Saturday, February 27, 2016

For The Sake Of A Woman

IMG_0171-214“Thereafter the elder brother of Lakshmana consoled Sugriva, who had been driven away for the sake of his wife through his brother Vali, he of excellent splendor.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.34)

tam tataḥ sāntvayāmāsa sugrīvam lakṣmaṇa āgrajaḥ |
strī hetoḥ vālinā bhrātrā nirastam uru tejasā ||

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In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna remarks how He is sex life that does not go against religious principles. The relevant Sanskrit terms are kama and dharma-aviruddha. The Absolute Truth is the source of everything. This obviously includes sex life as well. Everything that we see in this world exists in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore even in religious life sex is not completely forbidden. Life cannot continue without it, after all. It has tremendous potency, and the source of that potency is the Supreme Lord. If done following dharma, which is religiosity or religious principles, then in one sense sex life is non-different from God.

balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ


dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu

kāmo 'smi bharatarṣabha

“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

The trouble starts when the kama is dharma-viruddha, or against religious principles. The living entity is pure spirit soul at the core. That soul is impossible to see with the naked eye. It is described to be the size of the tip of the hair divided into ten thousand parts. One of those parts is equal to the size of the soul. Spirit is finer than the subtle material elements of mind, intelligence and ego. The gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether are somewhat perceptible. The subtle elements we assume to exist based on external indicators.

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur

indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ

manasas tu parā buddhir

yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ

“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.42)

The spotless spirit soul assumes material elements as a covering due to kama. There are several Sanskrit translations to this word. Kama can mean desire, lust, or sex. As an example, the mystic perfection of being able to take whatever form is desired is known as kama-rupa-siddhi. The translations as lust and sex are actually identical, since the root cause is a desire to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord. When dharma is added, then any form of kama becomes in line with the interests of the Supreme Lord.

Another way to describe kama in dharma is bhakti-yoga, which is love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. Yes, even a yogi can engage in sex life. The less intelligent may not be able to understand this, but in a world of duality no condition is absolutely required or prohibited for the yogi aspiring to please the Supreme Lord. Kama in dharma is sex life that is with one’s spouse and for the purpose of procreation. Those who practice bhakti-yoga are real saints. They are a symbol of sacrifice. They are fearless warriors in the fight to rescue the less fortunate from the delusion that is maya, the illusory energy of God that pervades the material world. How else can those souls appear on this earth other than through kama in dharma?

Kama with no connection to dharma is the principal cause of rebirth. They say that woman is the energy of man. Man does so much for the sake of a woman. Going to the gym and having a fit and attractive body are for the purpose of winning over the favor of females. Earning lots of money, protecting assets, and enjoying different tastes in the material world have sex life as the foundation.

The path of kama is so dangerous that it can even destroy family relationships. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we hear of an incident that tore apart two brothers. They were living in the forest of Kishkindha. The inhabitants were Vanaras, whose literal definition means forest dwellers. These creatures were monkey-like, but they were civilized enough to have a kingdom and some basic laws.

Sugriva was the king. One day his brother Vali got into a fight that led into a cave. Vali told Sugriva to close up the lone entrance to the cave if there was an indication that Vali had gotten killed. This only makes sense, as you don’t want the enemy to come out of the cave and kill more people. If Vali emerged victorious, obviously the hole should be left open.

Sugriva mistakenly closed up the hole, thinking that Vali was dead. It was an innocent mistake. Vali was so strong that he was able to come out of the cave even with the entrance closed. When seeing that Sugriva had taken Vali’s wife for himself. Vali suspected that this was Sugriva’s plan all along. In retaliation, Vali usurped the kingdom from Sugriva by force and took his wife as well.

Sugriva then fled to Mount Rishyamukha, where he was safe from the attacks of Vali. Shri Hanuman was Sugriva’s chief-minister. Here he says that Shri Rama, the elder brother of Lakshmana, consoled Sugriva when the two talked.

