Saturday, October 3, 2015

Talking About What People Find Amazing

[Vishnu's lotus feet]“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)

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mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ

sūyate sa-carācaram

hetunānena kaunteya

jagad viparivartate

Friend1: In reading the books about bhakti philosophy and the history of it, I’ve noticed something peculiar.

Friend2: Just one thing? I would hope that everything is different. After all, if it were the same to what you’ve been fed your whole life, then something is wrong.

Friend1: Well, obviously the philosophy is new. I didn’t really understand God being a person before. I didn’t know that heaven and hell can be found in this world. Usually you hear about being condemned to hell if you don’t follow a specific religion.

Friend2: Yeah, my flippant response to that is, “If I have to listen to your nonsense, I must already be in hell. So what am I afraid of the afterlife for?”

Friend1: Those people are really annoying. They don’t realize how ridiculous they sound. No wonder others are left with such a negative impression of religion. It’s as if they are asked to willfully suspend intelligence and common sense.

Friend2: The less intelligent you are, the better off you’ll be, it seems. Don’t question anything. Don’t use your brain. Just blindly follow somebody, and that only because of fear. Anyway, what was it that you found peculiar?

Friend1: For this discussion, I’m juxtaposing other books on spirituality. Not on bhakti-yoga necessarily, but they have elements of Vedic culture in them. For instance, they might mention reincarnation, the illusion that is maya, and the purpose of life being for understanding God.

Friend2: Okay. This should be interesting.

Friend1: In these other books, you hear about all sorts of things that I’ll describe as “miracles,” for lack of a better word. Please don’t go into a lecture on what a miracle actually is, because I already know.

Friend2: Wow. I was about to interrupt you, too. Okay, I’ll use restraint.

Friend1: I’m not sure I can express this properly. To me it just seems weird that the authors find these events to be noteworthy enough to include. I mean I guess it’s cool to suddenly appear out of nowhere, to do amazing things with your body. But I don’t consider it to be so amazing.

Friend2: Why is that?

Friend1: Because I know that with mystic perfections you can do pretty much anything.

Friend2: And how do you get a mystic perfection?

Friend1: Umm, through mysticism? That’s pretty obvious.

Friend2: But what is mysticism?

[yoga]Friend1: Oh. It’s yoga, or a specific kind of it at least. If you do real yoga, not just the exercise routine, you can do amazing things like become very light, become very heavy, read minds, and predict the future.

Friend2: You’re wondering why the books on bhakti that you’ve read don’t describe these amazing things?

Friend1: Exactly. The personalities are heavy. They are gurus for a reason. I know that they can do amazing things. Yet none of that is emphasized. I think I know why, but I thought I would bring it up to you. I think I know why they’re not so concerned with people reading someone else’s mind.

Friend2: Let’s see what you have.

Friend1: It’s because of what I mentioned before. Mysticism isn’t all that special. What ordinary people find to be amazing the self-realized souls know to not be a big deal.

Friend2: Precisely. The wise would rather describe God, not the God-imitators. The Lord does truly amazing things. He can lift a massive hill and hold it up with the pinky finger on His left hand for seven days straight. He holds up all the planets in outer space without any effort. He empowers the sun with endless heat and light.

[Govardhana Hill]Friend1: And yet when you tell people that God does this, they won’t believe you. They’ll think it’s mythology.

Friend2: Yup. There’s that incident with the brahmana and the cobbler. Narada Muni met both of them prior to visiting the Supreme Lord Narayana. Narada returned to earth with a message for both of them. Narayana instructed Narada to tell them that He is threading the eye of a needle with an elephant.

Friend1: Oh, I think I heard this one. And by judging the reaction you could tell which one was wiser?

Friend2: More advanced; closer to liberation. The brahmana thought that Narada was making things up, while the cobbler accepted it immediately. The cobbler said something to the effect that a giant banyan tree comes from a tiny seed, so what is so unthinkable about Narayana threading a needle like that?

