Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Fallible Figuring Out The Infallible

image11[4]“Every living entity within this material world is subject to four deficiencies: he commits mistakes, he accepts one thing for another, he cheats, and he has imperfect senses. The Vedas, however, are not written by any living creature within this material world. Therefore they are said to be apaurusheya. No one can trace out the history of the Vedas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.2.31 Purport)

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One of the more interesting revelations from Vedic literature is the listing of four defects that are inherent to every human being. We know some already from the journey through life. There is the saying: “To err is human,” which is basically saying that man makes mistakes. No one is perfect. Even someone you respect very much, they can let you down. Even the most honest person has told a lie at some point in their lives.

One of the four defects listed in the Vedas is that man commits mistakes. This is essentially the same as saying that man is error-prone. When watching a baseball game, certain plays are routine. If there is a groundball hit to third base, there is the expectation of an out. But sometimes the fielder bobbles the ball or their throw is offline. In the official scoring of the game, the play goes down as an error. There is a record of errors to show just how imperfect a player is.

image23[4]If every person commits mistakes, then how do we get perfect knowledge? This is a valid concern, for we know that we can’t figure out everything on our own. I know that it takes the combination of a man and a woman to create life, but I’m not exactly sure how that happened with my birth. It was me who lived in the womb and then emerged from it, but I don’t remember the experience. I have to take it on the authority of the mother and father that it happened.

I know who their parents are, and maybe a few generations before, but who are the original parents? Who is the origin of everything? If even my parents make mistakes, who is to say that others in the past did not do the same? This original person is God, the Almighty, but how am I to know about Him if I must accept authority?

For starters, there is faith extended no matter which path is chosen in life. I have to trust others in order to survive. There is no other way. The idea is to extend faith to the right people. With the origin of everything, His attributes, qualities, and tendencies are described in sacred books. The original works are known as the Vedas. The word “original” here is for our understanding only, giving a point in time relative to something else. They are original in the sense that no other books came before them.

Still, we can’t trace out an original date of composition. This is because the concept of “original” is absent as it relates to God. He is the beginning of the beginning, but there is a beginning even before that. He is both beginning-less and endless. The works that describe Him inherit the same properties.

How can we trust that the Vedas don’t have a date of inception? We have to extend faith to the beings empowered by God. If viewed as living entities roaming through life just like us, then these authorities are certainly fallible. They commit mistakes, have imperfect senses, get easily illusioned and also cheat from time to time. When they take up devotional service, however, everything changes. The nature of the activities is perfect. They would never refer to themselves as flawless, but they know that their teacher was. They know that the teachings they forward to others are perfect as well.

The original teacher is God, who is known as Achyuta. This word means that He never falls down. He does not have any of the four defects. He is the infallible one. It is impossible for the fallible to know the infallible without the help of the infallible. The factual history and philosophy that is the Bhagavad-gita perfectly symbolizes this. The distressed warrior Arjuna wants to know what to do in a particular situation, but he’s really asking about the meaning of life and how it should be lived.

His questions are answered by Shri Krishna, who is Achyuta in the original, spiritual form. Krishna helps Arjuna understand Him. Krishna explains that He is the origin of the disciplic succession, that both material and spiritual worlds emanate from Him. Krishna creates, maintains and annihilates. Millennium after millennium He appears in the manifest world in His own transcendental form.

IMG_261313[4]It is impossible for the fallible to understand these things through speculation alone. Krishna gives hope to others who wouldn’t be favored by His direct audience. He recommends approaching someone who has seen the truth, a bona fide spiritual master. Such a person can explain the same concepts because they have seen the transcendental light themselves. Those who are helped by Achyuta go on to help others, conquering over the four defects through the aid of the all-perfect one.

In Closing:

Since every being fallible,

Needing help from the infallible.


From Him knowledge descends,

On His word a wise soul depends.


Then to others passing on,

Meant to be contemplated upon.


