Krishna's Mercy

Hare Krishna

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Nothing Left

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 31, 2014

[gold coins]“They gave the beggars whatever they asked for and more, who gave their blessings here and there. Then they did puja to the devas and the forefathers for Rama’s good fortune.” (Janaki Mangala, 190)

jācaka kīnha nihāla asīsahiṁ jaham̐ taham̐ |
pūjē dēva pitara saba rāma udaya kaham̐ ||

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Sharanagati is full surrender to the Divine. Full surrender means full dependence. When there is full dependence, there cannot be anything left to hold on to. Other objects may be there, and to outsiders it may appear that there are remaining attachments, but in the mind of the surrendered soul there is only their beloved Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is their only hope for salvation. He is their only reason for living, for in service to Him they derive the most happiness. They know this both in theory and in practice.

[exam]Imagine this scene. You’re taking a big exam today. This is important; it will determine where you end up next year. If you perform well, you’ll have your pick of school. You won’t be at the mercy of admission committees. They will all want you, for from your grades and exam performance it will be impossible to deny you. So you’ve studied a lot for this exam. But you’re still very worried. You see that your friends are worried too. Classmates are assembled on this Saturday morning, all as nervous as you. Normally this day of the week is reserved for rest, for unwinding by watching hours of television. But not today. Everyone has their “game face” on.

As you head towards the examination room, you notice that there is a line, and it is not moving quickly. After a while you figure out the cause of the delay: there is a security check prior to entry. Each person has to remove their mobile telephones. This shouldn’t be causing a problem, you think. There were explicit instructions given beforehand that smartphones and such devices were not allowed in the examination room. Yet everyone seems to have them on their person. The phones aren’t the only thing. Some have papers stashed in their jacket pockets. Others have little notes scribbled on various parts of their body. Some are wearing headphones. Some actually brought their books with them.

[iPhone]“Everyone, may I have your attention please,” announces the security person at the front of the line. “The items listed on this sign right here are not allowed in the examination room. If you’ll please put them away right now, this line will move much more quickly. The time for studying is over. You have to rely on your brains now. There is no other way.” Thus the students surrender to the moment. They no longer have support from the outside. They are forced to rely on only themselves to pass the examination.

The experience is similar for the devoted souls in sharanagati. They intentionally weaken themselves, leaving no objects of distraction. In full dependence, the bliss they experience from devotional service is much higher. They feel true love in this dependence, as they are completely vulnerable. Without vulnerability there cannot be a full interaction of love.

The symptoms of this vulnerability are shown in the verse quoted above. Here the family in Ayodhya is not holding anything back. They already gave away so many gifts to the worthy members of society, the priests. Now they are giving the beggars of the town whatever they want. In return the beggars are giving their blessings. The royal family had plenty to give away, and more importantly they were not worried since they had love for Rama, the Supreme Lord in His incarnation form which roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation.

[Lord Rama]As if giving away gifts was not enough, the family members sacrificed even more. They held a puja, or worship ceremony, for the devas, or demigods. You have a demigod in charge of practically every aspect of material life. They wanted all the devas to bless Rama. They also did a puja for the forefathers, those appearing previously in their family.

It should be noted that none of these acts were necessary. Rama does not need anyone’s blessings. He does not require help from any demigod, human being, animal, or plant. He is fully self-sufficient; He is the only person who can claim so. Yet the offerings indicate full surrender on the part of the family members in Ayodhya. They were celebrating the marriage of Rama to Sita, and also the marriages of Rama’s younger brothers to Sita’s relatives from Janakpur.

In full surrender, they had no concern for Rama’s strengths. They did not remember how He had already defeated wicked night-rangers in the forest. They were not remembering how Tataka and Subahu were driven away from Vishvamitra’s ashrama. Instead they were worried about Rama. They wanted life to be perfect for Him. They wanted Him to have every comfort. They were not concerned with their own welfare. If giving away gifts and holding pujas would help Rama, His brothers and their wives, then they would repeat such acts day after day.

This concern for Rama equates to the achievement of life’s mission. Such concern is real love, and since it is tied to the Supreme Lord, it lasts forever. It transcends the bounds of birth and death. All that has happened in the past is of no concern to the person who has the brightest future ahead of them, one where they worship God in full surrender, leaving all attachments behind.

In Closing:

All attachments behind leaving,

In full surrender to Rama cleaving.

 

To beggars even more gifts gave,

Nothing for themselves to save.

 

Path of devotion in this way cleared,

For Rama’s welfare only they feared.

 

Thus true love from them shown,

Highest bliss in sharanagati alone.

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Up To You

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 25, 2014

[Rama's mothers]“Kausalya, Sumitra and all of the beautiful women of the court were happy in the mind. Decorating themselves and preparing everything, they rushed towards Rama, walking like mad elephants.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand, 23.2)

mana mudita kausalyā sumitrā sakala bhūpati-bhāminī | 
saji sāju parichana calīṁ rāmahiṁ matta kun̄jara-gāminī ||

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Is God mean? Is He perpetually angry? Does He insist that we submit to His will? Is He just waiting to punish us for our transgressions? When we finally come around, do we have to pay homage to Him every day? Are we supposed to cower in terror every time we’re in His presence? This verse from the Janaki Mangala gives us an idea of what it’s like when the individual consciousness is dovetailed with the supreme consciousness. There is spontaneous devotion, and the only fear is over missing wonderful moments due to the quick passage of time.

[Kausalya with Rama]Here Goswami Tulsidas describes the women of the court in Ayodhya. There is Kausalya. She is the eldest queen to King Dasharatha. Her son is Rama, the Supreme Lord Vishnu in an incarnation form. That God incarnates as a human being should not surprise us. He expands to create this amazing universe. Though the living entity seemingly emerges from the womb of the mother, the wise person knows that the seed from the father is required first. And prior to that, some other force is necessary. The father cannot simply combine any aspect of his body with a mother’s womb and get a child.

