Saturday, December 19, 2015

Just See Who Is Helping You

[Shri Hanuman]“I am a Vanara named Hanuman, the minister of Sugriva. I entered into the city of Lanka after having crossed over the great ocean.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.39)

aham sugrīva sacivo hanūmān nāma vānaraḥ |
praviṣṭo nagarīm lankām langhayitvā mahāudadhim ||

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The human being’s inherent fallibility makes life difficult. Things would be easy if we could get whatever we wanted. If we feel like our waist size has expanded too much in recent weeks, just lose weight. Snap your fingers and see how your pants suddenly fit again. Of course the reality is a different story. There is so much food to eat, making it harder to control intake. People are constantly offering us food, and they take it as an insult if you do not eat a sufficient amount.

Eating is not the only desirable aspect of material life. There is sleeping, mating and defending as well. If obstructions are present in any of these areas, there is frustration. “You can’t always get what you want,” is the sound instruction offered by the parents. Then there is the issue of wrong desires. What if what I want will do me harm in the end? This is the case with substance abusers. In their case, frustration ends up being beneficial.

As difficult as material life is, spiritual life presents even more challenges. The reason is that its very foundation is detachment from a world in which there are innumerable objects with which to form attachments. Think of it like trying to lose weight while sitting at a buffet restaurant. Not just at the restaurant, consider having food on your table, just waiting to be eaten. It will be extremely difficult to go the entire day without overindulging.

Spiritual life does not mean the end of work. You have to work, but stay detached. A person should not give up all duties, even if they have achieved enlightenment. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna gives the example of King Janaka of Videha. He was a renowned yogi, praised for his dispassion. At the same time, he was a king, a ruler who could get whatever he wanted at the snap of a finger. The king still protected the people. He still arranged for his daughter’s marriage when the time was right.

That daughter is the recipient of the words quoted above. She is in the city of Lanka against her will, held captive by a wicked-minded king named Ravana. Ravana did not live with detachment. Though he engaged in rituals of the religious nature, his motives were impure. He had no desire to enter genuine spiritual life. He was so addicted to sense gratification that having multiple beautiful wives was not enough. He had to have the wife of another man, even if that man was superior to him in combat.

[Sita Devi]The wife he took was named Sita, and she was married to Shri Rama. Rama is the same Krishna who speaks the Bhagavad-gita. He is the objective in spiritual life, the final destination, if you will. Spiritual life means attachment to the origin of spirit instead of to the separated energy known as the material nature.

Spiritual life is difficult for as long as one remains unaware of who is helping them. In this verse from the Ramayana, Rama’s messenger Hanuman gives a short description of himself. He is the minister to Sugriva, who is the king of the Vanaras in the area known as Kishkindha. The Vanaras are monkey-like creatures, a species with which we have no familiarity. The literal definition of Vanara is “forest-dweller.” These creatures were monkey-like, but they could speak and reason to some extent.

Hanuman had just praised Sugriva as having immeasurable strength. Hanuman described Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana accurately as well. In describing himself, Hanuman said that he infiltrated the city of Lanka after having crossed over a great ocean. These words were intended to win Sita’s trust, since she had not met him before.

The idea is that Sita should not worry. Her husband and her brother-in-law are tremendous fighters. They are working with Sugriva, who has thousands of Vanaras working for him. Even Sugriva’s minister is highly capable, as he has done something seemingly impossible. He crossed over the massive ocean and entered a well-guarded city undetected. He did all of this for Rama’s pleasure.

[Shri Hanuman]In spiritual life help comes from the same personalities. The Supreme Lord and His brother Lakshmana help the individual cross over the vast ocean of material suffering. If Rama doesn’t do the work Himself, He sends one of His representatives, who is empowered in the same way as Hanuman. Moreover, that representative has the same level of sacrifice and commitment, for their actions are rooted in love for the Supreme. Rama’s wife helps as well, as she ensures the devotees always have what they need to continue in their devotion. Therefore despite living in a world full of illusory objects, a person can still find rescue. The people helping are of impeccable quality and character.

