Saturday, March 5, 2016

Satan’s Fall

image15“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.19)

tena muktaḥ tato bāṇaḥ śitaḥ śatru nibarhaṇaḥ |
tena aham tāḍitaḥ kṣiptaḥ samudre śata yojane ||

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Vedic philosophy has something similar to the Satan of the Christian tradition, with a notable distinction. Satan is typically taken to be a worthy adversary, an almost equal to the Supreme Lord. The natural question is why such a person would be allowed to exist. If God is all good, why would He allow someone to compete with Him for attention? Why would that person be given so much strength as well?

Vedic philosophy has the concept of maya. She deludes living entities into viewing things, especially the most important matters in life, incorrectly. The literal translation to the word is “that which is not.” Maya makes me think that eating that extra slice of pizza will be good for me, when it really won’t. She makes me fall into the trap of dependency on drugs and alcohol. I can only follow the wrong path repeatedly if I am bewildered.

Maya is not an adversary to God, though. This is a key point to remember. Maya is an energy emanating from the Supreme Lord. He invests in her full potency to bewilder. The greatest illusion is to think that there is no God, that everything happens by chance. This illusion is so strong that even if a person sees the Supreme Lord in the flesh, right in front of their eyes, they may not realize His true nature. They may mistake Him for an ordinary living entity, fooled by the external vision. This happened one time to a very powerful Rakshasa named Maricha.

The people who are always under the sway of maya are known as asuras. This is a Sanskrit word that is a simple negation of another word. The sura is always devoted to God. We can think of the sura as a good guy. The asuras are evil. They are against the Supreme Lord and godly principles. The asuras can be considered to be Satan-like. They are completely under the spell of ignorance.

The source of maya once descended to earth in the form of a warrior prince. He appeared from the womb of Queen Kausalya, who was married to Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya. The child was named Rama, and He was to follow in His father’s footsteps and rule the kingdom. The job of the king is to protect the citizens, and the greatest danger to the innocent is attack from foreign enemies.

Baby-Rama-with-mother20Rama was no ordinary child, however. Since He was God in person appearing on earth, He retained the divine qualities. Therefore it was not surprising that the venerable sage Vishvamitra asked for Rama’s protection from wicked night-rangers in the forest. Known as Rakshasas, these ogre-like creatures would attack the peaceful sages during the times of religious observance known as yajna, or sacrifice. The modern day equivalent would be a terrorist coming into a church during the time of a sermon. The Rakshasas were so low that they would eat human flesh as well.

Maricha was one such Rakshasa. He was asura-like in mind, and so he took the sura-like sages in the forest to be his enemy. Indeed, the priestly class is known as bhu-sura, which means demigods of the earth. Maricha and his associates went to attack Vishvamitra one time expecting a typical result, but got something totally different.

Rama was there protecting Vishvamitra. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was there as well. As Maricha would later describe to his leader Ravana, Rama was so young that He barely had any signs of manhood on His face. When Maricha went to attack, Rama calmly drew an arrow to His bow. Without breaking a sweat, He shot that arrow into Maricha. The force from that weapon threw the Rakshasa one hundred yojanas away, dropping him in an ocean. The rough equivalent of that distance is eight hundred miles.

image27Rama is always God, despite what the external vision may or may not say. In the same way, He has full potency as the supreme soul living inside of every creature. The only difference is in His choice to withhold some of His potency. As the Supersoul He intentionally sits back as an impartial witness. When the individual makes the decision to turn to spiritual life, however, Rama breaks His neutrality and offers help. Maya works at His direction, and so it should not surprise us that through Rama’s grace the influence of maya can be nullified. The Supreme Lord creates situations for the devotion of His devotees to flourish. Even if they are attacked by Satan-like creatures, He protects them.

In Closing:

When upon His arrow to call,

Maricha into far away ocean to fall.


Though only as a youth appearing,

In Him no sign of Rakshasas fearing.


Despite Rama with the eyes seeing,

Since asura-like, maya her clutch not freeing.


Only through His mercy consciousness purified,

And influence of Satan-like maya nullified.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Talking About After Falling Down

image7“One who is, however, taking pleasure in the self, who is illumined in the self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the self only, fully satiated - for him there is no duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.17)

yas tv ātma-ratir eva syād

ātma-tṛptaś ca mānavaḥ

ātmany eva ca santuṣṭas

tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate

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Friend1: Bhakti-yoga is about changing consciousness.

