Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five Questions About Heaven And The Answers The Vedas Give

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

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To the atheists the afterlife is a fairytale, a concoction of the human mind used as a coping mechanism for the unknown. To the believers, heaven is everything. It is the promise of happiness never to be found on earth. This is the general dividing line, what separates the believers and the non-believers.

The Vedas provide the most clarity on the issue. There is the time factor to consider. There is the identity of the individual. There are many aspects to heavenly life about which to inquire, questions that go beyond behaving piously and being rewarded at the time of death.

1. When do I go there?

Since it is the afterlife, the obvious answer is after death. You can’t go to heaven right now. But the question is of exactly when after dying does a person ascend to the higher region. Does everyone go at the same time? For instance, if there is a cemetery full of caskets, do those individuals all go to heaven at the exact same time, way into the future? Or is it after every individual’s death?

The Vedas make the key distinction between body and spirit. This is the first instruction taught to serious students of the discipline. For the more intelligent audience, the promise of heaven through following pious behavior is not the first thing taught. Rather, the most important truth to know and assimilate into everyday life is the difference between matter and spirit.

The afterlife is simply the future relative to the present. Indeed, the present is the afterlife to the past. The future will one day be the present. This debunks the mental speculation that the afterlife is a fairytale. The future will come. No one can deny that.

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

The individual is spirit soul. The body does not identify them. Death is the relinquishing of the body in favor of a new one. The subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego travel to the next destination. The comparison is made to how the air carries aromas. The next body is determined by the state of being at the time of death. In other words, the consciousness gets measured when quitting the body.

That consciousness is at the individual level and gets assessed locally. The assessment isn’t made for all dead people in a certain area, since through the ticking of time there is always birth and death going on. The individual travels to the next destination after quitting the body, whether that destination be earth, heaven or hell.

2. How long do I stay?

The changing of bodies is one way to explain reincarnation. There is change going on all the time. I have essentially reincarnated since my youth. I no longer have that tiny body. Yet I am still me. This means that the body has completely changed through the course of time. The same reincarnation takes place when there is ascension to heaven.

The length of the stay in heaven is determined by the number of pious credits accumulated. It is something like racking up points on a rewards card, allowing you to spend a certain amount. This applies to the material heaven. Heaven, hell, earth - these are all part of the perishable world, where birth and death take place.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

There is the spiritual version of heaven as well. A person never has to leave when they go there. Yet there is always independence. That is the meaning to an existence. A person always has the option to leave a place, even after they ascend to the topmost one. In the spiritual version of heaven, the exit is uncommon, while in material heaven it is guaranteed to happen once the pious credits get used up.

3. Who Else Is There?

As the material heaven is the destination for the pious, obviously other living entities are there. Many heavenly planets there are, with the variety accounting for the different kinds of pious behavior. You could be expert at doing good deeds while on earth. You could be someone who does a lot of religious rituals in the home. You could be an expert mystic, who meditates and is not attached to material things.

[Krishnaloka]When you reach a particular heavenly planet, the people living there are essentially in the same category as you. The same applies for the spiritual version as well. One who loves God in a mood of awe and reverence ascends to one of the Vaikuntha planets where there is worship of God in His four-handed form of Narayana. When there is a desire to interact in sweetness, the next destination is Goloka Vrindavana, where there is endless transcendental play with the Supreme Lord in His two-handed form of Krishna.

4. Do I Keep The Same Body?

Material heaven is ruled by demigods, or devas in Sanskrit. They have amazing bodies that allow them to live a very long time. The elements are of sattva-guna, or goodness. In our present world, the many species have various combinations of the three elements of goodness, passion and ignorance. The same body does not come with us to heaven since by definition we leave it behind at the time of death.

There is a new body granted upon entry into heaven, and that body matches the nature of the realm. In the spiritual heaven, there is the notable distinction of the equality of body and spirit. In essence, there is no longer a difference. The body received in the spiritual world is known as the svarupa, or self-form. It is the original nature of the soul, the way he interacts with God the person.

