Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Does Progress Really Mean

[Rama's lotus feet]“Advancement of knowledge for eating, sleeping and mating is animal knowledge. A dog also knows how to eat, how to sleep, how to mate and how to defend. If our education extends only to these points (the dog is eating according to his nature, and we are also eating, but in a nice place, with nicely cooked food on a nice table), that is not advancement.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga System, Ch 1)

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Friend1: The other day I was remembering something from the last election.

Friend2: You love following politics, don’t you?

Friend1: Before every cycle I tell myself that I won’t follow, that it doesn’t make a difference who wins. Then somehow I get sucked in. It’s like a soap opera. It’s an imaginary world, almost. You just pick the side that you like, but nothing changes.

Friend2: That’s for sure. What was it that you remembered?

Friend1: Oh, so one of the candidates, the incumbent, took a shot at the challenger. He said that the guy’s vision of America is something like what was seen on those old black and white television shows.

Friend2: Interesting. That was meant to be an insult?

Friend1: That’s exactly what I was thinking. What is wrong with those shows?

Friend2: Probably what bothers them is the traditional family set up. The wife is at home, not officially working. She manages the household. She serves the husband, who is out earning a living. The woman is trapped, don’t you see?

Friend1: I do like the simpler life that those shows portray. People have their heads up while eating. They aren’t zoned out looking at their smartphones. Oh, and you would get home deliveries of things like milk and laundry.

[Dick Van Dyke Show]Friend2: The doctors made house-calls!

Friend1: Exactly. Anyway, the argument against that kind of life is that it is primitive. It is outdated, don’t you see. So are all the principles from that time.

Friend2: Right. Advancement. Progress. We are further evolved now. We give equal freedom to men and women to go out and work all day. Now both genders know what it’s like to be so tired from working that you just want to drink your troubles away at night and on the weekends.

Friend1: I know you’re being sarcastic, but it does get you to step back and think. Really, what is progress?

Friend2: You want the dictionary definition.

Friend1: I mean in terms of life. Are we actually progressing?

Friend2: From the spiritual point of view, there is no debate. Material progress, especially what we see as far as culture today, is actually going backwards.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The embodied soul continually passes, from boyhood to youth to old age. Then at death it passes into another body.

Friend1: Yes. That is from the Bhagavad-gita. [2.13]

Friend2: That explains reincarnation so beautifully. What can be easily overlooked is the past life. There was a life before that, too. The evolution to the human species was long. And the human birth is considered most auspicious.

Friend1: Right, because of progress.

Friend2: With the proper definition. Progress is not living like the animals. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending can be done while in the lower species. The human birth is for spiritual awakening. What they call progress today is basically animal life.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: More eating, sleeping, mating and defending. More specifically, the focus is entirely on sex. Whoever enjoys sex more is considered advanced. The loser is someone who doesn’t get to enjoy it as much.

Friend1: What’s wrong with sex?

Friend2: Nothing, if it is controlled. Life could not continue without it, obviously. Sex life represents the combined potency of the male and the female, to bring into this world a conditioned soul who will have the chance to get out of the cycle of birth and death. But material progress, where we are heading, is teaching the new generation to remain an animal. Focus entirely on sex. Don’t do anything meaningful with your life. Don’t ask too many questions. Live like a dog.

Friend1: Even religion is not giving the answer, it seems.

Friend2: Exactly. They’ve concocted the idea that God wants us to enjoy. Of course, there is no enjoyment. There is misery wherever you turn. Why would God want us to come here to forget Him? What kind of enjoyment is that? There is no lasting pleasure in that; only misery, day after day, life after life. Real progress is becoming more aware of Him. Side by side with that awakening is less priority for eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Real progress is in terms of consciousness, not what kind of car you drive, how much money you earn, or how many partners you’ve had.

Friend1: What about people from past ages, like Ravana? They lived in purer times, but still had problems.

Friend2: Ravana was ajita-indriya. Back then it was considered a demerit to be a slave to your senses. Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Shri Rama, pointed this out one time to Ravana. She said that his lack of control over the senses would bring doom not only for him, but for the entire kingdom of Lanka as well.

“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)

[Shri Rama's lotus feet]She was right. Her husband Rama, on the other hand, had complete control over His senses. Since He is God Himself, He is also known as Hrishikesha, which means “master of the senses.” Progress is when you control your senses and use everything in service of the one who is the master of all senses.

In Closing:

Politician with line of attack,

That to black and white tv to go back.


Charged with to primitive time reverting,

And momentum of progress subverting.


But take real stock of situation so,

And notice how towards animals to go.


