Saturday, January 7, 2017

Does Krishna At One Point Take The Side Of The Atheist

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul - as in the Vaibhashika philosophy - there would still have been no cause for lamentation. No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duty.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.26 Purport)

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Friend1: Arjuna did not want to fight.

Friend2: Why not?

Friend1: Many reasons.

Friend2: Name a few.

Friend1: Loved ones on the other side.

Friend2: Such as?

Friend1: Cousins. Grandparents. Teachers. These were either directly family or treated as such.

Friend2: He was going to be weak of heart fighting against them?

Friend1: No; he was worried about the consequences to victory. The cost of war. Arjuna was something like a conscientious objector.

Friend2: What other reasons?

Friend1: He threw some good ones out there. If you kill respected people, then family traditions die with them.

Friend2: What is so important about family traditions?

Friend1: They help to maintain peace and order in society. Culture is crucial; otherwise people go the way of the animal, where the only thought is how to satisfy the senses.

Friend2: Oh, that’s good. I like how you threw in the animal stuff.

Friend1: And when family traditions are gone, there is a mixed population. There is unwanted children; those born through kama instead of dharma.

Friend2: That’s true. Every four years I hear the two political parties debate over abortion, but why is there unwanted pregnancy to begin with? Shouldn’t people behave in such a way that they never have to think of ending a pregnancy?

Friend1: Krishna stepped in to deal with the situation. Arjuna had his doubts and he put them to the greatest teacher.

Friend2: What was Krishna’s response?

Friend1: You want me to recite the entire Bhagavad-gita?

Friend2: What were some of the initial arguments given? What was Krishna’s opinion?

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]Friend1: He said that Arjuna should stand up and fight. The first thing taught was the difference between spirit and matter. The individual is spirit soul. They are not born at any moment. Nor can they ever be killed. The body is what gets destroyed when there is death. But there is change happening all the time.

Friend2: From boyhood to youth to old age. So Krishna only argued one point of view?

Friend1: Actually, that’s what I wanted to ask you. I think He took the position of the atheist, right?

Friend2: He did.

Friend1: How does that work? Isn’t that an opposing viewpoint?

Friend2: It was quite brilliant actually. Krishna was making the argument that no matter how you viewed things, the proper course was to stand up and fight.

Friend1: From the theist’s perspective I can understand. The individuals on the other side wouldn’t die. If Arjuna fought in the war, they would be killed and move on to a different body in the next life. Hence no reason to lament.

Friend2: Exactly.

Friend1: How about from the atheist’s perspective, though?

Friend2: The atheist is the opposite in thinking. They are in ignorance. They think the body is everything. They consider every living thing to be merely a bunch of chemicals.

Friend1: Okay, I agree with that, but then why should Arjuna fight if that was his thinking?

Friend2: Does anybody lament for a lump of matter? If we’re all just chemicals anyway, what is there to be sad about? Go through with your duty. Why are you so worried about the feelings of the chemicals on the other side?

Friend1: Interesting.

Friend2: Krishna says that every person who is born must die. Every person who dies must take birth again. What is the fuss over, then?

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Friend1: How about in the larger picture?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Should the atheist follow devotion to Krishna? Should they take up bhakti-yoga? Is this an argument in favor of devotional service, the kind followed by Arjuna?

Friend2: Absolutely. From whatever angle of vision you come, you will be benefitted by submitting to God the person, the all-attractive one named Krishna. If you think the soul is born at some point and then dies later on, you should still chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If you’re concerned with finding happiness for this lump of chemicals, there is no happier place than the shelter of the Divine. Give it a try and you’ll see. In the process your ignorance will dissipate.

In Closing:

Life in bunch of chemicals spent,

So no reason for its death to lament.


Argument of the atheist taking,

Shri Krishna, the most sense making.


Whatever angle, any point of view,

Bhakti right course for me and you.


Soon from ignorance free to be,

And Divine presence everywhere to see.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Five Things That Happen If You Don’t Serve Krishna

[Lord Krishna]“In pure devotional service one comes to the realization that God is great and that the individual soul is subordinate to Him. His duty is to render service to the Lord - if not, then he will render service to maya.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)

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Bhagavan - the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ajita - the unconquerable one. Achyuta - the infallible one. Anadi - the one without a beginning. Paramatma - the Supersoul, as distinguished from the individual soul, jivatma. Deva Deva - the god of gods. Krishna - the all-attractive one.

These are different names for the Divine provided by Vedic literature. Some of these names are used to address the Divine incarnate as He plays the role of chief spiritual master to the world in a conversation held on a battlefield one time. There was only one disciple, but the instruction is applicable to all living beings, from all time periods.