In Closing:

When Rama to come, now in a hurry?

From who is helping Sita should not worry.


Rama and Lakshmana of power great,

Sugriva there ruling the Vanara state.


Hanuman too massive ocean crossed,

Obstacles in path away he tossed.


Devotees today helped by the same,

Protected when chanting the holy name.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Enhancer of Delight

[Lakshmana]“Also the highly-splendorous Lakshmana, the enhancer of the joy of Sumitra, offers his obeisances to you and asks of your well-being.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.35)

lakṣmaṇaḥ ca mahātejāḥ sumitra ānanda vardhanaḥ |
abhivādya mahābāhuḥ so api kauśalam abravīt ||

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Shri Hanuman here refers to Lakshmana as one who enhances the delight of Sumitra. Sumitra is one of the three queens to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. The reference is intentional, as Hanuman is speaking to Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama. Rama is also a son of Dasharatha, but born of the queen Kausalya. Rama and Lakshmana are thus brothers, and Sumitra one of three mothers-in-law to Sita.

It’s understandable for the mother-in-law and the wife of the son to clash. They share an interest, and only one person can handle the majority of the responsibility. The mother has raised the son since birth, providing for his every need. Then suddenly a stranger, from another family, enters the picture and assumes the same role. The mother is not afraid to correct the daughter-in-law. The mother wants the son to be taken care of, and the daughter-in-law feels the pressure of expectation. Someone is always watching over her.

In Sita’s case there were three people, six eyes if you will, watching and recording her every move. The situation was unique for more reasons than just the number of mothers. Sita had no issue with any of Dasharatha’s queens. They all loved her like a daughter, and she was completely respectful. She followed the example of her father, the venerable King Janaka of Videha.

Using basic substitution, we can deduce that Hanuman is saying that Lakshmana increases the ananda, or bliss, of someone who is very dear to Sita. In this situation Hanuman is both trying to relay an important message and prove his authenticity as Rama’s messenger. Sita is in great difficulty, where she can’t trust anyone. Hanuman is a stranger to her, so she is not sure if he really is Rama’s messenger. Sita is separated from Rama and feeling the grief caused by that separation.

[Lakshmana]Hanuman says that Lakshmana is maha-tejah, or highly-splendorous. As the son of a king, Rama is of the kshatriya order, which is the warrior class. The Sanskrit word tejah also refers to power. A good kshatriya should be full of tejah, and it was the case with both Rama and Lakshmana. The highly splendorous Lakshmana would later accompany Rama to Lanka and rescue Sita. Thus she should not worry over how she will be saved. Even though the fiendish king of Lanka took her away in secret, he would soon enough reap the proper punishment.

Hanuman says that Lakshmana has asked of Sita’s welfare and offered his obeisances. This aspect of the message was very important to the situation. The last time Sita saw Lakshmana, she insulted him greatly. Her husband Rama was led away from the hermitage by a deer that Sita asked Him to chase. Then there was a troubling sound that resembled Rama’s voice. Lakshmana was instructed not to leave Sita alone, but she told him to go check on Rama. As he was not listening to her, Sita resorted to insults. She finally succeeded in driving him away.

She obviously felt remorseful later on. Hanuman’s words meant that Lakshmana did not harbor any ill will. He understood that her words, though hurtful, were rooted in love for Rama. Lakshmana wanted to save Sita as much as Rama did. Lakshmana is the faithful younger brother of Rama. He cannot live without Rama. In youth, he would not take his meals or go to sleep unless Rama had done so first. Sita knew all of this, and so by hearing these words she understood that Hanuman knew Lakshmana as well.

[Lakshmana and Rama]That enhancer of the delight of his respectable mother would soon apply his great splendor in the mission to remove Sita’s woes. This is the greatness of Lakshmana. He works only for Rama, for pleasing Him. It is said in the Padma Purana by Lord Shiva that greater than worship of Vishnu, or God, is worship of anything related to Vishnu. Rama is the same Vishnu, and so Sita is directly related to Vishnu. Lakshmana and Hanuman worship Sita by risking their lives to protect her.

