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Vyasa Puja 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 28, 2013

Shrila Prabhupada“The literal meaning of the word guru is ‘heavy’ – heavy with knowledge and authority, because his knowledge and authority come from Krishna. You cannot utilize the guru for satisfying your whims.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Journey of Self-Discovery, Ch 2.2)

“I really can’t make up my mind. I need to get a new phone. At least I think I do. I have one right now that is issued by my employer. It works fine. The service is good. Everything is paid for. I don’t have to worry about going over the allotted monthly data usage; not that I hog up that much data. I checked the usage stats recently, and in the few years I’ve had that phone I’ve used about two months worth of data allotted to the standard monthly plans. I don’t talk much on there either; though the voice quality is very good.

“Recently a defect arose in the phone. Therefore for some vital functions now, I have to use a menu on the touchscreen. The physical button that is supposed to perform these functions no longer works. Apparently this has happened to a lot of people with the same phone. I asked my employer to see what they could do, and they said I could get the same phone as a free replacement. The problem is the manufacturer no longer makes the same version of the phone. The free replacement would be a downgrade. This doesn’t seem right to me. Why can’t I get an upgrade? What will happen when the same defect occurs in the future?

iphone lock button issue“I have the option of getting my own phone and using that. I already have a personal cellphone. I pay a monthly fee for it, though I hardly use it. I can upgrade that phone and keep the same phone number. Ah, but which plan should I get? These phone plans are very expensive. Some are cheaper, but the service isn’t as good. I do a lot of reading on my phone. I know this sounds odd, but the screen size is perfect. I’ve read books that were thousands of pages long without a problem. While reading if I see something I like, I quickly take a screenshot and then save it. This way all the passages I find to be important are saved with convenience.

“I could purchase a tablet computer. That is one option. Of course I already have one, but it is certainly outdated by now. The newer models are smaller in size. I can also get a relatively inexpensive data plan with that. With this option, I can continue to use my work phone and then carry around the tablet to do my reading. The tablet is too big to fit in a pocket, though, so I will have to make sure to take it with me in my hand. I will have to make sure not to leave it behind anywhere.

ipad“I can’t decide what to do. This is starting to bug me now. I don’t want to make the wrong decision. It’s all I think about. The conundrum is very heavy in my brain; it is weighing me down. I’d rather a decision just be made so that I can continue with my life. In an objective analysis, right now everything is okay, and I generally don’t buy a lot of things. Thus when I do buy something that will replace my existing setup, I don’t want to make the wrong decision.”

In a scenario such as this, the individual thinks that their problem is more important than it really is. That such an issue would weigh down a person’s mind seems silly to most, but the individual here is completely focused on their problem. They can’t go outside of themselves to realize that what they think to be heavy is actually very light. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja, we celebrate the person who tackles the actual heavy issues in life. Since he addresses and solves these issues without fail, he is known as the guru. His weight in knowledge, composure, and strength of conviction in the right activity is then passed on to the disciples, those who learn through service to him.

Vyasadeva“Guru” is a colloquial term as well. You can have a romance guru, a computer guru, and a yoga guru. In each realm, the guru refers to a teacher who is an expert. They give guidance to those who request it. The real guru, in the classical Sanskrit definition, is a spiritual master. The spiritual trumps everything else. The spiritual is superior to the material. Actually, if you understand the spiritual you will understand the material also. It doesn’t work the other way around. Thus the various gurus mentioned here aren’t really masters of a whole lot. That which they are purportedly expert in isn’t very heavy in the grand scheme of things.

Life and death – you can’t get much heavier than that. The bona fide guru knows that life exists forever. It never came into being, and so it can never be destroyed. Death seems to say otherwise. It tells us that whoever you are, you will eventually leave. Everything that you have will be destroyed as well. That cherished automobile that sits in your garage – one day that will be gone. When you leave, you won’t be able to take it with you. You won’t be able to bring your friends and family along, either. What you can and will bring is your consciousness.

That consciousness accompanied you into this life. The “life” here thus means the present manifestation of your spirit soul combined with a collection of matter. “Life” is a basic measurement of time, for your existence will continue infinitely into the future. Just as we don’t lose our identity from minute to minute, day to day, or year to year, we don’t change when death occurs. If there is a change at all, it is merely external, like a changing of clothes.

Birth and death are much more important issues than which smartphone to get. They are more important than figuring out how to drive a car, fix a software bug, or prepare dinner tonight. Birth and death are the most important issues for the individual in their present state. Since the guru is intimately familiar with the nature of birth and death, his knowledge is most important. His words thus deal with the heaviest issues.

The guru knows that birth in the present land takes place due to forgetfulness of God. God is defined as the Supreme Spirit, the chief living entity maintaining all other living entities. His body and spirit are the same; that is His unique feature. His spiritual form never decays. He does not enter into it and then leave it at some point. His consciousness is the same in quality as His hand and His leg. For us this is not the case, and so we are always inferior to the Supreme Lord.

“It is a false claim that after the annihilation of this body everything is finished. The individual soul is transmigrating from one body to another, and his present body and present activities are the background of his next body. One gets a different body according to karma, and he has to quit this body in due course.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8 Purport)

Changing bodiesDeath is automatic for one who has taken birth. The guru knows this as well. Why should we fret over something that is destined to happen? Why not worry over where the next birth will be? We worry about if we will be happy or not purchasing a specific phone, but in either case we will continue on. What about the next life in general? Why not worry over finding the best place to spend the next lifetime?

The guru takes care of these issues. He says that if you are devoted to God, you will go to Him. The guru does not make this up. This isn’t a pipe dream, a shot in the dark hope for a better life. The guru believes in what he says because he lives it. He lives with God all the time, though he may not be physically in the company of the Supreme Lord. The consciousness is what is linked to the Supreme. That is real yoga, something the guru never breaks out of. If you are always connected, nobody can do anything to break you away from God. As such, how will your association not be beneficial to all?

Shrila PrabhupadaBirth, death, old age, disease, the changing of bodies, the future residence of the spirit soul, the nature of God, the ways to address Him, how to maintain His association – these issues are very heavy and impossible to grasp for the individual who is limited by their own life experiences. Only in ignorance would one think that the smartphone purchase warrants so much mental strain. Due to the unwarranted mental taxation, the more important issues are too heavy to grasp; their weight is so great that immediately the individual drops the information when it is presented to them.