The quick summary to those teachings is that one should be devoted to God in thought, word and deed. With that as the priority, every other issue gets taken care of. As any person can make this claim about their idea of Divinity, one way to get further clarity and understanding is to study what happens when this devotion isn’t practiced.

1. You will succeed

Take a look around you. There are plenty of successful people. They are in various departments of the material creation. Some are great businessmen. They own many large properties. They have a private jet. They have a staff that caters to their every need. They are not satisfied with what they have; they are always looking to increase, to succeed more. Others excel in sports, some in entertainment, and there are even people of modest means who are still famous for showing exceptional ability in a particular area of importance.

Now, do these people talk about God? They may mention Him now and then, but they are not particularly known for their devotion. Rare it is to find someone in this world who is after knowledge of the self, and rarer still to locate someone who has succeeded in getting that knowledge.

Despite not being devoted full-time to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is success. The reason is that you don’t need the Divine’s direct sanction to set a goal and then later achieve it. You will find success, whether large or small, if you neglect God.

2. You will fail

Even the most successful person fails. The rich businessman may have an inkling to run for political office one day. It is not guaranteed that they will win, even if they spend loads of money in a campaign. That same person may also be a failure at parenting; since their business requires full attention. Neglect of family is only to be expected, a sacrifice that unfortunately they have to make.

No one in this world possesses every opulence in full and simultaneously. The beautiful person may not be very intelligent. The strong person may not be very wealthy. As a person will be deficient in some area, it means that they will find failure. The failure could be over something large, like running a business, or small, like missing a flight due to traffic.

3. You will find happiness

When Krishna was speaking to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, happiness was an important issue for the disciple. He was set to proceed in a war that his side was likely to win. That victory would not make him happy, nor would ruling over the kingdom afterwards. As part of His teachings, Krishna brilliantly explained happiness and sadness in a single verse.

“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)

The ways of the material world are that happiness comes on its own. The best example is the rising of the sun in the morning. There is no prayer made for that to happen. There is no work put in to make sure that the bright, soothing, and warm light from the sun appears on time. It happens on its own. The same goes for the seasons, such as with spring and summer arriving to melt the frost of winter.

4. You will find sadness

There is duality in the material world. Paired with success is failure. Darkness is the other side of light. So just as happiness comes on its own, so does sadness. Distress is not directly tied to worship of the Almighty or lack thereof. You are enjoying the warm days of summer, but eventually autumn comes. The leaves change color, and the crisp evening air is still tolerable. Then comes the bitter cold of winter. You are not responsible for its arrival. In the same way sadness comes on its own in the journey through life.

5. You will serve maya

These different aspects of the material world are incorporated into the illusory energy known as maya. Another set of circumstances in duality is birth and death. In between those two events a person meets a variety of experiences. Birth and death, in association with maya, are the result of neglecting worship of the Divine.

[Lord Krishna]Devotional service brings the escape from the cycle of birth and death. It brings permanent happiness, constantly expanding as time moves on, with no negative influence on the transcendental bodies of the people that serve. Krishna Himself is nava-yauvanam, always fresh and new. The gift of eternal youth is granted to the devotees as well, who enjoy the different seasons in the spiritual world, as there is no death for the person who is always devoted to God the person.

In Closing:

Getting from Gita’s final instruction,

Abandon varieties, follow devotion.


From neglect then what to come,

Enjoyment in this world none?


Both success and failure to find,

Happy and sad also in mind.


Illusory energy of maya serve you will,

In bhakti’s bliss time to stand still.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Five Leaves On The Blossom Tree Of Bhakti

[Krishna's pastimes]“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)

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You want to be a good person. You’ve been troubled by what you see on the news. Lying, cheating, stealing. And that’s just the politicians. You read stories that are so obviously biased it’s sickening. It seems like there is no honor anymore in journalism. People do not want to be straightforward, lest they lose the advantage they seek.

How to go about acquiring good qualities? Should a chart be made, tracking progress, such as a young Benjamin Franklin did? Should each week be dedicated to a specific virtue, hoping for a cumulative effect as time goes by?

In shastra from the Vedic tradition it is said that all good qualities come to a person through directly approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead and serving Him. That service is known as bhakti-yoga, and it is compared to a blossoming desire tree. For that tree to exist, the seed of the creeper must first be given. The spiritual master is the distributor, and from the properly nourished seed so many good things can come.

1. Knowledge

The seed of the creeper is a metaphor. The spiritual master, or guru, gives something tangible. In the Bhagavad-gita, the advice is to approach such a person in a humble way. Don’t simply challenge everything they say. Inquire submissively.

