Saturday, January 16, 2016

Further Testimony On What God Looks Like

[Lord Rama]“His voice is like a kettledrum in sound. He has glowing skin and is very powerful. He is square-built and has symmetrically proportioned limbs. He is endowed with the shyama complexion.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.16)
dundubhi svana nirghoṣaḥ snigdha varṇaḥ pratāpavān | 
samaḥ sama vibhakta ango varṇam śyāmam samāśritaḥ ||
You’re enjoying peace and quiet at home today. Taking advantage of the situation, you had taken out a book on the Supreme Personality of Godhead authored by a respected teacher in the Vaishnava tradition. To stay in the proper mood, you decided to read in an area of the house where there was a picture of God the person hanging on the wall directly in front of you.
Unfortunately, your peace didn’t last too long. The doorbell rings. You answer it to find that you’re getting a surprise visit from your child’s friend. They are of a relatively young age. They want to play with your child, and you give the information that your child is out right now and will be back shortly. You ask the friend to sit down and wait.
[Krishna book]They are now in the same room that you were reading in. While enjoying some food and drink that you offer them, they can’t help but notice the book on the table. They see that the person on the cover is the same one depicted in the picture hanging on the wall. In their innocent way, they ask, “Is that Bhagavanji?” Surprised that they recognize the image, with a smile on your face you respond in the affirmative. The next question catches you off guard. “Why is He blue?”
This question is not uncommon. The uniqueness of the bhakti tradition is that it describes God the person. Even in Vedic philosophy, on which bhakti-yoga is based, the Almighty is not always described so vividly. Sometimes just His features with respect to the material nature get described. The name Ishvara, for example, says that the Almighty is the chief among controllers. The name Paramatma says that He is a soul like other living entities, but the supreme one.
From the bhakti tradition comes names like Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and Hari. These Sanskrit words have meanings in terms of attributes, but they also reference specific personalities. The personalities are identical; they just look different due to the functions they perform and the times and circumstances of their appearances, i.e. manifestations.
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ
vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
[Krishna adventing to protect the pious]The blue color on the body of God the person is known as shyama. This word has several meanings. It can mean dark, dark-blue, or even dark-brown or dark-green. Every meaning is appropriate for the Supreme Lord since He appears on earth at different times. The creation goes through cycles. Just because there was a beginning to this earth now doesn’t mean that there wasn’t an earth before. Although everything will be destroyed at some point, creation will occur again.
“The shyama color is not exactly blackish. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura compares it to the color of the atasi flower. It is not that Lord Krishna Himself appears in a blackish color in all the Dvapara-yugas. In other Dvapara-yugas, previous to Lord Krishna’s appearance, the Supreme Lord appeared in a greenish body by His own personal expansion. This is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Hari-vamsha and Mahabharata.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.337 Purport)
God the person appears in millennium after millennium, and sometimes the complexion is not the same. Sometimes it is green and sometimes it is dark blue. The thing to remember is that the complexion is not concocted in the mind. God the person is not the product of an imaginative writer. God is blue because that’s what His complexion is. We know that is the complexion because of what others have said about Him.
The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives further confirmation. Here Shri Hanuman is describing the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. The description is for the ears of Sita Devi, the wife of Rama. Hanuman is a trusted authority since he has met Rama personally. The information is fresh in his mind, as recently he was by Rama’s side. He is in Lanka now doing Rama’s work, searching for Sita.
There are other distinguishable features. Rama has a voice like a kettledrum. His skin is glowing. His body is square-built, which means it is robust. Rama’s limbs are symmetrically proportioned, which is a sign of auspiciousness. He is also highly-resplendent.
[Lord Rama]The shyama color is beautiful on Rama. Even when the color is greenish instead of bluish, the same glow is there. We may not know anyone with this type of complexion, but Hanuman’s words can be trusted. They should be trusted, in fact, if a person desires advancement in the spiritual consciousness. That shyama color is like a dark raincloud ready to shower nectar on those who are qualified to receive it. Rama is beauty through and through, and those who know Him take advantage of His association.
In Closing:
By God’s color bewildered are you,
Never knowing someone of complexion blue.

Instead of a speculation to make,
Just Hanuman’s words from Ramayana take.

