Seeing God in Front of You

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“What happens to a living being,” the king asked sorrowfully, “as their consciousness and cognition decays and shrinks?”

“It is so ironic,” the boy said. “By always concentrating on the pursuit of pleasures, a human ruins his chances for attaining any of them; because his powers of cognition and understanding decline, gradually transforming him into an immobile life-form.”

Silence came over everyone as they contemplated this misfortune.

Then the boy said, “If you want to avoid this terrible darkness, never let yourself become obsessed with things that disturb your progress towards the four goals: pleasure, security, morality, and liberation. Of these four goals, be the most interested in liberation, for the fearsome other three are always connected with things that end. Success or failure in those three generates a result in the ever changing qualities of this world. Thus, even the gods cannot avoid destroying the very blessings they bestow in those three areas.”

“How should we progress towards liberation?” the king asked.

“Direct your attention towards the Supersoul.”

“But how,” the king asked, “if there is a veil hiding him from my perception?”

The boy explained how to indirectly perceive the Supersoul in the world that we can readily experience. “Try to see that the All-Attractive shines inwardly and outwardly from the core of every moving and non-moving thing – as the ultimate origin of their consciousness. That brilliant shine is hidden, sheathed within the airs and senses of the body. But one should try to be aware of it, and realize, ‘I am that.’”

“It sounds as if the Supreme Soul is caged within confinements,” the king said. “How can this be?”

“He certainly manifests within these better or worse things,” the boy explained. “But those things are unreal, like ropes mistaken for snakes. By careful consideration, you will see through the illusion and realize that all these ‘snakes’ are just misconceptions of the constantly limitless uncontaminated purity of reality. In truth, the Supersoul is situated in the reality of things, which the stain of karma cannot conquer. This is why we should seek him out!”

Then, moved by a surge of devotional ecstasy, the boy sang of the Supersoul:

The tips of the petals of the lotus of his feet
delight in the dalliances of devotion.

They unbind the bonds of dire desire,
which are wild waves
those devoid of devotion can never damn.

Let us adore that most adorable Krishna,
Vasudeva’s son,
the most brilliant form of consciousness.

The boy then looked affectionately into the king’s eyes and said, with words echoing the same melodious cadence, “Existence is such a hardship. It drowns us hopelessly in a miserable sea of fear, where our life is devoured by six sharks. But if we adore All-Attractive Hari, his adorable feet become a boat that rescues us from that dangerous and terrible sea.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

Self-Destruct

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Continuing Bhāgavatam’s description of the amazing conversation between Pṛthu and the Four Child-Sages…

“Why does this veil hiding the true self and Superself exist in the first place?” the King asked with deep feeling.

The boy-sage explained that it exists because of attraction to perceiving objects independently and externally.

“How does this loss of self occur?” the King asked in exasperation.

“In the same way that grasses on the banks of a lake suck out the lake’s water,” the boy explained.

Asked to elaborate, the boy said, “Senses attracted to sensory objects drain and pull on the mind’s attention. Without that power of attention, the intellect’s power of comprehension fades. As comprehension fades, its resources – memories – decay and dissolve from disuse. Without a library of memory, cognition itself decays. Cognition is the core of the self, so scientists describe this vicious sequence as ‘self-destruction.’”

The king was silent and grave.

The boy-sage solemnly said, “Nothing in the world could be worse than this. Thinking other things dearer, we destroy our own selves.”

It is indeed so sad! Thinking, this object is the most important thing in the world, we allow ourselves to decay and die due to our infatuation with it. Our infatuation with independent perception of external objects is so strong that we forget about the entity who even makes such perception possible – the counscious self. Thus as our malnourished consciousness withers and crumbles, our ability to perceive the objects we love also diminishes, withers and crumbles. We lose everything by losing our self. 

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

What Gets Destroyed When You Fall in Love with Transcendence?

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Continuing the amazing story of Pṛthu’s conversation with the four child-sages…

Delighted to hear the sage speak so clearly and definitely, but with such depth and breadth, the King eagerly asked, “What happens when a person falls in love with that transcendental consciousness?”

