Sunday, December 31, 2017

Independent Contractors

[Sita-Rama]“In this world everyone is troubled by everyone else; no one is really a servant of anyone else. Tulsi says that whatever good can come will only be through the merciful Shri Rama.” (Dohavali, 100)

bādhaka saba saba ke bhae sādhaka bhae na koi |
tulasī rāma k।rpālu teṃ bhalo hoi so hoi ||

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“There is svartha to consider. There is the time factor. There is mortality. It only makes sense, then, that I would look after myself first. Who else is going to take care of me? My parents won’t be around forever. The spouse insists on some kind of support. It’s not like there are no options. Divorce is a real possibility. Children will one day move on to some other place. All that support I gave them will be forgotten.

Don’t get me started on friends. What happened to them? They are gone. I never speak with them. We spent so much time together. There are great memories. Now everyone is busy doing their own thing. It’s been years. It’s like nobody in this world really cares about anyone else.”

A similar assessment is made by Goswami Tulsidas in the Dohavali. The idea is that even friends are there only while a shared interest is met. Once there is a conflict, the friendship can break. A true sadhaka, which is a servant, is difficult to find.

The good Samaritan who helps a person in need on the street can later get sued for interference. The employee loyal for so many years to the employer can jump at a better offer to work someplace else. Though they would be considered in the laborer class, they are more of an independent contractor. “Meet my demands and I will do the work.”

As there is always an element of reciprocal interest, it is difficult for real good to be done. I’m only helping you now because you are helping me in some way. What is actually good for you may not be done. The same goes for me.

[Sita-Rama]Goswami Tulsidas says that the mercy of Shri Rama is required. This makes sense since Rama is not in need of anything. He is married to Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune. There is no poverty in that household. The concept of daridra-narayana is not valid, since the real Narayana is the wealthiest person in the world. He is the original proprietor of everything; He has the proper claim on all objects that can be possessed.

A true sadhaka is one who serves Shri Rama. It is difficult to not seek personal interest in the beginning, as that is the typical way for transactions to occur. Rama’s association is so purifying that the selfishness in His presence does not remain for long.

The purified conditioned soul, who now serves without purpose and without motive, seeks only the pleasure of Rama. They look to be able to continue to serve, and the merciful Rama obliges. No other benefactor behaves this way. Even if another were so inclined, they lack the potency, as all-devouring death arrives eventually.

Rama is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is neither affected by death nor influenced by time. He remembers every deed done in His honor, and He rewards even the most basic gesture of kindness. Due to forgetfulness we tend to behave in the opposite way. After so many years of loyalty, just one transgression from a friend can make them our enemy.

[Rama Darbar]The servant of Rama has the potential to rise so high that they earn a greater stature. One example is Shri Hanuman. In family pictures, Hanuman is always kneeling in front, in a small form as compared to the others. Hanuman can expand to the size of a mountain, but he remains this way out of humility. He never thinks that he has become the boss. Because of his pure devotion to Rama to this day Hanuman is honored throughout the world.

In Closing:

So happy a friend to see,

But really wanting something from me.

Only then the relationship to exist,

Otherwise not long to persist.

True sadhaka in world difficult to find,

Tulsi the position of Rama to remind.

That never even simplest gesture forgetting,

Servants like Hanuman the highest stature getting.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Three Threats That Fall Under The Umbrella Of Krishna’s Protection

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

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Shri Krishna makes the promise at the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita, the famous talk with Arjuna, the bow-warrior. Surrender unto Him and be delivered from all sinful reaction. Basically, whatever you are afraid of doing wrong, where you skip this type of religion or that, know that being fully conscious of Krishna, who is Bhagavan, will give the greatest protection.

There are many dharmas, and connected are corresponding reactions to not following. The neglect is what defines sin, and the objective is what defines the specific dharma. Even a thief can have right and wrong. For them, respecting the property of others is sinful. The reaction for such behavior is a missed opportunity to take what doesn’t belong to them.

Krishna consciousness is the topmost dharma because it meets the needs of the individual completely. That individual is spirit soul, and from the protection other threats are covered.

1. Eternal damnation

You better make the list. Something like Christmas with Santa Claus, but more important, this is the final word on who gets salvation and who doesn’t. You better believe in the savior. Belief here is determined by attendance at a regular gathering at a specific institution. If you’re not on the list, you’re out of luck. You will forever be condemned. No turning back; no second chances.

These sorts of threats may help to increase the number of followers, but they are not based in logic and reasoning. If there is a God, why should He be feared? Even so many leaders around the world don’t condemn people for criticizing the government. There is freedom to follow or to neglect.

Moreover, what happens to those who never reach the point of conscious thought? What if a child passes on before they can make the choice to accept the designated savior? Are they condemned? Do they not get another chance? And what exactly is salvation? How will the person live? Is there a future?

Shri Krishna protects against such threats because for the devotee He always remains close by. Whether the devotee goes to heaven or hell is of no concern, because they are guaranteed to be able to practice devotion. For that reason they can be liberated even before quitting the body. Such souls are known as jivan-mukta.

2. Punishment for skipping a ritual

“Okay, bhakti-yoga is a kind of dharma. Bhagavata-dharma to be precise. Still, there are rituals and traditions in the Vedas. People should follow them. Otherwise, watch out. Bad things could happen.”

The perfect example is the one time the residents of Vrindavana skipped the annual Indra-yajna. The change was at Krishna’s insistence. The nearby Govardhana Hill was worshiped instead. Everyone was pleased, and so was the hill, who spoke to the residents through the potency of Shri Krishna.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]The immediate result was devastating rain. This was the punishment. The threat became real. Indra, the king of heaven, was not happy about being neglected. The umbrella of protection from Krishna took on a literal meaning, as the just worshiped hill was lifted into the air and then proceeded to serve as protection from the rain for seven straight days.

3. Aggressive friends and family

The fall from the spiritual world took place so long ago that it is difficult to turn the mentality. The envy of God is the core of material life. Without it, everyone would be liberated. That envy is found even in close associates, like friends and family.

Prahlada Maharaja faced a severe threat from the father, King Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada practiced bhakti-yoga peacefully. He wasn’t bothering anyone. The real crime was not hiding his sentiments. Prahlada told the father exactly what he valued in life, that becoming materially opulent was not important to him.

[Narasimha killing]The death sentence was the result. First there was the threat, but that didn’t change Prahlada. Hiranyakashipu then resorted to lethal punishment. Strangely, it didn’t work. Just as Govardhana protected the people of Vrindavana, the seemingly invisible, but inconceivably powerful protecting hand of the Supreme Lord was there to ensure that Prahlada’s devotion continued to flourish. In the end it was Hiranyakashipu who perished, through the lethal weapons that were the fingernails of Narasimhadeva.

In Closing:

Enjoying in position as king of terror,

But with peaceful son a fatal error.

