Krishna's Mercy

Hare Krishna

Archive for November, 2010

Powerful Prayer

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 30, 2010

Rukmini Devi “When the black-eyed, beautiful Rukmini heard the settlement, she immediately became very morose. However, being a king’s daughter, she understood political diplomacy and decided that there was no use in simply being morose. Some steps should be taken immediately. After some deliberation, she decided to send a message to Krishna, and so that she might not be deceived, she selected a qualified brahmana as her messenger.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)

It’s quite understandable that we would pity our condition in this world from time to time. Sometimes things get so out of hand that we just can’t help wallowing in our misfortune. During these times, even the staunchest of atheists will have an inclination towards prayer and a higher power. “O God, why did you put me in this miserable condition? What can I do? It is out of my hands; I hate my life.” In these situations, or in any situation actually, pleading for help from the Supreme Divine Entity is always the way to go. Instead of sitting idly by and allowing our condition to own us, it is better to ask for aid from the only person capable of alleviating any situation. That person is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Krishna's lotus feet The root cause of our problems usually goes undetected, for that is the primary defect of the animal species. Animals perform many of the same functions as advanced human beings, except that they are limited in their intelligence gathering abilities. For example, an animal may see many of its brethren taken into the slaughterhouse right in front of it, yet when the time comes for the animal to be killed, it is completely unaware of what is going to happen. Animal life is meant for base enjoyment: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Human beings are advanced in that they have the potential to acquire the highest knowledge. Since this potential is difficult to realize to the fullest extent, man remains stuck on lower platforms of intelligence. What does this mean exactly? If we study the nature around us for years and years and gain an understanding about high concepts such as math, biology, chemistry, and physics, our intelligence will certainly be at a very high level. Yet this knowledge is still limiting in that it doesn’t help us go beyond the base animal activities. One living entity may be a pig while another is a PhD scholar, but the enjoyment derived from eating and sleeping is not really any different. The same principle applies to the thoughts and hopes of the individual human being. One person may live in squalor, while another is in a palatial building, but the effects of disappointment are essentially the same. Whether we lose out on a particular meal or a giant merger, the sense of worry and panic takes over equally.

The highest stage of knowledge is that which informs us of our constitutional position and the primary cause of our current condition. This cause will indeed explain the reason for all of our conditions, including the initial event of birth. Though there are various religious systems in existence today, none is more complete than that emanating from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Though Vedanta, or the ultimate knowledge, can be quite complicated, the reason for our birth and the type of body we occupy can be explained simply by saying that we desired our current condition. God is one, and He has His own realm where He resides. The soul represents our identity, and it is unchanging. Any soul which desires God’s personal association is allowed to have it. By the same token, any individual who wants to live separately from God and imitate His activities of creating, maintaining, and destroying is also allowed to do so. Hence the souls that reside in the perceptible world all fall into the latter category. It shouldn’t surprise us that this sort of desire can only lead to misery; no one can perform activities in the same way that God can. Therefore, the solution to all of our problems is to change our desires from wanting to have our little problems fixed, to having our original negative condition, the cause for all our problems, remedied.

“Whether one is without desire, or is desirous of all fruitive results, or is after liberation, one should with all efforts try to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead for complete perfection, culminating in Krishna consciousness.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.10)

Lord Krishna Obviously these are high concepts, and those who are entangled in the acquisition of inferior knowledge will not have the time to understand the position of the soul and its most ideal home. Yet regardless of one’s condition, their state of mind, and their level of intelligence, it is always advisable to look to Krishna for answers. The Supreme Lord is so kind that He doesn’t expect everyone to realize the highest form of knowledge right away. This means that the individual’s desires will also likely remain polluted for a long time. Instead of an immediate remedy, the Lord allows any person, with any desire, to have solutions found through devotion to Him. In this way, one is allowed to make a gradual progression in intelligence, with Krishna steadily remaining an object of worship.

For those who are on the highest platform of knowledge – those wanting an immediate stop to their imitation of Krishna – are known as bhaktas, or devotees. A devotee simply wants Krishna’s association and nothing else. This association unfolds through interactions in one of several different transcendental mellows, or rasas. While transcendental scholars have carefully analyzed and prioritized these mellows, in the grand scheme of things, there is no difference between them. If one person wants to associate with Krishna eternally as a friend, and another wants to be His sincere servant, there is no difference in their desires. After all, both individuals want Krishna’s association, a condition which automatically brings liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Yet for those who are not on the level of the devotees, the Lord still kindly lends a helping hand. These individuals generally fall into one of two classes: jnanis and karmis. The jnanis don’t necessarily believe in a personal God. The analogy given to explain the mindset of the impersonalist is to that of a giant ocean of water. The jnanis, those who take to studying the differences between spirit and matter as their primary occupation, believe that the Supreme Absolute Truth, God in a sense, is represented by a giant ocean. The living entities are then created when this ocean is divided up into separate containers of water. Therefore, the ultimate aim becomes the merging back into the ocean. When one is on the highest platform of knowledge, which can only be reached through devotion to Krishna, they see the folly in this mindset. Under the giant ocean model, the Supreme Absolute Truth would have to be flawed since He allows Himself to become divided and trapped in individual containers. If the Lord is flawed, He cannot be considered God. Additionally, the individual is taken as God under this model, which is silly in and of itself. If we are God, how did we become trapped in a miserable condition? If we are God, how are we not able to remember our previous lives?

There certainly does exist a giant reservoir of spiritual energy, with the individual souls being part and parcel of this effulgence. This impersonal energy is known as Brahman, and since we are tiny sparks emanating from Brahman, we too are blissful and full of knowledge. Yet Brahman is simply the outer energy emanating from the transcendental body of Krishna. If one remains stuck on argument, logic, and reasoning devised from strict interpretation of the words found in scripture, they will never be able to see past this glaring effulgence. There are other classes of transcendentalists who have similar conclusions, namely that of eliminating individuality and pain through the cessation of activity. Merging into Brahman, or its similar counterpart of nirvana, represents the loss of individuality. It is akin to spiritual suicide. Yet Krishna is so kind that He even grants these rewards to those who approach Him in earnest.

Radha and Krishna The karmis are those who want material opulence, i.e. enjoyment. They realize that life is difficult and full of misery, so they think that if they just adjust things in the right way, they can remove all the unwanted aspects of life and enjoy all the opulences in front of them. This is the mindset of the majority of individuals in this world, a thought process adopted immediately after the time of birth. This mindset is considered faulty because any final condition or destination which is devoid of Krishna’s association is bound to be a miserable one. Lord Krishna is not only God in the sense of control and power, but also in His abilities to provide pleasure. The dharma of the soul is loving association with its complementary spiritual entity: the Supreme Soul. This more powerful soul belongs to Krishna, thus making Him the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. Material opulence, in the form of wealth, beauty, fame, women, wine, etc., exhausts at some point, leaving the individual empty-handed and alone in the end. By exclusively pursuing material opulence, one is forced to repeat the cycle of work and enjoyment over and over again.

Yet even if we want to enjoy opulence, we are advised to approach Krishna in a humble way. He does not force anyone to change or purify their desires. Rather, He is satisfied just seeing that people think of Him and ask Him for help. The benefit to approaching Krishna over other entities is that not only will Krishna likely give us what we want, but He will purify our desires as a result. Dharma is our essential characteristic, something that never changes with time. Therefore through constant association with Krishna, we are guaranteed of eventually reawakening from our spiritual sleep and reconnecting with our long lost lover.

If we find ourselves in an unpalatable situation, which will occur many times throughout our lifetime, we should always look to Krishna instead of just lamenting our condition. If we take action by worshiping Krishna, the chances of our rescue are increased, whereas simple lamentation and self-pity will guarantee a perpetually miserable state. One great devotee, a divine figure and manifestation of the Goddess of Fortune, proved the validity of this theory during one especially troubling time in her life. Her prayers and subsequent rescue by Krishna show us that the Lord will always hear our sincere callings for His association.

Marriage of Sita and Rama The Vedic, or Hindu, system of marriage is quite unique. As mentioned before, the material world is not our natural home. Therefore the aim of any bona fide religious system is to put into place a set of guidelines and regulations which allow a person to gradually realize this fact. Since the allures of sense pleasures are strong, one requires training from the time of birth in matters of spirituality. Therefore in the Vedic tradition, every activity is meant to be regulated, especially sex. The marriage system is seen as the license for sex life, the only time in one’s life where sense demands are allowed to be acted upon, but still in a regulated manner. To that end, marriages are typically arranged by the parents when the children are relatively young. This way, a boy and girl can live peacefully and happily together, without having to worry about finding the right person who may or may not love them for a short period of time.

It shouldn’t surprise us that those who are not very intelligent, those lacking information about the ultimate conclusion of life, will find this sort of marriage system horrifying. Movies produced in India very often focus on the theme of arranged marriages, with the typical plotline involving a girl who is in love with another man but who is then forced to marry someone else by her parents. It must be said that in the classic Vedic system, this rarely occurs because men and women aren’t allowed to freely intermingle. In the modern age, the forced marriage has become a problem due to the fact that men and women meet up and spend much time together before marriage arrangements are made by parents.

Krishna and Rukmini Yet even in the ancient Vedic system, there were instances where the bride-to-be had already sold her heart to another man. This was the case with Rukmini Devi, an exalted princess and daughter of King Bhishmaka. Rukmini was all set to be married to a king named Shishupala, a shady character whom Rukmini had no liking for. The larger problem was the fact that Rukmini had her heart set on marrying Lord Krishna. Around five thousand years ago, the Lord personally descended to earth to enact wonderful pastimes. In His adult years, He lived as the king of a city named Dvaraka. As the Supreme Lord, Krishna was highly effulgent and resplendent, so news of His uncommon and brave activities spread throughout the world. Though Rukmini had never met Krishna, she had heard of His exploits and His devotion to the pious. Simply from hearing of Krishna’s name, form, attributes, and pastimes, she made up her mind to have Him as her husband. Krishna, unlike other non-different forms of the Lord, doesn’t lock Himself down to any codes of conduct, religion, or piety. Krishna is the original and complete Personality of Godhead, so He is actually the object of all systems of piety and virtue. Therefore Krishna can accept an unlimited number of wives, consorts, and associates.

Rukmini Devi Rukmini’s desire to have Krishna as a husband was certainly indicative of her great intelligence and devotion to the Lord. Yet there was still a problem. Her marriage was already arranged with Shishupala, and time was running out. There was nothing she could do to change the situation because her father, as a hospitable king, had already invited guests and made arrangements for the ceremony. He couldn’t go back on his word now. Instead of resigning herself to defeat, Rukmini took action. She wrote a letter to Krishna, which contained her heartfelt plea to have Him as a husband, and she gave it to a trusted brahmana. The princely order is in charge of giving protection and running government, but the brahmanas are really the brains behind the operation. A brahmana is a priest who understands the spiritual equality shared amongst all individual life forms. Moreover, the deva, or god, for the brahmanas is Krishna, who is thus known as brahmanya-devaya. Rukmini entrusted her letter to the brahmana, who subsequently went to Krishna and delivered it to Him in secret.

Not surprisingly, Krishna wholeheartedly accepted Rukmini’s desire for marriage. Rukmini was so intelligent that she not only proposed marriage, but she also outlined a plot which Krishna could follow to facilitate the new plan. During those times, kshatriyas, or those in the royal order, often married women through a kidnapping fashion, something known as the Rakshasa style of marriage. Rukmini proposed that Krishna come and take her while she and her family would be visiting the temple of Goddess Durga on the day of the wedding to Shishupala. No one would suspect any chicanery during this holy time just prior to the marriage, so it would be ideal for Krishna to perform the kidnapping then. This is precisely what would happen, as Krishna would swoop in just like Garuda, the faithful servant and bird-carrier of Lord Vishnu, and snatch Rukmini away from the onlookers, which included Shishupala and other rival kings. Krishna would fend off the attacks that followed and eventually return home safely to Dvaraka with Rukmini. The two would then be married formally and live happily ever after.

Krishna kidnapping Rukmini The incident of Rukmini’s marriage shows us that it is better to pray to Krishna, regardless of our desire, than to sit back and wax poetic. The Supreme Lord may or may not grant our desires for an immediate end to our distressful conditions, but if we remain fixed in consciousness on His lotus feet, He will most certainly grant us His association. This is the greatest boon of all, something which represents the most favorable condition. In this way, the world is advised to unite under one God, the Lord for everyone, Shri Krishna. Rukmini’s intelligent and heartfelt message was delivered through a trusted brahmana, but this certainly isn’t the only way to communicate with Krishna. In this age, we can unite under one God and one mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The Lord listens attentively to this sacred chant, and He takes it as a sign that one of His fellow sons and daughters needs help; help which will arrive shortly thereafter.

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Pleasing to the Heart

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 29, 2010

Shri Hanuman “He speaks words which are pure, well-composed, amazing, fluent, auspicious, and pleasing to the heart.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.32)

In this passage, Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is talking with His younger brother Lakshmana about the wonderful qualities of a speech the two have just heard from the great emissary of Sugriva, Hanuman. Amongst followers of the Vedic tradition, there is likely no more a celebrated divine figure than Hanuman. For all his good traits, he is best known for his love and devotion to God. Rama, being an incarnation of that divine figure in the spiritual sky, while engaged in His pastimes on earth, met Hanuman face to face. The above referenced passage touches on their first encounter, a meeting which very much impressed the Supreme Lord. By studying the wonderful qualities exhibited by Hanuman, we can gain insight into the nature of a lover of God and what we should be striving for in relation to spiritual life.

