Saturday, January 21, 2017

Can You Explain Your Problem With Democracy For Me

[Pandava brothers]“The Battle of Kurukshetra was planned by the Lord to establish the real representative of the Lord, Maharaja Yudhishthira. An ideal king thoroughly trained by culture and devotional service with the martial spirit makes a perfect king. Such a personal monarchy is far better than the so-called democracy of no training and responsibility. The thieves and rogues of modern democracy seek election by misrepresentation of votes, and the successful rogues and thieves devour the mass of population.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.43)

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Friend1: What is your problem with democracy?

Friend2: Who says I have a problem?

Friend1: Nice. Play innocent. I know you’re constantly railing against it.

Friend2: This time I’m going to put you on the defensive. What is so good about it?

Friend1: The people decide. It’s fair. You put your ideas before the people, the ones who will be affected by the decisions. Then whatever the outcome, they can’t complain about it afterwards.

Friend2: Wow. So many holes in your presentation that I don’t know where to start. Let me ask you this. You think democracy came about as a way to make things more fair?

Friend1: Yes. Look at the United States. The colonists were unhappy with the decisions being made by the king of England. “No taxation without representation.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was the admission by England that the representatives sent by the colonists had no real authority.

Friend2: Okay, I’m glad you chose that example. It’s not necessarily that people wanted to have a voice. The idea is to guard against tyrannical rule. One man deciding everything for everyone. Democracy is a system where there is distribution of the decision-making process. It is more of a prevention mechanism.

Friend1: Let’s say that I agree with your assessment. What is wrong with that, then? Isn’t it a good thing to safeguard against tyrannical rule?

[The Constitution]Friend2: You’re making the assumption that tyranny won’t result from democracy.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Let’s say that the people are unhappy with a tax that a king passes.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: Are you saying that in a democracy the same tax can’t be levied?

Friend1: Of course it can.

Friend2: Well, there you go. You have a more distributed system, but the same result. How is that progress?

Friend1: But there is less chance for it.

Friend2: I beg to differ. Let me ask you another question. What is the definition of success in a democracy?

Friend1: People being happy. General welfare. One class not taking advantage of another. Fair and just laws.

Friend2: Wrong again. The definition of success in a democracy is swaying public opinion.

Friend1: That’s not true. Just because you convince people to believe a certain way, it doesn’t mean the choice is right.

Friend2: I’ve got news for you. The government can be wonderful, fair, and on top of things. But if public opinion differs, then the government is a failure. And judging by the amount of attention people pay to public policy, it’s entirely possible that most people remain in the dark as to what is truly going on.

Friend1: Interesting. You’re saying that the game is rigged.

Friend2: Nice choice of words. The system is there so that the people who are best at shaping public opinion will succeed. It’s as simple as that. They don’t have to be the best at protecting property and life. In fact, they could say that others have been stealing for so long that it is justified for the victims to break the law every now and then.

Friend1: But that’s not right.

Friend2: Right and wrong don’t matter. Votes do.

Friend1: So what is the ideal system? You want to go back to the king?

Friend2: It’s about ideal leaders, whatever the system you choose. One good king is enough to bring peace and prosperity for everyone. There are so many examples from Vedic history. King Yudhishthira is one. His enemy was never born, so one of his names was Ajata-shatru.

[Pandava brothers]Friend1: He was a warrior, but he was never attached to the outcome.

Friend2: He felt bad about winning. Imagine that. He had no hatred, though he would have been justified in holding a grudge against the Kauravas, his cousins who tried to kill his family so many different times.

Friend1: Okay, so you’re talking about ideal circumstances. Right now we have democracy in most of the world. What is the solution to troubles?

Friend2: Obviously, if you can find a righteous person who is also good at shaping public opinion, you can do a lot of good. The problem is that the honesty is a large part of righteousness. The more honest you are in politics, the less popular you will be. Better to just stay at bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Try to make the people who are voting better informed about the aim of life, the true identity of the individual, and the future destination of the soul. The more informed people are, the more pious they become, the less they will be swayed by the liars and cheats.

