Saturday, November 19, 2016

Five Times When Life Looked Unfair

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting]“They are serving as the food for the Rakshasas, who are fiendish creatures that subsist on human flesh. While being eaten away, the sages residing in Dandaka-aranya, those best among the brahmanas, said to Me, 'Please rescue us'.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.6)

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Bad things happen to good people. That is simply the way of the world. Happiness and sadness come and go, almost on schedule. The wise person learns to tolerate them, like the coming and going of the winter and summer seasons.

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

People who are serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be protected, no? They are no longer interested in karma. Their work does not involve fruits related to the development of a temporary body. Still, the time factor is at play, and it can be deceptive. There are many examples from the past where it looked like life was extremely unfair to really good people. The unfairness served a vital purpose, and soon enough time would reverse the situation in a dramatic way.

1. The Pandavas on the run

These five brothers, along with their mother, are the main characters of the work of epic length known as the Mahabharata. The events are from so long ago and some of the descriptions beyond amazing that the less intelligent relegate the book to fiction status, a work of mythology. In fact, the soul is truly amazing. It has potency beyond belief. When freed from the inhibiting influence of the material body, the soul can do things more amazing than even described in ancient texts.

“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.29)

Kunti Devi was the mother of the Pandava brothers and she was related to Krishna as paternal aunt. There was more to the relationship than just bloodline. She was devoted to Krishna, who is God in His original and all-attractive form. He is not a competitor God from a different religion. He is simply the full detail behind what others know only in abstract.

The Mahabharata follows the heartbreaking plight of the family, as they lose their father, Pandu, at a young age. The mother is left to care for the children by herself. They should be okay, as the great kingdom of Hastinapura should descend to them. Ah, but the rival cousins, the Kauravas, usurp the kingdom. Not only do they steal what is not theirs, they try to kill the Pandavas in so many ways.

The brothers and their mother are constantly on the run. Life looks to be extremely unfair to them. Is this the reward they get for being pious, upstanding citizens? Where is Krishna to protect them?

2. Devaki and her dead children

It was a happy day. Devaki just got married to Vasudeva. Her brother Kamsa was kind enough to escort her to her new home. Then things changed dramatically. A voice from the sky informed Kamsa that his sister’s eighth child would be his end. Kamsa was ready to kill Devaki right then and there, but Vasudeva stepped in with some words of persuasion.

“You are awaiting some danger because you have heard a prophetic voice in the sky. But the danger is to come from the sons of your sister, who are not present now. And who knows? There may or may not be sons in the future. Considering all this, you are safe for the present. Nor is there cause of fear from your sister.” (Vasudeva speaking to Kamsa, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 1)

The agreement was made that Vasudeva would simply hand over the children as soon as they were born. Kamsa agreed to let the couple go, but only for a while. He eventually reversed course and imprisoned them both. He had the authority since he was the king of Mathura. Devaki and her husband were devotees of Narayana, who is also known as Vishnu. This is the version of God the person in all-opulence, worshiped in a mood of awe and reverence.

The reward for that devotion? Devaki surrendered each of her first seven children as soon as they were born. Then she stood by helpless as Kamsa threw each one against a stone slab. This is one of the more gruesome examples of life’s unfairness. How was Devaki ever to get over the grief? How could something like this happen to her?

3. The forest sages being eaten

Brahmanas are the topmost members of society based on the system of varnas, or societal divisions. As Shri Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita, these are based on guna and karma respectively. Guna is material quality and karma fruitive activity. Krishna does not mention janma, or birth, as a determining factor.

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

A long time back many brahmanas populated an area known as Dandaka. It had become a tapo-vana, or secluded place conducive to austerity. Austerity is the power of the ascetic. Without it, they are an ascetic in name only. Indeed, Krishna mentions how He is the tapa of the ascetic, meaning that He is the very life of that status.

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

Pious credits result from that austerity. There is the obvious progression in the purification of consciousness as well. These brahmanas had a big problem, though. Nishacharas were coming to kill them. These are night-rangers in a body-type something like an ogre. They would attack right as the yajnas, or sacrifices, were about to complete. Then they would eat the flesh of the dead sages.

Brahmanas have the ability to curse, but doing so depletes their store of pious credits. The situation was something like terrorists going into a church and blowing up the place as a sermon was being delivered. The brahmanas were harmless, and they left civilized society, meaning they weren’t bothering anyone in the forest. The reward they got for that decision hardly seemed fair.

4. Sita suffering in the Ashoka grove

We know of the plight of the brahmanas based on the testimony of Shri Rama. He later arrived on the scene in the Dandaka forest and heard from them what was going on. There was soon to be His own problem. Sita was with Him, His beautiful and chaste wife. She is the epitome of virtue. She never does anything for herself. Her behavior is in line with dharma, and more importantly, in the best interests of her husband.