Going to the spiritual world is defined as liberation, which is the end to the cycle of rebirth. No more reincarnation. No more taking birth and then having to die afterwards. There are five kinds of liberation, and one of them is getting a body similar to Narayana’s. This means that one of the bodies I can get in heaven is four-armed, beautiful, and bluish in complexion. In Goloka Vrindavana, the type of body is determined by the nature of the desire to serve Krishna. I can be a cow, a tree, a peacock, a boy, a girl, or even a parent.

5. What Do I Do There?

Material heaven is simply increased enjoyment of the variety experienced on earth. We already have glimpses of heaven and hell. Heaven the destination is just more of the good stuff. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna describes that the residents live for a very long time and enjoy heavenly delights. Heaven has desire trees, kalpa-tarus, where a person can go up to one and ask for anything and receive it immediately.

“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)

As mentioned before, in the spiritual version of heaven there is worship of God the person in the preferred mood of choice. Vaikuntha is completely different from the material world. In any case, the afterlife is always a continuation. It is never the final end. A person who has perfect God consciousness never has to take birth again, but there is always independence. The best use of it is to stay in the company of the Supreme Lord, who provides the best shelter.

In Closing:

Reward for pious credits to reap,

But in heaven same form do I keep?


Are all dead ascending at that time,

Or is it local to when quitting body of mine?


Answers the Vedic tradition providing,

In material heaven in advanced life residing.


But from all planets eventually have to leave,

Only in spiritual world timelessness not to believe.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Five Things That God Is Not Doing In Heaven

[Krishna with friends]“Krishna sometimes played with His intimate friends by engaging in fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball, sometimes by playing chess, sometimes by carrying one another on the shoulders, and sometimes by exhibiting their expertness at whirling logs.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)

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Be good. Don’t sin. Don’t steal. Don’t go after your neighbor’s wife. Be a “God-fearing” person. Following the generally accepted principles of piety gets you to heaven. This is the standard promise found in practically every religious tradition. One group has a certain language, another group wears a certain outfit, and another prays a certain number of times a day. Despite the variation, they each have their belief in the Divine, something bigger than this world.

But who is God really? What is going on in the heavenly realm? It is supposed that He lives there, the destination for the pious, so what exactly is He doing? What is the influence of time? The Vedas fill in the missing pieces. A lot of the information is eye-opening, as well as comforting. A good way to understand is to review some of the things that God is not doing in the heavenly realm.

1. Punishing the sinners

Piety and sin are products of a land governed by duality. What is good for one person may not be so for another. Today it is cloudy, with the chance of rain. That is good for nature, since the area has been suffering from a drought. The same situation is negative for the commuters. A professional sports league has their main event of the year today, and the venue is outdoors. Rain threatens to wash away any chance of profit.

The Sanskrit words dharma and adharma apply here. The first is piety and the second is irreligion. Punya and papa is another pair of words of relevance. Punya is pious credits or pious activity, and papa is sin. According to Vedic teachings, God is not standing by in heaven waiting to punish the sinners.

That already takes place in the material world through the administration of Yamaraja. He is commonly known as the god of death, something like a Grim Reaper. He is also Dharmaraja, which means the god of justice. He decides whether a person will go to hell or ascend to heaven after death.

The real definition of piety is moving closer to the essential characteristic of the soul, service to the Divine. Sin is moving away. Getting hotter or becoming colder happen in the material world, of which the Supreme Lord, in His original, personal form, has no interest.

2. Looking down disapprovingly

The heavenly region is above. The Vedic description is “upper planetary system.” There are many heavenly planets, as well as hellish ones. The earth is in the middle region. God is obviously in the highest heaven, so the idea of Him looking down at the population of the earth is valid.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that from the highest planet down to the lowest, there is rebirth. This applies to the material world. There is no reason for God to look down disapprovingly. The descent to the material world took place when there was a hint of desire to enjoy separate from God. He still accompanies every individual as the Supersoul, residing within the heart.

The material nature operates essentially on its own, without direct supervision from the Divine. It is something like a person setting up a computer. There is intelligence in the construction, and the aftereffect of that intelligence is the autonomous operation subsequent to the creation. The material nature is something like that, the home for the fallen souls. They go through the cycle of birth and death, sometimes rising to heaven, sometimes falling to hell. The Supreme Lord has no direct interest.

