Saturday, December 5, 2015

Talking About Auspicious and Inauspicious

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The Supreme Lord is so kind to His pure devotees that in proper time He calls such devotees up to Him and thus creates an auspicious circumstance for the devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.24-25 Purport)

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Friend1: If you’re giving money as a gift for someone’s birthday, how much do you put in the envelope?

Friend2: Trying to be stingy again? Is this someone you don’t like?

Friend1: I’m asking about the general rule. Would you ever give one hundred dollars?

Friend2: Usually it’s like one hundred and one.

[birthday card]Friend1: Okay. That’s exactly what I wanted to discuss. I do the same thing. For some reason, I can’t give money as a gift without putting the extra dollar in there.

Friend2: Right. I’m not sure the origin of that. As a kid whenever I got money as a gift, it had the extra dollar in there. So I just followed the same tradition.

Friend1: Is it a Hindu thing?

Friend2: It might be. Maybe it has something to do with good luck.

Friend1: That makes sense.

Friend2: Vedic rituals and traditions are highly influenced by time and circumstance. As an example, they put a lot of stock into what time you were born.

Friend1: And that’s based on the lunar calendar, right? Depending on how the stars were aligned at the time of your birth, it says something about what will happen to you in the future.

Friend2: And what kind of character you will have, and so on. It’s about auspicious and inauspicious.

Friend1: Does it mean that if you do things at certain times, you are always doomed?

Friend2: Not necessarily. Not everything is the same for everyone. Remember, auspicious and inauspicious can be relative.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Take the open door as an example. It’s inauspicious for the owner of the home or apartment. For some reason they have left the door open. It’s inviting something bad to happen. On the other side, the thief is so happy. They have been waiting for an easy job. They don’t have to work so hard at stealing when they can enter without breaking a lock. It’s like getting a free meal.

Friend1: I never thought of it that way.

Friend2: It’s called duality. It’s an integral aspect to the world in which we live. One man’s food is another man’s poison.

Friend1: I’ve definitely heard that one before. Is there auspicious and inauspicious in religious life?

Friend2: What do you mean? Like for worshiping and such?

Friend1: For some reason I’m remembering that they have priests calculate the ideal day for a wedding.

Friend2: Oh, for sure. The same for travelling, conceiving a child, and moving in to a new home. In India you can make a living by running such calculations.

Friend1: Is there any activity or situation which is always auspicious, where the time and circumstance don’t matter?

Friend2: Devotion to Vishnu, or God the person. Everything else can be against you, but if you are devoted to the Supreme Lord then everything will be alright.

Friend1: If you’re giving Him a gift, do you have to include the extra one?

[Vishnu's lotus feet]Friend2: [laughs] No. The general concept of appropriate time and circumstance still has relevance, though. For instance, the best time to worship Vishnu is in the morning right before sunrise. This is called the brahma-muhurta. Spiritual activities performed at this time are considered to be more effective.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: But does it mean that if you don’t worship at such an early time you are doomed? No. You can be in the worst circumstances, lacking all paraphernalia, surrounded by hostile people, and still have devotion to Vishnu. Even if you are born in a family of bad characters, your circumstances are considered auspicious if you have devotion, or bhakti, to the Lord.

Friend1: In that sense, you could say that bhakti is the only way to transcend time and circumstance completely. The person who has devotion to Vishnu doesn’t cry about their situation; they don’t pity themselves.

[Shrimati Radharani]Friend2: Even if they do, they still remember the Lord. Their lamentation is auspicious. It’s difficult to understand, but with steady practice in devotion everything becomes clear. There’s the example of Shrimati Radharani. She always feels the pain of separation from her beloved Krishna. She laments, but it’s not a bad thing. The lamentation increases her attachment to the all-attractive Lord. There is also Prahlada Maharaja. He faces direct antagonism from the bigger, more influential elders. Still, he does not budge. You wouldn’t consider being thrown in a pit of fire against your will to be auspicious, would you?

Friend1: Certainly not.

Friend2: Yet even in that situation Prahlada maintains his devotion to Vishnu. These examples prove that bhakti transcends the material world. Though we see duality in everything, there is no such issue in devotional service. Something like chanting the holy names is all-auspicious, beneficial for everyone. That’s why it’s the principal means of rescue in the modern age: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Wedding and rituals on appropriate day,

Following time and circumstance way.


