Saturday, October 22, 2016

Five Ways To Properly Understand Evolution

[Stopping rebirth]“Intelligent human beings must always remember that the soul obtains a human form after an evolution of many millions of years in the cycle of transmigration. The material world is sometimes compared to an ocean, and the human body is compared to a solid boat designed especially to cross this ocean.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, 3 Purport)

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“Did we really descend from monkeys? If so, why are monkeys still around? Okay, the fittest of the species evolved to something else later on. Fossil evidence shows the remarkable similarities in the changes that occurred over time. Still, have we seen a species suddenly grow an extra hand? If we’re going off visual evidence, at least there should be an experiment that provides proof. Science is observation and experiment, after all. It is not observation, theory, and then coerced mass acceptance of the theory, lest you be considered crazy.”

Fortunately, there is a way to get a clearer picture on the evolution debate, and it comes from a tradition generally considered to be religious. Sanatana-dharma, which is also known as bhakti-yoga and bhagavata-dharma, is the science of spirituality. Indeed, there are laws to the material nature, and those laws both include and are run by spirit. Studying different aspects of the spiritual science, we gain a better understanding of evolution.

1. Prakriti and purusha

These two combine to make every living thing that we see. Vedic teachings reveal the eye-opening truth of the changing of bodies and the universal similarity of species. Basically, everyone is the same on the inside. The trees are no different than the birds. The birds are the same as the fish. The monkeys are indeed identical to the human being.

If they are the same, why do they go by different names? I know that if I visit a certain region in India, the monkeys might steal my eyeglasses and run away. The trees won’t do that. The human beings likely won’t, either. The monkeys are different. So are the other species.

Prakriti accounts for the difference. The spirit inside is purusha. Spirit is unchangeable, and it cannot be killed. What we know as birth is the entering of purusha into a specific form of prakriti. Death is the same spark of spirit, purusha, leaving prakriti. It moves on to another form.

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

The soul can evolve into different species. It can move from one set of clothes to another. The clothes themselves don’t evolve. What is described as evolution is really a kind of travel. The elements to create the different bodies have always been there. Both prakriti and purusha come from the original spirit soul, who is the origin of everything in fact.

2. I can’t make my offspring grow an extra hand if I tried

There is simply no way for me to do this. The failure indicates a defect in prakriti. If I need some more living space in my home, I can add an extra room. Taking raw materials and then applying work, the new room appears.

The same can’t be done with the living beings. There is no way for me to guarantee that the people coming in future generations will be a certain way. I want my children to be smarter and more capable than me, but I am at the mercy of nature to decide. Progress is not always there, even if the original species is considered fit. Again, the science of spirituality explains this, as every living being is a combination of prakriti and purusha.

3. We have visual evidence of the misery in the human species

The foundation of the evolution theory is that there is advancement towards a “fitter” species. Yet we see so much suffering in the human being. They get weighed down by daily pressures. There is indulgence in intoxication in order to remove the influence of the senses; albeit only temporarily. There is so much anger that nations go to war, even if they have everything they need to live comfortably. There is suicide, also.

The trees don’t have these problems. The fish are so less advanced in intelligence that they don’t even know what water is. If the human being is more fit, why is there increased misery? This fact alone invalidates the theory that the type of matter assumed is an indicator of fitness.

Vedic teachings say that real evolution is in terms of potential for intelligence, and more specifically, the ability to be conscious of God. The more one connects with Him, in what is known as yoga, the more happy they become. Bliss, or ananda, is the barometer for fitness. The human being is indeed the most advanced, but without meeting the destiny of spiritual awareness, it is no further along than the animal.

4. Evolution is of the spirit soul

The laws of material nature run on intelligence. They are so predictable that if there is the slightest deviation for a period of time, man thinks that he alone is responsible and that he can change the situation. Intelligence is programmed into nature by an intelligent being. We have no evidence of randomness leading to intelligence. The smartphone, the automobile, the physics class - none of these run on randomness.

And so there is intelligence to evolution, which occurs for the individual soul. The intelligence is there in the law of karma, which is inherently fair. Karma dictates where the individual soul will go next. Karma is fruitive activity. There is some independence granted to the living being, and how they behave creates future consequences. The lower species are like temporary stops along a lengthy journey towards the final destination.

