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One Interpretation

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 28, 2013

Bhagavad-gita“A man working in Krishna consciousness in a factory does not associate himself with the work of the factory, nor with the workers of the factory. He simply works for Krishna. And when he gives up the result for Krishna, he is acting transcendentally.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.9 Purport)

“How can you say that there is only one authoritative interpretation of the verses of the Bhagavad-gita? How can anyone have the nerve to put the words “as it is” in the title of their translation? This implies that the others are not “as it is.” But how do we know that? How do we know that one interpretation is authentic and others are not?”

The Bhagavad-gita is an ancient Vedic work that chronicles a conversation that took place on a battlefield some five thousand years ago. The truths themselves are timeless, which we learn in the conversation itself. We learn that the truths that make up the conversation were also spoken at the beginning of known time, and that they were then passed on to successive generations. Since the Gita is a conversation, there is really only one interpretation of it. To say that there are many is incorrect. This doesn’t mean, however, that commentaries cannot be given. Changing times bring new reference points. As such, opportunities for describing the same truths in new ways are always present, though the original meanings don’t change.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.9“But he who performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit-his renunciation is of the nature of goodness, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.9)

In the ninth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that one should perform his prescribed duty but then renounce the attachment to the fruit. In simpler terms, this means do your work but don’t be affected by the outcome. Do your work because you have to. Everyone accepts a prescribed duty at some point. The mother must take care of the children. The husband must work to support the family. The student must complete the assignments for the class.

Mother Yashoda feeding KrishnaWhether the child is pleased or not should be of no concern to the mother. Whether the work is completely pleasurable or not is not much of a factor for the husband. Whether school is fun or not is not so important for the child. Each person may think otherwise in their respective situation, but the fact is that the prescribed duty leads to something better. When that duty is performed without attachment to the result, there is some kind of transcendence.

In the grand scheme the aim is to transcend birth and death. Birth and death are due to karma, which is fruitive work. So basically Krishna advises that one should act in karma but not be so concerned with the outcome. From that mindset, the karma eventually transforms into bhakti. There is work in both cases, but since the mindset of the person in bhakti is not so attached to the temporary results of the work, there is no future implication.

As a way to explain this verse, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada points to the factory worker. The person in karma cares about the outcome, such as in how much money they are making, when the day is going to end, and if they are improving their material situation. The person in Krishna consciousness, or bhakti, does the work as a matter of obligation. Whatever results they get go to Krishna, who is God. He is the same God for everyone, though He is more clearly drawn out. Krishna is considered the original form, though the Supreme takes many other non-different forms as well, all of which are just as worshipable. The term “God” is a way of addressing Krishna when the worshiper doesn’t necessarily know what He looks like. The worshiper has a foggy conception of a supreme controller, so the full effect of bhakti is lacking due to the missed interaction with the all-attractive features found only in the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Shrila PrabhupadaThis verse was spoken by Krishna to the warrior Arjuna some five thousand years ago. Factories most certainly did not exist at the time. Does this mean that Shrila Prabhupada has fabricated a purport? Has he conjured up a brand new interpretation? Actually, the meaning is still the same, just the frame of reference is a little different. Since people today know what a factory is, the reference to it helps to explain the verse. Someone else, in a different setting, can make reference to a corn field to make the same point. In more recent times, someone could make reference to the office desk and sitting in front of a computer all day to explain the same truth. Though the explanations may be different, the truth is not altered. Thus the single interpretation of the verses of the Gita remains intact.

The Gita is a conversation between two people. It is not a matter subject to interpretation. There are facts presented by the authority figure, namely Krishna, and they are then accepted by the humble disciple, Arjuna. Since there was an underlying culture during the time the Gita was spoken, explanations of the verses are required in subsequent generations. That culture is virtually absent today, so unless one is familiar with it, somewhat living in it themselves, they will not understand what the verses mean. It would be like eavesdropping on a conversation between two people and not knowing the context. Then the mind could go wild speculating as to the meaning.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe same is already done with the Gita, and the results are not very good. Unaware that the same Krishna is described in so many other Vedic texts, the foolish commentators speculate as to whether Krishna exists at all. “Perhaps He represents something more meaningful, like an abstract. And Arjuna thus might represent something else.” Such nonsense speculation is unnecessary, as the singular interpretation is still available from authorized sources. Since they know that their interpretation is the only valid one, they have no fear in titling their translation, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is.”

In Closing:

New explanations for time are legit,

Like to factory and in office to sit.

 

But interpretation of Gita only one,

Other meanings to verses none.

 

“As It Is” strong words to choose,

The acharya in their title to use.

 

That Krishna is real they know,

Not afraid to proclaim it proudly so.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Doubting Who We Are

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 1, 2013

Bhagavad-gita“One who follows the instruction of the Gita, as it is imparted by the Lord, the Personality of Godhead Himself, becomes free from all doubts by the grace of transcendental knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.41 Purport)

“This person sucks. That person stinks. Look at the way that person walks into the room and plops themselves on the floor. Look at the way that person dresses; what are they thinking? Look at the way that person talks. They are so weird. Notice that such and such person didn’t say ‘hello’ to us before. They are very rude. Remember when that person did that? You should always remember that, because that incident shows who they really are.”

In the ancient scriptural texts of India, a person constantly providing such criticism is compared to a crow. The crow stays amidst garbage. The weeds and the rubbish within it are what the crow prefers. It doesn’t think that there is a better way to live. It doesn’t know that the swan has it much better, for the swan stays with purity. One of the earliest mentions of this exact comparison is found in the sacred Ramayana, where it was offered by a princess of the swan-like variety who was being wooed by a crow-like fiend.

“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)

Sita and RamaThe crow-like attitude is very easy to adopt, and if we study the matter a little further, we see that it is rooted in envy. To constantly criticize others, to the point of excess, especially when it is applied to those we hardly know, indicates envy, which challenges the ego. The envy is rooted in ignorance of the self, for if one truly knew who they are, they would empathize with everyone instead of trying to compete with them. Fortunately, there is a way to curb envy, and not surprisingly it involves the acquisition of real knowledge.

Are we saying that envy is the root cause to the difficulties we see in society?

Absolutely. The politician is envious of the other politician. Why should one person be more famous than another? The competitive athlete is jealous that another athlete is rising to prominence. The uncle is jealous that the nephew living nearby has a larger home. The younger brother is envious that the elder brother has made something of his life. The wife is jealous of the success of the husband. Neighbors are also jealous of one another, as are nations, who are nothing more than larger collections of neighbors.

What is the nature of the knowledge we need to get?

Real knowledge can dissipate envy because it gives information of the self. I am envious of another because I don’t know who I really am. I think that I am this life force who has randomly entered an area where the goal is to compete with others for resources. I also think that this life, as I choose to define it, will be the only one I receive. “Get as much as you can, right now, today, otherwise you will lose out.”

Are the parents proud when their children grow up to be ordinary laborers or when their son or daughter becomes a doctor or a lawyer? What is the real difference anyway? Both occupations pay a salary. Both sides are workers. One may earn a lot more money, but at the end of the day the purpose to working is to have food to eat and a place to stay. If someone does menial work to secure the basic necessities in life, what is the harm?

If the comparison for greatness is based solely on material acquisition, then of course there will be so much envy. The introductory biology class in a large university typically has several hundred students, and the class is made very difficult precisely to weed out the pretenders, the students who aren’t serious. This means that there will always be fewer doctors than ordinary laborers. There will be fewer lawyers as well. Those who don’t make it to the end will feel a little envious. And we know that envy is not good because it is rooted in ignorance. I think that someone else is happier because they have a bigger house, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The bigger house brings more responsibilities and more sources for tension within the family. Those who have less don’t have as much to defend.

The changing bodyIn the Bhagavad-gita, which is also known as the Gitopanishad, one learns about their true self. They do this through two different ways. They get explicit instruction on the identity of the individual. It is said right at the outset that the spirit soul is what identifies each person; not the body. The body goes through changes, starting from childhood. The final change occurs at the time of death. The soul is not altered at any time. Despite the changes to the body, the soul is always full of bliss and knowledge.

If the body changes, then so also must the objects it is attached to. The body is the outer covering to something that is spiritual. Dull matter is itself lifeless for the very reason that a soul is required to give it life. In the higher understanding we know that the impersonal spiritual force pervades every atom and thus every aspect of matter as well, but as far as individual living entities go, they only reside within bodies that are considered to be with life; their very presence gives it life.

The readers of the Bhagavad-gita, properly translated and commented on for the people of the time who lack the necessary culture to understand the complex and confidential truths, also find out about their true self by learning of the origin of spirit. He happens to be the speaker of the Gita as well. His spirit soul is also full of bliss and knowledge. It is eternally so. A key distinction, however, is that His body is not different from Him. It does not undergo the same changes we are accustomed to. His soul also resides within everyone. He doesn’t break up into pieces for this to happen. He simply expands Himself while remaining original and completely individual in His personality as Shri Krishna.

