Saturday, April 22, 2017

Five Things You Can Do In The Human Form

[Lord Krishna]“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.3)

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Athato-brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for inquiring about spiritual matters.” This Vedic aphorism implies that previously the time wasn’t right. What exactly was the past? Where was the living being? They were in other bodies. There are up to 8,400,000 different species, but only in the human form does this most important call to action manifest. Indeed, we know that there are many things that can only be done in the human form, indicating progressive divergence from the animal species.

1. Read the newspaper

In industrialized nations, it is not uncommon to keep a dog in the home. Dog is man’s best friend, after all. If something big happened in the world, how will the dog find out? What if you placed the newspaper in front of it? Will the dog read it? Or will it likely use the paper for something else?

This simple act, reading the newspaper, illustrates the unique ability of the human being to gather higher knowledge. Reading is nothing more than hearing. Hearing is accepting sounds produced from others. The human being is most benefitted when they hear from authority figures. The highest authority is the original person, and He passes on the highest wisdom to others, who keep the line moving for successive generations.

2. Study the psychology of beings

Hearing from authority figures is gathering knowledge through the descending process. The ascending process is another way to increase knowledge. Dogs and other animals have this ability. That is the whole meaning to training.

The human being has the unique ability to understand psychology. This involves studying the behavior of others, trying to decipher what makes them do what they do. The dogs don’t have this ability. The cats can’t understand depression, chronic anger, and jealousy. They may exhibit these emotions, but they are not able to understand the cause.

3. Understand death

The fish has no idea that it is in water. The cow doesn’t know that after a certain amount of time, death will arrive. The mature human being, on the other hand, cannot seem to forget this sobering truth. Indeed, Shri Rama once remarked that the adult has no other fear than death.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

Knowledge of the inevitable nature of death would seem to be a blemish on the human birth. After all, who would want to live in constant fear? Aren’t the animals living a better life as a result? Ignorance is bliss, is it not?

4. Question the reason for living

After I realize my mortality, the logical questions to follow are, “Why am I here? Why am I living?” Again, only the human being can raise these questions. From Vedic philosophy we learn that this inquisitiveness is key to reaching the height of an existence. To live is to feel bliss. Whatever gets in the way of that attainment is maya, or illusion. The sober-minded human being has the chance to escape illusion once and for all.

5. Know God

This is the summit of knowledge. The animals have a limited ability to gather knowledge. For the human being there is practically no limit. The best course is to know the person who knows everything. In the Bhagavad-gita He reveals that He is the knower in all bodies.

The field is kshetra. The knower of the field is kshetrajna. I am the localized knower inside the field that is my body. But my knowledge is limited to the local level. God, on the other hand, knows every field. He is everywhere through His expansion of the Supersoul.

[Lord Krishna]Knowing God is not difficult. Through the ascending process the proper understanding will never come. There is simply not enough time nor the proper mental capacity to reach the right conclusion. Fortunately, there is the descending process. The chain of disciplic succession, parampara, brings the knowledge from on high. Those who receive this knowledge, accept it, and apply it to their way of living are the truly fortunate ones, as they make the most out of the auspicious human form.

In Closing:

Difference to animals indeed,

Like ability for newspaper to read.


To question life’s purpose and meaning,

Scientific data from others receiving.


Impending death to know,

Choice in association to go.


Towards God most important step,

Consciousness of Him, never to forget.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Worthy Of Conversation

[Shri Hanuman]“And O best of the monkeys, if you have been sent by Rama, the knower of the self, then certainly I should speak with you.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.10)

arhase ca kapi śreṣṭha mayā samabhibhāṣitum |
yadi asi preṣitaḥ tena rāmeṇa vidita ātmanā ||

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You can’t just force your way into the White House. As much as you may desire a meeting with the President of the United States, there are certain protocols. Make an appointment. You likely have to be an important person. Sure, the leader of the free world may not have anything against the little people, but there are just too many of them to meet with individually. For this reason special interests form. A small group represents a much larger one. The same concept is there with the members of the legislative branch.

