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Shri Hanuman

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 1, 2011

Hanuman reaching for the sun “Then, after seeing the newly risen sun in the great forest when you were a boy, taking it to be fruit and wanting to catch it, you jumped up and flew towards the sky.” (Jambavan speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 66.21)

abhyutthitam tataḥ sūryam bālo dṛṣṭvā mahā vane ।

phalam ca iti jighṛkṣuḥ tvam utplutya abhiutpato divam

Shri Hanuman, the powerful Vanara warrior and faithful servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is one of the most celebrated divine figures in the world. The regular adulation and worship directed his way has gone on for thousands of years, dating back to the time of his initial advent on earth, when he aided the victorious side in one of the greatest battles this world has ever seen. Since the entire universe goes through many cycles of creation and destruction, the circumstances surrounding Hanuman’s birth are a little different each time around. The most often referenced account is provided in the sacred Ramayana of Maharishi Valmiki, which actually describes Hanuman’s early life in two different sections; such is the greatness of the fearless devotee. Hearing of his birth and his tremendous courage shown in battles against the enemies of the Lord is enough to secure transcendental bliss for a lifetime. Such figures are put on this earth at just the right time and place to allow current and future generations of conditioned souls a chance at understanding true greatness, courage, strength, perseverance, and most importantly, devotion to the Lord.

HanumanPure love for God, or bhakti, is the constitutional position of the soul. Though we tend to identify with our outward features, it is the spirit soul inside which forms the basis of identity. “I” and “Mine” really refer to the soul and not the body. We may have the form of a human being in the present life, but in a future one we may be born as a demigod, a plant, or even an animal. The soul can never be discarded, burned up, dried, or cut into pieces. No matter the trials and tribulations it endures, the soul can never change in properties. Part and parcel of the soul’s makeup is a deep and unadulterated love for God. When the individual spiritual spark is placed in a temporary realm, wherein birth, old age, disease and death constantly repeat, knowledge of the loving propensity gets forgotten. Therefore the aim of human life is to rekindle the pure connection with God through activities in divine love. Unlike conditioned activities, acts of devotion lead to liberation. Just as in an elementary school classroom there are two paths, one which leads to knowledge and subsequent elevation to the next grade, and another which forces the student to retake the same class in the following year, in the material world the living entities have a choice as to which type of engagement they will adopt, as free-will and independence are also characteristics of the soul.

“Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.9)

Lord Krishna Material activities, those actions that aim to satisfy the senses of the temporary body, are deemed conditioned and thus leading to bondage. The binding aspect shouldn’t be difficult to understand, as the body is temporary and subject for destruction, so any activity which aims to satisfy it will also end in destruction. Since such engagements also do nothing to purify consciousness, the soul remains bound to the cycle of birth and death. The Supreme Lord, the one and only God for all of humanity, is very kind. Through His separated energies, He gives those who do not worship Him personally what they want, even if their desires won’t lead to eternal freedom. If the individual wants to remain tied to the repetitious activities of sense gratification based off false identification, they are free to do so.

There is another class of activity which has the opposite effect; it slowly but surely breaks the bonds of attachment to the phenomenal world, thus leading to liberation, or the cessation to the cycle of birth and death. These activities, which are collectively known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, spark a change in consciousness. While the body is temporary and ultimately discarded, consciousness travels alongside the soul from life to life. It is the consciousness that determines the type of body the individual receives in the next life. As is readily perceptible, young children are born with certain qualities. One child will naturally be very peaceful and quiet, while another will be antsy and very talkative. These natures are determined by the previous consciousness of the soul. When one’s mindset is completely purified by remaining transcendentally situated at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a spiritual body is given in the next life. A spiritual form is a permanent one that is of the same quality as the soul. While the temporary outer covering composed of material elements has a spiritually inhibiting effect, the transcendentally situated form lacks any propensity for illusion or activities leading to bondage. Thus the Krishna conscious soul is free to associate with the Supreme Lord in their specific mood of choice.

How does a change in consciousness come about? Though we are in a temporary body, the key is to take to acts of bhakti, one of the simplest and most effective of which is hearing. Though the Supreme Lord remains invisible to the soul deluded by the sense consciousness, He kindly makes appearances on earth to give the inquisitive and love-starved individuals a chance at liberation. One such appearance took place many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. During that time, the original personality of Godhead, who is known as Krishna or Vishnu in the Vedic tradition, descended as a handsome and pious prince named Rama. Just as there is a natural interest in the workings of the notable royal families of today, there was a great interest in the day-to-day dealings of the famous Ikshvaku dynasty, which ruled the world. Their king at the time was Maharaja Dasharatha, who was so pious and kind that everyone loved him. Lord Rama was the king’s eldest son and the heir to the throne that was missing for such a long time.

Rama with His brothers, Sita and HanumanFrom the time of His birth, everyone was enamored by Rama’s activities and also those of His three younger brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. When one rises above the animalistic stage and gains a basic understanding of spirituality but still hasn’t achieved pure God consciousness, there are four rewards in life that are deemed most precious and worthy of attaining: dharma [religiosity], artha [economic development], kama [sense gratification] and moksha [liberation from birth and death]. They say that during Dasharatha’s time, these four rewards manifested in the forms of his four young children. In fact, these beautiful boys, who were all non-different forms of Vishnu, were rewards far greater than anything anyone could ever ask for. Devotion to the feet of these sweet children would bring the greatest gift of all: bhakti, which is an eternal flame of love that illuminates any form the soul happens to assume.

Those who lived in Ayodhya at the time certainly were transcendentally benefitted by seeing Rama and His brothers all the time, but in order to give future generations a chance to hear about the wonders experienced by the citizens of Ayodhya, the Lord took to transcendental activities performed outside of the town as He grew up. These actions were so blissful and beautiful that they were chronicled by Maharishi Valmiki in a wonderful poem called the Ramayana.

Rama and LakshmanaAs part of His pastimes, Rama roamed the forests of India alongside His beautiful and chaste wife Sita Devi and Lakshmana. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped from the forest while not in Rama or Lakshmana’s presence. In their subsequent search for her whereabouts, Rama and Lakshmana forged an alliance with a Vanara king named Sugriva, who was living in the forest of Kishkindha. Vanaras are usually taken to be monkeys, but the Sanskrit word itself means “one of the forest”. Based on the descriptions of their activities and their notably strong penchant for intoxication and sex life, we can understand that the Vanaras were very monkey-like, but they still retained many human tendencies. Species themselves don’t evolve, for matter is incapable of doing anything on its own. However, the body types in which the souls are injected certainly can change over time. The Vedas cap the list of distinct species at 8,400,000, with the Vanaras being one of them.

Sugriva sent out search parties to scour the earth for Sita’s location. Though the monkeys were divided into groups, Sugriva knew that the party which included Shri Hanuman, his most faithful and dear servant, was the only one with any legitimate chance at success. Sure enough, Hanuman’s group, after much stress and turmoil, finally stumbled upon Sita’s location. Through the help of a bird named Sampati, Hanuman and his monkey friends were informed that Sita was taken to an island kingdom of Lanka. There was just one problem: getting to the island. The monkey party was on one side of the water, and Lanka was all the way on the other side of the ocean. Realizing their dilemma, the monkeys each asserted how far they could jump. Similar to the old game show Name That Tune, each monkey stepped forward and said they could jump a certain distance. Realizing that none of these distances were long enough to make it across the ocean, Jambavan, one of the elderly monkeys in the group, approached Hanuman and asked him why he was silent. Up to this point Hanuman had not even ventured a guess as to how far he could jump.

HanumanJambavan took the opportunity to inform Hanuman of his tremendous prowess inherited from his father. Not knowing the circumstances of his birth, Hanuman was told the beautiful story about the early years of his life. There once was a celebrated celestial nymph who was exquisitely beautiful. Due to a curse imprecated by a sage, she was subsequently born as a monkey. Given the name of Anjana, she was later married to a monkey named Keshari. Though she was in the form of a Vanara, Anjana still retained some of her celestial powers, one of which included the ability to assume any shape at will. One day she decided to assume a human form and roam the top of a mountain which had a beautiful cloud amassed around it. The wind-god, Vayu, then saw her and became enamored.

Though this seems like a poetic trick of personification or a mythological tradition, the Vedas inform us that each of the material elements has a presiding deity. We can think of it in this way: As human beings, we can most certainly enter the water, but it is not our natural habitat. We could never survive in water because our specific body type is made to reside on land. Fish, on the other hand, can only survive in water. They would immediately die in any other environment. Just because we can’t survive in the water doesn’t mean that other living entities aren’t meant to live there. In the same way, each of the various planets of the universe has living entities with specific bodies residing on them. Even the sun is considered a deity, for it is presided over by a powerful living entity who possesses a body of fire.

manasā asmi gato yat tvām pariṣvajya yaśasvini |

vīryavān buddhi saṃpannaḥ putraḥ tava bhaviṣyati

mahāsāttvo mahāteja mahābala parākramaḥ |

langhane plavane caiva bhaviṣyati mayā samaḥ

“Since after embracing you I have entered you with my mind, O famous lady, a son who is powerful and endowed with intelligence will be born to you. He will be mighty, highly effulgent, very powerful, valorous, and my equal in flying and leaping abilities.” (Vayu speaking to Anjana, Valmiki Ramayana, 66.18-19)

Wind, along with earth, water, fire and sky, is one of the central elements of the material world. It has a presiding deity named Vayu who is responsible for its workings. The importance of this responsibility would be highlighted shortly after Vayu’s meeting with Anjana. Seeing the beautiful woman on the mountaintop, Vayu brought her close to his body, a gesture not appreciated by Anjana. She made a vow to only accept one husband, and now this strange person was seemingly violating her. Vayu allayed her fears by informing her that he had not had any intercourse with her, so her vow of chastity had not been broken. But due to the embrace, Vayu had impregnated her using his mind. Being with child, Anjana went to a nearby cave and gave birth to a Vanara son endowed with the celestial powers of his father.

Hanuman heading towards the sunWhen he was still a child, the young boy one day saw the sun in the sky and mistook it for a fruit. Wanting to grab the fruit and eat it, the child leaped into the sky and made his way closer and closer to the sun. His jumping ability and swiftness weren’t remarkable considering Vayu was the boy’s father. Even though the child was eventually repulsed by the massive splendor of the sun, he did not get discouraged in any way. Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, saw the child approaching his realm, and possessed by anger, he hurled a thunderbolt at the young boy. Being struck by Indra’s vajra, the child in the sky was throttled back and subsequently collided with a mountain. Since his jaw was broken by the impact with the mountain, the child was thenceforth known as Hanuman.

