Saturday, June 25, 2016

Five Reasons The Universal Form Is Not So Important

[The universal form]“Whatever you wish to see can be seen all at once in this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.7)

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ihaika-sthaṁ jagat kṛtsnaṁ

paśyādya sa-carācaram

mama dehe guḍākeśa

yac cānyad draṣṭum icchasi


The complete everything. All that is in existence, not just on this planet, but on every planet, in every universe. Every creature, both moving and nonmoving, small and large, intelligent and animalistic, in the water and in the air, with two hands and four. The outer space of not only this galaxy, but every other one too. Every presiding deity, should you be inclined to that belief system. The past, present and future.

Imagine if you could see all of this in a single image. In Sanskrit it is known as the virata-rupa, which translates to “the universal form” in English. Variations of it have been shown several times in the past, with the most notable viewing occurring on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago.

Shri Krishna, the guru, charioteer and best friend of the warrior named Arjuna, put on this amazing exhibition. He first had to bless Arjuna with a pair of divine eyes. Only then could the humble disciple see it. As amazing as this vision is, for those with higher intelligence it is not so significant.

1. It is more of a concept than something tangible

The universal form is one way to prove the existence of God. The wise describe it as impersonal. It has no separate identity of its own. It doesn’t necessarily move. There is no way to communicate with it. It is not like it has a separate appearance and disappearance triggered by personal action.

It is proof of the Divine for those who insist on seeing. “Can you show me God? Prove to me that He exists.” The virata-rupa answers these questions. Nevertheless, it is kind of an abstract. You don’t necessarily need to see it to understand that it exists. Just put everything that you can think of into a single collection.

[MLB teams]As an example to help explain, you know that there is a certain number of teams in professional baseball. The number changes with time, as there is expansion. Nevertheless, there is something called Major League Baseball, or MLB. Each team has their own stadium they play their home games in. Now put every stadium into a single collection. Imagine if you could see the nuances within every stadium at one time.

That is a rough equivalent to the virata-rupa, but with the viewing involving everything in the manifest world. To the wise, an existence is about more than viewing an abstract image that they know to already exist. They don’t require the vision of the virata-rupa, since they already understand that it exists. By definition, every object in existence can be placed into a single image for viewing. Whether one is blessed to get that vision or not is immaterial.

2. It has not been shown for long

The several times it has been seen by a person are documented in Vedic literature. One thing to note is that the vision hasn’t lasted for long. It is not that the fortunate viewer asked to remain staring at the vision forever and ever. If an object has lasting value, you would want to hold on to it, no? You would want to keep it somewhere safe. You would want to derive as much enjoyment as possible.

Kakabhushundi, Markandeya Rishi, Yashoda Mata, Arjuna - none of them desired to continue the association with the universal form. Rather, they were awestruck by it. Arjuna asked to again see the two-handed form of Krishna. He would rather associate with His friend than some amazing image. Kakabhushundi would rather enjoy the childhood pastimes of Shri Rama. Yashoda feels the greatest delight from serving Shri Krishna as a parent.

3. It is not anyone’s ishta-deva

The ishta-deva is the worshipable deity of choice. Vedic culture, which today is known as Hinduism, is not polytheistic. In the government of the United States, there are several Cabinet departments, each having its own head. This doesn’t mean that within the Executive Branch there is an oligarchy. There is the autocratic leader known as the President.

Similarly, just because there are many divine figures to whom worship can be offered, it doesn’t mean that a supreme leader is lacking. The other figures are like deputies to run the affairs of the material world. The person at the top is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.

Though He is one, He is kind enough to expand into many non-different forms. The devotees don’t all worship the same form. They devote thought, word and deed to their form of choice, known as the ishta-deva. Some worship the original form known as Krishna. This is the person who showed the universal form to Arjuna. Others worship Rama. Some worship Narasimha. Many worship Vishnu, who always has the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, by His side.

The virata-rupa is not the ishta-deva for anyone. This is because it is not a person; it is a concept. As the universal form cannot hear your prayers, cannot offer you protection, and cannot steer you in the proper direction, it is much less significant than the person behind it.

4. There is a person behind it

The astute observer notices an interesting thing with each showing of the universal form. There is always the vision accompanied by someone showing it. For instance, Kakabhushundi saw a version of the universal form while within the stomach of Shri Rama. Markandeya saw it within Narayana. Yashoda saw it within the mouth of Shri Krishna.

[The universal form]If the universal form is everything, how can there be anything separate from it? How is the Supreme Lord able to show this vision? It means that He is superior to it. This is how we know the vision to be impersonal. The impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord is incomplete, as it does not include His personal presence. The person responsible for showing the universal form is automatically superior to that form.

