Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can God Be Cursed

[Lord Krishna]“O Dhananjaya, all this work cannot bind Me. I am ever detached, seated as though neutral.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.9)

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Friend1: Let’s talk about curses.

Friend2: The Curse of the Bambino? That’s over. The Red Sox came back in dramatic fashion against the Yankees.

Friend1: No.

Friend2: The Curse of the Billy Goat? That ended, too. The Cubs finally won the World Series.

Friend1: Can you stop already? I’m talking about in Vedic literature.

Friend2: Oh, there’s lots of curses described in there. The two sons of Kuvera disrespecting Narada Muni and turning into trees. The king who failed to protect a person’s cow being born as a lizard in the next life.

Friend1: They are interesting, aren’t they? These are brahmanas offering the curses, right? Men of the priestly order.

Friend2: Asceticism is their wealth. In addition to helping clear the consciousness and bring detachment from material things, which are temporary and miserable, there is an accumulation of spiritual merit.

Friend1: Something like a power meter you see in a videogame?

Friend2: You could say that. The thing is, when they curse someone, they lose some of that merit immediately.

Friend1: Oh. I did not know that.

[Lord Rama]Friend2: Yeah, that was one of the external causes for God’s incarnation of Rama going to the forest with His weapons. The area was known as a tapo-vana, which means a forest conducive to tapasya, or austerity. The problem was that the brahmanas were getting harassed by night-rangers, nishacharas.

Friend1: Are those Rakshasas?

Friend2: Yes. Man-eaters. The lowest of the low. You can imagine how those battles looked.

Friend1: Brahmanas are thin and non-violent. The opposition was large and grim-visaged.

Friend2: Plus, they had no scruples. They would attack at night, so as to not be seen.

Friend1: Okay, so couldn’t the brahmanas have cursed them in return, as a means of self-defense?

Friend2: That’s what I was getting to. They told Rama that they were being eaten away in the forest. They didn’t use curses because they didn’t want their spiritual merits to go to waste. Rama, as the Supreme Lord, was compassionate on them. He came to the forest to drive away the night-rangers.

Friend1: Love the discussion thus far, but here is the question I’ve been holding back. Can God be cursed? I know that seems silly, as He is the origin of everything. He creates and destroys on the largest scale, so how could He be powerless against any opposing force?

Friend2: He has been cursed.

Friend1: Really?

Friend2: At least two instances that I can recall offhand.

Friend1: Care to elaborate?

Friend2: One relates to Shri Rama. Again, it is another external cause for something that doesn’t need a cause. God doesn’t require any outside intervention to accomplish things. One time Narada Muni, the travelling saint, was feeling overly proud from having conquered kama, or lust. The Supreme Lord in His form of Vishnu, who is also known as Hari, wanted to bring Narada back to his senses.

Friend1: So He cursed Narada?

Friend2: Just hold on. Using His illusory potency, Vishnu created this amazing city that Narada happened to visit. There was a svayamvara going on.

Friend1: A self-choice ceremony to determine the husband for a princess.

Friend2: Yes. Narada found the girl to be so beautiful that he had to marry her. He prayed to Hari to help him. The Supreme Lord agreed, saying Narada would get a face just like Hari.

Friend1: How would that help Narada? Isn’t that rewarding his sense gratification?

Friend2: This is where the many meanings to the name Hari apply. Hari is a name for God meaning “one who takes away.” Other meanings are “lion” and “monkey.” So Narada got the face of a monkey, which guaranteed that the princess would choose someone else.

Friend1: Wow, that’s a pretty mean trick.

Friend2: That’s what Narada thought, too. Vishnu Himself came to the ceremony and was garlanded the victor. When Narada found out what happened he cursed Vishnu to appear on earth and be separated from His beloved. Hari would need the help of monkeys to win her back. Vishnu gladly accepted the curse, later on appearing as Shri Rama and requiring the help of Hanuman and the Vanaras to rescue Sita from the Rakshasas.

Friend1: That is a great story. You said there was a second time?

Friend2: When Shri Krishna descended to earth, there was the Bharata War. As you know millions of people died. The group that lost was the Kauravas, who were led by Duryodhana. His mother was Gandhari, and she had one hundred sons.

Friend1: And they all died?

Friend2: Yes. So in the great lamentation that followed the carnage, she cursed Krishna to leave the earth after a certain number of years. Part of her curse was that the Yadu dynasty, which lived in Dvaraka, would also meet destruction.

