Saturday, July 11, 2015

Know Thyself

[Rama's lotus hand]“Like when the cow dung mixes with the rain, when you turn your back on worship of Rama you will experience that no one likes you and no one has love for you, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 73)

barasā ko gobara bhayoṁ kēā cahai ko karai prīti |
tulasī tū anubhavahi aba rāma bimukha kī rīti ||73||

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“Prabhu has done so much for us. He has lifted us out of the ditch of despair and brought us into the field of light. No more are we shrouded in the darkness of ignorance. We have received the transcendental vision through their mercy. There is no more doubt over the mission of life. There is no more chasing after a temporary reward, only to remain unsatisfied in the end. Now we feel renewed pleasure, day after day. It is all due to their grace. There is no end to their glories. We are so fortunate to have them in our lives.”

It is not uncommon for this type of praise to be offered to a saintly figure. After all, the world we live in is known as “dog eat dog.” Each person is the same on the inside, but we draw distinctions immediately off of external features. We feel the need to be better than others, to not be left behind. We have affection for our own friends and family, while forgetting that others are friends and family as well.

The saint is above these designations. They see the goodness in all people, and they also know how to lift people up. The saint knows how to bring happiness that lasts. It is easy to give someone food, but it is more difficult to teach them a way to honestly procure food for themselves. It is easy to make someone smile through pleasing words, but it is more difficult to teach the same person to smile day after day, regardless of the circumstance.

From the saint’s perspective, keeping a level head is difficult when all this praise is constantly heaped upon them. They deserve it for sure. At the bare minimum, being godly requires compassion, cleanliness, austerity and honesty. Irrespective of religious tradition or sectarian boundaries, these qualities are what elevate the human being above other species.

The saint of the Vaishnava tradition is intimately associated with God the person. Thus they automatically acquire all the qualities we typically consider to be good. With duality sometimes what is good is bad. For instance, telling the truth to a murderer looking to kill is bad. Telling the truth is good in most circumstances, such as in court. The Vaishnava saint brings good qualities out in others as part of their mission.

[Tulsidas applying chandan]In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas reminds us that the praise the saint earns is not completely of their own doing. They deserve credit for their work, but without worship of God the person they would not be noteworthy. There are many philanthropists. There are many humanitarians. They do good work in educating, feeding and training people.

Yet the person who worships God the person is far superior, for they know the origin of everything. They teach others about this origin as well. This is the most valuable lesson because the material is temporary. The good citizen who focuses on only the temporary is not the wisest. They can go a step above, but they need a certain type of behavior.

Tulsidas uses cow dung as an example. In India especially cow dung is very useful, even to this day. It is an easily obtained source for fuel and building material. It has antiseptic properties, though there is the obvious contradiction due to the nature of its origin. But as soon as the cow dung mixes with rainwater, it loses its usefulness.

The person who turns their back on worship of Rama is compared to the wet cow dung. When there is worship of Rama, the person becomes the most useful to others. Rama is the personal God, the worshipable deity of choice for Tulsidas and millions of others since time immemorial. Rama is also Krishna and Vishnu. He is the source of the impersonal Brahman. He is the origin of the Supersoul residing within the heart of every creature.

It is easy to be misled by effusive praise. If I start to think that everything is due to my efforts only, I will gradually turn away from the source of my power. Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, benefits me and everyone I contact. If I turn my back on devotion to God, then others won’t like me. Even if I win their favor temporarily, in the end they will curse me. This was the case with the infamous Ravana. He was liked when he protected the city of Lanka. Yet when he turned against Rama, he lost everything. The same citizens then lamented their plight, knowing that their misfortune was due to their wicked leader.

[Lord Rama]From this one verse we see that there is great value in meeting a saint of the Vaishnava tradition. Since they worship Rama they can give us so much. They earn the love and respect offered to them. Those who offer in such a way are benefitted far more than those who simply get material benedictions handed to them. The eternal engagement of bhakti-yoga is the true gem to be found in this world, and the person who worships Rama can tell us where to find it.

In Closing:

Since showing goodness in many ways,

Heaped upon the saint effusive praise.


But source of power shouldn’t forget,

Because only through Lord’s mercy met.


Tulsidas to the cow dung comparing,

When wet people no longer caring.