The entire creation thus sprung from someone else. The material chunk, if you will, is known as the mahat-tattva in Sanskrit. This total material substance is also Brahman, which we typically equate with the spiritual energy. The spiritual side of Brahman enters the mahat-tattva to give us the universe that we barely perceive with our eyes. Our planet is very small in comparison to all that is manifest. We can barely see what’s going on across the street, let alone what is taking place across the globe.

[Bhagavad-gita, 14.3]“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.3)

If you took all that is possible to be seen, you get the full combination of Brahman and matter. God expands to accomplish this: both the material and spiritual energies come from Him. The living entities are separated expansions of His and the divine incarnations are the personal expansions. Shri Rama is different from other living entities in that He does not have to enter into the mahat-tattva and go through the typical cycle of birth and death. He simply appears, and His form is always transcendental. There is no difference between body and spirit for Him.

[Kausalya]Kausalya plays the role of Rama’s mother. Then there is Queen Sumitra, who is also married to Dasharatha. From her womb appear the brothers Lakshmana and Shatrughna. The third queen is Kaikeyi, and she is the youngest. She gives birth to Bharata, making four beautiful sons for Dasharatha. Rama is Vishnu Himself and the other three are partial expansions of Vishnu. Rama is the eldest and their leader, and in this scene all four brothers are returning home as newly married men.

Tulsidas says that all the women in the court were happy in the mind. And why wouldn’t they be? Their sons were returning home. Rama was especially missed, as He had been away for a while. The women all dressed up for the occasion. Rama was greeted by the ladies as would a king on his ascension to the throne.

It is said that when the women went towards welcoming Rama and His brothers, they all walked like mad elephants. This seems like a strange comparison to make, but in Vedic literature a statement like this appears quite often. “Gaja gamini” means the walk of an elephant, and when applied to a woman it is a way to describe the beautiful way in which they walk. In this situation the women were compared to mad elephants, indicating that their beautiful walk was of a brisker pace.

They were not compelled to attend this ceremony. They did not do so out of fear. They were not worried about incurring God’s wrath. Instead, they worried that they would miss the chance to celebrate one of the great moments in His life on earth. They feared that time would get the best of them. For this reason they hurried, thinking of Rama the whole time.

[Lord Rama]In the devotional consciousness, the minutes sometimes do seem like hours, especially when there is separation. In separation one’s fondness for God increases. During this time thoughts develop as to how one will please and serve Him when His association comes again. And so in this very lifetime the same thoughts can come to us if there is a desire to regain His association. This is the meaning to life, to love God and want to serve Him. There is no reason to fear Him, as in Ayodhya Rama could do nothing to stop the kind offerings of the queens, who were His mothers. In devotional service one can act as a friend, a parent, an admirer, or even a lover of God. There needn’t be any fear, as simply from the sound of the holy names the proper view of the Supreme Lord comes to the mind: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Many roles in bhakti-yoga to find,

Holy name alone bringing clear vision to mind.

 

Queens of Dasharatha as mothers to act,

Rushed towards Rama like elephants to attack.

 

Beautiful walk, so nicely dressed,

Rama by their offerings to be blessed.

 

With God interactions there are so many,

With love, no need for fear of Him any.

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Everything Stops

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 21, 2014

[Rama's lotus feet]“In the gates of the city, the steps by the river, and the stores they made decorations for a welcome. Sprinkling so much fragrant water on the roads, they sang of the great auspiciousness.” (Janaki Mangala, 182)

ghāṭa bāṭa pura dvāra bajāra banāvahiṁ |
bīthīṁ sīn̄ci sugandha sumaṅgala gāvahiṁ ||

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When visiting important pilgrimage sites in India, the word “ghata” comes up quite often. There is the ghata named after this person and the ghata named after that person. “You must visit these,” the tour guide will tell you. From the context used, it would seem that the ghata is a place of greater significance than what it actually is, steps leading to a body of water. The major rivers in India are considered sacred, like the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarayu. Bathing in them is considered very auspicious, as they are associated with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the steps that lead towards these bodies of water become very important.

[Ghat in Chitrakoot]Stores are where commerce takes place. If you own a store, you likely earn a living through it. In America it is said that the majority of jobs get created through small businesses, such as the storefronts found on the busiest roads of the city. Nothing is guaranteed in such ventures. Just because you are profitable today doesn’t mean that you will be tomorrow. If you become very profitable, you become a target for your enemies, who consist not only of rival businesses but politicians as well. Your employees have the freedom to leave your business and go work somewhere else. Therefore the store owners are always preoccupied.

The gates of the city give the first glimpse of your town to the foreign traveler. If they have never been to your town before, they will get the first impression from the gates. In modern times there are large signs on the roads leading in. “Welcome to such and such city,” the sign will say. Then it might list some interesting facts, things for which the city is famous.

[Welcome sign]In Ayodhya a long time ago, everything stopped for the arrival of a beloved son. The steps leading to the river were now decorated. So were the stores and also the gates to the city. It was like a holiday, where everything stops and the people get a break in order to relax. Here the break was for rejoicing. No one told them it was a holiday. Everyone acted spontaneously. They were so happy that Rama was back. He was coming home with a new wife, the beautiful Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Also coming home were Rama’s three younger brothers and their father, the king of the town.

