Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Way To Happiness

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“Lust is actually the product of the mode of passion, and in the absence of satisfaction of lust, the same desire transforms into anger on the platform of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.29 Purport)

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Which path is better? Try to satisfy every desire that you have. Every time that you want to eat, go for it. Every time you feel a little sleepy, lay down. Or should you impose some restriction? Have days set aside for austerity. Build up your tolerance to difficult situations. When you get angry, instead of acting on it, wait for it to subside. The way to make the proper assessment is to see which path brings progress towards the higher modes of life.

Three modes of nature govern behavior in the material world. To be material means to have one or some combination of these three modes. Goodness, passion and ignorance. We can think of them like three primary colors, which are the basis for all other colors. All bodies in this world consist of the three modes. Based on the type of body we get, we are more prone to certain behavior.

As an example, we see that people with a specific body coming from a specific region are better suited to play basketball. Not that other body types can’t play the game, but the skills required are found in greater abundance in a specific race. The same goes for long-distance running, swimming, gymnastics and so forth. The modes of nature dictate the potential for how well a particular body will do in a specific activity.

There is behavior to consider as well. Though the body type makes a person more prone to specific behaviors, in the end everything is a choice. As a child, I don’t know any better. I will eat pizza and ice cream for every meal if I can. I will grab every candy bar near the magazine rack in the supermarket. Unless someone tells me differently, my behavior will be similar to the animal.

[butterfinger]The desire to enjoy the senses is known as lust. The Sanskrit word is kama, and it also translates to “desire.” This lust is part of the mode of passion. Typically, every human being falls into this mode at some point. The educational system in industrialized nations is concerned solely with the mode of passion. That is the basis for the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They are really asking, “How do you want to satisfy your lust, which is rooted in the mode of passion, when you are mature enough to act on it independently?”

Kama is a dangerous game, however. When lust is not satisfied, it turns into anger. Anger is part of the mode of ignorance, the one that dominates the animal community. When we look back on someone’s life, we don’t necessarily praise them for how well they ate. We don’t say, “You know, they got to eat doughnuts for breakfast. They went out to a buffet restaurant every night. They had so many partners in sex, even in old age.”

If we do praise someone, it is based on how well they controlled their lust. Restriction on sense gratification is not only what makes a person praiseworthy, but it leads to happiness as well. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the activity which seems like poison in the beginning and nectar in the end is in the mode of goodness.

yat tad agre viṣam iva

pariṇāme 'mṛtopamam

tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam


“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)

We see examples of this in our own life. Studying is poison. So is waking up every morning to go to work. But completing the degree with outstanding marks is nectar. So is the paycheck used to pay for the house, the car, food, and objects of enjoyment. Lust itself is the drive to take something that looks like nectar now, but turns into poison later on.

The mode of goodness is the way to happiness. It is restriction on the senses for the purpose of advancing in consciousness. Those who follow the mode of goodness enjoy in the heavenly planets after death. They get rewarded for their pious behavior. Everyone wants the way they live to pay dividends in the end. The best reward comes from controlling lust.

tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt

prakāśakam anāmayam

sukha-saṅgena badhnāti

jñāna-saṅgena cānagha

“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)

[Krishna's lotus feet]Though the mode of goodness brings happiness, a person can get conditioned by it; spoiled in a sense. The mode of goodness is the platform from which a person can reach the height of an existence: pure goodness. This is known by such terms as Krishna consciousness, the taste of devotion, devotional service, and full surrender to the Divine. Pure goodness is above the three modes. It is like charging your entire body with the spiritual energy. Amazing things can happen when the material nature loses its influence. The yogis in devotion are an example of this, showing that the beginning of the march towards transcendence is the control of lust.

In Closing:

In mode of goodness desire steady,

For pure devotion platform ready.


Like the yogis practicing bhakti,

Example of real happiness to see.


Animals always senses gratifying,

Humans meant not for satisfying.


Like poison at first and then nectar to turn,

Control kama, from God real happiness earn.

Friday, October 23, 2015


[Ravana in false guise]“You are indeed the Ravana I saw in Janasthana, who gave up his real form and took the form of a wandering religious mendicant.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.15)

svam parityajya rūpam yaḥ parivrājaka rūpadhṛt ||
jana sthāne mayā dṛṣṭaḥ tvam sa eva asi rāvaṇaḥ |

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The actual definition of the term “Hinduism” is varnashrama-dharma. Dharma is religiosity, righteousness, or just plain religion. The root meaning is “essential characteristic,” and when you have rules and regulations that help to maintain the essential characteristic, the word dharma turns into righteousness. Varna is the division by occupation and ashrama the division by spiritual institution. The Supreme Lord created the system, with the divisions determined by guna and karma, or quality and work respectively.

