Adding Innovation, Wisdom and Holistic Human Development to Our Universities by Stephen Knapp

 (Written for my presentation at the World Parliament of Science, Religion and Philosophies in Pune, India, October, 2018)

A long time ago, back when I was about 20 years old, and when I had already been studying such books as the Bhagavad-gita, the Upanishads, and other Vedic texts of India, I saw an article in my local paper by the principle of my local high school in which he said that when students come to school, they should already have an understanding of what they want to accomplish and what they want to get out of their education. When I saw this, I thought it was rather odd, because is not that what education is supposed to give you, the understanding of who and what you are, and how to reach your highest potential? But if the principle says that he expects the student should already have such insight before he or she arrives at school, this would seem to mean that there must be some kind of supplemental education that the student should have before he goes to school.

So I wrote a long letter to the editor of our local newspaper pointing this out, that there must be some kind of preliminary education that would provide the student with such insight. Otherwise, if he does not get that from school, from where is he expected to acquire such understanding? So, I mentioned that books like the Bhagavad-gita in the Vedic tradition could provide some of these insights, if people would take advantage of it.

However, some would say that this is spiritual knowledge, or even religious information, and how is that supposed to be provided in schools that are meant to be completely secular? The point is, as mentioned in the Sri Ishopanishad (Mantra Eleven), that to reach perfection in life, one must learn material knowledge side by side with spiritual knowledge. It is not enough to learn some craft or trade skills to make a living, but a person must also know the purpose of life and why we are here and who we are.

When we forget or do not know who we are, we also lose sight of the moral standards we need to accumulate to develop ourselves into decent and law abiding citizens, human beings who can make a substantial and uplifting contribution to the community and the world at large. Instead, we may fall to the platform of only trying to live at whatever cost, even if it is by trying to take advantage of others, rather than trying to better ourselves along with everyone else.

In this light, when I’m traveling and lecturing about the traditions of India, it is not uncommon that some people will ask me why there is often so much corruption, cheating and bribery in India. I often tell them that the fact is that people are forgetting their own culture, their own traditions of moral standards that the Dharmic principles are meant to teach them. In fact, it is often said that the problems you find in India are caused by India’s religion. But actually, wherever I go I find that it is not the case at all, but it is the result of forgetting, the distancing from, and the misinterpretation of the Vedic tradition that leaves the gaps in society and in the character of humanity that cause the problems of which we see so much.

The fact is that if we really understood and followed the culture that is the legacy and inheritance of this country, many of the social problems we see would simply disappear. Therefore, we need to continue to teach our children the basic principles of moral standards and character building that India’s Vedic tradition promotes. So, my advice was that we need to continue to spread the understanding of the Vedic Dharma traditions in order to show the proper example of truly noble character, not only in the teachings in such traditions, but by the example of the great character of the personalities and heroes that are described in the great epics of India.

Actually, I also put this question about the corruption of India to M. Rama Jois, the retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court when I had met him on one of my tours while visiting Bengaluru several years ago. He had written a book called “Dharma: The Global Ethic.” In this book, he shows the many ways in which Vedic Dharma is not a religious teaching, but a moralistic code that can provide advice for people of all standings, and in all kinds of situations, and especially for the children which can use a standard of insight that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. He also showed, as I also say, that present-day problems are due to the neglect of Dharma. And that with Vedic Dharma, there would be a reduction of evil, confusion in society, the propensity for selfish motives and cruelty to others, and how an orderly society is an incarnation and manifestation of Dharma, and how Dharma does not mean religion, which is the means of worshiping God. But Dharma is a code of living by good conduct, respect for the law and our traditions, and the means to sustain society and the world, and propel them to a higher grade of living and refined consciousness. Without that, we can see what is happening.

Dharma is conformity with the truth of things, while adharma or vice is the opposition to it. On a national, ethnic, or racial level, Dharma is an instrument of unity, not divisiveness. That which helps unite everyone and develop love and universal brotherhood is Dharma. That which causes discord or disharmony or provokes hatred is adharma.

Dharma is also said to be the force which maintains the universe. Where there is Dharma there is harmony and balance individually, socially, and inter‑galactically. So the path of Dharma brings about the harmony and contentment that is also another aspect of what we are seeking. In this way, we want harmony inwardly, in our own consciousness, but we also cannot have individual peace unless there is harmony or cooperation socially, among the masses. So, where there is no Dharma, there is disharmony and a state of being that is out of balance. And socially it means that without Dharma, there is a lack of cooperation, along with escalating quarrel, fighting, corruption, and dishonesty.

When we act against the law of Dharma, we disrupt the very harmony and cooperation that we want. In other words, we create a life for ourselves in which there is stress, confusion, discontent, and frustration. And when we feel that way, that becomes our contribution to the general social condition. It is the exact opposite of what we wish to attain. Thus, to live a life outside of Dharma means to work against ourselves.

Rama Jois explained to me that years ago, before India’s independence, it was common that children would be taught before they went to school about the moral standards and character of the heroes of Vedic culture. Sometimes the schools also would include the Dharmic teachings to imbibe in children the character and principles of being a good and decent human being, and, thus, also a good student, which the children would then take with them for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, once India became independent it also became a secular nation, which meant that all such early teaching about human development, and moral standards based on the heroes and characters within the Vedic epics of India, could no longer be taught in schools or any government affiliated institution. It was considered religious teachings, and therefore was not allowed. With this, as M. Rama Jois explained, came the distancing of the youth from the Vedic culture and the high moral standards that went with it. And from this came the ever-increasing corruption that has infected much of the country.

These days, only through private schools, or in families that teach the Vedic culture, or I have also seen families who hold weekend classes in such topics for the neighborhood children, do the youth still learn of this type of knowledge that helps instill in them pride in their heritage and the principles of high moral standards, and the means to acquire insights into character-building for their own development, either before they go to school or even after they have already started their education. On the other hand, if secularism means a state without Dharma, then we will see a lawless state, a lawless country. Surely, the Indian constitution did not mean that we become a State of Adharma. Dharma regulated the mutual obligations and what is beneficial for individuals and society. Therefore, it was stressed that the protection of Dharma was in the interest of both the individual and the society. And the best way to protect it is to train youngsters in Dharma from the beginning of their lives.

Therefore, the concluding point I am making is that the basis of knowledge, wisdom and holistic human development is to not only offer the necessary classes in material studies, sciences and skills, but to include the basis of human refinement that has been a part of India’s traditions since time immemorial, which includes that of Dharmic studies. Such could and should be part of the curriculum, or extra-curricular classes that students could take. This would transform India’s universities into true centers of innovation, wisdom, ethics, holistic human development, knowledge, and balance for the student’s life. This would add to the beneficial contributions such a student would offer to their family, society and the country. This would change the direction of India, and provide an example that the rest of the world should follow.

Stephen Knapp (Author/Writer of over 40 books on various aspects of India and its Vedic culture. http://www.stephen-knapp.com)

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United Hindu Identity, United Hindu Cooperation

By Stephen Knapp

(Sri Nandanandana dasa)

(Written for the 2nd World Hindu Congress in Chicago, September 7-9, 2018)

            As we look at Hindus today, we have so many organizations that work for the sake of the Dharma traditions. We have such institutions as the RSS, HSS, VHP, HSC, HMEC, Kalyana Ashrama, or Swadhyaya, Iskcon, Gaudiya Math, the World Vaishnava Association, RamaKrishna Mission, Chinmayananda Mission, Vedanta Society, Self-Realization Fellowship, and many others. And I am happy to say that I have worked with many of them or still have friends in them. But some of these groups seem to be more exclusive than others. They may work hard for their own interests, yet these are often similar to the work and goals of other institutions. So, what if we were more united, more cooperative with each other? We know that there is strength in numbers. So how much stronger could we be if we could cooperate in a single force, at least when needed?

It seems that right now we cannot easily unite and become a strong federation, a powerful force that can determine the fate or future of India and the preservation of its Vedic culture. If anything, so many of these associations in India still fight with or are indifferent to one another and, thus, weaken each other to the point of becoming incapable of performing any worthwhile actions that will make a real difference for the unity and future of India and its traditions. More divisions mean more disunity. This means the less unity we will have for defending our culture.

This was the same sort of weakness of the past 1000 years when invaders came into India, sometimes few in numbers, but conquered and took over parts of the country without much resistance. It was this lack of unity amongst the princely states, and their inability to support each other or come to the aid of another, that allowed for such a poor defense system in which they could not repel their invaders. So, we have to ask ourselves, are we going to continue the same pattern? Are we going to sit back and criticize others and what they have or have not done while we have yet to do anything of real significance? If we do, then there is no doubt that we, Hindus in general, are already finished. It is only a matter of time when we and the Vedic system will become so diminished that it will fade from the world, like other cultures that have been reduced to mere museum pieces. We have to rise above that.

So, it seems we still do not have a unified identity in which we can all work together. I was the president of the Vedic Friends Association for 15 years in which we are still trying to create such a united force here in America. Nonetheless, in my view, one of the greatest attempts to do this in India was the Acharya Sabha as organized by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, which joined together over 200 spiritual leaders of the major paramparas and spiritual lineages to discuss the common issues that affected all of them, and then make plans on how to deal with such concerns.