The people sprinkled fragrant water on the roads and constantly sang of the auspiciousness. A clay field requires regular watering in order to stay loose and soft. Sort of like the maintenance of a clay tennis court, the dirt roads required careful attention in order to stay fit for travel by carts. The fragrant water used here provided for a nice atmosphere. Far from the congested and foul smelling city streets of today, Ayodhya on that day looked and felt wonderful, from home to home.

[watering clay court]Everything stopped because of the nature of Rama. The people loved Him so much. He had every good quality imaginable. He was kind. He was forgiving. He knew the truth. He was self-realized. He understood the difference between matter and spirit. He did not view one citizen as an enemy and another as a friend. He looked at everyone as a well-wisher, and in fact that’s what they were. He never ran from responsibility. No matter how difficult the task was, Rama would take it up when asked. He was not worried about losing anything. If he had to lose the whole world to protect His citizens, He would. And He would not be any sadder as a result.

These are some of the qualities of God. He is the ultimate well-wishing friend. He is the supreme enjoyer and also the proprietor of all the worlds. It is in the makeup of the soul to serve. This means that we feel best when we act for someone else’s enjoyment. In therapist speak, it is considered bad to depend on someone else for your happiness. “You’ll never be happy that way because you can’t control how someone else feels.” It may be the case that the recipient’s reaction is out of our control, but there is no denying that service is what lights up the otherwise disillusioned embodied soul stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of happiness and misery, which are neatly packaged inside of the two events of birth and death.

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

If you’re going to act for someone else’s enjoyment, might as well make it God’s. He is the supreme enjoyer. This means that He is the person who will appreciate your efforts the most. He will reward you accordingly. Not necessarily with a new car or a large balance of money, He’ll give you an even better gift: devotion. With that reward you can drop everything and prepare for a grand celebration in His honor at any time. With that gift you can be blissful even in a tense situation. With that reward you can concentrate on His lotus feet that traversed the fragrantly watered streets of Ayodhya. And most importantly, with devotion you can remember Him at the time of death, the time when what you think matters most.

In Closing:

Gates giving first glimpse of the town,

Ghata leading to rivers of renown.

 

Bazaars where commerce takes place,

All decorated for Rama’s arrival to await.

 

City streets sprinkled with water fragrant,

Pleasant aura for His return triumphant.

 

Rama coming home now with new wife,

Rewarding everyone with eternal devotional life.

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Not a Mechanical Process

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 18, 2014

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.12)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.12]If you’re having trouble breathing, there’s medicine you can take. Your issue may be caused by one or several factors. Perhaps it is too hot in the region in which you presently reside. Perhaps you’ve consumed too many saturated fats in recent days, thus making it difficult for your blood to flow through your body. Perhaps you’re under a lot of stress. Whatever the issue, there is a mechanism to fix the problem, a cure for the specific issue. According to Lord Chaitanya, the cure for the problem of the dirty heart is the chanting of the holy names of Krishna. Though externally identifiable as a mechanical process, similar to a medicine prescribed for a specific ailment, the work and the subsequent transformation are actually completely natural. The chanting becomes spontaneous, bringing one to life, no matter their previous situation.

[Lord Chaitanya]How do we know that it can be spontaneous? Lord Chaitanya compares the change to the white lotus, the kairava flower, sprouting open at the sight of the waxing moon. The ordinary lotus flower bursts open at the sight of the sun. This reaction is referenced countless times in Vedic literature, especially in those works of bhakti, or devotional service. Devotion appears mechanical in the beginning, like a forced remedy to cure a contaminated consciousness. But in fact bhakti is the constitutional engagement; it is as natural to us as breathing.

In fact, it is more natural than that, as our present body doesn’t represent our eternal form. The spirit soul survives past the present existence. It was somewhere long before we took birth from the womb of our current mother. It will continue to live on; and so it has an accompanying form. The nature and activity of that form are what remain the same. That eternal form is servant of Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The waxing moon that is the chanting of the holy name awakens the white lotus that is the individual, who is presently in a dormant state. That sleeping individual looks for life through so many other things. Material sounds, sumptuous food dishes, attachment to friends and family – all such things the white lotus thinks will help. You can try to pry the white lotus open using force, but it will not remain in that position without extra support. More importantly, the lotus will not be strong; it will not be vibrant.

The holy name of Krishna brings the white lotus to life, and in that life the lotus shines in all its glory. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, an authority on devotional service following in the line of Lord Chaitanya, says that one who has got life can spread the glories of the Supreme Lord. This means that only the white lotus opened through the chanting of the holy names can give off the beautiful aura to others.

[Lord Krishna]The person who chants the name of Krishna is automatically beautiful. In the Vedas it is said that the woman is never as beautiful as when she is with her husband. She is also very beautiful when pregnant. We may disagree with these statements, but in fact in further study we see that the woman is fully devoted in both these instances. When she is able to offer service in love, then she is the most beautiful. Thus a person always looks their best when chanting the holy name of Krishna, which is the way to show true love, bhakti.

The beauty of the sound emanates from such a person as well. It is no wonder, then, that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asks that their be all victory to this chanting. The chanting cures all problems. It transcends all political boundaries. One party wants something, and the opposition wants something else. But isn’t eternal happiness better than temporary pleasures? Isn’t a final victory far superior to a temporary one? In a material existence, no achievement is ever fixed. You win a trophy this year, but then next year you must defend it or be dethroned by someone else. You get married today, but tomorrow your spouse is behaving in such a way that you wish you hadn’t married them.

When you take up devotion, the achievement is permanent. You only want to chant more and more. In fact, you wonder why you don’t chant all the time. You wonder why God only gave you limited ability with your hands and legs, for if you had more limbs then you could do your ordinary work faster, leaving more time for devotion.

