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The Gift of Reason

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 21, 2014

[Shrila Prabhupada]“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

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[Bhagavad-gita, 4.34]The human being is endowed with the gift of reason. Reasoning comes from the intelligence, which is higher in the human species than in any other. This allows us to hold off on that second plate of pasta, for we know that though we think we are not full right now, eating that little bit more will bring discomfort later on. Reasoning tells us to hold off on consuming alcohol and other intoxicants while we are pregnant with child. Though we can’t see it right now, eventually a child will emerge from the womb. This reasoning can only take us so far, however, and in many instances it gives us an excuse to do the wrong thing. The true potential for the human birth is realized only when the reasoning ability is coupled with the bona fide spiritual master, who gives the missing puzzle piece known as realized knowledge.

[Benjamin Franklin]Benjamin Franklin is one of the famous founding fathers of America. You can’t pin him into one category. He was many things. He was a husband, a father, a statesmen, an inventor, a philosopher, a gentlemen, and other things. As a wise man, he was always seeking the truth, and so he applied reason to his decisions. In his autobiography, he explains how he dabbled with vegetarianism at a young age. As if inherently knowing that it was beneficial to him, he makes mention of the benefits the diet brought to him. At the same time, he did not stay a vegetarian, and the excuse he used at the time was that fish ate so many other smaller fish, so why shouldn’t he eat fish as well? Realizing that this wasn’t very sound thinking, he made a joke at himself by pointing out that the human being uses its reasoning ability to find justification for doing whatever the mind likes.

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Yes, this is indeed the pitfall to reason. The alcoholic justifies their behavior by thinking that they won’t be able to function without their adult beverages on a daily basis. The killer justifies their behavior by keeping in mind whatever injustices were previously done to them. The burglar thinks that the victims of the crime can part with their items, that they can afford to live without them. The thief in government has a similar logic; to win votes they take money from one group of citizens and give it to another. They think that this is okay since they are in government, which makes the laws. “Whatever is legal is alright,” is their mentality.

In the Vedas, the ancient scriptural works of India, we find many debates which are full of cogent philosophical points. The bad guys, the asuras, will often debate with the suras, the good guys. The bad guys try to justify their behavior. They throw out this quote and that to support their position. The good guys have knowledge on their side, but the ways of reasoning are such that anyone can find an excuse to justify their behavior.

[Lord Krishna]The knowledge of the spiritual master is different. It is realized knowledge, and it is supported through the vision of the truth. The self-realized souls have seen the truth and thus they can impart knowledge unto others. This is what Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita. He is ultimately that truth, though He doesn’t appear the same way to everyone. To the wise souls whose vision of the truth has its limit at the impersonal Brahman, Krishna is seen as a light of truth. He is seen as the spiritual spark within every living creature. He is also perceived as the energy to the creation, the vital force that gives life to everything.

Other wise souls see Krishna as the Supersoul within the heart. They attain this vision through deep meditation. This is fixed concentration with strict austerities. Think of a life with no distractions, with no pressing engagements. In the quiet of loneliness, one has full shelter of the Supersoul within the heart, which they contemplate upon at all times.

Krishna the person is the full manifestation of the truth. It is very difficult to see Him, and not because He does not make Himself available. Rather, the distractions of the material existence make the perception very hard. Rare it is to find a soul who has seen Krishna and basked in His sweet vision. Even those who see painted images and carved statues of Him haven’t really seen Him. Without the eyes of devotion, the true vision of Krishna does not clearly manifest.

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

[Shyamasundara]Reason becomes wholly beneficial when matched with the realized knowledge of the guru. With the missing piece of the puzzle in devotion to God, one suddenly realizes that their reason can be used for maintaining the most sacred vision, one that gives real life. The first birth is through the womb of the mother, but after that there is little knowledge on how to proceed. As the saying goes, “He who hesitates is lost,” without a firm conviction in the mission of life, all are left to wander aimlessly in vain search for said mission.

The second birth is through the association of the spiritual master. This life is eternal because it is spiritual life. This life is the engagement for the soul, which lasts well beyond this current lifetime. Whether or not I eat that slice of pizza today will not matter in one hundred years, but my chanting of the holy names certainly will. My hearing from the guru on the topics of devotion, which automatically include knowledge and renunciation, will benefit me even a thousand years from now.

[Shrila Prabhupada]The reasonable creature that is the human being who finds the devoted soul who teaches the glories of bhakti-yoga uses their reason in the following manner:

“I know that life in this material realm is temporary. Birth and death flow in a cycle and no one knows for sure where they will end up next. Each day within such an existence is like a birth, and each nightfall a death. We can make plans for ten years out, but we never know really what is going to happen tomorrow. Therefore I will take to devotion today, for that will make me happiest. The soul is pleased when it is serving, and in devotional service the soul has the best person to serve all the time. It is a top-down approach, wherein the inverted tree is watered at the root, leading to nourishment of all the branches and leaves. That root is Krishna Himself, and with my intelligence, which is sharpened by the instructions of the spiritual master, I will find a way to always serve Him. I will find a way to always think of Him, despite all the obstacles I encounter. And whether I go to heaven, hell, or the spiritual world afterwards, I will continue in that service, for that is the best reward to seek.”

In Closing:

Human endowed with reasoning ability,

Thus can find excuse for every proclivity.

 

Truly not useful made,

Until obeisance to guru paid.

 

From their realized knowledge coming,

Assertive in life’s path becoming.

 

Reason then for devotion to use,

The wisest of paths to choose.

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Question Everything

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 8, 2014

Shrila Prabhupada“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.34When one matures past the stage of childish enthusiasm to enjoy constantly in various games, they hopefully begin to question the purpose to everything. “Why am I alive? Why do I have to go to school? Why do people get married and have children when they reach a certain age? I’ve figured out that I am going to die eventually. Why? If we’re all destined to die, why do we even take birth?” These questions gave birth to philosophy, where the intelligent among us try to answer these questions. Some answers are fairly obvious, but as soon as the philosopher reaches a point where they do not know the answer, where they introduce “perhaps” and “maybe” into the equation, they admit their fallibility. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is therefore recommended that the sincere seeker of the truth approach someone who knows the truth, someone who is self-realized because they have seen the truth.

Shrila PrabhupadaSelf-realized means to realize the self. To realize means to absorb the knowledge versus just knowing it as an answer to a question. To know that two plus two equals four means to be able to give the answer to the question on a test. If someone asks me, “What is two plus two?” and if I can give the answer of “four,” then I know the fact. To realize the same truth, however, requires understanding of the principle. This means that if I have two dollars today and someone gives me two dollars tomorrow, I understand that I will have four dollars. This is the same question from before, but here the truth is practically realized. If I don’t know that I will have four dollars tomorrow, it means that I have not realized this specific truth. It means that my knowledge is only theoretical.

