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What I’m Looking For

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 13, 2010

Sita and Rama "O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, You should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

This statement was uttered by Lakshmana, the beautiful, compassionate, and kind incarnation of Lord Ananta Shesha Naga, the celestial serpent who serves as the resting place for all the planets of the world and also for Lord Vishnu, or God. Ananta means that which has no end, and in this context, it references the unlimited hoods possessed by Anantadeva. Lakshmana, as a powerful incarnation of this divine servant, similarly possesses a limitless desire to defend and protect Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu with Ananta Shesha Naga Why would God need protecting? The Lord doesn’t require any security, but nevertheless, He enjoys receiving service from His devotees every now and then. God is the head honcho, the “top dog” in charge of everything. Naturally, the topmost person doesn’t require anything from anyone else, but he certainly likes to be complimented and praised from time to time. In pretty much any business, the boss isn’t a very popular person. This dislike is not personal; the boss is the person in charge, so naturally the subordinates will want to complain every now and then. Complaints aren’t lodged against those that are powerless; they will be directed at the person who has absolute authority or someone who has more power than the person doing the complaining. God is the ultimate authority, so it makes sense that people would lodge many complaints against Him, being unhappy that He put them into various unwanted circumstances.

As much as we may dislike our bosses, it is a reality that a business runs smoothly when the subordinates are properly serving the superiors. If every person was on an equal footing, nothing would get done because there would be an absence of leadership. If one worker were to ask another worker of equal status to perform some task, there is no guarantee that the job would get done. Equals have no authority over one another, so there is nothing stopping a person from refusing to do the task which was asked of them. When there is service offered to the superior, things run more efficiently, the subordinates are happy, and so is the boss.

“My dear Lord Krishna, I do not want material wealth from You, nor do I want followers, a beautiful wife or the results of fruitive activities. I only pray that by Your causeless mercy You give Me pure devotional service to You, life after life.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.30)

Lord ChaitanyaThe cohesiveness of a properly functioning work environment essentially mimics the operations of the universe in relation to God. The employer-employee relationship can serve as an analogy to the relationship between God and His devotees, but the paradigm isn’t exactly the same since there is an inherent expectation of reciprocation of service in the workplace. The employee serves the boss, provided that the boss gives payment. Since pure love for God doesn’t work this way, it is known as Krishna-prema. Prema can be translated to mean love, but it is even more purified than that. Prema means serving God without any desire for reciprocation. Lord Chaitanya, God’s most recent incarnation to appear on earth, kindly gave us the example of how to be a perfect devotee. Though He didn’t leave many written instructions, He offered a nice prayer which essentially says that He has no desire for any material opulences or fame. He simply desires to be engaged in the Lord’s service. This is the definition of prema.

Lakshmana, being a perfect devotee, also adopted this prema mentality. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the original Personality of Godhead came to earth in the guise of a pious prince named Rama. The eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Rama had many duties and responsibilities to tend to, including that of protecting His beautiful and chaste wife Sita Devi. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped from the forest by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama and Lakshmana weren’t with her at the time, so they didn’t realize she was missing until after she had been taken away. Realizing that Sita was gone, Rama frantically searched for her whereabouts. Unable to find her, Rama gave way to lamentation, followed by anger. He was ready to destroy the entire world as punishment for Sita’s abduction. He couldn’t believe that someone would want to harm such a kind and peaceful person. Rama, being an exemplary government leader and warrior, was very generous. Prior to leaving for the forest, many brahmanas [priests] approached Him and asked for benedictions. Lord Rama kindly donated all His wealth to them, reminding the brahmanas that there was no limit to what He would give out in charity to those who depended on Him.

Lord Rama Lord Rama was angry at Himself for not being able to protect Sita, and He was also angry at all the other living entities who stood by and did nothing while she was taken away. The trees, flowers, deer, and other forms of life in the forest, with the exception of the bird Jatayu, did nothing as Sita was taken away. Now obviously Rama was a little aggrieved, so He wasn’t thinking rationally. These other life forms really had no ability to defend Sita, but the Lord’s sentiments remind us of an important fact. Any material body which has a soul inside it should be considered a form of life. There is no difference between the qualities of souls, just a difference in the types of bodies they occupy.

Since Rama was so angry, He was intent on firing a powerful arrow from His quiver that would destroy all of creation. Only God is capable of doing this. Through the perfect recitation of mantras, Rama’s arrows could pack the power of the greatest modern day nuclear weapon. At this time, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. He reminded Rama that there was no reason to lament, nor was there any reason to destroy the whole world. After all, there was only one person responsible for Sita’s kidnapping, and thus only one person worthy of being sought out and punished.

When we hear of worshiping God and devotional service, it’s natural to conjure up images of prostrating before a deity, attending a church or temple, and reading scriptures. While these are all certainly components of devotional service, what really constitutes devotional life is love, or prema. By kindly offering instructions, Lakshmana was also engaging in devotional service, showing his pure love for his brother. Since God is the original person, He is also the original teacher, the first spiritual master. Thus no one is capable of instructing Him. Lakshmana indeed acknowledged this fact by reminding Rama that the instructions he was speaking were initially spoken by Rama Himself. More than anything else, Lakshmana was acting like a tape recorder in playback mode. A devotee’s intellect is capable of functioning like a portable music player which consists only of instructions given by the Lord. In this way, Lakshmana was an exemplary younger brother, warrior prince, teacher, and student.

Fighting in Lanka What did Lord Rama do after receiving this advice? He kindly accepted the instructions of his brother and went about searching for Sita. Eventually the Lord would find what He was looking for. After defeating Ravana in a fair battle, the Lord finally rescued Sita and brought her to safety. Rama was so kind that He made sure to take Ravana on in an open battle. The Lord didn’t lob an arrow from thousands of feet away and destroy his kingdom. The evil elements in Ravana’s kingdom were eventually destroyed anyway by Hanuman and the other Vanaras helping Rama, but the Lord wanted to give Ravana an honest fight, a fair chance to win Sita.

These incidents can teach us so many lessons. We are all in a distressed condition, even if we are unaware of it. During the 1970s, when many Americans were turning to Krishna consciousness and becoming devotees, those who didn’t understand the movement would often say that the young boys were lost. “They didn’t know what to do in life, so they took up this strange religion where they shaved their heads and started chanting in airports.” This is certainly an interesting viewpoint, but it also begs the question of how someone who has nowhere to go can be considered lost.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Those who don’t know they are lost, the karmis, think that life is going swell for them. Life may indeed be fine in a material sense, but what will happen to their souls after death? We all make plans for the future, either the next day, month, or year, but what about the afterlife? How many of us plan out where our soul will end up next? “Who knows where we go after death? Why should I concern myself with something that is unexplainable?” Karma refers to actions which develop the material body, the outer covering of the soul. Basically anything we do to better our material condition can be considered part of karmic activity, or fruitive action. The rewards of life can be grouped into three general categories: artha [economic development], kama [sense gratification], and dharma [religiosity]. We can think of karmic life as the search for a sea of gold. “One day I will have enough money so that I won’t have to worry about eating, sleeping, or paying bills. Then I will be able to gratify my senses and be happy.”

“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 Krishna In this search for the sea of gold, we often find ourselves in cold situations. We find something that we think will make us happy, but it turns out to be the source of so much pain in the end. Even those who are rich and famous find struggles in life. Dharma, artha, and kama aren’t guaranteed to provide us any real happiness, for they only aim to please the material body, a body which is destined for destruction. Upon destruction of the current body, a new one is molded based on a person’s desires and work. So in this sense, we can say those who don’t devote themselves to God are actually the ones who are lost. The greatest obstacle towards success lies in the fact that most of us don’t realize that we are lost, for we are unaware of the intended destination.

Devotional service How do we alleviate the situation? How do we find the right path in life? Just like in Lord Rama’s case, there is something impeding our success, an enemy who has caused us pain. This enemy is known as maya, or the illusory energy of the material world. Maya means “that which is not”; hence she causes us to think we’ll be happy associating with her, when in reality we really won’t. In order to find the proper path to rescue our soul, we have to defeat the soldiers of maya’s army: lust, greed, and anger. One who can control their senses is known as dhira, or sober, and can thus better understand the position of the soul and how it relates to God.

The great authorities, the pure devotees of Krishna, tell us to take up devotional service. We must commit ourselves to regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. Our execution of devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted. Unmotivated in this context means without any personal desire. For example, we shouldn’t worship God in hopes of a return reward such as material wealth. We can most certainly be motivated in our service, for without desire no one would take any action. But our motivation must be on the spiritual level, where we maintain a desire to serve the Lord to the best of our abilities.

Rama Darbar After Rama defeated Ravana, His reward was the safe rescue of His wife. In a similar manner, our reward for executing devotional service is that God will be in our life all the time. Once we get Him, we should never let Him go; devotional service should remain our occupation eternally. This was the example set by Lakshmana, Sita, and Hanuman. They are eternally existing, and their only business is to go wherever Rama goes, or wherever His name is chanted. Thus by taking up devotional service, not only will we find God, but the great devotees will find us as well.

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What’s the Use

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 11, 2010

Rama and Lakshmana "O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, you should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

Our days are filled with many unnecessary activities, even if we aren’t able to identify them as such. For every action that we perform, we should consider the intended benefit. What is the use of performing so many activities if all they do is take up time? Time is precious, and our lifespan is very short in the grand scheme of things. Therefore it is better to take up activities which will further our condition than to waste time on idle talk and nonsense activities.

Lord KrishnaThe usefulness of an activity can vary depending on a person’s angle of vision. Let’s take the lives of children for example. As adults, we would never think of running around and playing all day. Children pick up the simplest toys and become enamored with them for a few days, but then after that, they jump to another toy. For their viewing pleasure, animated films and educational programs are presented. As adults, these sorts of things don’t entertain us because they don’t serve any purpose. We understand that playing with toys all day is simply a waste of time. We would rather spend our time studying to earn an advanced degree, or working hard to earn a living. Such activity is known as karma, or work performed with a desired fruitive result in mind. Juxtaposing these two mindsets, we see that the difference between children and adults is intelligence. A higher level of intelligence guides a person in the right direction with respect to what actions should be done and what shouldn’t.

As we advance from childhood to young adulthood, our activities certainly do change and our intelligence advances. But this doesn’t mean that all our activities suddenly become pure, or that we stop wasting time on unnecessary engagements. For example, one thing we often waste our time on is hate. Hatred stems from jealousy, which has as its root the idea that someone else shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy. “Who does such and such person think they are? I can’t believe they have so much money. I can’t believe they were able to score such a beautiful wife. I can’t stand that person.” The “hated” are usually those who are successful in life, or those we deem to be more fortunate than ourselves.

Since we live in an advanced technological age, the number of outlets for this hatred has increased. The nightly newscasts are filled with various forms of this hatred, though the stories are sometimes presented to us as serious news. In media outlets, the hatred is usually directed at those people in power: wealthy executives, politicians, famous celebrities, successful businesses, etc. An intelligent person realizes, however, that hatred of others is simply a waste of time. This hatred does not get us anywhere, nor does it advance our condition. It does nothing to increase our intelligence. The Vedas say that all material activities can be classified into one of three distinct modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Any activity which is done with proper consideration of right and wrong and which leads to the advancement of one’s intelligence is considered to be in the mode of goodness.

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

Lord Krishna Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is so kind that He has given us the blueprint for behavior. Instead of just telling us what should be done and what shouldn’t, He gives us a scientific understanding of the activities that we already perform. This is another reason why no one can be smarter than God. Though the famous Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God, was spoken by Lord Krishna almost five thousand years ago, the instructions still apply to the people of this age. Moreover, the instructions will still apply millions of years into the future. This is what it means to be Absolute. Lord Krishna is the Absolute Truth because information that is taken from Him, or is derived from His teachings, never becomes false. Truths can be relative depending on the exact circumstances and the intended result; thus we can’t really consider any theory or philosophy to be absolute. With Krishna, however, we get the highest truths, those which are beyond contradiction.

Understanding that God is the Absolute Truth is not a very easy thing. We all tend to think of ourselves as being very intelligent. This mindset stays with us throughout our lifetime. When we are younger, we obviously don’t know very much compared to what we know as adults. Yet as youngsters, we certainly thought our parents and authority figures were unintelligent from time to time. As adults, we often look back on our childhood memories and think, “Wow, what was I thinking? I can’t believe how stupid I was back then.” Nevertheless, even with this realization, we still think that we know it all, or that even if we don’t, we’ll figure our way out of problems.

Lord Rama We may consult various reference books or even seek the guidance of our friends and family, but no one will be able to give us absolute information except God. Since Krishna is kind enough to share this information with others, we can also approach one of His bona fide representatives, the spiritual master, and be able to learn about the Supreme Truth. In the Hindu tradition, as part of the funeral rites, friends and family of the departed will chant “Ram Nam Satya Hai” as the person’s body is being cremated. This Hindi saying means that Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s primary expansions, is the Truth. This is actually a wonderful tradition, because it reminds everyone of the meaning of life. When a person dies, it’s obviously a sad occasion, but the friends and family of the departed aren’t necessarily depressed over the fact that the deceased’s life of sense gratification has ended. Rather, they are concerned with the future destination of the soul. By chanting the holy name of Rama and declaring it to be the only truth, well-wishers hope that the departed soul will be taken directly to God’s spiritual realm.