As thief open door auspicious for me,

But for homeowner bad sign to be.


Duality in this world everything in,

But not for bhakti, beyond piety and sin.


Even pain pleasurable can become,

And devotion through antagonism done.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The One About Being Homesick

[Vaikuntha]“The fallen souls are very eager to receive novel informations every day, and the transcendentalists like Vyasadeva or Narada can supply such eager people in general with unlimited news from the spiritual world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.13 Purport)

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Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who was affectionately known as the lion-guru, was at one time publishing a daily newspaper. This publication was unique in its content. It did not feature the latest happenings in the community. The reporters were not running to different locations to gather eyewitness testimony. Instead, the newspaper was exclusively about the science of self-realization.

[Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]One could say that it was a religious newspaper, but there wasn’t sole reliance on faith. Moreover, there was still news to report. A person once questioned the famous guru as to how he could find enough content to publish on a daily basis. The response was that the news from the spiritual world is endless and far more important than anything happening in this world.

That news is also pleasing to the heart; the reason being that the spiritual realm is the original home of all creatures. Spirit comes from spirit, and in our present surroundings matter is the dominating force. Though matter is inanimate, the bewildered living beings think it to be more important than spirit. One who regularly hears news from their original home finds great relief from this problem.

Devi was explaining this to her friend one day. She relayed a story from her own life to help get the message across.

Ever since I got married, I wanted to visit Paris with my husband. I kept hounding him about it. I am a little ashamed to admit that I pulled the classic move of comparing him to other husbands. Many of my friends had gone to Europe on vacation, so I made sure to mention that to him.

[Eiffel tower]I guess my persistence paid off, since one summer we finally got to go. I was excited. I had our whole trip planned out. I knew which places I wanted to see. We weren’t going to waste any time over there.

Unfortunately, a day after arriving I got sick. I must have eaten something bad, because my stomach hurt so much. I could barely get out of bed. I was like this for a few days. I don’t know how to describe it, but I felt so awful there. It was like I was trapped in a prison or something. Europe was very different; not what I was used to.

I’ll never forget that one night I was flipping channels on the television in the hotel room. I was looking for anything that wasn’t in French. Finally, I stumbled upon a show from home that I really like. They had it in English too, with French subtitles. I can’t tell you how happy this made me. I watched that show for the next four hours. It was like I was back home. That was the turning point. I immediately started to feel better. The rest of the trip carried on, and I tried my best to stay connected to home in any possible way. Just hearing the national news headlines made me feel good. I usually don’t follow the news that much when I’m home, but that changed when I was abroad and homesick.

Devi then explained to her friend that the spirit souls in this world have the same kind of homesickness. Sense gratification, chasing after money, competing with their fellow man to the death - these things are not natural. Human beings would rather love and serve. This is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic.

[Krishna and Balarama in Vrindavana]Devi explained that just as she felt better by getting news from home while in Paris, the spirit souls can immediately reverse their anxiety by hearing news from the spiritual realm. The planets there are known as Vaikuntha, or the place without anxiety. In the topmost planet, the Supreme Lord, in His original form, is constantly enjoying. He is playing His flute, running on the pristine fields with the cows, and delighting in the association of His friends, male and female, young and old. The news travels to our realm through the via medium of the spiritual master. The news the guru carries is so powerful that simply hearing it puts a person on the path back to home, back to Godhead.

In Closing:

In a foreign place feeling alone,

Sickness from missing your home.


Then day brightened by news to hear,

Though far away, to comfort again near.


In the same way from Vaikuntha coming,

Through sound of Krishna happy becoming.


Spiritual master the via medium from to pass,

Putting countless souls on homeward bound path.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Doing What Is Asked Of You

[Shri Hanuman]“By Him I have been sent as a messenger and have arrived here in your presence. Distressed by grief over your separation, He asks of your welfare.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.34)

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tena aham preṣito dūtaḥ tvat sakāśam iha āgataḥ |
tvat viyogena duhkha ārtaḥ sa tvām kauśalam abravīt ||

It’s not easy carrying out a task for someone else. There are so many things that get in the way. What if I am tired? I have been working all day. I have so looked forward to going home and doing nothing. I just want to lay down and not think of the many responsibilities that will fall on me again tomorrow. Why can’t people just leave me alone? I really don’t want to do anymore favors today.

