Saturday, December 12, 2015

Talking About Praise From Even Bad People

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has very favorably stressed the importance of this process of hearing. According to His method, if people are simply given a chance to hear about Krishna, certainly they will gradually develop their dormant awareness or love of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.141 Purport)

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Friend1: What would you say is the fundamental difference between the devotee and the demon?

Friend2: Just look at the Sanskrit words for each and you’ll get an idea.

Friend1: Is it sura and asura?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: One is basically a negation of the other.

Friend2: Exactly. The sura is devoted to God. They are a kind of species, having a specific collection of material elements for their body. They are mostly in the mode of goodness, which describes the nature of a type of body, activities, sacrifice, charity, intelligence and so forth.

Friend1: You can’t be a sura unless you are of that species?

Friend2: No, because the word applies to general characteristics as well. The suras as a species live in the heavenly realm, but you can find sura-like people anywhere and within any family. Remember Prahlada Maharaja, the famous son of a Daitya king. Daityas are like asuras.

[Prahlada Maharaja]Friend1: Okay, so the asuras would be the opposite in qualities? Are they a species too?

Friend2: Yes and yes. The Daityas are a kind of asura; they trace their lineage back to Diti, who is the sister of Aditi. The suras come from Aditi; hence they are also known as the Adityas. But you can also find an asura anywhere. They are not devoted to God. That is their trademark characteristic.

Friend1: I think I’ve heard you mention before that one way to tell an asura is to notice their aversion to praising the Supreme Lord.

Friend2: Absolutely. Think of it like showing Dracula the cross.

Friend1: That’s funny. People will say that you can find asura-like people in religious garb, that sometimes religious people are the most dangerous.

Friend2: There is no doubt about that.

Friend1: Doesn’t that invalidate your assessment?

Friend2: On the contrary, it provides a way to decipher authenticity. Paraphernalia and official occupation are good ways to identify religious people at the outset, but you should also investigate further. See how they talk. Do they say God is a person? Do they make material advancement the objective in life and somehow ascribe that goal to the wishes of the Supreme Deity? Do they point to some miracle in their life relating to health and then say that their faith in God is due only to that?

Friend1: Such people would be asuras, then?

Friend2: It just means they aren’t totally devoted to God the person. The asuras in religious garb will quote verses from scriptures of various traditions. They will mentally speculate as to the meaning. They sometimes have their own guru, which supposedly gives them authority, but the conclusions are still wrong. Better than all these ways is to see if they praise God the person. Do they know that He is Bhagavan, who is full of opulences? If they don’t know, they may be innocent. But if they have heard these things about God and then rejected them, they are certainly asuras.

Friend1: Well, I hope you know that I was setting you up here.

Friend2: The asura side of you coming out again?

Friend1: [smiles] No, but I wanted to make sure there were no doubts on the issue. Let’s assume that the asura will go to any length to get what they want, even pretend to be religious.

Friend2: Yes. Think of the Rakshasa Ravana appearing in disguise in front of Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune.

Friend1: I’m glad that you mentioned him. I was reading about the incident where Hanuman met Kalanemi, who was Ravana’s uncle.

Friend2: Yes, when Hanuman was searching for the life-giving herb for Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama.

Friend1: Kalanemi was a bad guy. He put on the religious garb and set up a tiny ashrama to fool Hanuman. When Hanuman approached him, Kalanemi even said some good things about Rama. Then Hanuman went to a nearby lake to clean himself before hearing further.

Friend2: Right and in that lake was a crocodile who tried to kill him.

Friend1: There is the issue. Here was an asura-like person who said nice things about Rama. And they said those things in order to do harm to Hanuman.

Friend2: Kalanemi was no doubt bad. But look at the result of his praise of Rama. Hanuman did not get hurt. On the contrary, Hanuman liberated the crocodile by killing it. The soul then revealed its true form of an Apsara, who had previously been cursed. She told Hanuman about Kalanemi’s real identity. Then Hanuman killed Kalanemi.

[Shri Hanuman]Friend1: Okay, but I’m asking about the general case. If someone says good things about Rama, who is God the person, how can they still be an asura?

Friend2: People say things that they don’t mean all the time. How many guys have told their girlfriends that they love them just so they could continue to get along?

