Saturday, July 18, 2015

Talking About Praying When Times Are Good

[Krishna deity]“Any person who comes before the Deity of Lord Krishna and begins to chant different prayers is immediately relieved from all the reactions of sinful activities and becomes eligible, without any doubt, to enter into the Vaikuntha-loka.” (Nrisimha Purana, quoted from Nectar of Devotion, 9)

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Friend-One: Do you ever pray?

Friend-Two: Of course. Doesn’t everybody?

F1: They do, but I noticed something about that.

F2: What did you notice?

F1: It pertains to timing.

F2: As in how often they pray?

F1: That too, but really about when. I’m making this assessment based off my own behavior.

F2: Okay.

F1: The other day I heard that a friend’s dad was sick. I immediately started to pray for their wellbeing.

F2: That’s not a bad thing.

F1: I know that, but it got me to thinking. I tend to pray like this only when things are going wrong, when something bad happens.

[praying]F2: Yeah, it seems to be that way with everyone.

F1: Exactly. But why?

F2: Umm, because they know God is powerful and capable of performing miracles? That’s pretty obvious.

F1: If He’s so great, shouldn’t we be praying all the time? Shouldn’t we pray just as much when times are good?

F2: That’s a great realization. You know, what you just said could be another way to define bhakti-yoga.

F1: How’s that?

F2: Bhakti-yoga is praying to God all the time, whether the situation is good or bad. It’s not about only approaching Him out of weakness. We generally tend to go to Him when we’re in trouble. This is only natural. When things are good, we forget about Him. Why go to someone powerful when you don’t need help?

F1: Yeah. We don’t go to the car repair shop when our car is working fine. We don’t go to the doctor if we know we are totally healthy.

F2: This definition of bhakti-yoga gives more insight into God’s nature. He is more than just an order supplier. He is there to do more than just give us stuff.

[amazon shopping cart]F1: I always liked that comparison: order supplier. We don’t think so highly of the online retail store or the supermarket. We pay them and in return they give us what we want. We don’t worship them. We think that God is so great and yet we treat Him like a super-vendor.

F2: He is sach-chid-ananda: eternally blissful and knowledgeable. Those attributes aren’t there for us to steal; they are there to be enjoyed.

F1: But how do we enjoy them?

F2: Through association. It’s like hanging out with your friends. Friendship is based on the meeting of an interest. As long as the people satisfy our senses in some way, they are our friends. If they fail to meet this criteria, we no longer consider them to be friends.

F1: That’s true.

F2: God is meant for pleasing our spiritual senses. One of His names is Hrishikesha, which means master of all the senses.

F1: What is the difference between material senses and spiritual senses?

F2: The material is illusion while the spiritual is reality. The material fluctuates between like and hate, while the spiritual remains fixed. In the spiritual senses, the happiness always increases with more association. In the material, you get sick of the same thing pretty quickly.

F1: You could say the response to overindulgence is another way to measure, no?

F2: That’s a great point. If you drink too much wine, you’re in trouble. If you eat too much pizza, your health will suffer. On the spiritual side, if you get more and more of God’s association, you’re only benefitted that much more.

F1: I think that explains why people can continue chanting the holy names for so long. They don’t seem to tire.

F2: It is the best form of meditation. Without meditation, you can’t really pray to God in good times. You don’t need anything, so what are you going to say to Him? The holy names address Him in love, and the sound they create is a way to meditate on Him constantly.

[chanting beads]F1: How do we get people to realize this? I think they will have a hard time understanding the need for praying when times are good. The focus is on personal effort and responsibility. The concept of upward mobility is based on this. If you move to an area that has more economic freedom, you can make your own lot in life. God, therefore, seems to be out of the picture.

F2: That’s why it’s important to know the personal side to the Divine. He is the singular energy that weaves through everything. That is for sure. The presence of spirit is the presence of God. Without spirit, nothing could live. Therefore you could say that He is the life of the living.

F1: But there is something beyond that, right?

[Lord Krishna]F2: Yeah, there is God the person. He has many different names, and sometimes He appears in different ways. But He is always just one person. The names Krishna and Rama address Him nicely. That’s why they are featured in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The more you chant this mantra, the more you penetrate the light of transcendence, which is known as Brahman. The more you get through this light, the more you see of God the person. And the more you see of Him, the more you want to keep Him with you, which bhakti-yoga facilitates.

