Saturday, August 19, 2017

Five Reasons Krishna Does Not Walk Around As The Universal Form

[Krishna playing with friends]“Krishna would sometimes perform mock fighting along with the cowherd boys. When Krishna blew His horn in this mock fighting, Shridama, who was on the opposing side, felt his bodily hairs stand up. Similarly, when Arjuna saw Krishna in His gigantic universal form, there was a standing of the hairs on his body.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 28)

Duryodhana came up with the plan pretty quickly. Forget peace. No reason to even consider the message brought by the emissary, whose preference was known. Krishna was the dear friend to Arjuna. Krishna was related as a cousin to the Pandavas, as well. Duryodhana was on the other side. He took the kingdom that didn’t belong to him. He edged out the cousins, and then to make sure they didn’t try to take back what was rightfully theirs, he tried to have them killed in so many ways.

Somehow or other the brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi, managed to survive. Duryodhana didn’t know it, but the actual reason was Shri Krishna. He protects the devotion of His devotees. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descending to earth in the original, all-attractive form.

On this visit from Krishna, Duryodhana thought it would be beneficial to have the messenger bound. Of course, this went against protocol and the most basic standards of decency for a head of state; but winning was the only concern for Dhritarashtra’s son.

As antaryami, or the all-pervading witness, Krishna is conscious of everything that is happening, in every space. He knew of Duryodhana’s plan before it could be implemented. He decided to show the virata-rupa, the universal form. The idea is that Krishna is never alone. Though He gives a certain appearance, the size to His transcendental body can never be accurately measured. He is bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest.

The vision of the virata-rupa scared Duryodhana straight for the time being; mission aborted. The plan to bind gave Krishna a good chuckle. One may wonder why then such a vision is not always shown. Why doesn’t Krishna walk around as the universal-form instead of His two-handed form, which carries a flute?

1. The vision is a way to remove doubts

Sometimes someone gets to know Krishna very well, but they’re not exactly sure who He is. The universal form provides visual evidence of His divine nature. Arjuna saw a most amazing version of the virata-rupa on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This was after Krishna’s visit to try for peace and before the actual war began.

Arjuna was not really in doubt, but he asked to see the spectacle nonetheless since he knows its importance. It is one kind of visual evidence of the existence of the Almighty. Even the staunchest atheist wouldn’t be foolish enough to deny that the sum of total of everything exists. I may not believe in a higher power, but I know that there is stuff everywhere. Take all the stuff together, put it into one image, and you have the universal form. A person who can show this image is thus not ordinary; they must be Divine.

2. It is a way to correct the fools who think He is an ordinary being

This was the case in the meeting with Duryodhana. The fool thought that Krishna was an ordinary being, someone who takes birth and eventually dies, like everyone else. He knew that Krishna sucked milk from the breast of mother Yashoda during childhood, that He crawled like an ordinary baby. Duryodhana knew that Krishna fled the battlefield against Jarasandha during adulthood.

Still, there should not have been doubt on the matter. The dear friend to Arjuna and the Pandavas had shown His amazing ability many times. Vidura, the uncle, was not in doubt. Neither were so many others present. Due to his sinful nature Duryodhana couldn’t see properly. Thus he came up with the crazy plan to have Krishna tied up.

“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)

The universal form corrected the false idea. Take note that even after being presented visual evidence by God Himself, Duryodhana did not change his ways. That is the power of the illusory energy known as maya. Not only does it lead to false identification, but even when someone genuine is presented right before the eyes, a change in consciousness does not occur.

3. The devotees don’t require that vision

To show the universal form at all times is not required for those who are constantly with Krishna. They don’t insist on such proof. They already know that God exists. They are already on the proper side of action, dharma. They have turned away from adharma, which is like the back side of God.

4. It is impersonal; only a perspective on the truth

The virata-rupa is not a person. It is a kind of abstract concept. It is impossible to put everything into a single image, since time is always changing things. The virata-rupa is thus impersonal; it is just a way to understand God. It is not something tangible; something with which to interact on a moving forward basis.

5. Krishna is more attractive

The personal form is more attractive, and it is for the pleasure of the devotees that Krishna descends. He delivers the pious and punishes the miscreants. He reestablishes dharma after it has been neglected for too long.

[Krishna playing with friends]This work can be accomplished by representatives, however. The real purpose of the Divine descent is to give pleasure to the devotees, the servants who have surrendered everything for God. They take more pleasure from seeing Krishna or one of His other personal incarnations, like Rama or Narasimha, than they do from the virata-rupa.

In Closing:

Already in bhakti path proceeding,

So virata vision not needing.

Abstract, a collective representing,

Prefer for personal form presenting.

Impersonal, to interact not a way,

Neither talking with words to say.

Two-handed, with flute in the hands,

The blissful deity, prayers He understands.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Curses That Turned Out To Be Blessings

[Damodara with trees]“The two demigod-sons of Kuvera were so intoxicated that they could not appreciate the presence of the sage Narada and therefore did not cover their bodies. On seeing the two demigods so degraded by intoxication, Narada desired their welfare, and therefore he exhibited his causeless mercy upon them by cursing them.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality Of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)

It is the ugly, extreme, and most visible form of the reality of karma. Karma is fruitive activity - work that produces a result guaranteed to manifest at some point in the future. Those who go against religious principles immediately think of the worst:

“Will I be born as an ant in the next life? Will I get punished for all the wrong I have done? Is it straight to the hellish region in the next birth, a predicament from which I will never be able to escape?”

In truth the results are there for both good and bad, just as placing your hand into fire will cause pain and drinking water when thirsty will provide satisfaction.

The curse, as described often in Vedic literature, is the immediate proof of the reality of negative consequences to impious behavior. The origin of those curses is usually people who have acquired enough pious credits to gain the ability to pronounce them. Brahmanas, members of the priestly order by occupation, can curse others. It is a way to protect themselves, as the priests are usually nonviolent. It is also a way to protect others, to bring them down from a false ego that has swelled to a malignant level.

The brahmanas are an ocean of compassion, and from several examples we find that their curses actually turn out to be blessings. Good people make mistakes, after all. There is a negative reaction, but the result doesn’t have to remain forever. No one is better at wiping the slate clean than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

1. Kabandha

He was first a Gandharva, which is a kind of celestial being. The Vedas provide detailed information about different kinds of living. Life is not exclusively found in the earthly region. There is a hellish realm below and a heavenly one above. The residents of heaven are pious souls. As a reward they get enhanced ability and increased enjoyment.

Residence there is not permanent, however. It is still a place within the material world, so there is vulnerability to doing something that causes an exit. This is what happened to Kabandha. He one time got a boon from Lord Brahma that made him practically invincible. Brahma is the creator, and when pleased he can offer any benediction a person can think of, up to the point of immortality.

Kabandha did not leave well enough alone. He attacked the king of heaven, Indra, who responded in battle by making it so that Kabandha no longer had a head; it was driven into his torso. Kabandha then got his Rakshasa form and roamed the forests in a specific area on earth. He bothered a sage once, who then added on to the curse. Kabandha would stay in that form forever. After the Rakshasa begged for clemency, the sage said that everything would be fixed through a meeting with Shri Rama.

