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Govardhana Puja 2009

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 18, 2009

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill “My dear Lord, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You because You are the Supreme Person and the Supreme Soul. You are the son of Vasudeva, and You are the Supreme Lord, Krishna, the master of all pure devotees.” (Indra praying to Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 27)

Govardhana Puja celebrates the anniversary of the lifting of Govardhana Hill by Lord Shri Krishna. How a young child could hold up an entire hill by just one finger for seven consecutive days is a fact only understood by the true devotees of the Lord.

Millions of planets are floating in the air all without any intervention by man. Scientists have come up with the Big Bang Theory to explain the creation of the universe, but they have no way of explaining how such a bang could take place and what existed before then. The Vedas represent perfect knowledge since they were passed down from God Himself:

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

Vivasvan The answer to every question can be found in the voluminous works authored by Vyasadeva and other great authors of the Vedic tradition. The historical account of the lifting of Govardhana Hill can be found in the Bhagavata and Vishnu Puranas, as well in several other books. The significance of the event is quite apparent: if God wants to protect someone, there is nothing that anyone can do, even if they are a powerful demigod.

Lord Indra In the Vedic tradition, many demigods are regularly worshiped since they bestow material benedictions. The King of Vraja, Nanda Maharaja, used to regularly perform a puja, or religious worship ceremony, for Lord Indra, the god of heaven. Indra is one of the chief demigods whose name gets brought up quite often, especially when making comparisons. His strength is great since he uses the thunderbolt as his weapon. For this reason, people often make comparisons to him when describing someone having extraordinary strength. Lord Krishna, who was playing the part of the foster-son of Nanda, asked His father to worship Govardhana Hill instead of Indra. Nanda was hesitant to do so out of fear of offending Indra, but nevertheless, he followed through on Krishna’s request.

This is an example of a perfect guru-disciple relationship. If a person wants to make spiritual advancement, he should follow the instructions of the guru without question. Since the spiritual master is the bona fide representative of Krishna, he is to be afforded the same respect as God. The spiritual master is also referred to as guru-deva, meaning he is god-like. Lord Krishna is the original guru, so He gave Nanda the chance to serve Him even though the outward relationship appeared to be that of a father and son. Following Krishna’s advice, the residents of Vrindavana prepared a huge feast to be offered to the hill:

"Prepare very nice foodstuffs of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dahl, then halavah, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations like sweet rice, sweetballs, sandesha, rasagulla and laddu and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire. The brahmanas should be given all kinds of grains in charity. Then decorate all the cows and feed them well. After performing this, give money in charity to the brahmanas. As far as the lower animals are concerned, such as the dogs, and the lower grades of people, such as the chandalas, or the fifth class of men who are considered untouchable, they also may be given sumptuous prasadam. After giving nice grasses to the cows, the sacrifice known as Govardhana Puja may immediately begin. This sacrifice will very much satisfy Me." (Lord Krishna, KB, Vol 1, Ch 24)

Krishna speaking to NandaLord Krishna wanted Govardhana Hill to be worshiped since it provided so many benefits to the citizens. This represents one of the primary principles of the Vedic system; respect. A cow freely gives us milk, not putting up any opposition. For this reason, she is to be respected as a mother, not mercilessly killed in a slaughterhouse. Our parents serve as our initial spiritual masters, guiding and protecting us in our youth. For this reason, they are to be shown the highest respect. The same principle holds true for land. Due to the nature of the material world, we are required to take certain actions to maintain our mind and body. Using land for farming and housing is a necessity, but we should be careful not to unnecessarily burden the earth. We should show respect to the land that we do use, since we would not be able to maintain our livelihoods without it.

Lord Chaitanya has recommended that since Krishna is worshipable, so His land, Vrindavana and Govardhana Hill, are also worshipable. To confirm this statement, Lord Krishna said that Govardhana Puja is as good as worship of Him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, KB, Vol 1, Ch 24)

Lord Krishna Govardhana Hill was shown the highest respect since it proved so beneficial to the citizens. Indra became angry since his worship was skipped, so he decided to take out his wrath on the citizens by pouring down an onslaught of rain. The demigods are god-like, but they are not equal to God. They are still vulnerable to the defects of man. Indra is especially notorious for transgressing the rules of propriety from time to time, and this was one of those occasions. Lord Krishna came to the rescue of the citizens by holding up Govardhana Hill and using it as an umbrella:

"My dear brothers, My dear father, My dear inhabitants of Vrindavana, you can now safely enter under the umbrella of Govardhana Hill, which I have just lifted. Do not be afraid of the hill and think that it will fall from My hand. You have been too much afflicted from the heavy rain and strong wind; therefore I have lifted this hill, which will protect you exactly like a huge umbrella. I think this is a proper arrangement to relieve you from your immediate distress. Be happy along with your animals underneath this great umbrella." (Lord Krishna, KB, Vol 1, Ch 25)

Lifting of Govardhana Hill Ever since that time, Govardhana Hill has been worshiped annually to mark the occasion of the Lord’s bestowal of mercy upon His devotees.

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Food For The Soul

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 21, 2009

Draupadi feeding Krishna “The whole material world is full of hungry living beings. The hunger is not for good food, shelter or sense gratification. The hunger is for the spiritual atmosphere.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.6 Purport)

A staple of the dining out experience in America is the buffet restaurant. America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, and thus there is increased freedom in all aspects of life, especially in eating. Dining out at a buffet restaurant provides a one-of-a-kind eating experience, with no menus to look at and no time spent waiting for food to be brought to your table.

At a normal restaurant, we have to look over the menu and figure what we want to eat. It’s usually a tough decision because there’s probably more than one thing on the menu that would satisfy our taste buds. We have to be really careful because if we choose the wrong dish, we’re stuck with it unless we want to fork over more money for something else. A buffet lets us hedge our bet. All the food is already out there for us to choose from. With the “all you can eat” pricing model, it is in our interest to stuff ourselves until we can’t eat any more so that we can get the biggest bang for our buck.

