God appears, and God is light,
Our Society has been holding Kirtan at a number of places in the city. During November, we were at the Gate Theater on Sundays and at Judson Hall on Tuesday, the 15th. In December, and possibly longer, we'll be at Film Maker's Cinematheque every Sunday at 3 p.m. The address is 25 West 41st Street, near Sixth Avenue. Admission will be free. Please come and bring your friends.
Although Back To Godhead has been circulating satisfactorily, we'd like to hear more in the way of comment from our readers, so please consider this an open invitation to give us your opinion of our magazine, and the philosophy to which it is devoted.
In closing, the editors would like to express their appreciation to Poet Allen Ginsberg, for his "Reflections on the Mantra," which is an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, whose title is as yet undetermined.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Notes transcribed from a lecture given September 23, 1966
The Paramatman, or the Supersoul, is distinguished from jivatman, the individual soul that enjoys the fruits of the body. Jivatman is under the spell of the material qualities, and he enjoys of suffers material activities and consequences, but Paramatman has nothing to do with the material qualities. Some people, who do not know, say that Paramatman and jivatman are the same, but they do not understand that Paramatman has nothing to do with material qualities. He may be compared to a doctor in the hospital tending to his sick patients. He himself is not sick. Only a fool would say that, because the doctor is in the hospital, he too must be sick, so it is the same with those who say that because jivatman and Paramatman live together in the same body, they are the same. Paramatman is never affected by material things like toothaches, even though He is in the same body. The devotee of Krishna must accept the duality of Paramatman and jivatman.
Krishna lives in the body, but He is transcendental. When He comes to earth, He has nothing to do with the material qualities. People in ignorance think that because Krishna is manifested in a human body He is just an ordinary man. This is explicitly denied in Bhagavad Gita: "Foolish persons deride Me when I assume this human form of my transcendental nature. They do so without knowing my supremacy over everything created." (Gita, 10.11)
We must always distinguish between Paramatman and jivatman. In the Upanishads they are compared to two birds sitting in the same tree. One bird (jivatman) is eating the fruits of the tree, while the other bird (Paramatman) just sits and watches. Similarly, Krishna and Arjuna sat in the same chariot, but Arjuna knew that Krishna was the Supreme. We are also in the same chariot with Krishna, and we too should know that He is the Supreme. Even in the midst of the material world, Krishna is not attached. He does not act out of need, because he has no desires.
To become like Krishna, we should give up all material desires, and take shelter of Krishna. Everything that we do, we do with His permission. If we want to turn away from Him, He lets us; if we want to suffer, He lets us. We must first realize that we are suffering, and then ask why. When the question "why" arises in the mind, it is time to approach a spiritual master who is conversant with the Transcendental Nature, and is fully engaged in spiritual matters twenty-four hours a day. A spiritual master is a man who never leaves his spiritual work to seek sense gratification.
We must know that we are actually qualitatively one with Krishna. When jivatman knows that he is not this body, he becomes like Paratman. Jivatman is almost God, but not quite. Jivatman is wonderful, but not equal to God. The quality is the same, but the quantity is far different. For example, the rays of the sun spread all over the sky, but they come from the sun. Likewise, the Brahmajyoti illumines far and wide, but it emanates from Krishna. The soul is a spark in the heart, but its energy spreads all over the body. As the earth and sky are illumined by the sun, so the body is maintained by the spiritual spark. As the body is maintained by the individual soul, so the entire universe is maintained by God, or the Super-soul. I am not the Supreme. I merely illumine this body, but the Supreme illumines the entire universe.
Today, the twenty-third of September, is Radha's birthday. She is fifteen days younger than Krishna. When Krishna was a boy, He played with the children of the countryside. Because He was so beautiful, all the girls prayed that someday He would be their husband. Radha loved Krishna the most, even more than the others. She is the symbol of the greatest worship.
Krishna and the girls were of the same age. Because girls are married earlier than boys, the girls were all married before Krishna. Despite their marriages, the girls all loved Krishna so much that whenever He played His flute, they would leave their homes and go to Him. This continued until Krishna was sixteen.