That is indeed what would occur. Rama is an incarnation of God. He is the famous avatara described in sacred texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Rama has lila, or pastimes, that are sequenced together to make a most compelling story.

Within that story Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana one time were roaming the forest looking for Rama’s missing wife Sita. They encountered Kabandha, who tried to kill and eat the brothers. The pair figured out that the Rakshasa’s strength was his arms. They lopped off those arms and thus escaped defeat.

Kabandha then told Rama the whole story, asking the brothers to perform his funeral rites. After that Kabandha regained his Gandharva form and provided some valuable information. He directed Rama to Mount Rishyamukha, where the Vanara named Sugriva was living. It was recommended that an alliance between Sugriva and Rama would be helpful. In this way the curse applied to the Gandharva turned out to be a blessing, as he was able to both meet the Supreme Lord and be of valuable assistance to Him.

2. Nalakuvara and Manigriva

Two brothers, sons to the treasurer of the demigods, Nalakuvara and Manigriva were one time intoxicated and enjoying with females. When the sage Narada came by, the brothers were too drunk to realize they needed to offer him respect. The sage then cursed them to take birth as trees, for then they would get to remain naked for a very long time. Since Narada is compassion personified, after considering what was best for the two sons of the respected Kuvera he stipulated that the curse would end through a meeting with the Supreme Lord in His form of Krishna.

That is exactly what happened. Years later the same Rama incarnated on earth as Krishna, the all-attractive one. In the house of mother Yashoda, God was in a childhood form. He earned the name Damodara after being bound to a mortar by the loving mother. This was punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt in anger over being neglected for only a few seconds.

[Damodara with trees]God retains His full potencies in every situation. Even though bound to a mortar, young Krishna was able to move. He pulled the mortar with Him as He went through two trees. The force of the mortar and ropes then brought those trees down. From them emerged the two brothers who were cursed by Narada. They proceeded to glorify Krishna in a wonderful way, after which they returned to their previous home.

3. King Nriga

Another tale from the lila of Shri Krishna, we find a former king transformed into a lizard. This wasn’t exactly a curse, but the reaction was due to impious behavior all the same. Part of the duties of kings from an ancient time was to give away wealth in charity. The recipients were brahmanas, and often the wealth they accepted was cows.

One time King Nriga accidentally gave away a cow that belonged to another brahmana. The brahmana who received the cow and the one who lost it became involved in a dispute. King Nriga tried to solve the situation by giving away more cows, but neither side could be satisfied.

At the time of death that mistake remained on the king’s list of impious deeds. The god of justice asked the king what he would like first: to suffer for his sins or enjoy his pious credits. King Nriga decided to suffer first, and so he was reborn as a giant lizard.

During Krishna’s pastimes one time young boys found the lizard stuck in a well. They couldn’t get it out, so they called on Krishna. The Supreme Lord came and helped the lizard get out. After that the lizard transformed into a beautiful demigod. Inquiring as to what happened, King Nriga related the entire story. The curse-like reaction received from the previous mistake actually turned into a wonderful blessing, as the king had the fortune of direct contact with Shri Krishna.

4. Kamadeva and Lord Shiva

As the creation goes through cycles of manifestation and dissolution, the exact sequence of events are not always the same. Moreover, the same events take place in other realms, as well. Therefore the story of Kamadeva and Lord Shiva has some variations, though the main events are generally the same.

Kamadeva is the god of love. Kama is lust or material desire. It is the very foundation on which life in the material world continues. If every person were free of kama then they would have no reason to continue in the cycle of birth and death.

Kamadeva is something like Cupid, except he works as a demigod, who is a deputy of the Supreme Lord. Kamadeva helps to fulfill the desire to forget God and enjoy separate from Him. Kamadeva accomplishes his task with the help of the spring season and arranging it so that conditions are ideal for men and women to be attracted to one another.

He one time tried to instill amorous passion in Lord Shiva, who was deep in trance at the time. Shiva is Mahadeva, or the great god. He is not an ordinary deva, or demigod. At the time he was meditating on his deity of choice, Shri Rama.

The demigods enlisted the help of Kamadeva because they needed someone to defeat a powerful demon. It was said that only the offspring of Shiva could take down this bad character. But how would such an offspring arrive if Shiva refused to marry again? His first wife Sati had voluntarily entered fire after her father insulted Shiva at a yajna [sacrifice].

Agreeing to help, Kamadeva decided to shoot an arrow at Shiva. Mahadeva’s trance was broken, and he was so angry that his third eye opened up. Looking around he spotted Kamadeva and immediately burned him to death using that eye. Kamadeva’s consort, Rati, was heartbroken. Though the demigods work would now be accomplished, through the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, what would happen to Kamadeva?

Shiva consoled Rati by telling her that her husband would take birth as Pradyumna, the grandson of Krishna. Rati would incarnate on earth at the same time and become his wife. In this way the curse turned into a blessing, as there was active participation in Krishna lila.

In Closing:

Rebirth a reality to be,

Evident with curse to see.

From angry brahmana coming,

Example of Rakshasa next becoming.

For Kabandha a blessing great,

Serving Rama through death’s state.

Liberated as trees brothers two,

King Nriga seeing Krishna too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why Didn’t Krishna Just Take The Land Back For The Pandavas

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

Friend1: The poor Pandavas.

Friend2: They went through a lot.

Friend1: Bhima being fed the poison cake.

Friend2: Such a chance occurrence that he escaped. While he was unconscious at the bottom of the lake due to the poison, snakes started biting him. That actually neutralized the poison, allowing him to wake up and save himself.

Friend1: Then Duryodhana tried to have them burned in the house of shellac.

[Pandavas escaping house fire]Friend2: Vidura, the good uncle, saved them.

Friend1: But really the hand of God. Narayana, the Supreme Lord, there with them in spirit. Sometimes by their side physically in the form of Shri Krishna.

Friend2: The compassionate cousin who is actually the well-wishing friend of every living entity.

“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

Friend1: Alright, so my question is about Krishna being there and not helping out more.

Friend2: You want to know how such bad things could happen to people that are supposedly protected by God?

Friend1: I think we’ve discussed that before. I know that just because you take up bhakti-yoga, devotional service, it doesn’t mean that everything will always go your way.

Friend2: Exactly. There are several reasons for this.

Friend1: One is the residual effects of fruitive activity, karma. Like the electric fan that you turn off. It still spins for a while before stopping completely.

Friend2: Another way to think of it is doing something wrong and having the effect manifest later on. I forgot to pack my wallet on this weekend trip. I won’t suffer the consequence until I actually have to pay for something, which may not happen for a day or two.

Friend1: And the other reason is that the modes of nature still act?

Friend2: Yes. Just because you are practicing devotion doesn’t mean you won’t be subject to the basic miseries of life, like those coming from the heavens. You’ll still have ups and downs mentally. The idea is that the end result is different.

