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Never Fail

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 22, 2011

Hanuman “O king of the Vanaras, he who possesses all these four qualities of courage, vision, intellect and skill as you do never fails in the performance of his actions.” (Celestials praising Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.198)

yasya tvetāni catvāri vānarendra yathā tava ||

dhṛtirdṛṣṭirmatirdākśyaṃ sa karmasu na sīdati |

If the worker tasked with a particularly important duty happens to possess courage, proper vision, necessary intelligence and sufficient skill, the likelihood of defeat greatly decreases. One who knows how to marshal these potent attributes can achieve any desired end. A particularly notable historical personality was given a task which seemed almost impossible to complete successfully. Not even the most powerful accompanying forces could even attempt what this person was trying to do; yet due to his possession of the four notable qualities, and more importantly his proper utilization of them, he was able to accomplish his end. For performing such a mighty task, this wonderfully kind and heroic figure’s exploits have been recorded in the annals of history, and he is today considered one of the greatest saints, teachers, servants and divine figures in the world. By carefully studying his nature, activities and mindset, we can learn how to use our own inherent qualities to attain the only goal worth reaching, that of returning to the spiritual sky.

Shri HanumanWhen we speak of going back to God or Godhead, the inherent implication is that we were once in such a purified land. Though we have no memory of being there, based on the statements of authority figures, those in the know, we learn that, as spirit souls, our natural home is in the imperishable sky where the one entity who never succumbs to the influences of the temporary and miserable world reigns as king for all of eternity. That entity is known as God to most, but in the Vedic tradition He is tagged with thousands of names, each of which speaks to His different activities and features. The more descriptive names provide increased pleasure to those wise enough to invoke them, for the sound vibrations immediately bring to mind the Lord’s form and nature.

Why is it important to remember specific aspects of the beneficiary of all religious practice? Most of us have prayed to God at some point in our lives. The devotees, those who believe in God and take service to Him to be the primary mission in life, think of and see the Lord all the time. Yet even the non-believers, the atheists, get to see that Supreme Person, the existence of whom they refuse to acknowledge. Both pious and impious persons see Supreme Spirit, with the difference being that the devotees see Him every day, whereas the atheists see the Lord at the time of death. There are certainly various ways to perceive of the presence of the original Divine Being, for He is all pervading. His original form is described as nirguna, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “without material qualities”. A spirit soul is a powerful individual unit of energy, yet its presence is only perceived through outward symptoms. Similar to how we can tell which way the wind is blowing by observing the movements of a flag, we can tell the presence of the soul by the movements of its outer covering. The exact makeup of the external dress can vary, but the commonality shared amongst all body types is that they are all constituted of material elements. For example, a person may grow hair on their body, but when this hair is cut or falls out, the identity of the individual doesn’t change. The hair is simply a part of the external covering. The entire collection of material elements for a specific individual is thus known as their body. The soul inside is what counts.

Lord KrishnaWith the Supreme Lord, there is no such distinction between body and soul. He is completely spiritual; hence the term “nirguna”. The issue introduced with this property is that it becomes difficult for the individual souls, the jivatmas, to understand what God looks like and where He resides. Though the Lord is without a material form, His spiritual form is both present and inconceivable. His body is so large that one cannot even fathom its size. The reach of His hands, legs and arms is infinite, a measurement that is incomprehensible to the human mind, which is the most advanced in terms of intellect. Not only is God’s form so gigantic, but He can also become infinitesimally small, as is the case with His Supersoul expansion. Though each body type has an individual soul residing within that forms the basis of identity, there is another spiritual entity that resides right next to it within the heart. This soul belongs to God, and it is a non-different expansion coming from His original form. The Supersoul is also often referred to as the nirguna form, as it is unmanifest. The Supersoul is non-different from the original person it represents, but since it is subtle in appearance, it is difficult to perceive.

To aid the fallen individuals, those whose intelligence levels are limited by the properties of their specific body type, in their understanding, the Supersoul, the expansion of the original form of Godhead, takes an outward form from time to time. This isn’t to say that God appears with material qualities, even though these forms are referred to as saguna. The guna aspect is only from the perspective of the flawed vision belonging to the resident of the material world. Since the Supersoul is so difficult to perceive, the same Lord descends to earth in forms which are perceptible to the human eye. Where there is a form, there are activities. So when God appears in an outward dress, He takes to activities aimed at pleasing those who are looking for the highest pleasure. Every individual is looking for some type of happiness; that is the foundation for all action. Even the behavior of one who is simply looking for the removal of distresses can be considered to be driven by the desire for pleasure.

GovindaWhen the saguna forms, the fully potent avataras of the original Supreme Being, perform activities, they are given names by those who witness such remarkable feats. When Lord Krishna, the original form of Godhead, descended to earth some five thousand years ago, He performed many such wonderful, pleasing activities. Since He gave pleasure to the cows and to the senses, He became known as Govinda. Since He lifted a giant mountain at the age of five years, He was addressed as Girivaradhari. Since He killed the Keshi demon, He was known as Keshava. Similarly, in God’s appearance on earth as the prince of Ayodhya, Shri Rama, the Lord took on different qualities. As the son of King Dasharatha, Rama became known as Dasharathi. Since He was the Lord of the Raghu dynasty, Rama was also known as Raghupati.

These are just a few of the different appealing aspects of the Supreme Lord and His avataras. Since there are innumerable qualities and traits possessed by the Supreme Spirit, there are thousands of names with which to address Him. Those who are especially fond of invoking these names are known as bhaktas, or devotees. In the spiritual realm there are only bhaktas. Since there are not any other activities besides devotional service to the Lord, the terms “bhakti” and “bhakta” aren’t even known there. To use an example from worldly life, the terms “darkness” and “light” only apply due to the differences in illumination levels in a particular area. But if there was always light, there would be no such thing as darkness. In a similar manner, the term “bhakta” only comes into being in the temporary realm, where there are other activities that individual souls can take to. The bhaktas stand out because they mimic the behavior of the eternal residents of the spiritual realm. Hence anyone who remains a bhakta up until the time of death will certainly be granted a return trip back to the only place where happiness lives forever. Going back to that imperishable land, the individual soul never has to return to the material realm.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

HanumanTrying to remain a devotee up until the time of death is difficult enough, especially considering that taking to devotional service is itself the most troublesome task in this world. After many lifetimes on earth, the soul becomes more and more averse to divine love that is facilitated through the sublime engagement of devotional service. As a result of this disposition, inducements from others to turn the eye towards God become less and less effective. In order to truly clear our vision and find the proper path in life, we must look to those great devotees of the past; those sincere servants who persevered through all obstacles and eventually triumphed in the end. Of all such figures, none is more celebrated and honorable than Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama.

As part of His pastimes, Rama roamed the forests of the land today known as India for fourteen years. When His wife Sita Devi was kidnapped, Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana went looking for her. Enlisting the aid of a Vanara king named Sugriva, the Lord was hopeful that Sita would be found. Success in this mission rested on Sugriva’s most trusted aide, Shri Hanuman. The first part of the mission was to find Sita. The miscreant who had taken her, Ravana, lived on an island that was far away from any mainland. After Sita’s location was discovered, Hanuman was tasked with crossing the ocean and finding her. Due to his tremendous yogic powers, Hanuman could assume any shape at will. Thus after taking a very large size, Hanuman sprung into the air, using a mountaintop as his launching pad.

Hanuman and SurasaYet his trip to Lanka wasn’t without disturbance. A giant female serpent named Surasa presented the first obstacle, followed by the efforts of a female Rakshasa named Simhikha. But these powerful forces were no match for Hanuman, so he was able to get past both impediments. In the above referenced statement, the celestials in the sky, those who were carefully observing Hanuman’s brave journey across the ocean, are praising him for his abilities. They remark that since he possessed courage, vision, intellect and skill, he would never meet defeat in any venture. Thus they weren’t surprised at his amazing feats of strength and dexterity.

How did Hanuman’s courage manifest? The task of travelling to Ravana’s island of Lanka certainly wasn’t easy. For starters, he was going alone, as his fellow monkey warriors weren’t capable of leaping far enough to make it across the ocean. In addition, the enemy king ruling the island had proved himself crafty enough to take away a beautiful princess from under the nose of the Supreme Lord. Certainly this isn’t a slight on Rama’s part, for the incident was preordained to facilitate the tasks Rama wanted to accomplish. Nevertheless, Ravana was certainly a capable fighter, one who was feared throughout the world. Not only would Hanuman have to brave against Ravana, but he would have to defeat all of Ravana’s Rakshasa associates as well. Only one who is truly courageous would even agree to take on such a task. When faced with obstacles during his flight, Hanuman didn’t buckle under the pressure. He didn’t even think of retreating once after seeing Surasa and Simhika.

HanumanHanuman’s acute vision was displayed in several ways. He was able to ascertain the proper aerial path to Lanka. He was able to accurately identify Surasa and carefully study her various features. Since she was a giant serpent, Hanuman had to survey her entire body in order to figure out how to get past her. Lord Brahma, the first created living being, had granted her the boon that no one would be able to cross her path without first entering her mouth. Normally this would mean instant death for the traveler, so Hanuman had to think of a way to get past her without losing his life. His sharpness of vision allowed him to see things as they were. Later on, when he encountered Simhika, he didn’t know who she was at first. All of a sudden his flight progress was stopped, so Hanuman had to figure out what was going on. He realized that his shadow had been caught in the ocean, something only the demon Simhika was capable of, as Sugriva, the chief of the monkeys in Kishkindha, had previously informed him.

Hanuman’s skill and intellect were both on full display during his encounters with the two obstacles put in his path. He first had to apply his intellect. With Surasa, Hanuman recognized the boon that she was given, and instead of deciding to dishonor the demigods, Hanuman thought it best to stay true to her boon and yet still make it past her. Realizing that he had to enter her mouth, Hanuman kindly asked her to increase her form, for otherwise she wouldn’t be able to swallow him up. Hanuman was already donning a massive stature, so by asking Surasa to open her mouth wider, he essentially tricked her into thinking that he was willing to agree to her demands. After Surasa expanded herself, Hanuman did the same. In this way, the two went back and forth increasing in size a few times. Finally, when Surasa had taken on a massive form, Hanuman showed off his tremendous skill by immediately becoming diminutive in form. With this now tiny body, he quickly entered and exited Surasa’s mouth, thus keeping her boon intact. She was then pleased with him and allowed him to continue.

With Simhikha, Hanuman employed similar tactics. This time, there was no respect to consider relating to any boon. Rather, Hanuman used his intellect to figure out a way to kill the female Rakshasa outright. Increasing his size again, Simhikha matched by increasing her own size. The subsequent steps followed a similar pattern, except this time Hanuman took his tiny form and attacked the demon from within her body. Showing his tremendous skill, Hanuman tore asunder the insides of Simhikha’s body, thus killing her. The demigods were greatly pleased by this, for they had wanted Hanuman to kill her.

Hanuman Not surprisingly, Hanuman would go on to enact even more wonderful pastimes, all of which were intended for the honor and glory of Shri Rama. Hanuman never does anything for himself. Though he is the most praiseworthy person in this world, he takes the greatest pleasure in hearing the glories of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. Due in no small part to Hanuman’s selfless efforts, the mission would be successful, and Sita would eventually be rescued. As far as our mission in life goes, we too possess the four qualities of courage, vision, intellect and skill. Though we may not exhibit these attributes on anywhere near a level as that shown by Hanuman, by following his sweet example, we can learn to use whatever tools and abilities we have at our disposal towards attaining the proper goal.

The outward appearance of acts of bhakti compared to any other activity is actually not that different. Everyone has to think; everyone has to eat; everyone likes to sing; and everyone likes to perform some activity for pleasure. Under the bhakti model, one should take to these engagements for the benefit of the Lord. Our courage should be used to bravely remain devoted to devotional service, the only path worth following. Our vision should be used to regularly view the deities and pictures of the Supreme Lord, whose face is so beautiful that His most potent form and name is Krishna, which means “one who is all-attractive”. Our intellect should be applied towards understanding the science of self-realization and our position as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. In the absence of such a pursuit, our amassed intelligence goes untapped. Lastly, our skills should be used in the execution of the primary aim of devotional service, the altering of consciousness. Chanting and hearing are two skills that are easily utilized through regularly reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. For one who applies these four qualities towards the highest mission in life, there is no chance of being turned away from the gates of the spiritual land.

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Just Another Day At The Office

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 20, 2011

Hanuman “After downing her [Simhika] by using his vision, determination and dexterity, that brave monkey quickly again grew in size.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.195)

tāṃ tu dṛṣṭvā ca dhaṛtyā ca dākśiṇyena nipātya ca |

sa kapipravaro vegādvavṛdhe punarātmavān

Forming a daily routine to manage the performance of one’s necessary tasks is certainly beneficial. After all, with each new day come new responsibilities that must be met. Failure to execute these tasks results in very unpalatable conditions afterwards; therefore the wise prioritize their different activities each day, ensuring that the most important responsibilities are completed in a timely manner. If there is a wrinkle to be found in this system of regulation and timeliness, it comes from the increased difficulty in coping with adverse and unexpected conditions. If we are focused on our agenda at hand, with each specific job having a corresponding time of execution, the unexpected responsibilities will, by definition, get in the way of something that was already planned. Surely frustration will arise from the sudden change in plans, and depending on the tediousness of the obligation presented, lamentation and sorrow can soon follow. For those who are resourceful and steady of mind, any and all unexpected obstacles can be dealt with successfully, with the end-goal remaining at the forefront of the vision. Though such miracle workers are few and far between in this world, the past exploits of some of the most amazing souls to have ever roamed this earth have been wonderfully documented in the historical texts of India. Of such resourceful-minded persons, none is more exquisite, beautiful, kind, pleasant, heroic, powerful, and saintly than Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama.

The practice of keeping a daily routine and remaining faithful to it can be classified as niyama, or regulation. In the Vedic tradition there are various principles applied to the wide-ranging discipline of yoga, or the linking of the soul with the Supersoul. The present human body doesn’t represent our only life or even our identity. Rather, the spirit soul inside is the “I” we refer to when we invoke possessive terms. The hands, legs, arms, feet and other body parts cannot refer to our identity because we use the term “My” and “Mine” to describe them. We could go from one part of the body to another and still use “My” to describe everything. However, this doesn’t apply to one particular aspect of the physical structure used to carry out our desires and needs. This tiniest of objects is actually so powerful that it serves as the basic functional unit in all forms of life. Indeed, it is the essence of existence. This entity is the soul.

“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.29)

Lord KrishnaWe could still say “my soul”, but the statement wouldn’t be validly constructed. The word “I’ already implies the soul; it incorporates all possessiveness. Not only does the soul identify us, but it remains our source of being for all of eternity. Long before we entered the womb of our mother, the individual soul was fully potent, and long after our exit from this current body the spiritual spark will continue to remain a beacon of light, bliss and knowledge. In the temporary world, however, the soul’s potencies are shielded by the particular type of body it occupies. Since the spirit’s outer covering is composed of material elements and is thus temporary, the body is considered a product of ignorance, something not inherently meant to interact with the soul. Indeed, the more the soul associates with such ignorance, the longer it will remain in a conditioned state.

How can we tell if we are in a conditioned state? By default, this is the disposition of all forms of life at the time of birth. Anyone who is acting off the demands of the senses can be considered to be associating with their material body. Is there any other way to act? Is there a way to go beyond the senses? This is where yoga comes in. The sense demands surely will always be there, but one who can learn to control them will have a better chance of transcending the effects of material contact. Steadiness and control in spite of the impeding forces of nature is acquired through the practice of yoga. More than just a way of reducing the effects of the senses, yoga is meant for attaching the soul to something real, an object which is not illusory and not permeated with ignorance. Fortunately for us, this tangible beneficiary of all service already exists within the heart, as it resides adjacent to the individual soul. This more potent spiritual entity is God’s manifestation, and is thus known as the Paramatma.

