Saturday, August 13, 2016

Equal To The Wind

[Shri Hanuman]“O Maithili, when as per the desire of the maharishis the valiant monkey Kesari killed the demon Shambasadana, I was born of the wind-god. I am a monkey equal in strength to him.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.89)

hate asure samyati śamba sādane |
kapi pravīreṇa maharṣi codanāt |
tato asmi vāyu prabhavo hi maithili |
prabhāvataḥ tat pratimaḥ ca vānaraḥ ||

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Looks can be deceiving. There is the constant struggle for the living entity in the material world. Whether one is aware of the struggle makes no difference. The animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends. It doesn’t ponder impending death. It doesn’t realize that there is danger at every step. It simply lives.

“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 struggle is there due to the constant work that needs to be done to maintain life. In the human species, the troubles increase due to the influence of the mind. I can become upset over something trivial like the result of an election, the outcome to a sporting match, or the negative words directed at me by someone who is not very close.

To push through requires strength. Strength typically can be quantified. I know that a car is powerful based on the horsepower rating. I know that a person is strong based on their physical qualities. From an internal standpoint, I can measure strength through judging the reaction to adverse situations.

For Sita Devi, there was little way to measure strength for someone she had just met. Shri Hanuman approached her in the ashoka grove in Lanka, acting as messenger to her dear husband, Shri Rama. Here Hanuman again relates how he came to the world. There was a kapi, or monkey, named Kesari. At the direction of great sages, maharishis, Kesari rid the world of an asura named Shambasadana. Hanuman was the result of the union of Kesari with Anjana which occurred right afterwards.

How was a monkey going to help Sita? She was in a difficult circumstance. The ashoka grove was in Lanka, and Lanka was inhabited by intimidating Rakshasas, the most powerful of whom was Ravana. Ravana had physical strength and he also had black magic in his bag of tricks. Ravana could change his shape at will, an ability he had already used to Sita’s detriment. How was this messenger, who was nice in every way, going to help in this land filled with ogres of evil intent?

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman explains that his birth occurred through the wind-god, Vayu. Hanuman is equal in strength to Vayu. Though it can’t be seen, the wind is extremely powerful. It is strong enough to take out large buildings. It can uproot trees and hurl them hundreds of miles away. Despite the strongest fortress built with the best reinforcements, the wind destroys within minutes.

Within the body the wind has tremendous potency as well. The life-air, prana, is everything. The ancient system of mysticism known as yoga is based on controlling the different airs within the body. It is not coincidence, then, that Shri Hanuman is very powerful. He has a brother, another offspring of the wind-god, who is also very powerful. His name is Bhima, and he is one of the five Pandava brothers famously known from the Mahabharata.

This interaction between Hanuman and Sita from ancient times has relevance to the modern day as well. Hanuman is as powerful as the wind, and his potency is increased by his unflinching devotion to Rama. Those who are empowered by the Supreme Lord can do amazing things. Hanuman had already crossed over the massive ocean in a single leap. He convinced a highly and justifiably skeptical Sita as to his identity. He persevered through difficult times due to his desire to please Rama. The monkey appearance was somewhat deceiving.

In the same way, upon initial review what can a mantra really do for us? How is chanting a specific sequence of words going to help us out of anything? It’s not going to solve the problems with my family. It’s not going to give me the security of knowing that there will always be food on the table. It’s not going to remove the doubts I have about the afterlife and the purpose of living.

In truth the maha-mantra is extremely powerful. The potency descends directly from the Supreme Lord, whose name is identical to Him. Since the maha-mantra consists of only His names, it is the great deliverer of the mind. It is as empowered as Hanuman, who himself always chants the holy names. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the sound equal to God Himself. When the Supreme Lord is always with you, and you are consciously aware of it, the experience through life gradually turns from difficult to enjoyable.

In Closing:

Hanuman son of the wind indeed,

Leaping over ocean with massive speed.


