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Hooked Into This Deceiver

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 28, 2010

Arjuna and Krishna “The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

Lust is so strong that it devours all good judgment. An outgrowth of the mode of passion, lust can lead to anger, which can then lead to bewilderment and loss of rationale. This was the case with the Rakshasa demon Ravana many thousands of years ago. His lusty desire to enjoy another man’s wife cost him dearly in the end.

Ravana During the Treta Yuga, one particular Rakshasa was ascending to power. Known by the name of Ravana, this demon had ten heads and invincibility in battle. He had achieved this strength and fame through the performance of great austerities. He underwent severe penances, or tapasya, and pleased various demigods. They gifted him with several boons, one of which was that no celestial, animal, or other elevated living entity could defeat him in battle. In his haste, Ravana forgot to ask for immunity from ordinary human beings. The demigods used this loophole to put the pieces into place for his demise.

Ravana was granted all these boons and he in turn used them against the same class of people whom he had worshiped. Ravana took on and defeated his own brother, Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods. Fearing worldwide domination by the Rakshasas, the demigods petitioned Lord Vishnu to come to earth and kill Ravana. Lord Vishnu is God’s personal expansion. There are actually several different forms of Lord Vishnu, with each one of having a specific purpose. The Vedas tell us that God’s original form is that of Lord Krishna, but that Krishna then personally expands into several forms to carry out various functions. Lord Vishnu incarnated on earth as a human being by the name of Rama. When Vishnu comes to earth, his closest associates from the spiritual world usually come with him. Lord Vishnu’s eternal consort in the spiritual world is Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

Aside from being exquisitely beautiful and extremely pious, Lakshmi’s trademark characteristic is her devotion to Narayana, or Vishnu. When she came to earth, she played the same role as God’s pleasure potency. Lakshmi incarnated as Sita Devi, the daughter of the pious king of Mithila, Maharaja Janaka. When They reached an appropriate age, Sita and Rama were united through the bonds of holy matrimony. In order to compass Ravana’s death, Rama needed an excuse to attack Ravana. To this end, the Lord accepted a fourteen year exile punishment to the forest handed out by His father. Sita and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, insisted on accompanying Rama on His journey. On one occasion while the group was in the forest of Janasthana, Rama was visited by Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha. An argument ensued which resulted in Shurpanakha being disfigured by Lakshmana. She immediately went to Ravana and explained what had happened. Ravana then sent 14,000 Rakshasas to attack Rama, but the Lord easily killed all of them.

“I am your dear friend and ask you again to desist from this plan. If you should aggressively take Sita away by force, you and your relatives will lose your life and be taken to the abode of Yamaraja, being destroyed by Rama’s arrows.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.33)

Shurpanakha running back to Ravana One of the Rakshasas, Akampana, managed to escape and relayed to Ravana what had happened. He advised Ravana not to attack Rama, but to devise a plan to kidnap Sita. He believed that since Rama loved Sita so much, He wouldn’t be able to live without her. Ravana was greatly intrigued by this idea. Just by hearing about Sita’s beauty, he had to have her. He immediately went to his advisor, Maricha, and proposed the idea to him. In the above referenced quote, Maricha is strongly advising Ravana against such a plan. Maricha was no fool. On a previous occasion, he had tried to attack the venerable Vishvamitra Muni while in Rama’s presence. The Lord punished Maricha so badly that he was lucky to still be alive afterwards. Maricha warned Ravana not to mess with Rama, for that would lead to his destruction.

At the time, Ravana was living in a sinner’s paradise. The Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana gives us a vivid description of Ravana’s city of Lanka, and all the beautiful palaces contained within. Lord Hanuman, Rama’s eternal servant, later travelled to Lanka in search of Sita after she was kidnapped. He saw first-hand what life was like for Ravana. Ravana and the other Rakshasas were always drunk. They would stay up late into the night and enjoy drinking wine and having sex. Ravana had many beautiful wives and they used to drink with him too. When Hanuman travelled through the palaces, he saw the women were all passed out from drinking and that some had fallen asleep on each other. Meat eating was also very common, for Rakshasas even ate human flesh.

Sita Devi With all this opulence, what need did Ravana have for Sita? His desire to steal another man’s wife shows the illusory nature of material sense gratification. Our material senses can actually never be satisfied. Our body is a deceiver in a sense, and we are hooked into this deceiver, thinking that the more we satisfy it, the happier we will be. The Vedas tell us that true happiness can only be found in the spiritual world. To this end, they recommend that we strictly control our sense gratification through the practice of tapasya.

“And that sacrifice performed in defiance of scriptural injunctions, in which no spiritual food is distributed, no hymns are chanted and no remunerations are made to the priests, and which is faithless—that sacrifice is of the nature of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.13)

Yet we see that Ravana performed many great austerities in his early life and still ended up being extremely addicted to sinful activity. What happened? The Vedas tell us that the material world is governed by three gunas, or modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Every activity we perform can be categorized into one of these three modes. This applies to religious activity as well. Ravana’s austerities were performed in the mode of ignorance, meaning they were detrimental to his future well-being. He only performed religious activities so that he could engage in sinful life. This is not the purpose of religion. Sacrifice and austerity are meant for bringing one closer to God. By regulating the senses, our minds remain at ease and thus it becomes easier to learn about God.

Trying to steal Lakshmi is one of the most grievous sins. Lakshmiji is meant to be enjoyed only by God Himself. Yet since she is the goddess of fortune, she is still kind enough to send material opulence our way from time to time. In fact, Ravana even had a fountain of Goddess Lakshmi in his kingdom. This illustrates another folly on his part. Though technically considered a demigod, Lakshmi is God’s pleasure potency expansion, hladini-shakti. She is actually a great devotee and an example of how to achieve perfection in life. God is the master and we are His servants. Those who realize this fact will be happy, and those who don’t will be forever miserable. As part of her duties, Lakshmi bestows wealth and fortune to those who please her. She is often depicted seated on a lotus flower and distributing gold coins from her hands. But this wealth must be used for the right purposes, otherwise it will lead to our downfall.

Goddess Lakshmi Lakshmiji provides us good fortune so that we may use it for serving God. If we use money for nefarious purposes, we are essentially stealing Lakshmi. This is exactly what Ravana did. He kidnapped Sita and tried to keep her for himself, but this can never happen. Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and the rest of the Vanara army would eventually march to Lanka and rescue Sita.

Maricha’s warning would serve as a foreshadowing of events to come. As a spiritual guide to Ravana, Maricha gave him sound advice on what to do. He had seen God’s power firsthand, so he was relaying that information to Ravana. Not only did he describe Rama’s glories to Ravana, but he also advised his ten-headed friend to use that information to avoid acting sinfully. In a similar manner, the great Vaishnava acharyas and saints have written many books about Krishna and devotion to Him. They too have seen the Lord’s opulences firsthand. These saints advise us to give up sinful life and to take up devotional service to the Lord. If we follow their advice, we can be assured of not ending up like Ravana.

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Easily Illusioned

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 23, 2010

Lord Krishna “O Brahma, whatever appears to be of any value, if it is without relation to Me, has no reality. Know it as My illusory energy [maya], that reflection which appears to be in darkness.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.34)

One of the most harmful aspects of material life is that it can never be satisfying enough. Material life means associating with maya, or God’s energy which pervades the material creation. Maya tells us that we will be happy trying to satisfy our senses through various activities, thus tempting us into taking up sinful activity. Not only do sins carry negative future consequences, but they have an inherent illusory aspect. This illusion clouds our minds and leads us astray from the path of righteousness, or dharma. If sinful activity continues unchecked, it can lead to our demise.

Sanatana dharma Dharma means religion, religiosity, or righteousness. There can be different duties for different people based on time and circumstance, but the underlying system of spiritual life is known as sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man. The Vedas tell us that the eternal dharma is something that never changes, meaning man has only one primary duty in life; that of reconnecting with God. Sometimes people shy away from religion or religious life because they don’t like the rules and regulations associated with it. On the surface, it appears that religion punishes people for no reason. “All the pain and suffering that goes with religious life, why would I want to subject myself to that? Life should be fun, and I don’t want to waste my time punishing myself.” In reality, dharma exists to make our life fun. What we currently view as fun, material life and sinful activity, actually causes us great harm in the end.

There are various definitions for what actually constitutes sinful activity or sinful life, but at its core, a sin is something that goes against scriptural injunctions. Sins have negative reactions attached to them, such as punishment in hellish planets in the afterlife, but the most detrimental part of sinful life is that it causes one to be bound to the cycle of birth and death. Our soul is eternal, but our body is not. The activities of this life are a preparation for the next life. In the same way that we make plans for the next day, week, and month in our day-to-day affairs, the aggregate total of our actions in this life works towards developing the type of body we receive in the next life. Our consciousness, developed by our work and desires, at the time of death determines where are soul will next end up.

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

Lord Krishna At the time of death, if our consciousness in on the spiritual platform, i.e. things relating to Krishna or one of His expansions, we assume a spiritual body in the next life. A spiritual body is a requirement for those desiring residence on a spiritual planet. Spiritual planets are free of miseries and suffering, and they are eternal. Just the opposite is true with the material planets. The repeated performance of sinful activity causes our consciousness at the time of death to be on material things. The four primary sinful activities are meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. The negative reactions to these activities are easily perceptible. Meat eating involves unnecessary violence towards animals, gambling involves some sort of cheating, intoxication removes our cleanliness both within and without, and illicit sex causes us to be attached to sex life. These four activities are the most harmful because they keep the mind attached to the temporary, miserable world.