“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, Bg. 8.5)

The advanced intelligence of the human being should be used towards acquiring knowledge, and since Krishna is the Absolute Truth, it would stand to reason that all activities should be geared towards learning about Him. This is where the mode of goodness comes in. Of all the material modes, the mode of goodness is considered the highest because it leads to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. The more acts we perform in goodness, the closer we come to realizing that we are spirit souls and not our bodies.

So where does hatred and jealousy fit into this? Does hatred help us understand the nature of the soul? Quite the contrary, hatred rooted in jealousy only further increases our delusion. The delusion starts with the idea that another person is not entitled to enjoy their own property, possessions, and family life. Every person should be satisfied with his or her allotment in life, since everything acquired is a result of prior work. This work may have been performed in the current lifetime, or in a previous one. On a higher level of understanding, everything actually belongs to God. This means that if we see a rich person, it is to be understood that Krishna has allowed them to borrow some of His wealth.

Lord Krishna Since God is the original owner of everything, shouldn’t we use all of our possessions towards pleasing Him? Activity performed under this mindset is in shuddha-sattva, or the mode of pure goodness. This mode transcends all three modes of material nature, and anyone associating with it automatically goes back home, back to Godhead, at the time of death. When we encounter hateful comments made about others, we should understand that those spewing the hate are simply wasting their time.

Aside from indulging in hatred and idle gossip, we see that people often discuss Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Sita Devi, or other divine figures in public. Sometimes the talk is of the positive nature, but many times it also resembles the same hatred shown towards ordinary human beings. We’ll see that people will criticize Lord Krishna for certain activities He performed while He was on earth, or we’ll see people bash Lord Rama for leaving Sita Devi at Valmiki’s ashrama towards the end of their time on earth. People will even argue against Krishna’s statements found in the Bhagavad-gita, or Sita Devi’s statements found in the Ramayana. “Oh I don’t think I agree with this. Sita would never think such things. Lord Rama would never subscribe to this.”

Sita and Rama What’s ironic is that these comments are made in response to direct quotations made by the divine figures in question. Such criticisms and idle gossip are more than just wastes of time; they are downright dangerous. To understand Lord Krishna, we simply have to listen to the words He has spoken. If we don’t understand something He says, we should consult an authority figure, someone who knows Krishna. The same holds true for issues relating to Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Hanuman, Radharani, etc. The authority figures have put forth the proper interpretations and meanings as it relates to the great scriptures.

Idle gossip, unnecessary hatred, and speculating about Krishna are certainly all wastes of time, but sometimes things aren’t so black and white. There are times when it is necessary to criticize or punish genuine miscreants, while at other times it is better to turn the other cheek. How are we to decipher what activity should be undertaken and what shouldn’t? This is where the devotee of Krishna comes in. The devotee of God has seen the light and thus engages all their time in positive activities, those things which lead to the emancipation of the soul. In times of trouble, we simply need to consult such devotees, either in person or by referencing their written instructions, and abide by their counsel.

Lakshmana One such devotee was Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. Many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, Lord Rama, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya, roamed this earth along with His three younger brothers and wife, Sita Devi. Lakshmana was one of Rama’s brothers, and he was also the one closest to the Lord. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped from the forest by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Upon realizing that Sita was missing from their cottage, Rama and Lakshmana frantically searched for the princess’s whereabouts, but they were unsuccessful in finding her. Seeing that Sita was gone, Rama gave way to sadness. God loves His devotees so much, so if He sees that something bad has happened to them, He most certainly feels sadness.

“The highly renowned Rama rages into a fury against those who dare brave against Him. He is extremely powerful, for He can completely stop the onset of a pulsing river simply by using His arrows. Shriman Rama can bring down all the stars, planets, and the sky itself by use of His arrows. He is even capable of saving the earth if it should collapse. The illustrious Rama, if He wanted to, could deluge the whole world by breaking apart the shorelines of the seas. With His arrows, He can resist the onset of the oceans and the wind. After withdrawing the whole world into Himself, that highly renowned best of men, by virtue of His powers, is capable of again creating the whole world with all its creatures.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.23-26)

Lord Rama Rama’s sadness quickly turned to anger. Since He was God Himself, the Lord was capable of destroying the whole world and then recreating it. In this instance, Rama was ready to show off His destructive powers. He was set on destroying the entire world as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. To quell his brother’s anger, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. Lakshmana essentially said, “Don’t lament, for every person meets with good and bad fortune. If Sita is dead, there is still no reason to deviate from the path of dharma, or occupational duty.” His teachings were strikingly similar to those given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is giving his final instruction, which asks the rhetorical question of what is to be gained by destroying the whole world. This is certainly an appropriate question since the rest of the world had nothing to do with Sita’s kidnap. Moreover, killing every living entity wouldn’t bring Sita back to the cottage. Lakshmana advises Rama to instead focus His efforts on achieving His desired goal of Sita’s rescue through the killing of His enemy. Lord Rama certainly appreciated this advice very much. Lakshmana is so dear to Rama that the Lord created this specific circumstance so that future generations could marvel at His younger brother’s words and relish them at the same time. For this we are extremely grateful. Hearing these loving words from Lakshmana certainly brings great joy to our hearts.

Lakshmana So what can we take away from Lakshmana’s teachings? The first thing we can do is apply the same test to all of our activities. Whenever we undertake an activity, we should ask ourselves, “Of what use is this? What will I gain by doing this?” If we were all to think along these lines, surely there would be less hatred around the world. People would think twice before they spewed unnecessary hatred and gossip. The second piece to this puzzle is to figure out what action should be performed in lieu of the unnecessary action we are avoiding.

The answer to this can also be found from Lakshmana’s words of wisdom. Lord Rama was advised to act according to His prescribed duties as a warrior and eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Thus it was Rama’s duty to provide protection to the innocent, to search for Sita, and to kill His enemies. In the same manner, every living entity’s occupational duty is to be a loving servant of the Supreme Lord. The exact nature of this service can vary, but the sentiment should always be the same. We should work to please the Lord; performing those activities which will help us better understand Him. We should transcend the mode of goodness by engaging exclusively in acts of devotion. This will make our time spent on earth worth it.

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The Highest Gain

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 9, 2010

Rama and Lakshmana "O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, you should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

The wise never act on whims. Rather, they carefully study the results of potential actions and then decide whether the reward is worth the effort and the risk associated with the undertaking. Every action carries some risk to it, even something as simple as standing up. This is because every action performed on the material platform has a commensurate reaction. The fruits of action, karma-phalam, sometimes manifest immediately, while at other times they come to us in a future life. There is risk in every action because the results of our karma are unknown to us, and sometimes the results don’t last very long. Thus we never know exactly what might happen when we take on a certain task. To decide what should be done and what shouldn’t, we must carefully study the desired result and then also evaluate whether the resulting fruit is worth having.

Start of the Bharata War So far this sounds somewhat cryptic, so let’s look at a few real life examples to gain a clearer understanding. The issue of violence is often discussed amongst the intelligentsia. The issue itself is quite polarizing, for people immediately jump to one side or the other. Some believe that violence is never necessary. They see the wars going on around them and just scratch their heads. “Why would young men want to kill one another? What is to be gained? Why can’t people just get along in peace? If one side were to commit themselves to nonviolence, then the rest of the world would soon follow.” The immediate results of violent action are easily perceptible. Violence, in its relation to war, leads to death, which signals the end of the current body’s material efforts. When someone dies, they no longer have the opportunity to take actions aimed at satisfying their senses. All ties of affection are immediately relinquished and the friends and family of the departed are left to mourn. Based on these negative consequences, we can understand why many people would be so opposed to violence.

In the paradigm of warfare, the people perpetrating the violence are hoping to achieve the end-goal of victory. Victory signals the defeat of the enemy, with their will to fight being removed. Surrender from the other side then hopefully leads to a peaceful condition for the victors, an end to hostilities. On the flip side, there are those who are in favor of nonviolence. The result of nonviolence is the absence of warfare. When there isn’t war, there will be peace. At the same time, however, aggressors will be let off the hook for any nefarious activity. For example, if one side wants to wage war in order to gain control over a certain tract of land, if the other side chooses nonviolence, naturally the aggressive side will claim victory and take the land for themselves. In this scenario, nonviolence, though saving lives, results in surrender, with the enemy taking over land that might not rightfully belong to them.

Battlefield of Kurukshetra So which side does morality come down on? Are the proponents of war correct in believing that victory is a noble enough goal to make violence worth it? Or are the pacifists correct in asserting that the lack of violence makes surrendering worthwhile? In order to make a rational judgment in any situation, we have to evaluate the fruits of action. So far we have established what the fruits of action will be in both cases, but we haven’t ascribed any merit or demerit to them.

So how do we rate results? This material world is full of dualities. One person may enjoy spicy food, while another person may abhor it. One person may prefer the winter months due to the cold weather, while another person may enjoy the summer months for the bright sunshine and warm temperatures. How do we decide which viewpoint is correct? Is this even possible? It seems like everyone has different desires, and thus we see so many different kinds of work performed. Is there really a way to judge which action is virtuous and which isn’t?

“Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.18)

Lord Krishna According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, there is actually an easy way to decide whether a particular action should be performed or not. What has been described thus far is guna and karma. Guna is a Sanskrit word which refers to material qualities. Each living entity possesses a body composed of a combination of the three gunas of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In addition, every fruitive activity we perform, or karma, can also be filed under one of these three modes. When rating karmic activity, we usually associate pious acts as those which bring about “good” karma-phalam, or fruitive results. These activities fall under the mode of goodness. If we perform activities in the mode of goodness, we further the position of the material body, both in this life and in future ones. For example, if we faithfully study the Vedas and perform various sacrifices, we will ascend to the heavenly planets in the afterlife. Upon reaching this realm, one is given a heavenly body which allows them to enjoy a thousand times more than they can on earth.

The mode of passion brings about neutral results. For example, working hard simply for the acquisition of money and wealth can be thought of as an act of neutrality. Money is certainly required to maintain our lifestyle, but it quickly runs out, thus forcing us to repeat the cycle of work again. The mode of passion eventually leads to a neutral state in the afterlife. If a living entity is currently in a human body, through action in the mode of passion, they remain in an earthly body in the next life.

The mode of ignorance can be equated with “bad” karma. What we would characterize as “stupid” behavior is what the mode of ignorance consists of. Unnecessarily killing others, stealing, sleeping too much, constant intoxication, etc., all lead to demotion to a lower species in the next life. Thus one should avoid the mode of ignorance at all costs.

“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.21)

Goswami Tulsidas So it seems like we have the issue resolved. Simply act in the mode of goodness, and everything will be okay. Ah, but there is a catch. Though action in the mode of goodness leads to a heavenly body in the afterlife, one’s time in heaven is limited. Upon exhaustion of our good merits, we are forced to descend back to earth and go through the entire life cycle again. Goswami Tulsidas, the great devotee of Lord Rama, remarks that it is heard that after enjoying such great opulence in the heavenly kingdom, a person forgets about the time factor and their mortality. In this way, by becoming overly puffed up with pride and material enjoyment, knowledge of the truth gets covered up. Upon returning to earth, we’ll again have to deal with the issue of deciding what action should be performed and what shouldn’t. Those who possess a higher understanding of nature thus realize that even the mode of goodness leads to a neutral state. In this way, all activity of this material world can be considered equal in a sense, since the results of such action are only temporary.

“The branches of this tree extend downward and upward, nourished by the three modes of material nature. The twigs are the objects of the senses. This tree also has roots going down, and these are bound to the fruitive actions of human society.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.2)

So does this mean that we all should do whatever we want because it doesn’t matter in the end? Beyond the material nature is a spiritual nature. Though the spiritual nature is free of gunas, or material qualities, there are still activities performed within it. Spirituality is full of variegatedness. The material world is simply a perverted reflection of the purified realm. The various actions and reactions of material life can be thought of as emanating from a tree which has its roots upwards. This inverted situation is the result of the perverted reflection. The spiritual world contains the actual tree, the purified version of activity and enjoyment. This means that our real business is to take up spiritual activities, those actions which transcend the modes of material nature. Why is it important to rise above the three modes of material nature? As mentioned before, when deciding on whether a particular action should be taken, we need to study both the desired result and its importance. So what are the results of taking to spiritual activity? Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states that anyone who acts towards pleasing Him, i.e. doing those things which will make God happy, will never have to take birth again. Such devotees will ascend immediately to Krishna’s spiritual realm after death. In this way, spiritual activity brings about the highest gain.

Lord Krishna So what constitutes spiritual activity? In addition, does this mean that all the activities we are accustomed to performing are stupid? Sannyasis, or those in the renounced order of life, are often attached with this stigma of having a pessimistic outlook on life. The Vedas recommend that a person gradually progress through four spiritual stages, or ashramas, over the course of their lifetime. Sannyasa is the fourth and final stage where one completely renounces all ties to material life and sincerely engages in serving God. Service to God is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It involves many different processes such as chanting, hearing, remembering, and offering prayers.