The monkey appearance a little deceiving,

Sita skeptical when his vision first receiving.


Like capable of hurling trees distant length,

Son of the wind-god possessing great strength.


Can be fooled also by holy name,

But having to God potency the same.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How Bhakti Is Different

[Shri Hanuman]“Everything has been described by me to you. O Maithili, please be consoled. What shall I do for you and what will be pleasing to you? I am returning.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.88)

etatte sarvamākhyātam samāśvasihi maithili |
kim karomi katham vā te rocate pratiyāmyaham ||

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In this verse we get a clear idea of the difference between bhakti-yoga and any other type of activity. Not just distinct from common behavior in the material world, even in the discipline of spirituality bhakti is unique. The difference comes down to desire. For whom are you working? Whose pleasure do you ultimately seek? Can you measure your sentiments to see if they are genuine?

Material activity is for pleasing the body. The body is different from the individual. This is not intuitive, as at the time of birth there is no knowledge of the fact. In this sense the human being is no different than the animal. A soul is a soul. There is no such thing as an animal soul or a human soul. The human being eats, sleeps, mates and defends, just like an animal. The difference comes in the potential for intelligence, which is rooted in the type of body.

The body comes with senses and accompanying sense objects. The trick is to avoid trying to simply satisfy the senses. Sense gratification is known as kama, and kama is the lone cause of rebirth. Rebirth is the cycle of rejecting material bodies and again accepting them. It’s a cycle, like spinning on a wheel, since it continues on and on. The only way to stop the spinning is to eliminate kama.

As kama is the root cause of birth in the material world, it is very difficult to remove. Therefore even in spiritual life there are stages. Most religions don’t even mention kama. There is subtle reference through rituals and regulations. After all, there is no reason to mention sex life or animal sacrifices in religious texts. They are only there to help the human being limit these activities. Unregulated sex life is kama, and violence against innocent animals is also rooted in sense gratification.

Bhakti-yoga is the culmination of all kinds of activity for self-improvement. It is like graduating to the highest level. Even within bhakti, it is difficult to maintain purity. I may enter into the discipline due to some desire. The four general categories are mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita.

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

When there is a desire to ascend the chain of species and enjoy in the heavenly realm after death, the activity in religion is karma-yoga. When there is a desire to increase knowledge of things spiritual, jnana-yoga is present. When there is a desire to eliminate the negative influence of the material body and meditate on the Supersoul within the heart, there is hatha-yoga or ashtanga-yoga.

The activity turns into bhakti-yoga when the lone desire is to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul in His original form. Here Shri Hanuman gives the ideal example of pure bhakti-yoga. His service did not necessarily involve meditation. He was not fasting on a particular holiday. He was not attending a house of worship. Actually, he was in a territory hostile to the real religion. The leader of the land, Ravana, had a fountain of goddess Lakshmi on his property, which would signify some attention to the spiritual culture. Yet he was materially motivated, so his religious practice was not pure. Indeed, Ravana had committed the greatest offense against Lakshmi herself in her incarnation of Sita Devi, the princess from Mithila.

Hanuman has just found Sita, completing the task assigned to he and his friends. He is ready to return to those friends and give them the good news of the success in the mission. Before leaving, he wants to know if there is anything he can do for Sita. Is there anything that will be pleasing to her? This question is at the very foundation of bhakti-yoga, which is also known as devotional service.

A famous president once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Along similar lines, bhakti-yoga is about asking what will please God. It is about giving instead of taking. From that giving, there will automatically come the greatest reward. Full surrender, sharanagati, brings the highest bliss, ananda.

Hanuman had the opportunity to work directly for God in His incarnation of Shri Rama. He was able to approach Rama’s wife Sita and hear from her what activity would be pleasing. What about us? What shall we do today? How do we approach the Supreme Lord to find out what will please Him?

