Saturday, August 1, 2015

I Am Bad And God Is Good

[flower offerings]“Tulsidas understands that all his shortcomings are due to himself and all his good qualities due to Rama. By knowing this, even in Kali Yuga good things will easily happen for you and you will be fearless in this world.” (Dohavali, 77)

nija dūṣana guna rāma kē samujheṁ tulasīdāsa |
ho'i bhalo kalikāla hūm̐ ubhaya loka anayāsa ||77||

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The aspiring student in Vedic teachings comes across several key aphorisms in the beginning. There is the call to rise for the entire human species: athato brahma-jijnasa. This means “now is the time for inquiring into the Absolute Truth, the real identity of everything that lives.” Both at the individual and the collective, there is an intelligent, vibrant, animating force within, serving as the guiding hand, the decision maker, and the real potency. The human being has the potential for expanding knowledge of this kind; so it should make the most of the opportunity.

Another important aphorism is “janmady asya yatah”. This means that the Absolute Truth must be the source of everything. All that we notice around us, both the visible and the nonvisible, the moving and the nonmoving, the living and the dead - there is a singular source from which all have come. Goswami Tulsidas, though highly esteemed due to his prolific and beautiful writing, seems to contradict this aphorism in the verse from the Dohavali quoted above. He attributes only the good things in his character to the Absolute Truth, while accepting the burden for his bad qualities. Upon careful analysis, however, we see that his attitude is just what is needed to fulfill the mission of the human life.

If I’m going to say that the rivers, the mountains, the clouds, the sun, and everything else in nature comes from God, to exclude anything would be illogical, no? Not that the tree is the Supreme Lord Himself, but He is still responsible for putting it there. A person who makes a mistake while driving causes an accident, but ultimately the person who allowed for the cars and the roads to be built must feel some guilt. How, then, can Tulsidas completely exonerate Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in His personal form, for the bad qualities?

The second part of what the poet says is easy to understand. Vedic literature sings the glories of God. The word “glories” here is a translation of the Sanskrit word “guna.” Gunas can mean any kind of quality. Another translation for it is “rope.” Guna for God can never be bad, however. His qualities are never binding, so they are nothing like a rope. He is all goodness. The dualities of happiness and sadness, heat and light, and birth and death only enter in the shadow creation.

[Rama deity]The good qualities in the human being derive from the Supreme Lord. Man is made after God, after all. Man at the core is spirit soul, which is blissful, knowledgeable and eternal. The same is true for the Supreme Lord, with one notable distinction. There is no difference between spirit and body for Him. Therefore He never accepts gunas that are in relativity. His gunas are transcendental. They are always great. Unlike with us, the blissful, knowledgeable and eternal attributes also apply to His vigraha, or form.

The bad qualities we encounter are rooted in God, but He is not responsible for them. It is like when we make the decision to keep drinking even after our friends and well-wishers try their best to get us to quit. They could latch us down to a chair and compel us to quit, but that would change the nature of the relationship. If we slip up, they are not to blame. They warned us.

The bad qualities we possess are because of having turned our back to God at some point in the past. When that occurred we’ll never know for sure, but the turn did take place. Reincarnation, the changing of bodies, continues for as long as the back remains turned. Shri Rama invested the creator with the potency to give bad qualities to individuals, but Rama is not responsible for those qualities being attached to us. They are the result of personal decision.

Tulsidas says that if you know your good qualities are due to Rama, good things can happen to you even in the present age. This time period is known as Kali Yuga, often translated as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Real religion is a rare commodity today. Any mention of God has been turned into faith, which is a hope and a prayer that the Supreme exists. Even though He can be scientifically understood, the otherwise intelligent human being has been taught to throw away all logic and common sense in favor of sentiment.

