Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Bathtub Curve

[Radharani holding flower garland]“Actually, nothing comes about automatically. Everything comes about through the intelligence of Krishna, through His fine and accurate powers. If we paint a picture of a flower, we have to arrange many facets, and still the picture will not be absolutely perfect. Yet the flower created by Krishna has come out perfectly.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Vs 25-26 Purport)

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You’ve had your current automobile for almost a decade. It’s been so long that it would hardly qualify as current anymore. You don’t know how the years passed by so quickly. Curious, you look up the value from a noted publication, only to find out that there’s no reason to even have collision insurance coverage for the car anymore. When you bring it in for servicing, the manager is surprised by how many miles you have on it. They tell other employees about your car, since no one has seen one with that many miles accumulated.

[high mileage reading]Based on the age, mileage, and lack of features in comparison to the newer models, you start to look around. You take an interest in new cars after having ignored them for so long. You’re trying to decide on which one to get, so you take one for a test drive. “I don’t like it. It’s too high off the ground.” These are your sentiments after the short test drive. For the interim, you decide to stick with what you have. “Let me ride this into the ground. This car has sentimental value, after all.”

A few weeks later, you’re hearing people discuss new cars and you learn that someone has purchased the one you just test drove. They are complaining about how many problems it has. “That’s interesting,” you think to yourself. “One of the main reasons for buying a new car is to avoid the problems. The imminent lack of reliability for the car I own right now is the whole reason I even started looking. If new cars have problems too, what is the point in buying one? Why not just keep trying to repair the one I have now?”

Coincidentally, a television set you bought less than two years prior has a major problem with it. Thankfully, the store you purchased it from offers an additional year warranty beyond the standard one year. You are able to replace the old television with a new one. You discuss these issues with a friend one day and what he says surprises you.

“Yeah, it’s actually not uncommon for new products to have problems. There’s something called the Bathtub Curve that describes failure rate charted over time. The curve is the highest at the beginning, which means you have the most failures soon after purchasing something. This only makes sense. If there was a defect in the manufacturing, you’re more likely to notice it right away. Then the curve remains relatively low for a long time. Eventually, there is wear and tear, which increases the incidences of failure again. So you see problems in both the new car and the very old one. It is for this reason that cars have a warranty period in the beginning. The same goes for televisions.”

[new tv]What this friend describes is accurate. What to speak of appliances, even the human body breaks down. Children get colds quite frequently; their bodies aren’t strong enough to fend off many diseases. Then during adulthood things tend to level off, with the frequency of diseases increasing again during old age. This is the nature of the material world, as everything that takes birth is destined to die.

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur

dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca

tasmād aparihārye 'rthe

na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

The human body is made by the creator of nature. The created object can only create as much as it is capable of. As an example, a machine running off artificial intelligence can only have as much intelligence as is programmed into it. In the same way, a mortal species cannot make something immortal. This is a defect known from the beginning.

Keeping these things in mind, the handiwork of the Supreme Lord becomes more worthy of appreciation. He creates the entire universe effortlessly. Though it will be destroyed eventually, there is no defect in the sun. There is no such thing as a curve to chart failure rate. The sun has yet to fail. It provides heat and light in such a consistent manner that the intelligent human beings rely on it. They don’t worry about the sun one day going out.

Similarly, the lotus flower is an ideal symbol of beauty. No artist could ever conjure something like that up in the mind. Indeed, a painting becomes more beautiful when flowers are included. A beautiful image is that which uses objects from the nature that were already created by God.

Just as He flawlessly creates, He delivers without fail to anyone who wants His rescuing hand. Rather than rely on fallible machines and human beings riddled with the four standard defects, one should put all of their faith in God, who is a person. This means that He listens, He acts, and He comes through. The first step is approaching Him. If a person denies that God even exists, how will they accept His mercy? If they don’t know how He creates, maintains and destroys on the largest scale, why would they approach Him?

[Lord Krishna]Vedic literature is there to educate. It is there to facilitate connection with the person who is actually within every single atom. The Vedas are a science that gives vision through sound. You hear to see in the Vedas, which are also known as the shrutis. Hear about how the material nature is God’s external, inferior energy. Hear about how the spirit souls are the superior nature, meant to be in His association. Hear about how the Lord is non-different from the sound that represents Him. Finally, see Him directly through the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

That old car about to break down,

Defects in newer models also found.


