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Humility

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 26, 2009

Hanuman - a humble servant of God “One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord." (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.26)

People in general don’t like to be told what to do or how to act. It is the nature of the living entity to want to be free and to act as it sees fit. Submitting ourselves to the instructions and counsel of others goes against our nature.

According to the Vedas, the material world is composed of five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and three subtle elements: mind, intelligence, and false ego. The third subtle element is referred to as false ego rather than just a normal ego since it is the tendency of living entities to falsely think themselves proprietors of nature and the fruits of their labor. Everyone naturally has an ego, in that they think themselves to be the doers of their activities. In reality, we may cause our bodies to act, but results of such action are not determined by us. When someone gives us instruction or tries to teach us something, it directly attacks our false ego.

Mother Yashoda chastising baby Krishna We generally think we are smart and know how to do everything. This sentiment exists in all stages of life, for we can all remember times in our youth when we thought our parents were unintelligent or even crazy. They would impose strict rules on us that never made any sense. We thought they were punishing us simply for their own amusement. They would yell at us for watching too much television or for staying out too late. Yet as we grew older, we realized that our parents were correct in their actions, for our behavior as children warranted such disciplinary measures. Even after realizing this however, we still have somewhat of a “know-it-all” attitude that manifests itself as self-esteem or self-confidence. We believe we can handle our own affairs and that we know the proper course of action in life. Because of this, we are stubborn in seeking help from others. The common stereotype for men is that they will not ask for directions when they get lost. Men will drive around for hours before they will finally admit to themselves that they don’t know the way.

“The spirit soul, bewildered by false ego (ahankara-vimudha), under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

Ram blessing Hanuman The Vedas recommend that we break out of this sense of false ego and turn it into a real ego. Our real ego is developed when we understand that Lord Krishna, or God, is responsible for all the workings of this creation. Along with His various energies, it is God who directs the events of the material world. We have no control over them. We shouldn’t falsely think ourselves to the proprietors of this world. Self-esteem isn’t a bad thing, but it should come from real knowledge and not that produced by the false ego. Understanding that Krishna is in charge of everything and not us, results in the highest form of self-esteem. In the Bhagavad-gita, this state of enlightenment is known as the brahma-bhutah platform. As the Lord says, one who reaches this stage gives up all his worries.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg. 18.54)

When Lord Krishna advented on earth as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, He was ordered to spend fourteen years as an exile in the forest. Though He was the eldest son of the king, Rama was denied the royal throne due to the request of His step-mother, Kaikeyi. Instead of being installed as the new king, Lord Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom. His wife Sita, and younger brother Lakshmana, insisted on accompanying Him. As they were about to embark on their journey, Rama’s mother, Kausalya, reminded Sita to always remain by Rama’s side and to serve Him at all times. Kausalya was a very good mother; good enough to have God take birth as her son. So naturally she was worried about how He would fare in such austere conditions. She was also acting as a good mother-in-law by making sure that Sita was always adhering to her duties. In the Vedic system, once a girl is married, she then belongs to the family of her husband. Sita was much adored by Kausalya, for she treated her as her own daughter. There was never any friction between the two, unlike the stereotypical relationship between a wife and her mother-in-law.

“Hearing her mother-in-law’s words fraught with virtue and interest, Sita facing that lady, said with joined palms: ‘I will do all that the noble one says. I know how I should act by my husband. I have heard all about that (from my parents)’. (Sita Devi speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 39)

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana leaving for exile In response to Kausalya’s instructions, Sita made the above referenced statement. It may appear on the surface that Sita was being contentious in her response, thus making her a victim of the false ego, but that was actually not the case. Sita was the perfect devotee of God, so she already knew the proper code of conduct. In fact, Lord Rama tried very hard to get her to remain in the kingdom and not follow Him. Sita, however, made a passionate plea on her own behalf, citing scripture and other authority to buttress her position. Her statements were so perfect that Lord Rama was forced to allow her to come along. Sita required no instruction from anyone regarding the proper duties of a wife.

Sita Rama Though she kindly agreed to oblige Kausalya’s words, Sita also made it a point to remind everyone that she had already been taught all of this information by her parents when she was growing up. Sita was the daughter of Maharaja Janaka, the king of Mithila. Janaka was a great transcendentalist, very pious and known for being an expert yogi. Due to his great piety, he was rewarded with having the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi, appear as his daughter. Sita was his most prized possession, and he went to great lengths to make sure she had a proper upbringing. Like all great kings of that time, Janaka would regularly entertain great ascetics and brahmanas, or priests. Brahmanas are considered the highest class, so it is the duty of the rest of society to show them respect and take instruction from them. The brahmanas who would visit Janaka would always make sure to meet his daughter Sita and study her astrological attributes. It is customary in Vedic culture for parents to invite priests to their homes and ask them to give predictions on the future of their children. Along with fortunetelling, the brahmanas provided spiritual guidance to Sita’s parents, and the parents in turn passed those traditions and teachings down to Sita. In this way, she received a spiritual education equal to or greater than the education received by students attending gurukulas, or schools hosted at the house of a trained spiritual master or guru.

Sita Devi, a perfect devotee, showed respect to those who were worthy of it, namely Rama’s mother. She easily could have thought to herself, “Who is this person trying to lecture me? Doesn’t she know who I am and how great my devotion is?” Instead, she humbly joined her palms together and offered words of reassurance to her mother-in-law. This is proper conduct. However advanced we may become in our devotional service, we should always remember to show humility and respect to other devotees, our parents, and other elderly members of society. Sita loved Rama with all her heart and soul, and for this reason alone, she is worthy of our respect and adoration. It is in our best interests to follow the example she has set for us.

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Steady Under Pressure

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 23, 2009

Lord Krishna “Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is to be understood as the knower of everything, and he therefore engages himself in full devotional service, O son of Bharata” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.19)

Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, played the role of a pious prince dedicated to the rules of dharma. Ordered by His father, the king of Ayodhya, to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile, the Lord unhesitatingly agreed. Upon hearing the news, His wife, Sita, assumed that the order of exile applied to her as well.

In the Vedic system, the husband and wife are considered equals in a religious sense. They both share equally in each other’s merits and demerits. If the husband ascends to heaven, the wife will follow, and in the same way, if the husband comes upon hard times, the wife suffers along with Him. Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, God’s wife in the spiritual world, so she was inherently inclined to serving the Lord. She also grew up in the kingdom of the well-respected king of Mithila, Maharaja Janaka. Though women customarily didn’t attend school and thus never received a formal training in religious principles, Sita paid strict attention to the teachings imparted on her by her parents and the saintly people in the kingdom. She was so well versed in the Vedic scriptures that her intelligence surpassed that of the greatest sages. Sita lived by one principle: devotion to Rama. In actuality, one who lives by this principle is the most intelligent person. Indian people often chant the phrase “Ram Nam Satya Hai” when carrying a dead body to the cremation ground. The meaning of this phrase is that Lord Rama’s name is the truth, for He is God Himself. If the name of the Lord is chanted when one departs their present body, they will immediately be granted liberation from the cycle of birth and death, and spend eternity in the spiritual world with the God.

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

Sita lived by the principle that Rama was the truth. When informing her of the exile order, Rama tried to dissuade her from coming along by telling her of the dangers of forest life. He explained that she would be safer staying in the kingdom serving the elderly members of the family.

“When through affliction I shall not live after separation, better it is, O Lord, that I die immediately at the time of my being forsaken by you. I cannot bear this grief even for a moment. How shall I be able to live without you for fourteen years?” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)

Sita DeviSita Devi was defiant and refused to remain without her husband. She put forth a series of cogent and sound arguments in favor of her position. The above referenced quote was the last statement she made, which was a profession of her love. Her statement represents the nicest thing anyone can say to another person. We all want to be loved, especially by our husband or wife. We crave love so much that we often wonder just how much our significant other actually loves us, if they do at all. Sita Devi openly declared that she would rather die than live in the kingdom alone, forsaken by her husband. Love is shown is many different ways, but Sita’s exhibition was one of the nicest. Telling someone that you cannot live without them shows great attachment and affection. Maharaja Dashratha, Rama’s father, loved His son so much that He died of separation pains after the Lord left for the forest.

