Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why Do The Impersonalists Get So Mad

[Lord Krishna]“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)

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Friend1: I’ve got a good one for you.

Friend2: Shoot.

Friend1: Is an impersonalist an asura?

Friend2: Ooh, that does sound good. First define the two terms.

Friend1: Impersonalist believes that God is without form. You can’t worship Him directly, since He is incorporeal. Everything is part of God. Everything is one.

Friend2: That’s more or less it. What about the asura?

Friend1: They are generally against God. The word is a negation of sura, which means “devotee” or “someone who believes in God.”

Friend2: Okay. Do you think you have answered your own question?

Friend1: What if the impersonalist doesn’t know any better? What if they are not particularly against God; they just don’t know that He has a form?

Friend2: You’re talking about the distinction between a Brahmavadi and a Mayavadi. A Brahmavadi concludes that everything is impersonal. They simply don’t know better. That is the summit to their knowledge. They have yet to experience the blissful life that comes through devotion to God the person. The Mayavadi has heard about God’s form and has rejected it.

Friend1: I see. The reason I am asking is sometimes I see impersonalists get very upset when people talk about devotional service, especially to Shri Krishna.

Friend2: Of course. That makes total sense.

Friend1: But why would they care? If everything is impersonal, then wouldn’t that include worship of Krishna? Why wouldn’t they get just as upset at people watching sports or giving praise to a politician?

Friend2: Those are good questions. They’re angry because the authorized teachings of Shri Krishna found in the Bhagavad-gita debunk the Mayavada-impersonalist philosophy. It’s a challenge to their erroneous way of thinking.

Friend1: They view Krishna and His devotees as a threat.

Friend2: Exactly. The impersonalist philosophy basically makes everyone God. It also makes every activity legitimate. Do whatever you want. It doesn’t really matter. The goal is to merge into the impersonal spiritual energy that is Brahman, anyway. That goal is difficult to achieve. You have to take sannyasa, the renounced order, and live by very strict guidelines.

Friend1: By worshiping Krishna, it becomes acknowledged that someone else is God. There is more to it than the collective.

Friend2: Exactly. Shri Krishna addresses this in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that fools deride Him when He appears in the human form. They think that He has assumed material elements just like they have. They don’t know His true nature, which is changeless and supreme. Since it’s impossible to misinterpret such a straightforward statement, the cheaters take to attacking the very idea of personalism. They don’t accept it. If the impersonalists did, then they would have to admit their path is inferior. That’s why they get so angry.

Friend1: What should the reaction be on the other side?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Take it as a sign of success. You’re discussing the glories of the Supreme Lord. The bad people will always object. Like you said before, if they really believed in their impersonal philosophy, they wouldn’t have a problem. They are actually still in maya, or illusion. They don’t know things as they are, and therefore they become threatened by the genuine religion.

In Closing:

Impersonal Brahman in everything to see,

So why angry at yogis in bhakti to be?


Why not having reaction the same,

To playing sports, praising politicians by name?


Since devotion to their philosophy a threat,

That beyond Brahman, more from religion to get.


Worship of Shri Krishna, the supreme being one,

Then Mayavadis to have recourse none.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why Don’t You Talk About Christianity So Much?

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The highest summit of spiritual perfection is knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unless one is firmly convinced of the different opulences of the Supreme Lord, he cannot engage in devotional service. Generally people know that God is great, but they do not know in detail how God is great. Here are the details. If one knows factually how God is great, then naturally he becomes a surrendered soul and engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.7 Purport)

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Friend1: All religions are the same.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: What? I know you don’t believe that.

Friend2: They reference the same concept. There is something beyond the individual. There is a higher objective to life than to live like an animal.

Friend1: Okay, but I know that there are major differences as well.

Friend2: The four pillars of religious life are honesty, austerity, compassion, and cleanliness. These are universal principles, never the exclusive property of any particular group.

Friend1: If they were all the same, why do we discuss the Bhagavad-gita so much? Why not reference other religious traditions?

Friend2: They say that God is great. They say that He is Almighty. You will find such references in the Vedas as well. There are names that reference the Supreme Lord indirectly.

Friend1: Like which?

Friend2: Ishvara. Paramatma. These reference features in relation to the individual soul and material nature. They don’t necessarily reference a form.

Friend1: They are impersonal.