Bathtub curve used to explain,

Faults in all material objects the same.


Of Supreme’s intelligence just consider,

Perfect beauty in lotus flower to deliver.


With that creator of all objects to see,

Connect through sound, from doubt be free.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The One Percent

[Lord Brahma]“Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought by any being other than those created by you, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.” (Hiranyakashipu speaking to Lord Brahma, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.36)

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nāntar bahir divā naktam

anyasmād api cāyudhaiḥ

na bhūmau nāmbare mṛtyur

na narair na mṛgair api

“Give me liberty or give me death” are the famous words of Patrick Henry, one of the rebels in the Revolutionary War, which led to the founding of the United States of America. His were words of sacrifice, indicating detachment from the present life. Typically, the desire is the opposite: give me as much as possible so that I will stay alive.

For instance, we ask for good health.

“If I eat well, from now on I won’t have any problems. My cholesterol will be lowered. My blood sugar will be okay. Exercise is important in this. By maintaining good habits I will be able to live for a long time.”

We also ask for a good financial situation.

“If I have a job, I know that I’ll be able to survive. I don’t need much money, but a steady income is required. Then I can purchase a car, a home, furniture, clothes and other things necessary to carry life on.”

When we have so many things, we ask for protection.

“I need insurance for my smartphone. The same for my car, but that is required by law. My house is so expensive. What if something happens to it by accident? I need homeowner’s insurance. I need an alarm system. I’d like to extend the warranty on my television set.”

[insurance]A king a long time ago asked for it all. After enduring tremendous austerities voluntarily, he asked for the boon of immortality. Unfortunately, the benefactor didn’t have that boon for himself. It wasn’t available to give away. Though Lord Brahma lives for billions of years, eventually that time passes. As an example, at this very moment so many billions of years have passed. Though that is a very long time, right now it is meaningless. Whatever is destined to happen right now will occur; the past experience is just that, the past.

This king was named Hiranyakashipu. This is a compound Sanskrit word, consisting of the terms “gold” and “soft cushion.” You get some nice gold and a good place to rest and you think you are set. There is nothing more to do. Hiranyakashipu wanted to live forever in comfort, but Brahma denied him. The king then thought he could outsmart the very nature under which he lived.

Hiranyakashipu asked for boons that would seemingly give him immortality. He wanted immunity from man and animals. He wanted that no weapon could kill him. He desired to be safe from death during both day and night. He wanted it so that he couldn’t be killed outside or in. He thought he had all the bases covered. In fact, he pretty much did. He was 99 percent safe.

Ah, but God needs just one percent to overpower 99 percent. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that the material world, despite all its opulence, is filled with only zeroes. If you have one zero or one hundred, the value is the same: nothing. But as soon as you add a one digit to the beginning, the zeroes become valuable. Then the more zeroes you have, the more valuable your number. The association of the Supreme Lord is the one digit in this scenario. Prabhupada’s view is also supported by Goswami Tulsidas.

nāma rāma ko amka hai saba sādhana haim sūna |

amka ga_em kachu hātha nahim amka rahem dasa gūna ||

“Shri Rama’s holy name is like a numeral, and all religious practices are like zero. When the numeral is not there, zero means nothing. But when it is present, the resultant value increases tenfold.” (Dohavali, 10)

Despite 99 percent protection, Hiranyakashipu had zero. This was because he lacked devotion to God the person. More so than just lacking it, he was adamantly against it. He saw that devotion in his son Prahlada and could not tolerate it. Therefore despite Prahlada being so small and helpless, Hiranyakashipu tried to kill him. Nothing worked, since Prahlada had the one percent with him.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]On the king’s last attempt, the one percent showed its face to the king in just the way that he deserved. It was death personified, in the fierce form of a half-man/half-lion. Hiranyakashipu indeed got killed, despite his immunity from so many different situations. This form of God, known as Narasimha, did not violate any of the boons given by Brahma. The king was killed at dusk, on the lap of the Lord, who used His nails. Narasimhadeva is neither a man nor an animal. The nails are not a weapon. The king was killed on Narasimhadeva’s lap, which is neither the air nor the land. The 99 percent protection proved useless, as it always does when it is lacking the “one” thing that matters: devotion to God.