Hanuman worshiping Rama Why is it important to become a devotee? Vedic information, knowledge which emanates from the eternal truths known as the Vedas, informs us that the soul of the living entity is trapped in an endless cycle of birth and death technically known as reincarnation. Since this cycle is viewed in a negative light, the repetition of birth and death is often referred to as a samsara-chakra, or the wheel of existence in the miserable world. Why is material life miserable? For starters, every birth has an accompanying death. Usually a person realizes their mortality at some point in their lifetime. They can understand this fact simply by studying the lives of others. Parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives all die at some point, so it makes sense that every individual must go through the same process. Death is not a welcome event because it is a forced end to one’s life. By the same token, birth is also forced in the sense that no one has control over the circumstances of their entry into their specific body. Since both birth and death are out of one’s control, it’s understandable that material life would be considered miserable.

If material life is so miserable, why are human beings even put on the earth? The material world is a sort of flawed reflection of a more purified universe known as the spiritual world. We can think of the creation as a reflection in the water, similar to how a tree appears in the waves of a pond. The reflection is only temporary, and the ripples of the pond cause the image to change. In a similar manner, this universe is constantly going through change, with creation and destruction occurring at regular intervals. The spiritual world, on the other hand, does not suffer from the same defect. The inhabitants of the spiritual world are also free from all miseries. Therefore one of the names for the spiritual world is Vaikuntha, a place free of anxiety and misery.

The purpose of human life is to allow the soul to rekindle its relationship with the Supreme Lord. God resides in the spiritual world, so anyone who wants to associate with Him will certainly be allowed entry. The problem is, however, that most living entities in the temporary realm have no desire to return to their permanent home. Being illusioned by the forces of maya, they take the reflection to be the original. In order for something to be classified as a reflection, there must be an original form. Not knowing that the earth is a perverted reflection of something real and transcendental, the living entities take to temporary material activities. This crooked path can be straightened through the acquisition of knowledge. This knowledge makes a person sober, or dhira, and gives them the intelligence to understand where their priorities should lie.

A sober person will realize that they would be better served living in a place where there is no birth, old age, disease, or death. As mentioned before, in order to reach this transcendental abode, one simply has to change their desires from material life to spiritual life. This is easier said than done, so to help us along, God gave us the Vedas. The Vedas are scriptures consisting of various branches of knowledge passed on through stories, aphorisms, mantras, and chants. As we all know, not everyone will have an interest in reading scriptures, especially when the subject matter is mostly philosophical. Not to worry though, as the same Vedic teachings can be learned by studying the activities of realized souls of the past. The eternally liberated souls, the mahajanas, set the standard for proper behavior and conduct. Since they understand that the aim of life is to work towards pleasing the Supreme Lord, they serve as the perfect role models for the rest of society.

One such mahajana is Lord Shri Hanuman, the Vanara warrior and eternal servant of Lord Rama. In the Vedic tradition, there are many gods, which are technically known as devatas, or demigods. While there are innumerable gods, there is still only one supreme controller. His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, who is also known as Bhagavan. God doesn’t limit Himself to His Krishna form; He takes to many expansions which allow for the living entities to become attracted to Him in varying moods. One of Krishna’s most famous expansions is Lord Shri Rama, the warrior prince of Ayodhya. Rama is not only an incarnation of God, but He is also a historical personality who appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago. Lord Hanuman is attached to God in His form of Lord Rama. In fact, Hanuman doesn’t really look at God in any other way; he is exclusively devoted to Rama in thought, word, and deed.

Hanuman Hanuman is probably the most popular deity of the Vedic tradition. This is due to his good nature and the fact that he possesses all good qualities. As he is a great devotee of Rama, his feature set shouldn’t surprise anyone. The great saints tell us that a person’s academic scholarship, fame, and fortune are meaningless if they don’t have devotion to God. By the same token, a person may be very poor, unpopular, and not intellectually advanced, but if they are pure devotees of God, they should be viewed as members of the topmost class of society. Hanuman is a notable figure in that he possesses all good qualities according to material estimation, while at the same time possessing the highest level of devotion possible to the Supreme Lord.

What are some of Hanuman’s qualities? Who better to tell us about Hanuman than Lord Rama Himself? While the Lord was enacting pastimes on this earth, He met up with Hanuman for the first time in the forest of Kishkindha. At the time, Rama’s wife Sita had been kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana, and the Lord and Lakshmana were roaming the forests looking for her. They came upon the forest of Kishkindha which was at the time inhabited by a race of monkeys [Vanaras] headed by Sugriva. Sugriva actually sought refuge in Kishkindha from the attacks of his brother Vali, who was out to kill him. Rama and Lakshmana were members of the princely order, so when they walked around, they carried their weapons with them. In addition, since they were divine figures, they had a natural luster about them. Seeing the two princes approaching from afar, Sugriva was worried that maybe they were messengers of Vali who had come to kill him. Therefore he asked Hanuman to descend from their perch on Mount Rishyamukha and see what the princes wanted.

Lakshmana and Rama Hanuman gladly obliged, and taking up the guise of a mendicant, he approached the two brothers. Hanuman is always a devotee, but due to special circumstances, from his childhood he was unaware of his extraordinary abilities and his devotion to Rama. This devotion would be rekindled once he met Rama face to face. Therefore, when Hanuman saw the Lord, he immediately went into wonderful words of praise. Eventually Hanuman revealed his true form and the purpose of his visit.

From the above referenced statement, we see that Rama was quite pleased with Hanuman’s words of praise. Since Hanuman was acting as an emissary for Sugriva, Rama didn’t think it appropriate to respond directly to Hanuman. Rather, He instructed Lakshmana to act as His emissary. While advising Lakshmana on how to respond, the Lord couldn’t help but remark on Hanuman’s wonderful characteristics.

Rama described Hanuman’s words as pure [samskara]. Vedic reformatory processes are known as samskaras, and they are considered purificatory rites which allow for gradual elevation in spiritual understanding. Though Hanuman’s initial guise wasn’t real, his words were pure; they were not tainted with any selfish motives or duplicity. Since Hanuman’s words were all in praise of the Supreme Lord, naturally they were free from any impurities of speech.

“Here is another great fault. You have arranged the word ‘bhavani-bhartri’ to your great satisfaction, but this betrays the fault of contradiction. The word ‘bhavani’ means ‘the wife of Lord Shiva.’ But when we mention her husband, one might conclude that she has another husband.” (Lord Chaitanya speaking to Keshava Kashmiri, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 16.62-63)

Lord Chaitanya with associates Hanuman’s words were well-composed. Almost all Vedic information is transmitted through the Sanskrit language, which is also known as the language of the gods. It is not an easy language to master by any means, so anyone who can speak it well is considered highly learned. Hanuman was a Sanskrit scholar, so Lord Rama was impressed by the composition of his words. The rules of Sanskrit are so strict that even the slightest transgression can be picked up by the ear of one who is trained in the language. Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation to appear on earth, in a famous incident once picked out a defect from a speech given by a great scholar named Keshava Kashmiri. The scholar had used the terms “bhavani” and “bharta” side by side. Bhavani is a name for Goddess Durga which means the wife of Lord Shiva. Bharta means husband, so by speaking bhavani-bharta, the scholar was essentially saying “Lord Shiva’s wife’s husband”. Obviously no one would speak like this, so the statement itself wasn’t very well composed. In addition, it also implies that Goddess Durga may have another husband besides Lord Shiva, something which is not possible at all. Goddess Durga is the model of chastity and dedication to one’s husband. Lord Chaitanya is God Himself, so it makes sense that He would be able to recognize the scholar’s flaw. In a similar manner, Shri Rama carefully listened to Hanuman’s many Sanskrit words, but He instead declared them to be free of any defects.

Lord Rama noted that Hanuman’s speech was amazing or wonderful [adbhuta]. The words were amazing because no ordinary human being could come up with them. Lord Krishna is usually described as adbhuta due to the wonderful activities He performs. By describing Hanuman in this way, we see that even Lord Rama is impressed by Hanuman. That alone should tell us how exalted Hanuman is.

Since Hanuman’s words were spoken without delay [avilambitam], they were considered fluent. The more we learn about the speech, the more amazing it becomes. Hanuman not only addressed Lord Rama with beautiful Sanskrit words which were pure and amazing, but he delivered them without blinking an eye. It’s the equivalent of writing a song or poem on the fly just by looking at someone else. Hanuman’s devotion to Rama was so pure that he was able to compose such beautiful Sanskrit poetry without even thinking.

Hanuman meeting Rama Hanuman’s words were also auspicious [kalyanim]. Something is considered auspicious if it brings about favorable conditions in the future. Lord Rama could tell that Hanuman was going to be His devotee for life and that he would perform miraculous deeds in His service in the near future. Rama wanted to inform Lakshmana that Hanuman was indeed auspicious and that the two brothers would be well served striking up a friendship with him and Sugriva. This auspiciousness mentioned by Rama actually applies to all aspects of Hanuman. It is for this reason that Hanuman is one of the most worshiped deities in the world. Any person who is as devoted to God as Hanuman is certainly will bring about good fortune to anyone they associate with.

Finally, Lord Rama states that Hanuman’s words were pleasing to the heart. The previously mentioned qualities are all well and good, but this last one certainly takes the cake. God is completely self-satisfied; He is in need of nothing. But if someone offers something to Him with love and devotion, the Lord kindly accepts it. If the devotee’s sentiments are pure enough, the Lord’s heart will be pleased by such an offering. Such was the case with Hanuman and his beautiful speech.

Hanuman - the pure devotee From this incident we see evidence of the fact that God can only be pleased by love and devotion. Knowledge, renunciation, self-control, peacefulness, kindness, etc. are all certainly good practices, but the most important quality to possess is love and devotion. This pure love should be directed towards the Supreme Lord in order for it to really mean something. Such was the practice of Shri Hanuman, and for this he is worthy of our eternal love and respect. As Goswami Tulsidas so accurately points out, Hanuman is the gate-keeper to Lord Rama’s kingdom. If we please Hanuman, a devotee who possesses all good qualities, we will most certainly achieve God’s association in the near future. As Hanuman is pleasing to Lord Rama’s heart, he is just as pleasing to the hearts of pure souls around the world.

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A Sober Man

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 28, 2010

Lord Krishna “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.21)

The mistreatment of animals is often a bone of contention between the followers of the different religious traditions of the world. Though the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God and ultimate synopsis on Vedic teachings, informs us that the soul can never be killed by anyone, mankind still does not have license to go on an unnecessary killing spree. Not only should our fellow man be afforded the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but so should the animal community. When one is free of the effects of intoxication and unnecessary animal slaughter, they can take the necessary steps towards the ultimate objective in life: reviving one’s dormant God consciousness.

When Lord Krishna – the Supreme Personality of Godhead and all-attractive, original form of the Lord – declares in the Bhagavad-gita that the sober person, the self-realized soul, is not bewildered by the various changes of the body, it would stand to reason that avoiding intoxication would similarly play an important role in the acquisition of knowledge. For example, most of us would agree that performing the essential functions of life would be made much more difficult if we were intoxicated while performing them. Drunk driving is a perfect illustration of this. Driving is a dangerous enough activity, but when the motor functions of the driver are impaired due to inebriation, the car essentially turns into a loose cannon, the most dangerous of weapons. Not only do drunk drivers harm themselves, but they often kill other innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Therefore we can logically conclude that the importance of sobriety only increases with the difficulty of the task.

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

Lord Krishna delivering the Bhagavad-gita The most difficult task in this world is the altering of consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita states that whatever consciousness we possess at the time of death is the state we will attain to in the next life. This information provides much more clarity in explaining the different circumstances that we are born into. The plight of the poor and the downtrodden is often bemoaned by the kind-hearted and noble souls whose ultimate aim is to enjoy life. After all, the neophyte understanding of religion follows the conclusion that man is put on earth to enjoy while at the same time pledging allegiance to a specific spiritual figure. After enjoying for some time on earth, the individual goes to heaven automatically at the time of death.

Such a mindset represents an immature thought process because it fails to account for the individuals who don’t even make it out of the womb of their mothers. If the point of life – a life which apparently can only be instantiated once through all of history – is to enjoy, how does that square with those who are born in rotten circumstances? How does this purpose of enjoyment explain all the suffering that is endured? Moreover, the methods of enjoyment certainly do vary, so what can actually be deemed as an enjoyable life experience? For example, one person may be very wealthy but at the same time always miserable due to worries of losing their savings, business, or lavish lifestyle. On the flip side, another person may be a simple farmer who sits quietly all day in peace, not bothering anyone. According to the angle of vision of those who subscribe to the material enjoyment philosophy of life, the farmer is deemed to be less satisfied than the wealthy businessmen; yet in reality just the opposite situation is seen.

Enjoyment and happiness come from consciousness rather than simple acquisitions, relationships, and personal circumstances. Moreover, this consciousness is perpetual; it remains with the individual at all times. Since the individual goes through many lifetimes on earth, its identity comes from the soul rather than the body. The soul has consciousness, a mindset which carries it to its next life.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.18)

Krishna speaking to Arjuna These are facts of science and not just dogmatic principles exclusive to the Bhagavad-gita. Indeed, evidence of the effects of consciousness are already visible in our daily lives. Not only does consciousness determine our happiness and distress, but it also drives our activities. Since our activities lead to interactions with nature, the outer covering of the soul, or the body, must go through changes. So we see that the changes to the body are actually driven by consciousness. At the time of death, this mindset, which is full of desires, is measured, and a commensurate new body is immediately provided for the soul.