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

From further practice of the principles presented in the Bhagavad-gita, one learns that they are intimately connected to Krishna through both physical proximity and constitutional qualities. He is residing within us right now, though He is more of a neutral observer. That spiritual force is invisible to the eyes, but it is still with form. The outward form, known as either the incarnation or the original personality itself, is visible to the eyes, provided one is fortunate enough to have a glance at it. It is all-attractive; hence the name Krishna is appropriate in addressing it.

Intimate connection to the Supersoul representation within the heart takes place through meditational yoga, and the outward form is found through bhakti-yoga, or the yoga of devotion and love. The latter path is superior because it automatically gives cognizance of the Supersoul, whereas the former does not bring connection with the original personality who has a visible form. The best means of practicing bhakti-yoga, especially in the modern age, is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Lord KrishnaThe expert yogi in bhakti is known as a paramahamsa. The components of the Sanskrit word translate to “supreme swan.” The attitude of the paramahamsa goes something like this:

“I can’t believe how great Krishna is. Though He is known by many different names across the many spiritual traditions, He is still one. He is so kind that He allows us to serve Him at any time and at any place. All around me I find only good people. They are all related to Krishna in some way. There are those who serve Him. They are known as devotees, and from their example I know for sure that God exists. From the behavior of the envious I also get proof that Krishna exists. They validate the claim that the material world acts as a sort of prison house to reform the souls who are envious of the Supreme Lord, who has everything. Such envy never works out because nothing can be done to change the situation. Why try to compete with God when He can give you everything in a second if you so desire? Why envy Krishna when serving Him is the source of the greatest pleasure? Nevertheless, even the miscreants are good at heart; they just don’t know any better. They are presently under the sway of Krishna’s material energy known as maya. Once they have the fortune of meeting a devotee and getting the seed of the creeper of devotional service, when they will water it regularly with devotional practice they will be free of all bad things, including envy.”

Thus we see that only through high knowledge acquired through connecting with Krishna, or God, can the crow turn into a swan. If I know the Supreme Lord I will also know myself. And if I know myself, I will know others too. I will then know that envy of others is not necessary, as we are all meant to be eternal servants of the all-merciful Supreme Lord, whose Bhagavad-gita directly represents Him and is a sign of His causeless mercy.

In Closing:

Without my true identity to know,

In envy to act like a crow.

 

In criticizing others I won’t quit,

Find fault with their walk and how they sit.

 

Identity from Bhagavad-gita understand,

Soul not tied to body’s face, legs or hand.

 

Also the Supreme Lord to rightly see,

His true nature from maya’s influence is free.

 

In real knowledge turn from crow to swan,

Without doubt others’ goodness only dwell upon.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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The Real God

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 11, 2012

Lord Krishna“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.30)

The advaita property of the Supreme Absolute Truth says that no matter what we do or where we go, we are not separated from our beloved spiritual counterpart, who happens to be the origin of all matter and spirit. In that position He offers unflinching kindness, support for returning to His eternal land. His hand is always outstretched for our rescue, but unless there is a sober decision made to accept that aid, the rocky waters of the material ocean will continue to toss us around. The Vedic scriptures, especially its Bhagavad-gita, are meant to help even those who are not consciously aware of their need for rescue. But when understood in the wrong light, when heard from an unqualified presenter, even the Gita can have little positive influence.

How can this happen? If the equivalent of the Bible in the Vedic tradition has such profound information, why wouldn’t its presentation be universally applicable?

Though the Gita is a song sung by Lord Krishna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, in its written form it comes down to words. And words mean things, so when they are twisted and said to mean something else, the entire presentation changes. For the honest souls who know the true purpose of Krishna’s teachings there is the added benefit that many of the same truths are presented elsewhere in Vedic literature. Indeed, every famous scripture, including the many Puranas, take the form of question and answer between an inquisitive disciple and an authority figure who teaches.

Bhagavad-gitaThe Bhagavad-gita is unique in that the teacher later reveals Himself to be the fountainhead of all knowledge. He is the origin of matter and spirit who can be realized in three different ways by the living entity, as He has expansions that are non-different from Him due to the advaita property. As Brahman, Krishna is understood to be an impersonal light. Brahman is the undivided nature that pervades space. It is very difficult to perceive because its outer covering is maya, which is illusion. Through maya’s influence alone we take ourselves to be superior to someone else or we think that we will never die. When maya’s influence is shed, when the cloud of nescience is removed, the true nature of the individual as Brahman is revealed. That same fragment of Brahman exists within all life forms; hence there is a oneness shared by all creatures.

The realization of Paramatma, or Supersoul, is next. In this understanding, the individual learns that there is a superior spiritual force within every living being that ensures that results to action can appear. The individual souls are all sparks of Brahman, and they take the impetus for action, but the rules of the game are not in their control. Think of the law of gravity. We know that gravity exists, and we can predict its influence, but we have no say so in the law itself. It operated before we were born and it will continue to function after we die. To say that we create or effect gravity is silly. That role is assigned to the Paramatma, which is the divine consciousness that directs the living beings, who are seated as on a machine.

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

The highest realization is of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is both Brahman and Paramatma, and He retains a separate spiritual identity. He has identifiable features that are not limiting. Bhagavan has no eyes but He can see everything. He has no ears but He can hear every prayer. He has no mouth but He can accept every food item offered in loving devotion. Bhagavan is the very same God most of the world knows as an abstract concept, but His features are more clearly drawn out. Shri Krishna is Bhagavan, and so His speaking of the Bhagavad-gita represents one of the most notable events in history. In all other Vedic texts, one of Bhagavan’s representatives delivers the information, which is flawless in its own right. But only in the Gita is the fact revealed that the speaker is the same God, the object of worship in sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man.

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThat uniqueness is worth mentioning because the Bhagavad-gita today is the most popular and widely translated Vedic text. The fact that it is read by non-devotees is another indication of Krishna’s opulence, as He is the most famous. At the same time, the original presentation was intended for a specific audience, namely a devotee named Arjuna. That conversation was recorded by Vyasadeva, a literary incarnation of Bhagavan, in the Mahabharata, which is a much lengthier work commonly referred to as the fifth branch of the original Veda. The Mahabharata is intended for the ears of the pious souls, who are not jealous of God. The Bhagavad-gita can thus be thought of as a confidential letter from teacher to student, or friend to friend due to the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna at the time. That letter was made public but only for the right kind of recipient.

A person outside the mood of devotion would never be able to understand the essence of the Gita, as people who are not privy to our relationships with our friends and family would never understand the intimate communication we have with them. The unscrupulous cheaters and pseudo gurus of the modern age love to teach from the Bhagavad-gita, and because they don’t have the same level of devotion as Arjuna, the Gita’s original recipient, they fail to understand the essence of the work: that devotion to God, who is a separate entity who is always related to us because of His property of non-duality, is the highest occupation for man.

In their erroneous commentaries they will say that the living entities are all God, that the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, Paramatma, are one and the same. “Through enough renunciation and knowledge, vairagya and jnana, the individual can merge with the supreme and thus achieve oneness.” Some of the teachers claim to be God themselves, which is quite interesting. Krishna presented the Gita in such a way that many of the commonly known Vedic truths were first offered to Arjuna. This means that descriptions of the principles of detachment, duty, reincarnation, and modes of nature can be found elsewhere in Vedic literature.

“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 10.12-13)

Yet in the other famous Vedic texts, why don’t the teachers claim to be God? Why don’t they show the universal form, the virat-rupa, to their students when offering instruction? Why don’t they claim to be the origin of life and matter, the essence of every object? Krishna says that He is the taste in water, the fragrance of the earth, the penance of the ascetic, and the life of all living beings. Why can’t we find other authority figures on the Vedas, like Lord Shiva, King Janaka, Prahlada Maharaja, and Lord Brahma, saying the same things? Indeed, we know that Brahma is the creator, that every creature can trace their ancestry back to him. If anyone has a right to claim a high standing, it would be Brahma, but he never does this. His son Narada Muni is likely the greatest reformer in history, a saint who teaches bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, so vigorously and fearlessly that sometimes parents are angered by his words, for they fear that their children will give up worldly life and take to devotion at a young age. Yet Narada never claims to be God, so how dare anyone else, especially someone who expounds on the Gita without being a devotee of Krishna?

The validity resulting from implementation of accepted principles establishes a teacher’s status as an authority figure. From the effectiveness of the foundational principle of the Bhagavad-gita, namely devotion to God, we can understand that Krishna is an authority figure, and through the bliss that repeatedly comes from connecting with Him in a mood of love, we know that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That kind chariot driver helped Arjuna dispel his doubts on that famous day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and He can remove all our doubts as to the position of God and our relationship to Him. Krishna’s instructions are all we need to find enlightenment in life, and His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are all we need for happiness.

In Closing:

Ancient Vedic teachers there were many,

But claimed to be God there were not any.

 

Only Krishna this did say,

To Arjuna that fateful day.

 

Same truths in other texts found,

Of Vedanta philosophy, knowledge profound.

 

But Krishna is God and thus unique,

Teacher who gives knowledge we seek.