A person who is in the renounced order of life will naturally look at material activity as being second class. They will see people engaging in activities like drinking, gambling, and eating meat and think that such people are simply wasting their time. A bona fide sannyasi is a pure devotee of Krishna, so they don’t simply criticize people for engaging in mundane activity; they view everything with respect to Krishna. A pure devotee puts forth suggestions on what should be done to correct improper behavior. An example of this benevolence was seen with Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama.

Lord Rama Many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, Lord Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama, a valiant warrior prince, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. As part of His pastimes, Rama spent fourteen years in the forest, living as a vanaprasthi with His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana. Vanaprastha is the ashrama right before sannyasa, and it is the stage where a person leaves their home and travels around with their wife, living off very little. What’s ironic is that when Rama left for the forest, He had only been married for twelve years and thus wasn’t necessarily ready for vanaprastha. The mendicant lifestyle was forced upon Him as a result of a request put forth by His step-mother Kaikeyi.

Nevertheless, God is the ultimate renunciate, so He had no problem roaming around like a hermit for fourteen years. Unfortunately, during the exile period, Sita would be kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana while Rama and Lakshmana were not by her side. Returning to their cottage, Rama saw that Sita was missing and gave way to lamentation. It is the duty of every husband to protect their wife under any and all circumstances. There is a great responsibility that comes with marriage; it is not simply a license to have sex. In the Vedic tradition, every institution and regulation is intended to provide spiritual wisdom and act as a gradual progression towards the end-goal of Krishna consciousness. Though Rama was God, He was playing the part of a human being, so He abided by all the Vedic samskaras, or reformatory processes.

Sita and Rama When He saw that Sita was missing, Rama felt bad for several reasons. First, He loved Sita very much. That is the beauty of the relationship between God and His devotees. The devotees abandon all desires for worldly enjoyment and take exclusively to devotional service. The Lord, for His part, becomes beholden to the devotees through a bond of deep affection. Sita, being an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, was an exceptional devotee and a representation of Krishna’s pleasure potency, hladini-shakti. Rama cannot live without Sita, and Sita cannot live without Rama. Even in separation, the two are always thinking of each other.

Rama was also disappointed because He had failed to protect His wife. God can never fail in providing protection, but Rama was playing the part of a human being and thus acting like someone who commits mistakes from time to time. What did Rama do next? First, He started wandering through the neighboring woods, asking all the trees and flowers if they had seen Sita. His sadness then quickly turned to anger. The sweet and gentle Lord decided He would destroy the whole world as revenge for its allowing Sita to be kidnapped. At this moment, Lakshmana stepped in to offer some sound words of advice.

Lakshmana Though a younger brother, Lakshmana too was a perfect devotee and thus not afraid to offer His service to God. It is the natural mentality of the dependents to ask for service from their superiors. We often pray to God to do certain things for us. The devotees are a little advanced, and as such, they look for any opportunity to give service to the Lord. In Lakshmana’s case, seeing his brother in a precarious condition presented an opportunity to offer something worthwhile to Rama. What was the nature of Lakshmana’s service? He simply repeated sound words of advice that Rama had offered to him on many previous occasions. He reminded Rama that one should be steady in the execution of their prescribed duties, no matter the result. Even if Sita were dead, it would not be cause for lamentation because every person in life must meet both good and bad fortune.

In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is asking what would be gained by destroying the world. Killing every living entity certainly wouldn’t bring Sita back, so the intended result itself was flawed. Lakshmana advised Rama to find out who took Sita and to then destroy them. The results of such activity would be the deserved punishment of the enemy and the hopeful rescue of Sita. Thus the intended results were in accordance with what Rama wanted. Moreover, by rescuing Sita, Rama would be performing His prescribed duties as a husband and prince. The Lord very much appreciated Lakshmana’s counsel, and in the end, He would do exactly what Lakshmana advised. Ravana would be found and defeated in battle, and Sita would be rescued.

We should apply the same criteria prior to taking up any activity. We should ask ourselves a series of questions. “What will the result of this action be? Is the result even something that I want? Can I choose a different course of action and achieve a more beneficial result?“ Luckily for us, we know that our ultimate objective is reconnecting with God, thus we can juxtapose the results of all activities with the ultimate result of returning back home, back to Godhead. For instance, if we apply this criterion towards the violence issue, we’d see that meat eating is completely unnecessary. Simply to satisfy the taste buds, we are sending innocent cows by the millions to the slaughterhouses each year. The positive result of satisfaction to our taste buds is short-lasting and also cancelled out by the negative reactions to our violence. In addition, meat eating does nothing to bring us closer to God.

Sita and Rama triumphantly returning homeLord Rama, however, took to violence and was acting completely in line with dharma, or occupational duty. This is the easiest way to decide what our course of action should be. Each of us has prescribed duties to perform according to our qualities. If we perform these activities with detachment and, at the same time, engage in devotional service, our lives will be perfect. The highest gain in life is to have association with God and His devotees, so all our activities should be performed with this goal in mind.

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The Spiritual Doctor

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 7, 2010

Rama and Lakshmana “O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, You should uproot him alone.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

Not only does love work in mysterious ways, but it makes us do crazy things. There is no denying this fact. The affection we feel for our loved ones can be so strong that it drives us to completely overlook rationality and the rules of propriety. When our feelings of attachment drive us close to the edge, we need someone who can help bring back our sanity. This person is our ever well-wishing friend, someone who saves us from ourselves.

Radha Krishna Why does love lead us to madness? The ways of this world are quite mysterious, but it is undoubtedly true that love is the strongest emotion that we know. Love is an outgrowth of service; offering something of ourselves to someone else. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that this penchant for service is derived from our natural disposition as loving servitors of the Supreme Lord. The soul residing within is inherently a part and parcel of the supreme whole known as God. Just as the sunshine has an original source, the sun, we living entities are like fragmental sparks emanating from the huge spiritual fire of energy known as God. These two entities, God and His fragmental parts, aren’t two randomly disjointed entities. There is an explicitly defined relationship between the two. One is superior, while the other is inferior. Thus it is the natural disposition of the inferior to be a servant of the superior. When this natural order of things is in place, both the inferior and the superior live together in harmony.

In our current condition, we are unaware or forgetful of this natural order. Thus our penchant for service gets shifted elsewhere, i.e. to friends, family, and paramours. Since this desire for service is so strong, it leads to the formation of attachment and bonds that are tough to break. Along with the desire for service comes the desire to please the object of our affection. There are two primary effects of our strong attachments. The first effect is seen through our desire to protect our loved ones and to ensure their well-being at all times. A poignant example of this was seen with the kshatriya warrior, Arjuna, some five thousand years ago.

“It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.5)

Arjuna in distress The Bhagavad-gita is one of the most famous religious books in history. Known as The Song of God, the Gita contains the essence of Vedic wisdom. Though the Gita is considered a religious scripture, it is essentially just a transcript of a conversation that took place in real life between Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His cousin Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. On the eve of a great war that was to see millions of soldiers killed, the lead warrior for the side of the Pandavas, Arjuna, gave way to lamentation and fear. Arjuna became hesitant to fight because he didn’t want to see his friends and family members, who were fighting for the opposing army, put into any type of danger or discomfort.

For a warrior, this wasn’t customary behavior. Being in an army means having to kill the enemy in fair combat. If a fighter is reluctant to fight, it stands to reason that he won’t be very successful in killing enemies, which is the essence of war. War is a terrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. However, once a war starts, the objectives are quite simple: kill people and break things. The more people you kill from the opposing side and the more of their stuff you break, the more likely you are to win. Why would Arjuna, the greatest bow warrior of his time, not want to fight? The opposing side, the Kauravas, consisted of Arjuna’s cousins, grandfather, and spiritual guide. Arjuna didn’t want to hurt loved ones simply to gain a kingdom. His affection for the material well-being of his family members superseded his desire for victory.

Arjuna seeing the universal form In Arjuna’s case, the negative effect of love and affection was unnecessary soft-heartedness. The other negative effect of intense love is extreme anger and rage, which is the polar opposite of extreme kindness. While love makes us feel for our fellow loved ones, it also makes us angry at anyone who causes them any harm. An example of this was seen with Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna unequivocally establishes that He is the Supreme Lord and that all other forms of Godhead emanate from Him. In fact, He displayed His terrible universal form to Arjuna; a form which was so awe-inspiring that Arjuna, out of fear, asked Krishna to reassume His original two-handed form.

Though Krishna is the original form of Godhead, He personally descends to earth in other forms from time to time. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Lord appeared as a handsome and pious kshatriya warrior named Rama. Since Rama was God, it made sense that His fighting abilities were unmatched. Though a great warrior, Rama underwent many hardships throughout His life. This was all done for the benefit of others, thus showing Rama’s magnanimous nature. On one occasion, Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped while the couple was residing in the forest. If a person is in God’s company, no one can harm them. This is because God is the ultimate protector, someone who is undefeated in battle. This was also the case with Rama, but due to a diversion set up by the demon Ravana, the Lord was somehow lured away from Sita’s side. In Rama’s absence, Ravana came and forcibly took Sita away.

Sita and Rama It should be noted that Sita’s kidnapping actually occurred due to the desire of the demigods. Ravana was a great demon, and though Rama appeared on earth to kill him, the Lord still needed an excuse before He could attack. Lord Rama’s vow was to always abide by dharma, or established religious codes. This meant that He never wanted to act in an impious manner, for as the eldest son of a great king, others would follow His example. With Sita’s kidnap, Rama had the excuse He needed to go after Ravana and kill him. In the meantime, however, Rama played the part of an ordinary human being, giving way to lamentation and anger after realizing that His wife was missing.

Upon returning to the couple’s cottage, Rama noticed that Sita was missing, and immediately He gave way to lamentation. He started roaming through the neighboring woods, asking the trees and flowers if they had seen His beloved wife. The Lord is so kind and sweet that He never allows anyone’s love for Him to go in vain. No one in this world can love Rama more than Sita does, and by the same token, no one can love Sita more than Rama does. Thus the Lord kindly reciprocated the love shown to Him by Sita by giving way to excessive lamentation. After the sadness came anger. The Lord was ready to destroy the entire world as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. In His mind, all the neighboring creatures and celestial figures just sat idly by and allowed Ravana to perform his dastardly deed. Thus every living entity in the world was liable for Sita’s kidnap.

Mother Yashoda binding child Krishna We can certainly relate to the incident with Arjuna. In today’s day and age, it is becoming fashionable for parents to be friends with their kids. Children are seen as equals, being allowed to have televisions and video game systems in their room. Children can talk back to their parents, as that is all part of the friendly relationship. This desire to be friends with your children is an outgrowth of the strong affection that parents feel. Being a parent means having to impose strict rules, a practice which results in your kids hating you from time to time. No one wants to see their loved ones in pain, so being a good parent requires emotional strength and the doling out of tough love.

By the same token, we can also relate to the incident involving Lord Rama. It just takes one bad experience to turn our moods sour. If something bad happens to us or to a loved one, we can lose rationality and start to blame others for our problems. For example, say we are travelling to a foreign country like France. If we have a bad experience at a hotel or in a restaurant, we might be tempted to lump all French people with the incident. “Oh I hate French people. I’m never going to France again.” Now obviously this isn’t rational thinking because there are bad apples wherever you go. Moreover, it is this type of irrational thinking that leads to destructive practices such as racism, bigotry, and sexism.

“O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.30)

Lord Krishna In the end, both Arjuna and Rama ended up regaining their senses and continuing with their prescribed duties. How were they able to collect themselves? They enlisted the help of their spiritual guides. In Arjuna’s case, his spiritual master was Lord Krishna. The Lord advised Arjuna to give up his false attachment, born out of unnecessary affection. It was surely a nice gesture on Arjuna’s part, but in reality, nothing would be gained by not fighting. It was Arjuna’s duty as a warrior to fight nobly for his side, for his family had the rightful claim on the kingdom. Moreover, every person’s karma is determined by their own deeds, so there is no need to worry about whether a person will be materially benefitted by a specific action or not. Even if his enemies were to die in battle, Arjuna still wouldn’t be to blame, for the soul is eternal and can never be slain. Armed with these facts, Arjuna decided to stand up and fight.

In Lord Rama’s case, His spiritual master was His younger brother Lakshmana. It is quite ironic actually, for Lakshmana viewed Rama as a father. Nevertheless, true love sometimes involves saying unpleasant things for the benefit of your loved one. This was the case with Lakshmana. In the popular American television sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, one of the main characters on the show, Frank Barone, is known for being outspoken and unafraid to say what’s on his mind. Playing the grandfather on the show, Frank believes in toughness and calling it like it is. If a person is acting weak or is hesitating unnecessarily, Frank will tell them to quit their crying and to suck it up. “Stop your pitter patter, Nancy. Stop crying and get back to work.”, are two of his famous phrases.