“The material atmosphere, in which we are now living, is called maya, or illusion. Maya means "that which is not." And what is this illusion? The illusion is that we are all trying to be lords of material nature, while actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. When a servant artificially tries to imitate the all-powerful master, he is said to be in illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 5c)

Maya is known as God’s illusory energy because she entices us into acting sinfully. Illusion means taking something to be what it is not. Since maya causes us to be bound to the cycle of birth and death, she is the cause of misery. However, her true illusion lies in the fact that she makes us think we’ll be happy by associating with her. Modern society is a perfect illustration of this fact. As time continues to pass from the beginning of creation, man’s affinity for adharma, or irreligion, steadily increases. We are currently in the last of the four Yugas, Kali Yuga, so we see that adherence to dharma is minimal. This means that sinful activity is rampant. Due to our rebellious nature, we are constantly trying to introduce more and more sinful activity into our daily lives.

Modern society is practically a sinner’s paradise. Many people think that Christians or other religious groups are on the rise today, but one look at the current situation in America disproves this notion. Millions of animals are killed in the slaughterhouses each year, including poor innocent cows. Religious leaders raise no objection to these activities. Gambling is so rampant that many state governments actually promote it since it brings in higher tax revenues. Intoxication is so widespread that there are growing movements to legalize more forms of it, such as marijuana use. Illicit sex is not restricted in any way. Men and women freely intermingle, and if a woman happens to get pregnant by accident, there is no hesitation in killing the unborn child in the womb through the abortion process. In many states, men can marry men and women can marry women without a problem. Marriage is actually a religious institution created by God as a way to curb sex life, but modern society has made up its own definition and use for it.

State of the Union address The atheists and those committed to adharma should be thrilled with the current situation. They’ve gotten everything they wanted. Since there is virtually no self-policing with regards to sinful activity, everyone should be happy, no? Well we see that this is obviously not the case. If anything, people are more unhappy today than they have ever been. The political landscape proves this notion. The country has jumped from one party to another. The State of the Union Addresses given by presidents are eagerly anticipated, for people are looking for anything to bring them out of their misery. Others are constantly worrying that all of their wealth and possessions will disappear in an instant through economic forces. Others are worried their life of sense gratification will come to an end.

So we see that addiction to sinful activity actually proves to be more harmful than beneficial. This is proof of the illusion. It is similar to how young children complain about the rules imposed by the parents. Good parents force their children to regulate their eating, sleeping, and leisure habits. Meals must be eaten on time, junk food must be avoided, and television viewing is regulated. The current societal predicament is equivalent to putting the children in charge of the house. If the kids were to run things, they would eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Ice cream, candy, and pizza would be served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Adult movies and video games would be on the television day and night. Everyone would go to sleep very late, for there would be no benefit to sleeping on time and getting up early. This life seems appealing to children, but if they were left in charge, they would soon suffer misery as a result of their unregulated activities. This is how maya works. If we associate with her, we will never be satisfied, and in the end, we will meet with doom.

Hanuman laying siege to Lanka A great example of this was seen many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, which is the second time period of creation. A Rakshasa demon by the name of Ravana had ascended to power. After performing great austerities, he pleased the demigods and received material benedictions from them. Ravana became so powerful that no one could defeat him in battle. He set up a kingdom on the island of Lanka where he and his fellow Rakshasas dedicated their lives to sinful activity. Lanka, like society today, was a sinner’s paradise. On one occasion Lord Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Rama, travelled through Ravana’s kingdom. The Sundara-kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana details what Hanuman saw. Lanka was full of opulence, with many beautiful palaces made of gold. Ravana himself had hundreds of beautiful wives. Everyone was always drunk off wine, with many of the women falling asleep on each other since they were so intoxicated. Ravana himself used to drink wine into the wee hours of the night and enjoy sex life with all his queens. Rakshasas also were dedicated meat eaters. They would range the night and kill great sages and then eat their flesh.

To give protection to the saintly class, Lord Krishna came to earth as Lord Rama, a gallant and brave kshatriya warrior. To protect the sages from the Rakshasas, Rama roamed the forests of India for a brief period of time, accompanied by His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. On one occasion, Ravana’s sister went to Rama’s cottage and propositioned Him. An argument ensued with Lakshmana eventually disfiguring her. She then returned to Lanka and told her brother what happened. Ravana then sent 14,000 Rakshasas to attack Rama. The Lord single-handedly killed all of them without any effort. One of the Rakshasas, Akampana, escaped and returned to Lanka and told Ravana what had transpired. He warned Ravana not to attack Rama, for the demon would be easily defeated in battle. Instead, he advised Ravana to try to kidnap Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita.

“O Ravana, you will see your city of Lanka, which currently is filled with great palatial buildings bedecked with jewels, devastated on account of your desire to kidnap Maithili (Sita).” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.25)

RavanaRavana liked this idea and went to his advisor, Maricha, to see if he could help. In the above referenced statement, Maricha is sternly warning Ravana against such a plan. He knew that if Ravana were to kidnap Sita, Rama would march to Lanka and destroy Ravana and his city. This is a great example of how maya works. Ravana had every material opulence imaginable. No demigod could defeat him in battle; he had all the wine he could ever want, and he had hundreds of beautiful queens. Yet simply by hearing of Sita’s beauty, he became deadest of committing the most heinous of crimes. This is the allure of illicit sex, the most dangerous of all sinful activities.

It was all because of one woman that Ravana lost everything. Though Ravana didn’t take his advice, Maricha’s words would hold true, as Rama would indeed end up killing Ravana in retaliation for Sita’s kidnap. Rama destroyed everything that Ravana worked so hard to achieve. The lessons from Ravana’s life are many, the most important of which is that sinful activity should be curbed. Does this mean we should simply sit quietly and renounce all activity? We can certainly try this method, but it will be very difficult to perform. This is because it is the inherent nature of the soul to be active and to want variety in its activities. An easier way to avoid sinful life is to take to bhakti yoga, or devotional service.

Hanuman performing devotional service The beauty of devotional service is that it not only helps us avoid sinful life, but it reconnects us with God. This is its primary function. Everything directly related to God is spiritual. The Supreme Lord is referred to as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all opulences and fortunes. Anything directly related to Him or His service is known as bhagavata. Devotional service is thus known as bhagavata-dharma because of its relation to Bhagavan, or God. There are nine different processes of devotional service, with chanting and hearing being the foremost among them. Hearing about God and regularly reciting His name will make us happier and happier, and help us prepare our spiritual body for the next life. There is nothing illusory about activities in devotional service, for the results come as advertised.

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Highway to Hell

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 20, 2010

Lord Krishna on the attack “Bewildered by false ego, strength, pride, lust and anger, the demon becomes envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated in his own body and in the bodies of others, and blasphemes against the real religion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.18)

Once we witness God’s power and gain a firm understanding of His dominion over all that is, it is a good idea to use that knowledge for our benefit. If after learning about God and His various energies, we remain dedicated to the path of irreligion, we will certainly be doomed. This was the dubious path taken by the Rakshasa demon Ravana many thousands of years ago. Due to his offenses, he had to suffer greatly.

Ravana During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, Rakshasas roamed the earth along with humans and many other species. We see today that archaeologists and other scientists theorize about various species that existed many thousands of years ago but that are now extinct. With the aid of Vedic science, we don’t have to theorize about what roamed the earth during notable periods in history. The Vedas come from God, and they are the original system of religion. Their central tenet is that we living entities take our identity from the spirit soul residing within us. Our arms, hands, legs, brain, etc. are all a temporary covering for the soul. This body is temporary because it manifests at some point, performs activities, generates byproducts, and eventually withers away. The soul inside the body remains intact throughout this time.

From the authorized statements of the Vedas, we also understand that the soul has never taken birth, nor will it ever die. It is sanatana, or eternal. Since the soul is described as sanatana, its natural occupational duty is also eternal. In this way, the real religion for all of mankind is known as sanatana-dharma. Since we are pure spirit souls, our makeup is identical to that of God. However, we are not equal to God because our spirit soul has no power to create, nor does it have complete control over its wanderings. God is the great soul, or Paramatma, and we are minute souls, jivatma. As jivatmas, we sometimes have an inkling to imitate God. To facilitate this desire, the Lord allows the spirit soul to associate with material nature; a nature which is considered to be part of God’s inferior energy. Matter is inferior to spirit because matter can’t do anything on its own. We celebrate the life of a person provided that the spirit soul remains inside their body. At the time of death, the soul departs and the body remains, and yet we immediately realize that the person is dead. The body, which is nothing more than matter, is considered useless without a soul to drive its activities and functions.

When the soul comes in contact with the material energy, it assumes a body composed of the material qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Through desire and work, the soul transmigrates from one body to another, life after life. Since the material qualities can be combined together into many different proportions, the Vedas tell us that the spirit soul can actually take birth in one of 8,400,000 different species. The Rakshasas are one of these species. They are human-like in most respects, but they have a fundamental flaw. Rakshasas are demons by nature, meaning they are dedicated to adhrama, or irreligion. They lack the fundamental knowledge of the difference between matter and spirit, and thus they falsely identify with their body.

Lord Krishna If a person doesn’t believe in God, the afterlife, or the existence of the soul, they will naturally take to sinful activity as a way of life. The root cause of all sinful activity is our forgetfulness of God. One can argue as to what specific activities constitute sin and which don’t, but in reality, not believing in God and then acting on that belief forms the basis for every sin. Aside from various punishments doled out in the afterlife, the most detrimental thing about sinful activity is that it causes one to be found to the cycle of birth and death.

