This blog is back

After a gap of about five years, this blog is back with a new name — Aspirations for God.

In the process of migrating this blog from the previous web address, some of your comments may have been lost. Your comments are valuable to this blog; feel free to post new ones.

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Yogavasistha: Tandava and the dissolution

It is believed that Rudra, a form of Shiva, performs the Tandava dance with his Shakti when it is time for the dissolution of the universe. However, according to the Yogavasistha [1], this dance is a continuous process. Symbolizing the impermanence of the material world, the entire universe, where every single object is destructible, becomes the theatre for Tandava. The drying up of water bodies, destruction of the fourteen worlds, and the collapse of the stars – are all a part of Tandava.

Describing his own vision of a great dissolution from a kalpa [2] of the past, Rishi Vasistha, in this scripture, explains that the Tandava concluded when Rudra engulfed the entire universe as if it were a leaf. Rudra, beyond comprehension, then turned invisible, according to this book. As of the universe, nothing but absolute peace and consciousness remained, which is the true nature of Shiva [3].

[1] Note that the Yogavasistha supports the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Hinduism involves multiple philosophies, and alternate and more detailed descriptions about the universe’s dissolution can be found in other Hindu scriptures.

[2] aeon

[3] According to popular Hindu theories, following the dissolution of the universe, numerous abodes (loka) of God continue to exist, where beings live permanently with God.

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Holi: Celebration vs. Renunciation

In the most popular traditional story about Holi, we should note that Prahlada, the child devotee, was not only saved from an aunt who hated him, but he was also saved from the boon of Brahma, the writer of the divine plan. What Brahma says or thinks becomes the blueprint that unfolds to create all the events in the universe. Had Prahlada left everything for destiny to work out, he would not have been saved; the divine plan, entirely based on flawless karmic calculations, was on Holika’s side. But Prahlada made the right choice — the only choice that could have saved him.  He took the refuge (sharanagati) of Vishnu and found the divine plan overridden by Vishnu’s grace. For us, Holika represents very powerful circumstances, filled with anger, hatred, restriction, and conspiracies. Prahlada represents a being who is apparently weak but is solely dependent on the Supreme Soul. Of course, Vishnu ensures that circumstances are turned into ashes and the being dependent on him is saved.

In the other story related to why Holi is celebrated, Shiva turned Kamadeva, the god of desires, into ashes. Following the elimination of desires from the world, Shiva, in his divine play, continued to focus on his blissful self, and Devi Parvati started her meditation on Shiva for thousands of years. For ordinary beings, the festival indicates that whenever an individual being starts remembering Pavati-Shiva, they accept the being in their protection and begin his or her spiritual journey by closing the three gates to hell — kama (lust/desires), krodha (anger), and lobha (greed) —for the being. With time, renunciation and pure love win over the being’s instincts.

We can waste the occasion of Holi by extravagant shopping, partying, gossips, drinking, making fun of others, or watching scrawled TV programs. Alternatively, we can give the festival some spiritual meaning by eliminating at least a single selfish desire. Your comments are valuable for me. During my transfer of blog from the old url, some of the comments were lost. Feel free to add them to the blog.

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Can Rama give us money too?

While both Bhakti Saints and ordinary people may believe that Rama takes care of every being in his creation, the question about money becomes irrelevant for the saints, who would never aspire for finances and have only learned to think about Rama, leaving all worries about their future to him. In contrast, we may find it difficult to leave our liking for money or may be bound by circumstances to work for money.

Because spiritual principles do not change for the spiritually less evolved, we are expected by nature to bring in certain qualities from the lives of saints, if possible, into our own lives. One such quality is — patience — which, in the context of monetary returns, teaches us that a lag generally exists between our hard work and our returns.

Rama does take care of his devotees’ security and needs, as also promised by him, in his form as Krishna, in the Bhagavada Gita. But we must remember that Rama works according to his own calendar, not that of the living beings. And what we gain at the end of the day may be unrelated to the intensity of our craving.

Moreover, Sita-Rama may, at times, deliberately delay results for their devotees or not fulfill their wishes at all. If a devotee child asks Sita Devi for mango ice cream, she may give him vanilla ice cream. If the child asks for vanilla, she may give him mango. And if the kid acts smart, desires mango, but asks for vanilla, she’ll most probably give him vanilla. The actual choice of flavor becomes only available to the saints who don’t want ice cream but are contended with the fact that the Mother if providing them with food. Sita-Rama, being the perfect parents, do not make the parenting mistakes that human beings make. While nurturing the universe according to their own plan and by inserting difficult lessons at times, they create ways for the liberation of every soul.

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Who is a Bhakti saint?

In order to answer this question, we will first take a look at the simpler question, “Who is a saint?” and then simply add the element of bhakti to the answer. As my reference, I am selecting the discussion between Garuda and Kakbhushandi in the Ramacharitamanasa [1], where one of the questions asked by Garuda is, “Who is a saint and how can we differentiate a saint from the unsaintly?”

“Saints accept sorrow for the good of others, while wrongdoers accept sorrow for hurting others,” replies Kakbhushandi, adding “Beneficence is the innate nature of a saint.” This answer stresses that it is the capability to experience pain for others that makes one a saint [2]. Though the finest qualities of beneficence (paropkara) may be difficult to obtain without self-realization, saintliness is unrelated to the possession of mystical powers, type of dress worn, or the number of one’s spiritual disciples and followers.

Would Hindus label anyone who has the capacity to experience pain for others and is devotional as a bhakti saint? Not so soon…the individual being’s acceptance by Rama is significant too. And this is where the darshan of Rama comes in [3]. The biographies of bhakti saints show us how they have all experienced suffering for other human beings, possessed the bhakti of Rama/Shiva, and were blessed enough to meet the Divine every once in a while. Birth as a bhakti saint is never easy…it undoubtedly remains the greatest phenomenon in Hindu spirituality.

Goswami Tulasidasa believes that virtues, niyams, meditation, charity, and austerity are all habits worth possessing, but they cannot eliminate material attachments and non-discrimination from our mind; the only actual savior for beings trapped in this universe is — the bhakti of Rama.

[1] This comprehensive discussion in the Uttarkand focuses on our spiritual evolution. It is a must-read for all devotional seekers.
[2] What is the biggest happiness that a person can experience? Meeting a saint, according to the Ramacharitmanasa.
[3] Also check out this post; it explains how Shabri obtained the darshan of Rama.

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