Saturday, April 16, 2016

Talking About Religion For Dummies

image9“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)

sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo

yato bhaktir adhokṣaje

ahaituky apratihatā

yayātmā suprasīdati

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Friend1: What is the common way that the existence of the different religions is explained?

Friend2: What do you mean? What is the actual reason or what is the most popular explanation based on mental speculation?

Friend1: You know what I mean. According to the Vedic point of view.

Friend2: Hmm. Are you prepared for that detailed an explanation?

Friend1: I mean specifically the analogy. Isn’t there something about a pocket dictionary?

Friend2: Oh, right. For starters, let’s establish that God is one. One of the many names for Him in Sanskrit is Ishvara.

Friend1: That means “Supreme Controller.”

Friend2: Correct. That controller isn’t only for the Hindus. He is not supreme only amongst people from India.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: As God is one, so is religion. The Sanskrit word is dharma, which means “essential characteristic,” at the root level. There is only one dharma.

Friend1: Then why are there different religions?

Friend2: They are ways the single dharma is explained. Think of it like a mathematics class. In first grade, children learn basic addition and subtraction. In high school, they learn calculus. Just because calculus is absent from the elementary school curriculum doesn’t make those classes any less about mathematics.

Friend1: That’s good, but you’re veering off course. What about the pocket dictionary?

image101Friend2: Same thing. You have a complete dictionary, which is large when available in print form. The pocket dictionary is a handy reference guide. It’s easier to carry around. It’s also a dictionary. You can’t deny that fact.

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: At the same time, the full dictionary has more words. It is superior based on content. The Vedic tradition is like the full dictionary, while other traditions are like pocket dictionaries.

Friend1: Okay. That’s what I was getting at. Now, let me ask you this. Don’t you think people who follow those other traditions will get insulted when they hear this?

Friend2: Why should they?

Friend1: You’re saying that their religious tradition is inferior.

Friend2: First of all, it’s not my opinion. The Bhagavad-gita features the five topics of the living entity, the material nature, time, karma, and the supreme controller [the aforementioned Ishvara]. If one book has all of these high topics that apply universally, to all people and to all species, how can traditions that have faith and not doing this thing and that at the foundation be on an equal footing?

Friend1: But you know they will be offended. You’re essentially saying that their sacred books are like “Religion for Dummies.”

Friend2: Okay. Let’s accept that opinion. What is wrong with following a book that is for “dummies”?

Friend1: Umm. I believe the answer is obvious.

image18Friend2: You think it’s insulting, but the popular books for dummies are highly instructive. I don’t know a thing about coding in HTML. If I want to learn quickly, I can pick up one of those “for dummies” books. It won’t teach me everything about HTML, but it’s a great way to get started.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: And every living entity is born into ignorance. Shri Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita.


dvandva-mohena bhārata

sarva-bhūtāni sammohaṁ

sarge yānti parantapa

“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)

If I am born into ignorance, it means that at some point I have to learn. Learning about God always helps. There is no denying the fact.

Friend1: What about people being offended, though? Wouldn’t it be better to employ a different tactic?

image20Friend2: Again, there is nothing to be offended over. The Vedic aphorism “athato brahma jijnasa” applies to every human being. Now is the time for inquiring into your true nature. Be more than just a believer in God. Go beyond fear and respect of an abstract figure that you don’t know much about. Become a servant of His, pure in heart. Follow service to Him with confidence through knowing more about Him. Knowing Him will give you knowledge about yourself, about who you really are. We want everyone to be happy. We know that a religion is bona fide when it leads to love for the Supreme Lord. This is what the Shrimad Bhagavatam defines as religion.

In Closing:

With religions existing more than one,

How to tell which the superior one?


Like different dictionaries to explain,

From deluxe edition most knowledge to gain.


Bhagavad-gita covering topics five,

From it to right conclusion arrive.


When boundless love for God to feel,

Then known that religion followed is real.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Talking About Living In Peace

DIMG_197614“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

nāsti buddhir ayuktasya

na cāyuktasya bhāvanā

na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir

aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham

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Friend1: Have you ever announced a death on social media?

