Saturday, October 21, 2017

Three Things Rama Can Break In Addition To The Contest Bow

[Shri Rama breaking bow]“Hearing the words of the vipra, my father brought the bow forward. Bending the bow in the twinkling of an eye and applying string to it, the mighty prince Rama, who was full of valor, quickly drew the bow at full length.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.47-48)

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Concern was mounting. First, there was worry that the handsome youth accompanied by Vishvamitra Muni and an almost twin-like younger brother would fail. From one glance the people of the town decided they wanted Him to win.

The contest was drawn up by the king, Janaka of Mithila. Whichever prince from the gathered assembly could first lift the bow and string it would win the hand of the princess Sita. There was double interest in attending. The victor’s fame and strength would be broadcast throughout the world. They would also win the hand of the most beautiful and chaste woman.

For so many the task turned out to be something like a monkey holding a coconut. There was no idea how to even move the bow. Others lost nerve upon approaching it. The prospects of declaring a winner looked bleak. The end was drawing near, and so perhaps Sita would have to remain unmarried for life.

Then came Rama. He not only lifted the bow, but broke it while applying string to it. The feat was celebrated throughout the three worlds. He was the destiny that everyone was waiting for. For the sages this is not surprising, for they understand that He is time itself.

“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)

That special bow was passed down through the generations in the royal family. It originally belonged to Lord Shiva, the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of the personal God. Supposed devotees of Shiva were at the contest, but they received no help. They failed embarrassingly. The object of Shiva’s worship won. There was no offense taken from the breaking of the bow. We know that the same victor can break other things, as well.

1. Protection provided through a grand kingdom, ten heads, and amazing fighting prowess

Ravana got his name from Lord Shiva. He was known as a devotee of Mahadeva, and not surprisingly he sought material benedictions only. Ravana was seemingly unbeatable. He had a majestic kingdom protected on all sides by water. He had gold everywhere, including in the construction of the palaces.

He had ten heads, twenty arms, and an amazing fighting prowess. That protection was formidable, more than the average person can imagine. It looked like everyone was under Ravana’s control.

Just as Shiva did not help Ravana in the bow contest, there was no extra protection when taking on Rama directly. Rama indeed won Sita’s hand in marriage, but Ravana tried to reverse destiny by stealing her later on. This triggered an unwelcome visit by Rama, who was accompanied by an army of monkeys and bears.

[Shri Rama]Just as with the bow broken previously, Ravana’s coat of armor was no match. The king of Lanka didn’t stand a chance and eventually came crashing to the ground. The same happens for any material benediction accepted in a life destined for death, but this was a special case involving a most ruthless character.

2. Attachment to material things

How to stay happy and peaceful? How to tolerate the ups and downs of life? How to deal with separation and loss? The struggles of life are enough to keep a person awake at night. Don’t get enough sleep and other health problems emerge, causing a chain-like effect.

There are different remedies for the many problems, but attachment is at the root. Know that simply being devoted to Shri Rama can remove that attachment. God in the personal form is all-attractive; hence one of His names is Krishna. He is Achyuta, or infallible. Not only does He never fall down, but He never fails to deliver for the souls surrendered to Him.

“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)

[Shri Rama breaking bow]He came to the rescue of Sita, Janaka, and the wonderful people of the town by winning the contest. He came through for the sages in the forest of Dandaka, who had been harassed by Ravana’s men for so long. He came through for the monkey-king Sugriva. He delivered for the entire army, who wanted to defeat the Rakshasas of Lanka.

Attachment to Rama automatically brings detachment from material life. That detachment is otherwise not easily gained. It can take many lifetimes, even, for a person to realize the futility of the pursuit for gratification of the senses.

3. The cycle of birth and death

Freedom from attachments is part of the purification of consciousness. If that purification lasts through to the time of death, then no more rebirth. The wheel of suffering, the samsara-chakra, stops spinning. It continues for others, who have yet to taste the sweetest nectar that is bhakti-yoga, but at the individual level there is no more concern over having to accept another material body. The devotion continues into the next life, supported by the mighty arm of the lifter of Shiva’s bow.

In Closing:

For witnesses a precious gift,

Sight of Rama heavy bow to lift.

Winning contest as if a toy,

But other things too can destroy.

Like for Ravana protections strong,

And attachments to objects long.

Birth and death in cycle no more,

Consciousness to new heights to soar.

Friday, October 20, 2017

What We Can Learn From The Parrot

[Shukadeva Gosvami]“In Sanskrit the parrot is also known as shuka. When a ripened fruit is cut by the red beaks of such birds, its sweet flavor is enhanced. The Vedic fruit which is mature and ripe in knowledge is spoken through the lips of Shrila Shukadeva Gosvami, who is compared to the parrot not for his ability to recite the Bhagavatam exactly as he heard it from his learned father, but for his ability to present the work in a manner that would appeal to all classes of men.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.3 Purport)

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Friend1: You ever meet people who have verses from the Bhagavad-gita memorized?

Friend2: Just a few or many?

Friend1: It doesn’t matter. Say they know four or five verses. They can recite them when called upon.

Friend2: Who is calling? Is it in the context of a larger discussion, say on the science of self-realization? Is it a way to show off some higher knowledge?

Friend1: As in, “See what Sanskrit I know.”

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: For this discussion let’s say that they can recite the verses when called upon. They don’t necessarily know the context. This is not a lecture, where they drop a verse here and there. They are good at completion, such as when a public speaker quotes a verse.

Friend2: They are in the audience, and they essentially mouth along.

Friend1: There you go.

Friend2: Okay, so what is wrong with that?

Friend1: I didn’t say there was.

Friend2: Then why are you bringing this up?

Friend1: I guess I’m asking if there is some good to just memorizing the verses. Say that you can repeat words from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Is that considered bhakti?

Friend2: I’m glad you mentioned the source. The words of Bhagavan are non-different from Him. This is amazing potency not found anywhere else. In that respect the person repeating, like a parrot, is gaining some benefit, for sure. They have association with God the person.

Friend1: Okay, but doesn’t everyone have that association already? There is the expansion of Supersoul residing within the heart.

[Refrigerator]Friend2: Each person has God within, but it doesn’t mean they get any benefit from the close proximity. Think of it like being hungry and standing next to the refrigerator. Food is nearby, in as short a distance as you can imagine. But this doesn’t mean the hunger will automatically subside.

Friend1: You have to open the fridge and get food.

Friend2: Precisely. The sound representation of God, either through His holy name or the words He speaks in works like the Bhagavad-gita, brings the personal association. I know that you will say that sound has no perceivable form, but this is another amazing aspect to Bhagavan. Even something subtle like air can carry His presence.

Friend1: Should everyone memorize verses, then? What if the person is of bad character?

Friend2: As in, you have a person who knows many verses but the words haven’t really influenced their behavior in a positive way?

Friend1: Right. They eat meat. They get intoxicated. They lie. They are absorbed in material life. What is the benefit to learning the verses, then?

Friend2: Of course there should be practical application, vijnana, to accompany jnana, theoretical knowledge.

Friend1: In this case there might not even be jnana. They just memorize sounds.