According to Vedic doctrine, having such a strong attachment to family is normally considered a bad thing. The material world is temporary, for we see people taking birth and dying all the time. We know that inevitably all of us must die, so having attachment to things and people that are temporary doesn’t make good sense. However, Sita’s attachment was not on the material level. Having a loving relationship with God brings true meaning to life, for the Lord is eternal. He is our best friend, our ever well-wisher who is waiting to embrace us. We living entities have forgotten our relationship with Him, and thus coming under the influence of material nature and the forces of karma, we are forced to repeatedly take birth. Sita Devi’s actions serve as a reminder of the real meaning of life, devotion to God.

Sita’s devotion was so strong and pure, that the Lord was forced to acquiesce and allow her to accompany Him to the forest. Lord Rama was won over by her love. The significance of this point cannot be understated. God is known as atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He has no need for anyone’s love or service. Unlike the living entities who constantly hanker and lament over things, the Lord is unaffected by the qualities of material nature.

“There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.14)

Sita Rama Even though He is self-satisfied and the supreme controller, He actually can be controlled by His devotees. God willingly puts Himself in a subservient position to His devotees in order to give them pleasure. This was true in the case of Sita, for all her anxieties were immediately removed once the Lord relinquished His opposition to her coming to the forest. This is the sign of true spiritual advancement. One who has steadily progressed in devotion to God no longer hankers and laments like ordinary living entities. In the Vedic system, the shudras are known as the lowest of the four social orders which are determined by qualities and work and not simply by birth. Shudra means one who easily laments. Since they are untrained in spiritual knowledge, they are easily prone to bewailing their misfortunes and becoming dejected over the slightest setback. The brahmanas, on the other hand, are considered the highest class of society since they are very learned in Vedic knowledge. Unlike the shudras, they remain steady through good and bad times due to their practice of tapasya, or austerities. Sita Devi, being a woman, by definition didn’t fall into any of these classes, but from her actions we can see that she was even more advanced than the brahmanas in her mindset. She abandoned all varieties of religion in favor of following her husband. During their marriage ceremony, Maharaja Janaka prayed that Sita would be a good wife and follow Rama as His shadow wherever He went. Even at the toughest moment of her life, Sita would not disappoint her father.

Set to live in the woods for fourteen years, it would appear that Sita’s anxieties should have increased. Lord Rama was the eldest son of the king, thus He and His wife enjoyed all the benefits afforded to someone of such a high stature. In the forest, the couple would have to live as nomads, wandering from place to place, not having a steady source of food or shelter. The forests were inhabited by wild beats, animals, and great sages who lived very austere lifestyles. Also at the time, evil Rakshasa demons were ranging the forests and disrupting the sacrifices of the sages, killing them and feeding off their flesh.

“My dear Govinda, Your promise is that Your devotee can never be vanquished. I believe in that statement, and therefore in all kinds of tribulations I simply remember Your promise, and thus I live." (Draupadi offering prayers to Krishna, Mahabharata)

Krishna protecting Draupadi Similar to how certain people strive under pressure, Sita was immune to the pressures of forest life due to the presence of Lord Rama and His brother Lakshmana. They are the ultimate protectors of this universe, and anyone who takes shelter of their lotus feet is sure to have all their troubles eased. One who is inimical towards God can never be saved in any circumstance, and conversely, one who is devoted to Him will always be protected.

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Friend to All

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 20, 2009

Lord Krishna with cow “One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me-he is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.13-14)

One should not be eager to cause misery or pain to others. As living entities, we are all in the same boat, regardless of material wealth or poverty. Each one of us is hankering after things that we want and lamenting over the things we don’t have. Even though one may be very successful in material endeavors, it doesn’t mean that desires become eliminated. In many instances, our desires only increase with the more wealth we possess. In the same manner, if we live a meager lifestyle, we should be satisfied with what we have.

Since every living entity is the same at the core, people should have the utmost respect for one another. Imposing ourselves on others and causing them pain are generally viewed as unkind behavior, but we still see that many people behave in this manner. They have no problem whatsoever with annoying others, and sometimes they derive great pleasure from such activity. The German word “Schadenfreude” describes the feeling of bliss derived from the pain of others. We all have met people like this at some point in our lives. They love to see others in misery, for it boosts their self-esteem knowing that others are equally as miserable as they are. If they see someone else who is overly successful or prosperous in their eyes, their innate jealousy takes over and they become obsessed with hatred.

In reality, such feelings represent a lack of intelligence. Someone else’s success or failure has no bearing on our lives, so why waste our time thinking about them? This is very easy to understand yet we see that feelings of schadenfreude are very common. The only way to break free of this jealousy is through the acquisition of knowledge, which then leads to intelligence. Empathy is a virtue and a quality possessed by the wise. A high class person has empathy for all living entities, regardless of their disposition.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 5.18)

Valmiki writing the Ramayana Maharishi Valmiki, the great poet and devotee of God, once gave a description of the qualities of a devotee of God, and he made sure to include this idea of viewing every living entity equally. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descended to earth in human form as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. A pious prince and an excellent warrior, Lord Rama was loved and adored by all the citizens of Ayodhya, the town where He lived as the eldest son of the king, Maharaja Dashratha. As part of the Lord’s pastimes, He spent fourteen years as an exile from the kingdom, roaming the forest with His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana. Early on in their journey, the trio stopped at the hermitage of Valmiki. Lord Rama asked the sage if he knew of a good place where they could set up camp. Valmiki, the author of the original Ramayana (historical account of Lord Rama’s life), cleverly answered the Lord by describing the qualities of a devotee, and thereby telling the group to remain in the hearts of such devotees, for that would be their very home. This conversation is detailed in the Ramayana of Tulsidas, known as the Ramacharitamanasa.

“(Those) who rejoice to see another’s prosperity and are sore distressed at their misfortune; to whom, O Rama, You are dear as their own lives, in their hearts be Your blessed abode.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa)

From this description we see that a devotee automatically possesses the quality of empathy that is sorely needed in today’s society.

How does one become a devotee? In the depths of our hearts, we are all devotees of Krishna, but we have forgotten Him due to our contact with material nature. As soon as we take birth from the womb of our mother, the illusory energy known as maya clouds our judgment and causes us to forget the experiences of our previous lives. As spirit souls, we all originally had a loving relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna, but due to our desire for fruitive activity, we have fallen into this material world. Here we are clouded by the concepts of “I” and “mine”, leading us to think that we are the doers responsible for the fruits of our labor. Thinking ourselves to be God, we have forgotten about Krishna, which has caused us to develop bad traits. Instead of engaging in pious activities, we have become attached to the sinful ways of intoxication and gambling. Eating, sleeping, mating, and defending are the activities of animals, and we humans have started to imitate them by our overindulgence in eating and our excessive drinking. This type of sinful activity is just an artificial way of escaping our senses. It is a sign that we are not happy in our present condition, otherwise we would have no need to take up things that we know aren’t good for us. Instead of trying to escape our senses, we need to purify them.

Sita Devi Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the process by which one can rekindle one’s relationship with God. In previous ages, other processes of self-realization were recommended such as sacrifice, deity worship, and the performance of rigid austerities. However, in this age, the recommended method is the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. God has many different names depending on His activities, as well as time and circumstance, but Krishna is the original name. Anyone can chant it at anytime, to themselves, or with others, for there are no hard and fast rules to chanting. There is no difference between God and His name, so when we are chanting, we are remembering and loving God at the same time. By fixing our minds on Him, we gradually lose our taste for sinful activity. We slowly develop the qualities of a devotee, which means we automatically become first class citizens.