They feel tremendous joy as a result of this engagement, and one who follows their example gets the same benefit. The worship and respect of Hanuman, Lakshmana, Sita and others directly related to Rama leads to the pinnacle achievement of life: devotion. That is the one thing to ask for from the higher authorities, the only reward worth seeking. Lakshmana gives that devotion through his example and the words he passes down in the chain of disciplic succession, of which he is the origin. He empowers the guru, the bona fide representative of Rama, with tejah to deliver fallen souls who remain humble and sincere in their desire to be lifted out of the pain and suffering of the material existence.

In Closing:

To sincere with devotion gifted,

So that out of material ocean lifted.


From Lakshmana, Sumitra’s son,

Deviating from Rama’s service none.


Message from Hanuman to Lanka tasked,

That Lakshmana of Sita’s welfare asked.


Meant Ravana’s punishment soon coming,

Maha-teja applied for victorious becoming.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Karma-Free Work

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Anything done for personal sense gratification is a cause of bondage. The conclusion is that everyone should be engaged according to the particular mode of nature he has acquired, and he should decide to work only to serve the supreme cause of the Supreme Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.47 Purport)

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Question: I’ve heard it said that if you follow your occupational duties, your work doesn’t carry any sinful reactions. What does that mean exactly? Isn’t all work the same?

Prasadam is known as karma-free food. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means “work.” The more elaborate definition is any action taken that has a subsequent reaction related to the body. Elaborating further, the body is the material covering to the soul, which represents the identity of the individual. If I say that I see someone, it means that I see a spirit soul. Though the soul is finer than the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego, its presence can still be noticed. Just as we know that it is windy outside based on the movement of the trees, we know that soul is within our vicinity by the autonomous motions of the material covering known as the body.

[windy day]The development of that body happens through karma. First there is the appearance. Time facilitates this with the event known as birth. Then there is subsequent growth, the release of byproducts, and eventual decay. Death is the end, the refreshing of the cycle, if you will. Death doesn’t have to wait for decay. It comes immediately after birth sometimes. In the modern age, the knife of death even comes at the child within the womb.

Prasadam is food that is free of the consequences to fruitive work. Does this mean that there won’t be any effect on health? If I eat pizza from a restaurant, isn’t that the same as cooking at home and offering it before a picture of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The nature of the reaction is different. The physical makeup is no different and the health ramifications may be the same. But the difference is with the future development of the body. One side has karma, while the other is free of karma, i.e. there is no rebirth.

Work is the same way. If you follow your occupational duties, you are free from sinful reaction. An easy way to understand this is to see what happens to a soldier fighting for one’s nation. A soldier must kill. They do so reluctantly, but nevertheless with full vim and vigor. Killing is part of the job. If they don’t defend against aggressors, who will? It is easy to sit back in the comfort of one’s living room and pretend like the world is a safe place, but the reality on the outside is quite different. Aggressors are everywhere, and they are eager to make subjects out of the weaker, innocent members of the community.

The soldier does not get punished for killing, provided they follow the orders of the commanders in the military. A thief who kills, however, does get punished. The act is the same in both instances. One person ending the life of another. Yet the reaction within the society is different.

Work according to one’s occupation can be thought of in the same light. If you do your duty as a laborer, you aren’t implicated. The implication is known as sin, and the definition of sin is anything which continues rebirth. Thus even pious deeds can keep one implicated. The pious receive ascension to the heavenly region, but eventually they return to earth, where they must take birth again. Thus there is still a trace of sin. The work is considered pious, but there are implications.

If one follows their occupational duties with detachment, even if they do a poor job they are not negatively impacted. This is because they are following their nature. They are not driven by false ego into the occupation of someone else. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that a person should not take on an occupational duty foreign to them, even if they can do it perfectly.

