Saturday, June 4, 2016

Five Things That God Does In Vaikuntha

laxmi-narayan-CQ90_l12“The yogi should fix in his heart the activities of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, who is worshiped by all demigods and is the mother of the supreme person, Brahma. She can always be found massaging the legs and thighs of the transcendental Lord, very carefully serving Him in this way.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.28.23)

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jānu-dvayaṁ jalaja-locanayā jananyā

lakṣmyākhilasya sura-vanditayā vidhātuḥ

ūrvor nidhāya kara-pallava-rociṣā yat

saṁlālitaṁ hṛdi vibhor abhavasya kuryāt

The material world is temporary and miserable. You could say that the former leads to the latter. I’m enjoying my vacation in an exotic destination, but lurking in the back of my mind is the imminent return to the grind that is the five day work week. The thought of the return of daily pressure takes away from my enjoyment in a stress-free environment.

Every victory is washed away with time. The annual champion in a sports league doesn’t have long to celebrate. When the next season begins, their achievement is a distant memory. Miseries also come from things like hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes. Other people give us trouble by lying, talking too loud, and stealing. Then there is the body itself, which starts to break down with age.

There is a place that is free of anxieties. Its name is Vaikuntha, and it is essentially the spiritual world. The temporary aspect is absent. A resident never has to leave. The proprietor is the embodiment of infinity. Not surprisingly, He is God. One way to define Him is to say that He lives in a place that doesn’t have any pain, trouble, or misery.

The land is free of anxieties, but there are still animate objects there. With living beings, there is constant activity. This begs the question: what does God do in Vaikuntha?

1. He rests

The form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead most associated with Vaikuntha is Vishnu. This name means “all-pervading,” and it refers to a specific beautiful form that has four hands and is opulently adorned. Vaikuntha is a realm with many planets, with the highest being Krishnaloka. In the most common use, Vaikuntha refers to where Vishnu resides. He is also known as Narayana, which means the source of all naras, or men.

Vishnu is not an old and vengeful man. He is not struggling to hold up the many planets of the different universes. In fact, the creation comes about effortlessly. While lying down in rest, Vishnu breathes in and out. When He exhales, everything we know manifests. When He inhales, those same objects enter back into Him. Vishnu is not troubled in the least. He is always in leisure, symbolized by His resting comfortably.

2. He gets massaged by Lakshmi Devi

Vishnu is not alone in Vaikuntha. Indeed, in one of the forms of liberation offered the individual gets the same bodily features as Vishnu. Liberation is the end to the cycle of birth and death, protection against having to again take birth in a temporary and miserable land. There are so many liberated souls who look like Vishnu, but you can spot the Supreme Lord through certain features, such as the Shrivatsa.

“Shrivatsa is a curl of white hair on the chest of the Lord which is a special sign of His being the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Vaikunthaloka or in Goloka Vrindavana, the inhabitants are exactly of the same form as the Personality of Godhead, but by this Shrivatsa mark on the chest of the Lord He is distinguished from all others.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.19.15 Purport)

laxmi-narayan-CQ90_l23Found in that word is “Shri,” which refers to Lakshmi Devi. She is the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort. She is also known as the goddess of fortune. Lakshmi is the ideal wife and devotee. She is always by Vishnu’s side. While He rests, she massages Him. This is another way to know God. He has the most beautiful and chaste woman as His wife, and she never gives Him trouble.

3. He hears His endless glories being sung

This is what the Vedas actually are. They are the origin of what is today referred to as Hinduism. The Sanskrit word Veda means “knowledge.” Real knowledge is that which refers to the Supreme Lord and His gunas, or glories. Gunas also refer to qualities, which in Vishnu’s case are all transcendental. The Vedas sing the glories of God the person, and since it is impossible to complete such a task, the Vedas themselves expand infinitely.

The saintly characters of the universe know how to praise God. Since they use the choicest words in His honor, another of His names is Uttamashloka. In Vaikuntha He hears His glories being sung, and He doesn’t have to pay anyone to do it. The saints sing through their own will, for they know devotional service is the only route to real happiness.

4. He accepts visitors like Brahma and Narada; Bhrigu too

Just as there are moving and nonmoving creatures in this world, there are people who sing the glories of Vishnu while remaining in one place and those who move around in order to benefit others. The sound they share is a kind of mercy, or prasadam, as it helps to reawaken the dormant God consciousness found within everyone.