Since consciousness is more important than the activities the body takes up, the aim of life is to purify our way of thinking. Simply enjoying the senses surely isn’t enough to provide ultimate satisfaction, for it does little to purify our consciousness. If our mindset is not purified by the time of death, we are guaranteed to receive a new body in the next life and start all over again in our attempts at purification.

The first requirement for understanding these basic concepts of spiritual life is sobriety. While intoxication hampers our attempts to understand high philosophy, another activity is equally as inhibiting. This activity is the unnecessary killing of innocent animals, which manifests today through the existence of slaughterhouses. In the Vedic system, amongst the highest class of transcendentalists, the brahmanas, if another person is known to be a meat-eater or a regular drinker of alcohol, they are referred to by derogatory terms such as mleccha and yavana. Notice that the brahmanas don’t apply these labels based on a person’s wealth, social standing, or physical appearance. A person could be living in the most downtrodden of circumstances and still maintain their purity, provided that they refrain from these two most damaging of activities. A brahmana, a saintly man who understands the spiritual equality of all forms of life, strictly refrains from eating meat and drinking alcohol because of the effects these activities have on consciousness and the ability to understand the differences between matter and spirit.

“The word yavana means ‘meat-eater.’ Anyone from a meat-eating community is called a yavana. One who does not strictly observe the Vedic regulative principles is called a mleccha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 18.213 Purport)

Ironically enough, some of the world’s most prominent religious traditions see no problem with slaughterhouses. It is one thing for people in general to not have issues with meat eating, for the majority of meat eaters don’t have to personally kill the animals. If they did, many of them would not be able to do so. It is much easier to eat the flesh of an animal that somebody else killed rather than to actually take the knife to the animal’s throat yourself. The heart of the issue lies with the religious leaders. As mentioned before, bona fide brahmanas – those who exhibit the qualities of peacefulness, knowledge, forgiveness, and devotion to God – expressly refrain from meat eating. Since they know that all forms of life have a soul in them, they understand that there is no reason to take to unnecessary animal killing. Moreover, adherence to this restriction is not dependent on the actions of others. For instance, if ninety-nine percent of society were to take to animal killing and intoxication, the true brahmana still wouldn’t budge on the issue. It is for this reason that the brahmanas are deemed as the spiritual leaders of society, the standard bearers for purity in religious practice.

“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, Bg. 3.21)

Shrila Prabhupada - an ideal brahmana and leader In the same vein, if a spiritual leader has no problem with unnecessary animal killing, others most certainly won’t either. A good leader is one who sets the bar high so that others will have lofty expectations and goals to shoot for. Surely giving up meat eating would be difficult for those who are accustomed to it, but there is no chance of the practice stopping if the leaders of a particular spiritual movement are staunch meat eaters themselves. A Christian is one who believes in and follows the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ. One would be hard pressed to imagine Jesus ever opening up a slaughterhouse where innocent cows were killed by the millions each year. Yet this is precisely what occurs today, with the intellectually vacant argument of animals not having souls given as justification. The idea of animals being soulless is directly contradicted by the leaders themselves. For example, the killing of cats and dogs is strictly prohibited on the grounds of inhumane treatment of animals. Michael Vick, the infamous NFL quarterback, was vilified in public and eventually sent to jail for his violent behavior towards dogs. Moreover, the killing of infants, who are less intelligent than many animals, is also prohibited. If cats and dogs are without souls, then what is the harm in killing them?

The flawed arguments are put forth out of the strong desire to satisfy the tongue. As mentioned before, the aim of life is to purify one’s consciousness, so strict rules and regulations don’t always have to be followed to achieve a higher level of understanding. But at the same time, when stumbling blocks are encountered, especially by those who are accustomed to sense gratification, they must be removed. The demands of the tongue represent one of the greatest hindrances towards the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. For this reason teachers in the Vedic tradition advise everyone to put forth their best effort at controlling this vital organ, the tongue. By abstaining from eating animal flesh, not only does one’s karma improve, but so does their sobriety. A person who respects innocent forms of life will have a clearer mind that is more capable of understanding the constitutional position of the soul, the differences between matter and spirit, and the ultimate favorable condition in life.

Lord Krishna in Vrindavana The Vedas inform us that the Supreme Divine Entity is a person who has a transcendental and blissful body. Not only does He possess a form, but He has a transcendental realm, a kingdom of Godhead if you will. One whose consciousness is fixed on this Divine Entity at the time of death immediately ascends to the spiritual sky. Just as there is variety in the present world amongst different life forms which all take their identities from the spirit soul within, so the spiritual world is full of transcendental variegatedness. In Krishna’s favorite abode, Goloka Vrindavana, there are many transcendental species besides human beings. Cows are especially prominent in this land, as are deer, butterflies, and a host of other animals. In this way, we see that the Supreme Lord Himself has respect for all forms of life. If we follow His teachings and His example, we can reach the ultimate destination. The first step is to refrain from the most sinful activities of meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex life. Following these simple and straightforward restrictions, the rest of our time can be spent in devotional service. When the aim of life is taken to be Krishna’s satisfaction, one’s consciousness is sure to be purified. By respecting innocent forms of life and by regularly chantingHare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can reach the final destination of the spiritual sky.

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Uttamashloka

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 27, 2010

Hanuman praising Sita and Rama “His words – which were succinct, beyond all suspicion, pleasant, and delivered in a mild tone – flowed easily from his throat and chest.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.31)

Many a phrase have been coined from the works of the famous playwright Williams Shakespeare. The proverb, “brevity is the soul of wit”, is one such phrase which is invoked quite often today in common parlance as a way to teach others how to communicate effectively. A statement is considered witty, or intelligent, if it is clever and conveys a deeper meaning than what it appears to. One of the key elements to wit is brevity. If we have to use many words to get our point across, the wit and charm of our central point will be lost. For example, when telling a joke, it’s usually a good idea to make the narrative short, with the punch line being reached fairly quickly. If one has to tell a lengthy story in order to make a joke, it is likely that the audience will lose interest by the end. Wit not only applies to the area of humor, but it also plays a central role in public speaking. There are several key ingredients to a good speech, and by studying these components, we can also gain a better understanding of what makes a good prayer to the Supreme Lord.

What is the purpose of a speech? Unlike the written word, public speeches involve the hearing process. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, were originally known as the shrutis, or that which is heard. Vedic information was first passed down through an aural tradition, with the written word not being required since most people could remember what they heard. Not only could they remember everything, but they could take in and process information very quickly. While mankind’s mental abilities have diminished through the course of time, it is still undoubtedly true that the hearing process is the best way to take in information.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe practice of proofreading can help us better understand this fact. Writing is not an easy task; it requires great time and effort, with multiple people editing and rereading passages to make sure that they make sense. While reading, a person is essentially narrating written words to themselves in their mind. The narration takes place through visual contact; the eyes looking at certain words and then processing them. Yet the eyes aren’t perfect. Moreover, one might take to reading at a rapid pace and still miss many grammatical errors. This is actually the secret behind the technique known as speed-reading. Speed-reading allows a person to read pages and pages of literature in a very short amount of time. The secret to reading something very quickly is to purposefully only recognize certain words and patterns on a page versus actually narrating every single word inside the head.

In this way, we see that reading at a rapid pace requires a person to purposefully gloss over much of the written text. While speed-reading may be a good way to save time when taking in information, it doesn’t prove to be helpful when proofreading. Moreover, the human eye is so accustomed to seeing words formatted in a particular way that if one or two letters are transposed here and there, an editor may not even notice. A word can be spelled incorrectly, but since it looks close enough to the correct spelling, our eyes will take it to be the correct word. While this behavior may be beneficial when reading text that contains misspelled words, it can also bring some negative side effects. For example, we may read a word completely incorrectly and thus derive a totally different meaning from a sentence. One small word such as “not” or “is” can completely change the meaning and tone of a particular passage.

With the hearing process, these defects are absent. Even if we aren’t paying attention to someone’s speech, if they forget a word or say something incorrectly, we will notice right away. It is for this reason that public speakers try their best to maintain a continuous flow of speech, avoiding stuttering and stammering. Hearing is such a great way of picking up mistakes that many people, including our humble self, use text-to-speech technology to proofread their written words.

Since hearing is such an effective method of information transfer, public policy makers, advocates, and teachers often take to giving lectures and speeches in public. As learned from Shakespeare, brevity is the soul of wit. The least amount of words we can use to get our point across the better. Public speaking involves an audience that sits attentively and listens. If the speaker goes on and on about nothing, it is understandable that the audience would lose their attention. In lieu of listening to the speaker, the audience members may take to sending text messages or checking the latest sports scores on their mobile phones. Along with brevity, there are also tone and rhythm to consider. We may have the nicest sounding speech on paper, but if we deliver it using a hostile tone, people will take away the wrong message. The same principle applies to rhythm. If the words aren’t delivered with the proper timing, the receivers may not pay attention to the special points in the speech.

These facts relating to reading, speaking, and hearing can help us with the most difficult task in life. According to the Vedas, there is only one God. People from one part of the world may refer to Him by one name, while another group may call Him something else, but there is still only one God. In the Vedic tradition, God is given thousands of names, each of which applies to a specific feature exhibited by the Lord. These names also reference various pastimes and activities performed by the Lord during ages past. The Vedas tell us that God’s original name is Krishna, one who is all-attractive. Since God is the most attractive person, it would make sense that the words used to describe Him would also be considered the most attractive. Therefore, one of God’s innumerable names is Uttamashloka.

“Shrimati Kunti Devi has prayed to the Lord just to enunciate a fragment of His glories. All His devotees worship Him in that way, by chosen words, and therefore the Lord is known as Uttamashloka. No amount of chosen words is sufficient to enumerate the Lord’s glory, and yet He is satisfied by such prayers as the father is satisfied even by the broken linguistic attempts of the growing child.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.44 Purport)

Lord Krishna A shloka is a verse or a hymn of praise. The word uttama is actually a compound word made up of “ut” and “tama”. “Ut” means above or transcending and “tama” refers to darkness. Thus uttama means above darkness or ignorance, i.e. the best. When we put the two terms together, we see that God is referred to as the best verse. This shows just how great Krishna is. The best words, put into the most beautiful verses, are non-different from the Lord. This is yet another feature of Krishna’s which points to Him being the Supreme Absolute Truth. Being Absolute, there is no difference between God and His names, forms, and pastimes. As such, there is also no difference between God and the beautiful words which are used to describe Him.

Hanuman worshiping Rama Who composes these wonderful verses, or uttama-shlokas? Only those who are of the highest class, exalted individuals who transcend the darkness of ignorance, can carefully assembly the proper set of words to praise the only entity truly deserving of it. One such exalted individual is Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God. Though Hanuman is forever devoted to Lord Rama, the two did have a very famous initial meeting, the accounts of which are nicely described in the Ramayana written by Maharishi Valmiki. If we were to meet God, what would we say to Him? Would we be able to speak? How would we accurately convey our love for Him? Hanuman was blessed with this wonderful opportunity, and he was more than up to the challenge.

Lord Rama roamed this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. According to Vedic information, the universe constantly goes through cycles of creation and destruction, so Lord Rama appears and enacts pastimes on this earth whenever and wherever it is manifest. For this reason, the accounts of His life somewhat vary depending on which Vedic text you read. This doesn’t mean that the information is contradictory, but rather, the variety speaks to the fact that God’s appearances are always taking place, both in this universe and in others.

Sita and Rama in the forest As part of His pastimes, the Lord roamed the forests of India for fourteen years. On one unfortunate day, Rama’s beautiful wife Sita Devi was taken away from Him by a demon named Ravana. Rama, being God Himself, could most certainly protect Sita, but the demon created a ruse which lured Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away from Sita’s side. Finding Sita gone, the two brothers went looking for her, eventually making their way to the Kishkindha forest. At the time, the monkey-king Sugriva was living there along with his counselors and associates. Seeing Rama and Lakshmana approaching, Sugriva asked Hanuman, his chief warrior, to see what they wanted. Hanuman kindly obliged and appeared in front of Rama and Lakshmana in the guise of a mendicant.

Though Hanuman was tasked with finding out Rama’s intentions, he couldn’t help but praise the Lord. God is often referred to as maha-tejah, meaning one who has a wonderful effulgence. Simply by seeing this natural glow and beauty, devotees become enamored. Hanuman immediately took to praising both Rama and Lakshmana by reciting the most eloquent of Sanskrit verses. His shlokas were certainly the topmost, and Rama was very pleased with them. In the above referenced statement, Rama is reacting to Hanuman’s speech by describing its finer points to Lakshmana.

From Rama’s description, we see that Hanuman’s speech was flawless in tone, delivery, and use of words. Rama’s description uses negations to convey the flawless nature of Hanuman’s words. The Lord tells Lakshmana that Hanuman’s words had no verbosity, and no doubt or suspicion. The words were delivered without any delay, and they did not cause any pain to the listener. From these observations, we see that Hanuman didn’t throw in any unnecessary words. Usually those who aren’t confident about what they are speaking on, or those who are willfully trying to deceive their audience, will use extra words or talk in platitudes. Politicians are famous for this. They’ll come up with vacuous statements such as “We need change”, “I’m a uniter, not a divider”, and “We need to work together”. These statements are designed to essentially cheat the audience into feeling a false sense of optimism and to divert their attention away from the lack of intelligence possessed by the speaker.