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

[Stopping rebirth]The human body is meant to be the final destination, but there is no guarantee that rebirth will stop from there. The person who is spiritually aware at the time of death gets escape from the cycle of birth and death. No more prakriti for the purusha who is connected to the Supreme Lord.

5. The last stage is to understand things properly and be situated in peace

The human being can find peace, even before death. The proper understanding of things brings some relief, as there is no longer so much concern over the future. The laws of nature operate regardless of our awareness of them. Karma handles fairness, and so we can shift our attention to remaining always aware of the origin of all species.

Since He is a person who is all-attractive, one of His names is Krishna. The real science behind evolution is explained in books such as the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. The topic is important, but it is not the most necessary thing to know. Rather, if a person understands that there is a God and that He is the best friend of everyone, the supreme proprietor, and the person to whom all activity should be dedicated, then they can achieve peace. Peace is the real boon of a human birth, a birth that is difficult to achieve but auspicious once it comes about.

In Closing:

Difficult, after so much time achieved,

But auspicious when human birth received.


Fittest since potential for intelligence high,

Not for any other reason why.


Evolution theory from misery failing,

Trees, fish, monkeys their plight not bewailing.


Intelligent being in background most important to know,

His loving nature, as our best friend with us to go.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Five Classes You Must Take While Attending The College Of Life

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]“Among all kinds of killers, time is the ultimate because time kills everything. Time is the representative of Krishna because in due course of time there will be a great fire and everything will be annihilated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.33 Purport)

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It’s your first year of college. Everything is brand new to you. From living away from home, having to do your own laundry, walking to a dining hall to eat - you haven’t done these things before. You’re excited, since you’ll broaden your horizons. You’re on your own, but there are still other people there with you. You’ll learn together.

One of the things you’re quickly thrown into is the process of registering for classes. You know what your major field of study is, but it’s not like you’re guaranteed to get the classes you need. There are those that are required. Either for your major or to graduate, you need to take these classes. There are also electives. If you want to branch out of your field of study, you enroll in these classes. They may also help to boost your grade point average.

If the journey through life, from birth to death, were compared to attending a university, there are indeed certain classes that are requirements. These help to bring the human being towards their potential in intelligence. Moreover, they help to make the experience truly rewarding. These classes come down from the authority that is the Vedic tradition. Parampara, fortunately, has plenty of teachers to ensure that the proper topics are covered.

1. My Identity - Spirit or Matter?

Who are you? Does your body identify you or is there something deeper lying within? This course covers the interesting topic in depth, using the Bhagavad-gita as the main text. We look at the individual at each phase of the typical life cycle and what it means. We cover the common types of identification and compare them.

2. History of the universe - From Where Did Everything Come?

How did the universe really come to be? Was it a big bang of chemicals that led to the present variety of life that we see around us? How do we explain the intelligence embedded within nature? Using the Bhagavata Purana as our main source, we take a deeper look at what goes into making the many species we see around us. By the end of this class, you will have a better understanding of what the rishis from ancient times say about what goes into making a universe.

3. Time and Death - Natural Friends or Strange Bedfellows?

Life to death, both for the individual and for the creation at large, features constant change. In this course we study the time factor. The Sanskrit word kala is used for both time and death. Time is what is behind the many changes we see. They say that time heals all wounds, and in this course we study exactly why time is here and what its purpose is. Why is there death? Why can’t we all live forever? These questions and more are answered assertively and without doubt by the rishis of the Vedic tradition.

4. Karma - Good or Bad?

Go deeper into the topic we commonly associate with good and bad things happening to us. How do those results manifest? What exactly is good and bad? Is there a way to know the proper action to follow in all circumstances? Why do some people have it good while others are always struggling? Karma, often translated as “fruitive activity” in English, is mentioned in many different contexts in Vedic literature. We cover the common areas of association, such as prescribed duty, positive and negative consequences, and reincarnation.

5. God - Fact or Fiction?

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]The rich philosophy of the Vedas has no known date of inception. The works themselves don’t say that they came into being at a certain time period. They are sourced in someone who is eternal. He can be known by the term “God,” but there is actually much more to Him. In this class we cover what Vedic philosophy has to say about God, and whether the extra information provided, particularly about His greatness, can help solve the question that has puzzled man for centuries. Does God actually exist?

In Closing:

Life like university entered by you,

Many classes from which to choose.