Friend1: And sometimes the bad times test you, right?

Friend2: For sure. They help to make your devotion stronger.

Friend1: Okay, so what is the exact cause in this specific case, where the land was taken from the Pandavas? Their father Pandu was the king. Upon his passing the sons should have gotten the kingdom. Instead, Dhritarashtra allowed his sons, led by Duryodhana, to illegally take control.

Friend2: And you want to know what caused all of this?

Friend1: Forget the cause for a moment. Why didn’t Krishna intervene? Why didn’t He just take the land back for the Pandavas? He is the supreme proprietor, after all. Everything belongs to Him originally. He was there. It’s not like He was back in the spiritual world. He had already overthrown one evil king, His maternal uncle Kamsa. Why didn’t He do the same with Duryodhana?

Friend2: I like this question. It seems logical enough. There is already precedent set. Do you know that Krishna discussed this idea with Duryodhana?

Friend1: Really?

Friend2: Yes. Just prior to the great war to settle the matter once and for all, Krishna made one last attempt at peace. He visited Duryodhana as a messenger. The moron decided that instead of talking he would try to tie up Krishna. This way the Pandavas would lose their will to fight.

Friend1: I do remember this now. Krishna showed Duryodhana a version of the universal form, the virata-rupa.

Friend2: Yes. He basically said, “If you want to bind me, go ahead. But you’ll have to bind the entire creation, because that is one way to understand who I am.”

Friend1: That’s funny.

Friend2: Krishna easily could have taken the land back, but He didn’t want to get involved in that way. People would blame Him for interfering in matters that didn’t concern Him. Instead, He accomplished the same through the fearless devotion of Arjuna and his brothers. Krishna urged Arjuna to act as the instrument.

Friend1: Essentially, Krishna did take the land back, but was so kind that the credit went to Arjuna.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: That is part of God’s nature. The same situation with Hanuman, who bravely crossed the ocean to reach Lanka and find Rama’s missing wife Sita. Shri Rama, who is the same Krishna but in a different incarnation form, could have easily accomplished the task Himself. But that would mean Shri Hanuman wouldn’t be as famous or revered today. Rama wanted to glorify Hanuman, and in the same way Krishna wanted to increase the fame and glory of His great devotee Arjuna.

In Closing:

Arjuna as warrior made a name,

Krishna to increase that fame.

So allowed as instrument to act,

With swift arrows of aim exact.

To get back land illegally taken,

By Duryodhana of dharma forsaken.

Easily work of entire world can do,

But allowing others for glory too.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five Reasons To Protect The Cow

[Krishna with cow]“Everyone can understand that we drink the milk of cows and take the help of bulls in producing agricultural products. Therefore, since our real father gives us food grains and our mother gives us milk with which to live, the cow and bull are considered our father and mother. According to Vedic civilization, there are seven mothers, of which the cow is one.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.154, Purport)

When travelling the world, in addition to seeing a variety of languages spoken you will also notice a lack of uniformity in diet. Different regions have their dish of choice, what is considered a delicacy to the area. There are also differences in levels of discrimination, i.e. what is considered proper for human consumption.

In addition to the large presence of vegetarianism, in the Hindu culture there is widespread restriction on eating cow flesh, i.e. beef. Is this like the restriction on pork in the Islamic culture? Is this similar to how dogs and cats aren’t consumed in the majority of industrialized nations?

Actually, the practice goes much deeper than just food or eating. There is a profound and comprehensive philosophy serving as the backbone of the culture. That philosophy is so engrained in the people living within the culture, abiding by the principles, that they may not even be aware.

That culture is rooted in the Vedas, which is the original scriptural tradition of the world. Passed on first as an aural tradition, the Vedas are also the shrutis, or “that which is heard.” Hinduism is really Vedic civilization, and there are many reasons given for the protection of the cow.

1. It doesn’t ask your religion when giving milk

Whether the cow is killed for food or some other reason, the majority of the world uses the milk produced. This isn’t generated automatically, through machines. It isn’t grown in the field. Human intervention is required. A person must round up the cow, approach it, and then apply physical labor to extract milk.

A person may protest that only Hindus are to protect the cow. “The restriction on eating the flesh of the sacred animal does not apply to my culture or to others.” That certainly may be the thought process, but the cow provides milk all the same. It does not ask the person’s religion when offering up the vital and nutritious substance. It does not withhold milk to those of a non-Hindu culture.

2. It is a living entity

People within the highest division of Vedic society do not consume animal flesh. One of the reasons is knowledge of the spirit soul. The fragments of spirit are all the same. They are Divine in nature, the superior energy, or prakriti, coming from God.

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

The spirit souls are also purusha, which identifies the person within the body that is part of the material energy known as prakriti. This purusha is there in anything that is living. Purusha is not exclusive to the human species, though the human mind is the only one capable of learning about, identifying, and acting off the difference.

Altering behavior based on the knowledge is known as discrimination. If man just ate anything that was around, they would eat other human beings, too. After all, the human infant is inferior in so many ways to adult animals, yet that inferiority is not used as an excuse to kill and eat.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

The cow is just as much a living entity as the human being. It is a spirit soul inside of a body composed of material elements. The wise person sees the equality of the fragments of spirit in all species.

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)

Another reason for the restriction is that a wise person eats only what is offered first to God. In the Bhagavad-gita He asks for simple things, like fruit, flowers, leaves, or water. It is not required to kill innocent animals in order to survive. Live simply, purify the consciousness, and make the most of the human birth. To kill indiscriminately is the way of the animal, which is lower on the evolutionary chain of species.

3. It provides enough food to sustain life

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would sometimes be asked about the cause of the tremendous wealth found in industrialized nations. His response was interesting. He stated that real wealth is measured in terms of how much land and how many cows are in possession.

If you have some land, even a little, and a cow or two then your economic problems are solved. By itself the cow can provide enough food to sustain life. Milk leads to so many other products fit for human consumption. Infants can grow up on milk alone; they don’t require other food.

For a person to kill such an amazing animal is both cruel and disrespectful. Other animals, which are far less useful, are protected for some reason, but the amazing cow is rounded up and sent to the slaughterhouse. This, of course, after it is exploited for milk, butter, and other products. Since it provides milk the cow is also like a mother.

4. It is a beautiful example of pure love

The cow doesn’t produce milk just out of nowhere. It is the result of love. Seeing its children, the cow knows that milk is needed to sustain life. The cow doesn’t use discrimination in this regard. As soon as the calves come, the cows produce. They produce for as long as they can, as long as they are needed. In modern society the reward for this pure love is violent death, for both mother and child.

5. It is dear to Krishna

The Vedas say that in the complete feature God is a person. That person can manifest in different ways, but His features are always transcendental. Those gunas, or qualities, are all-attractive; hence the name Krishna.

It is not surprising that cows would be very dear to Krishna. Since He cares for them and protects them, He is also known by such names as Govinda and Gopala. The cows in the spiritual land of Vrindavana love Krishna so much that they produce milk just by seeing Him. When they scatter about due to lack of supervision, Krishna simply has to play His flute to get their attention.

