Saturday, September 17, 2016

Quacks And Their Patients

[Krishna meditating]“Yoga does not mean going to some class, paying some money, engaging in gymnastics, and then returning home to drink, smoke, and engage in sex. Such yoga is practiced by societies of the cheaters and the cheated. The authoritative yoga system is here outlined by the supreme authority, Shri Krishna Himself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Path of Perfection, Ch 4)

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Friend1: Listen, I’m saying this objectively. I am biased for sure, but I do know something about the other religions and philosophies of the world. There is nothing that compares to that which descends from the Vedic tradition.

Friend2: That is true by definition, since it is all-inclusive. Every philosophy is explained. Every mental speculation that has arisen since the beginning of time is merely a derivative of what the greatest brain of the Supreme Lord already thought up. That wisdom He passed on to the keepers of the most confidential knowledge that is Vedanta.

Friend1: So here’s my question. If I know this and you know this, why don’t other people know this?

Friend2: I’m not sure I follow. Can’t we just tell them?

Friend1: But sometimes even after we tell them, they still don’t believe. They go back to their other philosophies. Or worse, they return to material sense gratification.

Friend2: That is the default position. It is the animal mentality. Just enjoy the senses as much as possible. Eat, sleep, mate and defend. Don’t think anything beyond. Don’t contemplate a purpose to life, lest you risk going mad.

Friend1: Why are these other philosophies so popular, though? Some even try to say they are based in the Vedas? To me they mostly deal with sense gratification. “Worship so and so and you’ll get what you want. Retire to this isolated place and find inner peace. Refrain from this and you’ll be happy. Do yoga for a certain number of hours each day and see your life change.”

Friend2: You’ve heard of “cheaters and the cheated”?

Friend1: Yes. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses that term quite often.

Friend2: Right. He actually got it from his guru, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. It means that there are people who want to cheat, and they are patronized by others who want to be cheated.

Friend1: The cheaters part I understand. There will always be bad characters in society. Why would someone want to be cheated, though?

Friend2: The same reason we are all in this material world. Aversion to devotional service, bhakti-yoga. I still have some material desires. Therefore I will approach someone who will try to satisfy those desires. Why will I listen to someone who tells me that the meaning of life is to change the nature of desire to wanting to please the Supreme Lord, who is known as Krishna since He is all-attractive?

Friend1: I see. Do they actually get a benefit?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Do the cheaters give them what they want?

Friend2: Absolutely. Sometimes the cheated get exactly what they’re looking for. Think about it. They start off not wanting to be devoted to God the person. The end result is that they maintain the position. Sometimes that position is strengthened.

Friend1: It seems to me that the cheaters should be exposed? Or at least the people being cheated should know the full story?

Friend2: There is a funny line I heard from Benjamin Franklin. He was one time discussing the issue of quacks.

Friend1: As in fake doctors?

[Doctor]Friend2: Right. People saying they had some healing formula, when they really didn’t. Anyway, he said that quacks are the greatest liars, except for their patients.

Friend1: Oh, that’s funny.

Friend2: It’s very clever. He’s saying that the patients are what make the quacks popular. The patients tell everyone they got healed by the quackery. That’s what makes it harder to prevent the fake doctor from continuing their practice.

Friend1: So you’re saying the cheated in terms of false religions and faulty philosophies are just as guilty as the teachers?

Friend2: Of course. The cheating guru says pay me some money and I’ll give you a mantra. They say that if I touch your head, all your problems will magically go away. Let’s say that these things do happen. What is the aftermath? If your problem vanishes through a magic touch, does that mean you won’t have problems anymore? If you bought a mantra from me, what is that mantra going to do for you? If it’s really that beneficial, why would I charge money for it? If I am a true saint who wants to help people, wouldn’t I want to give that mantra to as many people as possible?

Friend1: Makes sense.

Friend2: The genuine path is yoga, and real yoga involves austerities and certain conditions for success. There is something called mantra-yoga, and it is effective when the focus, or dhyana, is on the Supreme Lord. Fortunately, He can be accessed directly through the names that identify Him; thereby making the mantras featuring these names the best to use in yoga.

[Krishna meditating]Friend1: And of course the maha-mantra is ideal for this kind of yoga. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Quack the general public to cheat,

One after another in patient’s seat.


But actually to the cured this is due,

Telling stories, complicit they are too.


In spiritual life following the same,

Cheated from guru selling holy name.