Shri Hanuman lifting a mountainThe guru keeps all of this information with him all the time. Since he carries this strength of knowledge he is the heaviest. The spiritual master is so kind that they will gladly train others in how to accept this knowledge so that they can become heavy themselves. In cases of exalted devotees like Shri Hanuman, the strength is there immediately. One time Hanuman was able to pick up an injured Lakshmana from the battlefield, while the fiendish Ravana could not. Lakshmana is the younger brother of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God. Lakshmana is non-different from the origin of the spiritual master. Though Ravana had tremendous physical strength, he could not support the incredible weight of Lakshmana. As a devoted servant of Rama, Hanuman had no trouble carrying the beloved Lakshmana.

The guru plays no favorites; they hope that everyone becomes God conscious and thus makes their life fruitful. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was known as the “ever well-wisher.” Through his presence, which extends to his books and recorded lectures, he wishes well for everyone. He begs all to chant the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” so that they too can become heavy in their fight against the illusory material nature, which tricks the mind into assigning the wrong priority to matters of trivial importance. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja, we honor Shrila Prabhupada and his attempt to rescue countless souls, work which continues to pay dividends to this day.

In Closing:

How a cell phone solution to find,

This issue weighs heavily on mind.

 

Of anything else cannot think,

Into pool of uncertainty to sink.

 

Since perpetually in yoga state,

Spiritual master of heaviest weight.

 

His association all others to surpass,

His strength to disciples kindly to pass.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Building a Lasting Relationship

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 21, 2013

Lord Shiva dropping flowers“They remembered the guru as they went. The demigods rained down flowers and carpets were rolled out. Every kind of welcome was offered by Janaka to Dasharatha, as love overwhelmed his heart.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 16.1)

cale sumiri gura sura sumana baraṣahi pare bahubidhi pāvaḍe |
sanamāni saba bidhi janaka dasaratha kiye prema kanāvaḍe ||

It is the accepted custom to show hospitality to a guest. The guest is away from their home. That home may be many miles away or within just a short-distance, like next door, but still they are not in their comfortable environment. Therefore the host tries every which way possible to make the guest feel at home. It is just the polite thing to do. King Janaka a long time ago was indeed very polite, but based on the love he felt we know that his gestures were genuine; they went beyond mere protocol.

There were gestures made from above as well. First, the guest-party remembered the feet of their guru. Through his advice, the eldest prince Rama went to the forest with the venerable Vishvamitra Muni, a sage living in the forest at the time. The king, the father of Rama, did not want to let his son go. Rama was barely a teenager. Why should He go off and defend anyone at such a young age? Why should He be put into harm’s way? It wasn’t that Vishvamitra was asking that Rama be part of an army. He wasn’t asking for Rama to be trained up and then learn by following others on the job. No, Vishvamitra wanted Rama to be the sole defender against the wickedest creatures in the world. More than just fighting a lion or tiger with your bare hands, Rama was expected to use His bow and arrow to ward off creatures who were expert in black magic. These fiends had no qualms about killing innocent sages either. They would eat human flesh regularly, so fighting dirty was not an issue for them. The young Rama was expected to fend off these fighters all by Himself. Why would the father Dasharatha sanction that?

Vashishtha MuniUnable to give a blanket denial, the king was first speechless. Then he tried persuading Vishvamitra in another direction. Finally, the guru Vashishtha advised Dasharatha to not fight it any longer. Vishvamitra knew what he was doing; he wasn’t making this request on a hunch. He knew that Rama would defend him. He also knew that Lakshmana, Rama’s devoted younger brother, would come along as well. And so Dasharatha reluctantly gave in.

And now here he is walking towards the marriage ceremony for his son Rama. This was the first time seeing Rama since He left home. A lot had happened in the meantime. Rama and Lakshmana cleared the worries of the sages in the forest by slaying wicked characters like Subahu and Tataka. They earned the favor of Vishvamitra, and through following him they ended up in King Janaka’s home. There Rama lifted the bow of Shiva and won the hand in marriage of Janaka’s daughter Sita. It was for the marriage occasion that Dasharatha and family were called from Ayodhya.

Dasharatha went from intense worry to unbridled joy. In his happiness it was not surprising that he remembered the guru, along with Lord Shiva, Parvati Devi, and their son Lord Ganesha. The demigods, for their part, were so thrilled that they started dropping flowers from the sky as Dasharatha approached the marriage ceremony. He was the chosen father of the Supreme Lord Rama, who had descended to earth to enact wonderful pastimes. The demigods are all devotees; they worship God. They know that He exists and they work at His direction. They don’t foolishly turn a blind eye towards the unexplainable phenomenon that is spirit. They don’t think that the sun and the moon came into existence on their own. They inquire into why things in nature work, rather than try to exploit its presence.

Devotion incorporates more than just knowledge. A sign of devotion is thrill and delight at the chance for others to take part in devotional acts. Though they were envious of the bliss felt by Dasharatha and the other wedding participants, the demigods still dropped flowers as a sign of honor. King Janaka rolled out the red carpet for his guests. He was so happy to get Rama as a son-in-law. Who better to protect his precious Sita? Dasharatha was the father, so all the accolades owned by Rama increased the king’s fame as well.

Marriage ceremony of Sita and RamaWelcoming his beloved guest, Janaka felt so much love in his heart. What a joy to get to see Dasharatha, a person who was famous for his defense of the demigods. His name was earned from his ability to fight chariots coming in the ten directions. He could fight them simultaneously. Though he was powerful, he too was very pious. Imagine having the best person in the world as your defender. Imagine that they are also unbeatable in battle. Wouldn’t that make you feel good? Wouldn’t you feel pleased to have the association of such a person?

Since Janaka felt love, the hospitality he offered was more than just a formality. It was a sincere offering directed to a wonderful family. And such an offering never goes in vain. We may try to make entreaties with our enemies just for the sake of getting along, but sometimes this approach doesn’t work. They may not want a resolution. In the famous Bharata war, Shri Krishna, who is the same God but in His original form, tried to negotiate a peace settlement with the Kauravas, but they would have none of it. They were set on ruling and wouldn’t budge unless they were physically forced to.