Friend1: You’re saying there is no harm in hearing from such people?

Friend2: There is harm in that they will eventually twist the meaning. They will not speak straight on God’s position with respect to the living entities. But if they speak the truth, then the power of the words protects the devotee. Kalanemi didn’t harm Hanuman. It was Kalanemi who reaped the benefit by speaking the truth about Rama, even if he had ill intentions. This shows that hearing of the Supreme Lord is always beneficial, provided the words being heard are truthful.

In Closing:

To be saved from all fear,

Of the Supreme Lord just hear.


From the asura never to come praise,

So stuck are they in sinful ways.


Even if not believing what speaking,

Both they and devotee benefit reaping.


Just dedicate some time and sit,

Hear about Lord before body to quit.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Five Ways To Enhance The Bhakti Experience

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

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yat tad agre viṣam iva

pariṇāme 'mṛtopamam

tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam


The literal translation of bhakti-yoga is “uniting with the Divine through love and devotion.” We go on a diet to lose weight. We work hard in school to perform well on the exam. We put in a good effort at the office to advance in our career. Yet in each case the real objective is to increase pleasure. They say that misery loves company, but no one intentionally seeks out misery. Happiness is the goal, and so it is the same way for a person practicing bhakti-yoga.

What to do if there is less happiness in the beginning? In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna describes happiness in the mode of goodness to be like poison in the beginning. The mode of goodness is work, charity, sacrifice, and the like that increases knowledge. We can think of it as the right way to do something, and sometimes the righteous path is not always pleasant in the beginning. The reward is worth the effort, however, and in bhakti-yoga the light at the end of the tunnel is the source of all light, Krishna Himself.

rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ

pavitram idam uttamam

pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ

su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

As the poison should eventually turn into nectar, there are ways to help the process along. Bhakti-yoga does not have to be a difficult practice, performed reluctantly each day. It can be joyfully performed, as Krishna Himself describes in the Bhagavad-gita.

1. Remove distractions

Got a big exam in a week? Need to clean out your room but haven’t gotten around to it? A great way to get something important done is to first remove distractions. Turn off the television. Put your smartphone into airplane mode. Find a place where you know you can’t talk to people. Change venues if possible, to a place where you’re not accustomed to lounging.

[iPhone airplane mode]Collectively these hindrances to success in bhakti-yoga are known as maya. The literal definition is “that which is not.” It is illusion. We procrastinate because we think that avoiding the task at hand will bring us some pleasure, but all this does is delay the inevitable. Some focus goes a long way towards helping to recreate the link between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul.

2. Chant the holy names

[japa mala]The japa beads are the backbone of bhakti-yoga practice in the modern age. They create discipline. There is the saying that he who hesitates is lost. If I know that I should connect with God in this life but don’t know how, knowledge of the fact won’t get me very far. The japa mala is a string with 108 individual beads connected. The process is to chant the mantra of bhakti one time on each bead, then going around in a circle. Chanting 108 times is one round, and the serious student of bhakti-yoga chants at least sixteen rounds a day.

3. Follow the four regulative principles

No meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex. Collectively these are known as the four regulative principles. To the outsider this seems like a torturous restriction. How can there be any fun in life if there is no drinking? Again, the rules are there to enhance pleasure. The more one adheres to the restrictions while following bhakti-yoga, the faster their advancement will be. Revisiting the previous recommendation of removing distractions, these four sinful activities can be considered the greatest distractions. They are maya’s strongest weapons against the sincere seeker of the truth.

4. Hear about Krishna regularly

[Lord Krishna]Chanting the maha-mantra on the japa beads creates a routine of hearing. The name Krishna and the person Krishna are identical. By chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” just loud enough to hear, Krishna arrives at the scene. Advancement continues through hearing about Krishna the person. This is accomplished through reading books such as the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Through the mercy of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples, these works are now available in many different languages, with appropriate commentaries to explain key concepts in ways the modern reader can understand.

