Friday, December 27, 2013

We lament, we fret, we hanker and we regret

The fire of unlimited desires constantly burns our heart. Desires always tease us and like an uncontrolled horse make us wild. Few of the most common desires which everybody nurtures is – desire for amassing wealth, owning a palatial bungalow, driving the most luxurious car, having a beautiful/handsome sexual partner, becoming famous, possessing the latest and the best gadgets and gizmos of this world, remaining always young, looking always attractive, being the cynosure of everyone’s eyes..… and so on. Our desire list is unending and incremental. Out of these lists some of our desires may get fulfilled but not all. And the once which will get fulfilled will also not last with us forever. Although we spend our life running behind our insatiable desires, it never brings any pleasure in our life. Our whimsical mind cheats us and gives us a false hope that happiness will be ours once all our desires get fulfilled. We lament, we fret, we hanker and we regret thinking “If only I would have achieved “it” I would have been happy today” or “If only I achieve “it” I will then become happy”. Chasing the desire is like running after a mirage in the desert. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 2.70 warns that peace will elude those who run behind the desires: A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires — that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still — can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.

So let us not become slave of our unending desires but instead control it. This will bring peace and pave the way for ultimate happiness. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Krishna and Christ: Are they same or different?


While being crucified, Jesus cried. But he did not cry for himself, instead he cried for those who were committing the gravest sin. Jesus was continuously praying to God to forgive those who were menacingly torturing and trying to kill him. Jesus, the son of God, had come to this world to spread the message of peace and love and to effect this change he was ready to sacrifice everything. This is the foremost quality of a holy man, for spreading God consciousness he is ready to brook any kinds of sufferings. History books take us through the lives of many such great personalities who endured great difficulties but never compromised with their principles.

Supreme Sacrifice

Prahlad was a little boy of 5 years when his own father mercilessly tried to kill him, Haridas Thakura was flogged at public places by the miscreants because he was asking people to lead a God centered life, Mirabai was poisoned because she longed to attain the love of God. Demoniac rulers like Hiranyakashipu, Ravana, Kamsa, Aurangzeb and many others always dealt brutally with men of virtuous qualities. What differentiates a holy man from a common man is the way one responds during a provoking and dangerous situation.  These saintly men and women remained composed during trying circumstances and fearlessly preached the message of God. Their impeccable integrity, unquestionable honesty, unflinching determination and above all deep love for God attracted the hearts of millions of people all over the world. Without their supreme sacrifice this world would have been bereft of love and warmth.  They come as a ray of hope and demonstrates that virtue always prevails over vice.

The venerable sages are sent by God in this world at regular intervals to salvage humanity.  They are direct representatives of God and they use all means to instill love of God in the hearts of all. God deputes them at different places as per time, place and circumstances. Jesus Christ was one such messenger of God. Jesus, through his exemplary life was able to transform the hearts of millions of people. He preached to the masses boldly and asked them to lead a virtuous life. All the noble souls have been advocating the same message since the dawn of creation. Vedic literatures, the sacred book of humanity, have also been vociferously asking all to lead a God conscious life.

Let us try to study the divine message of God as present in Vedas and the commandments of Jesus as recorded in Bible.

Vedas and Bible – Similarities or Dissimilarities?

If we closely examine the teachings of Jesus Christ and the wisdom championed by Vedas then we will be pleasantly surprised to find many similarities. Few of them are highlighted below:

  • Vedic literatures advocate chanting the names of God like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra on tulasi beads. Christians also chant the name of Christ on their rosary beads.
  • Jesus preached, “Thou shalt not kill”. Vedic books also lay great emphasis on nonviolence, in Gita, at several places, Krishna has advocated the path of nonviolence (Bhagavad Gita 10.4-5, 13.8, 16.1-3).
  • Jesus sermonized, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Similarly Krishna says that the characteristics of a pure devotee is that he loves all and hates none: “The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]”. (Bhagavad Gita 5.18).
  • One of the important commandments of Bible is "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind". Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Bhagavad Gita also asks the seeker to constantly be engaged in devotion to Him: “Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail.” (Bhagavad Gita 18.65).

Above example underlines that both Vedic literatures and Bible espouses the message of peace and love.  But sadly many have misinterpreted the pristine message of these holy books and so we see communal violence and evil in this world. For e.g. Jesus said, “Thou shalt not kill”. But many misinterpreted this message and said that Jesus meant that violence should not be committed only against human beings but animals can be killed and their flesh can be eaten. And they opened several abattoirs where thousands of animals are slaughtered daily. Such incorrect explanation of holy texts negates the true purpose of these sacred books. 