A buffet meal is best enjoyed on an empty stomach. If we have advance notice prior to going to a buffet restaurant, we strategize ahead by altering our eating schedule accordingly. It is also for this reason that many restaurants serve buffets only on weekends as part of brunch, a meal considered as either a late breakfast or an early lunch. Most people wake up later on the weekends, so brunch represents their first meal of the day, a time when they are usually quite hungry.

Cicis Pizza Buffet The goal is to make sure we are as hungry as we can possibly be when we arrive at the restaurant. Even while eating, we may try different techniques so as to trick ourselves into still being hungry. One of the more common strategies is to stay away from soda and other beverages, so as to leave more room in the stomach.  In the South, some people even go as far as jumping off toilets in the restrooms as a means of “making room” in the stomach. The hungrier we are, the more food we will be able to intake and the more we will enjoy it, or so we think. This theory applies to all areas of sense enjoyment. The less we have of something, the more we appreciate it. “Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” as the saying goes.

According to the Vedas, this current age is known as Kali Yuga, meaning the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. In Kali Yuga, religion is almost non-existent, with dharma existing at only one quarter its full strength. Even the religions that do exist today are mostly cheating ones, advising people to do everything except love God. Because of this deficiency, God has made the path of self-realization much easier in this age. Lord Krishna Himself came to this earth some five hundred years ago in the form of Lord Chaitanya to initiate the sankirtana movement. Sankirtana is the process of congregationally chanting the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.” Lord Chaitanya taught us that in this age, there is no other way of realizing God besides constantly chanting His name:

“In this age of quarrel and disagreement, the Kali Yuga, there is no other way of spiritual realization but this chanting of the names. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.21)

This method of self realization may seem very simple, but it is effective due to our lack of religious awareness. Fortunately for us, we are all hungry for spiritual knowledge and this lack of education has actually made us hungrier for serving Krishna, even if we may not realize it. Our current activities involving meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex life which are all attempts at pleasing the senses and achieving everlasting peace and happiness. However, since these are all on the material platform, they never succeed in fulfilling our desires and thus we remain searching after that one thing that can make us truly happy.

“…as a hungry man cannot be made happy by all comforts of life minus foodstuff, so the hungry man for eternal Absolute Happiness cannot be detracted by any amount of material happiness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.17 Purport)

Those who take to chanting the holy names of the Lord immediately appreciate it since it is a religious activity that actually delivers real benefits. Chanting becomes the most attractive religious activity because we immediately get connected with Krishna. Through chanting our interest in God is spurred on, and we gradually take to the other processes of devotional service.

Krishna eating lunch with friends Eating at a buffet is a fun experience, but the aftermath can be quite painful. Heartburn, indigestion, or extreme fatigue usually follows such a heavy meal. Unlike eating at a buffet, chanting God’s name has no negative side effects.

“You’ll find happiness. If you chant Hare Krishna twenty-four hours, you’ll never get tired, and that is the… You’ll never get tired. In any other material thing, if you chant or you repeat three times, you’ll get tired. It is practical test. But if you go on chanting Hare Krishna twenty-four hours, you’ll never get tired. So if you engage yourself in the activity of Krishna consciousness, you’ll never get tired because you are acting on the spiritual platform. Spiritual platform is absolute. The material platform is different. If you work very hard, then you get tired.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, New York, Sep 2, 1966)

The more we do it, the more we become attracted to it. So let us all take advantage of this great gift given to us by Lord Chaitanya, and we’ll be satisfying our real hunger.

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Ishvara Parama Krishna

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 18, 2009

Lord Krishna “Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)

The internet revolution has brought about great advancements in the dissemination of information. We can quickly search for information on virtually any topic. This is generally a good thing, but it has its drawbacks as well.

According to Vedic teachings, knowledge of God should be heard through the process of disciplic succession, from someone who knows Lord Krishna. That person is the spiritual master, or the pure devotee of the Lord. The pure devotee spends all his time in devotional service to Krishna, thus the Lord reveals Himself to such a person. The devotee has no other interest than to please Krishna, so thus he is the proper person to go to. There are many other mundane scholars who study the Bhagavad-gita and come up with their own concocted theories about Krishna. Some say that He is just an ordinary human being, while others say that the Gita’s teachings are merely symbolic and not to be taken literally. Such people can be classified as atheists.

The internet provides freedom of access, allowing anyone and everyone to publish their thoughts and ideas. One of the drawbacks to this is that one can find conflicting and contradictory information on the internet on matters relating to religion and Krishna. Shankaracharya instituted the Mayavada, or impersonalist, philosophical interpretation of the Vedas in the late eighth century, and that philosophy has gained widespread popularity ever since. Thus the internet is filled information and opinions along this line, i.e. that God is impersonal and that the point of human life is to study Vedanta and hopefully one day merge into the impersonal effulgence known as the brahmajyoti.

“Everyone serves the purpose of the Supreme Godhead, and what to speak of such small and insignificant living entities as ourselves? We are surely eternal servants of the Lord. The Mayavada philosophy maintains that the demigods, the living entities and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are all equal. It is therefore a most foolish misrepresentation of Vedic knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.157 Purport)

Mayavadis tend to think that each of us are personal Gods, and that the Supreme Absolute Truth is an impersonal energy, called Brahman. They take Lord Krishna and His various incarnations to be human beings or regular living entities, products subject to the spell of maya. The Lord describes the foolishness of such people in the Bhagavad-gita, yet if one does internet searches on Lord Krishna or Lord Rama, one will encounter many such teachings of the Mayavadis. Some people even go so far as to criticize the activities of Krishna, focusing especially on His dancing with the gopis in the rasa-lila. The pastimes of Krishna are detailed in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam.  Many people ignore what is contained in the rest of the book, namely that Krishna is God, and instead cherry-pick certain things which they can use to criticize the Lord.

Lord Chaitanya warned us to stay away from such philosophy and try not to even hear it at all. He believed that one who was instructed in the ways of the Mayavada philosophy would have a very difficult time coming to the platform of love for Krishna.

