Krishna's Mercy

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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

The One With The Team Captain

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 15, 2014

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.42)

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.42The players headed back to the locker room. It was a crushing defeat. Just one win away from making it to the playoffs, the team looked like they had it in the bag. The doubles matches were evenly split, and the same fate for the first two singles matches. Just one match remained, and it was the matchup that looked easiest on paper going in.

“We could have won that match,” said one of the players.

“Yeah, but I don’t know why the coach chose Johnson to play,” said another.

“It’s because they are friends. Walters was in that spot all year, but I think he and the captain got into a fight recently. The captain then decided to put his buddy into that spot and we see what happened,” added another player.

[tennis court]In this way the team members complained to one another about the job the captain had done. They didn’t like so many things he did, from the timings of the practices to the type of food served after matches. At one point in the discussion, one of the team members, Rob, proposed an idea.

“Hey, maybe I should get my own team together next year. Would you guys be down?”

After thinking it over for a while, they were all on board. There would be a new team next year, with a new captain. Things would be different. Things would be better. The players wouldn’t let a spot in the playoffs slip away due to quarrel and friendship. Rob would right every wrong committed by the present captain.

Jumping forward to the next year, Rob found the job of captaincy to be a little more than he bargained for. He opened up about the job to one of his teammates one time right after a practice that lasted a few hours.

“So, who are you going to play in the match next week, Rob?” asked Bill.

“I don’t know, man. I got everybody in my ear giving me advice. One person wants to play singles, whereas I think they would be better suited for doubles. Another guy isn’t sure he can make it, though he’s likely our best player. Our best doubles team can’t stand each other. They each told me separately that they refuse to step foot on court with the other guy.”

“Wow, Rob, I didn’t know you had all this to deal with.”

“Yeah, the job looks easy on the outside, but I’m the bad guy in pretty much all situations. I can never do anything right, as far as everybody else is concerned. I have so much more appreciation now for last year’s captain.”

Later that night, Rob’s wife could tell that something was troubling him. He did not speak much during dinner. Then they watched a movie on the couch, where he was again silent throughout. Finally, while laying in bed and reading, she decided to see what was up.

“Honey, is something bothering you?” she said while holding the book she was reading, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translated and commented on by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

[Bhagavad-gita, As It Is]“Oh it’s okay, dear. You can go back to reading. I don’t want to bother you,” Rob replied.

“Now that’s not going to make the problem go away. You should talk about it. I’m ready to listen. Is it about your tennis team? I think it’s been stressing you out lately.”

Rob then revealed everything to his wife. He shared his frustrations and how the job was getting to be too much for him. He even said that he regretted taking the job, that it would be easier to just sit on the sidelines and let someone else take all the blame.

“That’s awful, honey, but I don’t think you should quit,” she counseled. “Those guys count on you. It’s not easy to be a leader, but this is the responsibility you chose. You should not quit on them.”

“I think you’re right, sweetie,” Rob admitted.

“You know, I think this should make you appreciate leaders more. They take all the arrows. They offer instruction too, sometimes even if it means others won’t like them. Take Lord Krishna for example,” she said while pointing to the book in her hand. “In this book He gave sound words of advice to the distressed warrior Arjuna. Krishna actually advised him to fight. That was the right thing to do at the time, but to this day so many less intelligent people criticize Him for advising Arjuna in such a way. What if He just decided to sit back?”

“What do you mean?” Rob asked.

“If He just sat back and let Arjuna quit, would that have been a good thing?”

“No, probably not.”

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Exactly. The leadership position He took was for Arjuna’s benefit. This little episode you have only relates to a tennis league for older men who want to get out of the house, away from their wives.”

“No, that’s not true,” Rob said smiling. “Okay, maybe a little, but definitely not the case with me,” he said with a wink.

“Anyway,” she continued. “You should take your experience as a blessing. It should make you appreciate more the spiritual leaders that we have. I remember last week we went to see that swami give a lecture, and you were complaining that he talked too much about himself and his stories from his youth.”

“Yeah, but you know I was kidding. I have respect for him, don’t get me wrong.”

“No, that’s fine, but just see what someone like that has to go through. It’s a thankless task. He gets criticized by everyone, though so many benefit just from hearing his chanting of the holy names. So many benefit from hearing from Krishna, the original and supreme leader of mankind, but hardly anyone appreciates Him. Krishna spoke strongly to Arjuna at times, chastising him for his sudden ignorance of the laws of propriety. Think of how our friends feel if we say anything bad to them. But if we’re really their friends, we try to help them. In the same way, Krishna is a friend to everyone. So He left us His conversation with Arjuna and so many other teachings by those leaders who follow in His footsteps.”

[Lord Krishna]After talking some more, Rob felt a little better about his situation. “Okay, thanks dear. I do feel much better. Maybe once this season is over, I’ll try reading that book a little more seriously. You might have to buy me a copy, as I can’t see you parting with yours for a moment.” Giving her a wink and a kiss, he went to sleep.

In Closing:

By judgments and words to make,

The leader arrows from all to take.

 

Still the counsel they freely give,

So that others with knowledge to live.

 

Though Krishna chastised times some,

Victory over doubts by Arjuna was won.

 

So the leaders in bhakti appreciate much more,

Spreading glories of Lord a thankless chore.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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The One With The Awakening

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 13, 2014

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krishna consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5 Purport)

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It was a typical day at work for Brent. He was occupied in his programming and other daily tasks. In the office with him was Duncan, who was also hard at work. Things were going smoothly until Duncan complained out loud, “We’re getting snow again tomorrow.” The area had just seen a severe snowstorm, one that dropped a foot of snow where Brent lived. He particularly didn’t like to do manual labor. One of the reasons he chose programming as a field was because it allowed his mind to work. He didn’t have to get his hands dirty, so to speak.

[winter snow]Duncan’s pronouncement didn’t sit well with Brent, who immediately wondered if he would have to dig his car out again the next morning. More importantly, if the snowfall was during work hours, he would likely have to stay home, something he didn’t like to do.

“How much are we supposed to get?” Brent asked with hesitation.

“They’re saying four to six inches,” Duncan responded.

“Hot darn, forty-six inches?” Brent said in a loud voice, referencing an inside joke between the two of them. Several years prior, Duncan was asked by a coworker about an impending snowstorm. When he informed her that the forecast was for four to six inches, she misheard him. Startled, she responded, “Forty-six inches? Hot darn.” Ever since then that phrase had been an inside joke with Brent and Duncan.

“This winter has been terrible. This snow has got to stop,” said Brent.

