Krishna's Mercy

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For Rama’s Benefit

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 16, 2015

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsidasji’s hope is to become weak without devotion to Rama and to become strong with devotion to Rama. O Raghuvira, when will you make Tulsi like this, in the way of the fish and the water?” (Dohavali, 57)

tulasīdāsajīkī abhilā।sā rāma prema binu dūbaro rāma premahīṃ pīna |
raghubara kabahu’ka karahuge tulasihi jyoṃ jala mīna ||

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At the highest level, bhakti-yoga is practiced entirely for the benefit of someone else. The name “yoga” is there. “Bhakti” is also present, and so the combination automatically implies some type of self-improvement. We do yoga to fix problems with our body and mind. Bhakti is one way to practice yoga, so obviously the system must exist to help the individual who is struggling. The Bhagavad-gita confirms that all living entities are struggling in the material world. The trouble comes from the five senses, with the mind making the sixth.

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke
jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi
prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

[the universe]The same verse says that the living entities are the eternal fragments of God. This first part is necessary for understanding the second. The struggle is not natural. If we are part and parcel of God, children to Him in a sense, we should not have any trouble. Our father is the supreme controller. Time operates at His direction. The inconceivably vast and complex material nature, which scientists have studied for centuries and still only understood just a small fraction of, is the product of the brain of the Supreme Lord; thus making Him the smartest person in the world.

The survival instinct finds ways to avoid misery in this material existence. Yet without knowledge of the relationship to God, there is no such chance for permanent success. Even if physically there are no threats at the present moment, the mind is always there to give trouble. The two aspects causing this trouble are hankering and lamenting. One second we want something. If we don’t have it, we lament. If we are still unhappy after getting it, we start to hanker after something else. The cycle thus continues.

Bhakti-yoga helps to bring an end to the struggle. It is a way of linking the individual with the Supreme. The means is love and devotion. The other means are mental speculation, meditation and breathing, and work done with detachment. In comparison, love and devotion stand out. This is because they can include any of the other methods. You can be working and still be in devotion. Think of the mother who tirelessly looks after the family affairs out of love. She is constantly engaged in work, but she is not attached.

[digital weight scale]You can similarly be working your brain and be devoted. The Supreme Lord is described as adhokshaja and amita. The first means that His qualities cannot be measured by any blunt instruments. If you put Him on a scale, you won’t get an accurate reading of His weight. There is no way to measure infinity. God can become lighter than the lightest and heavier than the heaviest whenever He chooses. Amita means that His features are inexhaustible. Time and space alone prove this. No one knows the beginning of time or when it will end. The same goes for space.

You can surely meditate and be in devotion. Think of the famous prince named Bharata, the son of Queen Kaikeyi. He spent fourteen years living in a tiny hut, meditating on a pair of sandals the entire time. This was not done out of weakness. He was not down on life with nowhere else to turn. He was the ruling king at the time, but he did not like how that ascension took place. So at the consent of the object of meditation, he took to the renounced life.

[Bharata meditating on Rama's sandals]Those sandals belonged to Shri Rama, who is addressed in this doha from Goswami Tulsidas. Rama is Bharata’s elder brother, the rightful heir to the throne in Ayodhya during the time of King Dasharatha. Tulsidas makes a request. That is quite natural to do, as the Supreme Lord can fulfill any desire. Does Tulsidas ask for money? Does he ask for dedication to friends and family? Does he want to be a good citizen?

He asks to be like the fish with the water. Tulsidas wants it so that when he has love for Rama he becomes stronger. And when he doesn’t have this love, he becomes weaker. This is not a typical request. The word used is “abhilasa,” which means an ambition or aspiration. Tulsidas knows how difficult it is to reach the position mentioned. The person situated there is in pure devotion. They have no other desires.

This ambition is not for increasing the fame of Tulsidas. The situation is desired because it is most pleasing to Rama. To say that we love someone is to give them a nice compliment. To say that we would die without their association is nicer. The height is to say that without their association we would be like the fish outside of the water. Shri Lakshmana, another younger brother of Rama’s, voiced this sentiment during Rama’s time.

“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

[Lord Rama]In essence, we could say that Tulsidas hopes to reach a situation that would pay the highest honor to the Supreme Lord Rama. In his humility he does not realize that the desire has already been fulfilled. Bhakti-yoga is unique in that the desire itself will bring success. The same is not true in jnana, yoga, or karma. No one will mistake the life of the poet for anything besides love and devotion to Rama. And so in true selflessness, the person in pure bhakti-yoga always gets what they want: increased honor for their beloved.

In Closing:

With unflinching devotion not to cease,

Actually honor of Supreme Lord to increase.

 

Tulsi not wanting for personal gain,

Bhakti to please God of Rama the name.

 

Like comfort of fish in safe water growing,

And going outside impending death sowing.

 

Tulsidas this situation already accepted,

By his words Rama’s fame further projected.

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Why To Extend Faith

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 11, 2015

[Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana]“O Tulsi, your personal interest is met by Rama and your supreme interest by Raghuvira, who has valiant warriors like Lakshmana and the son of the wind serving Him.” (Dohavali, 55)

tulasī svāratha rāma hita paramāratha raghubīra |
sevaka jāke lakhana se pavanapūta ranadhīra ||

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Here Goswami Tulsidas provides further justification for extending full faith and trust to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Rama. It is one thing to have faith in someone to deliver a particular thing. I have faith in the newsperson on television to accurately report what is going on in other nations. I trust the weatherman to do his best to predict the weather for the next few days. We put trust in so many people, for meeting different things. Tulsidas leaves no doubt that with Rama there should be full surrender. Both the personal interest and the interest in the afterlife are met in Him, who is a heroic warrior served by the most valiant warriors this world has ever seen.

[are we there yet?]Svartha is personal interest. As soon as we emerge from the womb we become aware of this type of interest. We cry to have our hunger go away. We ask our parents to buy us toy cars for play. When we go on family trips, in frustration we repeatedly ask, “Are we there yet?” In adulthood we look for a nice dwelling, a fancy car, and an attractive life partner. In this way svartha continues, as to live means to desire.

Paramartha is the supreme interest. This is for the future beyond the foreseeable. Where will we go after death? What circumstances will we find? Will we be happy? Is there a way to ensure safe passage to the best destination in the afterlife? Paramartha takes care of this.