Hanuman meeting Rama Hanuman’s speech didn’t suffer from any of these defects. His words were heartfelt. Hanuman even lost himself in his words, going on and on with his praises until he finally had to reveal his intentions to Rama. Sugriva’s trusted minister was charged with finding out what Rama wanted, just in case the Lord had come to battle Sugriva. Yet Hanuman ended up being the first to blink, being overwhelmed by the Lord’s sweetness and luster. A devotee has nothing to hide from the Lord; they feel completely at ease. This was how Hanuman behaved towards Rama, and the Lord was delighted to see such sincerity. Rama essentially told Lakshmana that Hanuman was a friend and not someone they should be worried about. Hanuman’s words were genuine and delivered with the perfect rhythm. Sometimes if we are unsure of what we are saying or if we’re worried about offending others, we’ll take extra time to find just the right words to say. Hanuman didn’t require such hesitation since he was composing uttama-shlokas on the fly. Since he was praising God, he simply had to tap into the feelings that were already resting in his heart. In this way, there was no stuttering or delay for want of a cogent thought.

Following Hanuman’s example, we should also try to address the Lord with kind words which are free of duplicity and fault. While it’s impossible to reach the level of scholarship possessed by Hanuman, we can offer perfect praise to God by constantly reciting His favorite mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The example set by Hanuman is that when one offers prayers to God, they should speak from the heart and not waste any words. Brevity is certainly the soul of wit, and when applied to spiritual discourses, what results are praiseworthy speeches that are free of verbosity.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and Rama Devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is the highest religious discipline because it is free of any material defects. The path of devotional service is perfect because it has no hints of desire for fruitive rewards, removal of distresses, or yogic perfections. Just as desire for personal benefit is absent in the discipline of bhakti as a whole, the words we use to address God should also be free of contamination. We never know when the day will come when we’ll get to meet the Lord face to face. When that time comes, we’ll want to make sure that we can quickly come up with some nice words of praise which are heartfelt and to the point. By regular practice of the chanting of the maha-mantra, the most sacred of formulas, we’ll have the best set of prayers resting right on the tip of our tongue.

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Torchlight of Knowledge

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 26, 2010

Lord Vishnu “He [King Muchukunda] could see also that the dense darkness within the mountain cave had already been dissipated due to the Lord’s presence; therefore He could not be other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He knew very well that wherever the Lord is personally present by His transcendental name, quality, form, etc., there cannot be any darkness of ignorance. He is like a lamp placed in the darkness; He immediately illuminates a dark place.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 50)

In the Vedic tradition, the first instruction given to aspiring transcendentalists is aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman”. This conception is absent from those spiritual traditions where the primary focus of attention is on the dedication towards and worship of a particular divine figure. While the sentimentalist mentality can certainly be a bona fide method of spiritual awakening, the knowledge base associated with such a practice is limited. Under the sentimentalist and sectarian models, there is nothing taught about the difference between matter and spirit, the origin of both, and the constitutional position of ordinary spirit in relation to Supreme Spirit. The Vedas are considered the complete, or purna, spiritual discipline since they contain information suited for every type of person, at every level of understanding.

Brahman is usually equated with sublime spirit; that energy which is full of knowledge and bliss. Vedic information states that the living entities are Brahman at the core, but due to their association with matter, they are currently in a conditioned state. The concept of a soul is not exclusive to the Vedic discipline, but the information presented in relation to the difference between body and spirit and the reason for the assumption of a material body certainly is. Spirit is known as purusha, which means male or the enjoyer. Matter is known as prakriti, which is female or the enjoyed. When combined, purusha is superior since it is the driving force behind the actions of prakriti. The interaction between enjoyer and enjoyed is seen in isolated situations at different magnitudes. For example, the human body, or the body of any life form for that matter, displays this interaction. Spirit resides within a dress composed of material elements, thus resulting in the interaction between purusha and prakriti.

The interaction between purusha and prakriti, when studied on the largest scale, provides insight into the nature of the Supreme Divine Entity. Just as the individual spirit soul is the driver of the car known as the body, the Supreme Soul is the instigator of the activities of nature, in this universe and in millions of other ones as well. Brahman can be thought of as the sum and substance of all spirit. If we added up all the souls that exist in this world, we would get Brahman. In this way, we see that every form of life is equal at the constitutional level. The outer coverings of the souls may vary, but the positions of the individual souls do not. It is important for students to know that they are Brahman so they can tailor their activities towards the highest self-interest. In the conditioned state, the living entity falsely identifies with the gross elements of their body, a form which is constantly going through changes. Deluded by false identification, the living entity falls prey to a vicious and never-ending cycle of hankering and lamenting. Each day that we wake up can be considered an instantiation of this repetition on a small scale. The body is changing at every second, so each new day can be thought of as a new birth, with the previous day’s body having changed overnight. When the entire dress is removed and replaced, the events are known as birth and death.

“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)

Krishna speaking to Arjuna For the soul, there is never any change. Our soul was the same in quality yesterday as it is today, and it will continue to remain so for eternity. Since the body constantly changes but the soul does not, the aspiring transcendentalist, the wise man, gives priority to the future plight of the soul in lieu of the body. This is where things get a little tricky. If the soul doesn’t change in quality, why should we worry about its plight?

The Supreme Soul belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedas provide thousands of names for this Entity, but the original name is Krishna, one who is all-attractive. No one is better able to capture the hearts and minds of the individual souls than Krishna. He brings so much pleasure that even those who are considered above desire, the meditational yogis, become attracted upon having His darshana. For the Supreme Soul, there are no defects, no unwanted causes and effects. Since the individual soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, it inherits the same qualitative features. Therefore every distinct spark of Brahman is knowledgeable, blissful, and eternal. Yet there is still a difference between a spark of Brahman and the originator of Brahman, Krishna. The individual sparks are always subordinate in quantitative strength to the Supreme Soul, who is also known as Parabrahman. Therefore the individuals have a tendency to fall down into the material world, where their knowledge and bliss get covered up by prakriti. For Parabrahman, such a situation can never occur.

Lord Krishna The gross material elements consist of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. And there are also the subtle elements of mind, intelligence, and false ego. Students of sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man as stipulated by the Vedas, are taught to give attention to the purusha inside the body and to worry about returning this entity to the spiritual world, where repeated births and deaths don’t take place. There is no such thing as maya, or the illusory energy of nature, in the spiritual world. For Krishna and His eternally liberated associates, there is no difference between matter and spirit. Not surprisingly, everything in the spiritual world, including each body part of the transcendentally situated individual souls, is spiritual. Based on this information, the aim of life can be logically deduced, that of reassuming an eternal spiritual body by negating the influence of prakriti.

While the easiest and most effective way to reach this goal is to take to the system of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, not every student is inclined to take up this discipline in the beginning stages. Moreover, even those who take to bhakti may not be able to practice it properly until they receive further training. Therefore students are advised to take shelter of two important tools of the trade: jnana and vairagya. Renunciation from sense pleasure is what constitutes vairagya. Adherence to austerity, which includes fasting, abstention from prohibited foods, and celibacy, makes up the core of renunciation. This austerity, also known as tapasya, is done for the benefit of the soul, to help it achieve union with the Supreme Soul. When the effects of the senses aren’t mitigated, the ultimate objective is gradually forgotten and the false identification of body consciousness resumes.

Jnana involves the acquisition of knowledge. Now we’ve reached a point where there appears to be a contradiction. The Vedas tell us that the soul is already knowledgeable and that the mind is considered a subtle material element. So why would we want to use the mind to acquire knowledge when the soul is already knowledgeable? To resolve the issue, we have to keep in mind that the aim of spiritual life is not necessarily to acquire knowledge. Transcendental knowledge already exists inside of the soul; it is characteristic of the individual living entity. Yet upon assuming a gross material body, this knowledge gets covered up. We can think of it in terms of a self-illuminating lamp. Normally a lamp or a flashlight requires some sort of energy source. The soul can be thought of as a torch that doesn’t need any power; it is always beaming the light of knowledge. The material elements, or prakriti, cover up this light. It is akin to the putting of a dark cloth over the flashlight. The weapons of jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation, help the individual remove this covering, thus allowing the natural light to come to the forefront.

Activities in material nature are grouped into three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The mode of ignorance, or tamo-guna, is also known as the mode of darkness. When one takes to activities of this mode, the covering of the self-illuminating lamp known as the soul becomes thicker and thicker. The mode of passion leads to a neutral position, while the mode of goodness leads to the gradual removal of the covering. Therefore, we are advised to take to activities in goodness, which include jnana and vairagya, in accordance with the revealed scriptures.

Though activities in the mode of goodness help us to release the natural light of knowledge inside of us, the only way to permanently return to a position where knowledge reigns supreme is through devotional service. This discipline, also known as the religion of love, is superior to any activity of the material world since it aims to link the soul with its counterpart, its life-partner if you will. As previously mentioned, the soul is similar in quality to the Supreme Soul, which means that Shri Krishna is also a torchlight of knowledge. Not only does Krishna’s lamp never burn out, but it never gets covered up either. Regardless of the consciousness of the individual soul – be it purified or contaminated – the light emanating from the Supreme Lord is always shining. King Muchukunda can personally attest to this truth.

Lord Krishna Around five thousand years ago, the Supreme Lord personally descended to earth in His Krishna form. On one particular occasion, He was engaged in a battle with a king named Kalayavana. This king had attacked the city of Mathura, which was protected by Krishna at the time. Instead of engaging in battle directly with the king, Krishna led him into a cave. Kalayavana thought that Krishna had run away from him, but the Lord had other plans. In that particular cave, King Muchukunda had been lying asleep for many many years. He was granted a boon by the demigods that if anyone should wake him up prematurely, they would be burned to ashes upon one glance by the king. Sure enough, Kalayavana, thinking that the sleeping man in the cave was Krishna, approached the king and kicked him. King Muchukunda awoke, looked at Kalayavana, and immediately burned him to ashes.

Muchukunda burning Kalayavana After this, the king looked around and noticed a great light in the cave. This light was beaming off the body of a beautiful figure who had assumed the form of Lord Narayana, God’s four-handed form residing in the spiritual world. King Muchukunda realized that no person, save the Supreme Lord Himself, could light the cave in this way. King Muchukunda’s firsthand observations, which are carefully noted in the crown jewel of Vedic literature, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, prove that Krishna is the greatest source of light. We can just imagine how much power and energy are required to provide steady light in a dark cave. Yet Lord Krishna was able to dissipate the dense darkness simply by His presence.

Bhakti-yoga is considered to be in the mode of shudda-sattva, or pure goodness. Only through acts of devotion, where one’s consciousness is always fixed on Krishna, can a person directly come in contact with the original torchlight of knowledge. When the Supreme Energetic is matched with the energy, the resulting reaction is one of tremendous potency. The individual spirit souls are the energy, and in their purified state, they are always in Krishna consciousness. In such a condition, the individuals always remain in full knowledge. This light of information subsequently goes everywhere, allowing the purified soul to decipher right and wrong, good and bad, in any and all situations. By regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and reading books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, we can gradually let our internal light shine through and give hope to the world enveloped by darkness.

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The Truth Detector

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 25, 2010

Shri Hanuman “No faults were noticed on his mouth, eyes, forehead, eyebrows, or other parts of his face. Indeed in all parts of his body, not even the slightest fault could be detected.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.30)

The practice of correctly identifying the truthfulness of the statements put forth by others is certainly an art form. The CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, employs polygraph tests when conducting background checks for prospective employees. While the results of these examinations, which are commonly referred to as Lie Detector Tests, are inadmissible in court, intelligence agencies believe they have some validity. Sometimes people just aren’t truthful with us, and in order to tell the liars from the honest citizens, more scientific methods of review are required. When it comes to spiritual life, the Lord will often conduct this review Himself to be able to tell whether a person is heartfelt in their expressed sentiments. The truly pious never falter or waver when offering praise to the Lord, thus proving that their sentiments are genuine. This was the case when one of the most famous devotees in history, Shri Hanuman, met his object of worship, Lord Rama.

Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana The stereotypical car salesman is very good at what he does. The effectiveness of his pitch lies in his ability to lie. He can tell a lie straight to your face without missing a beat. He can talk you into buying a car that you may not have even wanted, for a price that you may not have been willing to pay. While car salesmen are good at lying, most people understand that they aren’t really pious characters. Car buyers know what they are getting into, so they inherently understand that car salesmen have to be good at lying to do what they do. But in other areas of life, telling if a person is honest or not is a difficult thing. Honesty is important because it serves as the bedrock of a properly functioning society. Honesty conveys respect for other people and their property. A person who is dishonest has no problems with lying, which means that they are more likely to steal and perform other acts which violate the law. A government exists primarily to protect property and life, so if cheaters are allowed to run rampant, the entire fabric of society becomes torn.

