Saturday, June 20, 2015

Understanding Pure Devotion

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Even the most learned man cannot understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 23.39)

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yāṅra citte kṛṣṇa-premā karaye udaya

tāṅra vākya, kriyā, mudrā vijñeha nā bujhaya

Life is difficult. The six senses, which include the mind, give the conditioned souls trouble in a world full of duality. The souls are conditioned because they are not meant to be in a place filled with temporary gains and losses. The soul is not meant to lament or hanker as if swinging on a pendulum. In the troubled environment, the mind finds no peace. Therefore to try meditation is only natural. In fact, to try anything for self-improvement is understandable, but pure love and devotion to God always baffles those who don’t have it.

The purchase of a new, expensive car is not out of the ordinary. A person wants to be happy. They don’t want to be bored. They need something to get excited over. It would make sense to trade in the old for the new. Why force yourself to remain in misery? Why restrict yourself when you know there is a way to get happiness, albeit for only the short term?

[new car]It is understandable if someone should worship a specific god to get a benefit. We are powerless in the end. Death is the only guaranteed conclusion in this life. You can possibly make it through life without disease. You may not even age that much. You have the chance to escape tremendous hardships and the pain of heartache. Despite everything else being ideal, death will come eventually. This means that the human being has little control. To worship a controlling god for a benefit makes sense.

It is understandable if someone should decide to leave home to become a renunciate. Who doesn’t like to get away? Especially if what you’re escaping is a boring life, repeated day after day, the alternative of peace and emptiness looks appealing. Indeed, this is the conventional path to understanding God. You can’t know Him fully until you meditate on Him all the time. You won’t be able to do that while remaining attached to worldly pleasures. To desperately seek after God only makes sense.

Why, then, is the mind of the devotee so difficult to understand? Why does pure love and devotion baffle others? The reason is the lack of motive. In Vedic teachings we find the eye-opening truth that we really don’t have friends. Each person we consider to be a friend is only there because they serve some interest for us. Or we serve some interest for them. If we think about it, this has to be the case. Friendships break for the very reason that the interest stops being served.

Pure devotion to God is easily mistaken for the pursuit to remove all things from life. The person who doesn’t know love for God thinks that the bhakta is trying to gain something.

“Bhakti is their way of advancing in consciousness. Instead of working with the fruits renounced, they are chanting the holy names. Instead of reading Vedanta philosophy, they are reading the Puranas and the Ramayana. Instead of running to the Himalaya mountains, they are abstaining from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.”

This is a mistaken sentiment because in pure devotion there is no desire for advancement. Krishna-prema is the only real kind of love because it is unmotivated and uninterrupted. It is so strong an emotion that not even the Supreme Lord can stop it. Every other pursuit is checked by the all-devouring enemy known as time. Even the intentional practice of yoga in order to advance in consciousness of God can be checked with an outside distraction. There are impediments along any path that seeks happiness only for the individual.

[Shrimati Radharani]Bhakti-yoga is done for God’s pleasure. This selflessness is never understood by those who don’t have it. Even the Supreme Lord is amazed by the work of the pure devotees. He has stated that the love and affection of the gopis in Vrindavana can never be repaid by Him. Mother Yashoda does not think that she is a yogi. She is not trying to advance in renunciation by always thinking of her darling child, the adorable butter thief of the community, the delight of everyone. She is not trying to focus on God; she loves Him purely.

For these reasons it is very difficult to understand the mind of the acharya, who is the teacher leading by example in the path of bhakti-yoga. That sentiment which baffles the selfish can arise from within through the instructions of the acharya. That which was previously thought impossible, pure selflessness, comes through dedicated practice and almost incidental advancement. The more one connects directly with God, the more they become purified. Desires may surely be there in the beginning, as Krishna Himself states in the Bhagavad-gita.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

[Lord Krishna]Four kinds of people approach Him initially for devotional service, and none of them are rejected by Him. Krishna knows that they have motives, for they are struggling in the material nature that He has created. He also knows that the more they stay in touch with Him, the more they focus the mind on His transcendental features and His pure goodness, the more they will lose their selfishness. And in the pure selflessness that is bhakti-yoga, the individual finally experiences true happiness.

In Closing:

Since always a motive in me,

Difficult when bhakti of others to see.


How of personal desire can be free?