Friend2: In a sense. There is the story of Kakabhushundi, who continuously speaks the Ramayana to those who are fortunate to hear from him. He has an amazing story covering many births, leading to the body of a crow from which he never forgets the Supreme Lord Rama. In one of those births he met a guru who tried very hard to persuade him along the impersonal path. The guru explained God in vague terms, having no attributes. Kakabhushundi was not attracted by this philosophy; he wanted to go further. You could say that is the key distinction with the Vedas.

Friend1: They go further?

Friend2: Others declare that God is great. The Vedas explains just how great He is. Of course the potency is limitless; therefore Vedic literature continues to expand.

Friend1: Where does Christianity fit in? What about other faiths? Why don’t you reference them? I’ve heard some nice verses quoted by other people.

Friend2: Parampara. Disciplic succession. We follow what is taught to us. This is not to slight anyone else. I just don’t know much about Christianity. I know that Christ himself was amazing. He was not of this world. God is one, so if you follow your preferred religion properly, and provided that religion is authorized, then there is no harm.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Even within the Vedic tradition there are many branches of knowledge. There are different sections and philosophies suited to different desires. You can think of other spiritual traditions as something like subsections. The Puranas are ancient histories teaching the key concepts of Vedic philosophy through story form and through transcripts of conversations between notable sages and their disciples. You can think of these other religions like Puranas if you want.

Friend2: Are we not missing out by focusing solely on the Vedas and books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam?

Friend1: That I can answer confidently. We are not missing anything. Everything is explained in the Shrimad Bhagavatam alone, up to the capacity of the human mind to understand. That work even explains why there are so many religions. Living entities have different desires, and they find systems to match those desires.

Friend2: What do you mean by “system”?

Friend1: Ways to reach the objective. If you want ascension to the heavenly realm after death, there is demigod worship. If you want amazing abilities, out of body experiences, there is yoga. If you want great wealth even in this lifetime, there is karma. If you want peace of mind, there is renunciation. There is a pathway even if you desire harm to others. So many dharmas there are, but by following Krishna in true surrender, sharanagati, you don’t have to worry about them.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

[Krishna's lotus feet]Devotion to Krishna is the superior path since it already includes the enjoyment from the other paths. It goes beyond, matching the soul’s essential characteristic.

In Closing:

Why of other religions you don’t speak.

Is not something of value in each?


Like quote or verse from which to learn,

Higher wisdom from diversity to earn.


Shrimad Bhagavatam having everything and more,

Explaining all desires, pillars of religion four.


Not slight intended, from parampara taking,

Surrender to Krishna best shelter making.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Radhashtami 2016

[Shrimati Radharani]“Lord Chaitanya also recommended that the highest mode of worship in the highest perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja. These damsels (gopis, or cowherd girls) simply loved Krishna without a motive for material or spiritual gain.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Preface)

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Who is God? Can it be a person? Is that not too limiting? Is God male or female? Aren’t there defects in that? A male can’t give birth to a child. A female can’t impregnate someone else. If God is male, then it means He is lacking something, no? If He’s female, He’s to be considered weaker, right?

The Vedas teach that there is a male aspect to the Divine, accompanied by a female aspect. The male is known as Krishna. His name means “all-attractive.” This attractiveness is seen in a spiritual form. Something that is lacking attributes by definition cannot have attractive features. It is featureless. The Supreme Lord is the most beautiful person in all the universes. The same Krishna personally expands to other non-different forms like Rama, Narasimha, and Vishnu.

The female aspect to the Divine is known as Radha. She is the queen of Vrindavana, so she is also known as Radharani. Her complexion is golden, and she is the most beautiful woman. The only difference between the two is that one is the enjoyer while the other is enjoyed. On the occasion of Radhashtami we celebrate the enjoyed, who acts only for the pleasure of her beloved.

Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared that the worship of the gopis is the best. This is when discussing bhakti-yoga, devotional service. The gopis are the cowherd women of Vrindavana, and Radharani is their leader. A person can spend many lifetimes studying the love of the gopis and still reach no end. Their superiority in devotion is shown in many ways. On the special day honoring the appearance of Shrimati Radharani, we look back to one time when Krishna fell ill.

