Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gaura Purnima 2017

[Lord Chaitanya birth]“In jubilation everyone was chanting the holy name of the Lord – ‘Hari! Hari!’ - and Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then appeared, after first causing the appearance of the holy name.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi, 13.21)

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I need something to look forward to. Otherwise the days simply repeat themselves. Get up; reluctantly at that. Go through the morning routine. Brush teeth, take shower, put on clothes, eat breakfast, rush out the door. Then at night it’s simply relaxation. At least that is the hope. The next day go through the exact same thing.

One of the things I look forward to is spending time with my friends. I naturally expect the association of my friends to bring me some kind of happiness. Otherwise why would I seek out their company?

Though the Supreme Lord is difficult to define through mental speculation alone, since He is all-pervading it is assumed that He cares for everyone. Universal affection implies friendship. If He is such a good friend, I should expect some type of good feeling from His association. The occasion of Gaura Purnima provides an example of how He brings great joy to others.

The English word “God” is quite vague. One Sanskrit equivalent is Ishvara. This means “great controller.” Ishvara can apply to me and you, also. Ishvara is purusha at the local level, which can mean “person” or “enjoyer.” Take the example of playing in a sandbox. The person moving the sand is Ishvara. They are also purusha. The sand is prakriti, or “that which is enjoyed.” One dominating force exercising its authority over another, inferior entity.

A better Sanskrit word for the Almighty is Bhagavan. From here we start to see separation between the many Ishvaras and the one who controls everyone. Bhagavan is an individual, distinct from you and me. He is a person, purusha, but the topmost; hence one name for Him being Purushottama. He is a controller, Ishvara, but of a supreme variety, Parameshvara.

Bhagavan specifically means that God the person possesses different fortunes. “Fortunes” means attributes, and some of those attributes are beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Bhagavan has these attributes in full and simultaneously.

Such a person who has everything naturally brings affection to others. Of course the determining factor is mood. The space heater in the living room should bring me comfort in the winter. It is there to help. But unless I plug it in and turn it on, I will remain in the misery caused by the frigid air.

As recently as five hundred years ago Bhagavan the person descended to earth. He came in a special golden form whose Divine nature was hidden from practically everyone. The surrendered souls, the ishvaras who understood the existence and superiority of Parameshvara, got to enjoy His company.

This golden form was known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and from the Chaitanya Charitamrita we learn that when Bhagavan appeared in this form as a small child the people in the community were very happy. Just how much bliss did they feel? They couldn’t help but chant the name of Hari over and over.

Lord Chaitanya fulfilled His mission even before His birth. The golden avatara’s objective was to get people to chant the holy names of God, especially those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Not just a way to direct people into meditation. Not some sentimental attachment to a specific sound produced by the Sanskrit language. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu knows that everyone will become so happy as a result of this chanting.

[Lord Chaitanya birth]He caused the people of Navadvipa to chant Hari, which is another name for God. Only then did Chaitanya appear. In that childhood form He would provide even more bliss to the people around Him. This is the effect of God’s association. On the occasion of Gaura Purnima, we remember the best friend to all living entities, who once displayed the most beautiful golden form to give bliss to the surrendered souls.

In Closing:

How to bring bliss to them knowing,

So beautiful golden form showing.


Mission accomplished even before,

Then childhood form to adore.


“Hari Hari” for Him just say,

In Kali’s age no other way.


Mahaprabhu golden avatara came,

To share glories of holy name.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Seized By The Day, Frozen Captive By The Night

[Shri Krishna]“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)

Friend1: How do you find time to chant?

Friend2: Chant what?

Friend1: The holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: How do you find time to eat?

Friend1: Don’t answer my question with a question. That trick won’t work on me.

Friend2: I’m trying to establish something. Just go with it.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: How do you find time to sleep?

Friend1: I have to do those things. If I don’t eat, I won’t survive. Sleep is vital to good health.

Friend2: Do you find time to watch television and surf the internet?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Then?

Friend1: I see what you’re saying. But it seems like the responsibilities of daily life are too much.

Friend2: Too much for what?

Friend1: To remain dedicated to the regulative practice, sadhana, of bhakti-yoga. I have to get up early in the morning to prepare for work. When I get home at night, I am so tired. I don’t want to do anything.

[Tired from work]Friend2: And so you’re saying it’s difficult to remain conscious of Krishna as a result?