019112The power of sex life is so strong that it can drive two otherwise sober minded brothers apart. This meeting from recorded history has symbolic meaning as well. When a person takes shelter of the Supreme Lord, all their past troubles vanish. Though Sugriva lost the things important to him through jealousy and desires in sex life, everything would be fixed through Rama’s arrows. They are like the sharp knife to cut through excessive attachment. They end the cycle of birth and death for the surrendered souls.

In Closing:

To alleviate pain of losing wife,

Rama’s arrow like sharpest knife.


Since on His protection devotees to rely,

His arrows swiftly for them to fly.


Kama without dharma the cause lone,

For repetition of birth and death known.


Sex even in genuine religious life for facilitating,

Appearance of Lord’s messengers arranging.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Relating To All Living Entities

Hanuman_flowers.jpg15“With a friendship established, those two, the lord of monkeys and the Lord of men, developed mutual hope by discussing earlier events.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.33)

tatastau prītisaṃpannau hari īśvara nara īśvarau |
paraspara kṛta āśvāsau kathayā pūrva vṛttayā ||

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According to the Shrimad Bhagavatam, real transcendence is known through three distinct features. In reality, these merely represent perspectives of outside observers. Transcendence is everywhere and it is singular. It looks divided, but it is actually one. There is intelligence to it, since everything in the world operates off of intelligence. There is no such thing as randomness or chance, as karma influences every outcome seen.

vadanti tat tattva-vidas

tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam

brahmeti paramātmeti

bhagavān iti śabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.11)

Brahman is the undivided spiritual energy. This is where a person notices the presence of spirit in every sphere. Spirit is what animates matter. Every living thing is a spark of Brahman. Paramatma is the localized spirit. This is different from the individual spirit. Paramatma says that the Supreme Transcendence lives inside of me and you and everyone else. Though it is inside of each creature, it is the same person. The individual soul is not all-pervading in this way.

Bhagavan is where the individual understands the source of spirit and matter to be a person with distinguishable features. Notably, those features are full and complete beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Bhagavan has these features all the time, though in some instances He makes certain of them more prominent than others.

Irrespective of the particular religious tradition we follow, we’ve likely come across some variation of the following advice:

“Become friends with the Lord. Invite Him into your life. Don’t keep Him away from you. Don’t be angry. Learn to love your fellow man by keeping the light of the Divine within you. Let it shine bright. Today, at this very moment, enter the kingdom of God. Welcome to peace on earth through your relationship with Him.”

If the Supreme Lord is Bhagavan, then how can any person actually be friends with Him? After all, friendship takes place through mutual interest. As an example, if a person suddenly becomes rich, they will have a difficult time relating to their old friends. When those friends bring up issues relating to saving money by using coupons or discounts, the now rich friend can’t relate to the issue. They have their own problems.

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives an idea on how the friendship to the Divine does happen. Additionally, it shows how the Supreme Lord does not make distinctions based on class, external features, or species. Here He is described as nara-ishvara. This means the Lord among men. He is in the rupa, or form, of a human being. God can never be ordinary or fit into any species, but it is His mercy upon others to take specific visible manifestations to perform activities that both instruct and protect.

Rama is nara-ishvara, and He made friends with Sugriva, who is hari-ishvara. The Sanskrit word hari has several meanings. It can refer to a lion, the Supreme Lord, or one who takes away. In this case it refers to a Vanara, which is like a monkey. Indeed, the Supreme Lord, the original thing, the greatest at everything, superior to every species, made friends with a monkey.

vanaras_bridge_building14The friendship was real, too. Rama shared stories from the past to establish a mutual interest with Sugriva. They both had lost their kingdom. They both were separated from their significant other. Sugriva really felt that Rama was his friend, and Rama completely treated Sugriva as such. There was no looking down at Sugriva based on his species. Rama did not think any lesser of him for having lost in a conflict with his brother Vali. Rama did not judge Sugriva for wanting to reunite with his wife.