Lakshmana This was essentially the instruction that Lakshmana gave to Rama, but in a sweeter way. As the ever well-wishing younger brother, Lakshmana would have been justified in sitting back and letting his brother go off the deep end. But as a great devotee of the Lord, Lakshmana loved Rama so much that he wouldn’t let Him deviate from the virtuous path. Lakshmana offered some sound words of advice, basically telling Rama that there was no reason to lament. Even if Sita were dead, there would be no justification for giving up the performance of prescribed duties. Even the great celestials suffer defeat every now and then, what to say of ordinary men.

In the above referenced statement, Lakshmana is concluding His words of wisdom. Here he is putting forth a rhetorical question relating to Rama’s desire to destroy the whole world. If the Lord did kill everyone in revenge, what would be gained? It still wouldn’t bring Sita back, and it would also put a black mark on Rama’s reputation and that of His family. Rama very much appreciated this advice, since He knew that Lakshmana only had His best interests at heart. In fact, Lakshmana even reiterated the fact that the things he was saying actually originated from Rama. This is most certainly true, for God is the original spiritual master, the fountainhead of all instruction. Formerly, Rama had offered the same instruction to Lakshmana and His three other brothers. Thus we see that Lakshmana was both a great student and a great teacher.

Worship of Sita and Rama The lesson here is that we all fall down from the righteous path every now and then. Our great affection and natural inclination to serve others will result in these momentary lapses of judgment. As we saw with Arjuna and Rama, it is very important to surround ourselves with godly people. Lord Krishna is God, and anyone who acts on His behalf and serves Him in a loving way can be considered godly. Krishna is Bhagavan and those who serve Him are bhagavata. It is very important to always surround ourselves with Bhagavan if we can or, at the very least, bhagavata. Our attachments are difficult to give up, so it’s always good to keep a spiritual doctor on hand to cure us of our ailments.

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You Gotta Believe

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 5, 2010

Lord Rama "O best of the Ikshvakus, considering Your powerful divine and human capabilities, please strive for the destruction of Your enemies." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.20)

We appreciate the people who believe in us. Life is a constant tug of war between happiness and distress, so there are bound to be ups and downs that we have to go through. The downs can really leave us doubting our abilities and our chances for success. To get through these tough times, we require outside intervention and the support of our friends and family members. Of all our well-wishers, those who believe in our abilities stand out the most. These are the people we are greatly indebted and most obliged to. Though it may not always appear this way, bona fide spiritual leaders actually believe in all of us; they know that each one of us is capable of achieving spiritual perfection. Our business is to trust these leaders to guide us to the promise land, for their belief in us is a prerequisite for success.

Top Gun To understand this point better, let us look at some of the more popular inspirational movies of recent times. These are the movies that give us goose bumps at the end, the ones that leave us feeling inspired after having watched them. During the 1980s, several of these movies became very popular. Top Gun, The Karate Kid, and Hoosiers were especially inspirational. The storylines were generally the same: an underdog taking on a challenge that seemed too big for him to handle. After struggling and failing several times, the movie dramatically concludes with the underdog emerging victorious. We can relate to these movies because we have been in many situations where we were the underdog. Who among us hasn’t struggled? Who hasn’t felt like giving up when the chips were down? But we know that we can’t give up, because quitters never win.

The characters in these movies go through similar struggles. For example, in The Karate Kid, the main character learns karate in an unconventional manner through interacting with an elderly friend. Eventually the student enters a karate competition, where all his competitors have been trained in top-notch karate schools. There is even a moment when it looks like the character will be unable to continue in the tournament due to an injury. But it is through inspiration and belief that the character finally overcomes all obstacles.

The Karate Kid This type of story inspires us because we know that winning isn’t easy. When we are shooting for a lofty goal, many people will come up to us and tell us that we can’t do it. “Oh you’re too small; you’re not smart enough; you don’t have enough talent”, etc. The naysayers seem to outweigh the well-wishers, and as soon as we encounter a little duress and failure, we start to believe what our critics tell us. In order to be successful, we need people in our corner who have faith in us; people who genuinely believe that we have what it takes to be successful. Bereft of such association, success will be hard to come by. Most of us are not born leaders or self-starters. We require motivation, inspiration, and guidance in the initial phases of an endeavor.

When an actor wins a prestigious award, such as an Oscar, they usually thank all the people that helped them in their career. They also will usually thank a specific teacher for believing in them. The same holds true with successful athletes. When a player wins a prestigious title, it is not uncommon to see them cry. This is because, at that moment, they realize how difficult it was to get to the pinnacle of their field. They also realize that if it weren’t for the people who believed in them, they wouldn’t have achieved success.

Though there are varieties of material endeavors, aspiring to become a perfect transcendentalist may be the most difficult task of all. We are currently in an environment which is not conducive to spiritual life. The Vedas tell us that this world is governed by an illusory force known as maya. Maya means “that which is not”; hence the illusion. The world we live in is full of things that appear to be beneficial to us, while in fact they are more harmful than anything else. There are so many examples of maya’s influence, but we can study something as basic as sex life to see the pattern. The desire to have sex is a natural urge for the human being as well as the animal species. Having the urge and acting on it are two different things. When we act on an impulse, it doesn’t mean that there will always be a positive result. For example, if we are stricken with the chicken pox, the urge is to scratch the infected areas on the body. But we also know that if we do scratch, our relief will only be temporary, while we will increase the likelihood of developing scars in the future. Scratching can also increase the risk of acquiring secondary infections to the swollen areas.

Sex life is similar in this regard. If we act on every sexual impulse, we are likely to encounter unintended side effects. The most obvious unintended consequence of sex life is pregnancy. If a young girl gets pregnant, she must completely turn her life around. Raising a child is a full-time responsibility, something which parents have to worry about for at least the first eighteen years of a child’s life. So we see that a simple act of having sex can lead to a much greater, unintended responsibility. This is how maya works. She fools us into taking something to be what it is not.

Lord Krishna Though the material world is full of illusion, the spiritual world is not. Everything there is exactly how it seems. This is why God is referred to as the Supreme Absolute Truth, meaning there is no duplicity in His dealings, attributes, or residences. Since we are constitutionally spirit, we are meant to associate with this Truth; our destiny is to free ourselves from illusion. Knowing that we should be with God is one thing, but actually achieving that objective is another. We are currently in a conditioned state and under the spell of maya. This spell is difficult to break out of, so we require some help.

Who can help us? If we want to be successful in theater, sports, or broadcasting, it would make sense to approach someone who is already successful in the field. There are so many naysayers out there, but how many of them are actually successful? The nightly television newscasts are full of “experts” who give their opinions on a wide range of subjects, but how many of them actually know what they are talking about? Many of these experts have advanced degrees and thus acquire the title of “doctor”. There is certainly nothing wrong with receiving a formal education, but if we want to be successful in acting, should we approach someone who only has a PhD in theater, or should we talk to someone who is actually in the business? If we want to be a successful politician, should we take counsel from a person with a political science degree or someone who has actually ran for office and won?

Shrila Prabhupada The answers to these questions are fairly obvious, but the reason we ask them is to highlight a larger point. In order to be successful in spiritual life, we must approach someone who is not under the spell of maya. Our goal is to defeat maya and associate exclusively with the spiritual energy, thus it would make sense to consult with someone who has been successful in their fight against illusion. The Vedas tell us that the realized soul is known as the guru, or spiritual master. The term “guru” is used in many different contexts, but one of its meanings is “one who is heavy”. How is a guru heavy? What is the source of their weight? The bona fide guru carries the message of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since God is absolute, there is no difference between Himself and His message. Thus the message of God represents the heaviest truth, or knowledge system, in existence. A person who carries this message also becomes heavy; they possess gravitas, or authority.

Since the spiritual master is a pure devotee of Krishna, they naturally will try to teach others how to become devotees. Since we are currently in a conditioned state, what the spiritual master initially tells us won’t be very pleasing to hear. They will tell us to give up the four primary activities of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. At first glance, this seems like a harsh restriction. “No drinking? No illicit sex? What am I going to do with my time?” Next, the guru advises the aspiring transcendentalist to take up bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. There are many dharmas, or religious systems, but the religion of love reigns supreme. Devotional service is the sublime engagement which automatically provides the rewards of all the other religious systems. This should make sense to us. After all, in the conditioned state, romantic love is held as the most pleasurable activity in life. Though this type of love may seem nice, it is still associated with maya, so there is illusion associated with it. When this love becomes purified, i.e. directed towards Krishna, it goes by the name of bhakti, or Krishna-prema.

Shrila Prabhupada Since the guru is heavy, he won’t sugarcoat his language. When reading the books of the great Vaishnava saints, we’ll often see that they refer to gross materialists, impersonalists, and enemies of God as mudhas, or rascals. “Anyone who is not a devotee of Krishna is a fool; Anyone who takes material nature to be the beginning and end of everything is certainly a rascal; Anyone who thinks that God is formless is a great miscreant.” Now these statements may seem off-putting to us at first, but they serve a distinct purpose. The first point that must be stressed is that these statements are all undoubtedly true. It may not be pleasing to hear, for many of these criticisms may apply to us or someone we know, but these statements are all rooted in fact.

“Don’t we need people to believe in us in order to achieve success? So how will any of us make progress if the spiritual master thinks that we are mudhas?” Actually, the bona fide spiritual master has more belief in us than anyone else we know. This may seem strange, but we have to understand the underlying reasoning behind the way the spiritual master teaches. The guru knows how hard it is to break free of the clutches of maya, so they will tell us the truth from the outset. Since the bona fide guru is a paramahamsa, they don’t view all individuals as mudhas and miscreants. They actually view every person as a pure devotee at heart. We are all meant to be God’s eternal servants, but currently we are forgetful of this fact. Thus the spiritual master takes it upon himself to remind us of the truth. They tell us that if we remain non-devotees in thoughts, words, and deeds, we are most certainly not very advanced. But we can quickly go from being a non-devotee to a devotee. In order to achieve this transformation, we have to have faith in the words of the spiritual master; our ever well-wisher.

Lakshmana The spiritual master believes in us, for they know what our true potential is. They know that each of us can achieve perfection in life by taking up devotional service. Cognizant of this fact, they remind us of the great qualities that we have. They don’t just criticize; they also highlight our good traits and tell us to use them to achieve spiritual perfection. This was the practice followed by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, many thousands of years ago.

Liberated transcendentalists tell us Krishna is the Absolute Truth and that He possesses all good qualities. This is nice to hear and we can certainly try to theoretically understand these facts, but it is much easier to learn by example. To facilitate this teaching method, the Lord personally appears on earth from time to time to show how real Truth manifests. One such appearance took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, where Krishna incarnated as the pious prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama. As part of His pastimes, Rama roamed through the forests for fourteen years alongside His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Realizing that Sita was missing, Rama frantically searched for her in the forest, but was unable to find her. Fearing the worse, Rama gave way to lamentation and anger.

Lord Rama looking for Sita At this time, Lakshmana stepped in to offer some sound words of advice. God is the original spiritual master, and He chooses select individuals to impart spiritual instruction to. Lakshmana was one such individual, for as the younger brother, Lakshmana would often be instructed by Rama on all matters of life. But God likes to glorify His devotees from time to time, so He presents opportunities for them to shine. This was one such opportunity, where Lakshmana was afforded the chance to act as spiritual master to Rama. In essence, Lakshmana got to show off all that he had previously learned from Rama.

“One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equiposed in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.18-19)

What were Lakshmana’s instructions? Initially, he mildly chastised Rama for giving way to lamentation. The first instruction given to aspiring transcendentalists of the Vedic tradition is that we are not our bodies. The soul is eternal and unchangeable, while the body is not. This means that a person is guaranteed to encounter ups and downs, gains and losses, as it relates to the body. The wise person does not let these events affect them. Lakshmana correctly pointed out that even if Sita were killed, it would be no reason to be taken off the righteous path. We should all perform our prescribed duties in life, not being attached to the results of our actions.

In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is concluding his remarks. We see that even though he chastised Rama in the beginning, Lakshmana is reminding Rama of the great powers He possesses. Lakshmana is essentially telling Rama that he believed in Him. The Lord very much appreciated His younger brother’s words of advice. The Lord would go on to find Sita, defeat Ravana in battle, and triumphantly rescue her. Everything would end well.

Rama and LakshmanaAll can also end well for us if we follow the advice of the Vaishnava spiritual masters. Our powers certainly aren’t as great as Rama’s, but we do have the ability to achieve spiritual perfection. The path won’t be easy, but we must be confident of the spiritual master’s belief in us. The great devotees of Krishna make no distinction between cast, gender, color, or creed. They know that all living entities are capable of reviving their dormant Krishna consciousness. The guru believes in us, but the question remains: do we believe in him?

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Posted by krishnasmercy on October 3, 2010

Lord Rama "O best of the Ikshvakus, considering Your powerful divine and human capabilities, please strive for the destruction of Your enemies." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.20)

It’s not so easy to persuade an adult to do something. A child may be willing to take instruction, but the same person as an adult will likely put up more resistance. A mature adult realizes their independence and thus is more skeptical about being instructed. But as we experience with our own lives, the learning process never stops. No matter how old we get, there are still many things that we are unaware of. Thus we require the help of someone in the know, someone who has realized the Truth, to set us straight. Since adults are not as accepting of advice and counsel, the knowers of the Truth have to find different ways to get their message across. Encouragement and flattery are two of the techniques employed by those trying to impart the highest form of knowledge. These techniques prove to be very effective in teaching love and devotion to the Divine.