Lord Brahma isn’t known to be a traveler. He serves Vishnu in the role of creator. He is the origin of the species if we were to do an accurate trace of the family tree. He uses the three ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance to make the 8,400,000 different kinds of living entities. Brahma usually visits Vaikuntha when there is a situation requiring help. Indeed, the many demigods, or devas, follow the same line, as they are always battling against the asuras, or demons. Sometimes the asuras get too strong, and so the devas go to Vaikuntha to get relief.

lord_balaji_511Narada is Brahma’s son, and he travels the three worlds chanting the name of Narayana. Narada can visit any planet at any time, and sometimes He goes to Vaikuntha. Bhrigu Muni, who is another son of Brahma, has visited Vaikuntha at least one time, as told in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. In testing the patience and tolerance of the Supreme Lord, he delivered a swift kick to Vishnu’s chest while He was resting. Vishnu did not take any offense at all, which helped Bhrigu to reach the conclusion that Vishnu is indeed the supreme among all devas.

5. He threads the eye of a needle with an elephant

It’s not known for sure if this is something Vishnu does, but He instructed Narada in the matter one time during a visit from the saint. Narada was there to ask about the future of two people: a brahmana and a cobbler. A brahmana is a person of the priestly order. Narada asked about the future of each, i.e. whether or not they would get liberation.

It was expected that the brahmana would get it, as they are in an occupation equated with the head of society. The cobbler would be more like the legs. Narada was surprised to hear that the cobbler would get liberation before the brahmana. To clear the doubt, Vishnu instructed Narada to tell both men that He was threading the eye of a needle with an elephant.

When Narada returned, upon hearing this the brahmana thought the idea to be preposterous, while the cobbler was immediately pleased by such news. The cobbler had the proper understanding of God, while the brahmana still had some progress to make.

The idea is that Vishnu can do anything anywhere. He can hold up a massive hill with the pinky finger in His left hand. He can fight off 14,000 of the best warriors attacking Him simultaneously. He can give liberation to any person, living in any place. Though He hears everything and moves more swiftly than the wind, He is still always in Vaikuntha, resting on the serpent bed of Ananta Shesha Naga, and enjoying the company of Lakshmi Devi. He is always interested in the welfare of the devotees, and they in His.

In Closing:

Land free of anxieties, as Vaikuntha known,

Of personal God Vishnu the home.


Of spiritual world somewhat aware,

But what the Supreme Lord doing there?


Visitor Bhrigu His patience testing,

Lakshmi giving massage while resting.


Demigods for help to His lotus feet coming,

Destination when souls liberated becoming.

Friday, June 3, 2016

God As More Than An Adjective

Bw09qQgBGkKGrHqUOKkEEwRMH-EyRBMKyhd6[1]“Hearing the attractive pastimes of Lord Krishna's different incarnations is a chance for liberation for the conditioned soul, and the most fascinating and pleasing activities of Lord Krishna Himself are still more attractive because Lord Krishna personally is all-attractive.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 35)

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Question: “Aren’t all religions the same? Aren’t they referring to the same Almighty? Why the insistence on chanting the maha-mantra, then? Why the need to go in depth, to understand such concepts as the cycle of birth and death, fruitive activity, piety and sin, and the different species? What is the harm in simply accepting that a higher power exists and then living your life?”

Teachers in the Vaishnava tradition strongly emphasize the chanting of the holy names. There are so many names for the Supreme Lord, so it is not that only one name must be chanted. Rather, any name, as long as it is authorized, is sufficient for shifting the consciousness from material to spiritual. The spiritual consciousness keeps a connection with the Supreme Consciousness. This connection, in turn, brings all bliss, excitement, appreciation, compassion, kindness, and understanding, from the present until death, and even beyond.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the mantra most recommended in the modern age by the Vaishnava. The definition of Vaishnava is a person who is devoted to the personal God. This is where we start to see the divergence from other traditions of spirituality. This mantra is known as maha, or great. It is the great sound vibration to deliver the mind. The potency is in the words themselves, which are different names for God.