Friend1: I know there is that famous verse in the Bhagavad-gita, where He advises Arjuna to constantly think of Him. By so doing, a person will automatically come to Him.

Friend2: Man mana bhavo mad bhakto

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: Listen, you make a strong case. During the day, responsibilities take precedence. There is that famous Latin phrase, carpe diem.

Friend1: Seize the day.

Friend2: Right. For most people, the opposite happens. They get seized by the day. Then at night they are held captive by a consciousness that remains focused on what happened during the past day and what needs to be done in the upcoming one.

Friend1: There you go. You understand the issue. It’s like an endless cycle.

Friend2: In a way symbolic of the samsara-chakra, or wheel of suffering. Day after day extends all the way out to birth after birth.

Friend1: Yeah. It’s like the precious human form goes to waste.

Friend2: Don’t let it. You are fortunate in that you are aware of the pattern. So many people don’t see it. They don’t have the opportunity to associate with sadhu, shastra and guru.

Friend1: Saintly person, scripture and spiritual master.

Friend2: I can assert that the human being is capable of amazing things. You see people working two jobs and raising a family at the same time. Sick people turn things around by adopting a healthy lifestyle. So much austerity goes into success for which there is evidence everywhere. Why can’t the same commitment be made in purifying the consciousness?

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: You have to believe that such practices will do you the most good. If you are confident in that way, then soon the attitude will change.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: You’ll never even consider skipping the routine of chanting the holy names. Regular visits to a house of worship will be can’t miss appointments. You’ll be happy that a new day has come that allows you to again think of the all-attractive one. Thinking of Krishna is the highest form of meditation, and only in that meditation is peace found. Everyone is looking for peace, are they not?

Friend1: For sure.

[Shri Krishna]Friend2: Trust that bhakti-yoga is the way. You don’t have to worship Krishna specifically. Whatever conception of God that you have, which can range from the impersonal energy to an Almighty being, just remain conscious of that object. Of course the closer you get to the personal conception, the more benefit will arrive as a result. But nevertheless, any genuine attempt made at spiritual life is far superior to spinning on the wheel of action and reaction in the material world.

In Closing:

Work during the daytime to seize,

Thoughts at night again to freeze.


To remain dedicated in bhakti how?

Seeming like never proper time is now.


Priority of sadhana make,

With urgency the process take.


Increased devotion the reward winning,

No more on samsara-chakra spinning.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grudges Break Your Back

[Lakshmi Devi]“In this world everyone is envious of his fellow being. But a perfect paramahamsa, being completely given up to the service of the Lord, is perfectly nonenvious. He loves every living being in relation with the Supreme Lord. Real renunciation means perfect dependence on God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.22 Purport)

Friend1: Do you hold grudges?

Friend2: I try not to. With you it’s difficult.

Friend1: Very funny. You’re against them?

Friend2: Not something I really think about.

Friend1: If somebody wrongs you, isn’t it a good idea to hold on to the memory?

Friend2: As a prevention mechanism?

Friend1: Yes. So that in the future you don’t get burned again.

Friend2: I would call that intelligence. Remembering is not a bad idea, but a grudge is something different. It’s remaining upset for way too long, usually unjustifiably so.

Friend1: How do you let go of the ill feeling, though?

Friend2: It’s not easy, but surely it is possible. Just try to remember that everyone in this material world is envious to some degree.

Friend1: That’s a pretty blanket statement.

Friend2: It makes sense. Otherwise, why would people cheat? We know that cheating is one of the four defects in man.

Friend1: Along with committing mistakes, having imperfect senses, and being easily illusioned.

Friend2: I cheat because I am not confident of my abilities. I know that success is not guaranteed. Others are competing with me for enjoyment. If I can get the upper hand, all the better to me.

Friend1: And you’re saying that complementing cheating is enviousness, where you are upset that someone else has bested you.

Friend2: And someone will surely surpass me. I cannot be the best at everything. Even in playing sports, I can’t hold every record there is. The richest guy in the world is missing something. The smartest person is lacking in some other area. Thus there is so much cause for envy.

Friend1: What do you tell people who hold grudges? I’m sure you know people who are consumed by them.

Friend2: Absolutely. It’s all they talk about. “So and so wronged me that one time. I will never forget it.”

Friend1: Right. It’s like a lingering memory. Difficult to shake.

Friend2: I tell them not to be like the crow. Be more like the swan.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: The crow is always around garbage. It remains in unclean areas. Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, once made this comparison to the evil Ravana.