Balarama and Krishna playing in the forest Most of us know how the basic life cycle works. You are born, play around for a few years, go to school, get married, have kids, and then die. We may know how the system works, but how many of us actually stop to think of why the cycle is the way that it is? For example, why do we have to go to school in our childhood? Most of us hate being trapped in a prison-like environment all day. School proprietors even realize this fact; thus elementary school children are allowed a recess period during the day where they can go out and run around to let out all their pent up energy.

The most obvious justification for our attending school in our younger years is that we are completely ignorant at the time of birth. A baby comes out of the mother’s womb and immediately starts crying. The Vedas tell us that each of us has been on this earth many times before through the process of reincarnation. This is actually not very difficult to understand. We all at one time lived in the tiniest of bodies which was no larger than the size of a pea. We certainly don’t remember having this body, but it is undoubtedly true that we survived through such a form in the womb of our mother. Our current body is the result of the maturation of that small pea-like form. In the same way that our current body evolves and changes, prior to our current birth we had a different body which had its own properties. Though the soul remains intact, the coverings constantly change. Thus when we come out of the womb of the mother, we are settling into our new body and surroundings. Essentially we have to get reacquainted with the environment that we have forgotten. Human life is especially beneficial because the potential for acquiring knowledge is great. At the time of birth, an infant is no smarter than a dog, cat, or other animal, yet the difference is that through proper training and guidance, the infant can gradually acquire knowledge that far surpasses that of any animal.

Valmiki teaching Lava and Kusha Proper training and guidance are the two key points. We must be taught how to read, write, and do arithmetic. But we see that it is the nature of the child to play all day. If we examine the typical day of an average four year old, we’ll see that almost every waking hour is spent playing, watching television, or eating. So there is no natural desire to acquire knowledge in a formal setting, as there is say in the adult. Many adults often crave learning and being able to take in new information and remember it. Thus they try for advanced degrees and doctorates. But for children, this desire isn’t really there.

If we don’t want to go to school, how do we end up there for twelve consecutive years? Moreover, how do we wake up early every day and spend hours locked up in a classroom? The answer is that we are forced to. In America anyways, school is compulsory for children up until around the age of sixteen. This means that we have to go to school. But what if we say “no”? What if we flat out refuse to go to school? Obviously this situation will occur with some of us, but very quickly we realize that this is a losing battle. This is because, as children, we have no control. We are under the care and guidance of our parents. They are benevolent dictators in a sense; their word is final, though they may be lenient every now and then.

Lord Krishna A common saying states that it is a shame that youth is wasted on the young. The meaning behind this is that youthfulness is such a wonderful thing because with it comes innocence, ambition, and lots of energy. The youngsters will always have more energy, stamina, and speed than the older generation. We see evidence of this in the world of sports. In tennis for example, it is not uncommon to see players retiring before they even hit the age of thirty. This is because as a player ages, their agility, stamina, and speed diminish. Moreover, new players arrive on the scene, many of whom are still teenagers. Though they may not have the composure, experience, and strategic intelligence possessed by the older generation, they have something equally as valuable: youth. The younger generation will slowly but surely take over the older generation. For the elderly, there is nothing they can do to stem the tide. “Ah, if only I was nineteen again”, they’ll think.

Attending school in our youth is certainly important due to the energy issue. It is much easier to get up early in the morning, stay in school for hours, and then come home and do homework when we are young than when we are older. But probably more important than the energy issue is the control issue. As youngsters, our parents and teachers can control us, so it is crucially important that this authority be used in the proper way. The Vedas tell us that the purpose of human life is to inquire about the Absolute Truth, Brahman. Brahman is just a fancy name for God that describes His feature as the all-encompassing spiritual energy.

Lakshmana Since the potential of human life can only be reached after one is properly educated, it is important for parents to force us to go to school. But what happens when we get older? As youngsters, if a parent or teacher forces us to do something, we really have no choice in the matter. We have to listen to them. If they tell us to do our homework or study for a test, we can’t really say “no”. With adults, however, the issue is different. In order to convince an adult to do something, an authority figure must use different tactics. Simply yelling and punishing won’t do anything because eventually the adult will fight back. Once the fighting starts, respect is lost, as the authority figure loses their position of dominance. In order for adults to be guided, a teacher must appeal to the student’s attributes, propping up and highlighting the good qualities. This was the technique employed by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, many thousands of years ago.

Lord Rama is one of the primary incarnations of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God reigns supreme over all; He is every person’s dearmost friend. Due to His causeless mercy, He kindly appears on earth from time to time to enact pastimes, give pleasure to His devotees, and punish the miscreants. To increase the enjoyment felt by the devotees, the Lord usually assumes the guise of an ordinary human, one who possesses extraordinary capabilities. This was the case with Lord Rama, who was a prince belonging to the famous Raghu dynasty. Rama’s unique capabilities were His tremendous fighting ability, chivalry, and compassionate nature towards all.

Lord Rama Since the Lord was kind and sweet, He didn’t like to create enmity with anyone, especially His dependents and family members. On one occasion, Rama was asked to spend fourteen years in the forest, living as an exile from His hometown of Ayodhya. Rama was a married adult at the time, so He easily could have objected to the order, but since it was given by His father, Rama took it as His most important duty. Lord Rama never wanted His father to be considered a liar, thus when He was asked to do something, He listened right away. Taking His younger brother Lakshmana and His wife Sita Devi with Him, the Lord embarked for His fourteen year journey through the wilderness.

Unfortunately, while in the forest, Sita would be kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. When Rama came to know that Sita was missing, He gave way to lamentation and grief. He started walking around the woods and asking the trees and flowers if they had seen His beautiful and kind wife. Sensing that his brother was falling off the righteous path, Lakshmana stepped in to offer some sound words of advice. He reminded Rama that, as living entities, they were subject to happiness and distress from time to time. Moreover, even the heavenly beings and saints have to suffer losses from time to time, thus there was no reason to lament. Human life is meant for adhering to dharma, or one’s occupational duty.

Lakshmana In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is wrapping up his statements. Here we see that Rama is being reminded of His extraordinary power, which was both human and divine. Though Rama was in the guise of a human being, in reality He is the Divine Supreme Lord, so His fighting ability is unmatched in the world. Whoever had taken Sita would surely not live for very long if Rama were to find them. This indeed would be the case as Rama would heed Lakshmana’s advice, resume His search for Sita, and eventually defeat and kill Ravana in battle. All would end well.

Yet the happy ending may not have ever happened were it not for the words of wisdom spoken by Lakshmana. Lord Rama was certainly God Himself, so He obviously didn’t need any of this advice. The source of Lakshmana’s wisdom was actually Rama, for the Lord had instructed His younger brothers on the same subject matter on many previous occasions. Even though Rama was God, we see that the Lord likes to elevate the stature of His devotees, so He creates situations where they can shine. This was one of those situations. Lakshmana was a perfect devotee and highly learned soul, even though He belonged to the kshatriya [warrior] class. In this instance, Lakshmana was given the distinct honor of acting as a spiritual guide to Rama.

Lakshmana So which teaching techniques did Lakshmana employ? We see that he didn’t force Rama to do anything. He didn’t threaten his elder brother. These tactics wouldn’t have worked, for Rama was a full-fledged adult. Instead, Lakshmana kindly reminded Rama of His true nature, highlighting the Lord’s great qualities. He advised Rama to use this information to remove any hesitation or trepidation He had in relation to what should be done next. Thus we see that Lakshmana acted as a perfect guru, understanding the nature of his student and using that knowledge to employ the proper teaching technique.

“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

So what can we learn from this incident? In today’s day and age, the youth often don’t receive the proper kind of education. Children are most certainly forced to go to school and persuaded to graduate from high school, but this doesn’t mean that they acquire the king of all knowledge, raja-vidya. As mentioned previously, the ultimate objective in human life is to know and understand God. No one can truly understand His complete set of potencies, but through study and aural reception, we can gain a slight understanding. Yet simply acquiring theoretical knowledge is not enough. We have to know what to do with this education. Perfection in life is achieved when we use our spiritual knowledge to take up service to the Lord. This service must be performed voluntarily and with unmotivated love in order to be effective.

Valmiki composing the Ramayana In our youth, most of us learn about technology, literature, science, social studies, etc. We don’t learn about the constitutional position of the soul and its eternal nature. We don’t learn about what happens to us after we die or why we die in the first place. Theories are posited and religion is taken as a blind faith adopted by various sectarian groups, but there are no discussions about the soul and the differences between matter and spirit. Does this mean that our chances for success in life are dashed? Hope is never lost in the area of spirituality, but there are certain hurdles we must overcome. The great saints of the past, the non-sectarian Vaishnavas, have written voluminous literature expounding the supremacy of devotional service over any other religious process. We simply have to consult one of these great works or hear from a devotee who follows the bona fide principles of religion.

At the same time, it’s difficult for adults to take instruction from others. A devotee of Krishna may ask us to kindly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and abstain from meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication, but we won’t want to listen to them. “Who is this person teaching me? I’m an adult now; I have complete autonomy over my activities. I don’t have to listen to anybody.” Thus the task becomes a little more difficult for the supreme welfare worker, the devotee.

Rama and Lakshmana From Lakshmana’s example, however, we can see how even independent adults can be nudged in the proper direction. Though we are not God, we have some of His qualities. The Gosvamis of Vrindavana have analyzed the qualities of the Supreme Lord and have declared that we living entities possess seventy-eight percent of the qualities of God. Thus we too have great potencies, especially in the area of acquiring knowledge and intelligence. This means that every single person is a candidate for understanding this supreme science of devotional service. Whether a person is a man, woman, child, high born, or low born, it doesn’t matter. Each of us has some capability to perform some type of work. If we perform this work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, our activities will be perfect. Therefore it is incumbent upon the knowledgeable spiritual teachers to try to remind people of their great abilities and how those qualities can be used for the right purposes. When the energy meets the energetic, the resulting synergy is a thing of beauty. As living entities, we are meant to be the pleasure giving energy of the Lord. If we take up devotional service, we can turn that potential into a reality.

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Destroying Our Foes

Posted by krishnasmercy on October 1, 2010

Lakshmana "O best of the Ikshvakus, considering Your powerful divine and human capabilities, please strive for the destruction of Your enemies." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.20)

Enemies come in all different shapes and sizes. There are personal enemies; other people that we don’t like or who harass us on a regular basis. Then there are demons inside of us; those things that we are addicted to or thoughts that we can’t get rid of. Regardless of the nature of the enemy, they must be defeated. This is important because if we leave the enemy alone and don’t deal with them, there is nothing to stop them from attacking again. The destruction of the enemy is a requirement for there to be peace of any kind.

Events of the Mahabharata Those who have attacked us before are more than likely to attack us again. This is a concept which is easily understood but often forgotten. Vyasadeva’s magnum opus, the celebrated epic of the Vedic tradition, the Mahabharata, details the plight of five brothers whose kingdom was stolen away from them. Mahabharata literally means “great India”, so it contains many stories relating to spirituality and historical events from days past. This great work shines the spotlight of attention on the five sons of Pandu, who was a great king who died prematurely due to a curse. Though his sons were the proper heirs to the kingdom, it was Pandu’s brother, Dhritarashtra, who allowed his own sons, headed by Duryodhana, to unlawfully usurp control over the kingdom.

“We may be put into various types of dangerous conditions by our family members, the Kurus, but I am confident that You remember us and that you always keep us safe and sound. Devotees who simply think of You are always immune from all kinds of material dangers, and what to speak of ourselves, who are personally remembered by You.” (Kunti Devi speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 3)

Duryodhana didn’t stop at taking over the kingdom unlawfully. He hatched various schemes that constantly put the Pandava brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi, in trouble. He even tried to kill all of them many times, but each time they were saved. Who came to the rescue? The Pandava brothers were related to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes people refuse to accept the fact that God can have a name or a form, so they refer to Him as the Divine. Regardless of how we refer to God, there is no doubt that He can appear on earth from time to time depending on His own whim. Though we can’t enumerate every appearance, the Vedas give us a list of the more important ones. Lord Krishna is actually considered the original form of God, so when He appears on earth, He comes in His original body which is full of bliss and knowledge.

Lord Krishna God doesn’t have any father or mother; He is adi-purusham, or the original person. Nevertheless, to perform His activities on earth, He gives the appearance of accepting parents. When the Lord enacted His pastimes on earth some five thousand years ago, His father was Vasudeva. Vasudeva’s sister was Queen Kunti, the mother of the Pandava brothers. Thus Krishna was cousins with Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva; the five Pandava brothers. Not only was Krishna related to these great warriors, but He favored them very much. They were all great devotees and pious souls, thus the Lord had no qualms about showing favoritism to them. In one of His most celebrated pastimes, Lord Krishna accepted the position of driver for Arjuna’s chariot during the great Bharata war.

