Saturday, May 21, 2016

Talking About Offering Your Own Food

47340_1482778720934_1577838533_11549“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)

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yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi

yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat

yat tapasyasi kaunteya

tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam

Friend1: What’s your policy when eating out at restaurants?

Friend2: My policy? I try to pick a place that doesn’t stink.

Friend1: Sorry, I should have been more clear. What do you do if you don’t like something there, say after you get seated?

Friend2: Like what? The menu?

Friend1: Right. Or if after the food you ordered comes to the table and it doesn’t taste good, do you say something?

Friend2: I see where you are going with this. Did you have an interesting experience recently?

Friend1: I did. I went out to eat with some friends. Granted, the staff at this place was already quite talkative. It wasn’t like my friends instigated anything.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: When I sat down and looked at the menu, I was ready to walk out of the place.

Friend2: This was your first time going there, I assume.

Friend1: Yes, for everyone in the party. The place opened up just recently. I was not comfortable with the selection on the menu. It was only two pages. Most of these types of places have three or four pages. You’re expecting certain items and they just weren’t there.

Friend2: What kind of restaurant?

image6Friend1: Indian.

Friend2: Alright, so what happened? Did you walk out?

Friend1: No. We stuck with it. We found stuff we could eat. When the food came out, though, the experience got even worse. None of the items were prepared right. Everything tasted weird.

Friend2: Oh, that’s too bad.

Friend1: Now, my friends were ragging on the staff the entire time. The cook even came out at one point. We voiced our complaints about the menu and how nothing was cooked properly.

Friend2: You said something, too?

Friend1: Not me, but the whole party. Anyway, it got me to thinking that a lot of people are afraid to say things like that in a restaurant.

Friend2: Yeah. There’s the fear of retaliation.

Friend1: Exactly. Luckily most of the complaints were voiced after the food arrived. Still, I’m just not good at confronting people that way. Though my friends weren’t really confrontational. They were just teasing the restaurant people like you would your parents if they didn’t make something right.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: What is the proper course of action here? Should you say something or keep quiet?

Friend2: The right thing to do is avoid going to the restaurant altogether.

Friend1: Yeah?

Friend2: For starters, you’ll be able to make everything how you like it. The ingredients will be to your liking. Secondly, you’ll be able to offer the food to the Supreme Lord first. In fact, your story illustrates the problem with sense gratification.

Friend1: What is that?

Friend2: You’re never satisfied. There is always something wrong. Even if you’ve had the best food in the world one day, the next day the exact same thing won’t be as palatable. This type of enjoyment is known as kama, or material sense gratification.

Friend1: Doesn’t kama mean “lust”?

Friend2: Yes, it means that too. The human life is for tapasya. That austerity has a purpose; for experiencing bhakti, which is love and devotion. Bhakti isn’t just sitting in a quiet room and chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Bhakti is a way of life. Everything, including eating, should be done as an offering to the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: So the aim should be to satisfy God first. Then everything else will work out.

47340_1482778720934_1577838533_11549[1]Friend2: He is the chief among all living beings, and the maintainer of everything that needs to be maintained. Nityo nityanam, chetanash chetananam. Why won’t He maintain His devotees? The food that gets returned after offering is known as prasadam, and it has the best taste and the most potency.

In Closing:

Food not prepared right,

In restaurant ready to fight.


Better if personal initiative to take,

And at home your own food make.


Then to Supreme Lord offering,

Prasadam then to you returning.


Human life for this austerity meant,

So that in bliss of devotion spent.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Talking About Chewing The Chewed

jagannatha_prahlada117“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

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śrī-prahrāda uvāca

matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā

mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām

adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ

punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām

Friend1: Chewing the chewed.

Friend2: You’ve been reading the Shrimad Bhagavatam?

Friend1: No, but I heard that statement in a lecture.

Friend2: It’s from Prahlada Maharaja.

Friend1: I know.

Friend2: A five year-old boy, teaching the highest philosophy to anyone willing to hear it.

jagannatha_prahlada130Friend1: It’s definitely a think piece. How do you interpret it?

Friend2: What do you mean? Isn’t there only one interpretation?

Friend1: Well, I have a deeper question about how it relates to people, but I’d like you to explain what you think it means first.

Friend2: You’re chewing something that you’ve already chewed. Like taking chewing gum after all the juice has been sucked out of it already, you’re looking for enjoyment from something that doesn’t have any left to give.

