Saturday, June 3, 2017

Four People For Whom I Am Thankful

[Lord Krishna]“As stated in the Vedas (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13), eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: the supreme one is supplying all necessities to the living entities. The living entity who is therefore grateful to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is certainly qualified with good characteristics.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.44 Purport)

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A wise person is grateful. This only makes sense. Wisdom in this regard is directly linked to memory. One would have to say that an intelligent person remembers. Forgetfulness means that important information won’t be retained. You would rather trust a person who remembers than a person who does not.

“O best among the glorious ones, all of this has been achieved by me through the divine grace of You and Your brother. One who does not repay the favors offered to him certainly is considered a disgrace among men.” (Sugriva speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 38.26)

To think that every outcome is due solely to my own effort is silly. A quick way to disprove the false notion is to make a simple observation. Does every person who puts in the same effort achieve the same outcome? Indeed, based on the limitations of the material world we know that this can’t be true. If two people apply for a job opening at a company, giving a great interview in the process, there is still only one person who can get the job.

The rational conclusion is that outside factors play a role. Some call this luck, but there are so many identifiable people to whom a debt of gratitude is owed. They rendered services which continue to pay benefits.

1. My parents

I wouldn’t be in this world without them. It’s as simple as that. I may not think they are very smart; a sentiment only natural for children to have. Not everyone is born into the same circumstances. Some people never have the fortune of meeting their parents. Still, I am grateful for them for bringing me into this world. In the rarely attained human form of body, I have a chance to achieve the perfection of living.

2. My teachers

Parents can fall into this category, as well. We’ve heard of the geniuses, who are able to do amazing things. Still, they needed someone to teach them the basics. They had to learn to read and write. The teachers give the foundation of knowledge, and without the underlying support there would be no potential for reaching a higher stature.

3. My enemies

Why should I be thankful to people who are inimical toward me? The enemies keep my ego in check. They are a stark reminder that I cannot be loved by everyone. I will never be universally adored. Neither am I perfect. I am grateful to my enemies for reminding me of my limited ability in a material existence.

4. The Supreme Lord

The Upanishads relay an important truth about God. One way to define Him is to say that He is the one who is supporting the many. He is supplying the necessities of life. Not just to me. Not just to everyone in my community. To every living thing, from the tiny ant to the creator of all beings - God is the maintainer.

Life itself is proof of His existence. He is the life of everything that lives.

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

As mentioned previously, remembrance is a sign of intelligence. You can’t perform well on an exam if you can’t remember the material. You can’t solve complex mathematical computations if you forget the basics. Gratefulness is a sign of wisdom tied to remembrance.

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that remembrance comes from God. He gives forgetfulness, as well. Sometimes it’s better to not remember a traumatic incident. The concept of time healing all wounds works in part through forgetfulness.

[Lord Krishna]Everything that we have, the good and the bad, comes from God. He is the person to whom the most gratitude is owed. He is the very reason for an existence, and the more one connects with Him the more their problems diminish. The source of all misery is forgetfulness of the relationship to the Divine, and so if there is a sincere desire to rekindle that relationship, then the one who supports the many offers help directly by taking away forgetfulness and strengthening remembrance of Him.

In Closing:

To teachers and parents debt too,

Outside help needed by me and you.


But God to whom the most is owed,

This body and everything else bestowed.


Life of everything right now living,

As Supersoul witness most forgiving.


For devotees remembrance to lengthen,

And perseverance in task to strengthen.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Three Ways To Acquire The Qualities Of The Demigods

[Demigods with Krishna]“It is said that one who has unflinching faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which means unflinching faith in the Vaishnava or the pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, develops all the good qualities of the demigods. Yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akinchana/ sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah (SB 5.18.12). Prahlada Maharaja also said, naisham matis tavad urukramanghrim (SB 7.5.32).” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.43 Purport)

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The Sanskrit word is deva. The simple translation is “god.” Since the capitalized version of the same word indicates a single being supreme amongst all others, deva can also translate to “demigod.” There are many devas, and since many cannot be supreme, we know that there is a person above the demigods.