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ


tasya kartāram api māṁ

viddhy akartāram avyayam

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

The fourth ashrama is known as sannyasa. This is complete renunciation. Just as we expect the elderly to have more wisdom due to age and experience, sannyasa is typically taken in the latter stages of life. After all, how can you expect a child to renounce the world if they have yet to experience it? In adulthood it’s easy to become attached to family and sense gratification facilitated by fruitive work. Sannyasa is very difficult, and so one requires extensive knowledge in order to gain the confidence necessary to accept this most valuable institution.

[pizza]The aim of every ashrama and varna is to make progression towards the ultimate goal of pure God consciousness. This is the reason for our existence. We are not meant to eat pizza every night and drink soda. We are not meant to be constantly intoxicated. If material enjoyment were the aim of life, everyone would be happy in that enjoyment. They would not get disease from overindulgence. There would be no such thing as addiction.

The human being is uniquely qualified to practice austerity. This austerity, voluntarily accepted, is done for increasing pleasure. It is not a form of torture, though the less intelligent may think that way. Within the sannyasa institution there are stages as well. First there is leaving home and relying on the family for food and basic necessities. In the second stage the sannyasi starts wandering, begging for the same necessities from strangers.

[Shrila Prabhupada]The third stage is known as parivrajaka. The sannyasi continues to wander, but they give instruction as well. The sannyasi who wanders and leads by example at the same time is known as a parivrajakacharya. Such a person is most beneficial to society, as their travel allows the glories of the Supreme Lord to spread from village to village. Just as one sun gives heat and light to the whole world, one fearless parivrajakacharya can empower so many innocent souls with the potency of love for God.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi uses the term “parivrajaka.” Unfortunately, it is in a negative light, referring to the time a fiendish king pretended to be a sannyasi in the third stage. That king was named Ravana, and he had the ability to change his form, rupa. More than just putting on makeup on Halloween or getting a haircut, kama-rupa is the ability to take on any shape desired.

Ravana’s true self was that of a Rakshasa. This is an ogre-like creature known for eating human flesh. Ravana abandoned his true form when approaching Sita in the forest of Janasthana. His true form would have given away his ill motives. He instead took the form of a wandering religious man, whose association is typically very valuable.

In this instance Shri Hanuman has approached Sita. He is acting as the messenger of Rama, who is Sita’s husband. Despite revealing his true nature and his intentions, Sita remains a little suspicious. The situation is symbolic of the modern day predicament. So many cheaters have donned religious attire that the innocent public has totally turned against religion. Even if an honest person approaches them, their initial response is skepticism.

Hanuman also has the kama-rupa ability, but in this instance he chose to keep his original form. From his example, we see that the exact spiritual institution, the occupation in society, and the formality in attire do not ultimately determine a person’s character. They help in identifying others, but then there are always the cheaters who look to exploit the standard practices.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman would win Sita’s confidence through continued words of praise of her husband. This is the proper way to identify the genuine representative of God. The parivrajakacharya speaks only of God the person. They recommend one thing in life: devotional service. Also known as bhakti-yoga, this is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic. Ravana was serving only his senses. He thought he outsmarted Rama’s wife, but the messenger in the form of a monkey would give him the first indication of his impending demise.

In Closing:

Parivrajakacharya to all places to roam,

Bringing Divine wisdom to each and every home.


Religious man not known just from dress,

Like cheater Ravana, to Sita bringing distress.


Hanuman in form of a monkey going,

But true glories of Shri Rama knowing.


Of Ravana’s demise giving first sign,

Forces of good with God to align.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Revealing Your Mind To The Devotee

[Hanuman and Sita]“From that conversation a wonderful delight came over them. They then conversed with each other with mutual confidence.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.7)

tayoḥ samāgame tasmin prītiḥ utpāditā adbhutā |
paraspareṇa ca ālāpam viśvastau tau pracakratuḥ ||

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It’s better to have friends than not, right? Going it alone in life is difficult. If you have to travel out of town a week from today and the flight you’ve booked is early in the morning, it’s nice to know someone is there to drop you off to the airport. You don’t have to rely on a stranger. A friend is someone you can count on. If you ask for a ride, you’ll get it. By the same token, friends count on you for things; it’s a two-way street.

