Saturday, September 27, 2014

Surrender Out of Love

My friend cringed when he heard that the final instruction of the Bhagavad-gita is to surrender to Krishna wholeheartedly. "Am I a criminal that I should surrender to Him? Better worship a God who is more humble and down-to-earth!"

The word surrender does not usually conjure good images in our mind. As the dictionary confirms, surrender is associated with defeat and despair, and loss of pride and prestige. When an army surrenders to the enemy, it brings disgrace to the nation. A criminal or a terrorist is forced to surrender because he is a nuisance to the society. In this world we find that the winner becomes arrogant and want to humiliate the loser by forcing him to surrender, while the loser is seeking an opportunity to take revenge and settle scores.

But the surrender that Krishna demands in the Gita is far different from the forced surrender of a loser in life. Selective reading of the Bhagavad-Gita may make us think that Krishna is an egoistic God. Certain verses may sound like the speech of a politician, who while campaigning for election promises the voters to eradicate all sufferings of the people if voted to power. But Krishna is not a political leader that He wants to increase His number of followers. His call for surrender is not driven by egoistic claims of supremacy; it is actually impelled by His supreme compassion for all living entities.

Panacea for all sufferings

Krishna' s Godhood does not need our backing as proof. All the Vedic literatures unequivocally declare that Krishna is the supreme. Here are some examples: isvarahparamah Krishna – "Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead" (Brahma-samhita 5.1); Krishna tubhagavansvayam – "Lord Sri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead" (Bhagavatam 1.3.38). "Devaki's son [Krishna] is the Supreme Lord" [Narayana Upanisad (4)]. Even Krishna Himself declares explicitly about His supreme position: mattahparataramnanyatkincidastidhananjaya – "0 conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me" (Bhagavad-Gita 7.7).

 Surrender to Krishna is a beautiful experience and the most wonderful concept in all of creation. It means to genuinely offer our love to Him. Those who are unwilling to surrender to Krishna with love have to surrender to Him at the time of death. Old age, disease and death are the weapons by which powerful time strangulates us. All great emperors of the world – Alexander, Napolean, Hitler, Aurangzeb – have been swept away into oblivion by the force of time. To the degree we consider ourselves the controller and proprietor of things of this world, to that degree we suffer when we face Krishna in the form of death. That surrender is too painful and immensely horrible.

 On the other hand, if we understand our eternal position as the servant of Krishna and humbly accept it, all our miseries will cease to exist. Krishna immediately takes the devotee under His tutelage.

If we take one step towards Krishna, He takes hundreds of steps towards us. Krishna wants us to be happy and is always ready to shower His love upon us. He promises: "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)

Krishna the humblest waiting for us

I wish my friend understood how God, although the greatest person, is simultaneously the most humble. Imagine an employee who works for a multi-millionaire becomes inimical towards his boss and starts disobeying and demeaning him. Will the boss tolerate him?

Strangely Krishna does so; He allows the rebellious souls to rebel against Him, and creates the material world for them, so they can satisfy their gratuitous desires. Krishna tolerates all and patiently waits for the moment these souls will realize their folly and turn towards Him.

Krishna' s pastimes with His devotees clearly reveal His humility. One time His childhood friend Sudama came to visit Him in Dvaraka, being very poor, Sudama was not dressed properly.His clothes were torn and dirty, and he was emaciated. When Lord Krishna came to know that his friend Sudama has arrived, He immediately rushed out of His palace to receive His friend. He embraced Sudama and made him sit on His own bedstead. He washed Sudama's feet and personally offered him fruits and drinks.

 Although Krishna belonged to the royal Yadava family, He never forgot His poor brahmana friend. He treated Sudama as His equal.

Krishna is famous as the charioteer of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, He didn't mind taking such a humble position for His devotee although He was God Himself.

Thus we see that the supreme proprietor, creator and master of the entire cosmic manifestation is eager to serve His devotees and take a secondary role. We rarely find such examples in the history of the world.

In spite of our brazenness Krishna is ready to accept us again and fervently hopes that one day we will return back to the spiritual world, our original home.

The Wonder of Surrender

My friend abhors the word surrender because he thinks he is not a criminal. But as lawbreakers of the spiritual world, we too have acted criminally. Fortunately Lord Krishna is merciful toward us and eagerly wants us to return back to Him.

Surrendering to Krishna, our original father, does not bring us any dishonor. Our surrender to Krishna is like a patient submitting himself to a doctor for treatment or a child taking shelter of his mother. A patient agrees to abide by the prescription of the doctor for his own benefit; a child experiences love and care on the lap of his mother. Krishna' s clarion call to surrender is for our salvation.

