Saturday, November 28, 2015

Going To War

[Rama's arm]“He strikes with anger only at the appropriate time. He is the best maharatha in the world, and the entire world is supported by the arms of that great soul.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.31)

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sthāna krodha prahartā ca śreṣṭho loke mahārathaḥ |
bāhuc cāyām avaṣṭabdho yasya loko mahātmanaḥ ||

When you go to war, you go to win. Otherwise, why risk lives? Why even engage in conflict if it is merely an exhibition of strength? An obvious advantage for gaining victory is size. The more people you have on your side, the better chance you have to win. After all, one fighter can only combat so many attackers without losing. They can’t defeat every person attacking them at the same time.

If you do have a fighter who can multitask, who can handle several or more attackers simultaneously, they are a tremendous asset. In ancient times, mass conflict took place on chariots, with the warriors using bow and arrow. The number of arrows is limited, so you need tremendous marksmanship in order to stay efficient. You need attention to detail, and courage as well. Here Shri Hanuman speaks of a special warrior, one who was the greatest at fighting on the chariot.

The word used is maharatha. This is a title given to a great chariot warrior. It means a fighter who can combat many chariot warriors at the same time. The more maharathas you have on your side the better. Of all the maharathas in the world, Shri Rama is the best. One incident alone proved this, though with Rama the proof is there in every aspect of the creation.

[Lord Rama]Rama was living in the forest of Dandaka with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. News came that people from Lanka were coming to attack. Ravana was the king of that land, and his sister had recently made a visit to Dandaka. She had lusty desires towards Rama, but Rama declined her. She then tried to attack Sita, but Lakshmana protected her. He disfigured her and she left in shame. To avenge the insult to his sister, Ravana decided to send an army of 14,000 to Dandaka.

All to deal with two men and a woman - to say the force applied was excessive is an understatement. Rama instructed Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave. The greatest maharatha in the world would handle this conflict by Himself. Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. One of the properties of God is that He is unlimited. This applies to every aspect of Him, including His fighting ability.

Even the title of maharatha is too limiting for God. It applies to a great fighter, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the greatest. Moreover, chariot-fighting is ancient. Today there are bombers, machine guns, tanks, and naval ships. Even if you are a great fighter today, one bullet can do you in. There is no defense against a nuclear bomb. You have to flee the scene if the incoming is too much.

For Rama there was no option. Though the conflict took place thousands of years ago, the weapons employed were at least as potent as today’s, if not more so. Also, the 14,000 man army had extraordinary skills. They could change their shapes at will. They could appear and then suddenly disappear.

Using only His arrows shot from His bow, Rama fought these wizard-like creatures. He went on to defeat them singlehandedly. For a maharatha this is impossible, but for the Supreme Lord it is very easy. Through His material nature alone, He conquers over every person’s antagonism towards Him. The greatest criminal, the self-proclaimed god of the world, gets devoured by death at some point. The entire creation goes through cycles of creation and destruction, and it is all through Rama’s work.

gatir bhartā prabhuḥ sākṣī

nivāsaḥ śaraṇaṁ suhṛt

prabhavaḥ pralayaḥ sthānaṁ

nidhānaṁ bījam avyayam

“I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.18)

Sita was a witness to Rama’s great achievement. When months later Hanuman described Rama as the greatest chariot-warrior, she knew he was speaking the truth. She also knew that if Rama came to Lanka, He would be able to defeat Ravana and rescue her.

In the same way, though we may be under assault from so many fronts in this material existence at the moment, there is hope in the shelter of devotion to God the person. Hanuman says that the whole world is supported by the arms of that great hero. His arms are transcendental, as are the many arrows shot from His bow. Hanuman went to Lanka with the speed of one of those arrows. He infiltrated Lanka and accomplished the mission of finding Sita.

