Saturday, April 29, 2017

Three Reasons The Second Birth Is More Important

[school of the guru]“Yes, one's first birth is by one's father and mother, and the next birth is by the spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. When one takes his second birth, he comes to understand that he is not the material body. This is spiritual education. That birth of knowledge, or birth into knowledge, is called dvija, ‘second birth.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest For Enlightenment, Ch 6a)

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The Sanskrit word dvija typically refers to the brahmanas. This is the priestly class. The literal meaning to brahmana is “one who knows Brahman.” Brahman is the spiritual energy. Every living thing we see is a spark of Brahman. Taken together, as a collective, you get the Brahman energy. Matter is also from the same energy, often referred to as the mahat-tattva.

From the definition we see that the real brahmana is more than just a person belonging to an institution. It is an occupation, involving more than just faith in some higher power. The root meaning to the word dvija is “twice-born.” In times past even members of the kshatriya and vaishya occupations were dvija. They also received a second birth, which is the more important one.

1. You have a choice

The first birth already happened. No one can deny that. We don’t remember the circumstances. We can’t recall being in the womb for nine months, but based on the word of authority we accept that it happened. From studying Vedic literature we learn that the consciousness at the time of death determines the state of being in the subsequent birth.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

In that sense we have some ability to shape our future. Regardless, those things were in the past. That was then and this is now. With the second birth we have a choice. We have the ability to directly influence our future, especially as it relates to interest. There is interest in this life, svartha, and interest in the afterlife, paramartha. Svartha is already accounted for from the first birth, so the second birth takes on added significance through its ability to bring the best paramartha.

2. Can separate from the animals

You’ve likely heard the theory. Everyone was just a single cell. Gradually, that cell created monkeys. The monkeys are then the ancestors to the currently most advanced species, the human being. The gradual change is called evolution, since you’re starting from an inferior point and eventually making your way to something better.

But how is the human being better than the animal? The animal also eats, sleeps, mates and defends. They don’t worry about mortgage payments. There isn’t even fear of death. Ignorance is bliss. The pig is happy doing things that are unspeakable to the sober human being.

The Vedas confirm the idea of evolution, but not in the way it is commonly understood. The spirit soul evolves through travel. It lives in various body types for different amounts of time. It is something like moving apartments. The dwellings in this case are bodies consisting of material ingredients. Those ingredients have no ability of their own. Matter is dull and lifeless, after all. The evolution takes place through the combined effort of material nature, karma [fruitive activity], time, and the superintendent that is the original creator.

The human life takes on its true value from the second birth. That is what brings separation from the animal. Without this entry, the default mentality will remain; that of trying to enjoy the senses. Those senses can never be fully satisfied.

3. Agree to follow someone who is dear to God

A person typically becomes dvija through a formal process, which is known as receiving diksha. But there is more to it than just protocol. It is a birth, after all, which signals a beginning. The second birth is the moment of agreeing to follow someone. The ceremony acknowledging this agreement is known as upanayana. The Sanskrit word implies coming closer to something.

In the second birth you get closer to the guru, who is the spiritual master. More important than the guru’s association is his instruction. The real dvija is close in philosophical proximity to their guru. A formal ceremony is not an absolute requirement in this regard, as sometimes even the dvija acknowledged by society is far away from their guru in consciousness.

“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)

[school of the guru]The bona fide guru is dear to the Supreme Lord. In the second birth you thus get closer to someone who is dear to God. By extension you become dear to God. If you are dear to Him, you have nothing to worry about ever again. No more birth and death. No more evolution, as you have reached the last step. You’ll be so happy with your newfound devotional life that you’ll never want to stop serving both guru and Bhagavan.

In Closing:

How exactly the dvija is known,

By formal acceptance alone?


Or coming in the family line,

Others for future life waiting time?


Closer in consciousness coming,

Dear to the representative becoming.


From the animals distinction making,

Significant that second birth taking.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Five Essential Things To Remember From The Bhagavad-gita

[Arjuna and Krishna]“O King, as I repeatedly recall this wondrous and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I take pleasure, being thrilled at every moment.” (Sanjaya speaking to Dhritarashtra, Bhagavad-gita, 18.76)

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That which is learned easily, becomes forgotten easily in due course of time. That which is learned with great difficulty tends to remain. This only makes sense. If I am cramming for an exam, the night before I will likely memorize as much as I can. This way I will be prepared for the questions asked. As soon as the exam is over, I have no need to retain the information. On the other side, if I really learned the principles through hard work, challenging myself in the process, it will be more difficult to forget.

