Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vyasa Puja 2015

[Prabhupada]“Intelligence in the mode of passion is always working perversely. It accepts religions which are not actually religions and rejects actual religion. All views and activities are misguided. Men of passionate intelligence understand a great soul to be a common man and accept a common man as a great soul. They think truth to be untruth and accept untruth as truth. In all activities they simply take the wrong path; therefore their intelligence is in the mode of passion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.31 Purport)

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“Do as your heart desires. Reach for the stars. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it.” We’ve likely heard a few or all of these words of encouragement before. The idea is to not settle for what you have at the present, especially if you’re doing so out of fear. You should know that achievements are possible, that every great man was once a helpless infant at one point. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we celebrate the person who tells us the actual truth, that our intelligence in the mode of passion misguides us.

What if what we desire is wrong? What if the objective we’re seeking isn’t good for us? There is still intelligence. There is still hard work. Perseverance is just as important in success for the thief as it is for the policeman trying to catch them. There is intelligence to both piety and sin. In the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that when a person’s intelligence is in the mode of passion, they can’t distinguish between right and wrong.

yayā dharmam adharmaṁ ca

kāryaṁ cākāryam eva ca

ayathāvat prajānāti

buddhiḥ sā pārtha rājasī

“And that understanding which cannot distinguish between the religious way of life and the irreligious, between action that should be done and action that should not be done, that imperfect understanding, O son of Pritha, is in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.31)

The two words of significance are adharma and dharma. One is irreligiosity and the other religiosity. The intelligence in the mode of passion should not be difficult to understand. If we want something badly enough, we’ll figure out a way to do it. It is seen that many of those who are in the initial stages of bhakti-yoga ask questions about how to meet the minimum requirement for chanting on their prayer beads when they have so many other things going on. But in actuality, they already meet much more difficult requirements on a daily basis. They go to school and pass exams. They show up to the office. They run a business.

The necessary ingredient is desire. The spiritual master is the mercy of the Supreme Lord since he comes and delivers knowledge on how to purify desire. If we make our objectives pure, then the intelligence will take on the same nature. And what is a pure objective? Isn’t earning money important? Isn’t eating necessary to maintain life? Shouldn’t curing diseases be a top priority?

The spiritual master, also known as the guru, says that the human life is especially meant for tapasya, or austerity. Through regulation in eating, sleeping, mating and defending the living entity in the valuable human form has the opportunity to reach the full potential of consciousness. To be conscious means to live. Dull matter lacks consciousness. The benefit of being conscious is the ability to connect with the Supreme Consciousness, who is also known as God.

[Prabhupada]The guru adapts to the time and circumstance and takes all risks in spreading this most important message. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada crossed the ocean on a boat at an advanced age in order to transform the intelligence of others from passion to pure goodness. He accomplished this through speaking of the glories of the Supreme Lord, who is known as Krishna. Prabhupada created an expanded broadcast network consisting of preachers spreading the same message. Mass distribution to effect mass change.

The pure objective is to be in service to the Supreme Lord. Then pure intelligence comes, wherein one can see right and wrong properly. They won’t mistake adharma for dharma. In the case of the democratic style of government, it is very easy to turn something bad into something good. Just get enough votes for your side and you can even turn stealing into a legal act.

[Prabhupada's lotus feet]Yet all the votes in the world don’t change the fact that stealing is against dharma. Adharma keeps the intelligence in passion, which leads to rebirth. The pure intelligence leads to ascension to the topmost planet in all the universes, where the Supreme Lord in His personal form resides. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we honor, remember, and celebrate the teacher who shows us the way towards this great destination.

In Closing:

When intelligence in passion to come,

Adharma dharma in mind to become.


Wrong it is for property to steal,

But legal when enough votes to seal.


Pure the intelligence making,

Through words of guru taking.


