Saturday, August 5, 2017

Four Fallacies That Don’t Work Against The Acharya

[Lord Chaitanya]“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remained in householder life for twenty-four years, and on the verge of His twenty-fifth year He accepted the sannyasa order.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.34)

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It’s a job of persuasion. You have to convince people. Otherwise there wouldn’t be anything different about spiritual life. It would be the same as gambling. It would be like playing and watching sports. It would be like stuffing yourself at the preferred buffet restaurant.

Genuine spiritual life is different from other endeavors. The very name indicates that the nature is distinct from what is typically encountered. The foundational truth is the difference between spirit and matter. Anything that lives, whether large or small, moving or not moving, is a spirit soul at the core. Matter covers that soul.

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

Take to spiritual life. Follow a path that matches your true nature. You can try it yourself, but trying to persuade others into doing something new is not easy. One need look no further than the arena of politics. One side wants a specific policy implemented. They have their interest groups, which are ordinary citizens banding together to represent a collective.

There is opposition. Sometimes there is legitimate disagreement. The other side wants a different policy. Since politics tends to reward lying, cheating, deception and even legalized theft, the opposition might be rooted in personal interest and not policy.

Watching the arguments unfold on television, many common fallacies of logic are employed. Despite being invalid at the foundation, the arguments are used since there is no other resort. In a logical discussion this opposing side would be otherwise defeated.

A similar effect is there with the acharya, the spiritual teacher who sets the example for others to follow. There is the greatest opposition to spiritual life, and the fallacies won’t work on the highly advanced servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

1. Ad hominem

The acharya says to control eating and sleeping. This is the way of the yogi. Yoga is linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The individual soul is you and me, the spark of the spiritual energy occupying the temporary body. The Supreme Soul, or Paramatma, is God’s expansion. There are thus two souls within each body.

“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)

The ad hominem attack goes after some personal characteristic of the person making the argument. This is a fallacy because the merits of the argument aren’t addressed. For this example, the opposition tries to point to flaws in the character of the acharya.

For this reason the spiritual master, the guru, tries to uphold the highest standard of behavior. They limit eating and sleeping, both for personal benefit and for showing others the way. Even in the case when there are mistakes made, Shri Krishna promises that accidental slipups don’t leave lasting damage to the yogi’s fortunes.

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)

In the worst case the acharya can turn the argument around. Are there no bad people in material life? The opposing argument is to eat and sleep as much as desired. So, for people who go down that path, are none of them bad in character? Does that not then invalidate the argument in the same way?

2. Tu quoque

This argument comes up often when a new administration takes office. When there is criticism of newly implemented policy or procedures, the new administration points to the past administration. “Well, such and such president did the same thing and I don’t remember you complaining about it.”

This is a fallacy because whether another person does the same thing has no bearing on the validity of the argument made for or against a specific practice. The person steadfastly opposed to spiritual life brings up how so many people are eating meat, gambling, enjoying alcohol, and having illicit sex. The retort is, “Everyone else is doing it, so why do you want me to be so different?”

This argument doesn’t work with the acharya because the obvious counterargument is that everyone is suffering. Everyone is miserable. Employing the same logic, the acharya can point to so many past spiritual leaders. They reached the height of living by following certain standards and regulations.

[Lord Chaitanya]The best example is Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He accepted the renounced order of life, sannyasa, at a very young age. This insulated Him as best as possible from ad hominem attacks. Sannyasis are generally respected, especially when they speak publicly and offer advice on life. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu set the example for others to follow, so anyone can point to Him or His exalted associates for proof of the benefit of following the bhakti way of life.

3. Straw man

This is where the original argument gets distorted. The distorted position is easier to put down, but this is a fallacy since there is a misrepresentation. With spiritual life a person could argue the following:

“You want people to abandon everything and surrender to God. That’s fine at the personal level, but what about the rest of society? You want wives and children left behind? Don’t you care about children? You want them to starve and die? I don’t know why you would be in favor of that. How can you be so cruel?”