[Lord Chaitanya]Lord Chaitanya doesn’t just hopelessly pray for the glory of the chanting of the holy names. He puts the process into place. He inspires others with His life. He leaves only eight important teachings, known as the Shikshashtakam. These words are the life and soul of those who have taken up devotion to Krishna. They are nectar pouring down from the spiritual world. They give access to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is non-different from Krishna. Furthermore, these instructions inspire the white lily-like devotees to spread their radiance, beautifying the otherwise dark and miserable material existence.

In Closing:

All glory to the chanting let there be,

The radiance of devotion let others see.

 

Like white-lily opening up in the night,

Upon the waxing moon’s first sight.

 

So too with chanting of Krishna name clears,

That mind which in ignorance too many years.

 

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu this process gave,

Through His mercy whole world to be saved.

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The Pressure of High Expectations

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 9, 2014

[Dasharatha with family]“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)

rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||

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If nobody expects anything out of you, failure isn’t that big a deal. Sure, you don’t like not succeeding in something that is important to you. You would rather emerge victorious than be handed stinging defeat. Yet if no one else seemed to think you had a chance, then the pain of losing isn’t as bad. In the opposite situation, the pressure for succeeding increases all the more. One king a long time ago had all the expectations in the world placed upon him, and due to his good qualities and his respect for higher authorities, he met and far exceeded all those expectations.

Consider this situation. The new school year starts and you notice that the teacher assigned to teach mathematics is the same one your older brother had previously. This teacher is very fond of your brother. On the first day, he asks you about him.

“Oh, how’s your brother doing? Tell him that I said ‘hello.’ He was one of my best students, you know. I didn’t have to worry about him. If I could, I would let him teach the class. He was very enthusiastic about the subject. I recognized that your last name is the same as his. Hopefully you will perform just as well.”

[Math class]You know that math is not your strong suit. If this were an art class, you could ace all the assignments. But math presents a challenge. After performing poorly on one of the exams, the teacher calls you out in class.

“You know, I’m disappointed in you. Perhaps you should have studied more. If you needed help, you could have asked me. You know, your brother would never perform like this. In the future, I’m hoping you can be more like him.”

This increases the pressure you feel, and there is not much you can do about it. You can’t change who your family members are. It is considered a boon to be born into a good family, but there is the downside as well. There is increased expectation to live up to the good family name. In Ayodhya a long time ago, a man was born into a very famous line of kings. How famous? Well, its patriarch accepted the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita towards the beginning of the creation.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.1]“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

That wisdom applies for all situations and all people. The saintly kings safely held on to it at first, for they had to protect the citizens. Though they were kings and thus fighters by trade, they could follow the instruction and keep good counsel at the same time. They were pious men. The chain continued, and thus the science as it is made its way further down the line. The kings in Ayodhya were part of this line, and they each lived up to the good name of the immediate predecessor.

The king referenced here by Shri Hanuman is named Dasharatha. He made the family famous by valorously defending against the attacks of the demon class. The good guys, the piously minded men, called upon him for help. Since he could fight against chariots from the ten directions simultaneously, he earned the name Dasharatha.

[Dasharatha]He was born into the famous Ikshvaku dynasty, so he had a lot of expectations placed upon him at birth. He met and exceeded them through his good qualities. Here Shri Hanuman also says that Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, who is also known as Purandara. Indra is the king of the residents of the heavenly realm. The concept we have of heaven and hell is mirrored in the Vedic tradition, with the noticeable difference being the extra detail provided. There are residents in both realms, and naturally heaven features good guys and hell bad guys. Indra is the leader of the good guys, and he has to protect against the bad guys, who are always attacking. Therefore Indra must be very strong. If he isn’t, he won’t do a good job and the bad guys will eventually prevail.

Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, and so he made for a terrific ruler on earth. As we know, there are good guys and bad guys in our present realm. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to experience good and bad. Everything that is available in some other world is found here as well. Even devotion to the Supreme Lord, offered in a pure mood without any motive, can be found here. This was also exhibited by Dasharatha.

Hanuman here describes that famous king to set the table for the tale of the appearance of Shri Ramachandra. Rama is God, the personal form. He is separate from every living entity, but also identical to them in qualitative makeup. He is apart from the individual soul, but always near them, accompanying them as the Supersoul. Bhakti-yoga, or divine love, corresponds with the personal form of God. The impersonal energy cannot be loved; it cannot be served. The Supersoul in the heart does not engage in wonderful pastimes; it does not appear in a manifest form in any family.

[Lord Rama]Only Bhagavan does those things, and when He does the associates are of the highest quality. So before even going into a description of Rama, Hanuman reviews the qualities of Dasharatha. In this way Sita would not mistake the person Hanuman was identifying. Dasharatha, coming in a line of great kings, further enhanced the glory of that family by acting as the father to the Supreme Lord Rama. And Hanuman, though appearing in the community of monkeys, showed that service to Rama is not restricted to anyone. The good qualities must be there, and especially the motive must be pure. Then the devotion can be so wonderful that Rama’s associates, like His wife Sita, can be made pleased by it.

In Closing:

To succeed in work hard you try,

More pressure when expectations high.

 

Weight of the world on Dasharatha placed,

Heroic against ten directions’ enemies faced.

 

From the responsibilities met,

In His kingdom Rama’s feet set.

 

Love required, Shri Rama for any person to see,

Whether king, pauper, or monkey they be.

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Two Saintly People

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 30, 2014

[Hanuman's heart]“’And how will she hear me without being frightened?’ Thinking in this way to himself, the wise Hanuman resolved in his mind as follows:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.40)

katham nu khalu vākyam me śṛṇuyān na udvijeta ca ||
iti sancintya hanumān cakāra matimān matim |

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A saintly person should not let others frighten them and they should also not frighten others. In the situation referenced above, two saintly people are about to meet, so both rules are in play. Hanuman, the messenger sent to Lanka by Shri Rama to look for the missing princess of Videha, is concerned about frightening Sita, who is Rama’s wife. He has very good news to give to her, but he doesn’t want something to get lost during the presentation.

