Wisdom from the son of Armenia.
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- Riches for the rich and an asses’ tail for the poor
- Patience and wisdom are destroyed by sorrow
hahkamahnknehr gahn vohr huhreshdak huhresh guh tahrtzuhneh
juhnshuvadz mahrtotz dahrabahnk dahss–neh, ohrmuh bahdeejuh kehzee guh hahss-neh
sehruh guh lahtzuhneh (ahrtzounk), tzahvuh guh khosatzuhneh
How to pacify nature
There are lessons to be learned when we carefully observe world events. The truth stares us in the face at all times. The symptom of everyday life is to ignore it and continue our mundane affairs, which revolve around trying to exploit the resources of nature for personal sense gratification. There are lessons to be learned when we carefully observe world events. The truth stares us in the face at all times. The symptom of everyday life is to ignore it and continue our mundane affairs, which revolve around trying to exploit the resources of nature for personal sense gratification.
The material world is an expansion of God’s infinite energy. It cannot be owned or controlled by finite men with their dreams of mastering it for their profit and pleasure.
Man comes into this world and is conditioned by having a material body that is subject to the forces of nature. He tries to dominate nature, but is instead subjected to the laws of nature and the sufferings of repeated birth and death. Throughout his life, he is constantly reminded of nature’s infinite power and uncontrollable forces that upset all of his plans to dominate and enjoy. Such overpowering events are constant reminders that man is not sovereign in this world. There are forces that are controlled by higher powers that are superior to man for whom we have no recourse but to submit. We experience these forces in our own body and in nature.
I will give a few examples of the overpowering forces of nature that man is forced to submit to and tolerate.
1. Tsunami in Southeast Asia December 26, 2004 nearly 230,000 deaths
2. Hurricane Katrina 2005 1836 deaths and 81 billion dollars in damage in Louisiana, USA
3. Earthquake in Haiti 2010 230,000 dead
4. Iceland Volcano eruption 2010 disrupted air travel across the Atlantic for weeks
5. Gulf Coast Oil leak 2010 this the most devastating environmental disaster in USA history and it is still not ended
The only recourse is to try and reconstruct after the damage is done. This, of course, is completely contrary to man’s will and desire, but he has no choice. Man can simply observe such overpowering disasters. He attempts temporary relief work, starts varieties of public and governmental institutions and policies to address the terrible suffering caused by nature’s devastating power. But, government has no solution how to pacify the insurmountable nature. This question is discussed in the Bhagavad-gita because it is of up most importance for man’s survival.
Without a correct and comprehensive understanding of the purpose of life in this world, man cannot plan how to have a successful life. With wrong answers, man is forced to suffer helplessly by violating the laws of nature due to ignorance. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita that helps to shed light on this question,
“Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.” (Bg 13, 21)
According to Vedic philosophy, living entities and material nature are both eternal or without beginning and endless. The living entities are eternal souls with individuality and limited free will. Their free will is limited to either accepting or rejecting God’s instructions. Depending on which way they decide, there are consequences. By accepting God’s instructions as the guiding principles of life, one gradually becomes free of the influence of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion and ignorance) that condition us to be attached to the temporary body and its temporary pleasures and pains. By rejecting God’s instructions, one becomes entangled by the reactions to activities that breach natural laws. Possible consequences of such errant behavior are natural cataclysms, body ailments, trouble caused by other living beings and repeated birth and death in an endless cycle because the soul is eternal. The soul can be eternally liberated or eternally chained to a cycle of repeated birth and death.
God’s instruction as revealed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita and other bona fide scriptures like the Bible, Koran, etc., give an explicit detail of forbidden activities that will result in adverse reactions and prescribed duties that free one from the cycle of suffering. The Bible, Koran and Torah have the Ten Commandments and other codes to regulate human behavior. The Vedas have four regulative principles to avoid and four to do:
1- No meat eating including red meat, chicken and fish
2- No illicit sex outside of marriage
3- No gambling or philosophical speculation
4- No intoxication
1- Read and discuss Holy Scriptures like Bhagavad-gita, Bible, Koran, etc.
2- Eat only sanctified vegetarian foods that have been offered first to God
3- Chant and meditate on God’s names (holy mantras)
4- Volunteer for service in a temple or house of God in the association of holy people
Further, the Vedas recommend nine favorable activities to develop spiritual consciousness, daily hearing, chanting and remembering the glories of God, serving, praying, worshiping, becoming the servant, making friendship with and surrendering completely to God. Any one, several or all of these principles will cause one to develop spiritual consciousness, which means one acts with the knowledge that God is a supreme controller and proprietor of nature. God has a plan how the living entities can live in this world happily and at last attain liberation from the suffering of birth, old age, disease and death.