“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)

Question and answer. The answers represent knowledge, jnana. The first piece of information given to the aspiring transcendentalist relates to identity. Who am I? The answer is, “Spirit soul, part and parcel of God.” From there even more knowledge is revealed. There are many leaves on the blossom tree of bhakti that relate to different departments of knowledge, such as time, karma, birth and death, and the three modes of material nature.

2. Renunciation

It’s difficult for the knowledge to have an impact unless there is renunciation. Someone gives me the knowledge that eating too much sugar is harmful. It spikes the blood sugar level too quickly, and too much fluctuation is not good for the health.

Unless I put the principle into effect, the knowledge has little value. In this case the result should be voluntarily accepted renunciation, known as vairagya in Sanskrit. Renunciation is one of the more difficult opulences to acquire, as we are surrounded by objects with the potential for attachment. One need look no further than the online retail outlet. They sell millions of items, meant to bring enjoyment of some sort. What is easily forgotten is the joy that can come from having very little, as the simple life affords better concentration on things that matter.

The practice of bhakti automatically brings renunciation. This is because the sole objective is to please the Supreme Lord. Not that there is only one way to bring a smile to the beautiful face of the Almighty, but when there is such focus, things that were previously important no longer have the same priority. So many leaves on the desire tree sprouted from the seed relate to renunciation of different things.

3. Remembrance of God

Knowledge is not limited to the phenomenal world. I am spirit soul, at present encased inside a covering composed of different gross and subtle material elements. God is also spirit soul, except there is no difference between body and spirit for Him. All dualities, all dichotomies, all contradictory principles - they are part of the material world only.

[Krishna lila]There are so many leaves on the bhakti tree that are about remembrance of God. He has many pastimes. He has many aspects to His transcendental body. He has said so many things. If you pluck one leaf off the tree, it is not like debiting from a bank account. Remembrance of God continues to expand, as He is infinite.

4. Love for the guru

The spiritual master is responsible for the tree. There is no other way to get it. In special circumstances, the Supreme Lord gives knowledge directly, such as with Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Even then a spiritual master was present. Krishna was the guru. The idea is that through mental speculation alone we can never know someone who is beyond the limits of infinite time and space. We cannot understand what a spiritual form is while we are embodied, either mentally or physically.

The more we remember God, the more we appreciate the person who facilitated that remembrance. We honor the guru by passing on the transcendental wisdom to others. Not everyone has the qualities to be a strong leader, a teacher of many students. Yet just by following the regulative principles of bhakti life a person teaches others. Through their good qualities they give a glimpse of what is in store for the person who carefully nurtures the creeper of devotional service.

5. Endless opportunities for service

Traverse the tree. Go down one branch. Follow another one upwards. You’ll find limitless opportunities for service. Any single leaf is sufficient for bringing eternal happiness. If you find one leaf that says to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” you can do that for this life and many others and not be lacking anything.

Another leaf says to offer flowers to God. Another says to serve others who are trying to nurture their own creeper of devotional service. Another leaf recommends writing down your realizations about God, to help you to justify the practice to yourself. In the material world the gift of a tree is temporary. In the autumn the leaves change color and fall off. There is the winter known as death, where the living entity has to change bodies completely.

The blossom tree of bhakti stands for as long as the individual desires it to be there. Bhakti-yoga is the eternal engagement of the soul, its dharma. It is the true promise land, and a person doesn’t have to wait until the next life to reach it.

In Closing:

Fortunate when guru this life to save,

Creeper of seed of bhakti to me gave.


Nurtured by practices following through,

So many leaves, knowledge and renunciation too.


Not like material tree dying in December,

Eternal, many chances for God to remember.


Serve by chanting, cooking, this way and that,

Happily traversing leaves, up down and back.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Five Ways To Understand The Concluding Verse Of The Bhagavad-gita

[Lord Krishna]“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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The friend was distressed. It was the biggest moment of his life. So many memories helped to increase the weight on his shoulders. There was the poison cake offered to his brother Bhima during youth. There was the house made of lac, intentionally built as such to burn to the ground while the brothers were inside. Their mother was always with them, and she was a widow.

Then there was the embarrassment of the wife Draupadi, in front of so many people in an assembly. The brothers got kicked out of the kingdom for thirteen years. Nothing was easy for them. Despite the difficulties, Arjuna stayed on the pious path. He did not deviate.

Now it was time to end things once and for all; to reverse the trend. Arjuna’s cause was right. They had not attempted murder. They were not arsonists. They were not thieves occupying land that didn’t belong to them. The other side was guilty of these things. Arjuna was set to lead his side to victory.

