Saturday, October 10, 2015

Talking About Equating The Unlimited With The Limited

[Lord Vishnu being worshiped]“One should know the Lord as much as can be known by our limited knowledge. It is impossible for the Lord to be known perfectly as He is, even by such liberated persons as Shiva or Brahma, so what to speak of other demigods or men in this world. Still, by following the principles of the great devotees and the instructions available in the scriptures, one can know to a considerable extent the features of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.3 purport)

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Friend1: Can you clarify the reason behind the existence of different religions again?

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: I’m just wondering.

Friend2: Someone press you about it?

Friend1: It comes up a lot. I notice that people are reluctant to accept the truths of the Bhagavad-gita right away.

Friend2: What’s so difficult to accept?

Friend1: The stuff about reincarnation and karma is fine. The same goes for being detached and not worrying about the outcome to actions. But it’s the surrendering to Krishna part. That sounds sectarian. People will say that their religion says to surrender to someone else.

Friend2: Oh, okay. I see what you’re asking now.

Friend1: And then you get the “all religions are the same” argument thrown into the mix.

Friend2: Well, the starting premise is that all religions acknowledge God. That is what makes religion distinct from atheism.

Friend1: Yeah. Theism implies a deity.

[religions]Friend2: So there really shouldn’t be any controversy here. We’re saying that Krishna is the God your religion speaks of.

Friend1: But what is the proof?

Friend2: What proof do they have that it’s not true? We have the complete knowledge that is the Vedas. We have the five important topics of the living entity, the supreme controller, time, karma and the material nature. These are discussed in depth by Krishna. The same speaker shows the universal form to Arjuna to dispel any doubts, though Arjuna really didn’t have any on this matter.

Friend1: That’s a lot of detail there.

[the universal form]Friend2: Exactly. The descriptions of Krishna are unlimited. The Vedas are actually glorifications of God. That is why Vedic literature expands infinitely. New people are constantly entering the discipline and realizing the Supreme and then sharing their experiences. The realizations occur through accepting authorized practices and implementing principles that aren’t concocted in the mind.

Friend1: But the more you refer to God as a person, the more people will consider it to be sectarianism. Shouldn’t we be respectful of others?

Friend2: Who is saying that we’re not respectful? Krishna is very kind; He allows people to understand Him in an abstract way if they want. That is the impersonal effulgence known as Brahman. This idea of loving everyone and treating them equally is a form of appreciating Brahman. The people may not know what to call this realization, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from telling them.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: It’s as if you want first graders and college students to be equal in intelligence. You want the people with more knowledge to admit that their understanding is no different than people with less knowledge.

Friend1: That’s kind of a snobby attitude, don’t you think?

Friend2: Can the unlimited ever be equal to the limited?

Friend1: Is that a trap?

Friend2: No. It’s a simple question.

Friend1: The obvious answer is “no.”

Friend2: Exactly. So if one side has only a limited understanding of God, who is the object of religion, then why should another side hide what they do know about the Supreme?

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Especially if the side with more information knows that learning about Krishna and being conscious of Him is the way to solve all the problems of life. Imagine if everyone agreed that God is a person. Imagine if everyone wanted to serve Him with love. You would still have conflict, but it wouldn’t be as bad as things are today. Those with limited understanding would be treated with compassion, helped along the path to increasing that understanding.

Friend1: The unlimited can help the limited; not the other way around.

Friend2: Correct. We are born limited. We have to be taught so many things by the elders. It is for this reason that the Sanskrit word “guru” applies not only to teachers, but to parents as well. You’re supposed to respect your parents because they know better, at least at the beginning of life. The spiritual master is also a guru because they give you the second and more important life.

Friend1: I take it that you don’t think these interfaith conferences are helpful?

Friend2: That the different groups can get their message across is a positive thing. It’s always better if people talk in a peaceful manner, to exchange ideas.

Friend1: Yeah, that’s what I like too.

Friend2: But again, the premise of the whole thing is to equate the unlimited with the limited. No good comes from that. If someone who got a failing grade in the class gets promoted along with someone who got a passing grade, you’re not helping either party. The first should stay until they have learned to a satisfactory level and the second will be justified in thinking that their studying was a waste of time.