The reason the friendship was established was because of Sugriva’s attitude. He was not inimical to Rama. He was not trying to compete with the prince from Ayodhya. A similar attitude is there in Arjuna, the famous bow warrior who spoke with Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna is the same Rama; God appearing in a different way at a different time. During the conversation between Rama and Sugriva, Shri Hanuman was also there. Just as he was there in the meeting between Sugriva and Rama, he was present at the speaking of the Bhagavad-gita through his image on the flag of Arjuna’s chariot.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ

pravakṣyāmy anasūyave

jñānaṁ vijñāna-sahitaṁ

yaj jñātvā mokṣyase 'śubhāt

“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)

3712Krishna gave Arjuna wise instructions in part due to Arjuna being non-envious, anasuyave. Though Rama didn’t necessarily instruct Sugriva on matters of high philosophy, He gave something just as valuable: His friendship. From this one incident we see that everyone is eligible for the Divine mercy. No person is automatically disqualified based on their standing in life. Whether a person is full of desires or free of them, they can still become friends with the Supreme Lord, whose association is the great agent of purification.

In Closing:

Whether in business world standing tall,

Or without anything feeling small.


Whether as human being in intelligence to ascend,

Or into lesser form of monkey to descend.


Eligible for the Divine mercy is all,

See how even Sugriva a friend to call.


By Shri Rama, through Hanuman arranged,

From non-enviousness fortunes changed.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sakhya Rasa

image7“With a friendship established, those two, the lord of monkeys and the Lord of men, developed mutual hope by discussing earlier events.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.33)

tatastau prītisaṃpannau hari īśvara nara īśvarau |
paraspara kṛta āśvāsau kathayā pūrva vṛttayā ||

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You’re having trouble making friends. When you go to school, you see people flocking together. Those groups, commonly known as cliques, seem to be having a good time. They are enjoying more than those who don’t have as many friends. You wonder what is wrong with you. You feel isolated. You feel left out.

You wonder what it will take to turn things around. One day you finally confess to your father. Embarrassed, you’re looking for some hope. He gives you the following advice:

“Friendship isn’t that hard to understand. A common interest, that’s all you need. People in school form into groups based on this. The people participating in the same afterschool activity end up talking about that activity. Those who are interested in a particular television show have something to talk about. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. In the worst case, you can be friends with others who are not as popular at the moment. That is the thing you will have in common. Trust me, it’s the same way in adulthood. I have friends at the office, but if we were to really spend time together, we wouldn’t have as much in common. We are friends now because of a main interest we share: the place we work.”

Spiritual life has friendships as well, and not only with other people trying to progress in consciousness to the pinnacle. True evolution is of the spirit soul, not the species. One day I am wearing a t-shirt and shorts and the next day I am decked out for a black tie affair. The t-shirt didn’t suddenly evolve into a dress shirt. The shorts didn’t transform themselves into slacks. The only difference is in the matter that covers the individual. This roughly explains 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)

The spirit soul changes bodies, and not just at the end of life. The change happens at every moment. It is effected through time, known as kala in Sanskrit. Kala knows what to do based on karma, or work that has reactions. Kala and karma operate on prakriti, which is the covering to the individual spirit soul, who is known as purusha. Purusha is the thing that causes the objects we see, prakriti, to move. Without purusha, there is no life.

The human birth is the evolution in bodies from previous ones that aren’t as advanced. The advancement is in terms of potential for consciousness. The human being has the best chance to be conscious of God. It’s about a way of thinking. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Neither does renunciation. Mystic perfection is cool for showing off to other people, but by itself it doesn’t do anything for the individual. Consciousness is what counts.

To purify the consciousness requires concentration, known as dhyana. The natural question is if I am concentrating on the Divine, doesn’t that necessitate isolation? Can there be something like friendship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives the answer.

The exchange between Sugriva and Shri Rama is a form of sakhya-rasa. Sakhya is friendship and rasa is a taste, or transcendental mellow as described by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We have tastes to food like sweet, sour, salty and spicy. One is not better than the other; they are simply different ways to enjoy food. Similarly, there are different ways to enjoy the association of God, who is a person in His original feature.