“You shall not witness anything disagreeable there. For me, you shall not experience any sorrow, nor shall I be a burden to you. Do take me with you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)

When Lord Rama was given the order to leave the kingdom and live in the forest as an exile, He first informed Sita of the news. He requested her to remain in the kingdom, for He didn’t want her to be subjected to the dangers and hardships associated with forest life. Sita, however, had her mind set on going. She argued vigorously with her husband to allow her to come along. The above referenced quote was part of her plea. A wife is to be given protection at all times by the husband, so declare the Vedas. Lord Rama thought she would be better protected if she stayed at home where she would be amongst family and friends. Sita knew her husband felt this way, so she made it a point to let Him know that she would not be a burden to Him. In some marriages, wives can be very demanding of their husbands, always asking them for things and complaining about how they are treated. Sita was just the opposite. Being the pure devotee of God, she was always looking after His welfare. She never for a second wanted to be an imposition on Rama. She wanted to accompany Him in order that she may serve the Lord and make His exile more pleasant.

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana leaving for the forest The lesson to be learned here is that we too shouldn’t be a burden on God. Krishna can accommodate any and all requests, but it is more beneficial to us to avoid bothering Him with unnecessary things. Instead of asking for things, we should give to Him by offering our food, prayers, and love. Sita Devi was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. Lord Narayana, Krishna’s four-handed form, is often pictured lying down on the Causal Ocean where He is being served by Goddess Lakshmi. It is often noted that devotees of Lord Narayana, or Vishnu, usually live a meager lifestyle and are poor, whereas the Lord Himself is depicted as being very opulent. This is the case due to the wish of the devotees. Instead of taking credit themselves, devotees prefer God to have all the glory, fame, and opulence. Devotees only ask for one thing…that they may always think of the Lord. This was also stated by Valmiki in the Ramacharitamanasa.

“He who never asks for anything but is devoted to you with a simple, spontaneous devotion – in his heart abide forever, for that is your very home.” (Maharishi Valmiki, Ramacharitamanasa)

One of Krishna’s names is Madhava, meaning the “husband of the goddess of fortune.” Rama is Sita’s husband in the material and spiritual worlds. As Goddess Lakshmi, Sita is known for providing wealth to those with whom she is pleased. If we are fortunate enough to be blessed with wealth and good fortune, we should follow Sita’s lead and use it for the right purpose…service to Krishna. Money is not a bad thing if we use it to construct temples for the Lord, for buying nice flowers that can be offered to Him, or other similar things. The possibilities are endless. “Worshipping and serving My devotee is as good as worshipping Me” is the declaration made by Krishna. By using our wealth in this way, we will please Sita Devi, which means that God will simultaneously be pleased.

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana in the forest As events would play out, the group would fall on hard times. While ranging the forest, Sita would be kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. This caused Rama great grief, but we shouldn’t mistakenly blame Sita for this. These events were all preordained, for the Lord needed an excuse to kill Ravana and return the world to a peaceful condition. God never views the needs of devotees as an imposition. He takes it upon Himself to rescue them from any and all precarious conditions, as He did with Sita when she was taken captive by Ravana. Knowing that God is so nice, instead of falling prey to the base feelings of envy, let us elevate ourselves to the platform of love of Godhead.

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Attachment to Family

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 18, 2009

Lord Krishna “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated in pure goodness. He illuminates the entire universe and bestows all benedictions upon His devotees…” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.7.14)

Homesickness is the feeling of distress that comes from being away from one’s home for any extended period of time. We all have some sort of attachment to the place where we live and spend most of our time. Being away from such a place can bring about feelings of separation anxiety. Our home is where we feel safest and most comfortable since we are used to its surroundings. It is the center of our family life.

Our mother and father are two people we have great affection for. They are our caretakers and friends from the very beginning of our lives. One doesn’t have to learn how to love their parents, for it is a feeling that comes naturally. Our parents love us more than anybody else since they dedicate their lives to securing our well-being. Parents set aside their own interests for their children’s. For any person, it is very important to feel loved and cared for. According to Vedic philosophy, this material world is a place where miseries are guaranteed for everyone. The four primary miseries are birth, death, old age, and disease. At one point or another, we all suffer through times of chaos, murkiness, despair, tumult, humiliation, etc., so it is nice to have our family around to act as a support system.

Krishna and Balarama with Mother Yashoda Unfortunately, attachment to family and home can be detrimental if such an attachment hinders our spiritual growth. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, it is said that one shouldn’t be a father, spiritual master, or leader unless they can deliver their dependents from the repeated cycle of birth and death. The living entities are all spirit souls in their original constitutional position, but they are forced to accept material bodies due to their desires, or karma. If one still has material desires at the time of death, then nature willingly obliges and gives another body in the form of a new life. In this way, birth and death are always repeating. The parents’ duty is to raise children that will hopefully be liberated from this cycle. This liberation can be secured by training the children in the traditions of Vedic culture with the aim of making devotees out of them. If one is taught to become attached to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then they will surely think of Him at the time of death. By achieving such a consciousness, the soul is guaranteed to never take birth in the material world again.

“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krishna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.7)

So if we are fortunate enough to have parents that imbibe us with this spiritual knowledge, having attachment to our family is most beneficial. However, if our family is completely engrossed in material sense gratification, then too much attachment to them can be very detrimental. The Shrimad Bhagavatam gives us an example of such a case. A long time ago there was a great king by the name of Bharata Maharaja who was very pious. After performing his kingly duties, he took to a life of asceticism. Performing austerities, he focused all his time and energy on thinking of God. However, one day he came across a deer and became very attached to it. The deer became the focus of his life, so much so that at the time of his death, Bharata Maharaja could only think of the deer’s welfare. Due to this consciousness, he was forced to take birth as a deer in his next life. Eventually he would be successful in elevating himself to the platform of God consciousness, but the lesson to be learned is that we should not be overly attached to our loved ones.

In the case of Sita Devi, her attachment to her husband proved to be most beneficial, for she was married to God Himself in the form of Lord Rama. Lord Krishna expands Himself into human form from time to time when there is an increase in the practice of adharma, or irreligion.

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

Marriage of Sita and Rama Many thousands of years ago, there was an evil Rakshasa demon named Ravana who was rising to power. All the brahmanas, or priestly class of men, were afraid of him since Ravana was dedicated to terrorizing them by disturbing their sacrifices and feasting off their flesh after killing them. For this reason, Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth in human form as Lord Rama. The Lord was an expert archer born in the kshatriya, or warrior, race. For His marriage, Rama won the hand of the beautiful princess of Videha. Janaki, better known as Sita Devi, was the daughter of Maharaja Janaka, the king of Mithila. She was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, God’s consort in the spiritual world. The couple was married and living happily in the kingdom of Ayodhya, which was ruled by Maharaja Dashratha, Rama’s father. The couple’s marriage was tested on one specific occasion. Due to unforeseen events, Dashratha was one day forced to order his favorite and eldest son, Rama, to exit the kingdom and spend fourteen years as a recluse in the forest. Lord Rama had no problem with such a request since He was the ultimate renunciate. We all possess the quality of renunciation in varying degrees, but God exhibits this quality to the fullest extent. He is atmarama, meaning He is self-satisfied. He has no need for anything because He is complete in Himself. Ready to pack up and head for the forest, the Lord had one matter to take care of beforehand; telling His wife Sita of what had transpired. In telling her, the Lord requested Sita to remain in the kingdom and faithfully serve the royal family. He wanted to protect her from the dangers of the forest, for it was no place for a woman. The forest had none of the scented roads that existed in Ayodhya. One would have to tread on a hard ground filled with thorns and prickly grass along the way. For eating, one would have to survive on simple fruits and roots.

“I shall never think of my father, mother, or my home; I shall enjoy fruits and flowers growing in various seasons.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)

The conditions of the forest stood in stark contrast to those that existed in Ayodhya. Sita, however, had no problem giving up the regal life. She was determined to go with her husband, even if it meant going against His wishes. She protested the Lord’s request very firmly, and eventually her arguments won Him over. The above referenced quote unequivocally states that her prime attachment was to Lord Rama and not to her parents or home. Sita’s parents were highly pious individuals who taught her the rules of dharma from her childhood. Having an attachment to them wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. However, Sita was the greatest devotee of God, so her attachments were to Him. For devotees, their home is always with God. Be it temple, a house, or even the work place, if God is worshipped, talked about, and respected, then the devotee will feel at home. Bhaktas, or devotees, always keep Krishna in their hearts, thus they never feel homesick.