There was one problem. Weakness of heart. Arjuna did not want to go through with it. Why kill so many people? Why do it just for a kingdom? Arjuna had the spirit of renunciation in him, despite belonging to the kshatriya, or warrior, occupation. Rather than act whimsically, the son of Kunti Devi put his questions to his charioteer, Shri Krishna.

The person who had always been a great friend and relative was there to guide him. In a departure from their relationship, Krishna became the acknowledged teacher and Arjuna the humble and inquisitive disciple. Krishna went on to explain many things, secrets of living that every person should know. Despite all the nuance and intricacy of high topics, in the end Krishna told Arjuna to simply abandon all varieties of dharma and surrender unto Him. There was no reason to fear; Krishna would protect.

1. Give up dharmas that bring only temporary benefit.

The dharma of fire is heat and light. The dharma of water is wetness. Of the kshatriya it is heroism, courage, offering protection and giving charity. In this way we understand that the Sanskrit word dharma refers to an essential characteristic. The defining feature in an object - that is dharma.

Krishna advises Arjuna to abandon all varieties of dharma. Sarva dharman parityajya. These dharmas relate to different situations of temporary benefit. For instance, there is a dharma for someone who wants wealth. They should act in a certain way. It is not just left up to chance. The same goes for the person who desires knowledge. There are dharmas for the different stages of life, like being a student or living with a spouse.

These conditions relate to the temporary body. Find something higher. Work for Shri Krishna and come in contact with the dharma of the soul, which is the essence of identity.

2. Stop viewing spiritual life as a faith

Dharma also gets translated as religion. The meaning is basically the same; a set of guidelines and procedures meant to bring about a specific characteristic or objective. Religion is typically viewed as a faith. I am a Hindu. I am a Christian. I am a Jew.

Faith can change. It is something like picking a team to support in professional sports. Real religion is dharma, and that dharma is sanatana, or never changing. It is the same for every single person. Arjuna should give up any idea of religion as faith and follow Krishna, who is the all-attractive Almighty, the one God that is worshiped by every person already, either directly or indirectly.

3. Convert the consciousness to eternal life

The person who views religion only in terms of faith might object to this verse from the Bhagavad-gita. It seems that Krishna is insisting that everyone convert to Hinduism. Even people within Vedic culture might worship other devas, or gods. Krishna is introducing sectarianism, they will say.

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

[Lord Krishna]In fact the only conversion is in terms of consciousness. Abandon all other dharmas that keep the consciousness fixed on the temporary body, living in this temporary life. Go towards eternal life. Be conscious of the one who is responsible for both the material and spiritual worlds.

4. Bhakti is something to continue lifetime after lifetime

Incorporated in that surrender specifically for Arjuna is getting up and fighting against the enemy. He should continue forward in honor of Krishna. The Supreme Lord will protect him. More importantly, that service will never end. After victory over the rival party, Arjuna and his brothers will continue to be devotees.

Bhakti-yoga, which is another way to define the real religion, continues lifetime after lifetime. The engagement matches the nature of the soul, who is sanatana. The soul never comes into being and it never dies. Never was there a time that the soul did not exist, nor will it ever cease to be in the future. Bhakti is the nature of the soul at all points in the infinite time continuum.

5. You don’t have to change your occupation

It is important to understand that although Krishna told Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion, Arjuna did not change his occupation. The warrior didn’t suddenly turn into a renounced yogi. He did not become a brahmana, or member of the priestly class. He was a disciple to the timeless wisdom spoken by Krishna, but he was not your typical student. He was not of the occupation that is expected to learn the Vedas and teach it to others.

Arjuna stayed a warrior and he is still considered among the greatest transcendentalists. The idea is not to change faith, change official religion, or even change occupation. Just change the consciousness. Abandon the hope of enjoying permanently in this world. Abandon the idea of competing with God in areas of opulence such as beauty, strength and wealth. Surrender the fight at the feet of Krishna and let Him guide you. He guided Arjuna directly and today the same guidance is there through the representative, who has himself abandon all dharmas in favor of devotional service.

In Closing:

To surrender from final verse seen,

But what exactly words to mean?


Like faith, following preferred team?

Or sectarian God, exclusive and mean?


Dharma no longer as faith view,

Eternal soul identity of me and you.