What if I can’t do what is asked of me? The boss at work wants me to fire an employee. I have never done that before. I feel for them. I know what it’s like to be let go from a company. I know how devastating such news can be. I feel that this person is being treated unfairly. The boss is being petty; the employee hasn’t really done anything wrong.

[pizza box]What if I don’t agree with the motives of the person asking me? A friend has asked me to help them move. I live a few hundred miles away from them. My friend knows that I specifically avoid manual labor. I get frustrated quickly when having to lift heavy things and move them. I would rather pay someone to help my friend. I also know that my friend is only asking me because they want to save a few bucks. “Rather than hire movers, have your friend drive hundreds of miles to help.” They promise to buy me some pizza as thanks. Keeping these things in mind, I am reluctant to agree to the request.

Shri Hanuman’s example makes for an interesting study. He was asked to help, and not by someone he knew for a long time. You couldn’t say that the person asking was a dear old friend. He wasn’t a boss, either. Hanuman was not officially employed by this person. The things asked of Hanuman had not been done by any person on earth up until that point. In fact, the mission looked impossible.

Hanuman proceeded anyway. The aforementioned doubts were not with him because of the nature of the person asking. Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. He is the sweetest person in the world, and He is also the most powerful. Any person who sincerely takes up work for Him ends up successful in the end. The real benefit is increased consciousness of God, which is the true way to happiness for all creatures.

[Rama giving ring to Hanuman]In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman says that he was sent as a messenger by Rama to look for Sita. He is now in Sita’s presence, which means that he has succeeded in the mission. The person who sent Him has these amazing qualities. He can shoot fiery arrows when angry. He is like both the sun and the moon in importance to the world, and He is like the maintainer Lord Vishnu. Rama is all of these great things, which Sita knows very well. She knows because she is His wife.

When Rama asks for something, Hanuman immediately obliges. He is won over by Rama’s qualities. Any person who knows God in truth feels similarly. They know that Rama does not exploit. They know that Rama is not looking to cheat anyone, that when He asks for something, He gets pleased immensely as soon as the effort is made. Rama is grateful as well, so He never forgets those who take up service to Him.

“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman about Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)

[Hanuman]Man has to work. This fact cannot be denied. The issues are what kind of work should be done and for whose benefit. Hanuman works for Rama. The devotees do what is asked of them by the Supreme Lord. If they don’t get orders directly, they get their direction from a bona fide representative. The general mission for the living entity is to become conscious of God through always thinking of Him. Hanuman gets the more specific mission of penetrating the enemy land of Lanka to look for the distressed Sita. Even after he succeeds, his work doesn’t stop. He continues to please Sita and Rama to this day, and they hold him very dear in their hearts.

In Closing:

Friend taking advantage of me,

Wanting help from me for free.


With this task I don’t agree,

Pettiness in the boss I see.


Issues understandable for reservations making,

But Hanuman assignment immediately taking.


That Rama full of sweetness and grateful so,

So for His pleasure Hanuman anywhere to go.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Serpent Arrows

[Rama's arrows]“The heroic one who will soon kill Ravana in battle by angrily releasing arrows that resemble blazing flames…” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.33)

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nacirāt rāvaṇam samkhye yo vadhiṣyati vīryavān |
roṣa pramuktaiḥ iṣubhiḥ jvaladbhiḥ iva pāvakaiḥ ||

One of the properties of God is that He can penetrate into every area. Not every object represents Him. For instance, if we go up to a random tree and start worshiping it, it is not like we have found the Supreme Deity. Just as the tree is not God, neither are we. At the same time, the Supreme Lord has His presence in everything. The complete whole is in Him, part of the definition of who He is, but He is not in everything. He is always above and separate from the components.

mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ

jagad avyakta-mūrtinā

mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni

na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)

One way He accomplishes omnipresence is through the Supersoul. I am individual soul and so are you. This has a specific meaning. The individual soul remains local to a specific area, namely the body. I can’t see what is going on across the globe. I can maybe hear through the aid of technology, but it is not like I am witnessing everything myself. I can’t go into your brain and read your mind. Another person can’t do that with me, either.