5. Associate with other devotees

You don’t have to go it alone. Others are practicing bhakti-yoga as well. Chanting the maha-mantra lets you hear Krishna the person. The books let you hear about Krishna. If there are no books around, then the devotees will create the same atmosphere of hearing, since they are always talking about Krishna. Indeed, with three things combined it is almost impossible to not progress in bhakti-yoga: chanting the holy names regularly, reading books about the Lord, and associating with other devotees.

[Radha-Krishna]The result of implementing such enhancement techniques is that the pleasure increases, even in routine processes. You may have attended an arati ceremony many times before, and labored through singing along to the different verses. Suddenly, the ceremony means so much more to you. This is because you understand more about the person being worshiped. You are so happy to be glorifying someone you know to be great, the Supreme Lord. You appreciate the spiritual master, through whose mercy the increased pleasure has come. You marvel at the dedication of fellow devotees, who have made bhakti-yoga their way of life.

In Closing:

In goodness poisonous taste at the start,

Then with time gradually to depart.


Can make better time in middle to spend,

To bring more quickly nectar awaiting at end.


Follow the regulative principles four,

And associate with devotees more.


Then appreciation of Krishna to increase,

Loving sentiments in chanting to release.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Caste and Karma

[Worship]“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness - these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)

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śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ

kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca

jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ

brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

It’s natural to be proud of your family and the heritage that dates back far into the past. The parents are the first guru, or respectable personality. Man is like an animal when first emerging from the womb. It doesn’t know much as far as what to do. There is some inherent intelligence for sure, as explained in the Bhagavad-gita.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo

mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca

vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo

vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

The child knows how to eat because of the intelligence given by the Supersoul, which is God’s expansion residing within the heart. Still, the same child needs help in finding the food to eat. It needs to be taught how to read and write. Moreover, many important moments of life are entered into reluctantly. The parents must watch over the child to ensure that they wake up on time, go to school, complete their assignments, and show proper respect to deserving personalities.

If we respect our parents, we should respect their parents. The grandparents had their own parents, and in this way you travel up the chain as far as you can go. In traditional Vedic culture the marriages take place under arrangement. Not just on a whim, through personal desire, but rather after consulting with expert priests, matching up the qualities of the children, parents from both sides make the arrangement. The idea is that the varnas should not be mixed. Varna is a Sanskrit word that means “color.” It can also mean “occupation.” When the varnas are mixed, there is an increased chance of unwanted children, which leads to the destruction of family traditions.

doṣair etaiḥ kula-ghnānāṁ


utsādyante jāti-dharmāḥ

kula-dharmāś ca śāśvatāḥ

“Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.42)

Since this system of marriage was followed for so long, by people living in the same geographic area, people today can trace their family lineage back to an important figure from ancient times. These figures were priest-like, known as brahmanas by occupation. A person directly descending in their line can proudly claim to have ties to a brahmana.

[Shrila Prabhupada]But does this mean that the descendants are automatically priest-like? Is the “brahmana” a caste or is it a class based on occupation? His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada clears up the confusion by many times referring to the occupation of doctor. I may be a well-respected physician, who passed medical school and has been practicing in the field for years. This doesn’t mean that any child born to me is automatically a doctor. They get the respect accorded to a doctor’s child, but they have to earn their way in life in order to reach the same position.

The brahmana is a varna, or class, determined by qualities and work. The qualities are known as gunas in Sanskrit. Work in Sanskrit is “karma.” If there are any doubts on the matter, one can simply consult the Bhagavad-gita, a text which is older than the system of varna and ashrama. The Bhagavad-gita predates the brahmana class itself.

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ


tasya kartāram api māṁ

viddhy akartāram avyayam

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

The Supreme Lord creates the varnas, and He speaks the Bhagavad-gita. This makes the Gita the ultimate authority in determining what makes a varna. In another section of the same work, Shri Krishna gives specifics about the qualities of a brahmana. Among other things, they should be peaceful, truthful and pure.

The Sanskrit words that make up the verse are very instructive. If the varnas were determined by birth, the word “janma” would be included. Instead, we find mention of “karma” once again. Karma is fruitive activity; it’s the work you do that has reactions. Bhakti is work that is free of karma. It does not build future results tied to a temporary body. Thus the varnas are part of the material world, and the brahmana is an occupation within that world.