Another question arises. How can God be friends with anyone? We’ve established that the genesis of friendship is a mutual interest. How can an individual ever have anything in common with the person who is the origin of everything? I am small and God is great. I go through reincarnation, while the Supreme Lord does not. God has the goddess of fortune as His wife and they live happily together. I am lucky if I get a loving and supporting wife and maintain good relations with her throughout my brief time in this body.

The answer is that if sakhya-rasa is desired, the Supreme Lord creates a mutual interest. It is another example of His kindness. In this verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman describes how Sugriva and Rama discussed events from the recent past. Rama is God in the form of a warrior prince. He descended to earth to give His darshana, or divine vision, to worthy individuals and to annihilate miscreants who were so committed to irreligion that they intentionally killed and consumed for food the most peaceful people in society.

One of those fiends committed to adharma at one time took Rama’s wife Sita away from Him. This was done in secret. Through lila, or transcendental pastimes, God creates predicaments that others can have in common with Him. Sugriva is here described as hari-ishvara. This means the lord of monkeys. The Sanskrit word hari can also mean “lion” and “one who takes away.” Rama is described as nara-ishvara, or the Lord of men.

A man had something in common with a monkey. This is how kind Rama is. Sugriva was living on Mount Rishyamukha due to being separated from his kingdom. Sugriva’s brother Vali drove him out and also took his wife. So Sugriva was without a kingdom and a wife. After discussing things in a friendly manner, Rama shared that He was in the same predicament. “Hey, I’m just like you. We share something very important in common.”

image15From that meeting we see that a person never has to fear being alone in spiritual life. In a pure consciousness, God gets recognized to be the best friend that He always is and has been. The Supreme Lord sanctions whatever relationship the devotee genuinely wants to have with Him. His servants, like in this case the dear and powerful Hanuman, facilitate the initial meeting. They are true friends as well, looking out for the welfare of the people of the world.

In Closing:

Shri Hanuman, so blessed are you,

Bringing individual’s welfare true.


For friend Sugriva meeting arranged,

Through Rama’s arrows fortunes changed.


Whatever relationship in devotee’s mind,

To arrange situation Rama will find.


Meaning that in spiritual life alone never,

Can keep Lord in consciousness forever.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bringing Great People Together

image12“I presented the truth of the matter about those two to the great soul Sugriva. After conversing with each other, a great friendship was born.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.32)

niveditau ca tattvena sugrīvāya mahātmane |
tayoḥ anyonya sambhāṣāt bhṛśam prītiḥ ajāyata ||

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada clarifies that many of the modern sciences are actually arts. They are not exact in their teachings, since those teachings change. That is the very nature of progress. You can only progress from something if the starting point is imperfection. As science features never-ending progress, there is a subtly acknowledged defect at every point along the way.

One of those arts is psychology. The human mind is difficult to grasp. Just when you think you have figured out a pattern, you meet a person who is unique. You study why they are that way and if others will turn out the same if presented with the same stimuli. Though the studying continues, with the art tweaked and redefined along the way, there are some interesting patterns among some groups. One of them is with friends. Consider this hypothetical scenario:

“My friend told me about the latest movie that came out. I was interested in seeing it too, when I first saw the trailers on television. My friend said the movie is really good. Then I asked what the general reception is. They said that pretty much everyone loves this movie. Now, the more I hear people praising it, the less I want to see it. I’m not going to go along with the crowd.”