Worshiper of Rama considered the best,

By them whole society to be blessed.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What Use Are You To Others

[Rama's lotus feet]“Like when the cow dung mixes with the rain, when you turn your back on worship of Rama you will experience that no one likes you and no one has love for you, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 73)

barasā ko gobara bhayoṁ kēā cahai ko karai prīti |
tulasī tū anubhavahi aba rāma bimukha kī rīti ||73||

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When engulfed by the material consciousness, it is difficult to bring pleasure to others. You think that by buying them things and providing for their wellbeing, they will be grateful. You think that if you are kind to them always, they will hold you in high esteem. You think that if you don’t argue with them, if you simply agree with everything they say, they will appreciate your company.

Sadly, things don’t play out as expected. The interaction of the senses is the reason. We don’t have to look very far to understand how. The police is there to give protection. Communities have voluntarily decided to pool resources and efforts in order to protect life and property. Each individual protects what they have; this is part of the four basic animal instincts, with the other three being eating, sleeping and mating. At the individual level, there is protection through locks, alarm systems, and even weapons. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that there are six kinds of aggressors in life, and that killing them is never sinful. This is not his opinion. As a perfect acharya he simply passes down what comes from the ultimate authority that is the Vedas.

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

[politicians]We inherently don’t trust politicians. They lie to get ahead. When in office, they go back on their campaign promises. Through raising taxes, they increase the burden of work for the common man. They are like thieves in a lot of ways, though they get elected by the people. There is worry over the overreaching hand of the government, and outside of that there is worry that others will encroach on our property.

The military and the police exist to defend. They provide a valuable service, but is there appreciation? Certainly within such ranks bad apples can be found, those who take advantage of their authority. Yet even if ten percent were bad, the sacrifices of the good should at least be appreciated. The saying, “what have you done for me lately,” nicely describes the material consciousness. Man tends to forget the past good deeds, while only remembering the latest transgressions.

Goswami Tulsidas says that if you turn your back on Shri Rama, you won’t be any good to anyone. Rama is God; the personal form. Worship of God the person is specific. If you worship an energy, an impersonal force, you can pretty much do anything and tell people that you’re worshiping. You can kill others in the name of religion. You can persecute innocent and faithful women and say that it is part of your religion. You can kill innocent animals by the millions and not have any regrets.

Worship of Rama is worship of God with personal features. The process is purifying, to the point that others will benefit simply by meeting you. Tulsidas compares the opposite situation to cow dung that has been left out in the rain. Outside of India the magic of cow dung is not well known. It can be used for fuel and to construct dwellings. Though dung is generally considered waste, when it comes from the cow it has antiseptic properties.

“Vedic principles are accepted as axiomatic truth, for there cannot be any mistake. That is acceptance. For instance, in India cow dung is accepted as pure, and yet cow dung is the stool of an animal. In one place you'll find the Vedic injunction that if you touch stool, you have to take a bath immediately. But in another place it is said that the stool of a cow is pure. If you smear cow dung in an impure place, that place becomes pure.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, Introduction)

[Prabhupada teaching]The pure cow dung can become impure when left out in the rain. Then no one will want to have anything to do with it. Similarly, if a person who was worshiping Shri Rama suddenly turns their back on Him, they won’t be any good to people. It may not seem that way on the surface, but with time eventually the truth will play out.

What good can I really do for someone if I don’t show them the meaning of life? The animals are busy working for eating and sleeping. The human being does the same; they don’t really need my help in that regard. Since the senses can never be satisfied, no matter how much I feed someone they won’t think so highly of me. No matter how much money I give away, people will always want more.

[Lord Rama]In devotion to Rama, the light of truth shines bright. Within that devotion is full knowledge and renunciation. The goal of life becomes clear to those who see this light. They awaken to the true purpose of the valuable human birth: to love and worship God with the same devotion. That devotion will make them happy, and the person who brought about this happiness becomes the most dear to them.

In Closing:

Cow dung for fuel and cleaning having use,

For daily life valuable in ways profuse.


But when rain with it mixing,

Eyes no more on it fixing.


Consider result to be the same,

When abandoning Lord of Rama the name.


Without Him what really for others to do?