Extend faith in the beginning some,

And from Achyuta ever wise become.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Boundaries Overthrown

image7“Krishna sometimes played with His intimate friends by engaging in fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball, sometimes by playing chess, sometimes by carrying one another on the shoulders, and sometimes by exhibiting their expertness at whirling logs.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)

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“Do you want to know my biggest fear? Living properly. I don’t want to conform to what everyone else wants. I can’t pretend that my life is some rehearsed show, with every scene scripted beforehand and every move within it choreographed. The last thing I want to do is be limited by outside expectation. Freedom is the essence of living. I want to enjoy. Why do you want me to follow religious life, then? That is the antithesis of freedom. It says that I should avoid this and that, that I should think a certain way. It creates too many boundaries. I had enough of those during my twelve years of school. Why should I continue with it for the rest of my life?”

These concerns are valid. Who wants to live life according to a plan that someone else has made? One of the reasons the nap is so enjoyable is that it is unstructured. It can last for fifteen minutes or two hours. You don’t even have to fall asleep; you can just lay there. The pressure to wake up at a certain time is also absent. In the journey through life there are so many pressures, so why add on to it by following spiritual life?

To be clear, in the culture of devotion there are many recommended regulations. Though the Sanskrit term to describe the discipline is bhakti-yoga, it seems more like enrolling in military school. The day starts by arising early. The period right before sunrise is known as brahma-muhurta, and it is considered the most auspicious time for engaging in spiritual life. It is not surprising that the backbone practice of devotional service, the definition to bhakti-yoga, is perfectly suited for this time period.

Chant the holy names in the wee morning hours. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, for eventually you will wake up. You won’t regret having gotten up early since you will have done something very important. As the sun rises you will hear the holy names emanating from your very own mouth: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

TulsiDevi17The discipline doesn’t stop there. If you are living in a temple, you should next perform an arati ceremony for the important personalities. There is Tulasi Devi, who is a great devotee of the Lord, taking the form of a sacred plant. Then there is the guru, the spiritual master who introduced you to bhakti-yoga and gave you this step by step plan to follow. Of course there is God Himself, mercifully appearing before you as the archa-vigraha, the deity. Man lacks the eyes to see God as He truly is, but the Supreme is so kind that if desired He can appear in a form that is sufficient for viewing, worshiping and understanding.

If not living in a temple, then a modified, scaled down version of the same routine can be done at home. The next step is to go to work. Yet the idea is to remain conscious of God the person throughout. If you are in full-time devotional life, there are many activities that can occupy the entire day. No matter where a person goes after leaving home in the morning, there is always the option to hear about God. This is accomplished easily through books, which the Vedic tradition has many.

There are important rules to follow throughout the day. Don’t eat meat. Don’t take intoxicants, and avoid gambling. If you’re going to have sexual relations, make sure they are not illicit, i.e. only have them with your spouse and for the purpose of begetting children. Don’t offend others who are on the same path of devotion. Try to exclusively eat Krishna prasadam, which is food sanctified through first offering to the Supreme Lord. Follow this routine day after day, and watch as your consciousness gets purified.

IMG_003614This is a lot to follow. To the skeptic, it looks no different than enrolling in school. There is another perspective to consider, however. To the person swimming in the nectar of devotion, material life looks like prison. They wonder how any person could do the same thing, day after day for thirty plus years. They can’t understand how a person would want to sit in an office, suffering for so long just so they can put food on the table. Evidence of the misery is the widespread use of intoxicants, the devotee will say.

The strong distaste for material life is one of the factors leading to the full-time enrollment in the path of bhakti-yoga. The idea is to implement restriction in order to increase enjoyment. When there is pure devotion to God the person, there are no boundaries. This is because the object of service is Himself limitless. In our world, there is a pinnacle to achievement. The boss of the company cannot go any higher. The President of the United States cannot gain a higher post. Once you are the richest person in the world, there is only one direction to go: down.

In the spiritual world, God the person can turn one minus one into two. It is illogical to us, but logic is merely one of the boundaries of this world. Since the attractiveness of the Supreme Lord is complete and unimaginable, one of His many names is Krishna. That all-attractive person has a transcendental land that He calls home. One would be surprised to know that Krishna does nothing all day in Vrindavana. He is not compelled to act. He is not burdened by responsibilities. Like a carefree child He plays in the pristine fields with His friends. Loveable animals are there as well. Despite so many people living there, strife is absent. Everyone gets along; familiarity does not breed contempt.

image1The more one is with Krishna, the more they desire to please Him. They feel alive by acting in service to Him. The same attitude is replicated in any area where devotion flourishes. The person following bhakti-yoga can write endlessly about the glories of the all-attractive one. They can apply full creativity in the culinary arts for pleasing Krishna and His devotees. They can paint, draw, sing, speak, or craft day after day without getting tired. Indeed, the only way to be truly free, to have the boundaries of life removed, is to take up devotion in full surrender to the jewel of Vrindavana, the heart and soul of the always blissful devoted souls.