Seeing his son attacked and injured, Vayu was not happy at all. As revenge, he decided to cease functioning; so subsequently there was no wind anywhere on the earth. Obviously, this led to chaos and disaster, so the sages and demigods pleaded with Vayu to give up his anger. To pacify Vayu, Hanuman was granted the benediction from Lord Brahma of being invincible in battle. Indra, who was the cause of the whole mess, granted Hanuman the boon that he would never die unless he wanted to. When Jambavan finished his story, he also reminded Hanuman of his great powers borne of the ancestral link to the wind-god. Jambavan encouraged Hanuman to assume a massive form to cross over the ocean. The comparison was made to Trivikrama, the incarnation of Vishnu also known as Vamanadeva, who once shifted from a dwarf body to a massive form and covered the earth in just three steps. Jambavan also stated that Hanuman’s strength and speed were equal to that of Garuda, the celestial bird-carrier of Lord Vishnu.

These references to Vishnu were no accident, for the monkeys were involved in devotional service to Rama, a celebrated incarnation of Vishnu. Reminded of his sterling ancestry and prowess, Hanuman gladly abided by Jambavan’s words and assumed a massive form. Hanuman then boldly asserted that no one would be able to defeat him and that he would easily cross over the ocean. He assured the monkeys that Sita’s whereabouts in Lanka would be found. The rest, as they say, was history, as Hanuman would bravely leap across the ocean, find Sita, set fire to Lanka, return to Rama and Sugriva, and then play a major role in the final battle against Ravana. All would end well, as Ravana would be defeated by Rama, and Sita would be reunited safely with her dear husband. For his efforts, Hanuman was granted eternal devotion to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. To this day he remains always fixed in thoughts of love and devotion to them. Hanuman easily could have been granted liberation from the cycle of birth and death, but as a pure devotee and divine figure, he didn’t want any such reward, as bhakti is even greater than moksha. He only asked that he be able to remain on this earth for as long as Rama’s story continued to be told.

Hanuman and his glorious activities This means that anytime we say the name of Rama, or anytime we chant the glorious names of the Lord found in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, Shri Hanuman hears us and is pleased at the heart. As the gate-keeper of the spiritual kingdom inhabited by the glory of the Raghu dynasty, Hanuman doesn’t require an entrance fee, a cover charge, or steep penances and austerities as prerequisites for entry. He simply asks that we try to love Sita and Rama as much as he does. Surely this is not possible, but if we remain fixed on the path of devotional service and never forget the glorious Hanuman, the son of Anjana and the darling of the devotees of Rama, our efforts in this life will be successful. The potency of the human form of life lies not in the ability to enjoy the senses, but rather in the potential to understand and associate with the Supreme Spirit and His dearmost associates like Shri Hanuman.

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Kripana

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 2, 2011

Lord Rama “O best among the glorious ones, all of this has been achieved by me through the divine grace of You and Your brother. One who does not repay the favors offered to him certainly is considered a disgrace among men.” (Sugriva speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 38.26)

Miserly behavior is generally not appreciated. “Cheapskate”, “penny-pincher”, “Grinch”, etc., are all unflattering terms used to describe those who are not very willing to part with their time or money. Miserliness is based off of ignorance; an outgrowth of the mindsets of “I” and “Mine.” The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, consider this way of thinking to be very detrimental towards the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge of the Absolute, or at least some inquisitiveness about the highest authority figure, greatly aids the conditioned individual in ascending to the highest platform of consciousness, Krishna consciousness. This purified mindset, that of always thinking about and remembering God, allows the soul to transcend the stringent laws of nature, the codes that force one to be bound to the cycle of birth and death. While miserliness is bad in a spiritual sense, it also hurts those who are only worried about losing their illusory possessions.

“O daughter of Gargacharya, he who leaves this world without learning about the infallible Supreme is a kripana, or miser.” (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, 3.9.10)

Lord Krishna Why are worldly objects considered illusory? An illusion is something unreal, that which is not. For example, if we travel through the desert, the temperature is often so hot that it causes steam or hot air to hover above the surface of the ground. From a distance, this heat gives the visual of an oasis, or a pool of water. In the scorching heat, just the sight of water is enough to make one anxious, giving them hope of relief from their distressful condition. Yet since the image of an oasis is merely an illusion, it is known as a mirage.

Our possessions can be thought of in the same light. This really isn’t so difficult to understand. The term “possession” implies ownership; the act of acquiring an object of importance, something to derive happiness from. If we purchase a house from someone else, the ownership of the land and the building that resides on it changes hands. One person, the original owner, parts with their possession, the house, in exchange for money. The other person, the buyer, parts with their money in exchange for the possession of the house. Though the buyer is acquiring something, the house, they are simultaneously separating from something else; their hard earned money. This money is gathered through work or through the sale of some other object of value. Therefore money is not to be taken lightly. Throwing money around isn’t a common practice, for the wise remember the initial effort required to earn it.

Home construction What if the house wasn’t bought from someone else, but rather, built from scratch? Again, the same exchange, the parting and acquiring of a good, is visible. In order to build the house, trees must be cut down, brush must be cleared, and nails must be hammered. All of these objects must come from somewhere, for human beings are incapable of producing matter. All that humans can create is new life, but even then, it is the presence of the soul within the body that causes its growth. When the new house is built, other elements are shifted, transformed, and eventually parted with. After the house is erected, we may live in it for upwards of thirty or forty years, but eventually either the house or our body will be destroyed. Therefore, based on the house example, it is accurate to describe the nature of material possessions as illusory, or at least temporary.

While these facts are quite obvious to many, they are easily forgotten by those who are miserly. A miser is constantly in the mode of defense. They have certain possessions that they refuse to part with, be it money, a house, or even time. The miser forgets that they will have to part with all of their possessions eventually anyway, so there is no real claim to any of the property. On a higher level of thought, everything in this world originally belongs to God. We most certainly can lay a rightful claim to the property that we acquire peaceably and voluntarily, but technically, such property is simply on loan from the original Divine Being, the Creator of all things matter and spirit. If we mistakenly take everything in this world to be ours, we are essentially saying that we are God. It is precisely this mindset that leads to the repetition of birth and death.

Shrila Prabhupada The acharyas, the authority figures following the tenets of the Vedas, advise us to shed this flawed view of our worldly possessions. In addition to taking to direct worship of the Supreme Lord, a good practice is to avoid miserliness. The opposite of being cheap is being liberal. This doesn’t mean that we should spend our money with reckless abandon, but rather, we shouldn’t refrain from being kind and charitable to others. This is especially true when others have offered us some service in the past. It is bad enough to be an ordinary miser, or kripana, but it is even worse to be stingy when someone else has been kind and charitable towards us already. The more we repay our debts, the more we purify ourselves. The purer the individual, the greater their chances are for liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

While we certainly owe a debt to our friends, family, and fellow man for the kind services they provide us, no one is more deserving of our gratitude and kindness than Bhagavan, the original proprietor. This was the point raised by Sugriva, a famous Vanara warrior and king. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the forest dwellers were known as Vanaras, which were a human-like race of monkeys. These monkeys had the great fortune of meeting Lord Rama, an incarnation of Godhead. Though Rama is declared to be a primary incarnation of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the authoritative Vedic literatures, one doesn’t need to believe that Rama is Divine in order to derive a great lesson from His dealings with Sugriva and the Vanaras.

Lord Rama Shri Rama was playing the part of a human being, a fallible living entity who had to suffer through the ups and downs of ordinary life. Yet Rama was a qualified incarnation of Godhead, so if He was going to show suffering, He couldn’t undergo any ordinary calamities. Depending on age and surroundings, one’s definition of what constitutes suffering will vary. In our youth, having to wake up early and sit in school all day is a great form of suffering. As we get older, dealing with romantic relationships is the greatest source of distress. As the famous song says, “Breaking up is hard to do”, getting together and parting with a significant other are not easy things to deal with. As we mature a little bit, having to take care of our own children, watching them grow, worrying about them constantly, and hoping that they won’t fail in life are the greatest forms of suffering. Finally, in the latter stages of life, the greatest source of distress is the fear of death, an end to the way of life we have grown accustomed to.

In order to garner the attention and attachment of His fellow sons and daughters, Bhagavan decided to put Himself through some of the most troubling situations during His time on earth as Rama. Shri Rama lost His kingdom on the day He was to be coronated as the new king. He lost His riches and claim to His kingdom at the same time. Worst of all, Rama lost the association of His wife Sita Devi when she was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon in the forest. In trying to find her whereabouts, Rama made His way to the Kishkindha forest, where He met up with Sugriva and formed an alliance.

Rama's alliance with the Vanaras The arrangement with Sugriva was pretty straightforward: Rama would help him regain his kingdom by killing Vali, and Sugriva would in turn help the Lord find Sita. Rama did His part by killing Vali while the monkey was engaged in a fight with Sugriva, his brother. Upon Vali’s death, Sugriva regained his lost kingdom and subsequently took to celebration. Being a monkey, he had a natural penchant for intoxication and sex life. After months of enjoyment on the part of the Vanaras, Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, grew irate. The monkey king had made a deal after all, and now he wasn’t coming through. Sita still wasn’t found, while Rama was left to sit and wait. Lakshmana angrily approached the monkey, and through the good graces of Hanuman, Sugriva finally came to his senses.

In the above referenced statement, Sugriva is offering kind words to Shri Rama. All the monkeys had approached the Lord and offered to serve Him. Sugriva is remarking that any person who fails to repay the good deeds performed for him by a friend or well-wisher is certainly a disgrace. In this way, Sugriva is openly admitting that it was his duty to meet his end of the bargain, to help Rama find Sita. Eventually, the Vanaras would be successful in this mission, with Hanuman leaping his way to the island kingdom of Lanka and finding Sita. Rama would regain His wife, kingdom, and peace of mind. Sugriva and the rest of the monkeys ended up being some of Rama’s closest associates, His beloved friends.

LordChaitanya Aside from avoiding miserliness in our ordinary dealings, we should also avoid being stingy in spiritual life. God has already given us the tools with which to work, the necessary procedures, guidelines, and practices to achieve perfection in life. Of all of Bhagavan’s gifts to us, the greatest is the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This sacred formula allows us to produce the sound vibration representation of the original Divine Being. After being universally empowered by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this mantra was passed down to allow any person to make progress in spiritual life, allowing them to become free of their flawed mindset brought about by association with illusory material objects. Let us repay this kind favor by regularly chanting this most sacred mantra, at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. The Lord doesn’t want our money or our possessions, just our sincere and loving thoughts. Let us not be misers in this area, for the greatest human beings are those that repay the good deeds done in their favor.