[Shri Hanuman]This is where the representative is needed. They know the interests of the Supreme Lord. They learned from serving their own teacher, who was also a representative. The chain of representatives ascends all the way to the top, reaching Rama. Hanuman is a representative as well, and by example he teaches so much. Anyone who truly knows Hanuman understands that what is most pleasing to him is staying connected with Rama, always chanting His names and glorifying Him. Rama is so kind that He appears as Krishna and Vishnu as well. To those not ready to make the leap to worship of a personal God, Rama mercifully comes to them as Ishvara, which is a more generic understanding for the Almighty. In every circumstance and situation there is a chance to practice bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

When no material desire is known,

And God’s welfare seeking alone.


Then the bhakti platform to reach,

Like by example Hanuman to teach.


This amongst all activity unique,

Chance for bliss at opportunity each.


Hanuman from Rama’s wife directly heard,

Today through representative devotion stirred.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Priya Darshana

[Sita-Rama]“Sita thus considered Hanuman a monkey and not otherwise. Then Hanuman spoke to her, who is dear to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.87)

hanūmantam kapim vyaktam manyate na anyathā iti sā |
atha uvāca hanūmān tām uttaram priya darśanām ||

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Religion shouldn’t be dry and boring. It is for the eternal welfare of the living spirit, after all. If you’re going to live somewhere for a very long time, the expectation is to have at least a little happiness there. Especially if the place of residence is by choice, the experience should be mostly blissful. Religion promises all happiness, all the time. The promise is attractive because the only experience in memory to date is of a mixed life. There is happiness mixed with sadness. Heat and cold. Light and dark.

Vedic philosophy describes this as duality. In the higher philosophical understanding, both good and bad are actually the same. How can this be? The time factor, which operates in conjunction with karma and the material nature, shows how everything eventually goes back to nothing. We start as nothing, bring in some objects of attachment, experience some miseries, and then eventually give everything up. Birth, old age, disease and death. This is the pattern for every living thing in the material world.

Good is defined as favorable, and bad as unfavorable. Yet the results of both remain only temporarily. Moreover, what is good for one person may not be so for another. The vote of a country to exit a larger union of countries leads to a massive selloff on the stock market on the subsequent day. This is bad for the stock holders. The value of their shares plummets. At the same time, there is potential buying opportunity. The bad for one became good for another.

The best “good” is ascension to the heavenly planets after death. If you do right by your fellow man, believe in a higher power, and avoid the most egregious sinful acts, you will get rewarded with life in heaven. The Vedas provide the most detail about that heaven. It is a place of increased material enjoyment. The trees are known as kalpatarus, which means that you can go up to one and ask for anything. It is a desire tree, so it will fulfill your desire immediately.

Residence in the material heaven is not permanent. Like purchasing time on a card, the pious credits eventually expire. Then there is a chance to fall back down to the material world. So at some point in time you end up back from where you started. The same cycle is there for sinful behavior; after doing your time in the hellish region you make your way back up.

Bhakti-yoga is eternal life, something beyond the good and bad of the material world. It is blissful for many reasons, the chief among them being the all-attractiveness of the object of service. Because of this feature, one of His many names is Krishna. He is also known as Rama. He is Hari because of His ability to take things away. That which belongs to Hari is Hare, which is the energy of God. These three names constitute the most potent of chants, the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Rama is also an individual, known as Shri Ramachandra who appears on this earth every now and then. He is also very attractive, full of transcendental goodness, or gunas. When He descends to earth, He brings His energy with Him. His better-half, so to speak, is known as Sita. As the above referenced verse from the Ramayana describes, she is also pleasant to behold, priya-darshana.

The reward for work in devotional service is a constant vision of this attractive couple. Shri Hanuman had to go through some amazing situations to please Shri Rama. He had to fight with ogres, battle the enthusiasm-dissuading time, and even overcome a doubting goddess of fortune. Sita Devi was not ready to extend full faith, or vishvasa, when she first met Hanuman. She was skeptical that a monkey could come to her with good news about her husband.

