Saturday, November 7, 2015

Not A Good Time For That

[Hanuman's hand]“I do not think it is a dream, for seeing a monkey in a dream certainly is not prosperous. And prosperity has come to me.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.22)

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na aham svapnam imam manye svapne dṛṣṭvā hi vānaram ||
na śakyo abhyudayaḥ prāptum prāptaḥ ca abhyudayo mama |

Sita Devi is still wondering if what is happening before her is real. She sees a monkey. Not the kind we encounter today, but a creature from ancient times. The Sanskrit word is Vanara, which means “forest dweller.” Hanuman could talk, even in Sanskrit. That is the language of the gods, whose script is known as Devanagari. The literal meaning to that word is “city of the demigods.” Even amongst the forest dwellers of his time, Hanuman was not ordinary.

[Hanuman]Sita references the old adage that seeing a monkey in a dream is not auspicious. Long before Freud began analyzing dreams, Vedic culture had created an auspicious-inauspicious list for so many things in life, including dreams. There are certain days that you should get married and certain days that you should not. If your left side is twitching before an important event, it portends a certain outcome. If you see a specific bird as you begin your journey, again it is a clue as to the result.

We follow similar behavior in modern times. Statistics show that most automobile accidents occur after 9 pm. This makes sense due to the factors at hand. 9 pm is nighttime for most of the days in the year for the majority of the industrialized nations. The night automatically lowers visibility, which makes it difficult to react to emergency situations on the road. If someone is driving at that late an hour, the odds that they are tired increase. If they are out having fun, they are probably consuming adult beverages. Bearing these things in mind, it is inauspicious to travel during that time of day.

Time and circumstance - these are the two factors that should be considered when beginning any endeavor. Yet both of these are part of the material creation, predicting results in karma, which is the network of action and reaction. Karma is fruitive work, where you do something and then receive an outcome at a later time. The outcome doesn’t have to manifest right away. Think of the flowers that blossom in the spring. The seeds may have been planted a while back. That was action in karma, with the results appearing at the allotted time. The results are known as karma-phala.

[flowers blooming]In this situation, Hanuman is bringing news of Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuman traveled far to reach Lanka. Bravery was required in his journey; he had to withstand the elements and those intentionally acting as obstructions. Hanuman’s work was not in karma; it was in bhakti. For devotion to the Supreme Lord, the time and circumstance are always appropriate.

Sita says that prosperity has come to her, and it is due to seeing a Vanara. Since a Vanara in a dream is not prosperous, this cannot be a dream. The sign of the prosperity is news of Rama and Lakshmana. The same news can come to us today courtesy of Vedic literature and the people who speak about Rama. They may not be in a monkey’s body and they may appear to us while we live in a hellish place, but the news is so powerful that it automatically brings prosperity. The presence of the prosperity makes the situation auspicious.

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has revealed the way to create auspicious conditions at all times. Simply chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Remember Hanuman and his heroic journey. Ponder over how he eventually won the trust of Sita, Rama’s beloved wife. Keep in your mind the mercy of the all-powerful Lord, who always protects His devotee, no matter in what situation they may find themselves.

[Sita Devi]Sita was in a difficult spot, surrounded by enemies of her husband. She couldn’t trust anyone, as they were expert at masking their true selves. Then something even more strange occurred: a monkey appeared before her. The prosperity in the form of news about Rama and His brother told Sita that this was no dream. In the same way, this dreamlike material existence - featuring ups and downs, highs and lows, birth and death, and happiness and sadness - can be made to feel real when there is the prosperity in news of the Divine. The fearless messengers like Hanuman deliver that news, and it is for this reason they are always favored by the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi.

In Closing:

Objects here and there seen,

Still, existence seeming like a dream.


But news of Rama to make it real,

Like when Hanuman before Sita to kneel.


Surrounding her people that were fake,

So with skepticism his words to take.