“Seriously. It’s supposed to drop in the morning.”

“I think I’ll try to come in, then. Hopefully it won’t be too bad.”

When the next morning arrived, Brent was so tired from the night’s sleep that he forgot about the forecast. He considered staying in bed the whole day, such was his fatigue. But he never felt good about wasting a day away doing nothing, so he finally got out of bed and looked outside. “Hmm, this doesn’t look so bad,” he said to himself as he looked at the streets and his car covered in what seemed like a small amount of snow. “I am really tired, but this snow doesn’t look like it’s too much. Let me go out there and shovel. After everything is clear, I’ll decide whether or not I want to stay home and sleep.”

[Removing snow]In comparison with the recent storms that had hit the area, this snowfall was not much. Brent quickly shoveled the area at the end of the driveway and the neighboring sidewalks. An interesting thing happened in the process, however. He didn’t feel tired anymore. “Wow, I feel great. I definitely want to go to work now. Who knew? All I had to do was get up and be a little active. That woke me up even when I thought I didn’t have the energy to do anything.”

With his driveway now clear, his car cleaned, and his spirits uplifted, Brent went in to work as per normal. That night he received a call from his friend Joel.

“All is good with me, man. I’m calling you because one of the swamis from the local temple is going to do a program at our home this Friday night. It would be really cool if you could make it,” said Joel.

“Sure, of course. Should I bring anything?” asked Brent.

“Just your enthusiasm, as per usual. Did you go to work today? I saw you guys got more snow than we did.”

“Okay. Yeah, I went in. An interesting thing happened to me in the morning.”

Brent then explained everything to Joel about what had happened. He told of how his energy levels changed so quickly, just from doing some work. “I think it was a sense of accomplishment. I got some physical work in and that got the blood flowing.”

“It’s interesting that you mention that,” said Joel. “I was reading recently of an incident in Benjamin Franklin’s life. When he was living in Philadelphia, at one point there were so many wars going on and so many attacks coming from this group and that. He decided to form a voluntary army, and then he got nominated to be the leader. On one of their exercises, he noticed that the men in the army were happiest and most well-behaved when they had work to do. When they were idle, they were more unruly and upset.”

[Benjamin Franklin]“Oh, that’s interesting,” said Brent.

“Yeah, and so that’s similar to your experience. But you know there’s even a spiritual lesson you can take away from it.”

“What’s that?”

“Have you ever heard of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati?”

“I think so, but I’m not sure.”

Joel then explained the concept of parampara, or disciplic succession, and how Bhaktisiddhanta was the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Joel explained further:

[Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]“One of the things Bhaktisiddhanta would say is that one who has got life, he can preach.”

“Okay. What does that mean?” asked Brent.

“It can be understood in different ways. Someone who is alive can speak on the glories of the Supreme Lord. Someone who is active can instruct others on bhakti-yoga and how it is the constitutional occupation for the spirit soul. But it also has relevance to your experience, I think.”

“How so? And you know, people are often turned off by that word: ‘preach.’”

“That’s true. The Sanskrit equivalent is kirtanam, which actually just means ‘to describe.’ Preaching in bhakti-yoga means to describe the Supreme Lord. And doing that actually gives life to a person. When you start glorifying God you feel enlivened. And in that enlivened state, you can go on describing, without stop. Just look at Shrila Prabhupada. He wrote so many books, and they’re all kirtanam, describing God.” Joel then went into detail on how many books Prabhupada authored, at what stage in life they were written, and the process that went into publishing them.

“That’s just astounding,” said an incredulous Brent. “I can’t believe that one man could write so much.”

[Prabhupada writing]“Yes, but we know that it happened. So many others continue kirtanam in their own way. Like that singer whose YouTube video you sent me last week. He travels the world fulltime with his wife, singing at programs and speaking about bhakti-yoga. He doesn’t get tired because he is enlivened by glorifying God.”

“It makes sense, because when I’m at these programs and singing along to the chanting of the maha-mantra, I feel like I could keep going for hours.”

“See, that’s because it’s kirtanam, which gives life. Well anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday. Let’s hope it doesn’t snow in the meantime.”

In Closing:

Though feeling tired are you,

Enlivened when some task to do.

 

Up bringing spirits your,

Welcome is newest chore.

 

This a spiritual lesson also to teach,

That he with life only can preach.

 

Glories of the Supreme always to sing,

Transcendental touch to others to bring.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Keeping The Heart Calm

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 8, 2014

[Rama's lotus feet]“Then to Rama and His brothers Janaka requested many times. With tears in his eyes and a throat choked up, he tried to keep his heart calm.” (Janaki Mangala, 175)

bhāinha sahita bahori binaya raghubīrahi |
gadagada kanṭha nayana jala ura dhari dhīrahiṃ ||

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It’s a common scene. A famous athlete has decided to hang it up. The decision wasn’t easy. Once he ruled the sport. He was the leading scorer, the most valuable player, and accustomed to hoisting the championship trophy. Writers were in competition with one another to be the first to tag him as the “greatest of all-time.” But that same time went to work on his skills. Eventually, his abilities diminished to the point that he was no longer valuable enough to keep on a team.

[Jerry Rice retirement]A press conference is scheduled where the player is expected to announce their retirement. They step up to the microphone, offer a few pleasantries, and then explain why it is they no longer will compete in the sport that has been their life since a very young age. Though they try, at one point they begin to shed tears. “I promised so and so I wouldn’t do this,” they say, as they fight back the tears and the choked throat. But the moment is too intense for them to hold back. They think of all the sacrifices others made for them. They think of all that they will miss. Though they never cry otherwise, at that moment they cannot hold back.

Indeed, others feel similarly helpless in situations specific to their lives. When they least expect it, as if they have no control over their body, they begin to shed tears. King Janaka faced that a long time ago, except his loss of control was rooted in love for the person each one of us has loved deep inside for the longest time. The individual can be identified best by the spirit soul residing within the body. Though that is the last thing with which we choose to identify, it is the only force that remains steady. We have difficulty realizing it is there until it finally leaves, at the time of death.

All of the individual’s emotions are rooted in the soul’s natural love for God. Hatred, envy, anger and the like are the inverse of the loving propensity. Like an upside down mirror, they still belong to the same source as the converse emotions of affection, kindness, and attachment. When pure love for God reawakens, there is ecstasy. That emotion is so strong that it is impossible to control. It rushes in like a tidal wave, especially when one is in the presence of the loveable object, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Lord Rama]Here Janaka is bidding adieu to Shri Rama and His three younger brothers. All four were just married through Janaka’s arrangement. Thus they are leaving home and taking with them the precious daughters dear to the community of Janakpur. In this verse from the Janaki Mangala it is said that Janaka is constantly requesting Rama. His throat is choked up and tears fill his eyes, and he tries to keep his heart steady. If you don’t have control over your emotions, how will you speak? If you’re overcome with intense affection, it will be difficult for the words to come out.