There is the notable exception of mystic yoga. Through enough practice of the ancient science that clears the distractions brought on by attachment to the body a person can maybe read some minds, some of the time. They may be able to transport themselves to different areas. Nevertheless, they can’t be everywhere and they can’t read every mind.

[forest]These limitations are inherent in individual soul. The Supersoul, on the other hand, is everywhere. Wherever there is life, there is Supersoul. The life form does not have to be advanced. If there is a tree, there is also Supersoul. If there is grass, the same applies. When a tree falls in an empty forest, someone is there to hear the sound. That someone is the Supersoul.

Not only can God be everywhere through an invisible expansion known as Supersoul, but any aspect of Him can accomplish the same. He can physically be anywhere and He can also send anything that relates to Him to penetrate any area. The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives one example of how this works.

The speaker is referring to Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Rama is God in the form of a valiant warrior, viryavan. For combat Rama employs arrows released from His bow. Normally, we would consider this a primitive method of fighting. If you are the Supreme Lord, why wouldn’t you use the most powerful weapons available? Why not drop bunker-busting bombs? Why not use tanks and machine guns?

Actually, Rama’s arrows are much more powerful than any weapon we could imagine. When Rama rages in anger, He releases arrows that are like blazing sparks. At the tips, the arrows show the face of a serpent. They are like heat-seeking missiles, with no mistakes made as far as aim. Rama always hits His target, and that target does not even have to be within the normal range of vision.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

Lord RamaHanuman is describing Rama to Rama’s wife Sita. He is telling her that Rama will come and kill Ravana, the fiend who had kidnapped her. Though Ravana thinks he is safe living on an island that is surrounded by a vast ocean, Rama’s arrows will find their target. Sita knows this very well since she had witnessed Rama’s amazing fighting prowess herself. Hanuman’s awareness of the fact proves that he is indeed sent by Rama.

Hanuman is a genuine messenger of the Supreme Lord and he too finds the target when taking up a mission. He succeeds because he is empowered by Rama. The modern day representatives of the valiant Supreme Lord bravely extend their influence from village to village to seek out the sincere souls who are looking to reunite with God, the person to whom everyone is intimately tied. No matter how dire things seem, Rama hears every cry, every prayer, and every appeal. He hears every utterance of His name made with love and devotion: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Dense forest of human life is clear,

When tree falls is there sound to hear?


God as Supersoul witness being,

Nothing past Him, everything seeing.


Even in isolated area of Lanka soon to come,

Obstructions to His blazing arrows to be none.


Like Rama, Hanuman always hitting the mark,

Through Lord Himself success assured from the start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Not Frozen In Time

[Lord Rama]“Employing the form of a deer, he distracted Rama and then took you away from that empty hermitage. You will see the fruit of that action.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.32)

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apakṛśṣya āśrama padān mṛga rūpeṇa rāghavam |
śūnye yena apanītā asi tasya drakṣyasi yat phalam ||

What is time? Man has been baffled by it since before recorded history began. A person taking a long flight worries about what they will do. The concern is over how time will be occupied. They don’t consider how they have passed so much time already, in their many years of living in this world. The parents worry over how time will act on their children, what the future holds in store. The diseased person is concerned that their time in the present body might soon be ending.

From studying the spiritual science that is the Vedas, we learn that time is merely the manifestation of the material elements at a specific moment. Right now I look a certain way. I have a specific height, complexion, and amount of hair. In the past those things could have been entirely different. In the future, they might change as well. Throughout the different points in time, I remain the same individual. My identity does not change. This means that the only difference is the manifestation, the collection of the material elements that go on top of whatever it is that represents my identity.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

[changing bodies]One of the ways that time baffles is by making us believe that something will never change. This is especially distressing when we want the situation to shift, such as when good things happen to bad people. Shouldn’t a person be punished for lying? Shouldn’t the severity of the reaction be commensurate with the seriousness of the crime? Why is it that people get away with things, then? Lying politicians become rich after leaving office. Criminals can get an innocent verdict if they hire the right lawyer. Life is so unfair sometimes.

