Saturday, June 27, 2015

Calculating Happiness

[Krishna's lotus feet]“As long as one has the material body, the demands of the body for sense gratification will continue. The devotee, however, is not disturbed by such desires because of his fullness. A Krishna conscious man is not in need of anything because the Lord fulfills all his material necessities. Therefore he is like the ocean - always full in himself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70 Purport)

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Peppered throughout the translations and commentaries of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the term “sense gratification.” The newcomer hasn’t heard this terminology before, but it is self-explanatory. “To gratify the senses, such as through drinking, eating, travelling, sleeping, and the like - that’s pretty much what life is all about. I didn’t know there was anything else.” Indeed, the pursuit for sense gratification dominates to the point that calculations are made into how it will be found going forward. Fortunately, that calculating propensity needn’t be abandoned. In the realm of bhakti-yoga the practice can be purified.

Consider some common calculations:

  • [caffeine free diet coke]“I’m not going to drink caffeine at night anymore. Sure, I enjoy my diet soda after eating a few slices of pizza. The taste matches perfectly. The problem is I can’t sleep well. I end up staying awake late into the night, and the next morning I am tired. To be more refreshed in the morning, I’m going to lay off the caffeine at night.”
  • “I want to eat at that new restaurant that opened up, but I know that the place will be packed right now. I’ll wait until there is a coupon available online. That way I won’t be spending as much as the other people. I will get a deal, and that will make me happy. Nothing makes me more upset than spending too much money on something.”
  • “My favorite band is going on tour this summer. I’m going to get tickets to as many shows as I can attend. This is going to be so much fun. I’ll round up my friends and we’ll go as a group. This will give me something to look forward to. This band doesn’t go out on the road all the time. This is a special occasion.”

Indeed, we can take every aspect of daily life, from the small to the large, and find the same tendency. Of course what gets easily overlooked in this pursuit is the fact that the senses are being satisfied at present. The feverish pursuit to continue satisfying them going forward shows that satisfaction doesn’t bring lasting happiness. You only have to keep calculating if what you’ve already calculated hasn’t solved all of your problems.

As mentioned previously, the tendency can be shifted to the spiritual realm. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that four kinds of people approach Him initially in devotional service. Anyone can approach God. He is actually all around us. He lives within each living body as the Supersoul, which is His expansion that sees everything. In this way we could look inward and approach the Supreme Lord.

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)

[trees in a forest]Since God cannot be seen with the eyes in this feature, He is described as nirguna. This feature is without attributes according to our understanding. The approach mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita is towards the saguna feature, or that having attributes. The difference is only in our eyes; the Supreme Lord is always with attributes, but of a nature inconceivable to us. His eyes can see everything. His ears hear every sound ever produced, including the tree’s falling in a forest devoid of people.

The four kinds of approach mentioned by Krishna are the person who desires wealth, the distressed, the inquisitive, and one who has an understanding of spirit already but wants to know more. These people approach God directly, and they end up following devotional service to Him. As they all want something, they are calculating in a sense. To desire is to live. Even if the only thing someone wants is to be desireless, that is still a desire. It is sort of like the joke Benjamin Franklin made about humility. He considered it the most difficult quality to acquire, since even if one were to get it, they would become proud of how humble they were.

Calculations are made by the intelligent, and so the best use of intelligence is to calculate for the happiness of the spirit soul, which transcends birth and death. Happiness and sadness toggle back and forth in the time in between birth and death. Therefore happiness for the soul is something that is superior to the short lifetime that we’re currently set in.

The person who desires wealth makes the right choice by approaching Krishna. If they approach anyone else, including a divine figure, they may get what they want. Then they are left unsatisfied, forced to calculate again. The person who is distressed may similarly find relief by approaching someone other than Krishna. The inquisitive may get the incorrect knowledge about the reason for an existence and the knowledgeable may be told that God is only an attributeless energy.

Krishna is the right person to approach since He purifies each situation. In the Supreme Lord’s association, the person wanting wealth soon realizes that this is not the most important thing to seek. The distressed finds that service to the beloved Krishna is the one thing that permanently removes their melancholic outlook on life. The inquisitive has their horizons opened to the boundless and blissful spiritual world, which is real eternal life. And the knowledgeable takes up devotional service to Krishna with intelligence, which pleases Him very much.

[Prabhupada worshiping Radha-Krishna]The calculating soul then takes a further step forward by pondering how to help others. They describe Krishna and bhakti-yoga in ways that are understandable to the people of the time and the circumstance. They may make use of insightful phrases like “sense gratification” and “lording it over” in order to catch the attention of the bewildered. Their calculations in this regard further please Krishna, who is the one most worth serving.

In Closing:

When for spiritual knowledge to yearn,

Likely to come across “sense gratification” term.


Though heard before not,

Meaning from words alone got.


Calculating always in this manner so,

Can be applied also in bhakti know.


