Saturday, November 12, 2016

Five Sacrifices I Might Have To Make In Bhakti Yoga

[Lord Vishnu]“This boy Prahlada is the killer of my brother, for he has given up his family to engage in the devotional service of the enemy, Lord Vishnu, like a menial servant.” (Hiranyakashipu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.35)

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“I really like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I take great joy in reading books like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana. I don’t mind avoiding intoxication, gambling, meat eating, and illicit sex. Those things are easy to give up once you have a higher taste.

“Nevertheless, practicing bhakti-yoga is not easy. There are a lot of sacrifices I have to make. In the larger scheme, I know that I am okay, that in time everything will work itself out. At the moment, however, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that there are many things common to a human existence that I cannot enjoy.”

Indeed, these sentiments are not out of the ordinary. There is a difference between material life and spiritual life, after all. Bhakti-yoga is unique because at the highest level, there is no personal desire. Everything is dovetailed with service to the Divine, who is originally a person. Therefore certain sacrifices are only inevitable.

1. Taking insults

The path of least resistance is to follow what everyone else is doing. If they are engaged in eating meat and drinking alcohol, an easy way to get unwanted attention is to avoid those things. Even if you are not vocal about your choice, eventually others will figure it out. Then they will ask you why. They will want to know why you are different.

[Prahlada devotion]The questions are not easy to answer quickly, so in many circumstances it is best to not say too much. That means the insults will keep coming. Not only in the area of food preference, but in lifestyle in general, there are key distinctions that make you stand out. You become a ripe target for ridicule if you are not consumed by thoughts of money, power, and advancement twenty-four hours a day. One of the most famous examples from history is Prahlada Maharaja, who was only five years old when his father Hiranyakashipu turned belligerent, violently protesting the boy’s devotion.

2. Living modestly

Since you are connected to Shri Krishna in yoga, you may not be so concerned with your living arrangements. Wearing old and simple clothes is just fine for you. You don’t need a big house. In fact, the less there is to maintain materially, the happier you are. There is a true spirit of renunciation within, which Krishna declares to be the actual sannyasa-ashrama.

“The Supreme Lord said, To give up the results of all activities is called renunciation [tyaga] by the wise. And that state is called the renounced order of life [sannyasa] by great learned men.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.2)

Since you live modestly by choice, it is a sacrifice of sorts. Others will not understand why you are not interested in getting a bigger home, a better paying job, or a newer car. They might not understand how you are much happier avoiding the chase for temporary things.

3. Upsetting people

If you take great joy in chanting the holy names and associating with others who follow the same, then naturally you will avoid the association of the non-devoted. Though there is a teaching along these lines, the decision takes place automatically through progression in the purification of consciousness.

The non-devoted greatly outnumber the devoted in this world, which means that you will likely get invited to so many things. The devotee has all good qualities, after all. They don’t need to strive for them separately. Therefore it’s understandable if others desire the association.

One sacrifice you’re bound to make is disappointing others. You will have to decline their invitations for engagement in sense gratification. You’d rather do something else. It’s as simple as that. You risk being rude in order to maintain happiness.

4. Not having people understand you

How do you explain to someone that the height of living is surrendering everything in devotion, sharanagati? How do you explain that the high of intoxication can’t compete with the exhilaration from the daily renewing opportunity to bring a smile to the face of the all-attractive one? How do you explain that there is more joy in quiet contemplation of the Divine and His features than in talking endlessly about nonsense topics?

[Shrila Prabhupada]It is said that the mind of the sadhu is difficult to comprehend. They are on another level. Someone who is not on that level can never understand them completely. Therefore the general etiquette is to simply hear from the spiritual master, not challenging too much. One day you will be able to understand their teachings better. The sadhu should be respected because they have made this sacrifice for the benefit of others.

5. Keeping quiet about accomplishments

Friends and family are there to share in our experiences. If we’re in bad sorts, we can discuss our troubles with them and hopefully find a way back up. If something good happens to us, it’s nice to let others know.

Yet in bhakti the latter is difficult to do. The reason is that what you consider an accomplishment may not be well received by someone else. They may view you as a threat.

“What, you think you’re more religious than me? Big deal that you’ve written a book. I know about God, too. Why are you cooking so much, all of a sudden? Are you trying to be a better cook than me? I go to the temple, too. I have one in my home. Don’t think you are better than me because you visit more often. I’m just as religious as you.”

One famous person who has made many of these sacrifices is Shri Hanuman. He is known from the Ramayana, a Sanskrit work of epic length describing the life and activities of Shri Rama, an incarnation of God. Hanuman gives the external vision of a monkey. Therefore it is easy to make fun of him. Indeed, even in his own service to Rama, which was difficult and full of risks, there is reference made to his monkey nature. One time he got so excited that he kissed his tail and jumped up and down, thinking he had found Rama’s wife, when in fact it was the wife of Ravana he had spotted.

