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Dussehra 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 13, 2013

Lord Rama on chariot“Then a shower of flowers fell from the sky, covering Rama’s chariot, something difficult to accomplish and fascinating to see.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.28)

nipapātāntarikṣācca puṣpavṛṣṭistadā bhuvi |
kirantī raghavarathaṃ duravāpā manoharā ||

Ravana’s many men couldn’t do it. Though they were expert in black magic and thus capable of appearing on the scene one second and then disappearing the next, in this endeavor they were dismal failures. Ravana’s gigantic brother, who slept for the majority of the year, couldn’t do it, either. He had a tremendous mass, so much so that his accumulated food in the belly allowed him to hibernate for a long time. And then Ravana himself proved a failure. Despite his ten heads, twenty arms, famous fighting prowess, and boons granted from celestials, he was not able to accomplish this one task that was done very easily by the celestials. Though Ravana and his men used many arrows that were hard and swift, it was a shower of flowers that managed to finally cover Rama’s chariot. We celebrate that feat on the occasion of Dussehra.

In Sanskrit the material energy is known as maya. Its literal meaning is “that which is not,” though it is often paired with other words to give a more specific relation to an energy. In discussions pertaining to truth and reality, maya takes the side opposing God. Not exactly a devil, maya is that which is not directly God. Maya still comes from God, so she works at His behest. She acts through illusion, tricking others into thinking they are progressing along the proper path, when they actually aren’t.

Maya is very difficult to overcome. She pervades a land ruled over by the feminine expansion of God known as Durga, whose very name means “a fort that is difficult to cross over.” Without God’s help, maya cannot be overcome. Think of wanting that toy when you were younger. You wanted it very much. You cried and cried in the store so that your parents would buy it for you. Maybe you were a good kid so this didn’t happen to you, but surely the same was seen in another child.

The child can’t get the toy because the parents won’t buy it for them. This is a limiting factor. It is a barrier. The parents’ consent is absent, so the child is stymied in their desire. Another option is to take the toy from the store. Again, there is a barrier, this time in the form of the store managers, who keep an eye out for shoplifters. Even if the child successfully takes one toy that they want, they can’t continue the pattern of behavior forever. They can’t steal everything in life and get away with it.

Maya is so powerful that there is no conquering over her without sanction from a higher authority. That sanction only comes when the nature of the individual’s desire changes. When one no longer hankers after supremacy in the areas of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation, they have a chance of living within maya peacefully. In that surrendered state, if they then desire to glorify the controller of maya, the origin of matter and spirit, the situation completely reverses. Instead of the individual being stymied in their efforts, it is the Supreme Lord Himself who can do nothing to stop the success of the determined individual.

The occasion celebrated on Dussehra is a wonderful example of this. Ravana was the fiendish king of Lanka during a specific time period within the Treta Yuga, the second age of creation. He wanted world supremacy. He was close to having it. He got a wonderful kingdom of Lanka, full of real riches. Not just a bank balance that showed he had a lot of a paper currency stashed away somewhere, Ravana had possession of physical commodities such as gold and jewels. Wealth attracts women, and Ravana had a lot of them as well. He had so many beautiful princesses as wives. He had so much enjoyment on a regular basis, and the world feared him, not daring to take him on in battle.

Maya’s spell is illusion, so when one thinks they have overcome her, they sink even further. In this sense it is more auspicious to be a constant failure with respect to material desires. If you get too much success, you might start to think that you are God and that you can conquer everything, including death. In the Bible there is the proverb about how difficult it is for the rich person to reach the kingdom of God. The obvious meaning is that the wealthy person thinks they have succeeded in life without God’s help, and so they will have no desire to advance to the higher destination in the next life. Lord Krishna gives the more complete definition of the same concept in a verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, where He mentions how the wealth of misers causes them misery in the present life and brings them to hell after death.

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

Despite so much success, Ravana wanted more. He finally crossed the line when he stole a beautiful princess in secret while she was living in the wilderness with her husband and His younger brother. He had to steal her because she refused his advances. He also did the mission incognito because he was warned that the woman’s husband would destroy him in battle.

Lord RamaThough he carried out the act successfully, he would not get away with it. Ravana would eventually meet death at the hands of the beautiful princess’ husband, who was named Rama. From the Vedas we learn that Rama is God, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead. He is the controller of maya. Maya belongs to Him, so He is never under her influence. His physically manifest body is never composed of maya, either.

The controller of maya easily defeated the man most controlled by her in a fierce firefight, featuring swiftly-coursing arrows released from majestic bows. Each man fought from a chariot. Ravana’s goal was to cover Rama’s chariot. He did not succeed in this, but interestingly after Ravana’s defeat, the celestials from above were able to without a problem. They didn’t use arrows. Instead, they dropped a shower of flowers, and it completely covered Rama’s chariot.

Flowers are considered part of the material energy. If we want to cover our house with flowers, it might be a little difficult. We may succeed once, but only after great effort. At some point in trying to replicate the success we will meet with failure. When the same desire is applied to glorifying the Supreme Lord, there is never failure. Not even He can stop the success of the devotees, for it is in His nature to help the surrendered souls. He cannot act otherwise. If He did, He wouldn’t be God.

Flowers at Rama's feetOn the occasion of Dussehra we celebrate the defeat of Ravana at the hands of Rama, who was thus able to regain His beautiful wife Sita. We also celebrate the defeat of Rama’s chariot, which was covered by the flowers of devotion dropped by the celestials, who were ecstatic over His victory. That enchanting vision proves that there is only one way to overcome maya, and it is through pure and unmotivated love for the controller of maya.

In Closing:

Despite black magic, here and there to hover,

With arrows Rama’s chariot fiends not to cover,

 

Celestials did amazing feat with flowers,

From the sky came covering shower.

 

Maya’s illusion difficult to overcome,

Through God’s sanction only victory to come.

 

In devotion even Supreme Lord to conquer,

Ready on His devotees any gift to confer.

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Radhashtami 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 11, 2013

Radha-Krishna“Radha-Krishna is one. Radha-Krishna is Krishna and Krishna’s pleasure potency combined. When Krishna exhibits His pleasure potency, He appears to be two – Radha and Krishna. Otherwise, Radha and Krishna are one.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 8.282 Purport)

When we say that someone has eyes for someone else, it means that they are attracted to that person. A symptom of that attraction is the behavior of their eyes: it will only focus on the object of attraction. In the case of the perfection of the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this phrase has both symbolic and literal meaning. It is symbolic in the sense that the energy is certainly attracted to the Supreme Lord, taking the utmost pleasure in seeing Him. It is literal in the sense that during the energy’s pastimes on earth in her original form, the first thing she saw was her beloved. She didn’t see anything else prior, so her vision was never tainted. On the occasion of Radhashtami we celebrate her wonderful sight, a sense which is dedicated exclusively to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is a mantra now famous throughout the world due to the tireless work of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his many disciples. Taking the original Sanskrit definition, a mantra is a sequence of words to deliver the mind. To deliver implies that there is some danger. The mind is considered to be in perpetual danger when enveloped by maya. Maya is a Sanskrit word that can mean “that which is not.” It is actually just an energy, but based on how it is viewed it can create an illusion.

Light switchWhen the mind is suffering from the effects of maya, it needs to be rescued. Think of it like being stuck in a dark room and searching for the light switch. You have to be very careful in such a circumstance. If you walk too fast, you’ll likely bump into something. You could walk straight into a wall and cut your head open. So you keep your arms out, feeling for different objects, until you finally find the light switch. When the switch is flipped on, the light delivers you from the dangerous situation.

A mantra is like a light switch for the mind affected by maya. There are many mantras in the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. There are different ailments that afflict the mind, and so many mantras exist to give aid. The aforementioned mantra is known as the maha-mantra, or the great sequence of words to deliver the mind. This mantra provides the best light, so to speak. It clears the mind of the illusion of false proprietorship over temporary objects. It clears up for the mind the doubt over the existence of a supreme controller. It allows the mind to know that there is both a Supreme Lord and an energy, and that both are meant to work together.