Sita and Rama Through her thoughts, words, and deeds, Sita Devi proved to be an exemplary devotee. She is the mother of the universe, so we should all accept her as our original mother. Just as we love and respect our own parents, we should give the greatest deference to Sita’s teachings. We should always keep God with us and have an attachment to Him. This is the knowledge she wished to impart on future generations. By engaging in any of the nine processes of devotional service (hearing, chanting, remember, worshiping, serving the louts feet of the Lord, offering prayers, carry out the Lord’s orders, becoming friends with God, and surrendering everything to the Lord), we can gradually develop our attachment for Krishna. Our relationship with God transcends any relationship we may have in this material world. In fact, loving Krishna will actually make us love our friends and family even more. Let us all take up the process of devotional service by chanting the holy names of the Lord. By so doing, we can go back to our real home after this life, back to Godhead.

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Serving the Devotee

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 16, 2009

Sita and Rama in the forest “Fruits, roots, and leaves which you will bring yourself and give me, be they great or small in quantity, shall be to me like nectar.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)

Who doesn’t love getting gifts? Whether it’s the latest video game, or that big screen television we had our eye on, the joy from getting a nice gift from a friend or loved one is one of the best feelings in life. A gift received unexpectedly can brighten our day. It shows that someone else cares about us.

In general, gifts are given on special occasions. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, and holidays like Christmas and Hanukah, are the usual times that gifts are exchanged. Not everyone views gift giving as a pleasurable experience however. To many, holidays and special occasions bring about feelings of anxiety due to the expectation of receiving presents. For anniversaries, husbands and wives toil over the right gift to get their spouse. For the Valentine’s Day holiday, many men become obstinate and refuse to get something for their wife or girlfriend because of the obligation involved.

In one sense, these feelings are justifiable. Gifts given out of obligation or pressure from a loved one are of the lower class variety. It is a much more beneficial and pleasurable experience to buy something for someone out of feelings of love. Loving someone means wanting more for that person than you want for yourself. We love our friends and family so much that we think to ourselves, “Oh, so and so will surely like this. If I buy this for them, it is sure to make them happy. They love me so much, why wouldn’t I want to make them happy?” This type of gift giving is the highest class because it is done simply to bring joy to the other person. It is done without expectation of anything in return.

There are some people to whom the quality of the gift received is very important. These people are generally very attached to their material possessions, and never being satisfied in life, they crave more and more things. When they are given gifts, they evaluate them and take stock against what their current wants are. If the gift isn’t up to par, they won’t hesitate to let the giver know just how rotten the gift is. Most people, however, don’t really care what kind of gifts they receive. The concept of “it’s the thought that counts” holds true in these situations. If something is given out of love, we gladly receive it, even if it is something we have no use for. It is very common for young children to make drawings in school and then give it to their parents as a gift. Since they are young and inexperienced, children often produce drawings that are of very low artistic quality. However, parents cherish these types of gifts because their children give it to them out of pure love. A child’s love is innocent and untainted, which makes the gift even more special.

Lord Krishna Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedas, appeared many thousands of years ago on earth in the form of Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. A handsome, well-built, and pious man, Lord Rama brought joy and happiness to all He met. His father was the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, and Rama was the king’s most precious possession. Thinking himself to be most blessed, the king one day decided it was time to hand over the kingdom to Rama. On the day set for His coronation, Dashratha was forced to change plans due to requests made by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Instead of ascending the throne, Lord Rama was ordered to live in the forest as an exile for fourteen years, subsisting on nothing but fruits and roots, and having no claim to the kingdom. Dashratha had made a promise to Kaikeyi many years prior, so he was compelled to follow through on them. Lord Rama knew this, so He gladly accepted the order. God is always dedicated to His devotees, and in Dashratha, the Lord saw great devotion and love, so He committed Himself to maintaining His father’s reputation and good standing in the world.

At the time, Lord Rama was married to Sita Devi, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. According to information found in the Vedas, there is only one God, but He expands Himself into different forms to manage affairs on different spiritual planets. Lakshmi is one of the Lord’s pleasure potency expansions, for she is always serving the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. Narayana is one of Krishna’s forms, having four hands and living on the causal ocean. When God Himself comes to earth, His closest associates come with Him, and it was for this reason that Sita appeared on earth. She played the role of God’s wife, being completely dedicated to Him. At the time of the proposed exile, Sita and Rama had been enjoying married life for several years. Being the chaste and devoted wife that she was, Sita was devastated not from hearing the news of her husband’s exile, but on hearing her husband’s reaction to it. Lord Rama loved His wife very much and the Vedic injunctions prescribe that man’s duty is to always provide protection to women. In her youth, a girl is to be protected by her father, in adulthood by her husband, and in old age by her eldest son. This system protects women from being exploited by other men. The modern day system of the free intermingling between men and women isn’t approved of by the scriptures.

Rama Darbar So Lord Rama, wanting to protect His wife, requested her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile period. The forest was a very dangerous place, where only the wild animals and beasts would live. Amongst humans, only those who had their senses completely under control, the yogis, would ever think of residing in the woods. Many of them were already living there at the time in hermitages they had set up. They were brahmanas, the priestly class of men, so they lived a very meager lifestyle. They concentrated all their efforts on God realization. At the time, there were a great many disturbances in the forest due to the presence of Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were evil demons committed to dastardly activities and who fed off human flesh. Since Rakshasas were committed to atheism, the brahmanas were seen as their biggest threat. Demons are always threatened by godly people, for the saintly class advises people to avoid unrestricted sense gratification. Brahmanas are always worshiping the Supreme Lord, which has a trickle-down effect on the rest of society. If Brahmanas are regularly performing their duties and offering fire sacrifices to the Lord, then the demigods are happy, which in turns makes the rest of society happy. The Rakshasas were committed to chaos and to ruling the world by themselves. They were the greatest enemies of the demigods. By disrupting the sacrifices of the great sages, they were attacking the core of their opposition. This was the main reason for the Lord’s advent. The most powerful Rakshasa at the time, the ten-headed Ravana, was steadily gaining strength and power. All the demigods feared him, for Ravana had secured several power-augmenting boons from Lords Brahma and Shiva. Only the Supreme Lord Vishnu, in the form of a human, could kill him.

Thus God came to earth as Lord Rama. At the time of the exile order, the Lord wanted to keep Sita away from all the dangers lurking in the forest. She, however, insisted on going. Life without God was not a life worth living in her eyes. She put forth a series of arguments in favor of her going, which were all cogent and well grounded in the scriptures. Lord Rama still refused to allow her to come, so Sita then tried to allay any worries her husband might have had about her living in the forest. The above mentioned quote references her feelings regarding the type of food she would expect to eat in the forest. Though remaining in the kingdom would mean she would have access to the regal life, to Sita, living with Rama in the forest would be more pleasing. It didn’t matter what kind of food she would eat because it would be offered to her with love from her husband, who was God Himself. Fruits and roots that are found in the forest aren’t very appealing to most, but for Sita, it would be regarded as the highest quality gourmet meal. This food would be the most precious since it was blessed by the Lord.

Krishna eating food offered by Draupadi Food given to us from God is known as prasadam. Meaning the Lord’s mercy, prasadam has God’s blessing since He has given it to us out of His kindness. In general, prasadam usually refers to food, flowers, and other things first offered to the Lord’s deity. God isn’t always with us in His personal form, but He is kind enough to appear in the form of a deity. Through the process of archanam, or deity worship, one can have a vision of God and offer prayers to Him, for His deity is considered as good as the Lord Himself. When food is prepared out of love and offered to the deity first, the remnants of what remains is known as prasadam. Unlike us, God doesn’t need to eat with his mouth. He can eat with His eyes directly from His statue form. He is so nice that after eating, He leaves everything for us to partake in. It is recommended that prasadam be distributed to others due to its spiritual qualities.

God is the kindest person, and He will gladly accept anything given to Him out of love and devotion. In India, most Hindu families usually offer various types of sweets made of milk to the Lord. However, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita, He accepts any fruit, flower, or water offered to Him with love and devotion.