 

Non-devoted commentators others do cheat,

Know that devotion to Krishna their claims to defeat.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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The World Revolves Around Me

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 27, 2012

Krishna showing the universal form“Whatever you wish to see can be seen all at once in this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.7)

To think that the world revolves around you is not very wise, but to avoid it is very difficult. The same routine that you have right now, the same worldview and perspective that you keep in your day-today affairs, existed prior to your time with others. Just as you marvel at the birth of your first child, your parents did so as well when their first child was born. As you ponder over the meaning of life and worry over the future, others pondered the same dilemmas, sometimes hundreds of years prior to you. The more you can break away from the false notion that everything only happens because you are present, the wiser you will be. Expanding this vision out to the largest scale is one way to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is not a sectarian figure nor a figment of the imagination.

Is all the stuff in the world unreal? Is it mythology to believe that there is a giant cosmos, which consists of all the planets, species, elements, and the sun? Is it a dogmatic principle to believe that the individual is puny in comparison to not only the sum collection of other individuals but the creation itself? This gigantic, abstract image that automatically incorporates every nuance and detail imaginable exists for real, though it is difficult for us to perceive.

The desire to go where eagles dare helps in some ways to acquire the broader perspective. We have images from outer space available today because of advancements in technology, the relatively new study of aerospace engineering. The aviation buffs and the “geeky” rocket scientists found ways to manipulate the material elements so that they could put man into outer space, allowing him to soar to new heights. From that distance they could see the earth as a whole and the vast outer space that it remains a small part of.

The earth from outer spaceFrom the pictures from outer space, one can realize that they are not that important in the grand scheme, that they can’t manipulate much of the material energy. Surely man can discover new things, and going forward there are many more things to discover, but still nothing can be done to create a planet. That planet doesn’t even have to be the size of the earth or the moon. Just take one small particle of dust if you like and keep it floating in the same orbit in perpetuity. Let it revolve and rotate, and don’t provide it any outside source of energy.

Of course it is impossible for man to do this, and yet even with the vision acquired from outer space there is little humbling of the ego. If there is an acknowledgment of a higher power, there is assuredness that life is meant to be enjoyed, that the material elements should be manipulated for one’s own personal satisfaction. “After all, studying science and doing experiments got man into outer space, so perhaps with more work he can go even beyond, finding new ways to enjoy the experience that is life.”

But is this really enjoyment? The birds already fly high into the sky without the help of scientists. They know nothing of glide ratios, yet they can go pretty much wherever they want via the aerial path. The eagle can see something miles away perfectly, and the vultures have no problem feasting on carcasses. Thus where is the advancement of the human being when it takes them so much effort, years of research and experiment in fact, just to artificially imitate the birds?

The real meaning to life is to understand God. This is the point stressed by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. “Well, what is God? Seems like an abstract concept, so perhaps I can make up my own God, as there are competing visions with the different religions anyway. Who’s to say that aviation and science won’t please the Supreme Lord? We are His children, so shouldn’t He want us to enjoy.”

Though devotion is certainly stressed in the Vedic literatures, as the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord is what brings sweetness in association that ignites a fire of service that never dies within the individual, the scientific basis for spirituality is also presented. The human beings are not the only sons and daughters on the earth; all creatures come from God. The enjoyment is already sanctioned with birth, but at the same time that enjoyment is illusory. It is temporary and coupled with so much misery. The animals also eat, sleep, mate and defend, so should we, as a more intelligent species, follow suit, taking those behaviors to be the summit of existence?

The spirit soul evolves through the different species to reach a point where it can learn about God. From that understanding there is a higher pursuit, a push to achieve the association of the Divine so that pleasure can increase. If one is not so inclined to understand the personal aspects to the Supreme Lord, mistaking their descriptions to be dogmatic or sectarian, then one can still understand the universal form. That vision exists for real, though we can’t see it. But to begin to understand it, we have to break out of the vision that the world revolves around us. This is a wise course regardless, as the more we understand the nature around us, the better suited we will be to deal with others, to follow pious behavior, and to establish a good relationship with our fellow man. Only the lowest among men, who imitate the jackals in their behavior, think that their needs are of utmost concern and that whatever others desire should be cast aside. This is considered foolish thinking because every person has a right to pursue the same enjoyment, to live a vibrant and worthwhile life.

“But you cannot see Me with your present eyes. Therefore I give to you divine eyes by which you can behold My mystic opulence.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.8)

Lord Krishna showing universal formThe universal manifestation is one way to think of God, but actually seeing and appreciating it are difficult through one’s mental effort alone. Therefore God, who is a person at heart, kindly discloses that universal form, the virat-rupa, to a few fortunate individuals. What they see is then recorded in the Vedic scriptures, to be recreated for the listener sincerely interested in finding out the meaning to life. Arjuna saw the virat-rupa on the battlefield of Kurukshetra after having received sublime words of wisdom from Shri Krishna, the original form of the Supreme Lord. The same Krishna previously showed a version of that universal form to mother Yashoda in Vrindavana.

“How do I worship that universal manifestation? How do I worship God once I start to appreciate His creation?” The understanding of that vision naturally gives rise to humility, the release of feelings of pride and ego. As it is easy to get distracted with one’s personal affairs and thus think oneself to be the sole determining factor of personal fortunes, that shedding of ego is vital to a fruitful existence. The life is deemed perfect when at the time of death thoughts focus on the Supreme Lord. If that vision of the Supreme Godhead is of His universal form, which is a kind of impersonal aspect, then there is still a spiritual existence in the next life, but one lacking personal association of the divine.

If, on the other hand, the consciousness is fixed on the Supreme Person and His wonderful attributes, then the next residence is in a place where His association is available constantly. The same pursuit of enjoyment exists with that birth, except the results are permanent and blissful. The root cause of the shift is the inherent difference in desires. Rather than try to enjoy without God, who is the proprietor of every land, the devoted souls seek to please Krishna at every step, to see to it that He is happily engaged with His dearest servants, who can assume many different roles in this sacred land.

“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, Bg. 8.5)

The belief in the deliverance at the time of death for the Krishna conscious soul certainly requires some faith to be extended in the beginning, but then again Krishna has earned that faith based on the perfect teachings He presents in works like the Bhagavad-gita. He is so kind that if you should choose not to worship Him, He still gives you information of the universal form, which can be conceptualized right now, by every single person, regardless of their religious persuasion. Know that there is a sum collection of stuff in this world, and when sections of that stuff are used for finding the spiritual kingdom, the time on earth goes well spent.

In Closing:

“Everything around, including sun and moon too,

Revolves around me, everything that I do.”

 

When by pictures from outer space be awed,

Know that your former understanding seriously flawed.

 

Without you everything else still to move on,

In past people same issues dwelt upon.

 

If towards spirituality you are not so inclined,

At least you can keep universal vision in mind.

 

To His devotees Krishna better engagement gives,

In His company devoted souls always live.

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Smaller Than The Smallest

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 21, 2012

Lord Krishna“One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.9)

It is natural to be enchanted by things which are great. Especially if the object or ability in question is something that we can’t conceptualize, it will grab our attention. For instance, if we play a particular sport ourselves, if we should see someone else excel beyond imagination in it, we will be intrigued by their ability. During the course of our day-to-day dealings we develop frames of reference with respect to the life around us, so seeing things which surpass those reference points in magnitude will surely be considered unique and worthy of attention.

When the focus shifts to spiritual life, as is known to happen due to the guaranteed arrival of death, the same attraction towards greatness carries over. “If there is a God, He must be tremendous. He must be more amazing than anything else I have ever seen. Seeing this greatness will give evidence to His existence. Without visual proof, I can’t believe that He really exists.” This is only an immature understanding, however. The reason is that the nature of the world we live in is such that what we consider amazing really isn’t. Everything is just a gross collection of matter anyway, and for that matter to move and shift there must be a superior guiding force. The size of that force is infinitesimally small, so the truly amazing is that which can also be smaller than the smallest.

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me — the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

The turn towards spiritual life occurs when there is distress, inquisitiveness about higher truths, a desire to receive a benediction, or a thirst for information about that which we already know to be the Absolute Truth. The distress scenario is understandable, such as when there is a sudden death of a loved one. You see someone so frequently that you start to take their association for granted, but then one day they are no longer with you. “Where did they go? Why did they have to leave? I know that I’m going to die too, but why?” This automatically lessens the significance of the perceived greatness around us, for what’s the big deal if one can collect a large amount of matter for personal enjoyment if they have to quit their body eventually? In this way distress can also spark inquisitiveness about how everything works.

The desire to receive a benediction, such as the accumulation of wealth, is still rooted in ignorance, but at least you acknowledge that there is a higher authority. A personal benefit will last only for as long as your body is intact, and even then such a length of manifestation is only for rare cases. For instance, how many of the gifts we’ve sought out remained relevant in importance to us all the way up until the end of life? Most of the time the enjoyment is short-lived, for we find one toy we enjoy today but then move on to another one tomorrow.

If one actually knows that there is an Absolute Truth, finding out more about Him takes the focus away from greatness in terms of material collection and instead shifts the attention towards the true position of the Supreme Master and how He is able to be both larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. The initial inclination towards largeness is based on ignorance of the laws of the spiritual science. The ability in all creatures is the Supreme Soul, who lives side by side with the individual soul, or atma. It is the presence of the soul that indicates life, that gives meaning to a collection of matter. When the soul departs, we consider the body to be dead, but as long as it is there, the body is alive and capable of action.

