Of Jedi Knights and Santoshi Mata

Of Jedi Knights and Santoshi Mata

The 1977 movie Star Wars IV: A New Hope mentioned the Jedi knights for the first time, and they were instantly popular. They have remained the central theme of subsequent movies as well as novels and games based on that franchise. Although these knights are entirely fictional, it seems that their creator, George Lucas, has based them on a hodgepodge of religious perspectives. The movie franchises were spectacularly successful and thus now you have a group of fans calling themselves followers of Jedi-ism. With the arrival of the internet, this new religion got to spread rapidly and now has thousands of followers. Followers acknowledge the movies as fiction but recognize religious truths in various statements made throughout them, specifically those referring to the Jedi and the Force. If the West can create a new religion from Hollywood, should Bollywood be left behind? Certainly not! A whole two years before Star Wars, Bollywood launched the career of a new goddess —SantoshiMaa! Many do not bother at all that her story has no scriptural basis whatsoever! This new goddess has remained popular. This may be the first time that a new divine personality, her story, her rites and rituals (vrata) and the perceived benefits of becoming her devotee — all of these are derived from the movie script alone! Let us try to understand what drives a person to this kind of worship. We all have a particular type of faith. Now who is to decide whether this faith is good or bad? Kåñëa Kåñëa explains in the Bhagavad-gétä that one’s faith is considered good, passionate or ignorant according to one’s...
Where Friendly Talks Failed

Where Friendly Talks Failed

At a particularly important point in his life, Arjuna decided that his friendship with Kåñëa was  actually causing him a lot of problems. Of course, the problem was not of Kåñëa’s doing. It was Arjuna who was not able to derive  proper advantage of being so close to Kåñëa. Arjuna was shirking his duty as a warrior. Even though the Päëòavas were wronged and this was a just fight, he was overwhelmed with compassion when he saw all the assembled soldiers on both sides. Lord Kåñëa tried to pacify Arjuna and encouraged him to regain his composure, but in the end Arjuna simply cast aside his weapons and held his  head in grief. If both of them were such close friends, why was Kåñëa smiling when Arjuna was in such distress? This is one of the pivotal  moments of this divine narration, Bhagavad Gita. A child, for example, may be crying in distress, but the father is in complete knowledge of the situation and is therefore quite composed. This simple everyday event throws light on the foundations of Vedic culture – the guru-çiñya relationship. The guru-çiñya (teacher-student) relationship in spiritual life is slightly different from its counterpart in the material world. In our mundane world, the student may have no reverence for his teacher, and it perhaps does not matter. But in spiritual matters, the disciple has to very carefully choose his spiritual master, and the spiritual master in turn has to impart knowledge to a competent disciple. Arjuna’s objections in the first chapter of the Bhagavad-gétä were not successful in  gaining transcendental knowledge. But by  rejecting even an...
Four Sobering Thoughts on PK

Four Sobering Thoughts on PK

These are the four most prominent objections raised by the movie PK, and we have tried to address them: 1.PK says it is OK to deride Vedic gods. Poking fun at Vedic gods and goddesses:The Vedas teach that our material world is produced from intelligence.There is a concrete plan behind it. Vedic vision organizes all meaning andinformation in the universe into a hierarchy of consciousness and control.Living entities known as devas or demigods, direct all the activities ofmaterial nature. Far more advanced than us humans these devas reside ontheir own planets in the universe, with facilities, life spans, andpleasures far exceeding what humans can conceive of. Among the demigodgroups there are gradations of power and control. Some devas controlrelatively minute functions of nature, and some have massive portfolios.They have upadevas (sub-demigods) and many others under them too.“Who has seen the devas?”is the modern challenge. The Vedic reply wouldbe “Who today has the qualification to see?” Uniformity of observationalcapacity is never assumed in the Vedas. Knowledge, information isstate-specific; hence, the necessity of both acquiring the correct trainingand living the prescribed life style. Only then, is real knowledge revealed.In the present, Kali-yuga, the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy,the devas are notvisible due to the degradation of human beings and thus they keep themselvesout of human perception. 2. PK does not tell us the science behind Deity-worship. The confusion created by Vedas telling us to worship stone idolsThe Vedas teach that whatever we see is energy. And this energy has itssource, the Supreme Energetic One, or God. In the Bhagavad-gétäLord Kåñëa explains how everything is manifested from His own energy. Therefore whenGod...
Nine Processes Of Devotional Service