But coming to her was prosperity,

Meant that Rama’s messenger definitely.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slow and Steady Wins The Race

[Rama lila]“O monkey, please discuss the glories of my dear Rama. O gentle one, like a current against a riverbank you are winning over my heart.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.19)

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guṇān rāmasya kathaya priyasya mama vānara ||
cittam harasi me saumya nadī kūlam yathā rayaḥ |

You’ve never had this problem before. Why now? Why in this spot? Anywhere else would have been fine. You’re attending a wedding in a week, and photographers will definitely be there. Your problem will be etched in history. Everyone will be asking you about it. “What happened to your face,” they’ll say.

[wedding photography]In all honesty, you have no idea. It’s obviously a rash of some sort. You just don’t know what caused it. It hurts. There are many bumps, which are visible, plump and bright. You retrace your steps over and over to see what you could have done to prevent it, but the fact of the matter is that you have the problem. You have to deal with it. The doctor has prescribed antibiotics, anti-inflammatory pills, and a topical cream.

You’ve been using everything for a few days, but the problem persists. It’s getting better, but not fast enough. Why can’t it work instantly? Why should you have to wait so long? The setting for the above referenced verse from the Ramayana is analogous in a way, but with a problem on a much larger scale.

The living entity is born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate. We know this to be true based on the authority of the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. It is sung by Shri Krishna to the warrior Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The two men discussed matters far beyond the impending war. They went into the very essence of life and how it should be lived. Shri Krishna was the teacher and Arjuna the sincere and interested disciple.


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)

Like and dislike are dualities that I shouldn’t be overcome by. A simple example to help us understand is water. During the summer months bands go out on tour and play concerts outdoors. The fans who stand near the front the entire day get hot and thirsty after a while. When cold water is showered on them, they become happy. The water is soothing; it brings temporary relief from the heat.

[cold winter]Yet the exact same water showered in the exact same way in another situation brings a different reaction. Picture walking outside on a cold winter day, where the temperature hovers around freezing. If someone were to shower cold water on you, you might become seriously ill.

Thus there is duality with the cold water. One time we like it, the other time we don’t. But it is the same regardless. There shouldn’t be a difference of opinion towards the water. It is neutral, after all. The entire journey through life features such dualities. To be overcome by like and dislike is to fall into delusion.

To get out of the delusion is difficult. If I can’t see that one man’s food is another man’s poison, how am I going to understand the higher purpose in life? If someone tells me that I am spirit soul and not my body, why should I believe them? I’ve identified with my body since before I can remember. I don’t know any other way of living.

Even the most skeptical heart can be won over. The right medicine needs to be administered and there should be patience in seeing its effectiveness. In this situation from the Ramayana, Sita is skeptical of Hanuman, who is a messenger in a monkey’s body arriving in Lanka. Sita is otherwise surrounded by frauds, people who can change their shapes at will. They are not nice. They appear to be friendly to each other, but it is due only to mutual interest. I like my friend for as long as they continue to serve my needs. The one time they fail me, I’ll forget about all the good from the past. I’ll stop being friends with them out of anger.

[Hanuman]The people in Lanka were like this. Sita was innocent, and yet they treated her like the worst criminal. She was harassed day and night by threats. She had not a single friend in the entire city. Now here comes this monkey speaking of her husband. She is glad to hear about Rama, whom she loves very much. Yet she is not sure that Hanuman is genuine, that he is indeed sent by Rama.

She asks Hanuman to continue to narrate the glories of Rama, who is dear to her. She compares Rama-katha to a current hitting up against a riverbank. The erosion is slow, but steady. The current continues to hit, eventually doing the job. In the same way, by talking enough about Rama, Sita will be comforted. Her heart will be won over, as the truth about Rama coming from Hanuman will allow her to know that Hanuman’s own words about his purpose in Lanka are true as well.

Sita is never overcome by delusion, but here she teaches a valuable lesson. The living entities have their delusion eroded completely with enough katha about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is Rama-katha, which deals with the incarnation of God appearing on earth as a warrior prince. There is also Krishna-katha, which deals with the jewel of Vrindavana, the beautiful child of Nanda and Yashoda. God is limitless and comes to earth in many different forms. The term Hari-katha is all-encompassing; it is synonymous with both Rama-katha and Krishna-katha.