Friend1: Wow. So that ended up happening, right?

Friend2: Yes. Just as Shri Rama took the news of exile from the kingdom in stride, Shri Krishna did not mind hearing this curse. He was not affected in mind.

Friend1: Alright, so do those incidents prove that God can be cursed?

Friend2: They do not. Of course He can’t be cursed.

Friend1: What? Why are you confusing me?

Friend2: I decided to put forward the counterargument first.

Friend1: Sneaky.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: As mentioned before there are external causes to events in the Divine lila. This doesn’t mean that God is subject to karma, which is fruitive activity, cause and effect. He is always above karma. He references this very issue in the Bhagavad-gita. After describing the many amazing things He does with respect to the universe and its maintenance, He makes sure to say that none of that work affects Him. He does not get tired holding up the planets. He does not feel sad upon someone’s death, nor does He rejoice over birth. The many things that occur in a material existence escape His interest, as He has nothing to do but enjoy. That is the true nature of God, and when He accepts the harsh words of his devotees, that is part of His enjoyment as well.

In Closing:

So much work by Him already done,

But affected through reactions none.


Full potency in Him found,

By others words never bound.


But anger from devotees sometimes to accept,

Not even their curses to reject.


So Vishnu agreed as Shri Rama coming,

And Krishna end of Yadus upcoming.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Four Sacred Places Touched By Krishna’s Lotus Feet

[Moving to Vrindavana]“I think that we should all go to the forest known as Vrindavana, where just now there are newly grown plants and herbs. It is very suitable for pasturing ground for our cows, and we and our families, the gopis with their children, can very peacefully live there. Near Vrindavana there is Govardhana Hill, which is very beautiful, and there is newly grown grass and fodder for the animals, so there will be no difficulty in living there.” (Upananda addressing a meeting of cowherd men, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)

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Spiritual tourism. This is where you take the propensity to travel, to break away from the daily grind, the repeating cycle of working and coming home, to advance the consciousness. Spiritual life is typically equated with paramartha, which is the interest for the afterlife. “Be good now so that it will pay dividends later.”

Tirthas certainly can fulfill that purpose. They are sacred places, known especially for the proliferation of saintly people, who take up residence there. But why these places? We know that cities often form around bodies of water, but what makes saints decide to settle in a single place?

There is association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Many of the holiest places had direct contact with the lotus feet of God the person, who descends to earth from time to time. In the Bhagavad-gita He reveals one of the reasons.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

1. Mathura

This is the janma-bhumi of Krishna. It is the land of His birth. For God there is no birth or death. The same is true of individual spirit, which expands from the original and total spirit, the Supreme Lord.

“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 janma for Krishna, the original form of Godhead, is described as an appearance. He is constantly all around, but in the neophyte stage of consciousness we think He is only in the place of worship. He is everywhere through the expansion of the Supersoul, which witnesses everything but sits mostly in the background, not influencing decisions.

The janma for Krishna is when the feature of God the person appears before the eyes. Krishna emerged from the womb of Devaki, who was imprisoned at the time by her brother, the king of Mathura. The father Vasudeva immediately transferred the baby to the nearby town of Gokula.

Krishna would come back years later, when He was a little older, to do away with Kamsa and his reign of terror. The place of Mathura automatically brings consciousness of Devakinandana, the darling child who increased the joy of the mother Devaki. This consciousness is a reward superior to anything offered in the immediate term, svartha, or the afterlife, paramartha.

2. Gokula

This is where Krishna spent the childhood years. As the adorable child of the foster mother, Yashoda, Krishna did endearing things like steal butter from the neighbors, dance to the tune of the elderly gopis, play with His friends in the fields, and be the life and soul of every living entity around.

Gokula is a replica of the topmost spiritual planet known as Goloka Vrindavana. The distinguishing characteristic is the presence of asuras, or bad guys. In the spiritual world there cannot be any envy of God. At the first hint the living entity falls to the material world. What follows is a dreamlike existence, with God accompanying the entire time but far away in terms of consciousness. The aim of living thus becomes returning to the original consciousness.

3. Govardhana Hill

Krishna deals with the bad guys sent to Gokula by Kamsa. A prior prophecy stated that Kamsa would die at the hands of the eighth child of his sister. That was the reason for her imprisonment. Since Krishna escaped immediately after birth, Kamsa tried to have Him killed through various associates, who each had amazing powers. But the Supreme Lord is the greatest mystic, and no one can outsmart Him.