Krishna has a headache

Vrindavana is the spiritual world, the topmost planet in the realm known as Vaikuntha. A replica version of Vrindavana exists in the material world, and occasionally, as defined in terms of the lengthy span of the creation, the Supreme Lord descends to show His lila, or pastimes. Radharani simultaneously appears in Vrindavana, as do the male and female friends, the sakhas and sakhis.

[Lord Krishna]In His manifest pastimes, Krishna does not stay in Vrindavana the entire time. At the onset of adulthood, He leaves for Mathura, and later becomes the king of Dvaraka. There He lives with many beautiful queens in exquisite palaces.

One time Narada Muni visited Krishna in Dvaraka. Narada is a triloka sanchari; He travels the three worlds spreading the message of bhakti. When the saint met Krishna, he found out that the Supreme Lord had a headache. Krishna knew what the remedy was. He needed the dust of the lotus feet of His devotees. He asked Narada to bring that for Him.

Narada searches for the dust

This was a strange request. In Vedic culture, taking the dust of someone’s feet is considered a sign of great respect. The junior takes the dust from the senior. In a household, the residents do this with the dust of a visiting saint. There is also a practice where the senior’s feet are washed, with the juniors then drinking the water.

Narada first went to the queens in Dvaraka. They were unhappy that Krishna had a headache, but they were reluctant to do as asked. “This is adharma. This goes against everything we practice. It will be so sinful to think we are superiors who can offer the dust from our feet to Krishna.” It is the custom for the wives to worship the husband.

Narada had to continue in his search. He went to Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. These are highly exalted beings who are worshiped by so many. Shiva can grant amazing blessings, which he has done many times in the past. They both refused. They would not violate etiquette, even if it was what Krishna asked.

Narada visits the gopis

Narada returned to Krishna to tell the Lord of his failure. Krishna then asked if Narada had visited the gopis in Vrindavana. The saint hadn’t, and so he was soon on his way. The amazing thing about the gopis is that they don’t consider themselves to be great devotees. This mood is genuine; they are not faking humility as a means of garnering attention or advancing towards a higher objective.

The gopis didn’t like the request, either. They thought it was odd that someone would consider them to be great devotees. They were simple village girls, after all. They were in the pain of separation from their beloved, who had left them for the city life. Still, they were glad to see Narada, since the saint had news about Krishna.

The gopis aren’t afraid to suffer the reactions

Krishna asked for the dust from the feet of His devotees. The gopis didn’t consider themselves to be so exalted, but Krishna needed help. Shrimati Radharani generated some dust from her feet. Then her other gopi friends followed. Narada had enough to bring back. He wondered why they weren’t afraid to violate etiquette. The gopis responded that their lone objective was to see Krishna happy. If that meant suffering in hell afterwards, they were prepared to make the sacrifice.

[Shrimati Radharani]Narada returned to Krishna with the dust. Krishna was immediately cured and then spoke of the glories of the gopis. Radharani is so close to Krishna that she is not afraid to chastise Him sometimes. She and her friends make fun of Him and try to bring down His ego. Yet it is all in good fun, done out of pure love. Radha thinks only about Krishna, which makes her the most dear to the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Headache remedy in sage Narada to trust,

Sent to get from feet of devotees dust.


Though for their beloved ready anything to give,

Queens in Dvaraka afraid of sin impossible to forgive.


Brahma and Shiva also refusing,

Path of dharma steadfastly choosing.


Generating instantly the gopis by Radha headed,

Not afraid, even moment’s pain for Krishna dreaded.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Five Things I Remember When Seeing The Flag On Arjuna’s Chariot

[Hanuman flag on Arjuna's chariot]“One day while Krishna was staying with the Pandavas, He and Arjuna prepared themselves to go to the forest to hunt. Both of them sat down on the chariot, which flew a flag with a picture of Hanuman. Arjuna's special chariot is always marked with the picture of Hanuman, and therefore his name is also Kapidhvaja. (Kapi means Hanuman, and dhvaja means ‘flag.’)” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 3)

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Arjuna was capable. He had his chariot. He had his powerful bow. On a previous occasion he proved his amazing marksmanship. He was acknowledged to be the best fighter in the world with the bow and arrow, the weapon of choice in the time period in question.

Ever increasing the odds of success, Arjuna had Shri Krishna as his charioteer. Krishna is Narayana in a human form. Not exactly human, but something resembling a mortal, Shri Krishna was the well-wisher of the Pandava brothers, who unfairly had their kingdom taken away from them. The wicked Duryodhana refused to give it back, and so war was inevitable.