Vedas knowledge on topics giving,

A variety, so that with intelligence living.


Karma, origin of the universe, and time,

Is God real or just imagination of mine?


In depth, from rishis and Vedic literature store,

Most vital learning, to continue more and more.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Five Instances Where The Sinner’s Fruit Arrived At The Right Time

[Krishna killing Kamsa]“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)

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“It’s not fair. Bad people get away with their crimes. Just look at the leaders of the most powerful nations. They are liars, cheaters and thieves. They lie so many times. The media is in cahoots. They agree with certain policy positions, so they look past these transgressions. No one is honest anymore.

“Spiritual leaders are often no better. They take advantage of women and children. Their organizations then give them a slap on the wrist; only if they get caught. People’s lives get ruined. How can there be a God? How can you say karma is true if so many people skate?”

Indeed, despite what the present manifestation of the material elements conveys, there is always the time factor to fix things. Known as kala in Sanskrit, it is synonymous with death. It is one way that every person meets the Divine. Despite the staunchest obstinacy, the atheist at least acknowledges a higher power, a force over which they have zero control.

In the course of history there have been several notable examples of the fruit of the sinner arriving at the appropriate time. Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in a famous incarnation, once explained the rule to a person about to receive their due punishment. He compared the timing to how flowers appear during the appropriate season on the trees. Just because things look unfair right now doesn’t mean that the situation won’t change in the future.

1. Hiranyakashipu

Even when learning the truth about the sometimes delayed arrival of punishment, there is an objection.

“Why? Why should not the punishment come immediately?”

One of the reasons is that the gap in time allows for other events to occur. Those events serve a purpose.

Take the example of Hiranyakashipu. He was as wicked as they get. He was a powerful king who had some hints of religious culture in his life. After all, he prayed. He gave up material life for a while, too. But the difference always comes down to consciousness. Though engaged in prayer, his intent was to enjoy separate from God. He received boons that allowed him to amass tremendous strength. He wielded so much influence that the very gods who grant boons were afraid of him.

Hiranyakashipu’s greatest crimes were perpetrated against his son, when the boy was five years of age. Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. We speak in the plural because the boy couldn’t be killed. For some reason Prahlada survived every attack. The horrible reward for the king’s bad karma finally came in the form of death personified. The same Shri Rama arrived on the scene in a ghastly half-man/half-lion form. The delayed arrival allowed for the glorification of Prahlada. Through His five year old devotee, the Supreme Lord taught the power of perseverance and how yoga, a strong connection to the Divine in consciousness, transcends the effects of the material body.

2. Khara

This night-ranger was the direct recipient of the instructive words from Shri Rama. The setting was the battlefield, in a forest area known as Dandaka. Khara received these wise words because he and his coconspirators had literally gotten away with murder for a long time. They would attack peaceful and innocent sages in the night. The sages were engaged in yajna, or sacrifice. Yajna is synonymous with Vishnu, who is another form of the singular Divine. The night-rangers would eat the flesh of the sages after killing them.

Now Rama was about to defeat and kill Khara in battle. The ghastly reward was set to come the fiend’s way. Though it arrived at a later time, it came nonetheless. The gap in time allowed the beautiful Rama to appear in the world and show His amazing ability with the bow and arrow. His appearance gave cause for the teachings of dharma, through both action and words.

3. Ravana

Khara and the nishacharas came from Lanka, which was ruled by Ravana. Ravana also ate human beings. Because of this, the species ruling Lanka were known as Rakshasas. Ravana even one time killed a messenger that came to his kingdom. He consumed massive amounts of animal flesh and wine. He had many queens. Still, bent on sinful behavior as he was, he had to go and steal Rama’s wife from the forest.

It looked like the kindest person was getting the worst punishment. Rama’s wife Sita was in Lanka for a while, without any hope of rescue. Still, the appropriate punishment blossomed at the right season. Rama eventually came and Ravana lost everything. The time in between allowed for Rama’s servant Hanuman to gain fame. Hanuman’s amazing journey to Lanka to find Sita is immortalized in the pages of the Ramayana. Hanuman has his own section, known as the Sundara Kand, carved out in that sacred text.