“The Vedas say, nityo nityanam: God is one. Ishvarah paramah krishnah. The Supreme God is one-Krishna-and the demigods are delegated with powers to manage this material world. These demigods are all living entities (nityanam) with different grades of material power. They cannot be equal to the Supreme God-Narayana, Vishnu, or Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12 Purport)

Among all the eternals, there is a chief eternal. One key distinction is that the chief eternal is maintaining all the other eternals. Indeed, we are eternal as well; that is the makeup of the spirit soul. As part of its constitution, the soul can never be killed.

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

The devas are a special kind of eternal. They have amazing abilities. They enjoy in a region featuring much less disturbances and anxieties. Indeed, they are one of the sources of misery in this world. Adhidaivika - these are natural disasters and the like. The devas do their duty and provide this punishment to those wanting to live separate from God, in the land of forgetfulness.

The demigods are eternal living beings, spirit souls. This means that any person has the potential to become like the devas. There are different ways to achieve the distinction, to be of the same stature as the celestials.

1. Pray to them

Pretty simple, if you think about it. Just pray. Ask to have a long duration of life. Don’t be shy. No need to feel embarrassed. Everyone is afraid of death to some degree. It is a painful end to the temporary existence, an end guaranteed as soon as there was birth.

There are instances documented in Vedic literature of ordinary people becoming extraordinary through prayer. Hiranyakashipu and Ravana are two of the best known examples. They were hardcore in their prayer. They approached the creator himself, Lord Brahma.

“O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.” (Hiranyakashipu praying to Lord Brahma, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.35)

Hiranyakashipu achieved such a high status through the favor of the deva Brahma that the other devas feared him. They assumed disguises to avoid his subsequent reign of terror. Ravana was similarly feared, having the terrifying scream.

2. Act in the mode of goodness

One way to define material is to say “not Brahman.” Brahman is spirit soul, so material also means that which is not spiritual. The difference between matter and spirit is consciousness. Matter is dull and lifeless. To identify with matter is a sign of ignorance or illusion, also known as maya.

The living beings in the material world are spirit souls covered by gross and subtle elements. Those elements have a specific nature. There are three main ingredients used by the aforementioned creator, Brahma.

Goodness, passion and ignorance. These three, in different proportions and combinations, constitute the bodies of the many species. There is variety up to 8,400,000 in number. Not only body types, but activities can be in these modes as well.

The mode of ignorance is akin to doing stupid things; behavior which has no real benefit. Passion is the default mentality. Work hard for a fruitive result, only to be left wanting more. In the mode of passion a person neither advances nor regresses.

[Demigods with Krishna]The mode of goodness is doing things the right way. More than just building a home properly or passing an exam, the overall pious behavior brings advancement reflected in the afterlife. A person ascends to the heavenly region through strict adherence to recommended activities in goodness. By achieving residence in the heavenly realm, the individual becomes a de facto demigod.

3. Practicing bhakti-yoga

This is above the three modes of material nature. Devotional service to the Supreme Lord, done without motivation and without interruption, is above karma. There are no future consequences related to a temporary body. There is no concern over residence in the heavenly realm or a better situation in the next birth.

Almost an afterthought to the person immersed within the nectar of devotion is the acquisition of the qualities of the demigods. These abilities are not explicitly sought after. The idea is that God the person, who is the beneficiary of activities in bhakti, gives to the devotee what they need to continue in their devotion.

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

Famous examples of devotees showing amazing abilities are Hanuman and Prahlada. It is not that every person will suddenly live very long or enjoy materially. The qualities in goodness appear automatically and when needed, and the Supreme Lord provides direct supervision to ensure that whatever qualities are required remain.

This last option is indeed the best one. It is much easier than undergoing tremendous austerities like Ravana. It is safer than waiting for the benefits to arrive in the afterlife. Bhakti-yoga is automatically the most pious behavior, and it brings detachment from the material simultaneously.

In Closing:

To become demigod ways three,

In goodness mode heaven to see.


Or with sincere dedication pray,

Then to receive whatever to say.


To practice bhakti easiest of all,

Commensurate qualities, large or small.


Like with Prahlada and Hanuman shown,

Supreme Lord taking care of His own.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Things Rama Doesn’t Feel Even In The Most Disturbing Times

[Rama-Sita-Lakshmana in forest]“That one in whom there was no pain, nor fear, nor distress when giving up the kingdom, which was an indication of His righteousness, and when leading me by foot in the forest - I trust He is keeping firm in heart.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.29)

dharma apadeśāt tyajataḥ ca rājyām |
mām ca api araṇyam nayataḥ padātim |

na āsīt vyathā yasya na bhīḥ na śokaḥ |
kaccit sa dhairyam hṛdaye karoti ||

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Life is unpredictable, after all. After birth, the only guaranteed outcome subsequent is death. There are many teachings along these lines. From Benjamin Franklin, the only things assured are death and taxes. From the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna teaches Arjuna that a person should not avoid discharging their prescribed duties, dharma, because of the way birth and death occur in cycles.

