Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who Is Actually Lost

[Narada with the four Kumaras]“You have made me lose my sons once, and now you have again done the same inauspicious thing. Therefore you are a rascal who does not know how to behave toward others. You may travel all over the universe, but I curse you to have no residence anywhere.” (Daksha speaking to Narada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.5.43)

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Friend1: It always amazes me.

Friend2: What does?

Friend1: Someone in their twenties, giving up everything, job and family, to go live in a temple.

Friend2: To practice bhakti-yoga?

Friend1: Yes. They feel the need to do it full-time, following all of the regulative principles. Getting up early in the morning. Attending mangala-arati. Chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Going out and distributing literature, if that’s a viable option. Doing sankirtana in public. These people are fearless.

Friend2: They really are. They are my heroes. They remind me of the Vanaras from the Ramayana.

Friend1: [smiling] They’re like monkeys? In what way?

Friend2: Not monkeys, but dedicated servants. The Vanaras weren’t necessarily fully pure in their practices. They lived in the forest, after all. But when it came time to help the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Rama, they were in one hundred percent. There were no reservations. They were enthusiastic. They were fully surrendered.

[Vanaras building bridge]Friend1: Yeah, the situation is pretty analogous, then. But you know, there is the other viewpoint as well.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Where people can’t understand the level of commitment. They can’t fathom someone so young voluntarily choosing a life that is not about money, power, or sensual enjoyment.

Friend2: You can’t blame them for not understanding. The lifestyle is completely different. The perplexity has been there since the beginning of time. Narada Muni instructed the sons of Daksha, one of the progenitors of man, to give up family life and focus on spiritual life instead. As a result Daksha was so mad at Narada that he cursed him.

Friend1: Right. And that’s why Narada is a travelling saint, now. He can’t stay in one place for too long.

[Narada with the four Kumaras]Friend2: Really turned into a blessing, but I’m just saying that the same conflict has been happening in families ever since. Gives a greater appreciation for the Vedas and the wisdom they contain.

Friend1: Yeah. The information is so powerful that it will make you turn away from everything you thought life should be about.

Friend2: If you follow politics, you see that every issue boils down to money and enjoying life. The economy, health care, helping the poor - the focus is on avoiding destitution. And here you have people voluntarily choosing poverty after becoming more knowledgeable. It’s understandable that outside observers would be dumbfounded.

Friend1: Keeping with that vein of thought, there is the idea that the youth following bhakti-yoga are lost. They couldn’t figure out what to do in life, where to go, so they stumbled into this strange way of living.

Friend2: I always get a chuckle from hearing that. The people sitting in their ivory tower, judging others about being lost, are themselves bewildered.

Friend1: Right. Look at the celebrities that end up going crazy because of the fame and power. There is the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Friend2: You don’t have to go even that far. Isn’t an extramarital affair a sign of being lost? Isn’t getting intoxicated on a regular basis like waving the white flag of surrender? What about people who volunteer to jump out of planes? They are so lost that land has lost its charm.

Friend1: It’s like the discussion that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had about who is actually crazy.

Friend2: Exactly. The person who knows that life ends in death and is still not inquisitive about the future or how to shape it - they are not crazy; no. But the person who finds unending bliss in staying connected with God the person - they are considered lost? It’s just the opposite in fact. Reincarnation is compared to a wheel of suffering for a reason. A person on the samsara-chakra finds no way off. They chew the chewed, as Prahlada Maharaja says. After spinning for so long, a fortunate person meets a representative of God like Narada, and from that meeting their life begins to turn around. They go from constant fear and despair to renewed optimism and happiness, day after day, life after life.

In Closing:

Giving picture of actually who is lost,

Plane jumping, intoxication at any cost.


Though of impending death to know,

Never to solution or cause to go.


Those joining from early age,

Choosing wisdom, path of the sage.


Not crazy or lost at all,

When God the best friend to call.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Five Symbolic Aspects Of The Bhagavad-gita

[Hanuman flag on chariot]“The emblem of Hanuman on the flag of Arjuna is another sign of victory because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever Lord Rama is, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the goddess of fortune, are present.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.20 Purport)

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Authority is what allows knowledge to proceed. Imagine you are a first grade school teacher. You are ready to provide instruction on things like simple addition and the alphabet. One problem. No one in the class will listen. They challenge everything you say. They don’t respect you. They refuse to acknowledge authority. How, then, will they learn?

