Saturday, February 4, 2017

Five Reasons I Could Listen To Lord Shiva All Day

[Lord Shiva]“Lord Shiva is the ideal husband, not in the sense of riches or sense gratification, but because he is the greatest of all devotees. Vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh: Shambhu, or Lord Shiva, is the ideal Vaishnava. He constantly meditates upon Lord Rama and chants Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.1 Purport)

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Mahadeva. The great god. Shiva. The auspicious one. Girisha. The lord of mountains. So many names there are for addressing one of the most important deities of the Vedic tradition. He is more than just an elevated form of Brahman. He is a distinct personality, whose identity is never annihilated. In fact, every individual soul has the same deathlessness. What we know as death is actually just the changing of bodies, the replacement of the set of material and subtle elements covering the otherwise spotless soul.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Lord Shiva is obviously a worthy object of worship. To the impersonalists, he is one part of the panchopasana, the five deities worshiped for elevation to a higher consciousness. He grants benedictions to his worshipers very quickly. For this he is known as Ashutosha. Since he is an individual himself, Lord Shiva speaks. There are reasons why the pious souls can listen to him all day.

1. He has so much wisdom and dispassion

There is jnana, or theoretical knowledge. There is vijnana, or realized knowledge. Both are important. I can teach someone that two plus two equals four. They can learn that truth and then repeat it on a formal examination. But it is not until they have to practically apply the teaching in real life that the truth has been assimilated.

Lord Shiva has tremendous wisdom, but he has dispassion to go with it. The two are complementary. Vairagya is important because there are so many objects to which to form attachments. Attachments keep one bound to the cycle of birth and death, the constant changing of bodies.

Lord Shiva is very wise and he is kind enough to share that wisdom with those who want to hear it. His renunciation gives further strength to his teachings. If I tell people that it is bad to smoke, yet I smoke regularly myself, the message is damaged. The truth about the harms of smoking remains, but because I am hypocritical others will have a more difficult time believing me. Lord Shiva does not have this defect. He practices what he preaches.

2. He has experience of heartache

Relationships of any kind are difficult. You have two individuals, who each have their own genius. They are not robots. Moreover, desires change. Just because my wife has been happy eating pizza for dinner every day for the last week doesn’t mean that she will be happy with pizza for dinner tonight. The same goes for me. When desires aren’t met, there is frustration, which can lead to anger.

Lord Shiva had his own troubles. His wife Sati refused to listen to him one time. Mahadeva tried his best to convince her not to visit her father. Daksha was against Lord Shiva, and so if Sati were to witness her husband being insulted, she would not be able to tolerate it.

Sati didn’t listen and Mahadeva was right. He lost his wife in the process. That is a terrible loss to suffer. It did not take Lord Shiva off the virtuous path. He remained dear to the Supreme Lord. In this way the great Vaishnava has experience from which to speak about the different trappings of material life.

3. He speaks sweetly

Lord Shiva did not want to get married again, but Bhagavan Vishnu assured him that by accepting a chaste wife from a good family his devotion would only increase. Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of the mountain king. When she heard that Shiva was destined to be her husband, she underwent tremendous austerities in the forest. Her vow could not be broken, even by Shiva’s attendants.

In Vedic literature we find many conversations between Shiva and Parvati. The husband Shiva addresses the wife very sweetly. He uses “Devi” and other such affectionate terms to address her. Though he is the great destroyer, called upon at the appropriate time to eliminate everything in this world, Mahadeva is the nicest person you could meet. He has no hate in his heart. Even after the bitter experience with Sati’s demise, he did not hold a grudge against females.

4. He knows the Absolute Truth as Rama

Mahadeva is no fool. The atheists think there is no spirit. The body is simply a lump of chemicals to them. It evolved today from a previous set, sometime in the past. Of course they don’t really believe this. This theory is what they tell themselves as justification for enjoying as much as possible, to the point of cheating and stealing. If they really thought the body was just chemicals, they wouldn’t be so saddened by death. After all, who laments for something that never had any life to begin with?

[Lord Shiva]Lord Shiva knows that there is a God. He worships God in the form of Shri Rama. Shiva knows that there are many aspects to the Divine, that the original one can expand into many identical forms. Even Shiva himself is a partial incarnation, the guna-avatara in charge of the mode of ignorance. Lord Shiva not only worships Rama, but he knows all about the king of Ayodhya. He can speak endlessly about the glories of the husband of Sita.

5. He passes the Ramayana onto others

There is the Ramayana, an epic Sanskrit poem authored by Maharishi Valmiki. Since God’s pastimes are endless, intricate, and beyond comprehension, others have their own observations and recollections as well. Lord Shiva tells his own version of the Ramayana, and it is passed down through the generations. This is the version Goswami Tulsidas received from his guru. The great poet then turned the story into a wonderful song in Hindi, which is still sung and honored to this day.