Yoga there when genuine connection you desire,

Contemplation on Krishna taking consciousness higher.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five Ways Shri Rama Catches The Devotees

[Rama hugging Hanuman]“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)

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The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of goodness. The Sanskrit term is shudda-sattva. This is pure goodness; not tainted by any of the material modes of nature. Even the celestials have some hint of material desire in them. Despite living on the heavenly planets and having direct access to the Supreme Lord, sometimes the illusory energy known as maya gets a hold of them.

Since He is all-attractive, one of God’s names is Krishna. He is also all-pervading; hence He is known as Ishvara. Since He is superior to the individual soul, He is also known as Paramatma. From whatever angle of vision we come, there is a way to relate to the Almighty. Based on His supreme standing, He is automatically fit for worship. He is the person to love the most.

Despite not needing to provide any justification for why others should worship Him, He is still kind enough to appear on earth every now and then. Since He is pure goodness, He doesn’t have to behave ideally, either. When He steals butter from the homes of the neighbors in Vrindavana, He is glorified for it for all of eternity. In His incarnation of Shri Rama, who appeared on earth during the second time period of creation, He acted in certain ways to catch the attention of devotees. Once bound in the net of prema, or transcendental love, there is no letting go of that beloved husband of Sita.

1. He walks the righteous path

The saintly kings in the early periods of the creation upheld dharma. There are several meanings to this Sanskrit word, but in relation to protectors it means “virtue.” The kings made sure everyone was behaving righteously, including themselves. Shri Rama was the ideal king since He always walked the righteous path.

One aspect to a righteous king is impartiality. Basically, don’t show favors to people who influence you. Uphold the law, and don’t hold a grudge, either. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana one time remarked that even the people Rama punished from time to time weren’t upset at Him. They knew that He was simply abiding by the duties of the princely order. This feature in Rama is especially attractive to those who pride themselves on doing good, on being polite and following etiquette.

2. He sacrifices for others

Who is more adored in society? The person who constantly enjoys, doing whatever they want, whenever they want. Or is it the person who doesn’t think of themselves, sacrificing everything for the benefit of others? Obviously, the latter gets more positive attention due to the fact that it is difficult to make sacrifices. Who wants to intentionally be in pain just so that someone else can enjoy?

Shri Rama sacrificed the kingdom and His ability to rule over Ayodhya. He did this to uphold the good name of His father, Dasharatha. Rama left home for fourteen years, and He didn’t take much with Him. Though Sita came along, the two refrained from amorous pastimes. They both observed the vow of brahmacharya.

Rama helped a distressed Vanara named Sugriva. Though He didn’t know Sugriva for long, Rama inserted Himself in the conflict between Sugriva and his brother Vali. Indeed, Rama never seeks personal comforts. He is always concerned with what those who are dear to Him desire.

3. He is grateful to His friends

Shri Lakshmana also remarked on this feature. It’s very easy to forget. We can’t remember what we ate for breakfast two days ago. It’s simply impossible to keep so much information in the brain, ready to be accessed at any time. Part of forgetfulness means not remembering good deeds others have done for us. Indeed, just one bad experience with a person puts a black mark on them. Even if they were our friend before, cross me once and it’s over.

[Rama hugging Hanuman]Shri Rama is not like that. Just one deed done in His favor is remembered forever. There is the example of Jatayu, who risked his life trying to save Sita from the evil Ravana. The Vanaras working for Sugriva risked their lives to help rescue Sita afterwards. Rama never forgets, and so one who is devoted to Him finds the most grateful friend.

4. He brings fame to those who love Him

Rama continues to be famous in this world, long after His appearance, due to parampara. This is disciplic succession, where one person passes on what they know to someone else. The chain continues, and in this chain there is constant glorification of the hero of the Raghu dynasty.

The glorification is helped by an ancient Sanskrit text known as the Ramayana. This is a detailed account of Rama’s life and pastimes, though information can be found in other Vedic texts as well, such as the Puranas. Though the Ramayana is named after Him, Rama still gives fame to others. There is an entire section dedicated to the heroic exploits of Shri Hanuman. He is the chief minister to Sugriva. Since he was all by himself at the end of the search for Sita, Rama made sure everyone would know the greatness of His devotee. Rama chose Hanuman to have the fame of finding Sita. Today he is just as famous as Rama, and worshiped prominently in Vedic culture.

