Monday, December 11, 2017

When Friends Turn To Snakes

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that one who has love for Rama should be friendly towards friends, renounce enmity with enemies, and be easy-going, simple in nature, quiet, and equally disposed towards all.“ (Dohavali, 93)

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hita soṃ hita, rati rāma soṃ, ripu soṃ baira bihāu |
udāsīna saba soṃ sarala tulasī sahaja subhāu ||

Fink. Dirt-bag. Jerk. Snake. Someone you called a friend for so long has turned on you. It happened suddenly. You weren’t expecting it. They prioritized a physical object over your association. They told you, “No offense,” as if that means anything. A person tells you that they respect the country and everyone that lives in it, yet they refer to a certain segment of people as racists, without knowing each individual personally. They refuse to honor the flag of the nation in which they live, but when they go overseas they immediately stand up during a similar ceremony.

The changing of the tides is not limited to the oceans. There are ups and downs in a material existence. A friend can become a foe and vice versa. One second there is happiness and the next tremendous sadness. The beginning and end are themselves polar opposite situations: birth and death. The saint Tulsidas says that a person who has love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead remains steady throughout.

He gives specifics on how that disposition manifests. The cause is the most important. There is rati, which means love. This is distinguished from kama, which is lust. We say we love someone that is a paramour, but that affection is known to shift. Otherwise, things like divorce and breakups wouldn’t exist.

[Rama's lotus feet]Genuine rati can only be extended to the Supreme Lord, who in this case is referred to as Rama. This is the manifestation of choice, the ishta-deva, of Tulsidas. It is not that Rama is just a Hindu god. He is the singular Deity manifesting in a specific way, appearing on earth in consideration of time and circumstance. His transcendental features are described in Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Puranas.

Rati for Rama means devotional service. Every good quality emerges as a result; a separate endeavor is not required. In case there is some confusion, some doubt as to what the qualities should be, Tulsidas lists a few.

A devotee of Rama should be friendly towards friends. This only makes sense. They have done some good for me. They have favored me for some reason, and I should respond in kind. Shri Rama Himself behaved this way towards friends like Sugriva and Vibhishana.

A devotee of Rama should renounce enmity towards enemies. Again, Rama is the ideal example. The vile Ravana, the king of Lanka, stole Rama’s wife Sita in secret and tortured her for many months. When Rama won her back, killing Ravana in a fair fight, there was no lasting enmity. Rama did not obsess over the incident afterwards. He even directed Ravana’s brother Vibhishana to perform the funeral rites for the vanquished king.

A devotee of Rama should be easy-going, simple in nature and quiet. Easy-going means that when things aren’t favorable for you, there is no deviation from the path of devotion. Simple in nature means that there are no complicated requirements for living. Rock stars are well-known for making extraordinary requests in the backstage riders they give to venues hosting concerts. Devotees don’t need much, as they are satisfied in simply chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Quiet here does not mean complete silence. A devotee does not speak nonsense. They do not talk simply for the sake of talking. When they speak, it is about Rama, or God. It is about devotional service, the science of self-realization, and the need for breaking free of the cycle of birth and death. Indeed, if Tulsidas were completely silent such instruction from the Dohavali would never have been produced.

[Prahlada Maharaja]One person who meets the qualifications given above is Prahlada Maharaja. His disposition was tested to the extreme. The father, Hiranyakashipu, turned into a violent adversary. The father did not like the devotion to God seen in the child. He decided Prahlada needed to be killed. A snake-like person himself, Hiranyakashipu fed Prahlada to snakes, but there was no effect. Prahlada survived, and eventually Rama appeared on the scene in the amazing form of Narasimhadeva, tearing the king apart from the waist. Despite the atrocities committed, Prahlada did not hold a grudge. This was due to his rati.

In Closing:

Friendly to be towards a friend,

Since in past help to lend.

Their sins only to denounce,

Enmity with enemies to renounce.

Like with Prahlada Maharaja seeing,

Changed not when father like snake being.

Who with different attempts tried to kill,

Steady in mind, son’s heart with rati filled.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Four Things That Will Happen If You Stop Believing In God

[Shri Krishna]“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)

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“I put everything into it. There was full faith, the real kind. I had no other hope. Every other tweak, adjustment, or attempt had no impact. The end was nearing. I turned to prayer. I prayed more intensely than I ever have before.

The result? Nothing. The person succumbed to the illness. They are gone. A tragic death, too. So young. So good. They never sinned in their life; at least from what was known. Everybody loved this person. They leave behind a wonderful, but grieving family.

Maybe God isn’t real. Maybe the way to go is to not believe in Him. Then the results might change. I might get what I want. There won’t be as much heartbreak. It’s not as sad when there is no hope to begin with.”

This hypothetical sequence of events is not uncommon. Without a proper understanding of the spiritual science, the idea of God and belief in Him is relegated to the category of faith. Faith is known to change, almost in the fashion of supporting sports teams and players. One day I have so much faith in my favorite team, but they suddenly decide to not honor the flag of the nation in which they live. I have no choice but to change my allegiance, to move elsewhere.

If I look to God only for stuff, for fulfilling desires, I might similarly be offended when things don’t go my way. From such a turn the results can go in several directions.

1. Find failure

What I wanted didn’t come to be. Without God in the picture, I think the next time will be different. Yet there is every chance of finding failure again. Just look to any atheist. See if they succeed one hundred percent of the time. Even the wealthiest person gets stuck in traffic. They miss flights, stub a toe, get indigestion, and get an earful from their spouse.

2. Find success

No more religion, no more problems. That is the expectation. There is every chance of finding success. For evidence, observing the human population is not even required. Look at the animal community. There are stray dogs in some countries. They get enough food to eat. Their duration of life may not be long. The quality of that living is unacceptable to us, but nature is still there to help them.

The tiger gets sufficient food. So do the trees, some of which stand tall for thousands of years. Where is the prayer? Where is the influence of the Divine? Where is the preacher threatening eternal damnation for disbelieving?

3. Receive happiness and sadness

Success and failure are the outcomes, and happiness and sadness are the connected emotions. I’m happy when something goes my way and sad when it doesn’t. Without following religion I will indeed experience both of these emotions, toggling like a pendulum.

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that happiness and sadness come on their own. They are due to sense perception only, and the timing of their arrival is like the seasons. No matter how much we try, winter will come this year. It will bring cold temperatures. No more playing tennis outside. No more enjoying time in the park. There will be a quick rush to get inside. The car will need to be sufficiently warmed before driving.

[Winter]The same with the summer. I will need an air conditioner, if I don’t want to suffer. I will have to pack up and store the winter coats. The sweaters will do me no good. Different clothing for a different period of time.

4. Miss the valuable opportunity of interacting with Him, made possible in the human birth

As happiness and sadness arrive in either circumstance, there is something more to religion. There is a reason the human birth is valuable. The added stresses and anxieties are due to intelligence, knowledge of imminent death that is lacking in the other species. The human being can rationalize, can make inquiries, and most importantly, can change their outlook.