Friend1: Okay, that’s pretty good. That’s in line with what I was thinking. How do you apply it to life in general, though?

Friend2: Material life is chewing the chewed. There is no enjoyment left, yet there is the hope and prayer that maybe something amazing will change things.

Friend1: Sort of like the midlife crisis?

Friend2: Exactly. You’ve done so many things already. You’re probably married, with a couple of kids. You probably have enough money saved up and you’re working at a steady job.

Friend1: But you’re still unhappy.

Friend2: Right. There is no enjoyment left. You went into these things ready to chew on them, to extract the juice. After a while, you found that there was no juice left. In the midlife crisis, you move on to something else.

Friend1: You don’t realize that the something else is the same as what you’ve already experienced.

Friend2: There you go. That’s the perfect understanding. It’s already been chewed; you just don’t realize it yet.

Friend1: I’ve heard the analogy to the dog sucking on a bone. It keeps thinking there is meat there, but it’s just a dry bone. And then other dogs come in to fight for that same bone. They don’t know that there’s nothing left to chew on.

Friend2: Material life is full of competition. We’re jealous of someone who is married with children, whereas the married person is also unhappy. The child is upset at having to go to school and the adult is sick and tired of sitting in the same office each day, collecting their paycheck every two weeks.

Friend1: Here is my question. What if a person doesn’t realize that they’re chewing the chewed?

Friend2: What if? By definition, they don’t realize it. That’s why Prahlada Maharaja is explaining it.

Friend1: Right, but what if they don’t realize it after you explain it to them. Let me go through an example. Let’s say someone goes to the Super Bowl every year. They get tickets. It’s in a different stadium and city each year. Super Bowl Sunday is practically a national holiday in the United States.

image7Friend2: The highest-rated program on television each year. The amount the network charges for a thirty second commercial is mind-blowing.

Friend1: So this person is going to the Super Bowl each year. They get excited. They watch the game. Then they think about the next year. They are just fine repeating the cycle. They’re not thinking to themselves, “Wow, I’m basically doing the same thing, over and over again. I’m looking for permanent happiness in something temporary. I don’t realize the incongruence.”

Friend2: Points for using “incongruence.” Are you asking what to do in this situation? Or are you saying they can’t be chewing the chewed if they’re actually getting some enjoyment out of it?

Friend1: Both.

IMG_261614Friend2: For the first part, you have to keep explaining. Just because they are in ignorance doesn’t mean that they are right. One day they will come to the realization. Prahlada Maharaja isn’t trying to be a buzzkill. He’s trying to awaken people to the true calling, the purpose of the valuable human form of body. There is an endeavor where the taste only increases with time. There is more and more nectar to extract the more time you devote to it. That endeavor is devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. A person can give it a try and see for themselves. The danger is that they’ll soon realize that they were previously chewing the chewed. Soon they’ll never go back to that way of life, while their friends and relatives might vehemently protest the awakening. Nevertheless, devotional service is referred to as bhakti-rasa for a reason. It is full of taste.

In Closing:

Dog excited when given a bone,

That no meat on it not initially known.


Others for the same to fight,

Great analogy for material life.


Chewing that which chewed already,

Happiness never to come steady.


Wise instructions from Prahlada hear,

From bhakti-rasa a higher taste clear.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Narasimha Chaturdashi 2016

image21“The demons [Rakshasas], the servants of Hiranyakashipu, thus began striking the tender parts of Prahlada Maharaja's body with their tridents. The demons all had fearful faces, sharp teeth and reddish, coppery beards and hair, and they appeared extremely threatening. Making a tumultuous sound, shouting, "Chop him up! Pierce him!" they began striking Prahlada Maharaja, who sat silently, meditating upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.39-40)

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nairṛtās te samādiṣṭā

bhartrā vai śūla-pāṇayaḥ




nadanto bhairavaṁ nādaṁ

chindhi bhindhīti vādinaḥ

āsīnaṁ cāhanañ śūlaiḥ

prahrādaṁ sarva-marmasu

Meditation is powerful. It can do more than merely calm the mind. A long time ago, it enabled an otherwise helpless young boy to persevere through wicked attacks instigated by of all people, his own father. The key is to match the mind with the proper recipient for its dedicated thoughts. The occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi reminds us of that boy’s meditation and how it was fixed on someone who is always with form, though of the kind impossible for us to fully understand.

