Saturday, February 13, 2016

The One And Zero Game

IMG_13714“Unless situated by the side of the Supreme One, zero is always zero; one may add one hundred zeros, but the value will still remain zero. Unless one's material assets are used in Krishna consciousness, they may play havoc and degrade the possessor.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.3.17 Purport)

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Imagine this situation. You wake up in the morning on time, ready to go to work. You stick to everything in your daily routine, but there is one problem. When you go outside towards the car in the driveway, you notice that one of the tires is flat. Usually this wouldn’t be that big of an issue, since there is the spare tire in the trunk that you can easily use as a substitute. The spare is gone, however, since one of your friends borrowed it a few weeks ago.

Though you will be a little late, you’re not panicking. You know that others can help you out. You call your friends and family who live nearby. One after another, they each are eager to help you. The problem is, they keep offering items that are not relevant to the situation. One person says they have an extra snowbrush they can lend to you. Another one says that they have excess wiper fluid that they’ve been looking to get rid of. You are offered the aid of so many items, from spark plugs to headlight bulbs. The one thing you need to get the car going again, however, is absent.

image8This is analogous to the situation of the human being who has so many material assets, but lacks one very important thing. Material assets are part of the external energy of the Supreme Lord. We can also think of it like having a giant room full of toys. To the child this is heaven, but the adult wants more. Maturity in intelligence means they have moved on to different activities. They thirst for something higher, something to match their intellect.

The comparison often made in Vedic literature is to the numbers one and zero. Material assets are like a bunch of zeros. By themselves they are worthless. You can have the biggest house in the world and a fleet of the rarest and most expensive cars, but if you don’t know how to drive and don’t have anything to do in the house, what is the opulence worth to you?

By applying a little intelligence, one sees that the experience in the human species is really no different than what the animals go through. The wealthy person sleeps on a mattress that has firmness settings that can be changed with the press of a button. The dog sleeps on the floor. There seems to be a difference in experience, but the taste of sleeping is really the same. In the exchange between the senses and the objects of the senses, the experience is practically the same for all living beings, regardless of the level of intelligence.

The human being has the unique opportunity to add the Divine into their life. His presence is equated with a one or any other non-zero numeral. If you put a single one digit in front of a zero, you get a number of value. The zero turns into something meaningful. All it takes is a single one. Then you add many zeros and increase the value even more.

“Shri Rama’s holy name is like a numeral, and all religious practices are like zero. When the numeral is not there, zero means nothing. But when it is present, the resultant value increases tenfold.” (Dohavali, 10)

Rama_Deities16The one is the key factor, but before that arrives is it better to have many zeros or just a few? In the general case, the more zeros there are, the less likelihood there will be of finding the one and holding on to it. We can go back to the playroom example. If the child had something more important to do, like go to sleep on time or finish homework for school, an increase in the number of toys in the room increases the chances of being distracted. If they had nothing in the room, they are more likely to do the responsible thing, provided someone is there to show them. This only makes sense, as one of the primary methods of punishment meted out by the parents is removing toys for a period of time.

In the same way, if a person is not overwhelmed materially, they are more likely to look for answers in life. More material assets means an increased chance of being distracted in search for the meaning to life. There is more to go through, more objects to taste and then reject. Prahlada Maharaja describes it as chewing the chewed, repeating the same experience but thinking that a different outcome will result.

śrī-prahrāda uvāca

matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā

mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām

adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ

punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām

“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

33712Regardless of how one gets there, the acquisition of the valuable one digit changes everything. The Divine is a person originally, an all-attractive one. Since He has something that appeals to every single person, He is known as Krishna. Since He holds full transcendental pleasure, He is known as Rama. Since He is the all-pervading maintainer of all species, He is known as Vishnu. His energy who serves Him without fail, who helps those struggling with so many zeros to get out of the haze and confusion and find the transcendental light, is known as Hare. The easiest way in the modern day to get the association of the one Krishna and the energy Hare is to chant their names as often as possible: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then the material assets, whether large or small in number, can be put to the best use, assuming a real value.

In Closing:

No matter how many zeros there,

That no value to them aware.


As long as one there is not,

Nothing tangible you’ve got.


The zeros to material world compare,

And the one to Divine presence there.