But how are the relationships formed? There is some interest that is met, for sure. There is also the closeness established through sharing information. This is where things get tricky. It’s nice to share important things with others. There is the saying that love isn’t real until you express it. The concept can apply to all emotions. If you’re worried about something, it can fester inside over a long period of time. If you let it out, you’ll likely feel better. If you have one or a few close friends, you probably won’t ever need to visit a professional counselor. You’ll have other people to listen to your stories.

But what happens if the friendship ends? The illusion that pervades the material world causes forgetfulness, among other things. Therefore it is easy to forget good deeds done for you. Your friend could have come through many times in the past, but if they fail just one time it’s easy to get upset. From that forgetfulness an argument can ensue, which breaks the friendship.

Then you’re living with a potential enemy who knows a lot of your secrets. Even if there isn’t an established disagreement, it’s a risk to share vital information with others. Material life is a struggle, after all. There is no such thing as too much enjoyment. If I earn a million dollars, I will be envious of the person who has two million. If I’m struggling to make ends meet, I will be jealous of the person who doesn’t struggle as much.

Difficulty there will be, as the senses are never satisfied. Therefore in ordinary friendship there is always the risk of exploitation, making yourself vulnerable through the information you share. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we find two people who are not looking to exploit. They have no interest in enjoying material resources to the fullest. They are totally dedicated to serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, each in their own way.

[Shri Hanuman]When they establish that each other has the same interest, they let their guard down. A wonderful happiness comes over them. The Sanskrit word is adbhuta, which can also mean “amazing.” The description is appropriate because the circumstances don’t really call for happiness. Sita Devi is in Lanka, held there against her will. She desperately wants to regain the association of her husband, Shri Rama. Hanuman is in Lanka searching for Sita. To the people of Lanka, he is an invader. If there were an immigration office, he certainly wouldn’t be granted a visa.

Yet both are amazingly happy because they have found each other. Through a preliminary conversation they realize that they are of the same mind. Now they are ready to speak freely, with mutual confidence. Shrila Rupa Gosvami describes that this is one of the ways to interact with devotees.

“Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one's mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada and offering prasada are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.” (The Nectar of Instruction, 4)

[Nectar of Instruction]It is safe to reveal your mind to someone who is serving the Supreme Lord without motive. Purity in service, known as bhakti-yoga, has genuine love as the foundation. The devotee wants more for everyone else than they want for themselves. If someone shares confidential information with them, they will only use it to help further the purpose of pleasing the Supreme Lord. If the person sharing the information has the same purpose, then both parties win.

In general there are six ways to interact with a devotee. This verse from the Ramayana gives us a nice example of sharing one’s mind, speaking confidentially. There is no reason to fear, as the result will be increased bliss in devotion, which is the meaning of life. Any other sharing of confidential information carries a risk, as sometimes even sealed court documents get leaked to the public. Sita is there to help Hanuman and he the same. Together they serve Shri Rama purely, one as a wife and the other as a messenger. They know what is in each other’s heart, and they appreciate very much the service offered.

In Closing:

Risky your mind to others to reveal,

Since unsafe even court documents with a seal.


But with the devotee danger not there,

Since always to help with love and care.


Amazing happiness when they conversed,

Sita and Hanuman, who vast ocean traversed.


Both serving pure, deep love for Rama have got,

So that to become friends surprise it is not.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dussehra 2015

[Rama defeating Ravana]“Somehow or other, Ravana was raised to an exalted position as the king of a great kingdom with all material opulences, but because of his sinful act of kidnapping mother Sita, all the results of his pious activities were destroyed.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.23 Purport)

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If you are good, then when you die you go to heaven. This is the popularly held belief. And why wouldn’t it be true? If there is a God, why would He punish people for behaving piously? From Vedic philosophy we get a clearer picture of the actual situation. Heaven and hell do exist, and they are part of the temporary realm. One certainly does ascend the more piously they behave, but just like the body itself, that ascension does not last forever. On the occasion of Dussehra we remember a notable king who rapidly ascended to the highest position in the world, only to have it all crash down in an instant.