Like Ravana handle over senses none,

Only in devotion full control over won.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Five Ways Sanatana-Dharma Is Different From Ordinary Religion

[Sanatana-dharma]“Ramanujacharya has explained the word sanatana as ‘that which has neither beginning nor end,’ so when we speak of sanatana-dharma, we must take it for granted on the authority of Shri Ramanujacharya that it has neither beginning nor end.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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“It’s not allowed for you to change religions. You were born into a certain faith. You can’t just decide to switch over to something else. Especially with the faith you are choosing, it can only be adopted through birth. You have to wait until another life for the shift to happen. At least that is what I have heard. For now, better to stick with what your parents kindly gave you.”

Sanatana-dharma is often confused with Hinduism, which is a term born from an outsider’s perspective. To be lumped in with the other major faiths practiced in the world, there is worship of colorful deities, attention to various rituals, and distinctions drawn on the last name, which represents the caste. There are so many deities from which to choose, confusing things even more.

Sanatana-dharma is the more accurate definition, and it is something far beyond the general concept of religion. Vedic literature is comprehensive, illuminating and ever-expanding due precisely to the amazing nature of sanatana-dharma, which stands apart from ordinary religion in many ways.

1. It is not a kind of faith

As the argument from the hypothetical person referenced above says, you shouldn’t change your faith. Religion is equated with faith because at the foundation is a belief in something that can’t be proven; at least visually. Even if God were to appear before us, there is no way to prove the validity of one key property: deathlessness. If God truly lives forever, how can we prove that when eventually we must die?

Sanatana-dharma is not a faith. Taking the Sanskrit definition of the two component terms, it is the essential characteristic of the living being that remains so forever. Sanatana is without a beginning and without an end. Dharma is the essence of something. Sanatana-dharma is the very core of who we are; true for all living entities, not just human beings.

2. It is not tied to the material body

I practice a certain faith while I am in a particular body, namely a human one. The promise is for the afterlife. If I am good, I will go to heaven. Of course the definition of pious behavior is subjective, but as long as I steer clear of egregious acts violating the natural rights of other living beings, then I should be good. Even if I slip up now and then, if I openly declare my allegiance to a particular savior, I am absolved. That person died for my sins.

Sanatana-dharma has nothing to do with the material body. The dharma referenced here is of the spirit soul. Indeed, the foundational teaching to students aspiring to reenter sanatana-dharma is the difference between spirit and matter. The individual travels through different bodies. It is a conditioned soul who travels, remaining the same while the outside continues to change.

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

Religion is tied to the ever-changing body, while sanatana-dharma is for the spirit soul. It addresses the travels of the individual and how eternal bliss and happiness can once again be found.

3. It remains the same regardless of time

We have different religions in the world because they were introduced at different times. Even in Vedic culture, which mistakenly goes by the vernacular of “Hinduism,” so many dharmas are included. Dharma in this sense refers to procedures that help to maintain a specific characteristic. For instance, the warrior class has a specific dharma. Following the rules helps them to be true to their temporary identity of administrator/warrior. The priestly class has their own dharma, as do students and householders.

Sanatana-dharma never changes. The essence of the individual is not dependent on outside circumstances. Whether living in an age of truly enlightened beings or suffering through the age of ignorance, quarrel and hypocrisy, the ideal and true engagement of the living being never changes.

4. It is tied to the essence of individuality

As mentioned before, the individual is a spirit soul. This is the essence of individuality. Religion is tailored to the material body, as there is barely a mention of the difference between matter and spirit. Due to time and circumstance, the chosen teacher may not have thought it wise to dig deep into philosophy. A drowning man needs to be rescued first; philosophy will do them little good if they are in peril, in an emergency situation.

Sanatana-dharma is tied to the individual and their essence. It is way beyond the temporary world. Whether in the land of birth and death, mrityu-loka, or the place free of anxieties, Vaikuntha, sanatana-dharma remains the same.

5. The three eternals

[Sanatana-dharma]Another way to define sanatana-dharma is “the eternal engagement for the eternal living being towards the eternal supreme controller.” Dharma, jiva, and Ishvara. All three are sanatana, or above the influence of time. The jiva is the living entity who has a choice in association, either material or spiritual. Dharma is the way for the jiva to eventually get back to the spiritual while associating with the material. Ishvara is the ultimate beneficiary of dharma. He is the object of service. The real dharma of the individual spirit soul is service, and the only eternal service is that offered to the Supreme Controller, Ishvara. These descriptions have nothing to do with faith, religion, or institution. The truths apply to all living beings.