In Closing:

Zeroes you can have so many,

But without other digit value not any.


To Hiranyakashipu’s boons compared,

Who thought that from death would be spared.


But the one in Supreme Lord coming,

And king’s protection nothing becoming.


Prahlada the son with devotion believing,

And so the Divine favor receiving.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Single-User Mode

[Radha-Krishna]“Everyone in the fourteen worlds meditates upon Him, and all the denizens of Vaikuntha sing of His qualities and pastimes.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 5.222)

caudda-bhuvane yāṅra sabe kare dhyāna

vaikuṇṭhādi-pure yāṅra līlā-guṇa gāna

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One of the limbs of the eightfold system of yoga is dhyana. Ashtanga is the system, and the dhyana within it is meditation. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Lord. Think of it like God’s children uniting with God. The concepts of souls and sparks of spirit are not sectarian; therefore yoga is a more accurate term for what we generally refer to as religion. Yoga is not based on anyone’s faith. Yoga is part of the spiritual science, based on laws that cannot be broken.

As the goal of yoga is to link the individual with the Supreme, the practice of it is not limited to any specific methodology. This means that dhyana can be practiced outside of ashtanga. Bhakti is both a kind of yoga and the achievement resulting from the perfection of explicit yoga practice. Bhakti-yoga can also have dhyana. There can be karma and jnana as well, which are work and knowledge respectively.

The teachers of bhakti-yoga in the modern age recommend the chanting of the holy names. They say that within the name of the Lord is the potency of the Lord. The name is identical to Him. In fact, the more you can say these names, the better off you will be. Even if you achieve perfection in bhakti-yoga, you will not want to stop saying the names. The best way to say them is through a mantra, with the most famous one being the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[maha-mantra]Chanting this mantra in a regulated way is a kind of dhyana. The individual must concentrate to make the practice fruitful. Dhyana is necessary due to the default condition of a restless mind. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that all souls in this world are His fragmental parts. Not that they break up and then unite back into one, but they are like miniature expansions of Him. Though He expands into fragments, God remains completely whole. This defies the laws of the material nature, which say that everything in life is part of a singular energy. The material laws make life a zero sum game. The spiritual is beyond this; it is infinite.

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke

jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ


prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

Despite being His fragmental parts, these souls are struggling in the material world. Krishna says this is due to the six senses, which include the mind. The mind can be our friend as well as our enemy. When we are worried about something, it is the mind which gives us pain. Everything else could be fine around us. Just from thinking we become ill. Dhyana is a way to control the mind, and the best thing to concentrate on is God Himself. The more you know about Him, the more fruitful your meditation will be. The name is so powerful that simply hearing it is as effective as putting yourself in seclusion and trying to concentrate. Because of this potency, the representatives of Krishna recommend that we chant as much as possible; in a regulated way just in case.

To help us understand the benefit, we can look to database technology. In the modern age where sensitive information is stored on computers, the database plays a vital role. If you lose a database, you could lose your entire business. A bank, for example, can’t afford to lose its data. The information is just too important. Therefore so many safeguards are in place. Backups, mirrors, standbys - there are many options to ensure both high availability and data integrity.

[database technology]If there are any vital changes that need to be made, such as with settings, the database administrator has a handy option available. It is called “single-user mode.” When applying an important update, you often need to make sure no one else is accessing the database. This way no data is being inserted, updated or deleted. The problem is that you yourself have changes to make. You need to maintain access for yourself while restricting everyone else. By putting the database in single-user mode, no one else can even access the system. You can do the necessary maintenance and then revert back to multi-user mode when you are ready.

The dhyana that accompanies regulated chanting of the holy names can be likened to the single-user mode. There is necessary maintenance done, as outside of bhakti-yoga the mind never finds peace. Without peace there cannot be happiness. Peace is found through knowing three things. One is that Krishna is the enjoyer of all sacrifices. The second is that Krishna is the proprietor of all the planets. The third is that Krishna is the ultimate well-wishing friend of every living thing.

