Saturday, August 8, 2015

Actually Not That Far Away

[Vishnu holding flower]“The Supreme Lord, who is difficult to know by even the Vedas, can become known easily when there is sincere desire for Rama, just as water and food come easily for those living in this world.” (Dohavali, 80)

nigama agama sāheba sugama rāma sām̐cilī cāha |
ambu asana avaloki'ata sulabha sabai jaga mām̐ha ||80||

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“I’m kind of apathetic towards religion. My parents weren’t that religious while I was growing up. We didn’t go to church that often. I’m kind of the same way now. I don’t know, I do believe in God, but the whole organized religion thing doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not really sure what they are doing. A lot of it is scare tactics. It doesn’t appeal to my intellect, either.”

These sentiments are quite common in the modern day. In previous times the specific aim of religion was to win the favor of God. That favor was measured in terms of material opulence. Now that seems to be taken care of. Instead of praying for the daily bread, just go to the supermarket. Instead of hoping for good health, make it a reality through proper diet and exercise. God as the order supplier is no longer needed.

[bread]When adding material advancement to the mix, this view of religion makes God even more of an elusive figure. If one believes in Him at all, He remains far away. The Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition emanating from the area today known as India, seem to concur. Vedic literature continues to expand precisely because God is impossible to define. Though He is so elusive, it’s easy to reverse the trend. This is the opinion of Goswami Tulsidas, and he uses a nice analogy to support the claim.

Let’s say that you are thirsty. You want a glass of water. If you just say the word “water” over and over again, it’s unlikely your wish will come true. Someone may hear you and bring the water to you, but there’s nothing magical in the word itself. The key in getting the water is going to the proper source. Once you do the right thing, you’ll get the desired outcome. The same goes for food. Simply being hungry is not enough to get food. You have to go and retrieve it.

Generally, there is plenty of water around, and food can be found in most places. Water covers the majority of the earth’s surface and for food all you need is some fruit-bearing trees. These are known as pious trees, as they do more than just provide shade. The tree requires little maintenance and can provide an abundance of fruits. There is little effort required in this type of diet.

[mango tree]In the same way, the Supreme Lord is not in scarce supply. He is actually within all of us as the Supersoul. The Supersoul is one of His purusha incarnations. The Sanskrit word purusha always gets paired with prakriti. Purusha is the enjoyer and prakriti is the enjoyed. The purusha that is the Supersoul is superior to the dull matter of this universe. Though the Supersoul is an impartial witness, it is His sanction which allows for all results to action to manifest. Basically, nothing can happen without the Supersoul’s presence.

“For material creation, Lord Krishna's plenary expansion assumes three Vishnus. The first one, Maha-Vishnu, creates the total material energy, known as mahat-tattva. The second, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, enters into all the universes to create diversities in each of them. The third, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, is diffused as the all-pervading Supersoul in all the universes and is known as Paramatma, who is present even within the atoms. Anyone who knows these three Vishnus can be liberated from material entanglement.” (Svatvata Tantra)

[Lord Vishnu]Though He is located so close by in the heart, there is an even easier, more effective way to reach God. Simply desire His personal association. Here that association refers to the form of Shri Rama, the worshipable deity of choice for Tulsidas. It is not that anyone can make up a form and worship it as the Supreme. Rama’s authenticity as the Supreme Lord is described in many ancient books, most notably in the Ramayana. Rama is Bhagavan, showing that He has full beauty, full wealth, full strength, full fame, full wisdom and full renunciation simultaneously.

This Sanskrit word “bhagavan” is one way to understand Him, but still the Vedas have a difficult time describing Him fully. The meditational yogis are trying their hardest to get Rama. So are the knowledge-seekers studying Vedanta. The karma-yogis are working hard to accumulate enough pious credits to be able to one day get the precious realization. The devotees, however, know that Rama is always with them through the sound of His holy names, which they regularly hear through the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Lord Rama]That holy name is nearby; at the tongue. The name is easy to say. It is even easier to hear. God is best understood through sound; explaining why the Vedas are called the shrutis, or that which is heard. The desire must be there. One who is sincere in the desire to have Rama’s association gets it. It’s as simple as that. Nothing else is required. This is difficult to believe, as the Supreme Lord seems to be the most elusive. Yet the person who accepts this simple path with sincerity sees the truth manifest in this very lifetime, leaving no doubt about the future.

