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Entering Lanka

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 23, 2011

Hanuman“Entering the auspicious city, which is under a curse and protected by the king of Rakshasas, O Lord of monkeys, do you freely roam about everywhere and search for the chaste daughter of King Janaka at your pleasure.” (Lanka speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, 3.51)

praviśya śāpopahatām harīśvara |

śubhām purīm rākśasarājapālitām |

yadṛcchayā tvam janakātmajām satīm |

vimārga sarvatra gato yathāsukham ||

The faithful servant of Lord Rama, Shri Hanuman, who is one of the most glorious figures to have ever set foot on this earth, was all prepared to begin the most difficult part of his mission, that of entering the enemy city of Lanka and finding the missing princess who was ever deserving of being by the side of her husband. There could be no sin found in Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama and the most precious daughter of the King of Mithila, Maharaja Janaka. Sita’s father was himself known as Videha, which means “without a body”. He was aloof from all material pains and pleasures, yet upon finding the child Sita one day while ploughing a field, an exhilarating thrill coursed through his body. This feeling would only be matched when he would later meet the two princes of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the brothers Rama and Lakshmana. When Sita married Rama, the meeting of the goddess of fortune and the Supreme Lord was complete, but due to the workings of a nefarious character, the king of Lanka named Ravana, the divine couple would be separated. To Hanuman would be handed the task of finding Sita and allaying her fears. Realizing that she was in Lanka, Hanuman had a plan of action mapped out and was prepared to enter the city. As we know from our experiences that things in life rarely go according to plan, Hanuman’s immediate transition into the city would not take place without opposition. Faced with a precarious situation, Hanuman would take shelter of his sharp intellect, a benefit acquired through his strong link to the Supreme Consciousness. Armed with all the divine capabilities, Hanuman was able to turn an obstacle into a launching pad towards success.

HanumanWhat was so difficult about finding Sita? Why was Hanuman sent to find her instead of Rama? These issues are all addressed in the Ramayana of Valmiki, one of the oldest books ever written. More than just an ordinary story about heroes and villains, the Ramayana details the life and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Rama. Lest we think of the Ramayana as a book of only sectarian importance, the qualities exhibited by Shri Rama, the work’s main character, give full indication of His divine nature and His ability to provide supreme pleasure to others. God can be defined as the ultimate order supplier, the one entity who can meet any and all demands. He may also be taken as the original proprietor of everything, as the universe sprung forth from His glance. Yet God’s most potent feature and position is that of the Supreme Loveable Object, the one person from whom all happiness can be derived. Love is a powerful emotion because, in its pure form, the actions taken to maintain the sweet feelings never exhaust, and neither do the actors ever lose their enthusiasm for service. In every endeavor except pure love, there exists both a motivation for the work undertaken and an ideal final state, wherein action ceases. Yet since love is all about pleasure, whatever steps are taken to see to the happiness of the loveable object are always fully repeatable.

Lord RamaWith mundane love, the work undertaken is limited by time and the reactions of the lover. Since the Supreme Lord is the one entity who remains eternally within His original body and those of His non-different expansions, only love of the divine variety can continue perpetually. Therefore, the only eternal occupation, that one form of religion that applies universally, is known as bhagavata-dharma. This term is translated to mean devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, because only in devotion can the service propensity inherent to individual spirit be purified and properly utilized. More than just a theoretical idea put forth by select philosophers, the truth of God’s position as the eternally served manifests in the activities performed during the divine descents, of which Rama’s coming to earth was one.

Hanuman, though in a monkey form, was tasked with finding Sita because the mission was an act of love, something that would please Rama. The Lord, as the all-powerful order supplier and chief proprietor, easily could have willed Sita back to His side or at least told everyone where she was. But this sort of exhibition of knowledge would have reduced the opportunities for service by other sincere well-wishers. One may argue that if Sita were found and rescued directly by Rama, the monkeys of the Kishkindha forest then could have taken to sitting quietly and regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chanting this mantra is the most effective religious practice, as it allows the loving propensity to be acted upon in the highest number of unique situations. Yet these Vanaras, or forest dwellers, were very anxious and eager for action, as is common for the monkey species. The Vanaras wanted to serve with their thoughts, words and deeds. Rama was in their direct company, so what better way to serve Him than by using their natural gifts, their skills in agility, courage and fighting prowess, to help find Sita and deal with her captors?

HanumanOf all the Vanaras in Rama’s company, Hanuman was the most eager. It’s interesting that Rama’s greatest devotee takes on the shape of a monkey, especially since that species is considered prone to overindulgence in sex life and intoxication. If we see a child that is too hyper or an adult who acts uncontrollably, we’ll compare their behavior to a monkey’s. Hanuman and the other Vanaras would sometimes point to the defects known to their race when a mistake would be made or failure was encountered. Though Hanuman was in the form of a forest dweller, his love for Rama was unmatched. As such, he was not limited in any abilities, either physical or mental. He had full possession of all the yogic siddhis, or mystic perfections. He would make use of these powers on his trek to the island of Lanka where Sita was. To reach the distant island, Hanuman assumed a massive form and leaped across the vast ocean.

Having reached Lanka, Hanuman decided to assume a diminutive form so that no one could recognize him. Ready to enter the city at night, Hanuman was exhilarated in thought. The opulence of Lanka, with its high walls, palatial buildings and decorations of gold everywhere, could only be compared to the city of the demigods, Amaravati. Though there were wonderful fortresses and other protective dwellings well represented throughout the city, Hanuman surveyed the situation and rightly concluded that his monkey associates, including Sugriva and the various military commanders, would be able to succeed in penetrating the city. He also remembered the fighting prowess exhibited by Rama and Lakshmana and thus felt greatly satisfied within the mind. In addition to looking for Sita, Hanuman was planning out the strategy for attack for the monkeys’ impending march to the city. Never thinking about himself, Hanuman was always concerned with how to make his friends happy, including Rama and Lakshmana, who were his life and soul.

HanumanPutting ourselves in the same situation, we can just imagine how exhilarated Hanuman was, how excited he was to have the opportunity to serve Rama. Surely his mind was drowned in an ocean of bliss. Yet immediately after becoming thrilled with the prospect of victory, the mundane world, so as to break his meditation, brought forth an obstacle. The personified city of Lanka, which was a woman in a Rakshasa form, came before Hanuman and asked him what he wanted. She wanted to know who he was, where he came from and what he was doing in the city ruled by ogres. Hanuman, as a brilliant statesman fully versed in the art of diplomacy, kindly agreed to answer all her questions in full, but only after she would identify herself. Hanuman basically said, “Sure, I’ll answer you, but you tell me who you are first.”

Lanka did not like this at all. She was not a well-wisher by any stretch of the imagination, and her patience was wearing thin. She again asked Hanuman to identify himself, and this time Hanuman responded by saying that he had come from the forest desiring to see the wonderful city and its interior. From Hanuman’s perspective, the demon had no need to know about the Supreme Personality of Godhead or the mission of His divine servant, especially since such admissions wouldn’t serve any purpose. Lanka, in the form of a female Rakshasa guard, had failed to protect the most innocent person within her confines, Sita Devi. Therefore the ogress was immediately deserving of the stiffest punishment. Yet Hanuman kindly tried to assuage her by lying about his intentions, not letting her know his real reason for being there.

Hanuman striking LankaThe city of Lanka, having lost all patience, then struck Hanuman. Knowing that she was a woman, Hanuman still struck her back, but not with full force. From that powerful blow, Lanka fell to the ground, but Hanuman was merciful to her after that, as he felt bad for having struck a woman. After falling to the ground, the lady’s demeanor and outlook completely changed. She immediately dropped her opposition and became a friend. She told Hanuman that previously the self-create, Lord Brahma, had informed her that when a monkey would come to the outskirts of the city and strike her that the end was near for Ravana and the Rakshasas. Meeting Hanuman, the city of Lanka remembered Brahma’s words and rightfully concluded that the Rakshasas would meet defeat due to the offense made against Sita.

Lanka then told Hanuman to freely enter the city and search about wherever he pleased for Sita. This sudden turnabout wasn’t surprising, as the Ramadutta Hanuman has a tremendous effect on those who meet him. Whoever he comes into contact with automatically becomes benefitted. Even the enemies Hanuman defeats meet an auspicious end because of the role they play in glorifying the most wonderful servant of God. Not surprisingly, Hanuman would go on to find Sita and safely return back to Rama with information of her whereabouts. Hanuman’s entry into Lanka, which started with his striking of the female guarding the city, did indeed signal the end for Ravana and his Rakshasa associates. Anyone who remembers the great Vanara’s craftiness, strength and intelligence displayed during his meeting with the city of Lanka will be benefitted as equally as those who got to personally interact with him. Wherever there is devotional service practiced to perfection, there are all signs of intelligence and strength. Hanuman displayed patience and perseverance by not getting frustrated over the thwarting attempts of the demons. Due to the nature of his mission, he should have been initially greeted with kindness and warmth. But since the Rakshasas were mired in a life of sin, they could not immediately appreciate Hanuman for who he was.

HanumanThough confronted by a violent woman, Hanuman did not hesitate to carry forward with his mission. For the conditioned souls looking to revive their dormant God consciousness, there will be all sorts of impediments placed in their path. Yet if the love is there from the beginning, if there is an undying desire to please the Supreme Lord at the outset, all necessary intelligence will come as well. Hanuman hadn’t prepared for dealing with a woman blocking his way into Lanka to find Sita, but he since remains connected with the Divine Consciousness at all times, he was able to get past the obstacle without damaging the mission. In a similar manner, by always remaining dedicated to the path of devotional service as laid down by Hanuman and all the Vaishnava authorities, we can figure our way out of any and all troublesome situations, while simultaneously keeping the chances of success alive. The greatest gift in life is to be able to hear about Hanuman and the wonderful interactions of the devotees with the Supreme Lord. Just as the glories of the bhaktas know no end, hearing of their sublime exploits never fails to deliver supreme transcendental pleasure.

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Seeing Vishnu Everywhere

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 21, 2011

Lord Vishnu“That great hero among monkeys saw the rising moon, which had a color as white as milk or a lotus fiber, the luster of a conchshell, and resembled a swan swimming in a lake.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.58)

śaṅkhaprabhaṃ kṣīramṛṇālavarṇa |
mudgacchamānaṃ vyavabhāsamānam |
dadarśa candraṃ sa haripravīraḥ |
ploplūyamānaṃ sarasīva haṃsam ||

The Supersoul, the direct expansion of the Supreme Absolute Truth that resides within the heart, is the all-pervading witness, a knower of all actions, past, present and future of every single living entity. We may be able to hide our pious and sinful deeds from the watchful eye of the government and others in positions of power, but the highest authority figure, He who is described as antaryami, sees all. Although He is the supreme witness and the root cause behind every visible result, He takes no direct interest in the worldly activities of the ishvara, or controller, of the individual body. Rather, He stands by and watches the jivatma, or individual soul connected to a temporary covering, engage in various enjoyments and sufferings, all the while remaining present as the best friend, a well-wisher who is ready, willing and able to provide the topmost instructional system aimed at achieving liberation from the temporary ups and downs associated with material contact. Those who understand the callings of this benefactor, who is like a transcendental bird that remains forever perched within the heart, are not only able to take to the proper course of action and activities recommended by shastra, or scripture, but they also start to view all the worldly objects around them as being part of the original Divine Being. Through this purified vision, the formidable and blissful presence of Lord Vishnu, the all-pervading aspect of the Absolute Truth, gets noticed everywhere.

koorma-purana-DJ76_lWhatever the mind is focused on for a given period of time is what it will likely see in its external observations. For instance, a thief is only interested in taking objects of value from others. As a result, he is always suspicious of getting caught. In addition, the thief also always keeps an eye out for new projects, i.e. new items that can be stolen. This aggregate mindset can be described as theft consciousness, wherein all thoughts and desires are focused on the foremost task of thievery. Similarly, one who is in love with a paramour will think of their beloved wherever they go. If they spot a shop selling nice flowers such as roses, they will stop in and purchase a nice bouquet to give to their life partner, their beloved whose company serves as their reason for living. In this way, we see that activities and desires sort of paint a color across the eyes that causes all objects to be seen through a specific prism.

When under the spell of bhakti, the eyes are anointed with pure and undying love for God. A paramour may serve as an object of love and interest for one person, but likely that relationship is exclusive. Indeed, the personal and direct nature of the romantic relationship enhances the attachment and bliss felt by the participants. One who gives their love away freely is referred to by derogatory names, for they are considered violators of fidelity. The Supreme Lord, as the ever well-wishing friend of all forms of life, can take part in the most intimate of relationships with every single person and yet still remain completely dedicated to everyone. Therefore anyone who takes to bhakti-yoga, or the divine engagement of devotional service, can have God all to themselves and at the same time induce others to enjoy with Him also.

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Shyamasundara, Krishna Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.38)

Lord KrishnaGod is the creator of everything, but only when the eyes are anointed with transcendental love can the Lord’s influence be seen everywhere. This truth was validated by the behavior of Shri Hanuman, the exalted Vanara warrior and eternal servant of Lord Rama. The Supreme Lord expands Himself into direct, fully capable copies that reside within the hearts of all living entities. It is heard that great mystic yogis of the past sometimes divided their individual souls up into different pieces and thus expanded the reach of their consciousness. Nevertheless, even with this division each individual remained a singular entity. With the Supreme Lord, there is never a division, but rather an expansion. It is not that God has been broken up into millions of different containers which will one day meld back into each other. The Paramatma, or Supersoul residing within the heart, is a distinct and autonomous entity who is simultaneously a most merciful divine incarnation, an ever well-wishing friend and kind companion of the wayward soul wanting to try their hand at creating, maintaining and destroying.

The soul certainly does have independence, but this free will can only lead to positive outcomes when the engagements undertaken match the nature of the performer. For instance, we may own a laptop computer which is capable of carrying out many different complex functions, but if we use the device as a paper weight or as a tray to carry our food, we aren’t really making the best use of it. The laptop can obviously be useful in these settings, but the true potential of the device remains untapped. The laptop is meant to handle word processing, internet, email, and many other software related tasks. The internal computing abilities are what give the laptop its identity. In the conditioned state, the living entity takes to observing nature around it and concocting various theses about the origin of the earth and the manipulations of matter that are required to further enhance the human experience. Yet the higher potential for intelligence that is exclusively found in the human species is not intended to be used for such paltry and useless endeavors.