In Closing:

Be happy, from boundaries overthrown,

Follow desires, to each person his own.


Though opposite religious appearing,

Every obstacle to happiness clearing.


At Krishna in Vrindavana have a peek,

For His pleasure does each person seek.


Flute carrying, with nothing to do,

Looking all-attractive with bluish hue.

Dispelling Apparitions

nac50412“O conqueror of wealth, Arjuna, have you heard this attentively with your mind? And are your illusions and ignorance now dispelled?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.72)

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kaccid etac chrutaṁ pārtha

tvayaikāgreṇa cetasā

kaccid ajñāna-sammohaḥ

praṇaṣṭas te dhanañjaya

You want to take up bhakti-yoga. You’ve been interested ever since you first heard of it. It was a chance encounter, a book lying on a table in a bookstore. You got it just before one of the workers placed it back on the shelf. Prior to that you didn’t consider yourself to be very religious. You believed in God, but your thoughts never went beyond that.

Bhagavad-gita_bookshelf_ibooks14You read this book and heard the repeated call for engaging in loving devotion to God the person through regularly chanting of His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The verses about the deathlessness of the individual, how the spirit soul is perpetual in its existence, really caught your attention. You’d never heard anyone describe such things. You don’t see any statements about required faith, about joining a specific institution. The focus is on changing consciousness, which makes more sense to you.

The problem is that bhakti-yoga isn’t the most popular way of living. In fact, you don’t know a single person who engages in it. If this information resonates so much with you, why not with others? Maybe everyone else has it right. Just live your life; don’t think too much. Get a job, earn a paycheck, support yourself and your family, and enjoy. When death comes, embrace it. Don’t think so much about the afterlife.

Following what others are doing is the path of least resistance. Arjuna tried it as well on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Why go through a ghastly war when peace could be achieved in one second? All Arjuna had to do was give up. He was the leading fighter for his side, so without him they barely stood a chance of winning. He could roam the forests instead, free from responsibility. He would enjoy life more that way, or so he thought.

kurukshetra-war-DC74_l13This thinking was due to succumbing to an illusion. The thought of a better life through quitting was merely an apparition. It was a ghastly image that the opposing side was glad to see. They would stand to benefit as a result of Arjuna’s reluctance. Fortunately for the great bow warrior, he had Shri Krishna by his side. Krishna gave Arjuna the gift of knowledge, which was like a weapon to slash away the doubts.

The same Krishna many years prior dispelled other apparitions. They appeared as an intentional distraction, a way to demoralize troops in an army. On that occasion the good guys were monkey-like creatures coming from Kishkindha. The bad guy was Ravana, who had many capable men fighting for him. After they failed to defend Lanka, Ravana himself took to the battlefield.

He was a Rakshasa by quality and behavior, and so he had the ability to employ black magic in his fighting. When needed, he would display images showing the monkey side losing. The good guys were led by Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Ravana would make apparitions depicting Rama and Lakshmana defeated, the monkeys losing badly, and other such negative scenes.

WLW-BetterThanaSuperhero_13496-CIMG0[1]The false images worked, for a time. They attacked the will of the monkeys to fight. Seeing this, Rama decided to put an end to the charade. Shooting an arrow from His illustrious bow, the image suddenly disappeared. Then the monkey-army could again see clearly. They were emboldened by the Supreme Lord Himself.

The same thing happened with Arjuna, as Krishna, who is the same Rama, dispelled the doubts that had arisen in the warrior’s mind. Today, the person who takes bhakti-yoga sees many such images. They hear about the negative things that prominent spiritual leaders have done. They see others on television enjoying the senses, amassing great wealth and spending it. They see so many things, but they don’t realize the illusory nature of the images. They don’t realize that in every society there are bad people, that material life cannot guarantee against bad association. They don’t remember the many past celebrities who were ruined by fame and wealth. They don’t recall their own experiences with alcohol abuse and laziness.