The boy was named Prahlada and his meditation, or dhyana, was in the category of bhakti-yoga. This is union with the Divine through love and devotion. I can meditate on water. I can meditate on pizza. It doesn’t mean that I will get either water or pizza. They may come afterwards, but the result is not due to the meditation.

In bhakti-yoga, things are a little different. If you are pure enough in mind, the thoughts alone bring the association of the Supreme Lord. He already rests within the heart as the Supersoul, which is one though apparently divided amongst every being. Just as a telephone line allows people separated by distance to speak to and hear each other, the instructions of the spiritual master enable communication with the Supersoul, which is close by, adjacent to the individual spirit within the heart.

Prahlada received the necessary instructions from Narada Muni. He heard them while within the womb, and he remembered them after birth. Prahlada’s was a special circumstance, and he made sure to never forget the words of Narada. The father, Hiranyakashipu, was against devotional life, to the point that he could not tolerate it when he saw it in his own son. Prahlada’s devotion had to be stopped. Hiranyakashipu tortured his son in different ways in order to put a halt to bhakti-yoga in his kingdom, but the boy would not be denied. Here are some of the attacks Prahlada survived.

1. Weapons from the attendants

Hiranyakashipu ordered the royal attendants to take their weapons and pierce the boy with them. Hiranyakashipu was essentially the king of the world. Whatever he asked for was done, without hesitation. This was a simple command. Take weapons that you are already holding, point them in a specific direction, and charge.

“Daityas, as truly as Vishnu is present in your weapons and in my body, so truly shall those weapons fail to harm me.” (Prahlada Maharaja speaking to Hiranyakashipu’s attendants, Vishnu Purana)

image37Prahlada understood that God is with a spiritual form, and so He has many different names. One of them is Vishnu, which means “all-pervading.” Prahlada declared that just as Vishnu was in his heart as the Supersoul, so the Supreme Lord was also in those weapons. With this higher understanding, coupled with his meditation, the weapons were unable to harm him. Prahlada felt no pain.

2. Serpents that bit him

Rare it is to find a person who is not afraid of snakes. One bite, administered quickly and without prior warning, can end a life. Hiranyakashipu gave prior warning. He ordered special snakes he had in his kingdom to bite Prahlada. One bite from one snake should have done the job, but this was overwhelming force administered because failure was not an option. Once again Prahlada’s dhyana saved him. The key to these weapons is the pain they inflict. Without pain, without damaging the body, they are no different than the touch of a soft pillow.

3. Elephant tusks

Perhaps the weapons did not have enough force behind them. Maybe the fangs in the snakes were defective. Surely elephants wouldn’t fail. The king ordered the best elephants to charge at the boy. Their tusks should have done the job, but of course they didn’t. Once again Prahlada felt no pain. He was one with the Supersoul, which is the overseer and the permitter.

upadraṣṭānumantā ca

bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ

paramātmeti cāpy ukto

dehe 'smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

Though we think we are the doer in terms of effecting the results to action, the sanction of the Supersoul is required first. He can make an area free of gravity if He so chooses. He can make elephant tusks applied with great force by mad elephants as limp as a piece of uprooted grass. Prahlada understood this, and his father did not.

4. Poison

The boy was helpless. Though he was at home, everyone was against him. He could not cook for himself. He had to eat whatever was offered to him. Taking advantage of this, Hiranyakashipu ordered that Prahlada be served poison. The boy did not refuse. That would have been a viable option. Instead, he took the name of Vishnu first. Then he drank the poison.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna, who is the same Vishnu, who is identical to the Supersoul, says that if a person makes an offering of simple food or water with love and devotion, He will accept it. In this case the offering was poison. Still, the effect was there; the offered item was returned as the Lord’s mercy, prasadam. Prahlada had no other choice, and he wasn’t going to eat without first remembering Vishnu.

5. Thrown off a cliff

Hiranyakashipu lived on top of a mountain, high in the sky. The area where these amazing pastimes took place can be reached and visited to this day in India. The king thought that maybe he could use elevation to his advantage. He ordered that Prahlada be thrown off the mountain peak, after which he would certainly be dashed to pieces by the rocks on which he would fall.

