Tuesday, July 30, 2013

watering the root

Verse 4.7: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion — at that time I descend Myself.

Today I'd like to highlight the Sanskrit of this verse as it contains an extremely important word: dharma

yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaḿ sṛjāmy aham

The word dharma is often translated as "religion" in English which is often synonymous with the word faith. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the true meaning of the word gets lost in translation. That's because religion or faith can be accepted, rejected or converted, whereas one's dharma cannot be changed.

Dharma, as described by the great bhakti teacher, Swami Prabhupada, is the inherent characteristic of an object or living thing. Just as the innate nature of sugar is to be sweet and that of fire is to be hot, the dharma of the soul is to serve.

In fact, if only one word can be used to describe the quality of the soul, it would be service.

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, we are always serving something or someone all the time. For those who have been frustrated or disappointed in trying to serve others, that experience may impel one to repress their natural propensity of service, especially if that effort is not reciprocated.

So instead of being true to ourselves, we may become selfish due to negative experiences.

The bhakti texts describe that this frustration and pain arises when we are unaware of where to repose this natural inclination to serve.

So who should we serve then? Just as the leaves, branches and stem of a plant is nourished by watering the root, similarly all the other souls we interact with can be served by serving that person who connects us altogether - the Divine.

It's a subtle but important point to note. It's not that we give up trying to serve one another, which is what can sometimes be misinterpreted by the bhakti texts. Rather, it's placing the majority of our efforts and time in what will give us the greatest return by effecting the greatest number of people positively.

By serving the Divine by working in a spirit of detachment to the results and gratitude flooding our hearts, we serve all living beings simultaneously. It's kind of mystical actually!

It works because that positive attitude that we cultivate can effect other people unconsciously.

I'm sure everyone has had an experience where they have spent time with an amazingly inspirational, positive and/or spiritual person and afterwards they are left feeling happy and enlivened. If you ever wondered why, it's because you imbibed the other person's consciousness.

It's actually the greatest good we can do the planet today; that is, to work on ourselves and re-awaken (if it's sleeping or has been crushed) our propensity to serve. Just by doing that, you can become an instrument of powerful change and positivity.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

don't be fooled

Verse 4.6: Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.

We live in a crazy, mixed up world these days. With the external pressures of life mounting constantly, it is no wonder that many of us are searching for something real and genuine to hang onto. However, the modern day spiritual seeker or truth seeker has many more obstacles facing their journey then they would have even fifty years ago.

With the advent of the internet, social media and so many other pieces of technology out there, anyone's voice can be heard and can create a significant impact. That on its own isn't necessarily a bad thing, however it does pose a challenge when the number of self-proclaimed "Gods" out there seems to be ever increasing.

This is what Krsna is addressing today in this verse. He is stating some of the pre-requisites or qualifications, if we may call it that, of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. More will be listed shortly, but to begin with we hear that the Divine is:

1. unborn
2. has a transcendental body that never deteriorates
3. is the Lord of all living entities
4. appears in every millennium in His original transcendental form


5. remembers all births of all living entities (Verse 4.5).

Such is the scientific nature of bhakti yoga. The personality of the Divine is not conspicuous by its absence, rather His personality and traits are well documented and revealed to all who desire to hear about them.

Bhakti texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam are rich with detailed descriptions of the Divine which are not only given personally by Krsna Himself, but by His dear most lovers.

So the next time someone may claim themselves to be God and is trying to convince you - don't be fooled. Instead, ask them to pass the test of meeting the five characteristics that have been named above.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

why can't i remember?

Verse 4.5: The Personality of Godhead said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!

Many of us forget things from time to time. Whether it be where we left our keys, shut off the lights or checked the mail, there are plenty of things that fill up our head. It's no wonder that all kinds of apps and gadgets have been created to help us remember the long list of things that we hope to accomplish.

In the hustle and bustle of just trying to live our lives, it's easy to forget about the needs of the soul. After all, the majority of time tends to be spent on taking care of our body and things that are in relation to it. There's nothing wrong with taking care of the body, but just taking care of the body and totally neglecting the soul is counter-productive. That's because...

The soul is eternal whereas the body is temporary.

Most of us are well acquainted with the needs of the body, but what about the soul? In order to understand the soul's needs, one needs to learn about them from authorized sources. In this case, Arjuna has the perfect teacher, Krsna, to help him understand. To aid in that understanding, Krsna is explaining here that although the soul is eternal, it is limited.

Although eternal, the soul cannot remember the numerous bodies (i.e. births) it has taken.