Radha and KrishnaIndividual spirit is known as atma, and when the spark accepts a material body, it is known as a jivatma. Yoga brings the union of the jivatma and Paramatma. This isn’t to say that both entities become equal or merged into one another, but rather, they stay always connected. Just as a devoted husband-and-wife pair can be thought of as a singular entity, the purified soul connected with God’s expansion of the Supersoul can be considered one supremely potent form of spiritual energy. The husband never assumes the position of the wife, nor the wife the husband, but since they are acting in the same interest and deriving great pleasure from each other’s company, there is a oneness in the relationship.

In a similar manner, the soul in the company of its spiritual counterpart, its complement in divine love, will always be happy, blissful and full of knowledge. In the conditioned state the influence of the senses, which are stimulated by the forces of maya, or illusion, causes perpetual forgetfulness of the existence of the Supersoul. Maya is a Sanskrit word which means “that which is not”, so she allows the soul the association of anything except God. Of course everything is part of the Supreme Lord, but maya is the separated aspect bereft of the Lord’s personal association. By practicing yoga, the necessary steps can be taken to gradually eliminate the harmful influence of the senses, and simultaneously eradicate the soul’s penchant for association with maya.

“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.16)

Lord KrishnaAs long as the jiva is conscious, the influence of the senses will be there. Actually, there is really not a need to eliminate the effects of the senses, just a requirement that they be purified. In perfect yoga the senses are used to help the soul connect with the Supersoul. Therefore one of the first requirements of yoga is regulation. As Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states in the Bhagavad-gita, a yogi is one who doesn’t sleep too much or too little. He also doesn’t eat in great abundance or unnecessarily starve himself. Either one of these extremes indicates behavior driven by the influences of the senses attached to maya. Through regulation in yoga, one only sleeps as much as required and eats whatever is necessary to maintain the body. After all, the ultimate aim is to connect with God, so if the body is always tired and hungry how can there be any dhyana, or concentration on the Supersoul? Similarly, if the stomach is stuffed to the hilt at all times and the body is constantly lazy due to oversleep, the condition will pose a major hindrance towards the ideal union in consciousness of the individual with God.

Niyama, or a set of regulative principles, is certainly beneficial towards achieving the ultimate goal. In fact, many people employ the technique of using a routine in areas of life outside of yoga. Bodybuilders, family men, authors, athletes, and so many others follow a strict daily schedule in order to meet their goals. But what happens if there is a wrinkle in the plans? Let’s take the working family man as an example. On a typical work day, he gets up at a certain time, prepares for going to the office, spends time at work, and then finally comes home. What if all of a sudden he sees that there is a crack on the windshield of his car? He now has to call up his insurance company and schedule an appointment for someone to come and fix the glass. In addition, he will have to make sure someone is around to interact with the repairman, a condition which might cause absence from work.

clock What if right before the family man is ready to drive home after a tough day at the office, the wife calls him and says, “Honey, can you pick up some milk from the supermarket? Can you also stop by the drycleaner and pick up our clothes? Thanks. I love you.” The man has been working hard all day and was so looking forward to going home, but now he has to run errands. Similarly, what if during the ride home he notices that the fuel tank in the car is low on gasoline? He now has to make an additional stop at the gas station.

These are just small nuisances, but even greater ones such as family emergencies and traffic accidents on the road can arise . With these wrinkles to the daily routine, frustration surely can set in. “What the heck? Why do I have to deal with all this stuff? What did I do wrong? I don’t understand.” The understanding is actually there in all of us; it’s just that the tunnel-like vision of focusing on the routine gets in the way of anticipation and expectation of unforeseen circumstances. Since the conditioned entities live off bodily designations and the effects of the senses, not everyone will adhere to a regular schedule. Not everyone is after achieving yoga, so the results of the activities driven by sense demands can often collide with the interests of those who are sincerely making an effort at experiencing the bliss that comes from sharanagati, or full surrender to God.

Hanuman deityShri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, is always engaged in yoga. Sometimes his spiritual practice involves meditation, while at other times it consists of chanting the glories of the Lord. During the Supreme Godhead’s famous time on earth as the prince of the Raghu dynasty many thousands of years ago, Hanuman got to perform yoga by carrying out the Lord’s orders. Hanuman’s chanting Rama’s name, remembering His glorious activities and serving His lotus feet are all part of the sublime engagement of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Just as niyama and dhyana are central aspects of yoga in general, they play an integral role in bhakti as well. Part of Hanuman’s yoga practice involved a difficult reconnaissance mission, wherein he and his fellow monkey-like figures, or Vanaras, were tasked with finding the whereabouts of Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita Devi. Though the other monkeys in his party were very powerful and brave, none of them could match Hanuman in strength and abilities.

As a powerful yogi, Hanuman has a firm grasp of the wonderful abilities to become excessively large in stature and minutely small within in instant. Depending on the specific situation, he can make use of either perfection, or siddhi. Though his mastery of yoga is quite remarkable, his greatest attribute always remains his devotion to God. His allegiance to the interests of his beloved Rama would be tested in many situations, with some being more dire than others. When the monkey group finally learned that Sita was being held on a far away island called Lanka, they became even more determined to find her. Yet only Hanuman was capable of crossing over the giant ocean that separated the monkey host from Lanka. Taking on a massive form, Hanuman assumed a perch atop a mountain peak and then thrust himself into the air. Coursing through the sky, the beautiful son of the wind-god speedily made his way towards Lanka.

HanumanWhile in the air Hanuman was in complete meditation and wholly deferent to his prescribed regulative activity of coursing through the sky to reach Sita. Yet, as is seen in life, unexpected obstacles come in the way of even the most carefully thought out plans. After maneuvering past a giant female serpent named Surasa, Hanuman’s next obstacle came in the form of a ghoulish female ogre named Simhika. This female Rakshasa was previously given the special benediction of being able to catch anyone by their shadow. Remaining in the water, Simhika stopped Hanuman’s flight by grabbing on to his shadow. Seeing that his progress was impeded by a demon in the water, Hanuman immediately remembered who she was and what her abilities were.

Simhika then insisted on eating Hanuman, for that was her nature. At this point, it would be understandable if the devoted worker would become despondent. Especially if we are engaged in religious affairs, the expectation of peace and lack of disturbances will surely be there. But Hanuman loved Rama so much that he wouldn’t let anyone get in his way. Even if there were unexpected obstacles, he wasn’t going to lament his condition. Instead of giving in to defeat, he used his tremendous intellect to find a way out of the situation. Hanuman immediately assumed a massive form, thereby forcing Simhika to similarly increase the size of her mouth. Her enhanced size could then accommodate Hanuman’s enlarged form. Seeing her newly enlarged wide open mouth, Hanuman then decided to take a diminutive form and fly into the ogre’s stomach. From within her body, he ripped her insides to shreds, thus ending her life.

Hanuman Though the incident with Simhika was quite troublesome and unexpected, Hanuman treated it like just another day at the office. He would eventually reach Lanka, find Sita, return to Rama, and then help the Lord and the Vanaras defeat the king of Lanka, Ravana, in a fierce battle. All would end well, due in no small part to Hanuman’s efforts. Shri Sankat Mochan is always fixed in yoga, and he is always full of bliss due to his intimate association with Rama, His wife Sita, and His younger brother Lakshmana. If our dhyana and niyama should happen to include focus on Hanuman and his divine activities, only wonderful benefits can result. By always remembering Rama’s beloved friend, servant and well-wisher, our hopes for spiritual salvation will certainly become a reality.

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Posted by krishnasmercy on March 17, 2011

Hanuman with Surasa “I offer my obeisances unto you, O daughter of Daksha. Indeed, I have entered your mouth, and the truth of the boon granted to you has been maintained. I shall now go to where Vaidehi is.” (Hanuman speaking to Surasa, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.169)

praviṣṭo’smi hi te vaktraṃ dākśāyaṇi namo’stu te |

gamiṣye yatra vaidehī satyaṃ cāsīdvarastava

Resourcefulness is seen when tasks are accomplished using items and skills that are already available. On the flip side, the requiring of extra expenditures for new tools that may or may not increase the chances for success is not considered resourceful. One divine figure in particular proved his great skill and ability to make do with what God gave him many thousands of years ago. Not only was this hero able to accomplish the task assigned to him using his own abilities, but he was also able to maintain respect for other entities. Rather than unnecessarily stir up trouble, this divine figure remained on the straightened path as he made his way towards his desired destination, where he would relay a message of grave importance.

If we witness a wrong or an injustice, the inherent reaction is to protest. After all, if something is done unlawfully, the act is performed in violation of the established guidelines found in the shastras, or scriptures. No religious text is more authentic than the Vedas due to its age and tradition. In fact, no one can accurately date the origin of the Vedas, for since Vedic wisdom was instituted by God at the beginning of creation, there is no accurate time period for its inception. Though the original scriptures for mankind give us the circumstances pertaining to their origin, since there are divine figures involved in both the maintaining of the authenticity and the subsequent bequeathing of information, non-believers and those who think they are overly intelligent will not take the words of the Vedas at face value. Instead, they will surmise their own final conclusions and take shelter of the beliefs that follow.

“All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.46)

Lord KrishnaSometimes traditions are borne out of such mental speculation, and they then remain in the same form without interruption for many years. If a challenge were to be mounted against a tradition not based on authority, a common defense would be a claim of validity based on family. “Well, this is how my father did this, and his father before him. I’m simply following the tradition.” For those who are in the know, those who actually follow the correct spiritual practices and understand the purpose to them, bogus systems of worship are not easy to deal with. There are essentially two options available, with the most obvious one being to challenge. “Stand up for what’s right; buck the trend; go against authority.” These simple phrases are very appealing to those who are firmly convinced of the proper way to do something. Yet from studying historical examples, we see that sometimes it is much better to allow the ignorant practices to continue, while finding other alternatives for getting your mission accomplished.

A celebrated saint named Haridasa Thakura, along with the help of his dear friend, showed wonderful restraint, courage and perseverance in this regard; thereby teaching others that there is more than one way to reach your stated objective. During the medieval period in India a spiritual boom took place. Since the seemingly new revolution in spiritual practice focused on deep love and devotion to God, the groundswell became known as the bhakti movement. Though bhakti is the constitutional position of the soul, the actual practice of pure loving devotion to God as a religion didn’t become formalized until Shri Krishna Chaitanya, a saint, preacher, brahmana and incarnation of the Supreme Lord, appeared on earth around five hundred years ago. He especially popularized the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Reciting the transcendental sound vibration representations of Supreme Spirit forms the central component of the collection of activities classified as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

Lord ChaitanyaThe difference between bhakti and any other system of religiosity is that it is not dependent on specific practice or regulation. Rules, sacrifices, rituals and adherence to vows certainly can carry one further down the road in their religious pursuits, but the end-goal of harboring a pure and loving attachment to the Supreme Lord is not dependent on any specific activity. Even though the Vedas, or any spiritual discipline for that matter, recommend many different practices, the final objective is still the same: God consciousness. To that end, if a practice that is believed to be authorized according to a specific scripture is taken up, and at the same time the dormant love of God does not awaken, the activity should be either abandoned or purified. One of Lord Chaitanya’s celebrated disciples, Shrila Rupa Gosvami, accurately notes that whatever is favorable towards the cultivation of spiritual attachment should be accepted and whatever is unfavorable should be rejected.

In addition to regularly chanting Hare Krishna on His japa beads and in public performances known as sankirtana, Lord Chaitanya would regularly visit temples, with His favorite house of worship being situated in Jagannatha Puri. Though the outward display of reverence offered to a personal form of Godhead is prohibited in many religious circles, the genesis of the restriction is not based on any rational thought. The aim of spiritual practice is to always be thinking about God. Who could argue against this? Thinking involves remembering, and remembering entails visualizing some form. In this way the quintessential aspect of religion, or worship, requires ascribing a form to the beneficiary of the devotion. If the form is already worshiped within the mind, what is the harm in the outward offering of obeisances facilitated through the construction of a deity? The Vedas, recognizing the incomparable benefits brought on by explicit worship, strongly recommend service and obeisance to the deity. The worshipable images aren’t carved out based on mental concoction, but rather off of careful study of the descriptions found in the sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana. By taking earthly elements and shaping them to match the eternal, all-blissful forms of the Lord, the conditioned living entities on earth are afforded a wonderful opportunity for rapidly developing their love for God through an authorized style of worship.

Lord Chaitanya dancing for JagannathaDuring medieval times the proprietors of the Jagannatha temple would not allow anyone not born a Hindu to enter and see the deity. Lord Chaitanya especially loved visiting this house of worship, as He would faint every time he would walk in and see the deity. Lord Jagannatha is another manifestation of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By seeing the wonderfully carved image representing the Supreme Truth, Lord Chaitanya felt as if He was directly in the presence of God; hence He would lose outward consciousness from the spiritual stimulation. Members of outside spiritual traditions were not allowed in because they were deemed unworthy of worshiping Lord Jagannatha. If one is not trained in the traditions of Vedic culture, which centers around Krishna worship, they will not be able to properly understand the potency of the deity and the importance of worshiping Him.

The original caste system, which calls for society to be divided into four varnas, or categories, based on the inherent qualities of each individual and the work ascribed to them, is certainly valid and doesn’t need to be apologized for. Yet, as mentioned before sometimes traditions take on a life of their own through the behavior of one or two sets of powerful, yet ignorant, people. Such was the case with the caste system, as it became degraded to the point where members were claiming to belong to a particular group simply off birthright. Being born into the highest caste, the brahmana, certainly presents a wonderful opportunity, but for one to be considered a first class person, they must exhibit the requisite qualities. Along the same lines, one who is not born in an exalted family but still shows the proper qualifications should most certainly be considered a member of the class that corresponds to those attributes.

“Since he was born in a Muslim family, Shrila Haridasa Thakura could not enter the temple of Jagannatha due to temple restrictions. Nonetheless, he was recognized by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as Namacharya Haridasa Thakura. Haridasa Thakura, however, considered himself unfit to enter the Jagannatha temple.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 11.195 Purport)

Lord Chaitanya’s dear friend, Haridasa Thakura, though a Vaishnava, or devotee of Lord Vishnu, in behavior and quality, was born a Muslim and thus not allowed into the temple to see the Jagannatha deity. Lord Chaitanya was an incarnation of Godhead, and He held tremendous clout in the community. He easily could have raised a stir and demanded that Haridasa be allowed in. Instead, Shri Gauranga did one better. Rather than insult the members of the temple and force them to break their tradition based on ignorance, Lord Chaitanya decided to make the best use of the situation. He instead took to personally visiting Haridasa regularly and ensuring that prasadam was delivered to him daily. Aside from allowing those with a clouded vision a chance to see God, the deity also facilitates the offering of food by the humble devotees. The Lord can most certainly eat anything offered to Him with love and devotion, so the food presented before the deity in the proper manner turns into prasadam, which means “the Lord’s mercy.” There is great potency in this spiritually infused food, so anyone who partakes of prasadam is considered very fortunate. Even though he wasn’t allowed into the temple, Haridasa Thakura received prasadam through the arrangement of the very same Jagannatha in human form, . In this way Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave Haridasa a benediction even greater than that of entering the temple. The resourcefulness exhibited in the situation allowed the humble servant Haridasa to remain in pure Krishna consciousness all the way up until the time of death.

Sita and RamaShri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, was faced with a similar quandary. His mission was a difficult one involving evil elements the likes of which had never been seen before on earth. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the same original Bhagavan, Shri Krishna, descended to earth in the guise of a warrior prince. His wife was, not surprisingly, the most beautiful princess in the world, Shrimati Sita Devi, the daughter of the King of Mithila. While residing in the forest with her husband, Sita was taken against her will to the island kingdom of Lanka by a Rakshasa named Ravana. Since He is antaryami, Rama can find any person very easily, but rather than look for Sita Himself, Rama called upon a band of monkey-like living beings known as Vanaras. Their king was Sugriva, and his most powerful and trusted warrior was Hanuman.

