A few blocks from the house of Mexico's president lies the Mexico City Hare Krsna Temple, one of the many centers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness that have appeared in Latin America in recent years.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In the ancient Vedic scripture Bhagavad-gita, as in the Bible also, it is said that Krsna, or Cod, is the father of everyone. Therefore, it is very natural that Latin Americans, like their northern brothers, are taking to Krsna consciousness and chanting the holy names Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This chanting is a call to the Supreme Lord and His supreme energy to lift us out of material consciousness and reestablish us in our natural position as His eternal loving servants. The consciousness of eternal service to the Supreme Lord is natural for every living being, and it is transcendental to all nationalistic and sectarian boundaries. The chanting is simple and universal. And it is authorized as the most effective means of self-realization for this age by the Vedic literature, which gives in-depth knowledge of bhakti-yoga, or the science of devotional service. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, who is the founder and acarya (spiritual master) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has brought this science to the West so that sincere and intelligent people may take advantage of this easy and sublime method of reviving their eternal relationship with Krsna, the Supreme Lord. The articles inside Back to Godhead will tell you more about the philosophy and activities of the Hare Krsna movement.
by His Divine Grace
There is a misconception that the Krsna consciousness movement represents the Hindu religion. In act, however, Krsna consciousness is in no way a faith or religion that seeks to defeat other faiths or religions. Rather, it is an essential cultural movement for the entire human society and does not consider any particular sectarian faith. This cultural movement is especially meant to educate people in how they can love God.
Sometimes Indians both inside and outside of India think that we are preaching the Hindu religion, but actually we are not. One will not find the word "Hindu" in Bhagavad-gita. Indeed, there is no such word as "Hindu" in the entire Vedic literature. This word has been introduced by the Muslims from provinces next to India, such as Afghanistan, Baluchisthan and Persia. There is a river called "Sindhu" bordering the northwestern provinces of India, and since the Muslims there could not pronounce "Sindhu" properly, instead they called the river "Hindu," and the inhabitants of this tract of land they called "Hindus." In India, according to the Vedic language, the Europeans are called mlecchas or yavanas. Similarly, "Hindu" is a name given by the Muslims.
India's actual culture is described in Bhagavad-gita, where it is stated that according to the different qualities or modes of nature, there are different types of men, who are generally classified into four social orders and four spiritual orders. This system of social and spiritual division is known as varnasrama-dharma. The four vamas, or social orders, are brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra. The four asramas, or spiritual orders, are brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. The varnasrama system is described in the Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. The goal of this institution of Vedic culture is to educate every man for advancement in knowledge of Krsna, or God. That is the entire Vedic program.
When Lord Caitanya talked with the great devotee Ramananda Raya, the Lord asked him, "What is the basic principle of human life?" Ramananda Raya answered that human civilization begins when varnasrama-dharma is accepted. Before coming to the standard of varnasrama-dharma there is no question of human civilization. Therefore, the Krsna consciousness movement is trying to establish this right system of human civilization, which is known as Krsna consciousness, or daiva-varnasrama—divine culture.
In India, the varnasrama system has now been taken in a perverted way, and thus a man born in the family of a brahmana (the highest social order) claims that he should be accepted as a brahmana. But this claim is not accepted by the sastra (scripture). One's forefather may have been a brahmana according to gotra, or the family hereditary order, but real varnasrama-dharma is based on the factual quality one has attained, regardless of birth or heredity. Therefore, we are not preaching the present-day system of the Hindus, especially those who are under the influence of Sankaracarya, for Sankaracarya taught that the Absolute Truth is impersonal and thus he indirectly denied the existence of God.
Sankaracarya's mission was special; he appeared to reestablish the Vedic influence after the influence of Buddhism. Because Buddhism was patronized by Emperor Asoka, 2600 years ago the Buddhist religion practically pervaded all of India. According to the Vedic literature, Buddha is an incarnation of Krsna who had a special power and who appeared for a special purpose. His system of thought or faith was accepted widely, but Buddha rejected the authority of the Vedas. While Buddhism was spreading, the Vedic culture was stopped both in India and in other places. Therefore, since Sankaracarya's only aim was to drive away Buddha's system of philosophy, he introduced a system called Mayavada.
Strictly speaking, Mayavada philosophy is atheism, for it is a process in which one imagines that there is God. This Mayavada system of philosophy has been existing since time immemorial. The present Indian system of religion or culture is based on the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracarya, which is a compromise with Buddhist philosophy. According to Mayavada philosophy there actually is no God, or if God exists, He is impersonal and all-pervading and can therefore be imagined in any form. This conclusion is not in accord with the Vedic literature. That literature names many demigods who are worshiped for different purposes, but in every case the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead Visnu, is accepted as the supreme controller. That is real Vedic culture.
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness does not deny the existence of God and the demigods, but Mayavada philosophy denies both; it maintains that neither the demigods nor God exists. For the Mayavadis, ultimately all is zero. They say that one may imagine any authority—whether Visnu, Durga, Lord Siva or the sun-god—because these are the demigods generally worshiped in society. But the Mayavada philosophy does not in fact accept the existence of any of them. The Mayavadis say that because one cannot concentrate one's mind on the impersonal Brahman, one may therefore imagine any of these forms. This is a new system, called pancopasana. It was introduced by Sankaracarya, but Bhagavad-gita does not teach such doctrines, and therefore they are not authoritative.
Bhagavad-gita accepts the existence of the demigods. The demigods are described in the Vedas, and one cannot deny their existence, but they are not to be understood or worshiped according to the way of Sankaracarya. The worship of demigods is rejected in Bhagavad-gita. The Gita clearly states:
kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." (Bg. 7.20) Furthermore, in the Second Chapter of the Gita, verse 44, Lord Krsna states:
"In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service does not take place." Those who are pursuing the various demigods have been described as hrta-jnanah, which means "those who have lost their senses." That is also further explained in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Seven, verse 23:
antavat tu phalam tesam
"Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees reach My supreme abode." The rewards given by the demigods are temporary because any material facility must act in connection with the temporary body. Whatever material facilities one gets, whether by modern scientific methods or by deriving benedictions from the demigods, will be finished with the body. But spiritual advancement will never be finished.
People should not think that we are preaching a system of religion. No. We are simply preaching how to love God. There are many theories about the existence of God. The atheist, for example, will never believe in God. Atheists like Professor Jacques Monod, who won the Nobel Prize, declare that everything is chance (a theory already put forward long ago by atheistic philosophers of India such as Carvaka). Then other philosophies, such as karma-mimamsa philosophy, accept that if one goes on doing his work nicely and honestly, automatically the result will come, without need for one to refer to God. For evidence, the proponents of such theories cite the argument that if one is diseased with an infection and takes medicine to counteract it, the disease will be neutralized. But our argument in this connection is that even if one gives a man the best medicine, he still may die. The results are not always predictable. Therefore, there is a higher authority, daiva-netrena, a supreme director. Otherwise, how is it that the son of a rich and pious man becomes a hippie in the street or that a man who works very hard and becomes rich is told by his doctor, "Now you may not eat any food, but only barley water"?
The karma-mimamsa theory holds that the world is going on without the supreme direction of God. Such philosophies say that everything takes place by lust (kama-haituka). By lust a man becomes attracted to a woman, and by chance there is sex, and the woman becomes pregnant. There is actually no plan to make the woman pregnant, but by a natural sequence when a man and a woman unite, a result is produced. The atheistic theory, which is described in the Sixteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita as asuric, or demoniac, is that actually everything is going on in this way, because of chance resulting from natural attraction. This demoniac theory supports the idea that if one wants to avoid children, he may use a contraceptive method.