Friend2: Of all the questions you’ve ever asked me, I think this one takes the cake. Are you out of your mind?

Friend1: No, I’m serious. Have you ever done it?

Friend2: I have not. Looking for advice on what to say? Where is this coming from?

Friend1: Okay, maybe I’m not phrasing the question properly. Have you ever found out about a famous person’s passing through social media?

Friend2: Oh. Now that you mention it, yes. Many times.

Friend1: You realize someone had to post it for you to read it.

Friend2: I understand. You want to know if I’ve ever passed on similar information to others.

Friend1: Yes. I don’t look so silly now, do I?

Friend2: You always do, but I can’t help you with that [laughing].

Friend1: Anyway, I’m sure you’ve noticed something that these posts have in common.

Friend2: What is that?

Friend1: They usually say “RIP” in them.

Friend2: Right. That’s true. Rest in peace. There might be a hash-tag, too.

Friend1: I guess they’re trying to be nice. They don’t know what else to say.

Friend2: They’re essentially wishing the departed person well. Do you take umbrage because of your knowledge of the nature of the spirit soul?

Friend1: There’s that aspect for sure. The soul never dies. A person who has real knowledge understands this. The soul never takes birth and no one can ever kill it. You can have knowledge about so many other things, but that knowledge is essentially useless if you don’t know about the soul.

Friend2: That’s such a unique perspective to have, isn’t it? People would get upset with you on that point.

Friend1: Why?

Friend2: If I have knowledge about how to drive, how is that useless? If I know how to communicate, both verbally and in written word, in a specific language, how can you say that has no value?

Friend1: I should clarify. It has temporary value. It’s valuable until you quit your body. That exit is guaranteed to occur, so you better know something more important if you want to make this life truly worthwhile.

Friend2: I like that. There is the analogy to the ones and zeroes that buttresses your point. Material life is full of zeroes. You can have as many of them as you want, but you still have nothing. As soon as you add a one digit, then you have something. The one digit is God, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritual science comes from Him. Basically, you can make life valuable once you add the spiritual component. Then you can put the knowledge of other things to the best use. There is the verse from Tulsidas that I really like.

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

Friend1: I like that. Getting back to the virtual obituary, I’ve sometimes seen people say that they wish for the departed soul to get peace. I’m not sure that’s any better.

Friend2: You want to know what the proper thing to say is?

Friend1: Yeah, like what should we be wishing for?

Friend2: That’s easy. You want them to live in peace.

Friend1: Hmm. What do you mean?

Friend2: The soul is going to live on. The individual has left our vision, but they are going somewhere else. Wherever they go, let them live in peace.

Friend1: That’s interesting.

Friend2: This is a good way to judge the benefit of the progress of material existence. I’m referring specifically to industrialization and technology.

Friend1: In what way?

Friend2: Peace. You want the departed soul to rest in peace, but why not have them live in peace? Any sober person will admit that is a good goal, so why not make the assessment now? Are people living in peace?

Friend1: Hardly anyone is.

Friend2: Exactly. We’re proud of the ability to communicate so easily using a smartphone. Modern medicine can do amazing things. People can survive in the coldest weather using electrical heaters. The majority of the population in industrialized nations isn’t going out to the farm every day and producing their own food. This is advancement. But the true measure is peace. Are people more peaceful today than in times past?

Friend1: Doubtful.

Friend2: That should be the goal. Whether in poverty or opulence, as a child or an adult, a woman or a man, unmarried or married - the objective should be peace. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that there cannot be happiness without peace.

Friend1: Okay, so how do we get peace?

Friend2: Know three things. The Supreme Lord Krishna is the enjoyer of all sacrifices, the supreme proprietor of all planets, and the best well-wishing friend of every living entity.

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ


suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ

jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

bIMG_202711If you think this is too sectarian, then make it generic for the time being. Take the origin of everything and apply the same three features to Him. Really understand this. Work in a way that you’ll always be conscious of it. Then you’ll have a chance to live in peace, for lifetime after lifetime.