Friend1: Was this when he was making advances on her?

Friend2: Yeah. He was trying to win her over. She said that she could never be with someone like him, since he was like a crow. She was like a swan, accustomed to being around lotus flowers, which are the symbol of purity.

“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)

[Lakshmi Devi]Friend1: Holding grudges is crow-like behavior?

Friend2: Absolutely. They serve no viable purpose. Grudges can be back-breaking in a sense, preventing you from proceeding further on the path of purifying the consciousness.

Friend1: I see.

Friend2: The swan tries to stay pure in mind. They associate with other swan-like people. The highest transcendentalist is compared to the swan. The word is paramahamsa.

Friend1: I’ve heard that before. Many saintly people have this word in their title.

Friend2: Paramahamsa means “supreme swan.” The swan is known for its ability to take a mixture of milk and water and extract the milk. It casts aside the water. In this material world, the transcendentalist on the highest platform of consciousness sees only the good, the influence of the Supreme. They cast aside the negative. Holding grudges represents the opposite mentality; thinking only of the bad. There is no benefit to such a mentality.

Friend1: How do we become swan-like?

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: Associate with other swan-like people. If you can’t find them personally, they are there in book form. Also, sound recordings are there. If even that is difficult for you, associate with the object of service for the paramahamsas, the Supreme Lord. Just chant His holy names and drink in the acoustic gift that is non-different from God Himself: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

From past wrong anger to unfold,

But best not for grudge to hold.


Mistakes also coming from me,

Better for good in others to see.


Like the swan water casting aside,

With milk-like Divine pleasure to reside.


Not naïve or as fool to act,

But focus kept on right track.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Five Things That Should Result From Following Your Religion

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)

What is religion? Is there a way to properly define it? Is one better than another? People kill in the name of religion, after all. They apply dogmatic insistence to prevent members from exploring, from asking too many questions.

In the Vedic tradition the closest equivalent term for religion is dharma. The root meaning to this Sanskrit word is “essential characteristic.” That definition then extends to procedures and guidelines followed to maintain the essential characteristic of the individual, who is spirit soul at the core. Dharma thus also gets translated as “virtue” and “duty.”

Due to time and circumstance, the practice of dharma is not always the same. In some situations, the people are not ready to hear about the difference between matter and spirit and the true purpose to an existence. Reform is first required.

Regardless of how it is practiced, certain qualities should result from following religion. The presence of those qualities affirms the validity of the path followed.

1. Austerity

The Sanskrit word is tapasya. Human life is meant for austerity. Look around today and you would never know it. The motto seems to be the opposite. Enjoy as much as you can. Spend years and years in research to create technology to increase the comforts of man. Worry solely about prolonging life to the greatest extent, so that eating, sleeping, mating and defending can reach the maximum.

Austerity is unique to the human species. There is a benefit to it. Through self-control, man actually finds increased happiness. The truth has to be experienced to be fully believed. Every religion has some guidelines for austerity. For instance, restrictions on eating and the marriage institution are described in religious texts for no other reason than austerity.

2. Cleanliness

This applies both externally and internally. If a public figure gets caught in a profanity-laced tirade, there is a negative reaction. Those words are unclean. The person speaking them is obviously disturbed in some way in the mind. Their consciousness isn’t clean.

The benefits of external cleanliness are well-known. You show up to a job interview wearing nice clothes. You don’t go there right out of bed. You dress up for an awards show ceremony. You take showers every day in order to maintain a good appearance. By staying clean on the outside, you feel a little better on the inside. There is the famous saying that cleanliness is next to godliness.

3. Honesty

Honesty is the best policy. Truth. Trust. These accompany honesty. In most situations, telling the truth is the right thing to do. If I am honest with others, they will be honest with me. I benefit from the honesty of others. For instance, if the train is slated to go to Chicago, I trust the operators will do as they promised. If they take me to New York instead, obviously I will not be pleased.

A religious person should be honest. This is to be expected if they know something about the Divine. Dishonesty is the policy of the rogues and thieves, who have no use for religion.

4. Compassion

Compassion is the result of properly understanding others. Empathy is an accompanying characteristic. A religious person should have compassion for all creatures, since it is understood that everything comes from God. Even though fish eat other fish and animals prey on other animals, for the human being blessed with greater discrimination, there is no reason to intentionally cause harm to any creature. Life can be maintained through simple eating. Even when fighting in a war to protect the innocent from aggressors, there is still compassion for the other side. A religious person understands the struggle that every person in the material world undergoes.