Belief in God hopefully leads to service to Him. This is a change in desire, from personal to the greatest Personality. The shift is from kama to bhakti. Kama keeps a person vulnerable to defeat, no matter how much the Supreme Lord is called to the situation. Bhakti means always lovingly serving, and maintaining that renewed spirit.

One example is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In bhakti this mantra is repeated as a prayer for the opportunity to continue to serve God the person, who is all-attractive and thus known as Krishna. The energy of God, Hare, helps in the situation.

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

[Shri Krishna]There is no loss in this endeavor. It can be started at the latest point in life, moments prior to quitting the body, and still produce a mature fruit. Kama can be indulged for an entire lifetime and still leave a person wanting, with one fear after another. From the bhakti path the benefits are clear, and the more one serves the more they feel the Divine mercy in every aspect of the life experience.

In Closing:

What influence my prayers they had?

Since left feeling lonely and sad.

Maybe now from religion away to turn,

To try out alone, my way to earn.

Success and failure then surely to find,

But missing chance for peace of mind.

Since this life made for with God connecting,

Who work of His devotees protecting.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Four Reasons Hanuman Is A Wonderful Sight To Behold

[Shri Hanuman]“At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)

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Certain things are just amazing to see. A glacier along the horizon while on a boat in Antarctica. The array of colors from the sunset along the ocean. The sun being eclipsed. The view of the clouds while travelling on an airplane. The birth of a child; that suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a brand new life enters this world.

Though difficult to see with conditioned eyes, with the help of shastra and the spiritual master it is possible to realize how one notable historical personality is one of the greatest sights to behold. The reason is always the same: the link to the Divine in a mood of love and devotion.

1. He is a monkey, after all

The person is Shri Hanuman, and he is in an interesting form. The Sanskrit words to describe him are many. Vanara. Kapi. Hari. These reference monkeys, and in particular dwellers of the forest from an ancient time period. In that form one is able to walk, talk, rationalize, reason, deliberate, along with feel excitement and enthusiasm.

These features help in describing, but what actually defines Hanuman is devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the incarnation of Rama. Hanuman is best known as Rama’s trusted servant, a pure devotee who takes any and all risks in service.

2. He can shrink to the size of a cat

Greatness goes in both directions. It is not that only increasing objects and stature is remarkable. In Hanuman’s case he was a sight to behold when he once shrunk his size to that of a cat. The shift was possible due to expert ability in what is known as mystic yoga. The various abilities are referred to as siddhis, which are perfections. A siddhi is something like getting the highest belt designation in martial arts. One distinction is that there can be many siddhis possessed simultaneously.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman reduced his form in order to better search through Lanka. This particular mission to please Rama involved searching for the Lord’s missing wife, Sita Devi. Hanuman could have torn through the entire city of Lanka with a giant stature, but a smaller size was better suited for this particular phase of the mission.

3. He can expand to the size of a mountain

Indeed, Hanuman had just used a large size to reach Lanka, which was far in the distance from the shore. Expanding his body to mountain-like proportions, Hanuman leaped over the ocean to reach the place where he had to search. Many years later he again showed this wonderful form to the brother Bhima, after repeatedly being requested to do so.

4. He sacrifices everything for Sita and Rama

Large, small, angry, sad, happy, battle-tested - Hanuman goes through so many different situations, all for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord and His wife. Love is an amazing thing to see. It is the reason people in attendance at a wedding shed tears during the ceremony.

[Hanuman's heart]Even a quick look at Hanuman’s deeds described in books like the Ramayana make him very endearing. The more one practices bhakti-yoga the more appreciation they have. In pictures where Shri Rama is worshiped alongside His closest family members, Hanuman is included. The great devotee is usually seen kneeling in front, in a smaller form. Again, Hanuman does this intentionally, for though he deserves the most honor he never seeks it, nor does he want any taken away from the people he loves the most.

In Closing:

As Ramayana events to unfold,

One particular sight to behold.

Hanuman to size of cat shrinking,

At thought of danger not blinking.

Can expand size too, in other direction,

For Rama, never on personal reflection.

Though worthy of honor best of them all,

With couple keeping stature small.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Three Practices Similar To Bhakti That Lack The Same Effect

[Prasadam offering]“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)

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To the outsider something is off. Strange outfits. Non-traditional haircuts. Weird sounds. Sure, they are of Sanskrit origin, but who speaks that ancient language today? Waking up so early in the morning, a restrictive diet, and talking only of one topic. And all for what, pleasing someone that can’t be seen?

Perhaps the secret is in the activities themselves. Try similar things, without the God component, and maybe the same effect will be there.

As man has free will, the potential exists to try anything in a material existence. Proper bhakti-yoga practices are effective precisely because of authority. Guidelines and procedures passed down through the generations, making slight adjustments for time and circumstance, bring everything auspicious and favorable. Similar practices not based on authority don’t yield the same result.

1. Chanting any word, such as “water”

Heavy emphasis is there on the chanting of the holy names. It is said that the name of God the person is non-different from Him. Say the word “Krishna” and you will get Krishna. Say the word “Hare” and you will get the energy of Krishna.

It is seen that the devotees can chant the maha-mantra repeatedly: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There is repetition up to the thousandth factor on a daily basis through japa meditation, and then there is endless singing in kirtana.

The same attempt made with an ordinary word does not yield the same result. Saying “water” will not produce “water.” Nor is it likely that someone can repeat the word over and over, day after day, year after year. The transcendental taste is lacking. Moreover, there is no authority to support the activity.

2. Meditating on just any tree

[Tulasi plant]Another practice in bhakti-yoga is worshiping the tulasi plant. This living being is considered a devi, or goddess. Though the plant can be in abundance, such as in the land of Vrindavana, the identity is singular. Worship of Tulasi is so powerful that the process alone can bring purification. Many celebrated saints of the past would chant the maha-mantra in front of a Tulasi plant; they did not necessarily engage in formal worship in a public dwelling designated for such a purpose.

3. Offering food to just any statue

The guidelines for this process come from the Bhagavad-gita. If there is going to be worship of God, then surely He must be a person. Worship of an abstract is not possible; the same result won’t be there. The Supreme Lord has spiritual attributes belonging to a spiritual form.

He says that if a person offers something simple like water, fruit or flowers, He will accept. There must be devotion, bhakti. The deity is there to help in the process, as in the conditioned state we have a difficult time finding God. Though He is everywhere, we don’t yet have the eyes to notice His presence.

The same process directed to any statue or object will not yield the same benefit. The comparison often made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is to the mailbox. If you drop a letter in just any box, there is no guarantee that the intended destination will be reached. The mailbox is authorized by higher powers for picking up and delivering such letters and packages.

[Prasadam offering]The deity is authorized to accept worship and grant the highest benedictions in life, to make it successful, saphala. In pure devotion the only desire is to continue in service, which is granted through placement in the ideal conditions going forward. Whether in heaven or hell, the devotee following authority always sees their beloved Lord, smiling and granting His endless mercy.