However if we honestly endeavour to comprehend the profound message of the holy books and start following it in toto then this world would become a better place as the writ of God will then prevail.  These scriptures are guiding light for human civilization and so should not be subjected to wrong interpretation and it should be followed “as it is”.

 

Krishna and Christ: Are they same or different?

God is one and he is supreme. Although he is one, he is addressed by several names like Krishna, Govinda, Gopinath, Vasudeva, Madan Mohan and so on. Lord Chaitanya has said: namnam akari bahu-dha nija-sarva-shaktis. “God has millions and millions of names, and because there is no difference between God’s name and Himself, each one of these names has the same potency as God.”Christ is another name of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada, an authority on Vedic literatures, explains that “Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, and Christos is the Greek version of the word Krsta. When an Indian person calls on Krishna, he often says “Krsta.” Krsta is a Sanskrit word meaning “the object of attraction.” So when we address God as “Christ,” “Krsta,” or “Krishna,” we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. When Jesus said, “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” that name of God was Krsta or Krishna. “Christ” is simply another way of saying “Krsta,” and “Krsta” is another way of pronouncing Krishna.”

If without any bias and motive we try to understand God and his sublime message then we would find that the Supreme Person, Our Father, is one. And every other persons of this world are our brothers and sisters. We would then shun violence, divorce hatred and live together as obedient children of God. Jesus Chirst wanted to spread this message of brotherhood for which he voluntarily suffered, and now it is upon us to fulfill his desire.

(Purushottam Kumar is a member of congregation at Iskcon Kolkata. He works in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata as “Associate Solution Designer”)

