Saturday, January 2, 2016

Avoiding The Difficult Subject Matter

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who is Krishna conscious is a perfect yogi; he is aware of everyone's happiness and distress by dint of his own personal experience. The cause of the distress of a living entity is forgetfulness of his relationship with God. And the cause of happiness is knowing Krishna to be the supreme enjoyer of all the activities of the human being.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.32 Purport)

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It’s registration day. The new semester is about to start, and enrollment for classes is open. There is a limit on students in each class, so you have to sign up early for the ones you want. But which ones should you take? It’s early in your college career, so you haven’t yet declared a major. This leaves every option on the table. There are classes in biology, chemistry, and physics. Those would be difficult. You wouldn’t have enough time left to socialize. Then there are classes in pop music, tennis and racquetball, and health. Those seem like they would be easier. Which ones should you pick?

[college classes]If a student not particularly known for their academic achievements suddenly gets good grades, there is the common playful question of, “What, did you take basket-weaving?” The idea is that the previously poor student probably wouldn’t choose more difficult classes to take. On the other side, the smart kids like to challenge themselves. If the opening year chemistry class has the option of being spread out over two semesters, the students with a challenging spirit will pick the more difficult option of one semester.

It would make sense that the brightest minds would tackle the biggest problems in society. How do we make a device that is small enough to fit in the pocket, that can send and receive phone calls, surf the internet, provide GPS navigation, send and receive emails, and also take pictures? A few decades ago such a device seemed impossible. Due to the efforts of the world’s smartest people, today it is a reality.

Half a century ago the smartest minds put human beings into outer space. They created smaller, more efficient automobiles. Over the years they invented high definition televisions, personal computers, and compact discs. But is this the best use of the intelligent brain? After all, the animal species does not have this advantage. They operate off basic instincts: eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

[email app]According to Vedic philosophy, to study only matter is not a wise decision. The reason being that matter cannot really do anything for the individual. A person in the past dropped a letter in the mail to get their message across. Today they hit the send button on their smartphone. But what is the real difference? There is progress in terms of speed of communication, but has anything about the experience through life changed? Has there been a halt to old age? Is disease completely stamped out? More importantly, is death a thing of the past?

The truly smart person tackles the most difficult subject matter: life and death. Why am I here? Why did I take birth? After being born, why do I have to eventually die? Why can’t I stay here forever? If the answer to these questions is “I don’t know,” then the person answering isn’t that smart. If they say that the subject matter is too difficult to handle, then their advanced intelligence has no meaning.

The Bhagavad-gita does not operate under such limitations. The speaker immediately addresses the most important issue. He says that the soul never takes birth. It never dies, either. Birth and death are merely illusions created by the material nature. They occur in fact, but only temporarily. To put great emphasis on them is not very wise. It would be like worrying about changing out of my work clothes at the end of the night. It would be like celebrating the next morning when changing out of pajamas and into the clothes for the day.

vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya

navāni gṛhṇāti naro 'parāṇi

tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny

anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī

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

[reincarnation]Krishna explains that there is never death for the soul. But why is there birth in the material world? Again, the answer is readily forthcoming. Everyone is born into delusion, suffering from the dualities of attachment and aversion. Like a swinging pendulum, at one moment the mind is set on attachment to something. Soon thereafter the same object is a cause for disdain. One day I like pizza and the next I never want to eat it again. One day I say I love someone and the next I am divorcing them, happily so. One day I have this body and the next I am forced to give it up.

