Combined Personalities

If the spiritual identity of every individual is eternal, including that of the Supreme Lord Krsna, then how should one understand different avataras like Dattatreya, who is a combination of Siva ,Visnu and Brahma, and similar avataras in Caitanya-lila?
 —Praharsha Sutari

Reply (by Nanda Dulal Dasa): The Supreme Lord is bhava-grahi and therefore wishes to reciprocate with the exact mood expressed by His devotees. In the Brahmanda Purana it is described how Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri, once prayed to the three Lords Brahma, Visnu and Siva that if they were pleased with her in any way and if they wished her to ask any blessing from them then she wished that all of them appear as her son. In order to reciprocate with her desire, the Lord appeared as a combined incarnation — Lord Visnu combined with Lord Brahma and Lord Siva — in the form of Lord Dattatreya.

When Lord Caitanya met Bhavananda Raya, the Lord told him that he is Panduand his five sons are the five Pandavas. By this statement, Ramananda Raya is Arjuna in Caitanya-lila. But it is also said that he is Visakha-sakhi. There are other such examples. How is this possible? The Supreme Lord is also omnipotent and therefore is not subject to our conceptions of possibility. The personalities that we are considering here are His eternal associates. By the grace of the Supreme Lord even these personalities are not subject to ordinary limitations and so we should accept these statements from the scriptures without doubting them using our limited intelligence.

Purpose of Pinda-dana

After one’s death, the body is burnt, buried or given to animals or birds, depending on one’s culture. The soul leaves immediately and takes asylum in another body as per his or her karma. In Vedic culture there is a system of offering oblations to the forefathers. If the body is non-existent in form, then what is the purpose of these activities?
 —by Ramamurthi Subramanian

Reply (by Nanda Dulal Dasa): It is not necessary that every spirit soul immediately gets a gross body to inhabit immediately after the previous body is dead. According to one’s karma, a living entity may have to suffer for extended periods in hellish planets to undergo different punishments. Sometimes, as punishment for some exceptional sinful deeds, some living entities are not even awarded a gross body and are forced to suffer in a subtle ghostly body.

As part of the Vedic culture, there is a yearly occasion of fifteen days, called sraddha, when oblations are offered to the forefathers. These oblations called pindodaka are actually prasada, or remnants of food offered to Lord Visnu , which and then offered to the forefathers. Lord Visnu is pleased by the devotional service rendered by His devotees and thus by His grace He liberates any such forefathers who might be suffering in any kind of a painful, perilous condition. Any forefather who is benefitted in such a way immediately receives a gross body and thus gets a chance for further spiritual advancement. Lord Caitanya Himself visited Gaya, a prominent holy place, to offer oblations to forefathers, and so did Lord Balarama. srila Advaita acarya also performed the sraddha ceremony for the benefit of his forefathers. It is mentioned that the ceremony of offering pinda-dana is prohibited on an Ekadasi.

The Power of Bhakti

“For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Prtha, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.” What does this verse in the Bhagavad-gita mean?
 —Sumanth Chavasai

Reply (by’s Live Help volunteers): Krishna is confirming that He is pleased when someone is devoted to Him and serves Him with love. He assures that He will accept such a person back into His kingdom. Krishna says elsewhere that He is so pleased with loving service that He finds it impossible to repay the devotee and is purchased by that love. Such is the power of bhakti, which is identical to the Lord.

Most of us have a long way to go in achieving that level of devotion, but bhakti begins by chanting Krishna ’s holy names. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna is encouraging us conditioned souls with nice verses like this one. We should take up the chanting without deviation and without offense, begging for service, so that we can start to revive that loving spirit.