One of the most widely read philosophical books in history is the Bhagavad-gita. The title consists of Sanskrit words, but the interest spans far beyond those whose origins are India and Hindu culture. The book has been translated many times, with varieties of commentaries as well.

What are the key takeaways? What are the essential things to remember? The philosophical points aren’t so easy to learn, as sometimes people spend a lifetime studying the work and still remain amazed at the profound wisdom contained within.

1. Life is a struggle

This was likely the suspicion prior to reading the book. Even in the general approach towards the Divine, one of the common causes is distress. Krishna mentions this in the discussion with Arjuna.

“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)

The struggle through life is touched upon directly. The living things around us, from large to small, are sparks of the spiritual energy. The Sanskrit word is amsha. Those amshas come from mam, or “me.” The “me” referred to is Krishna. Krishna is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

“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)

If we come from God, why should we struggle? The reason is the six senses, which include the mind, interacting with the material realm. The interaction leads to forgetfulness. We sink so low in that direction that we completely forget our eternal relationship with Krishna, who is all-bliss.

2. Birth and death occur in cycles

Doubt pertaining to the end of life is the spark that ignites the conversation. Arjuna is a bow warrior, and he is ready to lead his side to victory in a great war. The outcome isn’t known for sure beforehand, so there is some worry over how the opponents will be conquered. Still, Arjuna is pretty confident that his side will win.

That is the issue. Arjuna doesn’t want to kill people who are near and dear to him, who happen to be on the wrong side in the conflict. Arjuna is contemplating dropping his weapons and abandoning the battlefield. Let the rivals rule over the kingdom, even if it doesn’t belong to them.

Krishna begins the discussion by pointing out the true nature of life and death. Birth and the subsequent end of life occur in cycles. The spirit soul, the vital force living within, never gets killed. It is impossible to kill a soul, just as it is impossible to give birth to it. What constantly changes is the body, which consists of matter.

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.11)

So from whatever angle you view things, there is no reason to lament death. As an atheist, if you think the body is just chemicals, why are you lamenting over the destruction of chemicals that was inevitable to begin with? As a theist, you know that the soul lives on after death, so what is there to worry about?

3. Everyone has to work

The spiritualist is superior, right? They don’t get entangled in action and reaction, which is karma. They are above it all. That is true in a sense, except everyone has to work. No one can escape it; not even for a second.

“All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5)

Thus quitting alone doesn’t make you superior. You could still be attached to the material body, indicating ignorance. It is the nature of the work that matters. Arjuna had a job to do. It was his duty to uphold dharma, or righteousness. By choosing kama instead, he was letting material desire get in the way of what was beneficial to both him and the people who looked to him for protection.

4. God will protect

So many different people. So many desires. So many ways to go about attaining those desires. For this reason many dharmas exist. A common translation for that Sanskrit word is “religion,” but dharma is more than just faith. It is a way of life, corresponding with the essential characteristic of something.

“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)

Krishna advises Arjuna to abandon all dharmas and just surrender unto Him. This comes at the very end of their conversation. The timing is intentional. Lay every option on the table. Make the cases for materialism, mysticism, and empirical knowledge. Go through the various scenarios. Slash away any doubts that may remain. Then drop the most important instruction, that the nuances don’t really matter. Just surrender to God and you will be protected. He will ensure the proper outcome. Relax, do what you have to do, and dedicate everything to Him.

5. Bhakta and Bhagavan

This is the essence of the Bhagavad-gita. If all a person can remember is this important pair, then they don’t even require reading the book. From holding it in the hands a person can remember Arjuna and Krishna from that famous day, seated on the chariot on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

[Arjuna and Krishna]A story from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes gives confirmation. One time there was an illiterate person trying to read Bhagavad-gita. Others were laughing at the man. Chaitanya asked him why he had tears in his eyes, even though he couldn’t read. The man responded that just by holding the book he remembered Krishna and Arjuna. He particularly recalled how kind God is towards His devotees. In this case Krishna acted as the charioteer, which is typically a subordinate position. That kindness from God brought tears to the man’s eyes. Chaitanya then said that the man’s understanding of Bhagavad-gita was perfect.

In Closing:

Birth and death in cycle to occur,

Suspicion of life’s miseries to concur.