Shyama, well-built, and resplendent,
Description of Rama, on whose arms Sita dependent.

Sometimes bluish and sometimes green,
Either way most beautiful the world has ever seen.

Friday, January 15, 2016

All Signs Pointing To Auspicious

[Lord Rama]“O Devi, He has broad shoulders, mighty arms, a neck like a conch-shell, an auspicious countenance, a hidden collarbone, very coppery eyes, and is known by the people.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.15)
vipula aṃso mahābāhuḥ kambu grīvaḥ śubha ānanaḥ | 
gūḍha jatruḥ sutāmra akṣo rāmo devi janaiḥ śrutaḥ ||
In the verses preceding this one from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman reviewed some of the behavioral characteristics of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. Hanuman described how Rama knows the Vedas and the auxiliary sciences attached to them. Rama knows how to fight in battle according to the guidelines passed down since the beginning of time. In every area Rama acts properly. He does not do anything on a whim. He respects those who behave similarly. He is worshiped by the most worshipable people in society.
Here Hanuman describes some of Rama’s physical features. There is the phrase, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” The idea is that the outside appearance doesn’t always tell the entire story about a person. We don’t know what is on the inside until we study behavior. For instance, we can see a very beautiful person and guess that they are good in character too, but then that same person could take to a life of crime. This means that the visual of the features didn’t reveal everything.
arjuna uvāca
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12)
As Arjuna declares in the Bhagavad-gita, God is the Supreme Pure. Everything about Him is auspicious. In traditional Vedic culture, certain features on the body indicate auspiciousness and certain features reveal the opposite. This has no bearing on the soul itself, which is spotless, but it gives a general indication on what to expect in behavior. As an example, if you see a living entity with the bodily features of a tiger, you can guess that they will be prone to killing other animals for food.
Rama’s bodily characteristics match His behavior and character. One of the Lord’s many names is Madana Mohana. Madana is the god of love, the equivalent to Cupid in English. The description of Cupid is that he is the most beautiful person. His appearance is enchanting. God the person is enchanting, mohana, to even Cupid. Another description for Rama is manohara, which means one who defeats the mind.
That victory comes about through auspicious bodily features. Hanuman says that Rama has broad shoulders. The prince of Ayodhya is not weak in body. He stands tall in battle because He has the necessary strength for victory. Rama has mighty-arms. Carrying the bow and arrow, Rama can defeat the entire world in battle, should they decide to attack Him.
“Krishna’s pauganda age can be further divided into three periods – namely the beginning, middle and end. In the beginning of the pauganda age there is a very nice reddish luster on His lips, His abdomen is very thin, and on His neck are circles like those on a conchshell.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 42)
[conch shell]Rama has a neck like a conch-shell. This is another unique feature found on the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The meaning is twofold. On His neck are found three lines like that on a conch-shell. Circles also develop on the neck, just like on a conch-shell.
Rama has an auspicious countenance. His face is so beautiful that one can gaze at it for hours and continue to feel pleasure. His collarbone is hidden and He has very coppery eyes. All of these things about Rama are known by the people. That is, the people who see Him all the time understand that He is something special. Even Rama’s fame is beautiful.
Not surprisingly, these features stand in stark contrast to Ravana, the king of Lanka. Ravana has ten heads and twenty arms. His face is not pleasant to look at. All physical signs point to a Rakshasa, which is a lower type of human being. The Rakshasa is inauspicious in behavior and appearance. Ravana was more infamous than famous.
[Lord Rama]The devotees take pleasure in hearing these features about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are happy to dedicate thought, word and deed to someone who is so good. Take the best person you can imagine and you still wouldn’t have the full and proper understanding of Shri Rama. Hanuman takes pleasure in describing His features, as he saw them personally. That all-auspicious prince would soon come to dissipate the spell of doom and gloom cast by Ravana and the wicked-minded residents of Lanka, who had committed a grave offense by treating Sita Devi so poorly.
In Closing:
On body auspicious signs to see,
Like neck having conch lines three.

Hidden is His collar’s bone,
And to the people well He is known.

Rama divine in behavior and sight,
Soon to Lanka to bring arms of might.