In Closing:

Since troubled at hearing news sad,

Praying only when times are bad.


But since everything He’s got,

To pray all the time should we not?


More than just store order supplying,

All bliss and knowledge in Him lying.


Chant always for His association to keep,

From personal God Krishna full benefits to reap.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Person Responsible For My Spiritual Life

[Shrila Prabhupada]“The spiritual master can drive away all nescience, as the sun drives away darkness. Even though a person may be in full knowledge that he is not this body but is transcendental to the body, he still may not be able to discriminate between the soul and the Supersoul. However, he can know everything well if he cares to take shelter of the perfect, bona fide Krishna conscious spiritual master.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.16 Purport)

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The human birth is ideally the culmination of a long journey, spanning millions of years. There was time spent in different bodies, with some more advanced than others. There are nonmoving bodies, such as trees. There are moving ones as well. There is the additional distinction between those which have two hands and those which have four. The human birth is meant to be the last one, but it can only be so if there is a meeting with a specific person. He is known in Sanskrit as “guru,” and one way to define him is to say that he is the person who is responsible for our spiritual life.

Why should we respect our parents? What makes them worthy? What if we don’t think they are so great? Some parents are tough on their kids. Some are addicted to intoxication and some don’t provide enough to support the home. Why, then, should there automatically be respect?

Upon taking birth in the human species the individual assumes three debts. You owe a debt to someone if they do something for you. If someone helped me when my car was stalled on the side of the road, I at least owe them the courtesy of repaying the favor when called upon. If not for them, I would still be stranded.

One of the three debts is to the parents and forefathers. The justification for this debt is pretty obvious. Without our forefathers, we wouldn’t be in the present circumstances. Whatever those circumstances may be, they are enough to bring us into this world. At the very least the parents enable us to live. We had no other support after emerging from the womb. We were at the complete mercy of our guardians.

[Valmiki]Another of the three debts is to the rishis. These are highly advanced intellectuals who expound on the science of self-realization. The bona fide guru is the person who follows in the footsteps of the rishis and initiates the human being into the spiritual science. The debt to the rishis is paid through studying the scriptures, but without the help of the guru it is impossible to fully understand the ancient works passed on from the beginning of time.

Entering spiritual life is indeed something momentous. After many births, through so many different species, an individual gets this rare opportunity. In the animal species the senses have full control. There is no such thing as renunciation. The human being has the intelligence to control the senses if they want. And this control is meant to help them better understand God and then to ultimately serve Him.

Matured spiritual life involves constantly associating with the Supreme Lord, who is a person. The guru can help us to get past the veil of transcendental light that prevents us from seeing God as He truly is. The guru is the via medium to the Supreme Lord, and through fulfilling this role they become most worthy of honor.

There are different ways to associate with God. He is so kind that He allows that association through the sound of His names. Therefore the guru teaches the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He teaches the individual to be always conscious of the all-attractive one. The name Krishna thus suits God nicely. The guru advises to stay away from maya, or illusion, and remain in Truth, or sat. This is for the individual’s benefit ultimately, as they find true happiness, the kind that is not available in material life.

[Shrila Prabhupada]The human birth is auspicious. The parents enable that birth to happen, making them worthy of respect. Initiation into spiritual life is the second and more important birth. The person who knows God is most fortunate, and without the guru this knowledge cannot be acquired. Therefore the person who is responsible for spiritual life becomes a godlike personality. They are appropriately addressed as gurudeva, and their glories know no end.

In Closing:

Since vision of the divine enabled to see,

Like a god is the guru to me.


Through forefathers and parents first,

Then initiation for more important birth.


Intelligence slowly to awaken,

Rebirth’s cycle quickly forsaken.


From guru God as all-attractive person to see,

Responsible for my spiritual life is he.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The One With The Driver’s Music

[guru's lotus feet]“One should approach the spiritual master with all humility and offer him all services so that he will be pleased to bestow his blessings upon the disciple. Because a bona fide spiritual master is a representative of Krishna, if he bestows any blessings upon his disciple, that will make the disciple immediately advanced without the disciple's following the regulated principles. Or, the regulated principles will be easier for one who has served the spiritual master without reservation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.8-12 Purport)

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Who is God? Does He exist? Is He merely a figment of the imagination? The Bhagavad-gita advises that one should approach someone who has seen the truth, a tattva-darshi. They received this vision not through some magical touch or deep meditation. They saw the truth because they themselves approached someone who had seen the truth. If you follow the chain all the way up, you reach the origin of everything.