5. There is a higher taste to be experienced

Arjuna asked to once again see Krishna with His two hands because that is more desirable. Bhakti-rasa is known as the taste of devotion. Devotion can only be offered to a person; not an object. You can try worshiping your car. People say they love theirs. Yet the car is an inanimate object. It cannot reciprocate love. The result of such worship is continued rebirth, association with the material energy.

Worship of God the person purifies consciousness. It leads to a point where there is no longer a desire to see everything. Confident that His creation runs smoothly enough through the deputies placed in charge, the devotee, experiencing a higher taste, wishes only to remain with the Supreme Lord in a mood of love. That love can be offered forever, in lifetime after lifetime, allowing the taste of devotion to be relished more and more.

In Closing:

Krishna showing universal form of His,

Still more an abstract, not a person it is.


That there is something beyond to mean,

More to life than awe-inspiring scene.


For each case not very long was shown,

Returning to worship of choice their own.


Supreme Lord, person standing behind,

Bhakti-rasa in devotion to Him find.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Five Things That Make Vishnu Worship Unique

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

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When explaining the potency of deity worship, which is an integral part of Vedic culture, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often makes reference to the mailbox. Though e-mail and SMS are popular communication channels in the modern day, physical notes and parcels still get transferred from place to place. If I have a package that I want to send to someone, I can’t drop it in just any box. The box must be authorized for mail. If I use the authorized mechanism, the package will most probably reach the intended destination.

The deity is authorized in this way. Vaishnavas, who are devotees of the personal God often referred to as Vishnu, object to the term “idol worship” for the very reason that the deity is authorized. An idol is something created out of the mind, whereas the deity is a product of authority passed on since time immemorial, first through an aural tradition and later on through written word in books like the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The deity is God’s special mercy, wherein He appears in a form that is understandable by our conditioned eyes. We cannot see the entire cosmic manifestation, nor can we see the basic anatomical unit of life, the spirit soul. The deity is a way to see God, and the more one practices bhakti-yoga under the guidance of a spiritual master, the more they see of Him.

Another point of contention is the exact deity to worship. The less intelligent will say that you can worship any form, of any divine figure, and end up in the same place. The slogan is, “All paths lead to the same destination. God is one.” In giving the proper understanding, Shrila Prabhupada often makes the analogy to riding a train. At the station, there are many trains. They are generally equal in makeup. Yet if I board the train headed for Chicago, I will not end up in New York. This means that all paths don’t lead to the same destination.

In the Vedic tradition, worship of Vishnu is unique. It is actually unique to all kinds of worship, even that done outside of the Vedic tradition. There are specific reasons for this.

1. There are different forms of the original

Vishnu-worship is of the personal God. Specifically, the worshiper thinks, knows, and firmly understands that in the original feature, the Supreme Lord is a personality. He is not merely an attributeless light. He is not formless, in the way form is typically understood. He is without form in that His eyes, ears, legs and hands can do amazing things. They are not limited like material body parts are. Still, God is an individual distinct from you and me.

[Vishnu avataras]Even in that original form, He can expand Himself. It is something like taking an original candle and lighting many replica candles. God is known as Advaita since these candles are identical to Him. Vishnu is the same as Krishna. Krishna is also Rama. Rama is Narasimha. This means that in Vishnu-worship you do have a choice. The preferred deity is known as the ishta-deva. Indeed, even within one particular expansion you can choose a specific time period for worship. For example, the ishta-deva for the crow Kakabhushundi is the baby form of Shri Rama, who plays in the kingdom of Ayodhya.

2. It stops rebirth

Krishna, who is the same as Vishnu, perfectly summarizes Vedic teachings in the book known as the Bhagavad-gita. In one particular verse, He reveals the destination for the different kinds of worship. Though Vishnu can expand Himself into identical forms, this doesn’t mean that all divine forms are equal to Him. There are devatas, who are elevated beings but not God Himself.

yānti deva-vratā devān

pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ

bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā

yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām


“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.25)

The worshipers of the devatas go to the planets of the devatas. Those who worship Krishna go to His planet. The difference is that when you go to Krishna’s planet, you never have to return to the material world. This means that rebirth stops. The planets of the devatas are actually within the material world, so even by going there rebirth is slated to occur again.

3. You may not get what you want

Have you ever been angry at God? So many people swear off religion after they have prayed for something and then later not gotten it. In the Vedic tradition if you worship the devatas properly, you are practically guaranteed to get what you want. The available rewards, the basket of stuff, consists of practically everything in a material existence. You can get good health, intelligence, the removal of obstacles, peace of mind, and even special powers.