Sita shifted to the Ashoka grove in Lanka. This place was beautiful on the outside, but the change in residence was not her choice; it was forced upon her by Ravana, the leader of the ogres, who lived in Lanka. She suffered so much there. Solitary confinement would have been one thing, but Ravana ordered his female attendants to harass Sita day and night. The beautiful princess was separated from her beloved husband. She was the kindest person receiving the harshest treatment.

5. Hanuman tied up

Rama, who is God Himself in an incarnation form, later sent Hanuman to search for Sita. He found her, but on the way out of Lanka, he got tied up by a weapon originating from Lord Brahma. Ravana’s son had released the weapon, and he victoriously brought the bound Hanuman in front of Ravana. To add insult to injury, Ravana decided to set fire to Hanuman’s tail. Hanuman was just a messenger. He bravely soared across the ocean and clandestinely searched within Lanka for Sita. He should have gotten a better reward than this.

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting]Key to the analysis is that each situation represents merely a snapshot in time. Things would change, and for the better. In the process, the strength of devotion in these characters became prominent. Moreover, the truth of God’s guiding hand over the devotees became crystal clear. He gives the appropriate punishment to the impious, delivered at just the right time. For the devotees, He is always there with them in consciousness, which means that whether in heaven or hell they are always in the bliss of devotion.

In Closing:

From situation not easy to tell,

That devotees in bliss whether heaven or hell.


From past history seeing things unfair,

Like Sita of future rescue unaware.


And Pandavas like homeless to roam,

And Devaki’s children thrown against stone.


Not to be fooled, merely snapshot in time,

From Divine Himself fiends justice to find.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five Devotional Activities With Tremendous Power

[Radha-Krishna]“Rupa Gosvami has stated that five kinds of devotional activities - namely, residing in Mathura, worshiping the Deity of the Lord, reciting Shrimad-Bhagavatam, serving a devotee, and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra - are so potent that a small attachment for any one of these five items can arouse devotional ecstasy even in a neophyte.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 13)

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There is danger at every step in the material world. The threefold miseries can strike at any moment. Therefore it only makes sense to try to gain strength. Physical strength through exercise, yoga routines, and proper nutrition. Mental strength through perseverance, proper rest, and avoidance of stress.

Sadly, the material is destined for destruction. Powerful kings from the past like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana had built up tremendous strength. Despite what looked like impenetrable fortifications, they lost everything. They fell from the top, crashing hard to the ground.

Spiritual life is the way to eternal bliss and happiness. In the human form, it is practiced within the material world, meaning that strength is also required. Devotional strength can be gained through dedicated practice. Rupa Gosvami reveals that there are several activities which help to speed up the process.

1. Residing in Mathura

The place of pilgrimage is known in Sanskrit as a tirtha. Simply land, a collection of gross material elements. Dust. It doesn’t really matter from where it comes, right? Ah, but with the tirtha there is added significance due to association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.

Mathura is the janma-bhumi for Shri Krishna. It is the place where He first appeared on this earth in His transcendental form. That event is so significant that it is still celebrated to this day, the occasion of Janmashtami.

Though the appearance took place so long ago, the memory is still there. Just residing in Mathura helps to foster Krishna consciousness, and quickly at that. Residing in other places of pilgrimage has similar benefits, as there is some association with Krishna.

2. Worshiping the deity of the Lord

In these places of pilgrimage, worship of the Lord is prominent. The worship is going on twenty-four hours a day, as all a person needs is consciousness. Just think of Krishna. That is vishno-smaranam, as Prahlada Maharaja describes. Remembering Him is just as good as being with Him.

[Radha-Krishna]The formal worship takes place in the ceremony. The object of worship is the archa-vigraha, or deity. This is to show others what is going on. God has kindly agreed to appear in a form that the human eyes of limited perception can comprehend. It is not that God is limited to a statue; it is that He has authorized the worship as a way to help man escape illusion. Deity worship is thus very powerful, and it plays a prominent role in bhakti-yoga societies.

3. Reciting Shrimad Bhagavatam

Shravanam. Hearing. Just hear about the Supreme Lord. There is plenty to hear, since He has glorious activities performed in this and many other worlds. Those pastimes have been preserved in beautiful, poetic form through the Puranas and other sacred texts.

Shrimad Bhagavatam, also known as the Bhagavata Purana, is like the ripened fruit of Vedic literature. Just sit down and hear this work. Hear it from someone who practices bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Then advancement happens very quickly. If there is no one around from whom to hear, just recite. Say the verses. Don’t worry about understanding right away. The association through sound is purifying.