In Closing:

Wishing for departed soul the best,

That in peace forever to rest.


The wise something different knowing,

That living spirit to somewhere else going.


Better if wherever to reach,

To always be living in peace.


That benefit even now can feel,

With understanding of Krishna real.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rama Navami 2016

BitD8wBmkKGrHqMH-CsEs-Gy7hmoBLQ6FJ2g[1]“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)

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Wake up early. Get ready. Eat breakfast. You may have to prepare it yourself, lest you rely on something less nutritious. Get in the car. Weave through traffic. Arrive at the office on time. Check your email. Start going through the list of outstanding tasks. Try to work, despite the many distractions throughout the day. Leave the office at a reasonable hour. Get home and change your clothes. Lie down and try not to think about anything, especially the fact that you have to repeat everything the next day. Eat dinner and then manage some of the responsibilities at home. Then try to go to sleep on time.

This cycle is not uncommon in the modern day. With the many responsibilities filling up the daily calendar, where is the chance for peace? How is the mind supposed to get relief? There is the concept of meditation, which in Sanskrit is known as dhyana. More so than just eliminating stress-inducing thoughts, dhyana is for focusing on the positive.

The embodiment of positivity is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is a better description for God or the Divine. He certainly does have a feature that is without attributes. It is the spiritual energy that pervades every universe and every space. Without this energy nothing would exist. At the same time, the origin of that energy is a distinct personality with attributes, activities, and names.

Though the origin is one, He expands into many forms, suited for the time and circumstance. One of those forms is Shri Rama, who has various objects and people associated with Him that can benefit the devotee looking for the blissful respite that comes from dhyana. The occasion of Rama Navami marks the anniversary of His appearance in this world during the Treta Yuga, and it brings a wonderful opportunity to remember important things that Rama takes with Him for the benefit of the devotees.

1. His bow

Rama is of the warrior class, known as the kshatriya. In ancient times, military conflict took place through bow and arrow. Why would God employ a primitive fighting method? Actually, combined with the sound of mantras, these weapons could produce amazing effects. There was something known as the brahmastra, which is a close equivalent to the modern-day nuclear weapon. On the other side, a person could counter that weapon with their own empowered by a mantra.

bow12Rama not only carried His bow with Him for the purpose of defense, but He once famously lifted a bow to win a contest. This took place in Janakpur, where the king was trying to determine the suitable match for his unmarried daughter Sita. The contest rules were simple. Whoever could first lift the bow of Lord Shiva would win. Rama was the only one who could even move it. He then drew string to it, which caused the bow to break. This bow is the ideal object of meditation, as it reminds the devotee of what Rama is capable of doing. It also reminds them of how He is the perfect match as a husband for the goddess of fortune.

2. His arrows

The Supreme Lord is so humble and sweet that He doesn’t openly reveal His divinity when He appears on earth. There is no need to. Since He is fully empowered, He doesn’t require any instruction on how to fight. Still, He gives exalted teachers the opportunity to train Him. Vishvamitra had an ashrama in the forest, and He once took Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana there.

At the time Rama barely had any signs of manhood on His face. This is according to the testimony of Maricha, who was to see exactly how skilled Rama was with the bow and arrow. Maricha was a Rakshasa, which is a kind of man-eating ogre. The Rakshasas used to regularly attack the sages living in the forest, especially during the time of sacrifice, or yajna.

bookcover9Maricha was ready to pounce during this one attack, but Rama and Lakshmana were there as protection. When Rama sensed what was going on, He immediately drew an arrow to His string and then released it. That arrow struck Maricha and hurled him eight hundred miles away. Those arrows are Rama’s weapons of defense, to protect the devotees. They are an ideal object of meditation.

3. His quiver

One of the attributes of the Supreme Lord is that He is inexhaustible. The closest experience we have with this feature is time and space. Both are infinite, in any direction. You can never reach the original beginning, and there is no way to stop time in the future. There is no end to space, either, as you can travel infinitely into the beyond.

