Saturday, April 2, 2016

Establishing Expertise

krishna_arjuna_212“As long as I read the Bhagavad-gita, I simply see the Lord's beautiful features. It is for this reason that I am reading the Bhagavad-gita, and my mind cannot be distracted from this.” (Brahmana speaking to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 9.101)

yāvat paḍoṅ, tāvat pāṅa tāṅra daraśana

ei lāgi' gītā-pāṭha nā chāḍe mora mana

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Question: “Vedic philosophy is deep and rich. There are so many important books to read. I know that the Bhagavad-gita is the most popular. It is the most widely read. I can’t get through too many verses in one sitting, though, because each one causes me to go into deep contemplation. Is there a way to tell who is an expert on the work? In other fields of study, there is the awarding of the doctorate, the professor, or the person who has researched a topic for years and years. Can the same statuses be applied in Vedic studies?”

Athato brahma-jijnasa. This is the wakeup call for the spirit soul who has travelled through so many types of bodies and has finally reached the most auspicious one: the human being. This Sanskrit aphorism reveals that no more time should be wasted in the chase for sense gratification. Don’t worry about heaven or hell, eating or sleeping, happiness or sadness. Just find out who you are. Inquire about Brahman, which is spirit. Make that the immediate goal.

To that end there is Vedic literature, in which the aphorism is found to begin with. Man does not have to remain in the dark about their true identity. Everything we see around us is merely a manifestation effected by time. Through the workings of time things are always changing. Nothing is fixed, or so we think. The spirit soul, which is the essence of existence in our world, remains unchanged. It is never created, destroyed, hurt, burned, or made wet.

nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi

nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ

na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo

na śoṣayati mārutaḥ

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

There is so much to read. There are the original Vedas. There are also the Upanishads. If these are too vague or too esoteric, the same truths are also presented in story form. These stories are actually historical accounts. The events chronicled in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas actually occurred or will occur in the future.

Fortunately, everything needed to be known is summarized in a short and concise work known as the Bhagavad-gita. Translated as “The Song of God,” it is a conversation between the greatest teacher and the most worthy student. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, gives instruction to Arjuna, who is the friend, cousin and disciple.

The actual conversation took place some five thousand years ago based on the present timeline of events in this creation. Therefore we might have a difficult time understanding what is going on based on only reading the text. How do we come to understand the meanings to the verses? People are there to help us, but who is most qualified to offer that help?

Academic learning is not necessarily a qualification in this area. We can think of it like trying to sit in an advanced mathematics class when we are not familiar with the prerequisite material. We can sit in the same class for years and years and we won’t learn anything. This is because we lack the foundational knowledge. We can emerge from the setting and claim expertise based on the years of experience, but the purported expertise will have no value.

In the same way, a person must be qualified through the proper attitude before learning the truths of the Bhagavad-gita. There is the concept of parampara, which Krishna Himself mentions to Arjuna. Parampara is the disciplic succession, which has Krishna as the origin. You learn through the descending process, and even then only through submissive hearing. Skepticism and a challenging spirit are okay when trying to become convinced of the facts, but the first step is to extend a little faith when hearing.

evaṁ paramparā-prāptam

imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ

sa kāleneha mahatā

yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)

Just as Vedic philosophy can be understood through stories and examples, we have instances from history that give evidence to the theory behind the concept of qualification for understanding. There was an incident with Lord Chaitanya and an illiterate person. The person could not read the Bhagavad-gita, but he was so attached to the book anyway.

Others would laugh at his attempt to understand the work, so Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself, once asked the man what he was doing and why he had tears in his eyes while holding the Bhagavad-gita. The illiterate person told Chaitanya that every time he held the book, he remembered Shri Krishna and Arjuna. He thought of how merciful God is to teach someone like Arjuna and act as his charioteer.

krishna_arjuna_225Chaitanya then declared that the person’s understanding of Bhagavad-gita was perfect. In that instance there was no academic qualification. Still, there was buddhi. It came through the proper attitude. Then there is the instance of Hanuman meeting Shri Rama, who is the same Krishna and Chaitanya, just appearing on earth at a different time. Hanuman met God face to face, but that wasn’t the important thing. Hanuman understood who Rama was, to the extent that he took up devotional service to Rama for the rest of his life.