Shri Krishna, why so wonderful is He?


From acharya’s teachings hearing,

Obstructions in right path clearing.


Then the mind of the selfless devotee to know,

When pure love to Supreme Lord to flow.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Writing Down To Remember

[Vyasadeva]“O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and, above all, always disturbed.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.10)

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prāyeṇālpāyuṣaḥ sabhya

kalāv asmin yuge janāḥ

mandāḥ sumanda-matayo

manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ

Today, using only a small device we can speak to someone situated thousands of miles away. As soon as we say something, they hear it. That sound travels incredibly fast. The same can be done with video images. On television we watch a live sporting event occurring so far away from our home. We have a wealth of information available at our fingertips. We can get food made and delivered to us with a few swipes of the finger. Now, does this mean that we are more advanced than our predecessors? Did generations past suffer because they lacked these things?

According to the Shrimad Bhagavatam, man today is most unfortunate. Though we think we are living longer, the average duration of life is actually much shorter than in ages past. The qualities in the population of the universe change over time. From the beginning to the end, there is a gradual decline in dharma, or virtue. With this decline, the conditions for living become more difficult. As an example, in the beginning period, man lived for thousands of years. If the time from beginning to end were divided into four periods, a zero would get dropped from the average duration of life with each successive period.

“In the Satya-yuga people used to live for one hundred thousand years, in the Treta-yuga people lived for ten thousand years, in Dvapara-yuga they lived for one thousand years, and in this age, Kali-yuga, people may live up to one hundred years. With the progressive advance of each new yuga, the duration of human life is reduced by ninety percent - from one hundred thousand to ten thousand, from ten thousand to one thousand, and from one thousand to one hundred.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.9.62 Purport)

The first period is known as Satya Yuga. Another name for it is Krita Yuga, as it is the age of purity. The present age is the last one, known as Kali. The marks of Kali Yuga were predicted beforehand, in the aforementioned Bhagavatam. In the age of Kali, man quarrels over anything. As an example, driving is routine business for going to and from places. Yet due to road rage it could be the cause of a great disagreement. There are arguments over what celebrities wear to awards shows and which player is the best in a particular sport.

[road rage]In Kali Yuga man is less fortunate. The quarrel and hypocrisy contribute to this for sure. There is also the shorter duration of life. Since life is shorter, old age approaches more quickly. Because aging takes place faster, abilities within the body diminish more quickly. Therefore we see that memory is not as good. In this age particularly, things need to be written in order to be remembered.

We see this decline even within a single lifetime. Fifty years ago, math equations were memorized, as were speeches. Now there are pocket calculators and smart phones to do equations for you. There is the teleprompter that displays your words to speak. Thus memory power diminishes through changing necessity as well.

The self-help expert advises to write down good ideas. This is a way to organize your life as well. If you have to do ten things tomorrow, it’s better to make a written list so that you don’t forget. The same recommendation can be used for remembering, appreciating and remaining always conscious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[to do list]The idea is to first learn about God from an authority figure. The Bhagavatam already accurately predicted the circumstances of the present age, so we can validate its authority from that alone. Someone who faithfully follows the teachings of the Bhagavatam is known as a bhagavata. The Bhagavatam is also known as the Bhagavata Purana. So there is the book bhagavata and the person bhagavata, with no difference between the two in terms of philosophy.

The person bhagavata can explain the esoteric truths presented in that ancient work. They can tell us who is God, what He looks like, where and when He appears, what He looks for in the conditioned souls of the material world, and what is the way towards forming a relationship with Him. For our benefit, the person bhagavata may write down their instructions. This way we can have those words of wisdom even after the person has left this world.

The truths accepted from the spiritual master, the teacher following the Bhagavata Purana, can be realized through practice. Those realizations can then be written down, to be reflected on later. The written word can also be passed on to others. In the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the author relates a story of how a certain prominent preacher visiting town had his popularity limited due to things he had authored. Franklin makes the point that if the preacher had simply avoided writing down anything, he would have become even more popular through being less vulnerable to his critics. He quotes the latin phrase, litera scripta manet, which means “the written word remains.”

That truth can be flipped around to be used as a positive. If you have good thoughts about the Supreme Lord, when you write them down they can become your savior in the future. They can help others as well. The Supreme Lord Krishna has been so kind to the souls in Kali Yuga, despite their general misfortune. In the form of the sankirtana movement started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the volume of literature that appreciates God and describes Him has greatly increased.