If we meet Lord Shiva, we can politely ask him to tell us the Ramayana. He can speak on and on about the glories of Sita and Rama. He is always speaking about Rama to the attentive listener Parvati. Their conversations are found in Vedic literature, and fortunate is the soul who listens to even a drop of such nectar.

In Closing:

As auspicious one Shiva is known,

Wisdom and great dispassion shown.


Endlessly saints ready to hear,

Nectar reward when coming near.


Parvati most devoted wife ever were,

About Rama’s glories speaks to her.


Ramayana of his own to generations giving,

Fortunate those with his blessings living.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Five Blessings From A Devoted Wife

[Rama and Sita on boat]“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

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This vacation is not typical. Rather than travel to a theme park, where there are so many sights to visit every day, restaurants to sit in, and a fancy hotel room to enjoy sleep, you decided to go up north. You are near the mountains. These aren’t any old mountains. There are caves everywhere. There is a famous river.

Most important are the people living in this area. They are renounced. They have intentionally decided to make this place their home. They plan to stay here until they die. Most of them were not born in the area. They gave up everything to move here. They are renounced ascetics, belonging to different stages of life, such as sannyasa and vanaprastha. These are recommended in Vedic culture, which goes so far back in history that there is no known date of inception.

The ascetics are supposed to be wise men. This vacation is a kind of spiritual tourism. You are after higher knowledge, something that goes beyond the basic pleasures of life. Success has come, but you still want more. You see the same desire in others, but they are not sure what to do.

These men can help you; at least you think. They have decided to live alone, away from wife and family. You have heard many teachings along the same lines, that celibacy is important for success in spiritual life. Isolation helps, too. Living in a sacred place, tirtha, such as the one you are visiting.

In listening to one of these wise men speak, you hear something interesting. They are not advising everyone to abandon home to live in the caves of the mountains. They even say that a good wife is considered a great blessing. There are incidents from the scriptures attesting to this fact. From the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam, there are examples of great blessings that come to a man who is fortunate enough to receive a devoted and chaste wife.

1. Prays for your safety

Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in an incarnation form. He is the main character of the Sanskrit epic called the Ramayana. The work is named after Him as well. Rama is the crown prince, the heir apparent to the throne in Ayodhya. His wife is Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka of Videha.

Yes, the Supreme Lord has a wife. He can have an unlimited number of spouses. The companions don’t necessarily have to be joined to Him in formality. With Shri Krishna, there are over sixteen thousand wives, but there are many informal partners as well. Marriage is known as the grihastha-ashrama, which is the second stage of life for the cultured human being. Marriage is in dharma, which is duty or righteousness. Any other kind of amorous relationship is in kama, which is material desire. Still, even for the Supreme Lord there is never any kama. His companions are always the topmost devotees.

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

One time news came that Rama was to be named the new king. He was summoned to the main palace. Prior to embarking, Sita said a few prayers. She asked the guardians of the different directions to protect her husband. There is the one God, and there are many deputies, who are like Cabinet officers in the executive branch of the federal government. Rama doesn’t need such protection, but His wife loves Him so much that she prays regardless. A chaste wife thus can bring protection for her husband.

2. Prays for your success

Rama didn’t ascend the throne at that time. In fact, there was a tragic reversal. He was kicked out of the kingdom for fourteen years. Not a nagging wife who wanted to bother her husband the entire time, Sita insisted on accompanying Rama. She did not want Him to suffer alone. Rama was ordered to traverse the forest, to live like a recluse.

[Sita and Rama on boat]During their travels, Sita prayed for her husband’s success. She essentially made deals with sacred trees and rivers. She told them that if her husband came out successful because of their blessings, she would offer them worship afterwards. A good wife prays for the success of her husband in following dharma, which is the righteous path for every human being.

3. Keeps you on the righteous path

There is prayer and then there is instruction. The duties of the husband are clearly laid out. Protect the wife. Make sure no harm comes her way. The wife is supposed to offer support. Typically, she does not instruct. Sita was very shy, and so she felt bad giving any advice to Rama.

Still, one time she worried that her husband was vulnerable to veering off the righteous path. This was while residing in the forest. Rama was of the kshatriya order. By the very definition of the word, the kshatriya is supposed to protect others from injury. Sita was worried that by carrying His weapons with Him all the time, Rama would be prone to acting aggressively without cause; thus violating dharma.

After kindly voicing her concerns, Rama replied that the sages in the forest were the ones being harassed by the man-eating ogres from Lanka. Rama was there to offer protection. For that He needed to carry His bow and arrows with Him.

Still, Rama was very pleased by Sita’s concern. He told her that only a person who loves offers words of advice in that way. He also said that she was a sadharma-charini, or partner in His observance of religious duties. If the wife is chaste and supportive, she shares in the meritorious credits, or sukriti, earned by her husband. She follows him in the afterlife.

4. Gives the needed push

Having a close relationship with any human being is difficult. Desires are not identical. Preferences change. It is easy to grow resentful of the other person. Add to the mix the natural differences between the two sexes, and you have the potential for constant arguing and bickering in a marriage.