In Closing:

Difficult for one to believe,

That through sound to receive.


Presence of the Divine Rama,

Just chanting Hare and Krishna.


When in hunger and thirst set,

Must move for food and water to get.


Sincere desire for association create,

And fix condition of separated state.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Difficult To Be Known

[Lord Rama]“The Supreme Lord, who is difficult to know by even the Vedas, can become known easily when there is sincere desire for Rama, just as water and food come easily for those living in this world.” (Dohavali, 80)

nigama agama sāheba sugama rāma sām̐cilī cāha |
ambu asana avaloki'ata sulabha sabai jaga mām̐ha ||80||

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Is water easy to get? What about food? In the present age of Kali, which features quarrel, hypocrisy and an overall inversion of right and wrong, simple things like food and water appear difficult to procure. There is mass starvation in one land, while another produces enough to feed the entire world. In one land there is drought and in another it rains so much that people can’t leave the house.

[tree with fruits]Still, in the general case it’s not that difficult to find water. One has to go looking for it, though. The same goes for food. We can get water from a nearby lake. These are created by nature; they were around before our birth. We can get fruits that fall off of trees. In some areas there are too many fruits to be consumed. Alas, most of the production of the tree goes to waste.

We can’t comprehend how the water gets here. Scientists tell us that the majority of the earth is covered by water, but we don’t know how that water got there. We don’t know how a tiny seed can yield so many bananas, mangoes, apples, grapes and the like. The workings of nature are incomprehensible, though man tries his best to increase his understanding. Still, he has no clue as to the origin. He can’t make a cloud on his own. He can’t create a tree that will yield fruits with seeds inside of them. He must use existing life to create new life.

Tulsidas compares the water and food in this world to the Supreme Lord. God is seemingly incomprehensible. To know Him is agama, or very difficult. How can you describe someone who is without birth? How are we to understand someone who is the beginning of the beginning? Whatever starting point you come up with, know that God comes before it. He is also endless, or ananta. He is advaita, or non-dual. He is part of the entire creation, but every aspect of that creation does not represent Him fully.

advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam

ādyaṁ purāṇa-puruṣaṁ nava-yauvanaṁ ca

vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau

govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is inaccessible to the Vedas, but obtainable by pure unalloyed devotion of the soul, who is without a second, who is not subject to decay, is without a beginning, whose form is endless, who is the beginning, and the eternal purusha; yet He is a person possessing the beauty of blooming youth.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.33)

Even the Vedas, which are also known as the nigamas, don’t know God in full. That is why He is often described as neti neti, which means “not this, not that.” Whatever object you find, know that it cannot be God completely. He is without material qualities, or nirguna.

[Lord Rama]Despite being almost impossible to understand, God can be found easily. Goswami Tulsidas states that all that is needed is a sincere desire to be with Him. The “Him” here refers to Rama. Shri Rama is God in a saguna form, the visibly manifest version. Rama is saguna for our understanding only. It is not that He accepts material qualities and then abandons them later. Rama’s transcendental form is a way for us to understand what the different properties on God mean.

The formula is quite simple, but the desire must be there. Tulsidas is not exaggerating. If I told a hungry person to not worry and simply go to a nearby tree to eat fruits, they may not believe me right away. After all, they are hungry for the very reason that they’re having a difficult time finding food. If I come along with a simple solution, they may be suspicious at the start. Regardless of their suspicion, the recommendation is guaranteed to work.

In the same way, despite having been miserable for so long to the point that our skepticism of all matters religion has increased greatly, the Supreme Lord, sahiba, can be easily attained through the poet’s formula. Simply desire to be with Rama, who is God the person. The easy way to make that desire known is to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The holy name is non-different from the person it represents; showing yet again how easy it is to come to know the one who has been difficult to attain since time immemorial.

In Closing:

For knowledge of Him closer to bring,

Vedas endlessly of Supreme to sing.


Yet even through them difficult to know,

Shri Rama ever elusive remaining so.


Tulsidas for all easy solution prescribing,

Like how nature water and food providing.