Better to let light of devotion shine from you.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Benefactor’s Benefactor

[Kuvera]“If a person goes against Shri Rama, they won’t be able to get firewood from the Vindhyachal forest or water from the oceans, and Kuvera’s house will be empty.” (Dohavali, 72)

bindhi na īndhana pā'i'ai sāgara jurai na nīra |
parai upāsa kubera ghara jo bipaccha raghubīra ||72||

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Life is hard. Nothing comes easy. We think we have everything in our control, but we don’t. We reach out for help on occasion. We need others to not harm us. If there are aggressors in our midst, we need brave defenders to protect us from injury. It is understandable to give high praise and assign top status to those who help us when we are in trouble, but Goswami Tulsidas rightly points out that the sanction of one supreme person is required first in all circumstances. If you go against Him, then even your benefactor can’t help you.

ye 'py anya-devatā-bhaktā

yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ

te 'pi mām eva kaunteya

yajanty avidhi-pūrvakam

“Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.23)

In the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Person mentions demigod worship quite a few times. The word “demigod” is an English translation to the word “deva.” Deva is Sanskrit for “god.” Demigod is an accurate translation since there can be many devas. These are godly personalities, capable of delivering on what they promise.

What kinds of things do they promise? We can look to the infamous Hiranyakashipu for reference. He asked the deva named Brahma for immortality. Though Brahma is the creator of this universe and though he lives for billions of years, he does not have immortality. As a spirit soul, his existence is eternal, but immortality here refers to maintaining the same body-spirit connection. Brahma must die at some time, so he cannot grant the boon of immortality to anyone.

Hiranyakashipu thought he could outsmart the higher forces. He asked for protection against death in various ways. For instance, he asked that no weapon could kill him. Neither could an animal nor a human. He wanted immunity from dying at night and during the day. He thought he had all the bases covered, but the Supreme Person arriving in the form of Narasimhadeva squashed his supposed cleverness.

[Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu]Generally, the demigod worshipers don’t go as extreme as Hiranyakashipu. They ask for basic things like good health, money, wisdom, protection and the like. If they worship properly, they get what they want. This only makes sense. Why would someone be considered a deva if they failed to deliver? To be godly means to do things that normal people can’t.

It is understandable to have great faith in your demigod of choice. That is a sign of gratefulness, which is a good trait to possess. A grateful person remembers good deeds done on their behalf. The human being is so forgetful that if a friend fails to deliver just one time, that blemish is what stands out. Forgotten are all the previous times that the same friend successfully came through.

Through sentiment towards one deva of choice, the status of “supreme” might get assigned. Goswami Tulsidas shows how that practice is not intelligent. In this verse from the Dohavali, he mentions that Kuvera’s house becomes empty if one goes against Shri Rama. Rama is the Supreme Person, the same one who speaks the Bhagavad-gita. He is the same Vishnu who has a lotus-like navel. From that navel comes Brahma, who is a devotee of Vishnu.

[Kuvera]Kuvera is the treasurer-demigod. He has tremendous wealth at his disposal. Kuvera can act as a benefactor to one who worships him properly. Yet as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, a demigod is empowered by God to grant rewards. Without the Supreme’s sanction, nothing can take place. Not a blade of grass moves without His approval.

A person might be tempted to approach Kuvera and turn against Rama, but they follow this route only in ignorance. If a person goes against Rama, they can find even a dense forest to be bereft of firewood. They can approach a vast ocean and not take away any water. This seems ridiculous, but for God it is child’s play. He simply manipulates the material elements as He sees fit. The material nature is His inferior energy, after all.

[Krishna's lotus feet]If you are fortunate enough to learn that your great benefactor himself has a benefactor, the wise choice would be to make friendship with that higher person. It is for this reason that Shri Krishna refers to demigod worshipers as less intelligent. Such worshipers don’t know of the supreme benefactor, and thus they take longer to learn the true mission of life, which is love and devotion to God.

In Closing:

Since benefits from them to see,

Thinking superior my demigod is he.


From ignorance since not knowing,

That their abilities to Shri Rama owing.


Only when sanction from Him first going,

Benefits to the worshiper then flowing.


Since benefactor having one above,

Better if through service to Him love.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Using Nature To Survive

[trees in forest]“If a person goes against Shri Rama, they won’t be able to get firewood from the Vindhyachal forest or water from the oceans, and Kuvera’s house will be empty.” (Dohavali, 72)

bindhi na īndhana pā'i'ai sāgara jurai na nīra |
parai upāsa kubera ghara jo bipaccha raghubīra ||72||

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Life in the material world is about survival. Defending is one of the four characteristic traits of the animal. It goes along with eating, sleeping and mating. Whether you are high or low, you have to defend. The middle class person installs a basic alarm system in their home and the wealthy person has a security detail to watch over their estate.