Friend2: Right. That’s why His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates it as “Krishna consciousness.” It’s all about advancing in how you think. Your mindset determines the nature of action. It’s like how if you kill on the battlefield it’s okay, but if you kill an innocent person on the street it’s a crime.

Friend1: That’s an interesting comparison. I guess the idea is that you work in order to purify yourself. You work so that one day you no longer have to?

Friend2: Something like that. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that the advanced transcendentalist doesn’t have any work to do. They are no longer obligated to follow rituals and the like. It’s sort of like with Lord Shiva and King Daksha.

Friend1: What happened there?

Friend2: Daksha gave away his daughter Sati in marriage to Shiva, though reluctantly so. He didn’t like Shiva very much. He made fun of the fact that Mahadeva doesn’t necessarily follow all the rituals and regulations.

lord_shiva_rm7714Friend1: He’s like the god of the ghosts, right? He’s got ashes all over his body.

Friend2: Correct. He plays different roles in the material world. Though he is the deity in charge of the material mode of ignorance, he is not affected by the mode. He is known as the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of God the person. He is not affected by anything. There is no work for him to do.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Sati chastised her father for this one time. She remarked that the father followed all these rules and regulations only because he was not yet pure. Daksha was not on the same level as Shiva, her husband.

Friend1: Okay, so getting back to that. Advancing in consciousness is key. And there are so many rules to follow, ways to facilitate the advancement.

Friend2: Chief among them being the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: There’s the four regulative principles, too. No meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: What I’m wondering about is what to do if I screw up?

Friend2: What’s your definition of screwing up?

Friend1: Say that I fail to chant the holy names enough on a given day. I’ve made the vow to chant the maha-mantra on a set of japa beads for a set number of rounds each day. What if I fail to meet my vow on a given day?

Friend2: And what if you slip up and take some intoxicants? What if you’re not feeling up to the whole bhakti-yoga thing for a period of time?

Friend1: Exactly. In frustration, let’s say that I lose hope because I feel I’m not making progress. I want to quit. Is it better to just give it up for a while?

japa-mala14Friend2: No.

Friend1: If I continue on, aren’t I kidding myself? Why go through the motions if my heart is not in it? If I feel like I’m a failure, how can moving forward bring any progress?

Friend2: These are great questions. Everyone feels this way at times. If you’re trying to dig a hole and after an entire day the hole is not any bigger than when you started, it’s basically a wasted effort.

Friend1: A complete waste of time. I haven’t gotten anywhere.

Friend2: The same doesn’t apply to bhakti-yoga, though. Any progress you’ve made stays with you. There’s a more important question to answer, however.

Friend1: What’s that?

Friend2: Let’s say you give up in bhakti-yoga due to the reasons mentioned. You don’t think you can do it anymore.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: What’s the alternative?

Friend1: I don’t know. Wait until I am ready again?

Friend2: That’s not what will happen. You will have to work. If it’s not in bhakti, it’s in something else. In frustration you’ve decided that material life is better for you. That will never be the case; material life will always be worse.

Friend1: If I go back to material life, I’ll get sick of it again and then really be motivated for bhakti-yoga.

image17Friend2: That’s a great risk to take. If you know pain will come, why even go down that route? The better option is to continue in bhakti-yoga. No matter how many times you fall, just keep going. Impure devotional service is better than no devotional service. Approaching God with some motives is better than approaching the material nature. Shri Krishna is the supreme purifier. Through enough of His association, gradually things will turn the right way.

In Closing:

When attempt in material life to make,

Against bhakti, great risk to take.


To turn back not guaranteed then,

Unknown when to feel inspired again.


Better to continue forward even though,

Impurities or weakness of heart so.