4. Serving a devotee

There is the book bhagavata, and there is the person bhagavata. The book is served through hearing and reciting, and the person is honored through offering assistance. Both are very dear to the Supreme Lord, so just by helping a devotee a person makes so much advancement. Indeed, the benefit of approaching a spiritual master is due precisely to their being a devotee. The guru is a teacher, and what teacher doesn’t enjoy having eager, inquisitive, and interested students ready at full attention?

5. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra

You can’t live in Mathura. Not even Vrindavana or some place that has a Krishna-dedicated temple. You can’t recite the Bhagavatam because you don’t own the books. There are no devotees around for you to offer service. Does this mean that all hope is lost?

Actually, just chanting the maha-mantra can do so much. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This chanting creates a Mathura-like atmosphere. The name is as good as the deity. The name includes the pastimes described in the Bhagavatam. The person who always chants becomes a devotee themselves, thus providing wonderful association for those around them.

In Closing:

Spared in this world not a one,

Danger from every corner can come.


Making sense strength to build,

Still even powerful kings were killed.


Bhakti for to the beyond going,

Helpful when Bhagavatam’s verses knowing.


Deity worship, in Mathura making home,

Serve devotee or even just chant alone.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Five People Who Acted As An Instrument For God

[Arjuna]“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)

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Destiny, or daivam. Time, or kala. The material nature, or prakriti. Fruitive activity, or karma. Whatever way we choose to define it, we are not solely responsible for the future. It’s silly to have to even stipulate, but in the state of illusion it’s easy to think otherwise. After all, I decide to get up out of bed in the morning, and it happens. I make arrangements for a marriage ceremony, and everything goes through as planned.

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

The living entity, which in this world is a combination of spirit soul and material covering composed of gross and subtle elements, is not the doer. Due to ahankara, or false ego, they think otherwise. Real ego comes through education, or vidya, the highest of which Shri Krishna presents as the Bhagavad-gita.

One of the many important verses from that work describes how a person can act as God’s instrument. The idea is that destiny is already set. A certain outcome will already occur, regardless of our feelings. The Supreme Lord is so kind that He allows others to act as instruments to get credit as the cause for the outcome. There are many examples from history.

1. Prahlada causing Hiranyakashipu’s death

In the material world everything is available as far as rewards. Everything means gathering, accumulating, and amassing material elements. The laws stay the same, namely that objects are temporary and the experience miserable. The first naturally leads to the second. If I love something but can’t have it forever, I am guaranteed to be miserable at some point.

Hiranyakashipu received amazing strength. He had the entire world afraid of him. He was a king, so whatever he said went. He lived the full extent of material life. Still, death was slated for him. The destruction was to occur at the hands of the Supreme Lord Himself, as this was a special circumstance.

The greater honor went to a small child. Just five years old, he used his devotional strength to overpower the atheism and material power of his father. Hiranyakashipu was the aggressor, and though he scared the celestials into hiding, Prahlada was not going anywhere. The boy continued to be devoted to God the person. Through enough attacks against the child, Hiranyakashipu invited Vishnu to arrive in a half-man/half-lion form. The physical instrument of death was the nails used to tear open the king, but the subtle instrument was Prahlada’s devotion.

2. Hanuman, like one of Rama’s arrows reaching Lanka

Many years later the same Narasimhadeva appeared on earth as Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Rama was the best fighter in the world with the bow and arrow, which was the style of warfare at the time. Rama used His arrows for protecting the innocent. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, the Divine descents are for the purpose of protecting the pious and annihilating the miscreants.

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

The aggressor this time was similar to Hiranyakashipu. Named Ravana, he had a terrifying scream. The world again was afraid of Him. Rama came to get rid of this demon-like person, who was in the physical form of a Rakshasa, or man-eater.

Though He could have, Rama did not do all the work Himself. At one point, He sent a representative to Ravana’s city of Lanka. Hanuman bravely travelled there, leaping over the ocean to reach the distant island. The factual journey was symbolic as well; Hanuman was like one of Rama’s arrows. That arrow flew to Lanka, found the whereabouts of Rama’s wife Sita, and then returned to Rama with the news.

3. Bhima killing Jarasandha

Some people just don’t learn. After being forgiven time and time again, they continue with their sinful ways. Such was the case with Jarasandha. He attacked Krishna in Mathura a total of seventeen times. Krishna is the most powerful, the Supreme Lord Himself. Therefore killing Jarasandha would not have been a problem for Him.

Instead, Krishna let him off the hook with embarrassing defeat after embarrassing defeat. Finally, Krishna and His brother Balarama fled the scene, using the attack as an excuse to erect the underwater city known as Dvaraka. From running away from Jarasandha on the battlefield, Krishna also earned the name Ranchor. With God everything is transcendental. Even apparently sinful behavior is celebrated. It is His lila, and those who carefully study the spiritual science come to know and appreciate this side of the Divine.