Actually, however, there is a great plan for everything—the Vedic plan. The Vedic literature gives directions regarding how men and women should unite, how they should beget children, and what the purpose of sex life is. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that sex life sanctioned by the Vedic order, or sex life under the direction of the Vedic rules and regulations, is bona fide and is acceptable to Him. But chance sex life is not acceptable. If by chance one is sexually attracted and there are children, they are called varna-sankara, unwanted population. That is the way of the lower animals; it is not acceptable for humans. For humans, there is a plan. We cannot accept the theory that there is no plan for human life or that everything is born of chance and material necessity.
Sankaracarya's theory that there is no God and that one can go on with his work and imagine God in any form just to keep peace and tranquility in society is also more or less based on this idea of chance and necessity. Our way, however, which is completely different, is based on authority. It is this divine varnasrama-dharma that Krsna recommends, not the caste system as it is understood today. This modern caste system is now condemned in India also, and it should be condemned, for the classification of different types of men according to birth is not the Vedic or divine caste system.
There are many classes of men in society—some men are engineers, some are medical practitioners, some are chemists, tradesmen, businessmen, and so on. These varieties of classes are not to be determined by birth, however, but by quality. No such thing as the caste-by-birth system is sanctioned by the Vedic literature, nor do we accept it. We have nothing to do with the caste system, which is also at present being rejected by the public in India. Rather, we give everyone the chance to become a brahmana and thus attain the highest status of life.
Because at the present moment there is a scarcity of brahmanas, spiritual guides, and ksatriyas, administrative men, and because the entire world is being ruled by sudras, or men of the manual laborer class, there are many discrepancies in society. It is to mitigate all these discrepancies that we have taken to this Krsna consciousness movement. If the brahmana class is actually reestablished, the other orders of social well-being will automatically follow, just as when the brain is perfectly in order, the other parts of the body, such as the arms, the belly and the legs, all act very nicely.
The ultimate goal of this movement is to educate people in how to love God. Caitanya Mahaprabhu approves the conclusion that the highest perfection of human life is to learn how to love God. The Krsna consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion. No Christian gentleman will be interested in changing his faith from Christian to Hindu. Similarly, no Hindu gentleman of culture will be ready to change to the Christian faith. Such changing is for men who have no particular social status. But everyone will be interested in understanding the philosophy and science of God and taking it seriously. One should clearly understand that the Krsna consciousness movement is not preaching the so-called Hindu religion. We are giving a spiritual culture that can solve all the problems of life, and therefore it is being accepted all over the world.
by His Holiness Brahmananda Svami
His Holiness Brahmananda Svami served for several years as the first president of the first ISKCON temple in the United States (while at the same time working as a teacher in the New York City public school system). He later became director of ISKCON Press and in 1 970 accepted the renounced order of life. He was the first devotee to introduce Krsna consciousness in Africa. He has recently been preaching in Africa and India.
[Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself in the form of His own pure devotee, appeared 500 years ago in Bengal, India, to teach—by His own example—how one can become fully Krsna conscious. The teachings of Lord Caitanya were recorded and transmitted by many faithful disciples, but they were virtually unknown in the West until 1896, when Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great spiritual master in the disciplic line from Lord Caitanya, published a short book entitled Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—His Life and Precepts and sent copies to the Western world. The following is the second of three articles depicting the pioneering efforts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and those who have followed him, in spreading the great benediction of Krsna consciousness to the West.]
Displaying The Transcendental Energy of Lord Caitanya, Bhaktivinoda Thakura made a startling prophecy, like Lord Caitanya, who had previously predicted the worldwide spread of the chanting of Hare Krsna. In 1885, almost 100 years ago, Bhaktivinoda published an article in his monthly journal, Sajjana-tosani, in which he wrote as follows: "Lord Caitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men of India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the Eternal Religion. Lord Caitanya says in the Caitanya-bhagavata: 'In every town, country and village, My name will be sung.'
"There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass. In the world now there are so many religious communities, and in their purest mature form they are the religion of singing the praises of the Lord. At the present time there is a great spiritual quest going on in the world, and it seems that one unalloyed religion which is the essence of all the religions will soon emerge. What is that religion? It is plain to see that in western countries and in Asia, religions are engaged in conflicts. There is no doubt that these religions will not be able to endure. Therefore many of the established religions which harbour prejudiced, conflicting beliefs have become fragmented. When all these contradictory dogmas are removed, it is then and there that all religions will be united. Let us consider what specifications the Eternal Religion would have: 1. God is one and is the all-knowing source of knowledge. He is devoid of all limitations and is the reservoir of all qualities. 2. All living entities are infinitesimal parts and parcels of consciousness, and the eternal function of all living entities is to serve the Supreme Lord. 3. To sing the glorious qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and to establish the brotherhood of all men is pure religion.
"Gradually the established religions will then be removed of all specific contradictions, and the secular or 'party spirit' will not remain. Then all castes, all creeds and men of all countries will be united in coexistent brotherhood under the Supreme Personality of Godhead, united by nama-sankirtana." Hari-nama-sankirtana is the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. This congregational chanting was especially taught by Lord Caitanya, by Lord Nityananda, His associate, and by Their devotees, such as Haridasa Thakura and Srivasa Pandita. Thus Srila Bhaktivinoda continues: "Then and there, personal hereditary status will be considered insignificant, and intercaste hatred will disappear, and the common brotherhood of man will never be forgotten. Then we will carry the vessel of the Nectar of Devotion of Haridasa, we will follow the words of Srivasa and smear our bodies with the dust of Their Feet. O Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda, the human race will spontaneously dance in ecstasy.
"Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. Already we are seeing the symptoms. Already many Christians have tasted the nectar of divine love of the holy name and are dancing with karatalas [hand cymbals] and mrdangas [drums]. Educated Christians are ordering these instruments and shipping them to England. By the super-excellence of Lord Krsna's holy name and the grace of pure devotees, our consciousness gets purified. After listening to a lecture on these principles, a great gathering of brahmanas danced with drums and karatalas, singing, 'Fill your eyes with the vision of the advent of the Two Holy Brothers [Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda].' Even the Salvation Army somehow or other has its form of kirtana. When I see these signs, my hopes of seeing Lord Caitanya's aforesaid prophecy being fulfilled are quickened, and that time has arrived. Although there is still no pure society of Vaisnavas to be had, yet Lord Caitanya's prophetic words will in a few days come true, I am sure. Why not? Nothing is absolutely pure in the beginning. From imperfection, purity will come about.
"Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German and American people will take up banners, mrdangas and karatalas and raise kirtana through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the fair-skinned men from their side will raise up the chanting of jaya sacinandana, jaya sacinandana ki jaya [All Glories to Lord Caitanya! All Glories to Lord Caitanya!] and join with the Bengali devotees. When will that day be? On such a day they will say, 'Our dear Brothers, we have taken shelter of the ocean of Lord Caitanya's Love; kindly embrace us.' When will that day come? That day will witness the holy transcendental ecstasy of the vaisnava-dharma [the eternal occupation of devotional service to the Lord] to be the only dharma [eternal engagement], and all the sects and religions will flow like rivers into the ocean of vaisnava-dharma. When will that day come?"