The Vedic view on heaven is that it exists and that it is the destination in the afterlife for the pious. What exactly is pious? Think of good behavior. Be kind to others. Tell the truth. Don’t be selfish. Follow the religious traditions you inherited from your parents. More specifically, this kind of behavior falls into the mode of goodness. There are three modes of material nature, and the activities of this world fall into those three modes.

[Winter Classic]The default mode is passion. Think of the child who wants to play all day. In the National Hockey League there is a marquee game held annually that is played outside. Known as the Winter Classic, the event draws a lot of attention because it reminds the adult-aged players of their youth. When they were young, they would sometimes spend the entire day on the rink. They would only come home after repeated attempts were made by the parents.

Both children and adults play, and if the aim is only sense gratification the activities fall into the mode of passion. The mode of ignorance is useless, damaging behavior; think overindulgence in intoxicants and excessive sleeping. The mode of goodness is where intelligence increases. The general idea we have of religiosity matches up with the mode of goodness.

Interestingly, heavenly and hellish conditions already exist in the world we currently inhabit. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to experience heavenly delights. Case in point Ravana, who was the king of Lanka many thousands of years ago. He had every material enjoyment available to him. Though modern airplanes were not yet invented, he could still fly through the air. He had an aerial car called the Pushpaka. This car belonged to Kuvera, Ravana’s brother. Kuvera abandoned it when Ravana went to take over Lanka from him.

[Pushpaka]Ravana had tremendous wealth in Lanka. Some of the buildings were made of gold. There were crystals in the floors. The beauty of the city would easily defeat the most amazing sites found in the modern world. Ravana also had plenty of sensual enjoyment. There was loads of meat and wine to consume. There were many wives with whom to enjoy. It would be difficult to imagine the heaven of the afterlife surpassing the opulence of Ravana’s kingdom.

Residence in heaven is not permanent; at least with the heaven of the material world. The reason is that the merits accumulated through good behavior eventually expire. Just as the inmate eventually gets released from jail through their sentence expiring, the same applies to the benediction of going to heaven. Since heaven is in the upward direction, the person who has their pious credits run out is described as falling back to earth. Falling back to earth from heaven is one example of how reincarnation works.

evaṁ kṣipan dhanuṣi sandhitam utsasarja

bāṇaṁ sa vajram iva tad-dhṛdayaṁ bibheda

so ’sṛg vaman daśa-mukhair nyapatad vimānād

dhāheti jalpati jane sukṛtīva riktaḥ

“After thus rebuking Ravana, Lord Ramachandra fixed an arrow to His bow, aimed at Ravana, and released the arrow, which pierced Ravana's heart like a thunderbolt. Upon seeing this, Ravana's followers raised a tumultuous sound, crying, ‘Alas! Alas! What has happened? What has happened?’ as Ravana, vomiting blood from his ten mouths, fell from his airplane, just as a pious man falls to earth from the heavenly planets when the results of his pious activities are exhausted.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.23)

[Ravana defeated]When Ravana received the fatal arrow from Shri Rama, his fall to the earth was compared to a person falling from heaven. The comparison is accurate in so many ways. For starters, there was the material opulence in Ravana’s kingdom. He was the most feared king in the world. He took full advantage of that post. Yet it all vanished in a second.

The return to earth from heaven can ultimately be attributed to an underlying desire. The pious credits expire because they are earned with material motivations. Basically, if a person wants to enjoy separately from God the person, they have to go through reincarnation. The person within the cycle of reincarnation can take birth anywhere, in any species. They don’t have to necessarily live on earth.

“There are an infinite number of living beings, both moving and nonmoving, who have many different abodes, with some residing in the earth, some in the sky, and some in the water. But O helpless Tulsi, for you Shri Rama’s holy name is your only home.” (Dohavali, 37)

Goswami Tulsidas references this truth in his Dohavali. He says that he knows he can take birth in any species, in any of the three worlds. He doesn’t mind the physical location of his birth, for his real home is Rama’s holy name. This is an example of pure devotion. With that desire, there is no expiry. If you love Rama, you never have to lose His association.

[Shri Rama]Devoid of devotional service, any gain is only temporary. On the occasion of Dussehra, we remember how Shri Rama personally came to the scene to bring Ravana back down, to where he belonged. Ravana’s sinful desire manifest in his stealing of Rama’s wife Sita in secret. Ordinary sinful desire is automatically punished through the laws of nature. But when there is harm done to someone who loves Rama, the Lord Himself intervenes. He protects the devotion of the devotee.