The mission assigned to the monkeys involved finding Sita, relaying to her words of assurance from Rama, and returning the information of her location to Rama and Sugriva. The objectives seemed simple enough, but there was a huge hurdle to cross in the form of a geographical boundary. At the outset of the mission, no one knew where Sita was, so many search parties had to scatter about the earth. Not surprisingly, the group which included Hanuman was able to learn that Sita was taken to an island. Yet knowing Sita’s potential location was only one piece of the puzzle. The isolated land mass inhabited by her captor lay many miles across a vast ocean. None of the monkeys in the party were capable of crossing over the mighty expanse except for Hanuman, who assumed a massive form after learning of his terrific powers from the elderly monkey-leader Jambavan.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.8)

Krishna and ArjunaWhen worshiping the Supreme Lord, the only required ingredient is the sincerity of the worshiper. Mundane powers and skills aren’t of any use unless they are tied to bhakti. In fact, when the sentiments of bhakti are pure enough, Rama will provide for whatever skill is required. As is so nicely pointed out in the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavan is the ability in man. As such, anyone who is honored and given a high status in society for their extraordinary skill in a particular activity actually owes a debt of gratitude to the Supreme Lord, who so kindly allowed them to possess such an ability. Hanuman was charged with the most difficult of tasks, as Ravana and his Rakshasa associates were very capable in fighting. But since he was such a pure lover of God, Hanuman was blessed with extraordinary abilities given to him by His dearly beloved Rama.

In addition to being powerful, scholarly and pious, Hanuman was also able to assume any shape at will, a skill he would have to lean on during his travel to Lanka. Ascending a giant mountaintop, Hanuman, who had assumed a massive form, leaped high into the sky and travelled through the air at the speed of the wind. Yet the path to Lanka wouldn’t be without obstacles. The first impediment came in the form of a giant female serpent named Surasa. She was actually instigated by the demigods, the celestials in the sky, to put an obstacle in Hanuman’s path. The devas wanted to see just how powerful this determined servant of Rama’s was.

hanuman_CH52_lThe boon granted to Surasa was that no one could pass by her without first entering her mouth. The natural implication was that no one would get by her alive, as whoever would enter her mouth, which was the passage fair, or toll, would be eaten up. Informed of this boon, Hanuman first asked for a pardon. He kindly pointed out the objectives of his mission and the nature of the person who was being helped. Hanuman informed the serpent that his passing over the ocean was actually for Rama’s interest, something that should not be interfered with. One would think that the Lord’s desires would take precedent over any stipulation offered by any other entity, but Surasa would not budge. At this point Hanuman had several options available to him. Being extremely powerful, he easily could have killed Surasa. But instead, he decided to make use of his resourcefulness. He found a way to satisfy all parties.

Hanuman first cleverly asked Surasa to expand her size, for the serpent wouldn’t be able to contain him in his present form, one which was the result of a previous expansion in stature to ensure a leap capable of reaching Lanka. Surasa saw nothing wrong with Hanuman’s request, as he indeed was too large to fit into her mouth. So she kindly expanded her form by many miles into the sky. Hanuman, as a counter move, expanded his own frame. Surasa kindly obliged by increasing her size even more. In this way, the two traded expansions until they were both extremely large. Seeing that Surasa’s mouth was now this cavernous expanse, Hanuman decided to make use of the complementary yogic siddhi, that of being able to become extremely small. Hanuman immediately assumed a diminutive form, entered the mouth of the serpent, and then quickly exited. Through Hanuman’s craftiness, Surasa’s boon proved truthful, the demigods were not insulted, and the divine mission could continue.

Hanuman Not surprisingly, Surasa and the celestials were well pleased with Hanuman. He found a way to not ruffle any feathers, despite the fact that the demigods were technically in the wrong by obstructing the path of a faithful servant of God. Hanuman would go on to find Sita, return the information of her whereabouts to Rama, and then help the good guys in their victory over Ravana. No one is more resourceful than Hanuman, for he uses all his abilities to advance the cause of devotional service. In our spiritual endeavors we will likely encounter similar situations, but by always keeping Hanuman’s intelligence and dedication to Rama in our minds, we will surely find a way to succeed in our efforts with minimal damage inflicted.

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Pop Quiz

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 15, 2011

Hanuman “This glorious son of the wind named Hanuman is leaping over the ocean. Using a very ghastly Rakshasa form the size of a mountain, and showing a head with fearful tusks and red-brown eyes that reaches the sky, obstruct his path for a while.” (Celestials speaking to the serpent Surasa, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.146-147)

ayaṃ vātātmajaḥ śrīmānplavate sāgaropari |

hanumānnāma tasya tvaṃ muhūrtaṃ vighnamācara ||

rākśasaṃ rūpamāsthāya sughoraṃ parvatopamam |

daṃṣṭrakarāḻaṃ piṅgākśaṃ vaktraṃ kṛtvā nabhaḥsamam

The importance given to examinations in the education field has been an issue of contention in recent times. The controversy relates to the relevancy and effectiveness of requiring students to take tests periodically to prove what they have learned in a particular class or discipline. Regardless of the viewpoint of the educator, it is undoubtedly true that to complete the most difficult tasks in life, tests are required at some point, even if they are not administered in a formal setting with an explicit written or oral examination. Learning a new discipline involves taking in new concepts, understanding them, and knowing how and when to use them. This last point is the area of focus for the examination. For the most difficult task of altering one’s consciousness through devotion to the Supreme Lord, the exams requiring passage are many. Sometimes they come unexpectedly, similar to the pop-quiz in classrooms, but for those who have made a sincere effort at the discipline, those who have tried their best to carry out the orders of the Lord and provide Him pleasure, passing these examinations is quite easy. No matter the difficulty of the test, the transcendental lover will never miss a beat, and in the process astonish those onlookers who ever dared to doubt them.

examsAre tests really that beneficial? Let’s first cover the negative aspects. The most persuasive argument against the importance of giving regular examinations is that teachers will alter their instruction methods to simply enable the students to earn a passing grade on the test. This practice is viewed unfavorably because if a student is only interested in passing a single examination, they will have no interest in the content they are learning. A waned interest increases the likelihood of the imparted information being forgotten in a short period of time. In this way the class ends up being a waste of time after only a few short months. Education, especially for young children, is meant to serve as a foundation of knowledge to be used in later years, when the student has matured. For young students each class contains vital information that will ideally have some worldly value later on in life. If such lessons and overall instruction are simply memorized and subsequently discarded after completion of the course, the education will have no value.

Though there are strong arguments made against giving more stress to examinations, we see that the practice of instituting regular tests in classrooms has not diminished in the least bit. In fact, the more important the discipline, the greater the emphasis given to exams and their results. The arguments in favor of giving regular exams have won out time and time again. The reasons for the victories are fairly obvious. Even if a student regularly attends classes and does homework, how will the teacher be able to gauge their progress? Moreover, another person, one who is more knowledgeable, could be doing their homework for them, and the student could just be sitting in class every day and not paying attention. Only with the examination, a rigorous test of knowledge that must be completed solely by the student on a particular day and time, can the teacher tell whether or not the student has learned anything.

Surely the exam brings a lot of pressure to the student, but without an explicit requirement to prove what has been learned, there would be no impetus to study and really understand what is being taught. Let’s think of it this way: Say that we watch cooking channel programs and read several different recipe books on how to prepare dishes. We may even attend a few cooking classes, where the instructor acts out the lessons with demonstrations. While such instruction will surely be helpful, we won’t have any idea how to cook unless and until we actually get into the kitchen and apply the knowledge and techniques that we have taken in. In the Vedic tradition, the practices and regulations adopted from the ancient scriptures of India, theoretical knowledge is referred to as jnana and practical knowledge as vijnana. Jnana forms the foundation, but vijnana is more important because it gives meaning to the knowledge acquired.

The ultimate purpose of education is to alter behavior. While some may argue that simply the pursuit of knowledge itself is an exhilarating experience, if the subsequent education is not acted upon, the end-result is the same as if the person had never tried to learn anything. As an example, a dog eats, sleeps, mates and defends all day. It is not intelligent enough to talk or let itself out of the house to go to the bathroom on time. The human being, however, has a much higher potential for intelligence. Yet if, after attending school for twelve years, the human being still takes primarily to animal activities, their lifestyle is really no different than that of a dog. Without making the most of the human form of life, the knowledge acquired through education, or jnana, is of no value. The exam gives instructors a chance to see one’s vijnana. It is important to know that the student has acquired practical knowledge because their exhibition of mastery in skills will allow them to be successful in whatever venture they have planned for the future.

Sita DeviOne historical figure in particular had arguably the most difficult task ahead of him. A beautiful princess had been taken away against her will to a remote island. Her captor, a ghoulish figure named Ravana, had taken shelter on the island of Lanka particularly due to its strategic location. Far away from any mainland, Lanka was the perfect place to establish an elaborate kingdom full of every opulence one could imagine.

Though Ravana had all comforts and enjoyments at his disposal, due to his insatiable lust, he made the grievous error of taking another man’s wife, a transgression which would prove to be fatal. The husband wronged was no ordinary man either, for He was the prince of Ayodhya, the latest in the line of chivalrous and pious kings belonging to the Ikshvaku dynasty. His divine nature separated this prince from the pack of ordinary men roaming the earth at the time. The jewel of the Raghu dynasty appearing on earth during the Treta Yuga, though assuming the guise of a powerful male warrior, was an incarnation of the Supreme Lord.

A claim that someone is an incarnation of God will be met with some skepticism. “Great. Yet another powerful person that people later turned into God. Why does that not surprise me? How do we know that this person was God anyway?” Considering the fact that many gurus and pseudo-yogis have claimed to be incarnations of God over the past several hundred years, these sentiments are quite understandable. The Vedas accounted for this abuse by enumerating the primary incarnations of the Supreme Lord, who is most often addressed by the names of Vishnu and Krishna. This is not to say that Vishnu is the deity of the Hindus and Jesus the worshipable figure of the Christians. There can only be one God. Whether one wants to take the statements presented by their particular faith as axiomatic truths or not is a different issue, but regardless of a person’s belief system, country of origin, or ethnicity, there is still only one God. Just as the law of gravity applies equally to all objects irrespective of a person’s affirmation of the fact, the laws of spiritual science similarly apply to all forms of life. God is everyone’s father, so He is a natural object of worship for the love-starved individuals.

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

Lord Rama Why would God ever come to earth? What separates the Vedas from any other spiritual discipline is that they provide more concrete information about the Supreme Lord’s features, personality, nature and appearance. They also give us more information in regards to the origin of life and the purpose behind it. In summary, the aim of human life is to understand three things: that God is the original proprietor of everything, that He is the ultimate enjoyer and that He is the best friend of the living entities. Each of these three items must be understood in both theory and practice, as the truths are complementary.

Based on the outward behavior of the population on earth today, we see that there is virtually no knowledge of these three most important facts. It is for this reason that the Vedas declare the cognizance of these three truths to be the ultimate objective in life, the mission with the highest priority. It is not assumed that an individual will realize all these aspects in one lifetime. Therefore other, more granular systems of religiosity and societal maintenance are put into place, allowing for a gradual progression towards the highest platform of understanding. Similar to how a student must ascend the different grades in elementary school to reach graduation, a spirit soul trapped in a material body can progress through various systems of spiritual and material knowledge before they can actually get a handle on things. This isn’t to say that one can’t immediately ascend to the highest platform, for all that is required is knowledge of the three distinct features of the Lord and His relation to the individual souls. One who understands essential teachings of the Vedas wholeheartedly and subsequently bases their activities in life off of such information will bypass the need to adhere to all the rules and regulations associated with inferior forms of religiosity.

How do we know that knowledge of God’s features is absent in society? Iterating through the three necessary pieces of information, we see that the first issue relates to property. In the conditioned state the individual falsely identifies with their outward dress, a body which is constantly changing. This error then results in the flawed mindsets of “I” and “Mine”. Since Krishna is the original owner of everything, all property in the phenomenal world belongs to Him. Our so-called possessions are simply on loan from the Lord for the purpose of maintaining life.

The second essential truth of the Vedas relates to enjoyment. It must be said that many people do acknowledge God’s existence, but the method of worship followed bears striking similarities to ordinary business transactions. In this respect simply changing our method of tribute, or payment, doesn’t alter the way we view a particular entity. As an example, we show deference to the cable company by paying our bill every month, and we offer tribute to the grocer by giving him cash. Both of these offerings are made in exchange for a good or service from the provider. The transactions are based off the mindset that views the individual as being the ultimate enjoyer.

In spiritual life if we pray to God to meet our various demands, we are essentially putting Him on an equal footing with other service providers. The method of tribute may be different, i.e. we pray to God instead of sending Him a check, but the guiding mentality is the same. God certainly is the greatest order supplier, for He has created everything in this world. But the uniqueness of His powers lies not only in His ability to provide, but also in His ability to enjoy. When the Supreme Lord is taken as the original proprietor and ultimate enjoyer, He is seen in a more proper light.

Radha and KrishnaThe third aspect to the Lord’s features ties the first two pieces together. Knowing that God is the original owner of everything and the only object of enjoyment is great, but what does that mean for us? By understanding that the Lord is the best friend of the living entities, we can see that the two previous pieces of information need to be utilized for a purpose. Just as we like to please our friends by spending time with them and offering some type of service, our time on earth should be used to please the Supreme Lord.  This engagement continues beyond the current life. Taking property that originally belongs to Krishna and using it for His pleasure is the only way to behave properly in any world. Since Krishna is our best friend, His enjoyment will result in our happiness. For God to be the ultimate enjoyer, He must have others with whom to engage in sportive activities. This is where we fit in. All the individual souls, which are part and parcel of the Supreme Reservoir of Energy, are meant to always be in Krishna’s association. Those who are guided by the proper mindset are known as bhaktas, or devotees. By remaining a pure bhakta all the way up until the time of death, we can immediately be transferred back to the spiritual realm.

Those who are able to even hear of the three aspects of the Lord are very fortunate. But finding someone who understands transcendental information and how to make use of it is even rarer. For those who do make a sincere effort at this engagement, the Lord takes a personal interest. Krishna is typically neutrally disposed towards those who view themselves as the original owners of everything and take personal enjoyment to be the ultimate objective in life. One person’s walking away from God cannot be of any greater or lesser value than another’s. As there is never any benefit from association with matter, Krishna’s separated energy, there cannot be any favoritism shown by the Supreme Lord, who passively oversees affairs from the spiritual sky. But when sincerity in serving Krishna is exhibited, the Lord breaks His neutrality and outwardly shows His favoritism, the greatest form of which causes His appearances on earth.

Lord RamaLord Rama, the pious and handsome prince of Ayodhya, roamed the earth to give pleasure to the exalted sages living in the forest and also other wonderful entities residing all over the world. The princess taken by Ravana in the forest was Rama’s wife Sita Devi. Shri Rama, who is wholly capable of defeating any enemy, immediately set about searching for her, as Ravana had taken Sita when Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were not by her side. When Vishnu incarnates, He doesn’t perform every difficult task Himself. Just as we enjoy an arduous job more if our friends are helping us, the Supreme Lord takes great delight in enlisting the help of the eager and sincere souls who are looking to please God. During Rama’s time the most enthusiastic and dedicated servant was Shri Hanuman, the Vanara warrior and chief minister to the king of monkeys, Sugriva.