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No Need To Forget

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 31, 2010

Lord Rama “When angered, Raghava is capable of bringing the entire world, including all devas, asuras, and Gandharvas, under His control simply by taking up His bow.” (Hanuman speaking to Sugriva, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 32.19)

This cogent advice, forever grounded in the truth, was offered by the esteemed, supremely worshipable, Shri Hanuman, the most celebrated servant of Shri Rama. In this passage, we are reminded both of the Almighty’s all-powerful strength and His ability to take away everything visible before us. This world is temporary after all, so there must be a creator and a destroyer. Only the original Divine Being exists forever in His transcendental form; thus He is the only person who lives through the creations and destructions of the innumerable universes. Though there is no reason to ever forget about the original person, the ultimate reservoir of pleasure, the living entities invariably do shift their mind’s attention towards other interests. When the mind starts to drift, it is helpful to be reminded of the Lord’s attributes, especially as it relates to our particular areas of interest.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.19)

Vanaras building bridge to Lanka In this particular instance, the areas of interest relate to a kingdom and all the opulences that come with it. Many thousands of years ago, the forest dwellers in Kishkindha were basking in the reacquisition of a lost kingdom. During those times, the forest inhabitants were known as Vanaras, which is a Sanskrit word which means “of the forest.” Since these events took place so long ago, the species residing in the forests weren’t necessarily human beings or monkeys. The Vanaras were a combination of both; not some mythological creatures, but rather, a species specific to the time period. According to Vedic information, the varieties in species are caused by the innumerable combinations of material qualities that souls accept upon entry into the temporary creation. The only permanent creation exists in the spiritual sky, a realm where the Lord in His original form and His liberated associates enjoy each other’s company. The temporary creation is the world that we currently inhabit, a place full of misery, duality, and heartache. Since every soul has different desires to act out on this temporary playground, they are each given bodies with different qualities to make use of. The Vanaras of the Treta Yuga were one particular type of species who primarily possessed monkey-like characteristics, along with the ability to speak and take in knowledge.

Since they were also human-like, the Vanaras assembled together into kingdoms just as ordinary human beings do. In one particular kingdom, there was a quarrel between two brothers, Vali and Sugriva. On one occasion, Vali was drawn into a cave while fighting with an enemy. Sugriva, who was waiting outside, thought he heard Vali breathe his last, so in order to save the rest of his kingdom from the wrath of the demon, he decided to close up the only exit/entry to the cave. In reality though, it was the demon who had died and Vali who had lived. Able to make his way out of the cave, Vali became enraged towards Sugriva, thinking that his brother had closed up the cave on purpose so as to take over the kingdom. A fight ensued, with Sugriva eventually being driven out of his kingdom.

Rama and Lakshmana Sugriva, taking shelter in the forest of Kishkindha, a place where Vali was forbidden from entering, had the good fortune of meeting Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana are famous throughout India today, as is Hanuman. Rama is considered an incarnation of Godhead, a primary avatara of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, Krishna, Rama, and Narayana are interchangeable names for the person the rest of the world refers to as God. These names are more descriptive than the name “God” because they reference specific attributes and transcendental qualities possessed by the Lord. In the case of Rama, the name also refers to a specific incarnation of Godhead who appeared on earth and enacted wonderful pastimes.

As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the blissful Personality of Godhead, roamed the earth in His transcendental form of a pious kshatriya prince. Rama, as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, played the part of the pious descendant of the Raghu dynasty based in Ayodhya. While roaming the forests for fourteen years with His younger brother Lakshmana, Rama’s wife Sita Devi was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Sita was also with the group on their sojourn through the forest, but at the time of the kidnapping, both Rama and Lakshmana happened to be absent from the group’s hermitage. Upon learning of Sita’s disappearance, Rama and Lakshmana frantically began a search for her whereabouts. One particular Rakshasa later informed them that the monkey-king Sugriva living in Kishkindha would be able to help them in their search.

Rama shooting Vali Upon reaching Kishkindha, a meeting between Rama and Sugriva was brokered by Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister. This meeting then led to an alliance, a sort of implied agreement. Sugriva wanted to regain his kingdom from Vali and Rama wanted to find His wife. Both agreed to help each other out with what they needed. Lord Rama held up His end of the bargain. Sugriva challenged Vali to a fight, and while the monkeys were engaged in battle, Rama shot Vali in the back with an arrow. Upon the monkey’s death, Sugriva and his subjects regained their kingdom.

Since the Vanaras were more monkey-like than human-like, they naturally took to excessive celebration after their victory. Sugriva spent months engaged in intoxication and sex life with innumerable female consorts. After considerable time had passed, Lakshmana’s patience ran out. Rama was faithful to the agreement, but Sugriva had failed to live up to his end. Sita was still missing and no one knew where she was. Lakshmana then angrily approached Sugriva’s home and asked to have a face-to-face meeting with the king. Hearing of Lakshmana’s anger, Sugriva became afraid and asked his counselors about what should be done. Hanuman stepped in and offered some sound words of advice.

Lord Rama In the above referenced quote, Hanuman is reminding Sugriva of Rama’s powers. Hanuman, who is a pure devotee of Shri Rama, knows the Lord very well. Hanuman never thinks of anyone else, so he never fails to remember Rama’s potencies. Lord Rama is generally depicted as very happy, wearing a pleasing smile on His face. He is God after all, so why wouldn’t He be happy? Yet here Hanuman is reminding Sugriva that Rama can also get angry if need be. It was through the Lord’s fighting prowess that Sugriva was able to enjoy the happiness that he was currently basking in. Therefore it was incumbent upon the monkey-king to hold up his end of the bargain. Lord Rama, as the most powerful warrior the world had ever seen, was not only capable of killing Vali and others, but He was capable of destroying the entire creation, including the residents of different planets. The demigods are the pious elevated living entities who reside in the heavenly planets. The asuras are the demons; they generally reside in the lower hellish planets. The Gandharvas are the celestial singers who entertain the demigods in heaven with their sweet songs. Lord Rama was so powerful that He could bring all of these entities under His control simply by shooting one arrow from His bow.

While Hanuman’s words reference a specific situation where an agreement between two parties was broken, the statement applies to all of us. The natural order of things, the way things ought to be, is to have the living entities constantly serve God. The mood of this service can vary, but the two separate entities, with one being superior and one being inferior, must be recognized. The Lord is meant to be worshiped, and the living entities are meant to provide that worship. But this devotion must be practiced voluntarily.

There is an inherent covenant established between the living entities and their supreme object of pleasure, Shri Krishna. God has already held up His end of the bargain. He supplies our food and other necessities through His different agents who are in charge of the material creation. The Lord has already established the condition in which our service to Him can be carried out. One may be inclined to disagree with this assertion, for how can everyone offer service to God? Aren’t some of us in distressful conditions, forced to suffer through famine, war, and natural disasters? For the people of this age, the easiest and most effective devotional activity is the chanting of the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Since this chanting process is available to all of us, it should be understood that the Lord has already created a condition sufficient enough for our devotional efforts to be carried out without impediment.

Hanuman chanting The ball is now in our court. Sugriva, upon hearing Hanuman’s words, decided to kindly pacify Lakshmana and pay back the debts owed to Shri Rama. Sugriva was eternally benefitted as a result, for Rama was able to find Sita , kill her abductor, and return triumphantly to His kingdom with all His friends and associates. Sugriva not only regained his kingdom, but through his service to Rama, he became famous throughout the world as a great devotee. For the conditioned entities living in the present, there is no reason to forget Rama or His powers. Currently our devotion is directed elsewhere towards objects which are nothing more than transformations of matter. Since God is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of that matter, we would be better served shifting our devotion towards Him. There is no need to forget the all-powerful and all-merciful Lord. He is kindly awaiting our service and our subsequent return to His spiritual abode.

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Demon Worship

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 27, 2010

Rama and Lakshmana fighting Ravana “…Lord Rama was so saintly that people were anxious to live in His kingdom, (Rama-rajya), but Lord Rama never showed any cowardice. Ravana was an aggressor against Rama because he kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita, but Lord Rama gave him sufficient lessons, unparalleled in the history of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.36 Purport)

Ravana is one of the more intriguing figures in history, especially for those who live in India. While most people who grow up in the Western world have certainly heard about Lord Jesus Christ, not every person is aware of the details surrounding his birth, life’s activities, or teachings. In India, however, almost every person is acutely aware of the heroic and villainous figures of the Vedic tradition. Amongst all the heroes, probably the most celebrated is Lord Rama, an incarnation of Godhead who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. Where there is a hero, naturally there will also be a villain, so this part was played by a Rakshasa named Ravana. The interactions between Rama and Ravana are chronicled in full detail in the famous Ramayana poem penned by Maharishi Valmiki. While most sober people realize that Rama is a divine figure and that Ravana is an enemy of God, there are still many who take to worshiping Ravana instead of Rama.

Lord Rama The first point that must be stressed is that when God comes to earth, He doesn’t just fight with anyone. According to Vedic doctrine, there is only one God for all of humanity, but He takes many different forms, each tailored to attract a certain kind of person. Everyone is the same spiritually, but their bodily makeup can vary. Some are pious, some are mixed in piety and passion, and some live completely in ignorance. God is for everyone, so for this definition to be valid, He must have an attractive feature for every type of person. Therefore the Lord expands Himself into direct copies and sometimes partially direct copies in order to attract the wayward souls. On special occasions, however, the Lord personally comes in an original form, a body which is completely spiritual and existing eternally. This was the case with Lord Rama, considered one of the most prominent avataras of Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Godhead and expansion of Lord Krishna.

Aside from giving pleasure to the saintly class, God’s incarnations also serve to annihilate miscreants. On the highest level of understanding, there is no difference between good and bad people. A good person is usually equated with one who takes to acts of piety. Piety is really any activity which leads to a relative or temporary return of one’s consciousness to its original position. Originally, every spirit soul, including one in the body of an animal, plant, or aquatic, is God conscious. This means that their primary thoughts and ideas are focused around God and loving service to Him. In this world, however, that consciousness becomes perverted. Instead of God conscious, we become body conscious, so we take the demands of our senses to be of utmost importance. This consciousness then drives us to different activities. Pious activities are those which bring about a temporary return to the original consciousness; activities that allow us to remember God for a short period of time. The duration of this consciousness eventually expires, thus a return to our former state of body consciousness is inevitable. The same holds true with sinful activities, i.e. they cause a temporary diversion from body consciousness to total ignorance. Eventually one returns to their previous state.

Vishnu avataras Since there is really no good or bad in a material sense, God doesn’t take any direct interest in the day to day affairs of the material creation. So why do the avataras come to earth then? There are special occasions where certain demoniac elements rise to power. If there is no such thing as bad, how can anyone be a demon? We can think of it in this way: While there is no good or bad, there is hot and cold. The aim of human life is to rekindle one’s God consciousness, an achievement which allows the wayward spirit soul to return to its original constitutional position permanently. Upon assuming this God consciousness, the soul returns to the spiritual world, where it always thinks about, serves, and associates with the Supreme Lord. Therefore all activities conducted in the conditioned state can be thought of as either getting us closer towards the ultimate destination [warmer], or further away [colder]. Under this paradigm, the demons are those people who thwart the activities of those who are trying to get warmer. Krishna, or God, is the ultimate energetic, the source of all heat and light, so those who are trying to get closer and closer to this powerhouse of energy are certainly on the warmer path. These people are known as devotees. The demons, while certainly remaining on the colder path by taking to sinful activity, sink to an even lower level by trying to thwart the activities of the devotees.