The tattva-darshi in this instance is known as the guru. Though the English word “guru” now applies to an expert in any field of interest, the original meaning refers to a respected personality who carries weight. Their knowledge brings them respect, and that knowledge was acquired through consulting their own guru. With respect to the meaning of life and the proper direction for activities, the guru is known as the spiritual master, and only through approaching a guru can one gain a proper understanding of the difference between matter and spirit. Only the guru can properly teach about the source of everything: God.

tad viddhi praṇipātena

paripraśnena sevayā

upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ

jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

The guru doesn’t ask for much in return. A little respect is all. Established practices show how this respect is given. One of those practices involves eating the remnants of food offered to the guru. Imagine giving someone a plate of food and having them eat only half of what’s there. Then it’s your job to finish the rest. When Karuna’s friend heard about this, he thought it was disgusting. He didn’t understand what good could come from eating leftovers like that. Karuna then tried to explain by telling a story from his own life.

I was overseas on a trip for two weeks. When the time came to return home, I was ready. I enjoyed the time spent with my family for sure, but I desperately craved my freedom. I tell you, there is nothing like getting in your own car and deciding where you want to go. I also hate it when I have to depend on others to eat. They always give me too much.

[airline flight]Anyway, in America we don’t like the nuisance involved with air travel, but overseas it’s more troublesome. In order to get home, I first had to drive five hours to the airport. Then I would connect to a different airport, from which I would take my long flight home. If calculating start to finish, from leaving for the airport to walking in the door at home, the travel time is around 36 hours.

Needless to say, relaxation was key on this journey. The family hired a driver to take me to the airport in the morning. Accompanying us on this five hour ride was my uncle. So we head along, and it’s nice and quiet, with the air conditioning on. Here’s where things got interesting. The driver turns on the stereo. He puts on a CD of music that he likes. I was not happy. Shouldn’t my comfort come first? I just wanted some peace and quiet. Shouldn’t he have asked me before? In this thirty-six hours, I wanted at least the first part to be peaceful, as checking in to flights and boarding are hectic moments.

We eventually stopped for some food, at which point I voiced my complaint to my uncle. I told him that the driver was rude to turn on the music like that without asking. Then he explained to me that even if I didn’t like the music, it was important for the driver to be comfortable. If the music helped the driver stay awake and focused, then it actually benefitted me in the end. The goal was to reach the airport, after all. Through this small inconvenience the objective would be accomplished. Therefore I shouldn’t complain.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Karuna explained that in serving the guru there are similarly many inconveniences. The guru is bringing the disciple to the best destination, the afterlife full of love and devotion to God. The Ganga river is sacred because it emanates from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, the personal God. The bona fide guru is sacred too, since they are always connected to the Supreme Lord in consciousness. Through doing little things like eating their remnants and offering respect, the disciple wins the favor of the guru. The spiritual master then reveals the secrets passed on through the ages. Shri Krishna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, is the original guru, and those who represent Him act like life-saving rafts for the bewildered souls stuck in the ocean of material suffering.

In Closing:

Like sailboat pushed forward by draft,

Guru arriving like life-saving raft.


For material world’s drowning souls,

Revealing to them devotion, ultimate goal.


Inconvenience little here and there,

Necessary for of identity to become aware.


By spiritual master’s pleasure earning,

To Krishna’s abode finally returning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Now Is A Good Time

[Hanuman praying]“Tulsi says that one who has love for Rama has their work, fate and time become fully auspicious and rewarding. When they turn their back on worldly life and face towards the Lord, all desires will be fulfilled.” (Dohavali, 75)

tulasī udyama karama juga jaba jēhi rāma suḍīṭhi |
hō'i suphala sō'i tāhi saba sanamukha prabhu tana pīṭhi ||75||

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There’s an important event coming up. You’ll need to invite many guests. You’ll have to pick out the perfect location. This is a once in a lifetime thing; you can’t afford to mess anything up. A good option is to consult with the important players. What do they think? When is a good time for them? Where is the best place? If the time and circumstance are unfavorable, even something that looks like it’s guaranteed for success will end up failing. Goswami Tulsidas mentions that fate, time and work can all become auspicious when there is one key ingredient.

