Saturday, June 18, 2016

Five Reasons Why Bhakti Is Simultaneously The Best Welfare Work

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“The karmi thinks of this world as ‘mine,’ and the jnani thinks ‘I am’ everything. The whole material conception of politics, sociology, philanthropy, altruism, etc., conceived by the conditioned souls is on the basis of this misconceived ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ which are products of a strong desire to enjoy material life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.2 Purport)

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I’ve tried exercising. I’ve tried watching my diet. I’ve tried being more active. There are benefits for sure, but that’s only if I stick to the routine. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Just one week of lack of control in eating, and the health deteriorates rapidly.

Yoga is something different; or so I’ve heard. There are different kinds, apparently. What most people know to be yoga is some degraded form of gymnastics. It’s an exercise routine, though originally it actually has some connection with spirituality.

There is something called bhakti-yoga. This is love and devotion offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Sanskrit word is Bhagavan, which references a person with attributes. God has features. One of them is that He is present within the name that addresses Him. Therefore one of the central practices of bhakti-yoga is chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

These names put together should be repeated. They form something known as the maha-mantra. The literal translation is “the great deliverer of the mind.” I might as well try it, as my mind is restless. I’m never at peace; not even when sleeping at night. The thing is, someone told me that bhakti-yoga is also the best welfare work. It is superior to opening hospitals and feeding the less fortunate. How can that be?

1. Feeding the hungry has limitations

A person should not be miserly. After all, we don’t really own anything here. Vedic culture, from which bhakti-yoga comes, agrees with the concept of property rights. Just because you are enlightened doesn’t mean you suddenly start taking things that don’t belong to you. There is a class of men whose duty it is to protect people from injury. The Sanskrit word is kshatriya, and one aspect of injury is loss of property through theft. Indeed, one of the times where violence is sanctioned is when there is force applied by a person entering the home unlawfully.

“According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: 1) a poison giver, 2) one who sets fire to the house, 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, 4) one who plunders riches, 5) one who occupies another's land, and 6) one who kidnaps a wife. Such aggressors are at once to be killed, and no sin is incurred by killing such aggressors.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.36 Purport)

At the same time, everything originally belongs to God. We don’t keep our possessions after we exit the body; the event known as death. Therefore to be miserly is not good. A person should be charitable. It is a way to stay detached from the objects of sense gratification. Charity is good, but it must be done in the right way.

Can feeding someone ever be a bad thing? How can offering food to the hungry have limitations?

There is only so much food you can give. You have to discriminate with your recipients since you’re dealing with a finite resource, at least as it pertains to personal property. Also, there is the spiritual institution of sannyasa to consider. This is voluntarily accepted poverty, with strict rules. The sannyasi is a wandering mendicant, and they are not supposed to collect more food than can be consumed in one meal. There is no visiting Costco and stocking up for the entire month.

If the sannyasi, who is ideally the most advanced in intelligence, has this much control in eating, then obviously the same control should ideally be exercised by others. Moreover, not having an abundance of food to eat is not necessarily a bad thing. All of these factors must be considered whenever offering assistance of material objects to others.

2. Curing disease doesn’t stop disease altogether

Birth, old age, disease and death. These are the four miseries of life. They occur for everyone. To become a resident in the material land, there must be birth. For that birth to take place, there must have been a previous death. The next death is guaranteed, and it is effected through time. From time’s influence, old age happens; it cannot be avoided. With old age, there is increased chance for disease, as the body grows weaker.

guṇān etān atītya trīn

dehī deha-samudbhavān


vimukto 'mṛtam aśnute


“When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.20)

The only way to stop the four miseries is to transcend the three modes of nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. This information comes from the highest authority: Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. The Supreme Lord does not say that scientific research into curing diseases is the way to be free of the miseries.

To work to stop a debilitating disease that strikes so many is certainly a noble cause. The issue, however, is that disease will always be present. There are vaccines available today which have virtually eradicated so many of the diseases that plagued society in the past. Yet people are still getting sick. There is still death. Therefore the research is known to have limitations.

3. There is great sadness over death, even for people we don’t know

You expend so much energy to feed the poor. You hold charity fundraisers to give money away to the needy. You set up hospitals in cities that desperately need medical facilities. You invest in research to cure horrible diseases.

Despite all of this work, the people don’t necessarily become wiser. One indication is the great lamentation over the passing of someone barely known. When a famous actor dies, I might be sad for a few moments, as I know them through the movies I have seen. At the same time, I didn’t know the actor at all. I never met them. I likely wasn’t going to ever see them again. Why the great sadness, then?

The same goes for family members I have not seen in ages. They weren’t with me. It is not like I am losing anything. The fourth class of occupation described in the Vedas is shudra. The definition of this word is “one who easily laments.” The idea is that the human being is meant to rise above this mentality, which is the default. They should become wiser. This is one way to assess the benefits of welfare work. Does it elevate the individual from the shudra mentality?