5. He is the ideal family man

There is a simple formula for making a film popular. Aside from getting good actors and including comedy and maybe some violence, stay on the issue of family. Stress the importance of spending time with the spouse and kids over chasing after the mighty dollar. Every person has a soft spot for their family members, after all.

In Shri Rama, a person finds the ideal family man. Though He walks the righteous path, He is not above persuasion. He gave in to the requests of Sita and Lakshmana to accompany Him to the forest. He loves His other brothers, Bharata and Shatrughna, just as much. He considers the Vanaras to be like family. He treats every citizen in Ayodhya like they are His dependent. Not surprisingly, Shri Rama is God Himself; He is pure love. That love attracts the devotees to His lotus feet. Though drawn in by His activities and deeds, the end result is what is important: continued devotion.

In Closing:

Spontaneously devoted should be,

But attracted when good qualities to see.


Like with Shri Rama shown,

To forest leaving everything to own.


In work for friends never tiring,

Like for Sugriva arrow firing.


To Shri Hanuman and others giving fame,

Blessed is the world that to it Rama came.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Should We Take Our Punishment Like A Man

[Krishna's lotus feet]“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)

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Friend1: The threefold miseries of life.

Friend2: Coming from the heavens, other living entities, and within.

Friend1: We are not the doer.

Friend2: Yes. Under the influence of the false ego, a person thinks that because certain consequences follow certain actions, that they are completely responsible for the chain of events. But actually, the three modes of material nature must first cooperate.

Friend1: Along these lines, I’ve got an interesting dilemma for you.

Friend2: Are you sure it’s not a conundrum?

Friend1: What’s the difference?

Friend2: In a conundrum there is more than one option. A dilemma is an either/or situation. At least that’s what someone told me one time.

Friend1: I see. I think this is a dilemma, then.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: The idea was sparked by some reading I did on the history of electricity. Did you know that lightning rods were controversial when they were first invented?

Friend2: I’m sure people didn’t know much about them. Were they worried that they wouldn’t work?

Friend1: There were some skeptics on that side. Some were worried that by grounding the electricity from the sky, it increased the chance of earthquakes.

Friend2: Interesting.

[Franklin electricity experiment]Friend1: The objection that caught my interest relates to God. Some religious people objected to the use of the lightning rod because it seemed to thwart the divine will.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Basically, thunder and lightning were punishments coming from the heavens. By trying to avoid the negative consequences, the people were fighting with God.

Friend2: That’s just silly. It rains, doesn’t it? Do people purposely go outside to take their punishment? Do people not look for shade during a scorching hot day?

Friend1: You’ve pretty much given the counterarguments used during that time period. It’s reasonable enough, I must say. But it got me to thinking on a higher level.

Friend2: About what?

Friend1: Punishment coming from God through the system of karma. Should we try to avoid it? Also, the Vedas do mention that lightning is controlled by higher authorities.

Friend2: The demigods. That’s why natural disasters fall into the adhidaivika category of miseries. Daiva refers to the devas, who are celestials. They are living entities, but have greater powers than ordinary man. They are still conditioned, and thus go through the cycle of birth and death.

Friend1: They are not God Himself.

Friend2: Correct.

Friend1: So could you say that those miseries aren’t directly related to God? The system of karma takes care of punishment and reward.

Friend2: You could say that. Are you asking if we should try to alleviate bad situations or just accept them as the will of the Divine?

Friend1: Exactly. Should we fight back? Is it better to just let nature run its course? What’s the answer to that question?

Friend2: Listen, the human birth is significant. It gives the unique chance to understand God. You can only understand Him when you are alive. Therefore just accepting pain and misery that increases the chances of death is not a good idea. There is the old saying that an empty sack can’t stand up straight. If you’re constantly in pain, how are you expected to have the focus necessary for success in spiritual matters?

Friend1: Okay, but how much resistance should there be? If we fight back too much, aren’t we succumbing to the illusion of thinking that we are the doer?

Friend2: There you go. You’ve basically solved the problem. Do as much as possible, but don’t over-endeavor. Don’t reach the point where you think you can actually remove all miseries on your own. That is never possible. Only the Supreme Lord can bring liberation. The idea is that when there is birth, there must be death. Since death will come eventually, there must be a misery that acts as a catalyst. We are really puppets in the hands of time, which spares no one.