This doesn’t work with the acharya since never is it recommended that everyone give up their occupation in life and retreat to some remote place. The best example is Arjuna, the bow warrior who heard the Bhagavad-gita directly from Shri Krishna.

They were on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna contemplated dropping his weapons and leaving for the forest, to live the renounced life. After a detailed and thorough explanation of the basic concepts of spiritual life, and how it stands in contrast with material life, Arjuna decided to continue in his occupation, but keeping the devotional spirit.

The straw man fallacy can be turned around on the materialist, as well. Are they recommending that everyone continue to live like animals? They want people to keep spinning on the wheel of reincarnation, toggling between happiness and sadness? Why would they want people to suffer that much?

4. Slippery slope

Interestingly, Arjuna actually employed this fallacy in his famous discussion with Krishna. He was contemplating giving up the fight, and one aspect of his justification was that killing the other side would lead to the destruction of family traditions.

“Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.42)

Arjuna created a condition that may or may not occur and argued against it instead of addressing the issue at hand. Krishna slashed away His doubts. This is not surprising because Krishna is the adi-guru, or original spiritual master.

The argument pertaining to the future condition is valid, but it was irrelevant to the situation. Arjuna had a duty to uphold, as he was the leading kshatriya warrior for his side, which was to defend righteousness, or dharma. In the same way when this argument or that is made about what will happen to people in society, the acharya knows how to squash the fallacy.

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

The argument says that if everyone took to devotional life there would be no teachers, doctors, medical researchers, or even military men. But that is certainly not what will occur, nor is it the goal of the acharya. Let at least one class of men exist who are dedicated to religious principles, to allow others to follow their occupational duties. The divisions of work and spiritual institution were created by Krishna Himself.

In Closing:

Reluctant for spiritual life to take,

So countless excuses to make.

Some fallacies even forwarded,

That others sinning, why not I too rewarded?

That seeing people of character bad,

That abandoned families situation sad.

By acharya, leader Shri Chaitanya like,

At heart of flawed arguments to strike.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bound By The World Not Alone

[Lord Krishna]“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

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Friend1: The living entity is bound.

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: The jiva.

Friend2: In the conditioned state.

Friend1: What other state is there?

Friend2: Liberated. Jivan-mukta. You can be liberated, free from the influence of the material nature, even while in the present body.

Friend1: Okay, when people hear terms like “bound” and “conditioned,” they may not know what you are talking about.

Friend2: It’s pretty easy to explain.

Friend1: Really?

Friend2: First is the distinction between spirit and matter.

Friend1: The individual is spirit soul, atma. Since they can choose between spiritual and material life, they are jiva. Matter is prakriti, which is different from the enjoyer within, who is purusha.

Friend2: Yes, the body is matter. The body is limiting, something like a holding cell. If you are driving on the road, you can only go where the car allows you to. You are bound by the interior dimensions. The same goes for wearing certain clothes. The spirit soul is actually free, but material nature has a binding effect.

Friend1: Do you have more examples?

[sleep]Friend2: Sleep. Some people need at least eight hours. Some people can function on four. Regardless, everyone has to sleep. Even if you don’t want to, eventually there is no fighting it. This is one effect of accepting a material body.

Friend1: What else?

Friend2: Heat and cold. The summer and winter seasons.

Friend1: And Krishna says a person should tolerate these, knowing them to be due to sense perception only:

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

Friend2: Exactly. The living entity is bound by the world, even though they are the superior energy. Matter is dull and lifeless.

Friend1: If it’s inferior how does it gain a dominating influence? Like with the sleep example. Shouldn’t there be a way to conquer?

Friend2: That’s why one of Arjuna’s names is Gudakesha. He is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Empowered by God a person can overcome the material nature. It seems unlikely to us, but proof is there from the lives of so many saints, past and present. And go beyond something trivial like sleep. The devotee is able to conquer the source of conditioned life: birth itself. No more cycle of birth and death for someone who has the Divine consciousness while quitting the body.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Friend1: Alright, but Arjuna had Krishna, the all-attractive, original and personal form of God, by his side. Arjuna got guidance directly from Krishna on the chariot situated in the middle of the battlefield in Kurukshetra. How can we get the same help? We are bound in this world, for sure.