In Closing:

Success when public opinion to sway,

And not when on righteous path to stay.


Democracy for liars and cheats is made,

By them best is that game played.


Vedic ideal for Yudhishthira like king,

Prosperity and fairness to bring.


For devotional culture most important of all,

As devoted servant of Hari to call.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Five Examples Of Surrender In Devotion

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]“The Personality of Godhead heard the appealing voices of His friends, and casting a pleasing glance over them, He began to answer. By speaking through His eyes, He impressed His friends that there was no cause for fear. Then Krishna, the supreme mystic, the powerful Personality of Godhead, immediately swallowed up all the flames of the fire. The cows and boys were thus saved from imminent danger.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 19)

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You try your hardest. You want this outcome desperately. You have failed previously, but this time you’re taking a different path. You have learned from your mistakes. You try and you try, but ultimately it looks like things aren’t going your way. You throw your hands up in surrender, leaving everything to the Divine will.

This situation is somewhat analogous to the experience of sharanagati, which is surrender in devotion. The Supreme Lord is the managing director of all outcomes. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. Even the beating of the heart in the chest is due to Him. He rests within that heart, along with the individual soul.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)

The Vedas provide many examples of sharanagati. We don’t need to rely on only a theoretical exercise. The people who surrendered were often quite capable, but for whatever reason there was nowhere left to turn. In desperation they completely surrendered to God the person, and the joy they received was too great to register on any scale.

1. The forest fire in Vrindavana

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]The Supreme Lord was roaming this earth on the sacred land of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago. Though only a youth of small frame, soft soles, and gentle disposition, He retained full strength. One time the friends of Krishna were about to be devoured by a blazing fire. This was in a forest area. The boys were all surrendered souls already. They enjoyed the relationship with God in the mood known as sakhya, or friendship. When this fire came, they had no other hope. They could not run away. They could not douse the flames. They relied solely on Krishna, who delivered by devouring the entire fire in His mouth.

2. Underneath Govardhana Hill

Another time devastating rain swept through the area. It arrived so quickly that the people didn’t have time to retreat. They were in danger of being washed away. They had just completed the first worship of Govardhana Hill, at the direction of the same all-attractive youth, Shri Krishna.

The Supreme Lord protects against danger. The people had abandoned the dharma of the annual Indra-puja. It was religious in nature, but since it was in honor of a demigod, there was materialism involved. Abandoning all dharmas in favor of Krishna is known as devotion, or bhakti, and it is the highest dharma.

Krishna acted quickly. He uprooted Govardhana Hill and held it above His head. He urged everyone to get underneath, to take protection from the world’s largest umbrella. The people followed Him, and they relied entirely on Krishna’s strength for the next seven days. The umbrella continued to stay above His head, and everyone got a chance to associate with God in a special way.

3. Draupadi and her sari

The co-wife to the five Pandava brothers, Draupadi was once lost to the Kauravas in a wager. The rival party decided to welcome her to their side by attempting to strip her naked in front of a gathered assembly. This was a great insult, not only to Draupadi but to anyone who cares about right and wrong.

She was a woman, after all, so how much resistance could she apply? She tried so hard to keep the sari from being taken off. When she realized there was no hope, she completely surrendered to Krishna. Thinking of Him alone, she was rescued. The great well-wisher of the Pandavas took the form of the sari. Just as God is unlimited, so the sari became the same way. The enemy were unable to show Draupadi naked.

4. The Vanaras meeting Sampati

Ages prior, Krishna was on earth in the incarnation of Shri Rama, a handsome warrior prince. Rama one time teamed up with Vanaras living in Kishkindha. At the direction of their leader Sugriva, those monkey-like creatures scoured the entire world to look for Rama’s missing wife Sita.

The leading search party grew despondent after not finding success. They had tried, but to no avail. They decided to give up, to surrender in the fight against time. At that moment, the vital piece of information they were lacking came to them. The bird named Sampati approached them, and after talking it was learned that Sita was on the island of Lanka.