In the maha-mantra, the words Krishna and Rama address the Supreme Lord. They are two words to describe the same person. Another word for Krishna is Hari. And that which belongs to Hari is known as Hare. Hare is thus the energy of God; it is always with Him. We are part of the “Hare,” but we have a choice in how to act. Think of it like children who can either listen to the parents or ignore them. The Hare addressed in the maha-mantra is the purest form of that energy; it never thinks to deviate from devotional service, which is the highest occupational duty for all spirit souls.

Hare has eyes only for Hari. This is evidenced in her behavior. God is the masculine, and His supreme energy is the feminine. Indeed, in the grand scheme we are all feminine, though in the temporary body we think we are masters over the predominated material energy. We are really under the control of the divine, who is thus masculine. When the feminine always seeks to meet the interests of the masculine, and the masculine fully reciprocates that affection, there is oneness. Thus in this sense there is no difference between Hari and Hare.

Hari and Hare live in the transcendental abode known as Goloka Vrindavana. In that special land everyone is Krishna conscious. No one is deluded by maya. There is no need for deliverance of the mind, for the mind is always engaged in serving Krishna to some capacity. There is a replica of that Vrindavana in the earthly realm, and from time to time both the energetic and the energy descend to show their divine play.

Shrimati RadharaniHare appears in her original form of Shrimati Radharani. The exact sequence of events pertaining to her appearance and pastimes varies, since she appears in millennium after millennium. Space and time are continuous, so all manifestations go through cycles of creation and destruction. Both Hari and Hare appear over and over again, and sometimes they don’t always do everything in the same way.

Their most recent appearances took place some five thousand years ago in the Vrindavana of this land. Radharani appeared as the daughter of King Vrishabhanu and his wife Kirtida. Everyone was overjoyed when she was born, for she was amazingly beautiful. As was custom, so many great personalities came to the house to see her, wishing the parents well. There was one slight problem, though. Radharani had yet to open her eyes. The parents were afraid that she was blind.

One time they called over Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda, who were the parents of Shri Krishna, Radharani’s beloved. It is said that while the parents were talking in another room, Krishna crawled up to the bed on which Radharani was and touched her eyes. Upon this touch, she immediately opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was Krishna. Thus we know the real meaning behind her “eye problem”: she would not look at anything without first seeing Krishna. This is the mood of the pure devotee. They would rather be blind than be forced to see so many things that aren’t fully representative of their beloved Supreme Lord. In another version of the same event, Krishna and Radharani are both sitting on the lap of mother Yashoda. Krishna then touches her eyes and she opens them for the first time, seeing Him.

Radha and KrishnaThe conditioned souls have eyes for so many things. We love one person today, and the next our eye wanders elsewhere. Today we crave a certain food dish, and tomorrow we want something else. This constant change is guaranteed to continue for as long as one is in maya, for the very definition of maya is that which is not God. Of course everything is ultimately God, but the material energy is separated from Him. It is His energy, but the inferior variety. The eyes of the person who is pure in consciousness stay fixed on God once they find Him. On Radhashtami we celebrate the beloved of Shri Krishna. She is the queen of Goloka and has eyes only for the most attractive person in the world.

In Closing:

To not look elsewhere she chose,

New child to keep her eyes closed.

 

That is until Yashoda’s boy came,

All-attractive, of Krishna the name.

 

Touched her eyes when upon bed to reach,

That eyes only for Krishna she did teach.

 

Supremely auspicious is Radhashtami day,

Name of beloved of Krishna we happily say.

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Krishna Janmashtami 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 27, 2013

Krishna Janmashtami“From the movement of the different kinds of ornaments on their bodies, they were looking still more beautiful. In this way, they all reached the house of Nanda-Yashoda and blessed the child: ‘Dear child, You live long just to protect us.’ While they were blessing child Krishna in this way, they offered a mixture of turmeric powder with oil, yogurt, milk and water. They not only sprinkled this mixture on the body of child Krishna but on all other persons who were present there.” (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 5)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described in the Vedas as purana-purusham. This means that He is the oldest purusha, or person. Purusha is the real definition of a person. It speaks to the spiritual life force, which dominates over the inanimate matter, which is prakriti. As He is the best purusha, the Supreme Lord is also described as purushottama. He is the adi-purusham as well, which is the original person. Since He is the oldest and original person, through basic deduction we see that He lives the longest. On the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami, we remember how He appeared on earth many thousands of years ago and answered the prayers of the gopis, who wished that He would live long to protect them.

The boy was named Krishna because He was all-attractive. He was considered the son of mother Yashoda in Vrindavana, but actually He appeared first from the womb of mother Devaki, who at the time was locked up in a prison cell in Mathura with her husband Vasudeva. Her child is the origin of matter and spirit, so He never actually takes birth. His birth from the womb of Devaki is more accurately described as an appearance. The sun rises in the morning and this is the dawn of a new day. There is a birth, but the sun has not come into existence suddenly. The morning is merely the changing of times within a specific frame of reference.

Krishna's birth in prison cellIn the same way, Krishna’s birth is an appearance before our very eyes. He is actually all around us all the time. In His unmanifest form, He pervades the entire creation. The very fact that there is an existence means that Krishna is around in some capacity. He is the life of all existences. His physical appearance gives life to the devoted souls, who only want to serve Him in lifetime after lifetime.

Vasudeva transferred the child to Vrindavana in the middle of the night. He did so at the child’s direction, for Krishna briefly showed Himself to be the Supreme Lord in His form of Narayana. The vision temporarily allayed the fears of the parents, as they were afraid of what the king of Mathura, Kamsa, might do if he should come to learn that Devaki had given birth to an eighth child. Previously a prophecy had informed Kamsa that his sister Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. Therefore the fiendish king was in perpetual fear, constantly worried over his impending death, which would come to him directly from the hand of God.

Vasudeva transporting Krishna across the Yamuna riverKrishna was transported to Gokula in Vrindavana, where Nanda Maharaja was the king. His wife Yashoda was pregnant at the time, but due to the intensity of labor, she was not sure whether a girl or boy was born to her. The girl who came from her womb was transferred to Mathura in place of Krishna. The next morning, all the well-wishers came to greet the new child. The priests of the community performed all the auspicious rites, and the neighboring cowherd women dressed themselves nicely for having their first look at the child.

They prayed that the child would live long and protect them. The prayer is understandable, given the fact that the elders know that their time on earth is limited. Their abilities are limited as well. The parents can’t protect the child forever. Eventually the roles will switch; the child will have to protect the elderly parents. The gopis prayed that Yashoda’s boy would live very long and protect them.

This prayer was a little different in nature than the typical hope for good fortune for a new child. Since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna is full in six opulences. Thus His protection is not limited to bodily maintenance through strength. He would indeed protect Vrindavana using that strength. It was exhibited while within the body of a small child. As an infant, He protected the residents from a vicious whirlwind demon, a demon in the form of a bull, and a witch who masked her shape at will. When even the king of heaven, who usually is the one who protects the innocent, turned inimical for a brief period, Krishna lifted up a massive hill and held it over His head. Thus the prayers of the gopis didn’t take long to get answered.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillKrishna lives the longest too, which means that His protection is ever-lasting. A few years after His appearance, Krishna had to leave for Mathura to deal with Kamsa and handle other affairs. Though He was no longer in Vrindavana, His presence was still felt. The memories of His pastimes remained with the residents. The gopis received protection from their beloved Krishna by remembering Him.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.8“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

His presence in memory lasts for as long as the individual can continue to think. Memory of Krishna falls into the broader category of consciousness, and as Krishna Himself explains in the Bhagavad-gita, this consciousness carries over from lifetime to lifetime. It travels with the spirit soul to the next body, like the air carrying aromas. This means that the protection wished for by the gopis stayed with them in spite of where Krishna went.