The innocent members of the community in Gokula began to get concerned. Krishna survived the attacks, but He was still a small child. There was a meeting of cowherd men, and Nanda’s brother Upananda suggested that everyone shift to Vrindavana. One of the reasons he gave was the presence of Govardhana Hill.

[Moving to Vrindavana]This was yet another sacred place touched by Krishna’s lotus feet. It was very dear to the cows, as it provided ample space on which to roam and plenty of grass to eat. It would later serve as the world’s largest umbrella, needed to help save the residents after the king of heaven’s brief bout with envy.

4. Dvaraka

In a very sad moment, Krishna and His brother Balarama left Vrindavana to go to Mathura. They dealt with Kamsa and freed the parents Vasudeva and Devaki. To fulfill a higher purpose, Krishna later on fled from battle against a king named Jarasandha. The king had attacked and lost seventeen times, but was still relentless. This is symbolic of the atheistic spirit. In a true display of insanity the same thing is attempted over and over, with the expectation of a different outcome. Life after life the conditioned soul tries to become God, to reach the topmost post in the universe. But in every case all-devouring time, kala, strikes that dream down.

Krishna set up a kingdom by the sea. Since it was a city of gates, it was known as Dvaraka. There He ruled as the king, eventually marrying 16,108 beautiful princesses. There was one palace for each queen, and in this way everyone was happy.

In Closing:

Tirtha a most sacred place,

Its ground lotus feet to grace.


Saints there tending to congregate,

For visitors bhakti to demonstrate.


Like Mathura place of Krishna’s janma,

And Gokula, defeated friends of Kamsa.


Govardhana dear to cows giving fuel.

And in Dvaraka as king to rule.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five Reasons To Appreciate The Dhruva Story

[Vishnu and Dhruva]"Although Dhruva Maharaja was a small boy, he wanted to offer prayers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in suitable language. But because he was inexperienced, he could not adjust himself immediately. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone's heart, could understand Dhruva Maharaja's awkward position. Out of His causeless mercy He touched His conchshell to the forehead of Dhruva Maharaja, who stood before Him with folded hands." (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.9.4)

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What can be learned from a young child who roamed this earth thousands of years ago? He was the son of a king, and today monarchy is all but gone. Hardly anyone grows up in royalty, so what can the story of Dhruva Maharaja really teach?

As the information comes to us from the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is the ripened fruit of Vedic literature, the lessons are timeless. Each point of instruction, both expressed and implied, has relevance to a wide spectrum of persons, circumstances and places. There is much to appreciate from the king’s young son who was desperate for revenge.

1. Even in family life there can be trouble

Ask your average person on the street what they are worried about, and the likely answer will be “money.” Will I have enough to support myself? Will I be able to afford a house? What if someone in the family gets sick?

Another common fear is remaining alone, not finding a person with whom to spend the rest of your life. These problems were absent in Dhruva’s case, yet we see that there were still issues. The young boy wanted to sit on the lap of his father one time, but the stepmother intervened and told Dhruva that it was not possible. He was a worthy son, for sure, but not better than her own son, who was preferred by the king.

2. Even a young person can seek after God

Dhruva lamented the incident to his own mother, who told him that only God could fix the situation. The information was not lost on the boy. Though very young, he immediately went to seek out the person who could help him. This shows that the Divine mercy is available to everyone, at every stage of life. No one is automatically prohibited from meeting with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

3. Better to take desires directly to the top

It is interesting that in Dhruva’s case the problems weren’t brought before a subordinate. There are many divine figures described in the Vedic tradition. These are devas, or gods. They are like deputies in the administration of the material world. They can grant amazing benedictions, like long life, good health, and tremendous opulence.

Dhruva wanted a higher status, but he eschewed worship of the devas. He went straight to the top, the Supreme Being. As would be learned from the outcome, this was the right choice. It is the best option for every person wanting to fulfill a desire. Akama, sarva-kama, moksha-kama - approach the Supreme Lord and get the highest benefit, sometimes in unexpected ways.

4. The influence of Vishnu is purifying

Dhruva meditated for a long time in the forest, and as a reward he saw God directly, in the beautiful, four-handed form of Vishnu. An interesting thing happened upon receiving the darshana, or vision. Dhruva suddenly forgot about his desires. The entire reason for going to the forest and seeking after the Supreme Being was now lost to him.