[home security system]Defense is an instinct since there is knowledge that death can come at any moment. Time has yet to be defeated; it operates on everything. Whether you make a call to time or not, it will work on your body and everything you call your own. Knowing that time’s most powerful weapon of death can arrive unannounced, it is natural for a person to worry over their wellbeing.

To this end there is the tendency to exploit. If animals find a large supply of food that accidentally falls on the ground, they’ll just eat what they need and move on. They won’t make plans to hoard. They won’t think that since such fortune rarely comes to them, they should take advantage.

“If a bag of rice is placed in a public place, birds will come to eat a few grains and go away. A human being, however, will take away the whole bag. He will eat all his stomach can hold and then try to keep the rest in storage.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Nectar of Instruction, 2 Purport)

[clipping coupons]Fear coupled with intelligence makes the human being do things like clip coupons, look feverishly for a deal, and trade up to the latest model to keep up with what others are purchasing. If a deal is expiring soon, better get on it right away. You don’t want to miss out on the savings. Even if you don’t really need that thing right now, you might need it later on. Then you’ll have to pay a higher price. You don’t want to get cheated.

Taking advantage of the sales promotion is exploitation and hoarding on the smaller scale, and conquering foreign lands on the larger. A ruler sees that another area is rich in natural resources. Rather than trade and risk high expense, why not take over that land? Build up your army and invade. If you can acquire the property outright, you’ll have some protection against loss. Though you know that death will come, you’ll be better prepared to live life until that time.

There is something important missed in this mentality. Goswami Tulsidas addresses it in his Dohavali. He says that one who opposes Rama can find even the ocean to be bereft of water. Though the comparison is meant to be understood symbolically, it can be taken literally as well. If there is no water, you obviously don’t have an ocean. If the forest is missing trees, it is not a forest. These characteristics define the respective objects.

Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation form that appeared in Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. Since His family descended from King Raghu, Rama is also known as Raghava. Since Rama was the brave hero of the Raghu dynasty, He is also known as Raghuvira, which is the name used by Tulsidas in this verse. Knowing that Rama is God is not vital for understanding this verse. You know that there is an original cause of everything, so understand that without that cause’s sanction nothing can exist.

[forest with trees]You want water. So you go to the ocean. You see the water. You’re ready to take some away using buckets. But you find that each time you dip the bucket in the water, nothing comes out. You want wood to keep your home warm at night. You go to the dense forest to cut down some trees. You go to chop one down, but nothing happens. It’s like your axe is swinging through air.

These things are not miracles; they can happen very easily if the Lord so desires. What we see around us is a collection of material elements anyway. Earth, water, fire, air and ether comprise the gross elements. In the individual, the soul controls the body. God is the original soul, the life of everything that lives. Therefore if He wishes to manipulate the material elements in a way that we can’t understand, He can do so effortlessly.

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)

[Rama's lotus feet]We use nature to survive, to keep spirit and body together. Though we act on what we see around us, we should not forget that everything comes from God. Going against Him is the original sin, the cause of the spinning wheel of reincarnation. Each day the wheel keeps moving, as it continues in each lifetime spent in a particular body. As soon as one goes back to the original consciousness of loving God, the misery ends. What seems like a difficult existence, riddled with worry that is so strong it leads to fear and hoarding, becomes pleasurable and exciting. This is due to the persistent freshness found in the Personality of Godhead, whose favor can make anything happen. Just as He can dry up the ocean and clear out the forest, He can fill the devotee’s life with bliss through replenishing opportunities for service.

In Closing:

Going into dense forest one,

Though chopping, wood not to come.


Going to ocean with bucket of mine,

Though water, empty coming up each time.


Not a miracle, Rama anything can do,

Reverse your outlook in life easily too.


With thought and deed devoted to Him,

On reincarnation’s wheel no more to spin.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Afraid Of Missing Out

[Rama's lotus hand]“When you give up Shri Rama, the Lord of Koshala, and put your hopes in others, then you’ll get distress wherever you look, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 71)

karihauṁ kosalanātha taji jabahiṁ dūsarī āsa |
jahām̐ tahām̐ dukha pā'ihauṁ tabahīṁ tulasīdāsa ||71||

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In this verse Goswami Tulsidas warns of the dangers of rejecting the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the other side of the decision is trust in things and people who are not God. The mindset is typically the opposite of what Tulsidas says. We think that if we take up religious life in earnest, we’ll lose out on so many things. Responsibilities will get neglected. We’ll miss out on fun. We’ll only find misery wherever we turn.