Each person has their own idea of supreme interest. To the atheist supreme interest is non-existent. Everything ends at death, so svartha is their supreme interest. To the religiously inclined, supreme interest is going to heaven in the afterlife. Rebirth is acknowledged by those who follow the Vedic tradition. So birth in favorable circumstances, such as in a mercantile family, a heavenly planet, or a family of transcendentalists, is considered the supreme interest to be met.

prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
yoga-bhraṣṭo ‘bhijāyate

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)

[Goswami Tulsidas]Since he is supremely knowledgeable, Goswami Tulsidas understands that svartha and paramartha can both be fulfilled through one source. Though they are two terms, the only thing distinguishing them is time. Both are interests, but one is met sooner and the other later. In either case, the individual will exist. Therefore better it is to seek an interest that gives pleasure today that will continue into the future.

Svartha and paramartha merge when there is service to the Divine; otherwise they remain separate. In service to the Divine, svartha is met. The individual gets happiness right away. It arrives because the individual is happiest when serving. Service to the Divine, which can be done through something as simple as chanting the holy names, brings happiness immediately. The person who always chants “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” swims in the ocean of nectar that is the transcendental sound vibration representing the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The svartha turns into paramartha because the service never stops, provided the desire is there. Of course there is some concern here. How can we believe that the interest will remain? If I’m enjoying in my house right now, I know that one day the house will be gone. One day I will be forced to leave. Therefore I inherently understand that the svartha of enjoying in the house is different from paramartha. How, then, can the svartha of service to God in love become paramartha?

At the theoretical level, the two merge because the Supreme Lord is eternal in body and spirit. He is the lone individual who does not go through reincarnation. Time works at His direction; therefore it cannot operate on Him. In His original form of Shri Krishna, His transcendental body is described to be nava-yauvanam. He never ages past “pre-youth.”

“This nava-yauvana, or pre-youth, is the eternal transcendental form of Krishna. Krishna never grows older than nava-yauvana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.384 Purport)

[Lord Krishna]Krishna is also Rama, the worshipable form of choice for Tulsidas. When there is pure service to Him, the Supreme Lord offers protection. He brings to the devotee what they lack and preserves what they have. If they start to lack favorable circumstances, He brings them to a new situation. If they have enthusiasm and an undying will to continue in service, He preserves whatever progress they have made.

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

[Hanuman holding Lakshmana and Rama]Rama is also known as Raghuvira, which means “the hero of the Raghu dynasty.” How great of a hero is He? Rama has Lakshmana serving Him. Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and in fighting strength he is equal. Hanuman also serves Rama. Both Lakshmana and Hanuman are ranadhira, or great warriors. They are the greatest warriors in fact, and they both serve the hero of the Raghu dynasty. In this way Tulsidas gives assurance to both himself and future generations that one who loves God purely has no reason to fear. Their bhakti practice will be protected by Rama, who has Lakshmana and Hanuman standing by, ready to help.

In Closing:

Why to Supreme faith to extend,

And in afterlife’s existence to pretend?

 

Personal and supreme interest get,

Through just a single source met.

 

That person on the battlefield brave,

Any from ocean of suffering can save.

 

Has Lakshmana and Hanuman standing by,

Give Him faith, on their strength too rely.

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Talking About Smartas

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 5, 2015

[Wives of the brahmanas offering food]“Being advanced by thinking of Krishna constantly, they were performing the greatest form of mystic meditation. All the wives then became very busily engaged in filling up different pots with nice foodstuff. Due to the performance of the sacrifice, the various food was all very palatable. After collecting a feast, they prepared to go to Krishna, their most lovable object, exactly in the way rivers flow to the sea.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 23)

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Friend-One: I hear a lot of talk about smarta-brahmanas.

Friend-Two: And?

F1: One: I’m not really sure what the term means. Two: the tone seems to be pretty negative.

F2: Along the lines of “the smartas do this and the smartas do that.”

F1: Yeah, and that we shouldn’t be like the smartas. From the context of the statements, I have some sort of understanding, I think.

F2: Care to share?

[double yellow line on the road]F1: The smartas are those who follow the rituals and rules strictly. Whatever the guidelines may be, the smartas do not deviate from them. It’s sort of like the rule in driving about not crossing the double yellow line. Sometimes you have to, though, like if there is a car in front blocking your way.

F2: That’s a pretty good understanding of it. Smarta comes from the word smriti, which means “that which is remembered.”

F1: Shruti is the corresponding term, right?

F2: Shruti is that which is heard. The Vedas are known as the shrutis, since they are passed down originally in an oral tradition. Books are helpful, but they are not required. The people living on earth in the early portion of the creation are so pure that they can remember things after hearing them only a single time.

F1: Wow, that’s pretty cool. So the smritis would be things that are not as easily remembered, things you need to write down?

F2: Yeah, observances and the like. Think of it like succeeding in something after a difficult journey and then writing down your experiences. If, after the fact, you made up rules based on your experiences, then those become a kind of smriti.

F1: And shruti comes directly from the highest authority, like the Supreme Lord?

F2: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, so a smarta is someone who follows smriti very strictly.

F1: Oh, okay. My understanding was pretty accurate, then. That being the case, I have some questions about smartas, especially as it relates to bhakti-yoga.

F2: Bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation of the spirit soul. It can never be bound by law codes, things that need to be remembered, or someone’s system of life developed off personal experiences.

[Lord Rama]F1: I understand that. The first issue I see is that Lord Ramachandra seemed to be a smarta. Though He is God Himself in an incarnation form, He followed Vedic teachings strictly. Why shouldn’t we follow Him? Why shouldn’t we be just as strict?

F2: It’s a different time and circumstance. Even so, Shri Rama sometimes broke the rules. He is the Supreme Lord, so He is never bound by anything. Sita and Lakshmana also showed this. They left home to follow Rama into the forest. They disobeyed Rama’s direct request. Rama was their superior, which would make them violators of the smarta system.

F1: I’ll accept that. Here’s a tougher issue to resolve. In the bhakti-yoga tradition, especially the one descending from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, I see so many rules and regulations. In fact, there are too many to keep track of. My head starts spinning when I think of them.