In Vedic culture there is something called parampara. It is translated as “disciplic succession,” which is consulting the highest wisdom through a chain of authority. The first link in that chain is the Supreme Himself, the birth-less and deathless one. Of course the information has to be accepted on faith at first, but not blindly. Apply your intelligence. Share your doubts. Continue to progress on the path, and eventually you’ll become just as enlightened as your teacher, ready to spread the same knowledge to others.

One of the dangers of bypassing parampara is misinterpretation. Take the Bhagavad-gita for example. It is a sacred text nestled inside of a larger, also revered text known as the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-gita is essentially a conversation. Parampara says that the conversation actually took place, that the work is like a transcript of a historical event.

If this vital fact is not accepted, then there is little value derived from reading the work. One of the resulting misinterpretations is that the Bhagavad-gita should be viewed in a symbolic way only. The truth is that the Supreme Lord is such an expert artist that even in His pastimes on this earth He gives plenty of symbolic meaning, which can be found in His conversation with Arjuna as well.

1. Jivatma and Paramatma

The living entities in this world are struggling. There are the six senses, which include the mind. The soul within is atma. Since that soul can be associated with maya, or illusion, it is known as jivatma. For crossing the ocean of birth and death, jivatma needs the help of the higher soul, Paramatma.

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14)

The symbolic representation of both the struggle and the rescue is found in the Bhagavad-gita in the form of the two main speakers. Arjuna represents jivatma, as he is in distress and not sure of what to do. Krishna is Paramatma Himself, the Supersoul pervading every space in existence. He is also within the heart, but His same identity is distributed everywhere, whereas jivatma is limited to the local space.

2. Disciple and guru

Parampara continues through the relationship of disciple and guru. The jivatma gets help from Paramatma within, but there first has to be help in learning how to consult Paramatma. The same Divine is represented on the outside through the guru, or spiritual master.

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

While acting as guru Himself, Krishna gave the advice that a person should seek someone who has seen the truth. The truth-seer can then impart wisdom to the disciple, provided the disciple is humble and inquisitive.

In the situation of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is the symbol of the disciple and Krishna the guru. Arjuna had the most significant doubts a person can have. They were about the very reason for living. Why should we act a certain way if death is certain? Why should we enjoy at the cost of others? What happens if we don’t achieve perfection in consciousness in this lifetime? As the bona fide guru, Krishna was there to answer each question properly and to the satisfaction of the disciple.

3. The flag of Hanuman

The setting is a battlefield. Arjuna is about to begin hostilities in one of the greatest wars of all time. Kurukshetra is about to see millions of deaths. Arjuna is the greatest bow-warrior in the world. He is in essence a servant of God, as after raising his doubts he proceeds only at the direction of Krishna Himself.

[Hanuman flag on chariot]Arjuna’s chariot is decorated with the flag of Hanuman. This is the symbol of another great servant of God. Shri Hanuman previously battled fearlessly to help Shri Rama, an incarnation of Krishna who appeared on earth many years prior. One devotee, Arjuna, was seeking the help of a previously successful devotee, Hanuman. Of course the flag was more than just a symbol, as Hanuman had told Arjuna’s brother Bhima that he would appear on the chariot in the form of the flag and add in the shouts of the victorious side.

4. Maya and Brahman

Take every individual soul. When viewed as a collective, they are Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. Each spark of Brahman is the same in quality. Though originally part of the spiritual energy, jivatma is susceptible to maya, or illusion.

On that chariot Brahman is represented by Arjuna, and he is temporarily in maya. He wants to avoid the conflict for the sake of loved ones fighting for the other side. He posits the idea that by quitting, they will live happily. He will be the bigger person, by giving up and retreating to the forest.

Arjuna returns to the Brahman-realized state after consulting Krishna, who is also symbolic of Parabrahman. Arjuna becomes brahma-bhuta and more by following bhakti, full devotion to God.