“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)

Radha Krishna God is so pleased to be served by His devotees, but He actually derives more pleasure by turning the tables and serving the devotees Himself. This was the case with Sita Devi. Her devotion was on such a high level, that it was Lord Rama who was offering her food to eat. It is no wonder that she refused to live without Him, for being blessed by the Lord is the greatest benediction anyone could ask for. Lord Rama knew how pure Sita’s love was, and it was for this reason that He would offer service to her. In the end, Sita’s affection won the Lord over. May we always remember Sita Devi’s pure love and devotion, and may we honor her by taking up devotional service to God. If we give Krishna the gift of our unalloyed love and adoration, He is sure to bless us with His mercy.

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For The Rest Of Your Life

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 13, 2009

Radha Krishna “A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping, and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.8-9)

A good night’s sleep is quite enjoyable. After working hard all day, we like to come home and relax and take our minds away from our daily troubles. When it comes time for us to go to sleep, we look forward to our warm and inviting bed, which is sure to provide us comfort throughout the night.

We value the quality of our beds because we know that if we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we will surely suffer in a multitude of ways. Sleeping on a poor quality mattress can cause one to snore, toss and turn during the night, or wake up in the morning with muscle and joint stiffness. If we don’t sleep well, we will have trouble waking up on time in the morning, which will make us late for school or work. Not sleeping enough causes us to be tired and crabby during the day which, in turn, throws our entire rhythm off. Lack of sleep causes a general increase in stress levels. Over an extended period of time, increased stress can lead to more severe health problems such as high blood pressure.

So it is very important that we get a good night’s sleep on a high quality bed. Everyone has different preferences as to what type of mattress they like. Some prefer plush or soft mattresses, while others enjoy a harder, more firm mattress. Mattress stores stock all different kinds of beds suited for everyone. Modern technology has brought about major advancements in the manufacturing of mattresses. The Sleep Number Bed by Select Comfort is one of the more innovative models to come out in recent times. It has a “sleep number” setting which adjusts the firmness of the mattress electronically. For couples, the bed allows for different firmness settings for each side of the bed. All these advancement show just how seriously people take their sleep and how much they value the quality of their beds.

“When I shall lie down on the bed of green grass in the forest, it shall appear to me more pleasant than one covered with a colored blanket.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Sita Rama Sita Devi, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, in the above referenced quote states how sleeping on a bed of grass would be more pleasant to her than sleeping on a normal bed, provided that her husband, Lord Rama, was with her. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, expanded Himself in human form as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. Born as the eldest son of the pious king, Maharaja Dashratha of Ayodhya, Lord Rama played the role of the perfect prince who was completely dedicated to dharma, or religiosity. As part of His pastimes, the Lord willingly accepted an order by His father to live in the forest for fourteen years, renouncing all ties to the kingdom. Sita Devi was married to Lord Rama several years prior, and was insistent upon following her husband into the woods. Lord Rama begged her to remain in the kingdom, for He feared forest life would be very difficult for her. Sita was born and raised as a princess, accustomed to all the pomp and pageantry of royal life.

Though she always received the treatment of a princess, Sita was not spoiled by any means. Being God’s wife, she was the perfect yogi, for her mind was always concentrated on serving the lotus feet of the Lord. She vehemently argued with Rama on the occasion of the exile, stating that it was her duty to follow her husband no matter where He went. In order to allay His fears, Sita told Rama that the so-called difficulties of forest life would be most pleasurable to her since He would be by her side. We may try to make adjustments to our material condition by improving the quality of our beds or other such things, but everlasting comfort can only be achieved through service to the Lord. This process is known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti means love, and when you love somebody, your mind becomes completely focused in seeing to it that your loved one is happy at all times. Sita would wholeheartedly enjoy sleeping on the bare ground if it meant that her husband, God Himself, would be pleased by her service.

When we engage our minds in a higher cause and keep it focused, the mundane nuisances of the material world are easily flicked aside. Star athletes, who are able to perform at peak levels even in the most tense situations, describe this focused feeling as “being in the zone.” Completely concentrated on the execution of their task at hand, the pressures that come from winning and losing don’t affect them. In a similar manner, when we engage our minds in serving Krishna, the daily stresses, pressures, and discomforts of life can’t touch us.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, and Hanuman Sita Devi suffered through many hardships in her life, but she endured them by always thinking of Rama. The Lord would eventually acquiesce and allow her to come to the forest with Him. While living there, Sita would one day be abducted by the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana, and be forced to remain a prisoner on his island for many months. Ravana repeatedly propositioned her, but she never thought of any man except Rama.  Even though Rama was not personally with her, since she was always thinking about Him, the Lord was with her in spirit. It was for this reason that Sita could survive such a dreadful condition.

We should all follow Sita Devi’s lead and take up the process of devotional service. Krishna has His arms wide open and is ready to embrace us; we just need to take the first step. In this age, Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s golden avatara, has advised us to practice chanting the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” as the only means of salvation. There is no difference between God and His names. In ordinary life we may say the word “water” as many times as we like, but it does not mean that we will get water. However, if we call Krishna’s name, then He immediately comes to us. God is omnipresent, so He can incarnate in any form. His holy names of Krishna, Rama, Narasimha, etc., carry the same potency as the Lord Himself. By lovingly calling out His name, we develop our attachment for Him and, at the same time, become indifferent to our material affairs. So wherever we may sleep tonight and on whatever type of bed, let us remember the names of Sita and Rama, and we are sure to have a nice rest.

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Dust to Dust

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 11, 2009

 Sita Rama “The dust that will cover me, thrown up by the gush of wind shall be, O ravisher of my heart, regarded by me as the finest sandal dust.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana‘, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Material nature throws dust in our faces in the form of the obstacles that hamper our desires for sense gratification. In hopes of securing future happiness, we make repeated adjustments to our lifestyle. Yet we find that whatever plan we come up with, material nature finds a way to obstruct our path.

When we are young children growing up, we may plan on or dream of going to college. If we study hard enough, and get good grades, we’ll be accepted to a high class university. Attending a high ranking college will allow us to hopefully have a high paying job in a career that we love. The plans don’t stop there however. Once we land our dream job, we start to want other things like a nice a car and a beautiful wife. In order to satisfy these desires, we make more plans, such as going on a diet, starting an exercise regimen, and cutting back on unnecessary expenditures. If we are lucky enough to get married, get a nice car, and have beautiful children, our desires still don’t stop. New plans are then made to buy a bigger and better television, or maybe new hobbies and activities are taken up.

If we step back for a second and analyze the situation, it’s not difficult to see the inherent problem with all these plans. The hope is that if successfully executed, each plan will result in happiness. What we actually find is that the happiness is very short lived, otherwise we wouldn’t have to keep devising new plans. Success in material ventures is not easy or guaranteed. As soon as we take up a task, the illusory forces of material nature rear their ugly head and put obstacles in our way. For example, we can go on a diet and successfully lose weight, but then we might also become more irritable as a result of being hungry all the time. We can marry the boy or girl of our dreams, but then the familiarity of the relationship can breed contempt, which can then result in divorce. We may have wonderful children that fill our hearts with pure joy, but then those same children cause us to worry constantly about their welfare. We may buy a new state of the art television, but in a few years, a newer, better model will come out that will make our current model look antiquated.

Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna These are nature’s laws. This material world was created by God so that we living entities could take up the process of sense gratification. God created an illusory energy, known as maya, which clouds the intelligence of all living entities. It is due to maya’s influence that we keep making minor adjustments to our material life in the hope of finding peace of mind. Despite being kicked repeatedly by maya and having dust thrown in our faces, we forget our past experiences, and continue on our futile attempt to gratify our senses. In the Bhagavad-gita, the most sacred of Vedic texts, Lord Krishna, God Himself, tells His disciple and friend Arjuna that we have all had previous lives, the experiences of which we have forgotten. Only God can remember everything relating to past, present, and future.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)

If we were to remember our experiences from previous lives, we would be more likely to realize that our senses can never be truly satisfied. Taking birth here means always lamenting for things we don’t have, and hankering after things that we want. Lord Krishna declares that the only way to stop this incessant hankering and lamenting is for one to elevate their consciousness to the brahma-bhutah platform.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg. 18.54)

Brahma-bhutah refers to the state of mind where one realizes Brahman, or the all pervading energy of the Lord. According to the Vedas, God is realized in three aspects: that of the impersonal Brahman, Paramatma, or the Supersoul, and Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One doesn’t have to renounce material activities in order to reach the brahma-bhutah stage. Instead, one has to dovetail their current activities with the service of the Lord in the process known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service.