It looked that way in Lanka a long time ago. The city was literally made of gold. The people enjoyed endless animal flesh and wine. The king had multiple wives, who were all beautiful. It was the sinner’s paradise. It looked like nothing could go wrong. The king had even taken another man’s wife in secret. He had one of his henchmen use the illusory form of a deer to lure away the woman’s husband. That left the place they were staying, an ashrama, empty, or shunya.

What was the immediate result to that action? The king Ravana continued in his sinful life in Lanka. The woman, Sita Devi, remained in distress for months. She refused to give in to Ravana’s advances, and so the fiend only tried harder. He resorted to threats; he had his female attendants harass Sita day and night.

The princess of Videha was blameless. She followed the example set by her father, King Janaka. He was renowned for his dedication to work with detachment. He was a yogi in consciousness, but that didn’t mean he gave up his occupational duties. The Bhagavad-gita makes mention of him as an ideal example of how to work with detachment.

karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim

āsthitā janakādayaḥ

loka-saṅgraham evāpi

sampaśyan kartum arhasi

“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)

[Sita holding flower]Sita was living in that ashrama only because she followed her duty to her husband. She lived in dharma, while Ravana lived in kama. Dharma should reward the individual, while kama always punishes eventually. The present circumstances gave a different impression, however.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman reminds any doubtful person that time does change things. We should not be fooled into believing that the present manifestation of the material elements will stay fixed. After all, the creation had to manifest at some point. Lord Brahma creates. Then someone needs to maintain. There is Lord Vishnu for that. Eventually there is destruction, which Lord Shiva easily handles. The cycle repeats, as that is the nature of the material world.

If the entire universe came into being and eventually gets destroyed, so too will every local collection of material elements. Time is what effects the change. The nature of that change is influenced directly by activities, known as karma. The phala, or fruits, to Ravana’s karma would manifest soon enough.

Rama would arrive on the scene and give the fiendish king his due reward. Wise souls like Hanuman know how this works. They don’t make the mistake of thinking that temporary circumstances tell the entire story. Just as the flowers bloom at the appropriate time, so the doer of sinful deeds gets their just punishment when they are set to receive it. Rama Himself one time said this to one of Ravana’s men.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

[Rama holding bow]More important than understanding time and its influence is knowing that it is managed directly by the Supreme Lord. Rama is the same Krishna who says in the Bhagavad-gita that He is time itself. The person who is time can control how it operates. For Hanuman He manipulates time so that eventually the trust of the doubtful Sita is won. He effects time for Vibhishana so that the pious soul ends up on the right side in a great conflict. He preserves the sacred time period of the events in question in a famous book known as the Ramayana. In every way Rama makes time favorable for His devotees, who no longer have to worry about karma and its effects.

In Closing:

Right now specific manifestation to see,

But know that not always like this to be.


Everything to end, including body of mine,

Changes effected by undefeated time.


Ravana living in sinner’s enjoyment swoon,

But punishment for sinful deed coming soon.


Husband of Sita, Shri Rama through,

Wise soul Hanuman this always knew.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Acting With Impunity

[Rama's lotus feet]“Employing the form of a deer, he distracted Rama and then took you away from that empty hermitage. You will see the fruit of that action.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.32)

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apakṛśṣya āśrama padān mṛga rūpeṇa rāghavam |
śūnye yena apanītā asi tasya drakṣyasi yat phalam ||

You can’t believe it. Is this really the same person? They used to be so fit. In this old picture they look like they are still in high school. In the new picture they don’t look so good. What happened? You hear that they are divorced and struggling with substance abuse. That likely has contributed to the dramatic change. How could the person in the first picture turn into the person from the second picture?

In the material world things change; the tides can turn quickly. A business starts from the ground floor and takes off to the point of becoming publicly traded. They go from a few people sitting in an office to thousands of employees occupying every floor of a high rise building. The business looks like they will continue to expand when one day something changes. A new law gets passed which prevents the business from operating in its most popular location. Gradually, over time, as quickly as it grew, the business shrinks. Sales dry up, employees are let go, and the prosperity that looked like it would never end is nowhere to be found.

Things do change with time. One of the great concerns in life is that someone who does something bad will not be punished for it. We see this with politicians all the time. We know they are lying to us. Their supporters don’t even hide the fact. Rather, they marvel at how well the person representing them can spin things. Aren’t honesty and integrity important in public figures, you think.