Arjuna had the support of Krishna as his guide. Arjuna had the support of his arms in battle. But you can never have enough support in a struggle against a powerful foe. There was a flag with a noteworthy image hanging from Arjuna’s chariot. The choice of flag was significant.

1. The meeting of Hanuman and Bhima

Arjuna is known as Kapidhvaja since he has the flag of Hanuman on his chariot. Shri Hanuman is one of the heroes of the Ramayana, a Sanskrit work of epic length. Hanuman is an eternally liberated soul appearing in the body of a monkey. The Sanskrit word kapi means “monkey,” and so one of the ways Arjuna is known is through his flying the flag of the monkey-servant Hanuman on his chariot.

Hanuman is a dear servant of the Supreme Lord, and one time he had the chance to speak about the service to Bhima, who was one of Arjuna’s brothers. Bhima was searching for a flower on a mountain when he ran into Hanuman. Both Hanuman and Bhima come from the wind-god, Vayu, so they are also brothers.

The meeting was auspicious on both sides. Being pleased with Bhima triggering remembrance of Shri Rama in Hanuman, the great servant asked Bhima to take a boon. As a result, Hanuman promised to be on the battlefield with the brothers through the flag on Arjuna’s chariot. Rama is the same Krishna. Both Arjuna and Hanuman are great devotees of the Supreme Lord, heroically entering into battle to uphold dharma.

2. The meeting of Hanuman and Arjuna

The events described in Vedic literature don’t all take place in the same period of creation. The universe goes through cycles of creation and dissolution. Many of the same events take place, but the exact sequence may be different, with nuances changing here and there.

In the aural tradition passed on through the ages, there is a story of a meeting between Hanuman and Arjuna. Arjuna wants to know why Shri Rama required a bridge made of stones to cross the ocean to Lanka. For starters, Hanuman made the journey through a single leap. Rama is supposed to be God, so why did He require help from monkeys and stones to defeat Ravana, the evil king of Lanka who had taken away Rama’s wife in secret?

In their meeting, Hanuman explained to Arjuna that rocks would not have held the weight of the powerful monkeys. Feeling proud of his ability, Arjuna then proceeded to make a bridge of arrows, which would ostensibly support anyone, including Hanuman. Hanuman carried through with the test by breaking the bridge. Because of the defeat Arjuna was ready to enter fire. Then the Supreme Lord appeared and explained the situation. Both Arjuna and Hanuman were great devotees, and so there was no reason to quarrel. Hanuman would stay with Arjuna on the flag on his chariot.

3. Hanuman’s presence is a reminder of perseverance

Hanuman’s journey to Lanka did not go smoothly. There were obstacles along the way, both physical and mental. Hanuman was strong enough to defeat anyone, but at key moments the righteous path was not always clear. There were celestials to consider and boons they had given to others. There were females in hideous forms obstructing his way. Then there was also lack of success, as Hanuman had done so much and still not found Sita Devi.

Perseverance was necessary, and Hanuman had it. That perseverance was rooted in love for Shri Rama. Because of that love Hanuman eventually succeeded. That same perseverance would be needed by Arjuna. There would be many battles in the Bharata war, and at times things wouldn’t look good. Hanuman’s presence is a reminder that perseverance in devotional service pays off.

4. Arjuna is also a servant of God

Though Arjuna was related to Krishna as a cousin and also a good friend, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra he was a servant. Though Krishna was steering the chariot, Arjuna was the one serving the cause of righteousness. This was for Krishna’s pleasure, as the Lord wanted the burden of unrighteous men removed from the earth. Arjuna was fighting valiantly in service, as Hanuman had done previously. Therefore the flag of Hanuman was most appropriate to fly from Arjuna’s chariot.

5. The flag of devotion

There was yuddha, or conflict, but actually the same perseverance and strength are applied by Hanuman in everything he does for Rama. His work is devotional service, after all. Though he is the most powerful, Hanuman is not concerned with his strength. Bhima wanted Hanuman to show a gigantic form, and Hanuman only agreed reluctantly. Hanuman explained that the form wasn’t so important.