Friend1: That’s a good one. I think I was inherently thinking the same thing. What’s the big deal about a yogi doing something amazing with his mysticism? What are you really gaining? Why would you include something like that in your book? In fact, why would you prominently feature things like that in your book on spirituality?

Friend2: Because you don’t know God the person. You don’t know that He is all-attractive; the reason He’s addressed as Krishna. You don’t know that He is Yogeshvara, or the master of all mysticism. These other books remove God’s transcendental attributes. They make Him a nameless, faceless person. Yet the tendency to worship is there always, so they’re left to be amazed at things that aren’t worthy of attention.

Friend1:  Yeah. I think for now I’ll stick with the real thing.

In Closing:

Miracle yogis to me no appeal,

Rather safe sticking to God real.


The one who Govardhana lifted,

And liberation to faithful cobbler gifted.


Who all worlds easily creates,

Whose supremacy Vedic literature states.


That Krishna, the all-attractive one,

Yogeshvara, an equal to Him none.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Realize You’re Living In The Golden Years

[worshiping the deity]“In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Vishnu tells Shiva that in the age of Kali, men full of anxieties of various kinds can vainly labor in fruitive activity and philosophical speculations, but when they are engaged in devotional service, the result is sure and certain, and there is no loss of energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.12 Purport)

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People don’t live for one hundred thousand years. They can’t go into the forest and meditate for so long that an anthill forms around them, unbeknownst to them. They can’t perform elaborate religious sacrifices, wherein the quantity of clarified butter offered would fill hundreds of warehouses of today’s large retail chains. People can’t perform deity worship on even an adequate level, where the deity is treated like it has indeed descended from the Vaikuntha realm.

In this age of Kali, dharma is down to one leg. Dharma is the essential characteristic of something, and when you take that one thing that persists throughout time and the various changes to matter, dharma becomes the eternal engagement. The soul is what counts most, and it has an essential characteristic. Through false identifications and ignorance that essential characteristic appears to be lost. Therefore sometimes the Supreme descends Himself to personally help the fallen recover their true identity.

evaṁ paramparā-prāptam

imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ

sa kāleneha mahatā

yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)

The essential characteristic of the spirit soul is to serve. The corresponding object of service is the Supreme Spirit. Thus dharma for me and you is service to God. The same dharma is there for the birds, trees, and aquatics as well, but it is not possible for them to follow religious principles. Dharma is also a system of virtue, since it helps to regain and maintain the essential characteristic within.

[pizza]In the times in which we currently live, dharma stands on only one leg, a wobbly one at that. Evidence of the fact is all around. Who would have ever thought that a person would base their identity on sexual preference? It is like looking in the mirror and declaring that my preference for eating pizza is what defines my existence. The animals follow their instincts for eating, sleeping, mating and defending. They don’t know any better, so they don’t even have a form of identification. Any person who bases their identity off animal instincts is fully under the cloud of ignorance.

How do we return to better times? How do we find the golden years, where everything is good? It obviously can’t be found today, right? There is strife everywhere. In industrialized nations even the average poor person has a house, a car, a mobile telephone and a flat-screen television. Yet the sole focus is on eliminating this kind of poverty. The pursuit is akin to ridding the world of down. Down is a position relative to something else, namely up. Poverty is similarly relative. It is determined by opulence. The only way to eliminate the losers is to get rid of the winners. Even then there is no happiness.

It might be comforting to know that the golden years are right now. When the consciousness gets changed for the better, any situation is like living in the best moment. In ages past the road to self-realization required difficult things like meditation, sacrifice and elaborate deity worship. These things cannot be replicated today, though their effectiveness is the same. The process recommended for the present age known as Kali is the chanting of the holy names.

This chanting is most effective in this age. Therefore we live in a time where a simple sound vibration is so powerful that it restores the three broken legs of dharma. Just by hearing “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” the lost occupation gets reclaimed. The eternal engagement of sanatana-dharma becomes the way of life.