In Closing:

Like other religions Hinduism one,

Dress and deities, but real differences none.


Opinion of those not in the know,

Sanatana-dharma actual definition so.


Religion commonly equated with faith,

Something to take up, maybe later forsake.


Jiva, dharma and Ishvara terms three,

Eternal all, way for forever happy to be.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Hanging Up On The Hard Ones

[Prabhupada writing]“The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gita itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.1 Purport)

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Friend1: I have to say, one of the things I first found appealing about bhakti-yoga philosophy was the way it relates to all facets of life.

Friend2: What do you mean? As opposed to other religions?

Friend1: Yeah. You think religion, you think God.

Friend2: I would hope so.

Friend1: Maybe the afterlife is covered. Maybe what you shouldn’t do.

Friend2: Thou shall not kill. You shouldn’t steal. Things like that.

Friend1: Exactly. But then there’s not much else beyond that. Even my experience in visiting churches - I felt like I was going to some place reserved for punishment. It wasn’t a welcoming environment. Very serious. Like I should know how bad I am and how much reform I need.

Friend2: Interesting.

Friend1: Bhakti-yoga, at least how it is described by saints like Prabhupada and others in that line, is so comprehensive.

Friend2: It is synonymous with sanatana-dharma. You could say that is the Sanskrit equivalent for religion, but it’s not a perfect match. Sanatana-dharma is complete, unchanging through time, whereas religion is faith, changed many times perhaps.

Friend1: I like how you can pepper the teachers with practically every question and they have some answer for you. You know what got me thinking about this?

Friend2: I do not.

Friend1: I was watching an episode of Frasier. Have you ever seen that show?

Friend2: I have. Great stuff. Which episode were you watching?

Friend1: It was the one where Niles proposes the idea of a partnership. Frasier is itching to go deeper with patients, more so than he can do on his psychiatry radio show. Niles already has his practice, and there is space available in the next room in the building.

Friend2: I think I remember this one. The father, Martin, laughs at the idea, right? Because he knows the sibling rivalry and how they will end up competing with each other.

[Frasier and Niles arguing]Friend1: Exactly. It is so funny. One of the first scenes in their partnership is a group therapy session. Niles has been running the session for a while, and Frasier sits in as a guest. Niles takes a jab at Frasier by saying, “No hanging up on the hard ones here.”

Friend2: Oh man, that is funny. That’s a pretty good insult to throw at a radio talk show host. No one can test the validity because no one besides the people associated with the show knows who calls in and who doesn’t.

Friend1: Right. It got me to thinking about bhakti-yoga and sanatana-dharma. The teachers can never hang up on hard questions, right?

Friend2: If it is asked with genuine inquisitiveness and not in a challenging way, then surely they will be eager to answer the question. The way lawyers are, and even media people, you can get your point across simply through the question.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Basically, you can hurl an insult at someone through the way the question is worded, essentially rendering the response meaningless.

Friend1: What are some of the “hard ones” for the bhakti-yoga teacher?

Friend2: The obvious question is why are we here. We know how to get out. We know that liberation comes from abandoning all varieties of dharma, as Krishna promises in the Bhagavad-gita.

“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)

Reincarnation is compared to the changing of bodies, from boyhood to youth to old age. We were not perfectly God conscious in the previous life; otherwise we wouldn’t have taken birth. But why did we first go to the material world? That is a logical thing to ask.

Friend1: And the answer is that we somehow desired to enjoy separate from God. As soon as that desire is there, the descent occurs. What other difficult topics are there?

Friend2: Well, you get a lot of generalizations made about the different bodies, as in their potential for understanding the difference between matter and spirit. The less familiar may confuse those statements with racism, misogyny, and other such concocted terms of recent times.

Friend1: Right. And those statements are basically a handicapping system. It doesn’t mean that there is no chance for success if you are born with the qualities of a laborer or businessman. Even women can be liberated, which many people who only follow the Hindu faith might not know.

“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: There you go. To me the hardest questions are those about the devotees. How do you explain Shri Hanuman? From where did he come? How could someone serve the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama so well? How do you explain the saints who have written so much, like Valmiki and Vyasadeva? Those are the tough issues that can only be explained by the amazing potency of devotional service, connection to the Divine in love.

In Closing:

Calling in and put on hold,

To radio psychiatrist problems told.


When too difficult cutting the line,

But who to answer question of mine?


Spiritual master never in this way to act,

Knowledge of spirit soul and God exact.