Friend2: Okay, but I still say there is a benefit. Someone else may hear those words and become inspired to take up devotional service, bhakti-yoga. At least there is no deviation. The person in your example is not changing the verses around. They are not twisting the words.

Friend1: True.

Friend2: There is much to be learned from the parrot. Take the Shrimad Bhagavatam, for example. It is spoken by the parrot-like Shukadeva Gosvami, who is a mahajana, or realized soul. He presents the ripened fruit of Vedic literature as it is, as it was passed on to him by the father, Vyasadeva.

Friend1: There is question and answer, though. That part isn’t like a direct transcript.

[Shukadeva Gosvami]Friend2: Exactly. There is the parrot-like behavior of repeating, and there is also consideration taken for time and circumstance. As long as there is deference to the original spirit of the work, there is no harm. Countless people benefit. The speaker associates directly with God through sound. The same for the recipient. Then there is further appreciation, acknowledgment and expanded realization through explaining the concepts as you have learned them. That is the secret to the guru parampara. Hear from the tattva-darshi, the person who has seen the truth. Repeat what you have heard. In addition, share your own realizations, as they are appropriate. Then everyone involved in the process benefits.

Friend1: What about the opposite behavior? Say there is a flaw in the chain; someone in the succession deviates from precedent.

Friend2: Then everything can get spoiled. The person is a cheater themselves and they cheat others. Even though there is close proximity to God, the true benefit of His association is missed. It is something like licking the outside of the bottle containing honey. Taste the real nectar through following the trail blazed by the acharyas, those who lead by example.

In Closing:

From memory verses to recite,

Verbatim, with timing precise.

From Bhagavad-gita benefit is there,

Since emanating from Bhagavan where.

Better when understanding in addition,

Explaining while respecting tradition.

Like Shukadeva the parrot in bhakti repeat,

Otherwise both yourself and others cheat.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Govardhana Puja 2017

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]"When the cowherd men of Vrindavana, under instruction of Krishna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly King, Indra, the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krishna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water." (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.32)

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As He is the origin of everything that lives, the shelter created through service to the Divine distributes its influence across a host of beings. After all, if two people, living in two different cities, pray to God for something, their calls get directed to the same place. There is not one God for one person and another God for a different person; though such a misunderstanding has been the cause of tension and argument since time immemorial.

The Supreme Shelter does not discriminate. It does not first check the skin color or the occupation by birth of the person seeking help. It does not even make distinctions between the different species. Anyone is eligible to accept the protection, provided they are earnest in seeking it. The occasion of Govardhana Puja is a reminder.


Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was residing in the farm community of Vrindavana, displaying His amazingly attractive childhood rupa. The people who lived there were simple; they were not known to be advanced scholars, celebrated warriors, or successful industrialists.

One tradition was to worship the demigod Indra, who is in charge of rain. To people of today the practice may seem silly, as the rain falls on its own at the appropriate times, but the traditions are there to help man break free from the “personal doer” mentality. It is the three modes of nature which must cooperate for any result to manifest, and the controller of an important aspect of nature is Indra.

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

Bhagavan at that time was known as Krishna, and He was the son of the leader of the community, Nanda Maharaja. The father was prepared for the annual Indra-yajna, but young Krishna convinced him to instead worship the nearby Govardhana Hill. This piece of land was dear to the cows, which were protected and loved in the town.

[Krishna with cows]It is difficult to decline the requests of such a sweet child, so Nanda and everyone else followed the direction. The same cows that loved to move on Govardhana Hill would soon be protected by it. Indra was so upset at being neglected that he sent a devastating rainstorm to the area. That rain threatened to wash the cows away, but Krishna lifted the just worshiped hill. He held it aloft for seven straight days.


The cows are one of the seven mothers designated in Vedic culture. The mother is to be protected. She is a nurturer and a protector. The amazing shelter that was the Govardhana umbrella extended to both mother and child. The calves were also protected, as they were dear to Krishna and His friends of the same age. The boys would go out to the fields daily. It was their responsibility, something like chores given to children today.


There were the mothers and also the young girls. Both known as the gopis, they were so dear to Krishna, since they always thought of Him. They, too, were protected from the flooding caused by Indra. The gopis had a slightly different mentality, though. They were concerned that Krishna’s arm might get tired. They didn’t consider Him to be God. The love was so strong that they were ready to offer help at every moment.


These were Krishna’s male friends. They loved Krishna just as much, but in a different mood. They also worried about their friend, who had saved them from danger many times before. The Supreme Shelter was there, but nobody took it for granted; neither did they insist that someone else do everything for them.


Though he was responsible for the entire calamity, the Govardhana umbrella gave him shelter, too. This is because the incident helped to curb his pride. It taught the king of the demigods the lesson he should have known all along - that to follow God is true dharma. When Krishna is satisfied, the entire world is. It is something like watering the root of the tree instead of going to each branch individually.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]The fruit of the horribly sinful act was wiped away through prayers in contrition. Krishna did not hold a grudge. That same shelter is available to everyone, and the Govardhana Puja still celebrated to this day is a wonderful opportunity for every kind of living entity to get a taste of the bhakti-rasa, devotional service.

In Closing:

Resting on pinky finger not to budge,

Shri Krishna not to hold a grudge.

Mercy for Indra-deva the cause,

Who a conditioned soul with flaws.

By Govardhana into air projected,

Cows, friends and ladies protected.

That Supreme Shelter to everyone extending,

From just a little service in bhakti spending.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Diwali 2017

[Diwali]“The kingdom was decorated with golden lamps of crystal, looking beautiful as if the king of serpents had arrived to meet the Lord, with a jewel on each of the thousand hoods.” (Gitavali, 309.2)

phaṭika-bhīta-sikharana-para rājati kan̄cana-dīpa-anī |
janu ahinātha milana āyō mani-sōbhita sahasaphanī ||

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It is the impossible task. How to match someone who has unlimited potency? How to come close to pleasing the Supreme Lord in the same way that this person does? How to honor the saints of the Vedic tradition, who through parampara have passed on the secrets to living life to the fullest? How to live up to their standard of adequately giving praise to the person most deserving of it, Shri Rama? On the occasion of Diwali, the devotees make an attempt. A long time back in Ayodhya that attempt was so successful that it looked as if the greatest glorifier himself had arrived.

The literal meaning to Diwali is a row of lighted lamps. Not just some random collection. Not merely something cool for others to see. Each lamp has significance. They are placed together to increase the radiance, the light to welcome the person who is the sun of the solar dynasty.

[Shri Rama]Diwali is in honor of Shri Ramachandra. At least that is the origin of the tradition. He is the special son to King Dasharatha, the ruler in Ayodhya a long time ago, during the second age of creation. Rama is not an ordinary prince. He is the Supreme Lord Himself, kindly descending to this world to give an idea of what the spiritual attributes [saguna] mean for the one person who is always above the dualities of matter and spirit, birth and death, and every pair of conditions in between.