Lord Rama When Lord Krishna appeared on earth many thousands of years ago in the form of Lord Rama, He played the role of a perfect prince. Born as the eldest son to the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, the Lord was loved and adored by all. When Rama had reached an appropriate age, the king decided to install Him as his successor. Dashratha consulted the local brahmanas, or priests, about whether or not this was a good idea. They all gave their blessings, so Dashratha went ahead and made plans to coronate his son. However, on the day set for the installation, his plans would be foiled by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. The king had previously granted her any two boons of her choosing, and she chose this time to cash them in. She requested her son Bharata, Rama’s younger brother, to be installed as the new king instead of Rama. For her second boon, she asked that Rama be banished to the forest for fourteen years to live as a recluse. Shocked and dismayed by these requests, Dashratha tried his best to get Kaikeyi to change her mind, but it was to no avail. In those times, the kings were dedicated to their word of honor, so there was no question of Dashratha not granting these wishes. Upon hearing the order, Lord Rama willingly obliged, for He was dedicated to His father’s welfare. Before leaving for the forest, the Lord went to tell His wife, Sita Devi. Sita was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi who appeared on earth to serve as the Lord’s husband, a role with which she was quite familiar. Lakshmi is God’s pleasure potency expansion, also acting as God’s wife in the spiritual world. Being completed devoted to her husband, Sita wasn’t so much affected by the sudden change of events, for she intended on serving the exile period with Rama in the forest. The Lord, however, insisted that she remain in the kingdom for the fourteen years. Life in the wilderness is very rigid. People today like to go camping in the woods from time to time as a way to get in touch with nature. However, living there for fourteen years is a completely different story. Lord Rama wanted to protect His wife from all the dangers and discomforts associated with such an austere lifestyle. The bare ground would be filled with thorns that would surely prick Sita’s delicate feet. He didn’t want His wife to suffer any pain on His behalf.

Sita Devi, on the other hand, was quite determined. She didn’t foresee forest life as being austere at all since her life and soul, Rama, would be with her. In the above referenced quote, she declares that the dust from the ground of the wilderness would be most pleasing to her. Such a statement may seem puzzling, since dust from the ground is by nature, unclean. Ordinary dust is very annoying and discomforting to most. However, since Sita would be in the company of God, the dust in the forest would be viewed to be as beautiful and fragrant as the dust produced by the sandalwood tree.

Sita DeviThe lesson to be learned is that making plans to serve God is the only way to achieve real peace. Instead of trying to eliminate our desires by artificial means such as meditational yoga, we should dovetail our work with service to God. By following Lord Rama to the forest, Sita was serving her husband in the most difficult of times. Her plan to follow Him was not of the material variety, for she had no desire to accumulate religious merits. She thought to herself, “My Lord will be in the woods all by Himself. It is my duty to serve Him. It would not be right for me to live in the luxury of this royal kingdom, while He has been cast off. I cannot be happy unless He is happy. If my husband is punished then I must be also be punished. Nothing will stop me from loving my Lord.” This is the attitude that we should all adopt. This material world is a place full of miseries, dukhalayam. Our temporary pains and pleasures result from the repeated miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. If we commit ourselves to the path of devotional service, maya can never affect us. In this age, the easiest way to practice bhakti yoga is to chant the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. If we faithfully practice bhakti yoga, we will surely be cleansed of the dust of this material world.

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The Hard Earth

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 8, 2009

Hanuman giving ring to Sita “Devotional service to the Lord is rendered by all limbs or parts of the body. It is the transcendental dynamic force of the spirit soul; therefore a devotee is engaged one hundred percent in the service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20 Purport)

Love has a tremendous impact on our actions. It makes us feel things we’ve never felt before and compels us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. The power of love is strong and far reaching.

Our affection for children makes us take part in, and enjoy activities, we otherwise wouldn’t think of. Children love to play with toys, to watch animated television shows and movies, and to play in parks. In general, the first five years of a child’s life is spent simply playing. Aside from sleeping and eating, children spend the whole day pursuing fun. Most adults love children very much, especially those they are related to. The children, having pure love in their hearts, enjoy sharing their activities with their parents and adult relatives. Since these activities make the children happy, adults are more than willing to take part in them. The same concept holds true with husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends. Men will go to great lengths to please their loved ones, from going to operas, to watching romantic movies. Shopping is one of the favorite activities of a woman, and the one most dreaded by a man. Yet when going to a shopping mall, one will find many couples shopping together, usually with the woman leading the man from store to store. Women also suffer through activities that men enjoy, such as watching sporting events and playing video games.

Mother Yashoda feeding Krishna Normally we wouldn’t engage in these activities on our own. We find them to be painstakingly boring, so we avoid them at all costs. Love is the reason that we voluntarily decide to take part and suffer through them. Loving someone means wanting more for the person you love than you want for yourself. Playing with our children and spending quality time with them gives them great pleasure, and that is reason enough for us. We feel happy knowing that they are happy. This satisfaction nullifies any negative feelings or boredom we may suffer as a result. On a more simple level, we just enjoy the company of our loved ones. Being with our husband or wife gives us a feeling of security, knowing that we have someone else who will love us no matter what. That special someone loves us just as much as we love them, so why wouldn’t we want to spend every waking moment with them? It is the natural yearning of the living entity to love and to be loved.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth in the form of Lord Rama many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, India. The Lord loves His devotees very much, and it was to protect them that He personally came. At the time, the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana was gaining sway over all the world, defeating any forces that would come his way. Lord Rama was destined to kill him and to reinstitute the principles of dharma, or religiosity. Along with His appearance, His wife in the spiritual world, Goddess Lakshmi, also came to earth in the form of Sita Devi. The two were married and living happily in the kingdom of Ayodhya, which was ruled by Rama’s father, Maharaja Dashratha. Through an unfortunate series of events, one day Lord Rama was ordered to flee the kingdom and live in the forest as a recluse for fourteen years. Just prior to leaving, the Lord informed Sita of the news and begged her not to follow Him. Sita was the most beautiful, delicate, and fair princess, so the Lord was worried how she would adjust to the rigid conditions of forest life. This concern was very natural, for Rama loved Sita very much. Sita, for her part, was completely dedicated to her husband, and had no desire to live without Him. She insisted on accompanying the Lord and serving the exile period by His side. Living in the forest would mean having to walk barefoot on the grass and shrubs. Sita was born and raised as a princess, so she wouldn’t be accustomed to such a lifestyle. Nevertheless, she tried to mollify her husband’s concern by informing Him that the various thorns on the ground would actually be very pleasing to her.

“When with you, the various thorny grasses, shrubs, thistles, and brambles on the way (Kusha, Kasa, Sara, Ishika), shall be to me in touch like to linen and deerskin.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Sita and Rama in the forest Sita’s statement wasn’t one made out of mere sentiment, but one that was rooted in fact and logic. Lord Rama was God Himself, and being with God nullifies all pains. Performing activities out of love for Him, known as the process of bhakti yoga, is completely of the spiritual variety, transcending any material pain or pleasure.

People may find this difficult to comprehend. “Thorns are pointy and will naturally hurt anyone that is pricked by them. How can Sita factually say that these thorns wouldn’t cause her any pain? The only way to nullify the pain caused by the thorns on the ground is to avoid them altogether.” This line of thinking may seem logical, but it represents a limited spiritual understanding, part of the belief that negation of activities is the only means of achieving peace in this world. The Buddhists and Mayavadis generally prescribe to this theory. Buddhists believe in negating all material activities and desires until they can reach the point of nirvana, where everything becomes zero. Mayavadis, the impersonalist Vedic philosophers, believe in a similar concept, except the end goal being the merging of the soul into Brahman, or God’s impersonal effulgence.