In Closing:

Watching bhakti with skeptical eye,

Maybe similar practices to try.

But the devotional component lacking,

Failure since not through authority tracking.

Like word “water” over and over repeat,

Or in front of any tree taking seat.

Food offered to just any statue resist,

To Krishna relationship must exist.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How Does The Robotic Revolution Affect Bhakti-Yoga Practice

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord. That is a secret of devotional service. Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krishna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 14)

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Friend1: I know that you’re not worried about changing patterns in terms of economics.

Friend2: Where is this coming from?

Friend1: As far as jobs shifting overseas, industries being eliminated through technology and the advancements in productivity.

Friend2: Oh, are you referencing how I like to bring up the fact that over one hundred years ago primarily everyone was involved in farming?

Friend1: Yes. You like to mention the telephone switchboard operators, as well.

Friend2: Yeah, that was a heavily-serviced industry. Those jobs don’t really exist anymore. Machines have taken over. Yet people are still working. It’s stressful, for sure. It would be better if more people were engaged in farming, sustaining themselves through the land, but that is not the case.

Friend1: Rather than get sidetracked into a discussion on economics, let’s focus on the impact to bhakti-yoga.

Friend2: Good. The impact of what, though?

Friend1: The latest buzz is about robotics. Automation.

Friend2: Like the driverless car?

[Robot vacuum]Friend1: Exactly. Things like that. I mean I just bought one of those robot vacuums.

Friend2: Oh? How is it?

Friend1: Not bad, I must say. It doesn’t replace a full vacuum by any means, but it’s great for keeping the place clean on a regular basis. They make ones that mop, too. We’re going to have robots everywhere.

Friend2: That seems to be the trend.

Friend1: What is the impact on bhakti-yoga? Let’s say that I had a machine that could perform arati every morning. This way I wouldn’t have to get up and offer the lamps myself. The machine could make the food to offer, another machine to clean the dishes, and one more for keeping the food fresh for a few days.

Friend2: You already mentioned so many machines. There are different angles of vision here. For starters, there are so many aspects of nature that function on their own. In other words, the Supreme Lord is already being worshiped automatically, without human effort.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: The workings of the material world. Everyone is trapped in maya, which is illusion. That stuff comes from Krishna, after all. They are paying homage to Him, but indirectly.

Friend1: I’m talking about direct worship, though. Programming a robot to do it. Not that I am going down that path, but what if someone does? Is that considered bad?

Friend2: The guiding principle comes from Shrila Rupa Gosvami. If something is unfavorable for bhakti, reject it. If it is favorable, accept it. We use technology already to help us in devotion. There is automation in the printing press that produces books glorifying Bhagavan. There is a computer inside of the automobile that helps us travel to different places of worship. There is automation in the machine that cleans the dishes used for offering food. These things don’t need to be rejected.

Friend1: What is the negative side, though?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: If you use automation as a way to avoid service in bhakti-yoga. As you said in the example, have a machine offer arati; meanwhile, you sleep. Have another machine sing a devotional song, while you’re off doing something else. The worshiping process is for our benefit. Shri Krishna is atmarama, or self-satisfied. He doesn’t need to be worshiped in the temple. He doesn’t require anyone’s service. He accepts it because He knows that will make us the happiest; it is for our purification.

In Closing:

Coming quickly the revolution,

Machines everywhere, automation.

How bhakti-yoga to affect,

Machines always to reject?

Guiding principle Shrila Rupa giving,

That with the favorable living.

Helpful, but not as excuse to skip out,

For our benefit, devotion He can live without.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Burning Fire Of Time

[Shri Rama]“Let me go to hell or have the child of the four rewards devoured by a witch. Let all other fruits be burned, but Tulsi will still have love for Shri Rama.” (Dohavali, 92)

parauṃ naraka phala cāri sisu mīca dākinī khāu |
tulasī rāma saneha ko jo phala so jari jāu ||

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Known as kala in Sanskrit, time can be compared to a raging fire that consumes everything. There is the saying that time heals all wounds. The idea is that whatever bad situation exists at present, with enough moments going by, things will change. That is the nature of a material existence. The winner today is the loser tomorrow. The memory of the heartbreaking defeat is erased through a thrilling victory in the future. Death follows birth, and after death there is another birth.

As time continues to move into the infinite future, results accrued through pious or impious deeds must be temporary. In Vedic culture there are four primary rewards for a human being. They are often referred to as the four fruits: dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

Dharma is religiosity, behaving piously and the like. The benefit here is not difficult to understand. If we do things in a proper way, we get the intended result. Dharma can be something as simple as adhering to stop signs and not going through an intersection when the light is red. It can be as complicated as performing prescribed rituals at the appropriate time and place.

Artha is profit from work. An extension of the translation is “economic development.” Basically, have enough to survive. If engaged in farming, make sure to get a sufficient yield, an amount to maintain the body. If running a business, make sure it is profitable.

Kama is sense gratification, i.e. what is done with the results of work. Artha produces fruits, and kama is the way to enjoy them. Every person wants to enjoy. This is the very essence of living. Nobody wants to suffer. If they accept hardships intentionally, there is always an end-goal in mind that involves pleasure.

Moksha is release from the cycle of birth and death. It is liberation, not having to again seek out the four rewards of life. Birth follows death, and with moksha there is no birth. Nevertheless, this reward is still considered material, as it is the negation of the condition in bondage of birth and death.

These four rewards can be burned away with time. It is possible that even after liberation a person has a desire to again enjoy with a personal identity. Punishments can also be burned by time. For adharma the slated consequence is birth on a hellish planet. There the only enjoyment is the hope of temporary relief from the suffering, which is acute.

[Krishna and Putana]Goswami Tulsidas compares these rewards to children, and they can be eaten by a witch. One famous witch is described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Known as Putana, she would go through the town of Gokula and kill newborn children. She was looking for one in particular, and when she found Him the effects of her tricks were reversed.

That child was Shri Krishna, who is worshiped by Tulsidas in the form of Shri Rama. The poet says that no matter what happens, whatever fruits come through pious or impious behavior, they can be burned up. It is of no concern to him, since there will always be saneha, or love, for the Supreme Lord.

The poet says this very confidently because he understands the truth. The couplet is a subtle warning to any person who still has their heart set on enjoying in a temporary way. From religious behavior so many good things result. There is compassion, kindness, steadiness of mind, and hopefully peace. Yet those rewards can be eaten by the witch that is time.

Devotion to the Supreme Lord can last forever. It never gets burned up, because Rama is Himself time. Kala is the way the non-devoted understand God. The atheists remain obstinate in their denial of the existence of the Divine, but at the time of death they are forced to submit. They see Rama in a very gruesome form, one that is undefeated.