[Lord Chaitanya]The person who reinstates the golden age is golden in complexion Himself. He is known as Gauranga. He is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the most munificent avatara of the Supreme, as proclaimed by the venerable Rupa Gosvami. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu delivers the fallen souls by freely distributing krishna-prema, or love for God. He empowers others to follow in His line. To this day they continue to follow His lead. They increase the luster of the golden age, where chanting can be done effectively in any situation, by any person. Not everyone may be allowed in temples where God the person is worshiped. Not everyone is equipped to meditate in yoga positions, retreating to a desolate place. Not everyone can worship in a formal setting on a regular basis.

Yet any person can chant the holy names. This means that any person can find liberation very easily in this age. Though the process is easy, accepting the path is not. If it were, then everyone would be engaged in devotional service to God. Nonetheless, the lack of mass acceptance is no impediment. The golden age is truly that since the effort in devotional service pays off. The success of the devotee is guaranteed by the Lord Himself, who is identical to devotion to Him.

In Closing:

Hardly real religion to see,

Dharma losing legs three.


Standing today on only one,

Still age can become a golden one.


Made Mahaprabhu’s mercy through,

Krishna-prema given to me and you.


His followers working unceasing,

Luster of the golden age increasing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Evergreen Philosophy

[Vedic books]“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)

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acchedyo 'yam adāhyo 'yam

akledyo 'śoṣya eva ca

nityaḥ sarva-gataḥ sthāṇur

acalo 'yaṁ sanātanaḥ

Question: “What is the relevance of Krishna consciousness today? The world is completely different from the time of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Vedas are profound philosophy; there is no doubt about this. But can words spoken to disciples living thousands of years ago have applicability in a time where inquisitive minds are hooked to smartphones and social media websites? In the upheaval of the modern day, what effectiveness can bhakti-yoga really have?”

It is natural to think that a certain philosophy has limited effectiveness. This is due to the ever-changing nature of the world we live in. As an example, the people of the country can rebel against what they consider to be tyranny from the government. They decide to come up with a new system of government, one especially meant to safeguard against aggressiveness from the people in power.

With the passing of years, the situation changes. New problems emerge, ones that the original rules for government didn’t foresee. The cry against tyranny isn’t necessarily applicable anymore, as the government has other problems. Therefore a new philosophy is tried. The old rules are rewritten, and the cycle begins anew.

[Constitution]It’s tempting to think that bhakti-yoga has the same limitations. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates bhakti-yoga as “Krishna consciousness.” Krishna is a name for God, “the all-attractive one.” Consciousness is a match for the term “yoga,” which is the linking of the individual soul to the Supreme Soul. Krishna is that superior soul; a singular entity, though seemingly divided. His influence is spread everywhere, as He is present within every single body. There is oneness in the individual soul’s presence too, as spirit animates all living things. Spirit comes from Krishna, which means that there is unity in the division.

sarva-bhūteṣu yenaikaṁ

bhāvam avyayam īkṣate

avibhaktaṁ vibhakteṣu

taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikam

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

When you mention a personality named Krishna and describe His transcendental features, such as His bluish complexion, it sounds like you’re talking about religion. If you’re in the realm of religion, it’s safe to assume that you’re dealing with faith. Faith changes, and it is not uniform. Each person has their own faith. So how can a faith coming from thousands of years back have applicability today?

[Lord Krishna]In fact, Krishna consciousness is the science of God. Just as the material nature has inviolable laws that we live under, so the highest being and His many sparks can be understood through properties that cannot be removed from the objects in question. Bhakti-yoga is the science of self-realization. The self never changes. A thousand years ago the people may have spoken a different language and they may not have had electricity and advanced machinery, but they still were souls at the core. They still underwent birth and death and everything in between.