The result of making an offering to God is that love fills your heart. And wouldn’t you rather live with love? Hate eventually destroys everything in its path, while love builds lasting relationships. The eternal relationship is the connection to the Supreme Lord, which is every person’s birthright. Through devotional service, which includes kind offerings like the one made by Janaka, that relationship is reawakened. And through the love in the heart, the relationship only strengthens with the passage of time.

In Closing:

Love filling his heart fast,

In building relationship to last.

 

Like offering carpet that was red,

On flowers from sky king to tread.

 

This welcome from King Janaka came,

For Lord of Ayodhya, of Dasharatha the name.

 

Love to fill heart in the devotional state,

Builds lasting bond, no more room for hate.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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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.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Showing Weakness

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 27, 2013

Lord Krishna and mother Yashoda“When it was learned that the demon was entering Gokula in an angry mood, mother Yashoda became so anxious to protect her child that her face dried up and there were tears in her eyes. These are some of the signs of the ecstasy of dread in devotional service, caused by seeing and hearing something that is dangerous to Krishna.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 48)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is by definition the strongest, the wisest, the most beautiful, the wealthiest, the most famous and the most renounced. He is not deficient in any category of opulence, and neither are any of these opulences removed from Him at any point in time. Therefore when He appears on earth and walks along the sacred ground of Vrindavana as a small child, He is the same Bhagavan. He does show weakness on purpose sometimes, as do His most exalted servants in the final ashrama of the varnashrama system. This intentional exhibition serves to help others advance in consciousness.

Varnashrama-dharma is a kind of equivalent for the term “religion” as it applies to the Vedic tradition. Real Hinduism is varnashrama-dharma. Varna means color, and in this context it refers to the qualitative color of the living entity. Some are born with a fair complexion while others are dark. Some will grow up to be tall while others will be short. Some will be better at understanding logic and mathematics while others will be better at fighting. These differences are colors, or varnas. The colors represent the material qualitative makeup of the individual.

Ashrama is a spiritual institution. It is like a school, but one that is not limited to material manipulation. We learn computer science so that one day we can write a program for a profit. By learning programming techniques we can perhaps write apps for phones and tablet PCs. Whatever discipline we accept and apply ourselves to, the goal is to put the information to use to earn a profit later on. Profit is not exclusive to the business owner; the workers also look for a profit, i.e. a return on their work in the form of a salary. An ashrama is not tied to profit-making, as the Vedas don’t give much importance to learning how to earn a living. A man can find shelter in a cave, food from the fruits that fall off a tree, water from a nearby river, and clothing from torn rags. These things are available for any person’s survival. The more advanced may acquire some land, take to farming, and erect a house. Years of education are not required for this. Just through being around others, accepting information from hearing and observing, suffices.

Shri Rama and brothers at the school of the guruA real ashrama teaches one that they are not their body. It is actual understanding of the fact, not something only regurgitated as an answer on a formal examination. To realize that one is spirit soul is very difficult. All of the prejudices assigned to birth mentioned in the shastras are related to the potential for this realization occurring. A “higher” birth is thus that which gives one a better chance for understanding their true identity of spirit. One who enters an ashrama and faithfully adheres to the principles within it has a great chance of advancing in consciousness, which is the opportunity uniquely afforded to the human being.

The final ashrama is known as sannyasa, and it means to completely give up all attachments. No attachment to family, especially the wife. This is important because the attachment to the wife is what creates all other attachments. If I have a wife, I need a place to live. If I need a place to live, I need money, which means I need a job. To get a job, I need skills, and to get skills I require education. In this way I become entangled.

The purpose of sannyasa isn’t only to give up attachments like these. I can swear off women and live by myself, but this doesn’t make me a sannyasi. Keeping in mind that it is an ashrama, or spiritual institution, sannyasa’s purpose is to free up one’s time for understanding God. That understanding comes through service, which is the real dharma, or essential characteristic, of the spirit soul. The dharma aspect of varnashrama refers to duties, which change depending on the circumstance. The highest duty is that which brings to life one’s essential characteristic. As we have difficulty accepting the fact that we are eternally servants of God, we follow other dharmas until we reach the final one.

The sannyasi typically wears a saffron cloth, wanders from home to home, and begs for all of his needs. By the material estimation, no one is weaker than the sannyasi. And yet he is still very powerful. The perceived weakness has a purpose. The sannyasi can very well get a job and earn for himself, but by staying renounced he allows others to serve him. In exchange for that service, he offers transcendental wisdom, which he has understood through so much rigorous study and practice. If he doesn’t do anything but think of God all the time, wouldn’t His knowledge be extremely helpful to others?

Shrila PrabhupadaThe guru, or spiritual master, similarly shows weakness from time to time. He may or may not be a sannyasi, but his intentional weakness allows others to serve him, which is the only way to gain the confidential knowledge that is freely available in sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita. Never do we find any statements saying that one should become friends with a guru or talk to him like an equal. Everywhere the idea of service in humble submission is stressed, and if the guru is in a seemingly superior material condition, why would we want to serve him?

Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of God, also shows weakness from time to time. He is not after giving transcendental knowledge so much, though He does so from time to time, like He did with Arjuna in the talk known as the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna is the object of knowledge. He is the destination for the wise souls who know Him at the time of death. His show of weakness is to bring pleasure to others. Mother Yashoda takes great delight in worrying over her foster-child, the beautiful darling of Vrindavana. Vasudeva is so energized when crossing over the Yamuna river in the middle of the night to save the newborn Krishna from the wicked King Kamsa of Mathura.

Vasudeva crossing the Yamuna with KrishnaThe deity in the temple also appears weak. Without the help of the pujari, it cannot change clothes. Without the offerings of food made with love, the deity cannot eat. Without the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” from the congregation, the deity cannot feel pleasure. Without the offering of fragrant flowers and the loving glances of those who approach the altar, the deity would be lonely.

This is the intended effect anyways, as Krishna is known as atmarama, or one who is self-satisfied. Though He is forever happy in the company of Shrimati Radharani, He shows helplessness for our benefit. His servants follow suit, as they are not obsessed with being the hero in all circumstances. Let others act as heroes on occasion, giving them the chance to serve Krishna both directly and indirectly. This intentional weakness is yet another example of the causeless mercy that can only emanate from the most compassionate person in the world.

