Saturday, October 17, 2015

Taking The Lead In Following

[Lakshmana]“And the highly splendorous Lakshmana, who is the dear follower of your husband and overcome himself by grief, bows his head in offering obeisances to you.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.4)

lakṣmaṇaḥ ca mahātejā bhartuḥ te anucaraḥ priyaḥ |
kṛtavān śoka samtaptaḥ śirasā te abhivādanam ||

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Is it bad to be a follower? Statistics show that in nations with a democratic-style government, the incumbent wins office the overwhelming majority of the time. In spite of the record, not considering the deals they may have made in exchange for campaign contributions, the public time and time again gives the benefit of the doubt to the person holding office. The natural tendency to follow is one way to explain this.

The leader is different. For starters, they must be courageous. Because as soon as you take the lead, you make yourself a target. If you’re stuck in the middle of a forest and don’t know where to go, someone needs to take the lead. But if the leader goes in the wrong direction, they will take all the blame. Nevertheless, without leaders there wouldn’t be companies that provide the products we rely on. The people who invented things that we find so useful today were risk-takers. They took the lead in innovating; they didn’t sit back and accept things as they were.

What about in spiritual life? Is it better to take the lead? We’ve seen so many people cheated by blindly following public figures who were later exposed to be frauds. The innocent people gave so much money, sacrificed so much time, and came out with nothing in the end. Perhaps it is better to take the lead, then? Charter your own course back to the spiritual world. You’ll take a risk, but at least the responsibility will not be with someone else. You can always count on yourself.

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana provides some clarity on the issue. Here Shri Hanuman is talking to Sita Devi. Hanuman is the messenger of Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sita is Rama’s wife. Anytime the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord is referenced, we automatically know that she is the goddess of fortune. She holds this title because of her relationship to the person who owns everything.

[Linus with blanket]Hanuman is praising Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Hanuman is actually just speaking the truth, but when you speak the truth about God and those closest to Him, you are simultaneously offering the highest words of praise. Included in Hanuman’s praise is the term anuchara. This means a follower or one who is a constant companion. Being a follower isn’t always the best thing. It opens you up for criticism. If you are overly attached to someone, it is a sign of weakness. Sort of like the Peanuts character Linus holding on to his blanket, if a person has to follow another person in order to survive, it means they are a dependent.

Is Lakshmana weak? Is his following of Rama a demerit? Being a constant companion is also a sign of affection. It is a way to show love for someone else. In this regard Lakshmana is a leader. He shows the path of loving devotion to the Supreme Lord, to whom he is very dear. The word used is priya.

[Lakshmana walking in the forest]Rama is the original leader. He expands into the four-handed form of Narayana and effortlessly creates everything. Destroying the entire cosmos is just as easy for Him. No one can imitate Him on that level. We can try to create, maintain and destroy, but it will never be the same; we must first use the ingredients created by Narayana and operate under the stringent laws of the material nature. We are always following Him, even if we don’t know it. He confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita, where He speaks the highest words of wisdom in His original form of Krishna.

ye yathā māṁ prapadyante

tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham

mama vartmānuvartante

manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ

“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

[Krishna rewarding people as they surrender unto Him]Every person follows Him, and the Lord rewards each person accordingly. The person who takes the lead in following gets rewarded with constant association. Rama offers love back, and mercy from the Supreme Lord is the highest benediction in life; nothing else can compare. Hanuman is bringing a form of that mercy to Sita through words about her husband. Sita brings that association to the pious souls through the fortune she bestows. That fortune, like everything else in this world, is meant to be used in service to her husband. Those who fearlessly follow that dear brother of Lakshmana stand out in this world; they are the example for others to follow.

In Closing:

As follower behind to stay,

Or as leader showing the way?


In crisis decision needed to be made,

But in following by cheater could be played.


Lakshmana the path of devotion showing,

Leading in following Shri Rama going.