So, in this regard we need to reach a singleness of purpose in which we feel that if any part of the Vedic tradition or any group is under attack or being challenged by outside forces, then we are all under attack, and we all must be ready to stand up for the cause. We should be willing to be a united force to be reckoned with, the kind that makes people think twice before persecuting or attacking any Hindus or any part of the Vedic tradition. But this is a call to be active. And many Hindus are not.

Once while giving a talk at a Krishna temple in Mumbai, I began discussing the need to be protective of our culture and try to elect those politicians who are pro-Hindu, or show why they should be pro-Hindu. So, I asked the audience of over 1200 people how many had participated in the last election. Not one hand went up. This is why some people ask whether Hinduism is destined to become extinct. I hope not, but that depends on what we do. Which means we all have to be pro-active.

If we were a stronger and unified force, politicians would know that they need to get our approval. They would take the needs of Hindus more seriously if they want our vote. They would not simply be concerned with vote bank politics that often cater to non-Hindus. Such strength would also mean there would not be the persecution of Hindus that often seems to be sanctioned by politicians in states such as Kerala or West Bengal, or love jihad as found in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. They would know that Hindus will react and defend themselves, or even go after the politicians who neglect them or even work against them.

Some say that Sanatana-dharma means that it is eternal, so there is no need to worry. But that means they do not even know that Lord Krishna said in Bhagavad-gita (4.1-3, 7-8) that one of His purposes was to re-establish the Vedic traditions that had become lost. This lack of familiarity is a sign of such fading away of knowledge of the Dharmic culture, and the importance of understanding the part we need to play. Arjuna also had to fight for Dharma, so why should we not think that we also need to do something to protect Vedic Dharma?

India must remain the homeland of a thriving and dynamic Vedic tradition. This is essentially based on the universal spiritual truths and knowledge that can be applied by any person at anytime, anywhere in the universe, so they can reach their highest potentials. That is Sanatana-Dharma. If Hindus, Dharmists or Sanatanis, whatever name you want to use, can stand united, there is no threat we cannot handle. History has shown that. But history has also shown that when we are fragmented, then bits and pieces of our culture and even our Mother India get chopped off and taken away from us. This cannot go on.

Therefore, the need of the hour is to find the means wherein we can stand together for the cause of Sanatana-Dharma, the basis of our Hindu culture.

If we can do this, the youth would also be more proud of being a part of something in which reasoning is sound, stable, and in which the participants, such as their parents, are not shy about sharing it or defending it. Nonetheless, the children have to be guided by proper training and association, and proper observance of Vedic traditions. This also is part of forming the proper samskaras in the minds of the children. And isn’t this what we are meant to do anyway? But for this to happen, the parents must also be educated in our Dharmic traditions.

We also need to realize that America is a prime location where we can work together for cultivating as well as protecting and preserving the Vedic tradition. Why? Because there is less emphasis amongst Indian Hindus on local ethnicity or caste. In other words, it is easier to simply be an Indian Hindu or American Hindu rather than a Rajasthani Hindu, Maharashtrian Hindu, or Tamil brahmin, and so on, which thereafter can bring out so many distinctions. If we are going to become united, our identity should first start with being a Hindu, Dharmist or Sanatani: a follower of Sanatana-Dharma. Anything else can be added after that, no matter whether we are Indian, Nepali, Malaysian, Fijian, or from Mauritius, Bali, or America. We are first Hindus or Dharmists. In order to create greater cooperation and a powerful association, we need to have and accept a more unified identity. Then in that light, we can work together and assist each other for the Vedic cause, and form a united federation that can more powerfully take on any threats to our future. There is no reason why we cannot do that if we actually live by the spiritual principles of Sanatana-Dharma, and, thus, Think Collectively, Act Valiantly.

Kurukshetra: A Short Visitor’s Guide

by Stephen Knapp

Kuruksetra is a spiritually important and peaceful town which no pilgrim should miss. It is 118 kilometers north of Delhi, or about a four hour train ride or three hour auto ride away. It is most noted for being the place where Lord Krishna sang the Bhagavad-gita, which means the “song of God,” to his friend Arjuna. Therefore, this town is considered the cradle of Vedic culture, part of the battlefield of the Mahabharata war, and the birth place of the Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavad-gita is a classic text of India and Vedic thought. Every December there is the festival of Gita Jayanti, which is the celebration of Krishna relating the Bhagavad-gita when thousands of pilgrims visit Kurukshetra. The name of the town is believed to have come from King Kuru, the son of Samvarana and Tapati, and the ancestor of the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

Not only was the Bhagavad-gita sung by Lord Krishna in Kurukshetra, but other spiritually important events also took place here. Krishna met his friends and residents of Vrindavana here during an eclipse while He was living in Dwaraka. He also took bath in Brahma Sarovara and the Sannihit Sarovara water tanks. It is said that the Brahma Sarovara tank is one of the most important in all of India, and that all the holy waters of India are found in the Brahma Sarovara during an eclipse, which is why millions of pilgrims come here to bathe during such an event. It is also said that those who bathe here, live here, visit, or die in Kuruksetra go to heaven after death. In the Kurukshetra Mahatmya of the Mahabharata the sage Pulastya says that even the dust of Kurukshetra will cause one to reach the highest goal. This is the benefit for all who died in the battle of Kurukshetra 5,000 years ago, and one reason why the battle took place here. It is another reason why every pilgrim should visit this holy place. It is also explained that if a person walks eight miles along the Ganga River, he will acquire the merit of performing one ashwamedha ritual. In Kashi (Varansi) one gets the same result by walking only four miles, and only two miles when walking in Kurukshetra.

Furthermore, it is said that Manu wrote the Manu-samhita here. Some people also believe that Vyasadeva wrote some of the Vedic texts, such as the Mahabharata, at his ashrama along the banks of the Sarasvati River when the Sarasvati used to flow through Kurukshetra. This is not to contradict the premise that he also wrote Vedic texts in his ashrama near Badrinatha. The Rig and Sama Vedas may have been written here as well. Even Lord Buddha is said to have visited Kuruksetra.

While we are here, there are several places we want to visit. First of all, Jyotisar is the place where Krishna related the Bhagavad-gita to His devotee Arjuna. This is about 10 kilometers north of town. It is a pleasant motor-ricksha ride away, and it provides a time to meditate on the occasion when the huge armies gathered on these plains thousands of years ago. Jyotisar is now a small park with a central banyan tree over a small marble chariot that marks where Krishna sang the Bhagavad-gita and showed Arjuna His universal form. The banyan tree is said to be the same tree as when Krishna and Arjuna were present and, thus, the only living witness to the event. There is a large pond of water here that provides for a refreshing atmosphere. There are also a few other small shrines, like an old Shiva temple. It is most pleasant to sit and meditate on the significance of the area and read some of the Bhagavad-gita while visiting.

The history of the Battle of Kuruksetra and the speaking of the Bhagavad-gita can be told briefly. The five Pandava brothers, born of King Pandu, were the legitimate heirs to the kingdom of India. However, when the Pandavas were still young, Pandu died untimely and Dhritarashtra, the head of the Kuru family, assumed control until the Pandavas were grown. However, due to his love for his own sons, Dhritarashtra engaged in many plots and intrigues to eliminate the Pandavas so his sons, the Kauravas, could inherit the kingdom. After many years of tribulations, close escapes from death, and fourteen years of exile, the Pandavas returned to reclaim their rights to the throne. However, the Kurus were not inclined to honor the Pandavas in any way. Even after asking for only five villages, one for each of the Pandavas to rule, Duryodhana, the chief of the Kauravas, said he would not give them enough land with which to stick in a pin.

After all peaceful negotiations were exhausted, the Pandavas agreed that there was no other choice than to fight. Even Lord Krishna went and personally asked the Kauravas to settle the matter in a peaceful way, but this was not what was destined to be. Each side then amassed huge armies from all over India and beyond. In fact, the Kurus had a much larger army and far greater warriors than the Pandavas. However, the greatest ally of the Pandavas was their great moral and spiritual character, and their friend Sri Krishna, the most powerful personality.

When it was time for the huge armies to face each other on the plains of Kuruksetra, there were many millions of warriors, horses, chariots, and elephants ready to fight. Before the battle, Krishna, who was serving as Arjuna’s chariot driver and advisor, drove Arjuna’s chariot between the two great armies. Seeing the number of friends and relatives on each side ready to fight each other, Arjuna hesitated and felt much grief over the situation. He felt it was useless to fight. He preferred to retire to the forest and live as a recluse and meditate. It was then that Krishna took the opportunity to sing the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna to show him that action for devotional service and to protect Sanatana-dharma is a higher standard.

The Bhagavad-gita is the essence of all Vedic philosophy and is composed of 700 verses and explains such topics as the nature of the soul, God, the material universe, activities and karma, reincarnation, the process of yoga, the purpose of life, and more. After all this was explained to Arjuna, he took courage with proper understanding and fought. Thereafter, the war of Kurukshetra lasted for 18 days in which several million warriors died in the fierce fighting. Then the Pandavas were rightfully established in their kingdom, and Sri Krishna had provided His eternal instructions in the form of the Bhagavad-gita for all of humanity. This is all elaborated in the Mahabharata which is composed of 100,000 verses, making it the longest poem in literary history.