When ignorant of these scientific facts, which are so nicely presented in the Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita, the focus stays on greatness. Someone who has a lot of money is considered superior because they don’t have to worry about where to eat and where to live. They also show how to receive the highest return on their work. One person is working all day in a factory, while another is working all day in an office, so why should the fruits of labor be different? If two people output the same amount of energy, the result of that output will determine which work is superior. As a higher salary indicates a greater result, the person earning it must be considered superior in both knowledge and usage of their time.

Lost in this analysis is the fact that the animals, which are considered less intelligent, put in far less effort to find the same enjoyment. Without working in a factory or an office, they find food, clothing and shelter. They can eat, sleep, mate and defend without major hassles. They are so worry free that they don’t have any mental or emotional burdens. Sure, they can’t enjoy high culture like arts and philosophy, but if the human being only desires gross enjoyment of the senses, then the animal has the superior existence.

Without knowledge of spirit, when hearing about God the initial demand is to see greatness. Yet such is the benevolence of the Supreme Master that He accounts for this tendency in man. If you should insist on seeing how great God is, using your own ignorance of the futility of material acquisition to form a flawed barometer, the Supreme Lord can show you His virat-rupa, or universal form. Think of the full collection of everything, the biggest truck that holds the most amount of stuff. This is what the virat-rupa can be likened to. It has the total collection of identifiable living entities and their material coverings. When you see this form, you have essentially seen it all.

Krishna showing universal formIf you don’t believe in God you can still imagine this form, as it certainly exists. Let’s say that we work inside of a factory. Just because we stay in a room the entire time doesn’t mean that there are not other areas to the building. The entire collection of rooms and objects that make up the factory does exist. Similarly, everything in the universe belongs to a singular collection, and that sum total is one way to think of God. The universal form is thus geared towards those who value greatness in terms of large collections. The Supreme Lord is wonderful because He is everything.

But the advanced transcendentalists don’t focus on the virat-rupa. That’s because to them there are aspects to the Supreme Lord which are more noteworthy. What significance does a collection of matter have anyway, especially if we are to quit our body at the end of life? The soul is the same when it is in an ant’s body as it is in a human’s body, so the greatness with respect to ability and possessions is relatively immaterial. Spiritual ability is more amazing, the fact that from one person so many fragments of spirit have come. In addition, there is an inherent relationship between the source and the expansions. There is a simultaneous oneness and difference between the Supreme Lord and the living entities.

More amazing than God’s universal manifestation is His ability to take on the tiniest form that runs through the courtyard in the home of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda. The devoted souls focus on this aspect of the Supreme Lord because it is more delightful, and it gives further insight into His true nature, of how He is a personality with qualities meant to provide pleasure. A learned yogi is not interested in maya, or that which is not Brahman. Brahman is truth; it is spirit. Maya is the matter around us which we mistake for our identity and source of happiness. Yet God, the origin of Brahman, associates with His maya when He appears on earth, all through His own will. That maya doesn’t affect Him the way it does us, and thus His personal forms are not considered to be part of the material energy. That ability to transcend duality is far more amazing than His ability to display the universal form, which is the height of greatness.

The transcendentalist who sees with the vision of devotional love marvels at God’s willingness to appear in Vrindavana and roam around as a small child, playing childish pranks and acting as one dependent on the elders, who love Him without conditions. Known as Krishna, this tiny bundle of joy is the creator of this and every other universe and is the Supersoul resting within every creature. Yet He appears from without periodically to delight those who will cherish His association. Though the residents of Vrindavana from time to time see Krishna’s greatness in terms of His ability to defeat powerful atheists and the lowest among mankind, they are more interested in getting to interact with Him, in basking in the sweetness of His vision and His play.

Lord KrishnaThis is a more advanced stage reserved for the more intelligent, for only in ignorance of the material and spiritual energies do we consider supremacy to relate to only the accumulation of matter. Only in that ignorance would we insist on seeing the universal form from God when such a manifestation already exists both theoretically and practically. The non-devoted will always ask God to show them how large He is, but the devotees are more amazed at how small the Lord can become, how His abilities travel in both directions. Likely the most important feature in Krishna is that He can accept an unlimited amount of service from an unlimited number of sons and daughters. Thus the valuable human effort that was previously directed at producing increased association with maya can be used to further develop an attachment to Krishna, which in turn brings His favor more and more. The highest favor He grants is His personal association, which manifests in the immediate vicinity in a manner that has nothing to do with gross matter.

With greatness in terms of ability and possessions, there is awe and reverence, but love will be difficult to offer in such circumstances. With Krishna the personal association is always in a manner conducive to the release of transcendental love, which is known as bhakti. In bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, Krishna’s name is all that is required, for from that sacred sound vibration the jewel of Vrindavana enters the mind and happily plays in front of the mental vision. God’s greatness is such that even within the mind He can delight, whereas the material energy even within our immediate external vision still causes so much pain. Turn your mind into Vrindavana by always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and let the naughty child of Yashoda play in its courtyard.

In Closing:

All that is, was and will be,

From God you’ll demand to see.

 

Greatness with matter is all that you know,

Aim is for possessions and abilities to grow.

 

But know that matter not your identity does represent,

For a higher purpose to a human form you were sent.

 

With proper understanding, amazing is the tall,

And also that which is unbelievably small.

 

In Yashoda’s courtyard God you’ll want to see playing,

For His devotees always delightful pastimes displaying.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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The Virat-Rupa

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 19, 2012

Krishna showing the universal form“This virat-rupa of the Lord was especially manifested, not for the benefit of Arjuna, but for that unintelligent class of men who accept anyone and everyone as an incarnation of the Lord and so mislead the general mass of people. For them, the indication is that one should ask the cheap incarnation to exhibit his virat-rupa and thus be established as an incarnation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.24 Purport)

Want to play a quick game of “stump yourself”? Take life’s most pressing questions and try to answer them. “My days repeat on end, and sometimes I am happy and sometimes I am sad, but what does it all mean? Why do we all get up in the morning to go to work and then spend a few hours in the night relaxing just so that we can repeat the same cycle again the next day? Also, why are we training our children to follow in this line? They too will one day be dumbfounded by all of this, especially the sudden departure of a close family member. What does it all mean?”

The answers to these questions and many more are given in a short, concise and yet complete discourse known as the Bhagavad-gita. The setting for that talk was quite fitting: a battlefield featuring an expert warrior who was hesitant. He wasn’t worried about how to win. Indeed, he was famous throughout the world for his fighting prowess. He was worried about what would happen should he emerge victorious. The fear of losing is common, so spending too much time on it isn’t necessary. If you’re afraid of failing in your tasks, you just try harder. But what about if you always get what you want? Will all your problems then be solved? Will you be happy?

For Arjuna, there would be no pleasure in ruling over a kingdom if victory required killing some of his friends and family fighting for the opposing side. This begs the question of what is the meaning of life. Why did Arjuna as a warrior have to fight? Why couldn’t he just sit back and do nothing, and let everything happen on its own? Why was victory necessary? The subsequent question and answer period flowed smoothly and reached the proper conclusion. This was because both teacher and student were highly qualified. The student had the required submissive attitude and the teacher the highest knowledge. The teacher is the very origin of knowledge, the birthplace of both spirit and matter.

Bhagavad-gitaFrom the Bhagavad-gita you get lessons on duty, morality, virtue, sin, vice, lust, greed, birth and death, the true identity of the individual, and most importantly what the individual’s relationship to the higher being is. Despite the profound wisdom found in the verses of this sacred work, the speaker, the supreme teacher, still didn’t want others to mistake Him to be a hack mental speculator. The truths passed on to Arjuna and future generations were not mentally concocted, nor did they arrive as a revelation to the speaker. He knew what He was talking about because He is the origin of knowledge; He is the smartest person based on His inherent characteristics.

Arjuna didn’t need convincing of this, but future generations might, so the speaker, Lord Krishna, decided to show His universal form. Known as the virat-rupa, this vision is not exposed to the ordinary eye. Arjuna had to be given the proper set of eyes in order to see this gigantic manifestation of the entire cosmos. Picture all the stuff in the world. If you could put it into one portrait, a single image, that would be the virat-rupa. We sort of get an idea of how this works when we see pictures of the earth taken from outer space. The details aren’t so clear, but nevertheless we are included in those images. We can’t see ourselves, but we know that we are there because we live on the earth. Now take that same wide angle image and expand it to the largest possible scope, with the details included, and you get the amazing virat-rupa.

“But you cannot see Me with your present eyes. Therefore I give to you divine eyes by which you can behold My mystic opulence.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.8)

The sight of the universal form is generally a requirement for the asuras, or gross materialists. This seems like a harsh thing to say, but in the absence of a connection to the divine consciousness, the tendency is to be amazed by opulence in terms of greatness. For instance, we give attention to people who have a lot of money. Their greatness comes from their net worth, what they have in the bank. Similarly, a movie star who gives a great performance, an athlete who holds many championship trophies, and an author who has written many popular books are all admired and honored because of their ability to do great things.