Friend1: So what is the way to get everyone together?

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: Increase their understanding. Be more than sentimental. Understand that God is more than just an abstract. The Supreme Lord is one who manifests in many ways; there is no denying that. If you say you have your own God, then worship Him. But if you don’t know much about your own God, have an open mind to learn about Him. The Supreme Lord is not the exclusive property of any sect. He is for both the sage Agastya and the warrior Arjuna. He is for the dairy farmer Nanda and the servant Sumantra. He is even for the vulture Jatayu and the monkey Sugriva. By saying that God is a person, we are not excluding anyone from worship. Rather, we are including everyone. The Vedas are inclusive.

In Closing:

With sentiment God to adore,

But beyond concept there is more.


A person with features is He,

All-attractive that others can see.


That all faiths equal wrong to state,

Since unlimited with limited to equate.


Understanding increase for together to bring,

Holy names open for all to sing.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Talking About Wanting To Save The World

[Krishna with parrot]“A Vaishnava is described as para-duhkha-duhkhi because although he is never distressed in any condition of life, he is distressed to see others in a distressed condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.6.47)

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Friend1: Do you ever think about how bad some people have it?

Friend2: Yes. I think about it all the time.

Friend1: No, I mean the people who are really in a bad situation. Like those living in poverty stricken countries. Then there are those who are stuck in the middle of a war. I can’t imagine living through that.

Friend2: It is sad, indeed. There is no doubt about the difficulty.

Friend1: Yes, I know what you’re going to say, that everyone in this world is struggling. Both the poor person and the rich person have struggles; just on the surface they appear different.

Friend2: Anyone who is in the material consciousness is “needy.” There are the needy who require food and there are the needy who require a higher taste, something beyond the dualities found in the material existence.

Friend1: Bhakti-yoga is the answer. Realization of the self is what brings true peace. That peace can be found from within; you don’t have to be rich to get it.

Friend2: Exactly. Everyone wants this peace but hardly anyone is willing to accept the formula to get it.

Friend1: I’m glad you said that. It’s sort of where I was going with the feeling bad for people. If you are concerned with how people are wasting their time in drinking, sports, work, school and the like, and you want them to find the supreme bliss that is surrender and devotion to the Supreme Lord - is that a material desire?

Friend2: What’s your definition of material desire?

Friend1: Kama. That’s the Sanskrit word for it. I know that kama gets translated to want, desire or lust depending on the context.

[pizza]Friend2: That’s good. Yeah, kama relates to the body. Something like considering eating pizza for dinner is a want. To hanker after something is desire. To want to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord, taking His property and not acknowledging His kindness, that is lust. In the higher picture, all three translations are identical.

Friend1: If my desire is to save someone on the spiritual platform, is that kama?

Friend2: No.

Friend1: But what if I have such an intense hankering for it that it makes me sad?

Friend2: I think I see where you’re going with this.

Friend1: In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna mentions several times how the wise person remains detached. They don’t get too high or too low. He even says that such a person is dear to Him.

yasmān nodvijate loko

lokān nodvijate ca yaḥ


mukto yaḥ sa ca me priyaḥ

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

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: What if I get unsteady in distress by thinking about how people are struggling in this world? I want them to be genuinely happy. This is not about improving my standing in the eyes of others. I don’t care if I get the credit for rescuing people. I just know that bhakti-yoga will work for them. I can see how they’re already serving so many things and people. I can see how it’s not making them happy. I know that if they turn that service propensity, which is their dharma, in the right direction they will get everything they’ve been looking for.

Friend2: Well, you have to remember that the same principles apply no matter what type of work you’re doing.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: When you’re doing your job, you’re supposed to remain detached from the outcome. This is the wise choice. If you get too caught up in the results, it means you’re under the sway of ignorance. The wise person knows that the living entity is not the doer. Only when a person is under the grips of the modes of nature do they consider themselves to be the doer.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni

guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ


kartāham iti manyate

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

Friend1: By worrying about bringing people to the transcendental consciousness, I’m essentially attached to the results?