[Rama lila]All types of Hari-katha have one thing in common: they deal with the gunas of God. These are the glories of the Supreme Lord, and they are pleasing to the ear. They are also endless, which means that there is always more to hear. This hearing is itself a shelter, a way to be safe from the dangerous material world, even while living in it. The hearing alone, practiced slowly, steadily and regularly, can bring full enlightenment, winning over even the hardest heart, turning it towards the imperishable path of devotional service.

In Closing:

Shelter made just from a sound,

From Rama-katha mind on solid ground.


No more by like and dislike deluded,

Happiness coming that for so long eluded.


Sita Devi in Lanka showing the way,

Asking Hanuman for more to say.


About the glories of Shri Rama to tell,

Then knowing that wishing for her well.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Different Gunas

[Rama lila]“O monkey, please discuss the glories of my dear Rama. O gentle one, like a current against a riverbank you are winning over my heart.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.19)

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guṇān rāmasya kathaya priyasya mama vānara ||
cittam harasi me saumya nadī kūlam yathā rayaḥ |

The Sanskrit word guna has a few meanings. In the most common usage it is “quality.” More specifically, guna refers to a quality in the three modes of nature. There is goodness, passion and ignorance. Sort of like different scales in music, each mode has particular attributes. Behavior falls into the different gunas, as do the bodies themselves.

“Another meaning of guna is rope; it is to be understood that the conditioned soul is tightly tied by the ropes of illusion. A man bound by the hands and feet cannot free himself - he must be helped by a person who is unbound. Because the bound cannot help the bound, the rescuer must be liberated. Therefore, only Lord Krishna, or His bona fide representative the spiritual master, can release the conditioned soul.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14 Purport)

[rope]When discussing the constitutional makeup of the body, guna takes on the additional definition of “rope.” A material quality is binding. It ties the individual to a perpetual cycle of birth and death. Think of it like putting on clothes in the morning, taking them off at night, and then putting on new ones again the next day. The cycle continues, except to the human eye the events appear more important than they really are. The accepting of gunas is called birth and the rejection death.

vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya

navāni gṛhṇāti naro 'parāṇi

tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny

anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

Isn’t it strange that death gets compared to taking off clothes? Each person has their own perspective. We think that one hundred years is a long time to live, but certain species live for only one day. They have their own version of youth and old age. The times are relative to the species. In the same way, the relinquishing of a material body is not such a big event when considering the entire timeline of the creation. We have taken birth many times before, and we have died after each one of those births. Death will come at the end of this lifetime as well.

The gunas bind the living entity to this cycle. No matter how good the qualities may be, there is still rebirth. The different bodies have varying proportions of the three modes of nature. For instance, a demigod [celestial] is mostly in the mode of goodness. The animals are mostly in the mode of ignorance. Human beings are a mixture. We know some people who are intelligent. Others we know have a difficult time grasping basic concepts. The difference is in the makeup of the body, the gunas.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi asks Hanuman to narrate the gunas of her husband, Shri Rama. One would assume that Rama must have gunas in goodness. If not, why would someone want to hear about them? When we sit down with our parents and ask about stories from their childhood, we don’t want to hear how bad things were. We don’t want to listen to negative things about the grandparents and uncles and aunts. We’d rather hear uplifting things, spotlighting good qualities.

The difference here is that Rama is the Supreme Lord. He is both nirguna and saguna. He is without material qualities since nothing can ever bind Him. Still, He has a personal form, which displays gunas. That form has identifiable features, and yet those features are of a different nature. When using the word guna with God, the typical translation is “glories.”

[Riverbank erosion]Rama does not have any bad traits. One way to prove that His gunas are different is to see the effect of hearing about them. Sita says that Hanuman is winning over her heart. The word chitta can also refer to the mind. She makes the comparison to the stream eroding the riverbank. The erosion doesn’t take place right away. In due time, the change occurs.

Sita’s initial reaction is skepticism. In Lanka everyone is against her husband. She can trust no one. She was brought there against her will, by a creature who could assume any shape at will, kama-rupa. But her heart is softening through the association of Hanuman, who is Rama’s messenger. More than just delivering important news to Sita, Hanuman is capable of narrating the gunas of God. He is the most qualified to do Rama-katha, or discourses about the Supreme Lord.