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

God is very fair. If we want to forget Him and think of ourselves as God, He will not stand in our way. The Rakshasas that roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga fell under this category of sinners. They wanted to forget God and act in an impious manner, and they were duly rewarded. Rakshasas were rangers of the night who were expert in the art of black magic. They could assume various shapes at will and could also produce illusions and spells at the drop of a hat.

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.20)

Aside from meat eating and intoxication, one of the favorite activities of the Rakshasas was harassing the saints living in the forest. Suras, or devotees, are the exact opposite of Rakshasas, or asuras. Brahmanas and advanced devotees are aware of the most confidential knowledge of the Vedas which states that there is an undivided nature that exists between living entities. Since every human being, animal, plant, etc. is really a spirit soul, there is technically no difference between any of us. Since our soul is an expansion of God, we are non-different from Him in a sense. It’s not that we are all God, but rather we are all originally part of His superior energy. Devotees, understanding these facts, take to bhakti yoga, or devotional service, as a way of life.

Hanuman performing devotional service Devotional service is the opposite of sinful life. By trying to imitate God, we slowly build up karma, both good and bad. As long as we have an associated karma, we are forced to transmigrate between the various species. Devotional service is above karma because it is a discipline aimed at pleasing the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. God is the origin of spirit, so anything directly associated with Him is considered spiritual. Devoting our activities to Him means we are directly associating with the superior energy. This energy is untouched by karma.

Rakshasas don’t like devotees. In ancient times, the demons would range the night and terrorize the sages living in the forest. Maricha was one such demon. He had received great material benedictions from Lord Brahma, thus he thought himself to be invincible in battle. On one particular occasion, he attacked the sacrificial altar set up by Vishvamitra Muni in the forest. To his surprise, Maricha was thwarted in his attack by a young boy who was guarding Vishvamitra. This young child, who was less than twelve years of age, drew a string to His bow and shot an arrow at Maricha. The force of that arrow was so strong that it flung Maricha hundreds of miles away into an ocean.

Lord RamaWhat Maricha didn’t know was that this boy was Lord Rama, God Himself appearing in human form. God, at any age and in any form, can provide perfect protection to His devotees. Vishvamitra had humbly requested Rama to accompany him in the forest and give him protection from the attacks of the Rakshasas. Maricha’s life was spared on that occasion, but those of his fellow Rakshasas weren’t. Rama easily killed the other Rakshasas and put such a scare into Maricha that the demon wouldn’t dare attack Him again.

“Thus I was set free by Rama at the time. However, He killed all of your assistants without any trouble, even though He was only a child at the time and not very well versed in using His weapons. It is for this reason that I’m trying to prevent you from going through with your plan to kidnap Sita. If you create enmity with Rama, you will be overwhelmed with calamities and put into a miserable condition very quickly. You will ruin yourself and you will certainly bring about great distress and affliction to all the sportive Rakshasas of your kingdom, who currently engage their time in conjugal pleasures, performing religious functions, and attending festive social gatherings.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.22-24)

Maricha kept this incident in his memory at all times. Many years later, the leader of the Rakshasas, the ten-headed Ravana, was planning an attack on Rama in the forest of Janasthana. In the above referenced quote, Maricha is trying his best to dissuade Ravana from angering Rama. Maricha stressed the point that when Rama had so badly beaten him, He was just a young child who hardly knew anything about the art of warfare. Many years had passed since that incident, so Rama surely had only become stronger.

Maricha actually didn’t need to tell Ravana all of this. What predicated this decision from Ravana was the fact that Rama had just killed 14,000 of his men in the forest of Janasthana. Rama, His wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana, were serving a fourteen year exile term in the forest when Ravana’s band of Rakshasas came to attack them. Rama easily killed all the demons and now Ravana wanted revenge. In trying to dissuade Ravana, Maricha also warned him that fighting with Rama would only lead to destruction. Maricha had already messed with God and paid the price for it. He had learned his lesson. Rather than see Ravana repeat the same mistake, Maricha tried his best to save his Rakshasa friend.

Lord Krishna deity The lesson here is that it is never too late to turn our life around. God’s presence is felt all around us. We don’t need to fight with Him in order to see that He exists. Every morning when we wake up, we get another chance to abandon our futile attempt to imitate God. A new day means a new chance to take up devotional service, the eternal occupation of the spirit soul.

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Rakhe Krishna

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 19, 2010

Lord Krishna with His cows “Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is omnipotent, and if He wants to kill someone, no one can save that person. Similarly, if He wants to save someone, no one can kill him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 17)

An untimely death is certainly a cause for sadness. Friends and family of the departed are left to ponder over what could have been done to avoid the death. “If only they ate better during their lifetime. If only they exercised more, maybe they could have lived longer.” With accidental deaths, this second-guessing becomes even worse, for we think of little things that could have been done to avoid the tragedy. The fact of the matter is that we have no control over when birth and death occur. God is the Supreme Controller, and through His energies every event in this world takes place. For those who God wants to save, no one can kill them; and for those He wants to kill, no one can save them (rakhe krishna mare ke mare krishna rakhe ke).

Lord Krishna One may wonder why God would want to kill someone. After all, aren’t we all sinners? This is most certainly true. We are all guilty of the original sin of wanting to imitate God. Though we don’t have the ability to remember, we have actually had many previous lives on earth. The reason behind our repeated births lies in the fact that we want to imitate God. It is seen that young children often try to imitate the activities of their parents. Parents are adults and as such they can perform adult activities that are prohibited for children. Even things as simple as walking and talking are difficult to perform for infants and small children. In a similar manner, we spirit souls are children of the supreme father, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We too have a desire to imitate our father by thinking ourselves to be God. This material world was created to facilitate this desire. The earth and all the other planets in the universe serve as a playground of sorts. Just as youngsters head out to the baseball field and pretend to be their favorite baseball player, we living entities perform karmic activity with the aim of pretending to be just like God. We think in terms of “I” and “Mine”, when in fact God is the original proprietor of everything.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

In our material pursuits, God plays no direct role. We are all His children, so He is by default neutral towards all of us. So what causes our birth and death? With every action that we perform, there is a commensurate reaction. The merits and demerits of our deeds must come to fruition, either in this life or the next. This is the law of karma. They say that justice is blind, but we see that it is often administered unfairly. Friends and contributors of government leaders often get a pass when it comes to punishment for law breaking. Sometimes the wealthy can buy their way out of trouble by hiring expensive lawyers to get them off on legal technicalities. Karma doesn’t work this way. It is completely fair and applies to everyone. God doesn’t play favorites when it comes to those who want to imitate Him. In essence, He tells us, “Go ahead, but remember that karma is there to govern things. You are not the only person who is performing fruitive activity. Other people have desires as well and they have an equal right to pursue them.”

Super Bowl champions When you put billions of living entities together in one playground, there are bound to be injuries and calamities. These result from the collision of desires. In football, there can only be one Super Bowl champion each year, meaning that the other teams in the league will be considered losers at the end of each season. The winners and losers change year to year, and the material world is similar in this regard. Birth and death constantly occur based on the activities of the living entities. Lord Krishna tells us that death is simply a changing of bodies, for the soul remains intact throughout our various lifetimes.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.13)

Birth and death occur according to our desires. Knowing this, we shouldn’t overly lament over the death of others, even if the deaths occur through tragedies. When horrific tragedies occur, we often wonder what could have been done to stop them. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 were an example of this. Thousands of innocent people died simply because they showed up to work one day. If they had just taken the day off, they would have been spared. Several people were scheduled to be on the airplanes that crashed that day, yet for some reason or another, they missed their flights and were saved.

The material world is a replica of the spiritual world, but there is one key difference. The spiritual world is eternal, but the material world is not. Just as our bodies come into being, live for some time, and then get discarded, the universe is the same way. God creates, maintains, and then ultimately destroys everything. After some time, He creates again; thus even the planets go through cycles of birth and death. So in essence, the world we live in can be classified as a miserable place due to its temporary nature. What goes up must come down. When will the actual rising and falling happen? No one knows except God.

Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, Lord Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama. In His youth, Rama was sent to the forest along with His younger brother, Lakshmana, to accompany and protect the venerable Vishvamitra Muni. Lord Rama appeared in a kshatriya family, so His occupational duty was that of a military man. Since He was God Himself, He was a great fighter, but Vishvamitra also helped things along by teaching Rama and Lakshmana how to chant mantras specific to the art of warfare. When God comes to enact pastimes, He not only gives pleasure to His devotees, but He sets the proper example for mankind to follow. Rama didn’t require a spiritual master, for He is the source of all Vedic knowledge. Nevertheless, He humbly submitted Himself before His gurus, Vashishta and Vishvamitra, in order to show us how we can advance in spiritual life.

Lord Rama One of the primary duties of a brahmana, or sage, is the performance of Vedic sacrifices, or yajnas. During Lord Rama’s time, the forest was a great place for performing austerities and sacrifices because it was peaceful and quiet. However, many demons were ranging the forest at nighttime and disrupting the sacrifices of the sages. It was for this reason that Vishvamitra sought the aid of Rama and Lakshmana. On one particular occasion, Vishvamitra had a fire sacrifice going when the demon Maricha came and attacked. Lord Rama quickly strung His bow and struck Maricha so hard that he was thrown miles and miles away into the ocean.