The plan of God for suffering mankind entails first recognizing that God is the supreme controller and owner of nature and everything in it. Once man recognizes this fact, he can learn to use everything in nature to serve the purpose of God rather than trying to usurp God’s creation for his selfish purposes. This change of world view is the beginning of real human life. If we use things to serve God’s pleasure, nature and time, which are both controlled by God, support and cooperate with man to help him reach the goal of life.
The root cause of sin is deliberate disobedience of the laws of nature through disregarding the proprietorship of the Lord. Disobeying the laws of nature or God’s instructions, brings ruin to a human being and society. Endowed with free will, man needs to be educated how to properly exercise it. Making decisions based on knowledge and certitude that we are subordinate to God’s will and that we cannot achieve anything without the approval of God, helps us to determine right action from wrong. Ignorance of this fact leads us to make fundamental mistakes and violate natural laws that bring about misfortune and suffering.
The Bible states a law of God, “Thou shalt not kill.” This sounds simple and unequivocal. Yet, it is the subject of speculation. It is generally understood to mean one should not murder another human being. Yet, the word kill refers to any kind of killing, not only murder. Misinterpreting this direct law of God causes continual suffering because following a wrong conclusion about killing could destroy any hopes one has of living peacefully and achieving genuine love of God. One cannot disobey God and receive His favor and protection throughout life. To avoid speculation, one needs to understand this
law of nature from an authority in Vedic knowledge. The Manu Samhita, considered the law book of the Vedas state in chapter 5 that there are very restricted conditions under which one may eat meat, but never the meat of cows. Those conditions are limited to animals that are permitted for sacrifice by priests. One is never permitted to just kill or purchase meat for consumption outside of ritually slaughtered animals. If you read the following texts, you see that meat eating is severely restricted and, in fact, not encouraged.
27. One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water, while Mantras are recited, when Brahmanas desire you do it, when one is engaged (in the performance of a rite) according to the law, and when one’s life is in danger.
31. The consumption of meat (is befitting) for sacrifices. It is declared to be a rule made by the gods; but to persist (in using it) on other (occasions) is said to be a proceeding worthy of Rakshasas (demonic beings).
37. If he has a strong desire (for meat) he may make an animal of clarified butter or one of flour, (and eat that); but let him never seek to destroy an animal without a (lawful) reason.
38. As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future births.
39. Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word).
45. He who desires to please himself by injuring peaceful beings will never finds happiness, neither living nor dead.
46. He, who does not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and death to living creatures, but desires the good of all (beings), obtains endless bliss.
47. He who does not injure any (creature), attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on.
48. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat.
49. Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the (cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.
50. He who, disregarding the rule (given above), does not eat meat like a Pisaka, becomes dear to men, and will not be tormented by diseases.
51. He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal).
52. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshipping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings). (Manu Samhita, Chapter 5)
The laws of Manu were spoken and preserved in oral tradition long before the appearance of Lord Krishna, which was over 5000 years ago. After the disappearance of Lord Krishna, the age of Kali (hypocrisy and quarrel) began 5000 years ago. Because people in this age have poor memories, Manu’s laws were written. The first recorded texts of the laws of Manu date about 500 B.C. However, with the advent of the age of Kali, more restrictions came into effect because of the lack of qualification of the brahman class.
53. Five things are forbidden in the age of Kali: horse-sacrifice, cow-sacrifice, acceptance of sannyasa, offering flesh to the forefathers and begetting a child in the womb of the wife of one’s elder brother. (Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Krsna-jnama Khanda 185.180). Almost all the rituals in which meat was required to be offered were eliminated. The only possibility for ritual meat in this age of Kali is the following: license is given to meat eaters to sacrifice a black goat once a month on the new moon night. It is strictly forbidden to purchase a commercially slain animal for consumption. The person who wants to eat meat must kill the goat on a dark (or new) moon night under the supervision of a priest who instructs him to repeat the following mantra before cutting the throat of the goat, mamsa khadatiti mamsah. The Sanskrit mamsah means, mam – me, and sa – he. “I am killing this animal; I am eating him. In my next life, he will kill and eat me.” Before the animal is sacrificed, this mantra is recited into the ear of the animal. “You are giving your life, so in your next life you will get the opportunity of becoming a human being. And I, who am now killing you, will become an animal, and you will kill me.”
The purpose of the ritual and the repetition of the mantra is to contain unrestricted meat eating by forcing the meat eater to kill the animal himself and witness the horror of the act as well as to repeat the mantra that reveals the consequences of such an act. Such regulation is meant to discourage the meat eater by making him understand that he will be held accountable for such unnecessary killing. Unrestricted meat eating is strictly forbidden in this age.
