Saturday, December 10, 2016

Five Of The Most Endearing Things Lakshmana Has Done

[Rama and Lakshmana eating]“That best among men would not go to sleep without Him, nor would he eat without Him, even if the food brought was very palatable.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kand, 18.30)

Download this episode (right click and save)

na ca tena vinā nidrām labhate puruṣottamaḥ ||
mṛṣṭam annam upānītam aśnāti na hi tam vinā |

Dasharatha wanted a son. Just one. Nothing more was needed in life. The pious king had faithfully observed the Satyanarayana Vrata in a previous life. His reward was birth in the famous Raghu dynasty. This wasn’t just being born into wealth and enjoying the regal life. He was expected to follow the exemplary behavior of his predecessors.

Dasharatha lived up to the role and more. He earned his name from his amazing fighting ability. During that ancient time declared conflict took place using bows and arrows shot from warriors riding on chariots. Dasharatha could fight against chariots coming in the ten directions simultaneously. The demigods, the rulers of the heavenly realm, called on him many a time to help in their struggles with the asuras, the bad guys of the world.

Advanced in years, the king did not yet have a successor to the throne. At the advice of a sage, he performed a yajna, or sacrifice, and the three queens partook of the remnants. The result was four beautiful sons. They were Divine in nature. The eldest Rama was the Supreme Lord Himself. Dasharatha was the most attached to Him. That attachment would pass the ultimate test later on.

Rama’s three younger brothers were partial expansions of the Supreme Lord. The four divided up into pairs as far as association went. Shatrughna and Bharata were close, and Rama was always with Lakshmana. There was no infighting. All three brothers loved Rama so much, viewing Him as their life and soul. There is nothing that can compare to having a brother, and in Lakshmana the Supreme Lord gets the most devoted follower, caretaker, protector, and advisor. The Ramayana gives us many examples of that devotion, acts which are endearing.

1. Not eating until Rama ate

You’re hungry. Mother has prepared dinner. You are seated, ready to partake. You dig in, no? What is the issue? The food was made for you to enjoy, after all. With Lakshmana there was difficulty. He would not eat until Rama was with him. The verse describing this in the Ramayana uses the word Purushottama. This can refer to either Rama or Lakshmana, but the meaning is the same taken either way.

[Rama and Lakshmana eating]Lakshmana was known to impose such vows on himself. He was not trying to win a contest. He was not trying to show everyone that he was the best brother. Rather, on his own he thought it disrespectful to enjoy anything in life before his brother. One of Lakshmana’s many names is Ramanuja, which means “younger brother of Rama.” Breaking down the terms further, Lakshmana is the devoted follower of the elder Rama.

2. Offering to stage a coup

Rama reciprocated, of course. The Supreme Lord never forgets a single act of kindness done in His favor. What then to speak of an entire life dedicated to pleasing Him. After consulting with the royal advisors, one day Dasharatha decided that the time was right for Rama to ascend the throne, to pass the torch to the next generation. When Rama heard the news, He went to Lakshmana and told him to share the honor. Rama did not want to make Lakshmana feel bad, that he was somehow being left out of the glory.

“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

Everything was set for the transfer, except at the last moment the youngest queen, Kaikeyi, came in and caused a change in plans. She used to her advantage promises that Dasharatha had previously made. Not only was Rama now not going to be made king, but He had to leave the kingdom for fourteen years.

This did not sit well with Lakshmana. The devoted younger brother was furious. He thought that Rama had lost His mind in accepting such a decision. Lakshmana asked Rama for permission to stage a coup. As Rama was previously ready to share the honor with Lakshmana, the younger brother was now ready to install the elder on the throne by force. Lakshmana was ready to fight against the entire family if necessary. At the end of his presentation, Lakshmana even posed the classic leading question commonly associated with the expert attorney. He asked Rama who should be killed first. Rama politely declined, though He appreciated the sentiment.

3. Keeping vigil in the forest

Lakshmana’s etiquette was not exclusive to eating. It extended to sleeping as well. As a youth, he would not go to sleep unless Rama was with him. After the exile order, Lakshmana insisted on accompanying Rama, as did Rama’s wife Sita. When the couple would sleep at night, Lakshmana would stay awake, standing guard. He sacrificed sleep in order to serve his brother, who was so dear to him.

4. Response to Rama’s request to build a hut

During their travels in the forest, the group stopped in an area called Panchavati. Rama politely asked Lakshmana to find a good spot for building a hut. Lakshmana responded that for as long as Rama was with him, he would remain a dedicated servant. Even if it were for one hundred years, the relationship would never change. The devoted younger brother perfectly defined pure bhakti-yoga in a single response.