[Hanuman flag on Arjuna's chariot]The flag of devotion appropriately flew on the chariot of devotion steered by Krishna and directed by Arjuna. The devotee who is in yoga has that unbreakable connection with the Supreme Lord. Krishna guides from within as the chaitya-guru, ensuring that all work has the positive end result of continued connection in bliss to the Divine.

In Closing:

When flag on Arjuna’s chariot to see,

Reminded of Hanuman, how wonderful is he.


How with brother Bhima one time met,

And broke Partha’s arrow-bridge carefully set.


Hanuman for Rama flying here and there,

By obstacles and dissuading time never scared.


A flag of devotion flying most of all,

Continuing in service, stature large or small.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Five Things Bhima Learned From Meeting Hanuman

[Shri Hanuman]“There is a well-known verse spoken by Hanuman in which he says, ‘My dear Lord, if You like You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of these things. I do not want anything which diminishes my relationship with You as servant to master, even after liberation.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 4)

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Bhimasena was terrifying. He was extremely strong, and known for going into fits of rage. He defeated the powerful Jarasandha, through the help of his well-wisher, Shri Krishna. Since he was a voracious eater, he was also known as Vrikodara. He was one of the famous Pandava brothers, five sons to the king named Pandu. They are the heroes of the epic Mahabharata, which teaches Vedic philosophy through the narration of historical events, from a bygone era.

Though Pandu is the acknowledged father, the Pandavas actually took birth from different demigods. Bhima is the offspring of the wind-god, Vayu. The wind is very powerful. Though it is a subtle material element, in that it can’t be seen, its potency is tremendous. Wind alone can bring down the sturdiest of buildings. It can wreak havoc on any outdoor activity. Wind within the body is very important as well. Good health is all about controlling the different airs within, allowing them unobstructed access.

Shri Hanuman is another famous offspring of the wind-god. One time the two brothers met. This was a chance encounter, for Bhima was headed somewhere else. The meeting was auspicious on both sides, with Hanuman taking great delight and Bhima learning several important things.

1. His brother looks out for him

The meeting happened through a search. The five Pandava brothers shared a queen by the name of Draupadi. She was the most chaste lady, and she became the wife through an interesting series of events and extraordinary circumstances. One time while the group was living in the forest, the wind blew a certain flower towards the princess. She was so pleased by this that she asked Bhima to find out from where it had come.

Bhima’s subsequent search led him to a mountainous area that featured plantain trees. He was headed in the direction of those trees when Hanuman spotted him. The path led to the heavenly region, and Hanuman wasn’t sure if Bhima would be safe proceeding. The celestials could curse him for entering the area without their permission.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman impeded the path by lying down, pretending to sleep. Bhima tried to get across but could not. Hanuman is in the body of a monkey, and so he told Bhima he could continue if he could move his tail. Bhima tried hard, using even both of his arms, but he was not successful in moving Hanuman’s tail. Hanuman did all of this to protect his brother.

2. The boon Hanuman received from Rama

Bhima knew he had a brother. He knew that the brother was one of the heroes of the Ramayana, which is another Sanskrit work of epic length. But Bhima did not recognize Hanuman for who he was. After speaking for a bit, Hanuman revealed his true identity. Then Bhima heard from Hanuman some of the history from the Ramayana period.

In including the life and details of Shri Rama, Hanuman explained that he received a boon from Rama. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, identical to Shri Krishna and Vishnu. Rama is the detail behind the abstract picture of God that the human being has prior to entering the spiritual science of Vedic culture.

Hanuman is the most dear servant to Rama, having accomplished amazing things in service. Rama was ready to give Hanuman anything, but the son of the wind asked to simply remain in the world for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be told. Thus Bhima’s brother taught him what the most important benediction in life is. Continued devotion is far superior to any material reward.

3. The favor Hanuman receives from Sita Devi

Shri Hanuman does not have to go to a job. He does not have to work all day. All his needs are supplied by Rama’s wife Sita Devi. She is the goddess of fortune. Since Rama is married to her, Rama is never poor. Even if He is in the renounced garb of a forest-wanderer, Rama remains the richest person in the world. Through Hanuman’s example we see that when a person takes up devotion to God the person, whatever they need to practice that devotion is automatically provided for them.

4. Seeing a gigantic form is not so important

When Bhima learned that the person obstructing the path to the heavenly realm was his brother Hanuman, he asked the dear servant of Rama to show that gigantic form used to cross the ocean of eight hundred miles. Though he is in the body of a monkey, Hanuman has possession of the siddhis of yoga. These are perfections in mysticism, amazing abilities that normally take many years of practice to acquire.

