Saturday, December 31, 2016

Five Hardships The Pandavas Faced In Their Devotion To Krishna

[Draupadi akshaya patra]"My dear Krishna, Your Lordship has protected us from a poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest and from the battle where great generals fought. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Ashvatthama." (Queen Kunti, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.24)

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You are an all-around good person. Surely you can do better, as to err is human, but others around you have extolled your virtues. They think you are the personification of piety. At least you are trying. You know that there is a God. You don’t view Him as merely an order supplier, though He can grant anything to anyone. You are devoted to Him in thought, word and deed. You hope to be perfectly conscious of Him at the time of death, which determines the next destination for the individual soul.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Life should be pretty smooth for you, no? Actually, even in devotion there can be tremendous hardships. Rather than rely solely on a theoretical explanation, there is the vivid example of the Pandavas. The main characters of the historical epic known as the Mahabharata, the five sons of Pandu had to go through so much. The reward for their devotion to God the person, Shri Krishna, was one hardship after another.

1. The poison cake

The brothers lost their father at a young age. They grew up in the royal house in Hastinapura, under the care of respected elders like Vidura, Dhritarashtra, and Drona. Dhritarashtra was an interesting case, since he had his own sons. They were known as the Kauravas, and the father favored them instead of the five sons of his brother Pandu.

During childhood the wonderful qualities of the Pandavas became apparent. They were devotees of God, after all, so they naturally had all good traits. The second son, Bhima, was particularly strong. This worried Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra’s eldest son. Duryodhana was envious by nature, and so he hatched a scheme to get rid of Bhima.

Duryodhana invited the brothers to a party at a newly constructed palace by the water. They intentionally fed Bhima loads of cake injected with poison. When Bhima passed out, Duryodhana and clan bound him with ropes and threw him into the water. At the bottom, the unconscious and poisoned Bhima was bitten by snakes. This chance occurrence happened to neutralize the effect of the poison. Regaining consciousness Bhima freed himself and fought against the snakes.

Bhima then met the king of snakes, Vasuki, who was a well-wisher. From Vasuki, Bhima accepted nectar that made him even stronger. Duryodhana thought that his plan had worked, but the hand of the Divine was there to protect Bhima.

2. The house of lac

Another attempt was necessary since Bhima miraculously escaped. The qualities of the Pandavas were becoming more prominent by the day. It would be agreed by everyone that Yudhishthira should be the heir apparent to the throne. He was begotten in the womb of Kunti by the grace of the god of justice himself, Dharmaraja.

This time Duryodhana planned to kill the brothers and their mother in a blazing fire. He had one of his associates go to a city recommended for visit by Dhritarashtra. The associate built a flammable house. It looked ordinary from the outside, but the inside made it ideal for burning to the ground at a moment’s contact with fire.

This time the guiding hand of Krishna spoke through Vidura. Just prior to the departure by the Pandavas, Vidura spoke in code to Yudhishthira. No one could understand what they were saying, but Yudhishthira got the idea that the house they were staying at was made of lac and would be intentionally burned. Yudhishthira used this information to his advantage. The brothers secretly dug a tunnel in the house, and at the appropriate moment escaped after a fire had been set. It was Duryodhana’s associate who perished, and the people of the town understood that it was a plot from Duryodhana to kill the Pandavas.

3. Draupadi disrobed

The Pandavas had a special arrangement where there was only one wife for all of them. She was the most chaste woman, and also a surrendered soul to Shri Krishna. Vivid evidence of that surrender came during a particularly troubling time.

Yudhishthira fell into the trap of playing dice against Duryodhana and his men. Yudhishthira kept losing, but he continued to gamble. One of the wagers lost put Draupadi in control of the Pandavas. They took advantage of the situation by dragging her into a great assembly. They were prepared to strip her naked, to really embarrass her. She tried to hold on to her sari at first, but realizing that was futile, she completely surrendered to Krishna.

The result was that the sari transformed in length. It became immeasurable. No matter how much the crooked person pulled, they could not make Draupadi naked. Shri Krishna Himself assumed the form of the sari.

4. Durvasa visiting in the forest

Yudhishthira played another round of dice, and this time the loss cost the Pandavas their home. They were exiled to the forest for twelve years. An additional year was tacked on, where they had to remain incognito. If they were discovered in that time, the twelve years would renew.

While the Pandavas were in the forest, Duryodhana was one time visited by the venerable Durvasa Muni. Duryodhana’s evil mind went to work, and he thought up an idea whereby the Pandavas would get cursed. He asked Durvasa to visit the group in the forest, and the muni’s retinue consisted of thousands of disciples. There was no way the Pandavas would be able to feed them. Durvasa would get angry and then curse them.

It almost worked. Draupadi had a special pot that could generate an endless amount of food for a meal. There was one rule, though . Once she had eaten, the pot would stop producing food. Durvasa Muni visited and was greeted by Yudhishthira. The muni then went to bathe in the water, after which he would return and take his meal.

[Draupadi akshaya patra]Yudhishthira learned from Draupadi that she had already eaten, meaning that there was no more food. Then Shri Krishna happened to visit. He went to see the pot Himself, and there was one morsel of food left. By taking that one morsel, Durvasa and his entire group suddenly felt completely full. Not ready to eat anything, they decided to simply leave the place, rather than return embarrassed. Once again Shri Krishna saved the Pandavas.

5. The battle against great generals

The Pandavas survived a lot, and they were finally ready to take back the kingdom that rightfully belonged to them. Of course Duryodhana and his group would not abide by righteousness. They would not relent. War was the only option.

The Pandavas had to go against great generals in that war. Arjuna, the leading fighter for the Pandavas, even felt bad about having to fight against people he respected. Shri Krishna did not participate in the battle, but He was there with Arjuna as a close advisor. The Supreme Lord was there to save the Pandavas once again. In bhakti-yoga, the road will not be easy, but the success is guaranteed as long as the sentiment is genuine.

In Closing:

Since by Krishna’s association graced,

Pandavas surviving hardships faced.


Like when Bhima poison cake fed,

Or into house of lac led.


Draupadi’s robe tried to take,

Lord an endless garment to make.


Spared from Durvasa Muni’s wrath,

Safest always the devotional path.

Friday, December 30, 2016

What Is The Vedic Explanation For Aliens, Dinosaurs And Other Such Things

[Spiritual planets]“The word sarva-gatah (all-pervading) is significant because there is no doubt that living entities are all over God's creation. They live on the land, in the water, in the air, within the earth and even within fire. The belief that they are sterilized in fire is not acceptable, because it is clearly stated here that the soul cannot be burned by fire. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are living entities also in the sun planet with suitable bodies to live there.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24 Purport)

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Friend1: You know there is an entire branch of modern science dedicated to the study of prehistoric animals.

Friend2: Paleontology. I am aware.

Friend1: The joke is that they are dinosaur nerds.

Friend2: Ross from Friends.

Friend1: Exactly. The study is based on fossil evidence.

Friend2: Right. Physical evidence is there in the earth. The scientists put together the various pieces and then make guesses on the body types.

Friend1: They have to because such creatures are not found in the world today.

Friend2: Just because we don’t see them now doesn’t mean they never inhabited the earth.

Friend1: This got me to thinking. Do the Vedas mention dinosaurs?

Friend2: I suppose you’re wondering about aliens as well? UFOs. Space travel. Life in outer space.

Friend1: Yeah. I think I know the answer, but I want to hear your thoughts.

Friend2: Well, when you read ancient texts like the Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam and other Puranas, you find descriptions of creatures more amazing than the dinosaurs.

[Shri Hanuman]Friend1: Like the Rakshasas. There was Simhika, who could capture someone by their shadow. There was the one eyed-monster that Rama and Lakshmana battled in the forest.

Friend2: A mad elephant. A powerful crocodile. Very large birds that could speak, like Jatayu and Sampati.