The foundational teaching of the science of self-realization is the difference between matter and spirit. You are not your body. I am not mine, either. We look different because the covering known as matter is different. In some people there is more intelligence and in others more strength. Some people have more compassion and others get angry more quickly. Spirit is found in all species; which means that the animals are just like us too. They have a different covering, one which doesn’t allow them to do things that we can. The dog can’t talk and the cat can’t develop routines in a programming language. By the same token, we can’t fly through the air like the bird or live in arctic temperatures like the penguin.

[penguins]The knowledge that we are spirit is relevant in any time period. It is always beneficial to know your real identity. Whether I am living in a remote cave or a congested city, to know that I am spirit soul will help me immensely. From that knowledge, I can gain further insight into the nature of the world I live in. I can understand that I never actually die. As a soul, I continue to live on. I’ve lived before in the period known as childhood. After death, I will live again in a new body.

The soul persists through the time continuum and so does the Supersoul. As the knowledge in the science of self-realization is the most valuable gem to be discovered by the intelligent human mind, so too the Supreme Lord remains ever fresh and attractive. The Vedas describe Him as nava-yauvanam, which means that His transcendental body always appears to be in the stage of youth. He never grows old, as seen on the battlefield of Kurukshetra when He delivered the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. This occurred over one hundred years after Krishna emerged from the womb of Devaki.

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]That conversation has relevance today and it will continue to be valuable going forward. Any other philosophy is limiting. The material is dull and lifeless. The senses get tired of interacting with the material; hence the constant shifting from one interest to another. Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, and through Him the senses interact in a spiritual way. That interaction is the height of an existence in any time period, for any living being.

In Closing:

Not just for ancient people seen,

Philosophy of bhakti is evergreen.


Matter and soul difference between,

And equality of all living beings.


Unlike philosophies others the rest,

That fail the time’s passage test.


Like Krishna of beautiful complexion blue,

Science to connect with Him ever fresh and new.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Finding The One Among Thousands

[deity worship]“There are various grades of men, and out of many thousands one may be sufficiently interested in transcendental realization to try to know what is the self, what is the body, and what is the Absolute Truth. Generally mankind is simply engaged in the animal propensities, namely eating, sleeping, defending and mating, and hardly anyone is interested in transcendental knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3 Purport)

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“If you love someone, why would you want to have a discussion about them with a person who is inimical? There is no way for that person to understand your feelings. They don’t know about the one you love. The result of the conversation can only be negative. From the bad experience, you’re left in a position worse than from where you started. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the feelings to yourself? What purpose is served in discussing the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the open?”

A central teaching of bhakti-yoga philosophy is the oneness shared between the holy name and the person it addresses. Basically, the name Krishna is identical to the person Krishna. The person Krishna is God further defined, going past the veil of abstraction found in practically every spiritual tradition and philosophy conjured up in the mind of the flawed human being.

Realizing the true potency of the holy name is difficult; therefore some rules help to make the realization a reality. There are ten offenses to avoid while chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In the enumerated list, the ninth offense is to speak to a faithless person about the glories of the Lord. This makes sense, as the person who is set in their ways of materialism will not understand what a transcendental form is. They won’t appreciate the person who should be appreciated the most. There is no benefit to the worshiper in having such dealings.

[Mahabharata]At the same time, those who follow bhakti-yoga are known to produce volumes and volumes of literature. This is not a practice developed only recently, either. Vedic literature is famous for the Mahabharata, which is epic in length. The Ramayana is also quite lengthy as far as religious works go. But to those in the know, these works are not long enough, for the glories of the Supreme Lord are endless. Though the Sanskrit word veda means “knowledge,” the actual definition to the Vedas and Vedic literature are those hymns, verses and descriptions that glorify God. As He is infinite in both directions of time, there is never an end to His glories. Krishna is ananta, or endless, and anadi, or beginning-less.

If so much literature is available, how is the ninth offense to be avoided? Won’t faithless persons get their hands on these books? Shouldn’t distribution of these works be restricted to only the faithful?