But this doesn’t mean that all arguing is bad. Sometimes the husband needs the extra push to go in the right direction. We have the example from the Bhagavatam of Sudama Vipra. He was a childhood friend of Shri Krishna. In adulthood he was very poor, as the brahmanas tend to not have much. Their austere lifestyle helps them concentrate on the Supreme Spirit and spiritual life in general.

Krishna was living as the king of Dvaraka at the time, and Sudama’s wife wanted some relief from their life in poverty. She pestered her husband to go and visit Krishna. Sudama was hesitant, but because of the wife he left for the visit. He brought some chipped rice with him as an offering, but then was too embarrassed to show it.

Krishna was so happy to get a visit from His old friend. As the Supersoul residing within the heart, Krishna knows everything. He found the chipped rice and ate some of it. He declared it to be the best food He ever tasted. Krishna’s wife Rukmini Devi was also pleased. Upon returning home, Sudama saw that his meager home had been transformed into a palace. At the insistence of his wife, at the urging from his close companion, Sudama was able to please Rukmini and Krishna. His wife became happy as well.

5. Strength to do amazing things

It is said that the wife is the better half. So many things in material life are accomplished for the sake of a woman. A man exercises and eats healthy in order to keep an attractive body. They buy an expensive car and fancy clothes in order to look good.

This is simply the way of the world, and it can be a major benefit in spiritual life. In the Ramayana, Shri Rama defends Sita against fourteen thousand attacking Rakshasas. He has a bridge built to Lanka made of floating rocks. He defeats the evil Ravana to rescue her. In the Bhagavatam we see Krishna defeating a powerful foe in order to rescue sixteen thousand kidnapped princesses.

While attachment to sex life is kama, and thus the most detrimental to progress in spiritual life, a chaste and devoted wife can provide tremendous strength and support. Through their blessings, the path to the spiritual world can be made easier. In this dark age of Kali, the best activity to be performed by man, woman, and child alike is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Any strength and support offered to maintain a routine of this chanting is a great blessing.

In Closing:

Celibacy for success in spiritual life,

How then blessing to have a wife?


For your safety and success praying,

Wise words at right time saying.


On righteous path keeping,

Share in afterlife reaping.


Examples like Sita to Rama there,

Success from their love and care.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why Did Jatayu Fail Against Ravana

[Jatayu against Ravana]“Just as the unintelligent, without knowing the future bondage caused by their actions, are vanquished very quickly, so shall you meet with your own destruction in a short time.” (Jatayu speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 51.26)

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Friend1: I was thinking about the different pairs of brothers from the Ramayana.

Friend2: Which ones exactly?

Friend1: All of them. Rama and Lakshmana. Bharata and Shatrughna. Rama and Bharata, too.

Friend2: Vibhishana and Ravana. Sugriva and Vali.

Friend1: Different relationships. Really a hidden lesson from the Sanskrit work; that not every experience in life is uniform. There isn’t just one way to act with a brother.

Friend2: Oh yeah. For sure. Unique circumstances. You have the full spectrum. Lakshmana was ready to kill anyone who came against Rama. Bharata was ready to give up everything he had so that Rama could become king. Then you had Vali, who wanted to kill Sugriva.

[Bharata worshiping Rama's sandals]Friend1: And in between there is Vibhishana. He had affection for Ravana, but not to the point that he would tolerate grievous sin.

Friend2: Yeah. He had enough when Ravana stole another man’s wife in secret, without fighting for her. Vibhishana also was kind to Hanuman, from the start. Hanuman remembered that when he later set fire to the entire city. He intentionally skipped Vibhishana’s palace.

Friend1: So there is one more pair that I was thinking of. Often forgotten, because they are birds.

Friend2: Jatayu and Sampati.

Friend1: Sampati was so sad to learn about Jatayu’s death. It got me to thinking. I’m pretty upset by it, too. Jatayu was on the side of righteousness, dharma. He was a friend to Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya.

Friend2: An unsung hero, for sure. The odds weren’t in his favor. He was going against a fiend with ten heads and twenty arms. Ravana had an aerial car, also.

Friend1: Really the worst person, if you think about it. Dushkritina, naradhama, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend2: “Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

Friend1: Love that verse. As we both know, Rama from the Ramayana is the same Krishna from the Gita. Ravana not only refused to surrender to God the person, he directly went against Him by stealing His wife Sita.

Friend2: That’s how we know Jatayu was on the side of good. He tried to stop that from happening. He was really the only person to put up opposition to Ravana at that time, who had come to the forest in disguise, using his assistant Maricha in the plot to take Sita away in secret.

[Jatayu against Ravana]Friend1: I’m getting upset just thinking about what happened. Poor Jatayu. He fought valiantly, but the struggle eventually cost him his life. He failed. He tried devotional service, but he didn’t succeed in his objective. Shouldn’t Rama have been kind and given him victory?