Time and space come from God, who is inexhaustible in both His existence and His abilities. One example is Rama’s quiver, which He takes with Him when traveling on business. In the forest helping the sages, Rama has an unlimited supply of arrows. When He shoots one at an enemy, it can come back to Him, sort of like a boomerang. The devotees can meditate on this quiver, which is also symbolic of the endless mercy available to them.

4. His sandals

A notable period in Rama’s time on earth was His fourteen years spent in exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya. It was an unfortunate series of events triggered by jealousy and family infighting. Rama’s younger brother Bharata was part of the mix, unbeknownst to him. He became the heir apparent to the throne, even though Rama was the eldest son.

017715Bharata went to the forest to plead with Rama to return. The Supreme Lord did not want to violate etiquette simply for the sake of sense gratification. A compromise was reached when Rama gave His sandals to Bharata. Bharata then symbolically placed those sandals on the throne, meditating on them constantly for fourteen years. The devotees can fix their minds on those sandals to remind them of the love Rama has for His brothers and how Bharata renounced something of tremendous value in favor of service to the Supreme Lord.

5. Sita and Lakshmana

Rama was ready to spend those fourteen years in the forest alone. The stipulation was for Him only to wander like an ascetic, but Sita and Lakshmana insisted on coming along. For Lakshmana, the request wasn’t outrageous. The two were paired since the time of birth. They always went places together. Lakshmana was equal to Rama in fighting ability.

017219For Sita, the idea was unheard of. Do soldiers bring their spouses onto the battlefield? Do adults bring their children to work every day? Yet Sita insisted on going, for she did not want her husband to suffer alone. Their insistence gave us the wonderful image of the trio travelling together, looking most beautiful in the renounced setting of the forest. The devotees can meditate on those two companions, whose association Rama treasures so much.

In Closing:

On Rama Navami Lord’s glories to sing,

Meditate on objects with Him to bring.


Like the arrows shot from His bow,

Sandals covering feet wherever to go.


Lakshmana and Sita with Him coming,

Giving beautiful image of trio stunning.


Though weapons with Him to take,

Meant for pleasure of devotees’ sake.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Talking About Pressure From Peers

gangadhara_shiva_ri5913“Lord Brahma said: My dear Lord Shiva, I know that you are the controller of the entire material manifestation, the combination father and mother of the cosmic manifestation, and the Supreme Brahman beyond the cosmic manifestation as well. I know you in that way.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.6.42)


jāne tvām īśaṁ viśvasya

jagato yoni-bījayoḥ

śakteḥ śivasya ca paraṁ

yat tad brahma nirantaram

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Friend1: I got an interesting question today.

Friend2: You have one for me or someone asked you?

Friend1: Sorry. I meant to say that I heard something interesting asked today and I wanted to bring it up.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: It relates to Lord Shiva.

Friend2: Let me guess. Someone is arguing that he is the Supreme Lord. He is equal to or greater than Vishnu.

Friend1: How did you know?

Friend2: It’s a pretty common issue Vaishnavas face. Especially when you bring up the verse from the Bhagavad-gita where it mentions that worshipers of the demigods are less intelligent.

antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ

tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām

devān deva-yajo yānti

mad-bhaktā yānti mām api

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

Friend1: Alpa-medhasam.

Friend2: Less brain substance.

Friend1: I always liked that.

Friend2: Was this verse the catalyst to that question?

Friend1: No. It wasn’t so much about demigods and going to God to ask for stuff. This was more along the lines of my team is great, your team stinks.

Friend2: Ah. Sentimentalism. Those arguments are always amusing.

Friend1: Yeah. It’s not like there’s a big deal, either way. If you prefer Lord Shiva, you will go to him. Another verse in the Gita says the same thing, right?