Friend2: And you’re thinking yourself the doer. Independence is dynamic. This means that you can’t control someone else’s independence. If they’re choosing against God, and thus assuring themselves of reincarnation going forward, you can’t force them out of it. You can try your best to give them the shelter of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. You can give them sound advice pertaining to their true identity, should they be willing to hear it. You can go the extra mile and more, but the results are still out of your hands.

Friend1: That’s true. Good point.

[Lord Krishna with cow]Friend2: Think of it this way. Even the Supreme Lord doesn’t force everyone back to Him. He certainly wants all His children to be happy. But forcing them would invalidate the independence. Without independence, there cannot be love. If anyone were to lament, it would be the all-attractive God, Shri Krishna. Yet we know that He is atmarama, or self-satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, having compassion for others is good. Wanting to save them is certainly not a material desire. But if you get too caught up in the results, then you’re forgetting about the nature of action. You’re thinking that you are God, when even He doesn’t force people to come back to Him.

In Closing:

Vaishnava distressed to see,

When others in painful condition to be.


Wanting desperately rescue to give,

So that in true happiness they’ll live.


But results ultimately out of hand,

Known when independence to understand.


Action through choice can take,

But guaranteed outcome cannot make.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Five Things To Know About Everything That Exists

[Vishnu creating]“Everything that exists is a product of matter and spirit. Spirit is the basic field of creation, and matter is created by spirit. Spirit is not created at a certain stage of material development. Rather, this material world is manifested only on the basis of spiritual energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6 Purport)

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How to make sense of this world? We emerge from the womb totally helpless. The experience is factual; we know this from the authority of our parents. Yet we can’t remember any of it. If not for that time, we wouldn’t have developed into who we are today. If we weren’t protected in the womb for nine months, this current existence would be out of the question.

Everyone else shares the same experience. We can consult with older people about what to expect in the future. We can give guidance to the younger ones since we have more experience. Yet does anybody know what’s really going on? Why are we here? Why is everyone different? Even identical twins have separate identities. They work off their own desires. In this world there is struggle over land, power, fame and money.

Even in a place that shouldn’t have conflict, people find ways. It appears as if they are trying to get offended. They proclaim to have a certain preference with respect to enjoyment. Then if anyone makes a negative comment about that preference, that person is labeled an offender. They are a bigot. They are intolerant. But they’re just expressing their preference. What is the harm in that? Life is much bigger than someone’s tiny little cause.

[tiger]What do we make of this life? We’re bewildered by the behavior of the human species. There is the animal kingdom to consider as well. Some animals need to kill in order to survive. While one species is trying their hardest to live, another is trying their hardest to end that life. Why the contradiction? What is this world?

From consulting the Vedic science we start to get some answers. The Vedas are the reference works that created the culture today commonly known as Hinduism. The original teachings are part of a scientific study; the sole reliance on faith is absent. Use all your intellect, challenge everything you hear, but first keep an open mind. One way to prove the authenticity is to study what the Vedas have to say about everything that exists.

1. What we see is matter.

My hand, my leg, my arm, my feet - these are physical objects perceived through sight. The same objects are there in other human beings. According to the Vedic science, these objects are the same in nature as the rocks, the mountains, the rivers, the oceans, and the clouds. The only difference is the chemical makeup. Just as the balloon has more air in it, causing it to travel differently through the sky, the various species have more or less of the particular elements of nature.

bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ

khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca

ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me

bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

Earth, water, fire, air and ether are the gross elements. There are three subtle elements as well: mind, intelligence and ego. The gross we can see and the subtle we can’t. Still, we know that the wind is there based on the effect it has on trees. In the same way, we can perceive intelligence based on how the various species act.

2. What is inside is spirit.

The animating force is spirit. I am the same person today, though I may have gotten a haircut yesterday. I was the same person many years ago when I emerged from the womb. I looked different, however. That is because the collection of matter was composed differently at the time. Since I maintained my identity, it means that there is something inside which is constant. That is spirit.


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)

[equality of the soul]The quality of spirit in me is the same as it is in other human beings. It is the same in the other species as well. At the time of birth, the human being is less intelligent than many animals. The matter covering the human has the potential to change so that the subtle element of intelligence can dominate. The potential for development in the animals is lower. Think of it like having a darker shade over a lamp instead of a lighter one.