[Shri Rama]Meanwhile, the devotees understand that wherever they end up, they will get to practice devotion. This is provided they have love for God, which is the highest form of living. That love is the ultimate objective of all varieties of religion, even if the respective leaders teaching them are unaware.

In Closing:

Goswamiji very well aware,

That more to life is there.

Than fruits commonly known four,

To think wisely asking before.

To witch that is time food to get,

But like Putana into defeat set.

When bhakti, so love seeking instead,

Constant peace, even death not to dread.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What To Ask For When Approaching The Most Important Person

[Rama's lotus feet]“If Rama is Jagadisha, the Lord of the universe, or if He is the God of earth, giving everyone their share of fortune, then it is very good. But Tulsidas wants only devotion to Rama’s feet in birth after birth.” (Dohavali, 91)

jauṃ jagadīsa tau ati bhalo jauṃ mahīsa tau bhāga |
tulasī cāhata janama bhari rāma carana anurāga ||

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The situation is a large gathering. The patrons are seated in an auditorium, with the main person of interest seated on the stage. They are indeed patrons, as there was a fee charged for entry. For this meeting the people are willing to pay even more than they had to. One by one they step up to the microphone, asking their question.

“Dear sir, for the past few months I’ve been having a lot of trouble at home, with the family. What should I do?”

“Dear sir, my wife and I argue all the time. How to solve the problem?”

“Dear sir, I’ve been working at the same company and position for quite some time. I’d like to earn more money. Please help.”

“Dear sir, my daughter’s marriage has yet to take place. Please arrange everything properly for her.”

This hypothetical scene is not uncommon in the modern day, and in times past the questions were posed to the king. They had jurisdiction over a large area, so they were equipped to find solutions. They had the authority necessary to change behavior, at both the macro and micro levels.

In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas references this kind of thinking, where He addresses the Supreme Lord as Jagadisha. This word means “Lord of the universe.” That vast expanse consists of all the planets. The Vedas describe that there are fourteen planetary systems in the material world, with three divisions.

“The fourteen worlds are enumerated in Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto, Fifth Chapter. The upper planetary systems are (1) Bhu, (2) Bhuvar, (3) Svar, (4) Mahar, (5) Janas, (6) Tapas and (7) Satya. The seven lower planetary systems are (1) Tala, (2) Atala, (3) Vitala, (4) Nitala, (5) Talatala, (6) Mahatala and (7) Sutala. The lower planets, as a whole, are called Patala. Among the upper planetary systems, Bhu, Bhuvar and Svar constitute Svargaloka, and the rest are called Martya. The entire universe is thus known as Triloka.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 5.98 Purport)

[Planetary systems]Jagadisha has control over the entire system. Tulsidas says that Shri Rama, the famous incarnation of God, whose exploits are described in works like the Ramayana and Puranas, may also be considered the lord of earth, Mahisha.

People have different desires. Some want to enjoy in the afterlife, where the exact destination is unknown. There may be elevation to the heavenly realm or demotion to a hellish planet. Obviously, one involves enjoyment and the other suffering.

Some people are concerned with the present lifetime, here on earth. Fix problems I’m seeing now. The afterlife isn’t that important, for the limited vision doesn’t allow seeing that far into the future. In either case Rama is there to do good, bhalo, and distribute rewards, bhaga.

As the wisest person, Tulsidas sees as far into the future as possible. He knows that the best thing for him is anuraga, strong attachment in devotion, to Rama. And not just to the person Rama, but to His lotus feet. This is the secret of life, in fact. Just be attached to the lotus feet of God, and you will be on the highest platform of living.

[Rama's lotus feet]This applies not only to this life, but also to every successive birth, janma. This wonderful couplet also clears any doubts as to the poet’s philosophical conclusion. He is not an impersonalist or a mixed personalist/impersonalist. He is a devotee of Shri Rama, and the most pure one at that, for he has no concern for the material.

In Closing:

So many living entities there are,

On this planet and others far.

Like to a king hosted assembly going,

Ability to grant their wishes knowing.

Since focus on the material none,

For Tulsidas request just one.

Only anuraga to Shri Rama’s feet,

For same in every birth each.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Four Images From Rama’s Time In Kishkindha

[Hanuman carrying brothers]“Abandoning his beggar form and reassuming his monkey form, the elephant among monkeys [Hanuman] placed those two heroes on his back and departed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.34)

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The play of the Supreme Personality of Godhead performed on the stage of the earthly realm, the land of birth and death, is not limited by the properties of that place. That is to say the images remain through the passage of time. First, they are safeguarded in the pages of sacred works like the Ramayana and Puranas. They are additionally passed on in an aural tradition, where people discuss the pastimes of God the person and then share their memories with future generations. The process continues in a chain, or what is known as parampara.

The incarnation of Shri Rama, God in a human-looking form, spent some time in the forest of Kishkindha. You typically wouldn’t find warrior princes in that place, and so a Vanara-king watching from above took note. He sent his chief minister down from Mount Rishyamukha to see what was going on.

1. The brothers looking for Sita

Rama was accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana. Together, they were like fire and wind. The fire was to set ablaze the sinful mark left by the Rakshasa class. For a long time they had been coming to the forests to harass the innocent sages, who had sought refuge there to better concentrate on their service to God. Rama’s arrows were the fire, and those amazing weapons were supported by the equally powerful Lakshmana, who always stayed by Rama’s side.

[Brothers searching for Sita]The brothers arrived in Kishkindha not by accident. They were looking for Rama’s wife Sita, who had gone missing. In this image Rama does not appear very happy. He is looking here and there, with the different objects in nature reminding Him of the time spent with the beloved wife, who was so devoted to Him. The image proves that God thinks as much about His devotees as they think about Him.

“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.30)

2. Hanuman carrying on shoulders

Sugriva was the king of the Vanaras, who were something like monkeys. The Sanskrit word itself refers to a forest-dweller. These were uncivilized human-like creatures that had features of monkeys. The Sanskrit words kapi and hari are also used to identify them, and these words mean “monkey.”

Hanuman was the chief minister asked to learn why these two princes were walking in the forest. Hanuman took on a false guise. His first interaction with the Divine incarnation of Rama involved deceit. That slowly dissipated, as he couldn’t help but praise Rama’s features.

[Hanuman carrying brothers]The Supreme Lord had a sidebar discussion with Lakshmana, where it was discussed how well Hanuman spoke and how valuable such a minister must be. Trust formed immediately, to the point that Hanuman took the two brothers on his shoulders, leaping up to the mountain where Sugriva was.

3. Rama shooting Vali

Sugriva was in Rishyamukha because of a feud with his brother Vali. Unfortunately, cooler heads would not prevail; this was not a conflict that could be resolved peacefully. Rama and Sugriva shared a predicament - separation from the wife. Rama agreed to help Sugriva, and Sugriva would in turn help Rama.