Narasimha Bhagavan, for Prahlada arriving,

Whose bhakti against opposition even thriving.

For Vrindavana from king of heaven a threat,

Thwarted by Govardhana umbrella on finger set.

Even eternal damnation not to fear,

Since Krishna always remaining near.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Can We Learn From Those Who Have Risen

[Krishna's lotus feet]“O son of Kuru, when there is an increase in the mode of ignorance madness, illusion, inertia and darkness are manifested.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.13)

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Friend1: You notice that so many of these famous people struggle with life?

Friend2: Before or after success?

Friend1: Mostly during and after. I’m specifically referring to drug addiction. There were two notable baseball players from the 1980s. They were so good it was ridiculous. One was a pitcher, the other a hitter.

Friend2: They played for the Mets, right?

Friend1: Yup. Today everyone looks back and wonders what happened. They were on track to becoming the greatest ever.

Friend2: Drugs and alcohol; will take any person down.

Friend1: There was still some good to come from it. I notice that those who survive such amazing falls try to help others avoid the same mistakes. They speak publicly. They go to troubled areas and give warnings.

Friend2: It’s only natural. Good parents behave this way with their children. If I’ve made a mistake that cost me dearly, it’s likely too late to correct it now. The only solace is hopefully preventing others from making the same mistake.

Friend1: And you would call this the descending process of knowledge?

Friend2: Very good. Absolutely. Great segue into spiritual life. That is the whole point of descending knowledge. Take information from others who have experienced and known themselves. Save so much time. Live peacefully as a result. Be a little afraid of the dark side of life. Don’t think that you’ll be the exception and somehow get a different result. Shri Krishna describes it as the mode of darkness. It’s a way of living and one of the symptoms is darkness, i.e. ignorance.

Friend1: Here is a question. It’s pretty common to get instruction from those who have fallen. Their struggles were visible. They were in the public eye. What about those who have risen? Can we learn from them?

[Think Like A Billionaire]Friend2: Umm, you seriously have to ask that? I’m sure you’ve seen the many books authored by the successful. They give tips on how to make it big in business and investing.

Friend1: Okay, but that’s only materially. I’m talking about elevation in terms of consciousness.

Friend2: That’s what Vedic literature is for; that is the entire focus. It’s the realizations and instructions from the most elevated people. It starts with Shri Krishna Himself, who is Achyuta. He never falls down. He is so kind that He provides a roadmap for every kind of person to succeed.

Friend1: What do you mean by “kind”? The instruction is not the same for everyone?

Friend2: How can it be? Do you teach calculus to a first grade math student? People have different gunas, or material qualities. Not everyone is ready for advancing to the last stage immediately. That is why the Vedas are compared to a tree that has many branches. Each represents a different department of knowledge.

Friend1: Is that why we have the four regulative principles? The saints of the past indulged in these activities and realized how harmful they are?

Friend2: Perhaps, but not necessarily. Maybe they didn’t need to experience firsthand. The information was passed on through the ages. You can tell from observing, as well. I’ve never jumped off a bridge, but I can tell you that it’s not a good idea.

Friend1: Because others have done it.

Friend2: Precisely. The saints have risen to the top, and some of them are so kind that they come back down to earth a little.

Friend1: What do you mean? And how is that an act of kindness?

Friend2: In the topmost position a person sees only devotees everywhere. There is no reason to teach, correct, chastise, praise, or what have you. It’s the topmost vision; noticing the spiritual equality of all beings.

Friend1: Okay, and why isn’t that a good thing?

Friend2: It’s great at the personal level, but how is anyone going to learn? You see me as an equal; fine, but I require instruction. Tell me what I’m doing wrong. Tell me what I need to correct.

Friend1: And by coming down to earth, as you say, the saint can provide that instruction.

Friend2: Right. They make distinctions again. They distinguish between devotee and non-devotee. The experience from having risen to the top is still there, however. That doesn’t go away. So we are able to learn just as much.

Friend1: What do these saints say?

Friend2: Avoid meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex; the four regulative principles that you mentioned previously.

Friend1: And chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: There you go. If you need some more convincing, read books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. These works will help you convince others, too.

Friend1: Convince isn’t the best word here, because it’s not like bringing people into a cult.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Persuade. Correct. Basically, the same thing the people who have fallen teach, but with a much wider range of applicability, aiming for a higher goal.

In Closing:

Not required to fall down,
Since wisdom accepting sound.

From guru parampara descending,
So that towards Divine ascending.

Like the successful but wider range,
How to proper behavior to change.

Quickly, so that time not to waste,
In this life experience a higher taste.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wouldn’t Dussehra Be More Inspiring If Sita Had Released The Arrows

[Battling Ravana]“The mighty Rama, who possessed extraordinary strength, consecrating in accordance with the mantras prescribed in the Vedas, taking that great arrow – which was capable of removing the fears of the entire world and the Ikshvaku dynasty, capable of taking away the glory of His enemies, and conducive to His own happiness – fixed it on His bow.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.13-14)

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Friend1: You ever see these reinterpretations of past events?

Friend2: Umm, what? What is there to interpret about an event? Yesterday it was sunny and 65 degrees. You want me to change that to cloudy and 50 degrees? Not possible.

Friend1: Interesting response. Makes you think. Anyway, this stuff definitely happens. Like someone will speculate what the country would be like today if the South had won the Civil War. Or what if England didn’t lose control of the colonies. What would be different today?

Friend2: Oh, I see. So someone is writing fiction, inspired by real-life events.

Friend1: Basically. It could be a movie, too. Anyway, I came across one of these that related to spiritual life.

Friend2: Uh oh.

Friend1: Yeah, you’re not going to like it. I didn’t, either, but it’s out there. I thought it would make for an interesting discussion.

Friend2: Great. Thanks for bringing this nonsense to me.

Friend1: The interpretation is of the conclusion of the Ramayana story.

Friend2: Let me guess. What would have happened if Ravana had emerged victorious? What if the supposed bad guy was really the hero?

Friend1: Not quite. They keep the same outcome, but through different means. The change in the story is that Sita Devi is the one shooting the arrows. She defeats Ravana in battle, not Rama.

Friend2: Ah, so like a feminist angle?

Friend1: Exactly. The argument is that the occasion of Dussehra would be more inspiring to people today. It would show that women are strong and capable, rather than weak and shy.

Friend2: Of course this is from the materialist’s angle of vision. They are so envious of God that they can’t stand that He, as an incarnation named Rama, emerged victorious against such a powerful materialist like Ravana. Their only resort is make-believe, to feel better about what happened.

Friend1: I certainly agree with that. But what is the counterargument? I mean the reality is reality. You’re supposed to take what happened and accept it. Still, we know that God teaches through His lila [pastimes]. Could not a different lesson have been taught?