Friend1: So if someone was asking, is that evidence of dinosaurs? What about aliens?

Friend2: Listen, these things are only amazing to people who are not familiar with the spiritual science.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: The first teaching of the Bhagavad-gita is the difference between matter and spirit. More specifically, the identity of the individual. You and I are spirit soul. So is everything else that is living.

Friend1: And these fragments of spirit are equal in their constitutional makeup. I may have a certain body and you a different kind, but at the core we are the same.

Friend2: Same in quality, but obviously we have separate identities. The soul is so amazing. It can never be killed. It can never be made wet. It can never be burned, either.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: In one verse Shri Krishna uses the words “sarva-gatah.” His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada makes an interesting comment based on the presence of those words.

Friend1: What does he say?

Friend2: First off, the words mean “found everywhere.” Gatah means “gone to” or “having gone”. Sarva means “every” or “all.” The spirit soul goes everywhere. Prabhupada says that this naturally means individual spirit is found all over God’s creation. Space is part of that creation, too. There must be living entities on the sun.

Friend1: How is that possible, though? We can’t survive contact with fire.

Friend2: That’s because of our body type. Remember, we’re talking about spirit here. The spirit soul can survive anywhere. In the sun it gets a suitable body type, one composed of the material element of fire. We can’t survive in the water, but this doesn’t mean there is no life there. Fish have a body type suitable for that habitat.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: So it’s the same thing with dinosaurs and other such amazing creatures. Everything is possible in the material world. You can get any type of body. There are creatures even more wonderful than the dinosaurs that we have yet to conceptualize. As it is described in the Ramayana, even monkey-like creatures from ancient times could talk. The human beings were much larger as well, and they could live for a very long time.

Friend1: What about aliens?

[Spiritual planets]Friend2: Sarva-gatah explains that. There are life forms on other planets. All over the material creation you’ll find living beings. We speculate about alien life, but actually these are just different kinds of bodies suited for living on different kinds of planets. Nothing to see, really. The wise person is interested more in attaining a spiritual body. Whether one gets the body of a beast, a bird, or a human being, death will come eventually. The all-pervading individual spirit will then travel to a different destination. The spiritual body only comes when there is perfect consciousness of God at the time of death. The primary focus of Vedic teachings is how to get that consciousness and maintain it.

In Closing:

From fossils dinosaurs to see,

How on this earth used to be.


Extra-terrestrials and others too?

What on this the Vedic view?


Amazing the spirit-body combination,

Elements of nature making determination.


More amazing the deathless soul within,

Get spiritual body from bhakti, life free of sin.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five Explanations For The Golden Deer From The Ramayana

[Maricha as a deer]“As Rama is wise, it is not possible for me to be abducted by you. This was ordained for your slaying; there is no doubt.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.21)

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Ravana was consumed by lust. The one of the terrifying roar, given his name by the great god, Mahadeva, already had many beautiful wives. They were chaste as well, led by Mandodari. Still, he heard of the beauty of this one lady, who was residing in the forest of Dandaka with her husband. The brother of the husband was there, too.

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

Ravana had already defeated many kings throughout the world. He was feared for his great strength. Still, he was hesitant to enter this territory, as his brother Akampana had given a warning. The husband of that lady had destroyed 14,000 of Ravana’s men singlehandedly. He did so in defense, as those ogres had attacked on the order of Ravana, to get revenge for the disfigurement of his sister, Shurpanakha.

Ravana’s plan for satisfying his lust was to go in disguise. He would have a helper, Maricha. Ravana would present himself as a brahmana, one of the priestly order. Maricha would arrive first in the form of a beautiful, golden deer. The idea was that the deer would distract the husband and brother, leaving the wife vulnerable for Ravana to take her.

The plan worked. These events are described in the sacred Ramayana, whose title references the main character, Shri Rama. He is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or so say the Vedas and their followers. If He is indeed God, how could He allow Ravana’s plan to succeed? How to explain the many contradictions?

1. Illustrates the propensity towards illusion in women

One of the more controversial teachings in the Vedas is the categorization of different body types, and the rankings therein in terms of potential for understanding spiritual life. The foundation of Vedic teachings is the difference between body and spirit. I am spirit soul. So are you. So is the dog, the cow, the plant, and the insect. I am spirit soul today, I was yesterday, and I will be tomorrow. In fact, spirit never dies.

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)

The body is different. It does not identify the individual. The body consists of gross material elements of three different kinds: goodness, passion and ignorance. There is a linear relationship between goodness and intelligence. Intelligence in this regard is the potential for understanding the spiritual science and the ability to maintain that realization while living.

The human body is the most auspicious since it has goodness to a high degree. The animals are mostly in ignorance. Within the human species, the females are considered less intelligent; that is they have a greater tendency towards illusion, or maya. They tend to identify more with the body.

“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)

All souls are equal, and tendencies are not absolute. Any spirit soul can be rescued from illusion through devotion to the Supreme Lord, but the idea is that certain body types are more conducive to understanding the spiritual nature of the individual than others.

In the incident with the golden deer, the wife Sita saw it and immediately wanted to have it. She politely asked Rama to get it for her, preferably alive. Neither Rama nor His younger brother Lakshmana were drawn by the beauty of the deer. Whether golden, amber, red or black, they had no interest in bringing it back.

2. Shows how harsh words from a loving wife should be ignored

Rama loves Sita so much that He did not hesitate to try to please her. He immediately went after the deer. Sita hardly asks anything from Him anyway. She had voluntarily left home to travel with Him in the forest. That travel was scheduled to last fourteen years. She was roughing it, after having lived in royal palaces her whole life.

Rama told Lakshmana to stay at the cottage to protect Sita. Under no circumstances was he to leave her side. Maricha was expert in illusion in more ways than one. He masked his shape by transforming into a golden deer. At the time of death he masked his voice. Rama shot an arrow right into him, and while dying he screamed out in a voice that sounded like Rama’s.

Sita and Lakshmana heard this from afar. Sita was so worried that she asked Lakshmana to go check on Rama. Lakshmana was skeptical. He thought there was something fishy with the deer to begin with. Plus, Rama had told him not to leave.

Sita then began to insult Lakshmana. Her words were so harsh that Lakshmana eventually left her side to go to Rama. This left her vulnerable to Ravana. From that incident we see that the loving words of an angry wife should not be taken very seriously. Even though she insulted Lakshmana greatly, he did not hold any of those words against her. Indeed, after leaving, Lakshmana was rebuked by Rama for breaking the order. Sita was also remorseful.

3. Shows that Rama will do anything for His devotee

Devotees of the Supreme Lord are known to be vegetarians. They don’t eat meat, fish or eggs. Garlic and onions are on the banned list, too, as they are foods in the mode of ignorance. The Supreme Lord accepts any offering made to Him in devotion, and foods in the mode of goodness are preferred.

If the devotees are vegetarian, why was Rama going after a deer? Why did He shoot it? Indeed, there is no reason for the Supreme Lord to take to violence. In this case He was acting out the role of kshatriya, or warrior. In ancient times, violence against deer was sanctioned since it allowed the warriors to practice their aim with the bow and arrow. The killing was not considered sinful.

Still, Rama is so kind that He will do anything for His devotees. Sita hardly asks anything of Him. When she made the request to Rama, she admitted that she felt it was wrong for a wife to command her husband in that way. Indeed, later on Rama broke one of the rules of warfare by shooting a combatant in the back, while that combatant was engaged with someone else. Again, this was for the sake of a devotee, Sugriva.

4. Shows how Rama gives strength even to the atheists

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that everyone follows Him in all respects. Krishna is the same Rama; another avatara appearing in the world at a different time. Krishna says that He rewards everyone accordingly.