“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)

5. Invoking Rama’s name prior to dealing the death blow to Indrajit

As an incarnation of God, Rama has full strength. He is not missing any opulence, actually, but some are more pronounced than others. As a member of the warrior caste, the kshatriya, Rama was expert in shooting arrows from a bow. Lakshmana was essentially Rama’s equal in that area. Combined they were like fire and wind. Rama was the fire, and Lakshmana was the wind that increased the potency and reach of the flames.

“Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, has reddish eyes and a voice that resounds like a kettledrum. His strength matches that of Rama’s, and his face shines like a full moon. Just as wind gives aid to a raging fire, Lakshmana has joined forces with his brother. It is that best of kings, Shriman Rama, who has brought down the Rakshasas fighting in Janasthana.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.16-17)

Lakshmana once had a great battle with a foe named Indrajit. He was the son of the king of Lanka, Ravana, and he earned his name by defeating the king of heaven, Indra. Lakshmana was fully capable in the battle. He didn’t need outside help to gain victory. Still, when setting the last arrow to his bow, the one to gain victory once and for all, Lakshmana invoked Rama’s name. He used the strength of his brother to gain victory. This is the proper way to behave for every person. Success is never guaranteed, but carrying out devotional service on the strength of the holy name ensures auspiciousness. Not surprisingly, the arrow released from Lakshmana’s bow did its job.

In Closing:

Without Rama not to eat or sleep,

In forest night vigil to keep.


Always with beloved brother to stay,

In devotional service showing the way.


Most endearing when arrow to bow fitting,

Invoked Rama’s name, act most befitting.


Intended target Indrajit reaching,

Successful flight, to everyone teaching.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Five Things Hanuman Couldn’t Do In His Service To Rama

[Shri Hanuman]“One looks for a being amongst those of its own kind. One does not look for a lost woman amongst female deer.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.43)

Download this episode (right click and save)

The essence of life, the dharma of the soul, is service. Taking away that property, the living being would cease to exist. We know from the Bhagavad-gita that such a thing is not possible. I exist because I exist. I will always be able to say, “I am,” since nothing can extinguish the vibrancy of life. All that can happen is the soul exits one temporary dwelling for another.

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)

Bhakti-yoga is more definition to the term “sanatana-dharma.” It is eternal service, with no beginning and no end. This service can only take place when the object, the beneficiary, is the Supreme Lord. Only God can be served lifetime after lifetime, in whatever body the living being calls home.

Service to God is not limited to visiting a house of worship, saying prayers, and being an all-around good person. Bhakti can involve anything, since the determining factor is consciousness. For Shri Hanuman devotional service once involved a difficult and dangerous mission. In order to highlight just how difficult it was, we can review certain things that Hanuman was not able to do. His service was finding the missing wife of the Supreme Lord Rama, who is God descended to earth in an incarnation form.

1. Use a GPS device

A friend invites you to their house for the weekend. You have not been there before, but it’s no issue. You simply ask for the address and then punch it into your GPS device. Through rapidly advancing technology, a separate device is no longer required. Just put in the details into one of many navigation apps available for your smartphone.

Hanuman did not have this luxury. Rama’s wife Sita was somewhere, but these events are from an ancient time period. There were no electronic devices. Hanuman had no idea where she was. Fortunately, he was not the only one searching. Rama had made friends with forest-dwellers, known as Vanaras in Sanskrit. Their leader was Sugriva, who ordered all the soldiers under his command to search the earth to look for Sita.

2. Send a text message

Sita was not carrying a smartphone on her. She had volunteered to live an austere life in the forest, following her husband Rama. Rama’s fourteen year exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya highlighted the opulence of vairagya, or renunciation. These and other opulences exist in the Supreme Lord in full and simultaneously. That is why one name for Him is Bhagavan. This term is much more descriptive than the generic “God.”

If someone goes missing, you can send them a text message to facilitate communication. If they respond in a timely manner, you can learn their whereabouts. You can know that they are safe. Hanuman did not have this luxury. He had to physically locate the beautiful and chaste queen from the kingdom of Videha.

3. Communicate with home base for help

Say you are a driver at a company that delivers goods. If you get lost en route, you can call back to the office to get help. You may have received the wrong address. Perhaps no one is home at the place of delivery.

Hanuman’s mission was important, so being able to communicate with Rama and Sugriva back in Kishkindha would have been extremely helpful. The Vanaras did run into a lot of trouble. Sugriva had set a time limit, and that time went by without success. The Vanaras in Hanuman’s search party were not sure how to proceed. They had to rely on Providence for help. Hanuman’s devotion is what guides him.