5. Hanuman crossing the ocean

Through the help of the Divine, the Vanaras became aware of Sita’s location. They were initially excited, but that changed when they reached the shore of the ocean. Lanka was far away, and there was no chance that all of them could reach it. Again, they were without hope. Personal effort, perseverance, and even intelligence wouldn’t solve the problem.

As in the case of Draupadi and her sari, the Divine will doesn’t always arrive in the manifest form. Sometimes God takes a different form or He sends one of His representatives. The problem for the Vanaras was solved by Hanuman. He was reminded of his mystic abilities by Jambavan. Hanuman then used yoga to expand his form into a gigantic one. With that new shape, Hanuman leaped over the ocean to reach Lanka.

From these examples we see that the Supreme Lord always takes care of the devotees. Not only does He bring His association, but He even manipulates situations so that the highest enjoyment will be felt. There is nothing like the feeling of surrender in devotion, and so that is why the saints always stress it above anything else. They help others to find that surrender by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Sharanagati, full surrender to Him invested,

All hopes from personal effort divested.


Like cowherd boys in fire’s way caught,

Then Krishna entirety into His mouth brought.


Draupadi into assembly’s view sending,

For her the sari infinitely extending.


And flooding from Indra’s thunder,

Shelter from raised Govardhana under.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Does The Touchstone Of Principles Apply To Bhakti

[King Janaka]“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)

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Friend1: You ever gotten into a debate with someone on the minimum wage?

Friend2: Oh here we go. You want to argue politics again? I think you’ve been following the latest election too closely.

Friend1: Guilty as charged on that count. But I’m getting to somewhere with this. You are aware of the typical arguments surrounding the minimum wage.

Friend2: Yes. One side says that it’s not fair for someone to earn so little. You can’t feed a family on x amount of dollars per hour. It should be raised to help them out. The other side says the minimum wage is a job killer. As soon as you raise it, companies have to fire people.

Friend1: Very good. I heard a really good argument against it. Want to play the game?

Friend2: Sure.

Friend1: Okay. You have to pretend to be in favor of it.

Friend2: Of the minimum wage in general or raising it to a certain amount?

Friend1: Either one.

Friend2: Okay. I think the minimum wage should be fifteen dollars an hour.

Friend1: Very good. So my counter argument says, “Why not twenty?”

Friend2: And I’m supposed to play again?

Friend1: Yes. Stop ruining the game!

Friend2: Okay. Twenty sounds good.

Friend1: What about thirty?

Friend2: Hmm, that might be too high.

Friend1: Why?

Friend2: The companies won’t be able to afford it.

Friend1: Ah ha! You’ve been caught.

Friend2: How so?

Friend1: You’ve admitted that there is a point where the minimum wage has a deleterious effect. Therefore you are essentially agreeing with the principle of those who oppose it.

Friend2: Right, because the exact dollar amount is irrelevant. Any number can carry the same effect.

Friend1: Bingo. I was reading some works from the famous French economist Frederic Bastiat. The game we just played he categorizes as progression. He says that progression is the touchstone of principles.

Friend2: Care to elaborate further?

Friend1: Take a principle. Then go through the exercise of progression. Progression will tell you if the principle is valid. If at some point there is a break, it means that the principle itself is flawed. If it stands the test of progression, then you know it’s valid.

Friend2: Interesting.

Friend1: I was wondering if progression could be applied to bhakti.

Friend2: You mean with the principle that bhakti-yoga, devotional service, is the dharma of the soul? Devotion to God is at our very core, something meant to be rekindled in the precious human life.

Friend1: Exactly. Can there be too much bhakti? If you apply progression, do you run into problems later on?

Friend2: Okay. I think I know what you are asking. There are different ways to answer. One is to say that the material world itself is limiting, so it’s not an accurate frame of reference for devotion.

