Rama's lotus hand]“Tulsi says that for one who abandons Shri Rama and puts faith in others, what to speak of happiness and wealth they can’t even find their way to hell.” (Dohavali, 64)

tulasī śrīraghubīra taji karai bharoso aura |
sukha sampati kī kā calī narakahum̐ nāhīṁ ṭhaura ||

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Picture this situation. You’re travelling to an event hosted by a family friend. You decide to drive there. As it is quite a distance away from you, you get hungry along the journey. At this time you begin to look for places to eat. You find one spot that seems to meet the requirements. There is plenty of variety. The prices aren’t that high. More importantly, it has immediate seating available.

But in a quest to find something better, you move along. “I’ll remember this spot,” you tell yourself. As you go further and further away, you can’t find anything that seems to be as good. You then decide to retrace your steps and go back to the original spot that you skipped over. The problem is you can’t find it. For this example, we’ll say that there is no navigation system to help you. You even forgot the name of the place.

This situation is roughly analogous to the one described by Goswami Tulsidas in the verse from the Dohavali quoted above. Losing out on a good place to eat is one thing, but the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is something entirely different. His company is the height of enjoyment, which can be accessed through something as simple as the vision of His feet. Indeed, even the dust of those feet is enough to make the most of the rare human birth.

na nāka-pṛṣṭhaḿ na ca sārva-bhaumaḿ

na pārameṣṭhyaḿ na rasādhipatyam

na yoga-siddhīr apunar-bhavaḿ vā

vāñchanti yat-pāda-rajaḥ-prapannāḥ

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

[Nagapatnis worshiping Krishna]Birth in any species is not by accident. It comes as a result of work. Just as what you wear today is the result of what was purchased in the past, the type of body assumed at the time of birth came through past “purchases” in the form of actions. Those actions shaped consciousness, which then determined the state of being at the time of death.

The human species represents the most auspicious birth due to the potential for understanding God. One who abandons the Supreme Lord after getting the chance to know about Him turns the auspiciousness into inauspiciousness. Further still, if they become envious of God, they have the worse problem of repeated births in a lower species.

āsurīṁ yonim āpannā

mūḍhā janmani janmani

mām aprāpyaiva kaunteya

tato yānty adhamāṁ gatim

“Attaining repeated birth amongst the species of demoniac life, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.20)

This fact is mentioned by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. He refers to Himself in the verses in question because He is God. He does not mention a generic God because there is no need. He is full beauty, full wealth, full strength, full fame, full wisdom, and full renunciation combined into one person. He is the origin of everything. Others may see Him in different ways, but He is always a singular personality.

Goswami Tulsidas presents the same truth, but in his own way. His worshipable form of choice is Shri Rama, who is also known as Raghuvira. Rama is the same Krishna. They are one, just appearing in different ways and at different times. Tulsidas says that one who abandons Rama in favor of others can’t even find their way to hell.

In Rama is everything. He is the one God who will purposely fail you from time to time. He does this out of compassion. He is not conducting business with the devotees, where each side looks to bargain to get what they want. Rama gives wealth if it is needed. He gives happiness in the form of His association.

[Rama's lotus hand]One who has the shelter of Raghuvira and then abandons it is most unfortunate. Their only reason for doing so would be to find a quick way towards temporary happiness and wealth. But they actually won’t find either. Their turn from Rama represents envy, for the underlying desire is to compete with God. And as mentioned previously, those who are envious of God have a hard time getting the rare human birth going forward.

Can there be anything worse than hell? For the devotee, heaven and hell are the same. As long as they get to practice devotion, they don’t care where they live. They can be in an area infested with mosquitoes and plagued by scorching heat. They can be some place where winter weather stops necessary travel on a regular basis. They don’t mind since God’s association in the form of His names brings happiness. Their true wealth is devotion, which they practice primarily through a mantra, such as “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Abandoning Rama after having found Him is worse than hell, since there can be nothing like His shelter. It is as if one has lost a winning lottery ticket. The person who didn’t purchase a ticket is better off; they didn’t lose anything valuable. The wise therefore hold on to bhakti once they find it. They don’t make the mistake of envying the one who is never envious of others. They don’t make the mistake of searching for elusive happiness from gods and personalities who don’t look out for the welfare of their devotees. Tulsidas, in all his kindness, gives a word to the wise, letting them know that the greenest grass is on the side of devotion.

In Closing:

That from God not everything seen,

On the other side grass is more green.


But this never can be the case,

Futilely rewards from others to chase.


Like person losing lottery ticket can tell,

Such a fate much worse than hell.


Go to Rama and with Him stay,

His loving hand let be your guiding way.