Vyasadeva composed the Vedanta-sutra to deliver the conditioned souls from this material world, but Shankaracharya, by presenting the Vedanta-sutra in his own way, has clearly done a great disservice to human society, for one who follows his Mayavada philosophy is doomed. In the Vedanta-sutra, devotional service is clearly indicated, but the Mayavadi philosophers refuse to accept the spiritual body of the Supreme Absolute Person and refuse to accept that the living entity has an individual existence separate from that of the Supreme Lord. Thus they have created atheistic havoc all over the world, for such a conclusion is against the very nature of the transcendental process of pure devotional service. The Mayavadi philosophers’ unrealizable ambition to become one with the Supreme through denying the existence of the Personality of Godhead results in a most calamitous misrepresentation of spiritual knowledge, and one who follows this philosophy is doomed to remain perpetually in this material world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.114 Purport)

Krishna People are naturally inclined to think of God as being personal; someone we should worship and be devoted to. By reading about or hearing the Mayavada philosophy, one is taken away from their natural inclination to know and love God. Even for those who are already devoted, reading such philosophy can be very depressing. We all love our parents and we never like it when others criticize them. In the same way, Krishna is our original father, and seeing Him treated as an ordinary human being is very offensive. The mind should be purified by thinking good thoughts.

The internet represents one of the most advanced forms of communication, so we should take advantage of this medium to disseminate the truth about Krishna. God is very nice to us, so we should be equally kind to Him by using everything at our disposal to distribute His Mercy to everyone. If we hear the truth about Krishna and lovingly serve Him, then no contradictory philosophy can ever touch us.

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God is One

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 17, 2009

Krishna and His avatars“Since everyone has a different body and mind, different types of religions are needed. But when one is situated on the spiritual platform, there are no bodily and mental differences. Consequently on the absolute platform there is oneness in religion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 17.184 Purport)

Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna…God has many different names according to different religions. People may ask one another, “Who is your God? Who do you worship?” Though God may have many different names, He is still one. There isn’t a separate God for Hindus and a separate God for Christians or those following other faiths.

Seeing all the different religions that have existed since the beginning of time, one may think that God is just a man-made creation. This is a common sentiment amongst atheists and pseudo-intellectuals. Though it might seem plausible, the actual fact is that God appears in different forms based on time and circumstance. According to Vedic philosophy, God appears personally on earth when there is a general decline in dharma, or religiosity, amongst the people.

“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 Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has incarnated throughout history in different forms such as Lord Narasimha, Lord Rama, and even personally as Himself. His specific purpose was different each time. Lord Narasimha came to kill the evil demon Hiranyakashipu, who was tormenting his devotee son, Prahlada. Lord Rama came to kill the demon Ravana, who had disturbed the sacrifices of the brahmanas and was harassing the demigods. Lord Krishna came to deliver the husband and wife pair of Vasudeva and Devaki, who had been imprisoned by Devaki’s evil brother Kamsa. The character of each incarnation was different as well. Lord Narasimha was very ferocious and mercilessly killed Hiranyakashipu. Lord Rama was a great king who was completely devoted to dharma and righteousness. Lord Krishna was much more lenient as far as rules and regulations went, and was most merciful to His purest devotees, the gopis of Vrindavana.

Lord KrishnaGod guides us based on our capacity to learn. The material world is made up of three distinct modes called gunas: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Vedic literature accounts for all these modes by having eighteen different Puranas, which are scriptures relating to ancient Vedic stories. There are six Puranas for each mode. In this way, even if a person is in the mode ignorance, someone who has no desire to learn about God, even that person has a chance to advance spiritually. For example, meat eating is prohibited for the people in the mode of goodness. However, meat eating is very difficult to give up for people living in the mode of ignorance. Thus the Puranas recommend the process of animal sacrifice for such people in the hopes that they will think of God while eating meat. The hope is that as one constantly thinks about God, His spiritual understanding will increase and that he’ll eventually give up the practice of animal sacrifice.

“Primarily, religion means to know God and to love Him. That is religion…if I profess to follow some religion but I do not know who God is or how to love Him, I am practicing a cheating religion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 1b)

Just because we see different forms of God with different accompanying scriptures, doesn’t mean He is a figment of our imaginations. God is very real, and we should take advantage of this human form of life to get to know and love Him. It is a common practice for people to attend church and ask God to “give us our daily bread”. While this sentiment is nice, God is already providing food to millions of animals who don’t have the capacity to worship Him. God supplies us with all of our necessities. We should strive to reach a higher platform of worship. Instead of asking from God, we should give to Him. That is true love. If we offer our daily bread, or other food that He’s been so kind to give us, then we gradually elevate ourselves to the platform of loving God. That is real religion.

"The supreme occupation, or dharma, for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self." (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)

We may see many different rituals, and different processes for spiritual advancement, but the best religion is that which teaches us to love God. In this age, Lord Chaitanya inaugurated the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” If we commit ourselves to chanting daily and following the process of devotional service, then we will surely see that God is one and that He is in everything and everyone.

Posted in avatars, bhagavad-gita, devotional service, krishna, puranas, religion, shrimad-bhagavatam | Leave a Comment »


Posted by krishnasmercy on August 15, 2009

Lord Shri Satyanarayana “Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.9)

Lent is the holy period in the Catholic calendar where someone gives up something, a form of sense gratification which is usually meat eating, voluntarily. The Lent period lasts for forty days, so those accustomed to regularly eating meat scramble to find ways to adhere to the fast.

Lent is generally viewed unfavorably by the younger generation. “Why is God punishing us? Why can’t we just eat what we want?” These are some of the questions posed by followers of the faith. In actuality, most people don’t even adhere to the regulations of Lent. Those who are aware of it, often look for loopholes and excuses to continue their meat eating. “Oh fish doesn’t count. I can eat that. I can most certainly eat eggs. What about chicken? That’s not really meat right?” The Catholic Church had a long-standing rule stating that people couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. That rule has since been abolished due to the fact that no one was following it.

The concept of fasting is present in all major religions. The Muslims have the Ramadan Holiday where one is prohibited from taking food during daylight hours. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, probably have the most comprehensive list of fasting regulations. Those of us who grew up in Hindu families are very familiar with many of them. Our parents and elder relatives were always abiding by some type of fast. “Oh today is Tuesday. I don’t eat on Tuesday…I can’t eat anything with salt in it today…I can only eat fruits and drink water today.” These were some of the statements we commonly heard as children growing up. It seemed very puzzling to us, since we generally just ate whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. What was the point of starving yourself? Many Hindu women even fast for Teej, which is an annual holiday dedicated to ensuring a long life for husbands.