If you worship Vishnu or one of His personal expansions, you may not get what you want. This is only the case when you worship God the person in an authorized way. Why would anyone worship Vishnu, then? It is because of the reason that some requests are denied. Vishnu considers the impact the reward will have before bestowing it. If He thinks that it will cause harm to the person or to other innocent people, He will use His discrimination. The devatas do not show this special mercy, as they are bound by duty to give whatever is asked. That is why worship of the devatas is something like a business transaction. The smartphone is used by the law-abiding and the lawbreakers alike; the seller does not discriminate.

4. You ask for God’s welfare instead

There is an interesting dichotomy between worshipers of Shiva and worshipers of Vishnu. Though Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava, he also plays a secondary role of devata, or demigod, in the material world. It is not his preference, but when Vishnu asks him to do something, Shiva does not say “no.” When someone worships Shiva for material rewards, they get their desires fulfilled very quickly. This is one reason why Shiva is known as Ashutosha.

[Lord Vishnu]The worshipers of Shiva tend to be quite opulent, while the Vishnu worshipers are poor. Again, after seeing this why would anyone worship Vishnu? The reason is that Vishnu worshipers seek the welfare of God. They ask that Vishnu always be pleased and happy, and that the goddess of fortune forever remain by His side. The worshipers of Rama ask that Lakshmana always be by His side, for Lakshmana is happy only when serving Rama directly. The worshipers of Vishnu are happy when Vishnu is happy. This is real love, also known as bhakti.

5. You get His association in different moods

It is not that everyone who worships Vishnu is forced to associate with Him in the same way. Hanuman acts as dedicated servant, sometimes putting Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders. Kakabhushundi gets to speak on Rama’s glories and His life and pastimes. Lord Shiva does the same, delivering wonderful discourses to his beautiful, chaste and dedicated wife Parvati.

Shrimati Radharani associates with Krishna in the mood of conjugal love, madhurya-rasa. Mother Yashoda acts as loving parent, thinking that Krishna cannot survive without her full care and attention. The trees in Goloka Vrindavana appreciate Krishna from a distance.

All of this means that there is freedom in devotional service. The soul who worships Vishnu is already liberated. They are no longer under the clutches of maya and the rules of the material world. Their welfare is fully under the care of the Supreme Lord, who gives special favor to His devotees.

In Closing:

When proper assessment to take,

What in Vishnu-worship unique to make?


On future impact to assess,

Not always to accept request.


For God’s personal welfare praying,

That associates always by His side staying.


If understanding of Him I have got,

Then automatically rebirth to stop.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Talking About Easier Being Better

[Shri Krishna]“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

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kleśo 'dhikataras teṣām


avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ

dehavadbhir avāpyate


Friend1: Mayavada.

Friend2: Dvaitavada.

Friend1: Advaitavada.

Friend2: Haha. Do you know what any of these words mean?

Friend1: Sure I do. Mayavada means “impersonalism.”

Friend2: Good. Do you know the root definition?

Friend1: Like from the Sanskrit?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: Vada is a conclusion and maya is illusion. Mayavada is thus the conclusion that everything is maya.

Friend2: What is the definition of “everything”?

Friend1: Anything we see in this world. Even if the Supreme Lord descends, He takes on a body composed of maya.

Friend2: Now, is that conclusion correct?

Friend1: No.

Friend2: Do you have proof?

Friend1: This verse:

avyaktaṁ vyaktim āpannaṁ

manyante mām abuddhayaḥ

paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto

mamāvyayam anuttamam


“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Friend2: You are batting a thousand today.

Friend1: You might come to regret that praise. Here is another attempt to stump you.

Friend2: Go for it.

Friend1: In the dispute between personalism and impersonalism, Shri Krishna is the final word.

Friend2: For sure. His teachings settle all disputes.

Friend1: Yes. Even in the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is kind enough to ask the important question. He brings up the proverbial “elephant in the room.”

Friend2: He asks which path is better.

Friend1: Krishna declares that the path of personalism, wherein a person worships His transcendental form, is most perfect.

Friend2: What does He say about impersonalism?

Friend1: It is more difficult, especially for someone who is embodied.

Friend2: And who is embodied?

Friend1: Everyone in this world. Conditioned means embodied. That means that impersonalism is more difficult for everyone.

Friend2: There you go.

Friend1: Here’s my question. Does more difficult always equate to inferior?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: I’ll give you an example. In my freshman year of college, the introductory course in chemistry had two options. You could take the same class in one semester or have it split out into two semesters.

Friend2: Which one did you take?

Friend1: The one semester class.

Friend2: Nice.

Friend1: More than just taking it, I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose the other option. I guess you could say it was easier. The pace was slower, which allowed for more time to study the material. I viewed it almost as an insult. I thought to myself, “I am smart enough to handle the one semester class. They are trying to challenge me, and I am up to the challenge.”

Friend2: How did the class go?

Friend1: I got an A.

Friend2: You thought correctly, at least as it applied to yourself.