LaptopSaying that material science used to further sense gratification is a waste of time seems like a rather bold assertion, but if we juxtapose the life of the scientist with the life of the animal, there is no question as to which entity is better off. The typical animal – which is completely ignorant of math, science, philosophy and religion – takes primarily to eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Food is amply available from nature without any need of a governing body, a progressive income tax, a Federal Reserve chairman, or an equal redistribution of wealth. Shelter is also provided by nature, as is sex life. The animal has no concerns over mortgage payments, conflicts with coworkers, or maltreatment from paramours. The animal is even unaware of its impending death; hence the most potent fear of life is absent.

The human being endeavoring to understand the nature around it through scientific analysis is constantly in trouble and worry. For starters, scientific experiments require great time, education, endeavor and resources. And if a large experiment should turn out successful, the only tangible benefit is some advancement in material comfort. An astronaut may train very hard to travel thousands of miles into outer space, but the same enjoyment is felt by the animal which hardly moves at all during the day. Indeed, a human being who simply stays at home and enjoys with their family members has no need to travel long distances. The scientist will argue that their research is advancing the cause of human civilization. Yet if death occurs for both the animal and the human being, what does it matter where one travels or how they get there? Has not the scientist wasted much valuable time in finding their paltry level of enjoyment which the animal obtains all the same without any frenzied pursuit?

Human beings do have a higher potential for intelligence, as knowledge of the Absolute can never be separated from the soul. Even in the body of an animal, the soul has a full level of intelligence that can beam throughout the body. Yet only in the human species can the nescience enveloping the knowledgeable soul through material contact be removed. When one regains their constitutional position, the activities adopted then tap into the full potential for bliss and knowledge that is part and parcel of spirit.

HanumanSince Shri Hanuman is fully infused with spiritual energy and the desire to serve the source of all matter and spirit, God, he is never clouded by nescience. All of his time is spent in the light, even when there is apparent darkness in the surroundings. Just prior to his entry into the enemy territory of Lanka, Hanuman assumed the size of a cat. The onlookers, the denizens of the celestial realm, were quite amazed by this transformation, for Hanuman had not too long before assumed a massive stature to cross over an expansive ocean. The princess of Videha, Sita Devi, had been taken captive by the king of Lanka, the Rakshasa named Ravana. Since Lanka was far away from any mainland, only a truly capable warrior was able to reach it. Not having access to aerial cars or machine powered boats, Hanuman expanded his size to match the difficulty of the mission. Leaping off a mountain peak, Hanuman then flew through the air and reached the shores of Lanka.

In the spiritual world, Sita Devi is Goddess Lakshmi, the controller of fortune and the wife of Lord Narayana, the source of all men. There is only one God, but He expands into different spiritual forms to perform specific functions. For the purpose of creation, Lord Vishnu, the very same Narayana, exhales in the spiritual sky and creates the universal cosmos. The first created living entity, Lord Brahma, who takes birth from the lotus like navel of Vishnu, then takes charge of creation. Sometimes Vishnu Himself likes to come to earth to deal with nefarious elements and give pleasure to His ardent supporters. Rama was one such incarnation of Vishnu, and Sita, Rama’s wife, was the corresponding incarnation of Lakshmi.

Lakshmi NarayanaSince Hanuman and his monkey associates were so eager to serve Vishnu, the Lord provided them an opportunity to do so by asking them to find Sita. Hanuman was the most capable of the Vanaras associated with Rama, as he was really a celestial figure in the form of a monkey. The scientists of today have certainly made tremendous advancements in the areas of aviation, electricity and medicine, but they have yet to study the soul, its properties, or how it can be detached from the influences of the senses. Through the ancient art of yoga, one can harness the true power of the soul and thus invoke various siddhis, or perfections. Hanuman, through no extraneous endeavor, was an expert yogi capable of using all of the mystic perfections; thus he could assume a large or diminutive stature at any time. A person can sit inside of a massive rocket ship and thus consider their size to be expanded, but there has yet to be discovered a materially scientific way of assuming a small size at will. But from the fact that we survived months within the womb of our mother prior to birth, we can understand that the soul, the individual functional unit of life, is indeed capable of existing in the tiniest of bodies.

Through yoga practice, an outward dress of any size can be had without difficulty. Evidence of variation in body types is seen all around us, as the elephant and the ant are both living entities with souls, but they have vastly different external sizes. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, accurately note that there are no differences in the qualities of souls between living entities, just variations in outer coverings. One who has harnessed the massive capabilities of the soul can escape the bonds of the material body that was given to them by nature.

HanumanAfter Hanuman finally made it to Lanka via the aerial path, his difficulties were just beginning. He was now in enemy territory, so he wanted to make sure that the Rakshasas living in Lanka would not see him. At the same time, he needed to look for Sita and deliver to her Rama’s ring. After downsizing his form, Hanuman was ready to enter the city. From the above referenced passage, we see that just prior to entering enemy ground, Hanuman noticed the bright moon in the sky, a shining object which appeared to come out of nowhere to help him see the path ahead. Hanuman decided to enter the city in the dead of night to minimize the chances of others spotting him. The moon, realizing the sublime nature of Hanuman’s task, kindly alighted the way for him.

The comparisons used to describe the brightness of the moon in this passage are not accidents by any means. The Supersoul witnesses all actions undertaken, including those by Hanuman. But with the pure souls, the observations are not unidirectional. Just as the Supreme Lord witnesses all of our actions, the bhakta sees the imprint and markings of the Lord wherever they turn. Lord Vishnu, the four-handed form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is known by His various symbols, which include the conchshell and lotus flower. In two of Vishnu’s hands are the club and disc, which are both used to punish the miscreants. For the devotees, those who are peaceful towards the Supreme Lord, His dictates, and His devotees, i.e. those who follow the path of dharma laid down in the shastras, Vishnu holds in His other two hands the conchshell and lotus flower. Hanuman noticed that the moon was as white as the lotus stalk or milk and that its brightness was just like the luster of a conchshell.

Vishnu in ShvetadvipaLord Vishnu resides on the planet of Shvetadvipa, which translates to “white island”. In this realm there is an ocean of milk upon which the lotus flowers that surround Lord Vishnu rest. Lakshmi Devi is known as Padmini because she is always on a lotus flower enjoying the company of her husband. The swan is also tied to Vishnu and His devotees because of its purity. A swan always remains amidst lotus flowers and is able to separate the milky portion out of a mixture of water and milk. The crow, a bird of a lower stature, chooses to remain around garbage and lower kinds of floral life; hence it is generally associated with the opposite of purity. Thus Hanuman, by observing the moon, only noticed auspicious symbols associated with Lord Vishnu. The moon that was providing light to Hanuman looked like a splendorous swan swimming in a lake.

“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)

The swanlike moon would help Hanuman in his most difficult mission, one that called for him to enter the land inhabited by the crow-like Rakshasas and their leader Ravana. Previously, when Ravana had tried to win Sita over, she sternly rebuked him by comparing him to a crow and Rama to a swan. The purport of her statement was that since she was accustomed to associating with the supreme swan that was her husband Rama, she could never degrade herself by remaining with an impure crow like Ravana. The devotee always sees the Supreme Lord’s influence in everything good in this world. Even when encountering the evil elements such as Ravana, thoughts of Vishnu and His purity remain forever at the forefront of the mind of the bhakta. The moon, which appeared just like Vishnu to the ever devoted Hanuman, aided him in his battle against the crows of Lanka. Not surprisingly, Hanuman would triumph in his mission by finding Sita and safely returning to Rama and informing Him of her whereabouts. Wherever there is Vishnu, there is purity of vision. And whenever the vision is pure, as it was with Hanuman, success in the most sublime engagement of devotional service is guaranteed.

HanumanFor the conditioned souls battling the crows of the modern world who are intent on persuading others to follow any activity besides pure surrender and devotion to God, keeping the thoughts fixed on Hanuman, Sita, Rama, and other pure divine figures is the only option. Though we may not be able to see Vishnu at every step while in the conditioned state, we can most certainly produce His most powerful incarnation, His transcendental name, at any time. By regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the swanlike presence of the Supreme Lord and all His glorious paraphernalia can be seen in all that is good in this world. When the vision is cleared through this type of consciousness, even liberation from the cycle of birth and death will be viewed as an insignificant achievement. With devotion in full surrender the true potential for action found in the soul is realized, and the faithful servants like Hanuman are pleased. One who sees and hears Vishnu everywhere can never remain in darkness.

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Lighting The Dead End Street

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 19, 2011

Hanuman“As if lending assistance to him [Hanuman], the moon, with its many thousands of rays, arose in the sky in the midst of a host of stars and covered the earth with a canopy of its light.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.57)

candro’pi sācivyamivāsya kurvaṃ |

stārāgaṇairmadhyagato virājan |

jyotsnāvitānena vitatya loka |

muttiṣṭhate naikasahasraraśmiḥ ||

In this passage from the Ramayana, it is said that the moon, in all its glory, shone light on the wonderful, faithful, beautiful and splendorous Shri Hanuman as he made his way into the darkest of regions, the land of Lanka which had been turned into a hellish place due to the sinful deeds of the inhabiting Rakshasas and their leader, the mighty king Ravana. The moon’s bright light aided Hanuman by alighting his path and all the surrounding areas, but it also allowed the sincere onlookers to have a clear picture of Hanuman’s glorious activities, his splendid devotion in the service of Shri Rama, the Personality of Godhead. Hanuman is always resplendent wherever he goes; hence the world always benefits anytime it can get a glimpse of his greatness, his sweetness of thought and deed that permeates every one of his actions. The moon, under the pretense of providing light in the dark of night, found a wonderful viewing position in the sky to observe some of Hanuman’s most amazing feats.

HanumanWhy the need to watch Hanuman? What was he doing travelling in the dead of night into the city of Lanka in the first place? Was he not welcomed there with open arms? Was not an Ellis Island there to greet him and grant him access to roam freely? The land of Lanka was once a very beautiful place, as it served as the home of Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods. In Sanskrit, the word “deva” is translated to mean a god, but often times Vaishnavas, devotees of Lord Vishnu, translate the word to mean demigod. While some may take exception to this, the translation is quite accurate. The celestials in the sky – those who reside in the land of the immortals, whose capital city is Amaravati – are certainly very powerful, but they are destined for death at some point, though the end of their life may come after thousands of years. Yet there is one deva who is supreme; hence He is referred to by terms such as “deva varah” and “Bhagavan”. The chief person can be addressed by adding a prefix to the term “god”, or instead the subordinate devas can be described as demigods. The latter practice deprecates the position of the devas versus explicitly elevating the position of the Supreme Godhead.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

From the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God sung by Lord Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the source of all human beings, or Narayana, we learn that repeated birth and death take place even in the home of the demigods. Since His land is never subject to creation or destruction, the original form of Godhead is always supreme. God is the only entity who lives forever within the same spiritual body. The tiny fragmental sparks emanating from the original spiritual fire certainly inherit the property of immortality, but due to their subordinate nature, they can sometimes take on various outer coverings composed of material elements that are temporary in nature. As such, in a conditioned state, the spiritual sparks can develop false identifications and suffer the pain that results. For the Supreme Lord, there are no such defects.

Lord KrishnaKuvera was given residence in the island kingdom of Lanka, and he was living there very peacefully. Meanwhile, a clan of Rakshasas headed by a demon named Sumalin sought to have Lanka all for themselves. After they attacked Kuvera and created many disturbances, the Supreme Lord Vishnu Himself descended from the spiritual sky to deal with the situation. Riding on the back of Garuda, the celestial bird carrier of Vishnu, the Lord routed all the Rakshasas out of Lanka and thus allowed Kuvera to live peacefully. Since man will always act according to his nature irrespective of repression or temporary setbacks, Sumalin was in no mood to give up. He decided to take a different course of action. Knowing Kuvera to be the son of the exalted sage Vishrava, Sumalin sent his daughter to approach the sage and ask to have a child with him. When she approached Vishrava, he was deep in meditation, and being able to decipher what she wanted, he cursed her for having bothered him during an auspicious time. She was granted her wish of a child, but due to the curse, the child would be born a Rakshasa prone to sinful activity. Having remorse for her transgression, the lady then asked the sage to grant a benediction that would counteract the curse. Mollified to an extent, Vishrava granted her the boon of having another Rakshasa son who was prone to righteousness from his very birth.

In this way, Sumalin’s daughter gave birth to three Rakshasa sons through Vishrava. Ravana was born mostly in the mode of passion, Kumbhakarna in the mode of ignorance, and Vibhishana in goodness. They were all quite capable and powerful in their youth, but seeing that Kuvera was enjoying nicely in Lanka, the mother asked the sons to pray to Lord Brahma, the first created living entity and oldest person in existence aside from God. Only through this method could her sons equal Kuvera in opulence. After undergoing severe austerities and penances to please Brahma, Ravana was granted the boon of being able to defeat anyone in battle, save a human being. Kumbhakarna, being tricked by the goddess of speech, mistakenly asked to be allowed to sleep for very long periods, while only remaining awake for short intervals to eat as much as he could. Vibhishana asked to always remain dedicated to dharma, or the set of law codes instituted by the Supreme Lord.

RavanaWith his newfound powers, Ravana went about touring the three worlds and defeating the greatest fighters. Kuvera abruptly abandoned Lanka after being informed of Ravana’s new unmatched fighting ability. Taking hold of the city along with Kuvera’s celestial airplane, the Pushpaka, Ravana gradually transitioned the beautiful land into one full of ignorance. Though the opulence of Lanka remained, with wonderful palaces full of gold and jewels filling every inch of space, the majority of the land was enveloped by the cloud of ignorance brought on by material contact. For ignorance to reign supreme, the light of knowledge must be kept out. It is seen in bars and nightclubs that the lights are dimmed greatly and that the music blasts at very high volumes. The main business in these establishments is intoxication and the hope for illicit sex through blind meetings between men and women. Since these activities don’t require any intelligence, the atmosphere must match the nature of the engagement. If the lights were left on and peace and quiet were steady, the torchlight of knowledge that can only shine through sobriety, clear vision and meaningful conversation would make the ignorant activities difficult to remain faithful to.

Lanka was similarly enveloped in mental darkness twenty four hours a day, with the blindness being especially strong at night. The residents, headed by Ravana, were accustomed to eating meat, drinking wine and engaging in unregulated sex life. Light is not conducive to these activities, so at the time that Hanuman chose to sneak into the city, the nighttime, there was darkness all around, both literally and figuratively. The moon, knowing Hanuman’s mission to be most sublime, decided to beam its beautiful rays all across the land, allowing Hanuman to see clearly while he entered the darkest of realms.