[Prabhupada books]The short-lived man has ample opportunity for learning of his true mission, that of devotion practiced purely. The same man who quarrels over trivial things can instead spend the entire day in contemplation of the all-attractive features belonging to the Personality of Godhead. The man with poor memory can read the same verses from the Bhagavatam and their appropriate commentaries, day after day. So even with the degraded conditions of the present age, there is a path to rescue.

In Closing:

Good idea coming to mind,

But then later how to find?


Since birth in Kali’s age set,

Important things easily to forget.


Saved when on paper to write,

From sound coming again to life.


In bhakti-yoga having great application,

Benefitting valuable Krishna meditation.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Talking About What God Must Be

[Lord Krishna]“Krishna means "the all-attractive." God must be all-attractive. It is not that God is attractive for one person and not for another. No. God is attractive for all living entities. Therefore, in pictures of Krishna you see that He is loving the calves and cows, He is loving the trees, He is loving the gopis, He is loving the cowherd boys. For Him, for God, everyone is a lovable object because everyone is the son of God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest For Enlightenment, Ch 4a)

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Friend-One: I like the definition of Bhagavan.

Friend-Two: You know it?

F1: Yes.

F2: Care to tell me.

F1: What is this, a pop quiz?

F2: Sure.

F1: Okay. It means one who possesses beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation at the same time. Happy?

F2: And?

F1: And what? Please and thank you?

F2: No. You’re leaving something out.

F1: Oh. Bhagavan possesses those qualities to the fullest degree.

F2: There you go. It’s “all wealth, all beauty”, etc.

F1: Before you learned what this word meant did you ever think of God in this way?

F2: No. I’m not sure what I thought. If anything, I figured He was all-kind. You know, like He would be nice to me no matter what I did.

F1: I never thought about it, either. I like this definition. It’s quite thorough. It lets you study God scientifically, in a way that you’ll be confident that He is indeed God.

F2: Absolutely. The name Krishna says that God is all-attractive. That’s another thing I didn’t think of right away. When I first heard it, I definitely let out a little “hmm.”

F1: [laughing] Me too. I mean it makes sense. Here’s one for you. I recently heard His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada say that God must be all-attractive.

F2: Really?

F1: It’s pretty genius if you think about it. He’s not saying that Krishna is amazing and that He can be God. He’s saying that if you’re looking for God, you have to find someone who is all-attractive. The person you find must have this feature.

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]F2: I love his confidence. Who else would name their Bhagavad-gita translation and commentary “As It Is.” The name itself shows you that it’s bona fide and genuine. He has no fear because he understands that Krishna protects the surrendered souls, as told to Arjuna in the conclusion of the book.

F1: I think this point answers the common question we get of “why is Krishna blue.”

F2: Because that complexion makes Him attractive?

F1: Right. It’s an amazing color. I know they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that shyama complexion is stunning to behold. They say that Krishna’s body is the color of the dark raincloud, the one about to nourish the ground with water.

F2: And if that comparison doesn’t do it for you, Krishna’s body is like the indranila-mani, which is the sapphire. Imagine transferring the beauty of a gem onto a human-like body. That’s what it looks like with Krishna.

F1: Once again, all-attractive. This is a fun game to play.

F2: What’s that?

F1: Go through different aspects of Krishna and appreciate their attractiveness. We’ve already covered the bodily complexion. There’s also the softness of that same body.

F2: And who doesn’t appreciate softness on skin? Nobody wants their skin to be rough. So Krishna’s skin is all-attractive too.

F1: That same delicate body can become as hard as a thunderbolt. Think of how the Lord became so heavy when the whirlwind demon took Him in the air.

[Krishna killing Kamsa]F2: Or how Krishna’s fist took the life of the evil King Kamsa.

F1: Krishna’s feet are also all-attractive. They are compared to lotus flowers. There is His flute too.

F2: When the cows in Vrindavana scatter about, all Krishna has to do is play His flute to grab their attention. Everyone is taken by that sound, because it is so beautiful.

F1: Krishna’s eyes are like lotus flowers, also. I love this. “God must be all-attractive.” That’s so profound.

