“O You of great intellect, not even the demigods can fathom the level of Your intelligence. Due to bereavement Your wisdom is currently in a dormant state, and I am here to rouse it.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.19)
Brahman is one way to realize the Supreme Absolute Truth. There can be no higher truth than God, but depending on a person’s angle of vision, they can view Him in three distinct ways. Bhagavan is the ultimate realization since it represents the Divine’s most complete feature as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A less complete realization is that of Paramatma, or the Supersoul which resides side by side with the individual inside the heart. The third less granular way to view the Absolute Truth is as the all-pervading impersonal effulgence known as Brahman. This energy can be thought of as a light, similar to the sunshine emanating from the sun. There is no difference between the sunshine and the sun itself, for they are part and parcel of the complete whole. Yet at the same time, the sun globe remains superior. In the same vein, there is no difference in quality between the Supreme Lord and the living entities, though the Supreme Lord always remains superior.
“I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. This is beginningless, and it is subordinate to Me. It is called Brahman, the spirit, and it lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.13)
Brahman is completely pure and free of any defects. Since we are part of Brahman, we too are meant to be completely pure, knowledgeable, and eternal. Yet most of us currently are in a conditioned state where we are constantly hankering for the things that we want and lamenting over the things that we fail to secure. In the conditioned state, the living entity is anything but happy, blissful, or knowledgeable. How can this be if we are part of Brahman? If we are the same in quality as God, how can we suffer through misery? Isn’t the Absolute Truth above defects?
To answer these questions we must first analyze the difference between the living entities and Parabrahman. Some people understand the true nature of Brahman and realize that everything emanates from it. From this fact, they conclude that everything coming from Brahman must also inherit its good qualities. As living entities, part and parcel of Brahman, we are certainly the same in quality as Parabrahman [God], but our quantitative powers are different. We are part of the complete whole, but at the same time different from it. The example of the body can be used to illustrate this distinction. Our arms and legs are certainly part of our body, thus they can be considered identical to us in a sense. The arm is the body, for it is one of the key components to it. At the same time, there is an owner of the body, a distinct entity which drives the movements of the various body parts. Some believe that this controller is the brain or the heart, but in reality it is the soul. The soul is purusha, or spirit, and it gives life to dull matter. Thus the soul can be considered different from the body; it is the master.
“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.3)
In the same regard, there is a driving force to Brahman, a great purusha who is in charge. This person is Lord Krishna, or God. Since God is the driving force behind Brahman, it must be concluded that He is superior to it; hence He is known as Parabrahman. Since Krishna is superior to Brahman, He is also the controller of everything that is included in it, i.e. the living entities. Therefore we see the key distinction between the living entities and the Supreme Lord. He is always superior to man in all respects.
The other reason Krishna is superior to us is that He is not subject to the illusory forces of maya. Brahman consists of everything spirit and matter. We living entities represent the spiritual portion and the material nature represents the material portion. Matter refers to anything that is lifeless, something that is subordinate to spirit. Thus matter is referred to as prakriti, or female, while purusha is male. Purusha is the enjoyer and prakriti is the enjoyed.
It is in this context that illusion, or maya, arises. Maya means that which is not, an energy characterized by the act of accepting something to be one thing when it is really something else. In the conditioned state, the living entity believes that enjoyment comes through association with prakriti, or matter. This is really an illusion because matter cannot provide unlimited happiness. Meeting the demands of the gross senses, temporary happiness is achieved every now and then, but this enjoyment is short-lived. Moreover, once the feelings of happiness are gone, we are left with grief and despair. Maya tricks us into believing that we will be happy associating with material nature, when in reality our true happiness can only come through association with spirit.