[Rama lila]Hearing those glories has the same effect in any age, in any situation, and to any audience. The occupation of the individual does not matter; neither does their gender. The key is to have a soft and open heart. Though Sita had raised the shield of skepticism, she is naturally very kind. The hard-hearted Ravana would not be pleased by hearing Rama’s glories. He is envious of the Supreme Lord, so Rama-katha will only cause him increased anger. Yet the benefit is there nonetheless; even if a person doesn’t realize it. Hanuman narrated the glories of Rama to Sita, and today those same glories win over the hearts of the pious.

In Closing:

Since material nature to him dear,

Not happy of Rama’s glories to hear.


For Ravana enviousness the way,

That there is no God vehemently to say.


Rama-katha beneficial still,

The air with glories of Lord to fill.


Heart of distressed Sita mollified,

By Rama-katha from speaker most qualified.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

If No One Is Around

[Rama lila]“If you have arrived as Rama’s messenger, then may there be all good fortune to you. O best of the monkeys, I am asking you to please speak of Rama, for that is very pleasing to me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.18)

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yadi rāmasya dūtaḥ tvam āgato bhadram astu te ||
pṛcchāmi tvām hari śreṣṭha priyā rāma kathā hi me |

Bhakti-yoga is the pinnacle achievement in life. It is the one occupation that has no position above it; nothing beyond. Even the President of the United States, the recognized leader of the free world, still has room for improvement. This is because the post doesn’t last forever. The king of a great nation has other nations with which to contend. As Goswami Tulsidas remarks, the king, the ascetic, the yogi, the fruitive worker – they all have difficulty sleeping due to the attention they must maintain to their occupational duties. Only Tulsidas sleeps fine because he has full faith and trust in the Supreme Lord Rama.

The source of this trust is love and devotion. Bhakti-yoga is synonymous with sanatana-dharma, which means the eternal occupation. Basically, once you take up devotion to God in earnest, you never have to give it up. You don’t have to work your way up towards anything else, either. The means is the end. The devotion is identical with the object of devotion. These truths are revealed to the sincere practitioner in due time.

Yet taking up bhakti-yoga is difficult. One of the many obstacles is association. If everyone around me is going to the bar after work to consume adult beverages, it’s not easy to decline the invitation. If everyone around me eats animal flesh for dinner, why draw attention to myself by refusing? If everyone else is seeking enjoyment of the senses, why should I make a show of renunciation?

In Kali-yuga the bedrock of devotional life is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When done in the association of like-minded people, the practice is known as sankirtana. The names are so powerful that even regular kirtana is effective. The idea is to associate with God the person through sound.

[record albums]If no one is around, it’s difficult to keep a routine. In the past, the recording artists complained about the record companies. But without deadlines and deliverables some of the most popular music in history wouldn’t have been created. Students learning the art of medicine are forced to study through the deadline of the exam. If not for the exam, they wouldn’t have the pressure to learn the material.

In the same way, congregational chanting helps in creating and maintaining a routine. It allows bhakti-yoga to flourish. But what to do if the vital association is lacking? What if you work at a job that forces you to travel for most of the year, away from your dear friends? The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives the necessary motivation to continue anyway. Here, the “Hare” addressed in the maha-mantra describes how talking about her husband makes her very happy.

[Sita Devi in Lanka]She is speaking to Hanuman, the messenger of Rama. Sita is in Lanka against her will. Since everyone around her has the kama-rupa perfection of mysticism, the ability to change their shape at will, she is suspicious of everyone. Hanuman is in the form of a monkey, which is out of place for Lanka. Despite telling her that he has been sent by her husband, she still has trouble believing.

She says that if he is indeed Rama’s messenger, may there be all blessings upon him. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune. She is the pleasure potency of God. Rama or Krishna is the male aspect of the Divine and Sita or Radha the feminine aspect. Her words to Hanuman confirm that she wishes well for anyone who represents Rama. Hanuman is the direct representative, and today those who follow the devotion of Hanuman are also representatives of the same Supreme Lord.