Gift of the fixed consciousness bestowing,

By him way to Krishna’s realm showing.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Krishna Janmashtami 2015

[Krishna and Yashoda]“Krishna's showing the universal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even when lying down on the lap of His mother, proves that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whether He is manifested as a child on the lap of His mother or as a charioteer on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)

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Does God exist? If so, where is He? Why can’t we notice Him? He is in fact everywhere, and we make the mistake of only approaching Him during times of distress. Since due to ignorance we make gods out of mortals who display some skill, the Supreme Lord from time to time goes beyond and displays something that can’t be comprehended. Though He is around us every day and in every situation, the occasion of Janmashtami allows us to notice Him in the way that we prefer: opulence. We celebrate His fixed possession of the title of controller of the universe.

Janmashtami is a compound Sanskrit word consisting of the terms “janma” and “ashtami.” Janma refers to birth and ashtami is the eighth day in the lunar calendar. Krishna Janmashtami is therefore the specific date in the calendar referring to the appearance of the Supreme Lord Krishna. He emerged from the womb of mother Devaki on the eighth day of the moon in the month of August-September.

Krishna is always God; despite His outward appearance. We can look to the incident with the whirlwind demon in Vrindavana. Though He took the form of a small child when first appearing in front of the parents Vasudeva and Devaki, Krishna was still the Supreme Lord. For proof He showed the parents the vision of Narayana, who is opulently adorned and has four hands. Krishna has two hands but He is identical to Narayana, who is the source of man.

[Krishna's birth]The whirlwind demon was sent by Kamsa, the king of Mathura. Krishna had been transferred to Vrindavana, away from the attacks of the envious Kamsa. The king sent different hit men to do the job, kill the Supreme Lord. Of course this is impossible. Not surprisingly, each one failed to accomplish the task.

The interactions were quite amazing. On the one side you had a living entity with an extraordinary ability. In Trinavarta’s case, he could assume the form of a giant whirlwind. Surely if we saw a character today who could do this society would give high praise. After all, so much attention goes to athletes, cinema stars and politicians. Becoming a whirlwind is much more difficult.

On the other side you had this innocent baby. He was lying down one day because His mother had placed Him there. This was Yashoda, the foster mother in Vrindavana, though she didn’t view herself that way. She thought Krishna was hers. She loved Him more than any mother could. She set the Lord down one day after He began to feel very heavy. This was an intentional move by the master of all mystic power.

[Krishna killing Trinavarta]Being alone gave Trinavarta the opportunity to come and pick up Krishna. The demon took the child high into the air, and the people of the town couldn’t see what was going on because of the dust created by the winds. When reaching his apex, Trinavarta suddenly felt Krishna to be extremely heavy. It was like a mountain crushing down on his neck. The demon soon fell to the ground and died. Indeed, the comparison to the mountain is only for our understanding. Krishna’s weight is impossible to measure. Since His attributes cannot be measured by blunt instruments, one of His many names is Adhokshaja.

The people couldn’t believe that Krishna survived. They were so relieved. Shortly thereafter, mother Yashoda began feeding Krishna with breast milk. From her intense affection, so much milk poured that the mother started to worry. She opened Krishna’s mouth to see if He was alright. To her surprise, she saw in that mouth a vision of the universal form. She saw all the stars, mountains, rivers, planets and the many living entities populating them.

From both incidents we see that Krishna is always God. Trinavarta took the tiny baby up in the air, not knowing the weight of the darling child of Nanda and Yashoda. The mother looked into His innocent little mouth and saw something no one ever sees. The same child many years later would speak the highest philosophy to a distressed warrior on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. That conversation would come to be known as the Bhagavad-gita, and for many it is the primary way they establish Krishna as the Supreme God.

[Krishna and Yashoda]Janmashtami allows the mind to recall the amazing adaptability of Krishna. He can take any form He chooses and He doesn’t lose anything as a result. Even the incomprehensibly large universal form is nothing to Him. It is too limiting in describing Him. His true nature comes out in the interaction with the devotees, such as with mother Yashoda. Therefore on the sacred day celebrating the anniversary of Krishna’s appearance in this world the devoted souls choose to remember Krishna the child, the tender, soft, cute and powerful savior of the pious.