Friend2: That is an interesting viewpoint.

Friend1: Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita tells Arjuna to declare that the devotee never perishes. What about Jatayu?

Friend2: So many ways to explain what happened. The one I’ll use here is that there is no shame at all in what happened to Jatayu. Ravana’s victory was only temporary. It piled on to the sinful reactions that were set to come his way. It is a standard law of karma that a person who gives up their life while fighting valiantly on the battlefield is immediately rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife. It is something like a religious sacrifice.

Friend1: That’s to stress the importance of military men, of people who protect others from injury.

Friend2: And remember that it goes both ways. Even the supposed bad guys get this result, provided they fight somewhat honorably. Proof is there in the battle between Rama and Khara, one of Ravana’s brothers. Khara and the other Rakshasas had previously killed and eaten so many sages living in the forest. Prior to their battle, Rama remarked that Khara was set to receive the same destination as those sages. The sages went to heaven because of their pious behavior, and Khara would get the same result for dying honorably in battle.

Friend1: Doesn’t someone who dies at God’s hands get liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death?

Friend2: There’s that, too, but Rama was relaying the general principle. So Jatayu died valiantly; there was no shame. Moreover, Rama found him later on. Rama held Jatayu in His hands as the bird quit his body. Jatayu got the ultimate benefit of being God conscious at the time of death. The end was practically identical to his friend Dasharatha’s. Both were thinking of Rama.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: The incident also shows Rama’s mercy in allowing everyone to practice devotion to Him. It is not limited to the human species. A forest-dwelling monkey like Sugriva can make the sacrifice. A Rakshasa in a sinful land like Lanka can come over to Rama’s side. And birds like Sampati and Jatayu can play vital roles as well. No one is shut out, provided they have the desire in their heart.

In Closing:

When injustice against Sita to see,

Jatayu fought, valiant was he.


Unfortunately this time not to win,

Against Ravana of so many a sin.


Why Supreme Lord help not to give,

And allowing the bad guy to live?


Not a loss, for Jatayu no shame,

Saw Rama at death, gained eternal fame.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Things That Make A Person Smart

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

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You’re dumbfounded. This is a person you respect. They are able to do things that are well beyond your abilities. They went to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. They received a full scholarship. No one has ever doubted their intelligence.

Yet on this particular topic, relating to the functioning of the government, they are totally clueless. You absolutely know way more than them. Their colleagues are just as in the dark. They accept whatever the biased press feeds them. When you question them on legislation that has passed, on the motivations of certain politicians, on the lies that have been told, they have no idea of what you speak.

This calls for a reevaluation. Who is actually smart? Have you been wrong this entire time? Knowledge in Sanskrit is known as jnana, and it plays an important role in spiritual life. The Vedas describe the most important things to know, giving the real definition of intelligence. Indeed, every human being has intelligence to some degree, as it is a subtle material element, covering the spotless individual within.

1. Knowing about death

The Ivy League educated person most likely knows that they are going to die, but knowledge in this area is about realization. Facts are one thing. I can study a certain subject matter, memorize the key points, and then pass an examination on the material. This doesn’t mean that I have assimilated the knowledge, though.

In Sanskrit there are two corresponding terms of relevance for this discussion. Jnana and vijnana. Jnana is theoretical knowledge, like studying facts, figures and principles. Vijnana is the practical realization, something like being able to carry out experiments on the principles studied.

The smart person has vijnana about death. They know that life does not go on forever. They are consciously aware of the past deaths of everything that has been born. They use this knowledge to direct their thoughts and activities in a certain direction. They don’t act like the animals, who are clueless in this area.

2. Knowing the three modes of nature

The acknowledged smart person might be a scientist. They may study the nature around them and develop theories as to how things work. They may even describe to everyone in certainty what the conditions on earth were like billions of years ago.

But unless they know about the three modes of material nature, they are essentially clueless. They will think that the individual is the sole doer. Whatever I want to happen will take place. Your average person on the street, taking a minute to think, realizes that this is not the case. Not everyone who wants to get up in the morning is able to do so.

The living entity is not the doer. Shri Krishna explains this in the Bhagavad-gita. The three modes of material nature must cooperate first. They are goodness, passion and ignorance. These modes influence body types, activities, and even religious activities.

3. Knowing the nature of happiness and distress

Sukha and duhkha. These are happiness and distress. They come and go like the winter and summer seasons. Shri Krishna says that the wise person should not be disturbed by them.

“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)

Does the smart person in society understand this? Are they level-headed? Or do they get overly distressed at the loss of life? Do they remain sad when things don’t go their way? Are they overly excited as a result of an achievement?

As death is the guaranteed end for everyone, it means that no situation remains permanently. Just like the seasons themselves, happiness and distress come and go. The truly wise person understands this and thus remains sober in mind.