[new car interior]Let’s say I have a car that works perfectly. It is relatively new. It doesn’t have many miles on it. The oil was changed recently. The tires look good, and they are inflated to the proper pressure. The vehicle is equipped with all the latest safety features. There is a camera inside that lets you see the other lanes on the highway. If you’re going in reverse, there is another camera with guide markers showing you how far away you are from the curb.

You decide to take a routine trip to the supermarket. It seems like nothing will go wrong, but if time and circumstance are not in your favor, nothing can be done to prevent the bad outcome. Though the same trip may have completed successfully many times in the past, that is no guarantee for a future outcome.

And who doesn’t want a guarantee for the future? Why should we work so hard if we can lose everything in a second? Why put so much stock in enjoyment when death can arrive at any moment? Why even work, then? Why are we here? What should we be doing?

Religion has been there to try to answer these questions. There are different styles of it. You can attend a church and pray for things from a higher being. You can do certain rituals in the home, repeating sacred chants. You can leave home for a weeklong retreat, meant to clear your consciousness. You can study the holy books in search of knowledge of that which transcends birth and death. Those books hopefully describe a truth that is absolute, beyond the relativities and polarities of heat and cold, light and darkness, and happiness and sadness.

There is one discipline that is above all kinds of religion and pleasure seeking. It is known as bhakti-yoga, which is translated as “devotional service” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. What are the symptoms of bhakti-yoga? Why is it special? How do we tell that we are practicing it?

The conditions mentioned by Tulsidas above are one way to tell. If our work, time and fate become auspicious at any moment, it means that we have love for God the person. Tulsidas addresses Shri Rama, the king of Ayodhya, but the same Rama appears in other spiritual manifestations as well, such as Krishna, Vishnu and Narasimha. His impersonal feature is the light of Brahman, which is a way to appreciate God from afar. Rama is also within the heart as the Supersoul, who is known as the overseer and permitter.

upadraṣṭānumantā ca

bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ

paramātmeti cāpy ukto

dehe 'smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

[Lord Rama]The cause and effect mentioned by Tulsidas is axiomatically true whenever there is love for Rama. Basically, there is never a wrong time to love God. Fate is automatically taken care of through the loving hand of the person who creates fate. The work becomes successful because, by definition, love for God means acting in ways to please Him. He doesn’t ask much from His children; simply that they look His way instead of towards the dreaded material ocean.

That ocean features birth and death and all the temporary things in between. There are attachments formed that become so strong that it seems like life can’t be lived without the associated objects. There is such great lamentation over things that are known to occur beforehand. There is bewilderment over loss and hesitation at every turn over which path to follow.

By turning one’s face towards Prabhu, who is the Supreme Lord, every desire can be fulfilled. When there is love for Rama, by definition the lone desire is to continue to practice that love. This desire is the only one worth having since it is the only one that can be fulfilled going forward, without fail.

All other desires require the important factors of action to cooperate. Not everyone who works hard makes a lot of money. Not everyone who studies for hours and hours passes the examination. Not everyone who meditates comes in contact with God. Yet everyone who sincerely endeavors to love Rama gains His favor and has their work made successful. For this reason and many more the most respected personalities who grace this earth follow bhakti-yoga as a way of life.

In Closing:

In the past results because just,

Not that same outcome again a must.


Cooperation needed from factors five,

From Supersoul the results to arrive.


For everything favorable to be,

Shri Rama in front of you just see.


Not just saying of Tulsidas dogmatic,

Since with God truth axiomatic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Considering The Factors To Action

[Hanuman chanting]“Tulsi says that one who has love for Rama has their work, fate and time become fully auspicious and rewarding. When they turn their back on worldly life and face towards the Lord, all desires will be fulfilled.” (Dohavali, 75)

tulasī udyama karama juga jaba jēhi rāma suḍīṭhi |
hō'i suphala sō'i tāhi saba sanamukha prabhu tana pīṭhi ||75||

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One of the many profound truths revealed in the Bhagavad-gita is that the living entity is not the doer. We are concerned with living things because the nonliving can’t do anything. The term “living entity” encompasses all life forms. Humans aren’t the only ones to act with intelligence. Though the dog doesn’t know how to speak, it figures out where to go and which places to avoid. It is as much involved in action as the human being.