Krishna in your life today take,

And real value to possessions make.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Five People Who Saw God and What They Did After

image10“Many saintly persons and sages like Narada Muni and others used to visit the palace of King Bhishmaka. Naturally Rukmini had a chance to talk with them, and in this way she obtained information about Krishna. She was informed about the six opulences of Krishna, and simply by hearing about Him, she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)

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It’s a question that’s been asked since the beginning of time. “Does God exist?” To those who answer in the affirmative, the follow up typically is, “Can you show me?” The visual will provide the evidence. I know I am in Paris if I see the Eiffel Tower. I know I am in New York City by seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. People are open to believing in God, but they’d like some evidence to feel more secure in their belief.

From studying Vedic literature, we learn that God is actually all around. The presence of life is proof in itself of the Divine’s existence. You cannot have life without the original giver of life. Nothing moves without His sanction. The blades of grass feel the blowing of the wind through His energy. The massive tree emerges from the tiny seed through a miracle arranged by the Supreme Lord.

His existence can be proven through any of the five senses, but more important than getting visual evidence of His existence is following the proper path in life. Vedic literature describes many instances of people meeting God face to face. Some of those people were good and some were bad, and their disposition determined how they acted afterwards.

1. Vibhishana

Based on birth, you would have to put Vibhishana in the “bad” category. He was born in the Rakshasa species, which is like an ogre. They are known for eating human flesh. They lived in a civilized society, but they were mostly in the mode of ignorance.

Vibhishana was an exception, however. He had the divine qualities from birth. He met the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama. The meeting wasn’t under ideal circumstances. Vibhishana renounced his brother Ravana, who had taken Rama’s wife in secret. Vibhishana tried his best to talk sense into Ravana, but the tyrant ruling over Lanka would not listen to anyone.

image27Vibhishana met Rama face to face. He had great love and devotion for the Lord. Life did not end there. It wasn’t like making it to the finish line in a race. Meeting Rama was the continuation and further strengthening of Vibhishana’s dedicated service to the Lord. He helped Rama defeat Ravana and regain Sita. As a reward, Rama made him the new king of Lanka, and Vibhishana has stayed with his devotion ever since.

2. Prahlada Maharaja

This time a five-year old boy saw the Supreme Lord. The form appearing before him wasn’t the handsome prince of Ayodhya. Neither was it the all-attractive Krishna nor the opulently adorned Vishnu. Prahlada saw God in the form of a half-man/half-lion. Known as Narasimha, this unique manifestation of the Divine came to protect Prahlada from the attacks of his wicked father, Hiranyakashipu.

IMG_018112Prahlada did not command God to appear, nor did he explicitly ask for physical help. It was Hiranyakashipu who taunted his son, asking him to prove that God was everywhere, as the boy had claimed. Narasimhadeva affirmed Prahlada’s sound words by appearing from a pillar. After Hiranyakashipu was killed, Prahlada offered nice prayers to the Lord. Narasimhadeva told Prahlada to ask for anything in the world, but Prahlada had no personal desires. He wanted only to continue in devotion, which he did.

3. Hanuman

Likely the most famous deity of the Vedic tradition, Hanuman is known for his devotion to Rama. Hanuman met God face to face in the situation of an investigator. Hanuman took the false form of a brahmana and asked Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana what they were doing in the Kishkindha forest. Rama was so pleased with Hanuman’s presentation that He immediately accepted him as trustworthy. Hanuman, too, immediately held affection for Rama.

HanumanWorship2The meeting wasn’t the end. Hanuman helped Rama by arranging a meeting with the monkey-leader Sugriva. Hanuman then led the search party tasked with finding Sita. He succeeded in that mission, but still didn’t rest after that. There is no such thing as retirement in devotional service. There is always work, since the work is what leads to pleasure. There is no reason to stop, as pure bhakti is without motivation. Hanuman continues his devotion to this day. When asked for a boon by Rama at the Lord’s coronation, Hanuman wished to remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be sung.