As far as keeping quiet about accomplishments, Hanuman once voluntarily got rid of some evidence showing his tremendous writing ability. After Rama had triumphed in war over the evil Ravana, the Supreme Lord returned to the spiritual world with His associates. Hanuman asked to stay on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be told.

Hanuman wrote his own version of the events, many of which he was directly a part. The book is informally known as the Hanumad Ramayana. One time Valmiki visited Hanuman and was shown this book. Valmiki was so blown away that he felt defeated. This was not Hanuman’s intention. He was simply joyous about sharing his work of devotion. Seeing that Valmiki felt like his own Ramayana was inferior, Hanuman took the Hanumad Ramayana and threw it in the ocean.

Imagine that! A work whose glory was certified by a great poet such as Valmiki was destroyed, voluntarily by the author in order to maintain someone else’s enthusiasm in devotion. Who besides Hanuman could make such a sacrifice and for such a reason? Many years later a piece of stone with one of the verses written on it came to the shore. The poet Kalidasa was able to identify the writing as coming from the Hanumad Ramayana. Such devotees are so dear to the Supreme Lord, and one reason is the sacrifices they make for His pleasure.

In Closing:

Alone without friends to be,

Since of sinful life remaining free.


Scorn from others for difference to reap,

Accomplishments to oneself to keep.


Not wanting others to offend,

Like Hanuman his book to ocean to send.


Still, worth every sacrifice and more,

Since bhakti life a treasure’s store.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Five Aspects Of Narasimhadeva That Prahlada Wasn’t Afraid Of

[Narasimhadeva killing]“My Lord, who are never conquered by anyone, I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes bright like the sun or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp, pinching teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your mane soaked with blood, or Your high, wedgelike ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring, which makes elephants flee to distant places, or Your nails, which are meant to kill Your enemies.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.15)

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Eating, sleeping, mating and defending. These are the four basic behaviors of the animals. The animals are advanced from the plants, which are the nonmoving species. The human beings are similar to the animals in that they have these four activities as well. Where there is advancement is in intelligence. The human being has the opportunity to rise above.

Defending is also known as fearing. It is natural to be afraid, as there is always the chance for loss. That which you worked so hard to acquire can vanish in a second. The body itself is subject to destruction. When there is life there must be death. The asura, the person who is against the Divine, typically fears death very much. That is because they discount the idea of the afterlife. If they do believe in it, they are worried what will happen because of their sinful behavior. When they don’t believe in a next life, death is their supreme deity, the great devouring enemy.

The suras transcend this fear. Even when death personified arrives before them in a ferocious form, they pay obeisance. They know that the soul will live on. They know that through devotion, bhakti-yoga, the Supreme Lord will provide circumstances ideal for the practice of that devotion. One of the more ferocious forms of death was the avatara known as Narasimha. He was God Himself, in a personal form, coming to protect the devotee Prahlada and kill the evil father Hiranyakashipu. Narasimhadeva had several interesting features, aspects to His transcendental body that would typically instill fear, even in demigods. Prahlada, however, was not scared by them.

1. His ferocious mouth and tongue

In the Bhagavad-gita, the warrior Arjuna is in doubt over how to proceed. He is the leading fighter for a side about to enter a massive conflict. His side defends righteousness, or dharma. The other side is adharma. Still, Arjuna does not want to inflict pain on people he has affection for. He is worried about what will happen if his side wins.

Arjuna’s charioteer is the same Narasimhadeva, by the warrior’s side in His original form of Krishna. The Supreme Lord decided to show Arjuna a glimpse of the future. In that amazing vision, the leading fighters for the opposing side were rushing into Krishna’s mouths; some of the warriors on Arjuna’s side as well. This was a depiction of destiny, a reminder that death was slated to occur regardless of Arjuna’s willingness to participate.

In a similar manner, Narasimhadeva showed a ferocious mouth and tongue. These were part of the lion-like vision. Hiranyakashipu terrorized the entire world; everyone was afraid of him. Yet all his strength got devoured in an instant by time Himself. Prahlada Maharaja was not afraid since he had no attachments to personal possessions or to his body. He used everything in service to God.

2. His eyes bright like the sun

In the material world there is duality. What is good for one person may not be for another. One example is the sun. On a scorching hot summer day, the sun is dreaded. The prayer is for the clouds to arrive and provide some cover. The nighttime is welcome, as the punishment ceases for a period.

But the sun is also the giver of life. Its presence is required for food to grow. Without the sun, the world would freeze over. Narasimhadeva’s eyes were bright like the sun. This light always accompanies the Supreme Lord, who is naturally effulgent. In His realm there is no need for external lighting.

“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

The asuras are blinded by this light. They can’t wait for it to go away, as they take advantage of darkness. The light of the Divine shines from within for devotees like Prahlada. Therefore he was not afraid at all of the lotus-like eyes of his savior.