Employing a few age-old tricks can help us tell whether or not someone is lying to us. The signs of dishonesty are most prominently exhibited during personal interactions. While a person is talking to us, if they make a sudden gesture with their hand, or if they start twitching, or if they don’t look us in the eye, it is likely that they are lying to us. Sudden perspiration is another sign of dishonesty. The famous television sitcom Seinfeld had a humorous episode relating to this situation. One of the main characters on the show, George Costanza, was working for the New York Yankees baseball organization at the time. In this particular episode, Costanza is called into a meeting with other employees to talk about the recent theft of office supplies. During the meeting, George is eating Kung Pao Chicken, a dish which is known for being spicy. As the leader of the meeting continues to stress the importance of catching the thief, George breaks out into a sweat due to the chicken. His boss, however, thinks that George is sweating because he is the one who stole the equipment. The boss immediately calls out George as the thief.

Why do strange bodily movements signal dishonesty? For most people, lying is not a comfortable activity. It’s much easier to be honest because it doesn’t require any effort. In fact, one of the best ways to cheat a polygraph test is to somehow make yourself believe that the lie is the truth. There is a famous saying that relates to how liars lie so much that they eventually believe themselves. This fact helps explain why an honest person has trouble lying and why they make involuntary bodily motions when going through with their lies.

A long long time ago, there took place a meeting between a pure soul, a great devotee of God who was in the form of a monkey, and his loveable object. This devotee’s name was Lord Hanuman, and his devotion was to a particular form of the Supreme Lord known as Rama. Followers of the Vedic tradition are quite familiar with Hanuman and Rama, for they are both worshiped by millions around the world. Hanuman is the embodiment of strength, courage, and most of all, devotion to God. Rama is the object of that devotion, a particular form of God who is known for being pious, kind, chivalrous, and extremely benevolent to His devotees. Rama is usually worshiped with His closest associates: His wife Sita Devi, younger brother Lakshmana, and pure devotee Hanuman.

Rama Darbar The forms of Rama and Hanuman weren’t just concocted by someone’s brain. The two figures are eternally living forms who actually appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago and enacted wonderful pastimes. Even though Hanuman was always a pious soul, he didn’t know of his devotion to Rama until he finally met Him. A detailed description of this meeting is found in the original Ramayana composed by Maharishi Valmiki. Lord Rama is an incarnation of God, so He can never take birth or die. When incarnations, or avataras, come to earth, their births are referred to as appearances. Similarly, when they go back to the spiritual world, their departures are known as disappearances.

Lord Rama appeared during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. The Treta Yuga is noteworthy because it was during this time that mankind’s piety started to dwindle. In the first Yuga, Satya, almost everyone was a pure, devoted soul. Hence there was only one class of men, the brahmanas. Brahmana means one who knows Brahman, but we can take brahmanas to be priests in today’s parlance. One can imagine how nice society was when everyone was a brahmana. With the start of the Treta Yuga came a division in society. The kshatriyas were born, and since they weren’t as pure as the brahmanas, they were given duties aside from spiritual activities. The kshatriyas’ duty was to protect the citizens. This protection was now required since not everyone was a pious soul. The kshatriyas came into existence through two distinct families: one coming from the sun-god and the other from the moon-god. Lord Rama appeared in the Ikshvaku dynasty, which was part of the solar dynasty.

Lord Rama Though Lord Rama appeared in a kshatriya family and carried out the duties of His order, He was still the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is never beholden to any laws of society, even though He sometimes kindly agrees to abide by them. Since Rama wanted to maintain the good reputation of the Ikshvaku dynasty, He acted very piously. As part of His pastimes, He roamed the forests of India and visited the great sages living there. Unfortunately, one day His wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped through a ruse set up by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana subsequently went searching for Sita’s whereabouts.

Their search eventually brought them to the Kishkindha forest. At the time, this forest was inhabited by a race of human-like monkeys known as Vanaras. One Vanara in particular had sought refuge in Kishkindha. His name was Sugriva, and he had fled to Kishkindha to escape the wrath of his brother Vali. The two were involved in a dispute, with Vali wanting to kill Sugriva. Luckily, Vali was not allowed to enter Kishkindha due to a curse imposed by a sage. Thus Sugriva was living a life of fear, even though he was completely safe in his surroundings. Sugriva spotted Rama and Lakshmana entering the forest, and thinking that they might be messengers of Vali, he sent his chief minister, Hanuman, down to greet them. Hanuman was given explicit instructions: “Find out what the two princes want. Approach them in disguise and don’t let them know who you are or who I am until you find out their purpose.”

Hanuman gladly obliged, descending from Mount Rishyamukha to meet Rama and Lakshmana. Even though Hanuman was hiding his real form by taking to the guise of a mendicant, he still couldn’t help but praise Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuman immediately went into a very eloquent speech, detailing the beautiful features of the two princes. He kept going and going with his kind words until he finally revealed who he was. He told Rama and Lakshmana his name and why he had been sent down. Lord Rama was very impressed by Hanuman. Rama was also glad to hear that Hanuman was sent by Sugriva, a king that the Lord had previously been advised to create an alliance with since he would help them find Sita.

Hanuman Since Hanuman was Sugriva’s representative, Lord Rama didn’t respond to him directly. Rather, He appointed Lakshmana as His representative. Lakshmana was advised to kindly welcome Hanuman and to let him know that Rama was interested in making friends with Sugriva. Rama and Lakshmana were very close, so the Lord didn’t want to just tell Lakshmana what to do without giving some justification. In the above referenced statement, Rama is explaining to Lakshmana that Hanuman is certainly a sincere soul and that they have nothing to fear from him. Rama was impressed by Hanuman’s use of Sanskrit grammar and his flawless speech.

We also see that Rama could not find any deformities or defects on the face of Hanuman while he was giving his speech. This indicated that Hanuman was sincere in his words. Obviously honesty was at issue from the beginning since Hanuman had first assumed the guise of a mendicant and then changed back to his original form. If he had already tried to fool them with his appearance, why wouldn’t he have done the same with his words? To allay any fears that Lakshmana may have had, Rama pointed out that Hanuman did not show any signs of dishonesty. There was no reason to think that he wasn’t a pure devotee.

Just as Hanuman continued extolling the virtues of Rama without stop, one can go on and on describing the glories of Hanuman. Though he has the form of a forest animal, a lowly monkey, he is the most exalted devotee of Lord Rama. This shows that any person is eligible to receive the Lord’s mercy, regardless of their gender, caste, color, or nationality. Moreover, Hanuman is an object of worship, for as Goswami Tulsidas so accurately points out, he is the gatekeeper to Lord Rama’s kingdom. Since Hanuman is an authority on devotional service, one can never go wrong seeking his blessings and propitiating him with kind words.

Hanuman thinking of Sita and Rama Lord Rama, the ultimate truth detector, could tell what was in Hanuman’s heart. After this initial meeting, the two would go on to form a friendship that exists to this very day. In a similar manner, we should take up devotional service and try to offer kind words to the Lord. He will be able to judge whether or not we are sincere, so the more we purify ourselves through activities like chanting, reading, eating prasadam, and offering prayers, the closer we’ll come to loving God in an honest manner.

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Thanksgiving 2010

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 24, 2010

Mother Yashoda and Lord Krishna “The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

Thanksgiving is one of the important holidays in the American tradition. Known for its bringing of families together through frantic travelling and the eating of large portions of food, Thanksgiving has become a tradition of culture shared by citizens from diverse backgrounds. The origins of the holiday are completely grounded in religion, with the original event serving as a way of giving thanks to the Supreme Lord for all His blessings. The lessons of Thanksgiving also unlock the secret to economic freedom and the real purpose of human life.

Thanksgiving Economics is a widely discussed and studied topic because there always seems to be those who are dissatisfied with the outcomes that result. Even in the greatest of economic booms, there are people who are deemed to be suffering, those not participating in the economic largesse of the time. There are many purported experts on economics; intellectuals who hold panel discussions or come out with books which prescribe what should be done to stimulate the economy of a particular area. Stimulus is the main focus, with each expert having their own idea on what it takes to create a viable economy. Yet from studying the example of a small group of brave individuals some four hundred years ago, we see that the secret to economic success doesn’t lie with charts, tables, textbooks, stimulus, or tax policy, but rather with a firm and untiring belief in God and respect for His children.

Economics is actually quite easy to understand, provided that one is honest in assessing their own behavior. The economic viability of a particular region is dependent on the independent actions of many smaller entities. If we can understand how we operate and what our thought process behind making economic-related actions is, we can understand how the system works on a macro level. The driving force behind economic activity is artha, which is the Sanskrit word for profit or economic development. It is in the fiber of the being of the individual to search after its self-interest, or profit. This is often mistaken to mean selfishness, but self-interest is something much simpler and non-threatening. For example, waking up on time in the morning to ensure reaching the office at a specific hour is an act of self-interest. Getting to work on time will equate to keeping one’s job, which will then allow such a person to pay their bills on time. The driving force is self-interest, the search for profit and the desire to maintain one’s livelihood.

The entire economic system follows the same model. People want to work for a living and be paid as much money as possible while providing the least amount of work. The proprietor of a business wants to turn a profit selling their good or service. This shop owner wants their business to be as productive as possible, which means generating the greatest amount of output with the least amount of cost. The consumer is looking to pay the cheapest price for a good that is of the highest quality. All of these factors can balance themselves out, but we see that the driving force is incentive, the desire to fulfill one’s self-interest. Economics experts and politicians run into problems when they only choose to focus on one area of interest, while neglecting others. Since everyone is acting in their self-interest, it would be silly to say that one person’s interest is of more value than another’s. By saying that one business is worthy of succeeding, i.e. turning a profit at a decent rate of productivity, over another, the principle of artha is quantified, something which doesn’t square with the equality that is shared amongst living entities. Yet this preferential treatment is precisely what occurs through targeted economic policy. It is not surprising then to see the angst and dissatisfaction that results.

mayflower_17540_lg A small group of settlers was faced with their own economic issues several hundred of years ago. This group had escaped the land they called home due to the oppressive nature of the government. Desiring more than just economic freedom, this group wanted to freely practice their religion, their worship of God, without any force or coercion from higher authorities.

“Any person who desires the fruits of the four principles religiosity [dharma], economic development [artha], sense gratification [kama] and, at the end, liberation [moksha], should engage himself in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for worship of His lotus feet yields the fulfillment of all of these.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.8.41)

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that the rewards of human life can be grouped into four general categories: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Goswami Tulsidas, the great poet and devotee of Lord Rama, accurately points out that achieving all four of these rewards in one lifetime is very difficult. One may get economic success and sense gratification, but these two rewards can get in the way of religiosity. When adherence to religion is absent, there is no question of moksha, or release from the cycle of birth and death. In the animalistic stage, the individual entity is only conscious of sense gratification, or kama. Therefore there is no chance of any advancement to a higher lifestyle while in that type of body. The spirit soul is the driving force behind activity, but when it is trapped in a state of ignorance, it cannot take the necessary steps to rekindle its loving relationship with the Supreme Lord, its life partner by constitution.

Krishna's lotus feet Only in the human form of body can the soul take part in a civilized community, which begins with dharma. But if one only takes to economic development and sense gratification, their life is really no different than that of an animal. The courageous individuals who fled their homeland in Europe were seeking religious freedom more than anything else because that is the real business of human life. Animals cannot serve and love God, nor can they even understand what life and death are about. The individual soul, when placed in a human form of body, can take the necessary steps to change their desires, which in turn alters their consciousness. When this consciousness is purified at the time of death, i.e. when one’s thoughts are focused on the lotus feet of the transcendent Lord, the individual soul is granted moksha, the freeing from the shackles brought on by material contact.

Those fleeing from Europe became known as the Pilgrims, and they set sail for what was known as the New World. They landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, and eagerly began their new life. There was a wrinkle in their plan however. While they had the religious freedom they were looking for, the other aspects of life, namely artha and kama, were missing. There were no innkeepers or restaurants to greet them, and there were no heated homes to take shelter of. The first winter was very cold and life was extremely difficult. The Pilgrims decided that for their economic affairs, they would have a commune style government. Everyone would live on shared land, and whatever was produced through farming would be equally distributed amongst the community. This sort of central planning is not uncommon to see implemented by governments wishing to work in the interest of the common good. Under the Pilgrims’ model, the personal labor put forth in the production of food grains essentially became a public service.

“Every one of us must be satisfied with those things the Supreme Personality of Godhead has allotted us. We should not encroach upon the possessions of others. This simple idea can be expanded in our daily lives. Everyone should have a piece of land given by the government, and everyone should possess a few cows. Both of these should be utilized for one’s daily bread.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 25.101 Purport)

Shrila Prabhupada The community was barely surviving in the commune-style system, so the settlers’ dream of freedom wasn’t really panning out. Young, able-bodied men did not feel it was fair to work hard for the production of food, items that would be consumed by others, and not be compensated for such labor. The governor of this new colony, William Bradford, decided that a change needed to be made. He decided to instead divide up the land and give each family their own plot. Moreover, each group was allowed to keep whatever they produced. This simple alteration, wherein the natural penchant for fulfilling one’s self-interest was allowed to be acted upon, resulted in an economic boom. Along with the help from the neighboring Native Americans, who taught the new settlers how to skin beavers for coats and grow corn, the change in economic systems brought about a flourishing society. The first harvest was so bountiful that the new settlers decided to hold a grand feast, where they thanked God for all His blessings. They were really interested in worshiping the Lord after all, so they sincerely thanked Him for giving them the ability to survive in a new land where the conditions weren’t always favorable.