Whatever doubt can raise without fear,

Through eyes of shastra giving vision clear.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Five Characteristics Of The Arrows Of Rama And Lakshmana

[Rama and Lakshmana]“Soon will be falling here well-jointed arrows that are swift, blazing like serpents, and bearing the names of Rama and Lakshmana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.25-26)

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The king of Lanka had impenetrable fortifications; so he thought. Known as Ravana because of his terrifying scream, the ten-headed one was extremely powerful. Strength is one of the opulences available in a material existence, and due to duality its exercise can be in either direction, good or bad. Because of his sinful nature, Ravana used his strength to terrorize the world.

Deep down he knew he was on the wrong side of things, so there was always fear. He had his boons to protect him, though. No animal, beast, or celestial could be the cause of his death. He had the massive ocean surrounding his home. A single person might be able to make it across, but what could they really do against the large army of Rakshasas, the ogre-like creatures inhabiting Lanka. Ravana’s worry increased the most after he stole a princess in secret. She was already married, and her husband and His younger brother would soon come to rescue her. Their weapon of choice was the arrow released from the bow, and those arrows had special characteristics.

1. Naracha

The brothers were Rama and Lakshmana. Both are incarnations of the Divine. Rama is God Himself and Lakshmana is like the first expansion. They represent the situation of the living being, wherever you find him. God exists and He should be served purely, without motive. Only in that condition is everything alright. Lakshmana is the best servant, and so he has tremendous potency.

Appearing on earth in the spiritual bodies of warriors, the brothers were expert at fighting with the bow and arrow. That was the preferred fighting method of the time, but it should not be mistakenly considered some primitive art form. The weapons the brothers fired could do the damage of nuclear blasts and more.

“Lakshmana has many naracha arrows [made of iron] that are just like the thunderbolt hurled by Indra and lightning in the potency of their impact, as they can even split mountains.” (Hanuman speaking to Angada, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 54.15)

The arrows in Sanskrit are known as naracha. This means they were made of iron. They were very hard, and they had the power to split mountains. This is confirmed by Shri Hanuman, the fearless servant of Shri Rama who initially went to Lanka to find Sita, Rama’s wife. For that mission many warriors divided into groups. Hanuman’s party became despondent due to lack of success at one time, and so Hanuman reminded the leader that Lakshmana’s anger would be their doom. Hanuman was invoking the danda method of diplomacy, which is force or the threat of it.

2. Blazing like serpents

One of Ravana’s brothers gave an eyewitness account of the amazing characteristics of the arrows released from Rama. Returning to Lanka, Akampana told Ravana that the brothers were like fire and wind. Rama was the fire, and a blazing one at that. The fire’s potency increased through the wind that was Lakshmana.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

[Rama and Lakshmana]Akampana said that the arrows from Rama were plated with gold. They did something interesting at the end. They turned into five-headed serpents. Wherever the Rakshasas went, they saw Rama in front of them. This all happened on the field of Janasthana. It was one against fourteen thousand, but that one and His arrows routed the entire enemy host.

3. Has the name inscribed

The Sanskrit word is lakshana. This means “characteristic mark” or “sign.” Sita Devi once described the arrows from the brothers as having special marks, indicating their names. This means that the arrows are collector’s items. Though to the enemy they signal death, to the wise it is the Divine will arriving through both written form and a physical weapon. Indeed, those names are holy; they are non-different from the Supreme Lord.

4. Return to the quiver

Rama’s arrows are known to return to His quiver. There is symbolic meaning. The arrows are servants, after all. They are always ready for an assignment. They fly swiftly through the air, indicating eagerness. They reach their intended target, showing intelligence. Then they return to Rama, ready for the next mission. In many ways Shri Hanuman is like one of these arrows. He carries the name of Rama with him; devotion is his strength. He also returns to Rama after succeeding in the mission to find Sita.

5. Swift deliverer

Even the atheists are worshipers of God. They just don’t have the complete picture. Their only association with the Divine is through the material energy. The supreme deity of that energy is time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, it is synonymous with death. In other words, the atheists see God only at the time of death.

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)

The arrows from Rama were the swift deliverer of the atheist class concentrated in Lanka. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that He swiftly delivers the devotees, the people who worship Him in the personal form. Rama is the same Krishna, and the delivery came for the bad guys who interacted with Him sinfully. They were devotees on the inside, playing the role of villains due to the Divine will. They were quickly delivered as well, showing that the interaction with the personal form, as opposed to the impersonal energy, brings much faster results in transcendental life.

In Closing:

To nuclear weapons potency the same,

Inscribed on them each brother’s name.