Why the concern? In Sita’s circumstance, so many things weren’t what they seemed. The dreaded trip to Lanka started with a ruse. The king of Lanka, Ravana, approached her in the guise of a mendicant. Ravana was the furthest thing from a saintly person. He saw distinctions between the different classes. He thought only of his own welfare. This was his first priority. Never mind property rights. Never mind respecting others, allowing them to live their lives. Fiery lust trounces logic and sound reasoning.

[Ravana in disguise]Ravana’s lust was so strong that he cleverly changed his guise to show a more innocent face. This was a trick, and it played on Sita’s kind nature. She and her husband are both very benevolent to the saintly class. They know that such a class of men is required for a properly functioning society. Not everyone will be wise. Not everyone will be free of discrimination in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, or even species. The same person who has so much affection for their dog that they sleep with it at night has no problem with the innocent mother cow being sent to the slaughterhouse. The same person who endured discrimination at the hands of others while growing up in a specific region has no problem prejudging members of other races when they are an adult.

A real saint does not suffer from these defects. They are benevolent to all. They see the spiritual identity within all creatures. As they know that this vision is difficult to maintain, they adopt a certain lifestyle conducive to the proper consciousness. They avoid situations that create friends and enemies. They steer clear of profit and loss, as there is always some exploitation and dishonesty involved in such ventures. The successful seller does not reveal their profit margin and the shrewd consumer does not reveal how much they are actually willing to pay for something.

Ravana was so far from a saint that he tried to steal another man’s wife. He thought he had succeeded with his ruse when he brought Sita back to Lanka, but there was one problem. She wanted nothing to do with him. Ravana still foolishly held on to a glimmer of hope, and during that time Hanuman made the courageous and difficult journey to Lanka and found Sita.

[Hanuman]Sita was dear to Rama, so she was dear to Hanuman. Hanuman is dear to the world because he is a saintly character. Therefore the meeting between Sita and Hanuman should have been smooth. They were of similar mind. Still, here Hanuman deliberates over how best to make the initial approach to Sita, who is in distress due to separation from her husband. Hanuman does not want to disturb her, an attitude in accord with the saintly nature.

The course of action revealed in the next few verses in the Ramayana is quite instructive. Hanuman simply praises Rama, who is God. God is not the sole property of any group of individuals. He does not belong only to one religion. Just as the sun shines down on all, the spiritual energy exists within every sphere. Both in the large and the small, the presence of spirit is undeniable. Rama is the personality behind the spiritual energy. He is God’s manifestation specific to a time and circumstance long ago.

Though Ravana would resort to pretty much any kind of trickery, he would never praise Rama in such a manner. The atheist will lie to get what they want. They will cheat others into thinking that chemicals are the real deity in the world and that the person who can best manipulate these chemicals becomes worthy of honor. They will kill the innocent child in the womb to satisfy their desires for sex. They will kill the innocent animal to satisfy their tongue. They will stoop to any level, but they will never praise the Supreme Lord to get what they want. Inherently they are against Him, and so they cannot bring themselves towards praising someone who is factually superior to them in all respects.

Even if a person should accept this route in a dishonest fashion, they are actually benefited. Such is the power of the name of God, that it can purify the worst sinner. Therefore even if Ravana had praised Rama as a ruse to get something that he wanted, both he and those within audible range of those words would have been benefitted.

[Lord Rama]Hanuman was genuine, and so his words would have even more meaning. If someone is passionate about what they do, it shows in their work. Spend enough time with a fraud, and you’ll eventually sniff them out. Courtesy of the Ramayana of Valmiki, we get to spend much time with Hanuman, and so his true nature shines through. Sita would see it as well, and the two saintly characters so dear to Rama would give countless generations words and actions of nectar to savor.

In Closing:

One’s heart on particular object set,

Sometimes lie for desire to be met.

 

This the way of the saints is not,

Vision of spiritual equality they have got.

 

When Hanuman first Sita Devi to meet,

To introduce with praise of Rama to speak.

 

Ravana never this option to choose,

Despite previously using ruse.

 

With him spend enough time,

And Hanuman’s true nature to shine.

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My Big Payday

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 23, 2014

[Rama's lotus feet]“Chanting Shri Rama’s holy name with love, faith and according to regulative principles will be beneficial for you from beginning to end, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 23)

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There are two sides to the religiosity fence. On one side you have those who think the whole concept of a God and a religion necessary for worshiping Him is bogus.

“You’re just playing ‘make believe.’ I gave that up when I was in elementary school. I’m into reality. I’m into believing in things which can be proven empirically, i.e. those things which I can see. Sure, I can’t see the fragrance of a flower or the taste of my favorite pizza pie, but with God I insist on seeing, nothing else. As I know there is no God, I’m going to enjoy right now. Why deprive myself? I don’t think that suffering is virtuous. I think it’s stupid to go through life that way.”

Then on the other side you get the strict observers of religious principles. They think only of the afterlife. Never mind how things are going right now; they’ve heard that life in heaven is longer. That longer life is more important to worry over.

“I want to go to heaven. Why would I want to be condemned to hell after this life is over? Therefore I don’t mind following austerities. I don’t mind suffering a little bit right now. The payoff is worth the effort. I’m not going to go against God’s will. I’m not going to be a flagrant sinner.”