One argument is that the qualities of an individual, their gunas, are determined by birth. By being born to brahmanas, a person inherits the qualities of a brahmana. There is no doubt that someone assumes a certain set of qualities when they are born. Still, the word “karma” is used by Shri Krishna. The work must be there. If a person shows the qualities of truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance and wisdom in their work, it should be assumed that they are a brahmana, even though they may not officially be recognized as such.

[Krishna's lotus feet]A caste is a degraded system of hierarchy determined by birthright, and varna is part of the scientific system of division of society based on occupation handed down by the Supreme Lord Himself. Devotion to the author of the Gita is above both. A person can be in any varna, officially recognized or not, and practice devotion to the Supreme Lord. Thus even those who are not recognized properly by others, who may have no reputation at all, can become dear to Shri Krishna. Through their devotion all good qualities will automatically come.

In Closing:

Brahmana considered highest varna,

But determined by guna and karma.


Not solely based on heredity,

Today degraded system of hierarchy.


Despite having social standing none,

All good qualities to one can come.


When to Supreme Lord becoming dear,

Worshiping Him always, in consciousness near.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Power and the Powerful

[Katyayani]“There are many hundreds of thousands of temples of Vishnu and Devi, and sometimes they are worshiped simultaneously. The worshiper of the power, Durga, or the external energy of Krishna, may achieve all kinds of material success very easily, but anyone who wants to be elevated transcendentally must engage in worshiping the Powerful in Krishna consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 2)

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Question: “What is wrong with worshiping Goddess Durga? I hear that there is controversy in this area and I don’t think there should be. Her position is very exalted. She is highly respected. Why should she be ignored? I don’t understand the difference between worshiping her and worshiping Krishna or Vishnu or Rama.”

The material world is like a fort that is difficult to overcome. The problem stems from illusion. Things are not what they seem. The best example is illicit sex life. There is the allure of relations with a member of the opposite sex for the sole purpose of sense gratification. The hope is to enjoy something out of this world. The result is something different. Problem after problem, which stems from illusion, as the enjoyment doesn’t last very long. Neither does the attractiveness remain forever.

[steel cage match]In professional wrestling there is a style of match featuring the steel cage. The objective is to exit the ring, which is surrounded by a cage made of steel on four sides. The top is empty, so there are two ways to get out. One is to open the door in one of the corners and the other is to climb out of the cage. The allure of sense gratification while in the human body is something like being near the top of the cage and then looking down to something that distracts you. Though you are almost out, you come back down out of illusion, thinking that you’ll enjoy more. Your objective is to leave the establishment, yet somehow your mind gets bewildered into thinking that staying inside is what will really benefit you.

The manager of the fort that is the material world is a goddess, or devi. Not surprisingly, one of her many names is Durga, which means “difficult to overcome.” She is shakti, which means “potency” or “power.” The material world has forces that easily overcome us. Though we can generate wind through breathing out heavily, the wind from a tornado is many times more substantial. We can light a fire using a match, but the forest fire is more powerful in force.

Durga Devi is in charge of the forces of the material world, and so it is only natural to worship her. To seek her favor is a wise move, one followed by millions since the beginning of time. Though she has so much power, she does not use it improperly. She is a devoted wife, having undergone tremendous austerities to receive Lord Shiva as her husband. He is the destroyer of the universe, and he also manages the material mode of nature known as ignorance or darkness.

Yet behind the power is the powerful. In the home you get power from the electrical sockets. There is enough power to charge appliances such as televisions, microwaves, lamps and air conditioners. The power has a source, though. If the link to the source goes down, there is no power in the home. If the source itself is removed, there is no question of getting power.

The Vaishnava typically worships the powerful exclusively. They know that the powerful can make anything happen, that His favor is more important. Through His mercy even life inside of the fort can be made truly enjoyable. That enjoyment is known as bhakti, or devotion. It is both the objective and the means. Pure bhakti, true devotion, can only be directed at the powerful.

[Katyayani]Sometimes worshipers of the powerful offer honor and respect to the power in a formal way. There is the example of the gopis of Vrindavana. They prayed to Goddess Katyayani [another form of Durga] to get the association of Krishna as their husband. This prayer wasn’t needed, but the gopis are so respectful of anyone who is looked upon favorably by Krishna. They wanted the association of the powerful and so their worship of Katyayani was not for material rewards. There was no desire to exit the fort, to alleviate material distress.