The material energy is known as maya. The root Sanskrit meaning is “that which is not.” The enticing pizza pie that just came out of the oven is an illusion of sorts. Sure, there is nutritional value. Without eating we can’t survive. The same goes for sleeping. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that the yogi does not eat too much or too little. He is moderate in his sleeping habits as well.

nāty-aśnatas 'tu yogo 'sti

na caikāntam anaśnataḥ

na cāti-svapna-śīlasya

jāgrato naiva cārjuna

“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)

[cheese pizza]The desire to eat the entire pie based on the vision is where the illusion comes in. We think we’ll be happy in the short term, that the taste will bring us satisfaction. What we don’t see are the negative consequences to arrive later on. Indigestion, heartburn, difficulty sleeping, weight gain - these are all unwanted things. The Sanskrit word is anartha, which literally means “that which is not profitable.” A person can only accept anarthas if they are under the spell of illusion.

The fear that approaching God will bring us distress is also rooted in illusion. How can the wealthiest person leave us poor? How can the all-attractive one ever leave us lonely and without anything to appreciate? How can the husband of the goddess of fortune ever fail to safeguard against destitution?

In this verse from the Dohavali, Tulsidas refers to God as Koshalanatha. There is the sacred land of Koshala in which Shri Rama appeared. Not just any person is God. He does not appear at just any time, either. Rama’s divinity is mentioned in sacred texts like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam and supported through His deeds. The lives of the devotees also prove that Rama is someone special, a person whose association should never be renounced.

Why Rama and not someone else? Should I neglect my duties? If we put our hopes in Rama, does it mean that other things will get neglected? What about my family? Will they be taken care of? Will they be provided for?

Actually, the living entity is not the doer. For sure the choice for action rests in their hands. We make the decision to get out of bed in the morning. We choose what food goes in our mouth. Yet the results to action are already determined. The laws of nature dictate what will happen when we put our hands together, the act known as clapping. From experience we know that a sound results, but we didn’t create the law responsible for that sound.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni

guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ


kartāham iti manyate

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.27)

Higher forces arrange for protection and the lack of it. We are not capable of providing for everyone we care about. It is impossible to give full protection, though we think otherwise. At the same time, exclusive devotion to God does not mean neglect. A person who understands that the Supreme Lord lives inside of all creatures is naturally compassionate. Such a person understands that they have roles to fulfill, but they carry out their duties with detachment. They know that ultimately the outcomes are out of their hands.

If both the religious person and the non-religious person don’t have full control, what is the need to even worship? They are both helpless it seems.

[Lord Rama]When we put our hopes in someone who is fallible, there is bound to be distress at some point. One of Rama’s many names is Achyuta. This means “one who does not fall down.” He never fails. He delivers what is good for the devotee, even if they don’t realize it. No one else can provide for us in such a way. He showed what He is capable of during His time on earth. Those who went against Rama lost everything. Those who were on His side always kept Him on their side, which meant that they were always happy, no matter the situation.

In Closing:

Of religious life having doubt,

That fun then to go without.


And if in bhakti so quickly to leap,

How my responsibilities to keep?


The Lord of Koshala to Vishnu the same,

Who known to world as greatest to maintain.


Rama’s association benediction the best,

For proof devotees from Ramayana assess.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pain Here and There

[Rama's lotus feet]“When you give up Shri Rama, the Lord of Koshala, and put your hopes in others, then you’ll get distress wherever you look, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 71)

karihauṁ kosalanātha taji jabahiṁ dūsarī āsa |
jahām̐ tahām̐ dukha pā'ihauṁ tabahīṁ tulasīdāsa ||71||

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It’s rare for someone to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just knowing that He exists and that He is the original proprietor of everything makes one very fortunate. To reach the pinnacle of an existence and then abandon it by putting hopes in others is not a very wise decision. According to Goswami Tulsidas, it results in pain being found everywhere. Here and there, wherever you turn, you will stay unhappy.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that only after having exhausted all sins does a person take up devotion to Him in earnest. How many sins are there? How long can a person keep doing the wrong things? As time is infinite in both the forwards and backwards directions, during that time all options for action are available. I ate pizza for dinner ten years ago and tonight I can make the same choice. In the larger scheme, I could keep choosing in favor of material life for as long as I want.

yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ

janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām

te dvandva-moha-nirmuktā

bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ

“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)

The original sin, if you will, is choosing against God. The correction is straightforward - choose in favor of Him. This choice is what signals that sinful life has been exhausted, that it is no longer the preferred route. This choice brings happiness because in the Supreme Lord is found all pleasure; hence His name of Rama.