“My dear Ravana, that hero did not wish to kill me then, and thus my life was spared. Yet due to the great force of Rama’s weapons, I was completely vanquished and left bewildered. Thus I remained fallen in the deep ocean water due to Rama’s efforts. O my dear Ravana, after finally regaining my senses, I made my way back towards the city of Lanka.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.20-21)

In the above reference statement, we see that Maricha realized that Rama easily could have killed him, but didn’t. Though God is neutral towards all living entities, He makes an exception for His devotees. Unlike the gross materialists, devotees have realized that this world is not their permanent home. The spiritual world is our natural home, but we can only return there if we want to. Our desires at the time of death determine the type of body we receive in the next life. If we have spiritual desires, we will get a spiritual body. We can only receive a spiritual body in the spiritual world where Lord Krishna and His various expansions reside. It is nearly impossible to guarantee what our desires will be at the time of death since we never know when exactly death will come. For this reason, it is important to take to devotional service, or bhakti yoga, as the primary occupation in one’s life. This will increase the likelihood that we will think of Krishna while quitting the body.

Vishvamitra was a great devotee of God, so Rama made sure to protect Him. There was nothing Maricha or another any Rakshasa could do to harm the sages while Rama was present. Maricha had attained great boons from Lord Brahma, and on account of this, he thought he was powerful enough to defeat Rama. He was sorely mistaken. Yet we see that Rama spared Maricha’s life on this occasion. This proves that if God wants to save someone, there is nothing that anyone can do to stop Him. Maricha realized Rama’s true power and relayed this information to Ravana, the king of the demons. He tried his best to prevent Ravana from attacking Rama or angering Him in any way. Sadly, Ravana would not heed Maricha’s advice, and instead went through with his plan to kidnap Rama’s wife Sita. Maricha was forced into helping Ravana with this plan by acting as a decoy. Maricha assumed the guise of a deer and appeared again in front of Rama to distract Him. This time Maricha wouldn’t be so lucky, as Rama would end up killing Him with His arrow.

Sita and Rama spotting Maricha The lesson is that there is nothing we can do to prevent death. We may make minor adjustments here and there, but death is bound to happen. We do have a way to stop birth however. If we take to devotional service and think of God at the time of death, we are guaranteed to never come here again. The other benefit to performing bhakti yoga is that God personally sees to it that we remain protected from demons. He takes charge of our life, meaning that karma can never touch us. Since God pays special attention to His devotees, death turns into a welcome occasion, for it signals the time that we get to return to the spiritual world.

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Forever Young

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 17, 2010

Lord Rama “Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.19)

The Vedas tell us that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the fountainhead of all other incarnations and expansions of God. The major religions of the world may have different names for God, but this doesn’t mean there is a different God for everybody. God is one and He is meant to be worshiped and adored by everyone. Even though He can take various forms, there is still only one God. Even Lord Krishna Himself has various forms, but the authorized statements of the Vedas tell us that His original form is that of a youth.

Lord Krishna This may seem odd at first. God is great. Most everyone knows this. The Vedas even try to describe His greatness by referring to Him as Bhagavan, meaning one who has all fortunes. Bhagavan possesses the qualities of wisdom, renunciation, strength, wealth, fame, and beauty to the fullest degree and at the same time. We may know someone who is very powerful and beautiful, but it would be difficult for them to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the richest person in the world. Beauty is also subjective, so claiming to be the most beautiful is also hard to prove. Even if a person does possess these opulences, since they are mortal they are destined to give up all these attributes at the time of death. God is eternal, meaning He always possesses wealth, beauty, fame, etc. He is the most famous because He has been around forever. In fact, the conceptions of time and space don’t exist in the spiritual world. They only exist in the material world as a way to represent the outer limits of the powers of the human brain.

Since God is so great, we have a tendency to imagine Him as being gigantic, an awe-inspiring figure. Some religions even depict God to be an old man. This seems like a logical conclusion for the Lord is the wisest person and has bestowed His wisdom upon us through written scripture. The Vedic scriptures are also referred to as the shastras, meaning law codes or that which governs. Coming up with laws and governing documents through consensus is one thing, but God created the scriptures all on His own. Real religion refers to that discipline which can teach us how to know, understand, and love God. We tend to associate wisdom and intelligence with learned academic scholars. These intellectuals are usually old and wear glasses. This also makes sense because we see that as we get older, we tend to become wiser due to our life experiences.

“Krishna does not increase His age that although He is the oldest personality and has innumerable different forms, His original form is always youthful.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion)

Lord Krishna Yet the Vedas tell us that God does not appear old at all. He never takes birth, nor does He die, thus He doesn’t need to acquire any wisdom. His knowledge is eternal, for no one taught God how to do anything. Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth some five thousand years ago to enact various pastimes. His most celebrated activities are those He performed as a child in Vrindavana. When God comes to earth, He doesn’t accept a material body, but He still gives the impression that He is an ordinary human. This is for the benefit of His devotees. God wants us to love Him, but He will never force us to become devotees. Even after delivering the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Krishna still left the choice up to Arjuna as to what to do next.

“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.63)

Appearing in the guise of a young child, Krishna performed wonderful activities such as stealing butter, killing various demons, playing with His young friends in the field, and even dancing with the young cowherd girls of Vrindavana known as the gopis.

To the outsider, these activities may seem strange for God. “If He is God, why is He dancing with girls? Why is He accepting the body of a child and drinking breast milk from Mother Yashoda? This person can’t be God.” This is the mystery of the Lord. Many people wonder why God doesn’t appear for them or why they can’t see God. Well the truth is that the Lord is right there in front us, but we need the proper set of eyes to see Him. Ordinary material eyes are not enough. We can see examples of this principle by studying the Lord’s various incarnations and advents on earth. Demons got see the Lord face-to-face, but they could not properly identify Him.

Lord Rama One such encounter took place between Lord Rama and the demon Maricha. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, Krishna appeared on earth in human form as a kshatriya prince named Rama. As stated before, Lord Krishna can never assume a material body. In fact, He can never associate with material nature, which is a manifestation of His inferior energy. This is the difference between the living entities, jiva-tattva, and God, vishnu-tattva. We are similar to God in quality, but we are vastly inferior to Him in quantitative powers. Due to our qualities and desires, we have the ability to interact with material nature; something which is both temporary and miserable. God, on the other hand, is the source of both the spiritual and material energies. Therefore even when He appears on earth through His various incarnations, He never actually associates with maya. His body is always full of bliss and knowledge.

In His incarnation as Lord Rama, God played the role of a pious prince dedicated to dharma and the protection of the saintly class. The venerable Vishvamitra Muni had enlisted His services when Rama was just a mere boy of less than twelve years of age. At the time, the Rakshasa race was on full attack. Rakshasas are a species of demons committed to atheism and sinful life. They were harassing the great sages living in the forest. Maricha was one such powerful demon. One day, he came to attack Vishvamitra while the sage was performing a sacrifice. Lord Rama happened to be with Vishvamitra at the time, but Maricha discounted Him to be a mere child.

Herein lies a great lesson. Vishvamitra, a devotee and pure soul, knew that Rama was no ordinary man. When looking at Rama, he didn’t see a young boy or a helpless child. Vishvamitra knew that Rama could protect him, so that’s why he went to the king of Ayodhya and requested that Rama be his escort in the forest for a short period of time. Even though Lord Rama was God Himself, He didn’t openly declare this secret to everyone. He adhered to the principles of dharma by rendering great service to Vishvamitra. In return, the sage initiated Rama into the military arts, giving Him very powerful mantras to be used when fighting enemies. As soon as Maricha attacked, Rama defended the great sage by shooting Maricha and throwing him hundreds of miles away.

God is never to be taken lightly. Maricha didn’t have the eyes to see God standing right before him, and he paid dearly for this transgression. Not only is God’s original form that of a youth, but this is also how devotees prefer to see Him. Sometimes God reveals His true nature to the fortunate souls. During His time spent on earth in His incarnations, to prove to the devotees that He indeed was God Himself, the Lord displayed His virat-rupa, or universal form. Arjuna saw this massive form of Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Similarly, the great Markandeya Rishi was once shown the universal form while inside the belly of Lord Narayana during the dissolution of the world. Lord Rama also once playfully swallowed the crow Kakabhushundi and showed him His universal form inside His mouth.

“After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead, O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bg. 11.45)

Lord Krishna showing His universal form It certainly is nice to get a glimpse into God’s greatness, but devotees nevertheless prefer to see the Lord in His original youthful form. It is this form that best depicts God’s true nature of kindness and compassion towards all. We are eternally indebted to the Lord for allowing us to see His beautiful, youthful body. One look at His smiling face can give enough transcendental pleasure to last a lifetime. It is imperative that devotees make a habit of viewing and offering obeissances to pictures of the Lord and His deities as often as possible. God gives us the rules and regulations of religion to guide us in our daily affairs, but more importantly, He wants us to derive joy and happiness through His association. It is up to us whether we want to see Him or not.

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The Supreme Deity

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 16, 2010

Krishn and Arjuna“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.21)

Ravana was the leader of the Rakshasas during a brief period of time in the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Since every living entity has different desires and karma, we see up 8,400,000 varieties of species. Rakshasas are notable for being expert in black magic and having a penchant for sinful activity. Ravana was an appropriate leader for them since he was an avowed enemy of the suras, or demigods. Initially, he had performed great austerities for pleasing the demigods. The devatas, or demigods, are elevated living entities who possess the power to grant material boons. They have been so deputed by God Himself, Lord Krishna. Any good government requires advisors and ministers in order for there to be law and order. The material creation is no different in this regard. God Himself has no interest in our day-to-day affairs in karmic life, so He appoints demigods to act as the Cabinet, so to speak, of universal affairs. They are required to grant boons to whoever pleases them properly.