The instrument for Jarasandha’s death was Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers who were so dear to Krishna. Bhima was incredibly strong, but even that strength wasn’t enough to fulfill destiny. After days of wrestling with Jarasandha, Krishna gave Bhima some advice, very subtly at that. Bhima then understood that the way to kill the king was to tear him in half at the legs, which is what he proceeded to do in the next and final round of their match.

4. Arjuna in the Bharata War

The verse about being God’s instrument comes from the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. This occurred on the eve of a great war, and the peculiar situation was that Arjuna was afraid of winning. It’s not like he was scared to enter danger. Arjuna was quite brave. Rather, he saw into the future and didn’t want to be responsible for causing the deaths of people he respected and loved, people fighting for the other side.

[Arjuna]Krishna used Arjuna’s doubt as a way to explain time. In fact, Krishna showed the future in the universal form. Arjuna saw all the fighters for the opposing side entering into Krishna’s many and large mouths. This was a vision of what was to occur. Arjuna was urged to fight on, to act as destiny’s instrument, to get the credit because Krishna cared for him so much.

5. Sita causing Ravana’s destruction

Rama loves His devotees so much that He brings fame, honor and glory to them. As they surrender, He rewards accordingly. Hanuman got tremendous credit for travelling to Lanka and finding Sita. The wheels began to move for Ravana’s destruction when he became infatuated with Sita. The king of Lanka already had so many beautiful wives. He lacked nothing as far as material enjoyment. Yet his kama, or lust, was not in check. He was driven by his senses instead of the other way around. Sita persevered through difficult times. She was like a prisoner of war mentally tortured in different ways. She remained steady, though, showing that devotional strength can be found in any type of body, even a female’s. One woman brought down a powerful and evil king, and she did it without raising a hand.

In Closing:

Nothing to prevent the Divine will,

Credit given to devotees still.


As instrument for the Lord to act,

Like with Arjuna of target aim exact.


And Pandava Bhima winning wrestling match,

Sita, king of Lanka’s attention to catch.


Hanuman swift to island in flight,

In glory of devotees God to delight.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is The Vedic Viewpoint Pessimistic Or Optimistic

[Elevation to Krishna Consciousness]“Human life by nature is full of suffering, and lower life forms are even more miserable. Any sane man with properly discriminating senses can understand that life in the material world is full of miseries and that no one is free from the actions and reactions of such miseries. This is not a pessimistic view of life but is an actual fact which we should not be blind to.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Elevation To Krishna Consciousness, Ch 2)

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Friend1: Hey, let me ask you about pessimism and optimism.

Friend2: Glass half empty or half full?

Friend1: That’s pretty much it. I guess that’s why people use that comparison all the time.

Friend2: What did you want to ask?

Friend1: I’ve heard it said quite often that Vedic philosophy has a pessimistic view of the world.

Friend2: From people just learning about the philosophy?

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: And so basically Krishna consciousness, bhakti-yoga, devotional service - whatever you want to call it, is a bummer. The argument is that people should be happy instead.

Friend2: Oh, exactly. I agree. The thing is, you start off with a poor view in order to realize the eternal opportunity. The pessimism turns into optimism.

Friend1: Really? Why not just start out optimistic?

Friend2: Because at that stage the optimism is in illusion. It is towards reaching a permanent solution in a temporary world. It is thinking that lasting happiness will come while in a body destined for destruction. It ignores the threefold miseries of life, which attack at every second somewhere in the world. Just because I am spared for now doesn’t mean I will be safe later.

Friend1: Wow. Good job so succinctly describing the pessimistic view. We are all doomed to die, to change bodies, so what is there to be happy about? Can you just as succinctly describe the optimism that occurs later on?

[Elevation to Krishna consciousness]Friend2: I am spirit soul, part and parcel of God. No matter how low I sink, I always have an opportunity to reconnect with Him. I think I have fallen from the spiritual world, but actually God is always with me. The opportunity to serve Him and find real happiness is always there.

Friend1: Perfect.

Friend2: Did something happen to you that triggered this line of questioning today?

Friend1: You know me too well. I did have an experience. It immediately got me to thinking about people who complain that Vedic philosophy is too pessimistic, which I don’t really agree with.

Friend2: What happened?

Friend1: I went to a wedding.

Friend2: Okay. It wasn’t fun?

Friend1: It’s supposed to be, right? Listen, I’m not trying to put down other religions here. These were just my initial observations. Every person is bound to make them when in a foreign environment.

Friend2: Oh, the wedding wasn’t Hindu or Vedic?

Friend1: No. It was Christian, Catholic I think. Anyway, when we get to the church, I just got a weird vibe.

Friend2: How so?