Of course, the boy survived again. These were all material elements set to go against him, but Prahlada had the favor of the origin of the material creation. That origin can make the elements within that creation behave in any way He chooses.

Prahlada-and-Narasimha17Eventually Vishnu Himself arrived on the scene in the beautiful and terrifying form known as Narasimhadeva. While Hiranyakashipu’s attacks were without effect, the Supreme Lord required just nails and His lap to defeat the previously undefeated king. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t understand who the Supersoul was, even though Prahlada had explained everything nicely. The king didn’t believe in God the person, so the Supreme Lord arrived in a form that he would understand: death. On the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi we remember the benevolent lion/man incarnation, Narahari, who is the protector of Prahlada and the object of meditation for the courageous and unflinching devotees.

In Closing:

Prahlada untold obstacles faced,

Like when snakes in front of him placed.


Off top of mountain thrown,

Rushing elephant tusks shown.


In each instance feeling no pain,

Since meditating on Lord of Vishnu the name.


Narahari, source of the protection,

Finally arrived for king’s destruction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Talking About Proof Of Divinity

image6“Let my mind be fixed upon Lord Shri Krishna, whose motions and smiles of love attracted the damsels of Vrajadhama [the gopis]. The damsels imitated the characteristic movements of the Lord [after His disappearance from the rasa dance].” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.40)

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kṛta-manu-kṛta-vatya unmadāndhāḥ

prakṛtim agan kila yasya gopa-vadhvaḥ

Friend1: Let me ask you about the tough issues.

Friend2: What, am I running for political office or something? You want to interview me about the issues of the day?

Friend1: Sort of, but not quite. I’m talking about key points from Vedic philosophy that aren’t so easy to digest at first.

Friend2: Like the women being less intelligent thing? That’s always going to offend some people. You have to understand that the Vedas handicap different body types for the living entities. It’s quite objective; not meant to put down anyone. The assessment relates to the potential for understanding Brahman, or the non-differentiated spiritual energy.

Friend1: I’m glad you gave that explanation, but it’s not what I was going to bring up. I’m talking about something even higher.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: Krishna’s pastimes with the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavana.

Friend2: Ah, now I know what you are going to say.

Friend1: Maybe not. Obviously I know that the less intelligent will never be able to understand such an advanced topic. I know that the Shrimad Bhagavatam first dedicates nine cantos’ worth of verses to establishing Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Friend2: Scientifically establishes. Not just “Hey, Krishna is God because I say so.” The Bhagavatam explains how He is God. If you have heard everything properly you can reach no other conclusion.

Friend1: Okay, sure, I get that. Here’s the issue, though. When Krishna does something like dance with young girls in the middle of the bright moonlit night in autumn, doesn’t that go against morality? If Krishna is God, how can He engage in adharma, or irreligiousness?

image16Friend2: I’m sure you know the explanation to that one. Krishna is the object of dharma. He is never beholden to any rules. He makes the rules. Whatever He does is automatically in line with dharma. He is quintessential righteousness.

Friend1: There we go. That’s what I wanted you to say. I’m not disagreeing with you here, but there’s a common retort to that logic. It says that making Krishna above morality like you just did is rather convenient.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Employing the same practice, I could turn any person into God. If you find a shortcoming or two in the person I have deified, I can resort to my failsafe position that my guy is above righteousness. Do you see what I’m saying?

Friend2: I think so. People will say it’s a cheap excuse to make the son of Yashoda above the principles of morality. If He were truly God, He wouldn’t engage in bad behavior to begin with.

Friend1: Exactly. In addition, isn’t following dharma one way to establish someone as supreme? If a person lies, cheats and steals, doesn’t that mean they are not godly?

Friend2: You make good points. Under ordinary circumstances they would be valid, but I disagree with your premise.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Krishna’s dancing with the gopis does not go against dharma. It does not diminish His standing as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the contrary, those intimate dealings further substantiate the claim of the wise souls that Krishna is Bhagavan in the complete form, full of attractiveness.

Friend1: Care to elaborate?

Friend2: He will do anything for His devotees. He will marry over 16,000 wives if that’s what is desired on the other side. He will expand Himself into over one hundred identical forms so that each gopi feels they are dancing with Him alone. He will steal butter from the homes of the neighbors in order to give them delight. He has a specific form for worship suited for those who are dedicated to righteous principles. That form is Narayana, or the source of men. If you want to view God in a majestic way, where He can do no wrong as you define it, then there is worship of Lakshmi-Narayana available to you.