The Birthplace of the Lord
To usher in this new day of spiritual glory, Bhaktivinoda had founded the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha (international Society of Devotees) in 1844. The purpose of this organization was to propagate the teachings of Lord Caitanya through meetings, public discourses, and publication and distribution of literature. Its establishment was an important step in the realization of the Thakura's dream of a society based completely on theistic principles, as described in the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam. In previous epochs, Indian culture, social habits and customs were all connected with religion. Art, literature and drama—and even marriage customs, diet and people's names—were all God-centered. But during Bhaktivinoda's time, the onslaught of atheistic materialism had become so evident that he felt the need for vigorous preaching to radically change the deteriorating mentality of the people. His original motto—"Back home, back to Godhead"—pointed out his message to the deluded populace of Kali-yuga (the present Age of Quarrel). Bhaktivinoda propagated Lord Caitanya's method of congregational chanting of the holy name, for he was convinced that if only a small number of India's people took Lord Caitanya's teachings to heart, peace and harmony would prevail throughout the world.
To give impetus to the mission of Lord Caitanya, Srila Bhaktivinoda painstakingly searched out Lord Caitanya's birthplace. Until the Thakura's time, the precise location of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance was unknown—a fact that indicates how moribund His teachings had become in India. Srila Bhaktivinoda combed old government records and consulted antiquarian maps and authentic books written during the time of Lord Caitanya. Then he took support from the inspired testimony of his spiritual master, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji. In Sridhama Mayapur, on the eastern bank of the Ganges, the holy site was finally ascertained. For this Jagannatha dasa Babaji is memorialized by all Vaisnavas:
"I offer my respectful obeisances to Jagannatha dasa Babaji, who is respectful to the entire community of devotees and who discovered the place where Lord Caitanya appeared." In this way, Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Bhaktivinoda Thakura followed the example of the six exalted Gosvamis of Vrndavana, who were sent to Vrndavana by Lord Caitanya to uncover the sites of Krsna's pastimes. During the time of Lord Caitanya, Vrndavana was just an open field. By revealing these holy sites, the Gosvamis sparked a renaissance in God consciousness. Similarly, Bhaktivinoda Thakura resurrected the teachings of Lord Caitanya and provided the Krsna consciousness movement with a center from which Mahaprabhu's movement could be broadcast throughout the world.
The Lord Sends Assistance
Now that the great pioneering work had been established, another enlightened personage was needed to carry it on. Bhaktivinoda prayed fervently to Lord Caitanya to send someone. (We are reminded of how, four hundred years earlier, Sri Advaita Prabhu, foreseeing a hellish growth of materialism and irreligion, had similarly prayed for the advent of Lord Caitanya Himself.) Another prophesy was then penned by Thakura Bhaktivinoda: "A personality will soon appear to preach the teachings of Lord Caitanya and move unrestrictedly over the whole world with His message."
On February 6, 1874, while Bhaktivinoda was serving in Puri as manager of the Jagannatha temple, a son was born to him. At the moment of birth, when the infant was taken from his mother, the child's umbilical cord was draped around his neck and across his chest, appearing like the thread brahmanas wear after their initiation. Everyone was very impressed with this sign. During the annual Rathayatra festival, six months later, in July, the massive holy cart in which Lord Jagannatha, a form of Krsna, is pulled by thousands of devotees came to a sudden stop just outside Bhaktivinoda's house. While the crowd was trying to get the cart moving again, Bhaktivinoda's wife took the opportunity to have her new son blessed by Lord Jagannatha. She rushed out of her house with the baby and placed him high on the cart at the lotus feet of the Lord. At that very moment, a huge flower garland worn by Lord Jagannatha fell down, encircling the infant. Bhaktivinoda, overjoyed, then understood that his own son was Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's answer to his prayers. That son would later be known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
As the child grew up, Bhaktivinoda eagerly gave him transcendental instruction. Thus at the age of only seven years, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had committed to memory the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain the meaning of its verses. Once, the young boy took a mango from the room of the family Deity and ate it. Bhaktivinoda reprimanded his son, explaining that to eat food meant to be offered to the Lord was an offense. Bhaktisiddhanta resolved on the spot never again to eat a mango, and he kept this vow throughout his life, despite the mango's being perhaps the world's most tasty fruit. At the age often, Bhaktivinoda Thakura initiated his son with the Hare Krsna mantra.
As a student, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati distinguished himself in mathematics, history, philosophy and Vedic astronomy. He wrote scholarly articles and treatises, edited two monthly magazines and started a cultural association, as well as a tol, or school, to teach astronomy. He was offered, but declined, a chair at Calcutta University. Throughout this time, he attended and participated in his father's Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha.
Bhaktivinoda wanted his son to be initiated with the essential Gayatri mantra. Because it is not customary for one's own father to perform this ceremony, he instructed Bhaktisiddhanta to approach Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, an important saint of Navadvipa, which is near Sridhama Mayapur: At first Gaurakisora seemed to the young man a very unlikely choice for a spiritual master. He was living an extremely secluded and ascetic life, he had no disciples, and he was even illiterate. So Bhaktisiddhanta apparently did not take his father's instructions to heart. But Bhaktivinoda Thakura could understand that Gaurakisora dasa was a great teacher in the preceptorial disciplic succession. He was renunciation personified (vairagya-murti) and was always merged in the elevated state of spiritual separation from Krsna known as vipralambha. Finally, in 1901, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura surrendered himself, and Gaurakisora duly accepted him as his only disciple.
In 1911 Bhaktivinoda Thakura was invited to address the All-India conference of Panditas. Unable to attend because of illness, he sent Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to speak in his place. The lecture was entitled "Truth Regarding the Comparitive Position Between a Brahmana and a Vaisnava." It was received as a work of genius and was the highlight of the conference. By 1913 Bhaktisiddhanta had established his first printing press, the Bhagavata Press in Krishnanagar, solely for printing his writings. He then wrote the first of his many famous Bengali commentaries, which include his "Anubhasya" on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, his "Anuvrtti" on the Upadesamrta, and a commentary on Srimad Bhagavad-gita.
The Mission Begins Expanding
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura stayed mainly in Mayapur during this time, writing and sometimes giving discourses to the pilgrims who began to visit Lord Caitanya's birthsite. He was respected for his authoritative books and forthright preaching. An important figure in a popular religious organization once approached Bhaktisiddhanta and was so impressed by his purity and potency that he became his disciple. He arranged for Bhaktisiddhanta's transportation to Calcutta, rented a storefront for him, and in many other ways provided Bhaktisiddhanta with good facilities for preaching. Soon many people once again became interested in the teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Bhaktisiddhanta then extended his preaching throughout India, following the example of Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya had spread His teachings by dispatching the six Gosvamis north to Vrndavana and Lord Nityananda to West Bengal and had preached Himself in South India and Orissa. Bhaktisiddhanta soon was able to open centers in many cities, such as Calcutta, Bombay, Allahabad, Benares, Bhuvanesvar, Dacca, Hardwar, Madras, New Delhi and Puri. Ultimately, sixty-four such centers were established. The purpose of these centers was to broadcast the teachings of Lord Caitanya, to distribute Bhaktisiddhanta's books and to perform worship of the sri-murti, or form of the Lord, according to the authorized principles of the pancaratra scriptures.
A Fateful Meeting
Like his great father, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wanted to promulgate Lord Caitanya's teachings beyond the shores of India. Bhaktivinoda Thakura had determined the course with his book Lord Caitanya—His Life and Precepts. The medium of preaching had to be English, rather than Bengali or any other Indian language, because English is the common language of the commercial world.
It was in 1922 that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura planted the seed for the great world mission he had inherited from his father. Abhay Charan De, who was later to become His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder and Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was at that time building up a successful pharmaceutical-manufacturing concern in Calcutta. A friend who had heard Bhaktisiddhanta speak took Abhay Charan De to meet the saintly teacher. Thus in 1922, on a rooftop of the house where Bhaktisiddhanta was staying in Calcutta, Abhay Charan De first presented himself before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, although at first, because of pressing business matters, he was reluctant to go meet him. Immediately Bhaktisiddhanta gave Srila Prabhupada what was to be his life's mission: "Preach the message of Lord Caitanya, especially in the English language. You will benefit, and everyone you preach to will benefit." At the time, however, Srila Prabhupada was active in Gandhi's ever-growing independence movement; he doubted that foreigners in the West could take any instruction from India, since India was not even independent. In reply, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explained the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Srila Prabhupada was very much impressed. "Here is a real sadhu, a real saintly person," he said after taking his leave.