Friend1: The best way I can describe it is that it felt like we were in a room suited for people who had done something wrong. Somber, serious, grave. That was the attitude. “You are a sinner and now you are in church to atone.”

Friend2: Hmm. You realize that to so many people that is the only experience they have with religion.

Friend1: Yeah, that’s what I’m getting to. I mean without speaking a single word of philosophy, I got a true experience of a pessimistic view. I immediately compared it to the mood of devotion and sweetness when worshiping God the person directly. You know, with the deity form.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Ah, yes. Certainly a different mood. Instead of, “Come here so you can take your punishment,” it is, “Come here and enjoy with Me. Be in bliss eternally. Use everything you have to stay connected with Me, and I’ll make sure that you are protected, happy, and excited to be alive.”

Friend1: Wow. Perfect, again. That’s exactly it! There was no happiness at this church, even though it was a wedding. I don’t know, maybe I was the only one who felt like that. The whole experience made me very thankful to know that there is a side of God where He shows His attractiveness and asks you to enjoy.

Friend2: Listen, that is the history of the world.

Friend1: What is?

Friend2: Variety. Not everyone is the same. The one religion, dharma, is taught differently based on time and circumstance. Not everything is revealed to everyone. Sometimes you need to scare people into approaching the Divine. I love what His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says about the ten commandments.

Friend1: What does he say?

Friend2: Those commandments are important to many people; they’re taken very seriously. Well, rules become important only when the people are prone to behaving against them. Basically, people during that time needed to be told to not steal, not cheat on their spouse, not kill, etc. If you think about it, though, the principles aren’t that important. You can figure those things out on your own. Religion has much more to it, or at least it should.

Friend1: That is a good point. Spirit, matter, the changing of bodies, action and reaction, birth and death, the different species, the nature of God, the types of interaction with Him, the place of residence - those are much higher topics than “thou shall not do this, thou shall not do that.”

Friend2: Right, but those commandments are still very important to certain people. It is their introduction to dharma. Any genuine step taken in spiritual life is significant, as it helps to bring elevation from the animal mindset.

In Closing:

Into church, at pew to kneel,

Weird vibe inside to feel.


As if into a prison shown,

Ready now for mistakes to atone.


Different from bhakti-yoga’s view,

Worship of God, ever fresh and new.


“Enjoy with Me, come to My land,”

Welcoming, guiding and compassionate hand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Five Reasons That God Is Atmarama

[Vishnu creating]“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.5)

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The Sanskrit word atma can mean body, mind, or soul. In philosophical discourses, the most common usage is “soul,” to distinguish between matter and spirit. The individual is atma, while what covers them temporarily is maya. Maya is the illusory energy of God, but it is also more of a viewpoint. To take identification from the body is improper; it is maya.

The Sanskrit word rama means “pleasure.” One word to describe the Almighty, the great soul, the origin of everything, is atmarama. This means “satisfied in the self.” Simply put, God is not an angry and vengeful man precisely because He doesn’t need to be. He is not dependent on outside factors for His pleasure. There are several truths described in Vedic literature that wonderfully illustrate this principle of atmarama.

1. He creates through exhaling, destroys through inhaling

The Almighty is one, but He has many forms. This can make spiritual life confusing, but there is no harm in referring to any single form as the person responsible for major aspects of the universe. As an example, the Vedas describe that God is all-attractive and so one of His names is Krishna. He is all-pervading and so Vishnu is another name.

Both Vishnu and Krishna refer to a specific form, but in discussions about the origin of the universe the two names can be used interchangeably, as they essentially refer to the same person. The creation happens effortlessly. Lord Vishnu lies down to take rest. He simply breathes. Every time He exhales, the universes manifest. Within those universes is infinite variety. There is time and space, which the human mind will never be able to fully comprehend.

[Vishnu creating]He then inhales, causing everything that was manifest to return back into Him. It’s as simple as that. The time in between the two can be great according to our perspective, but for Vishnu there is no tension. In the Bhagavad-gita He says that everything comes from but a spark of His splendor.

2. He has the most wonderful bed to sleep on

Sleep is so difficult that there is an entire industry dedicated to improving it. There are many problems. A person has trouble breathing at night. So they purchase a machine that hooks up a mask to their face. Another person prefers a certain firmness for their mattress. The problem is that the spouse has a different preference. The solution is to buy an expensive mattress that electronically sets the firmness for each side. The pillows, the sheets, and the climate within the room are also factors of variance.

Vishnu does not have these problems. He has the most perfect bed on which to sleep. It is a giant serpent, with many hoods. Known as Ananta Shesha Naga, this person not only provides physical comfort, but he sings the glories of God as well. The glorification has continued since anyone can remember, and there is no end in sight.