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Journey Back Home

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Neither it can be seen or touched or felt but its existence is undeniable.  Just like the tsunami waves it does not have any emotions, it entraps and swallows all. The high and the mighty, the poor and the meek, men and women, every being of this world has to bow to it and have to surrender to its dictum. The “Time”, the mightiest of all is unstoppable and unconquerable. The might of “time” has always remained unchallenged and will remain so for ever. Time annihilates everything. “Time” underlines that in this world nothing is timeless but everything is temporary. This is why scholars, philosophers and wise sages since eons have been urging people to purge their insatiable worldly desires and focus on things which are permanent and indestructible.  Yudhisthira, an Indian king, who ruled about 5000 years ago once said that the most astonishing thing in this world is that people see others are dying every moment but they never ever believe that one day they too would die.
Corporal Obsession
Suppose we are presented a luxury car, say Rolls Royce, with a warning that it has a bomb in it which will definitely explode but when that will happen isn’t revealed. How many of us would be drawn with the charm of owning such a luxurious suicide car? The unequivocal response would be, “None of the two legged sane man would even look at it?” Aren’t we boasting about our IQ when we claim ourselves as astute?    Because all of us are the possessor of one such vehicle and are obsessed by it. That “vehicle” is our “body” and we go overboard to display our fondness for it. Empirical evidences and intellectual introspection do confirm that one day our body will decay and disappear but still we aren’t able to look beyond it. Without any qualms everyone agrees that in this world life is as temporary as a bubble in the ocean. But just like an ostrich who buries his head in the ground when in danger, we too shrug off any such discussion or contemplation pretending that our bubble would never burst.
We whip our imagination and make elaborate plans for our future. We spend time in amassing wealth, enticing opposite sex and struggle hard to carve a niche for ourselves in the society, in fact we try hard to enjoy as hard as possible. Indeed in corporate a famous idiom is oft quoted – Work hard and party hard. But as the whiff of delicate wind destroys the house of cards similarly the powerful time shatters all our dreams and desires.  Bhagavad Gita 2.18 too confirms the futility of the material body, “The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end.” 
Most of us do not muster courage to think beyond this life because we do not have knowledge beyond this world. However, plethora of information is available in Vedic books which explain about a life where there are no miseries, no fear, no anxieties and most importantly no death. Vedic books are words of God so these are timeless and facts stated in it are eternal truths. These priceless literatures not just poignantly talks about the ephemeral body but it reveals the secret that we do not become extinct with the extinction of our body. It further explicates that we are not this body but we are souls.
The ageless soul
Just like a car starts functioning and moving when the driver sits inside the car and operates it, similarly our body becomes active once the soul enters the body. When the driver leaves, the car stops. Similarly when the soul leaves the body, the body becomes non-functional and drops dead. So, Krishna defines a wise person as those who lament neither for the living nor for the dead (B.G. 2.11).
In Gita 2.20 – 2.25, Krishna describes the attributes of the soul.
  • For soul there is neither birth nor death. Soul is unborn, eternal, ever – existing, immutable, everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable, primeval and eternally the same.
  • Soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
  • As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless one.
The above revelation should be a wake-up call for all of us. As we now know that the soul is timeless and is never annihilated, we should channelize all our energy to protect our eternal soul.   Vedic books inform us that once we were happily residing in the spiritual world but like a spoiled brat we refused to appreciate the love and warmth of God and other fellow spiritual citizens and so we were sent to this reformatory house (material world). In this material world also there are prisons where felons are confined till they are reformed.  We too are here because of our past misdeeds but have an opportunity to correct ourselves and reclaim the citizenship of the spiritual world. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, isn’t like an insensitive jailer of this material world but in fact he is our father who is ever ready to bestow His love upon us, in fact He eagerly wants us to get reformed and return back to Him.
Soul’s Journey
As the uncontaminated rain water upon touching the ground gets sullied, similarly the soul which is intrinsically pure gets covered with impurities upon entering this material world.  Soul’s subtle covering viz. mind, intelligence and false ego decide the soul’s destiny. The first body which the soul gets after leaving the spiritual world is that of a human being.  Now in the human form of life the soul has the privilege to rectify the mistakes and become utterly pure, if it happens then the subtle coverings of the soul gets removed and it travels back to the spiritual world. Now if the person misuses his human form of life and instead of endeavoring for salvation resorts to sensual pleasure then he gets entangled in this world and continues to remain here till he becomes pure. The soul occupies new bodies based on the activities done in the present life and the desires nurtured. If a person has animalistic propensities like eating flesh of animals, overeating, indulging in illicit sex, remaining unclothed etc then he acquires a body of a beast, insect, reptile, bird or tree in next life.  But if one performs good deeds like giving charity, living a regulated life, is honest and kind hearted, never indulges in violence etc. then he gets promoted to heavenly planets where there is tremendous scope for corporal pleasure. But in the higher planets too one continues to remain in despondency because the fright of birth, old age, disease and death exists there too.
Returning to the spiritual world
As long as the soul flits around the material world it remains diseased. The only cure is to flush out the accumulated impurities of the heart which have made us spiritually blind and return back to God’s kingdom. God being benign takes trouble to redeem the lost souls. He personally comes to this world as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Chaitanya or He sends His messengers like Narada Muni, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, Adi Shankara, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada to persuade us to return back to His kingdom. He has also left behind spiritual literatures like Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Isopanisad etc. which categorically explains about the importance of leading a God centered life. However we need self realized spiritual teachers to understand the sublime message echoed in these revealed literatures. 
The current period in which we are living is called as Kaliyuga, the age of downfall. The scriptures explain that during this era irreligious activities will become prominent and ungodly people would occupy centre stage.  It is also explained that people living in this period are less intelligent, fickle minded, unlucky and suffer from spiritual aboulia.  But the era has a great boon; people in this age are required to follow a very simple process for spiritual advancement. The process was revealed by Lord Chaitanya who appeared 500 years ago in the city of Mayapur, India.  He said that in this age chanting the names of God like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is the most potent way to re-spiritualize our lives. Chanting cleanses the hearts of all the dust accumulated for millions of lifetimes; it also jogs our memory helping us to revive our original spiritual relationship with Krishna. It’s a very simple yet an extremely powerful process and anyone can do it.
While treading on the path of spirituality we need to follow few dos and don’ts to maximize our spiritual growth.
Some of the mandatory dos are:
  • Chanting diligently and hearing attentively the names of Krishna.
  • Associating with like minded serious devotees
  • Regularly reading Vedic books which will take us closer to Krishna
  • Offering food first to Krishna and then taking it as His mercy.
Some of the obligatory don’ts are:
  • Not indulging in any form of illicit sex including watching pornography and movies which provoke sexual fantasies. Controlling sex desire is of utmost importance for spiritual growth. Once the taste for devotional life sprouts sex desire automatically vanishes. This is best explained by Yamunacharya, a great sage, "Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure, I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste."
  • We should refrain from committing and encouraging violence. So we should not eat flesh of other animals including beasts, birds and fishes.
  • Along with this we should also not indulge in gambling and any form of intoxication.
Following above process will surely guarantee a bright future and help us to transcend this material world where there is danger at every step.  If a train catches fire then whether we are in a First Class AC coach or in general coach, sooner or later the fire will consume us. Similarly whether we are rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, death will devour us one day. So, we should immediately take up the process of devotion to God lest it becomes too late. No doubt the mighty time in the form of death will apprehend us one day, and we should be ready for it. But by holding Krishna’s hand we can cross over to a world which is ours where everyone is eagerly waiting to embrace us. 