At the age of sixteen Krishna left His friends and went to live with His real father. All His friends spent the rest of their lives weeping and longing for Him. This too, is worship. Radha and Krishna met again during a solar eclipse at Kurukshetra. It was a meeting of love, but they were again separated. Radha is Krishna's beloved. By her blessing, Krishna will accept us. Hare also means Radha, so when we chant "Hare Krishna" we chant "Radha Krishna."
By Allen Ginsberg
Mantram (singular), mantra (plural) is a short verbal formula like Rolling Stones' "I'm going home," or Gertrude Stein's "A rose is a rose is a rose," which is repeated as a form of prayer meditation over and over until the original thin-conscious association with meaning disappears and the words become pure physical sounds uttered in a frankly physical universe; the word or sound or utterance then takes on a new density as a kind of magic language or magic spell and becomes a solid object introduced into the science fiction space-time place where the worshipper finds himself, surrounded by jutting mountain crags or city buildings.
After several minutes of devoted repetition—such as Alfred Lord Tennyson practiced with his own name (a form of worship of a form of the Self categorized by one Hindu as Atma Darshan. Self-communion translated—one might garland one's own photo with flowers and kneel to worship that particular manifest image of Divinity)—it is possible that the awesome physical sound reverberating out of the body into the air might serve as a vehicle for the expression of nonconceptual sensations of the worshipper. That is to say, the magic formula pronunciation can be loaded with affects—feelings, emotions—(Bhakti or devotions is the Hindu term) passing through the body of the devotee. Feelings which arise spontaneously all the time, but rarely have suitable channels for direct expression. So that longer stretches of mantra chanting may become the opportunity for realization of certain blissful or horrific feelings which are latent and hitherto unrealized—tears may arise of which the devotee was not aware earlier. Or gaieties, or Hebraic solemnities. Thus the mantram may serve as an instrument for widening the area of immediate self-awareness of the singer; much as an intense conversation with psychoanalyst or lover, or priest or connection may bring out emotional news; singing (from olden times) deepens the soul of the singer. By deepens the soul, I mean not that the soul is added to like brick by brick, but that what's already there becomes visible or audible. Well, we all know that about singing. I'm just explaining these simplicities to dispel mysterious notions or provincial resentments agains the use of oriental tricks.
Negro spirituals which involve deepening of the expression of a repeated refrain function like mantra. So lovers' cries in moments of crisis like "Oh I'm coming, coming. I'm coming. I'm coming, etc." Singing in the bathroom or on lonesome bridges may have some general function of providing situations where full force of feeling is slowly developed and outwardly expressed in solitude. From Yoruba drum-dance-and-shout worship rituals to electronic folk-rock we have developed Western situations to manifest our fugitive aetherial consciousness.
The Indian practice of mantra-chanting is ancient and useful to know; but I don't know enough about it technically to be the right guru. I wish to explain what I do know through gossip and practice, and hope that scholarly holymen will make allowances for my ignorance.
One Oriental idea is suggestive: that the mantra in itself has magic or practical power irrespective of the sincerity or propriety of its pronunciation in a given situation; and that mere pronunciation of the mantra is a meritorious and mysterious art. On this assumption I take liberty to chant and explain mantram publicly.
The name of Shiva pronounced accidentally by a dying man asking for a glass of water was, on one occasion of legend cause for his immediate release from bondage to rebirth and suffering.
Why is that? Because, according to theory, the names of the Gods used in the mantra are identical with the Gods (or powers invoked) themselves. So that one who sings Shiva's name becomes Shiva (Creator or Destroyer) himself. The subjective experience of repeated singing of Shiva's name confirms this theory, as far as I have been able to tell. Obviously it is a subjective experience, not an "objective" one. Subjective sensation is what I'm interested in recovering contact with; and here interpret "objectivity" as a retreat from feelable phenomena.