The theoretical is known in Sanskrit as jnana. The practical understanding is vijnana. The Bhagavad-gita says to approach someone who has realized the self. Does this mean that one should realize what their name is? What about their age? What about where they live? What about their position within a community? What about their standing within a family? Even within the family the individual can be known in different ways. To one person they are the husband. To another they are the father. To another they are a brother. To another they are a nephew.

The true self cannot be any of these temporary designations. The advanced philosopher can speculate that the self is the soul. “That essence of everything is the self. It is what animates the inanimate. It is what gives life to that which is otherwise dead.” The self-realized soul goes beyond this. They have seen the truth, meaning they see the spiritual essence within all life forms. They make no distinctions between the cat, the dog, the cow, the human being, and the ant. They obviously treat them differently because of the differences in outward behavior, but they are not foolish enough to think that one species has a self and another does not. They realize that their self is the same self in quality in others.

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

Lord Krishna with cowsTo know the self means to give the proper answer to the question of “who am I?” The answer is “Brahman,” which means “spirit.” The more complete definition is “a fragment of the complete spiritual energy known as Brahman.” To realize the self means to act in a certain way. It means to know that Brahman is but a way to view a higher force. It is a way to slightly understand that which is impossible to fully understand. The Brahman realization is the mercy of the all-powerful Bhagavan, who is always self-realized because He can never be in ignorance. Ignorance and understanding, heat and light, happiness and sadness, and other such dual conditions only exist for the Brahman sparks. And then only for those sparks which become conditioned by a temporary world.

Philosophy is ultimately the science of science. Real philosophy hovers above all other sciences, for it gives an explanation into why those sciences exist. The genuine philosopher therefore questions everything. They ask about higher truths, wanting to know why they exist. This philosophical inquiry is unique to the human species. It cannot be made while in an animal body. The animals can migrate to foreign lands and set up communities and means for procuring food and the like. The human beings are not unique in this area. Where they stand apart is in their ability to ask why certain things must take place.

Eventually the philosopher will reach a point where they cannot answer a question. And not something relating to a trivial issue such as “what did the president’s son eat for breakfast two and a half weeks ago,” this question pertains to the meaning of life, the existence of God, the destination for the soul after death, or the like. The self-realized soul can answer these questions to the best of man’s ability to understand. They can impart knowledge unto the sincere spiritual seeker because they have seen the truth. Not that they concocted the answers on their own, through some magical revelation, they simply accepted the same words of wisdom from their own self-realized teacher.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.3“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.3)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita, the speaker describes the chain of teachers and how sometimes that chain breaks with the passage of time. He gives that knowledge again to the sincere seeker, Arjuna, because he is a devotee of the speaker. Thus we see the proper way in which the knowledge is to be accepted. To question everything is a sign of real intelligence, and when the person asking the question finds the proper match in a teacher, the result is a true awakening into the matters of the material and spiritual worlds. Apprised of what awaits the devoted soul who sees the spiritual component to everything, the mindset changes from questioning to acting. The action is devotional service, and its most effective implementation in the present age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Beyond tendency to only play,

To question is the philosopher’s way.

 

Why all such things to exist?

What after death to persist?

 

But from reaching a confusion one,

Philosopher can find answer none.

 

Real knowledge from Gita’s chapters eighteen,

Chain of teachers each the truth has seen.

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I’m Counting On You

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 28, 2013

Arjuna“The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34 Purport)

“I’m counting on you to take care of this. Please don’t let me down. I don’t know anyone else who is so reliable. If reliability is lacking, this particular job won’t get done. The job is important too, so I’m putting my best man on it. I know that you won’t disappoint me, because you haven’t yet.”

If you hear such words, they will surely be encouraging, but they might also inspire some tension. It is one thing to go about your day without any worries or pressures. You just chill. You do whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re not constrained by time. You may impose some deadlines for yourself, but if you don’t meet them, the only person who is harmed is you.

When someone else counts on you, however, there is the added pressure to get the job done. The request made from another person who is respected automatically inspires service. In the Vedas we learn that it is in the very constitution of every living entity to serve. To serve is to be. You think and therefore you are, but your thinking is tied to your essential characteristic, which is to serve. Knowledge of this core property automatically increases the importance of the spiritual master, who kindly finds ways to inspire others into service. Through creating some pressure, through creating a dependency of circumstances, the guru gives someone else the chance to reach their true potential.

PrabhupadaThe individual is identified by the spirit soul. It is this soul which has the core property of service. The soul is also eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. Every living being is a soul. This means that the plant wants to serve as well. The ant, the dog, the cat, the chicken, and the tiny microorganism all want to serve.

Of course the capacity to serve is severely limited in these species. You can tell a tree that you’re counting on it to look nice the next day. You’re counting on it to stand tall and offer shade from the intense rays of the sun. The tree, however, can’t act on this service. It may or may not be there the next day; that is up to nature’s arrangement. The tree can stand there for thousands of years; so it has a long duration of life. The lengthy lifespan itself doesn’t indicate superiority, though, due to the service factor.

The human being has the potential to serve without motivation and without interruption. The human being can serve with confidence. The pressure applied by others also instills a work ethic and creates a sense of urgency. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. The idea is that only when you really need something will it get invented by someone. In the same vein, if someone is relying on you to take care of a task, you will find a way to get it done. Forget the weather, your level of fatigue, the possibility of missing your favorite show on television – since the other person is relying on you, you will make it happen.

Though the human being is superior through its ability to discriminate and then act, there is still the possibility of taking up the wrong service. The person in the mode of ignorance thinks they are serving themselves by drinking heavily and sleeping long hours. They get angry and do stupid things like destroy objects that are important to them. The person in the mode of passion serves themselves by feverishly pursuing fruitive rewards, like money, fame and wealth. The person in the mode of goodness tries to work towards knowledge, where they see the difference between matter and spirit in all aspects of life.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.45“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)

The thief even thinks they are serving. They offer service to their benefactors by taking the property of others. In this way we see that service should be of some value; it should follow some line of authority. Without that authority, anyone’s preferred service is as good as another’s. If my family member is sick and has been told not to eat certain foods, if I foolishly offer those prohibited foods to them as an act of service, I am actually doing them harm. Thus serving itself isn’t so important; it is the type of service that matters.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe spiritual master is the representative of God. They are known as the guru, which as a Sanskrit word can also mean “heavy.” They have gravitas; they are respected because of their knowledge, both theoretical and practical. They speak of God’s glories with passion, conviction, and deference to their previous teachers. I may say that I don’t want to bow down to anyone or respect anyone else as superior, but this is actually quite silly. I must accept authority so many times throughout the day. I must obey the laws of the state and the strict rules imposed by nature. I must listen to my employers, my customers, and my family members from time to time.