[Krishna with cow]Whoever is dear to the Supreme Lord becomes dear to those aspiring to serve Him with love, attention, and faith. For this reason those who follow Vedic culture, whether born into it or not, support and advocate the protection of cows and honor the relationship that Shri Krishna has with them. Even if a person unknowingly protects and cares for a cow, they earn tremendous merits, sukriti, which can lead them back on the path towards the spiritual heaven, the only place that never gets destroyed.

In Closing:

To produce for anyone to come,

Not asking which religion you’re from.

Justification that needed for meat,

But already so many things to eat.

To Supreme Lord always so dear,

From Vrindavana pastimes clear.

Like a mother the milk on which all can live,

Spiritual merit from just protection to give.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vyasa Puja 2017

[Krishna as a student]“When Krishna was residing at the place of His spiritual master, He did not mind taking all troubles in rendering service to His guru, although His body was very soft and delicate. It is the duty of the disciple to execute all services unto the spiritual master, despite all kinds of difficulties.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 21)

Take the situation of a guardian and a dependent. In this example the dependent is a little mature; they are not an infant. They can do some things on their own. They can follow direction, if provided. The guardian here is much more mature in terms of both life experience and knowing how things work. They can see into the future, for the higher benefit of shreyas. The dependent is only focused on the immediate enjoyment, preyas. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we honor the spiritual master, who shields their dependents from the worst outcome to a lifetime: repeated birth and death.

The guardian has two options. One is to do everything for the dependent. If the child is in school, then help them with their homework. The extreme is to essentially finish the assignments for them. This way the dependent will avoid a failing grade. The idea is to avoid any kind of difficulty; fun and nothing but fun.

The second option is to assign tasks. Put the dependent to work. The tasks may be menial, like doing chores around the house, or they can be complex, like helping to build something. The dependent may not like this path. They may feel as if they are being tortured. The idea is that maturity will accelerate with this route.

The spiritual master leans mostly on the second option with the dependents that are known as disciples. The goal is to break free of the attachments found in a material existence, and so the recommendations may seem like torture. There is great benefit to tolerating the difficulties, but the disciple may have complaints.

Why do I have to chant so many rounds?

The jagat-guru for the present time period, which is within the Kali Yuga, or the age of darkness, is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Appearing in a line of exalted spiritual teachers that traces back to the original guru Himself, Shri Krishna, the swami puts great emphasis on chanting the holy names, especially those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Lord Krishna]This chanting is part of an overall way of life known as bhakti-yoga, which can be translated as “devotional service.” Bhakti is love or devotion, and so in the highest form the behavior is spontaneous. Just as the mother doesn’t feel like she is working when she has to care for her beloved child, the pure devotee doesn’t consider any activity to be part of some routine meant for self-improvement. Bhakti essentially becomes them.

The recommendation to chant in a routine is a way to slowly build up to the platform of pure devotion. The disciple may complain. “Why do I have to chant so many rounds? Why does it take so much time? Shouldn’t I just chant the holy name one time, purely, instead of repeating like a robot?”

As is seen with children, so many excuses are made for avoiding difficult work. In this regard tolerance is most beneficial. In the case where progress grinds to a halt, at least the holy name is heard, and that sound vibration is non-different from the person it represents.

Why do I have to avoid the four pillars of sinful life?

“Is one drink really going to kill me? I can’t bet on the Super Bowl? Why are these restrictions so harsh? The guru doesn’t want me to have any fun.”

In fact, the spiritual master desires eternal bliss and pleasure, in an eternally existing body, for the disciple. That is the ultimate goal of spiritual life. In the beginning a person may be God-fearing, where they want to avoid the punishment slated to arrive from sinful life. They may want to avoid eternal damnation, something they’ve feared ever since being told by higher authorities.

The restrictions in bhakti-yoga are known as nivritti. To have detachment is vairagya, and it actually comes automatically the more one is attached to God. The four regulative principles help to speed the process along. Of all the recommendations avoiding meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex may require the most tolerance, but the reward is worth the effort.

Why do I have to speak on the science of self-realization?

Like a good father or teacher, the guru likely never will say that the work is complete. There is always something more to do. If following the four regulative principles and regularly chanting the holy names, the next step might be to prepare and offer food to the deity, which is the merciful, physical representation of God the person and His transcendental features; a way to visualize God in a place otherwise full of maya, or illusion.

The resultant food becomes known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. The guru still won’t be satisfied. The next advice is to distribute that prasadam to others, for the spiritual potency is unmatched. The same prasadam can be shared in the form of words of wisdom. The spiritual master will recommend speaking on the principles of bhakti-yoga found in works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

The disciple may be afraid. “What if I can’t speak that well? What if I don’t know what to say? What if I am not skilled in public speaking?” The guru will then say to write down the realizations. In some way or another share the experience in bhakti-yoga. Simply tell other people what Shri Krishna and the devotees mean to you. A few words can be purifying to both the audience and the speaker.

The system of guru-disciple descends from the Supreme Lord Himself. When He appeared in this world in His original form, as the all-attractive Shri Krishna, He also accepted a guru. No one needs to teach Him anything. He doesn’t need to develop vairagya, since He already possesses it in full. While lying down and exhaling He creates innumerable universes, so what is He going to learn from anyone?

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

[Shri Krishna as a student]Krishna showed great tolerance when serving the spiritual master. He accepted whatever difficulties were encountered. This was done to set the right example, for what a great man does others follow. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we honor the representative of Shri Krishna, who follows in a line of teachers descending from Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of the Supreme Lord whose body of work is beyond comprehension in both brilliance and volume.

In Closing:

Good teacher giving work to do,

So one day to be proficient too.

Not lazily sitting around just,

For outcomes in others to trust.

Disciple to spiritual master sure to complain,

Of such restriction what possibly the gain?

But Shri Krishna Himself example setting,

That most good from service to guru getting.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Krishna Janmashtami 2017

[Lord Krishna]“Sometimes mother Yashoda used to ask Krishna to bring her a wooden plank for sitting. Although the wooden plank was too heavy to be carried by a child, still somehow or other Krishna would bring it to His mother. Sometimes while worshiping Narayana, His father would ask Him to bring his wooden slippers, and Krishna, with great difficulty, would put the slippers on His head and bring them to His father. When He was asked to lift some heavy article and was unable to lift it, He would simply move His arms. In this way, daily, at every moment, He was the reservoir of all pleasure to His parents.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)

God can do anything. If He is the origin of this universe, He is responsible for the amazing wonders that are everywhere. Something as commonplace as birth is considered a miracle. Out of nowhere a child appears within the womb and gradually begins to develop. The first time mother-to-be has no prior experience to consult. They have to suffer through the difficulties of morning sickness, loss of appetite, and pain in the stomach. The end result is a brand new life, totally dependent on the parents.

The entire manifest world can be considered in the same light. There is the unmanifest material substance, known as pradhana. The Supreme Lord simply glances over the pradhana and the three modes of nature result, with the process of creation beginning. Subsequent is maintenance, followed eventually by destruction.