[Rama lila]Sita asks Hanuman for Rama-katha, or discourses about Rama. She says that it is very pleasing to her, priya. Rama-katha is talking about the glories of God the person. Someone who doesn’t know Rama so well can accomplish the same simply by chanting the holy names. This means that anyone who chants pleases the goddess of fortune. She hears Rama-katha wherever it takes place. Hanuman’s devotion is pure, and so his speaking is all the more pleasing to Sita. In the same way, through practice of bhakti-yoga, whether alone or in the company of others, purification increases, bringing more pleasure to the person who can bestow fortune upon anyone. May there be all blessings upon the one who speaks of the glories of Rama, the dear husband of Sita.

In Closing:

From sound a vision to be,

All glories to them may be.


For then with God association coming,

Even though in maya purified becoming.


My opinion alone don’t take,

A study of Sita’s words just make.


So pleased when of Rama to hear,

Hanuman to her forever dear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Five Things Not Required For Practicing Bhakti Yoga

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

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avināśi tu tad viddhi

yena sarvam idaṁ tatam

vināśam avyayasyāsya

na kaścit kartum arhati

What is required for entering bhakti-yoga? Is it a religion? Is it a culture? Perhaps a mere way of life? We think of yoga as exercise taught in studios across the world. Is bhakti-yoga the same?

A good way to define something complex is to look at negation. In the beginning list all the things that something is not. For instance, when taking a medicine to reduce a fever, you need to make sure it doesn’t do other things. If you’re having stomach problems, you don’t want the medicine to increase pain in the stomach. If you’ve had trouble sleeping, you don’t want it to keep you even more awake throughout the night.

From the outsider’s perspective bhakti-yoga looks like a religion. It has all the classic elements: books declared as scripture, altars, houses of worship, specific clothes, places of pilgrimage, enumeration of pious and sinful acts, and the afterlife. Further analysis reveals that bhakti-yoga is an all-encompassing philosophy. It accounts for everything in life, from the mundane to the serious. It addresses the existence of many religions as well. From reviewing what is not required for trying bhakti-yoga, we can get a better idea of what it is.

1. Sectarian loyalty.

You don’t have to renounce your current religion. You don’t have to swear allegiance to a specific institution. After all, institutions are part of the temporary world. They manifest at some point, remain for some time, and then eventually disappear. The connection to the Divine does not. Bhakti-yoga is also known as sanatana-dharma. This means the system of religiosity that is without beginning and without end. Bhakti-yoga practiced purely is also described as ahaituki and apratihata. This means without motivation and without interruption. No boundaries based on religion or nationality can prevent the connection to the Divine when the desire is sincere.

2. Blind allegiance.

[Prabhupada]This accompanies sectarian loyalty. The person on the street tells you to accept such and such as your savior or be forever condemned to hell. This creates blind allegiance, which is done out of fear. Bhakti-yoga is a voluntary pursuit. Indeed, the cause of all the problems in the world is the misuse of independence. Basically, we have a choice, and we’ve made the wrong one for too long. To get back on the right track, we need to make up our own minds to choose the divine light. Following simply out of fear will not get us very far. Sentiment can only remain for so long; it is bound to change. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that religion without philosophy is only sentiment. And philosophy without religion is mental speculation.

3. Knowledge.

Do you know how to build a car from scratch? Can you figure out complex math equations very quickly? Are you good at memorizing things? If so then great, but it should be known that such things are not required for entering into bhakti-yoga. If knowledge were necessary, so many people would be disqualified. This would mean that the majority of the population, who are God’s children, would immediately be prohibited from practicing love and devotion to Him.

Another thing to consider is that the more knowledge a person acquires, the more wrong information they may have. Therefore they have a more difficult time than the person who comes in with less knowledge. For the former there are more things to “unlearn,” as they say. Some of the incorrect assumptions are that God is the sole property of certain people, that He only manifests in a specific country, that He is impersonal and that all living beings are identical to Him.

4. Renunciation.

Can’t live in a remote cave? Can’t leave your family and friends behind? Can’t pack up everything and go live in a temple? No problem. Though renunciation is helpful for focus in bhakti-yoga, it is not required. The concept is similar to the knowledge aspect. Especially in the modern age, hardly anyone is renounced. Obesity is overconsumption of food; the classic sign of a lack of renunciation. If only those controlled in their senses were allowed to practice devotion to God, barely anyone would qualify.