Why not chant names from other traditions? Upon careful study, we see the words found therein are more adjectives than they are names. One word says that God is great. Another says that He is all-pervading. Another refers to His ability to control all other controllers. Indeed, in the Vedic traditions similar words can be found. These are described by authorities as being indirect names. For instance, the word Ishvara refers to someone who is a controller. Brahman refers to the spiritual energy that pervades the entire space.

The names in the maha-mantra actually refer to a person. This person is similar to you and me in the quality of their identity, but the quantitative potency is vastly different. I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. The Supreme is the complete everything. For Him there is no difference between body and spirit. I can suffer through misery in the material world, whereas God is blissful at all times.

The name Krishna addresses a person to whom adjectives can be assigned. That is the uniqueness of the Vedic tradition. More specifically, the Vaishnava tradition within Vedic culture addresses the personal God. It assigns many adjectives to Him based on His qualities. The different names also reference His many activities, performed in this world and others.

To address God as a person is to connect with Him more intimately. Every recommendation within Vedic culture is for bringing the living entity closer to their original occupation of service to God. The conditioned soul is hesitant to take up this service, for in the material world every living entity is trying to be Ishvara themselves. Therefore a gradual approach is often instituted, where a person follows rules and regulations to become detached from personal interest in sense gratification. In this way slowly there is progression towards the ultimate goal.

Bw09qQgBGkKGrHqUOKkEEwRMH-EyRBMKyhd6[2]In the ultimate goal there is a relationship. A relationship can only be with another person; it cannot be with an adjective. The relationship is the highest state of spiritual life, since it changes the way of life for the better. With only a scant understanding of God, there will only be scant pleasure. Maya, or illusion, will continue to have majority controlling interest. We can think of it like a parliamentary system, with one party having more seats than another. The goal is to flip the situation to where the Supreme Consciousness has full sway over the individual’s desires and actions. This can be achieved through the favor of Krishna, who is God in His all-attractive, original feature.

In Closing:

Vaishnava the personal God to stress,

So that in end with relationship to bless.


His all-attractiveness to adore,

Than an adjective He is more.


Good step when His existence to detect,

Ultimate goal with Supreme to connect.


Done easily when maha-mantra to accept,

Superior since names containing direct.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Different Ways To Communicate

DSC0039320“Although prayers are a part of Deity worship, they may be considered separately like the other items, such as hearing and chanting, and therefore separate statements are given herewith. The Lord has unlimited transcendental qualities and opulences, and one who feels influenced by the Lord's qualities in various activities offers prayers to the Lord. In this way he becomes successful.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.23-24 Purport)

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Let’s say that you really care about someone. The exact kind of relationship and person don’t really matter. It could be a father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, child, or even a friend. The idea is that you feel really strongly about them on the inside. You appreciate them so much. You’ve realized that they are better towards you than you could ever be towards them.

How do you let them know your appreciation? The simplest way is with words. Approach them, have them sit down, and then talk. This method may be a little awkward. It is not something typically done. It may embarrass the other person. What if you don’t know the right words to say? What if you get nervous? What if they laugh at you in response?

image8Another option is to write down your sentiments. This allows you to take your time, to prepare everything properly. You can edit the message so that it conveys the exact tone that you’re looking for. You can then deliver the message in a physical letter or through email. The other person can then read it whenever they are free.

What if you’re not skilled at composition? You don’t think that it’s possible for you to express everything in words. Are there other ways to communicate? Certainly there are. Sometimes it takes a simple gesture. A child really wants their father to attend a play they will be performing in at school. The father is very busy with work. He travels constantly, and he hasn’t shown up for many important events in the past.

As the play starts, the child is on the stage in the opening scene. Though focused on their lines and delivery, out of the corner of their eye they notice that someone has entered the auditorium. This person is a late arrival and they are looking for an open seat. Why, it’s the father. He made it after all. The father has not uttered a word and yet the child feels so much appreciation. They know that the father must have gone out of his way to attend. Basic attendance communicated the sentiment.

This analysis has relevance to spiritual life. The Supreme Lord has so many different features that He is impossible to fully comprehend. Some of those features are contradictory. For instance, He has no hands but He can hold the entire universe upon His shoulders effortlessly. He has no ears but He hears everything, including the tree falling in an empty forest. He has no eyes but He is the all-pervading witness. He has no legs but He is faster than the wind.