[Shri Krishna]Friend1: Relating this to Krishna’s words, can we say that the path of personalism is for the less intelligent? Those who don’t want to be challenged take the easier route of worshiping the Supreme Lord’s form known as the deity. They think of His all-attractiveness, wherein He stands holding His flute, side by side with Shrimati Radharani.

Friend2: That is what the impersonalists will say. There is something called the panchopasana. These are five deities of the Vedic tradition. The Mayavadis say that you can worship any of these five, but the ultimate purpose is to move beyond and contemplate on the impersonal, formless Absolute.

Friend1: Who are the five deities again?

Friend2: Shiva, Durga, Surya, Narayana and Ganesha.

Friend1: Wow, they put Narayana in there?

Friend2: Right. It’s an incorrect understanding, as we both know that Narayana can never be a demigod or impersonal.

Friend1: So what is the proper refutation here? A lot of times easier doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Friend2: The correlation is not correct. In this case easier means less risky. The material world is full of risks. At every step there is danger. No matter how safe we think we are, death can strike at any moment. No one has any idea.

Friend1: So impersonalism is riskier?

Friend2: Right. You’re going down the more difficult path. Even if you concentrate for many years, your concentration can break very easily. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses the example of famous sannyasis opening hospitals. They were impersonalists, and since they couldn’t find enough pleasure by worshiping the formless Absolute, they reverted back to activities in maya.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: That is risky, because when you start worrying about the welfare of the body, you are no longer self-realized. With personalism, you actually get Krishna’s help. That is His special mercy on the devotee. He directly helped Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. He was with Hanuman from within during the messenger’s dangerous journey to Lanka. He is with Narada as the sage travels the three worlds chanting the name of Narayana and inspiring others to follow the path of bhakti, which is love and devotion. Worship of the personal form is safer, more effective, and in line with the constitutional position of the spirit soul, its dharma.

In Closing:

Not always better to make,

When easier path to take.


For those to challenges averse,

Though the path longer to traverse.


Impersonal more difficult Krishna saying,

Means that less risk when directly to Him praying.


Since maya at every turn attacking,

Easier for progress backtracking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Five Ways To Know That Krishna Is The Only Strength For Everyone

[Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu]“Prahlada Maharaja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.7)

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śrī-prahrāda uvāca

na kevalaṁ me bhavataś ca rājan

sa vai balaṁ balināṁ cāpareṣām

pare ’vare ’mī sthira-jaṅgamā ye

brahmādayo yena vaśaṁ praṇītāḥ


Hiranyakashipu was pretty strong, even by today’s standards. Not that he spent hours in the gym. Not that he consumed vast amounts of protein shakes. He received strength that was beyond comprehension. It was through the favor of the creator himself, Lord Brahma. Imagine sitting down to paint and having only three colors. You can mix them in any proportion you wish, and with any combination. You don’t need to use all three ingredients if you don’t want to. This analogy roughly explains how Lord Brahma creates the species. Just from the ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance he can come up with 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies for the pure spirit souls to inhabit.

Hiranyakashipu was in the body of a Daitya, which is a kind of asura. Not all Daityas are necessarily strong. He took to austerities as a means of winning the favor of Brahma. The result was success, but not to the point desired. Hiranyakashipu, the king of the Daityas, wanted immortality. As Brahma does not have this himself, he could not very well offer it to anyone else. Hiranyakashipu settled for boons that would bring something like immortality.

One of those boons was tremendous strength. Yet later on he saw similar strength in his five year old son. Named Prahlada, the boy’s physical stature did not signal anything extraordinary. It was his perseverance through deadly attacks that caught the king’s attention. Hiranyakashipu wondered why his son wasn’t being killed, despite the king’s best attempts. He asked the boy where his strength came from, and the reply was something the king didn’t want to hear.

1. Shri Krishna says so in the Bhagavad-gita

To know that God is the only strength of everyone indicates the possession of great wisdom. It is not necessary to meditate for years on end to reach this conclusion. Academic qualification isn’t a determining factor, either. Just hear from the Supreme Lord Himself.

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya

prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ

praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu

śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu


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

Since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna is the ultimate authority on all matters of dispute. His is the final word. There is no ambiguity in this regard. From two verses in the Bhagavad-gita alone, we see that Krishna is the source of strength. He says that He is the ability in man. The Sanskrit word is paurusham, which means “human effort.” Krishna also says that He is the strength of the strong.

balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ


dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu

kāmo 'smi bharatarṣabha


“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

2. Prahlada Maharaja says so

Krishna makes the claim, and a person can easily reject it since they have no memory of ever having associated with Him. Krishna is a person, too, which means that maybe He acquired that strength and later made the declarations out of pride.