“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

As the word manushya, or men, is used, atheists are naturally included. They are rewarded by getting continued illusion. The idea is that everyone gets the association they prefer. The atheists like illusion, thinking that one day they can become God.

[Maricha the deer]The incident with the golden deer confirms their suspicions that Rama is not God. He chased after a deer that was in disguise, after all. He was fooled by Maricha and Ravana. In this way, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary found within the Ramayana itself, the atheists can hang on to their flimsy branch of illusion.

5. Gave justification for the destruction of the Rakshasas

The Rama avatara descended to earth at the request of the celestials. Known as devas in Sanskrit, the demigods are mostly in the mode of goodness. They are in constant conflict with the demons, who are in ignorance and passion. Ravana was harassing the celestials, and he had boons giving him immunity from all kinds of creatures. Human beings were exempt, but who was strong enough to take him on?

Rama appeared in the house of King Dasharatha for that very purpose, but He would need justification first. He upheld dharma, after all, and it is not right to invade a foreign territory for no reason. Ravana’s taking of Sita provided the justification. It was the necessary change in the storyline to facilitate the great ending of Ravana’s destruction at the hands of Rama, who is always victorious.

In Closing:

Maricha as golden deer showing,

To area in Dandaka forest going.


Supreme Lord everything should know,

Why after deer did He go?


For devotees anything to do,

Lesson of tolerance of wives too.


For Ravana’s destruction excuse needed,

Rama then towards Lanka proceeded.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Is Hanuman’s Lasting Legacy

[Shri Hanuman]“All of these subjects in the Ramayana seem very pitiable, and they may appear to be very distressing to the reciter, but actually this is not so. Otherwise, why would Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Ramachandra, read daily about the activities of Lord Ramachandra, as described in the Ramayana itself?” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 34)

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Friend1: Hanuman is one of the more interesting deities of the Vedic tradition. Wouldn’t you say?

Friend2: That sounds like something an outsider would say, like a professor observing from afar, not really understanding the culture.

Friend1: Why do you say that?

Friend2: There is a comparison made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that is appropriate here. Picture the bottle of honey. Now imagine trying to enjoy the honey by licking the bottle.

Friend1: Not opening it?

Friend2: Right. Obviously you’re not getting the full taste. There is potential there. You understand that there is sweetness available, but you’re not reaching it. In the same way, observing Vedic culture from afar, studying this deity and that, doesn’t do much for the individual.

Friend1: Still, at least there is some interest. You would have to grant that.

Friend2: True.

Friend1: Anyway, to the outsider Hanuman would be very interesting. The first thing is that he’s a monkey.

Friend2: A Vanara in Sanskrit. This is a forest-dweller, but yes, you could say monkey. There are other Sanskrit words used in the Ramayana that essentially mean that.

Friend1: Such as?

Friend2: Kapi. Hari.

Friend1: Okay. And then there’s the picture of him holding the mountain in his hand.

Friend2: To save Lakshmana from wounds inflicted on the battlefield. Hanuman got the task of finding a specific medicinal herb that was located on the mountain. He couldn’t find it exactly, so he uprooted the entire area and brought it with him.

[Hanuman with mountain]Friend1: A talking monkey who flies through the air holding a mountain in his hand.

Friend2: And don’t forget his monkey friends who help to build a bridge made of floating rocks.

Friend1: There you go. Now we have the complete picture. You can obviously see why people would be interested in him. I’m not going to discuss the issue of mythology, since that is a topic worthy of a lengthy discussion.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: As there are so many interesting aspects to this dedicated servant of Shri Rama, the warrior avatara of God, what do you think the lasting legacy is?

Friend2: Of Hanuman or the events he was involved in?

Friend1: Hanuman.

Friend2: Hmm. There is a slight flaw in your premise.

Friend1: What is that?

Friend2: When discussing legacy, typically the subject is retired from the field. We talk about the legacy of an old football player, who no longer plays. Legacy itself means something passed down from an ancestor.

Friend1: For software it describes something that has been improved upon but is difficult to replace since so many people use it.

Friend2: Any way you slice it, the connotation is something old. The events of the Ramayana took place millions of years ago, so in that sense the story has been passed on to future generations. Yet Hanuman is still around today. That was the boon given to him by Rama.

Friend1: I heard about that. There are other people who stay around until the end, too.

Friend2: Vyasadeva. Vibhishana. In the Mahabharata there is the story of the sage Markandeya remaining on earth through the end, the time of destruction. It is not something so extraordinary, though to those unfamiliar with the spiritual science it is difficult to believe.

Friend1: Okay, so let’s just rephrase the question. What is the legacy of Hanuman, as he is known from the Ramayana?

Friend2: That is subjective and also multi-faceted. He is known as the greatest devotee of Rama. One part of the legacy is that devotion triumphs over non-devotion. Good eventually wins out over evil.

Friend1: The evil character, who was a rapist, a thief, and a murderer, eventually got his just due in the end. Ravana saw death himself in the form of Rama, and Hanuman contributed greatly to the arrival of that death.

Friend2: One thing I would say is that Hanuman dispels the myth of atheism. From his character alone you can see the proof of God. They say that the devotee is a symbol of sacrifice. No one has sacrificed more than Hanuman in service to the Divine. If you take various snapshots in time of that service, it looks like evil wins.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Success came in the end, but the road was not easy. There were bumps along the way. Hanuman persevered. His success was guaranteed since he had God’s blessing. Hanuman also proves that God is a person. He dispels the myth that the Divine is ultimately impersonal. That myth is intentionally spread to this day by even so called yogis.

Friend1: Why would they do that?

[Hanuman reading]Friend2: If they acknowledge that God is a person, it means that they have to serve Him. If everyone is God, then the individual can remain focused within. It’s a form of cheating, for sure. To me Hanuman’s legacy is that devotion, bhakti, is the purpose in life. Great strength can be acquired, but its use is more important. Hanuman’s strength is used to please Rama. A wonderful gift coming from the Divine used for the pleasure of the benefactor. That is the secret to happiness.

In Closing:

Traveling to Lanka foreign land,

Flying through air with mountain in hand.


With monkey friends bridge making,

With courage Rama’s ring with him taking.


Shri Hanuman so many things has done,

How to choose lasting legacy one?


Superiority of devotion’s path shown,

That happiness from God’s grace alone.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Five Things Arjuna Never Became

[Krishna and Arjuna]“In the Varaha Purana, the living entities are described as separated parts and parcels of the Supreme. They are eternally so, according to the Bhagavad-gita also. So, even after being liberated from illusion, the living entity remains a separate identity, as is evident from the teachings of the Lord to Arjuna. Arjuna became liberated by the knowledge received from Krishna, but he never became one with Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23 Purport)

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So many interpretations of the Bhagavad-gita there are. Translated as “the song of God” in English, the sacred work has been studied for centuries by a wide variety of groups. Transcendentalists, historians, people of Vedic culture, people of other cultures, the inquisitive, the distressed, those wanting wealth - the king of education, raja-vidya, that is the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna has something to offer every person.

To test the effectiveness of the work, the words would have to make a significant impact on the direct recipient. One way to further appreciate the teachings is to see what Arjuna did not become as a result.

1. An officially recognized guru

Arjuna was of the warrior caste, kshatriya. According to Vedic culture, democracy as it is defined and implemented today is not the ideal system of government. A factor already known to many, democracy can turn into mob rule. If the mob wants to steal, it gets what it wants. Adharma can turn into dharma simply by a vote.

Society should be led by the kshatriyas, who are more than just a race descending from past kings. They have specific qualities, which include courage, strength, and respect for the knowers of the truth, the brahmanas. The most sacred work, which succinctly and fully explains the teachings of Vedanta, involved a student of the kshatriya order.