Hanuman did not sit in a classroom on the Bhagavad-gita. He was not a reputed scholar on Vedanta. Rather, he was pure of heart, a dedicated soul whose humility allowed him to hear directly from Rama. That proper qualification made him the fit candidate for receiving the mercy of the Supreme Lord. It is through that mercy alone that one can know who the living entity is and what their relationship is to the Supreme Lord. The teachers in the bona fide disciplic succession have that mercy and are ready to shower it on as many as are willing to accept it.

In Closing:

Since lacking knowledge befitting,

No expertise despite for long sitting.


Same applies to Vedanta know,

First with proper attitude must go.


Brahmana holding Gita though couldn’t read,

Chaitanya declaring his understanding perfect indeed.


Because Krishna and Arjuna always in mind,

True essence from sacred work to find.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Buddhi-yoga Ecstasy

23217“When one is above the directions of the Vedic ritualistic injunctions for attaining different allurements and is fully absorbed in transcendental thought, which means thought of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in devotional service, one is in the position called buddhi-yoga, or samadhi, ecstasy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.4.20 Purport)

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You would be surprised to know that the highest platform of living is not determined by material objects. In Vedic philosophy there are indeed the concepts of heaven and heavenly enjoyment. The heavenly region is a planetary system, where there are different standards of living. Just like in the earthly realm there is the concept of upward mobility, which is determined by economic success, there are different ways to enjoy in heaven.

trai-vidyā māṁ soma-pāḥ pūta-pāpā

yajñair iṣṭvā svar-gatiṁ prārthayante

te puṇyam āsādya surendra-lokam

aśnanti divyān divi deva-bhogān

“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20)

Satyanarayana_puja14The four kinds of enjoyment in material life are eating, sleeping, mating and defending. If I’m eating oatmeal and porridge every day, I might envy the person who eats eggs benedict and steak and potatoes. If my only beverage is water, the person who drinks expensive wine may think they have it better.

The same comparison is there in sleeping, where the expensive mattress with a firmness set electronically is superior to the sheet laid on the bare ground. Once a person reaches the heavenly realm, the enjoyment gets enhanced to a level unimaginable.

How do you get to heaven? Be pious. Be a good person. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Follow prescribed rules and regulations, which might include rituals done for the satisfaction of higher authorities. In Sanskrit these authorities are known as devas. The English equivalent is demigod, because the devas all work for a single authority, who is thus the highest person.

The wise person, who has buddhi, or real intelligence, understands that the highest platform of living is not necessarily in the heavenly realm. The reason is that the residence is not permanent. It’s like buying time on a card that allows you to play at an arcade. Once your card runs out of time, you have to do something to refill it. In the same way, once the pious credits you’ve amassed expire, you have to leave heaven and go back to earth.

Moreover, traces of heavenly enjoyment can be found everywhere. The person who sleeps comfortably on a plush mattress experiences a kind of heaven. The same is true for anyone who has a life-threatening situation and somehow lives through it.

The highest platform of living is reached through consciousness. This means that you don’t have to worry about going to heaven. You don’t have to worry about getting moksha, or liberation, after experiencing the rewards of dharma, artha, and kama, which are religiosity, economic development and sense gratification respectively.

If you miss a ritual relating to sense gratification, it’s not the end of the world. Things will be okay. After all, the animals get their share of enjoyment and distress. They don’t know anything about religion. They never perform sacrifices. They don’t even know what dharma is.

In the same way, good and bad come through the course of karma and the passage of time. The proper objective for the living being is to advance in consciousness. Through meditation they can prepare for taking up an eternal engagement, one that matches the advanced consciousness. Meditation begins on the person who is not controlled by anyone else. That is the answer to the question of, “ Who is God?” He is the one person who is not controlled by any other controller.  He is Parameshvara, to stand above all ishvaras.

23236After properly meditating on Him, the individual is ready to serve Him. This service is known as bhakti-yoga, which is synonymous with buddhi-yoga, as the most intelligent person acts in a way that maintains a connection between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. The occupation of bhakti-yoga continues forever. It creates a situation far superior to heaven, and it does so without relying on external objects. Rather, through even a simple life a person feels like they are extremely blessed, having the wealth of the Supreme Lord’s association. The meditation in this day and age starts and continues with the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

For the highest platform to achieve,

Not dependent on objects to receive.


Of life in heaven can already tell,

And some experiences also like hell.


Of missing a ritual no need to fear,

Since through mind to Lord become dear.