Friend1: How so?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: There is no such thing as too much bhakti. It is unlimited joy and bliss. The object of service, Shri Krishna, is described to be nava-yauvanam. This means that He is ever fresh and new, like a person who has just entered the teenage years. Devotion to Him is the same way. It defies the laws of mathematics. It is ever expanding, and there is no such thing as a threshold or limitation.

Friend1: I see. What if everyone in society takes up bhakti, though? Doesn’t society suffer?

Friend2: Right, so that’s where the premise is flawed. You’re thinking of bhakti as only explicit practices in transcendentalism, such as chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: Worshiping the deity, associating with fellow devotees, cooking for Krishna, etc.

Friend2: So even if everyone in society did that there would be no problem. But you’re forgetting that the entire society can be Krishna conscious without anyone changing their occupation. Look at the situation in the kingdom of Shri Rama. They lived under the care of the Supreme Lord in His famous warrior incarnation. Everyone didn’t suddenly become equal with respect to income. There were even beggars in the kingdom, but they were happy. Every person was conscious of God.

Friend1: Getting back to the touchstone of principles, you would define progression then as more and more people conscious of God. They don’t necessarily have to look like they are engaged in bhakti-yoga practice.

[King Janaka]Friend2: Consciousness is everything. Krishna discusses this in the Bhagavad-gita. He gives the sterling example of King Janaka. He was a transcendentalist at heart, yet he still ruled over the kingdom properly. He didn’t use bhakti-yoga as an excuse to give up prescribed duties. Arjuna was the same way. He remained a warrior. Hanuman and the Vanaras in Kishkindha continued in their bodies; they didn’t have to wait to get human bodies to serve. To answer your original question, yes, the touchstone of principles applies here. Progression does not change the validity of bhakti. Even a little devotion does so much for a person.

In Closing:

Touchstone of principles is progression,

How when applied in bhakti’s direction?


Any chance for too much to be,

Deleterious effects in society to see?


Premise flawed since unlimited is He,

Supreme Lord Krishna, of boundaries free.


With devotion to Him following the same,

For all in society, even king like Janaka the name.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Five Sufferings Of Devaki

[Kamsa reading to kill Devaki]“Kamsa was the son of Ugrasena, of the Bhoja dynasty. It is said that Kamsa was the most demonic of all the Bhoja dynasty kings. Immediately after hearing the prophecy from the sky, he caught hold of Devaki's hair and was just about to kill her with his sword.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 1)

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In bhakti-yoga there are different rasas. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates the Sanskrit word as “transcendental mellow.” God is a person. He is known as Bhagavan in Sanskrit. He has so many names since there are so many ways to describe Him. Since He is all-attractive, Krishna is another name.

Due to being a personality, Krishna allows for interactions. He is not simply an order supplier. The classic prayer of, “God please grant me this wish; I’ll never ask for something again,” is a preliminary stage of religion. In the higher stages there are interactions, and since there is a taste that results from the relationship, not every moment would typically be considered good. Sometimes there is suffering when under the Divine energy, yogamaya. The plight of Devaki is one such case.

1. Near death on her wedding day

Very pious and chaste herself, Devaki had an arranged marriage to Vasudeva. As per tradition, the brother of the bride escorted the newlyweds to the home of the groom. This is the final seeing-off, if you will. It is supposed to help ease the transition for the bride, who has to leave the comfortable surroundings of home and family to live with her new family, who are likely all strangers to her. In arranged marriages the woman makes so many sacrifices, and due to the strength she gains her new family is benefitted tremendously.

The happy occasion turned sour quickly. En route a voice from the sky spoke to Kamsa, Devaki’s brother. That voice informed the king of Mathura that Devaki’s eighth child would be his doom. A loving brother might not make anything of the announcement. After all, in true love I am ready to give my life to protect my siblings.

[Kamsa ready to kill Devaki]Kamsa was of the demoniac nature, so he decided then and there to kill his sister. Self-preservation. The new husband, Vasudeva, used his intelligence to diffuse the situation. With his words of persuasion, Devaki’s life was saved.