The two apparently contradictory goals go by the names svartha and paramartha in Sanskrit. In Hindi, Goswami Tulsidas refers to them as svaratha and paramaratha. One is self-interest, or the interests that pertain to the presently manifest world. The world in this regard doesn’t have to refer to the globe as a whole. If I live in a prison cell, that tiny space is my world. If I am a world traveler, then the airplane, the taxi, and the hotel are my world. Svartha is meeting satisfaction while one is still in their present world.

Paramartha is the interest served at the next destination. And there will be one, for sure. The soul is eternal. It actually travels to different places right now. We can think of our childhood as our past life. We can think of old age as our future. Paramartha is the interest for the next body, when this covering is renounced entirely.

Though the parties don’t know it, the interest is actually identical on both sides of the fence. Both are seeking enjoyment in a temporary place; just one wants it now and another later. The soul is not satisfied in either case. There is the hope for the larger fortune, one that is seldom to arrive. The person after worldly interest hopes for the big payday through playing the lottery, investing in stocks, or running a business. Drowning in material life, no amount of money is satisfactory. The person seeking interests in the afterlife never finds any happiness presently. They are always suffering, as they hold on to the hope of the big payday of reaching heaven.

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune, that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” (Benjamin Franklin)

[Benjamin Franklin]Benjamin Franklin, a famous American philosopher and inventor from the colonial period, was known for making little improvements that would provide some conveniences to every day life. This actually falls into the category of svartha, but the philosophy behind it speaks to the glories of bhakti-yoga. The philosophy is that happiness comes from little advantages rather than the hope for a big fortune, which seldom arrives. In bhakti-yoga, devotional service, the happiness is there from beginning to end.

This is true only of bhakti because no other discipline seeks to find happiness for the soul. At its core the soul is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. It would make sense, then, that the blissful potency would match well with something that is eternal and full of knowledge. Worldly pleasures are not eternal and neither are those in the afterlife. From the Bhagavad-gita we understand that life in heaven is not permanent; one has the chance of falling back down.

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

[Radha and Krishna]The soul is happiest when it is serving. This property is the soul’s dharma, or defining characteristic. Service to anyone except God is temporary. More specifically, service to anyone except the Supreme Personality of Godhead is limiting. God can be known in three different ways. One is through the impersonal energy called Brahman. The vague idea of a supreme controller basically speaks to Brahman, though the worshiper may not know the exact definition of Brahman. Then there is Paramatma, which resides within the heart. This is a more personal version of God, who is specific to each individual. Then there is Bhagavan, which is God the person in full. Bhakti-yoga is for connecting with Bhagavan.

And that connection means finding advantages every single day. It means being happy in the morning by rising to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It means being happy in the afternoon through eating food that is prepared and offered to the deity of Krishna, which is the best name for Bhagavan. It means being satisfied in the nighttime through hearing about Krishna and discussing topics relating to Him with others. It means kicking back and relaxing on the weekend through the continuation of service, which may include travel to places of importance to Krishna. Thus the present life is spent happily and in the next life the same devotion continues, making every moment a huge payoff to work.

In Closing:

One for later another for now,

But happiness throughout how?

 

Felicity from advantages smaller,

Better than waiting for payoff taller.

 

In bhakti to God your devotion send,

Reap rewards from beginning to end.

 

Future bright, happily this life spent,

To wonder then how quickly the time went.

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The Same Three Questions

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 12, 2014

[Hanuman's heart]“How can I ensure that the purpose of my task does not get destroyed? How shall I avoid mental disparity, and how do I ensure that my crossing of the ocean does not go for naught?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.39)

na vinaśyet katham kāryam vaiklavyam na katham bhavet ||
langhanam ca samudrasya katham nu na vṛthā bhavet |

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Who wants to have their work get spoiled? Who wants to be careless? And who wants to have previous successes go for naught? Shri Hanuman here asks three questions of himself to ensure that these important errors are avoided. No one is perfect against preventing them, as to ere is human, but in devotional efforts, the guiding hand of the all-perfect being is there. And so simply by having the desire to avoid these errors, Hanuman was guaranteed of succeeding.

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]Hanuman’s work was to find Sita, the missing wife of Shri Rama. Not like an ordinary reconnaissance mission, this search spanned the entire globe. There weren’t informants stationed at key locations who could give him information. There wasn’t a tracking device available to give him her exact location. There was no GPS navigation, either. He had to look anywhere and everywhere, taking clues from wherever he could get them. He had other Vanaras from Kishkindha working with him, but that hardly made the task easier.

Hanuman wanted to be thoughtful because he was on the verge of completing the mission. Here he has finally found Sita. She is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, held there against her will by the king, Ravana. Hanuman had been thoughtful up to this point. He was the lone member of the search party who could reach Lanka. Upon reaching Lanka, he hid his form from the inhabitants. In simpler terms, no one knew he was there. No one knew who he was anyway, including Sita. Therefore he had many smaller successes already under his belt. Now a careless mistake could ruin everything.

Hanuman didn’t want his leap across the ocean to go in vain. This is the second time he worries over such a matter. Indeed, this verse spoken here and two preceding it were also spoken by Hanuman previously.  They can be found in the second chapter of the Sundara Kand of the Ramayana. The repetition means that Hanuman maintains the proper focus at all times. He knew that his leap to Lanka was no small feat. He knew that ordinarily things like that didn’t happen. Ravana had an aerial car that he used to take Sita back to Lanka. Lanka was an island, far away from any mainland. Not only did Hanuman make the giant leap, but he passed through several obstructions thrown his way. The celestials watched from above in amazement, and the mountain Mainaka even tried to offer some assistance as a way to honor Hanuman.

