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One Billion Holy Names

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 15, 2013

Maha-mantra“After the muni reached Ayodhya, he took bath in the auspicious rivers. Shatananda achieved the fruit of reciting a billion holy names.” (Janaki Mangala, 116)

ge muni avadha biloki susarita nahāyau |
satānanda sata koṭi nāma phala pāyau ||

If you want to become a better runner, you should run on a regular basis. No big surprise there. If you want to cook something very nicely, you’ll need some practice. The first time you try it might get burned. Perhaps you’ll cook it for too long, you won’t mix it well enough, or you’ll forget a key ingredient. The ovens can vary, so whatever recipe you took, it might not be suited towards your situation one hundred percent. Practice makes perfect, especially if the practice is ideal. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that in order to increase our spiritual strength, practice of a particular method is recommended. That practice brings such a wonderful fruit as well. Whereas in ordinary strength training exercises, there is fatigue and vulnerability of burning out and having all the effort go to waste, such is not the case in the highest discipline of spirituality.

Treadmill runningIf my goal is to run a marathon and I currently don’t run at all, perhaps I’ll start off with running only one mile as my routine. The first day will be very difficult. I might be huffing and puffing my way through the exercise. The whole time I will be thinking of when it will be over. “I can’t wait until I get home. I’m going to sink into the couch and do nothing. From this day forward runners have my utmost respect. I don’t know how they can do this on a regular basis.”

The next day I will be very sore throughout my lower body. I will likely have trouble walking down the stairs. Nevertheless, through enough practice, things will get better. Pretty soon I won’t be so frantic while running. A single mile will seem as easy as taking a walk. My body won’t get fatigued so quickly, either. I will thus become stronger in a particular field through practice. The same holds true in other areas as well.

When we shift the focus to spiritual life, the obvious question is what goal we should try to achieve. In running, the end is pretty simple: work up to the point that you have enough endurance to run long distances. In basic exercise the point is to get a lean and fit body. In cooking the goal is to be able to prepare sumptuous dishes without worrying so much about ruining them.

Lord ChaitanyaIn spiritual life, to know the proper aim one must first know who they are. One route towards answering this question is to go through every single spiritual book ever authored and see what you can decipher. Another is to accept the basic truth of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva so kindly presented by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is a famous saint from India during the medieval period. He is believed to be non-different from God Himself. This fact is corroborated in sacred texts like the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Even if you are skeptical of the claims of His divinity, that doesn’t bar you from scientifically analyzing His philosophy. If you break down the words, you get a translation of “simultaneous oneness and difference, a relationship that is inconceivable to the mind.” As it is achintya, or inconceivable, you don’t need to wrack your brain trying to understand how it is true. It is better to just act off of the relationship, where the validation will come later on, as an eventual realization.

The oneness and difference is in comparing the individual’s identity to the higher power’s. The individual is spirit, or Brahman. The individual is not their temporary body. That means that while I’m in a human form right now, I won’t be forever. Previous to this life I was in a completely different body. After this life, I will be in a different body again. Throughout the shifts, my identity doesn’t change. The higher power is described as Parabrahman. Both His body and His spirit are changeless. He also expands to reside within every living being; thus He is all-pervading. He is simultaneously individual and collective.

From achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, we get the ideal relationship of servant to master. We are the servants and the higher power is the master. We can try to ignore this all we want, but it will only be to our detriment. Once we make the acknowledgement, however, our fortunes can turn around. The aim of the practice in the highest discipline of spirituality is thus twofold. First, one should truly accept the relationship of servant to master. After that, one should stay in that relationship, never breaking from it. This is for the benefit of the individual. All the rituals, regulations, funny dresses, odd-sounding chants, and places of pilgrimage are ultimately meant for bringing pleasure to the individual; there is no other purpose.

Maha-mantraOne of the best ways to serve the higher power is to constantly repeat His name. In an objective analysis, one would have to conclude that this is the superior method of all practices in spiritual life. That is because it can be practiced by any person, at any time and at any place. You are never precluded from chanting the holy names. Based on your country of origin, you may not be allowed in a specific temple. If you are not very intelligent, you won’t be able to understand the high philosophy that helps one to empirically come close to the conclusion nicely presented by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If you live in an oppressive regime where the government tries to play the role of God by handing out gifts to citizens by first confiscating wealth from the producers, you will have a hard time practicing spiritual life.

In any of these situations you can still chant the holy names. Which names should we chant? There are billions of names, too many to count really. This should make sense, because if the higher power is really supreme, His features would have to be unlimited. If there is no limit to His glories, there would be no limit to the number of names used to describe Him. Lord Chaitanya says that the best names are Krishna and Rama and that the energy of God should be addressed at the same time. For this reason He recommends the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” as the best mantra to chant, the best way to realize the relationship to God and stay connected to Him in service.

In the Vedic tradition there are practices based on this chanting of the holy names. There are the thousand names of Lord Vishnu, which when chanted bring great auspiciousness. The result of saying any one of the names is an increase in spiritual strength, which is namely due to the potency of the name itself. The name is non-different from the person it addresses. This only works with God. Someone from thousands of miles away can call our name, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll rush to where they are. With God that is not the case. He immediately arrives when His name is chanted.

Lord RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the sage Shatananda has reached the city of Ayodhya, which at the time was the home of King Dasharatha. Dasharatha is the chosen father of Rama, who is an incarnation of God. Rama is one of the names in the maha-mantra, and it can refer to Rama, the son of Dasharatha, Rama, the elder brother of Shri Krishna, or just the Supreme Lord Himself, who is the source of all transcendental pleasure.

Shatananda went to Ayodhya to tell Dasharatha the news that his son Rama had won the bow contest in Janakpur and was thus slated to marry the daughter of King Janaka. We see that upon arrival the sage bathed in the holy rivers. In Ayodhya the holiest river is the Sarayu. By so doing, Shatananda received the fruit of chanting one billion holy names. One billion holy names obviously takes a while to recite, especially if one hears the names as they are recited. That chanting represents one billion steps taken towards the Supreme Lord; so the fruit is not chump change. The same was granted to Shatananda upon arriving in Ayodhya. This was due to the holiness of the city, which at the time was inhabited by pure devotees. All the residents there, including the king, lived the master-servant relationship with God. Though they may not have known that Rama was God, they nevertheless served Him. Even the father, though in an apparently superior position, was a great servant. To act as the Lord’s father during His pastimes on earth is a wonderful service, performed in the mood known as vatsalya-rasa, or parental affection.

The same fruit that Shatananda, Janaka’s family priest, received by arriving in Ayodhya and bathing in the rivers certainly comes to those who hear the accounts given by Goswami Tulsidas in his Janaki Mangala. The mood is especially what made the benediction come to the priest, as he was so happy travelling to Ayodhya to report on the festive occasion. Similarly, if one recites the holy names regularly with love and attention, they will get to be in the association of Rama’s closest devotees. Indeed, hearing from Tulsidas is just as good as being with him, and his association is just as good as being in Ayodhya during that sacred time.

In Closing:

Stranger wandering in a strange land,

How real identity to understand?

 

Lord Chaitanya eternal truth gives,

Inconceivable, better in it to live.

 

God is the master, we’re meant to serve,

Full of pleasure, our attention He deserves.

 

Chanting holy names process the best,

For with knowledge and association to be blessed.

 

From bathing after lotus feet in Ayodhya to set,

Shatananda fruit of one billion names said to get.

 

From poem of Tulsidas get reward the same,

His association and love for Rama easily gain.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Full Dependence

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 25, 2013

Tulasi plant“In any condition, any man can live in a small cottage, plant a tulasi tree, water it in the morning, offer it prayers, and continuously chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Thus one can make vigorous spiritual advancement.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.261 Purport)

“Should I live in Vrindavana? I heard that Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, perpetually remains there. He plays with the damsels of Vrajabhumi, calls out to the calves under His protection, and plays His flute to the delight of the forest animals such as the deer, birds and parrots. Though there is the Vrindavana of the spiritual world, in the Vaikuntha planets, there is the Vrindavana in this earthly realm as well. And even though one can’t see Krishna directly with their eyes, they feel His presence there nonetheless. In fact, through living there long enough and staying immersed in bhakti-yoga, one actually can see Krishna, while others cannot.”

“Should I read the Bhagavad-gita every day, trying to really understand the key verses, or should I move on to other Vedic texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which are longer and thus more detailed? I’ve heard that the Bhagavad-gita is for beginners and that the Bhagavatam is for the more advanced. The Bhagavad-gita is a summation of Vedic teachings, which are the oldest known to man. They predate man himself, who took birth from the Supreme Lord after He decided there would be a creation. There is the total material substance, known as the mahat-tattva, and Krishna impregnated it in order to generate the population. The spirit souls existed before that impregnation, they exist now, and they will continue to exist in the future. That is the true meaning to eternal.”