In Closing:

When obstruction for devotee seen,

Rama personally to intervene.


Like when to Lanka went,

And arrows to Ravana sent.


Despite towards heaven to ascend,

At expiry again to earth to descend.


On Dussehra famous Ravana to recall,

Who despite opulence had to fall.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Forgetting the Past

[Sita Devi holding flower]“Alas, the common saying, ‘Bliss eventually comes to a man who lives, even after one hundred years,’ appears to me to be true.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.6)

kalyāṇī bata gathā iyam laukikī pratibhāti me |
ehi jīvantam ānado naram varṣa śatāt api ||

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“I’m haunted by the past. My childhood memories come back to me every now and then. I can’t get over my bitterness at my parents. They made so many mistakes. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I had to go through. It has certainly shaped who I am today. No matter what I do, I can’t escape it. I hope that no one has to endure that in their lifetime.”

Such sentiments are not uncommon today, especially considering that modern psychology puts great emphasis on childhood memories and experiences. From studying the bona fide spiritual science, however, we learn that the bad experiences don’t have to be limited to childhood. The time continuum is infinite in both directions, which means that there were previous lives with their own traumatic moments.

What was the outcome? How did those lives end?

[sinful cake]The birth from the present life gives an indication of how the previous life ended. As long as there is birth in this material world, there is a hint of sin. A harsh assessment, but one that is true nonetheless. The real definition of sin is doing something the wrong way. A decadent cake is playfully described as “sinful” because eating such rich food is not healthy. It goes against the proper way of living.

Sin of the broadest scope is doing anything that keeps a person away from their original consciousness. Sanatana-dharma describes that original consciousness. It is a duty, an essential characteristic, and it is without beginning and without end. The only consciousness that meets this criteria is service to the Divine. We can’t serve a tree forever. Our family members remain with us for but a short time. Service to the Divine is endless since both the individual spirit and the Supreme Spirit never perish.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin

nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ

ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo

na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

As soon as there is a hint of desire to serve anything else, a tainted consciousness if you will, there is birth in the material world. Then, as long as that consciousness remains there is continued rebirth. However the previous existence may have been, at the end there was still a hint of sin; the consciousness was not entirely pure. We did not wish to serve the Divine purely at the end of life.

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ

tyajaty ante kalevaram

taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya

sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

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

That is the bad news. The good news is that we don’t remember the past life. Indeed, so much from this life we forget also. And those traumatic moments from childhood and beyond can be corrected very quickly. The above referenced verse from the Ramayana shows how that can be done. Sita Devi invokes a famous adage, wherein one sees happiness through living, even if that happiness should arrive after one hundred years.

[Rama and Lakshmana]She feels ananda, or bliss, after receiving news of her husband and His younger brother. This is no ordinary news. Rama is the Supreme Lord, an avatara appearing on earth for a specific purpose. Lakshmana is the servitor-God, always acting in Rama’s interest. Sita Devi is Rama’s eternal consort. In their real-life drama called the Ramayana, they teach so many lessons about both material and spiritual life.

In material life we know that happiness comes and goes. Just because we are sad today it doesn’t mean that we will always stay that way. The same applies for happiness. This verse has significance for spiritual life also. Just because we have spent many lifetimes in many species and in different areas, we are not forced to suffer forever. We can get bliss that will erase the effects of all the bad experiences.

That bliss is so powerful that it can change our outlook as well. Just as sometimes we learn later on that a bad experience was actually a blessing, when one finds the supreme shelter of devotional service, they come to appreciate the struggles from the past. They see that all the previous actions in maya, or illusion, now help to affirm the decision to stay devoted to the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed.

In this example, the ananda came from hearing about God. The news arrived through a devoted messenger, a pure devotee. Our ananda will come in the same way, through a sincere servant bringing news from Vaikuntha, which is the spiritual realm. That place is free of anxieties, and so the same nature gets created when a person hears with attention and respect.

[Sita Devi]No one suffered more than Sita, as she was harassed day and night by wicked creatures. Those villains tried their best to get her to change her ways, to take to sinful life. She refused, and despite the torment and torture, she received happiness through Hanuman’s words. This means that no matter what suffering we have endured in the past or are currently dealing with, there is a chance for happiness. By the grace of Bhagavan and His representative, the guru, the fortunate soul hears about Rama and turns their life around.