“O Sita, see the golden lord of mountains [Mainaka], which is golden-peaked and which rose up, piercing the ocean, to provide rest to Hanuman.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.18)

As Hanuman was on a search mission, it is not so difficult to compare his predicament to ordinary ones we encounter in our lives. The closest match is to the mission of the human birth, that of becoming God conscious. The Vedanta-sutra says athato brahma-jijnasa, “now is the time for enquiring about Brahman, or the Absolute Truth.” This means that the human birth is not for acquiring a lot of wealth. It is not for eating sumptuous food and enjoying with members of the opposite sex to no end. It is not about being envious of another’s lot in life, and it is not about making more and more distinctions, such as those based on race, gender, ethnicity, language, or religion.

The human birth is for seeing Brahman, which is the all-pervading spiritual energy. The human birth is where intelligence can reach its full potential. Thus going in reverse order, the human being has to keep an eye out for making their birth go in vain. Just as Hanuman crossed the ocean, the living entity crossed through many other species to reach the auspicious human life. If no Brahman realization occurs, then the past journey gets nullified to a degree.

In the human birth there is the ability to act with thoughtful consideration, accepting right and wrong from the highest authority source. Thus there is the need to watch out for thoughtlessness, which again would spoil the chances for success. If you stay on the Brahman path but then fall down due to mental disparity, all your hard work gets nullified for a time.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman would succeed due to his love for Rama, who is Parabrahman. Rama is superior to all abstract conceptions of His potencies. He is superior to the material energy and is the highest spiritual force. He is the chief eternal amongst all eternals, nityo nityanam chetanash chetanam. Therefore from His favor alone one can achieve success in the highest endeavor to become God conscious and make this life fruitful. And in that pure consciousness one takes up service to Him, like Hanuman did. Again and again, Hanuman works for Rama, and every time Shri Rama ensures Hanuman’s success; such is the wonderful nature of their relationship.

In Closing:

The purpose of mission how to keep,

So that for naught not to go giant leap?

 

To avoid also disparity of the mind,

Hanuman’s three questions again to find.

 

Since working for Shri Rama’s side,

Soon in bountiful success to preside.

 

In human birth too same questions to ask,

To be God realized assigned is the task.

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Rules For A Messenger

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 11, 2014

[Shri Hanuman]“Even a decision on what should be done and should not be done made with intelligence does not bring good results. Indeed, messengers who falsely consider themselves to be learned ruin the task at hand.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.38)

artha anartha antare buddhiḥ niścitā api na śobhate ||
ghātayanti hi kāryāṇi dūtāḥ paṇḍita māninaḥ |

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Shri Hanuman in this instance is acting as messenger for Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, it is said that the Absolute Truth can be realized in three different features. There is Brahman, which can be thought of as the sum total of all individual sparks of spirit. The sparks are individuals, and taken collectively they are Brahman, which is one way to understand the Absolute Truth. Then there is Paramatma, which is the localized aspect described as the Supersoul or Supreme Soul. Rama is Bhagavan, which is the Supreme Lord in His personal feature. From the personal comes the impersonal, just as the sun is the source of the sunshine. Bhagavan is the complete whole, and Paramatma and Brahman are partial realizations. Though working here for Rama, Hanuman had prior experience as a minister, and so the validity to the truths he presents is verified through many past successfully completed tasks.

To better understand what Hanuman is saying, we need look no further than the task given to him that led him towards his first meeting with Rama. There was a genesis to Hanuman’s present assignment, where he is searching for Rama’s missing wife Sita. Sita was taken away from Rama in secret while the couple were residing in the Dandaka forest. These events took place millions of years ago, and so the creatures on the earth were constituted slightly differently. The forest dwellers were monkey-like, but they had hints of civilized life in them, such as the ability to speak and reason. They looked like monkeys, but they were an advanced race.

There was another race of creatures known as Rakshasa. They were also human like, but looked like ogres. Their claim to fame was their total ignorance of basic etiquette. Though they had government, they didn’t behave properly. They had no problem eating any kind of flesh, including human beings. Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka, was so degraded that he stole another man’s wife while He wasn’t in the vicinity to protect her. With Sita missing, Rama began a search for her. He and His younger brother Lakshmana roamed through the forests to find where she went.

“Who wouldn’t become fearful seeing these two, who have prolonged arms, possess large eyes, wear arrows, bows, and swords, and who look like sons of demigods?” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 2.20)

[Hanuman meeting Rama]When they entered the Kishkindha forest and approached the Mount Rishyamukha area, the leader of the Vanaras, the forest-dwelling monkeys, noticed them. He asked his minister to go down and see who they were. Hanuman was the minister and Sugriva the leader. So the task was assigned: meet the two princes and see what they wanted. Sugriva was afraid they were enemies who were coming to kill him. Sugriva was living in exile at the time, afraid of the vengeful wrath of his brother Vali.

Hanuman descended from the mountain to the forest area and masked his form. He took on the garb of an ascetic, so as to present a more innocent face. He knew what to do and what not to do. He had made the decision with intelligence. But if one is too puffed up with pride, thinking himself to be learned when they really aren’t, they can spoil a task even if the prior decisions were made with intelligence. One can list all the pros and cons of a specific decision, and thereby show some intelligence, but if they think they are smarter than the person assigning the task, they can ruin everything. Thus Hanuman kept true to Sugriva’s instructions. He very humbly carried out his duties, and in the process Rama and Lakshmana were very kind to him. They were won over by his intelligence, poetic composition, and honesty. Eventually Hanuman revealed who he really was, that he was indeed not an ascetic. This decision was made with intelligence and it did not violate the purpose of the mission. Whatever decisions he made in his encounter with Rama and Lakshmana were not rooted in false pride.