Work according to nature you’ve got,

Better than abruptly to stop.


These from Bhagavad-gita learn,

Knowledge from page’s every turn.


Devotee and Supreme Lord the pair,

Perfect understanding when of those aware.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Five Reasons To Be Confident In The Potency Of The Deity

[Narasimha appearing from pillar]“O most unfortunate Prahlada, you have always described a supreme being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is the controller of everyone, and who is all-pervading. But where is He? If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this pillar?” (Hiranyakashipu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.12)

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“Worship a statue, you say? This object consisting of earthly elements, which you yourself have told me is inanimate in nature. After all, the fundamental truth of the spiritual science is the very difference between spirit and matter. Spirit is purusha, the enjoyer, while matter is prakriti, the enjoyed. Isn’t there a major contradiction with this idea of deity worship, then?”

These doubts make sense. Any person can create any image using material elements. That doesn’t automatically make it worshipable. The distinction is between imaginary and authority. The mind, which is a subtle material element, can never properly conceive of the Divine on its own. It is in the individual’s nature to serve a higher power. That is the real definition of dharma. Thus the practice of idol worship is quite common; the method is not exclusive to statues. Man makes divine figures out of practically anyone who displays exceptional skill in a particular area.

Authority is something different. It is following guidelines passed on for many generations, with the origin being the highest authority. There is no way to test the accuracy of the claim through simple sight, as we weren’t around at the beginning of the creation. There are other ways to establish authority. We can look to historical incidents to increase our confidence in the potency of the authorized practice of deity worship.

1. Narasimhadeva coming from a pillar

In this case the deity worshiped was in the heart. A young child knew that God is everywhere and that He always has a distinct spiritual identity. The conditions did not allow for formal worship of a physical deity. But where there is a will in devotion, there is a way to practice it. Even when facing the greatest obstructions, love for God will triumph.

[Narasimha appearing from pillar]Prahlada was only five years old and his father was antagonistic to the worship of Vishnu. Prahlada did not mind, but the father did. So Hiranyakashipu tried every which way to kill his son, but Prahlada survived. Finally, in mocking the boy’s claim that God is indeed everywhere, Hiranyakashipu asked if Vishnu was in the pillar next to them. To his surprise, God then emerged from that very pillar in a horrifying form, that of a half-man/half-lion. If He can appear from a pillar, He can certainly accept worship in the temple through the statue created on authority.

2. Hanuman on the flag on Arjuna’s chariot

The famous Bhagavad-gita has the setting of a battlefield set to see the greatest war in history. The attention is focused on one particular chariot, just prior to the war’s commencement. That chariot has wonderful and significant decorations. It holds the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. He is the same Vishnu worshiped by Prahlada. He is the same Narasimhadeva who emerged from the pillar.

The lotus feet are the shelter for the distressed warrior named Arjuna. Also on that chariot is the flag bearing the image of Hanuman. The flag is symbolic of a past victory of a courageous devotee. Hanuman served Rama, and now the same Rama is there as Krishna.

But from the Mahabharata we learn that the flag was more than a symbol. Hanuman had previously offered to stay on the chariot of Arjuna, adding to the shouts of victory through that flag. The promise was made to Bhima, who is one of Arjuna’s brothers. If Hanuman, a great servant of the Lord, has the ability to appear through an image marked on an official flag, then certainly Vishnu has the ability to do the same with the deity in the temple.

3. Rama donating a deity

Visits to the temple are not a strict requirement. The atmosphere is the key, as just from seeing the deity a person can be reminded of their long forgotten link to the Divine. He is the best friend, but unless there is a connection the benefits of friendship do not come.

In Shri Rama’s kingdom a long time ago, a particular citizen had great attachment to Rama in His physical form. But as a king, the Lord sometimes had to leave town on business. To spare the pain of separation for this citizen, Rama donated a deity of Himself. It was understood that worshiping the deity was as good as worshiping Him.

At the present moment, due to the influence of maya we think that God is far away. The deity is the mercy of the Divine, appearing before us in a form that we can somewhat understand. Thus the deity is not to be taken lightly.

4. The story of Sakshi-gopala

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu loved hearing the story about Sakshi-gopala. This was a specific deity that once did something amazing. Of course the devotees know that God can do anything, but even the non-believers this time were surprised.