Hanuman too following without fear,

All rewarded, to Lord becoming dear.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Favorite Brother

[Lakshmana]“And the highly splendorous Lakshmana, who is the dear follower of your husband and overcome himself by grief, bows his head in offering obeisances to you.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.4)

lakṣmaṇaḥ ca mahātejā bhartuḥ te anucaraḥ priyaḥ |
kṛtavān śoka samtaptaḥ śirasā te abhivādanam ||

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As he is an emissary, it is reasonable to expect Shri Hanuman to bend the truth from time to time. According to the ancient philosophy that is the Vedas, there are four means of diplomacy. You can make friends with the other party, offering pacifying words. That is sama. You can try paying them off with gifts; dana. This is seen quite often in the political arena. There is using force to get what you want; danda. A more underhanded approach is bheda, which is division. You sow dissension in the enemy ranks and let the infighting do the work for you.

Though he is skilled and capable in all four of these tactics, when discussing matters of the Supreme Lord, Hanuman remains honest. Even in his first meeting with the prince of Ayodhya, Hanuman couldn’t maintain his false guise for long. Ordered by the monkey-king Sugriva to greet the two strangers approaching in the Kishkindha forest, Hanuman assumed the false guise of a brahmana, or priest. Yet as he continued to speak and saw no visible change in expression on the face of Rama, Hanuman eventually came clean and revealed who he was.

“When I have spoken to you thus, why are you not responding to me? A pious soul named Sugriva, who is a warrior and a hero among Vanaras, being expelled by his brother, wanders the earth with a distressed mind.” (Hanuman speaking to Rama and Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.19-20)

[Shri Hanuman]In this verse from the Ramayana, we get another instance of Hanuman’s honesty. This time he is talking about Rama to Rama’s wife, Sita Devi. Hanuman mentions Lakshmana, who is described as the brother dear to Rama. The Sanskrit word used is priya, which means “dear”. It can also mean “favorite.”

But if Rama is God, how can He have a favorite brother? The Sanskrit word anuchara gives us an idea. Lakshmana follows Rama. This isn’t driven by personal motive. In recent times a reality television series featured a contest where the winner would get to work in a large company headed by a powerful businessman. The job was something like an apprenticeship, where the new hire would be under the tutelage of the boss having tremendous business acumen.

[The Apprentice]Each party has an interest. The apprentice wants to learn so that they too can one day be successful in business. The owner wants qualified people working under them so that one day they can hand over the company to capable hands.

Lakshmana follows Rama out of pure love. He follows no matter the circumstance. If Rama is sent on a mission to help protect sages in the forest from the attacks of night-rangers, Lakshmana goes along. If Rama gets kicked out of the kingdom for fourteen years, Lakshmana insists on following.

samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu

na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ

ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā

mayi te teṣu cāpy aham

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

From the Bhagavad-gita we learn how God can be both impartial and favorable at the same time. Shri Krishna, who is the same Rama, the Supreme Lord, says that He is neutral towards everyone. He doesn’t play favorites. But if someone renders service to Him in devotion, that person becomes a friend.

Consider, then, the person who offers service constantly, without break. Their whole life is dedicated to service, the kind known as bhakti-yoga. Such a person would have to be incredibly dear to the Supreme Lord. In this way we see how Rama can love all His brothers equally and yet still consider Lakshmana to be His favorite. In truth, all four sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya are incarnations of the original Personality of Godhead.

The favorite brother offers his obeisances to Rama’s wife. This is included in the message passed on by Shri Hanuman, who, like Lakshmana, never deviates from devotional service. Sita is the same way. It is not surprising that the four are commonly worshiped together in the image known as the Rama Darbar. This is Rama’s court. He rules with kindness and determination. He is highly powerful, maha-teja, as is Lakshmana.

[Rama Darbar]Hanuman is courageous. He can be both gentle and firm. When the situation calls for force, he does not hesitate to use it. In this instance he must speak about Rama and Lakshmana, and in this endeavor Hanuman is always honest. Sita knows Rama and Lakshmana very well, so by reviewing these qualities Hanuman proves his authenticity. He is the favorite messenger of Rama, and he knows everything about Rama’s family and devotion to Him.

In Closing:

Since Rama equal to all,

How Lakshmana favorite brother to call?


Contradict the position does it not?

Seen when following devotion without stop.


Lakshmana to follow Rama anywhere,

To dense and desolate forest, even there.