3. His sharp, pointing teeth

Hiranyakashipu became powerful through boons gifted him by Lord Brahma. Though there was worship involved, the interaction was more like a business transaction. There was payment made in the form of rigid austerities. The good or service sold was protection against almost all forms of attack. Hiranyakashipu wanted immortality. The seller didn’t have it, so the king asked for everything and anything that would come close to it.

The sharp, pointing teeth of Narasimhadeva easily penetrated that protection. The king thought he could protect everything through his strength, but the Supreme Lord’s strength is unmatched. In the vision shown to Arjuna, the rival kings were rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. With Narasimhadeva, the offender also entered his mouth, and from there he was devoured by the sharp teeth. Again, Prahlada was not afraid of this aspect, as he knows that even a weapon wielded by God becomes auspicious, something to celebrate.

4. His garland of intestines

What an image! Hiranyakashipu persecuted Prahlada for the boy’s devotion to Vishnu, which is another name for the Divine. Prahlada had no protection other than his devotional strength. That was enough to survive some of the most deadly attacks. The father ordered some unconscionable acts against his son. Much to the father’s surprise, the boy survived each time.

When God had enough, He arrived as Narasimhadeva and immediately started killing. He easily destroyed the palace guards who were foolish enough to get into the lion’s den with Him. He saved the best for last. Narasimhadeva bifurcated Hiranyakashipu. Basically, the father was torn in half. From there the intestines became a garland, almost like a sign of victory.

[Narasimhadeva killing]Prahlada was not afraid to see this. He understood that the soul of his father had moved on. He knew that intestines are merely a collection of gross material elements. The garland was an indication of God’s glory, after all. What was there to be afraid of?

5. His mane soaked with blood

This is another indication of what had just happened. There was mass carnage. In our day to day affairs, emergency responders and healthcare professionals tolerate gruesome visions. It is part of their job. They can’t slink away, otherwise who will provide the much needed help to the injured?

Prahlada has a vision that is something like a spiritual doctor’s. He sees the winding of time and the effect it has on material bodies. He sees the soul within, so even the mane soaked with blood did not frighten him. What hadn’t Prahlada faced already? Moreover, Narasimhadeva was there to protect him. From that wonderful son’s example, we see that there is no reason to fear the Divine. He is as beautiful in the form of Narasimha wearing a garland of intestines as He is in the two-handed form of Krishna wearing a garland of flowers.

In Closing:

Not even demigods to approach daring,

Narasimha, He of intestines’ garland wearing.


Hiranyakashipu finally death to meet,

In form of sharp, pointing teeth.


But Prahlada having picture clear,

From awesome vision no reason to fear.


Auspicious even Supreme Lord’s fighting,

Protecting innocent, generations delighting.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Five Times Hanuman Risked Sin In His Devotional Service

[Shri Hanuman]“Though all of these unsuspecting wives of Ravana were seen by me, my mind has not been disturbed even a little.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.40)

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Take care of the environment. Don’t lie. Follow shastra, as it is wisdom passed down from the ages. Don’t go with the sense urges. Better to stay on the pious path; this way you’ll be happier and in the afterlife there will be even more enjoyment. Don’t cause harm to others. Be a good friend. Protect your children. Support your spouse.

In this way there are so many rules to follow for a person who is interested in being good. Of course to define “good” is difficult. The Vedas reveal the eternal nature of the individual, who is a spirit soul at the core. In the human species there is the choice between good and evil. The Sanskrit words are punya and papa, piety and sin. With punya you accumulate credits that translate to time in the heavenly region. Papa is the opposite; suffering in hell.

Yet another, more important truth is revealed. Punya and papa are relative. They are not present in the highest existence. The eternal nature of the soul is to be a servant of God. When there is deviation from that nature, there are conditions in duality. At one moment we are pious, at another we are not. One day we find ourselves in heavenly conditions, and the next we are suffering.

Service to God is above duality. An example helps to illustrate the point. The Ramayana provides many examples. There is the brave journey of Shri Hanuman, who is tasked with finding Sita Devi. She is the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If judging based only on piety and sin, it appears that Hanuman several times either violated the rules of etiquette or at least proposed to.

1. Crushing grass and trees when preparing to leap

The search for Sita was lengthy, and there were many people involved. They were in monkey-like bodies, coming from the forest of Kishkindha. After it was learned that Sita had been taken to a far away island known as Lanka, Hanuman stepped up to the challenge of reaching the area. He enlarged his stature using the mahima-siddhi of yoga. As he prepared to leap off a mountain top, he crushed the grass he was standing on. He also uprooted some trees.

Normally, this is sinful. The trees and grass are living entities, after all. They are not bothering anyone. Even though Hanuman had no intention of causing destruction, it happened anyway. Since this was service to Rama, Sita’s husband, the act is glorified. There was no sin involved, as bhakti-yoga is above karma, which is work that has future consequences tied to a material body.