The person who loves God and is conscious of Him at the time of death no longer has to take birth. This fact subtly reveals the cause for the present birth. During the last quitting of the body, i.e. the previous death, there was not pure consciousness of God. Obviously these truths must be accepted on faith at first, just as we listen to the teacher sincerely in the classroom. Yet we needn’t rely on blind faith alone. These truths make sense. If we want to enjoy in a temporary world, we get to for as long as we want. Other people are enjoying too, which means conflict. Conflict effects change as part of the great subduing enemy known as time.

prahlādaś cāsmi daityānāṁ

kālaḥ kalayatām aham

mṛgāṇāṁ ca mṛgendro 'haṁ

vainateyaś ca pakṣiṇām

“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

[Krishna's lotus feet]The human birth is the most auspicious. It gives a chance for every person, even the academically challenged, to question the reason for their existence and then do something to put a stop to repeated birth and death. The key is to ask the questions and then go to the right place for the answers. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable response, no matter who offers it. The spiritual science that is Vedic philosophy is the proper source, and the original teacher Shri Krishna has kindly summarized that science in the Bhagavad-gita, the introductory textbook for the brightest students of life looking to tackle the most difficult subject matter.

In Closing:

Despite creating conveniences a host,

Not best use of intelligence the most.


For only in the material to stay,

Not challenging, the easy way.


Better if on purpose of life to ask,

Getting real answers, understanding’s task.


Birth determined by at time of body’s quitting,

Bhagavad-gita for highest mind befitting.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The One With The Changing Ability

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

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śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti

yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ

gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti

vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

The body of an adult is different from the body of a child. How so? In the healthy adult, there is the ability to walk. The adult can talk, drive a car, act on choices in travel, and even write down their thoughts. The young child has the potential to do these things, but the ability is not there yet. They need to learn how to crawl first, then walk, and in the process speak a few words. Indeed, the difference between the two bodies is development, which means change.

This development, which occurs over time, proves that there is a constant force within. Since the individual remains the same, the body cannot identify them. Ability has no bearing on who they are. It may change how they live, how much or how little they enjoy, what they do on a daily basis, but it doesn’t define their existence.

The constant force within is the principal subject matter of the spiritual science. The difference between body and spirit is the introductory teaching to what is known as Vedanta. This is the end of knowledge, the conclusion of conclusions. This difference is so important that it is presented at the outset. Before you learn about to whom to surrender, what rituals to practice, where you will go in the afterlife - know this fundamental truth. As a standalone it explains so much.

Rafael was questioned about this one day in an email from his friend. The friend did not understand reincarnation, thinking it to be a myth that could not be proven. After all, if we can’t remember our previous lives, how do we know they happened? In response, Rafael mentioned the changing bodies concept, which is described nicely in the Bhagavad-gita. To help get his point across, he brought up a story from his youth.

I understand what you’re saying about the evidence for the past lives thing. I mean how do I know that I lived before? I don’t have any physical evidence. There is no certificate of authenticity. There is no authority to consult who saw the actual movement of the soul. But actually, there is one authority whose word is spotless. He is the origin of the spiritual science since He is the creator of the material world. The spiritual science is only applicable in a world of dichotomy, where there is a difference between matter and spirit. He says that a person carries their conceptions from one lifetime to another, as the air carries aromas.

Even without consulting His authority, you can get evidence of the changing bodies right now. The changing bodies is a better way to understand reincarnation. Past, present and future lives are only relative to time. The individual exists always; we just identify differently based on external features.

You know how much I like to play tennis. I’ll never forget something that happened during my high school playing career. In my freshmen year we were competing against another school and I was pitted against another freshmen. This was out of the ordinary for me, since there usually weren’t many freshmen on the varsity teams. This meant the people I played were typically older than me. Anyway, I had a comfortable victory against this player. Their serve was weak and erratic. They didn’t run very well. I was able to dominate from the baseline.

Fast forward three years and now I’m a senior. We play the same school and I’m pitted against a senior. This guy is pretty good. He’s got a monster serve. He moves around the court like a dancer. He doesn’t miss a shot either; I can’t get a winner past him. At the end of the match we chat for a little bit. I was wondering why I had never seen him before. He then tells me that he has been at the school for four years and remembers playing me three years ago. In fact, this was the same person I had beaten handily the first time. His abilities improved and, of course, through growth his appearance also changed. It was to the point that he was unrecognizable.