Hanuman in describing pleasure taking,
Knowing Rama best for worship making.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Cultured Son

[Vedas]“He is well trained in the Yajurveda and highly worshiped by those who know the Vedas. He is skilled in the Dhanurveda, the Vedas, as well as the auxiliary sciences connected to the Vedas.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.14)
yajuḥ veda vinītaḥ ca vedavidbhiḥ supūjitaḥ | 
dhanuḥ vede ca vede ca veda angeṣu ca niṣṭhitaḥ ||
What type of company would you prefer to keep? In a material existence, the goal is to enjoy as much as possible. To that end, the more money you have, the further advanced you are. With more money, you can buy more objects and services to please the senses. Sense pleasure involves eating, sleeping, mating and defending.
If you know someone who goes into excess in any or all of these categories, is their association preferred? For example, if you stay with someone who sleeps more than average, is that trait beneficial to you? What if they eat more than the average person?
Though these things appear to be the height of enjoyment, the tendency is to praise those who limit themselves. Books are written about people who sacrifice enjoyment for others; those who put the interests of others ahead of their own. The association of such people is certainly preferred, as they are more equipped to defend, to teach, to enrich the life experience.
In Lanka a long time ago, a distressed princess was surrounded by people with little to no culture. They engaged in religious rituals. They were aware of the Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition emanating from the area today known as India. Yet just because someone appears to be religious, it doesn’t mean they are more cultured than someone who doesn’t make an outward show. The reason is that religious rituals can be in the mode of ignorance as well.
vidhi-hīnam asṛṣṭānnaṁ
mantra-hīnam adakṣiṇam
śraddhā-virahitaṁ yajñaṁ
tāmasaṁ paricakṣate
“And that sacrifice performed in defiance of scriptural injunctions, in which no spiritual food is distributed, no hymns are chanted and no remunerations are made to the priests, and which is faithless – that sacrifice is of the nature of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.13)
A ritual in the mode of ignorance is something like black magic or witchcraft. Imagine going through austerities for the purpose of doing harm to someone else. The leaders in Lanka could change their shape at will. This is known as the kama-rupa siddhi. Wouldn’t it be cool to mask your true identity in certain situations? The leaders in Lanka were ogres, known as Rakshasas in Sanskrit. They would change their shape in order to attack innocent people. The attacks were deadly, and the ogres would then feast on the flesh of their victims.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman describes someone who is the opposite in nature. He is completely cultured. He follows protocols of the mode of goodness for every type of behavior. He is not driven by His senses. Hanuman is speaking to the princess of Videha. While the leader of Lanka was described as ajita-indriya by the same princess, the person of whom Hanuman speaks is the complete opposite. He has gained victory over the almost impossible to control sense demands.
“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)
[Sita and Rama]The person Hanuman describes is Rama. Rama happens to be the husband of the princess, who is named Sita. Hanuman says that Rama is well-trained in the Yajurveda. The original scriptural work is known as the Veda. This Sanskrit word means “knowledge.” It is the absolute word on the meaning of life, the reason for living. The Veda consists of hymns that glorify the Supreme Lord and His associates.
To help future generations of man, the Supreme Lord partially incarnated on earth as a sage named Vyasa, who then divided the original Veda into four parts. One of those parts is the Yajurveda, which deals primarily with rituals. Rama is expert at performing these rituals, knowing the exact time, circumstance and procedure for each.
[Vedas]Hanuman says that Rama is highly worshiped by those who know the Vedas. Rama is of the royal order, which is like the warrior class. The people who know the Vedas are typically brahmanas, or the priestly class. The people who know God the most give high honor and praise to Shri Rama. This means that He is respected by the most respectable people.
Hanuman says that Rama is skilled in the Dhanurveda and the Vedas themselves. In addition to the four divisions of the Veda made byVyasadeva, any work that is a derivative of the original Veda is also consider part of the Vedas. The Vedas contain knowledge for succeeding in both material and spiritual life. There is information even on fighting. There is a science to warfare, known as the Dhanurveda. Rama is an expert in this. This means that when He would come to Lanka to rescue Sita, He would do so with knowledge of how to gain victory in battle. Even in an angry conflict, Rama follows protocols handed down for generations.
Rama knows the Vedas themselves and He is also expert in the Vedangas. These are auxiliary sciences connected to the Vedas, dealing with things like phonetics, meter, grammar, etymology, astronomy and ritual. In every way Rama is cultured. He is the complete opposite of Ravana. Though the leader of Lanka seemed to be winning in life through his disregard for culture, that ascension would soon reverse itself. Rama is the Supreme Lord Himself. He is the source of the Vedas and their derivatives. The Vedas are non-different from Him, and thus it is no wonder that when He descends as Rama He pays the highest respect to them.
In Closing:
Ravana’s ascension to reverse itself,
By Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord Himself.