Permanent happiness in any occupation so,

Change consciousness, towards spiritual to go.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Five Objections To Practicing Bhakti Yoga

[Krishna's lotus feet]“In the material world the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest are laws because in the material world there is disparity between conditioned souls due to everyone's desire to lord it over the material resources. This very mentality of lording it over the material nature is the root cause of conditioned life. And to give facility to such imitation lords, the illusory energy of the Lord has created a disparity between conditioned living beings by creating the stronger and the weaker in every species of life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.15.25-26)

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Reincarnation. More easily understood as “the changing of bodies.” There is the individual, who is spirit soul. There is the body, which is like a set of clothes worn by that soul. The clothes continue to change; they don’t remain the same. Within one lifetime there are so many changes, and at the time of death there is a complete renewal, giving up one body in favor of another.

This truth is the basis of the spiritual science. It is the introduction to a whole new world, one we are actually familiar with but have forgotten for a long time. That world is available for every person, as it corresponds to the very nature of the individual.

The exercise to facilitate the return travel to the highest destination is described by such terms as bhagavata-dharma and bhakti-yoga. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates these to mean “Krishna consciousness” or “devotional service.” There are some common objections raised to practicing bhakti-yoga, and studying these helps to better understand the universal nature of the practice.

1. I already have a religion

“I am of such and such religion. How do I know, you ask? Because my parents are from that religion. I know, I know. Some people are from mixed families. The mother is of a certain religion and the father a different one. Still, they are the ones who decide how the children will be raised. I will make the same decision sometime in the future, when I have children of my own. I don’t need to convert to an Eastern religion in order to feel happy.”

As described above, the foundation of the spiritual science is something applicable to all living beings. There is no sectarian designation involved. One of the most famous speakers of this truth, Shri Krishna, did not qualify His remarks by associating them with any particular religion. Bhakti-yoga is for everyone. It is the complete picture to the abstract given by other traditions. There is no conversion required in the traditional sense. Simply the consciousness has to change; from material to spiritual.

2. God put us on this earth to enjoy

“I get that you want to serve God, but your way is too restrictive. What is wrong with eating meat? Who cares what you put in your body? I don’t see a problem with indulging in alcohol every now and then. I believe in God, and I believe that He put us on this earth to enjoy. He derives great pleasure by seeing our happiness. I don’t see the need to suffer so much.”

This objection is in response to the concept of tapasya, which is austerity or penance. Tapasya is a key factor in clearing the consciousness of dirty things. Moreover, the basis for the changing of bodies, the catalyst for the cycle of reincarnation, is the desire to enjoy separate from God, to lord it over the material resources.

He is originally a person. Since He is all-attractive in His transcendental body and activities, one name to address Him is Krishna. As soon as there was a desire to enjoy separate from Him, the descent to the material world took place. In that world there is surely happiness, but it is mixed with sadness. There is both pain and pleasure. Everything is temporary, so nothing good can last forever.

[Krishna's lotus feet]The Supreme Lord does indeed want us to enjoy, but forgetting Him is not the way. That sort of enjoyment is illusion; maya in Sanskrit. I skip a day from school. I enjoy staying in bed and watching television for hours. There is temporary enjoyment. But on this day there is a big exam in one of the classes. By failing to appear, I have now failed the class. I will have to make it up at some point in the future.

“O best of the Bharatas, now please hear from Me about the three kinds of happiness which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which he sometimes comes to the end of all distress. That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.36-37)

This is a rough analogy to explain how the happiness in illusion, through forgetting the Supreme Lord and His all-attractiveness, only brings misery upon misery. Bhakti-yoga is the way to eternal happiness, and that suffering in the beginning actually leads to nectar in the end.

3. I worship God through being a good person

“I don’t need to specifically practice bhakti-yoga, as you define it. The entire world is God’s creation. I take care of nature. I take care of my fellow man. I help the poor and the downtrodden. It is better to offer food to the homeless than to some statue in the temple. You are misguided in your devotion. You are focusing on some image of God at the expense of the creation of God.”

Indeed, this argument is seductive, as there are so many people suffering in this world. The desire to help others is only natural. It is a part of the overall essence of the soul, its dharma, which is to serve. The problem is that by myself I don’t know how to help others.

I can give them food, clothing, shelter, money, medical care, but does that help them to escape from the cycle of birth and death? By only taking care of the environment, will reincarnation end? Will people’s karma suddenly be cleansed? Or will they simply take advantage of the situation to continue to forget God more and more, to enjoy in the way of the second argument?

Bhakti-yoga is something like watering the root of the tree instead of nourishing some of the branches alone. You can try to take care of the branches, but the proper way is to feed the roots. Similarly, by worshiping God directly everyone else is automatically satisfied. The devotee is a symbol of sacrifice, and their single offering to the deity representation, genuinely made, does so much good for society. The proper eyes are required to see this.