He accomplishes omnipresence through His expansion known as the Supersoul. An expansion in this case means that the resultant object is identical to God. Though it may not be visible in the same way that the Personality Himself is, the Supersoul lacks nothing in potency. This is mercy offered to the countless living entities, who all have the same Supersoul residing within them. Though He appears to be divided, the Supersoul is one. This is one way to understand unity in diversity.

sarva-bhūteṣu yenaikaṁ

bhāvam avyayam īkṣate

avibhaktaṁ vibhakteṣu

taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikam

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

Since the Supersoul rests within me, seated next to the individual soul in the heart, I don’t have far to travel to approach God. If I make advancement in the spiritual science, I come to appreciate everything that He does. Bhakti-yoga is connecting with the Divine in a mood of love and devotion. One aspect to love is sharing sentiments. How do I love God if I’m not sure how to properly address Him? What if I can’t write a wonderful prayer? What if I can’t properly convey my thoughts?

As mentioned above, a simple gesture can convey a powerful message to someone else. In the same way, through doing something as basic as reciting a mantra, the Supreme Lord can know just how you feel about Him. There are many mantras to chant, as God has so many names. These names reference His many attributes and activities.

DSC003931One of the best mantras to chant, which is especially effective in this age full of distractions and stress-inducing responsibilities, is the maha-mantra. Simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to let the all-attractive one know how you feel. Chant with full attention, faith, love and attachment. Show your emotion through numerical strength, by chanting this mantra over and over again, day after day. From the mantra even the illiterate person can communicate with Krishna, who hears everything and most certainly appreciates the sacrifices made to honor Him.

In Closing:

Even when unsure what to say,

Sentiment still making its way.


Even when to write not knowing,

Heartfelt communication still flowing.


By holy names’ mantra done,

Addressing Supersoul existing one.


Through prayer obeisances paid,

Krishna appreciating sacrifices made.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Five Questions To Ask Your Guru

image6“Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited?” (Sanatana Gosvami speaking to Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.102)

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'ke āmi', 'kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya'

ihā nāhi jāni--'kemane hita haya'

In the Vedic tradition, the importance of a guru is stressed constantly. Indeed, to someone who knows that the value of the spiritual master is changing the consciousness from illusion to enlightenment, this fact cannot be emphasized enough. It is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, which is considered the book of foundation for any person sincerely interested in spiritual matters.

tad viddhi praṇipātena

paripraśnena sevayā

upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ

jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

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

Upon hearing the importance of approaching a guru, the natural question is where to find such a person. It is not like there is a guru store. The bona fide spiritual master is by nature humble, so it is not like they advertise their services to the entire world, proclaiming to know everything. One of the most important spiritual masters in a line coming from Lord Brahma would not like to admit that he was a guru. Rather, if anyone praised Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as such, he would refer to himself only as servant.

image22This is the genuine self-reflection of the person carrying the highest knowledge. They are ready to serve every person who needs help. From reading the Bhagavad-gita, which is also a kind of dialogue between guru and disciple, we see that the transformation isn’t effected by a magical touch. Krishna did not tell Arjuna, “Take two of these and call me in the morning.” There was question and answer. A person should not only approach a bona fide guru, they should also ask the right questions.

1. Who am I?

There is another, more recent historical example to consult in this context. Some five hundred years ago, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami had a harrowing journey in escaping from his high post in the government and meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was Krishna Himself descended to earth to teach the timeless Vedic principles and shine the light on the path of love and devotion, the way to connect with God that is open to one and all, not dependent on knowledge, renunciation, or material opulence.

image1Sanatana Gosvami was already very knowledgeable, but showing proper etiquette he asked Chaitanya Mahaprabhu some important questions. One of the first things he asked was about identity. This seems like a silly thing to bring up with the guru. After all, in the first meeting they will likely ask your name and occupation. They have not seen your driver’s license or passport, so they can’t just guess your name.

Sanatana Gosvami asked the question as it pertains to the real identity of the living entity. Things are always changing for me. At one point I was an infant the size of a football. At that time I could hardly do anything. I don’t even remember that period in my life. Now I am older, capable of rational thought and acting independently, to an extent. Since I am no longer an infant, that form does not properly identify me. Who am I, really?