Today the same arrows swiftly arrive through the disciplic succession, which brings the spiritual guides who carry the aid of the greatest maharatha. Rama appears through sound, and so the chanting of the holy names is the weapon of choice against the dualities of like and dislike, the delusion of the material world. Just as Rama defeated Ravana’s 14,000 men, He defeats the ignorance inside of us. He does this through the instruction of the bona fide guru and also through His names, which are nicely presented in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To win only a war should be waged,

Leading fighters never to be afraid.


14,000 against one, a fight not fair,

But of Rama’s prowess Ravana not aware.


A maharatha like never before seen,

Turned Dandaka into greatest victory scene.


Defeating enemy of ignorance in us the same,

Empowered guru delivering His name.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Speaking the Truth Palatably

[Rama's lotus feet]“He speaks the truth, has a sweetness of voice like the Lord of speech, possesses a handsome form, is highly fortunate, is resplendent in everything, and is like Cupid incarnate.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.30)

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satya vādī madhura vāg devo vācaspatiḥ yathā |
rūpavān subhagaḥ śrīmān kandarpa iva mūrtimān ||

There is an old saying that if you are going to speak the truth to someone, you should do so in a sweet way. There is also the famous saying that the truth hurts. If I am mired in alcoholism, I am living in illusion. I don’t want to come to grips with the fact that I have an addiction. I am headed south, and fast. If someone should point out my flaws, I likely won’t take the words too well. They will be speaking the truth, and the reality will hit me in an unkind way.

[Nintendo controller]The truth is necessary, however. Parents must correct the children. If they are spending the day away playing video games instead of studying, someone needs to fix the situation. The children won’t like to hear this from the parents. They will consider it nagging. In spite of the reception, the truth is the truth.

At the same time, the value in the truth is what makes the reception important. If you present the truth in an unpalatable way, it might not be accepted. Therefore the wise speak both sweetly and truthfully. Hanuman applies this description to Shri Rama, the husband of Sita.

As if anticipating the skepticism of the listener, Hanuman compares Rama’s speaking ability to Brihaspati, who is the lord of speech. How you speak plays a vital role in how far you go in the corporate world. Consider the elections held in countries with a democratic-style government. Often times a good debate performance can vault a candidate to the top of the polls. The people may not like the character of the candidate, but if they can speak well, it conveys intelligence.

Rama is the best speaker, and yet He doesn’t simply flatter. He is not trying to sell a ketchup popsicle to a person wearing white gloves. He is not trying to get an Eskimo to buy ice cream. When He speaks, it is for the benefit of the recipient. He tells the truth in such a way that the recipient listens.

This fact is relevant to the situation at hand. Hanuman is speaking to Sita Devi. She is Rama’s wife and she has requested to hear about the glories of her husband. She is very familiar with Rama’s speaking ability, since part of His duties as husband involve giving instruction to Sita from time to time. She listened very well to her husband, and she did not find His truthful words to be offensive. In fact, she listened so well that she would sometimes use Rama’s own arguments against Him.

"’A woman cannot live without her husband.’  O Rama, verily this was taught to me by You before." (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.7)

The most important truth to know is that God is a person to whom we are intimately tied. That relationship wasn’t formed at some point in the past and it will not sever in the future at any time. Whether we are aware of it or not, the relationship exists. Individual spirit cannot be separated from Supreme Spirit.

Why, then, are we in so much trouble today? If a person is always with God as the Supersoul, how can they do bad things? The separation that can occur is in consciousness. The wise and benevolent souls take it as their duty to educate the people so that this separation can be repaired. Instead of material consciousness, have Krishna consciousness.

Krishna is another name for God, the same Rama of whom Hanuman speaks. Of course this truth will not be palatable to some. Especially to the staunch atheist, the sound of these words will be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Hanuman in Lanka had a difficult task, since Sita was naturally skeptical of those around her. They were enemies to her husband, and they refused to acknowledge His supreme standing. They went beyond rejection, as they kept her away from Him. Their leader intentionally separated a beloved husband and wife, when they had done nothing wrong.