The guru is not so foolish as to think that high knowledge was magically revealed to them. They accepted the information through humble submission before their own spiritual teacher. They took in the wisdom from hearing and then realized it through serving. The guru offered them the chance to serve, and so naturally they return the favor by offering others genuinely interested in spiritual life the same opportunity.

God Himself sets the best example in this regard. Just as in a charity drive sometimes the wealthy person leading the petition will kick things off with a substantial donation, the Supreme Lord, who is the original spiritual master, shows the proper example by Himself offering others a chance to serve. In His avatara of Lord Rama, He gave the opportunity for service to Shri Hanuman, who was very anxious. Rama counted on Hanuman to find Sita Devi, Rama’s missing wife. He counted on Hanuman to not jeopardize Sita’s life in trying to find her. He counted on Hanuman to return to Kishkindha with information of her whereabouts.

Hanuman serving RamaHanuman had a very difficult time, though he was very powerful and intelligent. Had he been only working for himself, he might not have been successful. Since Rama counted on him, Hanuman felt added inspiration to continue. He didn’t want to let Rama down. Rama was adored for His qualities. Hanuman only knew Him for a brief period at that time, and just from that he was so dedicated in service.

We can learn of the same Rama, along with His other non-different forms like Krishna, Vishnu, Narasimha and others, through consulting Vedic texts, which are the oldest scriptural works in existence. They don’t have a date of inception since they come from God Himself. In hearing about God, we learn that He is the most beautiful, the most wealthy, the most wise, the most famous, the most strong and the most renounced. Though He doesn’t need anything, the devotees always think that the Lord is counting on them. The Lord wants them to be devoted to Him. He wants them to try to bring others into devotional service as well, for that is the constitutional engagement, the purest version of service.

He speaks this message through His representative, the guru. The guru then offers so many opportunities for service. Lord Chaitanya is the Krishna avatara for this age, the Supreme Lord in the visual manifestation of a spiritual master. He could have delivered the whole world, but He left the job unfinished so that others could urgently take up the cause, so that they could confidently know that Lord Chaitanya was counting on them. And just like Shri Gaurahari, His humble followers try to deliver the world through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

If not to mention I’d be remiss,

Know that I’m counting on you for this.

 

To someone else task could have gone,

But I know you’re the best to rely upon.

 

Since your devotion on solid ground,

I know that you won’t let me down.

 

Urgency in service of this type,

Ensures tasks to get done right.

 

Guru the same opportunity gives to all,

Serve him so in knowledge to stand tall.

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Honesty Is My Only Excuse

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 23, 2013

Prahlada Maharaja speaking to classmates“Prahlada Maharaja continued: My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life, according to one’s past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.3)

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.3

“Oh, isn’t that cute? They must have learned that while they were in school. Or perhaps they were taught this by their elders. Their hearing is good, so they must have picked it up while listening to adults speaking about the meaning of life. This precocious child will likely grow up to be a scholar, someone very wise. His parents must be so proud of him.”

Mind you, the people observing the child who surprisingly speaks wisely won’t give much attention to his message. The child can speak the harshest language, condemning a society for ignorantly pursuing material enjoyment that has yet to provide them any happiness, but the elders won’t really listen. They won’t get angry with the child, either, as the child doesn’t know any better, right? When the same instruction is given by an adult, however, others will be offended. “How dare they speak to us that way? Who are they anyway? They should learn to be nicer. We are not all horrible people who need to be scolded in this way.” The truly wise man, who is known as a sadhu, delivers an uncompromising message in a swift way. They are honest; they will not lie to someone else’s detriment. We are indebted to them for this candidness.

Would a child ever offer the same instruction as a sadhu?

Many eons ago this is precisely what occurred. A five-year old boy, the son of a powerful king, would lecture to his classmates during recess. He wouldn’t repeat what was just heard in class from the teachers. That information was limited to ruling over a kingdom. The boys learned the four techniques of diplomacy, namely pacification, gift-giving, dividing and conquering, and using force. They learned what it takes to keep subjects happy and how to maintain your control as a leader.

Prahlada MaharajaThe young Prahlada was taught something more valuable before he ever entered school. While he was still in the womb, his mother received instruction from Narada Muni, a wise man of the caliber mentioned previously. Narada did not sugarcoat his message. He has never done that in fact. Since time immemorial he has travelled the worlds to give the message of truth and light. That message can be summarized as follows: the meaning of life is to be devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of a form that is knowledgeable, eternal and blissful. Any other use of the material body, whether in a human form or not, is a waste of time.

Prahlada remembered these divine instructions upon taking birth, and so when he heard materialism taught to him in school, he didn’t assign it much value. During recess he would teach his friends about the real meaning of life. It is extraordinary for this kind of information to come from the mouth of a child. The Christmas Holiday is especially important to children today, and there is a reason for this. The children get gifts during Christmas. So many movies are made to this effect, wherein Christmas for a specific child is saved when they are able to get a material gift that they particularly desired. A child has a limited vision, so they can’t foresee that they will get sick of their gifts very quickly. They don’t realize that in adulthood no material reward can provide everlasting happiness.

What to speak of children, even adults have a difficult time realizing this fact. Therefore adults take to gambling and intoxication, ways of forgetting the influence of time. Forgetfulness does nothing to change the reality, however. Only the truth will set you free, and as a young child Prahlada spoke the truth. The father, the king of the land, had a problem with Prahlada. Who would ever purposefully harm a child anyway? What can they do to implement their principles? They are powerless; they are dependent upon others for protection.

Prahlada’s honesty, especially when he was questioned about what he learned in school and what he thought was the most important thing in life, drove his father crazy. Unable to convince the boy otherwise, Hiranyakashipu, the father, tried to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. All the attempts failed. Finally, the person of whom Prahlada spoke arrived on the scene in a ferocious and strange form and killed Hiranyakashipu. The boy never wanted material rewards; just the ability to keep loving God, which included speaking of Him to others. The Supreme Lord granted the boy’s wish. This gift would be valuable not only to Prahlada but to countless future generations as well.

Indeed, the sadhus of modern times take the baton passed on by sadhus of the past like Prahlada. Sadhus are typically adults, though, so the general population may not take so kindly to their critical words. What are some examples of teachings that don’t sit well with others? If you think about it, since the sadhu is honest, pretty much all of their teachings will fly in the face of what is generally taught. The beginning truth is that the living entity in the material world is not their body. All of us are spirit on the inside, and so our body is not that important. It is like a temporary covering. Focusing on what to eat, where to travel, and what to wear is not very wise. Eating, sleeping, and dressing properly are important to remain functional, but they are not the all in all. I can eat the best food in the world and still not find happiness. Food is just food; it is only there to give me strength to maintain my life. Whether I eat broccoli or pizza shouldn’t matter at the end of the day.