"The Lion Guru"
In his preaching, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was especially keen to confront and defeat what is known as Mayavada or impersonalist philosophy. This is the mission of Lord Caitanya, who converted the most powerful Mayavadi impersonalists of His time, such as Prakasananda Sarasvati, who had 60,000 followers, and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, who conducted an important school for training Mayavadi teachers. Mayavadis are impersonalists who maintain that God is under the influence of maya (illusion). According to them, His attributes, such as His name, form and activities, are all materially contaminated. On the other hand, the Vaisnavas, the personalist devotees of the Lord, correctly accept the transcendental nature of the Lord and everything connected with Him. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that His birth and activities are all transcendental (janma karma ca me divyam). The Mayavadis, however, stress the impersonal aspect of the Lord, ultimately concluding that He is nothing. This, of course, is an atheistic idea. Unlike the Buddhists, who arrive at the same conclusion but do not accept any Vedic authority, the Mayavadis try to argue their point from the Vedic scriptures. Therefore Lord Caitanya has forbidden all devotees to read Vedic commentaries by Mayavadis. Bhagavad-gita says, avajananti mam mudhah: those who deride the Lord because of His humanlike form are all fools and rascals. Bhaktisiddhanta met and defeated all such wrangling Mayavadis so ferociously chat he became known as simha-guru, or "the lion guru." Thus, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is the personification of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings (gauravani-sri-murti) because he refused to tolerate any statement that was against the doctrine of devotional service as enunciated by Lord Caitanya's chief disciple, Rupa Gosvami (rupanuga-virud-dhapa siddhanta-dhvanta-harine).
In his books, obviously not intended for an ordinary audience, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura revealed his genius for tearing apart the materialistic philosophy of the Mayavadis in order to establish the truth. His style, although scholarly and at times abstruse, will reveal to any serious reader a depth of transcendental understanding and charm. But one must be prepared to read and reread his great words. Here is an example, from his introduction to his English translation and commentary on Sri Brahma-samhita:
"The materialistic demeanour cannot possibly stretch to the Transcendental Autocrat who is ever inviting the fallen conditioned souls to associate with Him through devotion, the eternal serving mood. The phenomenal attractions are often found to tempt sentient beings to enjoy the variegated position, which is opposed to undifferentiated monism. People are so much apt to indulge in transitory speculations, even when they are to educate themselves on a situation beyond their empiric area or experiencing jurisdiction. The esoteric aspect often knocks them to trace out immanence in their outward inspection of transitory and transformable things. This impulse moves them to fix the position of the Immanent to an Indeterminate Impersonal Entity, no clue of which could be discerned by moving earth and heaven through their organic senses.
"The lines of this booklet will surely help such puzzled souls in their march towards the Personality of the Immanent lying beyond their sensuous gaze of inspection. The very first stanza of this publication will revolutionise their reserved ideas when the nomenclature of the Absolute is put before them as Krsna."
The Indispensable Press
In 1923, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura opened the Gaudiya Printing Works in Calcutta, the second of four presses he would establish. For preaching work, a press is indispensable. Of course, in preaching sankirtana, congregational chanting, a mrdanga drum is also important. We will rarely see devotees on a chanting party without one. But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta dubbed the press the brhad-mrdanga, or "greater mrdanga," because the sound of a mrdanga is limited to the immediate vicinity, whereas a press can pour out literature that can reach for thousands of miles. In 1927 Bhaktisiddhanta converted his father's Sajjana-tosani journal into The Harmonist, a magazine. He also published a daily newspaper called the Nadia Prakash, or "The Light of Nadia," Nadia being the district where Lord Caitanya appeared. Bhaktisiddhanta was once asked the reason for publishing a daily newspaper about God. He replied that here in the material world there are thousands of daily newspapers reporting repetitious occurrences that become stale after one day, so what to speak of the necessity for reporting the events of the spiritual world, where everything is dynamic, conscious and ever fresh.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati traveled throughout India in the same way as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who had toured on foot from northern India down to Cape Cormorin. In 1919 Bhaktisiddhanta toured northern and eastern Bengal, and in 1921 he went further east, to Dacca. Then, in 1922, he led a mass parikrama (pilgrimage) in the 84-mile Vrndavana-Mathura area. Together with hundreds of his disciples, he went by foot to visit the sacred places of Krsna's pastimes, including Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, Govardhana, and Barsana. Setting up tent camps all along the way, Bhaktisiddhanta would take every opportunity to preach to the local inhabitants and explain to his disciples the history and significance of the sacred places. In between Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda he conducted a large initiation ceremony.
An Attempted Assassination
The pilgrimage was not without difficulties. All along the way, the brahmana shopkeepers would close their shops and refuse to sell provisions to the party. They protested against Bhaktisiddhanta because his disciples included those born as sudras, members of the lowest caste. In accordance with the teachings of Lord Caitanya, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati enlisted disciples from all ranks of men and elevated them to the topmost position of brahmana (literally one who knows Brahman, or spirit). The opponents of Bhaktisiddhanta resented his turning those born as non-brahmanas into better brahmanas than them. In particular, the nityananda-vamsa, a class of priestly persons supposedly descended from Lord Caitanya's great associate Lord Nityananda, claimed for their particular class the exclusive right to the practice of devotional service. There was such a struggle that they even attempted to assassinate Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. These priests approached the local police commander, a notoriously corrupt official, and offered him a huge bribe so that he would not try to apprehend them after they had committed the horrible deed. But the officer warned Bhaktisiddhanta, for although killing was commonplace, he could not associate with a plot to kill a holy man. This incident is strikingly similar to the conspiracy against Lord Caitanya by the caste brahmanas of His day, who hired the Muslim police to disrupt the Lord's sankirtana parties and smash the mrdanga drums.
Ultimately Bhaktisiddhanta succeeded in establishing that devotional service is not restricted to a particular class of men. This is the principle of Rupa Gosvami, who so aptly cited the following passage from the Kasi-khanda portion of the Padma Purana: "In the country known as Mayuradhvaja, the lower-caste people, who are considered less than sudras, are also initiated into the Vaisnava cult of devotional service. And when properly dressed, with tilaka on their bodies and beads in their hands and on their necks, they appear to be coming from Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. In fact, they look so beautiful that immediately they surpass the ordinary brahmanas." (to be continued)
by Visakha-devi dasi
What food is sometimes buttery, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, sometimes mellow, often unusual and always tastes good? Answer: krsna-prasada. "Prasada" means "God's mercy," and it specifically refers to food that's been offered to Krsna. If you've ever been around Lord Krsna's devotees, you may well have been offered some prasada in the form of exotic dishes like puris, halavah, kichories or laddus, or perhaps just slices of apple with dates and nuts. What's the difference between prasada and ordinary food? They may look quite the same. But the difference is that prasada has been offered to Lord Krsna in love by one of His devotees, whereas ordinary food has not.
The special quality of a devotee that distinguishes him from others is that he recognizes God's supreme dominion over all that is. He knows that the Supreme Lord, Krsna, is creating and providing not only all the food we eat, but also the air we breathe, the water we drink and, in fact, the very earth on which we live. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says:
aham sarvasya prabhavo
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything comes from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." (Bg. 10.8) Thus the devotee, out of a sense of duty, gratitude and love, first offers all his food to Krsna. Although Cod is independent and in no way needs such offerings, our desire to serve Him is natural, like the natural wish of a mature child to serve the parents who have provided for him all his life.