2. Imprisonment

The peace didn’t last for long. Vasudeva saved his wife’s life by promising to hand over every child to Kamsa as soon as it was born. Then there would be no reason to fear. After a while Kamsa reversed his decision. He changed his mind. Both Vasudeva and Devaki were imprisoned. Now the newlyweds couldn’t even enjoy life together. They were treated like criminals, though they had done nothing wrong.

3. The killing of her children

Pregnancy is not easy. There is work involved, and that work doesn’t always yield the desired result. Pregnancy is not like catching a cold. After bringing a child into this world, the mother usually feels a very strong bond. This is because she remembers the care, attention and time it took to see the pregnancy reach its successful end.

Devaki had the most horrible suffering you could imagine in this area. She had to see each of her first six children taken from her immediately after birth. Kamsa threw the babies against a stone wall to make sure they were dead. Though everything went as according to agreement and the deaths were not unexpected, no one can imagine the torment of the caring mother.

4. The departure of Krishna after birth

The seventh child was transferred to the womb of Rohini. He was a direct expansion of the Supreme Lord and He appeared in this world as Balarama.

That voice from the sky was telling the truth. The eighth child happened to be death personified, kala. He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. To assure the parents of His Divine nature, baby Krishna, who appeared at midnight, showed the four-handed form of Narayana, which is universally accepted as the form of God in Vedic culture.

The troubles would now end. The parents had suffered long enough. God was there to save them. Only one problem. Krishna asked to be transferred to the neighboring town of Gokula. He didn’t want Kamsa to know about His appearance. The all-attractive one, in His charming childhood form, immediately left the vision of the loving mother. She had to hold onto the memory of having seen Him.

5. Separation from her son during His childhood

Vasudeva brought Krishna to Gokula, and essentially did a baby swap with Nanda Maharaja, the king of the area. Vasudeva took back with him a baby girl. When Kamsa found out, he tried to do the same thing as before. When he went to throw the baby against the stone, she slipped out of his hands. Revealing her form of Durga Devi, she informed the king that the real eighth child was alive and well.

Krishna grew up in Gokula Vrindavana with the foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. Devaki missed out on the adorable pastimes, like stealing butter, riding through dirt by holding onto a calf’s tail, and the first words. Devaki made a tremendous sacrifice to satisfy the Divine will, and she remained Krishna conscious throughout. Eventually, the Lord would return to Mathura and end the reign of terror of Kamsa. The parents lived with their son in freedom until it was time to return to the spiritual world.

In Closing:

Demigods to her womb obeisances paid,

In life of service so many sacrifices made.


By Devaki, beloved wife and mother,

Who almost killed by wicked brother.


Kamsa both her and husband taking,

And prisoners in kingdom making.


Death of six children by her to see,

When Krishna came then finally free.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Five Things We Will Never Be Able To Fully Understand

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

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The individual soul is sach-chid-ananda. This means eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. The soul already has knowledge, but in a material existence there is the process of learning. What this actually does is remove the covering of ignorance. Like taking dust off gold to bring out its true luster, through proper education the individual blessed with the human birth can have its inherent knowledge shine through.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that He is the cause of knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. He is also seated within every heart. His expansion is the Supersoul, while we are individual soul. He facilitates the choices we make. What we want to forget, He allows. What we want to remember, He also obliges. Because of the difference in the relationship, Krishna always has full knowledge, while there are things that we will never be able to fully understand.

1. The beginning of time

Scriptural works detail events from a bygone era. We know there is a beginning to this creation. It only makes sense. At some point in time there had to be no one around. What started the ball rolling? Scientists theorize about a single cell evolving over time, but then what is the source of that cell?

Go back to the beginning of something, and know for certain that there is a time before that as well. This is the infinite nature of time. We will never be able to comprehend the beginning of time since infinity is beyond the scope of the material mind. Only the Supreme Lord can understand this. He is without a beginning, or anadi.