A long time back a powerful king insisted on meeting a most beautiful princess. She was a queen-in-waiting, actually. She was already married, to the prince of Ayodhya. As even in family life there can be problems involving rivalry, jealousy, and anger over offenses, Sita found herself in the forest. She was following her husband. This was her dharma, which she accepted both with respect to tradition and her own sentiments.

Ravana, the leader of Lanka, made sure to meet Sita only when the husband Rama was not by her side. He masked his shape, as well. It would be like entering the White House dressed as a foreign leader. Except the dress applied by Ravana represented a person of an even higher stature.

Ravana looked like a parivrajaka sannyasi. This is a person of the renounced order who wanders. They go from place to place, not maintaining a permanent residence. The travel facilitates the spreading of transcendental wisdom. The cultured households gladly welcome such wanderers, for they know there is a tremendous benefit to receiving such a guest.

[Ravana visiting Sita's cottage]Sita Devi is the most cultured, and so she was kind to Ravana in the false guise. But the fiend eventually showed his true form, that of a hideous Rakshasa. This is something like a man-eating ogre. Ravana was not worthy to converse with Sita, but he forced himself upon her. He took her back to Lanka, against her will.

She continued to refuse his advances, even after receiving threats of physical violence. Ravana offered to make her the chief queen in Lanka, but Sita had no interest in this. Ravana tried his best, but the flaw was there from the outset. He simply wasn’t worthy of speaking to her.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita gives the parameters for which a person is worthy of conversing with her, on an equal level. Here she is praising Shri Hanuman, who is the best of the monkeys. The Sanskrit word used is kapi, and in that ancient time period the kapis could talk and organize in a semblance of civilized life.

Sita says that Hanuman is sent by Rama, who is described to be the knower of the self. On the other side, Ravana is a knower of his body. There is a major distinction. The body is produced of maya, which is illusion. For this reason Ravana was never happy. He knew his body, but that body’s demands were always changing. He had enough material enjoyment to make any atheist happy. There was sufficient wine, meat, and women available in his kingdom. Since he was the feared ruler, there was no impediment to enjoyment.

Rama, meanwhile, is the knower of the self. Those who know their true identity as spirit soul are the most cultured. Rama, of course, is the knower of all identities. He describes this in the Bhagavad-gita, while in His form of Krishna speaking to the bow-warrior Arjuna.

“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.3)

Rama is the knower, kshetrajna, in all bodies. Sita is the wife to the person who is all-knowing. Hanuman is sent by that supreme knower, and so he can speak with Sita on an equal level.

Sita Devi is also Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Worship of Lakshmi is prominent in Vedic culture. The proper way to approach her is to be dear to her husband. After all, the gifts she distributes are intended for that purpose. Otherwise, the worshiper runs the risk of going the way of Ravana, who ultimately lost everything.

[Hanuman's heart]Hanuman is dear to both Sita and Rama. He can speak with either of them at any time. For this reason Goswami Tulsidas has glorified Hanuman so profusely. It is difficult to understand God and His eternal consort, but through the mercy of the representative the task is made easier. The difference is like having the task of crossing a vast ocean change to that of crossing a small puddle, one left by the hoof-print of a calf.

In Closing:

Dressed as wandering mendicant to see,

But not worthy of audience was he.


By force Sita to Lanka taking,

And trying her chief queen making.


Not to work, since enmity at heart,

But trusting Hanuman from the start.


On an equal level talking and sitting,

Since sent by Rama a friend befitting.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Provide The Missing Ingredient

[Lord Krishna]“The atheistic philosophers, who do not agree to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the original cause of creation, think that the material world moves by the action and reaction of different material elements. A simple example of the interaction of elements occurs when we mix soda and acid and the movement of effervescence is produced. But one cannot produce life by such interaction of chemicals. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, with different wishes and different actions. How the material force is working cannot be explained just on the basis of chemical reaction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.11.17 Purport)

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Friend1: I heard a really good argument recently.

Friend2: Who was involved? Husband and wife? Those can get out of hand quick. It becomes something like a car-wreck. You know the damage is bad, but you just can’t look away.

Friend1: Sorry, I should have been clearer. This was an argument of a philosophical nature; more of a discussion than a disagreement.

Friend2: Oh.

Friend1: It was about the origin of life.

Friend2: Atheism versus theism?