[Rama shooting Vali]In this image Rama is preparing to shoot Vali. The task is a little difficult since the brothers look identical. The plan arranged beforehand was for Sugriva to fight with Vali, and Rama would support from a hidden area. Such a tactic is considered against dharma; it is sinful for the ordinary person. For God, there is no influence of piety or sin. Whatever He does is auspicious. This image shows that He will do anything for those who are devoted to Him. The end result is beneficial to every person involved.

4. Rama giving the ring to Hanuman

[Rama giving ring to Hanuman]Sugriva regained the kingdom, and soon it was time to hold up his end of the bargain. The massive Vanara army prepared to scour the earth in search of Sita. Before they departed, Rama entrusted something very special to Hanuman. It was Rama’s ring, bearing His name on it. It was understood that if anyone were to succeed, it would be Hanuman. This ring would show Sita that he was a genuine messenger sent from Rama.

In Closing:

Most trusted Vanara becoming,

Ring sign that from Rama coming.

In false garb at that first meeting,

But still with pleasant words greeting.

Hanuman on his shoulders taking,

Help for feud of brothers breaking.

Sugriva the kingdom to regain,

Repaying honor to Rama the same.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What About Attaining Good Qualities

[Shri Rama]“The wise who have wanted to know have understood that all regulative principles are meant to lead to one result - having Shri Rama standing in the temple of the mind, holding His bow and arrow.” (Dohavali, 90)

saba sādhana ko eka phala jehiṁ jān'yo so jāna |
jyoṁ tyoṁ mana mandira basahiṁ rāma dhareṁ dhanu bāna ||90||

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“Aren’t good qualities important? You know, not lying, not stealing, being straightforward, non-duplicitous. Why aren’t those the goal of spiritual life? Shouldn’t they be? Are we saying that cheating is okay as long as you are devoted to someone that you and others assume to be God? If the devotees are liars, then doesn’t that reflect poorly on the person they are supposedly serving?”

In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas reveals the truth. This is something he has both been taught and learned through personal experience. The revered poet has a most significant name. It means the servant of Tulasi Devi, the sacred plant who is known to be a great devotee of Vishnu.

The Padma Purana includes a discussion between Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati Devi, where the husband explains that the highest achievement is to become a devotee of Vishnu, who is a personal God. But Mahadeva goes one step further. The statement is incomplete. Superior is a devotee of a devotee of Vishnu.

“In the Padma Purana, there is a nice statement praising the service of the Vaishnavas or devotees. In that scripture Lord Shiva tells Parvati, ‘My dear Parvati, there are different methods of worship, and out of all such methods the worship of the Supreme Person is considered to be the highest. But even higher than the worship of the Lord is the worship of the Lord's devotees.’”  (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 12)

[Tulasi Devi]The name Tulsidas means just that, a devotee of a devotee. From that service everything needed to be known is learned. The saint Tulsidas says that the real purpose of regulative principles, sadhana, is to have a particular image fixed within the mind.

The image is of a beautiful, youthful personality, with a bluish complexion. He is holding a bow and arrow set in His hands. This is no ordinary youth. This is the same Vishnu, but in the transcendental form of Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya.

Tulsidas knows that every good quality comes automatically through such an image. It is a truth that has to be accepted on faith in the beginning, to be confirmed afterwards. The material world is full of duality, after all. What is proper in one situation may not be so in another. I can strive to be an honest person, but sometimes honesty will lead to the death of an innocent person.

Being calm and quiet is appropriate in most situations, but when dealing with a madman yelling and screaming is the only way to effect change. A principle needs to be presented with emphasis to a young child for something important like not putting the hand in fire.

Devotional service accounts for the dualities. It is more important to always be thinking of God. Good qualities can lead to residence in the heavenly realm, but the time of residence there is not fixed. One day the pious credits will expire, thereby bringing vulnerability to returning to the land of birth and death.

[Shri Rama]The person who has the image of Rama fixed within the mind does not take birth again after quitting the body. The Supreme Lord is so merciful that He has many transcendental forms. Having Vishnu, with His four hands, in the mind is just as good. Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one, who holds a flute and wears a peacock feather, similarly brings liberation to the person who has perfected their sadhana.

In Closing:

Why not for good qualities to strive?

Since with piety justice to thrive.

That dishonesty okay saying,

That problems solved through praying?

Tulsidas from teaching and experience revealing,

That world of duality, sometimes pious is stealing.

Good qualities alone not to bhakti the same,

More potency in image of Rama the name.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Four Devotional Services That Can Be Offered In Meditation

[Sita-Rama-Hanuman]“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)

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I don’t have time to visit a temple. There isn’t one near me. I can’t drive yet. My car is on its last legs. There was a massive snowstorm over the weekend, so the roads are closed. I’m too tired to get up. I ate a significant meal last night and I need more time to digest.

In a material existence there are plenty of miseries, and each one can serve as an impediment to doing important work. Nothing should take higher priority to devotional service, bhakti-yoga, which automatically incorporates realizing the self. But life happens. Other factors are at play, which makes it difficult to practice as desired.

The beneficiary of such service is so merciful that He allows for the fruit to result from just contemplating the activities. That is to say meditating on devotional activities can be just as potent as doing them in real life. The tale of a brahmana described in the Puranas is evidence.

1. Washing the temple

This is an otherwise menial task. Who wants to clean? It’s not straightforward work. If you haven’t tidied up in a while, the mission is daunting. There is the saying that you have to make a mess in order to clear a mess. You might have to pick everything up from an area, move it, and then work on organizing from there.

Cleaning for the Supreme Personality of Godhead qualifies as bhakti since the mood is right. There is the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. Purity, both inside and out, helps to increase the potency of devotional practices.

[Sita-Rama-Hanuman]This brahmana simply meditated on cleaning the temple of the Lord on a daily basis. He understood that though the deity representation resides there, it is just like God being at home in a palace. This should be the mood, which helps everyone involved.

2. Collecting water from the sacred rivers

Vedic literature identifies several important bodies of water. They each have some relationship to God, such as the Ganga emanating from His lotus feet, safely brought to this world by Bhagiratha, helped by Lord Shiva.

In rituals aimed at purification of the individual, water from these rivers is required. In ancient times people would physically travel to these places and collect the water in pots. Mantras can also suffice. During his meditation this particular brahmana imagined going to the different rivers and collecting the water necessary for offering to Bhagavan.

3. Offering fruits and flowers

You don’t have to be an expert cook. You don’t have to read cookbooks or watch reality television shows hosted by acclaimed chefs. Some fruit and water suffice to put a smile on the face of the Supreme Lord.

“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)

This brahmana imagined that he offered nice fruits and flowers to God. They say that some type of offering should be made when visiting the temple. Offered in the proper way the resultant items become prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy.

4. Preparing sweet rice with milk and sugar

Devotional service is ever increasing in scope, in terms of the bliss derived and also the level of the practice. Such as with this case, the meditating brahmana wanted to do more and more for Bhagavan. He was not looking to reach an end, where a benediction comes and then everything goes back to the ways of the past, i.e. material life.