[Prahlada Maharaja]To clear up any doubts, we can look to someone else. Prahlada Maharaja is strong based on his ability to withstand deadly attacks from his envious father. When Prahlada was questioned by Hiranyakashipu on the matter, he replied that the source of his strength was the same as for the king. In fact, it is the same for everyone. The person who was unbreakable during his time confirmed the statements made by Krishna in the Gita.

3. Human strength is not steady

Obviously, the contrary viewpoint is that strength comes from the individual. After all, Hiranyakashipu changed his situation based on work. The same goes for others. I may not be strong today, but through altering diet and following exercise I can become stronger. I can reach a point where my strength in the future increases relative to what it is today.

Yet that very same variation gives proof to the claim that someone else is the ultimate source of strength. Not everyone who works out will become just as strong. Everyone doesn’t have the same capabilities at the time of birth.

There is the famous example of Arjuna, who was the direct recipient of the words spoken by Shri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna emerged victorious in the ensuing Bharata War, and it was through Krishna’s favor. Years later, after Krishna had returned to the spiritual world, Arjuna was unable to defend queens that were under his protection. Krishna’s favor in that respect was no longer there, so even though Arjuna was previously capable, that capability was now gone.

4. Strength varies even within the same family.

You could say that genetics are responsible for strength. If a person takes birth in a certain family, then they have a better chance at being strong. Weak people bear weak offspring. Yet there is variation even within the same family.

pāñcajanyaṁ hṛṣīkeśo

devadattaṁ dhanañjayaḥ

pauṇḍraṁ dadhmau mahā-śaṅkhaṁ

bhīma-karmā vṛkodaraḥ


“Then, Lord Krishna blew His conchshell, called Panchajanya; Arjuna blew his, the Devadatta; and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of Herculean tasks, blew his terrific conchshell called Paundram.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.15)

Arjuna, a member of the Pandava family, had great skill in fighting with the bow and arrow. One of his brothers was known to have tremendous physical strength. Since he was frightening to others, he was known as Bhima. Since he was a voracious eater, he was also known as Vrikodara. Thus within the same family, in the same genetic line, there was variation in strength.

5. Strength increases through the aid of material nature

Personal effort alone doesn’t increase strength. Though Hiranyakashipu was feared throughout the world, he needed the help of a demigod to reach his position. Others need to consume a lot of food on a daily basis to maintain their physique. The material nature must cooperate in order for any temporary result to manifest.

[Narasimha-Hiranyakashipu-Prahlada]Prahlada did not have to ask anyone for his strength. He was always connected in consciousness to Shri Krishna in a mood of love and devotion. The Lord then took care of the boy’s strength. He gave Prahlada amazing ability to handle the situation created by the inimical father. Shri Krishna is the only strength for everyone, and only those who are devoted to Him know how to properly utilize that strength.

In Closing:

Like with Arjuna changing over time,

Someone else source of strength of mine.


Krishna in Bhagavad-gita Himself to say,

From Prahlada’s testimony another way.


Not everyone same result achieving,

Only after material nature’s favor receiving.


To use properly Lord’s strength the key,

Like with Daitya-king’s son to see.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Five Reasons Every Person Should Know The Science Of Reincarnation

[Shri Krishna]“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.16)

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nāsato vidyate bhāvo

nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ

ubhayor api dṛṣṭo 'ntas

tv anayos tattva-darśibhiḥ

The embodied soul continually passes. The “continually” part refers to time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, time is the great devourer. Whatever exists now will not persist into the unending future. There is nothing that can be done to change this. The laws of the material world are fixed in this way.

The embodied soul passes through time, and the one constant is that it remains embodied. This is the law behind what is generally known as reincarnation. To incarnate means to come to a certain place in a particular body. The “re” prefix refers to the event happening again. Basically, I took birth in this body, and after death I will take birth again in another body. That is reincarnation.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati


“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

The changing of bodies is the foundational truth in the larger curriculum known as the spiritual science. Why is the education required? Why should a person know this truth? Isn’t blind faith enough? If I know that God exists and that His laws should be adhered to, why do I have to learn anything else? Why not just enjoy life, having faith in His guiding hand?

1. Knowing is half the battle

This was the tag line of a popular television cartoon show of the 1980s. At the end of each episode, there would be a short lesson provided. They would give justification for sharing that lesson by saying, “…and knowing is half the battle.”

The idea is that if you are involved in a struggle, you need some intelligence. When a nation goes to war, they act off intelligence data. They have spies implanted in the rival countries. Those spies report back on possible threats and also weaknesses of the enemy. Sometimes the intelligence can be way off, but there still has to be some knowledge beforehand for the war to be successful.