Janaka steadied himself enough to make his heartfelt plea to Rama, asking that He always remember them. Unlike the individual living entity, God is without flaw. He never falls down. He never fails to deliver on something needed for the devotee. Since His presence within the consciousness is the most important boon anyone could ask for, it is granted immediately upon request. Especially when someone as pious and respected as Janaka asks, the gift remains manifest all the time, never to be hidden away through a temporary fall into the material ocean of attachment, aversion, greed, selfishness and envy.

Just as Janaka fought his emotions to make his kind request to the Supreme Lord standing in front of him, the devoted souls who always chant the holy names have a difficult time keeping their emotions in check. Just hearing the name “Rama” brings to mind the dearest son of King Dasharatha. When they hear the name again, they remember how happy He made Janaka by winning the contest of the bow. They have trouble keeping the tears from coming when they remember Rama’s dearest wife Sita, who is the beloved daughter of Janaka.

[Mother Yashoda with Krishna]When they hear the name “Krishna” they think of the darling of Vrindavana, who roamed this earth as the affectionate son of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. They get choked up thinking about how He transformed a humble fruit vendor’s products into jewels when they made a kind offering to Him. The name brings to mind the famous lecture on all matters of life that Krishna gave on the battlefield to the distressed warrior Arjuna. The name reminds them of the shelter Krishna provides through lifting giant mountains like Govardhana.

As the name brings so much joy, it is no wonder that the heart has a difficult time remaining calm in the presence of the Supreme Lord, who is non-different from His names. So many names are there to keep the devoted soul always in ecstasy, and so these souls never tire of reciting those names. Janaka was able to make his requests, and Rama immediately granted them. In the same way, Rama immediately comes to the souls who chant His names in a pure way.

In Closing:

So much potency in holy name,

To Supreme Lord it is the same.

 

Just by one time purely saying,

Pastimes in mind start playing.

 

As Rama and brothers to leave ready,

Janaka made requests, keeping heart steady.

 

Of pure souls wish immediately to grant,

To deny King Janaka and others He can’t.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Calling Each Other Prabhu

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 5, 2014

[King Dasharatha]“Please do not take it ill of me that I sent for you. I know that I received all happiness by the glory of your grace, O lord.” (Janaki Mangala, 173)

bilaga na mānaba mora jo boli paṭhāyaun |
prabhu prasāda jasu jāni sakala sukha pāyaun ||

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Such is the nature of fraternal organizations that the members address each other with notable terms. They are part of a unique club, so they honor each other’s preferred status by an identifiable form of address. “Brother” is the most commonly used term, and “sister” is the corresponding one for organizations of ladies. In devotional circles, one would be surprised to note that the English translation for the term of choice is “lord.” This is the word used in this verse from the Janaki Mangala, and it is offered by one king to another.

“Hello Prabhu; Prabhu, can I offer you any more prasadam; Prabhu, please accept my obeisances; Nice to see you again, Prabhu.” You can hear such statements quite often in devotional societies. If someone new to the scene doesn’t know what the word “Prabhu” means, they may think it refers to someone who is very dear. “They say Prabhu to every other guy, so it must be a nice way to address them. It also comes in handy if they don’t know the other person’s name. They can just say Prabhu and not get into trouble. It sounds like a nice word, so it must mean someone who is very dear.”

Indeed, if a word is always used in a specific context, others will start to identify that word with that particular context. But “prabhu” is a Sanskrit word that means “lord.” It is used quite often in Vedic literature, as it is synonymous with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Other corresponding terms are bhagavan, ishvara, and natha.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Those who are trying to serve the Supreme Lord with body, mind, and speech address each other as “prabhu” in order to remain humble. They won’t address their teachers in this way, for their acknowledged superior position earns them a distinct title. But all others are made to feel superior with the word that means “lord.” This helps to maintain the devotional attitude within the servant. “My objective is to think of everyone else as superior to me. Even if others are not practicing devotional service so much, I know that if they do take it up seriously, they will do a much better job at it than me. Plus, I have so much I can learn from them. I am only a pretender, for I harbor material ambitions on the inside. These are so difficult to renounce, and so I need to stay in the association of other prabhus. Also, I’ve noticed that if I spend some time chanting the holy names and reading important books, my ego gets puffed up. Then I start to think of myself as prabhu instead of dasa, which I really am. Therefore I look forward to any opportunity to address another as prabhu.”

From the behavior of King Janaka referenced above, we see one of the benefits to associating with someone whom we would address as “prabhu.” King Dasharatha is about to return home to Ayodhya. Janaka had originally called for him. Janaka was hosting a marriage ceremony for his daughter Sita, and Dasharatha’s son Rama was the chosen groom. Dasharatha was a powerful and respected king, so he was not under obligation to listen to anyone. Janaka kindly asked him to visit his town to consent to the marriage ceremony for Shri Rama and then take part in the festivities.

“Thereupon, after inviting my father-in-law, the elderly King Dasharatha, to Mithila and receiving his approval, my father gave me away to Rama, the knower of the self.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.52)

[Sita and Rama's marriage]Dasharatha was more than happy to accept, and he felt so much love for Janaka and his family. Therefore Janaka didn’t need to ask pardon for sending for Dasharatha. Here he does so anyway, and he explains why. He says that by Dasharatha’s mercy [prasada], all happiness came to him. Through the good king’s efforts, Rama was raised to be a righteous, courageous, and attentive prince. Through the king’s good will, Rama was allowed to marry Sita, which eased Janaka’s mind. The king of Mithila always worried about who would protect his beautiful daughter. He drew up a difficult contest precisely to find someone who would be strong enough to defend her against rogues and thieves. Rama was a godsend, and so through His victory in the contest, the honor got passed up the chain to the immediately preceding link, King Dasharatha.

This exchange between two kings reveals so many important truths. By doing good work, past generations are honored. By receiving the mercy of a pure soul, one gets all happiness in life. The disciple who kindly questions the spiritual master about the most important topics feels the same sort of happiness, for the guru gives them the ability to always worship. Janaka and Dasharatha were both kings, but Janaka genuinely felt himself inferior. From that position he was fit to offer all respects, and the King of Ayodhya was more than happy to receive such kind words. Based on their behavior it is no wonder that the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort appeared in their families. It is also not surprising that those kings are still remembered to this day, for they displayed exemplary behavior.