4. Everybody hates everybody

Welfare work should bring people together, no? That is a key component to happiness, getting along with others. Yet feeding the hungry is not guaranteed to increase the happiness of anyone. The people getting the assistance will come to expect it going forward. Those not getting anything will wonder why they are left out. Others will have resentment, for they work hard to be able to provide for themselves. Why should others not do the same, they will think.

Welfare work is for helping others, after all. Providing a higher understanding of life, how all living beings are going through the same struggle, should be an integral part of the assistance offered. The concepts of “I” and “mine” should be properly explained; as under the incorrect understanding there is competition to enjoy this world as much as possible, as if everything ultimately belongs to me.

There is so much welfare work done today, but has there been any progress? One group hates the police. They intentionally break the law as a means of protest. Another group respects the police, and by extension resents the intentional lawbreakers. There is division between the races, between the different income groups, between different nations.

There is hate even between family and friends. I cannot mention a certain person I listen to on the radio without being yelled at. Even preference in television shows and movies is not safe ground. It is better to remain quiet, as there is so much anger. Welfare work should at the very least aim to lift people’s spirits, to instill true compassion in them. That compassion should extend not only to the human race, but to the lower animals as well, who are dependents in the higher scheme.

5. Real happiness is found only in bhakti-yoga

No matter how much food you give a person, they will not find true happiness as a result. The same goes for offering a college scholarship, financial assistance, educational resources, or medical care. The efforts are noble, but there are so many limitations. Moreover, the recipients can go on to use the assistance for bad purposes. Think of it like feeding milk and bananas to a snake. You’re offering food, but to the wrong person. The rejuvenated snake will then come back to bite you.

[Lord Chaitanya's sankirtana movement]Bhakti-yoga is all-encompassing. The person connecting with the Divine is giving the best example for others on how to find happiness. The chanting of the holy names done out loud and with others is known as sankirtana. This is like delivering mercy in an audible form. It is prasadam; blessed by the touch of the Supreme Lord. It lifts up the spirits of others. It connects them with their best friend, the Supreme Lord.

That best friend will always provide whatever is needed to continue in bhakti. Unlike the material nature, Shri Krishna has infinite resources. Just because one person is connecting with Him, it doesn’t mean that others can’t in the same way. If I’m trying to cure one disease, I’m automatically ignoring others. If I feed one person, I might not be able to feed another.

Bhakti-yoga is not limited like this. The devotees are doing the greatest welfare work since they are showing the way out of the cycle of birth and death. They are revealing the eternal occupation to bring happiness and bliss. Bhakti-yoga never stops, even after death. It is the pinnacle achievement for the spirit soul who has gone through the chain of evolution to reach the most auspicious human form.

In Closing:

Through years passing in evolutionary chain,

Finally auspicious human form to gain.


For connecting with the Divine is meant,

Not for in angst and unhappiness spent.


To reawaken spiritual consciousness the best,

Welfare work, proper understanding the test.


Finite resources, helping one then another to ignore,

Not so in bhakti, room always for more and more.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Talking About Following Me In All Respects

[Krishna's lotus feet]“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

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ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
mama vartmānuvartante
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ


Friend1: Krishna rewards everyone accordingly. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita saying something to that affect.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: Does that refer to only the devotees?

Friend2: Everyone.

Friend1: Doesn’t the verse come after explaining how great souls from the past achieved the highest perfection?

Friend2: It does, but the statement refers to every single person. Karma itself is a reward system.

Friend1: Hmm. I think people look at it as punishment. People always ask me, “Karma is about being born as like a dog in the next life if you are bad in this life, right?”

Friend2: There is certainly that possibility. Krishna also says that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail. [Bg 8.6]

Friend1: Doesn’t that conflict with karma? On the one hand you have the reaction to work and on the other you have the consciousness at a specific time. Which one takes precedence?

Friend2: They are inexorably linked. Your karma affects consciousness. Consciousness is the key factor, but it doesn’t get shaped out of nowhere. Just as if you spend the whole day working on computer programming, you will likely dream about it at night.

Friend1: I see. Let me ask you this. Are the atheists rewarded accordingly?

Friend2: Of course.

Friend1: That is antithetical.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: Because they are not devoted to Krishna, or God. By definition, they are the opposite of the sura, who is a devotee. If they are against God, how can they be rewarded by Him?

Friend2: They get what they want, which is continued forgetfulness of the Divine. Everyone follows the path of God in all respects. There is nothing that exists which is completely separate from Him.

Friend1: Explain further.

Friend2: The material creation is part of His separated energy. This means that Krishna does not provide direct oversight; He is not interested in what goes on in a playground that is manifest temporarily. At the same time, the rules of that playground come to be through Krishna’s influence. It is said that not a blade of grass moves without Krishna’s sanction.

Friend1: This would include the people who worship the demigods, then.

Friend2: You love talking about that!

Friend1: I do. It’s because the practice is so popular. People might mistake Krishna’s claim to mean that worship of all gods is the same. “Do whatever you want, since everyone is following Krishna anyway.”