For Krishna’s happiness seeking out,

Eventually desires become without.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Talking About A Voice From the Sky

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“Arjuna said, My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.73)

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arjuna uvāca

naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtir labdhā

tvat-prasādān mayācyuta

sthito 'smi gata-sandehaḥ

kariṣye vacanaṁ tava

Friend-One: I heard something interesting recently. It relates to God being within all of us.

Friend-Two: That’s not easy to realize. A person who sees life in this way understands the difference between something that is dead and something that is not.

F1: Right. There is a spark of spirit within the living body. The spark is what makes everything happen. You can call spirit the animating force.

F2: And this force is not exclusive to the human species. Anything that lives is animated by the same thing.

F1: So along those lines, I came across something interesting relating to offering obeisances. You know, like when you bow in front of a respected personality.

F2: Okay.

[Prabhupada - dandavat pranam]F1: There is a student and he wants to pay obeisance to his spiritual guide. The guide refuses the gesture, saying that God is within the student too. Because of that how can he accept God reaching down and touching his feet?

F2: What is your opinion on that?

F1: Like I said, I thought it was pretty interesting. Not sure if the guy was trying too hard to be humble or if he really did see God in his student.

F2: It is a nice gesture, that’s for sure. But what exactly did he see of God in his student?

F1: What do you mean?

F2: Living is a sign of the Divine. You can’t deny that. But does this mean that everything living is God? Can I go up to a tree and ask it about the meaning of life? Will the infant be able to tell me about the cycle of birth and death and karma?

F1: With the infant, maybe in due time.

F2: I’m talking about right now. God is not limited to the circumstance. He can deliver a person anywhere and in any species.

F1: Okay, so I was thinking about this as it pertains to the Bhagavad-gita. I’ve come across commentaries and opinions that say the surrender mentioned in the Gita is to the Krishna within us. What do you say about that?

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]F2: Show me your Krishna within. Show me your ability to lift a giant mountain with your pinky finger. Show me your ability to transform into the four-handed form of Narayana. Show me your relationship to Nanda Maharaja, mother Yashoda, the Pandavas and the people of Vrindavana.

F1: I see what you’re saying, but there is something mentioned in the Gita about Krishna residing within every person’s heart. So doesn’t that mean the vision of seeing God in the student is accurate? Isn’t that the Krishna within all of us?

F2: Krishna is referring to the Supersoul, or Paramatma, when He speaks of His presence in the heart. This is an expansion of God. We are individual soul, or jivatma. Both emanate from God. Spirit comes from spirit; life comes from life. Therefore we are part of God. There is no doubt about this. But just because the individual soul and the Supersoul are within every person, it doesn’t mean that every person is God.

F1: Well, what about the argument that people simply haven’t become God realized yet? That is what Krishna is teaching to Arjuna, to become a perfectly realized soul. In that way it’s understandable for the guru to refuse the obeisances offered by his advanced students.

F2: There’s an easy way to answer this. Who spoke the Bhagavad-gita?

F1: Uhh, Krishna? That was an easy one.

F2: Correct. A person spoke the Bhagavad-gita. That person kept referring to Himself in the many verses spoken to Arjuna. If He really thought that every person was God, He wouldn’t have needed to be on the scene.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: He could have spoken to Arjuna as a voice from the sky. You’ll see on the covers of some books translating the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna has been cropped out. They’ll say things like “God speaks to Arjuna.”

F1: Really?

F2: I’ve seen it. We know that this is a great form of cheating. It is not historically accurate. The cheaters want it to be the case, that some mystical figure came and delivered Arjuna. But the history says that it was Krishna. Any person can have that name, so Arjuna addressed the teacher in other ways too. Krishna is Janardana, the maintainer of all living entities. He is Govinda, the one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is Hrishikesha, the master of the senses. This Krishna has two hands and plays a flute. He grows up in the farm community of Vrindavana and descends to earth whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion.

F1: That’s a pretty thorough explanation.

[Lord Krishna]F2: Exactly. Thorough; not vague. Krishna is not an abstract. If He were, He would have hid Himself while taking part in this most famous dialogue. So yes, the Supreme is inside each of us as the Supersoul. We should respect others because of this. At the same time, we are not the Supreme. He is separate from us, and He deserves our worship. The people who teach us these confidential truths also deserve the same. Therefore you see the great respect given to the guru, who passes that respect on up the chain until it reaches the origin, who is Krishna.

In Closing:

If God to all particles is one,

Then for Arjuna a voice would have become.


Words of wisdom coming sound,

No need for touching feet on the ground.


Yet it was a person who to him came,

Having form, qualities and name.