Friend2: Yeah, the worshipers of various entities go to them. Krishna says that His worshipers go to Him after death.

yānti deva-vratā devān

pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ

bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā

yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.”

gangadhara_shiva_ri5928Friend1: This question was more about what to do. The person was arguing with their friends. The person is a devotee of Krishna and I guess their friends were teasing that Shiva is supreme and not Krishna. This person didn’t know what to do, and they were even feeling a little doubtful of their own position.

Friend2: They wanted to know what arguments to use as a comeback? They want retort advice?

Friend1: Yes, you could say that.

Friend2: For starters, I’d ask what they are doing with such friends. If they can’t respect your style of worship, which is completely authorized, then what good are they to have around? There is no need to even associate with such people.

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: Secondly, there is no reason for disagreement. God is a person, for sure. He is singular, also. There can’t be competing versions of the same God, though the original can expand into as many forms as He chooses. It is said that Shiva and Vishnu are the same in the way that milk and yogurt are. You can’t have yogurt without milk, but at the same time yogurt is not milk.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Even in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the work in Vedic literature most readily acknowledged to champion devotion to Vishnu or Krishna, Lord Shiva is addressed as supreme in several places.

Friend1: Yeah, so I forgot to mention that part. The person’s friends were arguing that many Puranas, ancient Vedic histories, describe Shiva as the origin of everything.

Friend2: Right. That is true. Those statements are there to increase the faith. Krishna mentions this in the Gita, too. When He sees someone has faith in a particular demigod, He helps to strengthen that faith.

yo yo yāṁ yāṁ tanuṁ bhaktaḥ

śraddhayārcitum icchati

tasya tasyācalāṁ śraddhāṁ

tām eva vidadhāmy aham

“I am in everyone's heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.21)

Friend1: Well, that seems contradictory. He says those worshipers are less intelligent, and so He’s helping them in their less intelligent activity.

Friend2: You have to understand it from the big picture perspective. Shiva is the great purifier. He is the spiritual master of the entire world since both the devas and the asuras worship him. The devas understand that he is the greatest Vaishnava, or worshiper of Vishnu. The asuras know that they can get material benedictions from him.

Friend1: Interesting.

Friend2: Whenever you run into doubts on something like this, just make an assessment on what is asked for.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: If people are claiming that Shiva is superior to Vishnu, ask them what they beg from Shiva. If they don’t know, then they’re following blindly. If they’re asking for material benedictions, then they’re viewing him as a demigod. If they want increased devotion to God the person, to always be with Shiva in practicing that devotion, then they actually understand who he is.

Friend1: Oh, that’s good.

Friend2: There’s no reason for the rivalry. The less intelligent will always fall to the level of blind sentiment, choosing a favorite god as if they are supporting a sports team. Vishnu worship is for the most intelligent, because even if a person enters with outside motives, the association itself is purifying.

Friend1: And it’s not so with Mahadeva?

vishnu-laxmi-b-500x50012Friend2: It is, but it takes longer. Mahadeva doesn’t say “no.” That’s the big difference. He is known as Ashutosha since he gives the worshipers whatever they want. He doesn’t make a judgment on their character or the objects they request. Vishnu is different. He looks out for the welfare of His devotees. He will happily deny requests if it is not in their best interests. It is for this reason that the asuras go to Shiva instead of Vishnu.

In Closing:

With less intelligence to go,

Shiva’s true character not to know.


After simple prayers to him making,

Gifts from Mahadeva happily taking.


With devotees of Vishnu to argue,

Why to Him to go, silly are you?


For rivalry between the two no need,

Since Mahadeva greatest Vaishnava indeed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Not Getting What You Want

vishnu13“Lord Shiva's worshipers sometimes appear more opulent than the worshipers of Lord Vishnu because Durga, or Sati, being the superintendent in charge of material affairs, can offer all material opulences to the worshipers of Lord Shiva in order to glorify her husband, whereas the worshipers of Vishnu are meant for spiritual elevation, and therefore their material opulence is sometimes found to decrease.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.4.21 Purport)

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Bhakti-yoga, which is equivalent with the concept of Vishnu worship, is unique amongst all styles of religion. Indeed, it really has no comparison with any popularly practiced faith, since the discipline is both scientifically based and constitutionally sound. In other words, the soul’s real business is devotional service, performed without interruption and without motivation. The practice sometimes brings unexpected results in the beginning.