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

Lord Krishna“In the Bhagavatam, there is the history of the creation, the lineage of the first kings on earth, the purpose to the creation, the process of devotional service and other such relevant topics. Then, towards the end, there are the pastimes of Krishna performed in the aforementioned Vrindavana. One is advised to first learn of Krishna’s position and then hear about His pastimes. Without the requisite understanding, one will take the Supreme Lord’s childhood sports to be those of an ordinary child, who is less intelligent than the adults. With a full understanding, however, one delights in Krishna’s pranks played on the neighbors, His dancing with the beautiful gopis, and His slaying of wicked creatures who embody the worst of the envious nature towards the Supreme Lord. The Bhagavatam thus allows for much fuller immersion into bhakti-yoga, which I’ve heard is the original occupational duty of the soul, something that every person is meant to practice, regardless of their background, country of origin, native language, gender, level of intelligence, and so forth.”

Issues similar to those mentioned above exist with any type of spiritual practice. Should you be advancing to a different destination or should you remain where you are, content in your practice? Indeed, there are qualities one assumes when they take up devotional life, as it is inherently different from material life. The summit of material life is sexual relations. The famed “rock n roll” lifestyle involves drugs, drinking and partying, but the end-goal is always sex. The rock stars can get any woman they want, and thus they are envied by others. Yet this never provides lasting happiness, as even the most hedonistic rockers grow tired of such activity; at least in the case of those who become wiser as time goes by. In spiritual life, one sees everything properly, and an indication of the change is the shift in desires, wherein what one previously thought was important no longer remains so.

Surely there is a need for measuring progress, for gauging the effectiveness of practices in genuine, non-sectarian religious life, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that there are absolute requirements as they relate to the book of study or the place of residence. Indeed, such insistence goes against the very nature of the person being worshiped. By definition, God is all-pervading; so His residence is not exclusive to just one area. He has multi-forms, a truth described as ananta-rupam in the Brahma-samhita, a wonderful set of prayers offered by Lord Brahma to Krishna. Brahma is the original creator, the person everyone can trace their ancestry to. If you don’t believe in his existence, you can still accept the fact that there is an original creator. Since every person has a mother and father, there is always a higher link to ascend in the chain of creation. When you reach the original, you have your creator, who is known by the name Brahma in the Vedas.

Krishna with mother Yashoda in VrindavanaIn addition to being all-pervading, God is non-different from many things. Vrindavana is the same as Him because that is His preferred land of choice. The other lands are part of the material energy, which is in one sense the same as God but still different at the same time. The material energy is like an extension which the Supreme Lord has no direct interest in. The material energy is the shelter for those who are inimical towards God, and since that attitude is not constitutionally compliant, the material energy actually provides no shelter at all. The idea that one can surrender unto a female, a sumptuous food dish, a gambling hall, or a bottle of whiskey is mere illusion. Real surrender, wherein one fully relinquishes responsibility for happiness and sadness to another party, can only bear fruit when it is directed at God.

In addition to the land of Vrindavana, the holy name is non-different from God. This is a radical concept that one has great difficulty believing. Not to worry, though, as we can keep chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to see if the claim has merits. If you’re not sure after chanting a few times, keep on repeating the formula. The fact that so many people chant this mantra regularly, sometimes singing it for hours on end each day, proves that there is something special in the component words.

Think of your favorite song in the world. For starters, you would have difficulty making this identification, as your tastes change over time. And within a certain time period a specific song may grab your attention more than others. Nevertheless, let’s say that you could pick one song that you couldn’t live without. Now try playing that song over and over again during the day. Do that again day after day. Would you not get sick of it? For a better analogy, try just memorizing the lyrics and reciting those over and over again. This way you’re not getting sick of the tune. Would that suffice? Do you know of any person who does such a thing?

maha-mantraWith the holy names, however, we know of countless people who have recited it day after day throughout their lives. And these weren’t just ordinary people either. Some of the most exalted personalities, genuine saints, followed this tact. Some of them lived in Vrindavana, while others moved around from sacred place to sacred place. Many of these people weren’t so famous, but they had the same qualities of real goodness nonetheless. In their kindness, they also went to places where there was no God consciousness at all and then flooded the areas with the sounds of the holy names. You can only do this if the holy name is really non-different from God Himself, as the Supreme Lord is the only person whose association never grows tiresome.

The power of the holy name shows that it is sufficient for proper bhakti-yoga practice. The tulasi plant, who is a pure devotee of God, can also be chanted in front of in an isolated area.  Such a simple life is enough to bring spiritual advancement. Residence in Vrindavana, study of a specific famous work, and thoughts of Krishna’s pastimes are also bhakti-yoga, and they may result from chanting the holy names, but never are such things an absolute requirement. If they were, then the holy name would be deficient, as it wouldn’t completely represent God. But it most certainly does, and so it makes for the best and most efficient way to remain connected in spiritual life, bringing all good things to the person who honors it and fully depends on it for their sustenance.

In Closing:

For my spiritual intelligence to feed,

Residence in Vrindavana do I need?

 

If to read Bhagavatam book I get the chance,

Should I scrap Bhagavad-gita to advance?

 

Actually for from ignorance to be set free,

All that is needed is holy name and tulasi tree.

 

Try lyrics of your favorite song to daily chant,

And keep the spark of interest alive you can’t.

 

With holy name the same defect not to exist,

Wisest saints in path of chanting persist.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Looking In All The Wrong Places

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 3, 2012

Krishna and Arjuna“You are air, fire, water, and You are the moon! You are the supreme controller and the grandfather. Thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again!” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.39)

In the human being there is an inherent understanding of the existence of a higher force who has supremacy over all. The problem is that without the required approach towards a bona fide spiritual master, the search for the supreme force will lead us to all the wrong places. So many gods are then created, and when they fail to live up to their billing, as is guaranteed to happen, the search continues elsewhere, with the clock eventually running out at the time of death. Then the cycle begins anew, with the future circumstances uncertain because of the intricacies of karma.

“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)

Karma is fruitive work. The work has one or many outcomes. There is the intended result and also the unintended consequences. For instance, when we plant a seed, we hope to get a flower or a tree with fruits. What we don’t intend is to miss out on other work. We also don’t desire to be pricked by the many thorns on the trees. These thorns will get in the way of the harvest, mixing the pleasure of enjoying the fruit with the pain of the sides of our body being torn.

Karma’s effects continue into the afterlife, so depending on the state of being at the time of death, the next state can be anywhere. Think of it like getting on an elevator and not knowing to which floor it’s going. You could be going up or down, or possibly staying on the same floor. As the spirit soul has specific qualities inherent to it, there will be a push towards a specific type of activity. If the ideal target is not found, the search will continue, with more and more outcomes accumulated through karma.

And what exactly is it that we’re searching for? The dharma of the soul is service. Dharma is an essential characteristic. The dharma of fire is its heat and light, of water its wetness, of winter its cold conditions, and so on. The soul is the essence of identity, and in its constitutional position it is subordinate to the highest spirit soul, the person most of us refer to as God. In a conditioned state, where the individual soul is encased in material elements, the original dharma is covered up. The tendency towards service in the submissive attitude remains, but since there is a covering, the path towards knowledge is skewered. The light of wisdom is refracted and thus one drifts away from the ideal service instead of towards it.

As an example to illustrate the fact, think of the situation that occurs when gasoline prices rise. It is obvious to anyone who follows the stock market that there is volatility in commodities trading. You have thousands of people making thousands of decisions based on a host of different reasons. These decisions then affect the price of a commodity, as a price is nothing more than an indication of information, acting like a newspaper report or biography specific to a commodity or business. A rise in price reports specific information about a commodity and a fall something else.

And yet when oil prices rise suddenly, there is a clamor to find out how to change the momentum through a single person’s effort. “Who is it that is causing the price to rise so rapidly?” is the questioned asked. The mistaken notion is that one person controls the price. Even famous television news personalities make this error, completely ignoring the decisions of the aforementioned traders.

Obviously there is no single entity responsible for the price of a commodity that is bought and sold by so many people. Even the large oil companies have to bend to the demands of the buying public and the futures traders. The companies also compete with one another, so it is in their interest to sell gasoline for as low a price as possible, as this will drive the competitors into a loss scenario and hopefully out of business.