Swiftly with intelligence to target led,

To enemies showing fiery serpent-head.


Like iron, through mountain even can break,

Returning to quiver, master not to forsake.


Arrows of Rama and Lakshmana delivering swift,

Devotees back to spiritual realm to lift.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five Things That Are Not Miracles

[Krishna fighting Shalva]“When Shalva thought that Krishna had been bewildered by his mystic representations, he became encouraged and began to attack the Lord with greater strength and energy by showering volumes of arrows upon Him. But the enthusiasm of Shalva can be compared to the speedy march of flies into a fire.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 22)

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Who is a saint? What are their characteristics? Where can they be found? Who makes the determination? Based on the institutional definition accepted by so many, a saint must have performed a miracle. The eyes of the human being are flawed. In the hot desert, there is something called a mirage. The image from afar looks like an oasis, water to quench the thirst. Upon closer examination, it is simply the waves of heat hovering above the surface of the ground.

These same eyes can mistake a rope for a snake, so how can they properly identify a miracle? From the Vedic definition, character is what matters. The vision determines intelligence. An ignorant person sees only with their flawed eyes, and studies only the present. The wise person sees into the future, the guaranteed destiny of all beings. They see the past, that the present body is not what the living being had years ago. They also see the spiritual equality of all beings, that not only are all human beings the same on the inside, but such is the case with every living thing as well.

The saint understands that so many things considered to be miracles are not actually so. What the less intelligent find amazing is simply a manipulation of the material elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether.

1. Changing your shape at will

This is known as the kama-rupa-siddhi. Take whatever form, rupa, you desire, kama. The ability is a perfection, siddhi, of mystic yoga. This means that it is not easy to acquire. A true mystic practices for years, in very austere conditions. It is not a fifteen minute a day exercise, jammed into a daily routine that includes indulging in intoxicants, getting angry while sitting in traffic, and chasing after women.

Moreover, like every other ability in the material world, possession is not exclusive to any one group of people. A very bad person can have the kama-rupa-siddhi. There are many examples in history, the most famous of which come from the period of the Ramayana, an epic Sanskrit poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki. He describes ogre-like creatures who would intentionally hide their true, hideous forms in order to attack innocent sages residing in the forest. The supposed miracle of changing the form of the body was performed by the worst characters in society, who were enemies of the saints.

2. Displaying an image

Something like an apparition, this supposed miracle doesn’t require a projector, electricity, or a television set. The same Rakshasas who would change their form could display illusions. Again, the intent was ignoble. They wanted to dispirit the enemy. They wanted to trick them into abandoning hope for the side of good.

The leader of the Rakshasas during the Ramayana period lived in Lanka. He stole the goddess of fortune in secret, taking advantage of the kama-rupa-siddhi twice. The king Ravana dressed himself as a brahmana, a person of the priestly order. His associate Maricha dressed as a beautiful, golden deer. After Ravana took Sita back to Lanka, there was eventually a great war. Rama, the Supreme Lord and husband of Sita, marched to the island with His army of forest-dwellers, creatures who were monkey-like.

Those warriors are the embodiment of the saintly character, and they didn’t use any such illusions in the conflict. The Rakshasas, meanwhile, used many such tricks, fake images to try to dispirit the monkeys. When this would happen, Rama would shoot one of His arrows to dispel the illusion.

Years later, the same Rama was on earth in the beautiful, all-attractive form of Krishna. God is one, but He appears differently in the manifest world according to time and circumstance. He can change His external appearance at any time, but for Him there is no difference between matter and spirit. Everything about Him is spiritual, so even the statue representation worshiped in the temple has amazing potency. When worshiped properly, viewed by eyes infused with love, the deity becomes identical to the Supreme Lord.

[Krishna fighting Shalva]Krishna one time fought against an enemy named Shalva. Like his ancestors in bad character before him, Shalva was expert at displaying false images. And of course, he took advantage of this supposed miracle to try to win in conflict. He once displayed an image to Krishna of the father Vasudeva having his head cut off. This was done to dispirit the Supreme Lord, but He didn’t take the bait. Krishna’s illusion, the great energy known as maya, is far stronger than anything a fiendish character can conjure up.

3. Disappearing from sight

One of the most popular video games of all-time is The Legend of Zelda. First appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System [NES], the game features a character with a sword fighting against demon-like enemies. The final stage of the game pits the main character against the leader of the demons known as Ganon. He is difficult to defeat in conflict because he appears and disappears from sight. One moment you see him and the next you don’t.