It is often pondered why America, above any other tract of land, has turned out to be such a flourishing society in a material sense. In fact, many nations follow the daily happenings of America very closely, often making comparisons with the economic growth rates of their own country. Yet the secret to America’s success in the area of economic development is not very difficult to understand, nor is it something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Ironically enough, the path to economic freedom laid out by William Bradford is actually the same path practiced for thousands of years by followers of the Vedic tradition.

As mentioned before, the aim of human life is to learn about God and use that knowledge to lovingly serve Him. Before this pursuit for knowledge can take place, one must have a peaceful lifestyle, one where enough food is readily available. In order for food to be available, there must be production, which comes through farming. In order for farming to take place at a healthy pace, there must be a reward for hard work, an incentive for the producers to produce. By allowing citizens to own property that they can farm on, economic development is allowed to flourish. If a family raises enough food for their personal needs, they can peaceably and voluntarily trade whatever surplus they have. This is precisely what occurred with the Pilgrims, as they began to trade with the American Indians soon after their food production started to pick up. Under the private property model, one family may have a surplus of apples, while another has a surplus of rice. Each individual, acting on their self-interest, will trade for whatever products they want, all the while keeping price and profit in mind. In such a system, production is not a problem, and neither is profit. The resulting economic security allows ample time for the real mission of life: devotional service.

Lord Krishna Ironically enough, only in the human species are there problems with relation to economics. In the animal community, even amongst the carnivores, there is ample food. A tiger only eats animal flesh, and though it cannot find meat every day, it is still given enough food periodically. Though self-interest drives the pursuit of profit, the results to action can only be supplied by God. When the human civilization forgets the Lord’s supremacy and His unmatched ability to provide for everyone, chaos, cheating, lying, exploitation, and greed take over. Lust is the product of misdirected love, wherein one forgets about their loving propensity towards the Lord and instead hankers after some personal association that they know isn’t proper. Unsatisfied lust then leads to greed, the situation where one knows that they already have enough material opulence to survive, yet they continue to search after even more profit. Anger results from frustration, unchecked desires borne of lust and greed which aren’t met. As mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, these three sentiments are the gateways to hell.

“There are three gates leading to this hell-lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.21)

What is hell? On the highest level of thinking, any person who takes birth in the material world, a land which exists separate from the Supreme Lord, can be considered to be in a hellish condition. When scriptures mention condemnation to a hellish realm, the reference is to the further separation that will occur between the individual soul and the Supreme Lord. The aim is to gradually elevate oneself from a hellish condition to that of a heavenly one. The only heaven that exists forever is in the spiritual sky, where the Supreme Lord, who is always full of form and bliss, interacts with His purified servants, those entities who never desire separation from their prananatha, or Lord of their life air.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…” (President George Washington, Thanksgiving Day 1789, A Proclamation)

Though the miracle of Thanksgiving showed the natural desire for man to offer service to God, we know from history that as economic development increased, the desire to thank the Lord diminished. The first President of the United States, George Washington, declared in his 1789 Thanksgiving Day proclamation that the annual holiday was a day of service to God. He asked the Lord to forgive the citizens of the country for their transgressions and to kindly bestow His favor and protection upon them. But we know that if such a speech were offered by a President today, he would be sternly rebuked for having violated the perceived notion of separation of church and state. As mentioned so wonderfully by Goswami Tulsidas, the four rewards of life are difficult to achieve at one time. One reward can cause a person to gradually lose their interest in the others. Therefore the wiser choice is to take directly to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

Tulsidas How is bhakti different from economic development? Bhakti can actually be anything, provided that the Supreme Lord is involved and that He is viewed in the proper context. Another analogy given by the intelligent Vedic seers is to that of the number zero. Everything in this world, when removed from its relationship to God, can be taken to be the number 0. When 0 is by itself, it is nothing; it has no value. But when this same 0 is put next to a 1, it becomes 10. Once another numeral is present, adding more zeroes actually increases the value of the resulting number. The Supreme Lord can be thought of as the numeral, and the zeroes as the objects of sense gratification in this world. We may have a thriving business, a wonderful family life, and every object of material sense pleasure at our disposal, but if God is not part of the individual’s thought processes, all other things can be thought of as 0. But when the Supreme Lord is added, the ancillary things in life take on meaning.

Therefore, the secret to success in bhakti-yoga is to simply add the Supreme Lord to activities that are already performed. Since we like to sing songs to ourselves, better to take to chanting the sweet and blissful names of the original Divine Being, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Dancing is certainly a popular activity; otherwise dance clubs would always be empty. Under the model of bhakti, one can direct their dancing for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. The starters of the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the Lord’s names in public, would regularly chant and dance in the streets as a way of releasing their dormant loving sentiments directed at the Supreme Lord.

Krishna with cows The primary aim of economic development is to provide enough food to eat. One can roam from house to house and place to place enjoying life, but they still need to eat. In this regard, economic development is certainly encouraged, but one is not advised to become dependent on anyone. Once we are dependent on another living entity for our livelihood, we are indebted to them. The only person we should feel directly indebted to is the Supreme Lord, who is the creator of everything in this world. In the Vedic tradition, even the sannyasis, those who are advised to beg for a living, don’t depend on any single individual or family for their well-being. Sannyasis, mendicants in the renounced order, certainly beg for a living, but they don’t ask for alms from the same people every day, nor do they remain in the same dwelling for too long a period of time.

Once we are independent and able to provide for our own food, the aim shouldn’t be to simply eat voraciously with reckless abandon. As we saw with the example of the settlers of the New World, when there is good fortune in terms of abundant food to eat, there is an even greater impetus to thank the Lord. Therefore it is not surprising to see that one of the central aspects to bhakti-yoga involves eating in a spiritually conscious way. For thousands of years, devotees of the Vedic tradition have prepared and offered nice food for the Lord to eat. In His incarnation as the archa-vigraha, or deity, God can take the food which is offered to Him with love and devotion and enjoy it. Such food is known as bhoga, or enjoyment for the sweet Lord who is kind enough to appear in a form visible to the conditioned soul.

Deity worship of Radha and Krishna The resulting food is then left for others to eat. Since it has a spiritual infusion, the remnants are known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. In this way, we see that under the model of bhakti, every day can be treated as Thanksgiving. Such a mindset proves to be much more beneficial in the long run, for one who gives thanks every day to the only entity truly deserving of it will certainly be rewarded with moksha at the end of life. Being released from the cycle of birth and death, the soul retains its original nature as eternal servant of the Lord in the spiritual sky, where every second brings another opportunity to give thanks to the most benevolent entity.

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What Might Have Been

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 23, 2010

Lord Krishna “Krishna had actually entered the cave to deliver King Muchukunda from his austerity, but He did not first appear before him. He arranged that first Kalayavana should come before him. That is the way of the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; He does one thing in such a way that many other purposes are served. He wanted to deliver King Muchukunda, who was sleeping in the cave, and at the same time He wanted to kill Kalayavana, who had attacked Mathura City. By this action He served all purposes.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 50)

When things don’t go our way or if something important to us seems to have slipped away, it’s natural to ponder what might have been. “If only I had acted sooner, maybe the tragedy could have been avoided…If only I had played the game a different way, maybe I would have won.” This second-guessing especially comes to bear after separation from a loved one. Romantic relationships tend to be quite volatile, with the line between love and hate being razor thin. One small misstep and your beloved can go from adoring you to despising you. In these instances, it is natural to question what could have been done to avoid the unpleasant situation. Yet all the second-guessing in the world can never help to bring back time. Moreover, there is no way to accurately predict and understand the millions of cause and effect actions that take place every second. The supreme will of the Divine is responsible for every event that comes to bear. Knowing every person’s motives and desires before they are even acted upon, the Supreme Lord takes the necessary steps to put people into just the right positions so that events can play out exactly how they are supposed to.

Lord Krishna How are events supposed to play out? Doesn’t everything occur as a result of random collision and chance? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are unique not only because they provide in-depth detail about the Supreme Lord, whose original form and name is Krishna, but also because they focus on areas of the soul, its relationship to the Supreme, enjoyment, hatred, and the nature of activities. Life in the world we live in is governed by the laws of nature, which are managed through a system known as karma. At its foundation, karma is any activity which leads to the future development of the material body. The soul is all-knowing in its localized area; it can be thought of as a self-illuminating source of light. If we have a flashlight that never runs out of battery power, it can provide light wherever it shines at any time. In a similar manner, the soul residing deep within the depths of the body of the living entity is always full of knowledge. When the influence of the soul is not covered up, the spiritual spark shines the light of knowledge not only to the individual, but to any area of life the soul comes into contact with. This means that the soul is already in the know about different aspects of the material creation, along with the spirit’s constitutional position as eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord.

If the soul is all-knowing, why is there ignorance? This is where the influence of the material body comes into play. While the soul is self-illuminating in the areas of knowledge, enjoyment, and bliss, its powers are still limited when compared to those possessed by the Supreme Spirit, Purushottama, Lord Krishna. The relationship between the living entities and God is that of simultaneous oneness and difference. The oneness lies in the qualitative aspect of the soul. Krishna is all-knowing and all-powerful, and since the souls are fragmental sparks emanating from Krishna, they inherit these same qualities. At the same time, Krishna is the Supreme Purusha, or person/enjoyer, so in order for this definition to be valid, His transcendental qualities must exist at a larger scale than those of the living entities. Not only is this dichotomy exhibited through Krishna’s supremacy over all that be, but also through the individual spirit soul’s propensity to become illusioned by Krishna’s inferior energy, material nature.

Lord Krishna When the soul separates itself from the ultimate enjoyer, Krishna, it must assume a temporary body composed of various elements of nature. These elements are known as gunas, which can be translated to mean ropes. Gunas are binding in that they cloud the self-illuminating knowledge of the pure soul. When the soul is encaged in a body composed of gunas, the resulting life form is known as a living entity, or jiva. The jiva is technically considered part of Krishna’s marginal energy because the jiva has a choice as to the nature of activity it chooses to engage in. One path leads to the shedding of the knowledge-blocking gunas, while another leads to the further development of the material body, and thus the continued encagement of the purified soul.

The latter path is known as karma. Most of us take to this path by default. Therefore the material world is considered an ocean of nescience, a place where ignorance reigns supreme. This should make sense because only a person in ignorance would take to activities that lead to further bondage and a shielding of their true identity. Karma is an intricate system of cause-and-effect. Thus when translated into English, karma is known as fruitive activity. In Sanskrit, the results of karma are referred to as phalam, which means fruits. Fruits come about through the sowing of seeds, so all our worldly activities can be compared to the planting of seeds. With karma, the fruits that result from this planting aren’t always palatable. Karma results in both favorable and unfavorable results. On the highest level of thinking, all results of karma are considered unfavorable since they lead to the future development of the material body.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Lakshmana and Rama battling a demon There is a tendency to personalize the issue of cause and effect. Even if we turn to the Supreme Divine Entity to deliver our cherished fruits, there is still the idea of an isolated relationship. We’re essentially only focusing on our own fruitive work, or causes and effects. The material world is considered a place of misery because each individual is taking part in their own activities. There are bound to be collisions not only in desires, but also in the results of work. Moreover, the laws of nature are very fair and strict. If we take to an activity that is considered sinful, the negative reaction must come to bear. Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s most important incarnations to have appeared on earth, describes the nature of sinful reactions very nicely. He says that just as the flowers blossom on the trees during the proper season, the fruits of sinful activities come to the performer at the right time. To match the nature of the original sinful act, the fruits that result are ghastly.

From Lord Rama’s teachings, we see that not all reactions to activities come to bear right away; hence the analogy to fruits when discussing karma. We may plant a seed on any given day, but the resulting flower or fruit doesn’t come about until much later on. Depending on the specific seed, the resulting fruit may take weeks, months, or even years to manifest. In the same manner, each living entity is performing so many activities each and every day which have reactions that must come to bear at some point in the future. Since every effect has an initial cause, the aggregate total of causes and effects for the billions of living entities in existence is too much for even the most powerful computer to handle. In this regard, excessive lamentation over loss is unnecessary because there is no way for any ordinary entity to accurately decipher or predict the nature of fruitive activity. “Everything happens for a reason”, as the saying goes, and only one person understands all the happenings and all the reasons. That person is Krishna.

Balarama and Krishna in Vrindavana An example always helps to understand these concepts more clearly. Who better to look to than Krishna Himself? The Lord was kind enough to make a personal appearance on this earth some five thousand years ago. Having spent over one hundred years on the planet, the Lord took part in so many activities that devotees still talk about them to this day, deriving great pleasure from hearing anything related to Krishna. After growing up in the farm community of Vrindavana, Krishna went to Mathura to live as a king, as was His prescribed duty. For the Supreme Energetic, Krishna, there are never any required activities, but in order to set a good example for future generations, the Lord kindly adhered to the occupational duties of His specific varna, or societal division. Krishna appeared as the son of Vasudeva, who was a kshatriya, or military leader. Therefore Krishna was groomed to follow in His father’s footsteps. Vasudeva was part of the Yadu dynasty, so there was an added emphasis towards upholding the family heritage of dedication to chivalry and the protection of the innocent.