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke

jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ


prakṛti-sthāni karṣati


“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

The living entities in this world are struggling with the six senses, which include the mind. They are essentially at war with maya, or illusion. They may not know this at first. They may be trying to win maya’s favor, unaware that she stands in their way of true happiness. Knowing the difference between matter and spirit is half the battle in overcoming the cycle of rebirth.

2. It will spare them so much grief

Do you like to be sad? Do you look forward to the experience of losing a loved one? Obviously, no one would prefer grief. Loss of something important is an unpleasant experience. The knowledge of the changing of bodies brings protection against grief. It is a fact of the spiritual science, so it is not some tall tale made to alleviate concerns about the afterlife.

The protection comes from knowing that the embodied soul has moved on. It will live elsewhere. The key is that it will continue to live. The sober person, upon realizing this, is not bewildered. There is no reason to lament the loss of life, since the individual never loses their existence.

3. It is a launching pad towards higher wisdom

There is much more to know. There are amazing truths lying beyond the knowledge of reincarnation. There are the three modes of material nature, time, action and reaction, the individual spirit soul, and finally, the Supreme Controller. Within each topic is endless nuance; points for discussion and contemplation.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi

śataśo 'tha sahasraśaḥ

nānā-vidhāni divyāni

nānā-varṇākṛtīni ca


“The Blessed Lord said: My dear Arjuna, O son of Pritha, behold now My opulences, hundreds of thousands of varied divine forms, multicolored like the sea.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.5)

[Krishna showing the universal form]The Supreme Controller is Bhagavan, which means a distinct individual full of attributes. He is transcendental, so you can study things like His hands and legs and marvel at what they are able to do. Since God is an individual, there is duality within the spiritual science. He shows the universal form, which is the complete everything, to Arjuna. Since Krishna is able to show this, it means that He has an identity separate from the complete whole; even though He is everything.

4. It allows the individual to do the best work for their fellow man

Knowing the science of reincarnation helps me in my struggle against illusion. It provides protection against the grief resulting from loss. It allows me to move closer to the Supreme Lord in association, to happily study Him further. Formal initiation into the Vedic culture is known as the upanayanam-samskara. The first word means “to bring one closer.”

I get all of this help for myself, and from that elevation I am able to help others. I can do the best welfare work. Instead of throwing money at a problem, I can give people a chance to really enjoy life, to feel pleasure. Moreover, I can save them from the greatest danger: rebirth.

5. It allows the individual to take steps to stop rebirth going forward

It’s comforting to know that the spirit soul will continue to live on after death. But there is actually something that can be done to stop rebirth. Every individual in this world is worshiping, even if they don’t realize it. By default, worship is done in honor of the material nature, the aforementioned maya. The ultimate outcome of that worship is rebirth. There are other temporary results, and there is misery at every step.

ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ

punar āvartino 'rjuna

mām upetya tu kaunteya

punar janma na vidyate


“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

A step up is to worship heavenly figures. Such worshipers have not stopped rebirth, but they have landed in higher planets, where the residence period is prolonged and the enjoyment heightened. Worshiping heavenly figures leads to birth on their planets.

[Shri Krishna]The person who worships the Supreme Lord, however, never has to take birth again. Bhagavan created the material nature, after all. Reincarnation works through His will. If He wants to stop it, He can. He leaves the decision up to the individual. If I want to stay with Krishna, I can. In His company I experience true bliss, through offering unending service. The choice for this highest existence is made easier once I am made aware of the science of reincarnation.

In Closing:

Ultimately choice by me is made,

Whether happy or in suffering to wade.


Knowledge of reincarnation helping me,

Imperishable life, the changing bodies to see.


Much more even beyond there,

Of complete picture to become aware.


How can stop rebirth’s spinning wheel attack,

Worshiping Krishna and never coming back.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Never A Rebirth

[Shri Krishna]“Every living entity is wandering within the universe, subjected to the law of karma and transmigrating from one body to another and from one planet to another. Therefore the whole Vedic process is meant to save the wandering living entities from the clutches of maya - birth, death, disease and old age. This means stopping the cycle of birth and death. This cycle can be stopped only if one worships Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 3.181 Purport)

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Imagine this situation. You’re enjoying. The engagement was planned beforehand. You knew it would bring you pleasure, and the reality met the potential. It’s such a great experience you wonder why you don’t have it more often. Perhaps in the future you can plan it again.

While all of this is going on, your friend says to you, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to never have to do this again?” Confused, you ask them what they are talking about. They repeat the same question. Again, you want more clarity. They say that it would be wonderful to never have to experience the human birth again. No more learning how to crawl, walk and talk. No more going to school for twelve years. No more worrying about how to put food on the table to support the family.