Knowing Rama is important since He is God the person. It’s much easier to know the Supreme Lord through His transcendental features. You can understand His goodness through your own goodness. By knowing Rama you can become fearless in this world. This is because you will no longer fear death, which is nothing more than the changing of bodies.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ

prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase

gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca

nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Bhagavad-gita, 2.11)

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.11]The good things will come easily to you. This is the personal experience of Tulsidas, who lived very happily due to his love for Rama. His lone desire, to glorify the Lord throughout his entire life, was fulfilled. Even though he lived in medieval times, where it would seem not much resources were there to spread the glories of the all-good husband of Sita, success came. It can come for us as well, despite the difficulty we face on a daily basis.

In Closing:

All objects in this world have come,

From the Absolute, a source one.


The bad qualities including,

So why Tulsidas his own excluding?


Attitude of knowledge indicative,

Since of past choice a derivative.


Everything good from Shri Rama coming,

In Kali this attitude your savior becoming.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Giving Your Life To The Lifeless

[Rama's arrows]“When you abandon Rama, who is like a desire tree, and instead serve Kali Yuga, which is like a dying tree, your worldly interest, supreme interest, what you want, all your desires - they become like lies.” (Dohavali, 76)

rāma kāmatarū pariharata sevata kali tarū ṭhūm̐ṭha |
svāratha paramāratha cahata sakala manoratha jhūm̐ṭha ||76||

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You sacrifice everything for your spouse. If they are angry at you one day for no apparent reason, you let it slide. If they say the meanest things straight to your face, you try not to pay attention. You’re in the relationship to make it work, after all. Despite doing so much for so long, they don’t appreciate you. All they give you is hate. Indeed, they think that you don’t love them, that you’re too selfish.

[cute dogs]You sacrifice everything for your dog. You’re so happy when you come home and see it eager to play with you. You take it out for walks and feed it good food. When relaxing on the couch, you invite the dog to come and sit with you. Though you’re wise to not share this information with everyone, sometimes you even sleep with the dog. Despite all of this, one day the dog leaves you. It moves on to the next destination, and you’re left mourning. That is until you get another dog, a replacement.

You sacrifice everything for your favorite sports team. You etch out time in your hectic schedule to watch their games. You wear the team jersey proudly in public. You attend games at visiting stadiums and cheer loudly when your team scores. You tolerate the abuses thrown your way. Then one day you happen to meet one of the players in public. They won’t give you the time of day. Though you know them so well, they don’t know you at all. Your sacrifice means nothing to them.

You sacrifice everything to have a high standard of living. You work so hard to afford and maintain a large home. You always get the latest model of expensive car, and you provide everything for your children. Despite all of this, you’re left unsatisfied. The home can’t talk to you. The car is no different than any other collection of metal and parts. The children think that you’re not giving them enough, that you’re stingy.

These are examples of what Goswami Tulsidas calls service to Kali Yuga. In the darkness of ignorance, the otherwise intelligent spirit soul serves something that is essentially lifeless. Kali Yuga is like a tree that is dying, while the Supreme Lord is like a desire tree, ever ready to shower endless, meaningful gifts to the devotees.

Is the spouse not a life? What about the children you’re supporting? The dog is a life too. How can you compare them to a dead tree?

The mindset is what makes the analogy accurate. Kali Yuga is the last of the four time periods beginning from when the land was last populated. Think of creation and destruction in cycles, with larger creations and destructions on top of them; sort of a hierarchical structure. You have the universe and its planets, and then you have the population within each planet. A single yuga is the timespan from when the creatures first appear to when they disappear. Many of these single yugas taken together is the time period between the manifestation of the universe and its dissolution.

The single yuga is divided into four time periods, which are also known as yugas. Confused yet? To simplify we can say that Kali Yuga is the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Man has potential for great intelligence, which we can see from modern technological advancements alone. Yet in Kali Yuga he remains in the dark to his true nature, that of spirit soul. He gives service to matter, which is dull and lifeless.

Service to the spouse is service to the body of that spouse only. The same goes for service to the dog, the nation, the community, and so forth. Tulsidas recommends service to Rama, who is God. Rama is compared to a desire tree. He is full of life, always in bloom. The fruits on this tree are whatever the mind desires.