Arjuna was not a brahmana, which is the highest division in the system of varnashrama. Even after accepting the highest wisdom from Krishna, Arjuna did not become a brahmana. He remained in his occupation. This is the best illustration of the principle that a person does not have to change everything about their life in order to become spiritually realized. Arjuna knew everything needed to be known, so he was a guru in that sense, but he was never officially recognized as a person to approach on spiritual topics.

2. A renounced yogi

Arjuna did not retreat to the forest, though at first he wanted to. The premise for the conversation was Arjuna’s doubt on how to proceed in a war. His side represented dharma, or virtue. The Pandavas had land unjustly taken from them. The thieves were on the other side, the Kauravas. Arjuna had every justification to go to war to reclaim what belonged to his people.

Still, he was hesitant to proceed. He used many arguments to support his case. There was nothing to be gained by victory. He would rather not enjoy the kingdom if it meant death for loved ones on the other side. If so many people died, family traditions would go with them. Then society would descend into chaos, with children growing up without culture.

“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.42)

The best argument is to leave for the forest to meditate on God. Be above the world of duality that the kshatriya must live in. Though Krishna described the proper conditions needed for success in meditational yoga, Arjuna did not become such a person. He was advised to stand up and fight. Again, doing his prescribed duty while dovetailed with the Supreme Consciousness was the same if not better than meditating in a forest. It was also yoga.

3. Completely free from anger

At one point in the conversation Arjuna wondered why people continue to sin, acting as if they have no control over the senses. The answer given was that kama, or lust, is the all-devouring enemy of the world. Quickly leading to wrath, the person completely ignores intelligence.

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

Obviously, if you hear such instruction the goal is to be free from kama going forward. Yet Arjuna was known to be angry on the battlefield in the ensuing fight, particularly when his son Abhimanyu was ganged up on and killed.

This anger does not disqualify Arjuna from being considered a transcendentalist. The teachings did indeed make an impact on him. The lesson is that there is anger, sadness, joy, complacency and other such emotions even in the practice of bhakti-yoga. The difference is that these sudden changes don’t have a negative impact. Another example is Hanuman, who burned Lanka to the ground in anger. He too was acting in God’s interests, so the anger was transcendental.

4. An impersonalist

Arjuna asked which path of transcendentalism was better: impersonal or personalism. God is both nirguna and saguna. This is according to our understanding; something like the sun being out or not. The sun is always there; just our perspective changes.

“Arjuna inquired: Which is considered to be more perfect: those who are properly engaged in Your devotional service, or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?” (Bhagavad-gita, 12.1)

God can be realized in His impersonal feature of Brahman. This is the spiritual energy that is present in every aspect of life. Similar to Brahman is Supersoul, which is the localized feature, residing within the heart. The personal aspect is Bhagavan. This is God the person, who can be recognized by distinguishable features.

A person spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. If God is ultimately impersonal, then a voice from the sky would have been called to the scene to give Arjuna the highest wisdom. Krishna was the teacher, and He proved His divine identity by showing the universal form. Arjuna was a personalist before hearing the Bhagavad-gita, and he remained one after.

5. One with Krishna

While the impersonal path is legitimate and genuine, a distortion of that side is the idea that one can merge into God and completely lose identity. The viewpoint is that God is ultimately without personality. The impersonal path is where a person doesn’t realize the personal feature until later on.

[Krishna and Arjuna]If the distorted view were correct then Arjuna would have merged into Krishna at some point. That didn’t happen. Arjuna was self-realized and that heightened achievement did not change his relationship with Krishna. The Sanskrit word “mam” is used throughout the work, which means that Krishna refers to Himself over and over again. “Mam” refers to a person; not an attribute-less and identity-less concept.

In Closing:

Study just what Arjuna never became,

Like identity with Krishna the same.


Or renounced yogi from home to leave,

Or emotionless man through battlefield to weave.


Or official guru to whom everyone approaches,

Or impersonalist who bhakti reproaches.


In this way get idea of Vedanta clear,

Devoted soul to Supreme Lord most dear.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Five Times Hanuman Could Have Given Up

[Shri Hanuman]“Lakshmana has many naracha arrows [made of iron] that are just like the thunderbolt hurled by Indra and lightning in the potency of their impact, as they can even split mountains.” (Hanuman speaking to Angada, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 54.15)

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Things not going your way? You thought this was it, but it looks like the outcome will not be in your favor. In your opinion, the country has been in a downward spiral for the last many years. This was the time to change things. Renewed hope. Time to make the country right, back to the way things used to be.

The problem is the forecast isn’t looking good. The poll numbers say the party responsible for the recent destruction will win the next election. You are ready to give up. You don’t want to be involved in these things anymore. You’d rather be like the rest of the population, who is in the dark. They know what the celebrities wear to the awards night, who is dating whom, and what time their show comes on television, but they have no clue about laws that have been passed and the politicians who pass them. Ignorance is bliss.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that the living entity is not the doer. Under the illusion caused by false ego, ahankara, he mistakes the contribution of the three modes of nature for human effort. The only way to guarantee success in a venture is if the venture is for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord.

Yet even in that effort there are times of trouble. Case in point Shri Hanuman. His life is devotion, bhakti. He knows nothing else. He is an eternally liberated soul who plays an active role in the real-life drama known as the Ramayana. In Hanuman’s story there are moments of despair, where success is in jeopardy. He easily could have quit and gone home, but that is not the course he took.

1. When the other Vanaras wanted to

The main mission assigned to Hanuman was actually shared by a vast army of forest-dwellers known as Vanaras. These are monkey-like creatures who have hints of civilized life in them. Even among Vanaras Hanuman was special, as he could recite perfect Sanskrit on the fly. It was an ancient time period, the Treta Yuga, but Sanskrit was a language still only spoken by the highly cultured.

“He has certainly studied well the entire range of Sanskrit grammar, for though he has addressed Me with many words, he has not used a single one out of place.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.29)

Sugriva was the commander of the Vanara army. He gave the order to search the entire world for the missing princess of Videha, Sita. There was a time limit. If they failed after that duration passed, they should not bother to return.

Sure enough, the time expired. The monkeys were divided into groups, and Hanuman’s group was led by Angada, who was Sugriva’s nephew. Angada was so despondent at the lack of success. He was too afraid to return home to Sugriva with the bad news. He decided to give up. Hanuman did not like this plan and so he tried various means of diplomacy to change the situation. One of them was danda, or the threat of force. He reminded Angada that Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana could shoot arrows made of iron that could split mountains easily. Hanuman could have given up too, but in spirit he was always thinking of the welfare of Rama, the husband of Sita and the elder brother of Lakshmana.

2. When they reached the ocean

Angada’s deliberation that led to his decision to quit actually saved them. A bird from above heard what was going on. He heard the name of Jatayu, who was his brother. The eagle Sampati was ready to eat the monkeys at first, but when he heard about Jatayu he was interested to know more. The monkeys informed him about Jatayu’s death at the hands of Ravana, the evil king of Lanka, and how they were looking for Sita, Rama’s wife.

Sampati then told the group where Sita was, on the island of Lanka. This was great news. Renewed hope. They had been saved. Ah, but they soon found another great obstacle. This was physical. A massive ocean. Lanka was an island far away from the shore. How were they going to reach? Again, they could have given up. Thankfully, the perseverant Hanuman was there. Using the mahima-siddhi of yoga, he increased the size of his body and prepared to leap from a mountaintop.

3. When he saw the women in the palace

Hanuman successfully made it across the ocean. Again, a big obstacle cleared only to be followed by more. He was in Lanka, but how was he going to search for Sita? It wasn’t like monkeys were indigenous to the area. The place at the time was ruled by ogres, known as Rakshasas in Sanskrit.