Hanuman’s assigned task was quite difficult. Out of all of Sugriva’s army members, only Hanuman was capable of crossing the vast ocean to reach Lanka. Hanuman is a divine figure, so he possesses tremendous prowess. As the son of the wind-god, Hanuman can fly through the air at great speeds after leaping off the ground. In preparing for his trip across the ocean to reach Lanka, Hanuman expanded himself to a wonderful size. With a mountain peak serving as his launching pad, Hanuman thrust himself into the air with great force, resulting in a rapid speed that allowed him to swiftly course through the sky towards Lanka. The celestial figures, the elevated living entities who reside in the material heavenly realm, saw Hanuman’s flight and were quite impressed. At the same time they wanted to test him to enhance his glory for future generations of sincere listeners attached to the pastimes of Rama and His associates. While coursing through the air Hanuman looked powerful and determined, but just how capable was he?

Hanuman flyingIn the above referenced quote the celestials are asking a serpent named Surasa to put obstacles in Hanuman’s way. This is surely a puzzling request, as Sugriva’s minister was engaged in the most noble of tasks. Not only was he trying to find the whereabouts of an innocent princess, but he was also directly carrying out the order of the Lord. When one takes to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, other sincere devotees will certainly help. The sun and the wind had already aided Hanuman on his journey, for they wanted him to succeed in pleasing Rama. Yet the celestials in the sky, those who are not quite at the level of pure God consciousness, often throw stumbling blocks in the path of devotees. More than just working off of base jealousy, the heavenly managers want to test how determined and devoted the particular individual is to meeting the Supreme Lord’s interests.

Prior to his launch Hanuman claimed to be very determined and powerful to the other monkeys in his party, assuring them that he would not return without either finding Sita or capturing Ravana. Since he is the most honest person in the world, such statements were indeed true. Yet others, those who are not sure about Hanuman or those who are skeptical about the benefits of devotional service, may have not believed him. Therefore Shri Hanuman was given tests, opportunities to display his vijnana. His meeting with Surasa would prove to be one of many examinations that Hanuman would pass with flying colors.

The single most enthusiastically recommended practice for aspiring transcendentalists of this age is the regular chanting of, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and abstention from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex and intoxication. Bhakti-yoga brings about many benefits, but it is still mainly about altering consciousness, which happens to be the most difficult task in life. In this pursuit obstacles and examinations will be presented at regular intervals. It is not that Krishna is testing our level of devotion, but rather, we are being given opportunities to take stock of our progress by putting our theoretical knowledge to good use. By passing these examinations, our consciousness of the Supreme Lord and our firm faith in His causeless mercy will only increase.

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A Little Help From Our Friends

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 13, 2011

Hanuman “At that time the sun did not burn that topmost Vanara, and the wind helped him, who was working to successfully meet Rama’s interest.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.84)

tatāpa na hi taṃ sūryaḥ plavantaṃ vānarottamam |

siṣeve ca tadā vāyū rāmakāryādthasiddhaye

The managers of the vital external elements in this world are often taken for granted. The controllers of the wind, earth and sun are much more powerful in their abilities than any collection of ordinary individuals, yet their benedictions and dedication to duty seem to get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. An individual may think they are quite capable in a particular area of interest, but when compared to the abilities of the sun and the wind, any boasting of material strength must be laughed at. These two wonderful objects, elevated living entities in large forms, can be very helpful to those whose aim in life is the rekindling of the most intimate of relationships. Though the sun and the wind are equally disposed towards everyone, when the individual takes to its natural engagement, the material elements turn divine and come to help ensure eventual success.

The sun godWhat is a divine element? How can the wind and the sun be compared to people? Does this speak to pantheism or some mythological tradition derived by those desperately seeking answers to life’s most mysterious questions? The living entity, the jiva, is a spirit soul at the core. Individuals are described by the term jivatma because they can suffer through the pangs of material existence, whereas the Supreme Soul, Paramatma, cannot. Both entities are atmas, or souls, but one is superior, while the other is inferior. Much more than just a heavenly figure that is feared and bowed down to out of sentimentalist and sectarian traditions, the Supreme Soul has distinct qualitative aspects. The Original Person’s features are strikingly similar to those of the jivas, but the similarities dissipate when the discussion turns to quantitative powers.

We have certainly heard the inhabitants of earth described as God’s children, so there already is familiarity with the concept of similarities existing between the Supreme Lord and His countless progeny. Just as a son takes on the features of one or both of his parents, the living entities inherit the characteristics of knowledge, eternality and bliss from the Supreme Father. Just as the Supreme Soul is not limited to one particular form or body type, so the individual souls cannot be accurately identified by their current outward features. Even if a temporary identification is formed off the outer covering of the soul, the body still always goes through changes. When we speak of “that” person, who are we referring to? After all, the form of the individual in question completely changes over the course of their lifetime. This makes identification based solely off outward features silly, for we know that through surgery and other medical practices the skin covering, which affects the outward appearance, can drastically shift. A man can grow a beard or decide to shave every day. Regardless of the path chosen, his individuality remains unchanged.

Simply from outward perceptions we can deduce that an individual’s identity comes from the driving force of their activity and not from the appearance of the outer dress that accompanies the performance of work. The autonomous spark that serves as the impetus for action is known as the soul, the existence of which should not be a novel concept to anyone. Regardless of one’s spiritual inclination and religious tradition, the idea of a soul is generally accepted. Those with a limited understanding and narrow vision only perceive the presence of spirit in the human species, but the workings of the eternal fragments emanating from the imperishable land can never be so limited. After all, outer coverings may change even in the human species, so to say that a soul can only reside in a particular body type is silly. Just as the Supreme Lord, who is omnipotent and omnipresent, can live in any place and at any time, the individual soul, which inherits its grandiose qualities from the Supreme Soul, can assume any type of body composed of specific material elements. The nature of these elements, their size, shape and weight, don’t have any bearing on the soul. In fact, since the spiritual spark comes from God, it is always the beacon of light, a torchlight of knowledge and bliss which is self-illuminating.

Unlike with Supreme Spirit, the illumination that beams off the individual soul can be covered up. The intrinsic knowledge and potency for action are also limited by the specific dress occupied at any given time. In this vein the species have different capabilities and varying levels of matching intelligence. The Vedas, the system of transcendental knowledge instituted by the Supreme Soul in His original form at the beginning of time, cap the number of specific types of species at 8,400,000. While this is certainly a large number, the count speaks to the seemingly unlimited combinations of matter that can surround an individual spiritual spark in the embodied form.

Lord KrishnaEven the animals, plants, fish and reptiles have spirit souls residing within them. They too are living entities, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Their levels of intelligence are certainly lower than those of human beings, but this does not disqualify them from being related to God. Just as a son may disavow his father, the living entity has a choice as to whether or not to associate with God. Yet, at the same time, the father is still always the parent of the son, irrespective of the outward acknowledgements and regardless of the mood either party is in. The Supreme Soul, as the original father, is always intimately related to the fallen soul, regardless of the individual’s aversion towards acknowledging such a relationship. We may renounce God, but the Lord will never disown us.

God’s status as the most benevolent is further solidified through His accompanying descent to the perishable and ever-changing world with the individual soul. When separation is desired, the jiva is placed in a playground of sorts, an area where the surroundings are constantly changing, thus allowing for delusion in terms of consciousness. The resulting mindset is referred to as bewildered or clouded because it is completely devoid of information and acknowledgement of the presence of the Supreme Soul, which resides within the heart of the living entity alongside the atma. Only in the temporary world, where pursuits for sense gratification and material acquisition are given free license, can the individual’s consciousness be contaminated to the point that it completely forgets about the influence of God.

“Forgetting Krishna, the living entity has been attracted by the external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy [maya] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.117)

Lord ChaitanyaNot only is the divine influence ignored, but so is other logical information that is derived from the acknowledgement of God’s tangible presence. For instance, in the conditioned state, where one’s consciousness is focused on sense gratification and the pursuit to surpass the Supreme Being in the areas of creation, maintenance and destruction, information of the quality of the soul and its vitality in every form of life is forgotten. The practice of unnecessary animal killing facilitated through slaughterhouses is only possible through this altered consciousness. To excuse their behavior, deluded individuals have concocted the notion that animals don’t have souls, or that since animals are not intelligent in any way, they can be killed at a whim for food without incurring any sinful reaction.

In addition to the recognition of the soul’s presence within all forms of life being absent, the power and potency of the agents who manage the governing elements of the world are also neglected. Gross matter is made up of earth, water, fire, air and ether, with there being a presiding deity for each element. There is a sun-god, an exalted living entity whose soul has been placed into a body of fire. Similarly, there is a wind-god, an individual who is responsible for the workings of air. Those with a poor fund of knowledge or a closed mind will dismiss such information as being mythology or some mentally concocted idea, but as mentioned before, the soul is the driving force behind the activities of the individual body. If even an ant has a controller guiding behavior, why wouldn’t a much larger entity such as the earth or sun have a manager? A car is incapable of moving on its own. It does not take on any value until a spiritual force, a human being, sits behind the wheel and operates the vehicle. In a similar manner, sunrays, wind and earthly elements are dull and lifeless. It is impossible for us to capture sunshine in a container and get it to work on its own. These elements require the injection of spiritual energy in order to function properly.

Krishna rescuing the fallen soulFortunately for us, the Supreme Soul, our original life-partner in the spiritual world, is not spiteful over our having neglected Him. The path to rekindling our loving relationship with Him is quite simple. Just as the kind-hearted parent will welcome back with open arms the child who has returned after going astray, God will take back the wayward soul at any time. For the reunion to take place and remain permanent, there must be a change in consciousness. No other requirement is there save for this purification of thoughts, words and deeds. Consciousness is not tied simply to an allegiance of faith or the performance of rituals and functions. While these activities certainly can provide a jumpstart towards the ultimate goal, consciousness is a state of mind measured by outward symptoms. The best and most obvious indications of the differences between a purified consciousness and one based on simple professions of commitment can be seen in the arena of romantic love. If a man says that he loves a certain woman but then takes to engaging in extramarital affairs, or if he constantly gawks at other women, the avowed allegiance in emotion essentially becomes meaningless. In many instances, saying, “I love you”, is simply a roadblock, a hurdle that needs to be crossed in order to get what is desired: sexual relations.

Worshiping the Lord out of fear of eternal damnation in a lake of fire is not real surrender. Such a practice is employed just to get out of pain, so the devotion is of little to no value. The consciousness of the individual doesn’t change under this model either, for the material thoughts and workings of the mind don’t cease. True surrender can only be had when there are acts of devotion. Just as we take the necessary steps to please our loved ones, be they family members or paramours, similar strides should be taken to please the Supreme Soul. How can a spiritual entity we can’t see be satisfied? What is required to please that one person who is above desire and mundane pleasure?

In our present surroundings love is a universal language, something spoken in every part of the world, in every type of community. Similarly, Krishna-prema, transcendental affection, is the only language of the spiritual world. While in the mundane world affection can come and go and be based off tit-for-tat mentalities, spiritual love is of the purest variety. Directing our natural loving propensity towards the transcendent Lord is the only business of the soul in this world, and when such a course is adopted, other powerful entities, who are working at the pleasure of the Supreme Soul, will help the individual along. Such was the case with Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama.

Lord RamaGod belongs to everyone. One group may address Him by a particular name and thus refer to Him as “My God”, but that doesn’t mean that the Supreme Lord is the exclusive property of any one set of individuals. Philosophies and ideals formed off of blind sentimentalist and sectarian mindsets go against the basic properties of spirit. The original Divine Being, who is by constitution supremely powerful in quality and quantity, cannot be limited to any corner of the material creation, an area which is temporary and destined for destruction. Therefore God is for everyone; He is the only entity worthy of worship by people of all ages and faiths. The Supreme Soul, who is already manifest within each jiva of this world, kindly makes an outward appearance from time to time. The manifested form, which is completely spiritual, allows the fallen conditioned entities to get a glimpse of what Supreme Spirit is like, what His actions are, and how one can interact with Him. Shri Rama, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya, was one such outward manifestation of the original Divine Being in the spiritual world, the same entity who kindly personally expands and resides within the heart of every living being.

Seeing God in an outward form is one thing, but harboring an attachment for Him is another. To facilitate the exchange of transcendental love in a mood of pure service, Rama took to many activities which required difficult tasks to be completed and perseverance from others. For God, there is no task too difficult and no work that can’t be performed, but due to His causeless mercy, He allows other eager and willing servants to make their contributions to transcendental lore. Lord Rama’s activities would be talked about until the end of creation, so whoever would help Him would be eternally linked with Him, His family and the ultimate occupation in life, devotional service.

Hanuman with Lakshmana and RamaOf all of Rama’s well-wishers, none was more eager to serve than Shri Hanuman, a divine living entity in the form of a monkey. It seems odd that Rama would enlist the help of monkeys, but such are the workings of the one person who is impossible to understand fully. A ghoulish king by the name of Ravana had taken away Rama’s wife Sita Devi through a backhanded plot. The jewel of the Raghu dynasty, though of the princely order, was serving out an exile punishment at the time, so the stipulation was that He could not have ties to the royal kingdom. Unable to go back and fetch His army to punish Ravana and rescue Sita, Rama enlisted the help of a band of monkeys living in the Kishkindha forest. Headed by their pious leader Sugriva, these monkeys were eager to serve Rama in any way possible. The first mission was to find Sita, so Sugriva dispatched his army in groups to search the world over for the princess’ whereabouts.

The most capable search party consisted of Shri Hanuman, who was also the most eager to serve Rama. These two conditions were not randomly paired, as desire and passion greatly increase the chances for success in any endeavor. Devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is practiced best when the individual is unmotivated and uninterrupted in their mindset. This was the case with Hanuman, as no obstacle was too great for him to overcome, nor was there any desire for personal honor or glory. He wanted to find Sita just because that would make Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, happy. Hanuman’s services would be required at the most critical of junctures, when the monkeys in his party reached an impasse. They found out where Sita had been taken, the island kingdom of Lanka, but the problem was that the island lay across a massive ocean. No one was capable of bounding over the lengthy body of water besides Hanuman.

HanumanThe divine servant, the most faithful and sincere devotee of Rama, expanded his outward form through the powers given to him as a child. Taking on a massive stature, Hanuman prepared for launching into the sky by ascending a tall mountain peak. Leaping into the air, Hanuman appeared exquisitely beautiful. The accounts of his journey to Lanka are described in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana of Valmiki. This section of the poem is aptly named, as the title references the beauty of Hanuman’s figure as he flew across the ocean and also the glorious nature of his selfless and heroic acts performed in Lanka while searching for Sita.

In the above referenced passage, we see that as Hanuman was travelling across the ocean, both the sun and the wind helped him. The sun is the very essence of neutrality. It rises and sets at the proper time and dissipates heat and light equally across all spheres. In fact, the sun doesn’t’ even rise or set; these are simply the observations of those on earth who have to deal with the globe’s constant rotation. The wind is equally as unbiased in its approach, as it blows or remains constant at intervals evenly distributed across time and space.

If both of these entities are neutral by default, why did they help Hanuman? As children of the Lord, the deities in charge of the wind and the sun are forever linked to Rama in the same way that Hanuman is. Seeing another faithful servant involved in devotional service, these two great beings had no choice but to help Hanuman. The wind-god also happened to be Hanuman’s father, so naturally there would be a bond of affection there, but the real impetus for the aid was the nature of Hanuman’s mission.

This incident also reveals a hidden secret to the workings of spiritual life. When the jiva turns its back on material sense gratification and sincerely makes an effort to change their consciousness by engaging in devotional service, other divine elements will surely lend a helping hand. In the beginning stages, there will be allurements from other aspects of nature, including interference from some celestial beings, or demigods, but there is no question that help will eventually arrive. Even Hanuman was thrown some obstacles by other devas, but as we see from the behavior of the sun and the wind, the most pious divine entities, those who are more closely tied to Bhagavan and His interests, will always help the sincere servant of the Lord.