Duryodhana tried to kill the Pandavas in so many ways, but each time the brothers were miraculously saved through Krishna’s intervention. Eventually the brothers had enough and were contemplating going to war with Duryodhana and his side of the family. The brothers were on the fence, since they didn’t want to have to kill family members, including several exalted personalities such as Bhishmadeva and Dronacharya, who were fighting for the other side. Queen Kunti very much was in favor of going to war, for she knew that the kingdom rightfully belonged to her sons. Lord Krishna also intervened in this instance, agreeing with Kunti.

Lord Krishna - Mahabharata Usually when we think of religion and spirituality, we think of peacefulness, kindness, and nonviolence. All of us are God’s children, so why would we want to harm anyone else? The Supreme Absolute Truth can be realized through several different features, one of which is the all-pervading effulgence consisting of everything material and spiritual. This feature is known as Brahman, and we are all part of it. This means that we are all equal to each other in a spiritual sense. Since no one person is better than the other, it would make sense that violence wouldn’t be necessary. Yet Lord Krishna was in favor of going to war on this occasion. His primary reasoning was that Duryodhana was a great enemy of the Pandava family. If the Pandavas forgave all Duryodhana’s transgressions and allowed him to continue ruling over their kingdom, there would be nothing to stop him from sparking future attacks. Krishna made the cogent point that the most dangerous enemies in this world are those we have had quarrels with in the past. These enemies become even more dangerous if we have previously defeated them.

This principle was exhibited by King Jarasandha in his behavior towards Krishna. Jarasandha was not happy that Krishna had killed his friend, King Kamsa. This anger led him to attack the Lord on several occasions. Lord Krishna easily thwarted all the attacks, but He didn’t kill Jarasandha personally. Rather, the Lord built an underwater kingdom of Dvaraka to act as a fort to protect His citizens from outside attacks. Jarasandha was defeated over and over again by Krishna, but that didn’t stop him at all. Instead, he just came back each time with more and more anger. Eventually Lord Krishna manipulated events in such a way that a wrestling match was set up between Jarasandha and Bhima, the strongest of the Pandava brothers. Bhima defeated Jarasandha and tore his body in half, thus killing him.

“Lord Krishna immediately picked up a twig from a tree and, taking it in His hand, bifurcated it. In this way He hinted to Bhimasena how Jarasandha could be killed.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 17)

Bhima fighting Jarasandha Eventually the Pandava brothers decided in favor of going to war, and with the help of Krishna, they would end up victorious. These lessons apply to us because we have so many demons in our life, most of which are internal. The famous adage says that you can’t ignore your problems and hope to have them go away. This certainly holds true with our personal demons. If we have a foe that we have previously defeated, such as lust, greed, or anger, it is more than likely that the same enemy will come back to fight us again. Thus it is important to completely eliminate our enemies if we have the capability to do so.

This was the point stressed by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, many thousands of years ago. If our enemies are other human beings, attacking them isn’t always ideal. Not all of us are meant to be fighters. This is why we have governments, great entities that are tasked with providing protection to the innocent. In this way, the responsibility of eradicating miscreants falls on the shoulders of our protectors, i.e. the government leaders. Many thousands of years ago, the very same Lord Krishna appeared on earth as a handsome and pious warrior prince named Rama. Since Lord Rama appeared in a famous dynasty of kings, the Ikshvakus, it was His duty to provide protection to the innocent.

Sita Devi and Lord Rama On one occasion, Rama’s beautiful and kind wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Ravana and his associates were not only enemies of Rama, but of almost everyone in society as well. Ravana was a noteworthy demon whose rise and fall are well chronicled in the epic Ramayana compiled by Maharishi Valmiki. As the result of a curse given by the sage Vishrava, Ravana was born as a Rakshasa with ten heads and a ghoulish figure. Ravana’s mother was jealous that his step-brother, Kuvera, had acquired so much good fortune and wealth as a result of performing austerities that she influenced Ravana into taking up even great austerities. Thus the demon pleased Lord Brahma and was duly rewarded with many boons, including immunity in battle against all living entities except human beings.

Ravana, being a non-devotee, used his powers for evil instead of good. He immediately went on to defeat many demigods, leaving others to run for cover. He and his Rakshasa associates drove Kuvera out of the island kingdom of Lanka and took it over for themselves. But this wasn’t the height of his atrocities. Ravana especially liked to harass the saintly class of men, the great sages who had taken refuge in the forests. The Rakshasas would perform sneak attacks on the sages, disrupting their sacrifices and then killing them.

When Rama initially found out that Sita was missing, He gave way to lamentation and grief. Who wouldn’t be saddened by such an unfortunate event? It would make sense that Rama would have to sit down for a little while and collect His thoughts. Yet the Lord went a little further than this. He was ready to destroy the entire creation as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. Lakshmana, the ever-faithful and compassionate younger brother, at this time stepped in and offered some sound words of advice to Rama.

Sita Devi and Lakshmana In the above referenced statement, we see that Lakshmana is telling Rama to get up and go after the demons, keeping in mind His great strength. Not only did Rama possess great human strength, but He had all divine qualities as well. This isn’t surprising considering that Rama was an incarnation of God. Lakshmana’s point was that it was important for Rama to go after His enemies for two reasons. The obvious reason was that Sita had been taken away from Him, and thus any person who kidnaps an innocent married woman should certainly be punished. Moreover, if Rama didn’t go after the Rakshasas, who would? If the kidnappers of women and the killers of sages were to be pardoned for their actions, what would stop them from committing the same atrocities in the future? Everything worked out in the end, as Rama indeed would take Lakshmana’s advice and resume His search for Sita, eventually finding the princess and killing Ravana in the process.

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.6)

Lord Krishna We living entities have a similar dilemma confronting us. We certainly aren’t God, and most of us aren’t tasked with protecting the innocent. Yet this doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own demons to deal with. The Vedas tell us that the human form of life is considered the most auspicious due to the intelligence factor. We can actually realize this fact on our own. We are much smarter than any other species, for we even know that we are going to die. But what should we do with this intelligence? Should we use it to find ways to make our lives more comfortable? This is the avenue that many of us choose, but we see that success is never achieved in this venture.

The rich and famous show us the deficiencies of comfortable living. Though they have everything they could ever want right at their fingertips, the wealthy will often take to opening schools, hospitals, and to giving away money to charity as a way of life. This speaks to the reality that increased happiness is achieved through service to others. In the pursuit for material success, we are serving our own senses, hoping that by acquiring life’s comforts our miseries will go away. When the miseries remain, we take to helping others.

Philanthropy and charity may be noble and well-intentioned engagements, but they still don’t provide everlasting pleasure. Once the flickering happiness goes away, pain will surely follow. Our inner-demons, the mind and the senses, are the sources of this pain. For the conditioned living entities, the senses are under the control of maya. Maya means that which is not, so her forces lead us to chasing things that are not what they seem. When the senses are under maya’s control, they constantly ask for satisfaction. “Just give me some nice food and regular sexual relations, and you and I will both be happy.” This is most certainly illusion because we see that overeating and illicit sex life actually lead to life’s worst problems.

Lord Krishna is Hrishikesha The senses bewilder the mind and lead to the chase after illusion. So what can be done about this? How do we attack our senses? Doesn’t attacking our senses equate to suicide or personal harm? The way to defeat the enemy known as maya is to change our object of service, our ultimate object of affection. In the conditioned state, our senses are under the control of material nature, but in the perfected stage, the senses act according to the direction of the master of all senses, God. Since Lord Krishna is the owner and controller of the sum total of all senses, one of His names is Hrishikesha. The only way to defeat our inner demons is to put ourselves under the control of Hrishikesha.

This seems nice in theory, but how do we actually go about doing it? To find the answer, we must revisit the issue of service. When we offer our service to the senses or to the senses of others, the resulting pleasure is short-lived. To gain permanent happiness, we simply need to direct our service to God. There are many ways to do this, but in this age, the simplest method is the constant chanting of His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This shouldn’t be mistakenly equated with the religious activities that most of us are accustomed to, where we approach God for some personal benefit. Service to God must be unmotivated and uninterrupted. Pure love for Krishna means not wanting anything from Him in return.

Shri Rama Darbar Of course Krishna is not so unkind as to not reciprocate our loving feelings. By taking up the chanting process, and devotional service in general, we slowly but surely put ourselves under the control of the divine energy. Not only does this constant engagement in spiritual activities shield us from the effects of maya, but it also arms us with the sword of transcendental knowledge. Those who are intimately acquainted with this great system of knowledge realize their true potential in life. Demons are meant to be slain, especially by those who are capable of doing the slaying. This was the instruction given by Lakshmana to Rama, but it applies to all of us as well. We should all take up devotional service, learn about God, read about Him, talk about Him, and spread His glories to others. Then all the unwanted elements in life will remain far away from us.

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Spending Capital

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 29, 2010

Lord Rama “O best of the Ikshvakus, considering Your powerful divine and human capabilities, please strive for the destruction of Your enemies.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.20)

The possession and spending of political capital are pretty important concepts in the area of public policy. Capital usually relates to assets or something which has money-earning potential. In the business world, money earned hopefully equates to profit, so if a person possesses capital it means they have something in their possession which can be used to further their interest, i.e. profit. It is very important to not let this capital go to waste, for if we have a chance to go after what we want, we should take full advantage; “opportunity knocks” as the famous saying goes. While this principle holds true in our business and public policy ventures, it takes on an even greater importance in the area of spirituality and the dissemination of spiritual information.

Congress The importance of having capital and spending it can be easily illustrated in the political realm. Let us examine what occurs when a new President takes office in America. Generally, there is a “honeymoon period” where Congress lets its guard down in relation to fighting with the new President. In today’s day and age, every issue is fought vigorously at the political level. This is because not only are the leaders elected through a democratic process, but so is legislation. Aside from the elections of the many members of Congress, there are many votes that take place in specific committees, on the floor of the House and Senate, and then in conference committee. With so many votes taking place, there is a constant struggle for power. Just changing the minds of a few members of Congress can turn a failing bill into a passing one.

When a new President takes office, they usually inherit some political capital. This means that the country at large is optimistic and is willing to give the “new guy” the benefit of the doubt. So if a new President wants to pass a certain piece of legislation, it is best to try to push it forward during this period. The general theory is that if a politician has political capital, he or she should spend it; otherwise it goes to waste. How does this happen? The news cycle changes every minute of every day. The news media acts like drive-by shooters in a way, jumping into a story, firing a few bullets, causing random chaos, and then jumping on to a new story. This may seem like a harsh analogy, but it is undoubtedly true. News organizations have deadlines to meet and cover stories to write, so they aren’t overly concerned with the fallout to their news coverage. It is more important to have a story and release it than it is to worry about what happens after the story is printed.

newspaper This situation leads to a constantly changing political climate. One minute a President could have very high approval ratings, and the next minute not. Thus one never knows how long their political capital will last. It is best to push forward your agenda when you are popular and things are in your favor than when they are not. The President is deemed to have the bully pulpit, a term which references the fact that people listen when the President speaks. White house press conferences and speeches are covered by media outlets around the world. Even if the President sneezes or accidentally falls down, word about the incident spreads across the world. So if a President does have political capital to spend, he should not hesitate to go forward with his agenda. A high ranking administration official in America recently made the statement that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”, referring to how citizens are more apt to accept drastic legislation in the aftermath of a national disaster, natural or economic.

Capital boils down to capability. If one is capable of performing some type of activity, especially pertaining to one’s occupational duties, and fails to act, then it is quite a shame. The concept of nonviolence has gained in popularity over the past hundred years or so. It seems very nice on the surface. “Don’t inflict harm to anyone else.” This is a good principle to live by because we wouldn’t want anyone to hurt us unnecessarily. But what about dealings with aggressors? What if someone attacks us or one of our family members? What if someone breaks into our house and tries to steal our possessions? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that it is our duty to protect ourselves and our dependents. If we have the ability to thwart such attacks, we are required to do so. If we fail to act in these situations, we are liable in the eyes of nature.

Arjuna - a great warrior This should make sense to us. For instance, the primary role of government is to provide protection. Since life is generally peaceful in the Western countries, people often overlook this inherent duty of government. Rather, many people believe that the government’s job is to take care of the “little guy”, to level the playing field, or to go after the wealthy. While these may or may not be noble activities, government only exists to provide protection to society at large. Each one of us has a natural right to protect ourselves and our property, and thus government is an outgrowth of that right. If the government should fail to protect us from the bad guys, we would be left with anarchy and chaos. Government officials, especially those in the police force and military, have an obligation to protect the innocent civilians.

The Vedas tell us that each of us is born with certain qualities. We are all equal in a spiritual sense; i.e. we’re all spirit souls, part and parcel of God. But to live in this world, we assume different forms that possess different characteristics. Thus there can never be an equality of outcomes, as is so longed for by many. Since each of us possess different qualities, we naturally will have different desires and thus perform different work. In any society, there will be a group of people who are braver than the rest. This group will be chivalrous, strong, and prone to fighting under ethical guidelines. Since not every person will possess these qualities, it is incumbent upon those who do to take up the responsibility of protecting others. Should these people fail to abide by their duties, their skills and attributes essentially go to waste. If a person belongs to the warrior class of men, but takes up the occupational duties of a different class, who will be left to provide protection?