2. Hitting a woman upon entering Lanka

The journey across the ocean wasn’t easy, but then Hanuman is not your average person. After making it across, it wasn’t like he was welcomed into Lanka. The guardian of the city was in a female body, and she put up resistance. If paying respect to mundane morality, Hanuman would have turned back for home. Instead, he was determined to please Rama by finding Sita. He therefore removed the obstacle. He punched the woman and proceeded into the city.

The king of Lanka, Ravana, had committed the horrible crime of taking another man’s wife, the blameless Sita no less. Thus if there were any bad things to happen to Lanka or its people, the cause was Ravana, not Hanuman or Rama.

3. Seeing inside of Ravana’s palace

One of the amazing things about Hanuman’s search was that he had never met Sita before. He knew what she looked like based on descriptions. He also accurately deduced that she would be in an unhappy state. From meeting Rama, Hanuman realized that any close person separated from Him would be terribly distraught.

Since Hanuman was searching for a woman, he obviously had to set his gaze upon different types of people. Only by looking at someone can you make a proper identification. He couldn’t close his eyes and call out her name; otherwise his unwelcome presence in the city would be revealed.

[Shri Hanuman]Ravana was the king, and he had many beautiful wives already. Hanuman saw them after he entered Ravana’s palace. He saw them enjoying in a variety of ways. They were intoxicated from consuming wine. To look at other women like this is incredibly sinful. Not only is there the negative reaction in the afterlife, but it also pollutes the consciousness. Consciousness is the determining factor for the next type of body.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Though Hanuman committed the sin of viewing women in this intimate setting, there was no negative reaction. This was because his consciousness remained pure. He was searching for Sita, after all. What else could he do? Hanuman was prepared to suffer forever if it meant Rama’s cause would be helped.

4. Proposing to take Sita back with him

Hanuman eventually did find Sita. She was in a grove of Ashoka trees, her body made thin from grief. After talking with her for a while, he proposed bringing her back to Rama. This was not part of the assignment, but Hanuman’s emotion was so strong that he didn’t want Sita to suffer a minute longer.

This proposal carried sin, since he would be touching another man’s wife. Sita kindly declined, alluding to the very fact that she didn’t want to touch any man besides her husband. Ravana had already made contact with her, but that was not her fault. Again, Hanuman’s kindness was on full display. He is not interested in his personal comforts either for the moment or the future. He is always in union with the interests of the Divine.

5. Proposing to kill the women who harassed Sita

One of the things that added to Sita’s grief was a group of horrible looking women surrounding her in the grove. They were ordered by Ravana to harass her day and night, to scare her into submission. Though Ravana had brought Sita to Lanka, there was no progress in the relationship; she refused his advances. Ravana could not buy her off with promises of riches and wealth. This was Janaka’s daughter, after all, who had voluntarily renounced the regal life to follow her husband into the austere setting of the forest for fourteen years.

The women were Rakshasis, which are like female ogres. Imagine being surrounded by man-eating witches twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They are hissing at you and telling you scary stories about what the future holds. This is something like what Sita experienced.

Through Hanuman’s help, Sita’s husband eventually marched to Lanka and defeated Ravana. After the victory, Hanuman went to get Sita to bring her to Rama. Again, the task was simple, but remembering what he saw previously, Hanuman proposed something additional. He asked Sita if it would be okay if he killed the Rakshasis who had been harassing her.

The war was over. Rama had won. Sita would be reunited with her husband. These female ogres were no longer aggressors. Still, Hanuman was so upset at what they had done to Sita that he wanted revenge. He proposed harming himself with a sinful act in order to punish others who had behaved terribly. Being extremely forgiving, Sita declined the offer, stating that the women were simply following orders. She no longer had any enmity with them. From that incident we see the amazing kindness and compassion of those who are close to the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

Hellish region result from sin,

Heavenly planets from piety to win.


But so many rules descending down,

How to follow, remain on solid ground?


From Hanuman’s bhakti many things learned,

Like how steady when vision of Ravana’s wives earned.


Punched Lanka lady blocking the way,

Proposed even vile Rakshasis to slay.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Is The Most Amazing Thing A Devotee Has Done

[Prahlada put in fire]“Hiranyakashipu could not kill his son by throwing him beneath the feet of big elephants, throwing him among huge, fearful snakes, employing destructive spells, hurling him from the top of a hill, conjuring up illusory tricks, administering poison, starving him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, or throwing heavy stones to crush him. When Hiranyakashipu found that he could not in any way harm Prahlada, who was completely sinless, he was in great anxiety about what to do next.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44)

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Friend1: Devotees are pretty amazing.

Friend2: That’s for sure.

Friend1: They have as much inner strength as they do outer.

Friend2: That’s a great way to put it. In many cases, externally they appear very weak. The asuras are fooled by the external, as they base their assessments solely on that.

Friend1: Hmm, what are they assessing?

Friend2: What is important in this world. Who is enjoying and who isn’t. That is one of the reasons the Sanskrit word asura is translated as “atheist” in English. Atheist just means worshiper of the material energy.