[Sita Devi]Friend2: The premise of the argument is completely invalid. Sita Devi is one of the strongest women in history. Dharma was her strength, and in her case it was the purest version, practiced on the biggest stage, under the most trying circumstances. She was not simply a devoted wife. She was tied to Rama, forever, in consciousness. She would never deviate from that way of thinking. It simply wasn’t possible. She endured tremendous torture at the hands of Ravana. She showed the highest level of renunciation, even to where yogis and ascetics wouldn’t be able to reach.

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: Moreover, the devotees share in the triumphs of Bhagavan. Rama releasing the arrows and defeating the wicked Ravana brought tremendous delight to Sita and others. She played a significant role in that victory. Without her influence, Ravana may never have been defeated. You could argue that Hanuman should have been the one to kill the king of Lanka. Then that would give strength to devotees.

Friend1: Yeah, I mean Hanuman is awesome.

Friend2: And he certainly had the ability to defeat Ravana. Still, he wanted the glory to go to Rama. That is the definition of pure devotion. Nothing for yourself. And to this day Hanuman’s reputation is spotless. So is Sita’s. Some people say bad things about Bhagavan, but that has been going on since the beginning of time. Sita Devi is already an inspiration for millions, men and women alike. There is no reason to change one thing from the Ramayana history. It is already perfect in every respect.

Friend1: What about the inspiring women angle, though?

[Battling Ravana]Friend2: In terms of thinking there should not be bodily designations. That is the first cause of the cycle of birth and death. We are trying to teach people to see the spirit inside. Even if viewed materially, the lesson from Sita and Rama is that the husband and wife share in the achievements. The wife is as much responsible for the victories of the husband as the husband is. Her support means everything. That is the secret to the potency of the marriage system followed in Vedic culture. Sita Devi had the ascetic power to kill Ravana herself, without needing to shoot arrows. She chose to allow Rama to earn the glory, for that increased the fame of the family and showed the world the power of good over evil. From all angles, her example is already an inspiration.

In Closing:

No need for reconsideration,
Sita already an inspiration.

Devoted to husband so much,
Of selfishness without a touch.

The glory of Rama’s victory sharing,
For personal wellbeing not caring.

No need for lila to change at all,
In hearts of devotees already standing tall.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Three Reasons Pious Activities Alone Don’t Guarantee Entry Into The Kingdom 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)

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You do everything right. In this regard the definition is based on “by the book.” What others have told you, you’ve done. You didn’t question. You weren’t difficult, though you certainly had doubts. Just keep it simple, you told yourself. Follow this routine. Observe this ritual. Pray at this certain time.

Now someone informs you that entry into the kingdom of God is not guaranteed. The explanation is something like the Hall of Fame eligibility. Players from a certain sport may make a ballot on a particular year, but it is up to others to decide on the final outcome. It doesn’t matter how good they were; entry is not guaranteed.

[gates to heaven]Coming from the kingdom of the material planets, there is only one requirement. It is a spirit within, a kind of thinking. The term most often used is “consciousness.” When the proper consciousness isn’t there, the gates remain closed, and for good reason.

1. Maybe I don’t want to go

I did everything; that is established. I followed what others told me. But maybe my heart wasn’t in it. I followed renunciation, while contemplating objects of the senses at the same time. The five senses are there, and each one has corresponding objects. For instance, the fragrance of a flower is linked to the sense of smell.

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

In the Bhagavad-gita such a person is referred to as a pretender. The renunciation wasn’t complete. If that is the case, why should the gates to the kingdom of God be opened? The attachment implies desire for residence in another realm. The Almighty, who is ultimately a person, does not force anyone to stay with Him.

2. Still envious of Krishna

One name for that supreme person is Krishna. This Sanskrit word has different meanings, with one of them being “all-attractive.” In the topmost planet of the spiritual realm everyone is attracted to Krishna directly.

[Shri Krishna]In one sense, everyone already follows Him; there cannot be complete separation. The degree of surrender determines the nature of existence. In the material world there is at the very least a trace of envy of Krishna. “I can enjoy without Him. I can rise to the top on my own. There is no God.” One would be surprised to learn that such attitudes can persist in the minds of those who are supposedly on the path of spiritual life. There is the external appearance, but meanwhile the envy remains.

3. Lacking the bhakti spirit

As mentioned previously, if the consciousness is not right the entry won’t be guaranteed. That pure consciousness must have bhakti, which is love and devotion. Interestingly, bhakti is so powerful that it alone can cause the gates to open.

Even if every rule of disciplined spiritual life was violated, if little attention was paid to piety and sin, if personal advancement was never considered, there is still eligibility. After all, the bhakti spirit is what flourishes in the spiritual kingdom. There is tremendous variety, but everyone is linked together through their service to Krishna.

At present not only do I lack the bhakti spirit, but I may not even desire to attain it. Still, pious activities like chanting the holy names can help to reawaken the love that is always there, but which sometimes goes dormant. Therefore even if done without attention, faith or love, the holy names carry tremendous potency to the person who repeats them: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

After doing everything right,
Still getting not heaven’s sight.

Doors closed remaining,
Since desires the consciousness staining.

A pretender because on objects dwelled,
Or envy for Supreme Lord held.

Bhakti spirit to take into account,
No need separate endeavor to mount.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Three Authority Figures We Typically Aren’t Deathly Afraid Of

[Shri Krishna]“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

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It’s a way to distinguish from the sinners, the carefree who don’t worry about right and wrong, future consequences, or tradition. It’s a way to show respect, to give honor to someone who holds ultimate power. That person can make or break an existence, one to last forever.

A “God-fearing” person is just that, afraid of God. Acknowledgment is implied. Belief in a higher power is there. Those who don’t fear God will have to face stiff punishment later on. That is the hope anyway. Who wants to go through life knowing that criminals will skate forever? What sense do laws and rules make if the people that don’t follow them suffer no consequences?

Vedic teachings indeed acknowledge the existence of God. In the generic sense He is described to be a great controller, Ishvara. At the same time, He is a person, and an all-attractive one at that. Therefore known as Krishna, the relationship with Him is intended to go well beyond fear. In fact, this lack of fear is already there in interactions with readily identifiable authority figures.

1. Parents

The analysis is in the general case. There are always exceptions. Some parents can be quite horrible. They put their children through unspeakable torture. They provide little guidance, minimal protection, and sometimes run away completely.

Usually, the parents are the first authority figures we know. The Sanskrit word guru can refer to them, as well. The television sitcom character Frank Barone notes that if a parent is not hated, they are not properly doing their job. Though intended to be humorous, there is an element of truth to the words. The parents have to set guidelines and boundaries. They have to punish transgressions. Otherwise, what purpose are they serving?

At the same time, the children usually aren’t deathly afraid of the parents. If the children do something wrong, it is not like they expect the worst kind of punishment. In the harshest case, they may have to go without television and internet for a while. There isn’t concern over being disowned forever.