[Sita and Rama]Hanuman adjusted his words to the circumstance. In the same way, even though today people will generally be unreceptive to the message of Godhead, they can still find enlightenment through sound. The same truth comes to them in the palatable form of the singing of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The sound of Rama is Rama Himself. That sweet speaker of the truth empowers the sound of His name with His presence, bringing the Absolute Truth to even those who don’t want to receive it. Brave souls who follow the lead of Hanuman are the method of delivery.

In Closing:

So that on right path for them to walk,

Superior person the truth to talk.


But wanting in a way to accept,

Since vital matters shouldn’t reject.


Shri Rama speaking true and sweet,

Hanuman recalling when Sita to meet.


Highest truth of to God our connection,

Know it through holy name’s sound direction.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bright Is The Moon High In Starlight

[Rama's lotus feet]“He is splendorous like the sun. He is pleasing to the whole world like the moon. He is the king of all the worlds like the demigod Kuvera, and He is endowed with valor like the greatly famous Vishnu.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.28-29)

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āditya iva tejasvī loka kāntaḥ śaśī yathā ||
rājā sarvasya lokasya devo vaiśravaṇo yathā |
vikrameṇa upapannaḥ ca yathā viṣṇuḥ mahāyaśāḥ ||

To whom should we offer our respect? Who is worthy of adulation, attention, and honor? Someone who provides us with necessary things would be a good candidate. If they give us food, clothing, and shelter, then they are important to us. They may not provide these things directly, but through at least some connection to them life is able to continue.

It is for this reason that the Sanskrit word “guru” applies to people beyond just the spiritual guide. In today’s vernacular, a guru is an expert. If you want to lose weight, visit a diet guru. Your computer giving you trouble? Consult a tech guru, also known as a geek or nerd. The common use of the word guru in Sanskrit refers to spiritual guides. The word appropriately extends to parents and other respected personalities as well.

This is because the guru is a life-giver. With spiritual matters, they give the second and more important birth. A person who has taken initiation from a spiritual master is known as dvija, or twice-born. Every living being has a first birth, but only the human being is eligible for the second one. Initiation marks entry into the timeless occupation of dharma, which is the soul’s essential characteristic. Dharma is what defines us, though we likely don’t know it.

[Yashoda with Krishna]The parents are guru also because they give life. They are the first guru, actually. Respect your elders. Thou shall honor thy mother and father. We’ve heard these edicts, and there is a reason behind them. It’s an issue of basic appreciation. Without our parents, we would not be in this world. Sure, they may make mistakes from time to time. They are not perfect. But since they are older and in charge, they deserve some respect.

What about a person who provides for all of humanity? Should they not get even more respect? My parents take care of me and my siblings, but there are higher forces which take care of everyone. Shri Hanuman provides a few examples. There is the sun, also known as Aditya. The sun is for everyone’s benefit. They say that if the sun were to go out, i.e. lose its heat and light, life on earth would survive for only a few hours at best. This shows how important the sun is.

[the moon]There is also the moon. It shines bright in the night to give light in an otherwise dark time. It is responsible for the tides and it gives juice to the vegetables. The sun and the moon don’t play favorites. They don’t purposefully withhold their energy from the bad creatures on earth. No matter how much you have screwed up, the sun will be there for you. The moon does not make a character judgment.

Hanuman mentions Kuvera, who is the treasurer of the celestials in heaven. Kuvera distributes wealth to the world, so he is like a king. He takes care of people by giving them essential items. Hanuman mentions Vishnu and His valor. Vishnu is also the maintainer of the universe, with Brahma creating and Shiva destroying.

The sun, the moon, Kuvera, and Vishnu are all like Rama, who is the Supreme Lord. Notice that God is responsible for things that every person relies on. Even the atheist needs the sun. The criminal relies on wealth, though the kind that belongs to others. In this way God is for everyone. Goswami Tulsidas mentions something similar in his Dohavali. He says that he knows that Rama is God because the essential items in life are relatively inexpensive and abundant in quantity. The sunlight is free and it comes around practically every day. Though on a cloudy day the sunlight gets blocked, its influence is still there.