Friend1: And we know that is illusion, or maya, since the spirit within goes ignored.

Friend2: Exactly. A classic example is Ravana, the infamous villain from the Ramayana. He thought that Rama was an ordinary man. He thought that Rama was weak since He voluntarily left the kingdom through the wishes of one of the queens, Kaikeyi.

Friend1: Boy did Ravana miscalculate. That might be one of the biggest mistakes of all time. He saw and heard about God in the form of Rama but still failed to recognize Him. To reference a recent President of the United States, that was a gross “misunderestimation.”

Friend2: There is Hiranyakashipu, too. He failed to recognize the devotional strength of his five year old son, Prahlada.

Friend1: I’m glad you brought up Prahlada. Would you say that his perseverance is the most amazing thing ever seen in devotional service?

Friend2: The most, as in exclusive of others?

Friend1: Just to play a fun game. What is the most amazing devotional act?

Friend2: You want to rank these? It might make for a mind-stimulating exercise, but we should stipulate something from the start.

Friend1: What’s that?

Friend2: In the Supreme Lord’s eyes, there is no such thing as large or small, great or ordinary, with respect to bhakti, devotion. A person who goes to the temple and makes a heartfelt offering of a flower is just as appreciated as the person who risks their life in service.

Friend1: Right, I’ve heard that before. It’s difficult to comprehend.

Friend2: Of course it is, but that is the mercy of God. He looks at the sentiment, what is on the inside.

Friend1: Okay, so placing that fact aside for now, to you, what is the most amazing devotional act? Is it Prahlada?

[Prahlada put in fire]Friend2: Such as his perseverance? That is hard to argue against. Prahlada survived being given poison, being trampled on by elephants, and being thrown off a cliff. This was punishment for worshiping Vishnu, the personal God, in a kingdom ruled by someone who denied the very existence of God. Prahlada was young and helpless; he lacked the physical strength to fight back. He instead just surrendered to God and was protected as a result.

Friend1: What about Arjuna? I think proceeding in the Bharata War after having doubts is pretty amazing, also.

Friend2: All the Pandavas in fact. They faced so many hardships. It was like they were punished for being devoted to Krishna, their ever well-wisher.

Friend1: Hanuman has to be up there. The guy leaped across an ocean. He carried a mountain in his hands to help save Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother.

Friend2: Again, tough to argue against. This is a difficult game to play. From more recent times there is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who also crossed the ocean in service to the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: Lots of candidates, but what is your opinion? What is the most amazing devotional act?

Friend2: When making the assessment, I try to place myself in the situations. I ask myself the question, what would be almost impossible for me to do?

Friend1: No offense, but I can’t see you leaping across an ocean. I can’t see you leaving the comforts of Vrindavana at the age of seventy and travelling by yourself to a foreign land to teach the science of self-realization to people who are accustomed to eating meat and getting intoxicated.

Friend2: Haha, that’s for sure. That’s why these devotees are amazing. But you’re the one who wants to play the game. To me the most amazing is something that I could never see myself doing, even if I had the ability and the opportunity.

Friend1: Oh, sort of like something you wouldn’t be willing to do.

Friend2: There you go.

Friend1: Okay, so what is that?

Friend2: Referencing a legend here. Apparently Shri Hanuman once wrote his own account of the life and pastimes of Shri Rama. It is informally known as the Hanumad Ramayana.

Friend1: Oh, I’ve never heard of that.

Friend2: There is a reason why. The sage Valmiki once visited Hanuman and was shown the work. As you know, Valmiki is the author of what we know today as the Ramayana. Writing that work is itself an amazing devotional act. Anyway, Valmiki saw Hanuman’s Ramayana and was blown away. He felt defeated in writing ability.

Friend1: Oh, because Hanuman’s Ramayana was so good?

Friend2: Exactly. This is the mood of pure devotees. They always think that others are serving God better than they are. Anyway, this is where we get to the devotional act that I can’t comprehend. Seeing Valmiki’s despondency, Hanuman immediately decided to destroy the Ramayana he had created.

Friend1: What! Really?

Friend2: Yup. That is Hanuman for you. He never wants to make another devotee feel bad. Imagine doing that. You spent all this time glorifying Rama, the Supreme Lord in a famous avatara form. You had your work validated by Valmiki himself; essentially getting the highest endorsement. Then you decide to destroy it, so that no one, including you, will ever see it again. I just can’t imagine that. It really shows you just how amazing Hanuman is.

Friend1: So there is nothing left of that work?

[Hanuman reading and chanting]Friend2: There is a part of one verse. Centuries ago one of the stones containing Hanuman’s writing was found. Kalidasa, the famous poet, saw the stone and was able to identify the source. He could even decipher the text, which was written in an ancient and now extinct script.

In Closing:

Prahlada by elephants trampled upon,

Arjuna despite doubts proceeding on.


Prabhupada crossing ocean at advanced age,

Ramayana written by Valmiki wise sage.


If put in the corner to pick one,

Then choosing what Hanuman had done.