The distinction is this. If you worship the power, you don’t automatically get the favor of the powerful. However, if you worship the powerful, you get the same benefits and beyond that are received by the worshipers of the power. Durga Devi holds the trident in her hand that symbolizes the three miseries in life. Other living entities, the mind and the body, and the forces of nature combine to make life in the material world very difficult. Her favor alleviates those distresses to a degree.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]The favor of the powerful, Shri Krishna, can change the nature of those miseries entirely. He turned the natural disaster of a torrential downpour in Vrindavana into a sacred event celebrated annually as Govardhana Puja. He turned the misery of the distressed minds of the gopis into a way to remember His all-attractiveness in bliss. He turned the misery of obstruction through deadly force applied by Hiranyakashipu into a cause for His own descent, as Narasimhadeva to protect the five-year old boy Prahlada. The Vaishnavas remember these incidents and use them as justification for continued worship of the powerful. That worship includes respect for the power, who work directly for the Supreme Lord’s benefit.

In Closing:

From Vaishnavas worship to the Powerful going,

Since His supreme standing knowing.


Material world like a fort difficult to overcome,

Pain eased when Durga’s favor is won.


Gopis to Katyayani giving respect,

Not with material rewards to expect.


Ideal example to world giving,

How happy even in this land living.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Talking About Visiting A Loving Home

[Deity worship]“The best process for making the home pleasant is Krishna consciousness. If one is in full Krishna consciousness, he can make his home very happy because this process of Krishna consciousness is very easy. One need only chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krishna, have some discussion on books like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.8-12 Purport)

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Friend1: You know what I find really annoying?

Friend2: When people keep badgering you with questions?

Friend1: No.

Friend2: When someone puts the television on too loud?

Friend1: That does bother me, but I’m going somewhere else with this.

Friend2: Okay, let me hear it.

Friend1: I absolutely can’t stand it when I visit someone’s home and the first thing that happens upon entering is their dog jumps up, down and all over me.

Friend2: That’s pretty funny.

Friend1: And then the homeowner starts yelling at the dog to get down. I don’t know, I would think you should be able to enter a living room without getting assaulted.

Friend2: They don’t look at it that way. They think the dog is being playful.

Friend1: The barking sure isn’t playful. This has happened to me so many times that I’m thinking of instituting a policy. No more going to homes that have dogs.

[dogs]Friend2: Oh boy. So you’re basically saying you’re never going to anyone’s home ever again?

Friend1: Funny you say that. I was thinking the same thing. I see dogs everywhere. There’s a local track nearby which I use for taking walks in the evening. It’s peaceful and I’m not committed to walking a certain distance.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Well, if I feel like walking two miles, I’m not travelling any further away in area. If I’m on a regular path, the further I walk, the longer my return trip becomes.

Friend2: Oh, I see.

Friend1: The track is pretty empty in the evening, but the majority of the people I do see there are walking their dogs. These dogs always run astray, some coming up to me. The whole thing got me to thinking. What is it with people and pets?

Friend2: It’s a form of love. People have deep affection within them and they want a way to let it out.

Friend1: Have they forgotten about other people?

Friend2: People can hurt them. People say mean things. They love you one day and the next they move on to something else. It’s a delicate balancing act. The relationship with the pet is simpler.

Friend1: I guess I don’t see the need. I’m just fine without a pet.

Friend2: What if someone were to tell you that your home is not a loving one?

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The lack of a pet shows that you are cold inside. The dwelling lacks a loving atmosphere.

Friend1: I see where you’re going with this. You want me to bring up the deity. Because affection towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead is real love.

Friend2: How so?

Friend1: He is the root of the creation. If you love Him, then the benefits go to everyone else.

Friend2: Are you saying that people who love their dogs don’t love God?

Friend1: It’s not an automatic extension. But people who love God do indeed love everyone else.

Friend2: What if they argue that you’re worshiping an inanimate object? The cat and the dog are real. You see the benefit to your affection.