3. Growing old

That is the picture of the Supreme Lord when relying on mental speculation alone. He is adi-purusha, after all, which means the original person. He must be old, then. He must have a long, white beard.

Actually, the Vedas describe Him as nava-yauvanam. He is ever fresh and new, like someone who has just become a teenager. Visual evidence is there in His descents to the material world in His personal form.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

The Supreme Lord came as Krishna some five thousand years ago. After being on earth for over one hundred years, He still looked young. When He delivered the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, there was no sign of old age in Him. The same transcendence of time is there in the eternal abode of the spiritual world. Krishna is known as Bhagavan, which means that He has the opulence of shri, which is beauty. Old age attacks beauty, and Bhagavan always retains beauty to the highest level.

4. Getting angry

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna describes the cause of anger. There are objects of the senses and then contemplation on them. Then kama results, which can be translated as “lust.”

“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

Kama is also desire. If I don’t have my desire met, obviously I will be upset. I’m going along my day, pretty happy and peaceful. Then there’s traffic on the drive home from work. I get angry because my desire for seamless travel is frustrated.

The Supreme Lord is not angry in the spiritual world because He is never frustrated in desire. There are no objects of the senses for Him since He does not have a material body. His kama is transcendental. He is atmarama, which means “satisfied in the self.”

5. Sitting around bored

The complete picture of Krishna includes His associates. For instance, you can’t have Krishna without Radha, His eternal consort. The Supreme Lord is never bored in the spiritual world since He has people who love Him purely always around.

Thus far we have looked at what the Supreme Lord isn’t doing in heaven. The answer to the question of what He is doing is always the same: enjoying. God is personal and He has many personal expansions that reside in different planets of the spiritual world, which is the real heaven. The heaven referred to in general conversation is actually a temporary residence in the material world reserved for those with many pious credits. Those credits eventually expire, which means the residence must change.

[Krishna with friends]On the planet of Goloka Vrindavana, Krishna is always enjoying. There is Radha. There are the gopis. There are the sakhas, the male friends. Even the animals, such as the parrots, peacocks, and cows, are pleasant to have around. Krishna is always in madhurya, or sweetness. The pastimes in His home are eternal, and going back to Godhead means reentering those pastimes, returning to the company of the most compassionate, pleasant, and beautiful person, who also happens to be God.

In Closing:

For true nature of heaven to know,

To the negative one way to go.


Supreme Lord never growing old,

In full beauty, ever fresh to behold.


Not in punishing sinners delighting,

With friends in wrestling match fighting.


With gopis dancing and having a good time,

Transcendental bodies, in splendor of devotion to shine.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Can We Always Have Individuality If There Is The Option to Merge In Liberation

[Radha-Krishna]“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation - salokya, sarshti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva - even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.13)

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Friend1: Today’s discussion will be on a particular verse of the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend2: It’s going to be a discussion or a lecture?

Friend1: A discussion since I have a few questions. I’m including the purport given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is book.

Friend2: Naturally.

Friend1: So here is my question.

Friend2: First quote the verse at least.

Friend1: Sorry.

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

Friend2: Man, that is pretty profound. Give a quick review of the context, for anyone who might be listening.

Friend1: Krishna and Arjuna are on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna is a chariot fighter and Krishna is steering the chariot. Just prior to the war’s commencement, Arjuna has cold feet. He’s not sure he wants to proceed.

Friend2: What exactly is he worried about?

Friend1: Victory; namely the cost of it. There are people dear to his heart fighting for the other side. He does not want to be the cause of their demise. He knows that his side is right, though. He’s confused so he puts his doubts to Krishna.

Friend2: Okay, good.

Friend1: This verse is particularly meaningful because it again proves the immortality of the individual, who is spirit soul. The kings on the other side will continue to exist, even after death.

Friend2: Sorry to interrupt, but here’s a quick question. If they’re going to continue to exist, why go to war? What is the purpose of killing them if they’ll live forever?

[Battlefield of Kurukshetra]Friend1: Not what I wanted to talk about, but I’m assuming the answer is that society would be benefitted from victory for Arjuna’s side. Righteousness would prevail. The kings would obviously move to a different body after death, but for the people who continued to live a great obstacle towards following dharma would be removed.

Friend2: Wow, that’s great. Okay, please continue.