This is one aspect of the influence of Vishnu. He purifies desires. Sometimes what we want is not good for us. A person can be considered benevolent for giving in and helping us, but if the end result is harm then it isn’t really help. Vishnu uses discretion; He assesses the future impact of what the devotee is seeking.

5. There are no impediments to glorifying

Dhruva forgot his desire to be king and get revenge; instead he wanted to glorify Vishnu. The problem was that being so young he didn’t have much skill in the area. Once again, no problem. There are no impediments to devotional service when there is sincerity in the heart.

[Vishnu and Dhruva]Vishnu touched Dhruva on the forehead with His conchshell. This transcendental contact enabled the boy to glorify Vishnu in a wonderful way. The Lord has similarly inspired many others to use the choicest words to describe Him, earning Him the name Uttamashloka. Even if a person can’t glorify as elaborately as they would prefer, there is always the option to simply chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Time the monarchy gradually to wipe,

Still lessons to take from prince with gripe.


Away from lap of father sent,

So to meditate in forest he went.


Eventually Supreme Vishnu to find,

But could not recall grievance to mind.


Purifying when in Lord’s company to stay,

Inspired from within for glorifying’s way.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Can You Explain How Something So Elusive Can Be Achieved So Quickly

[Tulsidas with Rama and Lakshmana]“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

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Friend1: I’ve heard it said that you can become Krishna conscious very quickly.

Friend2: In as soon as one second.

Friend1: How is that possible?

Friend2: You really need me to explain?

Friend1: Well, consider the other side of things. There is athato brahma-jijnasa.

Friend2: “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.”

Friend1: “Now” referring to the human birth. So much time was spent in other species.

Friend2: Those past births are considered mistakes, in a sense. That is because perfect consciousness of God was not achieved.

Friend1: Okay, and so everything can be rectified in an instant? I don’t understand.

[Tulsidas with Rama and Lakshmana]Friend2: The saints of the Vedic tradition answer in the affirmative. Goswami Tulsidas says that the past mistakes are fixed through giving up bad association and chanting “Rama.” This is a name for God, referencing His individuality and uniqueness. Basically, God is more than an abstract concept.

Friend1: You’re still not answering my question. On your bookshelf I see volumes and volumes of writings about the science of self-realization, the pastimes of past saints, and the characteristics, movements, and history of the Supreme Lord and His many incarnations who have appeared on this planet and others.

Friend2: What are you trying to say, that so many books are required for correcting behavior, for steering the ship in the right direction?

Friend1: That’s exactly what I’m saying. Why else are they there?

Friend2: This is an interesting topic today, I must acknowledge. Listen, you could read all of those books and still not become God conscious. Moreover, you could fall in love, prema, with God for real and still have a need for those books. Bhakti-yoga is an eternal engagement. It doesn’t end once you have found the Almighty.

Friend1: So those books are there to keep a person Krishna conscious?

Friend2: Exactly.

Friend1: The same would hold true with the maha-mantra. That’s why people keep chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Friend2: You’ve nailed it.

Friend1: Alright, but you would have to admit that it is rare for someone to suddenly abandon pursuits in sense gratification in favor of unmotivated and uninterrupted service to Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or one of His non-different forms like Rama or Vishnu.

Friend2: Of course it is rare. This is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita.

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

[Lord Krishna]Friend1: There you go. Many births. Many deaths on the other side. Where does the idea of transforming quickly come from, then?

Friend2: I’ll give you a crude example to help explain. You know about the stock market and day trading, I presume.

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: It’s a risky business. You could lose a lot of money very quickly. Sometimes you have to bet against stocks in order to turn a profit, as market conditions are not in your favor.

Friend1: Yes. Short selling.

Friend2: The thing is, if you look back at the end of each day, no matter the market conditions, there are always some stocks that went up big. You could have doubled your money. Not everyone will be so lucky, but the potential is there. The successful usually require months or years of experience before they start turning a profit, and not a great one at that. It is difficult to succeed, but success is possible.

Friend1: And so you’re saying that even if it’s rare for a person to suddenly cast aside the unfavorable aspects of life, anarthas, in favor of devotional life, it can happen.

Friend2: Remember, giving up here is in terms of consciousness. You don’t have to suddenly quit your job, leave your wife and kids, and move to the mountains. People have done that, and success wasn’t always the result. The idea is to convert the consciousness from material to spiritual, from seeking personal sense pleasure to wanting only the best for God and those who love Him. Bhakti-yoga is the end of the line in terms of spirituality, but it opens up a whole new world of service and enjoyment.