93_big Hanuman would come out successful, as he is never tainted by material nature or selfish desires. As a reward for his kind service and the role he played in Sita’s ultimate rescue, Hanuman received from Rama the boon of always being able to remember the Lord and His family. Such a gift is unmatched in its potency, brilliance and ability to please, for it fills Hanuman with transcendental bliss at all times. Always in the mood of pure God consciousness, Hanuman can never be led astray. He is such an exalted figure that other powerful entities such as the sun and the wind serve at his pleasure instead of the other way around.

Anyone who makes a sincere effort at altering their consciousness for the better through outward activities of bhakti is guaranteed of success. The individual may not be very powerful, but through the help of other managing entities, no effort goes to waste. The best way to remain fixed up in transcendental love is to always hear about Rama and the glorious activities of His dear servants. When there is no opportunity to hear of the wonderful nectar contained in the classic Vedic texts such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, there are still other options, with the most powerful one being the regular chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Soul, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

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Always Beautiful

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 11, 2011

Hanuman “Covered with various flowers, shoots and buds, that monkey, resembling a cloud, became beautiful to behold, looking like a mountain with fireflies.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.51)

sa nānākusumaiḥ kīrṇaḥ kapiḥ sāṅkurakorakaiḥ |

śuśubhe meghasaṃkāśaḥ khadyotairiva parvataḥ

The Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana is a unique section of Vedic literature because it is almost exclusively dedicated to the exploits of someone who is not deemed to be the original form of Godhead. Though the Ramayana gets its name from the central object of worship and the character who garners the main focus of attention in the work, an entire section of this poem is still dedicated to someone who gives off the appearance of an ordinary monkey. Though roaming the earth in the outward dress of an animal, the star of the Sundara-kanda, a divine figure in his own right, is the most courageous of servants, the dearmost friend of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and everyone related to Him through familial bonds or through the relationship of pure loving service, or bhakti. Just as the Supreme Lord is the ultimate reservoir of pleasure and a singular entity who possesses the most blissful form, His pure devotees, those who take Bhagavan’s interests to be their life and soul, similarly possess a radiant beauty that never diminishes. The Sundara-kanda is filled with descriptions of the outward brilliance of Hanuman and the glorious nature of his activities.

HanumanWhen a man is bitten by the love bug, he tends to view his object of affection as being the most beautiful in the whole world. As the saying goes, “the clothes make the man”, the outer garments worn by a human being can make a difference in how others view them. Some attire is more visually appealing than others, so carefully choosing the right outfit for each occasion is important for those who want to stand out and be known for their appearance. Those who are in love, however, view their loveable objects as being beautiful regardless of the situation or what they are wearing. For example, a man harboring deep affection for his girlfriend or wife will feel that she is exquisitely beautiful, even after she has just gotten up out of bed in the morning. For the female recipient, such feelings aren’t easy to understand, for there is a reason behind the expression, “You look like you just got out of bed.”

Sleep doesn’t do much to enhance the outer beauty of the individual, as lines and wrinkles develop around the face, and the body becomes unclean through hours of remaining in a dormant state. A person needs to clean themselves up before they feel they can make a presentable appearance to anyone outside of their intimate circle. It is undoubtedly true that a person looks different after taking a shower compared to how they appeared when they first got out of bed. But the lover sees the inner beauty of their object of affection, so any association, regardless of the time or circumstance, is cherished. Since the beloved wife looks the most innocent right after waking up in the morning, the inner beauty of her soul comes to bear in the eyes of the husband.

Lord RamaThe ability to see beyond the manifestation of clothes and skin is dependent on the angle of vision of the beholder, as the level of amorous feelings harbored can drastically alter the way others are viewed. Yet those who take to the most sublime engagement of devotional service always remain beautiful, both on the inside and out, regardless of external observation. For our material beauty, we require validation from others, but when we take to devotional acts aimed at pleasing the wishes of the Supreme Lord Krishna, the inner and outer beauty are retained at all times. One such magnificent figure is Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, who is a celebrated incarnation of Krishna and a worshipable object for millions around the world.

Ironically enough, Hanuman takes the form of a Vanara, or a human-like monkey. Not to be confused with some science-fiction character, a Vanara is a forest dweller of the Treta Yuga, a time period which occurred many thousands of years ago. Since the second age of creation saw a high level of purity amongst the population of the earth, even the monkey figures had an enhanced level of intelligence. Though they retained their natural penchant for intoxication and excessive sex indulgence, the monkeys showed signs of civilized life. Hanuman, though in the form of a Vanara, retained his exquisite beauty at all times. His behavior was not limited to his body type, nor was he a servant of the senses. Even the human beings are driven by the desires to eat, sleep, mate and defend, but one who has controlled their senses can see past these activities, giving priority to those engagements which fit into the larger picture.

What exactly is that grand vision? The individual soul is by constitution blissful, full of knowledge and brimming with spiritual appeal. Yet, in the conditioned state, the soul is placed into various types of bodies depending on past activities and desires. Karma works off of the thoughts and wishes at the forefront of consciousness, and it rewards or punishes the living entity according to the activities driven by the mind. Therefore the soul is sometimes placed into the body of an animal, while at other times it gets the form of a fish. Of all the forms of body, none is considered more auspicious than the human being. The human form brings the best opportunity for the soul to take to activities that can complete the evolution of consciousness. Unlike the material elements that surround the soul in each lifetime, consciousness stays with the individual from body to body. When the mindset is fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the individual is deemed liberated. When the mind is free of material designations, attachments and allurements to sense demands at the time of death, the soul is immediately transferred to the spiritual sky, the land that exists outside the purview of time and space. In the wholly pleasurable realm, all the aspects of creation, including knowledge, renunciation, material elements, birth, death, old age and disease, are non-existent. In the spiritual world everyone is engaged in bhakti, or loving devotion, at all times.

HanumanThough the human form of body is the most auspicious, Hanuman didn’t require a particular form to successfully carry out his tasks. He had a more important purpose to serve than merely searching for liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Hanuman is an eternally liberated soul, so he is never under the clutches of maya, or the illusory energy of material nature. Since his body is always beaming with devotion, his effusive aura results in an exquisitely beautiful sight to behold for whoever is fortunate enough to point their eyes in his direction. This wonderful effulgence was on full display when the great Vanara leapt his way to the island of Lanka. During Hanuman’s time, Lord Rama, a pious prince and incarnation of God, roamed the earth. As part of His pastimes, He kindly allowed a group of Vanaras to aid Him in the search for His missing wife, Sita Devi. These monkeys lived in the forest of Kishkindha, which was presided over by the Vanara king Sugriva.

Hanuman happened to be Sugriva’s chief aide, his most trusted servant. When Hanuman met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, a bond was immediately formed. Though Hanuman was a devotee from birth, it wasn’t until he met Rama that he became reacquainted with his true nature. Since Rama asked for Sugriva’s help, Hanuman took the monkey-king’s subsequent instructions as his life and soul. Sita was being held captive on the island of Lanka, which was situated across a massive ocean. When Hanuman’s search party reached the shores of the ocean, it seemed as though they were stuck. Each monkey in the group declared how far they could leap, but the distances put forth were not far enough to reach Lanka.

HanumanTo break the impasse, Jambavan, one of the elderly members of the group, apprised Hanuman of his original nature, of how he had taken birth from the wind-god Vayu and how he could assume any shape at will. After making note of Jambavan’s words, Hanuman increased in size to a massive stature and confidently asserted that he would leap his way to Lanka and find Sita. If Sita wasn’t in Lanka, he would leap his way to the heavenly realm and look for her there. If he still couldn’t find her, he would bring her captor, the demon-king Ravana, back with him to Kishkindha. If Ravana put up resistance, Hanuman would uproot the entire island and carry it back with him, such was the strength possessed by Shri Rama’s most dear friend.

In the track and field sport of long-jump, the competitor runs for a short period of time in order to gain momentum prior to their leap. The idea is that the faster the jumper runs, the longer they will be able to travel once in the air. Hanuman also got a head start, but not from a short run. The illustrious son of the wind-god climbed atop a mountain peak and crouched down very low to increase the intensity of the ensuing thrust into the air. Since his size was massive at the time, many trees and flowers were uprooted in the process of his preparation. When Hanuman finally catapulted into the air, the trees and their accompanying flowers followed him in his initial ascent. Maharishi Valmiki compared the buds, shoots and blossoms to well-wishers who travel with their friends for a short period of time as they are departing. It is quite natural for hosts to not want their guests to leave the home, especially if the guests are close friends and relatives. It is often seen that when the guests are departing, the host family will come outside of the house and maybe even go up to the car. They will remain outside until the guests are finally out of vision.

Sita, Rama and Lakshmana leaving AyodhyaIn ancient times guests would leave on horse-driven carts or on foot. Therefore the hosts would follow their friends on foot for quite a distance in order to retain the personal association until the last possible moment. When Lord Rama, Sita Devi and Lakshmana had to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya, the citizens followed the chariot all the way into the forest. The well-wishers were so attached to their beloved prince Rama, an eternally existing manifestation of the Supreme Lord, that they refused to live without Him. Finally, Rama devised a plan for escape, which had His charioteer waking up early one day and creating two sets of tracks with the wheels of the cart. Seeing that Rama’s cart had left and not knowing which direction it had gone, the citizens had no choice but to turn back to their homes.

The trees and flowers were so attached to Hanuman and his glorious mission that they refused to let go of him right away. They joined him for the beginning of his aerial journey, finally relenting and falling into the sea. In the above referenced passage, we see that Hanuman’s appearance was like that of a giant mountain covered with glowworms, or fireflies. Resembling a massive cloud in the sky, Hanuman appeared exquisitely beautiful. Normally, the uprooting of trees is a sign of destruction and impending chaos, but in this case, the incidental damage was an indication of future success and victory. The trees were more than happy to assist Hanuman, as he was executing the mission of the Supreme Lord.

Hanuman flying to LankaHanuman is loved and adored by the sincere souls because there is only one activity he takes to: devotional service. For exalted figures such as Hanuman, there is no other duty. He is full of knowledge, bliss and understanding, and he uses whatever is at his disposal for the pleasure of Rama. In this way he proves to be an exemplary character and an object of worship. Not surprisingly, Hanuman would successfully find Sita, return the information of her whereabouts to Rama, and then play an integral role in the subsequent war fought between Rama’s army led by the Vanaras and Ravana’s army led by the Rakshasas. All would end well, as good always eventually triumphs over evil. Through it all, Hanuman remained beautiful, for that is his very nature. To this day he remains firmly dedicated to hearing about Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, and chanting their glories. Day and night, through good times and bad, through war and peace, Shri Hanuman always beams with transcendental love, or bhakti. He is the beacon of light, the savior for all the fallen souls who have lost sight of the true mission in life, that of returning back to the spiritual world. Focusing our attention on the incomparably sundara Hanuman, we can never be led astray.

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Mission Statement

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 9, 2011

Hanuman “In every respect, I will do whatever is necessary to find Sita. If I am unsuccessful, I will uproot the city of Lanka and bring it back here with Ravana.” (Hanuman addressing the Vanaras, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.42)

sarvathā kṛtakāryo’hameṣyāmi saha sītayā |

ānayiṣyāmi vā laṅkāṃ samutpāṭya sarāvaṇām

Shri Hanuman is here stating the objective of his mission, the purpose behind the most transcendental of promised acts, that of leaping across the massive ocean to the island of Lanka, where the Rakshasa king Ravana was residing with his band of ogre cohorts. Hanuman was the most powerful and capable warrior in a group of soldiers asked to find the whereabouts of a missing princess, a sweet lady who was taken away from her dear husband through a backhanded plot. Though the mission was difficult, Hanuman was up to the task. And lest anyone doubt his chances for success, Hanuman gave assurance that even if he couldn’t find the beautiful princess of Videha, he would uproot the massive island inhabited by her captor and bring it back with him.

HanumanWhy was Hanuman given this task? Moreover, who was the divine princess that garnered so much attention? During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, a handsome and pious prince took birth in the exalted Raghu dynasty, a family which traced its lineage back to not only the notable King Raghu, but also Maharaja Ikshvaku, one of the first kings on earth. Anytime a child was born in this dynasty it was a big occasion, but the birth of one particular prince was especially noteworthy due to the fact that the king at the time, Maharaja Dasharatha, was without a son. For the family line to continue, there must be a son, a successor to whom the reigns of the government can be passed down. Not only was Dasharatha’s son fit in every respect to handle the control of the leadership, but He also happened to be an incarnation of Godhead.

God can incarnate? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, accurately note that the human being constantly goes through changes resulting from the forces of nature, which work to alter the surroundings consisting of matter. Something as simple as water can change in appearance and utility depending on the temperature and the container it is placed into. When a large amount of water is placed in a recessed area of the earth, the result is a pond, lake, or river. When the same water is put into an earthen pot, we have a pitcher of water. When poured into a container used by the human being for consumption purposes, the water turns into a drink. When the same water is cooled to the freezing point, it turns into ice, something which can be used to cool a beverage or give comfort to a wounded portion of the body. When the same water is heated to the boiling point, water vapor results, something which can be used to steam vegetables and provide comfort to ailing muscles.

“The five great elements, false ego, intelligence, the unmanifested, the ten senses, the mind, the five sense objects, desire, hatred, happiness, distress, the aggregate, the life symptoms, and convictions-all these are considered, in summary, to be the field of activities and its interactions.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.6-7)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe identity of the individual, the basic functional unit within all forms of life, is the spirit soul. Yet just like water, the spiritual spark can give the appearance of different forms based on its outer covering. It is not that the soul can change in property, but rather, its container can shift in makeup. Sometimes the container is that of a plant, while at other times it can be one belonging to a ferocious animal. Only in the human form of body can the knowledge of the nature of the container and its owner be realized. The owner of the body is also known as the knower. The body and the matter on which it operates are known as the field of activities.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.” (Bg. 13.2)

Why the need to understand the distinction between the field and the knower of the field? Is there any advantage to knowing this information? If the aim of life is taken to be repeated indulgences in sense gratification, wherein the tongue, genitals, eyes, ears and taste buds are satisfied to the extreme at all times of the day, then there is no difference between the animal form of life and a human one. In fact, in the absence of knowledge of all things spiritual, the argument can be made that the animal form of life is more beneficial. After all, an animal enjoys eating, sleeping, mating and defending just like the human being except without all the hassle. There is no concern over tax rates, the mortgage payment, unrequited love, and most importantly, fear of death. The animal has no knowledge of these things, for the focus is solely on sense gratification.

Human beings are given advanced intelligence for a reason. Through logical deduction and observation of the events around them, man can tell that their containers are constantly changing. At the time of birth, the covering of the soul is considered fresh and full of potential. As time goes on, the shell gradually develops and partakes of activities. There reaches a point, however, when the covering stops growing and starts to dwindle. The last step in the decaying process is death, where the spirit soul within the body finally exits. The future destination of the soul is then determined by the desires of the entity at the precise time of quitting the body and also the results of the work that were previously performed.

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

Lord KrishnaBased on the nature of these changes, we see that the soul is not affected by any processes of growth or diminution. In fact, the soul never changes in properties. From the knowledge passed down through a tradition of spiritual enlightenment which began from the first created living being, Lord Brahma, we understand that the soul has a life partner, an ideal loveable object if you will. There are actually two souls within each body, one identifying the individual and the other identifying a Superior Entity. In most circles the superior is addressed as God, but this term is very vague and not providing of any bliss or sweetness. Why is there a need to take pleasure from God? Actually, knowledge, bliss and sweetness are always tied to the soul’s qualities and desires. In order for true pleasure to be found, there must be a complimentary entity, one that interacts with the soul and provides it happiness.