Fasting is rooted in the concept of tapasya. Tapasya means austerities or the voluntary acceptance of penance. This isn’t any ordinary type of penance either. Tapasya is meant specifically to be for spiritual advancement, a completely religious activity. Tapasya works because it involves serving the Lord. As living entities, our natural instinct is to serve ourselves. Not necessarily selfishness, but acting in our own self-interest. The entire free-market capitalist system is built around this notion. People acting in their own self-interest, which leads to an overall favorable condition economically. The Vedas, however, tell us that this life is meant for serving Krishna, or God, and not our senses. It is for this reason that tapasya was introduced. Breaking free of the bodily concept of life is very difficult. Everyone is identifying with their gross material body, something which they are forced to give up at the time of death. I may be an Indian in this life, but in my next life, I can very well be born as an American or a Muslim. Knowing that fact, our nationality, skin color, or ethnicity isn’t important. At our core, we are spirit souls, aham brahmasmi. As spirit souls part and parcel of God, our business as human beings is to reconnect with Him. That is the ultimate aim of life. In order to truly realize this fact, we have to break free from our attachment to sense gratification. Austerities help us do that.

There is a common expression that says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Though not true in all circumstances, with respect to tapasya, it is generally the case. By periodically abstaining from certain kinds of food, or all food in general, we actually become stronger because our minds become clearer. Many of us spend some time during the day thinking about what to eat for lunch or dinner. “Oh where should I go for lunch? I just went to such and such a place yesterday. I feel like something different today.” Even if we are eating food that we like, we tend to get sick of eating the same thing over and over again. We’re always looking for ways to satisfy our taste buds. Thinking about food may seem harmless, but that time could be better spent thinking about God. This is where tapasya comes. If we spent the day fasting, we most certainly would think about our hunger during the day. Now ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a good thing, since we would be unnecessarily causing ourselves stress. However, if we fast for God, then anytime we think of our hunger during the day, we immediately will think of Him. That is always a good thing. Sometimes men will get into fights or brawls and receive bruises and other wounds as a result. Most men love to show off these wounds to others, because it is a symbol of their toughness and what they went through. In a similar fashion, the hunger pains as a result of fasting for Krishna is a sort of war wound, something we receive as a result of our dedication to the Lord. It is something we can be proud of.

The major occasions for fasting coincide with the appearance day anniversaries of the Lord and His associates. Krishna Janmashtami is generally considered the most important day of the year for followers of the Vedic tradition since it marks the appearance day anniversary of Lord Krishna. Since Mother Devaki gave birth to Krishna at midnight, devotees usually observe a complete fast on Janmashtami leading up until midnight. People fast for the occasions of Rama Navami and Radhashtami in a similar manner. There are so many specific fasts prescribed in the Vedas for different purposes, but the two most widely observed regular fasts are Ekadashi and Purnima. The entire Vedic calendar revolves around the lunar cycle, so Ekadashi and Purnima are specific days in that cycle. Purnima represents the full moon day, and followers of the Satyanarayana Vrata fast specifically on these days. Devotees perform Katha of Lord Shri Satyanarayana, and then eat the prasadam that is offered to Him. Ekadashi is another specific day in the lunar cycle, an occasion observed specifically by Vaishnavas, or devotees of Vishnu. In a strict sense, devotees are supposed to observe a completely fast on this day, but the regulation has been loosened a bit. Generally, devotees simply abstain from eating grains (rice, bread, etc.) and beans on this day.

Mother Parvati - Performer of great penancesVedic literature is full of people performing tapasya and receiving a benefit as a result. Mother Parvati performed severe austerities in the forest for many years and was rewarded by getting Lord Shiva for a husband. Lord Rama and Sita observed a fast the night before the initial date set for the Lord’s installation as successor to His father, the king of Ayodhya. In this way, God and other great personalities set a good example for the rest of us to follow. If one can fast without inflicting too much pain on oneself, then it is definitely worth trying. Tapasya is one of the most important tools in a transcendentalist’s arsenal. It can help us break free of the repeated cycle of birth and death, and bring us back home after this life, back to Godhead.

Posted in ekadashi, fasting, krishna, parvati, sacrifice, satyanarayana, shiva, tapasya | Leave a Comment »

Animal Sacrifice

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 11, 2009

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

One of the four regulative principles of devotional service requires one to refrain from eating meat, fish, or eggs. Meat eating involves unnecessary violence towards animals, so anyone who stays away from such food will avoid the negative karma associated with it. Living a simple, non-violent lifestyle allows us to concentrate our time and energy on God realization.

One will find, however, that the concept of animal sacrifice is very prominent in the scriptures of all major religions. The Christian Bible has a detailed list of which animals can be sacrificed and how they are to be offered. Similarly, the Vedic literature lists many such animal sacrifices which reward the performer with material benedictions. During Lord Krishna’s time on earth, the great king Yudhishthira performed the sacred Ashwamedha sacrifice, which involves sacrificing a horse. Prior to that, during the Treta Yuga, the famous Maharaja Dashratha of Ayodhya also performed the sacrifice. It was performed by many kings with the idea of bestowing good karma on the king and his kingdom. Dashratha’s sacrifice bore fruit in the form of Lord Rama, God Himself, being born as his first son.