[Lord Rama]Tulsidas references the personality named Rama in this verse from the Dohavali. He mentions the Lord of Koshala, which is the land in which God appeared as Rama. To be the controller of a large area of land is to have power. With power comes the ability to protect. Therefore in looking for protection alone, one can approach Rama and put their full trust in Him.

After sins are exhausted and one is fortunate enough to approach God the person, they shouldn’t abandon Him. It is something like spending days cleaning your car, inside and out, only to make it dirty again. It’s like taking a shower and then putting on the same clothes you were wearing previously. The choice is not very wise, as the benefits get erased.

These choices are made anyway, and they are done so in ignorance. One who abandons Rama after having found Him puts their hopes in others. There is a limit to what others can do for us. They are just like us; struggling in this material world. They suffer from the same four defects: imperfect senses, being easily illusioned, being prone to cheating, and the tendency to commit mistakes.

[trees]The idea is not to put hope only in Rama and then abandon everyone else. The practice is something like watering the roots of the tree. If you neglect the roots, no other action you take will maintain the tree. You can take care of the branches all you want, but eventually they will wilt. In a similar manner, if you abandon the root of the entire existence and put your faith in fallible living beings, you won’t win in the end.

There will be distress wherever you turn. What kinds of distress? There will be pain from the body and the mind. Other living entities will make you miserable, and you’ll have to deal with acts of nature. The devotees face these miseries also, but the effect is different. Rama protects the devotion of the devotees. In His form of Krishna He tells Arjuna to boldly declare that the servants of the Lord never perish.

kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā

śaśvac-chāntiṁ nigacchati

kaunteya pratijānīhi

na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.31)

One example of abandoning Rama and putting hopes elsewhere is the feverish pursuit of money. Wealth is temporary; it does not last. Making it the sole focus is sinful; it goes against the nature of the soul. Only after having abandoned the pursuit for money, wealth, power and fame does one genuinely approach God the person. After such struggle, if one falls back into the same tendencies it is a shame.

There will be misery during the pursuit, and afterwards as well. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Krishna says that the miser lives a hellish existence, both in the present and the future. In the present they are always worried about their money and maintaining it. Since they become so miserly, they suffer in the afterlife. Therefore what good did their pursuit do for them?

prāyeṇāthāḥ kadaryāṇāḿ

na sukhāya kadācana

iha cātmopatāpāya

mṛtasya narakāya ca

“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

When there is all hope in Rama, one can have little money or a lot and still not be affected. Vibhishana gained a kingdom through Rama’s favor, as did the Vanara Sugriva. Rama’s younger brother Bharata renounced a kingdom and lived like an ascetic for fourteen years. Each party was happy due to their devotion. Meanwhile, the evil king of Lanka had all the opulence in the world, and he only found distress wherever he turned.

[Rama's lotus feet]The wise hold on to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord once they find them. Bhagavan is so compassionate and kind that even if one abandons Him after having found Him, He leaves the door open to return. He never erases any progress made along the devotional path. When the person decides to abandon sinful life in favor of the light of devotion, they get to start again from where they left off. The pain found everywhere you turn can be easily flipped around to happiness and joy in every moment of the day through knowing that Rama will always protect.

In Closing:

When leaving Rama not aware,

That pain to be found here and there.


Wherever to be turning,

The same misery returning.


Even wealth to bring you down,

Making a miser leading to hell underground.


Just some love for Rama maintain,

Progress on that path forever to remain.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Not Much Good Has Come Out Of The Light

[Sita and Rama]“Tulsi says that when one’s devotion in attachment to the Lord, the husband of Sita, diminishes, their happiness, luck and fortune run away.” (Dohavali, 70)

sāhiba sītānātha seāṁ jaba ghaṭihaiṁ anurāga |
tulasī tabahīṁ bhālateṁ bhabhari bhāgihaiṁ bhāga ||70||

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Feel like you’ve been doing the right thing your whole life with nothing to show for it? Does it seem like the cheaters do actually win in the end? Have you literally experienced the truth of the expression, “No good deed goes unpunished”? Have you heard people say that God is light? Are you now questioning that? What has the light gotten you, you wonder. We can take solace from the words of Goswami Tulsidas, who explains that indeed the more one goes away from devotion to God the more misfortune they meet. The truth he puts forth is validated in real life from the example of Vibhishana.