5. Shaving your head; wearing certain clothes.

The dress helps to identify people. So do different paraphernalia on the body. For example, the necklace made of tulasi beads indicates that the person is practicing devotion to God the person. Tulasi is a plant who is very dear to the Supreme Lord Krishna. Not everyone will worship her, though it is highly recommended. Wearing the beads indicates a desire to serve God without motive.

[Tulasi plant]But then again, anyone can put on anything. My wearing a lab coat doesn’t automatically make me a scientist. I have to know what I’m doing. If I’m a skilled medical practitioner, I can heal patients even outside of the hospital or office. I don’t need my doctor’s gear on to do my job; though it does help to identify me to others.

What is required, then?

The entry point of bhakti-yoga is knowing the difference between matter and spirit. More specifically, know that you are spirit and not body. This truth will open the door to everything else. This truth is not found in the majority of spiritual traditions around the world; hence the descension into cantankerous, sectarian disputes.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Every individual is spirit at the core. Matter is what covers them, and that only temporarily. The home for the spirit soul is a realm where there is no difference between matter and spirit. The practice of bhakti-yoga creates such an environment in the present surroundings and also leads the way to the same type of destination in the future. A person who remains with the bodily identification will have a difficult time advancing in bhakti-yoga, for there are no promises for material gain, mystic perfection, or esoteric knowledge of the Absolute. The lone promise is continued service to the Divine, who is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness.

In Closing:

For into bhakti practice to go,

Just one thing needed to know.


That this material body I am not,

A spirit soul eternal engagement I have got.


With the Divine consciousness to live,

And endless service to Krishna to give.


Whether smart, renounced or tall,

The Lord any person with love can call.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Five Reasons Bhakti Philosophy Is Not A One-Sided View

[flower offered to Krishna]“I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge both phenomenal and noumenal, by knowing which there shall remain nothing further to be known.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.2)

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jñānaṁ te 'haṁ sa-vijñānam

idaṁ vakṣyāmy aśeṣataḥ

yaj jñātvā neha bhūyo 'nyaj

jñātavyam avaśiṣyate

The Sanskrit word dharma is the closest match for religion. It does not refer to a faith, however. It’s not like you accept one dharma on a particular day and then move on to something else the next. It’s not something you necessarily believe in, either. Dharma always exists, irrespective of outside viewpoint or popularity.

One example to help us understand is gravity. A famous scientist discovered the law of gravity, but this doesn’t mean gravity wasn’t there before. That law of gravity always remains; it is a foundational aspect of life in this world. In the same way, dharma is the essence of living. It only turns into religion for those who have somehow forgotten about that essence.

Dharma is the defining characteristic of something. The basic functional unit of living things is the soul. The dharma for the soul is service. This service can never be completely removed from the soul. It may manifest in different ways. One person thinks service is for their own pleasure and another views service as helping their fellow man. The definition of that aid is subjective, with economic improvement being the typical target.

But real service is to the Supreme Soul. This is the definition of dharma for the soul. In bhakti philosophy both the service and the object of service are more clearly defined. A less intelligent person may consider this to be a one-sided view.

“Well, that’s what you say about dharma, but people from different philosophies would disagree with you. They would say that there is no Supreme Soul, that every individual is part of the collective.”

There are many ways to tell that the bhakti philosophy does indeed cover everything.

1. It describes God, who is purna.

The Sanskrit word purna means “complete.” It is an apt description for God, since He is the sum total of everything. Bhakti philosophy, though at first glance resembling sentimentalism, is actually a science. It makes a distinction between matter and spirit. It also analyzes the properties of the origin of all spirit. The idea is that if you know God in truth, you will know everything that is needed to be known.

2. It gives the accurate definition to dharma.

You’ll find such terms as brahmana-dharma, sannyasa-dharma, and shudra-dharma when reading books on Hinduism. Dharma also translates to “duty” and “religiosity.” Whatever steps are taken to maintain the essential characteristic become dharma. An administrator has ideal behavior that will help them govern the state, their occupational duty. The same goes for a businessman, a wandering ascetic in the spiritual institution of renunciation, and even a laborer.