F2: There’s the four regulative principles: no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex. There’s the chanting sixteen rounds daily of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There’s the no offending of other devotees. There’s the no standing with your back to the deities. There’s the no putting the demigods on an equal footing with Narayana, who is the same Rama and Krishna.

[Hari-bhakti-vilasa book]F1: So you obviously know what I mean. There’s that book, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, I think it’s called. It’s got tons of rules. The Upadeshamrita of Rupa Gosvami seems similar. On the one side there’s criticism of the smarta-brahmanas and how their path is wrong. Then on the other side you get all these rules in bhakti-yoga. Seems like a contradiction to me.

F2: With all these rules you’re essentially creating a rival smarta system.

F1: Yeah. So how do you resolve the issue?

F2: Anytime there’s a rule, there’s a goal. The rule is to help achieve the goal.

F1: Okay.

F2: So in the smarta system, the highest goal you can achieve is the liberation of merging into the Brahman effulgence. That is difficult to get, so the more attainable goal is residence in the heavenly planetary system.

F1: And that’s really no different than where we currently live. The enjoyment is a little more, and the time spent there is greater too, but otherwise no difference.

F2: Exactly. In following the rules of bhakti-yoga, the goal is love for God. This is the highest goal of an existence; one rarely seen but still having the most value. Obviously love is never dependent on outside factors. You can follow all the rules you want, but it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get love. But the rules do help.

F1: I see. I guess the example of the yajna-brahmanas in Vrindavana would be appropriate to mention here. They followed the smritis so strictly that they refused to break from their rituals to feed God Himself. Krishna asked for food through His friends and these brahmanas said “no.” They were preoccupied.

[Krishna and Balarama fed by the wives of the brahmanas]F2: And the wives of the brahmanas said “yes.” They were devotees. They were in bhakti-yoga, even though they weren’t smartas. They cast aside the rules to serve God. That is a great example.

In Closing:

Smartas getting criticized so much,

Since bhakti’s path won’t dare to touch.

 

But Vaishnavas also with rules strict,

So from criticism not to contradict?

 

The highest goal of each just see,

Love never from rules only to be.

 

Smarta brahmanas to feed Krishna refused,

But their wives different, with bhakti infused.

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Talking About Extortion

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 2, 2015

[Worshiping Radha and Krishna]“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness – these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ
brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

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Friend-One: I think I’ve figured out who the biggest cheats in the world are.

Friend-Two: People who sell cars?

F1: Nope. They’re not even close to the top.

F2: Really?

F1: At least you have some idea what you’re getting with them. Everyone knows that the person selling the car isn’t going to be totally honest with you.

F2: So the people at the top of your list are more dishonest?

F1: Absolutely. They don’t tell you there is a price going in. They appear innocent and saintly at the start. They guide you here and there. They tell you to do this and do that. Then when you’re about to leave, they demand money. If you give a little, they want more. If you refuse to give more, they tell you that what you’ve done thus far is a waste.

[deity worship of Radha and Krishna]F2: Ah, you must be talking about the priests that you find in the temples in India and the like.

F1: Bingo. This is strong language, I know, but to me they seem like thugs. They do the greatest cheating and in the name of religion. Isn’t one of the qualities of a brahmana to be truthful?

F2: Yes, satyam is truthfulness. Arjavam means honesty. The qualities are described in the Bhagavad-gita.

F1: These guys are the most dishonest. Have you experienced what I’m talking about?

F2: Absolutely. You walk in this direction and there’s somebody giving you a garland. They don’t tell you how much it costs. They tell you to offer it to the deity. Then on the way out they demand some money. They will follow you out, like they are members of a gang.

F1: I can’t believe this goes on. I just assumed everyone would realize how ridiculous this is. Why would anyone go to these temples, then? This would turn off so many people to believing in God, which is so important.

F2: A lot of people can overlook it. They realize the situation. They come prepared, with enough money to offer. They don’t mind getting cursed at on the way out. It’s all part of the deal, in their eyes.

F1: Yeah, but it doesn’t sit well with me. At least be honest from the start. I’m not trying to cheat anyone. I have no desire to be stingy. I’m not a miser. Ask me nicely for a donation, that’s okay. Don’t sit there and tell me that everything’s ruined, that my worship will not matter, if I don’t give you enough money. That is extortion.

[Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati]F2: I hear you. But listen, that’s just the way it is these days. His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that it is better to work a simple job like sweeping the streets than to show the deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the purpose of making money.

F1: He must have known very well what goes on in these temples.

F2: I think this should give everyone more appreciation for the imperishable path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Shri Krishna advises that we always think of Him [Bhagavad-gita, 9.34]. He doesn’t say that you have to worship in a specific manner, especially when there is so much dishonesty going on.

F1: I don’t feel like going to these places ever again. I’d rather chant the maha-mantra at home: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I think giving these guys money is only encouraging their thuggery.

F2: Like I said, some people can look past it. The Supreme Lord is so merciful that He never insists on any specific mode of worship. You can create a pure environment at home to do the same worship. If you’re with like-minded people, then everything is fine. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada put so much emphasis on the distribution of literature like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam to save people from this cheating.

F1: Yeah, thank God for him.

[Prabhupada's books]F2: So there’s no excuses. Like you said, you can chant anywhere. You can think of Krishna anywhere. If you’re so inclined, you can create a pure atmosphere for others to gather together for worship. Many people have done that already. There are institutions that provide much better facility for advancing in the divine consciousness, where there is less of the cheating you’ve encountered.

F1: It still fumes me, I must say. I guess it also explains how devotion is more important than asking for this thing or that.

F2: Yeah. People will try to tell you that you won’t get the result if you don’t do things a certain way. Fine. They may be correct. But if your goal is to increase your consciousness of God, there is nothing lost from a little mistake here and there. If you think about it, how can there be?

F1: Right. Whatever happens, at least your consciousness of the Supreme Lord is increasing. You don’t need some cheater’s blessing for that. I’ve heard you describe so many people from the past who were always thinking of God. They didn’t specifically do this ritual or that.