One of the primary negative side effects resulting from association with maya is lamentation. Every man laments. We need only study our own lives in order to see proof of this. We become sad over some of the most meaningless incidents. Let us take sports for example. If our favorite players lose in tennis or golf, we will surely be unhappy for a while. When our favorite football team makes it to the Super Bowl and loses, we will be sad for the next few days. If our countrymen lose a big cricket match, we will be angry and sad at the same time. In the grand scheme of things, this sadness is not justified. Sports are just material pursuits after all, and we know that everything in this world is working under God’s direction. We may think that we have some control over events, but there are so many unseen direct and indirect causes that lead to the results of action. Karma is very easy to understand in this respect, and its effects are seen throughout life.
This type of lamentation is also silly because our sports heroes, political leaders, and other favorite celebrities really have no bearing on our own fortunes. Most of the time, our favorite athletes have no idea who we are or what is important to us in life. If they win or lose, how does it affect our life? Do we get any richer if our favorite golfer wins the Masters? Do we lose out if our team falls short of winning the Stanley Cup? This lamentation arises out of illusion and the fact that our general mentality is one geared towards service. Every person in this world, regardless of what they may think, is serving someone or something. A President is serving the country, a CEO is serving his shareholders and customers, a wife is serving the husband, the husband the wife, the worker the boss, etc. Every person is offering some kind of service because that is their nature. Yet since our service is directed in the wrong areas, problems arise.
How do we determine where our service mentality should be directed? This is where the guru, or spiritual master, comes in. The bona fide spiritual master is the embodiment of the perfect person. Who is the perfect person? The Vedas tell us that he is a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since we are part and parcel of God, our service attitude is meant to be directed towards Him. Love is what makes the world go around. Currently we direct our love in so many areas besides spirituality. Thus we are left to constantly lament. Not only do we lament over not finding romantic love, but also over anything that we feel serves as an obstacle in finding that elusive soul mate. “Oh I am too fat, who will want to go out with me? I am getting too old, I will probably die alone. How come I can’t find that special someone to make me happy?”
The spiritual master knows that the only soul mate for the living entity is Krishna. This may seem silly on the surface. “How do we associate with God? How can we love someone that we can’t even see?” Again, this is where the guru comes in. The spiritual master knows how to see the Absolute Truth because he learned the technique from his guru, who learned it from his guru, and so on. The original spiritual master is Krishna. He created the ancient system of Vedic knowledge in order to help the conditioned living entities realize the ultimate reservoir of pleasure and become happy. The only way to shed our illusion and ignorance, and regain our true nature of bliss, is to surrender unto a pure devotee of Krishna and listen to his instructions. It is through the mercy of the guru that we can achieve perfection in life.
An example of this mercy was seen many thousands of years ago with Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. The Supreme Absolute Truth is so kind that not only does He give us Vedic wisdom, but He also appears on this planet from time to time to show us just how to go about following the teachings of the Vedas. For many of us, it is easier to learn high concepts and theories through activities and real life examples. In mathematics for example, there are many theorems and rules put forward by great teachers, but it is not until we work out intricate problems that we gain an understanding of how to use these rules and what they mean. In the same way, Krishna’s avataras, or incarnations that appear on earth, give us a glimpse into God’s true nature and how we are to associate with Him.
As Lord Rama, God showed special mercy to the fallen souls by appearing in the guise of an ordinary human being. If the Supreme Divine Entity comes to earth and constantly shows off His power, it would be difficult for conditioned living entities to relate to Him. “Oh this person is the Supreme Lord, so what need do I have to hear about His activities? None of these stories relate to anything in my life.” If the Lord appears as a human being, however, we are more likely to take an interest in the activities He performs. This was the case with Lord Rama, as His life’s story is documented in the famous Ramayana poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki. The Ramayana is probably the oldest literary work in history, as it cannot even be properly dated. Lord Rama appeared so many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, that people have a hard time coming up with concrete dates for His appearance and disappearance.
Since Rama was playing the role of an ordinary human, He too endured some hardships. As the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Rama was the rightful heir to the throne, but on the day prior to His installation, He had the kingdom snatched away from Him. To make matters worse, the Lord was forced into exile for fourteen years. This wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Rama though. While in the forest, His beautiful wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama was an expert kshatriya warrior who appeared on earth specifically to kill Ravana. The demon was granted a boon many years prior by Lord Brahma which stipulated that no celestial could defeat him in battle. Human beings were not on the exempt list, thus Lord Krishna used this loophole to come to earth and kill Ravana.