In the conditioned state, one where the soul is placed into a temporary and ever-changing container, the search for love leads to all areas except those where God’s personal presence is felt. The plenary expansion of the Lord known as the Supersoul resides within the heart of every living entity, side-by-side with the individual soul. The Supersoul is different, however, in that it doesn’t take part in any activities driven by the individual, nor is it beholden to any of the laws of nature. The soul’s destination is determined by its consciousness at the time of death, but the Supersoul’s is not. What is the purpose of God’s incarnating inside the conditioned entity then? Why, pleasure of course. Though the individual will misdirect its loving propensities towards external objects, simply looking inside itself is enough to find the real form of the bliss that is so desperately sought after.

Understanding the presence of the Supersoul is not easy, even for those who are sufficiently trained in a spiritual discipline which touches on the relevant topics of life, death, karma and the constitutional position of individual spirit. To help the illusioned living entities understand who God is and how He exists inside of everyone, the Supreme Lord appears in a manifested form, one that is visible to the external senses of the living entity. If the spirit soul can reside in a container which is visible to others, then surely the Supreme Lord can as well.

Lord RamaA key distinction with the bodies possessed by God’s manifested appearance on earth is that there is no difference between the knower and the field of activities. For God, there is no difference between body and soul, matter and spirit. He is always spiritual. In fact, the manifested form of the Supreme Lord is no different than the one residing within the heart as the Supersoul. The cause for the difference in understanding is the angle of vision of the conditioned entity, who is trapped inside a container which clouds the natural, transcendental vision.

Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, is one of God’s most celebrated manifested forms to have appeared on earth. In addition to playing the role of a prince perfectly, Rama took part in many wonderful pastimes aimed at attracting the hearts and minds of those sincere souls who were desperately looking to connect with the Supreme Lord through the process of yoga. In order to further the attachment felt by the citizens of the time, and also future generations of devotees who would read about the accounts of Rama’s life found in wonderful books such as the Ramayana and Ramacharitamanasa, the Lord took to divine activities, some of which outwardly seemed to be unpleasant and the source of heartache and pain.

Sita and RamaOne such incident involved the kidnapping of Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife Sita Devi. The king of Lanka at the time, a ghoulish figure named Ravana, was very lusty and intent on enjoying as much sex life as possible. Hearing of a beautiful princess residing in the forest of Dandaka, Ravana became intent on having her. Since he couldn’t defeat Rama in a one-on-one battle, Ravana hatched up a scheme which momentarily lured Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away from Sita’s side. Pouncing on the opportunity, Ravana forcibly took Sita back to his kingdom of Lanka.

To help in the search for Sita, Rama teamed up with a group of Vanaras living in the Kishkindha forest. Their king was Sugriva, who had a massive army of soldiers at his disposal. Dispatching them around the world to look for Sita, Sugriva hoped to please Rama by finding His beloved wife. One search party in particular was considered the most capable. They were headed by Sugriva’s nephew, Angada, but the true strength of the group lay in the wonderful power, perseverance, courage and devotion to Rama found in Shri Hanuman, Sugriva’s most faithful servant.

Not surprisingly, Hanuman would be called to step up to the plate when the monkey group came upon their most troublesome situation. Learning that Sita was in Lanka, the monkeys were prepared to march forth, but they first had to figure out a way to get across the massive body of water that separated them from Ravana’s island. At this time, it was discovered that only Hanuman, who was capable of assuming any sized shape at will, could leap far enough to make it across the ocean and thus reach Sita.

Hanuman In the above referenced quote, Hanuman is openly declaring the objectives of his soon-to-be completed mission to the monkeys. He had just assumed a massive size and climbed atop a mountain peak. He was ready to leap into the sky, so before going he wanted to state clearly what his purpose was and what he would do if different obstacles stood in his way. First, he said that he would find Sita in Lanka, and that if she wasn’t there, he would leap all the way up to heaven and find her there. If Sita couldn’t be found in heaven, Hanuman would bring Ravana back to the monkeys as a captive. Finally, Hanuman reassured his friends that in every respect, with whichever route he would follow, he would do whatever it would take to find Sita. If, after exhausting all his efforts, he was still not able to find her, he would uproot the entire city of Lanka and bring it back with him.

Such wonderful and inspiring sentiments emanating from the lotus mouth of a dear servant of the Lord are uttered with a purpose. The aim is to show others just how dedicated the performer is to a particular mission. In the movie Batman Returns, one of the lead villains is played by the actor Christopher Walken. Towards the beginning of the film, Walken’s character, who is a businessman, is involved in a secret meeting to put something into place that would be damaging to the city he inhabits. His secretary accidentally overhears his nefarious plot, and instead of trying to silence her, Walken pushes her through a window on one of the upper floors of the high-rise office building. Being a fictional movie relating to superheroes, the secretary is able to survive the great fall after being resuscitated by cats. She then turns into the villainous character, Catwoman. When she returns to her secretary post a few days later, Walken’s character is shocked to see her alive. Though somewhat phased by the development, Walken’s character later openly quips that if she should try to blackmail him over what had happened, he’ll just push her out of a higher window.

Christopher Walken in Batman Returns This line aroused great laughter in the theater that we happened to be watching the movie in. The reason for the humor is quite obvious: the character was so set in his evil ways that he was firmly committed to killing all his opponents, no matter how hard he had to work. If one method didn’t succeed, he would just put more power into the job the second time around. A similar mindset, though in a purified form, existed with Hanuman. If Sita wouldn’t be found in Lanka, Hanuman would go to wherever she was residing. If he couldn’t find her anywhere, he’d take Ravana back to Rama. If Ravana didn’t want to go, Hanuman would carry the entire city back with him; such was the dedication of Rama’s dearmost servant.

Though Hanuman was a soldier engaged in a reconnaissance mission, he was actually performing a form of yoga known as bhakti. As mentioned before, true bliss for the soul is found through interaction with the Supersoul within the heart. The linking of these two souls is known as yoga. Since there is more than one way to achieve this link, there are different names ascribed to yoga. Bhakti is the discipline which aims to connect with God, in any of His non-different expansions, through acts of love and devotion. Hearing and chanting are the two most effective processes, but carrying out the orders of the Lord is also a tremendously potent and authorized method of bhakti. Hanuman constantly hears about Rama’s glories and chants His name on a daily basis, so in this sense his mood of bhakti is never broken.  Nevertheless, he also had the wonderful benediction of being able to personally carry out the Lord’s orders given to him through the proxy of Sugriva.

Rama Darbar Bhakti is transcendental love, so when carrying out God’s orders, there must be determination and a sincere will to achieve success. As displayed by Hanuman, perseverance and dedication is the key. Even if success is not achieved, there must not be any hesitation in the intent. Hanuman didn’t say, “Oh, perhaps I will succeed, and maybe I will find Sita and return the information of her whereabouts to Rama.” He was acting for the pleasure of the Lord, so he took the mission as his life and soul. In a similar manner, we should take full advantage of the human form of body by making success in devotional service, bhakti-yoga, our only mission in life. Dedication to chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and refraining from the most sinful activities will help put us on our way. Difficult times will surely be encountered every now and then, but if we remember the wonderful determination of Hanuman, the great love he feels for Sita and Rama, and the unbreakable bond of affection that Sita, Rama and Lakshmana have for him, we will never fail in our mission.

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Respect the Game

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 7, 2011

Hanuman “If I can’t find Sita in the three heavens after exerting so much effort, I will bring Ravana, the king of Rakshasas, here bound up.” (Hanuman addressing the Vanaras, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.41)

yadi vā tridive sītāṃ na drakśyāmyakṛtaśramaḥ |

baddhvā rākśasarājānamānayiṣyāmi rāvaṇam

By respecting the rules of the game, a player brings honor and prestige upon themselves. The player who always attempts to cheat or follows a strategy that leaves everything to chance isn’t respected as much should he come out successful. The game in its most beautiful form is an equal competition, one where the rules are applied fairly and evenly to all parties involved. By following the model of fair play, the victor can really feel that his win was substantial and something to be proud of. In the absence of deference to the guidelines of the competition, the subsequent external praise extolling the traits and attributes of the player loses some of its meaning. For the respectful player, the bigger the fight, the more substantive adulation he receives. No one worked within the bounds of the duties prescribed to him better than Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama. Therefore it is not surprising to see that he is adored and loved today just as much as he was in the immediate aftermath to his heroic exhibitions of strength and dedication in divine love.

BilliardsSo what does it mean exactly to respect a game? Can there be a right way to go about winning a competition? Aren’t all games dependent on cheating to some extent or another? The game of billiards, also commonly known as pool, illustrates the differences very nicely. Billiards typically involves knocking balls laying on a felt table into different pockets located at specific corners and sides of the table. The player strikes a white ball known as the cue ball with their cue, or pool stick. The larger, white ball then knocks into other balls, causing collisions which will hopefully guide the target balls to land into specified areas. As is the case with most playing fields, a number of different games can be adopted with the same game pieces on a billiards table. One of the more popular games is eight-ball, where the objective is to knock the number eight ball legally into a pocket before your opponent does. In this game there are fifteen balls on the table, in addition to the cue ball. To start, one of the players is assigned a target ball-type, either solids or stripes. The assignment is usually determined off of the break and the subsequent pocketing of the first ball. Since the first seven balls are mostly colored in, they are referred to as solids, while balls nine through fifteen have the opposite appearance; hence they are known as stripes. The basic rule and objective is to knock in all of your assigned color balls first and then finally the eight ball. The eight ball is neutral and cannot be placed into a pocket before a player has knocked down all of their assigned colored balls; otherwise there will be a foul that causes an immediate loss of the game.

In a more professional setting, an added twist to the game is the calling of shots. In leisure games, usually only the eight ball needs to be called, but in the professional ranks, often times every single shot has to be predicted prior to being struck. What does it mean to call a shot? Say that we are playing eight ball and we are assigned the solid color. Based on the current makeup of the table, we are interested in knocking the number one ball into a specific corner. We could just go ahead and take the shot and see what happens, but in the mood of respecting the rules of the game, a highly skilled player will call their shot prior to hitting it. “I’m going to hit the one ball into the corner pocket.” This declaration is made audible enough so that the opponent can hear it. If the one ball doesn’t go into the identified pocket, the player loses their turn. Other balls may also randomly or unintentionally land into pockets, but since they were not called, the shot is deemed to be an unskilled one and not worthy of any reward.

PoolAt first glance these strict rules seem a little silly. You’re playing a game where random collisions are bound to happen after all, so what is the harm in not calling a shot? For the serious players, calling the shot shows respect for the game and a higher level of sophistication. A player winning the game this way can feel proud of their achievement, knowing that they truly earned the victory and that they didn’t simply get lucky knocking a few balls together. At the beginning of the game, any player can strike one of their assigned balls with tremendous force and just hope for random collisions. Often times with such shots other balls will drop into pockets by accident. A serious player takes no joy in such an occurrence because there is no skill involved. Even in the game of baseball, the highly skilled players tell others what they are going to do beforehand. A confident pitcher will make it known to everyone that he is going to throw a fastball on the next pitch. The legendary Babe Ruth, a confident hitter, once pointed to centerfield as if to signal that he would hit the ball there on the next swing. Surely enough, he hit a home run to that area on the next pitch. Whether his pointing actually signaled a calling of a shot or not is up for debate, but the mindset was still present.

What about in other competitions besides game play, such as warfare and conflict? Can a fight to the death with an enemy be equated to a game? To those who are chivalrous and adherent to the dictates of dharma, even warfare has rules. One can respect the game of mortal conflict by battling enemies in fair fights, where no backhanded means are adopted. Yet the most gallant warriors, such as Shri Hanuman, a notable fighter and eternal adherent to dharma, go one step further by both acknowledging the mission at hand and openly declaring the methods they will employ to achieve victory.

Hanuman with Lakshmana and RamaWhat is dharma? Typically it is taken to be religion, but the root definition describes dharma as an essential characteristic. Since the natural propensity of the spirit soul is to be attached to the Supreme Soul, the meaning of dharma can expand to that of an occupational duty, the set of guidelines and procedures which aims to keep the individual always in the proper and ideal consciousness, one that is completely spiritual. Why is a specific consciousness required for an essential characteristic to be maintained? In the conditioned state, the living entity, the purified soul entrapped in an ever-changing material body, becomes forgetful of its original nature. Not only is knowledge of the relationship to God forgotten, but other impermanent characteristics are assumed and taken to be paramount. Due to these faulty perceptions, different prescribed duties, or dharmas, which bare no relation to the original consciousness are adopted.

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

To rekindle the dormant love for God within the heart is not an easy task in the least bit. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India which first revealed the dictates of dharma that apply to all living entities, don’t assume that a person can perfect their consciousness in only one lifetime. The soul lives forever, so there is no need to fear death. If there is a wrinkle to this system, it is seen at the time of birth, when knowledge of previous lives is immediately erased. It is not that one’s natural characteristic ever changes, but rather, the level of ignorance that envelops the consciousness within a given life form can go through fluctuations, rising and falling like the tides of the ocean. At the time of birth, the level of ignorance is at its peak, so adherence to certain rules and regulations is required to regain the original state of pure knowledge, an intelligence which is so powerful that it can illuminate all the gates of the body.

Lord KrishnaWhat do these rules consist of and are they the same for everyone? As mentioned before, dharma is the occupational duty derived from the predominant characteristic. But if we divide different activities into their different characteristic requirements, we come up with smaller, more targeted dharmas. The ultimate goal, that of achieving God consciousness, is always the same, but the process to reach that heightened consciousness can vary, with each smaller dharma gradually leading to the final favorable condition. As an example, let’s say that we buy a new appliance or furniture item that requires assembly. Upon opening the package, we will find an instruction manual which details how the particular piece should be assembled. For one who has no knowledge of assembly or what the final product should look like, adherence to the instruction manual is required. Ignoring the guidance given, which is itself a type of dharma, will surely lead to negative reactions. For those who are not on the highest platform of knowledge, going against the dictates of dharma will be considered sin and thus bring about bad fortune. If the furniture piece is assembled incorrectly, it will surely break at some point down the line. Depending on the magnitude of the deviation from the assembly manual, the resulting destruction can be minor or very troublesome.

But for the advanced person adherence to the instruction manual is not required at all. This wise individual has likely assembled many such pieces previously, or they are at least able to see the big picture. To an ordinary person, a bunch of spare parts can look like chaos, but for one with a trained eye, the final piece is visualized through the mess of the individual parts. In this situation ignoring the instruction manual is not considered sin because the ultimate characteristic of knowledge and familiarity with the furniture item has already been established.

“A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.18)

Lord KrishnaExpanding the same example to the largest scope, God conscious persons, being aware of their natural characteristic and attachment to the Lord, are not required to follow the dictates of dharma, be they of the small or large scale. Does this mean that adherence to virtue and honor should be abandoned at some point in the progression towards ultimate realization of God? What’s interesting to note is that the more liberated a person becomes, i.e. the more they take to loving God, the more they feel compelled to adhere to rules of dharma. Hanuman is a great example of this.

Many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Soul who we are inclined to love, manifested on this earth in the guise of a warrior prince named Rama. Rama was God Himself, but even He agreed to voluntarily abide by the dictates of dharma prescribed to His order. As the son of a king, it was Rama’s duty to protect the innocent and maintain the good name of His family, the Ikshvakus. On one occasion, the honesty of His father, Maharaja Dasharatha, was in serious jeopardy of being broken, so the Lord decided to embark on a fourteen year journey through the forest. Rama’s gesture both maintained the good name of His father, who had ordered his son to leave the kingdom, and showed others the magnanimous and renounced nature of the Supreme Lord. While in the forest, Rama’s beautiful wife Sita Devi would be taken from Him in a backhanded plot enacted by a Rakshasa king named Ravana and his henchman Maricha. In His subsequent search for Sita, Rama ended up forming an alliance with a Vanara king named Sugriva.

Lord RamaSugriva’s chief minister was Hanuman, who, though in a monkey form, had the intelligence of the greatest of Vedic scholars. Born of the deity controlling the wind, Hanuman was extremely powerful and capable of assuming any shape at will. Knowledge of these powers didn’t come to him until it was almost too late. Hanuman’s party was dispatched by Sugriva and told to find Sita’s whereabouts. When it looked like they were out of options, Hanuman was informed by another member of his party, Jambavan, that he was extremely powerful and capable of rising to an immense stature.