The mention of Rama is important. Service to the generic God does not yield the same benefit. This is because the mind will still be focused on the material. It will think they are serving God, when in fact they are still in front of the lifeless tree that is Kali Yuga. They might even do all sorts of horrible things in the name of religion.

Service to Rama is service to God the person. Rama is not His lone spiritual manifestation. He appears as Krishna and Vishnu as well. The personal forms are like desire trees and the devotees who serve them eventually have only one desire: continued service. Because of this, their svartha and paramartha merge. Their present interest becomes identical to their future interest. Every want is satisfied; all their desires are met.

Rama can provide for the material. He does this for the devotee when necessary. If they need money to continue in service, they get it. If they require renunciation, then as Hari the Supreme Lord takes everything away. If they need ability in writing, speaking or working, they get it. Whatever they want for their devotion, Rama gives to them.

[Lord Rama]Unlike with Kali Yuga, service to Rama is rewarding. If you get a fruit from the kalpa-taru, nothing is deducted; the balance sheet remains the same. Another fruit emerges right away. Service to the material energy is always limiting, and therefore the servant remains constantly in want. The living force that is the spirit soul is meant to serve the being who is the most full of life, Shri Rama.

In Closing:

Foolish when in service giving,

To something not close to living.


When to lifeless matter done,

Nothing tangible to come.


Through Rama every desire to reap,

His vision in your mind keep.


The personal God the superior one,

Service to Him, an equal to it none.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Symptoms of Serving Kali Yuga

[trees]“When you abandon Rama, who is like a desire tree, and instead serve Kali Yuga, which is like a dying tree, your worldly interest, supreme interest, what you want, all your desires - they become like lies.” (Dohavali, 76)

rāma kāmatarū pariharata sevata kali tarū ṭhūm̐ṭha |
svāratha paramāratha cahata sakala manoratha jhūm̐ṭha ||76||

Playing on how in composition of letters the two words are the reverse of each other, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often lament how in the modern age man is more keen on serving dog than they are God. One is Almighty, full of bliss and knowledge, with not a single feature lacking full attractiveness. The other is a dependent, not as intelligent as the human being. Serving one leads to all good things and the other maintains attachment to the temporary. As Goswami Tulsidas puts it, on one side there is a desire tree and on the other is a barren one.

[trees]From the Vedas we get the concept of pious and sinful trees. We typically don’t think in these terms. During the drive to work in the morning, we likely pass by thousands of trees. They zoom past our car window since we’re travelling at such a high speed. These trees are considered sinful for the reason that they don’t produce fruits. By contrast, the fruit-bearing ones are pious.

The sinful trees at least serve the purpose of giving oxygen to the world. They can also provide shelter during heat and rain. The pious ones are more beneficial, however, since they give fruits, which sustain life. Though it would be difficult to adopt, the diet consisting exclusively of fruits would be sufficient to keep us alive. Many yogis voluntarily adopt this austere lifestyle. Thus they are fully dependent on pious trees.

Tulsidas compares Shri Rama to the most pious tree, the kama-taru. The same is known by other names like kalpa-taru and kalpa-vriksha. Based strictly off word definition, these are desire trees. Basically, when you go up to these trees you can ask for whatever you want. You don’t need to ask for only a mango or an orange. Do you want beauty? Do you want good health? Do you want sustained happiness? These trees can deliver, and they do so quickly.

By contrast, Kali Yuga is like a dying tree. It barely has any leaves left. Therefore it’s really serving no purpose. You might chop down such a tree to use as fuel, but otherwise there’s no use to come from it. Only the fool would choose the dying tree over the desire tree. Only in ignorance would you continue to water and manage a tree that will not provide anything.

[dying tree]Yet this is exactly what happens when Kali Yuga is the preferred option over Shri Rama, who is God. Kali Yuga is the name for the present age. Picture the timeline for the creation, from start to finish. Obviously time is infinite in both forward and reverse, so this timeline is with respect to the currently manifest creation. The full cycle is known as a yuga, or maha-yuga. Within the maha-yuga are four divisions, which are also known as yugas. Indeed, these four yugas repeat for quite some time until the entire universe is destroyed and then created again.