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]F2: Even Krishna Himself rebelled. When He told Nanda Maharaja to skip the Indra-yajna one year, that was an act of defiance. Like the cheating priests you met, the king of heaven did not tell the people that if they skipped his worship one year they would get punished so severely that there wouldn’t be any traces of life left in Vrindavana. The people had faith in Krishna, in following the worship of Govardhana Hill that He prescribed. They were in danger only from the material nature, but Krishna gives all protection to the surrendered souls.

In Closing:

Than deity for purpose of money to keep,

Better if honestly the street to sweep.

 

Words from Bhaktisiddhanta came,

Knew of cheating done in Lord’s name.

 

Consciousness of God should grow,

Meaning to all paths of bhakti so.

 

Even Krishna once the rituals defied,

Govardhana worshipers on His arm relied.

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The One Purusha

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 12, 2015

[Lord Krishna]“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

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The basic understanding of spiritual life is that there is a difference between matter and spirit. “You are not your body.” You need this told to you because the default thinking is otherwise. From the time of birth there is association with the body, and it continues until there is an inquiry made or exposure to knowledge of the real nature of the living beings. It is for this reason that the initiation into spiritual life is considered the second birth. Those who formally accept this knowledge are known as dvija, or twice-born.

There is spirit and there is matter. It’s easy to correctly guess which one is which. Our identity is as spirit, and that which we falsely identify with is matter. In Sanskrit two corresponding terms of relevance to this discussion are purusha and prakriti. Purusha is spirit, and it can also be translated to mean “person.” Prakriti is matter, and it is also known as “that which is enjoyed.” Purusha is the real enjoyer and prakriti is that which purusha can manipulate.

[hierarchical tree]In the classroom the teacher is the superior and the students are the subordinates. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual who is the teacher will always be in the superior position. At home they may have their own parents to answer to. Then they have the school board who is above them. Superior to the school board is the local government, and above that is the government running the entire nation.

In the same manner, the individual purusha becomes prakriti when the discussion turns to the original purusha. This is one way to understand God; He is the purusha for the entire creation. He is the original person. He is one, undivided, though His influence is spread everywhere. He is the ultimate enjoyer, while everything which emanates from Him is enjoyed by Him to some degree or another.

The original purusha is also known as the Supreme Brahman. These terms provide a little more clarity into the vague concept of God, but not much. The supreme being is the original enjoyer; that gives us a new way to define Him, but still we don’t know much from this definition. I can turn any person into the original purusha. Whomever I currently worship, I anoint them as the Supreme God.

“Who are you to deny the fact? This god is the Supreme Brahman. He is the same as your god. That is why I worship them. All these gods are the same. They are different manifestations of the same original purusha. You can’t tell me otherwise.”

The living entities struggling hard in this world are described as prakriti in the Bhagavad-gita, which is a work spoken by Shri Krishna. He is the Supreme Brahman, the one purusha. Just by reading the Bhagavad-gita, we get a better understanding of Him. Who is God? He is the person who speaks the highest wisdom that is actually timeless, though delivered from time to time, such as with Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago.

“There is a great misconception about the gods or demigods of this material world, and men of less intelligence, although passing as great scholars, take these demigods to be various forms of the Supreme Lord. Actually, the demigods are not different forms of God, but they are God’s different parts and parcels. God is one, and the parts and parcels are many.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12 Purport)

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]This Bhagavad-gita and works like it give the understanding of the difference between purusha and prakriti. The worshipers of other divine figures cannot point to similar statements made. Through sentiment or even basic ignorance they claim this person or that to be the one God, but there is nothing substantiating their claim. Any person can say they are God. Any person can claim to be the original purusha, the Supreme Brahman.

The personal side to God is superior because it greatly removes the chance to cheat. We know that Krishna is the original purusha because He describes the difference to us in the first place. He repeatedly refers to Himself in the Bhagavad-gita when discussing God. Other divine figures do not do this. Vedic literature is the most voluminous scriptural tradition in the world. In fact, no other tradition can compare to even a single Vedic work, the Mahabharata, in comprehensiveness and knowledge.

These works consist of many pages, and in them we do not find any ordinary person claiming to be God. The difference between matter and spirit is explained in many areas, for that is the fundamental teaching of the spiritual science. The personal side to God is also described in many areas, and it is done to remove doubt. The Supreme Brahman is never limited to one manifestation, but He is always a singular identity. The purpose to knowing Him is uniform also.

That purpose is to connect with Him. The ideal occupation of the prakriti coming from the original purusha is to be enjoyed. The enjoyer mentality leads to difficulty; it brings separation from the original enjoyer. That Supreme Brahman in His personal form reveals the path back towards the eternal occupation. Getting to know Him makes accepting that path easier; it clears the doubts as to who is God and what our relationship to Him should be.

[Radha and Krishna]The purusha enjoys through accepting the service of prakriti. The devoted souls serve without motivation and without interruption. They have no desire to cheat God by claiming to be supreme themselves. They don’t make false supreme gods and then worship them as a means of exploitation. They rather innocently look upon the Supreme Brahman with love and devotion, taking any chance to serve, always remembering through hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

An original purusha existing one,

From Him all prakriti has come.

 

To be enjoyed by Him meant,

In challenge to material world sent.

 

In Bhagavad-gita this all explained,

Wisdom by Arjuna and fortunate gained.

 

With a purpose, not just chest to beat,

So that with ideal occupation to meet.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Gaura Purnima 2015

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 4, 2015

[Lord Chaitanya birth]“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the full-moon evening in the month of Phalguna, an auspicious time full of auspicious symptoms, when Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advented Himself with the chanting of the holy name, Hare Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 13.19)

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sarva-sad-guṇa-pūrṇāṁ tāṁ

vande phālguna-pūrṇimām

yasyāṁ śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanyo

‘vatīrṇaḥ kṛṣṇa-nāmabhiḥ

To anyone who has ever sang the maha-mantra with attention, faith and love, the occasion of Gaura Purnima is very special. It marks the anniversary of when Gauranga Mahaprabhu descended to this world. He singlehandedly altered the landscape of the present age by introducing a time-honored tradition to the world in a new way, a way that would bring the people together at a time when they were finding any way possible to remain divided. That way addressed the true nature of the individual and the common bond they share with all other individuals.