[Lord Rama]Hanuman spoke these words to Sita, who is Rama’s wife. She was stuck in the darkness of the city of Lanka. Rama would come as the bright moon to alight her hopes for a better day. Just as Rama is like the sun and the moon, He is like Hanuman as well. Hanuman is brave, courageous, dedicated, intelligent, and highly knowledgeable. By giving hope to Sita in a stressful time, he further increased the glory of the already glorious Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Rama’s wife, distressed was she,

To give her message sent was he.


Hanuman, to the moon and sun bright,

Comparison to Rama, Sita’s hopes to alight.


To both good and bad providing,

Should appreciate He on whom relying.


Hanuman increasing glory of already a host,

Supreme Lord, worthy of respect the most.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Talking About Keeping Them Angry

[Krishna's lotus feet]“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

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dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ

saṅgas teṣūpajāyate

saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ

kāmāt krodho 'bhijāyate

Friend1: I’m worried about my kids.

Friend2: Did something happen?

Friend1: Nothing in particular, but I see things on the news and I can’t help but be concerned.

Friend2: What exactly are you worried about?

Friend1: I’m not sure if I can explain it properly.

Friend2: Give it a try.

Friend1: It’s twofold. To start, there is the aspect that they are much younger. This means that they are less experienced. They will certainly make many mistakes in life.

Friend2: Oh, I’ve thought about this one too. It’s as if you have to let them make the mistakes, even if you know better. You have to watch their youth and inexperience play out.

Friend1: Exactly. I’m not going to hide things from them, but I shouldn’t get really upset every time they mess up. After all, they won’t truly believe me until they see the consequences to their mistakes in real life.

Friend2: God bless all the parents out there.

Friend1: The second thing relates to anger. I hear about these awful things that crazy people do. I see how common divorce is. I know what the root cause is, and I want to make sure my kids don’t fall into the same trap.

Friend2: Godlessness?

Friend1: For sure, but there’s something more specific. As you know, the more a person engages in material life, the angrier they get. It’s counterintuitive, but we have both shastra and personal experience to back us up.

Friend2: There’s that verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna describes how unfulfilled desire turns into wrath, then anger, and eventually loss of intelligence.

Friend1: That’s the verse I keep thinking of. Desire, or kama, is guaranteed to be unfulfilled. We are not Krishna, after all. We can’t succeed every time. We are not Achyuta, or infallible.

Friend2: What exactly is the issue here? You want your kids to be free of kama?

Friend1: I don’t want them to be spoiled. I don’t want them to be angry at the world all the time. I want them to understand the importance of keeping desire in check. How do I get these points across to them?

[Rama and brothers at gurukula]Friend2: Listen, every individual has free will. You can’t force anyone to think a certain way. In the past there was the varnashrama-dharma system, which is the more accurate definition to the term “Hinduism.” The objective was to keep material desires in check from the very beginning of life. The children lived with little possessions during their schooling years. People today would consider those conditions to be torture.

Friend1: You can’t really replicate that in modern times. The concept of the “standard of living” negates any opportunity for renunciation during childhood. It makes the job that much tougher for parents.

Friend2: Listen, your best bet is to keep them exposed to the holy names. Let them always hear the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. What to speak of children, this is the most effective means of controlling desire in full grown adults.

Friend1: Isn’t that too simplistic, though?

Friend2: It is, but that’s because we can’t fathom the true potency of the spiritual sound. Aum is the original sound, and it directly represents the Supreme Lord. The holy names of Krishna and Rama address Him in a mood of love, and Hare calls upon His energy to lend further support. You’d be surprised at how effective this sound vibration is at keeping people in line.

Friend1: If my children hear this mantra on a regular basis, their desires will be controlled? What about learning the philosophy?