The person is the same in both instances. You can say they have gone through reincarnation and you wouldn’t be wrong. Their body has changed. Their ability has as well. This means that ability does not determine the type of spirit, either. This idea of a separate soul for a human being and a separate soul for an animal is preposterous. The soul is the soul. The bodies can be different. Sometimes the individual has control over how the body changes and sometimes they don’t. I can lose or gain weight if I choose, but I can do nothing to stop old age. The animal gets the type of body that does not have a high potential for intelligence; but this doesn’t mean they are less of an individual than a human being.

[the changing body]Anyway, I don’t mean to keep lecturing on and on, but I think the reincarnation thing is very easy to understand. It’s important to know, too. It marks the real entry into spiritual life. Like learning basic addition and subtraction in school is necessary for advancing to algebra, geometry and calculus later on, if you want to know God the person and the purpose for this creation, you have to know the difference between matter and spirit. You have to know the eternality of spirit, how it is the same in quality within all species.

In Closing:

Early in career against opponent played,

Victory coming easy, not much skill displayed.


Years later then change coming,

A different player totally becoming.


But the person remaining the same,

Just a different type of body to gain.


Explanation for reincarnation this way one,

Know this or have advancement none.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The One About The Swapped Hard Drive

[the changing body]“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)

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śrotraṁ cakṣuḥ sparśanaṁ ca

rasanaṁ ghrāṇam eva ca

adhiṣṭhāya manaś cāyaṁ

viṣayān upasevate

Man separates himself from the animal when he takes up religion. The basic definition of religion is spiritual life, that which is distinct from material life. Spirit and matter - they are different. Matter is directly perceptible through the five senses, while spirit is not. At least this is what we think. Air is a gross element of nature, but we can’t really see it. We can only feel it when it blows against us. We see its influence on other objects. In the same way, we can notice the presence of the soul through the actions of an autonomous, living thing.


brāhmaṇe gavi hastini

śuni caiva śva-pāke ca

paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

The same type of soul animates each living being. There is no such thing as an animal soul or a human soul. The features of the body have no relation to the nature of the giver of life. A teaspoon of vanilla extract goes into the batch of cookies and also the batter for cake. The cake has a much different shape, aroma and taste than the cookie. Yet there is not a cake vanilla extract or a cookie vanilla extract. The ingredient is the same. Vinny was one time explaining this to his friend in an email exchange. To help get his point across, he relayed a recent story from his own life.

As far as the animals having souls thing, it shouldn’t be that difficult for you to understand. I’m obviously coming into it with a different perspective. When I heard that the same type of spirit animates all beings, I accepted the information right away. It seemed logical to me. Then again, I wasn’t taught my whole life that animals don’t have souls. It’s pretty easy to see where that teaching came from. It’s not authorized, for sure. It was concocted in the mind, an excuse for killing animals and eating them.

I had a recent experience with my son that should help to explain. His laptop computer was running real slow. I had told him not to download too many things, but he didn’t listen. He and his sister love watching videos on there, and sometimes they download things illegally. I’m sure there were some viruses on there or whatever. Anyway, one of the hard drives on the computer was pretty good, so I wanted to keep it. So I took that hard drive out and saved it. It had lots of music and videos on there too.

[hard drive]When I bought them a new computer, I put the old hard drive in there. My son was amazed that the computer was so much different. He wondered how the same hard drive could function in both computers. The monitors were different, the speed of loading programs, and even the keyboard had a different orientation. Yet the same data was there. All of the music and movies from before.

I explained to him how the data was stored on the hard drive and how it would function in pretty much any computer. The data was just one aspect. The computer could be different in every other way, but the data would be accessed from the same place.

In the same way, we know that spirit is in all living beings. The difference between the animal and the human is seen in external ability. Heck, even with human beings there are differences. Not everyone is the same. Look at the Olympics. The winners of the marathon tend to have a similar type of body. The same goes for swimmers, gymnasts and basketball players. Yet we wouldn’t say that such and such person has the soul of a basketball player. That would be silly.