Actually, those who love God have no interest in speaking about Him to the faithless. They are not interested in wasting time, but they push on regardless. In the modern age sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names, is the principal method of awakening the dormant God consciousness within the society at large.

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu

kaścid yatati siddhaye

yatatām api siddhānāṁ

kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says if you were to take thousands of people, among them perhaps one would try for spiritual advancement. And in that exclusive group, hardly anyone would know Krishna in truth. Sankirtana is meant for finding these one among thousands. After all, if such a person is rare, should they not be given the most important information? Should they not be rewarded for their endeavor, which is the true boon to having intelligence?

The science of self-realization that is bhakti-yoga and the sincere transcendentalist make the perfect pair. It is after an interest is seen that the wealth of knowledge of the glories of God gets revealed. We live in the age of Kali, which is known for quarrel, hypocrisy and a practically nonexistent religious culture. Therefore it is unavoidable that the faithless would get their hands on classic Vedic literature. Like a monkey trying to open a coconut, these speculators and enemies of the Lord can never understand who He really is. Though they hear about Him directly in these ancient books, they fail to reach the proper conclusion.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Yet the sincere transcendentalist, who has exhausted all efforts in seeking gain in eating, sleeping, mating and defending, gets favored by the inspired devotee of Krishna. It is as if they make it to the final stage of the tournament and get rewarded with a superior coach to help them achieve victory. Such is the value of the Vaishnava, who is as glorious as the person they worship, Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

Offenses in chanting one to state,

That not to speak to he without faith.


Keeping one among thousands in mind,

How that fortunate soul then to find?


Sankirtana-yajna the way,

Since fallen are all today.


Like at end from superior coach to hear,

Through Vaishnava Krishna’s identity to become clear.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Five Things I Can’t See Because Of Maya

[King Yudhishthira]"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?" (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)

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The person new to the science of self-realization that is bhakti-yoga hears a few key terms quite often. One of them is “maya.” This word translates to “illusion,” but there is a lot more to it than that. As is the case with all energies, maya originates from the highest being, the singular divine entity who is responsible for the creation, maintenance and destruction of everything we see. He is typically addressed as God, someone who is loved, hated, or completely forgotten by the many sons and daughters roaming the universes.

The energy known as maya is not inherently ill-motivated. It is not trying to punish. It is acting at the direction of God, who is all-merciful and kind. He does not force anyone to love Him. Maya facilitates the desire to forget. The original sin, if you will, is this decision, made so long ago that we can’t even remember. Maya is there to maintain the illusion, to keep us from seeing so many important things.

1. The changing bodies.

Reincarnation looks like a neat idea believed in by the population in the Eastern countries, but it can be demystified quite quickly. There’s much more to it than getting punished with birth in a lower species in the next life for sinful activity in this life. Reincarnation is the changing of bodies. We should be able to notice this all the time, as the shift from boyhood to youth and then to old age is the most obvious proof of reincarnation.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

[the changing bodies]That we have to cut our hair and nails is further evidence. Our identity remains the same throughout. We don’t get a new name after a haircut. An athlete who starred many years prior still gets adulation due to what they did. They get called the greatest of all-time, but what are they doing at the present? If they are so great, why can’t they perform as well right now? The reason is the changing body. The identity remains the same, though. The same concept is applied to future lives, but due to the illusion of maya these things are difficult to see.

2. My eventual death.

There was a famous king in ancient times known as Yudhishthira. He was the son of the god of justice, Yamaraja. In a conversation he had with his father one time, Yudhishthira responded to a question about what he thought was the most amazing thing. The king’s answer was that even though people see so many others die, including loved ones close to them, they never think it will happen to them.

This can only be due to maya. Illusion doesn’t work on just what we see right now. Another one of its weapons is forgetfulness. We are grief stricken upon the loss of a loved one, but eventually we forget. We don’t think the same will happen to us. Or if we do, we try to forget about it. We act as if we are never going to die.