Gopala is another name for Krishna. It means “protector of the cows.” The deity became sakshi, or witness, to an agreement made between two brahmanas, or members of the priestly order. One brahmana went back on his promise, claiming he had never made it in the first place. The other brahmana vowed to bring the deity of Gopala, since the agreement was made in front of that deity. Gopala did indeed travel, on its own, to bear witness to the truth.

5. Uddhava-gita

In the Bhagavad-gita we get the simple explanation of what should be offered to God the person. Fruit, water, flowers - nothing extraordinary is mentioned. The key is to make the offering with love. Then Krishna will accept.

“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)

This does not mean that sweets and more elaborate preparations are prohibited. Nor does it mean that Krishna is against deity worship simply because it wasn’t specifically touched upon in the conversation with Arjuna.

There is another conversation, between Krishna and another cousin named Uddhava. Found in the latter portions of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, that discussion is also known as the Uddhava-gita. Krishna there specifically mentions deity worship. He gives general guidelines on how it should be performed.

If God exists, of course He should be worshiped. If He can be contemplated, remembered, and honored within the mind, then why not also in the physical form? Not only is such worship authorized by those who know things as they are, there is tremendous benefit received from even the smallest effort.

In Closing:

Non-devoted as idol to see,

But deity equally potent to be.


Supreme Lord for our eyes coming,

Proof as Gopala witness becoming.


And once from pillar emerged,

For giving punishment deserved.


Worship guidelines to Uddhava gave,

To reap reward, Divine image to save.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Five Things Decorating Arjuna’s Chariot At Kurukshetra

[Arjuna on chariot]“O King, at that time Arjuna, the son of Pandu, who was seated in his chariot, his flag marked with Hanuman, took up his bow and prepared to shoot his arrows, looking at the sons of Dhritarashtra. O King, Arjuna then spoke to Hrishikesha [Krishna] these words:” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.20)

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Bhagavad-gita means “Song of God.” It didn’t take long to deliver. If you come across a translation version today, which has the proper respect for the teacher and the disciple, then from the many pages the task of reading seems daunting. The verses themselves don’t take up much space; the majority of the content is commentary.

After all, the battle of Kurukshetra was some five thousand years ago. The two main speakers conversed in Sanskrit, which is the oldest language known to man. The script for Sanskrit is called Devanagari, which literally translates to “city of the gods.” Needless to say, the language is reserved for the highest class people, those with a sharp intellect.

In Kali Yuga man is generally unfortunate and dull-witted, in comparison to ages past. For these reasons commentary is necessary. The basis is the content, the words themselves. But there is also tremendous significance to the objects of the scene. The conversation took place on a battlefield, with the picture zoomed in on a particular chariot.

1. The best bow

The Gandiva bow was present as the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. This was a special weapon handed down through the generations, first coming from Lord Brahma, who is the creator. Imagine a painter sitting down to work. They have their palette of colors in front of them, and from there the possibilities are endless.

In a similar manner, Brahma takes the three ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance and sets about creating. The result is up to 8,400,000 different suits or sets of clothes. We generally refer to these as species, but they are nothing more than a certain combination of material ingredients occupied by an individual spark of the spiritual energy.

2. The best bow-warrior

What good is a bow without someone to use it? Arjuna possessed the Gandiva. He was seated on the chariot, ready to go to war. Arjuna was worthy of receiving the Gandiva, as it was a weapon revered by the pious.

As there is a limited amount of independence in a material existence, a weapon can be used in any direction. Arjuna would not use the powerful bow for evil. He was a protector of the innocent. His party, the Pandavas, had been wronged consistently for too long. Now it was time to uphold justice. Arjuna was the leading fighter for his side and everyone understood just how skilled he was in combat.

3. The best well-wisher

Arjuna and his Gandiva were enough to ensure victory, even if there were millions of soldiers gathered on the battlefield. Also decorating that chariot was the greatest well-wisher known to man. We typically measure greatness in numbers. Quantity. Magnitude. Shri Krishna is the greatest well-wisher using this method of measurement.

This is because He is the well-wisher to everyone. As the Supersoul He resides in the heart. Not just mine. Not just yours. Everyone’s. He is the same individual. It looks like He is divided and spread out, but He is actually one.

Krishna is a well-wisher, but the corresponding party has a decision to make. They either accept His friendship or ignore it. Arjuna accepted it, and for this reason Krishna was seated on the chariot.