Based on the ability to celebrate the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami, we know that Krishna’s protection continues to this day. He is brought into the memory by always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The gopis wanted only devotional service in life; they had no desire for wealth, fame, beauty, or intelligence. Krishna protected their foremost desire. Since He is the oldest and original person, that protection is guaranteed to remain for whosoever desires it.

In Closing:

At Yashoda’s son to have first look,

Trip to her house gopis took.

 

Decorated nicely, flowers in their hair,

At all-attractive Shri Krishna to stare.

 

Asked that He protection to give,

With all-attractiveness long to live.

 

Desires of devoted souls always met.

From Janmashtami same protection get.

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Narasimha Chaturdashi 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 23, 2013

DSC04354“Hiranyakashipu had been exactly like a fever of meningitis in the head of the three worlds. Thus when the wives of the demigods in the heavenly planets saw that the great demon had been killed by the personal hands of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their faces blossomed in great joy. The wives of the demigods again and again showered flowers from heaven upon Lord Narasimhadeva like rain.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.35)

Imagine if it were a crime to love. The crime applied at the most basic level; loving in thought was enough to qualify. No other action would be needed to break the law. Then imagine that the punishment for the crime was death, by any means. Whatever it would take to end the life of the culprit would be sanctioned by the government. Imagine, then, that the government made this the top priority, the one crime more than any other that needed to be prosecuted. Such a circumstance seems unthinkable, but it most certainly existed a long time ago in the kingdom ruled by Hiranyakashipu. On the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi, we celebrate the time when the Supreme Lord descended to earth to prove to one and all that loving Him is never punishable. Rather, the one who tries to stop such a love from being practiced becomes worthy of the harshest punishment handed down in the fiercest manner.

If you look at the popular causes taken up by celebrities and the philanthropically inclined, they all somehow involve love. If there is a specific disease that results from people having sexual relations, which is deemed the only kind of love by those who are unaware of the spiritual science, then all efforts are taken to eradicate that disease. No thought is given to abstinence or refraining from that particular activity. Why would you want to do that, as love is the reason for living?

Then, if there is any kind of obstacle made in the profession of love, the same activism is there. Never mind that nature’s law dictates something else with respect to relationships. Also, never mind that the piece of paper from the government doesn’t interfere with the relationship in any way. It also doesn’t make the relationship. I may be very good friends with someone else, but do I need the government to acknowledge that friendship? The prohibition in this case has no bearing on the relationship, and so my activism to get the government to change their mind is really pointless.

Real love is known as prema in Sanskrit. It can only be directed at God because God is the only person who can accept an unending amount of love offered under any circumstance. I can’t love my cat when I am hundreds of miles away from it. While I am at work, and my cat is at home, there is nothing I can do to offer love. My thinking of the cat isn’t as good as being with it. Watching my cat on webcams installed in the home also isn’t as good as being there. The same holds true for any relationship.

In dealings with a paramour, if I say “I love you” too quickly, I could ruin the relationship. If I offer too many flowers, write too many notes, or make too many spontaneous gestures, the corresponding party could leave me for someone else. Thus there is a game that must be played, where the love is withheld to some degree. The fact that the other party can voluntarily opt out of the relationship proves that the love I offer is not supreme. It has conditions.

Prahlada and NarasimhaIn love for God, there are no conditions. Not even the most powerful person in the world pitted against the least powerful can do anything to stop the love. Narasimhadeva appeared on this earth to confirm this fact. His devotee, Prahlada Maharaja, was only five years old at the time. Due to the good fortune of his mother having met Narada Muni when she was pregnant with child, Prahlada was born a devotee. He didn’t want to chase after illusory happiness. He didn’t want to just play the day away. Rather, he knew that loving God is the real business of the spirit soul, the essence of identity. He was so infused with devotional feelings that he couldn’t speak of anything else. Whether in recess with his fellow classmates or sitting on the lap of his father discussing the day at school, Prahlada could only praise Vishnu, which is a name for God given in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India.

Hiranyakashipu was the king. He was a fierce ruler too. Everyone in the world was afraid of him. Even the worst dictators have a soft spot for their family members. Such was the case with Hiranyakashipu, at least in the beginning. He was affectionate towards his son. He wanted Prahlada to follow in his footsteps. “Let my child grow up to be a great ruler, to be feared around the world like I am. Let him learn from the spiritual guides of the royal court the art of ruling. Let him learn the different methods of diplomacy and how to rule over subjects.”

Unfortunately for the king, Prahlada was only interested in Vishnu. The spiritual guides were dumbfounded by this. They hadn’t taught Prahlada anything about Vishnu. Though the Supreme Lord is the origin of matter and spirit, the strength of the strong, the giver of religious principles and the system of right and wrong, these teachers tried their best to keep Vishnu out of their teachings. Prahlada didn’t need them, though. He remembered what he heard while in the womb of his mother. Just a moment’s association with someone who loves God can thus do so much. Narada Muni gave Prahlada all the information he needed.

An outside observer can say that Prahlada was sort of a “bible thumper” or “religious zealot.” “He was a little too religious for such a young age.” In actuality, he was simply loving someone else. He didn’t ask for sanction from his father. He didn’t ask anyone else to support his relationship. He simply loved God and didn’t hold back in talking about it. This was the number one crime in the community. In the present day there are so many laws on the books that nobody knows all of them. A nation can pass a piece of legislation that is intended to overhaul the healthcare system, and no one in the country, including the lawmakers, knows what’s in the bill. In this way so many laws get ignored, by both the citizens and the administrators. The violators also don’t get punished, especially if they belong to an ethnic group that can be bought off for votes in future elections.

Prahlada thrown off a cliffUnfortunately in that kingdom, Prahlada’s crime was too egregious to be ignored. Hiranyakashipu made sure of it. He tried to kill his son in so many ways. Killing a child within the womb is a little easier in modern times because no one really sees what happens. Meat eating is very commonplace for the same reason; no one really sees the violence. In Prahlada’s case, everyone could see what was going on. The father had his attendants attack the boy with deadly weapons. That didn’t work. He had the boy thrown off of a high cliff. That didn’t work. He had the boy put into a raging fire. That didn’t work. He had the boy thrown into a pit of snakes. That didn’t work.

“My son Prahlada, you rascal, you know that when I am angry all the planets of the three worlds tremble, along with their chief rulers. By whose power has a rascal like you become so impudent that you appear fearless and overstep my power to rule you?” (Hiranyakashipu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.6)

Nothing worked, and so the father tried to have the teachers get the boy’s mind right. When that didn’t work, Hiranyakashipu was set on killing the boy himself, but he first wanted some information. He wanted to know the source of his son’s amazing strength. Hiranyakashipu received his strength from worshiping various demigods. This is worship in the mode of passion, and so it is somewhat religious but not really. The intent was bad all along, indicated by the king’s great contempt for the Supreme Lord. The source of Prahlada’s strength was the same as it is in anyone else. The boy informed his father of this. The father then sarcastically asked if God was in the pillar next to them, as he was unable to see any higher power. Rising up in anger, Hiranyakashipu struck the pillar with his fist.

NarasimhadevaThe Supreme Lord then appeared out of the pillar. He was in a ferocious form, one fit for the occasion. Hiranyakashipu had previously been granted so many benedictions that made him immune from different kinds of attack. He was also safe in certain areas and time periods during the day. Narasimhadeva, a half man/half lion, killed the king in such a way that none of the previous boons were violated.

Prahlada’s crime indeed wasn’t one. Hiranyakashipu’s trying to stop Prahlada’s devotion in any possible way was actually the worst crime, one that the Supreme Lord Himself wanted to punish. He always comes to the rescue of those who are devoted to Him. Therefore the wise souls always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

In a kingdom from a long ago time,

To love God in just thought was a crime.

 

Devotion was in child a precious gift,

But father to offer punishment swift.

 

Though of flesh and blood of his own,

With snakes, in fire, off high cliff son was thrown.

 

Finally, to Prahlada’s rescue the Lord came,

Half-man/half-lion, of Narasimha the name.