Friend1: I see.

image8Friend2: Worship of Krishna is more intimate. That’s why it takes longer to understand Him. His dealings with the gopis represent the height of compassion and are the very embodiment of dharma. He will do anything for His pure devotees. Knowing this, the wise take shelter of that jewel of Vrindavana.

In Closing:

For devotees Lord anything will do,

Including dancing with young girls too.


Surrendered souls they are,

Always in union with Him, even when far.


The less intelligent not knowing,

Thinking adharma when to forest going.


Knock against Him only would be found,

When if by rules themselves Krishna is bound.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Five Things That Won’t Dispel The Darkness Of Night

Krishna-standing-with-flute11“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

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raso 'ham apsu kaunteya

prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ

praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu

śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu

In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that, among other things, He is the light of the sun. The statement is found within a series of verses in which Krishna compares Himself to the essence of something. The light of the sun is what makes the sun. Therefore the essence is the light, and by extension Krishna is that essence. For ascetics, penance is what gives meaning to their occupation. With water there is the taste. Krishna, or God Himself, is the essence of all of these things.

The comparison to the sun is important because the living entities are born into the darkness of ignorance. This is the default condition. There are plenty of efforts made to dissipate this darkness, but a bird from ancient times reveals the true way out. Named Kakabhushundi, he says that even if you were to set the entire world on fire, the light produced would not be able to take away the darkness of night. Only the sun can do that. The Supreme Lord is compared to that sun. The darkness is maya, or illusion, and it cannot be completely removed by any other means.

1. Penance

Have you lied recently? Did you take something that didn’t belong to you? Did you lust after something? There is the process of atonement to remove the impending negative reaction. It is something like taking a bath after getting dirty. Yet penance alone won’t do the trick, since there is an underlying desire to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord. That is the real definition to sin, and so even if a person can remove some negative effects temporarily, if the desire to sin is still there the darkness of maya will remain.

2. Austerity

Do you crave pizza and ice cream too much? Do you want to give up smoking cigarettes? Try quitting cold turkey. To take away the negative influence of the sense objects, remove those objects. Take them away as possible avenues of indulgence. This process is known as austerity. In Sanskrit the word is tapasya. Indeed, there is the recommendation that the human life is meant for tapasya. In no other species can the living being voluntarily give up something for the purpose of receiving a higher benefit.

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya

ya āste manasā smaran

indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā

mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

Shri Krishna addresses this kind of renunciation in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that if a person gives up these objects but still harbors some attachment on the inside, they are a pretender. They haven’t really renounced anything. They have tortured themselves to avoid indulging in harmful behavior. They have made a step forward, but the darkness of maya is still there.

3. Study

If you want to know why it’s important to stay detached, then study scripture. This process of gathering knowledge is known as jnana. Vairagya, detachment, and jnana, knowledge, are two integral aspects to spiritual life. They go hand in hand. You gather knowledge so that you can stay detached from objects in illusion. You follow detachment so that you’ll be better equipped to assimilate higher truths.

Nevertheless, study is only theoretical. You can give all the right answers to questions on a test, but do you follow the principles in real life? Are you above the darkness of ignorance or do you just know that ignorance is bad?

4. Meditation

A good way to break free from distractions is to concentrate. In Sanskrit the word is dhyana. Concentrate so that your mind won’t wander here and there. Indeed, in the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna says that to control the mind is akin to trying to control the wind. That is how restless the mind is.

cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa

pramāthi balavad dṛḍham

tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye

vāyor iva su-duṣkaram

“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.34)

Dhyana is wonderful, but on what should you concentrate? If you don’t know, then there will be little pleasure derived from the process. The spirit soul is ananda, or blissful. It needs to feel pleasure from activity. If pleasure is missing from dhyana, the mind will go elsewhere to find it.

5. Yoga

The real meaning of yoga is to link the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. When discoursing within the realm of spirituality, yoga refers to the ancient practice of mysticism, wherein a person can acquire different siddhis, or perfections, as a result of dedicated practice.

Yoga by itself won’t remove the darkness of maya. The reason is that the siddhis must be used for a tangible purpose. It’s pretty neat to be able to become lighter than air or travel from place to place without bringing the body along with you. If the mind is still focused on exploiting the material nature, then these abilities really bring no advancement.