For Rama have sincere desire in the heart,

Then success even if skeptical at the start.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Different Paths To God

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says don’t play two games; play one. Why fool yourself? Either have attachment for Rama or abandon attachment to others.” (Dohavali, 79)

tulasī du'i maham̐ eka hī khela chām̐ḍi chala khelu |
kai karū mamatā rāma soṁ kai mamatā parahelu ||79||

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God is one. A particular religion may have a specific name for Him, but it doesn’t mean that the author of all things can only be addressed through that name. It also doesn’t mean that if a person has a different understanding of God through their own authorized tradition of spirituality they will never get the divine mercy. Though He is one, He is realized in different ways. Here Goswami Tulsidas gives approval for two paths which are seemingly quite different. As a liberal Vaishnava saint, Tulsidas understands that the paths to the Lord may be many, but any advancement made along a bona fide path will be to the worshiper’s benefit.

[dictionaries]Are all religions the same? Are the Vedas the same as the Bible and the Koran? A good analogy used by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to explain the difference is to the dictionary. There is something called the pocket dictionary, which gets its name because of its relation to the larger, deluxe edition. Both are valid dictionaries. They contain proper definitions and spellings to words. Yet there are some things missing from the pocket dictionary. The smaller book serves a viable purpose, but to know everything one must consult the deluxe edition.

In a similar manner, the Vedas contain as much information about God as can possibly be absorbed by the flawed mind, which is a product of the material nature. The mind doesn’t belong to us forever. The same goes for the body. In total there are eight separated energies of God. These energies are known as prakriti, which also means “that which is enjoyed.” God is purusha, or the enjoyer. In the local sphere we living entities are also purusha, as we enjoy the separated energies of God surrounding us. In the higher scheme, we are prakriti, but a different kind, a superior energy coming from the same creator.

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ

prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām

jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho

yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

The deluxe edition of the dictionary that is Vedic literature says that God can be realized in three distinct features. He is the impersonal Brahman, which is an attribute-less energy. We can’t see Brahman, though it is all around us. We are in fact a spark of that Brahman. Anything that is living is Brahman. That which Brahman acts on is the mahat-tattva, or the total material substance. The difference between something alive and something dead is the presence of Brahman.

A more complete realization is Paramatma, which is the Supersoul. The Supersoul is known as a purusha incarnation of the Supreme Lord. In discussions, purusha always gets paired with prakriti. If you have purusha, you have prakriti as well. The purusha incarnation that is Paramatma acts as the sanctioning body for all activities performed by the sparks of Brahman. The Paramatma realization introduces distinction between us and God. In Brahman realization we are the same as the Lord, but through knowing Paramatma we see that we are different from Him. While our influence is limited to a particular body, Paramatma is within all bodies. He extends Himself in this way without effort.

The complete realization is Bhagavan. The best way to translate the word is to say “Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Tulsidas here addresses Bhagavan as Rama. Rama is also an incarnation of God, but a personal one. He has transcendental features that can be seen, studied, meditated upon, and enjoyed by the otherwise distressed living entity.

What is the cause of their distress?

[Lord Rama]They are attached to temporary things. Tulsidas mentions two paths that lead to perfection. He says that a person should either be on the first path of devotion to Rama or abandon attachment to the temporary. Anything else is playing a dangerous game. If there is mixture of service to Rama and attachment to the eightfold separated energies, the person is kidding themselves; the second negates the value of the first.

The first path is sufficient, since Rama is Bhagavan. If you know Bhagavan, you don’t need to know anything else. You don’t need to separately endeavor for good qualities, such as detachment. Yet the Vaishnava saint knows how difficult it is to take up devotion to God in earnest. Therefore they don’t deny someone who desires a different path at first. Renunciation is a great step towards advancing in consciousness. A person can become Brahman realized and then take up devotion. The same goes for understanding Paramatma before Bhagavan.

yo na hṛṣyati na dveṣṭi

na śocati na kāṅkṣati


bhaktimān yaḥ sa me priyaḥ

“One who neither grasps pleasure or grief, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.17)

[Hanuman worshiping Rama]In spiritual traditions not based on the Vedas, one does not get a clear idea of God. Still, there is no need to abandon one’s religion outright. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna tells Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Him. Surrender unto God the person. Don’t take religion to be for increasing your bank balance, enjoying in a temporary world known as heaven, or becoming absolved of sinful reaction. Take to the one religion that is love and devotion to God. Try your best to understand Him. The long way is knowledge and renunciation, jnana and vairagya, and the short way is bhakti-yoga, which is the occupation of Tulsidas for lifetime after lifetime.