2. Teachers

Guru also refers to teachers, and especially the spiritual guide. Man separates from the animal through intelligence, but in the beginning only the potential is there. Teachers help to make the higher intelligence a reality. In exchange for the wisdom, the students must be willing to learn. Inquiring submissively and rendering service go a long way.

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

[chalkboard punishment]In school the teachers will punish bad behavior. In times past they might strike the truculent student on the hand with a ruler. Today the bad kids get sent to detention. Maybe they are suspended from school. Still, there usually isn’t fear that the teacher will inflict real and lasting damage. There isn’t concern that the relationship with all teachers will be severed, for all of time.

3. Benevolent public leaders

In countries run by brutal dictators, questioning of authority is not allowed. Say the wrong thing and you could get killed. There has to be one hundred percent obedience to the will of the rulers.

In the case of benevolent leaders, there is surely punishment for violating the law. Jails exist for punishment, for reforming those who have gone the wrong way in life. The punishment also serves as a deterrent for future bad behavior.

Even so, with such leaders there usually isn’t fear that forgetting about them will lead to punishment. Moreover, there is always a chance to reform. The good leader does not get angry or envious. They do not insist on allegiance, especially if the other side is not willing.

In the same way, the idea of being forever condemned for not believing in God does not hold. Moreover, fear of such condemnation prevents taking full advantage of the relationship to be formed with the Almighty.

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, the envious are cast into lower species. This is a kind of punishment, because the mode of ignorance takes over. There is little chance to serve God in what is known as bhakti. There is little chance to sharpen the intellect.

[Shri Krishna]Though repeatedly cast into such species, the time factor still exists. This means that there is always a chance to turn back. Material existence is itself a condemnation. It is a place where forgetfulness of Krishna is the default mentality. Turning to Him in a loving mood transforms the nature of the existence. Material nature already provides enough cause for fear; with Krishna there is meant to be full bliss, ananda, to last for as long as the relationship is desired.

In Closing:

In demoniac wombs to go,
Where piety not to know.

Punishment for bad status achieving,
From Krishna directly receiving.

Still, always to reform a chance,
Meeting with saint probability to enhance.

So no need for God only with fear,
Through devotion in heart to stay near.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why Does It Seem Like Only Hippies And Drug Addicts Find Religion

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

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Friend1: I think we’ve had a similar discussion before.

Friend2: About what?

Friend1: The kinds of people that get drawn to bhakti-yoga, spiritual life beyond sentimentalism, what have you.

Friend2: Where you criticized them as being lowlifes and degenerates?

Friend1: Ha, I don’t think I was that harsh. But yeah, something like that.

Friend2: And you want to talk about that some more?

Friend1: A little different angle this time. Just something I noticed with former athletes, greats of the game, whose lives went south due to drugs and alcohol.

Friend2: You could use that to segue into a discussion about the mode of passion, how desires always remain. You think something will make you happy, but it doesn’t really.

“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

[drug addiction]Friend1: That is a good topic, but let’s save it for another day. I noticed with these athletes, they often find religion. They find their “savior” or what have you. They may even start their own ministry. They speak to people about their experiences, detailing how low they fell. In some cases they were almost dead. Knocking on death’s door, they found their way back.

Friend2: That is a good message, don’t you think? It’s the descending process of knowledge gathering. Rather than experience for yourself, hear what others have to say. Take the lessons from them. Learn the easy way.

Friend1: No, that’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad these people have straightened up. My question is why does it take falling so low for religion to be found? Doesn’t it seem to you that only drug addicts and hippies are open to bhakti-yoga, chanting the holy names and such?

Friend2: Umm, you realize that in every public opinion survey the theists outnumber the atheists? Are you saying every person that believes in God used to be a drug addict or was involved in the hippie culture?

Friend1: Belief in God is one thing. I’m talking about following it in earnest. Unless you were born into the culture that looks at this life as only one of many, where there are different deities to fulfill different desires, it’s like there is no interest.

Friend2: That only makes sense. Material life is a great illusion. Do this and you’ll be happy. Get rid of this thing and you’ll be free of pain. It never works out that way. You can go back to the descending process of knowledge-gathering. Trying to figure things out for yourself is the ascending process. That will never work with spiritual life. You can never reach the proper conclusion of the spirit soul being the essence of identity through observation and experiment. Neither is there enough time nor enough intelligence, even in the human mind.

Friend1: Okay, but why do people have to fall so low to give something new a chance? Why can’t your average person, who has a job, who has a family, who is not destitute or bewildered, take a sincere interest in chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare?

Friend2: There are these studies that show people over thirty years of age don’t listen to any new music. They are fine with the music they grew up with. That is why advertisers tend to target younger people. The older generation has made up their mind; they are set in their habits. The idea is that it is not easy to try something new. The drug addicts have lost so much, and with that attachments. The hippie mindset is being bewildered at the idea of material advancement, of wanting more and more stuff.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: I’m not sure what the problem is here. Just be thankful that anyone is willing to try it out. Every one of us needs to be reformed. Taking birth in the material world means that we are not pure. There are different levels of intelligence, progression, and capacity for understanding. There is no doubt about it. At the end of the day, every individual is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. The sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names, is there to awaken the desire to serve the Supreme. The temple is there to allow the lost souls to meet their long lost friend. There are so many statements in shastra referencing the potency of a moment’s association with a saintly person or the deity in the temple. The simplest offering can make such a huge difference.

Friend1: I guess I am being too pessimistic.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: There is more reason to be optimistic. Be thankful that there are people who are not afraid to speak about their experiences with something higher. Even if it’s blind sentiment or wanting something from the Almighty, at least there is acknowledgment. It matters not from where a person came, but rather to where they are going. The surrendered souls practicing bhakti-yoga are on the path to liberation, even if that destination at present seems in the great distance.

In Closing:

Matters not from where coming,
More important to where going.

Older generation in ways already set,
What benefit from trying new to get?

So those fallen down open to try,
This bhakti-yoga, a transcendental high.

Destination far out in the distance,
Closer with chanting persistence.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Three Things Rama Wasn’t Compelled To Do

[Rama meeting Shabari]“Today, being graced with Your presence, I have obtained the results of my penances and austerities. Today, my birth has been made fruitful and my spiritual masters have been well honored.” (Shabari speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 74.11)

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Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He stands strong and fearless, with bow and arrow in hand. He enhances the stature of the Raghu dynasty, the family of rulers in which He appears. He upholds dharma, which is the only way to real happiness. Like bad weather threatening the outside of a home, adharma is always around, ready to bring down the pious and innocent in its path. From time to time the Supreme descends to provide added security.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

It is not surprising that the Supreme Lord would be able to protect against the strongest enemies the world has ever known, but there is the question of why. If He is above everyone else, doesn’t a lack of responsibility accompany that standing? Otherwise, He would be under pressure like the rest of us.