Friend1: In the purport Shrila Prabhupada discusses how this one verse proves that there is always individuality. The juxtaposition is with the Mayavada, or impersonal, philosophy. The Mayavadi hopes to merge into the spiritual existence, which effectively kills identity.

Friend2: Yeah. You’re no longer a separate individual. You’re part of a whole. That whole is amazing. It’s the spiritual energy, after all. There is no birth and death while merged in the Brahman effulgence.

Friend1: There is always individuality for Krishna and Arjuna, too. It’s not just about the other side. Though Arjuna is a beloved associate, he does not merge into Krishna, who is God in the personal form.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: So here is where I’m confused. I know that in the Vedas there are five kinds of mukti described.

Friend2: Mukti is liberation, the release from the cycle of birth and death.

Friend1: One kind of mukti is ekatva. This means merging, oneness.

Friend2: Correct.

Friend1: So doesn’t that contradict Krishna’s statement? How is there always individuality when there is the option to merge in liberation?

Friend2: That’s a very good question. The option is there, no doubt about it. That’s why the impersonal path exists and it is valid. Krishna even gets asked the question by Arjuna later on, as to which path is superior. The Lord doesn’t say that impersonalism is bogus or completely wrong. He says that personalism is easier and preferred. He swiftly delivers the devotee, whereas impersonalism takes a long time to perfect.

Friend1: Okay, but what about individuality? What about the option to merge? Let’s say I choose the impersonal path. I try very hard to become Brahman realized. Since I am embodied, this path is difficult. Still, hypothetically let’s say that I am successful. What happens to my individuality?

Friend2: It remains. Even though you merge, you are still you. You are just unmanifest. Your existence can never be taken away from you.

Friend1: I see.

[Radha-Krishna]Friend2: The option is there, but devotees don’t prefer it at all. They compare it to spiritual suicide. They would rather maintain their identity in a manifest way so that they can continue to serve the Supreme Lord. They don’t even strive for the four other kinds of mukti. They don’t mind being in heaven or hell, as long as they continue to see the Supreme Lord through their consciousness. Seeing in that way allows them to serve.

In Closing:

When at time of death perfectly spiritually aware,

Liberation achieved, option to merge is there.


But how then a separate identity maintaining,

When forever the Brahman light attaining?


Just dormant for a while, individuality stalling,

Safe from again to material world falling.


Bhaktas not wanting any liberation of variety five,

Preferring their devotion to keep alive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

But That Was Then And This Is Now

[Vaikuntha]“The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.1 Purport)

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Friend1: Do you ever get into debates over the origin of the jiva?

Friend2: What is the jiva?

Friend1: Very funny. It’s the living entity.

Friend2: What is the distinguishing characteristic?

Friend1: Choice. The jiva is the marginal potency of the Supreme Lord.

Friend2: How is the Supreme Lord different?

Friend1: There are no distinctions between energies for Him. Nirguna, saguna, manifest, unmanifest, personal, impersonal - these are all dichotomies from our perspective.

Friend2: Exactly. And that perspective is flawed. We are proud of our eyes, but eyesight is limited. We need light in order to look around us. We can’t see through walls. If there is such limitation at the basic level, how are we qualified to understand God?

Friend1: Isn’t there a Dohavali verse you like to quote about this?

Friend2: Something similar is in the Shrimad Bhagavatam as well. The meaning is that if you can’t see that you are a living entity separated from God right now through maya, how are you going to understand His transcendental form? Just chant the holy names instead.

“[O mystic] First know yourself, then realize the Supreme Absolute Truth, and then see the material nature standing in between. O wretch, without seeing these how can you understand what the unmanifested [invisible] feature of the Absolute Truth [alakh] actually is? Chant Shri Rama’s holy name instead, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 19)

Friend1: Is that what it means to be marginal? The jiva is stuck in between?

Friend2: It has a choice. It can choose the spiritual energy or the material energy. That choice is always there. That’s what makes the soul a jiva.

Friend1: Okay, getting back to my original question. Is there an origin? When was that choice first made?

Friend2: I see. You want to know if we were ever with the Supreme Lord, God the person?