4. Kamsa

This king of Mathura took infants and threw them against a stone slab. This was his version of abortion. It was really no different than the killing of children in the womb that is commonplace today. The reason for this horrible act was fear of death. A voice from the sky had previously told Kamsa that his sister Devaki’s eighth child would be his doom. Kamsa did not take any chances. He made sure every child that was born was killed immediately.

[Krishna killing Kamsa]Ah, but just as karma is inescapable, so is the Divine will. The Supreme Lord was that eighth child, and He was named Krishna. He escaped to Gokula right after birth. Years later He returned to Mathura to kill Kamsa. A swift punch from the all-attractive one ended the king’s life and his persecutions. The time in between allowed for so many things, including Krishna’s adorable pastimes in Vrindavana. In that time the loving mother, Yashoda, had the opportunity to show everyone the perfection of the mood known as vatsalya. In bhakti-yoga, devotional service, there are different moods, or ways to interact with the Supreme Lord.

5. Duryodhana

The kingdom didn’t belong to him. The Pandavas were the rightful heirs. They were family too, related to Duryodhana as cousins. Nevertheless, the leader of the Kauravas would not relent. He took the important land, not caring about righteousness. On top of that, he hatched different plots to have the five Pandava brothers and their mother killed.

He even once attempted to bind Shri Krishna, who came to the city as a messenger of peace. The fiend eventually got his just reward, but it took a while. In the meantime, the perseverance of the Pandavas was shown. The exemplary character of their mother was also prominent. These historical events and more comprise the main storyline of the lengthy book known as the Mahabharata.

Within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-gita, which is the song of God. It was originally spoken at the dawn of creation. It gets passed on by saintly kings, and Krishna was reinstituting the disciplic succession by speaking it to Arjuna. The setting was the battlefield of Kurukshetra, just prior to the war that was to give the Kauravas what they deserved. In this way, the time in between allowed for so many good things to happen.

Karma is inherently fair. It cannot be otherwise. The Divine will is even more powerful. That is why the only way to be truly safe is to seek the shelter of the Supreme Lord, who loves His devotees so much that for them He breaks from His general stance of neutrality.

In Closing:

Of righteousness sinners not to care,

Getting away with crimes, life not fair.


Actually, all just a matter of time,

At appropriate moment dharma to shine.


Examples from history like Sita take,

Allowed for Hanuman brave journey to make.


Despite persecutions Kamsa as king still to stand,

Ended with one swift punch from Krishna’s hand.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Five Snapshots Of The Spirit-Body Combination

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

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Reincarnation is a little difficult to believe. After all, we have no memory of past lives. I don’t remember coming out of the womb in this body, but I take the information on the authority of my parents. I extend faith to accept information in so many areas, but reincarnation seems a little far fetched.

Shri Krishna explains it brilliantly in a single Sanskrit verse, found in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that there is a constant changing of bodies. The change occurs to the composition of matter, while the individual inside remains the same. The individual is the conditioned soul. At the end of life, there is simply another change, into a brand new body, or collection of material elements.

The changes are happening constantly, but unless we juxtapose snapshots from moments separated by a significant length of time, the shifts are difficult to see. The living entities in this world are nothing but spirit-body combinations, and from different snapshots we can see not only the proof of reincarnation, but also of the eternal nature of the soul.

1. Infancy

Yup, those pictures are of me. I know, I was very cute as a baby. Thank you. I was adorable. No need to gush, since I am obviously not that way anymore. I was cute, but I could barely do anything. I smiled sometimes, but I was also a crier. My parents used to pick me up and carry me around the house to keep my attention diverted. Otherwise, I would cry for no reason.

That was a different life that I have no memory of. Nevertheless, it did happen. The difference is represented by a certain type of body covering my individuality. Though I am no longer an infant, I can’t say that this period of my life never occurred.

2. Boyhood

That’s where I started to learn things. No longer completely dependent on my parents, I could walk on my own, talk to friends, turn on the television, and even read books. I learned the alphabet and simple mathematics. That was a good time in my life. My ability increased a little bit, and that facilitated increased exploration of the world around me. Again, I don’t remember everything about this period of my life, but it did happen. The spirit-body combination changed compared to the time of infancy.

3. Youth

We can include adulthood in this snapshot. This is where I became somewhat independent. I could play sports. I could run for lengthy periods of time. I could eat whatever I wanted, because my metabolism was so strong. I had a job that I went to every day, and a loving family at home. I started having children of my own, bringing in new spirit-body combinations into this world. This was one of my favorite periods, since I had independence and also maturity.