In Closing:

The Supreme Lord always to remain,

In different forms, of potency the same.


Like when Trinavarta took into the air,

Or Yashoda into tiny mouth to stare.


Adhokshaja is Vrindavana’s treasure,

Impossible are His features to measure.


Through loving interactions can be known,

Like with mercy to mother Yashoda shown.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Protector of Koshala

[Rama's bow]“Whether I am ordinary or not, I am only yours, O protector of Koshala. If this is true then Tulsi’s welfare is assured in all three worlds and three time periods.” (Dohavali, 84)

jaiseā mero rāvaro kevala kosalapāla |
tau tulasī ko hai bhalo tihūm̐ loka tihum̐ kāla ||84||

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Tulsidas here addresses the Supreme Lord as Koshalapala. This means “the protector of Koshala.” Koshala is a land on earth made famous through the Supreme Lord and the ancestors of the Raghu dynasty, the family in which Rama appeared. Just as you need an alarm system to protect a store containing valuables during the nighttime, you need a powerful figure to ward off attacking enemies trying to infiltrate an important land. During ancient times Koshala featured very pious people, who thus required a brave, capable and always ready leader to maintain that quality.

śauryaṁ tejo dhṛtir dākṣyaṁ

yuddhe cāpy apalāyanam

dānam īśvara-bhāvaś ca

kṣātraṁ karma svabhāva-jam

“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)

The Sanskrit word for someone who protects in this way is “kshatriya.” Studying the root meaning to the terms that make up the word we get the definition of “to protect from injury.” There is much more to the kshatriya culture than just defense. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord lists the necessary qualities. Yet the spirit can be found in any person, regardless of their familiarity with Vedic culture. There are brave heroes in all lands, people who risk their lives whenever called upon. The quality common amongst them is that they don’t get distressed in troubling situations.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Supreme descends to earth in a visible form He often accepts the role of kshatriya. He is in fact everything to everyone. There is the saying that you can’t be all things to all people. It’s difficult to be a good employee, a good husband, and a good father at the same time. As human beings we are limited.

God is unlimited, ananta. Therefore He can actually do everything for everyone. He can be the wise brahmana who imparts wisdom specific to each class of man. He can protect the cows and support agriculture. He can do any menial task asked of Him. When He appeared on earth as Shri Krishna, during His childhood He would do whatever the mothers of the town of Vrindavana would ask of Him. He would sometimes fetch His father’s slippers.

bibharti kvacid ājñaptaḥ


bāhu-kṣepaṁ ca kurute

svānāṁ ca prītim āvahan

“Sometimes mother Yashoda and her gopi friends would tell Krishna, ‘Bring this article’ or ‘Bring that article.’ Sometimes they would order Him to bring a wooden plank, wooden shoes or a wooden measuring pot, and Krishna, when thus ordered by the mothers, would try to bring them. Sometimes, however, as if unable to raise these things, He would touch them and stand there. Just to invite the pleasure of His relatives, He would strike His body with His arms to show that He had sufficient strength.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.8)

[Krishna with Nanda's slippers]Shri Rama plays the role of kshatriya. He takes it upon Himself to protect those who seek His help. It is no mistake that Tulsidas references this aspect of the Supreme Lord in the Dohavali verse quoted above. The great poet knows that reputation is a variable, not a constant. Some people will like you and others won’t. There is nothing that can be done about it.

Tulsidas says that whether he is ordinary or not, he accepts the shelter of the protector of Koshala. He has dedicated thought, word and deed to the Supreme Lord. As such, Rama will stand by holding His bow and arrow no matter where the poet goes. Tulsidas could end up anywhere in the vast land that the three worlds cover. There is heaven, hell and the earthly region. Just as we can choose which city or country we want to live in, so the spirit soul, as part of the transmigration process, can end up practically anywhere.