[Radha-Krishna]To hear of these things is rare enough, but to remember them after being heard is difficult. Therefore the dhyana in bhakti is a way to keep this in the mind, to maintain peace even when back in the real world, working to sustain life. The soul is not meant for the material world, and through enough proper maintenance it can find its way out, back to home, back to Godhead.

In Closing:

When system update to do,

To get exclusive access for you.


This way integrity not to violate,

Later returning to multi-user state.


Dhyana in same way can be thought,

From concentration enlightenment brought.


Path from this miserable world out,

Think of God distractions without.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The One About Making You Remember

[Lord Krishna]“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.25)

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vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat

tatra tatra jagad-guro

bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād

apunar bhava-darśanam

One of the many names for the Supreme Lord is Adhokshaja. This Sanskrit word means “one who is beyond the perception of blunt instruments.” This makes sense if you think about it. We can get a temperature reading by using a thermometer. We get the weight of something using a scale. Yet weight and temperature both have limits. As God is the unlimited, there is no accurate quantification of His mass. He can make His transcendental form hotter than the hottest also.


santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti

yaḿ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaḿ

govindam ādi-puruṣaḿ tam ahaḿ bhajāmi

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Shyamasundara, Krishna Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.38)

[Shyamasundara]Despite being beyond the measure of any instrument, it is still possible to see God. It is possible to both notice and appreciate His presence. The Brahma-samhita says that the only requirement is a specific kind of vision. Only when the salve of devotion is applied to the eyes is it possible to see God. A famous queen in ancient times saw the Supreme Lord in His all-attractive and original form of Krishna quite frequently. She appreciated this vision, despite the otherwise trying circumstances. Indeed, it seemed as if she only saw Him when things were going bad.

Queen Kunti and her sons survived calamity after calamity. They knew that their survival was due only to the personal protection of Shri Krishna. Therefore when one time Krishna was leaving their company, Kunti famously prayed to have all those calamities happen again. In that way she would see Krishna, who gives protection to His devotees.

Harry was reciting this verse to his friend one day. His friend was having a difficult time understanding why someone would pray for bad things to happen.

“Isn’t God supposed to rescue us? Aren’t we supposed to be happy with the Supreme Lord by our side? To me it sounds like Queen Kunti was praying for rain, when in fact God should be the greatest sunshine.”

These were the questions put forth, and to help explain Harry described a recent incident from his own life.

As you know, I practice bhakti-yoga pretty regularly. I would never say that I’m a devotee; I’m aspiring to be one. I believe in the words of Queen Kunti, that Shri Krishna ends the cycle of birth and death through His favor. One of His many names is Mukunda, which means one who grants liberation. I regularly chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I also try to avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

My life isn’t very stressful. I hold down a job and family, and I practice bhakti side by side. About a week ago, though, I think I had the worst experience of my life. At the company I work for, the file server suddenly went down one morning. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the IT business to understand the severity of this issue. Imagine if the bank suddenly lost your account, if they didn’t know how much money you had. Imagine if your car broke down and there was no one around to pick you up.

[file server]This is sort of what happened. This file server got corrupted and all of our disaster recovery channels were closed. Backups of files failed and the backup servers were not online. The only option we had was to run this scan to repair the system. The problem was that no one had any idea how long it was going to take. It was running for hours and there was no way to tell the progress. The life of the business hung in the balance. All the pressure was on me; this was my responsibility.

In this helpless state, I prayed so much to the Supreme Lord and His wife, the goddess of fortune. This is a clear example of impure devotion. You’re not supposed to ask things from God for your material benefit. He’s not an order supplier. If you want those things, you can go to other divine figures. You can try your hand at karma in the material world. Yet I had no other recourse. I must have spent hours in prayer, waiting for this scan to finish.

Luckily it finished in a single day and we didn’t lose any data. The business was intact and later on I thought about the lesson of the whole incident. Everything does happen for a reason, and while there was neglect in terms of management of the file server, I couldn’t help but think in terms of my own devotional efforts. Perhaps I was too immersed in other things, forgetful of God. Maybe that is why He forced me to remember Him by putting me in such a difficult situation.

[Radha-Krishna deities]I don’t know that for sure, but the incident certainly brought Kunti Devi to mind. When she asks for the same calamities to happen again, she knows that in those dangerous times she will be forced to remember Krishna. That is the aim of bhakti-yoga; Krishna consciousness. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that to those who meditate on Him with undivided attention, He carries what they lack and preserves what they have. In the difficult situation, He brings to the devotee the opportunity to remember Him. That remembrance is the ultimate benefit of the calamity, as everything else soon gets forgotten.