At first Hanuman hesitated to show the form. He used the excuse that time had diminished his abilities. The events of the Ramayana took place in the Treta Yuga, which is the second age of creation. Hanuman explained the different yugas and how dharma, or virtue, diminishes by one fourth with each period.

After having heard such a wonderful explanation, Bhima was still insistent on seeing. So Hanuman expanded his form to the gigantic one he used to leap over the ocean in search of Sita, who had gone missing from Rama’s side. Hanuman explained that such a form was not so important. If it were, Hanuman would remain in that size all the time.

5. Hanuman adds to the shouts of his ferocious brother

While Bhima learned so much from meeting his brother and also had his hair stand on end from seeing the gigantic form, Hanuman was pleased from the meeting as well. Through Bhima’s visit, Hanuman was able to recount the glories of Shri Rama. This is what makes him happiest. Therefore Hanuman requested Bhima to take a boon.

The boon received was Hanuman’s favor. Hanuman explained that he would stay on the chariot of Arjuna, who was one of Bhima’s Pandava brothers. Through that flag Hanuman would add to the shouts of Bhima. Combined, this sound would instill terror in the enemies. In this way we see that Hanuman’s image on a flag is equal to his presence. The devoted servant of Sita and Rama has this amazing ability, and so anyone who earns his favor is extremely blessed.

In Closing:

Towards Pandava group flower blew,

Draupadi asked to find origin, where it grew.


That search Bhima towards Hanuman brought,

Vayu-begotten brother then many things taught.


How devotion to God best blessing to seek,

And dharma diminishing with yuga each.


To stay on the flag of Arjuna agreed,

Combining with Bhima’s roar terrifying indeed.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Five Obligations Automatically Satisfied Through Bhakti-yoga

[Lord Krishna]“Anyone who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, the giver of liberation, giving up all kinds of obligation, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.41)

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You meet someone nice. Their kindness is beyond measure. You don’t understand what you did to deserve the treatment. You consider yourself to be a good person. A sinner from time to time, but you try your best. You don’t go out of your way to harm people. Yet this person has sacrificed so much for you. They’ve gone beyond general kindness. You’re not sure how to repay them.

Indeed, this is acknowledgment, but imagine the many services performed for us of which we are not consciously aware. The Bhagavad-gita says that the living entity is not the doer. Under illusion they think they are, but actually the modes of nature take care of the reactions to work. Those modes are under the control of the law of karma, which operates in conjunction with kala, or time.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

As we are not the doer, we owe so much to others. Fortunately, Vedic philosophy takes the guesswork out. It mentions three categories of debt assumed right at the time of birth. Other obligations can develop along the way. Devotion to God, bhakti-yoga, is so potent that it automatically satisfies these obligations; no separate endeavor is required.

1. To the forefathers

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the people who came before us in the family. We may not be pleased with our material condition, but at least we have a human body. The animals can’t go beyond the four activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. They can’t listen to philosophy and absorb it. They can’t relate key points to their own experiences. There is a low ceiling as it relates to intelligence.

The human birth is the opportunity to understand spiritual matters. That birth was made possible by people appearing in the family prior to us. Generally, this obligation is met through begetting a son. Pass on the family traditions. In the Bhagavad-gita the warrior Arjuna wisely notes that maintaining family traditions is vital for the proper maintenance of society and standards of decency.

“When there is increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such corrupt families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.41)

2. To the demigods

We can’t live without eating. We can’t eat without rain. We can’t get rain without the favor of the celestials. They are known as devas in Sanskrit, which roughly translates to “gods.” They are heavenly figures due to their abilities and where they live. Yet they are still living entities, having a difference between body and spirit. They go through the cycle of birth and death.

“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)

When we take birth, it is indirectly due to the favor of the demigods. Because of rain, our parents and forefathers were able to remain alive. Only the living can bring forth new life. This obligation is typically satisfied through the performance of yajna, which is sacrifice. Make the gods happy and you have repaid the debt.

3. To the rishis

There is the first birth through the parents, but the human being is meant for a second, more important birth. This comes through approaching a bona fide guru and entering spiritual life. The second birth is really what separates the human being from the animal. Spiritual life is the destiny for the living entity, for it brings them back into their dharma, their essential characteristic.