Again, this supposed miracle has been displayed by some of the worst characters in history. During Rama’s time, there was a female Yaksha by the name of Tataka. Like her Rakshasa brethren, she was wreaking havoc in the otherwise peaceful area of the forest. The sage Vishvamitra brought Rama to defeat her and bring peace. During the ensuing conflict, Tataka appeared and disappeared at will. Rama was expert at fighting using sound, so it was not an issue for Him. These supposed miracles are nothing special in the eyes of the one who creates and annihilates countless universes effortlessly, through something as simple as breathing.

4. Moving a mountain

Shri Hanuman, the dedicated, fearless, perseverant, and intelligent servant of the Supreme Lord is famously depicted in paintings carrying a mountain, flying through the air. Like everything else Hanuman is known for, this pastime took place in service to Rama. The image teaches so many lessons, with one of them being that in connection with the Divine a person doesn’t have to hide from society and sit quietly. They can be actively engaged in work and still be in complete trance, samadhi.

The miracle from that image is Hanuman’s amazing dedication to Rama; not the lifting of the mountain. Ravana is known for moving the great Mount Kailasa. That doesn’t make him a saint. Ravana had tremendous physical strength, a boon he received from pleasing the celestials. None of what he was able to do counts as a miracle, as everything in the material world is available, up to the point right before immortality.

5. Meditating for a long time

Can you imagine sitting in one place for years and years, without eating anything? No sleep, either. Modern science would not believe this to be possible. After all, it defies everything we know about what is needed to survive. If such a person could be studied, their success would be considered miraculous.

But actually so many people in history have done this and more. There were characters who even offered up almost all of their flesh in a sacrificial fire. These were not miracles at all, as the characters were not saintly. Many of them meditated for so long in order to get an ability that would help them rule the world, bringing everyone under their control. They were responsible in their meditation, and irresponsible in their subsequent wielding of power.

The real miracles in this world are seen in the strength, perseverance and power of devotion. Shri Hanuman serves Rama without motivation and without interruption. He did so much for Rama but in the end all he asked for was to remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told.

The wicked king Hiranyakashipu thought that his son had performed miracles by surviving so many deadly attacks. Actually, the real miracle was the continued devotion of the boy, named Prahlada, in the face of every obstacle thrown his way. In more recent times, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada performed the miracle of transforming souls accustomed to the ways of uncultured life into devotees of the Supreme Lord, always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Wrong way for miracles to know,

Not just by some magic to show.


Bad characters changing their shape,

Like Ravana, committing theft and rape.


Shalva apparition in conflict using,

And Ravana large mountain moving.


Real miracles from representatives take,

From wretched souls devotees to make.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Five Lessons From Rama’s Encounter With Tataka

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting Tataka]“Rama showed His tremendous knowledge of fighting by killing the demon Tataka. The muni then gave to Him knowledge of secret mantras to be used in fighting.” (Janaki Mangala, 36)

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Belonging to the Yaksha species, though benign at first Tataka turned into a powerful female Rakshasa through a curse from Agastya Rishi. A similar curse was applied to her son, Maricha. Tataka then proceeded to lay waste to a certain region of the forest. The inhabitants lived in fear of her, who could assume any shape at will.

Her history was narrated by Vishvamitra to Rama and Lakshmana, two sons to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. They were raised to be great warriors, fearless in their defense of the innocent. Rama was the eldest son, and He was the leader to the three younger brothers. As He is also an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the episode of His encounter with Tataka is significant.

1. In this world you can find really bad people

Today, you don’t have to look that hard. The leader of the nation can be the worst among men. A lawyer by profession, they lie so much that they believe themselves. They have no scruples. Whatever serves the temporary, personal interest becomes dharma, or righteous. The private citizen who obeys the law suddenly becomes guilty; their adherence to the law is scandal-worthy.

Of course such conditions for the present were predicted a long time ago by shastra. The timeline of the creation is divided into four periods. Right now we are in the fourth and last period, known as Kali. The idea is that if compared to a table, virtue stands with all four legs intact in the beginning. With each successive period, one leg is removed.

From the episode with Tataka, we see that even in the second period, Treta Yuga, there were some really bad characters in the world. Tataka was like a female cannibal, who used deception to attack. She had no concept of right and wrong; whatever she wanted to do, she did. The general purity of the age did not save the living beings who had the misfortune of being in her path.

2. A woman can have great strength

Newsflash: men and women are different. This is obvious to any sober minded person, but in the age where any person can become an expert on a particular subject, sometimes even the most basic truths are reversed. One of the fundamental differences is strength. Men are generally physically stronger than women. That is the way of nature.