Friend2: In one sense they are correct. The thing is, every person is looking for happiness. Therefore a wise person makes an assessment of the different rewards. This is the significance of the “accordingly” word.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: If a person views the material nature as their supreme deity, that is where they stay. If they view the demigods as the ultimate benefactors, they go to them. But know that these destinations are not permanent. Nor is there full happiness available there.

Friend1: How is the path of direct devotion to Krishna different?

Friend2: It brings transcendental love. You hear people urging society to show more love. “Stop the hate. Open your heart. Don’t be so selfish.” They feel compelled to say these things because there is no love. Everything is lust, or kama. There is no satisfaction with kama, as even the deepest affection can break at any moment.

Friend1: What is transcendental love?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: You have to experience it to know it. That’s what the bhakti path is for. Go to Krishna directly. Even if you are full of desires, He is the one to approach. He is the great purifier. He might actually take away things that you have, if He deems them to be distractions. He may also make you the richest person in the world. He rewards accordingly. So if what you want is continued devotion, He will give it to you. You will experience transcendental love, which is the height of living, in any realm.

In Closing:

Devotee, even if as atheist to call,

Following Krishna in respects all.


Destination same as in path proceeding,

Not all to one place leading.


Demigod worshipers with their deity to stay,

Atheists from personal Divine far away.


Devotees continued service getting,

Transcendental love their work begetting.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Five Things Hiranyakashipu Teaches Us About Praying For Stuff

[Hiranyakashipu performing austerities]“In spite of achieving the power to control in all directions and in spite of enjoying all types of dear sense gratification as much as possible, Hiranyakashipu was dissatisfied because instead of controlling his senses he remained their servant.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.19)

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sa itthaṁ nirjita-kakub
eka-rāḍ viṣayān priyān
yathopajoṣaṁ bhuñjāno
nātṛpyad ajitendriyaḥ

Ajitendriya. This Sanskrit word befits some of the greatest materialists in history. There is the famous one from the Ramayana. Known as Ravana for his terrifying scream, he had more wealth than anyone can imagine. Take the modern day billionaire and put him up against Ravana and there is no competition. The king of Lanka had gold everywhere. It was in his buildings. Jewels were built into the floors. He had more meat and wine than any person can consume. He had so many wives, each of whom had pageant-winner beauty. The entire world feared him. Yet there was that one flaw lurking in the background. The elephant in the room was known as ajitendriya.

“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)

Years prior to that, the king named Hiranyakashipu was in a similar situation. He had everything as well, but the senses were not controlled. Ajita is the negation of jita, which means “victory” or “able to conquer.” Indriya refers to the senses. Ajitendriya or ajita-indriya means that a person is unable to conquer their senses. The stomach controls them instead of the other way around. Matter, or prakriti, is dominant over them, even though spirit is what animates matter. Hiranyakashipu’s path to world domination and unimaginable material enjoyment makes a person think twice about what to seek in life.

1. You just might get what you ask for

Hiranyakashipu didn’t become world leader on his own. He liked to think that he did, after the fact, but first there was the minor issue of praying to the heavens. Vedic culture acknowledges a single supreme deity, but that superior person is helped by many deputies. Those deputies are in charge of things that aren’t as important. The less intelligent don’t see this, so they sometimes approach the deputies, while ignoring the head.

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)

Hiranyakashipu didn’t approach the Supreme Lord Vishnu. He instead went through austerities, essentially torturing himself, to win the favor of Lord Brahma. This enabled him to ask for amazing boons. Brahma gave Hiranyakashipu everything that was asked for, up to the point of immortality. This means that with worship of the deputies, who are known as demigods, you may actually get what you want. Whether what you want is beneficial to you is another issue.

2. Understand that the benefactor has a benefactor

Hiranyakashipu’s example shows us that there is someone superior to Brahma and Shiva. That someone, who is often called by the name Vishnu, has innumerable names due to His limitless qualities and inexhaustible attributes. Just consider space. There is no end to it. Infinity is a concept that even the amazing human brain cannot fathom. As Vishnu is all-pervading, He is everywhere in the infinite space. His reach is unimaginable.

[Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu]Brahma couldn’t give immortality because he himself doesn’t have it. Hiranyakashipu didn’t stop to consider from where Brahma gets his power. It was Hiranyakashipu’s destiny to die at the hands of Vishnu, who showed his superiority in the amazing form of a half-man/half-lion known as Narasimha.

3. Despite being drunk with power, you’ll still be unsatisfied

The Shrimad Bhagavatam gives us the true story of Hiranyakashipu’s rise and fall through a conversation between King Yudhishthira and Narada Muni. In one verse we find that Hiranyakashipu was still not satisfied, even though he had full sense enjoyment available to him. More than just a potential, the king engaged the sense urges every time they called.

We can think of it like running through a toy store and picking out whatever we want. If we’re not sure what car to purchase, just get them all. At the outset this looks harmless, almost a way to increase happiness, but for the human being the path to bliss is tapa, which is austerity. Brahma himself was expert in austerity. Even Hiranyakashipu had to undergo austerities in order to win the favor of Brahma. The king’s example is replicated in the general dissatisfaction of the wealthy in modern society, but the king showed how even in the extreme there is the same limitation.