In Closing:

The guru travelling from journey long,

How can such a person be really strong?

 

For food and clothing they must beg,

Without others to stand on no leg.

 

This is at least what we perceive,

That it’s intentional you must believe.

 

A chance to offer service this gives,

In divine consciousness then always to live.

 

Supreme Lord similar presence sometimes projects,

For their boy Yashoda and Nanda always anxious to protect.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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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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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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Sonic Healing

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 17, 2012

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“Spiritual understanding is nothing like an electrical charge from the master to the disciple, as foolishly claimed by some propaganda-mongers. Everything is full of sense and logic, and the exchange of views between the master and disciple is possible only when the reception is submissive and real.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20 Purport)

A person who previously had no educational background in spirituality, who was accustomed to consuming adult beverages on a regular basis, eating animal flesh, and gambling for fun, all of a sudden turns into a spiritual leader, an emblem of devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is known to all that the transformation took place through contact with another spiritual leader, who was kind enough to guide the misguided soul along the proper path. In this way the relationship between the guru and disciple is noteworthy, one deserving of further analysis.

In the cursory review, perhaps it looks like the guru has a magical spark that he can pass on to others through contact. You know, sort of like a power of healing type thing. In the 1980s American film, Fletch Lives, there is a scene where a television evangelist picks out “sinners” from the audience members, guesses their transgressions,and then absolves them by placing his hand on their head. To the audience members, it looks like there is a magical healing power in the minister, but behind the scenes he is fed the information through an earpiece. The members of the audience filled out their information prior to entering, so the special “sinners” were strategically selected and not just randomly healed. Moreover, nothing about the contact with the minister’s hand could do anything to stop the negative reaction from coming, sort of like how if we let go of an object from our hand, it will fall to the ground no matter what anyone says.

The real forgiveness takes effect in the future deeds, wherein the healed party no longer participates in dangerous activity. In the Vedic tradition, the spiritual master has the ability to guide the disciple along this proper path and thus minimize the sinful reactions due them. If you live off of violence to other animals, you are sure to suffer the same fate in the future. If you have lied previously, others will lie to you in the future. If you cheated others, they will cheat you going forward, and so on. To be forgiven means to have the negative reactions removed, and in each spiritual tradition there are certain rituals and penances a person can adopt to try to minimize the damage.

But better than just wiping the slate clean is changing your behavior going forward. This way you’ll avoid doing the wrong things again and filling up your slate with negative reactions. The transformation in behavior cannot take place through any magical touch. The spiritual master’s hand is not like an eraser that can wipe things away. He also does not carry an electrical charge that changes the physiology of the affected party.

What, then, is the secret to the transformation? What makes a person go from constantly lamenting over temporary misfortunes to suddenly being so invigorated with the desire to serve the Supreme Lord that they become aloof to both happiness and sadness? The power is in submissive hearing. Hearing alone won’t do the trick, for if you are in a challenging spirit, how will you soak in the information? Imagine if you had the challenging attitude while learning to read and write in elementary school. Where would that have gotten you?

To be inquisitive is surely beneficial when learning high topics, especially when there are so many different spiritual leaders who claim that their path is the right one. Yet just because there is submission doesn’t mean that logic is absent. The teacher and student must both be qualified. The teacher must have the perfect information, knowledge he is willing to share only with those who will know how to respect it. The student must be submissive and inquisitive at the same time. If he listens properly, he will ask the right questions in response to the instruction.

“Arjuna said: I have heard Your instruction on confidential spiritual matters which You have so kindly delivered unto me, and my illusion is now dispelled.”  (Bhagavad-gita, 11.1)

Krishna and ArjunaThe ideal example of the teacher-student relationship can be found in the Bhagavad-gita, one of the most famous scriptures in the world. In this work Krishna is the teacher and Arjuna the student. Ironically, prior to the events in question, Krishna and Arjuna were friends and cousins. Arjuna was a famous warrior and on this particular day Krishna volunteered to be his charioteer. But this was not like a golfer getting advice from the caddy. The caddy offers input, but the golfer is always deemed to be in the superior position. For Arjuna to get the right information, he had to assume a subservient role.

That change wasn’t that difficult to accept considering that Krishna is the Supreme Lord. This and many other facts were revealed to Arjuna, who absorbed the information with the proper attitude. At the beginning of the Gita, Arjuna was hesitant to fight in a religious war due to the casualties he might inflict to the other side. This kind-heartedness was rooted in ignorance, and fortunately Krishna was there to set him straight. At the end of the instruction, the illusion was gone, and it had nothing to do with a touch provided by Krishna.

As God Himself, Krishna did show the universal manifestation to Arjuna. For Arjuna to see it, he required special eyes, which Krishna kindly provided. Nevertheless, it was not the vision which changed Arjuna’s perspective; it was his submissive hearing of the highest truths of Vedanta philosophy coupled with a firm confidence in the fact that Krishna was his and everyone else’s well-wisher. Through this type of hearing, along with insightful questions, Arjuna arrived at the proper conclusion, that life is meant to be devoted to service to God. Depending on the time, circumstance, and individual, that service can manifest in different ways, but the common factor is the link in consciousness to the Supreme Lord. The spiritual master holds that link with him at all times, and when he meets a qualified disciple, he kindly teaches them how to create and maintain the same link.

In Closing:

Guru can make disciple change much,

But shift not due to electrical touch.

 

Saves the disciple from path tragic,

Yet the power not anything of magic.

 

Secret is in the student’s propensity to hear,

To listen to guru who in divine surrender lives without fear.

 

Krishna and Arjuna friends in the past,

But now ignorance consuming Arjuna fast.

 

Teacher and student then became the roles,

Highest knowledge Krishna to Arjuna told.

 

Transfer successful because of combination,

Hearing Krishna’s words gave path to salvation.

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To Save A Man

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 5, 2012

Shrila Prabhupada“The guru takes the torchlight of knowledge and presents it before the living entity enveloped in darkness. That knowledge relieves him from the sufferings of the darkness of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self Realization, Ch 2a)

The ship ride is getting rocky. You’re not sure what’s going on, but this might be it. The ship might actually sink, in which case some key decisions have to be made in a very short timeframe. Do you make a run for the lifeboats? Do you check on your friends and family on board? What about the people who fell overboard when the ship first started to shake? What should be done about them? The easy option is to save yourself and leave the people stranded in the water, but the more selfless act, which is also the more difficult choice, is to reach over and try to rescue them. You might be risking your own life in this case, but you can’t bear to see other people struggling without anyone there to help them.