Krishna showing the universal form to ArjunaSince we have this tendency already, Krishna shows us that He is the greatest of the greatest. In terms of a collection of matter, nothing can be greater than the virat-rupa. “Why are only the asuras enamored by the universal form? Is there another perspective?” Krishna’s supremacy travels in both directions, the large and the small. The deluded consciousness that doesn’t see the difference between spirit and matter only thinks of greatness in terms of abundance, but the devotee knows that Krishna can be smaller than the smallest as well. While He is the virat-rupa, He is also the Supersoul within every creature. The tiny ant and the large elephant both have Krishna residing within them. Moreover, the fragments of spirit that emanate from Krishna are also infinitesimally small in size and yet can do great things on their own.

Hence the greatness we see around us lies not in the size of a collection of matter, but rather in the intrinsic properties of spirit, of which Krishna is the origin. More amazing than Krishna’s abilities to be large and small is His kindness bestowed upon the devoted souls. Even the non-devoted are beneficiaries of Krishna’s generosity, as they are allowed to continue in a state of ignorance for as long as they desire. The Bhagavad-gita is the discourse to consult when the choice is made in favor of true knowledge. The profound truths of that text cannot be found anywhere else, and though the knowledge should be good enough to accept on an initial extension of faith, the virat-rupa confirms that the speaker is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.

If you think about it, any person can offer some profound truths, receive adoration, and then claim to be God. Just read the Gita, accept some of the important facts, and then try to imitate Krishna. There are a few problems with this method, however. For starters, Krishna did not disclose His true identity to everyone. If you are the Supreme Lord, you have no need for adoration or reverential worship. Krishna’s favoritism to Arjuna was in the mood of friendship, which Arjuna preferred. The Bhagavad-gita, its profound truths, and the unveiling of the universal form were not for Arjuna’s direct benefit, though they were presented in that way. Arjuna was already in the devotional consciousness, so only through a temporary fall from the highest state of consciousness purposefully orchestrated by Krishna did the need for the discourse come about.

Lord KrishnaThe charlatan posing to be God can be exposed just from their claim. Nevertheless, if others require more proof they can insist on seeing the virat-rupa. If you really are God, you should be able to show everything, the entire universe of stuff, to any person. If not, you are just a pretender, a cheater who exploits the valuable gem of Vedic wisdom for your own benefit. Krishna gives the transcendental wisdom of the Gita and the accompanying discipline of bhakti-yoga for the benefit of the worthy recipients, knowing full well that the soul is happiest when engaged in divine service. The implementation of that discipline is fine tuned through the association of the saints, and the ultimate arbiter of success or failure is Shri Krishna Himself, who looks at sincerity more than ability. To let Him know that we’re serious about making the most out of the rare human birth, we can chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Know that the virat-rupa only remains an amazing vision for as long as the concept of duality exists, where we think that we are different from Krishna and that a large collection of matter is meaningful. In the devotional consciousness, the oneness shared in the relationship to the Supreme Lord – wherein He is the benevolent master and we are the humble servant – is considered more valuable, and the divine sport of the Supreme Personality, such as His roaming around Vrindavana as a naughty child who steals butter, delights the heart.

In Closing:

When ignorance pertaining to matter in Arjuna had grown,

To him the virat-rupa, universal manifestation, was shown.

 

The battlefield of Kurukshetra was for this the perfect setting,

For afraid of highest material success Arjuna was getting.

 

Fear over failure quite easy to analyze,

But more interesting worry over opulence’s rise.

 

Krishna gave talk and to settle any doubts,

Showed supreme vision that an equal is without.

 

If fake incarnations their stature try to grow,

Ask them also the universal form to show.

 

Devotee goes beyond gross matter’s collection,

Takes higher pleasure in Krishna contemplation.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Eliminating The Primary Fear

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 27, 2012

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.28)

There are many reasons to read the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God sung on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago. As revealed by the singer Himself, the same words were previously delivered many eons prior, at the beginning of creation. Therefore the Gita and its essential teachings are timeless, proving to be valuable in any time period and to any class of men. What’s more is that the primary fear, the root cause of distress, is addressed by this great work, proving that from a single set of teachings all other problems can be solved simultaneously.

What is that primary fear? What is the one thing that we worry about the most? Not surprisingly, it is death. Even if we have come to grips with our own eventual passing, there is still concern over the separation from friends and family members. “How will I live without them? I can’t believe that one day I will never see them again. ‘Never’ is such a frightening concept. Why can’t I have their association forever?” We know that this sadness is widespread based on the reaction to the passing of famous people, which also reveals how there is a lack of knowledge of the afterlife.

If true knowledge of the soul existed, there would be no reason to overly lament the passing of someone else. In reality, the lamentation is for ourselves, for we are now bereft of the departed’s company. But they continue to live on, as the spirit soul cannot be cut up, made wet, burned, or destroyed in any way.

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.23)

Lord KrishnaThere are many reasons to be averse to religious doctrines. For starters, so many religions are now organized and thus riddled with the common problems of politics, infighting, and the desire for personal aggrandizement, all of which are antithetical to a system of discipline aimed at connecting with the highest power. There is also the perceived notion that by hearing about and following religious dictates, one’s life will be stripped of fun. “No more sex life. No more eating meat. No more getting drunk. That all equals no fun.”

But if we look at the Gita, we see that the starting point is the primary fear in every person. Thus the teachings that follow the initial inquiries from the perplexed warrior are applicable to every single person. In one sense the Gita doesn’t have to be considered a religious text, as it presents the information of the spirit soul and its travels in a scientific way. There are methods of redress that can be adopted, with a starting hypothesis declared, and the worker can see for themselves with the results of the experiments whether or not the principles presented are valid.

The speaker of the Gita is the oldest and wisest person. He has knowledge of every single past incident, so He knows that the principles of sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man, never fail when properly implemented. He can also see into the future, so there is no need for Him to observe any future results to experiments. On the battlefield that day, He presented His spotless knowledge in a manner that was suitable to the listener in the immediate vicinity. In the process the information was also shared with countless future generations who would study the text under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master.

So what was the initial premise? What was the problem that sparked the talk? Arjuna was the leading fighter for a group of brothers known as the Pandavas. They had the rightful claim to the throne of Hastinapura, but their cousins unjustly usurped control. Now a war was to settle the matter, and right before hostilities were to start, Arjuna grew hesitant. He wasn’t worried about losing. It was just the opposite in fact; he was afraid of what would happen if his side won. So many people would die, and Arjuna wouldn’t like that. He didn’t want to live without the company of his well-wishers and relatives fighting for the other side, especially if he was the cause of their demise.

ArjunaDo Arjuna’s sentiments sound familiar? If they are alive today, are we not worried about the day when we will lose the association of our parents? Are we not afraid of losing a loved one either through a disease or a tragic accident? The answers Krishna gave to Arjuna allow for the individual spirit soul to be knowledgeable in its activities, and with that sword of knowledge one can slash away the ropes of doubt and illusion, which bind one in a trap of fear.

What were Krishna’s primary instructions? Through a carefully presented series of verses, the Gita speaks of the spirit soul and how it is ageless. That soul existed prior to the present manifestation of the body and it will exist beyond the current form. The soul is the essence of identity, and its disposition is what matters most, not where the body is currently situated. This holds true for the individual and also for every other person, including people for whom we hold affection.

The person must act, however, and to know how to act one should follow the bona fide religious principles as they are presented by sadhu, shastra, and guru. The sadhu is the saintly man, who is devoted to the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Shastra is scripture; it has the recorded instructions of the Supreme Lord and His representatives. The guru is the embodiment of devotion to God. He teaches by both precept and example. He can teach the humble student the meaning to the verses of shastra and how to practically apply the principles in everyday life.

After hearing from Krishna and accepting the information through discrimination, Arjuna decided to fight ahead, casting aside his previous doubt. Does this mean that Arjuna suddenly became callous to life and death? Did he discard his affection for his family members? If he did, isn’t the Gita kind of cold in its teaching? What is the difference, then, between a person who follows Krishna’s teachings and one who is so low in their moral standards that they kill other people at random, having no concern for them?

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.”  (Bg. 2.11)

Bhagavad-gita, As It IsThe ultimate lesson of the Gita is to follow Krishna’s instructions, for He is the Supreme Lord. The vague concept of God is the same Krishna but without the features painted. There are incarnations and expansions of Krishna as well, which show off even more features, as many as the living entity can enumerate. Since Krishna is the fountainhead of all energies, following His word, showing love to Him, is actually the only way to have universal brotherhood. The only way to properly love all of God’s creation is to first serve the original creator.

This means that instead of losing his affection for his family members, Arjuna actually learned to love them more. But his affection was no longer based off temporary features belonging to a perishable body. Arjuna knew that everyone is a spirit soul and that by following occupational duties with detachment there is no sin incurred with action. Also, only the bodies of the other soldiers would be destroyed; their souls would continue to live on. Thus with this perfect combination of knowledge Arjuna could continue on without carrying the burden of the primary fear in man.