The commenter here can be described as a contrarian. Their instinct is to go against what others say. Obviously, the emotion by itself is irrational, since every person is living in the same existence. If my kneejerk reaction is to go against what someone recommends, why shouldn’t they behave the same way with me? If I really like something, I will share it with my friends and family. That only makes sense. Why should others automatically reject that? As a contrarian I am doing that to them, so in one sense I am behaving dishonestly.

image7Yet this tendency among friends is quite common. An incident is related in the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, where the famous statesman used some word play to get something accomplished. One time Franklin had an idea for a subscription library, where people could donate books to a central location and others could then borrow those books. The group forming the library had to canvass for members, who would each pay a subscription fee. In the Colonial Era, books were a rare and valuable commodity. Franklin knew that if he said the idea for the library was his, the people of the community might not agree with the proposal. They would be seeing one of their peers succeeding in a venture, and so envy was a likely outcome. He instead said the idea came from “a number of friends.” In this way enough subscribers were signed, paving the way for the vast public library system we have today.

“The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one's self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos'd to raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of one's neighbours, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that project.”  (Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography)

Shri Hanuman is such a pious soul that his recommendation is trusted by his friends. He knows how to bring together the right people, also. In this verse from the Ramayana, he describes how the alliance between Shri Rama and Sugriva was formed. Rama was wandering the forests with His younger brother Lakshmana. They were searching for Rama’s wife Sita.

Hanuman was Sugriva’s chief minister. He was asked by Sugriva to see what the two princes wanted, as they were unknown to the area of Mount Rishyamukha. Hanuman arranged so that Rama could meet Sugriva. Hanuman informed Sugriva about the truth of the matter. Essentially, through Hanuman’s word trust was formed. Then the two brothers spoke with Sugriva. From the conversation emerged a great friendship.

IMG_304214There are obvious reasons for skepticism during an initial conversation. No matter how well the other person may speak, they may have outside motivations. The salesperson is trained to speak kindly. They are looking to make a sale, after all. Sugriva could have been lying. He could have intended to take advantage of Rama’s strength. Rama was the son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. By appearance He looked to be very strong. Sugriva was deathly afraid of his brother Vali. Sugriva could have been acting nicely to have Rama help him, without doing anything in return.

Sugriva was also of the Vanara species, which is like a monkey. This means that Sugriva could have been driven by his sense urges. Why should Rama and Lakshmana trust a total stranger? Hanuman was the key piece. His qualities gained Rama’s trust immediately. Hanuman, too, recognized the Divine qualities of Rama and Lakshmana.

rama_slaying_vali_sugrive13This incident from the Ramayana is both part of factual history and symbolic. If you win over Hanuman’s trust, he will arrange the best meeting for you. Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, has full faith in him. It is for this reason that Goswami Tulsidas made worship and adoration of Hanuman so popular. People may utter the Hanuman Chalisa, a prayer to Hanuman, out of fear or for material desire, but the association is very powerful. If Hanuman gives his endorsement, then friendship with Shri Rama occurs. To have God the person as your acknowledged best friend is to succeed in life.

In Closing:

Interests with your friend to share,

But tendency to envy still aware.


Not agreeing since from you coming,

Due to insecurity resistant becoming.


With Hanuman no defects at all,

Friend to Rama, Sugriva’s minister to call.


After on his back the brothers seating,

Friendship emerged from ensuing meeting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Protecting Valuable Objects

Hanuman-holding-Rama-and-Lakshmana21“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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There is something of tremendous value within the house. This is based on the monetary assessment. It’s not that you are into showing off. You don’t put much value on collecting things to display for others. This object was a gift from someone else. They knew no other way to repay the kindness you showed to them. While you did a noble deed out of the goodness of your heart, they felt compelled to give you something in return.

This object is one of a kind. You don’t want to hide it away somewhere, because then the donor will think that you don’t value their gesture. At the same time, you have young children in the house. They are known to break things. Why, just last week they dropped a few plates while carrying them from the kitchen table to the sink. They don’t know any better.

image11They see this gift and ask so many questions about it. They want to touch it. They want to hold it. You have no choice but to lay down the law.

“This is completely off limits. That means I don’t want you guys to even go near it. This is not a toy. When you are older, a little more mature, then maybe I will change my mind. But right now you have to listen to what I tell you.”