Destroying most valuable work of his own,

So that other devotee to be popularly known.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Five Of The Most Amazing Things Hanuman Has Done

[Shri Hanuman]“He has certainly studied well the entire range of Sanskrit grammar, for though he has addressed Me with many words, he has not used a single one out of place.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.29)

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The hero of the Sundara Kand, which takes up a full section of the Ramayana, a sacred Sanskrit poem of epic proportion. A servant of the Supreme Lord, roaming the world in the body of a monkey, not formally trained in any of the four classic varnas, or occupations, of Vedic culture.

An individual of tremendous strength, a lifter of mountains, a possessor of the perfections of yoga, the best friend a person could ask for. The list of attributes of Hanuman can go on and on. Though he is famously depicted in paintings lifting mountains and leaping across oceans, there are even more amazing things he has done during his time on earth, which continues through to the present day due to his desire to see his beloved Rama be glorified.

1. Speaking perfect Sanskrit on the fly

Hanuman is known as a devotee of Rama. That is his primary identification, though he is known for many things, which are actually just components of that devotion. Indeed, Shri Chaitanya has declared that every living entity’s original form, their svarupa, is that of servant of God.

“It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krishna has three varieties of energy.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.108-109)

In terms of the chronology of events described in the Ramayana, Hanuman first met Rama in the forest of Kishkindha. Rama is God in a special incarnation form. He is considered human, since that was the lone vulnerability for the king of Lanka, Ravana. Still, with God the gunas are always transcendental. Rama’s qualities are not of this world. He is saguna in the sense that He has features that are identifiable, and He is nirguna in the sense that the qualities never bind Him to the cycle of birth and death.

Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were walking through the forest looking for Sita, who is Rama’s wife. The monkey-king, Sugriva, saw them while looking below from a mountaintop. Sugriva asked his minister Hanuman to descend the mountain and see what was going on.

[Shri Hanuman]Though on a fact-finding mission, Hanuman always has deep love for God. Therefore when he first saw Rama he amazingly broke out into wonderful praise. This was composed on the fly, in the Sanskrit language, which even during that time was reserved for only the most cultured. Rama Himself remarked on Hanuman’s amazing speaking ability. It was one of the first indications that the minister to Sugriva was a person worth forming a friendship with.

2. Continuing on in spite of fear of failure

Using the mahima-siddhi of yoga, Hanuman once made his body very large. He didn’t do this to show off or to instill terror in the innocent. Again, it was dovetailed with service to Rama, which is known as bhakti-yoga. Hanuman leaped over the ocean with that giant form.

Yet more amazing than that was his determination while inside of Lanka, where Sita was. Hanuman didn’t find her after a long time of searching. He contemplated quitting. He felt so bad that people trusted him and he failed to deliver. He wisely noted that only when a person is alive do they have the opportunity to please Rama, who is God. Therefore he continued on. Hanuman’s inner strength is just as great as his outer.

3. Skipping Vibhishana’s home when setting Lanka afire

Hanuman was not happy with Ravana or the leading men in the government in Lanka. They were great offenders. Ravana had taken Sita away in secret, against her will. Yet there was one person in Lanka that gave the proper advice: Vibhishana. He asked his elder brother Ravana to return Sita to Rama and thus be forgiven immediately.

Of course Ravana was too stubborn and too sinful to accept sound words of advice. After finding Sita, Hanuman ended up having a meeting with Ravana. While bound with ropes, Hanuman was brought in front of the king. Though Hanuman was only a messenger, Ravana decided to embarrass him by having his tail set on fire, then parading him around the city.

Hanuman used the burning tail as an opportunity to give Ravana a glimpse of what was to come his way. Hanuman freed himself from the ropes and then proceeded to burn down the city of Lanka. He was in a fit of transcendental vengeance. Yet even in that rage, Hanuman amazingly avoided burning Vibhishana’s palace. Not only does the Supreme Lord remember a kind act done in His favor, but so do wonderful devotees like Hanuman.

4. Lifting Lakshmana from the battlefield

In one painting of Hanuman, he is depicted carrying a mountain in his hand as he travels through the air. This was the result of being given the assignment to find a specific medicinal herb for Lakshmana. Rama’s younger brother got hurt during the final battle with Ravana to rescue Sita. Hanuman was the most trusted, so he was sent. The problem was that time was short and Hanuman had difficulty finding the exact plant. He decided to just take the entire mountain with him.

Even more amazing was another moment from the battle. Lakshmana was hurt and lying on the battlefield. Ravana tried to lift him up, but couldn’t, no matter how much force he applied. Hanuman then swooped in and lifted Lakshmana without a problem. The symbolic as well as literal meaning to the incident is that no amount of physical strength can help a non-devotee understand the guru, the best servant of God. Lakshmana is the origin of the guru, and an asura-like person such as Ravana would never understand him. The guru is heavy; in Lakshmana’s case both physically and in terms of spiritual insight. For a devotee, the truths of the spiritual science presented by the guru are understood through service and humility; academic qualification nor lack thereof are factors.