 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gita Jayanti – the day when Krishna spoke Gita to Arjuna


Today is the day when Krishna spoke the pristine message of Gita to Arjuna about 5000 years ago. The setting was unprecedented – Kurushetra was swarmed with millions of mighty warriors of Pandavas and Kauravas who were ready to take the life or give the life. But just before the beginning of the war, Arjuna got completely bewildered. In quagmire he was ready to run away from the battle and live by begging. But Arjuna was fortunate because he had befriended Krishna. He beseeched Krishna to show him the right path, “Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me”: Bhagavad Gita 2.7. Krishna being benign, immediately took the responsibility of educating Arjuna about the righteous and unrighteous path. He educates Arjuna about Isavara (God), Jivatma (Soul), Kala (Time), Karma (actions) and Prakriti (Nature). Krishna spoke about prescribed duties, capricious work and inaction. Prescribed duties are activities which one performs as enjoined in the Vedic books, capricious work are the activities which are not recommended in the scriptures and inaction is not doing ones duty at all. Krishna advised Arjuna to perform his prescribed duties without bothering about the outcome.

In Gita, Krishna also reveals his true identity of being the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Bhagavad Gita 10.8). The purpose of all the Vedic literatures is to know Krishna - vedais ca sarvair aham eva vaidya - of all vedas Krishna is to be known. Krishna promises that those who come under his shelter he has nothing to fear, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad Gita 18.66). After hearing the sublime message of Gita, Arjuna’s bewilderment goes away and he decides to act as per Krishna’s instruction, “Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” Bhagavad Gita 18.73.    

The Gita is the crest jewel of all Vedic literatures; it is called Raja Vidya - the king of all knowledge. If all the Vedic literatures are cows then Bhagavad – Gita is the milk of the cow i.e. it is the essence of all the Vedic literatures. Krishna is the milkman, Arjuna is the calf who drinks the milk, and the same milk has been made available to us in the written form by the great sage, Vyasa – Dev.

This beautiful literature has impacted the conscience of humankind for ages. The glories of Gita stems from the fact that it transcends all the artificial boundaries of caste, creed, religions, race, nation and gender. Bhagavad – Gita is not just 5000 years old. It has been in existence since the dawn of creation. Krishna informs Arjuna that “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku” B.G. 4.1. Since the knowledge got lost by the influence of time so Krishna again spoke it to Arjuna for the benefit of all of us.

Gita wasn’t spoken for Hindus or Indians; in fact it is for the entire humanity. Great scholars throughout the ages have sought refuge of this pearl of wisdom when confronted with challenges. It has inspired world fame leaders like Gandhi, Churchill, Einstein, Newton and several others. After reading Bhagavad – Gita a Hindu will become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian and a Jew a better Jew.

Srila Prabhupada’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita which is published as “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is the best selling edition of Bhagavad Gita in the whole world. More than 100 million copies of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” has been sold and this book has been translated into more than 80 languages.

On this auspicious day of Gita Jayanti let us pray to Krishna to show us the right path so that we can know Him and love Him.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Size of the soul

The size of the soul is one ten - thousandth part of the tip of the hair. It means that if we take the tip of the hair and cut it into one ten - thousand parts then that extremely tiny part is the actual size of the soul.

Svetasvatara Upanisad (5.9) confirms the size of the soul:

balagra – sata – bhagasya

satadha kalpitasya ca

bhago jivah sa vijneyah

sa canantyaya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.”

 Although the soul is extremely tiny but it is extraordinarily powerful.  The soul is situated within the region of the heart and is the source and cause of consciousness and all the energies. Whatever the pains and pleasures we experience is due to the presence of the soul in the body. When the soul leaves the body, the consciousness goes away and the body falls dead. Mundaka Upanisad (3.1.9) explains that the soul floats in five kinds of air (prana, apana, vyana,samana and udana). Although the soul is very pure but due to material contamination it is not able to exhibit its spiritual qualities. So, the soul has to be purified from these five types of material airs so that it can exhibit its original spiritual nature.

Size of the soul

The size of the soul is one ten - thousandth part of the tip of the hair. It means that if we take the tip of the hair and cut it into one ten - thousand parts then that extremely tiny part is the actual size of the soul.

Svetasvatara Upanisad (5.9) confirms the size of the soul:

balagra – sata – bhagasya

satadha kalpitasya ca

bhago jivah sa vijneyah

sa canantyaya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.”

 Although the soul is extremely tiny but it is extraordinarily powerful.  The soul is situated within the region of the heart and is the source and cause of consciousness and all the energies. Whatever the pains and pleasures we experience is due to the presence of the soul in the body. When the soul leaves the body, the consciousness goes away and the body falls dead. Mundaka Upanisad (3.1.9) explains that the soul floats in five kinds of air (prana, apana, vyana,samana and udana). Although the soul is very pure but due to material contamination it is not able to exhibit its spiritual qualities. So, the soul has to be purified from these five types of material airs so that it can exhibit its original spiritual nature.