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Rama Navami 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 19, 2013

Rama lifting the bow“As antaryami, Shri Rama knows everyone’s maladies. Raising the bow, in curiosity He is drawing the string to His ear.” (Janaki Mangala, 103)

antarajāmī rāma marama saba jāneu |
dhanu caḍhāi kautukahiṃ kāna lagi tāneu ||

Sugriva put all his faith in this one person and got everything he could want in return. Vibhishana trusted the same person and was also duly rewarded. Shabari, the boatman named Kevata, the residents of Ayodhya, King Janaka and so many others also invested full faith in the same man and were not disappointed. One time Janaka’s daughter was frantic in fear over the uncertainty of her future, over how she might miss the chance to spend the rest of her life with someone very special. Not surprisingly, faith was extended in the same person, who can hear and answer innumerable simultaneous prayers. He responded to her faith by effortlessly lifting up an object of a massive weight. On the day of Rama Navami, we celebrate His name, fame and glories.

It’s nice to have faith in someone else to do something extraordinary. It’s like knowing that the job will get done despite all the formidable obstacles present. If you can’t solve a math problem, you can at least say: “I may not be able to do it, but my friend can. He’s so smart. He’s smarter than all of you people. Watch when he sees this equation. He will put everything together in mere moments, making fools of us all.” We have the same mentality with pretty much any issue of ability, such as with alluring members of the opposite sex, making sales, cooking, and fixing cars.

Lord RamaThe Supreme Lord is the greatest at everything, so He can make any difficult task look ridiculously easy. And the exhibition of this ability is especially pleasing to those who have faith in Him. We all invest faith, regardless of whether we are religious or not. Thus religion’s uniqueness cannot come from the issue of faith.  Indeed, to think of religion only in terms of faith is a fallacy, the viewpoint of those whose knowledge has not yet been fully revealed by the Truth. We put faith in politicians, who are known to lie and disappoint us. We put faith in sports teams, who are guaranteed to lose many times over. We put faith in our friends and family, but they, like us, are destined to die.

Faith in the higher power may be invested with a similar attitude, but the difference is that the higher power never fails to deliver. In the material land there is competition over worship. The statists want the citizens to worship them instead of God:

“Put your faith in us. Why worship an imaginary figure? Tell you what, let’s take these two plants. Give one of them to us and the other leave to God. See what happens in a few weeks. Our plant will come out just fine and the one left to God will wither and die. This proves that there is no God. Either that or He doesn’t answer all of your prayers. We’ll listen to you, while He, if He exists at all, won’t.”

If faith in Him is dependent on His ability to deliver on orders, like an online retail outlet, then the faith will not last very long. Since not all orders are fulfilled, one thinks that the faith is meaningless. But in actuality sometimes not getting what we want is better for us. In fact, this is the case many times. The faith in ordinary living entities, including the godless regimes, is different because the object worshiped is not capable of doing everything. They cannot even hear all of the faith extended to them, so how could they possibly respond to everything?

Sita and her friends watching the contestWhen the faith is extended in earnest, where there is no desire for personal gain, only for the ability to serve Him more, the Supreme Lord reciprocates in the best possible way. One time there was a contest in the kingdom of Janakpur. It related to strength. A bow of a massive weight lay in the middle of an arena. It’s formidability was evident just upon sight, and its legendary stature increased as each prince approached it and failed to even move it. It soon became the greatest obstacle to the hopes of a beautiful princess.

Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, saw Shri Rama at the assembly and wanted Him as a husband. This was an ancient time, the Treta Yuga, which is the second of the four time periods of creation. A wife in such a time was a faithful servant. Sita was especially pious since she was the daughter of Janaka, who was the host of the ceremony. So in hoping to have Rama as a husband, she desperately desired the opportunity to serve Him without motivation and without interruption. Indeed, through her actions after marriage she would prove to be the most chaste wife, an example of fidelity for all relationships based on trust.

Rama is God. He is the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as a warrior prince. The Supreme Lord is all-pervading. Some part of Him is always visible. If you can’t see His personal form, you can at least see His influence. One who cannot perceive the influence thinks that He doesn’t exist. In such cases, especially when there is a decline of religious practice and a sharp increase in irreligion, the Lord manifests in a personal form. Even then there is doubt over His existence, but those who have a pure heart can see Him and take further pleasure in attachment to Him. Rama is one such personal manifestation of Godhead. His body is spiritual. He doesn’t take birth, though He emerges from the womb of Queen Kausalya, one of the beloved queens of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya.

Mother Kausalya with RamaWhoever would first lift the bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. Sita hoped that Rama would win, but she wasn’t sure of the outcome. Think of the pleasure you feel when the person you put faith in comes in to save the day. Now just imagine how much greater that pleasure is when you are not as sure of the same person getting the job done. This is sort of how the devotees feel when the Supreme Lord swoops in to save the day. On this occasion, the bow was the great obstacle, but as Goswami Tulsidas describes in his Janaki Mangala, Rama took the bow in His hands and lifted it up as if it were child’s play.

The toys for a child are not complex. They are not that heavy, either. This way the child can curiously look at the toy and do with it as they please. This bow was treated in the same way by Rama. “Hmm, what’s this? This bow looks interesting. Let me pick it up to get a further look. Hmm, there‘s a string on here. I wonder what happens if I draw this string back to my ear.” And just as the child may take their curiosity too far from time to time, Shri Rama drew the string back so far that the bow snapped in half. That object which was too heavy for even the mightiest of princes to move was easily broken by the beautiful and youthful Shri Rama.

Rama's army building a bridge with rocksRama had many similar pastimes. During a later time, after Sita would be kidnapped by the Rakshasa fiend named Ravana, it looked like Rama would have difficulty crossing over an ocean with His army. Yet through His same curiosity, triggered by the same faith extended in Him by the eager monkey-army from Kishkindha, rocks were able to float. Instead of sinking, they stayed on the surface of the water, allowing for a bridge to be made. Rama also once playfully defeated 14,000 of the greatest fighters in the world. They came to attack Him, His younger brother Lakshmana and Sita while they were in the forest. Again, all faith was put in Rama, and He responded by singlehandedly defeating the fiends sent from Lanka.

Sugriva was troubled by his brother Vali, who had driven him out of his kingdom. Vibhishana was also driven out of his kingdom by his brother. Bharata, one of Rama’s younger brothers, had the guilt of knowing that his mother had caused Rama to leave the kingdom for fourteen years, when the kingdom rightfully belonged to Rama. In all such cases, the faith extended in Rama was rewarded with the removal of the obstacles. At other times, Rama descends in different forms, but He still shows the same ability to make child’s play of a difficult situation. As Shri Krishna, He turned a massive hill into a pastime umbrella. As Lord Varaha, He lifted the earth planet with ease and saved it from a deluge. He invests similar potency in His devotees. Shri Hanuman, Rama’s greatest servant, once lifted a mountain when he was in panic over saving Lakshmana.

Hanuman lifting a mountainSimilarly, devotees of today are invested with the ability to deliver Rama’s presence through the simple sound vibration of: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Faith in these words always delivers the best result, as Shri Rama personally arrives to show His strength. On Rama Navami, we remember that king of kings who once curiously lifted the famous bow of Shiva to make the beautiful Janaki His wife.

In Closing:

Real faith in Rama the only way,

Who made lifting of bow child’s play.

 

When over future put into fear’s state,

In prince of Ayodhya Janaki put all faith.

 

Gave to her the most desired gift,

When bow in His hands in air to lift.