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

As He says in the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the source of both material and spiritual worlds. One is manifest and the other unmanifest, perpetually. The spiritual world has a different kind of nature, which is ever-existing.

[Birth of Krishna]Shri Krishna descends to this world from time to time. The occasion of Janmashtami celebrates the day He emerged from the womb of mother Devaki in Mathura. Since He is always God, no matter which form He chooses to display, Krishna is able to do amazing things.

He spent the childhood years in the farm community of Vrindavana. Though giving the visual of an innocent and dependent child, He survived one miracle after another. At least this is how the residents treated the incidents. Krishna withstood being served poison by a witch named Putana. He survived being taken high into the sky by an evil character who could transform into a whirlwind. He brought down two large trees by Himself, but somehow escaped harm as they fell near Him.

Krishna has opulences that span both sides of a sliding scale. He is the most powerful and He can also show weakness. The latter is with the intent of increasing the joy of the devotees, who are so dear to Him. In Vrindavana mother Yashoda would sometimes ask young Krishna to bring a wooden plank. The Lord struggled to fulfill the desire, staying adorable throughout.

[Lord Krishna]Krishna would sometimes bring the slippers to the father Nanda, again struggling in the process. A fruit vendor would visit the house, and Krishna would imitate the parents by bringing grains to her as payment. The problem was that the grains would slip out of His tiny, lotus-like hands.

In each case the people on the receiving end would take so much delight. There was relief when Krishna escaped the attacks of the wicked asuras sent to Gokula by the king of Mathura, Kamsa, and there was great joy as the same child tried to perform everyday tasks.

To this day the same experience is available to anyone who is sincerely devoted to that delight of the town, Gokulananda. The occasion of Janmashtami brings the opportunity to remember the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive Shri Krishna, who is both greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. He simultaneously rids the world of evil elements and carries out menial tasks, delighting devotees young and old alike.

In Closing:

Simple tasks an amazing sight,

To old and young bringing delight.

Like grains for vendor in hand taking,

Or carrying slippers effort making.

All-attractive one, of Krishna the name,

Thwarted asura attacks person the same.

On Janmashtami day His appearance celebrating,

Love for devotees in Vrindavana demonstrating.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Five Symptoms Of The Person Who Actually Sees

[Lord Krishna]“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.18)

“Please read the top line for me. Okay, now read the line below it. Close your left eye and read this line. Now close only your right eye. Alright, you are good to go.”

An eye examination may be conducted in this manner, necessary for prescribing glasses or allowing a person to operate a motor vehicle. If you can see things at a certain distance, make out which characters of the alphabet are showing, then you have a certain level of vision.

Perfect vision equates to perfect identification. From the Vedas we get different symptoms that give proof of flawless vision. Such a person actually sees, though their vision as measured on an examination may not be perfect.

1. Sees action in inaction

The Sanskrit words are karma and akarma. The first means “work” or “action” and the second is simply a negation of the first. Karma appears in many important discussions of the spiritual variety, even though at the root definition the word pertains specifically to the material world.

Material means a place where the living being is conditioned. Take a naked person and put clothes on them. The clothes don’t stay on forever. They can be swapped multiple times in a single day. The clothes don’t permanently identify the person.

In the material world the essence of identity is the spirit soul. This is the individual. When we speak of a person, we inherently reference this spark of spirit, which rests within a covering composed of material elements, gross and subtle.

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

Karma is action that leads to future development of the body. It has no bearing on the soul other than where it continues to reside. The person who actually sees understands that there could be action in inaction.

For instance, I could be sitting around doing nothing one particular day. This is inaction, or akarma. But actually there is future development of the body occurring. There are future consequences, as well. If I had to be at work and didn’t show up, there is a negative reaction to my inaction. If I am staying away from eating food that is bad for my health, the inaction brings a positive result. In either case there is still future development.

2. Sees inaction in action

This is a little more tricky to understand. You are actively engaged in something. You are working, but there is no attachment. It is something like driving the car to work, but not paying attention to the turns. The subconscious takes care of everything. You are thus not entangled by the specific stopping, starting and turning.

In the spiritual sense inaction in action is doing work, but ceasing future development of the body. No more rebirth through the actions you take. The best example in this regard is the famous bow-warrior Arjuna. He was engaged in a ghastly war, fighting for the side defending righteousness. Since he was following both dharma and bhakti, his karma, or action, was actually inaction. Since he followed prescribed duties, he was not becoming further entangled in a network of desires.

3. Sees the spirit soul in all creatures

The spirit-body paradigm is there in everything that lives. This includes both the moving and the nonmoving. The tree is just as much a spirit soul on the inside as a human being. The person with perfect vision is able to see this. They understand that killing an innocent cow is the same as killing a dog; the spirit soul is forcibly separated from the body, prematurely.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Seeing the spirit soul in all creatures is the equivalent of the spiritual vision. It is an extended version of the manmade concept of equality. Don’t judge a person by their skin color, gender, or ethnicity. The person who actually sees extends this concept out to the furthest extent possible. Not that you should treat the tiger the same as you would an infant human, but know that the same kind of spirit is inside of both. They are both living beings going through the cycle of birth and death in the material world.

4. Sees time in all three periods

This is a unique ability of the saintly person. They see inaction in action, action in inaction, and the spirit soul inside of every living thing. Since they know the nature of karma and its influence, such a person can also see kala, or time, in all three periods.

Past: Though the spirit soul looks a certain way right now, in the past they did not. Going far back, there were the previous lives. A white person may have been black in a previous life. The American was perhaps Indian a few lifetimes ago. Going back more recently, the same person might have had a different appearance yesterday, prior to getting their haircut.

Present: This is how the individual is manifest at the current time. Since time continues to operate, the vision will not remain; it is not static. Eventually things will change. That is the way of the world.

Future: The saintly person understands that the afterlife will arrive. It is not a fairytale. The present is the afterlife from a previous time. Though you may be suffering right now, eventually the future will come. Though things look good today, the guaranteed end to this life is death. After that the spirit soul will continue to live on.

“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)

5. Sees the influence of Krishna everywhere

The vision of the spirit soul inside of every creature can be viewed as an abstract or collective. It is like a singular energy pervading all of known space. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna refers to this as seeing an undivided energy within the divided.

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

All energies, both spiritual and material, come from Him. Thus the saintly person also sees Krishna everywhere. He is never lost to them, nor are they lost to Him. This is the highest vision a person can have. If they see God wherever they turn, in His all-attractive form, then they don’t even require physical eyes. They have come to an understanding that so many yogis have aspired for, spanning many lifetimes.

[Lord Krishna]The five-year old prince named Prahlada had this vision. He saw Krishna everywhere and in everything, and so he couldn’t help but practice devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Prahlada tried to pass this vision on to the father, Hiranyakashipu. But the king refused to acknowledge the existence of God, and in the end he received a painful lesson on how the Supreme Lord can exist even within an inanimate object like a pillar.