When we leave Jyotisar, our next stop is at Bishma Kund, also called Bana Ganga. This is where Grandfather Bhishma fell on the tenth day of the battle of Kurukshetra, but remained laying there until the sun entered the northern hemisphere. The battle was so fierce that Bhishma’s back was covered with arrows. Finally, he fell on his back and laid on what appeared as a bed of arrows. Then Krishna and the Pandavas, hearing the news, gathered around him as he prepared to leave this world. Bhishma was one of the greatest and most respected of the warriors on the battlefield. As he lay there, he became thirsty and Arjuna shot an arrow into the ground from which sprang Ganges water to quench Bhishma’s thirst. This later formed into what is now a small kund or water tank called Bana Ganga, or Bhishma Kund. Bathing in it is said to give the benefits of bathing at all the holy tirthas. This is also where Bishma gave the teachings of Rajadharma (statecraft) and Anushasana (discipline) to Yudhisthira. Bishma also sang the Vishnusahasranama (The Thousand Names of Vishnu) to Lord Krishna before he departed this world.

Next to the kund is a small temple that has images of Bhishma on the bed of arrows surrounded by Krishna and the Pandavas in the act of listening to Bhishma as he instructs Yudhisthira on the path of dharma, or spiritual merit. There is also a deity of Krishna in His universal form. At one end of the kund is also a huge 26-foot tall deity of Hanuman. There is also a little temple here of Sita-Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and Durga. When we are finished here, next we’ll go to the large Brahma Sarovara tank.

There is another place called Bana Ganga southwest of Kurukshetra in Dayalpur. This is a small kund where Arjuna had stopped to rest his horses on his way to fight with Jayadratha. In order to quench the thirst of his horses, he shot his arrow called Parjanyastra into the ground which generated the necessary water. There is also a temple of Goddess Bala Sundari on the premises, and a large Hanuman image.

Brahma Sarovara is one of the holiest tanks in India and is where millions of pilgrims gather to bathe during an eclipse. One who bathes here is said to receive the merit of performing an ashvamedha ritual, and one is freed from all sins by bathing here during an eclipse. This is where Lord Brahma performed a large sacrificial ceremony and also from where he manifested the earth planet in the process of creation. Legend has it that Brahma Sarovara was excavated first by King Kuru long before the epic battle of Kurukshetra. It is a huge tank (half a kilometer wide and one kilometer long) with an island in the middle connected by a road that cuts through it. On the island is a water well called the Chandra Kupa Well, one of the oldest sacred wells. Tradition has it that in ancient times the water in the well would change to milk during the solar eclipse. Next to the well is a small Radha-Krishna temple where Yudhisthira is said to have built a victory pillar after the successful culmination of the war. This lake is also where Krishna, His brother Balarama, and His sister Subhadra came from Dwaraka to bathe during an eclipse. Along the side of the tank is a smaller island with the Sarveshwar Mahadeva (Shiva) temple on it.

The streets nearby have a number of other temples that we can visit, such as the Birla Gita Mandir. This has a deity of Krishna in the act of explaining the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. Outside is a chariot with images of Krishna and Arjuna on it. Down the road along Brahma Sarovara are other temples and ashramas, many of which are quite nice. You can simply ride down the street and stop to see the ones you want to visit.

Nearby is Sannihit Sarovara, another lake or water tank that is very significant. It is not as large as Brahma Sarovara, but it is fairly big (1500 by 450 feet). Sannihit means the assembly of the entire range of holy tirthas or sacred sites, which is said to happen every Amavas, or eclipse, especially the Somavati Amavas (lunar eclipse). It is also said that all of the sacred holy places gather here on the new Moon day, and that this is where the seven sacred Sarasvatis meet. Performing the shraddha ceremony for the benefit of the ancestors and bathing during the eclipse is said to purify you of all your sins and give you the merit of having performed 1,000 ashvamedha ceremonies. Lord Krishna also bathed here and met the gopis and residents of Vrindavana when He was present. It is also accepted that it was here where Lord Indra accepted the bones from the great sage Dadhichi, which were so powerful that they were used in making a Vajra or thunderbolt for killing the demon Vritasura.

On the eastern end of the tank are several small temples to Vishnu, Dhruva, Hanuman, Durga, Lakshmi-Narayana, Surya, etc. Across the road is a large, beautiful temple to Lakshmi-Narayana. There are also numerous sadhus found here, and those who merely look like sadhus. In fact, as I walked around the lake on one occasion, I came upon a group of sadhus who, instead of engaging in meditation or reading scriptures, etc., were sitting and playing a game of cards. When I asked them if I could take a photo, a few instantly said no. Playing like a naive tourist, I asked why not, and one answered, “What do you think?” They thought I was going to take a photo and then give it to the newspapers. Of course, I knew why they didn’t want their photo taken: They didn’t want to be seen that way because they would lose their credibility. This made me realize how few real sadhus actually exist.

Not far from here is a very impressive, government operated Krishna Museum. Every aspect of this museum is related to the pastimes of Krishna and the various ways to express devotion to Him. The museum has a wide assortment of brass, metal, and wood deities of Krishna, Jagannatha, along with paintings, drawings, sculptures, and artwork from all over India. There was also a life-size image of Mother Yasoda with Krishna and Balarama. It also has an assortment of costumes and dress from different eras of Indian history. This museum is very nicely done and well worth the visit, but don’t take any photos or, as I was told, they may take away your camera. There is also a Multimedia Mahabharata and Gita Gallery for all those who are interested. Altogether it is an especially nice exhibit. Also, do not miss the Kurukshetra Panorama & Science Centre, which brings to life the epic battle of the Mahabharata with special acoustic effects. Exhibits are also related to various branches of science like astronomy, medicine, chemistry, botany, and zoology.

Our next stop is Kamal Nabha or Nabhi, which is a water kund said to mark the place where Brahma was born out of the lotus flower that arose from the nabhi or navel of Lord Vishnu. This is located in the old town of Thanesar. The water tank here is not that large and is green with algae, but is very significant. There is only a small shrine with Lakshmi-Narayana deities and a picture on the wall of Vishnu with Brahma on the lotus coming from Vishnu’s navel. In the entranceway are a few other small deities.

Another short ride to a different part of town takes us to the Sthaneswara temple and tank. This is also quite interesting and is where the Pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva for blessings to be victorious in the war of Kurukshetra. The water from the tank is considered sacred and to have healing powers. A few drops of the water from the tank is said to have cured King Ban or Vena of leprosy. The temples around the tank have very beautiful deities of Krishna, Radha-Govinda, Sita-Rama and Lakshmana, Shiva, Durga, etc., and an ancient Shiva lingam. The present temple is said to be constructed by Sadashiva Rao Bhau, the commander-in-chief of the Maratha forces, to commemorate his victory over Ahmed Shah Abdali in the battle of Kunjpura, near Karnal. According to the Vamana Purana, the tirthas of Shukra, Soma, Daksha and Skanda are located in the north, east, south, and west parts respectively of this Sthanu tirtha, but one who visits the linga of Shiva here gets moksha or liberation. The Vamana Purana also says that whoever enters this Sthanu temple, with or without desires, gets emancipation from all karma and attains the supreme seat.

Down the road is the Bhadra Kali temple. This is another Shaktipeeth, or empowered place related to Devi, which marks the place where Sati’s ankle fell when Lord Vishnu cut her dead body into pieces as it was being held by Lord Shiva. This was after she left her body when she had been insulted by her father, Daksha, in Haridwar for having Shiva as her husband. A marble sculpture of a right ankle is placed over the well where Sati’s ankle fell. It is visited by a large number of devotees.

The Iskcon Krishna temple is in the bazaar in the older part of town. If you can get there in the morning you can have darshan of the beautiful Radha-Krishna deities, which stand about two feet tall, and the smaller Gaura-Nitai deities. You can also attend the arati and have a nice prasadam breakfast. The temple is quite nice and expanding. They also have guest quarters on the top floor where visitors can stay. The number of devotees is small, but they are very friendly and helpful. In fact, they helped arrange my motor ricksha transportation to see the holy places in town the first time I came to visit Kurukshetra. However, they are building a new and very large temple on the road on the way to Jyotisar, which will be in the shape of a chariot. So many people will be stopping to see this new temple.

Another place to see is the Dharohar Haryana Sangrahalaya, established in 2006, which houses a variety of objects like agricultural and domestic implements and art and craft items from the state of Haryana. It also has archaeological artifacts, manuscripts, wall paintings, folk music instruments, ornaments, weapons, etc., to highlight the culture and rich traditions of Haryana.

There is also the Kalpana Chawla Memorial Planetarium named after Dr. Kalpana Chawla, India’s famous astronaut and space scientist. This has been set up by Haryana State Council for Science & Technology for imparting non-formal education in astronomy so anyone can learn more about this form of science. However most shows are run in Hindi language, but when needed, they are shown in both Hindi and English.