Friend2: But not alone.

Friend1: No?

Friend2: Krishna accompanies us as the Supersoul. In fact, without this feature of God no results to action would manifest. We know there are laws in the material nature, and such intelligence in the output requires intelligence at the input, i.e. the source. No one is more intelligent than God. The material nature gives evidence of this.

Friend1: Okay, if He is with us then how are we still bound? Shouldn’t we be liberated, especially if the Divine is in such close proximity?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: The bound, fallen, or sinful condition, whichever way it is described, is tied to consciousness only. Location is a different story. I can be in the kitchen, standing right next to the fully-stocked refrigerator and still be hungry. I have to take advantage of what is there to cure the negative condition. It works the same way with life in the material world. We are bound by so many factors, but the cure is very close by. A turn in consciousness brings the direct supervision and guidance of the Supersoul, who helps the process along by sending a spiritual master, who is the guru without. Working together there is great likelihood of transforming the state from conditioned to liberated.

In Closing:

Potential for state transforming,

When to spiritual life warming.

Inside Supersoul guidance providing,

Outside doubts to guru confiding.

Otherwise to remain bound perpetually,

To ask when to get liberation eventually?

Since rooted in consciousness through desire set,

Peace only through service in bhakti to get.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Soul Of The Universe

[Lord Krishna]“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)

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Friend1: Listen, I understand the concept of Supersoul pretty well.

Friend2: Why are you defensive?

Friend1: Jivatma and Paramatma. One is the individual soul, like you and me. The other is God.

Friend2: What are the differences?

Friend1: Jivatma’s presence and jurisdiction is restricted to the local sphere, i.e. the body. Paramatma is everywhere.

Friend2: How does the latter happen? Does God divide Himself? Will everything come back together at some point?

Friend1: To divide means to diminish. God expands, though the identity remains one. This makes Him a unique and distinct individual.

Friend2: Nice.

Friend1: Here are some doubts that people from other schools of spirituality will raise.

Friend2: Doubts or objections?

Friend1: Okay, maybe arguments in favor of a different understanding. Justifications for contrary perspectives. I’ve heard people make the claim that through yoga the atma can become Paramatma.

Friend2: Not possible.

Friend1: No?

Friend2: Just as I can never become you nor you become me, we can never become God. He is separate from us. We are qualitatively the same, but quantitatively different. We are part of His definition, but He is not part of ours.

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

Friend1: Okay, I agree with that, for sure. But then there are some verses in the Bhagavad-gita that might confuse people.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: Such as? By the way, that’s why the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master is required. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often say that you can’t just read the books and expect to be enlightened.

Friend1: That always confused me. Wasn’t his life’s mission to write important books and distribute them on as wide a scale as possible?

Friend2: Exactly. That’s where people get confused. He’s saying that you can’t just read the original works of the Vedic tradition and expect to get the proper knowledge from them. Remember, the Sanskrit of the Bhagavad-gita is still available. This is the book in its purest form, the original. The same goes for the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Upanishads, Ramayana and the like. The idea is that you have to be taught the concepts. That’s why the acharyas, the spiritual teachers who lead by example, write purports to the verses, often translating them into a modern language, as needed.

Friend1: Ah, I see. I guess there is risk of confusion if you just read the books without the purports.

Friend2: For sure. There is a distinct culture embedded within the content. If you are not familiar with the culture, you will speculate as to what this word means and that. So which verse did you say would cause confusion?

Friend1: As an example Krishna tells Arjuna that He is the self, atma. He is seated in the hearts of all creatures.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: I thought that we are the self? I thought that we are atma and He is Paramatma. This verse seems to be saying we are the same as God.

Friend2: He is the atma of the universe. If you took the entire collection of matter, prakriti, and then thought of one person who is in charge of it, that is God. He is the soul of the universe.