Bhakti philosophy goes beyond these temporary situations and gives the real definition to dharma, which was mentioned previously. Other philosophies limit their definition of dharma according to the objective. If the goal is to merge into the Absolute Truth that is Brahman, then dharma will be defined in that light. The service aspect is always missing or improperly defined even when the Supreme Lord’s existence is acknowledged.

3. It has no reason to cheat anyone.

The teachers of bhakti philosophy have no personal motive. They have nothing to gain by lying. They are not teaching in universities and releasing a new book every few years which costs the students hundreds of dollars. Rather, they are sacrificing practically everything in order to get others to awaken to their true essence. Their only objective is to get others to serve God in earnest, for that will make them truly happy. There is no reason for them to be one-sided. The idea is to give an honest presentation, lay down all the facts, and then let the listener make an informed decision. This was the route Krishna took when instructing Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ

guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā

vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa

yathecchasi tathā kuru

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)

4. It describes every mentality, every way of life.

Whatever your objective is in life, bhakti philosophy covers it. It deals with the fruitive workers, who are known as karmis. This is the default position for the human being, where the motto is to live so you can enjoy stuff. The philosophy also deals with the opposite group, the people who renounce everything. It deals with mystic yogis and it deals with those seeking knowledge. Since it describes God in so much detail, it ultimately gives precedence to love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. No other philosophy can claim to be as inclusive; they don’t know about every other philosophy.

5. It puts all options on the table.

Not only does bhakti philosophy know every mentality, but it is keenly aware of every reward possible. A fruitive worker has the chance to move up in the next life. And yes, there will be a future life. The soul never dies. The pious soul who engages in fruitive activity can ascend to the heavenly planets, where they get to enjoy for a long time. The overly sinful get sent to the hellish planets for punishment and then return in a lower species. The mystic yogis get amazing powers, things we couldn’t believe unless we saw them with our own eyes. The mental speculators get to merge into the light of Brahman, losing their identity.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Most importantly, bhakti philosophy describes the destination for the devotees of God. The pure devotees get to be with their worshipable form of choice. This is assured after death, but it comes before that time as well. They get the association immediately through something as simple as sound, for there is full potency in the holy name. Therefore, simply by accepting bhakti philosophy with a little humility and then chanting in a routine, they get a panoramic view of everything available in an existence. They then wisely choose to remain with the Supreme Lord and the sound that represents Him: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Putting all options on the table,

To describe all rewards bhakti is able.


No reason for the teacher to hide,

Every route ready in disciple to confide.


Then decision made with confidence,

With knowledge to material life indifferent.


To supreme destination in afterlife to stay,

With holy names already on their way.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Five Reasons Krishna Is Known As Adhokshaja

[Lord Krishna]“Akshaja means ‘the measurement of our senses,’ and adhokshaja means ‘that which is beyond the measurement of our senses.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.19.25 Purport)

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In the ancient Sanskrit texts of India one finds many names for God. There are many corresponding forms as well, as the names have specific meanings. Each name is valid, and each one, when properly understood, is sufficient for gaining the association of the person it addresses.

“Krishna” is likely the best known name. It means “all-attractive,” which is a pretty obvious description for the Supreme. God is so attractive that He makes sex enjoyment in material life seem stale and boring. His association turns the excitement of a wager into something as boring as brushing your teeth. His portrait is thousands of times more beautiful than the most famous painting we can think of. And this attractiveness never exhausts. It is for this reason that people can continue chanting the holy names for an entire lifetime: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

One of the more interesting names for Krishna is Adhokshaja. This means “one who is beyond the measurement of blunt instruments.” For sure an odd way to describe the Supreme, as we know that so many of the instruments used today were developed in recent times. There was no such thing as a digital scale in ancient Vedic times, when these names for God were first written down. There was no barometer, thermometer, digital clock, or machine to check blood pressure. Why, then, was there emphasis on instruments and measurements?

[thermometer]The idea is that everyone uses measurements in their assessment of greatness. To truly believe that God exists, one would surely try to measure His abilities. After all, we know someone is strong based on what they can do relative to others. If hardly anyone in a town can lift up a car, we know that we’ve found a really strong person when they are able to do it. By name Adhokshaja says that Krishna’s opulences are impossible to measure. When you have found someone with this feature, you have found God.