[Vaikuntha]Friend1: Right. Did we make the choice while in Vaikuntha, the spiritual planets, or some other place? There is a major debate on this topic, as I am sure you are aware.

Friend2: I am aware. There are many statements from the acharyas saying that no one ever falls from Vaikuntha. The apparent descents due to bad behavior are arranged by the Supreme Lord. Like the case with the gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya, who took birth in the material world as demons. They were merely actors. They were devotees the entire time, but their association with the material energy and tendency towards demoniac behavior illustrated key principles. The fall also allowed the Supreme Lord to show His transcendental form in this material world.

Friend1: Right. And so one argument goes that the jivas came from the impersonal spiritual energy, brahmajyoti. They were like mustard seeds falling on the edge of a sword. They could choose either side, God or maya. The choice to come to the material world was something like chance.

Friend2: And they stay in the material world for as long as desire is not purified. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita which describes how the living entities continue to appear and then get annihilated. The recurrence is tied to the day and night of Brahma, which are both extremely long.

“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)

Living in the brahmajyoti is something like being unmanifest. The souls are Brahman and it is the Brahman material energy, mahat-tattva, that Krishna impregnates to create the living entities in this world.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.3)

Friend1: Oh boy, that’s a lot to take in. What is the conclusion, though? Because I know that if you go to Krishna’s realm, you never come back. It is the unmanifest world, not subject to the cycles of creation and dissolution.

Friend2: You never come back. If you are with Him in the spiritual world, there is no chance to fall down. Listen, the issue is with time and the identity of the individuals.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: We don’t know other souls. We don’t know their history. Take a person at random. Isn’t it possible they are here temporarily, falling down from the spiritual world with a purpose?

Friend1: So you’re saying everyone is Krishna’s associate, here just as part of His lila? That’s kind of an optimistic viewpoint.

Friend2: It is possible. There is also the infinite nature of time. If we fell like mustard seeds on a sword to indicate our choice, where were we before that? We could have been in the spiritual world. Krishna says that never was there a time when we did not exist. It should be noted that the acharyas don’t devote a lot of time to this subject.

Friend1: Why not?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Because tracing the full history of the jiva is immaterial. That was then and this is now. You know now how to get out of the cycle of birth and death. There is always independence. If you couldn’t choose against Krishna, then you wouldn’t be a person. You would be a robot. The choice is always there. Make the right one now and enjoy eternal bliss in service to the Divine, both in this life, the next, and any others that come after.

In Closing:

Living entities struggling right now,

First came to this world how?


Like seeds of mustard on sword falling,

One turning away, other Lord as friend calling.


But infinite is the nature of time,

Prior to falling what was history of mine?


Whatever the cause, path to escape clear,

Follow bhakti and death no more fear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Your Lifestyle To Me Seems So Tragic

[Arjuna distress]"The Lord said, you are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned - one who knows what is body and what is soul - does not lament for any stage of the body, neither in the living nor in the dead condition." (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.11 Purport)

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Friend1: The wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.

Friend2: Pretty profound, eh?

Friend1: It is. The context was Arjuna’s lamentation over the future.

Friend2: He wasn’t even worried about what was happening at the moment. It’s not like he saw something tragic and lost heart. He was so wise that he looked to the future consequences.

Friend1: And then Krishna suddenly dashed that supposed wisdom, calling it ignorance instead. The truly wise don’t lament for the changes in time.

Friend2: Exactly. The future represented a different stage of the body for the people affected. Arjuna was worried about the impending deaths which would be the cost of victory in the war, a victory he would lead. It was his duty to fight. The other people had it coming. The future was set due to work already put in.

Friend1: I’m glad we’re in agreement here. This has been a good conversation thus far, but you know I like to poke holes in the argument. I’ve heard one where the devotee is naturally compassionate towards other people.

Friend2: One what? An argument? And define “devotee.”

Friend1: In this context I would say it is a wise person. Someone who has learned from Krishna and what He instructed to Arjuna. Particularly, they are wise enough to know to not lament for either the living or the dead.

Friend2: That’s good. A teaching I like to remember is what Shri Hanuman spoke to Tara. He compared the body to a bubble. It can burst at any moment, so there is no reason to think that one person is poor and another is rich. Everyone is living in one of these bubbles.

"Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?" (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)

Friend1: The devotee is para-duhkha-duhkhi.

[Arjuna distress]Friend2: They feel pain at another’s pain. That’s pretty obvious based on Arjuna’s case that we’ve been discussing.

Friend1: Okay, but don’t you see the contradiction? If you know about the changing body, why should you lament?

Friend2: That’s a good point.

Friend1: Also, isn’t the devotee supposed to be humble?

Friend2: Humbler than a blade of grass, as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says.

Friend1: By feeling bad for others, there is some condescension there.

Friend2: Where do you get that? It’s compassion.

Friend1: There is a hint of, “I’m better than you.” It’s sort of like when the overzealous preacher tells someone else, “I’m praying for your soul.” The other person gets upset that their piety is challenged.

Friend2: I see what you are saying, but the compassion is legitimate and rooted in knowledge. The devotee understands the changing body, and how there are different stages. It’s a matter of vision.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: By seeing a person suffering under the illusion of maya, the devotee immediately sees the many previous lives of that individual. They know just how difficult it is to acquire the human body. In that most auspicious form, which can bring happiness at every second through voluntary connection with the Divine, the valuable time is being wasted in activities already experienced. Prahlada Maharaja refers to it as chewing the chewed.

Friend1: That’s fine, but I’ll go back to the point of lamentation. The wise don’t lament.

[Shri Hanuman]Friend2: Ah, I see that you’re fixated on that. Let me tell you a secret. Lamentation will always be there. Arjuna didn’t go through the war like a robot. He had emotions. Shri Hanuman felt extreme lamentation in Lanka when searching for Sita. These are both very wise souls.

Friend1: So what is the point of the teaching, then?

Friend2: Don’t allow lamentation to take you off track. Don’t lament so much that it draws away attention from duty. The devotees feel compassion for others, but they don’t let that compassion divert them from the truth. They use it as impetus to further spread the glories of God. I’m helping you because I feel bad that you are wasting your abilities. You can be a much better devotee than me. I am just aspiring, after all. If I was truly God conscious, I would not be able to tolerate a moment of separation. The talents that you have, which I see exhibited in so many ways, can be used for your benefit and for society in general if you connect it with service, devotional service. That is why I feel compassion. This is the meaning to para-duhkha-duhkhi.

In Closing:

To not lament should he,

For dead or the living to be.


Since spirit soul in time-body stage,

Soon another birth, to turn the page.


But devotee also as compassionate known,

Through their intense mercy distribution shown.


Because of past lives, valuable time wasted,

Soul for bhakti meant, something higher tasted.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Do I Have To Conquer The Senses In Order To Reach Krishna

[Rasa dance]“Everyone is bound by his fruitive activities, but the devotees, because they work completely for the satisfaction of the Lord, suffer no reactions. Similarly, the gopis' attitude toward Krishna, although seemingly lusty, should not be considered to be like the lusty desires of ordinary women. The reason is explained by Krishna Himself. Activities in devotional service to Krishna are transcendental to any fruitive result.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 22)

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Friend1: Ajita-indriya.

Friend2: One who is conquered by the senses.

Friend1: Which is a negative.

Friend2: Is it?

Friend1: Yes. Jitendriya is the more preferred name. It means one who has conquered the senses.

Friend2: How do you conquer them, though? If there is no sense interaction, there is no life, correct?

Friend1: Conquering means not being driven by them. Think of it like sitting down at your desk at work and someone placing a pizza pie next to your computer. You’ve already eaten breakfast. Lunch is scheduled for sometime later. You shouldn’t be eating this pizza.

[cheese pizza]Friend2: But it just looks too good to pass up.

Friend1: The senses. Sight triggers the taste buds. Conquering means to control yourself.

Friend2: I see.

Friend1: Why am I lecturing you? You lure me into these traps. I was going somewhere with this.

Friend2: Let me guess. That if you try to control the sense objects but still have a taste for them, you are a pretender. Like Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita.

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

Friend1: No, but that’s a good point. That’s something for another discussion. Oh, okay. So if you don’t have control over the senses, you can’t make progress in spiritual life?