There is an assortment of other noteworthy places around Kuruksetra, some of which you may want to visit if you have time. Altogether there are still about 134 important pilgrimage sites that are still known today, of which we will describe a few. For example, the mound called Amin, eight miles outside of town, is where Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu, was caught in the Chakra Vyuha military formation and killed during the battle of Kuruksetra, as described in the Mahabharata. And the Karna Vadha trench is where Karna, the Pandavas half-brother who fought against them, was killed when his chariot got stuck there.

About 40 kilometers from Kurukshetra is the place of Pehowa where the ancient Sarasvati River is commemorated, and is famous for the performance of the shraddha ceremonies for the ancestors. The tirtha of Prithudaka is mentioned in the Puranas and Mahabharata, where Matinara, a king in the Puru lineage, performed many rituals here on the bank of the Sarasvati River, which is now mostly dried up and no longer flows through Kurukshetra as it did during the times of the Mahabharata.

Jind and Safidon are towns where you will find such tirthas as Ram Hridaya where Parashurama performed a spiritual ceremony. At Birhi Kalan near Jind is Varaha Tirtha where Lord Varaha appeared in order to save the earth. Sarp Damam, in Safidon, is where Janamejaya, the son of Maharaja Pariksit, performed a fire sacrifice in order to destroy all the snakes after his father was bitten by the snake bird Takshaka from a curse by Shringi, as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is in connection with the holy town of Shukratal. If you have the time to do some research, the library at Kuruksetra has a good collection of Vedic literature in Sanskrit and English.

Many of the sites mentioned herein will likely change greatly in their appearance over the next few years because the government plans to spend a lot of money to make these sites more tourist and pilgrim friendly. They plan to make a “Krishna Tour” for the many pilgrims so they can easily see the sites connected with Krishna and India’s history. This will include Kurukshetra and many other places in Haryana, but also places like Vrindavana which will also be a part of this tour.

In this way, Kurukshetra has much to offer the sincere pilgrim and also elaborates the significance of the Bhagavad-gita. Some people stay for a day, but Kurukshetra deserves a few days to see and absorb all it has to offer.

 

Bhagavad-gita’s Ultimate Purpose, Compiled by Stephen Knapp

The Bhagavad-gitaBhagavad-gita is the essence of all Vedic philosophy and is composed of 700 verses and explains such topics as the nature of the soul, God, the material universe, the nature of activities and karma, reincarnation, the process of yoga, the purpose of life, and more. Within the Bhagavad-gita we can find the teachings for such additional topics as how to have a peaceful life, how to gain stability of mind, how to understand the workings of material nature, or even get insights into principles of management. When we really analyze it, there are so many different levels of understanding that can be found within it. Nonetheless, in the Bhagavad-gita we find a recurring theme which puts emphasis on what Lord Krishna taught and expected of Arjuna, and all readers of it, for what we really need to accomplish, and the real purpose of it. Out of all of the teachings we find within, Bhagavan Sri Krishna continues to emphasize the need to end our karma, to stop the cycle of birth and death in this material existence, and to ultimately reach the spiritual world, His abode, where we belong.

These verses form what can be called part of the foundation of the bhakti movement in emphasizing devotion to Krishna as the Supreme Being, which also provides the means to free ourselves from samsara, repeated birth and death in this material creation, and attain the highest spiritual destination. This would also place attention on Kurukshetra, the Dharma-dhama, since this is the place where Lord Krishna taught this most crucial of information, as found in the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, the land of Kurukshetra should be considered one of the most important places for not only the bhakti movement, but also as the historical place of origination for these most essential teachings on Vedic Dharma, and where these teachings were most effectively put into action with the battle of Kurukshetra. What follows are a number of the verses which explain this most essential recurring theme as emphasized by Lord Sri Krishna.

Starting in Chapter 2, Content of the Gita Summarized, after Bhagavan Sri Krishna begins to teach the essential aspects of understanding the soul, He says in verse 72 the real purpose of this knowledge, which is how to follow this path to lead a life that will bring a person to the highest destination possible, “That is the way of the spiritual and godly life, after attaining which a man is not bewildered. Being so situated, even at the hour of death, one can enter into the kingdom of God.” This is the beginning of recognizing that Lord Krishna wants Arjuna and all of us to ultimately attain the spiritual realm. This is the real purpose of His teachings in Bhagavad-gita.

Then in Chapter 4, Sri Krishna continues to clarify this in the explanations of what is Transcendental Knowledge and how to begin to comprehend Krishna as the Absolute Truth. In verse 9 He says, “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

In this way, understanding the truth and characteristics of Bhagavan Sri Krishna is one method that can bring a person to the spiritual world. But attaining the spiritual world is the main point.

Then in verses 23- 24 of the same chapter, Lord Krishna again emphasizes that, “The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature, and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge, merges entirely into transcendence. A person who is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.”

In other words, by engaging in bhakti-yoga, or the devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, such activities are on the spiritual platform, cutting one off from material activities and their reactions, and spiritualizes one’s consciousness, which is the goal, for that is the process for perceiving and then entering the spiritual abode.

Then in verse 30 of the same chapter, Lord Krishna makes it even more clear by explaining that when a person attains an attraction to performing loving devotional activities to Him, that attraction overcomes any material desires and takes one to the spiritual realm. As He says, “All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reaction [meaning freedom from karma], and, having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifice [meaning to attain the attraction to performing spiritual activities], they go to the supreme eternal abode.”

In verse 32 we find that He elaborates by saying, “All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work [meaning physical, mental, or intellectual]. Knowing them as such [to bring you above the bodily platform], you will become liberated.”

In Chapter 5, when Krishna explains the process of Karma-yoga–Action in Krishna Consciousness, verses 24-26, Krishna again explains the spiritual goal of all such activities, which is the purpose of Karma-yoga, “One whose happiness is within, who is active within, who rejoices within and is illumined within, is actually the perfect mystic. He is liberated in the Supreme, and ultimately he attains the Supreme. One who is beyond duality and doubt, whose mind is engaged within, who is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, and who is free from all sins, achieves liberation in the Supreme. Those who are free from anger and all material desires, who are self-realized, self-disciplined and constantly endeavoring for perfection, are assured of liberation in the Supreme in the very near future.”

Here again the purpose of focusing all of our actions on the transcendental nature of who we are, and the means to free ourselves from all karma, is to ultimately attain liberation or freedom from the continuation of any more material existence.

Then in Chapter 7, Knowledge of the Absolute, Bhagavan Sri Krishna explains His different energies and to which energy the individual soul belongs. However, in verse 18, Lord Krishna emphasizes the central purpose of being His devotee, and how to most favorably reach the supreme goal: “All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls, but he who is situated in knowledge of Me I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me.”

To elaborate further, in Chapter 8, Attaining the Supreme, verses 5-8, Lord Krishna clearly expresses the purpose of meditation and the ultimate goal for which we should practice through all the phases of our life. “And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt. Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krishna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt. He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.”

Again Lord Krishna further explains in Chapter 8, verses 13-14, the ultimate way to prepare for leaving this body so we can attain the highest destination after this life: “After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets. For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Partha, because of his constant engagement in devotional service [bhakti-yoga].”

Lord Krishna makes the ultimate purpose of all of His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita very clear by again, in Chapter 8, verse 21, explaining that He expects us to ultimately attain His spiritual abode: “That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.”

Therefore, in Chapter 9, The Most Confidential Knowledge, verse 25, Lord Krishna relates the destination of those who meditate on other objects of worship, while the real goal is to reach the spiritual realm of Lord Krishna. “Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.”

Then in the same chapter, verse 28, Lord Krishna points us in what He considers the right direction to attain the highest goal, when He says, “In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.”

However, Lord Krishna is not yet finished in emphasizing the ultimate purpose of these instructions of Bhagavad-gita. He reiterates in verse 34, “Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.”

In this way, He explains the real objective, as He again points out in Chapter 13, verse 24, when speaking about Nature, the Enjoyer, and Consciousness, “One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.”

Later in verse 35 of the same chapter, Lord Krishna points out that by perceiving the difference between the body and the person who resides in the body, the soul, leads us to becoming free from bodily existence. He says, “One who knowingly sees this difference between the body and the owner of the body and can understand the process of liberation from this bondage, also attains to the supreme goal.”

This is the process of becoming free from illusion, in which Arjuna was temporarily entrapped by his confusion about what he should do. So to provide the whole purpose for attaining freedom from illusion and such misconceptions, Lord Sri Krishna instructs in Chapter 15, The Yoga of the Supreme Person, in verses 5-6, “One who is free from illusion, false prestige, and false association, who understands the eternal, who is done with material lust and is freed from the duality of happiness and distress, and who knows how to surrender unto the Supreme Person, attains to that eternal kingdom. That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.”

Finally, after explaining the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, Lord Krishna reaches the culmination of all such Upanishadic knowledge by summarizing the ultimate goal of any devotee, when He says in Chapter 18, Conclusion–The Perfection of Renunciation, verses 55-56: “One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service [bhakti-yoga]. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God. Though engaged in all kinds of activities, My devotee, under My protection, reaches the eternal and imperishable abode by My grace.”