F2: It transfers to His associates as well. Who can be more beautiful than Shrimati Radharani? She and the gopis are more intelligent than the wisest scholars we know. Yet they don’t think themselves to be very smart. They are humble and tall at the same time.

[Shrimati Radharani]F1: Krishna’s words are all-attractive. Look at the Bhagavad-gita. Can there be a better book?

F2: Nope. It attracts even the non-devotees. People who have read it have some appreciation for it, even if they didn’t understand it at all.

F1: What about Krishna’s enemies? Are they all-attractive?

F2: Their interactions with Him are. They may look hideous and have the worst qualities, but when Krishna defeats them the incident is remembered forever. The demons thus become part of something beautiful.

F1: That’s good. What else?

F2: You’re forgetting something very important, something specific for this age.

F1: Sankirtana-yajna?

F2: Yes, but more specifically the holy name. Krishna’s name is all-attractive. The mantras that contain it become the most powerful, with the maha-mantra standing tallest.

F1: And those who chant that maha-mantra and bring it to others are also all-attractive.

[Lord Chaitanya]F2: Yes, definitely! Think of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and those who follow Him. They effuse the all-attractive light of the Divine through their chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Since chanting holy names to choose,

Light of the Divine brightly to effuse.


Potency from the one to whom sending,

His all-attractiveness to devotees descending.


From words of Prabhupada trust,

That this feature in God a must.


So beautiful each aspect from head to toe,

From Bhagavad-gita His true position know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Remembering From Where Your Power Comes

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says, ‘Listen ojha. You don’t understand the loss in abandoning Rama. Even the pure water that comes from the holy rivers like the Ganga can become impure like wine.’” (Dohavali, 68)

tulasī rāmahiṁ parihareṁ nipaṭa hāni suna ojha |
surasari gata seā'ī salila surā sarisa gaṅgojha ||68||

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When someone gives an instruction, what they don’t say often carries as much weight as what they do say. For instance, if they recommend going to a certain person for help, it means that they haven’t recommended so many others. In the Vedic tradition this takes on added value since there are many divine figures to whom one can approach. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas mentions a specific god and how His association is what gives purity to the brahmana class.

[Lord Rama]The god mentioned is Shri Rama. He is the Supreme Lord, specifically adorned with a bow and arrow set. He has a complexion that resembles the dark raincloud and a dedication to upholding dharma, or righteousness. This is not the only way that God appears, though this form still represents Him fully. He is not formless. The spiritual energy that is Brahman does not represent Him fully. Brahman is the effulgence that emanates from Rama’s transcendental body.

The brahmana is the person who is Brahman realized. You can see God without ever picking up a book. Not that it is easy; but it is possible. You simply have to notice the undivided spiritual energy that runs throughout the creation. Like an electrical current that goes through all the wires in a neighborhood, the Brahman energy is what gives life to the living. Without Brahman, there would only be dull matter, without life and without animation.

This singular energy is one aspect to God. It indicates that life continues, no matter what happens to the coverings known as bodies. Birth and death are events paired in a specific section of time. They represent the acceptance and rejection respectively of a body. They do not determine existence, since Brahman exists in infinity. Brahman cannot be destroyed. At the individual level, it is known as the soul.

samaṁ sarveṣu bhūteṣu

tiṣṭhantaṁ parameśvaram

vinaśyatsv avinaśyantaṁ

yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati

“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.28)

Tulsidas gives a valuable instruction to the ojha brahmanas in this verse from the Dohavali. He says that it is difficult to understand the loss incurred from turning one’s back on Shri Rama. He gives the example of water. When it is from the Ganga, it is pure. Yet water can also be impure, as in the case of wine. It is the association which determines the purity. The Ganga river flows from the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who is the same Rama but in a different spiritual manifestation.

In the same way, though the brahmana may be Brahman realized, they can become impure in an instant if they remove themselves from devotion to Rama. How is this possible? If you see the spiritual equality of all beings, doesn’t that mean you have purity in vision? The complete understanding of spirituality is Bhagavan. Brahman comes from Bhagavan. It is one thing if a person doesn’t yet know the complete feature of God in His transcendental body. The warning here is for one who turns their back on Rama, who abandons Him.