In Closing:

Can be consequences with inaction,

And detachment even through action.

Spirit soul inside of me,

In all beings, even the tree.

Time existing in periods three,

Each one of them wise can see.

Most important in everywhere the hand,

True vision when Divine to understand.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Two Sides Of God

[Shri Krishna]"All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, everyone follows Him in all respects. The all-attractive one has something that appeals to every kind of person. As such there is actually no such thing as an atheist. To those who know the spiritual science in truth the term has a different meaning.

1. Adharma

This is the back side of God. Think sinful behavior. Think doing things the wrong way. You purchase a new piece of furniture. There is a proper way to assemble it. Since there is freedom of action for a living being, there are also countless wrong ways to put the item together.

The wrong way is adharma. The material world is like a shadow or reflection of an eternally existing realm that is free of anxieties, Vaikuntha. There is no inebriety in the spiritual world, but in the material world there is illusion at every corner.

The living being tries desperately to take that which is impermanent and make it permanent. The triumph in work, school, or sports turns into a distant memory after a few short years. Revisiting that time through photo or video technology may bring some temporary delight, but then the sad reality kicks in. Time has changed everything. Time has guaranteed that there will never be a return to that period of glory.

Adharma is the way of the atheist. They see God, but only His back portion. This means that just the separated, external energy is worshiped. Even if there is a stubborn resistance to worshiping any acknowledged higher authority, eventually there is submission to time in its most ghastly form: death. In this way even the atheists see God and bow down to Him.

2. Dharma

This is religiosity. Righteousness. Doing things properly. Following the way of authority, as passed down through a chain of teachers, each dedicated to the same purpose: returning others to Vaikuntha. Dharma cannot be concocted. It cannot be altered. It may be more refined or specific depending on the circumstances and the desired goal, but at the root level it is the same for every living thing.

That is because dharma is what defines an object. For the essence of life, the spirit soul, dharma is service to the Divine. Following dharma equates to theism, or belief in God. The more a person stays on this side of the Divine, the more they enjoy through His association.

That is the real difference between real religion and aimless sense gratification. Those in the dark, seeing only the back side of God, enjoy very little. They get whatever the shadow world, the material energy, has to offer.

[Lord Krishna]Those seeing the front side receive everything the personality Himself has to offer. He turns time upside down, into an auspicious factor, allowing for renewed opportunities in service, which is what makes the soul happiest. God shows His different transcendental forms, which are beautiful and purifying. One look at Bhagavan, the person who holds all fortunes, in the proper mood can change the consciousness forever. Then no longer will the back side of the material energy be an option for association. Only Vaikuntha, whose conditions can be replicated even in the material world, will be the place to live.

In Closing:

Argument with atheist to expect,

But following Krishna in all respects.

Just looking at side the back,

Personal association to lack.

Little happiness with misery bound,

True joy on other side found.

Delightful, all-attractive vision getting,

And so no more in illusion setting.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Why Do All Questions To The Spiritual Master Sound The Same

[Shri Hanuman]“How can I ensure that the purpose of my task does not get destroyed? How shall I avoid mental disparity, and how do I ensure that my crossing of the ocean does not go for naught?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.41)

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Friend1: It’s good to ask questions.

Friend2: Especially when you’re trying to learn.

Friend1: I’ve noticed that even the experts ask a lot of questions.

Friend2: Such as?

Friend1: Doctors. Nurses. They are trained in the medical profession, but when they see patients the first thing they do is run through a series of questions. They don’t make assumptions. They perform a thorough investigation.

Friend2: A wise person applies discrimination. Steer clear of hasty generalizations. I believe that is one of the fallacies of logic.

Friend1: The hasty generalization? Yes. Some others are ad hominem, tu quoque, and straw man.

Friend2: There you go.

Friend1: Of course, I have a question about questions.

Friend2: Sure.

Friend1: At satsanga programs…

Friend2: Can also be called sadhu-sanga.

Friend1: Yes.

[sadhu-sanga]Friend2: An association of devotees, or saintly people. Sat refers to that which is eternal. Asat is temporary and thus not really important. Those who are aspiring after the eternal truth are also sat.

Friend1: And sadhu is the saintly person. Essentially satsanga and sadhu-sanga are synonymous.

Friend2: Yes. So, what about these programs?

Friend1: The format may vary slightly, but there is a general sequence. You get some sort of talk, discourse, discussion, what have you.

Friend2: Yes. Sometimes there is only chanting of the holy names, sankirtana. That is just as powerful, especially in this age of Kali where man is generally fallen. Only one leg of dharma, or righteousness, remains, so the attention span required to learn higher topics isn’t what it used to be. You can still get the same message across through a simpler method: transmission of sacred sound.

Friend1: Yes. I am well aware of the power of the holy names. In most of these gatherings those names are prominent, even within the teachings. There is heavy emphasis on the constant chanting of those names, especially the sequence found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: The great deliverer of the mind.

Friend1: After the discourse the floor is open for a few questions.

Friend2: Of course. The speaker wants to make sure everyone in attendance understood the message. No one should go home with doubts.

Friend1: I don’t really ask questions. I reserve those for you.

Friend2: Thanks.

Friend1: Here’s something I noticed. Though the wording may vary, and even the exact subject matter, the questions are always the same.

Friend2: What do you mean? How is that possible?

Friend1: The discussions are often based on the Bhagavad-gita. The speaker takes a specific verse, reads it, and then discusses it. As you know, the Bhagavad-gita covers a wide range of topics.

Friend2: For sure. The material nature. The living entity. Karma. Reincarnation. The three modes of nature. Charity. The spiritual master.

Friend1: Right. So just imagine that no matter the verse of focus, the questions asked afterwards are identical.

Friend2: Now, are these questions really the same or is this a general impression you’re getting?

Friend1: It’s the latter. I’m not sure other people even pick up on it.

Friend2: Ah, I see. So what makes you think the questions are identical?

Friend1: Basically, each person is asking about their own practices. They feel they are deficient in some way. They maybe don’t chant as many rounds on a set of japa beads as recommended. Perhaps they aren’t thinking of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as often as they should. Some of them feel guilty about still having a job. Another person has material desires.

Friend2: Sounds pretty normal to me. You expect these people to be uttama-adhikaris, at the highest level of spiritual understanding?

Friend1: No, that’s not it. I’m trying to figure out what bothers me about the whole thing. Hmm, you know what it might be? Even if they are feeling guilty about not living up to the standard they seek, what is asking a question in a gathered assembly going to do about it?

Friend2: What do you mean? Shouldn’t they feel open to share their concerns with a respected personality? Isn’t that the benefit of having the teacher there?

Friend1: But the solution is always the same. “More devotional service. Stay on the path of bhakti-yoga. Don’t give up.” Honestly, after hearing these people, in my head I’m always thinking, “Stop being such a baby. Seriously. So you’re not perfect. Why are you bothering us about it? Did you not have trouble in college? Is raising children a picnic? Somehow you managed to succeed in those things. You didn’t have someone there holding your hand the entire time. Why are you being such a baby now?”