God doesn’t stand for this. It is one thing if a person wants to ruin their own lives. That is all well and good, for every living entity is granted a small amount of freedom. This independence manifests through acts of sense gratification and choices as far as which direction to take in life. But the Lord objects when this freedom is misused to infringe on the rights of others, especially as it relates to spiritual life. In this regard, there was one demon in particular many thousands of years ago who had taken to harassing the saintly class of men. At the time, many sages had taken to forest life since it was peaceful and thus conducive towards the practice of austerity and sacrifice. These two practices, austerity and sacrifice, or tapasya and yajna, are two critical components of a potent spiritual discipline. When practiced correctly, these two techniques can deliver quick results in one’s pursuit towards God consciousness.

Sages living in the forest The sages had no problem living in the forests because even the animals residing there didn’t bother them. A certain race of demons known as Rakshasas didn’t play as nicely. Since every material body is composed of so many varying elements, there are actually 8,400,000 different life forms. The Rakshasas are one of them, and their bodies are mostly made up of the mode of ignorance. Nevertheless, they closely resemble humans, but due to their ignorance, they live almost completely in sin. As mentioned before, this sin only causes a temporary deviation from body consciousness, but due to their demoniac nature, these Rakshasas took to harassing the sages living in the forest. What was the nature of this harassment? The Rakshasas could assume any shape at will. Taking advantage of this ability, they would first approach the sages in a non-threatening form. Then, when the sages had their guard down, the Rakshasas would reassume their original form and attack the innocent saints. Killing the sages wasn’t enough, for the Rakshasas would eat their flesh afterwards. This was all done right at the time of a sacrifice, meaning that they waited until the sages were engaged in the most important part of their duties.

The leader of these Rakshasas was a demon named Ravana. He had set up a beautiful kingdom on the island of Lanka. On the strength of boons given to him by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, Ravana was invincible against almost anyone in battle except ordinary human beings. Brahma and Shiva are suras, or devotees, so it may seem strange that they would grant Ravana boons. While Krishna, or God, is not required to give anything to anyone, this is not the case with the demigods. As mentioned before, the Lord has no interest in material advancement or regression, so if someone desperately wants to acquire material powers, the Lord doesn’t stand in their way. In order to encourage religious practice, the Lord put in place several heads of state, elevated living entities known as demigods who are in charge of giving rewards to anyone who pleases them properly. In this regard, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva were bound by duty to give Ravana whatever he wanted, up to the reward of immortality. Lord Brahma himself isn’t immortal, so he surely can’t grant this boon to anyone else.

Sita Devi The Ramayana is quite lengthy, so describing Ravana’s entire life would certainly require pages and pages of discussion and descriptions. Long story short, God appeared on earth as Rama to kill Ravana. Rama was born as a prince belonging to a very famous family of warriors. While residing in the forest of Dandaka, Ravana would come and steal Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, while the Lord was temporarily away from her side. This set the wheels in motion for Ravana’s demise. Eventually Rama would march to Lanka, and aided by an army of monkeys, He would defeat Ravana and his army, killing the demon and rescuing Sita.

This wonderful historical event has been celebrated ever since. For the suras, the event reminds them of God’s triumph over the demons. Ravana was harassing the saints, so God stepped in to save them. For the philosophers and impersonalist mental speculators, the event represented the victory of good over evil. For the non-devotees, however, the event represented the slaying of a great king, a powerful materialist who had to be taken down by Rama for no justifiable reason. One would be surprised to know that Ravana is still worshiped to this day by many in India. Some view him as a great king, while others conjure up crackpot theories such as that Ravana was so powerful that Rama became jealous of him. Then there are others who adore Ravana since he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. So what do we make of all this?

As mentioned before, when God comes to fight in this world, His adversaries are no ordinary people. From Vedic information, we understand that God’s enemies all receive the salvation of merging into His transcendental body. This type of mukti, or liberation, is considered inferior to the liberation of associating with God in His eternal body. Nevertheless, it is still a type of liberation, or an end to the repeated cycle of birth and death. God grants this liberation because these demons think of the Lord at the time of death. One’s consciousness while quitting their body determines the type of body they will receive in the next life. Ravana was thinking of Rama, or God, at the time of death, so naturally He was able to merge into the Lord’s body.

Lord Rama From the Uttara-kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana, and also from the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, we see that Ravana wasn’t actually so evil. Since the events of the Ramayana occur over and over again in each creation, sometimes the events unfold in different ways, though the general sequence remains the same. In some kalpas [creations], Ravana is a great king in his previous life, a pious soul who gets tricked by a former adversary into feeding flesh to brahmanas. The brahmanas then curse the king to take birth as a hideous Rakshasa in his next life. In another kalpa, we see that Ravana one day approaches the great sage Sanatkumara and asks him what happens to people who die while fighting human beings and demigods. The sage answers that the fighter would go to heaven for a period of time, and then return back to earth. Ravana then asks what would happen to those who die while fighting Vishnu. The sage answers that the fighter would attain Vishnu’s nature. Upon learning of this, Ravana decides to take away Sita in order to be killed by Vishnu in battle.

In the Ramacharitamanasa, we see that Ravana eagerly awaited defeat from Rama, though outwardly he continued to play the part of the demon to perfection. This is an interesting point that shouldn’t be overlooked. Every single living entity is part and parcel of God, so at their core, they are perfect beings. They are gold that is currently covered up by material elements. Even the most vile person, be they a killer, a thief, a rapist, etc., is part and parcel of God and a devotee at heart. So does this mean that we should worship everyone? While everyone may be a devotee originally, they can’t be considered pure until they exhibit the proper qualities. When we criticize Ravana for his actions, we aren’t saying that he isn’t a devotee. Rather, we know that he only played the role of God’s enemy in order to teach future generations a lesson. So when we criticize him, we are finding fault with his activities and reminding people of what happens when one takes to the path of the demons.

Lord Shiva As far as Ravana’s devotion to Lord Shiva goes, it should be noted that this devotion was not offered out of any type of love. Ravana first tried to battle Lord Shiva, and only after being soundly defeated did he take to worshiping him. In fact, this was how all of Ravana’s friendships were formed. There was a great monkey king by the name of Vali who Ravana tried to once fight. At the time of their meeting, Vali was on a beach involved in meditation. Instead of waiting for him to finish his meditation, Ravana decided to do a sneak attack from behind. Vali of course could sense the demon coming, so he waited until the opportune moment and then put Ravana in a headlock. Vali was extremely powerful, so Ravana was unable to free himself from the monkey’s grip. Vali then paraded Ravana in the sky for all to see. After being defeated in this way, Ravana decided to forge a friendship with Vali, with their alliance ratified in the presence of fire.

The lesson here is that there is no need to imitate Ravana’s activities or even to worship him. Demons and other materialists may acquire great powers, but there is no need to be enamored by this. Though fictional villains such as Darth Vader and the Joker are adored and loved by many, imitating their nefarious behavior certainly isn’t recommended. While we are thankful to Ravana for acting as a sparring partner for Lord Rama, our devotional efforts should be directed at the Supreme Lord. He is the only person who can grant us the highest type of liberation, a permanent return to our original constitutional position. One who thinks of God in a loving way at the time of death ultimately attains the Lord’s nature of bliss and knowledge. This nature is acquired not through merging into the Lord’s body, but rather through constant association with God and His devotees in the spiritual world. Krishna is the only deva for all of mankind, for even Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma worship Him on a daily basis.

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The Secret Weapon

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 30, 2010

Lord Brahma “With Vaidehi [Sita] being thus insulted, all the moving and nonmoving beings of the world were put into a chaotic condition and were surrounded by a dense blinding darkness. The wind did not blow and the sun did not shine. Seeing with his divine vision that Sita was overcome, the illustrious great-father [Brahma] said, ‘My work is done.’ All the supreme rishis who were present felt both pleased and distressed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 52.9-11)

The kidnapping of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, is one of the more troubling incidents to hear about for devotees. Sita Devi was beautiful, kind, chaste, and never bothered anybody during her time on earth. She was the embodiment of the perfect woman. Simply hearing about her being forcibly dragged into the aerial car of the demon Ravana and made to sit on his lap, is enough to make devotees cringe. This incident leads many to scorn God Himself for allowing such an insult to take place. On the flip side, however, Sita’s kidnapping was a very joyous occasion for the demigods.

Sita Devi Sita Devi is considered an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Narayana in the spiritual world. The Vedas tell us that the original form of God is Krishna, but that He then expands into several vishnu-tattva expansions to perform specific duties. Lord Vishnu, or Narayana, is Krishna’s primary expansion. The only real difference between Krishna and Vishnu is that Vishnu has four hands, while Krishna has two. Again, these differences exist simply because of the different functions that each must perform. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that He rewards devotees in the manner in which they worship Him. Some devotees prefer to worship Narayana, while others are Krishna bhaktas. In the end, there is no difference between the two.

God is not alone in the spiritual world. Just as we have our own family members in this world, the Lord has eternal associates in the spiritual world. Krishna is the energetic, and His pleasure potency expansions represent His energy. God derives pleasure from His devotees through their engagements in different transcendental mellows, or rasas. The most advanced devotees know how to give the most pleasure to God, thus they are classified as hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency expansions. Krishna’s pleasure potencies are the gopis of Vrindavana, the chief of whom is Shrimati Radharani. In a similar manner, Lord Narayana’s eternal consort is Goddess Lakshmi, a beautiful devi who provides wealth and good fortune to her devotees. Since she is God’s wife, it makes sense that Lakshmi would be in charge of fortune. No one is more fortunate than God due simply to the fact that the goddess of fortune serves Him.

Goddess Lakshmi Vishnu appears on earth from time to time to enact specific pastimes. He takes birth in the guise of a living entity, but His body always remains spiritual. God usually doesn’t come alone either, as His closest family members appear with Him. One of God’s most famous appearances took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. At the time, the demon class of men, the Rakshasa, was steadily ascending to power all over the world. Human beings are considered the most elevated species since they have the brain capacity to understand God. Not only can they learn about spiritual matters, but they can use that knowledge to free themselves from the repeated cycle of birth and death. This liberation is known as mukti, and it is the opinion of the Vedas that the human being has the best chance at achieving this.

The human beings aren’t the only species on earth. Scientists posit various theories about creatures who previously lived on the earth but that are now extinct, like the dinosaurs. We also see that scientists always seem to discover new species that they never heard of before. The Vedas, which serve as the original knowledge base for all things material and spiritual, tell us that there are 8,400,000 different species. This number is so high because the living entity can possess the three qualities of material nature [goodness, passion, and ignorance] in various combinations and permutations. One species can be in 50% goodness, while another may be in 25% goodness and 75% ignorance. The human being mostly lives in passion, but there is a catch. We have a choice as to which mode we want to associate with. Not only can we choose to act in goodness, passion, or ignorance, but we also have the option to rise above these three modes and engage in pure goodness, known as shudda-sattva. The lower species don’t have this choice due to their lack of intelligence.