The gunas of God are endless. It is said that Ananta Shesha Naga, who has thousands of hoods, has been glorifying God the person since time immemorial. That is how time operates - it is infinite in both directions, backwards and forwards. Keep going back in time and know that something came before. Travel as far into the future as the mind can conceive and know that there is something beyond that as well.

Since Anantadeva has so many mouths, He can glorify in a great quantity. Aware of this a person might get discouraged, but the Supreme Lord is known to be extremely merciful. The fact that the name itself can bring His complete presence is evidence. The devotees can stay in constant contact through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The first Diwali took place in Ayodhya, when Shri Rama returned home after a long absence. He came back triumphantly, having rid the world of the evil man-eating ogre named Ravana. Rama then became king, which was what the father Dasharatha had wanted and what tradition called for.

As Goswami Tulsidas explains in his Gitavali, when Diwali was subsequently celebrated during Rama’s reign, the city was magnificently decorated. Many golden lamps made of crystal were laid about. It looked as if Ananta Shesha Naga had himself arrived to greet Shri Rama.

[Diwali]In this way the people glorified sufficiently, but in bhakti there is no limit. The simplest offering is satisfactory, provided there is genuineness in the sentiment. On the other side, the greatest offering can be outdone the next time around, bringing reason to be excited for the present and future Diwali celebrations to come.

In Closing:

Today so excited am I,

To glorify Rama to try.

Perhaps in Ayodhya like so,

When brilliant lamps in a row.

As if Anantadeva himself had come,

With shining jewel in each hood one.

By Diwali mercy of Supreme Lord shown,

Treating every devotee like family His own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Five Durations Of Time Where Bhakti-Yoga Is Purifying

[Krishna with cow]“Krishna consciousness can be attained in one second, or it cannot be had even after a thousand births and deaths. If we choose, we can immediately become great souls by surrendering to Krishna, but because we have doubts whether or not Krishna is actually the Supreme we have to take time to dissipate these doubts through study of the scriptures.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Raja-Vidya, Ch 7)

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Material life is one attachment after another. With attachment comes separation, which is unwanted. The inevitability of the separation is so well-known that there is fear even before the loss occurs. What goes up must come down, and so death is the certain outcome following birth.

Spiritual life is for breaking free of the attachments. Success is not easily achieved. Even if a person removes objects around them and the need to possess them, there is the chance of a rise in false ego. It is something like saying, “I am so proud of how humble I am.”

Genuine spiritual life is known as dharma in Sanskrit. Though there are slight variations to the definition based on context changes, dharma can only be one. That original and eternal dharma is also known as bhakti-yoga, and there is a purifying effect throughout various durations of time.

1. An entire lifetime

Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that a person finally understands Him after many births and deaths. The time spent doesn’t necessarily have to be in the human form. Each body type corresponds to what we call “species,” and there are varying levels of enjoyment, intelligence, and tendencies.

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

[Krishna with cow]Human life is meant for spiritual fulfillment, for meeting the needs of the individual at the core. In this regard an entire lifetime can be spent in bhakti-yoga, which is also known as devotional service. Serve in one or many ways, including chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

This duration of time is ideal for bringing the best end, that of the pure consciousness at the time of death. Practiced from beginning to end, there is an excellent chance at eliminating sinful activities, sinful desires, and attachment to temporary objects.

2. During adulthood

Children enjoy playing. They seek short-term enjoyment, known as preyas. Adults tend to put their focus on shreyas, or the long-term benefit. After spending many years playing with toys and video games, a light bulb goes off.

“What am I doing with my life? What is the meaning to everything? What is the purpose to living?”

Though it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, so to speak, adulthood is the perfect time for starting bhakti-yoga. Even though so much time has already been lost, the purifying effect remains. The same chanting is just as effective. The effort made to avoid the four pillars of sinful life brings just as much benefit.

3. For one hour

Usually there is more work to do during adulthood compared to childhood. There are so many responsibilities to meet on a daily basis. There may not even be time to inquire into spiritual matters, which is the one question the human being should be asking. Athato brahma-jijnasa means that in the human form of body the time is ideal for making an inquiry into Brahman, which is the spiritual nature.

Perhaps through a chance meeting with a person on the street the opportunity arises to attend a sadhu-sanga, or meeting of saintly people. The meeting is for just one hour, and during that time there is sankirtana, which is congregational chanting, and Krishna-katha, or discourses about the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Sadhu-sanga]Afterwards the person returns to daily life, to struggling with the six senses, which include the mind. Still, that one hour is purifying. It brings sukriti, or meritorious credits, that will pay dividends at some point in the future.

4. Five minutes

Take the same situation of a sadhu-sanga meeting, but this time a person shows up late. They only catch the closing kirtana, where there is raucous participation in the singing of the holy names of the Lord. The experience is blissful. Though it ends too soon, there is a purifying effect.

5. One second

Just say the name of Krishna one time. That’s all it can take. The entire consciousness can change for the better and remain so going forward. Bearing this in mind there is no excuse not to take up bhakti-yoga. So many lifetimes have been spoiled already. Each life contains a significant amount of time. In spite of the many mistakes we have made, everything can be corrected today, right now, with attachment to the holy name.

In Closing:

Many lifetimes already spoiled,

In attachment and aversion toiled.

From this species to that,

Never bliss for soul to match.

Bhakti worthy for entire life when,

Or adulthood, hour, or second then.

Since with Krishna benefit coming,

Chance for purified becoming.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Three Characterizations Of The Bhagavad-gita

[Krishna with cow]"This Gitopanishad, Bhagavad-gita, the essence of all the Upanishads, is just like a cow, and Lord Krishna, who is famous as a cowherd boy, is milking this cow. Arjuna is just like a calf, and learned scholars and pure devotees are to drink the nectarean milk of Bhagavad-gita." (Gita-mahatmya, 6)

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The greatest Vaishnava has his own tribute of the great work. Many sections of Vedic literature pass along a conversation between Lord Shiva and his beautiful, fair-complexioned, and chaste wife Parvati, daughter of the mountain king.

Their discussions are ideal in so many ways. The role of the husband is to protect. The greatest danger subsequent to taking birth is death. Upon reaching the end of life, another birth is imminent. A guardian who can prevent this near-guaranteed fate for their dependents has met their responsibilities.

[Shiva-Parvati]As a most elevated being devoted to the personal God, Lord Shiva takes great pleasure in discussing Vishnu and His many avataras. Parvati takes delight in hearing these topics from her husband. One such discussion was about the Bhagavad-gita, a work dear to so many.

1. The Song of God

This is one literal translation. Gita means “song” and Bhagavad refers to Bhagavan, which is a more descriptive term for the Almighty than “God.” Bhagavan refers to the person who possesses all fortunes. They are present simultaneously and to the fullest degree.

The Bhagavad-gita is sung by Bhagavan to the dear friend named Arjuna. Bhagavan in this instance is in the transcendental form of Krishna. Not everyone properly recognized. Not everyone acknowledges even after being told.

“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 song doesn’t take long to sing, but the words are so powerful. A person who can remember a few shlokas, or verses, can hold on to them as a sort of lifeboat that takes them safely across the ocean of suffering.