HanumanIf Hanuman were a Rakshasa or one prone to ignorant activity, he may have been welcomed with open arms. But he was on a mission of peace, rescue and knowledge. The princess of Videha, the beautiful Sita Devi, had been taken away from the side of her husband while residing peacefully in the forest of Dandaka. Ravana had taken her, for although he had hundreds of the most beautiful princesses as wives, he had to have the one woman he considered was the most beautiful. In reality, no one can be with Sita Devi except Lord Rama, her husband. No amount of force, violence, or sweet words can ever deviate Sita’s mind from the lotus feet of her dear husband. Indeed, when she was first married to Rama, she was terribly afraid of touching His feet, which is customary for newly married wives in the Vedic tradition to do. Lord Rama, the Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in a human form to make good on the one loophole to Ravana’s powers of immunity, had liberated the female sage Ahalya simply by stepping on her while she was in the form of a stone. Immediately upon feeling the transcendental impression of the Lord’s lotus feet, Ahalya reassumed her natural form and was transported to the spiritual sky to be in the company of her husband, Gautama Rishi.

The pure devotees, those who love God without any motive, have no desire for this type of liberation. Heavenly enjoyment and the bliss resulting from merging into the wonderful light of Brahman are not appealing in the least bit to exalted personalities like Sita. Fearing that she would receive the same benediction as was given to Ahalya, Sita at first was hesitant to touch her husband’s feet. She never wanted to be out of Rama’s company for even a second. Yet while in Lanka, not only was Sita separated from Rama, but the prospect of reuniting with Him seemed dim. Ravana’s palace and city were well protected, for the sinful know deep down that they are inviting punishment through their behavior. Even through all their intoxication, the sinful have an idea of the temporary nature of life and the so-called happiness it brings. Therefore those who are unaware that all property originally belongs to God take the most drastic measures in protecting their possessions and way of life.

Sita and RamaHanuman was tasked by Sugriva, the king of the monkeys residing in Kishkindha, to go find Sita and return with information of her whereabouts. Rama could have destroyed the whole world as revenge for Sita’s kidnap, but Hanuman and the other Vanaras were quite eager to serve Him. Neither in the heavenly realm nor on earth is there anyone more eager than Hanuman to serve God. As such, he was given the most important task of infiltrating Lanka and finding Sita. Making his way to the outskirts of the city, Hanuman decided to assume a small stature, one having the dimensions of a cat. When he entered the city, the moon decided to shine brightly, allowing Hanuman to always see where he was going. By entering at night, there would be less chance of being recognized by the guards of the city who were always on edge.

Hanuman is always beaming with the light of devotion, as the seemingly material elements that surround him have no bearing on his psyche or deep love for Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother. Indeed, the material elements work under Hanuman’s command; they are his sincere servants. Though Hanuman gives the appearance of being a monkey, he is a divine figure through and through. Sincere devotees of Hanuman take umbrage with the fact that he is described as a monkey when the words of the Ramayana are translated into English. The term used to describe the apelike servants of Rama is Vanara, which literally means “of the vana, or forest”. Yet in other areas of the Ramayana, the same Vanaras are referenced through words such as kapi and hari, both of which can mean “monkey”. So the passages that describe Hanuman as being a monkey are certainly accurate, but from his behavior we know that he wasn’t limited to his body type. Just as Lord Vishnu, when approached by the demigods to descend to earth, stated that He would appear in a human form as Rama, the Vanaras were all celestial figures appearing as monkeys. Though Vishnu refers to Rama as an ordinary human, we know that the Supreme Lord can never assume any material dress or be subject to the influences of the perishable land. The same goes for Hanuman, as the monkey form simply facilitates the beautiful activities he takes up.

HanumanNot surprisingly, Hanuman would succeed in his mission, as he would find Sita, allay her fears, and safely return to Sugriva’s camp. The moon was fortunate enough to witness all of these events by shining its bright light. It derived great pleasure from Hanuman’s activities, and many generations since then have also been pleased to the heart by hearing of the Vanara’s wonderful exploits. Lanka once again became full of transcendental light after Ravana was defeated by Rama and Vibhishana subsequently installed as the ruler. Yet the city never shone brighter than when the moon lit the path for the beautiful Hanuman to enter and perform his magic. Wherever Hanuman goes he brings with him his brilliant effulgence, and wherever there is his light of devotion, there is peace, prosperity and the firm faith that we will one day reunite with our best friend, the Supreme Lord.

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Enhancing Stature

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 17, 2011

Hanuman“He [Hanuman] entered the famous city, which had rows of white interlaced buildings and valuable golden archways, and was ruled by the arms of Ravana and fully guarded by ogres of terrible might.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.56)

sa pāṇḍurodviddhavimānamālinīṃ

mahārhajāmbūnadajālatoraṇām |

yaśasvināṃ rāvaṇabāhupālitāṃ

kṣapācarairbhīmabalaiḥ samāvṛtām

Hanuman is glorious enough as he is, for he is full of dedication, courage, tenacity, strength, intelligence, and most of all, devotion to the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is all-pervading, so His energies are distributed everywhere. Simply by enjoying the taste from drinking water one can immediately remember the Supreme Lord and His blissful nature. From the influence the many worldly objects around us have on our psyche, we tend to forget the supremacy and merciful nature of that one entity who is capable of providing the soul a sufficient level of happiness. Because of this deviation in thought, to connect with God we require visible objects, transcendental forms which evoke memories of the pastimes of the Lord and which give us glimpses into His blissful nature. More pleasure evoking than the Lord Himself are His various connected aspects, of which the feet are one. Nothing is more humble and dedicated in providing service than the feet; hence the lotus feet of the Lord are meditated upon first. But the living entities who provide direct service to these feet can be even more pleasurable to hear about. And among the divine servants, you would be hard pressed to find one more beautiful and kind than Shri Hanuman. The descriptions of the opulence of his enemy provided in the famous Ramayana only serve to enhance the appreciation and attachment one feels to Hanuman’s lotus feet, sentiments which lead to the greatest benefits.

The soul is naturally disposed towards harboring a deep and strong affection for God. Any person, at any age, and at any place can take to devotional service by simply persuading the mind to focus on the Supreme Lord and His names, forms, qualities and pastimes. Though the concept of divine service is very straightforward, its practical application is not. The first stumbling block is being able to properly determine who is God and who isn’t. One religious group claims their spiritual figurehead and subsequent method of worship are authorized, while another group claims that their way of life is the correct one. What’s missing in most of these presentations is substantive information about the qualities of the entity we are supposed to worship: the Supreme Lord. When concrete knowledge about God’s names and His places of residence is lacking, the initially innocent living entity becomes prone to directing their service propensity towards worldly objects, which include their own senses. As such, a simple and straightforward process of real religion, that of remembering, gets ignored in favor of practices which only bring misery.

Chanting is the most powerful method of the discipline that returns a lost soul to their constitutional position of always thinking about the Supreme Lord and His original personal form. Again, an issue arises as to what exactly should be chanted. If we don’t know who God is, how can we know what words to use to express our heartfelt feelings for Him? Though there is no shortage of known religious systems, this diversity doesn’t invalidate the ability to properly decipher God’s names. If the Supreme Lord is fixed in His position, His powers must apply universally. Just because one person takes birth in a certain country to a specific set of parents doesn’t mean that they are any more worthy of worshiping God than anyone else. Based on this fact alone, we see that not only does God’s presence pervade through every space, but so do the names used to address and worship Him. If He is everyone’s Lord, God must be the most attractive entity in the world. Therefore the Sanskrit word “Krishna” appropriately applies to Him. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending may provide temporary gratification to the senses, but it would be safe to assume that God provides pleasure that transcends all the effects of the material world, a land which is governed by all-devouring time and nature. Hence the Sanskrit word “Rama” would also be an appropriate appellation for the original Divine Being.

Lord RamaIf mortal human beings enjoy the company of friends and associates, we’d have to assume that the Supreme Lord’s enjoyment would at least be on an equal level. In order to enjoy, He surely must have transcendental associates. In this sense, the Sanskrit word “Hara” would be an appropriate term to use to address God’s energy manifestations, those entities who are meant to provide pleasure to the Lord. We’d also have to assume that the energy manifestations which actually do engage in worship all the time without being swayed by the various religious systems would be equally as worthy of worship. If someone gives pleasure to God, and we want to make God happy, it couldn’t hurt to be friends with that person who pleases the Lord. Therefore, addressing God and His energy would be a tangible method of worship. In this way, chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, becomes a very appropriate and effective method of self-realization, something that can be practiced anywhere and at any time.

Chanting the name is certainly nice, but our thoughts still might get misdirected towards worldly objects, those things which are more clearly defined and manifest before us. Worship through recitation of a name or thoughts on an impersonal void don’t necessarily solidify our attachment to the Supreme Lord right away. “What does God look like? How does He behave? What does He want us to do?” To answer these questions, the Divine makes various appearances on earth and enacts pastimes, the accounts of which are found in the sacred texts of the Vedic tradition. The Ramayana, arguably the oldest book in existence, details the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead who descended to earth in human form as a pious prince. Just hearing about Rama is enough to bring tremendous pleasure to the soul, but the enjoyment is further enhanced by observing the behavior of those who are wholly dedicated to Him. In this select group of individuals, no one is more dear to Rama than Shri Hanuman, the most capable Vanara warrior residing in Kishkindha.

HanumanJust as the feet are the dedicated servants of the body, the Vanaras of the Kishkindha forest, who were headed by the monkey-king Sugriva, are the most exalted servants of Shri Rama. God doesn’t require anything; He is self-satisfied. It is in the nature of the soul to crave individuality, a tendency which manifests through activity. There is a famous philosophical saying, “I think therefore I am”, and in the spiritual realm the corrected assertion is, “I love therefore I exist.” Without divine love, the soul loses its identity. Though there may be temporary periods of dormancy, the loving propensity never leaves the soul. When the loving force is allowed to be acted out in an uninhibited manner, the resulting behavior is a thing of beauty, as was so nicely illustrated by Hanuman

Though in the form of a monkey, or forest-dweller, Hanuman was beaming with eagerness to serve the Supreme Lord when He roamed the earth. Simple thoughts weren’t enough for Hanuman; he wanted tangible engagements, activities he could undertake to show Rama just how much he loved Him. The Lord isn’t stingy at all in this regard. If He sees an eagerness to serve, He will go out of His way to present opportunities to the humble servant to shine. Moreover, He will take the necessary steps to ensure that they are successful in the prosecution of their tasks. Going even one step further, the success that results from the service offered by the servant elevates them to a supreme stature, sometimes even surpassing the level of adoration and fame owned by the Supreme Lord. This is all due to God’s grace, as the servant who properly serves the master actually exceeds him in stature. We are kindly reminded of this truth by Goswami Tulsidas, another faithful servant of Lord Rama and great devotee of Hanuman.

Hanuman crossing the oceanThough Hanuman’s eventual success in the mission assigned to him was guaranteed, his future glory would be enhanced by the seemingly insurmountable opposing forces he faced. Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, Sita Devi, had been taken to the island kingdom of Lanka by the very powerful Ravana, who was a master of illusion. Rather than rescue her Himself right away, Rama, abiding by a punishment handed down to Him by His father, enlisted the help of the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha. Though Sugriva’s massive monkey army was dispatched to look for Sita, only Hanuman was actually capable of finding her. This was due to the formidable strength of the Rakshasa force and the strategic location of their hideaway. Lanka was situated far across a massive ocean which was not easily crossable by even the most powerful monkeys in Sugriva’s army. Nevertheless, Hanuman, by assuming a massive stature, was able to leap his way across the ocean and successfully reach the outskirts of Ravana’s majestic city.

This was just the beginning of Hanuman’s quest; the real difficulties lay before him. It is seen that in a tournament of any major professional sport, the pressure really mounts towards the later rounds. In tennis, the Wimbledon Final carries a lot more pressure than a first round match in the tournament. The Super Bowl is the most important game of the football season; not the opening week. As one advances towards their achieved aim, the fear of losing everything that has been gained along the way gets introduced. The loser in the final round of a tournament can feel like all of their previous effort went to waste, as the ultimate goal was not attained. Hanuman had performed a miraculous feat that would firmly establish him in the annals of history as one of the greatest and most powerful divine warriors. But if he failed to find Sita, which was his stated objective, his other efforts would essentially become meaningless.

In the above referenced passage from the Ramayana, a description of the outskirts of Lanka is provided just prior to Hanuman’s entry. The monkey warrior had decided to assume a small stature, one having the dimensions of a cat. Hanuman’s figure was described as adbhuta, or wonderful to behold. The details of the opulent decorations inside Lanka are provided nonetheless to increase the listener’s appreciation of Hanuman’s bravery and dedication to service. The gateways of the city were interlaced with beautiful ornaments, thus giving off a heavenly feel. If even something simple as a gateway is bedecked beautifully, the implied understanding is that the rest of the city is extremely wealthy. If there is no shortage of opulence on even the walls and the building windows, there must not be anything second or third class in the city. For Hanuman this meant that he would not find anything in Lanka that would be easy to destroy or cheap in value.

Sita DeviThe edifices were joined together, thus indicating that the powerful demon force was united in their dedication to sinful activity. Ravana was a Rakshasa, so he was naturally prone to meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and perpetrating violence on the innocent. Though he thought himself to be very pious and a knower of the Vedas, his intelligence was no greater than that of an ass. He thought he could have Sita Devi, the religiously wedded wife of another man, for himself. It is impossible for Sita to be divorced from Rama’s association at any time. No aspect of material nature can ever touch her. Indeed, she is the very donor of all the wealth and fortune that we see in the world. Those who misuse her kindly donated gifts are destined for destruction in the same way that Ravana was bound to lose all that he had worked so hard to amass.

It is also stated that Lanka was protected by Ravana’s arms and the Rakshasas of great might. Up to this point, Hanuman’s immense strength and intelligence were already well established, but these statements are meant to convey just how formidable a force Hanuman was up against. He didn’t have to deal with just beautifully adorned mansions to search through; there was also an opposing army that was on the lookout for intruders. They were wholly capable of defeating even the most powerful fighters. Hanuman was all by himself, so for him to succeed in this type of mission would be no small feat. If he could successfully find Sita and return information of her whereabouts to Rama, his triumph would go down as one of the greatest exhibitions of craftiness, dedication and perseverance in history.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and DeviAs mentioned before, when the desire is pure and the eagerness for service genuine, the Supreme Lord will Himself guarantee the success of the mission. Thus it was not surprising to see Hanuman succeed in finding Sita and thwarting the attacks of the Rakshasas. The massive monkey-army would later march to Lanka with Rama, and Ravana would eventually be destroyed, with Sita’s safe rescue following. The opulence of the city and the strength of its protectors only further increase Hanuman’s glory. If Shri Rama has someone as wonderful, pure, kind-hearted and dedicated as Hanuman worshiping Him on a daily basis, He must be the original Supreme Lord that we are all meant to worship. Sita and Rama’s divine qualities are enhanced by the wonderful attributes of their greatest servant, Shri Hanuman. Just as Hanuman’s glories know no end, so our appreciation for him will never wane.