In Closing:

For different religions to understand,

Compare dictionaries in hand.


A smaller one, valid it is still,

Deluxe all words its pages to fill.


For the Supreme completely to know,

Path of renunciation way that is slow.


To the goal of Bhagavan eventually to meet,

Better if in path of bhakti your feet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Dangerous Game

[Lord Rama]“Tulsi says don’t play two games; play one. Why fool yourself? Either have attachment for Rama or abandon attachment to others.” (Dohavali, 79)

tulasī du'i maham̐ eka hī khela chām̐ḍi chala khelu |
kai karū mamatā rāma soṁ kai mamatā parahelu ||79||

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In Sanskrit mamata means “attachment.” It is the idea of possessiveness, wherein I view something as mine, belonging to me. The two concepts of “I” and “mine” are the products of illusion. Nothing is really ours, as we didn’t create anything. Even this body that belongs to us is only on temporary lease. Eventually, we will give it back. The true definition of “I” is “I am a spirit soul.” And the real definition of “mine” is the relationship I have to the Supreme Soul.

Goswami Tulsidas advises against playing two games. In one there is some consideration for spiritual life. Basically, have some understanding of the Supreme Soul, that He pervades the entire creation and remains a singular personality at the same time. Pay Him some respect, learn about His transcendental features, and try to be conscious of Him.

The second game is maintaining attachment to the temporary. Buy a new car, a new house, a new shirt, a new video game, or a new exercise machine. Whatever you purchase, label it as yours. It is your possession. Think the same of your friends and family.

[kids not sharing]To play both games at the same time is not wise since they conflict with one another. If you are attached to God, then how can you be attached to maya? The definition of maya is “that which is not.” The Supreme Lord is that which is, the Absolute Truth. Maya is His illusory energy, a way to trick the living entity into thinking that they are things other than a persistent spirit soul, part and parcel of God.

Playing the two games at the same time is something like taking a shower while having mud poured on you. You take the shower to cleanse yourself, and yet you’re getting dirty at the same time. What is the use, then?

Tulsidas recommends to either have mamata for Rama or relinquish mamata for other things. Attachment to Rama is the superior path, for if practiced properly and with determination it automatically leads to renunciation. The second path is also good, as through detachment one becomes dear to Rama. They become eligible for receiving His favor.

Continued attachment to other things means continued travel on the train known as reincarnation. It is like the example of having dirt thrown on you, as the material covering is not natural to us. For this reason it constantly changes. In this lifetime it shifts from boyhood to youth to old age, and after death the covering could change its nature entirely. The different species we see are merely spiritual entities accepting different kinds of coverings.

[Rama deity]How do I become detached? How do I avoid playing the conflicting games? It is very difficult at the outset, as the attachments are so strong. How can we become attached to someone whose features we don’t even know? It is for this reason that Tulsidas mentions Rama. Not that God is impersonal, but He can accept any transcendental form He chooses. He incarnates in the deity to give us an idea of what His form looks like. Our eyes can’t see the entire cosmos and everything happening within it. Our hands don’t have the ability to create clothes large enough to fit the body of the Supreme Lord. Through His mercy He appears every now and then and gives glimpses of His greatness.

The conflict must be there in the beginning. There is no way to avoid this. It is through association that things start to change. The best way to associate with God is to chant His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The wise person forms an attachment to chanting these names. The names are identical to Rama Himself, so the attachment is actually towards Rama. When service to God in the form of regular chanting becomes the top priority, then detachment automatically develops. Thus the devotee is safe on both sides, paving the way towards liberation at the end of life.

In Closing:

Stepping in shower for cleaning chore,

At same time mud on yourself to pour.


This example like playing games two,

Devoted but attached to maya are you.


Tulsidas says on one path just stay,

Contradictory is the other way.