Sanāt smiled out of satisfaction with the King’s eagerness to hear more on the subject. “When we fall firmly into love with that transcendent being,” the boy said, “then, if we also have an experienced guide, that love will produce very powerful knowledge and disinterest in all other things. These weaken the power of the five things that obscure our soul, burning them away like fire destroying its own source.”

The boy did not list the five things obscuring the soul, because he knew the King was learned, and already knew them: ignorance, self-ambition, attachment, aversion, and fear.

It’s significant that an “experienced guide” (ācārya) is also required. Without that guide the love is not as likely to “burn” properly and produce the effects of knowledge and detatchment (jñāna-virāga).

Transcendent love (ratiḥ brahmaṇi) manifests within the mental and emotional coverings of the soul – just as fire (an energy) can manifest from wood (a solid), despite the fact that energy and wood are two different elements (bhūta). However, fire is a superior element to wood, therefore the fire consumes the wood. Similarly transcendent love consumes the material mind that hosts it.

“What happens,” the king asked, “when that transcendent love arises in the soul’s mental and emotional coverings and then burns them away?”

“When these things are burnt away, we become emancipated from all our external attractions. When we cease to look at external things, we instead see our inner selves with perfect clarity. The previous obstructions which prevented us from seeing the Supersoul within us are now gone, just as things in a dream disappear.”

Currently we don’t see the superself. We only see the self as the ultimate “bottom line” of importance. This is because all our attention is focused outward, creating an obstruction to seeing the Paramātma at our inner root. This will be explained more fully…

“Please explain this a little further!” the king requested.

“Our desires for sensual pleasure place a veil on our perceptions, causing us to see ourselves as the entity of primary importance. This blocks us from seeing our intimate and absolute dependence on the entity of truly ultimate importance, the Super-self. However, when desires are burned away by love for the transcendent, that veil disappears and we no longer see ourselves as being independent from the Supersoul. When the veil is in place, we see ourselves through the qualities in the veil – and therefore imagine the qualities of the veil to be integral parts of who and what we are. This gives the false impression that we are independent entities, separated from one another and from our root, the Superself.”

When transcendent love causes us to lose attraction to external pleasures, the veil obscuring the supersoul dissolves, and we see ourself as we truly are – inseparably integrated with the supersoul.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

[With additional explanatory notes]

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

Practical Advice on Bhakti Yoga

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The child-sages smiled lovingly and happily when they heard Pṛthu’s words, so sweet, appropriate, essential, accurate, and to the point. Sanat Kumār replied on behalf of them all.

“What a wonderful question you’ve asked, Emperor, about the welfare of all living beings,” the boy-sage said. “Although very learned, sādhus always ask questions. That is how their intellect works. Just as you are happy to be in our company, we are happy to be in yours. The meeting of sādhus is certainly wonderful, because their questions and answers allow peace and prosperity to unfold for everyone.”

The king humbly scoffed at the sage’s calling him a sādhu, so the boy explained, “It is obvious, King, that you have real desire to hear about the qualities of the lotus-like feet of the slayer of ignorance, Madhudviṣa. This desire washes away the impossibly rooted muddy stain of selfishness from the inner core of our beings.”

God_VishnuThe king could not speak, so the boy continued. “Let me answer your question. We have carefully examined all the śāstra and reached a definite conclusion: the true cause of relief from suffering is to lose attachment to a self-concept that has nothing to do with the true self, and to fall solidly and strongly in love with the conscious entity who is beyond all conventional qualifications.”

“Please tell us,” the King eagerly asked, “how can we fall solidly and strongly in love with that transcendental being?”

“The auspicious method is to practice bhagavat-dharma by thoroughly and wholeheartedly learn the spiritual philosophy about the nature of All-Attractive Bhagavān. Worship the Master of Mystic Potency by consistently hearing about and discussing him.”

“How will we be able to engage in this auspicious method consistently?” The king asked.

“You will have to distance yourself from those who consistently want to do other things, due to their relentless hunger for indulging in sensual pleasures with sexual partners.”

“How can we distance ourselves from these people,” the king asked, “when we are those people?”

“Drink the nectar of Hari’s qualities,” Sanāt Kumār said delightfully, “and you will experience a sense of satisfaction so profound that you will give up all other ideas of pleasure.”

“Once we gain an initial taste for Hari’s qualities,” the king asked, “how do we develop and deepen it?”