“Oh God, I have no one else to turn to. I don’t ask for much. Can you help me out this one time? I promise to be good. I won’t do bad things anymore.”

Who hasn’t found themselves in this situation at least once? The scene is commonly inserted into storylines of movies and television shows. When all else fails, turn to the man upstairs. He is the Almighty for a reason. He can do anything. He can fix any problem. He can provide anything to any person and take away anything that might be causing them trouble.

In the Vedic tradition, Vishnu-worship certainly involves prayer. Vishnu is one name for the Almighty. It means “all-pervading.” There is a personality to go with the attribute. There are identifiable features that accompany the personality. In other words, you don’t have to speculate as to what God looks like, where He lives, or what pleases Him.

vishnu-lakshmi-brahma17In bhakti-yoga, you can certainly approach Vishnu and offer the same prayer as that mentioned above. The interesting thing is that He might not come through. It is not that He is mean. He is not vengeful and old and bitter at the many sinners living in this world. Rather, He is full of sweetness and compassion. He has nothing to do, and so He is always taking rest on the serpent bed known as Ananta. While resting, He is getting massaged by His beautiful wife, Lakshmi Devi, who is the goddess of fortune.

Why is the wife in control of fortune and not Vishnu Himself? Why doesn’t Vishnu always come through for those who worship Him?

Indeed, there is another divine figure who is known for being easily pleased. His primary name is Shiva, and the secondary name of Ashutosha speaks to his tendency to quickly deliver on prayers. If you want wealth, he can grant it very quickly. He doesn’t even take into account the character of the person. Just do the worship in the right way and you’ll see results fast. In the historical incidents described in Vedic literature, it is often the case that the Shiva worshipers are wealthy and prosperous, while the Vishnu worshipers are poor.

Vishnu is the Supreme Godhead due to the very fact that He sometimes refuses requests. Material opulence can be like poison if not utilized properly. The mind itself already has this dual-sided nature. It can be the best friend of the living entity, but also its worst enemy.

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ

nātmānam avasādayet

ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur

ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)

Lord Shiva is Ashutosha for a reason. He knows that material opulence is not that important. He himself is a Vishnu worshiper. He doesn’t keep much around him; just the bare essentials. In ability he is amazing, but he doesn’t misuse that ability. His worshipers often don’t know any better. Caught in the fever of acquiring this thing and that, they approach Shiva and forget to study his characteristics, his way of life.

But then why is Shiva-worship authorized? Isn’t approaching him a trap?

IMG_016416Worship of a divine figure is better than rejecting spiritual life altogether. The hope is that one day the person will realize that material opulence is not everything. The true definition of progressive life is the advancement of consciousness. The consciousness pervades the entire body, and so one who is conscious of the right thing will feel pleasure throughout. They will experience a level of bliss that money and power can never bring. Vishnu’s association automatically purifies the consciousness, so through His mercy one makes advancement very quickly. In bhakti-yoga, which is dedicated to God the person, the worship never stops, since there is nothing temporary or miserable to seek after. Just as Vishnu is eternal, so is the worship that maintains the link to Him.

In Closing:

Shiva known to be easily pleased,

Character of the person not he sees.


His worshipers sometimes with a lot,

And those going to Vishnu much not.


Because Supreme Lord prayer to assess,

And whether in consciousness to progress.


Personal God merciful in this way so,

Highest benefit whenever towards Him to go.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bringing Happiness

IMG_022613“Hearing those words of Sampati, our joy having increased, we left that place, with our leader Angada.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.67)

tasya tat vacanam śrutvā sampāteḥ prīti vardhanam |
angada pramukhāḥ sarve tataḥ samprasthitā vayam ||

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A monkey lives in the jungle. The Sanskrit word is Vanara, and the literal translation to this word is “forest-dweller.” In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we hear of how forest dwellers one time became very happy. Their joy increased, priti vardhanam, and the cause wasn’t something you would typically expect.