As he had used one siddhi before, he used one again. Known as the anima-siddhi, Hanuman shrank his body to the size of a cat. He used that small form to search throughout the city. He eventually found his way into Ravana’s palace. There he saw many queens enjoying in the intimate setting. Hanuman could have quit again, as it is against dharma to look at women in this way. Realizing that the cause of pleasing Rama is greater than any other dharma, Hanuman properly assessed that his mind had not been disturbed. Consciousness is the ultimate determining factor for piety or sin. There was no sin for Hanuman since his mind was still focused on finding Sita.

4. When he misidentified Mandodari as Sita

Hanuman was looking for Sita, but he had not met her before. He didn’t have a picture to use. There were only some ornaments that had fallen from the sky as Ravana had taken her away on the aerial car. There was the amazing beauty that is the perfect match for the Supreme Lord Rama. There was another key trait that helped him to correct a misidentification.

Hanuman saw a beautiful queen inside of Ravana’s palace. She was obviously the chief queen. Hanuman rejoiced at the apparent victory. He had succeeded against all odds. He kissed his tail in joy. Then he quickly realized that this wasn’t Sita. It was Mandodari. She was beautiful in every way, but she was not despondent. Hanuman knew that Sita would be in a miserable state, as anyone who was close to Rama would feel that way after being separated from Him.

5. When Sita subtly insulted him

Hanuman eventually found Sita, in a grove of Ashoka trees. He was so happy to meet her, but there were further obstacles. He had to convince her that he was a genuine messenger sent by Rama. After all, Lanka was filled with fiends who changed their shapes at will for nefarious reasons. Ravana himself had done so when he approached Sita in the forest of Dandaka.

Hanuman eventually did convince her, and as the conversation proceeded he proposed the idea of taking her to Rama himself. He would carry her on his back. Sita rejected the proposal, and subtly insulted him in the process, attributing the foolishness of the idea to his monkey nature.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman did not let that deter him. He knew that her words were rooted in pure love for her husband. Hanuman is amazing in this way. He never gives up because he never wants to disappoint the people who count on him. He continues to work for Rama to this day by remaining in this world for as long as the glories of Sita’s husband continue to be told.

In Closing:

Possible now for Hanuman to behold,

Staying in this world as long as glories told.


Of Shri Rama, the person who mission assigned,

In different search groups Vanaras aligned.


Could have quit when time expired,

Again after Sampati with information inspired.


Or when in Lanka the palace inside by him seen,

But never to stop in finding Rama’s queen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Five Names Of Bhagavan That Show He Is Not A Competitor God

[Shri Krishna]“Tell me again in detail, O Janardana [Krishna], of Your mighty potencies and glories, for I never tire of hearing Your ambrosial words.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.18)

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If I take to Krishna consciousness, do I have to change my religion? What if I already have something that I inherited from my parents? Going to church, behaving piously, helping my fellow man – what need is there to go beyond this?

In the Bhagavad-gita, the acknowledged teacher is addressed by different names. It wasn’t that the student couldn’t remember. It wasn’t that he was trying to throw the teacher off. Rather, that teacher is the Supreme Himself. Known as Krishna, He is not a competitor God. He is the definition to the abstract picture painted in virtually every other tradition of spirituality.

1. Hari

This Sanskrit word has several meanings. As an attribute, Hari is one who takes away. Spiritual life is a struggle. It’s not more difficult than material life, for nothing can compare with the impossible. Zero is always less than any other number, no matter from which angle of vision you come. In the same way, material life always ends in zero, as there is death in the concluding phase. Everything will be erased, except for the spirit soul, the individual living within.

Still, if you take up spiritual life, there are many obstacles. It’s difficult to give up attachments. After focusing for so long on personal pleasures, how to suddenly shift to wanting only the pleasure of someone else? In devotional service, which is spiritual life corresponding directly with God the person, the object of service offers help. One of the ways is by taking away. If I’m too afraid to get rid of my attachments, Hari removes them for me. I may even be angry with Him for this, as Narada Muni was one time. Nevertheless, it is for my own good, ultimately benefitting me.

2. Achyuta

Krishna never falls down. Of course, when He is playing in the fields of Vrindavana with His friends during the period of childhood there are some wrestling matches. The cowherd boys, the sakhas, exult in their victory. Krishna then has to carry them on His back as per the conditions of the contest.

“There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every entity is called infallible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.16)

These are intimate pastimes with pure devotees; they don’t represent a lack of ability in Krishna. He is Achyuta because He is infallible. Indeed, this is another distinction between material life and spiritual life. Krishna Himself says that everyone in the spiritual world is infallible, while everyone in the material world is fallible. As He is never materially contaminated, He remains always infallible, wherever He goes.

3. Vishnu

Krishna is all-pervading. One proof of this is the Supersoul residing within the heart. Every person has God inside of them. They are individual soul, jiva, while He is Supersoul, Paramatma. Though unseen and apparently without a recognizable form, nirguna, the Supersoul is actually beautiful and four-handed. The form is known as Vishnu, and one of the meanings to this name is “all-pervading.” Krishna sees everything because He is everywhere.

4. Janardana

The student Arjuna used this name several times to address Krishna in their conversation famously known as the Bhagavad-gita. Not some strange deity of the Hindu tradition, Krishna is God for everyone. One way to know is the name Janardana. This means “maintainer of all living entities.”

I see the sunlight cracking through the blinds of the window in the morning. This lets me know that it is time to wake up and get ready for work. I decide to do just that. With the successful completion of the task, I attribute the result to my own effort. But actually, the Supersoul had to give sanction first. Proof of His presence is the fact that not everyone who wants to get up from bed will be able to do so. There are millions of such results occurring at every moment in this vast universe, and the whole system is maintained by Janardana.

5. Krishna

[Shri Krishna]The very name of the blue-complexioned worshipable figure is “all-attractive.” Krishna is the same God that others worship. They just may not know that He has a spiritual form that is identifiable, saguna. They may not be aware of the amazing beauty in the reservoir of all good qualities. They may not know that the height of living is to be fixed in devotional service, tasting the nectar that flows from every aspect of the all-attractive one, who so kindly dispelled Arjuna’s doubts.

In Closing:

Warrior Arjuna’s doubts dispelled,

Every flawed logic repelled.


As Janaradana maintainer of all,

Supersoul in heart Vishnu called.


Achyuta since never down falling,

Taking away so some Hari calling.


The Supreme Lord for world entire,

Transcendental form devotion to inspire.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Does Progress Really Mean

[Rama's lotus feet]“Advancement of knowledge for eating, sleeping and mating is animal knowledge. A dog also knows how to eat, how to sleep, how to mate and how to defend. If our education extends only to these points (the dog is eating according to his nature, and we are also eating, but in a nice place, with nicely cooked food on a nice table), that is not advancement.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga System, Ch 1)

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Friend1: The other day I was remembering something from the last election.

Friend2: You love following politics, don’t you?

Friend1: Before every cycle I tell myself that I won’t follow, that it doesn’t make a difference who wins. Then somehow I get sucked in. It’s like a soap opera. It’s an imaginary world, almost. You just pick the side that you like, but nothing changes.

Friend2: That’s for sure. What was it that you remembered?

Friend1: Oh, so one of the candidates, the incumbent, took a shot at the challenger. He said that the guy’s vision of America is something like what was seen on those old black and white television shows.

Friend2: Interesting. That was meant to be an insult?

Friend1: That’s exactly what I was thinking. What is wrong with those shows?

Friend2: Probably what bothers them is the traditional family set up. The wife is at home, not officially working. She manages the household. She serves the husband, who is out earning a living. The woman is trapped, don’t you see?

Friend1: I do like the simpler life that those shows portray. People have their heads up while eating. They aren’t zoned out looking at their smartphones. Oh, and you would get home deliveries of things like milk and laundry.

[Dick Van Dyke Show]Friend2: The doctors made house-calls!

Friend1: Exactly. Anyway, the argument against that kind of life is that it is primitive. It is outdated, don’t you see. So are all the principles from that time.