4. Ask the authorities for help

This situation has been depicted many times in film. You have some crime going on. Bad guys are getting away with theft and murder. You go to the police for help. After a while, it is learned that the police are in on it. They are corrupt. They are conspiring with the bad guys.

Hanuman faced a similar situation. Sita had been taken to Lanka, which was ruled by Ravana. The king had committed the iniquitous deed himself, too afraid to fight Rama in a battle one on one. When he finally reached Lanka, Hanuman could not ask the authorities for help. The government was complicit. The leader of the land was the criminal. Hanuman thus had to search clandestinely, ensuring that no one saw him except Sita, should he locate her.

5. Call out Sita’s name

Consider this. Hanuman did not know exactly what Sita looked like. He did not have a picture to consult. He heard of her features from Rama. There was one important thing he knew: she would be in great distress. Hanuman deciphered this on his own, since he realized that any person separated from Rama would feel that way. The Supreme Lord’s qualities are such that any pious person will be naturally attracted to them.

Inside of Lanka, if Hanuman could call out Sita’s name, then it would be a big help. But he was not able to do that. Instead, he had to rely entirely on sight. Inevitably, he had to place his glance on other women. He did so when he was inside the palace of Ravana. The king of Lanka had many beautiful wives, and inside the comforts of their home they were enjoying in various ways. Hanuman had no desire to set his eyes on such a scene, but what choice did he have?

[Shri Hanuman]He resolved the issue by reminding himself that when a person looks for a lost woman, they don’t go searching amongst female deer. They have to look amongst women. Moreover, his mind was still properly situated. That is the way to assess piety and sin. What is the effect on consciousness? Hanuman cannot sin since his consciousness is always fixed on pleasing Rama, the Supreme Lord. And succeed in that mission he does, in spite of whatever handicaps are placed on him. He perseveres through difficulties, and from his sentiment alone success is guaranteed.

In Closing:

Famous devotee known to me and you,

But many things Hanuman couldn’t to.


Like with GPS into location to steer,

Or through SMS from Sita to hear.


To home base not making a call,

Or from picture her face to recall.


Pure devotion, by love for Rama guided,

Everything for success by God provided.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Five Reasons You Don’t Have To Change Your Religion To Practice Bhakti

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Download this episode (right click and save)

A blue God. A tradition whose works are preserved in their original form, in the ancient Sanskrit language. Worshiping a depicted image of the Divine. Perhaps shaving the head and living simply. Giving up eating meat, drinking wine, beer and coffee. No gambling and no illicit sex.

This might be a lot for someone to accept, especially if they come from a different spiritual tradition. The conversion is a big step, but actually there is no official conversion required. Delving deeper into the teachings of sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupational duty for man, we see that the only conversion is in consciousness. The shift is from the material to the spiritual. A person does not have to change their religion in order to practice bhakti-yoga, the linking of the individual consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness in a mood of love.

1. Religion is itself a flawed concept

Everyone has their own definition of the term. More significant than the textbook definition is the impression left. Just as on a televised political debate the important factor is how the audience feels about a certain candidate instead of the actual content of the responses, the specifics of a religion may not be as important to someone as what they think of it in general.

In the Vedic tradition the closest equivalent word for religion is dharma. This has several meanings, all derived from the original, which is “an essential characteristic.” As an example, the dharma of water is liquidity. Of fire it is heat and light. These characteristics cannot be removed from the object without losing that object.

Dharma as religion means following a certain set of guidelines and procedures to meet a specific goal. In fact, we know that there is variety in goals. That’s why there are many dharmas. One person wants to take over the world. Another wants to ascend to the heavenly planets after death. One person wants to save the earth. Another wants to be a good husband and provider for their family. There are corresponding dharmas to meet these goals. Bhakti is something entirely different.

2. Bhakti provides the complete picture

A person belonging to another religion may protest the idea of bhakti.

“I already worship God. I don’t need to do any of this fancy stuff. I have my religion and I am already promised salvation. Perhaps you should be the one converting to my side.”

[Krishna's lotus feet]In fact, bhakti simply provides the complete picture. There are many religions, and they each describe a Supreme Being in one form or another. Bhakti-yoga provides detail to the abstract, completing the foggy picture of the Supreme. He is a person who is all-attractive. He has opulences simultaneously and to the fullest extent. There is nothing missing in Him. He is known through names like Bhagavan, Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and so many others. The names are identical to Him, as they glorify different aspects about Him.

3. It is not a violation to repeat a sound

A person may protest that chanting the holy names is against their religion. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This is the maha-mantra, the great deliverer of the mind. The words are rooted in the Hindu tradition, but the more accurate definition is Vedic. The Vedas are the original source of knowledge applicable to all of humanity, for all time periods.