pañcaitāni mahā-bāho

kāraṇāni nibodha me

sāṅkhye kṛtānte proktāni

siddhaye sarva-karmaṇām


adhiṣṭhānaṁ tathā kartā

karaṇaṁ ca pṛthag-vidham

vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā

daivaṁ caivātra pañcamam

“O mighty-armed Arjuna, learn from Me of the five factors which bring about the accomplishment of all action. These are declared in sankhya philosophy to be the place of action, the performer, the senses, the endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.13-14)

[the five factors to action]We are not the doer and neither is the dog. The clouds don’t act on their own, either. The distinction with the human being is that it can figure out what is necessary for actions and results. As a simple example, we can look at the clapping of hands. We take our two hands together and join them. We do this with the intent of making a sound. We know from past experience that the sound will be created. Yet we are still not the doer in this case. We didn’t create the laws of sound. We didn’t make the hands nor the air through which they pass. So many people would like to clap their hands but can’t. This is because the factors involved in action do not cooperate.

tatraivaṁ sati kartāram

ātmānaṁ kevalaṁ tu yaḥ

paśyaty akṛta-buddhitvān

na sa paśyati durmatiḥ

“Therefore one who thinks himself the only doer, not considering the five factors, is certainly not very intelligent and cannot see things as they are.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.16)

[Lord Krishna]Shri Krishna mentions five factors necessary for actions to be fulfilled. They are the place of the action, the one doing it, the senses, the attempt to make the result happen, and the Supersoul. Actions take place so quickly that one hardly has a chance to be cognizant of these factors. Yet they must be there in every action, from the large to the small, within the human being and the ant. Of these factors, the Supersoul is the most important, a fact corroborated by Goswami Tulsidas in the verse from the Dohavali quoted above.

The Supersoul is one way to understand God. Since we can’t even recognize the five factors to action, how can we know the person from whom everything has come? How are we going to understand someone who is without birth and without death? How can we fathom that there is someone who can hear everything going on in every part of the universe?

The Supersoul is God’s expansion that resides within the heart. This omnipresence means that God is within every action and result. He is the all-pervading witness. He is also known as the overseer and the permitter. Without His sanction, not even a blade of grass can move.

Obviously, when we act, we want to succeed. It would make sense, then, to make the five factors favorable. An easy way to do this is to have the favor of the Supersoul. Yet this seems unlikely since the Supersoul is an impartial witness. It’s like trying to bribe the judge in court or getting a referee to make calls in your favor in a soccer match.

[referee with red card]If you know that the Supersoul is a person, then it can be done. Rama is the full realization of God. Rama is the same Krishna who speaks the Bhagavad-gita. Rama is the worshipable form of choice for Tulsidas. The poet says that if you have love for Rama, then your work, time and fate will all be favorable. The factors to action will cooperate to make sure that you succeed.

If the love is present, what are the indications? Tulsidas says that one should turn their back on worldly life and face Prabhu, the Supreme Lord. Then they will get every reward that is necessary. This must be true, since the Supersoul is the key instrument in action. If you have His favor, then everything works out.

A question may be raised about those who are against God. They sometimes succeed in their work. Does this mean that the Supersoul has favored them? Actually, the success mentioned above relates to the overall welfare of the individual. I may decide to cheat on an examination in school, which then results in a passing grade. It seems like I have succeeded, that the factors to action have cooperated. But in fact I am only hurting myself down the road. At some point I won’t be able to cheat, and the knowledge I could have acquired will be missing.

[Rama holding bow]In the same way, to work hard in life and keep the back towards Rama is a kind of cheating. There are only temporary gains, and in the end everything will be lost. Love for God does not get destroyed by time, and so it is the valid prerequisite to all actions. Even if there is apparent failure, the consciousness continues to get purified through association with God. Then the desires change as well, to the point where the individual only wants to continue to love God and associate with Him. In this state, the Supersoul goes from being impartial to playing an active role, ensuring the success of the devotee.

In Closing:

Though Supersoul as impartial to live,

Active support to devotee to give.


Because the desires changed within,

Only in pure love, intent no more on sin.


For every action factors there five,

Only then successful result to arrive.