To gratify senses at any cost,
Ravana that battle long ago lost.

Rama the opposite, all the Vedas knowing,
With culture and knowledge to tasks going.

Expertise of Dhanurveda with Him bringing,
His victory devotees forever singing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Honoring Those Who Honor Him

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]“He is well trained in royal knowledge and gives honor to the brahmanas. He is full of knowledge, endowed with good conduct, and humble. He is a chastiser of the foe.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.13)
rāja vidyā vinītaḥ ca brāhmaṇānām upāsitā | 
śrutavān śīla sampanno vinītaḥ ca param tapaḥ ||
In this verse Shri Hanuman describes what he has seen with his own eyes and what he knows to be true. He does not exaggerate. There is no need. If Hanuman didn’t believe what he was saying, he wouldn’t have risked his life in the dangerous journey across the ocean to Lanka. He wouldn’t have gone up against Simhika and Surasa. He wouldn’t have transformed his shape into that of a cat to roam through the city of Lanka undetected.
“At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)
[Shri Hanuman]He wouldn’t have continued on after almost losing hope. He wouldn’t have tried as hard as he could to win over the trust of Sita, who was justifiably skeptical. After all, everyone else in Lanka was against her husband. She wanted desperately to be reunited with Him. As the goddess of fortune, she could have given unlimited riches as a reward for coming through on her request. She could have blessed the person for lifetime after lifetime.
Hanuman believes what he is saying. In this verse he continues to describe Shri Rama, the beloved husband of Sita. We know from Vedic literature that Rama is Divine. He is the Supreme Divine Being, in fact. The Sanskrit word is avatara, which means “one who descends.” It is not that God is formless and attributeless and then decides to assume material elements when roaming the earthly realm. Rather, He descends, always remaining who He is. In the Bhagavad-gita, He describes how the less intelligent never understand this.
avyaktaṁ vyaktim āpannaṁ
manyante mām abuddhayaḥ
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
mamāvyayam anuttamam
“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)
There are specific qualities that accompany being Divine. In other words, the human mind isn’t relegated to mental speculation when trying to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They can take the testimony of Hanuman and try to study it carefully.
Several key aspects are mentioned here. Hanuman says that Rama is well trained in royal knowledge. Rama appears in a kshatriya family, which is like the royal order. Though Rama is God, He does not blatantly violate tradition. He does not do whatever He feels like, as He wants to set a good example for the citizens. He takes up training in the military arts, and so He knows the way of diplomacy and what to do if people violate the laws of the state.
[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]An important aspect to royal administration is respecting the brahmanas. This point is also mentioned by Hanuman. He says that Rama gives honor and worship to the brahmanas, who are the priestly class. This fact has relevance beyond just the royal order. The Supreme Lord is the worshipable deity of the brahmana class. The Sanskrit term is brahmanya-devaya.
In return, God holds the brahmanas very dear. The same goes for thecows. In a place where the priestly class and the cows are protected, the Supreme Lord is very pleased. He gives honor back. He loves those who love Him. The ideal brahmana engages in one or more of six distinct occupations. They read the Vedas, teach the Vedas to others, engage in sacrifices for Rama’s pleasure, teach others how to perform such sacrifices, accept charity, or give charity to others. The specific occupation is not important. It is the consciousness which matters. The brahmanas who are dear to Rama are always thinking of Him. They see the equality of all creatures, and they are thus the true embodiment of compassion.
A wise person realizes that if Rama honors those who honor Him, why shouldn’t everyone take up service to Him? Rama is also full of knowledge, shrutavan. He listens to what people tell Him. Rama has good conduct. He is not a mean person. He respects others. He is also humble. Even though He has everything and is the most skilled person in any area of expertise, He does not flaunt His greatness.
He chastises the foe as well. This means that in addition to honoring the priestly class, He protects them from outside attack. That is the definition of “foe” to the Supreme Lord. Weighing these facts, the devoted souls realize they are always under the shelter of the Divine. They know that they can safely continuechanting the holy names to feel the association of Shri Rama: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In Closing:
Rama not worship from others to expect,
To brahmana class giving highest respect.