4. Lust should be conquered, not the other way around

Sense gratification is known as kama in Sanskrit. Another translation for this word is “lust.” When lust goes uncontrolled, it leads to things like frustration, anger, loss of intelligence, and then rebirth. The wise person seeks to escape rebirth, since at the time of death the slate gets wiped clean. You can have every car ever made sitting in your garage, but after you leave your body those objects don’t come with you. You have to start over in the next life.

Hiranyakashipu was controlled by kama, and therefore he couldn’t tolerate something as harmless as his five year old son and his worship of Vishnu. This is a sign of weakness. A person who gets easily provoked is not steady in mind. Despite having everything, the king was agitated over something that should have brought him great joy.

5. You can lose everything anyway; defeated by a helpless boy

The king was so powerful that getting rid of his Vishnu-loving son should have been a piece of cake. It wasn’t. The boy should have been scared away by the palace guards and their weapons. He wasn’t. Prahlada should have been killed when bitten by poisonous snakes or when thrown off the edge of a mountain. He wasn’t.

[Hiranyakashipu]Hiranyakashipu, who had everything a materialist could ever ask for, lost everything anyway. All that austerity went to waste. All that enjoyment did nothing for his overall satisfaction. Since he thwarted the devotional efforts of his innocent son, the Supreme Lord finally arrived on the scene to personally provide protection. From that wonderful historical incident, we see that the easier and more fruitful path is the one followed by Prahlada Maharaja: bhakti-yoga. Pure devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In Closing:

Despite every opulence to see,

Still unsatisfied was he.


Hiranyakashipu, to Brahma praying,

Blessed with boons, save immortality saying.


Since over senses victory not gained,

Precious contentment never attained.


Offensive when attack on son forced upon,

Through Narasimha instantly everything gone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Imaginary and Authority

[Radha-Krishna]“We may find some mailboxes on the street, and if we post our letters in those boxes, they will naturally go to their destination without difficulty. But any old box, or an imitation, which we may find somewhere, which is not authorized by the post office, will not do the work. Similarly, God has an authorized representation in the Deity form, which is called archa-vigraha. This archa-vigraha is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. God will accept service through that form.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5 Purport)

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The objects of worship in a temple are often referred to as idols. While to some this classification is harmless, Vaishnavas are not comfortable using it. This is because “idol” connotes something imaginary. Indeed, the school of impersonalism urges the practitioner to choose from one of five objects of worship known as the panchopasana.

“Not understanding the process of disciplic succession, so-called logicians put forward the theory of panchopasana, in which a person worships one of five deities - namely Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, the sun-god or Ganesha. In this conception the impersonalists accept one of these five deities as supreme and reject the others. Such philosophical speculation, which is certainly idol worship, is not accepted by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or by Vaishnavas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 9.360 Purport)

The idea is to choose any form that you like. It doesn’t make a difference. The goal is to merge into the formless Absolute. The deity in this case is simply a vehicle towards reaching an end. The philosophy behind the practice is really no different than conjuring up an image of the Divine, creating an idol based on that image, and then following worship.

The authentic deity is something entirely different. We can think of it like the movie version of a book, but purer. It is common for popular books to be turned into movies. The books often aren’t illustrated. This means that the filmmakers must rely solely on the words themselves to decide how the characters will look on screen. They have no other reference point.

The person watching the film cannot say that the characters are conjured up. The characters are based on the book, after all. Artists may create different renderings after reading the same description, but the variety in the finished product doesn’t invalidate the existence of the original character.

[18th century America]In the same way, the deity worshiped in the temple is authorized based on the descriptions found in ancient books. Moreover, the process itself has been handed down through generations. This is known as parampara, or disciplic succession. As an example, when we see 18th century America depicted in theater, the visuals are not based solely on the written word. Theater dates back far before the 18th century. This means that people who put on plays two hundred years ago continued the process going forward. There wasn’t necessarily a gap in production.

The same applies for deity worship. It has been practiced since time immemorial. The forms are not imaginary. The process itself is authorized, as it is a kind of special mercy on the fallen souls of this world. Man is very proud of advancements in science and technology, but so far the eyes have the same limitations. I cannot see through walls. I cannot see what is going on thousands of miles away without the help of satellite technology.

The deity is a way to see into the spiritual world. The Supreme Lord arrives in a form that I can see with my own eyes. Obviously, He is much taller than the statue. He is much more durable than wood or stone. He is animate, while the deity apparently cannot move. Nevertheless, through authorized worship of that statue, a person can come in direct contact with God. This is the magic of the Divine.

[Radha-Krishna]Worship of the archa-vigraha can involve offering prayers, flowers, and pure food items. If such offerings are too difficult to make, a person can simply chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This worship can take place over an entire lifetime, as the Supreme Lord is known to be all-attractive. The process of connecting with Him is not boring. Worshiping an imaginary idol does not bring any benefit, whilst viewing the deity in a loving mood can bring rescue from the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

Idol something from the mind created,

Worship of deity through parampara demonstrated.