In this verse we see that Sita finally considered Hanuman to be a monkey, and not otherwise. The otherwise would be an ogre who could change their shape as desired, kama-rupa. The leader of Lanka, Ravana, had this ability, so Sita was wondering if maybe Ravana had come before her in the guise of a monkey. Sensing her mistrust, Hanuman prepared to speak to her. Despite being in so much distress due to separation from Rama, Sita was still priya-darshana. This means that at any point in devotional service there is a chance to enjoy the attractiveness of the object of service.

[Sita-Rama]In no other endeavor is this true. You can’t live in the house until it is built. You can’t enjoy dinner until it is cooked. You can’t experience heaven until death arrives to take you there. The bliss from the surrender in devotion, sharanagati, can be experienced right away. Even while residing in a foreign land such as Lanka, filled with wicked characters, there is pleasantness to experience.

In Closing:

Darkness and ogres on one hand,

Filling the city of Rakshasas land.


Even with darkness some enjoyment to be,

Serving Sita, she who always pleasant to see.


Priya-darshana, to husband Rama dear,

After hearing got idea of Hanuman clear.


With bhakti-yoga no longer for heaven to wait,

With all-attractiveness right now bliss to taste.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Is Enthusiasm Necessary In Bhakti

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Endeavor executed with intelligence in Krishna consciousness is called utsaha, or enthusiasm. The devotees find the correct means by which everything can be utilized in the service of the Lord (nirbandhah krishna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam uchyate).” (Shrila Prabhupada, Nectar of Instruction, Verse 3 Purport)

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Friend1: I have a question about enthusiasm.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: I’ve heard that it is a necessary component for success in devotional service, bhakti-yoga.

Friend2: Yes, that comes from the Upadeshamrita of Shrila Rupa Gosvami. The English translation of that work is “Nectar of Instruction.” The word utsaha means “enthusiasm.”

Friend1: Right. It makes sense. If you’re just going through the motions, how are you going to succeed in something. There have been times where I was so into something that I lost track of time.

Friend2: There you go. That is the proof. If you’re enthusiastic you go beyond the limits to succeed. You can impress yourself even with capability.

Friend1: What about Arjuna?

Friend2: What do you mean? And which Arjuna?

Friend1: There is more than one?

Friend2: Krishna had a friend named Arjuna during His youth in Vraja.

Friend1: Oh, I didn’t know that. I was referring to the famous bow warrior, the son of Pandu, the brother of Bhima, the cousin of Krishna.

Friend2: Okay, so what about him?

Friend1: Enthusiasm, hello?

Friend2: You’re telling me he’s not enthusiastic?

Friend1: What about the start of the Bharata War? The whole premise of the Bhagavad-gita is a warrior in distress, a reluctant fighter. Arjuna doesn’t want to continue. He’d rather lay down his weapons and move to the forest.

“Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.46)

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: And obviously that is the opposite of enthusiasm.

Friend1: Yet we know he was successful in devotional service. Isn’t that a contradiction? And don’t tell me it’s because of…

Friend2: Yogamaya.

Friend1: You took the words right out of my mouth. Yes, yes, Krishna arranged for Arjuna to be in illusion. This wasn’t mahamaya, which everyone else is subject to. This was yogamaya, meaning that the illusion was only temporary and ultimately for Arjuna’s spiritual benefit.

Friend2: It’s the truth, though. You can’t be such a close friend to Krishna and lose enthusiasm in service. Still, I can explain the contradiction in another way.

Friend1: Please do.

Friend2: There was lack of enthusiasm because Arjuna didn’t see the connection to bhakti-yoga.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: He didn’t think that fighting in a war constituted service to Krishna. He didn’t see it as his duty. Rather, he was worried about enjoying the fruits of victory. He thought maybe he was fighting simply for enjoyment.