Friend1: I understand what you’re saying. How do we tell if we’re over-endeavoring?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Stay conscious of the Supreme Lord. Know that He is not directly involved in karma. He sits back, as a neutral witness, residing in the heart as Paramatma. In His full feature of Bhagavan, He intervenes. He removes the karma of the living entity, and they remain karma-free for as long as they want only devotion to God. As long as they stay on the devotional path, then even death is not something to be feared. It represents the time of ascent to the spiritual world, where the devotion will continue and flourish even more.

In Closing:

Miseries from higher forces come,

How much to avoid should be done?


Instead of over-endeavor to make,

Like man our punishment should take?


Since human form most precious gift,

Best to preserve so to higher nature lift.


Worship Krishna, direct protection will give,

So that always in auspicious conditions to live.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What Is The Harm In Praying To Be Maintained

[Worshiping God]“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

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Friend1: Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesha

Friend2: The four-faced one, the four-armed one, and the foremost of the Vaishnavas.

Friend1: Clever.

Friend2: You like that, eh?

Friend1: The creator, the maintainer, and the destroyer.

Friend2: Very good.

Friend1: If they are in those roles, how can you say that any of them is superior? Isn’t creating just as important as maintaining?

Friend2: Absolutely. You can’t maintain something that hasn’t been created.

Friend1: Destruction is important, too. It keeps the cycle of birth and death going. It facilitates the desires of the jiva souls, who want to enjoy separate from God.

Friend2: Vishnu is superior because He never touches the material world, even in His role as maintainer, which is done through an expansion.

Friend1: Right, there are different Vishnus. They take on different roles, but they represent the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Friend2: Vishnu is purusha, while everything in relation to Him is prakriti. He is the cause of the creation, while everything else is the effect.

Friend1: Let me ask you this. What’s wrong with praying to Vishnu for maintaining things? Actually, let me put it more generically. What is the harm in asking God to maintain the present situation?

Friend2: Such as for your possessions and the like? You’re asking God to preserve what you have. You know there is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita that addresses this.

[Worshiping Krishna]Friend1: Okay, don’t get too far ahead. Stay within this realm. We’re not talking about the Bhagavad-gita here. Just basic prayer. What is wrong with asking for stuff for the purpose of being maintained?

Friend2: Who said it was wrong?

Friend1: Come on. I know about bhakti-yoga. There are different stages to it, but on the highest platform there is no hint of material desire. Basically, you don’t want anything except continued devotion to God the person.

Friend2: There you go. I think you answered your own question.

Friend1: What about someone who doesn’t know bhakti? How do we explain to them the harm in asking the Divine to maintain?

Friend2: What exactly are you maintaining? Don’t answer yet; that was a rhetorical question. As jiva souls deluded by the illusory energy known as maya, we don’t know what is good for us. We mistake a snake for a rope and vice versa. We think one politician will save us, but four years later we are eager to get rid of them. We blame the politician instead of the people who voted them into office.

Friend1: How can a home be bad for us, though? What is wrong in asking God to keep food on the table?

Friend2: Lack of true freedom. Being stuck in the cycle of birth and death. Having attachment to temporary things. Hari is another name for Vishnu. This means “one who takes away.” He is so merciful that He sometimes takes things away from the devotee that are very dear to them. He does this to benefit them.

Friend1: What is the benefit?

Friend2: The removal enables detachment from material things. What we’re asking to be maintained may be the greatest obstacle towards the purification of our consciousness. That’s why no matter the situation we find ourselves in, we should approach God the person, directly.

Friend1: Without a guru?

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: By direct, I mean to the personality, not some vague concept. Obviously, we can’t reach the personality until someone explains to us who He is, how to offer prayers and the like. Even if you have a desire to maintain, approach Vishnu or one of His non-different forms like Krishna or Rama. Then there will be purification. That’s why that Gita verse is relevant. Krishna brings to the devotee what they lack. He maintains what they have, in terms of what is necessary for their devotion to flourish. That’s why bhakti-yoga is always the safest path to follow.

In Closing:

Through karma coming loss and gain,

No need through prayer to maintain.


My desire greatest obstacle could be,

Then with eyes of wisdom never to see.


To personal God better approach to take,

Even with desires auspicious situation to make.