4. I can’t give up eating meat

“Listen, I get your restrictions. I’m not objecting to them. The problem is I don’t think I can ever give up eating meat. It’s just a part of who I am. God bless you guys for what you do, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be on an equal level.”

As bhakti-yoga matches the essence of the soul, no single rule or regulation is required for its exercise. In its purest form, devotional service is unmotivated and uninterrupted. Still, there are certain practices that help to speed up the process of purifying the consciousness. One of them is the restriction on eating meat.

“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)

Actually, the strength of this regulation rests upon the avoidance of violence. Consumption of the flesh of animals who have died naturally is not nearly as harmful. Compassion is one of the pillars of religious life. This regulation helps to build that, but even if a person is not able to follow every rule, they should still take up bhakti-yoga. Only in devotional service does the object of service offer amazing help. He is capable of providing the most help, in fact, so no effort made to please Him is ever wasted. Sincerity is what counts. Even the person who practices and slips up in a big way eventually corrects themselves.

5. I will never become a guru like you

“I get the teachings. Trust me, they are amazing. I have never heard stuff like this before. I wish they would talk this way in my church. So many people would understand religion better. They would be more apt to believe in a higher power, which would automatically make them better people. But I don’t think I will ever become a guru like you. There is just no way. I am too fallen.”

This objection is similar to the one just mentioned. Bhakti-yoga is distributed through bona fide representatives, people who live devotion and want the best for everyone by seeing them take up the same service. The teacher ideally follows the rules and regulations, and due to their connection with the Divine consciousness they are able to speak eloquently and dismiss all doubts a person may have.

As mentioned before, bhakti-yoga is not dependent on anything. Even a child can practice it. Scholarship helps in convincing others and defeating bogus philosophies, but all a person has to know is that God is a person and that people should be devoted to Him. Detailed knowledge, jnana, is not required. Neither is renunciation. Devotional service is there for everyone, and even a little practice brings so much benefit.

In Closing:

Why bhakti practice like you the same?

Already religion from my parents came.


To this world to enjoy God sent,

Why in torture and renunciation spent?


Never to become guru like you,

Too difficult, much knowledge needed too.


Devotion actually dependent on factor none,

From little sincerity so much benefit to come.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Five Reasons Shri Rama Has The Best Brothers

[Bharata meditating on Rama's sandals]“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

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They can be a friend, but the relationship goes deeper than that. If they are younger, then you have known them from the beginning of their life. If they are older, including the parents they are the first people you have known. You go “way back” with your other friends, but you can’t go any further than the time of birth.

You may get into arguments from time to time. You may claim to hate them for the way they behave, but deep down you love them unconditionally. This is the gift known as the brother. It is indeed a gift, since no payment has been made to get it. By your good fortune, perhaps a reward for something you did in a past life, you get a friend within the family.

The Supreme Lord is a person originally, that is when the veil of abstraction gets removed. When a person sees through the bright effulgence of spiritual energy known as Brahman they come upon a transcendental personality, who has identifiable features that can be contemplated, studied, appreciated, and remembered.

To easier facilitate that remembrance, God the person sometimes descends to this earth in a personal form. He does not assume the material elements, as the less intelligent would have you believe. Since He descends, the personality is known as an avatara. The avatara of Shri Rama is unique because three brothers accompanied Him. They simultaneously appeared in the house of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is God Himself and the three younger brothers partial incarnations. Due to His Divine nature, it is not surprising that Rama has the best brothers in the world.

1. They live up to the name Ramanuja

The name Ramanuja can apply to any of the three brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana, or Shatrughna. In Sanskrit the elder brother is agraja, which means “the first born.” Anuja is the younger brother, and the word hints at following, anu. The elder leads and the younger ones follow. This is the natural order of things. There is the common joke that parents make all of their mistakes on the first born. By the time the other children arrive, they have more knowledge on how to raise children.

The leader takes the arrows. In Rama’s case, there was the difficult task of living up to the virtue of the sparkling dynasty that once featured King Raghu. As His actions are effortless, there was no problem for Rama in this area.

“If I narrate about Rama, her dear husband whose actions are effortless, she will not be frightened, as her mind will be absorbed in thoughts of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.41)

The brothers did not let Rama down. They also behaved piously, attentively listening to the spiritual guide in the family. They never betrayed their elder brother. In youth the four split up into pairs as far as association. Lakshmana was attached to Rama. Bharata and Shatrughna were always together. But Rama remained at the center.

2. They protest injustice

One time Rama was exiled from the kingdom. The stipulation was that He live in the forest area like a roaming mendicant. Oh, and He was to do this for fourteen years. The order was instigated by Queen Kaikeyi, who was the youngest of three wives to Dasharatha. Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata, while Rama was the son of Queen Kausalya. There was some rivalry there for a moment, and jealousy drove Kaikeyi to ask Dasharatha to punish Rama in that way.