It’s interesting that the poet didn’t mention other gods of the Vedic tradition. Bhagavan is known as brahmanya-devaya, or the worshipable deity of the brahmana class, which are like priests. Still, it is possible for a brahmana to worship other devas, who are not Bhagavan. The same principle applies, as one is turning their back on Rama. Even the other devas know from where their power comes. They are able to grant benedictions to their worshipers only through the sanction of the Supreme Lord.

sa tayā śraddhayā yuktas

tasyārādhanam īhate

labhate ca tataḥ kāmān

mayaiva vihitān hi tān

“Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.22)

[Indra with Krishna]The devas are in a high position precisely because of their association with Bhagavan. Sometimes they forget, and they lose their power as a result. One time Indra, the king of heaven, challenged Rama in His form of Krishna. Indra sent torrential rainfall intended to devastate the village of Vrindavana. Krishna saved the day and Indra later repented. A similar incident occurred with Lord Brahma, the creator. He thought he could outsmart Krishna, but he too regretted his mistake later on.

The wise brahmana keeps their allegiance with Rama, who holds such brahmanas in high esteem. Teachers are required in society. Without instruction, man grows up to be no different than the animal. If the teacher has abandoned Rama, then there is a limit to what their students can learn. The students miss the chance to meet the true goal of life: love and devotion to God. As a real brahmana, Tulsidas properly explains where the power of the priestly class lies. It is in association with the all-powerful Rama.

In Closing:

Even the powerful demigods know,

That strength coming from Krishna so.


Tulsi to the brahmanas reminding,

That otherwise impurity finding.


Turning back on Rama a fool’s mistake,

Same impurity their students to take.


Teachers in society always required,

Most useful when by devotion inspired.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Caste Brahmanas

[priest performing ritual]“Tulsi says, ‘Listen ojha. You don’t understand the loss in abandoning Rama. Even the pure water that comes from the holy rivers like the Ganga can become impure like wine.’” (Dohavali, 68)

tulasī rāmahiṁ parihareṁ nipaṭa hāni suna ojha |
surasari gata seā'ī salila surā sarisa gaṅgojha ||68||

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When you’re the head of an important institution, one of the difficulties you face is in appointing a successor. You won’t be around forever. Though you may be respected and have knowledge of how to run things, it’s not guaranteed that the person who follows you will be the same. Yet someone must follow, lest your hard work go for naught after your passing. You can choose someone to take the leadership post after you, but your opinion doesn’t automatically maintain their credibility. They must live up to the demands of the role. The same principle is explained in this verse from the Dohavali, which refers to the most important position in society: the brahmana.

The brahmana is like a priest. They can do more than rituals, however. When you need a prayer delivered to the Supreme Lord, you can certainly call on them. If you have a question about a specific verse in any of the many Vedic texts, you can consult them for guidance. A person in their occupation should be capable of guiding the entire society. If you looked at the society as a single human being, the brahmana would be the brain. The other parts are surely important, but if the brain fails to function properly, the other parts become more or less useless.

What makes a brahmana? Is the status earned through assignment? Do you need a recommendation? Can you inherit the title at birth? Any of these can occur, but as in any occupation it is the qualities of the individual that matter. You can get a degree from a medical university, but unless you know how to treat patients, are you really a doctor? A respected doctor may recommend me to run a hospital, but unless I have sufficient knowledge, I won’t be able to do the job. The same goes for taking birth in a family that has a long line of doctors.

Goswami Tulsidas here references ojhas, which in the past were a specific subgroup of brahmanas. In accepting a role that is meant to be the brain of society, the ojhas automatically earned respect. But accepting the role is only one aspect. You must do something with it afterwards. That something is love and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without this vital element, you can end up hurting people instead of helping.

Honor ascends; it doesn’t automatically flow to future generations and dependents. This only makes sense, as the people higher up on the chain had something to do with the honor received. The future generations have no such claim; they must earn honor for themselves. Therefore a caste brahmana isn’t automatically pure. They may come from a high family, but unless they have devotion to Hari, the Supreme Lord, their title has little meaning.

[Ganga Devi]Tulsidas gives a nice example to explain how the impurity can arise. He points to water from sacred rivers, like the Ganga. Water is water; the chemical composition is the same no matter where you find it. Yet the Ganga is considered sacred, and this is due only to her association with Hari. She emanates from His lotus feet; she comes from the heavenly region. Ganga water is considered pure; regardless of what might be in it.