Friend1: Something like that.

Friend2: Okay, please continue.

Friend1: Well, you know about the atheist’s argument that life comes from chemicals. We are all just a certain composition of these chemicals.

Friend2: I’ve had atheists argue with me. They say they don’t believe that. Well, to be more clear, they do believe in the chemicals aspect, but they say that doesn’t invalidate morality and other such things.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: It’s a little difficult to understand. They say that we are chemicals, but that there is still a purpose to life: progress.

Friend1: That doesn’t make sense. So random collisions have a purpose? Isn’t randomness the opposite of intelligence?

Friend2: Exactly. I’m just telling you what I’ve heard. That kind of atheist is more of a nature-worshiper. People follow the Supreme Personality of Godhead in all respects.

“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)

[Lord Krishna]The atheists worship God in His feature of the material nature. That is His separated energy.

Friend1: Right. Okay, before we get sidetracked let me tell you this argument. So the one side says there is no God. Everything is chemicals. The atom is the essence of life.

Friend2: Paramanu. Even atomic theory is explained in the Vedas!

Friend1: The counterargument goes something like this: “Okay, if life comes from chemicals, please provide the missing ingredient to bring a dead body back to life. It’s not that hard. Just do it. Find the chemical.”

Friend2: Wow. I really like that one. Of course they will argue that progress is being made. They are on their way. One day success will happen.

Friend1: Yeah, you have to love that.

Friend2: They are really shameless, if you think about it. Science has been consistently wrong.

Friend1: The material variety?

Friend2: Yes. Natural philosophy, as it was once called. That is the meaning to progress, after all. You can only progress from something if that something is defective. Since the study relies on progress, it is implied that there is imperfection at every point.

Friend1: Wow, I love that.

Friend2: I heard it from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. One of those things where you sit back and think as soon as you hear it.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend1: So what is the proper explanation for the missing ingredient?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Well, we know the scientists can’t bring the dead body back to life? How does the theist do it?

Friend2: You can’t. Spirit soul has left. Life comes from life. A living thing gets its existence from the spirit within. That’s why you can have something as small as an ant and still have life. The matter covering spirit doesn’t really make a difference. Once the animating force within leaves, nothing can be done to revive the dead matter.

Friend1: How do you get new life, then?

Friend2: Spirit travels to a new destination. In fact, that travel occurs constantly. The body of an individual is never fixed. There is the time factor. Through time the individual spirit soul lives in an ever-changing body. When that body is finally completely discarded, the soul travels to a new destination.

Friend1: What is the origin of everything, then?

Friend2: God. He is inconceivable, achintya. He is without beginning, anadi. He is without end, ananta. He glances over the unmanifest material substance, pradhana, which then transforms into the three modes of material nature. Those modes are like ingredients that combine to create the many varieties of species. Still, without the spiritual injection there cannot be life. Spirit is attached to Supreme Spirit, and one who understands this is on their way to solving the mystery of life.

In Closing:

Of chemicals only life composed,

Eventually back to earth disposed.


When hearing this argument old and tried,

Ask that simply missing ingredient provide.


To that body once living,

Again the spark to it giving.


Truth that life only from other life sent,

Departed soul towards next body went.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Reasons God Does Not Show Us The Complete Future

[universal form]“O Lord of the universe, I see in Your universal body many, many forms - bellies, mouths, eyes - expanded without limit. There is no end, there is no beginning, and there is no middle to all this.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.16)

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“Yeah, yeah, I get it. There is a God. I know you are eager to convince me. You can’t stop talking about Him. All the philosophy is nice, but why can’t He just give us some proof? Forget appearing before us. I know that is a difficult thing to ask. But what about showing the future? Give us proof of the afterlife. Show us what is going to happen in a hundred years. Just provide a vision. That will go a long way in convincing others that He truly does exist.”

Forgetting that there are other forms of sense interaction, the skeptical human being insists on sight alone when trying to understand that person who is beyond comprehension. The same person who confuses a snake for a rope, a mirage for an oasis, and a lying politician for an honest steward of the people’s interest insists on visual evidence of the Divine. An aspect to the proposed vision is a glimpse into the future. There are many reasons the Supreme Lord does not provide this.