Therefore, the ultimate position of any transcendentalist or yogi is to attain the grace of the Lord if we want to enter the spiritual world or kingdom of God. And to do this most effectively, Lord Krishna clearly says, again in Chapter 18, verses 65-66: “Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”

Herein is the final conclusion of the purpose of all spiritual activities, without which, we have still not quite attained or understood the goal. And for those who help illuminate this, Lord Krishna says in Chapter 18, verses 68-69, that such a person can certainly attain the goal of the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, “For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” So, in other words, teaching this knowledge is itself devotional service or bhakti-yoga, which is the basis for spiritualizing our consciousness, and which is the method for entering the spiritual abode of Lord Krishna.

In addition to this, simply by studying the Bhagavad-gita will lead to great achievements on our path of spiritual progress, as Lord Krishna explains in Chapter 18, verses 70-71: “And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence. And one who listens with faith and without envy becomes free from sinful reaction and attains to the planets where the pious dwell.”

It can’t get more easy than that.

* * *

To conclude, all of these verses quoted above, and many others from the Bhagavad-gita indicate the ultimate purpose of its teachings, and, quite honestly, the ultimate purpose behind all of Vedic knowledge. We are not really a product of this material creation, nor is it our real home, nor will we ever be able to stay here forever. So Lord Krishna emphasizes the real goal of life within this recurring theme in the Bhagavad-gita, which is to reach freedom from any further existence in this material world and attain Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s supreme spiritual abode. That is our ultimate destination where we can attain the real nature of the soul, which reveals our true identity, and where we can finally be truly happy and blissful.

REFERENCE

The Bhagavad-gita As it Is, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, New York/Los Angeles, 1972.

The Ramayana on the Need for a Proper Leader, By Stephen Knapp

 

Sometimes people think that the ancient Vedic literature no longer has any real usefulness in this day and age. That it is little better than an antique of foregone days. However, this article shows the universal and ever-relevant nature of the Ramayana, and how it explains the symptoms of society when there is no ruler, or when there is an unqualified leader. When there is no such ruler of a country, they describe an assortment of symptoms and problems in society that become prominent, and thus spoil life for the citizens. The descriptions are of a society that is falling apart, wherein the citizens are troubled by the lawlessness and corruption that abounds.

However, these symptoms are what we find so common in today’s world, which shows the timeless nature of the instructions given by these great sages.

Nonetheless, in other situations in the Ramayana, we find remedies for these problems. Such as when Vibhishana instructs Ravana on some of the duties of a king, which we briefly look at. However, Ravana did not like being instructed in this way because he was not interested in acting like a good king anyway, similar in ways to some of the rulers we see today.

Furthermore, the descriptions of Ayodhya when Lord Rama returns to lead the people shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, which we obviously need more than ever in this world. So let us look at these descriptions.

 

THE RESULTS OF A LEADERLESS SOCIETY.

This especially points out how the Ramayana held views on the means for a harmonious society, and what helped provide or prevent it. This section outlines how a society without a leader, or without one that is qualified, will never be harmonious, and will actually exhibit symptoms that will prevent such a united society. Although these describe a time thousands of years ago when facilities were different, it can still be compared to what we would expect to see, or not see, in this day and age. Amazingly, many of the symptoms that are described are the same conditions as we see in society today.

The reason why I wanted to elaborate on these teachings is that as we look around this world, many parts of it seem to be falling apart with each passing day. How can we change things? It is time that people of the world understand what to look for in a leader if we are going to live harmoniously with ourselves or with nature. It is time that we know who to elect if we are going to have a leader who provides the right kind of protection and guidance, and who holds and practices the proper virtue if we are going to steer society in the right direction. And that is, unfortunately, not someone we often see today. It is not that the Ramayana is some kind of outdated book that no longer provides any wisdom, but we will see that it still holds practical advice that will help us correct our misguided aims of life by reconsidering the insight as given by the sages in the Ramayana. So let us take a look at some of these verses, and we will see many of the same indicators right now of a leaderless society that it describes.

This is from the Ayodhya Kanda, Canto 67, verses 9-38, as described by Markandeya and other great sages to urge Vasishtha to install a qualified prince onto the throne.

“In a land destitute of a ruler, the thundering cloud wreathed with lighting does not drench the earth with rain water.” 9

So here we see that drought is common when there is no proper ruler, or when society is misdirected. In such a situation, people no longer work in harmony with nature so that it reciprocates with the needs of the people. People often feel that nature is something to dominate and control, to take what they want from it. But actually we are a part of nature and should be in harmony with it. Otherwise, nature merely reflects the mass consciousness of the people who inhabit the planet, and thus drought is not uncommon.

“In a rulerless land, handfuls of seeds are no longer scattered (for fear of uncertainty of crops). (Nay) in a rulerless land, a son is not amenable to the control of his father, nor his wife amenable to the control of her husband (there being no executive authority to enforce correct conduct).” 10

Herein we see that a leaderless society becomes lawless, with no respect for authority on any level.

“In a rulerless land, people do not construct assembly halls (for public gatherings, there being no such gatherings), nor do joyous men plant lovely gardens (for fear of their being destroyed by enemies of peace and order) or build sacred houses (such as temples and buildings for the free accommodation of travelers and strangers, etc).” 12

In this way, no one builds elaborate structures since the lawless or the enemies will come and destroy them because of a lack of respect for the culture, or to drive out those who are not of the same disposition or religion.

“In a rulerless land, festivals (in honor of deities) in which actors and dancers exhibit their art in a highly ecstatic mood, and convivial gatherings promoting the welfare of the state do not gather strength.” 15

Again this shows how a sophisticated culture will be set to ruin by adharmic forces if there is not a ruler who can gather the means to defend the culture.

“In a rulerless land, parties to a law-suit are not able to have their dispute settled, nor are those given to hearing stories from the Puranas, etc., pleased with such stories told by those to whom the narration of such stories is agreeable.” 16

It may be somewhat amusing to see this description being a result of a rulerless land, especially in India where lawsuits are known to take many months or even years. Without a qualified leader who can execute an efficient system of law and order, the court system becomes increasingly backlogged with cases that are not resolved, not because they can’t be dealt with, but because of a lack of efficiency and honesty in the judicial system, and the interest of the courts to resolve such cases without accepting bribes or other complications before such cases are heard.

“In a rulerless land, virgins decked with gold ornaments do not for their part go united to gardens to sport at dusk (for fear of being abducted or violated by miscreants).” 17

These days no one can go out at night or even in daylight without the risk of being robbed or abducted. This is surely a sign of a lack of proper leadership wherein the citizens know that a crime will be punished, and people will be protected. Without good leaders, criminals know they can get away with many criminal acts.

“In a rulerless land, wealthy husband and cowherds, even though well protected (by their attendants) do not sleep with open doors (for fear of thieves and dacoits).” 18

Again, all doors to a house must be locked where there are criminals, or those who have no respect for authority, which means the authority is too weak to uphold the law and give appropriate punishment to criminals.

“In a rulerless land, the sound of plucking the bow-string with the palm produced by Kshatriyas uninterruptedly discharging arrows while practicing the use of bows is not heard.” 21

This merely indicates that those like the police or soldiers meant to protect the people are in limited numbers, and are not around to help keep law and order. This is usually because the leaders put their interests and priorities in other directions rather than in protecting law abiding citizens or in building a strong military or police force to defend the country and citizens.

“In a rulerless land, merchants travelling far and wide do not safely move about fully equipped with abundant salable goods.” 22

“In a rulerless land, nothing is one=s own in the eyes of anyone. Like fishes, men always devour one another. 31

Again, here we see that in a land without a qualified ruler, merchants cannot move about without the fear of being robbed or killed for their merchandise. In such a case, society is hardly civilized at all.

“In a rulerless land, there is no acquisition of property and no security of possessions. Nor is the army able in a rulerless land to vanquish the foes in a battle.” 24

Even the army becomes ineffective and without proper direction when there is no qualified leader, thus leaving the country vulnerable and unable to oppose its foes, or uphold law and order.

“In a rulerless land, self-controlled ascetics moving all by themselves and contemplating on the Self with their own mind and taking up their abode wherever the evening falls do not move about (freely for want of hospitable householders).” 23

Herein it is described how ascetics who hold the knowledge of the spiritual path are not very abundant, prominent, nor are they often respected. People in general lose interest in such topics when there is no ruler to show by example how to uphold, respect or protect the Dharmic path.

“In a rulerless land, men well-versed in sacred lore do not meet (freely) holding disputations in forests and groves.” 26

Again we see the lack of respect for those who hold within themselves spiritual knowledge, who no longer roam about ready to give such wisdom to the masses, knowing that they may simply meet with the contradictions and criticisms of materialistic people.

“In a rulerless land, flowers, sweetmeats and sacrificial fees are not brought together for the worship of deities by self-controlled men.” 27

In fact, even proper worship, pujas, and Dharmic traditions are soon lost without a leader who will uphold their protection. This means that such a leader must follow or at least respect the Dharmic traditions and the deep spiritual knowledge that is preserved therein.

“A state without a ruler is really no better than rivers without water, a woodland without grass, and cows without a keeper. 29

“If there is no king demarcating good and evil in the world, oh, this world will be reduced to (utter) darkness as it were and nothing can be clearly perceived.” 36

In other words, a land without a qualified ruler is a wasteland wherein the real goal of life is not understood, nor is it practiced, and mere existence with the attempt to avoid so many problems is all that is left to achieve, and that also only with great struggle. With this as the standard, such a society is reduced to utter ignorance of the true purpose of life.