With attention to duty progress to come,

In the highest stage having duties none.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Five Names That Rama Is Known By

pushpakviman_1577311“O King Parikshit, as the Lord sat on His airplane of flowers, with women offering Him prayers and reciters chanting about His characteristics, He appeared like the moon with the stars and planets.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.44)

puṣpaka-stho nutaḥ strībhiḥ

stūyamānaś ca vandibhiḥ

vireje bhagavān rājan

grahaiś candra ivoditaḥ

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The maha-mantra contains sixteen words, three of them distinct. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” is the peace formula to cure the quarrel and hypocrisy of the age of Kali. Actually, the recitation of this sacred sound has the same benefit in any time period and in any area, but it is especially needed today due to the increased distractions. There are so many things to divert the mind from the real goal of life: consciousness of God.

krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ

sammohāt smṛti-vibhramaḥ

smṛti-bhraṁśād buddhi-nāśo

buddhi-nāśāt praṇaśyati

“From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.63)

What is wrong with distractions? Don’t they help to pass the time? From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the cause of anger is lust. Basically, when you really want something for your personal enjoyment, you’re guaranteed to get angry at some point. This is because frustration is inevitable. Even if I purchase the car I’ve had my eye on for some time, if one day something happens to that car, there is frustration. From anger comes bewilderment of memory, which then leads to loss of intelligence. We have intelligence for a reason, and to lose it is therefore not good.

The potency of the maha-mantra is due to the holy names themselves. Krishna means “all-attractive” and Rama means “the one who has all transcendental pleasure.” Krishna and Rama reference the same person and Hare refers to the energy of that person. Rama also can refer to the Supreme Lord in an incarnation famously described in the Ramayana. That Rama has other names by which He goes as well.

1. Ramachandra

This is the full name used to distinguish the Rama of the Ramayana from others with the same name. The name Krishna references the Supreme Personality of Godhead who famously appeared in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago. Krishna’s elder brother during that descent was named Balarama, who also went by the name Rama. The name Ramachandra helps to distinguish the two.

Rama_Portrait13This name of the Lord means the moonlike personality who has all transcendental pleasure. His beauty is also moonlike. It is an interesting name considering that Rama appeared in the solar dynasty. When we take into account that Rama is non-different from God, the contradiction ceases. Only God can be both the sun and the moon at the same time.

2. Raghuvira

This name sometimes has different spellings, like Raghuvir and Raghubir, but the meaning is the same. It refers to Rama as the hero of the Raghu dynasty. Vira also means strength, so Rama is the strength of that dynasty as well. King Raghu was one of the famous rulers in the solar dynasty, and so he became the reference point for kings succeeding him in that line. Rama is the hero of that dynasty. This name is significant since the entire dynasty featured heroic kings. Rama is like the best of the best. This is another way to understand God. He is the most heroic person you can think of.

3. Janakinatha

One of the heroic things Rama did during His earthly pastimes was lift an amazingly heavy bow as part of a contest. Rama was not eager to participate nor was He consumed by desire for the prize, the hand in marriage of the daughter of King Janaka. That daughter was named Sita by the father, and due to her relationship to him she was also known as Janaki.

After so many valiant princes from around the world had failed to even move Lord Shiva’s bow set in the middle of the assembly, the sage Vishvamitra asked Janaka if Rama could give it a try. Rama proceeded to lift the bow easily and then break it while drawing string to it. He then became Janakinatha, or the husband of Janaki.

4. Ikshvakunandana

The solar dynasty started from Vivasvan, the sun god. Manu, the father of mankind, succeeded him. Ikshvaku followed, and he was known as a saintly king. This chain of succession is described in the Bhagavad-gita by Krishna, who is the same Rama.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ

proktavān aham avyayam

vivasvān manave prāha

manur ikṣvākave 'bravīt

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

image8Rama appeared many kings down the line, but He was the most noteworthy of them. He gave delight to the entire dynasty through His appearance. God is the greatest light; His natural illumination brightens every area where He appears. Rama is the delight of that famous dynasty because of His heroic exploits. He won Sita’s hand in marriage through lifting the incredibly heavy bow, and He followed that by ridding the world of the formidable, demoniac foe of the pious named Ravana.

5. Dasharathi

Dasharatha was the ruler in the Ikshvaku dynasty immediately preceding Rama. Dasharatha was special in his own right. In his previous birth he was a pious soul who regularly observed rituals of the Vedic tradition. In his next birth he appeared as the protector of the pious. He could fight so well that the demigods regularly called on him in their conflicts with the asuras, or those who are against God. Dasharatha got his name from his ability to fight against chariots coming from the ten directions simultaneously.