That same level of detachment comes to one who follows devotion to Krishna. The wise chariot-driver who enlightened Arjuna on that day can be reached through His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which are non-different from Him. Chanting and hearing are the bedrock of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. That discipline transcends sectarian boundaries and religious institutions. Devotion to God is the inherent occupation of the soul and from it the fears we regularly encounter today can vanish, creating a legitimate loving sentiment that extends to all creatures.

In Closing:

The greatest fear is that life will end,

Then creates other fears when it extends.

 

Even if with my own mortality I have come to grips,

How will I survive when close friends their bodies quit?

 

Arjuna thought just like this, fate of others to dwell upon,

To dispel his doubts, Shri Krishna sung transcendental song.

 

Known as Bhagavad-gita, at start deals with end of life,

Then solves other issues, anger, vengeance and strife.

 

Like Arjuna from the principles of bhakti don’t deviate,

In the process primary fear of life eliminate.

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Problem Solving

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 29, 2012

Krishna and Arjuna“If one adopts the principles enunciated in Bhagavad-gita, he can make his life perfect and make a perfect solution to all the problems of life which arise out of the transient nature of material existence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

As soon as you introduce the property of transience, you get problems. For starters, since the objects in question are temporary in their manifestation, once this property is known fear will follow. Take a house for example. You purchase the house and then live comfortably within it, but you know that it can deteriorate. If you don’t keep up with the mortgage payments or if you don’t take care of the needed repairs on time, the comfortable dwelling can quickly become a thing of the past. The greatest fear of all is death, which is spared for no one. Since life is full of problems, the tendency towards looking for solutions is as natural as eating when you’re hungry. If you’re already looking for answers, why not head straight for the guidebook that in the beginning addresses life’s most difficult questions. From there find not only the solution to birth and death but also the tools necessary for dealing with any derived problem that should arise.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

Lord RamaAs the famous prince of the Raghu dynasty and divine incarnation of Godhead once said, for a mature human being there is no other fear than death. That fact puts everything into the right perspective. The fear over losing health insurance relates to death. The fear over becoming destitute, of having no money to provide for basic necessities, also is tied to death. This fear is prevalent in the mature human being and not so much in the child because of the difference in intelligence. The child has yet to be disappointed by life, and they haven’t learned that everything within it is temporary. The adult may have achieved all of their childhood dreams and still had to deal with so many problems thereafter. Therefore once there is maturity, the human being knows that they have nowhere left to go but down.

The fear of death is not just personal either. Often times it extends to family members. This is actually a very nice sentiment, revealing some of the properties of the essence of identity that are mentioned in the conversation documented in that famous guidebook. During economic downturns polling companies will try to get a pulse on the nation’s thoughts of the economy. A common answer given to questions about one’s personal financial situation is: “I’m doing okay, but I’m worried about my neighbor. I’m worried about the country. It seems like there are no jobs anywhere.” Though the human being knows that their destiny is death, somehow they tend to pity others, even those who are in better off positions.

Emotions like these consumed a hesitant warrior on the eve of a giant battle. Fortunately for him, his problems were solved by the one person who can remove all distresses. The warrior Arjuna was more than capable of doing away with his enemy; what he lacked was the desire to fight. He knew that he was in the right with respect to raising hostilities, but if following the righteous path meant killing so many well-wishers and family members on the opposing side, Arjuna would rather be wrong.

Lord Krishna, Arjuna’s chariot driver at the time, stepped in and dealt with this all-encompassing problem. Arjuna was worried about death, and not even his own. He was worried about what would happen to the opposing members should they perish in battle. In this way the talk that followed between Krishna and Arjuna became the most applicable guidebook, as its starting premise is something missed through mental speculation.

Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefieldIn any problem, the solution is found through proper knowledge of the relevant parties. Proper knowledge addresses the inner properties of the situation, knowing how the different entities operate. If there is a misidentification, how can a proper solution be found? Sure, we can consult a guidebook on how to fix our wireless internet connection or properly bake a cake, but these are small problems. The fact that everything around us is temporary ensures that little problems will never go away. Having to fill up gasoline is a tiny nuisance. Drive enough back and forth to work and eventually you’ll have to break your routine and head to the gas station for a fill up. Many of the problems occur at regular intervals. They are deemed problems because they are unwanted inconveniences of life.

Krishna did not start off dealing with smaller problems. He did not wish to dwell on Arjuna’s hesitancy or his misdirected affection for his family members right away. These were indeed the external causes to his decision to refrain from fighting, which introduced a new problem, but at the root of the issue was a misidentification. Arjuna was seeing something that is temporary and taking it to be permanent. The body is not our identity; the soul is. We know that the body is temporary because it changes all the time. We even know that it goes away at the end of life, like the fruit that falls off the tree. If death is already destined to happen, why should one lament it when following religious principles?

Let’s say that I have an iPad filled with movies and books. I know that if I watch a few movies, one after another, pretty soon the device will lose battery strength. A low battery indicates a problem, which is solved by a recharge. Should I be travelling on a trip where power outlets are not readily available, once the recharge is required, I can no longer use the device. Does this mean that I shouldn’t watch a single movie? If that is the case, why have the device? The battery will be drained regardless, so utilizing the device for its intended purpose is the much better course of action. We don’t despise the car because it will run out of gasoline if we drive it enough.

In a similar manner, the body is already destined for death, so lamenting over this fact was not wise for Arjuna. Whether he fought or didn’t fight, those family members would have to perish. By abiding by Krishna’s orders, which were not made up on the spot and which had been followed for thousands of years even at this time, Arjuna would not be doing anything wrong. He was a fighter by occupation, so it was his duty to protect the innocent. If he wasn’t up for the job, who would protect the property of the helpless citizens relying on the stronger government forces?

Krishna and ArjunaThe route of solving smaller problems first is unfortunately taken by governments as well. Famous politicians often believe that the government’s duty is to solve problems, when in fact its primary role is to defend property and life. Yet what are the distressed citizens to do? In a society where the information of the proper identification of the individual is absent, the real problems of life, namely birth, death, old age and disease, will never be solved. Without a solution to the death problem, there will be constant fear and hesitation. The poor person worries about food and clothing and the rich man is concerned with maintaining his standard of living up until the time of death. In either case there is fearing, which indicates that there are problems no matter where you are in life.

Krishna rightly revealed to Arjuna that the soul never dies, nor does it take birth. It is eternal. The consciousness of the living entity at the time of death determines the next destination. Therefore following the original guidebook that is the Vedas – which are explained nicely by the saints and by Krishna Himself in works like the Bhagavad-gita – leads to a proper consciousness at the time of death. Something temporary is the cause of distress, while something permanent is in line with the properties of the soul. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His internal energy are permanent, while the external energy of material nature is temporary. Identify with nature and you’ll be in constant trouble. Identify with spirit and you’ll have the tools to solve even trivial problems.

How does this work exactly? How does connecting with Krishna solve the problem of finding a job or putting food on the table? The Lord’s ultimate advice to Arjuna was to always think of Him and follow the duties prescribed for his order with detachment. “Don’t worry about the outcome; just follow God, thinking of Him in a loving mood.” This advice would serve Arjuna well, for he was firmly convinced of it by the teachings presented by Krishna, which would later on be known as the Bhagavad-gita, a work to be studied by scholars, inquisitive minds, and sincere spiritualists alike.

By knowing that I am spirit and that Krishna is Supreme Spirit, if I regularly chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, I stand a good chance of thinking about Him at the time of death. Krishna is eternal and lives in a permanent abode. A consciousness fixed on Him leads the individual to a residence in that imperishable home, where the only problem is: “How can I serve Krishna more?”

Radha KrishnaThrough regular chanting in the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the foremost desire of the individual is to stay connected with Krishna. The Lord bears the burden for success in this endeavor, and since He is Achyuta [one who never falls down], He never denies any sincere soul the success they deserve. The problems in life are automatically solved because from within as the chaitya guru and from without as the spiritual master Krishna gives hints on how to find the conditions ideal for continuing in devotion. With a purified consciousness, a commonly employed solution to problems is to just abandon the activity. Another method is to look for situations which bring as little distractions as possible. In Arjuna’s case, he took on the great burden of fighting in a war, but he was unattached to the result. As the supreme director standing right in front of him, Krishna made sure that Arjuna would emerge victorious, keeping his consciousness pure the whole time.

Find a solution to the root of all problems and you will have a way of dealing with the many issues that arise in a temporary existence. Birth and death are unavoidable for aspects of life that are temporary, but with a mind focused on the proper aim, detachment becomes rather easy to invoke. Association with the body is life’s biggest problem and connecting with Shri Krishna in a bond of love is the only solution.

In Closing:

Anger, sadness, depression and strife.

Form the many problems of life.

 

Try to initially tackle just the smaller,

In hopes that will address the larger.

 

But there is a better, more direct route,

Tackle issues of birth and death at their root.

 

Hesitant warrior Arjuna’s mind in a stir.

Went to his friend Shri Krishna for answers.