In fact Bhagavan is atmarama, or self-satisfied. He has nothing to do, but for the pleasure of the devotees He is willing to do anything.

1. Give salvation to Shabari

Sita Devi had gone missing. Shri Rama, the husband, immediately went on a search. The younger brother Lakshmana was with Him. The brothers somehow made their way to the hermitage of a female ascetic. Long ago, when society organized differently than it does today, women still had the freedom to pursue a higher goal, paramartha.

Shabari was an ascetic who followed the guidance of her spiritual teachers. They told her that one day Shri Rama would visit her. By offering Him food to the best of her ability, being hospitable, she would win salvation.

Those words proved to be true during this chance meeting. Shabari had nothing but berries to offer, but Rama gladly accepted them. He was not unhappy in the least. Shabari praised Him as deva vara, or the chief of the gods. In this way she subtly referenced Rama’s position as Bhagavan, higher than anyone else.

[Rama meeting Shabari]This meeting wasn’t required, but the devotion of the devotees never goes to waste. As the Supersoul within the heart, Bhagavan already travels everywhere, so what is going to a hermitage in the forest to Him?

2. Help Sugriva get the kingdom back

Shortly thereafter, Rama made friends with Sugriva. This was the former king of the Vanaras, now exiled due to a feud with his brother Vali. Sugriva could help Rama search for Sita, as there were many Vanaras [monkey-like residents of the forest] who would do anything for their leader.

Rama helped Sugriva first. He shot Vali in the back, while the two brothers were engaged in conflict. Lakshmana’s elder brother is known as the protector of dharma, but this went against protocol. Combatants are not to be attacked while engaged with another fighter.

[Rama shooting Vali]In essence, Rama broke the rules. He makes them, after all, so there is no harm in deviating from them when the occasion calls for it. Here again the reason was the desire of a devotee. Through Vali’s death Sugriva took the kingdom back. He enjoyed in a royal manner, not attracting any sin from accepting his brother’s wife. This was because Rama washed away any negative reaction. Full surrender to Him carries this bonus.

3. Install Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka

It was the Rakshasa named Ravana who had taken Sita, against her will. Since she refused his advances, he was torturing her on the island of Lanka. Time was running out. The location became known through the heroic efforts of Hanuman, the chief minister who had arranged the friendship between Rama and the king of Vanaras.

In the course of events Ravana’s brother ended up switching sides. Vibhishana was always pious and he tried his best to correct Ravana, who had done many horrible things. Surrender to Rama would have forgiven the offenses. Ravana wouldn’t listen, and so Vibhishana left for Rama’s side.

As so many asuras throughout history have learned the hard way, time is undefeated. In this case time arrived in the beautiful form of Rama with His bow and arrows. To Ravana this was terrifying, a ghastly image. Upon his demise, the throne of Lanka became vacant.

Not holding any grudges, Rama asked Vibhishana to perform Ravana’s funeral rites. Then Vibhishana became the new king. Rama did not have to do this. In the material estimation, Vibhishana was the greatest traitor. A non-Rakshasa could have been put on the throne instead. For the devotees, Rama is willing to do anything, for even a little service offered to Him is never forgotten.

In Closing:

Since in kama’s fever set,
Quickly good deeds to forget.

But not with Shri Rama so,
From His time on earth know.

Like when to Shabari’s ashrama went,
That meeting to higher world sent.

For Sugriva shooting violation of dharma blatant,
Vibhishana taking throne by Ravana made vacant.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Three Criticisms Devotees Don’t Mind Hearing

[Goswami Tulsidas]“Knowers of the Vedas deride me as someone who simply holds a japa mala. Jnanis tell me that I am without knowledge, that I don’t know how to even perform rituals. Giving up the three paths, Tulsi humbly approaches Shri Rama’s door.” (Dohavali, 99)

karama।tha ka।thamaliyā kahaiṃ gyānī gyāna bihīna |
tulasī tripatha bihāi go rāma duāreṃ dīna ||

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The Supreme Personality of Godhead is above the three modes of material nature. When He appears the form visible before the eyes is sometimes described as saguna. Literally translating this Sanskrit word, the meaning is “with qualities.”

Gunas typically refer to material qualities, belonging to the categories of goodness, passion or ignorance. Gunas also refer to ropes, and the two meanings are linked. Material qualities are binding; they keep a person tied to the cycle of birth and death.

Gunas are also a factor in determining a person’s varna, or occupation. When Bhagavan in the original form of Shri Krishna descended to this earth, adversaries sometimes had a difficult time determining His varna. In youth Krishna lived in the farm community of Vrindavana, where He tended to the calves. In adulthood He was the king of Dvaraka, the city of gates in the sea. Krishna’s foster parents were in the vaishya varna, while the birth parents were from the kshatriya group.

[Krishna with cows]As a way to put Krishna down enemies would sometimes make fun of Him for having tended to animals when He was younger. Others would declare that Krishna was crooked since His occupation couldn’t be determined. Though criticisms, these were actually tremendous compliments, pointing to the transcendental nature of the delight of mother Yashoda. In a similar manner, those trying to become servants of Krishna don’t mind hearing certain criticisms.

1. You’re not properly building karma

One way to advance materially is to follow karma. This Sanskrit word has several different meanings, but all relate to work. Karma can mean prescribed work, those things which should be done for advancing further. The phala, or fruits, from karma may not arrive until another lifetime.

The devotee doesn’t mind hearing this criticism since they are not interested in karma. The goal is release from the cycle of birth and death. Whether high or low, rich or poor, tall or short, the only desire is to continue in service.

2. You are lacking proper jnana

Another option is the path of jnana. This is especially suited for the human being, who has a higher potential for intelligence. Not just jnana about anything, gain knowledge specifically about the difference between matter and spirit and everything incorporated within that discipline of study.

The devotee of Krishna is not so interested in jnana. They understand that God is a person, that He is the supreme proprietor, that He is everyone’s best friend, and that He should be served with love and devotion. What else is required?

3. You are not meditating properly

Saints like Goswami Tulsidas carry a japa mala with them. This is a string of beads, used specifically for reciting the holy names, like those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The person who is into meditation may consider this to be a waste of time. They seek proper meditation, as defined by the goal of merging into the spiritual energy and diminishing the influence of the inhibiting material body.

Devotees don’t mind hearing this criticism since the japa mala is there to help them stay connected to God. Tulsidas remains a surrendered soul, in a poor state, at the gate of Shri Rama, who is the same Krishna but appearing slightly differently.

[Goswami Tulsidas]These criticisms are actually compliments, showing that achievements in material life are no longer considered important. Those goals are something like winning the lottery in a dream; the experience is real but nothing will last. Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is supported by the strong arm of Shri Rama, and so it is like an eternal wish-fulfilling tree, ready to give the servant infinite opportunities for service, continuing into every future lifetime.

In Closing:

That strong arm with bow to see,
Acting like wish-fulfilling tree.