Friend2: Wow, that is a harsh reaction. You’re overlooking another factor here.

Friend1: What is that?

Friend2: Time. The loss of progress. Fear of a wasted effort. They want to make sure their time is being spent wisely. They don’t want to practice spiritual life and have it prove unfruitful. Otherwise it seems like a waste of time.

Friend1: Right, but in the Bhagavad-gita Krishna assures the unsuccessful yogi that there is no wasted effort. They get to continue in the next life from the same spot; not going backwards.

Friend2: You and I know that, but maybe these people don’t want to risk rebirth. They want to make the most of the practice right now. Look at the example of Shri Hanuman. When he was in Lanka looking for Sita, the missing wife of the Supreme Lord Rama, a few times he worried about the effort not going to waste.

Friend1: As in the search?

Friend2: As in all he had done up until that point. Remember, he leapt over a massive ocean. An amazing feat. It’s like a team staging an epic comeback in the final minutes of the game to tie the score, only to then lose in overtime. The effort essentially goes to waste. Hanuman did not want that to happen.

Friend1: But he is so dear to Sita and Rama. Even if he didn’t succeed, no one would blame him. He wouldn’t be considered any less of a servant to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Shri Hanuman]Friend2: Try telling him that. He was worried about letting Rama down. He knew the other Vanaras counted on him to succeed. It’s the same way with people who follow bhakti-yoga as a spiritual practice. They don’t want to let the guru down. They want to please Krishna. It’s only natural for them to ask such questions. Look at how genuine they are. You should appreciate their humility and their dedication. Bhakti-yoga is so important to them that they don’t want to fail. How many other people can say that?

In Closing:

At sadhu-sanga, for guru questions to come,

Variety in wording, but having meaning one.

“Despite so dedicated to try,

Deficient in this service am I.”

But why needed someone their hand to hold?

Be fearless in devotion, courageous and bold.

But even great Hanuman having doubt,

Worried that long time success without.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Do You Remember Not Being Able To Walk Or Talk

[spiritual world]“There is a spiritual sky, where there are innumerable spiritual planets and innumerable spiritual living entities, but those who are not fit to live in that spiritual world are sent to this material world. Voluntarily we have accepted this material body, but actually we are spirit souls who should not have accepted it. When and how we accepted it cannot be traced. No one can trace the history of when the conditioned soul first accepted the material body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Easy Journey To Other Planets, Ch 2)

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Friend1: The living entity fell from the spiritual world.

Friend2: In the association of the Divine, as that is the very nature of anything within the spiritual energy, but suddenly a desire changed.

Friend1: I’ve heard two viewpoints relating to this.

Friend2: Which are?

Friend1: That the fall happened by chance.

Friend2: What’s the other?

Friend1: That nothing happens by chance.

Friend2: Haha. Let me guess. The source of both is the same?

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend1: Yes. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Friend2: And it’s obviously contradictory to you?

Friend1: Just me? What about you?

Friend2: The first refers to an unfortunate occurrence. It’s like bad luck. “Ah, by chance I made the wrong decision.” Think of the toss of a coin. The chance is that it will land on either heads or tails.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: But when you actually toss the coin and it lands on a particular side, that is not chance. The outcome is due to a specific action. Lakshmana, the younger brother of Shri Rama, once remarked about this.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

We’re not sure what the outcome to actions will be. We’re not sure how long those outcomes will manifest. But the rule is that the outcomes only occur after an initial action.

Friend1: The initial action here is the turn from the spiritual world. That led to the fall to the material world.

Friend2: Yes. The land of birth and death. The realm of forgetfulness. Like when sitting in a movie theater we intentionally forget that what is on the screen is a scripted performance, we forget God in the material world in the hopes of finding some higher enjoyment.

Friend1: Of which there is none?

Friend2: Only misery. Every victory is coupled with defeat. Success has failure. Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down, but the guaranteed end is total destruction. No one can escape this.

Friend1: Then in the next life the cycle repeats.

Friend2: Exactly.

Friend1: Until you get it right, where you turn consciousness towards the spiritual realm.

Friend2: Just have that consciousness while quitting the body. You don’t require anything else. Then you get the return trip to the original home.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Friend1: Alright, but aren’t you a little curious about past lives? Don’t you want to know when the first fall took place?

Friend2: Is that important to you?

Friend1: It would be nice to know. On such and such date, in such and such form, I forgot the Supreme Lord. That would be kind of cool to know.

Friend2: What would that information do for you? How would that help you?

Friend1: It would give some proof of the theory.

Friend2: Ah, I see. First off, it’s not a theory. Secondly, if someone did give you that information, how would you verify? You’d have to take their word for it, no?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Then? What’s the issue? Take Krishna’s word for it that you were originally with Him. He is the best person to trust, established on the basis of the amazing teachings given to Arjuna, the unmatched level of compassion shown to His devotees in Vrindavana and elsewhere, and His mercy in the form of the representatives on earth who follow in a chain of succession, ensuring that everyone has a chance at reviving their original consciousness.

Friend1: Okay, I accept the authority. Don’t get me wrong. But that authority doesn’t provide specifics. That’s what I am asking about.

Friend2: Let me ask you this. Do you remember not being able to talk?

Friend1: As in from when I was a baby?

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: No, I do not remember that.

Friend2: What about not being able to walk?

Friend1: Hmm. Nope. Don’t remember that, either.

Friend2: Do you need pictures confirming the fact?

Friend1: Nah. It’s easy to understand. At one point I was small. I couldn’t walk or talk. Eventually, I learned how to do those things.

[spiritual world]Friend2: Well, it’s the same with the past lives. You and I left the spiritual world. We fell. Because we can’t remember doesn’t really matter. Even if someone showed us visual proof it doesn’t really do anything for us. Trust me, once you come to the spiritual consciousness even past events that occurred in the present lifetime will seem trivial. You’ll consider them part of your past life. That is one of the reasons why initiation with a spiritual master is considered the second birth. You’re leaving behind the life of ignorance and entering the blissful, eternal life of service to God the person.

In Closing:

At one time walk I could not,

But somehow proficiency I got.

To remember first talking neither,

Not important for proof of either.

Same with tale of spiritual world’s fall,

Not necessary for each past life to recall.

More important the future, to where next going,

Blessed when Krishna at death’s time knowing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Three Kinds Of Association Necessary For Success In Spiritual Life

[Lord Krishna]“The purpose of knowledge is to understand distinctly that the living entity has by chance fallen into this material existence. By his personal endeavor in association with authorities, saintly persons and a spiritual master, he has to understand his position and then revert to spiritual consciousness or Krishna consciousness by understanding Bhagavad-gita as it is explained by the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.24 Purport)

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“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This was a line made famous in a series of television commercials several decades ago. The message pertained to helping the elderly, who in modern times often live alone.

The line can in fact apply to every single living thing in the material world. The fall took place a long time ago. Was it a coincidence? Was it by chance? The turn was made away from the Divine light. It was by choice, as the living entity is endowed with a small amount of independence. It was an unfortunate occurrence, a mistake, which happened so long ago that no one can accurately trace the date.