Krishna-standing-with-flute24The only way to dispel the dark night of maya is to have the association of the spiritual sun that is the Supreme Lord. His full association comes only through bhakti, or devotion. That devotion can flow through any activity. As a way of life, bhakti-yoga can include meditation, renunciation, knowledge, or mysticism. Yet devotion to God is never dependent on any single factor. Even a child can find the shelter of the Supreme Lord. A person does not have to be knowledgeable; they simply have to be surrendered.

In Closing:

For light of spiritual sun to see,

Person only surrendered need be.


Not having knowledge the highest,

Or resolve in austerity the strongest.


Knowledge may not even be there,

Of higher matters not aware.


Only when coming the light of the sun,

There to be darkness of ignorance none.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Five Things To Do When Visiting A Vishnu Temple

image10“The process of meditation recommended in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam is not to fix one's attention on something impersonal or void. The meditation should concentrate on the person of the Supreme Godhead, either in His virat-rupa, the gigantic universal form, or in His sach-chid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], as described in the scriptures. There are authorized descriptions of Vishnu forms, and there are authorized representations of Deities in the temples. Thus one can practice meditating upon the Deity, concentrating his mind on the lotus feet of the Lord and gradually rising higher and higher, up to His smiling face.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.2.13 Purport)

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Vishnu is a Sanskrit word that means “all-pervading.” It references a Divine personality, who is known by other names as well. Since He is the origin of all men, He is called Narayana. Since He removes the distresses of His devotees, He is known as Hari.

Though appearing in different forms and different places, the name Vishnu is most significant in that it addresses God as a person. He is a distinct personality, a person with whom a relationship can be formed. The living entities are not Vishnu in the sense that they are not all-pervading. I live inside of my body and you inside of yours. I can’t tell what you are thinking without you telling me first, and vice versa.

The living entities who are not Vishnu struggle in a material existence. The six senses, which include the mind, give them trouble. The way out of the misery, chaos, and despair is to once again find Vishnu and stay connected with Him. Since the eyes of the conditioned soul make mistakes all the time, help from the Divine Himself is required for the rescue.

One of the ways He offers help is through the deity, which is also known as the archa-vigraha. It is the worshipable form. Though it appears to be made of stone, resin, or metal, since it is crafted in an authorized way and placed in a specific setting, it becomes non-different from God. It is worshiped in the formal setting known as the temple, and a person who visits such a temple can make tremendous advancement by doing a few simple things.

1. Remain clean

One of the first rules of visiting a Vishnu temple is to take off the shoes. This should be the standard practice when visiting any home, but especially in a house of worship cleanliness becomes an important factor. After all, there are plenty of things to distract the mind elsewhere. Since He is Vishnu, God is everywhere. He resides within the heart of every creature, wherever that creature may happen to find itself.

The purpose of visiting the temple is to realize the presence of Vishnu, as it is so easy to forget God. The cause of the conditioned soul’s descent to the material world is forgetfulness of the Divine. By taking off the shoes, wearing clean clothes, and removing impure thoughts from the mind, there is every chance to get the highest benefit from the visit to the house of worship.

2. Pay respect to the guru

DSC045477In many Vishnu temples there is a form of the guru present. The devotee pays respect to this form when entering, as without the favor of the guru it is impossible to know God. The guru is the spiritual master, and they are likely the person responsible for the temple’s construction. In Vrindavana in India, all the famous temples have an acharya, or notable spiritual personality, associated with the founding. Indeed, if a person merely respects the guru, a visit to a temple isn’t even required. The guru is like a travelling tirtha, or place of pilgrimage, since they carry the message of Godhead with them.

3. Pay respect to the tulasi plant

TulsiDevi11In the Vedic tradition the tulasi plant is sacred. She is a devi, or goddess. Though there are medicinal benefits to taking leaves from this plant, the real point of honoring and worshiping her is to increase devotion to Vishnu. It is said that any home that has a tulasi plant becomes a place of pilgrimage. Famous saints from the past often had no formal worship available to them other than honoring the tulasi plant every day. A person who circumambulates this devi when visiting a Vishnu temple earns tremendous benefit.