5. Surrender and protection

By following bhakti there is full protection. The key is surrender. Abandon every system known to man that helps to bring a temporarily favorable condition. Just believe in God the person, proceed forward, and don’t fear.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

The idea is nice in theory, but the Bhagavad-gita gives both a factual and symbolic representation of it. Arjuna represents full surrender in bhakti, and Krishna’s guidance on the chariot is the protection. So many souls have since followed Arjuna’s path and received the highest benefit as a result. Indeed, simply having attachment for that sacred conversation, with the proper identification of both speakers, releases a person from the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

Though from many a misinterpretation,

Symbolic also that sacred conversation.


Guru and the disciple with doubt,

Jiva and Paramatma illusion without.


Flag of Hanuman on chariot flying,

Arjuna also in service trying.


Abandon and protection indeed to come,

From Krishna’s grace that victory won.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Sentiment Is Better Than Yours

[Lord Krishna]“Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation. The ultimate goal is Krishna, because the philosophers who are also sincerely searching after the Absolute Truth come in the end to Krishna consciousness. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gita. The whole process is to understand the real position of the self in relation to the Superself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.3 Purport)

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Friend1: Do you ever get tired of explaining Krishna consciousness?

Friend2: Why? Do you?

Friend1: I understand that explaining is kirtanam, which is chanting. Chanting and discussing, empowered by authority, are the same thing. I know that.

Friend2: Right. Kirtanam is not just chanting congregationally. It can surely be, enjoying the maha-mantra with a group: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. But it doesn’t have to be limited to that. Explaining should be blissful, since you are describing the all-attractive one.

Friend1: Whose glories are endless. Yes, I know. Ananta Shesha Naga, with his unlimited hoods, has been glorifying God since before anyone can remember. He has yet to finish. The creator Lord Brahma, and the destroyer, Lord Shiva, also glorify in an inadequate way. What, then, to speak of a lowly person like me?

Friend2: There you go. This is not a criticism of them. It’s to show that there is always more to say. Moreover, that inconceivability in God, achintya, and the immeasurability of His features, Adhokshaja, are a real blessing.

Friend1: Let me get more specific. What I am tired of is trying to defend the philosophy to people who have none.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: The philosophy is pretty straightforward. We are spirit souls. We are not matter. The body is matter. The soul goes through the cycle of birth and death, also known as reincarnation. The human form is ideally the last stop in the spiritual evolution of the individual. The human form is the best for understanding God, which is the ultimate purpose of an existence.

Friend2: The basics.

Friend1: Yeah. I shouldn’t have to defend anything. No other spiritual tradition has information like this. The only arguments against are sentimental.

Friend2: Dogmatic insistence. Yeah, nothing you can do with that. If they think we’re all condemned to hell if we don’t accept such and such as the savior, then there’s no point in proceeding with the discussion.

Friend1: Okay, so I think what I am asking is why is there a need for discussion.

Friend2: Not sure what you mean.

Friend1: Why do I have to engage these people at all? So many of them come back with an argument that essentially means, “My sentiment is better than yours.”

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brilliantly states that religion without philosophy is just sentiment. And philosophy without religion is mental speculation. You need both religion and philosophy in order to reach perfection.

Friend1: Right, but even on the sentiment platform Krishna consciousness is superior. He is the all-attractive one, after all. I’ve only been in churches a few times, and let me tell you the atmosphere doesn’t compare to a Vishnu temple. It’s no contest.

Friend2: How so?

Friend1: In the church it feels like you are going to a place to be punished. Stand in line and say you’re sorry or else. At the Vishnu temple, one where there isn’t harassment from the corrupt priests for money, the atmosphere is very loving. Be attracted to God and His transcendental form. Stay always with Him. Realize that evidence of His attractiveness is everywhere. That’s why I say even when playing on the sentiment field, the other competitors lose bigly.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: I understand what you are saying, but it’s not about winning or losing. You spread the glories of bhakti-yoga since it is the best way to live. Practically the entire world is in darkness. They speculate about the origin of life. They give nature, an impersonal force, the top standing. Even the religious live off of mass killing of innocent animals. There is no proper understanding anywhere. You are fortunate to have come across the spotless teachings of the Vedas. You have an opportunity to bring the same happiness to others. Most will reject you, but imagine if a few don’t. What will be the effect? If Narada, Vyasadeva, Valmiki, and so many other saints didn’t work for the welfare of mankind and future generations just imagine where we would be today.