The sadhu says that all living entities, not just me, are spirit souls, part of the impersonal force known as Brahman. I am Brahman and so are you. Your dog is Brahman and so is the cow. Ah, so this is where things get interesting. If the cow is Brahman, they are equal to the human beings in quality. Therefore it is not right to kill them en masse for food. The vegetables are also Brahman, and it is also true that all living entities survive off of other living entities. Nevertheless, killing a vegetable and killing a cow are not the same; otherwise meat-eaters would have no problem killing human beings for food. There is always discrimination. The vegetables are provided for the wiser human beings, who refrain from unnecessary violence. The vegetables, grains and milk are also food in the mode of goodness, which is what increases knowledge.

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

Flowers offered at Krishna's feetKnowledge in the mode of goodness does not relate to how to solve a mathematical equation or translate a language. Real knowledge is the ability to see the essential quality of all life forms and realize the changing of bodies that continues even into the afterlife through what is known as reincarnation. Real knowledge is what sadhus like Prahlada Maharaja speak of, and so it is very difficult for us to accept at the outset. Just hearing such knowledge offends us, for if we are not in the mode of goodness we will automatically not be as wise as those who are.

The uncompromising message of a sadhu, whose only excuse is honesty, is delivered not to ruffle feathers or to gain notoriety. If I care about someone I will instruct them. With a stranger I might not be so keen on providing them instruction, for I don’t know them very well. Since I don’t know them, I naturally don’t care for them as much as I do for my family members. Though it is only natural to feel this way, when in knowledge one realizes that all living entities are tied together through their link to the spiritual world. God is the Supreme Father, and all creatures are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. This extends also to the animals, who can be considered the younger siblings.

“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)

Sita and RamaLord Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, once remarked to His wife Sita that only someone who really has affection for someone else will offer them counsel. If our child does poorly in school, we will scold them and emphatically remind them why it’s important to do better. So many other children do poorly in school, but we’re not going around and telling them that they should improve. The sadhu is like the teacher of the classroom, and so they are interested in the welfare of all the students. Whether the students like them or not, the sadhu will give it to them straight, and for this they are to be commended.

In the modern age, the true sadhu is not one who simply accepts the garb of a mendicant and begs from door to door for food. The genuine sadhu is a devotee of the Supreme Lord, and so they will use whatever means are available to get the right message out. As religiousness has declined greatly, to the point that the mere mention of God invites scowls and frowns, the simplest and most effective method for reawakening the dormant God consciousness within all of us is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The honest devotee of the Lord practices this chanting themselves and teaches us how to make our chanting effective. Just like Prahlada Maharaja, they enthusiastically speak to us as their friend, wishing only the best for us.

In Closing:

Try to tell them other message is no use,

For the sadhu honesty their only excuse.

 

They will give it to us straight,

So that we’ll find enlightened state.

 

Like Prahlada who to his classmates spoke,

Despite ire of teachers and father provoked.

 

Due to their message delivery candid,

We can attain wisdom so splendid.

 

As their friend all others sadhus treat,

Their association thus never can be beat.

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A Worthy Rebuke

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 21, 2013

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“The Supreme Person [Bhagavan] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy. “ (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

Bhagavad-gita, 2.2It’s a big night. You’re going to a gathering where a famous personality will be there. They are known for being expert in the field that interests you. They are considered “senior” because they have been involved in that field for a number of years. They are old enough to be your father, and they started in the field when they were younger than you are now. They have spent an entire lifetime practicing. As you can gain valuable insight through their association, you are very excited.

The event is a small gathering, so you won’t be the only person there. There is anticipation nonetheless, as this kind of opportunity doesn’t come too often. Things start out well, as you make a basic introduction and then listen attentively as they give their talk. During the question and answer period, however, you ask what you think is a harmless question. Instead of giving a typical response, the speaker scoffs at the mere suggestion you make. It’s as if they think you’re antagonistic to the field, like you don’t respect them. But you indeed have just the opposite intention, so this stern rebuke shakes you. You can’t stop thinking about it for the next few hours.

Later on, however, you realize that the rebuke was to your benefit. Your question may have been innocent in your eyes, but it represented a lack of understanding. Rather than take the kind approach, the stern rebuke sends the correct message loud and clear. This is actually an act of kindness from the superior, as through this type of interaction they teach you a valuable lesson very quickly. A similar kind of rebuke was even shown by the greatest teacher of all, Lord Krishna.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe Bhagavad-gita documents this exchange. The setting was a battlefield, and the hesitant warrior Arjuna was the character of principal focus. His army was about to take on the aggressors known as the Kauravas. Arjuna’s side had a rightful claim to the disputed land, but the opposing side unjustly usurped it and refused to give back even an inch of it. Arjuna was famous for his fighting prowess using the bow and arrow, so his side, the Pandavas, expected to ride that strength to victory. More importantly, Arjuna had Krishna for his charioteer. Krishna is the ever well-wishing friend of the Pandavas. He also happens to be the expert teacher, as He is the origin of all knowledge.

Despite his superior fighting ability, Arjuna was initially hesitant to move forward. He didn’t want to win. If you don’t have a will, how are you going to put in the effort necessary for success? A head coach in the National Football League once famously said, “You play to win the game!” If you’re not in the competition to achieve victory, you’re not really competing. If Arjuna had any hesitancy whatsoever, his side was doomed.

Afraid of living a life devoid of the company of friends and family fighting for the opposing side, Arjuna created all sorts of excuses to justify his desire to quit. He presented his arguments to Krishna, who also happened to be related to him as a cousin. Once the concerns were presented, however, the relationship between the two changed. No longer were they friends or close family members. Krishna became the acknowledged superior and Arjuna the pupil requiring instruction.

Krishna was not unnecessarily mild in His initial reaction. He didn’t say, “O Arjuna, you are such a kind-hearted soul. You are truly wise for not wanting to harm anyone else. You have passed the test life has handed to you by choosing the more difficult path of nonviolence. You are to be commended for your intelligence.”

Instead, Krishna said that Arjuna’s attitude was not befitting someone of his intelligence. It also didn’t square with his role in society. In the Vedas, society is divided up into four general categories based on natural qualities within people. The kshatriyas are the second class; their duties involve military conflict for the purpose of protecting the innocent. The kshatriyas are not meant to be unnecessarily nonviolent, as the miscreant aggressors in society will not hesitate to use violence to get their way. If the criminals are going to steal, you better be ready to protect your stuff. If the enemy is going to attack, you better be prepared to fight them off, lest you risk losing your own life and the lives of others.