Even in simple life bliss to be found,

Bhakti-yoga bringing joy abound.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Talking About a Yajna In Ignorance

image7“And that sacrifice performed in defiance of scriptural injunctions, in which no spiritual food is distributed, no hymns are chanted and no remunerations are made to the priests, and which is faithless - that sacrifice is of the nature of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.13)

vidhi-hīnam asṛṣṭānnaṁ

mantra-hīnam adakṣiṇam

śraddhā-virahitaṁ yajñaṁ

tāmasaṁ paricakṣate

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Friend1: You have to eat this.

Friend2: What are you talking about?

Friend1: You don’t say “no” to prasadam.

Friend2: Oh.

Friend1: You can’t throw it away, either. That’s a great offense.

Friend2: I’m assuming you have been told these things many times.

Friend1: A lot when I was a kid. The rebellious side of me wanted to ignore what was being said. I never understood it anyway.

Friend2: What would you do?

Friend1: I didn’t like the fruits. I was allergic to some of them. Not sure exactly why. Maybe because they weren’t ripe.

Friend2: So you would not eat it?

Friend1: Are you kidding? I would feel too guilty, like something bad would happen to me if I didn’t.

Friend2: Interesting. The elders know how to scare the children, that’s for sure.

Friend1: I kind of understand better now. Especially since I know what the Sanskrit word “prasadam” means.

Friend2: Yes. It is God’s mercy.

47340_1482778720934_1577838533_11549[1]Friend1: Spiritual food offered to the Supreme Lord. He glances over it and infuses it with His potency. Similar to how the devotee gradually acquires all the qualities of the demigods, the remnants of offered food have tremendous power, especially to shape consciousness.

Friend2: Very good. I’m sure you know that prasadam doesn’t have to be only food.

Friend1: Oh, really?

Friend2: It’s the Lord’s mercy. It doesn’t have to be an offering necessarily. The term is properly applied to offerings that get returned, but it can be any type of mercy. There is mention of it in the Ramayana as well.

Friend1: Really? There was an offering of food made to Rama?

Friend2: Well, the family members offered food to Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord’s incarnation appearing as a warrior prince thousands of years ago. There is that painting showing Rama and His brothers sitting down and eating in the palace, being fed by the mother. The close-up of Rama and Lakshmana sitting together might be my favorite image of all-time.

015314Friend1: So that food is really prasadam; since God is eating it directly.

Friend2: Even if He doesn’t eat, there is prasadam. The Nishada chief Guha made nice offerings to Rama, but the Lord didn’t accept it directly since He was observing a vow. Still, the offering became prasadam due to Rama’s mercy. Anyway, the word is mentioned in relation to Lord Shiva as well.

Friend1: Oh?

Friend2: Yes. It is well-known that Shri Rama worshiped Lord Shiva prior to entering Lanka in the final battle with Ravana, the fiendish king who had taken away Rama’s wife Sita. Since the incident is not found in great detail in the Ramayana of Valmiki, people mistakenly think that other authors of Rama’s life, like Goswami Tulsidas, made up the incident. But in fact, the reference is there in the original Ramayana. While flying back home to Ayodhya on the aerial car, Rama points out to Sita the location where He received Shiva’s mercy, his prasadam.

Friend1: Oh, that’s interesting.

Friend2: This prasadam is a great way to tell if a sacrifice is bona fide or not.

Friend1: What do you mean, like if the sacrifice will bring the intended result?

Friend2: The Sanskrit word is yajna. It is actually synonymous with Vishnu, who is the same Rama. Yajna essentially means God, but in the strict definition, it is sacrifice. Since the sacrifice is meant for pleasing Vishnu, the word is synonymous with Him.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Shri Krishna, who is the same Vishnu and Rama, describes in the Bhagavad-gita that even a yajna can be in the mode of ignorance.

Friend1: Okay. How do you tell?

Friend2: It’s all about motive, if you think about it. If you’re sitting in front of a fire and chanting mantras, but doing so at the wrong time and place, and for your own benefit, then you’re in the mode of ignorance. Prasadam is a key indicator.

Friend1: But aren’t all yajnas for getting a benefit? Like with Rama worshiping Shiva, that was for success in the upcoming mission. Obviously as God, Rama doesn’t need to worship anyone. I understand He was simply showing respect. Still, the benefit was for Him alone, no?