In Closing:

Light only this way to shine,

Superior is sentiment of mine.


Arguments over religion this way indeed,

Useless with philosophy to proceed.


In Vedas discussing body, spirit and more,

And how from human life rebirth no more.


But still worthwhile to explain,

Since potential for highest gain.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shouldn’t I Try To Learn Something From Every Religion

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“My dear Lord, please pacify your anger completely and hear patiently whatever I submit before you. Please turn your kind attention to this. I may be very poor, but a learned man takes the essence of knowledge from all places, just as a bumblebee collects honey from each and every flower.” (Mother earth speaking to Maharaja Prithu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.18.2)

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Friend1: What would your advice be to someone who is interested in learning about the bhakti culture or God in general?

Friend2: Those are two very different things.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Bhakti is a way of life. The objectives are clearly defined, as are the different ways to practice. God, meanwhile, is open for interpretation.

Friend1: Well, that’s what I’m asking. Say they want to know God for sure, beyond doubts.

Friend2: “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)

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]Friend1: There you go. Quoting from the Bhagavad-gita means that you would recommend reading that book.

Friend2: Oh, for sure. A version with a proper commentary.

Friend1: Isn’t that up for interpretation?

Friend2: That’s the problem. The conversation has a specific context. The acknowledged teacher had a specific relationship to the acknowledged disciple. That sacred talk descends to us for a reason. We should respect it by at least properly identifying both individuals.

Friend1: And you’re saying that there are versions of the Bhagavad-gita that don’t do that?

Friend2: Absolutely. The commentator will say to understand the work symbolically only. Another person will say that Arjuna and Krishna did not exist. Another will opine that Krishna is not actually God Himself, though the verses say otherwise.

Friend1: Okay, so to learn about God a person should read Bhagavad-gita, as it is. Anything else?

Friend2: The Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: Bhagavad-gita is God talking, giving the basic overview of spiritual life. The work is complete in its presentation of knowledge, but the Bhagavatam gives more details about God. It describes who He is, how He creates, what the living entities go through, and most importantly, how He enjoys.

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]Friend1: Is that it, then? Don’t need to read anything else? What about the Ramayana?

Friend2: Sure, you could read that. The Mahabharata. The many Puranas. Anything that is authentic Vedic literature.

Friend1: Alright, but what about books from the other faiths of the world? Shouldn’t a person read the Bible, both Testaments, the Koran, and things like that?

Friend2: A person can, if they want, but it’s not necessary.

Friend1: Doesn’t a wise person take knowledge from everywhere? For example, if I’m learning about economic theory, I would want to read every side. I will want to study Keynes as much as I study Hayek. That way I am aware of every point of view. From there I can make an informed decision.

Friend2: Well, it’s definitely a good idea to be familiar with every angle of vision. There is even a verse in the Bhagavatam that says this.

Friend1: Oh? I didn’t know that.

Friend2: It’s when mother earth, in the form of a cow, is speaking to Maharaja Prithu. She says that the wise person takes knowledge from many different sources, like the bumblebee collecting honey from different flowers.

Friend1: Okay, so doesn’t that support my argument?

Friend2: It would, except the Bhagavatam already covers every point of view. So does Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend1: I’m not sure what you mean.

Friend2: The human being can have so many different desires. There are as many dharmas to fulfill those desires. Dharma in this context is a kind of religion. It’s a set of procedures for reaching your objective.

Friend1: What are some of the desires?

Friend2: Life in the heavenly region. Increased wealth while on earth. A long duration of life. These are some of the more positive ones, at least according to our understanding. Then there are negative desires as well. World domination. Harm to other people. Victory in competition, which automatically means defeat for someone else.

Friend1: And there are dharmas for each of these things?

