bhrātā ca tasya dvaimātraḥ saumitriḥ aparājitaḥ |
anurāgena rūpeṇa guṇaiḥ caiva tathā vidhaḥ ||
Nama, rupa, guna and lila. These are the four important components to the Almighty, the individual the majority of the world today refers to as God. There is much to know about Him. In fact, it is impossible for the human mind to know everything, as it is limited by the boundaries of time and space. Both time and space are never ending, which means that the mind can ponder endlessly about the past, the coming future, and the possible destinations to which to travel.
mayy āsakta-manāḥ pārtha
yogaṁ yuñjan mad-āśrayaḥ
asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ
yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu
“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)
Despite the limitations, it is possible to know God in truth. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, where Shri Krishna lists the necessary conditions. The key is to practice yoga, having full consciousness of the Supreme Lord. There should also be attachment to Him.
In the present age the best way to practice this yoga is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These names are the nama aspect mentioned before. The name is very powerful. A secluded spot in a high mountain area is not required for perfection in yoga. Neither is a slim and trim body, flexible enough to bend in difficult postures. The holy name is sufficient. Concentrating on it can bring perfection.
The perfection doesn’t necessarily have to take a long time to manifest, either. This is because the name automatically brings the rupa, guna and lila. Rupa is the form, or appearance. The Sanskrit word also means beauty. Form in the material world relates to the gross elements that cover the otherwise spotless spirit soul. The body is like a holding cell, limiting what the soul can do. The size of the soul is the same in the giant elephant and in the tiny ant. This means that the soul’s capabilities are great. The type of body is what determines how much that ability gets suppressed.
The Supreme Lord has a transcendental form, since He is never limited by anything. The material elements have no effect on Him. That is the meaning to transcendental. He displays a form distinguishable to the eyes of the conditioned soul whenever and wherever He so chooses. The rupa is not singular, but the variations are identical in the person they represent. The person who concentrates on the name soon gets a clear vision of the rupa.
The rupa gives an idea of the gunas. These are qualities, generally referring to material qualities. But in the case of the Almighty, the gunas are all good. Hence they are like glories. Examples of gunas are kindness, a charitable disposition, strength, wealth, beauty, fame, wisdom, forgiveness and gratefulness. Whatever quality is admirable in another person, know that the Supreme Lord possesses the same to the highest degree.
The rupa and guna combine to give lila, or pastimes. These are activities performed on this planet and many others by the Almighty. This means that God is not just an abstract figure, someone who is to intentionally remain distant. Rather, the living beings are encouraged to get closer and closer to Him. There is facility for this, and initiation takes place through the name. The Sanskrit word for the sacred thread that marks entry into the second and more important life of service to the spiritual master is upavita. Taking the definition from the root words, we see that initiation is a way to get closer. Go towards transcendence, following the guidance of someone who is already close to God. Make progress through the power of the holy name.
With lila, the Supreme Lord must have others with whom to interact. Does this mean the other associates are absent when the name is chanted? The above referenced verse from the Ramayana shows that the associates accompany God and His name. Here Shri Hanuman is speaking of Lakshmana, the younger brother of Shri Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord appearing to the eyes in the rupa of a warrior prince, the son of King Dasharatha. In Rama’s lila, Lakshmana is always with Him.
In fact, if someone describes Rama and claims to be an expert on this avatara of the Supreme Lord, they must know Lakshmana as well. The son of Sumitra always follows his half-brother, through thick and thin. If Rama were going to hell even, Lakshmana would follow. He would stand guard, ready to use his invincibility in battle to protect his elder brother.
Hanuman had met both brothers previously, and that is why he could describe them perfectly to Sita Devi, who is Rama’s wife. To this day he continues in his yoga, meditating on God through chanting the holy names. Though Hanuman may appear to be by himself, he is never alone. He has Sita and Lakshmana there with him, and they are enjoying in the company of their beloved Rama.
Hanuman always in kirtana known,
Though isolated, never alone.
Sita and Lakshmana there the same,
Associates accompanying the holy name.
The name including with it rupa,
The bodily form, with it lila and guna.
Chant with attachment and desires free,
Then easily recognize features other three.