In Closing:

In this most trying time,

Troubled with fear is my mind.


Perhaps since the Lord I forgot,

This opportunity to me He brought.


Like with famous Kunti Devi praying,

In calamities with Krishna staying.


Praying for relief showing bhakti impure,

But benefit from that trouble for sure.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Talking About The Chicken And The Egg

[chicken or the egg]“A living entity misuses his little independence when he wants to lord it over material nature. This misuse of independence, which is called maya, is always available, otherwise there would be no independence. Independence implies that one can use it properly or improperly. It is not static; it is dynamic. Therefore, misuse of independence is the cause of being influenced by maya.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.15 Purport)

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Friend1: I got a chicken or the egg type question for you.

Friend2: You need that solved? You’ve never heard of Lord Brahma?

Friend1: Yes, I understand that Brahma came first. He used the three modes of material nature as his ingredients for creating everything we see around us. The soul inside the egg comes before both the chicken and the egg. I know all of this.

Friend2: You know one time I was discussing yogurt with someone and this chicken or the egg thing came up.

Friend1: Oh, because you need cultures from existing yogurt to make new yogurt?

[yogurt drink]Friend2: Exactly. So my friend made a funny joke in response to one of my questions. He said, “Yes, yogurt is like chickens.”

Friend1: That’s pretty good. My question is in relation to maya. I know that the Sanskrit definition is “that which is not.” Brahman is “that which is;” the Absolute Truth.

Friend2: Since maya is that which is not, it is illusion. It’s like the mirage in the desert. It’s the allure of sense gratification that brings so many negative things when indulged.

Friend1: Maya is a strong illusory force. It leads us to mistake a rope for a snake. It causes us to identify with the body, which is temporary. That body is created by a higher being, though we think we maintain it through our own efforts.

Friend2: Maya is very strong. Practically the whole world is under her influence.

Friend1: So here’s my question. Maya’s illusion makes us forget our real identity as spirit and our relationship to Supreme Spirit. If the force is so powerful, how do we get out of it? I know that in Vedic teachings the idea is that life under maya is a choice. You don’t have to be under her influence.

Friend2: Exactly. We don’t have to perpetually spin on the wheel of reincarnation, the samsara-chakra.

Friend1: If it’s a choice and we’re under illusion right now, how do we make the right choice? Basically, I’m asking what came first: maya or the decision to enjoy separately from God?

[pizza]Friend2: That is a great question. The independence is always there. Just like we have a choice in what we eat, even if we think otherwise. I could eat pizza for dinner for two weeks straight, but it doesn’t mean that I have to. During those two weeks I think I won’t be happy unless I eat pizza. I think that I’ll remain hungry otherwise. But in fact I can eat something else.

Friend1: Okay, I like this example. Let’s work with it. You’re under illusion in this scenario. You’re making a choice, but you’re not choosing wisely. How do you break free?

Friend2: Well, there’s intelligence inside of me. That is one of the properties inherent to the spirit soul. The soul is eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. Maya covers up that knowledge. So you want to know how to remove the covering of maya?

Friend1: Exactly.

Friend2: Find someone who is not under the influence of maya. They can help you. They are known as the guru, or spiritual master. They don’t have to be your officially assigned guru or anything. As you know, we get influenced by so many people, not all of whom are recognized teachers.

Friend1: I see. So the independence is always there, even if maya has firm control.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses the perfect word to describe the nature of the independence belonging to the living entity: dynamic. Independence means that there is always the option to choose unwisely. When you’re in maya, you have made the wrong choice. But the independence stays with you, which means that the correct choice is always available, no matter how low you have sunk.

Friend1: Interesting.

Friend2: Maya works for Krishna, after all. She has a negative influence on us, but she is a dedicated servant to the Supreme Lord. When the wrong choice is made, there needs to be energy to facilitate what comes next. In the same light, the guru is there to help when the right choice is made. The difficulty is that hardly anyone wants to make the right choice. Deep down they know they are on the wrong path, but they still don’t want to surrender to the Supreme Lord. It is for this reason that Krishna says that after many births and deaths does one come to understand Him. Understanding Him means also knowing maya and independence.