4. The best feet

Krishna’s feet are worshiped throughout the world since time immemorial. They are soft and beautiful. They resemble the lotus flower. In God the person we find contradictory features. He is both the most delicate and the strongest. He is the richest and the most renounced. His influence is everywhere yet He is never divided.

A person doesn’t even need to read the entire Bhagavad-gita or fully understand its contents. Simple attachment to the lotus feet decorating that famed chariot is enough to achieve perfection in life. Arjuna had such attachment, and so his senses were directed towards pleasing the master of all senses, Hrishikesha.

5. The best symbol

The Gandiva bow in the hand of the most skilled warrior who was directed by the greatest well-wisher whose feet are the supreme shelter. What else was needed? The arrows? The “go”order? Another important decoration on that chariot is the flag. Not merely a sign of which side Arjuna was on, this flag symbolized great heroism in a specific cause.

The flag is of Hanuman. Many years prior Hanuman was engaged in a similar task. He took on a group of people dedicated to adharma, or unrighteousness. They had committed grievous sins, and Hanuman was there to play a part in correcting the wrong. He was guided by the same well-wisher, receiving instructions from Him in His transcendental form of Rama.

[Arjuna on chariot]Hanuman had attachment to the same lotus feet, and not surprisingly he was successful in the mission. Now Arjuna was engaged in a similar task, and so he had the flag of Hanuman flying on his chariot. In this way success was guaranteed. The ultimate message of the Gita, protection through surrender to the Divine, is perfectly illustrated in just the image of the chariot.

In Closing:

Sacred Bhagavad-gita to read,

To reach the end no need.


From chariot image just,

In greatest well-wisher trust.


Warrior wielding Gandiva bow,

With lotus feet of guide ready to go.


Flag of devoted Hanuman flying,

Work while on Supreme Lord relying.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three Common Prayers And How To Make Them Even Better

[Shri Krishna]“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

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It’s what really distinguishes the humans from the rest of the community of living things. Not the ability to do calculus. Not the ability to put together a complicated machine. Certainly the animals can’t do those things, but compassion, cleanliness, austerity and honesty are what make the real difference. These four come directly from religion. Even the atheistic person possessing these traits derives the benefit originally from religious practices.

It is good to be cultured. It is good to pray on a regular basis. The sober-minded person understands that there is a higher power involved. Everything came together from a bang of chemicals, so the theory says. Then there was evolution. But what instigated that? Can you generate a chemical explosion that then results in a smartphone or laptop computer? Even if you could do this, there is still a lack of randomness. You are the catalyst; there is intentional action and subsequent reaction. And something is behind the action.

Vedic culture teaches that the more you learn about God, the more you are benefitted. Since He is unlimited, ananta, He is impossible to know completely. Still, just a little understanding, some progress along the path, protects a person from the greatest fear.

One way to stay connected to the Divine is prayer. Pray regularly. Keep a routine. From reviewing some of the common prayers, there is a way to make them better. The improvement is connected to the increase in knowledge about the attributes of the Divine.

1. God, give us our daily bread

It is better to ask God for bread than the atheistic government. This was the tactic of the classic communist regimes. Tell the people to pray for bread. When it doesn’t arrive due to the limitations on farming and enterprise amongst the oppressed citizens, ask them to pray again, but this time to the government. With the government providing the bread, hopefully the people will be fooled into ignoring worship of the Divine.

“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)

A slight alteration to the common prayer goes something like this:

“God, please accept this offering. I know that you are atmarama, and thus in need of nothing. Still, the offering is with love, as much as I think I have, which is very little. Still, I know that you are merciful to the surrendered souls. I promise to try to bring the same offerings to you on a daily basis. Whatever you leave behind I will honor.”

2. Come through for me this one time and I’ll never bother you again

This is the prayer made in desperation. Having not gone to God recently, this dire situation requires extra help. A miracle. Something great. The person offering the prayer understands that they’ve neglected spiritual life. Hopefully, the man upstairs doesn’t hold a grudge. From getting this one benediction, all problems will be solved.

Make a slight alteration and the nature of the prayer changes, becoming much better in the process:

“God, I offer this prayer to you simply to maintain your association. You can do as you like. Put me in a dog’s body in the next life. Send me to hell. Promote me to heaven and make available so many material amenities. It doesn’t matter. I will still remain devoted to you, to the best of my ability. I ask to have this opportunity, life after life.”