This hypothetical situation relates to a single object in the material world, but just imagine how much value is in the origin of everything. Should that origin be treated whimsically? Should it be carried by those who don’t appreciate its value? In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that origin being carried on someone’s shoulders. That someone was known for only a short time as well.

It is not surprising for a living entity to want to see God. They are enamored by greatness, after all. According to Vedic philosophy, every living thing is in this world due to a desire to lord it over. What is the “it” exactly? Take any object and any kind of opulence. Land, money, strength, beauty - you name it and you’ll find that the living entity wants to have the most of it. They want more than anyone else. Even if the objective is renunciation and humility, there is a subtle desire for pratishtha, or notoriety associated with being different from everyone else.

Why did the origin of everything so quickly hop on the shoulders of a complete stranger? For starters, no one is a stranger to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who resides in every space through His expansion of the Supersoul. He is the all-pervading witness through this feature, which means that it is impossible to ever do something unseen. The Supersoul has perfect memory too, so it is not like anything can be forgotten by Him.

The meeting with Hanuman was brief. The minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva descended from Mount Rishyamukha to meet Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Hanuman was not eager to have a vision of the divine. Rather, he was more concerned with carrying out his duty. Since he was sinless the meeting happened for him without a problem.

The attitude is what mattered. He met Rama and Lakshmana with a pure heart. He was not looking to exploit their presence for his own gain. He was not judging their strength and appearance against his own. He was not looking to become famous as a person who had met the Divine incarnate. In truth, Rama is the Supreme Lord appearing on earth in the beautiful form of a warrior prince. Lakshmana is a partial incarnation, the embodiment of the mood of pure service to the Divine.

Hanuman saw God and then thought that he would help. His love was instant and pure. He thought that maybe Rama and Lakshmana could benefit from meeting Sugriva. The leader was living in fear on the mountain, as his brother Vali had ousted him from the kingdom. Rama, too, was separated from His wife and kingdom. Now searching for Sita, Rama could benefit from an alliance with Sugriva.

This is what Hanuman thought, and it is why he asked the brothers to sit on his shoulders. Hanuman would then carry them up to Mount Rishyamukha by leaping. From this beautiful scene, we learn that if a person is pure enough, the Supreme Lord will extend all trust to them. The person who understands His divine nature will be qualified to carry Him. No one else will, since they will not appreciate Him. Just like with the expensive object in the house, they are liable to disrespect Him, to give a false interpretation of His standing to others.

Hanuman-holding-Rama-and-Lakshmana40Indeed, Hanuman is the most qualified to explain Shri Rama to others. Goswami Tulsidas has declared Hanuman to be the gatekeeper to Rama’s kingdom. Through love and respect for Hanuman, a person can understand Rama. By understanding Rama they can one day be qualified to triumphantly carry Him with them as they continue to execute devotional service, which is exclusively for His pleasure.

In Closing:

Expensive gift of gratitude token,

Care taken to not get broken.


Children now under orders strict,

Access to object the parents restrict.


Value in Supreme Lord most multiplied,

Not just any person to know Him qualified.


Shri Hanuman with respect carrying on back,

Trusted by Rama since no good qualities to lack.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Arguing Who Is The Best

IMG_304713“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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Prior to the dawn of the industrial revolution, there was no such thing as professional sports or interest in games at such a grand level. To pass the time, perhaps gentlemen would sit around and play chess, but “professional chess player” wasn’t a kind of occupation to strive for during youth. Today, not only are there documentaries about sports franchises and their marches to victory, but even the supporters of such teams get studied. Known as fans, these supporters clash with other supporters, as not everyone likes the same team.