The same Rama is ready to shoot His arrows to dispel these illusions. He does so through the medium of sound. The name Rama brings the association of the person Rama. By saying Krishna we get Krishna. The more one associates with the Supreme Lord, the more benefit they get. Then gradually the illusion starts to dissipate. Seeing clearly, the fortunate continue in devotional service, which is the eternal occupation of the spirit soul.

In Closing:

So many illusions to see,

By Lord only can be free.


Like Arjuna on battlefield with doubt,

Wanting renunciation, responsibility without.


In Lanka’s conflict Ravana with apparition,

Showing monkeys’ and Rama’s destruction.


Ended with a single arrow released,

In strength of holy name have belief.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Five Things To Know About Lord Shiva

IMG_016414“Lord Shiva takes charge of reforming persons who are ghosts and demons, not to speak of others, who are godly; therefore he is the spiritual master of everyone, both the dull and demoniac and the highly learned Vaishnavas. It is also stated, vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh: Shambhu, Lord Shiva, is the greatest of all Vaishnavas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.2.2 Purport)

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Vedic culture is not polytheistic. Visit any Hindu temple or look at any poster found in a typical follower’s home and you would think otherwise. You see many deities worshiped. Even if the temple is dedicated to a single worshipable figure, there are usually at least two people on the altar: one male and one female. What does it all mean? There is Lord Vishnu, but there is also Lord Shiva. Goddess Durga is there as well.

The idea is that people are born with different qualities. This should be obvious to us. Not everyone is destined for a career in the National Basketball Association. Even if you are skilled as a youth, the chances of making it to the pros are very slim. The top performers are gifted; they have skills that are in the highest percentile of the population.

Then there are others who are naturally intelligent. They can figure things out quickly. They remember things after hearing them only a single time. Think of the person who does well in school without having to study so much. On the flip side, there are people who struggle with learning. They are not so intelligent.

For each person there is a system of religion, or dharma, available to them. Vedic culture is all-inclusive. Not everyone will immediately accept the highest truth that an existence is meant for full surrender to God the person. It takes many lifetimes even before knowing the Supreme Lord in truth; such a soul is rare.

bahūnāṁ janmanām ante

jñānavān māṁ prapadyate

vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti

sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

Among the prominent figures worshiped is Lord Shiva. There are many sides to his activities, and also to his worshipers. Some of the greatest fiends in history have been devoted to Shiva, but so have many pious souls. What does this say about God the person? What is significant about Shiva and why is he worshiped?

1. He is the destroyer.

Man has been puzzled by the question of the origin of the creation since as far back as recorded history goes. Yet time is actually infinite in both directions, forwards and backwards. It’s really not so important to know when the creation came into being because eventually it will get destroyed again. The cycle continues perpetually. Lord Brahma takes care of creation, Vishnu maintenance, and Shiva destruction.

This means that Lord Shiva is very powerful. He is not an ordinary living entity. He is Mahadeva, or the great godly figure. If he has the power to destroy the entire creation, he can do anything within that level of destruction whenever he so chooses. It is natural for the less powerful to worship the more powerful; hence the prominence of worship of Shiva.

2. He is charged with reforming the demoniac.

Parents don’t treat their children equally. If one child is constantly lying and getting into trouble, the parents will be stiffer in their punishment. If another child is always honest and happens to slip up one time, they will be more lenient, willing to let the transgression slide.

In the same way, the most demoniac of God’s children get different treatment. Lord Shiva is in charge of reforming them. The demoniac don’t know what is right or wrong. They are so low that they are willing to eat other human beings for flesh. They have no qualms about killing. By worshiping Lord Shiva for material rewards, they get an introduction to religion. At least they are worshiping someone in an authorized way.

3. Though he is in charge of the mode of ignorance, he is above it.

Brahma is in charge of passion, Vishnu goodness, and Shiva ignorance, or darkness. Each individual has a combination of these three modes when appearing in the material world. Darkness is the mode the aforementioned demoniac are in. Just because Lord Shiva is their worshipable figure of choice doesn’t mean that Shiva is himself in ignorance. Though he spends time in crematoriums, wears ashes on his body, and drinks poison, it doesn’t mean that Mahadeva is tainted in any way.