In Closing:

By their mercy to be blessed,

So as prabhu kindly addressed.

 

Humbled, in attitude inferior,

Giving all respects to superior.

 

Janaka to Dasharatha this treatment gave,

By prabhu’s prasada, his vow to save.

 

Spiritual master also such mercy gives,

Humble disciple in devotional ecstasy lives.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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A Great Maintainer

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 4, 2014

[King Dasharatha]“With folded hands Janaka said, ‘Please take me as your own. You are the tilaka of the Raghu family, and you always take care of the destitute.’” (Janaki Mangala, 172)

kaheu janaka kara jori kīnha mohi āpana |
raghukula tilaka sadā tuma uthapana thāpana ||

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When turning to spiritual matters, there are many levels of understanding. There is the concept of an original person, the entity from whom everything emanates. Then there is the personality from whom this specific universe comes. Then there are also the presiding deities within the creation. Once everything is made, someone is put in charge of destroying at the appropriate time. That is the nature of the material; nothing is fixed. What goes up, must come down. That which is born must eventually die. The time in between calls for maintenance, and the personality in charge of maintaining is Lord Vishnu.

[Lord Vishnu]Brahma is the creator and Shiva the destroyer. Interestingly enough, Vishnu is also the origin of everything. His role as maintainer in the material creation is in an expansion form. There are different Vishnus, though they represent the same personality. As a guna-avatara, or incarnation to manage a mode of material nature, Vishnu maintains the material creation. Yet He is never material, so He is also the maintainer of the surrendered souls, who have no attachment to the material energy.

What does it mean to be free of attachment? We can think of it like going to work every day and not being stressed out over the results. If our job is in maintenance, we will meet so many difficult situations. A customer may have done something ill-advised and caused great damage to their machine. If we arrive at their home to fix it, it may take a long time to get the job done. The longer it takes, the more frustrated the customer gets. Their harsh words won’t change the situation; the job is the job.

In other situations the job is easier. It is a routine fix, something over which the customer does not get angry. Whether there is good treatment or not, as a repairman I don’t let anything affect my job. I get my work done. I am not attached to the outcome, for what can I really do? I can try my best and then deal with the outcome.

[Copier repair]A person who is not attached to the material energy carries the same attitude into everything they do that is not directly related to serving the Personality of Godhead. He is above the material nature, as He is the opposite of temporary. He remains fixed in His position for all of time. Indeed, the human brain is incapable of truly understanding what that means. There is always a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. The Supreme Lord is the beginning of all beginnings, and beyond any end. He has always been the Supreme Lord and will always continue to be in the future.

As He is above the material nature, He is superior to it as well. Therefore He can maintain anyone. He indirectly maintains through the forces of nature, but that maintenance is not very pleasing. The rain pours down water in the Spring to make sure the flowers blossom. That same rain can bring pain to someone else who is relying on good weather. The direct maintenance, however, is always beneficial. Sometimes it is offered through a proxy, such as the king.

[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)

In the ancient time periods, the maintenance was carried out by the saintly kings. In this scene from the Janaki Mangala, two of those kings are saying goodbye to one another. King Janaka, an ideal ruler in his own right, kindly requests King Dasharatha to consider him to be his own. Dasharatha ruled the earth following the principles laid down at the beginning of creation by the Supreme Lord. Here Janaka describes Dasharatha as the tilaka, or sacred mark, of the Raghu family. Dasharatha’s line descended from the famous King Ikshvaku, and this line also had the famous King Raghu in it.

[King Dasharatha with children]Janaka says that Dasharatha picks up those who need to be lifted, and so he asks that Dasharatha consider him in this light. This is a very nice attitude to have, since by the chain of disciplic succession Dasharatha’s work is actually God’s. When the government agent collects taxes to be deposited into the treasury, he is doing the work of the head of the government. The head is ultimately responsible. In the same way, when Dasharatha maintains the surrendered souls, it is actually the Supreme Lord who is ultimately responsible.

In all his modesty, Janaka here hides the fact that he was a great maintainer as well, an equal representative of the Supreme Lord. He had the good fortune of receiving the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord as his daughter. Dasharatha was so blessed that he received God in a lila-avatara as a son. Dasharatha’s son Rama and Janaka’s daughter Sita wed in a grand ceremony in Janaka’s kingdom, and here the groom’s party is all set to return home. Both kings maintained their children very well, and Dasharatha is asked to extend his care to all in Janaka’s family.

[Sita and Rama]The devoted souls, who follow the teachings of God passed on in the Bhagavad-gita, are always ready to rescue the downtrodden, for they know that God’s mercy is without limit. The power in the holy name itself can deliver countless souls with a single utterance. Therefore in the modern era, where the saintly kings are no longer to be found, the maintenance of the greatest maintainer flows through the chanting of the holy names by His devotees: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Even when to spiritual subject to go,

Many levels, different ways to know.

 

In one role Vishnu as maintainer,

Of devotees also sustainer.

 

The saintly kings first acted through,

Understood Bhagavad-gita who.

 

Dasharatha one in that following,

Kind words to him Janaka offering.

 

Supremely blessed both were they,

Lord and wife in their homes to stay.

 

Through holy name maintenance now to come,

Chant always, other way there is none.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Star of The Book of Beauty

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 19, 2014

[Shri Hanuman]“The mighty Hanuman had overheard everything in truth of what was said by Sita and Trijata, as well as the threats of the Rakshasis.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.1)

hanumān api vikrāntaḥ sarvam śuśrāva tattvataḥ |
sītāyāḥ trijaṭāyāḥ ca rākṣasīnām ca tarjanam ||

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In the famous Vedic text called the Ramayana, the section featuring the exploits of a heroic messenger gone in search of a missing princess is known as the Sundara-kanda, or the book of beauty. In the opening segments a warrior in a monkey form suddenly realizes his mastery over the eight-fold mysticism known as ashtanga-yoga. He then fearlessly leaps across a massive ocean, making for an amazing and beautiful sight. Yet the section of the work also features torment, lamentation, and threats and insults directed at an innocent princess. Does this not pose a contradiction?