In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that a wise soul applies an equal vision to the different species. From recent history we know that man has the tendency to discriminate. Wars have taken place simply over differences in race. Nations have sailed to other lands, found the people to be different, and then decided to make slaves out of them. The flawed notion is that the difference, which is only at the bodily level, makes the people themselves either superior or inferior.

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne

brāhmaṇe gavi hastini

śuni caiva śva-pāke ca

paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

[the vision of the humble sage]With this history in mind, it is not surprising that in formal education the idea of equality is presented. The Bhagavad-gita completes the idea by extending the vision of equality to all species. The humble sage, using his true knowledge, understands that the cow, the dog, the dog-eater, the elephant and the wise priest are all the same constitutionally. They are spirit soul at the core, which means that at the level which matters most, there is equality.

If a wise human being can have this vision, then most certainly it already belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is something even more important that links all the souls: their relationship to God. The Supreme, who is spirit also but of a higher quantitative potency, resides within each heart as the Supersoul. So not only is every living thing a spirit soul, but they also have the origin of all living things within them.

The present age of Kali features quarrel and hypocrisy. Though we all have the two previously mentioned features in common, we find any which way to make differences. Our focus is only on svartha, or personal interest, and not paramartha, or supreme interest. Svartha changes as the body changes, and since the individual bodies are different and in changing circumstances, svartha is never fixed. With different desires, there are bound to be clashes; hence the division.

[Lord Chaitanya]Paramartha is the same for everyone. That supreme interest derives from the relationship between individual spirit and supreme spirit. How do we describe that relationship? Lord Chaitanya, the bright moon to dissipate the darkness of Kali’s age, descends to teach us. He presents the philosophy of achintya-bheda-bheda. This truth says that the living individual spirit is simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Spirit. This combination is impossible to grasp fully; it is inconceivable.

If it’s achintya, then how are people going to learn? We have evidence right now of one way to acquire something similar to the vision of equality without consulting philosophy. We can take the example of the famous musician or band. They are known for the music they play. Their songs touch the hearts of so many that there is interest across the world to have them perform live. Thus the famous recording artist or band embarks on world tours, playing to sold out arenas in every major city.

The members of the band may have prejudices going in. They may be victims of the tendency to divide based on clashing self-interests. They may even have disagreements within the band, looking at their fellow mates as colleagues instead of friends. Through touring the world, however, they accidentally stumble upon the fact that people share something in common. Regardless of language, age or ethnicity, the fans seem to like the songs that the band plays. They offer praises, kind words, and even gifts. How are the band members to maintain their prejudices then? If they have yet to get rid of them, they still have to think twice before speaking up, for they know that their fans are not limited to only one group of people.

The philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference can similarly be spread through music. Lord Chaitanya was famous for His ability to chant and dance. He only had one set of lyrics, though. There was only one song He would sing, to different melodies and tunes. That song was the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[maha-mantra]On the outside this mantra seems different from God. For starters, it is simply a set of words. It has no physical form. It can only be heard. Even when read, the final result is hearing. Words are nothing more than markers to help create sounds. Yet these words are non-different from God. The person hearing them does not have to know these things right away. They don’t have to know that Krishna means “all-attractive” or that Rama means “the reservoir of all transcendental pleasure.” They don’t need to know that they are meeting their paramartha by chanting these names. Simply hearing will be sufficient.

There is every risk involved in teaching others about the science of self-realization. The important topic of worshiping the Supreme Lord should be benign, but it brings great opposition. There are so many divisions already, and if the recipient develops a flawed understanding they could end up offending God and His devotees. Why take the risk, then?

[Lord Chaitanya sankirtana]Lord Chaitanya saw the dreadful condition of the people of the age of Kali. He wanted to unite them, regardless of what divisions they had already created. He found the perfect way in the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names. While people have been singing the glories of God for centuries, it was never done in such an assertive and open way. Lord Chaitanya went to the people instead of the people coming to Him. His spiritual descendants follow the same example, for they know that everyone is intimately linked to God and that they will find true happiness only through connecting with Him. On the occasion of Gaura Purnima we remember and honor the beautiful son of mother Shachi, who worked to bring the people of the world together, to unite them in the peace that is bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

On this day Gaura Purnima to fall,

Remember the golden savior of all.

 

Who to Supreme Lord the same,

To teach bhakti philosophy came.

 

To the people He fearlessly went,

Sounds of holy names to them sent.

 

From this highest awareness coming,

In harmony of bhakti age golden becoming.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Talking About Putana

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 19, 2015

[Lord Krishna]“The innocent cowherd women thought that she was a goddess of fortune appearing in Vrindavana with a lotus flower in her hand. It seemed to them that she had personally come to see Krishna, who is her husband. Because of her exquisite beauty, no one checked her movement, and therefore she freely entered the house of Nanda Maharaja.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

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Husband: I was reading about the pastime with the witch named Putana again.

Wife: That’s great. Did you like it?

Husband: I always like it. It seems that every time I read it, I gain a different perspective.

Wife: Krishna’s pastimes are like that. It’s another way to know that He is God. He is truly unlimited. He is beyond our comprehension, yet He acts in ways that increase our knowledge and appreciation of Him.

Husband: All true, but you know I have a few issues to raise.

Wife: Don’t you always? I can’t wait to hear this. I’m sure this will not be like any other viewpoint I’ve heard yet.

Husband: You might get mad at me for this one. I’m just warning you.

Wife: Okay. It better not be offensive. I will not tolerate that.

Husband: If I border on that, then stop me. Still, I think these questions are worth asking.

Wife: Alright. This is what I get for giving you that book. You always have to be difficult. Go ahead.

[The Krishna book]Husband: Okay. Now it says that Putana was this amazingly beautiful woman. She absolutely enchanted everyone when she came to Gokula, the home where baby Krishna was staying.

Wife: That’s correct. This is one ability of the Rakshasas, the demons who are mired in the mode of ignorance. They can change their shape at will. Being ordered by Kamsa, the king of Mathura who wanted Krishna killed, Putana transformed into a beautiful woman and headed towards the home of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda.

Husband: Alright, I’m glad you mentioned Yashoda. She is a loving mother. Krishna just appeared to her. Yashoda gave birth to a child, but she wasn’t sure about its gender immediately due to the exhaustion from labor. Vasudeva transferred Krishna, the Supreme Lord, to Gokula and placed Him in Yashoda’s care.  He took with him the girl who was born to Yashoda.