4. Knowing that there is an afterlife

This was an issue that often left His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada baffled. After talking with respected leaders in society, some who were considered to be very smart, the swami would come to learn that they didn’t believe in the afterlife. After all, from his own experience, even simple villagers in his country understood that the soul continues in its existence. It is in an always changing body.

“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)

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]If a person thinks that everything finishes at death, they are a fool. It is as simple as that. Life comes from life, and the souls entering this world in a tiny form have arrived from a previous lifetime. Proof of reincarnation is there in the already changing body. We no longer have the form of an infant, but we are still alive today. In the same way, we will continue to exist in some form after this body is completely discarded.

5. Knowing the difference between matter and spirit

The first instruction to aspiring transcendentalists in the Vedic tradition is the difference between matter and spirit. The identity of the individual is spirit. We are all tiny fragments. Take the tip of a piece of hair and divide it into ten thousand parts. The size of the soul is something like one of those parts. Yet from something so tiny we have the miracle of life.

The body, on the other hand, is dull and lifeless. It is composed of gross and subtle elements, belonging to a combination of the three modes of nature. Real knowledge begins when a person understands this most important distinction. The end of knowledge, Vedanta, is understanding that there is a supreme spirit as well. He is knowledgeable, eternal and blissful, just like us, except to a much larger degree.

Indeed, knowledge is already within all of us. In the material world it simply manifests differently depending on the type of body received. Nevertheless, every person, young or old, man or woman, smart or less intelligent, is eligible to become fully spiritual in a single lifetime. That transformation starts with a little knowledge and ends with full devotional ecstasy in constant attachment to the Divine, who is all-attractive.

In Closing:

About the afterlife do they know,

And how to next body to go?


What about being the doer not?

Past failures many I’ve got.


Over good news elated,

And from sadness deflated?


Intelligent knowing soul from matter distinguished,

And in bhakti’s ecstasy reincarnation extinguished.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Fraternal Relationships From The Ramayana

[Rama and Lakshmana]“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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There’s really nothing like it. A friend for life. No way to explain it to someone else. It’s a bond that got created at some time, automatically, without effort. You would give your life for that person, and they for you. You want nothing but happiness for them. Though you have rivalries from time to time, though the arguments may escalate to the point of physical conflict, deep down there is great affection.

This gift is the brother. If it’s the elder, then you have known them your entire life. In the reverse situation, you have seen them since they emerged from the womb. But how should the relationship be? What is ideal? In Sanskrit there are two significant words in this regard: agraja and anuja. Both are used in the famous Ramayana.

The main character of the historical work of epic length is often described as Lakshmana-agraja. Shri Rama is the eldest of four brothers. As agraja, He is the first, who is the leader of the others. Lakshmana is one of the younger brothers, and another name for Him is Ramanuja. He is the devoted follower of the elder. There are several fraternal relationships in the Ramayana, and the mood between the brothers is not always the same.

1. Rama and Lakshmana

The Ramayana describes that the four brothers essentially split up into pairs soon after birth. They appeared in the royal family in Ayodhya, sons to King Dasharatha, the current spotless leader in a line that traced all the way back to King Ikshvaku, who is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita.

Rama and Lakshmana were always together, and Bharata and Shatrughna inseparable. There still wasn’t any rivalry; Rama was the heart and soul of everyone in the town. The relationship with Lakshmana was unique because the association couldn’t be broken. Rama reciprocated as well, as He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an incarnation form. Lakshmana himself one time described Rama as grateful.

“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)

[Rama and Lakshmana]When the honor of king descended to Rama, the first thing the Lord did was to offer a share of it to Lakshmana. The younger brother returned the favor by later insisting on accompanying Rama to the forest for fourteen years. Lakshmana would not eat or sleep unless Rama had done so first. That younger brother is the embodiment of the guru, who in spirit behaves the same way with God. Lakshmana is Rama’s number one defender, as are the spiritual masters whom he inspires.

2. Rama and Bharata

Bharata was not always by Rama’s side, but the level of devotion was the same as the other brothers. Rama left for the forest while Bharata was away on business. When he returned home, Bharata was mortified upon learning how everything went down. It was because of his own mother’s jealousy that Rama was kicked out of the kingdom. The eldest son’s departure was too much for Dasharatha to bear; he left his body soon thereafter.

Bharata was now the ruler of the kingdom, supposedly, but without a father. His heart and soul, Shri Rama, had left as well, taking Lakshmana and the wife Sita. Bharata found Rama in the forest and tried his best to change the situation. Bharata’s words were so endearing that Rama agreed to rule the kingdom by proxy for fourteen years; through His sandals. Bharata refused to live as a king. He remained in a hut and worshiped those sandals day and night. As Goswami Tulsidas mentions, so many people served Rama for a specific purpose, to get something in return. Bharata was the one who gave up something, embodying the spirit of full renunciation.

3. Sugriva and Vali

Things don’t always go well between brothers. They should look out for each other, but in the material world uncontrolled sense gratification can quickly lead to wrath. From wrath there is loss of intelligence. In the case of Sugriva and Vali, a misunderstanding essentially ended their relationship.