“The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.45)

Life in Krishnaloka The Rakshasas are a human-like species, so they have similar features to humans, except that they live mostly in ignorance. When someone is associating with the mode of ignorance it means they are performing activities that don’t help their soul advance in the next life. The soul is eternal, but the body is not. Therefore, we can conclude that it is more important to take care of the soul than it is to take care of a body that must eventually be given up. Everyone on earth performs some sort of work. The Vedas tell us that we should perform work that will allow our souls to eventually reach the final destination of Krishnaloka, or the spiritual sky. Once a soul goes back to God’s spiritual world, it never has to come back to the material world.

Acting in the mode of goodness allows one to take birth in a pious family in the next life, or even in the body of a demigod, an elevated living entity. The mode of passion allows one to remain a human being, thus it is essentially a mode of neutrality. The mode of ignorance causes one to descend to a lower species in the next life. This mode is characterized by excessive eating, sleeping, intoxication, and a general disregard for the laws of dharma. The Rakshasas of the Treta Yuga fit right into this mold. Their leader was Ravana, a ten-headed monster who ruled over the kingdom of Lanka. He was always drinking wine and having sex with his innumerable wives. He loved to eat meat, especially the flesh of sages that he and his Rakshasas had personally killed.

Ravana was very powerful and a staunch enemy of the demigods. Krishna and Vishnu represent the Supreme God, and the demigods represent His chief deputies. The demigods are in charge of various departments of the material creation. Though they are also very powerful, they are still fallible living entities. This means that they too are subject to the forces of material nature as manifested through birth and death. Since the beginning of time, the demigods have been engaged in a battle with the demons. The demigods, or godly people, are referred to as suras and the demons as asuras. Ravana was an asura who regularly fought with the demigods. Since he was too strong for them, the demigods were deathly afraid for their lives and also for the future condition of the earth. As a last resort, they sought the shelter of Lord Vishnu. They begged Him to come to earth and kill Ravana, and thereby relieve their suffering.

There was a catch to this though. Lord Brahma had granted Ravana several boons due to austerities he had performed. God is never forced to answer anyone’s prayers since He is aloof from the day-to-day affairs of the material world. The demigods, on the other hand, are duty-bound to grant benedictions to anyone who pleases them properly. Ravana took advantage of this by performing great austerities to please the demigods. They in turn granted him several boons which boosted his strength. They also granted him immunity in battle against all the demigods and other celestial beings. Thus Ravana thought he was immortal. He made a costly mistake, however, in that he forgot to ask for immunity from human beings. Ravana thought that if a celestial couldn’t defeat him, surely no lowly man could.

Lord Rama Lord Vishnu used this loophole to appear on earth in the form of a human being, the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama. One more issue remained though for the demigods. Rama took birth in a very pious kshatriya family that traced their ancestry all the way back to Maharaja Ikshvaku, the first king on earth. This meant that Lord Rama was obliged to adhere to chivalry and the established rules of conduct for a king. One of the most important rules for the warrior class is that they are not allowed to attack another person without just cause. This means that technically Rama couldn’t attack Ravana or take him on in battle without a legitimate excuse. This is where Sita Devi came in.

At the same time that Vishnu was appearing on earth as Rama, Goddess Lakshmi was appearing as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Sita and Rama were eventually married, as was their destiny. After twelve years of marriage, the pair roamed the forests of India along with Lakshmana. Ravana, hearing of this beautiful woman staying in the forest of Dandaka, decided that he had to have her. He set up a diversion which lured Rama and Lakshmana away from their cottage, leaving the door open for Sita’s abduction.

Jatayu fighting Ravana While Ravana was flying away on his aerial car with Sita, the king of birds, Jatayu, intercepted him and took him on in battle. After a fierce fight, Ravana eventually killed Jatayu, and then safely flew back to his island kingdom of Lanka with Sita. In the above referenced quote, Lord Brahma is remarking how his work has been accomplished, and the saints living in the forest are described as being both aggrieved and delighted over the incident. The saints were aggrieved because Sita was forcibly taken away from her husband. Yet they, along with Brahma, were happy because they knew that this incident signaled the end of Ravana. Lord Rama now had the excuse He needed to take on Ravana and kill him in battle.

The pious never attack without just cause. Even in today’s world, the police are never allowed to search someone’s property without probable cause. Police officers and FBI officials must obtain warrants prior to searching someone’s house. If evidence is obtained without following the proper protocol, it becomes inadmissible in the court of law. This may seem unfair, as it leads to criminals getting off on technicalities, but these laws are put into place to protect the innocent. Lord Rama, being especially dedicated to dharma, believed in these laws as well. His younger brother Lakshmana once noted that not even the people punished by Rama could find anything bad to say about Him. This was because even the criminals knew that Rama didn’t hold any personal grudges and that He always adhered to the righteous path.

The lesson here is that there is no need to become distressed from hearing of Sita’s kidnap. Lord Rama’s wife was certainly delicate, beautiful, and full of class, but she was by no means weak. Ravana was an extremely powerful demon who could not be defeated by even the greatest celestials. It was his addiction to illicit sex that led to his downfall. In this way, Sita Devi proved to be the secret weapon, the ticking time-bomb so to speak. She singlehandedly took down one of the greatest demons of all time.

Rama Darbar This shows the power of God’s pleasure potency. Sita Devi is meant to associate with God and His devotees. When put into the hands of the demons, or the enemies of God, she proves to be deadly, as was the case with Ravana. When she associates with the devotees, however, she bestows eternal fame and fortune. Lord Hanuman is a great example of this. Unlike Ravana, Hanuman had love and respect for Sita. He served her to the best of his ability, and as a reward, Sita and Rama granted him eternal devotion to their holy feet. To this day, Hanuman is known throughout the world as the greatest servant of Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. If we kindly pray to Sita Devi to allow us to love her and her husband, she will surely be pleased with us and fulfill all our desires.

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Seeing God

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 22, 2010

Rama_Deity “Rama is like a mad elephant in battle. He has a purified and unblemished family lineage for His trunk, brilliance and splendor for His excitement, and two powerful arms for tusks. O Ravana, you are not even qualified to look at Him.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.46)

Quite a few transcendentalists have as their goal to one day see God. They perform rigorous austerities and deep meditation in the hopes of one day meeting the Lord face to face. There are others who wish to one day meet a yogi or an advanced transcendentalist who has seen God. In fact, many saintly people advertise the fact that they have seen God through their meditation. In a similar manner, there are others who want to see God simply because they want others to believe in Him. “Why doesn’t God just come and make everyone His devotee? This way He can remove all doubts relating to His existence.” The truth of the matter is that God is all around us and that anyone can see Him, provided they have the proper set of eyes.

Hanuman worshiping Rama This may seem puzzling. “What do you mean by the right set of eyes? I have the eyes of a human being and I can’t see him. What other kind of eyes do I need?” There is difference between something material and something spiritual. Material objects possess gunas, or qualities. Goodness, passion, and ignorance represent the material qualities, and these are considered faulty because anything possessing gunas must be temporary. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Spiritual things are eternal, meaning they are free of any defects. We can easily see God provided that we spiritualize our eyes.

A good way to illustrate this point is to analyze the disciplines of reading and mathematics. For young children the symbols of any alphabet appear to be just jibberish. Adults can read signs, books, newspapers, etc. because they can understand what words are and what they mean. People who don’t know how to read get no use out of words and sentences. In essence, illiterate people don’t have the eyes to understand written language. It takes years of learning before someone can read properly. Even if we read a book for the first time, we may have trouble understanding it. It sometimes takes us two or three reads before we can really start to grasp concepts and find out the true meaning behind passages and phrases. Mathematics works the same way. At first there are just numbers, but they don’t mean anything by themselves. When we learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, the numbers take on a whole new meaning.

Lord Krishna In the material world our eyes are in a conditioned state by default. At the time of birth, everyone is a conditioned state, meaning they are subject to the laws of nature. Sometimes the living entities are referred to as isvhara, meaning controllers, because they have independence in that they can choose how their senses will interact with nature. However, they are never the controllers of nature. The forces of maya and karma reign supreme in the material world. God, however, is never conditioned. For this reason, He is also referred to ishvara or parameshvara, meaning the supreme controller. The fatal flaw of the human being is that it tries to become the supreme controller right from its birth. The living entity becomes deluded by the concepts of “I” and “mine”. It accepts things that it likes and rejects things that it doesn’t.

In the spiritual world, these dualities don’t exist. God is the controller of everything, so we have no need to falsely think ourselves to be proprietors. On a spiritual level, everything is related to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thus there is no concept of good or bad. Generally speaking, the mode of goodness, sattva-guna, refers to things that are good or beneficial. However, since it is still part of material nature, even the mode of goodness is flawed. This is because those associating with the mode of goodness can, at best, ascend to the material heavenly planets after death.

“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)

Residence on these planets is temporary, meaning one is forced to return to the material world. Thus the mode of goodness itself cannot grant liberation. Sudda-sattva, pure goodness, does not have this defect. The mission of human life is to rise to the platform of sudda-sattva so that we can permanently remove ourselves from this material world full of miseries.

Many people realize the flawed nature of material life. Thus they seek out God, and more importantly, they desperately want to see Him face to face. However, things aren’t that easy. Since we are so accustomed to conditioned material life, there are a few steps required before we can actually see the Lord. The most important thing we have to change is our desire. Desire itself can never be eliminated. Even people who sit in quiet meditation all day still have some sort of desire, for they want to merge into the impersonal effulgence known as Brahman or simply block out all activity. Instead of renouncing activity, the Vedas recommend that we shift our desires to spiritual things.

Shrila Prabhupada The process of bhakti yoga, or devotional service, can help us purify our desires. More than just a form of yoga, devotional service is a way of life. It is actually an eternal occupation, the original nature of the spirit soul. Bhakti means love and yoga means union of the soul with God. Devotional service is a full-time engagement where we remain connected with God. The first step is to approach a pure devotee, or bhakta. A guru, or spiritual master, is a pure devotee who is also a bona fide representative of God. He is commonly referred to as guru-deva, meaning he is god-like. Since the guru preaches the glories of Krishna, he is to be treated to be as good as God. Humbly submitting ourselves to a Vaishnava spiritual master is the first step towards seeing God.

The guru hasn’t necessarily seen God face to face. Rather, he engages in devotional service all the time, chanting His name, and worshiping His deity. This is actually better than seeing God face to face, because in this way, the guru never stops thinking about Krishna for a second. Seeing God face to face is certainly a nice achievement, but then what do we do after that? Do our desires stop? Do our activities stop? No, those must go on. So it is far better to adjust our activities in such a way that we see God all the time, wherever we turn. This can be achieved by following the instructions of the great acharyas.