Friend2: Think about it. Hanging on to the senses means being in illusion. If you are in maya, how will you think of “not maya” at the time of death? If you can’t control the urges right now, at the critical moment when quitting the body your focus will be on the material.

Friend1: Listen, I agree with you. It makes sense. But now that you’ve accepted my premise, there is a trap.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: Are you ready? How do you explain the gopis?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: They lusted after Krishna. The Sanskrit word is kama. They were already married but they couldn’t control their urges to be with the Supreme Lord, to enjoy with Him intimately. They ran out from home in the middle of the night to meet with Him in the forest.

Friend2: Right. No argument here.

Friend1: Yet they are considered the topmost transcendentalists. How do you explain the contradiction?

Friend2: First off, let me just say that the contradiction is beautiful. It is good to have it there. It’s not something any person dedicated to Krishna should worry about. Rather, it reinforces the main point that spiritual life is completely different from material life.

[Rasa dance]Friend1: How do you explain it, though? These were village girls. They were not yogis. They couldn’t control their urges. Why are they so exalted, then?

Friend2: Because they abandoned everything for God. Their kama was actually bhakti. They weren’t scratching some material itch. They gave up everything, including reputation, to be with God. That is real surrender.

Friend1: Isn’t that sort of a convenient excuse? You’re making an exception to the rule since Krishna is involved.

Friend2: That’s precisely it. Krishna is the exception. If there were no exceptions, then the rules themselves would be superior. They would be God. But we know that God is a person, not just a principle.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita that confirms this. Bhagavan says that only after a person has exhausted all sinful reactions do they take up devotion to Him in earnest.

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

The gopis have transcended the ordinary rules of right and wrong. They are uncontrolled in their desire to be with Krishna, to please Him. In this way they are always conscious of Him, which is the objective of sense control anyway.

In Closing:

Over senses should have control,

Not that urges upon you having hold.


How then to the gopis treated?

Who to forest for Krishna retreated.


Dancing the night away long,

Having desire for Shyama strong.


Understood since surpassed already,

Highest platform when in bhakti steady.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Five Devotees Who Abandoned Someone Close To Them

[Vamanadeva]“You have promised to give Him three steps of land in charity, but when you give it He will occupy the three worlds. You are a rascal! You do not know what a great mistake you have made. After giving everything to Lord Vishnu, you will have no means of livelihood. How then shall you live?” (Shukracharya speaking to Bali Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 8.19.33)

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Friends and family. They are our support system. The parents are likely the first people we see after emerging from the womb. By extension, they become the people we have known the longest. The respectable personalities are referred to in Sanskrit as guru. Though the word often has the meaning of spiritual guide, it can refer to any person who holds weight with us, whose authority we respect, trust, and rely on.

Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is dedicated to the supreme authority figure, the original guru. He is the heaviest person and also the most compassionate. In dedicated service to someone, sometimes even loved ones become obstacles. The choice to abandon is difficult, but several devotees from the past fearlessly blazed the path for future generations to follow. These examples were referenced one time by Goswami Tulsidas in correspondence with Mirabai. Both famous poets of the bhakti tradition, Tulsidas used the list as a way to give assurance that the Supreme Lord’s companionship takes precedence over all others.

1. Prahlada

Physical separation isn’t required for there to be abandonment. In the case of Prahlada, there was nowhere to go. He was merely five years of age. The issue was his devotion to Vishnu, which is one of many names the Vedas provide for the Almighty, who is a person in His original feature. Prahlada’s father was the cause of distress. In the beginning, Hiranyakashipu was affectionate. He wanted Prahlada to follow in his footsteps, to be a great king, feared throughout the world.

When he saw Prahlada’s devotional inclination, the father vehemently protested. He would not have any Vishnu-worship in his kingdom. The father was so incensed that he thought maybe the teachers on the royal staff were responsible. They assured Hiranyakashipu that they had not taught Prahlada about worshiping Vishnu.

“The son of Shukracharya, Hiranyakashipu's spiritual master, said: O enemy of King Indra, O King! Whatever your son Prahlada has said was not taught to him by me or anyone else. His spontaneous devotional service has naturally developed in him. Therefore, please give up your anger and do not unnecessarily accuse us. It is not good to insult a brahmana in this way.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.28)

Prahlada had a choice. Listen to his father and abandon Vishnu. Or he could continue in his preferred path and face the consequences. He chose the latter and the consequences would have been fatal in ordinary circumstances. Hiranyakashipu, the supposedly loving father, tried to have Prahlada killed. So many attempts were made, but Vishnu saved the boy.