It is not only the person who eats the meat that becomes implicated by eating the dead animal, but also those who assist in the process.
54. He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal).
55. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshiping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings).
From the Vedic point of view, people who eat meat or participate in providing it, especially cow, are condemned to suffer for their brutal acts. This point was emphasized over five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya, the incarnation of Lord Krishna in this age of Kali, to Chand Kazi, a Muslim scholar of the Koran. He explained a statement in the Bhagavad-gita ( 18. 44),
“The duty of vaisyas (businessmen and agriculturalists) is to produce agricultural products, trade and give protection to cows.” Thus, in Vedic society, it is imperative to protect cows, not eat them. It is forbidden to kill a cow or a bull in this age. Lord Caitanya told Chand Kazi in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, Chapter 17, verse 166), “ Cow killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow.”
Therefore, modern spiritual teachers, whether in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism are misleading their faithful by engaging them in meat eating which will result in massive suffering in this life and the next. The ritual killing in Islam and Judaism to obtain hallal (or hillal) meat is also misleading because it includes cows. Judaism continued the pre-Kali yuga dietary rules of the Vedas without reference to restrictions in this age to cow sacrifice as well as ignoring the Vedic purpose of gradually eliminating all animal sacrifice through severely restricted animal sacrifice. The Old Testament indicates very severe restriction on animal flesh consumption. In Genesis 9, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” In these verses, the God of the Bible restricts man from eating animal flesh with blood still in it. This is impossible. Therefore, meat is strictly forbidden unless there is no blood in it. The God of the Bible says He will require a reckoning for the blood of the every animal man eats.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad writes about Lord Jesus Christ in his commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.15.10), “Animal sacrifice in the name of religion is current practically all over the world in every established religion. It is said that Lord Jesus Christ, when twelve years old, was shocked to see the Jews sacrificing birds and animals in the synagogues and that he therefore rejected the Jewish system of religion and started the religious system of Christianity, adhering to the Old Testament commandment, â€œThou shalt not kill.” At the present day, however, not only are animals killed in the name of sacrifice, but the killing of animals has increased enormously because of the increasing number of slaughterhouses. Slaughtering animals in the name of religion or for food is most abominable and is condemned herein. Unless one is merciless, one cannot sacrifice animals as a religious act or for food.”
In the case where there is a famine and no other food available, the Vedas permit eating animal flesh for survival, but not otherwise.
The tragedy of modern life is that the common people are being misled into sinful acts in the name of religion by religious leaders and politicians who are ignorant or purposely ignore the laws of nature as given by God in the different scriptures. When the deep meaning of “Thou shalt not kill” is realized, one refrains from unnecessary killing. Saint Paul wrote, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:21-23 NIV)
We should have faith that God loves all His creatures. Therefore, we should not kill if we can avoid it. The principle of ahimsa – nonviolence is not to cause harm to others verbally, physically or by withholding information about God’s instructions for man. Unnecessary killing will bring disaster upon mankind as we are seeing today. Therefore the four regulative principles of Vedic life, no meat, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling are meant to help us avoid breaking the laws of nature and thus suffering. By living according to the correct understanding of God’s instructions, we can avoid unnecessary suffering and bring about a pacification of nature by which man can live peacefully. Without pleasing God, we become a victim of our own misdeeds by breaking the laws of nature for which there will be a reckoning.
ahrahntz ahkaghaghee ahl, guh loussahnah
ahghcheek ouhnehtzogh mohruh tzehrkuh dzoghuh (tuhrahmahbahnag) guhlah
ahstvahdz ahmehn shnorhk mee mahtoun chee dahr
The thief and the shopkeeper both pray, “God protect me!”
koghuh yehv vahjahraganuh yehrgoussuh gaghohtehn, “Ahstvahdz bah-habahn.”
There was once a shopkeeper. One night, as he closed his shop, he said a prayer, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I pray may the devil be cursed and may My Lord protect my shop from any and all thieves. Amen.” At the same time with the fall of night, a thief was leaving his house. He prayed, “My dear God, I am Your most wretched slave. I have no recourse but to steal for a living to feed my poor family. Let me steal from the greedy shopkeeper. Protect me, Oh Lord, that I may return tonight with enough food to feed my wife and children.”
The question to ask is, “Whose prayer will God satisfy?” It is not an easy thing to be God. Imagine how many prayers He must hear everyday that beg for outcomes that are beneficial for one and detrimental to another.