5. Destroying the Hanumad Ramayana

The Ramayana was written by Maharishi Valmiki. Hanuman loves to read it. To him, the work is identical to Rama. It is like having God’s association with you all the time. There is an interesting legend about Hanuman’s own written version of the events of that time period.

Hanuman’s written account of the life and pastimes of Rama, informally known as the Hanumad Ramayana, was one time shown to Valmiki. Comparing the work to his own, Valmiki felt defeated. Seeing that a devotee of Rama was feeling despondent about their devotional effort, Hanuman decided to destroy his version. He took the tablets on which the words were written and threw them away. We know that this work existed since many years later the famous poet named Kalidasa came upon one of the stones that were discovered and was able to translate the verse written on it. Hanuman is so amazing that he will destroy his own beautiful work in order to avoid discouraging others in their service to Rama.

In Closing:

So much strength in him to see,

Most amazing in service is he.


Carried mountain for life-giving herb,

After by Ravana’s weapon Lakshmana stirred.


When Valmiki despondent after version shown,

Hanuman destroying beautiful work of his own.


Impressed Rama when meeting first time,

A pure gem in every way to shine.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Do Devotees Sometimes Fail If Krishna Is Supposed To Protect Them

[Arjuna]“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)

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Friend1: The devotee is protected.

Friend2: By whom?

Friend1: Krishna.

Friend2: Is this your opinion or do you have authority to back it up?

Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita, the highest authority of all.

Friend2: Do you know what is interesting about that?

Friend1: I know exactly where you’re going with this.

Friend2: You do?

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend1: The fact that Krishna asked Arjuna to declare it. The Supreme Lord knew it would be important coming from His devotee. Krishna can say stuff, but people don’t take Him as seriously.

Friend2: Very good. That is interesting to me, anyways. He declares so many other things. Why not take the credit for protecting the devotee?

Friend1: That’s a topic for another day. I’m glad you mentioned the protection thing. Obviously, that’s the foundation of the promise of bhakti-yoga. You’re connecting with God, uniting with Him in consciousness. It’s different from material life, which has the threefold miseries.

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

Friend1: We know that Krishna protected Arjuna during the Bharata War. In the universal form, Arjuna saw the future, that the rival kings were destined to die. Arjuna was asked to simply be Krishna’s instrument.

Friend2: “Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)

Friend1: Okay, so we know the outcome was successful. Arjuna was protected. But you know, there is another incident where there wasn’t protection.

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: After Krishna returned to the spiritual world. Do you know what I’m referring to?

Friend2: When Arjuna had to protect the queens?

Friend1: Bingo. He failed against a single guy, I believe. Previously, he fought against the greatest warriors on earth. Why didn’t Krishna protect him? I thought the devotee never perishes?

Friend2: To clarify, it was multiple people against him. I must say, of all the questions you ask, this might be the best one. You make a valid point. It looks like a contradiction.

Friend1: What’s the explanation? That it was part of destiny? It was Krishna’s will that Arjuna fail and thus return to the spiritual world? Seems like a weak explanation.

Friend2: Obviously it’s part of destiny, controlled by the Supreme Lord. The queens were certainly liberated and could never be touched by someone else. They attained the spiritual world immediately. The explanation is that Krishna Himself was on the other side, ensuring that no etiquette was violated.

Friend1:  Oh.  Interesting.

Friend2:  Yeah, you can consult the purport of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for the Shrimad Bhagavatam verse 1.15.20. The incident also taught something very important. As powerful as we think we are, we are ultimately not the doer. Arjuna was amazing with the bow and arrow. We can’t even fathom how good he was. But when the sanction of Krishna was not there, the ability vanished.

[Arjuna]Friend1: Okay, I get that. But why? If the devotee never perishes, why do their abilities diminish?

Friend2: Listen, just because the promise is there for protection doesn’t mean that there is no death. The spiritual master leaves for another place eventually. Prahlada Maharaja, though protected against the wicked father, eventually left this world. That means the bodily abilities don’t stay forever.

Friend1: What is protected, then? What is it that doesn’t perish?

Friend2: The devotion of the devotee. Arjuna went somewhere else, afterwards. He was not to remain in this world forever. Since he had to leave at some point, so did his great fighting ability. With a little advancement on the path of bhakti-yoga, you’ll come to see that Arjuna’s failure at protecting the queens in his custody was just as significant as his victory in the Bharata War. Both incidents show the importance of the link to Krishna, who is God.

In Closing:

Victory on the battlefield to see,

Protected by Krishna was he.


Through him the promise made,

Then why not his ability stayed?


Later Lord’s queens failed to protect,

Not a flaw in the verse to detect?