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Good Things For Bad People

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 14, 2011

Hanuman“Beholding Lanka, which was unimaginable and had an amazing appearance, that great monkey [maha-kapi] became morose and also delighted, as he was very much anxious to see Vaidehi.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.55)

acintyāmadbhutākārāṃ dṛṣṭvā laṅkāṃ mahākapiḥ |

āsīdviṣṇḍo hṛṣṭaśca vaidehyā darśanotsukaḥ

Seeing good things happen to bad people can certainly be the source of great anger and sadness. Life involves a struggle of emotion, the constant fluctuation between favorable and unfavorable circumstances, but seeing those who are overtly sinful and who pay no regard to even the lowest standards of decency rise to any elevated position of power or opulence is enough to make one’s stomach turn. With these visible outcomes faith in the system – one governed by higher authorities who are spiritually empowered figures working under the dictates of the original Divine Being – gets lost. Though jealousy, envy and resentment are not good traits to possess, sometimes we can’t help feeling these emotions when witnessing the seemingly successful triumphs of the gross miscreants, those who challenge the authority of the Supreme Lord at every step. But as long as we maintain an even stronger eagerness to associate with people of the divine nature, the pure devotees and well-wishing friends of all living entities, whatever despondency results from witnessing the temporary gains of the demons will never be able to take us off the proper path in life. Shri Hanuman, the most capable, kind, courageous, intelligent and perseverant servant of the Supreme Lord in His form of Lord Rama, had to deal with anger and resentment harbored towards the king of demons, the ruler of Lanka, Ravana. But due to his eagerness to please Rama and meet His beautiful and chaste wife Sita Devi, Hanuman was never taken off course. The power of divine love always trumps the inhibiting forces instigated by the uncontrolled senses, which act like wild horses that drive the cart known as the body and its operator known as the individual in every which direction.

HanumanWhy do we get angry upon seeing the success of the sinful? The intelligent among us understand that the essence of life is the spiritual spark residing within the body. As such, no amount of temporary gain or loss can affect the nature of this autonomously powerful entity, a force which is immune to the constant changes of the phenomenal world. Nevertheless, there is a general expectation that those who go against the established law codes will be punished. If an individual commits a heinous crime like murder, there is the inherent understanding that they will be punished properly. In the absence of swift and appropriate justice, there will be less faith in the system and an increased anger and resentment harbored towards authority figures by the law-abiding public.

Indeed, this is a primary source of the discord that exists in nations where illegal immigration is a problem. All land in this world originally belongs to God, but in a civilized society, property rights of individuals are respected, as one is allowed to borrow the Lord’s property to maintain a simple lifestyle. In order to protect property and shield a particular area from the influence of potential foreign enemies, immigration laws are adopted. Those who wish to enter a nation from the outside follow the procedures laid down for being granted immigration status.

But there are also others who, through noble or ignoble intentions, flaunt the law by illegally entering a country. When the population of illegal entrants rises too rapidly, discord will result. To the honest citizen, whether or not the illegal occupants should be granted entry is actually not the issue, for the law was openly violated. Therefore it is understandable if the law-abiding public, which includes those who legally migrated to that country, becomes angry when the law-breaking is allowed to continue. This and many other examples of selective application of the law highlight the general expectation that law-breakers not be rewarded.

“In this material world we desire sense enjoyment, but without Krishna or without Krishna consciousness there is no possibility of sense enjoyment. We may have strong arms and legs, but when there is no consciousness—when there is no Krishna consciousness—we cannot even utilize them.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 21)

Lord KrishnaThe material world is full of dualities, though, so not every issue is black and white. Sin and piety are relative terms in the grand scheme of things, for they represent actions which lead to favorable or unfavorable conditions in a particular venture. The law codes instituted by the Supreme Lord represent the ultimate system of piety and virtue because they aim to bring the conditioned entity to the highest platform of understanding, a state of being where consciousness is always fixed on the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, who is the full and complete manifestation of the original Divine Being. Religion, in the true sense of the term, has nothing to do with blind faith, following rituals on a specific day of the week, or openly pledging allegiance to a particular spiritual personality. Consciousness is the essence of life, the indication of the spiritual spark residing within a body. Consciousness is derived from the Supreme Lord; hence there is only one way to purify it. Krishna consciousness, or that mindset which is always focused on the names, forms, qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord Krishna, is the only pure form of religious practice. All other categories of activity, spiritual or otherwise, are subsidiaries of this divine mentality; they are disciplines which can hopefully one day lead to ascension to Krishna consciousness.

Accompanying sin are consequences that are detrimental in the progression towards the ultimate goal. In the largest scheme, which incorporates the highest dharma, or a set of religious law codes aimed at bringing about Krishna consciousness, any activity which brings one further away from their purified consciousness can be deemed sinful. From the definition we see that a negative condition is concomitant with the activity. As such, a specific future consequence is not even required. For instance, focusing the mind on objects of the temporary world is considered sinful because through the conditioned lens these objects are divorced of their relationship with the original creator of matter, God. The Supreme Lord is everything, but He is not personally present within the material elements that constitute each object. Rather, matter represents a separated aspect to His multifarious energies. Krishna consciousness aims to keep the mind totally fixed on the Lord’s personal feature, an aspect which brings direct interaction with Krishna, thus providing the greatest rewards. Devotion to matter, or anything not God, leads only to misery, as the consciousness required for such devotion is completely separated from Krishna.

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

Krishna's lotus feetPiety is any activity which brings one closer to their constitutional position of eternal servant to the Supreme Spirit. Therefore Shrila Rupa Gosvami, a giant of the Vaishnava literary world, recommends that we adopt any activities that are favorable in forging Krishna consciousness and reject any engagements which are unfavorable in the march towards ultimate freedom, the state of mind where hankering and lamenting are removed due to complete and full surrender, or sharanagati, to the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead. All other systems of piety and virtue derive from the topmost discipline known as bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Since even realizing the need to adopt a purified consciousness is very difficult for the living entities mired in an endless cycle of reincarnation fueled by material desires, there are smaller, more specialized dharmas that are instituted. Even something as simple as the instructions required to build a safe and secure housing structure can be considered a type of dharma.

For those who are not aware of the differences between spirit and matter, or those who are temporarily taken off of the proper mindset by the allures of the material world, there is the expectation that those who go against the established codes of conduct, or dharma, in a particular activity will be punished in the aftermath. When the overtly sinful, such as killers, perpetrators of violence towards women and dependents, and liars and cheats, are allowed to prosper in spite of their nefarious behavior, there is some bewilderment on the part of the pious.

kurukshetra-war-DC74_lFor instance, after the great Bharata War, which saw the deaths of millions of soldiers, King Yudhishthira, the leader of the victorious Pandava family, naturally expected to have favorable results in the afterlife. Yet upon ascending to heaven, the first person he saw there was Duryodhana, the leading fighter for the defeated Kuru army. Duryodhana had a long history with the Pandava family involving many sinful activities. Duryodhana tried to kill the five Pandava brothers and their mother, Queen Kunti, many times but each plot was foiled through the divine intervention of Shri Krishna, who was the ever well-wisher of the Pandavas. Finally Duryodhana was killed in a battle by Bhima, the physically strongest of the Pandavas. Knowing Duryodhana’s nature, Yudhishthira was very surprised to see him enjoying life in heaven. To remove his concerns, Narada Muni, the greatest reformer the world has ever seen, informed Yudhishthira that those in the material modes of life accumulate both pious and sinful credits during their time on earth. Since there are so many different dharmas for those not on the platform of Krishna consciousness, there are varieties of good and bad reactions to work. Those who are overly sinful get to enjoy the fruits of their limited meritorious behavior by first going to heaven. After residing there for a short time, they get sent to the hellish realms where they will have to suffer longer.

Duryodhana had died on the battlefield, which is considered one of the most glorious deaths. This is not simply a belief of the Vedas, but rather a fact easily understood. A soldier is working under a higher authority, so his actions are not judged in terms of the worthiness of the mission. The soldier is simply a servant who risks their life to meet the interests of the commanding officers. Duryodhana, though a sinful man, still bravely fought on the battlefield following the standard protocol of warfare. Therefore he accumulated pious credits despite his sinful nature. In the end, King Yudhishthira would forget about Duryodhana and what happened to him. Lord Krishna highly favored Yudhishthira, so the king derived more pleasure by always remaining Krishna conscious.

Lord RamaA similar situation occurred with Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama. Many thousands of years ago, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the entity the majority of the world refers to as God, appeared on earth in a divine incarnation known as Rama. Not to be confused with an ordinary figure who later proclaims himself to be God, Rama’s divine nature is mentioned in the authorized Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Rama also had all of the unique bodily measurements and markings belonging to the Personality of Godhead known as Narayana, or the source of all men.

Bhagavata-dharma sounds nice in concept, but those who are eager to alter their consciousness are helped further when they are given specific activities to take up that result in benefits that can be realized quickly. Shri Hanuman, as an eternally liberated figure, is always eager to serve the Lord. Since there is no fighting in the spiritual realm, when there is a desire for conflict God must come down to earth and bring with Him close associates to act as sparring partners. Ravana, the king of Lanka, played the role of a sinister villain perfectly, as he was a demon who lived off of eating meat, drinking wine, and cavorting with countless beautiful women. His lifestyle was only harming himself for the most part, but he couldn’t contain his demoniac nature for long. Hearing of a beautiful princess residing in the forest of Dandaka, Ravana was intent on making her his chief queen. Even though she was married to Rama at the time, Ravana was not deterred in any way; such was the strength of his lust. In general, if a man sees an attractive woman and then later finds out that she is married, he will lose interest and turn away. Yet Ravana was so infatuated with Sita that he kidnapped her through a carefully executed plan.

Sita DeviRavana’s heinous act created an opportunity for Hanuman to shine. Rama gave the monkey-warrior the task of finding Sita and giving her His ring. Ravana lived on an island kingdom known as Lanka, which could not be easily reached by even the strongest of men. Hanuman, making use of his mystic powers, intelligence and prudence, made his way to the outskirts of the city. But the difficulties were just beginning. Now he had to figure out a way to enter the kingdom and find Sita without being noticed. Finally deciding upon a course of action where he would assume a form having the dimensions of a cat, Hanuman was ready to enter the city. Just prior to crossing enemy lines, Hanuman noticed the beautiful surroundings consisting of golden buildings and archways adorning Lanka.

In the above quoted passage from the Ramayana, we see that Hanuman was quite disheartened upon seeing this opulence, which was both amazing and inconceivable to the mind. The material world is governed by an illusory force known as maya, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “that which is not”. The Rakshasas living in Lanka were kings of illusion, so their entire city and lifestyle represented that which was not God. Their opulence seemed inconceivable, giving off an amazing aura that would serve to weaken the will of any potential enemies thinking of mounting an attack. It’s strange to think of Hanuman as an enemy, but that’s exactly what he represented to Ravana and the interests of his Rakshasa community.

Hanuman was disheartened at the fact that such a cruel demon – one who had the gall to take away the most innocent woman, the religiously wedded wife of Shri Rama – could live in such opulence. Aren’t the bad guys supposed to be punished? There is a saying, “Only the good die young”, which speaks to the fact that the pious tend to have the misfortunes in life and the demons tend to strive materially, even though the opposite should be true. How was Ravana living in such luxury, while Rama, who had been ordered by His father to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya and not return for fourteen years, was living like a hermit ranging the forests without any ties to a royal army? Rama was the epitome of virtue and Ravana the poster child for sin, so why the large discrepancy in fortunes?

Hanuman thinking of Sita and RamaHanuman was also disheartened because the grand illusion of opulence made for a formidable opposing force. Hanuman was tasked with finding Sita, but he knew there would be opposition if he were to be discovered by the Rakshasas. They would not take too kindly to anyone acting in the interests of Rama, their greatest enemy. Seeing the grand opulence of the city, Hanuman thought that maybe he wouldn’t be able to withstand the enemy attacks and successfully carry out his mission.

So what did Hanuman do? Did he quit? Did he throw in the towel? Was he disheartened to the point that he just marveled at Lanka’s opulence and did nothing else? While the above referenced passage references Hanuman’s despondency, it also says that he was excited about the prospect of meeting Sita. Hanuman’s love for Rama naturally extended to the Lord’s immediate family members like His younger brother Lakshmana and Sita. Sita was Rama’s wife, so Hanuman looked to her as his affectionate mother. His mother was being held captive by a demon, so Hanuman was very eager to see her and allay any fears she had. This love, which beams throughout Hanuman’s body at all times, was a much stronger force than the despondency caused by the intimidating opulence of the grand city.

Sita DeviWhat was the reason for Ravana’s great success and Rama’s misfortunes? Just as time heals all wounds, it also serves as the great equalizer, the agent that distributes the change that is due an individual based on their past deeds. As God, Rama is never subject to the forces of nature, while Ravana’s opulence was simply a temporary illusion, one that was soon to be destroyed by Hanuman himself. The great Vanara warrior would successfully find Sita and give her Rama’s ring. On Hanuman’s way out, Ravana managed to capture the monkey-warrior and set his tail on fire. Parading him around the city with a burning tail, Ravana tried to embarrass Hanuman in front of others. Seeing this, Sita immediately asked the controlling deity of fire, Agni, to not burn Hanuman and to allow the fire on his tail to feel as cold as ice. Sita Devi is the epitome of chastity, piety and virtue, so when she asks a demigod for a favor, they are obliged to immediately respond. In fact, Sita only asks as a formality, for her requests are taken as commands. As the ever-devoted wife of Rama, all the suras, or demigods, are constantly at her service, though she never asks for anything that is not in the interests of Rama or one of His devotees.

Feeling his tail to be nice and cool, Hanuman realized that it was the work of Sita. He then quickly escaped from his shackles and assumed a massive form. Now his tail was enormous in size, and it was still burning with a flame. Though the city had appeared formidable to him before, Hanuman now had a tool, a burning tail kindly provided by Ravana, that he could use to fight back. Hanuman then kindly flew around the city and set it on fire with his massive tail. The punishment for Ravana’s sins would come in the form of the exquisitely beautiful, powerful and perseverant Hanuman. Hanuman would later return to Lanka with an army led by Rama, Lakshmana, and the monkey-king Sugriva. Ravana would meet his deserved death, Sita would be safely rescued, and Rama would triumphantly return home to rule over the kingdom of Ayodhya.