2. Gitopanishad

The Bhagavad-gita is sung by Bhagavan, but it is not merely an exercise in vocal vibrations. Though Krishna is the most artistic person, there is real substance to the words found in the beautiful song. There are questions and answers, making the song like a conversation.

Vedic literature includes the Puranas, the original Veda, the Ramayana, and other such works. It includes the Upanishads as well, so the Gitopanishad name characterizes the Bhagavad-gita as containing the essence of all Vedic literature.

Though generally considered the introductory work when learning the science of self-realization, the Bhagavad-gita has complete knowledge. Nothing more is required. The topics of the supreme controller, the living entities, time, fruitive activity, and the material nature are covered. Because God is speaking directly there are no deficiencies.

3. A cow

The Gita-mahatmya compares Bhagavad-gita to a cow, and Krishna is the person milking it. Arjuna, the worthy disciple, drinks the resultant milk like a calf. This is because he is closely associated with Krishna.

[Krishna with cow]As with a normal cow, there is plenty of milk left over. Others can enjoy, too. In this case scholars and pure devotees enjoy the milk, which is nectar-like. This comparison is very nice since one of the properties of Bhagavan is that He is inexhaustible. The nectar never runs out. The Bhagavad-gita is this way because while a single reading does so much good, there is nothing lost the second or third time around. In fact, a person can spend an entire lifetime reading the work repeatedly and experience increasing pleasure. This is the meaning to transcendental; that which is beyond the limiting factors of a material existence.

In Closing:

As song of God is known,

Wisdom to disciple shown.

Gitopanishad since coming in line,

All relevant truths within to find.

Also like Krishna a cow milking,

Calf-like Arjuna then drinking.

Nectar still plenty to go around,

This way on Gita to expound.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Two People Whose Character Did Not Change Through Major Life Events

[Narasimha-Prahlada]"Atheists like Ravana and Hiranyakashipu had to undergo severe penances before they could flout the authority of the Lord, but ultimately they were so helpless that they could not save themselves when the Lord appeared before them as cruel death." (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya, Ch 23)

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A new life. An addition to the family. Increased responsibility for the members. In the immediate term there is the need for providing food, clothing and shelter. The infant can barely do anything on its own. It requires attention even during times of sleep.

In the bigger picture there is maturity to keep an eye on. What will they do when they grow up? Will they be able to support themselves? Will they avoid pain and heartache? Can they steer clear of the most damaging activities in life?

It is understandable to wish for wealth and fortune acquired through honest means, but in the traditional Vedic culture there is more to be concerned over. Wealth can indeed be a great hindrance on achieving the more important goals, paramartha. These are the interests met in the future life. The future is a reality, since the present is merely the afterlife from a previous time.

Two people, of very different natures and circumstances, show that character can remain the same in spite of major life events. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they are of bad character, and just because someone has come into money doesn’t mean they have fully matured.

1. Ravana

He had a mixed lineage. His father was a brahmana, which is the highest class in the varnashrama system. His mother was a Rakshasa, which is a kind of man-eater. Ravana took on the qualities of the mother, so much so that he viewed the brahmana class as his enemy. They worshiped God, after all, and Ravana was trying to become God-like himself.

He had a bad character in the beginning, though he was engaged in austerities. It was something like a business transaction. This is religion in the mode of passion. You’re following to meet some benefit. Consider the case where a business gives a large donation to a charity, with the intent of winning the favor of other businesses. The donation is recognized through a plaque, which then hangs on the office wall, for visitors to see.

Ravana started off without much. A parent thinking solely of material wellbeing would likely want Ravana to have sufficient wealth in adulthood. What if he could become the king of a city filled with gold? Would that please the parents? Would that mean they did a good job?

[Rama fighting Ravana]That was indeed the future for Ravana. Yet he remained of bad character. He ordered his assistants to go and harass the innocent sages living in the forest. The idea was to disrupt any worship of God. Ravana was regularly intoxicated, kept many wives, and had little morals. He was a bad person on both sides, before and after wealth.

2. Prahlada Maharaja

This child was born in a Daitya family. Daityas are similar to Rakshasas; they generally go against God. In English they are referred to as demons. Prahlada appeared in that family, but was saintly in nature. He had the best character right from the start. The father wanted Prahlada to one day become ruler. Hiranyakashipu was feared throughout the world. He hoped the son would follow in his footsteps.

Prahlada would one day become king, but not after great persecution. The child stayed in the best character despite living with the worst enemy. The father tried to kill the boy for his devotion to Vishnu, who is one manifestation of God the person. Eventually, the Supreme descended to earth in the special form of Narasimha to do away with the king. Prahlada took over after, and he was the same in character. Newfound opulence did not change him.

[Narasimha-Prahlada]Human life is meant for purification. Through clearing the consciousness of desires rooted in forgetfulness of God, there is the chance for liberation, which is the end of the cycle of birth and death. Whoever can deliver such liberation for their dependents has done their job satisfactorily.

In Closing:

New child to the family coming,

What hopes for future becoming?

Rich with great power should be,

Or with equal vision in character to see?

Ravana the worst on sides both,

When child and when of wealth the most.

Prahlada as innocent prince the same,

As when rise through Narasimha came.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Four People Who Are Eligible For The Supreme Destination

[Prahlada Maharaja]"Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

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It’s big news. The new leader of the spiritual institution has reversed course. The past policy was in place for centuries. No one dared challenge it. It was accepted, blindly. Isn’t that what faith is? If you can challenge, if you have doubts borne of logic and reasoning, then why not stay outside the religion? Faith is the dividing line between the believers and the atheists.

The change the leader has made relates to who is eligible for salvation. Previously, only those who acknowledged their faith in the institution could expect to see the best afterlife. Now it is supposedly open to everyone. How is this possible? Even those of other faiths, who put trust in other books and saviors, can reach the same place?

This makes sense to those who understand the science behind spirituality. That understanding goes beyond faith. The truths are believed with the same certainty that one has in the law of gravity and the predictability in the timing of the seasons.

[Prahlada Maharaja]The Sanskrit term svartha refers to interest in the present lifetime. Paramartha is for the afterlife. Prahlada Maharaja reveals that the actual self-interest of the individual is to go towards Vishnu, who is the personal God. Prahlada Maharaja was in the body of a five-year old boy at the time. He also belonged to a race of people known for atheism. Just as he was eligible for reaching the supreme destination, so are people from other groups not typically associated with elevated consciousness.

1. All four varnas

This is a group within a group. The Sanskrit word varna means “color.” It is a kind of distinction. When discussing varnashrama-dharma, which is the more complete definition to what passes today as Hinduism, varna refers to an occupation. The division in occupations is based on gunas, which are material qualities. Each person has a certain quality-set they inherit at the time of birth. That is what makes distinctions, or vishesha.

Qualities aren’t the lone factor. There is karma, too. This is fruitive activity. Based on gunas and karma a person is suited to be a priest, a brave leader, a businessman, or a laborer. There are varieties within each division, but these four groups have existed since the beginning of time. The four divisions have their origin in God.