Vali was the king of the area in the forest known as Kishkindha. Of a monkey-type body, Vali was still incredibly strong. His fight with a foe one time led him into a cave. Sugriva was standing guard outside. Mistakenly thinking that Vali had died, Sugriva decided to close up the entrance to the cave. This would keep the enemy out.

Vali had in fact emerged victorious, and when he found out about the closed entrance, he became incensed. He pushed his way out and accused Sugriva of trying to kill him for the purpose of taking over the kingdom. Sugriva then essentially ran away in fear. He would have been killed were it not for the safe space of Rishyamukha. Vali was prevented from entering that area due to a curse previously applied to him by a sage.

This serious rivalry would soon see the Supreme Lord step in. Rama made friends with Sugriva in the forest, and for the devotees God will do anything. Sugriva needed his kingdom back, and so Rama shot Vali while the two brothers were engaged in a fight. This goes against the conventional rules of warfare, but for God there are no rules. He is not beholden to karma, and neither are those surrendered to Him. Vali was still benefitted, as he was killed directly by God. He saw the beautiful face of Shri Rama at the moment of quitting his body.

4. Vibhishana and Ravana

Thus far two pairs of brothers of the human race and one pair in the monkey kingdom. There is another pair of note who are from the Rakshasa race. These are also like human beings, but much more sinful in nature. They are like ogres, known especially for consuming human flesh.

The Rakshasas ruled over the island of Lanka, and the leader was Ravana. The ten-headed one of the terrifying scream, Ravana used his amazing strength for evil. He was always intoxicated, ate loads of animal flesh, and had so many beautiful wives. Yet as is known to the wise, kama is never fully satisfied. The more one scratches the itch, the greater the intensity of the desire upon reemergence.

Vibhishana was pious from birth. He was not like the others in Lanka. He was still very affectionate to his elder brother Ravana. While so many advisors were there to tell Ravana what he wanted to hear, Vibhishana tried to set the king straight. Ravana committed the worst mistake in taking Sita away from Rama in secret, without fighting for her. Vibhishana advised Ravana to return Sita to Rama. Ravana didn’t listen, and so Vibhishana left the kingdom and went to the side of Rama. He was a key player in Ravana’s ultimate defeat. Though a traitor by normal estimation, Vibhishana ended up doing the most good for his brother.

5. Jatayu and Sampati

Humans, monkeys, Rakshasas. We can add birds to the list. Jatayu was extremely heroic. When Ravana went to the forest of Dandaka and took Sita away in secret, the lone opposition he met was Jatayu. As Ravana was flying away in his aerial car, Jatayu put up a fight. Unfortunately, it was a losing battle. His wings clipped, Jatayu fell to the ground. As he lay dying, he eventually met eyes with Rama. The devotee who paid the ultimate sacrifice received the ultimate benediction of seeing Rama’s beautiful face as he departed for the next life.

Jatayu’s brother Sampati would also be of tremendous service. After Sugriva regained his kingdom, he dispatched his massive army to search the globe for Sita’s whereabouts. The leading group went past the allotted time. Without success, they were ready to give up. While talking amongst themselves, the bird Sampati overheard from above. He was ready to eat them until he heard Jatayu’s name mentioned.

Sampati then became a great friend to the group, informing them that Sita was on the island of Lanka. He was greatly saddened to hear the news of Jatayu, but he still managed to pay honor to the brother. Jatayu would have been extremely happy to know that his brother played a role in Ravana’s eventual demise.

Thus the Ramayana gives us several kinds of relationships between brothers, each unique in their own way. The tie binding them together is the Supreme Lord. Everything in the material world is like a zero. You can keep accumulating them, but you’ll still always have zero. God is like a non-zero digit. As soon as you add Him, the zeroes become something of value. The same applies for relationships and friendships. When Shri Rama is at the center, the brother, the father, the mother, the sister, the child - the relationship with them becomes much more meaningful.

In Closing:

Brother gift from God is he,

Best friend naturally can be.


From Ramayana different pairs seeing,

Like Lakshmana devoted follower being.


Bharata for Lord in hut meditating still,

Raging Vali trying brother Sugriva to kill.


Counselor Vibhishana enemy camp to enter,

All bonds whole when God at the center.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Five Reasons To Have A Marriage In Dharma Instead Of Kama

[Sita-Rama marriage]“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

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He had left home. He took practically nothing with Him. He didn’t want His wife or His younger brother to suffer, yet they insisted on accompanying Him. He was there on patrol; sort of like a police officer. The area was the tapo-vana, the forest conducive to the practice of austerity and penance. The people residing there were under a constant threat of attack, and they were not equipped to defend themselves.