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ

para-dharmāt sv-anuṣṭhitāt

svabhāva-niyataṁ karma

kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam

“It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Prescribed duties, according to one's nature, are never affected by sinful reactions.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.47)

[prasadam]Prasadam is karma-free because the effort put into it is free of sinful desire. The work is what determines the nature of the outcome. The best course is to always work for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. He is above karma, and so naturally any work done for Him would be above karma as well. The devotees go to the office, serve others, defend against aggressors, and perform priestly duties. They can be found in any occupation, but since they are always Krishna conscious, they do not develop any further karma. Regardless of the type of work they do, rebirth stops for the soul who is always conscious of God the person.

In Closing:

One from restaurant, other prasadam the name,

But is not food in each instance the same?


From the nature of work difference comes,

Rebirth when with sinful desire done.


Like soldier killing under higher orders went,

Absolved, not like thief who to prison sent.


Devotees of the Lord in any occupation to find,

Not implicated since keeping Krishna in mind.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Big Scientists

[Vaikuntha planets]“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

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ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo

mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate

iti matvā bhajante māṁ

budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

One indication of the superiority of the human species is the scientist. The bears do not feature such an occupation. Neither do the birds nor the dogs. Not every human being becomes an expert in the field of physics, chemistry, or biology, but that deficiency doesn’t make a huge difference. It takes only one sun to light up the entire world. It takes only one moon to brighten the night sky.

[science lab]In the same way, with just a few highly intelligent people advancements can be made in important areas. But are these advancements really worthwhile? Is it a good use of time to study how the automobile works? Should the advanced intelligence of the scientist be dedicated to figuring out how to make the automobile faster? What good comes from constructing a ship that can travel in the air, all the way to outer space?

In the past the government put the most respected scientists to work on projects relating to national defense. The big brain of the big scientist helped to create a weapon that could kill many people in one shot. Upon studying nature, we see that the tiger already kills. The cheetah already travels at a swift pace, and the bird flies through the air with ease.

It would make sense to use the big brain to tackle the most difficult and meaningful problems, would it not? If you purchase a laptop computer and use it only as a paperweight, you’re not taking advantage of what you have. Any plain object could be used to hold down paper against the wind. The laptop is capable of much more than that.

Why not study the problem of death? The problem is that everyone is forced to die. There is no way around it. As soon as there is birth, death must follow. The exact moment is impossible to predict, but thus far no one has escaped.

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur

dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca

tasmād aparihārye 'rthe

na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

If the question of death seems too difficult to answer, then what about old age? Why does my body deteriorate with the passage of time? A person can try to stay young through artificial means, but altering the skin doesn’t change anything on the inside. Also, there is no way to go back to a smaller body. I was once small enough to fit inside of my mother’s womb. Why can’t I return to that size?

The retort will be that these questions are impossible to answer. Therefore the big brain of the scientist is used for other things. But in fact, those other things provide merely temporary solutions. The tiger doesn’t know anything about quantum physics, and its survival is just as permanent as the human being’s. The bird knows how to fly without studying science.

The teachers in the Vedic tradition say that real intelligence should be used for the most important questions. Life and death, and everything in between - why do these things occur? A person who studies these subjects is really intelligent. They have taken advantage of the advanced intelligence gifted to the human being.

Fortunately, lengthy scientific study and research are not required. Everything that is needed to be known comes down from disciplic succession, a tradition of instruction. The origin of that instruction is the origin of the species. He is the source of both material and spiritual worlds.

[the universe]Matter is the sole focus of the scientists devoid of knowledge of spirit. Spirit is what animates matter. Spirit is as much a candidate for scientific study as matter. The wise person studies both, since they are interrelated. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that He is the source of both material and spiritual worlds. Invoking the plural means that our realm is not the only one. And neither is every realm exclusively material, where there is a difference between the identity and the identifying objects.

In the spiritual world there is no difference. The hands and legs identify the individual. The body is not matter. That oneness can be regained very easily, but one needs to point their intelligence in the right direction. Just as only a few scientists and engineers are needed to allow the entire population to drive cars, just a few bright individuals following and spreading the spiritual science are needed to guide the human being back to their original state.