3. Matter comes from spirit.

It is not possible to simply gather elements together and combine them to make a new life. Scientists will say they are on the verge of making it happen, but the reality is that a new life must come from existing life. You need existing yogurt cultures to make new yogurt. You need a live chicken to make a new egg. Once the chicken is dead, there is no possibility of getting new eggs.

We know that by changing diet and exercising more we can alter the way our body looks. This means that the spirit soul is responsible for matter. Spirit is actually a superior energy, though it seems otherwise. Matter is dull and lifeless. Think of the clay handed out to children in a classroom. Using their intelligence they can shape and mold the clay any way they choose. Clay is nothing more than earth, which is one of the five gross elements. As mentioned previously, these elements cover the spirit souls that are the living beings.

4. Spirit is not created.

This truth is a little harder to understand. A person has to accept the fact on faith at first. Spirit is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. When a person dies, the soul lives on. Death is merely the changing of clothes, a shifting from one combination of matter to another. The soul cannot be killed, no matter how hard someone tries.

nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi

nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ

na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo

na śoṣayati mārutaḥ

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

Because we are mortal we can’t hang around long enough to validate the claim of the eternality of spirit. If someone were to come up to us and tell us they are God, we would have no way of proving it. If they are indeed God, they must live forever. If we can’t live forever in the same body, how can we get the proof that they are telling the truth?

Still, we see that the body changes right now and nothing happens to spirit as a result. The old man is the same person he was as a youth; just his body has changed. Since he is still alive, it means that the soul remained the constant factor.

5. The original spirit is God.

This is one way to know the Supreme Lord. This definition transcends all sectarian boundaries. One group says their worshipable figure is God and another has a different claim. Yet all can agree that the Supreme Lord is the origin of spirit. The specific name used to address Him is not so important.

The original spirit is thus the cause of all causes. The Sanskrit description is sarva karana karanam. Since spirit creates matter, the original spirit creates everything. The vast material creation we see is attributed to Him. He plays a role in the house that we build from scratch. His intelligence is used in baking that delicious cake. He gives the sense of taste used in enjoying that piping hot pizza pie that just came out of the oven.

etad-yonīni bhūtāni

sarvāṇīty upadhāraya

ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ

prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā

“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

[Krishna's lotus feet]If you know that God is the source of everything, you have a much better understanding of this world. Taking up devotion to Him becomes much easier. After all, why not please the person who is the most powerful? Why not act in ways to gain His favor? As spiritual beings, we will continue to live; we will persist into the future. Therefore why not find a destination that features association with the Divine throughout?

In Closing:

Even with detailed study to take,

What of this troubling world to make?


From the Vedic science know,

That origin is Supreme Lord so.


From spirit the dull matter to come,

Having life and intelligence none.


Spiritual beings in happiness meant to be,

Ideal life when loving God to always see.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The World As His Audience

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Bhagavad-gita is also part of the Mahabharata, and it is full of the Lord's instruction for the less intelligent class of men. Some less intelligent men say that Bhagavad-gita is not meant for householders, but such foolish men forget that Bhagavad-gita was explained to Arjuna, a grihastha (family man), and spoken by the Lord in His role as a grihastha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.14 Purport)

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Question: “Shri Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to the people of the time. I’ll acknowledge that the audience wasn’t limited to just Arjuna, the famous bow-warrior and hero of the Bharata War. Still, the people who heard the Divine instruction were part of the Hindu culture. They lived a certain way. They were not barbarians. They didn’t kill animals and roast them just for the fun of it. They followed rituals and time-tested traditions. Keeping this in mind, shouldn’t the distribution of the Bhagavad-gita be limited today? Why should that sacred work be shared with people outside of that ancient culture?”

Do you know someone with an addiction problem? Not to something benign like video games or watching television. A person who cannot go a day without indulging in alcohol or taking illegal drugs - they have a hard time taking advice. No matter how serious we get when talking to them, they don’t listen at all. They know they are harming themselves; it’s not like they are totally ignorant. Still, they don’t listen to what we tell them.