The destinations change through the workings of time. Time has three aspects: past, present and future. Rama protects the devotee in all time periods. How does He correct the past? This one seems a little odd. Does Rama have a time machine? Actually, through devotional service, bhakti-yoga, the past gets purified. When we were in school we likely complained about the content in class. “When am I ever going to need to know this stuff? I can’t see the value in learning this?” Sometimes the benefit comes many years later.

When a person finds the shelter of the protector of Koshala, it means that their past has led them to this ultimate destination. Therefore the past gets protected. The present becomes blissful, seen in one way through the poet’s detachment. To not be so concerned with what others think of you is difficult to do; it’s an advantage. Rama protects the future as well, as with the passage of time the spirit soul eventually moves on to another body.

Rama ensures that time and circumstance are favorable for the devotee. The material nature is the other shelter. This isn’t as kind. It doesn’t protect anything; rather it only destroys. As soon as you get something, you must separate from it at some point in the future. The past might be your only sanctuary after a while. There is the saying that every saint has a past and every sinner a future. This references how things are always changing. You’re never guaranteed favorable circumstances.

[Lord Rama]The lone exception is devotional service, which Tulsidas practices through glorifying the Supreme Lord. The process is so easy. Success does not rely on the reception. Whether the whole world appreciates you or not, the protector of Koshala will always be favorable. The devotees are so dear to Him, and for that reason they are protected in all three worlds and all three time periods.

In Closing:

In whichever world to see,

And considering time periods three.


Even your past is cured,

And future assured.


Through bhakti only can this come,

To have concern over reputation none.


Tulsidas from Koshala’s Lord shelter taking,

Rama auspiciousness for the devotee making.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Bhakti Yoga Is Superior

[Rama's bow]“Whether I am ordinary or not, I am only yours, O protector of Koshala. If this is true then Tulsi’s welfare is assured in all three worlds and three time periods.” (Dohavali, 84)

jaiseā mero rāvaro kevala kosalapāla |
tau tulasī ko hai bhalo tihūm̐ loka tihum̐ kāla ||84||

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Perhaps you’ve picked up a book or two on Hinduism and read some of the chapters. In so doing, you’ll likely come across the different types of yoga. The practice that we typically assign to the word relates to exercise only. It has its roots in meditational yoga, also known as ashtanga. Then there is jnana-yoga, where you link up to the Divine through deep study. There is hatha-yoga, which is like the meditational variety but focusing more on the breathing exercises and sitting postures, asanas. There is karma-yoga, where you work for a living but remain detached from the results.

Then there is bhakti-yoga, which is love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. The authors of these books like to tell you that all yogas are the same. “Just choose one that you like and stick to it. All paths lead to one destination.” But upon careful analysis, we come to learn just why the Vaishnava not only believes but confidently knows that bhakti is actually the culmination of all other yogas.

What draws the distinction? Why is bhakti different from meditation? Why is devotion superior to the study of important things like the difference between matter and spirit? The assessment is made through one factor alone: desire. In every other yoga there is some motive. In karma-yoga you must keep an eye on your attachments. If you’re working hard and earning a salary, what are you using the earnings for? Are you buying a new car for your personal enjoyment? Then your yoga is spoiled. Do you get distressed if there isn’t enough money in a given month? Again, you’re attached to the result.

In jnana-yoga you must have knowledge. Do you know what Brahman is? Can you explain how reincarnation works, quoting the specific verses from Vedic literature? Are you Brahman realized, where you no longer hanker or lament? If these criteria don’t fit your present consciousness, you have not succeeded in your yoga practice.