Friend2: That’s where prasadam comes in. In a bona fide yajna, there is the distribution of spiritual food. This automatically means that others benefit. Krishna says that in the yajna in the mode of ignorance, no food is distributed.

Friend1: Oh. That’s interesting.

Friend2: Yeah. Just another way of knowing that with devotional service, you are safe on all fronts. You are obviously benefitting yourself, through the advancement of the consciousness. Simultaneously, you are doing the best service to others. You are distributing the Lord’s mercy to everyone, who desperately need it. Even in the sankirtana-yajna there is distribution of prasadam. Through the chanting of the holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, you are giving the Lord’s mercy in the form of sound to anyone who is within audible range.

In Closing:

Yajna for Vishnu another name,

Sacrifice in His honor thus to Him the same.


For proper yajna to see,

Distribution of food should be.


Prasadam, the Lord’s mercy bestowing,

Benefit to all who partake going.


In ignorance otherwise effort is known,

Since no respect for Lord is shown.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Work To Become Detached

image10“The Vedic activities are so designed that the conditioned soul who has come to enjoy the material world may do so under direction so that at the end he becomes detached from such material enjoyment and is eligible to enter into the transcendental position.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.4.20 Purport)

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“What should I do with my life? What is the proper direction? How do I avoid being labeled ‘lost’ by others? If I don’t follow the traditional path, surely they will look at me funny. They will think that something is wrong with me. What is the purpose to going through the typical cycle of life? I have seen others follow it, and I’m not sure it is suited for me.”

Young children in school get asked what they want to be when they grow up. Through the advent of the industrial revolution, the possibilities are endless. A child doesn’t have to necessarily follow the occupation of their parents. If a business has been in the family for generations, it is not guaranteed that future generations will keep it alive. For starters, businesses have stiff competition. If you’re a fruit vendor in a farm community, that is a relatively safe way to earn an income. On the other hand, if you’re selling a piece of technology, the progress in the technology itself can one day put you out of business.

What the elders are really asking is, “Which passion do you want to follow when you are old enough to act independently?” Increasing the granularity, the question is how to enjoy the senses, how to find material happiness, when the child is no longer dependent on others.

The Vedas have an interesting take. They say that man is meant to gradually become detached. Work is not shunned. Rather, work should be engaged in with detachment, with a sense of duty more than anything else. In the Bhagavad-gita, the perfect summary of Vedic teachings, this issue comes up.

karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim

āsthitā janakādayaḥ

loka-saṅgraham evāpi

sampaśyan kartum arhasi

“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)

The speaker, Shri Krishna, mentions the famous King Janaka of Videha. He was a yogi in spirit. He was not attached to any type of sense gratification. Today, such a person might be pitied for that. It would be like losing your sense of taste when arriving at a buffet restaurant. It would be like going through childhood without any interest in toys.

JanakaField14Yet Janaka was much happier than any person can imagine. That enjoyment is known as brahmananda. This compound Sanskrit word consists of the terms Brahman and ananda. Brahman is the undifferentiated spiritual energy, the sum collection of all particles of spirit. It is a realization, a way of looking at things, more so than a physical object.

Ananda is bliss, and so brahmananda is the enjoyment that occurs through realizing the spiritual oneness of all beings. A spiritual realization automatically means understanding the material energy and its proper place. Janaka was not attached to his work since he understood that spirit is more important. He knew that sense gratification was not the proper path in life.

Still, he did not shun his duties. Many important responsibilities he did have. The protection of the entire kingdom rested on his shoulders. On the excuse of being above a petty occupation, he easily could have renounced everything. He could have fled for the forest and not had to deal with distractions.

The recipient of Krishna’s words contemplated this very option. He was responsible for protecting his family, the Pandavas. It was pressure time, where a great war was about to start. Feeling a little weak of heart, Arjuna thought that maybe war wasn’t worth it, that working in this situation was not necessary.

Krishna set him straight by giving the real meaning of karma. Though the Sanskrit word can mean different things based on the context, the real definition is prescribed work. Basically, work in such a way that you’ll remain detached. Stay above the mode of passion while going through life.