3. He has Lakshmi Devi massaging Him

Vishnu has the most beautiful consort. As He is eternal, so is the relationship to the consort. She is known as the goddess of fortune, bringing prosperity to those who worship and please her. She is able to do this because of the relationship to Vishnu.

More important than granting benedictions to others is her role as devoted wife. She is always massaging the lotus feet of her husband. Vishnu is pleased as a result. He has no stress at all. This is the accurate picture of God, because tension is a sign of fallibility. Vishnu is Achyuta, or infallible.

4. He has Shiva and Parvati managing the creation

Though the tendency is to pray to God in times of trouble, usually the request relates to something that karma already takes care of. Karma is fruitive activity, action and reaction. Karma is something from the material world, whose vast complexity is managed by two very important people: Shiva and Parvati. They are husband and wife, and they are very devoted to Vishnu.

Lord Shiva is known as the destroyer, as he goes to work when the time for dissolution arrives. He also grants material benedictions to his worshipers. He is the spiritual master to the world because he has something of value to offer to everyone. He is rightfully known as Shiva since his association is very auspicious.

Parvati punishes. One of her other names is Durga, which can refer to a fort. The material world is like a prison with high walls, difficult to climb over. Durga Devi punishes using her trident, whose three prongs represent the three sources of misery in life. With Shiva and Parvati managing the material creation, Vishnu is free to continue to relax and enjoy.

5. His associates are with Him all the time

One of the reasons Krishna is satisfied in the self is that His very definition includes His associates. He always has friends and well-wishers around. There is no difference between body and spirit for Him. Part of what defines Him is the devotion that others practice purely. They complete the picture of the spiritual world.

Despite being atmarama and having no need for outside help to be happy, the Supreme Lord always accepts more devotees. If need be, He expands Himself to give the devotee more enjoyment, like He did in the famous rasa dance with the gopis of Vrindavana. These reasons and more make God the person the ideal match for the love lying within the heart.

In Closing:

Supreme Lord as atmarama is known,

Proof from vision in Vaikuntha alone.


On serpent bed Ananta the perfect seat,

And Lakshmi Devi massaging His feet.


Shiva and Parvati material world to control,

Husband the teacher and wife trident to hold.


Associates there with Krishna in the center,

Ocean of mercy, room always for more to enter.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Five People Who Live For The Good Of Others

[Gods praying to Vishnu]“O Lord of Koshala, even the Earth, who is the mother of the world and respected by everyone, suffers distress in the form of earthquakes.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.10)

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The disciple who gains transcendental wisdom through association with a spiritual master feels so indebted afterwards. The guru does not have to be a formally accepted one. The interaction can be in the form of a conversation, where one person has doubts and the other removes it.

This occurred one time with Garuda and Kakabhushundi. One is the eagle-carrier of Lord Vishnu and the other is a crow who continuously speaks about the same Vishnu in His incarnation of Rama, the warrior-prince who brought further fame to the Raghu dynasty.

At one point in that conversation, Garuda describes five people/objects who work for the good of others. Even massive objects which are inanimate have spiritual identity to them. The idea is that man should have appreciation. Not everything is due to their own effort. Within the list, one in particular is relevant to the living entity struggling with the cycle of birth and death and everything that happens in between.

1. Trees

Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gives the proper conditions for being able to always chant the names of Hari. Hari is another name for Vishnu, or God. One of the conditions He specifies is tolerance.

“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.31)

Be humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. The tree takes all sorts of abuse. That comes from the change in seasons alone. Then there are other living entities who cause trouble. The tree gets cut. There are forest fires. All the while, it just stands there, not protesting.

The tree is there for other living entities. The pious trees give fruit. The sinful ones, according to the Vedic definition, at the very least provide shade.

2. Rivers

The more highly populated areas in a nation tend to be those situated near major bodies of water. Even in the modern age featuring extended air travel, the waterway is just as important. If a person has nothing, if they are completely destitute, they can still maintain life if they are near a river.

The Vedas give us the concept of sacred rivers. The Ganga and Yamuna are special due to their association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They originate from the spiritual world for the benefit of mankind. They sometimes swell. Sometimes their levels fall, but all the while the river is there; it can be counted on.

3. Mountains

True wealth is not determined by how much of a paper currency a person possesses. This is because the currency can be manipulated by the government. The change can happen overnight. Suddenly, your vast wealth becomes worthless.

“The rivers, oceans, hills, mountains, forests, creepers and active drugs, in every season, paid their tax quota to the King in profusion.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.5)

From the Shrimad Bhagavatam we learn of real wealth in the kingdom of Yudhishthira. Among other things, the description includes mountains and hills providing for the people. The meaning is that the mountain provides so much value to the human society. It works for others. Despite all the effort made at raiding it of resources, the mountain does not protest.