But the tendency towards thinking that one person is in charge of something as large as oil exists for a reason. Deep down the individual knows that they can’t influence much. Even the leader of a nation, who has the bully pulpit and can thus reach a wide audience with their public speeches, must rely on the confidence of the constituents to get anything meaningful done. Though we know that there are higher powers that be, to think that another human holds the post of “all-powerful” is incorrect.

“I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.18)

Lord KrishnaThe highest living entity is really in charge, but He is not an ordinary person. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that He is responsible for the creation, its subsequent maintenance, and its eventual destruction. This takes place in a repeating cycle, and since no one can even fathom the full breadth and scope of the universe, Krishna is automatically the most powerful person. To deny Krishna’s supremacy is easy to do with words, but we know for a fact that the macrocosmic form does exist and that its interior elements operate on their own. We don’t control the sun. We don’t manage the revolution and rotation of the earth. And yet somehow we think that a man can be God?

We can test the idea that Krishna is the real God by seeing the benefits that result from acknowledging His supremacy. That acknowledgment can take place in many different moods, with love being the foremost. Love of God is the real meaning to surrender, as in that voluntarily accepted subordinate state there is vulnerability and full reliance on the more powerful force. This situation is ideal for the spirit soul, as it reawakens the original dharma. To feel that helplessness regularly the devotees chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The manmade gods require constant attention simply to provide a reciprocal benefit. As they are not all-powerful, they cannot possibly distribute benefits without cessation. Meanwhile, in chanting the holy names in a humble mood of devotion, the benefit is the continued ability to chant in spite of what the outside conditions may be. Married or single, poverty stricken or wealthy, young or old, Hindu or Christian – devotional service can continue without interruption and without motivation. This paradoxical combination exists with the devotees, who show the way towards the real controller.

In Closing:

To find superior being inherent need,

Towards person after person search to lead.

 

But of these all-powerful are none,

Supreme Controller there is only one.

 

This the spirit soul inherently knows,

Intelligent person towards Krishna goes.

 

At start difficult for fact to believe,

So take confidence from divine gift to receive.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Understanding In An Instant

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 6, 2012

Krishna with Yashoda“One may be a karmi, a jnani, a yogi and then a bhakta or prema-bhakta. But the ultimate stage of realization is prema-bhakti, as actually demonstrated by mother Yashoda.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.45 Purport)

Amazing it is that mother Yashoda considered Krishna to be her own son, born of her womb and requiring her undivided attention. She knew that there was a God. In fact, just after seeing the universal form within the mouth of her beloved young child, she offered worship to that Supreme Lord. She relinquished her stresses relating to daily obligations and surrendered unto Him, knowing Him to be the presiding coordinator. Yet she nevertheless went back to loving her son, who is the same object of contemplation for those who study the three Vedas, the Upanishads, and sankhya philosophy.

Did the mother lose her mind? Could we use the excuse that because she was a woman, and therefore considered less intelligent, she considered He who is indescribable to be within her control? In this instance, Krishna was more than an innocent person resting on her lap. He required attention from the mother because His friends had just accused Him of eating dirt. Like the caretaker running to take out the splinter that accidentally goes into the finger, the mother took the matter of eating dirt very seriously. “Krishna should not be doing this. Why is He always getting into trouble? If He eats dirt, He will get hurt. Who knows what could be in that earth, as everything rolls over it throughout the day. The children walk upon it, as do the cows. Shards of glass could have fallen into it, or maybe even rocks. These don’t mix well in the stomach of a child. Therefore I must check on the situation immediately.”

Meanwhile, the person who studies the three Vedas, the original scriptures of the world, tries to wrap their brain around a person who is unbound and without a form. He has no hands, legs, eyes and ears, and yet He can move at the speed of the wind, lift a hill with His finger, see everything that’s going on and hear every single prayer offered to Him, regardless of the location. One person is praying in China while another in Canada, and though they may be praying at the same time, God still hears them both. Though He hears and understands both prayers, He is not a dual person. He is a singular entity, but He resides within everyone.

How is the mind to understand this? Thus one studies the Vedas, which give so many descriptions for the Supreme Lord. He is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive, but how can something without material hands and legs possess the quality of beauty? We don’t say that the air is beautiful today. We don’t say that silence has a pleasing sound. These objects are absent something. If Krishna is the most attractive, He must have a form, but then if He has body parts, are not they part of the illusory energy known as maya?

There are many other descriptions in the Vedas for the same person. He is Purushottama, or the supreme person. A person is an individual, an entity who thinks, feels and wills. An individual is also distinct from another individual. I can never be you and you can never be me. In the same way we can never be God, though we can be with Him. Krishna is also Rama, the giver of transcendental pleasure to others. He is Aja, or unborn, and Ajita, or unconquerable. He is undefeated in the true sense of the word.

Perhaps this study through names is too much to handle. Maybe there is a preference for in-depth philosophy or stories, real life examples that show how these attributes manifest. For this there are the Upanishads and the Puranas, supplements to the Vedas. These works have the highest philosophy known as Vedanta along with histories of events that took place on this planet and others. Still there are more works, such as the sankhya philosophy, which is commonly translated to mean metaphysics. Study the various elements and how they combine together to make the bodies we see around us. Also learn how the spirit soul, the infinitesimally small spiritual spark within these bodies composed of the various elements, is the director of action, how it is the indestructible force within every life form.

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)

Put all that effort, all that study, which requires constant attention and daily exercise of the mind, on one side and juxtapose it with mother Yashoda’s thinking. That same person whom the transcendentalists are trying to understand Yashoda took to be her son, her dependent. Shouldn’t she have abandoned this notion? Or perhaps this was her way of moving up the chain of thought? Mistakenly considering God Himself to be her helpless son would help her to develop detachment. She would acquire higher knowledge as a result and thus know the difference between spirit and matter?

Ah, but in actuality Yashoda was already in the superior position. How does this work exactly? From the Vedas we are taught to not be attached to family and friends, to rise above profit and loss and happiness and sadness. Yashoda had just felt a sort of pleasure in surrendering to the divine, leaving Him in charge of the important stuff. But Krishna quickly took away that vision and caused her to reassume her role of affectionate caretaker. This means that superior to the positions of jnana and vijnana is bhakti, or devotion. The aim of life is to have such a strong love for God that you can’t think of letting Him go for a second.

Of course we offer such kinds of service already, though to entities who are not God. The love is therefore checked and doesn’t always develop consciousness properly. On the other hand, the love for God automatically descends down for our benefit. If you love Krishna the way Yashoda did, you will automatically love His other children. Your own dependents are linked to Krishna in the same way that you are, so you share a common bond with them. With the devotional consciousness you are more aware of the proper duty in life and you will take the right steps to stay true to it.

By pleasing Krishna directly your other obligations fall into place. It doesn’t work the same way when the situation is reversed. In study of Vedanta philosophy, you may have to force renunciation upon yourself and devote time to understanding the highest truths. In the process, there is less time for others. You are more or less acting for yourself, trying to develop a higher understanding at the local level. But when your starting point is love for Krishna, the actions you take benefit others. By regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, others can hear the sounds of the holy name, which are non-different from the person they represent. They can see your example of devotional service and know that there is a higher point to reach in life. From bhakti-yoga the worker exercises their natural abilities in so many ways. The result is a potential for so much happiness, as so many plans can be made with respect to practicing bhakti. There is no monotony and others are free to join you in the devotion.

Krishna and mother YashodaMother Yashoda is an ideal role model in this regard. Though she may have wrongly considered Krishna to be her son, her love for Him benefited more than just herself. We are still talking about Yashoda to this day, so we know that there is something to be learned from her devotion. Moreover, Krishna was pleased by her work; otherwise He wouldn’t have agreed to appear in Vrindavana as her son. Nanda Maharaja got the credit for being a good father, and the community got the benefit of seeing Krishna all the time and delighting in His childish play. The cows received the benefit of seeing and feeling Krishna; they showed their delight by filling their milk bags with milk upon the sight of Yashoda’s delight.

Nanda and his wife had previously undergone many austerities to receive this special benediction. In this way we know that the study of Vedanta and the practice of religious principles lead to a higher stage. Krishna actually removed the veil of ignorance for Yashoda, as she had no desire for a steady philosophical understanding. It’s what you make of your understanding that counts. Think of it like having a law degree or a medical license. Unless you practice what you are certified in, your status doesn’t mean much. It is the exercise that makes the professional, and in the spiritual realm it is the output of devotional love that proves how intelligent you are. The previous study is meant to elevate you to that point, as through the many lifetimes in the material land forgetfulness of God’s true position is strengthened. Like untying a thick knot, the Vedas, the Upanishads, sankhya philosophy and other Vedic literatures represent tools to help you slowly awaken your original consciousness.