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

Typically, the brahmanas get the most respect. They are the priestly class, and their qualities are commendable and desirable. The real brahmanas are clean, pure, detached, compassionate, and knowledgeable. The summit of their knowledge is Brahman, which is the undifferentiated spiritual energy. The brahmana knows about distinctions, but they also see the spiritual equality in all beings.

The brahmanas live in the mode of goodness, and with the other three groups the lower modes of nature enter the picture. When there is passion and ignorance, the paramartha is typically in the earthly realm. Nevertheless, all four groups are eligible to reach the supreme destination. Even a person who has little understanding of spirit can go to Vishnu.

2. Women

A material estimation is made on births, based on the potential for understanding Brahman. Women are considered to have a low chance of understanding the equality of spirit. The same goes for those in the two lower varnas, vaishyas and shudras.

“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)

[Kewat washing Rama's feet]From history we see that some of the greatest devotees have been women. A simple boatman earned the tremendous opportunity to wash the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama. Thus even those without a high potential for understanding spiritual topics have a chance for reaching the supreme destination, param gatim.

3. Dog-eaters

These are considered the worst of the worst. A person has sunk so low that they will eat an animal that usually offers so much service to the human society. Milk, fruits and grains are in abundance, so there is no reason to degrade the consciousness by eating food not fit for human consumption. Still, even the dog-eater has a link to God on the inside, which means they can reconnect in consciousness at any time.

4. Rakshasas

These are man-eaters. The behavior is intentional, making them most sinful. Rakshasas were prominent during the reign of Ravana, the king of Lanka. That leader instructed his associates to go and disturb the religious activities of the brahmanas living in the forests. The Rakshasas obliged, killing and eating on a repeat basis. We know that Ravana achieved liberation by dying directly at the hands of Rama.

The reason the different groups can reach the imperishable heavenly realm is that bhakti is superior to any kind of activity, material or religious. Every person has that devotion to God inside of them. The gunas accepted at the time of birth determine the probability for reconnecting, but the opportunity is always there. The chance meeting with the bona fide spiritual master can change everything. The person with the least potential can overcome great obstacles through the favor of His Divine Grace, who recommends staying with God now and in the future through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Bhakti recommended by Divine Grace,

So powerful even odds can erase.

Like when born in form considered lower,

Where difficult to become realized knower.

Since rope-like gunas binding,

Then work of kama finding.

Women, even untouchables who at not to glance,

All for God’s favor given the chance.

Friday, October 13, 2017

How Do We Recognize A Realized Soul

[Prahlada Maharaja]“One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.56)

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Friend1: Approach a tattva-darshi.

Friend2: English, please.

Friend1: Consult someone who has seen the truth.

Friend2: Isn’t that relative? What kind of truth? That two plus two equals four? Everyone knows that.

Friend1: The Absolute Truth. That which is beyond duality.

Friend2: What is the benefit of approaching such a person?

Friend1: They help you to similarly see the truth.

Friend2: In what manner should the approach be made?

Friend1: Not in a challenging spirit, that’s for sure.

Friend2: Why not?

Friend1: Because that’s not how we learn things. The students in first grade don’t sit there and challenge what the teacher has to say about math and spelling. If they did, they wouldn’t learn anything.

Friend2: Blind faith is better, then?

Friend1: Inquire submissively. Bring doubts out in the open. Don’t keep them for yourself. The idea is to be genuine in seeking clarity. Also, render service submissively.

Friend2: Why should there be service?

[Prabhupada]Friend1: Please the tattva-darshi. Earn their favor. Serving is a way to realize different truths practically, to shed the false ego.

Friend2: Sounds great. Where do we find such a person?

Friend1: Hey, that’s not fair. I was going to ask that.

Friend2: About where to find them?

Friend1: More specifically, how to tell who is realized and who isn’t?

Friend2: It can be difficult.

Friend1: Is it based on recommendations? Is it through perceived stature exhibited in speaking and teaching? Is it living renounced, without meaningful possessions?

Friend2: The thing is, you can find cheaters among each of those groups.

Friend1: Exactly. That’s why I wanted to ask. A person can be formally renounced from objects but still strongly be attached to fame and stature. Just because an entire community follows like sheep doesn’t mean that their leader is bona fide. Sometimes the best speakers are also terrific cheaters. They know how to talk their way into fulfilling material desires.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: Okay, so how do we recognize the bona fide truth-seers?

Friend2: Well, there has to be faith extended in the beginning. If we are in ignorance, automatically we have defective vision. We come to the table with vishesha, or distinctions, in sight, while the tattva-darshi sees oneness.

Friend1: In that everyone is God?

Friend2: Part and parcel of God. Oneness in the sense that a singular spiritual energy runs through the entire creation.

“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)

Friend1: I see, no pun intended. How do we get beyond faith and gain certainty?

Friend2: There’s always the risk of following a cheater. The king Pratapabhanu got fooled by a former rival. The guy was living in exile, looking like a mendicant. The king mistook him for a sage and followed advice that had malice behind it. The result was a curse on the king to become a dreaded Rakshasa in the next life.

Friend1: And that Rakshasa was Ravana, right?

Friend2: Yes. That is one of the causes of his birth.

Friend1: Okay, I like that example. There was an ashrama. There was a renounced person. They spoke as if they knew what they were doing, but they were trying to cheat the entire time. How do we safeguard against that?

Friend2: Arjuna asks essentially the same question in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna is the teacher in that case, and so He is the final word on all issues. Krishna is the tattva that the realized soul sees. He is the Absolute Truth in the personal form.

Friend1: What was Krishna’s response?

Friend2: He listed a series of qualities and attributes. Being free from kama, which is desire for sense gratification. Not getting too high on gain, nor becoming saddened at loss. Taking full pleasure from the self. Things like that.

Friend1: Kind of a difficult thing to tell from external appearance.

Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that this is the reason the guru and disciple typically study each other for months. Both sides should be confident. The teacher wants to see that the student is sincere. The student wants to see that the teacher is indeed free of material desires.

Friend1: That makes sense.

Friend2: And listen, the tattva-darshi doesn’t have to be in the renounced order. Look at Prahlada Maharaja. He didn’t even have the chance to formally worship. His circumstances were such that the father, who was also the king, would not tolerate devotional service. Prahlada essentially had to take pleasure from within, from remembering God and understanding His all-pervasiveness through the feature of Supersoul.

Friend1: He was also steady in gain and loss.

[Prahlada Maharaja]Friend2: Steady as a rock. He didn’t take offense at the father’s unspeakable acts of violence. Prahlada was happy through the good times and the bad. This is because he was truly realized. Such people are rare to find, but they exist. Sometimes their impact is so significant that they leave a mark that remains long after they have left the mortal world. It seems as if they have never left, that you can still approach them to this day.

In Closing:

Still with some influence to this day,

Realized souls special in that way.

Like Prahlada from long time back,

Steady each against deadly attack.

Not influenced by loss or gain,

Loving atheist father the same.

Only with bhakti and God concerned,

Endearingly favor of Krishna earned.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three People Who Kept Their Belief In God Even Through Bad Times

[Queen Kunti]“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Kunti Devi, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.25)

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You did everything right. You prepared. You were responsible. You prioritized. You paid attention. You took the task seriously. You put in the required effort, even going beyond. Every preparation was made for the arrival of success.