At the end of the day, the support is rather trivial. The fans don’t know the players and the players don’t know the fans. Whether one team of randomly selected players from various backgrounds, all looking to earn money, wins or loses is not so important. Life will go on. Indeed, the interest in sports is there as a way to escape from the serious matters in life. Why be so angry at someone who supports someone or something that has no bearing on their life? Nevertheless, the rivalries are real.

image8Spiritual life features similar rivalries. It seems silly, as everyone should supposedly be on the same team. The first teaching in Vedanta philosophy is that the individual is spirit soul. Immediately this points to oneness. I am actually the same as you. You are no different than me. Even the cows, the ants, the birds and the beasts are spirit at the core. We share something in common with everything that lives. And not just something trivial, but rather the entire essence of our being - that is identical with every other living thing.

It’s understandable for there to be rivalries drawn from distinctions in preferred books, languages and time and place. One person has their name for God and another person has a different name. Not understanding that God can only be one, the two groups clash. In reality, the competition is something like attacking a person for using a different name for water. The Spanish-speaking person says “agua” while the English-speaking person says “water.” One person says agua is the best in taste, while the other says water is superior. The argument is silly since both are referring to the same thing.

Vedic culture is known for having many divine figures. These are referred to as devas in Sanskrit. Despite the worship of many heavenly beings, sanatana-dharma, which is the real way to describe what is otherwise known as Hinduism, is monotheistic. There is a Supreme Godhead who is readily acknowledged. He may be known by different names and have many forms to His personal self, but there is still only one chief deva. He is described as deva-vara or deva-deva. He is the chief of the devas and the deva to the devas themselves.

“O best of men, today, by worshiping You, Rama who is the greatest of all the gods, my religious practices have become fruitful and my ascension to the heavenly realm will surely take place.” (Shabari speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 74.12)

ram_durbar_AW33_l12Among those who are aware of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His various personal forms, sometimes there is a quiet rivalry. One side will say that Krishna is the best. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His original form. His name means “all-attractive,” which cannot be surpassed as a way to describe the Supreme Lord.

Others will say that Vishnu is the best. He is opulently adorned, looks beautiful with His four hands, and is resting comfortably with His eternal consort Lakshmi and His greatest well-wisher Ananta Shesha Naga. Vishnu is declared to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead in so many places in Vedic literature. When Prahlada Maharaja described the nine processes of devotional service, bhakti-yoga, he mentioned Vishnu, not Krishna. One of the processes is vishno-smaranam, which means remembering God the person.

33421Others will say that Shri Ramachandra, also known as Rama, is the best. Though He is described to be an incarnation of Vishnu, since there is no difference between the original and a personal incarnation, Rama is equivalent to God Himself. Rama looks beautiful carrying the bow and arrow, being accompanied always by His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana.

Those who favor Rama can use the above referenced verse from the Ramayana to support their position. Here Shri Hanuman is describing to Sita his first meeting with Rama and Lakshmana. They were roaming the forest looking for her, and Hanuman was sent down from Rishyamukha to meet them by the Vanara-king Sugriva.

The brothers were so pleased to meet Hanuman that they agreed to climb on his back and be taken to meet Sugriva. The uniqueness of the Rama avatara is the presence of Hanuman. There is no one in the world like Hanuman. Because of his qualities he can purify others through his association. He wins over the hearts of even the most atheistic people. His pure devotion shines through in every one of his deeds. Though he is strong, capable, courageous, learned, and loyal, he is best known for his love and devotion to Shri Rama.

IMG_304726The brothers reciprocate by acting without reservation when with him. This was a meeting with a stranger in a strange place. Yet the trust was there immediately. Hanuman carried the two brothers with great attention, fulfilling whatever was promised. In the same way, he promises to allow entry into Rama’s kingdom to anyone who is sincere. It is for this reason that Goswami Tulsidas made worship of Hanuman so famous and widespread through the prayers known as the Hanuman Chalisa. The Vaishnavas, the devotees of God the person, will always have friendly debates as to which form of Godhead is superior. Only with Rama and Lakshmana can such a beautiful, magnanimous and unique individual like Hanuman be found.

In Closing:

In interest in sports scene,

Rivalries between fans of teams.


Supporting strongly for people not known,

Interestingly in spiritual life also shown.