His wife had concerns, however. She presented them very mildly, but to any husband even the softest rebuke from the wife can cause an argument. Shri Rama responded very nicely, however. He knew that Sita was simply worried about Him; she hoped that He would not veer off the righteous path, dharma. In praising her, Rama referred to her as a sadharma-charini.

This is the wife who follows the path of dharma with her husband; she is the partner in observance of religious duties. Marriage advice is a tough thing to offer, since circumstances vary. What works for one couple may not for another, and vice versa. There are horror stories that in the beginning were like fairytale romances. Sometimes people who never met at the time of marriage turn into the most dedicated and loyal partners.

The Vedas take away a lot of the guesswork by referring to married life as the grihastha-ashrama. It is the second of four stages that the human being ideally goes through. Each stage is an ashrama, or spiritual institution. There are many reasons to have a marriage in dharma instead of kama.

1. Kama changes

Kama has several different translations in English. At the root level, it is desire. Kama is also sense gratification. In its strongest form, it is lust. All three translations are basically the same when the nature of the desire is understood. Kama is material desire, wanting pleasure for the temporary body. The individual is spirit soul, which is transcendental to the changing body.

One reason marriage shouldn’t be in kama is that kama changes. Desires don’t always remain. Sometimes satisfying them only increases their intensity going forward. That is how lust develops. Another phenomenon observed is that once satisfied, the same desire requires much more to bring the same satisfaction the next time around.

Relations with the opposite sex are the perfect example. You fall in love. You get married. But one day you may fall out of love. If kama were steady, no couples would ever break up. Dharma, on the other hand, never changes. It is at the very core of the soul.

2. Kama is for the dogs and the monkeys

A rather harsh assessment. What is wrong with desire? To desire is to live, is it not? Why should kama be criticized in such a way? Actually, kama can be fulfilled in the lower species. The spirit soul travels through different kinds of bodies. The human form targets dharma as the primary objective.

The dogs and the monkeys enjoy unlimited sex. They don’t worry about the feelings of the partner. They are not concerned with remaining faithful, either. Whatever itch in sense gratification needs to be scratched, that urge is followed.

Human beings have discrimination. They can acquire knowledge and renunciation. Both are extremely valuable, and both are damaged greatly by kama. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna declares kama, which transforms into krodha, or wrath, to be the all-devouring enemy of this world.

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

3. Dharma is the bedrock of good culture

When you visit certain areas of the country, you are amazed at how nice the people are. They don’t walk around with an angry face. They say “hello” to strangers. The adults are typically married with several children. In a particular foreign country that you visit, the people are similar. Their kindness is something you’ve never experienced before.

The difference is good culture, and at the foundation is dharma. Religious principles are not exclusive to one people or to one area. All around the world dharma can be found to some degree, and there are also people who ignore it. The human being always has this choice: sense gratification or righteousness. It is like a constant tug of war. A marriage in dharma has a much better chance for success than one in kama.

4. It is sex life identical to the Supreme Lord

In kama sex life is illicit. It is prohibited for the reason that it leads to continued rebirth. The spirit souls fell to this world due to kama. It is the cause of the continued stay in the material world. The toughest thing to control is the urge for sex life. That is why all religious traditions have some sort of regulation on it. Marriage was created by God for essentially this reason.

“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

Yet the potency is there in man. He has the ability to pass on a seed, and the woman is the only person who can nurture that seed to bring forth a new life. Even sex can be religious, or in line with dharma. Shri Krishna says that such sex life is identical to Him. Dharma is the chance to not only save yourself and your spouse, but also future souls who appear in this world. Through dharma the offspring can escape from the cycle of birth and death.

5. Brings progress towards enlightenment

By living with a spouse, through compromising desires on a daily basis, by raising children, and by always following dharma a person can become fully enlightened. Though renunciation is typically easier to strengthen through complete celibacy and secluded living, even in the grihastha-ashrama a person can make tremendous progress. Otherwise this stage of life would never be recommended at all.

[Sita-Rama marriage]In kama there is no progress. The marriage in kama is really no different than simply keeping a boyfriend or girlfriend. Dharma is where the relationship can make a truly positive impact. Sita Devi was a sadharma-charini to her most pious husband Rama. Parvati is the most chaste wife to the venerable Mahadeva. There are so many examples from history to look to. When husband and wife are both dedicated to the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed, their partnership delivers both of them to the spiritual world.

In Closing:

Marriage advice difficult to give,

Since in unique situations to live.


One rule safe to obey,

That dharma better than kama’s way.


Sense enjoyment varying and for lower species reserved,

Higher goal when getting human birth deserved.


Even with partner spiritual progress making,

Adherence both to higher world taking.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Five Reasons To Study The Bhagavad-gita To Increase The Faith You Already Have

[Lord Krishna]“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)

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“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bigoted. I respect other cultures. Where I live people tend to be happy. We are very hospitable. I’m amazed when I travel to the cities and see how upset people are. They don’t even say ‘hello’ to one another. They walk past quickly, pretending that they don’t see you.