4. Old Age

Alas, youth and adulthood cannot last forever. Time takes its toll. In old age, I started to wear down. I could no longer eat the same foods. I could still move around, but not with the same alacrity. My skin and hair started to show signs of old age. It’s funny, because on the inside I still felt young. I felt like I had just as much life in me as I did when I was younger. This spirit-body combination is guaranteed to manifest for anyone who remains alive long enough.

5. Death

[Changing bodies]This is where I change into another body. Time to start anew. Where do I go exactly? From where does that next body come? What type of elements will cover the soul? The determination is made by karma. All the activities I did while in the various snapshots of spirit-body combination, good and bad deeds - I will reap the fruit at some point in the future.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

At the time of death, my consciousness gets measured. Whatever state of being I quit the body with, that state I attain in the next life without fail. The subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego come with me. The travel is like the air carrying aromas.

“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)

The same person who perfectly describes reincarnation has made an interesting offer. Anyone who thinks of Him at the time of death no longer has to take birth. They don’t go through varying snapshots anymore. They get a spiritual body, one which is conducive to the practice of pure devotion.

Thoughts of Krishna are easy to maintain at the time of death if they are regularly present in the prior stages. That’s why more important than knowing reincarnation is knowing the person in charge of all the laws of the material science, the person from whom everything has come. In this age especially He is best known through the chanting of His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

For reincarnation to understand,

Take life’s snapshots in hand.


Like in infancy with abilities few,

In boyhood running after body grew.


In adulthood at independence’s height,

In old age weaker in strength and sight.


At time of death to a new body go,

Never again if Shri Krishna to know.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Do You Explain The Horrible Things That Have Happened To Devotees

[Shri Rama]“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)

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Friend1: Alright, enough of the safe stuff. Today I’m really going to challenge you.

Friend2: You think that scares me? I’m not afraid of you.

Friend1: No, no. I’m going to bring up stuff that you’re not supposed to talk about. This isn’t just being inquisitive about the nature of the world and what the ideal situation is. I’m going to reference some ugly aspects of recent history.

Friend2: Really no difference there, but it’s nice to know you think that way.

Friend1: Here we go. Let’s first establish something. The material world is a dangerous place, right?

Friend2: At every step there is danger. No one is truly safe.

Friend1: Unless you take up devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Then the vast ocean of suffering turns into the size of a puddle left by the hoofprint of a calf or something.

Friend2: “For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda or the giver of mukti, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. Param padam, or the place where there are no material miseries, or Vaikuntha, is his goal, not the place where there is danger in every step of life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.14.58)

Friend1: Thank you. This is obviously one justification for trying devotional service. The world is dangerous. You never know when something bad is going to happen to you. Better to be safe and take the shelter of Mukunda, which is one name for the Almighty.

Friend2: Yup. You got it.

Friend1: Okay. So here we go. How do you explain the horrible things that have happened to devotees?

Friend2: Recently or from way back?

Friend1: Take any incident. Recently there are so many tragedies documented. Children being molested by people posing as guru. Women being taken advantage of. Lives are essentially ruined, and the tragedies occurred within societies that were strictly dedicated to serving Krishna, the all-attractive one.

Friend2: Oh, okay.

Friend1: It’s not okay. These people put their full trust into the system. They gave their heart and soul. They were left completely vulnerable to these wicked people and their unspeakable acts. Then there are others who got burned by putting trust in a guru who later fell down. The guru posed as being self-realized, above the effects of maya, but they were later exposed to be a fraud. Some of these offenders are still serving in leadership or management positions.

Friend2: Listen, I agree with you. Those are indeed tragedies.

Friend1: What is your explanation, then? You realize that the skeptics will use these incidents to discount every promise made by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend2: I do. There are many explanations. I guess the simplest one would be that the soul is imperishable. Though these horrible things have happened, nothing can kill the soul. It will live on. The worst thing someone can do to me is harm the body. That body is indeed temporary.

Friend1: Hmm, I think that’s a little weak. You’re using the difference between body and spirit to deflect attention away from inexcusable behavior.

Friend2: I’m not. I’m simply telling you the truth. Krishna started His conversation with Arjuna on this very topic. Arjuna was worried about the bodily welfare of people fighting for the other side. In the same light, we’re speaking of the bodily welfare here, so it’s important to keep in mind the eternal nature of the soul.