1. You can’t measure His size.

This works in both directions. Man is trying his best to extend life indefinitely, to remain in the same body for a long time. Yet this doesn’t address the other side. At one time man survived in the tiniest of spaces known as the womb. If man were truly interested in greatness, he would be able to reduce his size and live in that form again.

[Vamanadeva and his three steps]Shri Krishna is both larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. One time He approached a king named Bali while in the visual manifestation of a dwarf. Known as Vamanadeva, Krishna asked for as much land as could be covered in three steps. Bali agreed, after which Vamanadeva expanded Himself to a gigantic size. He took His three steps, which covered the whole world and beyond. Because of this He became known as Trivikrama. From that pastime, one can see that Krishna can become too small to take seriously and also too large to fathom.

2. You can’t measure His weight.

One time a demon disguised as a whirlwind entered the town of Vrindavana. To us this seems like mythology, but through mystic yoga and black magic such powers are not out of the realm of possibility. Known as Trinavarta, this demon picked up a small child and took Him high into the air. That child was none other than Krishna. Relying only on visuals, Trinavarta thought he had an accurate estimate of Krishna’s weight. He thought that his whirlwind was powerful enough to pick up the Supreme Lord and carry Him into the air.

[Krishna with Trinavarta]When the demon reached the apex of his ascent, suddenly Krishna’s weight was too much to bear. It was like a mountain was secured right onto Trinavarta’s neck. The demon couldn’t hold on any longer. He fell to the ground and died. In this way we see that Krishna’s weight is too great to understand.

3. You can’t measure the range of His presence.

Where are you right now? Are you sitting in a room? Are you in the car? Wherever you are, you are only in that place. You can’t be in two places at once. Some mystic yogis have this ability, which comes to them after intense meditation. Yet even they can’t be everywhere at the same time. The extent of the presence can thus be measured.

The same is not true with Krishna. Through His expansion of the Supersoul, He appears in every single space. There is the famous question about if a tree falls in an empty forest does it make a sound. It’s an interesting thought piece for only those who don’t know about the Supersoul. Krishna is everywhere, even in the empty forest. This means that He hears everything. Since we don’t know the limit to space, we can’t accurately measure how far Krishna stretches out. And yet He remains a singular person, undivided.

4. You can’t accurately measure His skill.

Who is the best fighter in the world? The champion in the heavy weight division? Someone who fights valiantly in an army? Is it someone who is both skilled at using their weapon and physically strong? The Supreme Lord has such amazing skill that you can’t even accurately measure it. We get only a rough idea from several historical incidents.

[Lord Rama]There was one time when 14,000 Rakshasas attacked in Janasthana. Krishna was on the scene as Rama, the famous bow-warrior and prince of the Raghu dynasty. Rama handled these attackers all by Himself, using only the arrows from His bow. And for Him the opposing army was nothing, for Rama can defend against an unlimited number of attackers. A trademark characteristic of the Rakshasa is disobedience to conventional rules of warfare. They would appear and disappear at will. How can you fight someone you can’t see? Rama can do it, because He is God.

5. You can’t measure His mercy.

The kindness flowing from the Supreme Lord is impossible to measure. His presence as the Supersoul within our heart is evidence enough. Even still, when we find ourselves in the trouble of doubt, if we are sincere He sends the bona fide representative to rescue us. If society as a whole deteriorates even further, He incarnates Himself as Krishna Chaitanya and inaugurates the sankirtana movement. That is the vehicle to actively seek out the destitute, who are struggling in the material ocean. The divine mercy flows to them instead of them having to seek it out. And just as Adhokshaja’s abilities know no limit, those who practice devotional service purely do so without motivation and without interruption.

In Closing:

Trinavarta taking Krishna into air,

Of Lord’s true weight unaware.


Rakshasas 14,000 attacking,

Knowledge of Rama’s prowess lacking.


Expanding into infinite space and beyond to see,

As Supersoul Lord inside of both you and me.


Adhokshaja thus name for Him befitting,

Both short and tall, small and large in Him sitting.