 

WHAT THE KING IS MEANT TO BE

Now that we have seen some of what the Ramayana presents as dangers of a lack of real leadership, there are also a few verses that give insight to what a real ruler should be. This points out the power of such a king by these qualities, if he possesses them.

“(Just) as the eye ever strives for the good of the body (by serving as a guide to it and showing it the right path), so does the king, who is the fountain of truth and righteousness, ever strive for the good of the state. 33

“The king is truthfulness and virtue (incarnate); the king constitutes the nobility of birth in men of a high pedigree. The king is the mother as well as the father; the king is the benefactor of men. 34

“(Even) Yama (the god of retribution); Kubera (son of Vishrava, the god of riches), Indra (the ruler of gods), and the very mighty Varuna (the deity presiding over water) are outstripped by a king of excellent conduct by virtue of such conduct (inasmuch as he combines in himself the virtues of all the above-named deities).” 35

 

HOW A KING SHOULD GUIDE SOCIETY

A king is not only supposed to maintain law and order, but a real king, a Vedic king, should also provide the means that people can attain the real and spiritual goal of life. So now we look at the solutions to the above problems with how a king should give proper guidance to the people. This is described by Kumbhakarna while rebuking Ravana for all of his misdeeds. Naturally, Ravana, typical of many politicians today, did not like to hear such advice, simply because he had no intention of following it. But it is described in the Ramayana for our benefit.

From Yuddha Kanda, Canto 63, verses 7-21, it explains:

“Holding consultation with his ministers, he who takes into consideration the five aspects of the threefold duties (with reference to hostile kings) moves along the right path.” 7

In this case the five aspects means: 1. The method of initiating an action, 2. The person or material to be worked with, 3. The time and place of action, 4. Provisions necessary to make it successful, and 5. The calculated chances of success. And these aspects are used in three kinds of circumstances when dealing with enemies, which are: 1. The way to attain peace through reconciliation, 2. Acceptance of their allegiance through the acceptance of gifts, or 3. Invasion to force coercion toward peace. A ruler must be strong enough to make these considerations or he will be pushed aside or removed by the enemy who will take over his territory.

“A king who seeks to determine his duty in accordance with the science of polity and perceive his friends too, along with the ministers, understand aright.” 8

Herein, as explained, a king has to realize who he can trust among friends and ministers, and then he can move forward with confidence. This is essential if the king or ruler expects to stay in power or hold onto his position.

“The self-controlled king who, having deliberated with his ministers, bestows gifts, takes to (expedients of) conciliation and, sowing dissension among the hostile ranks, exhibits prowess, O prince of ogres, or resorts to them (all) together and takes recourse both to right action and the reverse of it at the right time and pursues virtue, worldly gain and sensuous pleasure at the proper time never meets with disaster in the world.” 11-12

A self-controlled king means a king with spiritual wisdom and virtue. Without understanding what real virtue is, no one can fulfill the proper role of a leader, or for that matter even a husband, teacher, father, or one who employs others. But more important than merely knowing what true virtue is, is the need to follow it and live according to those virtues, which is especially expected for any ruler. Only by applying this kind of wisdom and virtue will a king encounter success and avoid disaster, not only in his personal life but also for his country.

“A king should take action (only) after considering what is salutary in consequence to him in consultation with his ministers who make their living by their intelligence and know the reality of things.” 13

Herein the point is simple, that regardless of how intelligent a ruler may think he is, the saying is two heads are better than one, and a king must consult with his qualified ministers to make sure of the proper action to take. However, this verse also refers to ministers who know the reality of things, as opposed to those who are merely academically trained.

“People whose mental level is in no way higher than that of beasts, and (yet) who have been allowed to take their seat among counselors, desire to express their views through (sheer) impudence without fully knowing the import of the scriptures. The advice tendered by such people, who having no knowledge of the scriptures, are (equally) ignorant of the science of wealth, or who seek immense wealth, ought not to be followed. 14-15

“Men who tender unwholesome advice in a salutary garb through (sheer) impudence should be excluded from deliberation as they mar the (very) purpose (of the deliberation).” 16

Here is said the obvious, that those who are not qualified, though they may try to appear so by such things as academics, wealth, etc., and with pride may try to force their opinion on others, should not be given any consideration. No one should listen to them, not the citizens and least of all the king, because they will only take the country in the wrong direction, causing problems that will later take much time and money to correct. History shows many examples of this, from which we should learn. Furthermore, those who are not true friends of the king or of the citizens and have their own agenda, or who have been bought off by the enemy, will bring the ruler and the country to ruin, as explained in the next few verses:

“Getting united with shrewd enemies, (evil-minded) counselors in this world prevail upon their master to undertake wrong actions in order to bring him to ruin. 17

“A ruler should make out (the reality of) those ministers who have been won over by the enemy to their side (through bribe, etc.) and, thus, have become enemies though appearing as friends, (as discerned) through their (actual) behavior when a final decision is being taken after deliberation. 18

“Aliens find out the weakness of a ruler who is (easily) led away by false appearances and rushes headlong into actions … A king who, disregarding the enemy, does not actually protect himself, undoubtedly meets with reverses and is dragged down from his position.” 19-20

 

SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF RAMARAJA

What follows are descriptions of some of the symptoms of a proper and royal leadership, such as when Lord Rama ruled over the land. This shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, and that any problems within the kingdom, at least in the olden days, was considered to be the fault of the king who then had to take responsibility and account for them through his own efforts, knowing it was his own lack of quality for the existence of such problems. Therefore, the people should make sure to avoid an unwanted and unqualified ruler and check that the leaders are properly qualified with knowledge and habits of virtue before being elected. Otherwise, the adversities and difficulties of life will be many.

This is from the Yuddha-Kanda, Canto 128, verses 98-106. This is when Bharata gives back the kingdom of Ayodhya to Lord Rama.

“While Sri Rama ruled over the kingdom (of Ayodhya), there were no widows to lament (over their loss) nor was there any danger from beasts of prey or snakes, nor again was there any fear of diseases. 98

“The world had no robbers or thieves, nor did anyone suffer harm. Nor again did old people (ever) perform obsequies relating to [the death of their] youngsters. 99

“Every creature felt pleased, (nay) everyone was devoted to righteousness. Turning their eyes towards Sri Rama alone, creatures did not kill one another.” 100

This is the effect of a qualified leader, that his influence can change the whole atmosphere in the cooperation among people, in reducing or eliminating the criminal mentality, in the endeavor to work in harmony with nature, and in everyone to have empathy for all creatures and fellow citizens. This may not be wholly possible in this day and age, but a qualified leader can certainly move humanity in this direction. But if a leader is merely posing as a great personality while harboring wicked or materialistic desires and misguided intentions, the whole country will be directed toward ruin.

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom (of Ayodhya), people lived to an age of thousands of years, were blessed with thousands of sons, and remained free from diseases and grief. 101

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom, the talks of the people centered around Sri Rama, Sri Rama, and Sri Rama alone. (Nay) the world itself appeared (to them) as transformed into Sri Rama. 102

“Trees in Ayodhya ever remained firmly rooted and bore fruit and flowers perpetually. Clouds sent down rain (only) when desired and the wind was (ever) delightful to the touch. 103

“Remaining entirely free from avarice and satisfied with their own avocations, the Brahmanas (priestly class), the Kshatriyas (the warrior class), the Vaishyas (members of the mercantile class), and the Shudras (the laboring class), remained content in their own duties. 104

“So long as Sri Rama ruled, the people remained devoted to pious observances and never told lies. (Nay) all were endowed with auspicious bodily marks and all were given to righteousness. 105

“With his (three younger half-) brothers, the glorious Sri Rama ruled for ten and one thousand years.” 106

 

THE KING IS FORCED TO ACCEPT 1/6TH OF KARMA OF HIS SUBJECTS

From the Ramayana we also understand how important it is for the ruler of people to watch or patrol over their territory to make sure that all unfairness, criminal activities, or unrighteous acts are immediately put to a stop. This is because all such actions produce contrary reactions, not only for the people and the country, but also for the ruler, which is reflected back on them through the acts of nature, disrespect from the citizens, and the dark future created for their next life. Therefore, this shows the importance of electing a ruler who will not neglect his responsibilities of leading the people properly, uphold virtue and spiritual wisdom, and protect and defend the citizens and country without hesitation.

In this regard, the Uttara-Kanda, Canto 74, verses 30-33, explains: “Whenever one performs unrighteous deeds not to be performed, and rooted in lack of prosperity, [such a person] indeed goes to hell, however the king also undoubtedly (goes to hell). Righteously ruling over the subjects, the king shares one sixth portion of the (merit) that accrues from pious deeds performed by study and penance. (However) the king also partakes of one sixth (of his subject=s bad karma) if he does not protect the subjects (by leading them properly). So you, O lion among kings, investigate your territory. Whenever you see unrighteous actions done, then make efforts (to put them right); thus righteousness and longevity will prevail among men [as well as for the king].”

 

REFERENCES

Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana, Sanskrit Text and English Translation, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India, 1995.