The name Dasharathi references Rama’s relationship to this great soul. It is a tremendous honor for Dasharatha, as he was specifically chosen to play the role of father. God is aja, or unborn. No one comes before Him. He is the beginning of the beginning. He is also ananta, or endless. Still, He is so kind that He increases the fame and honor of the devoted souls by assigning them significant roles during His lila, or pastimes.

In Closing:

Rama also as Dasharati known,

Appearing in affectionate father’s home.


Janakinatha, protector of king’s daughter,

Won contest drawn up by the father.


Ramachandra like the moon so bright,

To Ikshvaku dynasty giving delight.


Hero of Raghu clan appearing,

From world Rakshasa influence clearing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Talking About Keeping A Dog

Bz9OkmwEGkKGrHqEOKjEETZLuKFBMYQO3efK“In the material world a dog is sometimes elevated and is sometimes on the street, but in the spiritual world, Krishna's dog is perpetually, eternally happy. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has therefore sung: vaishnava thakura tomara kukura baliya janaha more. In this way Bhaktivinoda Thakura offers to become a Vaishnava's dog. A dog always keeps himself at his master's door and does not allow any person unfavorable to the master to enter. Similarly, one should engage in the service of a Vaishnava and try to please him in every respect.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.29.30-31 Purport)

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Friend1: Having dog problems again.

Friend2: You really love dogs on the inside, don’t you?

Friend1: I’ve never said I hated them.

Friend2: Come on, just admit it.

Friend1: I’m more interested in how they interact with others. More specifically, how the owners treat them.

Friend2: So what happened this time?

Friend1: I was staying with a friend for the weekend, and their stupid dog kept barking every morning.

Friend2: See, I knew you hated them!

Friend1: I’m talking about for an hour straight. It just kept barking. I think the gardener was coming over in the morning. The same gardener who comes every morning.

Friend2: The dog obviously knew who the person was, then. It’s not like they were barking because a stranger had come to the home.

Friend1: Exactly! This dog is more or less out of control. They keep it tied up the entire day. If they let it free for a second, it would run off.

Friend2: Yeah, some people just don’t take the time to train their dogs.

Friend1: I noticed something interesting.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: It’s not with only this dog, either. What happens is that the dog goes wild and crazy, does all this bad stuff, and then the owner doesn’t mind at all.

Friend2: You’re thinking the owner should punish.

image7Friend1: At the very least say something harsh. Nope. They think it’s cute. They can’t look negatively on it.

Friend2: It’s a loyalty thing.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The dog may have every bad quality there is, but at the very least it is loyal. In your situation it was barking at someone coming to the house. It kept barking, not letting up. That’s kind of nice if you think about it.

Friend1: I can’t relate; that’s why I’m bringing it up with you. I can’t imagine being that forgiving.

Friend2: Well, that’s because you’re a horrible person [smile].

image14Friend1: It got me to thinking. Isn’t there a line in a Bhaktivinoda Thakura song about becoming Krishna’s dog?

Friend2: It’s to become the dog of a Vaishnava. Vaishnava is a devotee of Vishnu or Krishna, so it’s basically the same thing.

Friend1: I don’t want to make an offensive joke here, but you know I can’t help thinking about uncontrolled barking and how Krishna would handle it.

Friend2: You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions like that. Go with it. How do you think Krishna would react?

Friend1: I don’t know.

Friend2: Oh, sure you do. You know that one of Krishna’s names is Gopala, right?

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: What does that name mean?

Friend1: One who protects the cows.

Friend2: Exactly. Which means He keeps cows as pets.

Friend1: Oh, right. But how bad can cows really be? They don’t bark all the time.

Friend2: You’re forgetting that Krishna tended to many cows. They would run off every now and then. Imagine trying to round up just two of your kids from a playground. You know how hard that is. There were so many cows in Vrindavana, and they would go in different directions.

Friend1: How would Krishna manage?

Bz9OkmwEGkKGrHqEOKjEETZLuKFBMYQO3efK[2]Friend2: He would start playing His flute. Then everybody would stop. They would pay attention and come back to Him.

Friend1: That’s pretty cool.

Friend2: Anyway, if you’re the dog of Krishna or a Vaishnava, you’re showing loyalty. Just as with the dog example you gave, the owner will forgive every offense. They won’t hold your bad qualities against you.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: The dog is also a servant. The quickest way to make advancement in spiritual life is to serve someone who is faithfully engaged in service to the Supreme Lord. It’s better to serve the Vaishnava than to serve Krishna, since the Vaishnava is already so dear to the Lord.