Here in Lanka Hanuman faces a similar situation. He is trying to decide which course to take next. He has already found Sita, who is very distressed from having been separated from Rama for so long. He is ready to approach her, but he doesn’t want to spoil the mission by being discovered by the Rakshasas in Lanka. He knows that if he thinks that he is more intelligent than he really is, things will get foiled. Something apparently destined for success will get ruined. Sort of like taking matters into your own hands when a superior authority has already provided the proper path for you.

As the material world is full of duality, sometimes going against orders does indeed lead to success. In this instance, the task was for Rama, who is the most intelligent. He is the life of all that lives. In His original form of Krishna, He creates everything, both the material and spiritual worlds, without any effort. When He provides a task, an interesting thing happens to the messenger. If they are humble and have full faith in the potency of Rama, they get guidance from within on the proper course. The previously mentioned Supersoul acts like a witness to activities. It knows everything that we’ve ever done. At the same time, it can act like a guide, if the guidance is sought in earnest. In that role the Paramatma is known as the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master from within.

“One should not take any responsibility on his own but should be a soul surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who will then give him dictation as chaitya-guru, or the spiritual master within. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased to guide a devotee from within and without.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 8.79 Purport)

[Shri Hanuman]We all have that guru living inside of us, but only the wonderful souls like Hanuman, who is supremely intelligent and yet very humble at the same time, are expert in receiving guidance from it. His deliberation itself is so endearing to both Sita and Rama. He never wants to disappoint them, and since Rama ultimately disposes all that man proposes, He ensures Hanuman’s success in his devotional efforts.

In Closing:

With just one decision bad,

Can foil success you had.

 

Outcome already in the bag though,

But could be ruined by haughtiness know.

 

Task for him by Rama assigned,

From chaitya-guru coming guidance kind.

 

Mission of devotion from Shri Hanuman take,

And this very life fruitful make.

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If You Want Things Done Right

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 10, 2014

[Shri Hanuman's club]“Even a plan destined for success will be vanquished if it contradicts with time and place when reaching the hands of a confused messenger, like darkness at sunrise.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.37)

bhūtāḥ ca arthā vinaśyanti deśa kāla virodhitāḥ ||
viklavam dūtam āsādya tamaḥ sūrya udaye yathā |

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The darkness looks very strong. You can’t see anything outside without using external lighting. In times past when visiting a friend or relative you had to sleep in a dark room. When you awoke in the middle of the night, you had no idea where you were. You kept your hands along the wall to feel your way towards the light switch. Those incidents remind you of how powerful the darkness is. Yet as strong as it may seem, at sunrise it goes away. The time and place are no longer favorable for the darkness. Shri Hanuman here worries that by taking the wrong action due to confusion, he too will go against time and place and thus foil a mission which was otherwise destined for success.

[Shri Hanuman]There is the famous saying, “If you want things done right, do it yourself.” The sentiment is very common, arising typically after someone has done something the right way. Think of a time in the past when you asked someone to do something for you. It could have been something complex or something very simple. Regardless, you put trust in them. You thought they could handle it.

For some reason or other, they ended up failing. Perhaps they went to the wrong airport to pick up someone very important. Perhaps they arrived two hours after they were supposed to. Perhaps they stopped by an area they shouldn’t have on their way back home. Perhaps they thought what you were asking for wasn’t worthwhile, so they decided to do something else instead. They thought you would be pleased by their change in plans; when in fact you had good reason to ask for the thing you did.

[airport pickup]The truth stated here by Shri Hanuman doesn’t fit his situation exactly. In all his humility, Hanuman considered his very dangerous mission of a very uncertain outcome to be a lot easier than it was. He also considered himself to be confused, someone who was careless. This was far from the truth. The fact that this cogent truth came to mind shows that Hanuman is very diligent. He does not act carelessly. He is not confused, though he sometimes does deliberate on what to do. There is a world of difference between not knowing what to do and carefully considering different options, weighing pros and cons.

Hanuman mentions this truth right after considering the negatives that may come from approaching Sita Devi and talking to her. She is in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, kept there against her will by the king, Ravana. Hanuman’s mission was to find her. That part had succeeded, but the key was to return back to home base with the information of her whereabouts. At the same time, he wanted to console Sita, to let her know that her husband Rama was indeed searching for her and would come to rescue her.

The only way to let her know would be to speak with her. But if she became startled at his presence, that could foil everything. As he was in a monkey form, Hanuman would look strange to Sita, especially if he spoke in Sanskrit. Sita might mistake him for an enemy. Being thus startled, Hanuman’s presence in Lanka would get revealed, leading to conflict with the ogre inhabitants. The outcome to conflict is never assured, and so all the hard work it took to find Sita would go for naught.

Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so He chose wisely with Hanuman. Rama could have done the job Himself. He can do everything, in fact. He doesn’t require a single helper. And yet He has so many of them, for those souls are eager to please Him in any way possible. They have eschewed the dreaded life of material sense gratification, where there is always sadness, despair, chaos, and eventual embarrassment. They take thrills only from seeing a smile on Rama’s face, and so Rama duly rewards them with important tasks to complete.

[Lord Rama]Hanuman accepted the vital mission of finding Sita, and though he had to figure out some of the finer points on his own, he was never confused as to the purpose of his mission. He was not careless and he was not selfish. Keeping Sita and Rama in his heart, he made all the right decisions, thereby pleasing both of them. In the same way one who always chants, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and keeps the interests of Sita and Rama at the forefront will please them in the end.

In Closing:

With diligence proceeding he went,

Careful not to act time and place against.

 

After difficult journey now on Lanka’s soil,

Worried that mistaken judgment mission to foil.

 

Since heart situated in right place,

His work to give Rama a smiling face.

 

On chance to serve Sita and Rama seized,

By his work always they’re pleased.

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