Friend2: You can’t guarantee the outcome, but this approach has the best chance to get what you want. Try your best to not spoil them, to teach them the value of renunciation. At the same time let them hear the holy names and allow for the attachment to Krishna to blossom. The idea is to transform the nature of desire, to turn kama into bhakti. Then you avoid unnecessary anger, which will hopefully keep them away from dangerous behavior.

Friend1: That seems like a good plan.

[Valmiki]Friend2: It works for adults, too. There are countless examples in history. There was the famous Valmiki Muni.

Friend1: The author of the Ramayana?

Friend2: Yes. He was a highway robber in his early life. Then he met Narada Muni, the traveler of the three worlds who spreads the message of the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: This was in adulthood?

Friend2: I don’t know the exact age, but Valmiki was supporting his family through his thievery. Narada did not go into a long discourse. He brought up some logical points to gain the robber’s trust. Narada then advised him to chant the name of Rama over and over again. It so happened that the only way the robber could do it was to say the name backwards.

Friend1: Really?

Friend2: Yeah. And so the robber chanted for so long that an anthill formed around him. Narada Muni came back and then gave him the name Valmiki after seeing him. If you think about it, that situation was way worse than what you see with children. The kama was so strong that it led to theft. Still, the power of the holy name was stronger, and through chanting it the major errors were corrected. There was the added benefit of full devotion to God.

In Closing:

Tragic events reviewing news course,

Realizing that in each anger the source.


From Bhagavad-gita’s words to trust,

Then known that initial cause is lust.


How in the children behavior to prevent?

So much around them, parents to lament.


Nothing guaranteed, from holy names just learn,

Its potency even towards piety a thief can turn.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Five Ways To Know That Krishna Is God The Person

[Lord Krishna]“Despite the fact Lord Krishna grows from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth, astonishingly enough He never ages beyond youth. At the time of the Battle of Kurukshetra, He had many grandchildren at home; or, in other words, He had sufficiently aged by material calculations. Still He looked just like a young man twenty or twenty-five years old.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.6 Purport)

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Can God be a person? Is it possible for Him to have an identifiable form, where His appearance is similar to our concept of a regular person? Is it possible to then direct worship to that specific form, where there is association through thoughts, words and deeds? Vedic teachings answer “yes” to these questions, and the affirmation has a significant impact on the style of worship.

Religion should not be dry and tasteless. It should not be about dressing up in uncomfortable clothes and staying serious throughout the day. Most importantly, it should not be rooted in fear. Just like the massive Govardhana Hill that was lifted to act as an umbrella to provide protection to the innocent residents of a farm community a long time ago, the Divine should be the Supreme Shelter. It is understandable to have fear outside of spiritual life, but the association of the origin of the creation should remove all fears.

Others will say that God cannot be a person. “To think that God can be identified as such is foolish,” they will chide. But upon analyzing the features of the Supreme Lord, as He is identified in the Vedic tradition, we see that He indeed can be a person. His features prove that He is the Supreme Person, unlike any other that we’ve met. He is similar to us in quality, but the potential quantitative output of those qualities is vastly superior. He gets many names, including Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” Krishna’s behavior and transcendental qualities validate that He is indeed God the person.

1. He is not old.

As we get older, things start to slow down. We no longer can eat whatever we want. We don’t look as beautiful. Wrinkles enter the face, hair on the head begins to fade, and injury and disease appear more frequently. In paintings of God found in traditions outside of the Vedas, we see the Supreme as an old man. He has a beard and a serious look on His face, as He observes what is happening on earth with disapproval.

[Lord Krishna]Krishna is described as nava-yauvanam. He never ages beyond sixteen years. This means that His beauty never diminishes. He can be a great-grandfather and still look like someone in high school. There is no aging for Him since His body is transcendental. As it is not composed of material elements it has no defects. Birth, old age, disease and death are for us mere mortals only.

2. He is not vengeful.

You should turn the other cheek. You should not hold a grudge against someone. You should learn to forgive. These things are taught to us as we grow up. The human being has to learn, which means that they are not perfect. If God is the all-perfect, He can’t possess the flaw of holding animus towards anyone.