He imagined preparing sweet rice with milk and sugar. The best taste is when the dish is cold, so the brahmana touched the rice with his finger to judge the temperature. It was still hot and there was a resultant burn. Upon breaking his meditation, the brahmana noticed that his finger was burned in real life.

[Prasadam offering]In the Vaikuntha realm the Supreme Lord Vishnu took note of this worship and had the brahmana brought to His side. The devotee won liberation, just from meditation. The idea is that God can be seen face to face through meditation, provided the motives are sincere. Outside factors can help, such as good association and residing in a holy place, but when there is a will Vishnu helps the devotee to find a way.

In Closing:

Vishnu helping to find a way,

For devotee desiring to stay.

Even if far away from temple living,

Still chance through meditation giving.

Like brahmana fruits and flowers collecting,

Sacred waters too, Bhagavan not rejecting.

Testing sweet rice the finger to burn,

Spot in Vaikuntha immediately to earn.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Three Modes Of Nature And Their Corresponding Conditions

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The living entities conditioned by material nature are of various types. One is happy, another is very active, and another is helpless. All these types of psychological manifestations are causes of the entities' conditioned status in nature.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)

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A jiva is a conditioned soul. The binary understanding, the simple yes/no switch, if you will, relates to a connection to the Divine. When there is purity in consciousness, which is a symptom of living, the presence of spirit, then there is liberation. In that state there are no conditions in duality, such as birth and death and everything in between.

In the conditioned state there is one misery after another, and the cause is forgetfulness of the Divine. It is something like entering the movie theater and intentionally ignoring what is readily acknowledged and known: that the film about to be shown is a scripted performance, produced with intelligence in such a way as to entertain.

The jiva is conditioned by material nature to continue in the forgetfulness of God. The conditioning itself can be further broken down: namely into three categories. These are the modes of nature, and they have corresponding conditions.

1. Ignorance - helpless

The influence of the modes includes the type of body given, the activities followed after birth, and the state of mind. The three modes are like colors used in a painting. Not everything is pure white or pure black. The colors can be mixed together in different combinations.

The mode of ignorance corresponds to helplessness. The ideal example is the person consumed by intoxicants. They start out dominant over an inanimate object. The bottle of liquor can’t do anything to me. It is just matter, after all. The same with cigarettes.

Yet the effect of overindulgence is so potent that these objects develop a kind of magnetic force, where it is seemingly impossible to step away. The person in ignorance is helpless, as they don’t know what to do. Common symptoms are large stretches of sleep, laziness, and doing things that produce no tangible benefit.

2. Passion - active

Practically every human being begins in this mode. There is a desire, most often to acquire something. I want a toy. I want to go to Disneyworld. As maturity takes place, the desires change. I want a good grade on the test. I want a car. I want a wife. I want to retire.

[follow your passion]The mode of passion involves the pursuit to achieve these desires, leading to an active state. Passion is considered a step above ignorance since there is something tangible produced. The glaring drawback, however, is that desires rarely diminish. They increase in intensity, in spite of success.

3. Goodness - happy

The mode of goodness corresponds to intelligence. I realize that buying the most expensive car won’t really do much for me. I don’t need to work so hard, since at the time of death everything will be taken away regardless. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Divine energy known as Brahman.

I am generally happy, as it is a relief to be free of the traps of passion and ignorance. The athlete works so hard to win a championship, but that memory is quickly erased thereafter. If the next season they lose in the final round, sadness follows. In passion a person basically stays in the same position, win or lose.

I am even more pleased to be free of ignorance. Sleeping the entire day away is no fun. Intoxication didn’t do me any good. The bottle of whiskey lied to me; there was no advancement as a result of indulgence.

From this review goodness looks like the winner, the height of living, but goodness is a mode of nature, after all. This means that the jiva is conditioned by that happiness. A person in that mode may start to feel they are better than others and then fall into activities that keep them conditioned. A person in the mode of goodness is in line to reach heaven in the afterlife, but residence there is not permanent.

“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)

In the liberated state the mode of living is known as shuddha-sattva. This is pure goodness. There is no feeling of superiority to the point of taking part in activities to remain conditioned. There is happiness for sure, but of a different kind. There is activity, but not for the purpose of a temporary, personal result. Sometimes there may be a feeling of helplessness, but it doesn’t last, nor is helplessness actually the case.

In pure goodness there is only service to the Divine, who is actually a person. Since He is all-attractive, one name for Him is Krishna. I may feel helpless in being able to serve Krishna properly, but He appreciates that sentiment and ensures that I will continue to have the opportunity to serve. I am active because I want to please Him. Even if outside conditions inhibit so strongly to the point of preventing me from moving, I can at least chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Krishna's lotus feet]I am happy because I get to stay with my best friend, who is the greatest well-wisher to every person. I feel the pain of separation, but that is also auspicious. I feel others are superior to me since they have a better ability to serve and please Krishna. They simply need to be made aware of their potential, and from there they will quickly pass me by.

In Closing:

From modes of nature three,

Conditions of living to see.

Helpless in ignorance to feel,

In passion like on spinning wheel.

In goodness some happiness got,

But even from heaven to drop.

Only in bhakti, pure goodness the mind,

Lasting happiness, help of God to find.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why Does Krishna Wait So Long To Descend

[Krishna janma]“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.6)

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Friend1: The yada yada hi dharmasya verse from the Bhagavad-gita is very significant.

Friend2: For sure.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Friend1: Whenever and wherever. This implies that God keeps an eye on what goes on in the material world. Though time and karma combine to produce the just results at the appropriate time, there are special occasions that warrant a visit from the Divine Himself.

Friend2: Yes. When He sees fit to appear, He does. Krishna does everything at His own will.

[Krishna janma]Friend1: I’m sure you’ve come across this question. When people read that verse, they immediately assess the situation in the world at present. They most likely notice that irreligion, adharma, is rampant. They know that the saintly class of people requires protection. They wonder why doesn’t Krishna appear right now, to save the day.

Friend2: Reading the descriptions of His past descents, the avataras, is like connecting with Him directly. Even easier is chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: That’s fine. I understand that. Krishna is around already, everywhere. The very existence of life is proof of His presence. I will further refine the question. I know that God the person appears occasionally.

Friend2: In the personal form. The foolish mistake Him for an ordinary being. They fail to realize that His form is changeless and supreme.

Friend1: Got it. Why only occasionally, though? He says in every millennium, sambhavami yuge yuge.

Friend2: And you think that is too long a time, that the gap is wider than it needs to be?

Friend1: You nailed it. Appear more often, please. Occasionally isn’t cutting it [smiling]!

Friend2: Here’s the thing. To you and me, thousands of years is a long time. To the Supreme Lord occasionally can mean even a billion years. He looks at time on the grandest scale, which we should as well. He says that the person who really knows time understands the length of Brahma’s day and night. Brahma is the creator, the first living entity of the material world. He lives for an inconceivably long time. His day is billions of years. Imagine that.