RavanaDue to the curse of his father Vishrava, Ravana was born with ten heads. While performing austerities, Ravana cut off his heads, one by one, as a sacrifice to the demigods. With only one head remaining, Lord Brahma appeared on the scene to stop Ravana’s sacrifice and to let the demon know that he was pleased with his efforts. Lord Brahma then granted Ravana invincibility in battle against any celestial being and also restored all his of his heads. Immediately after acquiring his power, Ravana went on the attack. He terrorized the associates of the same demigods whom he had previously worshiped.

While ruling over his island kingdom of Lanka, Ravana once sent 14,000 Rakshasas to the forest of Janasthana to deal with a prince named Rama who had set up camp there. Rama was the son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, and He had been banished from the kingdom by His father. Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha, requested Ravana to attack Rama as a means of retaliation for Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, having disfigured her. To Ravana’s surprise, Rama easily routed all 14,000 Rakshasas single-handedly. After hearing what had happened, Ravana was intent on getting revenge. He wanted to kidnap Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita. He went to his advisor Maricha to see if he could come up with a plan. Maricha immediately advised him against such a plan. To show Ravana the error of his ways, Maricha narrated a story relating to a prior encounter he had with Rama.

Lord Rama What Ravana didn’t know was that Rama was God Himself appearing on earth in human form. Dasharatha was very pious but had no son to whom he could pass his kingdom down to. He performed a great sacrifice and was duly rewarded with four beautiful sons, with Rama being the eldest. At the time, the great sage Vishvamitra Muni was living in the forest. During the Treta Yuga, elaborate religious sacrifices were commonly performed, for that was the recommended method of self-realization. The brahmanas, the priestly class of men, had taken to forest life since it was more conducive to the performance of sacrifice and austerity. However, the Rakshasas at the time would regularly attack the sages and their sacrifices. Vishvamitra knew that God had come to earth as Rama, so he immediately went to Dasharatha and asked to have Rama accompany him in the forest. Dasharatha was against the idea, for Rama was still under the age of twelve. The king eventually acquiesced, as he knew that the requests of pure devotees of God should never be denied.

Vishvamitra was thus accompanied by Rama and His younger brother, Lakshmana, while roaming the forest. Vishvamitra was protected by Rama and Lakshmana, and in return, the sage imparted sacred mantras unto the two brothers. This is how the guru-disciple relationship works. The disciples follow the direction of the spiritual master, and the guru in turn teaches the students how to be successful in spiritual life. Since Rama and Lakshmana were of the kshatriya order, their dharma in life was to provide protection. To that end, Vishvamitra taught them sacred mantras to be used specifically for fighting. The Treta Yuga seems like a primitive time to us, for all fighting was done with bow and arrow. However, with the aid of these mantras, the arrows fired from Rama’s bow would have the same potency as a modern day nuclear weapon.

“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s asharma, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)

Lord Rama Maricha was one of the Rakshasas who would regularly attack the sages. On one particular occasion, he had the good fortune of plotting an attack on Vishvamitra’s ashrama, while Rama was there. It was good fortune for Maricha because he had the opportunity to see God face-to-face, which is something that doesn’t happen every day. From the above referenced passage, we see that prior to entering, Maricha was very proud of the boons that had been given to him by Lord Brahma. This pride represented a great folly on Maricha’s part. Demigods are certainly powerful, but they are not God.

We see that among followers of the Hindu faith, many take to demigod worship as a way of life. On the surface, this isn’t a bad thing, for even Shrimati Radharani, Lord Rama, Sita Devi, and other expansions of God regularly adhered to demigod worship during their time on earth. However, one should never take the demigods to be equal to God Himself. Demigod worship is meant to be a regulative activity which elevates one’s thinking. Human beings inherit a faulty mindset at the time of birth. This mindset causes them to associate with their gross material body and to think that they are responsible for their material fortunes, good and bad. Demigod worship helps us break out of this mold, for it reminds us that there are elevated living entities who sustain our life. The demigods provide rain, which is used to produce crops, without which we certainly couldn’t survive.

“Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.22)

Lord Krishna Above the demigods, however, is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one doesn’t realize that there is a God higher than the demigods, their religious efforts don’t yield the highest results. This is precisely what happened with Maricha. He worshiped Lord Brahma and received great boons from him, yet he was still so foolish that he thought himself to be the cause of his strength. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna specifically states that the demigods are not capable of bestowing any rewards without His sanction. This may seem strange at first. If Krishna sanctions all the rewards given by the demigods, then He must have allowed Lord Brahma to give boons to Maricha. Why would He do that?

The answer is that God gives people what they want and deserve, especially if they are engaged in material activities. Maricha was a gross materialist and a pure atheist. He was so demonic that he used the powers given to him by Lord Brahma to attack the sages, who are pure devotees of God. Lord Brahma himself is a devotee of Krishna. He is the author of the wonderful prayers offered to Govinda, or Krishna, which appear in the Brahma-samhita. If we analyze this logically, we see that Maricha’s strength came from a devotee of Krishna, and at the same time, Maricha used his strength to attack devotees of Krishna. This mindset is laughable in a sense. It represents the epitome of foolish pride. Maricha had no personal affection for Lord Brahma; he only used him for personal aggrandizement.

“God has given independence to everyone; therefore, if a person desires to have material enjoyment and wants very sincerely to have such facilities from the material demigods, the Supreme Lord, as Supersoul in everyone’s heart, understands and gives facilities to such persons. As the supreme father of all living entities, He does not interfere with their independence, but gives all facilities so that they can fulfill their material desires.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 7.21 Purport)

Nevertheless, Maricha was greatly rewarded for his hubris since he got to meet Lord Rama face-to-face. As soon as he tried to attack, Rama strung His bow and came to Vishvamitra’s aid. In this passage, Maricha is unintentionally pleasing future generations of devotees by describing the beautiful scene. Rama means one who gives pleasure. His devotees not only derive pleasure by seeing Him in pictures or in His deity form, but also from hearing descriptions of His activities. The vision of Lord Rama stringing His bow brings a lifetime of bliss and happiness to His devotees.

Rama and Lakshmana protecting Vishvamitra The lesson here is that we should never be too puffed up with pride. All our material powers, riches, and good fortune come from God, even if we don’t realize it. The demigods are certainly very powerful, but it is foolish to think they are God or equal to Him in power. Lord Krishna, or one His vishnu-tattva expansions such as Lord Rama, should be the ultimate object of worship since They represent the original God. Moreover, we should never attack the pure devotees in thought, word, or deed. God protects His servants, so our time would be better spent engaging in devotional service.

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The Newly Risen Moon

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 13, 2010

n24525368223_1401566_9117 “Beautifying the entire forest of Dandaka with His own radiating effulgence, Rama appeared like the newly risen moon." (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.15)

The darkness and light metaphor is used quite often when comparing and contrasting opposing elements. The material world is full of dualities such as heat and cold, and pain and pleasure. Night and day are the most obvious symbols of duality. When concepts are addressed in terms of night and day, they are easier to understand because we all have a basic understanding of the difference between nighttime and daytime. In this regard, God and His glories can also be described in terms of light and darkness. Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the embodiment of light and knowledge, for He shows us the path out of this world of nescience.

Sunrise Most people prefer the daytime to the nighttime. The day is nice because it represents life. Most of us wake up in the morning hours, so we’re greeted with sunshine and an incredible amount of light. In a popular video game of the 1980s, the phrase, “The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night”, would appear on the screen indicating that the character was safer in the daylight hours than he was in the nighttime. When we fall asleep at night, it is dark, and when we wake up, there is light out again, thus signaling the beginning of a new day. Since material life is all about performing work, it is much easier to carry out our prescribed duties during the daytime. The natural light we see during the daytime is much more powerful than any artificial lighting system we may use at night. This is due to the sun. A monstrous fiery solar body, the sun provides heat and light to billions of living entities on earth.

Vivasvan - the sun-god The sun is essential for our sustenance. If the sun were to go out or be destroyed, life on earth would not last very long. However powerful we think ourselves to be, we would not even be able to eat were it not for sunlight. The Vedas recognize this fact, and thus recommend that we worship the sun on a regular basis. Though we may find it hard to understand, the sun and other planets and stars are all governed by various demigods. All living entities are spirit souls at their core, but they are placed into material bodies based on their past work and material qualities. Spirit souls aren’t exclusively found in the bodies of human beings, for even animals and plants have souls. There are actually 8,400,000 different species, with the demigods being one of them. A demigod, or devata, is a living entity who is god-like, meaning they possess extraordinary powers. Human beings can live upwards of one hundred years of age, but demigods like Lord Brahma can live for millions and millions of years. Since even the demigods have a date of birth and date of death, they remain subordinate to the Supreme Lord Krishna.

“The time early in the morning, one and a half hours before sunrise, is called brahma-muhurta. During this brahma-muhurta, spiritual activities are recommended. Spiritual activities performed early in the morning have a greater effect than in any other part of the day.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.46 Purport)

There are thousands upon thousands of demigods, each of whom is responsible for a specific department of material creation. Surya, the sun-god, is one of the primary demigods since He is the sustainer of life. In the Vedic tradition, when celibate students are initiated into spiritual life by a guru, they are given the sacred Gayatri mantra and told to recite it daily. This mantra not only addresses God, but the sun as well. In fact, the daily rituals of offering arati to the Lord revolve around the positioning of the sun. Followers of the Vedic tradition perform managala arati, the offering of light to the Lord in the morning. This arati is best performed right before the sun has risen, during the brahma-muhurta period.