Follow Tulsi and towards Prabhu face,

Get reward not even time can erase.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Always In Misery

[Rama's lotus hand]“To all those who are capable the ones who give pleasure are considered dear and to all those who are incapable the ones who do good for them are considered dear. Tulsi wonders how neither side ever says that Shri Rama is dear to them.” (Dohavali, 74)

sabahi samarathahi sukhada priya acchama priya hitakāriṁ |
kabahum̐ na kāhuhi rāma priya tulasī kahā bicāri ||74||

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“What are you doing with your life? Where are you going? Do you have any direction? Have you thought about why you are here? Not just you, but everyone - what is the purpose to enduring the time between birth and death? We all face this. No one can say they didn’t take birth. And no sane man will say that they will never die. If both of these events are inevitable, what should we do during the time in between? Should not we inquire into our true nature? Is this not what spiritual life is for?”

It is not uncommon to come across this moment in life. Introspection, self-analysis, pondering over the meaning to an existence - only the human species can do these things. Yet to not get an answer is like torture. We have intelligence, but we only use it for finding ways to eat better. We burden ourselves with responsibilities that don’t matter much in the end. Goswami Tulsidas explains how easy it is to forget the supreme benefactor, the author of all things. No matter the situation, that forgetfulness reigns supreme.

What if I tell you that the meaning to life is recognition of God? Basically, use your brainpower to find out who He is, be assured of His presence within all spheres, and then work so that you’ll always be conscious of Him. Consciousness remains. In the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that it carries over to future lives. It is like the air carrying aromas, only in this instance the travel is through the subtle body, consisting of mind, intelligence and ego.

śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti

yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ

gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti

vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

[carrying conceptions of life from one body to another]One way to tell that consciousness is always there is the consistent attack of anxiety. There are the two extremes to analyze. In one situation there is want. “I want more money. I want a new car. I want a better house. I want to get married. I want children. I want to be happy in the association of friends and family.”

In this situation, the people that meet our desires become dear. We like the spouse who is nice to us, who makes our day brighter. We like the employer who offers us a nice salary in exchange for work. We like the leader of the nation who gives benefits to the citizens. We like the people who help us when we are in need.

On the opposite side is opulence. In this situation necessities are not an issue. Still, there is both consciousness and people who give satisfaction. The people who give pleasure are considered dear. The ones who choose to associate with us, who bring us adventure and excitement - we like them. Desires are still there, but there isn’t as much open begging that takes place.

The truth is, however, that in both situations there is misery. This is because both sides look for people who will be dear to them. As there is always this search going on, there is always the potential for failure. With a potential for failure, there is fear, which is a form of anxiety. In both situations, riddled by misery there is forgetfulness of God. Shri Rama, the worshipable form of choice for Goswami Tulsidas, remains far away. For some reason He is not dear to either side.

[Lord Rama]Yet He should be the most dear in every situation. He is full of opulences. He is the most beautiful, the most knowledgeable, the most wealthy, the most famous, the strongest, and the most renounced. He can give anything to a poor person and His association is the one most worth cherishing for the person who seemingly has everything already.

Since I am always in misery, I will reject good counsel. Instead of starting the process of bhakti-yoga, I will put it off until later.

“Let me get things squared away right now. Let me find a better job. Let me finish school. Let me get my marriage arrangements settled. Let me purchase a new house first. Then I promise to look into this devotional service thing, which is supposedly very good for me.”

Through all these distractions, so many people become dear. So many attachments are formed, and yet everything is destined to end at the time of death. Rama is not like this. He will stay forever. He has already travelled with us in so many bodies in His expansion of the Supersoul. He explains this fact in the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. As Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Rama reveals that He remembers the previous births, while others cannot.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

bahūni me vyatītāni

janmāni tava cārjuna

tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi

na tvaṁ vettha parantapa

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)

[Sita and Rama]Whether we are in misery or elation, God should be remembered. He is the dearest person, the best well-wishing friend. He is so kind that He might deny your requests from time to time. He might intentionally put you in need so that you’ll remember Him. He might make you wealthy so that you’ll use your high status to spread His glories even further. Adventure is always in store, as seen in the life of Shri Hanuman. To him, Rama is always dear, as is Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune. Sita and Rama together make the valuable human life worth living.

In Closing:

Less fortunate from others to beg,

The fortunate seemingly on higher leg.


But actually both always in need,

The rich at least for companionship plead.


Misery throughout time of life coming,

Never dear Supreme Lord becoming.