Wife: Right. Nanda and Yashoda were foster parents. Vasudeva didn’t want Kamsa to kill Krishna, which he would have attempted if Krishna stayed in the jail cell in Mathura. Can you tell me your first question already? I have to start on dinner soon.

Husband: Oh, what are you making? Macaroni and cheese?

Wife: It will be brussel sprouts and water if you don’t hurry up.

Husband: Okay. If Yashoda is such a loving mother, how could she let Putana enter the home? Putana is a stranger. Though she was so beautiful, that doesn’t mean the mother should drop her attention on her son. Also, Putana came to feed breast milk to Krishna. Isn’t that a little weird? What kind of mother allows someone else to feed their child that way?

Wife: Wow. Yeah, I must say I’ve never heard this line of inquiry before. You never cease to amaze me. You realize that this is Gokula-Vrindavana, right? You understand how wonderful all the people there are, right?

Husband: Sure, of course. But does that mean that you would let a stranger come to your home? Would you let someone you didn’t know come and feed our son when he was a baby? I don’t think so.

[Yashoda and Krishna]Wife: This is a different time. We are all suspicious of one another. We’re not pure in our habits. The type of community in Gokula at that time can’t be found anywhere right now. People weren’t suspicious of one another. They all spontaneously loved Krishna. He was basically everyone’s child, though He lived in Yashoda’s home. Though she carried Him in her arms, everyone carried Him in their hearts. Everyone was so innocent; hence there was no suspicion. This is what happens in the spiritual world. There is no envy of the kind that we know.

Husband: I see. So it was because of her innocent nature that Yashoda allowed Putana to walk in? Fine, I can accept that. It was a different time.

Wife: What’s your next question? I know you’re going to try to top yourself in ridiculousness.

Husband: We know what happened next. Putana put poison on her breasts and fed Krishna. Yet instead of Krishna dying, it was Putana who did. Krishna sucked the very life out of her. When she realized what was happening, she pleaded for help. She wanted Krishna to stop. Yet He didn’t. Eventually the witch revealed her true form, which was gigantic. Finally, she died, with her falling body creating a terrifying sound as it hit the ground.

Wife: Yes. Isn’t Krishna so nice? He gives liberation even to His enemies. Since she thought of Him at the time of death, Putana was liberated.

[Krishna crawling on Putana]Husband: Okay, fine, but shouldn’t Krishna have let go when Putana started crying for help? Isn’t God all-merciful? Shouldn’t He have forgiven her? After all, Putana was in the mode of ignorance. She did not know any better. Why did she deserve to get punished like that? Doesn’t it show that Krishna is mean?

Wife: Wow, once again you’ve entered the realm of absurdity. You understand why Putana was there, don’t you?

Husband: Yes. To kill Krishna.

Wife: Who was how old?

Husband: Still an infant.

Wife: And you know that she had done something like this before, right?

Husband: Yeah? Oh, I guess that’s pretty bad then.

Wife: Pretty bad? Even if this was her first attempt, she still carried through with her plan. It’s not like she had a change of heart at the last second. The truly demoniac never learn their lesson. So if Krishna had pardoned her, she would have tried again some other day. Actually, by sucking the life out of her, Krishna showed her tremendous kindness. People would be lined up for days and months to get the same benediction if they knew it were available. To be killed directly by God is a great boon.

Husband: I see. I guess you’re right. I didn’t think of it that way.

Wife: Sometimes you have to carry out justice. There is no other way. It may not be pretty, and you may be well aware that the person committing the crime is not of sound mind, but you can’t worry about that. You have to protect the people. That’s what Krishna does, and the people love Him even more because of it. Even after this happened to Putana, Kamsa did not learn his lesson. That is more proof for you.

Husband: What do you mean? Don’t ruin the story for me!

Wife: You know all of this anyway. Kamsa kept sending more demons to kill Krishna. That shows you that the true enemies of God will never learn their lesson. Krishna continues to baffle them, which makes the devotees even happier. It’s always a win-win.

In Closing:

Putana to home coming to feed,

But for another mother what need?

 

When caught called for Krishna to stop,

But to suck life from her not to drop.

 

In first instance Lord not for mother alone,

Each thinking He was child their own.

 

And pardon to do nothing for the witch,

Demoniac of steady mind, never to switch.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Talking About Approaching An Old Man

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 14, 2015

[Lord Krishna]“This nava-yauvana, or pre-youth, is the eternal transcendental form of Krishna. Krishna never grows older than nava-yauvana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.384 Purport)

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Friend1: Let me ask you this.

Friend2: I love that. I know I have to be alert whenever you start a sentence with those words.

Friend1: Yes, you love the challenges I present to you. Anyway, here’s what I was wondering about. When you were younger, when you first began thinking about God, what did you think He looked like?

Friend2: That’s a good question. You know, I don’t think I ever thought about that. I never considered what He looked like.

Friend1: Right, me neither. But I’m sure you’ve since seen Him depicted as an old man.

[God depicted as an old man]Friend2: Yes. I’ve watched those specials on the History Channel about the Bible and such things.

Friend1: They have paintings too. He’s old with a gray beard. He’s looking down on the citizens disapprovingly.

Friend2: And He sends locusts and famine whenever He is unhappy. Paints a pretty bleak picture, if you ask me.

Friend1: It’s interesting that you say that. So that’s exactly what I’ve been contemplating lately. If this is what God looks like to you, why on earth would you follow religion?

Friend2: Elaborate further, please.

Friend1: Well, what is the fundamental claim of all religions?

Friend2: That you’ll be better off in the future.

Friend1: Right, but more specifically that by following such and such religion you’ll reach a better destination in the afterlife. You’re going to go somewhere that is different from where you are right now.

Friend2: That’s true. I mean, that should be obvious based on the fact that we’re all going to die. But yeah, I would agree with that characterization. Religion promises a specific place that you will reach if you follow what you’re told.

Friend1: So think about it. If God is old and mean, and following religion will bring you to Him, why would you follow religion?

Friend2: Are you trying to tell me that you hate old people [smiling]?

Friend1: No, silly. I understand old people have a lot to offer. They have years of experience that generates wisdom that they can pass on to us.