In Closing:

Maya or my choice first coming,

How under illusion becoming?


Independence not something static,

When choice made result automatic.


From out of the darkness to see,

Approach guru, above maya is he.


This direction making choice right,

Reward once again with the divine sight.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The One With The Pop Quiz

[notebook]“The mistake of modern civilization is that man does not believe in the next life. But whether he believes or not, the next life is there, and one has to suffer if one does not lead a responsible life in terms of the injunctions of authoritative scriptures like the Vedas and puranas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.30.30 Purport)

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Maya is that which is not. Therefore it is commonly described as illusion, an energy that tricks an otherwise intelligent person into doing things they shouldn’t. The matching term is Brahman. Brahman is that which is; it is the Absolute Truth. Maya is that which is not Brahman; at least in terms of realization.

The widespread ignorance of the afterlife is one of the signs of maya’s strength.

“After I die, everything is finished. Therefore let me enjoy right now. Why are you fools so concerned with pleasing someone you can’t even see?”

In the Vedic tradition, the aura of mysticism pertaining to the afterlife is removed. The process of dying and going somewhere else is compared to changing clothes. The bodies change, while the individual remains constant. The destination of the individual is determined by their work, which is known as karma.

The transmigration of the soul is a kind of law of the material nature. The spirit soul’s existence is not under any kind of law, but when descending to the material land ruled by maya there is control from a higher nature. Ignorance of the law does not give immunity. If a person drives on the wrong side of the road, the negative reaction will be there regardless of what they know about the rules of driving. Devan was explaining this concept to his friend one day. He related a story from his own life to help get the point across.

It was my second semester at college. In the first semester I was pretty responsible. I brought my old habits from high school, where I went to bed pretty early and did my homework on time. I remember my uncle told me that once I went to college things would change. He said I would start going to sleep a lot later. I didn’t believe him.

Sure enough, in my second semester things started to change. Suddenly, an 8 am class was too early. In high school I had to wake up at around 6 am to get ready, but you can only do that if you go to bed on time. In college, with all the friends around I started going to bed well after midnight.

Anyway, so I had this important physics class at 8 am. For some reason, I started skipping it regularly. It was a big class, with several hundred students in it. I figured I would just study on my own when the time called for it. I really don’t know what I was thinking. The plan was quite foolish. I thought there would be no negative consequences to my actions.

[exam in school]Sure enough, I randomly show up to class one day and there’s a pop quiz. The thing is, it was only “pop” to me. The other students knew about it because the teacher had announced it previously. They were prepared. They had studied. They had attended all the classes. They weren’t surprised. I had no idea about the test because of my consistent absence. Of course there was no getting out of it. I couldn’t ask the teacher to excuse me because I hadn’t been attending. I had to sit there and look at questions that I had no idea the answers to. It was a pretty horrible experience.

Devan explained that death has similarly been announced. It is guaranteed to happen, with the next destination determined by consciousness. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita.

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ

tyajaty ante kalevaram

taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya

sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]The purpose of religion is to make sure the transition at the time of death is seamless. In ideal circumstances, there won’t be rebirth. The ideal is when the individual is no longer under the sway of maya. If they are Brahman realized, they get the association of the spiritual energy in the next life. Going one step better, if they are Krishna conscious they get a spiritual body used for association with God the person in the next life. The future life is guaranteed to come, whether one is aware of it or not. The wise heed the lessons of the teachers of the Vedic tradition and mold their lives in such a way as to get the best destination in the afterlife.

In Closing:

Like when class regularly forsaking,

And then one day pop quiz taking.


Failure result guaranteed to come,

Forgiveness for ignorance none.


Life after death same way understand,

So proper destination issue at hand.