The names in the maha-mantra are merely sounds. The sounds represent the Almighty. They glorify Him. The sounds have tremendous potency. There is no prohibition against repeating a sound that represents the origin of everything, that is created through speaking softly or singing loudly as a means of awakening the consciousness out of its deep slumber. There is no conversion process necessary to create this sound. Any person can hear it and be delivered.

4. Nowhere is a person compelled to eat meat or get intoxicated

For success in bhakti-yoga, it is recommended that a person avoid the four pillars of sinful life. Others may protest, saying that religion shouldn’t deprive a person enjoyment. In fact, the opposite occurs with these behaviors. Intoxication is temporary escape from the senses, followed by a hard crash. Gambling pollutes the mind, and meat eating takes away the compassion that every person has deep inside their heart. Illicit sex can destroy lives.

Avoiding these things does not violate any religion. A person can stay where they are, respecting their inherited faith, and not have a problem following this style of renunciation. Jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation, are two valuable tools for shaping the consciousness for the better.

5. Bhakti is the nature of the soul

The dharma of the individual, who is spirit soul, is service. The eternal dharma can thus only apply to God. Serve the Supreme Lord. Love Him. Give Him top priority instead of temporary objects and relationships.

Because service is the dharma of the soul, in the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Lord advises the disciple to abandon all varieties of religion. Give up dharmas that bring only temporary benefit. Stop viewing spiritual life as a faith. Convert the consciousness over to eternal life. Follow bhakti as an engagement to continue lifetime after lifetime. You don’t have to change your occupation. You don’t have to change your religion. Just change the consciousness. Surrender unto God the person, and abandon all interest in temporary things. This will do the most good for you.

In Closing:

Inherited religion don’t have to renounce,

No sin in Divine names to pronounce.


Not a must for alcohol or eat meat,

Not violation to take renunciation’s seat.


Bhakti the entire picture to complete,

With descriptions of Almighty replete.


Devotion at soul’s very core,

Change consciousness, to one to endure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five Things Hanuman Remembers

[Hanuman reading]“All of these subjects in the Ramayana seem very pitiable, and they may appear to be very distressing to the reciter, but actually this is not so. Otherwise, why would Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Ramachandra, read daily about the activities of Lord Ramachandra, as described in the Ramayana itself?” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 34)

Download this episode (right click and save)

The mind can be a friend, but it can also be a pesky enemy that refuses to go away. The latter is easy to understand. Take a bad experience. It’s something you want to forget. The problem is the mind won’t let you. The memory lingers. Every now and then it appears in a dream, turning the experience into a nightmare.

Memory is also a sign of intelligence. It is a contributing factor to the superiority of the human species. The most important thing to remember is identity, namely that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the Supreme Lord is responsible for both remembrance and forgetfulness.

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

In the case of Shri Hanuman, there is always connection to the Divine. A person who is bhakti-yoga embodied, Hanuman does not know any other way of life. He gets help from God in the form of Rama from both within and without. From within Rama helps him to remember many important things.

1. Sugriva’s plight

Though Hanuman is always a devotee, in the chronology of historical events described in the Sanskrit work called the Ramayana, there is an initial meeting with Rama. At the time Hanuman is the chief minister to the king named Sugriva. This is not your ordinary kingdom. It is in the forest. There is no royal palace. Oh, and the inhabitants, including the king himself, are a race of forest-dwellers known as Vanaras.

For all intents and purposes, these are monkeys, but since there is a kingdom involved, we see that there are hints of civilized life. Sugriva one time asked Hanuman to descend Mount Rishyamukha and meet two men who were approaching. They were beautiful and had auspicious characteristics, but they were obviously foreign to the area. Maybe they were coming to cause harm.

Hanuman did as asked, masking his form during the first meeting. These two men were Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuman immediately went into praise. He continued uninterrupted until he finally gave up the ruse and revealed his true purpose. This is the effect Rama has on the devotees. He maintains a poker face, where the other side can’t figure out what He is thinking. They can’t help but praise Him, as that is what naturally comes to the mind upon being gifted with the beautiful vision, or darshana.

Hanuman met the object of his service but did not forget Sugriva. Most importantly, Hanuman kept in mind Sugriva’s plight. The Vanara king was separated from his wife, which happened to be the same situation Rama was in. Using his amazing intelligence, Hanuman immediately came up with the idea to arrange a friendship between the two. Both Rama and Sugriva would benefit from that alliance.

2. The mission for Rama

The two were separated from their wives for different reasons. Sugriva was driven out by his powerful brother Vali after there was a misunderstanding. Rama was living with Sita Devi in the forest, along with Lakshmana, when she was one day taken away in secret. Now both Rama and Lakshmana were looking for her.