The Vaishnavas, the devotees of the personal God, tell us that true religious life consists of four basic principles. Religion here refers to association with the Absolute Truth. In Sanskrit that truth is known as Brahman, but the name isn’t so important. Each person can at least conceptually understand an undivided spiritual energy that pervades the entire creation. In the worst case, just picture everything that exists. That is Brahman, and only a fool would deny its existence.

Following the four principles distinguishes man from the animals. It shows that man has duties, whereas animals are not compelled to do anything. They simply follow their instincts. Principles require discipline; restricting yourself in some way. Following the four principles helps to create four qualities that are considered beneficial. These qualities are honesty, cleanliness, austerity, and compassion.

[Ravana]A long time ago there was a golden city called Lanka. The area still exists today, but the conditions are vastly different. During this time, the leader was a very powerful man named Ravana. He belonged to a specific race of creatures known as Rakshasas. They were humanlike, except for one notable distinction. They were so against the four regulative principles that they would go so low as to eat human beings.

If they didn’t follow the four principles, how were the Rakshasas humanlike? They still had intelligence. Their actions were by choice. They knew of the religious principles; they just strongly decided against following them. Lanka could be called a sinner’s paradise. Whatever goes on in the sin city of today is nothing compared to how Ravana and his people enjoyed. Gambling was commonplace for kings of that time, and in Lanka there was so much meat and wine available. Ravana had many wives, so he was constantly enjoying sex.

Even amidst the debauchery there could be found a pious soul. Ironically, he was one of Ravana’s younger brothers. Named Vibhishana, this Rakshasa was a devoted soul. Making a surface judgment, it looks like Vibhishana was punished for his disposition towards piety. Ravana had everything. He literally lived in a city of gold. Vibhishana had to tolerate all that was going on around him.

One time Ravana stole the beautiful wife of another man. He didn’t know that this was the goddess of fortune in person. Named Sita, she was married to Shri Rama, who was from Ayodhya. The goddess of fortune has eyes only for God the person. From this we know that Rama was the Supreme Lord appearing on earth to give His divine darshana. Though he had so much fortune already in Lanka, Ravana still attempted to take fortune personified in Sita.

[Vibhishana visiting Rama]Vibhishana could not tolerate this, so he gave up the association of Ravana. He went to the camp of Rama, who was making His way towards Lanka to rescue Sita. Through following godly principles, Vibhishana became homeless and poor. How was being good benefitting him, then? He followed the light of transcendence and seemingly nothing good was coming of it.

In this world the flowers on the trees do not blossom right away. But this delay in time doesn’t mean that the flowers won’t arrive. In the same way, the departure of good fortune, luck and happiness for Lanka was imminent. The first sign was Hanuman setting fire to the city. He was Rama’s messenger, and, not surprisingly, he succeeded in finding Sita. After he found her and spoke to her, he set Lanka ablaze with his tail that was initially put on fire by Ravana. While destroying the city, Hanuman intentionally skipped over Vibhishana’s palace.

[Hanuman with fiery tail]By choosing the true light, Vibhishana got the favor of the husband of the goddess of fortune. Devotion itself is the greatest fortune. Money is not required. Happiness is service; this is the soul’s dharma. The height of service is bhakti, or love for God, and so the height of happiness accompanies that eternal engagement.

For those who do not yet realize this, their doubts can be removed by looking at what happened after Vibhishana joined forces with Rama. After Ravana and the Rakshasas were defeated, Vibhishana became the new king. Therefore even materially speaking he didn’t lose anything. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord promises to bring to the devotee what they lack and preserve what they have. The blessings of Sita Devi are one way that He upholds that promise. She provides benedictions to be used to please her husband, which was the life’s mission of the new king of Lanka, Vibhishana.

In Closing:

From Rama’s powerful arrows to release,

Vibhishana on life getting a new lease.


The king of Lanka then became,

Succeeding brother of Ravana the name.


Though at first losing everything seeming,

Through bhakti his fortunes again beaming.


Like tree’s flowers coming at proper time,

Good from the light of transcendence to find.