First giving benefit none,

Other bringing the Supreme One.


Though from scientific advancement proud to be,

Still great limitation for these eyes to see.


Mercy of the Lord, for our benefit coming.

Through proper worship purified becoming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Five Reasons A Vegetarian Diet Is Recommended In Bhakti Yoga

[Krishna prasadam]“There is nothing to be lamented if a tiger eats a weaker animal, including a man, because that is the law of the Supreme Lord. But although the law states that a human being must subsist on another living being, there is the law of good sense also, for the human being is meant to obey the laws of the scriptures. This is impossible for other animals. The human being is meant for self-realization, and for that purpose he is not to eat anything which is not first offered to the Lord. The Lord accepts from His devotee all kinds of food preparations made of vegetables, fruits, leaves and grains.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47 Purport)

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Vedanta philosophy goes deep into the matters of life and death. More than a blind faith, more than something morphed and degraded through time and the management of an institution influenced by politics and votes, Vedanta is the conclusion of all conclusions. It is a philosophy that is equivalent with the truth.

In assimilating the values of that truth, the individual is encouraged to bring every doubt. The human species is the most auspicious due to the advanced intelligence. Only with a sober and rational mind can the living being reach the pinnacle of living. That mind can understand the spiritual science and then go beyond.

Bhakti-yoga is that beyond, and since it is equivalent with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it automatically includes all the benefits that come from understanding Vedanta philosophy. One of the doubts that may be raised when learning about bhakti-yoga is the issue of vegetarianism. Though at the highest levels, no single practice, either positive or negative, makes or breaks bhakti, in practically every case the individual tied to the Supreme Consciousness through a mood of love and devotion refrains from eating meat, fish and eggs. There are several reasons for this.

1. Renunciation

The first created living entity ran into trouble when beginning his prescribed duty. To get the proper direction on how to create, he simply meditated. He got instruction from the Supreme Lord, who is aja, which means “unborn.” From aja came the sound vibration, “tapa.”

divyaṁ sahasrābdam amogha-darśano

jitānilātmā vijitobhayendriyaḥ

atapyata smākhila-loka-tāpanaṁ

tapas tapīyāṁs tapatāṁ samāhitaḥ


“Lord Brahma underwent penances for one thousand years by the calculations of the demigods. He heard this transcendental vibration from the sky, and he accepted it as divine. Thus he controlled his mind and senses, and the penances he executed were a great lesson for the living entities. Thus he is known as the greatest of all ascetics.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.8)

Tapa means “austerity,” and it is a valuable tool for the human being. The animals don’t know about renunciation and austerity. They follow their instincts. If you keep giving food to a fish, it will not know when to stop eating. The human being can voluntarily implement a diet for receiving a specific benefit.

In all books of religion there is mention of food. “Sacrifice this animal at this specific time and you’ll receive some benefit.” The Vedas, from which Vedanta and bhakti-yoga come, are no different. An intelligent person thinks to themselves, “Why is food mentioned at all in these important books? We don’t need guidance on how to eat, do we?”

The purpose is tapa. By regulating eating and sleeping, the human being can remain sober in mind. The human life is meant for austerity, and one aspect of that austerity is restriction from eating foods that inhibit the advancement of the consciousness.

2. Moderation

Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, gives the summary of bhakti-yoga philosophy in a book called the Bhagavad-gita. In one verse He mentions how the real yogi is temperate in their habits. They don’t eat too much or too little. The same goes for sleep.

nāty-aśnatas 'tu yogo 'sti

na caikāntam anaśnataḥ

na cāti-svapna-śīlasya

jāgrato naiva cārjuna


“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)

This principle goes hand in hand with tapa. One way to moderate is to eat simple foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains and milk are sufficient for surviving. A person doesn’t need more than this. Scientists will release studies to the contrary, but you can in fact find people who are negatively affected by any kind of diet. Death is certain for the living being, so the lack of any single type of food does not automatically contribute to a shortened lifespan. Rather, combined with moderation, a simple diet is extremely beneficial for the advancement of the consciousness.

3. Karma

The root definition of karma is “fruitive activity.” It basically means doing something that has a consequence. Specifically, the consequence relates to the body. This life is not the only one we’ve had. Everything we do now will affect us in the future. The future consequences may not manifest right away, but they will come eventually.

There is meat eating in Vedic culture, but again the recommendation is there as a way to curb the appetite. In one of the rituals, there is a mantra spoken to the animal about to be consumed. The mantra says something to the effect of, “I will kill you in this life, so in your next life you have a right to come and kill me.” This is the reason the Sanskrit word for meat is mamsa. This means “me” and “he.” The two living entities involved in meat eating are inexorably linked.

The animals are not the proper food for consumption by the human being. The animals may be predators themselves, but they have their own karmic reactions to go through. The human being who kills the innocent animals interferes with that karmic progression. As a result, that human being must suffer negative consequences in the future.