The saint chooses this latter route; they try to rescue as many people as possible. To choose this option may not be as easy as it looks. The saint may have friends and family members who want them to stay onboard. Why risk your life when you have others you are obligated to take care of? There is no doubt that there is renunciation involved with saving others. There is only so much time in each given day after all, so if you take up a difficult task, you will have less time to do other things.

For instance, the saint who decides to rescue others may not be able to plan for vacation getaways and nights out on the town. Every day for them is an adventure, as the material land is filled with passengers who have fallen overboard. Just because a few people are rescued doesn’t mean that the work is done. Moreover, time is of the essence, as the sooner people are told of the meaning of life, the quicker they can follow the necessary steps to save themselves. Once you are rescued, you still need to make sure that you don’t do things that will jeopardize your safety. After the difficult rescue, the last thing you would want is to fall back into the water.

In accepting the mission to save others, the saint doesn’t require that much as far as possessions. Just some basic housing, ordinary clothes, and a limited intake of food. That’s it. Nothing else is required, for the saint’s wealth is his knowledge of the mission of life, namely that of becoming God conscious by the time of death. That mission fulfills all other missions. Indeed, every other goal brings but just a small amount of the pleasure that the main objective in life brings. On the outside, the saint may appear to be very renounced, but know that his attitude is based on his love and compassion for others. Renunciation on the highest level is not forced, as when you follow life’s true aim, you automatically give up those things that you don’t need.

The other difficulty with choosing the route to save others is that they may not be receptive to your efforts. You reach out your hand but some of them may not want to grab it. In their drunken stupor they think that they’ll swim forever in this dangerous water. They’re managing just fine, so they don’t require any help. Sadly, that fall from the illusory high of material association will be very painful, and the rescuing hand may not be available later on to save them.

Shrila PrabhupadaHow does the saint rescue others? What is their method of implementation? In the Vedic tradition, the saint is known as a sadhu, who goes hand in hand with shastra and guru. Shastra is the law codes of God, handed down since the beginning of time. The guru understands the principles laid down in shastra because he practices them himself. The sadhu is the saintly man who travels to bring the message of shastra and the teachings of the guru to others. The travel can be with the body in the form of constantly moving around or it can be with the release of information, the mass distribution of literature containing the vital truths of life.

And what are those truths? The identification with the body since time immemorial is the cause for the drop into the dangerous water of the material ocean. Without even referencing any scriptural codes or religious texts, we know that such an identification is flawed. We know this because the body constantly changes. One day I am a child, and the next I am an adolescent. A few years later I’m an adult, and after that I’m an old man. At every point throughout these changes, identification is taken with the body, but the body is known to change. Hence the identification is based on illusion, and if you believe illusion you will be misled.

The real identification is with the spirit soul, the owner of the body. The soul is the constant factor throughout all the changes. It has amazing properties that stay unchanged while the outer covering constantly shifts. In each and every life form the same kind of soul exists, so in essence there is a singular energy that is beyond the duality of the material existence. These facts and more are learned and realized through practicing the principles of brahmacharya, wherein one follows austerity, penance and sacrifice to understand Brahman, or pure spirit.

The person who knows Brahman is a brahmana, which can be likened to a priest. The sadhu is a brahmana because of their knowledge of Brahman, but their saintly character extends beyond just esoteric knowledge of the difference between matter and spirit. They know that Brahman has a source, and it is a personality. The source is already known to most as the abstract figure referred to as God, but in the Vedic tradition much more detail is given about His features, His personality traits, and how one can reach Him. The rescue from the material ocean is one step, but staying in a mood of devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the final piece that ensures that the material ocean will never be an accidental home again.

“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.68)

Lord KrishnaThe sadhu is very dear to the Supreme Personality because of the risk they take. Since they look to save the drowning man, they can be considered the kindest worker. It is easy to love our family members and friends. The family members are attached to us in relation. We have known our parents since the time of birth, so loving them is not hard. Our friends are equals who give us pleasure through association. They give us something, so giving them attention in return also isn’t so difficult.

But the saint gives the same level of affection, taking all risk to offer their rescuing influence, without personally knowing the people they save. They would rather not leave anyone stranded, and to help the mission along they train others on how to administer the same emergency treatment. The best treatment of all is to hear about God, and the easiest way to hear Him is to chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Just chanting this mantra over and over again is enough, but since the material ocean has so many distractions, a routine is required along with an accompanying attention to piety and sin. Avoid pitfalls like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex and make a steady vow to chant the holy names a set number of times each day, and gradually a new level of enthusiasm will emerge. From that practice the glories of the rescuing saint increase all the more, and the appreciation becomes so profound that the rescued soul looks for ways to repay the kindness originally shown to them. Of course the best way to please the saint is to pass on the holy names, to rescue another soul by taking the risk, ignoring the opposition mounted by others who can’t understand the devotional mindset. The reward of bringing to someone the happiness of God’s association is worth the effort.

In Closing:

Man gone overboard, leave him there?

Forget him, only about myself to care?

 

From heaven the saintly man descends,

A rescuing hand to fallen souls he extends.

 

No matter what reception he receives,

In mission of life he firmly believes.

 

Aim is to think about God at the end,

That objective all wounds does mend.

 

Impossible for kindness of saint to repay,

So just chant holy names every single day.

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Krishna The Person

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 4, 2012

Lord Krishna“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.65)

Question: “When Krishna says to surrender unto Him, is He referring to His sach-chid-ananda vigraha or to the embodied being who appeared on this earth and then left, or are they both the same?”

Answer: Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has a body full of bliss and knowledge. It is also eternal in its existence. In some popular spiritual traditions the concept of salvation occurs through surrender unto the son of the Supreme Lord or to one of the Lord’s representatives. While the Vedas have a similar tradition set up through the proxy of the guru, or spiritual master, the features of the original personality are still described to some detail. Since He is the creator of both the material and spiritual energies, the Supreme Lord is free to make appearances in whichever land He chooses. He already resides within each of us as the Supersoul, though without practice in yoga we have no way of realizing the presence of this kind expansion of Supreme Spirit. For Shri Krishna, the origin of life and matter, there is no difference between body and spirit, therefore when He advises surrender He always refers to Himself alone.