4. The earth

The earth is known as Bhumi Devi in the Vedic tradition. She is the most loving mother. The earth is just as tolerant as the tree. Everyone walks all over it. In the modern age, they drill deep into her to extract petroleum. The process is very dangerous, as a slight move in the wrong direction can bring out toxic fumes. Nevertheless, the earth remains where it is. It even suffers distress from time to time in the form of earthquakes.

[Bhumi Devi and others praying to Vishnu]Lakshmana once remarked on this. Shri Rama, the person of whom Kakabhushundi constantly discourses, one time was upset that His wife Sita had gone missing. Rama was ready to destroy the entire world as revenge. Lakshmana asked his brother to remain calm. He referenced the earth, and how it suffers distress. The earth benefits everyone, and it remains in its position. The sober minded person behaves similarly, not taken off the righteous path by changes in fortune.

5. The saint

The saint is obviously on the righteous path. They have perfected themselves through following dharma, or religiosity. Their presence is so valuable that simply through a moment’s association a person’s life can turn around for the better. The saint is already liberated, as they are dear to the Supreme Lord. They have transcended birth and death. Since they are above the effects of the material body while still living in it, one term to describe them is jivan-mukta.

The saint stays in the world simply for the benefit of others. They offer the most valuable gift. Not just money. Not just food. Not just medical treatment. They give an occupation that can be practiced endlessly, and which provides bliss that cannot be matched anywhere else. Kakabhushundi was one such saint to Garuda, and fortunately their conversation was preserved and made possible for consultation by future generations through another saint, Goswami Tulsidas.

In Closing:

The earth daily trampled upon,

Suffering earthquakes continuing on.


On mountains and rivers others to rely,

Life sustained when having nearby.


Great ignorance since birth for me,

Only the saint can finally free.


Message from the Divine realm to bring,

Glories of Supreme Lord to sing.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Five Instances Where Devotional Strength Triumphed Over Physical Strength

[Krishna saving Draupadi]“At first, Draupadi had tried to hold on to her sari. But what could she do? After all, she was a woman, and the Kurus were trying to strip her naked. So she cried and prayed to Krishna, ‘Save my honor,’ but she also tried to save herself by holding on to her sari. Then she thought, ‘It is impossible to save my honor in this way,’ and she let go and simply raised her arms and prayed, ‘Krishna, if You like You can save me.’ Thus the Lord responded to her prayers.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 7 Purport)

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The classic mismatch. On paper, it looks like it won’t even be a contest. One side has too much strength. They are large in stature. They have so many victories from the past from which to draw confidence. They are not worried at all about the upcoming contest.

The other side is much smaller in comparison. On the surface, it looks like perhaps they are out of sorts, not thinking correctly. Why would they even agree to enter the conflict? Why not just flee? Why not give in to what the aggressor wants? Better that than suffer humiliating, painful, and quick defeat.

In the extended history described in Vedic literature, physical strength is not always victorious. The strength from devotion, bhakti, is amazing. It transcends the material world, and the source of that strength is the Supreme Lord Himself.

1. Prahlada and Hiranyakashipu

Just by chanting the holy names a person does not automatically eliminate the miseries of the material world. I may be thinking about God twenty-four hours a day, understanding that He is ultimately a person with all opulences, but this doesn’t mean that I won’t have to sleep. My sleeping will likely diminish. I may conquer over it like Arjuna, who was thus known as Gudakesha. But nevertheless, the effects of the body are still there.

Prahlada is a special person. He was able to defy the laws of nature due to exceptional devotion, unbroken dhyana on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His example shows that it is indeed possible to defeat material strength of the highest magnitude.

Prahlada was not a hostile combatant. He was not an eager participant in conflict. Rather, he wasn’t bothering anyone. He simply practiced bhakti-yoga, and at five years of age, he had little physical power to wield. His father turned out to be the greatest enemy. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t stand the boy’s devotion.

If there was a hint of hostility in Prahlada, it was in his stubbornness. He refused to give up worshiping Vishnu, which is one name for the Almighty. Hiranyakashipu wouldn’t budge from his position, either. The difference was that Prahlada could tolerate the atheism in his father. The father could not tolerate the devotion in the son.

“O lord, we know that when you simply move your eyebrows, all the commanders of the various planets are most afraid. Without the help of any assistant, you have conquered all the three worlds. Therefore, we do not find any reason for you to be morose and full of anxiety. As for Prahlada, he is nothing but a child and cannot be a cause of anxiety. After all, his bad or good qualities have no value.” (Advisors speaking to Hiranyakashipu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.49)

[Prahlada with teachers in gurukula]Hiranyakashipu made so many attempts to kill his son. The king had everything at his disposal. But for some reason Prahlada wouldn’t die. The father even tried to get the boy’s mind right by having the teachers instruct him on materialistic ways. Nothing worked. At the end, the father thought the son maybe had some mystic power that was protecting him. Prahlada informed the father that the source of his strength was the same as in the father. The difference was that the source protected Prahlada’s devotion, while the material strength was set to expire for the father eventually.