Tulsi warns against this mistake grave,

Sita and Rama the valuable life can save.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Friend To Me And You

[Rama holding bow]“To all those who are capable the ones who give pleasure are considered dear and to all those who are incapable the ones who do good for them are considered dear. Tulsi wonders how neither side ever says that Shri Rama is dear to them.” (Dohavali, 74)

sabahi samarathahi sukhada priya acchama priya hitakāriṁ |
kabahum̐ na kāhuhi rāma priya tulasī kahā bicāri ||74||

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It’s the sad truth of life. We don’t like to think of ourselves in this way, but under a sober analysis the fact cannot be denied. I have acted this way since my childhood. So have you. So has everyone in the past and so will everyone in the future. It’s just the way of the world. We don’t know any better.

What is this truth of which no one dare speaks? Love and friendship are based on the meeting of interests; they are not pure. When we say we love someone, what we’re really saying is that we appreciate what they do for us, at the time. In the future we may forget what they have done. Our appreciation can go away. After some time, we may not love them, which means that our emotion at present doesn’t have much value.

This characterization of love and friendship spans all situations, all nations, all languages, and all time periods. Here Goswami Tulsidas presents the two extremes as it relates to material fortune. On one side you have the well-off. This doesn’t have to be a person who flies in a private jet and owns a mansion. They could simply be free of want. They have enough food to eat, enough clothes to wear, and enough money to support themselves going forward.

What does this person look for in friendship? What are they after? Who is dear to them? Anyone who brings pleasure into their lives will fit. The friend here doesn’t have to provide any support. Being fortunate means that you have the things you need. You don’t require assistance from others; only companionship. Find people who make you laugh, who stimulate your brain, who bring pleasure to the senses.

On the other side is the less fortunate. It is more obvious to see who would be dear to them. Anyone who can change the situation from unfortunate to fortunate would be dear. The term “benefactor” applies here. In many circles, this is the basis for religious practice. Find your god of choice, the divine being who fulfills your desires. Worship them with all your heart and then reap the rewards. Don’t worry about what will happen afterwards. After you become fortunate, you can follow the ways of the aforementioned category, where you look for people who give you pleasure. The people in the “dear to me” category will change.

[clapping hands]Tulsidas wonders why no one considers Rama to be dear to them. If you are already fortunate, you can thank Him for making you that way. Rama is the controller of all, the origin of matter and spirit. It is His material nature that manages the rules of karma. We decide to clap our hands and we expect the result of a particular sound. That result can only happen if material nature cooperates. That cooperation is one way to understand God.

If you are less fortunate, Rama can give you everything. When He descended to earth as Shri Krishna, He one time transformed the home of a poor brahmana into a palace. The brahmana, named Sudama, did not specifically ask for this. His wife had sent him to visit Krishna, who was living as the king of Dvaraka, to ask for something. The wife wanted to benefit from the friendship the brahmana had with Krishna as a child. Yet Sudama was too shy to ask for anything. He offered some chipped rice and that was sufficient to please Krishna, who is the husband of the goddess of fortune.

“He then snatched the bundle of chipped rice which was hanging on the shoulder of the poor brahmana, packed in one corner of his wrapper, and said, ‘What is this? My dear friend, you have brought Me nice, palatable chipped rice!’ He encouraged Sudama Vipra, saying, ‘I consider that this quantity of chipped rice will not only satisfy Me, but will satisfy the whole creation.’” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 26)

[Krishna with Sudama]The question may be raised that if the fortunate already have people that are dear to them, why approach Rama? The same for the less fortunate. There is already the government to provide for them. Why should they go to God to have their desires met? Isn’t that the wrong way to look at the Divine?

In both situations, Rama should be considered the dearest person. To the fortunate, He provides lasting companionship. He is all-attractive, which means that the mind can remember Him to derive satisfaction. Rama will never cease being dear. His features are inexhaustible.

To the less fortunate, Rama not only provides what is necessary to continue living, but He purifies desire also. Even if the motives are impure in the beginning, the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is so powerful that there is gradual purification. It is for this reason that the really sinful never approach God the person to have their desires met. They know that sometimes Rama will deny requests for the benefit of the devotee.

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ

ye janāḥ paryupāsate

teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ

yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham

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

[Rama's lotus feet]As He promises in the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord maintains what the devotee has and brings to them what they lack. Therefore He always remains dear, to both rich and poor alike. He is the one to approach no matter the situation.

In Closing:

To one in want very clear,

That benefactor to be dear.


A friend for the fortunate living,

To them sense pleasure giving.


Yet both sides Rama to forget,

But His sanction needed for anything to get.


The best friend and supporter is He,

Seeing Him daily blessed to be.