Friend2: That’s known as the descending process of knowledge gathering. Rather than try to experience everything for yourself, and thus waste a lot of time in the process, you take knowledge from higher authorities. In fact, that is the only way to truly know God. The ascending process will never get you there.

Friend1: Okay, okay, we’ll get to that later, but hear me out first. In this world there are boundless opportunities to experience things that are fresh and new.

Friend2: I would agree with that. At least that’s how they look on the surface.

Friend1: You get a new car, a new phone, a new spouse even. If your dog dies, after a few days you go out and get a new one. You don’t have to be stuck with old things.

Friend2: Yeah, they come out with a new smartphone each year. Just when you get used to all the features, how to check your email and send texts, they change everything up on you. I hate that.

[iPhones changing]Friend1: You’re in this world where everything seems to be fresh and new, so why would you want to go to an old man? I would think you would want to avoid that.

Friend2: You know, I never thought of it like that, but you make a good point.

Friend1: Yeah, it’s just my daily speculation. You and I both know that old age is a product of a material existence. It brings you one step closer to the dreaded event known as death.

Friend2: And if God becomes old, it means that He is on the verge of death. But that can’t be true, since if He is God, He should never die.

Friend1: Exactly. That’s why the Vedic understanding makes more sense to me. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form is not the product of anyone’s speculation or imagination, is always the same age.

Friend2: Nava yauvanam; that’s the way He’s described in Sanskrit. He’s always newly in adolescence. This means that He’s not on the way towards transforming into anything else. In the Ananda Vrindavana Champu, it says that the infant and childhood forms of Krishna only manifest in this world. In the spiritual world, He’s always a teenager. One could then argue that His coming to this earth is more important than His staying in the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana. Anyway, that’s a different topic.

[Krishna with Yashoda]Friend1: It’s amazing that He’s always young. I’m sure you know that on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, He was like a great-grandfather or something. 125 years elapsed since He appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, and still He was not old. He did not have any gray hair. He was not walking with a cane.

Friend2: Another point to mention relates to what you were saying about this world. It seems like it is always changing. It seems like a better place to stay, especially when juxtaposed with the alternative of going to an old and vindictive man in the sky. Prahlada Maharaja says that we’re actually chewing the chewed here.

Friend1: Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that.

Friend2: [punah punash charvita-charvananam, SB 7.5.30] We think we’re switching to new and better things, but since it’s all in material life, devoid of God consciousness, we’re actually just doing the same thing.

[Indra Sharma painting of Krishna with cows]Friend1: All the more reason to take up bhakti-yoga, where the destination is the ever-fresh Supreme Lord, who brings the devotee so much happiness day after day.

In Closing:

Angry and vengeful we’re told,

Supreme Lord man in the sky old.

 

If that being the case,

Why that destination to chase?

 

Krishna aging from youth never,

In fresh and new form remaining forever.

 

That the right destination to be,

His all-attractiveness always to see.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Telling Us Who Is God

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 13, 2015

[Lord Krishna]“Bhagavad-gita, which is the science of God, is spoken by the Personality of Godhead Himself. This is perfect knowledge. Mental speculators or so-called philosophers who are researching what is actually God will never understand the nature of God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.33 Purport)

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Any person can come up to us and say anything. That is the nature of free will. My good sense is what keeps me in check. My conscience prohibits me from doing horrible things, though when lust runs strong, the defense of the conscience starts to weaken. Therefore people are known to tell lies. People cheat, they have imperfect senses, they are easily illusioned, and they commit mistakes. In the matter of the origin of everything, the entire universe and its whole population, any person can step up and lay claim. Shri Krishna is different because He actually describes how He is God.

Let’s suppose someone comes up to us and claims that they are God.

“I am the origin of the universe. I am the truth and light about which you speak. Surrender unto me and I will show you the way.”

Naturally, we could ask them why they are roaming around this miserable land if they are so great. We would also ask them to read our minds and tell us everything that occurred in the past. We’d ask them why they created this land, populated it with creatures, and forced us to live here. We’d ask them what happens after death, and why death takes place to begin with. We’d ask them why we see variety around us. We’d ask why there isn’t only one species. We’d ask them to explain the purpose to our existence.

The pretender will not be able to answer these questions. At best they could show us some mystic power. Maybe they could put a curse on us which causes our health to decline for a brief period. Maybe they could make fire come out of our hair or levitate for a few moments. Such amazing things already happen through nature, so the fact that a human being can do the same doesn’t mean very much. The less intelligent person may be fooled by such a show, but the rational thinking person won’t.

[Lord Krishna]Shri Krishna claims that He is God. He has a bluish complexion, like that of a dark raincloud. He came to this earth in His personal form some five thousand years ago, but He was here before that. He sports an enchanting smile, carries a flute with Him, and is known to defeat the pride of the proudest among us. He is always young, never growing old. His body is eternal, full of knowledge, and always blissful. He remains in His form all the time. There is no difference between matter and spirit for Him.

He claims to be God only in private. He doesn’t walk around beating His chest. He doesn’t insist on surrender. In fact, He will only look for it in certain places. He does not disturb those who are too mired in a life of ignorance. We find out about His claim in a book called the Bhagavad-gita. This chronicles a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna is a warrior in distress at the time, and Krishna, His dear cousin and friend, offers Him sound words of advice after being asked.

The work is studied and speculated on widely today, but it is meant to be heard by only those who are open to spiritual life and not inimical towards Krishna. Lacking these two things, the reader will never understand what is being said. Krishna says that He is God, but not at the outset. It comes after a thorough explanation. He says that He is the Narayana that is worshiped prominently in the Vedic tradition. From Him everything emanates. By Him everything is destroyed.

prakṛtiṁ svām avaṣṭabhya

visṛjāmi punaḥ punaḥ

bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam

avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

[Krishna creating]There is no ambiguity. It is not that Krishna initially referred to someone else doing these things and that many years later those sympathetic to Him claimed that it was Krishna Himself who is responsible. The Sanskrit word “mam” [me/my] is prominent in the Bhagavad-gita. It appears in the most famous and important verse, where Krishna says that Arjuna should abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Him.

sarva-dharmān parityajya

mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja

ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo

mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Krishna reads Arjuna’s mind by knowing exactly what is bothering Him and the cause for it. Krishna explains how He has always been around, since the beginning of the creation, when He spoke the same Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god Vivasvan. Krishna explains that He can remember all of the past, while Arjuna cannot, even though both of them never die due to the nature of spirit.