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

5. Love of God

This is the most important quality. When there is love for God, then the religion is bona fide. Otherwise, dharma is incomplete. If we don’t love God, we have to take rebirth, in some form. If we have the aforementioned qualities from following religion, at the very least we get awarded birth in the heavenly region. There we get to enjoy to a great extent for a very long time.

Still, such a reward is material. Eventually there will be a return to the material world, where religion will have to be found and followed again. The same qualities will need to emerge; hopefully this time with the addition of bhakti.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Bhakti is love for God, and it is so powerful that even if the other qualities are lacking, a person can meet perfection in this lifetime. For this reason the spiritual leaders of the Vedic tradition stress that in this age the highest religion is to simply chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To others known as honest man,

Compassionate with a nonviolent hand.


Austerity for off attachment to wean,

And both internally and externally clean.


From following religion these qualities four,

Key component, should get one thing more.


Bhakti, deep love for Lord to feel,

Then end of rebirth reward to seal.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Is The World

[Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya]“In three out of the four millenniums (namely Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga and Dvapara-yuga) people had the honor to be able to understand transcendence through the path of disciplic succession. However, in the present age, people have no interest in the disciplic succession. Instead, they have invented many paths of logic and argument. This individual attempt to understand the supreme transcendence (called the ascending process) is not approved by the Vedas. The Absolute Truth must descend from the absolute platform. He is not to be understood by the ascending process.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Ch 18)

Friend1: The processes for knowledge gathering.

Friend2: Huh?

Friend1: Ascending and descending.

Friend2: Ah, yes. Pretty profound stuff. I had never heard of it prior to coming across the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Friend1: I always get the two mixed up.

Friend2: I used to in the beginning as well.

Friend1: For someone brand new to bhakti teachings, how would you explain it?

Friend2: Well, it’s more than just ascending and descending. The context is the important factor.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: We’re talking about gathering knowledge. As you know, no pun intended, knowledge can be about anything.

Friend1: True.

Friend2: So the ascending and descending processes pertain particularly to understanding the universe, our place in it, the origin, and who or what is maintaining everything.

Friend1: Right, definitely. So how would you explain?

Friend2: I like using examples. Picture this scenario. You and I are sitting in a room.

Friend1: What are we doing?

Friend2: Staring at a machine.

Friend1: What kind of machine?

Friend2: That’s just it. We have no idea. We have never seen it before.

Friend1: Alright. What do we do with it?

Friend2: No clue. We keep staring at it. It might be dangerous. We’re not even sure if there is an on/off button.

Friend1: Alright, but I’m confident that if we keep studying it we’ll have a better idea.

Friend2: Wow; so glad you gave that suggestion. That’s exactly what we do. We keep staring at it. We analyze it up and down, front and back. You come up with various guesses as to what it is. So do I.

Friend1: Also, how did it get there? How long will it remain?

Friend2: What is it supposed to do? Is it even a machine? Exactly. These are great questions.

Friend1: Then, what?

Friend2: Well, this sort of speculation is the ascending process of knowledge gathering. We’re taking information from past experience and trying to apply it to this new one. We’re using a series of pattern matching algorithms to make the identification, and you can only match to things you have seen before.

Friend1: Not only that, but you have to remember what you have seen. It’s like those puzzle games. There are tiles laid out in a series. You uncover one at a time to find pairs. You have to remember which tiles you uncovered previously in order to succeed.

Friend2: Exactly. It’s pattern matching, but our memory is not perfect. Another defect in the ascending process.

Friend1: So what is the example for the descending process?

Friend2: Same situation. You and I are sitting there, speculating about the machine. Then someone enters the room. They tell us exactly what the machine is. In fact, they built it. They are an authority figure on the machine.

Friend1: And that clears up the confusion. No reason to speculate anymore.

[laptop computer]Friend2: We’re using an abstract machine here, but imagine shipping a laptop computer to an area of the world that has never seen one before. The people looking at it won’t know what it is. If you or I come to the scene and explain that the machine is a computer then there is complete knowledge. We demonstrate how to turn it on, input data, and run programs.

Friend1: I think I know already, but how do you make this analogous to spiritual life?