The actual fact of the matter is that desires can never be removed. As long as a person is alive, he must desire something. The Vaishnavas, the followers of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, believe that we must learn to purify our desires instead of running away from them. We don’t have to give up our activities, but instead, we need to dovetail them with service to the Lord. By following this path, we can turn normal activities such as singing, dancing, reading, and eating, into spiritual activities. Singing and dancing to songs about Krishna, reading the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata, and preparing and offering food to the Lord, are all completely spiritual activities. An observer may wonder how something so simple as cooking can be a form of yoga, but in actuality it is. A devotee acts simply for the benefit of the Lord, out of pure love.

Sita Rama and Lakshmana walking in the forest Sita Devi was put into a very distressful situation due to Dashratha’s order of exile and Rama’s request that she remain in the kingdom. One suffering such pain easily could have chosen the path of renunciation. She could have decided to detach herself from the marriage and shield herself from future pain. Instead, Sita remedied the situation by demanding that she come along to the woods to serve the Lord. Serving Krishna is the only way to turn distressful situations into pleasant ones. The prickly thorns of the forest were no match for Sita Devi, whose mind was completely focused on the lotus feet of Lord Rama. In a similar manner, this material world is full of thorns, constantly pricking us. The heavy metal music band Metallica has a song called Bleeding Me which contains the following verse:

“This thorn in my side…this thorn in my side is from the tree…this thorn in my side is from the tree I planted…it tears me and I bleed.”

Through fruitive activity, known as karma, we continually plant trees hoping they will sprout and secure us sense gratification in the future. In actuality, karmic activity only yields thorns in the form of the fourfold miseries of life (birth, old age, disease, and death). These thorns constantly prick us birth after birth. The only way to stop the bleeding is to take to the path of devotional service to God. By following Sita Devi’s lead, if we surrender everything to Krishna, we’ll be able to endure any painful situation. Having our minds completely fixed on the Supreme, we’ll ensure that this birth will be our last, for we will return back home after this life, back to Godhead.

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Sound Advice

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 5, 2009

Radha Krishna “The human soul says: I take shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears in His various eternal forms and walks on the surface of the world. I take shelter of Him only, because He can give me relief from all fear and from Him I have received this condition of life, which is just befitting my impious activities.” (Lord Kapila describing the prayers of a child in the womb, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.12)

It is very important to have good role models and leaders. We have a tendency to follow those that we look up to. Be they our parents, star athletes, or famous celebrities, we are influenced by the behavior of those we view as authority figures.

A new child is born into ignorance. An infant cannot even feed itself, for it is completely dependent on the care of its parents. From the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we get a glimpse into the mindset of the child while it is still in the womb of the mother. According to the Vedas, living entities are all eternally existing spirit souls who have fallen into this material world for some reason or another. Due to our karma, we are forced to repeat the cycle of birth and death. While in the womb of the mother, the child promises to God that this birth will be its last, for it develops consciousness in the womb.

“This prayer of the child in the womb may be questioned by some atheistic people. How can a child pray in such a nice way in the womb of his mother? Everything is possible by the grace of the Lord. The child is put into such a precarious condition externally, but internally he is the same, and the Lord is there. By the transcendental energy of the Lord, everything is possible.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.18 Purport)

However, as soon as the child is born, God’s illusory energy known as maya, takes over and envelops the mind in complete ignorance. Knowledge of previous births is instantly forgotten along with the promise made to God while in the womb. Maya is so strong that none of us can even remember our infancy, though we know we went through it based on the authoritative statements of our parents.

Baby Krishna giving joy to His parents From our very birth we are constantly gathering information and rebuilding our intelligence. Our elders are much more advanced in knowledge than we are, so naturally we look to them for guidance. We see that our mother and father act independently and are capable of doing things that we can’t. Most of the time, we listen to what they tell us because we trust them. In the same manner, star athletes and movie stars have proven to be successful in their careers, something young children dream of. By copying their behavior, we hope to one day to be as successful as they are.

It is very important to choose the right people to act as our role models. The famous basketball player Charles Barkley once boldly declared that he wasn’t and shouldn’t be viewed as a role model for children. It was a very noble gesture on his part since he knew that by being in the public eye, children would naturally look up to him. Many times athletes and other celebrities don’t necessarily lead exemplary lives. They may have addictions to drinking and drugs, or other shortcomings. People who follow their lead are then bound to go down the wrong path.

Ravana The Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas describes a famous example of a person being led astray due to choosing the wrong spiritual leader. The evil Rakshasa demon Ravana, for whom Krishna personally descended to earth to destroy, took birth many thousands of years ago, wreaking havoc throughout the world. A staunch materialist, Ravana was dedicated to accumulating wealth and satisfying his senses at any cost. The reasons for appearance on earth and ascension to power vary from creation to creation. In one particular instance, Ravana’s birth took place due to events of his previous life. In a previous birth, Ravana was known as Maharaja Pratapabhanu, a great king. One day while chasing a bear in the forest, he ended up getting lost. He ran into a person who was in the guise of an ascetic, but in actuality was a former king whom Pratapabhanu had defeated and caused to lose his kingdom. Not recognizing the king, Pratapabhanu took the imposter for a learned brahmana and informed him that he had gotten lost. The ascetic in disguise immediately recognized Pratapabhanu and seized on the opportunity to give him payback. He advised Pratapabhanu to perform a sacrifice and to feed the brahmanas of his kingdom afterwards. Pratapabhanu agreed and invited all the royal brahmanas. Meanwhile, the imposter ascetic had managed to contaminate the food with the flesh of a brahmana. Unaware that the food was contaminated, Pratapabhanu requested the brahmanas to partake of the feast. Just prior to taking the food, a voice from the sky warned the brahmanas that the food contained the flesh of a brahmana. Extremely angered, the brahmanas cursed Pratapabhanu to fall down from his high position and take birth in his next life as a lowly Rakshasa. By following the lead of an unworthy person, Pratapabhanu lost everything.

When Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, incarnated on earth to kill Ravana, He was born as the eldest son to the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Known by the name of Rama, He enacted many glorious pastimes in His life, including voluntarily accepting banishment to the forest by His father for fourteen years. The punishment was requested by Dashratha’s youngest wife on the eve of Lord Rama’s would-be coronation as the new king. Being ordered to leave the kingdom, the Lord went to tell His wife, Sita, the news. Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, whose appearance on earth coincided with that of Lord Rama’s. God usually brings His family from the spiritual world with Him whenever He personally comes to the material world. The couple had already enjoyed several years of married life at the time of this incident. In telling Sita the bad news, the Lord begged her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile period. She was a beautiful and delicate princess, not meant for suffering the hardships of the woods. She was accustomed to royal life from her childhood, so the Lord was worried how she would fare without those comforts. Sita’s feet were the most delicate, so Lord Rama was worried about the pain she would endure by having to walk on the bare ground.

“No toil shall I suffer on the way, as if lying on a bed of luxury, while following you in thy footsteps.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Sita Rama Following God is the most blessed path of all. Sita Devi, being completely dedicated to her husband who was God Himself, did not entertain the thought of living without Him for even a second. She was dead-set on following Him, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She put forth a series of arguments in favor of her going, a speech which included the above referenced quote. She essentially told Rama that there can be no pain inflicted on anyone who follows His lead. Sita was giving us a hint into the divinity of Rama by this statement. The only pathway to happiness in this world is to follow the path laid down by God Himself. Lord Rama’s lotus feet are the most blessed, and anyone strictly following the path laid down by those feet is sure to be rewarded with devotion to Him. There is no denying that our role models can be very helpful in making us successful in our material endeavors. Yet we know that material success can only take us so far. According to the Vedas, this life is meant for God realization.