The fall is to the material world, and the difficulty in getting up relates to the cycle of birth and death. Simply learning how to read and write is not enough. Neither is earning a lot of money, supporting a family, or becoming famous. You can set up a factory that feeds the entire world and still be out of luck when death arrives. The same goes for pious behavior. You could be the greatest saint, winning elevation to the heavenly planets in the afterlife, but still be compelled to return to the land of birth and death.

The first step to getting up is realizing the fall, i.e. awareness. The living beings can go many lifetimes without understanding this, as at the time of birth the animal instincts of eating, sleeping, mating and defending take priority. After becoming aware of the chance descent from the spiritual realm there are three entities who work in concert to help the seeker rise again, without risk of fall.

1. Shastra

These are the scriptural works. Shastra is authority. Today they are in book form, but originally there was an aural tradition. The keepers of the faith in times past had something like mega memory. From hearing a work for the first time they could remember it, line by line, word for word. And these works were quite lengthy, enough to fill many volumes of books.

Shastra is like a tree with many branches. There is knowledge available to satisfy different desires, such as good health, a long life, cures for diseases, and even conquering other kingdoms. The most important knowledge pertains to the individual, who is spirit soul, which is transcendental to the body.

Two works touching on this highest topic are the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. The first is a concise but complete presentation on the spiritual science, and the second is a more lengthy discussion, featuring both the potency of God and His actual nature and tendencies.

2. Sadhu

One literal definition for this Sanskrit word is “one who cuts.” The genuine sadhu is all business. They are defined by their dedication to the teachings of the most important works of shastra. There is really no difference between shastra and sadhu, since they represent the same goal.

Shastra is static, while sadhu is dynamic. Sadhu is the saintly person who embodies the teachings of the spiritual science. The saintly person lives a spiritual life, where they are concerned only with the needs of the spirit soul. They help others to hopefully one day reach the platform of saintly life.

They do not necessarily offer the same advice to everyone. English literature is not taught to first grade students. Neither is complex mathematics. Sometimes a person has to learn the basics before they can advance. With the spiritual science it may take several lifetimes of progress before reaching perfection, and the sadhu is well aware of this. For this reason they may provide different advice to different people, but the end goal is always the same.

3. Guru

This is a person spotlighted out of the group of sadhus. The guru is the personal teacher, the spiritual master. It is said that sadhu, shastra and guru run on parallel lines. If there is a contradiction amongst one of them, that standout likely isn’t genuine.

Sadhu, shastra and guru say that God is ultimately a person. He has different energies and manifestations, but in the complete feature He is Bhagavan, which is a person possessing all fortunes. The aim of life is to serve Bhagavan instead of maya, which is illusion.

The guru provides more specific instruction on how to reenter this service, as it is the original, eternal occupation, corresponding to the constitutional position of the living entity. The guru may translate Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam into a language that is understood by a certain class of people. The guru may offer more specific recommendations, like avoiding four harmful activities: meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

[Lord Krishna]The guru gives hints on how to succeed in spiritual life, adjusted to the time and circumstance. For instance, in the age of Kali, knowing the generally degraded condition of man, they put more emphasis on the holy name. The guru says to simply chant it on a regular basis, setting the complicated procedures and regulations aside. Not sure which names to repeat? Just use the maha-mantra, as it is easy to remember, effective, and both the starting point and the end goal: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

For success in spiritual life to see,

Needing help from entities three.

Shastra from Supreme coming down,

Many branches of knowledge profound.

Sadhu the saintly person cutting to the chase,

Shows path to progress time not to erase.

Guru more specific teacher is he,

Sets on path of bhakti to liberate me.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Two Ways To Understand The Material Nature

[Lord Krishna]“Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.20)

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The goal of spiritual life is an enhanced living experience. It must be something better than what we have right now, but also to extending past the known limit. Hunt for the rhinoceros, because even if you fail people will give you respect for attempting something so difficult. If you succeed, there is even greater satisfaction.

The many rules and regulations are there for advancing towards the highest goal, eternal bliss, which is already part of the individual. The spirit soul is ananda, or blissful, and eternally so, nitya. There is the knowledge aspect to the soul as well, which explains why certain animals can start running immediately after taking birth and why there is the expectation that the infant human will eventually grow up to walk and talk on their own.

To follow the path is not easy, especially with many distractions around. There is also the issue of doubt. How do we know that there is something better? Is it only available in the afterlife, as the doomsday preachers say? What if the promises are empty, just words to insulate against the depression caused by the harsh reality of eventual death?

To help clear doubts the Vedas explain so many aspects of the world in which we live. Taken collectively the many aspects form what is called the material energy. Understanding this energy puts the goal of spiritual life into the proper perspective.

1. Eternally existing

Prakriti is an energy, and it has a source. The electricity flowing through the household, the street, the community, and town does not appear magically. There is a source, which is referred to as the powerhouse or the power plant.

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

In a similar way the material energy comes from the all-powerful that is God. All energies emanate from Him, in fact. In this way prakriti is eternal. It can never not exist. It does not come into being at a certain time, nor will it ever be completely destroyed.

Everything about nature that leaves us in awe is due to God. The same goes for the negative aspects. Rain is welcomed in the dry heat, but it brings misery during periods of cold. Mountains are beautiful, but since they are so high it is not safe to climb them. Rivers help in transporting goods from place to place, but if you get caught in a current it could be your doom. Thus there is duality in the material nature, with conditions changing all the time. But still, the energy is Divine at the core.

2. Temporarily attached

Vedic teachings highlight the distinction between spirit and matter. Purusha animates prakriti. Material energy is that which is enjoyed, and the individual inside is the enjoyer. In fact, prakriti can’t do anything on its own. A car can’t drive itself. Even though the technology is being tested today, there is some intelligent being in the background serving as the guide.

Though the material energy is eternal, it does not remain forever on the individual. The spirit souls are temporarily attached to matter. This is the meaning of a material existence. The goal of spiritual life is to break free of that attachment.

For this reason certain properties of matter are stressed. Dull and lifeless. Lacking consciousness. Matter is eternal, but the manifestations are not. In the unmanifest state the material energy is known as pradhana. The spiritual glance comes over it, causing the transformation into the manifest state. When the time for dissolution arrives the energy returns to the unmanifest state.

[Lord Krishna]The living beings get caught in a cycle of birth and death, which involves accepting matter, becoming attached, and then rejecting. Spiritual life is for ending the cycle, for regaining the spiritual form, svarupa. This way of life is so powerful that the nature of the energy can change even before death. The previously inhibiting material energy becomes auspicious, ready to help the sincere seeker in their quest to remain attached to the source of all energies, the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

Over everything gaining upper hand,

Helpful for material nature to understand.

Since from God eternally existing,

Never created, through time persisting.

But temporarily attached right now,

To free from spinning cycle how?

Devotional life, positive approach take,

Progress before end of life make.