Through Rama’s help Sugriva regained his kingdom and so the attention then shifted to searching for Sita. This was the mission given to all the soldiers in Sugriva’s army, but especially to Hanuman. If an informal poll was taken of the people involved, Hanuman would be the overwhelming winner of “most likely to succeed.”

The subsequent mission was very difficult. No GPS. No cell phone tracking. No wireless or wired communication of any kind. The Vanaras had to search the entire world. Hanuman never forgot the mission. He always remembered Rama. This was necessary especially during the tough moments, where it looked like success would never come.

3. Vibhishana’s piety

Not surprisingly, in the last stage of the mission Hanuman was flying solo, both figuratively and literally. He leapt over the ocean to reach Lanka, and he then searched the city by himself. He found Sita, gave her news of Rama, and on his way out he encountered some of the soldiers under the charge of the king of the city, Ravana. Ravana had taken Sita against her will, so Hanuman thought maybe a meeting with the king would do some good.

The meeting took place through Hanuman being bound by a weapon and dragged into an assembly. There Ravana berated him as only he could. There was only one person who was sympathetic to Hanuman. He was Ravana’s younger brother, Vibhishana. That brother advised Ravana to let Hanuman go, since he was just a minister. Ravana didn’t listen. The king decided to set Hanuman’s tail on fire and then parade him around the city as a form of humiliation.

Hanuman easily freed himself from the ropes and then used the burning tail as an opportunity to inflict major damage. He jumped around the city, burning building after building. In his anger, he still kept one thing in mind: Vibhishana’s piety. Hanuman skipped Vibhishana’s palace. Both the Supreme Lord and His devotees never forget a kind act.

4. The Rakshasis who harassed Sita

Ravana took Sita away by force, demanding that she become his chief queen. He tried and tried, but Sita kept refusing him. Finally, the wicked king ordered some of his female attendants to harass Sita, day and night. Though Rama’s wife was in a peaceful setting in a grove of Ashoka trees, her experience in Lanka was hellish. Hanuman got a glimpse into her life when he met her in that grove.

Eventually victory came for Rama. The Supreme Lord is Achyuta, which means “infallible.” He is also Ajita, which means “unconquerable.” Ravana was winning for a while, but everything came crashing down through the blows inflicted by Rama’s arrows.

Hanuman was part of the victorious army, and after Ravana’s fall he went to tell Sita the good news and reunite her with Rama. While in that Ashoka grove again, Hanuman remembered the torture Sita had undergone. He remembered the people that were responsible for it. He politely asked for her permission to kill the Rakshasis, the female ogres who made her life a living hell. Sita declined the offer, showing her forgiving nature. She no longer had enmity with them since Ravana was gone.

5. The events from the Ramayana

The most amazing servant, the hero who risked everything for someone he had not known for a long time, the most perseverant, kind, sweet, intelligent, and compassionate friend a person could ask for. Just as Hanuman remembers important things, so does the Supreme Lord. After returning home to Ayodhya, Rama rewarded His friends with gifts. He told Hanuman to ask for anything he wanted.

[Hanuman reading]Hanuman deserved the world but what he asked for might surprise you. Hanuman desired to simply remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told. This is what makes him happiest. Hanuman remembers the events from Rama’s life by daily reading from the Ramayana. If someone as special as Hanuman considers those events worth remembering, then certainly the content will do good to the entire human race. Undoubtedly there are sad moments in the story, but the overall influence is transcendentally good. Indeed, just remembering Hanuman brings so much auspiciousness.

In Closing:

As greatest enemy could be set,

Since mind something never to forget.


Hanuman helped by it is he,

Like events of Ramayana daily to see.


Remembering Sugriva’s difficult plight,

Skipping Vibhishana’s home when setting alight.


And harassment the Rakshasis to Sita gave,

Image of Lord in his heart to save.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five Devotees Who Were Missing Something Important

[Draupadi saved by Krishna]“When she was lost in a gambling game, she was forcibly dragged into the assembly hall, and an attempt was made by Duhshasana to see her naked beauty, even though there were elderly persons like Bhishma and Drona present. She was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, and by her praying, the Lord Himself became an unlimited garment to save her from the insult.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.3-4 Purport)

Download this episode (right click and save)

Being handicapped means that you’re missing something that is typically found in others. It may be something of great importance, necessary to function normally in everyday life. There are marvelous people who get notoriety for continuing on despite their handicap. For instance, a drummer from a rock band loses an arm in a car accident. Obviously an arm is quite important to play the drums, but this person learns how to function with just one. Wounded warriors returning from the battlefield adjust to their new way of life, refusing to quit or become depressed.