Kali Yuga is the last of the four divisions, and it is known for more than just where it is situated in the timeline. In Kali Yuga the attention to dharma greatly diminishes. Dharma is duty or religiosity. We see evidence of this truth from even our short time on this earth. Every day there is more debauchery, more defining deviancy down, as a famous politician once said.

In this last of the four ages, man does indeed choose the dying tree. The sinful choose the sinful; this is not surprising. What does it mean to be sinful? As long as one does not serve the Supreme Lord in love, they are sinful to some degree. Just as the sinful tree is not very useful to society, so sinful activity is not really good for the individual.

In what ways is it not good? Tulsidas mentions svartha and paramartha. These are worldly interest and supreme interest. For our understanding, the only difference between the two is time. One is for the right now and the other is for later on, like the afterlife. If you serve the dying tree, you don’t serve any interest right now or later on. You’re basically wasting your time.

Tulsidas says that whatever you want, all your desires, will turn into lies with this path. Shrila Prabhupada’s criticism of the service to the dog is based on the same principle. If we only serve our dog, what is the benefit? We don’t get anything real right now, and later on there is no rescue from the cycle of birth and death. Death is guaranteed for everyone, so the wise person questions their purpose to life and how they should live.

[Rama's lotus hand]Rama is indeed like a desire tree. Whatever you want He can give you. He is the root of the entire existence. Like watering the roots of the tree keeps the entire object alive, service to Rama automatically means service to our fellow man and the animal community. The reverse doesn’t work the same way. If you have the desire tree, you can feed anyone. If you have the dying tree, you can’t feed even yourself.

Service to Rama, who is God the person, is purifying. Though any desire can be met through Him, after a while the devotee asks only for continued service. This devotion becomes their own desire tree, where they don’t feel like they lack anything. All their desires are fulfilled, for they live a life in truth. God is the Absolute Truth, so genuine service to Him is the best way to spend every lifetime, in any age.

In Closing:

Abundant with many fruits to see,

Another with nothing, a dying tree.


Like age of Kali the latter,

In end service to it no matter.


Rama like tree desire every giving,

With thrills when in devotion living.


In service to everyone you’ll be,

When watering roots of original tree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Maintaining In Any Situation

[Shrila Prabhupada]“The present age is characterized by a bitter struggle for a life of short duration. People are not serious about self-realization even by simple, practical means, and what to speak of this difficult yoga system, which regulates the mode of living, the manner of sitting, selection of place, and detachment of the mind from material engagements.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.33 Purport)

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada recommends against the path of meditational yoga. It’s not because the path is not bona fide. The swami is perfectly aware of the path’s effectiveness, as it is described by Shri Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. The Supreme Personality of Godhead would never present a system intended for connecting with Him if it weren’t legitimate.

Shrila Prabhupada, and any wise Vaishnava for that matter, recommends something else for the present age. The reason is that the conditions for practicing meditational yoga are not practical. We can think of it like pushing farming for people living in an urban area. We tell them that the only way to eat naturally is to grow your own food. To make sure that you eat only pure ingredients, you should be responsible for the food from start to finish.

[organic food]The recommendation is certainly good. Who would choose to eat chemicals and preservatives over fresh food? If one is living in a rural area and has the opportunity to farm, then certainly it is a viable option. The recommendation works if it is for some of the people, but if it is for everyone then it is not practical. If it were the only way to reach the intended goal, then so many would automatically be shut out; the door would be closed for them.

Similarly, meditational yoga is effective, but if it were the only route to transcendence then practically no one in the modern age would reach success. The conditions are quite strict. There must be peace and quiet; hence the age-old practice of retreating to the mountains and finding a cave. There must be no sex life at all; hence the concept of the sadhu, who is like a wanderer by choice and profession for the purpose of solidifying renunciation. The concentration on the Supreme Lord must be maintained; it is not meant to exist for only a few minutes each day.