4. Rukmini Devi

Rukmini is an expansion of the goddess of fortune, Shri Lakshmi. Lakshmi is always with the Supreme Lord; hence she is known as the eternal consort. Nevertheless, the earthly pastimes between Rukmini and Krishna are instructive. She was the daughter of King Bhishmaka, who had arranged for her to be married to Shishupala. Rukmini did not like this at all, as her heart was set on marrying Krishna.

image23She had never met the Supreme Lord in His all-attractive manifestation that appeared on earth and resided in Dvaraka as the king, but from just hearing about Him she gave her heart to Him. She had a letter sent to Krishna detailing a plan in which He could kidnap her on the day of her marriage to Shishupala. The Supreme Lord is won over by devotion, and so He agreed to the plan. He married Rukmini in the style known as Rakshasa. He battled against valiant fighters to win her hand, and Rukmini in turn was very pleased. She saw God personally on a most auspicious occasion, and things did not end there. She continued in service as the most chaste and dedicated wife.

5. Arjuna

Arjuna was Krishna’s cousin and dear friend during the period of time described in the main narrative of the Mahabharata. This means that Arjuna saw God all the time, but due to the influence of yogamaya he wasn’t constantly aware of Krishna’s divine nature. Therefore He would sometimes refer to Krishna by different names, speaking informally with Him.

Arjuna had a conversation one time with Krishna that famously became known as the Bhagavad-gita. In one part of that essential work of Vedic philosophy, Krishna reveals the universal form to Arjuna. This is the equivalent of seeing God. It is the visual proof insisted upon by the less intelligent. Arjuna did not require this vision, but he asked Krishna to show it for the benefit of future generations.

ihaika-sthaṁ jagat kṛtsnaṁ
paśyādya sa-carācaram
mama dehe guḍākeśa
yac cānyad draṣṭum icchasi

“Whatever you wish to see can be seen all at once in this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.7)

Arjuna saw Krishna directly, in many different ways. He saw the universal form, then the four-handed form of Vishnu, and then again the two-handed form of Krishna. In the beginning Arjuna was in doubt as to how to proceed in an impending war. He saw evidence of God, and that didn’t mean his work was done. Arjuna continued forward, urged on by Krishna. He dedicated his work to the Supreme Lord. This is the true benefit to seeing God. Seeing God is a great thing, but what you do after is more important. Bhakti-yoga, practiced purely, is the true boon of associating with the Divine. Superior to being God-fearing is always having love for God the person.

In Closing:

Wanting desperately to see God soon,

But devotion thereafter true boon.


Vibhishana after brother renounced,

Continued with royal devotion pronounced.


Rukmini won over first by hearing,

Then Krishna for her path clearing.


Arjuna saw Lord in so many ways,

In whatever work in devotion stays.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Roses For No Reason

IMG_13724“The Lord, Hari, whose bodily hue is like the indranila jewel, whose smiling is as beautiful as the kunda flower, whose silk dress is as yellow as golden autumn foliage, whose chest is beautified with garlands of flowers and who is always playing upon His flute - this enemy of the Agha demon is always attracting our hearts by wandering about Vrindavana.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 41)

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How to describe bhakti-yoga to the uninitiated? Is it a religion? Is it a pursuit towards perfection? The people teaching it regularly speak of advancement, of purifying consciousness. Doesn’t that imply a discipline that has goals and objectives? In the purest form bhakti-yoga is ahaituki and apratihata: unmotivated and uninterrupted. There is nothing that compares in material life, so the best way to understand is to take existing interactions and analyze what happens when certain components change.

One example is the gift of flowers. Around the time of Valentine’s Day, there are many advertisements on radio and television from flower vendors:

“Get this bouquet for your loved one. Don’t get caught empty-handed this Valentine’s Day. Show her how much you care. Get her this bouquet.”

flowers_pink12The rule of thumb is that you can’t go wrong with flowers. It’s not like your wife or girlfriend is going to be upset if you get them flowers every year. It’s the ideal gift for birthdays and anniversaries as well. The higher quality the flower, the more sentiment you convey. Roses are the popular flower for Valentine’s Day, symbolizing love.

Worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead also features the offering of flowers. It is specifically mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita as one of the items that will be accepted. The idea is that a flower is something simple and not very costly. There is no stipulation on how many flowers should be included in the offering. In temples that worship God’s personal form of the deity, the flowers are often arranged as garlands and placed around the neck of the worshipable figure.