For your devotion to flourish and thrive,

So after death in spiritual world to arrive.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Welcome To Where Time Stands Still

[Radha-Krishna]“For the devotees engaged in Krishna consciousness, in the Vaikuntha atmosphere, there is no influence of time. In the material world the influence of time destroys everything, but in the Vaikuntha atmosphere there is no influence of time or of the demigods because there are no demigods in the Vaikuntha planets. Here our activities are controlled by different demigods; even if we move our hand and leg, the action is controlled by the demigods. But in the Vaikuntha atmosphere there is no influence of the demigods or of time; therefore there is no question of destruction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.38 Purport)

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“Time heals all wounds.” This saying particularly arises during moments of trouble. If you cut your arm playing outside, there is pain. You might put a bandage on the injury. You might apply a little cream. Nevertheless, actual healing occurs through time. Eventually the wound will go away.

This fact is part of the larger truth that explains time to be the great devourer. Everything we see manifest right now will be gone at some point in the future. What goes up must come down. When there is birth, there must be death. When there is gain, there must be loss. No need to lament loss today, for you might have a victory coming your way pretty soon.

“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

In Sanskrit the words for time and death are the same: kala. Going one step higher, in the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that He is kala. He is time. That is one way to know Him. Indeed, the atheists know Him only through this feature. They may deny the existence of God for an entire lifetime, but eventually they will meet kala.

The devotees meet death as well, but they know of God beyond just time. They know that all energies come from Him. The spiritual and material worlds are manifest through His potency. The living entities, the jiva souls, are spiritual in nature. Since they can choose where to live, in terms of energy they are actually marginal.

When they choose the material world, they come under the control of kala. Time destroys everything. This means that all work eventually goes to waste. There is nothing that can be done about it. Time does not discriminate.

The other choice in residence is the spiritual world. The full suite of planets is known as Vaikuntha. This Sanskrit word means “free of anxieties.” One source of great anxiety is the fear of destruction through time. Does this mean time is absent in Vaikuntha? If that is the case, how can anything manifest? If you have one visual at a certain time, and then change to a different visual, doesn’t that mean time has left its mark?

The explanation is that time is present in the spiritual world, but it does not have a negative influence. It is something like a serpent without fangs. We can look to the planet of Krishnaloka to see how this works. There the residents play with Shri Krishna all the time. They are so absorbed in devotional ecstasy that they don’t even know that Krishna is God. He is simply their greatest well-wisher, the source of their transcendental pleasure.

The people interact with Krishna, which means that time does operate. But there is no death. The body does not get relinquished by the individual. Indeed, only in the spiritual world does the body actually identify the individual. It is known as their svarupa, or self-form. There are days, in that one day people play with Krishna and another day they have different interactions with Him. There are parents, but there is actually no birth for the Supreme Lord.

[Radha-Krishna]These are the wonders of the spiritual world, a taste of which can be found even in the material world. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and gradually changing the consciousness from material to spiritual, time begins to stand still. This is because even when death comes, the devotee is guaranteed to have circumstances favorable for bhakti-yoga in the next life.

In Closing:

No worrying thoughts to instill,

Since time there to stand still.


In spiritual world with Krishna playing,

Not known as God, no need for praying.


Body and spirit finally the same,

Beloved Lord known by many a name.


In material world destruction to be,

Love God and from time’s constraints be free.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Five Times Krishna Saved His Friends

[Krishna and Aghasura]“In the yoga system, by the perfection called mahima-siddhi, one can expand himself as he desires. The demon Aghasura expanded himself up to eight miles and assumed the shape of a very fat serpent. Having attained this wonderful body, he stretched his mouth open just like a mountain cave. Desiring to swallow all the boys at once, including Krishna and Balarama, he sat on the path.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 12)

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The material world is a dangerous place. At every step there is the risk of life ending. The end to life is nothing more than the animating spark within departing for some other place. Like changing residences, moving from one apartment to another, death is the quitting of the body by the spirit soul, who travels to another body. This is the law of the spiritual science, something which does not bewilder the sober-minded person.

Three forces are at play to cause misery and ultimately death. There are the natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes and the like. There is disease from within, both mental and physical. Then there are other living entities, who act as aggressors for whatever reason. When following righteousness, defense of the innocent occurs through stopping the evil elements of society. On the other side are the demoniac, who can’t stand to let people live in peace, especially if that peace involves genuine worship of God.

The demoniac are there in every corner of the material world, even in a pristine place such as Vrindavana. Some five thousand years ago that sacred land was blessed with the greatest protector in the world as an inhabitant. As a result, despite the threefold miseries being present, those miseries had no effect on the innocent people. They all loved Krishna very much, and He directly saved them from danger many times.