Have you ever tried to explain something complex to a simple person? A good example is physics to a child in elementary school. What will your explanation do? You can give the best presentation, with slides and visual demonstrations, and you’re still wasting your time. The child doesn’t yet have the maturity to understand what you are saying. They need to go through the many years of schooling in order to reach your level. Then, if they are interested, they become a receptive audience.

These two examples are comparable with the issue of sharing Vedic teachings. The Bhagavad-gita is the most famous work of the Vedic tradition, which today is commonly known as Hinduism. The word “Hindu” is from the outsider’s perspective. The Vedas make no mention of this word. The truths presented have nothing to do with faith or religion. The entire system is known as dharma, which is the essential characteristic of something. You can never remove the dharma of the soul, which is the basic identifying force within all living things. Since you can’t remove dharma, the truths centered around dharma become part of a science. In this way we know that the Vedas are not a religion in the typical sense.

The Bhagavad-gita is short in comparison to the book inside which it is found. The sole focus is philosophy, like an afterschool classroom conducted by the brightest teacher. This classroom features only one student, who is most eligible to attend the special session. That eligibility comes from his lack of envy towards the teacher.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ

pravakṣyāmy anasūyave

jñānaṁ vijñāna-sahitaṁ

yaj jñātvā mokṣyase 'śubhāt

“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]In the present time period, adherence to dharma is low. Dharma translates to “religiosity” or “virtue” when looking at the principles and practices that help to maintain the essential characteristic of the individual. When viewed as a table, dharma today has only one leg remaining. Some symptoms of the collapse of this table are the widespread violence toward innocent animals, lack of regulation in sex life, overindulgence in intoxicants, and the denial of the existence of a Supreme Controller.

For these reasons a person may think it unwise to share the spotless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita. Why waste your time speaking to someone who is drunk? Why teach renunciation to someone who only thinks about where and how much to eat at their next meal? Why teach about the soul and karma when everyone is only concerned about satisfying their senses, content to live like animals?

We need only look to the words of the Gita itself. The wisdom was not specifically targeted to renounced ascetics, yogis and religious men. Indeed, Arjuna himself was of the warrior class, which is the second highest in the four divisions. Both Krishna and Arjuna were married men, leaving them open targets for the ad hominem attack. “Why should I listen to someone preaching renunciation when they were themselves attached to women?”

The Gita is delivered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who confidentially identifies Himself as such to Arjuna. As the conversation is included in the famous Mahabharata composed by Vyasadeva, the divine nature of Krishna is for everyone to know. The speaker of the Gita is not bound by the laws of material nature. He does not need to explicitly practice renunciation. His marriage to a special queen is a sign of His endless mercy. He will do anything for His devotees, the people who love Him.

The devotees can be found in any type of body. Even if they are so low that they eat dogs, they are still eligible for salvation. They are candidates for practicing the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, which start with giving up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. They may not be able to understand the difference between matter and spirit, but they can at least associate with the Divine through sound. This is easily done through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Arjuna]The Mahabharata was heard by all classes of men. It was composed specifically for the less intelligent, who are not so keen on hearing philosophical discourses. Undoubtedly in the present time period the general population is not as pure as they were five thousand years ago, but the truths of sanatana-dharma, the Vedic science, are evergreen. Anyone who is willing to listen with an open mind has the chance for rescue. Even if they are bewildered, it is not a disqualification. Arjuna too was in doubt, but due to his lack of envy he received special mercy. Non-envious souls can similarly be found today, anywhere in the world.

In Closing:

Since without enviousness to believe,

Gita’s words Arjuna to receive.


Not that renounced yogi a must,

Or that married man not to trust.


Similar souls anywhere to be found,

Even if currently in sins abound.


Krishna’s divine nature for all to hear,

From Gita clouded consciousness cleared.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Talking About Coming To My City

[prasadam]“Your service begins with the tongue. How? By the tongue you can chant Hare Krishna, and by the tongue you can taste Krishna prasadam, spiritual food. So, the beginning of the process is very nice. You can chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare - and whenever prasadam is offered to you by Krishna, by His kindness, you accept it. The result will be that if you become submissive, and if you begin this service - chanting and eating prasadam Krishna will reveal Himself before you.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna Consciousness - The Topmost Yoga System, Ch 2)

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Friend1: Alright, time for me to complain.

Friend2: Don’t you always do that?