Maharishi Valmiki makes mention of a certain group of people who make such prayers. He says that whether in heaven or hell, they always see Shri Rama, standing with His bow and arrow. Rama is their Divine form of choice, understanding that the one source can appear in different ways.

3. Praying for others

It’s compassion. You want others to do well. You want your loved ones to be safe. You don’t want harm to befall them. “Let me take their suffering and pain. I can handle it. Please spare them.”

Two alterations make this prayer so much more powerful. First, expand the definition of “loved ones” to include the entire human race. Second, pray that they get more than just immunity from pain:

“God, please let them find the shelter of your lotus feet. Let them taste the nectar of devotion. Let them swim in that ocean, which Shrila Rupa Gosvami refers to as bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. Indeed, if they simply read the book of his with that title, they will benefit so much. I know that bhakti is about desire and that you can’t force someone to follow devotion, but at least give them the opportunity to hear about your glories. Help me to spread the message of Divine love so that it touches so many hearts.”

[Shri Krishna]These prayers will only be made if there is an understanding of the form, personality, names, and pastimes of the Divine. If the picture remains foggy, then prayers won’t be to the highest standard. It is something like approaching the king of the land and asking him to fix your leaky faucet. The king can do so much more. The greatest gift offered by God is His constant presence. That gift is already available in the form of the Supersoul residing within the heart, but without proper knowledge the connection remains down.

In Closing:

Supreme Lord in heart right now found,

But lacking knowledge connection down.


With understanding of His nature taking,

Improved the common prayers making.


More than just for daily bread to ask,

With love offer food as routine task.


More than safety, their spirits to alight,

By giving mankind the Divine light.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Four Ways That I Am Like Hiranyakashipu

[Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu]“Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought by any being other than those created by you, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.” (Hiranyakashipu praying to Lord Brahma, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.36)

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He took his time; that’s for sure. It wasn’t easy. More strenuous than going on a three day juice cleanse, Hiranyakashipu underwent austerities to the point of extreme that he caught the attention of the self-create, Lord Brahma. Also known as Svayambhu, Brahma actually emerged from the lotus stem that grew out of the lotus-like navel of Lord Vishnu, who is also known as Padmanabha. Since this birth lacks the typical mother and father combination, Brahma is known as the one who is born from the self.

Hiranyakashipu wanted more than just a meeting. There was an interest to be met. Svartha is interest, or profit, of this world. More specifically, it relates to the present body, which corresponds with a single lifetime. Paramartha is profit in the future, the afterlife.

To show just how not interested in paramartha he was, Hiranyakashipu asked for immortality. Better to just avoid the afterlife altogether. Realizing that Brahma himself is not immune from death, Hiranyakashipu tried to get around the issue. He asked for immunity from death in so many situations. Pleased by the king’s austerities, Brahma granted those wishes.

Of course just one percent vulnerability is enough for kala, or time, to strike. Hiranyakashipu got the even better benediction of having time personified arrive in a ghastly form. Fortunately, the paramartha was liberation, and the boons of protection offered by Brahma were not violated. In many ways we try the same approach as Hiranyakashipu, thinking that the inevitable afterlife will never arrive if we take certain precautions.

1. I think money will keep me safe

Things don’t look good at the company I work for. They just lost their two biggest clients. In a few months revenue will run out. I’ve been through this before, and I’m not looking forward to it. Dust off the old resume, update it, and then hit the job market. I hate it. I don’t want to do it anymore.

Let me try my hand at stock trading. This way I can work from home. I will make my own hours. No boss to answer to. If I make enough money, then everything will be fine. I won’t have to deal with anymore problems. Indeed, material amenities, and specifically the lack of them, is the main concern for practically everyone in a material existence.

2. I think marriage will keep me safe

Why me? Why am I the only one who can’t find love and the happiness it supposedly brings? I’d like to get married, just once. If things don’t work out, that’s okay. But right now I am a social outcaste. In every circle I enter, the questions inevitably arise:

“When are you getting married? What are you waiting for? Get out there and make it happen. Yes, good things come to those who wait, but success here isn’t just going to fall into your lap.”

Of course lost in this outlook is that so many people are married already. They still have problems. They are not immune to worry, angst, and fear. The threefold miseries of life still strike them. Even a happy marriage doesn’t mean that distress will vanish forever.

3. I think healthy habits will keep me safe

I am going to eat healthy from now on. No more pizza every day. No more ice cream. Regular exercise, and forced restriction on diet. Then so many diseases will stay away. I will do some meditational yoga as well. Keep the body fit.

[Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu]Again, kala can strike at any time. Hiranyakashipu was incredibly powerful. The entire world feared him. Yet at the opportune moment, when the Supreme Lord decided it was time to show the greatest materialist the force of the Divine, the king lost everything. His fit body became the target for the fingernails of Narasimhadeva, the half-man/half-lion incarnation.

4. I think anything except devotion, bhakti, will keep me safe

The fuel of the engine of the vehicle of samsara is the avoidance of bhakti-yoga. Any desire that is not service in love to God keeps reincarnation going. Reincarnation means changing bodies. Changing bodies means birth and death. Birth means that death is inevitable.

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Bhakti will keep me safe in the sense that the devotion will never perish. There was a corresponding actor in the real life drama starring Hiranyakashipu. The five-year old son, Prahlada, did not make any similar pleas to Lord Brahma. Prahlada knew better, despite being so young. He saw the futility in material life. He took to devotion instead, and from that he became so powerful that even the empowered atheistic father couldn’t stop him.

In Closing:

By Lord Brahma empowered,

Blessings on him showered.


Though looking immortality to find,

At last losing to Narasimha as time.


That Hiranyakashipu imitated by me,

That in other ways safe too I’ll be.


But from bhakti alone protection to know,

Otherwise forced in reincarnation to go.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Are You Selling

[Hanuman with Sita]“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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One of those rare days. You are home during the daytime. You have to go somewhere in the late afternoon, so you decided it was better to just skip work. Take it easy, instead of hustling home, changing, and then rushing out the door again.

At around eleven in the morning, the doorbell rings. Your wife is home and she says, “Don’t answer it.” Perplexed, before you can inquire into the cause she responds, “It’s probably somebody selling something. If we just keep quiet, they’ll eventually go away.”

This response implies many things. For starters, solicitors visiting the home must be a common occurrence. Your wife employed the ascending process of knowledge to make an educated guess that the person at the door wasn’t coming with an important message. Indeed, a few minutes later you see that her guess is confirmed. The person was selling something, and they have moved on to another house.

You can also infer that the thing being sold wasn’t of much value. At least that is the perspective of the homeowner. Who wants to be bothered with a sales pitch when they know they will decline at the end. “Yes” is the easy answer. Highly influential people pay to have a staff whose main responsibility it is to decline offers.

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana provides an example of a person with whom a conversation is worthwhile. Sita Devi makes the declaration, and she provides justification. The person at the door, so to speak, is Shri Hanuman. He has not come to bother Sita. He is not there to harass her. He is not interested in scaring her into submission, as were the other people surrounding the princess of Videha.

[Hanuman with Sita]Hanuman has been sent by Rama. Who is Rama? He is the knower of the self, vidita atmana. He is also Sita’s husband. Who is Hanuman? He is the best of the kapis, or monkeys. This means that he is not an ordinary forest dweller coming from the land of Kishkindha. His presence in Lanka is surely conspicuous, but it is not without cause.

Hanuman is carrying a message from Rama. The knower of the self wants to convey something important to His beautiful, chaste, and devoted wife. Hanuman is given the opportunity to deliver that message. The postman might have a difficult time in inclement weather. Driving through snow is dangerous. Walking door to door in a heat wave is no picnic.

Hanuman faced the greatest obstacles in his daring journey to Lanka. But he continued forward since he desperately wanted to succeed in delivering the message. To this day he continues to deliver a similar message to the fortunate souls: be devoted to God.

Other representatives like him carry the same message. If they are not able to reach us personally, with direct contact, they establish mechanisms for the delivery of the message. They write books. They initiate disciples who then carry those books to the interested public. They give lectures that are preserved in sound recordings.

[Shrila Prabhupada]There are so many people trying to sell so many different things. We may not want to answer the door when they arrive, but someone like Hanuman should never be turned away. Even if he appears in the oddest of settings, like a grove of trees populated with female man-eating ogres, he should be welcomed. Sita and Rama are always ready to hear from him, and he is always ready to show the path of Divine light to any who are willing to accept it.

In Closing:

A worthy messenger the declaration,

For it Sita giving justification.


Since by husband Rama was sent,

In face of difficulties forward went.


The most important thing selling,

Glories of Supreme Lord telling.


Others like him carrying holy name,

To be accepted with honor the same.