In the end it didn’t happen. You failed. Things just didn’t go your way. This happens to a lot of people, in a variety of circumstances. Sometimes they go the extra step and pray to a higher power. They make a direct plea:

“God, you know that I don’t ask for much. I want this. If you could make it happen, I would be so grateful. I promise not to bother you again.”

Does the lack of success prove that God doesn’t exist? It’s natural to think this way. There is frustration when a particular desire goes unmet, but what about tragedies and the like? Bad things happening to good people. Innocent women and children suffering throughout the world. A celebrity spending millions of dollars on a single party, while an entire community goes without food.

How can God allow this to happen? While it is easy to lose faith, there are some examples from history that show the Divine’s impact to be above the results of karma. With fruitive activity happiness and sadness essentially come on their own, without endeavor. Understanding this, the wise maintain their faith and firm belief in the Almighty, who they know with certainty to exist.

1. The people of Vrindavana

It was a leap of faith. The preparations were already arranged. It was an annual occurrence, after all. Worship the god of heaven, Indra, so that there will be sufficient rainfall. The boon is a yield of plant life to sustain the cows and the people.

In Vrindavana this was the tradition, but one year the son of Nanda Maharaja had a different idea. He suggested worshiping the nearby Govardhana Hill instead. Nanda proposed performing both yajnas, or sacrifices, but this was declined by Krishna. The darling child, the all-attractive one, convinced the father to change course.

The first Govardhana Puja went well, but things turned dramatically in the immediate aftermath. There was a devastating rainstorm, instigated by an offended Indra. In this case the people had put their faith directly in God, who was there in person as Krishna, urging the change in tradition. What was their reward? They faced imminent death.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana]Still, the people maintained faith. They did not think that Krishna was wrong. They did not curse Him. Instead, they extended even more faith, taking shelter of the just worshiped Govardhana Hill. Krishna lifted that gigantic mass of land and held it up as an umbrella until the rain stopped.

2. The brahmanas of the Dandaka forest

They weren’t bothering anybody. They went to the forest specifically to practice austerities. That is why the area was known as tapo-vana. They should have been left alone, but that is not in the nature of the Rakshasas. These are the man-eating class of men, and a long time ago their leader held tremendous power in the world.

As king of Lanka, Ravana ordered the Rakshasas to go and harass the sages in the forest. These man-eaters were also known as Nishacharas, which means “night-rangers.” They would attack in the dark of night, kill the sages and then eat them.

These were brahmanas, which is like the priestly class. They were directly engaged in worship of God and getting deadly punishment as a result. Instead of losing faith, they extended it even further, asking Shri Rama to help protect them. Rama is the same Krishna, God in the flesh. He happily obliged the request, giving the priestly class some peace of mind.

3. Kunti Devi

The people of Vrindavana extended faith when He was in the childhood form, and further along in the timeline there were close associates in the Pandavas. They suffered so much. They were kicked out of their kingdom unjustly. Like Ravana, Duryodhana wouldn’t leave well enough alone. He wanted his adversaries dead, not just weakened.

He tried to kill the Pandavas several times, but each attempt failed. Kunti Devi was there with her three boys and two step-sons. She did not lose faith in the process. She knew that Krishna was protecting them, as He was a well-wisher to the family.

[Queen Kunti]Her faith grew so much that she lamented when Krishna left their company. She prayed to have the calamities return, as that would mean remembering Krishna more. The queen teaches an amazing lesson through her prayer. Ups and downs, highs and lows, birth and death - the material world is full of duality. If a person can remember God on a constant basis, then they have achieved something. That is the reward most worth seeking.

In Closing:

For desire every preparation made,

Even obeisance to Almighty paid.

But failure only in the end,

A waste those prayers to send?

In Vrindavana to Krishna still calling,

No turn even when massive rain falling.

And priests harassed by man-eaters so,

Kunti Devi protection of God to know.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why Is It Important To See Properly

[Krishna's lotus feet]“When a sensible man ceases to see different identities, which are due to different material bodies, he attains to the Brahman conception. Thus he sees that beings are expanded everywhere.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.31)

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Friend1: Let’s talk about vision.

Friend2: Okay. Is this about wearing glasses?

Friend1: Don’t forget contact lenses.

Friend2: Oh man, there is a classic example of the truth that no convenience comes without an inconvenience.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Well, the convenience is being able to see clearly throughout the day. You don’t need to put on glasses or take them off. You don’t have to carry anything around. The contact lenses are always with you.

Friend1: Technically, that’s not entirely correct. If you’re travelling you have to bring a case for the lenses. You also need the right solution. Oh man, one time I borrowed someone else’s solution. That was a big mistake.

Friend2: What happened?

Friend1: When I put in my contacts in the morning, my eyes started burning. It was painful. Even after I took the contacts out, the redness remained throughout the day.

Friend2: It was bad solution?

Friend1: It was suited for a different kind of lens.

[eye exam]Friend2: I see. Yeah, well there you go. There’s so many inconveniences. You have to remember to take them out each night. The thing that happened with me was a condition called “dry eye.”

Friend1: What is that?

Friend2: Basically, for one of my eyes the vision got so bad even with the contacts on. When I would take them out at night, I could barely see out of that eye. I think it’s from sitting in front of a computer all day. They say that your eyes don’t blink enough. Without blinking there isn’t enough moisture.

Friend1: And the same wouldn’t happen if you were wearing glasses?

Friend2: Let’s put it this way. Within a few months of discontinuing use of contacts my eye got way better. It is completely healed now.

Friend1: That is interesting. Anyway, I’m talking about the spiritual vision.

Friend2: As in seeing Brahman?

Friend1: That is the proper vision. Brahman is the spiritual energy. A person who truly sees notices this spiritual spark in everything that is living.

Friend2: As opposed to noticing distinctions, vishesha.

Friend1: This person is old. That person is young. This is a tiger. That is a cow.

Friend2: Which are just external coverings. At the core everyone is the same.

Friend1: Not that they are the same identity. The quality of the spiritual substance is the same, but each person retains their individuality.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: Here is my question. What is the benefit to having such a vision?

Friend2: Umm, first off it’s the proper vision. You would rather have improper?

Friend1: No, I understand that it’s the way to properly see. There are different qualifications given for proper vision.

Friend2: By whom?

Friend1: Shri Krishna, in the Bhagavad-gita. There is the idea of seeing the spiritual equality. There is also seeing the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in each living thing.

“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.28)

Friend2: That’s a good one. Then there is seeing action in inaction and inaction in action.

Friend1: That’s more for karma, but I understand what you are saying.

Friend2: We’re talking about vision, right?

Friend1: No, I get it. You are correct. There is also the idea of seeing the original cause of the different bodies. Desire, kama, is the reason for the variety we see.

Friend2: Exactly. I like to compare it to people who play videogames. Many of the newer games have some sort of create-a-player feature. You get to customize a character. You’ll notice that hardly anyone comes up with the same looking character. This is because everyone’s desires are different. This correlates to the bodies themselves. Whatever state of being we have while quitting the body, that state we attain in the next birth.