2. Vibhishana

Long before Benedict Arnold there was Vibhishana. Under the commonly accepted standards of decency and respect, he would qualify as the greatest traitor. Not only did he abandon his side prior to a great conflict, but the leader of that side was his own brother.

The Sanskrit word for younger brother is anuja. This word isn’t used by accident. It has a specific meaning. The younger brother is supposed to follow, anu, the elder. This is common sense, and also included in teachings on general etiquette followed in Vedic culture.

Vibhishana had a reason, though. Like Hiranyakashipu, Ravana was completely against God. He had committed a terrible sin in stealing Sita away. Sita is Rama’s wife, and Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu. Vibhishana tried to talk sense into Ravana, but that didn’t work. Feeling he had no other choice, Vibhishana left Ravana in favor of Rama. The traitor by material estimation did something extremely courageous. He was rewarded for it with eternal devotion to Rama, which matters much more than reputation amongst Rakshasas in Lanka.

3. Bharata, the younger brother of Rama

Bharata took the role of younger brother seriously. He followed Rama. He was completely devoted to Him as well, which means that his allegiance qualifies as bhakti. There was an issue with the mother, though. Thrown into a fit of jealousy one time, Kaikeyi influenced the king to banish Rama from the kingdom for fourteen years. The wilderness is lonely and dangerous. It is not guaranteed that someone will come back alive after going there for so long.

Kaikeyi did this so that her son, Bharata, would ascend the throne. This all happened while Bharata was out of town. When he returned and found out what had happened, he was incensed. Rama’s leaving the kingdom led to the death of Dasharatha, who couldn’t bear the separation from his son. Lakshmana, another younger brother to Rama, left for the forest too. Because of Kaikeyi, Bharata was out two brothers, a father, and a sister-in-law.

It made his decision to abandon the mother that much easier. She lived in the same kingdom, but she was practically dead to him. The mother goes through so much to bring the child into this world. She is to be respected regardless of how she behaves. But since she had wronged Rama, Bharata renounced her. He wouldn’t take the kingdom, either. Rama ruled symbolically through His sandals until He returned from the exile period.

4. Bali Maharaja

A famous king from ancient times, Bali was once visited by a dwarf. This was actually Vishnu in a special incarnation. Known as Vamana, soon a new name would be added: Trivikrama. Vamana begged for the land to cover three steps. Bali Maharaja was ready to agree, but the spiritual teacher had reservations. Shukracharya said that it was a bad idea, since who knows what the king might lose. The teacher accepted through heredity had a feeling that there was more than meets the eye with this beggar.

[Vamanadeva]Bali proceeded anyway. He was fully surrendered to the Supreme Lord. He abandoned his guru in favor of God. The result was that Vamana expanded his size immensely, taking the kingdom and the entire world with his first two steps. The last step was placed on Bali’s head, indicating full surrender on the king’s part.

5. The gopis of Vrindavana

In Vedic culture the prime duty of a grown-up woman is service to her husband. The husband is her deva, or god. Through chastity she maintains virtue in the home, which is ideally augmented by her husband’s own dedication to dharma. Then she shares in whatever spiritual merits he acquires.

The gopis in Vrindavana were fully surrendered to Shri Krishna, who is also non-different from Vishnu. The problem was that many of them were already married while Krishna was living in the same community in Vrindavana. The gopis abandoned their husbands to intimately dance with the all-attractive one in the middle of the night in the forest. The husbands were obstacles to devotion. In essence, the gopis committed one of the greatest sins in order to enjoy with the Supreme Lord. They too were protected, which shows that there is no reason to fear accepting the devotional path.

In Closing:

If even family an obstacle to become,

For devotional path what should be done?


By Tulsidas one time described in letter,

That service to Lord always option better.


Vibhishana traitor renouncing his brother,

Incensed Bharata scorning even his mother.


Bali Maharaja the guru no longer respecting,

Married gopis to forest their husbands neglecting.