4. Compassion

A good argument against vegetarianism is the fact that all living things are spirit souls. This means that even vegetarians kill.

“How many plants will have to die before vegetarians wake up? They kill so many innocent living things to eat. They are no different than the meat-eaters. They just like to stand high and mighty, but there are so many microbes even that enter into the body through eating. Therefore what is the point in avoiding meat?”

Vedanta even acknowledges this argument. There is a Sanskrit saying that one living entity survives off another, jivo jivasya jivanam. This is an inviolable law of material existence.

ahastāni sahastānām

apadāni catuṣ-padām

phalgūni tatra mahatāṁ

jīvo jīvasya jīvanam


“Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47)

Nevertheless, the human being uses discrimination. Even the meat-eater doesn’t consume every kind of flesh. If all living things were the same in terms of eligibility for consumption, then there is no reason not to eat one’s children. Why doesn’t the meat eater kill their parents and eat them?

The idea is that certain food is allotted for the human beings. To kill vegetables to sustain life does not by itself carry a karmic reaction. There is the issue of compassion as well. By leaving the animals alone, a person develops compassion, which is a necessary component of advancing in consciousness. A person who lacks compassion must stay in the material world to take rebirth.

5. Prasadam

This reason trumps all the others. The pinnacle of existence is bhakti-yoga in its pure form. When following love and devotion to God the person, there are offerings of food made. Indeed, the yogi in bhakti does not eat anything that is not first offered. The kinds of food eligible for offerings are kindly stipulated in the Bhagavad-gita.

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ

yo me bhaktyā prayacchati

tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam

aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ


“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

[Krishna prasadam]If Shri Krishna wanted meat, the devotees would offer it to Him. He doesn’t, however. He prefers not to have other living entities suffer for His pleasure. The food offered to Krishna with love and devotion gets returned as prasadam, which means “the Lord’s mercy.” This food has tremendous potency. It is unlike any other food. There is no karma associated with prasadam preparation and consumption. Prasadam is the way to get austerity, renunciation, compassion, and karma-free all at the same time. Bhakti-yoga culture is the source of what is today known as vegetarianism. And without the key component of consciousness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the vegetarian diet itself will provide little benefit.

In Closing:

Into intelligent species of human sent,

For austerity that life is meant.


Avoiding certain foods is way one,

Meat, fish and eggs consumed none.


With meat in future karma reaction,

Yogi sleeps and eats in moderation.


For Krishna’s benefit best reason of all,

Returned offering prasadam to call.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Talking About The Reason For Sannyasa

IMG_431011“The Supreme Lord said, To give up the results of all activities is called renunciation [tyaga] by the wise. And that state is called the renounced order of life [sannyasa] by great learned men.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.2)

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śrī-bhagavān uvāca

kāmyānāṁ karmaṇāṁ nyāsaṁ

sannyāsaṁ kavayo viduḥ


prāhus tyāgaṁ vicakṣaṇāḥ

Friend1: Let’s say you are interested in something new.

Friend2: The thing itself is new or I have never tried it before?

Friend1: The latter.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: How do you go about becoming familiar? Do you have a set procedure?

Friend2: Hmm. Not sure I’ve thought about it in depth.

Friend1: Well, take the time to now.

Friend2: I guess it would be like anything else. Question and answer.

Friend1: You would ask questions and someone else would give the answers.

Friend2: Obviously.

Friend1: Whom would you ask?

Friend2: I would approach someone who is knowledgeable of the subject. I heard someone on the radio give the advice that if you want to succeed in something, approach those people who have already been successful.

Friend1: That makes sense.

Friend2: Because the failures will tell you all the wrong things. They will discourage you. They will tell you about bitter experiences. The people who have succeeded will provide insight into what is necessary for reaching the target. They will give you the proper information.

Friend1: Success is the only criteria? I guess what I’m asking is what establishes authority?

Friend2: Oh, that’s a good question.

Friend1: You don’t know.

Friend2: I do, but this got me thinking about spiritual matters.

Friend1: Me too, obviously. I was just setting the table.

Friend2: This will also segue into the importance of the sannyasa ashrama.

Friend1: Nice. I love your lengthy dissertations.

Friend2: Sarcasm duly noted. Let’s first start by establishing who is not authority.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: In Sanskrit there are two terms called mlechchha and yavana. These essentially refer to people who go against the rules and regulations established by scripture.

Friend1: Umm, isn’t that everyone?

Friend2: [smiling] For today, you’re probably right. At the very least, they eat meat and drink alcohol.

Friend1: What is so important about those two things? Why are they disqualifiers?

Friend2: Meat eating means there is a lack of understanding of identity. The knowledge of the spirit soul is absent. That is the only reason a person would look to kill an innocent animal for food in a non-emergency situation. The drinking part should be easy to understand.

Friend1: If you do it in moderation, I don’t see the harm.

Friend2: We’re talking about establishing authority here. A person who drinks succumbs to illusion. If it’s done in moderation, then the illusion doesn’t last that long. Nonetheless, if they were truly knowledgeable, they would know how to experience a higher taste.