1. No guarantee that we’ll believe it

There’s already so much skepticism. I can have video evidence of a special interest group conspiring to generate fake protests for a politician they don’t like. Everything is on tape, from the planning to the players. Yet when that video is shown, the supporters of that group will say that the information is fabricated. They will attack the person who secretly recorded the conversations. They will deflect attention, intentionally.

That skepticism is with a comparatively trivial interest like politics. The interest of enjoying in the material world, separate from God, is superior to all others. Why would a simple vision of the future be believed, especially if it gives proof of the worthless nature of material sense gratification? Rather, skepticism is sure to emerge in full force in opposition. Attempts will be made to discredit the messenger, even if that messenger were God Himself.

2. Bhakti is not based on fear

The way out of the material world is liberation. The only permanent liberation is bhakti, which is love and devotion. Bhakti-yoga is devotion directed to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Love and fear do not mix. If a person only approaches the Supreme Lord to get a favor, to escape from a difficult situation, pure bhakti is not there. Of course the approach is good. It is purifying. The sentiment is appreciated.

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

If Krishna showed everyone the future, it would be a way to scare them into submission. Then there wouldn’t be bhakti. A perfect example is the universal form shown to Duryodhana. He was one of the Kauravas who had illegally taken the land belonging to the Pandavas. War was imminent, and Krishna decided to make one last effort at peace.

Krishna is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was on earth at the time, some five thousand years ago, and He generally remained neutral in the conflict. He was a well-wisher to the Pandavas, though, since they were devotees. Duryodhana was not a devotee, but this did not mean he was restricted access to Krishna.

When Krishna arrived to broker a deal, Duryodhana secretly hatched a plan to tie up Krishna. This would weaken the spirits of the Pandavas, Duryodhana thought. As the knower of all fields, Krishna responded to the ridiculous plan by showing the universal form. This is like putting everything that exists into a single vision. It is awe-inspiring. It is one kind of visual proof of God’s existence.

[universal form]Yet that vision did not include the future fate of Duryodhana and his men. The omission is noteworthy since later on Krishna again showed the universal form. This vision was unique, however. It included the time element. Arjuna saw the many fighters assembled on the battlefield rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. This was an indication of the future outcome. Arjuna was already a devotee, so the vision of the future helped to give him confidence in the bhakti path he was already inclined towards. Duryodhana had no such inclination.

3. We kind of already know the future

Take a look at the past. What is the one thing we know has happened to every single living thing? The experience in life is varied, and the times change. People from a hundred years ago didn’t have internet. They didn’t have television. Life on earth was completely different.

Yet everyone from the past has died. That is the guaranteed future of which we are already aware. We know that the body constantly changes, from boyhood to youth to old age. At the time of death, the individual spirit soul takes on another body, discarding the previous one.

The conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, known as the Bhagavad-gita, reveals the future to so many different situations. Materialist, knowledge-seeker, mystic yogi, sinner, pious person, devotee - the future is rather clearly laid out in Vedic literature. What more proof do we need? The exact details may not be revealed for every situation, but then those details aren’t significant. Know that there is a difference between body and spirit. Know that spirit emanates from Supreme Spirit. Know that the two should always be linked in consciousness, which is the real meaning of yoga. Know that the future will remain just like the present for as long as that link is not created and maintained.

In Closing:

To be sure, with confidence to know,

Why not vision of future to show?


This way proof of God to accept,

And His sound words not to reject.


Devotion not by fear instigated,

By love and higher goal initiated.


Of guaranteed death already aware,

From spiritual life more is there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Four Reasons Krishna Is Known As Janardana

[Lord Krishna]“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.3)

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The verses, which can be sung, are poetic in nature. The translation for the word gita is “song.” Bhagavad-gita is the song of Bhagavan, a word which translates to “Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

Bhagavan is a person; He is not simply an attribute-less light. He is more than a concept conceived by the contemplative mind. He is beyond comprehension, in fact. For these reasons and many more, Arjuna addresses Bhagavan, who is sitting right next to him, with many different names in that famous conversation.

One of those names is Janardana, and it suits the cousin and well-wisher of the five Pandava brothers.