Hanuman burning LankaIn the end, Hanuman’s eagerness to please Rama and meet His wife was enough to get him past the illusory, impeding forces erected by Ravana. In a similar manner, the leniency shown towards miscreants and their temporary ascendancies to positions of prominence can be given secondary importance by those who are constantly practicing divine love through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Good things sometimes happen to bad people, but since they always remain bereft of Krishna consciousness, even their temporary gains ultimately serve as sources of misery. On the other hand, for one who follows the example set by Hanuman – that of always remaining God conscious – every condition becomes favorable. The devotee perpetually remains eager at every new opportunity to see the Lord, think of Him, worship Him, and offer service to one of His dear servants. Since the ultimate favorable condition is reached through this practice, we can confidently assert that bhakti-yoga, the ancient art of the religion of love, represents the highest form of dharma.

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That Don’t Impress Me

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 12, 2011

Hanuman“And wonderful golden archways belonging to the Rakshasas everywhere illuminated the well-decorated city of Lanka.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.54)

kāñcanāni ca citrāṇi toraṇāni ca rakśasām |

laṅkāmuddyotayāmāsuḥ sarvataḥ samalaṃkṛtām

It’s ironic that the entryway into a city filled with some of the most ghoulish and hellish creatures was lined with gold. The archways to the majestic city welcomed the guest by providing a sense of happiness, peace, prosperity, and overall enjoyment. Sadly, these allurements were simply illusion, with a built-in clause accompanying entry; every guest had to check their tendencies towards spiritual life at the door. The pious and spiritually inclined were not allowed to enter this particular kingdom. If they did happen to infiltrate the sturdy fortress protecting the city of gold, they would have to hide their natural tendencies or face constant harassment. Indeed, the one entity from whom all wealth and fortune emanate, the goddess of fortune, was a prisoner in this city. Despite her exalted status, the surroundings forced upon her were anything but golden. Refusing to cavort with the sinful ruler of such a feverish land, that supreme goddess, who had assumed the spiritual form of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, was forced to remain by herself in a garden, with the ultimatum of impending death looming over her should she not change her unwavering devotion to her husband.

Sita DeviTo the rescue came the celestial figure who was made of pure spiritual gold on the inside. Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, was tasked with finding Sita’s whereabouts and returning the information of her location to Rama’s camp, where a party including the powerful ruler of the monkey tribe in Kishkindha, Sugriva, was waiting. Upon entering the enemy city of Lanka where Sita was staying, Hanuman not surprisingly noticed the lavish set up, the beautiful surroundings that indicated the tremendous material opulence that filled the city. In the above referenced passage from the Ramayana, we see that beautiful gateways had been erected that were made of gold, as if to serve notice of the tremendous opulence of the kingdom to those desiring to enter. Hanuman was nevertheless not deterred by this illusory aspect of the external decoration of the city ruled by the vilest of creatures. Being truly golden himself, Hanuman was on the prowl looking for the source of all fortune in every land, Sita Devi. In this mission, he would not be defeated.

“The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.10)

One who is ignorant of both their impending death and the eternal nature of the soul takes objects of illusion, which are known as maya, to be reality. Ravana, the king of Lanka, figured that if he amassed enough gold, material opulence, female companionship, animal flesh for eating and wine for beverage he would never be without discomfort. In one sense, he can’t be blamed for crafting this priority system, for it is the nature of the animal to seek out the engagements of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Ignorance envelops the pure spiritual entity, the spark of life, at the time of birth. Without a proper education on spiritual matters provided by a bona fide guru, one who knows the Truth and how to approach Him, the animalistic tendencies will reign supreme. Ravana knew of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, through and through, but he nevertheless could not overcome the illusory aspect of material nature. Therefore he was always in the heat of passion looking for the next opportunity for sense enjoyment.

RavanaSince the spirit soul is a unique entity that is full of vim, vigor, and life, there is always the tendency for ego to become inflated. The ego is based on identification, so when ignorance envelops the consciousness, the source of one’s pride and ego will be their association with external objects of the phenomenal world. For this reason, Ravana, who had performed many austerities to please several key divine figures, took his pride from his tremendous fighting abilities and the lavish set up of his kingdom. Just as we will feel some happiness and superiority if we buy an expensive car or home, Ravana wanted everyone to see just how magnificent his kingdom was. Even the floors of his palaces were lined with gold; such was the level of extravagance he demanded. The rock star lifestyle, which is more or less hedonism, touches on these extremes very often, with celebrities doing outlandish things just because they are able to. Ravana had a huge supply of gold and crystal, so why not line every object with these precious commodities, even if such decorations weren’t required?

When allured by the forces of maya, the individual driven by an animalistic mindset essentially takes himself to be God. “Look at what I have. Look at all my palaces. Look at how many beautiful queens I have. Who out there is greater than me?” One who has achieved great things surely will have justification for feeling pride, but the more valid approach is to acknowledge the original owner of everything, the proprietor who has the rightful claim to every piece of property, developed or otherwise, in all the universes. Not surprisingly, only one person holds this position, and His abilities never diminish, nor does He ever cease to be the Supreme Master.

Lord KrishnaIn the Vedic tradition, this wonderful entity is described as having an eternal body which is full of knowledge and bliss. This sach-chid-ananda-vigraha is addressed by thousands of names, but Krishna is considered the foremost appellation, as it speaks to the Supreme’s all-attractive nature. Even those who are forgetful of Krishna and illusioned by maya are linked to the Lord. Maya is created by Krishna after all, so those who are slaves to its forces can be considered indirect worshipers of God. In this way, Ravana was the greatest devotee of the illusory energy governing the temporary world. Though everything comes from Krishna, not all types of worship are the same. For instance, the hands and legs are part and parcel of the body, which is considered a living being for as long as the life force remains intact. But in order to feed the body, food must eventually reach the stomach. The stomach then kindly distributes the nutrients efficiently and fairly to the rest of the body parts. If we decide that since the feet are the same as the body we should offer food to it, there would be no tangible effect. Though the feet are part of the body, they don’t have the ability to accept and deliver any offerings of food to the individual controlling the body.

Similarly, simply worshiping matter will bring no spiritual benefit. Since matter is a separated energy of the Supreme Divine Entity, those who are attached to it will remain apart from the all-blissful Personality of Godhead. The original form of the Lord or one of His non-different expansions – which include the deity manifestations – serve as the authorized objects of worship, those spiritual entities that can provide direct contact with God and thus also bring unmatched bliss and excitement. One such non-different form of Godhead descended to earth during the Treta Yuga. He was known by the name of Rama because of His ability to provide transcendental pleasure to others. He was also known as Raghunandana for being a descendant of King Raghu and one who gave pleasure to those in the family line. This divine prince was also known as Dasharathi, for He was the son of Maharaja Dasharatha, the ever pious and kind king of Ayodhya.

Lord RamaIn order to worship maya, a strong attachment to objects of the phenomenal world must develop. For this attachment to remain strong there must be activities adopted of the conditioned variety. Ravana remained a dedicated worshiper of matter through his activities of intoxication, illicit sex, meat eating, and determination in erecting golden palace after golden palace. Those dedicated to worshiping Rama, however, undertook activities of the transcendental nature. These actions appear similar to the conditioned acts taken up by those worshiping matter, but the end result is different. Matter leads to a further separation from Krishna that is facilitated through illusion. Acts of devotion to God, which are known as bhakti, bring one closer and closer to the Supreme Consciousness, a state of mind where all thoughts, words and deeds are dedicated to the Supreme Lord in a loving spirit.

Hanuman, the faithful warrior serving the king of monkeys, Sugriva, followed the path of bhakti. All of Hanuman’s actions were dedicated to serving Rama and His interests. To allow Hanuman to continue his service without interruption and to also secure his position as one of the greatest all-stars of the spiritual world, Rama created a situation that required the help of others. Rama’s wife Sita Devi was taken by Ravana seemingly in Rama’s absence. Acting out the part of an ordinary human being, Rama went searching for Sita with His younger brother Lakshmana. The two eventually made their way to Kishkindha, where they met up with Hanuman, who then brokered a deal between Rama and Sugriva. The agreement was that Rama would help Sugriva regain his lost kingdom, and the monkey-king would then help Rama find Sita.

HanumanWhen the time came for Sita’s rescue, Sugriva put the burden of success in the mission squarely on Hanuman’s shoulders. Though he was in the guise of an ordinary forest dweller, or Vanara, Hanuman had full capabilities in every yogic siddhi, or perfection. But this wasn’t his greatest strength. Even Ravana and his Rakshasas were supremely powerful. They could assume false guises and defeat powerful warriors in battle. Hanuman’s true potency rested in his firm commitment to the interests of Rama. Because of this dedication, he was given all the abilities necessary to find the beautiful princess of Videha, Sita Devi.

After putting his abilities to good use by assuming a massive size and flying through the air, Hanuman found himself on the outskirts of Lanka. He then used his unmatched intelligence to accurately note that entering the city of the Rakshasas while in his original form would not be a good idea. Just as a priest would stand out while walking through the streets of a gambling city like Las Vegas, Hanuman, as the most faithful servant of Shri Rama, would certainly get noticed right away in the land where illusion reigned supreme. For this reason, the intelligent monkey decided to assume a diminutive stature, one that would allow him to carefully survey every inch of space for Sita’s location while remaining unnoticed.

Though Hanuman was fully aware of Rama’s worthiness of service and His supreme capabilities, he was still a little taken aback by the exquisite opulence that beamed off the outskirts of Ravana’s city. The demoniac try their best to cloud the minds of the pure-hearted souls who are wholly dedicated to chanting the Lord’s names on a regular basis and singing His glories. Logic and reasoning alone won’t convince anyone of a philosophy based on ignorance. The news media are especially popular and well patronized because all they sell is illusion, with one alarm story after another aiming to allure the innocent public into paying attention to topics which are more or less meaningless. If these issues were actually presented as they are, with the illusion removed, no one would pay any attention to them. If Ravana didn’t have his ignorance and sinful nature masked by the exquisite opulence of his city, others would easily decipher that he was nothing more than a pretender, a figure not confident of any of his beliefs. The grossly foolish always live in fear, for they know that once their current life ends, so will their opulence, wealth and fame.

HanumanHanuman noticed and appreciated the wonderful beauty of the city. Several times he thought of quitting, for the aura of opulence seemed too daunting for him to break. Though they sometimes suffer temporary setbacks in terms of thought processes, figures like Hanuman are considered eternally liberated because they never let anything get in the way of their service. Even with all of these allurements, including the gateways lined with gold, Hanuman wasn’t impressed enough to stop his mission. Fighting his way through the illusion, Hanuman would enter the city, eventually find Sita and then temporarily allay her fears.

His business complete, Hanuman set fire to Ravana’s city as a parting shot, giving the king a warning of what was to come when Rama and the entire army of monkeys headed by Sugriva would return. External objects in this world should not be rejected outright; everything should be assessed in terms of its ability to either further increase our God consciousness or hamper it. For Ravana, his gold and other items of opulence only served to further delude him into a hellish mindset. Hanuman, though he harbored no hatred for the wonderful opulence of the city of Lanka, saw no utility for it in his sublime mission.

Sita DeviWhile Hanuman wasn’t too impressed by the golden archways in Lanka, he was wholly humbled and almost brought to tears by the firm dedication and level of devotion shown by Sita Devi, who had found herself in the most perilous of conditions. When Hanuman returned to his monkey friends to tell them what he had seen in Lanka, he remarked that Sita remained alive by always thinking of the glories of her husband. Whenever we find ourselves in a troublesome situation, as we most certainly will due to the stranglehold maya has on this world, if we remember the glorious natures and activities of Sita Devi, Shri Hanuman, and their eternal object of worship, Lord Rama, we too will be able to weather the storm and eventually make our way towards a sublime position. Hanuman is always with Sita, Rama and Lakshmana in consciousness, and if we always stay with Hanuman by remembering his glorious activities, we will always be on the highest platform of thought and remain incapable of being affected by maya and her golden enticements.

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Wealth Management

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 10, 2011

Hanuman“He [Hanuman] saw in that great city seven and eight story buildings inlaid with crystal and decorated with gold. Those houses of the Rakshasas shone brightly with their surfaces studded with vaidurya gems and decorated with strings of pearls.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.52-53)

saptabhaumāṣṭabhaumaiśca sa dadarśa mahāpurīm |

talaiḥ sphatikasaṃkīrṇaiḥ kārtasvaravibhūṣitaiḥ

vaiḍūryamaṇicitraiśca muktājālavibhūṣitaiḥ |

talaiḥ śuśubhire tāni bhavanānyatra rakśasām

You work hard all your life, play by the rules, don’t bother anyone, and somehow manage to secure a high net worth full of valuable assets. When it comes time to protecting your wealth, you will go out of your way to ensure that the best possible care is taken and that all the potential pitfalls and areas prone to mistake are avoided. After all, it takes just one simple slip up, one move that is beyond the acceptable level of risk, to lose your entire fortune. One demoniac king in particular witnessed the devastating effects of improper wealth management, as one egregious transgression cost him everything, including the opulence of his kingdom. With all the wonderful palaces and their beautiful interior decorations adorning his city of Lanka, the king Ravana thought he was immune to loss. Yet due to his maltreatment of one particular individual, who also happened to be the source of all good fortune to not only him but to every single living entity in this world, everything would be lost.

!BkyHRS!Bmk~$(KGrHqYOKkIEsn!E07-YBLZBBurGl!~~_3Where does good fortune come from? Is not wealth rooted in our efforts of perseverance and unflinching dedication through adversity? If we take the risk of starting a new business, somehow manage to avoid having it be part of the ash heap of forgotten and failed ventures, and elevate it to a position of prominence in the world, should we not take some credit for the bountiful fruits that result? Surely there is reason to celebrate the rewards of material opulence that emerge from stiff competition in the business world, but taking ourselves to be the sole doers is a very short-sighted view. It is akin to the running back in football celebrating in the end zone after scoring a touchdown without acknowledging the hard work of the other ten members on the team. After all, if a running back had to face the defense, which consists of eleven players, all by himself, one against eleven, there would be no question of advancing to the goal line.