 

Faith so many others have given the same,

Bring Him to the rescue by saying His name.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Gaura Purnima 2013

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 25, 2013

Lord Chaitanya and associates“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.32)

Shrimad Bhagavatam

Young children instinctively know that they are not supposed to play the day away in front of the television. If they indulge in video games for too long, they will get yelled at by their parents. In the odd chance that the admonishment is absent, it means that the parents are either not around or not doing their job. Later on in life, the husband hears similar harsh words if he shirks his responsibilities in favor of “fun time.” Though the culprits have reason to feel guilty in these situations, the same does not apply with genuine spiritual life. In chanting the holy names, in reading books describing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in thinking of the sacrifices made by His servants, there is no detriment to endless engagement. Keenly aware of this, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu freely distributed the wonderful gift of bhakti-yoga to as many people as possible, teaching His disciples the same art so as to further increase the scope of distribution. Occasions such as Gaura Purnima allow us to reflect on that wonderful benevolence.

NintendoThe rebuke from the parents is understandable. They see us as young children wasting the day away in front of the television. They are in a position of authority. They understand what it takes to make sure there is enough money to have a television and video games in the first place. They know that if they followed the behavior of the children, there wouldn’t be anyone responsible around. Therefore just seeing us playing these games for an extended period can get them angry.

“Enough already. You’ve been playing for too long. Did you do your homework? If not, then do it right now. If you did it already, then read a book. Why don’t you read more? Did you know that such and such’s son scored very high on that standardized exam? You can do better, but you don’t apply yourself. Also, have you cleaned your room? I walked in there yesterday and it was a mess. You need to be more responsible. I shouldn’t have to tell you to do these things. You should know on your own.”

It is natural for a husband to see his friends less frequently after he gets married. Instead of being able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, he now has to check with someone else first. As soon as you have to ask permission, you’re inviting the chance of rejection. And if you don’t ask permission and just act unilaterally, you have to face the angry paramour later on.

“I can’t believe you spent the whole night at your friend’s place. What were you guys doing over there? There is a ton of laundry piled up here, and we still have dishes in the sink. You were supposed to call someone to fix that leak in the roof. How can you be so irresponsible? And you want to go on a road trip with your friends next week? So I will be left here all alone with the kids? No way, pal. If you do go, you might want to call here before you come back. You might want to check to see if you still have a wife.”

If all we have to rely on is mental speculation, we may eventually come to the conclusion that life is about love. The purpose to an existence is to serve someone else. Service is what makes us happiest. We can spin around the wheel of existence for a large number of times in order to eventually reach this conclusion, or we can get it immediately from the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. Since they are so old, they are not taught in the same way in each time period. For instance, people from thousands of years ago had different frames of reference, so key concepts were explained to them in a particular way.

In the modern age, the situation is considered so degraded that the primary and most effective method of instruction is the simple sound vibration representation of the Absolute Truth. This should make sense if we think about it. Just the mere mention of religion draws scowls and frowns today. As sense gratification in fruitive activity is the ultimate aim of the non-religious person, if the same is taught within the bounds of spiritual life, the instruction is not taken seriously. “Why should I have to pray for stuff when others already get everything without praying? Why should I surrender to someone just so that I won’t go to hell in the afterlife? It doesn’t make sense for religion to be based on fear.”

maha-mantraThe holy name, of which there are many, describes the Supreme Absolute Truth. In the Vedas the name Krishna is considered the best. It means “all-attractive.” Something that is attractive is pleasing to others. There is no other purpose to attraction. In fact, something cannot be attractive unless it invites others into association. Right away, we see that saying the name Krishna creates some sort of relationship. The person identified is attractive, and so is the name. Rama is another holy name, and it means the source of all-pleasure and also one who gives pleasure to others with His association. Hare is the energy belonging to Krishna or Rama.

The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the best way to hear and create the holy names. It is the best method for being introduced to genuine spiritual life. It is the best way for remaining connected in a loving relationship to the Absolute Truth. And it is also the best way to find enjoyment when on the highest platform of consciousness.

The parent is superior because they serve in a more refined manner. They are wiser than the children, and in that wisdom they know how to serve their dependents. The person on the highest platform of consciousness can be thought of as the wisest guardian. With full knowledge they can engage in serving the Absolute Truth. They do so through the aforementioned hearing and chanting. If they are so inclined, they also worship, offer prayers, become friends, and surrender everything. Any one of these processes is sufficient, but chanting and hearing are considered the most effective.

Lord Chaitanya worshiping Radha and KrishnaThe maha-mantra is the vehicle for liberation liberally distributed throughout society by Lord Chaitanya and His associates. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the same Absolute Truth, but He appears in a more merciful outward form, one that is easily accepted into the heart. In Kali Yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, we mistakenly overvalue wealth and prestige, and so we tend to envy others we think are superior to us in these areas. Mahaprabhu’s goal is not to create another source of envy. He appears in a very renounced garb, thereby diminishing the chance for envy. In a humble way He kindly begs everyone to say the names of Krishna and Rama. He gives Himself over to anyone who does so.

And being with Mahaprabhu is the same as being with God. He explains the confidential purports to the shastras, or scriptures, through His association. He personally arrives through His causeless mercy, an extension of which is the kind work of His followers, who travel from village to village throughout the world to distribute the holy names. Those who are more philosophically inclined are given the same association through written word. The Bhagavad-gita and the Shrimad Bhagavatam are the instructions and descriptions of God. They are the preferred works for Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, whose birth is celebrated on Gaura Purnima. On that magnificent day some five hundred years ago, the golden avatara came to show us how to live a guilt-free life, where we can indulge in service without cessation. It is in our constitution to serve, so when it is directed at God there is no reason to feel any guilt.

In Closing:

Rather live life guilt-free,

So that happy you’ll be.

 

Never good for too much play,

The wise guardians to us will say.

 

Responsibilities at home don’t shirk,

Lest be reprimanded by wife as a jerk.

 

In bhakti-yoga offer service without end,

Your kind sentiments to Supreme Lord send.

 

How to practice this ancient art Lord Chaitanya taught,

When His magnificence to this world He brought.

 www.krishnasmercy.org

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Driven to Impersonalism

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 7, 2013

Krishna's lotus feet“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

Bhagavad-gita, 12.5Question: “I’ve been around devotees of Krishna, but due to various missteps made by famous gurus and negative information I’ve read about them on internet sites, I’ve been turned away. Now I lean more towards impersonalism. I’ve read the works of Vaishnava saints of other disciplic successions and it seems that they confirm the superiority of impersonalism. The lesson I take away is that you can pretty much worship any god and chant any mantra and achieve perfection. What should I do?”

In the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, the Supreme Absolute Truth is described as both formless and with form. He is impersonal and personal simultaneously. What does this mean for us? How do we know which one is superior? The Vaishnavas are those who worship Vishnu, who is the personal form of the Lord possessing four hands and beautiful features throughout. Vishnu also has activities that accompany His features. One way to determine which path is superior, impersonal or personal, is to see which one allows for limitless glorification. The Vaishnava saints all praise and glorify God and His activities, which means that by definition they are personalists. Any other interpretation of their behavior is flawed.

Yes, this means that any genuine Vaishnava is a personalist. To say otherwise is wrong; it is deception. The impersonalist must rely on deception when critically analyzing the Vaishnava because their philosophy is ultimately rooted in envy. How is this? If God doesn’t have a form, then He doesn’t have to be worshiped. He is not even a He. By definition, if He is impersonal then He is not a person. It is said that impersonalism is the last snare of maya, the illusory energy governing the material world. Impersonalist philosophy can only exist in a place where there is some illusion, i.e. where the Absolute Truth is not fully realized.

“It is astonishing to see how a person who is being kicked by the laws of the Lord’s illusory energy at every step can falsely think of becoming one with the Lord. Such thinking is the last snare of the illusory energy offered to the conditioned soul. The first illusion is that he wants to become Lord of the material world by accumulating wealth and power, but when he is frustrated in that attempt he wants to be one with the Lord. So both becoming the most powerful man in the material world and desiring to become one with the Lord are different illusory snares.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.30 Purport)

The first snare of maya is the trap of thinking oneself to be superior in terms of accumulation. Get the highest paying job. Buy the biggest house. Enjoy with as many women as possible. Sadly, this pursuit is riddled with flaws without even touching upon spirituality. Someone else will always have more than us. We may have the most money in the world, but someone else could have better friends and family. Wealth is always changing as well, as currency values can shift drastically overnight. The ultimate equalizer is death, which erases all accumulated gains.