The performance of such sacrifices seems to contradict the principle of no meat eating. However, this type of animal sacrifice bears no resemblance to the violence committed against animals in modern day slaughterhouses. The Vedas are somewhat complex, with different dharmas (religious duty) assigned to different classes of people. Since the material world is a place governed by gunas, or qualities (goodness, passion, and ignorance), every living entity has a different level of intelligence and thereby varying capacities for understanding scriptural injunctions. Though bhagavata-dharma, loving service to God, is the highest form of religion, God is so kind that He provides other forms of religion so as to allow everyone to make spiritual advancement. Below the system of bhagavata-dharma is the religious system involving the four rewards of life. Those who are religiously inclined generally seek the rewards of dharma (religiosity), artha (economic development), kama (sense gratification), and moksha (liberation). To achieve these benedictions, there is a section of the Vedas known as karma-kanda. It is in this portion of the Vedas where one will find the various animal sacrifices performed by kings of the past. The idea wasn’t to allow meat eating for simple sense gratification, but rather to sanction violence in a regulated manner, which would be both beneficial to the performer and to the animal sacrificed. In a sacrifice properly performed by qualified brahmanas wherein mantras were perfectly recited, the living entity inside the animal would immediately be rewarded a higher birth in the next life. The performer would also immediately receive the material rewards they were seeking after. Naturally, such a religious system is subordinate to bhagavata-dharma, but it was nonetheless performed as a way of allowing kings to make gradual elevation in spiritual consciousness. The kshatriyas, or warrior class of men, generally live in the mode of passion, rajo-guna. Due to this fact, they are allowed to gamble and even hunt deer as a way of practicing their defensive skills. Unnecessary violence towards animals was never condoned, and there are many historical incidents mentioned in the Vedic texts of kings being punished for acts of unnecessary violence towards deer or other living entities in the forest. The same Maharaja Dashratha once accidentally shot and killed a young boy with his arrow while ranging the forest. Since the boy’s parents would eventually die from the grief resulting from the untimely separation from their son, they cursed Dashratha to suffer the same fate in the future. For this reason, Dashratha died after the exile of His eldest and most beloved son Rama.

“In the Vedic literature there are numerous prescription of sacrifice. And in some of the sacrifices animal sacrifice is also recommended. So that animal sacrifice does not mean to kill the animal. Animal sacrifice means to prove the strength of Vedic hymns so that one old animal is put into the fire and he’s given again a new life, renewed life, just to show the potency of the hymns, Vedic hymns. But in this age, Kali-yuga, those sacrifices are forbidden." (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, 700416LE.LA)

These sacrifices were a means of testing the brahmanas who would preside over them, and was also a way of benefitting the animal being sacrificed. The entire purpose was aimed at providing purification. These sacrifices were performed during previous Yugas, where dharma had a stronger presence in society. According to the Vedas, dharma gradually declines amongst the population as time goes on. The current age we are in, Kali Yuga, is best known for dharma having only a twenty-five percent level of strength, whereas it was at one hundred percent at the beginning of creation. Gradually with this decline in religiosity, came the tainting of these sacrifices. Brahmanas were no longer performing them for purification, but merely as an excuse to eat animal flesh.

“When there was too much animal sacrifice in India, Lord Buddha appeared. And in the Vedas there is recommendation for animal sacrifice in some sacrificial ceremony, not ordinarily. And that sacrifice is meant for testing the power of chanting mantra. An animal would be put into the fire, and it would come again with renewed life. In this way, there is recommendation in the Vedas that some animals… But people misunderstood it. People began to slaughter." (Shrila Prabhupada, Room Conversation, Tokyo, 720422)

Lord Buddha Krishna advented as Lord Buddha specifically to stop the degraded process of animal slaughter. In order to justify his message of nonviolence, he preached against the injunctions of the Vedas. In this way, the modern day injunction against meat eating was instituted and the animal sacrifice process was gradually stopped.

Meat eating involves killing another animal, which shouldn’t be done. But God is so nice that He understands that many people won’t be able to give up such a practice easily. Bestowing His mercy upon them, He provided for the rituals of animal sacrifice to allow them to gradually rise up the chain of God consciousness. If one sacrifices an animal before the Goddess Kali, he is at least thinking about God prior to committing such a heinous act. One will find that dishes containing goat meat are very prevalent in Indian restaurants and it stems from the tradition of sacrifice to Goddess Kali. Even a sanctioned sacrifice like that has many stringent rules attached to it. The animal must be a goat and the sacrifice can only be performed once a month. In this way, God is helping people by making meat eating such an arduous task.

"Even though one may be religiously inclined, animal sacrifice is recommended in the shashtras, not only in the Vedas but even in the modern scriptures of other sects…When such people kill animals, they can at least do so in the name of religion. However, when the religious system is transcendental, like the Vaishnava religion, there is no place for animal sacrifice." (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.26.1-3 Purport)

The word “Vaishnava” refers to devotees of Lord Vishnu, who is the same as Lord Krishna. By following the principles of devotional service, we have no need for mundane material sacrifices. We should all try and rise to such a platform. Giving up meat eating may seem very difficult, but if we dedicate ourselves to constantly chanting the names of God in a loving way, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, then we will surely succeed.

Posted in bhagavad-gita, buddha, devotional service, four regulative principles, goddess kali, karma, krishna, meat eating, prabhupada, violence | Leave a Comment »

Back to Basics

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 9, 2009

Krishna and Arjuna “One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.55)

The Bhagavad-gita is one of the most famous religious books in the world. Great scholars, religionists, and devotees have studied the Gita in great detail for thousands of years. Though only a very small chapter of a much larger book, the Mahabharata, it captures the essence of Vedic philosophy.

The eternity of the soul, what happens to us when we die, what causes are happiness and distress; all these topics are covered in the Gita, which contains great quotes such as:

“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, Bg 2.22)

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bg 2.24)

To most people, such knowledge is a revelation. In American schools, religion isn’t taught. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution declares that the Congress cannot declare an official religion for all the people of the country. This has since been misinterpreted to mean that there is a “separation of church and state” which outlaws all mention of God in the public arena. Lawyers today are on a mission to eradicate religion as much as possible from the public realm, though that wasn’t the actual intention of the framers of the Constitution. Though their logic was flawed in many areas, the founding fathers were very religious people. One need only read George Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 to see just how much God was on the minds of the people.

We don’t hear about religion in the news unless it’s a story about some priest or religious leader involved in a scandal. Due to this lack of spiritual education, most people spend their entire lives unaware of the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.