When names chanted and worship done,

Then simultaneously detachment to come.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Reward For Pious Deeds

[Lord Rama]“You should either love Rama with all your heart or act in ways that you become dear to the Lord. Tulsi says that whichever route is preferred and is easier, you should choose.” (Dohavali, 78)

kai tohi lāgahiṁ rāma priya kai tū prabhu priya hohi |
du'i meṁ rūcai jo sugama so kībe tulasī tohi ||78||

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Which path is better? Should you try for good traits? Or should you try to serve God directly, not caring so much about your behavior? After all, in the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that even if a devotee commits the most abominable act, they are to be considered saintly. This is because eventually they correct their ways. The misbehavior is accidental, a residual effect of having spent many years in the sinful consciousness.

api cet su-durācāro

bhajate mām ananya-bhāk

sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ

samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)

[Lord Krishna]The ultimate authority that is the Gita lists the good qualities for us; there is no need to speculate. Yet it is not difficult to reach the same conclusion. At the foundation of every good quality is detachment from personal interest. We praise the philanthropist because they’re spending some of their money for helping others. They’re not so focused on getting an expensive car; at least this is the image they show to the public. We appreciate the mother who sacrifices so much for her children because she is not so concerned with buying expensive clothes or filling her closet with different pairs of shoes.

Goswami Tulsidas mentions both options in this verse from the Dohavali. He advises to choose whichever one is preferred, as he knows that eventually one will lead to the other. We have already mentioned how the devotee is considered saintly even if they slip up now and then. This means that while serving God in a mood of love, they are automatically dear to Him.

The truth as it pertains to the other side is not so obvious. Shri Krishna is the same Rama mentioned by Tulsidas. The Vedic tradition is monotheistic, though it features many divine personalities. One can find colorful artwork and finely crafted statues depicting these famous personalities, who are also known as devas. Despite the variety in worship, there is still a singular source to everything. He manifests in different ways, including in personal forms. Krishna and Rama are the same one God, and there are many other divine personalities who serve that one Lord.

Krishna says that the person who is equal in both good times and bad is dear to Him. One day you are a champion and the next you are a failure. Today you are enjoying with friends and family and tomorrow you are all alone. It is wise to remain steady in both, as the conditions in this world are ever changing. We know this from the guaranteed arrival of death. As soon as we take birth, death will arrive. Therefore why should a person lament over loss, since they know it is bound to happen? And why should they go crazy in jubilation over good fortune, as they know that too will dissipate?

yasmān nodvijate loko

lokān nodvijate ca yaḥ


mukto yaḥ sa ca me priyaḥ

“He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.15)

[Satyanarayana Puja]If you are detached, kind to every living entity, and don’t put others into difficulty, you become dear to God. This is important, as even if you are not serving Him directly He will assure your success. That coveted position may not arrive until the distant future, such as in a subsequent life. There is the famous King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. In his past life he was extremely pious. He performed the Satyanarayana Vrata, which is a monthly observance of the Vedic tradition. It is a way to become dear to God; it is not direct service to Him. We hear that the famous Sudama Vipra also performed the same ritual.

In the subsequent birth Dasharatha received the Supreme Lord as his son. Though the king remained pious and full of good qualities, his enjoyment increased because of the path of love and devotion. His example shows how the paths merge. The same held for Sudama, who in his next life became a dear friend to Krishna. The two attended the same school as youths, and they served their guru very well. Krishna is the original guru, the first teacher known to man. Still, He shows the proper example by accepting a spiritual master during His time on earth as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva.

“My dear friend, you may remember that many such incidents occurred while we were in the ashrama of our spiritual master. Both of us can realize that without the blessings of the spiritual master no one can be happy. By the mercy of the spiritual master and by his blessings, one can achieve peace and prosperity and be able to fulfill the mission of human life.” (Krishna speaking to Sudama, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 25)

[Sudama visiting Krishna]In this age of Kali, the path of detachment and following regulative principles is very difficult to follow. Dharma, or virtue, has only one of its four original legs remaining. Therefore the wise souls recommend devotion to God directly. Even if a person is from a sinful background, if they are sincere then all good things will come to them. Tulsidas embodied this devotion through his prolific writing and sharing of the glories of the Supreme Lord Rama.

In Closing:

Work in way to make yourself dear,

To Supreme Lord, path to perfection cleared.


Mercy by Krishna Himself extended,

Though bhakti path by wise recommended.


For benefit existing the paths two,

If surrender too difficult for you.