Eventually realizing that competing for resources is futile, the frustrated mind turns to impersonalism. Instead of the attitude of “I want everything,” the new attitude is “I am everything.” “I am God. I am the Absolute Truth. I am immortal. By merging into the impersonal energy known as Brahman, I can become one with everything.” In fact, many spiritual leaders encourage this attitude in their students. “Constantly chant that you are God. Remind yourself of this fact daily and pretty soon you will become God. Any mantra will do; they are all the same. If you can’t meditate on the formless Absolute, choose a divine figure to worship, and in this way keep yourself concentrated on Brahman.”

In the Vedas the statement “aham brahmasmi” is found. This translates to “I am Brahman.” Brahman is the Absolute Truth, a spiritual force above the dualities of the material nature. We are all indeed Brahman, but we are not Parabrahman. Originally we are completely spiritual in quality and activity, but deluded by the material energy we have forgotten our constitutional position. Through properly implementing certain techniques we can become Brahman realized.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.6“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)

Lord KrishnaBut to think that the ultimate realization of God is Brahman is wrong. The Lord Himself mentions that He is the source of everything spiritual in the Bhagavad-gita [7.6], which is an authoritative work accepted by all schools of thought which base their philosophy on the Vedas. At one point Krishna is asked by Arjuna whether the impersonal path or the personal path is superior. Krishna says that the impersonal path is very difficult for those who are embodied, i.e. those in the material world. This is because of the influence of maya. He says that through enough practice one eventually finds perfection, but that the personal path is superior.

Trapped in maya’s last snare, the impersonalist will even go so far as to claim that famous Vaishnavas of the past espoused impersonalism, despite the fact that the claim is axiomatically false.  These Vaishnava personalities worshiped forms besides Krishna, which seems to support the claim that any figure can be worshiped. They also chanted different mantras, which apparently supports the claim that any mantra can be chanted. Yet if we delve into the works of these Vaishnavas, we see that they spend all of their time worshiping God. In the Gaudiya-Vaishnava school Shri Krishna is accepted as the original form of Godhead. Other Vaishnava schools take Vishnu to be the original, and some take Rama. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam and other works it is described that there is no difference between these different forms. The different forms are described as vishnu-tattva. Other divine figures are never equated with the vishnu-tattva forms. Indeed, in the Padma Purana it is said that one is an offender if he thinks that Vishnu is on the same level as any of the demigods.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.116“A person who considers demigods like Brahma and Shiva to be on an equal level with Narayana is to be considered an offender, or pashandi.” (Padma Purana quoted from Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.116)

Some famous Vaishnavas have worshiped a Vishnu form other than Krishna but while in the mood of Lord Shiva, who is a devotee of Vishnu. The famous Shridhara Svami, whose commentary on the Shrimad Bhagavatam is considered most authorized, worshiped the Vishnu form of Narasimhadeva while in the mood of Lord Shiva. Goswami Tulsidas worshiped Rama while following in the footsteps of Lord Shiva. Tulsidas’ most famous work, the Ramacharitamanasa, is all about Rama’s activities. You can’t write about the activities of someone who is impersonal. In his other works Tulsidas repeatedly emphasizes the superiority of the path of personalism. He also glorifies the activities of Krishna, Vishnu and Narasimhadeva, all the while equating them with Rama. It is absolute nonsense to say that he is an impersonalist, for he dedicated his whole life to glorifying God’s activities and qualities.

“Those who differentiate between the forms, qualities, pastimes, and characteristics of the incarnations of the Lord, such as Matsya and Kurma, will certainly be forced to enter the darkest regions of hell. Therefore, those who desire their own welfare always see Lord Vishnu’s names, forms, qualities, and pastimes as non-different from one another.”  (Madhvacharya, Gita-tatparya, 2.25)

Famous personalities in a particular disciplic succession may have legendary fall downs, but this does not invalidate the philosophy they claim to follow. Smoke emanates from fire, but the smoke does nothing to pollute the purity of the fire. In the same way, some people may fall from a lofty position due to the influence of the material nature, but this doesn’t mean that the original teachers are at fault. Even with all of their flaws, the fallen Vaishnavas at least give others valuable information about how to worship God with thought, word and deed. They present to the world translations of Vedic works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, which allow us to make devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, our way of life.

DeitiesOn the other hand, if we encounter the kindest impersonalist in the world, someone without any character flaws, they still can’t take us beyond the path of meditation or study of Vedanta. This leaves us vulnerable to the attacks of maya, for without the Lord’s personal presence how can there be any protection? There have been several famous impersonalists who later on jumped on the personal path. King Janaka is one, and his emotions are given to us by Tulsidas in both his Ramacharitamanasa and his Janaki Mangala. It is said that when Janaka met Rama for the first time, he felt a thrill a hundred times that of Brahmasukha. Brahmasukha, which is also known as Brahmananda, is the pleasure that follows merging into the Brahman effulgence. As an impersonalist, Janaka experienced Brahmasukha, but when he saw a Vishnu form with his eyes, he felt a pleasure much greater than that.

“The king went and received blessings and then paid so much honor and respect after that. When he saw Rama, he experienced a happiness one hundred times that of Brahman realization.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 5.2)

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that one out of many thousands finally endeavors for perfection in transcendentalism, and even from there to achieve success is rare. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise us to see people who follow the personal path succumb to the effects of the material nature from time to time. They are still eventually guided back to the right path by the Supreme Lord Himself, for in personalism we get the hand of a personality to help us. In impersonalism, there is no form identified with, so how can there be any outside help?

In Closing:

“Bad things about Krishna gurus I read,

My skepticism towards philosophy to feed.

 

Impersonalism appealing now I find,

Rather keep formless Brahman in mind.

 

Other Vaishnava literature this seems to confirm,

Worship anyone, chant any mantra with conviction firm.”

 

Vaishnava by their work personalism to reveal,

Towards God with spiritual attributes they kneel.

 

“I am God” is indication of maya’s snare last,

Flawed conception that individual must get past.

 

Devotees can sometimes fall from grace,

Still does nothing to change philosophy’s face.

 

In devotion receive God’s helping hand,

So that in spiritual world later to land.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Thanksgiving 2012

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 21, 2012

Lord Krishna“Being self-sufficient, Krishna does not require the service of any living entity, although He has many devotees. It is because Krishna is so kind and merciful that He gives the opportunity to everyone to serve Him, as though He required the service of His devotees.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 21)

The spirit soul is constitutionally a servant of God. God is the superior entity and we are the inferior. Like it or not, this is how things are. When we say “constitutional”, it means that there is no way to change it. We can deny it, ignore it, pretend that it’s not the case, or even try to change it, but the relationship between the two is eternal, or sanatana. As the relationship and the respective positions are fixed, the occupational duty is as well, and therefore in the Vedic tradition the closest equivalent term to religion is sanatana-dharma. This eternal occupation manifests in service, and on Thanksgiving we are afforded a wonderful opportunity to carry out that service.

Thanksgiving originated as a celebration for a bountiful harvest. The settlers in the New World, a place later to become the United States, had a very difficult time in their initial few months. Imagine leaving your home for a distant land that is unknown to you. You’re leaving because practicing your religion is more important than anything else. The New World offers the hope of a better life, where you can worship the Supreme Lord while maintaining a simple lifestyle.

But the settlers didn’t have it so easy. Many of them died on the journey across the ocean, and in the first few months the food production was scarce. The governor of the new colony, William Bradford, decided to change the system a bit, dividing up the land and giving ownership to individuals. They could keep whatever they produced, rather than having to place everything in a common store. Using individual self-interest to their advantage, the colonists were able to produce so much food that they soon started trading with the Native Americans.