In a similar manner, success in any material venture requires the mutual cooperation of so many other entities, both large and small. A business that is successful at selling a product must have an appeal that makes the consuming public willing enough to peaceably and voluntarily part with their hard earned cash. Moreover, we know that many businessmen put in long hours at the office, play by the rules, and still don’t end up succeeding. Therefore there must be more to success and good fortune than just the actions of the doer. The actor in these cases is the individual, who gains his identity from the spiritual spark residing within the heart. The individual is the ishvara, or controller, of his body. He is the king of the castle. He decides what to do, where to go, and how to behave. But the other workings of the dwelling capable of action are out of the jurisdiction of the seemingly powerful and autonomous resident, the living entity. For instance, the spiritual spark has absolutely no control over the workings of the heart and the growth and appearance of the outer features. The heart, brain and vital organs operate involuntarily, as there is no conscious effort to keep them going.

“The bewildered spirit soul, 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)

Bhagavad-gitaThe Vedas, the sacred texts coming down from time immemorial in India, accurately note that there are two spiritual entities residing within every life form. One spirit represents the individual entity, who is localized and very limited in his potencies. The other entity is all-pervading, for He actually resides within every heart, remaining connected through a giant network of consciousness. The individual spiritual spark is incapable of being privy to the consciousness of any other form of life unless and until other entities reveal information of their thought processes. Still, this sort of secondhand information isn’t the same as if one actually got to experience the events described. Even with the individual’s own experiences, consciousness is not perfect, as memories quickly fade. We know that we survived within the womb of our mother for nine months, but we have no memory of this time in our life.

“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!” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.5)

The all-pervading soul, the one that has a unique, non-different instance in each life form, is conscious of not only every individual’s current life’s activities, but of every act that has ever been performed by any form of life existing past, present and future. In addition, this spiritual entity, which is known as the Paramatma, or Supersoul, is wholly responsible for distributing the results of action. Hence when we see two people train equally as hard for a specific race, with one person finishing the race more quickly than the other, we can understand that the worldly results and effects are due solely to the influence of the Supersoul and not the individual. As such, a wise man, one whose angle of vision has been purified through the acquisition of knowledge and dedication to the lotus feet of the original master of the universe, understands that all the assets he acquires are due simply to the grace of the most powerful spiritual entity, the owner of the divine consciousness.

Lakshmi-NarayanaThe Supersoul, though a direct but subtle manifestation of the original Personality of Godhead, doesn’t personally take part in any of the activities of the individual or in the distribution of outcomes. Rather, the Supersoul directs other entities, empowered living beings, to take charge of controlling various elements like rain, water, fire, wealth, punishment, etc. As far as fortune goes, no one is more wealthy than the Supreme Lord. Since He is married to the goddess of fortune, He is addressed by names such as Madhava and Shripati. Though His wife, who is known as Lakshmi Devi in the spiritual sky, controls all good fortune, her benedictions are not intended to be used unwisely. One who takes himself to be the doer and his worldly objects as his own is certainly not acting under intelligence. If he follows such a mindset and continues to ignore the source of all his wealth, he will gradually slip into a hellish condition. Such was the case with the demoniac king of Lanka many thousands of years ago.

Ravana, as a powerful Rakshasa leader, had tremendous opulence in his kingdom. We know many of the details of his extravagant position from the Ramayana, the beautiful, transcendental poem compiled by Maharishi Valmiki. The descriptions of Ravana’s kingdom and his palaces are found in the Sundara-kanda, or the book of beauty, of the Ramayana. Upon first glance, it may appear that this section is titled as such because of its inclusion of the descriptions of the interior of Ravana’s kingdom. But the beauty in this particular book lies solely in the feats of strength and exhibitions of undying love shown by Shri Hanuman, the servant of Lord Rama. As many waves as there are in the ocean are how many non-different incarnations of the person most of us refer to as God exist. His original form is described as exquisitely attractive and providing of unmatched transcendental bliss. Hence in the Vedic tradition He is known as Krishna. As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the original Personality of Godhead, took on His warrior prince form, which was not devoid of any of the opulences belonging to the Supreme Person, including the ability to enchant others. Hanuman was one of the enchanted, as he dedicated his life to Rama as soon as he met the Lord. Rama needed some help from Hanuman, as His wife Sita Devi had gone missing. Just as Krishna, who is also known as Narayana in the spiritual world, had descended to the phenomenal world as Rama, Lakshmi had come as Sita Devi, the beautiful princess of Videha. As the most fortunate individual in any situation He finds himself in, Rama could not be married to any woman except Sita.

Sita and RamaThe miscreants are always jealous of God’s power and supreme position. In fact, this envy is the root cause of the existence of the material world. Ravana was unique in that his envy was at the highest level, for he was tasked with playing the role of God’s greatest enemy prior to his descent from the spiritual sky. Every individual is a spirit soul at the core, so by constitution everyone is a lover of God. When the loving propensity remains dormant or forgotten, attachment to worldly objects and opulence ensues. For as long as the delusion remains, the individual soul stays separated in terms of consciousness from the supreme loveable object. In reality, there is never any separation even after the descent of the purified soul from the spiritual sky. The Supersoul always accompanies the individual soul, but in the conditioned state, one takes their wealth as the object needing the most management and protection, while neglecting their actual valuable relationship with the divine entity residing within the heart.

Envious of Rama’s position, Ravana hatched a scheme to kidnap His wife. Rama is antaryami, or the supreme witness, so He knows all that goes on. As such, no one can cause Him any harm without His sanction. He is the Supersoul after all, so the ability that man is so proud of is actually sourced to the Supreme Spirit. Ravana’s taking of Sita set the wheels in motion for his demise. What’s ironic is that he already had tremendous opulence in his kingdom. He even had hundreds of beautiful wives he could cavort with regularly. Yet the benedictions provided by Lakshmi weren’t enough; he had to have her for himself. He had all the wealth in the world, and he protected it very well, but due to his maltreatment of Sita Devi, his fortune would be lost.

Hanuman bravely made his way to Lanka as part of a reconnaissance mission performed for Rama’s benefit. Hanuman’s task was to find Sita, and in order to succeed, he had to infiltrate Lanka. Deciding to assume a stature the size of a cat, Hanuman prepared to enter the majestic city. From the above referenced passage, we see that Hanuman saw seven and eight story mansions whose floors were bedecked with jewels and gold. It is one thing to have a high rise apartment or office building, but it is another to have the floors and surfaces fully inlaid with the most valuable jewels and crystals. This shows that Ravana indeed had tremendous wealth in his kingdom, opulence that he was very keen on protecting. His island was far away from any mainland, so its strategic location provided protection against enemy attack.

HanumanBut Hanuman was no ordinary enemy to Ravana. The demon had managed his wealth very well, but he neglected to take care of the source of all good fortune, that princess staying as a prisoner in the ashoka garden. Sita Devi was not treated very well in Ravana’s kingdom, as she was given an ultimatum that if she didn’t agree to become Ravana’s wife after a certain period of time, she would be killed. In addition, Ravana’s female Rakshasa associates were instructed to instill fear into her and harass her throughout the many days and nights she spent in separation from Rama. Because of his offenses, no amount of wealth management could protect Ravana from losing his assets which he originally had no claim to.

The tremendous opulence of the city was also meant to serve as a deterrent for anyone who thought of attacking. The spiritually disinterested and ignorant always take their mundane wealth and education to be indications of a highlife, one that is superior to the religious systems adopted by those considered destitute and poverty stricken. What the materially intoxicated don’t realize is that the highest class transcendentalist, one who understands the workings of the soul and the temporary nature of matter, sees excessive opulence not used for a tangible purpose as the greatest punishment. Ravana’s palaces were part of an illusion; they masked his high level of ignorance in regards to the supremacy of God and the temporary nature of life. By showing off their opulence, the demoniac hope to instill fear and awe in the saintly class.

Hanuman in LankaHanuman was impressed by the decoration of the city, but this didn’t stop him from proceeding forward. No amount of illusion can derail the train of spiritual freedom that is bhakti-yoga. Hanuman would eventually make his way to Sita, give her Rama’s ring, and then return back to Rama and inform Him of Sita’s location. But just before leaving Lanka, Hanuman gave Ravana a parting shot, a hint of what was to come. After Ravana set Hanuman’s tail on fire, the monkey-warrior decided to make the best use of the situation by expanding to a massive size and using his tail to burn the city. When Hanuman entered Lanka, there was a facade of opulence masking the demoniac nature of the king and his citizens. Upon leaving, Hanuman shore the city of its brilliance, exposing the Rakshasas for who they were, spiritually poverty-stricken individuals wholly deluded by illusion. Ravana’s high-story palaces fell like houses of cards. Rama would march to Lanka with millions of Hanuman’s closest friends and defeat Ravana and the Rakshasas. Sita would be rescued, and all would end well. Wherever Sita is well-protected and kindly served, there is never any chance of losing the most valuable asset one can attain in this life, love for God.

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Shorn of Brilliance

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 7, 2011

Hanuman“When the evening came the very powerful Hanuman quickly jumped up and entered the beautiful city, which had great pathways that were well-divided, was filled with rows of mansions, and had golden columns and golden latticed windows that made it resemble the city of the Gandharvas.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.50-51)

pradoṣakāle hanumāṃstūrṇamutplutya vīryavān |

praviveśa purīṃ ramyāṃ suvibhaktamahāpathām

prāsādamālāvitatāṃ stambhaiḥ kāñcanarājataiḥ |

śātakumbhamayairjālairgandharvanagaropamām

The land we currently inhabit has its appealing aspects to it, especially the wondrous sights and aesthetically pleasing surroundings. But when placed in the proper context, the phenomenal world is one shorn of brilliance, as it is a mere shadow copy of the original realm that never knows decay, destruction, or temporary renovation. The allures of the visible world, which are enhanced by brilliance in the form of valuable jewels and gold, is not appealing in the least bit when separated from the most beautiful object to have ever graced this earth. Indeed, for one who has dedicated their life to serving such a benevolent master, the only appealing aspect of this world is the opportunity it brings for divine service. When not used to further solidify a relationship in the mood of service to the most loveable entity, any worldly object can be considered to be no better than an ordinary particle of dust.

VHSDuring the days of VHS tapes, when a copy of a particular video needed to be made one would play the original tape and then record the relevant sections onto a new tape. Since the content was travelling from tape to tape, the copied version wasn’t as clear as the original. The copied version was thus correctly labeled as “generated”. When a generated version would get transferred to another tape, a further loss in clarity of the picture would occur. Hence the more generated video cassette you got, the more degraded the picture would be. In a similar manner, the world we currently inhabit, the gigantic land mass known as the earth and all the various planets, is a shadow copy of the same land that exists in the spiritual world. This isn’t to say that all the objects fall into precisely the same arrangements, but the overall nature of matter is completely different. In the phenomenal world, matter is dull, lifeless, ever changing, and ultimately the cause of bondage. In the original realm, the same elements are full of life, permanent, and the cause of bliss and enjoyment due to their utility. In the shadow copy realm, which is akin to a highly generated version of the master copy known as the spiritual world, the worldly objects are mistakenly taken to be very appealing and the source of personal enjoyment. Yet items such as gold, silver, and precious jewels really have no tangible value unless they are used for the highest purpose.

Though stuck in a temporary realm that is governed by the illusory force known as maya, through the proper course of action, one which triggers a progressive shift in consciousness, the conditioned soul can return to the land that time never even touches, an area where space limitations are also nonexistent. Those whose vision is cleared through practicing divine love are able to see everything in the proper context and thus remain free from the tendency towards worldly sense gratification. Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, is an example of an individual possessing a pure vision. During the Treta Yuga, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the eternal proprietor of the spiritual kingdom, the only entity who is ever unchanging and undying in any form He takes on, descended to earth in the guise of a human being, or one that at least appeared to be mortal and the same in quality as everyone else. The living beings, who are linked to the Supreme Truth through the relationship known as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, are also eternal forces, but due to their inferior nature they have a tendency to deviate from their original consciousness and fall prey to the allurements instigated by the senses.

Lord RamaGod and His creation are indeed one, but there is still differences in the magnitude of spiritual potency. The arms and legs of the body are part of our identity when they are attached and functioning properly. If we somehow lose one of these appendages, however, our identities don’t change. We can continue to remain whole even through the loss of an entire body, for identity comes from the spirit soul residing within. Similarly, the Supreme Soul, that person who is the source of all potencies, remains complete and self-satisfied irrespective of what His multitudes of fragmental spiritual sparks are doing or not doing. When the individual soul, who is similar in quality to the Truth but vastly inferior in the quantitative exercise of freedom, remains in the company of the original spiritual fire, there is peace, prosperity and undying happiness. As soon as the sparks turn their backs on the Supreme Master and try to pursue their own level of supremacy, the promise of protection and freedom of movement granted by the Creator are lost. The sparks are essentially left to fend for themselves, though the door always remains open for reentry into the spiritual kingdom.

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

Shri Rama appeared on earth out of His own desire to reclaim the sincere souls looking for a return trip back to the imperishable land. The divine lovers, those who have established and maintained a purified consciousness, actually have no explicit wish to return to the personal company of the Supreme. Instead, they take every opportunity to remain connected with God in thoughts, words and deeds. Because God is absolute, there is never actually any separation for the devotees. Indeed, a nice side effect of a purified consciousness is that those things which are detrimentally enticing for the conditioned souls who have turned their backs on the spiritual realm have no effect on the individuals wholly dedicated to the original and bliss-providing engagement, bhagavata-dharma. One’s occupational duty aimed at maintaining an essential characteristic constitutes their dharma. Since all perceived palatable conditions save the eternal link with God are temporary and subject to destruction, every dharma aside from the occupational duty aimed at serving the Supreme Lord is thus considered inferior. The humble sage, who may or may not take on a specific outward appearance, dedicates all his thoughts and deeds to remaining connected with Bhagavan, which is another name for the Absolute Truth that describes His mastery and full possession of the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom. One who abides by the dictates of the supreme dharma always retains their essential characteristic of devotion to God.

HanumanShri Hanuman knows no other dharma besides devotional service. Since he is on the highest platform of consciousness, there is no difference between his body and spirit. His spiritual form effuses love and devotion to God, so much so that he periodically has to expand the size of his external features to accommodate the immense love he has. Though the Supreme Absolute Truth, whose original form is described as being all-attractive and is thus addressed as Krishna, is a singular entity, He still has multitudes of non-different bodies which serve different purposes. The avatara of Rama served the purpose of ridding the world of the dastardly influences of a very powerful Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Since Rama was God, the beautiful qualities found only in Bhagavan couldn’t be completely hidden from those with a clear vision. Hence Rama was the source of great pleasure to the pure souls He encountered, especially Hanuman. Though Shri Hanuman understands the Lord’s all-pervading nature and His kind mercy towards all forms of life, he still does not worship anyone as God except Rama.