“Cause harm to no one,” the boy replied swiftly and clearly. “And try to live the way great, peaceful spiritualists live: always expressly intent on remembering the nectarean flavor of lotus-faced Mukunda. Also, observe the restraints of self-control – by living with minimal needs, and prevent yourself from insulting anyone – by tolerating loss and gain.

“To summarize,” the boy-sage concluded, “we can most easily fall in love with that transcendental consciousness beyond conventional qualification by always decorating our ears ever more and more devotionally with the beautiful sound of Hari’s wonderful qualities, described by his devotees. This devotion also easily causes detachment from the self-irrelevant world of cause and effect.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

How to Respect Sadhus, and How Sadhus Avoid Respect.

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Chapter 22 of Bhāgavatam continues… The four child-sages have appeared at King Pṛthu’s ceremonial arena, and he has welcomed them. Now he begins talking with them and will ask his first question.

When they were seated on their golden seats, the boys seemed like sacred fire in an altar. With deeply appreciative deference for these older brothers of Śiva, the king said, “Aho! What auspicious deeds must I have done to warrant the company of you auspicious beings? Simply seeing you grants benedictions that even yogis cannot find! What could remain impossible to attain, in this world or beyond, for a person who has achieved the grace of great scholars like yourselves?”

The boys appeared uncomfortable with the praise. So the king said, “You are, like your brother Śiva, devotees of Viṣṇu, so my praise is not an exaggeration.”

The boys accepted this but still tried to dodge the king’s praises. “We always travel everywhere, so what is the big deal about our coming here?”

“You always travel everywhere,” the king replied, “but do so beyond the sight of common people, just as we don’t see the all-seeing consciousness that is the cause and essence of everything we see.”

The boys remained silent so the king continued, “Your appearance among us is the greatest wealth! Even a poverty-stricken home should be treated like the wealthiest home in the world if it welcomes sādhus like you.”

“You have welcomed us with expensive golden thrones and many other fancy things,” the boys said. “A poor home has no such things, so how would they properly welcome a sādhu?

“Wealth is not important to a sādhu,” the king said. “Every home at least has water, with which they can welcome you.”

“What if their well has run dry?” the boys asked.

“They can spread some grass on the ground for you to sit on.”

“What if their land is barren, and they have no grass?”

“If they don’t even have grass they can sweep a portion of the ground for you to sit there.”

“What if they are striken with illness and cannot even get up?”

“They can simply offer you their heartfelt feelings.”

“Is this inferior to the fancy reception you have given us?” the boy-sages asked.

“Not at all,” the king replied. “Wealth is not important, the feelings of affection and respect for the sādhu is. A home may overflow with opulence and wealth, but if it is devoid of the water that washes the feet of sādhus, it is like a tree full of snakes. One should not recline in its shade.”

The boys’ faces glowed with delight and appreciation for the King’s deep and sincere realization.

Svāgataṁ!” The king declared, “We welcome you! You are the greatest scholars! You have taken up strict vows in your quest for enlightenment, and, although you are the most serious, devoted, and deep persons, you move about in the form of children! My question for you is this: Most people know nothing except what their senses show them. Plagued by this disease, they value nothing except external objects, and get completely dragged down by their own endeavors to enjoy these objects. O masters, is there any hope for them? Can anything cure them and bring them true happiness?”

Feeling bad for having jumped quickly into his question without asking anything about his guests themselves the king explained, “I don’t ask you how you are doing because there is no doubt that you must be doing well. You are delighted by virtue of your own consciousness, and therefore have no concern with good and bad, or any other illusions. People say you are ascetics, but in fact they are the ones who suffer difficulties, not you. You are friends and guides of us all, so I am asking you – what is the most effective way for people suffering in this world to get relief?”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

Respect Comes Naturally

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I’ve taken the auspicious opportunity of Śrī Krishna Janmāṣṭhamī to resume my work on presenting Canto Four of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, in the same manner as I have so far managed, despite myself, to present the first three. I resume from the very beginning of Chapter 22:

Just as the citizens finished expressing their appreciation to King Pṛthu, four sages entered the arena, descending from the sky and shining as brilliantly as the sun. The King and his retinue recognized them as Brahma’s original quadruplet children. They all stood up to greet the sages, as eagerly and naturally as the senses arise to greet their desired sense objects.