Since honor to Him always to give,
In service conscious of Him to live.

Where brahmanas and cows protected,
Quickly to there Rama’s mercy projected.

So chant holy names without fear,
And to Lord always remain dear.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kingly Education

[Lord Rama]“He is well trained in royal knowledge and gives honor to the brahmanas. He is full of knowledge, endowed with good conduct, and humble. He is a chastiser of the foe.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.13)
rāja vidyā vinītaḥ ca brāhmaṇānām upāsitā | 
śrutavān śīla sampanno vinītaḥ ca param tapaḥ ||
In one of the verses of the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna mentions the term “raja-vidya”. The translation is “king of education.” He is speaking the highest wisdom to the distressed warrior Arjuna. In order to remove Arjuna’s doubts, Krishna reveals the king of education, the secret of all secrets. The person who assimilates the knowledge will have learned something that far exceeds anything else taught. That knowledge is like a king since it rules over all others.
rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the same raja-vidya term is there, but the meaning is slightly different. The reason is the context. Here Shri Hanuman is describing Rama, the husband of Sita. Rama is actually the same Krishna, appearing on earth thousands of years before the son of Devaki did. Rama plays the role of warrior prince, the ideal protector in society. Rama is virtuous; in one sense dharma incarnate.
Raja means “king” or “royal” and vidya means “knowledge” or “education.” Hanuman means to say that Rama is trained in royal knowledge. What exactly is that? Isn’t the king the ruler of the land? What does he have to know? Just as in any other leadership post, the king has to deal with a lot. If you want to be at the top, you must be prepared to handle the most responsibility.
tata enaṁ gurur jñātvā
daityendraṁ darśayām āsa
mātṛ-mṛṣṭam alaṅkṛtam
“After some time, the teachers Shanda and Amarka thought that Prahlada Maharaja was sufficiently educated in the diplomatic affairs of pacifying public leaders, appeasing them by giving them lucrative posts, dividing and ruling over them, and punishing them in cases of disobedience. Then, one day, after Prahlada’s mother had personally washed the boy and dressed him nicely with sufficient ornaments, they presented him before his father.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.19)
The most pressing issue for the king is protection of the citizens. You can bet that there are at least a few people who would like to become king, to depose you. This makes them enemies, and you need a strategy for dealing with them. In Vedic philosophy there are the four principles of diplomacy: sama, dana, bheda, and danda. You can try to pacify someone with kind words. You can try to buy them off with gifts. You can try to divide and conquer, sowing dissension among their ranks. If all else fails, you can apply force, i.e. go to war.
The other qualities mentioned by Hanuman in this verse reveal more of what a royal education involves. He says that Rama honors the brahmanas. This appears contradictory, as the king is supposed to be the top person in the community. In ancient Vedic culture, the brahmanas get the most honor. They are not a threat since they possess very little. They don’t have the fighting spirit either, as they see every living creature as part and parcel of God. The king does well when he has respected and learned brahmanas in the community who get honor and respect themselves. The return for that honor is wisdom for prospering both materially and spiritually.
[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]Rama is also shrutavan. This word means “heard” and it also refers to the shrutis, which is another word for the Vedas. By extension, shrutavan means someone who is knowledgeable of the Vedas. Rama is trained in the military arts, but He also knows the highest truths of life. Of course, as the Supreme Lord He will know everything, but even when playing the role of king He does not lack any knowledge.
Hanuman says that Rama is endowed with shila, or good conduct. With great power comes great responsibility. It is easy to abuse power. Just think of the many wars in history. There have been so many great rulers who lost everything due to greed. In that respect, Rama is also vinita, or humble. Though He is the most knowledgeable, and though His conduct is supreme, He never thinks He is better than anyone else.
That humility doesn’t prevent Him from chastising the enemy, though. Humility is great, but if you’re in charge of protecting someone, you better do whatever you can to prevent foreign attack. You can’t use humility as an excuse to let others violate dharma and torment the innocent.
[Rama and Lakshmana firing arrows]As a chastiser of the foe, Shri Rama would eventually march to Lanka and rescue Sita. The king in Lanka was anything but humble, and though he thought he was educated in the royal science, he had no respect for brahmanas. He and his clan would regularly eat members of the priestly class after killing them. Ravana prospered materially, but since he was not shrutavan, since he did not respect God and His representatives, he would be on the receiving end of the great torment supplied by Rama.
In Closing:
How to properly rule king should know,
Not just following every sense urge to go.