With bhakti, however, Krishna personally comes to slash away the knot of ignorance, immediately opening the door for transcendental pleasure that doesn’t have to end. Yashoda validated this with her daily concern for her son. From her exchanges with Him know that the person the mind is searching after is pleased most by devotion in utmost humility. Urgency in the practice of bhakti-yoga also leads to the benefit of the devotee, as their impatience makes them rush towards Krishna’s smiling face, which is the elixir to cure the burning fever of material existence.

In Closing:

Cows’ milk bags become full upon sight,

Of Nanda and Yashoda’s delight.

 

The minds of devotees He instantly steals,

Pleasure from Yashoda’s love He feels.

 

Three Vedas, Vedanta and sankhya combine,

For intellectual abilities to refine.

 

Though intense study and philosophy read,

For devotees such laborious effort no need.

 

Devotional service to Krishna is the final stage,

From her love, Yashoda wise as any sage.

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Hugs and Kisses

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 5, 2012

Yashoda with Krishna“Mother Yashoda regarded the vision of the universal form within Krishna’s mouth as an arrangement of yogamaya, like a dream. As one forgets everything after a dream, mother Yashoda immediately forgot the entire incident.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.44 Purport)

What will your awe and reverence do for you? Sure, it’s great to look at something that is amazing and feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation for it, but what to do after that? Should your goal be to repeatedly offer that respect going forward, day after day? What about the other party’s perspective? Would they prefer this kind of worship, wherein others are afraid of them? Think of your own life. It’s nice when people you don’t know very well offer you complimentary words, but don’t you enjoy the company of your friends and family more? Wouldn’t you rather have someone around with whom to interact, to share your thoughts and feelings and not worry about their super high level of respect for you?

If this tendency exists in us, it is present in the Supreme Personality of Godhead as well. Respect for Him is required; otherwise the pathways followed in life lead to peril. For instance, only without respect for the Lord of all creatures would we repeatedly inflict violence on the most innocent among us, leading to temporary gains in the short term in the form of animal flesh for consumption, but bringing potentially terrible returns in the form of the same violence inflicted upon us later on. Taking someone else’s property is also an indication of disrespect of the rules instituted by the original proprietor of everything. Every object is but a collection of earth, water, fire, air and ether; thus we can’t lay an original claim to any object. At the time of birth we have nothing, but through temporary exchanges in titles, we think we accumulate this thing and that, not wishing to part with what we deem to be ours.

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

Without respect for an original controller we think it’s wise to remain intoxicated, essentially worshiping the bottle of whiskey instead of the Supreme Lord. Intoxication is known to bring a lessening of rational thought and a loss of motor skills, yet somehow we think that this state is superior to sobriety. The mind is very powerful after all, so if we wanted we could think our way to happiness. Just try it. Tell yourself right now that everything is alright. It may be difficult, but think back to a time when you were happy. Perhaps there was a future event that was anticipated. Perhaps there was a previous success enjoyed. Though the external conditions were favorable, it was actually your mind that brought the happiness. That same mind can be programmed to feel pleasure at any time, without reliance on outside factors like intoxication.

Only without respect for God would you be consumed with envy, thinking that another’s good fortune somehow makes you inferior. Whether one is wealthy, middle class, or poor, the enemies of the mind known as hankering and lamenting remain active. The wealthy person’s lamentation over the loss of a cherished object can be so strong that it leads to severe depression. Meanwhile, the poverty stricken person may be at peace with their meager lifestyle, accepting whatever comes their way. Indeed, in the Vedic tradition the highest transcendentalists voluntarily accept a life of real austerity in order to further develop God consciousness.

“The manifestations of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.11)

It is in God consciousness that the godly qualities start to develop. In this state, every living being is viewed equally, as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. The prerequisite to this viewpoint is an acknowledgement and steady cognizance of that Supreme Person’s existence. There is no jealousy in the person who respects God because temporary positions of opulence and destitution are known to be but the results of past work, sort of like having winners and losers in a game. The game itself is not to blame, as the participants know the full range of possible outcomes when they start.

The person who respects God understands that all creatures have a right to an existence, even if there is fighting between them. Just because a fish eats other fish or a tiger eats other animals doesn’t mean that the more intelligent human being should imitate such behavior. If you know better, if you know that you have more intelligence, why should you lower yourself to activities of the less intelligent? The person who respects God has no need for such things as intoxication because only with a sober mind can the full awareness of God’s energy be present.

But above awareness is love through action. The elevated Vedic scholars of the past have studied the different kinds of worship in detail, and so they have a corresponding term for every type of worship. In the mindset where there is a lack of worship, the person is deemed a mudha, or fool. If they purposefully try to thwart the worship of the pious, they are known as an asura, or one who is against the people in the mode of goodness, where God is respected. If there is some acknowledgment of a higher power, some respect for God, the person is known as a sura. They are also a devotee in a sense, following bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Within bhakti-yoga, there are different rasas, or transcendental mellows. Reverential worship is the beginning stage of bhakti, and it is known as shanta-rasa.

Shanta-rasa at least shows an acknowledgment of God’s position; thus it is superior to ignorance. Nevertheless, the more advanced rasas are there to give more pleasure to both the worshiper and the worshiped. How this works can be seen in the interactions between mother Yashoda and Lord Krishna. In shanta-rasa we may not know what God’s features are. If we do, we think of them only in terms of greatness. We see someone who is wealthy, and so in comparison God is considered to be the most wealthy. We see someone who is beautiful, and so we think that God is more beautiful than they are. We see someone with great external opulence, and so we know that God must be more opulently decorated.

In His original position, God’s features are both greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. This means that even as a small child He is in a superior position. Though He may not appear to be so powerful or opulent as a child crawling around the dirt of the sacred land of Vrindavana, He retains all of His features nonetheless. And in that enchanting body He extracts more love from His innumerable children than He does in His position as Lord Vishnu or the abstract God that is sometimes mistakenly depicted as an old and angry man.

Mother Yashoda and KrishnaThe child Krishna creates a sense of urgency in the caretakers. In this situation worship of God ceases to be an optional pursuit. Mother Yashoda is compelled to love Krishna because if she ignores Him He might get hurt. At least this is what she thinks. Obviously the mindset is not logically based, as Krishna can never be harmed, but when the attitude leads to devotional offerings, it is most beneficial. Hence what is logical is not always what is beneficial in the realm of bhakti.

One time Krishna was accused of eating dirt by His friends and elder brother Balarama. Yashoda took the complaint seriously and wanted to know why Krishna had eaten dirt. He swore that He hadn’t and asked His mother to look into His mouth if she didn’t believe Him. This was a trap, of course, to lure Yashoda into seeing the universal manifestation, the virat-rupa. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than this vision. Think of looking into the sky on a clear night and appreciating the wonder of the infinite beyond. Now multiply that by as large a factor as you can think of and you get a slight idea of what Yashoda saw within Krishna’s mouth.

The awe-inspiring vision immediately made her release some of her concerns. Thinking that her husband belonged to her and that her home and property were also hers was not wise since God is the controller of everything. With a quick show the Lord instilled the proper knowledge within Yashoda, who couldn’t think of anything else but surrendering unto God. “He is in charge of everything, so I leave all of the results up to Him. I shouldn’t worry so much; instead I should just pray for His favor that everything works out.”

This thinking is quite wise, and perhaps we all have had the same realization at some point in our lives. You try so hard to effect a particular outcome only to fail in the end. Other times you don’t try as hard and everything works out. Thus you know that there are higher forces responsible for distributing outcomes, and that you’d be better off just following the righteous path and leaving the rest to the people in charge.

After coming to this realization, however, Yashoda then forgot about the vision and returned to loving her son. It’s not that her attitude necessarily changed; she still respected God. But she didn’t start to apply the reverential attitude to her son, in whose mouth was seen such an awe-inspiring vision. She instead figured it was some mystical event, something that couldn’t be explained. It was like a dream that was now over, so time to go back to loving Krishna. Indeed, this is the natural progression for one who has developed a deep respect for the Supreme Lord. Better than respect is love that continues to be offered. Regardless of what she saw, Yashoda was not going to stop loving Krishna. She would always worry about Him, wherever He was and however powerful He seemed. So in her mind there is complete connection to God, yoga that doesn’t break. That link is both the aim of life and the source of the highest pleasure, showing that God’s path of loving devotion is always the right choice.

In Closing:

In dream one moment you’re dwelling upon,

And then the next moment it is gone.

 

The universal manifestation in son’s mouth to see,

Then in an instant Yashoda from vision set free.