[Valmiki writing]The second birth is made possible due to the work of past saints. Along with other terms, they are described as rishis. They sacrificed so much in order to propagate the highest knowledge to society as a whole. We know of the Bhagavad-gita due to rishis from the past. They passed on the wisdom in a chain of succession known as parampara. The debt to the rishis is typically satisfied by studying shastra, or scripture.

4. To family members

This is basically in the same category as the forefathers. The family does so much for us. We have no memory of exiting the womb, but it did happen. We were helpless at that point. The parents sacrificed so much for us, but likely there were other family members who also helped. That service is long forgotten. Just because we can’t remember, it doesn’t mean the service didn’t happen. This debt is particularly difficult to repay, since we’re unsure of how to properly serve others.

5. To living entities in general

Thanks to the drivers who obey the traffic laws. Thanks to the boss for being honest about providing a paycheck. Thanks to the weatherman on television for giving an accurate forecast for the upcoming week. Thanks to the actor for entertaining us for so many years. Thanks to the sweepers for keeping the streets clean.

In this way you could go on and on thanking others for their service, which is integral to a functioning society. This category is similar to the family members, with only the scope of appreciation expanded. Again, what is the best way to serve others, to make them happy?

Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, satisfies all obligations because it is directed at the source of everything. The aim of the human birth is to be God realized, after all. Satisfying the Supreme Lord automatically pays the debts to the forefathers, the demigods, and the saints. It is the best service to the family, for they automatically earn a share of the reward. They played a hand in the achievement.

[Lord Krishna]A God conscious soul is a true jewel in society. They are perfectly behaved and they can give the most valuable information to others. One of God’s names is Mukunda, which means “one who grants liberation.” When a debt remains unpaid, the living entity must take birth again. This is part of their karma, or fruitive activity. Mukunda grants release from the cycle of birth and death, which means that all debts are automatically paid through His favor.

In Closing:

Through forefathers making our way,

Debts to rishis and demigods also to pay.


Since living their favor through,

Helping every person, me and you.


Perform sacrifice, beget a son,

Study shastra to have obligations none.


Bhakti towards Mukunda for way more direct,

And all living entities the benefit to get.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Five Ways The Asuras Cause Disturbance

[Durga and Kamsa]“My dear brother, please do not kill this female child. I promise that this child will be the wife of your son; therefore don't kill her. You are not to be killed by any female child. That was the omen. You are to be killed by a male child, so please do not kill her. My dear brother, you have killed so many of my children who were just born, shining as the sun. That is not your fault. You have been advised by demoniac friends to kill my children. But now I beg you to excuse this girl. Let her live as my daughter.” (Devaki speaking to Kamsa, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 4)

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Sura and asura. These are complementary terms in Sanskrit. One is a negation of the other. There is a specific quality which is the determining factor. When it is present, the individual is a sura. When it is lacking, an asura has been found. That quality is belief in God, to at least some extent.

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

The asura is compared to a demon. They don’t necessarily have to be a ghoulish creature with a terrifying visage. They can be a beautiful looking person too; good on the outside, really bad on the inside. The asura usually does not sit still. They are not content in their atheism. While the sura generally leaves people alone, the asura causes disturbance. They do so in different ways, and when the situation becomes dire for mankind as a whole, the Supreme Lord intervenes to offer protection.

1. Imprisoning the innocent

King Kamsa should have been happy. His sister Devaki just got married. It was arranged to a pious person named Vasudeva. On the way towards dropping his sister off to her new home, Kamsa heard a voice from the sky. It prophesied that her sister’s eighth child would kill him. Kamsa was so attached to his temporary body that he decided he couldn’t let the unchangeable future unfold. He imprisoned both his sister and her new husband.

[Durga escaping from Kamsa]Kamsa went further. With every child that was born to Devaki, Kamsa took it and threw it against a stone slab. This is really no different than the modern practice of abortion; just a difference in time and method. Yet the visual made his true nature crystal clear to everyone. Kamsa was indeed an asura on the inside.

Kamsa looked to be in the clear when he attempted to kill what he thought was the eighth child. It was actually Yogamaya, Durga Devi herself, who slipped out of the king’s hands. The real eighth child was named Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had snuck away to the neighboring town of Gokula. The Divine will can never be denied, and so Devaki’s eighth child would indeed come to kill the horrible king.