Rama and Lakshmana serving Vishvamitra The last religious function of the day is the sandhya arati, which is performed just as the evening time starts, about an hour after the sun sets. In previous ages, brahmanas were such strict adherents to these rules that they considered it a great offense if they were to somehow skip performance of one of these aratis. When Lord Rama, and incarnation of Krishna, and His brother Lakshmana were travelling with Vishvamitra Muni in the forest, they would both make sure to perform these aratis on time every day. When Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth some five thousand years ago, He would also chant the Gayatri mantra regularly in the morning. Thus God Himself shows us the importance of honoring the sun and all that it offers us.

The nighttime is just the opposite of the daytime, for darkness pervades everywhere. The sun has moved away from us, so we are left to use artificial means of lighting. In the modern age, electricity and technological advancements have greatly enhanced our ability to see at night. Yet when compared to the power of the sun, this artificially produced light is paltry. Driving an automobile illustrates this principle. It is much harder to drive at night, for even if we put on our headlights, the glare from the lights of other drivers impedes our vision. Many places in America don’t have streetlights, so driving in the night means relying solely on the light produced from the headlights of the car. In these instances, the regular headlight beams are insufficient, thus requiring the use of high beam or bright lights. High beam lights certainly help us in seeing, but there is a drawback. If another driver approaches on the opposite side of the road, our high beam makes it almost impossible for them to see. It is the standard etiquette of driving that one should lower their high beam when there are other cars approaching. Artificial lighting in automobiles is so fragile that if one of the headlights goes out, it presents a real hazard on the road. It is actually against the law to drive around with a malfunctioning headlight. Police officers issue citations for such offenses.

“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

Lord Krishna Day is certainly better than night, but there are a few beautifying elements to the nighttime. The moon and the stars only come out at night, and people derive great pleasure from gazing at them. Just as darkness can be dispelled by light, the rays of moonlight offer soothing comfort to those wandering about in the nighttime. The Vedas tell us that God is the representation of everything good in this world. Since the sun is the embodiment of light and knowledge, it is a direct representation of God. In a similar manner, the newly risen moon can also be equated with God.

In the above referenced quote, the demon Maricha is describing to Ravana how he saw Lord Rama in the forest of Dandaka. Rama, God Himself, appeared on earth during the Treta Yuga specifically to protect His devotees. As part of His pastimes, He roamed the forests of India. At the time, many sages had taken to forest life since it was conducive to spiritual activities. They were having some trouble however, as the Rakshasas were regularly attacking them. Rakshasas are a race of demons with human-like characteristics. Their fatal flaw is that they are atheists by nature, meaning they take to sinful activity as a way of life. They spend all their time eating meat, drinking wine, and enjoying illicit sex. It would be one thing if they acted this way and kept to themselves. However, they also have a deep hatred for devotees of God. Rakshasas are often referred to as rangers of the night. They live life in the mode of darkness, thus they prefer the nighttime. For the pious, the nighttime is a time for rest. The Rakshasas used this fact to their advantage. They would regularly attack the sages in the forest when they were most vulnerable. This is similar to how modern day terrorists strike the innocent by blowing up bombs in public places.

The sages humbly approached Lord Rama and asked Him to protect them. In His incarnation as Lord Rama, God appeared in the body of a kshatriya warrior. Rama not only gave pleasure to all the devotees He encountered, but He also doled out punishment to the miscreants. There are no higher offenders in this world than Vaishnava-aparadhis, or enemies of devotees of God.

Rama and Lakshmana in the forest As a typical demon, Maricha used to enjoy going on the attack during the nighttime when it was harder to see. On one particular occasion, he went to go attack the venerable sage Vishvamitra. Upon approaching Vishvamitra, Maricha was surprised to see Lord Rama, at that time merely a boy, standing there protecting him. God is the source of light and knowledge to the pious. Vishvamitra had previously approached King Dasharatha of Ayodhya and asked him to borrow Lord Rama for protection. Because of this, even in the dead of night, Maricha and other Rakshasa demons could not successfully attack the sages in Rama’s presence. Maricha saw Rama in the forest and accurately described that He appeared like the newly risen moon. This moon, in the form of Rama, shed light on the sages and offered them protection from the demons.

Lord Rama We currently live in the Dark Age known as Kali. Religiosity is almost non-existent, so there is essentially an all-pervading darkness in terms of lack of revealed knowledge. Ignorance and mental speculation gets lauded, while real religion is shunned. However, just as in days past, God can act as the newly risen moon and remove this darkness. If we simply chant His name regularly, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the evil elements will never touch us, day or night.

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The Most Beautiful

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 11, 2010

Lord Rama “At the time, there were not yet visible any signs of manhood on the boy’s beautiful face, which was dark-blue in complexion and had an all-auspicious gaze. Rama had a gold chain round His neck, a small tuft of hair on His head, wore only one piece of clothing, and held a bow in His hands.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.14)

Among all the major religions of the world, Hinduism is especially known for its beautiful artwork. Since there are so many famous demigods and saints, we see that many of them are depicted in beautiful statues and paintings. More importantly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Lord Krishna, and His primary expansions are also seen in famous pictures and other works of art. If one visits stores in India, they will see pictures of God everywhere. These depictions of the Lord aren’t based on the imagination of the mind, but rather come from the authorized statements of the Vedas.

Lord Krishna Every religion has its major scripture that is revered and widely read. What is referred to as the Hindu religion today can be more accurately described as sanatana-dharma. Both being Sanskrit words, sanatana means that which has no beginning or end, and dharma means religiosity or occupational duty. The Vedas are the original scriptures espousing sanatana-dharma. Veda means knowledge, and there can be no higher knowledge than that which explains God. The Vedanta-sutras tell us that everything in this world emanates from the Supreme Absolute Truth. Knowledge is included in this definition, meaning that the topmost knowledge system also comes from God.

The Vedas were originally one doctrine known simply as the Veda. The information contained within was passed down through an oral tradition. As time passed, man’s mental capabilities diminished, therefore requiring a written form of scripture. Lord Krishna, the original personality of Godhead, partially incarnated as a great sage by the name of Vyasadeva, who not only divided the Veda into four separate branches, but also further explained Vedic knowledge in the form of stories. These ancient stories became known as the Puranas. Each Purana is quite lengthy since it chronicles the life and pastimes of the Supreme Lord and His various incarnations. Vyasadeva’s most famous work is the Mahabharata, which is also sometimes referred to as the fifth Veda. Literally meaning “Great India”, the Mahabharata contains the entire history of the world up until around five thousand years ago. Lord Krishna’s pastimes on earth are also detailed in this book, along with His great discourse on religion known as the Bhagavad-gita.

Lord Krishna delivering Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna’s return to the spiritual world signaled the beginning of the Kali Yuga, the last of the four time periods of creations. Kali Yuga is known as the Dark Age since quarrel and hypocrisy are rampant in society during this time. Because of this decline in religiosity, people’s adherence to the Vedic doctrine is greatly diminished. Even the professed followers of Vedic traditions, the brahmanas, became lax in their responsibilities at the outset of the Kali Yuga. They started to abuse the animal sacrifice process in order to enjoy meat eating. As a result, people started to break away from the original religion of the Vedas. They started forming their own religions, with their own set of scriptures. The situation we are left with today is that there exist many different religions, with followers of each group claiming their religious system is correct.

A common trait of the major religions of the world today is that they describe God in an impersonal manner. The Vedas tell us that we are spirit souls at our core, and that our constitutional position is that of servitor to the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. This material world is a flawed replica of the spiritual world, and thus is not meant to be our permanent home. Due to the pure nature of the soul, most living entities inherently recognize the existence of a God. Since this is the case, most of the major religions of the world acknowledge the existence of a God, but they don’t go into much detail regarding His name, form, or attributes. Religious leaders generally prescribe adherence to a set of rules and regulations. They ask people to be God conscious, to pray, and to act in a righteous manner. Nevertheless, their depiction of God is that of an impersonal spirit.

“And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable and eternal.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.27)

The Vedas definitely do acknowledge an impersonal aspect of God. This feature is known as Brahman, which is also referred to as the Absolute Truth. Brahman is typically defined as the sum and substance of all things material and spiritual in this world. However, Brahman is a limited realization of God. The Vedas tell us that the Supreme Lord can be realized in three distinct features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. A higher realization than Brahman is Paramatma, which is God’s expansion as the Supersoul residing in the heart of every living entity.

“Although the Supersoul appears to be divided, He is never divided. He is situated as one. Although He is the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that He devours and develops all.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 13.17)

Bhagavan Shri Krishna Paramatma is a higher realization than Brahman because it describes the personal aspect of the Supersoul, which resides within everyone. And yet the Supersoul also has a source, which is Bhagavan. Many religious leaders tell us that God is great, but the Vedas go one step further by attempting to put this greatness into words. Bhagavan means one who possesses all fortunes. Only God can possess the qualities of wealth, fame, beauty, renunciation, power, and wisdom to the fullest degree and at the same time. Since God is the fountainhead of all these features, only He can possess them to the fullest extent. Bhagavan also means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is a person just like us, except that He is the supreme and original person, adi-purusham.

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

God has a personal form. We see that many famous conversations and instructions of the Lord are chronicled in the Vedas. These statements typically start with the words “Shri Bhagavan uvacha”, which mean “The Supreme Lord said”. We also see that Krishna uses possessive terminology such as “Mine” and “I am”. For the living entities, this type of thinking is flawed, for God is the actual proprietor of everything. We really have no claim on anything since our most prized possession, our body, must be given up at the time of death. Since God is the source of everything, His use of the words “Mine” and “I am” is completely justified. This terminology also proves without a doubt that God is a distinct person. Sometimes foolish scholars or atheists study the Bhagavad-gita and write commentary on its teachings, and still take Krishna to be an elevated form of Brahman or, even worse, an ordinary human being. Krishna is the ultimate authority on Vedic knowledge, so when He says “I” and “Mine”, He is referring to Himself as God, and not as some impersonal energy.