1. Maintainer of the people

There is a general order to things. The superior force has responsibility over the inferior. Human beings keep animals as pets. The parents run the household. The local leader maintains the community. The leader of the nation is in charge of the general welfare.

For all living entities, for all people, there is Janardana. Under the illusion of maya, we think that we are the doer. After all, I make the decision to get off at the next exit while operating a motor vehicle on the highway. I choose what to put in my mouth for food on a daily basis. Who else is making these decisions?

Krishna is Janardana because He maintains the living entities. I have no way of creating food on my own. Even if I take to farming, I must use things already existing in nature to get the desired result. Everything that exists, which arrive in a predictable and reliable pattern, is provided for by the higher authority.

2. Controller of the people

There is a limitation on what I can do. The limitation is based on the body type accepted at the time of birth. There is no doubt that the body constantly changes; noted particularly from youth to adulthood. The same body changes completely at the time of death.

“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)

Spirit soul is practically unlimited in its abilities, as it intrinsically has knowledge, eternality, and bliss. The body is something like a holding cell, imposing limitations. That body is part of the material energy. The source of both material and spiritual worlds is Shri Krishna.

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

The closest the living entity comes to removing these limitations in a mechanical way is mystic yoga. Even then, there are still limitations. A siddhi of yoga by itself does not guarantee liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Nor does it mean that a material body will never be accepted again. The controller of the material energy is Janardana, who by extension is the controller of the people as well.

3. Knower in all bodies

At the local level there is the combination of the field and the knower of the field. The Sanskrit words are kshetra and kshetrajna. The body is the field and the individual living within is the knower. This is important to understand because the kshetrajna in one field cannot be the knower in another kshetra. Outside help is required. Communication is necessary. Even so, there is no direct experience.

The Supreme Lord is different. He is supreme for a reason. He is the kshetrajna in all fields. He knows what everyone is thinking, doing, feeling, desiring. He knows this for every single living thing, past, present and future. He accomplishes omniscience through His expansion as the Supersoul. Each living body technically thus has two knowers: one active and one passive. The Supersoul does not interfere with decisions. He remains neutral and close by, waiting for the individual to ask for direction.

4. Maintainer of Arjuna

The conversation between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra happened for real. It is a historical event. Since God has the most artistic mind, His activities have tremendous symbolism to them. The Bhagavad-gita represents many things simultaneously. Disciple and guru. Doubt and resolution. Fear and strength. Darkness and light.

[Lord Krishna]There is also the full display of the potential of the relationship with the Supersoul. At first the individual soul goes at it alone. That can only take him so far. When he’s ready for higher knowledge, there is the guidance from without. The external guru is Janaradana’s representative in the material world. The chaitya-guru is Krishna, and His representative shows how to tap into the reservoir of mercy already available from the Supersoul. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna is simultaneously the external guru, the internal guide as the Supersoul, and the manifest object of service as Bhagavan.

In Closing:

From presence to Arjuna shown,

Reasons for Janardana as known.


All living entities maintaining,

This and other universes sustaining.


As Supersoul spread everywhere to go,

Living inside as Supreme one to know.


Chaitya-guru’s representative to give,

Instructions on how with Bhagavan to live.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three Ways To Make Devotional Service Very Simple

[radhakrishna_iskcon_central_nj]“Devotional service is very simple, and anyone can adopt it. Let one remain what he is; he need only install the Deity of the Supreme Lord in his house. The Deity may be Radha-Krishna or Lakshmi-Narayana (there are many other forms of the Lord). In this way a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya or shudra can worship the Deity with the results of his honest labor.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.20.9 Purport)

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The exalted teachers, from ages past and some even from more recent times, lived extremely renounced. No home. No family. No job. Total focus, twenty-four-seven, on devotional service, bhakti-yoga. From this dedicated effort they solidified their high standing in the devotional community. They also remained fixed in trance, samadhi.

That steady consciousness of the Divine is not restricted to the situation of isolation, though. This is confirmed by the teachers themselves, who make the process very simple. They even say that a person doesn’t have to give up their occupation entirely. From whatever situation in life, from the priest all the way to the ordinary laborer, there is an opportunity for perfection.