“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)

Keep a steady mind. Cool as a cucumber. Don’t get too high or too low. You’re going to fail too many times to stay upset for long. The advice is easier spoken than adhered to. Since death is guaranteed, it means that eventually everything will be lost. The tricky part is that death doesn’t announce itself. It doesn’t give fair warning. It can strike at any time, and thus far it hasn’t lost.

The people who do remain steady under the pressure of disturbing times are thus noteworthy. One such person is Shri Rama. He is the same individual who spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. He is the object of dharma, which is prescribed duty, religion, or righteousness, depending on the context.

Ultimately, dharma is the essential characteristic of the individual. Every living thing is connected to the source of all living things. That source creates both the material and spiritual worlds. He creates in an effortless way. Though we are influenced by our work, He is not.

“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)

In His incarnation of Rama, the Supreme, the original source, sets the proper example on how to behave when things don’t go your way. Rama is free of emotions common when facing difficulties, as noted one time by His wife Sita Devi.

1. Pain

The Sanskrit word is vyatha. Rama had ample reason to feel pain. He was rejected by His own family. First came the yanking away of the kingdom. Though God has no father and mother, the only person who can accurately make that claim, He still appears in this world from time to time. He does so to protect the sadhus, who are the saintly people.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

The appearance must have an external cause, lest everyone know about His Divine nature. Thus there are special people chosen to play important roles, like mother and father. Rama was the eldest son to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. As protocol, Rama was scheduled to one day accept the throne from the father.

But things suddenly went against tradition. Bharata, one of three younger brothers, was now set to be installed. Rama did not mind being passed over. It was the next order that really hurt. He was sent to the forest for fourteen years, to live like a wandering hermit. No connection to the kingdom. No wealth. No army. Just Him, by Himself.

Rama did not feel any pain at this time. He gave up the kingdom as if it were nothing. Sita says this was an indication of His dedication to dharma. In this case the right thing to do was follow the requests of the father. Dasharatha had made two promises to the queen Kaikeyi, and so if Rama acted otherwise the father would be known to be a liar. That would not be good for anyone.

2. Fear

If I suddenly became homeless, surely I will be afraid. I have trouble dealing with losing a job, even. Fear is caused by uncertainty. How was someone like Rama going to survive in the wilderness? Wouldn’t He get lonely? Wouldn’t there be wild animals with which to contend?

Sita says that Rama did not have any fear. The beautiful wife insisted on accompanying Rama, as did the younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was not afraid about how to protect them. He was not worried over how to keep them entertained. His very name means “total transcendental pleasure,” so anyone in His association, with the proper consciousness, is automatically the happiest.

3. Distress

From prince to pauper, overnight. From friends, family, and well-wishers surrounding you to predatory animals as neighbors. From the cool floors in palaces under your feet to the prickly brushes and grass at every step. It would be understandable to feel a little distress.

Since the Supreme Lord was now in their presence, the inhabitants of the wild were benefitted. They got to interact with the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, which are beautiful and soft. God can be both harder than the hardest and softer than the softest.

[Sita-Rama-Lakshmana in forest]Sita hoped that just as Rama did not show distress, pain, or fear during those troubling times that He would remain strong in heart during separation from her. She was taken away from His side through a wicked plot hatched by the king of Lanka, Ravana. Indeed, the ever-steady Rama was on His way to rescue her, with the first indication the successful journey to her side by the preeminent minister Shri Hanuman.

In the same way, the Supreme Lord has been witness to our great distress since time immemorial, as we have travelled from body to body in the cycle of birth and death in the material world. When our attention shifts to Him, to serving Him with love, to no longer having material desires, He is equally as dedicated to rescuing us, to bringing us back into the eternal engagement that is devotional service, the real dharma of the individual.

In Closing:

Having to leave family near and dear,

In going to forest without fear.


Nor with any distress feeling,

Absent pain situation dealing.