2. The Vanaras and the Rakshasas

The Almighty descended to earth in the Treta Yuga as a handsome warrior prince named Rama. Playing the part of a human being, He went through trials and tribulations. The greatest struggle was rescuing His wife Sita, who had been kidnapped in secret by a Rakshasa named Ravana. A Rakshasa is a human-like creature who is prone to heinous behavior. They were man-eaters, ranging the night looking for prey. Their favorite kind of human flesh was priests engaged in worship.

Because of certain rules stipulated by the father, when going to rescue His wife Rama could not use the royal army. Instead, He was friends with Vanaras from the forest of Kishkindha. The literal meaning to this word is “forest dweller,” and from the descriptions provided in shastra we understand that they were monkey-like creatures.

Meanwhile, the Rakshasas could change their shapes at will. They were expert at black magic, which meant they could display illusions and disappear from sight in an instant. Yet this amazing strength, which included physical application through bows and arrows, was defeated by monkeys hurling trees and boulders. Ravana was just like Hiranyakashipu, so strong materially to the point of being almost invincible. But once again, the devotional strength triumphed.

3. Hanuman lifting Lakshmana

One incident from the final conflict is particularly wonderful in illustrating the concept. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was with Him. Lakshmana is like a twin to Rama; just the bodily complexion is different. Both brothers are excellent marksman. They can destroy anyone in conflict, despite how they look. One against thousands is no problem for them.

In the final battle with Ravana and the Rakshasas, Lakshmana at one point fell unconscious on the battlefield from a blow. Ravana then tried to lift him. The same person who had moved the great Mount Kailasa could not move Lakshmana lying unconscious. Rama’s younger brother is the origin of the guru, and so he is heavy in terms of others comprehending him. Ravana’s failure beautifully symbolized the inability of the atheist to understand God.

Hanuman, one of the leading Vanaras, later came in and picked up Lakshmana without a problem. This is because Hanuman has devotional strength. He understands that Rama is God, that God is a person, and that the representative is the way to understanding God.

4. Trying to disrobe Draupadi

The Pandava brothers faced many hardships. As five brothers, they were the rightful heirs to the throne in Hastinapura. Unfortunately, their cousins took it over, unjustly. The Kauravas were headed by Duryodhana, and like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana he could not stand to have devotees around. The Pandavas were those devotees, and they were essentially persecuted by Duryodhana.

One time Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five brothers, got roped into a dice game with the Kauravas. The Kauravas cheated, and one of the stipulations from their victory was that Draupadi became their property. Due to special circumstances, Draupadi is the wife shared by all five Pandava brothers.

Nevertheless, she is still the most chaste woman. Duryodhana’s group had her dragged into an assembly. She was about to be made naked in front of everyone. With no other hope, she prayed to the Supreme Lord Krishna to save her. Krishna is the well-wisher of the devotees, and especially the Pandavas.

[Krishna saving Draupadi]Nobody could believe what happened next. No matter how much of Draupadi’s sari was pulled, she still was clothed. She could not be made naked. Krishna had taken the form of the cloth and made it inexhaustible, just like Himself. This defied the laws of the material world. The scales were heavily tilted on the side of the Kauravas, but a helpless woman earned victory through the favor of her well-wisher.

5. Agastya and the two Rakshasa brothers

There were two Rakshasas by the name of Vatapi and Ilvala. They were demons in the truest sense, bad guys who were against the priestly class. They had a scheme going whereby they killed brahmanas, who are essentially priests. One of the brothers would transform into a type of meat, and the other would invite brahmanas to come and eat. After consumption, the brother would burst out of the stomach, killing the brahmana. The brothers would then eat the resultant flesh.

They tried this one time on Agastya Rishi. Unbeknownst to them the scheme had reached its end. The brother who turned into flesh died after entering Agastya’s stomach. The other brother got killed simply by a glance from Agastya. This was all due to devotional strength.

The Supreme Lord’s mercy is very powerful. In each of these cases, the devotees had no desire to show off. Though they were so strong on the inside, they were humble at the same time. In this way we see that devotional service is the solution to the greatest problems. It grants protection, either through maintaining the present life or in bringing more auspicious circumstances in the subsequent life.

In Closing:

One a powerful foe,

Another of small stature so.


Defeat the likely outcome to see,

Since inferior in strength is he.


But for devotees not the case,

Like Agastya demons scheme to erase.


For Draupadi sari endlessly extending,

Monkeys trees and rocks to foes sending.