He is spotless in character. He is not attached to his duty of giving out material rewards. One of his many other names is Ashutosha. This means “easily pleased.” Basically, he doesn’t want his worshipers to disturb his meditation. He quickly gives whatever they ask for, since he knows that material benedictions are not so important either way.

4. He is the greatest Vaishnava, and therefore the spiritual master for everyone.

Shiva meditates on Vishnu, who is the personal God. More specifically, he always thinks of the Supreme Lord’s form of Shri Ramachandra, whose deeds are famously described in the Ramayana. So on one side the demoniac worship Mahadeva for material benedictions. Through his association they gradually become reformed.

IMG_016432On the other side the pious also worship Mahadeva. They don’t seek material rewards from him, but rather blessings in the further advancement of devotional practices. Shiva is thus the guru for the entire world. Every aspect of the creation can find something of value in his association.

5. He grants liberation, but in a subtle way.

Vishnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract concept known as God. Vishnu is also Krishna and Rama. The Supreme Lord is never limited to a single personal form. One of Vishnu’s many names is Mukunda, which means one who grants mukti. Mukti is liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death.

Lord Shiva also grants mukti, but in a more subtle way. He arranges for the devotee to get liberation through the favor of the Supreme Lord. It is said that the person who dies in Shiva’s holy city of Kashi gets mukti. This is because when they are quitting their body, Mahadeva whispers the name of Rama into their ear.

image17This fact gives further evidence of Mahadeva’s status of spiritual master for the whole world. The sound of the holy name is as potent as the person it addresses. It is for this reason that Lord Shiva always repeats the name of Rama. He enables others to hear it as well. When people engage in devotion to the same Rama, Mahadeva is very pleased. It is for this reason that the great god is always favorable to those who regularly chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To destroy world when time to expire,

Acting as spiritual master for population entire.


To demons some good association giving,

For pious blessings for devotional living.


In charge of mode of ignorance though,

Spotless is his character know.


Lord Shiva, in Kashi giving jewel of the ear,

Departing souls name of Rama to hear.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Talking About The Fortunate Losers

37454_140205819328649_10000017695179“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

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bahūnāṁ janmanām ante

jñānavān māṁ prapadyate

vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti

sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

Friend1: Have you noticed something about people who take up bhakti-yoga in earnest?

Friend2: What do you mean by “in earnest”? Like people who are serious about it?

Friend1: Right. Someone who chants the holy names on a regular basis. They have a daily routine with the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: What have I noticed about them? They’re happy; that’s one thing.

Friend1: I can’t deny that. But have you ever had conversations with them about outside stuff?

Friend2: Politics and the like?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Not really.

Friend1: Well, they seem quick to believe conspiracy theories. I don’t want to label them “kooks,” but their ideas on things are not in the mainstream.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: And just in general, a lot of them are weird. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s just my observation.

Friend2: Weird as in not like people you typically encounter?

Friend1: There you go. They’re atypical. That sounds less offensive.

Friend2: And are you wondering why so many of them are like that? Basically, you want to know why your friends at the office and from school aren’t into bhakti-yoga. Why do only the oddballs take it up?

Friend1: Well, I know that the common critique from outsiders is that these people are lost. They couldn’t make it in the real world, so they tried to find solace in this strange religion from the East.

Friend2: And what is your opinion of that?

Friend1: In some ways it’s valid. You don’t see rich and successful people taking bhakti-yoga seriously. It tends to be younger people, those who are less established in the business world.

Friend2: I would dispute the claim that they are lost, but for argument’s sake let’s continue further. So what if they truly are losers in material life? Is that a bad thing?

Friend1: I’m not saying it’s bad, but wouldn’t it be better if people from all walks of life would strive for the devotional consciousness? Wouldn’t that give people more confidence in the process?

Friend2: I look at it totally differently. If they are indeed lost, then how fortunate they are. Instead of spending years sitting behind a computer monitor at an office, repeating the cycle of work and relaxation for year after year, they searched for a higher taste. Do you realize how rare it is for someone to do that?

Friend1: Isn’t there a verse in the Bhagavad-gita that addresses that?