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to a family man who was in the military by occupation. Arjuna was not a world-renowned scientist. He was not the winner of the Nobel prize. Arjuna lacked envy of Krishna, and so he was the ideal candidate to reinstate the chain of disciplic succession. The wise use their time and energy to study the conversation held between the two on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna only gives a summary of the spiritual science, but the information is enough to make a lifetime’s worth of study. It is enough to keep the sharpest minds occupied and focused on the real goal of life: stopping reincarnation.

In Closing:

Scientists of world renown,

With big brain endowed.


Study of material nature making,

Interest in spirit not taking.


But animals already surviving,

Intelligence not needed for thriving.


For a reason the boon to humans gifted,

Meant for from birth and death to be lifted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Talking About No Entry

[Lord Krishna]“Since the source of the energies is one and the same, the energies can be utilized according to the will of their source. For example, the Lord can appear in the form of the archa-vigraha, a Deity supposedly made of earth, stone or wood. Deity forms, although engraved from wood, stone or other matter, are not idols, as the iconoclasts contend.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, 5 Purport)

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Friend1: What do you think is the biggest stain on Vedic culture?

Friend2: Stain? Like something bad?

Friend1: The one thing that is preventing it from being more popular.

Friend2: That’s an interesting question. There is a flaw in the premise, however. Popularity should not be a factor.

Friend1: No?

Friend2: Let’s take the example of two plus two. We know that it equals four. Everyone acknowledges this, correct?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: What if certain people refused to accept it?

Friend1: Then they are stupid.

Friend2: That would be our opinion. What if the majority of the people refused to accept it?

Friend1: That would never happen.

[court of law]Friend2: Oh, I beg to disagree my friend. Something like that could very easily happen. Look at the way court cases are covered in the media. People make up their minds before any of the facts come out. Then when the facts utterly refute their conclusion, they remain obstinate.

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: People do things the wrong way so often today, but it’s the people on the other side who get labeled crazy.

Friend1: Alright, but you’re getting off topic here. I was thinking the biggest stain on Vedic culture is the caste system.

Friend2: The idea of divisions by quality and work or the degraded birthright system?

Friend1: The latter.

Friend2: Oh, I think I know where you’re going with this. First of all, I wouldn’t say that the caste system is part of Vedic culture. It is more a way of life, a symptom of a specific society that has deviated from its original culture.

Friend1: Right, but people will associate it with Hinduism.

Friend2: And it’s difficult to explain to them that Hinduism is something entirely different. It is a hodgepodge of different beliefs and faiths. The word itself is not found in the original texts that make up the culture. Hinduism is a term applied by outsiders who don’t know the eternal truths found in Vedanta philosophy.

Friend1: My point is that the caste system, where people claim superiority over others based solely on birthright, shines a negative light on Vedic culture as a whole.

Friend2: There’s no doubt about that.

Friend1: Competing with the caste system would be the restricted entry into temples.

Friend2: Oh, where they don’t allow non-Hindus?

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: I agree with you there. It’s a little ridiculous. They make the determination off of appearance. They don’t care what’s on the inside. A person could be the biggest atheist, who totally rejects Vedic teachings, but if they look a certain way they are allowed in.

Friend1: To you and me it’s obviously discrimination, racism, or whatever similar term you want to apply. How come others don’t see it that way? How does something like that even start?

Friend2: Well, you realize there is an original purpose to the prohibition, right?

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: It’s similar to the evolution into the caste system. The origin is described in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna says that according to guna and karma, qualities and work, there are the four divisions of occupation and spiritual institution. It is a scientific system meant to keep order in society, to facilitate progressive advancement towards the ultimate goal of God consciousness.

Friend1: Right, and since then it became degraded to what we have now, the determination by birthright. So you’re saying the prohibition on certain people entering the temple is logically based in the beginning?

Friend2: Yes, and you see evidence of the justification everywhere. What is in the temple?

Friend1: Umm, God?

Friend2: Yes, but in what manifestation?

Friend1: As the deity.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: And do you know how many people reject the idea of deity worship?

Friend1: Yeah, which is pretty silly. If you’re supposed to think of God and worship Him, why not do so physically? Why should it be limited to mental worship? If you and I have a form, why can’t God have one? Actually, why can’t He have many forms? Deity worship is really important.