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ

yo me bhaktyā prayacchati

tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam

aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

IMG_438213The verse in the Bhagavad-gita has a significant word included: bhakti. The offering of a fruit, flower or water should be made with love and devotion. Then God will accept it. Typically, a person approaches God because they want something. It’s only natural. He has everything. He is the origin of the material and spiritual worlds. He can manifest anything in a second. Through His all-devouring time, the manifestation of the material nature continues to change. It is because of time that we look different today than we did ten years ago. It is because of time that we took birth and it is why we will eventually die.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

Even if a person gives bhakti-yoga a chance and approaches God in earnest, in the beginning they typically do so with motives. Perhaps they want wealth. Life in the material world is difficult. Money would solve a lot of problems; at least that is the thought. Perhaps they are in distress. “God, please save me. I have nowhere else to turn.” They may be inquisitive or they may already have knowledge of the Absolute and want to know more.

What if you give roses to someone without a reason? Instead of waiting for a special occasion, buy that bouquet today and present it. Bhakti-yoga is like this. The person who is pure in their motives does not want anything from God. Rather, they wish only for His happiness. He is already self-satisfied, atmarama. He already has attendants serving Him with love and devotion. He already has friends, lovers, parents, pets and so many other kinds of associates. He is constantly enjoying and He has nothing to do. In His original home, Goloka Vrindavana, He is playing His flute and roaming the pristine fields.

He is so kind that He doesn’t cap the number of devotees. He continues to make room, expanding infinitely. Knowing this, the pure devotee is even more attached to Him. They understand that He is all-attractive, and so they love repeating His name of Krishna. That name is prominently featured in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

IMG_13729When giving a gift to someone, there is some expectation of appreciation. If I get reciprocation, I feel appreciated. The same works for the recipient. If they get a gift when they are not expecting one, it means all that much more. To give body, mind and speech to the Supreme Lord is the nicest thing anyone could do. No matter what appearance the externals may give, Krishna does appreciate every gesture. Unlike the fallible human being, who forgets things quickly after they occur, God remembers. He accepts the offerings of the devotees, and He reciprocates by continuing to remain in their consciousness.

In Closing:

For Valentine’s Day not to get caught,

Beautiful bouquet of roses bought.


To beloved so kindly brought,

To appreciate your work and thought.


Bhakti like that with no reason giving,

Only for Lord’s happiness living.


With thought, word and deed done,

Appreciation through consciousness to come.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pleased To Meet You

IMG_304314“Having understood the truth of the matter from me, those two were very affectionate. Placing them on my back, we arrived at where Sugriva was.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.31)

tau parijñāta tattva arthau mayā prīti samanvitau |
pṛṣṭham āropya tam deśam prāpitau puruṣa ṛṣabhau ||

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Unless you are just ill-motivated in general, you will be pleased to meet Shri Hanuman. Unless you are always looking to exploit others for your personal gain, the chance encounter with the minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Unless you’re so cruel of heart that you just hate every single person and every single living thing, you’ll be delighted at hearing the choice words prepared and presented so nicely by the son of the wind.

“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)

WLW-RamaRajya_E940-HanumanWorship12In this verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman is merely describing events as they actually occurred. He was there in that meeting. It was he who went to greet the two princes from Ayodhya, who had stumbled into an area that didn’t typically see princes carrying the best of weapons and wearing bark for clothes. Sugriva trusted Hanuman to find out the truth of the situation, as there was every chance that the rival brother Vali had sent people to finally do in Sugriva.

When Hanuman met Rama and Lakshmana, he told them the truth of what was going on. This is the effect of meeting the Supreme Lord with a pure heart. God in His transcendental form is known as manohara. The literal meaning to this Sanskrit word is “taking away the mind.” It comes to mean “enchanting” because of the literal definition.

God is enchanting because every aspect to Him is attractive. The pious souls have the necessary qualification to recognize the Divinity in Him and also appreciate His attractiveness. Hanuman descended from Mount Rishyamukha with an objective. He was to decipher the reason for the two brothers being in that area. To help in that mission, Hanuman took on a false guise. He appeared before them as a brahmana, or one in the priestly order.