Friend1: Okay, but what about being seated in the heart?

Friend2: He is the atma of the universe, and He simultaneously expands to reside within the heart of every creature. Both are essentially Paramatma, but just described with a different perspective.

Friend1: Oh, okay. So we are not the soul of the universe?

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: No; we reside within the universe. We are the soul of the local space or field, which is known as the body. When we leave, the body becomes without soul, and thus considered dead. In a similar way, without God the universe wouldn’t exist. It would be dull and empty. Nothing would move. He is within everyone as the Supersoul, who gives sanction to the results of action. In every way God is everywhere, always distinct from us.

In Closing:

Speculative yoga teacher to say,

That to merge possible one day.

The individual soul atma,

Into the Supreme Soul Paramatma.

Krishna even as self describing role,

But meaning that of universe the soul.

Though similar in quality, separate to remain,

Merging only in bhakti of interest the same.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What Is The Difference Between Ishvara And Maheshvara

[Lord Krishna]“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

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Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita covers five important topics.

Friend2: Can you name them?

Friend1: Karma.

Friend2: Fruitive activity.

Friend1: Jiva.

Friend2: The living entities.

Friend1: Kala.

Friend2: Time. Also known as death.

Friend1: Because time devours everything.

Friend2: It has yet to lose.

Friend1: Prakriti.

Friend2: The material nature. That which the jiva temporarily occupies.

Friend1: From lifetime to lifetime. The jiva stays the same, while prakriti constantly shifts. It’s like putting on clothes and taking them off.

Friend2: “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)

Friend1: And the fifth topic?

Friend2: You know it.

Friend1: Ishvara.

Friend2: The Supreme Lord. The controller of the four concepts just mentioned.

Friend1: I am so glad you chose that specific wording for the translation.

Friend2: For Ishvara?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: It brings me to my question for the day. If Ishvara is God, then why is there another term that is similar?

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: Maheshvara. I know that Ishvara is the generic term; it’s used by people who don’t want to offend. If you don’t accept that Krishna is God, that the Supreme Lord is a distinct individual, use the term Ishvara instead. I get that. But why is there Maheshvara, also?

Friend2: Where do you see that term being used?

Friend1: Don’t play innocent with me. It’s in the Bhagavad-gita. There is the verse where Krishna talks about the overseer and permitter, the other person living within the body.

Friend2: The specific word is Paramatma.

Friend1: Yes. Supersoul. To distinguish from jivatma, or individual soul. Maheshvara is used in that verse, so I’m confused as to why Ishvara is used elsewhere.

Friend2: That is a great question. It’s a good pickup on your part, and the answer is very instructive.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: At the root level Ishvara means “controller.” As an example, jiva is the controller within the combination of spirit-body. That is to say you and I have control over the body. We are spirit soul, atma, temporarily covered by prakriti, the material nature.

Friend1: Wouldn’t the argument be that we are controlled by nature instead of the other way around?

Friend2: It seems that way. In our ignorance, due to the propensity to enjoy separate from God, we become subordinate. In truth we are the superior energy. Krishna reveals this in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

Friend1: I see.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Ishvara can refer to both the Supreme Lord and the living entities. For the other word, the prefix “maha” is added to distinguish God from everyone else. He is the greatest Ishvara. Proof is found in the same verse that you referenced. He is Paramatma, which means the greatest witness. He watches everything, like a neutral observer. At the same time He gives sanction to the results to action to manifest. Not a blade of grass moves without the permission of the Supreme Lord. Paramatma is proof of His position as Maheshvara. He is the greatest controller, and thus automatically superior to us. The eternal constitutional position of the jivas is to serve the Supreme Lord, and in that state they no longer come under the sway of prakriti, karma, or kala.

In Closing:

Bhagavad-gita with wisdom profusion,

Words similar potential for confusion.

Like Ishvara and Maheshvara seeing,

Both representing Supreme Being.

Ishvara more generic, even to us applying,

Maheshvara great, results permitting or denying.