The Vaishnava gurus for this age all recommend that we regularly chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. God’s original form is that of Lord Krishna, but He can expand Himself into unlimited forms. For this age, God incarnates in the form of His holy name. There is no difference between God and His name. This may seem strange to us at first, but through sincere and steady chanting, one can quickly realize this fact. The same holds true with the Lord’s deity. The archa-vigraha, God’s worshipable deity form made out of wood or stone, is just as good as God Himself. There are many instances where deities have actually talked to great personalities. Madhavendra Puri was one such saint who had the distinct honor of talking with Krishna’s deity.

The Lord is all around us. Many parents even see God in their children. This is very easy to understand because birth itself is a miracle. In an instant, a brand new person appears in our world. This person moves, sleeps, and talks all without anyone’s help. A spirit soul entering a new body is certainly a miraculous event which proves the existence of God.

Ravana Anyone can easily see God, provided they have purified their minds and eyes through the practice of devotional service. On the flip side, the materially conditioned souls will always have a difficult time seeing God. Those who are atheists or non-believers in the scriptures will never be able to see God, even if He is standing right in front of them. This was the case with the Rakshasa demon Ravana. During the Treta Yuga, the Rakshasas, an evil race of night-rangers who feasted on human flesh, were ascending to power throughout the world. Their leader was the ten-headed Ravana, the powerful king of Lanka who had procured many strength-augmenting boons from the demigods.

Lord Krishna personally advented on earth in human form as Lord Rama to do away with Ravana and to give relief to the demigods. As part of His pastimes, Rama spent fourteen years roaming the forests of India with His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. On one occasion, Ravana sent 14,000 Rakshasas to the forest of Janasthana to attack Rama. The Lord easily defeated the demons all by Himself. One of the demons, Akampana, managed to escape and return to Lanka to tell Ravana what had happened. He told Ravana that Rama couldn’t be defeated in battle, but that He had a beautiful wife who Ravana should kidnap. Ravana had an insatiable sex desire, so he was immediately intrigued upon hearing of the beauty of Rama’s wife, Sita. Ravana went to his confidante Maricha to ask for help.

In the above referenced statement, Maricha is describing Rama’s glories to Ravana. He is openly declaring that Ravana is not worthy to even look at Rama. This was most certainly true. Ravana had evil motives, for no one is worthy of enjoying God’s wife except God Himself. Maricha is advising Ravana to stay away from Rama, for raising hostilities with Him would only lead to destruction. As events would play out, Maricha would end up helping Ravana kidnap Sita. This was preordained by the demigods, for they wanted Rama to have an excuse to battle Ravana and kill him. Eventually, Rama would march to Lanka and personally defeat and kill Ravana in battle.

The lesson from this passage is very clear. God can be easily seen, provided we have the proper eyes to view him. Ravana was an avowed enemy of the devotees of God. He thought himself to be the most powerful person in the world, thus he couldn’t recognize that God himself was before him in the form of Rama. Still, by unintentionally thinking of God at the time of death, Ravana was granted sayujya-mukti, or the liberation of merging into the body the Lord.

Shri Rama DarbarFor devotees, seeing God and merging into Him is not preferred. The great devotee of Lord Rama, Hanuman, is a perfect example in this regard. He was so exalted that he not only saw Rama personally, but he got to personally offer service to Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. Hanuman even carried Rama and Lakshmana on his back on several occasions during battles. Yet from studying Hanuman’s nature and life activities, we understand that meeting God personally was only the beginning of his spiritual life. To this day, Hanumanji spends all his time reading the Ramayana and chanting the glories of Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. He is our role model in this regard. Seeing God is one thing, but it is more important and pleasing to the soul to be eternally engaged in His service. This way, we get to maintain an unchecked relationship with God all the time. The great Vaishnava saint, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, used to say that instead of trying to see God, we should act in such a way that God sees us. By making devotional service our full-time occupation, we can achieve this goal.

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The Creator

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 19, 2010

Lord Rama “The highly renowned Rama rages into a fury against those who dare brave against Him. He is extremely powerful, for He can completely stop the onset of a pulsing river simply by using His arrows. Shriman Rama can bring down all the stars, planets, and the sky itself by use of His arrows. He is even capable of saving the earth if it should collapse. The illustrious Rama, if He wanted to, could deluge the whole world by breaking apart the shorelines of the seas. With His arrows, He can resist the onset of the oceans and the wind. After withdrawing the whole world into Himself, that highly renowned best of mnn, by virtue of His powers, is capable of again creating the whole world with all its creatures.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.23-26)

During every election cycle in America, and especially when the presidency is up for grabs, we see politicians make many promises on how they will fix the problems that exist in a particular city, state, or country. Voters like to hear such things because they inherently know that people are suffering in the world and that they need to be helped. Some politicians make more grandiose promises than others, but the themes are generally the same. “I will end your suffering. I will bring jobs back. I will end war. I will clean up the environment.” They are essentially saying that they will make people happy. Sadly, the policies instituted by these politicians rarely succeed, for if they did, there would be no need to keep making new promises.

Lord Krishna Followers of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, know that the underlying problem for man is his forgetfulness of God. Not only should we understand who God is, but we should then use that knowledge to love Him and take to His service. This simple shift in mindset leads to a trickle-down effect whereby everyone in society can be happy. Yet we see that the solutions proposed by politicians never have anything to do with God. In fact, if politicians mention religion at all, they get criticized for imposing their values upon others. People generally take religion to be a kind of faith, something that is not universal to everyone. For this reason, they choose to elect leaders who avoid the issue of faith completely and who look for other ways to solve problems.

One of the more notable issues in the news lately is climate change. Scientists for centuries have made wild predictions about the future of the earth, and the situation is no different today. No less than thirty years ago, the scientific consensus was that the earth was headed for a major cooling period. People were worried if we would have enough food to sustain the population going forward. Only a few years later, these predictions reversed to the point where scientists began claiming there was global warming, which was caused primarily by human activity. Politicians love hearing these predictions because it means they can impose policies that restrict human activity. In essence, they get to form their own religion, anointing themselves as God. Many politicians today openly declare that they will stop the oceans from rising and the temperatures from increasing.

In previous ages, such claims would get you labeled as insane. How can a human being control the weather? If anything, the climate is the one thing that even staunch atheists never thought man could control. Sadly, that is not the case today. The theory of man-made global warming is just that, a theory. There is no scientific evidence to support it. The proponents point to the fact that a consensus of scientists now believes in man-made global warming. Yet this is not how science is supposed to work. It is never meant to be put up to a vote. It was also recently discovered through leaked emails that some of the leading scientists in favor of the global warming theory were lying and hiding their scientific data from the general public. The computer models used by these scientists were also leaked, and as a result, many computer scientists have scrutinized them to find out that the models were flawed. In many instances, the models themselves were bound to the raw data that was inputted; i.e. constant values were hard-coded into the programming routines. This actually violates the central rule when writing computer programs that do modeling. The data and the model itself must be completely isolated; otherwise the conclusions start to favor the data that is inputted. In essence, these scientists were fudging their data in hopes of reaching the conclusions they wanted.

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

Lord Vishnu Such revelations are not very surprising to devotees of God. The scriptures tell us that God is the Creator, meaning He creates, maintains, and destroys all by Himself. The Vedas give us even more detail regarding creation. Lord Vishnu, the chief expansion of Lord Krishna, simply breathes out once and innumerable universes are created. When He breathes in, the same universes are destroyed. Within each creation, there are other expansions of God which manage the affairs of the world. Krishna’s three guna-avataras, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, are in charge of the material creation in each universe. Brahma creates, Vishnu maintains, and Shiva destroys.

“O son of Kunti, at the end of the millennium every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency I again create.” (Lord Krishna, Bg., 9.7)

These facts are all very simple to understand, but atheists don’t believe in the authoritative statements of the Vedas. Since they have never seen anyone with the power to create in person, they believe that the world was created through a combination of chemicals. If so, where did these chemicals come from? This they can’t answer. Dismissing the Vedas as mere mythology, scientists and politicians take up the quest to figure out how to understand and control nature. This kind of thinking represents the biggest hurdle to spiritual advancement. In fact, it is the main reason for our being in this material world. Thinking ourselves to be God, the Lord allowed us to take birth here, where we could play all day and pretend to be God. Of course we can never become God, even though many pseudo-religionists claim that they are already God. No amount of meditation, renunciation, or fruitive activity can make us the richest, wisest, most beautiful, most famous, most renounced, and strongest person. These attributes can only simultaneously be possessed by Krishna, or God. Therefore He is also known as Bhagavan.

Lord Rama The only possible way a person could believe that man can control the weather is if they don’t believe in God. Religion and atheistic science are diametrically opposed. As mentioned before, God creates everything. One simply has to accept the authoritative statements of Vedas and the great acharyas who follow its teachings. But breaking free of our desire to be like God is not easy. Therefore the Lord personally descends to earth from time to time to remind us of His greatness. This was the case during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. As Lord Rama, God appeared in the guise of a kshatriya prince, famous throughout the world for His dedication to dharma and His fighting ability.

While staying in the forest of Janasthana with His brother, Lakshmana, and His wife, Sita Devi, Rama was attacked by 14,000 Rakshasas sent by their leader Ravana. The Lord single-handedly killed all of them. Akampana, one of the Rakshasas, managed to escape alive. He returned to Lanka and described the events to Ravana. Ravana was a committed atheist who believed that he was the strongest person in the world. Having defeated all the demigods, Ravana thought there was no one in the world who could conquer him. In essence, he thought he was God. Upon hearing what had happened in Janasthana, Ravana couldn’t believe it. He thought for sure that Rama must have had people helping him. Akampana made it emphatically clear that Rama had no help, for Lakshmana was away guarding Sita.

Ravana wanted to retaliate and attack Rama himself. In the above referenced statement, Akampana is trying to discourage Ravana from doing so. “Rama will easily kill you. No one can defeat Him in battle. In fact, He is not human at all.” The descriptions given by Akampana also serve as a way of revealing Rama’s divinity. The scriptures give us vivid descriptions of the Lord’s various incarnations, but God Himself doesn’t disclose His identity to everyone. There would be no purpose to this, for He doesn’t want people to be devoted to Him out of fear. The Lord knows full well that we would be happier serving Him, but He never gets in the way of our independence and free will. Just as we can never force another man or woman to love us, the choice is ours as to whether or not we want to love God.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, and HanumanAkampana clearly states that Rama could easily destroy the entire world and then immediately recreate it. This power belongs exclusively to God. We shouldn’t try to be like Ravana and fight God. That will only lead to our demise. Instead, if we sincerely take up devotional service to the Lord, we can have all the peace and prosperity that the politicians always promise. We don’t need higher taxes, more government regulations, or scientific computer models to make us happy, just more sincere devotion to God.

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Heatseeker

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 17, 2010

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

Gross materialists and atheists have a hard time believing there is anyone superior to the demigods or other exalted living entities. Taking their current life and body to be the beginning and end of everything, they think the sum total of existence is made up of fallible living entities. They don’t believe in a Creator or a higher power. Believing there is no one capable of stopping them, these demons take to sinful life. To remind everyone of His existence and strength, God personally appears on earth from time to time, and torments the minds of such fools.