Friend2: Sure. And you will find them described in Vedic literature, which is compared to a blossoming desire tree. The reason I mentioned the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam is because these works make you aware of the many different desires. They also present the best option, which is bhakti-yoga. The simple way to categorize all other desires is to know karma, jnana and yoga. Karma is fruitive activity, aimed at enjoyment for the material body. Jnana is knowledge, with the goal of eventually quitting the body and merging into the attribute-less light of Brahman. Yoga is mysticism, with the goal of achieving a siddhi, or perfection.

Friend1: I see. And bhakti is different?

Friend2: It is love and devotion dedicated specifically to God the person. You see how complicated this can get. To make the decision for bhakti is not easy, especially if you are not aware of who God is. That’s why the bhakti shastras are so important. Serving Krishna is like watering the root of the plant. Everything else gets nourished in the process. If you know Krishna, you will essentially have complete knowledge.

In Closing:

Vedas great I can tell,

But why not study others as well?


Like to this and that religion going,

For other points of view knowing.


Actually just from in reading’s seat,

Bhagavatam with knowledge complete.


Every desire human mind with can live,

Bhakti best solution each time to give.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Fruit Of Suffering

[Sita-Rama]“I have brought this ring, given by the high-souled Rama, for the purpose of gaining your trust. All good fortune unto you. Please have confidence that the fruit that was your distress has ended indeed.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.3)

pratyayārtham tavānītam tena dattam mahātmanā |
samāśvasihi bhadram te kṣīṇa duhkha phalā hi asi ||

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“Why am I suffering so much? How could this be happening to me? It’s one thing after another. I don’t remember having done something bad. It must be from a previous life. My chickens have come home to roost. The suffering is finally hitting where it hurts. I wish it would just end already.”

This lamentation is not uncommon, as man has an inherent understanding of right and wrong. It’s called the conscience; the little voice inside your head that tells you that what you are doing is not a good idea. “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.” After stealing, the thief is in constant panic, wondering if they will get caught.

[Conscience clipart]The idea of getting punished later for something you did before is known as karma in general conversation. The word is of Sanskrit origin, and it actually just means “work.” The more complete definition is “fruitive activity.” Action-reaction. Do something and see the result in the future. Two seconds from now is just as much the future as two hundred years from now.

Phala is the word that describes the results to karma. The literal translation is “fruit.” The use of the word is intentional. You plant a seed. You nurture it. You watch it grow. The result is fruit of some kind. From the beginning that was the intention with planting the seed.

The same applies for all kinds of work that produce a result. The phala of karma don’t necessarily manifest right away. Indeed, sometimes the results go unseen for a very long time. And the results don’t stay around forever, either.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

Still, nothing happens just randomly. The initial cause is always work. And so Sita Devi attributed her great distress, duhkha, to some work she did in the past. She wasn’t exactly sure what that bad thing was. She was practically sinless since birth. She never hurt anyone. She married according to the rules of the bow contest held by her father. She didn’t cause trouble in the home of the in-laws.

Indeed, in following her husband to the forest for fourteen years, she was just trying to be supportive. She yelled at her husband’s brother one time, but that was out of love. She didn’t have malice towards anyone. She had reached the foreign land of Lanka after being too trusting of a visitor to their hermitage. He was dressed like an ascetic religious man. Sita was kind to him at first, and that kindness was repaid in the form of being dragged away from her temporary home against her will.

In the verse from the Ramayana quoted above, Hanuman informs Sita that her distress is over. The result of whatever she did in the past has now ended. She should take confidence from Rama’s ring, which Hanuman has brought for her. Rama is her husband, who is mahatmana. This means “great-soul.”

From further study of Vedic teachings, we learn that Sita is actually the goddess of fortune and Rama the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore karma doesn’t apply to either of them. Fruitive activity is exclusively for the development of the material body, both in this life and future ones. God and His eternal consort are not subject to reincarnation.

Sita is so innocent and humble that in her earthly pastimes she thinks karma applies to her. The real cause of the temporary suffering was to put the wheels in motion for the demise of Ravana, the king of Lanka who had terrorized the world long enough.

Still, the words of Hanuman are applicable to the modern day. We too have been suffering for very long, even though we may be unaware. For some past mistake we took birth in this lifetime, and through continued consciousness of the material, more reactions to fruitive work are scheduled to manifest.