In bhakti-yoga there is only one desire: the Supreme Lord’s pleasure. Whether you do well for yourself is not so important. It should be noted that in the beginning the practice may not be pure. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna, who is the Supreme Lord, says that four kinds of people initially approach Him to practice devotion.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

Since they are all looking for something, their devotion is not pure. But when they stick with it, their impurities eventually go away. Indeed, the other yogas automatically turn into bhakti when the motive shifts in the proper direction. This means that bhakti-yoga is the only one that is all-inclusive. It can involve meditation, worship, breathing exercises, reading, writing, working at the office, or practically anything the person outside of yoga does. Consciousness is the difference maker. It is for this reason that His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates bhakti-yoga as “Krishna consciousness” in English.

[Ramacharitamanasa]The above referenced verse from the Dohavali is further proof of the superiority of bhakti-yoga. As a fully surrendered soul experiencing the bliss of sharanagati, Goswami Tulsidas is not so much concerned with how he is viewed. Some take him to be ordinary, like a person disgusted with the world who turned to God as a last resort. Others view him as an exalted personality, the author of the famed Ramacharitamanasa. This book beautifully describes the life and pastimes of Shri Rama, an incarnation of God. Rama is the same Krishna, and thus the act of writing the book is itself love and devotion.

Whether he is ordinary or not, Tulsidas is fully surrendered to Rama. If this is true, then the poet’s welfare is assured. This is the philosophical point, not something of only personal relevance. It is up to Rama to decide if a person is fully surrendered, and the Vaishnava is always humble in their attitude. But the point is made to show that if one actually gives everything to Rama, they don’t have to worry.

What are the typical items of concern? Tulsidas mentions the three worlds. At present we reside in the middle planetary systems. The upper sphere is the heavenly realm and the lower the hellish one. In heaven you get more material delights and in hell you get punishments. On earth you get a little of both. We can take birth anywhere. It all depends on the results of actions, the fruits of karma.

The fact that Tulsidas knows he will be fine in heaven or hell shows a lack of motive. He does not want ascension to the heavenly realm, where he could live for a long time travelling from one desire tree to another. He is not afraid of going to hell, either. This is because if there is devotion to Rama, nothing else is needed.

Another thing to worry about is time. The three aspects of time are past, present and future. If you’re in pure bhakti-yoga, the present is the same as the future. This means that the afterlife loses its mystical nature. There is nothing to worry about since the future will be in devotion just like the present. Since the present represents the height of an existence, the past doesn’t matter anymore, either. Who cares how much I suffered in the past when now I am finally under the shelter of the worshiped arm of Shri Rama?

“After having rested on the worshiped arm of the Lord of the world, how can I now take rest on the arm of any other?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.16-17)

[Rama's arm]That arm defended against thousands of deadly night-rangers. That arm is the resting place for the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi. That arm protects the devotees and their devotion. That arm lifts the deluded consciousness out of darkness and into the light. That arm controls time and place, making the situation for the devotee always auspicious.

In Closing:

Shri Rama, of smile with charm,

Protecting devotees is His arm.


Against night-rangers defended,

Relief to King Sugriva extended.


Worlds and periods of time three,

In them devotee over anxiety is free.


This Tulsidas confidently knows,

Since with surrendered devotion he goes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Like Bait For Fish

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that the fool who finds worldly pleasures to be sweet like honey considers devotion to Rama to be bland, though it is actually one hundred times sweeter than nectar.” (Dohavali, 83)

tulasī jau lauṁ biṣaya kī mudhā mādhurī mīṭhi |
tau lauṁ sudhā sahastra sama rāma bhagati suṭhi sīṭhi ||83||

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In the water the fish sees something that appears to be palatable. Their eyes are focused on it. It looks innocent enough. Yet the fish doesn’t realize that this is bait, something intentionally dropped into the water by a fisherman. The bait is nothing more than a trap, meant to lure in the unsuspecting. This is but one example of vishaya, or worldly pleasures. In fact, all living entities are born into delusion, bewildered by the dualities of desire and hate. Because of this, every enjoyment they seek is similar to the trap, forcing them to take rebirth. The wise person chooses love and devotion to God the person instead.