2. The end of space

We go from one room to another in the house. The rooms come about when there are boundary walls. Dwellings are divided in a community. There are borders for the different nations. Yet we know that there is something beyond this world. If we go high up into the sky, there are other planets and stars. There is outer space, and the gigantic sun.

Just as with time, space is infinite. There is no end to the universe. This is impossible for us to comprehend, because how does a person keep travelling without being stopped? The infinite nature of space is further evidence of the amazing potency of the Divine.

3. The travels of the soul from one body to another

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna beautifully explains reincarnation in a single verse. He takes away its mystic nature. The words can be understood by any sober-minded person.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

The soul is the constant factor. The body is always changing. Just as there are progressive stages for the body in what is known as life, so there is progression at the end. The soul simply exits the existing body and moves to a new one.

The truth can be rationally understood to a degree, but firm evidence comes only through faith. There is no way for us to see where the soul goes. It’s something like trying to picture the wind. We know it is there based on the influence on other objects, like the trees and leaves. Since we can’t see the soul travelling to another body at the time of death, we have a difficult time believing that such a thing happens.

4. The full history of our births

Shri Krishna also says that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they attain without fail [Bg 8.6]. The idea is that we get what we want. Consciousness is key. If we want to enjoy sex without restriction, we get rewarded with the body of a dog in the next life. If we are keen on flying, we take birth as a bird. If there is pious behavior and a dedication to religious principles, the consequence is elevation to the heavenly planets, which feature heightened material enjoyment.

From the present birth as a human being, we can deduce that in the last life perfect consciousness of God at the time of death was lacking. Krishna says that one who thinks of Him at that critical moment attains His nature, i.e. they no longer go through reincarnation.

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

What about previous births? We know that the soul is eternal. It can’t be killed. It can’t be destroyed. When was our first birth? We know that the descent to the material world, featuring the cycle of birth and death, takes place when there is a desire to enjoy separate from the all-attractive Supreme Lord. When was that decision first made? How long ago?

Just as with the beginning of time, this is impossible for us to know. We will never have complete information on the history of our births, up to even the original fall to the material world. Indeed, the desperate search for such knowledge itself represents a challenge to God, who is the only all-knowing person.

5. The potency of the holy name

It’s not difficult to be conscious of God, who is ultimately a person. Just chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the acoustic proof of the Divine. Sight is not required. Just chant the names, paying attention to hear, and pretty soon ignorance will vanish.

[Lord Krishna]The holy name is non-different from the person it represents. There is amazing potency in this sound, which is a collection of words of the Sanskrit language. We will never be able to fully understand how Krishna is non-different from His name. The whole thing seems illogical, but as we have seen, our logic and understanding can only take us so far. The Supreme Lord and His representatives are there to carry us the rest of the way.

In Closing:

Go back to beginning of time,

But then something before to find.


Going deep into outer space,

Never a boundary wall to face.


How many births came before,

And of reincarnation sure?


How equal to Him holy name’s sound?

Truth only through guru and Krishna found.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Things Krishna Could Have Said To Arjuna

[Krishna and Arjuna]“If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.10)

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He is Bhagavan, after all. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada accurately and intentionally translates this Sanskrit word as “Supreme Personality of Godhead.” The more verbose translation is necessary since the word “God” is basically up for grabs, interpreted differently based on personal sentiment.

Bhagavan is indeed supreme. He must be; otherwise He is just like everyone else, making His association not as significant. It is necessary to mention Godhead since there are many divine figures. Especially in the Vedic tradition, a worshiper has a large choice of available candidates for directing their attention, for fulfilling their desires.

And of course, Bhagavan is a personality. The use of this word is a direct shot at the impersonalists, who describe God as formless. “Formless” is convenient for their desires, for if God had a form they would have to acknowledge Him and worship Him. If He is formless, then anyone can become like Him, with enough meditation and practice.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna, and with His transcendental form He was one time seated on the chariot of the bow-warrior Arjuna. Krishna’s decision to take that seat is worthy of many lifetimes of study, but one thing is clear: He is always Bhagavan. When Arjuna fell into distress, there were a lot of things Krishna could have told him.