In devotional service, nothing is required for success except consciousness. A person can be extremely handicapped and still succeed. There are instances in the past of amazing devotees who succeeded while missing something important. They triumphed even in the face of great opposition, where the aggressors had the advantage but still failed.

1. Prahlada - physical strength

This matchup features a five year old boy against a powerful king, who also happens to be the father of the boy. The issue is devotion to Vishnu, which is one name for the Almighty. Vishnu refers to God as a person and His feature of all-pervasiveness. There is not an inch of space from which Vishnu is absent. He is everywhere, and he witnesses everything.

As a five year old child with no friends or family to support him, what chance did Prahlada have? He was up against palace guards ordered to strike him with weapons. Heavy elephants were ready to trample on him. Gravity was an enemy too, as Prahlada was thrown off a cliff.

Yet the boy survived. His devotion continued; it thrived in fact. There was consciousness the whole time. No one could take that away from Prahlada. Even at the time of death the devotees are guaranteed to continue on; their devotion never perishes.

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

2. The Pandavas - a kingdom

The five Pandava brothers were great fighters. Each had their particular skill. Arjuna was Savyasachin, or an expert shooter with the bow and arrow. Yudhishthira was dharma personified; he always followed the right course of action. Bhima was extremely strong, instilling fear in others.

There was just one problem. They had no kingdom. The Kauravas illegally took that from them. A kingdom is pretty important if you want to exert influence. The Pandavas were not interested in fame, power, or authority, but it was their duty to administer to the needs of the pious. They were in the class of men authorized to provide protection to the innocent.

Even without a kingdom they were able to succeed. Again, it was their devotion. Krishna was there to protect them. He is the same Vishnu, God in the flesh. He does not assume a form of material elements when appearing in this world. When He disappears, it is not death. The Supreme Lord always remains spiritual, without distinction between spirit and body.

Krishna protected the Pandavas from many calamities created by the rival Kauravas, who tried to use their kingdom and influence as a way to root out any opposition. In the end, Krishna was there on the chariot with Arjuna, providing guidance and assuring victory that would put the rule of the world back in the proper hands.

3. Draupadi - a protector

Draupadi was the shared wife of the five Pandava brothers. It was a special arrangement, and due to her qualities she was still considered the most chaste lady. It was that chastity that enticed members of the wicked Pandavas to see her naked.

In an incident that showed the dangers of gambling, Yudhishthira lost his good sense and ended up getting cheated in a game of dice. Per one of the lost wagers, Draupadi became the property of the Kauravas. They decided to drag her out into a large assembly and remove her clothes. In the time period in question, this is the greatest form of humiliation for a woman.

[Draupadi saved by Krishna]Respecting the outcome of the game, the brothers did not protest. They sat on the sidelines as this was going on. Draupadi literally had no one there to support her. Bhishma and Drona were on the Kaurava side. They did nothing as well, though they were respected by both parties. Once again, the power of devotion prevailed. Draupadi’s consciousness of Krishna brought the mercy of the Lord in the form of a never-ending garment. No matter how much they pulled, Draupadi’s dress would not come off.

4. Vibhishana - good association

A stranger in a strange land. A good person living amidst the vilest of creatures. This was Vibhishana’s precarious situation. He lived in Lanka, which at the time was ruled by Rakshasas. These are a species of man-eating ogres. Vibhishana was of that species as well, but since birth he was pious. He was a devotee of Rama, who is the same Krishna appearing in a different millennium with a different purpose.

Making matters worse, Vibhishana’s brother Ravana was of a very poor character. Vibhishana tried to talk sense into his brother, correcting the ship that was drifting away towards danger. Yet Ravana would not listen, and so Vibhishana felt compelled to abandon Lanka and the family. He went to the side of Rama, who was ready to march into Lanka to rescue His wife Sita, who had been taken away unfairly by Ravana.

Good association is key for success in devotional service. This makes sense, as if you want to succeed in something, you need the help of others who have succeeded. Vibhishana had no such help, but since his heart was in the right place, the Supreme Lord guided him from within. There was success despite not having a friend in the world.

5. The gopis of Vrindavana - self-control

As Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-gita, kama is the all-devouring enemy of this world. It is the reason people continue to act in the wrong way, despite trying so hard to be good. Think of the drug addict. Think of the repeat offender, who has been to prison multiple times. Think of gaining all the weight back after going on a diet.

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

Translated into English, kama is “lust.” Lust is the primary reason for continued rebirth. You choose one or the other: God or kama. This makes the situation of the gopis very interesting. They were simple village girls living in the rural community of Vrindavana. Many of them were already married. Yet they lusted after Krishna, who was a resident of the town in His youth. Krishna is the original form of God because He is all-attractive. He is always in madhurya, or enjoying in sweetness. Krishna has nothing to do.