[flowers on trees]The just consequences do arrive, but they take time. Not everything happens right away. In Sanskrit the word for ordinary action is karma. The results to karma are known as phala; hence the common English translation of karma as “fruitive activity.” Karma is any action that sees a reaction at some point in time. Time operates only on the material nature, so karma is work that sees reactions that apply strictly to the material body.

The phala of karma may not manifest immediately. To the person awaiting justice, this is cruelly unfair. Why not give the punishment right away? Why should the lawbreaker get to enjoy for a while first? In the end, there is not much difference. As long as the punishment arrives, time has done its job; justice has been served.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman tells a distressed princess to wait and see the results to a most heinous act. She was taken away from the side of her husband through a ruse. Ravana, the king of Lanka, employed the false form of a deer to lure the husband Rama away from the ashrama, or hermitage. Taking advantage of the fact that it was unguarded, Ravana forcibly took Sita away, bringing her back to Lanka.

For months it looked like Ravana had gotten away with it. There was no news of Rama or His younger brother Lakshmana. Then came this strange looking messenger. He spoke beautiful Sanskrit, claimed to be sent by Rama, and was eager to allay Sita’s fears. She was still skeptical, though. She asked Hanuman to continue Rama-katha, for it was both pleasing to her ears and a way to prove his authenticity.

This is an instance of the wise speaking to the wise. The less intelligent do not know about karma. They think that there is no higher authority managing the results to action. The sober person realizes that the variety in circumstances found in material life can be attributed to nothing else but a higher force, which works in concert with time. Something bigger than us must be responsible because not every instance of an action yields the same result. Two people can spend months working out in the gym, but they won’t have the exact same physique at the end. Two people can study Sanskrit their whole lives, but they are not destined to have the same level of aptitude.

Ravana himself was an example. He was a son of the venerable Vishrava, as was Kuvera. Yet the two brothers were vastly different. Even Ravana’s immediate younger brother, Vibhishana, had a different disposition. He was favorably disposed towards Rama, while Ravana was not. Hanuman was not your typical creature in a monkey-like body. He leapt over the massive ocean and infiltrated a city undetected; a place where he was certainly not welcome.

Ravana would get his deserved punishment in due time. In the same way, every person sees the results to their karma at the appropriate moment. The entire system is managed by the Supreme Lord, who is the dear husband of Sita. Time works at His direction instead of the other way around. He manipulates time in such a way that the foolish get the false hope that they can do whatever they want, thinking they can act with impunity.

[Hanuman leaping across ocean]The wise souls like Hanuman know how karma works. They know that the greatest blessing is to have the favor of Rama, who can change the nature of any person’s actions. A leap across the ocean is a fool’s errand normally, but for Rama’s messenger the end result is success. That messenger removes the fears of the beloved Sita, who remains forever favorable to him. Acts in devotion accumulate no karma. The work is known as bhakti, and the results get managed directly by Rama, who makes time and circumstance operate in their favor.

In Closing:

Foolish Ravana with impunity to act,

Not knowing punishment coming exact.


Like flowers that blossom on the tree,

At right time consequences to see.


This fact to distressed Sita reminding,

Hanuman, humbly before her standing.


For devotees no karma accumulating,

Rama for them time and place manipulating.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gun Control

[Rama holding bow]“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 ||

One side says that you should take away guns from people:

“Look at the countries that have strict gun laws. There aren’t these mass shootings going on. The people aren’t trigger happy. The more you arm people, the more prone they will be towards gun violence. The Founding Fathers crafted the second amendment long before semi-automatic weapons were invented. They never envisioned people owning hundreds of guns each.”

The other side says that the more people who are armed, the less crime there will be:

“Look at these mass shootings. The killer doesn’t stop until someone else with a gun confronts them. It is a basic human right to defend oneself. If you ban lawful people from buying guns, then only the criminals will have them. These schools where the shootings occur are labeled ‘gun-free.’ A lot of good that is doing. The greatest deterrent to a criminal act is armed resistance on the other side.”