Makes sense if you think about it. Many of us can't even remember what we wore yesterday, what to speak of trying to remember which body we wore in our last life or lifetimes prior! The question can be posed then - why is this important?

When we start to understand that we don't have the answers to everything because we are limited, it serves as a reminder that we are small. Sometimes the word small has a negative connotation, but in this case it just means we need some help. That help is available in the form of realized teachers who can help us understand who we really are.

When we try to sincerely learn and apply what the realized bhakti practitioners (and texts) teach us, we become empowered to understand their words. That knowledge becomes more than just theory; instead, we start to see their words manifest as reality in our lives.

So we don't remember our past lives or actions, big deal. If we stop and think about it - it might actually be a good thing! What's important is what we choose to do with our time now.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

to question

Verse 4.4: Arjuna said: The sun-god Vivasvān is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?

In order to clarify doubt and truly understand something, two things are required:

One needs to inquire from the right person.

It's a two way street, although a strong case can be made that most of the responsibility falls on the one who is posing the question. That's because they are the ones who:

1) Have to formulate the appropriate question or else they might not get the answer they need.

2) Have the free will to choose (and accept) the person to get answers from.

Let's use a real life example to understand that a bit better. If you've ever been to a foreign country, you might have first hand experience of trying to get to a destination and having no clue where to go. In stopping someone on the street, the first question you might ask is not how to get to x, y, z destination but... "Are you from here?"

That question is an important one as it helps you (the tourist) to find out if you're asking a reputable source (i.e. one who is qualified to answer). Well...at least in my experience, it may help but doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will get the directions you require!

But that qualifying question is an important one. It's easy to get answers to questions...

The difficulty lies in finding the right individual who is actually authorized to answer your question.

Krsna has already established himself as the appropriate person to teach the science of bhakti as described in Verse 4.1. Here, Arjuna is teaching all of us the art of questioning. He has heard Krsna out but still has a doubt and so he asks Krsna to clarify it.

This is where the subtleties of bhakti are revealed. After finding the right guide/teacher and formulating the appropriate question/s the most important thing is the attitude behind the questioning. Is it one of genuine curiosity and inquiry or one of arrogance? It's this attitude that actually determines how much knowledge is imparted from the bhakti yogi to the student.

These are three elements to perfecting the art of questioning - finding the right teacher, asking the right question and checking to see what your attitude is when asking it. Try them out and see how it works for you!

Monday, July 22, 2013

bhakti revealed

Verse 4.3: That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science.

As with most things of value, there is a price to pay for getting the "real deal". For material things, that price is often money. However, to truly understand bhakti, the price is something a little different - it's the price of faith and relationship.

That's what we hear Krsna say to Arjuna today. Krsna is saying, "I am revealing this science of bhakti yoga to you because you are my friend."

That in essence sums up the secret to successfully practicing bhakti yoga - staying in the association of and developing real and genuine friendships with bhakti yogis.

Often we've described how bhakti yoga is not something that can be learned from books and texts alone. That's because....

Bhakti requires guidance because it is a transformation of heart and attitude.

Such a transformation occurs more quickly when one is in the company of those whose hearts and attitudes have changed. However, it requires that we make an investment of time and faith in developing relationships with such persons. The hearts of the great bhakti yogis are soft as butter since they are actively trying to live a life of compassion, gratitude and service. However, as with any treasure, they guard that bhakti with great attention and care.

For most of us, our best friends are those that we have spent a lot of time with since it is only then that both sides start trusting each other and start to speak from the heart. Similarly, the heart of the bhakti yogi is revealed when a relationship based on respect and affection is established.

For anyone who wants to get to the heart of bhakti, the best way to do so is by securing a place in the heart of a bhakti yogi.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

care is the strongest link

Verse 4.2: This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.

When I was in University, I always felt slightly disconcerted. With the exception of a handful of professors, I really didn't feel like any of mine were interested in their students. Being in Science, most of my Professors were just itching to get back to the lab where they could devote their time to what they really loved - research.

Since I was for the most part deprived of teachers who genuinely cared about their students' learning, I had to "teach myself" how to learn. It was at this time that I realized that modern education, and specifically Science, is rooted in the descending system of knowledge.

In other words, one learns from teachers (or in my case, textbooks) who gained knowledge from teachers before them etc etc... The key area where modern education and the science of bhakti differs is the one I pointed out initially - the aspect of care.

This is not to say that there aren't teachers out there who genuinely care for their students. There are! However, with schools overflowing and teachers being overworked and under-paid, it seems like these incredible personalities are dwindling in number.