Rather than just accept nice gifts and pleasant circumstances, the devotees prefer to always be actively engaged in the service of their object of affection. As such, Rama provided tasks for Hanuman to complete. Since Hanuman was no ordinary figure in terms of wisdom, strength, prudence and courage, the tasks assigned to him were not easy to complete by any estimation; the degree of difficulty of the work corresponded with the level of ability of the worker. While on earth roaming the forests, Rama’s wife Sita Devi was unscrupulously taken away by Ravana back to his island kingdom of Lanka. Hanuman, who lived with a band of celestial monkeys in the forest of Kishkindha, was entrusted with finding her whereabouts. After braving the elements and overcoming adverse conditions along his aerial path over the massive ocean, Hanuman made his way to the shores of Ravana’s capital city. Still, only the first part of the mission was complete. Now he needed to figure out how to infiltrate the city without being noticed. This way he could find Sita, inform her that Rama was coming to her rescue, and then return back to Sugriva, the king of the monkey-party serving Rama in Kishkindha.

HanumanHanuman decided that he would assume a diminutive form and enter Lanka during the nighttime. His newly transformed body had the dimensions of a cat and was wonderful to behold. In the above quoted passage from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman preparing to enter Lanka, which was fully adorned with items of exquisite beauty. In the conditioned state, when one remains ignorant of the unmatched opulence found in the imperishable realm, worldly sights are taken to be very visually appealing. Indeed, with all the pressures of school, work and family, getting away on vacations to visit exotic destinations around the world is seen as a pleasurable activity. Those who have travelled to such areas will recommend to their friends that they have to go to the same places, for they will derive tremendous enjoyment simply from the sightseeing.

Hanuman, in executing his mission for Rama, saw some of the most exquisite palaces and housing complexes ever created. This beauty was compared to that seen in the heavenly planets where the Gandharvas, or celestial singers, reside. Ravana had real wealth, not the kind that can quickly lose its value based on shifts in economic conditions. In the modern age, wealth is determined by one’s net worth, which consists of the aggregate value of the various assets that one possesses. Simply holding a large value of paper currency is enough to be considered wealthy, but as we all know, dramatic shifts in public policy can devalue a currency very quickly. It is for this reason that the workings of the Federal Reserve Bank in America are closely monitored. The chairman of this bank can be considered one of the craftiest speechmakers in the world, for if he makes one small slip up in his addresses, entire markets can drastically change in value. Therefore the content of his testimony before congressional committees is usually quite vague, with no direct endorsement for any specific policy given. Neither does he openly endorse or reject any particular sector of the economy.

Hanuman in LankaReal wealth is something that has value under any and all conditions. Commodities like gold, silver and jewelry are valuable irrespective of the political climate and the level of national debt. If a nation’s economy collapses, you can still take your gold to another region and have a tangible asset. Gold will always be valuable wherever one lives. Since Ravana’s capital city of Lanka was filled with gold, it had real opulence; that wished for by any materialist. Hanuman noticed the beautiful sites and had some appreciation for it, but in the end, he had no attachment to any of it. Any place divorced of its relationship with its original creator must be deemed second class and thus not worthy of attachment. Saintly figures like Hanuman can remain in a secluded forest and still feel as if they are in the most opulent kingdom, provided that they get to remember the Supreme Lord and His immediate family members. Hanuman was searching for Sita, who was the real jewel lying hidden in a city masked by illusory aesthetics, items whose visual appeal, while high by the material estimation, paled in comparison to the transcendental beauty belonging to the Lord’s eternal consort, Sita Devi.

Through his fervent desire to see real brilliance and beauty, Hanuman would end up finding Sita and temporarily allaying her fears. Due to his heinous act of trying to enjoy what rightfully belonged to Rama, Ravana and his opulence would soon be destroyed. On his way out of Lanka, Hanuman would be temporarily taken captive by Ravana and brought in front of his royal court. Setting fire to Hanuman’s tail, Ravana thought that he had taught the monkey a lesson; that he should never mess with Ravana and his Rakshasas. Hanuman, ever the resourceful warrior, took full advantage of his tail being set on fire by subsequently laying to waste the materially enriched city. Assuming a massive form and waving his fiery tail from place to place, Hanuman left Ravana with the most memorable parting shot, a gift that kept on giving, a warning of what was to come his way. Later on Hanuman would return with Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and the monkey army commanded by Sugriva. Ravana and his kingdom would be destroyed, and Sita would be rescued.

Hanuman laying waste to LankaThough the palaces and highways of Lanka were exquisitely adorned with gold and other jewelry, their beauty was no comparison to the splendor of Rama’s faithful servant and the radiance and blissful energy of the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi. Hanuman, though in the form of a forest dweller, a lowly monkey, is far more beautiful than any site this mundane world has to offer. Simply remembering his wonderful form and his undying devotion to Rama is enough to bring eternal pleasure to the heart. The external world, which goes through cycles of creation, maintenance and destruction, may have aspects to it that are temporarily appealing, but the accounts of the transcendental exploits of Hanuman and the sound vibrations he produces on a regular basis in praise of Rama, Lakshmana, and Janaki represent brilliance that never loses its luster. By regularly reciting the sacred formula of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the undying brilliance of the spiritual world and all of its divine inhabitants can be remembered during every second of every day.

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Slight of Hand

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 6, 2011

Hanuman “At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)

sūrye cāstaṃ gate rātrau dehaṃ saṃkśipya mārutiḥ |

vṛṣadaṃśakamātraḥ san babhūvādbhutadarśanaḥ

As is so nicely noted in its name, the Ramayana glorifies the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, who is a celebrated avatara, a non-different expansion of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual sky. Any work which glorifies God becomes pleasing to those who have turned their backs on material nature in favor of the sublime engagement of divine love. Therefore, the most exalted servants, those who have no inkling for mundane sense gratification and the misery it brings, take great joy from hearing the accounts of the life and pastimes of Shri Rama found in the Ramayana, a poem penned by Maharishi Valmiki. Since the complete definition of God includes His paraphernalia, energies and associates, the Ramayana does not focus exclusively on Rama. Since the poem was regularly recited in the Lord’s kingdom by His two sons, Lava and Kusha, Rama Himself derives great enjoyment from hearing the accounts found within, especially those describing the wonderful exploits of the greatest servant of all-time, one whose dedication, love and affection for his worshipable object was so great that in many respects he surpassed his master in stature. This heightened status was due to the benevolence of the Supreme Lord, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. Indeed, that Supreme Benefactor is the source of all good things in this world.

“He who attributes his virtues to You and holds himself responsible for his sinfulness; who fixes all his hopes on You and loves Your devotees – in his heart dwell, You and Sita.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa, Ayodhya Kand, 130.1-4)

HanumanThe nature of the bhaktas, or devotees, is to attribute all their good qualities to the Lord and lay the blame for all their bad traits at their own feet. One may argue that this mindset is too narrow to be valid, for if God was responsible for the good things in life, surely He is also to blame for any bad situations and maltreatment shown to His fellow sons and daughters. Certainly every outcome can be traced to the cause of all causes, the Supreme Lord, but since the bhakta is a devoted lover, he overlooks any and all perceived flaws in his loveable object. Goswami Tulsidas very nicely points out that the topmost transcendentalist, who is compared to a Chatak bird which does nothing all day but stare at its beloved dark raincloud, is so attached to its object of affection, God, that there is no way to properly measure its love. In ordinary dealings, the limit to our dedication to the object of our affection is measured by our reaction to their maltreatment towards us. Any fall from grace or any lapse in judgment on the part of the worshiped is seen as a character defect, and after enough deficiencies in behavior have been observed, the level of love felt by the corresponding party dwindles. What lover remains dedicated to their object of affection after being wholly rejected time and time again?

Yet the Chatak bird, the pure devotee, through the good times and the bad remains ever committed to its devotion, which itself is the impetus for further dedication. Because of this behavioral characteristic, the devotee remains forever tied to the Supreme Lord, as God stays in their heart at all times. In the Ramacharitamanasa, a devotional poem which synthesizes the events of the Ramayana and presents them in an easier to understand format, the details of a meeting between Maharishi Valmiki and Lord Rama are described. At the time, Rama was travelling through the woods with His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana. They were looking for a nice place to set up a cottage, so after humbly approaching Valmiki at his ashrama, Rama asked if he knew of any suitable location. Valmiki cleverly replied by summarizing the qualities of a devotee and stating that Rama and Sita should take up residence in the heart of such an individual. One of the characteristics mentioned by Valmiki is that of holding oneself responsible for all sinful characteristics and attributing any and all beneficial traits to the Supreme Lord. This is a very nice quality, as it is indicative of the devotee’s being on the highest platform of divine love.

Lord RamaAnother quality mentioned by Valmiki during that meeting is that of deriving great pleasure from hearing of Rama’s activities. The ears of a devotee are compared to an ocean which is constantly replenished by hearing of the transcendental pastimes of Rama and His closest associates. It is also noted that no matter how many tributaries and rivers come rushing in, this ocean never becomes overfilled, thus indicating the differences between spiritual qualities and material ones. We may enjoy a particular film or television show and watch it over and over again, but after a certain point, a level of satiation will be reached. We can’t read the same books, watch the same movies, and hear the same songs every single day and not get bored. But the ocean-like mind of the pure devotee is so wonderful that it can absorb the same descriptions of the pastimes of the Lord and the same sound vibrations glorifying His transcendental qualities over and over again without ever being fully satisfied.

The hidden secret of divine love known only to the topmost transcendentalists of the bhakti school is worship in separation. Generally, the primary desire is to unite with the object of affection and enjoy the synergy that results. After all, association is the entire nature of the friendly relationship; meet up with your friends and hang out. Yet with the Supreme Lord, if the consciousness is properly situated, being separated from Him in a physical sense is actually more pleasurable than directly being in His company. This is due entirely to God’s absolute nature, as separation is really not any different than personal contact when on the spiritual plane. The Lord, through His pastimes and names, is just as potent far away as He is when standing right before us. Therefore the greatness of works like the Ramayana cannot be properly measured.

Hanuman readingThe qualities of a devotee provided by Valmiki apply to a large cross-section of individuals, especially those residing in the spiritual world. Though there are countless liberated souls engaged in devotional service, no single person better exemplifies the characteristics of a devotee of God than Shri Hanuman, the faithful Vanara warrior and eternally existing worshipable object. Hanuman, though having had Rama’s personal association and benedictions, worships the Lord almost entirely in the mood of separation. The Ramayana exists primarily for his pleasure, as he takes great joy in hearing the same accounts of Rama’s life and teachings every single day. Though Hanuman is supremely powerful, wholly renounced, and fully capable of harnessing any of the perfections related to mystic yoga, his favorite activities are hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord.

Worship in separation is not a unidirectional force. Just as the devotees love to hear about the activities of their favorite person, the Supreme Lord and His associates take great joy in hearing of the transcendental activities of the devotees. Just as much as Hanuman loves thinking about Rama, the Lord takes great delight in glorifying and hearing of the exploits of Hanuman. One specific incident relating to Hanuman is described as amazing in the Ramayana of Valmiki. This viewpoint was held not only by the celestials in the sky overseeing the events, but also by Rama, who is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness.

What exactly did Hanuman do that was so wonderful? Did he dress himself very nicely? Did he take on a stature that was extremely powerful? Did he perform some amazing feat for his own benefit? Aside from worship in separation, wherein one hears about the Supreme Lord and keeps Him within their heart and mind, another aspect of devotional service involves direct engagement in a task to be performed for God’s benefit. Hanuman, as the best candidate for service in any and all situations, took up the most daunting mission of finding Sita’s whereabouts. During Rama’s trek through the woods, His wife was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. This unfortunate occurrence presented an opportunity for service to the Vanaras, or human-like monkeys, residing in the forest of Kishkindha. While Sugriva was their king, Hanuman was their most capable warrior.

HanumanHanuman braved his way across the massive ocean for Rama. How did an ordinary monkey travel over such a large body of water? Why was this journey even required? Sita’s captor, Ravana, had set up camp on the island of Lanka. This kingdom was strategically situated so as to make it difficult for others to attack. Indeed, Ravana didn’t think that anyone would be capable of infiltrating his seemingly impregnable fortress of opulence. Even if someone did manage to make it over the ocean, they couldn’t do much by themselves. How could they stand and fight against the massive Rakshasa army, each member of which was well skilled in the art of illusion?

Of course Hanuman was no ordinary figure. Though Sugriva had many powerful monkeys in his dispatched search parties, only Hanuman was capable of even thinking of getting across the ocean. To accomplish this task, Hanuman first had to assume a massive size. As a master of mystic yoga, such a transformation was not difficult for him. After assuming a gigantic stature, one the size of a mountain, Hanuman assured his friends that he would reach Lanka and find Sita. If she weren’t there, he’d then leap to the heavenly planets and continue searching. If she still wasn’t found, Hanuman would bring the entire kingdom of Lanka back with him to scour out; such was the determination of this great servant.

With the appropriate bodily frame attained, Hanuman took a giant leap off of a mountaintop and flew through the air. Though he met several obstacles along the way, he brushed them aside and reached the shore of Lanka. Just crossing the ocean alone was a difficult task, one duly noted and appreciated by the celestials who had a front-row seat in the sky. Since Hanuman’s mission was reconnaissance, he couldn’t keep his massive stature and enter Lanka. The whole point of the mission was to find Sita and return the information of her whereabouts to Rama. The Lord would then do the needful in respect to fighting Ravana and rescuing His wife.

Hanuman worshiping RamaHanuman could defeat anyone in battle, but his assigned task did not call for direct conflict, especially one instigated by him. The Rakshasas were also well on guard for enemy attack. Though their kingdom was strategically located, it is the nature of the sinful to always be fearful of losing their possessions secured through ill-gotten means. Hanuman finally decided on assuming a diminutive form, one that would allow him to enter Lanka unnoticed. As such, he anxiously awaited the nightfall, and when it finally came, he reduced himself to the size of a cat.

This transformation from a giant figure to a small one having the dimensions of a cat is described in the Ramayana as being an amazing sight. A vision is usually considered amazing and wonderful to behold because it is rare or difficult to duplicate. Various landmarks around the world, such as large towers, unique formations of rocks, waterfalls, etc., are deemed amazing and natural wonders. But Hanuman, as an animate being, was amazing because of his ability to cast aside all ego and desire for fame by assuming a diminutive stature. His massive form was surely a sight to behold, but his assuming a small form for the sake of Rama’s benefit was even more amazing. Not surprisingly, he would go on to successfully infiltrate Lanka, find Sita, allay her fears, and then safely return to Rama and Sugriva.