Friend1: Are you complaining about my complaining?

Friend2: No. I’m making fun of it.

Friend1: You know you love it.

Friend2: So what happened now? A slow person driving in the left lane?

Friend1: No, but that’s not even what annoys me the most on the highway.

Friend2: What does?

Friend1: When I’m driving in the middle lane and I want to pass someone. They are driving a little slow for me, so I’m doing the right thing by going around them. Then, as soon as I get in the left lane to pass, they start to speed up. Now they’re going faster than I want to go.

Friend2: Oh, that is pretty bad. People are crazy sometimes.

Friend1: Yeah, by getting in a tiny box they think they own the world.

Friend2: So your complaint today is not related to driving?

Friend1: No. I’m embarrassed to say that it’s about Facebook.

Friend2: Oh, this should be good.

[concert announcement]Friend1: Have you ever gotten a newsfeed item about a band playing a show or tickets going on sale for an upcoming concert?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: Have you noticed what the comments typically relate to? There’s a common theme.

Friend2: I try not to read the comments.

Friend1: You’re a smart man. Anyway, no matter who the band is, the responses are always the same. “Come to my city.” “When are you coming to such and such town?”

Friend2: And that’s what bothers you? It’s only natural. They want to see their favorite band play live.

Friend1: But the comment is totally irrelevant. Sometimes the band is just posting pictures of a recent show. Do these people not have any intelligence?

Friend2: You’re saying they should know better?

Friend1: Absolutely. That’s the thing. Their comment has no impact whatsoever. It’s not a secret how these shows come about. There is a promoter who contacts the band and asks them if they’d like to play a show in the promoter’s area. Everything is by invitation. If these people commenting approached their local promoter with the same request, then maybe something could happen.

Friend2: I see.

Friend1: And the band tries to explain these things, but to no avail. It’s like people are just lazy. They don’t want to listen.

Friend2: That’s the effect of Kali Yuga. You’re talking about something trivial like a rock concert. People who are distributing the spiritual nectar that is bhakti-yoga face a similar issue. What they are giving away is of the highest value. Nothing is more important than being conscious of God. Not just rubberstamping your ticket to heaven through joining an institution, but really being aware of your spiritual identity and your relationship to the Supreme Spirit - that is the true boon to the human birth.

Friend1: And you’re saying that trying to explain bhakti-yoga to people is just as difficult? That they won’t listen.

Friend2: Exactly. Who wants to hear about that stuff? As soon as you mention religion, they turn away.

Friend1: What’s the solution, then?

Friend2: Chant the maha-mantra and distribute prasadam. The sound of the holy names grabs people’s attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[prasadam]Friend1: Prasadam tastes great, too. I can see why it’s so potent in awakening the consciousness from its deep slumber.

Friend2: That’s a good way of putting it. We’re all sleeping even while awake. We’re blind to our guaranteed fate of death. We don’t know that there is a higher taste to be found, that we don’t have to be miserable in the feverish competition of materialistic life. Prasadam works since it is sanctified food.

Friend1: And who doesn’t like to eat?

Friend2: And who doesn’t like to hear pleasing sounds? It’s the best way to get through to people. Holy names and holy food get the attention and through that association comes purification. The steady mind then can better understand the rich philosophy of the bhakti tradition. Even in the dark age of Kali they can find true enlightenment.

In Closing:

Not having picture clear,

Wise words not to hear.


Only to complain instead,

And into illusion be misled.


In Kali’s age solution only one,

Through the tongue hearts are won.


When holy names and prasadam to receive,

Then in their true purpose to believe.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Five Ways To Detach From The Sense Objects

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)

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viṣayā vinivartante

nirāhārasya dehinaḥ

rasa-varjaṁ raso 'py asya

paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate

“Eliminate negative thoughts from your mind. Don’t dwell on the past mistakes. Be positive. Look forward.” We’ve heard advice like this before, but following through is difficult. It’s like when someone tells us to not think pink. Most often we start to think of pink even more. If our mind is dwelling on something, naturally that something will be more difficult to give up.