For bhaktas humbly at the door,
Getting chance for service more.

That others to criticize problem not,
Since not proper understanding got.

From the material disinterested evasion,
On service to Rama now the concentration.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Good For Nothing

[Goswami Tulsidas]“Knowers of the Vedas deride me as someone who simply holds a japa mala. Jnanis tell me that I am without knowledge, that I don’t know how to even perform rituals. Giving up the three paths, Tulsi humbly approaches Shri Rama’s door.” (Dohavali, 99)

karama।tha ka।thamaliyā kahaiṃ gyānī gyāna bihīna |
tulasī tripatha bihāi go rāma duāreṃ dīna ||

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It’s a legitimate argument to make. It comes especially from those who are unfamiliar. Seeing a new hairstyle, clothing, and overall way of living, everything is strange. And then it’s for a specific purpose, but where is the evidence that the purpose is being met? How to gauge that there is progress? If I’m travelling to a certain destination, if my car is stuck it means that the entire endeavor is useless. At least if I have gone halfway there was something positive from the experience.

There is a certain look to the person following spiritual life descending from the Vedas. Goswami Tulsidas references the japa mala. This is a string of beads that are considered sacred. The specific substance isn’t that significant; it is more what the beads are used for. On each one a mantra is chanted, such as the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[japa mala]The mantra delivers the mind. It is proof of the amazing potency of spiritual sound. Repeating “water” over and over will not produce water, but with the holy name the sound is as good as the person it represents. If the spiritual seeker has nothing else, the japa mala alone will save them. This is because in any situation they can chant the holy names and be connected with God.

It is interesting to note that even those supposedly embedded within a spiritual culture may not understand the mind of the saint. They may think that a person is wasting their time. Here Tulsidas remarks on how those who are expert in the Vedas think that he is not making any progress.

The word referenced is karma, which means “fruitive activity.” The Vedas dedicate significant time to karma, which is something like advancing materially, without achieving liberation. In this sense the criticism is correct. Tulsidas has no interest in karma; he is not interested in advancing materially.

The jnanis deride the saint, as well. They say that he doesn’t have any jnana, or knowledge. Learn about the difference between matter and spirit. Quote from shastra, or scripture. Become familiar with Vedanta philosophy, which literally means “the conclusion of all conclusions.”

Tulsidas gets criticized for not being properly into meditation, either. He just says the name “Rama” over and over. Rather, he should focus on mysticism. Follow the procedures laid down in the Bhagavad-gita. Go to a remote place. Sit properly and meditate on the formless Absolute Truth.

“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusha-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.11-12)

Actually, the saint has no interest in any of these paths. He gladly accepts the criticisms. If I have no interest in buying cars and someone makes fun of the car that I drive, will I really mind? In one sense they are complimenting me through their harsh words.

In the same way Goswami Tulsidas is only interested in surrender to Shri Rama. He does so at the Lord’s dvara, or door, and in a poor state, dina. This doesn’t necessarily mean wanting things from the Supreme Lord. The idea is that everything is left behind. There is no interest in advancing materially. There is no desire to merge into the formless aspect of God. There is no intention to become knowledgeable to help in solidifying renunciation.

[Goswami Tulsidas]There is full surrender to the Supreme Lord, and that is sufficient. Let others say what they may. What difference does it make? Rama protects the surrendered souls. That is His promise. Material nature makes no such guarantees. A person can advance to heaven through karma, but the stay is not permanent. The jnani and the yogi look for something else once they achieve success. Meanwhile, the devotees stay peaceful and content, ready to serve their beloved, lifetime after lifetime.

In Closing:

“Let others say what they may,
While at Rama’s door I will stay.

In the poorest of state,
Not for salvation to await.

Nor in jnana hoping to merge,
Nor with fruitive results to converge.

Just life after life in bhakti exercising,“
Tulsi caring not others criticizing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Doing Something About The Unknown

[Shri Rama]“Something can only be known when an attempt to know is made. Otherwise, how to know? Hearing this, Tulsi says to call Shri Rama, holding bow and arrow, to your heart to understand Him.” (Dohavali, 98)

jāneṃ jānana joiai binu jāne ko jāna |
tulasī yaha suni samujhi hiya' ānu dhareṃ dhanu bāna ||

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that one of the purposes of pious activities is for avoiding becoming an atheist. In addition to gaining a positive, active engagement, wisdom is slowly acquired. Without these activities, once bad fortune arrives it is easier to conclude, erroneously so, that there is no supreme controller.

“Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 3)

It starts with a desire. There is something that I want. In order to get it, I give the required effort. I go above and beyond, too. What is the end result? Sometimes people succeed; of this there is no doubt. In this case I failed. The sting is too much for me to take. I start to wonder:

“How can there be a God? He wouldn’t allow this to happen. Forget my personal failure for a moment. What about everyone else that suffers? There’s no way that He exists. He must be fantasy, in the category of the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.”

In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, the opinion of Goswami Tulsidas presents a truth that is rather obvious, but often overlooked. In the task of trying to know something, an effort must be made. How did I learn what water was? A fish doesn’t know, even though it can’t live outside of it. Other animals can distinguish water from land, but it is not like they know what to call the substances.

The human being has the highest potential for intelligence, and from the initial quest knowledge increases. Someone taught us about water, though we also studied for ourselves. If I want to buy a new television, I don’t expect it to just fall in my lap. Neither can I guarantee that any random purchase will satisfy my desires.

[Consumer reports]There is research. Read reviews. Compare specifications. Become familiar with the industry to some extent. Then make an educated decision. We don’t simply condemn the unknown to forever remain that way.

Tulsidas says that to know the Supreme Lord first call Him to your heart. The form of choice is the one holding a bow and arrow. This is Shri Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. He is the husband of Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune. He is the elder brother of Lakshmana and the one served lovingly by Shri Hanuman.

Such facts and more are known about Rama through the chance encounter with the saintly person. Tulsidas is one such person, and so he freely offers this advice. The idea is that we can’t know God on our own. The only way is through the descending process, where knowledge is passed down through the generations. Since it is the most valuable knowledge, it is treated with respect and care. The sadhu does not share the wisdom of the ages with just any person.

The person carrying the knowledge looks for others who are interested. Only then will they have the chance to understand. If they are mired in fruitive activities and behavior that will keep them bound to the cycle of birth and death, of what use will the image of Shri Rama be?

On the other hand, if they are sincerely inquisitive, wanting to know why things happen the way they do, then there is the chance the meeting with the Supreme Lord will do good. In fact, any person keeping the image of Rama holding the bow and arrow close to them will be benefitted.

[Shri Rama]Pious activities increase the benefits. Otherwise the mind will move on to something else. That sacred image will soon leave the heart, though God is always close by. He is with both the sinner and the saint. The difference is that the former doesn’t take advantage of His presence, while the latter does.