Consciousness measured at time of quitting,

For devoted soul place and body befitting.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Does Convenience Mean Enlightenment

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“Human civilization is meant for purifying the senses, and objects of sense satisfaction should be supplied as much as absolutely required, but not for aggravating artificial sensory needs. Food, shelter, defense and sense gratification are all needs in material existence. Otherwise, in his pure, uncontaminated state of original life, the living entity has no such needs. The needs are therefore artificial, and in the pure state of life there are no such needs. As such, increasing the artificial needs, as is the standard of material civilization, or advancing the economic development of human society, is a sort of engagement in darkness, without knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.30 Purport)

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Which side is correct, science or religion? Are they mutually exclusive? Can you be in both camps? In the authorized science of self-realization passed down since time immemorial, originating with the first guru, the teacher of all teachers, nothing is rejected outright. Consciousness is what really counts, and whichever path brings the individual back to the original consciousness is recommended.

“Does that answer the question about scientific advancements? What about the automobile? How about the television? Are these things good or bad? We’ve heard spiritual leaders criticize these things as the devil’s handiwork. They say that society is headed towards hell precisely because of these things. Look at what’s happened with the smartphone. When you’re at a restaurant, no one is looking at each other. They all have their heads down, checking their phones. How can that be a good thing? Then you have the professional video game players, who are seemingly rewarded for being totally antisocial.”

[washing machine]Material advancement basically means convenience. Instead of heading to the riverbank to clean your clothes every day, you have a machine in your house. Instead of drafting a letter by hand and placing it in the mailbox, you send a text message that gets delivered instantly. Instead of going to the cinema hall to watch the latest release, you download the same on your tablet computer and watch at your leisure. Instead of calling for a horse-drawn carriage, you get in your automobile that has the power equivalent of many horses.

The issue is enlightenment. Does convenience equal enlightenment? The human birth is meant for realization of the self, advancement of the consciousness. Whether a person gets their meal from a fast food restaurant or after cooking in their home really makes no difference. Whether you sleep on a memory foam mattress or on the floor does not matter so much in the morning. The experience is basically forgotten.

Enlightenment is the way to evaluate consciousness. What is your vision like? Do you know who you are? Do you know why you are on this earth? Do you know that there are so many different species? Do you consider one race to be superior? Do you think that women are inherently worse than men or vice versa? Material advancement does not address these issues. It has little value. Convenience does not automatically equal enlightenment.

[software update]There is also the saying that for every convenience there is an inconvenience. The recently introduced term of “first world problem” conveys a similar idea. In times past there was no washing machine, but there was also no repair of it. People living twenty years ago did not have to worry about a software update breaking the functionality of their phone. They did not get frustrated over a temporary loss of WIFI signal.

For these reasons spiritual teachers do not put much stock in material advancement. It is not necessary for advancement of the consciousness. At the same time, it needn’t be tossed aside entirely. After all, the intelligence in man comes from God. We know that a baby will eventually learn to crawl, walk and talk. No one programmed the baby; the intelligence was already there.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo

mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca

vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo

vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

There is a way to appreciate material advancement from the spiritual perspective. Technology proves that man has at least a portion of the much greater intelligence belonging to the original person. That person’s handiwork is flawless. The sun is one example. There is no software update for the sun. The sun does not stop working for no reason on a given day. Material nature has properties so well-defined that man foolishly thinks it can alter things like the weather through studying those properties.

Religion and science can exist side by side. Religion without philosophy is sentiment, and philosophy without religion is mental speculation. The mind can be the friend of the living entity and its enemy as well. The same goes for that on which the mind contemplates. The invention of the tablet computer can be used to look at disturbing images or it can be used to study the science of self-realization, as taught by the prominent teachers of this age. The petroleum extracted from the ground can be used to race cars on the street or it can be used to travel from village to village to help enlighten others about their true position.

[virtual bookshelf]Everyone is spirit soul, transcendental to the matter surrounding them. Science is interested in the material, after all, and the material is not what identifies us. We are spiritual beings, but in ignorance we think otherwise. Enlightenment in this age is found easiest through sound. The sound from the original teacher has been preserved in books, but in the fever of maintaining today’s conveniences even reading is rare. Fortunately, the same potent sound is found within the name of the origin of everything. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, may not seem like anything advanced, but it can bring the enlightenment that no scientific discovery can.

In Closing:

Despite science’s most amazing discovery,

No guarantee of spiritual identity’s recovery.


Conveniences today many there are,

But enlightenment still in the distance far.


Does not mean that all objects to shun,

Put to proper use, for knowing God done.


Enlightenment best coming through sound,

Even in darkness Supreme again found.