Though highest the brahmanas must respect,
From their favor all prosperity to expect.

Humble and vigilant at the same time,
Rama in every area sublime.

To offender Ravana a real lesson giving,
When delivering just punishment unforgiving.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Approaching The Most Resplendent

[Rama's lotus feet]“He is fully resplendent, highly honored, and situated in the vow of brahmacharya. He knows how to help the sadhus and He knows how to popularize good actions.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.12)
arciṣmān arcito atyartham brahma carya vrate sthitaḥ | 
sādhūnām upakārajñaḥ pracārajñaḥ ca karmaṇām ||
In Vedic culture it is common to worship the sun-god. From the time of birth all the way until death, there is respect to be paid. The idea is that the living entity should know they are not everything. They are never fully in control. There are always the threefold miseries of life with which to contend. The body and mind give us trouble. So do other living entities.
The third category is controlled by the demigods, the higher authorities. From a simple adjustment they can drastically change the living conditions on earth. As an example, one misery is the bitter cold of winter. If not for alternative heating sources, man would not be able to survive in certain parts of the world during the months of cold weather. From the sun alone, however, the conditions change. The sun can turn it amazingly hot, defrosting everything that had become frozen over.
[cold winter]One reason for worshiping the sun is that it is one of the divine objects that can be seen. In reality, the Supreme Lord is everywhere. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. There is not a single space from which He is absent. Material life is called conditioned for a reason. The eyes of man are imperfect, and so he has difficulty seeing the Divine unless it appears as a distinguishable object right in front of the eyes.
The sun is one such object, though it is not fully representative of the Supreme Lord. Still, playing its role assigned by the highest authority, the sun gives heat and light. It only makes sense to pay respect in return. Without the sun man would not be able to survive on earth. The artificial lighting used at nighttime is a way to imitate the sun. That imitation falls far short of what the sun is actually capable of. The sun never runs out of heat and light, and it stays where it is supposed to without anyone worrying about it.
na tad bhāsayate sūryo
na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)
[spiritual and material worlds]In the Bhagavad-gita we learn of a realm that does not need external lighting. Forget about the sun and what it can do. You won’t have to worry about seeing because the body of the proprietor is bright enough to provide light all the time. That body would have to be considered the most resplendent. It is always beaming. The light of the aggregate of all spiritual particles is said to be the glare coming off of His gigantic, transcendental body.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman describes the same person. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna describes His realm as not requiring electricity. The Rama that Hanuman describes is the same Krishna, just appearing in the earthly realm at a different time and with a different visual manifestation. God is always God, wherever He appears and however He looks. Therefore it makes sense for Rama to be archishman, or the embodiment of full resplendence.
If we worship the sun for its splendor, should we not extend the same to the person who is fully resplendent? Rama will supply your needs wherever you are. There is no need to worry. He is not some abstract concept exclusively reserved for philosophers to discuss in a lounge setting. He is not some dream offered as a reward for the pious. He is God in truth, and His association is there for the taking right now, should we desire it.
[Shri Hanuman]One aspect to Rama’s resplendence is His representative Hanuman. That messenger crossed a massive ocean in one leap, infiltrated a city undetected, and found Rama’s wife even though he had not met her previously. He carried Rama’s message to her. That message had the same resplendence as Rama the person. Indeed, the name is non-different from Rama. This means that the person who carries that name, giving it proper respect and explaining it without deviating from past authority, has the power to deliver full resplendence to those suffering through the darkest of times. It is no wonder, then, that the saving grace for the distressed people of this age of Kali is the maha-mantra delivered by Rama’s representatives:Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In Closing:
Like deity visible is the sun so bright,
Endless to world providing heat and light.