In Closing:

Despite torture and misery earned,

Fortunes through hearing around turned.


Like Sita’s suffering there was none,

Still true in consciousness, in desire one.


So Hanuman to her by Rama sent,

Bliss even though so much trouble spent.


Incident way for spiritual life explaining,

From Rama’s messenger rescue gaining.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Hundred Year Journey

[Sita Devi]“Alas, the common saying, ‘Bliss eventually comes to a man who lives, even after one hundred years,’ appears to me to be true.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.6)

kalyāṇī bata gathā iyam laukikī pratibhāti me |
ehi jīvantam ānado naram varṣa śatāt api ||

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Things not going well for you? Life got you down? Does it seem that nothing ends well? The pressure never stops, does it? In youth there is one assignment after another. You have to do well in school in order to move ahead. There is a reason that young people share a similar recurring nightmare. They dream about showing up to class one day after having missed everything that was taught. They are then given an important exam, for which they are not prepared.

[exam in school]In adulthood things only get worse. There is immense pressure to hold down a job. Even if you do everything right at the office, it doesn’t mean that the company’s future is secure. So much in business takes place through contacts. The concept of “networking” exists precisely because people do business with people that they know; it only makes sense. Therefore if there is a fissure in a key relationship, the company you work for can go under.

There is constant uncertainty. Even if there is enough money to maintain home and family going forward, there is no guarantee that health will remain steady. A disease can strike at any moment. Disease can be fatal. Therefore you can lose the association of your loved one at any time.

Such was the case with Sita Devi. She was living peacefully with her husband in the forest of Dandaka. Her husband’s younger brother was with them. The three were very happy in each other’s company. But one day an imposter came along who changed everything. He took the false dress of a priestly mendicant. Prior to his arrival, he set up a ruse that drew Sita’s husband and His younger brother away from the cottage in which all three were staying.

The imposter was the King of Lanka. Named Ravana, he terrorized the world with his mighty prowess. He took Sita back to his home on the majestic island. She refused his advances and so he resorted to threats. Anyone in Sita’s situation would consider such a life to be hellish. It’s not fun to be separated from someone you love, especially when there is no way to communicate with them.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana Sita recalls the adage that happiness eventually comes. In modern times there is a similar saying: good things come to those who wait. And wait you must. Even if it takes one hundred years, eventually that bliss will come. Actually, this is a fact. Life in the material world features ups and downs. The pendulum swings between desire and aversion, like and dislike.


dvandva-mohena bhārata

sarva-bhūtāni sammohaṁ

sarge yānti parantapa

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

[Sita Devi]In Sita’s case the ananda is of a different nature. She has just head news about her husband and His brother. She is so happy to learn that they are okay and that they are thinking about her. Though it’s not a direct communication, the messenger is reliable. He is named Hanuman and he is a fit representative for Shri Rama. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God as He is known beyond the abstract. Sita is Rama’s wife, so she is actually never separated from Rama. She is always thinking of Him, which is known as bhakti-yoga.

Bhakti-yoga can also be translated as “Krishna consciousness.” Krishna is another name for God. It also references a specific form. Krishna holds a flute in His hands, wears a peacock feather in His hair, and enjoys in the sacred land of Vrindavana. Krishna and Rama are the same person, just appearing differently due to the time and circumstance.

What to speak of one hundred years, there can be one hundred lifetimes without getting news of the Supreme Lord. Yet eventually that information can come, and the fortunate feel tremendous bliss as a result. The idea is that as long as one is living, they have a chance at the pinnacle achievement in life: the bliss of surrender in devotion.

Sita always has that bliss, as does Hanuman. The fallen souls who perpetually spin on the wheel of material existence, reincarnation, birth after birth, have forgotten about Rama. They would rather hear about anyone else. They are eager to know what the latest poll numbers are in the election campaign, how their favorite sports team is doing in the standings, and what new movies are playing.

[Shri Hanuman]Ananda, real bliss, can only come when there is a desire to hear about God. That news will be delivered by a fearless messenger like Hanuman. Sometimes Rama Himself will arrive on the scene. The exact moment of delivery is unknown, but one who continues living and maintains a sincere desire to know and serve God can rest assured that the pleasing words will eventually reach their ears.

In Closing:

If waiting long time with sincere,

The good eventually to reach the ear.


Even if after one hundred a year,

News of Supreme Lord to hear.