Since it is spoken by Lord Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Bhagavad-gita garners the highest respect from the devotees of Krishna. Though it contains information of the highest import, such information is actually only the beginning of spiritual understanding. The Gita’s most important message is that if we think of Krishna at the time of our death, then our soul will not return to this material world and it will stay with Krishna in the spiritual world forever.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt. Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail… That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bg, 8.5-6, 15.6)

Such information is important to know, but how do we actually achieve this goal? The Gita presents theoretical knowledge, which forms the starting point of our spiritual understanding. Theoretical knowledge is referred to as jnana in Sankskrit. It forms the foundation, but to actually understand what we have learned, we need practical knowledge, known as vijnana. For example, one may read about how to fly an airplane, taking various tests and so forth, but one doesn’t truly understand what piloting involves until they actually get into the cockpit and practice flying the plane themselves. It is only then they get a real understanding of what it means to be a pilot. This same principle holds true in others areas of life. We never truly understand the difficulties our parents faced in raising us until we actually become parents ourselves.

Worship of Lord NarayanaTo understand God and to know Him, we have to take to the process of devotional service. Technically known as bhakti yoga, devotional service is the process where we dovetail all our activities with Krishna, or God. If we train ourselves to always think of God during the day, learning to love Him, then surely we will think of Him at the time of death.

Hearing is one of the most important processes of devotional service. If we hear stories about Lord Krishna, then we can gradually understand who He is. We should all naturally love God simply for who He is, but the Lord is still kind enough to come to this material world from time to time and enact pastimes simply for our benefit. By reading stories about Him, we gradually develop an attachment. One can read about Lord Krishna’s pastimes over and over again and never get bored.

We can find these stories in the Puranas, written by Vyasadeva. One would be hard-pressed to find any historical personality who authored more literature than Vyasadeva. He didn’t write simply for entertainment’s sake either, for his works are all of the highest quality since they expound the meaning of the Vedas. There are eighteen major Purnanas, and each one is quite lengthy. The Bhagavata Purana, or Shrimad-Bhagavatam, is considered the highest Purana since it covers Lord Krishna’s birth and childhood pastimes in great detail.

“The Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Just like before learning any literature, one has to read the first book, ABCD. The Bhagavad-gita is the ABCD. It is just beginning of understanding of what is God. ABC. When one has passed the entrance examination, then he gets the opportunity of studying Shrimad Bhagavatam.” (Shrila Prabhupada, 730227rc.jkt)

After reading Bhagavad-gita, we should all make an effort to read the Bhagavatam and take the next step in rekindling our love for Krishna. Due to our imperfect senses, we can never truly understand God, but by reading stories about Him, as told by His great devotees, we will gradually understand Him better. By knowing and loving God, we automatically book our return flight home, back to Godhead.

Posted in basics, bhagavad-gita, devotional service, krishna, prabhupada, shrimad-bhagavatam, vyasadeva | Leave a Comment »

Illicit Sex

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 6, 2009

Markandeya Rishi “(Men in the Kali Yuga) behave contrary to the modes of life to which they betake themselves. They are addicted to consuming intoxicating drinks and their unfettered sexual desires make them capable of even coveting the wife of their guru. Their desires are all on the material platform.” (Markandeya Rishi speaking to King Yudhishthira, Mahabharata, Vana Parva)

This statement is part of a conversation between the venerable Markandeya Rishi and the five Pandava brothers along with their cousin Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The epic Mahabharata describes the plight of the brothers to regain their kingdom, detailing the many trials and tribulations they endured while travelling across India around five thousand years ago. Along the way, they took instruction from many great sages, with Markandeya being one of them. In this instance, the sage is acting as spiritual master to the five brothers, headed by King Yudhishthira, describing to them the defects of Kali Yuga.

According to the Vedas, each creation is divided into four time periods or Yugas. Dharma, or religiosity, declines amongst the population by one quarter with each successive Yuga. Kali Yuga, the age we are are currently in, is the fourth and final time period where dharma is notable by its absence. Existing at only one quarter its full strength, most of society today is dedicated to adharma, sinful life. It is an evolution of sorts, but not of the Darwinian variety. Instead of the species evolving, it is man’s penchant for sinful activity that has gradually evolved and gained in strength. When man first inhabited the earth, he was almost completely pure. The first age is known as Satya or Krita Yuga, meaning the age of truth. Most people were truthful and honest during that time. Gradually however, due to contamination caused by contact with this material world, mankind increased its propensity for sinful activity, to the point now where most are encouraged to act in ways that are completely against the injunctions of the scriptures.

Of all the various types of sins, illicit sex life is considered the greatest. People have many definitions of what exactly constitutes a sin, but the Vedas tell us that sinful activity is anything which causes us to be bound to the repeated cycle of birth and death. Our souls are eternal, but our material bodies are not. At the time of death, we give up our current bodies and get a new one according to our karma. Our current life is not the first one that we’ve had. This is confirmed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

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

Krishna speaking to ArjunaIf we are pious, then we take birth in a high family in our next life, and if we are overly sinful, we take birth in a lower family or species. This cycle can be stopped however, by those who really want out of this material world. God actually is very kind to us and gives us exactly what we want. If we want to constantly enjoy unending sex life, He obliges by giving us the body of a dog or a monkey. If we want to be very pious and intelligent, he gives us the body of a great scholar or yogi. By the same token, if we want eternal association with God as His servant, then He obliges by permanently removing us from this material world. If one thinks of Krishna at the time of death, then he or she no longer takes birth in this material world.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt. Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail… That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5-6, 15.6)

Illicit sex is the cornerstone of sinful life because it is the one thing that keeps us bound to this material world more than anything else. Sex is considered the highest form of material enjoyment. If we are attached to this kind of enjoyment, why would God want to remove us from it? One may ask the question, “Well, what is wrong with sex? I enjoy it. I don’t see any harm in it.” It is not that the Vedas prescribe one to completely give up the practice, but rather it should be regulated. One can see the negative effects of unregulated sex life in society today. Teenage pregnancy, “deadbeat dads”, single parenthood, poverty, and sexually transmitted diseases are some of the more widespread problems caused by unchecked sexual activity. Instead of trying to get people to abstain from such activity, our leaders today encourage illicit sex by pushing the use of contraceptives such as condoms and birth control. No form of birth control is foolproof, so many of the unwanted pregnancies that result are then terminated through abortion, a practice which is condoned by the government. Illicit sex life is sinful as it is, but killing an innocent child in the womb is a most abominable act.