Though these descriptions seem to be part of a mythological tradition, the statements are accepted as is from Maharishi Valmiki, the compiler of the Ramayana. We can’t think of monkeys talking or living entities suddenly expanding in size, but with the numerous varieties in species and marshaling of mystic yoga powers, anything is possible. Indeed, these Vanaras were more forest dwellers than monkeys, but since the age of Treta was one of purity, even the forest creatures were advanced in intelligence and mystic ability.

Hearing Jambavan’s words, Hanuman increased his stature and then climbed atop a mountain. Through intelligence provided by a bird named Sampati, Hanuman and the Vanaras were informed that Sita was being held captive on an island kingdom of Lanka, which was situated across the vast ocean. Only Hanuman was capable of jumping far enough to make it across the water, so in preparing himself for the leap, he assumed a massive size.

In the above referenced quote, Hanuman is getting ready to jump. Yet, before leaving he made sure to state the objectives of his mission. This wasn’t necessary, as the orders had already been given to his party by Sugriva. But Hanuman, maintaining the honor of the game, wanted to call his shot. He told the monkeys that if he couldn’t find Sita in Ravana’s kingdom, he would leap up to the heavenly planets and look for her there. The assumption was that if Sita had been killed, she would have immediately gone to heaven.

Hanuman Hanuman then declared that if he still couldn’t find Sita in heaven, he would bind up Ravana and bring him back with him. This statement speaks to Hanuman’s immense strength. Through boons offered by various celestials, Ravana was a Rakshasa of tremendous power, almost unbeatable in battle. Yet Hanuman, as a faithful servant and divine figure himself, could easily conquer Ravana or anyone else in conflict. What’s interesting to note is that Hanuman didn’t declare that he would kill Ravana. This would actually go against the rules of the game. Surely, Ravana was deserving of the punishment of death, but this had to come from Rama. Sita was Rama’s wife, so if Hanuman were to rescue her and kill Ravana, the honor of Rama and the Ikshvaku dynasty would be tarnished a bit.

Hanuman is a maha-bhagavata, the greatest of devotees. He has no need to adhere to any rules and regulations prescribed in any level of dharma, but he remains pious out of deep love and respect for his beloved Rama. Hanuman’s behavior is exemplary and should be carefully studied and understood. As one who is already God conscious, Hanuman doesn’t need to follow any established procedures to purify his consciousness. He is already at the level of being one with his essential characteristic of loving God. Yet it is precisely this affection that causes him to show even more respect to the laws of warfare in the Vedic tradition, the rules of the game if you will.

Hanuman Those who have reached the pinnacle of spiritual understanding still show deference to the dictates of dharma to set a good example for others and offer their respects to the Supreme Lord, who initially put the rules into place. Dharma is conspicuous by its absence in the present age of Kali. Therefore, the great Vedic seers, those whose torch held in honor of the Supreme Lord never burns out, have simplified the prescribed duties for mankind. Everyone is advised to simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, as often as possible. Though chanting, which is a quintessential act belonging to the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, already has retraction built in, one is advised to also refrain from the four most dangerous sinful activities: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex and intoxication.

The restricted activities are the most dangerous in terms of their ability to keep one from assuming their original consciousness. The rules themselves aren’t God, but they are put into place by Him to allow others to gradually progress to the topmost platform of consciousness. Worshipable figures like Hanuman follow such rules to show others the way. This kindness, sacrifice and generosity on their part can never be repaid, but it can be daily recognized and honored. Hanumanji to this day always reads from the Ramayana and chants the glorious name of Shri Rama. Hanuman always respects whatever game he is asked to play, but above all, he honors and obeys the dictates of the Supreme Lord. We would be greatly fortunate to one day have the same level of dedication and love as that which is safely housed in the heart of Shri Hanuman.

hanuman-poster-DH53_lThe demons may not always respect the rules of the game, but the devotees will. Ravana stole Sita away without even fighting Rama, and on many previous occasions, the demon and his associates killed innocent sages and then ate their flesh. Not interested in forging a purified consciousness, miscreants make up their own dharmas on a whim and then hope for the best. Just as ignoring the instruction manual can prove injurious for those who are not intelligent, transgressing the rules put into place for achieving God consciousness will similarly lead to disastrous results. Ravana’s punishment came in many forms through a methodical drubbing, but it started with Hanuman’s arrival in Lanka, an event which led to the burning of the city and ultimately Rama’s arrival. When the Lord appears on the scene, there is no chance for escape by the offenders. Ravana would be soundly defeated by Rama, and Sita would be rescued. Shri Hanuman’s role in this wonderful drama of reality has never been forgotten, nor should it. He will always be endeared to Shri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. If somehow we are fortunate enough to get in the good graces of Hanuman, we can expect a similar spiritual benefit, that of eternal association with Bhagavan.

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Positive Thinking

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 5, 2011

Hanuman “Just as the arrows released by Raghava travel at the speed of the wind, so I will travel swiftly to Lanka, the city protected by Ravana. If I do not find the daughter of King Janaka in Lanka, with the same force I shall go to the realm of the demigods.” (Hanuman addressing the Vanaras, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.39-40)

yathā rāghavanirmuktaḥ śaraḥ śvasanavikramaḥ |

gaccettadvadgamiṣyāmi laṅkāṃ rāvaṇapālitām ||

na hi drakśyāmi yadi tāṃ laṅkāyāṃ janakātmajām |

anenaiva hi vegena gamiṣyāmi surālayam||

The power of positive thinking is not a myth or a pipe dream. The chances for success in any venture are increased when the end-goal can be visualized, when the mind attempts to understand the potential feelings of elation that come after the proposed plans have been successfully implemented. In the absence of this picture, the visualization of victory, the chances of failure will only increase. But thinking positively is not easy, especially as the tasks increase in level of difficulty. Of all the jobs standing before us, none is more compelling and full of urgency than the gaining of release from the repeated cycle of birth and death. To picture perfect success in this venture, the mental image of the great warriors of the past, who, come hell or high water, never viewed defeat as an option, is required. Of all such warriors, none is more glorious, wonderful and beautiful to behold than Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama.

HanumanWhy does positive thinking work? The simplest answer is that pessimism is much easier to adopt. Just as the laws of inertia state that a body at rest will stay at rest, it is the natural tendency of the fatigued living entity to sit back on the sidelines and not even make an attempt towards victory. The sleeping state, one of ignorance and inactivity, is much easier to embrace than is an active one. In order to remain fervently engaged, there must be passion, and in order for the reservoirs of eagerness to remain at full levels, there must be an end-goal, a driving force to push the passionate individual across the finish line.

If positive thinking was so easy, there wouldn’t be so many books written on how to succeed in life. Entering a library or bookstore, you can’t find a section on how to sit back and relax your way to financial freedom. There is no section of the store devoted to the great procrastinators in history. On the contrary, volumes upon volumes of books are written about positive thinking and the keys to achieving success through hard work and perseverance. If we study the famous success stories of the past, we’ll see that all of the climbs to the top involved highly motivated and perseverant workers. The successful weren’t going to tolerate failure under any circumstances, even if it meant suffering through defeat after defeat.

The pioneers take all the arrows. The trailblazers in any field of activity suffer the most in their pursuit for perfection and success. Others who follow in their footsteps often have an easier time because the path has been laid out for them, with the potential pitfalls already identified. A glaring example of the benefits of one man leading the pack is seen in the talk radio industry in America. Around twenty five years ago, AM radio, which features news, talk, weather and anything besides the playing of popular music, was deemed a dying brand. The only talk shows that did succeed were local ones that focused on providing recipes to housewives and giving basic news rundowns.

Fast forward to today and talk radio has become one of the most popular mediums for information exchange and discussion. It seems that everyone who has any fame wants to get their own show. The stark change in popularity came about primarily through the success of one man, a person who was determined to be on the radio since his very childhood. Rush Limbaugh’s parents were of the World War II/Great Depression generation, so they wanted their children to become educated and land steady jobs. Through earning a college degree, one could have the financial security they needed to avoid the pangs of economic depression. The Limbaughs’ eldest son Rush had no affinity for school though. After dropping out of college after a brief stint, Rush was determined to make it in the radio industry, his life’s dream.

Yet success wouldn’t come easy; he would be fired seven different times from different radio gigs. One station manager told him that he didn’t have the necessary skills to be on the radio. The natural inertia and penchant for negativity in the average human being would have caused most people to quit at this point. After all, nothing inflicts a stronger bruising to the ego than does getting fired. Yet Rush, driven by a passion, persevered and eventually landed a radio show that allowed him to do the program the way he wanted. The rest was history, as the popularity of talk radio surged as a result of Limbaugh’s tremendous success and unique model of syndication.

Rush is not the only success story to cause a dramatic shakeup to an industry, as similar triumphs over adversity are witnessed in virtually every field of interest. It is said that Wayne Gretzky singlehandedly made ice hockey popular in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas after he was traded to the Kings franchise. While entertainment, business, politics, and sports all require positive thinking and perseverance in order to attain success, the realm of spirituality is much tougher. Reaching the pinnacle of spiritual practice requires a change in consciousness, a drastic shift to the predominant thought processes. In the conditioned state, the individual takes itself to be the ultimate object of enjoyment; thus all activities are geared towards self-satisfaction. On the surface this makes sense. After all, we have to live with ourselves, so we might as well make sure we are happy. No one else is going to love us as much as we will. While it is certainly important to meet the needs of the self, how one can go about doing this is where problems arise, as the proper identification of the self is necessary in order to find lasting satisfaction.

Lord KrishnaThe Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, reveal that it is the nature of the spirit soul to serve. For all the interests we are trying to meet, the catalyst for action is the penchant towards service. This tendency is derived from the natural constitutional position of the soul, that of a sincere servant of the Supreme Lord. Just as some people are born to lead, while others are born to follow, every spirit soul is made to act for the pleasure of Supreme Spirit. God’s original and only position is that of the ultimate worshipable object and reservoir of pleasure. The original position of the sparks emanating from the giant fire of energy known as God is that of loving servants; individual entities whose pleasure comes from tapping into the glories and pastimes of the supremely nectarean, all-blissful Personality of Godhead.

So this seems simple enough. Become a servant of God and all happiness will be achieved. Ah, but there’s a catch. Since time immemorial the soul’s aversion to divine love has steadily increased. The longer one remains in the material world, the stronger the aversion becomes. The more one drifts away from their constitutional position, the more they will take to serving other interests, such as those of their fellow man. Even sense gratification is a type of service, wherein the allegiance is to the senses.

While service to others may seem like a noble enough engagement, the enjoyment derived is inferior. Material nature is the cruelest of mistresses; she tells us that we’ll be happy associating with her, but her promises are as empty as the air. The illusion leads to a voluntary enlistment in her service, but all we get in return is a repetition of the miserable cycle of birth and death. Therefore, the aim of life is to gradually shift consciousness, moving away from serving unworthy worshipable objects, while simultaneously inching closer towards servicing that one person who never lets anyone down.

Lord KrishnaThe Vedic seers, those who have no other business besides divine love, have documented their thoughts, revelations and prescriptions on the matter of purified service in the classic Vedic texts. Though the instructions can be quite comprehensive and multi-faceted, the sum and substance is that the living entities must engage in God consciousness through a discipline known as bhakti-yoga. Acts of sense gratification involve allegiance to the senses, those belonging either to the personal self or to others. Bhakti is the purification of all activity since it is a faithful dedication of not only action, but also consciousness, to the master of the senses, Hrishikesha. “God” is too generic a term for describing the Supreme Being, so the Vedas give us many more names for the same Person. Familiarity with these names is helpful because it serves to further increase the attachment to Supreme Spirit. The more one is attached to God, the more they will be willing to serve.

The quintessential act of bhakti is harinama-japa, or the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Regular recitation of the sound vibration representations of Supreme Spirit is also the most effective spiritual activity because it can be universally instantiated; it can be practiced at any time and at any place. As such, our consciousness is eligible for purification at all times throughout the day. The more one takes to chanting, the more their consciousness gets fixed up.

HanumanYet just as the Supreme Lord doesn’t limit Himself to only one form, there are other outlets for service to Bhagavan which are just as powerful as japa. Carrying out the Lord’s orders is another aspect of devotional service, and it is something that has been practiced to perfection many times in the past, including by Shri Hanuman, the powerful, courageous, sweet, humble and learned Vanara warrior who roamed the earth at the same time as Lord Rama, a celebrated avatara of the original Personality of Godhead. Attachment to God is nice in theory, but the practical application is more difficult due to the influence of the senses. To lend credence to the teachings put forth by the Vedas, Krishna kindly appears on earth from time to time to enact pastimes. By appearing in a personal form, the Lord also allows other exalted personalities to directly offer their service to Him, thus showing others what it means to be Krishna conscious.

To accept service from other sincere souls, Bhagavan must place Himself into apparently troubling situations from time to time. As mentioned before, it is the natural position of God to reign supreme over all. Yet if He appeared on this earth and simply pounded His chest and imposed His will on others, there would be no chance for anyone to offer their love. If a person is deemed extremely powerful and in need of nothing, others will not have any desire to show their love in the form of aid and assistance. Even in the arena of romantic love, it is seen that the greatest service is offered by those who view their significant others as downtrodden and incapable of maintaining themselves. A good wife is one who lovingly views her husband as being an idiot, a viewpoint often exhibited in the presence of others, wherein the wife will constantly correct and make fun of her husband’s shortcomings. Not surprisingly, husbands will not appreciate such behavior, but the actions of the wife are indicative of the highest loving sentiments. If the wife viewed the husband as superior and completely independent, she would have no need to come forth and offer assistance.

Lord RamaIn Lord Rama’s case, the most troubling situation He encountered was the kidnapping of His wife, the beautiful princess of Videha, Sita Devi. Sita was taken from Rama through a backhanded plot hatched by the demon-king of Lanka, Ravana. In His subsequent search for her whereabouts, Rama forged an alliance with a band of human-like monkeys known as Vanaras living in the forest of Kishkindha. Their leader was the monkey-king Sugriva, and his chief warrior and most trusted aide was Hanuman.

After allying with Rama, Sugriva dispatched a search party to look for Sita, with the lead group including Hanuman. Though initially faced with great difficulties, the monkeys finally made some headway when they learned of Sita’s whereabouts through the kind words of a bird named Sampati. The catch was that Sita’s location, the island of Lanka, was across a vast and deep ocean, one that couldn’t be crossed by any ordinary entity. Though at this point it seemed that all hope was lost, Jambavan, one of the elderly monkeys in the party, informed Hanuman of his divine lineage, the circumstances of his upbringing, and his immense powers.

HanumanUpon learning of his mastery over all mystic perfections, which included the ability to expand or contract his physical stature at a whim, Hanuman gradually increased the size of his frame. Though a kind and humble servant who always thought of Sugriva’s and Rama’s interests, Hanuman was not weak in any way. He knew that the hopes of the monkeys, Rama, His brother Lakshmana and Sita rested with him. Rather than be timid and just wish for success, Hanuman took assertive action by boldly altering his bodily size to match the difficulty of the task and mentally preparing himself to meet and overcome any and all obstacles.

From the above referenced passages from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman confidently declaring that nothing will stand in his way of finding Sita. These statements were uttered while Hanuman was standing atop a mountain peak, from which he was to make his giant leap across the vast ocean. Since he had assumed a massive size, many trees were destroyed and animals scared away in the process of his ascension to the top of the mountain. Others looked at the beautiful, giant figure with awe and reverence. Fear is the impulse reaction when witnessing such a phenomenal event, but the inhabitants of this land knew that Hanuman was performing devotional service for Shri Rama.