Then real bliss not to believe,

Like when Sita from Hanuman to receive.


Message of Rama and Lakshmana to bring,

To suffering like sweetest music to sing.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lion-like Men

[Rama and Lakshmana]“Hearing of the well-being of those two lion-like men, that divine lady felt a thrill of joy in every limb and she spoke to Hanuman as follows:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.5)

sā tayoḥ kuśalam devī niśamya nara simhayoḥ |
prīti samhṛṣṭa sarva angī hanūmāntam atha abravīt ||

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To those familiar with Vedic literature and the ancient history it describes, the avatara named Narasimha is well known. Two notable days in the calendar directly relate to Him. There is the occasion of Holi, which celebrates the time Narasimhadeva’s devotee named Prahlada overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Though only five years old, he was able to survive being placed in a pit of fire against his will. The occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi celebrates the physical descent of this special form of the Supreme Lord. He arrived on the scene to personally give protection to the same Prahlada, to show the atheist King Hiranyakashipu that God is indeed everywhere.

[Narasimhadeva]The form of Narasimha is a unique one. It is half-lion. The lion is the king of the jungle. It scares other animals simply by its roar. To compare it to a lion is to compliment the human being in terms of courage. Narasimha is half-human as well. Through divine help Prahlada’s father received boons that protected him from attack. He was safe against animals and human beings. Weapons couldn’t kill him, and neither could any celestial. He was safe at day and at night, outside and inside, in the sea and on land.

The human brain is incapable of thinking of everything. If the human being was all-knowing, it would not need to go to school. It would not require training. The expert golfer would not need to focus before trying to sink an important putt. The student would not require silence in order to concentrate on the exam they are taking. This means that despite Hiranyakashipu’s cleverness, there was still a tiny hole in his armor of boons. That one defect was all that God needed to arrive on the scene and remove the obstacles in the way of Prahlada and his devotion.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we see another reference to Narasimha. This time the combination of Sanskrit words refers to the Supreme Lord in His form of Shri Rama. Not a lion in outward appearance, Rama is a lion among men. He is a nara, or man. And He is a simha, or lion-like personality. God is actually not a human being, but He has features nevertheless. Though He appears as a nara, He can be a simha as well.

[Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati]The description above applies to Rama’s younger brother as well. Lakshmana is equally as courageous. Rama is the God who is served and Lakshmana is the aspect of the Divine that offers service. Both are identical in interest, though they are separate personalities. Lakshmana is the origin of the guru, or spiritual master. The guru is also like a lion in that they carry out their service to the Lord without fear. The famous acharya Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was often described as “the lion guru.”

Just as Prahlada got relief from Narasimhadeva, Sita Devi took great joy in hearing that the two lion among men were doing well. The message came to her via Hanuman, who is Rama’s messenger. Sita Devi is also known as Lakshmi, who is the goddess of fortune. She has tremendous wealth at her disposal. Anyone who is fortunate in this world has received the benedictions of Rama’s wife.

Yet we see that jewels, saris, earrings, necklaces, and the like are not what bring joy to Sita. The setting of this verse is the Ashoka grove in Lanka. The name Hiranyakashipu means “soft cushion and gold.” The atheist’s primary interest is in these things. They want the most valuable possessions and they want to enjoy material objects as much as they can. The king of Lanka, Ravana, was just like Hiranyakashipu. He had tremendous wealth. The floors in the buildings in Lanka had crystals in them. Some of the buildings were made of gold.

Simply hearing about the lion among men gave Sita a thrill in every limb of her body. Material opulence can only take us so far. It does not remove fear; it instead creates more. The more objects one accumulates, the more they have to worry about protecting. Increased engagement in sense gratification leads to lesser enjoyment each time. Thus the fear that soon nothing in life will be pleasurable grows.

[Lakshmana, Rama and Sita]The sound of the Divine brings joy and also removes fear in the process. It is for this reason that in this age especially the wise souls recommend the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This sound is identical to those lion among men; it carries their potency. Therefore anyone who is afraid can get courage from the holy names. They can get joy at the same time, as was seen with Rama’s wife in Lanka.

In Closing:

Despite so many possessions dear,

Only the cause of more fear.


With gold and in soft cushion set,

But still no real happiness to get.


Rama and Lakshmana, like lions to roam,

Removing fear, devotees never alone.


Holy names with love and faith sing,

And like Sita feel thrill in every limb.