Krishna’s initial admonishment was beneficial because it got Arjuna’s attention. The doubtful warrior’s attitude did not suit the occasion. It’s not that he should have been overly concerned with victory, either. Rather, when one follows their duties, they should do so out of obligation. The fighting order exists for a reason, and if one does their best job in that occupation, it is better than accepting another occupation that one is not suited for.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.35“It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.35)

Krishna immediately touched on the eternality of the spirit soul and how it is transcendental to the changes to the outer covering, which is more commonly known as the body. As the soul never dies, no one can really kill anyone else. The killing we see is the effect of material nature on the temporary covering. Not that one should go on a violent rampage, but it should be known that everyone will have to suffer death eventually through the influence of time and that no one can do anything without the compliance of the forces controlling the material nature. If Arjuna would act on his occupational duty without attachment for the result, he would not incur any sin from fighting.

The wise souls take rebuke from the spiritual master to be a great blessing. The teacher is in an acknowledged position of superiority after all, so if they only compliment us all the time, what is the benefit to their association? It is more helpful to me if the teacher points out my flaws so that I will have something to correct going forward. Krishna pushed Arjuna towards the right choice of fighting on. And it always was a choice. The instruction Krishna offered was not a command; He left the option up to Arjuna.

In the same way, all living entities have a choice in whether or not they want to follow dharma, or duty. The dharma for the present age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It is difficult to decipher material occupational duties due to the lack of qualified teachers and the underlying culture necessary to maintain adherence to religious principles. The most potent method of self-realization for the present age is the recitation of the holy names, which are non-different from God. And through self-realization, one learns how to properly direct their activities.

The spiritual master is the representative of Krishna, and they are an expert in practicing bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Since they accept the dharma of the present age as their primary occupation in life, they can offer the most valuable instruction to others. When they point out our flaws it is most beneficial to us, as it gives the guidance necessary to move forward on the path to transcendence.

In Closing:

A superior authority I want to meet,

Excited when taking my listening seat.

 

But after a harmless question I say,

A stern rebuke comes my way.

 

At the moment I don’t realize in mind,

That such act was a lesson very kind.

 

Arjuna too rebuke from a wise man received,

When plan to deviate from dharma he conceived.

 

Teacher of his was Shri Krishna who held chariot’s reins,

Told Arjuna to battle, caring not for losses or gains.

 

Same kindness the guru to us gives,

Correcting us so in transcendence we’ll live.

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On Your Best Behavior

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 14, 2013

Lord Chaitanya with associates“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.54)

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.54“I’m in the clear. The boss just stepped out for the day. Time to party. No one to look over my shoulder now. No more pressure for the rest of the day. I’m at work, so I still have a job to do, but if I take a little extra time for lunch, no one will be the wiser. If I surf the internet a little longer, unless they are monitoring my outbound traffic, how will they ever find out?”

Sure, the absence of the boss brings some relief from the pressure of strict oversight, but if this is the norm rather than the aberration, is that good? Is not there a purpose to the business? In the larger picture, the presence of the boss is actually helpful, provided they know what they are doing.

We can understand the same concept using the example of a school. For the young child, hearing that school is closed is like music to the ears. You don’t have to get up early the next morning. You don’t have to worry about your homework assignment or that big test. At least the pressure is off for one day. It’s an unexpected day off to be used as a vacation. A similar feeling exists when the teacher is out for a specific class. The substitute teacher isn’t as strict, and they’re only there to make sure nothing goes wrong in the class. They’re not really there to apply any pressure to learn.

school closingBut if the teacher were absent all the time, it wouldn’t be a good thing. You’re in school to learn after all. And to learn you need a teacher and you need a school that is open. The office exists to sell a good or service for a profit. If it is not open, there is no profit earned. Without profit there are no jobs. If the boss isn’t there, the workers aren’t as diligent, which means that the end product will suffer. The presence of the authority figures is thus ultimately beneficial.

If this is true in work and in school, it is most certainly true in spiritual life. The human mind is incapable of conjuring up the nature of the Absolute Truth on its own. This is because we are illusioned by the external world. The pursuit for sense enjoyment is sort of like dreaming of becoming a king. If you are a king in your dreams, you have all the enjoyment of regal life, but only for a brief period. Once the dream ends, your crown gets taken away. You’re back to being an ordinary person, someone who isn’t a king.

The stay within a material body is like the same dream because it can end at any second. Moreover, it definitely will end. No one can be king forever. While they are king, the range of their sovereignty isn’t that great. I may be the king of one country, but another country has their own leader. Even if I should conquer them, I will have to constantly worry about holding on to my power. Consolidated power is as fragile as localized power; they are both relegated to temporary status based on the nature of the world.

Spiritual life is the way out of the dream. To permanently escape, one should know the cause of their illusion. You enter the dream at night from sleeping, so if you don’t sleep, you won’t dream. As sleeping is required to maintain the body, there is nothing that can be done to stop dreaming altogether. With the dream that is the stay in the material world, the sleeping component is the ignorance of the true nature of the self. This ignorance can be permanently avoided. Aham brahmasmi, which means I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. To say that I am spirit is to say that I am not matter. My body is composed of matter, and so my body does not represent my identity.

In ignorance I think that I am my body and that my body is to be used for becoming king. This is considered ignorance because there is only one true king: God. Acknowledgment of this fact keeps one away from the dream; free from the sleep. As soon as there is forgetfulness, the jiva soul falls into the material creation, where the dream begins.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.34

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

To realize the self is not easy, and so in the Vedas it is advised that one approach a spiritual master who knows the self and learn from them. While this opens the door for many cheaters to pose as spiritual guides when they actually don’t know anything, the requirement to learn from someone else makes sense. We learn from authority figures in all other areas of life, so why would it be any different when trying to learn something that is the most difficult to comprehend?

Shrila PrabhupadaThe spiritual master is also a sadhu, or devotee, and in the Vedas it is said that it is most beneficial to have the association of devotees, sadhu-sanga. A real sadhu knows that they are spirit soul. They also act off of that knowledge by engaging in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. The bona fide spiritual master is one who follows bhakti-yoga as a way of life. Their presence alone makes a huge difference. If the spiritual master is around to teach, the students pay more attention to their work, which starts and ends with the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

More beneficial than the guru’s presence is his instructions, which other sadhus, or devotees, follow. So if you’re around sadhus, you’re essentially around the guru as well. They are his proxy, and while they may not always be in an acknowledged position of authority, their association is enough to bring a positive influence. With the combination of sadhu, shastra and guru, the sleeping jiva soul ignorant of his position as servant of God can awaken from his slumber and be inspired to serve the Supreme Lord, the king of kings. As bhakti is an eternal engagement, when it is fully rekindled the nightmare of the material existence never has to be experienced again.