Friend2: There are a few. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says that after many births a person finally understands Him to be the cause of all causes. Such a soul is rare. There is also another verse that says that out of thousands among men, only one will endeavor to understand Him. Those precious few that succeed still will have a difficult time knowing Krishna in truth.

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu

kaścid yatati siddhaye

yatatām api siddhānāṁ

kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)

Friend1: That’s what I was thinking of.

Friend2: The issue here is that you’re focusing on the path instead of the goal. Let’s say you have two people who are thirsty. One person reaches a source of water very quickly, while the other keeps on searching. Even after being told where the water is, they remain skeptical.

Friend1: So even if these people seem a little strange, at least they have something valuable. Is that what you’re saying?

37454_140205819328649_10000017695179[3]Friend2: Not just any object of value - the most valuable thing in an existence. They are the most fortunate souls since they have found the pinnacle achievement of bhakti-yoga. There is nothing higher in an existence than devotional service to God the person. Your judgment of their losing in material life is actually the Divine mercy being showered upon them. We should all pray to be as fortunate, to not waste anymore time in accepting the path of full surrender to the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Why only the oddballs chanting to see,

Why not intelligent class to be?


Though losing in material life sign,

From that in proper consciousness to align.


Thus most fortunate are they,

Who quickly found bhakti’s way.


Should everyone blessed to so quickly taste,

Then time in material life no more to waste.

That Difficult Thing To Find

avatars19“It is very difficult to find the origin of the cosmic manifestation; therefore material scientists conclude that nature is the ultimate cause of all manifestations. But from shastra, or authentic literature like Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures, we understand that behind this wonderful cosmic manifestation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in order to maintain the regular procedures of the cosmic manifestation and to be visible to the eyes of persons who are in the mode of goodness, the Lord appears.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.1.57 Purport)

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You’ve been having a problem with your phone for a while now. There is this strange streak of discoloration along the top. You’re not sure how it happened. It looks like something is pressed against the screen, distorting the pixels. It started out small, but now it’s grown, out of your range of acceptability. You took it to the store that sells these phones and they said they will only replace it for a new one, a move which is quite expensive.

You ask around and everyone has the same opinion. “Just do the upgrade,” they tell you. “These phones aren’t meant to last forever.” It doesn’t seem right to you. You would rather just repair it, but it seems those stores don’t exist. You search for them on the internet, but to no avail. Then one day your luck changes. You’re driving past a shopping center and notice a sign for a store that says they do such repairs. You only came across this area because you had a visit to the dentist; otherwise you would never travel there.

image10You walk in, and sure enough, they do exactly what you need. A mere hour later you have a working phone that looks almost new. You tell your skeptical friends about it and they are amazed. “Huh. Who knew,” they tell you. They thought it was impossible, that since you and others could not find such a store that it did not exist. Through good fortune you found something important that you were seeking after.

This is but a simple example dealing with an issue that is trivial in the grand scheme of things. In the larger picture, man has been looking for the origin ever since he has set foot on this earth. We know that life comes from life. In spite of the promises of scientists in the name of progress, there has yet to be any new life created without the ingredients of existing life. As everything has an origin, what came before this earth? Who was the first human being? Was it even a person?

Unable to find that elusive origin, the consensus of scientists have decided that nature is the cause. Never mind that nature right now can’t do anything on its own. We don’t see objects colliding to create astral bodies capable of heating the entire universe without requiring an external fuel source. We don’t see objects randomly gathering together to make large masses that float in the sky in perpetuity, that rotate and revolve in predictable patterns.

Though the origin is hard to find, it exists. It can even be seen by an individual right now; a special machine is not required. What is needed, however, is the proper consciousness. More specifically, a person should be in the mode of goodness. If they are looking to exploit the resources of this world, then they are out of luck. If they want to know the origin so that they can imitate it or somehow usurp its standing, they will never find that hidden treasure.

If their inquisitiveness is genuine and they are actually free of desires for material gain, mystic perfection and renunciation, then they are eligible to see the origin. One way to describe that origin is Bhagavan, which means “Supreme Personality of Godhead.” The origin is an individual, and He is a supreme one. Intelligence belongs to intelligent beings. There is intelligence to the creation, which means that an intelligent being created it. He is the most intelligent, since His creation operates continuously without outside intervention. No one can do anything to the sun. You can’t stop it from shining light. If the sun stopped functioning, life would not continue. All our future plans would be nullified. There would be no hope for anything.