[Sita-Rama]Confidence should come through the holy name. The ring Hanuman gave had Rama’s name inscribed on it, and today the acharyas give us the maha-mantra. This is like a ring of sound whose authenticity is proven by the content. The holy name, chanted with love, faith, and attention, signals the end to the fruit of our distress. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Here because some past mistake done,

But confidence from holy name should come.


That in reincarnation spinning no more,

Acharya with key for heaven’s door.


Sita so humble for herself thinking,

That from karma into despair sinking.


But Hanuman her spirits to save,

When Rama’s ring to her gave.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Carrying Something Important

[Hanuman giving Rama's ring to Sita]“O most fortunate one, I am a Vanara, messenger of the intelligent Rama. And behold this ring, O Devi, marked with Rama’s name.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.2)

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vānaro aham mahābhāge dūto rāmasya dhīmataḥ |
rāma nāma ankitam ca idam paśya devi angulīyakam ||

You’ve got something important to send. In addition to accounting for speed of delivery, there is attention to safety for the parcel. It can’t get lost. It would be a real shame if someone opens it prior to reaching the intended destination.

One safeguard is to purchase insurance. The person behind the counter informs you that the insurance isn’t that expensive. The key is to put a monetary value on the contents of the package. Over a certain amount, the price of the insurance goes up.

[Parcel]A long time ago a messenger was carrying something that was priceless. There was no way to properly assign a monetary value to it. In the place he went, there was gold everywhere. The floors and walls had crystal in them. The buildings were tall, and the leader called the best palaces home.

Inside was every material enjoyment imaginable. The four pillars of sinful life are meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. In these palaces wine flowed like water. There was lots of animal flesh, enough for many people to consume. And the king had the most beautiful women in the world as queens.

Known as Ravana for his terrifying scream, the leader of Lanka enjoyed sinful life to the fullest. Nothing from today’s world could compare, since Ravana had real wealth. He was not invested in a market that liquidated in paper currency. He had physical gold everywhere. His brother in spirit from ages past was named Hiranyakashipu. The literal translation to that Sanskrit name is “soft bed” and “gold.” Ravana was the same way.

Though he enjoyed to the fullest, he was never satisfied. That is the nature of kama, or sense gratification. It is like a raging fire that when extinguishing is tried through further indulgence, the fire only increases in intensity. Ravana’s kama led him to steal another man’s wife.

During that time period it wasn’t that uncommon for kings to increase the number of queens in the kingdom. Typically, it was to the victor go the spoils. The kings would fight each other and the winner would get the wealth and the queens.

In this case Ravana did not put up a fair fight. He knew he would lose, as the opposing king was the Supreme Lord Himself, Shri Rama. Deep down Ravana knew Rama was something special, though he always made fun of the Lord for voluntarily living in the forest, like a poor man.

Ravana simply heard of Sita’s beauty and that was enough. He couldn’t let go of his desire. He hatched a plot to take her away in secret. That situation led to Hanuman the messenger carrying the most valuable object with him.

He brought a ring inscribed with Rama’s name. It was meant for Sita only. The key was to find her. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he is finally showing that ring to Sita. It is something like a certificate of authenticity. You can tell genuine gold by being able to bite into it. You know that a flower is real by the aroma. You know that you are eating pizza by the taste.

Sita could know for sure that Hanuman was a friend through this ring. She could recognize that it indeed belonged to her husband. Sita is addressed as Devi, which means “goddess.” She is also maha-bhage, which means “the most fortunate.”

Another name for Sita’s husband is Adhokshaja. One way to understand this name is to say that it means “beyond measure.” The ring is an example. There is no way to put an accurate or fair price on it. It can’t be purchased. It can only be given, and someone like Hanuman protects it. That ring gives him the strength to carry on, to persevere in the face of great obstacles.

[Hanuman giving Rama's ring to Sita]The name on the ring is everything. The name is identical to the person it addresses. This is only true with the Divine. For this reason the most valuable sound vibration today is found in sacred chants like the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This priceless mantra makes its real impact when it is repeated and remembered with devotion, the kind which Hanuman possesses.