All fragments of individual spirit are the same in quality, and they have the same relationship to the origin of spirit. The origin is Supreme; He is the same individual within every living thing. It’s like He stretches His presence, but He doesn’t really. He can expand infinitely and remain a single person.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Beyond feeding an interest in the esoteric, knowing that all souls are of the same kind helps us to understand that we are in this together. We don’t need to compete with each other. We don’t need to needlessly kill. We don’t need to view every person as an enemy, someone getting in the way of our enjoyment. An existence is meant for experiencing the pleasure of communion with God, better known as bhakti-yoga. The animals don’t have the potential to understand God, but it doesn’t mean that their souls are different. The human being has this potential, and one sign of their advancement towards true enlightenment is the way they treat other forms of life.

In Closing:

Like hard drive into new computer swapping,

Same soul into different bodies dropping.


One sign of how soon Lord to meet,

How other creatures and people to treat.


With compassion, an eye the same,

Or killing through different soul’s name?


Fragment of spirit living things all,

Same soul inside, whether large or small.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Talking About Jnana and Vijnana

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“When one is fully equipped with jnana and vijnana, he is perfect. Jnana means that one understands the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, to be the Supreme Being. Vijnana refers to the activities that liberate one from the ignorance of material existence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.10-13 Purport)

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Friend1: I’ve got a problem.

Friend2: Big or small?

Friend1: Small now, but will likely become big later on.

Friend2: Is it debt, disease, or fire?

Friend1: No. Why do you ask?

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often quote Chanakya Pandit on that. Those are three things that should be dealt with right away. At first they are small problems, but if you ignore them they become big very quickly.

Friend1: That’s interesting. Disease and fire make sense. The debt thing flies right in the face of the American way of life. Who cares about racking up debt? The credit card companies are the evil ones.

Friend2: Right, but it’s the general rule. Even today if you pile up enough debt, you have trouble getting out from underneath it. There are these services to help people with large credit card debt. There are resolution services for people who owe a lot in back taxes.

Friend1: The problem I have is with my kids.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: One of them is really into cars. That’s all they talk about. They’re approaching that age where they have to decide what to study going forward, what they want to be.

Friend2: And you’re worried they’re too focused on materialism? It’s pretty natural at that age.

Friend1: It’s just that I know better. I know that buying an expensive car is not going to make a difference in life. At best, it’ll be fun for a few days. Then you have to maintain it. Other people will get jealous; they won’t necessarily be happy for you.

Friend2: That’s true. There’s also the perspective of shastra to consider.

Friend1: Exactly. I was getting there. One of the foundational premises of the Bhagavad-gita is that working with attention on the fruits is the wrong way. You’re supposed to do your duty and remain detached. My son has heard this teaching before; he is not unfamiliar with it.

Friend2: Have you discussed the issue with him?

Friend1: So many times. Other people have told him, too. Still, his focus is totally on cars. I have my personal experiences that I’ve shared with him. I was once into collecting things. I thought the objects would make me happy, but they didn’t. What should I do?

Friend2: Listen, there’s two things to note here. There is jnana, which is what you’re trying to impart to him. He’s getting jnana from the Bhagavad-gita, the bhakti-yoga culture, and the influence of you and your wife. That is a good thing, because the human being has the ability to act off intelligence. They have a higher potential for intelligence than any of the other species.

Friend1: Potential is the key word. If they don’t accept knowledge, they won’t get anywhere.

Friend2: The second thing is vijnana. Jnana is theoretical understanding and vijnana is practical realization. You can’t give somebody vijnana. You have it yourself, which is great. Vijnana helps to reinforce the theory found in jnana. Yet in this instance it is not until vijnana comes that a difference will be made.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: It’s just the way of the world. I wouldn’t worry so much. There is such a nice foundation here. Many children never even hear of the Bhagavad-gita. Their elders and everyone around them reinforce the idea of material sense gratification being the ultimate objective of life. No one knows any better. At least you have the higher understanding to offer.

Friend1: You’re saying that eventually the vijnana will come?