The offering of prasada gives a good example of how a devotee acts in relationship with Krsna. A Krsna conscious devotee does not ask, "O God, please give us our daily bread." No. The devotee does not ask God to be his order supplier, for he knows that God is already providing everything for us—and for all other living beings, from the elephant to the ant. Therefore the devotee accepts the food that the Lord has already provided—food made with fruits, vegetables, milk, sugar and grains—but first he offers the food back to Krsna. The food may be offered to the Deity of Krsna in the temple, or to the spiritual master, who is Krsna's representative. In any case, it is always understood that the offering is made through the spiritual master.
Nondevotees, of course, will object that such devotion is senseless. This world and the life in it, they will say, have sprung from an impersonal lifeless force. The perfect order and harmony of the universe originated from the dust of outer space. Life originally came from matter—from some chemicals that came together by chance. Krsna reciprocates with such dull materialists by remaining hidden from their view, until finally, at the end of their contaminated lives, He comes to them as death and takes away everything they have.
Those who have understood that God exists but who have not yet fully understood the science of devotion may ask why, since God is already providing everything, we should take the trouble to offer our food to Him. Aside from expressing gratitude, we should offer our food first to the Lord because this will protect us from the materialistic snares that would otherwise entangle us as we eat. That every action has an equal and opposite reaction is a commonly known law in physics. What people generally don't know, however, is that this law extends far beyond the boundaries of physics; it is a law of nature that profoundly affects almost every aspect of our lives. Even a simple act like eating can involve us in a network of material reactions.
The Vedic literature says, jivo jivasya jivanam: one living being serves as food for another. To eat, we all must kill. Because animals are less intelligent, the laws of nature do not hold them responsible for the killing they naturally perform. However, when a human being kills, he becomes involved in a complex network of actions and reactions. For the suffering he inflicts, he himself will have to suffer at some time in the future. But by preparing food for God and offering it to Him before eating it, one becomes exempt from the reactions imposed by material nature. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, "The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin" (Bg. 3.13)
Commenting on this verse, Srila Prabhupada says, "The devotees of the Lord, who are in Krsna consciousness, offer food to Krsna and then eat—a process which nourishes the body spiritually. By such action not only are past sinful reactions in the body vanquished, but the body becomes immunized to all contamination of material nature. When there is an epidemic disease, an antiseptic vaccine protects a person from the attack of such an epidemic. Similarly, food offered to Lord Visnu [Krsna] and then taken by us makes us sufficiently resistant to material affection, and one who is accustomed to this practice is called a devotee of the Lord."
Neophytes in self-realization offer their food to Krsna according to the instructions of advanced devotees whose only interest is to please Krsna. Such great souls serve Krsna out of love and expect nothing for themselves in return. But how does one please that Supreme Person, who is completely independent, fully cognizant and all-pervading and who is the original cause of all causes? Simply by following His instructions—and the instructions of His pure devotees—with a serious and sincere attitude. Lord Krsna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." (Bg. 9.26)
If one wishes to be purified by rendering transcendental devotional service to the Supreme, he should find out what the Lord wants of him. One who loves Krsna will give Him whatever He wants, and he avoids offering anything undesirable or unasked for. Thus, one should not offer meat, fish or eggs to Krsna. If He desired such offerings, He would have said so. Instead, He clearly requests a leaf, fruit, flowers and water, and He says of such an offering, "I will accept it." Therefore we should understand that He will not accept meat, fish and eggs. Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk and water are the proper foods for human beings and are described by Lord Krsna Himself. Whatever else we eat cannot be offered to Him, since He will not accept it. Thus we cannot be acting on the level of loving devotion if we offer such foods.
Once the Supreme Personality of Godhead has accepted an offering (He can accept it by seeing it and hearing the prayers of His devotees), the food, now prasada, has tremendous spiritual potency. Therefore devotees distribute it freely to everyone. Such spiritualized food increases one's duration of life, purifies one's existence, and gives strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Moreover, it nourishes one's transcendental realization. And that is a special quality that one cannot purchase with any amount of money.
By His Holiness Acyutananda Svami
[His Holiness Acyutananda Svami is one of the first American students initiated into Krsna consciousness by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. When Srila Prabhupada initiates a new devotee, he requests the devotee to chant the Hare Krsna mantra and, while chanting, to avoid ten offenses. At a recent initiation ceremony for new disciples in Vrndavana, India, Srila Prabhupada requested Acyutananda Svami to instruct the new initiates about these ten offenses. By Srila Prabhupada's request, Acyutananda Svami's remarks are reproduced here.]
The name of Sri Krsna, as found in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is a transcendental sound vibration. Rupa Gosvami says: nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah/ purnah suddho nitya-mukto 'bhinnatvan nama-naminoh. Krsna and His name are non-different. Krsna Himself is transcendental, and so are Krsna's form, Krsna's name and Krsna's paraphernalia, as well as Krsna Himself. They are all made of transcendental energy.
As stated in Bhagavad-gita, janma karma ca me divyam: Krsna's birth and activities are eternal and transcendental. When an ordinary person is born due to karma, the laws of material action and reaction, his body is all wrinkled up and covered with blood and mucus. But Krsna is born smiling. In Mathura He is born holding a conchshell, disc, club and lotus and decorated with a crown, jewels, a beautiful garland and all of His transcendental ornaments. None of us are born like that here; we are all born because of karma. But not Krsna. And simply by knowing that Krsna's birth and activities are divine, one also becomes divine. Then one need not take birth again in the material world.
Spiritual nature has form (caitanya-rasa-vigraha); it is not formless. Krsna's nature has form, but that form is divine, transcendental, cintamani. Cintamani also implies consciousness (cinta means "consciousness" or "divine substance"). And Krsna's form is not different from His name. A transcendental sound, however, cannot be uttered by material lips. A transcendental sound must be uttered by transcendental senses. The transcendental form of Krsna can be seen only by transcendental eyes, and the transcendental name of Krsna can be spoken only with transcendental lips. Therefore we have to purify our senses, purify our eyes, purify our tongue, purify our lips, purify our hands—everything must become purified. Then we can understand Krsna.
This is natural, because spirit is adhoksaja; it cannot be perceived by material senses. Scientists want to see everything with their mundane eyes, but so many things cannot be seen that way. To see tiny microbes or distant planets, you have to make your vision finer with a microscope or telescope. So, to see spirit you also have to purify your vision, make it finer. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena: you have to smear the ointment of love upon your eyes. Ordinary yogis and mental speculators cannot see Krsna. Only devotees, or bhaktas, can see Him (bhaktya mam abhijanati; bhaktya tv ananyaya sakyah).
There are ten offenses (nama-aparadhas) to be avoided while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. These are given in The Nectar of Devotion, and in the Padma Purana as well. Only devotees can see Krsna in His personal form, because they are the ones who avoid these ten offenses. When we chant Hare Krsna, we must therefore be very careful to avoid these offenses.
Is someone chanting Hare Krsna offensively or without offenses? You may not know. Suppose I showed you two white pills—one arsenic and the other aspirin. You might not know which is which. You would have to go to an authority—a doctor, for example—who could give you the right thing. You wouldn't go to a quack; he might give you the arsenic. After all, it's a white pill, and you don't know the difference. Therefore you have to go to a genuine doctor. In the same way, we must hear the chanting of Hare Krsna only from devotees who are avoiding these ten offenses. Otherwise, the chanting will be like milk touched by the lips of a serpent. Milk is very pure and healthful, but milk touched by the lips of a serpent will turn to poison. We may see a nice sadhu, or saintly person, chanting Hare Krsna, but if he is not avoiding these offenses, hearing from him is dangerous.