Friend1: I see. So a person in the sannyasa ashrama doesn’t drink or eat meat?

Friend2: Of course, but those are hardly determining factors. Sannyasa is the last of the four ashramas recommended for the advancement of the human being, for making the most out of the auspicious form of body. Sannyasa is complete renunciation, but at the very least there is no intimate association with the opposite sex.

Friend1: Is that for establishing authority?

Friend2: It is multi-purposed. Sex life is the greatest inhibitor to advancement of the consciousness. In one sense, you could say it is the single cause for continued rebirth. Sex life is the height of enjoyment in material life. The more attached to that enjoyment you are, the more you are prone to coming back, life after life.

Friend1: Doesn’t the sannyasi move around, too?

Friend2: Well, let me also say that sannyasa is actually a mood. It’s an attitude, but generally that attitude is found in a specific phase of life going by the same name. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that real sannyasa is renouncing the material results to actions.

Friend1: Interesting.

Friend2: And yes, the most common type of sannyasi is a wanderer, sort of like a person who takes to homelessness voluntarily. They don’t necessarily sleep outside, though. They are generally respected so much for their sacrifice. Therefore they constantly get invitations to go to people’s homes.

Friend1: That’s nice.

Friend2: The sannyasi shouldn’t stay at any place for too long. They shouldn’t eat more than is required. They shouldn’t even save for the future. The Supreme Lord will provide everything for them.

Friend1: You have to be fearless to do that.

Friend2: Exactly. It is the fearless ashrama, or spiritual institution. Anyway, the sannyasi has much more authority on spiritual matters than the mlechchhas and yavanas. If you go to an online chat room, you have no idea with whom you are speaking. A forum is open to any person, and if you hear their opinions and take them as truth, you don’t know if they are sense enjoyers or not.

Friend1: But if they give the right message, shouldn’t it not matter in what environment it is heard?

Friend2: That’s true, but human nature is a certain way. A sense enjoyer can tell you that the spirit soul is the identifying force within all living beings. Then a wandering mendicant can tell you the same thing. The latter’s word will carry more weight than the former’s. This is just the way things work.

Friend1: Isn’t sannyasa forbidden in the present age of Kali, though?

Worshiping-Radha-and-Krishna13Friend2: It is, because if the sannyasa ashrama is degraded, where will people go? They will go to the online forums, where they hear all sorts of nonsense. Sannyasa is forbidden for people who are not qualified, who are not ready for it. The ashrama still has the same value, though. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted it at the age of twenty-four, which is unheard of. He was then able to go from village to village to spread the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: That makes sense to me. The more genuine sannyasis you have, the better. This way people have more opportunities to approach authority figures on the issues that matter most.

Friend2: Even a sannyasi can be the wrong person from whom to hear. A person can be labeled a wandering mendicant but be lacking the necessary spirit of renunciation. Lord Chaitanya also said that a person should never hear the Mayavada philosophy, which is monism. This philosophy is most widely distributed by sannyasis of that persuasion. This underscores the importance of having respected authorities in the devotional line, bhakti-yoga. This is the way to counter misinformation, and thanks to Shri Chaitanya there are many such people acting in that capacity today.

In Closing:

Wisdom from learned one to expect,

Sannyasi in occupation carrying most respect.


In spirit must be truly renounced,

Necessary qualities by Krishna pronounced.


What mlechchha or yavana can tell?

Drinking, eating meat in illusion’s spell.


From person in devotional line hear,

Travelling the world for Lord without fear.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Five Ways To Pass The Time With Krishna Directly

image7“Sitting down on the ground and keeping Krishna in the center, they began to open their different boxes brought from home. Lord Shri Krishna was seated in the center of the circle, and all the boys kept their faces toward Him. They ate and constantly enjoyed seeing the Lord face to face. Krishna appeared to be the whorl of a lotus flower, and the boys surrounding Him appeared to be its different petals.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 13)

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Vedic philosophy introduces the concept of liberation, which is a little different from salvation. There are too many sins to account for in a material existence. Even if we try to be nonviolent by not eating meat and respecting all forms of life, we still accidentally kill so many living things. Walking on the grass is an example.

There is the famous line from American history that George Washington never told a lie. Obviously, this is not true, as every person has at least misrepresented the truth at some point. To err is human, after all. Vedic philosophy is so nice that it puts the defects of man into four categories. Man is deficient because he commits mistakes, cheats, has imperfect senses, and is susceptible to illusion.

The greatest illusion is the idea of becoming supreme, Ishvara. This is a desire to compete with the real top boss. The state of conditioned life, also known as bondage, also known as suffering in the cycle of birth and death, results from succumbing to this illusion. The desire to enjoy separately from Ishvara the person is the original sin, if you will.

Salvation is a kind of atonement, being saved, but since there are so many other mistakes committed, salvation is a renewing process. Liberation is something entirely different. It is the elimination of the root problem. When a person no longer wishes to compete against God, there is release from the cycle of birth and death.