Surrender to that origin of all,

Chant His names, with love to Him call.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Five Reasons Prahlada Is the Best Son You Could Ask For

[Prahlada]“Prahlada Maharaja said: O Supreme Lord, because You are so merciful to the fallen souls, I ask You for only one benediction. I know that my father, at the time of his death, had already been purified by Your glance upon him, but because of his ignorance of Your beautiful power and supremacy, he was unnecessarily angry at You, falsely thinking that You were the killer of his brother. Thus he directly blasphemed Your Lordship, the spiritual master of all living beings, and committed heavily sinful activities directed against me, Your devotee. I wish that he be excused for these sinful activities.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.10.15-17)

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śrī-prahrāda uvāca

varaṁ varaya etat te

varadeśān maheśvara

yad anindat pitā me

tvām avidvāṁs teja aiśvaram


viddhāmarṣāśayaḥ sākṣāt

sarva-loka-guruṁ prabhum

bhrātṛ-heti mṛṣā-dṛṣṭis

tvad-bhakte mayi cāghavān


tasmāt pitā me pūyeta

durantād dustarād aghāt

pūtas te ’pāṅga-saṁdṛṣṭas

tadā kṛpaṇa-vatsala

It’s the way to satisfy one of the three debts assumed at the time of birth. Contrary to what we might think, we don’t create the circumstances present when we exit the womb. Our karma, or fruitive action that has corresponding reactions, certainly was responsible for landing us in that particular area, but other living entities did things to make everything come together. The three debts are to the forefathers, the saints, and the controllers of the material nature. The debt to the forefathers is paid through begetting a son.

These debts relate to the material sphere. The spirit soul is sanatana, or eternal. According to Ramanujacharya, the word sanatana means that which has no beginning and no end. The essential characteristic of something is its dharma, so in the Vedic tradition the best corresponding term for religion is “sanatana-dharma.” This is not a faith. It is not an option to check off on a government form. Saying that you believe in sanatana-dharma is like saying that you believe in the law of gravity. Sanatana-dharma exists irrespective of anyone’s belief in it, the same as it is with the laws of material science.

For the soul in the material world, to become reacquainted with the original engagement for the soul is not so easy. It typically requires a gradual elevation, and so we encounter things like the three debts. By repaying these debts, one learns to give respect to others, to not be solely focused on sense gratification. It is a means of gradual detachment from the body, i.e. what is not the soul.

Begetting a son is beneficial in other ways also. If you repeatedly violated the laws of material nature and didn’t become perfectly God conscious by the time of death, you’re likely to suffer in the afterlife. The good son can alleviate that suffering through their deeds. The Sanskrit word for son, putra, literally means one who delivers a person from hell.

When speaking of the spiritual side, one should only have children in order to release them from the cycle of birth and death. Never mind elevation to heaven and hell, which represent temporarily manifest places. Bring your dependents to the highest point of pure devotion to God. This is also known as Krishna consciousness. That is the real meaning to sanatana-dharma: meeting the soul’s true nature of service to God that continues without impediment and without interruption. An example of a son who satisfies both the material and spiritual aspects is Prahlada Maharaja. He can be considered the perfect son.

1. He listens well.

The father and mother are wiser than the child. This is the way of nature brought about through experience. So if you beget a son, you want them to listen to wise instruction. If they fail to follow good counsel, they will be on the wrong path in life. Just imagine Prahlada’s greatness, then. He listened to the science of self-realization while within the womb. He heard everything essential about life from Narada Muni, the great traveler of the three-worlds. After birth, Prahlada retained the knowledge. We forget things of consequence so quickly, but Prahlada remembered the most important information.

ṛṣiḥ kāruṇikas tasyāḥ

prādād ubhayam īśvaraḥ

dharmasya tattvaṁ jñānaṁ ca

mām apy uddiśya nirmalam

“Narada Muni delivered his instructions both to me, who was within the womb, and to my mother, who was engaged in rendering him service. Because he is naturally extremely kind to the fallen souls, being in a transcendental position, he gave instructions on religion and transcendental knowledge. These instructions were free from all material contamination.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.7.15)

2. He is good to his friends.

Another worry for the parent is association. If their son ends up hanging out with the wrong crowd, it could spell trouble. The good parent tries to shield their son from bad influences. At the same time, they want their child to be a good influence on others. In this regard, Prahlada was the best friend. During lunch breaks at school, he would discuss the most important topics with his friends. Even most mature adults never receive this vital information, what to speak of children. In this way Prahlada was the best friend to his peers.