Friend2: Right. Advancement. Progress. We are further evolved now. We give equal freedom to men and women to go out and work all day. Now both genders know what it’s like to be so tired from working that you just want to drink your troubles away at night and on the weekends.

Friend1: I know you’re being sarcastic, but it does get you to step back and think. Really, what is progress?

Friend2: You want the dictionary definition.

Friend1: I mean in terms of life. Are we actually progressing?

Friend2: From the spiritual point of view, there is no debate. Material progress, especially what we see as far as culture today, is actually going backwards.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The embodied soul continually passes, from boyhood to youth to old age. Then at death it passes into another body.

Friend1: Yes. That is from the Bhagavad-gita. [2.13]

Friend2: That explains reincarnation so beautifully. What can be easily overlooked is the past life. There was a life before that, too. The evolution to the human species was long. And the human birth is considered most auspicious.

Friend1: Right, because of progress.

Friend2: With the proper definition. Progress is not living like the animals. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending can be done while in the lower species. The human birth is for spiritual awakening. What they call progress today is basically animal life.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: More eating, sleeping, mating and defending. More specifically, the focus is entirely on sex. Whoever enjoys sex more is considered advanced. The loser is someone who doesn’t get to enjoy it as much.

Friend1: What’s wrong with sex?

Friend2: Nothing, if it is controlled. Life could not continue without it, obviously. Sex life represents the combined potency of the male and the female, to bring into this world a conditioned soul who will have the chance to get out of the cycle of birth and death. But material progress, where we are heading, is teaching the new generation to remain an animal. Focus entirely on sex. Don’t do anything meaningful with your life. Don’t ask too many questions. Live like a dog.

Friend1: Even religion is not giving the answer, it seems.

Friend2: Exactly. They’ve concocted the idea that God wants us to enjoy. Of course, there is no enjoyment. There is misery wherever you turn. Why would God want us to come here to forget Him? What kind of enjoyment is that? There is no lasting pleasure in that; only misery, day after day, life after life. Real progress is becoming more aware of Him. Side by side with that awakening is less priority for eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Real progress is in terms of consciousness, not what kind of car you drive, how much money you earn, or how many partners you’ve had.

Friend1: What about people from past ages, like Ravana? They lived in purer times, but still had problems.

Friend2: Ravana was ajita-indriya. Back then it was considered a demerit to be a slave to your senses. Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Shri Rama, pointed this out one time to Ravana. She said that his lack of control over the senses would bring doom not only for him, but for the entire kingdom of Lanka as well.

“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)

[Shri Rama's lotus feet]She was right. Her husband Rama, on the other hand, had complete control over His senses. Since He is God Himself, He is also known as Hrishikesha, which means “master of the senses.” Progress is when you control your senses and use everything in service of the one who is the master of all senses.

In Closing:

Politician with line of attack,

That to black and white tv to go back.


Charged with to primitive time reverting,

And momentum of progress subverting.


But take real stock of situation so,

And notice how towards animals to go.


Like Ravana handle over senses none,

Only in devotion full control over won.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Five Ways Sanatana-Dharma Is Different From Ordinary Religion

[Sanatana-dharma]“Ramanujacharya has explained the word sanatana as ‘that which has neither beginning nor end,’ so when we speak of sanatana-dharma, we must take it for granted on the authority of Shri Ramanujacharya that it has neither beginning nor end.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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“It’s not allowed for you to change religions. You were born into a certain faith. You can’t just decide to switch over to something else. Especially with the faith you are choosing, it can only be adopted through birth. You have to wait until another life for the shift to happen. At least that is what I have heard. For now, better to stick with what your parents kindly gave you.”

Sanatana-dharma is often confused with Hinduism, which is a term born from an outsider’s perspective. To be lumped in with the other major faiths practiced in the world, there is worship of colorful deities, attention to various rituals, and distinctions drawn on the last name, which represents the caste. There are so many deities from which to choose, confusing things even more.

Sanatana-dharma is the more accurate definition, and it is something far beyond the general concept of religion. Vedic literature is comprehensive, illuminating and ever-expanding due precisely to the amazing nature of sanatana-dharma, which stands apart from ordinary religion in many ways.

1. It is not a kind of faith

As the argument from the hypothetical person referenced above says, you shouldn’t change your faith. Religion is equated with faith because at the foundation is a belief in something that can’t be proven; at least visually. Even if God were to appear before us, there is no way to prove the validity of one key property: deathlessness. If God truly lives forever, how can we prove that when eventually we must die?

Sanatana-dharma is not a faith. Taking the Sanskrit definition of the two component terms, it is the essential characteristic of the living being that remains so forever. Sanatana is without a beginning and without an end. Dharma is the essence of something. Sanatana-dharma is the very core of who we are; true for all living entities, not just human beings.

2. It is not tied to the material body

I practice a certain faith while I am in a particular body, namely a human one. The promise is for the afterlife. If I am good, I will go to heaven. Of course the definition of pious behavior is subjective, but as long as I steer clear of egregious acts violating the natural rights of other living beings, then I should be good. Even if I slip up now and then, if I openly declare my allegiance to a particular savior, I am absolved. That person died for my sins.

Sanatana-dharma has nothing to do with the material body. The dharma referenced here is of the spirit soul. Indeed, the foundational teaching to students aspiring to reenter sanatana-dharma is the difference between spirit and matter. The individual travels through different bodies. It is a conditioned soul who travels, remaining the same while the outside continues to change.

“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)

Religion is tied to the ever-changing body, while sanatana-dharma is for the spirit soul. It addresses the travels of the individual and how eternal bliss and happiness can once again be found.

3. It remains the same regardless of time

We have different religions in the world because they were introduced at different times. Even in Vedic culture, which mistakenly goes by the vernacular of “Hinduism,” so many dharmas are included. Dharma in this sense refers to procedures that help to maintain a specific characteristic. For instance, the warrior class has a specific dharma. Following the rules helps them to be true to their temporary identity of administrator/warrior. The priestly class has their own dharma, as do students and householders.

Sanatana-dharma never changes. The essence of the individual is not dependent on outside circumstances. Whether living in an age of truly enlightened beings or suffering through the age of ignorance, quarrel and hypocrisy, the ideal and true engagement of the living being never changes.

4. It is tied to the essence of individuality

As mentioned before, the individual is a spirit soul. This is the essence of individuality. Religion is tailored to the material body, as there is barely a mention of the difference between matter and spirit. Due to time and circumstance, the chosen teacher may not have thought it wise to dig deep into philosophy. A drowning man needs to be rescued first; philosophy will do them little good if they are in peril, in an emergency situation.

Sanatana-dharma is tied to the individual and their essence. It is way beyond the temporary world. Whether in the land of birth and death, mrityu-loka, or the place free of anxieties, Vaikuntha, sanatana-dharma remains the same.

5. The three eternals

[Sanatana-dharma]Another way to define sanatana-dharma is “the eternal engagement for the eternal living being towards the eternal supreme controller.” Dharma, jiva, and Ishvara. All three are sanatana, or above the influence of time. The jiva is the living entity who has a choice in association, either material or spiritual. Dharma is the way for the jiva to eventually get back to the spiritual while associating with the material. Ishvara is the ultimate beneficiary of dharma. He is the object of service. The real dharma of the individual spirit soul is service, and the only eternal service is that offered to the Supreme Controller, Ishvara. These descriptions have nothing to do with faith, religion, or institution. The truths apply to all living beings.

In Closing:

Like other religions Hinduism one,

Dress and deities, but real differences none.


Opinion of those not in the know,

Sanatana-dharma actual definition so.


Religion commonly equated with faith,

Something to take up, maybe later forsake.