Friend1: And if that’s the case, then it’s bad.

Friend2: Right. Either way, fighting or not fighting, if your aim is sense gratification, the end result is not beneficial.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: The whole teaching of the Gita is to dovetail your prescribed duties for Krishna’s benefit. Work so that you please God. Work, but stay renounced. Don’t be attached to the results.

Friend1: Then why do you need enthusiasm? There has to be a benefit you’re seeking.

Friend2: That’s a keen observation. Be detached from the results of karma, but be attached to Krishna’s pleasure. That’s why Arjuna was able to go ahead and fight enthusiastically. Through his prior doubts he already established that he wasn’t in it for himself. He had no desire to rule over a kingdom, even if it rightfully belonged to his family. He went ahead with the conflict because Krishna advised him to.

Friend1: How do we know that we’re working for Krishna’s pleasure?

Friend2: The guru. The spiritual master shows you the way. They describe God to you. They reveal that the Supreme Lord already rests within your heart as the Supersoul. They go further and describe the transcendental features belonging to the Personality of Godhead. They refer to that personality as Krishna since He is all-attractive.

Friend1: What about pleasing the guru?

Friend2: The bona fide spiritual master is a representative of God, so pleasing them means automatically pleasing Krishna. In that sense you don’t even have to know about enthusiasm, perseverance, birth, death, reincarnation and the like. Just please the guru and you’ll get enthusiasm as a result.

In Closing:

Upon gaining future’s sight,

Arjuna not ready to fight.


Kingdom to come at a cost,

So enthusiasm for endeavor lost.


Connection to bhakti not seeing,

Reminded by Krishna, the Supreme Being.


Utsaha success hinged upon,

Necessary for devotion to continue on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Five Examples Of Enthusiasm In Devotional Service

[Shri Hanuman]“Being very much delighted and satisfied, those monkeys enthusiastic to see you arrived at the northern shore of the ocean.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.68)

vindhyādutthāya samprāptāḥ sāgarasyāntamuttaram |
tvat darśana kṛta utsāhā hṛṣṭāḥ tuṣṭāḥ plavamgamāḥ ||

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Utsaha, or enthusiasm, is necessary for success in bhakti-yoga. Let’s assume I have the task of cooking for a large gathering. I am not looking forward to it. I know all the work involved in the process. It’s not like I can just concentrate on one thing. If I had to only make a cake, that would be easier. If I was only making one dish, it wouldn’t be so bad.

No, the entire menu is on me. I have to make sure everything is just right. There is no other option but to cook everything simultaneously, to ensure freshness. In this task there is little enthusiasm, but the work might get done regardless. Bhakti-yoga is a little different, as it is a lifelong occupation. It involves changing the consciousness altogether, from the material to the spiritual. Without enthusiasm, devotional service will be easier to give up, which is a shame considering the value of the human birth. There are many examples of utsaha in devotion from which to draw inspiration.

1. Vasudeva

In His original form, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as Krishna. He appears in this world from time to time, typically in other forms known as incarnations. When He descended as Himself five thousand years ago, He appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, who was locked up in a prison by her evil brother named Kamsa. Devaki’s husband Vasudeva was also with her, and they both witnessed their newborn display the four-handed form of Narayana, which was done to inform the parents that their child was God Himself.

[Vasudeva crossing Yamuna]Krishna then directed Vasudeva to take Him to the nearby town of Gokula, where Kamsa would not be able to attack Him. Vasudeva carried out the orders immediately. He snuck out of jail and crossed over the Yamuna river, all while a storm was going on. He carried baby Krishna in his arms. He was able to succeed in this devotional act because of enthusiasm. The root cause was love; the father naturally loved the son. From love there was enthusiasm to please and bring happiness.