Some all-attractive Shri Krishna prefer,

Others everything to Vishnu offer.


With Shri Rama and Lakshmana one thing unique,

Hanuman, carrying brothers on shoulder each.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

When The Honor Stops

IMG_368611“This material world is just like smoke, and the spiritual world is just like a blazing fire. The innumerable living entities are prone to fall down to the material world from the spiritual world when influenced by illusory energy, and it is also possible for the living entity to become liberated again when by cultivation of real knowledge he becomes completely freed from the contamination of the material world.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)

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Vedic philosophy has an interesting take on why we are all here. It shouldn’t remain a forever unanswered mystery. Nor should it be left to the speculation of the flawed mind, which is a subtle element of the material nature. The same mind at one point validated our decision to indulge in intoxicants, to forgo schoolwork in favor of video games, and to give our lives over to someone who would later fail us.

The answer to the question of “why are we here” is that we fell from the company of the Supreme Lord. We were with Him at some point. The situation at a point in time does not stay fixed. There is always a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. We were with God but then we desired something else. “How can that happen,” is the next logical question. If you’re with the one entity who is attractive in every way, how can a hint of envy creep in? It doesn’t seem possible.

One way to understand is to look at the honored person. The example can come from any aspect of life. There is the Academy Award winner. There is the champion of the big race. There is the celebrated statesman. They may do so much good for the community, taking advantage of their fame and notoriety. They are loved and adored by so many. They receive so many honors and accolades from various societies and groups.

But does that standing in society bring immunity from potential damage to the reputation in the future? Actually, we know of so many famous people who have fallen. The public isn’t very forgiving, either. They feel betrayed. It’s as if they never knew that the person they honored was fallible like everyone else. It’s as if they expected perfection out of an imperfect human being.

In the same way, to be with the Supreme Lord is the highest honor. It is the greatest accomplishment to always be in His service. Yet the accomplishment says nothing about future action. There is always free will. Independence means having the option to choose wrongly. If there wasn’t the option to turn away from the Supreme Lord, then every living entity would be like a controlled robot. In effect they wouldn’t be a true living being.

“The Lord comes to this material world through the agency of His internal potency, and similarly, when a devotee or associate of the Lord descends to this material world, he does so through the action of the spiritual energy. Any pastime conducted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead is an arrangement by yogamaya, not mahamaya. Therefore it is to be understood that when Jaya and Vijaya descended to this material world, they came because there was something to be done for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise it is a fact that no one falls from Vaikuntha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.1.35 Purport)

image10There is the example of the gatekeepers in Vaikuntha. Named Jaya and Vijaya, due to a transgression they committed they were cursed to take birth as demoniac living entities in the material world. Still, they received a special benediction. Their demoniac behavior would end at the hands of the Supreme Lord. While in the earthly realm they would get liberation through being God’s adversary. Even though they made a mistake, they technically didn’t fall from the spiritual world. Their appearance as demons was for fulfilling a higher purpose set by Lord Vishnu.

So are we eternally liberated souls who have made our way here through Vishnu’s will? If so, does that mean everyone is liberated, considering that everyone fell from the association of Godhead?

Vishnu_dhruva15In the case of Jaya and Vijaya, though they were sent away from Vaikuntha through Vishnu’s will, they still had freedom in action. They were not compelled to act in a certain way. The living entity always has a choice, and when they choose wisely they get the blessings of the Supreme Lord. Only He knows the actual position of each person, such as where they were previously and where they will be going in the future. The great souls like Hanuman get the benediction of God’s mercy and they continue to act in devotion afterwards. Since there is always a choice, that continued devotion makes them even further endeared to the beloved Lord of the universe.

In Closing:

A remarkable person honor to get,

Not meaning that in position forever set.


When behaving badly so,

Quickly their reputation to go.


Residence in Vaikuntha highest honor to call,

But with independence chance again to fall.


Whether eternally liberated only Vishnu to know,

Promised that from bhakti towards His realm to go.