Hanuman sent to search for Lord’s wife,

Favorite messenger, ready to give his life.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Swan-like Messenger

[Shri Rama]“The son of Dasharatha, Rama, who is the best among knowers of the Vedas, who knows the Vedas and the brahmastra, has inquired about your welfare, O Devi.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.3)

yo brāhmam astram vedān ca veda vedavidām varaḥ |
sa tvām dāśarathī rāmo devi kauśalam abravīt ||

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Do you know people who are constantly negative? If you bring them good news on a particular day, they find a way to make a bad comment about it. Among other things this practice is called “raining on the parade,” and some people are expert at it. A long time ago, the king of Lanka focused on only the negative about a particular prince; though even on that side the judgment was erroneous. That prince’s messenger knew His real nature, and this verse from the Ramayana reveals that.

“To err is human.” Man commits mistakes. There is no doubt about this. To the doubtful, an easy way to get proof is to look at the prediction. Do we know any person whose predictions have never failed? Of course not. Things play out much differently in real life than they do on paper. The person who has consistently lost throughout life can one day emerge victorious. The perennial winner can one day suffer a stunning defeat.

[upset victory in tennis]In Vedic literature the comparison is often made between the swan and the crow. The crow stays amidst garbage. It does not prefer the finer things in life. It is happier with things that have been discarded. When discussing the outlook on life, the crow-like person is always negative. They see only the bad qualities in people. They think only of bad news. Feeling so insecure about themselves, they never allow for someone else to be praised too much.

The swan-like person is the opposite. They see the good in people. They put a positive spin on things. And this isn’t done out of foolishness. Rather, they are in-tune with the workings of the material nature, which is driven by spirit. The highest swan, known as a paramahamsa, extracts the spiritual essence from everything. In one sense, they see God everywhere. They also know that He is a person with wonderful attributes.

Lanka’s king a long time back was crow-like in his judgment of the Supreme Lord Rama. Without even knowing His true divine nature, the people of Ayodhya understood the pure goodness of the eldest son of the king. Meanwhile, Ravana could only focus on the fact that Rama left home at the command of His father. Ravana would never dream of renouncing something so important to him as a kingdom. He especially wouldn’t do it to preserve the honor of someone else.

Shri Hanuman understood Rama’s real qualities, some of which he reviews here. Hanuman says that Rama knows the Vedas and the brahmastra. The Vedas are the ancient books of knowledge passed on originally in an aural tradition. They have no known date of composition since they glorify God. The Supreme Lord is without birth, so the same goes for the oldest works that describe His glories.

The brahmastra is a powerful weapon that can only be called upon by the skillful. Hanuman mentions both because they are relevant to the situation at hand. Sita was taken away from Rama’s side through a nefarious plot hatched and executed by Ravana. Since Rama knows the Vedas, he is not evil like Ravana. Since Rama knows the brahmastra, He is indeed capable of defeating Ravana in battle.

[Shri Rama]Hanuman says that Rama is the son of Dasharatha and the best among knowers of the Vedas. This means that Rama transcends occupation. Though by birth He is a kshatriya, or member of the warrior class, since He is God He is not limited by material qualities. The gunas that make up the body of the Supreme Lord are transcendental. They can shows signs of both goodness and passion. Since He is the best of the knowers of the Vedas, Rama is the highest brahmana. As the son of a king, He is an expert fighter as well.

Rama has asked about the welfare of Sita. Hanuman shows his swan-like perspective in this verse for the purpose of alleviating the concerns of the also swan-like Sita. Both Hanuman and Sita know Rama very well, but they had not met prior to this. Therefore Hanuman had to show that he was genuine, that Rama had indeed sent him. What better way than to review some of Rama’s qualities with the person who knows him so well?

[Hanuman meeting Sita]Indeed, the apparent defects that the crow-like atheists discover about God are not defects at all. Everything about the Supreme Lord is good, even His hands-off approach to the workings of the material nature. This is an act of kindness, since it fulfills the desire of those who want to live separate from the Divine shelter. On the other side, the swan-like people, and those who are aspiring to be swan-like, get help from the likes of Hanuman. These servants come and deliver the truth about Rama, and such knowledge helps to gradually bring elevation out of the darkness and into the light.

In Closing:

Since in misery to be,

Crow negative always to see.