Nine Processes Of Devotional Service

In the Vedic scriptures devotional service unto Shree Krishna is described as joyfully performed and everlasting. This service is divided into nine processes: Hearing the name and glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; Chanting His glories Remembering the Lord Serving the Lord’s feet Worshiping the Deity Offering prayers unto the Lord Acting as the Lord’s servant Making friends with the Lord and Surrendering oneself fully to the Lord. shravaëam: Hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning of devotional service. Although any one of the nine processes is sufficient, in chronological order the hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning. Indeed, it is essential. As enunciated by Lord Shree Caitanya Mahäprabhu, by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one is cleansed of the material conception of life, which is due to the dirty modes of material nature. When the contamination is cleansed from the core of one’s heart, one can realize the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Mahäräja Parékñit became perfect by hearing about Kåñëa. Kértanaà: A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving humbler than a blade of grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honor from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy names. The process of transcendental chanting can be easily performed by anyone. Even if one is physically unfit, classified lower than others, devoid of material qualifications or not at all elevated in terms of pious activities, the chanting of the holy name is beneficial. An aristocratic birth,...

Failures As Stepping Stones To Success

My spiritual master used to say that it is a principle that failure is the pillar of success. But it can be applied to our spiritual lives. One very famous speaker has said that “Success is going from failure to failure to failure, without losing ones enthusiasm.” We really never fail until we give up trying; trying, with determination and with enthusiasm. Vision means to see the invisible, to feel the intangible and to achieve the impossible. Actually challenges or failures can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks on the road to success. It is all a matter of how we look at it. You can see a glass as half empty, or you can see a glass as half full. One will bring you enthusiasm, the other will bring you discouragement. We can apply that principle to every aspect of our life. But what is of real importance is to know that we are dong the right thing. We learn from our mistakes. A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to learn from it. Real leaders make many, many mistakes, but they do not repeat them. They learn from them, they remain enthusiastic; they remain determined for the goal. Actual champions in every situation are always focused on their goals. They make goals; and losers make excuses. Our life is what we make of it. Failure is a very minor stumbling block on the road to success. Failures build character. Pressure is something, which only comes to one who earns it. We should respect pressures as an honour. We cannot be successful unless we have the...

4 Metaphors of Transcendental Knowledge

Academic knowledge provides information of the world, but spiritual knowledge awards us eternal liberation. One of my friends in college was known for his immense general knowledge. He knew the names of all recent Hollywood and Bollywood movies, the actors, directors, and producers of each movie, and the winners of Oscar and Filmfare awards from every year. In sports, he knew the winners of each Grand Slam tennis tournament from every year as well as similar information about football and cricket. He also knew the capital city and currency of each country, and a lot more. I was impressed by his memory, and I admired his voracious reading. Here I was struggling to remember basic mathematical and scientific formulae and somehow clear my examinations. I wished I had the ability to retain at least half of what I read daily. When I came to Krishna consciousness, however, I felt less impressed by my friend’s general knowledge. I learned that knowledge was meant to produce good character and, ultimately, devotion to God. So-called knowledge of this world is incomplete, because information in this world keeps changing continuously; what is true today will no longer remain true tomorrow. The greater your memory, the greater your capacity to retain information, and the greater will be your reputation as a knowledgeable person. But knowledge about this world is simply data loaded into the brain. How can such ever changing information help us attain anything permanent and everlasting? How can such knowledge help us solve the real problems of life, namely, birth, old age, disease, and death? Real knowledge is to know what matter...

Krishna An Immoral or Trans-moral God?

Whenever we tell someone that we worship Lord Krishna, they are often taken by surprise: “How can you worship a God that is immoral?” They refer to Krishna’s stealing of the garments of the unmarried women and His dancing with cowherd damsels of Vrindavana. How could Krishna dare to take away the clothes of young girls and force them to stand naked before him? How could He dance with other men’s wives in the middle of night? And for all this, He is worshiped as God? That’s outrageous!   These are some of the most misunderstood pastimes of Lord Krishna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great nineteenth-century saint, had predicted that one of the challenges for the modern man in understanding the Srimad-Bhagavatam would be the Tenth Canto, where Krishna’s loving pastimes with the gopis are discussed. One may wonder, how can a book that is considered the summum bonum, the culmination of all philosophical understanding and the highest wisdom of a tradition, glorify such activities as most worshipable? Bhaktivinoda Thakura answers this question by posing a counter-question: If a lay person can know that such activities are abominable, wouldn’t Vyasadeva, the author of Bhagavatam, and Sukadeva Gosvami, the narrator of Bhagavatam, know this fact? Vyasadeva was the literary incarnation of God, and Sukadeva Gosvami was a paramahamsa, a person in the highest renounced order of life. Why would they discuss these topics if these topics were immoral? It is interesting to note that throughout the first nine cantos of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Vyasadeva condemns material attachment and the degrading power of lust. Through the stories of Ajamila, Saubhari, and Pururava,...