 

To loving her beautiful son she returned,

In process a deep respect for God was earned.

 

But devotion in maternal affection not to stop,

Concern for darling of Vrindavana she couldn’t drop.

 

Thus know there is higher state than reverence,

Love in bhakti-rasa God’s preference.

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Not The Easy Way Out

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 2, 2012

Krishna with mother Yashoda“When the immediate cause cannot be ascertained, let us simply offer our obeisances at the lotus feet of the Lord. Mother Yashoda concluded that the wonderful things she saw within the mouth of her child were due to Him, although she could not clearly ascertain the cause.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.41 Purport)

“Oh sure, you encounter a stumbling block and you reach for your trusted excuse of the divine influence. ‘God must be responsible, for I can’t explain how such things are occurring.’ But this is how man thought long before it was learned what the sun was, what the patterns of weather were, and what influence the material elements had on the creatures living on the earth. In addition, the thunder and lightning were previously thought to be the wrath of God, the sign of doomsday destruction coming from above. But we now know that thunder and lightning can be predicted using satellite imagery. Also, there are chemical components to these aspects of nature, showing that the ‘God’ excuse can’t answer everything.”

This line of reasoning seems plausible enough. The assumption is that the concepts of a God and all of His accompanying features were only created through ignorance.

“People living in the sticks weren’t educated enough to go beyond what they saw in front of them; thus they concluded that a higher authority was in charge. How else to explain birth and death and the wondrous nature around us? If only they were educated they could have learned about material science and how man keeps discovering new things that take away God’s influence.”

But what has science really uncovered? In a remote village somewhere in the world a person believes that the sun is controlled by a presiding deity, an entity with a larger scope of power than the individual. Material science, on the other hand, has gotten closer to the sun by taking pictures from outer space. We can guess the sun’s temperature and the influence it has on others. But how about beyond that? Where did the sun come from? How does it continue to operate on its own, without requiring an external source of fuel? Moreover, how does it stay in place, without dropping to the infinite bottom? When will the sun burn out, and is that even possible? How come we can’t create our own miniature version of the sun? We have lights and heating appliances, but they require external sources of energy, which if you ascend the chain of causation high enough, you’ll see that the dependency is on the sun anyway.

With the mother of a charming boy a long time ago, there was a vision granted that couldn’t be explained. Indeed, that vision was of everything. Picture all the stuff in the universe crammed into one image. Such a vision had both the detailed and the abstract. There were higher living entities seen as well as the cosmic space itself. And of all places, the mother saw this image in her young son’s mouth. He had been accused of eating dirt by His friends, and to prove that He wasn’t lying, He asked the mother, Yashoda, to check His mouth.

Of course, this was the darling of the town’s plan all along. Why speculate on what’s out there when you can see it for yourself? By seeing this vision, the mother wouldn’t think that chemicals and elements were responsible for everything. She saw something that no modern machine can mimic, and so she had the most valuable scientific data. In the realm of material science, the more new information that is uncovered, the more the influence of God is removed. That is the hope anyway, but in reality such discoveries only further solidify the Supreme Lord’s position as the most amazing person having the most creative mind. His creative abilities are staggering to the point that man has yet to scratch the surface of the complexities and intricacies of this creation.

"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?" (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)

Likely God’s most amazing influence is the effect He has on man relating to death. Man has seen every past generation die eventually. Everyone who lived in the past had to suffer death. Sometimes we see this happen with our own eyes, and not just to the elderly. A young child can be killed within the womb, not making it to the eyes of the world. And yet with the preponderance of available visual evidence, man still somehow thinks that he won’t die. He may acknowledge impending death, but he acts in such a way that you wouldn’t know that he was aware of his mortality.

Krishna with mother YashodaMother Yashoda saw this wonderful vision in her son’s mouth and then didn’t try to explain it with mental speculation. She just surrendered to God more fully, acknowledging His brilliance. Who can be greater than the person who can create the most complex image in the world? Who can explain the regular patterns to the collision of elements that appear to be moving randomly? The living beings are autonomous in their decision-making, so they can choose to behave however they wish. And yet higher forces of nature like the sun, which would be assumed to have the same autonomy, operate in patterns that can be predicted. Even the human being’s behavior can sometimes be guessed, for there are patterns to the journey through life.

The easy way out of the maze of doubt is to continue to deny God’s existence and rely on blunt sense perception to explain everything. This path is flawed because based only on the authority of others we know of so many experiences. We have not consciously experienced death yet, but we know that it will happen. We have not seen the universal manifestation, but we know that it exists in both theory and reality. The sum collection of all the elements of all the worlds does exist, though we have no way of seeing it. In a similar manner, the Supreme Lord is a factual person, whose influence is felt through every aspect of life. Though we don’t have the ability to fully understand Him, when there is a sincere desire to connect with Him in a mood of surrender, just enough information is revealed.

This was the case with Yashoda, who got to love God through her son. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that vision shown to Yashoda belongs exclusively to Him, as He is the original proprietor of everything. The route of explaining everything in life through its relation to Krishna is more difficult because it requires a check to the ego, which makes the individual falsely think that they are the sole enjoyer in this world. But when the burden of responsibility for the workings of nature is shifted to Krishna, the mind can live in peace, and who wouldn’t want peace? Everyone is searching after the absence of distress, but with each new discovery aimed at eliminating God’s influence from society, man gets further and further away from the cherished condition. Learn from Vraja’s queen that there is happiness in life and it can be found in full surrender to the divine.

In Closing:

The sun, moon, weather, loss and gain,

How all of these things I can explain?

 

Times past lacked scientific knowledge definitive,

Thus automatic turn to God tool of the primitive.

 

Scientific research new profound truths to uncover,

Eliminate heralded God with each thing discovered.

 

Oh but you still can’t explain something like the sun,

We have artificial light and heat, but still like it there is none.

 

Yashoda tried not to explain the cosmos infinite,

Of God’s supremacy over all she was definite.

 

Follow her model and love for her son hold,

From Krishna truth of countless mysteries be told.

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Surprise Praise

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 17, 2012

Krishna's lotus feet“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)

Let’s say you have a regular group of friends. Whatever it is that you do in your leisure time, you do it with these select few people. Going to the movies, eating out at a restaurant, attending a festival, watching television – nothing is done alone. Your friends are there with you, and for better or worse, you’re stuck with them. These are the people you are loyal to. Now within this group, there is a certain dynamic, a rapport established. In a one-on-one conversation, the two parties are forced to engage in some kind of meaningful dialogue, but with groups of three or more, the conversations are a little different. Perhaps there is constant joke-making or maybe there are quick discussions on many topics.

For this hypothetical scenario, let’s say that one person in the group isn’t particularly nice to you. Deep down, you know they don’t dislike you, but the nature of their behavior towards you is unkindness, wherein they constantly make fun of you. Despite the fact that you know this is how they talk with you, if, for some reason or another, they should one day say something nice to you, something genuinely appreciative of your attributes or your contribution to a particular area, will it not make you feel good? Who doesn’t like to hear kind words coming their way? Surely there might be embarrassment, but praise from someone who otherwise constantly makes fun of you is more noteworthy. It is remembered and appreciated that much more.

If this tendency exists in you, why shouldn’t it also be present in the origin of creation? Just as we have intelligence, the creator has a functioning mind that thinks of things and then does them. As He is the most powerful, simply by His thinking major changes can happen. By a single exhalation, this and many other universes are created, and through an inhalation, everything returns to Him, sort of like the largest boomerang we can think of.

“The origin of the material creation is Maha-Vishnu, who lies in the Causal Ocean. While He sleeps in that ocean, millions of universes are generated as He exhales, and they are all annihilated when He inhales.”  (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.16.37 Purport)

vishnuEvery tendency we see both in ourselves and in others originates from Him. Laughing, crying, stealing, cheating, telling the truth, lifting heavy objects, doing complex mathematics equations – whatever we can think of is rooted in this supreme person. The difference with Him, of course, is that these tendencies can’t harm Him. The original person’s stealing is as good as His rescuing. His smiling is as good as His chastising.

We have documented examples of how this works. In the Bhagavad-gita, a famous text of the Vedic tradition, the origin of matter and spirit mildly rebukes a warrior for growing hesitant prior to battle. Not wanting to fight due to misplaced affection over the fortunes of friends and family members fighting for the opposing side, Arjuna came up with all sorts of excuses to justify his behavior. He used whatever knowledge he had to convince himself that fighting was indeed the wrong course of action, that it was his duty to sit down and give up.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.”  (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

Luckily for Arjuna, the most knowledgeable person was his chariot driver. Shri Krishna stepped in and corrected Arjuna, showing some unkindness in the beginning. When this criticism comes from a loving teacher, it is only beneficial. You don’t want your student to think that their faulty logic is correct in any way. But Krishna’s kindness continued with an exposition on the differences between matter and spirit, and how every person has a duty to fulfill based on their inherent qualities. Krishna explained that Arjuna’s duty in dharma was to fight, but He still presented the same case using every other type of logic. Whether Arjuna thought that the individual takes birth and dies within the life cycle of the body or whether he believed in the eternality of the soul, the right option was still to fight ahead.