Opposite in nature is the swan,

Seeing God always, good to dwell upon.


King of Lanka in mind like the crow,

Glories of Shri Rama not to know.


Hanuman swan in highest state,

Qualities of Rama to Sita to relate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Two Sides To The Message

[Shri Hanuman]“O Devi, I have arrived here as a messenger for you, being ordered by Rama. Vaidehi, all is well with Rama, and He has asked about your welfare.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.2)

aham rāmasya saṃdeśāt devi dūtaḥ tava āgataḥ |
vaidehi kuśalī rāmaḥ tvām ca kauśalam abravīt ||

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A message involves four aspects. There is the sender. This is where the message originates. There is the message itself, also known as the content. What is it that the sender wants to say? Why are they creating a message? What needs to be communicated? The third aspect is the recipient, also known as the audience. For whom is the message intended?

The fourth aspect is the method of transmission. The origination can be a person, who then delivers the message personally. This is preferred when the origination and the destination are side by side. But when we think of a message, we think of communication between two parties that are not necessarily close in proximity.

In modern times the method of transmission can be electronic, such as through a text message, an email, or a phone call utilizing voice over IP. In this verse from the Ramayana, the transmission is through the old fashioned way: a messenger.

Here the messenger is unique because he has affection for both parties. The point of origination is Shri Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. He is the prince of Ayodhya, the greatest bow fighter in the universe, and the beloved husband of Sita. She is a devi, or goddess, as addressed here by Hanuman. She is the daughter of the king of Videha; hence her name of Vaidehi.

[luggage tag]Rama’s message is important to Hanuman. The messenger wants very badly to deliver the message, but the difficulty is finding the recipient. It is not like with a package that has an address listed on it. It is not uncommon for airlines to lose the checked-in luggage of a traveler. After all, so many suitcases get loaded onto a flight, and there are connecting flights to consider. A smart move for the traveler is to write their address, or at least contact details, on their suitcase. This is helpful if the suitcase gets lost.

Despite starting with little information of her whereabouts, Hanuman ended up finding Sita. Here he explains to her that he is a messenger sent to her. He was ordered by Rama. This lets Sita know that Hanuman is not an enemy. He is not there to exploit her, threaten her, or grill her for information. He is there on the orders of Rama, who wants to let her know that He is okay. The two were suddenly separated while living together in the Dandaka forest.

Rama also asks of Sita’s welfare. This implies that Hanuman’s work is not finished. He is the method of transmission for the message between husband and wife, and that communication is meant to continue. He is tasked with taking a message from Sita and bringing it back to Rama.

This factual episode from history, which is documented in the Ramayana of Valmiki, perfectly symbolizes the role of the messenger of God. They deliver vital information to important people. In this case Sita was awaiting the message; she was receptive to what Hanuman was telling her. In the same way, the Vaishnava representative of the Supreme Lord looks for the receptive audience who is willing to hear the message of Divine Love.

[Shri Hanuman]Their message is that God indeed exists and that He is full of bliss. Since He is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. Since He has full transcendental pleasure, He is also known as Rama. The Supreme Lord wants His children to escape from the dangerous situation known as material life. Like with Hanuman, the communication is not just one way. Upon finding the proper recipient, a message should come back to the Supreme Lord. The rescued person offers their prayers on a daily basis, worshiping in the method authorized by the messenger. That worship originally goes to the representative, who eventually brings it back to the source, Shri Rama. From Hanuman’s heroic exploits we get a better appreciation for the servant of God, who is willing to travel anywhere to deliver the most important message in the world.

In Closing:

From message to receive,

Words of another to retrieve.


Hanuman a messenger to make,

Ready for one back to Rama to take.


With Supreme Lord the same way,

Sending back with words to pray.


Like Hanuman going without fear,

Vaishnava giving message of God clear.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Grief Upon Grief

[Shri Hanuman]“After hearing those words of Sita, who was overwhelmed with sadness upon sadness, Hanuman, the leader of the monkeys, gave the following comforting reply.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.1)

tasyāḥ tat vacanam śrutvā hanūmān hari yūthapaḥ |
duhkhāt duhkha abhibhūtāyāḥ sāntam uttaram abravīt ||

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Will electing someone new to lead the country solve all problems? Is the government really to blame for the grievances in society? For sure, economics could always stand for a boost. The growth rate of the gross domestic product can never be high enough; it has room for improvement. If more people worked, if more people had money to buy the things that they want, then surely that would decrease the level of discontentment.