From Tataka we see that even a female can be very powerful. When first told the story by Vishvamitra, this was one of the first questions Rama had. How was a Yakshi so powerful that she instilled fear in everyone? The material nature can be manipulated in any direction. The general tendencies can be broken through special circumstances. Tataka was a female, but her physical strength was extraordinary.

3. The rules sometimes conflict

You shouldn’t hit a woman. This rule only makes sense. Women are generally weaker than men. Women should be protected, just like children. Being in the superior position doesn’t mean that you assert your dominance for no reason.

As Vishvamitra explained to Rama at the beginning, it is the duty of a king to protect the citizens, even if it means breaking etiquette from time to time. Rama and Lakshmana were with Vishvamitra to both protect him and learn from him. Rama is God, so there is nothing for Him to learn, but He accepted Vishvamitra as a spiritual guide to set the proper example for others to follow. Tataka was a menace to society, and Rama was told about her precisely so that He would vanquish her in battle.

4. Trust in the guru is everything

The Supreme Lord is compassion personified. You will not find a kinder person. If you need proof, just look to the heart. God is always there as the Supersoul. He is as much in the heart of the devoted, pious person as He is in the female man-eater.

Despite being told by Vishvamitra to not show leniency to Tataka, Rama initially planned on simply hurting her. He didn’t want to kill her. When the fighting started, Rama and Lakshmana lopped off her arms, nose and ears. Normally that would incapacitate a fighter, but Tataka was not ordinary. She used black magic to fight, appearing and disappearing at will.

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting Tataka]Vishvamitra reminded Rama to not be lenient on account of her gender. Again setting the best example for everyone to follow, only when there was full trust in the guru did Rama succeed. He slayed her with arrows penetrating her body, bringing great relief to the celestials watching from above.

5. The guru gives so much

Being pleased with Rama, the celestials asked Vishvamitra to pass down to Rama special weapons. Vishvamitra obliged, and Rama received so many amazing weapons to be used in combat. Vishvamitra also revealed to Rama special mantras to be chanted to make the weapons work. The arrows would become more powerful than even today’s nuclear weapons.

The bona fide guru is Rama’s representative on earth. When they are pleased, they can give the world to the disciple. In the present age of ignorance, quarrel and hypocrisy, the mercy of the guru comes in the form of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting this mantra while maintaining pure habits, with attachment to the guru’s feet and respect for their instruction to always remain conscious of God, brings the boon of life never to be surpassed: the liberation of surrender to the Divine.

In Closing:

Rama, informed of Tataka was He,

Female Yakshi terrorizing was she.


To forest-dwelling sages in peace,

In killing spree tearing piece by piece.


Lord hesitant since female body possessing,

Proceeded after guru issue addressing.


To teach Him no one properly can,

Lord setting best example for man.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Five Of My Favorite Vaishnava Holidays

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]“My dear brothers, My dear father, My dear inhabitants of Vrindavana, you can now safely enter under the umbrella of Govardhana Hill, which I have just lifted. Do not be afraid of the hill and think that it will fall from My hand. You have been too much afflicted from the heavy rain and strong wind; therefore I have lifted this hill, which will protect you exactly like a huge umbrella. I think this is a proper arrangement to relieve you from your immediate distress. Be happy along with your animals underneath this great umbrella.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)

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Time is continuous. Infinite in both directions, it is an eternal factor of an existence, along with the material nature, the individual living entity, and the supreme controlling authority. Only karma is temporary, as the results to action do not remain manifest forever. However low I sink through sinful behavior, there is always an opportunity to reform.

Fortunes can change quickly. Just look inward, to the Supersoul residing within the heart. Become conscious of God, who is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness, which is tied to the original, spiritual and complete form. The consciousness of Him should be as steady as the winding of time itself. Be eternally engaged in service to Him. It is for this reason that bhakti-yoga is synonymous with sanatana-dharma.

We living entities are at present conditioned. Due to illusion, we choose to serve the material energy instead of God. The consciousness of Him should remain steady, but how do we even reignite it in the first place? To help in the process, there are the widely honored holidays of the Vaishnava tradition.

Every moment is a cause for celebration of the Divine, as something as simple as the rising of the sun in the morning is an indication of His mercy. We organize life into days, weeks, months and years, and so the annual holidays help to bring organization in bhakti-yoga practice. There is strength in numbers, and the numbers on the yearly calendar serve as impetus to remember the Supreme Lord in various ways.