Friend1: I like the fact that you’re asking me questions that you already know the answers to. The deity is the mercy of the Supreme Lord on the fallen, who don’t have the eyes to see Him properly. Through worship in the home in this way their consciousness becomes purified. The change in consciousness is the way to see the benefit.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often bring this up in his lectures. The words “dog” and “god” are the reverse of each other in spelling. Prabhupada would say that man is worshiping dog instead of God. It’s kind of funny if you think about it.

Friend1: It seems like a mean thing to say, but it’s undoubtedly true.

Friend2: The fact that there are pets means that the human spirit must love. In bhakti-yoga, the idea is to put your love towards the person most deserving of it. God is the ideal recipient, and through loving Him all other issues are accounted for. It’s difficult to see this, but the process of deity worship is there to help. Even easier than worshiping the image of the Lord in the home is chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: Would it be safe to say that the home that features the sound of these names is a loving one?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: It is the best place to visit. It is like a recharging station for the soul, which needs hope and light after being in darkness for so long. Singing the holy names directly for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord in His resting place in the home brings relief from the troubling world, which is full of duality.

In Closing:

Unconditional love is shown,

To pet residing within home.


But to others extend why not?

Since loving propensity you have got.


Loving home with deity made true,

Lord’s mercy since vision lacking in you.


Worship God, then to dog and others extend,

To each and every creature be a loving friend.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Five Things To Learn From The Prayers To Devaki’s Womb

[Prayers of the demigods]“Our dear Lord, You are appearing as the best of the Yadu dynasty, and we are offering our respectful humble obeisances unto Your lotus feet. Before this appearance, You also appeared as the fish incarnation, the horse incarnation, the tortoise incarnation, the swan incarnation, as King Ramachandra, as Parashurama, and as many other incarnations.” (Demigods praying to Krishna in the womb of Devaki, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 2)

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The Supreme Lord made the decision. He was going to appear in the earthly realm. Just as He would later describe in the Bhagavad-gita, whenever and wherever there is a rise in irreligion, at that time He appears as Himself. The visuals may not always be identical. In this instance, He was going to appear as Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one.

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)

God is unborn. For this reason He is known as Aja. He does not have parents. No one tells Him what to do. Yet He is so kind that when He descends to earth He chooses exalted personalities to play important roles. Devaki was the chosen birth mother. She was in circumstances you wouldn’t consider ideal for welcoming the all-powerful into the world. Prior to Krishna’s emerging from her womb, the residents of the heavenly realm offered very nice prayers, words from which many valuable lessons can be derived.

1. God doesn’t reside only in heaven.

This is the reason for turning to spiritual life, after all. Let me find God. Let me be with Him. Let me enjoy with Him in the afterlife. Yet if the Supreme Lord did indeed create everything, the material world would have to be included. This place features the material elements, both gross and subtle, which bewilder us, but for God it wouldn’t make a difference.

By appearing in Devaki’s womb, Krishna showed that He can indeed manifest anywhere. This is already revealed in the spiritual science. The living entity is known as sarva-gata, which means that it can go anywhere. Just as a person can be born in America, Europe, or Asia, the spirit soul which represents the true identity can appear in any realm, including heaven and hell.

God is the all-powerful spirit, and so He can appear anywhere also. He is already all-pervading through His expansion of the Supersoul. By agreeing to come to Devaki’s womb, He showed that His association is not reserved exclusively for the residents of the Vaikuntha planets, the topmost spiritual realm.

2. Demigods are always connected with Krishna.

There are many gods in the Vedic tradition, but there is still only one Supreme Lord. The prayers of the demigods to Devaki’s womb prove both. The gods are known as devas, and they are mostly in the material mode of goodness. They live for a very long time and in a place that features heightened material opulence. They offer benedictions to their worshipers, and they are empowered to do so by Krishna.

[Demigods praying to Devaki's womb]Despite fulfilling their duties assigned to them, they do not forget Krishna. They glorify Him constantly, wherever the Supreme Lord may be. When He appears in Devaki’s womb, they offer the nicest prayers. They don’t forget Him, as they are devotees.