When materialistically inclined persons pray to God, they ask Him to satisfy their desires. They ask God for desirable things or goals they want to achieve even if it causes loss to another person. Such people want God to become their order supplier. The truth is that God will satisfy our desires to the extent that we deserve, but not as much as we may desire. Pious activities rendered in previous lives and this life result in positive reactions that we are destined to receive. The opposite is also true. Therefore, whatever good or bad we encounter in this life is a result of our previous activities. We are subject to such a destiny as long as we remain mired in material desires, motives and attachments.
Only God knows what deeds a person did in previous lives and this life. His supreme accounting and system of justice determines the outcome. In the example of the shopkeeper and the thief, it could be that the shopkeeper stole from the thief in a previous life. In the present life, the shopkeeper’s destiny will be that the thief will rob his store. Or, it may be that the shopkeeper was a genuinely pious man in previous lives and this life and the thief a bad man. Therefore, God may protect the shopkeeper from theft. The intricacies of karma or the law of action and reaction are very complicated to understand because we do not know the karmic history of each person. Only God knows.
There is another story from the Nasraddin Hodja tradition that presents a different point of view. The Hodja had two daughters. One was married to a farmer, and the other to a bricklayer. One day he visited the one who had married the farmer. She said to her father, “My husband has finished planting wheat. If it rains in the next few days, we will have a bumper crop, and my husband has promised to buy me a new dress. I am praying for rain.”
The following day the Hodja visited his other daughter who was married to the bricklayer. She said to her father that her husband had just finished making a large number of bricks. “He laid them on the ground to dry. If it doesn’t rain in the next few weeks, he will make a lot of money by selling them. And he has promised to buy me a new dress. I am praying that it doesn’t rain.”
Later, the Hodja thought to himself, “The sower prays for rain, the bricklayer for dry weather, and God will give to each his wish.”
Will God give to each his wish? The Middle Eastern story of the Hodja gives the impression that God is an order supplier. But there is a piece of the puzzle missing. Every human being has the ability to desire by his free will. One can desire anything they want. The quality of the desires depends on one’s perception of reality which can range from ignorance to enlightenment. In ignorance, one desires material benefits that are by nature temporary and eventually taken away from us by nature and the passage of time. With enlightenment, we learn to develop spiritual desires that are free of selfish interests and aimed at the unique purpose of pleasing God. The results of such desires are permanent and can never be lost.
As stated above, “The truth is that God will satisfy our desires to the extent that we deserve, but not as much as we may desire.” However, there are many people today who give seminars in which they instruct people who want to believe that the universe can be ordered to supply the desires of ordinary men. One simply needs to pay money to learn the technique of how to think positively and order the universe to supply. The following is an introduction to a course that promises such rewards, “How To Use Universal Laws To Your Advantage – It is vitally important to understand how universal laws work. Only by complying with these laws will you effortlessly achieve health, happiness, love and abundance.”
The attempt to adjust to or manipulate laws for self benefit without paying attention to the law maker and His intention behind the laws is atheism. Laws are made to stop certain types of behavior which are deemed detrimental and encourage other types of behavior which are desirable. In the particular case of universal laws, detrimental is considered anything that takes one’s attention away from God such as selfish sense gratification. New Age teachers purport that man can learn to conform to universal laws so that he can obtain the objects of his desires. This is a more sophisticated method to obtain temporary enjoyment such as sustained sense pleasures, longevity, fame, wealth, power, beauty, etc. But, all these material successes will end as everything material does.
When the teacher doesn’t explain the difference between material and spiritual desires, he misleads the student to think that God or the universe is his order supplier. Material desires are only satisfied to the extent that we deserve by the law of karma. Spiritual desires are satisfied to the extent that they are genuinely free of self-interest and solely for the purpose of pleasing God. Such pure desires are not subject to the laws of karma (action and reaction). This is vividly explained in the Bhagavad-gita,
“One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results (temporary material pleasures).”
“Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge.”
“Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.”
“Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive (materially self-interested) actions.”
“But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.”
“Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes (goodness, passion and ignorance). What can repression accomplish?”
“There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization.” (Bg 3. 28-34)
The dualities of attachment and aversion (love/hate), happiness and distress, desire and lamentation, etc. are the result of actions inspired by selfish acts aimed at dominating and controlling persons and material objects for personal gratification. One can understand with proper guidance that nothing in this world belongs to any individual person, but that everything belongs to God, the Supreme Lord. Acting in such consciousness of God, one does not falsely claim proprietorship for oneself, family, ethnic group, nation, or humanity, etc. With such elevated consciousness one realizes that it is impossible to be happy independent of the cooperation of God because the eternal constitutional position of the living entity is to become subordinate to the desires of the Lord.
There was once a mendicant saint who entered the capital city of a king who was very proud of his material opulence. The king was very meticulous about his possessions especially his royal palace. One day he noticed that some poor people had set up a tent in the shade of his palace’s outer walls. He became upset that such rag tag people were daring to live under the shade of his palace walls. The king issued a royal order that anyone who dared infringe even on the shade of his palace walls would be put to death.