The same Krishna would give smiling glances to His dearmost devotees in Vrindavana. To them He would speak kind words. Since He played the part of a dependent to mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda, Krishna refrained from offering instruction. Instead, He just played like a loving child, accepting the affection of His parents and well-wishers. Thus in both cases, whether running around as a happy son or rebuking His cousin for the faulty logic invoked to shirk his duties, Krishna’s behavior was beneficial to the parties involved.

Lord KrishnaAs we are all His sons and daughters, there is an inherent link to Him. Though the chosen mood of interaction can vary, there is no doubt that a strong friendship exists. We may not know that God exists or that He is a personality, but this doesn’t eliminate us from candidacy for friendship. Shri Krishna is the best friend in this regard, as willful defiance of His wishes and intentional ignorance on the issue of His existence do not offend Him in any way.

Just as the friend that usually makes fun of us can brighten our day with a few kind words, just imagine the pleasure the Supreme Lord feels when He hears words of praise. Of course there is a psychological component to the joke-making from the person in our group. Rather than deal with mushiness, rather than feel embarrassed by acting too nicely to someone else, it is easier for them to hide behind humor, to use humor as a defense mechanism to keep others at a distance.

In the relationship with Krishna, there is no need for such walls. The relationship is deeply personal after all, so the praise offered His way doesn’t need to be broadcast to others. Simply chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, in the proper mood can put a smile on Krishna’s face. Actually, just the dedicated effort alone is an indication of affection. If we feel so inclined, we can speak out our thoughts or record them in books, songs and poems. These are already nice outlets for expressing emotions, so in the realm of spirituality they gain the most receptive audience. Krishna’s ears are all-pervading, so He can hear kindness from any place.

Though in the higher modes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, there is no expectation of reciprocation, know for certain that Shri Krishna responds to the kind words of the devotees. An indication of His return of affection is the continued ability to offer that praise. With our friends and family we may feel embarrassed to say nice things, but with God not only can the guard be let down easier, but the praise can continue to be offered, day after day, month after month. The saints who distribute the message of divine love and teach others how to connect with the storehouse of virtues pray along these lines, to have only one thing in life after life: devotion to God.

“O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.”  (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29)

Lord Chaitanya worshipingLord Chaitanya was Krishna Himself appearing on earth to distribute the message of bhakti-yoga to as many people as possible. In a state of pure humility, He asked to only have devotion to Krishna in birth after birth, not concerning Himself with beauty, wealth, or good education . This means that nothing can check devotional service. Not a low birth, a troubling circumstance, a lack of beauty, nor loneliness.

Know that the concept of an existence comes from Krishna, so from there we have a point of glorification. One needn’t be highly learned in this area, as just a simple “thanks” for having friends, family and food on the table serves as a point of entry into the relationship with God. Chanting His names and giving service to man by teaching Him to revive the same connection brings pleasure to the divine master, ensuring that there are endless future opportunities for service. The pleasure He feels through kindness offered His way gives pleasure to the glorifier as well, making for a wonderful friendship that never has to break.

In Closing:

With your friends engage in play,

Sometimes jokes to them you’ll say.

 

One friend in particular may be mean,

Never from them a kind word is seen.

 

Yet if suddenly nice by surprise,

Feel happiness of immense size.

 

Know that God for too long you’ve forgotten,

Thus now stuck in material misery so rotten.

 

But just one kind offering that will change,

To Supreme Lord never is love strange.

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The Highest Dharma

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 3, 2012

Lord Chaitanya worshiping Radha and Krishna“Merely by chanting we can have all the advantages of personal association with Krishna. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is not only considered to be a realized soul but an incarnation of Krishna Himself, has pointed out that in this age of Kali, although men have no real facilities for self-realization, Krishna is so kind that He has given this shabda (sound incarnation) to be utilized as the yuga-dharma, or way of realization of this age.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Beyond Birth and Death, Ch 5)

Dharma is a word that descends from the Vedic tradition. At its root it means a defining characteristic. That definition actually applies to all the uses of the word, as the ideal feature of an object is then what determines virtue, right and wrong, etc. Dharma is thus more commonly equated to religion, which is the system of maintenance aimed at awakening the defining characteristic of the practicing individual. But dharma is often qualified with other terms, showing that there are copycat versions of the system of maintenance, that is there exists smaller, more streamlined practices aimed at keeping different types of characteristics. Yet through all the variety, the original dharma remains the same, and its effectiveness is the most far reaching as well.

No matter what your level of intelligence with respect to spiritual matters, you will follow some type of dharma. Just getting up at a certain time each day represents a system of maintenance aimed at furthering a specific condition. If, as a family man, I arise at a specific time so that I can wake up my children, the rule is instituted for a purpose. The ideal condition is to wake the children up before school, giving them a proper breakfast and making sure that they catch the bus or get dropped off to the school building on time. Thus my time for waking up is part of a smaller dharma that I follow.

Coupled with the time of waking up is the time of falling asleep at night. If I have to wake up at a certain time, I need to fall asleep a set number of hours prior in order to avoid lethargy in the morning. Oh, and to sleep on time, I need to make sure to eat dinner at a specific time also. The body needs enough time to digest properly, and if I eat right before sleeping, the night of slumber will not be so pleasant. In order to eat on time, I need to prepare dinner a set number of hours before. For that to happen, I have to go to the store to get the ingredients for the dinner. The food items need to be bought in a certain amount, perhaps even in bulk. Then I need an area to store the food.

homeOh, and by the way, I need a house for all of this activity to take place in. For a house, I need a job, and for a job I need an education. To have children to wake up in the morning, I need to be married, or at least have a significant other. To get married, I need to take care of my physical appearance, which may mean working out at a gym. Again, to pay for all these things, I need to earn and save money.

In this way, we see that from one desired condition, so many other dependent conditions are created. The entire system turns into a dharma because it has corresponding rules and regulations to meet the ideal characteristic. If we go back to the beginning point, which was arbitrarily selected in this example, we can turn the condition upside down and still have a dharma. If our desire is to not wake up at a certain time, to sleep as long as we want, that too is a guiding principle. It is a type of dharma aimed at meeting a condition, though the result isn’t always as favorable. If I oversleep, I will miss out on other aspects of life and be more tired throughout the day. Thus the original dharma will have to be changed, with a different one adopted to meet the newly desired condition.

It is in this area that we see the flaw, or at least the limitation, to the smaller dharmas. There are problems we see in life that we want to fix. We see the damage that smoking cigarettes causes, so we start a campaign to stop smoking. We’ll air advertisements on television with young children speaking of how they are afraid of losing their parents to death because they smoke. The cigarette manufacturers will get sued for turning a huge profit off of the voluntary purchase of cigarettes made by others. Of course ignored through all of this is drinking alcohol, which can kill a person in an instant through a bad decision.

Another person sees environmental destruction and takes up the cause to stop pollution. Another person sees women abused in relationships and decides to hold an annual walk to stop domestic violence. A victim of cancer starts an organization to bring awareness to the society at large of cancer and other deadly diseases, with the hope that others will donate money to help find cures.

Through it all, the original dharma, the set of procedures which gave birth to the original word, is still the most effective. The spirit soul is the identifying agent within all life forms. That is the basis for dharma. The most inclusive characteristic will be the most ideal condition to be reached. At its core, the individual is a spirit soul, and the soul is full of knowledge, bliss and eternality. The ideal characteristic resulting from these properties is the desire to serve. “I think therefore I am”, is a profound realization, but it is still incomplete. “I want to serve therefore I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God”, is more accurate.

In sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupational duty of the soul, the right procedures are adopted to maintain that ideal characteristic. In the smaller dharmas there is also service. The defect, however, is that the service is not directed at the ideal beneficiary. It is for this reason only that the manmade systems of maintenance are adopted and then quickly discarded. Moreover, one person’s system may not be helpful to another person. If one person wants a big-box retailer to open up a shop in the local neighborhood to create jobs, their desire will clash with the shop owner who doesn’t want the new competition to put him out of business. The attention given to stop cancer does not help the person who wants to stop domestic violence. Each of these smaller dharmas is limited in their influence and thus automatically inferior to the highest dharma.