Because God in every situation steady,

To defend dharma always ready.


To rescue wife Sita soon coming the day,

For us too holy names sending our way.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Like A Golden Lotus

[Sita-Rama]“I hope that His face, having a fragrance like the lotus-flower and golden-like in color, has not dried up due to the sadness and distress of being without me, like the lotus-flower in the waterless pond affected by the sun.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.28)

kaccin na tadt hema samāna varṇam |
tasya ānanam padma samāna gandhi |

mayā vinā śuṣyati śoka dīnam |
jala kṣaye padmam iva ātapena ||

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It’s one of the first questions children ask when seeing a painting of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan as passed on in the Vedic tradition. The teaching is that God is like you and me in that He is purusha. This Sanskrit word has several meanings. Purusha is a person, like a living being, animating what is otherwise prakriti, or matter.

Purusha is also the enjoyer, dominating over the enjoyed, prakriti. We are purusha at the local level. We are spirit soul at the core, atma, which is covered by material elements. In this way we are the same as Bhagavan. Since He is the supreme enjoyer, He is also known as Purushottama, or the topmost person.

More than just a distinct individual, there are identifiable features to God. He has legs. He has hands. He has ears. The difference is in ability. His ears are everywhere. We don’t have to see physical objects to get proof. Simply through an expansion residing within the heart of every living being the Supreme Lord accomplishes omnipresence. He doesn’t need to specifically wiretap or spy on political enemies in an upcoming election; part of the definition of His transcendental body is an extended range of hearing beyond comprehension.

“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)

God is distributed everywhere, and He has a personal form, as well. It looks like a human being’s, but again, the nature of the features is different. Since His personal form is the most attractive, He is known as Krishna. Since He holds all transcendental pleasure, Rama is another way to address Him.

The original, personal form expands into other similar, but identical forms. There is Krishna, and there is also Rama. There is also Vishnu. One thing in common is the dark complexion. It looks bluish. This is what seems odd to the person first introduced to such images. We have never seen a bluish complexion on a human being. Does this mean the Vedas are mythology?

[Lord Krishna]The people who saw God in His many travels to this and other worlds recorded their observations. Knowing that the complexion would be an issue, they made comparisons to various objects in nature to help the person hearing the accounts. Krishna is dark-blue, like the cloud about to pour rain. His body is like the color of the indranila-mani, which is the blue sapphire.

The Sanskrit word most commonly used for God’s complexion is shyama. This sometimes translates to “greenish” or “brownish” as well. The idea is that there is a dark complexion, and for the eternal consort there is the golden complexion. The same holds true of the first expansion, the servitor God. Krishna is dark, while Balarama is fair.

In the incarnation of Rama, Krishna descends to earth as a warrior prince. Again, the complexion is shyama. The expansion of the servitor God is Lakshmana, who is gaura, or golden. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi refers to Rama has having a varna, or color, like gold, hema. Is this contradictory?

The comparison is made in terms of brightness. She further elaborates that she hopes Rama’s beautiful face has not withered up like the lotus flower in the dry pond. Indeed, Sita informs us that Rama’s face has a fragrance like the lotus flower. In every way God is all-attractive.

Sita should know since she is the beloved wife. She understands that God is above shoka, or grief, but for His devotees He becomes upset from separation. Again, the description is contradictory, but the Supreme is actually beyond logic and reasoning. He is the greatest and the smallest. He is the most renounced and also the most attached to His devotees.

A more selfish person wouldn’t relay these thoughts. Rama was separated from Sita due to the wicked deeds of the king of Lanka, Ravana. Sita was in so much distress that it looked like she was going to wither away from not eating. It would have been understandable if she wished that Rama were suffering similarly.

[Sita-Rama]But she always wishes the best for those who are dear to her. The Supreme Lord knows this, and that is why He is willing to move heaven and earth to save her. He does the same for His devotees of every size and shape, man or woman, human or animal. The determining factor is the presence of devotion and the level of its sincerity. The one with the golden-like face brightens up the hopes of those who have been suffering under the dark cloud of material existence for too long.

In Closing:

Suffering long with hope seeming none,

Burning under material world lacking sun.


Rama coming with lotus-like face,

With brightness the pain to erase.


When separated Sita for husband hoping,

That still golden, with situation coping.