dvandva-mohena bhārata

sarva-bhūtāni sammohaṁ

sarge yānti parantapa

“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)

If we are born into delusion, how are we supposed to find the proper path? If everything we’re after is like a trap, how do we tread safely? The person who falls into such traps is known as a mudha, or an ass. This is an appropriate comparison since the donkey doesn’t know any better. If it did, it wouldn’t work so hard. The human being behaves similarly, even though they think they are independent. They voluntarily travel hours to the office each day, to sit in a tiny room and work so hard. They are so stressed when they get home that all they can think about is getting intoxicated and then sleeping the buzz off.

[birthday balloons]Fortunately, the human being has an advantage over the fish and the donkey. There is birth for all species. In the Vedic tradition, the first birth doesn’t get so much importance. We celebrate on our birthday, but everyone else was born on a particular day also. Today is someone’s birthday, so this means that today isn’t really that different from yesterday or tomorrow.

The human being has the chance for something called the second birth. This comes from meeting and accepting a spiritual guide. The guide shows the proper path, with the first steps dealing with vishaya. The student is taught to steer clear of worldly pleasures. Not that a person should go without food and sleep, but they should limit them. They should keep everything in moderation.

nāty-aśnatas 'tu yogo 'sti

na caikāntam anaśnataḥ

na cāti-svapna-śīlasya

jāgrato naiva cārjuna

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

We enter this world as mudhas, or fools. Because of this we think that worldly pleasures are full of taste. Tulsidas compares the taste to honey, which is sweet. The mudhas don’t realize that there is a much higher taste, something one hundred times sweeter than nectar. The guru shows the disciple how to both find and relish this taste.

Bhakti-rasa is one translation. This means the taste of pure devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Tulsidas worships God as Rama. Rama is both a personality and a description for the Almighty’s features. Rama means one who possesses transcendental pleasure. One who worships Rama properly gets to taste that pleasure, but the difficulty is in finding Him. Ensnared by the trap of maya, or illusion, one thinks that there is no God. They consider religion to be needless torture, something reserved for the less intelligent.

Spiritual life is for getting a higher taste. It is not merely for enjoying in the afterlife. It is not for standing above others and pointing the finger at them for their sinful ways. It is for enjoying something that is beyond description. This taste can only be experienced in full when one loses their taste for worldly pleasures.

[Lord Rama]In the modern age, the bona fide spiritual guide recommends the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This takes care of both sides. Chanting the holy names is a kind of austerity, especially when done as a routine. If you are chanting and hearing, then you are not engaged in sense gratification. This mantra has the names of Rama and Krishna in it, which are full of taste. Therefore through steady chanting attachment develops. Through the shelter of the holy name given by the benevolent spiritual master, the mudha transforms into a wise person who properly identifies what is full of taste and what isn’t.

In Closing:

As food the fish considering bait,

Not knowing trap with fisherman to wait.


Vishaya like everything in world of ours,

Like an enemy future hopes devours.


Only human species chance to be free,

With second birth, higher taste to see.


Chant holy names, attack on vishaya deploy,

At same time sweetness of bhakti enjoy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Always Count On Them To Do The Wrong Thing

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that the fool who finds worldly pleasures to be sweet like honey considers devotion to Rama to be bland, though it is actually one hundred times sweeter than nectar.” (Dohavali, 83)

tulasī jau lauṁ biṣaya kī mudhā mādhurī mīṭhi |
tau lauṁ sudhā sahastra sama rāma bhagati suṭhi sīṭhi ||83||

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Do you know someone who seems to make the wrong choice time after time? Even when the righteous path is obvious, where it is laid out right in front of them, even pointed out to them by a respectable figure - they go in the opposite direction. Instead of earning money by honest means, they’ll cheat and steal to get by. They don’t realize that the same intelligence that goes into cheating can be applied in a righteous endeavor, with superior results and less worry over getting caught.