“The first aphorism of Vedanta-sutra is athato brahma jijnasa, i.e., only when one has finished the business of mundane inquiries in the marketplace of sense gratification can one make relevant inquiries regarding Brahman, the Transcendence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, SB 3.5.12 Purport)

Krishna is the original spiritual master, so we should make Him our role model. In the Bhagavad-gita, the warrior Arjuna was dismayed prior to the commencement of a great war. Having lost the will to fight, he was ready to give up and repair to the woods to live as an ascetic. Lord Krishna took it upon Himself to act as his spiritual master, guiding Him on the proper path. After explaining to him the constitutional position of the soul and the proper duties associated with being a kshatriya, Arjuna changed His mind and decided to fight. Not surprisingly, he was victorious in battle, but more importantly, he was victorious in his devotion to Krishna. Lord Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Rama, followed the Lord’s instructions and helped rescue Sita Devi after she had been kidnapped by Ravana. For his great heroism and dedication to the Lord, Hanuman gained eternal glory. He is worshipped by millions to this very day.

Hanuman serving Rama's lotus feet The lesson to be learned from Sita Devi is that God is the reliever of all distresses. We merely have to come to Him and follow His lead, and we are sure to be successful. In this age, in His form as Lord Chaitanya, God has recommended that we take up the practice of chanting His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” as the only means of salvation. By following Lord Rama’s lead, even the harsh forest seemed wonderful to Sita. By following Lord Chaitanya, this material world, full of miseries, can become a blissful place for all of us.

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Tagging Along

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 3, 2009

Sita Devi “It does not behoove you to repair to the forest without taking me along with you. Be it the austerity of an ascetic, the forest or heaven, with you will I be everywhere.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Most of us don’t like doing things alone. Whether it’s going shopping, dining out at a restaurant, or even watching a movie, we tend to prefer the company of others. We like having other people around with whom we can share our experiences. As the saying goes, “The more the merrier”.

If we find ourselves in situations where we are by ourselves, we try to reach our friends through indirect means such as the telephone, text messaging, or internet chatting. As a last resort, we’ll turn on the radio or television to act as our companion. We don’t like to be alone because it is the constitutional nature of the soul to crave companionship. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, living entities are spirit souls at their core, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Having accepted a material body, the living entity is put into illusion by the powers of maya. In its original form however, the soul enjoys pure bliss from its relationship with God. God and the spirit souls are one and the same and yet different at the same time. God is the master and the souls are His servants. This is the base relationship from which all our others derive. Originally being Krishna’s friend in the spiritual world, we seek out similar relationships in the material world.

Having friends around gives us a feeling of security. When we are out in public, everyone else is a stranger to us; a fact which can cause a sense of fear. Not knowing whether others are our well-wishers or our enemies, we may go into a protective mode. Bringing a friend along allows us the comfort of knowing that someone else is there who has our best interests at heart. Our friends suffer through our pains, and rejoice in our pleasures. At the heart of any good relationship is the equal and free exchange of feelings and ideas. With friends we can share our most intimate feelings and fears. We gain a sense of relief just by having people to talk to and confide in. This is actually at the heart of what makes counseling and therapy so effective. Therapists don’t necessarily solve anyone’s problems, but they provide a means for their patients to open up and express their feelings in a comfortable environment. Friends serve the same purpose, and this is one of the many reasons we like having them around. It’s always nice to have people to share your life experiences with.

Lord Rama Lord Rama, God’s incarnation as a royal prince dedicated to the rules of dharma, lived in the town of Ayodhya many years ago. As the eldest son of the king, Maharaja Dashratha, Rama was preparing to be crowed as the successor to the throne. However, on the day of his coronation, the king changed his mind and decided instead to install Rama’s younger brother Bharata as the new king. In addition, Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom immediately and spend fourteen years as an exile. The Lord’s wife, Sita Devi, did not like the idea of separation from Rama. She was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who is God’s wife in the spiritual world as well, so she was completely dedicated to her husband’s welfare. In her mind, the order of the king also applied to her since the husband and wife are considered one person in the Vedic tradition. A husband’s duty is to protect the wife, and the wife’s is to serve his every wish. These are the duties of those in the householder order of life known as grhastha.

Sita and Rama were married in the kingdom of Videha, ruled by Sita’s father Maharaja Janaka. Janaka was a great yogi and a very pious man. It was for this reason that he was blessed with the goddess of fortune as a daughter, and God Himself as a son-in-law. Vedic marriage ceremonies are different than the traditional Christian ceremonies that take place today. In addition to being longer, for Vedic marriages, the bride and groom take their vows in the presence of fire. During the couple’s marriage ceremony, Janaka requested Rama to always protect his daughter, and for Sita to always serve Rama and to follow Him like His shadow. Sita Devi, being the perfect woman, daughter, and wife, took her father’s words to heart. The incident of Rama’s exile was her chance to follow through on her father’s request. Lord Rama did not want Sita to come along to the forest. He requested her to remain in the kingdom where should we enjoy the protections afforded to the royal family. Sita vehemently objected to this request. The above referenced statement was made by her as part of a series of arguments directed to Rama in hopes that He would change His mind.

Sita did not want her husband to serve His exile period all by Himself. Rama loved Sita very much, and it was for this reason that He asked her to stay at home. However, just as much as ordinary people don’t like doing things by themselves, she refused to let her husband suffer alone. She told Him that she would be with Him through thick and thin, wherever He would be forced to go. Sita’s reference to the austerities of an ascetic is important in that women generally didn’t perform such austerities. Ascetics, or yogis, perform austerities as a way of controlling their senses, which paves the way for advancement in spiritual realization. Great sages would usually set up camp in the forest because that’s where they could be alone to concentrate their minds on Krishna. The rough conditions of the wilderness didn’t pose a problem to the sages since they were trained to live off very little. Some fruits and roots for food, and a small thatched cottage were enough to sustain their livelihoods. Lord Rama was born and raised as a kshatriya, part of the warrior class. While He was trained in performing austerities, they weren’t of the same variety as those of the brahmanas, the priestly class. By being ordered to live in the woods, Lord Rama would have to take up the same lifestyle as those great sages. Sita Devi was worried about how He would fare, so she wanted to be with Him and make sure that He was living happily. She had made up her mind that if her husband was going to suffer, then she would suffer with Him.

Radha Krishna murti Sita also mentions heaven and how she would be with Lord Rama there as well. In actuality, she is always with the Lord in the spiritual world. God’s original form is that of Vasudeva, or Krishna. He has many expansions also in the spiritual world, and with each form, His pleasure potency is there right by His side. The Lord is almost never worshiped by Himself. The various deities of the Lord, such as Radha-Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, always include His pleasure potency expansion. By saying she would be with her husband even in heaven, Sita was confirming that service to God is an eternal occupation and not just a passing fad. Religion is generally associated with the concept of faith. One’s faith can easily change, for one may be a Christian one day and then convert to a Jew the next. The Vedas have no such conception of this type of faith. The Vedic term for religion is sanatana dharma. Sanatana means that which has no beginning or end, and dharma means occupation or religiosity. So religion really means the eternal occupation of man. Whether in good times or bad, in heaven or hell, dharma should always be adhered to. Real dharma means being a devotee of Krishna.

While life in the forest is considered tough, life in heaven is considered blissful. Going to heaven means “hitting the jackpot” so to speak. People have a tendency to change when they encounter good fortune. People who suddenly come into wealth have trouble handling the situation. It is seen that people who win the lottery often file for bankruptcy soon after collecting their money. Money, wealth, and fame change people and their behavior towards others. Sita Devi wanted to make it clear to her husband and to everyone else, that her dedication to Rama would not change even if He were to come into great wealth and fame. Wherever the Lord would go and whatever predicament He would find Himself in, Sita would suffer or enjoy with Him.

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana leaving for the forest The lesson to be learned from Sita Devi’s statement is that God wants us to be His companion. Lord Rama purposefully asked Sita to remain in the kingdom just so she could prove her devotion, not only to Rama but to future generations as well. While it is difficult for us to maintain and keep all of our friends happy, God has the capacity to keep an infinite amount of friends. In this age, the best method for cultivating one’s relationship with God is the continuous chanting of His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Krishna is omnipresent, so by chanting His name we can always be with Him. We should follow Sita Devi’s lead and make a promise to always be by God’s side. It is the naturally tendency for people to ask things from God, but Sita offered to give Him something, namely her service and devotion. This is the proper method of worship. May the mother of the universe, the all glorious Shrimati Sita Devi, bless us with eternal devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord.

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