2. Stopping religious activities

The brahmanas, the priest-like members of society, took refuge in the forest. The areas were known as tapo-vanas; places conducive to austerity and penance. The brahmanas had nothing. They lived away from civilization, not bothering anyone.

Then you had the Rakshasas. These are something like human beings, but with a conspicuous trait. They eat human beings. Their favorite flesh is that belonging to the priestly class. Their killings weren’t accidental, either. The Rakshasas would target the time of sacrifice, when the priests were engaged in worship of God. Since they attacked at night, the Rakshasas were known as nishacharas.

“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.19)

[Rama shooting arrow]These horrible creatures met their match in a young man named Rama. He protected the sacrifice of Vishvamitra. Maricha witnessed that protection firsthand, when Rama shot an arrow at him that hurled the Rakshasa eight hundred miles away into an ocean. Rama is the same Krishna, appearing on earth in the role of defender many thousands of years ago.

3. Stealing

We knew of what happened to Maricha based on his own testimony delivered one time to the king of Rakshasas, Ravana. Maricha told the story as a way to dissuade Ravana from a bad idea he had. The king of Lanka heard about Rama’s wife Sita residing in the forest. Though he had so many beautiful queens already, Ravana could not live without this woman, who he heard had beauty never before seen on earth.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Ravana went through with his plan anyway, using Maricha as a distraction. This time Maricha didn’t escape alive, and though Ravana made it back to Lanka with Sita, time was not on his side. Just because a person gets away with a sinful act for the time being, it doesn’t mean that they will forever remain safe. The sinner’s fruit arrives at the appropriate time, and it is ghastly. Rama would come and rescue Sita, destroying Ravana and his kingdom in the process.

4. Preventing even mental contemplation of God

Prahlada Maharaja was an innocent five year old. He was the son of the king named Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada had one interest. This interest didn’t cause anyone trouble. Prahlada did not require anyone else’s help, either. If my child is interested in playing a particular sport, I may have to make sacrifices in order to encourage the development of that desire. Not the case with Prahlada; he only wanted to worship Vishnu, who is God the person. Vishnu is just another form of the singular Divine, non-different from Krishna and Rama.

As a Daitya demon in both heredity and personal quality, Hiranyakashipu couldn’t tolerate this. He was so against Vishnu that he tried to have Prahlada killed. Maricha and his friends tried to stop formal worship by the brahmanas, and Hiranyakashipu went further by trying to stop mental worship, known as Krishna consciousness. Once again the Supreme Lord arrived on the scene to offer protection. Vishnu came as a half-man/half-lion named Narasimha and removed the obstacle known as Hiranyakashipu by tearing him in half at the stomach.

5. Taking land

After Shri Krishna rid the world of the evil Kamsa, He lived peacefully in the city of Mathura. There shouldn’t have been problems, but not everyone in the world is nice. There was one king from Magadha named Jarasandha. He attacked Mathura once and was soundly defeated. Krishna and His brother Balarama defended against the aggressor, and the rival went away embarrassed in defeat.

“Jarasandha, the King of Magadha, not only besieged the city of Mathura once, but he attacked it seventeen times in the same way, equipped with the same number of military phalanxes. Each and every time, he was defeated, and all his soldiers were killed by Krishna, and each time he had to return disappointed in the same way. Each time, the princely order of the Yadu dynasty arrested Jarasandha in the same way and again released him in an insulting manner, and each time Jarasandha shamelessly returned home.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 49)

The asura is relentless in their enmity with the Supreme Lord. So Jarasandha continued to attack, seventeen times in total. One benefit from the attacks was that the underwater city of Dvaraka was erected. This offered more protection until the time was right for Jarasandha’s demise. This occurred through Krishna’s grace, but the mighty warrior Bhima was the actual instrument of death. Again the Supreme Lord offered protection. The pious know that He delivers them in this way, and so they stay with Him. One way they do this is by always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Towards atheism bent,

Supreme Lord always against.


Asura though not alone to stay,

Intentionally to get in devotee’s way.


Like Maricha attacking sacrificial fire,

Jarasandha on Mathura never to tire.


Kamsa innocent babies dashed against stone,

All solved by Krishna, as greatest protector He’s known.