3. Through Krishna anyone can be glorified.

The spiritual science says that all living beings are equal on the inside, but on the outside there are distinctions. This makes sense; only a fool would think otherwise. One person is very tall and another short. We wouldn’t say that they are equal in the material estimation. There are consequences to being a certain height. In the same way, the spiritual science says that certain body types are more conducive to advancement in consciousness. Generally, the female body is considered less auspicious. This is not sexism, but rather a sober assessment based on the material qualities.

Yet the Supreme Lord’s direct association is so powerful that He can turn an inauspicious body into the most auspicious one. Devaki was so exalted that she received prayers from the demigods. The same entities that receive worship from their followers in exchange for material benedictions were offering her kind words, without any motive.

4. Krishna’s divinity is determined before the fact.

When we hear of the extraordinary things that Krishna did on this earth, it’s easy to dismiss them as mythology or magic. The speculation is that perhaps people assigned Him the status of Supreme God ex post facto, after witnessing His amazing exploits. The prayers of the demigods prove that Krishna is always God, even before He appears. The Lord’s associates get advance notice of His appearances, and they prepare accordingly. They know that the amazing things He does on earth represent but a fraction of His true potency. Lifting a massive hill, taking the womb of His choosing, delivering the Bhagavad-gita - Krishna does these things effortlessly.

5. Only Krishna could turn a jail cell into a shrine.

We go to official houses of worship in order to increase our consciousness of God. Ideally, these places focus entirely on worship. They establish a culture that others can merge into. Keeping in mind the typical atmosphere of the temple, we wouldn’t consider a jail cell to be a house of worship. Devaki was being held in prison unfairly by her brother Kamsa, the king of Mathura. Devaki’s husband Vasudeva was also with her. Kamsa was awaiting the birth of Devaki’s eighth child, for a prophecy had stated that this child would eventually kill him.

[Devaki and Vasudeva praying to Krishna]Since Krishna was going to appear in that jail cell, the demigods turned it into a house of worship. This means that any place in the world, regardless of how impure it may be, can be made auspicious through devotion to Shri Krishna. It is for this reason that the wise souls chant the holy names anywhere and everywhere: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Despite impurities to see,

Any place auspicious can be.


Like when Krishna in jail cell appearing,

Before parents from Kamsa were fearing.


Not Supreme God status after to adore,

Lord’s divine nature determined before.


To Devaki the demigods prayed,

In whose womb Lord of universe stayed.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Five Reasons God Does Not Show Himself To Mankind

[Krishna and Arjuna]“But you cannot see Me with your present eyes. Therefore I give to you divine eyes by which you can behold My mystic opulence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.8)

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na tu māṁ śakyase draṣṭum

anenaiva sva-cakṣuṣā

divyaṁ dadāmi te cakṣuḥ

paśya me yogam aiśvaram

“Listen, don’t you think things would be a lot easier if God just showed Himself to mankind? I’m not talking about a select few people. Who is going to believe their testimony anyway? I mean really make your presence felt, come out and just tell everybody who you are. If they don’t believe you, do something amazing. Show everyone how you can walk on water. If they attack you physically, show how you can defend against that. After all, people go nuts over someone who can make a lot of money in the business world. If God did something amazing in every area of importance, then people would believe in Him. We would have peace on earth.”

The Supreme Lord does exist. The Vedas describe that He can be realized in three distinct features. There is Brahman. This is the all-pervading spiritual energy. The wise person notices the love and support of their own family members and then appreciates how members of other families offer the same. Through thinking this way appreciation expands. Imagine if you were conscious of the spiritual identity of all beings and how they are struggling in a world full of duality. This is one way to understand the Brahman realization.

A more complete realization is Paramatma. This is where you realize that God already lives inside of you. He is there as the Supersoul, who is invisible just like the individual soul. Wind cannot be perceived by sight. We know that it is there, however, based on its influence. The same applies for the individual soul and the Supersoul. Paramatma is unique in that He lives in every individual as the same person; He does not divide Himself.

[Krishna and Arjuna]The complete feature is Bhagavan, which is the Personality of Godhead. This realization is the most difficult to achieve, as it is not cheap. Bhagavan certainly exists, but He does not reveal Himself to everyone. He has His reasons.