In this body, having some control over mine,

But God overseer in every heart to find.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Controversy In Spelling

[Sita-Rama]“Devotion to Shri Rama is like the rainy season, the wonderful devotees the paddy fields, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the months of Sawan and Bhadon [rainy season], says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 25)

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Friend1: Devanagari.

Friend2: The language of the gods.

Friend1: The literal translation is different, though.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: The city of the demigods.

Friend2: Sanskrit is basically a high class language. If you go back millions of years, even, when more people were aware of it, still not everyone spoke it.

Friend1: There is the example of Hanuman, right?

Friend2: When he first met Shri Rama in the forest of Kishkindha, Rama was impressed by Hanuman’s Sanskrit.

Friend1: A talking monkey wasn’t enough?

Friend2: Haha, not if you are God. It takes more to impress Him. He holds these massive objects called planets in orbit, so is it really amazing if a non-human species can talk?

Friend1: But the Sanskrit was impressive.

[Shri Hanuman]Friend2: Well-formed, no mistakes, no stuttering. Not only that, Hanuman composed the verses on the fly. People spend hours and hours trying to get their poetry just right, and Hanuman didn’t need much time at all.

Friend1: There’s a reason I mentioned Devanagari.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: It’s a script, as well. It has a certain look to it.

Friend2: The written word is nothing more than a coding system. It’s a way for others to reproduce sounds. Without electronic devices you can hear what people from the past said. They record those sounds in the form of words, which other people can then access.

Friend1: Right, sure. Devanagari is one thing. An issue in modern times is that people learn different scripts, different languages.

Friend2: And not everyone will be able to read Devanagari.

Friend1: Let me introduce the importance of the holy name into the discussion, as I think it’s relevant. The holy name is the sound vibration representation of God.

Friend2: Non-different from the Divine. The equivalence is impossible to understand without personal experience. At first accept the truth from the guru on faith and then slowly begin to realize by constantly chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend1: Alright, so let’s keep with that example. The guru is teaching the disciple. The disciple doesn’t know Sanskrit. How will they learn the holy names?

Friend2: Through sound.

Friend1: What if the guru is teaching through written instruction?

Friend2: Then by words.

Friend1: Hello? The disciple can’t read Devanagari!

Friend2: Then the guru works in a language the disciple and others can understand. Oh, I see what you are saying. Is it a translation issue?

Friend1: No need to go that far. Transliteration. The sound is everything, so how do you ensure that people produce the proper sound?

Friend2: There are different standards of transliteration that scholars have come to accept. Nothing is perfect, but you try your best.

Friend1: The reason I’m asking is because I sometimes see people get upset that the name of Rama has an extra “a” at the end in the transliteration, the English spelling.

Friend2: They think it should be silent? Just “Ram” instead of “Rama.”

Friend1: Right. Some people get angry about it. It’s like this elitist attitude. “Stupid Americans. They don’t even know how to write God’s name.”

Friend2: I’ve encountered that, too. The issue is that the transliteration is entirely accurate.

Friend1: How do you prove that?

Friend2: From Vedic literature itself. It is said that Rama’s name has two syllables. If the extra “a” is left off, then the written word only has one syllable.

Friend1: Are you sure about that? The way the name is pronounced, you would think that the last “a” is not necessary.

Friend2: It’s a very short sound, that’s why it’s almost indiscernible. Still, the wise understand that the holy name which represents the king of Ayodhya, the husband of Sita, the elder brother of Lakshmana, and the object of service for Hanuman has two syllables. Just look at the Dohavali of Goswami Tulsidas. He has a series of couplets comparing Rama’s name to different aspects of life. The syllables are compared to two objects, like the two months of the rainy season. This is enough proof that the standard transliteration is proper. He was working in Hindi; not English.

Friend1: Yeah. That’s what I thought. It doesn’t seem that big a deal to me, anyway.