Liberation is the end of conditioned life, and it also signals the beginning of something else. That something is blissful. It doesn’t have to end, either. It is pure enjoyment, received through the individual’s dharma, their essence. The experience is not uniform, either. Each person can enjoy in their specific mood of choice, as they are in the company of the Supreme Lord. Since He is all-attractive and a distinct personality, He is known as Krishna.

1. Watch and appreciate Him

Time operates constantly. Its effects are noticed through changes. The changing of days, involving the calendar, occurs through time elapsing. The real change is not through mere seconds ticking; we see the sun rise in the morning. The seasons are an indication of a larger collection of changes.

With regards to peace, a person is at a tremendous advantage if they can forget about time. This seems impossible with the many responsibilities of modern-day life, but we get an idea from the spiritual world. Time exists there, but it has no effect. This means that a resident can continue to appreciate the proprietor without ever having to stop.

DSC0004913One way to appreciate is to observe from a distance. The parrots do this. They see Krishna enjoying, remember what they saw, and then discuss amongst themselves later on. The cows, the deer, and even the peacocks enjoy seeing Krishna. The grass consists of living beings, too. They take so much pleasure feeling the soft soles of the feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This passive interaction is known as shanta-rasa, or the mellow of neutrality.

2. Offer service

Another way to pass the endless time in the spiritual world with Krishna is to offer service. If He needs water, you can fetch it for Him. If He requires transportation to some place, you can provide that as well. Whatever Krishna needs, you can offer some assistance. He is the Supreme Lord, so He is actually atmarama. He is fully self-satisfied. He is the master of mystic power, which includes prapti, which is the ability to get whatever you want at any time. Still, Krishna is so kind that He allows others to feel the enjoyment of dasya-rasa, or the mellow of transcendental service.

3. Be His friend

There is a simple test to determine if someone is your good friend or just a casual acquaintance. Can you make fun of them? Can you jest with them in such a way that they won’t get offended? If so, then the person is a friend. At the core, friendship develops through a shared interest and among equals. It’s difficult to become friends with my parents or grandparents, since they do so much for me. They are older and wiser, so it would be offensive to make fun of them.

image15In the spiritual world, an individual can pass the time as Krishna’s friend. This may involve doing nice things like getting something to drink, offering a place to sit, and sharing food prepared by the parents. Since it is friendship, it can also involve things like wrestling and playing pranks. Krishna’s affection for His friends is beyond measure. He has no equal, yet He is so merciful that He allows His friends to defeat Him in games from time to time. This way of passing the time is known as sakhya-rasa.

4. Be His caretaker

Shri Krishna is nava-yauvanam. This means that His physical appearance is always like that of the person who has just become a teenager. The word nava means “new.” Though God the person can take any form He chooses, He is never old. His capabilities never diminish, and He is not bitter towards anyone. He is always enjoying, such as mentioned above with His friends and admirers.

66915_441725848883_541443883_5378210There are parents in this realm, too. They interact with Krishna. As a parent, you can pass the time always thinking about the welfare of the darling of Vrindavana. There are hints of appreciation, friendship, and service in this role, but not to the fullest extent. If a parent had so much respect for their child, what would be the impetus for offering service? If they offered too much personal assistance, how would the child learn to do things on their own? And if they were completely friends with the child, how would the child learn to respect authority? This mood of service is very blissful, and it is known as vatsalya-rasa. This is the mellow of passing the time with Krishna by always thinking of His protection and general welfare.

5. Dance with Him

Any association with Krishna the person qualifies as liberation. It brings immunity from the cycle of birth and death, and there is full bliss experienced at every moment, while the ineffectual time continues to elapse. Relatively speaking, though, madhurya-rasa is considered the topmost interaction with the all-attractive Krishna. This is the mood of sweetness. It involves real love, known by such terms as bhakti and prema.

These terms don’t have adequate equivalents in the material world. Love as we know it is really lust, or kama. This kind of love has limitations, and it is always checked. Real love can never be stopped, and it is unmotivated. In prema there is no divorce. It is not dependent on reciprocation. Through this definition, we see that prema can only be offered to the Supreme Lord. Every other kind of affection and adoration is a derivative of prema.

One of the activities in madhurya-rasa is dancing with Krishna. The cowherd girls of Vrindavana, known as the gopis, do this with Krishna. They experience transcendental love with Krishna, who holds them very dear. The topmost gopi is Shrimati Radharani, who is actually the feminine aspect of the Divine. Radha and Krishna are two sides to the singular Divinity.

From the five rasas we see that there is endless and renewed opportunity to enjoy in the spiritual world. Central to that enjoyment is the association of Krishna. Time passes blissfully for the person who has achieved liberation, which is the objective of the precious experience offered in the human species.

In Closing:

Atonement for sins is salvation,

Root cause removed in liberation.


To the spiritual world then to go,

Where only Shri Krishna to know.


In shanta with distance appreciative to be,

Also servants and good friends there to see.


Parents for Him loving and caring,

Gopis dance while into His eyes staring.