2. Where did I come from?

Again, this seems like an odd thing to inquire about. Every human being takes birth due to contact between a mother and a father. This is not a secret. The fact may be hidden from a child who is not able to understand the mature subject matter, but eventually they realize. Why would you ask a guru this question?

It relates to the time continuum. I know that in this life a mother and a father were needed, but where was I before that? For instance, I heard of things happening before I was born. Where was I during that time? Did I not exist? Surely, I must have been somewhere, but how do I find out?

3. Why am I here?

I took birth due to the actions of the parents. Now what? Is there a purpose beyond that? At this very moment I am alive, but why? Is it due to randomness? Are we all just a collection of chemicals, meant to act as we wish? I know that many times if I follow through on my desires, I am left miserable afterwards. If I am denied something, that may actually benefit me. There must be a reason for my being placed in the circumstances that I find at present.

4. Where am I going?

Due to the limited independence I have, there is some influence as far as future destination. For instance, when I woke up this morning, I made the decision to drive to work. Therefore in the past I knew where I was going to be later on. Since there was so much history prior to my birth, it stands to reason that the world will not end after my death. Where will I be when all of that is going on? Will I be watching from some place? Will I still have consciousness?

5. What is the goal of life?

Acknowledging the fact that I am alive today, how should I act? I see that wealthy people are as lost as I am. They don’t have a better handle on things. I see that poor people want to become wealthy. I see the unmarried person desperate to find a mate. I see the married person miserable and looking for a way out. I see parents who were previously working now not sure what to do with their empty nest. Should I pursue a path that I know will not bring permanent happiness?

The bona fide guru should be able to answer all of these questions, and not just from random thought. They should reference the impeccable authority that is the Vedic tradition. Sanatana Gosvami also asked Lord Chaitanya why the threefold miseries of life constantly gave him trouble. These miseries come from the nature around us, the body and mind, and other living entities. No person is completely immune from these miseries, despite how much they may try to protect themselves.

The answers to these questions are rather straightforward, though there is so much nuance that a person can spend an entire lifetime studying, going deeper into the subject matter, and reminding themselves. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God, who is a person. As spirit, I exist perpetually. Never was there a time that I did not exist; nor will there be a time in the future where I cease to be.

na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ

na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ

na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ

sarve vayam ataḥ param

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

I don’t know exactly where I was in a past life, but since I took birth in the material world I can surmise that my consciousness at the time of the most recent death was on the material energy.

Originally, at some point in the past, I was in the spiritual world, enjoying with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Due to a desire to enjoy separate from Him, I now find myself in the material world. As to where I am going, that depends on me and my consciousness. If I stay focused on the temporary and miserable world, then I will stay here. It may be in a different species, and the cycle might continue for thousands of years, but avoid the spiritual world I will.

Krishna_flute312The threefold miseries give me so much trouble because that is the nature of the land. It is one of the consequences to choosing against Krishna, the all-attractive Lord of the universe. From knowing these things, the goal of life becomes obvious. Be Krishna conscious. Take advantage of the human form of body and the ability to reason. Know, understand, love and serve the person to whom we are always intimately tied. Service to Krishna, known as bhakti-yoga, is the goal of every existence, every birth. The person who is conscious of Him at the time of death no longer has to take birth in the spinning wheel of reincarnation, known as the samsara-chakra. Upon hearing the questions of the sincere student, the guru can provide the practical help needed to achieve the goal.

In Closing:

For supreme truth to know,

Advised to guru to go.


Suppose initiative in the task,

What to them should I ask?


Why threefold miseries upon me,

And in future will I continue to be?


Referencing shastra answers easily to give,

Guidance how in bliss of bhakti to live.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Five Punishments Krishna Could Have Given The Witch Putana

BlCWZewmkKGrHqMH-CkEs-cEE5HPBLB9Rhtq[1]“As Yashoda was given liberation from the material world, so Putana was also given liberation. When the baby Krishna closed His eyes, Putana took Him on her lap. She did not know that she was holding death personified. If a person mistakes a snake for a rope, he dies. Similarly, Putana killed so many babies before meeting Krishna, but now she was accepting the snake that would kill her immediately.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality Of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

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The people of the community were innocent to a level unimaginable in today’s world. In industrialized nations, if the doorbell rings during the day it is common to immediately be suspicious.