Friend2: We can go on speculating about what the world is. We see people come and go. We study fossil evidence of creatures who lived before our time. We see similarities. We know that there is a beginning to everything. We can speculate on and on, but this ascending process will never give us perfect knowledge.

Friend1: And the acharyas are the descending process?

Friend2: Exactly. The key is the source from which the knowledge descends. You go up the chain of teachers and eventually you reach the beginning-less one, anadi. He is also unlimited, or ananta. There are many names for Him spanning the different traditions of spirituality around the world. The Vedas give the wonderful name of Krishna, which means “all-attractive.”

[Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya]Friend1: And He is not just some blue God of the Hindu faith.

Friend2: He is the definition to the abstract understanding. Even if you are the staunchest atheist, you still believe in an original source. The evolutionists say it is a single cell that then expanded through explosions. Even if we accept that mentally concocted theory, you can say that Krishna is that cell. He is the origin. The concept exists; just the understanding varies based on experience, or lack thereof.

Friend1: What kind of experience?

Friend2: Consulting the authorized disciplic succession, descending from Krishna Himself. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna describes how the amazing teachings were actually presented at the beginning of the creation, to the sun-god. Arjuna was the chosen representative to restart the chain of succession. The acharyas pass on that knowledge to us, and if we are grateful we pass it on to others. Thus more and more people come out of the dark of mental speculation and into the light of true understanding of the individual, who is spirit soul.

In Closing:

Scene of two friends in room where,

At unknown object for hours to stare.


Speculating this way and that,

Not sure of identification exact.


Remaining in the dark still,

An authority figure coming until.


With spiritual life process the same,

Only through parampara the truth to gain.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Does It Feel Pain

[Govinda]“Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47)

Friend1: Can you explain the vegetarian thing again?

Friend2: You don’t know what a vegetarian is?

Friend1: Duh! Obviously, I do. But don’t Krishna bhaktas, devotees of the Supreme Lord in His all-attractive and original form, claim not to be vegetarians?

Friend2: Right. They try their best to eat remnants of sacrifice.

Friend1: That sounds very medieval. Or ancient.

Friend2: Sacrifice is the translation for yajna. Yajna is another name for Vishnu, which is another name for God. Still with me?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: You perform a yajna, which is like a ritual or worship in honor of God the person. In that worship you make offerings. In the end, you get the offerings back, but they have added potency.

Friend1: What are the offerings?

Friend2: Different paraphernalia. Water. A lighted lamp. A fan. The vegetarian part enters with the food. You offer certain food items. The list comes from a verse in the Bhagavad-gita.

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

[prasadam offering]Friend1: Right. I know that. So from that list we see that those who perform yajnas for Krishna are automatically vegetarian.

Friend2: It’s a subtle distinction, but actually there is no desire to be a meat-eater or vegetarian. There is no such classification, because the devotee is simply following what Krishna desires. That is the meaning to bhakti, after all.

Friend1: Alright, fine. But why aren’t non-vegetarian items allowed? Is it because of violence?

Friend2: You can speculate as to the reason, but yes, that is certainly part of it. There is no reason to harm another living thing in order to eat. Still, it is the general rule that one living entity lives off another. There is a verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam to this effect. Jivo jivasya jivanam. See, the Vedas talked about the concept of a food chain long before modern science discovered it.

Friend1: Wow, interesting. If it is the law of nature to live off other living things, what is wrong with killing animals?

Friend2: In emergency situations you have no other choice. But the human being has discrimination. Another issue to consider is pain. Does the animal feel pain when you kill it?

Friend1: Of course.

Friend2: And the animal is similar to the human being in that it also eats, sleeps, mates and defends. If the argument is made that there is no difference between killing a vegetable and killing an animal, then the same argument can be extended towards infants.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Why don’t you kill your children for food? Why don’t you eat your cats and dogs?

Friend1: I see what you are saying.

Friend2: So the arguments from the opposition are silly. They just make up excuses to justify behavior to satisfy their senses. The enlightened human being tries their best to never cause anyone pain. It’s difficult to execute successfully, but there is no harm in the effort. Look at Arjuna. He had to fight in the ghastly Bharata War. It was part of his duty as a kshatriya, or warrior. Still, he had no desire to cause death. His elder brother Yudhishthira felt so bad after the war was over. Everyone told him that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, he felt like he had committed a great sin.

Friend1: Are you saying the vegetable doesn’t feel pain, then?