Let’s say you have a dog in the home that you have great affection for. Whenever you come home from work, the dog is excited to see you. It jumps up and down and licks you all over. It eagerly anticipates when it is time to go outside for a walk. The dog does not hold a grudge over the fact that you came home late yesterday. It doesn’t remember that you yelled at it for muddying up the kitchen floor last week. The dog gives its unconditional affection.

It’s only natural that you would want to return the favor. Imagine that on this day you decide to make your dog happy by bringing it jewels and flowers. You have this really expensive necklace that you purchased. You found the best florist in town and had them arrange this beautiful bouquet. In addition, you’re giving the tastiest chocolates. You’re going all out.

image8For starters, the chocolates might poison the dog. It is not fit for consumption by that kind of animal. The necklace is meaningless to the dog; it doesn’t really know what gold is. The flowers are also the same. The dog has no idea that you’re trying to do something nice. It has its own habits, its likes and dislikes. You can’t expect it to be happy with objects whose value is only recognized by the more intelligent human being.

Similarly, for monkeys living in the forest you would expect them to get happy over receiving bananas to eat. If they get opportunities for sex enjoyment, that might also be cause for excitement. Yet in this verse from the Ramayana, the excitement is over news. Hanuman and his group have heard something very important. In fact, this news is what they had been searching after for a long time.

The news is the whereabouts of the princess of Videha, Sita Devi. Though she is the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi, the Vanaras are not looking to get opulence from her. Their happiness is not due to knowing that she will bestow fortune upon them.

Rather, these monkeys are engaged in bhakti-yoga. Unlike jnana, vairagya, japa, dhyana, and ashtanga, bhakti-yoga can be practiced by any living being, even a monkey. It is a culture; not merely a means to an end. It is a way of life, not just blind sentiment aimed at bringing some boon that can only be enjoyed in the afterlife.

Bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation for the spirit soul. That soul can be found in any species, and it is always the same in quality. The soul of a monkey and the soul of a human being are the same. Those who think otherwise are ignorant of the truth. The soul of the infant and the soul of the adult are not different. Yet ability is certainly not identical between the infant and the adult. In the same way, the limited intelligence of the animal species does not mean they are lacking an animating, spiritual spark inside.

Bhakti-yoga is the way to real happiness. Anything else is maya, or illusion. It is like placing the chocolate and necklace in front of the dog. The fish taken out of water cannot survive, no matter how much love you think you are offering it. The spirit soul thrives in devotional service, where it gets to serve the Supreme Lord without motivation and without interruption.

Hanuman was happy for this reason. He and the other Vanaras, headed by Angada, were on a mission to find Sita. Shri Rama, Sita’s husband, was aligned with Sugriva, the Vanara king in Kishkindha. Rama is non-different from the Supreme Lord Narayana, who is the husband of the goddess of fortune. Thus the monkeys were engaged in bhakti-yoga. They had fallen morose due to lack of success. They were ready to end their lives.

IMG_022627Then a bird by the name of Sampati overheard them talking. He asked what was going on. Then he informed the monkeys that Sita was in the city of Lanka, held there against her will by the king Ravana. Through a sincere desire to serve, the Supreme Lord arranged for the news to be delivered at the right time. It increased the joy of the monkeys, who to this day are very dear to Sita and Rama. Hanuman takes pleasure only in devotional service, which he engages in unceasingly.

In Closing:

Typical for monkey happy to be,

When abundance of bananas to see.


Or perhaps with consort to mate,

No longer then for pleasure to await.


Angada and Hanuman different so,

When in search for Sita Devi to go.