Friend1: Makes sense. Are there people who want to be the master instead?

Friend2: Umm, yeah, of course. That’s the whole reason for the creation of the material world. You have a universe full of living entities looking to be masters.

Friend1: Why do some of them become dogs?

Friend2: There’s a chain, a pecking order if you will. The dog is a master over other living entities. Just because they serve the human being doesn’t mean they aren’t being served by others.

Friend1: That’s pretty nice of Krishna, I must say.

Friend2: He not only forgives offenses made in service, but He never forgets even a little service rendered. We forget so easily. If a friend messes up once, we don’t talk to them ever again. It’s not the case with the Supreme Lord. The Vaishnavas who always serve Him are even more dear to Him. The spiritual master is like the best guard for the Supreme Lord, always looking out for His interests. Service to the guru and those who serve the guru thus becomes the most rewarding work in life.

In Closing:

Like a dog the guru to live,

Loyalty in service to God to give.


Owner of dog seeing behavior bad,

Knowing love, never can get mad.


Understanding the loyalty of the pet,

So in compassion standing always set.


With Shri Krishna attitude the same,

So pleased with those chanting His name.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Five Names That Krishna Is Known By

KrishnaYashoda10“The parental love of Mother Yashoda for Krishna steadily increases, and her love and ecstasy are sometimes described as intense affection and sometimes as overwhelming attachment.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)

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The Almighty. The Divine. God. The Supreme Deity. These are different descriptions for someone we think is impossible to be seen in the flesh. We think He is beyond the conception of even the most imaginative mind. Perhaps that’s exactly what He is: a concept designed by those wishing to make order of a world filled with chaos. Perhaps He is an imaginary figure from whom to derive comfort and safety, a way to feel like the virtuous path will indeed be rewarding some day.

The Vedas don’t leave anything to chance. There needn’t be sole reliance on faith when discussing spiritual matters. Use all of your intellect. Bring every one of your doubts to the table and don’t be afraid to voice them. The Vedas can rise up to such a challenge because they explain the Divine from all angles of vision. From whichever viewpoint you are coming, there is a way for you to understand, relate to, and then serve the Supreme Lord.

The name Krishna says that He is all-attractive. He is also of a blackish complexion. Not exactly the opposite of white, but something resembling a dark raincloud. In India a few tamala trees can still be found, and they resemble Krishna so much that His beloved Shrimati Radharani would often embrace them. Krishna is one of the principal names found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The same Krishna is also known by many other names, each of which has a specific meaning and significance.

1. Yashodanandana

Yashoda is the foster mother in the rural community of Vrindavana. The “foster” word is added because Krishna didn’t exactly emerge from her womb. There was a kind of switched at birth thing, where the father Vasudeva took Krishna from Mathura to Gokula in exchange for the baby girl who had just been born to Yashoda. This was done unbeknownst to Yashoda.

KrishnaYashoda22Krishna is the delight of Yashoda. He gives her so much pleasure through simply acting as a child. There is no need for God to show off. He already has everything. Pious souls like Yashoda do not doubt the existence of the Supreme Lord, so showing a magical display of strength is not necessary with her. Rather, Krishna acts in ways that He knows will be pleasing to the loving mother. He sucks milk from her breast, adorably attempts to crawl, steals butter she has made, and even cries when about to be punished for naughty behavior.

2. Girivaradhari

BvLh0cwB2kKGrHqIOKjwEvoNJi1bJBMDddn0[1]Krishna is the lifter of mountains. What kind of mountains? Picture one so large that its circumference is 23 km. This mountain that takes hours to circumambulate by foot was held up in the air by Krishna’s pinky finger on His left hand. He held it up for a reason: to protect the innocent residents of Vrindavana. A torrential downpour threatened to wash them away. Though Krishna was a boy at the time, He still possessed the full power of the Divine. That potency never leaves Him. He may not reveal His full potency at every moment, but it is there for Him to utilize whenever necessary.

3. Vrindavana-chandra

Krishna is the moon of Vrindavana. He provides a bright, soothing light to give guidance in the otherwise dark night. He appears in the dynasty of kings that traces back to the moon-god, Soma. He is moonlike for everyone in Vrindavana, but especially the gopis. They are the cowherd girls who love Krishna so purely that He has no way of repaying them adequately. To meet their desires, He dances with them in what is known as the rasa-lila. This takes place during Sharada Purnima, which is the brightest full moon of the year.