Jiva, dharma and Ishvara terms three,

Eternal all, way for forever happy to be.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Hanging Up On The Hard Ones

[Prabhupada writing]“The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gita itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.1 Purport)

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Friend1: I have to say, one of the things I first found appealing about bhakti-yoga philosophy was the way it relates to all facets of life.

Friend2: What do you mean? As opposed to other religions?

Friend1: Yeah. You think religion, you think God.

Friend2: I would hope so.

Friend1: Maybe the afterlife is covered. Maybe what you shouldn’t do.

Friend2: Thou shall not kill. You shouldn’t steal. Things like that.

Friend1: Exactly. But then there’s not much else beyond that. Even my experience in visiting churches - I felt like I was going to some place reserved for punishment. It wasn’t a welcoming environment. Very serious. Like I should know how bad I am and how much reform I need.

Friend2: Interesting.

Friend1: Bhakti-yoga, at least how it is described by saints like Prabhupada and others in that line, is so comprehensive.

Friend2: It is synonymous with sanatana-dharma. You could say that is the Sanskrit equivalent for religion, but it’s not a perfect match. Sanatana-dharma is complete, unchanging through time, whereas religion is faith, changed many times perhaps.

Friend1: I like how you can pepper the teachers with practically every question and they have some answer for you. You know what got me thinking about this?

Friend2: I do not.

Friend1: I was watching an episode of Frasier. Have you ever seen that show?

Friend2: I have. Great stuff. Which episode were you watching?

Friend1: It was the one where Niles proposes the idea of a partnership. Frasier is itching to go deeper with patients, more so than he can do on his psychiatry radio show. Niles already has his practice, and there is space available in the next room in the building.

Friend2: I think I remember this one. The father, Martin, laughs at the idea, right? Because he knows the sibling rivalry and how they will end up competing with each other.

[Frasier and Niles arguing]Friend1: Exactly. It is so funny. One of the first scenes in their partnership is a group therapy session. Niles has been running the session for a while, and Frasier sits in as a guest. Niles takes a jab at Frasier by saying, “No hanging up on the hard ones here.”

Friend2: Oh man, that is funny. That’s a pretty good insult to throw at a radio talk show host. No one can test the validity because no one besides the people associated with the show knows who calls in and who doesn’t.

Friend1: Right. It got me to thinking about bhakti-yoga and sanatana-dharma. The teachers can never hang up on hard questions, right?

Friend2: If it is asked with genuine inquisitiveness and not in a challenging way, then surely they will be eager to answer the question. The way lawyers are, and even media people, you can get your point across simply through the question.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Basically, you can hurl an insult at someone through the way the question is worded, essentially rendering the response meaningless.

Friend1: What are some of the “hard ones” for the bhakti-yoga teacher?

Friend2: The obvious question is why are we here. We know how to get out. We know that liberation comes from abandoning all varieties of dharma, as Krishna promises in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Reincarnation is compared to the changing of bodies, from boyhood to youth to old age. We were not perfectly God conscious in the previous life; otherwise we wouldn’t have taken birth. But why did we first go to the material world? That is a logical thing to ask.

Friend1: And the answer is that we somehow desired to enjoy separate from God. As soon as that desire is there, the descent occurs. What other difficult topics are there?

Friend2: Well, you get a lot of generalizations made about the different bodies, as in their potential for understanding the difference between matter and spirit. The less familiar may confuse those statements with racism, misogyny, and other such concocted terms of recent times.

Friend1: Right. And those statements are basically a handicapping system. It doesn’t mean that there is no chance for success if you are born with the qualities of a laborer or businessman. Even women can be liberated, which many people who only follow the Hindu faith might not know.

“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: There you go. To me the hardest questions are those about the devotees. How do you explain Shri Hanuman? From where did he come? How could someone serve the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama so well? How do you explain the saints who have written so much, like Valmiki and Vyasadeva? Those are the tough issues that can only be explained by the amazing potency of devotional service, connection to the Divine in love.

In Closing:

Calling in and put on hold,

To radio psychiatrist problems told.


When too difficult cutting the line,

But who to answer question of mine?


Spiritual master never in this way to act,

Knowledge of spirit soul and God exact.


Whatever doubt can raise without fear,

Through eyes of shastra giving vision clear.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Five Characteristics Of The Arrows Of Rama And Lakshmana

[Rama and Lakshmana]“Soon will be falling here well-jointed arrows that are swift, blazing like serpents, and bearing the names of Rama and Lakshmana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.25-26)

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The king of Lanka had impenetrable fortifications; so he thought. Known as Ravana because of his terrifying scream, the ten-headed one was extremely powerful. Strength is one of the opulences available in a material existence, and due to duality its exercise can be in either direction, good or bad. Because of his sinful nature, Ravana used his strength to terrorize the world.

Deep down he knew he was on the wrong side of things, so there was always fear. He had his boons to protect him, though. No animal, beast, or celestial could be the cause of his death. He had the massive ocean surrounding his home. A single person might be able to make it across, but what could they really do against the large army of Rakshasas, the ogre-like creatures inhabiting Lanka. Ravana’s worry increased the most after he stole a princess in secret. She was already married, and her husband and His younger brother would soon come to rescue her. Their weapon of choice was the arrow released from the bow, and those arrows had special characteristics.

1. Naracha

The brothers were Rama and Lakshmana. Both are incarnations of the Divine. Rama is God Himself and Lakshmana is like the first expansion. They represent the situation of the living being, wherever you find him. God exists and He should be served purely, without motive. Only in that condition is everything alright. Lakshmana is the best servant, and so he has tremendous potency.

Appearing on earth in the spiritual bodies of warriors, the brothers were expert at fighting with the bow and arrow. That was the preferred fighting method of the time, but it should not be mistakenly considered some primitive art form. The weapons the brothers fired could do the damage of nuclear blasts and more.

“Lakshmana has many naracha arrows [made of iron] that are just like the thunderbolt hurled by Indra and lightning in the potency of their impact, as they can even split mountains.” (Hanuman speaking to Angada, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 54.15)

The arrows in Sanskrit are known as naracha. This means they were made of iron. They were very hard, and they had the power to split mountains. This is confirmed by Shri Hanuman, the fearless servant of Shri Rama who initially went to Lanka to find Sita, Rama’s wife. For that mission many warriors divided into groups. Hanuman’s party became despondent due to lack of success at one time, and so Hanuman reminded the leader that Lakshmana’s anger would be their doom. Hanuman was invoking the danda method of diplomacy, which is force or the threat of it.

2. Blazing like serpents

One of Ravana’s brothers gave an eyewitness account of the amazing characteristics of the arrows released from Rama. Returning to Lanka, Akampana told Ravana that the brothers were like fire and wind. Rama was the fire, and a blazing one at that. The fire’s potency increased through the wind that was Lakshmana.

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

[Rama and Lakshmana]Akampana said that the arrows from Rama were plated with gold. They did something interesting at the end. They turned into five-headed serpents. Wherever the Rakshasas went, they saw Rama in front of them. This all happened on the field of Janasthana. It was one against fourteen thousand, but that one and His arrows routed the entire enemy host.

3. Has the name inscribed

The Sanskrit word is lakshana. This means “characteristic mark” or “sign.” Sita Devi once described the arrows from the brothers as having special marks, indicating their names. This means that the arrows are collector’s items. Though to the enemy they signal death, to the wise it is the Divine will arriving through both written form and a physical weapon. Indeed, those names are holy; they are non-different from the Supreme Lord.

4. Return to the quiver

Rama’s arrows are known to return to His quiver. There is symbolic meaning. The arrows are servants, after all. They are always ready for an assignment. They fly swiftly through the air, indicating eagerness. They reach their intended target, showing intelligence. Then they return to Rama, ready for the next mission. In many ways Shri Hanuman is like one of these arrows. He carries the name of Rama with him; devotion is his strength. He also returns to Rama after succeeding in the mission to find Sita.