Friend2: It’s not guaranteed, but at least there is jnana. This is why practicing the regulative principles of devotional service is so important. Even if your mind is elsewhere, simply by immersing yourself in a specific culture, albeit reluctantly, you have a great chance for advancement.

Friend1: I’m assuming that chanting is the most important of these principles?

[sankirtana]Friend2: Hearing and chanting. You can accomplish both by repeating the maha-mantra out loud: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He’s already hearing from you and others. If he engages in chanting, there will be a benefit. In this age especially high philosophy is not so much appreciated. How can it be when the focus is on the latest technology? How can it be when there is no focus at all? Mired in the mode of passion, everyone jumps from one desire to another. With hearing and chanting there is some steadiness, and advancement will come, even for those who don’t accept the higher knowledge at first.

In Closing:

So mired in material desires are you,

How from my experience to get through?


Jnana the knowledge theoretical,

Also vijnana, the practical.


The first to others I can give,

But the rest from experience to live.


Through devotional culture foundation setting,

Paving way for Krishna realization getting.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Five Ways That Krishna Transforms The Miseries Of Life

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]“Then Krishna, the supreme mystic, the powerful Personality of Godhead, immediately swallowed up all the flames of the fire. The cows and boys were thus saved from imminent danger. Out of fear, the boys were almost unconscious, but when they regained their consciousness and opened their eyes, they saw that they were again in the forest with Krishna, Balarama and the cows.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 19)

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Those who are familiar with the teachings of Vedanta have likely heard of the threefold miseries of life. There are the four miserable events known as birth, old age, disease and death. These repeat in cycles through what is known as reincarnation. The changing of bodies is the easier way to understand reincarnation, to remove the mystical aspect to it. I am the same person that I see in that old photograph. Though I look totally different right now, my identity has not changed. This is the simple way to get proof of reincarnation.

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)

Reincarnation is not fun because it is forced upon the living entity. Why can’t I sustain my athletic ability forever? If I can play tennis for three hours at a time today without a problem, how come in several years’ time that ability will diminish? It’s not fair.

The living being encounters various miseries between the events of birth and death. Vedanta, which is also known as Vedic philosophy or the conclusion of all conclusions, puts those miseries into three categories. Adhidaivika are the ones that come from the heavenly region. Think of acts of nature like the hurricane, the tornado, the rainstorm, and the forest fire. Adhibautika are those caused by other living entities, such as when people are overly aggressive and mean. Adhyatmika are those coming from within, like disease and mental anguish.

The Supreme Lord is above these miseries. As He is a person, He sometimes appears within our realm. Though He gives the appearance of changing His external body, there is actually no difference between matter and spirit for Him. Though He lives in the same realm as us, the threefold miseries do not affect Him. In addition, He changes the influence of those miseries for those who seek His shelter.

1. Lifting Govardhana.

The king of heaven was angry at the residents of Vrindavana. They neglected to worship him. Was this done out of malice? Were they purposefully trying to insult Indra? Actually, they got advice from Krishna that worship of a nearby hill named Govardhana was a better use of their time. This neglect only occurred one time, and Krishna asked very nicely. In the form of a small child, Krishna persuaded the residents, who all loved Him very much.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]Unable to tolerate the supposed insult, the king of heaven unleashed a torrential downpour. It was so bad that normally there would have been no hope. It was devastating rain, set to wash away everyone, including the animals. Krishna changed the nature of that adhidaivika misery by lifting the massive Govardhana Hill and holding it up for seven straight days. He created this amazing umbrella effortlessly, and the very powerful Indra and his rain were defeated.

2. Swallowing the forest fire.

In the same Vrindavana during Krishna’s time bad things were always happening. The Sanskrit word for demon is asura. This is a simple negation of another word: sura. A sura is a devotee, a person who believes in God. They may not always remember His supremacy all the time. Indra is a sura, and he temporarily forgot about Krishna’s real nature. Still, a sura is generally a good person.