Lord Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita. Though a person can force themselves away from things that are bad for them, the taste still remains. In the higher scheme, the “bad” is anything which leads to rebirth. The taste remains since the underlying desire is unchanged. The original sin, if you will, is separating from the shelter of the Supreme Person. His association is blissful throughout, and there is no need to work so hard to maintain. As Lord Vishnu, He maintains all the universes. He maintains locally as well through His expansion of the Supersoul.

[Lord Vishnu maintaining]The fortunate person comes across Vedic teachings and at least accepts the recommendation to avoid sense enjoyment. A simple way to think of the term “sense gratification” is to liken it to animal instincts. Like a beast ripping through food, a bear sleeping for months at a time, a snake biting to protect itself, or two dogs engaging in sex. The human being should be more refined due to its advanced intelligence.

Indeed, for even material success restriction is a requirement. The world of rock n roll is viewed as party every day, with no limits on fun. But to succeed in the business one has to undergo tremendous austerity. There are the hours in the studio fine-tuning the songs. There is the rigorous touring, where accommodations aren’t always ideal. There is physical conditioning as well, required for performing at peak levels on stage.

In the same way, to succeed in escaping the cycle of birth and death one needs restriction. The human life is meant for austerity - this is the Vedic opinion backed by wise men like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. But how does one actually practice austerity? What is required? What is the secret to reaching the elusive state of true enlightenment?

1. Follow the four regulative principles.

We don’t have to guess as to what needs to be restricted. Put a stop to meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. Avoid eating meat to increase compassion. Intoxication shatters austerity. Illicit sex keeps a person unclean and gambling removes honesty. Compassion, austerity, cleanliness and honesty are good traits to have, and they are all rooted in restriction of sense enjoyment. The four regulative principles are a great starting point.

2. Meditate on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

[Vishnu's lotus feet]But the four regulative principles are themselves restrictions. The issue is how to practice restriction without falling. There is the negative of avoiding things, but there is also the positive. One way to stay on the right side is to meditate. But on what? On something void? On nothingness? The spiritual energy pervades the entire creation and the source of the spiritual energy is a personality. He is supreme since there is no difference between matter and spirit for Him. His body is the same as what animates that body. One way to tell the spiritual nature of His body is meditation. Focus your mind on Him, starting at His lotus feet. Then work your way up to the other features, which are all attractive.

3. Read about His pastimes, presented properly.

[Krishna's pastimes]God the person has a transcendental form, and He also engages in activities. While it’s difficult to avoid something you have a taste for, an easy way to fix the mind is to forget about that something. An easy way to forget is to get your mind attached to something nice. Nothing is sweeter than the pastimes of the Supreme Lord, who instructs and delights at the same time. In the spiritual land of Vrindavana He steals butter from the homes of the neighbors. He does this in the adorable manifestation of a small child. He plays pranks here and there and sometimes He speaks lies. These are all endearing, especially to the mind looking to break free of sense enjoyment.

4. Chant the holy names.

For the present age of Kali, this is the most effective method. Take the maha-mantra and chant it as often as you can: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is unlike any other sound vibration. Chanting the maha-mantra is a unique activity. The effects of exhaustion vanish. The law of diminishing returns also flips. The more you chant, the more you’ll like it. The more you stay away from the four sinful activities, the more effective your chanting will be. Through chanting alone, giving up sense enjoyment becomes easy.

5. Hear from devotees.

If chanting is too difficult, there is the easiest option of hearing. Simply sacrifice some time to hear from someone who has given up the taste for sense enjoyment. Hear them describe the Supreme Lord and His personal form. Hear their personal experiences of chanting and relishing the sound of the holy name. Most importantly, maintain their association. By following this path, engaging in sense enjoyment will become the more difficult option.

As Krishna mentions in the Bhagavad-gita, the secret is to find a higher taste. If you experience something superior, you’ll naturally give up the inferior. In the beginning you had a taste for the material, but if you truly relish the spiritual more and more, the previous taste will gradually vanish. This proven method is tried, tested and perfected through the ages by the acharyas, the spiritual teachers following in the line started by the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

By finding taste superior,

Easy to renounce the inferior.


Sense control for human is meant,

Not time in animal activities spent.


But difficult when attachments there are,

Controlled mind destination seeming far.