In Closing:

Quitting time for boss is here,

No more his presence to fear.

 

The pressures now start to come undone,

In surfing the internet I will have fun.

 

That absence of authority better is the thought,

But forgotten is the discipline the chief brought.

 

In spiritual life find a guru bona fide,

Along the proper path he will guide.

 

Sadhu is devotee who follows guru’s instructions,

With their association begin ignorance’s destruction.

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My Big Break

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 3, 2012

IMG_0195“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)

“Wow, I can’t believe how good my life is now. I’m at the top of my profession. I worked so hard in the early years, and through the combination of dedicated work, good timing, and incredible luck, I’m now in a position to say that I love my job. I enjoy going to the office every day, interacting with my coworkers, and producing quality output that I can be proud of. Because of this, I am also able to sustain a happy home life. My wife and kids are a joy to come home to, and we’re always looking forward to doing things together. I’m so happy that I want to repay the debts I owe to so many people, like that person who gave me my first big break. They took a chance on me, and though they weren’t always kind or explicitly supportive, through their tough love I learned the ropes. I’m on the top now and I want to help the people who helped me get here.”

They say that the people you meet on your way up are the same ones you’ll see on your way back down. This notable truth is intended to make sure you treat everyone nicely, for just because you’re in an apparently superior position today doesn’t mean that it will always be the case. At some time or another, the situations might reverse, i.e. the inferior will be the superior. In the Vedas the same truth of changing conditions is presented through the descriptions of the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. The soul of the ant is the same as the soul of the human being, and in the next life the roles might switch. Today we are a small child, but in the future we’ll be an adult. There will also be other children around then. We never know where we’re going to end up, so we might as well be nice to everyone.

In the above hypothetical scenario, the successful person wants to repay the debts they feel they owe to those who helped them along the way. The question that remains is how to do that. Say, for instance, I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude to my teachers from school. Should I seek them out and give them money? Should I try to get them a better job if I have the power? Should I honor them with my words? Actually, the best way to honor them is to use their teachings for the betterment of my character. If they taught me specifically about the field I work in, I should use those teachings to produce excellence. That is reward enough for the teacher, who takes pride in seeing others learn things about that which they are passionate.

The same can be said of spiritual teachers. In the Vedas it is said that man is born with three debts. He owes something to his parents for giving birth to him. But the parents came from somewhere also, namely the forefathers. Hence the debt is to previous generations as a whole. Then there is a debt to the divine figures in charge of things like the rain, the sun, the water, and the other material elements used for bodily maintenance. These two debts are repaid through begetting a son and performing religious sacrifice.

The third debt is to the rishis, the Vedic scholars of the past who have passed down a wealth of information that stays relevant for millions of years into the future. This debt is repaid by reading the scriptures, the foremost of which are the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. To learn these works properly, one must practically apply the principles. Think of it like taking lab sections in conjunction with the regular science classes in school. The practical application allows for a realization of the truths versus just memorizing a bunch of facts.

The practical application of the Vedic principles found in texts like the Bhagavad-gita is learned through the instruction of the guru, or spiritual master. The Vaishnava spiritual master, who is a devotee of the personal form of the Supreme Lord, says that we should chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, a set number of times each day. We should also avoid meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. This foundation helps to shape consciousness for the better, making it easier to realize the truth of aham brahmasmi, which means, “I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the spiritual energy known as Brahman.”

Shrila PrabhupadaThe spiritual master gives us the tools, and if we use them properly we can attain transcendence. The state of transcendence represents the top of the transcendentalist’s field, sort of like being number one in your trade. When at the top, you’ll naturally want to repay the favors of those who helped get you there. But how can you repay the spiritual master? They are devotees of the Supreme Lord, so they don’t require lots of money or palatable food to eat. Indeed, offering such items would likely displease them. Lord Chaitanya, a notable saint who is non-different from the Supreme Lord Himself, would often receive sumptuous food preparations in large supply from His devotees as thanks for His blissful influence. Outwardly Lord Chaitanya accepted the sannyasa order, so He wasn’t supposed to eat a lot of food or dishes that were very nice. Nevertheless, out of kindness He accepted the offerings.

Goswami Tulsidas, a Vaishnava saint specifically devoted to the Supreme Lord’s incarnation of Rama, also had to deal with the same problem. When he was an ordinary sannyasi, or one in the renounced order, he had no problem with begging for small amounts of food and eating just that. But once he became popular through his literature glorifying the Supreme Lord, people kept bringing him so much food to eat, which forced him to reluctantly break his voluntarily accepted spiritual practice of limited eating.

From the spiritual master’s example we can see how best to please him. He lives devotion, always thinking of the Supreme Lord throughout the day. Therefore the best way to repay the debt owed him is to follow in the same line. Stay dedicated to bhakti-yoga, hear the holy names, and kindly distribute them wherever you go. Through glorifying God and teaching others how to glorify Him, both you and the people you instruct will be benefitted. And best of all the spiritual master will be pleased to the heart.

In Closing:

Now that supreme position I’ve reached,

Must repay those who principles teached.

 

Something to them I must certainly give,

So that with satisfaction they can live.

 

But how to do this is the question real,

This burden of debt I don’t like to feel.

 

Vaishnava to God is always devoted,

Bhakti to highest stature promoted.

 

Practical and theoretical to students they share,

That they become lovers of God their only care.

 

In position of prominence their line to continue,

Chant holy names and repay debt to them too.

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Teaching from Experience

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 1, 2012

Worshiping Vishnu in Vaikuntha“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and I myself know the real religious principle.” (Yamaraja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.20)

Since we experience so many different things in our journey through life, from our thinking abilities we craft theories on how to succeed going forward. For unmarried men, the ideas relate to how to interact with women, i.e. potential girlfriends and wives. When to call them and when not to and when to be nice and when to be mean are some of the issues addressed. Single women trying to land the perfect guy play the same game. In business, the theories relate to succeeding in the goal of earning a profit. Those who consider themselves successful in these areas often write books about their experiences, wanting to share their wisdom with others. In the realm of spirituality, there are twelve figures deemed authorities in the practice of bhakti-yoga, or divine love. They have shared their experiences through written word and verbal instruction, and interestingly enough they did not start from nothing.

What do we mean by this? If you succeed in creating a profitable business, you likely didn’t know anything about the business world at the outset. You kind of had to learn the ropes on your own. If others did give you advice, it wasn’t entirely applicable. You had to take bits and pieces and then assemble the complete theory on your own. The same holds true in other ventures as well. If the successful were all-knowing from the beginning, they wouldn’t feel the need to share their thoughts later on in life. They want to share their wisdom because they think it will help others and that such information is not known to everyone.