Ganesh, by Stephen Knapp

The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic texts that deal with Ganesha.

Lord Ganesh is known as the son of the Shiva and Parvati, and is the god of luck and of “opening the way.” That is why many people pray to Ganesh before starting a new project, in order to proceed with as few obstacles as possible.

Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Ganas) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikaya. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikeya did, but Ganesh simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother, as the source of all existence, and, thus, showed his intelligence.

The most prominent characteristic of Lord Ganesh is that he has the head of an elephant. How Lord Ganesh got an elephant’s head is related in several places in the Vedic texts. There may be a few different versions, but the general way in which it is accepted relates as follows: One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt. Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull carrier, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body(some say it was sandalwood paste) and mixing it and fashioning it into her son, she breathed life into it and she created Ganesha who manifested from this form, declaring him to be her own loyal son.

Then when Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, was going to bathe in the forest, she wanted someone to guard the area. Some references say she was going to bathe in her house. So she ordered Ganesh to let no one into the area while she was bathing. However, Lord Shiva came after a long absence and wanted in, but was blocked by Ganesh. Lord Shiva did not recognize the boy as his son, nor did Ganesh realize Shiva was his father, and enraged, Shiva and Ganesh began to fight. Ganesh lost the battle with his head being cut off. When Parvati entered the scene and saw what had happened, she was so upset that she was thrown into despair and threatened to destroy the entire universe. Shiva, after understanding the situation, devised the means to revive his son. Desperate to pacify her, Shiva promised to take the head of the first creature he came upon in order to give their son a new head and bring him back to life, and that first being was an elephant. So Ganesh got the head of an elephant and with Lord Shiva’s power, came back to life.

Part of the meaning behind this symbolism of the man with an elephant’s head is to represent the unity between the small entity, or man, and the large universe, the elephant. In the word “gaja”, which means elephant, “ga” means the goal, and “ja” means the origin. In the form of Ganesh, the elephant-headed man represents the culmination of the man, the origin, on the path toward universal consciousness, the goal. Ganesh, therefore, is the representation of man who understands the foundation of the reality upon which the universe rests, as is summarized in the Vedic term, “Thou art That,” tat tvam asi. (Taittiriya Aranyaka 8.1.1)

THE SYMBOLOGY OF GANESH

Ganesh is also called Ganapati. This means lord of the Ganas who are the attendants who control the function of the sense organs. According to Karapatri’s Sri Bhagavat-tattva (p. 638), the word gana means a collection of something that can be counted or comprehended. In this way, Ganapati is also the lord or ruler of categories.

He is also known as the Lord of thresholds or entrances into new dimensions. He is the remover of obstacles or obstructions. That is why students pray to Ganesh before taking a major test, to remove the obstacles. That is also why it is not unusual, especially in India, that as we enter a new space or house we may see an image of Ganesh above the door or nearby to give blessings to those who enter. Thus, he is also the guardian of the doorways. This is the case in many Vedic temples. As we enter the temple, we first see a deity of Ganesh to whom we pray for blessings and the removal of obstacles in our devotion or the rituals that we do inside the temple. That way the obstacles to our worship and further spiritual progress can be removed, in which case our spiritual development can be made more rapidly and easily.

Ganesh is also considered the Lord of astrology. He is said to know the language of the stars and the destinies of every living being. Thus, astrologers also petition Ganesh to pen such knowledge to them.

Ganesh is also said to be the writer of the scriptures. (Mahabharata 1.1.77) He accepted the position of being Vyasadeva’s scribe and wrote the Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam as it was dictated by Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the major portions of the Vedic texts. You can see the cave where this is said to have happened at Mana, near the holy place of Badrinatha (Badarikashrama). For this reason the ancient Brahmana texts also describe him as the god of learning.

His other names include Ganesh (related to the word gana), Vinayaka (a name familiar in South India, meaning great leader), Vighneshvara (the remover of obstacles), Gajanana (elephant-faced), Gajadhipa (lord of elephants), and Jyeshtha-raja (King of the elders).

Ganesh is said to have two wives, Siddhi (success) and Riddhi (prosperity). Thus, if anyone pleases Lord Ganesh with nice prayers or worship, the person also attains the company or blessings of the wives of Lord Ganesh. However, if used improperly, success and prosperity can be distractions on the path toward the goal of spiritual wisdom.

Ganesh is also shown in particular ways with certain symbols, which is described in the Ganapati Upanishad (11-14). He is seen with one tusk and four hands, two of which hold a noose and a hook. The noose that he holds is to catch delusion, to free one from its affects. The noose also represents attachment that can lead to anger, which hurts us like the goad. The noose or rope is also used to pull his devotees nearer to the Truth and to tie them to the Highest God. The hook or goad indicates his power and helps motivate one towards the goal. Sometimes he is also shown holding an axe, which he uses to cut off the worldly attachments of His devotees, which can thus end the cause of their sorrow.

Of the other two hands, one is positioned in the gestures for giving blessings and assuring fearlessness, and the other is often holding a rice ball. Ganesh’s hand that gives blessings shows that he can grant one’s desires and assures freedom from fear, and that he is beyond the influence of time and space wherein fear exists. In this way, he blesses all and offers protection from all obstacles on their spiritual path in seeking the Supreme. The rice ball he is often seen holding indicates the reward of the sadhana or spiritual practice for his devotees. Ganesh also has a big stomach and large ears. The fat belly of Ganesh indicates that the influence of the material manifestation is within him. His big ears represent that he accepts the truthful and positive vibrations, while throwing out the false and non-virtuous words that men may present to him. On his flag is a mouse, which is also his carrier.

Deities of Ganesh are often covered with red vermillion. The significance of the vermillion is that it represents the reddened complexion of one who is absorbed in work, which causes the intensified circulation of blood to all parts of the body. This also produces the skin’s red glow. Ganesh is also the lord of action, so he is often seen smeared with red vermillion. He is also worshiped with red flowers. Since Ganesh works wholeheartedly, he has a strong appetite and is thus offered and enjoys a steady supply of sweets and delicacies.

As Vighneshvara, Lord Ganesh also gives us the gifts that destroy obstacles, restrictions, or hindrances. All obstacles exist in the arena of time and space. Through the access of immortality, or the realization of such, we can overcome the fear that is intrinsic in the arena of temporary time and matter. Thus, Lord Ganesh gives and takes away. He gives us what can take away the hindrances and obstacles that keep us from realizing our true potential. Because of this, Lord Ganesh is often worshiped before starting any new project, or before entering a house or building. This is why he is often placed above doorways through which people enter, or is recognized and afforded respect and worship before accepting a new position, starting a new undertaking, or before beginning a new challenge, like taking a difficult test, so we can reach its completion without hindrance.

In worshiping Ganesh, there are several different mantras from which one can choose that help invoke the energy or mercy of Ganesh. There is also a specific graphic design called a yantra that is also a symbol for Ganesh. The swastika is another graphic design that can be used in representing Ganesh and the good fortune that he can provide. This is also why the swastika is a sign for good fortune.

Locally, you often see Ganesh deities as either individual images or as a bas relief carved from stone or boulders. His trunk is also curved to the right and sometimes to the left. This indicates the ways to get around obstacles to reach the goal. This is an indicator of Ganesh’s ability to master adversities, and is also a symbol for the Om mantra. His trunk also often holds a modaka, a type of sweet. The single tusk he has represents the one Truth, while the broken tusk indicates the imperfections of the ever-changing material world. He lost the broken tusk when Parashurama once arrived at Mount Kailash to see Lord Shiva. However, Shiva was sleeping, so Ganesh did not allow Parashurama to get in. When they started fighting, Ganesh lost one tusk. (Padma Purana)

The broken piece of the tusk was later used as a pen to write the Mahabharata when it had been dictated by Srila Vyasadeva to Ganesh. How Ganesh wrote the Mahabharata from the dictates of Srila Vyasadeva is described as follows: Vyasadeva entered into a state of meditation after the death of the Kaurava and Pandava clans, and after the disappearance of Lord Krishna. While the great story of events between the tribes, along with the episodes of the Kuruksetra war, was still in his mind, he wanted to write the epic in the form of a great poem. He went to Brahma for advice regarding a qualified person who could accept his dictation to write the story, and Brahma mentioned Ganesh. When Vyasa thought about Ganesh, he appeared before the sage. However, Ganesh was not so receptive to the idea, so he stipulated that Vyasa dictate it in such a way that Ganesh would never have to put down his pen before it was completed. Vyasadeva countered with the requirement that Ganesh not write down anything before he completely understood the meaning of it. Ganesh was not meant to write anything he did not understand in order that he realize the depths of the meaning, and how to write it in a way that would make the meaning accessible to all humanity. This was agreed, and the Mahabharata was completed within three years. (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 1, verses 74-80)

Sometimes Ganesh is shown as Balaganapati in his child form, or Tarunaganapati as a young man. During the popular Ganesh Chaturthi festival, Ganesh is worshiped as Varasiddhi Vinayaka. At other times Ganesh is portrayed as Herambaganapati, with a third eye in between his eyebrows, along with five heads and ten arms. These show an extended view of his various powers, which are represented by what he holds in his hands, which include a lotus, pomegranate, water-pot, an axe, a lute, a sugarcane, ears of paddy, a bow and arrow, a thunderbolt, prayer beads, and a book.