Friend1: Alright.

Friend2: There is the karma-angle of it, too.

Friend1: Like these people had it coming? It was in their karmic store to get betrayed in this way? Don’t you think that’s a harsh thing to tell a victim?

Friend2: It’s simply the fact. We all have so many sins we have committed in the past. Shri Krishna does say that one who takes up devotion in earnest has exhausted all their sinful actions. They behaved piously in the past as well.

“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)

Friend1: Right, so if these people removed all their sins by taking shelter of Krishna and His representative, why did this bad stuff happen to them afterwards?

Friend2: We can look to the example of the electric fan. If you turn it off after it’s been running, obviously there is no longer a cooling effect.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: But notice that there is still some spinning. That is the result of the previous action, i.e. turning on the fan. So the effects of past karma in bhakti is similar. Though you’ve turned off future sinful activities, the results of past sins may not be complete yet. There may be some further punishment that appears in the future.

Friend1: Two questions on that. Shouldn’t Krishna stop those reactions from coming? He is all-powerful, after all. He can stop the fan’s spinning immediately if He wanted. Secondly, why don’t the reactions come right away?

[Hanuman burning Lanka]Friend2: For the first point, the protection is there. Krishna guarantees that anyone who takes up bhakti in earnest is saved from the greatest type of fear. The soul’s welfare is guaranteed, no matter what happens to the body. There are so many examples of this. Prahlada survived the horrible attacks of his envious father. Hanuman faced tremendous obstacles in Lanka. He was ready to give up a few times. The Pandavas had bad things happen to them all the time. The protection was always there, since Krishna assured their future wellbeing.

Friend1: Okay, but what about the timing of the reactions? Why can’t we get the punishment right away?

Friend2: Shri Rama addresses this in the Ramayana. Oh, here is another example of people getting burned in devotional service. During that time, many sages were living in the forest. They went there to better focus on their meditation and service to God. The forests were thus known as tapo-vanas, places conducive for tapasya, or austerity.

Friend1: How did they get burned?

Friend2: Nishacharas.

Friend1: What’s that?

Friend2: Night-rangers. Man-eating ogres would attack these innocent people. Imagine that. The sages weren’t bothering anyone. They barely had possessions. Why would anyone want to attack them? The Nishacharas were envious of God, and so they wanted to stamp out any sign of devotion to Him. The sages were known to be the most powerful in their worship. They were physically weak, unable to defend themselves. These ogres would not only kill, but they would eat the dead bodies afterwards.

Friend1: Oh my God. That’s terrible.

Friend2: Rama, who is God Himself, heard about this and stayed in the forest to offer protection. One time there was a battle with an ogre named Khara. Rama explained to the fiend that his due punishment was now arriving. Khara thought he had gotten away with killing sages. Rama made the comparison to the flowers blossoming on trees during the proper season.

Friend1: I see. So these bad characters will all get their due, even though they may not have been punished yet. You realize some of these people are still posing as gurus? How crazy is that?

[Shri Rama]Friend2: That’s the material world. You can get burned even by so-called religious people. Yes, Rama characterizes the reactions as ghora, which means “ghastly.” The punishment is commensurate with the crime. Despite these horrible things happening, be confident that there is no wasted effort in devotion. Just the sound of the holy name itself is so purifying. It will provide rescue, even if that rescue is difficult to believe in right now.

In Closing:

From devotion to God supposed to be safe,

Why then horrible things like murder and rape?


By men posing as guru authority commanding,

To this day in same position standing.


Like turned off fan continuing to spin,

In devotion possible effects of past sin.


For offenders at right time punishment to come,

Bhakti still best path, protected by Almighty one.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Loyalty Punishment

[Krishna's lotus feet]“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

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You just came back from an overseas trip. You like to pack light, but your wife is a different story. Her parents loaded up the suitcases. They packed so many gifts for you to take home that some of your own belongings were left behind. No need to stress out. Otherwise life would be miserable. Try to get through it.

One of the items left behind is shoes. They happened to be your favorite shoes, but again, what is getting angry going to do? The shoes won’t magically appear as a result. You decide to go to the store to buy new ones. As it has been a while since you bought shoes, you go to a new store. You pick out the ones you want and go to the counter.