In contrast, the very foundation of bhakti yoga is based on a a culture of care, not knowledge. Knowledge is definitely there, but it comes second - behind care.

If you think about it, care and love are the greatest things we can be taught since that is what links us to each other.

The understanding of a particular topic or subject, whether material or spiritual, is not based on its complexity, but the care and attention that a teacher gives to their students.

Today, we hear Krsna express how much He cares that the knowledge of bhakti is understood properly. He states that it was handed down through the line of saintly kings and that through time this succession of teachers was broken and therefore He is re-establishing it by speaking this knowledge to Arjuna.

That is a true teacher. One who not only cares for the subject matter, but one who cares for the student and their understanding of that knowledge.

If we can appreciate anything from the Gita - this is it. At the most basic level, it is a conversation between a teacher who genuinely cares and loves his student. The extent of that love is demonstrated when, at the end of the Gita, Krsna tells Arjuna to choose what he thinks will be best and offers to repeat the whole thing again if Arjuna hasn't understood it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

great expectations

Verse 4.1: The Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku.

History and experience can teach us so much. In fact, the great bhakti yoga master, Srila Prabhupada would say (and I paraphrase):

First class intelligence is hearing about the mistakes of others and not committing them. Second class intelligence is making mistakes, learning from them and trying to avoid making them again and third class intelligence is making mistakes and not learning from them.

The Bhagavad-gita is giving us the opportunity to exercise first class intelligence. As we hear in today's verse, this science of yoga has not just appeared randomly. It has been passed along for lifetimes upon lifetimes to the most intelligent and empowered personalities. We are so lucky to now have the opportunity to hear that same knowledge - unadulterated and just as powerful. By following this process we have an opportunity to save ourselves time, effort and disappointment.

One of the great lessons that the Gita teaches us is that of learning to manage expectations. At the beginning of the Gita, we see Arjuna expressing his doubts and misgivings to Krsna. But if you look a little deeper, you find something more - Arjuna is stating that he has certain expectations and is worried that by doing the right thing, those expectations will not be met.

Is that not what we go through everyday? We all have expectations of ourselves, of situations and perhaps the trickiest of them all - of others.

At the heart of expectation is the belief that somehow we will be happier if x, y, z manifests.

Is that not really it, if we strip away all the other coverings? It's a belief. There is no actual guarantee that we will be happier, but we have built the expectation to work out a certain way in our heads that just the thought of it not playing out leaves us more miserable than we originally were!

So how do we practically manage expectations? For advanced bhakti yogis, the answer is simple. They understand that they are not this body but the eternal spirit soul. Since many of our expectations are related to the material, temporary world and relationships that are based on the body, not the soul, such yogis realize that disappointment is inevitable. Essentially, they don't put much stock in it and choose to rest their expectations on the grace of the Divine who never disappoints.

For those of us who may not be on that level, what are we to do?

Recognize that expectations rest on a belief of happiness, not a guarantee.

This can help ease the sting of disappointment, keep things in perspective and help us not to flip out when we are caught in the tight claws of expectation. For many, when we don't get what we expected it tends to weigh heavily on the mind, causes us to speculate and drives us mad.

The next time this happens, give yourself and others a break. Failed expectations can actually be the greatest gift we can receive if we can just approach it in the right perspective. It reminds us that true happiness lies within and doesn't rest in the hands of others.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

are you aware of what's going on?

Verse 3.43: Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence [Kṛṣṇa consciousness] and thus — by spiritual strength — conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.

Once in awhile I am startled by how unaware I am of everything going on around me. At such times, I realize that I'm functioning on automatic pilot and have to remind myself that I'm not a robot but a sentient being that has the power to observe and discriminate!

One such moment happened to a friend of mine recently. She was mentioning how she became jealous upon hearing good news of someone who is close to her. It's not that she didn't wish well for the individual, as she later remarked to me, but it was the fact that she wasn't the recipient of that good fortune. She's gotten over it now and having introspected a bit, said to me, "I wasn't aware that I could become jealous like that!"

I was struck by that phrase:

"I wasn't aware that..."

This entire 3rd Chapter of the Gita has been encouraging us to become more "aware'. It's been pointing out that we, as embodied souls, are prone to being influenced by lust and the mentality of having things go our way (i.e. being attached to the fruits of our work). Krsna has taken the time to stress the importance of awareness because...

It's only when we are aware of a lack, need or challenge that we are inspired to do something about it.