Friend1: By comparison, a day to us is nothing. Twenty-four hours.

[Krishna avataras]Friend2: Exactly. For Brahma, billions of years is like twenty-four hours for us. Imagine, then, what Krishna considers billions of years to be. Due to being conditioned by material nature, we are tricked into thinking that the present manifestation of time will stay forever. Things are bad now, but they could be worse. They will inevitably change. We assign top priority to this lifetime, which we should, but there were many previous existences. There will be lifetimes in the future, too. Properly understanding time is one component of knowing God. The fact that He appears occasionally is great mercy, and He makes sure that those moments don’t get forgotten or lost. That is why there are books like the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Hearing from those works is like Krishna appearing immediately. You and I have the ability to change occasionally to constantly.

In Closing:

In shastra described as occasionally,

Through bhakti changing to constantly.

By works like Ramayana reading,

That message man desperately needing.

Living for upwards of one hundred a year,

But consider countless lifetimes in rear.

For Krishna billions compared to the same,

But can arrive immediately through name.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Didn’t Janaka Take A Huge Risk With The Rules Of The Contest

[Sita-Rama]“The men and women of the city are staring at the lamp of Raghu’s family with love, while they give a bad look to the king of Videha.” (Janaki Mangala, 65)

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Friend1: If you collectively study Shri Rama’s lila, His pastimes, which incident do you think is the most famous?

Friend2: That’s like asking which of your kids do you love the most.

Friend1: I’m not asking about preference. This is not personal opinion, but rather popularity. Think of it like asking someone who they think is going to win the election versus who they are voting for.

Friend2: Oh, I see. Still a tough question, but I’d have to go with Rama’s breaking of the bow.

Friend1: At Janaka’s contest. To win the hand of Sita Devi in marriage.

[Rama breaking bow]Friend2: Yes. It was an amazing accomplishment. It literally could not be matched by anyone, even those who were supposedly feared throughout the world for their strength. Consider this. The king of Lanka at the time had twenty arms. Taking each one of them together still wouldn’t have moved the bow, let alone lift it and apply string to it.

Friend1: And Janaka decided upon the contest because his daughter was special.

Friend2: Yes. He found her in the field one day, while preparing it for a yajna [sacrifice]. He immediately developed affection, and a voice from the sky confirmed that this was his daughter in all dharma [righteousness].

Friend1: Why the contest, though? He wasn’t confident in being able to find a suitable match?

Friend2: Well, the bow was in the family for a long time, passed on through the generations. It originally belonged to Lord Shiva. The story goes that as a child Sita once moved the bow without effort. Amazed by this, Janaka decided that her husband should be a person who could also move the bow.

Friend1: I’ve heard that, too. But I don’t remember seeing it in the Ramayana or Ramacharitamanasa.

Friend2: I think that story is found in another telling of Rama’s life. There are several books out there that go by the Ramayana name in informal conversation.

Friend1: I see. Okay, so let’s discuss the contest itself. Princes from around the world arrived.

Friend2: Yes, and Rama was only there by chance. The Supreme Lord knows how to create the perfect setting. He not only lifted the bow without effort, but there was a lack of investment, as well. It is not like He arrived in Tirahuta specifically for the contest.

Friend1: Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were like bodyguards to the venerable Vishvamitra Muni.

Friend2: He brought the two brothers there. Rama made the attempt at Vishvamitra’s urging, and this only after everyone else had failed to even move the bow.

Friend1: Okay, so that is where I see a slight problem. It sounds like this contest was first-come, first-serve.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: Like sudden-death overtime in hockey. First team to score wins. In this case, the first prince to lift the bow gets to marry Sita.

Friend2: Yup.

Friend1: For starters, it doesn’t seem like a fair contest. If the first person lifts the bow and wins, no one else even got to try.

Friend2: You could say overtime in the NFL is similar. A team wins the coin toss, marches down the field, and scores a touchdown on their first possession. Game over. The other team never got to touch the ball. In fact, this just happened in the biggest game of the year, the Super Bowl.

Friend1: Okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. Football is a product of the material world, a game invented and managed by flawed people. King Janaka is one of the twelve mahajanas described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Friend2: That means he is a great devotee of God. A devotee doesn’t do everything perfectly or fairly or to everyone’s satisfaction. There is duality in the material world, after all. What is fair to one person is unfair to another. The mahajanas are always in the good graces of the Supreme Lord, which is more important.

Friend1: I came at you with the fairness angle, but there is the risk aspect, as well. What if a bad character stepped up to the bow and lifted it before someone of good character could make an attempt?

Friend2: Listen, you’ll be happy to know that the people of the town had similar concerns while the contest was unfolding. Their primary worry was that Rama would make the attempt and fail, thereby immediately disqualifying Him. Once they saw Rama, they knew that He was perfect for Sita. Some people worried that Janaka had screwed up royally, no pun intended.

Friend1: I’m with them [smiling].

[Sita-Rama]Friend2: Their concern is another kind of interaction available in devotional service. It is one of many tastes in bhakti-rasa. When interacting with God, it is not that you simply admire from afar, too afraid to say or do anything. There can be moments of intense worry, such as when the cowherd women thought that Shri Krishna’s arm would get tired holding up the massive Govardhana Hill for so long. In Janaka’s case there was confidence that destiny would sort everything out. By holding a contest, the proper match for Sita would arrive, which He did.

In Closing:

In youth by her moved,

Something special to her proved.

So father the bow contest to make,

Winner the first into air to take.

Not a risk by that decree,

Such as bad husband to see?

Some in crowd with that worry involved,

By prince from Ayodhya resolved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Five Things To Do When Entering A New Dwelling

[Sita-Rama]“May Indra protect you on the East, may Yama protect you on the South and Varuna on the West and Kuvera on the North.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 16.24)

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It’s moving-in day. It was a longtime coming. Enough of living with others. It was nice to have close friends and family around, but you needed some space. You have your own family to start, so it’s nice to get a little privacy, some separation.

When you enter the new dwelling, you are thankful. You appreciate the ability to live in such a place. The wise person is grateful for every day they remain alive, because no results in life are guaranteed. Under the influence of ahankara, the false ego, the individual thinks they are the sole doer, but that is not the case. The modes of material nature must give sanction; they must cooperate.

“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)

[Sita-Rama]On the day of moving in, you realize that nature has cooperated with your desires. What to do now? Who to thank? Whose favor to seek? A long time back the prince of Ayodhya, Shri Rama, was called to the royal palace by the father, King Dasharatha. Before He left, the loving wife Sita offered some nice words for the protection of her dear husband.

1. Seek the favor of Indra

Indra is the guardian of the eastern direction. There are the four directions that we typically consider, but there are in fact ten in total: north, south, east, west, the four corners, and up and down. Interestingly, the name of Shri Rama’s father references these directions. Dasharatha means one who can fight against chariots coming in the ten directions simultaneously. The king earned the name through exhibiting this ability on the battlefield, heroically in defense of dharma, or righteousness.