When the saintly mendicant heard this stern decree, he decided to camp out under the shade of the king’s palace walls. News of the saint’s defiant act was reported to the king. He became outraged. Accompanied by many of his royal guards, he walked outside his palace to confront the saint. He saw the holy man reclining under the shade of the palace walls in a very relaxed mood. When the angry king approached, the saint smiled and and welcomed him with the words, “Hail to the mighty king of kings, may God protect and bless you with long life.” The king was not impressed. He began to shout, “Why do you defy my royal order? How dare you recline under the shade of my palace walls. I will have your head cut off, you insolent beggar!”
The saint calmly looked at the king without even the slightest trace of fear. He said, ” My dear king, how can you pretend that these palace walls belong to you?”
“Of course, they belong to me. Everything belongs to me in my kingdom,” said the king.
“Did it belong to you before you were born?” asked the saint.
“It belonged to my father.”
“And before that, who did it belong to?”
“My father defeated Shah Abbas whose dynasty ended when he was killed.”
“And when will your dynasty end?”
“Stop talking nonsense you fool.”
“Oh king, the truth is that you are temporarily staying in this palace like a renter. One day another person will replace you and then another and another. Your dynasty will also end like all the others before you. Your claim to proprietorship is an illusion,” said the saint.
The king remained silent. The saint looked deeply into his eyes and a glow of compassion passed from the saint to the king. The king reflected a moment. He said, “Get out of here before I have you killed.” The saint smiled and walked slowly away.
The saint’s words were poignantly true. We come to this world for a short time and pretend that we own and control material possessions. For example, there is an interesting story about the Armenian Zeytoun Bible that is the subject of litigation.
“Armenian Church Sues Getty Over ‘Magical’ Bible
Originally posted Jun 2nd 2010 9:12 AM PDT by TMZ Staff
The Western branch of “the oldest organized Christian Church in the world” is suing the J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A., demanding the return of 7 pages from a “magical” 750-year-old bible that was allegedly stolen during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1918.
In documents filed yesterday in L.A. County Superior Court, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America claims The Getty Museum “acted in complete disregard” for the Church’s rights in 1994 when it bought “stolen” pages of the Zeyt’un Gospels Bible.
The Church claims the Zeyt’un Bible was created for Constantine I by “the master illuminator T’oros Roslin” in 1256, and is one of Armenia’s most valued national treasures. The Church believes the book “wielded supernatural powers.”
When the Turks invaded Armenia in 1915, the suit claims, descendants of a royal Armenian family fled with the Bible, with whom it was thought to be safe. Yet, when the Bible was returned to Armenia following WWII, 7 key pages were missing … pages that turned up at The Getty Museum.
The Church claims it learned the Getty Museum had the pages in 2007, but the Getty has refused to return it. Now, the Church is asking the court to order the pages returned, and for damages of $35 million.”
Proprietorship in the material world is temporary and thus illusory. We may believe we own something, but such thoughts are far from the truth. We come in this world empty-handed and we leave empty-handed. The one thing that can sustain us during our short life and after death is faith in God and His instructions. Lord Krishna says, “For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next…One who acts in devotional service, renouncing the fruits of his actions, and whose doubts have been destroyed by transcendental knowledge, is situated factually in the self. Thus he is not bound by the reactions of work…(Bg 4. 40-41)
Reactive work or actions that are performed for self-interest without the desire to please God will always result in entangling reactions by the laws of karma or action and reaction. Such actions bind us to remain in the cycle of birth and death. Take for example the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is an interminable dispute about ownership of land. Two people claim ownership of the same piece of land. Can they resolve this dispute peacefully? If they both understand that only God is the ultimate proprietor, then they may be able to resolve the dispute. If they both claim proprietorship, the problem will never be resolved. They are in an impasse until one or the other prevails militarily.
Previously the Ottoman Turks decided to eliminate the entire Armenian population in Anatolia. They massacred more than three quarters of the Armenian population. Although there are few Armenian families left in Anatolia and very few remains of the Armenian civilization that existed there for 4000 years, still the Armenian people continue to exist with their culture, religion and sovereign country. Massacre or genocide has never been an effective means to erase the existence of a people. The Armenian Question is still a nemesis for the Turkish government one hundred years after the attempted extermination of the Armenians by the Turks. Rather than accept responsibility for the wholesale butchery of the Armenians, the modern Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the systematic, Ottoman government planned and executed genocide.