4. Gopinatha

krishna20flute12The Sanskrit word natha means husband. That is the most common use of the word, but another translation is protector. While Krishna is not the official husband of the gopis, He is indeed their maintainer and protector. He is the Lord of their life breath, or prana-natha. They live only for Him. Though they may be engaged in household chores during the day, they never forget Him for a second. They practice bhakti-yoga without even thinking about it. When Krishna tries to praise them for this amazing dedication, they have no interest in hearing it. They would rather hear what Krishna is doing and whether or not He is thinking of them.

5. Shyamasundara

The Sanskrit word shyama describes Krishna’s complexion. It is dark, but extremely beautiful. Hence the word sundara is added to make another wonderful name for God. He is of a dark complexion that is extremely beautiful. He is able to attract anyone with this beauty. The cows, the peacocks, the birds, the parrots, the bees - all living entities in Vrindavana are attracted by Krishna’s beauty.

In Closing:

With a beautiful son Yashoda blessed,

On His pinky finger massive hill to rest.


Brightness to Vrindavana like the moon,

Gopis from separation in ecstasy’s swoon.


Shyamasundara since with complexion blue,

Beautiful in every aspect, inside and out too.


Krishna by many other names is known,

All attractiveness in Him alone.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Five People Who Serve God Without Motive

framed_poster_BT79_l14“The great sage Narada Muni has a spiritual body; therefore old age, disease, birth and death do not affect him. Narada is the most kind devotee of the Supreme Lord, and his only business is to travel all over the universe and preach God consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.27.22 Purport)

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It’s only natural to ask things from the Almighty. If He does indeed exist, why not expect Him to supply things that are otherwise difficult to procure? For instance, we know that the ability in man is both limited and impossible to alter through personal effort. When a child is born, there is no way to guarantee beforehand important aspects like gender, height, intelligence, and dexterity. These things come from the higher forces.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo

mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca

vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo

vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that remembrance and forgetfulness come from Him. The things which are out of our control are easily controlled by Him. Therefore when we are in need, it only makes sense to approach the Supreme Lord to get some help.

Yet this style of worship has similarities to a business transaction. My action is with a motive. I do one thing and expect something in return. Real love is selfless. Since God is a person, He is a candidate for receiving love. This is not merely a theory, some abstract proposal to only be discussed by intellectuals in a faculty lounge. There are real-life examples of people who serve God without motive, and much can be learned from them.

1. Narada Muni

The creator of the universe is Lord Brahma. One of his names is Svayambhu, which means self-born. He gets this title because he doesn’t have the typical mother and father. His birth comes from the stem that grows out of the lotus-like navel of Lord Vishnu, who is one form of the original Personality of Godhead.

Every creature in the world can trace their ancestry back to Brahma. One of the direct sons of Brahma is Narada. He is a muni, or great thinker. He was once cursed to not be able to stay in a single location for more than three days at a time. Since then he is known as a triloka-sanchari, a person who travels the three worlds: heaven, earth, and hell.

He happily travels in this way. Wherever he goes, he sings the names of Narayana, which is another word for God the person. Narada trains others also. So many important people got their start in spiritual life through the wise counsel of Narada. He serves God without motive and without interruption. He practices bhakti purely, and he is extremely happy as a result.

framed_poster_BT79_l28Sometimes, through God’s personal intervention Narada may ask something from Vishnu. The Lord then assesses the request to see if it will be beneficial to Narada. Vishnu is not obligated to say “yes.” This is a special mercy for the devotees. He maintains their devotion, and it is especially true in the case of Narada, whom He holds very dear.

2. Bharata, the son of Dasharatha

Bharata is a partial incarnation of Vishnu, but he provides a great example of bhakti nonetheless. One time when Narada asked something from Vishnu, the Supreme Lord denied the request. Narada became angry as a result and then cursed Vishnu to appear on earth. Though never bound to a curse, Vishnu happily agreed to appear, taking the form of the warrior prince named Rama. Vishnu also partially incarnated as Rama’s three younger brothers.