At the same time, water can be used in wine. One water is so pure that it makes you think of God, while the other helps you forget Him. One water is so pure that people travel thousands of miles to get it, while the other is so impure that taking too much of it can make you lose your senses. The water is the same in both instances; it’s just the association is different.

[Lord Rama]So one may be in the post of a brahmana, but it doesn’t automatically mean they are pure. If they turn their back on Rama, they don’t understand the kind of loss they will incur. Rama is the same Hari. God is not incorporeal. He has an impersonal aspect, a light of Truth if you will. Those who meditate on this light can merge into it. This is the goal of impersonal worship, known as mayavada.

Intelligence can only come from an intelligent being, however. Power comes from the powerful. Rama is the powerful and Brahman is His power. We are aspects of Brahman, or the light of transcendence. Rama is the source. He is also known as Vishnu and Krishna, but He is always a singular personality. The brahmana is meant to be devoted to God the person; that is what will make them pure. In fact, any person with this devotion becomes pure, regardless of their occupation.

On the other side, if the devotion is lacking, the brahmana can lead people astray. They can guide people into worshiping strictly for material benefits, which actually arrive already through karma. The non-religious can just as easily get material rewards. In this situation, what use does the brahmana serve? The non-devoted brahmana can improperly explain the position of God, robbing innocent people of the chance to feel the bliss that is surrender to the Supreme. Only the devotee of Rama can make the important post of brahmana serve its proper purpose.

In Closing:

Running company but trouble in mind,

How successor for the future to find?


Any person can be recommendable,

But must then act in manner commendable.


Brahmana though having post high,

On devotion to Shri Hari must rely.


Otherwise like wine impure can become,

And serving vital purpose to others none.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Brahmanas and Vaishnavas

[Ganga Devi]“Tulsi says, ‘Listen ojha. You don’t understand the loss in abandoning Rama. Even the pure water that comes from the holy rivers like the Ganga can become impure like wine.’” (Dohavali, 68)

tulasī rāmahiṁ parihareṁ nipaṭa hāni suna ojha |
surasari gata seā'ī salila surā sarisa gaṅgojha ||68||

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The Vedas give knowledge applicable for seemingly every important department. The two main categories are material and spiritual. The spiritual is difficult to understand, since there is immersion in the material from beginning to end. Upon exiting the womb, the child identifies with the body and continues in that mindset until taught otherwise. Vedic knowledge of the material is arranged in such a way as to foster gradual advancement in spiritual understanding. There is something linking the two, and it is mentioned by Goswami Tulsidas in the verse quoted above.

Varnashrama-dharma. This is the more specific definition of the term “Hinduism.” Indeed, “Hindu” is a word used by outsiders to describe the ancient system of life and societal management passed on in the sacred Sanskrit texts. These works have no known date of origin since they were originally passed down in an oral tradition. In reality there is no such thing as the “Hindu faith” since the knowledge presented is not reserved for any sect. Just as gravity applies to all objects, the spiritual science that is the Vedas applies universally, regardless of one’s acceptance.

When viewed as a religion, Hinduism is really varnashrama-dharma. Dharma is the Sanskrit word that most closely resembles religion. Dharma is actually a defining characteristic. In the living entity, that characteristic is the desire to serve, and it is a byproduct of spirit. Dharma becomes religion when there are rules put in place to allow the essential characteristic to regain its constitutional form.

Varna is a color or class and ashrama is a spiritual institution. Spiritual leaders are known to have ashramas, which are like boarding schools for the spiritual aspirant. In varnashrama, the ashrama is a phase of life, but the name has a similar meaning. The phase is meant for spiritual advancement. In fact, the holy human experience is meant only for this purpose. Material life is for keeping spirit and body together in a healthy way that allows for the progression through the designated ashramas.

Varna as a class is a division based on occupation. Everyone has to eat. This means that everyone has to work; at least they should. In varnashrama there are four divisions of occupation and four spiritual institutions. Among the varnas, the brahmana is the highest. They can be likened to the priest. Notice that the highest occupation is not related to income. In fact, the business division is considered the third class. It is closer to the bottom than it is to the top.

This is because earning money is not the goal of the human existence. The rabbit is satisfied with a small allotment of vegetables. It doesn’t need more than this. The same spirit is there in the human species, and it similarly requires only a certain amount to survive. The advanced intelligence in the human is not meant to be used for accumulating more than is necessary, as this serves no viable purpose.