“A person who does not express his mind to everyone, or whose mental activity and plan of action are very difficult to understand, is called grave.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 26)

Nectar-of-Devotion15In the Nectar of Devotion, which is a translation and commentary on the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, we learn that one of the traits of the Supreme Lord is that He is grave. The meaning given by Rupa Gosvami is that God’s face is such that you can never tell what He is thinking. Hanuman saw the Supreme Lord face to face in the incarnation of Rama. While speaking, Hanuman could not tell what Rama was thinking. Eventually, Hanuman gave up the cover. He told the entire truth, as manohara had melted his heart.

The feelings were mutual. Rama and Lakshmana appreciated Hanuman as well. The person who is today famously known as Rama’s greatest devotee made the best first impression when meeting the Lord in the Kishkindha forest. Hanuman is honest, trustworthy, intelligent, and very strong. After receiving the affection from the two brothers, Hanuman placed them on his back. He carried them up to the mountain to meet Sugriva.

The brothers had met other new people prior to this. Most of those meetings didn’t go so well. There were many ill-motivated creatures roaming the forests. Rama and Lakshmana had to kill them. When the brothers were still youths, they protected the sages and their sacrifices from night-ranging ogres who attacked strategically when it was dark. Those ogres did not impress the brothers, and neither were they trying to.

In the quintessential devotional spirit, Hanuman was seeking the welfare of the Supreme Lord. He was not looking to exploit the situation for his personal gain. He could have made a condition for the meeting.

“You are a wealthy prince. If you promise me and my leader some land, then perhaps something can be arranged. I will allow you to meet Sugriva as long as you give me something first.”

Such requests would have been understandable. In general business affairs, this is known as good negotiating. When not educated in the spiritual science man doesn’t know any better. They seek personal gain by default, and so when approaching someone who has it all the natural inclination is to ask for bigger and better things.

At the root meaning dharma is service. The spirit soul is meant to serve. Since this is the constitutional position, it is what brings the most happiness. Hanuman serves without motivation and without interruption. He recognizes God the person and the servitor-God when he gets the opportunity to meet them. His life does not stop there. In fact, the darshana of the Supreme Lord sparks the journey that features some of his most well-known devotional acts.

IMG_304330Any person who gets to see Shri Hanuman and is fortunate enough to understand him gets blessed with the vision of a pure devotee, who carries the name, qualities, forms and pastimes of Shri Rama with him. Goswami Tulsidas declares Hanuman to be the gatekeeper to Shri Rama’s kingdom, and that gatekeeper is kind and benevolent, looking for only one thing from those wishing to enter: love for God.

In Closing:

The false guise taken renouncing,

His name and intentions pronouncing.


By Divine vision the mind seized,

From Hanuman’s words Rama pleased.


Friendship now, formalities forsaken,

From there to mountaintop taken.


In first meeting, Hanuman immediately trusted,

Today as kingdom’s guard with duty entrusted.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Taking The Worshipable Form With Him

IMG_303413“At the command of Sugriva I approached with folded hands those mighty tigers among men, who were well-endowed with good characteristics and beauty.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.30)

tāv aham puruṣa vyāghrau sugrīva vacanāt prabhū |
rūpa lakṣaṇa sampannau kṛta añjaliḥ upasthitaḥ ||

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Vedic culture notably features the practice of deity worship, which to the uninformed looks like basic idolatry. You have the outpouring of intense emotion, to the point of tears even, when standing in front of a statue which is most likely no taller than the size of a bottle of soda. What is in that statue that elicits such a response?

The idea is that man is incapable of perceiving God on his own. In science, so many facts can be shown to the eyes. For instance, if a person claims that a molecule of water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, a skeptic can get proof through a visual model. If a mathematician says that two plus two equals four, they can provide proof through using objects held in the hand.

But what if a person says that God exists? They claim that He is beautiful, replete with attractiveness. They say that He is everywhere, that proof of His existence cannot be absent from any space. He is the life of the living, which means that wherever there is life, there is the presence of the Divine.

puṇyo gandhaḥ pṛthivyāṁ ca

tejaś cāsmi vibhāvasau

jīvanaṁ sarva-bhūteṣu

tapaś cāsmi tapasviṣu

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

Proof for these claims is not as easy to show. An attempt can be made, but the skeptics will have a difficult time believing. The limitation is from the senses of the individual. Just as I can’t see what is going on across the globe with my eyes, I can’t perceive the presence of the Divine. The eyes have no way of seeing on their own; outside help is required.