There is the saying that if you put a bag of excrement in front of a person, they will step in it every time. Goswami Tulsidas makes a similar comparison, but to the material existence as a whole. He references the mudha, which translates to “fool.” The actual meaning is a donkey or an ass. The use of mudha is not accidental. The donkey doesn’t know that it doesn’t have to work so hard in order to eat. It gets paltry rewards dangled in front of it, used as incentive for work. The donkey lacks the intelligence to know that the incentive is worthless, since the same reward can be gotten without having to work so hard.

[donkey]In the same way the donkey-like human being finds worldly pleasures to be full of taste. To them it is like honey, but they don’t realize that there is a higher taste. The embodiment of the foolish mentality is illicit sex life. The man chases after the woman to have a thrill, and they think the resulting enjoyment is worth the effort. They don’t see all the negative consequences, how satisfying lust only gives rise to more lust. They don’t see the pain and heartache associated with the initial pursuit. Achieving the goal only leads to a new pursuit, and the cycle continues.

Tulsidas says that the mudha finds devotion to Rama to be tasteless. On one side material nature is offering something like a carrot, while on the other there is something like a full buffet featuring the best desserts. The fool thinks that the carrots taste better, even though on the other side there are carrots as well.

Nectar is the sweetest drink known to man, and Tulsidas says that devotion to Rama is one hundred times sweeter than nectar. One can only experience that sweetness if they give up attachment to worldly desires. It’s as if I have one hundred dollars in my hand and someone offers to give me one million dollars. Their lone stipulation is that I relinquish the one hundred dollars first.

[one hundred dollar bill]The fool won’t make this deal, likely due to skepticism. In religious life they see so much cheating and hypocrisy. They see that institutions are serving the needs of the administrators. They think the leaders are only interested in money, and therefore the message they share must be tainted with the same desires.

Bhakti for Rama is pure. It is not dependent on any institution or what anyone else has to say. It is something experienced on the inside through the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Shri Rama is God the person. Rama is also Krishna and He is also Vishnu. When His personal form gets hidden behind the transcendental light, He is known only as Brahman, which is seemingly without attributes. In the heart He is the Supersoul, which is a manifestation somewhere in between God the person and God the transcendental light.

The comparison made by Tulsidas appropriately puts bhakti on a level higher than any other kind of religion. The poet is not warning of eternal damnation. He is not promising material enjoyment in the heavenly realm. He is simply saying that there is a much higher taste to be found. That taste is there for the taking, but to be enjoyed fully one must relinquish the taste for worldly objects first.

This is easier said than done, but to get the process going one can chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Creating a routine of this practice provides time for steady concentration, where worldly pleasures automatically take a back seat. The more one chants, the more they experience the taste. The more they get that special thing that is sweeter than nectar, the more they find worldly pleasures to be tasteless. The famous Yamunacharya stated that after following bhakti-yoga he absolutely detested sex life.

“A practical example is given by Shri Yamunacharya, a great saint and devotee, who says: ‘Since my mind has been engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, and I have been enjoying an ever new transcendental humor, whenever I think of sex life with a woman, my face at once turns from it, and I spit at the thought.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.60 Purport)

[Rama's lotus feet]Sex life is the highest worldly pleasure, so such a turnaround can only take place if there is a superior taste. Tulsidas does not keep that taste a secret; he shows the way for any who are wise enough to listen with sincerity and an open-mind. The transformation doesn’t necessarily take place magically, but through the change in tastes one can experience how their consciousness is becoming purer.

In Closing:

Hundred dollar bill in hand one,

Exchange for one million to be done.


Only a fool this offer to reject,

That something to lose to expect.


Though so many things with taste,

Like an ass in material pursuits to waste.