This concept holds true for each person in relation to their occupational duties and their qualities. Not only should the defenders defend, but the intelligent should teach. This was the example set by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. God is our supreme object of pleasure, and due to His causeless mercy, He kindly appears on earth from time to time to let us bask in that pleasure. Not only does the Lord descend to earth for the pleasure of the devotees, but He also comes to deal with the miscreants.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

Lord Krishna Aren’t all of us sinners? Shouldn’t God be here all the time to deal with all of us? We are all most certainly sinners to some degree or another, so the Lord doesn’t use that as justification for His appearances. In general, the Lord is neutral towards everyone since all of us are involved in some type of karmic activity. Karma refers to actions performed for the advancement of our bodily condition. In this respect, there is really no “good” or “bad” bodily condition as it relates to spiritual life. So when and why does God appear? He comes to give protection to His devotees. A person who loves God and spends all their time serving Him has no association with karma. The Lord certainly appreciates such service and He never wants to see it interrupted. Devotional service is executed perfectly when it is unmotivated and uninterrupted.

Where does the interruption come from? As we all know, not everyone is keen on spirituality. On the extreme end, there are many who are openly against spirituality and will do whatever they can to thwart the religious activities of others. When the strength of such demons becomes too great, the Lord personally descends to earth and deals with the situation. This was the case with Lord Rama, who appeared in Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. When the Lord comes to earth, His form is referred to as an avatara, which means one who descends. Where is He coming from? The spiritual world, Vaikuntha, a place free of anxieties, is the eternal home of the Lord and His non-different expansions. Though there are many religious systems, there is only one God, and He is for everyone. The Vedas tell us that God has many names in accordance with His infinite qualities and spiritual activities. His original name and form is Krishna, who then kindly expands Himself into other forms which also reside in the spiritual world. When the avatara appears on earth, it is usually one of Krishna’s expansions who makes the descent.

Lord Rama Appearing in the guise of a kshatriya, or warrior, Rama’s duty was to provide protection to the innocent. In those days, the Treta Yuga, governments were run by the warrior class. We shouldn’t think of it as the military men riding around with tanks and machine guns imposing marshal law on everyone. On the contrary, the kings were quite chivalrous during those times, and they didn’t perform any activity without first consulting the priestly class of men, the brahmanas. Lord Rama, being God Himself, obviously didn’t require any counsel from anyone, for He was the Brahman that the brahmanas were well aware of.

Not only was Rama extremely intelligent, but so was His younger brother Lakshmana. On one occasion, the two brothers were in the forest along with Rama’s wife, Sita, when she was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. This infamous deed went down while Rama and Lakshmana were not by Sita’s side to protect her. Upon returning to their cottage, Rama saw that Sita was missing, so He immediately felt tremendous grief. He started asking the flowers and trees if they had seen her. Then He took to anger and was ready to destroy the whole world as revenge for His wife being taken away from Him.

Lakshmana At this time, Lakshmana kindly stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. The above referenced statement was part of his concluding remarks. We see that Lakshmana wholly recognized Rama’s divinity and fighting ability. He essentially told Rama, “You are more than capable of defeating anyone in this world. Therefore it is Your duty to get up and try to find Sita. If someone has taken her or hurt her, then it is Your duty to kill them, something which You can easily do.” This one statement by Lakshmana is important for two reasons. If a person is capable of defeating enemies, it is their duty to take the necessary actions to do so. If the heroic lie down and give way to lamentation, what hope is there for anyone else? People will have no one to look to for help, and they will feel as if they are not protected. This predicament is part of the storyline of your average Hollywood action movie. The hero goes through some troubling circumstance and seriously contemplates giving up. The people then are left to cower in fear of the enemy.

Lord Rama obviously didn’t need this advice, but He certainly appreciated it. The Lord would heed Lakshmana’s words and resume His search for Sita, eventually finding her and killing Ravana in the process. The second lesson we can take away from Lakshmana’s statement is that if we have knowledge on spiritual matters, we should take every opportunity we can to disseminate that information to others. Lakshmana was Rama’s younger brother, and thus a subordinate. Moreover, Lakshmana looked at Rama as his father, an object of worship. In this troubling situation, seeing his elder brother’s intelligence taken away by grief, it would have been understandable if Lakshmana just sat silently and said nothing. But Lakshmana was an intelligent devotee, having been taught about dharma and spirituality many times previously by Lord Rama Himself. Thus Lakshmana didn’t hesitate to correct his brother, in the end reminding Rama that he was just reiterating the same teachings the Lord had imparted on him on previous occasions.

“The human life is especially meant for self-realization. That is to say, man should come to know what he is, what the world is, and what the supreme truth is. Human life is a means by which the living entity can end all the miseries of the hard struggle for life in material existence and by which he can return to Godhead, his eternal home.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.10 Purport)

Shrila PrabhupadaSo how do Lakshmana’s teachings relate to us? First off, we are all blessed with the human form of life; a form which, in the opinion of the Vedas, is considered most auspicious. Why is this so? It is only in the human form of life that we can understand who we are, what our relationship to God is, and how we can break out of the repeated cycle of birth and death. So immediately upon taking birth, we human beings possess capital in the sense that we can work towards acquiring spiritual profit. If we don’t spend this capital, if we don’t take the necessary steps to understand God, we are no more advanced than the animals.

“Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Shri Krishna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 7.128)

Lord Chaitanya and associates Then there are those who have been fortunate enough to learn about Krishna by reading the Bhagavad-gita or by hearing from other devotees. For such fortunate souls, it is their duty to try their best to spread this same information to as many people as possible. It doesn’t mean that we all have to take up the renounced order of life and open up hundreds of temples around the world. This certainly would be nice, but it’s not required. The simplest way to teach others about Krishna is to always speak about Him and to always chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chanting is one way to teach others, but we can also talk about Krishna’s pastimes, explain why the soul is more important than the body, etc. There are so many little things that we can do that will go a long way towards spreading God consciousness around the world. We should have no fear in this respect, for we all have some capability in this area. There is nothing lost in the process, while there is everything to be gained. Spiritual knowledge is a terrible thing to waste, so we should make the most of the opportunities we have. This was the path taken by Lakshmana, and we are forever grateful to him for the example he set.

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Waking Up

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 27, 2010

Lakshmana “O You of great intellect, not even the demigods can fathom the level of Your intelligence. Due to bereavement Your wisdom is currently in a dormant state, and I am here to rouse it.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.19)

Sleep is definitely something we need, but at the same time, we don’t want to be asleep when fun things are happening. In these situations, we prefer to be wide awake so we can enjoy the experience. In a similar manner, spiritual life is meant to provide unending bliss to the soul. In our conditioned state, we are forgetful of this fact, so in order to rekindle the internal spiritual spark inside, we need someone to wake us up from the long slumber that we have been in.

“O son of Bharata, the mode of ignorance causes the delusion of all living entities. The result of this mode is madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.8)

Krishna speaking to Arjuna Sleep equates to inactivity, so in Vedic terminology it is considered to be part of the mode of ignorance or darkness. Darkness and ignorance are essentially the same thing when discussing the issue of knowledge, for one who can’t see due to the absence of light will always be in ignorance. The daylight hours are much more fruitful since we can see everything clearly and go about our business without any impediments. The mode of ignorance consists of any activity which negatively affects us, or in the more strict definition, any activity which is lacking in intelligence or passion. It is obvious to see why too much sleep would be considered an activity devoid of intelligence and passion. We certainly aren’t acting with any knowledge when we sleep. Since the mind works in mysterious ways, we don’t even have control over what we will dream about. We don’t really acquire any knowledge while sleeping because we aren’t even able to think clearly. Acquiring knowledge requires thoughts and ideas to be taken into the brain, processed, and then formed into conclusions. When we sleep, we are unable to take in any new information, thus we have nothing new to process cognitively.

Sleep is also lacking in passion because we’re not actively working for a desired result. Sleep is the antithesis of activity, so there is essentially no progress made towards a positive outcome. This isn’t to say that resting isn’t required. Lord Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-gita that the true yogi doesn’t sleep too much or too little. Everything is done in moderation. So what are the effects of oversleeping? For starters, we’ll miss out on activities of interest. If we oversleep during a weekday, we will be late for work or school. This means that we will miss out on earning money at work or taking in new information at school. Ironically enough, oversleeping actually keeps us tired throughout the day, for the body becomes accustomed to inactivity.

Though sometimes we may think that sleeping all day would be fun, none of us would really prefer this lifestyle. Though sleep provides temporary relief from life’s pressures, there is no enjoyment in inactivity. So how do we conquer this desire to sleep? We must be active. We must have something that keeps us awake at night and gets us out of bed early in the morning. We have certainly experienced these situations in our lifetime. For example, young children love to stay up late on weekends. They’ll do whatever they can – watch television or play video games – in order to stay awake for as long as possible. On the other side of the equation, if we have something to do in the morning hours, we will make sure to get up on time. Nothing will get us up in the morning faster than if we have a plane to catch or a big meeting to attend. In these instances, sleep is of secondary concern.

Thus we see that the antidote for sleep is activity, or passion. It is more important to sleep to live, rather than live to sleep. Though passionate activity can break us away from our desire to sleep, it won’t help us in the spiritual sense. One may ask what is the difference. The answer is that every activity can be classified as material or spiritual. In the simplest definition, material activity can be thought of as anything that pertains to the development of the body.

“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bg. 8.3)

Lord Krishna Material activity is what constitutes karma. Most of us are familiar with this term already. If we see something bad happen to someone else, we’ll say, “Oh, they must have had bad karma.”, or, “Oh, they had this coming to them for a long time. From all the bad things they did previously, they accumulated so much bad karma.” So we associate karma with positive and negative fruitive results. This is certainly one valid definition for karma, but on a higher level, the term really pertains to any activity that leads to the further development of the body. When we speak of good and bad results, we are referring to conditions that affect the body, which is a covering consisting of both gross and subtle elements.

The subtle material elements are mind, intelligence, and false ego. Thus any fruitive result which leads to our happiness can be thought of as something that positively affects the subtle element of the mind. In a similar manner, good fortune such as wealth, fame, and beauty is beneficial to the gross elements, i.e. the outer body consisting of visible elements. The laws of karma are so intricate that the results of fruitive activity aren’t only seen in the current lifetime. Rather, karma also affects what type of body we receive in the next life. “The next life you say?” Yes, our soul is eternal but our bodies are not. Our current life is by no means the first one we’ve had. The soul never takes birth nor dies.

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

Lord KrishnaBased on these facts, we see that birth actually refers to the time when our soul accepted its current material covering. Even our current material covering changes, for we don’t have the same body that we used to have during our childhood. Birth and death refer to the body that we currently identify with. Thus karma affects the fortunes of the current and future outer coverings. Moreover, the activities we performed in previous lives determined the circumstances of our current birth and the body we received.

There is another type of activity, however, which is not related to karma. Since karma relates to the development of the material body, it has no bearing on the soul. The soul, or atma, forms the basis of our identity, and it is unchanging. The soul never changes in quality, but it does have one defect: it cannot determine where it will remain on its own. Free-will is certainly an essential characteristic of the soul, but the results of freedom are not in the hands of the soul. Since the soul’s movement is limited, it must associate with the senses it acquires while contained within a material body. In this sense, the soul appears to be trapped, for the gross senses will cause the soul to perpetually remain inside of a material dress through the laws of karma.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.6)

Lord Krishna Luckily for us there is another soul that resides side by side with our individual soul. This soul is known as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, and is a direct expansion of God. The Supreme Lord is so nice that He kindly expands Himself as the Supersoul and resides within the heart of every living entity. The Supersoul is a neutral observer, someone who is unaffected by karma. Since it is a direct representation of God, the Paramatma cannot be subject to the material forces.

So if the Paramatma is a neutral observer, why is it even inside our body? Couldn’t God just remain in the spiritual world and let everything happen on its own? He most certainly could do this, but He’d rather try to help awaken our dormant love for Him. Material activities are dictated by the demands of the senses, i.e. the body. Spiritual activities, however, are dictated by the Supersoul, the Supreme Spirit. Karma relates to the development of the material body, whereas spiritual activity relates to the future condition of the soul. It is not that the soul changes or acquires new attributes, but rather it evolves. This evolution occurs through a changing of bodies. If one engages exclusively in spiritual activities, the future development of the material body ceases. This development stops because one is guaranteed to receive a spiritual body in the next life. When one receives a spiritual body, they ascend to the spiritual planets, where God Himself personally resides. Anyone who goes there never has to leave.

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.15)

Hanuman So the formula seems straightforward enough. Take direction from the Supersoul and awaken from our sleeping state. But one question remains. How do we talk to the Supersoul? How do we take direction from it? The answer is that we must approach a pure devotee of the Lord, someone who has seen the truth. The Supersoul dictates from within, but one has to know how to see the Supersoul. This is where the spiritual master, or guru, comes in. The spiritual master guides us in the performance of spiritual activities, an engagement which will allow us to take direction from the Supersoul.