[Shri Hanuman]Indeed, the princess was gentle and sweet. She was known throughout the world as the daughter of King Janaka. No one could say a bad word about that king. He never swerved from the virtuous path. A king has all the power in the world. At their direction people’s lives can end. With a simple edict, land can be confiscated and lives can be ruined. With great power comes great responsibility. If you are the leader, everyone will look to you in times of trouble. If there is any problem in the community, the citizens will think of any mistake the leader may have made. An ordinary person can make a mistake and not have it do much harm. If the leader makes a mistake, the entire fabric of society slowly unweaves.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.21“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

Janaka always followed the righteous path, and so did his daughter. She had malice towards none. She never addressed another person in harsh tones. She had respect for all creatures, including those living in the wilderness. She was thus the perfect match for her husband Rama, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Rama too never harmed anyone without cause. He applied force only in defense of the innocent.

[Sita and Rama going to the forest]To that Rama and that Sita came the unfortunate fate of banishment from their beloved kingdom. Imagine being evicted from your home after you have done nothing wrong. You paid off the mortgage, kept up with all your bills, and were generally loved throughout the community. You had to leave because of a mistake someone else made. This is sort of what happened to Sita and Rama, and they accepted the order without issue. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along as well.

In the Sundara-kanda we find descriptions of Sita’s great lamentation from being separated from Rama. Though an innocent lady, she finds herself amidst ghoulish creatures who regularly feast on human flesh. They are constantly intoxicated, keeping in line with the behavior of their leader, the king of Lanka named Ravana. In this section of the Ramayana, we also find the threats and insults hurled at Sita by these grim-visaged ogresses. They repeatedly try to scare her into submission, into accepting Ravana’s offer to become his chief queen.

Sita was in Lanka against her will, taken away by Ravana in secret. Therefore Hanuman, the courageous star of the Sundara-kanda, went to go look for her. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that he has heard all the insults of the Rakshasis and the lamentation of Sita. He has also heard in full the description of the dream of Trijata, the lone Rakshasi who seemed favorable to Sita. Trijata spoke of a dream she had where she saw Rama emerge victorious and the entire kingdom of Lanka destroyed due to Ravana’s deed. She advised the other Rakshasis to seek Sita’s forgiveness before it was too late.

Such awful words hurled at Sita did not change the complexion of this section of the Ramayana, for they were heard by Hanuman. Love is what maintains life. The love the parents feel for their children allows those children to grow up to be healthy adults. The love the law enforcement officers feel for their fellow man allows the citizens to roam the streets without much fear. The love that mother nature feels for her creation allows others to feed off of her land. The human beings get food not from the factory, the office, or even the government treasury. They survive from the land itself, which allows crops to be planted and maintained through the cooperation of other important forces of nature like the sun and the rain.

[Shri Hanuman]The dream of Trijata, the cries for help from Sita, and the insults of the Rakshasis increased Hanuman’s love for Sita and Rama. The scene aided in his eventual success in the mission. He had already found Rama’s wife, and so now he would deliberate on how best to proceed. Should he speak to Sita or return right away to let Rama know where she was? From the title of this particular section, we know that the decision reached would be a beautiful one, as would be the deliberation itself.

In Closing:

Though with insults and ogres of grim look,

Beautiful is this Ramayana’s book.

 

Describes Hanuman of courage without bound,

And how in Lanka Sita Devi he found.

 

Though harassment from ogres she took,

Love increased in him by having a look.

 

Beautiful are aspects in Hanuman all,

Aptly this book a beautiful one to call.

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Everywhere Are His Eyes

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 14, 2014

[Sita and Rama]“Generally there will be affection for that which is visible. And for that which is not visible there is no affection. The ungrateful are capable of destroying their affection in this way, but not Rama.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.43)

dṛśyamāne bhavetprītiḥ sauhṛdaṃ nāstyapaśyataḥ ||
nāśayanti kṛtaghnāstu na rāmo nāśayiṣyati |

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It is said that man inherits four defects at the time of birth. He has a tendency to cheat. Knowing full well his inability to rule everything, there is always some insecurity. This fear manifests in cheating to some level. Man commits mistakes; he is not perfect. He is also easily illusioned; things and people are always tricking him. That pizza pie on display in the store looks so tempting, but in fact eating the whole thing will lead to discomfort later on. Still, casting aside all the previous bad memories, the person goes ahead and orders the whole pie for himself.

[Pizza pie]The fourth defect is imperfect senses. We can’t perceive everything. We have no idea what is going on in the room next to us unless someone tells us. We don’t know what our son or daughter is thinking at this moment. Since they are full of life, we know that they are indeed thinking something. We can’t even remember our own perceptions. “What did I eat for breakfast a year ago today? How did that verse from the Bhagavad-gita go that I was supposed to memorize for my weekly class?”

With imperfect senses we rely on sight alone for observation and emotion. Sita Devi here references one of the results of that reliance. There is the general tendency to have affection only for that which is seen. If I see my dog, I think about it. If I see my parents, I remember all the sacrifices they made for me while growing up. If I see my friends on a daily basis, I try to do good for them. Once the objects are no longer within sight, however, the affection diminishes. The more ungrateful a person is, the easier it is for them to lose their affection in this cause-and-effect circle. One person has His eyes everywhere, however, so He is never ungrateful in this way.

The “what have you done for me lately” saying is another way to describe the same tendency. We ask our friends for favors. This is only natural. If you can’t ask your friend to lend you some support every now and then, who can you ask? So our best friend picks us up from the airport. They run to the house when we have forgotten something. They look up something online when we are in an emergency situation. They come to pick us up when our car has stalled out and we are stranded on the side of the road.

[Roadside assistance]Ah, but that one time that they fail to grant us a favor, we get upset. The many past sacrifices are no longer visible. They are distant memories only. What is perceivable in the present is their failure. Indeed, another issue is that by coming through for us so many times in the past our friend raised the level of expectation in us. We just assume that they will always get the job done. We don’t think that they may not like bailing us out all the time. We don’t consider their feelings as much. It becomes “what have you done for me lately” instead of “thank you for all that you have done for me in the past.”

This attitude may or may not apply to us completely. It depends on how ungrateful we are. All of us have imperfect senses, so there is no way to always remember everything that someone has done for us. Sole reliance on sight isn’t the right way to go all the time, but it is indeed a habit. The husband of Sita was not ungrateful in the least. He remembered every single good deed done for His benefit. Goswami Tulsidas makes particular mention of this quality in Rama. The poet remembers how Rama gave so many wonderful benedictions to those who did only a single good deed for Him. In contrast, others quickly forget a host of benedictions offered to them, ungrateful souls that they are.

[Lord Rama]Sita knows Rama’s nature. Here she is in a very difficult situation. Female ogres surround her and threaten to eat her up. They regularly ate all kinds of flesh, so these weren’t empty threats. The king of the land, Ravana, wanted Sita for his chief wife. She refused him completely, over and over again. Therefore the king resorted to threats of abuse. He ordered his grim-visaged female attendants to harass the innocent Sita until she caved.