In Closing:

To see standing beautifully with bow,
First desire must be to know.

Only then proper understanding to come,
Otherwise wandering with direction none.

So from saintly person getting the chance,
From knowledge intelligence to enhance.

Then with care and attention to stand,
In mind ready with bow in hand.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Three Things To Be Greedy For

[Sita-Rama]“Remembering Shri Rama, being His devotee and recognizing Him as the supreme authority - the person who does not have greed for such a reward will be in want every single day, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 97)

sumirana sevā rāma soṃ sāhaba soṃ pahicāni |
aisehu lābha na lalaka jo tulasī nita hita hāni ||

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It’s understandable to be greedy. Though we don’t like to see that quality in others, it must be admitted that it arises at the personal level from time to time. There are trigger words. “Limited edition.” “For a limited time only.” “Once in a lifetime opportunity.” Originating from the seller, the words might cause “a run” on a product, where suddenly so many people want to buy it.

[Line to buy iPhone]Another cause of greed is envy. I see that someone bought a new house. It is very nice. Now I want the same thing, if not better. Previously, I was doing fine, sitting at home, enjoying life. Then everything changed.

Another cause is the temporary nature of this world. I might be successful today, but that is not guaranteed to last. There is competition lurking around the corner. There is technology, innovation, and shifts in consumer spending habits. One slight adjustment and I could be out of business altogether. Better to gain as much profit as I can in the moment.

In Vedic teachings greed, known as lobha in Sanskrit, is one of the obstacles standing in the way of enlightenment. Lobha is grouped with such things as kama [material desire] and krodha [wrath or anger]. That excessive greed is not helpful is common sense. In his Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas remarks that greed for certain things will actually do a person the most good.

1. Remembering Shri Rama

How can I be greedy to remember? Is memory something we buy at the store? Is there a machine that helps us to remember? Actually, in the course of the day so many thoughts run through the mind. There is focus on the task at hand and then concern over what needs to be done in the future. Thus it is very easy to forget, even something that is so dear to us.

Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord, God in a specific transcendental form. Remembering Rama means thinking back to the events described in the Ramayana and other Vedic texts. It is contemplating His teachings, which mostly came by way of deeds, setting the proper example for others.

“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)

The more a person remembers Rama, the more they stay connected to Him. The more they are connected to Him, the happier they will be. It is as simple as that. The secret behind the transformation is beyond our understanding. But then again, does a hungry person really need to know the science behind food and how it works to satisfy hunger?

2. Serving Shri Rama

The word used by Tulsidas is seva. This is service, and in connection with Rama it is devotional service, which is synonymous with bhakti-yoga. The person who is greedy for seva to Rama essentially wants to remain a devotee. They want more and more service to do.

As an example, the service may begin with a routine of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. After a while, though the routine takes significant time to complete each day, there is a desire to serve more. Maybe the next step is to prepare palatable dishes from scratch and offer them to Rama. This is not only allowed, but recommended. The deity or authorized picture facilitates the process.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Such service qualifies as bhakti-yoga, but with greed there is a desire to serve more. Shri Rama is already pleased with any heartfelt offering, but the person greedy for seva thinks that there are ways to increase the Lord’s pleasure. Perhaps speaking about Him. Maybe hearing more about His glories and those of His dear associates, like Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.

3. Recognizing Rama as the supreme authority

The word used by Tulsidas is sahiba. In general conversation this refers to a boss, the person in charge. We meet so many throughout the course of life. There are the parents in the home, the teachers in school, the superiors at the office, and later on maybe the spouse.

A person should be greedy for recognizing Rama as the supreme authority. The idea is that no single person can be the ultimate authority. Everyone is beholden to someone else. Even the CEO of the successful company has to watch what they say. The customers can change their habits and take their business elsewhere.

Rama is always in transcendental pleasure. He is not compelled to listen to anyone, though for the devotees He is willing to do anything. Greed for recognizing that God is a person is helpful because otherwise the search will continue among mortals for a person with the same characteristics.

[Sita-Rama]That search will always fail. Without greed for the three aforementioned things man will always be in need. They will be guided by desire after desire, and no success will be for their ultimate benefit, hita. The saints are like a broken record in constantly stressing the need for bhakti-yoga, but such repetition is necessary.

In Closing:

With desire after desire to feed,
Not helpful when consumed by greed.

But Tulsidas recommending three,
For struggle no more to see.

That keeping Shri Rama in mind,
And eager more service to find.

As the boss on the highest scale,
Search in any other direction to fail.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Confessions Of A Flawed Human Being

[Sita-Rama]“Tulsi says that one should confess to the merciful Shri Rama about the good and the bad. In so doing the burden of sorrow will diminish, and in that full surrender to the supreme strength will increase and one will become fully satisfied.” (Dohavali, 96)

tulasī rāma k।rpālu soṃ kahi sunāu guna do।sa |
hoya dūbarī dīnatā parama pīna santo।sa ||

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Man is not perfect. To err is human. Even the most sober person, keeping strict attention on right and wrong, pious and impious, is bound to fall victim to desire every now and then. Such as at a gathering where pizza is ordered, the fair thing to do is allow each person the same number of slices. After you’ve had a few, however, you want more. While no one is looking, you take two extra. No one knows the culprit, except you.

[pizza slices]Then there are times when a good deed occurs, but no one is around to see it. While seated on the subway, a lady enters with several small children. She is in a lot of distress. It’s a packed car. Though your stop is a long way down the line, you decide to get up and offer your seat. No one else did the same, though there was ample opportunity. The woman is very appreciative.

Goswami Tulsidas advises that whatever good and bad we do, the Supreme Lord should hear about it. Shri Rama is described to be kripalu, which means “merciful.” The person studied in Vedic philosophy will detect a contradiction. One of the features of God is Paramatma. This is the Supersoul residing within the heart. Paramatma is antaryami, or the great witness. He sees and hears everything already.

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

If Rama already knows everything, what is the benefit of confession? For starters, the guilt from a bad deed automatically diminishes when others are told. That is only natural. Some people hold on to a transgression for years. When they finally tell someone, it’s like a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders.

Secondly, closeness towards Rama increases. He is actually the best friend of every living entity. Not the type of friend that simply asks for things, looking to take advantage. Not the friend who is made only through a shared interest. Not the kind of friend who forgets past favors done for them and only remembers the most recent failure to help.

By sharing the good and the bad, the best well-wisher that is Rama gives inner-strength. The process turns into surrender, where there is humility. The living being has a very difficult time shedding ahankara, which is false ego. When the greatest person hears about our good and bad, humility is bound to increase.

Increased closeness with Shri Rama leads to a sense of peace. The Sanskrit word santosha also means “complete satisfaction.” The idea is not to simply confess and then revert to bad behavior. That is taking advantage of the merciful nature of the Supreme Lord and very little good results. Still, any approach made towards God the person is beneficial.