1. Arishtasura

This was a demon in the form of a bull. Bad characters were coming to Vrindavana regularly, as the king of the neighboring town of Mathura wanted Krishna dead. This mindset is not exclusive to ancient times. Those in stiff competition with the owner of all wealth would like nothing more than to remove their enemy. Their attempts range from vehemently protesting religious observance as a waste of time all the way to violently attacking those who are friends of God.

Arishtasura was not an ordinary bull. He was large and terrifying. The residents of the town became afraid just by seeing him. The cows ran away in fear. Shri Krishna, understanding what was going on, challenged the bull. Though Krishna was in the body of a youth, since He is God in the flesh He retains full potency at all times. He literally grabbed the bull by the horns several times in a struggle that was doomed to failure for the bull. Arishtasura eventually lost his life through Krishna’s defense, and the people were saved from danger.

2. Kaliya

Krishna lived with mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. Cow protection was the family business. In fact, all of Vrindavana had some peaceful interaction with cows. At a young age, Krishna and His male cowherd friends would go out to the fields every day and have a good time. This type of animal-loving pays real benefits, as cows provide vital sustenance to a rural area. Indeed, even in cities there is great reliance on dairy products.

One day due to thirst the cowherd boys drank some water from the Yamuna river. They did not know that the water had become poisonous due to the presence of a great snake known as Kaliya. After the boys became unconscious, Krishna understood what was going on. Through His transcendental glance He restored their vitality. Then He climbed up the single tree around the area that was still alive. He jumped from that tree into the water to deal with Kaliya.

[Krishna dancing on Kaliya]A great struggle ensued, and the well-wishers in Vrindavana began to worry. That sentiment changed when they saw Krishna dancing on the hoods of the serpent. Kaliya eventually gave up, and Krishna spared him due to the kind prayers of the wives of the serpent, the nagapatnis. Kaliya was told to leave the area, and peace was once again restored.

3. Aghasura

This is another demon arriving in Vrindavana to make a vain attempt at killing Krishna. He has an interesting name. The Sanskrit word agha means “sin.” Asura already implies a living entity who has the material qualities of being against God. Aghasura took the form of a giant serpent, whose mouth extended so high that it looked like the opening to a cave. This serpent emitted fumes that caused unconsciousness, just as the air of impiety, sin, clouds the pure consciousness of the living entity.

The cows in Vrindavana and Krishna’s friends one day saw this demon’s mouth that looked like a cave and decided to enter. They weren’t entirely sure it was a safe place to go, but with Krishna around the adventurous spirit is a little easier to indulge. They lost consciousness once inside of Aghasura.

[Krishna and Aghasura]Krishna then decided to enter the same place and get rid of the horrible fumes of sin. Aghasura had used the mahima-siddhi of yoga to expand his body to such a proportion. Krishna is the greatest mystic, the most expert at yoga. So He expanded Himself while within Aghasura as well. Krishna’s expansion was too much to take, and the demon lost his life.

4. The forest fire

One day the cows and the cowherd boys were tired and decided to take rest at a riverbank. Soon thereafter a great forest fire threatened to kill them. It looked like all hope was lost. Finally, in desperation they called out to Krishna to save them. He did just that by devouring the fire. He swallowed it in His mouth, as He is capable of reversing the effects of any of the material elements.

5. Govardhana Puja

When there is a material body, there is always some kind of impurity. The asuras are dominated by the bad qualities, while the suras are mostly in goodness. Nevertheless, even the suras can succumb to envy from time to time. Case in point the occasion of Govardhana Puja. Indra, the king of heaven, became angry that the residents skipped the annual worship in his honor in favor of a nearby hill named Govardhana. They made the switch after Krishna persuaded them.

Indra retaliated by sending a massive rainstorm to the area, causing devastating flooding. In essence, Indra became an attempted murderer, on a massive scale. Krishna again came to the rescue, this time by lifting Govardhana Hill and using it as an umbrella.

These are the ways of the material world, after all. No one is completely safe. No one is entirely good or bad. Your best friend can turn on you. For this reason the only true shelter is the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He preserves the exercise of devotion of His devotees, lifetime after lifetime.

In Closing:

Our affection most deserving,

Since devotional life preserving.


Shri Krishna, of friends the best,

Asuras many times His ability to test.


Arishtasura by the horns literally taken,

Forest fire swallowed, friends not forsaken.


