Yoga

Connecting to Lord Rama

Chanting Ramanama, the name of Rama, is a very simple and effective method to connect to Lord Rama (God). Sometimes, chanting Ramanama for a few minutes (with a devotional feel) is better than chanting for half an hour. In the beginning, there is no need to aim for long periods of time. Once interest develops and if our health permits, the duration of worship can be increased.

Reading, listening to pravachan (discourses), and listening to bhajans (devotional songs) are also forms of bhakti and complement chanting and praying to God very well. As for which books to study, we have to be very careful. Some books by today’s authors may be very nicely written but may totally lack spiritual connectivity; they may, in fact, disconnect us from God. Reading books by saints or devotional writers is a safe bet. My top suggestions are the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa.

Lord Hanuman, the top devotee of Lord Rama, likes connecting jivas (individual beings) to Rama — the Supreme God. Accordingly, Hanuman is the ultimate guru and savior for all devotees of Rama. We can request Lord Hanuman directly to guide us towards Lord Rama. We can just talk to Lord Hanuman as we would talk to a guru. Lord Hanuman and Lord Rama always listen to us.

When Vishnu blessed Dhruva

Once upon a time, a five year old prince named Dhruva lived in a palace with his father, who was the king, his mother, and his step-mother. While the child was well supported by his mother, his father and step-mother, at times, mistreated him. Depressed, the child consulted his mother about how he could obtain better care from his father. Dhruva’s mother said, “Our ill luck may be behind what is happening with us. But there is a solution to every problem. Why don’t you consult a sage?”

Dhruva met a sage, who clearly understood what the problem was. The sage said, “Changing the attitude of people towards you is not an easy task. You can make yourself more worthy of your family’s love by worshiping Vishnu, the Supreme Soul. Vishnu will change your destiny. He will also give you a designation in this universe that you truly deserve.”

Dhruva followed the sage’s advice and started worshipping Vishnu regularly. After a few months, Vishnu appeared and blessed Dhruva with spiritual knowledge, love of his family, and an improved fate. God liked his new child devotee so much that He blessed Dhruva with a position in the universe that none had; Dhruva was blessed with thousands times more radiance than the sun. Even today, the pole star in the night sky, which represents a fraction of Dhruva’s manifested energy, reminds us of God’s enormous grace on Dhruva.

Connecting to the source of happiness

Whenever we do something for God, our effort becomes a means of bringing us closer to God — the source of all happiness. In other words, we can gain happiness from our simplest efforts by offering them to God.

Efforts that convert to fame and money may have their importance in the real world but are considered perishables in spirituality. On the other hand, if we read a prayer to God or light a candle in front an image of God, it may bring more permanent results in terms of happiness. Why? Because God, who dwells in every heart and is the real witness of all our karma, gives the fruits of every action according to his own wish. If we have done something that should attract happiness, God will eventually give it to us.

Even career-conscious human beings can gain permanent happiness by forming a relationship with God. One approach of connecting to happiness on the workplace is by forming a harmony with karma yoga. To trigger this yoga, we have to make sure that we trust God. By remembering God at times and by surrendering our actions to God, we can remain unmoved by success and failure. As we move forward, we will see that our trust on God makes God’s grace the source of our happiness, not material success.

Knowledge from scriptures and self-realized individuals has its importance in guiding us towards happiness. In fact, scriptures supposedly provide us with viewpoints of human beings, generally saints, who have already realized God.  Because God may directly guide a human being towards himself through inspirations and other means, personal experiences are equally important in spirituality. Personal spiritual experiences can range from chanting a name of God and listening to discourses to having a face-to-face meeting with God (darshan), where applicable. In our professional endeavours or our spiritual journey, whenever in doubt, we can always request God to guide us rather than making concrete assumptions about how the universe works or what our favourite scripture actually says.

God’s grace may be essential for liberation

No matter how focused and self-assured we happen to be in our spiritual pursuits, our own potential may not be adequate to give us deliverance from the universe. This is one reason why devotional saints have considered the grace of God so important in the context of liberation. Surrender of the self to the Divine makes us more worthy of His grace, which is our ticket to gaining eternal proximity to God.

Reflecting on the glory of God’s grace, Saint Tulasidasa has said, “Ja par kripa Rama ki hoi, ta par kripa kare sab koi,” which basically means, “Whoever is blessed by the grace of God wins the grace of every single being in the universe.” For human beings, it is the grace of God that transforms as guidance and blessings from mentors and saints, as guidance from scriptures, as positive energy from places of worship, and as the development of virtues like forgiveness and patience.

It is God’s grace that protects us from all kinds of sufferings, brings us in contact with true and spiritual friends, gets reflected as selflessness in our work, and provides us with food and other basic needs. God’s grace, in one of its highest forms, becomes bhakti (devotion), the basis of our spiritual connection to God. Once bhakti — the love of God — is granted to us, peace, bliss, and liberation always follow it.

Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence: Agreement with the Bhagavad Gita

I would like to share my answer to a Quora question. The answer focuses on how Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence was in full agreement with the instruction given by Lord Krishna (to Arjuna) in the Bhagavad Gita. The full answer can be read on this page.

The Bhagavad Gita does not support violence but teaches human beings about (1) goodness as opposed to ignorance, (2) following dharma (this includes responsibilities and righteousness), and (3) the significance of surrendering to God with love. The Gita fully supports a comprehensive definition of ahimsa.

Mahatma Gandhi, a devotee of Lord Rama who had learned to surrender to Lord Rama (God), did what was inspired by God. For his circumstances (desh-kala-paristhiti; location-time-situation), God inspired him to follow a version of ahimsa that did not include war. Earlier, the same Lord, during his appearance on Earth as Lord Krishna, had instructed Arjuna to follow a version of ahimsa that included engagement in battle. Participation in a war, when it became inevitable (read about Krishna’s peace proposal here), was in line with Arjuna’s dharma.

While Arjuna had chosen to be a warrior by profession, Gandhi never made that choice. Gandhi’s dharma considerably differed from that of Arjuna. A single solution does not fit every situation. We should be happy that Gandhi’s path, which was highly spiritually advanced, worked, and Lord Rama blessed India with the results that they were looking for.

Happy Gandhi Jayanti!

[1] The Hindi verse shown in the image is from the Dohavali by Goswami Tulasidasa (published by Gita Press.) My English translation: “Lord Rama (God) is beyond knowledge and the senses; he is indescribable. He is unborn and transcends the mind, illusion, and nature. The Lord, whose attributes include Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss, has performed illustrious divine plays on Earth as a human being.” This translation was originally published at this site.

[2] Readers can also read about Gandhi’s karma yoga in this blog post. If you are new to Hindu spirituality, you can check out this blog post for an introduction to Lord Rama.

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