Rama appeared from the womb of Queen Kausalya. Bharata appeared from Kaikeyi. As the events in that incarnation played out, Rama was asked to leave the kingdom for fourteen years and Bharata was handed over control from the father Dasharatha. Bharata had no role in either decision. He did not agree with either.

Bharata had already served Rama, who is God, as a devoted younger brother. After the unfortunate events, Bharata continued to serve. After much persuasion from Rama, he agreed to remain the ruler of Ayodhya, but he would do so without enjoying any of the perks of royalty. He symbolically placed Rama on the throne through the Lord’s sandals. Bharata then worshiped those sandals constantly, living in a tiny ashrama.

bharata11Many people served Rama during His time on earth and were awarded various things in return. Vibhishana and Sugriva both became kings as a result of serving Rama. Others regained their old forms after previously having been cursed. Bharata is the lone person who gave up everything as a result of serving Rama. His devotion was pure. There was no motive.

3. Hanuman

Hanuman was the chief minister to the monkey-king Sugriva. He met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana in the forest of Kishkindha. Hanuman went on to serve Rama valiantly, becoming especially famous for his brave and difficult journey to Lanka in search of Sita, Rama’s wife.

Bp2ehBGkKGrHgoH-EYEjlLly8EBKdcCjGNg_After Rama emerged successful and returned home to be crowned king, many of the important members of His team were offered benedictions. When it came Hanuman’s time, all he asked was that he remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be sung. Thus the greatest servant, who pleased Sita and Rama the most, showed the entire world what the most worthy benediction in life is: bhakti.

4. The gopis of Vrindavana

Shri Krishna is famously depicted in paintings as dancing with many beautiful young girls under the brightest moon of Sharada Purnima. The less intelligent will never understand this image, as they see everything through their lens of material exploitation. A person who has no discrimination in eating and drinking can never understand the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The gopis are the innocent cowherd girls of the rural community of Vrindavana. They love Krishna purely and they are willing to give up everything to serve Him in their preferred mood of choice: conjugal love. If Krishna is indeed God, then He can enjoy the most. Dharma, or religiosity, does not apply to Him since He is the objective in following dharma.

30150_132028403477090_10000009792546[1]The gopis wish to dance with Krishna, and He obliges. They love Him no matter what He does. Their example is the height of devotion, as affirmed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. No one is more dear to Krishna than the gopis.

5. The spiritual master

The bona fide guru follows in the footsteps of the gopis. The spiritual master is a servant of God, through and through. They travel wherever necessary to rescue fallen souls. They rescue through shining the light of devotion. This light brings a person out of the darkness of ignorance. From the good fortune of meeting a spiritual master and inquiring from them submissively, a person can see the truth.

tad viddhi praṇipātena

paripraśnena sevayā

upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ

jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is one such spiritual master. Like Narada he constantly travelled the globe to bring the names of Narayana to the people who desperately needed to hear them. Like Bharata he gave up everything to serve God without motive. Like Hanuman he crossed the vast ocean to bring the message of Godhead to the troubled people in a foreign land. Like the gopis he thought only of Krishna day and night.

prabhupada13In this way we see that there is much more to God than a standard order supplier. He is a person with whom a lasting relationship can be formed. In that relationship, He acts as the best counterpart, whether as a brother, friend, teacher or lover. Shri Krishna can indeed be all things to all people.

In Closing:

Person who with Krishna name to call,

Can indeed be all things to people all.


Advance through pure bhakti trying,

Not looking for your orders supplying.


Examples of Hanuman and Bharata take,

And gopis dancing through moonlit night awake.


The spiritual master home for others forsaking,

With him light of the divine wherever taking.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lakshmana Agraja

sita_rama_hanuman_brothers12“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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The Sanskrit word acharya means “one who leads by example.” It is a not too uncommon surname for people native to the land known as India, but the title is there due to the lineage tracing to some spiritual leader in times past. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that what a great man does, others follow. Whatever example he sets becomes the standard.

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)

The living entity is born into delusion. They are overcome by the prakriti that surrounds them. They are purusha, or spirit, while not understanding that the covering matter is merely temporary. The living entity is a superior kind of prakriti in relation to the original person and enjoyer, the Supreme Lord. He is the best spirit, or Purushottoma.