To defeat Kaliya into Yamuna to wade,

For Aghasura a giant form inside made.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Why Are There Demons In Vrindavana

[Krishna hurling Arishtasura]“Vrindavana was always absorbed in the thought of Krishna. Everyone remembered His pastimes and was constantly merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss. But the material world is so contaminated that even in Vrindavana the asuras or demons tried to disturb the peaceful situation.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 35)

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Friend1: Let me ask you about the spiritual world.

Friend2: Vaikuntha. That means the land free of anxieties.

Friend1: Makes sense. If you’re going to live with the Supreme Lord eternally, you figure there wouldn’t be any problems.

Friend2: Vaikuntha is a little different from the common conception of heaven. I know you didn’t specifically ask about that, but it’s a key distinction to know.

Friend1: Right. You die and go to heaven. But what does heaven really mean? What is life there like? Do you still have a body?

Friend2: Shri Krishna describes that in the heavenly planets, going to the topmost one of Brahmaloka even, there is death. The idea is that you accumulate pious credits by good deeds performed while on earth, in a human body. It’s something like racking up reward points on a credit card. You can then use those points later on.

Friend1: Eventually your pious credits run out, though. That’s why you have to fall back down to earth.

Friend2: Right, and coming to earth means birth and death. In the heavenly realm you get increased material enjoyments, with an accompanying heavenly body. Vaikuntha is something different. There you get a spiritual body.

Friend1: And the only way to reach Vaikuntha is to be completely God conscious at the time of death. No other thoughts on the consciousness.

Friend2: There is a Bhagavad-gita verse that confirms this. We are not just mentally speculating.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Friend1: Vrindavana is part of Vaikuntha, right?

Friend2: Yes. Just like in the material world there are many planets, so the same in Vaikuntha. Different spiritual manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead preside on those planets. Krishnaloka is where Vrindavana is found. Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one, resides there.

Friend1: From reading the Shrimad Bhagavatam, I see that there are many demons who came to the Vrindavana of this world, some five thousand years ago. That was when Krishna, God Himself, descended to earth and enacted His wonderful pastimes. If the spiritual world is having the association of God, how can there be demons in Vrindavana? How can bad guys be present?

Friend2: That is a good question. For starters, these demons are actually devotees who fulfill different roles in a wonderful drama. They get killed directly by Krishna, which means that at the time of death they are perfectly God conscious.

Friend1: Right. So you’re saying they aren’t really demons? Is that the case for everybody, then? There is no good and bad. It’s just a dream.

Friend2: Every person is a devotee at the core, for that is the essential characteristic of the soul, but there is still good and bad in terms of behavior. The demons in Vrindavana had the special favor of being the antagonist to match the greatest protagonist in Krishna.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: I know what you’re asking, though. If you’re in the presence of God, how can anyone behave improperly? How can there be adharma in the presence of dharma personified?

Friend1: Yeah, that’s exactly it.

[Krishna hurling Arishtasura]Friend2: These demons show that there is always a choice. The living entity has independence. Even if they see the all-attractive one directly in front of them, it is not that they will give up their villainous ways. They have to be purified in consciousness to see properly. I may be looking all over for my keys, but they are right in front of me. The thing is, I don’t have the proper qualification to see them. Then what good do the keys do me?

Friend1: I see. Nevertheless, there is the angle of the other associates to consider. Mother Yashoda, the cowherd boys, the gopis - they were all in Vrindavana. They were all subject to these attacks. If they were in the spiritual world enjoying Krishna, how could these bad things have happened?

Friend2: They only happen in the Vrindavana of this world. In the spiritual planetary system there are no bad guys. If there is even a hint of envy towards God, that person falls to the material world. Hence the jiva souls are described as the marginal energy. These pastimes with bad guys ordered by King Kamsa of Mathura take place in the world of duality, where a person can act out on their choice to forget God.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: Notice also that the devotees you mentioned were always protected. They were in the sacred land of Vrindavana, and even with attackers coming there was no break in Krishna consciousness. In that way we see that a person can be liberated even before death. Liberation is a mindset more than an actual physical condition relating to place of residence.

In Closing:

Asuras like Putana to see,

How then spiritual world could be?


To Vrindavana by Kamsa sent,

Arriving with villainous intent.


In the material world happening only,

In spiritual planets envy not any.


That always a choice by pastimes shown,

Minute independence each of us to own.