With respect to spiritual life, the proper roadmap existed at the beginning of time. It doesn’t need to be created, as it comes from the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master in the heart. Within every living being there are two life forces. There is the individual soul and the Supersoul. The individual is the perceived enjoyer; he chooses in which direction to go. The Supersoul is like the driver, acting on the decisions made and then distributing the results fairly, but at the same time not taking sides. If the individual wants to place their hand into a fire, the Supersoul knows that it is a bad move, but He doesn’t interfere with the decision. The reaction of a burned hand is ultimately caused by the Supersoul, for He is the one who created the material elements and their properties.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)

The turn towards the proper path of spiritual life takes place when the individual listens to the Supersoul. Not surprisingly, the Supersoul is the person most of us refer to as God. He is not an old and angry man, and He isn’t looking to specifically punish anyone. If someone plays the game of American football and then gets seriously injured in a collision while playing, is it the fault of the game? Is the football to blame for the injury? The individual made the choice to play, and with that choice there was knowledge of every possible outcome going in.

Lord BrahmaIn special circumstances, one can take instruction directly from the Supersoul within the heart. This occurred with Lord Brahma, who is the original creator. Every creature in this universe can trace their ancestry back to Brahma. He was put in charge of populating the creation. He didn’t know what to do at first, so he meditated upon the Supersoul within the heart and received the proper direction. He pleased the Supreme Lord Vishnu in this way. We thus know that Brahma didn’t chart out his own course, though at first there was no one else around to tell him otherwise. He followed the original spiritual instruction of devotion to God, and he found a favorable situation as a result. Afterwards, Brahma went through so many experiences and continues to do so right now, as his duration of life is inconceivably long. His experiences are noted down in the Vedic literatures, and any person can consult them and take away valuable lessons on life.

Narada Muni is another authority on bhakti-yoga. He is Brahma’s son, and he travels the different worlds chanting the glories of Narayana, which is another name for Vishnu. Again, Narada did not chart out his own course, but through executing bhakti-yoga, he gathered so many valuable experiences that are shared with others for their benefit. He is the spiritual master of some of the most notable saints in history, including Valmiki Muni and Vyasadeva.

Lord Shiva is the destroyer. He is the worshipable figure for those in ignorance, who don’t know the difference between matter and spirit and how the aim of life is to be God conscious at the time of death. Lord Shiva prefers to only meditate on the lotus feet of God, but he carries out his other duties at the behest of the Supreme Lord. Lord Shiva has had many experiences to share, including one incident with Narada Muni, where he warned the saint not to be too puffed up from his mastery over the senses. Narada didn’t listen to Shiva at the time, and as a result he had to face the heartbreak of losing the association of a woman he fancied. Lord Shiva does not chalk out his own path, but one can follow his example of dedication to chanting the holy names.

In a similar manner, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila, Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, King Janaka, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and Yamaraja all followed devotional service, and in their unique circumstances they implemented them in specific ways. Rather than try to speculate as to the meaning of life or develop our own theories based on ignorance of the laws of the spiritual science, we can consult the life and teachings of these notable figures, who are saints in the true sense of the word.

In Closing:

If myself only of God I think,

Into ignorance’s pit I’ll sink.

 

The entire creation I can never know,

For time and space are infinite so.

 

Look at the notable figures of the past,

Took up devotion to God as primary task.

 

Of Supreme Lord’s glories was their talk,

But never their own path did they chalk.

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Backstage Passes

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 21, 2012

Narada Muni“If someone is able, by chance, to see a great saintly person like Narada face to face, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun: there cannot be any visionary impediment.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)

You’re going to a concert of your favorite band. Sure, you listen to their music and derive enjoyment from it, but the music moves you so much that you follow other aspects to the people that make it. You read every interview they give, watch every live performance, and follow their daily movements. In this way the connection to them grows, and so by going to the concert, you hope to get even closer to them. The all-access backstage pass is the true boon in this regard, as you get to meet the band members face to face. You get to tell them what their music has meant to you.

Indeed, this tendency towards desiring personal meetings extends to all kinds of celebrities and famous personalities. These people touch so many lives, so it is only natural to try to want to meet them, to get a closer encounter where emotions can be exchanged. The hope is that the fateful meeting will be remembered going forward and that the interaction will further strengthen the bond of attachment. When that same tendency is applied towards the spiritual realm, where there are personalities famous for their ability to heal, the effects can last well beyond the current lifetime.

The saint dedicates their life to serving God. As both “service” and “God” can be vague terms, the saint knows the true definition of both due to their submissive attitude in hearing. They first heard the authorized information from their own teachers, and without a challenging attitude they accepted the principles and carried them out. Through both hearing and the practical application of the principles they reached a state known as God consciousness, wherein the mind constantly focuses on how to please the beloved Supreme Lord.

And He is indeed beloved. To develop that affection for Him, one should know His transcendental features. Another name for God is Bhagavan, which means one who possesses the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time. God is also Krishna, or He who is all-attractive. He is also Rama, or one who gives transcendental pleasure to others. He is Shyamasundara, or the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. He is Ajita, or one who is unconquerable. He is Vishnu, or all-pervading. He is Achyuta, or one who never falls down. He is Parameshvara, or the supreme controller. He is Govinda, or one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is Gopala, or the protector of the cows. He is Madhava, or the husband of the goddess of fortune.

There are so many ways to describe God, and notice that the features described point to a personality. These features also never exhaust, so the personality in question must exist eternally. He must have a body and that body cannot be the same as ours. Our features change over time. The male loses hair on the head as they age, and the female develops wrinkles on the face very quickly. At an advanced age, organs that we previously counted on start to fail. The diminishing accelerates to the point that the body itself ceases to be useful, indicating that a new body is required. The changing of the bodies is known as reincarnation.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

God’s body does not change like this. His vigraha, or form, is described as sach-chid-ananda, or eternally full of bliss and knowledge. The saint knows these facts from first accepting them from their spiritual master. They later become firm believers through executing bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. The service is directed at Bhagavan, and it manifests in different activities. There can be hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, serving the lotus feet, or simply honoring. Just as there is variety in the activities we undertake, in the pursuit to change consciousness for the better there are many avenues for travel.

To meet someone who practices bhakti-yoga is considered a great boon. The most exalted saints are so powerful that just by meeting them face to face one’s life can be turned around forever. This has happened many times with people who met Narada Muni, who is a sort of space-traveller who doesn’t do anything but sing the glories of Narayana, which is another name for God that means the source of all men.

Does Narada distribute an electrical charge? Is there something magical about his face that causes a change in others? Actually, it is his position with respect to occupation that brings the change. He exclusively follows bhakti-yoga, which is a unique discipline of spirituality because it seeks nothing but continued devotion to God. In pure bhakti, there is no desire for a temporary reward, a removal of distress, a mystic ability, or the cessation of activity. Rather, the humble prayer is that whatever state Shri Krishna places the devotee in, they still be allowed to practice their devotion.