3. He does not force the father to accept his way of life.

Though Prahlada took the instruction of Narada well, he had issues with his teachers and his father. At the command of the father, King Hiranyakashipu, the teachers taught Prahlada only about matters pertaining to state. Being a manager is difficult. All the problems, both large and small, arrive at your desk. Just imagine, then, what the manager of the entire state must deal with. The Vedas give four styles of diplomacy, of which the venerable Shri Hanuman showed himself to be a master many times.

tata enaṁ gurur jñātvā


daityendraṁ darśayām āsa

mātṛ-mṛṣṭam alaṅkṛtam

“After some time, the teachers Shanda and Amarka thought that Prahlada Maharaja was sufficiently educated in the diplomatic affairs of pacifying public leaders, appeasing them by giving them lucrative posts, dividing and ruling over them, and punishing them in cases of disobedience. Then, one day, after Prahlada's mother had personally washed the boy and dressed him nicely with sufficient ornaments, they presented him before his father.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.19)

Hiranyakashipu wanted Prahlada to learn these ways, but the boy was not interested. He was focused on devotion to God, bhakti-yoga. The father tried every which way to force the boy to change, but the boy never forced the father. Prahlada counseled in a mild and compassionate way, showing his gentle nature. This was a sign of great respect, as through his devotion Prahlada could have gotten anything he wanted, including force against his belligerent father.

4. He brings God to the family.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]Hiranyakashipu was a devout atheist; he considered God to be his enemy. When he saw Prahlada worshiping that enemy, he could not tolerate it. He tried every which way to kill Prahlada, but no attempt worked. It was the boy’s unflinching devotion that finally brought the Supreme Lord to the scene. Though it spelled the end of life for Hiranyakashipu, it was a actually a great boon. The son was perfectly God conscious, and the father had the same consciousness at the time of death. Due to Prahlada, the Supreme Lord in His form of Narasimhadeva came to the family and purified it.

5. He is very forgiving.

[Narasimhadeva blessing Prahlada]Despite every offense committed against him, Prahlada did not hold a grudge against his father. When everyone else was afraid of the ferocious form of the half-man/half-lion that had just torn the powerful Hiranyakashipu in half, Prahlada approached nicely. He asked for forgiveness for his father, despite all he had done. The Supreme Lord stated that not only was Hiranyakashipu liberated, but so were twenty-one previous generations in the family. This was all due to Prahlada, the best son a person could ask for.

In Closing:

To forefathers one of debts three,

By begetting a son of it to be free.


The best of them all, which one?

Look at Prahlada, like him none.


Benefit to his friends and family giving,

And his father’s obstructions forgiving.


Through him God to the family came,

Blessed with vision of Narasimha the name.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Five Ways To Tell That The Bhagavad-gita Favors Personalism Over Impersonalism

[Lord Krishna]“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

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kleśo 'dhikataras teṣām


avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ

dehavadbhir avāpyate

Is there a God? Is He a person? If He indeed exists, does He have a form? Is not the Divine incorporeal, i.e. formless? How can any one form accurately identify Him?

These questions have puzzled even intelligent minds for centuries. The Vedas give the most complete description, as to understand the Supreme one should also know about His infinite fragments. Life exists in the here and now. From where did it come? What are its properties? From knowing the soul, one can get a better idea of the origin of the soul.

na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ

na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ

na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ

sarve vayam ataḥ param

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

Vedanta is a Sanskrit word that means “the end of knowledge.” It is the conclusion of conclusions. The truths of Vedanta are succinct and yet profound at the same time. The Bhagavad-gita is an ancient Sanskrit work that perfectly summarizes Vedanta philosophy, going beyond it even. For the mind is but a product of the material nature, so philosophy can never be the true end to understanding.

The fundamental truth of Vedanta is that the individual is spirit soul. In Sanskrit the phrase is “aham brahmasmi.” The literal translation is “I am Brahman.” Brahman is that which remains in existence eternally. Brahman is the animating force within everything that is living. That which is not Brahman is maya, or illusion. The easiest way to understand the distinction is to see the difference between a living body and a dead one. The living body has a spark of Brahman inside and the dead one is missing that spark.

We have not mentioned a specific type of body. Brahman is not just inside the living human. It is also in the tiniest of germs, known as the indra-gopa in Sanskrit. It is inside the largest of bodies as well, such as the planets. The differences here relate only to maya, which is also known as the material nature. Vedanta philosophy focuses on Brahman realization. You should know that you are not your body, and you should have a practical realization of it as well.

[outer space]Beyond Vedanta philosophy is the creator. There is a creator to everything, and when you reach someone who was never created, you have found God. He is described in many other terms, such as the supreme controller, the supreme Brahman, and the original person. These descriptions, which have corresponding Sanskrit names as well, are different ways to help us understand God.

Among those who follow Vedanta philosophy, the subtle dividing line is the issue of personalism versus impersonalism. Basically, do you think that God is a person or just an undifferentiated energy that is free of attributes? The impersonalist side says that there are divine beings who appear on earth every now and then, but they are simply elevated forms of the singular Brahman. The variety of life forms we see in this world is simply the fragmentation of Brahman.

The personalist says that Brahman comes from the original Personality of Godhead. If the individual has a form, then how can it be absent in God? If God were formless, He would be inferior to others; it would negate His supreme standing. The various descents of the Divine to earth are in spiritual forms, meaning that for God there is no difference between matter and spirit.