1. Install a deity of Radha-Krishna in the house

There is work to do. Without work, where would the money come from to pay for necessities like food, clothing and shelter? A job builds self esteem. There is the saying, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.” If you have nothing to do, no pressing responsibilities, then it is easier to get upset over trivial matters, like what a politician or celebrity said, or how a family member didn’t invite you to a gathering at their home.

Even while working a person can advance along the path of transcendental knowledge and overall purification of the consciousness. Just install a deity of Radha-Krishna in the house. This is a simple process, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The deity is like the most exalted guest, to be honored and worshiped every day.

Obviously, there is no limit to the size of God. He is everything we see in this world and beyond. All things are part of His definition, but He is not part of the definition of anything. He can exist independently, while without His presence as the Supersoul no result to action would ever manifest.

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)

[radhakrishna_iskcon_central_nj]Through the deity He shows His amazing mercy. The deity is likely small, especially in comparison to the size of the person worshiping it. The deity is known as the archa-vigraha, or the form to accept worship. It is also described as saguna, which means “having qualities.” For God there is no difference between nirguna and saguna; the distinction is for our benefit only. The saguna form helps us to understand that God is indeed a distinct individual with amazing features.

2. Install a deity of Lakshmi-Narayana

God is one, but He kindly expands for the benefit of others. Radha-Krishna are the female and male aspects of the Divinity, worshiped together. Lakshmi-Narayana is the same pair, but appearing slightly differently. Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune. Worshiping her separately is not the proper way. She gives benedictions, but those gifts have an intended purpose. They should be used for pleasing her husband, Narayana.

It is not uncommon for the person with a job to desire more money. They know just how difficult it is to survive in a material existence. Therefore some financial security would be beneficial. This mentality is purified when there is worship of Lakshmi together with Narayana. Then the proper outcome will arrive. Whether it is increased opulence or a decrease in net worth, the decision is up to the Supreme Lord.

3. Install a deity of another form of the Lord

You can install a deity of Sita-Rama, as well. Since there are so many non-different forms, everyone gets a chance to worship in their desired mood of connection with the Divine. The idea is to worship in an authorized manner, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master.

Worship a little in the morning and then again at night. Bring nice food preparations to the altar, say some prayers, offer some nice scents - the process really isn’t that complicated. It may look like the benefits aren’t coming, but the strength in continued resolution and purpose in devotional service will bring progress never to be erased. After all, the race against time in the human existence is for the purification of consciousness and nothing else, for everything material is left behind at the time of death.

In Closing:

For highest perfection to receive,

Not necessary for occupation to leave.


In words of spiritual master trust,

And install deities just.


Merciful, for our benefit to arrive,

Reminding not for senses to strive.


Radha-Krishna, most beloved of all,

The unlimited for us coming as small.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Four Reasons To Take Inspiration From But Not Imitate Exalted Devotees

[Shri Hanuman]“You crossed over the ocean of one hundred yojanas wide, the reservoir of sharks and alligators, as if it were a small puddle.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.8)

śata yojana vistīrṇaḥ sāgaro makara ālayaḥ |
vikrama ślāghanīyena kramatā goṣpadī kṛtaḥ ||

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Looks can be deceiving. Things aren’t always as they seem. The great ones make it look easy, but it’s not. They are skilled at what they do. They have extraordinary ability. They may even give the warning beforehand:

“Don’t try this at home, folks. You will get hurt, and that is not our intention. Please enjoy the show.”

In devotional service, bhakti-yoga, there is both a stated and implied promise of success. The stated version comes from the Bhagavad-gita, where the object of service, Shri Krishna, asks Arjuna, the disciple, to boldly declare that the devotees never perish; even the ones that may have made a terrible mistake.

“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)

The implied promise derives from the uniqueness of the path. Material life is limiting. The ocean looks like it is unlimited, but eventually if you get enough drops of ocean water you have the entire ocean. Similarly, there is only so much wealth available in this world.

Spiritual life is about the unlimited. Krishna, or God, is known by such terms as aprameya and Adhokshaja. He is beyond measure. You cannot get an accurate reading on His attributes using instruments. His being itself is achintya, or inconceivable.