2. Seek the favor of Yama

Yama is the god of justice, and also the controller of the southern direction. Sita sought the favor of this deva, or god, who is part of the picture commonly referred to as “judgment day.” Yama looks at the balance sheet of pious and sinful deeds and determines the next destination for the just-departed soul.

3. Seek the favor of Varuna

He is the guardian of the western direction. He is also the god of the oceans. With each of these devas there is tremendous potency. They not only grant benedictions to their worshipers, but they have responsibility over important aspects of the material creation.

4. Seek the favor of Kuvera

In addition to guarding the northern direction, Kuvera is the treasurer of the gods. The suras are the good guys; they are associated with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One aspect to the name Bhagavan is aishvarya. This refers to great opulence or fortune. Whatever God has He shares with those close to Him. For the suras the treasury is managed by Kuvera, who is an elevated soul.

5. Seek the favor of Sita-Rama

[Sita-Rama]This is one manifestation of the combination of male-female Divinity. God is one, but He has different aspects. The male side is the enjoyer, and the female the enjoyed. Together they are the best object of worship for every person. Indeed, seeking the favor of Sita-Rama is paramount; no other gods need be approached. They can be respected, but the favor of Bhagavan alone brings everything necessary in life. There is full protection as well, even from demigods who might turn envious, such as in the case of Indra and the first Govardhana Puja. Shri Rama, in His form of Shri Krishna, lifted Govardhana Hill to provide protection from all directions, superseding any authority the devas may have.

In Closing:

Into new home making way,

Towards different directions to pray.

Like to Indra and Yama,

Varuna and Kuvera.

Sita this way when husband called,

Eve of on throne to be installed.

Needed only to that Divine pair,

Like with Govardhana protection there.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How Does Bhagavan Deal With The Mother-In-Law Problem

[Sita-Rama]“Living in the kingdom of the Ikshvakus for twelve years, I enjoyed every delight imaginable to human beings and had all my desires fulfilled. Upon the thirteenth year, the king invited all his ministers to an assembly to discuss the installation of Rama as the new king. When it was thus decided in that assembly that Rama would succeed His father as king, my respectable mother-in-law, Kaikeyi, begged for a boon from her husband.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.4-6)

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Friend1: You ever have someone say bad things about someone that is important to you?

Friend2: What happened?

Friend1: I’m asking you first.

Friend2: Is this about politics again? I told you to let it go. Don’t get so attached.

Friend1: How did you know? Well, it’s not politicians, exactly. It’s people on the radio. I listen to them every day. It’s difficult to not become attached. I don’t like hearing negative things said about them. The ones criticizing don’t even listen. They take whatever story is pushed by some astroturf group and then believe it.

Friend2: It’s the old problem of, “I can say bad things about my family, but you can’t.” It’s one of the great things about having siblings. You can make fun of your parents together.

Friend1: That makes sense. It’s not a new problem, if we think about it. Here’s a question. How does the Supreme Lord handle this?

Friend2: You mean, what is the reaction if someone says something bad about His family?

Friend1: Listen, I understand that He protects the devotees. He is non-envious by nature. Everyone is close to Him; otherwise He wouldn’t expand as the Supersoul.

Friend2: Yes. He is neutral, until someone takes to devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Then that person becomes a friend.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

Friend1: What about within the family?

Friend2: Like with Prahlada Maharaja and the father Hiranyakashipu? Bhagavan incarnated as Narasimhadeva and chose sides. He protected Prahlada by killing the father. Prahlada did not protest.

Friend1: Okay, but not quite what I am getting at. Here we go. Take your classic mother-in-law problem.

Friend2: There are tons of jokes on that subject.

Friend1: I know, since the problem has been around forever. You have the mother and the attachment to her son. Then a new person enters the picture, the wife of the son. She is now taking care of the person the mother was looking after since birth. There are bound to be conflicts.

Friend2: Sure, and in modern times there are issues between the husband and the mother of the wife. These are people meeting in adulthood. There is no prior familial affection. That’s why the word “law” is included.

Friend1: With conflicts you are bound to get harsh words spoken. The wife will inevitably complain about the husband’s mother. She will lodge these complaints directly to the husband.

Friend2: That’s not a fun situation. It’s not the same as if the brother were the one complaining.

Friend1: I know. Who wants to hear bad things said about your parents? How does Bhagavan handle this? Has it ever happened to Him?

Friend2: There are a few instances I recall offhand. There is the incarnation of Shri Rama, who had three mothers in the kingdom. Imagine marrying into that!

Friend1: Sita Devi had the mother-in-law problem times three.

[Sita-Rama]Friend2: Exactly. She was the model wife and daughter-in-law, but she had plenty to complain about later on. Because of Dasharatha’s youngest wife, Rama was banished from the kingdom. Sita insisted on accompanying Him. Husband and wife were essentially homeless because of Queen Kaikeyi.

Friend1: Okay, and we know that Rama considered Kaikeyi just as much His mother as the birth mother, Queen Kausalya.

Friend2: Right, and so even Lakshmana complained about Dasharatha and his giving into the demands of the wife. Rama did not take sides. He respected everyone, but I don’t know of any place where He admonished Sita or Lakshmana for the harsh words they spoke. God is the Supersoul, after all, so He understands what every person is going through.

Friend1: Any other examples?

Friend2: When Krishna descended to earth His chief queen was Rukmini Devi. Their union occurred in an amazing way, with Krishna kidnapping her right before her scheduled marriage to a person named Shishupala. Rukmini’s brother had arranged that marriage, and so he wasn’t happy that Krishna came and took his sister away.

Friend1: Yeah, and wasn’t there a battle after that?

Friend2: Yes. Krishna spared the brother’s life due to affection for Rukmini Devi. Anyway, sometime later there was a disagreement between Krishna’s brother Balarama and Rukmini’s brother, which led to the brother being killed. Afterwards, Krishna did not take sides, because He didn’t want to anger Balarama or Rukmini.

Friend1: Interesting. What lesson should we take away?

[Balarama and Rukmi]Friend2: That in every family there will be disagreements, sometimes to the extreme. The Utopian idea of everyone living in total happiness all the time is ridiculous. Try your best to understand everyone. Keep a level head. Always remain attached to the Supreme Lord and devotional service. Remember that even in Sita’s case the enmity didn’t last forever. When speaking with the dreaded Ravana one time Sita still referred to Kaikeyi as a respectable lady. That should tell you something. In saintly people there is no such thing as a grudge. They wish well for everyone, and in turn those aspiring to follow in their path should tolerate as much as possible, in a way that will help them progress in their quest to please Bhagavan.

In Closing:

Complicated picture to draw,

When in house with mother-in-law.

Having three imagine then,

Like Sita entering Ayodhya when.

Difficulties but grudge not holding,

Like after Rama’s exile unfolding.

Bhagavan different sentiments to know,

Not to this side or that to go.