[GDP growth]According to Vedic philosophy, change in the leadership of government alone will not fix anything. The reason is that life in this material world is like misery piled on top of misery. It is grief made worse by more grief. Think of it like receiving a package in the mail that is tightly wrapped. Through strain and effort, we get the package open, thinking that there is nothing more to be done. Then we have to remove the next layer of the packing. There are so many layers that by the end the reservoir is run dry; there is little joy left at seeing the product whose sight was once the goal.

A major source of grief is separation. Many times this happens because of our own actions. We didn’t drive safely enough on the highway, so our car got into an accident. We didn’t protect the home well enough, so it was burglarized. We didn’t watch what we ate, so we had to deal with the negative consequences in health.

In the case of a princess a long time ago, she hadn’t done anything wrong. By all accounts, she had well exceeded what was expected of a good wife. In the Vedic tradition, the husband protects and the wife serves. This doesn’t mean that she does everything. She is not compelled to earn all the money while the husband sits at home and does nothing. The idea is that she remains supportive. She is a nurturer to the children and she also takes care of the adult in the husband.

Sita’s husband was forced to leave home. Named Rama, He was the leader of the Ikshvaku dynasty, ready to succeed His father on the throne. When Rama had to leave, Sita was not compelled to go along with Him. In fact, keeping in mind His duty to protect, Rama asked Sita to remain at home. If a police officer has to respond to an incident, he doesn’t bring his wife and children along. He has a dangerous job, and it doesn’t make things easier when others are put into the same danger for no reason.

[Sita and Rama in the forest]Rama’s occupation was similar to a police officer, except He was called out of the house for fourteen years. Sita still insisted on accompanying Him. She would not let Him suffer alone. As a reward for this kind and selfless act, she received the tremendous grief of being separated from Him. It was a deceitful deed perpetrated by the king of Lanka, Ravana. He took Sita away in secret and made no attempt to bring her back to Rama’s side.

Rama’s messenger Hanuman heard the tale from Sita herself in Lanka. In this verse from the Ramayana, we see her described as being overwhelmed by sadness upon sadness. She was removed from the side of her beloved husband, whose company she enjoyed so much. Then she was threatened with death for not giving in to the advances of Ravana.

Even with the distress of the material world, there is a way to find happiness. There are the comforting words of the messenger of God. Here the messenger is Hanuman, delivering the words of Shri Rama directly to Sita. In other cases it is the spiritual master who reveals the safe, comforting and protective path of devotional service, also known as bhakti-yoga. The spiritual master delivers the lifesaving words that this material world is not our real home, that we can find eternal happiness in the shelter of the Divine.

[Sita and Rama]As a result, grief upon grief gets replaced by bliss on top of bliss. The change happens through association with Sita and Rama, who come to us in the sound vibration of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Separation is inevitable in a world that we enter. Death is automatically paired with birth. Yet attachment can also be permanent, provided it is paired with the Supreme Lord. Sita would be reunited with Rama, and today the distressed can be reunited with the eternal engagement that is devotional service.

In Closing:

Since in this world so much grief,

A new leader needed the belief.


But on that so much on top,

Too much suffering we’ve got.


Light from comforting words shone,

That this material world not our actual home.


Words of God from messenger sent,

Like when Hanuman to Sita went.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Talking About When The Dust Settles

[Krishna's lotus feet]“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)

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āpūryamāṇam acala-pratiṣṭhaṁ

samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat

tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve

sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī

Friend1: Do you ever get the feeling that some people will just never be happy?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: I’m specifically referring to the cause-backers.

Friend2: That’s a new term. You might have just invented something.

Friend1: Probably not, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head.

Friend2: What triggered this?

Friend1: I saw something online, through a link that someone sent me. It had this graphic at the top that really intrigued me. It could easily pass for an art exhibit, where there are many layers to the image beyond what you get from the initial glance.

Friend2: What was the image?