[Sita-Rama]Friend2: It isn’t. The Supreme Lord is for everyone, and bhakti has no restrictions. Even if you don’t understand Sanskrit, you can still find the shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When desire is there God takes care of the accommodations; He makes sure the practice of devotion to Him can continue.

In Closing:

Holy name, the most potent sound,

In sacred works of Vedas found.

Rama, husband of Sita representing,

Through today in written word presenting.

Whether with one or two syllables to repeat,

Supreme Lord always attention to keep.

When devotee’s desire sincere,

No harm with pronunciation unclear.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Residual Effects From Past Transgressions

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)

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Friend1: All sinners, a future.

Friend2: All saints, a past.

Friend1: Beginning, the ending…

Friend2: Alright, that’s enough. The song is popular amongst the fan base, but I don’t really like it.

Friend1: Yeah. It’s got a dance vibe to it. But you know I’m here to focus on those lyrics, as they reference a famous saying.

Friend2: They certainly do.

Friend1: Don’t judge someone so quickly. That horrible human being, the one who has done the worst things imaginable - they have a future.

Friend2: That saintly character, who is respected by so many - they were once in a different circumstance. They may have been a drug addict. Or perhaps they were stealing for a living.

Friend1: Like Valmiki Muni.

Friend2: There you go.

Friend1: My question relates to what happens after you enter bhakti-yoga.

Friend2: Devotional service.

Friend1: Bhagavata-dharma, the eternal constitutional position of the soul.

Friend2: The culmination of jnana, yoga, and karma.

Friend1: The highest end. Got it.

Friend2: What did you want to know?

Friend1: What happens to the sins? I’ve heard it said that they are wiped away.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Yes. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cleans the slate.

Friend1: Is that something like the savior coming to die for our sins?

Friend2: Well, not quite. People use that as an excuse to keep doing bad stuff. “Don’t worry, man. You’re taken care of. Just believe in him and you’ll be fine.”

Friend1: And that begs the question of what is belief.

Friend2: Exactly. Is it showing up to a house of worship each Sunday? Is it identifying with a specific institution? Because any person can do those things and not really be different from your average person.

Friend1: Alright, so I’m glad you explained that. How is it different with Krishna?

Friend2: There is devotion. Even if there are some past issues, He takes care of them. It’s due to the devotion. Would you like a few examples?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Goswami Tulsidas mentions them in the Ramacharitamanasa. Sugriva, the king of Vanaras, enjoyed the wife of his brother, Vali. Vibhishana did something similar. These both occurred after they surrendered to Shri Rama, an incarnation of God.

Friend1: Right, because Rama helped them. In each case He returned the kingdom to the devotee.

Friend2: And so there was no sin incurred. Rama accepted the reactions as His own. Being the Almighty, He is obviously above karma. There are no future consequences for Him.

Friend1: So you’re saying that’s it? Once I enter the Divine consciousness, I am done with karma?

Friend2: Yes. That’s what karma-free means.

Friend1: Okay, but isn’t there still death? Don’t devotees go through trying circumstances? Don’t bad things happen to them occasionally?

Friend2: I see what you are asking. The explanation is that there are still some residual effects.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: Think of it like turning off an electric fan. The power is gone. The fan will function no more. But what happens immediately after?

Friend1: It still spins for a little bit.

Friend2: Exactly. There is some residual work from the past presence of electricity. Another comparison is to the construction of furniture, like a shelf. Let’s say you made a mistake. You forgot a few screws. Everything looks fine at first. You put the books on the shelf and leave it at that.

Friend1: There will be trouble later on.

[furniture assembly]Friend2: Definitely. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but at some point. In between let’s say that you figured out the error. You will no longer incorrectly put together that kind of furniture.

Friend1: You’ve learned your lesson.

Friend2: Right, but that doesn’t absolve the error from the past. At some point the effect will kick in. The idea is that in Krishna consciousness there are no more future consequences. Of course nature will still act. Death is guaranteed to arrive. The protection is for the devotional life. That will continue no matter what the next destination is.

In Closing:

If Krishna sins accepting,

Smooth ride then expecting?