The first offense is sadhu-ninda: to blaspheme devotees who have dedicated their lives to propagating the holy name of the Lord. The devotees who surrender their lives to the Lord and who fully engage in preaching must be spotless in their character. Still, Bhagavad-gita says that if someone fully engages in preaching Krsna consciousness and chanting the holy name, he should be regarded as saintly even if by chance he commits some abominable activity. We should not magnify the faults of a devotee. The moon is shining, spreading its sweet, cool light, and although the moon also has some black spots, the moonlight shines so brightly that we should not consider them. In the same way, even if a preacher accidentally commits a serious mistake, that should be excused. Krsna says, ksipram bhavati dharmatma: very quickly he will be purified. Temporarily there may be some spot on his character, but very soon it will be washed away by the potency of chanting the holy name. Then he will be pure, like the clear sky. If there was a cloud over a patch of sky a few moments ago but now the sky is clear, what is the difference between that sky and the sky that was never covered? There is no difference; both are pure.
If we speak ill of devotees, people will lose faith in their words. Such a loss of confidence merely hinders the spiritual progress of humanity. Bees look for honey, whereas flies look for open sores. Some people are like flies. If they see the slightest fault, they magnify it out of proportion. But we should not be like flies; we should be like buzzing bees and see all the good qualities of a devotee. If there are any bad qualities, they will soon be washed away. We should never speak ill or gossip about devotees who have surrendered their lives to the holy name.
The second offense 'is to consider demigods, like Lord Siva or Lord Brahma, to be equal to or independent of the name of Lord Visnu, or Krsna. In the material world there are many super-powerful living beings who control the workings of nature. They are called demigods. Just as some human beings are more powerful than others, the demigods are even more powerful than any human being. But the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Sri Krsna. He is complete and full because He has full opulences—all wealth, all strength, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation. No other personality, no other deity or demigod, has these qualities in full. Krsna is therefore purna-avatara. Purna means that He is complete—completely complete. All the demigods, like Siva, Candra and Indra, are partial aspects of this purna. For example, the moon tonight is amavasya, the dark moon. The moon is there, but you cannot see any light. Then tomorrow there will be a thin light coming from the moon. The whole moon is there, but you can sec only partial aspects of it, until the full moon appears. In the same way, Krsna has many forms, but the Lord manifests His full potency only as Sri Krsna, Syamasundara, with two arms holding the flute (venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam). He is the original, full Personality of Godhead.
There are many people who worship many deities, even Krsna, but do not believe that Krsna is supreme. They think that although God has no form or name, some portion of God has slipped into maya and taken the form of Krsna, Siva, Durga or the other demigods. "I shall worship this deity and concentrate on his form," such a worshiper thinks, "and then one day the form will dissolve and I will dissolve, and I'll become as good as him. I'll become equal to Krsna" That is an offense. That is not bhakti but prostitution. It is what I have called vesya-vada, a prostitute's philosophy. What is a prostitute's proposal? A prostitute does not love anyone. Any man on the street is as good as any other. But the prostitute thinks, "If this man gives me something, then I'll pretend to love him. If I can get something from this man—or any man, it doesn't matter who—then I'll pretend to love him." In the same way, people think, "Oh, any god, it's all the same. If I can get something, then it's worth the pretense of bhakti. I'll go worship in the temple." But that is not bhakti—that's cheating. You're not worshiping what you think is the Supreme. You think the Supreme is formless. Then why are you performing arcana, sadhana, puja and other kinds of worship?
The demigods are only partial parts of a part of Krsna. They are very far from the Supreme Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth has nothing to do with matter. Therefore even Lord Siva, who is almost as good as Krsna, is not the Supreme because his activity pertains only to material destruction. Lord Krsna is compared to milk, and Lord Siva is compared to yogurt. Yogurt is milk, but if you eat yogurt the reaction in the stomach is cold, and if you drink milk the reaction in the stomach is hot—just the opposite. So if you worship Lord Siva, or any demigod, the reaction will be material, but if you worship Krsna, the reaction will be eternal spiritual development. Therefore we should not equate the names of Siva, Durga, Candra and other demigods with the name of Krsna. Krsna's name has full spiritual potency.
The devotees in the disciplic line from Lord Caitanya understand that the names of the demigods all come from Krsna's name. Let's take Indra for an example. "Indra" means "king." Krsna is paramesvara, the supreme king, so really the name "Indra" belongs to Krsna. Krsna is Indra. And the demigod Indra, who is the king of the heavenly planets, is named after Krsna. Another demigod: Siva. "Siva" means auspicious. Krsna is mangalo mangalanam: nothing is more auspicious than Krsna. Therefore Krsna is Siva, and the Siva who is the deity of destruction is named after Him. My name is Acyutananda. I am not acyuta. Acyuta means Krsna. I am the servant of Acyuta. Dasa means "servant." So I am named after Krsna as His servant, dasa. Similarly, all the demigods are Krsna dasa. Indra means Krsna dasa. Siva means Krsna dasa. Candra means Krsna dasa. Everyone is Krsna dasa. Ekala isvara krsna ara saba bhrtya: the one supreme enjoyer, the supreme personality, is Krsna; everyone else is His servant. Therefore we must concentrate on the name of Krsna.
The third offense is to disobey the orders of the guru, or spiritual master. The guru is the only connection we have between ourselves and God. If an ant crawls on your body, the ant cannot even understand that you are a human being and that he is walking on a man. He thinks he is walking on a forest of trees. Nor can you explain, "Mr. Ant, you are walking on me." You don't have the power to explain yourself to him, and he doesn't have the power to understand where he is. You are both helpless. But even farther apart are the living entity (jiva) and Krsna. We are tiny; the jiva is one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. And Krsna is so great that from the pores of Maha-Visnu, who is but one partial aspect of Krsna, innumerable universes are coming, like dust particles coming through a window.
We should realize our position as tiny living beings and not try to imitate God. The universe we live in has many different galaxies and an infinite number of planets, and they are all enclosed in one bubble that has come from a pore of Maha-Visnu. Millions and millions of bubblelike universes are coming from each pore of Maha-Visnu, and we are living in one of those universes. Our universe has millions of planets, and one tiny planet is earth. On that planet earth there is so much water and land, and the land, which is only about one third of the planet, is divided into so many countries, with so many states in each. One insignificant country among all these countries is India, which is divided into twenty-one states. One state is Bengal, and in Bengal there are many cities. One city is Calcutta, which is further divided into so many areas—Ballygunge, Tallygunge, Burra Bazaar, and so on. One place there is Camac Street, and on Camac Street there is one house in which many devotees are living, and one of those devotees is thinking, "I am God." You are so tiny, so insignificant! The only connection you, as an insignificant being, have with the Supreme Significant Being is the guru.
The guru, the spiritual master, is the transparent via medium between the infinite God and the finite soul. The Infinite can make Himself known to the finite. He is not weak. We cannot explain ourselves to an ant, but Krsna can explain Himself to a jiva. Therefore, to offend or disobey the order of Krsna's representative, the guru, is suicide.
If one has guru-sraddha, faith in the guru, if it is nighttime but the guru says it's day you will see the sun shining. Beyond our material sense perception, we must accept the order of the bona fide guru. Our senses are fallible, limited, imperfect, but the words of the bona fide guru are pure and perfect. Guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete kariya aikya, ara na kariha mane asa: our only wish is to hear and understand the orders of the spiritual master. Disobeying the orders of the spiritual master will stop any progress in spiritual life. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto 'pi: if Krsna is pleased with you but the guru is displeased, there is no hope; and if the guru is pleased and Krsna is displeased, you have nothing to worry about.