3. My true identity.

The first instruction taught to aspiring students in the Vedic tradition is “aham brahmasmi.” The literal translation is “I am Brahman.” Translating further, we get, “I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord.” The maintained identity mentioned previously with respect to the changing bodies is the spirit soul. My identity is as Brahman, which is imperishable.

avināśi tu tad viddhi

yena sarvam idaṁ tatam

vināśam avyayasyāsya

na kaścit kartum arhati

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)

If my true identity is spirit, what is my body then? It is part of the material nature. It is a collection of gross elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The part of the body we can’t see consists of subtle elements: mind, intelligence and false ego. That entire body is a product of maya since it creates the illusion of identification. I identify with my body instead of the soul within. This is a terrible mistake and it is the cause of the torturous existence we experience.

4. The equality of all beings.

If maya prevents me from knowing my identity, it also keeps me from knowing who others are. I don’t see that there is an animating force within all species, not just the human. Due to maya’s influence I kill others without regret. Sense gratification, which is also due to maya, drives me to seek enjoyment at any cost. Though the animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends just like the human, I make silly excuses like saying they are lower life forms that man has dominion over. The parents have dominion over the children, but this doesn’t mean the children are killed for food.


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)

The lack of knowledge of equality of spirit is also what leads to discrimination against races, genders and religions. Everyone is struggling through the same journey of life. They are all victims of the same maya, so they are under illusion from the start of life. We are able to predict how others will behave because of similarities. If someone hurts me with abusive words, I should know that others can be hurt in the same way. Yet maya makes me forget.

5. The Supreme Lord and His all-attractive personal form.

If I can’t see my true identity and the changing of bodies, how am I going to notice God? His presence is actually everywhere. Both spirit and matter have a source. This means that the presence of any created object is evidence of the creator. One should be able to see God at every second, but maya blurs the vision from noticing.

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo

mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate

iti matvā bhajante māṁ

budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

Maya continues to act even on those who gain some knowledge of the science of spirit. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada reveals that the last snare of maya is the false idea of oneness with the divinity. The first snare is identification with the body. Escape comes from knowledge of the difference between matter and spirit. But maya continues to act, and so the spiritualist has a difficult time conceiving of the Supreme Lord. They think He is impersonal, that anyone can merge into Him through enough meditation and detachment from the phenomenal world.

[Lord Krishna]The Supreme Lord is originally a person. He is all-attractive in His transcendental features. He is known as Bhagavan since He possesses all opulences in full. The greatest shame in being a victim of maya is not being able to see and worship Bhagavan.

From connecting with God the person directly, everything gets taken care of. The requisite knowledge and detachment arrive automatically. It is for this reason that the wise teachers recommend the path of bhakti-yoga for all people, regardless of how strong they are swayed by maya. By the sound of the Lord alone, one can begin to break free of illusion and enter the truth of light: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

From maya’s influence greatest shame,

That vision of attractive God not to gain.


So many other things not to see,

Like how others all equal to me.


Though living death eventually to come,

Experienced but keeping awareness none.


Through devotion nature of maya turn,

Into a benefit true enlightenment earn.

Monday, September 28, 2015

You’ve Got The Touchstone

[Lord Shiva]“With folded hands Tulsi asks Lord Shiva for the blessing that birth after birth he belong only to Rama, be related to Him, have love for Him and receive love from Him.” (Dohavali, 89)

nāto nāte rāma ke rāma sanehum̐ sanehu |
tulasī mām̐gata jori kara janama janama siva dehu ||89||

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If you worship Lord Shiva, can you get devotion? The highest reward according to the followers of the bhakti tradition is bhakti itself. Everything else will eventually fade. You can’t bring fame with you to a future life. In this lifetime you can transfer your bank balance from one institution to another, but at the time of death the money doesn’t carry forward. It doesn’t roll over into the next life.