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe Bhagavad-gita is Krishna’s song, and it is unique in the information it provides. Rather than accept spirituality as a matter of inheritance from family tradition or some faith that one can easily give up, the principles of a bona fide religious system can be dissected as a science, a discipline with truths that can be piled on top of one another to reach a final flawless conclusion. One who follows Krishna’s teachings may be outwardly tagged as a Hindu or Vaishnava, but to the people who are in the know, these designations bear no meaning. The foremost identification for every single person is the same, regardless of which spiritual tradition they follow. Aham brahmasmi, which means “I am a spirit soul”, applies to even the dog. Because the same quality of spirit pervades the material space there can be no such thing as sectarianism when discussing the science of self-realization.

Why does the “self” need to be realized? It is in this area that religion takes on its true value. We all have the same identity, but the majority of the conditioned souls are not aware of it. What obviously follows an incorrect identification are activities that one is not meant to take up. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are the primary engagements of the animals who don’t know how to speak or determine what their future fate will be. The human beings follow similar behavior, but they are given intelligence to transcend the base animal instincts, to find higher truths. Knowledge brings power, so one who understands that they are spirit at the core can reach the most suitable destination.

The identification as spirit is important because otherwise identities are taken from changing bodies. The best way to think of the difference is to put on a specific type of shirt one day and then base your identity off of that shirt for the rest of your life. Obviously this wouldn’t be wise behavior because the shirt worn can change at any time. Similarly, identifying off of race, gender or nationality is silly because these designations can change in the future, and we didn’t even get to pick them prior to our birth. Does one really think that a person born in a particular land has different inherent qualities from the person appearing on this earth in another land?

The similarities amongst human beings can be understood even in the absence of a pursuit in spiritual life, but with the limited knowledge-gathering capabilities of the human being due to the constraints of time and space, the proper realization of the self and how it transcends even the human species cannot be understood without outside help. True enlightenment requires explicit instruction followed by dedicated practice. The Bhagavad-gita serves both of these purposes, and it was nicely presented at just the right moment, when a capable warrior was unclear about the proper course of action to follow.

ArjunaFrom the Gita comes the knowledge of the self and its position with respect to matter. In this work Krishna right away reveals that the soul continually exists, both before birth and after death. The different outer coverings are due to karma, which is the system that manages fairness based on actions taken. The bodies assumed do not represent one’s real identity, as spirit transcends every temporary change. Because there is no reason for attachment to the body, one should follow the prescribed regulations of spiritual life, or dharma, in order to keep the soul in a better position.

And what position is that? From knowledge of our identity comes a constitutional position. In addition to being eternal, the soul is knowledgeable and blissful. Strange to think that’s the case when we see so much strife around us, duplicity coupled with avarice and selfishness. Yet the root cause of even unwanted behavior is this desire for ananda, or bliss. The true form of happiness can be found when the soul is placed into situations that are conducive to realization of the self. The soul is tied to a higher spirit soul, who is, not surprisingly, the Supreme Lord, the person the majority of the world refers to as God.

Krishna is that same God, the original form of Godhead. He is both the instructor and the object of worship. The soul derives the most pleasure from being in His company, either personally or through consciousness. This is where things can get a little tricky, especially if you are unfortunate enough to be led astray by a misguided commentator of the Gita. Thus far we have seen that the living beings accept bodies and reject them through reincarnation fueled by karma. The soul is the identifiable aspect within every form of body, from the tiny ant all the way up to the denizens of heaven. Then this surely must mean that Krishna Himself followed the same tact while roaming the earth five thousand years ago? The person delivering the Gita must have had a body that did not belong to Him, for the spirit soul inside was His identity. If His spirit departed with Him at the end of life, how does one connect with Him today?

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Lord KrishnaJust from reading the Gita with sincerity and honesty, the confusion is cleared up immediately. In addition to describing the position of the soul, the differences between the material and spiritual energies, and God’s position as being superior to both of them, Krishna makes it a point to deride those who think that He accepts bodies like the subordinate living entities. Being supreme has a meaning. With the higher position come unique abilities. Krishna specifically says that anyone who thinks He has assumed His form is a fool; that they do not know His true nature, which is changeless.

How can Krishna be changeless if He appeared on earth in Vrindavana in the form of a small child and then disappeared later on in the body of an adult? The fact that Krishna has a spiritual body that never changes must be accepted on faith in the beginning. This shouldn’t be that difficult to do, as we accept so many apparently unbelievable pieces of information on faith already. Through the benefits that come from following Krishna’s words, the sum collection of which is included in the vast Vedic literature, the truth of the Lord’s position is revealed.

The key is to study the Bhagavad-gita from someone who is familiar with both Krishna and His many teachings. The Gita represents Krishna’s direct instructions, but this does not mean that Vedic instruction is limited to just Krishna’s words. Rather, through every one of His activities the Lord reveals His true nature, how He finds pleasure, and what the ideal position of the living entity is. The entire Vedic culture is aimed at bringing a permanent connection between the living entities and the Supreme Lord. Therefore when we encounter such bogus commentaries as Krishna not suggesting that one surrender unto Him but rather to the “Krishna” inside all of us, we should understand that the commentator has their own personal motive to further and that they have not properly studied sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Puranas. Moreover, they haven’t even understood the entire Gita, for Krishna reveals that He does not have a material form and that worship of Him can continue in any place and at any time.

If Krishna could only be worshiped through the association of His personal self, the sach-chid-ananda vigraha, then there would be no such thing as deity worship or the chanting of the holy names. In the Uddhava-gita, which is a collection of teachings Krishna presented to His dear friend Uddhava just before departing for the spiritual sky, there is a brief description of deity worship, its purpose, and how to perform it. Therefore Krishna Himself set up a system where He could be worshiped in His absence. In addition, the gopis of Vrindavana, Krishna’s childhood female friends, spent most of their time on earth worshiping Krishna when He wasn’t in their personal company. Yoga is the connection of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Krishna’s expansion residing within the heart of every living being is not different from the Krishna that was on the battlefield of Kurukshetra giving instructions to Arjuna.