IMG_300715The deity is one form of that outside help. It is God’s mercy; His way of appearing in front of the eyes in a manner that allows the individual to understand some of His features. Typically, worship of the deity is done in a formal setting, with great opulence. This is the mood of the devotees; they want to show the Supreme Lord the proper respect. The deity is known as the archa-vigraha; it is a corporeal form of the Divine. Though material elements are involved, they become spiritualized through authority.

The person who is not very advanced in consciousness thinks that the Supreme Lord only resides as the deity in the temple. They don’t understand that He is actually everywhere. He is as much in the home as He is in the house of worship. The proper appreciation may not be there in the home, but lack of perception has no bearing on the all-pervading presence of the Supreme Lord, who is known as Vishnu.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman is describing two incarnations of Vishnu. One is a full incarnation, named Rama. The other is a partial incarnation, named Lakshmana. The two are brothers of the kshatriya order. Hanuman is describing to Sita about the first time he met Rama and Lakshmana.

Hanuman was in his role as minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva. At Sugriva’s command, Hanuman came down from Mount Rishyamukha to meet the two approaching brothers. Hanuman says that they had good characteristics and form. The Sanskrit word rupa also means “beauty.” The brothers were like mighty tigers among men. They were to be feared by any person thinking of opposing them in battle.

Despite being warriors, they had all the indications, lakshana, of purity, krita. From this verse we learn that God is worshipable wherever He goes. In this particular situation He was carrying the best bows and wearing clothes made of bark. He didn’t have the grand opulence prominently featured in the temples. He was in a renounced setting, meeting with strangers.

Hanuman did not approach the brothers in the mood of reverence. Since his heart was so pure, though, he immediately recognized that Rama and Lakshmana were special. He saw the signs of purity on them. He knew they were not ordinary. The Supreme Personality of Godhead and the servitor-God were standing right before him. Hanuman had the proper response of appreciation, but the work didn’t stop there. Hanuman took up the mission to help the two brothers, informing them that a meeting with Sugriva would be beneficial.

IMG_303412The deity in the temple is the ideal place for the distressed souls to meet with the object of their inner, recessed affection. The deity is the proof of the existence of God, and Rama is proof that when God moves, the worshipable form comes with Him. He always maintains auspicious signs that only the wise and pure can recognize. Seeing Him fulfills all desires and brings all happiness.

In Closing:

When entering temple to choose,

Seeing God in form not to move.


When witness the person in,

That worshipable form coming with Him.


When Hanuman as brahmana resizing,

Divinity of Rama and Lakshmana recognizing.


Saw God, but the work not to stop,

Placing on back, reaching Rishyamukha’s top.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Never Off Duty

017114“Then those two brothers, wearing clothes made of bark and carrying the best bows, arrived at the pleasant place of Rishyamukha mountain.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.27)

tataḥ tau cīra vasanau dhanuḥ pravara pāṇinau |
ṛśyamūkasya śailasya ramyam deśam upāgatau ||

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No wonder Sugriva was worried. Seated safely in the area of Mount Rishyamukha, his brother Vali could not attack him, as the place was off-limits. Sugriva was formerly the king of Kishkindha, a kingdom in the forest populated by Vanaras. The literal definition to the Sanskrit term is “forest-dweller.” From their behavior and bodily features, the Vanaras are known to be like monkeys.

In a fit of rage due to a misunderstanding, Vali overthrew his own brother from the throne. Sugriva ran away fearing for his life. Rishyamukha was safe due to a curse applied by a sage against Vali. But that didn’t mean that others couldn’t come to the area. How would Sugriva recognize them? How would he know if Vali had sent people to do him in?

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman continues in his brief retelling of historical events. This portion relates to things he directly experienced. Hanuman was on Mount Rishyamukha with Sugriva. Hanuman is Sugriva’s chief minister. They saw these tiger-like men approaching. One was dark colored, shyama, while the other was fair. These were the brothers from Ayodhya, Rama and Lakshmana. Sugriva and Hanuman didn’t know that, however.