During the checkout, the nice counter lady asks if you are a member of their rewards program. You tell her that you’re not. She asks if you’d like to join. Immediately you think of how cluttered your wallet already is. “The last thing I want is another card in there that I will never use.” Before you can respond, she says, “You’ll immediately get ten percent off your order today. Going forward you’ll earn points for every dollar spent. More points equals more discounts.” Forgetting your previous opposition, you agree. Happily so.

[Airline loyalty programs]This is known as a loyalty program. It is a way to reward the customer for repeat business. Such enticement shouldn’t be needed, but in the retail world there is stiff competition. The store would rather you come back than go somewhere else. Moreover, if there is an incentive to accumulate points, perhaps you’ll end up buying stuff you don’t need. If you have a discount at a place, you’ll be more inclined to use it.

In general, the experience through the material world carries more of a loyalty punishment, if anything. Consider the relationship with friends. I have a friend who always asks me for things. It’s like they are shameless. They are anything but helpless. They are quite capable, in fact, and sharp in intellect. Their problem is irresponsibility, and they expect others to bail them out of mistakes that should never have been made.

This is my friend, after all. So when they ask me for favors, I typically come through. Sometimes I am unable. Either I have something else going on or I feel as if I’m being taken advantage of. For this one request, I say “no.” Next thing I know, I don’t hear from this friend again. They are obviously upset that I didn’t help them. This is an example of the loyalty punishment. Everything I did in the past is immediately forgotten. The saying, “What have you done for me lately,” illustrates the same concept.

Unfortunately, the loyalty punishment can be found in spiritual life as well. There are so many varieties of religion due to the different desires that spring up. These religions are known as dharmas in Sanskrit. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna advises Arjuna to cast aside interest in the many dharmas and simply surrender unto Him.

“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)

One famous example from history perfectly illustrates why. It involves Krishna. In the rural community of Vrindavana a long time ago, the people were accustomed to worshiping Indra-deva. He is the king of the gods in heaven. These are devas, so they are elevated human beings. They live for a very long time, and they can grant boons to their worshipers. They are still conditioned souls, however, which means that they can fall prey to the common defects in man, such as jealousy, anger, rage and loss of intelligence.

The people of the community worshiped Indra annually. In terms of the retail example, the people would have racked up a lot of points on their loyalty card. One year Shri Krishna was in Vrindavana, appearing in His original, spiritual form. Using His all-attractiveness to persuade the father Nanda in another direction, the people decided to worship Govardhana Hill instead.

There was no ill-will intended. The people were not upset at Indra. Rather, they loved Krishna so much that they followed whatever He advised. The people were living examples of the instruction later given to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Indra was so enraged that he retaliated with a devastating rainstorm. He didn’t care if all the people died as a result. He couldn’t stand to be insulted in that way. This was the loyalty punishment in its fiercest form.

The people had no one to save them except Krishna. He immediately lifted the just worshiped Govardhana Hill and held it aloft for seven days. It acted as the world’s largest umbrella, saving the citizens from the wrath of Indra.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana]With Krishna just a little devotional service pays. He remembers every sincere gesture made in His honor. Even if there is trouble later on in life, He allows the aspiring yogi to continue in the next life. He does not erase progress in devotional service. He does not get insulted that people turn away from Him, for every person in the material world has done so at some point. For these reasons and more the path of bhakti is superior.

In Closing:

Wanting business, treatment like royalty,

Giving discounts to reward your loyalty.


Repeat shopper, happy to have you back,

Demigod worship not following same track.


Like with Indra having anger extreme,

When one year puja for him not seen.


Devastating rain to Vrindavana sent,

But safe when under bhakti’s umbrella went.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Five Times I Had Buyer’s Remorse

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

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Shri Krishna is all-attractive. That is one of the meanings to His name. He is also blackish in complexion. The color is compared to the dark raincloud. While the cloud on the horizon is ominous if there is a desire to play outside, with Krishna the shower portends endless opportunities for service. This service is blissful since it is the soul’s essential characteristic.

A living thing cannot live without service. In the conditioned state it chooses against Krishna, or God, going for maya, or illusion, instead. In addition to His all-attractiveness, Krishna is the right person to approach since He uses discrimination. In other words, He might not give me what I want.