Yet the sun continues to operate, as does the entire material nature. Bhagavan appears in this world to make it happen. He directly reveals Himself to the people in the mode of goodness from time to time. They appreciate His presence, understand His position, and then continue to serve Him afterwards. Some even record their impressions to be preserved for future generations. I may not have been around in 18th century America, but I know who George Washington is, what he did, and what he looks like. This is because of the written word that describes him. It gets passed on to future generations.

We can know of Bhagavan in the same way. He has come to earth in a form visible to the pious many times. The impious see Him too, but they fail to recognize Him. In the same way that the scientists fail to recognize His hand guiding the workings of the creation, the biggest enemies to pious behavior see the Supreme Lord and His amazing ability and still don’t realize who He is.

DSC0454718The origin is already there. Nothing can change the fact. The only way to find it is to first rise to the mode of goodness. Follow procedures laid down in Vedic philosophy, which is taught to the time and circumstance by the acharya. The acharya is also a kind of avatara of the Supreme Lord. He is God appearing in the form of an instructor. The acharya is the guru who leads by example; they have the shakti, or power, to deliver fallen souls out of darkness.

They actually change the consciousness. They don’t simply touch someone to effect a magical change. Through following the principles of devotional life under their guidance, there is elevation to the mode of goodness. Then one is eligible to see God; but beyond that there is more. There is an origin for sure, but why? Why does Bhagavan create everything? Why is He so difficult to find?

The elusiveness of the origin is intentional. If God were so easy to find, then hardly anyone would be in ignorance. They are how they are because that’s how they wanted it. They want to be separate from God. Vedic philosophy reveals this to us and by carefully studying man’s behavior we can come to no other conclusion. The population is in a stiff competition to see who can be a greater origin, who can rule the world in terms of beauty, wealth, strength, fame or wisdom. For as long as the desire to compete remains, the clear idea of God continues to be elusive.

avatars41This material world is known as durga, which means “difficult to overcome.” It is like a fort that has high walls, the biggest fence to keep the prisoners inside. Yet Durga Devi works for the Supreme Lord Krishna, which means that the devotee of Krishna can pass across easily if they so desire. The key is to see with the proper vision, to give up exploitation and competition to become God. Sincerity is everything in spiritual life, and today the best way to make sincerity known is to chant the holy names with love and attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Despite scientists remaining unaware,

Origin to everything is there.


An individual, a person is He,

Only in mode of goodness can see.


Many times in past has appeared,

Obstructions from devotional path cleared.


By the envious never to be known,

His divine mercy only to the sincere is shown.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Only Consciousness Will I Save

image46“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti

yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ

gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti

vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

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“I love my job. I get to work on something new every day. Sure, things don’t always function properly right away. Each morning I’m greeted by an email inbox full of complaints about different bugs, aspects of my programs malfunctioning. Still, these applications are mine. I build them. The job is not easy, but it’s a lot of fun. The day goes by quickly. Since I’m in the field of technology, things are always changing. I’m never bored.”

“I love my car. I’ve had it for so long. I’m one of those handy people. Unless it’s a major repair, I do the maintenance myself. If you take care of your car, it will take care of you. I’ve had this longer than most people keep a car. Why buy a new one when the one I’ve got treats me so well? It runs almost like new. I could never imagine driving another one.”

“I love this restaurant near my home. We go there as a family at least once a week. When I was younger, it was almost like a local hangout. There’s two sections to it: one for quick orders and another for fancier dining. They have a bar area too, so sometimes I go there to watch a game with my friends. I can’t imagine living without this place. The food is great, the people are wonderful, and I’ve had so many special moments there. If I ever have to move, I’d miss this place the most.”

“I love my friends and family. I think most people do. It’s only natural. They care for me so much. I never have to ask. My friends are sometimes jealous, but then so am I. If I tell them about something good happening to me, they’re not as happy as when I fail at something. Still, I don’t care. It’s the support. It’s the association. What wonderful gifts I have in life.”