Poverty is a problem that most of today’s world leaders are focused on solving. Their solutions typically focus around massive redistribution of wealth programs, but the cure for poverty actually lies elsewhere. According to statistics, in America if one graduates high school, gets married, stays married, and only has children while they are married, then they have a very low probability for living in poverty.

“…Let’s examine some numbers from the Census Bureau’s 2004 Current Population Survey. There’s one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of their under-5-year-olds are poor. There’s another segment of the black population that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Among whites, one population segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Another segment of the white population suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families…” (Walter E Williams, Are the Poor Getting Poorer?)

The Vedas advise one to get married as soon as there is any inkling of sex desire. In males especially, sex desire is very strong. We see evidence of this all around us, for people are always looking for new ways to enhance their sexual experiences. Internet pornography is a huge business, and today’s television shows and movies keep getting more and more raunchy. In the traditional varnashrama dharma system, boys wanting to enter into family life would get married to a suitable girl as soon as they finished school, all arranged by the parents of both parties. In this way, sex life is allowed, but in a regulated manner. The husband and wife can live together peacefully, leaving time to focus on the real aim of life, service to Krishna. This type of mentality is in stark contrast to the modern day notion of men “sowing their wild oats”. It is quite typical for college age men and those in their twenties to have multiple female partners, jumping from one girlfriend to the next until they find someone that suits their needs. Men and women both have more freedom today than they used to, but it has come at a cost. In the Vedic system, the husband is required to provide complete protection to the wife in all circumstances. Even those men that take to the renounced order of life, sannyasa, they make sure that the wife is taken care of by the eldest son or other family members in their absence. In today’s world, men are free to exploit women, getting what they can out of them without taking any responsibility for their well-being. Such a system will always always lead to chaos.

Radha Krishna deities As with all our problems, we need only look to Krishna for the solution. Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the highest dharma for every person in any age. The Mahabharata declares that one should avoid attachment to the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex life. One who avoids these activities while regularly chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, will be free from all sinful reactions. We aren’t required to just give up sinful activity and sit in meditation all day. Rather we should engage in devotional service by reading about Krishna, offering Him prayers, preparing and distributing prasadam, and regularly viewing the archa-vigraha or deity of the Lord. The husband and wife who engage in this activity together will live very peacefully and happily. Illicit sex desire will then go away on its own.

Posted in bhagavad-gita, chanting, deity worship, devotional service, four regulative principles, krishna, mahabharata, markandeya, prasadam, spiritual master | Leave a Comment »

Life Is Meant For Austerity

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 4, 2009

Sita Rama "Then raising the vessel of ghee (clarified butter) to His head, He in accordance with the ordinance began to offer oblations to the flaming fire on behalf of the mighty deity. Then, having partaken of the remaining quanity of the ghee, Rama prayed for His own welfare, and meditated on Narayana. The son of the best of men with a collected mind, and restraining His speech lay down on a kusha (grass) bed together with Vaidehi (Sita) within the graceful dwelling of Vishnu." (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Sec 6)

We live in an era of great comfort and luxury. Though people may think otherwise, the standard of living in America, and throughout the world for that matter, has greatly improved over the past hundred years. The economic problem is almost non-existent, with farmers persuaded by the government to not grow food. Our leaders are more focused on tackling problems such as childhood obesity and the perceived overconsumption of goods and services by the population in general.

When travelling on commercial airplanes, one of the magazines commonly found in the seatback pocket is Sky Mall. This magazine is a shopping catalog full of gadgets and gizmos, a showcase of the latest advancements in technology. All the products in that magazine are geared towards gratifying our senses. One place where we often look for improved sense gratification is in the area of sleep. Ironically, the Vedas prescribe that one shouldn’t sleep more than six hours if possible. This is in stark contrast to the eight hours prescribed by most health experts.

“One should not sleep more than six hours daily. One who sleeps more than six hours out of twenty-four is certainly influenced by the mode of ignorance. A person in the mode of ignorance is lazy and prone to sleep a great deal. Such a person cannot perform yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16 Purport)

Since we spend so much time sleeping, naturally we are looking for ways to increase the quality of it. Products such as the Sleep Number Bed from Select Comfort allow couples to set different firmness levels on their mattress so that each person can spend the night in the utmost comfort. In addition, regular blankets apparently aren’t good enough for us, so we shop for luxury items such as down comforters. Water beds are another popular phenomenon in the mattress industry.

These products are no doubt very innovative and could certainly prove to be useful. However, they don’t provide us real happiness in the end. If they did, then there would be no need for new products to come out. The fact of the matter is that our real problems have nothing to do with our material comforts. According to wisdom of the Vedas, man’s material sense urges can never be satisfied. Making little adjustments here and there to our material condition only further binds us in the mode of passion.

Krishna speaking to Uddhava “My dear Uddhava, a person bereft of intelligence first falsely identifies himself with the material body and mind, and when such false knowledge arises within one’s consciousness, material passion, the cause of great suffering, pervades the mind, which by nature is situated in goodness. Then the mind, contaminated by passion, becomes absorbed in making and changing many plans for material advancement. Thus, by constantly thinking of the modes of material nature, a foolish person is afflicted with unbearable material desires.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.13.9-10)

We get a new bed, but then we immediately want a better blanket. We get a new blanket, but then we immediately want new pajamas, and so on. The cycle never ends.

The Vedas tell us that this life is meant for understanding God. To understand God, one must perform austerities, known as tapasya. Tapasya is not any ordinary type of austerity, but it is geared towards releasing one from their bondage to material comforts, and thereby increasing their attachment to the spiritual world.

“Lord Rishabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one’s heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.1)

When Lord Rama was living in the kingdom of Ayodhya, His father, Maharaja Dashratha one day decided to install Him as the new king. Lord Rama was informed of this news one day before the date set for His installation. He was instructed by the brahmanas, the priestly class of men, to fast the night before the ceremony and to sleep on the floor on a bed of kusha grass. Rama was God Himself, but He willingly followed the advice of the brahmanas to set a good example for all of us. Religious rituals may seem to strange to us at first, but they all have a purpose.