 Not everyone surrenders; Krishna understands this: "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." (Bhagavad-gita 7.19) If we are not with Krishna, we are undoubtedly with maya, Krishna' s material illusory energy. So either to Krishna or to His material energy, we must surrender. In fact every day, knowingly or unknowingly, we surrender to the dictum of our mind and senses, to our insatiable desires, to the demands of our bodies, to our lower self, to so many people in our daily life. My poor friend is a heavy smoker, smoking half a dozen cigarettes daily. He hardly realizes that he has surrendered his life to a life-threatening addiction.

Arjuna was in acute anxiety before the Mahabharata war began, but after hearing Krishna' s message he completely surrendered to Krishna and thus paved the way for his glorious victory.

Arjuna said: "My dear Krishna, 0 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). Like Arjuna, there are many examples in history who achieved incredible fame and glory just by following Krishna' s instructions and the instructions of His devotees. By surrendering to Krishna success is certain in our life; there will be no room for anxieties and miseries.

 Surrendering to Krishna opens the door for a blissful and eternal life. "For those who have accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Murari, the enemy of the Mura demon, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf's hoof-print. Their goal is param padam, Vaikuntha, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.58)"

This article has been published in Iskcon's official magazine, Back to Godhead:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Flourishing cow slaughter houses in India needs immediate closure

                                       (Picture from wikipedia)

Vedas gives a clarion call to protect cows. In Bhagavad-gita (18.44), cow protection is recommended (kṛṣi-go-rakya-vāijya vaiśya-karma svabhāva jam). Krishna is the supreme well-wisher of the cows - go brahmana-hitaya ca. The Supreme Lord also appeared as a cowherd boy and took great pleasure in taking care of the cows; he in fact also played with them.  Cow gives abundant milk which sustains life. Milks are also used to prepare varieties of other nutritious and delicious eatables. Not just in India but people all over the world use cow milk or its products.  But sadly today in India cow killing has become rampant and people irrespective of their religious beliefs are involved in this gory business.

The problem in today’s India is that the moment you start echoing the values espoused in Vedic literatures the pseudo secularists and their henchmen in the media start calling you communal, fascists and most importantly anti-Muslim. This despite the fact that majority of the Muslims in India respect the Vedic books, are against cow slaughter and they also participate in festivals like Janmashtami and Ramnavmi.  When Menaka Gandhi, a Union Minister in Indian Government and well known animal rights activist and environmentalist, raised her concern against cow slaughter then immediately the pseudo secularists lampooned her and labelled her as communal.

Cow slaughter industry is flourishing in the land of cows, India. Shockingly today India is one of the leading exporters of beef in the world next only to Brazil.  The beef export increased by 31% during 2013-14.  The slaughter houses get subsidies from the government which encourages people to get into this business. For many today killing cows have become more profitable than milking for years because killing and selling meat bring instant profit.  The increase in fodder prices has also made milk production costly. Due to all these milk prices have also increased considerably. And most importantly getting pure milk has become very difficult. Earlier in India many people used to have a cow and those who did not have used to go to nearby goushala (cow shelter) where the milkmen would milk the cow in front of them. This would make sure that the milk purchased is uncontaminated. But today one can only get packaged milk or milk pouch whose quality is often questionable.

Scriptures say that a person has 7 mothers and one of them is the cow and so cow is revered as gau-mata (mother cow).  But today people have become so callous, so disgraceful and so savage that they do not hesitate in inhumanly killing mother cow for money. The cows are also being abandoned by cow owners once they become non-productive. The cow which served their master by giving milk which sustained their life and that of their family members are unceremoniously driven out from the house once they become non profitable. It is the height of insensitivity. Such cows can be seen loitering in the streets for want of food and shelter. They eventually end up in slaughter houses or die on the road either by being hit by a vehicle or due to disease or hunger.

It is high time that sane and pious men understand the gravity of the situation. People need to be educated about the need of cow protection and simultaneously government should be persuaded to take strong action against those who indulge in such acts. Although cow slaughter is banned in many states of India but nevertheless people illegally with implicit support of the administration continue with the business. A human being does not become human if it does not show compassion towards other living beings.

Srila Prabhupada gave emphasis on cow protection. Many Iskcon centres and farm houses all over the world have cows which are well taken care. At Iskcon Mayapur goushala there are dozens of healthy and happy cows. Anyone can go there and see how joyfully they live. Those cows that stop giving milk or become unwell are not thrown out but are properly taken care. They continue to get their share of food, water, shelter and love. This is what scriptures teach and this is what every God loving person should do. 