Lord Krishna The Vedas, the ancient scriptures emanating from India, tell us that there is only one God. Though He is capable of assuming various guises and expanding Himself into innumerable forms, His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna. Krishna is known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His direct expansions are known as vishnu-tattva, meaning they are equal to Him in potency. We living entities are spirit souls at our core, part and parcel of Krishna. Though we are not God, we are similar to Him in quality, but not in quantity. To facilitate the desire of the spirit souls to lord over nature and pretend to be God themselves, Krishna created this material world. This world is a temporary place full of miseries, thus it is completely opposite in nature to the spiritual world. Since Krishna Himself never comes in contact with maya, or the presiding energy of the material world, He deputes elevated living entities known as demigods to manage the affairs here. Gods like Lord Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, etc. all manage different departments of the creation. By rule, they are required to bestow a variety of material benedictions to anyone who pleases them, regardless of the motives of the worshiper.

Lord Brahma talking to Lord Krishna The difference between demigods and God Himself is that the demigods are living entities just like us. They may have extraordinary powers and a longer duration of life, but they are nevertheless subject to birth and death. God, on the other hand, never takes birth nor does He die. He never assumes a material body. Even when He personally appears on earth, His body remains unaffected by material nature. This illustrates another difference between God and the living entities. For God, there is no difference between His soul and His body. He is completely spirit. We, on the other hand, are spiritual in nature, but remain conditioned inside of a body that is subject to birth and death. The gross material body is composed of the three gunas of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Krishna possesses no material qualities; hence He is often described as nirguna.

Since the beginning of time, there has been an ongoing war between the suras and the asuras. Suras are devotees of God and asuras are demons. Asuras don’t believe in the existence of God. They wage war with the demigods because they view them as competitors. Material life means competition. People often wonder why there are so many tragedies and other calamities that take place. The answer is quite simple. The material world is a sort of playing field for the living entities, of which God has no direct interest in. He creates the playground but then stands back and views as an impartial witness. This is because there really is no winning or losing on this playing field. As mentioned before, we are all here because we want to pretend to be God. Since everyone has this desire, competition will naturally ensue. Some people will be more religious than others, thus they will put limits on their pursuit of dharma, artha, and kama, but the asuras will never hold back. They will stop at nothing to acquire wealth, fame, and power.

Ravana For this reason, the asuras have no problems going to war with the demigods. They see great personalities like Indra, Brahma, and Kuvera and think, “Who are these people to think they are more powerful than me? Let me worship them so that I can receive great benedictions. They will be foolish enough to grant my wishes, and I will then use my acquired strength to defeat them. Then I can rule the world and everyone will worship me.” This is precisely how the great Rakshasa demon Ravana thought during his time on earth during the Treta Yuga. He performed rigid austerities to please Brahma and Shiva. He was rewarded with great boons which he then used to battle and defeat the demigods. Everyone in the world was afraid of him.

“Those penances and austerities which are performed foolishly by means of obstinate self-torture, or to destroy or injure others, are said to be in the mode of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.19)

One may wonder why the demigods granted all of Ravana’s requests. As mentioned before, the material body is composed of three gunas: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In a similar manner, every material activity, religious activity included, can also be qualified as being in one of these three modes. Ravana’s worship of the demigods was in the mode of ignorance. It is categorized as such because his worship served no functional purpose. Worship in the mode of goodness gives some sort of advancement in spiritual life. Worship in the mode of passion bestows some fruitive reward, but worship in the mode of ignorance only leads to destruction.

This is indeed what resulted for Ravana. He used his acquired powers to battle the suras, or the demigods and the saintly class of men. In fact, his Rakshasa associates would regularly terrorize the quiet and humble sages living in the forests. These great men were living peacefully in the wilderness, not bothering anyone. Ravana’s men would approach the sages in disguise and then pounce on their sacrifices. They would kill the sages and then eat their flesh.

Lord Rama The remedy the situation, Krishna Himself came to earth in the form of a human being. Born as the eldest son of King Dashratha of Ayodhya, Lord Rama quickly became famous throughout the world for His fighting ability. While staying in the forest of Janasthana, He, His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana, were harassed by Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha. A conflict resulted between her and Lakshmana, which then led to Ravana sending 14,000 Rakshasas to Janasthana to attack Rama and His family. To teach Ravana a lesson, Rama instructed Lakshmana to take Sita away and to protect her. Rama then proceeded to kill all 14,000 Rakshasas by Himself.

One of Ravana’s associates, Akampana, managed to escape Rama’s attack and return to Lanka. In the above referenced statement, Akampana is describing Rama’s prowess. Ravana was dumbfounded that all the Rakshasas were killed. He wanted to know who was helping Rama. This is the mindset of a foolish person. Since he had defeated all the demigods, Ravana thought there was no one in the world more powerful than himself. Upon hearing what Rama had done, Ravana thought for sure that the demigods must have helped Him. Akampana told Ravana to immediately get this thought out of his mind.

The name Rama means one who gives pleasure to others. This pleasure is directed towards the devotees. Just hearing of Rama’s prowess and fighting ability brings great bliss to His adherents. Rama is anything but pleasurable to the enemies of His devotees. Rama’s arrows tormented all the Rakshasas, for wherever they turned, they saw one of Rama’s shafts headed their way, similar to how a heat-seeking missile acts. The Rakshasas were actually greatly benefited by Rama’s attacks. The Lord openly declares that anyone who thinks of Him at the time of death is automatically awarded liberation from material life.

“Those who have achieved liberation from material contamination, and those who are demons and are killed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, become absorbed in the Brahman concept of life and reside in the spiritual sky of the brahma-jyoti.” (Brahmanda Purana)

Lord Rama The Rakshasas in Janasthana were all thinking of Rama at the time of death, so they were immediately granted liberation. Though the material world is generally a place full of miseries due to the competitive nature of man, if one decides to take up devotional service, he can make his life successful. There are different kinds of liberation, and if God’s greatest enemies are rewarded in such a way, one can only imagine what is in store for the devotees.

Lord Krishna is the bestower of five kinds of liberation, of which sayujya-mukti, or the liberation of becoming one with the Supreme, was given to the demons like Kamsa, whereas the gopis were given the chance to associate with Him personally.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 35)

Sadly, not all demons are as lucky as Ravana and the Rakshasas of Janasthana. Death is the great equalizer. All of one’s material strength, acquisitions and relationships are relinquished at the time of death. If one still has material desires at the end of life, they are forced to take birth again. The true mission of life is to abandon our futile attempt to be God. Spiritual life is the antithesis of karmic life. Rama’s exhibition of strength serves as a reminder to all of us that there is only one God, and that we can never become Him. However, we can associate with Him eternally in a loving way if we choose to.

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God is Great

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 13, 2010

Lord Rama “His name is Rama and He is the most effulgent and powerful (mahatejah). He is the foremost of all wielders of the bow, and possesses divine qualities and weapons. He adheres to the highest level of conduct (paramdharma) on the battlefield.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.15)

God is the greatest and the most energetic. The living entities, jiva-tattva, can achieve perfection in life by realizing that they represent God’s energy and that He is the only controller. Hearing that God is great is one thing, but actually realizing this fact is another. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, make a distinction between theoretical knowledge, jnana, and practical knowledge, vijnana. In order to help us truly understand God’s greatness and strength, the Vedas provide various descriptions of the Lord. These descriptions are necessary because people tend to understand concepts more clearly when comparisons are used.

Lord Krishna avataras Of course God is great. Most people naturally understand this. God’s greatness is actually inconceivable to us and for many, this fact leads them away from spiritual life. “God is too powerful for me to comprehend, so why should I try?” The Vedas tell us that this human form of life is meant for understanding God and then using that knowledge to serve Him. Perfection in life comes when one rekindles their lost relationship with the Lord. To reach this end, the Vedic literatures give us descriptions of the Lord’s names, forms, and pastimes. Obviously God’s powers can never be truly comprehended by the human brain, but through study and devotion, we can gain a slight understanding. Just a tinkling of knowledge about God is enough to arouse loving feelings towards Him.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, directly expands Himself into Lord Vishnu, or Narayana. Narayana then expands Himself into various incarnations which appear on earth. Through the activities performed by the many different incarnations, the Lord receives a variety of names. In fact, devotees often recite the thousand names of Lord Vishnu (Shri Vishnu-sahasra-nama-stotram) as a means of prayer. One thousand names seem like a lot, but as stated before, God’s glories are actually limitless. These names serve as a foundation for understanding the true nature of the Lord. For example, one of Krishna’s names is Keshava, meaning the killer of the Keshi demon. This name refers to a specific pastime of the Lord. Another name is Achyuta, meaning one who is infallible. Parameshvara means the supreme controller or supreme ishvara, and Rama means one who gives pleasure. When reading the epic Mahabharata, one will often find that Lord Krishna is directly referred to many different names. The Pandava brothers and other associates purposefully addressed Krishna with different names depending on time and circumstance. The name Krishna itself means one who is all-attractive. These names and activities of the Lord exist to help the devotees understand and remember Him.

Lord Krishna Even though He has one thousand different names, the complete list of Lord Krishna’s powers can never be properly enumerated. It is similar to how the Constitution of the United States works. The Founding Fathers envisioned a government of the style of a democratic republic with limited powers. For this reason, the Constitution specifically enumerates the activities that Congress can engage in. Fearing an oppressive government, the Founding Fathers included the Bill of Rights as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It is a common misconception that the Bill of Rights enumerates the rights that people have. In actuality, the Bill of Rights put limits on the activities of Congress. The first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law” abridging or infringing on various rights of the people.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Tenth amendment to the Constitution)

As venerable a document as the Constitution was, the Founders still realized that the rights of man could never be completely enumerated. For this reason, they declared that any right or power not specifically mentioned in the Constitution would automatically be granted to the people. This essentially meant that if an activity wasn’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution, then the Congress had no right to regulate it, meaning freedom belonged to the people.

This same principle holds true with the Vedas and Lord Krishna. Through the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and other Vedic texts, we get a short list of the qualities, names, forms, and pastimes of the Lord, but this list is by no means complete. By default, God automatically possesses any power not specifically mentioned in the Vedas. This fact is easily forgotten by people living on this earth. To remind us of His greatness, the Lord personally appears here from time to time.

This was the case during the Treta Yuga when Lord Krishna incarnated as a kshatriya warrior named Rama. In the above referenced statement, the Rakshasa demon Akampana is explaining to Ravana how Rama had just killed 14,000 Rakshasas all by Himself in the forest of Janasthana. At the time, Rama was roaming the forests of India with His wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana. Rakshasas are a race of demons who are usually atheistic. Ravana was their leader and was so powerful that no one could defeat him in battle.