Krishna is not vengeful. He loves everyone, forever and ever. One way He shows this is through His expansion of the Supersoul. So small in size, but still fully potent, Krishna acts as the all-pervading witness to man’s actions. Due to His kindness, He does not interfere with free will. He remains close by should the decision to turn towards spiritual life ever be made.

Krishna does attack every now and then. Every time it is for the purpose of defense. Devotees who surrender to Him get the Divine shelter. If outside forces come to thwart the exercise of that devotion, Krishna either sends His direct representative or arrives Himself to give protection. This is not vengeance, but rather love.

3. He is not angry.

In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna describes how anger arises. First there is kama, or lust. When lust is not satisfied, there is frustration. From frustration comes anger, which then leads to bewilderment of memory, and eventually loss of intelligence.

dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ

saṅgas teṣūpajāyate

saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ

kāmāt krodho 'bhijāyate

“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

Krishna provides this teaching for our benefit, not His. He has desires, but they are not in kama. He never knows frustration, since He can make anything happen. Since there is no frustration, there is no anger. When He shows His ferocious form of Narasimhadeva, the half-man/half-lion, it is due to the aforementioned protection He offers to the devotees. Krishna is always in bliss; He has no reason to be angry at anyone.

4. He is not doing anything.

yadā yadā hi dharmasya

glānir bhavati bhārata

abhyutthānam adharmasya

tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Krishna descends to earth whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion. He makes the decision when to appear and in what form to roam the land. Depending on the time and circumstance, Krishna might mask some of His opulence. Sometimes He appears in a species that is not humanlike. These forms are still identical to Him, but they don’t show everything about God the person.

[Krishna in Vrindavana]Krishna Himself has nothing to do. This is one way to know that He is the Supreme Godhead. He spends the whole day playing on His flute and happily traversing the sacred land of Vrindavana. His friends are always with Him. Those friends include mothers, fathers, peers, and even animals like cows, deer, peacocks, and parrots. Since Krishna is God, He has no responsibilities. No one makes Him do anything.

5. He has every opulence in full.

There is an easy way to know if God can be a person. Take every opulence and see if the Supreme Lord has it. He should have every single one and they should be in the highest quantity. Fortunately for us, the great sages of the past have made the analysis much easier. Parashara Muni says that God the person is Bhagavan, which is a Sanskrit word with a specific meaning.

aiśvaryasya samagrasya

vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ

jñāna-vairāgyayaś caiva

ṣaṇṇāṁ bhaga itīṅganā

“Bhagavan means who possesses these six opulences in full: all riches, all strength, all influence, all wisdom, all beauty, all renunciation.” (Vishnu Purana, 6.5.47)

[Radha and Krishna]Bhagavan is someone who has all beauty, all wealth, all strength, all fame, all knowledge and all renunciation. Each opulence is a reference point for continuous study. Study of Krishna in this way itself qualifies as devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Because Krishna is God the person, worship of Him is full of taste. It features interactions, association, attachment, and even pains of separation. To long for the company of the all-attractive one is to be in the highest state of bliss, which is the reason for an existence.

In Closing:

Shri Krishna never angry to see,

In youthful appearance always is He.


Without vengeance to live,

Forgetfulness of Him ready to forgive.


Compelled to do anything never,

Can play His flute forever and ever.


Every opulence of Him an endless study,

Highest bliss for those with devotion steady.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Negation of the Material

[Krishna lila]“Materialistic persons are never interested in hearing about the marvelous pastimes of the Lord. They think that they are fictions and stories and that the Supreme Godhead is also a man of material nature.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.32.18 Purport)

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It’s easy to identify a materialistic person. They value only possessions. They insist on high quality in whatever they get. If they go to a pizza restaurant one night and what they order is slightly overcooked, they get extremely upset. “It’s not up to par. You guys didn’t make it as good as you usually do.”