The soul’s ideal characteristic is to serve the Supreme Soul. Since so many other systems of maintenance are created, the qualification of sanatana or bhagavata is typically added to the original dharma. With that distinction, the spirit soul offers service to God in a mood of love.

But then the concept of God seems rather vague. If God is everything, why can’t He be the environment? Am I not serving God by stopping pollution? Therefore isn’t environmentalism a type of bhagavata-dharma?

To dispel doubts and remove confusion, the authorized scriptures give concrete information about the Supreme Soul. God is certainly everything, and the sum collection of stuff is one way to visualize Him. Nevertheless, that sum collection is just matter, which is lifeless without the injection of spirit. The Supreme Soul is spirit at the core, and so are the living entities. Thus spirit should serve spirit. When the spirit soul encased in matter serves the material energy, there is no question of dharma. Real dharma relates entirely to the qualities of the spirit soul, and these qualities can never leave the individual. In this way bhagavata-dharma never changes; it never has to be rejected once adopted in earnest.

The guiding principles of bhagavata-dharma bring about the ideal condition, thus offering a way for others to test whether or not the principles themselves are dogmatic or scientific. If I see that the system of maintenance I follow keeps the ideal characteristic I’m looking for, I know with faith that the path I’m on is correct. With bhagavata-dharma, the ideal condition is to be serving God, who is described as Bhagavan, which means one who possesses beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time. Service to such an entity results in everlasting pleasure and an endless desire to continue in that service.

BhagavanThe lesser issues are simultaneously solved through bhagavata-dharma. We saw that through the one desired condition of wanting to get the kids ready for school, so many other necessary conditions were created and addressed. In the same way, if our primary aim is to connect with God, the other activities will be shifted to accommodate that goal. The single best way to connect with God in the present age is to chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Hear these names, believe in their power, and recite them with firm faith, confidence and love. The holy name is so powerful that you don’t need to know who it addresses in the beginning. Just make a routine of chanting this mantra, taking special attention to hear the words.

There are accompanying regulations to the chanting routine, such as avoiding meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Food intake seems to be pretty easy to control, as you can just change what you eat. But what about controlling sexual urges and sleeping habits. How are we supposed to sleep less when rest is something we need? What to do when we have the urge for sex life? As service to God is the ideal characteristic for the soul, bhagavata-dharma is meant to be a fulltime engagement. Seems weird at first, because how are we going to worship God if we have so many other things to do throughout the day? Well, just as the lover struck by Cupid’s arrow can’t help but think of their paramour throughout the day, the devoted soul keeps the Supreme Lord within their consciousness at all times. That presence is safeguarded through regular chanting and hearing about the divine pastimes found in sacred texts like the Ramayana, Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

From that properly situated consciousness, so many new ways to practice devotion are found. In the ideal state, even sleeping turns into a time of devotion, as does the union of the sexes. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that He is the sex life that doesn’t go against religious principles. This means that sex life to propagate children who will grow up to practice bhagavata-dharma is completely in line with piety. From that ideal condition of loving God, the proper care for innocent women, the environment, the body, the mind, and so many other aspects of life is automatically found. Thus bhagavata-dharma is always supreme, and it never goes bad on the shelves of the spiritual storehouse that is the Vedic tradition. Know that at any time you can find the holy name and turn your life around.

In Closing:

Slumber at proper time you take,

So that children in morning you can awake.

 

Food, family and your beautiful home,

Need wife and job, can’t do it all alone.

 

Around ideal conditions this all does revolve,

Make regulations for different issues to solve.

 

But that which touches on spirit is the best,

Goes to essence, thus incorporates all the rest.

 

Highest dharma is God’s names always to chant,

Hear the words even if believe in Him you can’t.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Don’t Just Leave Me Alone

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 23, 2012

Lord Krishna“Mother Yashoda was agitated by Krishna’s restless misbehavior. Her house was full of sweetmeats. Why then should the restless boy eat dirt in a solitary place?” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.34 Purport)

To help in concentration, the studious worker prefers to be left alone. “I’m working on something right now, so I don’t want any distractions. I need to focus. If you bother me with this problem or that, I will lose my momentum, and it will be difficult to start back up again after having diverted my attention elsewhere. If I can continue on the task for a few straight hours, everything can get done; otherwise things will be left half-finished, and that will not be good.” For the sweethearts who keep the vision of the darling of Vrindavana in their minds in spite of their outside obligations, not only are they not left alone, they are given constant problems that will further enhance that remembrance. The nuisances are created by the famous butter-thief Himself for both His own pleasure and the delight of the affected parties.

Though the housewife is technically not considered to be employed in a full-time job, she actually holds the most responsible position. She receives no pay and she is on call twenty-four hours a day. There is no time that she clocks in or out, and she is the support system if anything should go wrong. In IT infrastructures, the servers and network connections must remain on during critical operation hours. If you have an application like an e-commerce website, you’re getting traffic at all hours of the day, including the morning, when most people aren’t working and are instead at home resting up for the hard day of work ahead.

But what if the website goes down? What if one of the databases suddenly becomes full or a backup job fails that causes the transaction log to fill up? What if one of the internet service providers has a failure in the middle of the night that causes your site to go down? What if someone decided to apply patches to the operating systems overnight, causing the servers to reboot? These and many other issues can arise at any time, and to deal with them there are alert systems in place. Depending on the level of support you are required to supply, you could be awoken at any hour in the night to come in and fix the emergency situation as quickly as possible.

Along similar lines, the good mother takes care of the house and the children throughout the day, making sure that everyone is happy. The husband is the biggest child, as he has specific likes and dislikes and requires things to be done a certain way. Unlike the younger child, he is more complex in his dealings, as he may not always be forthright with his sentiments. The experienced wife learns the moods of her husband and adjusts accordingly, almost learning to play him like a fiddle, playfully speaking of course.

The younger children are a little easier to get a handle on psychologically, but their uninhibited attitude makes emergency situations a frequent occurrence. At any time, the child can have an accident, start crying, or demand attention. But the housewife has so much else to do. She has to clean clothes, cook meals, keep the house neat and in order, and also welcome guests. What would a home be if you couldn’t be hospitable to the guests who visit? In the Vedic tradition, hospitality is stipulated as being part of dharma, or religiosity.

Mother Yashoda and KrishnaFor one particular mother a long time ago, the daily obligations were many. She lived in a farm community named Vrindavana, and there were no modern amenities to speed up her routine work. She had to take care of her husband, Nanda Maharaja, the king of the small community. She had many cows in her possession as well, and they required protection. She had to take the milk produced by them and turn it into various products like yogurt, cream and butter.

But attention was required most for her young child Krishna, who was a bundle of joy but also naughty and clever. His vision was precious, having a blackish complexion and a smile to curb anyone’s pride. The people of Vrindavana loved Krishna, and without motive. They were so happy to have Him as a resident. It was a close-knit community, so Yashoda’s delight used to roam around freely, going from house to house to spread His effulgence. He would also tend to the young calves with His brother Balarama and the other cowherd boys in Vrindavana.

So it seems like mother Yashoda should have been free to do her work, no? Just feed the husband and children, and the rest of the time take care of her household obligations? Krishna would play with His friends during the day, so this was sort of like sending Him off to school. She would pack His lunch for Him, and the boys would eat together, sometimes playing a pass-around game, where one boy would take another’s lunch and try to keep him from getting it.

“While passing through the forest, one boy stole another boy’s lunch package and passed it to a third. And when the boy whose lunch package was stolen came to know of it, he tried to take it back. But one threw it to another boy. This sportive playing went on amongst the boys as childhood pastimes.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 12)

Though Krishna would play outside quite frequently, mother Yashoda’s day was not free of interruptions. This young child was the enemy of King Kamsa of the neighboring town of Mathura. On the day of his sister’s wedding, a prophecy was made that the king would die at the hands of his sister’s eighth child. Kamsa didn’t take any chances, imprisoning Devaki and her new husband Vasudeva and then killing each of her first seven children. But the eighth one slipped away, as Krishna can never be caught unless He agrees to it.

Vasudeva taking Krishna to VrindavanaVasudeva transferred Krishna to Gokula Vrindavana after He emerged from Devaki’s womb, but Kamsa later on found out about the boy’s birth and location. He sent demon after demon to the sacred town to try to kill the baby. Should have been easy work, no? This was no ordinary child, however. Where there is beauty, fame and splendor, there is usually strength as well. Never mind the childhood form, Krishna had no trouble defeating these wicked characters.