Radha and KrishnaThe argument of Krishna being an embodied living entity does not hold any water either, for He was worshiped prior to His appearance in Vrindavana and continues to be honored long after His time on earth. The Shrimad Bhagavatam and other bhakti shastras state that there isn’t even a difference between Krishna and His names. Just by reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one can surrender unto Krishna in the same way that Arjuna did. If Krishna were an embodied being, He would not have been superior to Arjuna, and thus there would have been no purpose to the teachings of the Gita. If Krishna is a being who undergoes birth and death just like us, then there is no difference between Him and us. If we are the same as God, what need is there for spirituality? What need is there to read the Bhagavad-gita?

Another common opposing argument posited is that Krishna is simply the guru to Arjuna and that the “me” in the surrender shloka in the Bhagavad-gita refers to the guru, who is self-realized. To be frank, this argument is complete nonsense and not supported anywhere in the Vedic literature. Arjuna was fighting a war against the opposing side which counted his guru as one of its members. If Krishna were telling Arjuna to surrender unto the guru, Arjuna easily could have gone over to the other side and told Dronacharya that he wasn’t going to fight with him. If the guru is the prime object of worship, one would think that Krishna would reveal how one becomes that object, how a person can become God. Yet this information is absent not only from the Gita, but from any authorized literature describing the glories of God.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe guru is still very important. He is the teacher following the principles espoused by Krishna in the Gita. He acts as the Lord’s representative on earth, giving information to those souls who are sincerely interested in connecting with God, living their life in such a way as to remain in constant yoga. The bona fide guru will never claim to be God, however. Krishna had many direct representatives who spent time in His company while on earth. They would never dare claim to be equal to the Lord. They always thought of Krishna, but this didn’t turn them into Krishna. The guru is treated on the same level as Krishna because of their important role, but never do they become God. In fact, no one can become the Supreme Controller, for it is a singular post that never has a vacancy.

Krishna has many personal expansions as well that can be surrendered to. A personal expansion is not the same as having offspring or sending a representative. Just as an identical candle can be lit from the original, Krishna is non-different from His expansions, which include even the Supersoul residing within the heart. Therefore the offer of surrender is available to every single person, regardless of their religious persuasion. Rather than just leave everyone to focus on an abstract concept of God, Krishna descends to earth, provides sublime wisdom and enacts wonderful pastimes to give the bewildered souls an idea of what is in store for them if they should follow the bona fide principles of religion. Krishna’s association is the reward for the surrendered souls, and since nothing can beat this gift, there is no higher engagement than bhakti-yoga directed at sharanagati, which brings the bliss of liberation.

In Closing:

“Always think of Me and do all your work for Me,

This line is proper, happy you will be.”

Statements like this quite simple to understand,

On their own merits tall do they stand.

Yet to the bogus commentator meaning is missed,

With alternate agenda, Krishna’s words do they twist.

Krishna told Arjuna that unto Him he should surrender,

Offer for us too, if service to Krishna we render.

Lord is all-pervading, He is not like us who are embodied,

Can worship Him by dedicating every thought, word and deed.

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Cleland Notes

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 7, 2011

Shrimad Bhagavatam“The real import of the scriptures is revealed to one who has unflinching faith in both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the spiritual master.” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 6.23)

In America, for middle and junior high school students the portion of English class focusing on Shakespearean literature is not eagerly anticipated. Reading about romance, family infighting, political struggles and other compelling issues in life isn’t a big deal, as these already form the backbone of the majority of storylines for motion pictures and novels. The difficulty with learning Shakespeare is in the language used, for many of the works are poems fit to a certain standard. To adjust to rhyme and meter, normal sentences get rearranged into verses that aren’t as easy to understand. The classroom studies the literature in depth, uncovering the real meanings to the verses. One can even become a scholar in Shakespeare’s works if they so desire. If in-depth study is required for just reading literature authored by one man, why should it be absent when the focus shifts to literature that is so old that no one can date it? The sacred Vedic teachings are meant to be studied for a lifetime, something not understood by just picking up a book and reading it. The bona fide spiritual master incorporates the necessary context into his translations and commentaries, and even then one must read the works repeatedly and practice the underlying principles to understand the meanings.

Bhagavad-gitaAs the ancient scriptures of India are composed mostly in the Sanskrit language and its derivatives, it’s difficult to gain much insight by just picking up an old work and reading it. Finding the original Sanskrit versions of these works is also difficult. In days past, copies were made by hand, with the interested readers meticulously writing down the many verses onto leaf pages and then storing them safely within temples. Because of the austerity in production, man was more prone to remembering the many important verses, reciting them when necessary.

Advancements in production mechanisms brought books written in many different languages. Today, if I want to learn about the Vedas – which include their original hymns, the Mahabharata, the many Puranas, and the Ramayana – why not pick up a translation of one of these works if they are available? Surely by reading a translation I can get a firm grasp of what the texts are about, no? This is actually not the case. The translations can be written in perfect English that leaves no ambiguity whatsoever, but the context is not accounted for, as time and circumstance have changed since the work’s composition. In each and every verse there is so much to be understood from the background.

The treatise on Vedic philosophy that has the best combination of brevity and completeness is the Bhagavad-gita. In this work Lord Krishna, the speaker and de facto teacher, states that the spirit soul is the essence of identity and that it does not take birth or die. In addition, full-scale reincarnation takes place just like the regular changing of the personal body. Similar to how garments are put on and then taken off, the spirit soul accepts bodies for activity and then discards them when they are no longer useful.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Lord KrishnaThe statements about the soul and reincarnation form some of the more straightforward verses from the Gita, but there is still some context to be understood, some background information not available to those who only read the verses. For starters, what is the makeup of the soul? What is the purpose to activity if the soul just lives forever anyway? Why even teach anyone about these things when it seems like the position of neutrality is there by default? Whether I know that the soul is eternal or not doesn’t change the fact that my soul will live on, so why did Krishna even present this information?

The purpose to Krishna’s direction at that specific time was to remove the hesitancy to fight within Arjuna, who was the leading warrior for the Pandava side, which had the rightful claim to the kingdom in Hastinapura. Arjuna’s cousins led by Duryodhana had unjustly usurped control for themselves. This led to a war to settle the score. Arjuna did not want to fight because he didn’t think victory to gain the kingdom was worth the cost of the lives of his friends and family members fighting for the opposing side. Krishna’s presentation was meant to dispel his mental illusion, to let Arjuna know that killing isn’t really killing when done under proper direction. The soul lives on, so there is no need to worry about the person’s existence after death. We also shouldn’t worry too much about where they were prior to birth.