A realm there is existing,
Where natural brightness persisting.

From the body of proprietor coming,
His representatives in same way becoming.

Like Hanuman message of Rama to Sita carrying,
Words a soothing light to end her worrying.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I Learned It By Watching You

[Rama's lotus feet]“O noble lady, Rama is the protector of the entire world and the four divisions of human society. He has made the system of etiquette for the people of the world and shows the way in following it.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.11)
rāmo bhāmini lokasya cāturvarṇyasya rakṣitā | 
maryādānām ca lokasya kartā kārayitā ca saḥ ||
Parenting is difficult enough. You always have something to worry about. Even if everything is okay and settled in your own life, the children are constantly going through change. At the very least there is concern over school and how they are doing. Children are also less intelligent compared to the parents, which means that they’ll constantly make mistakes.
The issue is that the parents likely made the same mistakes when they were younger. Therefore they must act hypocritically to some degree when guiding their children. If a child gets in trouble for cheating on a test in school, they may ask their parent, “Did you ever do that when you were younger?” If the parent tells the truth and answers in the affirmative, the child views that admission as an excuse for escaping punishment. “How can you punish me for something you did too?”
There is the old public service commercial on television that shows a parent catching their child with cigarettes. The parent is upset and presses the child to admit where they picked up such a bad habit. After initially staying quiet the child finally admits that they learned smoking from watching their parent, to which the parent has no reply. The line is, “I learned it by watching you.”
The above referenced verse from the Ramayana speaks of a person who establishes a system of conduct for other people to follow. He doesn’t stop there, however. He then shows the way in how to follow it. This means that He can honestly tell the entire world, “Do as I say and as I do.” Hanuman intentionally points out this feature in Shri Rama, the husband of Sita.
Sita knows this fact about Rama because it is partly due to His dedication to etiquette that she has found herself in the precarious condition. She is in Lanka, held there against her will. Previously, she was with Rama in the forest of Dandaka. What would a bhamini, or noble lady, be doing living in a forest? Why was she there with her husband, who was the son of a king?
Rama’s father had made two promises to Queen Kaikeyi. There was no stipulation; Kaikeyi could ask for whatever she wanted. She took advantage of the king and asked for Rama to be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. Rama was the son to Queen Kausalya. Kaikeyi wanted her own son, Bharata, to be the king to succeed Dasharatha.
[leaving Dasharatha]Amidst the controversy, Rama decided to maintain the honor of His father. Dasharatha was known for his dedication to the truth, so if he denied Kaikeyi that would be license for the people of the city to act in bad faith. Dasharatha did not want his son Rama to leave, but Rama decided that maintaining etiquette for the rulers was more important than satisfying personal desire.
It should be noted that there are many things about Rama that cannot be imitated. He singlehandedly defeated 14,000 attackers in Dandaka. Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead can do this. In a future descent He lifted the massive Govardhana Hill and held it aloft for seven straight days. As Varaha He held up the entire earth, and as Narasimha he appeared in this world as a half-man/half-lion.
[Varahadeva holding up the earth]Still, Rama creates the system of etiquette for a reason. He follows it for a reason as well. Etiquette,maryada, is an aspect of dharma, or duty. By following dharma one gets all happiness in life. By succumbing to adharma, there may be temporary happiness here and there, but the end result is misery. Rebirth is evidence enough of the fact. Following dharma brings progress towards the achievement of the end of rebirth.
The pinnacle achievement is love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. Hanuman has that in full. Beaming with devotion through and through, he can do amazing things, like leap across a vast ocean and find a princess he had never met before. More amazing than that, he can speak eloquently and flawlessly about the Supreme Lord Rama, who is very dear to Sita. Hanuman is the most qualified person to give Rama-katha, which is the elixir for the distressed. Even the person who has no etiquette whatsoever, who has been controlled by their senses for their entire life, can be saved through just hearing about Rama from a qualified person like Hanuman.
In Closing:
When to child punishment gave,
Own transgression parents to save.

Otherwise like hypocrite appearing,
For the child’s wellbeing fearing.

Rama system of etiquette making,
But lead in following it also taking.

Towards Rama-katha from Hanuman go,
Since ideal ruler, the best person to know,