Sita is here addressing those ogres. She is letting them, and the world for that matter, know that though man is generally only affectionate towards that which can be seen, in Rama there is no such defect. This is because Rama is the Supreme, the personality behind the concept of an attributeless energy of truth. Only a personality can remember. Only an individual can be without ungratefulness and have full affection for both the seen and the unseen.

Technically, there is nothing unseen by Rama. His eyes are everywhere, though He has no eyes. This is how the Upanishads describe Him. There is no limit to the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord. He is described as nirguna since no material quality could ever be attached to Him, as there is duality in every quality that we encounter. There is grateful and ungrateful. There is happy and unhappy. The Absolute Truth is above duality.

[Lord Rama]At the same time, Rama is saguna. He has spiritual attributes which are visible to man with imperfect senses. There is no difference between the nirguna and saguna; just the latter helps to give an idea of what “attributeless” really means. Rama is supremely grateful. He remembers everything done for Him and does not let sight play a role in determining His disposition.

He has eyes, but they are not material. The range of perception in His eyes is not limited. He can see millions of miles away. He can see the microscopic and the macroscopic. Moreover, He remembers all that He sees. He always remembers the boundless affection that Sita has for Him. He remembers every devotional act of the sincere spiritual seekers. He remembers a single utterance of His name made in innocence by even a young child who has yet to fully understand the dualities of the material world.

[Sita and Rama]Indeed, there is none more grateful than Rama, and so it is not surprising that the people of the world who are the most pious are forever devoted to Him. The ogres in Lanka could not understand Sita’s nature, and so they harassed her and tried to get her to move her attention away from Rama. They also couldn’t understand Hanuman, who was secretly perched on a tree at the time watching what went down. As Rama is grateful, Hanuman and Sita never stop loving Him. As such, anyone who follows the devotional path is assured of remaining in the good graces of the Supreme Lord, whose transcendental eyes see everything.

In Closing:

Stuck at work, can’t get free,

Can you do a favor for me?

 

All thanks to them now to give,

But in future forgetful to live.

 

Not the case with Sita’s husband indeed,

To remember forever just a single deed.

 

His eyes anywhere and everywhere to go,

As most grateful of all devotee’s know.

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Never A Bad Time

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 13, 2014

[Sita Devi holding flower]“Shame on me, who am uncivilized, unchaste, and living a sinful life, for I continue to protect my life for even a moment without Him.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.7)

dhiṅmāmanāryāmasatīṃ yāhaṃ tena vinā kṛtā |
muhūrtamapi rakṣāmi jīvitaṃ pāpajīvitā ||

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One of the offenses to chanting the holy name is to equate the process with any ritual mentioned in the Vedas that is meant for material upliftment. To understand this better, we can look to the raising of a child. You would never equate waking up early to feed your child with some sort of health habit. Love for someone else is not for your personal betterment. Acts in love are done out of love; selflessly, with no personal motivation. Therefore love can never be wrong, can it?  Sita’s words above confirm this.

[Mother Yashoda holding Krishna]One person goes to school, starts a business, and then becomes extremely wealthy. Another person also finds material success, but in a way of their own. They don’t pray to God for anything. Therefore they think that God is for the “bitter clingers,” those who were previously unsuccessful in life. Or they think that perhaps He is for those who don’t know any better. “These fools think that if they speak to an invisible man in the sky that all their problems will vanish. They need to get out and work instead. They need to give up their make-believe.”

This foolishness is rooted in nearsightedness. Not necessarily in reading the letters on an eye exam, but more so with respect to time and cause and effect. In the short term, the latter group sees that material success comes without worship. But in fact past generations living in the same area were indeed more religious. They prayed all the time. The settlers to that land in question actually came there so that they would have freedom of worship. They left superior material conditions behind in favor of destitution, poverty, and isolation. They made this choice due simply to their desire to worship as they saw fit. Their efforts paved the way for the material success of the future generations.

[The Mayflower]When one is a little religiously inclined, they become familiar with different rituals aimed at achieving different results. If I want a healthy family, I do this certain worship designated for a specific time and place. If I want my child to enter adulthood with the proper consciousness, when they reach the appropriate age I will arrange for a priest to come to the house and do a specific ceremony. When someone in the family passes on, I follow specific guidelines for mourning. This is to show proper respect to both the departed and the Supreme Lord.

In the Vedic tradition there are so many such rituals. Every type of person is assigned some kind of religious practice. Even if you are a drunkard who can’t see clearly enough to avoid violence against innocent creatures, you get some rituals slated for your advancement in consciousness. That is the ultimate goal, after all, though it may not be revealed in the beginning. The first grade teacher doesn’t tell the students why they will need to know the alphabet. The teacher doesn’t go into great detail about how mathematics will be put to use all the time in adulthood. The children just accept the instruction, with the ultimate benefit coming later on.

So too the performers of the different religious rituals eventually work their way up towards full God consciousness; at least this is the case ideally. This consciousness is very difficult to instill in the beginning, for the living entity exiting the womb starts the discovery process immediately. They find so many things and then study them. They try this thing and that; whatever is appealing. They then constantly accept and reject these things, hoping to find that one thing that they will never have to reject; an acceptance which will bring real transcendence.

The innocent child doesn’t know any better, so if they are given real transcendence right away, they may mistakenly discount it as unimportant. They may assign something else a higher priority. Therefore the rituals help to gradually build the consciousness to the point that it can see things clearly. In this respect, the various rituals have appropriate times and circumstances. There are also times of impurity. For example, when a new child is born or when a family member passes on, the affected parties are considered impure. Therefore doing standard rituals is prohibited. The family should not do any kind of worship to procure material gain. We can think of it like not wanting to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.19“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

[Lord Krishna with cow]The ultimate objective is very difficult to achieve, and it can take many lifetimes. Once real God consciousness is there, the stipulations for time and circumstance vanish. This makes sense if we think about it. Is it ever a bad time to love someone? Is it inappropriate to think favorably of someone else? These actions can be harmful if the person in our mind is someone we should forget. The Supreme Lord, however, is the reservoir of all transcendental goodness. Therefore it is never wrong to think about Him. Indeed, it is an offense to ever equate thinking of Him in a mood of love with any ritual mentioned in the Vedas for material gain.

Doing so is an offense because real love for God is unmotivated and uninterrupted. Those who genuinely love Him never stop thinking of Him. And although they think of Him all the time, they feel like they are not worshiping Him enough. They feel as if they are the worst person in the world since they manage to continue living when He is not in their presence. This is the sentiment of Sita Devi referenced here from the Ramayana.