Taking the translations of these verses on the surface, it seems like the Gita is more or less a pep talk on the importance of fighting ahead, going for what you want without fear. Follow your heart and don’t be attached to the results of action. Work in a detached manner so that you can succeed in life. Indeed, this is how trained professionals behave when facing adversity. If they were to get discouraged over every little setback, they would never be able to continue on with their occupational duties. Therefore Krishna’s discussion with Arjuna is one where a hesitant, yet fully capable fighter is afraid to move on and needs some cajoling.

ArjunaBut the Gita has a lot more context than this. Going ahead with one’s tasks in a fearless manner is certainly helpful, but how does one determine what the proper task is? Should I make up my own desires and follow through on them without fear? What if my desire is to steal from others? Should I go into home after home and rummage through people’s things without worrying about the consequences? After all, if my soul is eternal, what difference does it make whether or not I follow piety?

The context of the Gita, which is understood by those who study it under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, is found in the speaker itself. Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the leader of all leaders, the greatest and original teacher. He is the very same God that the world worships, denies or ignores. Krishna is the form and name that paints the empty canvas that is man’s general conception of a supreme controller. Krishna and His position are what give the Gita its teeth; the real meaning to the verses. This fact is revealed in the Gita itself, but should one focus only on certain verses and topics, that lesson will pass them by.

The living being is assigned occupational duties based on the qualities of the body type assumed. Following these duties gradually purifies consciousness to the point that the constitutional position is reached. In that position one only follows Krishna’s direction; therefore they are no longer bound by duty or action. The soul who is in complete knowledge basks in the sweetness of Krishna’s association. As this is the summit of existence, the devotee has nothing left to do, nor do they suffer the future negative reactions of skipping prescribed work.

“A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.18)

ArjunaArjuna was in Krishna’s association and after he received instruction from the Lord it seemed like he fell into the category of not being obliged to work. He was now knowledgeable of the soul, material nature, and the temporary nature of fruitive results. Armed with transcendental knowledge, he had nothing to do, yet in the end he followed Krishna’s direction and fought ahead. In this way we see that the position of neutrality is reached regardless; whether one is pious or impious. Instead of choosing the impious route on a whim, the truly wise follow Krishna’s order, for that keeps them in the Lord’s company. In Arjuna’s case, the wise instruction was provided by the Lord Himself. This is the real message of the Gita; to follow God’s orders, which are given either directly or through a representative who follows in the same mood of devotion as Arjuna.

Further context for the Gita is provided by the vast Vedic literature, which is so expansive that it cannot possibly all be absorbed in one lifetime. Krishna previously appeared on earth as the warrior prince named Lord Rama, whose life and pastimes are described in the lengthy Sanskrit poem called the Ramayana. Krishna’s activities and incidents relating to appearances are described in many Vedic texts, including the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Familiarity with these works lends further credence to the words the Lord puts forth in the Gita, which is just one small chapter within the lengthy Mahabharata.

With Shakespeare the language is difficult to understand, as are the meanings to the verses. One who studies Shakespearean literature under someone else who studied it previously can gain a higher understanding of the works. In a similar manner, the only way to truly understand the Vedas and their purpose is to take instruction from someone who loves Krishna just as much as Arjuna does. The Gita broadcasts no other message except the supremacy of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Every other piece of information is meant to get the listener to eventually reach that position of devotion. The many cogent points of fact are like beautiful pearls, which are each valuable in their own right. But when they are connected on the string that is Krishna, the pearls become a beautiful necklace that has an infinitely greater value.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe bona fide spiritual master incorporates the necessary context into his translations and commentaries. That these works would be valuable and presented from a position of higher intelligence shouldn’t be very difficult to understand. The first time we read or study something, we obviously don’t know much about it. But if we spend our life dedicated to learning about, honoring and becoming immersed in the particular subject matter, we will come from a much better position later on when presenting and discussing the information with others. The guru lives devotional service by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and using the spiritual television within the mind that comes from thinking about Krishna’s activities, qualities and overall glories.

With a perfectly situated consciousness, explaining the scriptures becomes very easy for the guru, so much so that he can pick out one verse from the many works describing Krishna and go on discussing it for days on end, finding new ways to present the same conclusion of devotion to God that is untainted by any desires for fruitive gain, mental speculation or mystic perfection. The Vedas are from such an ancient time that it is nice to pick up a translation and read some of the verses, but if we follow only this method, we could read the same works over and over again and never gain any real insight.

Krishna protecting DraupadiIf, for instance, a verse makes reference to Prahlada Maharaja being saved or Draupadi being rescued by Krishna’s intervention, what is the reader going to know? What if a passing reference is made to the 8,400,000 different species or the fact that Ajamila was saved by reciting the name of Narayana? These statements have specific context, information that can be found elsewhere in the Vedas. Even if we were to find the specific verses mentioning these incidents and read the translations, we still wouldn’t fully understand. He who follows the bhakti discipline under the authorized guidelines, however, can fully appreciate the brilliance of these statements and even invoke the incidents when appropriate.

In the modern age, the greatest exponent of bhakti-yoga is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His many books are full of context and proper commentary, so much so that one can reach full enlightenment by consulting only his writings over and over again. The reading can be coupled with the regular chanting of the holy names. The ideal daily regimen is to recite the maha-mantra for sixteen rounds on a set of japa beads and simultaneously avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. These are lofty goals, but one who remains in the company of sadhu, shastra and guru can advance towards the highest platform of consciousness. The more bhakti is practiced, the more Krishna is revealed to the devotee. And the more one knows Krishna, the more they will relish topics discussing Him, which is the purpose of the Vedas to begin with.

In Closing:

To understand old literature a tough task,

Thus even for Shakespeare we require a class.

The poems are just English words after all,

So understanding them shouldn’t be order tall.

Context is wherein lies the distinction,

To gain that one requires proper instruction.

In same way Vedas are profound in each verse,

Learn of pearls of wisdom through books immerse.

Yet context is what really counts in texts like Gita,

Learn real message of divine love from guru and shastra.

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