The brahmana is an occupation that has certain requirements as far as characteristics are concerned. Not everyone can be a leader of a company. Not everyone can excel in a job in sales. There are qualifications for each job, and in the brahmana the characteristics of cleanliness, purity and honesty must be there.

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ

kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca

jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ

brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness - these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)

In work, the brahmana has six primary engagements. They study the Vedas, teach the Vedas, perform sacrifices, teach others how to perform sacrifices, accept charity and also donate to others. The brahmana doesn’t need to do all six; they can be specialized in a single area, such as performing sacrifices. These are known as yajnic-brahmanas.

Despite being a member of the highest order in the varnashrama system, the brahmana is still in a material occupation. By definition they must know the existence of spirit, which is known as Brahman. How can the brahmana be in a material engagement, then? Knowledge of spirit alone doesn’t make a spiritual existence. The brahmana is considered in the mode of goodness, which brings elevation to the higher planetary systems in the afterlife. Though life in goodness is preferred, by itself it still brings rebirth.

tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt

prakāśakam anāmayam

sukha-saṅgena badhnāti

jñāna-saṅgena cānagha

“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.6)

The brahmana occupation becomes spiritual when there is devotion to God the person. This makes the brahmana a Vaishnava, which is a devotee of Vishnu. Vishnu is the personal God, and He has other forms like Rama and Krishna that are non-different from Him. Without this devotion to God, who is the source of Brahman, the brahmana can become impure; their occupation alone doesn’t immunize them from material contamination.

[Ganga Devi]Goswami Tulsidas gives the example of water. There are several sacred rivers in India, and they are assigned to this category because of their association to the Supreme Lord. Ganga Devi, who is more commonly known as the Ganges River, emanates from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. The Ganga is worshiped like a high personality, and her water is considered the purest. Despite contamination that may enter her, she is never considered impure.

But if you take the same water and remove its association to Vishnu, it can become impure. How impure? Tulsidas gives the example of wine. Though with the advancement of Kali Yuga, drinking wine is generally considered a good thing around the world, wine is actually an impure substance. It degrades the mind and leads to all kinds of negative reactions. Overconsumption of wine leads to illicit sex, unnecessary fighting and loss of clarity. The wise person always chooses sobriety over intoxication.

And so the brahmana can become impure like wine if they turn their back on Shri Rama, who is the worshipable deity of Tulsidas. The poet warns the ojhas, who are a certain clan of brahmanas, that they don’t know the loss they will incur by abandoning Shri Rama. This warning is important since it is natural to get puffed up by being in a lofty position. The position alone doesn’t make the person dear to God; it’s what they do with the high responsibility that counts.

[Rama's lotus feet]A brahmana is not automatically a Vaishnava, while a Vaishnava can be found in any of the four varnas. They can be in any of the four ashramas as well. The brahmana-vaishnava is uniquely qualified to teach the spiritual science to society, to explain the importance of devotion to the Supreme Lord. It is His association which makes an occupation truly religious. Faith, attachment and service to Him is the real definition of dharma.

In Closing:

In varnashrama brahmana at the top,

Spiritual knowledge they have got.


But more important what you do in role,

Working for personal pleasure or God’s glories to extol?


Warning to ojhas Tulsi kindly giving,

That against Shri Rama not living.


Otherwise even water like Ganga to find,

To become impure like wine.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Value of Seeing

[Krishna showing the universal form]“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 seems to be the point at which the destiny of the valuable human birth is finally being fulfilled. No more searching in vain for satisfaction of the senses. No more wondering what this existence is about. Instead, there is a fervent desire to meet the creator of all things. There is a drive to reach that destination rarely found. “I want to see God. I must meet Him. I will do whatever it takes.” While the desire alone shows great intelligence, from the interaction between the Supreme Lord and the king of the Kurus many thousands of years ago we learn that seeing isn’t everything. There must be a proper attitude; otherwise everything can go to dust.

Picture this situation. You live alone with your dog. You have a decent sized home. You’re not wealthy, but you’re not destitute either. You do a lot of things with your dog. You go on long walks. You play in the backyard. You also take drives in the car. So this one day you’ve purchased a new car. It’s the one you’ve always wanted. You’ve had your eye on it for quite some time. You saved up a lot of money in order to purchase it.