Back-To-Godhead-Prthu-Maharaja-With-Four-kumarasThe most significant thing here is that Prthu’s expression of respect towards the sages came “as eagerly and naturally as the senses arise to greet their desired sense objects.” (indriyeśo guṇān iva)

What does this show?

First, it shows that the four sages were obviously respectable – as much as a voluptuous woman is obviously desirable and attractive, there is no denying it. There is a lot of artificial respect given these days, because no one really has many genuine good qualities. Therefore rules and traditions and cultural morrays have to be put into place and enforced to insure that the people who thrive on respect continue to get it. This is the system of respect that flourishes in kali-yuga, in the absence of truly respectable people. When a person is truly respectable, we automatically respond accordingly; just as our saliva starts to flow upon seeing and smelling a wonderfully delish, fresh, hot plate of excellent food.

Second, it shows that King Pṛthu was not “diseased.” Excellent sense objects do not always arouse the senses, for example, if the senses are weak and ill. A diseased person does not have the spontaneous reaction to delicious food that a healthy person has. Similarly, in kali-yuga we are all diseased in our interest of what sages have to offer. Therefore even if a self-evidently exalted sage comes into our midst, we do not respond. We prefer instead to continue offering our pretentious respects to the powerful personalities officially endorced by the leaders of our organizations and societies – because we are diseased; we do not have interest in the wisdom of sages, we have interest in obtaining better chapattis and more comfortable coushins, and maintaining a roof over our head and meals in our plates.

So, two things are required: an excellent sense object and healthy senses. Then there can be enjoyment, and the senses spontaneously awaken for it. Similarly there must be a genuine sage with, and there must be a person sincerely interested in true wisdom. Then the sage will be happily and warmly welcomed and wisdom can flourish.

Under the influence of their glorious nature, the civilized king approached them with humble posture, and very respectfully welcomed them properly with offerings and seats. He personally washed their feet, and then bathed the knot of hair atop his own head with that water. He did this in front of everyone, so that everyone would know his opinion of the exalted sages, and the proper behavior even a king should show to the wise.

– Vraja Kishor dās

www.vrajakishor.com

Karma in the Spiritual Realm?

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Question: Karma applies only in this realm – only in this material world, right? Or does it also apply to the soul in the non material world?

My reply:
Karma is cause and effect as a result of work.

We exist on one side of the kāraṇa ocean (the ocean of causality). Ours is the side where a lack in the soul motivates work (karma) which sets cause and effect in motion. The other side of the ocean of causality, the “non-material realm” or the “spiritual world” as we often call it, is “Vaikuṇṭha” – a place where there is no want whatsoever. On that side of existence it is not a lack in the soul but the fullness of the soul which motivates action. Thus the action is not “work” (karma) but “play” (līlā).

Play also has sequence to it, and thus follows a type of cause and effect – but the whole thing is effortless and free, so it is not called karma, it is called līlā.

Vraja Kishor das

www.vrajakishor.com

Learn the Gita, with Vraja Kishor

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Learn the Gita

with Vraja Kishor

18 Online Sessions, starting Sunday August 7th at 1pm Australian time (10:30 Indian, 7am German). $220 Tuition. Find out more: http://vrajakishor.com/class_gita.html

2016-Summer-Euro

What should I control first, my mind or my senses?

Peeking Over the Counter

This question arose when studying chapter three of Bhagavad Gītā in our online course, in reference to text 41.

Question: Why is it easiest or most efficient to correct selfishness through disciplining the senses FIRST, as opposed to the intellect or emotions? Intuitively, that seems backwards to me since everything flows from the mind.

My Reply: I agree it is backwards in a sense. And also seems to be directly at odds with something Krishna brought up at the beginning of the chapter. 

At the beginning of the chapter (3.7) says, yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna (“To control the senses you must begin by controlling the mind.”) At the end of the chapter (3.41) however, he says, tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy ādau niyamya bharatarṣabha (“[To reclaim control of your heart and mind] begin by controlling the senses”)

However, this contradiction arises only from an incomplete reading of 3.7. The complete text says yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna (“To control the senses you must begin by controlling the mind.”), and the second half of the text says, karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate (“The best way to control the mind, however, is to use the active senses for responsible, un-selfish work.”)