Anything is possible in the path of devotion, and indeed many exalted figures have done amazing things. Still, a word of caution: do not imitate. The standard bearers are known as mahajanas. They have been chosen by the Supreme Lord to inspire others. The word “impossible” has no meaning when applied to God, but this does not mean that every devotee will be able to exhibit the exact same ability.

1. Difficult to survive fire like Prahlada

A five year old boy teaching his classmates about the spiritual science during recess. The son not backing down in the face of intense opposition from his demoniac father, King Hiranyakashipu. The child not fearing for his life even when under the threat of grave danger.

The example of Prahlada shows that real yoga is amazing. It is so powerful that it can negate the influence of the material elements. Prahlada survived so many attacks because of meditating on the lotus feet of Vishnu, which is another name for God.

But for the average person it is next to impossible to withstand things like sitting in a fire pit. Prahlada was a special case, and if others try to imitate they are not guaranteed success. Neither is everyone meant to endure the same situations. That special boy is there to inspire everyone to believe that the greatest odds can be overcome. He shows that opposition to bhakti can come from something so near as the home, but that there is the highest reward in persevering.

2. Difficult to cross an ocean like Hanuman

This incident involved an army of servants. They were all dear to Shri Rama, an incarnation of Krishna appearing on earth during the Treta Yuga. Bhakti-yoga isn’t exclusively about meditating, chanting, or reading. You can be on a search mission and still be fully linked in consciousness to the Divine.

These servants were in monkey-like bodies. They searched long and hard for Rama’s missing wife Sita Devi. It looked like they were on the verge of success after receiving valuable intelligence information. One thing then stood in their way, and it was quite formidable.

It was a vast ocean. Thankfully, Shri Hanuman was in the group. After being reminded of his possession of mystic powers, the siddhis of yoga, Hanuman expanded his size and then leapt over the ocean of one hundred yojanas. He made it look like the size of a puddle left by a cow.

[Shri Hanuman]If any of the other Vanaras would have tried this, they wouldn’t have come close. They would have fallen in the ocean near to the shore from which they started. Hanuman was the chosen one, and he inspired his fellow warriors. He continues to inspire people to this day with his unflinching devotion to Sita and Rama.

3. Difficult to battle against warriors like Arjuna

The Bhagavad-gita was spoken to a member of the kshatriya occupation. These are warriors/administrators. Though Arjuna was a kshatriya by birth, the more important qualification was by ability and training. He had the qualities necessary to protect others from injury.

“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)

If someone lacking those qualities were to enter conflict, they likely wouldn’t succeed. Nor would that be the path assigned to them by the higher powers. Arjuna is an inspiration in so many ways, particularly through his unflinching faith in the words of Shri Krishna. Arjuna acted as the ideal disciple, as well. He brought his doubts forward, and he inquired submissively from the original spiritual master of the world.

4. Difficult to swallow poison like Shiva

The suras and the asuras have been in conflict since the beginning of time. This is true both symbolically and literally. Good always clashes with evil. You could say that is the struggle of an existence. In the literal sense the suras are the demigods, who are the embodiment of goodness. The asuras are in ignorance. Their very name is a negation of the name used for the good guys. The asuras are like demons.

One time the demigods and the demons worked together to churn an ocean. The objective was to get nectar, or amrita. The literal meaning to amrita is “without mrita,” or death. In the churning process many things emerged, with one of them being poison. The demigods asked Lord Shiva to help them. The great god consumed the poison. Since he kept it in his throat, he became known as Nilakantha.

If an ordinary person were to try this, they wouldn’t survive. Just because someone is serving the Supreme Lord doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to have the exact same amazing ability. The promise in the Bhagavad-gita is that the devotion of the devotee will never perish. The material elements continue to operate. Karma is seemingly there; action and reaction. But the future life in the material world is prevented. Bhagavan places the devoted soul in the best situations going forward. And those devoted souls get inspiration from the amazing mahajanas who came before them.

In Closing:

Exalted devotees meant to inspire,

Like Prahlada withstanding fire.


But caution that not to be imitated,

The same for others then immolated.


Hanuman crossing over sharks ready to eat,

And Shiva for demigods poison to keep.


Promise that devotion itself never to perish,

Help from mahajanas with memory to cherish.