4. Pay respect to the deity

In the temple there is something known as a period of darshana. This is when the deity is available to be seen by the public. It’s like the time of public viewing. The vision of the deity is like the meeting of two long-lost friends. Just a single glance can turn the troubled mind away from desires in material advancement, renunciation and mystic perfection.

image24Respecting the deity in this way is a form of meditation, known as dhyana-yoga. The Shrimad Bhagavatam advises that such yoga should start at the feet and move upwards from there. If you are fortunate enough to get the darshana of the Vishnu deity, start by offering respects at the lotus feet. Then gradually move upwards, and appreciate the unmatched beauty of the Supreme Lord at each step.

5. Honor prasadam

Prasadam is a Sanskrit word that means “mercy.” It can refer to anything that comes directly from God for the devotee’s benefit. In the temple there are the flowers that are offered to the deity and then dispersed among the crowd. There may also be sanctified food that is distributed to the visitors. There is amazing potency in this prasadam. A person who accepts it only one time, honoring it with the proper mood, makes tremendous advancement. Though they may have eaten similar food and smelled flowers so many times before, this experience is different. It is Divine.

In Closing:

Since only trouble in this world to find,

Difficulty from senses, including the mind.


Visit to a Vishnu temple to make,

Vision of Divine in form to take.


Clean and with purity arrive,

To worship first at lotus feet try.


To Tulasi Devi and guru give respect,

Through their blessings place standing erect.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Getting A Clear Idea Of God

Krishna_flute3_grass_cartoon11“You are the original Personality, the Godhead. You are the only sanctuary of this manifested cosmic world. You know everything, and You are all that is knowable. You are above the material modes. O limitless form! This whole cosmic manifestation is pervaded by You!” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.38)

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tvam ādi-devaḥ puruṣaḥ purāṇas

tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam

vettāsi vedyaṁ ca paraṁ ca dhāma

tvayā tataṁ viśvam ananta-rūpa

How many people do we know who have actually seen God? If they were to say that they have seen Him, how many of those people would we actually believe? The numbers are small, which makes accepting genuine spiritual life rather difficult. Nevertheless, it takes just one person seeing, and then remembering and sharing with others, to get confirmation.

We can think of it like a hunt for a treasure. The pursuit continues for as long as the treasure has not been found. In the meantime, there is the possibility that the treasure doesn’t exist. After all, everyone is still searching. No one has reached the coveted end. Once completed, though, the doubt vanishes. The reality is there for everyone to see.

The bona fide spiritual master of the Vedic tradition confidently says that they have seen God. They know what He looks like, what He desires, what He does for fun, where He lives, where He wanders to, and what He wishes from those who are connected with Him. The spiritual master does not talk in vague, abstract terms, either. They can describe God endlessly, day after day, year after year.

They use timeless Vedic classics like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam as evidence. After all, man is born into delusion. He needs the help of his fellow man to survive in the early years. This means that at some point even the self-realized soul had no direct perception of God; at least to their recollection.

The bona fide spiritual master learned from their own teacher. The chain goes all the way up to the Supreme Lord Himself, who sometimes descends to earth to reinstitute the principles of dharma, to help those who are trying to stay within virtue and religiosity. Simultaneously, He annihilates the miscreants, those who deny the existence of God and use force to try to prevent others from ever seeing Him.

paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ

vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām


sambhavāmi yuge yuge

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

image7Despite the assurances, anyone can say anything. Why should I believe the words of the guru? Why should I trust that they have seen God? The Vedic tradition is unique in that God describes Himself in so many places. In the Bhagavad-gita He explains the conditions for His appearances on earth. He explains how He lives inside of everyone in an unmanifest form known as the Supersoul. Before the eyes of the devoted souls are His manifest forms, like Krishna, Vishnu, and Rama.

Krishna_flute3_grass_cartoon23There is also the testimony of Arjuna. He was face to face with Krishna on so many occasions. He offered direct words of praise when He realized the divine nature of his friend and cousin. Arjuna explained in detail the supreme standing of the origin of the creation, the all-attractive one who is known by so many names, across so many different time periods. From Arjuna alone, doubts as to what God looks like and how one can serve Him in lifetime after lifetime are removed.

In Closing:

Since vision of the Divine without,

Of His existence itself a doubt.


With my eyes haven’t seen yet,

But actually from guru the vision to get.


Their guru too, up the chain ascending,

Supreme Himself sometimes to world descending.


Arjuna saw and then praise in detail gave,

His testimony our valuable time to save.