Queen Kunti’s Amazing Plea

Why an exalted devotee asked Lord Krishna to keep putting her into dangerous situations. Most people worship God with a material motive. As Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita (7.16), such people can broadly be classified into four groups: the distressed, the needy, the inquisitive, and those searching for knowledge of the Absolute. In most cases, they stop their worship as soon as they obtain their objective. They regard God as someone who can lessen their miseries and make their lives happy and peaceful. Still, Lord Krishna considers them pious because in their hour of difficulty they have chosen to approach God and not someone mundane. (Bhagavad-gita 7.18) Among all worshipers, Lord Krishna singles out the person in full knowledge who always engages in His pure devotional service as the best. Persons in full knowledge, knowing Krishna to be the cause of all causes, surrender unto Him. Their only purpose is to serve Krishna selflessly with love and devotion. Therefore, Krishna says of the pure devotee, “I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Bhagavad- gita 7.17) A devotee who has developed intense love for Krishna cannot live for a second without seeing or serving Him, the pain of separation from Him being too unbearable. Queen Kunti’s Exemplary Devotional Sentiments One such devotee was Queen Kunti, the mother of the five Panhava brothers. The Mahabharata explains how Kunti underwent great sufferings throughout her life. Before getting married, she gave birth to Karna, her first son. Being a maiden, however, she rejected him to save herself from social condemnation. Soon after getting married, her husband, Panhu,...

In Search Of Lost Love

The most incredible discovery of my life was the simple truth that all our desires have a single origin – forgetfulness of love that is dormant within our hearts. Finding   love is our greatest need because it brings true fulfillment in life. Love can empower us to be instruments of a positive change within this world beyond our imagination. Some years ago, I met Mother Teresa at Calcutta. She told me that the greatest problem in the world is hunger. Not hunger of the belly but hunger of the heart. People are lonely; people are emotionally starving and trying to fill it with so many other things. But the only thing that could nourish the heart is love for God. She told me that she knows some of the wealthiest people of the world living in New York, London, Sydney, Los Angeles etc. She saw them as starving people. And the greatest service, greatest welfare activity one can do in this world is to feed the hunger of the heart with God’s love. We have to have pure motivation in order to do so. We mistake temporary pleasures to be love. This mistaking of temporary sensations of the world lies at the very core of human conditions. These flickering sensations are like a mirage. A person who is in the desert is searching desperately for an oasis of water. But in that desperation due to longing and hopefulness, sometimes a mirage appears. It appears that that mirage can quench our thirst but all we get is a mouthful of hot sand in the end. So what is real love?...

The Laws of Bhakti

Far from being a sentimental activity, devotional service is based on well-defined principles that systematically guide a practitioner to ultimate perfection. Discussions about the relationship between science and religion usually end in a stalemate: Scientists accuse religionists of relying too much on faith, which they say is experimentally unverifiable, while religionists accuse scientists of relying too much on physical and chemical laws, which they say fail to measure the emotions and sentiments of a conscious living entity. The scientists fail to address or even acknowledge consciousness and its attendant needs; religionists fail to provide a satisfactory scientific and logical explanation for the practices they follow. The refusal of scientists to experiment beyond mechanistic science and the inability of religionists to present religion as a bonafide science have only widened the gap between the two parties. A study of the Vedic scriptures, however, reveals that the true Vedic religion is not a matter of blind faith but is an actual science, verifiable by experiment. Unlike conventional religions, which force their practitioners to accept dogma on faith, the Vedic religion (also known as sanatana-dharma, bhagavata- dharma, or Krishna consciousness) repeatedly prods its students to inquire and question at every step. Sentimental practice is never encouraged. While other religions teach us to love and serve God, the beauty of the Vedic scriptures lies in their ability to explain the dynamics of this spiritual relationship by revealing the precise, well-defined principles that underlie it. A deeper understanding of this subject will nourish the faith of the faithful and satisfy the intellect of the intellectuals. 1. The Law of Attraction Newton’s law of gravitation...
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