So pleased with the bountiful harvest, the Pilgrims decided to hold a grand feast where they gave thanks to God. This was a genuine sentiment. They believed in Him, and for that reason they risked their lives for the experiment that required a transatlantic journey. God is a singular entity; He is not exclusive to a specific tradition. Depending on time and circumstance the methods used to connect with Him may vary, but the ultimate goal is always the same. Even if the worshipers don’t know much about Him, He is still full of transcendental features, with unmatched kindness being one of them.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…” (President George Washington, Thanksgiving Day 1789, A Proclamation)

Thanksgiving_ProclamationLater on George Washington, the first president of the United States, made Thanksgiving an official holiday. He described it as a day to be grateful to the Almighty and dedicate service to Him. The Supreme Lord doesn’t require this honor. His ego is not so inflated that He will grow angry if we neglect worship of Him. In the Vedas He is described as atmarama, which means self-satisfied. If you are satisfied in the self, your happiness is not dependent on anyone else.

Yet the person who is atmarama kindly makes room for more happiness when someone offers Him service in a genuine way. And so we can turn one day of giving thanks into a full-time engagement. And more than just eating a feast and saying a prayer, one can offer their food items to the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita, He says that a simple flower, fruit, or water is sufficient for an offering.

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

If we are able to offer more than just a flower, why not do it? If our constitutional position is servant of God, why not continue in service without interruption? If we feel pleasure eating nice food, why wouldn’t the Lord be pleased by the same food also? If we get satisfaction from feeding our family, why wouldn’t the same satisfaction exist in God, who can expand His belly infinitely to accept all the offerings made to Him with genuine devotion?

In the bhakti tradition offerings steadily flow towards the lotus feet of that author of all that is good in this world. Those who follow bhakti-yoga maintain the attitude of the original Thanksgiving on a daily basis. At this point one may wonder if the effect wears off through the steady diet of devotion. After all, holidays are special for a reason. They don’t come around every day. If you celebrated your birthday every day, would it be special anymore?

Such limitations don’t exist in bhakti. Only in loving devotion to God does the enthusiasm increase as you progress further along. If practiced in an authorized way, such as by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, bhakti-yoga continues without interruption and without motivation. All the common pitfalls that lead to despondency, despair, sadness and fear are removed. You have something to do all the time. If you’re not chanting, you can prepare and offer food. You can read about Krishna through the translations and commentaries of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He had so much enthusiasm for bhakti-yoga that even in old age he had the energy of a youth.

Worshiping KrishnaIf you’re not reading, you can chant together with friends in what is known as harinama-sankirtana. If you want to have something to look forward to, you can make plans to practice bhakti-yoga. You can visit various temples, meet with other devotees, or just think about some way to offer something to God. It is said that if you just think of offering something to God, whose best name is Krishna because it describes His all-attractiveness, that offering is immediately accepted. This means that if you want to say thanks now, you can do it.

The ability to practice bhakti-yoga at any time and any place, coupled with the fact that it allows you to say thanks every day of the year, substantiates the claim that devotional service is the highest occupation for man, a service that is available to any person, at any age. Whether sitting down to a large feast or just eating a single piece of rice, if we say thanks to the origin of matter and spirit and humbly ask for the ability to remember Him during this and every subsequent lifetime, the supreme benefactor will surely grant our wish.

In Closing:

The Supreme Lord with offerings to feed,

By why your service would He need?

 

The whole world in His hand He’s got,

So what’s the harm if in service we stop?

 

Bhakti-yoga exists for our benefit,

Solutions to all problems in it sit.

 

A day for service Washington made,

Thanksgiving, a tradition then stayed.

 

From one day an engagement for a lifetime make,

Chant holy names and sumptuous prasadam take.

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Govardhana Puja 2012

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 13, 2012

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“Upon hearing their prayer, Krishna could also understand that Indra, being bereft of his sacrificial honor, was pouring down rain that was accompanied by heavy pieces of ice and strong winds, although all this was out of season. Krishna understood that this was a deliberate exhibition of anger by Indra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)

Worship of the Supreme Lord in the mood of bhakti, or divine love, is not like any other kind of interaction. There are benefits for both parties involved, and there is no expectation of reciprocation. The activity falls into a unique category of spirituality, where the temporary conditions fixed in duality are nonexistent. All other varieties of worship can be abandoned in favor of pure, unmotivated and uninterrupted love for God. Aside from the security blanket of unending nectar in the form of the Supreme Lord’s association, there is also insulation from the obstruction of outside forces, which include those managed by the higher authorities. Govardhana Puja reminds us of this security, and it also serves to glorify the protector Himself, Shri Krishna.

The miseries of life are threefold. There are those rooted in the body and mind. I know that I shouldn’t be sad that my cheating wife has left me, but I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel inferior, that I’m not good enough. I also know that I shouldn’t worry about the outcome to the test I just took, because what can worrying really do? I already took the test, so I either passed or failed. What I think now doesn’t matter, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. Add diseases to the body and you get the full scope of the miseries the Vedas describe as adhyatmika.

Then there are the adhibautika miseries, those caused by other living entities. Not everyone is nice. Some people are kind and gentle, while others don’t mind committing the worst crimes to get what they want. Sometimes they are so mired in a life of ignorance that they don’t understand that what they’re doing is bad. Such miscreants are a great source of trouble in society.

The adhidaivika miseries are those that we seemingly can’t explain. Who causes earthquakes? What about the heat wave that sweeps across the country? And don’t forget the torrential downpours which lead to massive flooding. According to the Vedic tradition, the divine figures residing in the heavenly realm are in charge of these forces, and so to keep the resultant miseries at bay one is advised to perform sacrifice. A long time ago, however, the annual sacrifice in honor of the king of heaven, who is in charge of the rain, was skipped. Only for one moment was the sacrifice neglected, and the superior party instantly turned from a friend to an enemy.

Such occurrences are common outside the realm of spirituality as well. We pay homage to the utilities company so that they will provide us electricity. We pay the cable bill so that we’ll get the channels we want on our television set. The people we deal with may even be very friendly to us, acting as if our company is enjoyable to them. When we sit down in a restaurant and order food the waiter or waitress may try to act as if we’re not there as a customer. The car dealership salesman can also try to act as our friend.

But what if we were to say that we couldn’t pay?

“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here. I’m actually very hungry. Can you bring me some food? I’ll have this and that off the menu. And, by the way, I don’t have any money with me. I can’t afford the prices for these items.”

Would the cordial relationship continue? Would not the restaurant owner tell us to leave? Would not the car salesman immediately turn away? In many instances our dealings with divine figures follow the same line, and though we think we are acting in a pious way, we are more or less conducting a business transaction. The desire to earn a profit is there in both parties. The seller wants to make some money on the sale and the buyer doesn’t want to spend more than they think the product is worth. The seller a long time back got so angry when a group of innocent people voluntarily decided to take their business elsewhere. They had no need to worry, as their director was the Supreme Lord Himself, the owner of this and every other creation in existence.

In Vrindavana Lord Indra was worshiped annually by the residents. They would gather items for sacrifice and then have a formal worship ceremony, where a priest would consecrate the area and carefully offer each item for Indra’s enjoyment. In return Indra would provide the rain necessary to sustain the farm community. One year, Nanda’s son decided that the neighboring Govardhana Hill should be worshiped instead of Indra. Nanda was the leader of the community, and his son the jewel of it. Though only a young boy, His attractiveness captivated the hearts and minds of all the residents. Through clever logic and a charming smile, Krishna was able to convince Nanda to shift the preparations towards Govardhana Hill instead.

Lord KrishnaSpiritual life relates to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. This soul is not tied to a material form, nor to any governing commission. In real connection to the Divine, there is no requirement that one follow this behavior or that, or belong to this institution or that. To teach this lesson to Vrindavana’s population and to future generations, Krishna purposefully stoked Indra’s wrath. The residents didn’t have to worship Indra, even if it was standard tradition. Worship of the demigods is a legitimate practice that is mentioned by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita.