We are preaching slavery, divine slavery. Every country of the world has a scheme for enjoyment—communism, socialism, democracy or whatever—but they are all trying to have enjoyment independent of the Supreme Lord. We are preaching that slavery is far more blissful than a false sense of independence. What the guru says, we do. But he is perfect. To be a slave of perfection—that is ecstatic life.
Fourth offense: to blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature in pursuance to the Vedic version. The Vedic literatures are in harmony with the words of the spiritual master, for the spiritual master will not say anything that is not upheld in the scriptures. Therefore the words of the scriptures and the spiritual master are our guidelines.
The Vedic scriptures are spoken by God Himself, and by those who have perfect understanding. Unlike philosophies concocted by imperfect human intelligence, the Vedic scriptures were written by perfect intelligence, by devotees, by great sages who sacrificed their lives, not by leaders who lived in luxury and wanted to write some constitution or put forward some policy to further their sense gratification. Such leaders live in luxury at the expense of everyone else. As much as they can, they try to bluff people with altruistic talk, but their real goal is to live in luxury at your expense. You starve and they live in luxury, no matter what they preach. The great sages who saw the Supreme Absolute Truth sacrificed their lives for the Supreme; they lived in such hardship—for us—because they were our well-wishers. Devotees are all oceans of mercy who come to save us.
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Krsna conscious devotees of the Lord. They are just like desire trees who can fulfill the desires of everyone, and they are full of compassion for the fallen conditioned souls."
The great sages and devotees do not come to cheat; they come to give us the Vedic literatures. Therefore these scriptures are scientifically pure. We find so much scientific evidence to support the statements of the Vedas. For example, the Vedas declare that cow dung is so pure that you can even put it in the temple, and now science is finding out that in fact cow dung has many antiseptic qualities. But for thousands of years we knew that cow dung is pure; we didn't have to do scientific research. So why not just accept Vedic literature as it is, pure and perfect, without having to doubt it?
Some people interpret the words in the Vedic scriptures, assuming them all to be allegorical or symbolic. But such interpretations cannot influence the devotees who have been serving in India, for we have seen the places where Krsna's incarnations have stood. If someone obstinately insists that Krsna's pastimes are all mythology, I can take him by the ear to Hastinapura and the Indraprastha fort where the Pandavas lived, then pull him by the other ear to Kuruksetra, 100 miles from there, where Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, then by the nose to Vrndavana, where Krsna performed His pastimes, and dunk his thick head into the holy River Yamuna. Were these places fashioned merely to justify some poems? Certainly not. Here in Vrndavana and Mayapur we develop faith, the seed of bhakti, when we see the places where Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had Their pastimes.
Fifth offense: to consider the glories of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra imaginary. It is said in the Vedic literature that by once chanting the holy name of Krsna one can eradicate more sins than he can possibly commit in all the fourteen worlds. So we should not doubt this. We should not consider this an exaggeration. But that statement is a big pill to swallow. Therefore although we may say that chanting Hare Krsna is an easy process for spiritual perfection, people will doubt that it's true. If I stood on the street and said, "diamonds, free diamonds," no one would believe me. But here the scriptures are saying more than that. Ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam: you can get complete liberation from all sins by purely chanting Hare Krsna once. People will doubt that this is true. To have full faith in the holy name is not easy; still we must. We must never think that the Vedic scriptures are just bluffing, trying to woo us into chanting by exaggerating the potency of the chanting. No, we must have complete faith.
Sixth offense: to interpret the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Some people like to twist the statements of the Vedas or the meaning of the holy name of Krsna. For example, we chant the names Hare Krsna. Hari means thief, hari means lion, and hari also means snake. So does Hare Krsna mean snake Krsna, thief Krsna, lion Krsna? No. Harir om tat sat: Hari is the Supreme Absolute Truth. Does this mean that a thief is the Supreme Absolute Truth? Should we build a temple to a thief? Should we build a temple to a snake?
With a dictionary you can interpret, bend and twist words unlimitedly. For instance, I may speak of President Kennedy. But "ken" can mean "mental position," and "eddy" means a swirling pool, so a word juggler may say that Kennedy was someone whose mind was mixed up and who became the president. One can twist words like chat in so many ways. "The teacher," said the boy, "is a fool." The teacher said the boy is a fool. If we change the punctuation, the whole sentence has a completely different meaning. In the same way, some' people try to twist out false, completely deceptive meanings from the Vedas, But we don't want that.
We don't want some twisted interpretation. We want the truth, as it is. Srila Prabhupada is giving Bhagavad-gita as it is. One should not try to twist out some other meaning. We should not be like the foolish man whose wife told him to purchase some ghee, clarified butter. He went out to buy the ghee, but when he went to the man who sold ghee, that man said, "My ghee is so fine, it's like oil." So the man said, "Oh, oil. Oil must be better than ghee." So he went to the man who sold oil. But the oil man said, "My oil is so clear, it's as clear as water." So the fellow thought that water must be better than oil. So instead of ghee, he bought some water. Step by step he came to something useless. You can't fry anything in water, but he thought that water is better than ghee. In that way, a mental speculator can twist and turn everything. Krsna means black, black means dark, dark is unknown, So Krsna means unknown. It's a very dangerous kind of philosophy. So we cannot interpret the meanings of these words; rather, we should accept them according to the understanding of the acaryas, the pure devotees in the disciplic line.
Seventh offense: to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name of the Lord. Chanting the holy name rids us of so many sins, but we should not think, "I will commit sinful activities and then chant to become pure. Then I'll commit more sins and then chant again." That is nonsense. That is cheating. You cannot cheat Krsna, nor can you cheat the holy name. The holy name is Krsna. Therefore Krsna will know what you are doing. In some religions it is a policy that on Saturday one may confess all his sins and thus become pure so that on Sunday he may come into the church. Then, starting from Monday, he can resume his sinful nonsense. But if one has confessed that his sins are wrong, why should he commit them again? He will be forgiven once or twice, if he commits them unknowingly, but the third or fourth time he will have to suffer. One cannot go on using the Lord to justify one's sin. That is nonsense. To try to use the strength of the holy name to justify one's evil propensities is considered the worst offense.
Eighth offense: to consider the chanting of Hare Krsna one of the auspicious ritualistic activities offered in the Vedas for fruitive gains (karma-kanda). We are chanting Hare Krsna to get krsna-prema, love of Krsna—not for the sake of religiosity (dharma), economic development (artha), sense gratification (kama) or even liberation (moksa). When someone is imbued with love of Krsna, liberation seems wholly miserable because in impersonal liberation there is no love. Krsna is manifested in His spiritual abodes, such as Goloka and Vaikuntha, and He appears in the material world as an avatara, or incarnation. In the form of the Varaha avatara, Krsna went to the darkest region of hell to rescue the planet earth. Therefore, Krsna appears to His devotees in hell, on earth, in heaven and in Goloka Vrndavana, but in the impersonal Absolute, the brahmajyoti, Krsna does not manifest Himself. Therefore, kaivalyam narakayate; impersonal liberation (kaivalya-mukti) is worse than hell for a devotee.
We are not chanting Hare Krsna for any personal gain. No dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye: we don't want money, we don't want followers, we don't want beautiful women, nor do we want popularity, education or an important position. Mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi: we want causeless devotion, bhakti, at the feet of Krsna. Nothing else. Therefore we are chanting Hare Krsna—for that and that alone.