The asura is always against God. It is in their nature. They don’t just proclaim that God is a myth. They don’t just thumb their nose at religion. They are aggressors against the good. They even try to defeat God when He appears in their midst, as they are too blinded by ignorance to realize who He is. Such was the case when Krishna was in Vrindavana. Asuras tried so many times to inflict harm on Krishna and His friends.

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]Once there was a raging forest fire. Krishna’s friends, who were of the same childhood age, were unconscious and set to be burned to death. Krishna stepped in and easily swallowed the entire fire. Fire is a material element, after all, which can be used for both good and evil. The misery of the natural disaster was easily averted for those who had shelter of God the person.

3. The pain of separation in the gopis.

No one looks forward to missing someone. I don’t intentionally leave home so that I can become homesick. Thus we would have to say that separation pain is a kind of misery. It comes from within, so it belongs in the adhyatmika category. With the Supreme Lord, the same separation pain is blissful. Proof is seen in the gopis of Vrindavana. They are the cowherd girls of the community, and they are so attached to Krishna that they can’t stop thinking about Him. Even if they are engaged in household affairs the entire day, every thought is about the jewel of Vrindavana. Even if they are older and have their own children to worry about, their top priority is the wellbeing of Yashoda’s son.

[gopis of Vrindavana]Lord Chaitanya has declared that the mood of worship of the gopis is the highest. It is superior to the meditation of the renounced yogis, the study of the Vedantists, and the work with detachment of the karma-yogis. In addition to this constant thinking in separation being extremely pleasing to the Supreme Lord, it is also the source of the highest bliss. This contradiction can only be realized through direct experience. The more one knows Krishna, the more they miss Him. The more they miss, the more conscious they are of Him, which is the aim of life. Though typically it is painful to miss someone, when you miss God you actually feel pleasure.

4. Narasimhadeva protecting Prahlada.

[Prahlada attacked]Just like the residents about to be washed away by Indra’s flood, Prahlada Maharaja was helpless. He was only five years old, and his Daitya father tried everything possible to change Prahlada’s devotional ways. The father went so far as to employ deadly force. Thus the boy suffered adhibautika miseries from a much more powerful force. No one would expect him to survive being thrown off a cliff, taken into a pit of fire, or left with deadly snakes. Yet the boy did survive, and his devotion thrived. This was due to the efforts of Krishna, who eventually arrived on the scene in person, as the avatara named Narasimha.

5. Giving back life to the Vanaras on the battlefield.

During His descent to earth as the warrior prince named Rama, there were many living entities willing to give up their lives for Him on the battlefield. In the culminating stage of a long conflict with the king of Lanka, monkeys from the Kishkindha forest served as Rama’s soldiers. These monkeys, known as Vanaras, battled courageously against foes known as Rakshasas. A Rakshasa is asura-like, but even more fallen. They sink so low as to eat human beings, and they employ unfair tactics in battle, like black magic.

yadṛcchayā copapannaṁ

svarga-dvāram apāvṛtam

sukhinaḥ kṣatriyāḥ pārtha

labhante yuddham īdṛśam

“O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.32)

Many Vanaras died in battle. According to Shri Krishna this is a very noble death, one that brings immediate elevation to heaven. Yet Rama was so kind that after winning, He requested that the Vanaras all be brought back to life. Thus the miserable event of death was reversed through the Lord’s grace.

Krishna can do anything, so even the difficult material nature becomes friendly through His grace. After all, the superintendent of the material world, Durga Devi, serves Krishna. Her trident works against the asuras, the people who are against God. The sura gets protection, and better than the sura is the pure devotee, who associates with the Supreme always in thought, word and deed. The threefold miseries have a different influence on them, as every moment they get closer and closer to the Lord in consciousness.

In Closing:

Material existence with miseries three,

Each person in some way to see.


But Krishna Himself able to transcend,

Downpour and forest fire away can send.


For the devotees protection giving,

Changing nature for improved living.