Not selfish in any way that loving wife,

To God dedicating thoughts and entire life.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When A Snake Gets Killed

[Shri Rama]“I trust that within a very short time I shall see Ravana along with his allies killed on the battlefield by the terrific weapons of Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.27)

raudreṇa kaccit astreṇa rāmeṇa nihatam raṇe |
drakṣyāmi alpena kālena rāvaṇam sasuhṛj janam ||

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This verse from the Ramayana presents a potential contradiction. The speaker is known for her saintly character. She does not try to harm anyone. She is not after personal comforts, though everyone is entitled to want what is best for themselves. She lives dharma in following service to her husband. That dharma is also bhakti since it is love and devotion directed to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Yet we see that the princess of Videha is hoping for the day that Ravana and his allies are killed. She doesn’t want an ordinary death. Ravana deserves a special kind of justice, commensurate with his horrible deeds. He used trickery to steal Sita away from the side of her husband.

It is understandable that kama would make someone behave in the wrong way. Shri Krishna says that kama, which can be translated as “lust,” is the all-devouring enemy of this world. It makes a person do something they typically know to be wrong. It is almost as if they have no control; lust combines with wrath to act as a puppet master.

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

Still, even after Ravana’s major lapse in judgment there was opportunity for clemency. Moreover, Sita declined his advances. “No thanks,” was essentially her response. She did not want to be the chief queen in Lanka. There were many beautiful queens already. Why wasn’t Ravana satisfied? He should just let her go. That is the meaning of love, after all, to do what will bring happiness to the object of affection.

A saintly character does not wish harm on anyone. This is a byproduct of their intelligence. They understand that every living entity in this world is struggling. Originally, the living beings are part and parcel of God, His amshas. When they come in contact with material life, they have a difficult time. The conduit for the troubles is the six senses, which include the mind.

“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)

A saint tolerates. They are known to be forgiving. At the same time, this doesn’t mean they are naïve. I know that a tiger is really an individual spirit soul temporarily residing in a body composed mostly of the mode of ignorance. The tiger follows its nature. It can’t be blamed for killing. Still, to treat the tiger as you would a human being is silly.

As Prahlada Maharaja notes, a saintly person takes pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake. Death is merely the changing of bodies, with the individual soul leaving for a different residence. The death of a snake means less trouble for others in the interim.

“My Lord Narasimhadeva, please, therefore, cease Your anger now that my father, the great demon Hiranyakashipu, has been killed. Since even saintly persons take pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake, all the worlds have achieved great satisfaction because of the death of this demon. Now they are confident of their happiness, and they will always remember Your auspicious incarnation in order to be free from fear.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.14)

Prahlada made the comparison to describe how no one was sad to see the death of his father, the evil King Hiranyakashipu. In the same way, the world would achieve satisfaction at the death of Ravana. Sita hoped that it would come on the battlefield against her husband, Shri Rama.

Sita wanted this style of punishment since it would glorify her husband. He would earn further acclaim by shooting amazing weapons to do away with the most feared fighters in the world. Such a feat is not necessary since Rama is already the greatest subduing force when acting as time, or kala. Time has yet to be defeated.

[Shri Rama]It is important for justice to be delivered appropriately and at the right time. This enables the innocent to live peacefully, to continue in their progress towards enlightenment. The benefit of Rama’s slaying of Ravana is that countless future generations would gain further trust in and appreciation for the ability of the Divine, who always comes through for those who are devoted to Him.

In Closing:

Coming through when devoted to Him,

To rid world of Ravana and his sin.


Saints getting peace of mind,

When arrival at proper time.


Of punishment for the deserved,

Sita hoping that by husband served.


With arrows snake-like demons rooting out,

Devotion progressing when impediments without.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Four Things Lakshmana Can Do

[Lakshmana]“And I trust that the heroic Lakshmana, the enhancer of the joy of Sumitra, skilled in shooting, will dissipate the Rakshasas with a network of arrows.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.26)

kaccic ca lakṣmaṇaḥ śūraḥ sumitrā ānanda vardhanaḥ |
astravit śara jālena rākṣasān vidhamiṣyati ||

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It’s one of the first questions that follows when giving instruction on the science of self-realization that is bhakti-yoga. Yes, the changing of bodies, that is profound. I am spirit soul. I am Brahman, part and parcel of the total spiritual energy that has an original source, who is a Supreme Being. The soul never gets killed. The changing of bodies is nothing more than changing clothes, which we do on a regular basis.