[Sita Devi]Sita is Hare, or the energy of God. She can never not think of her beloved husband, Shri Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord in the spiritual form of a warrior prince who roamed this earth during the ancient time period of the Treta Yuga. Though His lotus feet graced this earth so long ago, He continues to live on here through His names, forms, attributes and pastimes. He is always roaming a land somewhere, as there are innumerable universes in existence. Thus one can always think of Rama, wherever they are.

It is never an offense to worship Rama in love. This worship is known as bhakti-yoga, and it can take place anywhere. Here Sita Devi gives an example of bhakti-yoga practiced amidst enemies. She does not have a priest in the vicinity. She does not have an altar on which to direct various prayers. She does not even have a new dress to wear to the occasion of worship. Indeed, she is not even really praying. She is simply remembering her dear husband. She is thinking of how in comparison to her He is so great. She considers herself so low for not being a good enough wife. She feels bad for putting Him into distress, for He is presently looking for her. She had gone missing in the Dandaka forest after the fiendish king of Lanka stole her away in secret.

Even in lamentation one can worship the Supreme Lord. Even in circumstances that “try men’s souls,” one can remember the beloved husband of Sita. Not only is it not an offense to think in such a way, but it is a sign of a pure consciousness, one that no longer needs to rely on the rituals targeted for this benefit or that. Saying the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is an act of divine love. Therefore it is an offense to ever equate this chanting with any ritualistic process. As God is omnipresent, eternally existing, and ever benevolent, He can accept worship from any person, at any time, and at any place.

In Closing:

Offense against the holy name to make,

When to ritualistic process to equate.

 

Divine love fit for any time anywhere,

For gain or loss in devotee not a care.

 

Even amidst ogres of visages grim,

She thought of Rama, always devoted to Him.

 

Most humble Sita Devi even in circumstances sad,

Showed that for bhakti never a time bad.

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Gang Mentality

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 11, 2014

[Shri Hanuman]“Hiding himself in the Shimshupa tree, that monkey Hanuman listened to the Rakshasis frightening Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 24.14)

avalīnaḥ sa nirvākyo hanumān śiṃśupādrume ||
sītāṃ saṃtarjayantīstā rāksasīraśṛṇot kapiḥ |

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There are certain truths that we know inherently. Others don’t have to convince us of them. We don’t even question them. For instance, stealing is bad. You shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you. This only makes sense. Would we like it if someone else took what we have? If someone came into our home and stole our computer and television, would we like it? Therefore why would we want to do that to someone else? There are many other basic truths established in the same way.

As there is some independence in the material world, any person can act in any way they choose. Not that they will always get the desired result, but they can still opt for any behavior they wish. This means some will have no problem with stealing. They will make up every excuse in the book as justification. Meanwhile, it is simply their lust or their cheating propensity which drives them to their behavior which goes against basic truths. Nevertheless, in their minds they think they are behaving righteously.

It’s difficult enough to argue with someone who is completely wrong on a basic value issue. It’s even more difficult when there is the gang mentality matched up against righteousness. If you know that stealing is wrong, but you’re in a room full of people who think the opposite, the situation is very frustrating. You can be completely sinless, full of virtues such as honesty, kindness and compassion, and the other side will still bully you until you give in to their position. This was the case a long time ago in the Ashoka grove in Lanka.

[Sita Devi's hand]A well-wishing party had to watch as this all went down. He knew that stealing was bad. He knew that adultery was not called for. He knew that the lady situated in righteousness was correct in her stance. And yet he had to watch as grim-visaged female ogres harassed her. The pious lady was named Sita and she was already married. Her marriage was the issue at hand. The king of Lanka wanted her for himself. He knew that Sita was married to Rama, but that didn’t stop him from taking her away from Rama’s side in secret.

Sita did not budge from her position. She insulted Ravana by accurately pointing out his shortcomings. She spoke to him on the issue of basic decency, where one doesn’t force themselves upon another. She also reiterated the fact that she was a human being and thus not fit to be the wife of an ogre. Ravana was a Rakshasa, which is a species prone to man-eating. A person who eats cats and dogs is considered uncivilized in the community of meat-eaters, so we can just imagine how lacking in values a man-eater is.

Sita was right and Ravana was wrong. Ravana had to get his way, however. So he ordered his female attendants to scare Sita into submission. They surrounded her and peppered her with hypothetical scenarios and bleak futures.

“You should enjoy with Ravana while you still have your youth. Once your youth is gone, you will no longer be attractive. Rama is just a pauper. He lives in the wilderness, bereft of His kingdom. Why would you choose to be with someone so weak? Why not enjoy with Ravana, who lives in palatial mansions and has so much strength? You’re insane for not accepting his offer to become his chief queen. You will be so powerful if you accept his offer.”

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman was sent by Rama to find Sita. He was watching all of this while hiding in a tree right above. Imagine seeing someone you care about being bullied in such a manner. It will trouble you greatly, will it not? The question then is why Rama would subject Hanuman to this torture. We know from the Vedas that Rama is the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in an apparently human form. Sita is His eternal consort in the spiritual sky, and Hanuman is forever devoted to them both.

God works in mysterious ways indeed. For the devoted souls, every reaction to their actions is monitored by the Supreme Lord. This is a special mercy not available to the non-devoted souls. If one person wants to eat ice cream and another wants to eat pizza, why should a higher authority bother settling the dispute? In either case someone will eat. The enjoyment from such eating is temporary. Any variety of material enjoyment is temporary. The form and circumstance of the living entity facilitate the various reactions. Since the enjoyments are all temporary, they don’t catch the interest of the Supreme Lord.

The devoted souls only want one thing: continued devotion. This solves the mystery as to the situation at hand. Sita’s love for Rama increases through separation. Hanuman’s attachment for Sita increases through watching her endure a difficult situation, where her devotion is tested. Hanuman to this day constantly sings the glories of Sita and Rama. He remained hidden in that tree, just waiting to pounce on the opportunity to give life-giving news to Sita about Rama’s plan to rescue her. Later on, after Ravana was defeated and Sita freed, Hanuman wanted to exact punishment on those Rakshasis who had harassed Sita. He remembered everything he saw while perched on that tree.

[Hanuman worshiping]Though Sita prevented Hanuman from attacking the female ogres, kindly forgiving them and once again showing her compassionate nature, Hanuman’s concern for her welfare never diminished. And she in turn remained ever affectionate towards Ramadutta, the fearless, courageous, capable, and dedicated messenger of the Supreme Lord. The gang in Lanka thought they were getting to Sita, but all they were doing was further motivating a fierce fighter like Hanuman, who on being on the side of righteousness would eventually prevail.