017130Hanuman says that when those brothers approached the Rishyamukha area, they were wearing clothes made of bark. They were also carrying weapons. The closest modern equivalent would be a homeless person wearing a holster that has a gun in it. The renounced sages wore clothes made of bark. The dress was a sign of the highest renunciation. Essentially, there is voluntary removal of all comforts of life, even to the point of clothing.

Rama and Lakshmana had the best bows in their hands. They looked renounced like sages, but the weapons were a sign of the kshatriya order. These are the fighters and administrators in society. The brothers weren’t dressing up for a Halloween contest or intentionally trying to mislead anyone. The two visible characteristics mentioned here relate to how the Supreme Lord gives so much attention to His devotees.

Dharma is the Sanskrit word for duty. Duty implies obligation. You follow your obligations in order to meet a specific condition. Dharma is the characteristic essential for that condition; hence its common use as a translation for religion, religiosity and virtue. Duty is specifically for the living beings who are not God. Since God is one, dharma applies to every single living thing except Him.

Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. Therefore He has no duty. Still, He is so kind that He takes it upon Himself to preserve the good name, reputation, fame, honor, and ideal conditions for worship of those who are devoted to Him. In the Bhagavad-gita as Krishna He explains the same principle by saying that He preserves what the devotees have and carries what they lack.

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ

ye janāḥ paryupāsate

teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ

yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

The clothes made of bark were to protect what a devotee had. This devotee happened to be Rama’s father, and he was the king of Ayodhya. Dasharatha was known to be truthful to his vow. He never broke a promise. The youngest queen, Kaikeyi, took advantage of this by asking that Rama be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years, forced to live like a recluse. Rama upheld the promise of the father to the queen by accepting the order.

The best bows in their hands were to carry what the devotees were missing. In the Dandaka forest lived many renounced sages, who were dedicated to religious observances and concentrating their minds on the Absolute. The problem was that outside attack was coming. Rama and Lakshmana thus brought their weapons with them. They provided protection to the sages who were under harassment.

hanuman_worships_rama15These words of Hanuman directed to Rama’s wife Sita also indicate an attention to duty. Sita was in distress in Lanka, brought there against her will. She lacked news of Rama and Lakshmana, and so Rama Himself asked Hanuman to go and find her. In this way one should be confident that in surrendering in thought, word and deed to the Supreme Lord, everything necessary in life will be provided. Rama accepts the duty of safeguarding the devotional environment.

In Closing:

With Lakshmana carrying bow in hand,

Traversing the renounced forest land.


So even if from outsiders attack,

Rama for sages covering back.


Clothes made of bark wearing,

Upheld word of father swearing.


The devotional environment maintaining,

So from steady practice always gaining.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fraternal Relations

018813“While those two brothers wandered the earth in search of you, they saw the lord of monkeys, Sugriva, sitting atop Mount Rishyamukha, filled with trees. Having been dethroned by his brother, he was oppressed with fear, but pleasant to behold.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.24-25)

tvām eva mārgamāṇo tau vicarantau vasum dharām |
dadarśatuḥ mṛga patim pūrvajena avaropitam ||
ṛśyamūkasya pṛṣṭhe tu bahu pādapa samkule |
bhrātuḥ bhārya ārtam āsīnam sugrīvam priya darśanam ||

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The Ramayana describes historical events relating to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation of Rama. The name Rama is in the title to the work of epic length authored by Maharishi Valmiki. The term “author” isn’t completely accurate for the great poet, as the Ramayana is not a concoction of the mind or a work of fiction. It is a beautiful description of things that indeed happened, events to which Valmiki was privy based on his outstanding qualification.

KGrHqJhoE1hWrUmeBNgcidcUw0_315That qualification came from years of chanting the holy name of Rama. In the beginning the chanting wasn’t pure. There is the term bhakti-yoga that describes the highest occupation for man. Another equivalent term is bhagavata-dharma. Bhakti means love and devotion and yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. In bhakti-yoga you try to connect with the Divine through acts of love and devotion.