2. Yashoda

Vasudeva dropped Krishna off in the custody of Nanda Maharaja, who was a friend. Nanda’s wife was Yashoda. She was pregnant and when she woke up she thought that Krishna was her own newborn child. From there she offered motherly affection in a way that can’t be believed. There were no other thoughts in her mind; just how to please Krishna.

Though she didn’t have an office job exactly, she was definitely a working mother. She worked tirelessly throughout the day to make sure her child was happy. She churned yogurt into butter since that was the favorite food of her child. She would sing songs of His pastimes while working. She would even punish Him if He behaved naughtily. Yashoda served in this way because she had enthusiasm, which was again due to love.

3. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Shri Krishna’s name and fame are found throughout the three worlds at all times. This is the meaning to all-pervading, or Vishnu. Sometimes the knowledge of Him remains dormant, within the heart only. It takes the guiding hand of the preceptor to awaken the knowledge. In the modern age, the reawakening has occurred for so many due primarily to the efforts of a brave swami, who left the comforts of Vrindavana-dhama at the age of seventy to sail across the ocean and deliver bhakti-yoga to the world.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Shrila Prabhupada could only do this if he had enthusiasm. The order was given by his own guru, to teach bhakti-yoga to the English speaking world; to remove the barriers erected through differences in language and culture. Bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation for every living thing, but without knowing about it how will someone take it up? Without knowing about Krishna, how can there be enthusiasm? Through the great Vaishnava’s efforts and those of his followers, so many people now know about Krishna and practice devotion to Him.

4. Lakshmana building a hut

One of Krishna’s most famous incarnations is Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. The events from Rama’s life are many. They are interesting and expansive to the point that they are the main focus of a lengthy Sanskrit work called the Ramayana. In one place, we find tremendous enthusiasm described so nicely by Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana.

“Oh Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)

Lakshmana was with Rama and Sita in the forest. Sita is Rama’s wife. The three were going to be there for quite some time, so at one point Rama asked Lakshmana to build them a hut. Rama wanted Lakshmana to choose a suitable place. Lakshmana replied that Rama should be the one to choose a place. Lakshmana also said that if Rama were to stand before him for one hundred years even, he would always remain at the ready to serve.

There is no better example of enthusiasm in bhakti-yoga than this. The service is unmotivated and uninterrupted. It is not that with one goal being achieved, the desire to serve will end. In the highest stages, the enthusiasm in devotional service is as eternal as the service itself.

5. The Vanaras learning of Sita’s whereabouts

In later events in the Ramayana, Rama teams up with a king named Sugriva, who is a Vanara living with other Vanaras in Kishkindha. A Vanara is a monkey-like creature. With the literal translation of the word being “forest dweller,” these creatures had hints of civilized life in them. Rama could talk to them, and in sharing His plight the Vanaras became sympathetic. Sita was missing. Rama and Lakshmana were looking for her.

[Shri Hanuman]The Vanaras carried out the task of searching for Sita with enthusiasm. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t difficult moments. At one time, one of the search parties grew despondent due to lack of success. They were ready to quit when they suddenly got news of where Sita was. Delighted, they got up and headed for the seashore. They did this enthusiastically, since they were excited to still have the chance to please Rama. The leading Vanara, Shri Hanuman, would eventually be the one to find her. His harrowing journey to Lanka was so important that it takes up an entire section of the Ramayana.

In Closing:

Vasudeva crossing Yamuna through the rain,

Prabhupada making ocean journey like the same.


Lakshmana for Rama standing at the ready,

To continue service even hundred years steady.


Vanaras with enthusiasm the world searching through,

Hanuman brave journey when Sita’s location knew.


Examples from these special souls take,

How towards success in bhakti to make.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Five Ways To Understand The Conditioned Soul

[Lord Krishna]“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)

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Take the tip of a piece of hair and divide it into ten thousand parts. Then take one of those parts. It’s practically impossible to see, but conceptually that one fragment is representative of the size of the individual soul. Despite being so small, this one fragment is powerful enough to light up the entire body. It gives life to both the infant and the adult. The soul does not transform with time. There is no evolution in terms of spirit. The body is what changes, and that body needs a spiritual spark for animation.