Significance through Lord’s association way,

Forever devotion of devotees to stay.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Five Interesting Things About The Universal Form Shown To Arjuna

[virata-rupa]“O mighty-armed one, all the planets with their demigods are disturbed at seeing Your many faces, eyes, arms, bellies and legs and Your terrible teeth, and as they are disturbed, so am I.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.23)

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What Krishna had said was impressive. It certainly wasn’t typical. It wasn’t expected, either. When you’re in doubt over how to proceed, when you’re at a crossroads, and you approach a teacher, usually you’re anticipating a yes/no response for guidance. “Yes, it’s a good idea to follow your instinct.” “No, your thinking is wrong because of this and that.”

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)

Arjuna got a lesson on life and death itself. He learned the true nature of the individual, how it is imperishable. There is action in inaction and inaction in action. Yoga is the most important thing, and it can be practiced anywhere and in any situation. These truths and more came from the all-attractive charioteer turned guru.

Any person can say anything. Any claim can be made, and to test validity there is authority. Shri Krishna is Himself the supreme authority, the adi-guru. He is the original teacher. Arjuna accepted everything, but how would others, reading what would be known as the Bhagavad-gita? One of the ways Krishna established authority was showing the universal form, the virata-rupa.

1. It included the demigods

The Sanskrit word deva means “god.” There are many devas. As a famous politician once threw out the term, “No controlling legal authority,” as an excuse for questionable behavior, the same concept but inverted can be applied to the devas. They are the controlling legal authorities of the material world. Legal is in relation to karma, which is action and reaction. Karma operates under laws, with everything incorporated into the workings of the material nature.

In the virata-rupa, Arjuna saw all the devas. Krishna is known as deva-deva. He is the god of the gods. He is the ultimate authority, the supreme controller, Ishvara. For this reason He could show all the gods in a single exhibition. The devas work at His direction, and they are His devotees. They are known as suras since they have devotional qualities. At the very least, they acknowledge His presence, though they may forget Him from time to time.

2. It included the planets

The devas are people. They are living entities like you and me, except they live for a long time and have extended enjoyment available to them. In their planetary realm, the trees can grant any material desire instantly. For this reason they are known as desire trees, kalpa-tarus.

The virata-rupa included all the planets. A planet is itself a giant collection of gross and subtle material elements, and within each planet is so much variety. You have rivers, mountains, clouds, trees, and hills. Arjuna saw all the controlling authorities and the many planets over which they have control.

3. Arjuna required special eyes to see it

The virata-rupa isn’t cheap. It’s not something you put a quarter in a vending machine to see. In fact, Arjuna required a special set of eyes granted to Him momentarily by Krishna Himself. Otherwise, the exhibition was impossible to view. It was also a unique vision, something never before seen.

“The Blessed Lord said: My dear Arjuna, happily do I show you this universal form within the material world by My internal potency. No one before you has ever seen this unlimited and glaringly effulgent form.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.47)

This fact indicates that the Supreme Lord reveals Himself based on the qualification of the viewer. Arjuna was a devotee, so he was a perfect candidate for receiving the divine set of eyes. The asuras, who are the opposite in nature from the suras, would not have benefitted from seeing the virata-rupa. The reason is that they are always creating illusions themselves. Examples include the theory of evolution, promises from politicians, and scientific research that aims to remove God from the picture.

They create these illusions to help increase godlessness. As they view God as a competitor, seeing the virata-rupa they would think that Krishna is just like them, creating some magical illusion in order to inspire fear. Arjuna got the right idea by seeing the universal form, that his dear friend and cousin was indeed the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the greatest well-wisher for every living entity.

4. It was an exhibition of things that already exist

It wasn’t like Krishna created something new. He showed the virata-rupa to Arjuna, but anyone can conceptualize the same. Take everything that exists. It’s impossible to account for everything, but include whatever the mind can think of at any particular moment. Then put that collection into a single image.

Again, this is impossible to do accurately, but we know for sure that everything does exist. Therefore, Krishna didn’t really introduce anything new. It is something that any person can accept as fact. For this reason the virata-rupa is considered impersonal. It represents the vision of the Divine as the sum collection of matter and spirit.

5. It was not a static image

There are many paintings depicting the virata-rupa shown to Arjuna. They are nice attempts at trying to portray Krishna’s greatness. Still, there is one key thing missing. Time. The virata-rupa is not static. The images are moving, as confirmed by Arjuna.

“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)

[virata-rupa]The premise of the conversation was Arjuna’s worry over the future of the loved ones fighting for the other side. Arjuna did not want to be the instrument for their destruction. In the universal form, Arjuna saw all the fighters for the other side rushing into Krishna’s mouths. This showed that destruction was already slated. Arjuna was simply to act as the instrument to fulfill Krishna’s will.

In Closing:

Not a static image, things to move,

Universal form authority to prove.


Of Shri Krishna, Arjuna’s friend dear,

Showing everything, His Divinity clear.


Not just for ordinary person to see,

Partha blessed with special eyes was he.


Of everything existing, impersonal considered,

By personal form, Shri Krishna delivered.