With one leg only is dharma today,

So superior is the pure devotion way.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Both Sides Merging Into One

[Rama's lotus feet]“You should either love Rama with all your heart or act in ways that you become dear to the Lord. Tulsi says that whichever route is preferred and is easier, you should choose.” (Dohavali, 78)

kai tohi lāgahiṁ rāma priya kai tū prabhu priya hohi |
du'i meṁ rūcai jo sugama so kībe tulasī tohi ||78||

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In this verse Goswami Tulsidas addresses those who are not yet on the highest platform of understanding that comes from pure devotional service, bhakti-yoga. This is the difficulty the teacher faces, as the students are where they are because of their lack of knowledge in comparison to the teacher. If the students knew everything, there would be no reason to sit in the classroom. The good teacher evaluates their students to see exactly which piece of information should next be revealed to them, that vital knowledge necessary for their continued advancement.

Tulsidas presents two options. Either is fine according to him, though the two sides don’t seem to be the same. The poet obviously favors one over the other. That side is love and devotion to God the person, here addressed as Rama. From the life of Tulsidas, we know that this was his choice. He cannot be mistaken for an impersonalist since all he did was glorify the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a person. As the impersonalist is known to do, they take statements here and there from a devotee and twist them to serve their own purpose, but any wise and honest person would admit that the author of the famed Ramacharitamanasa had only one desire: continued devotion to Rama. Tulsidas even specifically reveals as much in many verses from his writings.

The other side is to act in ways that one becomes dear to Prabhu, which is another name for Rama. In British government speak we come across the title of “lord.” This basically means having dominion over an area. Rama is obviously Prabhu since His jurisdiction spans the entire cosmos. Even for the universes we can’t see, Rama has complete control. He hears everything happening in every place, even those lacking a human presence. He does this through His expansion of the Supersoul, which resides in the heart.

adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ

puruṣaś cādhidaivatam

adhiyajño 'ham evātra

dehe deha-bhṛtāṁ vara

“Physical nature is known to be endlessly mutable. The universe is the cosmic form of the Supreme Lord, and I am that Lord represented as the Supersoul, dwelling in the heart of every embodied being.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.4)

For those practicing bhakti-yoga the two options presented here seem identical. If you love Rama, you will naturally act in ways that make you dear to Him. If you are dear to Rama, it means that you must love Him, no? Tulsidas here references the principles of religious practice, wherein one exhibits certain qualities and traits that are generally considered good. There is no need to speculate in this area, as Shri Rama elaborates on the good qualities in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, is the same Rama, just appearing slightly differently. Krishna is not a prophet and neither is Rama. Krishna refers to Himself many times in the Bhagavad-gita, even showing the universal form, which is the vision of entirety, the complete whole packed into a single image, one so desperately desired by the faithless.

adveṣṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ

maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca

nirmamo nirahaṅkāraḥ

sama-duḥkha-sukhaḥ kṣamī


santuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yogī

yatātmā dṛḍha-niścayaḥ

mayy arpita-mano-buddhir

yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ

“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me - he is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.13-14)

[Lord Rama]If a person is free of envy, they are dear to Rama. To become free of envy, one should be kind to all living entities. Only due to the bitter feud from competition to enjoy more would a person envy another. That envy is a sign of ignorance. The person doesn’t know the inherent equality shared by all beings, who are spiritual at their core.

Another way to be dear to Rama is if a person does not think themselves a proprietor. The concepts of “I” and “Mine” rule our lives, but in fact we don’t really own anything. The material elements were here before we came and they will stay after we leave. We don’t even know what “I” means, as we falsely identify with the body from the time of birth.

If a person can stay equal in happiness and distress, that also makes them a candidate to be dear to Rama. The material world is one of duality. The extremes are birth and death, and in between there is fluctuation between opposites. The wise person knows the effect of time, how it erases both the good and the bad. Therefore they avoid getting overly excited when good things happen and they remain positive even during the bad times.

The most important thing mentioned by Krishna is to remain steady in the path of yoga. This is the first option given by Tulsidas. Therefore the Supreme Lord Himself subtly reveals that both paths eventually merge into one. The person who becomes dear to Rama is very wise, and through their wisdom they realize that loving God is the true boon to an existence. The person who loves Rama already acts in ways that make them dear to Him. Whichever path is easier to follow at the outset should be taken up, as any sincere effort made in devotional service gets rewarded by the supreme and original benefactor.

In Closing:

Paths of perfection there are two,

Pick whichever preferred by you.


Love and devotion to Prabhu one,

Other with sinful behavior none.