“It must be someone selling something. I don’t want to talk to them. What if it is a potential intruder, looking to take advantage of our kindness? It is better not to answer. After a while they will go away.”

In Vrindavana five thousand years ago the people were so open and loving with one another that when a beautiful lady walked into the home and picked up baby Krishna, no one said a thing. In truth, we know this was the work of yogamaya, the energy directly supervised by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The illusion that causes us to misidentify with the temporary body and choose sense gratification that is nothing more than chewing the chewed is known as mahamaya. This also comes from God, but it is not something He wishes to impose on anyone. Everything is the kripa, or mercy of the Lord, but yogamaya is that energy under which the connection to the Divine is maintained.

This beautiful woman was actually a witch. She was sent to Vraja by the king of the neighboring town of Mathura. Known as Kamsa, he wanted baby Krishna killed, as a prophecy had warned him that the eighth child of his sister Devaki would be the person to end his life. Named Putana, the witch had the ability to change her appearance whenever she desired. Dressed as a beautiful lady coming to nurse the darling of the town, she was able to pick up Krishna without anyone objecting.

Not surprisingly, she had smeared poison on her breast beforehand. She was ready to deliver instant death to the son of Yashoda. Instead, Putana would lose her life. Poison cannot affect the one person who is always immune to the effects of the material nature. Even in the form of an innocent child, He retains full potency. Krishna quickly began to suck the very life out of Putana. Eventually, she gave up the false guise and revealed her hideous, gigantic form. That body tumbled to the ground, devoid of life due to the work of the origin of all life. Baby Krishna then playfully crawled on her body, as the well-wishers and family members looked on in horror. Eventually they were relieved, though, amazed at how Krishna could survive.

image17Putana attempted something quite vicious. If brought to a court of law she would have been tried for attempted murder. Krishna was able to protect Himself, but what kind of punishment awaited that witch sent on a mission by Kamsa? There were many options available to the person who is time itself, which is the great subduing agent in a world full of temporary objects and experiences.

1. Made her take birth in a lower species

Putana was demoniac. The word for demon in Sanskrit is asura. This is a simple negation of another word: sura, which means “devotee” or “good person.” The basic understanding is that the sura believes in God to some degree. They may not always be pure in their desires, but they are not foolish enough to think that everything in this world happens by chance.

tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān

saṁsāreṣu narādhamān

kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān

āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

The asura is the opposite in qualities. Since they believe that everything is simply a collection of chemicals, they have no morals. They pursue sense gratification to no end, and they are always miserable as a result. Since they interfere with the progress of the suras, they get cast into lower species as punishment. Krishna Himself confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita. Yet being tossed to a lower species was not the future awaiting Putana.

2. Sent her to a horrible place

In material life, the criminals get sent to prison. If the crime for which they are convicted is severe, so is the punishment. In prison they might be forced to do hard labor. They may be put into solitary confinement, where they have little contact with other people. In the cream of Vedic literature known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we find descriptions of different hellish planets and their accompanying situations. Needless to say, life in these planets is not pleasant; there is constant pain and suffering. Yet Putana was not sent to any such place.

3. Put her on the other side

The Sanskrit word for meat is mamsa. The root meaning is “me and he.” The idea is that if I kill an animal for the purpose of eating it, the living being inside has the right to come back in its next life and kill me. In the common vernacular this chain of events is known as karma. Whatever you do comes back to you. If you are good, you have positive consequences in the future. Bad deeds get returned to you at some point in time.

Krishna could have put Putana in a situation where she would suck the breast of someone who had applied poison. This could have happened through the laws of karma, without Krishna needing to directly intervene. Yet this too was not the punishment given to the deceitful witch.

4. Damned her for eternity

“Believe in so and so or face eternal damnation. Do you want to suffer in hell? Who would? Then quickly accept the savior.” These threats are a great way to get the less intelligent to subscribe to a certain religion. Of course they neglect the eternality of the soul and how there is always an available link to the Supreme Soul, no matter the situation, no matter the place.

Still, Krishna could have judged that Putana’s act was unforgiveable. He could have damned her forever, denying her from ever getting salvation. We can think of it like the death penalty, even though in reality the soul is never killed. Putana could have been guaranteed repeated births in a lower species for time immemorial. Yet this was not the punishment she was to receive.