Getting closer to Him with each step,

Bliss even from separation to get.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Treating Everyone Like Family

[Rama and His people]“That chastiser of the foe is a protector of His good conduct and of His people. He is also a protector of all living entities and of righteousness.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.7)

rakṣitā svasya vṛttasya sva janasya api rakṣitā |
rakṣitā jīva lokasya dharmasya ca paran tapaḥ ||

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The blockbuster movies tend to have common themes. There is a reason for their popularity. Aside from the use of special effects and modern imagery machines that enhance the viewing experience, the storylines themselves must resonate with the public. One of those themes is family. The message is to stop living your life so much based on money. Instead of chasing the almighty dollar and sacrificing everything as a result, step back a little and see the bigger picture. Realize what’s more important, namely spending time with your loved ones, caring for them in the process.

The message resonates with the viewers because people inherently want to love. There is the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss. The living being should always be in ananda. In a material existence, the ananda is covered or distorted. That which looks pleasurable in the beginning ends up tasting like poison in the end. Think of the drunkard who has a fun night out and then regrets everything the next morning.

yat tad agre viṣam iva

pariṇāme 'mṛtopamam

tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam


“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)

Real ananda begins to flow from acts in righteousness, or dharma. Such acts are in the material mode of goodness. The experience in that mode is like poison in the beginning and nectar in the end. To have compassion for one’s own family members is one aspect to righteousness. It is showing basic respect to people who deserve it.

Yet there is something else to consider. What if the people are themselves bad? What if you have a bad character who also loves their family? Are they following righteousness? We define bad here as someone who does not care for other living entities. They kill at will, they steal if necessary, and they think everyone else should live under different rules. As an example, consider the modern day tyrant. They have no problem hurting others. These rulers care for their family members, however. They take care of their own.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman describes someone who has the full and complete understanding of compassion. That person cares for His own people. There is no denying that. The person is of the royal order, which in the time period in question was in charge of protecting through the application of force, when necessary.

The person Hanuman describes also protects all the living entities of the world. This is the proper understanding. After all, we had no say in who our parents would be. We naturally have affection for them because of the bodily relation, but other people have their own parents. These people are strangers to us, but that’s only because we don’t know them. If we knew more about them, we would see that they are actually no different from us.

[Rama and His people]The person of whom Hanuman speaks is Shri Rama, who is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By extension, we now understand that God is for everyone. He is automatically the greatest protector, even if people don’t ask for it. He looks out for the welfare of every creature, large and small.

Rama protects His own good conduct. This means that He takes dharma very seriously. He doesn’t need others to judge Him; He is on the case already. Hanuman also mentions that Rama is the chastiser of the enemy. Does this contradict the protection of all living entities aspect?

Actually, that chastisement is a form of protection too. Think of it like getting a bad grade on an exam. The grade is a truthful representation of what is known, or in this case not known, of the material. If the person who doesn’t know anything is told they are knowledgeable, the lie doesn’t do them any good. The earned poor mark hopefully motivates the person to try harder to understand the material, to correct whatever is wrong.

In the same way, Rama punishes those who deserve it. Hopefully they don’t commit the same mistakes again. Hanuman is telling all of this to Sita Devi, who is Rama’s wife. The words are so important that the exact same verse was spoken earlier to Sita by the same Hanuman.

The description stands in stark contrast to Ravana, the king of Lanka. He protected his own people, but not anyone else. He couldn’t protect his own good conduct because he didn’t have any. He tormented many foes, but Rama would be the exception. Sita was there in Lanka against her will. Ravana brought her there in secret. If he really cared about Sita, he would have brought her back to Rama, as she desired.

[Rama deity]Hanuman’s words indicate that Rama is the ideal candidate for worship. The loving propensity found within the individual should first be directed to the Supreme Lord. Though it looks like He is invisible, through enough practice in bhakti-yoga, which is the highest dharma, He slowly reveals Himself. Eventually the worshiper sees Him everywhere, and is blissful as a result. Inheriting the wonderful attribute from Rama, they start to have compassion for every living entity, viewing the entire creation as their family.

In Closing:

For family of mine loving so much,

But towards others not a touch.


And then taking even a person not good,

More to love than just family understood.


With Rama extending to creatures all,

Their foremost protector everyone to call.