Lakshmana strongly protested this order. He was ready to stage a coup, to install Rama on the throne by force. Rama had no issue following what the elders had desired, but Lakshmana could not stand the injustice. Bharata, the apparent benefactor of the plan, also was extremely upset when he came to know what had happened. He was so angry that he ended up renouncing his own mother.

3. They show incredible intelligence as it pertains to dharma

Rama left for the forest. His wife Sita accompanied Him. So did Lakshmana. They both insisted on coming along; they wouldn’t let Him leave alone. Bharata didn’t get the chance to do the same since He was away on business when everything went down. When he returned home and learned what happened, he went to find Rama in the forest. By this time King Dasharatha had passed away, his heart torn to pieces by the separation from his eldest and most beloved son.

Bharata argued strongly in favor of Rama returning. He put so many intelligent words before his elder brother. He even suggested that he take Lakshmana’s place and suffer for the fourteen years. In the end a compromise was reached, where Rama would rule Ayodhya symbolically until His return. Bharata took Rama’s sandals and placed them on the throne, while he remained secluded in a hut, constantly meditating on Rama.

[Bharata meditating on Rama's sandals]On another occasion, Lakshmana offered wise words to Rama as a way to pacify the Lord’s anger. Sita mysteriously went missing from the forest and Rama was ready to destroy the entire world as revenge. Lakshmana had always listened well to Rama’s teachings and that occasion afforded him the opportunity to repeat some of those wise words back.

4. They are ready to suffer for Him

Already we have seen the willingness of Lakshmana and Bharata to undergo suffering to spare Rama. Shatrughna one time also made a great sacrifice. This was after the exile period, when the four brothers were happily reunited in Ayodhya.

There was a bad character known as Lavanasura causing trouble in a certain part of the world. Rama brought up the need for one of the brothers to go and take care of the situation. They were members of the kshatriya order, which meant they were in charge of protecting the innocent.

Shatrughna ended up volunteering himself for the mission. This meant separation from his brothers for a long time, as he had to not only defeat Lavanasura but then take care of the area afterwards. Shatrughna did not want to leave, but to please Rama he was willing to do anything.

5. They are always thinking of Him

The brothers deserve tremendous credit. Each one of them alone makes for an ideal object of worship. They are highly skilled in battle, doing the family line proud with their heroism. Yet to them there is only one thing in life: Rama. They are always thinking of Him. Partial Divine incarnations of God always thinking of the Supreme Lord.

We living entities in this world are also expansions from the original being. We are not direct expansions, but we have similar qualities to the Supreme Lord. The ideal use of the existence is to be in service to God the person in a mood similar to the brothers in Ayodhya. Indeed, the bona fide representatives in this world behave the same way. They protest injustice, sacrifice so much, and are always thinking of God. They help others do the same by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Finally getting four sons did he,

Best brothers in the world to see.


Rama to King Dasharatha the dearest,

Bharata and Shatrughna, Lakshmana to Him nearest.


Wise words sometimes repeating,

Evil Lavanasura in land defeating.


For sake of Rama anything to do,

Divine representatives same way too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Five Arguments In Favor Of The Existence Of God

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The common man also knows that the creation is made by some creator and is not created automatically. We have no experience in the practical world that a thing is created automatically. Foolish people say that the creative energy is independent and acts automatically, as electrical energy works. But the intelligent man knows that even the electrical energy is generated by an expert engineer in the localized powerhouse, and thus the energy is distributed everywhere under the resident engineer's supervision.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.4.6 Purport)

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A religious man enters the room. Their outfit is interesting, that’s for sure. Saffron robes. Beads around their neck. A shaved head with a symbol mark painted right above the nose. They are holding a small bag, with most of the hand placed inside of it. When not talking to others they are muttering to themselves. If you listen carefully, you can hear what they are saying: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The curious person approaches with their most burning question. It’s something every intelligent human being has asked at one time or another. “Dear sir, can you show me God?” The religious person obviously believes in a higher power. If they are dedicated to the point of wearing an identifiable uniform, surely they won’t object to being asked this question.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, one of the more famous people to wear such a dress indicating participation in an ancient tradition that traces back to the Almighty Himself, would often answer with questions of his own.

“Do you have the eyes to see God? What is your qualification? Is God such a cheap thing that He must show Himself at your command?”