This awareness is so crucial and necessary to the practice of bhakti yoga. In fact, often when I'm asked what bhakti yoga is all about, I give a standard answer - "It's the process by which we can connect to ourselves, the Divine and one another through love and service."

However, as my own understanding of bhakti is deepening, I'm starting to include an additional line in my explanation:

Bhakti yoga is also about becoming conscious of who we are and our eternal relationship with all living entities.

After all, if we don't know who we are and what our relationship is with one another, then it becomes irrelevant as to why we should want to connect to anyone through love and service. As the great bhakti yogi, Srila Prabhupada, said, "First be conscious; then become God conscious."

Isn't that just so practical and beautiful? Ultimately, this means realizing that we are eternal souls who have nothing to do with this temporary material world. This is just one stop in our journey and like an actor in a drama, the body we are in, the situations we face and the emotions we feel are just part of one scene in that drama.

When we become aware that we are not the body, but the eternal soul, it is only then we'll stop sweating the small stuff. Things will start to fall in the proper perspective and we'll be well on our path to lasting happiness.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

moments of emptiness

Verse 3.42: The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.

We live in a world of contradictions. Although we are supposedly more connected than ever due to cell phones, internet, social media and so many other tools, many are noticing that their relationships are getting increasingly impersonal. Despite advances in technology that are supposed to be making our lives easier, we find more people out of work these days due to those very systems and instruments. Maybe the most frighting of all - in spite of so much knowledge available out there, it seems that many people are more confused than ever...about everything!

Living with confusion and uncertainty without proper guidance or a path inevitably leads to looking for shelter in all the wrong places. It's at these times that mass consumerism and lust can easily sway our troubled hearts.

It's so easy to take shelter in the senses as they serve to distract us from what many of us feel inside:

Our heart is crying out for more.

There lies the problem for many. What is that "more" that the heart is crying out for? If we don't know, we continue to try to find "it" in so many different ways. For some, it may mean finding new and novel ways to give pleasure to the senses. Frustrated or bored with that, it could mean turning to philosophy or speculation and trying to engage and stimulate the intellect. If that fails, then others may turn to philanthropy or even solitude.

To no avail, many who face this emptiness try to hide it under the cover of being busy, yet never really feel satisfied. But we learn to play the game and put on a happy face, right?

Well...for those who are tired of this useless game, a solution is given today. However, it requires a shift in consciousness to say:

"I'm done with living with that gnawing feeling of emptiness and frustration that I've pushed into the recesses of my heart. I'm also done with deluding myself that temporary happiness is enough and am ready to recognize that I deserve eternal happiness and will do what it takes to get it!"

That shift in consciousness will allow us to make another crucial change. Our energy tends to be focused on the senses and how to satisfy them. When we transfer our attention to the intelligence and feed that, a whole new world opens up. By feeding the intelligence with spiritual knowledge, like that given in the Gita, we start to fill in a much needed gap.

Remember that proper guide or path that may be missing? Here it is. The intelligence is supposed to act as the guide by taking shelter of an empowered teacher and being absorbed in the wisdom of bhakti yoga (i.e. the process to connect through love). This way, if the mind tries to take us down our usual path of trying to get a quick fix, the intelligence can actually step in and provide the proper guidance and support that needed to get out of that vicious cycle; furthermore, it will help us on our quest to achieve eternal happiness.

Ultimately, the only thing that will make us happy is genuine and meaningful soul-soul connections. The soul craves relationship, love and service. When it is covered by lust it mistakenly thinks it can get that by ignoring the one person who can give all of that - the Divine.

The path is clear. All it requires is a change of consciousness. The question remains - do you want eternal happiness and are you ready to do what it takes to get it?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

tired of the same old?

Verse 3.41: Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bhāratas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.

Find yourself doing the same old things again and again and not really feeling any happier? I was reflecting on this yesterday night as I caught myself falling into the trap of doing the same old things that honestly don't help increase my happiness levels. After all, let's be perfectly honest - most of us want to be happy and there's nothing wrong with that!

It may seem contradictory, but the advice we hear today of regulating the senses can lead to new experiences, fun AND has the benefit of progressing in our path of self-discovery. It's not as limiting as one might think.

For some of us, it means taking a good hard look at our lives and asking, "What makes me happy?" In fact, it's an exercise I'd encourage everyone to do. Take a piece of paper and write down what you do in your free time. Now, write down on a scale of 1-10 how happy those activities make you. It could be anything from eating, hanging out with friends, sleeping etc... Got that down...well now comes the tough question:

How long does that happiness last?