1. Relax; I got this

There is the saying, “He who hesitates is lost.” Arjuna was hesitating on the biggest stage, and his losing would have dire consequences. A massive army counted on him for victory. His four brothers were fighting with him. They were collectively known as the Pandavas.

Arjuna had Krishna right there. The Supreme Lord could have stepped in and taken care of everything.

“Move aside. Let me fight with the Kauravas, who have wronged both you and your family. I will not let this injustice stand for a minute longer.”

2. Figure it out for yourself

Arjuna and Krishna were related as cousins and they were also close friends. Nevertheless, the Supreme Lord is always in the superior position, and we know that sometimes superiors don’t do everything for us. In this case Krishna could have gone in the complete opposite direction from the first example.

He could have said the following.

“Figure it out yourself. You are a great fighter. You have defeated so many people in the past. You are intelligent. You’re not sure how to proceed, but I think deep down you know the right thing to do.”

After all, we make so many decisions without consulting God directly. Arjuna could have figured out what to do on his own, without Krishna’s intervention. This would have been a form of tough love.

3. You are right; be nonviolent

The reason there was a conversation at all was that Arjuna had half-heartedly decided to lay down his weapons. He did not want to continue further. Though mentioning the greatness of the opposing army, what really concerned him was victory. He was brave in battle, and from his skill the Pandavas would likely win. The consequence would be death and destruction for the other side, which included people dear to Arjuna, like the teacher Drona and the grandfather Bhishma.

Krishna could have supported Arjuna’s sentiment. He could have told Arjuna that ahimsa, nonviolence, was the way to go. That would spare bloodshed. That would save lives. Arjuna would feel good, too, by retreating to the forest and not being a party to destruction.

4. You have to practice devotion or you are doomed

Of course Krishna did not say any of the above. He gave Arjuna the highest knowledge. The conversation became known as the Bhagavad-gita, or the Song of God. But actually the same knowledge existed since the beginning of time.

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

In addition to the difference between matter and spirit, the three modes of material nature, and the truth about karma, Krishna explained bhakti, or devotion. Yet He did not say that Arjuna had to practice bhakti. He did not threaten Arjuna with eternal damnation for failing to do so.

5. Don’t think too much; follow blindly

In the end Krishna did advise Arjuna to abandon all kinds of dharma, or religion, and simply surrender unto Him. The Supreme Lord would protect Arjuna from all sinful reaction.

Yet even this is not a recommendation to follow blindly. It wasn’t that Arjuna was told to cast aside doubts, logic, and inquisitiveness. Rather, Arjuna asked insightful questions, to the point that when his decision for bhakti would be made, it would be an intelligent one. After teaching Arjuna, Krishna left the choice up to him as to what to do.

“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)

[Krishna and Arjuna]In the presentation, Krishna laid out so many different options. If a person couldn’t practice bhakti, they still weren’t doomed. They could work for Him and make advancement in that way. In every case there was a recommendation for doing something. The Supreme Lord is merciful in this way. He leaves the choice up to the devotee. If He took the opportunities for service away and simply did everything Himself, there would be little pleasure for the living entities. He advised Arjuna to stand up and fight, to carry forward with his prescribed duties, maintaining bhakti in the process.

In Closing:

Hopefully valuable instruction to understand,

And with courage up from chariot to stand.


Against wrongdoers bravely fighting,

And his teacher Krishna delighting.


Supreme Lord, so anything can do,

Could have fought and earned victory too.


Whatever the case, some recommendation given,

Abandoning all varieties, from sinful consequence forgiven.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Five Defects In Man

[Lord Krishna]“Vedic knowledge is received from transcendental sources, and the first words were spoken by the Lord Himself. The words spoken by the Lord are different from words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects. A mundaner 1) is sure to commit mistakes, 2) is invariably illusioned, 3) has the tendency to cheat others and 4) is limited by imperfect senses.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

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How can we trust anything that we hear? There is already the lying from politicians. They are expert at spin. As soon as a negative story breaks about their candidate, the campaign gets in gear to shape the narrative coming out. The safe tactic is to deflect; say something bad about the opposing campaign.