By nature, people like to carry out the order of a competent and intelligent person. If the mind of an individual is out of control, one becomes the servant of lust, anger, greed, and illusion and serves their whims. If however, one can control the mind and senses, then it is possible to understand that God’s instructions are the best guide for living a productive and peaceful life.
The mind is the focus of the yoga practice. Lord Krishna says, “As the strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man’s intelligence.” (Bg 2.67) Later Arjuna tells Krishna, “The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.”
The mind should be directed by the superior intelligence. However, the mind can be diverted to the senses that become engaged in sense gratification and it is overwhelmed by the temporary sensations of happiness and distress. A human being has five highly developed senses and anyone one of which can detract the mind from the form-direction of the superior intelligence. In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and senses. The pure soul becomes entangled in the material world because the mind is influenced by the false ego. Ego means “I am.”
It is that subtle aspect of every individual that attempts to identify oneself or affirms a personal identity. When one identifies the “I am” with matter and affirms “I am this body, this family, this ethnic group, this nation, this car, this house, this bank account, this woman’s husband, this child’s father, this music, this type of behavior, this clothing style, this etc.” then the individual wrongly identifies with temporary material things and becomes wrongly directed toward dominating and enjoying such things.
The real ego is identifying oneself as the eternal servant of God as Lord Jesus did by dedicating Himself to serving the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated the correct identification of self or real ego. He engaged solely in serving His heavenly Father and was liberated or resurrected from the dead and rose to heaven to the right side of His Father for eternity.
The mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature. The senses should be engaged in positive acts of devotion and avoid as much as possible or minimize sensual actives that excite the senses and inflame the mind to excessively gratify oneself. Alcoholic drinks, drugs, pornography, gambling, meat, obsessive desire to get rich and own many gadgets, the attempt to accumulate power, prestige and fame, quest for domination and control over others are all different aspects of the false ego’s attempts lord it over nature and enjoy. A general rule of life is “the more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence.”
The Vedic wisdom says “For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from sense objects is the cause of liberation.” (Amrta-bindu Upanisad)
A example of a controlled mind detached from sense objects that leads to liberation, is Lord Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the desert. The devil appeared before Him and tried to tempt Him to forsake His Father God and trust him. Lord Jesus was offered three temptations:
1. The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Mt 4:3 – 4) Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Materialistic persons often challenge believers to show some miracle so that they can be convinced to have faith. The devil similarly challenges Lord Jesus to show a miracle so that he may believe in Him. He asks Jesus to use His Godly powers for himself by turning stones to bread to satisfy His hunger. Jesus’ answer was profound. The life of a servant of God is one of inspiration and faith based on the word of God. If one follows the word of God simply for a living or for a material purpose, his faith can easily be shaken by material adversity. Lord Jesus demonstrates that the life of a true believer is guided not by material motives, but by faith and adherence to the word of God.
There is a beautiful prayer in Bengali by the 17th century saint Narottam das Thakur that says, “My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his (spiritual master’s) lotus mouth.” The spiritual master is the representative of God who repeats the His words or the revealed scriptures without any change.
Lord Jesus as the son of God was not tempted by the devil’s challenge because He takes shelter in the words of the Bible. The Devil demands to see a miracle before he is willing to believe in God. The life of a believer however is based on faith in the word of God. He becomes more steadfast by following the teachings through self control, daily practice and good association of other believers. When one is guided daily by the words of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, one sees the hand of God guiding him at every step. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, God gives the knowledge by which one comes to Him to the sincere believer who endeavors honestly to follow His instructions. God’s mercy to His servant is to give the intelligence by which one makes the right decisions to stay on the path leading to Him and not be sidetracked by temporary temptations for sense gratification.
There are three things that can tempt a person: profit, distinction and adoration.
These three desires are prominent in the life of a person who has strong desires for sexual enjoyment. To make oneself more attractive, one seeks profit or money, distinction and eventually worship. The wife of Mao Zedong, Jiang Qing, once said that better than sex is worship (receiving worship). Dictators such as Hitler, Mao, Stalin and others demanded worship which gave them an intense thrill.
Lord Jesus was not interested either in sense gratification, nor its concomitant factors such as profit, distinction and adoration. He was more interested in serving the will of God than serving His own bodily needs. Lord Krishna says, “…without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life: what then of the next.(Bg 4.31) Jesus was immune to the devil’s temptations because of His unflinching determination to serve His Father.