As strange as it seems, this is actually the stated goal in the philosophy known as Vedanta. Indeed, the word itself means “the end of all knowledge.” Veda is knowledge and anta means “end.” Philosophically, it is the conclusion of conclusions. Human life exclusively features rational thought, the ability to act intelligently. The way of increasing intelligence is to ask questions. When you get the answers, process them, juxtapose them with answers to previous questions, and then store the resultant information. Keep asking questions until your knowledge base builds sufficiently.

Vedanta is for when you reach the end of the questions. There is no higher topic than death. After death there is birth, and then after birth there is death. The events go together in a chain or a cycle known as samsara. This is continuous suffering, as the individual within that cycle is not meant for either event.

The introductory truth of Vedanta philosophy reveals the reason why. The individual is spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. You and I are spirit. We are not the physical appearance displayed by the mirror. We are not the expensive clothes we were given as gifts for Christmas. We are not the sports car we use to drive around town. We are not even the house in which we live.

The body is something like the house for the spirit soul. When the time for occupancy is up, the spirit soul must go somewhere else. From Vedanta philosophy we learn that the ultimate goal is to escape from ever having to take up residence in a temporary house again.

The reason this is the goal is that there is something better to be experienced. We get a taste of it through following the recommendations of Vedanta philosophy. Be detached from work. Work in such a way that your attachment gradually decreases. The wise person should see the folly in repeating the same activity every day, going through the grind not so affectionately known as “the rat race.”

As a spirit soul, I have a higher destiny to fulfill. There is a different nature to which I inherently belong. That is the spiritual nature, and the pathway towards reentering it is jnana and vairagya. Only the human being can acquire true knowledge. Only the rationally thinking individual can voluntarily implement restriction. Both are done for the purpose of advancement.

The foolish path is to try to make a temporary solution to troubles. After all, no matter how physically fit we make the body, eventually there will be death. No matter how much material enjoyment there is today, one day it will all be left behind. Vedanta is for shaping the next destination, for determining the direction of the flight we are compelled to board.

Activity in the material world is known as karma. Each action has a reaction. There is always surrender, but the object receiving the dedication varies. Worship of any person or entity not the Supreme Personality of Godhead results in rebirth. This is true even for a person who goes to the planet of Lord Brahma. Brahma is the original creature, and he lives for a very long time. Yet even on his planet there is rebirth.

ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ

punar āvartino 'rjuna

mām upetya tu kaunteya

punar janma na vidyate


“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Those going to Krishna’s planet don’t have to take birth again. Krishna is above even Vedanta philosophy. One who gets His favor does not require jnana or vairagya. They don’t necessarily need to know the difference between matter and spirit. This makes the boon of rebirth open to every single person, man or woman, adult or child.

[Shri Krishna]The individual should seek Krishna’s favor for more than just an end to rebirth. There is endless activity in Krishna’s land. Everything is fresh and new, and the work done brings results that continue to give benefits. The work in bhakti-yoga, devotional service, never goes for naught. It has permanent progress, even when practiced in the material world. It purifies consciousness through connection with the Supreme Consciousness. Thus every problem gets solved through the Divine’s association. Just as He never takes birth, so too the souls surrendered to Him never have to accept a material body again.

In Closing:

Though happy are me and you,

Again all of this worth it to do?


Bigger picture, birth to take,

And struggle through life to make.


Vedanta revealing liberation’s goal,

No longer under maya’s hold.


Only going to Krishna’s planet when,

Liberated devotion, coming back never again.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Five Things I Learned In This Journey Through Life

[Prabhupada thinking of Krishna]“The literal meaning of the word guru is ‘heavy’ - heavy with knowledge and authority, because his knowledge and authority come from Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Journey of Self-Discovery, Ch 2.2)

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The Sanskrit word “guru” has several meanings. The most common usage is for the spiritual master, a guide to take you across the ocean of birth and death. With him acting as the expert boatman, the destination is the promise land, the place that is free of anxieties, Vaikuntha.

Guru also refers to people who are generally respected. Our parents are the first guru. The position is established immediately based off lineage. We wouldn’t come to this place without their work. They had to do something to make the end result happen. Whether we prefer the circumstances of our birth or not, there is something owed to the parents for giving us the opportunity to go through life in the human species.

The guru is respected also for their wisdom. They are “heavy” in the sense that they have more knowledge than us. The parents have seen so much. They have experienced the heartache of loss. They know what it’s like to fail at something. They have felt the joy of being in the company of loved ones. They have valuable insights to offer; should we be humble enough to accept the guidance.

The spiritual guide has more valuable information to offer. They not only have their own life experiences to share, but they are tapped into the vast resources offered by parampara. The guru has their own guru, who had their own guru, and so on. We don’t have to wait until old age to become wise. From interviewing the spiritual master, we can find out what to expect in life. They and their predecessors learned so many things, which as a theoretical exercise can be combined into a single composite view.