The mantram is generally given by a teacher to pupil, and most often is to be kept secret, and recited aloud when alone, or silently with lips or only mentally; and recited continually, until the mind's activities become fixed around the mantram. That way a continuum is begun that deepens till maybe deathbed. Fixing the mind on one point, focusing and deepening in one spot is a classical method of yoga meditation. Some mantra are all-India common property, and are universal, public. The late Swami Shivananda (May his self bless us all!) of Rishikesh recommended Hare Krishna as the Maha Mantra—Great Mantra—for this age, infallible publicly and privately for everyone. He was a large souled man, "Vishnu Himself" as one beautiful yogi explained in a hermitage across the river from Shivananda's Ashram. Shivananda was the first "accredited" Guru I encountered; a year later at the confluence of Yamuna and Ganges rivers called Trivondrum in Allahabad at a great fair of half a million holymen and ladies, I passed by a larger wooden Nepalese structure where a lady saint supposed to be some Northern princess sat enthroned, with her attendants and worshipers gathered to one side around a harmonium (hand organ) and heard her smiling enrapt singing of the same Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Her face had an inner smile reflected, eyes half closed, the song had lilt of tenderness and odd inevitable sweet rhythm, and though I did notice it at the time, the song was impressed on my own memory. It came back after many adventures. I never knew her name.
The original and genuine commentary on Vedanta philosophy by the author of Vedanta himself, Vyasadeva, now available for the first time in English with authorised explanation by Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta.
by Rayarama Das Brahmachary
We are conditioned beings. Our thinking and communicating are done by means of symbols, such as words and colors and forms. By the use of words we try to understand our position in existence. Furthermore, we try to communicate—to teach and learn—through words. Words are experiences, surely. But they are experiences intended to convey other experiences—they are meant to be indicators of reality, rather than reality itself. For example, one does not run; one performs a certain action which, for the benefit of communicating with someone else, we call running. This is certainly so on the material plane, where words and actions are divisible.
In this day and age those who seek to know the Truth Absolute must come to grips with the problem of words. Are words an aid to our understanding of ourselves, or do they constitute an impediment? If we examine this question, we can see that they are either: words are, in fact, neutral tools which can be used, misused, or neglected. The theory that all words are false is patently absurd. Like the statement "I am lying," it must be untrue if it is true.
Although we may use the same words, we each have different meanings for them, therefore the argument is put forth that we cannot accurately communicate anything by the use of words. This is because our comprehension depends upon our conditioning, which is different with each of us. Because our conditioning is unique, the meanings we give our words must be unique. This is the problem of word communication.
Therefore, the conditioned being is bound to fail in his attempts to communicate his experience to others. His experience itself, to begin with, is perceived through imperfect senses. But there is One, of Whom it is said:
... He is the Absolute Truth, and the Primeval Cause of all causes of these manifested universes—in creation, sustenance, and destruction. Directly and indirectly He is conscious of all different manifestations, but He is independent of any cause beyond Himself. (Srimad Bhagwatam)
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is not conditioned. As the Source and Controller of all that is, the Lord is not bound in any way. When He speaks, it is from the Absolute level. he is within the heart of the hearer, as well as in the words of the scripture which He has given us to be heard. In that position, His words cannot be considered false.
Why then do men disagree as to the meanings of the scriptures? It is because they lack the necessary qualifications for understanding what the Lord says. Those qualifications are given in the Bhagavad Gita:
This same ancient yoga
The supreme secret is that we must devote ourselves to God and to the study of His words. The Vedas, the Koran, the Holy Bible—all the scriptures of the world are comprehensible on this devotional level, and on no other. Once we have come to this level, we can obtain the knowledge which is revealed to us by God. Nor is this only theoretical knowledge:
This is sovereign knowledge, sovereign secret,
So, using the sovereign knowledge of the Lord, let's examine the problem of conditioning. Conditioning generally means that which has been acquired artificially, or that which is not natural and original with the being. The materialistic thinker assumes that consciousness is a bio-chemical process, and therefore limits his concept of conditioning to that which is intellectually impose or adopted following birth. Of course, from this standpoint, there really is no question of an unconditioned state. If consciousness is bio-chemical, it depends upon one chemical interaction or another—which is conditioning however you want to look at it. Therefore, in Bhagavad Gita, the Lord clearly states that birth itself is in fact a conditioning.
All beings are born to delusion, O Bharata,
Lord Krishna further points to the unconditioned state—or the natural state, the attainment of which is the sole purpose of all scriptures.
But he who knows the true character of the two distinctions (of the soul)
We are, then, not doers of actions. Embodied souls, we have erroneously identified ourselves with the activities of material nature. This is our conditioning. It is a result of attachment, and the process of this attachment is also to be found in Bhagavad Gita:
The soul devoted attains to peace well-founded,
We are bound not merely by the intellectualizing of experience. We are bound by our very craving for experience on the material plane - of which the intellectual process is a part. Having given ourselves over to this material sphere of activities, we are subject to its specific laws, and these condition our every action, thought, word and deed—from long before conception in the womb, until far after death, as we continue to be reborn, reborn, reborn.