Bhakti is for lifetime after lifetime. The object of devotional practices protects the investment of the devotee. The benediction can come from any devotee, regardless of their temporary position. Lord Shiva is in a high position of power. He rules over the material mode of darkness, or ignorance. His worshipers are thus usually in that mode; they are given the chance to advance in consciousness through Mahadeva’s association. Lord Shiva also destroys the universe at the appropriate time.

He can also grant devotion. This was shown one time when a brahmana approached the great god to receive the best benediction. There wasn’t anything specific mentioned. In the case of those in the modes of passion and ignorance, Lord Shiva grants specific things that they ask for. As an example, one time an asura name Vrika asked for the benediction to be able to kill anyone simply by touching their head. Lord Shiva granted this boon, not caring about how it would be used.

This particular brahmana simply asked for whatever would be considered the best benediction. Lord Shiva advised him to seek out Sanatana Gosvami, who is a famous saint of the Vaishnava tradition. Sanatana Gosvami was living like a true sannyasi at the time, with little in his possession. When the brahmana approached him, Sanatana advised him to take a touchstone. This would magically turn iron into gold. It wasn’t a single use item, either. In fact, there is nothing so magical about it, as the transformation is simply a shifting of the material elements. Those elements represent the inferior energy of God.

“The brahmana said, ‘Yes, sir. Lord Shiva has sent me to you for the best benediction.’ Then Sanatana Gosvami asked him to throw the touchstone in the water nearby and then come back. The poor brahmana did so, and when he returned, Sanatana Gosvami initiated him with the Hare Krishna mantra.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.7.6 Purport)

[Sanatana Gosvami]On the way towards retrieving the touchstone, the brahmana had a thought. “If this chintamani is so important, why isn’t Sanatana keeping it for himself? There must be something of greater value in his possession.” Returning to the sannyasi, the brahmana was then given the true highest benediction, initiation into the bhakti tradition. Thus through Lord Shiva the brahmana got the real touchstone, which turned his materialistic ways into purity in consciousness.

In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas approaches the same Mahadeva. He doesn’t ask for anything material. He asks that in birth after birth he have pure devotion to Rama, who is the object of bhakti. That pure devotion is defined as belonging only to Rama, having relations only with Him, giving love to Him and receiving love from Him. The poet already had these things in his life, as he renounced everything and spent every moment in bhakti. He kindly asked Lord Shiva to ensure that the same existed in the future. This request is not necessary, but it shows that Lord Shiva has the power and the touch to grant the highest reward of an existence.

[Lord Shiva]Despite the majority of his worshipers seeking material rewards, when a person is wise enough to seek out the husband of Uma for something better, they get it. Lord Shiva does not lie to them. He has nothing to gain from hiding the path of devotion that he himself is firmly fixed in. Despite dutifully carrying out the role assigned to him by Rama, Lord Shiva is untouched. He is not tainted by material desires, and for this reason he is eligible to lead one of the four principal bhakti sampradayas, or disciplic successions, in the modern age. The prayer of Tulsidas gives evidence as to why Mahadeva is known as the greatest Vaishnava.

In Closing:

On Rama’s feet in meditative state,

Of all Vaishnavas, Shiva the most great.


When once asking for benediction the best,

Sent to Sanatana, passing touchstone’s test.


Through his grace, inner devotion to arise,

Follows it himself, to others nothing to hide.


Tulsi asking for pure love, no material gain,

Approaching Uma’s husband, sure to maintain.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

How To Rescue For Many Lifetimes

[Lord Rama's lotus feet]“With folded hands Tulsi asks Lord Shiva for the blessing that birth after birth he belong only to Rama, be related to Him, have love for Him and receive love from Him.” (Dohavali, 89)

nāto nāte rāma ke rāma sanehum̐ sanehu |
tulasī mām̐gata jori kara janama janama siva dehu ||89||

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If you invent something great, it can have lasting importance. As a simple example, if in a rural town you build a well, it can help the people for a long time. Not only your contemporaries, but future generations also will use the well to get water. People who may never know about you, completely unaware of your gift to the community they will continue to reap the benefits. Here Goswami Tulsidas asks for a boon to last birth after birth, and the person he approaches has a special way of delivering.