The mouse that accompanies Ganesh is his carrier. The mouse is often seen in pictures eating or stealing the sweets that are piled near Ganesh. The mouse is the desire to enjoy material pleasures and the dangers of the ego. Though the mouse is small, this desire for material happiness, and the driver that motivates one into actions to acquire such pleasure, is like a thief that takes away all that people possess. It steals away one’s life that could be used to acquire the goal of spiritual perfection toward true happiness and liberation. The mouse also represents the mind, which is always active. It takes much weight to keep the mind from going astray. The weight of an elephant, Ganesh, on the mouse represents controlling the mind. Thus, Ganesh rides on this mouse as the controller of material desire and the effects of illusion.

GANESH MANTRAS

To Ganesh, for removing obstacles:

Aum Eikdantaya vidmahe

Vakratunaye Dhimahi

Tanno Buddhih Pracodayat

Translation: “Om. Let us meditate on Sri Ganesh, the lord with one tusk. May that great lord with curved elephant trunk inspire and illumine our mind and understanding.”

Invocation to Ganesh:

Gajananam Bhutganadisevitam

Kapittha Jamboo Phalcharu Bhakshanam

Umasutam Shokvinashkarakam

Namami Vighneshwar Padpankajam

Translation: “Oh Elephant-faced, worshiped by the existing beings, of all living beings, tasting the elephant apple (kaith) and jambolana (jamun), the Son of Uma, destroyer of grief, I bow to the lotus feet of Ganesh who is lord of all.”

Ganesh Gayatri Mantras for increasing intellect:

Om Lambhodaraya vidmahe

Mahodaraya deemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

Om. Let me meditate on that god with broad paunch. Oh, God with a big belly, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.

Om Thatpurashaya vidhmahe

Vakrathundaya dheemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

“Om. Let me meditate on that great male, Oh, God with broken tusk, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.”

To Ganesh for removing obstacles, a good way to start any projects, studies or rituals:

Ganapati Bappa Morya

Pudhachya Varshi Lovkar Yaa

Use this to Ganesh prayer before beginning any new project so impediments may be removed and your endeavor may be crowned with success: Om gam ganapataye namaha.

The Ganesh Mula Mantra:

Om srim hrim klim glaum gam ganapataye svaha

Om shanti shanti shantihi

Also:

Om gam-gau-ganapataye

Bighna-binashi ne-svaha

For one who wants wealth and prosperity, meditate on the golden color of Ganesh and say this prayer:

Om Lakshmi Ganapataye namaha

Another to Ganesh, Japa is 5,000 times a day for 25 days:

Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha, Om

Also to Ganesh:

Om gam ganeshaya namaha

Om klim gam gam gam mahaganapataye namaha

To Ganesh for blessings for spiritual success:

Om gananam tva ganapatigm havamahe kavim kavinamupamashravastamam

Jyeshtharajam brahmanam brahmanaspata snah shrinvanutibhissida sadanam

Mahaganapataye namaha

Translation: Om. Oh lord of speech, we worship you, the lord of the gods, the wisest among the wise, the one having incomparable fame, the best among the praiseworthy, and the lord of the Vedic hymns. While listening to our praises, come with your protecting powers and be rested in our yajnashala (temple). Obeisances to Mahaganapati.

Agajananapadmarkam gajananamaharnisham

Anekadantam bhaktanamekadantamupasmahe

Translation: We meditate, day and night, on the one-tusked one (Ganesh) who is the sun for the lotus in the form of the face of Parvati, the one with the elephant face and the one who is the giver of plenty to his devotees.

 

Lord Krishna Descends to Reestablish Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

Why the Lord descends into this world is for multiple purposes, but primarily for two reasons. One of which is that, since He originally enunciated the ancient religious path of the Vedas for the benefit of the whole universe, whenever that becomes obstructed by the demoniac or wicked atheists, He descends in one of His forms, which is in the transcendental mode of pure goodness. Thus, He again establishes the righteous Vedic path. It is explained that He is the same Supreme Person, and in His incarnation as Krishna appeared in the home of Vasudeva with His plenary portion, Balarama, who played the part of Krishna’s brother. This was for the second reason, which is to relieve the earth of the burden of the demoniac. As Krishna, He came to kill the hundreds of armies led by the kings who were but expansions of the enemies of the gods, and to spread the fame of the Yadu dynasty. (Bhagavata Purana 10.48.23-24)

Arjuna, after understanding the position of Lord Krishna, recognized His superior position and said, “Thus You descend as an incarnation to remove the burden of the world and to benefit Your friends, especially those who are Your exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon You.” (Bhagavata Purana 1.7.25)

The sages at Kuruksetra, while addressing Lord Krishna, also summarized the reason for Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world. They explained that at suitable times He assumes the mode of pure goodness to protect His devotees and punish the wicked. Thus, the Supreme Personality descends to maintain the eternal path of the Vedas by enjoying His pleasure pastimes. (Bhagavata Purana 10.84.18)

It is also described that when the Lord assumes a human-like body, it is to show His mercy to His devotees. Then He engages in the sort of pastimes that will attract those who hear about them. Then they may become dedicated to Him. (Bhagavata Purana 10.33.36) These pastimes of the Lord are so powerful that they can remove the sins of the three planetary systems and deliver those who are trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death. (Bhagavata Purana 10.86.34) Those who desire to serve the Lord should hear of these activities. Hearing such narrations of these pastimes destroy the reactions to fruitive work [karma]. (Bhagavata Purana.10.90.49)

It is by Lord Krishna’s pastimes that He calls all the conditioned souls to Him through love. Thus, by His wondrous activities He attracts all beings to return to their natural, spiritual position by reawakening their dormant love and service to Him. This is the purpose of human life, which provides the best facility and intellect for understanding our spiritual identity and connection with the Lord. As Sukadeva Gosvami explained to Maharaja Pariksit, “He, the Personality of Godhead, as the maintainer of all in the universe, appears in different incarnations after establishing the creation, and thus He reclaims all kinds of conditioned souls amongst the humans, nonhumans and gods.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.42)

“To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future of this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality, Krishna, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence.” (Bhagavata Purana 9.24.61) However, Lord Krishna also explains that when He descends in His human form, the fools who are ignorant of His spiritual nature and supreme dominion over everything deride and criticize Him. (Bhagavad-gita 9.11)

Nonetheless, Lord Krishna Himself further explains the reasons for His appearance in this world to King Muchukunda: “My dear friend, I have taken thousands of births, lived thousands of lives and accepted thousands of names. In fact, My births, activities and names are limitless, and thus even I cannot count them. After many lifetimes someone might count the dust particles on the earth, but no one can ever finish counting My qualities, activities, names and births. O King, the greatest sages enumerate My births and activities, which take place throughout the three phases of time, but never do they reach the end of them. Nonetheless, O friend, I will tell you about My current birth, name and activities. Kindly hear. Some time ago, Lord Brahma requested Me to protect religious principles and destroy the demons who were burdening the earth. Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vasudeva.” (Bhagavata Purana 10.51.36-40)

OUR MISSION TO DEFEND VEDIC DHARMA

By understanding the above paragraphs, we should know that Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish the Vedic tradition because it had become lost. I emphasize this point because, in spite of the many challenges or threats against Vedic culture that Hindus face from others in upholding their tradition, sometimes they still say there is nothing for us to worry about because it is Sanatana-dharma, eternal, that it will never disappear no matter what happens in this world. When I hear this, I ask them whether they have really understood what Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita. For therein we can understand that this Vedic spiritual knowledge does indeed disappear or decline from the face of the earth at times, and must be brought back, or defended in order to keep it prevalent amongst humanity.

In the beginning of Chapter Four of the Bhagavad-gita, we hear of one of the prime reasons why Lord Krishna descended into this world. He explains it this way in a conversation with Arjuna:

“The Supreme Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. 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. 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; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”

Arjuna then said: “The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?”

Bhagavan Sri Krishna then continued: “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy! Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.

“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. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of dharma, I advent Myself millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.1-9)

So here we see very clearly that Vedic dharma and its spiritual processes may indeed by eternal, but it may also decline or even disappear from humanity from time to time. This means that if Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish this knowledge and tradition, we should be serious about defending it and making sure that it does not start to decline again. When it comes to defending Vedic dharma, we need to understand that it is not just up to Lord Krishna. It is also up to us. We cannot expect that Lord Krishna will appear again so easily when He was here only 5,000 years ago to do what we should now be doing. We should take it upon ourselves to assist in preserving, protecting, and promoting it for its perpetuation. This is for the benefit of all humanity. We should be willing to take up a bold stance to meet this responsibility, or it may again very well start to decline from the face of the earth like it did before.

This is also why there are various acharyas and devotees, representatives of the Supreme, who may be empowered to provide the guidance for humanity so people everywhere can know how to continue the ways of following Vedic dharma and apply it to their lives.

So to help in this way is not only a service to humanity, but also a service to dharma itself, and to the mission of Lord Krishna, and to all representatives of Vedic culture. What can be a higher cause for us than that?