The soul in nature
These modes by which nature manifests itself are not escapable as long as we remain on the material level—whether we anesthetize, intellectualize or sexualize. Four verses from the Gita will clarify and explain the conditions of material existence:
The three modes
Of these, goodness, being pure,
Passion, know thou, is of the nature of attraction,
But dullness, know thou, is born of ignorance,
I've underlined the word "all" in the eighth verse, because it is ignorance even to be in the modes of goodness or passion. To be embodied, and to accept the bodily concept of life, is here said to be ignorance. Under that preliminary ignorance, we are subject to the modes of nature—immutable blind laws which take no account of our wishes, as the graveyards ultimately indicate.
This is the conditioned state—and this is our forlorn position, over which we have almost no control. Almost, but not quite exactly. We do have one choice which we can make: that is the choice to withdraw from attachment to material activities, once we understand that they are being artificially imposed upon us.
Whatever pleasures are born of contacts (with objects)
What, exactly, doer the wise mad do? It is a current belief that enlightenment, of liberation—or, for our purposes, the unconditioned state—will come, just as death will come, more or less on its own, with no real need for effort. It is believed that the conditioned state cannot be altered by any endeavor of ours. The Lord Himself, however, says differently. In the concluding chapter of Bhagavad Gita, He says:
Thus has wisdom more secret than all secrets
Although Krishna has all power, and can direct any course of events whatever—quite above the controls of nature—He prefers that the embodied being choose for himself. What Krishna wants is our happiness, which can only really be attained in the unconditioned state. However, He gives us the knowledge and the choice to take or reject it. To further stress this freedom, He says elsewhere:
Let a man lift himself by himself;
The Lord is friend to all beings. He never wavers and He never turns from us. It remains only for us to befriend ourselves by accepting His help. This will free us from bondage to material nature.
We have now seen something of the conditioned status under which we labor, but what is this freedom to which we aspire? What is the unconditioned state? It is commonly described as Sat-Chit-Ananda: eternal knowledge and bliss. This is our constitutional spiritual nature, which, through some catastrophic ignorance, we have given up. In this bodily concept of life we are temporary, in ignorance, and rarely happy for longer than a moment's time. The unconditioned state means that we reach a position of constitutional joy, which no thing can thereafter affect.
When the soul is no longer attached to external contacts,
It is further stated:
He who is able to resist
The happiness attained in reaching the unconditioned position is full, not empty. It is simply empty of care, sorrow and bondage.
That, on gaining which he thinks
For supreme happiness comes to the yogi
This is the unconditioned state. This is freedom. It is a state of transcendental consciousness, free from all the designations and entanglements which are a part of material consciousness. No materialist philosopher can claim to reach—or even to comprehend—this sphere. This freedom from designation is made even more explicit elsewhere in the Gita:
Even here (on earth) the created (world) is overcome
This is not a state of consciousness into which one comes, and then again goes. It is bliss, it is ecstasy—which is never again lost. Having recovered our natural, constitutional position, the Lord guarantees that we will not fall again. Having revived our full consciousness, we then pass beyond the strict laws of nature, beyond the bewilderment of maya, beyond the clutches of death.
How to achieve this state of freedom should be our next concern, now that we've seen what it is. To help us to achieve it is the purpose of all the scriptures and transcendental philosophies of the world. The Lord Himself incarnates upon this earth to aid us in our plight. Without Him, we would assuredly be lost. Furthermore, even the attainment of wisdom is a gift from the Lord. It cannot be squeezed out of Him, nor can it be devised by us. In our conditional position, our own prescriptions are the very cause of our bondage. But Arjuna explains the way of liberation for us:
The supreme mystery,
So our problem is how to obtain the Lord's grace, without which no final conclusion to the problems of conditional existence can be reached. Arjuna was, we recall, Krishna's friend and devotee. We must somehow elevate ourselves to that level—then we too can have the grace of God, and the joy of eternal association with Him in His Kingdom. This Kingdom is described by the Lord in these terms:
The sun does not illumine that,
The Lord's abode is not illuminated by external means because it is self-illuminated. This material universe is by nature dark, and is lighted by means of fire and sun. But the spiritual world is by nature light, and so it requires no illumination.