Those who follow bhakti-yoga often speak of purity. Pure devotion is practiced when there is no desire for material gain, renunciation, or mystic perfection. From this very definition we see that typically bhakti-yoga practiced in the beginning is impure. After all, man knows no better in the early stages of life than to seek after material enjoyment, known as bhukti in Sanskrit. When a bitter taste follows the enjoyment, there is desire for renunciation, mukti. In between, when there is some knowledge of the spiritual science, there may be a desire for out of body experiences, abilities that would impress the entire world. This is known as siddhi.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

Shri Krishna describes the four kinds of people that are initially drawn to service to God. Before taking up chanting in earnest, Valmiki was a highway robber. You could say he was in the category of those wanting wealth. He stole to support his family. His heart changed after a chance encounter with Narada Muni. Based on the sage’s advice, Valmiki took up chanting the holy name.

After a long time he became pure, having been immersed in that transcendental sound. Free of any outside desire, he was qualified to expound on the glories of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation famous in the Treta Yuga, where He appeared as the son of King Dasharatha.

The Ramayana is quite lengthy, and there are many symbolic aspects to the factual events. When a leader does something, it serves as a way to guide others. Krishna Himself says in the Bhagavad-gita that what a great man does, others will follow.

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas

tat tad evetaro janaḥ

sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute

lokas tad anuvartate

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

For those interested in fraternal affairs, the Ramayana provides plenty of knowledge and guidance, and from all sides. How should a brother act? What to do if strife arises? Is it possible to have ideal relationships with friends and family? In the Ramayana, the first lesson in brotherly relations comes to us from the home of Dasharatha, where Rama grows up with three younger brothers. Rama is instantly paired with Lakshmana, while Bharata and Shatrughna are naturally attached to one another.

Lakshmana stands out when he refuses to allow Rama to go to the forest alone. Rama is the eldest one, and all the younger brothers adore Him. This makes sense, as Rama is God Himself. The other three are partial incarnations of the Supreme. Lakshmana accompanies Rama into the forest for fourteen years, refusing to allow Rama to suffer alone.

Then there is Bharata, who gets the throne handed to him, though he doesn’t want it. The move is also against protocol, as typically the eldest son is the heir-apparent. He insists that Rama take the throne instead, but Rama has respect for the orders of the father Dasharatha. On one side you have Lakshmana who refuses to listen to Rama, and on the other there is Bharata who reluctantly agrees to what Rama asks.

017513In a distant land there are three brothers living in different circumstances. They are of the Rakshasa species, which is a kind of ogre. Ravana is the most famous of the three, and he is the king of Lanka. Ravana has a bad character; adharma is his way of life. The younger brother Vibhishana is devoted to God since birth. Vibhishana tries his best to persuade Ravana to follow dharma, but Ravana doesn’t listen. Eventually Vibhishana renounces Ravana and takes the side of Rama, who is about to fight against Ravana in battle. Using the standard of mundane morality, Vibhishana is the greatest traitor.

Then there is another set of brothers to study. They are referenced in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. These brothers are of the Vanara species, which is monkey-like. They live in the forest of Kishkindha. Sugriva is initially the king, but due to a misunderstanding the brother Vali becomes angry to the point of wanting to kill Sugriva. Sugriva then gets driven out of the kingdom by the more powerful brother.

From these relationships we learn that nothing is perfect in the material world. There is duality to everything, also. A younger brother should follow the example of the elder, but not always. If the elder is committed to adharma, then it is proper to renounce him. Sometimes a brother is justified in fighting against another, especially if he has been previously attacked unfairly.

019415Rama and Lakshmana met up with Sugriva in Kishkindha. Sugriva was living in an area known as Mount Rishyamukha. There he was safe from the attacks of Vali, through a curse applied by a sage. Despite the safety, Sugriva was still in fear. Thus another lesson comes to us. The fearful have their worries removed through the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though the initial interaction may not be pure, through enough service things work themselves out. Through Rama’s favor, Sugriva won back his kingdom. He was such an honored servant that he joined the triumphant party that returned to Ayodhya.

In Closing:

At Mount Rishyamukha staying near,

From brother Vali living in fear.


But when meeting brothers to world dear,

Fortunes to change, path to become clear.


Lakshmana with devotion pronounced,

Vibhishana the sinful one renounced.


When in dharma’s favor to act,

Then feet falling in safest tract.