One of the greatest spiritual masters is Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. The Vedas tell us that there is only one God, and that His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, who is thus known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To kindly lend His assistance to the devotees on earth, Krishna periodically appears in the guise of a human being. One such appearance occurred many thousands of years ago when the Lord incarnated as the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama. Rama had three younger brothers, of whom Lakshmana was the one closest to Him in affection. Lakshmana followed Rama wherever He went, even when the Lord was exiled to the forest for fourteen years.

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana Both Rama and Lakshmana were married at the time of the exile punishment. Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita Devi, insisted on coming along, so the three travelled through the woods together for many years. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ravana. This all happened while Rama and Lakshmana were not with her. Upon returning to the campsite and seeing that Sita was missing, Rama immediately gave way to lamentation. He couldn’t live without His most precious Sita, who was devoted to Him in thought, word, and deed.

At this time, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. He told Rama not to lament and to remain firm on the path of dharma, or occupational duty. He instructed Rama that even if Sita were dead, it was still His duty to fight on and not lament, for every person must suffer through gain and loss in life. In essence, Lakshmana was serving as Rama’s spiritual master, awakening Him from His sleeping state. How could Lakshmana instruct God? In the above referenced statement, we see that even Lakshmana knew that no one could teach Rama anything. Lakshmana had actually learned all these pertinent facts relating to loss and gain from Rama on many previous occasions, and was thus only repeating Rama’s own instructions back to Him. Moreover, Lakshmana reiterated that he was simply trying to arouse knowledge that already existed inside of Rama. The Lord very much appreciated His younger brother’s counsel. This is the way the Supreme Pleasure Giver operates with His devotees. He has so much love and affection for them that He creates circumstances where they can shine. The Lord understands that people will chastise and criticize Him from time to time, which He is fine with, but He never wants to see His devotees criticized. Therefore He takes every opportunity to glorify them.

Shri Rama Darbar The lesson here is that we don’t know what the future holds. Even if we take to passionate activity and avoid sleep, we don’t know what karma will have in store for us. It is better to take shelter of the divine energy, represented by spiritual activity. The great devotees of the Lord advise everyone in this age to take to the simplest spiritual practice of them all, the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chanting, along with hearing, are the two most effective processes of devotional service. People engaged in such spiritual activity will slowly learn how to take direction from the Supersoul and thus reawaken their loving propensity towards the Supreme Lord.

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The Emblem of Loyalty

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 25, 2010

Lakshmana “O You of great intellect, not even the demigods can fathom the level of Your intelligence. Due to bereavement Your wisdom is currently in a dormant state, and I am here to rouse it.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.19)

Shri Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, is the emblem of loyalty. We can dig deep through the pages of written history and scour the earth, but we will never find a more loyal and praiseworthy figure than the beloved younger brother of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His loyalty and dedication to Rama shows us not only how to behave towards our own loved ones, but also how we are to attain the ultimate objective in life. Through unflinching loyalty to the Supreme Divine Entity, we can acquire all praiseworthy characteristics, while simultaneously advancing to the topmost platform of spiritual understanding.

Rama and Lakshmana Loyalty is considered laudable because it is an attribute not easily acquired. The living entity tends to act in its own self-interest; an interest which takes precedent over the interests of others. This behavior certainly isn’t condemnable on the surface, for who wouldn’t want to further their own condition? At the end of the day, we have to live with ourselves and the decisions we make, so who would want to take actions that would lead to misery? If we put the interests of others ahead of our own and end up miserable as a result, we’ll likely blame others for our ill-temperament.

For these reasons, true loyalty is seldom displayed. In the world of sports, it is rare nowadays to see players play for the same team throughout their careers. In days past, free agency was limited, so a player didn’t have much of a choice as to which team he could play for. Whichever team drafted him in the beginning of his career was the team he would likely play for throughout. Teams could always trade a player to another team, but the player had no say in this, so there was no dent made in their perceived loyalty.

Arod signing with the Texas Rangers With free agency, players in sports like baseball, basketball, football, and hockey could take their services elsewhere once their contracts expired. In the open marketplace, all workers are free agents in that they have a choice as to where they want to work. A professional sports league is more of a closed environment, so this freedom is limited. Free agency sought to introduce some of this mobility into the workings of the various leagues. As a result, it is quite common now to see teams drastically change from year to year. Once a star player is up for free agency – especially if they play for a team that doesn’t take in much revenue – it is likely that they will go to another team that will pay them a higher salary.

In recent history, no one was more maligned for his free agency transition than the baseball player Alex Rodriguez. A star shortstop for the Seattle Mariners franchise, Rodriguez signed a deal with the Texas Rangers franchise which was, at the time, the most lucrative contract ever offered. Obviously the driving force behind the decision to switch teams was money, so many in the sports media took to criticizing him for his lack of loyalty. The Mariners couldn’t come close to offering the same salary as the Rangers, so there was really no choice for Rodriguez, who was simply acting in his self-interest.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, and Hanuman Loyalty shows that a person is not a miser. It shows that they are grateful for any and all services provided to them in good faith. Of all the persons to ever have traversed this earth, one would be hard pressed to find a more loyal person than Shri Lakshmana. Lakshmana’s stature is enhanced by the fact that he hadn’t been offered much service from the object of his loyalty, his elder brother Rama. In this way, Lakshmana’s loyalty was not only unmatched and uninterrupted, but it was unmotivated. One could say that his behavior towards Rama was driven out of love, but since there was no expectation of reciprocation, we cannot describe this love as being selfish in any way.

Lakshmana’s loyalty was put to the test on many occasions, all of which were opportunities the great warrior prince looked forward to. Rama and Lakshmana roamed the earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. During that time period, royal orders took charge of the governments, and one of the most famous royal dynasties was the Ikshvaku. According to Vedic information, the original system of knowledge for the world, Maharaja Ikshvaku was one of the first kings on earth, so he was the emblem of chivalry, honor, and good governance. Those following in his line took it upon themselves to live up to his standard. Rama and Lakshmana appeared in this dynasty as sons of Maharaja Dasharatha. Rama was the eldest son, and He had three younger brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana, and Shatrughna. As is natural in many families, the siblings sort of grouped together at a young age. Bharata and Shatrughna took a liking to each other, while Rama and Lakshmana were inseparable. All three younger brothers were equally as pious and dedicated to Rama, but Lakshmana couldn’t live without Him. He refused to eat or sleep unless Rama had done so first.

“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

Lakshmana and Rama The most important day in a prince’s life is the day the reins of the kingdom are handed to him. When this day came for Rama, He kindly approached Lakshmana and asked him to rule the kingdom with Him. This showed that Rama certainly loved Lakshmana very much. Unfortunately, Rama’s coronation would have to wait, as events took a dramatic turn for the worse. Through the disloyal and selfish actions of Bharata’s mother, Kaikeyi, Rama was forced to leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years. Unbeknownst to him, Bharata was given the thrown, though he was away on business at the time. Ready to leave for the forest, Rama said goodbye to Lakshmana, but the dutiful younger brother refused to let Rama leave alone. Casting aside kith and kin, Lakshmana embarked for the forest with Rama, where the two would live as mendicants not having any claim to the royal perks that rightfully belonged to them. Lord Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, Sita Devi, also insisted on accompanying the Lord in His sojourn through the wilderness.

While in the forest, Sita would one day be kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. The Rakshasa devised a plan which temporarily lured Rama and Lakshmana away from Sita. Making the most of this short time period, the demon swooped in and took Sita back to his island kingdom of Lanka. Upon returning to their cottage, Rama realized that Sita was missing. Giving way to lamentation and grief, Rama lost His senses for a moment. Luckily for Him, His younger brother, the emblem of loyalty, the fearless fighter and defender of the innocent, Shri Lakshmana, was with Him.

Lakshmana It is one thing to pledge allegiance to someone, but it is another to actually prove this loyalty. As the saying goes, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”, true friendship and loyalty are measured during the bad times, not the good. It is easy to have friends and well-wishers when everything is going alright, but once the chips are down, once it looks like we are down and out, only our true friends stay with us. In Lakshmana’s case, he never failed to step up to the plate. In fact, as the going got tougher, Lakshmana got stronger and stronger. This was evidenced by the fact that when he saw Rama distraught and disheartened, he didn’t sit back and allow the Lord to remain in a weakened state. That would have been the easy thing to do, but Lakshmana never took the easy road in life. His only dharma, or occupational duty, was service to his elder brother.

Dharma is a Vedic term that is often translated as religiosity, duty, piety, or plain religion. The idea behind dharma is that of an essential characteristic. This definition is more appropriate because whatever a person deems as their essential characteristic is what they will adopt as their way of life, or occupational duty. Thus the characteristic, or dharma, leads to the perceived prescribed duty. One’s primary occupational duty can manifest through religion, piety, or religiosity; hence dharma is often equated to these terms. Vedic information states that every person assumes a different nature based on their karma, or the work they performed previously. Based on this nature, which unfolds in the form of consciousness, each person takes their essential characteristic to be something different. For instance, one person may deem themselves to be very scholarly. They feel that their essential characteristic is that of intelligence, so they take the acquisition of knowledge to be their dharma. Another person feels that their essential characteristic is one of a shrewd businessman whose aim it is to procure and enjoy as much wealth as possible. Thus they take to business as their occupational duty.

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

Lord Krishna Not only are there perceived primary characteristics, but secondary and tertiary ones as well. In this way, dharma gets applied to all areas of activity. There is even a dharma when it comes to building a house, i.e. a set of prescribed regulations that leads to the essential characteristic of a well-built housing structure. So there are many dharmas, but the Vedas tell us that there is one characteristic that reigns supreme. Not only does this characteristic trump all others, but it is actually the same for every form of life. This essential characteristic is that of a loving servant to the Supreme Divine Entity. The individuals are spirit souls at the core, and the Personality of Godhead is the Supreme Soul. The natural order of things is for the individual to be in constant association with the Supreme. This gives transcendental pleasure to both parties, so it is deemed the ultimate favorable condition. Those who take the reattachment of this connection as their foremost occupational duty, the most favorable and important characteristic to acquire, will be abiding by the highest dharma.

Lakshmana was a great warrior who was equally as powerful in battle as Rama. Lord Rama had previously killed 14,000 attacking Rakshasa demons in one sitting so to speak. In this way, He proved to be more than an ordinary man. Others might be tempted to challenge the notion that Rama is God, but simply based off His activities we can understand His divine nature. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that the Vedas mention in many different places, in many different books, that Shri Rama is the same original Divine Being who happens to appear on earth in the guise of a human being. Moreover, Rama was of the topmost character, someone who never openly claimed to be God. We know He is the Supreme Lord based off His activities, and also based on the loyalty shown to Him by Lakshmana. While others may take shelter of their own concocted dharmas, which result in the deification of various fallible entities and objects, the bhaktas, or devotees, are more than happy “taking their chances” worshiping Rama. Simply put, if someone as loyal, noble, and wonderful as Shri Lakshmana tells us that Rama is God, we will believe him. The gods created by the sense demands are always letting us down, but Shri Lakshmana never does. We will gladly follow him to heaven or hell, for simply hearing of his love and devotion to Rama is enough to keep us satisfied in any and all situations.

Lakshmana Seeing Rama lamenting over the loss of His wife, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. He essentially advised Rama to shake the incident off and continue with His search. His duties as a kshatriya prince called for Him to protect the innocent. Sita was in a dangerous situation, so it was Rama’s duty to try to save her. In the above referenced statement, Lakshmana is reminding Rama that since He is the Supreme Lord, no one is capable of providing Him instruction. Since Lakshmana is the emblem of loyalty to Rama, he kindly listened to all the instructions provided by the Lord on previous occasions. In this instance, Lakshmana is simply reminding Rama of His own teachings. The Lord greatly appreciated this reminder and would go on to rescue Sita and kill Ravana.

Lakshmana is the embodiment of the spiritual master, or guru. In order to succeed in reconnecting our spirit with the Supreme Spirit, we need someone to instruct us and show us the way in life. This shouldn’t be a foreign concept to anyone. In order to learn how to read, write, and do arithmetic, we need a good teacher. To regain our essential characteristic of loving servant of the Supreme, we need the greatest teacher, one who himself is already attached at the hip to the Supreme Lord. No one is more attached than Lakshmana, so his example is the one to follow. The bona fide spiritual master is one who is as loyal towards the Supreme Lord as Lakshmana. In this way, when looking for a guru, it is quite easy to tell the pretenders from the contenders. If a spiritual master is not loyal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and instead takes himself to be God or their own interests to be supreme, they will never successfully rescue anyone from the perpetual cycle of birth and death brought on by karma. On the other hand, one who is loyal to the Supreme Lord – one who believes in His ever-existing, transcendental form – will save anyone they teach, even if their teachings aren’t presented in an erudite manner.

Shri Rama Darbar Shri Lakshmana, as a warrior prince by trade, wasn’t outwardly viewed as a great scholar or spiritual master. Yet by remaining loyal to Rama, he had acquired all the knowledge he needed to execute his prescribed duty in life: service to the Lord. By following his example, we can never go wrong. Anyone who associates with this divine prince, who is himself a partial incarnation of Lord Vishnu, will surely acquire the greatest attribute known to man: loyalty to the Supreme Lovable Object, Shri Rama.

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