If their pricey new automobile gets a scratch on it, they spend the entire day trying to fix it. Everything must be in a pristine state. Even if they have so many things, they always want more. They are never satisfied, as getting new things is their way of trying to satisfy the senses.

[baby playpen]The Sanskrit term for such a person is “karmi.” Indeed, this mentality is the default; it starts right from the time of exiting the womb. Just visit the playroom of your typical toddler and you’ll get an idea of how many objects can be amassed for enjoyment. Ideally, as you get older you should worry about less things. This is due to intelligence, which is supposed to be strengthened from experience.

The Sanskrit term for enjoyment of material objects is “bhoga.” The term is often paired with “tyaga,” which is renunciation. On the one side you have enjoyment of objects and on the other you have renunciation. The quintessential person in renunciation is the monk living in a remote area, someplace quiet. In India, there is the concept of the “sadhu,” who is like a roaming, homeless mendicant. They voluntarily give up all possessions in order to further advance in spiritual life.

Upon a sober analysis, we see that both the person in bhoga and the person in tyaga are still materialistic. The latter group is simply trying to negate the material. Their focus remains on objects. As a group following a disciplined practice, the strict tyagis are known as Mayavadis. This translates to “impersonalists.” Their philosophical conclusion is that everything in this world is ultimately maya, or illusion. Therefore they try to negate everything.

The aversion to hearing topics of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is one way to identify the Mayavadi. In Vedic literature there are descriptions of pretty amazing things. In reality, it’s not so amazing, as the material elements merely get manipulated. If the origin of all things creates the gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, then why can’t He manipulate them as He so chooses? If He also creates the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego, why wouldn’t He be able to exhibit the highest intelligence when dealing with others?

[Krishna appearing before Vasudeva and Devaki]When the origin of everything descends to earth, the Sanskrit word “avatara” identifies the specific personality. The literal meaning to this word is “one who descends.” The Supreme appears in the earthly realm, which features material elements manipulated by spiritual beings. Still, the Supreme is never under the sway of maya. He can do whatever He likes. He sometimes builds a bridge out of floating rocks. He lifts a massive hill and holds it up with His pinky finger. His dearest devotees, empowered through their love for Him, cross massive oceans in a single leap and defeat a formidable army using just trees and rocks.

Since the Mayavadis are materialistic, they don’t appreciate the historical accounts of the Supreme’s activities. Since they think everything is maya, they think that the Supreme is also a person in maya. As such, though they are renounced, they don’t get the full benefit of their spiritual practice.

The truth is that both spirit and matter come from God. The wise dovetail everything with service to Him. They don’t outwardly reject items that typically aren’t spiritual in nature. They don’t hoard objects, but they don’t throw them away, either. Shri Hanuman and his friends used boulders and trees to fight for the Supreme Lord Rama. Though these were material objects, they became spiritual in nature through their use.

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]The concept is known as yukta-vairagya, and it is nicely explained by those following in the line of devotion reignited by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The devotee is above both the bhogi and the tyagi. They use whatever God has created and given to them to escape the trap of the material ocean. One sign of their advancement is their eagerness to constantly hear about God and His pastimes.

In Closing:

Materialist more and more expecting,

Tyagi every object as maya rejecting.


Both with material consciousness to reside,

One on collection, other on avoidance side.


Everything illusion, but the Lord not knowing,

Interest for hearing pastimes never showing.


Yukta-vairagya for God the concept to advance,

Like Hanuman for service jumping at the chance.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Talking About Interfering With Life

[Krishna with cows]“Real ahimsa means not checking anyone's progressive life. The animals are also making progress in their evolutionary life by transmigrating from one category of animal life to another. If a particular animal is killed, then his progress is checked.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.1-3 Purport)

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Friend1: Do you notice that people tend to disproportionately focus on the vegetarian thing when introduced to bhakti-yoga?

Friend2: I do. The first thing they concern themselves with is “what am I not allowed to do?” It’s like they’re about to enter prison or something.