5. Swift deliverer

Even the atheists are worshipers of God. They just don’t have the complete picture. Their only association with the Divine is through the material energy. The supreme deity of that energy is time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, it is synonymous with death. In other words, the atheists see God only at the time of death.

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)

The arrows from Rama were the swift deliverer of the atheist class concentrated in Lanka. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that He swiftly delivers the devotees, the people who worship Him in the personal form. Rama is the same Krishna, and the delivery came for the bad guys who interacted with Him sinfully. They were devotees on the inside, playing the role of villains due to the Divine will. They were quickly delivered as well, showing that the interaction with the personal form, as opposed to the impersonal energy, brings much faster results in transcendental life.

In Closing:

To nuclear weapons potency the same,

Inscribed on them each brother’s name.


Swiftly with intelligence to target led,

To enemies showing fiery serpent-head.


Like iron, through mountain even can break,

Returning to quiver, master not to forsake.


Arrows of Rama and Lakshmana delivering swift,

Devotees back to spiritual realm to lift.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five Things That Are Not Miracles

[Krishna fighting Shalva]“When Shalva thought that Krishna had been bewildered by his mystic representations, he became encouraged and began to attack the Lord with greater strength and energy by showering volumes of arrows upon Him. But the enthusiasm of Shalva can be compared to the speedy march of flies into a fire.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 22)

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Who is a saint? What are their characteristics? Where can they be found? Who makes the determination? Based on the institutional definition accepted by so many, a saint must have performed a miracle. The eyes of the human being are flawed. In the hot desert, there is something called a mirage. The image from afar looks like an oasis, water to quench the thirst. Upon closer examination, it is simply the waves of heat hovering above the surface of the ground.

These same eyes can mistake a rope for a snake, so how can they properly identify a miracle? From the Vedic definition, character is what matters. The vision determines intelligence. An ignorant person sees only with their flawed eyes, and studies only the present. The wise person sees into the future, the guaranteed destiny of all beings. They see the past, that the present body is not what the living being had years ago. They also see the spiritual equality of all beings, that not only are all human beings the same on the inside, but such is the case with every living thing as well.

The saint understands that so many things considered to be miracles are not actually so. What the less intelligent find amazing is simply a manipulation of the material elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether.

1. Changing your shape at will

This is known as the kama-rupa-siddhi. Take whatever form, rupa, you desire, kama. The ability is a perfection, siddhi, of mystic yoga. This means that it is not easy to acquire. A true mystic practices for years, in very austere conditions. It is not a fifteen minute a day exercise, jammed into a daily routine that includes indulging in intoxicants, getting angry while sitting in traffic, and chasing after women.

Moreover, like every other ability in the material world, possession is not exclusive to any one group of people. A very bad person can have the kama-rupa-siddhi. There are many examples in history, the most famous of which come from the period of the Ramayana, an epic Sanskrit poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki. He describes ogre-like creatures who would intentionally hide their true, hideous forms in order to attack innocent sages residing in the forest. The supposed miracle of changing the form of the body was performed by the worst characters in society, who were enemies of the saints.

2. Displaying an image

Something like an apparition, this supposed miracle doesn’t require a projector, electricity, or a television set. The same Rakshasas who would change their form could display illusions. Again, the intent was ignoble. They wanted to dispirit the enemy. They wanted to trick them into abandoning hope for the side of good.

The leader of the Rakshasas during the Ramayana period lived in Lanka. He stole the goddess of fortune in secret, taking advantage of the kama-rupa-siddhi twice. The king Ravana dressed himself as a brahmana, a person of the priestly order. His associate Maricha dressed as a beautiful, golden deer. After Ravana took Sita back to Lanka, there was eventually a great war. Rama, the Supreme Lord and husband of Sita, marched to the island with His army of forest-dwellers, creatures who were monkey-like.

Those warriors are the embodiment of the saintly character, and they didn’t use any such illusions in the conflict. The Rakshasas, meanwhile, used many such tricks, fake images to try to dispirit the monkeys. When this would happen, Rama would shoot one of His arrows to dispel the illusion.

Years later, the same Rama was on earth in the beautiful, all-attractive form of Krishna. God is one, but He appears differently in the manifest world according to time and circumstance. He can change His external appearance at any time, but for Him there is no difference between matter and spirit. Everything about Him is spiritual, so even the statue representation worshiped in the temple has amazing potency. When worshiped properly, viewed by eyes infused with love, the deity becomes identical to the Supreme Lord.

[Krishna fighting Shalva]Krishna one time fought against an enemy named Shalva. Like his ancestors in bad character before him, Shalva was expert at displaying false images. And of course, he took advantage of this supposed miracle to try to win in conflict. He once displayed an image to Krishna of the father Vasudeva having his head cut off. This was done to dispirit the Supreme Lord, but He didn’t take the bait. Krishna’s illusion, the great energy known as maya, is far stronger than anything a fiendish character can conjure up.

3. Disappearing from sight

One of the most popular video games of all-time is The Legend of Zelda. First appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System [NES], the game features a character with a sword fighting against demon-like enemies. The final stage of the game pits the main character against the leader of the demons known as Ganon. He is difficult to defeat in conflict because he appears and disappears from sight. One moment you see him and the next you don’t.

Again, this supposed miracle has been displayed by some of the worst characters in history. During Rama’s time, there was a female Yaksha by the name of Tataka. Like her Rakshasa brethren, she was wreaking havoc in the otherwise peaceful area of the forest. The sage Vishvamitra brought Rama to defeat her and bring peace. During the ensuing conflict, Tataka appeared and disappeared at will. Rama was expert at fighting using sound, so it was not an issue for Him. These supposed miracles are nothing special in the eyes of the one who creates and annihilates countless universes effortlessly, through something as simple as breathing.

4. Moving a mountain

Shri Hanuman, the dedicated, fearless, perseverant, and intelligent servant of the Supreme Lord is famously depicted in paintings carrying a mountain, flying through the air. Like everything else Hanuman is known for, this pastime took place in service to Rama. The image teaches so many lessons, with one of them being that in connection with the Divine a person doesn’t have to hide from society and sit quietly. They can be actively engaged in work and still be in complete trance, samadhi.

The miracle from that image is Hanuman’s amazing dedication to Rama; not the lifting of the mountain. Ravana is known for moving the great Mount Kailasa. That doesn’t make him a saint. Ravana had tremendous physical strength, a boon he received from pleasing the celestials. None of what he was able to do counts as a miracle, as everything in the material world is available, up to the point right before immortality.

5. Meditating for a long time

Can you imagine sitting in one place for years and years, without eating anything? No sleep, either. Modern science would not believe this to be possible. After all, it defies everything we know about what is needed to survive. If such a person could be studied, their success would be considered miraculous.

But actually so many people in history have done this and more. There were characters who even offered up almost all of their flesh in a sacrificial fire. These were not miracles at all, as the characters were not saintly. Many of them meditated for so long in order to get an ability that would help them rule the world, bringing everyone under their control. They were responsible in their meditation, and irresponsible in their subsequent wielding of power.

The real miracles in this world are seen in the strength, perseverance and power of devotion. Shri Hanuman serves Rama without motivation and without interruption. He did so much for Rama but in the end all he asked for was to remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told.

The wicked king Hiranyakashipu thought that his son had performed miracles by surviving so many deadly attacks. Actually, the real miracle was the continued devotion of the boy, named Prahlada, in the face of every obstacle thrown his way. In more recent times, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada performed the miracle of transforming souls accustomed to the ways of uncultured life into devotees of the Supreme Lord, always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Wrong way for miracles to know,

Not just by some magic to show.


Bad characters changing their shape,

Like Ravana, committing theft and rape.


Shalva apparition in conflict using,

And Ravana large mountain moving.


Real miracles from representatives take,

From wretched souls devotees to make.