With the conflicting viewpoints who is there to reconcile? We can use the Bhagavad-gita, which both sides give respect to. Both sides quote from this most famous work, and both sides have written translations and commentaries. From the words in that book we can tell which is the superior path, impersonalism or personalism.

1. Krishna says that His form is spiritual

The Bhagavad-gita is spoken by Shri Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the complete realization, while Paramatma and Brahman are less complete realizations of the same person. The impersonalist erroneously concludes that Krishna is merely an elevated soul. Some famous personalities even make the grave offense of calling Krishna a prophet.

[Krishna speaking Bhagavad-gita]The Supreme Lord addresses this viewpoint directly in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that fools deride Him when He appears in the human form. They think that He has assumed the corporeal appearance they see in front of them. They do not know His actual nature, which 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, Bg. 7.24)

2. Krishna says the impersonal path is more difficult

The Bhagavad-gita is the most honest presentation. The Supreme Lord, who is the ultimate authority, Himself quotes other authority figures, as a matter of etiquette. Therefore the impersonal philosophy is not denied in Krishna’s words. It is readily acknowledged, but it is put in its proper place.

Krishna says that the impersonal path is more difficult, especially for one who is embodied. Having taken birth in the material world, we are all embodied. We identify with maya from the start, so it’s difficult for us to understand what nirguna, or without material attributes, means. Nirguna means that Krishna has transcendental attributes. His hands and legs can do things human hands and legs can’t. His mouth can open wide enough to consume the entire universe. The path of personalism is favored since it gives a direct understanding of the full transcendental sweetness belonging exclusively to the Supreme Lord. The ultimate objective is bhakti, or love and devotion, and it is difficult to love someone you think is not even a person.

3. The word “mam” is used all the time.

There is no doubt that in the Bhagavad-gita God is spoken of throughout. The speaker does not refer to God as a different person. He repeatedly uses the Sanskrit word “mam.” This translates to “me” or “unto me.” Krishna speaks these words to Arjuna, and so if God were incorporeal He would have told Arjuna to worship the God inside of himself. This does not happen, though the cheating speculator will try to twist the verses in this way.

4. The universal form was shown for only a brief period.

To prove to the non-believers that Krishna is God, Arjuna asked his dear friend and cousin to show the universal form. This is a unique vision not available to the normal eyes. Arjuna was specifically granted a unique set of eyes to use to see this amazing form. The virata-rupa, which is the form of everything, includes all the planets and the many creatures populating it. Yet this form was shown for only a brief time. If the impersonal path were superior, the universal form would have been the platform from which Krishna spoke the majority of His words. Instead, it was the two-handed form that delivered the Bhagavad-gita, and it was the form that Arjuna preferred as well.

5. Krishna spoke to Arjuna; not a voice from the sky.

There are many books based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita that won’t dare to mention Krishna’s name. Some translations even have Krishna cropped out of the cover. They will feature the subtitle, “God speaks to Arjuna.” But from the work itself, which is included in the much larger historical and philosophical anthology known as the Mahabharata, we know that it was indeed a person who spoke to Arjuna.

“Then a voice, sounding like a human being, was heard from the sky which said, ‘O king, this child is rightfully your daughter.’”  (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.31)

If God were indeed impersonal, He would have spoken to Arjuna from afar. He would have appeared on the scene as a voice from the sky. Indeed, in Vedic literature it is not uncommon to find references to such voices. One time a king named Janaka found a baby girl in the ground and wasn’t sure what to do next. A voice from the sky then appeared and told him that the girl was indeed his daughter in all righteousness.

The Conclusion

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]The acharyas give the authorized commentaries and translations of the Bhagavad-gita. The bona fide acharyas follow the example of Arjuna, who is devoted to Krishna in thought, word and deed. Arjuna heard the Bhagavad-gita directly and took to heart the ultimate conclusion, that of surrender to Krishna the person. Thus the person who first heard the words gives the most powerful testimony in favor of the path of personalism.

In Closing:

Lesson from Arjuna detect,

Who heard Krishna’s words direct.


Universal form not there entire time,

Nor voice from sky with light to shine.


Krishna the person before him standing,

And to him giving proper understanding.


That personalism path the favorite one,

And impersonalism with more difficulty done.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Five Ways That Arjuna Can Relate To You

[Arjuna]“Arjuna said, My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.73)

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arjuna uvāca

naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtir labdhā

tvat-prasādān mayācyuta

sthito 'smi gata-sandehaḥ

kariṣye vacanaṁ tava

In some ways life gets better as you get older. You supposedly have more freedom. If you’re out of pens at home, you can step in the car and drive over to the store. If you feel like pizza for dinner, you can make that desire a reality. Though the entire time, whether as a child or an adult, you’re under the strict laws of the material nature, it appears that in adulthood you have more control over the direction of your life.