Rama was the king’s eldest and most cherished son, so He was living in complete luxury. What need did he have to sleep on the floor? Yet He and His wife Sita both did so as a means of respecting God. When we receive good benedictions, it is incumbent upon us to remember that we are not the doers. All our fortunes are tied to God and to our karma. Narayana is God’s four-handed form existing in the spiritual world. Lord Rama was an incarnation of God, so He went along and worshiped Narayana, though in essence He was offering obeisances to Himself. By worshiping Narayana, the sleeping area was sanctified.

Lord Narayana Now things wouldn’t go as planned the next day and Rama’s installation would have to be postponed by fourteen years, but that didn’t make a difference. The Lord was always committed to dharma, not for His sake, but because it serves as a guide for enabling one to make spiritual progress. Tapasya properly performed under the direction of a spiritual master never goes to waste. Through good times and bad, we must always remember the Creator. God showed us the proper means of penance and it is important for us to follow His example. The most basic form of penance we can perform is to abstain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication. By so doing, we will always remember God and be freed from our material attachments.

Posted in dashratha, four regulative principles, krishna, lord rama, prabhupada, rishabhadeva, shrimad-bhagavatam, spiritual master, tapasya, uddhava | Leave a Comment »

Gopi Jana Vallabha

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 3, 2009

12 “Gopi-jana vallabha, Giri-vara-dhari” (Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)

This is a line from the poem called Jaya Radha Madhava, composed by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great saint in the line of spiritual masters descending from Lord Chaitanya. Glorifying Lord Krishna and His principle devotees, this poem, turned into a song, was made famous throughout the world by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and today is sung daily in hundreds of temple throughout the world.

Lord Krishna is the sustainer of the gopis. Around five thousand years ago, the Lord personally advented on this planet and spent His childhood in Vrindavana, a town in India. There are three primary forms of God which are interchangeable: Krishna, Narayana, and Vishnu. They are the same one and only God, above any other demigod, but according to the Shrimad Bhagavatam and other major Vedic texts, Krishna is the original. It is similar to the concept of a single candle lighting many others. All other candles are the same in their potency, but the original candle still stands out. Krishna’s expansions are known as vishnu-tattva. His incarnations as Rama, Narasimha, Vamana, etc. are all as good as God Himself. In essence when discussing and comparing His various names and forms and their various potencies, it’s really a matter of a distinction without a difference. When Krishna came to earth, it was in His original form, and He came to give protection to His devotees, to kill the demons, and to enact pastimes for future generations to relish in.

The gopis were the cowherd girls of Vrindavana. Krishna spent His childhood living in a vaishya family. Vaishyas are the third division or caste of society and their duty is to run businesses and engage in cow protection. Nanda Maharaja, Krishna’s foster father, was a cowherd man as were the rest of the inhabitants of Vrindavana. The gopis were mostly married girls who worked all day as milkmaids and who managed household affairs. Most of them were married but they still spent all their time thinking about Krishna and His welfare. He was their life and soul. This is the mood of a pure devotee. We may have family ties and friendships during our lifetime, but our eternal relationship with God trumps all others. He is the only reservoir of pleasure, and those who realize this fact have made their lives perfect. As a child, Krishna and His friends would go out and play or they would take the cows out to the pastures, and the gopis would worry all day about Him. “How is Krishna doing? Is He alright? Is He having fun? When He comes home, we will serve Him nice food and make Him happy.” In this way, their minds were completely fixed on the Supreme Lord in perfect meditation like perfect yogis. They obviously weren’t yogis, for they were uneducated girls, but through their service, their activities were better than that of any yogi. There are 108 primary gopis, and for this reason the japa mala, or set of chanting beads, has 108 beads on them with an additional primary bead representing Krishna. If one thinks of the gopis while chanting on these beads, then he or she will gradually be elevated to the state of pure Krishna consciousness.

Krishna Balarama and friends The gopis in Vrindavana actually descended from the spiritual world. The kingdom of God has many spiritual planets, with the primary one being Krishnaloka. Vrindavana actually exists there in its original form, and the same pastimes are occurring their eternally. The gopis that took birth in Vrindavana did so to as to allow the same pastimes to occur on earth for others to see and hear about. Many of the gopis were also great sages in their previous lives, during the advent of Lord Rama.

"The gopis who were gathered there were mostly all followers of the Vedas. In their previous births, during Lord Ramachandra’s advent, they were Vedic scholars who desired the association of Lord Ramachandra in conjugal love. Ramachandra gave them the benediction that they would be present for the advent of Lord Krishna, and He would fulfill their desires. During Krishna’s advent, the Vedic scholars took birth in the shape of the gopis in Vrndavana; as young gopis, they got the association of Krishna in fulfillment of their previous births’ desire. The ultimate goal of their perfect desire was attained, and they were so joyous that they had nothing further to desire." (Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, 1970-1-31)

Lord Rama lived by the principle of eka-patni, having only one wife in Sita Devi. Being God Himself, He was highly sought after by many others, but He didn’t want to break His vow, so He accommodated those people by allowing them to take birth in the future where they could have association with Him.

The gopis didn’t look for pleasure from material things. We all tend to seek after the material comforts of a nice home, money, a nice husband or wife, and good children. These certainly aren’t bad things, for they provide security and happiness. However, that is not ultimate aim of life. Family relations and money are nonetheless temporary, for one has to give them up at the time of death. If one wants permanent happiness, they need only look to God. The gopis didn’t pray for anything material, for they only wanted Krishna to be happy. They were the greatest renunciates without even knowing it. Most of us initially approach God for some personal benefit. One of our friends or family members may be suffering from an illness, so we pray to God to cure their ailment. Other times we may fall victim to some bad luck, and we pray to God to lift us out of our difficult situations. This type of worship certainly isn’t bad, for at least we realize that there is a God, a higher power who has greater control over things than we do. At the same time, God is not our order supplier. Everything that happens in this material world is a result of the laws of nature and karma. If we ask God for something and He doesn’t give it to us, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. The dualities of happiness and distress, good and bad fortune all come and go of their own volition without us seeking them. Our real business is to love God for who He is and not for what He can supply us.

Jaya Radha Madhava is a very nice song to sing, for it puts us in a good place. We can immediately think of the beauty of Vrindavana and the wonderful pastimes that occur there. Following in the path of the gopis, we can do no wrong.

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