Lord Krishna took over control of the town of Mathura by killing its evil king, Kamsa, who also happened to be Krishna’s uncle. Kamsa’s father, Ugrasena, was the titular head of the kingdom after his son’s death, but for all intents and purposes, Krishna was the acting leader, the person providing protection from attack. Shortly after Kamsa’s death, one of his dear friends, a king named Jarasandha, came to attack Mathura. He was quite angry at Krishna and His elder brother Balarama for having killed Kamsa, so he brought with him his entire army of countless soldiers. Krishna and Balarama, being the Supreme Divine Entities Vishnu and Ananta Shesha Naga of the spiritual realm, easily defeated Jarasandha and his army. The Lord didn’t kill Jarasandha, however, as it was his destiny to die at a later time at the hands of a different fighter.

Krishna as the king of Dvaraka Jarasandha, though embarrassed at his defeat at the hands of Krishna and Balarama, was resilient. He kept on attacking Mathura, and time after time he would be defeated. One time, he decided to attack Mathura from one side, while another king named Kalayavana simultaneously attacked from the other. Krishna, not wanting to put the inhabitants of His kingdom into any difficulty, had a city built in the sea. Since this city was guarded by gates all around, it became known as Dvaraka. After transferring all the inhabitants of Mathura to the new city in the sea, Krishna came out to challenge Kalayavana. Though Kalayavana was immediately enamored by Krishna, seeing His Vishnu-form, he still nevertheless was ready to attack Him. Krishna then kindly walked away, appearing to flee the scene. Kalayavana raced after Him, but no matter how fast he ran, he was unable to catch Krishna. The Supreme Lord can never be captured in thought, word, or deed by any person who is not a devotee. The Lord finally entered a cave, with Kalayavana following soon after.

Lord Vishnu Thinking that Krishna was hiding from him, Kalayavana was ready to mount an attack inside the cave. But as mentioned before, there is a reason behind every effect. Lord Krishna is the cause of all causes, sarva karana karanam, so He knew exactly what He was doing. At the time, a great king was lying asleep on the floor inside the cave. King Muchukunda had many years prior helped the demigods in their battles against the demons. The demigods, or devas, are celestial beings residing in the heavenly planets. They are god-like, but not on a level equal to the original form of Godhead, Krishna or Vishnu. They are able to offer any material benediction up to the point of liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Liberation, or the end to the future development of the material body, can only be achieved when the individual soul’s original constitutional position is realized. This means that only when the lamp of transcendental knowledge burns throughout the body, when the all-knowing soul takes complete control of the senses, can the individual residing within the body be guaranteed of never having to suffer through birth and death again. This purified condition can only be achieved by one whose consciousness is always fixed at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

Since they were pleased with his service, the demigods asked King Muchukunda to take a boon. The king was fatigued from all the fighting, so he asked to be allowed to take rest for a very long time. Additionally, he asked that if anyone should wake him up prematurely, such a person would be burned to death simply by the king’s glance. After the demigods agreed to his requests, the king took rest in a cave. This was the very same cave that Krishna entered into, luring Kalayavana in with Him. When Kalayavana entered the cave, he saw a man sleeping on the floor, and thinking it was Krishna, he kicked him. Having awoken prematurely, King Muchukunda gave Kalayavana a fiery glance which burned him to ashes immediately. After Kalayavana’s death, Krishna appeared in front of King Muchukunda in His Vishnu form. After offering kind prayers to Krishna, the king asked to be able to always be engaged in the Lord’s service. Krishna, well pleased with the kind words of praise, granted the king’s request and assured him that he would always be able to think of the Lord regardless of the situation. In this way, the king was granted liberation through kind association with God at the same time that Kalayavana was killed.

Kalayavana being burned by Muchukunda Only Krishna knows how the intricate system of cause and effect works. It is better for us to stick to our occupational duties and leave the details to the Lord to sort out. The highest occupational duty is the rekindling of one’s dormant Krishna consciousness. This is the only way to achieve true liberation, an end to the doubt, second-guessing, and suffering caused by the results of karmic activity. The path to a purified consciousness can be found through the persistent chanting of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

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A Verbal Advantage

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 22, 2010

Hanuman reading the Ramayana “He has certainly studied well the entire range of Sanskrit grammar, for though he has addressed Me with many words, he has not used a single one out of place.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.29)

To others, a person’s speaking ability conveys their level of intelligence. There is a famous saying relating to the fact that no one can correctly identify a fool until they actually start speaking. Therefore the unintelligent are advised to keep their mouths shut as often as possible. On the reverse side, the wise can show off their acumen by carefully crafting words together. Words are so powerful that they can even mask a person’s unintelligence. Simply by speaking a few eloquent words, one can give the impression that they are learned. Yet the more the pretender is forced to speak, the more their true nature eventually shows. Therefore, only the truly wise can speak on and on without missing a beat, using only the most proper words and not stuttering in the process. This was the case with one very famous devotee thousands of years ago.

Dictionary In the late 1980s, a company called Verbal Advantage started selling self-help tapes aimed at improving one’s vocabulary. The concept was similar to the word-a-day calendars that people often receive as gifts. The sales pitch for such a product is quite straightforward. “Listen to these tapes in your free time, and you will gradually improve your vocabulary. An improved vocabulary can help you communicate more effectively, even possibly landing you a better job.” One of the common requirements listed for potential job applicants is the need for “good communication skills”. This makes sense because most jobs require interpersonal communications. One who can accurately convey their thoughts and expressions to others will be easier to work with and also more productive. Using fancy words by tapping into the reservoir of an expanded vocabulary can give off the impression of intelligence, even when a high level of understanding is lacking.

Usually you can tell when someone is trying to improve their vocabulary. They will use a brand new word, something that is not commonly invoked, in a conversation or in a statement. Immediately the person on the receiving end will ask, “What does that word mean? Did someone give you a word-a-day calendar for Christmas or something?” Just the fact that someone else has to ask what a particular word means immediately puts the speaker in the driver’s seat. If a complicated word is used that no one else understands, the person using the word automatically becomes more intelligent, at least in the specific situation. Often times others won’t want to admit that they don’t know what a particular word means in fear that they will appear to be less intelligent.

Joey Tribbiani The television sitcom Friends had a humorous episode which touched on this issue. One of the characters on the show, Joey Tribbiani, was known for being a male bimbo, someone who was only interested in sex and whose level of academic intelligence was not very high. In one particular episode, an encyclopedia salesmen visit’s Joey’s apartment and tries to sell him an entire set of encyclopedias. Joey immediately flashes back to all the times when he was in the midst of conversations with his friends and they brought up concepts and terms that he was unaware of. In order to fit in, Joey would just smile and nod along, pretending to know what they were talking about. Returning to the present, Joey became interested in buying the encyclopedias, but the cost was too steep. He did have enough to purchase one volume, so he chose the book that dealt with things starting with the letter V. After reading the volume, he tried striking up conversations with his friends about things like Mount Vesuvius and the vas deferens. When the conversation shifted to other topics, however, Joey was again the odd man out.

In no arena is the importance of vocabulary and speech highlighted more than in politics. If a politician cannot speak effectively, or if he stutters and stammers all the time, others will take him to be unintelligent. This is true irrespective of the person’s policies or their behavior behind the scenes. As they say, politics is showbiz for the ugly, so the real strength of a politician is his or her ability to speak. Senators of the United States are famous for their unending speeches which serve as filibusters to stop legislation. If a politician can speak well, people will take him to be intelligent. This is irrespective of whether the politician is telling the truth or not. In fact, since most politicians are lawyers by trade, it stands to reason that the best speakers are also the best at lying. A good lawyer is one who can bend and shape the text of the law to fit his case. While this sort of cheating pays off in the courtroom, when applied to government it can have disastrous results. Yet people still clamor for political leaders who speak well, even if the words they utter are empty or if they rely heavily on electronic devices to feed them their words.

Lord Rama If those who use big words and carefully crafted statements are really masking their intelligence, how do we tell who is smart and who isn’t? A truly learned man is one who can speak well for a long period of time without any notes or reference tools. Not only is their speech perfect, but so is the subject matter they are discussing. In reality, words only exist for one reason: to praise the Supreme Lord. Otherwise, words aren’t really necessary. A person can just go about eating, sleeping, mating, and defending without uttering a single word. A person can even sustain their livelihood without talking. They can just farm all day, cook food at night, and sit at home and relax afterwards. The constitutional position of the living entity is that of part and parcel of God. As a derivative of this disposition, words, which are nothing more than sound vibrations, came into being as a way of kindly addressing the Supreme Person. Therefore, we can conclude that the truly wise are those who can use their excellent speaking ability to praise the Supreme Lord. This was the case with Shri Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Rama.

During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the original Divine Being appeared on earth in human form. The “Divine” is an abstract term for God. Some religious faiths don’t believe in a God, or they take an energy to be the supreme guiding force. Therefore “Divine” is a less controversial term that anyone can use. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures in existence, tell us that this Divine Being has an original form and name: Krishna. Lord Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the fountainhead of all forms of God. Whether someone worships an energy, a representation of the Divine, God, or some celestial being, Krishna is the origin of them all. Since He is the origin, He is also the supreme object of worship and pleasure.

Shrila Prabhupada In the Vedic tradition, prayers are offered to God in the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit uses a script called Devanagari, which means the city of the demigods. The material heavenly planets are inhabited with celestial beings. While this realm is still part of the perishable material world, the people who live there have an advanced lifestyle. They enjoy great opulence and live for an extended period of time. One can think of it as an exclusive club, sort of like the local wine club or fine arts club. To add to their elegant lifestyle, the inhabitants speak in the highest class language: Sanskrit. Sanskrit is today considered a dead language, but this is not entirely true. While it is uncertain whether the language has ever really been the main conversational language on this planet, for even Lord Krishna and the inhabitants of Vrindavana spoke Braja Bhasha, Sanskrit is still recited, written, and sung by many. While today many of the great Vedic texts have been translated into English for the benefit of the people of the world, all important prayers and religious functions are performed using the Sanskrit verses found in the original books. This shows the power of sound vibration. It is not easy to compose a prayer in Sanskrit, for the grammar of the language is very difficult to learn. The words are also complex, with each part of every word having a specific meaning. Words aren’t just thrown around in random combinations; everything is carefully crafted so as to fit the proper meter of the poem, allowing the prayer to be sung. Sanskrit is so complicated that students go through years of training just to understand it.

“Anyone serious about studying the Sanskrit language should first learn grammar. It is said that simply to finish studying Sanskrit grammar takes at least twelve years, but once one learns the grammatical rules and regulations very nicely, all other scriptures or subject matters in Sanskrit are extremely easy to understand, for Sanskrit grammar is the gateway to education.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 15.5 Purport)

The Sanskrit prayers of the Vedas praise Lord Krishna or one of His personal expansions like Lord Vishnu, Lord Narasimha, Rama, etc. One of those expansions, Lord Rama, appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. Since He took birth in a very famous dynasty of kings, He was trained to be an expert bow warrior from childhood. On one occasion, He and His younger brother Lakshmana happened to make their way to the Kishkindha forest. Rama’s wife Sita Devi had just been kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon, so the Lord was trying to find her whereabouts. He was told to make friends with a monkey-king named Sugriva who lived in the Kishkindha forest. Ironically, Sugriva saw Rama and Lakshmana approaching first, so he sent his chief warrior, Hanuman, to greet the two princes and see what they wanted.

Hanuman meeting Rama Hanuman assumed the guise of a mendicant and humbly presented himself before Rama and Lakshmana. Even though he was deputed with finding out their intentions, Hanuman couldn’t help but praise both Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuman was a great devotee of Rama, or God, from birth. Yet it wasn’t until he met Rama face to face that his love was reawakened fully. Upon seeing Rama, Hanuman went into glorious praise of the Lord, using only the highest class language. Hanuman praised Rama for so long that he eventually gave up his guise and revealed his true form. He then told Rama who he was and how Sugriva had sent him.

In the above referenced statement, we see Rama’s reaction to Hanuman’s praise. Rama told Lakshmana to kindly welcome Hanuman, for the emissary gave every indication of being a pious soul. Rama explained to Lakshmana that Hanuman surely was a noble character, for his command of the Sanskrit language was perfect. Rama mentioned that Hanuman used so many words in praise, but that none of these words were used improperly. Not one of Hanuman’s sentences was composed incorrectly. In this way, we see that Hanuman is an expert poet, a person who pleases the Lord with his words.

Hanuman worshiping Rama This isn’t surprising. The great Vaishnava saints have carefully studied the qualities of a devotee. They have concluded that, among other things, devotees are expert poets; they know how to praise the Lord with their words. In this day and age, not all of us have the good fortune of studying Sanskrit for fourteen years, or even understanding the language at all. Fear not, however, as we can still praise the Lord perfectly using one simple Sanskrit phrase: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The key is to utter this sequence of words with as much sincerity and love as possible. If we chant this mantra over and over again, the Lord will similarly remark that we have addressed Him with so many words, with none of them being used improperly. If the original Divine Being is pleased with our words, He will surely grant us unending devotion to His lotus feet, a reward which can’t be matched.

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Lost in Ignorance

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 21, 2010

Lord Krishna “Arrogance, pride, anger, conceit, harshness and ignorance—these qualities belong to those of demonic nature, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.4)

All individual souls are equal in their constitutional position. Similar to how we are advised to not judge a book by its cover, the outer dress of the spirit soul is misleading with respect to identification and attribute possession. The spirit soul – an entity which is anatomically independent and yet dependent on the divine will at the same time – forms the basis of identity in all forms of life. This soul is so amazing that its presence can only be realized through outwards symptoms such as the movements and growth cycles of material bodies. The presence of the soul is best exhibited during the events of birth and death, wherein the soul respectively enters and exits its temporary apartment. Once this dwelling is entered, it starts to grow and leave byproducts. Upon the exit of the soul from the dwelling, the same body immediately starts to decay. Therefore it can be concluded that the soul itself is the master of the house, the guiding force behind the changes we see around us.