Since right and wrong, pious and impious, don’t affect Him, Krishna can behave in any way He chooses. He decided to satisfy the lust of the gopis by meeting them in the middle of the night in the forest. The brightest full moon of the year removed the obstacle of darkness, and so the lovers were free to enjoy.

Despite lacking self-control, the gopis were successful in devotion. In fact, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared them to be the topmost devotees. They are the example for everyone. The reason is that their kama was actually bhakti. If you have a strong desire to be with the Supreme Lord, to serve Him, to surrender everything to Him, then you have succeeded in living. You will get the most pleasure as a result, and sin will never touch you.

In Closing:

At basic tasks difficult to attack,

When inhibited by handicap.


In history of bhakti-yoga also seen,

Like Prahlada with father vile and mean.


Kauravas exploiting the upper hand,

Since Arjuna and brothers having no land.


Draupadi with protector not a one,

Still in each case victory was won.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Five Reasons Arjuna Is The Perfect Instrument To Carry Out The Divine Will

[Arjuna]“Savyasachin refers to one who can shoot arrows very expertly in the field; thus Arjuna is addressed as an expert warrior capable of delivering arrows to kill his enemies.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33 Purport)

Download this episode (right click and save)

Destiny. The uncontrollable future. Providence. The hand of the Divine. Is there anything we can do to influence it? Is our future set? Can personal action prevent something catastrophic from happening?

The distressed and compassionate warrior named Arjuna had some of these concerns while on the battlefield. He was doubtful over how to proceed. His friend happened to be the Divine Himself, Shri Krishna kindly acting as Arjuna’s charioteer. The Supreme Lord shows the future in an awe-inspiring vision known as the virata-rupa.

Arjuna saw destiny in a frightening way. The leading soldiers for the opposing side were rushing into Krishna’s mouths. Victory was assured, and so Arjuna was advised to simply act as Krishna’s instrument. There are many reasons he was selected to carry out something so important.

1. He was not interested in his own fame

Indeed, Arjuna was prepared to accept infamy in order to spare death on the other side. He and his brothers were the aggrieved; they were wronged. In a court case, they would be the plaintiffs. The case was pretty straightforward. The kingdom belonged to the Pandavas, and the Kauravas took it over by force. In the legal system, the courts redress grievances.

But what if the court’s judgment is not enforced? What if the aggressors, the illegal land owners, are running the government? Violence is the last resort. Known as danda in Sanskrit, it is one of four ways to influence an opposing party.

There was no fear in this area, either. Arjuna could win pretty easily. In fact, that is what the concern was. Arjuna was worried about the friends and family who were fighting for the other side. He did not hold their offenses against them. He instantly forgave them. Arjuna was not interested in earning the fame that accompanies victory. By quitting the battlefield he would gain infamy, one of the very arguments used by Krishna in urging Arjuna to continue.

2. He was fearless in battle

In selecting someone to carry out the Divine will, that person should be fearless. Arjuna’s worry was not in the area of combat. He had many accomplishments already under his belt. If his heart was in the right place, Arjuna was prepared to rush into war with all guns blazing. As mentioned before, the fear was over victory and the accompanying death toll. Otherwise, Arjuna assertively carries out his prescribed duties.

3. He asks insightful questions

Arjuna proceeds with intelligence. He does not act blindly. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Shri Krishna describes four kinds of people who approach Him. There is the distressed, the person who seeks wealth, the inquisitive, and the one who is already knowledgeable but wants to advance further.

“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)

The Supreme Lord declares the last group to be the best, the jnani. This is because they carry forward in devotion with knowledge. They are not just following blindly. In the same way, Arjuna’s insightful questions to Krishna, which is the stage for the Bhagavad-gita conversation, show that when eventually carrying out the Divine will he does so with intelligence. He is acting without motive, since he has removed all personal desires.

4. He is eager

There is doubt at the start. This is because of bewilderment. Arjuna is a liberated soul, not subject to the influence of maha-maya, which is the illusory energy pervading the material world. His doubt was the result of yoga-maya, which is directly controlled by God. Arjuna’s doubt was the spark that ignited that sacred conversation that has benefitted countless souls through the years and is still just as relevant in today’s world.

When Arjuna’s doubts are removed, he proceeds with eagerness. The desire is to please Krishna, and enthusiasm is a key component to success in the service. The Sanskrit word is utsaha. Krishna chooses people with enthusiasm because that trait will help them overcome obstacles. It also means that they will be pleased throughout the service.

5. He is an expert marksman

In the verse where Krishna tells Arjuna to simply act as an instrument of the Divine will, the name used to address the warrior is Savyasachin.