Friend1: Well, first let me tell you that it’s really simple. It consists mainly of two objects, and there isn’t much detail. So it’s not like you can tell who is who.

Friend2: Okay. I know describing an interesting image in words is difficult.

Friend1: On the left side you have a pistol. All you can see is the hand holding it up. The pistol is pointed up against the back of someone’s head. Then there are the words written underneath: Bake My Cake.

Friend2: So it’s someone being compelled to do something?

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: That seems like an odd image to create.

Friend1: Well, I didn’t tell you the last important detail. The pistol was colored like a rainbow. It had that rainbow effect that you see on a lot of images.

Friend2: Oh! I get it now. Wow, that is interesting. Basically, activists for a recent popular cause are compelling this person to make them a cake. Even if the person doesn’t want to, they’re being threatened into doing it.

Friend1: Exactly.

Friend2: That is an interesting think-piece.

Friend1: Well, it worked since it got me thinking. I’m going beyond the issue, though. I thought about how so many causes have been tackled in the past and it didn’t make people happy at all.

Friend2: Like which ones?

[no smoking]Friend1: Consider smoking. They went after the tobacco companies pretty hard. They got smoking banned in most restaurants. That’s probably a good thing since I don’t have to deal with secondhand smoke anymore.

Friend2: Yeah, that’s why most people favored the ban. If you’re not a smoker, why would you feel sympathy for those affected?

Friend1: The thing is, even with the victories the cause-backers are not happy. You see these pretty graphic commercials on television still, showing different illnesses caused by smoking.

Friend2: I’ve seen those. They are disturbing.

Friend1: Hey, I’m not promoting smoking here, but what about alcohol abuse? People can die instantly from that. It doesn’t take years like it does with smoking. Why isn’t that a cause?

Friend2: Good point. Probably because more people drink. If you told the cause-backers, they would find some excuse to give you.

Friend1: But you see what I’m saying, right? If you actually eliminated poverty, people wouldn’t be happy.

Friend2: The industrialized nations are proof of that. Compared to the majority of the world, the low income people in the industrialized nations are rich. They have cars, cell phones, houses, food, etc. They have so much food that there is an obesity epidemic.

Friend1: Exactly. So if these people are never happy, what are they really doing with their causes? You know what I mean? If the whole world stopped eating meat, the vegetarian activists wouldn’t be happy. If the government lowered taxes, outlawed abortion and left businesses alone, the conservatives still would complain. Everyone would find something to be upset over.

Friend2: This is what makes bhakti-yoga so great. It gives you something tangible to occupy your time. Even when the dust settles, you’re not left alone. At the start there is the cause to reform the deluded consciousness. The false conceptions of “I” and “Mine” get rectified. Instead of identifying with the body, I identify with spirit. Instead of labeling every object as mine, I realize that the material nature comes from God. Everything around me, including my body, is on temporary loan from Him.

Friend1: I like this example. Let’s say that you reform yourself. Wouldn’t you be left without a cause? What will you have left to do? Isn’t it like the mechanic who has no business since every car on the street is running properly?

[Narasimhadeva with Prahlada]Friend2: No, because bhakti-yoga is love and devotion. The more you fix your impurities, the more joy you get from the process. And it’s not dependent on anyone else. If the entire world is against you, you can still practice. There are so many examples from history that prove this, with the famous Prahlada Maharaja being one of them. Not only did he succeed in spite of opposition from his father and the royal influence exerted by him, but Prahlada was only in the body of a five-year old boy. He didn’t have to wait to be educated. He didn’t have to bide his time until there was maturity and thus enhanced ability to process information. He didn’t have to rely on a cause since he was always with God.  Connecting with the Supreme Lord solves all problems, but we have trouble believing this. When the cause is supposedly fixed, there is just more room for practicing devotion further, with the joy increasing. “Ever-expanding” is one way to describe bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

Whether store a cake to bake,

Or to the dangers of smoking to awake.


Despite a cause to undertake,

When solved still not happy to make.


Desire in continuing to flow,

Better to remain still ever so.


Only through bhakti possible to do,

Service to Lord available always to you.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Talking About The Soul Of A Child

[changing bodies]“Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13 Purport)

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Friend1: Let me ask you about animals having souls.