The confidence and unwavering attitude that jump off the page while reading Hanuman’s statement are wonderful to behold. Hanuman was born of the wind-god Vayu, so by saying that he would travel to Lanka at the speed of the wind, he was honoring his father. The comparison to the wind is actually made in reference to the speed of the arrows shot from the illustrious bow of Shri Rama. Taking birth in a pious royal family, Rama was a warrior by trade. His arrows were no ordinary weapons; they were the most powerful agents of destruction for the targets they always reached. Not only was Hanuman faithfully serving Rama, but he had the good Lord always on His mind. He not only boldly declared that he would be successful in his venture, but he made sure to invoke Rama’s name and attributes. Krishna consciousness is not just exhibited through pledges of allegiance and the performance of rituals. It is a way of life. A pure devotee is incapable of deviating the mind from thoughts of Bhagavan. Rama’s arrows are also His dear servants, so when they are released from the bow, they are on their own to act for the Lord’s pleasure. Hanuman, adoring every aspect of his beloved Rama, kindly compared himself to the divine arrows that never fail to make their marksman proud.

Hanuman’s determination was so strong that even if he couldn’t find Sita in Lanka, he would boldly jump up to the heavenly region to look for her. The assumption here is that if Sita wasn’t in Lanka, Ravana might have already killed her. Even if she wasn’t in the middle planetary system, Hanuman was prepared to fly to the heavenly realm to safely return Rama’s wife to Him. Obviously such an action wasn’t necessary, as Sita is the most powerful divine mother, an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and the eternal consort of Shri Rama in the spiritual world. Ravana was as much capable of travelling back in time as he was of even touching Sita, let alone killing her.

Rama Darbar From Hanuman’s glorious attitude we see that success in the most difficult task of remaining God conscious requires sincere dedication and confidence. Just as the expert golfer about to make an important putt will envision the ball dropping into the cup, the expert devotee will see the finish line of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. If such positive thinking is absent, there will be no chance for success. Laziness, inertia and negative thoughts are maya’s most powerful weapons in her steady assault on the psyches of conditioned living entities. The only way to break free of illusion is to focus the mind on something permanent, real and ever-blissful. The lotus feet of the original, transcendental and eternal form of the Personality of Godhead meet these qualifications. Lord Hanuman always kept his mind focused on Rama, and due to this dedication, his devotional efforts always satisfied Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. Attachment to God never goes in vain, and anyone who remembers the positive nature of the thought processes of devotees like Hanuman will never meet with defeat in their spiritual endeavors.

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Blistered Earth

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 3, 2011

Hanuman “Then, that most powerful and brave monkey, like the smooth water roamed with ease across the grass that had the hue of a vaidurya stone. That sagacious monkey, like an agitated lion swept aside many deer and other animals, scared away the birds, and crushed down trees with his chest.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.3-4)

atha vaiḍūryavarṇeṣu śādvaleṣu mahābalaḥ |

dhīraḥ salilakalpeṣu viccāra yathāsukham

dvijān vitrāsayan dhīmānurasā pādapān haran |

mṛgāṃśca subāhunnighnan pravṛddha iva kesarī

The importance of protecting the environment and its plant life is fairly obvious to those who are cognizant of the role their surroundings play in everyday life. After all, we have to live with the nature around us, for surroundings are what constitute an “environment”. Respect for other forms of life is also in line with piety, as showing concern for nature serves as an outlet for the natural kindness and affection found within the heart. Under the selfish mindset, identification with the gross body, an outer covering for the soul which constantly goes through change, only strengthens. Through acts of sacrifice, penance and charity, one gradually becomes detached from the flawed attachment to their gross senses and current form of body. Yet the mundane rules of piety and virtue are not absolute, for there is a method behind the so-called madness of the prescriptions in spiritual life, religion, or any basic system of right and wrong. Irrespective of the specific activity, the ultimate objective should be to please the Supreme Being, that singular entity who is our life partner. Though He always remains with us, our knowledge of His presence lies behind a dense wall, a thick cloud covering of nescience. Acts of piety and virtue help to dissipate this thick ignorance. But when one ascends to the highest platform of consciousness, even performing those activities which seem sinful on the surface are actually completely in line with the highest cause, and thus free of any negative reaction.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Lord KrishnaUnderstanding the limits of piety and sin is a little tricky. Typically, virtue is attached to activities that we are supposed to perform and sin is anything we shouldn’t. If you abide by piety, you will be rewarded in the future, and if you take to sinful life, you will be severely punished. Some preachers will even openly declare that everyone who takes to sin and ignores the desires of a specific spiritual personality will be forced to suffer eternal damnation in hell. “Repent for your sins, or forever suffer for your transgressions!” In actuality, hell and heaven are simply areas with severe temporary conditions resulting from ordinary acts of goodness and ignorance. Piety can be thought of as the right way to do something, so it doesn’t necessarily have to apply to religion. The same holds true for sin. Since the outer covering of the soul is temporary and destined for destruction, no condition that leads to flickering happiness or distress can be taken to be eternal or the final fate of the soul. The individual soul, or atma, remains in existence forever. As such, it is closely tied at the hip to another entity that never perishes: the Supreme Soul, or Paramatma. No action can cause any spiritual entity to die or change in quality.

If there is a defect with the individual atma, it is seen in its travels. Unlike the Paramatma, the jivatma can be cast into the ocean of nescience, where it is forced to repeatedly accept temporary bodies and endure varying degrees of heavenly and hellish life. As mentioned before, piety is simply the right way to perform an activity; an action that leads to the proper and expected outcome or condition. For example, if we are building a house, there is a right way to align the columns, build the walls, and insulate the structure from outside heat and cold. If we follow the prescribed guidelines, the favorable condition of a peaceful, safe, and comfortable living establishment will be had. By the same token, if we fail to act according to the proper path, we will suffer negative effects, the severity of which depends on the magnitude of the deviation. For instance, if we apply paint to one of the walls incorrectly or use the wrong color, this type of sin will lead to an unpleasant sight, but nothing more. However, if we commit a more grievous sin, like not supporting a beam properly, the result can be a disastrous one, such as the collapse of the entire structure and the deaths of those living inside of it.

Following the same pattern, pious acts with a larger scope, such as nonviolence and protection of the environment, lead to favorable conditions for the outer covering of the soul in the future. At the same time, the rules of piety are not absolute, and by adhering to them, we only find temporary positive conditions. Revisiting the house example, if we erect the structure correctly, we get a nice home to live in, but then what? Do our activities end there? Have we achieved success in life? Surely we haven’t, as we’ll have to take on new activities and again subject ourselves to the paradigm of sin and piety. The building of the home is only a small example, but the illustrated principles can be expanded out to all activities pertaining to the embodied, or dehinam.

“The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.45)

Lord KrishnaWith respect to the protection of the environment, say that we have the most beautiful surroundings, where no trees are ever knocked down and no animals are ever hurt. What will we do after that? Will the mind stop thinking? Do our desires stop? Since individuality is an intrinsic property of the soul, the penchant for activity never ceases. Therefore, to elevate to the highest platform of transcendental existence, one must rise above mundane piety. Caring for other forms of life surely is noble, but activities that deal strictly with temporary bodies do not represent the upper limit of the soul’s engagement. The individual spirit, jivatma, is the functioning unit of the body, so the future well-being of the soul is what really matters.

The argument may be made that if we are to give primary concern to the atma, what is the purpose to the material nature around us? Why are there trees, plants, animals, and an environment in general? Initially, such objects, including the body of the living entity itself, were provided by the Supreme Being, who is known by the name of Krishna in the Vedic tradition, to allow for imitation of the most mature, powerful and sublime activities of the Supreme Lord. One angle of vision takes God as the adult and the individual souls as His children. This viewpoint is invoked here strictly for comparison purposes, as the Lord’s supremacy is so great that nothing can accurately compare to it. But we do see that young children like to imitate their parents, so the analogy works well when describing the desires of the innumerable spiritual sparks emanating from the original source of energy. Since the young children can never take to real adult activities, there must be a playground of sorts created wherein they can feel as if they are acting like adults. Taking the same scenario and applying it to the spiritual world, which is full of children that are always under the care of the Supreme Father, we get an idea of how the material world was born.

More important than understanding when, why or how the world was created is the issue of how to permanently escape from it. Is piety the answer? Is sin the ticket to freedom? The key that unlocks the gate leading out of the material world can be quite easily acquired; provided we change our desires. Once the children lose their interest in imitating the adults, release from the playpen is immediately granted. But reaching that state of selflessness is easier said than done. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India instituted by Krishna, don’t expect every individual to achieve the purification of desire in one lifetime. Therefore piety is recommended as a way to allow for a gradual evolution through higher stages of consciousness, ultimately resulting in a body and a predicament that are most conducive towards achieving liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

PrabhupadaThough it can take many lifetimes’ worth of pious behavior to gain release from the playground known as the phenomenal world, there is a much simpler way that is flawlessly effective. The same objects that are viewed as the source of personal enjoyment can be used for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. This is the vision the saints, the celebrated devotees of Krishna, use to survey their surroundings. A simple example often cited by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada can help in this context. Say we are in a shopping mall and we see some money that an unknown fellow shopper has dropped on the ground. The foolish enjoyer, one who wants to imitate God’s powers in the areas of creation, maintenance and destruction, will quickly snatch up the money and think of how to spend it. This money surely doesn’t belong to them, but they have now taken false ownership of it and plan to enjoy it for their own sense pleasure. “You snooze, you lose” is the underlying attitude guiding the gross enjoyer in this situation. On the flip side, one who is prone to renunciation will see the money on the floor and not dare pick it up. It is a grievous sin to take the property of others, for such an act will be the cause of future bondage and a hellish condition. “Better to ere on the side of caution and leave the money alone”, is what they’ll think. Anyway, what will they do with the money, as it is simply a product of material nature that leads to further illusion?

Only the third person, he who picks up the money and returns it to the rightful owner, follows the correct procedure, one that is superior to both personal enjoyment and renunciation. Only with this path will the owner’s property be utilized for their benefit. Obviously, sometimes it’s difficult to find the person who dropped the money, for once it is announced that cash has been found, many people will come forward to claim that it is theirs, but the intention behind the behavior illustrates the proper mindset and the correct course of action to take under all circumstances. Even if we are unable to find the original owner, the sentiment is still correct, and it also gives an indication of how to achieve success in the spiritual sense.

The entire world, with all its plants, trees and animals, belongs to God. Therefore the real path to liberation, one that follows a system of dharma that is above the mundane paradigm of piety and sin, is to use everything for the Lord’s pleasure. The problem is that due to the dense illusion clouding our consciousness, we don’t know where to find God and how to offer anything to Him. It seems that every person has their own God and their own philosophy on life, so how do we know who to trust? As they say, “the proof of the pudding is in the taste”, so the validity of the bona fide path of spirituality expounded by the exalted Vaishnavas, the true authorities on spiritual life, is found in the execution of the recommended actions and their subsequent results. It is not that we have to blindly follow such leaders, but rather, we have to kindly hear what they have to say and then make our own judgments using sound logic and reasoning. Surely there is an element of faith involved, especially in the beginning stages, but then which activity is bereft of trust? We can either put faith into gross materialism, which we know will only lead to flickering happiness and misery, or we can put our trust in the devotees of Krishna who have learned the art of devotional service from their own guru, or spiritual master.

“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krishna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.7)

Lord KrishnaThe prescriptions offered by the Vaishnavas are pretty straightforward. “Devote yourselves to God and think of Him at all times. Spend as much time as you can hearing, worshiping, remembering, and offering prayers to the Lord.” Those who make this type of devotion to God their way of life practice the ancient art of bhakti-yoga. As a form of yoga, there is an explicit attempt to link the soul with the Paramatma, but the loving sentiment towards Supreme Spirit actually exists naturally in the soul. There would never have been a desire to imitate God were it not for the intimate relationship that exists between the individual soul and the Supreme Lord. Since bhakti is the ideal consciousness, all impurities from the activities adopted are removed. The divine consciousness automatically brings knowledge of the proper course of action for any and all circumstances.

The descriptions and glorifications of bhakti are full of lofty ideals and promises for future happiness, but how do we actually go about incorporating divine love into our current activities? What are the indications of a purified consciousness? Examples always help, and fortunately for us, the Vedas are filled with vivid illustrations of bhakti in practice. One of the most celebrated bhaktas is Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty and non-different form of Godhead who roamed this earth many thousands of years ago. In the above referenced passage, Hanuman is embarking on his journey to find the whereabouts of Rama’s missing wife, Sita Devi. A beautiful and shy princess, Sita was taken away from the side of her husband by the Rakshasa demon Ravana while she was residing in the forest with Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. The two brothers were not with her at the time of her abduction, so they were unaware of her whereabouts.

“Your sinful act of coming to the forest and taking me away from the side of my husband will not result in future happiness for you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.13)

Sita and Rama Rama and Lakshmana eventually forged an alliance with a band of monkeys living in the forest of Kishkindha. Their chief warrior was Hanuman, who after being apprised of his divine powers, took to leaping across the giant ocean that separated the monkey search party from the island of Lanka, where Ravana had taken Sita. From the above passage, we see that Hanuman, who assumed a massive size to make his way across the giant ocean, initially destroyed many trees that were part of the surroundings and scared away animals that were in his path. Based on the rules of mundane piety as they pertain to caring for the environment, this was surely an abominable act. Hanuman, in preparing for his launch off of a mountaintop, essentially blistered the earth by tromping over it. The modern day environmental movement is fueled by the viewpoint that mankind is an evil force responsible for pollution and the destruction of its surroundings. So under this mindset, Hanuman would be labeled as one of the greatest sinners, a person surely worthy of punishment.

!BzpGpGQ!2k~$(KGrHqEOKkUE)MZUhbcnBMW6BuyIsg~~_3But to this day Hanuman remains one of the most widely revered spiritual figures in the world. As mentioned before, all objects of this world, including the pristine surroundings provided by Mother Nature, belong to God. The beautiful property in the form of trees, rivers, parks, and forests have been kindly lent to us for the purpose of rekindling God consciousness. How to go about utilizing everything around us for the pleasure of Krishna is not simply left to a theoretical exercise. True God consciousness can be exhibited in outward symptoms recognized by the nature of the activities that result. As bhakti is akin to transcendental love, the affection for the Supreme Lord must be shown in the activities of the devotee; otherwise the claims of attachment through consciousness are meaningless.

Hanuman, upon meeting Rama, knew that he would dedicate his life to Him. Hanuman validated his eternal allegiance during his brave trek to Lanka, where he would meet and defeat many opposing elements. The fact that he destroyed trees along the way is not a black mark against his character in the least bit. Even the damage inflicted by Hanuman was a sight of beauty, for it was concomitant with the massive size that he assumed to take on the herculean task presented him. Hanuman’s duties required him to battle against some of the toughest evil elements in the world, so he needed to assume a massive size. As a humble servant of the Lord, Hanuman is usually seen in a normal sized stature, one that is purposefully deferent to the glorious and worshipable position of His beloved Shri Rama. But if need be, by making use of his mastery of every mystic perfection, Hanuman can expand himself to an enormous size.

Rama DarbarWhether he is offering kind words of advice, killing enemies, humbly approaching Sita, or destroying trees and forests as a result of assuming a massive size, Hanuman is always beautiful. Regardless of the preventative measures we adopt, this earth will ultimately be destroyed, for that is the destiny for anything that is created. The aim should be to act in Krishna’s interests at all times. Such behavior will not only purify our own consciousness, but it will also help everyone around us, including future generations, in their quest for spiritual freedom. When there are evil elements in the world such as Ravana, there is bound to be incidental destruction resulting from the heroic efforts of the servants of Bhagavan. Such action need not be apologized for. Hanuman’s glories know no end, and the beautiful form that made its way to Lanka is something to be celebrated forever and ever.

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