Mother is always a mother whether young or old or diseased. Her value cannot be determined in terms of monetary benefit. Cow is our mother and it is our responsibility to protect her and protest against her killing. All the cow slaughter houses should be closed as soon as possible and those who indulge in this gruesome act should be punished. 


Fight for Krishna without fright

The unequivocal message of Krishna to Arjuna was that you better die in the battle instead of thinking running away from the battle. Krishna just before the beginning of the war taught Arjuna the real meaning of renunciation.  Renunciation does not mean simply to abdicate ones responsibility and run away from the world. Renunciation means to give up all the false attachment to this world and to give up all the attachment for selfish desire in this world and to give up all desire for sense gratification in this world.  
To establish and to protect the religious principles are of prime importance and every one of us should be working hard in that direction. Krishna is delighted when we dovetail our activities as per his message.  And he celebrates when we spread his pristine message to others helping people to lead a Krishna Conscious life. Krishna goes on to declare that those who explain this transcendental science to all is certain to receive pure devotional service and after leaving their body they would without fail return back to him (Gita 18.68).

Srila Prabhupada taught us by his personal example the importance of teaching Krishna conscious philosophy to the world. He travelled each and every nook and corner of the world at a very old age to inundate the life of people with Krishna’s love. We too can make our human birth meaningful if we also along with practicing devotional life start devoting time in spreading the timeless teachings of Krishna.  At home, at work place, in the neighbourhood, in our social circle and wherever possible we can inspire people to lead a pure life based on the wisdom of Bhagavad Gita. 

Krishna’s commandment to Arjuna was to better die and Arjuna fought fearlessly without caring for his death and emerged victorious. If we too fight without fright to establish a Krishna conscious society then naturally success will be ours. And most importantly it will make Krishna happy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Right intention attracts Krishna’s attention

More than our endeavour it is our intention which pleases Krishna. If the motive is not divine then Krishna is not interested in our life.

Hiranyakashipu, the infamous emperor, performed severe austerities that have no parallels in the world. Standing on a toe, tolerating heat and cold, forgetting food and water, he meditated. Not for minutes or hours or days or weeks or months but for years. His flesh got eaten by ants but still he was unmoved. His aim was to please Brahma, the first being, the most important being and the most powerful being. The demigods enjoying in their heavenly houses, filled with flower bearing trees and aromas of dancing apsaras, got alarmed and disturbed by Hiranyakashipu’s extraordinary penance.

They went running to Brahma and without delay explained the situation. Brahma immediately came to the place where the determination personified Hiranyakashipu, brother of Hiranyaksha, was lacerating himself. Hiranyakashipu was angry with Lord Vishnu because he had killed his brother, Hiranyaksha who was a ruthless monster.  In fact Hiranyakashipu wanted to defeat Lord Vishnu; he in fact fancied killing him forgetting the fact that Lord Vishnu, an expansion of Krishna neither takes birth nor he dies. He exists eternally.

But since Hiranyakashipu’s intelligence was clouded with arrogance and hatred so he had decided to perform penance to gain benediction from Brahma for an immortal life.  So, when he saw Brahma standing in front of him, he was delighted and immediately placed his list of demands. He wanted to be supremely powerful in the entire universe (off course he could have not surpassed the supremacy of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma).  He also wanted to become immortal and wanted to rule the land, water, sky and all living and non-living beings. His wishes were granted. Since his motive was impious so his actions too were impious. He soon started torturing and troubling all and created a society of atheists who despised God and killed and maimed the holy men.

But the evil demon got defeated by a small 5 year old boy, Prahlad.  Prahlad did not do intense meditation and neither his body got eaten by ants.  His process was pretty simple which anyone and everyone can do. He chanted Lord Vishnu’s name and asked everyone to chant his names. Since Prahlad loved God so he loved all. Hiranyakashipu hated all because he hated God. Prahlad even loved his father, Hiranyakashipu, who was trying to kill him. This is the characteristic of a genuine lover of God; he hates sin and not the sinner. The world will immediately become a better place if everyone genuinely and selflessly starts loving God. Hiranyakashipu finally paid price for all his actions and his body was ripped apart by Lord Narasimhadeva, an expansion of Lord Krishna.

Lord Narasimhadeva was pleased by Prahlad’s selfless devotion. His heart was pure and he always wanted to serve others. Prahlad’s devotion gives us an important lesson. To please Krishna we need to have right motive and simple heart. Krishna does not like duplicity. And for a genuine devotee he is ready to do anything and everything. Our externals do not please Krishna because he also resides in our heart (Gita 15.15, 18.61) and knows what our heart cries for. In devotion, if we have right intention, like Prahlad, then it will surely attract Krishna’s attention.