Chant holy names, from devotees hear,

Then of sinful desires to be clear.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The One About Hearing Through Walls

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.20)

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paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo

'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ

yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu

naśyatsu na vinaśyati

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada utilized technology when necessary. Though he promoted the age-old motto of “simple living, high thinking,” as a rule he did not automatically prohibit the use of any single object. Everything is evaluated first to see if it can help promote Krishna consciousness, which is the original consciousness. Everyone is originally with the Supreme Lord the person, and because of forgetfulness of Him they fall into the material world, which is a sort of imitation land, a shadow of what’s actually available in the imperishable land.

This concept of using objects while remaining detached from material sense gratification is known as yukta-vairagya. There is yukta in terms of the connection to the Divine, while there is vairagya in terms of detachment from the objects themselves. As an example, if you have a car, you can use it for travelling to different places that will help purify your consciousness. Though you’re using the car, you’re detached from it. You’re not concerned with its design or upgrading to the latest version. You’re using the object to become attached to God the person.

Along these lines, the representatives of the Supreme Lord are not so impressed with the latest technology. Particularly, they don’t consider it to be awe-inspiring. This apathy is due to their intimate knowledge of the Supreme, who can do much more amazing things. Indeed, many of the advancements in the modern age represent abilities already found in other, less intelligent species. Roland was explaining this to his friend one day in an email exchange. His friend wondered why the teachers in the bhakti tradition don’t offer high praise to things like the cell phone or the airplane. Roland replied by relaying a story from his childhood.


It’s not that they don’t appreciate these advancements. They know deep down that these things only create artificial needs. It’s like when you’re super bummed about the power being out. If you didn’t rely so much on electricity, then there wouldn’t be a big problem. Remember a few years back when that hurricane led to major delays in shipment of oil? They had to ration gas. I remember because when it was a day that I could purchase it, I would get up early to be the first in line.

As far as the technological advancements, let me tell you a quick story from my childhood. I had a friend over one day after school and we were playing video games. I think it was Legend of Zelda. We were pretty into the game but all of a sudden we heard shouting in the adjacent room. It was my uncle and aunt, who were living with us at the time. We couldn’t tell what was going on, but we knew that both of them were upset.

[glass along wall]My friend made a suggestion. He said that we should take a drinking glass and place it up against the wall. With the rim of the glass along the wall and our ear touching the other side, we would be able to hear what was going on. I thought he was crazy. Anyway, we gave it a try. I was amazed. It was like we were in the other room! We could hear everything. We listened for a few minutes, but then the door to their room opened. I think one of them left the room. Anyway, we scrambled to get back to playing video games, not wanting to get caught.

Later that night I told my older brother about it. “You won’t believe what I’m going to tell you,” I said. “If you put a drinking glass up to the wall, you can hear what’s going on in the next room.” He wasn’t surprised. “Yeah, I already knew that,” he said. “Do you know that a telephone already does the same thing? You can call someone living halfway across the globe and hear what they say. More importantly, they can hear you too. So why should I be impressed with your little glass experiment?”

So the teachers in bhakti-yoga have a similar attitude. The airplanes can fly and that’s pretty cool. But the birds already have this ability. After rigorous training a person can increase their speed in running, but a cheetah naturally has this ability. Even the mystic powers acquired by yogis don’t impress them. This is because they know that God manipulates the material elements effortlessly. He holds up all the planets and empowers the sun. He puts time into motion that makes everything change. Birth and death are due to time.

[Lord Krishna]The Vaishnava is more impressed by what Krishna, the all-attractive Lord, can do with His direct intervention. They are more amazed at the potency of the holy names, which can rescue any person. That sound is so powerful and it doesn’t need special conductors to get the job done. Evidence is seen in the reformed souls who always chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They too were once bewildered by the dualities of like and dislike, heat and cold, and happiness and sadness. Through attachment to the sound that is the holy name, everything changed for them. You should trust their example and follow the same. You’ll see what I’m talking about then.

In Closing:

Fly the birds already can do,

So why humans to imitate too?


Remarkable, noteworthy so,

But interest of wise beyond to go.


Like how Krishna the planets to hold,

And through His time changes to unfold.


How identical is He to the name,

Potency of His bringing the same.