5. Given her liberation

The reward for having a spiritual consciousness at the time of death is release from the cycle of birth and death. Basically, if we are not set on illusion, mahamaya, when quitting the body, we won’t associate with illusion in the future. Indeed, there is a key verse in the Bhagavad-gita to help explain Putana’s fate. It says that whatever state of being a person has at the time of death, that state they attain without fail in the next life.

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ

tyajaty ante kalevaram

taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya

sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

What was Putana thinking of at the time of death? Krishna was sucking the life out of her breast. She was only thinking of Him. Granted, the attitude was inimical. Her consciousness was not like that of a renounced ascetic who constantly chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

image2Yet liberation is what she received. This is the reward for having consciousness of Krishna at the time of death. The incident with the witch also shows the unmatched mercy of God the person. He is not mean and vindictive, as the mental speculators would have you believe. He is not a bitter old man, just waiting to punish the sinners. Rather, He is compassion personified. If such a reward is granted to someone like Putana, imagine what awaits the person who thinks of Krishna in a mood of love. They get the highest form of liberation, constant association with the all-attractive one in that very same mood, going forward into eternity.

In Closing:

From poison on breasts smearing,

Path for Krishna’s death clearing.


Yet Putana falling, lifeless body a hideous sight,

Hopefully then to receive punishment right.


Eternally damned or into lower species thrown?

Actually by Supreme Lord greatest mercy shown.


Liberation since thinking of Him,

Cleared instantly of most grievous sin.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Giving Someone Eternity

image5“Dharma is sometimes translated as ‘religion,’ but that is not exactly the meaning. Dharma actually means ‘that which one cannot give up,’ ‘that which is inseparable from oneself.’ The warmth of fire is inseparable from fire; therefore warmth is called the dharma, or nature, of fire. Similarly, sad-dharma means ‘eternal occupation.’ That eternal occupation is engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.11 Purport)

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that devotional service is unchecked. This is not just his opinion; the great saint has it on the authority that is disciplic succession. A person may choose to rely only on observation and experiment, but there is the limitation of the senses to consider. Man commits mistakes, also. Therefore just because someone observed something one hundred years ago, it doesn’t mean that the finding is valid going forward. Another scientist can come along with a different conclusion. This is the very definition of progress, i.e. to move on from a point of imperfection.

Parampara, or disciplic succession, as it relates to the spiritual science is not like this. The claim about bhakti-yoga being unmotivated and uninterrupted was true five thousand years ago, is true today, and will continue to be true going forward. When someone says that something is unchecked, they mean that the things that typically serve as impediments are unable to succeed at obstructing.

What are some of the common things that bring a halt to an occupation? Time is the most obvious inhibiting force. Consider this situation. You have a friend or family member whom you love dearly. In your mind you think that you can never repay them for the affection they have shown you. The first candidates for such love are the parents and children. The parents gave you everything, but with the children it is your job to offer them something worthwhile. Ideally, they are going to live past you. You are in a position to provide for them, at least while they are young.

What should you give them? Money? Clothes? Food? It would be best to give them happiness. That comes from an occupation. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that every person must work. Work in Sanskrit is known as karma. Even if a person is totally renounced, sitting in a cave and doing nothing but meditating, they are still working to some degree. The idea is to follow work that will bring bliss; find an ideal match for the individual and its qualities.

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ

triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana

nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ

varta eva ca karmaṇi

“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything - and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)

The issue is that whatever occupation I recommend to my children, they will be checked at some point. Time will get in the way. If they become a professional ice hockey player, eventually they will have to retire. Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player of all time, but today he does not play. Time has taken a toll on the body, no longer allowing it to perform at peak levels.

Bhakti-yoga comes from Krishna Himself. Since the objective is to serve Him with love and devotion, it is actually identical to Him. Its practice is unchecked because time cannot destroy it. Time is undefeated in every other area, but it bends to the will of the Supreme Lord, who describes in the Bhagavad-gita that He is time.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

kālo 'smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho

lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ

ṛte 'pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve

ye 'vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ

“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)

How do we know that bhakti-yoga is not destroyed at the time of death? We must accept this information on faith, though we can test the strength of the occupation while we are still alive. Is it possible to chant the holy names in any circumstance, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”? Is it possible to remember the darling child of Yashoda and Nanda and concentrate on His all-attractive features? At any time are we able to glorify the Supreme Lord, His eternal consort Shrimati Radharani, the perfection of devotion that are the gopis, and the fearless representatives of the Lord who reveal the bhakti path to the fallen souls?