How do I connect the present to the past? How about the future to the present? Is there a way to maintain something through time? Obviously a physical object will do. If I have a thought right now, I can jot it down on a piece of paper. If I consult that paper many years down the line, it is my way of connecting to the past. The words alone can bring me back.

Lord Shiva does something similar. He speaks of the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Rama. The person hearing is his beautiful and chaste wife Parvati. She is an attentive listener, making Shiva all the more eager to continue speaking. She asks intelligent questions when there are any doubts, and her husband is more than happy to explain things until there is clarity.

That conversation then gets passed on in the system of disciplic succession. In that chain a most capable writer appears, who shares the same love for Shri Rama. That writer then decides to show respect to the original conversation in the best way he can. He crafts a lengthy poem in the language of the people of his time. That poem is so popular that it gets commonly mistaken for the original accounts of Shri Rama’s life in this world, penned in ancient times by the ascetic Valmiki.

[Ramacharitamanasa]The poet we speak of is Goswami Tulsidas, whose prayer to Lord Shiva is referenced above. Tulsidas asks to have love for the Supreme Lord in birth after birth. He wants a few other related things. He asks that he receive love back from Rama, i.e. God’s mercy. He wants his main relation to be with Rama and for Rama to consider him His. Lord Shiva can deliver these most important things, and so the poet approaches with folded hands.

The irony is that Tulsidas himself delivers this boon to countless generations. The people living in his time could access his Ramacharitamanasa and develop love for Rama. The Vedas are also known as the shrutis, which means “that which is heard.” Simply by hearing of the glories of God one can develop love for Him. Hearing about Rama is important because it gives more details into the nature of the Supreme Lord. God the person is easier to understand than God the bright light. God roaming the earth with a bow and arrow set, ready to protect the innocent, makes more sense than God the old man, sitting in the sky, angrily waiting to dole out punishment to the sinners.

Hearing is also known as shravanam in Sanskrit. This is one of the nine methods of bhakti-yoga, which is the explicit practice of devotion to God the person. In the beginning you practice love and devotion, and eventually it becomes who you are. Any of the nine methods is sufficient for making the transformation. Hearing is the simplest, and it doesn’t require much. Just sacrifice some time. Take a seat with the great god, Mahadeva, and hear from him in great detail about both the objective, God, and the means for achieving Him.

The prayer of Tulsidas is also a way to tell if the transformation has been completed. The basic question is, “What do you want?” Is it material rewards? Do you want money? Do you want fame? Even in religious life, there can be impure devotion. Do you want to be as opulent as God, free from the pangs of a material existence? Do you want to merge into the attributeless light of Truth that is Brahman? Do you want mystic power?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, pure devotion has not yet been reached. If all you want is relations with God, where you can love Him and receive His mercy back, then you are completely pure. You have rescued yourself for birth after birth. You have also rescued the past generations in your family. The Supreme Lord Himself gave validation on this issue when speaking to the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja.

[Lord Rama]Through your devotion you can rescue future generations as well. This is the power of love, the true definition of it. Though Mahadeva grants boons to materialistic worshipers, he can grant liberation as well. He does this more subtly. To those who die in his sacred city of Kashi, he whispers the name of Rama in their ear. To those who take birth again in the material world, for whatever reason, he passes down his conversation to Parvati about Rama. Thus Mahadeva’s true mercy is reserved for those who pray like Tulsidas.

In Closing:

Gift now for others to give,

But how in future with benefit to live?


Example of Mahadeva take,

How rescuing boat for others to make.


Just a conversation had with wife,

Discussing bhakti to Rama, meaning of life.


Tulsidas in the same line descending,

Shiva’s mercy to population extending.