[dog]Naturally, you’re very excited. But when you drive it home for the first time, your dog doesn’t seem to care. When you put them inside to go for a ride, it’s as if they are traveling in the old car. They don’t have an opinion one way or the other. The new car is expensive and valuable to you, but to the less intelligent animal it is simply another mode of transportation. They see the exact same thing you see; it’s just that their eyes are of a different nature.

With the Supreme Lord you get the most valuable object. As the original spiritual force who glances over the dull material substance to instigate the creation, He is automatically the wealthiest person. He is responsible for the vast amount of space and everything that happens within it through the passing of time.

In His personal form we find unmatched beauty. If you took all the gold and jewels in the world and stacked them up against God, there would be no contest. It is said that the Supreme Lord makes the ornaments on His body beautiful instead of the other way around.

“My dear sir, Krishna’s form was most wonderful when He appeared on this planet and exhibited the potency of His internal energy. His wonderfully attractive form was present during His pastimes on this planet, and by His internal potency He exhibited His opulences, which are striking to everyone. His personal beauty was so great that there was no necessity for His wearing ornaments on His body. In fact, instead of the ornaments’ beautifying Krishna, Krishna’s beauty enhanced the ornaments.” (Uddhava speaking to Vidura, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.12)

[Lord Krishna]This beauty and wealth can only belong to a person. God therefore cannot be an abstract. He cannot be simply an energy. One who desperately wants to see Him must first be qualified with the proper eyes. If they don’t know that He is a person, how will they recognize Him? What value will their meeting with Him be?

In terms of personal desire the meeting can prove to be a waste, as with the example mentioned by Goswami Tulsidas in the Dohavali verse quoted above. A long time ago there was a king known as Duryodhana. He was from the Kuru dynasty; thus his group was known as the Kauravas. Their main rivals were the Pandavas. The Supreme Lord in His personal form appeared on earth at the time. Known by names such as Krishna, Vasudeva, Damodara and Govinda, He once revealed an aspect of His divine nature to Duryodhana.

This was in response to a planned attack. Duryodhana wanted to bind up Krishna as a way to embarrass Him. Krishna was known to be friendly with the Pandavas and He had come to broker a peace deal. This was the last-ditch effort to avoid war between the feuding parties. As antaryami, Krishna knows everything. Thus He understood the plan plotted against Him. He responded by showing a version of the universal form.

This vision is one way to see God. Think of everything that exists; at least what you think exists. Then put that into a single image. This sort of describes the universal form. Duryodhana and his clan saw this form and became frightened. They respected it, but the vision didn’t turn them from the sinful path. They proceeded with their obstinacy of not returning the land that rightfully belonged to the Pandavas.

Tulsidas explains what happened next. It happened only because the Kauravas went against Hari, which is another name for Krishna. The Pandavas were with Krishna. They didn’t need to see the universal form. In fact, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra the lead warrior for the Pandavas saw an even more amazing version of the universal form. Krishna displayed this to Arjuna, but Arjuna preferred to see Krishna again. He was not desperate to see God in an awe-inspiring vision. He would rather have devotion to the Supreme Lord in His original form.

arjuna uvāca

dṛṣṭvedaṁ mānuṣaṁ rūpaṁ

tava saumyaṁ janārdana

idānīm asmi saṁvṛttaḥ

sa-cetāḥ prakṛtiṁ gataḥ

“When Arjuna thus saw Krishna in His original form, he said: Seeing this humanlike form, so very beautiful, my mind is now pacified, and I am restored to my original nature.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.51)

[Krishna showing the universal form]The Kauravas went from riches to rags. The had a raja, or kingdom, and ended up with raja, or dust. Thus seeing God is not everything. The proper path is to purify oneself first and then act in ways that God will notice. When the consciousness is purified, the individual no longer goes against God. Instead, they pursue the path of pleasing Him, which is known as devotional service. This is an eternal engagement, one that continues long after the precious divine vision is realized.

In Closing:

When still with material hankering madly,

Desire to see vision of God badly.


But from this not everything square,

Like with Duryodhana, for Krishna no care.


Version of universal form in front of him,

Still to dust, since driven by sin.


Follow Arjuna, who saw vision too,

Act in ways that Krishna to see you.