Four things are characteristic of a material existence: birth, old age, disease and death. We get this list from Vedic teachings but it’s obvious for anyone who is willing to look. Old age means the body starts to decay. Thus it becomes more susceptible to disease, which at that point has a greater chance of being fatal. As more time passes through life, the difficult moments start to accumulate. This is due to attachment. Whatever we are attached to will eventually leave us.

In dealing with loss or a bewildering situation, it helps to consult someone who has experienced the same. For instance, if we lose a close family member to a disease, the initial moments of shock and despair are difficult. We look for others who have gone through a similar situation. There are the commonly uttered comforting words of “I know how you feel.” This statement can only be true if the person has indeed gone through the same struggles that we find ourselves in.

Unfortunately, there are many bewildering situations in a material existence. For each one, we may not be able to find someone who knows how we feel. Fortunately, there is Vedic literature, which deals with both the theoretical and the practical. There is philosophy mixed in with historical accounts. From one character alone, we find a person who can relate to a lot of difficult situations in life. His name is Arjuna, and he plays a central role in the famous Bhagavad-gita, which is the song of God.

1. He lost a father at a young age.

It is a great fortune to have loving parents at the time of birth. They are our only support system. So to lose one of them at any time in life is not easy. Arjuna’s family was known as the Pandavas, getting the name from their father Pandu. Arjuna and his four brothers lost the association of their father at a young age. They had to deal with a terrible loss.

2. He was attacked unfairly.

[Arjuna]We’ve surely been wronged at least once in our lives. The feeling is not good. Justice should prevail, but sometimes it doesn’t. Arjuna and his family suffered grave injustices. After Pandu’s passing, the brothers were subjected to torture from their cousins, known as the Kauravas. This family was led by Duryodhana, who tried to kill the Pandavas several times. Arjuna lived in a house that was set on fire once. He and his family fortunately escaped in time due to well-placed intelligence. The crown of Hastinapura rightfully belonged to the Pandavas, but Duryodhana would not give it up.

3. He had tremendous success.

What need is there to relate to someone who is successful? Do not the spoils go to the victor? Actually, success can be more bewildering than loss. The reason is that happiness doesn’t come from material objects alone. Arjuna was so successful that one of his names was Dhananjaya. This name means “conqueror of wealth,” and it was used by Shri Krishna to address him many times. Arjuna one time brought a great amount of gold from a mountain range and gave it to his brother Yudhishthira. So Arjuna acquired tremendous wealth and then gave it all away, making him a conqueror over it.

4. He saw terrible things happen right in front of him.

One doesn’t have to look far to find depressing images. They are shown on the nightly television newscasts. They are in the daily newspaper. A person who witnesses these events firsthand can get traumatized. Imagine, then, how Arjuna felt after the battle of Kurukshetra. He saw millions of people die, and he was not happy about it. Though his side won, he was not elated over the victory. He witnessed and caused tremendous bloodshed.

5. He was bewildered and needed help.

The starting point of the Bhagavad-gita is Arjuna needing help. A great war is about to commence and oddly enough Arjuna is afraid of winning. He doesn’t want to see important people on the other side perish. There is the saying that he who hesitates is lost. Arjuna hesitated and he seemed lost. Everyone goes through this at some point, and with Arjuna the hesitation became logged in one of the most famous books of all time.

The Conclusion

[Krishna and Arjuna on chariot]As Arjuna can relate to so many different people, his example becomes all the more important. He went through so much but he maintained a level head due to his devotion to Krishna. When he was most bewildered he turned to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who happened to be roaming the earth at the time as his cousin and dear friend. Arjuna received the science of self-realization directly from God and implemented the principles in his own life. As he can relate to us, Arjuna knows how we feel. He also knows the solution to the problems of material life: devotional service. By remaining in bhakti-yoga, he shows how the precious human life can mature to its destined fruition.

In Closing:

Tragedy in front of me to see,

By life’s struggles bewildered to be.


Best when someone to feel our pain,

Since went through difficulties the same.


From history Arjuna’s example to take,

Study of his dealings with Krishna to make.


Devotional service the answer to him,

Over enemy of doubt to win.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sankirtana For The Ages

[Lord Chaitanya in sankirtana]“In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.32)

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kṛṣṇa-varṇaḿ tviṣākṛṣṇaḿ


yajñaiḥ sańkīrtana-prāyair

yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ

Shaved heads. Saffron robes. Karatalas clanging to a familiar beat. The constant chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. To some this is a nuisance, while to others it’s the thing they’ve been searching for their whole lives. It is sharanagati experienced for real, surrender to the Divine that should be the way of life all the time. These things taken together are known as the sankirtana-yajna, and though it has only recently appeared to gain in prominence, it is not a manufactured system.

Sankirtana was not the creation of some famous mind. It was not invented in the past by someone who had amazing, out of body experiences. Yajna means sacrifice and in the Vedas there is mention of yajna everywhere. The reason is that sacrifice is a tool only available to the human species. The animals lack the intelligence necessary to voluntarily take up restriction. They don’t know what it is to go on a diet. They don’t know that stopping themselves from doing certain things will benefit them many years down the road.