1. Gaura Purnima

It is no accident that the Supreme descended to this world on a full moon day some five hundred years ago. This was the golden avatara, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Darkness is the absence of light, and no amount of artificial lighting can fully dissipate the darkness of night except for the rising sun in the morning.

A good substitute is the full moon, providing soothing light, shining bright in the dark night. The present age is known as Kali, and it is dark due to the strong influence of ignorance. What is right becomes wrong, and wrong becomes right. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the full moon to brighten the fortunes of the unfortunate ones taking birth in the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

Typically occurring in the month of March, Gaura Purnima celebrates the appearance of Lord Chaitanya. The day brings to mind the sacrifices the Lord made to popularize the sankirtana movement, which helped to spread the instructions of Shri Krishna found in books like the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

2. Dussehra

Vedic culture is vast and comprehensive. All other religions of the world fit into it quite easily, with room to spare for so many other traditions. The idea is that whatever desire a person has, there is a dharma to fulfill it. Sanatana-dharma, or the eternal engagement for man, is one, but due to illusion he thinks of other goals to meet first.

With the variety in desires, sometimes there is more than one tradition associated with a holiday. The primary observance on Dussehra is the celebration of the victory of God over the asuras. Not just good against evil, this was the Supreme God going against a person who was an aggressor violating the life and property of the pious and noble souls around the world.

On Dussehra we remember the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama, who wielded the bow and arrow for the protection of the sadhus living in the forests. Rama defeated the king of Lanka in a terrific battle. The Lord emerged victorious because no one can defeat Him. Ravana was feared throughout the world, but he lost everything in an instant through Rama’s arrows. Those weapons were fired due to the grave offenses the king had committed. Ravana looked like he had gotten away with everything, but time, in the form of God Himself, delivered the appropriate result at the appropriate moment.

3. Diwali

Dussehra celebrates Rama’s victory and Diwali is for welcoming Rama back home. It was a real battle with Ravana, after all, so there were many fighters. Ravana’s army consisted of ogres who were expert at black magic. They weren’t soldiers fighting under some universally agreed set of rules. They did not have special uniforms to help the other side identify them. Rather, the Rakshasas from Lanka could change their shapes at will and display illusions intended to quell the fighting spirit of the opposing side.

Rama’s army consisted of forest-dwellers, known as Vanaras in Sanskrit. They resided in Kishkindha. Diwali is the celebration the residents of Ayodhya gave Rama when He finally returned home. The leading Vanaras were with Him, along with Sita and Lakshmana. The welcoming lights associated with the festival are in honor of God, who always comes through for the devotees.

4. Janmashtami

Krishna Himself appeared in this world, in the strangest of settings. Not in a house where everyone was gathered around, awaiting His arrival. Not in a hospital room. Not during some celebration. Rather, He appeared from the womb of Devaki at midnight, while the mother and her husband were in a jail cell.

This occasion is celebrated because it marked the beginning of many wonderful things to come. First Krishna shifted to the neighboring town of Gokula. Later He returned to Mathura, to deal with the wicked character who had imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva. There are so many things worth celebrating about Krishna that a person can spend innumerable lifetimes contemplating, remembering, and appreciating.

5. Govardhana Puja

If you take up bhakti-yoga in earnest, there will be detractors. People will try to stop you. There is no limitation on the candidates for opposition. Your mother can turn against you. Your father, your brother, your sister, your best friend even. It’s just the way of the material world, as not everyone will be open to dedicating body, mind and soul to someone they think doesn’t even exist.

Govardhana Puja celebrates the time that Krishna Himself acted as a rebel. He went against the established tradition of worshiping the king of heaven, Indra. At his foster son’s insistence, Nanda Maharaja organized a festival in honor of Govardhana Hill, which was dear to the cows.

This did not sit well with the king of heaven. He retaliated the neglect by sending a devastating rainstorm to the area. Threatened to be washed away, the people took shelter under a massive umbrella. It was new to the area, as Krishna created it by lifting the just worshiped Govardhana Hill.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]This festival is the living example of the recommendation made by Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, to abandon all varieties of religion. Do not fear, the Supreme Lord will protect you against any potential consequences. There was no sin in the first Govardhana Puja, but there was a ghastly reaction nonetheless. The rebellious Krishna firmly established the supremacy of bhakti-yoga by protecting the people who had so lovingly participated in the festival.

In Closing:

In many festivals Supreme Lord to shine,

But one particular the favorite of mine.


Where tradition of demigods went against,

By Indra then devastating rain sent.


In flood waters towards doom to wade,

So Krishna world’s largest umbrella made.


In bhakti many enemies to come,

But Lord to protect, fear should be none.