Residual effects from sinning,

Like unplugged fan still spinning.

But not future consequences to see,

Since now of sinful reactions free.

Only when in bhakti life to stay,

Protection in no other way.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Three Times God Won With An Incredible Degree Of Difficulty

[Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu]“As a snake captures a mouse or Garuda captures a very venomous snake, Lord Narasimhadeva captured Hiranyakashipu, who could not be pierced even by the thunderbolt of King Indra. As Hiranyakashipu moved his limbs here, there and all around, very much afflicted at being captured, Lord Narasimhadeva placed the demon on His lap, supporting him with His thighs, and in the doorway of the assembly hall the Lord very easily tore the demon to pieces with the nails of His hand.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.29)

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It’s an aspect of Olympic competition. Skating, gymnastics, diving, snowboarding - for so many sports the basis of assessment is subjective. Therefore the governing bodies try their best to lock down as much of the scoring based on raw performance, with the point system determined beforehand.

Under this system as an athlete one way to increase your score is to perform unique moves, which others can’t replicate. The term is “degree of difficulty.” If you can land a jump that no one else can, you’ll get rewarded for it. The reason is that the likelihood of successful completion is low.

In the 1990s there was a television commercial featuring basketball legends Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. They were playing a game where one person took a shot at the basket. If the shot was made the other person would have to make the same shot. To highlight the exceptional caliber of the two players the commercial goes on to show shots of increasing difficulty, to the point of ridiculous, with the tag line for each proposal, “Nothing but net.”

As the increasing degree of difficulty is one way to measure greatness, there is a smooth transition to the area of spirituality. The Vedas say that God is a person, purusha. The key distinction is that He is an amazing person, the topmost. One way to see is through His victories achieved through astonishingly difficult circumstances.

1. Monkeys and bears against night-rangers

These were Rakshasas, which are like man-eaters. They could change their shapes at will. That is one of the perfections available in mystic yoga. To the normal person this seems like mythology, something created by an imaginative author. The wise know that even such an ability isn’t so wonderful. It can be defeated.

And by whom? Monkeys and bears. They hurled rocks and trees, while the Rakshasas fired arrows, coming and going from the vision. The Rakshasas were also known as nishacharas, which means “night-rangers.” They liked to fight in the dark, so the other side couldn’t see them. They really had no standards that they followed.

The underdogs won because they had God on their side. Shri Rama was a mere human being, or so it appeared. An incarnation of the Divine, Rama routed the formidable enemy using His arrows, aided by the most dedicated servants.

2. One man against fourteen thousand

The war involving the monkeys and bears was necessary because the king of Lanka, the leader of the Rakshasas, had taken Rama’s wife away in secret. This only happened after a tragic lesson was taught to Ravana and his men. They attacked Rama, fourteen thousand strong, in the forest of Dandaka.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

Rama had His equally capable younger brother Lakshmana with Him, but He took this fight on Himself. He easily defeated the host, who fled in fear. But wherever they turned they saw Rama’s face, as the arrows were like heat-seeking missiles.

3. Nails against the most feared king in the world

Hiranyakashipu was so feared that even the celestials hid from him. When playing a videogame sometimes there is a “power-up” or reward available that grants invincibility for a certain period of time. After getting this reward you can fight the enemy with calm, knowing that they can’t harm you.

[Krishna killing Hiranyakashipu]Hiranyakashipu had something similar, in that there was protection against death for around ninety-nine percent of the circumstances a person would potentially face in life. But God only needs one percent vulnerability to gain the upper hand. He did so in the amazing form of a half-man/half-lion. He kept the king’s protection intact, using only nails to rip the body apart. The king who was feared by everyone succumbed to the person he insisted didn’t exist.

In Closing:

In game of horse placing a bet,

To make this shot with nothing but net.

With top players difficult and far,

Proving how great they are.

God to understand in way the same,

Like Rama against Rakshasas who came.

His servants winning with rocks and trees,

With nails upper hand Narasimha to seize.