Friend1: Okay, so I think we’ve thoroughly covered what constitutes the proper vision. Still need an answer on why it’s important to have it.

Friend2: You don’t want to see properly?

Friend1: What is the benefit I’m gaining? I’ll give you an example. A police officer has to notice distinctions. They treat the criminals differently than they do the law-abiding citizens. The person in the forest would be foolish to think the tiger is kind and gentle. We treat children in a different way than adults. There is a benefit to applying distinctions.

Friend2: No doubt about it. I see what you are asking now.

Friend1: Good. What is the explanation?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Attachment. Aversion. They are essentially the same thing, the two sides to material desire. They come about through the improper vision where only distinctions are seen. The Brahman vision removes this duality. A person who reaches the Brahman vision no longer hankers or laments. They are well-situated to progress further, into bhakti-yoga. That engagement will bring them the purest experience in living, which equates to real and lasting pleasure.

In Closing:

When Brahman vision to get,

Then eyes properly set.

Otherwise with distinctions to see,

This person and that different from me.

But spirit inside so same are we,

Sight this properly situated to be.

Benefit that from bhakti then to enter,

Divine lotus feet supreme shelter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Causes For The Different Species

[Krishna's lotus feet]“When one can see that the various bodies of living entities arise due to the different desires of the individual soul and do not actually belong to the soul itself, one actually sees. In the material conception of life, we find someone a demigod, someone a human being, a dog, a cat, etc. This is material vision, not actual vision.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.31)

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You want to join in on the fun. You see others bragging. Well, perhaps that word goes a bit too far. They are proud of what they have done. It’s an accomplishment, after all. Not everyone can do it. Nor does everyone want to put in the effort.

You want to be able to post a picture on social media and include the hashtag, “From Farm To Table.” Growing food in the garden. It’s pretty amazing, if you think about it. Starting from a seed, you end up with something big enough to eat. The growth is one indication of life. There is something living inside; otherwise the combination of proper soil, sunlight, and regular water would have no effect.

There is life in the plant, and also in so many other beings, both moving and nonmoving. The variety constitutes what is known as the species. What exactly is the cause? From Vedic teachings we know of at least three factors that are responsible.

1. The Supreme Personality of Godhead

For every reaction there is an initial cause. This is one way to understand the mysterious concepts of both the origin of life and the constant development of the manifest world. If a bomb goes off in a building, when the police arrive they won’t buy the excuse of, “Oh, it just happened randomly, by accident.”

“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)

In the Ramayana Shri Lakshmana remarks that we may not know exactly when consequences will manifest. We also don’t know for sure how long they will stay around. In either case, there is always some work, karma, responsible for the result. This is impetus for giving an effort. The desired outcome may not be there, but without trying nothing is possible.

[Krishna's lotus feet]When you travel up the chain of causes, you eventually reach a wall. That is known as the origin, and it is one way to understand God. The Sanskrit phrase is sarva karana karanam. In the Brahma-samhita the original cause is described to be Govinda, who is also known as Krishna. The Supreme Lord is the cause of all causes, so in one sense He bears responsibility for the different species.

2. The creator

Sometimes mistaken for God Himself, this person is part of the material world. He is the first person, purusha, appearing in a material body. His form is amazing. Four faces, Chaturanana, and an extremely long duration of life.

“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)

[painting]He also goes by the name of Vidhata, but most often is referred to as Brahma in Vedic literature. He takes the three basic ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance and then gets to work creating; like a painter with his colors. The many species are created by him. Of course he wouldn’t have an energy to work with were it not for Krishna’s prior approval. It is said that Krishna glances over the unmanifest material substance, pradhana, which then leads to the three modes of nature.

3. The different desires of the individual soul

Brahma is something like the clothing manufacturer, but he doesn’t necessarily direct which people buy which shirts and pants. The placement of individual souls within different species is due to desire, which is known as kama in Sanskrit. Kama results in karma, which is fruitive activity. Think piety and sin. Think judgment day. At the time of death, karma’s influence is seen in the nature of the consciousness.

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

Whatever state of being there is while quitting the body, that state is attained in the subsequent birth. This explains why there is variety within even the same species. Some children are smart, while others are slower to pick up basic concepts. Some people are tall, others are short. Everything is attributable to desire.

What if the chain were similarly traversed? What is the original desire measured at the time of quitting the body? The explanation is that there was some desire while in the presence of Krishna Himself. That resulted in the fall to the material world, which is also known as the land of birth and death.

Rather than lose valuable time researching the many past births, the solution is presented clearly. Have the right consciousness this time around. The different desires caused the different species, but with the purification of desire the distinction between body and spirit ends. The individual gets their svarupa, or original spiritual form, with which they again interact with the Almighty. That interaction is the height of an existence, as it brings all happiness and bliss.

In Closing:

At garden’s output gazing,

Life in plants so amazing.

Existing in all the same spark,

Caused by desire from the start.

As origin Krishna everything making,

And Brahma the three modes taking.

Regardless of past in forward direction go,

That from consciousness bliss again to know.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Does Anyone Pray For Renunciation

[yajna]“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

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Friend1: There’s a big test coming up.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: I’m going to study.

Friend2: I would hope so.

Friend1: I’m going to put in the required effort. There is no laziness on my part.

Friend2: Way to go.

Friend1: Still, I’m not going to leave anything to chance. As you know, outcomes are not guaranteed, despite every precaution taken.

Friend2: We think we are the sole doer, but that is not the case. The modes of nature must first give sanction:

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

Friend1: Glad you mentioned that. In order to ensure a proper outcome, I will pray to one of the managers of the material creation.

Friend2: Let me see. The examination is a test of knowledge, so you will pray to the goddess in charge of that.

[yajna]Friend1: Knowledge, learning - basically the same thing. Yes, I will seek the favor of Goddess Sarasvati.

Friend2: Nice. I know that you are not in school, so are you explaining something you did in the past?

Friend1: I’m going through a hypothetical situation that leads to demigod worship.

Friend2: Oh, okay.

Friend1: You can take different situations and reach the same outcome.

Friend2: Wherein something material is desired.

Friend1: Exactly. Good health. Fortune. Prosperity. From Vedic literature we have examples of really big things asked for. It’s like going to the great Santa Claus and giving a Christmas list.

Friend2: Haha, a wonderful comparison. People like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana were like that.

Friend1: They wanted invincibility. That’s a big ask. The devas that were approached were pleased enough to grant boons that came as close as possible to granting immortality.

Friend2: But just one percent vulnerability is enough to qualify for mortality, which means guaranteed death.

Friend1: So here is what I was thinking the other day. Has anyone ever prayed for renunciation?

Friend2: What do you mean? As in, do people go to the demigods to ask to get rid of their stuff?

Friend1: Not even that specific. Forget possessions and the like. Just the overall spirit. Say I wanted to be detached from things, especially the highs and lows of life. Say that I wanted to consider happiness and sadness to be like the seasons, as Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [2.14].

Friend2: Okay. I understand now.

Friend1: Which deva would I approach?