That's the question we should really be asking. It's become enough to just feel happy, no matter how temporary it may be. But yoga isn't about getting second rate things, it's about getting the best. The best is finding those things that will sustain our happiness.

Regulating the senses means to stop settling for second best.

Practically speaking, it means recognizing that happiness comes from service as opposed to selfishness. It ties back into the concept of non-attachment and gratitude. After all -

A life of happiness is directly proportional to the gratitude that we feel and express.

When we are covered over by lust, we feel the need to possess and control things because we are feeling empty. Gratitude, on the other hand, paves the way to invoking the love that is lying within us and fills us with it. It reminds us that we are recipients of great gifts, talents, and facility.

Regulating the senses means to utilize our senses in expressing gratitude to the Divine for giving us so much. Instead of trying to satisfy our own senses, which are limited and are always hankering for more, we can utilize our senses to convey how grateful we are. It's a matter of changing our attitude.

In the beginning, it can simple as expressing positive words to one another since we recognize that we are all part of a spiritual family, incorporating a compassionate vegetarian lifestyle or praying on behalf of loved ones. As our thoughts become filled with positivity and appreciation, a positive feedback loop starts to form. We experience a profound internal happiness that can't compete with the temporary pleasures we experienced before. That gratitude becomes a permanent fixture in our lives and we'll see more than our mind-sets and attitudes change - we'll actually become (and remain) happy.

Monday, July 8, 2013

strategic yoga

Verse 3.40: The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.

Strategy and planning are essential ingredients to achieving success.

Whether your desire is to pass your physics final, travel around the world or become a great singer, everything requires planning and strategy. Today, we learn that the practice of yoga is no different.

In order to be successful yogis, we require a strategy..

One of the biggest obstacles to discovering who we really are is lust. That lust is what blinds many of us us from realizing that we are the recipients of great gifts and instead compels us to think that everything is ours. It promotes selfishness and pride and masks the mood of service and love which lies dormant within us.

It only makes sense that one who is truly seeking lasting happiness will want to understand who they really are. As we've mentioned before: if you don't know who you really are, then how will you know what will make you happy?

The Gita has already outlined that we are eternal souls, which means that only those things that are eternal will make us happy. It's not that temporary relationships, things and situations don't make us happy, it's just that they can't provide the two key elements that we are constantly looking for: eternal love.

Now, when we understand that lust is a covering that is preventing us from realizing our true selves, it only logical that the thoughtful yogi would want to know how to remove this impediment.

And that, my friends, is called strategic thinking. That's why today's verse of the Gita is so important. It is giving valuable information which we can add to our strategic plan of discovering who we are - where lust can be found.

Three places are specifically named:

1. Senses
2. Mind
3. Intelligence

Continuing along the lines of strategic yoga, it makes sense that instead of spending our resources trying to combat this lust in these places that we start where it can make the most difference. Previously, we learned that there is a hierarchy. The mind is the leader of the senses and the intelligence is what is supposed to control the mind.

By this token, if we can start to remove lust (or the tendency of trying to enjoy the property of the Supreme instead of engaging in a relationship with the Supreme) from the intelligence, then naturally the mind and senses can start to become free from it as well.

So then how does one go about clearing lust from these different places? Join us tomorrow to find out!

Friday, July 5, 2013

burning like fire

Verse 3.39: Thus the wise living entity's pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.

Very often readers of the Gita pose this question: "If I'm an eternal soul which is always blissful and full of knowledge, then why don't I experience those qualities?" It's a great question and one which is answered here today-

When the pure consciousness of the soul is covered by lust, the soul forgets who it really is.

This lust is what causes us to feel empty and lonely. As a quick reminder, lust is the negative transformation of love and compels the covered soul to seek enjoyment in all that is temporary. That search for pleasure outside of ourselves in temporary material things is what often leads to great frustration.

Makes sense if you think about it. If we are eternal, then how can we be satisfied by impermanence? It just doesn't work.

The thing is, although the soul has forgotten its eternality, its inherent pleasure seeking characteristic still remains. That's we continue to try to seek eternal happiness despite all our failures. In fact, it is this lust which continues to burn within us and fuels our desire to keep trying to find that pleasure - just in all the wrong places!

That's where the Gita provides the solution. The Gita doesn't promote that we just ignore our inherent nature to desire pleasure. Instead, it teaches us how to transform our lust into its original state of love. Specifically, it teaches us:

We're searching for pleasure in the wrong places.