2. Next, the devil demonstrates his ability to cite scripture (the Bible) and use it to tempt Jesus. He quotes, “He will give his angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91) Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the temple and challenged him to hurl himself down. Jesus refused to put Himself to the test. (Mt 4:5 – 7) Jesus also quoted a Bible verse, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” ( Deuteronomy 6:16)
The devil, like many people today, wants God to reveal Himself without having the appropriate humility and surrender to the will of God so that such a revelation can happen. The process to create a favorable exchange between the student and the pure teacher is explained by Lord Krishna, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service to him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Bg 4.34) The student must have preliminary qualities such as humility or submissiveness to show he is free of false prestige. Then he can ask important questions and render service to the teacher. Such qualities as submissiveness, unselfish service and asking important questions encourage the teacher to reveal confidential knowledge to the student. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual teacher is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned teacher will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses him with genuine spiritual understanding.
Passing the test of the spiritual master or teacher is essential. There are two stories that illustrate this crucial point. The first one shows what happens when one fails the test.
There was a disciple of a guru. One day a farmer came with his horse. The horse had a huge bulge in his neck and could hardly breathe. The farmer begged the guru to save the life of his only horse on which his livelihood depended. The guru examined the bulge and called his disciple to bring a wooden hammer. The guru said a prayer and give a loud bang on the bulge with the hammer. The horse seemed to choke and then swallow. The bulge disappeared and the horse was cured of its choking for breath.
The disciple picked up the hammer and immediately left the guru. He wrongly concluded that the hammer had magical powers and could cure all diseases and afflictions. He went to a far off village and set up shop as a miracle cure-all doctor. The next day, a man came with a terrible infection and swelling to get a cure from the new miracle doctor. The disciple said, “I have the cure for your ailment.” He raised the hammer, said a prayer and whacked the swollen neck infection of the man with the wooden hammer. The force of the blow hammer was so powerful that the man died of a broken neck. The relatives of the sick man called the police who arrested the miracle doctor. The trial date was set. The miracle doctor claimed he learned his medical practice from his guru who was summoned to appear on the court date. When the day arrived, the first witness was the guru. The judge asked him why he taught his disciple such crude treatment protocol as sriking a man with a wooden hammer. The guru smiled and explained to the judge. “Sir, I am not a teacher of medical science. I am a spiritual master. However, one day a farmer came to see me with his horse. The animal had somehow swallowed a coconut and was choking to death. I simply cracked the coconut with my wooden hammer so that the animal could swallow it. My disciple saw an opportunity to get rich. He grabbed the hammer without understanding what happened and left without my knowledge or permission. He wrongly concluded that the hammer had some magical curative powers. He is a rascal and deserves whatever punishment you give him for his crime.”
There was once a very famous scholar of astrology in India. He had a reputation of being the greatest astrologer and erudite mathematician of India during his time. The astrologer’s father was a famous and learned holy man. One day the father instructed his son that he should become the disciple of such and such guru. The obedient son immediately approached the guru and asked for initiation as his disciple. The guru informed him that he was not qualified to become his guru because he (the guru) was illiterate and the young man was the most l;iterate and famous astrologer and mathematician. People was laugh that such an erudite young man took initiation from an illiterate guru. The astrologer agreed and left. He returned to see his father and explained what happened. The father became very upset and ordered his son to return and beg for initiation. He warned his son to not return unless he was initiated by the so called illiterate guru.
The astrologer was dismayed. He had never seen his father so upset and adamant. He became fearful of being rejected a second time. He realized that the illiterate guru was a man of unparalleled spiritual purity. He had rejected him not because of his claimed ignorance. He was a fully self realized soul. The guru must have detected that he (the astrologer) was falsely proud of his education. Such pride blinded him from understanding the spiritual purity and power of the guru. With his father’s help, the astrologer became determined to become the illiterate guru’s disciple.
He When the illiterate guru was walking across a bridge that crossed a tributary of the Ganges, the astrologer ran toward him and fell at his feet. He begged him for initiation. The guru insisted again that he was not qualified to initiate such a well educated young scholar. The astrologer then began to cry. He implored the guru to initiate him. He
explained with up most emotion that he was a fool who was puffed with with false pride due to his education. Actually he knew nothing about genuine spirituality. He needed the help and guidance of a genuine guru. He was so desperate to receive the mercy of the guru that he prepared to commit suicide if the guru refused him again. The guru looked at him carefully with his penetrating glance. He said again that he was not qualified. The astrologer stepped up to put his leg over the fence of the bridge as if to ready himself to jump. He said again, “Please, I beg you, accept me as your most fallen and humble disciple. I cannot live without your guidance. How can I ever overcome my false pride and arrogance unless you discipline me and guide me. The guru was please by his determination and sincerity. He said, “Very well, follow me, my son.”