Kirtana is a Sanskrit word that means “to describe.” When discussing spiritual topics, the word takes the meaning of describing the Supreme. Whatever you want to call Him, there is an origin to everything. In the Vedas He is described to be a person, or purusha. Since He is the original person, He is the adi-purusha. Every reaction has an initial cause. When you ascend the chain of causes and reach the initial one, you have found God. Therefore He is also known as sarva-karana-karanam, the cause of all causes.

A great way to describe someone or something is to put words to song. For this reason the Vedas consist of millions of verses that can be sung. They are in praise of the Supreme Lord and His deputies. When you take sankirtana and yajna together, you get the sacrifice of chanting the holy names in congregation. Sankirtana is more powerful than ordinary kirtana since there are more people involved. It is a natural amplification system.

[Lord Vishnu]Yajna is synonymous with Vishnu, which is another name for God. As He is the first beneficiary in all yajnas, one of God’s other names is Yajneshvara. Chanting the holy names in congregation is a way to please the Supreme Lord. It is not an invented process, since it comes down from time immemorial. Though in prior ages perhaps the chanting took place quietly in a secluded area, the sacrifice was still the same. Writing books about God is also kirtana. Thus we have the famous Ramayana and the many Puranas of the Vedic tradition.

On television we see commercials for new weight loss products. These are breakthrough inventions created through the combination of accepted knowledge and practical experience. These products are touted as new, like nothing we’ve seen before. In a material existence there is duality, so some things work for some people and other things don’t work as well. So there is some success seen in using these products. There is no doubt of this.

Sankirtana-yajna is spiritual. It is not invented by anyone, and so it has no flaws. The human being has four primary defects. They have imperfect senses, they tend to cheat, they make mistakes, and they are easily illusioned. This means that anything the human mind conjures up will be flawed to some degree. Not so for sankirtana-yajna, since it comes down from the flawless authority that is the Supreme Lord.

As sankirtana describes God and yajna is done to please Him, the inventor of the system would have to be as good as God. After all, they are capable of delivering the one person that no one seems to be able to spot. They are bringing the most powerful person in the universe into proximity. They are doing it not with brute force or strained mental effort. They are doing it simply through sound.

If sankirtana-yajna were invented by someone, that inventor would have to be equal to God. Yet man can never achieve this status. They can become godly, like a deva, but they can never be the supreme deva. Chanting the holy names as a sacrifice is a way to practice bhakti-yoga, which is the mysticism of devotion. There is no magic or illusion, since the Supreme Lord empowers the process. He enables the link to Him to be made through investing potency in the holy name itself. That name is identical to Him, and therefore those names are an integral aspect to bhakti-yoga practice.

The yoga systems we are most familiar with are invented. They are concocted by a flawed brain, and so the results are flawed as well. They don’t deliver the Supreme Lord directly. And without gaining His association, there is no point to spiritual life. Material life is known to be a waste of time, as everything finishes with death. The soul is what continues on, and so its satisfaction is what matters most.

[Lord Chaitanya and associates]In this age the sankirtana-yajna is introduced to society by a special personality named Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Though His complexion is not the same as Bhagavan Krishna, He is the same Supreme Lord. He delivers the fallen people of the age by bringing them together in glorifying God. The intelligent will take up this sacrifice, which comes down from authority.

In Closing:

Congregationally chanting holy name,

From Chaitanya this process came.


Still existing from time before,

Effective in any of ages four.


Though by results to be awed,

Never created by mind flawed.


By Krishna Himself process empowered,

From fearless devotees mercy showered.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Talking About Miracle Men

[Shrila Prabhupada]“Mystic powers can make a yogi materially powerful and thus give temporary relief from the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease, as other material sciences can also do, but such mystic powers can never be a permanent source of relief from these miseries. Therefore, according to the Bhagavata school, this path of religiosity is also a method of cheating its followers.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.91 Purport)

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Friend-One: Are you familiar with the song “Miracle Man” by Ozzy Osbourne?

Friend-Two: Yes.

F1: Do you know what it’s about?

F2: I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it’s related to the disgraced televangelists of the 1980s. They collected money from the innocent public, promising a place in heaven in return.

F1: Okay, because I was thinking about the title to that song today.

F2: Other bands from that time period wrote similar songs. Metallica did one called “Leper Messiah.” It has a great line in there: “send me money, send me green, heaven you will meet…make a contribution and you’ll get the better seat.”

F1: Oh, that’s pretty good. I forgot about that one. I guess it was pretty big news back then when these guys were exposed.

F2: Yeah, people discovered that they were anything but pious.

F1: I was thinking of the literal meaning of the title. A miracle man would be someone who could obviously perform miracles. Does that have any place in Vedic teachings?

F2: What do you mean?