The Vaishnava recommends the path of bhakti-yoga. There is still linking to the Supreme Soul, who is found in every heart. There is still purification from the body complex, wherein the individual gradually corrects the erroneous conclusion that identification comes from the body alone.

The foundation of bhakti practice in this age is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Connect with God through sound. Think of Him always. Be conscious of Him; hence the translation for bhakti-yoga as “Krishna consciousness.”

The issue may be raised that the conditions in bhakti-yoga are not permanent either. Just as sitting in a yoga posture throughout the day is nearly impossible to do in the modern age, the same applies to chanting the holy names. There has to be work. There is focus on other things throughout the day. How is bhakti-yoga any more effective than meditational yoga?

The difference is in consciousness. Bhakti-yoga is love and devotion to God. Love is not dependent on any outside factor. The chanting of the holy names is done to increase consciousness of the Supreme Lord. That consciousness is maintained through other practices throughout the day as well. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the beneficiary of all austerities. Working is a kind of austerity, and the results can be sacrificed for a higher purpose. Thus even while working one can be practicing bhakti-yoga.

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ


suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ

jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

Another name for Krishna is Vishnu. This name means “all-pervading.” Vishnu is also a specific personality, an expansion from the original Godhead. Vishnu’s role in this material world is maintainer, though He is the origin as well. Bhakti-yoga is identical to Vishnu, which means that the practice automatically maintains. Vishnu stays in any condition, even peril. In the Mahabharata we get the incident of Draupadi and her sari. She was in a seemingly helpless situation. About to be disrobed and shown naked in front of so many, in full surrender she calls out to Krishna. Her bhakti-yoga is maintained even in dire circumstances. Krishna fulfills His promise to maintain His devotees by expanding Draupadi’s sari to such a length that the fiends get tired of trying to remove it.

[Krishna saving Draupadi]All other kinds of yoga are meant to culminate in bhakti anyway. They have some selfishness to them. Bhakti is truly selfless. Working for God is karma-yoga. Studying for Him is jnana-yoga. The eightfold mysticism is ashtanga-yoga. Any of these can be practiced, but only when the selfish desires go away does the process become pure and qualify as bhakti. The benevolent Vaishnava saints recommend taking the bhakti path right away, as it is the only one that is supported directly by the Supreme Lord, who maintains on the grandest scale.

In Closing:

Meditational yoga of Gita’s fame,

Yet in this age difficult to maintain.


How then the Supreme Lord to see?

Prohibited, why is He punishing me?


Path of bhakti-yoga in this age to preside,

Maintained by Vishnu who in heart to reside.


Like with Draupadi’s sari to extend,

Success of the devotee always to defend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Attractive For One Reason

[Krishna and Arjuna]“O King, as I repeatedly recall this wondrous and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I take pleasure, being thrilled at every moment.” (Sanjaya, Bhagavad-gita, 18.76)

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rājan saṁsmṛtya saṁsmṛtya

saṁvādam imam adbhutam

keśavārjunayoḥ puṇyaṁ

hṛṣyāmi ca muhur muhuḥ

At the end of the Bhagavad-gita the relay person, the one forwarding the details of the conversation taking place between the exalted speaker and the humble disciple, reveals his own mind. Named Sanjaya, he started as a neutral bystander. He took an interest in the ensuing dialogue, and he says that every time he remembers it, he takes great pleasure. He feels a thrill at every moment. The source of that thrill is the nature of the speaker, whose name of Krishna best suits Him.

What makes a name most befitting? Can a person have more than one name? We know that in sports players often get nicknames. These aren’t their legal names; they are titles given based on behavior. The Supreme Lord has behavior that spans all of space and all of time. Both work in infinite directions. Whichever direction you choose to travel, you can never reach the end of space. The same goes for travelling back in time and contemplating the future.