See the difference? The search still remains...it's just that it becomes transformed. Instead of seeking pleasure in the temporary, material world, instead we are directed to seek pleasure in that which is eternal - our relationship with the Supreme.

It is this relationship which will revive our pure consciousness and which will transform all the lust in our heart to pure love.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

power of analogies

Verse 3.38: As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the living entity is similarly covered by different degrees of this lust.

I love analogies. A good one is able to simplify concepts that are complicated or foreign by making them understandable and relatable.

Yesterday we were introduced to what bhakti yoga defines as lust - a negative transformation of love. While love is selfless and giving, lust is selfish and greedy. The soul's true nature is one of love, but when the soul is covered by different degrees of lust, that lust acts as a covering which prevents the soul from understanding its true nature.

Today, through the power of analogy, we dive deeper into understanding how there are three degrees by which a living entity (i.e. soul) can be covered by lust.

The first example of fire covered by smoke relates to all of us who are living in human bodies. The bhakti texts describe that human life is one of responsibility. Whereas plants and animals are not subject to the laws of karma, human beings are. The reason why is due to the fact that we have the power of discrimination. This discrimination allows us to introspect and question who we are, why we are here, where we came from and do something about it!

This is not to say that those of us in human bodies are better than plants or animals...after all there are souls inside those bodies as well! It's to note and remember that the gift of discrimination is part of the human body experience.

When this discrimination is used to question "Who am I?", the soul can embark on a journey of self-discovery. Just like smoke may prevent us from seeing the fire which is producing it, clearing the smoke reveals its source. Similarly, the soul which can be compared to the fire, is driving the body. When we start turning our attention to it, we start to recognize that is who we really are.

The second analogy of a mirror covered by dust refers to birds and beasts. Dust is heavier than smoke and can be harder to clear. Similarly, for those souls that are in the bodies of birds and beasts, the covering of lust is greater and therefore it is harder to achieve self-realization.

Finally, the third analogy of the embryo being covered by the womb refers to the densest covering of lust over a soul. Such souls that are so heavily covered that they inhabit the bodies of plants.

So why does the Gita go into so much detail? To highlight how lucky we are to be in a human body! It gives us the facility to achieve self-realization much more easily and to help others as well. We can help our fellow souls in the bodies of birds, beasts and plants very easily - by exposing them to the power of mantra meditation and prayer.

That's right! Practicing mantra meditation, like uttering the most powerful maha mantra, in the presence of other living beings can help remove the dense covering of lust.

Bhakti yoga is so wonderful that just by helping others, we help ourselves.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

love vs. lust

Verse 3.37: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.

Have you ever heard of the expression "transforming lust into love"? If so, you might not have known it at the time, but you were actually hearing the very essence of the Gita.

Although certain imagery or thoughts may come to mind when we think of the word lust, the Gita explains that that it is a transformation of love.

So what does love really mean then? Yoga defines love, in its highest form, to be the natural inclination of the soul to give pleasure to the Supreme. If you really meditate on that definition, it makes a lot of sense.

We all, by nature, are seeking that person who will provide us with all our necessities, never abandon us, is capable of loving us completely and is the only person who truly understands how we feel. Am I right or am I right? ;)

It's no coincidence that the Gita, along with all other authorized spiritual texts, give us one unanimous answer to that question - the Supreme.

If it's natural that we love the Divine, then why is it so hard for some of us to access that love. Why do we turn to so many other things? That question is answered here today: Because we are clouded by lust.

"When the soul's natural affection for the Supreme is misplaced, by trying instead to enjoy the property of the Supreme instead of engaging in a relationship with the Supreme, then that love is transformed into lust"

In other words, due to lifetimes of taking on different bodies, we've forgotten our love for the Divine. Instead, some of us try to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts with all sorts of gadgets, people and situations that we think might make us happy. If that doesn't work and we feel dejected, frustrated and become angry), we still keep trying to seek eternal happiness through our temporary material bodies.

Many of us are under a type of amnesia. The only cure to re-awaken to our natural position of happiness is to associate with those persons who have come out from the fog and confusion. That's why bhakti yoga is a transformation of the heart, not just the mind or intelligence. By practicing mantra meditation, reading bhakti texts and spending time with advanced bhakti practitioners, we start to remember who we really are and gratitude starts to infuse the heart.

That gratitude is the path by which love can develop and we can truly remember who we are.

For many of us:

Life is a journey to find true love.

That true love is waiting for us. We just need to clear the fog of lust and realize that our greatest happiness is not found outside ourselves, but by connecting to the Supreme.