“I will admit that the images look a little strange. A blue God? A guy with four hands lying down on a serpent bed? A guy with four heads in the distance, attached to the same four-handed guy’s navel through a lotus stem? You must admit that people who aren’t familiar with such images would not be willing to accept them as factual right away.

“I understand that you would like it if I read your book, but I already believe in God. I have my religion. I am comfortable in that. I respect your right to practice religion. I will admit that some of the things you have told me are interesting, but I still don’t see the need to explore any further.”

These viewpoints are certainly understandable, but the Bhagavad-gita offers something to every person. Even the staunchest atheist is benefitted through a proper reading, where the many verses are explained in the disciplic tradition linking back to the original recipient, the warrior Arjuna. To the people already belonging to a particular faith, that faith can be strengthened in many ways through hearing the words of Shri Krishna.

1. God is unlimited

The Sanskrit word is ananta. Anta is an end or conclusion. God is without an end. There is no final chapter for Him. The important books around the world associated with Him describe Him to some extent, but there is no final word. In Vedic literature, there are countless books. Some of them are massive in length, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Still, God is always expanding. Proof of this is the universal form. Shri Krishna is the teacher in the Bhagavad-gita and Arjuna the student. The truths themselves are sufficient justification for looking at Krishna as Bhagavan, which means the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

To satisfy the doubters, Krishna also showed the universal form, the virata-rupa. In that amazing vision, made possible by a set of eyes granted to Arjuna by Krishna, there were unlimited planets, universes, and heavenly figures. Arjuna even saw so many mouths belonging to Krishna, into which all the assembled fighters were rushing.

2. There is always more to know

In one verse Krishna says that through a specific process a person can know Him free from doubts. The state represents completeness in the sense that nothing else is required to stay confident of the devotional path, which differs from the materialist path. We follow the latter by default, starting from the time of birth. Maya, or the illusory energy pervading the material world, makes sure that we stay on that path, considering the temporary body to be everything, while ignoring the spiritual nature of living things.

It is actually impossible to know God fully. Since He is ananta, He is always expanding. Consider time. It is infinite both forwards and backwards. Time is one representation of the Divine. Imagine if you could retain information of everything that has happened thus far. You would have complete knowledge of the past. There is still the present to account for. You would need to know everything going on right now and in the future. Then you’d have to be able to process the information.

Such knowledge is but one small aspect of God. This means that even if I have my particular book belonging to my faith, there is always more to know. The Bhagavad-gita and other such works give enough information to occupy sufficient time for many lifetimes of study. And the process is blissful throughout.

3. Learn about the soul

The opening dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna is profound. Those verses alone make the Bhagavad-gita stand above any other book ever to be found. Those verses discuss the nature of the individual. The premise is that Arjuna is afraid to continue in a war. He does not want to cause death and destruction. He has compassion for the opposing side, despite the fact that they have wronged him and his family for so long.

Krishna explains reincarnation in a single verse. The individual soul is different from the body. That soul travels through different phases. At the last stage, there is a complete change of body. It is something like changing clothes. Therefore a person shouldn’t be overly concerned with the body.

The soul is what matters, and Shri Krishna reveals so much about that soul. Krishna is spirit as well, but of a different kind. He is all-pervading and one, Paramatma, while we are individual sparks and localized, jivatma. There is always a link between the two; they are never separated. Atheism and passive theism are simply the result of forgetting that God is always with us and that we should serve Him.

4. Find out how God is great

Religion undoubtedly acknowledges that God is great. But what exactly does that mean? How is He great? The Bhagavad-gita provides some answers. The material and spiritual worlds come from Him. All truths rest on Him, like pearls strung on a thread.

“O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)

Arjuna even addresses Krishna by different names. The Lord is Govinda because He gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is Janardana since He knows all people. He is Hrishikesha because He is the master of the senses. Indeed, the Bhagavad-gita is simply the beginning. The more lengthy Shrimad Bhagavatam describes the greatness of God in a way that no other work does.

5. Become more attracted to Him

Know God. Sure. Worship God. Okay. Fear God? Is that something worthwhile? Maybe if you are prone to sinful behavior, such as lying, cheating and stealing. The egregious violators of decency and etiquette in society certainly don’t fear God. In that respect it is healthy to have a little concern over punishment originating from the Divine.

[Lord Krishna]In Vedic culture the goal is to love God. It is not difficult, in fact. Since God is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. Knowledge and attraction go together; the change is automatic. The more you know about God, the more you will be attracted to Him. Soon the mindset will change from fear to unmotivated and uninterrupted service. You will think that I have to serve the Supreme Lord, because He has done so much for me. You will acknowledge that no other path in life is as rewarding.

In Closing:

Faith by my parents given,

Sins by my savior forgiven.


Why then Bhagavad-gita to read,

Of further knowledge what need?


Since always more of Supreme to know,

And how much great is He so.


Of the unlimited and the soul to learn,

Increased faith and attachment to earn.