IMG_254911None of these things can be checked while we are alive. Even if the entire world is against us, we still have the mind. We can use it to practice bhakti-yoga, which means that bliss is available at any and every moment. Shri Krishna assures the yogi in bhakti that their practice will continue into the future, as the Lord is Himself inexhaustible, ever fresh and new.

In Closing:

Dependent on me now living,

For best future what to them giving?


An occupation engaged in which to be,

That for them happiness to always see.


Everything by time is checked,

Dharma of the soul except.


Devotional service, even from the mind,

At any moment ananda can find.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Talking About Bhagavad-gita For Beginners

image6“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

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na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin

nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ

ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo

na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita. It’s a lot to take in, wouldn’t you say?

Friend2: It depends.

Friend1: On what?

Friend2: Your starting point. If you are completely in material life, thinking only of what to eat next, where to go on vacation, which new pub to visit - then sure, your claim is valid.

Friend1: Haven’t you described practically everyone in this world?

Friend2: No, that’s not the case at all. Some people live more renounced than others, even without knowing about the Bhagavad-gita. You know about the four kinds of people that approach Krishna in devotional service?

Friend1: Yes. The person who desires wealth, the inquisitive, the distressed, and the jnani.

Friend2: The jnani is the person who is already in knowledge. They know the difference between matter and spirit. Anyway, the listing of the four groups means that there is variety. Not everyone approaches the Supreme Personality of Godhead from the same starting point. The Bhagavad-gita is identical to Krishna, so that means that there is variety in the kinds of people who first read the book.

Friend1: Okay. Maybe I’m just thinking of it from my perspective, based on the people that are around me. I see what you’re saying, though. I’ve heard it said that the Bhagavad-gita is like the foundation, similar to the introductory class in a university education on the subject of spirituality.

image14Friend2: Right. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the author of the translation and commentary known as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, describes the book as the ABCD of spiritual life. It’s the basics. Everyone should know the truths presented by Krishna to Arjuna.

Friend1: Here is a confusion that I’d like you to clear up. I see many books that claim to describe the Bhagavad-gita in a more understandable way. Their book will say it is for beginners, for people who aren’t yet ready to read the full Bhagavad-gita.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: What’s your opinion of that?

Friend2: There’s already an introduction given by Shrila Prabhupada in his book.

Friend1: So you’re saying that’s enough? Wouldn’t a beginners book be helpful?

Friend2: To be honest with you, I think it’s nonsense.

Friend1: Really? Why?

Friend2: If at one time you take everything that is taught, then I can see how it can be overwhelming. There is no insistence, however, that the book be read in a single day. Take your time. Krishna already lays out the work perfectly, as if knowing that not everyone will understand the entirety at the beginning.

Friend1: It’s okay for the beginner to start reading it? There’s no harm in just jumping right in?

Friend2: Take a look at the second chapter. Krishna reveals the presence of the soul and explains its properties. He tells Arjuna that for the soul there is no death. What everyone laments over is actually the body. The spirit within leaves the body after death. A person who knows the soul laments neither for the living nor the dead.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Let me ask you this. Are those statements about the soul difficult to understand?

Friend1: Not really.

Friend2: Then why do you need a separate book for beginners? Just stay on the second chapter if you are overwhelmed. Concentrate on those wonderful verses. Try to really grasp what they mean. When you are ready, move on.

Friend1: I can’t argue with you there. What if a person never advances beyond that? Are they doomed?

image22Friend2: To attempt to understand the spiritual science is a form of yoga, which is connecting with the Divine. In the Gita itself, Krishna assures the aspiring yogi that there is no loss or diminution in the effort. Picking up the book and reading just a single verse represents a tremendous step forward, one that every person should take.

In Closing:

Bhagavad-gita book in hands to take,

From just one verse real advancement to make.


Progress in this human life to see,

Knowing about the soul, who is really me.


By length and complexity not to dismay,

With time, on second chapter just stay.


For beginner to advanced already laid out,

Highest value to man, of this no doubt.