All sparks of spirit are the same, and yet there is an original source as well. The origin is the Supreme Spirit. He is known as Paramatma. He is one, though expanded to reside inside of every living thing. The individual soul is jivatma, which is often described as “conditioned.” What exactly does that mean?

1. It is under the jurisdiction of the material nature

Spirit has qualities that separate it from matter. Spirit has consciousness, while matter does not. Spirit is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. It can never be killed, either. What we lament over, the event known as death, is actually just the changing of bodies. It is like a departing flight for the tiny spiritual spark, set to reach another destination after some time.

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

Though the spirit soul is free and indestructible, in the conditioned state the individual is under the laws of the material nature. Think of having to go to sleep at night. Think of the distress from the scorching heat. Think of the bitter cold and how other living entities cause us pain. These things are all the result of being conditioned. Paramatma is under no such control.

2. It has conditions to desires

The Sanskrit word kama means “desire.” In the discipline of mysticism there are various perfections that can be achieved. One of them is the kama-rupa siddhi. This is the ability to take any form desired. It comes after steady practice and advancement along the path. Not everyone can get this ability.

Nevertheless, even for the elevated yogi, not every desire is met. This is another meaning to conditioned. The individual spirit can desire while within a material body, but due to the nature of the land they inhabit not every desire can be met. Think of the job opening at the company. Many people apply, but only one will land the job. This means that the majority will have their desires unfulfilled. Paramatma, on the other hand, always gets what He wants. He is never frustrated.

3. It has chosen to be under maya

Maya is illusion. It exists in two forms: yoga and maha. Mahamaya is the bad kind, though the conditioned soul in the material world has actually chosen to be under its spell. Maya makes you forget who you really are. It makes you identify with an ever-changing body, accepting sense gratification to be the height of living.

Yogamaya is the energy directly supervised by the Supreme Lord. It is a kind of illusion too, but the good kind. It keeps a person in the spiritual consciousness. By definition, a soul who is conditioned is not linked to God in yoga.

4. It is conditioned by nature to be in illusion

Part of the deal is that if you choose in favor of maya, the material nature works to keep you in illusion. We can think of it like going on a ride at an amusement park. We’re choosing to enter danger. We can’t blame the park operators for the terror we feel afterwards. The harrowing ride is part of the experience.

The material nature works to keep the conditioned soul in illusion, because that is the underlying desire. Sitting in a movie theater, the audience wants to forget that what they are watching is a scripted performance, meticulously edited to look like real life.

5. It always has the opportunity to flip

The conditioned soul is bound in so many ways, through both the experience in one lifetime and the perpetual cycle of rebirth. Nevertheless, there is always the option available to change things. When the decision is made for yogamaya, the conditioned soul turns into a liberated one. Yoga leads to liberation, since it is a connection to the Divine.

[Lord Krishna]Naturally, the liberated soul is not conditioned. They are not under the jurisdiction of the material nature, even though it may appear that way. The Supreme Lord and His yogamaya are completely in charge of the liberated soul. The lone desire is to remain connected with God, who is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. This desire is never stifled, as Krishna does not deny anyone who wishes to serve Him in love.

In Closing:

Frustrated despite how hard tried,

Since on material nature relied.


For conditioned soul this a check,

Not every one of their desires to be met.


In illusion of maya to stay,

Since that material world’s way.


Despite however long forgetfulness of mine,

Door to spiritual world open all the time.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Can You Describe Kali Yuga In One Sentence

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

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Friend1: Kali Yuga. The age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

Friend2: The last of the four ages. Things don’t look so good, but know that there is always a silver lining.

Friend1: The sankirtana movement, the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: Think of how merciful Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is. He came in this most troublesome time period. Who will listen to someone speak about dharma when society itself barely follows it? Three of the four legs are broken. Just one remains, and it is wobbly at that.