Worship Him first and then to others extend,

Then soon compassion to everyone send.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Best of Everything

[Shri Rama]“In splendor He is equal to the sun. In forgiveness He is equal to the earth. In intelligence He is equal to Brihaspati. In fame He is equal to Indra.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.9)

tejasā āditya samkāśaḥ kṣamayā pṛthivī samaḥ |
bṛhaspati samo buddhyā yaśasā vāsava upamaḥ ||

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What is God? How are we to recognize Him if we see Him? Is He even a He? Is it possible to know the Absolute, given that we have imperfect senses? We also have a tendency to cheat. We commit mistakes and are easily illusioned. Things and people trick us, so isn’t it possible that a person can make a display of magic and fool us into believing that they are the Supreme Lord?

Such tricks are indeed played on the innocent public. It takes a little intelligence to see past the display. A person of opulence in this world must first acquire it. Even if they are born into good circumstances, someone had to work to make that happen. The younger brother of Rama, Lakshmana, in the Ramayana says that good and bad things happen from action, but for any result there still must be an initial action.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

If a person has to work to earn a specific quality or feature, it means that they are not all-perfect. No matter how great the acquired opulence is, the fact remains that it had to be earned through some means. The individual was not endowed with such greatness from the time of birth. They had to be protected during youth, and afterwards they required the cooperation of the threefold miseries of life: those coming from nature, other living entities, and the body and mind respectively.

An interesting case study in this regard is Ravana, the infamous king of Lanka during ancient times. He had one ability that would easily fool even the modern day skeptic of religion. Known as the kama-rupa siddhi, Ravana could change his shape at will. His original form was of an ogre, known as a Rakshasa in Sanskrit. Ravana was rare even among ogres, as he had ten heads. He was ghastly to look at, but with his mystic perfection he could take on any appearance whenever he wanted.

He once used this ability to steal away the wife of another man. Ravana always boasted of his prowess, how he was feared throughout the world. Even the residents of the heavenly region did not want to mess with him. Yet he inherently knew that he was not God, for he required trickery in order to bring Sita back to Lanka.

[Shri Hanuman]In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana a messenger is speaking to the same Sita. He is sent by Rama, who is Sita’s beloved husband. The messenger is named Hanuman and he is in the form of a Vanara, which is a monkey-like creature. The Vanara is conspicuous in Lanka; therefore Sita is suspicious of his motives.

To prove that he is indeed sent by Rama, Hanuman reviews some of the qualities of the Lord. From Vedic literature we know that Rama is an incarnation of God. He has all the great abilities that fruitive work, empiric philosophy, meditational yoga, and strict renunciation and penance can bring. The notable distinction is that He possesses these features all the time.

Rama is the best in each category. Hanuman gives examples above. Rama’s tejas, or splendor, is like the sun. He appeared in the solar dynasty, the Ikshvaku line of kings. Rama’s forgiveness is like the earth. The earth remains steady despite bearing a great burden. So many living entities walk over it, and the earth does not budge.

Rama’s intelligence is like Brihaspati, who is the priest of the demigods. Rama’s fame is like Indra, the king of heaven. Indra is the leader of the demigods, and in Vedic literature his name is often used to make comparisons to greatness.

[Shri Rama]These are just a few of the categories in which Rama excels. Hanuman is an extension of Rama since he represents the Lord. Therefore through Hanuman’s efforts the glories of Rama continue to expand. The person who is the best of everything also has the best servant, one who infiltrates impenetrable areas and accomplishes the mission handed to him. Rama has the best wife, a person who loves unconditionally, without motivation and without interruption. Rama also has the best story, the Ramayana, whose every section illuminates the path of bhakti and its ability to triumph over even the most formidable enemies.

In Closing:

Even if best of everything acquired,

Work first still to get there required.


Only Supreme Lord remaining ever so,

Full in opulence wherever to go.


In every category the best,

Better than all others the rest.


In Hanuman having messenger like no other,

To this day still dear to wife and brother.