To this day, Hanuman is worshiped in a variety of forms, some which depict his massive stature that leapt across the ocean and others which show him carrying a giant mountain. Yet when he is pictured with Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, he is seen in a very diminutive form, one which is offering obeisances to the Supreme Lord. Upon first glance, it appears that Rama is imposing His superior stature in this pose, with Hanuman acting as His subject following a reverential attitude. But the truth is that Hanuman’s diminutive stature is completely his own doing; he purposefully makes himself very small in the presence of Rama and His family. Shri Rama tries His best to pick up Hanuman and bring him on an equal level, but Hanuman flat out refuses. As the greatest devotee of God, Hanuman never assumes himself to be equal to the Supreme Lord. Yet due to the perfect attitude he embodies and his undying love and devotion for Rama, he actually surpasses God in many respects.

Rama darbar Goswami Tulsidas notes that the servant who properly serves the master exceeds the master in stature. As proof of this claim, Tulsidas points to how Hanuman leapt over the massive ocean to reach Lanka, while Rama would later walk across a bridge constructed of rocks by the monkeys. The purport is that the servant, through his loving service to the Lord, attains the highest stature due simply to the kind benedictions provided by the Master. As such, it is not surprising to see Hanuman held in such high esteem today. He is the perfect embodiment of love in separation and also humility. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done in the transcendental arena. The garb he has to don and the size he has to assume are of no concern to him. Just as there is no proper way to measure the love felt by the Chatak bird towards its beloved raincloud, which is a metaphor for the Supreme Lord whose bodily hue is dark blue, there is no limit to the glories of Shri Hanuman. Just like an ocean that can never overflow with stories about the original Divine Being in the sky, the body of water that represents the glories of Shri Hanuman can never swell over, no matter how often it is replenished with kind words offered in his favor.

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Adbhuta Darshana

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 4, 2011

Hanuman “At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)

sūrye cāstaṃ gate rātrau dehaṃ saṃkśipya mārutiḥ |

vṛṣadaṃśakamātraḥ san babhūvādbhutadarśanaḥ

Shri Hanuman, in any form, is the most wonderful sight to behold. Whether he is engaged in acts of peace, violence, charity, fighting, or describing stories to his best friends, the faithful, pure, dedicated and kind nature of Hanuman is awe-inspiring and brings tears to the eyes of the beholder who can see past the boundaries erected by sectarianism, sentimentalism, and limited knowledge of the wonderful universe and its workings. In this beautiful passage provided by the Ramayana of Valmiki, Hanuman’s use of the anima-siddhi is being greatly appreciated, as the celestial monkey took on a diminutive stature for the purpose of finding a missing princess, the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Hanuman’s assuming the size of an ordinary cat is both amazing and wonderful to friend and foe alike. The admirer will understand that, as the faithful servant of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hanuman was wholly capable of any wondrous feat, while to the foe such descriptions further delude their intelligence and support their claims that the classic Vedic texts represent nothing more than hyped up mythology. But the latter mindset is only present due to the frog philosophy, one where scenes and observations not detected by direct perception are considered lies and untruths. This is indeed a sad occurrence, as the viewpoint is not based on any level of intelligence, nor is it helpful in the grand scheme of things. Those who understand Hanuman and the descriptions of his activities found in texts like the Ramayana and Hanuman Chalisa know that he is a real character and that the only aspect of his life that is seemingly unreal is his dedication to God.

IMG_0255The observations of those who are skeptical of the accounts of the paranormal found in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, can be compared to the remarks made by the frog who has spent his whole life in a well. If you were to try to describe the size of the Pacific Ocean to someone who has lived inside a well his whole life, it would be very difficult to do. The frog, who represents a person with a limited understanding, would ask, “So, compared to this well, how big is the Pacific Ocean? Is it two times the size? Five times the size of this well? Maybe one hundred times the size?” The frog doesn’t know any better; it is not intentionally being difficult in its attempts to understand the nature of this gigantic body of water, nor is it trying to trip up the person attempting to describe the size of one of the largest bodies of water in the world. The frog only knows what it has experienced; therefore it is incapable of truly understanding the size of any large body of water.

In a similar manner, young children, those in the first and second grades, look to older students, like sixth and seventh graders, as being very authoritative and large in stature. Yet to an adult, a sixth grader is still a young child, one who is not mature in any way. Viewpoints are based on direct sense perception and experience. Since the length and breadth of the entire universe are absolutely impossible to fathom for even the most intelligent scientist, knowledge of the universe and its workings will remain limited. When information is presented describing events and workings of nature that have never been directly perceived, the frog philosopher will use their blunt instruments and bodily senses to try to wrap their minds around the seemingly impossible details.

Only one entity, the Supreme Lord, the creator of everything, can understand all the intricate details of the nature He created. Indeed, if one could attain perfect and complete knowledge, they would lose their position as a fallible living entity. It is actually impossible to think beyond the limits of time and space, as who can actually conceptualize the idea of eternality, or sanatana? The properties of spirit are described as sanatana, which means without beginning and without end. This goes against the very fiber of our sense perceptions, as the descriptions of all events start with a beginning and conclude with an ending. Therefore only God can understand the true nature of time, space, and the amazing workings of the universe. The scientist, through their sincere endeavors, may be able to understand the workings of atoms and how one can use them to their benefit, but they still have yet to wrap their arms around the concept of a tiny pea-like entity surviving in the tiniest of spaces known as the womb. A human being, through the use of advanced machinery and modern science, can travel to outer space at great cost, but they still have no ability to travel within the tiniest of spaces, one which was already inhabited during the prenatal period. How can anyone claim to know everything if even past feats can’t be repeated?

HanumanShri Hanuman, the faithful Vanara warrior and servant of Lord Rama, wasn’t decorated with degrees in various sciences, but he did possess the highest level of love and respect for God. Due to his burning desire to always offer his services to the Lord, he was granted every skill necessary for performing his tasks. In relation to spiritual life, the foremost practice of which is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the qualitative aspects of the service offered cannot be measured or compared. This is because each individual life form is born with different propensities and different abilities as it pertains to worldly work. But what can be measured is the degree to which one taps into their potential for service. In this respect, Hanuman is the greatest devotee, as he did not let any of his abilities go to waste.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

In the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God, the most complete and succinct set of information and instructions pertaining to spirituality the world has ever seen, Lord Krishna, the original form of Godhead appearing on earth in a seemingly human form, reveals that He is the ability in man. The individual spiritual spark is the driving force behind activity, but the results of such work are distributed by the higher authorities in charge of the workings of nature. No one can lay original claim to their abilities, as every tool at their disposal is provided by the Supreme Lord. In Hanuman’s case, he was equipped with extraordinary skills that spanned many different fields of activity. Hanuman had mastery over the Sanskrit language; not only could he understand it perfectly, but he could compose beautiful Sanskrit poetry on the fly, without even thinking. There are many rules that must be followed when composing work in Sanskrit, so to be able to follow them while properly conveying the message at the same time requires great thought and intelligence. Hanuman, though in the body of a human-like monkey, had complete grasp of the oldest language in the world.

“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)

Hanuman also knew the three primary Vedas to perfection. The original scriptural tradition of India is known as the Veda, which as a word translates to knowledge. Amazingly enough, the Veda simply contains hymns, songs glorifying the Supreme Absolute Truth. Goswami Tulsidas, a famous poet and exalted Vaishnava saint, remarks that the glories of the Lord are well established in the Vedas, which constantly sing His glories. In order to make these hymns more understandable to the fallen people of the material world, the Veda was later divided into branches. Typically brahmanas, or expert priests, would choose to focus their studies on only one of these four Vedas, but those who knew more than one were considered quite learned. Hanuman, through his speaking abilities, proved that he had mastery over the three primary Vedas, though in reality there was nothing about spiritual life unknown to Hanuman.

HanumanHanuman also had mastery over mystic yoga, the ancient art of linking to the divine consciousness through sense control practiced by the sages of the Vedic tradition. Yoga is generally practiced today as an exercise routine due to the health benefits it provides, but the original purpose of the system was to detach the mind from the senses. Just as one who can avoid anger and rage is considered superior to one who can’t, the ability to control the mind and detach it from all objects of sense interaction is considered a superior skill. One who practices the various breathing exercises and gymnastics poses properly can thus acquire what are known as siddhis, or perfections. Because perfections are so difficult to attain, most yogis typically choose to focus their efforts on one or two siddhis. An expert yogi can become larger than the largest object, have out-of-body experiences by travelling through outer space, and survive for long periods of time without breathing. Hanuman, not surprisingly, had mastery over all the siddhis without having to put forth any extra effort. He had no desire to change his shape or travel through space, but these abilities were given to him for a reason. His time to shine would come soon enough.

During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Supreme Absolute Truth, that singular entity worshiped since the beginning of time by different names such as God, Bhagavan and Krishna, descended to earth in the guise of a human being. How can God take birth as a ordinary living entity? This is certainly an extraordinary ability, one lost on those deluded by the frog mentality. If God created all the innumerable planets and the giant sun which never burns out of energy, why can’t He take on the guise of a fallible living entity and roam this earth? He surely isn’t affected by the workings of nature in the same way that ordinary men are, but this doesn’t preclude Him from directly appearing anywhere. He is antaryami after all, or the all-pervading witness of every activity performed by every living entity since the beginning of time. Therefore the only amazing aspect to His appearances on earth is just how well He plays the role of a fallible creature, all the while remaining completely unaffected by material contact. Not only do the non-devotees get fooled by the pastimes of the divine incarnations, but so do the purest devotees.

“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 someone loves God, how could they get tricked into taking Him to be an ordinary human being? There are two different aspects to the illusory energy that governs this world. One aspect results in the delusion that causes association with the temporary nature. Indeed, this deviation from the divine consciousness is the root cause of the existence of the phenomenal realm. As such, those who take God in His various incarnations like Lord Rama, Narasimha, and His original appearance as Krishna to be simply elevated manifestations of the Absolute Truth contained within bodies composed of maya are further deluded in their understanding. But the other aspect to the illusory energy works directly under the Lord’s supervision to act as an agent to enhance the loving exchanges between the pure devotees and their supreme loveable object. Love is very difficult to practice under the mood of awe and reverence. Surely the respectful attitude is superior to the one that outwardly denies the existence and supremacy of a divine worshipable figure, but it doesn’t represent the height of love. When there is equality or even a feeling of superiority towards the object of interest, the loving exchanges are further increased in intensity. When the loveable object is deemed to be in a distressful condition, the services offered are seen as required, things that must be performed in the hopes of alleviating the pain and suffering of the object that is being cared for. This was how the dealings between Rama and Hanuman worked.

Lord RamaHanuman knew that Rama was someone special, but through the workings of nature and the desire to evoke the natural loving sentiments from His devotee Rama enveloped a cloud of ignorance around His closest associates. While Rama was residing in the forest of Dandaka with His younger brother Lakshmana and wife Sita Devi, the demon Ravana hatched up a scheme to take Sita away. The plan was enacted while Rama and Lakshmana were temporarily away from Sita’s side. Needing to find her whereabouts, Rama enlisted the aid of the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha. If the Vanaras viewed Rama as the person He was, the Almighty Supreme Lord, there would have been less impetus for service. After all, God can never suffer the loss of anyone, nor can He ever be frustrated. One of His names is Achyuta, which means one who never falls down. Love is always better practiced in the mood of unalloyed service, wherein the awe and reverence get suppressed by the pure affection felt by the subordinate party. Such was the case with the Vanaras, who counted Hanuman as their bravest and most sincere warrior. They saw Rama as needing help, a prince who was hurting due to a horrible deed perpetrated by the Rakshasas living in Lanka.

Sugriva, the king of the monkeys in Kishkindha, dispatched search parties around the world to find Sita, but he was sure that only Hanuman would be capable of finding her. His premonition would be correct, as Hanuman would be the only monkey capable of crossing the massive ocean that separated land from the island of Lanka where Sita was. To get across the ocean, Hanuman did not build a boat or an aircraft. Rather, he used his yogic powers to expand himself to the size of a mountain and leap across the ocean, using a mountaintop as his launching pad. He essentially took the aerial path by flying over the ocean after one giant leap. For a large mass, such as an airplane, to remain afloat in air, jet fuel and exact aerodynamic components and measurements are required. In Hanuman’s case, the required abilities were already provided to him. What he needed was strength, determination and perseverance, all of which came easily to him because of his sincerity of purpose. Hanuman always takes Rama’s business to be his own, the Lord’s pleasure to be his pleasure, and God’s apparent discomforts to be his only source of pain.

Hanuman was very eager to see Sita and allay her fears. Living as a captive amongst the vilest of creatures, surely she must have been a little fearful as to her future. When Hanuman reached the shores of Lanka, his challenges only increased. He had crossed the ocean, but now he needed a way to infiltrate the city without being noticed. He finally decided on assuming a diminutive form and entering at nighttime. In the above referenced passage, we see that Hanuman morphed to the size of a cat and that such a sight was wonderful to behold, adbhuta-darshana. Hanuman, though gifted with every prowess imaginable, had no attachment to any of them. He had just assumed a massive stature and leapt across the ocean, so that made it all the more amazing that he could assume a miniature stature not soon after.

HanumanHanuman always chooses whatever form is necessary to accomplish his task. His mastery over yoga isn’t even used for sense control or the ability to perform gymnastics feats. He has no concern over living very long, though the duration of his stay on earth is fixed for as long as Rama’s story continues to be told. Indeed, there is no end to the glories of Hanuman; we can only begin to understand them by studying his behavior described in the Ramayana and other texts. While the different forms assumed by Hanuman in service to Rama are amazing to behold, his love and devotion to the jewel of the Raghu dynasty are far more awe-inspiring. Not surprisingly, Hanuman would successfully find Sita, temporarily allay her fears, set fire to the city of Lanka and return to Rama’s camp. The entire Vanara army, led by Rama and Lakshmana, would then march to Lanka and soundly defeat the enemy. Sita would be rescued, Rama would be made happy, and Hanuman would be forever glorified. To this day, he is always associated with Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. One can hear of his exploits over and over again and never tire of appreciating his glorious nature.

There has never been anyone like Hanuman to roam this earth. His glorious nature only further solidifies the Supreme Lord’s status as the ultimate object of pleasure, the foremost entity deserving adoration. Our valuable human life is meant for serving Rama with the same vim and vigor as that displayed by Hanuman. One who taps into their potential for service to the same degree will always be in the good graces of Hanuman and be able to remember both he and the lord of his life, Shri Rama, for all of eternity.

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