Avataras Brahman is an impersonal effulgence which pervades all of creation. However, there is something beyond the Brahman conception, or the brahma-jyoti. This is Lord Krishna’s spiritual realm known as Krishnaloka. For those incapable of fostering an attachment to God’s original personal form, they remain stuck at Brahman. They can never enter the Lord’s spiritual realm where the spirit souls enjoy personal association with God and His direct expansions. Direct expansions refer to vishnu-tattva forms of the Lord. The living entities are also expansions of the Lord. God has an inferior energy known as the material world, and a superior energy known as the spiritual world. We living entities are technically part of the marginal energy because we have a choice as to which energy we associate with. Lord Krishna’s primary expansion is that of the four-handed Narayana, or Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu then further expands into other Vishnus and incarnations technically known as vishnu-tattva. All these expansions are considered to be as good as God Himself since they are part of the spiritual energy.

“The worshipers of the demigods will be promoted to the respective planets of the demigods, but devotees of the Supreme Lord will go back home, back to Godhead.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.25)

Lord Rama The highest achievement for the living entity is to learn about Lord Krishna, or one of His expansions, and to gain an attachment to Him. This attachment will lead one back to the spiritual world at the time of death. Once a spirit soul returns to Krishna’s personal realm, they never return to the material world. To aid the living entities in rekindling their love for God, the Lord personally descends to earth from time to time. One such appearance took place many thousands of years ago in the town of Ayodhya. An avatara means one who descends, thus the Lord Rama avatara represented Krishna’s descent to earth as a pious prince. Born as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, Rama was loved and adored by all family, friends, and neighbors. As part of His pastimes, Rama served a fourteen year exile period in the forest. At the time, Rakshasa demons were on a rampage against the saintly class who had set up hermitages in the forest.

Lord Rama specifically appeared on earth to grant protection to these sages. He and His younger brother, Lakshmana, were expert defenders, well versed in military science. On one occasion during Rama’s younger days, a particular demon by the name of Maricha came to harass the venerable Vishvamitra Muni. To his surprise, Maricha found that Vishvamitra was guarded by an exquisitely beautiful and powerful prince. Not knowing that this person was Rama, Maricha proceeded to attack, an act which caused Rama to soundly defeat him in battle. In the above referenced statement, Maricha is describing the features of Lord Rama, as he saw them, to the Rakshasa leader Ravana.

From this description, we see just how beautiful God is. Since Rama is a qualified incarnation, there is no difference between Himself and Krishna. He is God, and His body is completely spiritual and exists eternally. Maricha was very fortunate to see God face to face. He was no ordinary soul, for he surely had performed many pious deeds in his previous lives. In fact, as events would play out, Maricha would be killed by Rama, and would thus have the benefit of seeing and thinking of God at the time of death.

Most of us don’t have the good fortune of seeing God face to face. There is no need to worry, however, as Maricha and other great personalities have described the Lord’s features in great detail for us. Maricha’s statement is by no means the only description of Lord Rama found in the Ramayana. In fact, Lord Krishna’s beauty is described in great detail in the Bhagavata Purana and other famous texts. These descriptions are not only statements of fact, but they serve as a benefit to us. Great devotees have used these descriptions to paint pictures of the Lord and to construct beautiful sculptures of Him.

Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra Worship of God in His personal form is the highest form of religion. There is no difference between a picture or deity of the Lord and God Himself. Hindus are not lowly idol worshipers because since the material elements of stone and wood are used to create a deity, the elements become spiritualized. These forms aren’t imagined either, as they are based on the authoritative statements of the Vedas. God is so kind, beautiful, and merciful that we will all benefit by taking up His service. In this age, not only does the Lord incarnate in the forms of His pictures and deities, but He also appears through the transcendental sound vibrations of the His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The aim of human life is to love God. This love can easily be awakened by viewing beautiful pictures of Him, and by chanting His holy names.

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Posted by krishnasmercy on April 10, 2010

Lord Krishna “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

There are generally two kinds of gurus in the Vedic tradition. There is one spiritual master who provides instruction and guidance to an aspiring transcendentalist. This person is known as the siksha-guru, and he essentially provides an introduction into sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man. Not only do they give an introduction, but they also can provide continuing education depending on the student’s eagerness to learn. The second type of spiritual master is the diksha-guru, or the person who gives formal initiation.

“The Gayatri mantra is very important in Vedic civilization and is considered to be the sound incarnation of Brahman. Brahma is its initiator, and it is passed down from him in disciplic succession.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.35)

Garga Muni All religions have certain rites of passage prescribed for their followers and the Vedas are no different in this regard. In Vedic terminology, a rite or purificatory process is referred to as a samskara. There are many recommended samskaras for people starting from birth and going all the way until the end of their life. Even marriage is known as a samskara. Diksha provides formal initiation through the investiture of a sacred thread to the student. This is known as the upanayana-samskara. Along with the sacred thread, the student is given a mantra, which typically is the famous Gayatri mantra. The guru teaches the student how to chant this mantra regularly in order that they may make spiritual advancement. The most important aspect of formal initiation is that the student agrees to fully abide by the orders of the spiritual master. Initiation is the beginning of spiritual life, not the end.

The diksha-guru must be a recognized brahmana who is capable of bestowing a proper mantra on the student. The Padma Purana states that for this age, one must take initiation from a guru belonging to one of the four primary Vaishnava sampradayas in order for their mantra to have efficacy. In this age of Kali, having a guru has become sort of a fashion, with many bogus spiritual masters coming out of the woodwork. They each have a specific mantra. Some charge for their mantra, while others tell their students that they can become God by regularly chanting it. It is for this reason that the Padma Purana warns against accepting mantras from unauthorized persons.

Words mean things. Evidence of this fact can be seen in our day-to-day lives. There are so many words in use today that cause offense to certain classes of people. These words became so offensive that a movement was created to stop people from uttering them in public. Known as political correctness, this system is in wide use today in society. Many famous celebrities and television and radio broadcasters have suffered tremendous public relations damage due to uttering various racial epithets. Sometimes these words were uttered intentionally, while other times they were just honest mistakes. Nevertheless, society always came down hard on such people.

Valmiki teaching Lava and Kusha, the two sons of Lord Rama The Vedas tell us that words have special significance when it comes to religion. The Vedas are made up of mantras and hymns. Not all mantras are the same. Each mantra represents a specific combination of sounds uttered in sequence so as to produce a desired result. There are mantras for just about everything. The mantra given by a spiritual master is intended to fit the student’s qualities and work. If a student is a brahmana, the initiating mantra is intended to help the student understand Brahman, or God. If a person seeking spiritual perfection receives an inappropriate mantra, their religious efforts will essentially go to waste. For this reason, the Vedas insist that people of this age get their mantra from a bona fide disciple of a sampradaya that traces its lineage back to Shri Lakshmi, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, or Lord Brahma.

Before one can be formally initiated, they need some sort of introduction to spiritual life. This is where the siksha-guru comes in. Whereas the diksha-guru must be a brahmana by quality and work, the siksha-guru can actually be anyone. Upon taking birth, we accept our parents as our original teachers. This is why the Vedas declare that a person’s first object of worship should be their parents. In Vedic times, filial piety was so strong that sons and daughters would touch their parents’ feet and circumambulate them whenever they would depart. Our parents get us through the early years, but what separates us from the animals is our ability to know and understand God. This knowledge isn’t acquired on its own, for we need someone to teach it to us. Depending on our life’s circumstances, we may or may not follow all the prescribed samskaras during our lifetime.

For this reason, it is even more important that we have the good fortune of meeting someone who can ignite the spiritual spark inside of us. This person can be anyone, provided that they know and understand God. In many cases, the siksha and diksha gurus are the same, but it isn’t a requirement. The famous Dhruva Maharaja took initial instruction from his mother, Suniti. She wasn’t qualified to give him formal initiation however.

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati So how do we find a bona fide instructing spiritual master? The answer is that God will send us one if we are sincere in our desire to learn. The key is to be able to recognize who is a bona fide guru and who isn’t. A bona fide spiritual master is one who is a pure devotee of Krishna. Sometimes a spiritual master may rub us the wrong way with their initial instructions. A pure devotee has taken full shelter of the Supreme Lord, and thus is completely confident in all of their beliefs. Sometimes if we see someone who is so sure in what they believe, we can get turned off. This may also occur when we hear from a spiritual master. We must decipher, however, if the guru is acting in Krishna’s interest. As long the spiritual master’s devotion to the Lord is not in doubt, we will eventually overcome any obstacles that we might impose on ourselves.

Whether a person is a siksha or diksha guru, the important point is that we must learn about Krishna from them. This instruction can be taken by sitting face-to-face in front of a spiritual master and listening to their words. However, direct association is not a requirement. If we listen to a recording of the guru’s instructions, then the effect is the same. In a similar manner, learning the guru’s teachings found in books and other written instruction is also just as good as in-person association. In many instances, this type of distance learning is more beneficial because the hearing process becomes more isolated. Visual distractions and social conventions are eliminated, allowing one to learn in a comfortable environment.