1. Who are we to demand?

To tell God to show Himself to everyone is to command Him. A child has no right to speak this way to their father. They may try every now and then, but the father is not compelled to listen. He is in the superior position. The Supreme Lord is the same way.

Consider a thief demanding that a person vacate their home and hand over all their money. What right does the thief have? They are on the criminal path. At least the righteous person has some character to use as justification for holding on to their property. The living beings who live only for sense gratification, trying to become the greatest enjoyer, have no moral ground on which to stand when demanding things from God.

2. What qualification do we have?

It’s the first day of the new semester. We have decided to visit the same college as our friend. We walk into the 8 AM class and the teacher takes a roll call. He notices that our name is not on the list. He asks if we are registered for the class. We say “no.” He asks why not. We inform him that we are not officially enrolled in the college. He then laughs and tells us to leave, saying that only admitted students are allowed to attend classes.

In the same way, certain qualifications are necessary to see God. If the Supreme Lord simply revealed Himself to everyone, who would actually appreciate His appearance? It’s something like giving life lessons to a person while they are intoxicated. They will not retain the information, despite how valuable it might be.

3. We don’t have the eyes to see Him.

Man has four defects. There is the tendency to cheat. He is easily illusioned. He commits mistakes. He also has imperfect senses. What does the term “imperfect senses” mean? I can’t hear something happening far away. My ears allow me to hear, but the audible range is limited. A limitation means an imperfection.

Bhagavan is actually all around. The person blessed with the spiritual vision notices His presence at every moment of the day. This is not a hallucination; they see Him in truth. The materially contaminated lack these eyes. They mistake a rope for a snake, so how can they properly notice the origin of all matter and spirit? Even if it appeared right in front of them, they wouldn’t realize it.

4. He is around us already.

As mentioned before, Paramatma lives within each of us. This means that God is already here. He does not need to explicitly reveal Himself. The fact that anything moves on its own proves the presence of God. Spirit comes from spirit, not matter. All sparks of spirit come from the original spirit, who is God. As soon as we see a living thing, we have seen a spark of God. As soon as we see a result to action, we see the work of Paramatma. He is the overseer and permitter.

upadraṣṭānumantā ca

bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ

paramātmeti cāpy ukto

dehe 'smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

5. The vision means more when there is qualification.

There is the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” The idea is that you’ll appreciate something more if you have to work for it. The vision of God comes through bhakti, which is devotion. Bhakti is not a cheap reward. The Supreme Lord already hands out material benedictions through His representatives. These representatives, who are known as devas, don’t ask much from the worshipers. They give out anything in their power. A person can become the richest in the world through the favor of the devas.

Yet bhakti will not be handed out so easily. It requires qualification first. A principal qualification is lack of material desire. If our focus is on enjoying the senses, on exploiting the resources of nature, on competing with our fellow man, then we don’t have the proper qualification. If we are exhausted by such pursuits, if we no longer want to suffer through the endless cycle of sense gratification in lifetime after lifetime, we have a chance to get the Divine vision.

yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ

janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām

te dvandva-moha-nirmuktā

bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ

“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)

The question then remains: how do we get the proper qualification? In this age the recommendation is to first follow the principles of devotion, even if there is sinful desire on the side. Through proper training, by engaging in devotional acts like chanting the holy names purification eventually comes. There is historical evidence to attest to the fact. People practiced the principles of devotion and then saw God later on.

[Narasimhadeva]Another thing to remember is that those who weren’t qualified also saw God. King Hiranyakashipu saw Bhagavan in His form of Narasimhadeva. Ravana saw Him as Rama. Kamsa saw Him as Krishna. The attitude each time was enmity. Therefore the vision really had no influence. These people saw God directly. They witnessed His extraordinary beauty and power. And yet they didn’t get the same benefit as the devotees like Arjuna, who was given special eyes with which to behold the great opulence of Krishna. This means that only through following devotion does one both see God and appreciate Him. After getting the vision, the fortunate and qualified souls remain fixed in the path of bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

Before Ravana, Kamsa and Hiranya to come,

But proper benefit for them was none.


When only sense gratification I know,

Why God His form obligated to show?


What qualification in me,

That Divine vision I should see?


Only when with material pursuits done,

And impurities in consciousness none.