This is easier than it sounds, and so there is guidance from higher authorities. Shri Krishna is the highest authority, since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the source of Brahman, which is like the effulgence emanating from His gigantic transcendental body. He is Bhagavan, which is a higher realization than Brahman.

image19Just like with Janaka, a person who follows prescribed activities can still enjoy life. They don’t have to suffer from restricted behavior. In the present day, the activity most recommended for everyone is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The magic of chanting this mantra is that it leads to both attachment and detachment. Detachment from material sense gratification gradually develops. Since chanting is a kind of action, it can be thought of as work. It is the most positive work, one that leads to attachment to the Supreme Lord. That attachment brings all good things, especially at the end of life, while quitting the body.

In Closing:

From holy names coming attachment,

And bringing from material life detachment.


With the positive form stay,

And keep illusion far away.


Work at all times you must do,

Examples of Arjuna and Janaka too.


Better to work in meaningful way,

So that in proper consciousness to stay.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The One About An Interest From Hearing

Bv-P5bgBWkKGrHqFhkEv10FtBMG1R7H8W_31“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

mayy āsakta-manāḥ pārtha

yogaṁ yuñjan mad-āśrayaḥ

asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ

yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu

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Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, advises Arjuna to hear from Him. What is the benefit of that hearing? A person can know Krishna in truth, free from doubts. Is hearing all that is required? It is the first step, but there are requisite conditions. Arjuna should have a mind attached to Krishna. Arjuna should be fully conscious of Krishna.

How will those conditions be created? Actually, the hearing itself can lead to the transformation. It is the first process out of nine mentioned in a famous verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam spoken by a five-year old boy, the wise son of the king Hiranyakashipu.

Bv-P5bgBWkKGrHqFhkEv10FtBMG1R7H8W_32Simply hear about Krishna described from authority. Authority is someone who follows in the line of devotion of Arjuna, who accepts the proper information from their teacher, processes it, and then passes it on. After hearing, share with others what you have heard. Don’t speculate. Don’t cheat the innocent. Just tell the truth, that the living entities are spirit soul at the core and due to their nature they are intimately tied to Krishna, who is the Supreme Soul. The existence of that relationship necessitates eternal and selfless service to God, who reciprocates with His causeless mercy.

Jim was discussing these matters one time in an email exchange with his friend. The friend thought that hearing was too simplistic, that for knowing God there should be something more complex involved. He was more sympathetic to the path of mysticism, involving sitting postures, breathing exercises, and strict renunciation. Jim gave an example from his own life to help get the point across.

I’m telling you man, hearing is ridiculously powerful, beyond our ability to comprehend. I know people who have accidentally heard the sound of the maha-mantra being sung and had it change their life. They were walking on the street and they heard, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and nothing was ever the same for them.

We’re talking about spiritual matters, but hearing has the same effect in other places. Do you remember that year when I was really into the Olympics? I’m sure you do, because I even got tickets and went to some of the events. You were making fun of me, since you thought the sports were kind of silly. You couldn’t understand the appeal of events like ski jump, speed skating, and snowboarding.

image9What you may not remember is the trigger for my sudden interest. At the time my portable music player was broken. That’s what I usually listened to in the car. While I was in the process of searching for a replacement, I started to turn on the radio in the car. I’m not a big fan of listening to music that I don’t know, so I tended to navigate to the talk radio stations.

Anyway, for a few days in a row one of the stations kept talking about the Olympics. They brought up this athlete and that. They reviewed who the previous winners were. They discussed the major events to watch in the upcoming contests. I was barely paying attention, but the sound was still there.

Anyway, when the games started, I still had no intention of watching. But one night I was flipping through the channels and I saw snowboarding, I think it was. They were interviewing one of the guys I had heard on the radio. This guy was supposed to be awesome; a huge favorite to get the gold medal. Next thing you know I was watching for hours. I ended up watching pretty much all the major events. I got hooked to the games simply from casual hearing.

Prabhupada_lecture19If that can happen with something mundane like sports, imagine the effect in spiritual life. That’s why hearing is stressed so much. Reading is another form of hearing. It’s a way to penetrate through the fog of ignorance and reach the natural intelligence that each spirit has. The soul is sach-chid-ananda, eternally knowledgeable and blissful. That’s hard to see right now, but through hearing everything can turn around.

In Closing:

Quickly to Olympic games to depart,

By hearing interest suddenly sparked.


Even though little attention paying,

Sound within the mind later on staying.


If with material life this way so,

Benefit higher with spiritual know.