[Shrila Prabhupada]Indeed, one of the defects in man is imperfect senses. We need eyeglasses to see properly as we age, but even so-called perfect vision is limited. We can’t see through walls. We can’t see what is going on across the world. How, then, can we see someone whose transcendental body consists of the entire creation and more?

Applying some rational thought and asking some intelligent questions, we can be more sure of the existence of the Divine. Reviewing some of these questions helps to increase our qualification so that one day we will be able to notice the Divine in everything, being conscious of Him at every moment.

1. The death sentence given by judges

One of many dividing lines between political conservatives and liberals is the issue of the death penalty. One side is in favor and the other is completely against. Regardless the opinion, it is acknowledged that there have been many death sentences handed out in the course of human history.

A question may be asked. Of all the judges who have handed out such a sentence, how many were actually an eyewitness to the crime? If any were, that involvement in the case likely disqualified them from acting as the principal adjudicator. Despite not actually seeing with their own eyes what happened, they gave the harshest punishment to the guilty.

The idea is that we don’t have to necessarily see something directly in order to believe in it. Taking the word of authority is sufficient. Shrila Prabhupada and others claim to have seen God. They say they have the secret to allow any person to see Him all the time. Others have followed their teachings and been transformed. That is a good start in believing that there is a higher power.

2. Everything we want exists

I want to fly. I want to eat pizza. I want three hands. I want to sleep for hours. I want to go to the moon. We may not get what we want, but those things do exist. There is such a thing as a hand. There is something called pizza. We may never see the desire manifest, but the concept is there; otherwise we wouldn’t desire it.

[Krishna's lotus feet]If everything that we want exists, why would the lone exception be God? Why can’t He be all-attractive, with a blue complexion, wearing a flower garland around His neck, with beautiful and soft soles, carrying a flute in His hand, and sporting a peacock feather in His hair? Why is the Divine the one thing that can never exist that we want the most?

3. Intelligence embedded in nature

The sun has certain properties. It is so powerful that from a great distance it can provide heat and light to billions of people. It never runs out of energy. It doesn’t need to be refueled. There is no maintenance plan for the sun. Do we know of any other object in nature that is similar? We try to dissipate the darkness of night through artificial lighting, but no amount of light bulbs could ever do what the sun does every single day.

The sun is but one amazing aspect of nature, which is full of intelligence. That intelligence is so great that we can rely on it. We can spend many lifetimes studying it. In no other area of life do we see intelligence result from randomness. Particles don’t just accidentally collide to create the smartphone, the script for the blockbuster movie, or the speech delivered on foreign policy. There is intelligence everywhere, and no one can trace out the source. Indeed, that source must be the most intelligent being.

4. Proving the deathless person

Revisiting the original question, what if the guru were able to show me God? Let’s say that he called upon the all-attractive one, Shri Krishna, to appear before me. What a wonderful benediction. I feel so blessed. Graced with the Lord’s presence, one of the first questions I will ask Him is to prove His deathlessness. Since I demanded the guru show me God, it is not a stretch to think I will be just as challenging in the presence of the Divine Himself.

How exactly is Krishna going to prove this to me? How can He give me evidence that He will continue to live forever? I myself have to die. If we stay together for one hundred years, is that proof? What about a thousand years? If I have to quit my body at some time, how will I get evidence that God continues to stay where He is?

5. The availability and price of the things we need in life

This argument comes from the esteemed Goswami Tulsidas. Another famed spiritual personality in the line of devoted followers of the personal God, Tulsidas remarks that he knows that Rama is God, the one of full transcendental pleasure, because He has made the necessary things in life relatively inexpensive and high in quantity.

Think about it. Gold, jewels, fancy cars, large homes - we can live without these things. They are luxuries. Therefore they are expensive. Fruits, grains, water, milk - these are relatively inexpensive. Water is the most inexpensive thing to consume, as it falls without cost from the sky. Non-vegetarian food is naturally more expensive; further proof that it is not required for the stability and longevity of the body.

This particular argument can be extended to the different ways to understand God. The long and difficult processes are not necessary. They are more expensive in the sense that more is required from the individual. You can know that God is a person and the most kind benefactor from the fact that the way to connect with Him has been made easy to find and inexpensive. Just chant the holy names. Repeat the transcendental sound vibration and get acoustic proof of the Divine.

From this simple process enlightenment will gradually come, and soon your conviction in the existence of God will be so strong that no one will be able to convince you otherwise.

In Closing:

If now believe in God you can’t,

Just regularly holy names chant.


Arguments there also for understanding,

Like non-witness judge punishment handing.


Everything desired existing to see,

So why not also Supreme Lord to be?


Relatively abundant and cheap what we need,

Like bhakti also, of Divine paths at the lead.