While Krishna was actually safe the whole time, these attacks meant that Yashoda was in constant worry, wondering how her young child was able to escape trouble. When not worrying about His safety from enemy attack, Yashoda was concerned by the fact that Krishna kept going into the homes of neighbors and stealing their butter. The neighboring cowherd women would lodge complaints against her son, but when seeing His enchanting smile, they forgot all about their anger. They then asked Yashoda not to punish Him.

As if these distractions weren’t enough, one day Balarama and the other boys came to the mother and said that Krishna had eaten dirt. One more thing to worry about for the mother, who could not catch a break. She had so much work to do, and Krishna kept interrupting her. Why was He eating dirt? That is not a good thing at all. He should have known better.

Ah, but this distraction would give Yashoda a vision so mesmerizing that her love for her son would only increase as a result. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to delight His devotees He sometimes distracts them from their outside work. To maintain the body is not very difficult, though in the modern society hinged upon stiff competition and the race for technological advancement, just earning a living to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head is difficult. Nevertheless, there is more to life than just eating and sleeping. We have an existence for a reason, and it’s not to earn money, play video games, drink beer, or sit around and do nothing.

The purpose to the existence is to feel pleasure, the transcendental variety. As Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, He best supplies the needed ananda to the living entity. The stipulation is that one must be desirous of tasting that transcendental nectar. Even then, so many other distractions can arise, as the daily obligations require much time and effort to be diverted. But when there is determination to appreciate and love Krishna, the grand coordinator personally intervenes to show His presence. Mother Yashoda was benefitted by these regular distractions, for she got to see and think of her beloved son even more. Thanks to the sacred Shrimad Bhagavatam and the Vaishnava saints who explain the real meanings behind the many verses to sincere listeners, that same bundle of joy can distract us daily with His sweet pastimes.

In Closing:

To finish task you must work very hard,

Limited distractions help to go extra yard.

 

From diversions your momentum will drop,

Difficult to start again after a full stop.

 

But when motivation for divine love is pure,

Know that distractions to come for sure.

 

Except they will always be to the benefit of you,

Interruption welcome from child with beautiful hue.

 

Responsibility for many tasks Yashoda did own,

But her naughty son Krishna not to leave her alone.

 

Loving mother deserved to feel supreme delight,

So Krishna to show His smiling face always so bright.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Range of Applicability

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 17, 2012

Krishna's lotus feet“Anything, either material or spiritual, is but an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (13.13), the omnipotent Lord has His transcendental eyes, heads and other bodily parts distributed everywhere. He can see, hear, touch or manifest Himself anywhere and everywhere, for He is present everywhere as the Supersoul of all infinitesimal souls, although He has His particular abode in the absolute world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.24 Purport)

It’s strange to think that God can hear you from anywhere. Though typically you turn to the sky in times of trouble or you enter a house of worship when you really need help, such changes in physical orientation are not necessary. The Supreme Lord is considered omnipresent, which means that He is everywhere. Thus He can hear you from any place and during any time. Regardless of your condition, peaceful or in distress, you can connect with Him. That boon is beyond amazing, for it allows you to do more than just look for help.

Think of all the things that you like to do. In each area there is some range of applicability. Some ranges are larger than others, but regardless, there are certain places where you are prevented from taking up the activity in question. For instance, if you like to play ice hockey, you need a rink to skate on. Without a frozen pond in the near vicinity, your desire to play ice hockey must remain in a potential state. The same dependency on external circumstances exists with seeing a movie, eating at a restaurant, spending time with friends and family, etc.

It is therefore not surprising that any invention which can expand the range of applicability for preferred activities would be welcomed with open arms. Enter the internet and the more recent advancement of the smartphone. Now you can connect with people who are situated thousands of miles away. Log on to a web interface and type your information so that it can be transmitted to other parties in an instant. No longer do you have to spend time alone. If you want, you can even communicate via voice and video in the same manner.

video chat on an iphoneYour favorite games can now also be played on your smartphone or tablet PC. This means that in more places you can do the things that you like. If you prefer to talk to others, even while you are driving alone you can now have someone with you. If you prefer reading books, electronic versions of popular texts are available for reading on the tiniest of devices, giving you unimaginable portability. The idea is that the more time you can spend doing the things that you like, the happier you will be.

The omnipresent Supreme Lord accounted for this benefit long before we could ever think of it. He is the Supreme Soul, so He is the life of all creatures. His energy pervades the entire space, though His most blissful feature that is clearly defined for the purified vision is situated in the spiritual sky. This, however, doesn’t preclude Him from hearing and seeing everywhere. That connection with Him is available to any person, at any place, under any circumstance.

Why is this ability important? Just as we take pleasure from action, the interaction with the Supreme Lord is considered the most pleasurable. We may not be aware of this fact yet, but the Vedic scholars have revealed this secret for our benefit. They knew about our qualities before we knew we had an existence because the properties of spirit do not change from instance to instance. At the core of every living entity is a fragment of spirit, emanating from the giant collection of spiritual energy known as God. The fragments have individual identities in a spiritual existence, but this doesn’t mean that the inherent qualities are different.

The core qualities of the soul are eternality, knowledge and bliss. Eternality is evidenced in the inability of the soul to die. What we know as death is merely the shedding of clothes for the individual soul, giving up old and useless garments in favor of new ones. Birth is the next acceptance, taking on another form after the previous one is discarded. Throughout these changes the soul does not change; hence it is eternal.

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

Lord KrishnaThe knowledge aspect of the soul is difficult to decipher, especially considering how ignorant some species act. The animal has the same quality of spirit residing within, but it is unable to do complex math or communicate in different languages. The material qualities the animal assumes mask the brilliant qualities of the soul to a higher degree than do the qualities in the human being. Think of a lampshade covering the burning bright light from the bulb. This is how the soul’s knowledge is masked from the individual. Through the right education, knowledge isn’t necessarily gathered, but instead revealed.

Blissfulness is seen in the soul’s desire for ananda. Every single action we voluntarily follow is done to seek out this bliss. Even renunciation and austerity hope to further the aim of pleasure; the voluntary acceptance of punishment to reach a positive end. The soul is always looking for happiness, and since this tendency is revealed to us by the Vedic seers, they know best on how to help us find that bliss.

Not only is there a higher quality of bliss available, but it can be experienced in more instances as well. The range of applicability for brahmananda, or the bliss of experiencing the truth of Brahman, is infinite. You can take pleasure in the self, the individual soul, at any time, provided that you have the proper training. It is difficult to realize Brahman because through ignorance the perceived realization is that we are our body. Something bad happens to our body or to the body of someone else, and we get sad. If something good happens to the same, we are happy.

To see that we and everyone else are spirit soul, there is strict austerity required coupled with acceptance of higher knowledge. Yet more pleasurable than brahmananda is sharanagati, or the bliss of surrendering unto the Supreme Absolute Truth. Brahman is the collection of spiritual energy, but Parabrahman is the original source. Parabrahman is the person we generally refer to as God, but in the Vedas He is shown to have transcendental features.

Those spiritual body parts can do anything, and their reach is infinite. We liken them to body parts because that is a frame of reference we can use to understand the Supreme Lord. As Krishna, God is the most attractive, and thus connection with Him in a mood of devotional surrender brings the highest bliss. And what’s more, that connection can take place anywhere; it is not reserved for the temple, the book, or the remote ashrama. The houses of spiritual worship exist to foster the culture necessary for invoking that connection in the most number of places. The devotees, those who already connect with Krishna from anywhere, are like walking temples, as they bring the spiritual culture to others in the hopes that they will find the ananda they truly deserve.

Radha and KrishnaThe method of connecting with God that has the highest perceivable range of applicability is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chant this mantra anywhere and everywhere, without shame or embarrassment. Hear the sound vibrations and know that your ears are connecting with God. All that is really required is remembrance, or vishno-smaranam, but the chanting helps to make that remembrance easier.

Though the ability to connect with the omnipresent Supreme Lord exists, we somehow think that devotional life is a struggle, that we are being punished by following real religion. It is just the opposite in fact, and if a little pressure is applied in the beginning stages, the veil of ignorance will soon be removed, and whatever preconceived notions we had about God and spirituality will vanish, leaving the door open to interact with the beautiful Krishna.

In Closing:

Many things we like to do for fun,

Better when in many places can be done.

 

Tablet pcs and mobile phones add new versatility,

Same activities now with higher range of applicability.

 

Talk to someone even while driving your car,

Same fun whether they are nearby or far.

 

Endeavor of highest pleasure also has the widest range,

Can practice anywhere, your position you need not change.

 

Chant holy names and remember God wherever you go,

That Krishna hears your devotion confidently know.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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