Krishna lives forever into the future, but since we must die and take birth repeatedly, we have no way of testing that claim. We take it on faith, which is strengthened by knowing that Krishna continues to teach the Bhagavad-gita to this day. The same original words spoken are there to consult, with the spiritual teacher in the line of teachers following the mood of Arjuna there to explain them to us.

[Shrila Prabhupada]There is much more to understanding Krishna and His teachings, which are collectively known as the science of God. Yes, it is indeed a science, as blind faith is neither required nor recommended. We are advised to bring every doubt that we have to the table. We’re not supposed to suppress the objections we have based on apparent contradictions we hear. Being in the auspicious human species, we are to use all of our intellect for understanding God, as Krishna describes Him. In so doing, we find out the true nature of the Supreme Spirit, a nature which is all-merciful and always inviting.

In Closing:

Claim of God anyone to make,

How their word for it to take?

 

At Shri Krishna have a look,

And words from Him that Arjuna took.

 

All aspects of Divinity to him explained,

Through applied intellect knowledge gained.

 

When described is He in such detail,

To know the Supreme Lord without fail.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Giving Delight To God

Posted by krishnasmercy on February 10, 2015

[Lakshmana]“Previous to that in fact, the greatly fortunate Saumitra, who is the delight of his friends, adorned with tree bark for preparing for the journey with his elder brother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.28)

prāg eva tu mahābhāgaḥ saumitriḥ mitra nandanaḥ ||
pūrvajasya anuyātrā arthe druma cīraiḥ alamkṛtaḥ |

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The complaints against organized religion should be familiar, and they seem legitimate if a thorough study of history is made.

“Religion has killed so many people throughout the course of human history. Look at all the major wars. See how many innocent people have been duped by frauds and cheats. Religion has been used to discriminate, to suppress, and to advance the agenda of a few at the cost of the many. It has been the recourse for the weak and the less intelligent, who didn’t want to actually work for what they got.”

[prayer]Indeed, one person approaches a certain god to get good health, and another person changes their diet. What is the difference between them? How is one any better than the other? One person prays to God to keep their ailing family member alive and another doesn’t pray at all. The person who prays doesn’t get their wish granted and the person who doesn’t pray is happy with the outcome to their problem.

Why should there even be different religions? Isn’t there a single creator who made everyone? If He made everyone, why would He want different kinds of worship? These contradictions make following any kind of spiritual life difficult. Adding even more complexity is the issue of the purpose to life. If there was a God, what would He want from us? We know that death takes everything away, that time operates on things to make them temporary as soon as they are born, so what is the point to doing anything?

Sita Devi provides some answers in describing the history of how she ended up in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. She is the wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in the guise of a warrior prince. Rama is that true origin of all, who does not discriminate based on species, gender, ethnicity or the type of religion practiced. He loves every one of His children, and He shows this by staying with them as the Supersoul.

aham ātmā guḍākeśa

sarva-bhūtāśaya-sthitaḥ

aham ādiś ca madhyaṁ ca

bhūtānām anta eva ca

“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)

His compassion can also be seen in the fact that the things most required in life are relatively inexpensive and high in availability. Water, milk, grains, fruits, simple linens and basic shelter are typically easier to procure than meat, wine, fine fabrics, expensive gadgets and large residences. Rama’s kindness is further shown in the material nature, which operates indirectly under His overall supervision. That nature gives all the things necessary for life to continue. Within the sky are all the stars, and within the earth are all the seeds.

“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)

[Lord Rama]In the same way, within devotion to Rama Himself is all dharma, or religion. Every perspective there is on spiritual life, every reward sought out, can be gotten through devotion to Rama alone. One who takes to this devotion is highly fortunate, maha-bhaga, because gradually they realize the importance of the person being worshiped as opposed to what is sought. In the many religions and philosophies the rewards sought are generally the same. Whether one is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Hindu, their requests can still be put into four categories: economic development, sense gratification, adherence to righteousness and ultimate salvation.

The ultimate religion actually transcends these four benedictions. That religion is unifying since it can be practiced by one and all. It does not require a change of allegiance or faith in a particular establishment. That religion is a way of life, a consciousness. In that thinking, one becomes most fortunate, since they get the benefit of God’s association.

This was the case with Lakshmana, who abandoned a comfortable life to be with his elder brother Rama. From studying Lakshmana’s situation, we see that he had many of the things commonly asked for in religion. He had religiosity; so much so that he was a defender of righteous principles. Lakshmana found tremendous economic development, having anything the mind could want available to him. He had ample opportunity for sense gratification, and through showing renunciation when needed he was well on his way towards ultimate salvation.

[Lakshmana]Yet Lakshmana abandoned these four rewards in a second to be with Rama, who was once asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya. Sita Devi says that Lakshmana was ready to leave even before her. She had the same desire, to simply be with Rama. Sita says that Lakshmana is a delight to his friends. This is particularly significant considering the fact that Lakshmana was to follow Rama into the forest for fourteen years.

His religion is giving delight to his brother, even if sometimes Rama asks for something else. The same goes for Sita. In fact, no one can delight Rama more than those two. Hanuman also delights Rama, but through the route of a servant. One of his tasks was to find Sita. He succeeded. His meeting with her brought the verse quoted above.

Devotion brings delight to Rama. The attitude is unique to all religions. The mood is to first give, not to take. It is to ask for more opportunities for service instead of looking to see what good results are coming from prayer and worship. The delight that goes to Rama gets returned to the worshiper, who can get the benefit even through worshiping Rama in one of His many other forms. The generic “God” references Him as well, but the delight isn’t as much as when the interaction is with a personal form. The service can be through something as simple as chanting the holy names, which anyone can do: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

So many religions to see,

A unifying purpose can there be?

 

Meant for to God to bring,

Delight, like His glories to sing.

 

At Lakshmana’s example just look,

To leave everything no hesitation took.

 

By Sita and Hanuman also shown,

Asked to serve, not for benefit their own.

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