What are some of the names for the Supreme Lord? There is Vishnu. This means one who is all-pervading. He expands Himself to reside in the heart of every living thing. He is larger than the largest, but to stay inside of everyone He must also be smaller than the smallest. Another name for Him is Hari. This means one who takes away and it also refers to the lion species. When He chooses to act in a conflict, He is courageous and ferocious like a lion. He is the king of whichever jungle He enters.

atha vā bahunaitena

kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna

viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam

ekāṁśena sthito jagat

“But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.42)

[Lord Krishna]The name Krishna says that God is all-attractive. Those who know the Lord best understand that this name is most complete. To pervade the entire universe with but a fragment of Himself is a sign of attractiveness. To scare the demoniac when they threaten the pious makes the Lord attractive to anyone who has ever faced difficulty. The all-attractiveness is present in every area, including speech.

Krishna is also God the person. Only a person can speak and deliver rich philosophy in seemingly the oddest of settings: a battlefield. Only a person can hear questions and then give proper answers. Krishna the person lives up to His name; He is attractive from head to toe. One can meditate on each part of His body, starting from the feet and working their way up to even the hair on the head.

[Sanjaya speaking to Dhritarashtra]The Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Krishna to Arjuna, and that conversation was relayed to the king Dhritarashtra by Sanjaya. Sanjaya found that conversation to be thrilling, and one who doesn’t know Krishna so well might misunderstand the source of that thrill. The main topics of the Bhagavad-gita are certainly attractive. There is the jiva, which is the living entity. Who am I? Who are you? Are we the same? Are we different? We must be non-identical if we have different names. The discussion on the jiva is thus important.

There is discussion of ishvara, or the Supreme Controller. The jivas are seemingly helpless. They can’t see everything and they can’t live forever. They are controlled by higher forces in every sphere. From the head of household all the way up to the leader of the nation, everyone is controlled. Ishvara is the controller of all controllers.

There is discussion of prakriti, or material nature. The jivas are spirit at the core, identical in qualitative makeup. They appear to be different due to prakriti, which covers them. The material nature is a kind of uniform. Not all uniforms are the same, and at the time of death the uniforms get discarded in favor of new ones.

There is discussion of karma, which is fruitive activity. Through karma determined by the acts of jivas the material nature shifts. Matter is dull and lifeless, lacking consciousness. It can only be manipulated by living things. If we run into a door accidentally, suddenly our face looks different. It has blood on it, and the mark of injury later on is the scar. That work is karma, and it is the cause of rebirth.

The remaining important topic discussed in the Bhagavad-gita is time. Karma makes the prakriti covering the jivas change, but that change cannot take place without time. Time is the great devourer; hence it is synonymous with death. Those who don’t know the detail behind the seemingly abstract concept of ishvara take death to be their supreme deity. And this deity is greatly feared.

These five topics alone make for the richest philosophy. Even so, these topics are not the source of Sanjaya’s pleasure. It is Krishna Himself who gives life to the presentation. Anything attractive we see in this world has God at its origin. The beautiful lotus flower could never be conceived in the human mind. Neither could the valleys, the hills, the mountains or the rivers that we travel so far to experience.

[Lord Krishna]In the same way, the Bhagavad-gita’s attractiveness is due to the all-attractive Krishna. Because Krishna is so prominent in that work, it becomes anupama, or incomparable. No other work can compare to it. It is the secret of all secrets because the things most needed to be known are revealed. The secret is given to Arjuna because he is a devotee. That exchange between God and His devotee is very endearing to pious souls like Sanjaya, who bask in Krishna’s attractiveness.

In Closing:

After news to Dhritarashtra giving,

With thrills Sanjaya living.


Words from the charioteer of Arjuna to call,

Brings joy to messenger when to recall.


Though five important topics covering,

Attractiveness not from knowledge uncovering.


Due to Krishna Himself one should know,

Beautiful His each aspect from head to toe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What I Need To Know

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.42)

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atha vā bahunaitena

kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna

viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam

ekāṁśena sthito jagat

Question: If I am fortunate enough to meet God after this life is over, will He be able to answer some questions for me? Will I be able to find out who really shot President Kennedy? Can He tell me about my past lives? Will He let me see into the future? It would be really cool if I could gain access to this secret information.