Since Rama could defeat anyone in battle, there was no way for Ravana to kidnap Sita while in Rama’s presence. Therefore the demon created a diversion which led both Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away from the cottage where Sita was. As a result, Ravana was able to swoop in and take the beautiful princess away by force. When Rama returned to the cottage, He saw Sita was gone and immediately gave way to lamentation. Though we may have strong feelings for our loved ones, they pale in comparison to the attachment felt by the Supreme Personality of Godhead towards His pleasure potency. Just as God is eternal, so are His pleasure potency expansions such as Radharani, Lakshmi, Sita, etc. Since no one in this world can give more pleasure to Rama than Sita, her disappearance caused the Lord great grief.
Seeing his brother distraught, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. In this instance, Lakshmana essentially served as Rama’s guru. Now we shouldn’t let this leave us with the impression that Krishna needs a guru or that He can suffer from the same defects that we can. Lakshmana clearly pointed out several times that Rama was in no need of a guru, for even the demigods looked to Him as their spiritual guide. Nevertheless, Rama was playing the role of a disciple in order to teach future generations a lesson. Since Lakshmana was a pure devotee, he was a perfect candidate to be a spiritual master.
In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana makes mention of the fact that Rama’s intelligence is unmatched and that currently His intelligence is being numbed by His grief. Moreover, Lakshmana is taking it upon himself to remove that grief so that Rama’s eternally existing wisdom can be awakened. Though Lakshmana spoke these words to the Supreme Lord Himself, in many respects the teachings apply to all living entities. We too are knowledgeable and full of bliss, but we currently are unaware of it due to our grief. Maya has tricked us into forming attachments to matter. This transgression has dulled our intelligence and wisdom. The only person who can reawaken the sleeping giant inside of us is the spiritual master.
“Prescribed duties should never be renounced. If, by illusion, one gives up his prescribed duties, such renunciation is said to be in the mode of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.7)
What was Lakshmana’s instruction to Rama? Rama’s sweet-hearted younger brother told Him to get up and continue with His prescribed duties. Lakshmana told Rama to push aside any attachment to loss or gain. Even if Sita were dead, Rama should still push on with His duties. He should never be taken off the path of dharma, even if He were to meet with good or bad fortune. This same teaching applies to all of us. The only way to rekindle our relationship with the Supreme Lord is to always remain on the path of dharma, or righteousness.
What is the righteous path? What constitutes dharma? Though there are so many different religious systems in existence, the highest occupational duty is to always serve the interests of the Supreme Lord. If we surrender unto the Supreme Lord and always perform devotional service, we will achieve perfection in life. Lord Rama was God Himself, so He had no occupational duty. God is never duty-bound to anyone, but since He kindly played the role of a pious prince, He took it upon Himself to always carry out the duties prescribed to His order. In a similar manner, our supreme occupational duty is to serve the Supreme Lord. This service should continue uninterrupted.
But we are currently in a conditioned state, so how can we avoid the pitfalls of lamentation and distress? The key is to abide by the instructions of the spiritual master. Lakshmana is the embodiment of the guru. Anyone who follows in his line, i.e. anyone who is a pure devotee of God, can help us achieve the ultimate objective in life, the return to our original consciousness. Since we currently live in the dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the sincere devotees have simplified the requirements for achieving spiritual salvation. The best way to practice devotional service today is to regularly chant God’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Our current grief can only be removed by the sword of knowledge. That sword originally belongs to Lakshmana, who in turn kindly passes it down to the spiritual master. We should approach a pure devotee of Krishna, either through personal association or through consultation of recorded instruction, and learn from them. We should not let our characteristic intelligence be dulled by the forces of maya. Human life is meant for realizing our true nature of bliss and knowledge.
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