To the individual in each of these situations the object of attention is very important. Life is a difficult journey, after all. Especially once reaching adulthood, there is the issue of direction. Where is my life going? What should I be doing? What is the objective of living? How do I avoid repeating the same activities day after day? It is no wonder that people take to intoxication to forget their troubles. Who wants to think about everything ending at some point? Why not keep your mind occupied on something else?

From Vedic philosophy we learn that there is no reason to fear. The wise person takes the situation at hand and assesses the options. Basically, the more informed you are, the better off you will be. What does it mean to be informed? In the spiritual science the first instruction is on the distinction between body and spirit. I am spirit soul. My body does not identify me. Even modern science has done research into this. They say that the cells in the body get completely replaced after a certain number of years. Yet the individual remains the same. This is one example of how reincarnation works.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

imageThe Bhagavad-gita says that after death, we get another body. The whole things shifts at one time, instead of a gradual change. Also, the subtle elements move on. In addition to the body that we can see, there are elements inside that we can’t. These are mind, intelligence and ego. The different tendencies in the human being are due to the subtle body carrying over from the previous life. We see that someone is naturally intelligent, while someone else is not. We see that some are inclined towards athletics, while others are interested in philosophy.

The subtle elements determine consciousness. The symptom of a living being is consciousness. Since we are spirit and not matter, we exist perpetually. The soul can never be killed. Through aggression a person can try to remove another person from the world. No matter how hard they try, the worst they can do is force the living being to exit their body and take a new one at the time of the next birth.

vedāvināśinaṁ nityaṁ

ya enam ajam avyayam

kathaṁ sa puruṣaḥ pārtha

kaṁ ghātayati hanti kam

“O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.21)

Since spirit lives on, so does consciousness. The consciousness carries over from birth to birth. Shri Krishna compares the transfer to the air carrying aromas. A person is cooking something downstairs in the kitchen, but through the power of air the aroma reaches all the way upstairs to the bedroom. If there’s enough food cooking, the air can carry outside as well. Think of the smell of a pizza parlor or an establishment that cooks fried food.

The things we typically consider to be so important don’t come with us after death. The computer program, despite requiring intelligence and time to make, does not carry over. The same goes for the car, the house, and even the association of friends and family. Consciousness comes along, so the wise try to shape the best consciousness while living.

What is the best consciousness? Is there a way to judge? Consciousness determines the nature of the next birth. It also plays an important role in the way the present life is lived. If the consciousness is right, a person can be happy in any situation. Through mental speculation, a philosopher will say that the secret of life is love. Love others as much as you can. Don’t ruin your life through hate.

The best consciousness does come through love. The key is to find the real kind of love, one that is free of impediments. Find someone you can love for lifetime after lifetime. Find someone who will always accept your service, no matter how much you offer. Find someone who will appreciate even the smallest effort. Find someone who will provide for you no matter what.

That someone already rests within us. He is the Supreme Lord. He is known as Krishna since He is all-attractive. He appreciates every effort made towards connecting with Him. He shows this by living inside of us as the Supersoul. Even though we have forgotten Him, He does not hold the transgression against us. He provides for us in every species, in every lifetime. The material elements sustain life, and they are not the property of any person or governing body. A person may plant the flag of their nation on a particular piece of land, but the earth was there before. No one can say they own the sun, the moon, the ocean or the air.

bala_krishna_offering14Consciousness of Krishna is the best because it remains lifetime after lifetime. As the individual spirit lives forever, so does the Supreme Lord. He can be served forever. People have made a test of this service, known as bhakti-yoga, and found that the pleasure only increases with time. Rather than getting bored and moving on to something else, the devotees keep thinking of more ways to serve and please the Lord. He reciprocates by remaining in their consciousness.

At the time of death, the yogi who has reached the pinnacle of consciousness has a seamless transfer to the next destination, where that devotion will thrive and flourish even more. The one thing that the individual saves, the consciousness, is the most valuable possession, something that can prevent the cycle of birth and death in a temporary world from continuing.

In Closing:

My computer program working on,

Beauty of possessions to dwell upon.


Relations and of friends so fond,

Yet none to accompany to the beyond.


Like aromas carrying through the air,

Into next life, consciousness to be there.


So of Shri Krishna, the best person make,

Devotional life into eternity with you take.