In Closing:

Even when you know you are right,

Difficult when gang of foes to fight.

 

Not easy on your stance to stay,

Herd pressuring you to give way.

 

Hanuman saw all of this from tree,

Harassment of Sita, who of sin was free.

 

Attachment increased in that beloved servant,

To this day supporter of them most fervent.

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Giving Shape to a Concept

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 4, 2014

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

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Bhagavad-gita, 4.7So, you’ve got an idea for a new car engine. This is unlike anything that’s on the market. The car industry has been particularly hit hard in recent times in an area of the country where it once thrived. So many classic cars used to come out, year after year. People still long for those cars. In recent times, with fuel economy standards and competition from overseas, the cars made just aren’t as good.

This new idea of yours will bring interest back. Putting your custom-designed engines in domestic cars will spark renewed interest, a revival in purchasing. Your engine is powerful; more powerful than anything out there right now. Also, it is fuel efficient. It meets every standard imposed by the government. You pitch your idea to various car manufacturers and they seem very interested. The issue, of course, is that this is only a concept. They want to see some proof. They want to see a physical object. Without something tangible in front of them, they will have a hard time believing what you are selling.

[Kevin James in the Dilemma]Indeed, this is the nature of sales. The demand for tangible proof is there in bhakti-yoga as well, where the practitioners hope to get everyone on board the train of devotional service, which has stops in every location and can carry an unlimited number of passengers to that great destination in the spiritual sky. The appeal of bhakti-yoga is that it is for everyone. No longer do you have to belong to a specific church or organization. No more are you immediately looked at as the worst kind of sinner who is targeted for punishment by an angry and vengeful God.

In bhakti-yoga, the people with the pure vision see you for who you really are: spirit. Spirit is great. It is small and yet can do the most amazing things. It is in fact the size of the tip of the hair divided into thousands of parts. Though spirit is impossible to perceive with the naked eye, we have evidence of it in front of us every day. Your ability to read or hear these words indicates that you are spirit. The ability of the cars travelling down the road outside shows that there is spirit. The fact that you and I can decide when, where and what to eat for dinner tonight reveals the existence of spirit.

[Mother Yashoda with Krishna]In bhakti-yoga, the souls in the pure consciousness see the immense potential that you, as spirit, have. They know that more than anything you want to love. Love and service are synonymous in this sense. You serve because you love and you love because you want to serve. There is only one individual capable of receiving endless love. He is your ideal match, and He can accept your love in a variety of ways. If you like to glorify particularly through written word, you can write and write forever about His glories. If you like to cook, you can prepare the most amazing food dishes to be offered to Him. If you like to pontificate and study the science of science, you can philosophize endlessly about how amazing He is and how men from all walks of life are inherently seeking His company.

Though bhakti-yoga is inherent to the spirit soul, which can be found in any creature, with respect to our earthly history its origins trace back to the region today known as India. In that sacred land the ancient sages held on to the confidential information of bhakti-yoga and passed it on to their worthy disciples. There are specific areas still sacred to this day because the practice of bhakti-yoga flourishes there. But as mentioned previously, this system is not sectarian. It is not reserved for any single group of people. The concept is that everyone is meant to love God, who is a personality originally.

So these are two wonderful concepts to accept: love for God and God being a personality. But how do we prove them? Where are the tangible examples?

First the latter: The Supreme Lord has descended to earth many times in the course of our history. History itself is not limited to this single creation. The material universe, with its many planets and stars and population of creatures, goes through cycles of creation and destruction. This is not the first time the earth has been in existence, nor will it be the last. In each creation, whenever He so chooses, especially when there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion, the Supreme Lord descends to the earthly plane as Himself, though the visible manifestations may not always be identical.

[Matsya Avatara]He comes as a fish during a great deluge. He comes as a boar to lift up the earth. He comes as a tortoise to be used as a pivot in the churning of an ocean of nectar. He comes as a half-man/half-lion to protect a five year old prince, whose only crime is his devotion to God. He comes as a warrior prince to do away with a powerful man-eater who has immunity in fighting against most creatures of the world. He comes as His original self, the handsome youth named Shyamasundara, to protect the devoted parents Devaki and Vasudeva and deliver the Bhagavad-gita, the king of all education, to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna.

Depending on the specific tradition of the Vedas you follow, you will have different terms to describe these appearances. The appearances can be described as avataras, meaning “those who descend.” The avatara is not a concoction. It is a real personality, immune to the effects of birth and death that plague the spirit souls who are otherwise pure.

These appearances are also known as the saguna forms, which is more pertinent to our discussion. God is both nirguna and saguna. Both terms actually mean the same thing to Him, but to us in one description we can’t see God so well and in the other we can. We can think of it like the full and dark moons. The full moon shines bright in the sky, and the dark moon is difficult to see. The moon is the same in both instances; the difference is only in our perception. In the same way, the saguna forms only look like they are ordinary living entities; this is for our benefit. In the saguna forms we learn what nirguna actually means; that God is not bound by any of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance.

[Shrila Prabhupada]For proof of the former concept [love for God being meant for everyone], we need look no further than the amazing efforts of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and all those who have succeeded him. Also known as Shrila Prabhupada, the swami took the flawless concept of divine love meant for all and travelled to the Western world with it. In infusing the bhakti spirit in so many wonderful souls, he showed that devotional service to God is indeed meant for everyone. It can be practiced by any person, regardless of their background. In ages past, the same concept was proven by the supreme devotion of forest dwellers working for the Lord in His avatara as Shri Rama and by the love of village women living in Vrindavana towards Shri Krishna.

[Krishna with the gopis]Thus there is so much shape to the concept of bhakti-yoga. By taking up devotional service in earnest, one provides further evidence to those who are skeptical. By always chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one does the best service for their fellow man, as divine love is what every person inherently seeks. The virtues of honesty, cleanliness, austerity and compassion are a pleasant added bonus, qualities which are otherwise very difficult to maintain and exhibit. Thus in all respects everyone is benefited when further shape is given to the glorious concept of one guiding mentality for all: God consciousness.

In Closing:

Concept that in devotion one should live,

But need proof, shape to theory to give.

 

Otherwise how in words to trust?

Some evidence therefore a must.

 

From history to descents of the Divine look,

As fish, boar, or when flute in His hands took.

 

Prabhupada, gopis, and Vanaras just a sample,

Of devotional success, take faith from their example.

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