Friend2: An animal is a living thing. Anything that is living is animated by spirit.

Friend1: Listen, I get it. I’m bringing this up because of what some people have shared with me.

Friend2: Spirit is Brahman. We are all part of Brahman, the undivided spiritual energy. It seems like everything is divided, but there is a oneness. This is one way to realize God.

Friend1: But other faiths teach that animals don’t have souls.

Friend2: They’re wrong. Your use of the word “faith” says a lot. This means that there’s no science behind their logic. They’re basing the assumptions simply off mental speculation. The mind is a product of the material nature. The soul is finer than the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego.

Friend1: Yeah, to me it’s not difficult to understand. The animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends. So do we. The animal takes birth, lives for some time and then later dies. We go through the same cycle. Why should it be so hard to believe that the animal has a soul also?

Friend2: Exactly. It comes down to the basic difference between matter and spirit. That is not a sectarian issue. It is common sense.

Friend1: Here’s another argument to consider. Some will say that the animals have souls, but of a different kind.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: For example, since the dog can’t speak like human beings, it has a different kind of soul. When there is the soul of a bird, it means the living thing can fly around and stuff, but that’s it. It can’t be as advanced as the human being.

Friend2: Yeah, that’s utter nonsense, plain and simple.

Friend1: That’s what we should tell them? “You’re stupid.”

Friend2: There’s no reason to sugarcoat this. Ability or lack thereof relating to the body says nothing about the animating force within. You can have a hard drive inside of a laptop computer and also in a powerful workstation. The electricity powering the smartphone is the same as that going into the tablet. Since when does ability determine the nature of existence?

[laptop hard drive]Friend1: Oh, I like that. The processors inside the computer have nothing to do with the features of the computer. They just give the object life. What goes on top of the essence of life is what determines the external ability.

Friend2: There’s an easier way to disprove their logic. Well, let me first say that the easiest way is to consult the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, demystifies reincarnation by explaining that there is reincarnation within this present life. The embodied soul continually passes. First there is childhood, then youth, adulthood following, and old age the culminating stage. Just as the soul continually passes through those phases, it passes on to another body at death. The person who is dhira, which means intelligent or sober, does not get bewildered by such changes.

Friend1: Yeah, that’s what makes the Bhagavad-gita stand tallest. The teaching does not say that only the Hindu soul does this. It does not say that “we Hindus believe the embodied soul continually passes.” The teaching applies to everyone, including outside the human species, right?

Friend2: Exactly. The Sanskrit word “atma” means soul. It does not mean “human soul.” Again, the qualification of the soul is a modern concoction; mental speculation furthered by those who want to continue killing animals in order to eat nicely. As I was saying, there’s an easy way to invalidate their logic.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: I’m borrowing this one from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We know that right after birth the infant can’t do much. They need support for their head; they need someone to feed them; and they need someone to clean up after them. Agreed?

Friend1: Yes.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: We also know that if you compared the human being in this stage of life to many in the animal community, the human being would lose in an ability competition.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The infant is helpless, while the horse can do so much. The dog has communication skills superior to the infant. That’s pretty obvious.

Friend1: Absolutely.

Friend2: So if we’re using the flawed logic that creates “animal souls,” we’d have to say that the infant has a separate soul.

Friend1: [laughs] Oh, that’s good.

Friend2: So if we establish that there is a “soul of a child,” when does that soul leave and get replaced for the soul of an adolescent? I’d like to have that explained to me.

Friend1: Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Friend2: Precisely. The soul is the same soul throughout life. Everyone already acknowledges this. And yet we know that ability changes. This means that ability does not determine the nature of the soul. It’s as simple as that. The wise person sees spirit inside of every living thing. They see the spiritual equality shared by all beings. They also know that there is a Supreme Spirit, the person to whom we are intimately tied since time immemorial. Service to Him brings all knowledge necessary for understanding this complex world, which bewilders us through the illusory energy known as maya.

In Closing:

Soul of an animal to see,

How different in human to be?


Example of the infant take,

And a simple comparison make.


Does soul of the child ever leave,

And then new one later to receive?


As individuality same changes through,

All species a spirit soul like me and you.