Sweeter than nectar one hundred times,

Only in pure devotion to Rama to find.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Began Its Skin To Shed

[Rama's hand]“The path to love for Rama can only be found after one turns their back on worldly pleasures, like how the snake can only concentrate after having shed its skin, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 82)

rāma prēma patha pekhi'ai di'em̐ biṣaya tana pīṭhi |
tulasī ken̄curi parihareṁ hōta sām̐pehū dīṭhi ||82||

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“What is the value in science? If I study the nature around me, how much good will it actually do? For instance, say that I know how a snake acts. I learn the properties of venom and what to do if I accidentally get bitten by a snake. I learn about where the snake moves and what it looks for in food. I get all of this through scientific books, journals and television programs. What is the real benefit, though? I hardly ever go into the woods. Is there a better use of my time?”

Science or religion? Human perception or God? Practical experience or faith? In studying bhakti-yoga, which is the science of self-realization, one learns that there needn’t be such exclusivity. Just because you know science doesn’t mean that you have to eschew religion. If you come upon a discovery relating to something in nature, it doesn’t automatically disprove what you read in ancient books called the Vedas. As a Sanskrit word veda means “knowledge,” after all. If you know the Supreme very well, even your praise of Him becomes highly informative.

There is the example of the above referenced verse from the Dohavali. This was authored in the medieval period in India by a mendicant religious man known as Tulsidas. The name is given during the second birth, known as initiation with a spiritual guide. This specific name is a compound Sanskrit word. The suffix of “das” means servant. The first word of “tulasi” refers to a sacred plant.

There are life forms all around us. Life comes from life, and the essence of life is the soul. The soul is spiritual, while that which covers it is material. The material is made up of different ingredients, sort of like how the variety of colors are variations of three primary colors. The coverings to the soul are made up of combinations of the material modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.

This means that even a plant is a living being. The soul inside is not different from the soul inside of a human being. The same with a cat, a dog, an elephant and a cow. The souls are equal, while the coverings are not.


brāhmaṇe gavi hastini

śuni caiva śva-pāke ca

paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

[tulasi plant]The soul of the tulasi plant is special. It represents a divine being, a lady who is fixed in devotion to God the person. Therefore the name Tulsidas references a servant to someone who is very dear to God. In his service to his spiritual master, the disciple must have been so devoted to the tulasi plant that the guru gave him the name Tulsidas.

In this verse from the Dohavali, Tulsidas describes how to find the path of devotion to God the person. He says that one must first relinquish worldly desires. This is done by turning one’s back. If you’re at a concert and you don’t like the opening act, one way to voice your displeasure is to turn your back while they are playing. This is a kind of insult. You don’t even want to see them. We can do the same with worldly pleasures. Simply don’t engage them. Don’t even think about them. By so doing, the eyes clear up so that they can both see the path of devotion and understand its superiority to all other paths.

Tulsidas makes the comparison to the snake. He says that the snake sheds its skin in order to survive. The skin that is shed also covers the eyes. Therefore the snake needs to clear its eyes before it can see properly. It needs proper sight in order to survive, to find its prey. Without removing the skin, it has no idea where to go.

This reference combines science and nature. There needn’t be a separate endeavor. Through the path of devotion one gets all the knowledge they require. What they already know gets put to the best use as well. What need is there to know that a snake sheds its skin? Tulsidas knew this at a time when there wasn’t a nature channel. He didn’t specifically go out into the jungle to study all the different animals. What he heard in the course of life was sufficient. His knowledge of science was put to the best use in glorifying God, who is also known as Rama.

[Lord Rama]Actually, that is the best use of everything. We have this body for devotion. Used for any other purpose, the end result is misery. We have intelligence to use for convincing ourselves of the need to practice devotion. Through intelligence we can see the many species in the proper light. We can understand their properties and use that knowledge to further glorify Shri Rama, who is the source of everything.

In Closing:

To glorify the proper course,

Since Rama of everything the source.


Shedding skin also over the eyes,

The snake then to focus on prize.


Information to Tulsidas easily came,

Not needing channel of nature the name.


Science and philosophy, of both make use,

With intelligence on God heap praise profuse.