Rama and Lakshmana protecting Vishvamitra Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, believes so strongly in the concept of receiving instruction from a guru, that He Himself took initiation from gurus during His various advents on earth. In the Treta Yuga, Krishna came to earth as the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya named Rama. As the eldest son of the king, Lord Rama was groomed to be a kshatriya warrior from His birth. On one occasion, the venerable Vishvamitra Muni came to the kingdom and asked Maharaja Dasharatha to allow Rama to accompany him in the forest. At the time, Rakshasa demons were terrorizing the sages living in the forest and disrupting their sacrifices. Dasharatha hesitatingly agreed, and so both Rama and His younger brother, Lakshmana, accompanied Vishvamitra.

“Then, after Vishvamitra had prepared himself for performing a sacrifice in the forest of Dandaka, Rama, twanging His wonderful bow, came by the side of the sage to protect the sacrifice.” (Maricha describing Rama’s protecting of Vishvamitra, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.13)

Both Rama and Lakshmana took instruction in their youth from the royal priest, Vashishta. Since Rama was God Himself, He required no instruction, but He abided by the orders of a spiritual master just to set a good example. Later on, Vishvamitra imparted special mantras unto both Rama and Lakshmana during their initiations. As an expert brahmana, Vishvamitra knew of mantras for just about any occasion. Since Rama and Lakshmana were warriors, Vishvamitra gave them mantras specifically intended to augment their fighting ability. By uttering these sacred Sanskrit words, Rama would be able to turn one of His arrows shot from His bow into something as powerful as a nuclear weapon. This again proves the fact that words mean things. Vishvamitra didn’t just give this mantra out to anyone, for he reserved it for the most pious princes of his time.

Rama and Lakshmana serving Vishvamitra Shrila Prabhupada In this age of Kali, everything is topsy-turvy as far as adherence to dharma goes. For this reason, God has simplified things. There is one mantra that everyone can chant. Made famous by Lord Chaitanya some five hundred years ago in India, the maha-mantra is open to anyone. Lord Chaitanya, an incarnation of Krishna, purposefully distributed this mantra freely throughout India. He humbly requested that everyone simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. One does not have to be a Hindu nor do they require formal initiation to chant this.

“The spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Vishnu. This is the purpose of diksha, or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 9.61)

As we progress in chanting, other aspects will fall into place. The great Shrila Rupa Goswami has written in great detail about how one can go about becoming a devotee in his book, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has translated this and many other great Vedic texts. Though he is no longer physically present in this world, Shrila Prabhupada continues to teach through his multitude of books and recorded lectures. He is a siksha-guru that everyone can approach. If we submit ourselves to a Vaishnava spiritual master and follow their instructions, we are sure to awaken our love for God.

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A Proven Method

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 8, 2010

Lord Rama “…There is no one else in this world who has the power to resist the Rakshasas except your son Rama. O king, you are undoubtedly a great protector of the demigods, and your exploits performed during past wars are well-known throughout the three worlds. O annihilator of the enemy, even though your son is merely a boy, He is very powerful and capable of controlling the enemy. Therefore, O destroyer of foes, let your great army remain here and please allow Rama to accompany me. May there be all good fortune for you.”(Vishvamitra speaking to Maharaja Dasharatha, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.8-11)

Kunti praying to KrishnaThe major religions of the world describe God as being great. Man is fallible, but God isn’t. The Vedas go one step further by telling us just how great God is. The above referenced passage gives us further descriptions and insight into God’s greatness. This is the true benefit of the Vedic literatures. These descriptions of God can be used to foster an attachment to Him, something which results in the termination of the repeated cycle of birth and death.

“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.25)

A living entity is a spirit soul that assumes a body for the purpose of performing activities in the material world. There are three modes that govern material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Because these modes can exist in varying degrees, we see up to 8,400,000 different species in the material world, with each species having specific characteristics and a penchant to perform certain activity. Human beings are only one species, but the Vedas tell us that there are many other species which have human-like characteristics, with the Rakshasas being one of them. They are demons by nature, meaning they are devout atheists, primarily engaged in sinful life.

"In whatever condition one quits his present body, in his next life he will attain to that state of being without fail." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Lord Krishna There are various definitions of what actually constitute a sin, but in its simplest form, a sin is any action which causes one to assume a material body; something which divorces a person from their relationship with God. The Vedas tell us that the current life we have is not our first, for we repeatedly go through birth and death as many times as we want to. Our desires and the work performed during our lifetime are measured at the time of death. We are then given a new body commensurate with our desires and our work. This system is very fair because, in essence, we always get what we want and deserve. This material world is not our original home. The spirit soul is, by nature, spiritual, meaning it belongs to the spiritual world where God and His various expansions reside. In the spiritual world, there is no such thing as material qualities or karma.

In order to return to the spiritual world, we living entities must think of God at the time of death. The time of death is usually quite painful and also a time of great panic. The spirit soul is leaving the body, meaning that all vital functions, including breathing, must stop. There is no way to guarantee that we will be able to think of a particular thing during our last moments. Therefore the Vedas tell us to adjust our actions over the course of our lifetime, because these activities will determine our consciousness at the time of death.

This is where sinful activity comes in. Technically, any material activity is considered sinful if it causes us to remain in the material world. However, four primary activities are considered most sinful, for they are most effective in causing one to remain in the material world. These activities are meat eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication, and collectively they are known as the four pillars of sinful life. Meat eating is bad for our karma since it involves unnecessary violence towards animals. If we live off needless killing, we are sure to suffer for it in the afterlife. Illicit sex is probably the most detrimental to our karma since it represents the highest form of material pleasure. If we want to enjoy material nature, God will not stand in our way. If we want to have unregulated sex, He will gladly keep giving us new bodies so that we can enjoy. Gambling is a good way to kill time, but it also causes great agitation of the mind. Gamblers are never at peace, meaning that at the time of death, they will be thinking of what game they can play next or how much money they can win. Intoxication leads one to the mode of ignorance or darkness. Drinking and drugs take away one’s ability to think clearly, thereby making it much harder to think of God at the time of death.

During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Rakshasa population was higher than normal. The four pillars of sinful life represented their religion in a sense. Their leader at the time, Ravana, was a poster child for sinful life. He ruled an island kingdom of Lanka, which had many great palaces all decked with gold. He had an insatiable desire for sex, so he kept many wives who were always drinking. When Lord Hanuman went to Lanka searching for Sita, he went through many of Ravana’s palaces and found that all the women were drunk. They were so out of it that many of them were sleeping on top of one another in the wee hours of the night. Rakshasas also enjoyed eating meat. Regular animal flesh wasn’t enough, for they would kill humans and then eat them.

Vishvamitra approaching Dasharatha This type of sinful activity should have been enough to keep them satisfied, but that is not the case with demons. Not only were they dedicated to sinful life, but they viewed it as their reason for living. Taking the gross material body to be the beginning and end of everything, they viewed devotees of God as their greatest enemies. During that time, many great sages had taken to forest life since it was more conducive to spiritual activity. One of the primary activities of a brahmana is the performance of sacrifice. During a fire sacrifice, clarified butter is poured into a fire as an oblation. This then acts to feed the demigods, God’s chief deputies in charge of managing material affairs. The demigods were the enemies of the Rakshasas, thus the demons figured if they could disrupt the sacrifices of the sages, the demigods would be cut off at the source.

One of Ravana’s chief deputies was a demon named Maricha. The above referenced statement is actually part of a narration given by Maricha to Ravana. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Krishna, eventually came to earth at the behest of the demigods to kill Ravana and the other Rakshasas. On one particular occasion, Rama killed 14,000 of Ravana’s associates who had come to attack Him. Upon hearing the news, Ravana wanted to get revenge on Rama by kidnapping His wife, Sita Devi. Ravana proposed the idea to Maricha, and in response, Maricha informed him that Rama was undefeatable in battle. To illustrate this point, Maricha recalled an incident from the past.

Dasharatha with his son Rama Being a Rakshasa himself, Maricha used to range the forests and wreak havoc on the sages. One of these sages, Vishvamitra, went to the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, for help. Dasharatha was Rama’s father, and at the time, Rama wasn’t even twelve years old. Vishvamitra insisted that Rama come with him to the forest to give him protection. Dasharatha had been childless for a long time, so he performed a great sacrifice in the hopes of getting a son. When Rama was finally born, Dasharatha instantly formed a great attachment to Him. Under no circumstances did Dasharatha want Rama to leave the kingdom. The king offered to send all his military men to protect Vishvamitra. After all, Dasharatha and his army had successfully fought off demons many times in the past. The Vedas tell us that there has been an ongoing war between suras (devotees) and asuras (demons) since time immemorial.

Vishvamitra would not leave without Rama. This is the true nature of a devotee. There are many systems of religion and spiritual practice, but for pure devotees, they only take to bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. God, in His original form, is known as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Bhagavata means anything that directly associates with Bhagavan. Therefore Bhagavata can refer to the book, Shrimad Bhagavatam which describes Krishna’s glories, and it can also refer to Krishna’s pure devotees.

Vishvamitra was a great ascetic who had a great history of his own which is described in detail in many Vedic literatures. He wasn’t a brahmana by birth, but he preformed many great austerities to become one. Though he was expert at performing sacrifices, at meditating, and even studying Vedanta, Vishvamitra abandoned all these practices in favor of pure devotional service. He knew that all other processes of religion are meant to be stepping stones that elevate a person towards achieving pure love for God. He knew that Rama was all he needed for protection from all calamities. Rama and His younger brother, Lakshmana, would eventually accompany Vishvamitra and protect the great sage from the demons.

Lord Rama Taking to devotional service means bypassing all other systems of religion. God is great, so directly associating with Him equates to the greatest religious practice. For this age, instead of trying other methods of self-realization, we simply need to chant God’s names as much as possible, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

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