 

What followed was the most sacred talk,

Became Bhagavad-gita, path to success chalked.

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Making the Impossible Possible

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 15, 2012

Krishna pastimes“The activities of the Lord are always inconceivable to the tiny brain of the living entities. Nothing is impossible for the Supreme Lord, but all His actions are wonderful for us, and thus He is always beyond the range of our conceivable limits.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.16 Purport)

Perception has built in limitations. Based on what we witness ourselves, we get an idea of what is possible. Whatever does not fall within those limits goes into the “impossible” category. As the amount of experiences witnessed increases with time, the reservoir of the impossible gradually diminishes. Now just imagine someone who is older than everyone else, who has remained within their form since the beginning of time. Spirit is immutable, unchanging, undecaying and primeval, but this doesn’t mean that one’s experiences from thousands of years back are remembered. For the Supreme Person, however, there is no such thing as forgetfulness. Should it ever be shown, it is done so on purpose, to fit into the arrangement that fulfills a larger goal.

The Supreme Person’s impeccable memory holds information of every event ever to take place. Hence what is normally considered impossible for us is never out of the realm of possibility for the person who has seen it all. The oldest person’s ability to remember the complete past is revealed in the Bhagavad-gita, where in His original form the Supreme Personality of Godhead uncovers the amazing truth of the soul’s interminable existence to a hesitant yet sincere listener named Arjuna.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)

Lord KrishnaArjuna’s hesitancy was related to the bodily welfare of members of the opposing army. As a capable fighter himself, Arjuna was preparing to lead the war to end all wars, which was instigated by the rival party headed by Duryodhana. If someone should set fire to our house, hoping to kill us, what would our reaction be if we survived? Perhaps if we were really forgiving we’d think, “Oh okay, I’ll try to forget about it. Let me just live my life.” For Arjuna and his four brothers, they had followed this tact one too many times. What made matters worse was that they were the rightful heirs to the kingdom in Hastinapura, and they were all members of the royal/fighting order.

Thus it was Arjuna’s obligation to fight to take back what rightfully belonged to him. Nevertheless, as a kind-hearted soul, Arjuna was not comfortable with the cost that came with winning the war; he didn’t want to kill members of the opposing army for the purpose of ruling over a kingdom. Lord Krishna, Arjuna’s best friend and charioteer at the time, stepped in and offered profound words of wisdom, instructions which went way beyond war, family infighting, and life and death.

Krishna initially mildly rebuked Arjuna for showing such hesitancy. Can we imagine such a thing? Shouldn’t having compassion be a good thing? Are we not supposed to care for the wellbeing of our fellow man? For Arjuna the compassion was misplaced. In a world full of duality, sometimes even violence falls in line with piety. Violence to protect religious principles and to uphold the rule of law against those who openly violate it is the very definition of compassion.

There was also another issue with Arjuna’s thinking. The body is only temporary, and the spirit soul lives on despite whatever changes occur to its temporary covering. Thus to deviate from the righteous path in order to pay more concern to the bodily welfare of another living being is not very wise. In the system of varna and ashrama, or societal and spiritual divisions, the lowest class man is known as one who easily laments, a shudra. The lamentation occurs based on the body, which does not represent the identity of the individual.

ArjunaTo reinforce the idea of the eternal existence of the soul, Krishna told Arjuna that the instruction He was offering had also been given at the beginning of time to the sun-god, Vivasvan. Arjuna was a bit perplexed by this. Vivasvan was much older than Krishna at the time, so how could the Lord have provided that instruction? While the spirit soul is eternal, the consciousness it carries from one life to another doesn’t retain information completely. The disposition of the consciousness determines the next type of body received, but the experiences from the memory bank are wiped clean during the transformation. This explains why we consider so much to fall under the category of “impossible”.

Because of this forgetfulness, Arjuna thought it impossible for Krishna to have instructed the sun-god at the beginning of creation. Shri Krishna revealed that His type of spirit is not the same as any other kind. While the individual spirit soul resides within one body at a time, and thus has only a localized consciousness, Krishna is all-pervading. As the Supersoul He rests within everyone’s heart, remaining conscious of all of their actions. Not only is Krishna within everyone’s heart right now, but He has lived within every being of the past as well. Thus His knowledge of experiences is complete. He has seen it all, including what will happen in the future.

Because of Krishna’s supreme standing, His all-pervading consciousness, doing something as simple as entering a womb and saving a child from a fiery weapon is not that difficult. Based on our paltry knowledge, we think it is ridiculous for the womb to even be attacked by such a weapon. At the same time, however, people living in the past would have thought receiving the latest news from around the world on a device held within your pocket was impossible. How two people separated by a distance of thousands of miles could speak with each other as if they were in the same room also could not be understood. Yet just because no one had ever experienced these things didn’t mean that they weren’t possible.

Maharaja Parikshit was the posthumous child of Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu, who was killed in the ensuing battle of Kurukshetra. As Parikshit was the only descendant left of the great family, one of the opposing fighters, Ashvatthama, released a brahmastra weapon targeted for the embryo within the womb of Uttara, who was Abhimanyu’s wife. Lord Krishna, who protected Arjuna by providing him the proper instruction in a discourse to be subsequently known as the Bhagavad-gita, came to the rescue by amazingly entering Uttara’s womb and counteracting the brahmastra weapon. Thus Parikshit was saved by the Lord’s direct intervention.

Lord KrishnaIn the description of this event in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, a warning is given to the listeners to not be so amazed by Krishna’s actions. The idea is that just because we can’t picture something described in shastra, or scripture, doesn’t mean that it cannot happen. The young child has no idea how a baby is created and how it can come out of the womb, but after enough education and experience, the same ignorance one day dissipates. With the history of the creation, there is no way for us to experience everything that has previously occurred or even all that is happening now. This defect explains why the theories based on ignorance of the laws of spiritual science will always be flawed. Even if you took the wisest scientist on earth and gave them the opportunity to read through and understand every scientific experiment ever conducted, perfect knowledge would still be lacking, so inconceivable is the breadth and scope of this creation and its history.

Fortunately, we don’t need to acquire complete knowledge to meet the perfect end. The Vedas, which act as Shri Krishna’s mouthpiece, provide just enough information and instruction to help us live our lives the right way. The right way to do something ideally brings the successful outcome. Life has many different stages, along with variety in assumed material qualities. Therefore the scriptural recommendations aren’t always the same for every person, but the many pieces of information are like pearls strung on a thread that is devotion to Shri Krishna. Without the thread, the pearls cannot possibly bring one to the proper destination of the Lord’s abode.

The warning given to those who doubt the seemingly miraculous events described in shastra is reiterated in many other places as well. Goswami Tulsidas touches on it in the introductory verses to his Ramacharitamanasa, which is a poem that sings the glories and pastimes of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Krishna who roamed this earth during the Treta Yuga. The amazing feats of strength exhibited by Krishna and His avataras during their times on earth are but a small representation of the Supreme Lord’s true potency. Krishna is larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. He is the harshest punisher of the miscreants and the kindest friend to the pious. He creates the wall of darkness for those who desire to remain shut off from spiritual life, and He creates the light of knowledge that is the combination of sadhu, shastra and guru for the devotees wanting to relish the transcendental taste.

Those who take the descriptions in the Ramayana, Puranas and Bhagavad-gita to be mythology deep down don’t really think it so. How do we know this? Known fiction stories already receive so much patronage. The science fiction movies and books are very popular, so much so that people dress up as the characters and attend public showings and fan conventions. If this much attention goes to admitted fictional stories, why wouldn’t it also be there for the purported mythology of the Vedas?

“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.40)

Krishna and ArjunaIt is the content and the overall message of the Vedic literature that keeps it at another level. Those who don’t want to serve Krishna take His saving of Parikshit in the womb to be mythology on purpose, for otherwise they would have to believe in the eternal nature of the soul, its flight through reincarnation, and the inferiority of material association. The doubting soul is shut off from the transcendental sweetness that is Krishna’s association. During Krishna’s advent as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, there were nightly sankirtana events held in various homes. The participants would chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, in devotional ecstasy. Those who were inimical to Krishna, who had no attraction for reciting the holy name, were shut out from the fun.

But Mahaprabhu was so merciful that He would later spread the same sankirtana movement to everyone, even to people unwilling to hear it. The power of the holy name is such that it can soften the hardest heart. That which was previously thought to be impossible becomes possible through the divine association.

In Closing:

Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu the fighter brave,

In the womb him did Krishna really save?

Amazing events, how could they be?

With our own eyes these things we must see.

Leverage of experience learn to harness,

Impossible dwindles with more that we witness.

To God’s divine acts don’t apply the same test,

Doubts about His existence put to rest.

Chant holy name, for God and His name are one,

Soon watch impossible possible become.

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The Favorable Creator

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 14, 2012

Krishna and Arjuna“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

“I’m happy with my life and you’re happy with yours, so what’s the big deal then? Why do I need to worship God if I’m already satisfied from my work? I don’t feel that the days are repetitive, nor is my journey lacking exciting adventures. I love meeting new people, learning from their tendencies and acting out on my desires for happiness. This outlook has worked for me thus far, so why should I change anything? Yes, I understand that death will approach, but shouldn’t that inspire me to make the most out of my life right now? Everyone is pleased by doing what they like to do, so what if religion just isn’t for me?”