These two stories illustrate the importance of accepting a spiritual guide and following his instructions seriously. Even the life of Jesus illustrates the seriousness of accepting the guru’s instructions. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to His Father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”(Luke 22:41-42). The word “cup” is interpreted to mean “death on the cross.” Jesus expresses a certain reluctance to be crucified. Yet, when he says, “not my will, but yours” to mean that Christ desired not to go to the cross, but He was willing to set aside his own desires and instead follow God’s will that He be crucified. Jesus manifested the ideal behavior of a disciple who in spite of his own personal desires, is willing to abandon everything to serve the will of His Father or guru.
The challenging attitude of the devil disqualified him to receive spiritual knowledge from Jesus. Both the teacher and the student must be qualified by following the spiritual path which requires self-control, discipline, self-sacrifice and a soft heart of compassion, freedom from fanaticism and unreasoned opinions not based on scripture.
The basic discipline to follow is avoiding the four activities of sinful life: illicit sex, gambling and philosophical speculation, meat eating, intoxication. One must replace these sinful activities with spiritual endeavors: regularly reciting the holy scriptures and discussing them, eating only sanctified vegetarian foods offered first to God, reciting and glorifying the names of God and engaging in acts of devotion under the guidance of a genuine spiritual teacher. A teacher or disciple who smokes, drinks, eats meat and philanders cannot understand, teach or comprehend higher order spiritual truths. The devil failed the test.
3. The devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” The false ego has two aspects: one is the desire to dominate and control nature and men, and two is to enjoy what one controls and in the process become strongly attached to the temporary things or people one enjoys. Thus an eternal individual soul becomes hopelessly entangled with the temporary material objects and mortal persons that he pretends to dominate.
The devil tries to tempt Jesus with dominion and control of all the kingdoms of the world. Such a desire is the root cause of man’s false ego, which is an attempt to own and control part or all of God’s creation. If one has a wrong concept of proprietorship thinking “something belongs to me” when in reality everything belongs to God, such a person will endeavor to “steal” God’s property. Everything in creation is meant to be used for the pleasure of God. When we use things for our own selfish pleasures, we commit sinful activities and become prisoners of our own lust and greed and the laws of material nature entangle us in the cycle of birth and death.
When the devil asked Jesus to serve him instead of God, he offered the false promise of dominion over God’s creation. Such a desire is “criminal” and thus punishable if one acts on it. Sinful life begins by forgetting God’s dominion over everything and attempting to own, control and enjoy separate from Him. Our life of suffering begins when we believe such a false premise and use it as the guiding principle of our life.
The correct premise about the purpose of life is the following. Like Adam and Eve, we wrongly used our limited free will and chose to disobey God’s instructions. Our free will is limited to accepting or rejecting God’s instructions. By accepting to follow God’s instructions, we are protected by Him and can live eternally in His transcendental abode without anxiety and fully immersed in the loving acts of reciprocal exchanges with God and His eternal servants. By rejecting, we come to the material world of birth and death where we are given an opportunity to pretend we are a “little god” who tries to establish dominion and control over some small part of the temporary material creation and attempt to enjoy it separately from God. But the truth is that the material world is actually a prison where the inmates are given a chance to correct their false mentality of selfish proprietorship and illicit enjoyment through self-realization.
The beginning of self-realization is understanding that one’s real identity is not the temporary changing body, but the eternal soul within the body that manifests as consciousness. When the consciousness is contaminated with false concepts, the individual tries to compete with God for dominion in the material world. When the consciousness is purified, the individual becomes the servant of God and employs everything material in the service of God for His pleasure. The eternal individual soul within the body is the servant of the eternal individual God who accompanies him as the witness and overseer of everything he does.
Jesus demonstrates that the false of promises of the devil can be rejected when we are trained properly in understanding our real position in this world. We have come here because we turned against God by disregarding His instructions. This errant mentality can be corrected at any time and we can adjust our thoughts and activity to use everything in creation in the service of God without entertaining any false concepts of ourselves as anything but the eternal servant of God. Just as a cashier in a bank receives the cash box in the morning. He proceeds to accept deposits and pay out disbursements all day. At no time does the honest cashier think that the bank’s cash box belongs to him. At the end of the day, the cashier fills out the credit and balance sheet and returns the cash box intact with the correct balance. At the end of the month, the cashier receives a salary for services rendered. If the cashier takes some money from the box for his own enjoyment, he becomes a thief and is prosecuted. If he works honestly never considering wrongly that the bank’s money belongs to him, he is never entangled in legal actions and can live peacefully and without anxiety. Trouble and anxiety is caused by attempting to take something that doesn’t belong to us.
The temptation of Jesus by the devil is very instructive because it demonstrates the ways and means to free ourselves from the cycle of birth and death in the material world. Understanding and following the example of Jesus, the Son of God, and other great saintly persons in Vedic history is the only way we can free ourselves of illusory concepts and rightly be situated in the service of God and eternal salvation.