Pleasure from Sampati’s news hearing,

Path to further bhakti clearing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

At The Eleventh Hour

BoMk4EB2kKGrHqUH-CsEuZHwroHsBLmkBuq5[2]“While we were waiting there, having lost all hope and ready to give up our lives per the command of Sugriva, as if to be the cause of our success came a large and valiant bird.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.62)

teṣām naḥ svāmi saṃdeśān nirāśānām mumūrṣatām |
kārya hetoḥ iva āyātaḥ śakuniḥ vīryavān mahān ||

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You’re on a trip overseas. It appears like a vacation to others, but you know that you have work to do. There is something to accomplish; otherwise you would have just stayed home. You have made similar trips before, but this one turns out to be quite stressful.

Right off the bat you get a cold. It’s more of a viral infection, as this time there is a terrible fever at the outset. For an entire day you have an elevated heart rate. Veins are starting to bulge out of your head, and you wonder if this fever will ever calm down. Luckily, you packed medicine for this occasion. It’s such a rare circumstance that you forgot that you even had the medicine with you.

It’s like help arrived at the eleventh hour, when you were otherwise resolved to continue to suffer. It looked like there was no other hope, that you would have to let this illness run its course. When that help arrived, it was lifesaving. Within a few hours the fever was gone. After a few days the entire illness vanished. Thanks to some careful preparation, disaster was averted.

In the scene of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, you have a group of warriors on special assignment. They were tasked with finding Sita Devi, the missing wife of Shri Rama from Ayodhya. The command came from Sugriva, the king of Vanaras in Kishkindha. There was a period of time allotted under which the mission was to be completed. If not successful after that, the search party should not even bother returning.

Sure enough, the time passed and there was no sign of Sita. These were the best Vanaras in Sugriva’s group. Here Hanuman is explaining to Sita just what occurred, after the fact. Since he is talking to Sita, it means that eventually there was success in the mission. This was known beforehand to Shri Rama, as He had full faith in Hanuman’s ability to get the job done.

Nevertheless, there was a time where the future looked bleak. Angada, the son of Vali, was the leader of this particular group. He resolved to simply wait for death to arrive, as it looked like they had no other hope. While bewailing their plight, Angada started reviewing all of the bad things that had happened. At one point he mentioned the vulture Jatayu, who was killed while trying to save Sita. The evil king of Lanka, Ravana, took Sita away by force, and Jatayu acted as a well-wisher to try to stop the iniquitous deed.

BoMk4EB2kKGrHqUH-CsEuZHwroHsBLmkBuq5[3]When Angada was speaking thus, a bird by the name of Sampati overheard them. He was Jatayu’s brother. Hanuman describes that it was by chance that someone had come to help them succeed. There was no other hope. Sampati came over to the group and eventually disclosed where Sita was. He was more than happy to help the party that was going against his brother’s killer.

The rest was history, but this incident shows that in working for the Supreme Lord things don’t always go as planned. The living entity has been spinning in the samsara-chakra, the wheel of suffering of rebirth, for a very long time. To break free from that cycle is not easy. A person is considered fortunate if they at least are made aware that there is something beyond birth and death. It is an exclusive group which knows that the essence of life is spirit soul, aham brahmasmi.

Knowing is the first component, but then there should be dedicated action to transition from knowledge to a personal realization. Genuine spiritual life is difficult to implement because seemingly everyone and everything is against it. Tell your friends that what you did on your vacation was visit this temple and that and they will think that you wasted your time. Tell others that the purpose of the human life is to voluntarily accept austerity in order to advance in consciousness and they will think that you are crazy.

Despite the formidable road ahead, from Hanuman’s experience the devotee should know that help will eventually arrive. Even if they are not as capable as the brave warriors from Kishkindha, the sincerity of the attempt is what matters most. The Supreme Lord looks to see where the person is going, not from where they have come. He sends the right people at the right time to ensure success, making devotional service to Him the most worthwhile activity.

In Closing:

Sugriva his massive army sending,

Their search entire world extending.


For Rama’s wife Sita Devi to find,

Warned not to return if past allotted time.


Bemoaning plight, Angada saying Jatayu word,

Then from above brother Sampati overheard.


Giving to them then information key,

From sincerity devotees’ success to be.