1. There is too much emphasis on eating

Where am I going to eat? More importantly, what am I going to eat? What do I feel like? Me and the rest of my fellow men and women put so much importance on eating. The priority is misplaced, as in the end it doesn’t really matter. Studies show that eating this will kill you and eating that will save you. Actually, elevated yogis of the past have survived for thousands of years on air alone. It is not a rule that you need this particular food or that.

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)

The high philosophy coming from the Bhagavad-gita confirms this. Shri Krishna says that the yogi, who is a real transcendentalist, neither eats too little nor eats too much. It’s difficult to put this rule into practice, though. Otherwise, no one would have problems with weight loss, obesity, overconsumption and the like.

2. There is too much emphasis on competition

I need to move up in the world. My apartment is fine now, but I need a house. That will only be a starter. After that, I will upgrade to a bigger and better one. I need to make sure that my house is larger in size than the ones my friends live in. Bigger and better is success in the material world. My children must become doctors. They must do well in school to make that happen. I want them to be better than the other kids.

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke

jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ


prakṛti-sthāni karṣati


“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

The Bhagavad-gita says that all living entities are struggling in this world. It makes sense if we think about it. There are finite resources. Karma dictates that not everyone will get the same result to an action. Moreover, lost in the fever of competition is the aftermath. If I’m doing better than my fellow man, will that make me feel good? They are struggling too, after all. Shouldn’t I wish the best for them?

3. There is great sadness over death

Even if I haven’t seen the person in ages, I feel saddened upon their passing. It is like a part of me is lost. I will no longer have their association, so I lament. I am not alone in this. Everyone else is just as affected upon the passing of another.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati


“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

The Bhagavad-gita describes death to be nothing more than the final change of bodies within a particular range of time. The person who is dhira, or sober in mind, is not bewildered by this change. This is actually one of the first things the param guru, the highest spiritual master, Shri Krishna taught to Arjuna. If only I would have learned this truth sooner I would have been spared so much grief. Every human being needs to know this fundamental truth of the spiritual science.

4. Everybody hates everybody

This is a personal observation that I feel most confident in. Based on what I have seen, never was there a more axiomatic truth. The Sanskrit word aneka means “many.” It is simply a negation of the word eka, which means “one.” To qualify as many, you need just one more than one; at least two. I have many friends, and they don’t all get along. The dislike is so strong that I have to censor myself when telling stories and describing life experiences. If I spent time with one friend on a particular day, I may have to keep that information to myself when speaking to my other friend on the subsequent day.

If I like a particular candidate in politics, I don’t tell anyone else. Even if I prepare for the negative reaction beforehand, I’d rather not go through the trouble. It’s not worth it. Even within a family, one uncle dislikes another. The daughter prefers the mother over the father; the son is closer to the father. The one thing I have found in common in people is that each have so much dislike for others.

dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ

saṅgas teṣūpajāyate

saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ

kāmāt krodho 'bhijāyate


“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

[lust leading to anger]The Bhagavad-gita explains this as well. The root cause is kama, which is lust. Lust is basically any material desire, the hope to enjoy separately from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The problem with kama is that it is never fully satisfied. Moreover, frustration is guaranteed at some point. Frustration then leads to anger. Hatred is rooted in anger, which is rooted in frustration in desire. I dislike someone because they have hindered my sense gratification in some way.

5. Real happiness is found only in bhakti-yoga

This is the most important thing I have learned. Children get excited for new toys. After a while, they get bored of playing with them. They want another. Young adults get excited for video games, which again they will one day leave behind due to waning interest. Adults have their own variation of toys, such as expensive cars and technology gadgets.

I will readily admit that I have indulged many of these pleasures. The one thing they all had in common was that they failed to provide lasting happiness. Bhakti-yoga has been just the opposite experience. Though I was practically dragged into it, forcing myself to follow a routine that I was reluctant to adopt, I have found only increasing enthusiasm and happiness. I am more into it today than I was yesterday. I was more into it yesterday than the previous day. You get my point.

[Shri Krishna]Above all other things mentioned thus far, this fact is the most important; the most worthy of being shared. Shri Krishna is Himself nava-yauvanam, which means “always fresh and new.” Bhakti-yoga is non-different from Him, so it inherits the same property. This journey of life has taught me that devotional service to God will not only do me the most good going forward, but without it I cannot find lasting happiness. To feel pleasure is the meaning to an existence, and that existence’s true destiny is fulfilled at the meeting place of the lotus feet of the all-attractive one.

In Closing:

Guru knowledge from experience brought,

Including also what parampara has taught.


People in stiff competition with one another,

Hatred everywhere, even family disliking each other.


By thought of food to go mad,

Over changing body becoming sad.


Only in bhakti-yoga happiness real,

With progress, more of Krishna to reveal.