Lord KrishnaThe spiritualist inclined to worship the Supreme Lord in His personal form through regularly chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, visiting temples, worshiping the deity, reading authorized books about Him, spending hours taxing the brain to understand the highest truths of life and condition oneself for better appreciating the Supreme Lord’s association, and a host of other activities naturally wants to share their joy, the experience gathered from their efforts and their tasting of the fruit of existence, with others.

It’s easier to convince someone of a high philosophy when they are struggling, mentally disturbed over the unfair hand that life has dealt them. The most obvious time to turn to spiritual life is after the death of a friend or family member. That person, whose association we cherished, is no longer with us, taken away from the mind’s vision. No longer will we be able to share laughter with them, tell them how much we care about them, or hear their brilliant words of wisdom. “Why do they have to leave? Why does their absence hurt so much? When will my day come? If we all have to die, why do we have to live?”

The Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God and most concise and complete treatise on spirituality, explains these issues in the best way that the human being can understand them. Notice that we don’t say that the Bhagavad-gita is a Hindu scripture or a matter of faith that has to be subscribed to immediately. Some will certainly describe this tiny chapter from the famous Mahabharata in this way, but the speaker of the Gita, who is also revealed to be the original creator of all energies, the Supreme Lord Himself, does not present the work as a matter of faith. Rather, the backdrop for the teachings is the hesitation of a previously fearless and fully capable warrior. Not wanting to commence fighting against enemies who were deserving of punishment, this warrior was puzzled as to the role he was meant to play, what he was supposed to do, and if the prescribed action would be beneficial to him and the other members gathered on the battlefield that day.

“According to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.3)

Krishna's lotus feetShri Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, then explained the right course of action in a series of different ways, which were meant to apply to the different faiths that people adopt. Depending on the modes of material nature encasing the spirit soul at the time of birth, the living being adopts a certain kind of faith. Does this mean that the animals also have faith? What about the human beings such as children that don’t know anything? The default condition is ignorance, wherein one doesn’t even know the proper way to get their desired aim. As you steadily ascend the chain of knowledge, not only do the activities become purer, but so do the objectives.

Krishna presented the correct choice to Arjuna through the prism of the different modes of material nature. To begin, it was revealed that the spirit soul is the essence of identity, the force behind action. When we see a person who has just passed away, it’s a little strange to think that they are no longer living. The same body is there, but it is now considered lifeless. If only an injection could be made to give the person life again. That “thing” being injected is the spirit soul, which is the seed of existence. Its presence allows for growth, development and eventual decay. Its exit signals the end of the particular being’s existence, though the essence of identity continues to remain vibrant eternally. Since the soul is eternal, slaying someone else in a battle fought under bona fide religious principles does not bring sin to anyone. A sin is just an act that carries a negative consequence; hence sinful behavior should be avoided. One who knows the soul lives in the mode of goodness, which thus represents the kind of faith they adopt.

“That knowledge by which a different type of living entity is seen to be dwelling in different bodies is knowledge in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.21)

Those in the mode of passion, which is the default mode for the mature human being, think that actions lead to happiness and sadness, and that the body’s welfare is of paramount importance. In one sense, this is where Arjuna’s mind had temporarily drifted towards, for he was worried about killing his friends and family members fighting for the other side. In addition, he was afraid of the sin that would be incurred for having performed such an act. Krishna rightfully pointed out that even under Arjuna’s thinking fighting ahead would be the correct option. Arjuna was famous for being a courageous fighter. For one who has been previously honored, being dishonored is worse than being killed. Arjuna would be dishonored for fleeing the battlefield. He would forever be known as a coward. The opposing warriors would actually respect him more if he stood up and fought, even if he should fail.

“If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.26)

Krishna's fluteIn the mode of ignorance one doesn’t even know how to get the happiness they are looking for. Think of being amazed at a blazing fire and trying to touch it. Nothing good will come from the contact, either in the present or in the future; hence the act is part of ignorance. Oversleeping and excessive intoxication fall into the mode of ignorance because they further no beneficial end. If one applied the mode of ignorance to Arjuna’s situation, wherein the future benefits wouldn’t be thought about, that the living beings were just a collection of chemicals that dissipated at the time of death, fighting would still be the correct option. When there is birth, death is guaranteed. If we’re all going to die anyway, why not take the option of fighting? If everything ends with death, what is the use in worrying about the other side and what will happen to them, for they are going to die anyway?

From Krishna’s wonderful presentation we see that no matter what mode of material life a person finds themselves in, the prescriptions presented by those following the transcendental engagement of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, are worthwhile. If a person is happy living their material life and jumping from one venture to another, they still can’t produce anything on their own. The circumstances of their birth were determined by other intelligent beings, namely the mother and father. The protection afforded during the dependent childhood years were also out of the hands of the individual. So many factors contribute to the successes that we have, the falling into place of the right pieces. Therefore we should be thankful to at least the immediately identified benefactors.

That gratitude is already expressed to some degree. If this weren’t the case, there would be no such things as award shows and in-depth cover stories in magazines that hail a particular industry tycoon or famous actor. The penchant towards praise, offering service to others, is already there. It is said in the Gita that Krishna is the taste of water. He is the essence of so many things, such as the penances of the ascetics and the original fragrance of the earth. Just by picking up a flower and smelling it, one can think of Krishna. In odd cases where one is deeply mired in ignorance through regular intoxication, if one just thinks of their beloved wine and remembers that Krishna is its taste, some spiritual merits can accumulate.

And what is the harm in showing this appreciation? If you are well situated, what would it hurt you to chant the holy names, to recognize that a higher, more intelligent power makes sure that there is no randomness with the sun, moon and earthly elements? If there were only randomness, we could never predict weather patterns and what time the sun rises and sets. The essential elements in life are bountifully provided by the Supreme Lord. Those things that we need, like water, grains and milk, are in much higher supplies than those things that we don’t need, such as animal flesh, jewelry and industrial products. This proves that the Supreme Lord is the most benevolent, that everyone who is happy owes their pleasant condition to Him. Those who are distressed by the turn of events are also favored by the Supreme Lord, for the lack of material fortune helps to speed along the search for higher truths.

Those in the mode of pure goodness understand that the pleasant conditions in even material life are due to Shri Krishna’s favor. We could say that such opulence is due to the individual’s effort, but we know that some people work very hard and don’t succeed. Many businesses fail, and many people are dealt difficult hands in life, where they are forced to direct their attention to areas that they may not prefer. Therefore we know that human effort alone is not the cause of the results of action.

One area where effort does make a significant impact, however, is in the relationship to the Supreme Lord. His benevolence is diffused everywhere, but unless one makes a conscious effort to appreciate and take advantage of it for the right purposes, the most blissful meeting between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul cannot take place. Just as the results in other areas of life are not fully in our control, by taking to bhakti, turning one’s eyes towards the Supreme Lord in a mood of love, the forthcoming reactions are also out of our hands. Shri Krishna Himself takes full responsibility for the conditions of those who surrender to Him. This is what Arjuna would eventually do, fighting ahead without attachment and without desire for gain. He simply wanted to please Krishna, to remain connected with Him. Krishna took care of the rest.

“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.27)

Lord Krishna with RadharaniHow can we leave everything to Krishna, especially if we are not inclined towards spiritual life? The holy name is Krishna’s most potent incarnation in the modern age. Just sacrifice a little time each day to chant this name, taking it as the most important regulative practice, the one thing that shouldn’t be missed in the daily routine. From connecting with Krishna, one doesn’t even need to explicitly ascend the chain of knowledge. Bhakti-yoga is in pure goodness, so not only are the activities pure, but so is the ultimate objective, that of remaining in yoga, or pure connection with God. What reward can be better than this? Just as each new day brings a renewed vigor to glorify Krishna and remember Him, the future life for the spirit soul maintains the divine connection and enthusiasm for spiritual life. The life as we know it now is simply a demarcation of time, sort of like a splice from a timeline marked off by a start and stop point. The timeline continues regardless of our viewpoint. Whether we splice or not, the soul will continue to exist. In this sense life carries on after the present body perishes. Though the body goes away, that inherent link to Krishna does not for the surrendered soul fully immersed in bhakti.

In all cases, whether impoverished or extremely wealthy, there is always a reason to think of God, worship Him, honor Him and ask Him to remain within the consciousness. Such practices make every situation favorable. The mind can make or break our happiness very quickly, so combine a properly situated mind with the blessings of Krishna and what you’ll get is an endless engagement, one that never fails to provide pleasure.

In Closing:

“Listen to words about God should I why?

Already happily situated am I.

What need for religion when not in distress?

Through my own efforts happiness addressed.”

Worship of God is beneficial regardless,

Whether you’re in pain or constant happiness.

Devotion to Krishna fits every situation,

Know it from Bhagavad-gita’s flawless presentation.

Arjuna, powerful warrior distressed in mind,

From accepting Lord’s words victory to find.

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