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

The teachings are eye-opening, but what is the next step? Do I have to renounce everything? Do I have to quit my job? Do I have to leave my family?

Since bhakti is love, there are no impediments. The meaning is that no condition is absolutely required or prohibited. You can work and still be totally connected in consciousness to the Divine. At the same time, you could be living in a remote cave, far away from civilization, and still be disturbed in mind.

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

One of the comforting aspects of liberation in bhakti is that there is a family of support. You and I will have to part ways with our friends and family from this lifetime. That is the guaranteed end for everyone. But this doesn’t mean that family life will be gone forever. In the spiritual world there are relations like brothers, sisters, parents, and friends.

To give proof the Supreme incarnates in the material realm from time to time. His eternal associates descend with Him. One of those associates is Lakshmana, the younger brother of the Divine incarnation known as Rama. Lakshmana is the embodiment of the guru, or spiritual master. This is the number one servant of God. Guru and God are essentially the same. One is the person offering service and the other is the object of service.

1. Act heroically

Lakshmana offers service as a younger brother. One of his many names is thus Ramanuja. This means “anuja” of Rama. Anuja is the younger brother, but the root meaning of the word conveys the idea of following. Rama is the best person to follow since He is God Himself. In His form of Krishna, He remarks that what great men do others follow.

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

Lakshmana and the two other younger brothers follow Rama in devotion. This doesn’t mean acting passively. If your older brother is the all-powerful, why would you need to do anything? Just let Rama take care of everything.

In Lakshmana the mentality is reversed. He would rather act so that Rama doesn’t have to. Lakshmana stays awake at night to guard Rama and His wife Sita in the forest. He goes into battle against wicked characters, not fearing death. Lakshmana bravely leaves home so that Rama has someone accompanying Him in the lonely forest for fourteen years.

2. Enhance the joy of Sumitra

It makes sense that God would not decide to appear on earth in just any family. He picks a special one: the Raghu dynasty. The king at the time is Dasharatha, and he has three principal wives. Rama is born to Kausalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi, and Lakshmana and Shatrughna to Sumitra.

Sumitra is a pious queen, a dedicated wife, and a loving mother. Lakshmana enhances the joy of Sumitra. Indeed, he enhances the joy of anyone with whom he has a close relationship. The meaning of the name Rama is “one who holds all transcendental pleasure.” If you are close to the person who is Rama, you will get some of that pleasure yourself. Lakshmana is just like Rama, with the main difference in complexion. Rama is darker skinned, while Lakshmana is fair.

3. Shoot with skill

In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the primary weapon of warfare is the bow and arrow. The fighters ride on chariots and they sometimes encounter many at a single time. War is ugly. The outcome is not pleasant. Still, sometimes conflict is necessary. If the kings decided on pacification as their lone policy, others would surely take advantage and usurp kingdoms.

Rama and Lakshmana were kshatriyas, or members of the warrior caste. They were taught in the ways of fighting by respected teachers. Vishvamitra Muni gave them confidential mantras that made their weapons even more powerful.

Lakshmana has tremendous skill with the bow and arrow. He can shoot targets that are far away. He reaches those targets with great accuracy. As with everything else, the skill is displayed only if the task is in relation to serving Rama.

4. Cast a network of arrows on bad guys

Sita Devi once remarked how she trusted this would take place in the future. She was speaking with Shri Hanuman, a messenger sent by Rama to find her. The enemy was the Rakshasas, the inhabitants of the land of Lanka, where Sita had been taken against her will.

The Rakshasas of the time were expert in black magic. Imagine trying to fight someone who can disappear from sight at will. How would you know where to turn? Where would you aim your weapons?

[Lakshmana]Lakshmana has the ability to launch a network of arrows. He can fight against Rakshasas, even if he can’t see them. The many arrows reach their intended target. Sita was hoping that this vision would become a reality, and it indeed would. The task of rescuing Sita was for Rama’s benefit, after all, and for pleasing his elder brother Lakshmana is willing to take every risk.

In Closing:

Benefit of sight not gaining,

Still Lakshmana properly aiming.


At Rakshasas the wicked foe,

Task ready for Rama to go.


The delight of Sumitra increasing,

Following brother for loneliness decreasing.