In Closing:

Hanuman carrying with him treasure,

Rama’s ring, of value without measure.


Most important with protection to save,

So that eventually to Sita he gave.


Inscribed on it the name,

Having potency to Lord the same.


Today coming in sacred sound,

Like in maha-mantra found.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Just As Fortunate

[Sita-Rama]“O most fortunate one, I am a Vanara, messenger of the intelligent Rama. And behold this ring, O Devi, marked with Rama’s name.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.2)

vānaro aham mahābhāge dūto rāmasya dhīmataḥ |
rāma nāma ankitam ca idam paśya devi angulīyakam ||

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The Sanskrit word “Bhagavan” is peppered throughout the sacred Bhagavad-gita. Indeed, the title of that book has a similar name found within, as does the Bhagavata Purana, also known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The wise know that the most accurate English translation for Bhagavan is “God.” The more complete description, kindly provided by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is “Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

There are competing versions of God, after all. One religion bars its members from crafting any images of the Divine. This is heresy, idol worship, they claim. In the Vedic tradition, from which the word Bhagavan comes, there are philosophical schools that take the Almighty to be impersonal. Negate everything you see around you. Neti neti, which means “not this, not that.” Since everything around us is maya, God must be “not maya.” In theory, He must be formless. We are the same way at the core, spirit soul that has no perceptible form. Take every fragment of spirit, put them together, and you have the formless Almighty.

These claims are refuted both by the teachers in the disciplic succession of bhakti, or devotion, and the definition of the word itself. Bhagavan has a specific meaning. The word bhaga means “fortune.” Bhagavan is the most fortunate one. Though He is beyond any definition conceived by the flawed mind, the sage Parashara has kindly enumerated the opulences that Bhagavan possesses.

“Bhagavan means who possesses these six opulences in full: all riches, all strength, all influence, all wisdom, all beauty, all renunciation.” (Vishnu Purana, 6.5.47)

Bhagavan has beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation, simultaneously. Some of these opulences contradict. How can you be beautiful and strong at the same time? Delicate features are beautiful, and if you are delicate then how can you handle difficult situations? How can you be both rich and unattached to your wealth?

Moreover, Bhagavan has these opulences in full. There is no way to properly quantify. We calculate someone’s wealth based on their net worth. Even though the value is estimated, there is still an acknowledged end, a finite amount. Since God’s features are immeasurable, He is also known as Adhokshaja.

[Shri Hanuman]In the verse quoted above from the Ramayana, a servant of Bhagavan is speaking. He works specifically for Bhagavan’s incarnation of Rama, who is described to be dhimata, which means “wise” or “intelligent.” The personal expansions of Bhagavan retain the fortunes; just not all of those features may be prominent. For instance, in Rama there is more renunciation shown, especially during a fourteen year period of exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya.

The duta, or messenger, of Rama is speaking to Sita. She is a goddess, or devi. She is Rama’s wife. Hanuman has found her after searching for a long time. He has brought with him a ring, which has Rama’s name inscribed.

Hanuman addresses Sita as maha-bhage. This means that she is just as fortunate as her husband. In fact, Sita Devi is known as the goddess of fortune. As Rama is an incarnation of Bhagavan Vishnu, Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi Devi.

When viewed separately, Lakshmi is like a demigoddess who grants benedictions to her worshipers. But from Hanuman’s words we learn that she is in fact equal to her husband. They are one and the same. The feminine and masculine become one in the larger picture. That is why in temples Bhagavan is most often not alone. Krishna is worshiped with Radha. Vishnu is with Lakshmi. And Rama is with Sita.

[Sita-Rama]That most fortunate lady can grant benedictions to the devotees of her husband. Hanuman is the most dear servant to Rama, and Sita to this day provides everything that he needs. Hanuman is not poor. He is not lacking anything. His only desire is to continue in devotion, and Rama’s wife helps to support that dedicated life.

In Closing:

Since desire for only in bhakti living,

Sita support for that dedication giving.


To Hanuman servant most dear,

Who travelled to Lanka without fear.


Message from the most fortunate one,

Difference to Him with Devi none.


Worship together husband and wife,

And make perfect this auspicious life.