Friend1: That’s a good comparison. They’re really asking you, “So how bad is it? Is it something I can tolerate?” And meanwhile, life right now is already so bad. They tolerate much worse, and they’re not getting anything in return.

Friend2: Exactly. Bhakti-yoga is for finding true happiness. It’s for answering the questions that material life has failed to address. It’s being completely honest about everything instead of trying to forget.

Friend1: You know, it’s interesting that you say that. I’ve realized that so much in life is procrastination. Like when I had a big paper due in college, I would keep myself occupied in so many ways just so I wouldn’t think about the assignment. I would take naps, watch television, talk to friends - any excuse to not deal with the issue at hand.

Friend2: In material life it’s so easy to do that. In youth you have school. That’s a ton of pressure. Then when you’re finished you have to get a job. Finding one is difficult, and then there is no guarantee you will keep it going forward.

Friend1: Then you have to get married. Marriage means family. Then you have to focus on the same cycle through life for your dependents. You’re correct. There is plenty to distract the mind.

Friend2: From birth to death.

Friend1: Anyway, getting back to the vegetarian thing - for people who have been eating meat their whole lives, it’s a little difficult to understand.

[Bhaktivinoda Thakura]Friend2: Not just them, but everyone around them too. It’s ingrained in the culture. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that when you start sinful life, it becomes easier to follow as the generations pass. When so many people participate, you gradually turn adharma into dharma.

Friend1: Wrong becomes right. The obvious argument against it is that eating meat is not so big a deal. These are lesser life forms anyway. Human beings have dominion.

Friend2: Well, there is a counter for each argument that can be discussed for hours, but I heard something interesting recently from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that was right to the point. He compared animal killing to forced entry into someone’s apartment.

Friend1: Oh, like breaking and entering? Like what a thief does?

Friend2: Well, go one step beyond the thief. Imagine if the burglar entered and then forced you to leave the apartment.

Friend1: Like they overtook your place of residence?

Friend2: Right. The swami compared that to animal killing. Basically, the law of karma gives the living entities a particular body. You can’t kill the soul. That must be acknowledged. Yet by needlessly killing the animal, you’re forcing it to leave the place of residence assigned to it by the higher forces of nature.

Friend1: I see. Yeah, that seems logical enough.

Friend2: It goes against basic decency. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that a person who doesn’t cause harm to others is dear to Him. You don’t need to read that famous work to understand why that would be the case. Any sober person realizes that God is the father of the entire creation. He would never condone needless violence.

Friend1: Okay, but I could see a counter argument. The meat eater would say that it’s not needless. They need to kill the animal in order to survive.

[vegetables]Friend2: Yeah, that’s just nonsense. You can take today’s many diet fads as proof. People go on fasts where they consume nothing but fruit and vegetable juice for weeks. Others don’t eat any grains.

Friend1: Yeah, there’s the zero carb one as well.

Friend2: Right, and these people all survive. They lose weight in the process. It’s debatable if these diets are good for your health, but survival is still there. So no one is going to die of malnutrition if they stop eating meat. Every nutrient is available in other sources.

Friend1: And millions of people around the world, even from the past, have survived without eating meat.

Friend2: That’s true. It should be acknowledged that this is not a competition of vegetarian versus non-vegetarian. The restriction on meat eating is for helping advance the consciousness. It is not so much about nonviolence, either. If you follow the regulative principles in bhakti-yoga, you progress towards the ultimate end of a purified consciousness. When your consciousness is pure, you can be happy in any situation. Even if you are facing horrible people and troubling circumstances, you can stay connected to the Divine. Your strong consciousness maintains that connection through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When you’re always thinking of God the person, you automatically acquire good habits and traits like ahimsa.

In Closing:

Like burglar feet in home to set upon,

Then taking your stuff, demanding you’re gone.


Comparison to needless killing act,

Karma giving each creature body exact.


Fruits, grains and milk plenty on to survive,

Animal flesh not needed for human to thrive.


Aim of ahimsa for consciousness progressing,

Pious each creature with compassion addressing.