The best servant in this and every way,

Too attached, in service always to stay.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

With Teeth And Nails

[Vanara army]“I trust that Shriman Sugriva, the commander of the Vanaras, will come here for my sake, surrounded by valiant monkeys with teeth and nails for weapons.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.25)

vānara adhipatiḥ śrīmān sugrīvaḥ kaccit eṣyati |
mat kṛte haribhiḥ vīraiḥ vṛto danta nakha āyudhaiḥ ||

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Ninety-nine percent immunity. That should keep you safe. What are the chances anyone will be able to break through that small vulnerability? The Supreme Lord already has the most creative and artistic mind, as evidenced in the amazing world around us. Embedded into every section, both large and small, is intelligence which can be relied upon. There is predictability and reliability in the mechanisms of nature, which come together not from randomness.

God also has the most clever mind. Thus when King Hiranyakashipu received boons from the creator, Lord Brahma, granting him protection from so many kinds of species and different situations, it didn’t take long for the Almighty to find a loophole, one that wouldn’t violate any of the benedictions offered to the king.

Hiranyakashipu was quite powerful. Other kings around the world feared him. Sometimes the threat of violence is enough. The roar of the lion dissuades potential attackers. The show of military might keeps foreign threats at bay. In the same way, Hiranyakashipu had others around the world afraid of him.

God already wins. He is already undefeated. He accomplishes this through an external force, something He doesn’t manage actively. This force is known as kala, which translates as “time” or “death.” Both have the same meaning, as time eventually destroys everything that is created.

Kala could have accounted for Hiranyakashipu’s demise, but the king decided to make himself a target for direct intervention by persecuting his five-year old son, who was named Prahlada. The boy hadn’t done anything wrong in the eyes of most. But to the king the gravest sin was committed: Prahlada was a devotee of God the person, Vishnu.

So the persecutions began. Prahlada survived them all. Finally, Vishnu Himself arrived in an amazing form. It was half-man/half-lion. Despite being protected from so many kinds of weapons, Hiranyakashipu lost his life to an attacker who used nails and teeth.

[Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu]There is no duality of spirit and body for Bhagavan, which is another name for God. This Sanskrit word means “one who possesses all fortunes.” He has full strength, and that strength is in something as basic as nails and teeth. Narasimhadeva’s nails were more powerful than Hiranyakashipu’s arms. His teeth could penetrate through any armor the king could have used for protection.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we see how that potency is passed on to the devotees. When a person is in pure devotional service, bhakti-yoga, they are able to do amazing things. Sometimes they don’t require much. The messenger Hanuman infiltrated the land of Lanka all by himself. He was in the body of a Vanara, which is a kind of monkey, and he didn’t need special weapons.

The king of Lanka was Ravana, who was very similar to Hiranyakashipu. They were brothers in spirit. Ravana had amazing powers and protection from death against many creatures, except human beings. Despite this protection, Ravana thought better against fighting Shri Rama for the wife Sita. Ravana hatched a secret plot to take Sita back to Lanka, when Rama wasn’t by her side.

Rama is the same Narasimhadeva, an incarnation of Vishnu. He empowered Hanuman to reach Sita with life-saving news about her impending rescue. Here Sita speaks to Hanuman about her different expectations. Now that she has learned that Rama has formed an alliance with Sugriva, she trusts that an army of Vanaras will come to Lanka to save her.

Sugriva is the commander-in-chief of the Vanaras. The Vanara is also known as hari, which can mean “monkey.” Ravana and his people were Rakshasas, which are like man-eating ogres. They were expert in black magic. On the battlefield, they could appear and disappear at will. They could change their shapes, also.

How were uncivilized animals from the forest going to overcome the great opposition? Sita says that the haris will use teeth and nails as their weapons. Just like with Narasimhadeva, these humble by comparison weapons will be enough to overcome the great strength found on the opposing side.

[Vanara army]The reason is the support of the Divine. He destroys through all-devouring death, and so He can protect through His personal intervention. He supports the devotion of the devotees, ensuring that their devotional life never perishes. On the other side, whatever is acquired materially is sure to vanish, no matter how safeguarded a person may feel.

In Closing:

Despite existing every safeguard,

For Him to destroy not hard.


Through time happening already,

Death always on march steady.


Ravana with ocean and boons protecting,

Required Hanuman into air projecting.


But soon massive army of haris to come,

Whose work by teeth and nails done.