So, the first half of the 7th text admits that, as you noted, volition flows from the mind into the actions of the body, and therefore a self-disciplined mind will automatically result in self-disiplined body, senses, and actions. However, the means to transform the mind from undisciplined to self-disciplined is to regulate its freedom to flow into the body. The mind’s freedom to flow its desires into our actions meets resistance by our effort to discipline our actions, and this resistance (as in any exercise) is what causes things to change in us.

If done improperly, the desires of the mind become pent-up and soon burst through the attempts at restriction. This happens when the restriction is too strict, sudden and unrealistic. It’s like a person who suddenly takes to working out after being completely lazy, follows a very strict program, and gets a heart attack or at least wrecks all their muscles.

The proper way to do it is to let enough selfish energy through, releasing some of the “steam” in the mind, while also holding some back. This regulated resistance strengthens the “discipline muscles.” We gradually increase the force of the regulation.

The person Krishna described at the beginning of Chapter Three – the mithyācarī “pretender” – is a person who leaps into sudden and unrealistically strict disciplines. The mental energy of selfishness has not subsided or been subdued, and it simply builds up in frustration behind the ostentatious attempts to damn it up. Krishna denounces this type of “renunciation” as a fraud.

The person Krishna advises Arjun to become, at the end of Chapter Three – the karma-yogī – gradually drains the selfish energy from the desires of the mind by gradually advancing their discipline and restriction, replacing selfish deeds more and more thoroughly with self-less equivalents that serve others far more primarily than they serve oneself.

Why not just go directly to work on the mind’s desires? Because it is simply too mysterious, subtle and slippery for a common person like you or I to face in a one-on-one battle. We would never be able to win and bring that foe under our control. Therefore Krishna’s plan of attack at the end of Chapter Three is to start with easier targets, and from there advance into the enemy’s deeper strongholds. Our actions are the most tangible, practical, and visible parts of our personality, so this is the easiest target of attack for we who want to gain mastery of the more mysterious, deep aspects of our self.

Vraja Kishor das

vrajakishor.com

OK, Really, What are the Vedas?

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The Veda is the beginningless information self-manifest by reality itself. It was to the first entity, Brahmā, that Viṣṇu first revealed full access to it. Brahmā then verbalized it to his initial children. Those children, especially the Seven Sages (Sāpta Ṛṣi) codified his words into specific mantra, thus creating the original Yajur Veda.

Over time, the meaning of these mantra became garbled and confusing, even to Brahmā.

Vyāsa repairs this by editing. His edit creates four divisions pertaining to four aspects of sacrifice, and a fifth division for the important contextual information underlying the sacrifices. These divisions are elaborated upon  over a long span of time by scholars under Vyāsa’s instruction and guidance. (Vyāsa is superhuman, although even without this, his influence and representatives could have overseen the further development of the five divisions.)

The elaboration resulted in enormous volumes of Vedic text nearly impossible for a single human to study in a single lifetime. Also, the elaboration resulted in many diverse viewpoints, difficult to reconcile. Seeing this as a shortcoming, Vyāsa set out to harmonize all the diversity, while also shrinking the enormity of the Veda into a single book of mystical codes: the Brahma-sūtra.

Upon completion, he found the codes to be too mysterious, so he set out to illustrate them using vivid and colorful stories related to Krishna and great historical personalities. This resulted in the epic Mahābhārata.

Upon completion he remained dissatisfied, for the ultimate esoteric essence of the Veda was not yet perfectly clear, even when reconciled and condensed into the Brahma-sūtra and illustrated by the Mahābhārata. Vyāsa then took the foremost Purāṇa, named Bhāgavata, and revised it in light of Brahma-sūtra and Mahābhārata. Thus he created Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the ultimate fruit of the Vedic tree, and became fully satisfied that he had restored, and perhaps even improved, the original exposition of the Veda.

This is the answer to one of the homework questions in the second session of an online course called, “The Role of Sacred Text in Gauḍīya Bhakti.”

– Vraja Kishor

www.vrajakishor.com