The association of the acharya is necessary for breaking free from the delusion. But what makes a bona fide leader? How do we tell? A person can be a great thief and thus set the example for others. Even statesmen are lauded today for their expert ability at bending the truth. If they can survive a scandal in office for which they are actually culpable, then it is a sign of expertise.



catvaras te kalau bhavya

hy utkale purusottama

"Any mantra that does not come in disciplic succession is considered to be fruitless. Therefore, four divine individuals will appear in the age of Kali to found disciplic schools. The founders of these four Vaishnava sampradayas are Lakshmi or Shri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Rishi, and the acharyas of the Kali Age who follow their lines will appear in the holy city of Purushottama in Orissa." (Padma Purana)

A Vedic text known as the Padma Purana sheds some light. It reveals that in the present age of darkness and hypocrisy, there are four traditions of spiritual teachers that are bona fide. Each tradition traces its lineage back to a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Moreover, in this present age each lineage has an acharya associated with it, a person who leads by example in reviving the original culture of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord.

image9One of those acharyas is Ramanuja. He appeared on this earth many centuries ago, and his spiritual lineage traces back to Lakshmi Devi, who is the goddess of fortune. Another name for Lakshmi is Shri, and so Ramanuja is part of the Shri Sampradaya. A sampradaya is a specific chain of disciplic succession, which features one acharya setting the example, paving the way for future acharyas. It is said that Ramanuja is an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga. Both Anantadeva and Lakshmi are associated with the Supreme Lord in His form of Narayana. God is one, but He appears in different ways to carry out different functions. The innumerable living entities may be attracted to a specific form due to the qualities shown, but they are all worshiping the same God. Even the atheists are attracted; they are merely worshiping the separated energy known as the material nature.

Worship of the real thing is the proper path for the living entity. That is their constitutional position. We can think of it like driving on the correct side of the road. We have the freedom to drive on the wrong side, but that is dangerous. We may get away with it temporarily, but continuing on that path will lead to destruction. In a similar manner, to stay under the shelter of the material energy is to remain in the cycle of birth and death in a temporary and miserable land.

The name Ramanuja means “younger brother of Rama.” In this way Ramanuja is identical to Lakshmana, who is referenced in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. The speaker here is Shri Hanuman, and he mentions Lakshmana intentionally. To be addressed in relation to Rama is a high compliment. Though today adherence to traditions from times past is rare, in the original sense the word anuja means “a follower.” The elder brother is the leader in the generation of siblings. The younger brothers honor and follow.

Lakshmana is the ideal younger brother to the Supreme Lord’s incarnation of Shri Rama. Thus the use of the word Ramanuja is complimentary both to the elder and younger brothers. Rama has two other brothers who can be addressed with the same name. Bharata and Shatrughna also follow Rama out of love.

Hanuman here mentions Lakshmana as a way to reference Shri Rama. The situation is reversed. Rama is addressed as Lakshmana-agraja. This means the elder brother of Lakshmana. This is another way to praise the Supreme Lord. He has innumerable names, as His glories are too great to count. What is commonly known as Hinduism today is actually sanatana-dharma. The earliest recorded works that can be called the source of sanatana-dharma are the Vedas. Think of people singing praises constantly. Then take those people and transform them into book form. That is one way to understand the Vedas.

Rama is the elder brother of the invincible Lakshmana. Rama leads the one who is ready to follow in any situation. Lakshmana has only one interest: serving the Supreme Lord. Hanuman is speaking to Sita Devi, telling her about how he came to meet her husband Rama. Hanuman arranged a meeting between Rama and Sugriva, the Vanara-leader in Kishkindha. Sugriva had a brother named Vali, but the relationship wasn’t the same. They were at war with one another.

Rama_Darbar_YR12Rama is so great that He has the wonderful Lakshmana following Him. He has the devoted Sita as a wife. He has the fearless, courageous, intelligent, and compassionate Hanuman to carry out missions for Him. In this way there are many sides to the Supreme Lord. He can be addressed through His devotees, and He takes great pleasure in hearing such names. Thus there are many ways to please Him as well, meaning that life in the material realm shouldn’t have to continue any longer.

In Closing:

Ramanuja meaning Lakshmana a junior,

Following Rama, agraja the senior.


Shri Hanuman addressing in this way,

With praise to both brothers to say.


Lakshmana invincible, mighty and brave,

For the pleasure of God his efforts to save.


Hanuman, Sita and Bharata also related,

Rama’s glories through so many names stated.