The debate on this issue is not new. Even thousands of years ago, in an ancient Sanskrit text, we find a variation of the same discussion. One time a famous bow warrior was traversing the wilderness. He was accompanied by His wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. The warrior was named Rama and He was sent to the forest through unfortunate family infighting.

At one point Sita worried that Rama might be promoting violence by carrying weapons in an otherwise peaceful area. Those forests were known as tapo-vanas. Tapa is a Sanskrit word that means “austerity.” These forests were a far cry from civilization. Ascetics went there to meditate, to focus on advancing in consciousness. Vedic philosophy does not say that the aim of human life is to eat, drink and be merry. It also doesn’t say that you should simply profess a certain faith and then do whatever you please.

The human birth is an evolution of sorts. It is the body most conducive to spiritual understanding. The goal is to realize the Absolute Truth, to be conscious of Him. It may not happen in a single lifetime, but progress along the path does not get erased.

nehābhikrama-nāśo 'sti

pratyavāyo na vidyate

sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya

trāyate mahato bhayāt

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

The forest is an ideal place to focus on purification of the consciousness. There is little in the way of distractions. You can spend day and night contemplating on the Absolute. You can survive on fruits and roots and erect a thatched hut for shelter. Water comes from the rivers and basic rags suffice for clothing. The lifestyle is austere, but simple at the same time.

There was a problem in these tapo-vanas. Flesh-eating ogres were attacking the ascetics. They waited until right before the religious observances were completed to strike. The ascetics were known as brahmanas, which indicates an occupation. They were priest-like, and so they had no means of defense. They weren’t bothering anyone. They were neutral to outside conflict. Yet they were attacked anyway; so vile were the Rakshasas.

By roaming those forests, Rama was able to provide protection. Sita worried that He might be more prone to aggression since He had his weapons with Him. This is a sensible concern. If I’m on a diet, it’s probably not a good idea to sit down in a buffet restaurant. If I’m trying to study, sitting in front of the television will do me little good.

Rama’s duty was to uphold righteousness. Therefore if He attacked at the wrong time, it would go against His own oath to follow dharma. Sita did not want her husband to risk violating His own values. Rama appreciated Sita’s concern. She brought them up in her naturally shy and polite way. In praising Sita, Rama referred to her as a sadharma-charini, His partner in the observance of religious duties.

[Lord Rama]Rama’s justification, His counterargument if you will, is summed up in the verse above from the Ramayana. Shri Hanuman is describing Rama to the same Sita many months later. Hanuman says that Rama only employs aggression with anger at the appropriate time. Hanuman was speaking of Rama at Sita’s request, for Rama-katha wins over her heart. She was in Lanka against her will, through the work of the leader of the aforementioned Rakshasas. She could not trust anyone, no matter how innocent they sounded.

By mentioning this trait in Rama, Hanuman gave further proof of his authenticity as Rama’s messenger. Sita knew that Rama only attacked when justified, for she had heard that from His very own mouth. Rama is kind, merciful, and equal to all. Yet when someone attacks His devotees, He does not hesitate to show anger. He carried His weapons in the Dandaka forest and only fought when attacked.

He would show tremendous anger in the future, in the final battle with Ravana. He would be justified, as Ravana took away His wife in secret, without a fair fight. Hanuman too shows anger when necessary. Shortly after speaking to Sita, he would set fire to the city of Lanka. It sounds like a mean thing to do, but it was only after Ravana had set Hanuman’s tail on fire. Thinking that Hanuman was bound up by the ropes, Ravana wanted to embarrass Rama’s emissary. The joke was on him, as Hanuman used the fiery tail to do great damage to Ravana’s city.

[Narasimhadeva]As Narasimhadeva, the same Rama shows a ferocious form to fight against the evil Hiranyakashipu. Rama is the protector of the devotees, the surrendered souls who are sincerely trying to always be conscious of Him. Rama is the Absolute Truth , the detail behind the abstract concept of God. He has many weapons at His disposal, and when He fights He unleashes a fury the enemies regret having ever seen.

In Closing:

Gun in every citizen’s hand suppose,

To more violence not to expose?


Or every weapon from people take,

Does not more dangerous world make?


These concerns even long ago raised,

By Sita, whose words husband Rama praised.


At right time God anger to project,

Never hesitating His devotees to protect.