“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)

Though a recommended practice for one trying to elevate to a higher consciousness, demigod worship is in essence a business transaction, which means that there is a temporary result, a kind of profit, that comes to both parties. However, the ultimate system of spirituality can never be dependent on a ritual involving personal profit. As soon as the residents changed their mind and worshiped something else, Indra became angry. This means that he wasn’t really in it for the benefit of the devotees. He wanted his share, his moment in the spotlight. Once that was gone, envy took over, and instead of leaving the citizens alone, he decided to try to harm them.

Indra instigated a terrible rainstorm upon Vrindavana. Krishna knew that it was Indra’s work because the heavy pieces of ice and strong wind were not in season. This was an adhidaivika misery, but since Krishna is the Supreme Lord, it would have no effect on Him or His devotees. The Lord decided to hold up the just worshiped Govardhana Hill using His pinky finger. He held it above His head for seven consecutive days, giving the innocent residents shelter from Indra’s wrath.

If the car salesman runs after you with a hammer when you say that you won’t buy a car from him, was it worth going to him in the first place? Would you recommend him to others? Worship of Krishna at the highest level is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It is a voluntary effort, and the only pain that results from neglecting it is the missed opportunity to associate with the reservoir of sweetness, Shri Krishna. The association is the reward in bhakti, and for this reason the truly wise souls abandon all varieties of motivated religious behavior in favor of surrender to God, which they carry out daily by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. And as a way to further honor Shri Krishna, the protector of the surrendered souls, they also perform the Govardhana Puja each year on the day after Diwali.

In Closing:

Indra, in a playful pastime involved,

In which Krishna deadly problem solved.

 

Offerings to king of heaven annually went,

In return vital rain to Vrindavana was sent.

 

One year the residents worship skipped,

Switch of rage in Indra then flipped.

 

Devotion to Krishna they all had,

So able to survive Indra’s rage mad.

 

With Govardhana held up in the air,

Krishna removed flooding’s scare.

 

All other varieties of religion forget,

And on loving Krishna keep your heart set.

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Diwali 2012

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 12, 2012

Sugriva and freinds returning to Ayodhya with Sita and Rama“O Sugriva, you are a fifth brother to us four, for a friend is born of affection, while maleficence is the symptom of an enemy.” (Bharata, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 127.45)

tvamasmākaṃ caturṇāṃ vaibhrātā sugrīva pañcamaḥ ||
sauhārdājjāyate mitramapakāro’rilakṣaṇam |

Diwali is an ancient Hindu tradition whose origin is in a blessed event from a long time ago. The first Diwali, or festival of lights, marked a triumph of an unlikely group of individuals who were previously cast into strange and unexpected circumstances. The celebration involved both the victorious and those who were joyous of their victory. In honor of their return to their home, an arrival which included many guests never before seen, the residents of the town of Ayodhya lit many lamps, filling the city with welcoming light. The leader of the city for the period preceding the arrival was likely the happiest person there, and his goodwill extended to the friends of the arriving party.

As a quick background, King Dasharatha was the ruler of the kingdom of Ayodhya. His family history dated back to the beginning of the creation, when King Ikshvaku ruled over the same area. Ikshvaku was a king of the utmost character. He did not have any sin in him, and for this he was worthy of the post of ruler of the earth. Several generations down the line Dasharatha took over. He proved his fighting ability on the battlefield, and so under his leadership the citizens felt safe from enemy attack.

In the fourth stage of his life Dasharatha finally had sons, four of them in fact. The eldest Rama was the most beloved of all. He was to succeed the father, but on the day slated for His coronation, events took a dramatic turn in the opposite direction. Due to the influence of the youngest wife Kaikeyi, Dasharatha’s commitment to the truth was used against him. He was forced to pass over Rama and give the throne to Kaikeyi’s son Bharata. Rama was okay with this, as He held tremendous affection for His three younger brothers. But then Kaikeyi also demanded that Rama be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. Again, Rama took this in stride, but the rest of the town did not. They were sad to see Him leave, and so through the subsequent fourteen years they waited with great anticipation for His return.

Just imagine living in royal opulence one day and complete squalor the next. And mind you, the squalor is not for just a day or two. It is to last for fourteen years. Rama was accompanied by His beautiful wife Sita in the forest. The younger brother Lakshmana also came. Rama didn’t ask them to come along; they insisted. So the forest wasn’t so bad for the trio, as they had each other. Sita’s company is the most preferable for Rama, and who wouldn’t want a powerful and dedicated brother like Lakshmana around?

This stay in the forest was not to be without hiccups, however. Hardship came when Sita was kidnapped by the Rakshasa fiend Ravana, the king of the island of Lanka. Though without His royal army to support Him, Rama still fought ahead to find His missing wife. He aligned with Vanaras in the Kishkindha forest through the help of a minister named Hanuman. Vanaras are similar to monkeys except they have human-like features as well. These events took place in the Treta Yuga, which is the second time period of creation. During that time even the forest dwellers with tails had some semblance of civilized behavior in them.

Sugriva and Vali fightingHanuman worked for Sugriva, who was the leader of the monkeys stationed on Mount Rishyamukha. Sugriva had his own issues, separated from his family due to a feud with his more powerful brother Vali. Since Sugriva was now a friend, and since Hanuman was trusted as an ally upon initial meeting, Rama agreed to help Sugriva regain his kingdom. Later on Sugriva repaid the favor, first sending Hanuman to look for Sita and then joining the Vanara army in the march to Lanka to rescue her. They would emerge victorious, as the Vanaras had devotion to Rama, which was all that was required. The opponents fought with jaw-dropping illusion and mighty weapons, but with their trees and rocks Sugriva’s army countered them. Rama and Lakshmana took care of the rest.

The trio of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita were set to triumphantly return home to Ayodhya, taking an aerial car originally belonging to the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera. Of course Rama was not going to return home without His friends who had helped Him. Sugriva, Hanuman and the leading Vanaras from the army were invited on to the aerial car to return to Ayodhya. Sita also made sure that the wives of these Vanaras were picked up along the way so that they could enjoy the celebration as well.

Meanwhile, on the other side of things the younger brother Bharata eagerly awaited the return of Rama. He felt terrible for what his mother had done, and so he ruled the kingdom in Rama’s absence through a life of asceticism. Rama’s sandals were symbolically ruling over the kingdom, and Bharata worshiped those sandals day and night. Before finally arriving home, Hanuman was sent to meet with Bharata, to see what his mindset was. Perhaps he wouldn’t want to give the kingdom back to Rama.

Hanuman learned that Bharata had no intention of keeping the kingdom he never wanted. The devoted brother was delighted to see Rama return. He paid his respects to Rama, and then offered respect to Sita and Lakshmana. Bharata then embraced Sugriva and the Vanaras. He kindly told Sugriva that he considered him to be like a fifth brother in their family of four brothers. He said that friends are made through affection and enemies through ill will. Sugriva had affection for Rama, and so he was automatically a friend to Bharata.

This was the same principle adopted by the residents of Ayodhya, as they were thrilled to see Rama’s new friends. They loved Rama so much, so they naturally loved anyone who was dear to Him. The Vanaras are forever dear to Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. It is certainly beneficial to harbor affection for God, but to meet and honor the devotee is considered more beneficial. Through honoring the devotee the Supreme Lord is pleased even more. Bharata didn’t require this instruction; he immediately felt affection for Rama’s newest devotees, who were headed by Sugriva. Sugriva risked his life and wellbeing for Rama’s sake, and his efforts helped the group successfully return to Ayodhya. On Diwali we remember the Supreme Lord and His closest friends and how they joyfully celebrated in the wonderful homecoming.

In Closing:

“We are brothers numbering four,

Shri Rama all of us adore.

 

You, Sugriva, hold the same affection too,

Thus as a fifth brother we consider you.

 

Through affection a friend is born,

And enemies through ill will and scorn.”

 

When the triumphant to Ayodhya returned,

Sight of Rama’s new friends residents earned.

 

Diwali celebration our spirits to uplift,

Meeting with devotee most precious gift.

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