From Shri Krishna just a little hear,

And to perfection of life draw near.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Talking About Even a Little Understanding

BhagavadGita_asitis13“O Krishna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the gods nor demons, O Lord, know Thy personality.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.14)

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sarvam etad ṛtaṁ manye

yan māṁ vadasi keśava

na hi te bhagavan vyaktiṁ

vidur devā na dānavāḥ

Friend1: I have another contradiction for you.

Friend2: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Friend1: No.

Friend2: How do they get that ship into the bottle?

Friend1: I have always wondered about that. But again, no.

image7Friend2: Someone told me they use tweezers. I always thought they just mold the glass around the already built ship.

Friend1: That would be harder than using the tweezers.

Friend2: Good point.

Friend1: Anyway, it’s from the Bhagavad-gita. More specifically, from something said in a particular verse.

Friend2: Okay. This should be good. Before you begin, I hope you know that Krishna Himself is contradictory.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: He is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. He is both of these things simultaneously. He is within the heart of every living entity as the Supersoul. This is more than just sending out a representative to report back information. He is literally within everyone as the witness; hence the description of Him as antaryami. At the same time, He is in the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha. Logic can’t explain that.

Friend1: You fell right into my trap, my friend. Your little dissertation there made my point for me. I will proceed forward anyway, and you’ll see what I mean.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Arjuna says that Krishna is impossible to know. Well, not totally impossible, but he says that both the demigods and the demons don’t know His personality.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: A demigod is a deva, a celestial being. They are highly advanced in all areas of material existence. If they can’t know Krishna, who is God the person, what hope is there for the rest of us? The part about the demons I understand. They are the opposite of the devas. So if a demigod has great intelligence, the demon has very little.

Friend2: Well, it depends on your definition of intelligence, but generally you’re right. The demon could be very adept at lying, cheating, and stealing. Still, for this discussion they are certainly without intelligence because of their lack of knowledge of Krishna. They could see Him face to face and still not recognize Him for who He is.

Friend1: Not to mention what you said in the beginning. There are all these contradictory aspects to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since I am a man of the people, I know what their concern will be here.

Friend2: What is that?

Friend1: They will want to know what the purpose is to studying the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts. We are obviously not demigods. Intelligence is a material element, so if we live an existence that is inferior to the demigods, by extension it can be deduced that our ability to know Krishna is even less.

Friend2: That’s a fair point.

Friend1: You agree that studying the Supreme Lord is a waste of time, then?

Friend2: Not at all.

Friend1: Please explain.

Friend2: For starters, the material existence is impossible to understand fully. Would you cede that point?

Friend1: Hmm. Maybe. Tell me more.

image15Friend2: Let’s say that I become a professor in history at a college. My expertise will be history. There is no way that I can consume every book that has ever been published. There is no way for me to know everything that has ever happened.

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: Even if by some miracle I could, I would have no way of remembering everything I read. Even if I could remember everything, I would have no way of processing the information in a meaningful way.

Friend1: You could say the same thing about scientists. They never fully understand the nature around them.

Friend2: Plus, their conclusions are always changing. Today they speak with certainty about a subject, and a few years later they will reverse their position. Again, they will speak with certainty, criticizing anyone who dares challenge them.

Friend1: Okay. So you’re saying that learning anything is basically a waste of time?

Friend2: No, but we see that a limitation in understanding does not prevent the attempt. The difference with spiritual life is that knowing Krishna just a little bit brings perfection. Also, the Supreme Lord Himself says that He can be known in full. The key is to know the truth about Him, without doubts.

Friend1: Is that the mayy asakta manah partha verse?

Friend2: Yes.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

mayy āsakta-manāḥ pārtha

yogaṁ yuñjan mad-āśrayaḥ

asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ

yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu

“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)

BhagavadGita_asitis26Arjuna should hear from Krishna and have a mind attached to Him. It’s as simple as that. The demigods may not know Him completely, as they are engaged in some type of material activity. This is the reason pure devotion is always stressed. Pure devotion means bhakti practiced without any outside motives. You’re not after knowledge, renunciation, or mystic perfection. It’s a platform rarely achieved, but the possibility is there. Krishna unveils the path, and He even gives help to the person who tries. He brings to them what they need and preserves what they have. That’s why studying Him is the most worthwhile use of time.

In Closing:

With this gifted intelligence of mine,

Where in most worthwhile use of time?


When of Him just a little to know,

To proceed towards highest realm so.


Of Shri Krishna, Supreme Lord we speak,

Despite limitations, His mercy just seek.