In Closing:

Though of religion end of the line,

More opportunities through auspicious time.


Only in bhakti-yoga to see,

Otherwise always wanting to be.


Possible quick is transformation,

Or spanning births in transmigration.


One factor, the consciousness key,

Always lotus feet of His do you see?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five Common Goals That Don’t Provide Lasting Peace When Achieved

[Radha-Krishna]“Disturbance is due to want of an ultimate goal, and when one is certain that Krishna is the enjoyer, proprietor and friend of everyone and everything, then one can, with a steady mind, bring about peace. Therefore, one who is engaged without a relationship with Krishna is certainly always in distress and is without peace, however much one may make a show of peace and spiritual advancement in life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66 Purport)

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Work hard at something. That’s the path to achievement. Better to put in the effort than to simply expect good fortune to fall into your lap. Put in the time. Go through the struggle. Learn from the experience. Victory at the end will taste that much sweeter.

Time is infinite in both directions. The past becomes erased through a successful outcome. The present is good; there is happiness. But what about the future? Time waits for no one. It continues forward, so what happens next? From studying common goals, we see that even after they are achieved lasting peace remains elusive.

1. Graduating high school

In America it takes twelve years. This is the traditional route. There are people who drop out early and others who enter from a different system in another country. In these special cases there is the opportunity to study to get the equivalent of a high school education, but the achievement is just as important. It shows employers a basic proficiency in relevant subjects.

But am I at peace after finishing high school? Is there time to rest? Do worries completely vanish? After all, no more assignments. No more getting up early to beat the opening bell. No more spending hours and hours studying for exams.

2. Graduating college

Ah, but everything starts again at college. The twelve years put in likely aren’t enough. To earn more money, to start a career instead of jumping from job to job, higher education is required. This means more classes, more assignments, and more exams.

Does everything end there? When college is done, is there peace? Is there finally some time to rest? The important issue of money remains. How to pay for things? Where to live? How to buy a place of residence?

3. Getting a job

The struggle to find a job is next. Look long and hard. Find something appropriate to the major field of study from college. Send out resumes and cover letters. Buy a suit for job interviews. Polish up on what is needed to be said.

The job is landed. Finally, some stability. Now there will be peace, no? Just do the job and everything will be alright. No more problems.

4. Getting married

This might be the most difficult goal of them all. There are plenty of universities to choose from. Jobs might be scarce for a time, but eventually people will retire. Companies will need an infusion of fresh, young faces to liven the place up.

But how to find the partner of your dreams? What are the chances of meeting someone who will make you happy for the rest of your life?

Ah, but somehow there is success. Marriage is there. No more worrying about the future. No more being a social outcaste. No more hearing the dreaded question of, “When are you getting married?”

5. Having children

Of course things don’t end there. Marriage is a partnership where two people have to live together and thus compromise desires. If one person gives up too much they will feel taken advantage of. Then comes resentment, anger, and possible break up.

Ah, but then there are children to make everyone happy. High school, college, job, marriage and family life. What else is left? Now there is time for relaxation, no? Actually, the worries begin anew. Every struggle for the children is shared by the parents. Every goal that must be achieved is a partial concern for the mom and dad.

In this way we see that even with so many goals achieved there still isn’t peace. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that unless and until Shri Krishna is the goal, there is no chance of peace. And as Krishna Himself asks in the Bhagavad-gita, how can there be happiness if there is no peace?

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

Be in the transcendental consciousness. Understand that there is a God and that He is a distinct individual, a person like you and me except with features beyond imagination in size, scope and ability. He is the original proprietor of everything, the best well-wishing friend of every living thing, and the true enjoyer to every kind of religious sacrifice or austerity.

[Radha-Krishna]Understand these three things and Krishna will become the goal. He is God in the original form, which is all-attractive. He is the final goal, since there is nothing beyond Him. Making Him the goal means always serving Him and always thinking of Him; hence the emphasis on consciousness. The truth has to be experienced to be believed, as there is already so much evidence that achieving other goals only brings temporary happiness. A glimpse into the truth is experienced through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Let high school be finished first,

But for knowledge still a thirst.


After difficulty college graduation the end?

To look for job, resumes to send.


Marriage from great fortune coming,

With children worried again becoming.


Only when Krishna the goal to find relief,

Chant holy names for everlasting peace.