Friend2: See, you understand all of these things, but the layperson does not. If they enter the temple with their improper understanding, they won’t get anything out of the worship. Essentially, they are not qualified to see the deity.

Friend1: Interesting. But today the image of the Supreme Lord is everywhere.

Friend2: And what is the response to that?

Friend1: Some people have a negative reaction. They don’t understand that Krishna is all-attractive, the Supreme Lord in His original form. Oh, I see what you’re saying. They see God’s form and it doesn’t have a positive impact. It would be better if they didn’t see Him like that.

Friend2: Exactly. First qualify yourself. If you think the deity is merely wood, stone, marble, or whatever material went into its construction, you are a fool. Then you will share your foolish understanding with others, and negative consequences will result.

Friend1: Are you saying that you agree with today’s prohibitions?

Friend2: The image is everywhere. That is the unfortunate fact. To prohibit people based simply off external appearance is ridiculous. If they want to restrict entry, they should at least try to find out if the person is qualified or not. Because otherwise you’re still allowing unqualified people in.

Friend1: How do we fix the situation?

[Ratha-yatra]Friend2: There are plenty of temples that do allow anyone to enter. You can share the holy names with people. You can display the deity in the proper way to the public through the festival known as Ratha Yatra, where Krishna rides in a chariot for everyone to see. This is Kali Yuga, after all, so even religious life will not be perfect. You’ll have blemishes here and there, but this doesn’t invalidate the original Vedic culture, which is spotless.

In Closing:

Risky if to everyone deity shown,

When Lord’s true position not known.


Then improper understanding to share,

Others of deity’s potency not aware.


In reality Krishna any form can occupy,

When worshiping, better first to qualify.


Blemishes here and there, plenty to see,

But spotless original Vedic culture always to be.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Talking About Appreciating Any Service

[flower garland offered to Krishna]“A rich man should offer according to his position, but if the devotee happens to be a very poor man the Lord will accept even the most meager offering. The worship of Lord Vishnu or Krishna is very simple, and it can be executed by anyone in this world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)

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Friend1: I have a question for you that I’m not exactly sure how to express.

Friend2: Well, give it a try anyway.

Friend1: Okay. You know how bhakti-yoga philosophy is rich and intricate?

Friend2: There is nuance, for sure. The more you get into it, the more things you find to appreciate.

Friend1: Right. And the more times you read the Bhagavad-gita, the better appreciation you have for it. I’ll never forget the first time I read it.

Friend2: It was after a death in the family, right?

Friend1: Yeah. I had purchased the book earlier, but never opened it. I kept telling myself that I would get around to it.

Friend2: Then the loss finally did it?

Friend1: I was in so much distress. I was definitely in the category of the distressed, one of the four mentioned by Krishna regarding those who approach Him.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

[Bhagavad-gita opened]The philosophy was a little out there for me, no doubt. But I’ll never forget how I immediately came upon the truths about spirit. I remember reading how Krishna told Arjuna that the soul lives on, that the wise person doesn’t lament for either the living or the dead.

Friend2: That’s powerful stuff.

Friend1: More than you can realize. It’s such a contrast to the way we typically view religion. Krishna’s words are much more powerful than blind faith, approaching God to help you out with things, or acting out of fear of the afterlife.

Friend2: That’s a good way of putting it. It’s really about life and death and everything in between.

Friend1: Okay, so here is where I’m having trouble. Do you ever see other people who worship only to get stuff?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: They come to the house of worship, pay their respects for a few minutes, and then leave.

[Radha-Krishna deities]Friend2: There are many people like that. And don’t forget those who arrive right when it’s time to eat. They are shameless in that they come only for the food and don’t care what people think of them.

Friend1: Yes! I see that all the time.

Friend2: It’s proof yet again that we are individuals. No one is exactly the same as me or you.

Friend1: My issue is that I can’t help but look down at these people.

Friend2: You view them with disdain?

Friend1: A little.

Friend2: And it’s because they’re exploiting the system of worship?