“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)

[Arjuna]This means a person who is an expert archer. Bows and arrows were the principal means of warfare during that time. The arrows were fired from chariots driven by expert drivers. You had the combination of the best driver and the best shooter, so victory was assured. Arjuna hits the intended target, after he gets guidance on where to aim. He received guidance from without through Krishna the charioteer, and the surrendered souls get the same guidance from within through the chaitya-guru residing in the heart.

In Closing:

Not accidentally chosen was he,

For Divine will instrument to be.


Of personal desire totally free,

Ready even for infamy to see.


Proceeding in war without fear,

Insightful questions for understanding clear.


Eager in purpose proceeding,

With expert ability to victory leading.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

How Do You Know That Bhakti Is Better Than Regular Yoga

[Krishna's lotus feet]“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)

Download this episode (right click and save)

Friend1: You realize that many spiritual teachers don’t put a lot of importance in bhakti.

Friend2: I do.

Friend1: They say it’s more a means than an end.

Friend2: A mechanism. Something like putting on training wheels while learning to ride a bike. Focus on some Divine form, a physical manifestation of Brahman. Worship it with devotion. When you become Brahman-realized, then abandon that worship.

Friend1: It seems weird to me. You’re basically tricking yourself. Follow a lie in order to reach the truth.

Friend2: Yup. Well, they’re starting out with a lie themselves, that God is impersonal. That’s why they are able to give the crazy advice. They are shameless, like the thief.

Friend1: Those are some pretty harsh words. Is that your response, then? Do you have a better counterargument?

Friend2: Are you a reporter or something? Next thing you’ll be asking me to talk about this and talk about that.

Friend1: I hate when interviewers do that!

Friend2: It’s a sign of laziness for sure. They can’t come up with a real question, so instead they give orders, commanding the interviewee as if they were a dog.

Friend1: They’re basically saying, “Hey, write my story for me. I have a deadline to meet and right now I’ve got nothing.”

Friend2: The best refutation comes from Krishna Himself.

Friend1: Something He said?

Friend2: Obviously, there is that. He never mentions in the Bhagavad-gita that worship of Him is some temporary stop on the way towards the promise land. He never says to Arjuna, “Hey, I am not real. I am a temporary manifestation of a higher concept appearing before you in order to teach the highest wisdom.” He doesn’t say, “Worship to the point that one day you’ll become just like me, the Supreme Lord.”

Friend1: [laughing] That’s true.

Friend2: If Arjuna and Krishna were the same, there would be no point to the Bhagavad-gita. There would be no point to the guru-disciple relationship if every guru was actually God Himself. Then you’d have competing versions of God. You’d have God susceptible to illusion, which immediately disqualifies Him from being the topmost person.

Friend1: But yoga is everything. Link with the Divine. Meditate. Knock out distractions. Bhakti is just one way to do it. Jnana is more important, since it is true knowledge. Devotees are less intelligent; that’s why they are stuck worshiping an idol in the temple.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Well first off, it’s not an idol. An idol is born from mental speculation; the deity is from the authority of parampara, which Krishna starts. Anyway, look at how Krishna behaves with the devotees.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: He puts them in positions to shine. Case in point Arjuna. The Supreme Lord, Bhagavan, even says to him at one point to act as an instrument. The Divine will is already set. Arjuna should act according to Krishna’s orders to get credit for that result arriving.

Friend1: The Supreme Lord basically elevates the devotee.

Friend2: Exactly. Arjuna is not famous today for being a yogi in jnana. He did not retreat to the forest. He taught through acting in devotion. The same goes for Hanuman. He is so famous today for his actions. These people are self-realized souls. They are never in maya, or illusion.

Friend1: Okay, I get they have a high stature. I understand that Krishna put them in positions to shine. How does that show bhakti is the superior form of yoga, though?

Friend2: It proves that there is activity in liberation. All other forms are actually temporary stops. Once there is perfect realization in jnana-yoga, there must be activity afterwards. Otherwise the person falls back into illusion, seeking a higher taste.

Friend1: I see.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: Everyone is eligible to practice bhakti-yoga, and to succeed at it. The same can’t be said of any other kind of yoga. You are out of luck if you lack intelligence, flexibility, the ability to work, self-control, and so forth. In bhakti even a monkey can become liberated. They can please the Supreme Lord with actions. He reciprocates by letting them shine gloriously for the world to see, to help others understand what a precious gem devotion really is.

In Closing:

Different when to others teachers to go,

How bhakti superior with confidence to know?


Krishna’s word alone to take,

How all other dharmas to forsake.


From actions also to learn,

How for Arjuna fame to earn.


Even after liberation activity coming,

Best when devoted to Lord becoming.