Similar confessions to anyone else may not yield the same results. Friends and loved ones will look at you differently if they know your darkest secrets. If they find out about the good things you have done, jealousy may arise. There is always a risk, as each person in this world is flawed to some degree.

[Sita-Rama]The Supreme Lord removes the burden of sin, which carries a negative reaction. He rewards good behavior, and the more one confesses, the more chances they have to tell Rama about positive aspects to their daily life. One of the best times to develop this closeness is through the meditation of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Since flawed to some degree,
Risk from your confession to see.

Advantage from there taking,
Or good deeds a jealous friend making.

With Shri Rama not the case,
Foolish pride His company to erase.

More humble, to Him closer become,
Then complete peace sure to come.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

My Body Aches From Mistakes

[Sita-Rama]“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

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Friend1: Have you ever been burned by a politician?

Friend2: Literally? As in did they light a match and chase after me?

Friend1: You know what I mean. Where you invested faith in them. You endorsed them, made phone calls, tried to persuade people to vote. Others tried to warn you against getting so involved.

Friend2: Yeah. Don’t get into politics. These people thrive on lying. Duplicity is dharma for their business. Honesty is adharma. I always compare it to professional basketball.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Complaining about lying politicians is like complaining that the players in professional basketball are tall. The rules of the game are such that shorter or average heights are punished. The taller you are, the closer you are to the basket. The better you will be able to get off shots and rebound misses.

[basketball dunking]Friend1: In politics if you are honest you will get skewered.

Friend2: It takes just one sound bite. Congress proposes a fifty percent increase in spending for the poor. You honestly question the decision. Do we need to spend that much? Can it fit within the budget?

Friend1: Right away you get labeled as being against the poor. You are cruel-hearted. You only care about the rich.

Friend2: Exactly. That’s why there is something called political correctness. People say they hate it, but they reward it at the same time.

Friend1: I was thinking that people get burned quite frequently, and not just by politicians. Someone was your friend for years. Then they betray you.

Friend2: Divorce is the same way. You had such a close relationship that there are children. You would think people would stay linked forever as a result.

Friend1: Not the case. The trust extended in these instances was obviously a mistake. Mistakes that caused pain later on.

Friend2: That is the effect of kama. Not only is there the potential for heartache, but so many reactions gather up. Kama and karma are linked. One drives the other, and then the roles switch. I engage in so many fruitive activities to satisfy a desire. While engaged in those activities, new desires may spring up, as well.

Friend1: Is there no other solution than bhakti-yoga?

Friend2: Why look for something else? You already have the answer. There are many aches and pains from past mistakes. Those mistakes aren’t limited to the current lifetime, either. Goswami Tulsidas says that the mistakes from many past births can be rectified immediately, today, right now.

Friend1: I get it. Through chanting the holy names?

[Sita-Rama]Friend2: And renouncing bad association. Put full faith in Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord. Stay attached to Him through the name, which can be chanted regularly through mantras: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Try to associate with people who have similarly given full faith to Him. It’s a great thing, if you think about it. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes we’ve made. It doesn’t matter how many births we have spoiled. The option is there to be taken advantage of.

In Closing:

From many mistakes making,

Body and mind constantly aching.

Despite so many in the past,

Acting solution there is fast.

Bad association first renounce,

Holy names with clarity pronounce.

Bhakti increasing, Rama rescue giving,

Into better situation forever living.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Snatching Victory From The Jaws Of Defeat

[Rama's lotus feet]“Have fear of Rama, have deep love and attachment for Rama. Tulsi says that without doubt, with full trust in Rama victory will be yours, even when defeat seems likely.”  (Dohavali, 95)

rāmahi ।daru karu rāma soṃ mamatā prīti pratīti |
tulasī nirupadhi rāma ko bhae' hārehū' jīti ||

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So many emotions in a human existence. Not that everything will remain the same. Happy today, but tomorrow might not be so great. Totally distraught recently over an unfortunate turn in events, but the future will change things, even if the outlook is otherwise bleak.

One of those emotions is fear. What will happen in the future? No one knows for sure. The analysts on television try their best to guess. They use intelligence guided by experience. They’ve witnessed the past. They’ve studied what happened in the many years of recorded history. They noticed the patterns of today. Collecting the vast amount of information and analyzing it, they attempt to predict the future.

Yet no one knows for sure. That is a cause of fear. After birth there must be death. At some point this body that is firing on all cylinders will cease to operate. The end is guaranteed, but the exact means and time are not. Every result prior to that inevitable end carries the same lack of certainty.

Mamata is strong affection, to the point of possessiveness. This friend is “mine.” This beloved car belongs to “me.” Though temporary in duration, such possession is real. Otherwise, every person would be entitled to enter every home, at any time. The fourth amendment to the Constitution would not be necessary.

[search warrant]Priti is love. This is the reason for living, is it not? Everyone is going to die, but does this mean that they should never love? After all, the strong attachment in the relationship is guaranteed to cause heartbreak for someone. Why not avoid the situation altogether? In fact, this love is deep within the individual. It is part of their makeup. Even the loneliest person, with a crusty disposition, not caring for anyone, has love for someone or something.

Goswami Tulsidas says to take these emotions and direct them towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Rama. Have full faith, pratiti, in this instruction. From there victory is certain, even when things look bleak. Defeat is heavily favored, but victory still occurs.

One of the most famous examples is Prahlada Maharaja. He had fear for the atheistic, sinful, and ruthless father, King Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada, only five years old, viewed the Supreme Lord as his, and he wanted everyone else to have the same mentality. There was love for God first, and from there the affection descended to everyone else, who are always linked to the Divine in some way.

Defeat was likely. This was because the father was antagonistic. He was against the slightest display of affection towards Vishnu, which is another name for Rama. Hiranyakashipu viewed Vishnu as the greatest enemy. Now the previously beloved son was fully devoted to that Vishnu. The father could not tolerate it.

No problem. Just kill the boy. One issue. Deadly weapons coming from the palace guards. The force of gravity from a high cliff to the ground. The venom of snakes. The strong burning potency of fire. None of these things could gain victory over Prahlada. The boy should have lost, but he won every single time. He didn’t go to extraordinary lengths, either. He simply meditated on Vishnu.

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

[Rama's lotus feet]Not that every devotee will have the exact same experience, but the promise for protection is there. In the form of Shri Krishna God makes the same promise. He tells the beloved disciple Arjuna to declare it to the world that the devotee never perishes. One way to define such a person is to know that they have put all fear, attachment, and love in God the person. The devotional life of the devotee remains for as long as that devotion is desired, through an infinite number of lifetimes.

In Closing:

Love, attachment and fear,

Give to one most dear.

Even mamata possessive strong,

To Shri Rama, of glories long.

Then always in victory’s seat,

Even when likely is defeat.

Like Prahlada over father overcoming,

Defeated the devotee never becoming.