Shrila PrabhupadaSomeone who follows this line of work is automatically in a superior position, making a meeting with them slightly nerve-racking. Imagine meeting someone who is considered flawless. They are respected by everyone else, so you’re a little hesitant to act in an impious manner in front of them. You also have heard about their past good deeds, so you can’t help but be won over by their presence. When you meet them face to face, if they should offer you any kind instruction, you will likely follow through on it, lest you run the risk of offending them.

The saints of the present age of Kali have been kind enough to extend their influence using recorded words. Instead of having to travel far and wide to meet them, we can consult their books and recorded lectures to get a similar benefit. Their words carry the same weight as their physical presence, if not greater, and those words are easier to consult on a regular basis. Thus spiritual masters like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada continue to rescue fallen souls to this day, with their influence only growing in the future, increasing their fame and glory all the more.

In Closing:

Rock band that you like so much,

From their music your life touched.

 

Wonderful for at concert to have front row seat,

Even better with backstage pass, members to meet.

 

When face to face they are seen,

Can tell them what to you they mean.

 

Use this tendency for devotee’s presence to get,

Icons of devotion, on pleasing Krishna their minds set.

 

From this meeting ideal example take away,

Follow instruction and in bhakti always stay.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Given For a Reason

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 19, 2012

Krishna and Arjuna“The Lord is the Supreme with all senses, and the servitor, who is part and parcel of the Lord, also has the same senses. Service to the Lord is the completely purified use of the senses, as described in the Bhagavad-gita. The Lord imparted instructions with full senses, and Arjuna received them with full senses, and thus there was a perfect exchange of sensible and logical understanding between the master and the disciple.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20 Purport)

You’re really excited. You finally purchased this brand new piece of furniture that goes perfect with the décor of your living room. You go to the store, pick it up, and then rush home to put it together. The piece is a little complex, so there is assembly required. Not to fear, though, as there are instructions provided. You open up the manual to notice that the instructions are not in English. “Oh wait, let me turn to the other side. Here we go. Okay, now let me follow these instructions and I’ll be all set.”

When you’re finished, however, you have a few nuts and bolts left over. What could these be for? Why weren’t they utilized? Will the finished piece be sturdy enough without them? Ah, but there must be a problem because there would be no reason for extra nuts and bolts to be packaged. They must be there to be used. Thus something went awry during the construction, and though you may not notice the mistake right away, eventually some damage might occur. The problem is that you don’t know when or how severe. If only you had used all of the pieces properly.

This scenario can be used to illustrate a matter of greater importance: namely what to do with our life. The various body parts and their accompanying senses were provided to us for a reason. We use the senses for interaction in every aspect of life already. For eating we use the tongue and the stomach. For watching movies we use the eyes and the ears. For relations with members of the opposite sex we use touch. In fact, just one of these senses diminishing in its capacity to function fully causes a major hindrance to life. Therefore we know that the senses are vital to our existence; they are provided to us for a reason.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, say that the point of human life is to know, understand, and then love God. There is no other purpose to the existence, in any species for that matter. The difference, though, is that the non-human species cannot make the vital inquiry, athato brahma-jijnasa, which is the opening to the Vedanta-sutra. “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth.” “Now that I have received the precious human form of body, which has the ability to sharpen intelligence and then act off of it, I must meet my true destiny: the spiritual sky.”

That realm is not a void. It is full of variety and nuance. The qualities are transcendental, however, so they don’t have the same inhibiting effect that the matter currently around us does. The matter of our present land is known as maya, or illusion, and it purposefully clouds our intelligence, making us forgetful of our inferior position with respect to the Supreme Soul, the person most of us refer to as God. The spiritual sky does not have the same maya; its energy is of a different nature. In the divine realm, the qualities help to further devotion to God, which is not a fixed pie. Just because you are devoted today doesn’t mean that you can’t be more devoted tomorrow. Just because you take pleasure from the Lord’s association today doesn’t mean that you can’t find more ways to serve Him tomorrow. The more you serve, the more pleasure you feel, and the reservoir for transcendental pleasure can never be filled.

In the material land, the situation is reversed. You try something once or twice and you get sick of it. Pizza today, pasta tomorrow. Beer tonight, wine tomorrow. Exercise this week, parked on the couch the next. All the while there is no progress made in terms of the disposition of the consciousness. The mind can be the best friend or the worst enemy. If you think about it, the pain you feel after being scorned by a paramour is only related to the mind. If you could just make yourself think that you’re not in a troubled state, that everything will work out in the future, you will be just fine.

Devotional service, which is also known as bhakti-yoga, trains the mind in this way, except there is no deception. The focus of attention is on chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and constantly hearing the sound vibrations that represent God. Through this method the mind learns to stay fixed in the transcendental realm, and thus there is automatic renunciation of negative thoughts pertaining to temporary outcomes. In addition, there is the excitement of knowing that there will be more opportunities to connect with God and serve Him.

Prabhupada thinking of Krishna and ArjunaThese techniques and more are learned from the qualified spiritual master. The real guru does not tell the disciple to give up using their senses. In fact, the transfer of information from teacher to student takes place through the use of all the senses, so what sense would it make to give up interaction once enlightenment is reached? If the guru, who is supposed to be enlightened, gave up using their senses, how would they teach anyone?

Not surprisingly, the best guru is God Himself, who reminded us of this fact one time on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. In His original form of Krishna, the Lord imparted the wisest words of instruction to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna. The transfer of information took place through the use of Krishna’s senses and also Arjuna’s. Krishna is known as the master of all senses, Hrishikesha, so this means that He has transcendental senses that He utilizes when necessary. Arjuna accepted that information with his ears and then used his entire body to act upon the wisdom he took in.

This same type of transfer occurs with all bona fide gurus and their students. The chanting of the holy names is the way to use the ears and the tongue, the worship of the deity the body, the offering and smelling of flowers the nose, and the viewing of the deity the eyes. Morning until night all the senses can be engaged in devotional service, ensuring that all the body parts required for assembly given to us at the time of birth get utilized in constructing the final piece of a perfectly God conscious soul that is ready to return to the spiritual land, the original home.

In Closing:

Finished piece picture on box should resemble,

Must follow instructions for item to assemble.

 

Problem when at end some pieces remain unused,

All seems okay, but then why pieces in box include?

 

Problem to occur eventually, maybe not today,

All pieces vital in construction’s proper way.

 

Know that all senses for utilization meant,

As human to God’s world make the ascent.

 

Guru with his disciples uses senses to interact,

With all your senses bhakti-yoga practice enact.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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