Friend2: As in, is there demigod worship that corresponds with that desire?

Friend1: There you go. Yes. I can’t think of any examples.

Friend2: Neither can I.

Friend1: Really? You’re supposed to be the expert here.

Friend2: You’ve stumped me.

Friend1: I should be proud of myself, but I’m not.

Friend2: I will say that there is renunciation required in order to win the favor of demigods in ordinary worship. That is one of the reasons the process exists. Remember, it is passed on in the Vedas, which are an extension of the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: Because everyone already has desires.

Friend2: There is no reason to change suddenly. Keep your desires, but go to a higher power to fulfill them. The requirements for the worship automatically instill a sense of renunciation and austerity. Hiranyakashipu and Ravana went to the extreme in renunciation in order to get their boons.

Friend1: Okay, but why throw all the progress away after the fact? You go through these austerities, get what you want, but the stuff you get makes you attached all over again.

Friend2: There you go. You should write a book. That is one of the reasons Krishna declares demigod worship to be reserved for the less intelligent, alpa medhasam. People get insulted hearing that, but it is true.

Friend1: There shouldn’t be any anger, if you think about it. Each one of us is less intelligent at the time of birth. That is the starting point. Human life is for changing from less intelligent to more.

Friend2: Well said. I will also point out that worship of God the person automatically brings renunciation. Bhakti includes jnana and vairagya. Bhakti is like the shining lamp, and jnana and vairagya follow like the shadow created by the light. Moreover, if you worship Krishna in bhakti, He might take things away from you. If He sees there are material attachments serving as impediments to progress, He will remove them. The devas don’t offer such mercy, as that is not included in the role.

Friend1: Therefore if I want renunciation, I might as well worship Krishna or Vishnu.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Exactly. Look at the greatest Vaishnava, Lord Shiva. He is the most renounced person. He never asks for it, either. It comes automatically with attachment to the lotus feet of Bhagavan.

In Closing:

Devas so many things can give,

Like in full opulence to live.

From Vedas so much shown,

Like kings with great wealth to own.

But asking for renunciation none,

Because with benedictions attachment some.

Through Krishna included everything already,

Works to keep bhakta’s mind steady.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Three Times There Was No Reward For Loyal Patronage

[Krishna lifting Govardhana]“When Indra understood that the sacrifice offered by the cowherd men in Vrindavana was stopped by Krishna, he became angry, and he vented his anger upon the inhabitants of Vrindavana, who were headed by Nanda Maharaja, although Indra knew perfectly well that Krishna was personally protecting them.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)

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You visit this store often enough that you know the people who work there. They are on a first name basis with you. It’s not quite to the level of saying, “Norm,” when you walk in the door, like in the television sitcom Cheers, but there are smiles all around for sure. You ask each other how everything is going.

Such a relationship is mutually beneficial. The store wants repeat customers. The goal is to make sales, which lead to profits. If customers return on a regular basis, there is some stability to the cash flow.

The customer is benefitted by hopefully getting good deals. Perhaps they are made aware of new inventory prior to the general public knowing. At the very least, they can trust that the people making the sales are being straightforward and honest.

Not required to reach as far as personal familiarity, there is the concept of the customer loyalty discount. In the retail world this is very common. Give someone a rewards card. More purchases equate to more points, which then bring discounts. The idea is to reward customer loyalty, in a formal and organized way.

In spiritual life the equivalent of a business transaction is the interaction with devas, or demigods. There is proper payment in the form of austerity and worship, and there is the good or service provided in the form of a benediction.

As demigod worship is still on the material platform, there are defects. Though the people approached are divine figures, sometimes even the reward for loyalty is lacking. Past sales are no guarantee of insulation from hardship.

1. Vrikasura

Asura is a Sanskrit word that is essentially a negation of the word that means demigod. The word for the heavenly figures is sura, and they are known to be of good character. The suras are in the mode of goodness, which is equivalent with qualities like knowledge, forbearance, austerity, and patience. Most importantly, the suras understand that there is a supreme authority figure, the highest power controlling every other controller to some degree.

The asuras have all bad qualities, and Vrikasura is a wonderful example. He approached a god, the great god in fact. Mahadeva is known to be easily pleased, and so Vrikasura eventually earned his favor. Vrikasura had undergone tremendous austerities and Mahadeva was ready to grant any boon asked.

Vrikasura requested the ability to kill any person simply by placing his hand on their head. Just as with the business transaction, there were no further questions asked. Both the sinner and the saint are allowed to purchase the smartphone. There are no character judgments made. There is no questionnaire to fill out, asking how the product will be used going forward.

Vrikasura showed his true demon-self by not giving any loyalty to the person who granted him the boon. He immediately went chasing after Shiva, hoping to touch his head and kill him. Vrikasura wanted the beautiful goddess Parvati for himself. She is the most chaste lady, and can only be the wife of Mahadeva. For everybody’s benefit, Vishnu arrived on the scene in disguise and tricked Vrikasura into killing himself by use of the hand on the head.

2. Ravana

He was a Rakshasa, which is a worse kind of asura. Rakshasas descend so low that they will eat other human beings. Ravana earned his name from the same Mahadeva, who heard the Rakshasa’s terrifying scream one time. That incident led Ravana to become a great devotee of Mahadeva.

[Ravana]Again, the reward for customer loyalty was lacking. This time it was on both ends. Ravana paid no attention to Mahadeva’s desire. Lord Shiva is known to be a great devotee of Vishnu in His form of Shri Rama. Ravana offended Rama greatly by stealing the Lord’s wife Sita in secret and keeping her hidden, far away. By extension, this was also a great offense to Shiva.

When Rama approached Lanka to take Sita back, Mahadeva did not interfere. Ravana received no help from the person he was supposedly greatly devoted to. This is because devotion to Vishnu is spiritual. Material transactions from the past had no influence on Mahadeva’s disposition. He wanted Rama to triumph, not Ravana.

3. Indra

In this situation we have a sura turning into a great aggressor. Indra became an attempted mass-murderer. He tried to kill innocent people who were loyal to him for so many years. One time Vishnu as Shri Krishna convinced the residents of Vrindavana to worship Govardhana Hill instead of Indra.

From being ignored a single time Indra became outraged. There were so many past dealings with the same people, with reciprocal benefits. That past patronage was rewarded with a devastating rainstorm, intended to wash everyone away. Krishna saved the day by lifting Govardhana Hill and turning it into the world’s largest umbrella for seven days.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]These incidents teach that interaction with God the person is different. It is not like a business transaction. A person can try the same with Krishna, but the result is not guaranteed. God is not compelled to give anything to anyone. In fact, He might take things away from those who are most dear to Him. He does whatever will bring the best long-term benefit, shreyas. Such discrimination represents tremendous mercy, the likes of which only the supreme deity can offer.

In Closing:

So frequently to store to go,

That first name of workers to know.

Some benefit expecting each side,

Repeat business, information from inside.

In demigod worship sometimes not there,

Like Vrikasura to kill Mahadeva to dare.

Indra to eliminate previous devotees trying,

Better shelter on Krishna’s pinky relying.