Sita Rama Ravana was the king of the island of Lanka, and thus he had an army of Rakshasas at his disposal. He sent 14,000 of them, headed by Khara, to Janasthana to kill Rama. Lord Rama, being God Himself, easily killed all of them all by Himself. He sent Sita away from the battlefield and instructed Lakshmana to protect her while the fighting was going on. All the Rakshasas were killed, but somehow Akampana managed to escape and limp his way back to Lanka. Upon seeing him, Ravana wanted to know what had happened. Hearing that 14,000 Rakshasas were killed by Rama, Ravana wanted to know more about Him. He asked Akampana if Rama was assisted by the demigods, for he couldn’t believe that one man was capable of this.

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

Lord Rama Ravana’s attitude represents the ignorance of the atheistic class. In the Vedic tradition, there has been a long history of demigod worship. Demigods, also referred to as devataas or devas, number in the thousands. They serve as Lord Krishna’s chief associates. The material world equates to a temporary place full of miseries. The spiritual world is a place full of knowledge and bliss, and this material world is just the opposite. Governed by the illusory energy known as maya, this world causes us to live in ignorance and become bound to the materialistic way of life. God Himself can never associate with maya, thus He lets the demigods manage the material affairs. They are in charge of all aspects of life, including weather, food, money, health, good and bad fortune, etc.

People generally worship the Gods for material rewards. For example, young girls and boys pray to Lord Shiva and his wife, Parvati, to reward them with a nice spouse when they grow older. Others pray to Lord Ganesha to remove their obstacles in life. This type of worship certainly isn’t bad, but the rewards received are temporary. Lord Vishnu, or God Himself, can never be worshiped in this manner. One can ask Him for material things, but He will only provide what is good for His devotees. The demigods are just the opposite. They are required to grant benedictions to anyone who pleases them, regardless of the worshiper’s intentions. This was the case with Ravana. He prayed to Lord Brahma and Shiva to grant him many material benedictions. He received ten heads and a fighting prowess that made him feared throughout the world. Ravana’s biggest mistake was that he thought the demigods were the limit to celestial power. Thinking that he had outsmarted them by receiving benedictions from them, Ravana believed he was God and that no one could ever defeat him.

Rama proved Ravana to be wrong in the worst possible way. When he heard of Rama’s extraordinary feat of killing 14,000 Rakshasas, Ravana thought that Rama must have had some help. For devotees, Rama’s feat was certainly great, but not surprising at all. God’s powers are limitless. Lord Rama is a direct incarnation of Vishnu, meaning He is just as good as God Himself. Rama was the kindest, sweetest, and most compassionate person. At the same time, as a fighter, He was the most skilled. God is simultaneously the most peaceful and the most violent. His violence is directed towards the miscreants such as Ravana and His peaceful nature is bestowed upon His adherents, the devotees. The choice is ours as to which side of God we wish to associate with.

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The Sinner’s Fruit

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 7, 2010

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

Nature’s laws are in motion at every second of every day of the year. The calendar year can be divided into four distinct seasons which each have specific climatic characteristics. Autumn is the season right before winter, and inevitably during this time each year, leaves and other flowers fall off trees and eventually die. This is because these plants can’t survive the cold conditions of winter. Nevertheless, during the next spring season, new flowers and plants are guaranteed to appear again, signaling a new birth. These facts of nature serve as a great metaphor for describing how the process of karma works.

“The living entity is bound around the neck by the chain of maya because he has forgotten that he is eternally a servant of Krishna.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.24)

Lord Chaitanya and Prabhu Nityananda Karma has many different definitions, but in its simplest form, it means work. Work means action. One cannot live without performing action. Even if we sit idly by, just thinking to ourselves, we are still performing some work with our mind. Karma is an energy created by God, which along with guna, helps the material world function. The spirit soul is originally part and parcel of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation on earth, tells us that the spirit soul, being initially very blissful and happy in its relationship with God, somehow or other forgot (bhuli’ gela) its true nature and instead wanted to be just like God. Thus since time immemorial, the living entity has been part of the material energy, forced to repeatedly go through the processes of birth and death. Since the spirit soul wants to forget God, the Lord gladly obliges such a request.

Karma represents the antithesis of spiritual life. Work and action can be performed for many different reasons, but all paths eventually lead to the same end-goal, that of wanting to be God. The Lord is the Almighty, being all-powerful and all-pervasive. Illusioned by the forces of maya, the living entity thinks that by working in a certain way, it too can be just like God. “God produces, so why can’t I? God destroys, so let me do that too. God enjoys very nicely, so I will try to enjoy just as much as Him.” These sentiments represent a flawed system of logic. Eventually, there is a limit to our material wealth, fame, and beauty. The ultimate equalizer comes at the time of death, when we are forced to renounce all of our possessions, relationships, and acquired strength. The important point is that this renunciation is not voluntarily, for almost no one wants to die. Only God is infallible, thus He is known as Achyuta.

Lord Krishna is Achyuta For karma to function properly there must be reactions to the work that we perform. God doesn’t stand in our way of our pursuit to be just like Him. At the same time, He is completely fair. He doesn’t play favorites, picking and choosing who will win and lose in this pursuit which is destined to fail. Rather, He creates karma, guna, and maya, and then stands back and witnesses as a neutral observer. The reactions of karma are fair and absolute. For every action that we perform, there is a commensurate reaction, either good or bad. In actuality, there really is no good or bad on the material platform, but sometimes people take certain outcomes to be good and others to be bad. For example, pious works result in ascension to the heavenly planets after death. This certainly seems like a good thing, but residence on the material planets, such as those occupied by the demigods, is temporary. Once the merits acquired from our pious deeds expire, we are forced to take birth again. This same principle holds true for the sinful. They suffer in hell for a certain period of time, and then eventually work their way back to the human species of life.

We don’t always have to wait for the afterlife to see the results of our actions bear fruit. Just as the spring season always sees new flowers growing, the sinful are guaranteed to feel anguish when the time comes for them to reap their fruits. Sometimes people think they can act however they want to, and that if no one is looking, no one will know that they did something bad. This is certainly not the case. God and His deputies keep a ledger on our activities. At the time of death, our consciousness is measured along with the activities we performed during our lifetime. These two things then determine the type of body we receive in the next life. The sinful think that they will never suffer for their actions, but karma plays no favorites.

In modern day governments, we see that laws exist on the books that are supposed to apply to all citizens without any preference. Yet we always see that those who are responsible for executing these laws, the government officials and courts, certainly do pick and choose when to punish people. For example, in the United States there are strict immigration laws. Those who want to come live in the United States must either be sponsored by an employer or be related to someone who is already a citizen. There are tight limits set on how many immigrants can come to the country each year. For those who come here legally, the government keeps a close eye on them, making sure they are abiding by immigration guidelines. At the same time, we see that there are millions of people who already live in America illegally. The majority of these people entered the country through the Mexican border, and have remained here living under the radar of the government. Actually, the government is fully aware of their presence but they refuse to do anything about it due to socio-economic and political reasons.

"It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krishna has three varieties of energy.” (Lord Chaitanya, CC. Madhya 20.108-109)

Hanuman - a great devotee Karma doesn’t work the way our governments do. Karma applies to everyone, including sinners. There are varying degrees of sins, but the worst kinds are those perpetrated against devotees of God. This is because God has promised to protect His devotees. There are essentially two energies that exist in creation; the spiritual and the material. The spiritual energy is anything that is directly associated with God, while the material energy is that governed by guna and karma. The jiva-tattva, or living entities, are technically part of the marginal energy because they have a choice as to which energy they want to associate with. The laws of karma are absolute but one has a choice as to whether or not they want to participate in material activity. God is certainly neutral to those who fall under the jurisdiction of karma, but He is anything but passive when it comes to His bhaktas, or devotees. As God’s faithful servants, the devotees realize that the material world is a temporary place full of miseries. At peace with their constitutional position as servitor and friend of the Lord, devotees exclusively interact with the spiritual energy, only performing activity which is related to serving Krishna and other devotees. For such saintly people, the Lord has promised to always provide them protection against those who wish them harm.

“…O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)

Shri Rama Darbar During the Treta Yuga, God personally came to earth to make good on that promise. At the time, a clan of Rakshasas, headed by a demon named Ravana, was ascending to power. Every living entity possesses the three qualitative modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance) to varying degrees. Rakshasas are living entities similar to human beings, except they live mostly in the mode of ignorance. They are expert in black magic and spend all their time drinking wine, eating meat, and having sex with as many different people as possible. They have an insatiable appetite for sex. Not only do they live a life dedicated to sin, but they think there is merit to this lifestyle. “Life is short, why not enjoy as much as I can? The demigods are there to grant material benedictions which will then lead to happiness.” With this fatally flawed mindset, Rakshasas view any truly pious person as an enemy. Not only do they hate devotees of God, but they do anything in their power to disrupt their devotional service.

Krishna came to earth in the form of a pious prince named Rama specifically to put a stop to the harassment inflicted by the Rakshasas. At the time, Ravana and his associates liked to prey on the sages living in the forests. One of the primary activities of a brahmana, or sage, is yajna, or sacrifice. There are different types of Vedic sacrifices, but they all usually involve some sort of fire. Forest life is ideal for the performance of fire sacrifices and the practice of tapasya, or austerities. Who could ever think of bothering a peaceful person living in the forest performing such pious deeds? These sages weren’t inflicting harm on anyone, nor were they even a burden to other members of society. Yet these Rakshasas decided to disrupt the sacrifices in the dead of night. Rakshasas are expert in illusion, so they used to assume various guises and initially approach the sages in a peaceful way. Once the brahmanas let their guard down, the Rakshasas would assume their original form and start to attack. After killing the sages, the Rakshasas would feast on their flesh.

Lord Rama These demons were so foolish that they thought there were no consequences to their actions. Taking their material body to be the beginning and end of everything, they were unaware of the forces of karma. Normally, sinful activity can bear fruit in various forms such as bad fortune or descension to hell. These demons were a special case however. For the sin of killing brahmanas, Lord Rama personally came to deliver the fruits of their sin. In the above referenced quote, Lord Rama is talking to one particular demon, Khara, prior to killing him in battle. Rama and His family were stationed in the forest of Janasthana. Ravana sent 14,000 Rakshasas to kill Rama, but the Lord easily defeated them all by Himself. Rama here is reminding Khara that punishment is guaranteed for the sinful, just as new flowers are guaranteed to grow on a tree in season.

"Anyone who quits his body, at the end of life, remembering Me, attains immediately to My nature; and there is no doubt of this." (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Khara and the other Rakshasas were so sinful that they got the benediction of being killed by God Himself. Ironically, if God personally comes to kill you, you are guaranteed liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This may seem strange, but it is so because these Rakshasas were thinking of Rama, or God, at the time of death. If such a reward is available to God’s enemies, one can only imagine what is in store for His devotees. If we always keep the Lord on our minds, we are guaranteed to always be on His.

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