Friend1: Not so much that. I think it’s because I know there is a rich philosophy behind the culture, that in bhakti-yoga you get something that goes well beyond the mundane. So when I see people treating it like ordinary religion I get upset. Is it okay to feel that way?

Friend2: I’m not going to tell you how to feel. You have to be honest with yourself.

Friend1: Do you have the same feelings?

Friend2: Maybe sometimes I did in the beginning.

Friend1: Not anymore?

Friend2: Certainly not.

Friend1: What changed?

Friend2: Listen, the easiest thing in the world to do is criticize someone. It takes only looking at them for two seconds to find a fault. To look for the good in a person is more difficult. The highest transcendentalist is known as a paramahamsa for this reason. They extract the spiritual essence out of everything. They essentially see the Divine wherever they turn.

Friend1: Are you saying that you see the good in these people?

Friend2: I can’t help it, really. I’m so happy that other people are worshiping the same person. I’m thankful that at least they show up. We have no idea what they do at home. We don’t know exactly what they feel on the inside.

Friend1: But what about when they don’t know any of the philosophy? What if they can’t quote Bhagavad-gita verses? What if they’re only following out of sentiment?

Friend2: And? Look where that sentiment has taken them. Just see where it brought them. Their sentiment is not for some manmade god. They are not worshiping a fallible human being. They are not spending their weekend nights drinking and trying to forget their troubles. They are worshiping honestly and sincerely.

Friend1: So it doesn’t bother you that at some of these temples the majority of the people coming are of a certain ethnicity?

[Deities worshiped]Friend2: Ideally, you would like people from all backgrounds to come. You would prefer to have everyone in the community participate. But the lack of diversity shouldn’t take anything away from those who are wise enough to attend. It doesn’t matter where they are in the evolution of the consciousness, at least they are on the right path. The Supreme Lord accepts all service, large and small. He actually makes no distinction. Just offering a flower to Him pleases Him so much. This is the potency of bhakti-yoga. The sincerity is what counts most, not the external display. Both the brilliant and dumb can ascend to the spiritual world. Both the eloquent and the introverted are eligible for basking in the transcendental light of love and devotion to God the person.

In Closing:

Taking stock of wise and the dumb,

But Supreme Lord making distinction none.


Any person eligible His name to call,

Ready to accept service from them all.


Even without deep philosophy knowing,

At least with sincerity towards Him going.


Every fault and deficiency to be cured,

Success for devotees by Krishna assured.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Five Things That Hold Back The Healing Hand

[Krishna's lotus feet]“That which has neither end nor beginning must not be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Yet those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that sanatana-dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeply into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, it is possible for us to see that sanatana-dharma is the business of all the people of the world - nay, of all the living entities of the universe.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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It’s been a rough winter. In addition to being brutally cold outside, you’ve gotten sick multiple times. First there was the sniffles. Then a month later the fever made a surprise entrance. For the past few weeks, it has been this nagging cough. It just won’t go away. You went to the doctor and he prescribed an elixir. The only problem is the taste. You can’t stand it. It makes you gag almost instantly. Yet everyone tells you that the only way to get better is to take the medicine.

In this example the healing formula is both known and available, and it is still not accepted. There are many other such examples in life, such as the counsel given to substance abusers, the restricted diet offered to those who are suffering with a particular illness in the body, and the warnings of bad behavior and their obstructive influence in finding success.

Bhakti-yoga is the greatest healer. It is for the soul, not the body. Indeed, the body is where the problems start. That body accompanies birth. In illusion, the thought is that death will remove the problems, but that event is simply a resetting. After death comes birth, and the cycle begins anew.

Bhakti-yoga is the way to stop rebirth and also change the nature of the existence in between. No longer do you have to suffer in misery in front of the television, left with nothing else to do. No more do you have to wonder about your purpose in life. No more do you have to be unhappy.

The good life awaits the person who accepts the path of bhakti-yoga. Unfortunately, there are many things holding back that healing hand. Recognizing some of the more powerful obstructions helps to open the door to healing.