Since dear to Rama through qualities good,

Both paths eventually merging understood.


Whichever choice, at least one just take,

For most of this human birth to make.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reviewing Shortcomings

[Rama's lotus feet]“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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In this verse Goswami Tulsidas attributes his shortcomings to himself. Who else would be responsible? Can we blame others for the crimes we commit? We can try, but it is a difficult sell. The reason is that so many others are in similar situations but don’t resort to criminal behavior. The realization from the poet is profound due to the accompanying admission that everything good within him is due to the Supreme Lord. Knowledge of God the person satisfies the need for any other kind of knowledge.

There are so many shortcomings we can review, but the Vedas have kindly put them into four categories for our convenience. The shortcomings are also known as defects. Man has a tendency to cheat. If I’m playing a game, I study the habits of my opponents. In professional sports, this is now aided by reviewing video of previous matches. The things I discover I don’t share with anyone outside of the team. This is the nature of competition, after all. I get credit for victory, but a lot of it is due to cheating. The advantages taken may not be considered to be in violation of the rules, but there is some dishonesty nonetheless.

[OT goal in hockey]Man commits mistakes. This is described in the phrase, “To err is human.” You can have the most sophisticated software system in the world, that runs perfectly for decades, but one day something goes wrong. An investigation finds the cause to be a coding error, also known as a bug. The bug exists due to a defect in the human being who wrote the program. Many such errors arise in the difficult journey through life.

Man is easily illusioned. With software applications used for writing posts to be published online, there is something called “what you see is what you get,” turned into the acronym WYSIWYG. These applications are preferred since you can see what the post will look like as you are composing and editing. There is no need for the extra step of publishing a draft. In our journey through life, what we see isn’t always what we get. The perfect embodiment of this truth is the interaction with the opposite sex. It looks like the beautiful partner will bring so much enjoyment, but there is so much difficulty involved as well. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that this lust is the all-devouring enemy of the world.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

kāma eṣa krodha eṣa


mahāśano mahā-pāpmā

viddhy enam iha vairiṇam

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

Man also has imperfect senses. If I had perfect senses, I wouldn’t need glasses. I wouldn’t need a telescope to see into outer space. I wouldn’t need a telephone to hear what my friend is saying from hundreds of miles away. I wouldn’t need to view a social media post in order to see what my family is experiencing while attending a sporting event.

All four defects work in concert. Imperfect senses substantiate the illusion. Because of illusion, it’s easier for me to cheat, as I don’t think there will be negative consequences. My cheating is itself a mistake, and from mistakes in judgment I do bad things. Yet all of this is due to only one thing: forgetfulness of God.

Tulsidas realizes that the human being does have good qualities. This is inherent in the existence itself. The imperishable animating force within the body is the spirit soul. The soul is free from the defects mentioned above. It is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. Why are there defects, then? Why is there trouble?

The soul gets placed in a body full of defects when it forgets God. Still, the door for redemption is always open. Tulsidas says that one should know that their goodness comes from Rama, who is the personal God. Rama is not a Hindu deity or an ordinary human being who was later assigned divine status. He is God showing His transcendental features to the spirit souls suffering from the four defects due to their association with the material energy. For Rama there is no difference between matter and spirit. Since He is without defects, He is also known as Achyuta.

By knowing that all good qualities in the individual come from Rama and that all bad things are due to the decision to turn away from love and devotion to Him, a person can find success even in Kali Yuga. This is the Sanskrit name for the present age, where the four defects are strongest in their power over the individual. Illusion grows by the day, and so man commits even more mistakes, not seeing things as they are.

[Lord Rama]Good things will happen and there will be no fear. This is because Rama slashes away doubts through the weapon of knowledge. His goodness carries the individual through difficult times, preserving what they have. The person who knows that everything good is due to Rama will serve Him with thought, word and deed. They may continue to commit mistakes, but they are excused since they are not done intentionally. Rama is the supreme purifier, bringing His beaming light capable of dissipating even the thick darkness of Kali.

In Closing:

With darkness of Kali nothing seen,

Still Rama’s light through it to beam.


Despite mistakes again committing,

Redemption when body quitting.


Due to one thing inside to know,

That bad qualities from forgetting God so.


Knowledge that all goodness in Supreme residing,

Then fearless since over welfare Rama presiding.