F1: I know that so many people take to following a specific guru or religious movement based on these miracles. For instance, a guru will read the mind of the person visiting them for the first time. They will appear in dreams and make prophecies and the like.

F2: Right. That definitely does happen.

F1: Are these guys legitimate, though? Is performing a miracle required in order to be followed?

F2: It’s an easy way to attract followers, that’s for sure.

[Rama's bridge]F1: But doesn’t the Supreme Lord perform miracles? Shri Rama constructed the bridge to Lanka with floating stones. Shri Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and held it up with His pinky finger. There are several miracles relating to Lord Chaitanya as well.

F2: Are you asking if performing a miracle is required in order to be considered Divine?

F1: Not only that, but if someone can do something amazing like that, are they necessarily Divine because of it? Is the miracle the proof?

F2: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. The short and simple answer is “no.”

F1: Care to explain.

F2: These miracles are merely manipulations of the material nature. They are exhibitions of mystic opulence.

F1: Right, but not anybody can do them. People consider them miracles for a reason.

F2: That’s because people don’t know the power of mystic yoga. The body is quite inhibiting. That body consists of the gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether and the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego. When you break free of the effects of the body, the individual, who is spirit soul, can do amazing things.

bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ

khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca

ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me

bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

F1: But how do you break free? Is that what yoga is?

F2: Exactly. That kind of yoga is correctly translated as mysticism. Yogis expert in this art can do amazing things. That doesn’t mean that they are Divine, though.

F1: Why not?

[weights]F2: Let me put it to you this way. Do you know people who lift weights?

F1: Sure.

F2: Are they all good people?

F1: What do you mean?

F2: The people you know who lift weights - are they all of the same character?

F1: No. There is variety, as in anything else.

F2: So you have both good and bad people who happen to be strong. Would you agree with that?

F1: Yes.

F2: You can think of mystic yoga in the same way. Just because you see the end result of a supposed miracle, it doesn’t automatically mean that the person is Divine. Just as anyone can become strong through proper exercise and diet, anyone can achieve mystic opulences by strictly following the system of meditational yoga.

F1: Ah, I think I get it now.

F2: Whenever you run into trouble in this subject, you can always turn to Shri Hanuman.

F1: What does he have to say about this?

F2: It’s not what he says; it’s what he does. He is expert in mystic yoga; I’m not sure if you knew that.

F1: I have seen him depicted sometimes in the yoga sitting posture.

[Hanuman meditating]F2: He didn’t have to strive to become a yogi. He possessed the amazing qualities since birth. In the Ramayana, he used some of these opulences. At one time he expanded his body to become very large. At another time he diminished to the size of a cat. He has no trouble in yoga.

F1: That’s cool.

F2: So Hanuman never shows mystic opulence for the purpose of convincing people that he is God. Hanuman would never do that. He doesn’t toss aside his opulence, either. He uses it for pleasing the Supreme Lord, Shri Rama, whenever needed.

F1: So that should be the example we keep?

F2: There is Sita Devi as well. She is Rama’s wife and one time she mentioned that she had no desire even for the mystic opulence of flying through the air if it meant she would be devoid of Rama.

“Whether it be residence on top of a palace, traveling on airplanes, or flying through the sky (via yogic powers), in all circumstances the shade of the husband's feet is by far superior.”  (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.9)

[Sita Devi]F1: That’s a nice thing to say.

F2: The idea is that just because you see a person perform a miracle, it doesn’t mean they are any more spiritual than anyone else. The dichotomy between material life and spiritual life comes down to consciousness. How aware are you of the Supreme Lord’s presence? How much do you know about His qualities? What are you doing to fulfill the mission of life, namely service to Him?

F1: Does that mean the devoted souls can’t perform these miracles?

yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā

sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ

harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā

manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ

“All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva. On the other hand, a person devoid of devotional service and engaged in material activities has no good qualities. Even if he is adept at the practice of mystic yoga or the honest endeavor of maintaining his family and relatives, he must be driven by his own mental speculations and must engage in the service of the Lord's external energy. How can there be any good qualities in such a man?” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.18.12)

[Prabhupada worshiping]F2: It is said in the Shrimad Bhagavatam that the devotees of the personal form of God automatically acquire all the opulences of the demigods. They perform miracles for sure, but only when necessary. They don’t do things to specifically attract followers to a bogus style of religion. The greatest miracle they perform is transforming bewildered souls into empowered divinely inspired beings who swim in the ocean of transcendental nectar. Even this isn’t that great a feat when considering the potency of the name belonging to the Supreme Lord. The devoted souls rescue others on the strength of this name, which they pass on in the form of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Devotees like to demigods the same,

Pass on Divine potency through holy name.


By the show of miracle don’t be cheated,

Since material objects by time to be defeated.


Hanuman’s example just see,

How of personal desire he’s free.


Devoted to the Lord the souls great,

Following their path same opulence to await.