1. Sectarianism

Bhakti-yoga is explained originally in Sanskrit works, such as the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Ramayana, and Brahma-samhita. The languages spoken today on the subcontinent of India derive from Sanskrit. Therefore an obvious impediment is sectarian designations.

“Why would I want to follow Hinduism? I’m fine with my religion. They have their books and language, and we have ours. I don’t need to go all new age to figure out the problems to life.”

Nowhere in the texts known as the Vedas is the word “Hindu” found. The teachings in the Bhagavad-gita apply to every species, to everything that is a spark of spirit. It is no more a system of faith than the law of gravity. By breaking the barrier of sectarianism, one can begin to accept the science of self-realization. If you know who you truly are, you can start acting in the way you are meant to.

2. Impersonalism

Upon exiting the womb, man immediately chooses sense gratification. He doesn’t know any better. This is the way of the animals; it is their instinct. The human being begins to separate from the animals through education. The fortunate few who get to hear Vedic teachings still come upon an issue. They do give up the idea of being like God in enjoying so much. But instead of advancing further, they simply choose the opposite path: renunciation. The mentality is that through enough withdrawal from the material world, I can merge into the Absolute. I can become God.

Yet this way of thinking is also material. One person eats a lot to gain weight and another restricts their caloric intake in order to improve the look of their body. Both are totally conscious of their body. Bhakti-yoga is consciousness of God. More specifically, it is about God the person. It is said that impersonalism is the last snare of maya, the illusory energy of the material world. One who thinks that God is not a person, that He is simply an attributeless energy, does not get the full healing benefit of bhakti-yoga.

3. Lack of sobriety

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone for a long time and later on realized that you weren’t paying attention to anything they said? When the individual lacks sobriety, even the best words of advice won’t do them any good. The words will fall on deaf ears. The Bhagavad-gita presents the best philosophy directly from the mouth of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna. Yet if the individual is constantly intoxicated, how will they properly understand what they are hearing?

[Bhagavad Gita As It Is]The first eighteen years in the life of the human being typically don’t involve any intoxicants. Yet in adulthood, which is supposed to represent maturity, there is addiction to things like drinking, smoking and narcotics. Intoxication holds back the healing of bhakti-yoga, and so those who are serious in wanting advancement follow four regulative principles to help them along: no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex.

4. Attachment to rituals

An immature stage in religious life is to ask something from God. Shri Krishna addresses this in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that four kinds of people generally approach Him. They all want something. It is only natural, since the Supreme Lord has it all.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

[Vedic rituals]In Vedic teachings there are other ways to get things, ways that are considered religious. You can perform a ritual in the home and worship a specific deity who is not the Supreme Lord. You can visit a house of worship and do the same. While beneficial for the overall advancement of the consciousness, bhakti-yoga is still absent. Love and devotion, without motivation and without interruption, is the height of living. If a person remains attached to performing rituals, considering bhakti-yoga to be mere sentiment, they don’t get the full benefit of the human birth.

5. Lack of renunciation

In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that a person takes up bhakti-yoga only after their sinful life has been completely exhausted. The real definition of sin is anything that keeps a person away from their constitutional position of servant of God. The idea is that it is impossible to take up devotion to God in earnest without being totally disgusted with material life.

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)

Chanting the holy names is most beneficial in this age: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This mantra is a nonsectarian way to address God, who is for everyone. Hearing about God the person gives information about His attributes, His features. It sheds light into what He likes, what He dislikes, and what He desires from others.

[Krishna's lotus feet]If attachment to material objects remains at the same time, then the practices in bhakti-yoga will not be at full strength. In the modern age the number of attachments has increased, as there are so many objects of infatuation. A person needn’t renounce everything outright; simply abandon attachment. Everything will be left behind at the time of death, but consciousness will remain. Krishna consciousness is the ultimate healing hand, and it is there for everyone to feel.

In Closing:

For cure getting hand to heal,

For better in this existence to feel.


But many things that hand to stop,

Attachment to objects, never to drop.


And as sectarian way to think,

In impersonalism perhaps to sink.


Today so many objects of infatuation,

Chant holy names and remove obstruction.