Help to you directly giving,

Your shortcomings quickly forgiving.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Talking About Devotion With a Cause

IMG_002312“Some people approach Him in the pursuit of knowledge of the Absolute Truth, and others approach Him when they are distressed, like the devotee Gajendra. Others are inquisitive, like the great sages headed by Sanaka, and others need money, like Dhruva Maharaja.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.94 Purport)

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Friend1: Are you familiar with the term “causeless mercy”?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: What does that mean exactly?

Friend2: Well, what do you think it means?

Friend1: I know that it refers to what the Supreme Lord offers to the devotees. I guess it refers to the help that He gives. But how is it without a cause?

Friend2: It means that there are no strings attached. You’ve heard of the expression, “Made a deal with the devil”?

Friend1: Yeah. Similar to “I sold my soul.”

Friend2: Exactly. That’s where you sacrifice a lot for something that isn’t so important. You’re getting something right now, but you’ll have to pay the price later on. You probably will have to pay dearly for it.

Friend1: And with God there is no price. He is giving you His mercy because that’s how He is. He is merciful.

Friend2: The most merciful.

Friend1: Alright. Thanks for clearing that up. Of course I had a different question originally.

Friend2: You always do.

Friend1: The word “causeless” got me to thinking. My mind wandered to the issue of pure devotion. Can bhakti ever really be pure?

Friend2: Sure it can.

Friend1: Let me expand. In this world when do people take to bhakti?

Friend2: There is no set pattern. It can happen right after birth. Devotion is open to everyone. There is no specific prequalification necessary. That’s why it stands above karma, jnana, and yoga.

Friend1: Let me stop you before you proceed further. I’m getting somewhere. Let’s use the example of an adult. When do they take to bhakti?

Friend2: Again, it could be at any time. Where are you going with this?

Friend1: What I’m trying to say is that a person takes to devotion only after something happens. A stimulus must be present. Well, let me revise that. In so many cases, there is a stimulus present.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: Sort of how Krishna describes in the Bhagavad-gita that four types of people approach Him in devotion.

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)

Friend2: Oh, I see what you’re asking. Since these people initially want something, how can their devotion be pure?

Friend1: Not even that. I understand that eventually the initial desire goes away. What brought you to bhakti doesn’t necessarily stay with you. You can become pure through time. But the thing is, there is still that initial event. Let’s take the distressed as an example. If I had a horrible tragedy in my life that led me to read the Bhagavad-gita, doesn’t that mean my devotion is tainted forever? How can I be a pure devotee if I required that initial trigger? Isn’t my devotion with a cause?

Friend2: Technically, it is. But there’s nothing that you or I can do about it. We’re in the material world for a reason, you know. The very fact that we took birth means that we are not totally pure.

IMG_002326Friend1: I think about the story of Gajendra. He was rescued by the Supreme Lord when he took full shelter. But he only surrendered when there was no other option left. He was stuck and about to die. To me that’s the classic example of devotion with a cause.

Friend2: The thing is, you’re stuck on time. What we see around us, the different states of being, they are simply a manifestation of time. Just shift a little in time, and you have a completely different situation. You’re taking one point in time where there is impurity and then trying to extend that impurity forever into the future.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: There is one important thing to know in this regard. Shri Krishna does not care from where you came; only to where you are going. There is that saying that every saint has a past and every sinner a future.

Friend1: Oh yeah, I’ve heard that one. I like it. It makes you think.

Friend2: Right, so even the purest person has some past transgression. To err is human, after all. Devotion is with a cause, but that cause is not remembered by the Supreme Lord. There is the example of the Vanaras of Kishkindha. They were in monkey bodies. They helped Shri Rama rescue His wife Sita from Lanka. They took part in the war because their leader Sugriva commanded them to. They may not have been pure at the beginning, but Rama did not care. He appreciated their service so much. He holds them so dear. And these monkeys were highly exalted. To find that level of purity is very difficult. So whatever the initial mindset, as long as we find devotion and stick with it we remain very dear to the one who is most worth pleasing.

In Closing:

Whether quickly or into slowly easing,

Shri Krishna the one most worth pleasing.


Caring not from where we came,

Only that in devotional life we remain.


Though Gajendra only when in desperation,

Still Vishnu arrived for crocodile’s separation.


Causeless mercy from Supreme Lord flowing,

For any soul, for to supreme destination going.