Politicians aren’t known to be trustworthy, but then even the media can lie. Reporters want access to the people in power, after all. It turns out through emails leaked on the internet that influential people in the media have been collaborating with politicians for a long time. The people on television telling you what happened in the world are anything but objective. They get their marching orders from the people they support in elections.

How, then, can we know for sure that there is a God? Can anyone be accepted as a trusted authority figure on the matter? Indeed, the push to understand the Divine through personal effort alone is condemned in Vedic teachings. The practice is known as mental speculation, and because of standard defects in man the result never meets the proper destination.

1. Cheating

The politician and press examples already cover this. Everyone has this tendency to some degree. I cheat because I am not fully confident in my abilities. I don’t know the outcome to events. I try to influence them by going against the rules. Some people cheat more than others, but the tendency is there since birth. Even in playing sports, where the rules are equal and to be followed by everyone, there is always subtle cheating in the concealing of strategy. The coach doesn’t announce what he will try to do to earn victory; it is for the other team to figure out. The coach is hoping that they are slow to discover.

2. Commit mistakes

To err is human. I used to think a certain way about someone. I reached that conclusion based on limited interaction. It turns out I was wrong. I was way off, in fact. They are completely different than I originally thought. This means I made a mistake.

In Vedic teachings the example commonly cited is the rope. If a person can mistake a rope for a snake, how are they going to understand the Divine, who is the collection of every material object imaginable? He is more than that, in fact. Take everything spiritual, known as Brahman, and you still don’t have the complete understanding of God.

3. Imperfect senses

A handicapped person lacks a function of the body that is usually there. Perhaps they can’t see anymore. Maybe they have lost a hand. This makes the journey through life a little more difficult, but what’s not so easy to realize is that the senses themselves are imperfect.

We can use sight as an example. Even with so-called perfect vision, I can’t see through walls. I need a satellite feed on television to see what is going on miles away. I can hear only what is in the vicinity. There is a set range for the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. Perfect vision is seeing everything. Perfect hearing is the ability to perceive sound in any part of the universe, at any time.

4. Easily illusioned

I mistake the rope for the snake. I think that consuming alcohol tonight will make me happy for a long time. I think that chasing after money, buying a new car, upgrading smartphones, or moving to a new city will solve all my problems. Worst of all, I think that this life is everything, that at the time of death everything finishes.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

Maya is the cause. She is the illusory energy that pervades the material world. It is the tendency in man to fall into the trap of maya. It takes effort to get out of illusion. Help is required from an external source.

5. The tendency to ignore God

The first four defects are the ones commonly described in Vedic literature. Working in concert, they keep man from serving God, which is the actual dharma, or essential characteristic. The default condition in a material birth is to ignore the Supreme Lord, to seek happiness separate from Him. Though He can never be separated from the individual, the isolation is in terms of consciousness.

Despite these defects, everything can turn around. There is the liberated soul in the spiritual master. The guru transcends the defects since they have undergone training under another liberated soul. In this way the teachers continue in a chain, known as disciplic succession.

[Krishna teaching Arjuna]The guru may not have perfect senses. They may have cheated at some point in their life. They may not know the answer to every question on a trivia game show, but they are perfect since they present the teachings of the Supreme Lord without deviation. They live sanatana-dharma by always serving the Almighty, who is originally a person. In the present age they rescue the struggling souls by bringing the Divine in an audible form, always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Since obviously imperfect am I,

Failing when to learning God I try.


With these eyes what really to see?

Limited hearing also in me.


Tendency to cheat, the truth evading,

Illusioned by maya this world pervading.


From guru, rescuing source external,

Perfect since engaged in bhakti eternal.