The living entity is known as a jiva in Sanskrit. The identifying force is the atma, which typically means “soul.” It can also refer to the body or the mind. Taking the two terms together, the life forces we see in this world are jivatma. They have a choice in association. They can opt for the struggles of the material world, where the energy known as prakriti covers them. Or they can choose in favor of the Supreme Spirit, who is more commonly known as God. Shelter of prakriti requires constant replenishment of information, as everyone is in ignorance of what goes on. On the other side, shelter of God does not require as much knowledge. Knowing just one thing about Him is enough to be considered enlightened.

Prakriti constantly changes, and these changes are effected through time. The combination of time and changes is what leads to the bewilderment. As jivatma lives on through the passage of time, it means that previously I was in a different body. So was every other person. The idea of the time machine is for going in the reverse direction of the time continuum to experience what version of prakriti was previously manifest.

[suit jacket]The hope is to also leap forward into the future. How will prakriti manifest at that time? The shifts can be compared to changing clothes. I see a suit jacket on a rack in a store that catches my eye. I wonder how I would look wearing it. I can’t know for sure until I try it on. The changing of bodies is like this, and the desire to know details from past, present and future is to want to see how the different material clothes look on the otherwise spotless living entities.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that there is no use of such detailed knowledge. His statement is specifically in reference to how He creates everything, how He is the ultimate source. A wise person can deduce that the changes in prakriti are rooted in the same person. If knowing exactly how Krishna creates, maintains and destroys is not so important, then the same must be the case for the minute details about the things that happen in between the creation and destruction.

But what makes these details trivial? What if we don’t want to take Krishna’s word for it? He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we should therefore listen to Him. Yet the information needn’t be accepted on blind faith alone. We can come to the same conclusion through sober analysis of our own situation.

[breakfast]Are we so much concerned with what we had for breakfast ten years ago to the day? What was in our head at the time? We are existing somewhere and someplace right now. This cannot be denied. In the past, this point was the uncertain future. In the future, this point will become the distant past. If right now we are so concerned with things that happened before, it means that this moment isn’t so important. If it’s not important now, why should it be later on?

Krishna says that with a single fragment of Him He pervades and supports the entire universe. This is all that is needed to be known. There is obviously much more to God than this universe. If He only needs a single fragment of Himself to maintain this endless variety that shifts through the passage of time, what must the rest of Krishna be doing? Where is the majority of His energy? What is it involved in?

We know the answer to this based on past history. He has come to this earth many times and shown glimpses of His true nature. That nature is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. He knows everything needed to be known. We do not. He is always blissful; whereas we struggle in the material existence due to choosing in favor of prakriti. He is eternally the same in body and spirit; we have a distinction in that area.

[Radha and Krishna]From His pastimes in the holy land of Vrindavana, we know that Krishna is always enjoying. In this enjoyment His true nature is on full display. Knowing this nature is more important, as it allows one to regain the Lord’s association. More important than knowing about trivial matters from past, present and future is finding out what Krishna is doing with His friends right now. Will I get the chance to join Him? Will He be pleased with my work? Will I get to keep His association going forward?

These questions are satisfactorily answered through the process of bhakti-yoga, as taught by the bona fide spiritual master. Though the guru is trikalajna, the seer of past, present and future, he keeps the disciple focused on Krishna and His nature. The authentic guru does not say that Krishna is a prophet or that God is impersonal. Knowing Krishna in truth, the spiritual master shows the way for others to know the Lord as well. And knowledge of the Lord of the universe is all that’s needed to be known.

In Closing:

People living in past how,

Though not concerned with right now.


Present quickly the past to become,

And so worry over future how come?


Better if Shri Krishna a little to know,

Then to escape changing nature so.