Though the soul is powerful and naturally knowledgeable, when it gets placed into one of these temporary homes, its natural splendor is hidden. This is similar to how darkness prevails over the land when the sun sets. The sun really hasn’t gone anywhere, for the earth’s rotation has caused it to be temporarily taken out of sight. Darkness is simply the absence of light, the covering up of the immense spark known as the sun. When the soul is covered up by material elements, the natural propensity for knowledge is similarly shrouded, with the most obvious indication of this cloak being the false identification that is adopted by the majority of the conditioned souls. This false identification can take many forms but it begins with the use of the terms “I” and “Mine”. “I” is taken to be the body, and anything it interacts with and enjoys is considered to be “Mine”. In reality, these external objects are merely manifestations of material elements, those created by divine beings. The soul has no more possession of these objects than does the matter itself, which is by constitution lifeless and incapable of action. One may own a particular car, but it would be silly to say that the person is the car. Saying that “I am the car” is as silly as the car saying “I am you.” Yet this is precisely what occurs with the false identifications that manifest through the practices of nationalism, racism, and sectarianism.

In its constitutional position, the soul is a lover of God. The spiritual spark is simply an emanation from the original source of energy that is God. Since the energy and the energetic are linked in terms of makeup, there is an inherent relationship between the two entities. Naturally the more powerful entity will take on a prominent role in the relationship, with the inferior entity offering its service and loving sentiments. This isn’t to say that either party is superior in the grand scheme of things, for if both parties adhere to their roles, there is oneness in the emotions that are exchanged. The energetic party, represented by God, never changes its makeup, but the energy expansions have a choice in where they reside. When the consciousness of the spiritual spark is pure, the individual remains in the company of the energetic and thus takes part in the bliss experienced through sharanagati, or complete surrender. When the individual instead takes to pleasing itself, the connection with the Divine Being is broken, and the soul is cast off into a temporary realm where knowledge of its relationship to its eternal lover is forgotten.

Radha Krishna deity worship Dharma, or religiosity, is instituted in the temporary realm as a way to allow the wayward soul to reassume its natural position in the spiritual sky as servitor of the Supreme. Abiding by dharma is not easy, so steadfast dedication to rules and regulations, along with adherence to the practice of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is required. The highest dharma, or system of religion, is a discipline involving positive and negative activities, with the restricted activities often receiving more attention than the assertive ones. The positive activities of devotional service involve hearing, remembering, worshiping, and surrendering unto the lotus feet of the Lord, who appears in the temporary world in various non-different forms. Of all His forms that are perceptible to the conditioned entity, none is more powerful than the sound vibration representation. This audible form can be regularly created and honored by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The assertive aspects of devotional service are quite harmless and easy to follow, but the restrictive actions are more likely to be the subject of controversy. Though there are a variety of sins and restricted activities, the Vedic seers have highlighted the four most dangerous ones: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. These four activities stand out above all the rest because they prove to be the most effective at maintaining the cloud of ignorance that envelops the conditioned soul. Every living entity possesses the same level of knowledge and love for the Supreme Lord. But in the conditioned state, there are differences in the density levels of the clouds that surround the soul. The path to liberation is found through taking to activities which help remove this cloud of ignorance. The four pillars of sinful life are the most dangerous because they help increase one’s ignorance, and thus keep the individual firmly grounded in material life. One’s stay in the temporary realm doesn’t end with the death of the body or the destruction of the universe. Reentry into the spiritual world is not so simple. The conditioned living entity remains separated from its divine lover for as long as it desires to. If this desire remains at the time of death, the spirit soul is again cast into the ocean of nescience, wherein they are again given a temporary body which clouds their natural intelligence.

The sincere souls will gradually make progress in their spiritual pursuits, taking to various aspects of devotional service and making a good-faith effort to refrain from the most sinful of activities. There are others, however, who are so clouded in ignorance that not only will they shun devotional service, but they will actively seek to thwart the activities of those who are trying to return to the spiritual world. Attacking the positive activities of devotional service is a little difficult to do, as they are harmless in and of themselves. How can one argue against chanting and dancing in transcendental ecstasy when similar activities are already adopted by the non-devotees? No, the asuras, the demoniac non-devotees, will focus their criticisms on the restrictive aspects of devotional service, especially that of no meat eating.

Those who are unfamiliar with Vedic traditions will certainly find the restriction on meat eating a little strange at first. Anytime we encounter a new tradition or way of life, we are sure to find it odd. Many people who take to devotional service are actually so enamored by the restriction on meat eating that they will divert their attention towards advancing the cause of vegetarianism. While it is certainly noble to lead the crusade against the practice of unnecessary animal killing, it should be noted that the constitutional position of the soul and its relationship with the Supreme Lord have nothing to do with any positive and negative activities, or the piety and sin related to any action. Rather, the soul’s nature is to be a lover of God, so any activity which can maintain this bond of affection, and which at the same time doesn’t deviate from the Lord’s wishes, is deemed worthy of adopting.

“The animals are also making progress in their evolutionary life by transmigrating from one category of animal life to another. If a particular animal is killed, then his progress is checked. If an animal is staying in a particular body for so many days or so many years and is untimely killed, then he has to come back again in that form of life to complete the remaining days in order to be promoted to another species of life. So their progress should not be checked simply to satisfy one’s palate.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.1 Purport)

Shrila Prabhupada The restriction on meat eating is simple enough to understand. Since every individual is a soul at the core, all forms of life must be treated with respect and love. This includes the animals. A cow or a chicken may not be as intelligent as a human being, but it still eats, sleeps, mates, and defends. It has a spirit soul inside of it, and it is simply going through its life cycle of karma, gradually ascending to the human species. Only the human being is capable of understanding the soul, dharma, and bhakti. When an animal is killed unnecessarily simply for the satisfaction of the taste buds of the killer, the activity certainly can’t be considered a religious one. Not only is the natural progress of the animal checked, but the laws of karma will force the killer to suffer in the future. While a government may be lax in its administration of justice and fairness, karma spares no one. It is completely fair and just, so if we kill another entity without cause, we will surely suffer the same fate in the future. In addition, eating meat keeps one attached to the sense demands brought forth by the taste buds. If this attachment remains at the time of death, liberation cannot be achieved.

The asuras, those who don’t believe in a soul or a God, have no problem eating meat. They think that everything begins and ends with the current life, so the natural occupation is to try to enjoy the senses as much as possible. Luckily, this line of thinking, which is completely rooted in ignorance, doesn’t resonate well with others. But the asuras are not so faint of heart; they have a deep attachment to their sinful way of life. In order to convince others of their ways, the asuras will take to criticizing the Vedic traditions and the various incarnations of Godhead who have appeared on earth. One area of criticism focuses on meat eating, wherein the asuras claim that Shri Rama, a famous incarnation of the original Divine Being, roamed this earth and killed many innocent animals and then ate them. Raising this apparent contradiction, the asuras hope to convince others that Rama cannot be God and that meat eating is certainly not a problem. It is not uncommon to find such persons at social gatherings, where wanton talk of all subjects flows very freely. Such people, who are usually unabashed smokers, drinkers, and meat eaters, hold much anger and resentment towards Shri Rama, Lord Brahma, and other popular figures of the Vedic tradition. Their criticisms directed at worshipable divine figures certainly can dishearten those devotees who are not familiar with the full breadth of Vedic instruction. This is precisely the intention of the asuras, for they themselves are lost in a sea of ignorance, and instead of trying to elevate themselves to safety, they would rather take everyone else down with them.

Lord Rama Lord Rama appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga in the guise of a warrior prince, one of the kshatriya order. During His time, pious kings would regularly perform grand sacrifices as a way of blessing their kingdom and its inhabitants. Many of these sacrifices involved the killing of animals. This shouldn’t be mistaken to mean that the kings were avid meat eaters or that they were attached to violence. These animal sacrifices were religious functions, wherein the souls of the animals would automatically be promoted to a higher species in the next life. The kings were also in charge of protecting the innocent, so they had to be expert fighters. In order to become an expert bow warrior, one has to regularly practice. This practice came in the form of hunting, wherein deer and other animals were killed in the forest and then offered up as sacrifice. Again, there was no sense gratification involved in such activity.

There is some controversy as to whether or not Lord Rama and His three younger brothers ate meat or not. From the Valmiki Ramayana, the original composition describing the life and pastimes of Shri Rama, we see that the Lord on several occasions had to shoot deer in the forest. One of the most notable time periods of Rama’s life was His fourteen year exile in the forest, where He had to live as a recluse with no claim to the regal life. Prior to leaving, Rama made mention of the fact that He would have to live without eating nice food, including meat. Taking His younger brother Lakshmana and wife Sita Devi with Him, Rama embarked on His journey. Early on, the group created a cottage in an area pointed out to them by the sage Bharadvaja. Prior to entering this newly erected cottage, Lakshmana went out and shot an antelope with an arrow. The antelope’s meat was then cooked and offered up to various demigods [celestials in heaven in charge of various departments of material nature] so that they would bless the new establishment. Later on in their journey, Rama and Lakshmana met a Rakshasa named Kabandha, who advised the brothers to visit a lake called Pampa. In describing the lake, the Rakshasa said that there would be many wonderful fish in the lake for Lakshmana to take and offer up to Rama.

Shri Lakshmana Based on these descriptions, it would be reasonable enough to assume that Rama and Lakshmana ate meat from time to time. They were after all members of the royal order, so they certainly took part in many sacrifices. Reasonable arguments can also be made supporting the contrary opinion which states that there is no evidence of Rama ever actually eating meat. When He visited the Nishada chief Guha in the forest, Rama was offered every nice type of food and drink available, but He declined to take part in them due to His vow of asceticism. There is also another incident where Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Rama, mentions that the Lord had not reduced Himself to drinking liquor or eating animal flesh while residing in the forest.

“Raghava [Rama] is not enjoying animal flesh, nor even giving service to liquor. He always eats in the evening whatever food has been well provided by the forest.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.41)

In either case, there is no duplicity on the Lord’s part. Even if Rama did eat meat, there is no violation of the rules against violence towards animals or the eating of animal flesh. God is the object of dharma, the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. Dharma is the set of law codes instituted to allow a person to purify their consciousness. The laws themselves are not the objects of pleasure or ultimate destination. Dharma is simply a guideline for how to do something properly. Just as there are included instruction manuals advising one how to construct an exercise machine or piece of office furniture, dharma provides a how-to guide for spiritual success. Yet the knower of God has no need for the instruction manual; they are already connected with Supreme Spirit. If the pure devotee transcends all rules and regulations of dharma, surely the Supreme Lord must as well.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Lord KrishnaIn addition to refraining from eating meat, devotees are advised to offer food in the mode of goodness to Shri Krishna, the original form of Godhead, or one of His non-different expansions, and eat the remnants of the offered food. These remnants are known as prasadam, which means the Lord’s mercy. It should be noted that Krishna does not accept any meat items. Even during His time on earth as Lord Rama, God never accepted meat offerings from anyone. When He visited the female sage Shabari, Rama accepted the nice berries and fruits offered to Him. The grand animal sacrifices that were performed were all for the benefit of various demigods, celestial figures who are not as powerful as God. A demigod can be thought of as a government minister, a representative of the chief. The representative isn’t the same in power or stature as the chief, and they only concentrate their efforts on various workings of the government. The demigods are in charge of things like weather, good fortune, bad fortune, and illness. Sacrificed animals were never offered to Lord Krishna or His direct expansion of Lord Vishnu.

The asuras, nevertheless, will continue to point to Rama’s activities involving the killing of animals as a sign of contradiction. While these non-devotees are enamored by Rama’s violent activities, they completely ignore all of the Lord’s other features and qualities. If the asuras want to imitate Rama’s purported meat eating, why not imitate His benevolent behavior towards brahmanas and other pious entities? Why don’t the asuras try to take on 14,000 of the most powerful miscreants in the world and come out successful? Why don’t they remain steadfast to dharma and the injunctions of the Vedas? Why don’t they honor their mother and father in every possible way? Why don’t they renounce all opulences and amenities in favor of serving parents and elders? Why don’t they imitate Rama’s equal disposition towards all the citizens that lived in His kingdom of Ayodhya? Why don’t they imitate His behavior towards exalted sages such as Valmiki, Bharadvaja, Agastya, and Atri, wherein the Lord prostrated Himself before them and offered to serve them with every fiber of His being?

Shri Rama Darbar Maya, the illusory energy pervading the material world, is certainly a cruel mistress. The demoniac are the most scorned of lovers, for their loveable object is illusion. Unable to derive any happiness from unrequited love, the asuras take to criticizing those who have found the only source of pleasure in both the material and spiritual worlds. The demons will always try to create dissension by raising doubts in the minds of the pure-hearted devotees. The asuras are slaves to illusion, so naturally they will concoct unfounded theories and ideas about Shri Krishna and His various avataras. Yet just as the evil elements headed by the demon Ravana were defeated by Shri Rama and His sincere Vanara servants, the demons of today can be quickly cast aside by regularly remembering the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord and His powerful emissaries like Hanuman.

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