Friend1: I like these analogies. What would you say is the best way to describe Kali Yuga to someone who is totally unfamiliar with Vedic culture?

Friend2: Besides the four ages thing, where the universe, the creation within, the population also, goes through cycles?

Friend1: Yeah, that’s a longer explanation. Brevity is the soul of wit. Give me one sentence.

Friend2: It’s the time period where everything is the opposite of how it should be.

Friend1: Oh, I like that. How should things be, then? Who determines that?

Friend2: Shastra, which descends from the Supreme Lord. Guru, sadhu and shastra - they meet together. They have the same interest. They all represent the original person, adi-purusha.

Friend1: Can you give me an example of something that is the opposite? I know the Shrimad Bhagavatam lists many such conditions. It’s amazing that it predicted these things years before they occurred.

Friend2: Some of them are pretty amazing. Men and women will marry according to desire rather than culture. The brahmanas, the priestly class, will lower themselves to take the role of menial servant, while the less intelligent will ascend to the top of society. There are so many predictions that have come true already.

Friend1: Is there one in particular that makes you sit back and think, “Wow, that is quintessential Kali Yuga”?

Friend2: [laughs] That’s pretty good. I do have one. It might offend some people, though.

Friend1: Since when do you care about offending people?

Friend2: I don’t want you to go home tonight and cry in your pillow.

Friend1: Hey, I only do that when my favorite sports team loses [smiling].

Friend2: Well, you know about kama, right?

Friend1: Yes. It is lust.

Friend2: It can also mean “sense gratification” and “desire.” Anyway, in the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna declares it to be the all-devouring enemy of this world. This is not a concept exclusive to Vedic culture. You look in any religion and there is restriction placed on kama. Indeed, you could say that is the underlying purpose to all religious rituals, rites and regulations. Man can control their kama, if they so choose.

Friend1: Right. Like marriage puts controls on it.

Friend2: There you go. Anyway, prior to Kali Yuga, in the ages where adherence to dharma was generally higher, people would take pride in their ability to control kama. You’ve heard of the term jitendriya?

Friend1: No.

Friend2: Jita means “victory” or “conquering” and indriya means “senses.” Jitendriya is someone who has conquered the senses. It’s a complimentary term.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: You’ll find in the Ramayana that Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, one time refers to Ravana as ajita-indriya. This is someone who has not conquered their senses. It is a derogatory term, especially for a king. Ravana should have been leading the way in controlling the senses, setting the best example for the citizens. Not only was he controlled by his senses, but that deficiency would lead to doom for the entire city.

“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)

[Hanuman burning Lanka]Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Fast forward to today. A person is praised for how much they indulge their senses. Look at all the pictures that get shared online. There are different varieties, but the message is essentially the same. “Look at my kama. See how much I am controlled by my senses. In fact, I am more controlled by them than you are.”

Friend1: I never thought about it that way. It’s true, though. You’re saying people would be better off showing how renounced they are?

Friend2: The showing off thing is not necessary, but it’s the principle behind it. Kama is the all-devouring enemy for a reason. It’s not so easy to conquer. Nevertheless, a person should at least make an attempt. All good things come as a result. In Kali Yuga, the principle is reversed. What is wrong gets taken to be right. What chance, then, do people have at spiritual perfection?

Friend1: That’s why Lord Chaitanya came.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Exactly. The sound of the holy names can cleanse the heart. That name should be chanted all the time, under the guidance of guru, sadhu, and shastra. Then there can be paradise even within the dark age of Kali.

In Closing:

Take everything how it should be,

In Kali’s age upside down just see.


Krishna saying kama devouring enemy all,

But now attention to indulgence to call.


Ravana over senses control having none,

Thus all his opulence, his power undone.


Even in this age where dark and no hope in sight,

Rescue from sound of holy names light.