Now to the problem of reaching the state in which we will be free of material designations. We have already seen that this can be done by ingratiating ourselves to God. The practice of yoga is one of the more popular methods now in use for spiritual advancement, and we have seen that Krishna Himself approves of yoga practice. But just what is yoga? This is a question worth examining. The hatha, raja, and jnana systems are current, and are quite acceptable. However, regarding this question of methods, Krishna says:
And of all yogis,
This worship of the Lord is called Bhakti Yoga. It is the highest form of yoga. Its practice is outlined throughout the Bhagavad Gita:
Always glorifying Me,
Glorifying God can be done by hearing, reciting, remembering, serving, worshipping, chanting, following instructions, befriending and totally surrendering to the Lord. Any one of these methods—when perfectly carried out—will lead to full liberation, in that each contains all the others. The practice of bhakti is a practice of twenty-four hour meditation on the Lord, in the course of all activities. It requires no special time to be set aside. It requires that all one's time be surrendered to the Supreme Reality:
Whatever thou doest, whatever thou eatest,
This is the practice of bhakti yoga—devotional service to the Lord. This is the means for qualifying ourselves to receive the Lord's grace. Then, by the grace of Krishna, we may come to know Him.
Today the use of artificial aids to consciousness expansion is very popular—but no one can say that LSD, mescaline or marijuana have brought him to the platform where he can "experience easily the infinite bliss / Of contact with the Eternal." The use of a drug or chemical substance is a method which is not prescribed by those who made a science of God-consciousness thousands of years ago. Depending on the use of an external object is the very conditioning we are seeking to transcend—and cannot be said to be an "easy" means of experiencing infinite bliss and contact with the Eternal. If one has been locked away in prison, or is confined by some disease to a hospital bed—or if one has no money, no friends or no underworld contacts—then this means is indeed difficult.
As to whether the use of external chemical substances can actually bring about the fully unconditioned state, we must recall that Arjuna was freed from the bewilderment of ignorance by God's grace. There was no mention of drugs, Krishna did not need them; nor did Arjuna when he saw the truth. Krishna still doesn't need any chemical substances, and neither do we. Rather, these things are to be avoided by one who is serious about spiritual life. These are the words of Lord Sri Krishna, which apply quite nicely to this question.
The gateway to this hell
The abandonment of scripture, then, is the abandonment of the means prescribed by God to facilitate the recovery of our natural status. He Whose knowledge is perfect has given us this way, for our ease and speedy advancement. To follow other paths is merely to waste our time, and to throw ourselves back into the entangling grip of the senses. Super-psychic sensuality is still sensuality, and will not lead one to freedom from the governance of the material world—nature and her three over-interacting, pitiless modes.
It is only by devotion to God that freedom can be achieved. If one is devoted to God, he manifests his devotion by following the laws of God, as they are revealed in scripture. Without making one's devotion practical in this way, one cannot achieve practical results. Theoretical devotion may lead to theoretical liberation—but that is of no real value to us.
The unconditioned state—the consciousness of our real and eternal position in existence—must be known by direct experience, or it is uncertain and incomplete. The formula given by Krishna is very simple—and it can be practiced anywhere, under any circumstances.
Abandoning all duties,
Just as in the dawning sun
—Brahmananda Das Brahmachary
INTRODUCTION TO BHAGAVAD-GITA
An introduction to Geetopanishad, the Bhagavad Gita as It Is. Swamiji is presently working on a complete translation of the text of the Gita. Now this introduction is available. 35 cents
KRISHNA THE RESERVOIR OF PLEASURE
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Every man is seeking pleasure in life. But he does not know where it is. This small booklet will give an idea of the perpetual pleasure of Krishna Consciousness. Price: 35 cents
WHO IS CRAZY?
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
A person who is illusioned by the temporary wonders of material energy is certainly a crazy man. Practically all men in material activities are insane in various degrees. How to cure this increasing epidemic is suggested here. Read it and be cured of all craziness. Price: 35 cents
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Rayarama Das Brahmachary (Raymond Marais)
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