With a single spark the universe pervading,

His transcendental form towards bhakti persuading.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Strict Are The Demigods

[Krishna and Balarama visiting Varuna]“Maharaja Nanda observed fasting for the whole day, and just early in the morning of the Dvadashi, the day after Ekadashi, he went to take bath in the River Yamuna. He entered deep into the water of the river, but he was arrested immediately by one of the servants of Varunadeva. These servants brought Nanda Maharaja before the demigod Varuna and accused him of taking a bath in the river at the wrong time.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 28)

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One of the more controversial topics discussed in the Bhagavad-gita is demigod worship. When Shri Krishna speaks there shouldn’t be any controversy. He is the final word, after all. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract. He is the face beyond the light of transcendence that is Brahman. He is the intelligence behind the seemingly impersonal material nature.

There is controversy only due to man’s ignorance, which is rooted in forgetfulness of Krishna, or God. In the pursuit to try to achieve God’s position, man offers tribute to many different personalities. Outside of the realm of religion there is the flattering of the boss and the clients. There is money exchanged for services. Without offering in this way, there is no chance to get ahead.

Demigod worship is for getting the cooperation of more elevated beings. You can’t call your utility company and ask them to make it rain. You can’t make a campaign contribution to the leader of the nation to have them increase your luck throughout life.

Demigods can help you with these things. If you are intent on material advancement, then you’re likely following strict rules already. As an example, if you want to run a marathon, you’ll put your body through rigorous training. The same goes for losing weight. For passing medical school, there are so many hours of studying, past the point that your body normally allows.

[priest worshiping]Demigod worship is ideal for those who already follow strict rules to get ahead. Pick your worshipable personality of choice and adhere to the standards laid down. You must worship at the proper place and time. You must come up with the proper offering. You must say everything correctly. Only then will you get your reward.

In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that the less intelligent follow this path. They take up demigod worship because they don’t know that there is a higher purpose in life. Worship of a divine figure for material rewards is no different than working just as hard for those rewards in the material realm. The means of exchange is the only difference; the result is the same.

antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ

tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām

devān deva-yajo yānti

mad-bhaktā yānti mām api

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

The higher purpose to the human life is devotion to God. That discipline is not so strict. The reason is the beneficiary. The Supreme Lord is the most merciful. He forgives all souls who have forgotten Him at one time or another. He sees every offense ever committed and He only keeps with Him the good deeds done in His favor. By advising against demigod worship, He is looking out for the best interests of the devotee. He knows that there is a better utilization of time and effort, a way that is free of regrets.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]From Krishna’s earthly pastimes there is the lesson from Govardhana Puja. This took place in Vrindavana at Krishna’s insistence. It was noteworthy because it was done in place of the Indra-yajna, which was an annual occurrence. Govardhana Puja was devotional service, while the Indra-yajna was demigod worship. Despite having done it many times previously, since the yajna was skipped just one time Lord Indra became angry. He sought revenge on the innocent people, but Krishna was there to save the day.

Another instructive example came shortly after Govardhana Puja. Krishna’s foster father, Nanda Maharaja, observed Ekadashi, which is fasting on the eleventh day in the moon cycle. On the morning of the twelfth day, he went to take bath in the sacred Yamuna river. The problem was that the time was not exactly auspicious. Varuna, the demigod in charge of the waters, had Nanda arrested for his mistake. In this instance Nanda was not even taking part in demigod worship, but by accident it looked otherwise.

[Krishna and Balarama visiting Varuna]Once again Krishna saved the day. He and His elder brother Balarama visited Varuna, and immediately Nanda was released. That incident again shows the risk involved in demigod worship. The reward is not worth it, either. Material benedictions last only for the present lifetime, and they are achieved after hard and risky work. Merits earned for the afterlife similarly expire at some point. The spiritual benediction of Krishna’s mercy carries less requirements. Indeed, in pure devotion there are no restrictions, as devotion to God cannot be checked by any means. Therefore it is the path recommended for every person, regardless of their mindset going in.

In Closing:

Varuna’s assistants to underworld to take,

Since Nanda choosing bad time for fast to break.


Not even demigod worship observing,

Still getting punishment undeserving.


Like with Govardhana Krishna there to save,

Lesson that pure devotion way to behave.


Less risk and reward a lasting one,

For time and place restrictions none.