[Govinda]Friend2: If it does, it’s certainly not as much. Fruits, flowers, grains, water, and milk are sufficient for the human being to continue living. There is no shortage in this area. More importantly, the simple life is conducive to clearing the consciousness and having it focus on spiritual matters. That is the boon of the human birth. If the height of living were to eat animal flesh, then birth in a lower species would be preferable.

In Closing:

If in meat eating no shame,

Then consider just issue of pain.


How the animal at death to feel,

Not unfairly it’s life to steal?


For bhaktas purpose remaining one,

How Shri Krishna’s favor to be won.


In human being discrimination still,

Better without violence plate to fill.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Five Benefits Of Disciplinary Action In Bhakti-Yoga

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.7)

Due to duality in a material existence, there is constant conflict among various forces. Happiness goes against sadness. Heat contrasts with cold. Light dissipates darkness. As far as the way to enjoyment, there is both pravritti and nivritti.

In a verse from the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna mentions both. Pravritti is translated as “what should be done” and nivritti as “what should not be done.” In comparing the different religions of the world, the focus is often on the latter.

Imagine the scene of attending a fair. The various religions each have their own booth at the venue. You can visit any one that you like. The person interested in religion goes up to the representatives and first asks, “Okay, what am I not allowed to do?” They want to know what restrictions will be placed on enjoyment.

One group says that you can’t eat meat during a specific time of the year. The restriction does not include fish and eggs. After doing a little research work it is discovered that the restriction from the institution was much more expansive just fifty years ago. There was no meat consumed every Friday of the year.

At another booth the representative says there is no alcohol consumed and that each member must pray five times a day. There are similar restrictions on this thing and that from the various booths. Upon reaching the representative of the bhakti path of transcendentalism, four restrictions are laid out. No meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex.

The representative explains that the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world, actually incorporate much more into nivritti, but that in this present age of quarrel and hypocrisy, man generally avoids dharma, or righteousness. That is why the focus is on the four main restrictions. The explanation is that nivritti and pravritti are actually equal in bhakti, which is love and devotion. The disciplinary action brings just as much benefit as those things which you are supposed to do, like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

1. Control over the senses

The animals cannot follow nivritti-marga, or the path of restriction. All they know is pravritti, or sense enjoyment. They cannot go on a diet unless forced to by the human being of superior intellect. Restriction is specifically targeted for the human birth.

Disciplinary action helps to control the senses, and that control brings a tremendous advantage. We can think of it like someone turning off that annoying car alarm outside. Too much sense enjoyment is a force distracting from the main objective of life.

2. Avoidance of nonsense activities

Intoxication doesn’t really do me any good. It is a cheap way to escape from the struggles of life. Illicit sex only leads to trouble. Gambling is a way to pass the time, and eating meat involves unnecessary violence. Disciplinary action in bhakti-yoga keeps me away from activities that have no long term benefit, which is known as shreyas. The restrictions are on activities that I know are of little value to me, but for some reason I am drawn to them. Shri Krishna explains the cause to be kama, or lust, combined with krodha, or wrath.

“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

3. Sobriety of mind

Following the four regulative principles brings sobriety of mind. You wouldn’t want the pilot flying the airplane to be drunk. You wouldn’t want the person driving the car to be distracted. If sobriety is a requirement for successful operation of machines and vehicles, why wouldn’t it be assigned an even higher value when operating the machine known as the temporary body?

“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)

4. Ability to persevere through tough situations

If I am too addicted to sense gratification, I have a harder time coping with life. And life certainly brings many challenging situations. Loss, frustration, change, death, and not to mention the effects from the changing seasons. Disciplinary action in bhakti-yoga is something like creating a strong armor to shield from the different attacking forces.

5. The path cleared for sharanagati [surrender]

[Krishna's lotus feet]Of course the restrictions are not everything. Real pravritti is not sense gratification, but rather the pleasure of the master of all senses, Hrishikesha. This is but one of countless names for the Almighty, who is also known as Krishna due to His all-attractiveness. The disciplinary action helps to clear the consciousness so that it can focus on devotional activities like chanting, hearing and worshiping. The ability to practice bhakti-yoga is the true boon of the human existence, culminating in the bliss of full surrender.

In Closing:

Interested in religion are you,

First asking what not can do.


Is this or that thing allowed?

Or done in secrecy’s shroud?


Pravritti and nivritti in Vedas told,

Restriction for pleasure to behold.


Avoidance for from distractions free,

Then in surrender the Divine to see.