He is extremely kind for applying this discretion. In both material and spiritual life there is buyer’s remorse. In material life we make mistakes all the time. In spiritual life we approach different divine figures, defined as demigods in the Vedic culture, and ask for things. There are some classic examples of buyer’s remorse, where we regretted our decision after the fact.

1. That full pizza pie

I was so hungry after a long day at the office. Then I went and exercised outside. It’s the summer time, so the heat increases the exertion. When I got home, I heard that my wife went out to pick up pizza. I can’t say “no” to that. When the pie arrived, we all sat at the dinner table and started eating. I know that no one else in the family enjoys pizza as much as I do. Since I was hungry, I was eating faster than the others.

We have a big family, so there were two pies. Pretty soon, I noticed I was close to eating an entire pie myself. Everyone else urged me on. They said to go for it, as otherwise the food would go to waste. I felt okay. I was no longer hungry. Still, I decided to finish it off.

[Pizza pie]My initial desire was met. What was the result later on? Major indigestion. My stomach felt like it doubled in size about an hour later. I had so much trouble sleeping at night. When I woke up after a full eight hours of sleep, it felt like I hadn’t slept at all. Going for the whole pie was a mistake.

2. That brand new job

My boss started getting to me. I didn’t like the way he was treating the other employees. The direction of the company didn’t look good. It was time to move on. I desperately wanted to work somewhere else. I worked hard sending out resumes and going on job interviews to the point that I finally got a position somewhere else.

Once again, my desire was met. I quickly became even more miserable at the new job. Previously, I had my own office, but now I shared a small space with six other people. Everyone on top of one another. You could hear every person’s conversation. You had to punch in and out. They tracked your hours. It was miserable. I hated it.

3. That woman

This is the age-old tale for men and women alike. Meet someone, fall in love, get married, end of story. Or is it? I went after this girl that I was so attached to. I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I prayed that we would get together, for it seemed like I couldn’t live without her.

My desire was met, but soon thereafter we grew to hate each other. I looked for a divorce attorney quickly. I wanted out as soon as possible. I could no longer stand this woman. She made my life so miserable. How quickly things can change.

4. A night of drinking

It’s the end of the week. My friends and I don’t have to go to work until Monday. Let’s go out for a night of drinking. What else are we going to do with our free time? Why not enjoy a little? Have some fun, get a little crazy.

The next morning I feel terrible. I’m throwing up constantly. I’m in no mood to eat. I don’t want to go anywhere. Let me just stay in the house the entire day. My original desire was met. I got what I wanted. But why am I so miserable now? Boy did I make a mistake.

5. That reward from the demigod

Any of the above can be granted by a divine figure. Of course the scope of rewards is much greater, spanning everything in a material creation. This needn’t be a theoretical exercise exclusively. Vedic texts have examples of worshipers who received so much. Hiranyakashipu got protection that made him about ninety-nine percent immortal. Ravana was similarly blessed. They both worked hard in worship to get what they desired.

Vrikasura asked for the boon to be able to kill someone simply by placing his hand on their head. Lord Shiva granted the boon and the ungrateful fiend thanked him by promptly chasing after him. Eventually, Lord Vishnu, who is the same Krishna, convinced Vrikasura to test the boon on his own head. Crisis averted.

The reward from the demigod is regretted later on since it doesn’t bring enlightenment. If I ask for money, wealth, fame, power, success in marriage, and the like, I may get what I want. But the reward doesn’t necessarily bring me closer to my real identity of servant of God. It doesn’t make me any happier in the long run since everything in the material world is temporary.

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)

[Krishna's lotus feet]There is no buyer’s remorse in bhakti-yoga, devotional service, since the benefits never get erased. Even if at the time of death I am not a perfect yogi, I get to continue in the next life from where I left off. Approaching Krishna directly gradually brings an elevation in consciousness. I soon see the futility in chasing after material rewards. Prahlada Maharaja knew this at a young age. He taught this to his friends, hoping to save them valuable time and effort. His father was on the other side of things, and in the end it became clear that Prahlada’s side was the superior one.

In Closing:

Remorse to have as buyer,

Since regretted what to transpire.


After what I asked for getting,

Pain of the mistake quickly setting.


Prahlada to chewing the chewed comparing,

When to father supremacy of bhakti declaring.


From Bhagavad-gita the promise made,

That even to unsuccessful yogi benefits paid.