Ninth offense: to instruct a faithless person about the glories of chanting the holy name. Anyone can take part in chanting the holy name, but we should not give deeper instruction or initiation to one who is faithless. This lack of faith may be due to his ignorance, and therefore we may be able to give him knowledge and purify him. But before he is purified, if he has made up his mind to be averse to Krsna (bahir-mukha, vimukha), the more we instruct him about Krsna, the more he will hate Krsna. Then we will be causing that person to commit more offenses, and this is an offense on our part. Therefore, one should not give deeper instruction on chanting the holy name to someone who has no faith; rather, we must first develop his faith by giving him knowledge.
People have no faith in Krsna only because they are ignorant. They have not been exposed to real knowledge of Krsna, but have absorbed only false notions. For example, in Japan during World War II, the Japanese air force took young boys, thirteen or fourteen years old, and taught them how to fly planes. They didn't teach them how to land the planes, but only how to take off and fly. They told these innocent boys that for the sake of their country they could crash the plane into an enemy boat and them climb out alive. They didn't tell them that explosives had been loaded into the plane and that they would be killed. The pilots were given only a small amount of fuel, so they couldn't turn back if they became afraid. Finally, their commanders charged them with some false notions about love of country and love of their forefathers and then sent them off on their mission. They were simply a suicide squad. All they had was partial knowledge, partial fuel and partial education, and so, charged up with some false sentiments, they were deluded into committing suicide. In the same way, modern education is giving us only partial education, so that we will work like dogs.
According to popular belief, the Indian people do not have any capacity to work. This is a misconception. I have seen extremely old people walking eight or nine miles around Govardhana Hill in the hot sun. They climb the seven hills to Tirupati temple, take cold baths in the month of Magh (January), or walk all the way to Badarikasrama. They are so willing to perform these activities for spiritual realization, so why aren't they eager to work in a factory? Because they know they are not getting spiritual benefit by working in a factory. They want spiritual benefit, because people in India are basically religious. They know that mukti (liberation) cannot be achieved by working in a factory, but the government is trying to propound the philosophy that work is worship. The government leaders know that people are basically religious, so they're saying, "If you work hard in the hot factory, you'll get mukti." They are trying to screw out a false meaning of Bhagavad-gita—work hard and forget anything else. No religion, no temple, just work in the factory. They are trying to impose this philosophy on the public to get people to work in the factory and think that factory work or hard labor is auspicious, pious activity.
But it doesn't work. Go into any office building and you'll find everyone sitting around smoking, trying to do the least work possible. But if you go to Jagannatha Puri, you'll see a huge temple there built thousands of years ago. How did the people get the energy to build such a temple? They knew, "I'm doing it for Jagannatha, for Krsna." That brought out the best in them. If the people know they're working for some cheating minister, they will also be cheaters. They'll do the least amount of work possible. However, if they work for God, they know that He sees everything they do and that by pleasing Him they can see Him and live with Him. That is an inspiration. But modern leaders don't like that. They want people to work for them, not for Krsna. They are envious of Krsna. They think, "Oh, if you work for me, that is worship." This is bogus. We are accepting the mahatma-panthah, the path of the previous acaryas, the great spiritual masters. Does modern society know more than the great acaryas?
The last offense is to not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy name and to maintain material attachment even after understanding so many instructions in this matter. Krsna declares in Bhagavad-gita, rasa-varjam raso 'py asya param drstva nivartate: "One who is attached to sensual enjoyment becomes freed from that attachment when he experiences a higher taste." We devotees in India are apparently living very difficult lives. Although we are Americans, we are sleeping on the floor, eating only one or two meals a day, living in this hot country and dressing and living humbly. So people may think that we're suffering, but actually we are not—we are blissful. We're happy because we have the holy name, because we're getting a higher taste. But if after having this higher taste we again want the lower taste, that is a great mistake. A person in that position is called vantasi. Vantasi means one who eats his own vomit. When one rejects one's low attachments, that is compared to vomiting. However, after one has gotten a higher taste, indulging again in a lower taste is as good as eating vomit. Therefore, to maintain material attachment after hearing the glories of the holy name of the Lord is an offense.
If we avoid these ten offenses to the holy name of the Lord we will certainly make progress, by the grace of the spiritual master, Lord Caitanya and Lord Sri Krsna. The result will be, ceto-darpana-marjanam; our consciousness will be purified. That is a necessity. How can we have peace or make any progress when our consciousness is cloudy and agitated?
There was a meeting between some mideastern leaders concerned with making peace in Israel. They had assembled in a room and were about to take seats at different tables. Jordan was assigned to one table, Syria to another, Iran to another and Israel to another. The Israelis, however, didn't want to take their assigned seats. They wanted to sit at a table on the other side of the room. But the Syrians said, "No, we want this table." So a raging argument ensued, in which the members of the peace talk threatened to close the talks and go to war. Because their minds were agitated, they couldn't make peace even in a ten-foot room. Therefore the first need in society is for purity of consciousness.
With impure consciousness within, how can we externally have peace or purity? First we must become pure internally. For example, here in India the merchants now adulterate the ghee (clarified butter) by mixing in many impure things to save money. Why? Because they no longer believe in God. If they believed in God, they would think, "This ghee may be offered in a temple somewhere. To make it impure would be a great offense." But because they are not God conscious, they think, "Who cares? No one will see me. The government won't know." But although one may escape the vision of the government, one cannot escape the vision of God. The Supreme Lord sees everything. However, if we eliminate the idea of God as the saksi, the witness, then hell will prevail. Therefore we must purify the consciousness. Bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam: when our consciousness is purified, automatically the fire of our material existence will be extinguished.
The chanting of Hare Krsna disseminates transcendental knowledge into the heart like moonlight (sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam) and increases our ecstasy at every moment (anandambudhi-vardhanam). In material ecstasy, pleasure gradually decreases. If you get pleasure from eating one piece of candy, before long you'll need two pieces to get the same pleasure. Then you'll need three, then five, and soon you won't want to look at candy any more. That is material pleasure; it decreases. But in Krsna consciousness, anandambudhi-vardhanam pratipadam purnamrta svadanam: at every step you'll get a fuller taste of nectar. Sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam: everyone can become cleansed by chanting this Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Atma means the body, the mind, the intelligence, endeavor, the soul and Krsna. Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave all these different meanings for the word atma when He explained the atmarama Verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therefore, ceto-darpana-marjanam . . . sarvatma-snapanam. when we chant Hare Krsna, all the atmas become purified—the mind, the intelligence, the soul. By chanting Hare Krsna, all living entities can become happy. And Krsna also becomes happy when we chant.
We may offer Krsna a flower (patram puspam phalam toyam), but the name of Krsna is Krsna Himself (abhinnatvan nama-naminoh). So by chanting the holy names of the Lord Krsna, we are giving Him the best offering. In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated, yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah: those who are intelligent in this Age of Quarrel will worship the Supreme Lord by nama-sankirtana-yajna, the sacrifice of chanting the holy name of the Lord. Yajna (sacrifice) must be performed, for without yajna, even material prosperity is impossible. In this Age of Kali the recommended sacrifice is sankirtana-yajna, and those who are intelligent will perform this chanting of the holy names of the Lord and therefore follow the teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is our goal, our object of meditation and worship. He is Krsna Himself with a golden complexion, surrounded by His associates. Lord Caitanya, however, carries no weapons, Lord Ramacandra carries a bow and arrow, Parasurama has His axe, Krsna has His disc, and Visnu carries a conch, disc, club and lotus. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu is empty-handed. His only weapons are His associates, like Lord Nityananda and Haridasa, because His weapon is love. Instead of killing the demons and giving them liberation, He made them into devotees and conquered them by love. Lord Nityananda used to go from house to house, knock on their doors and beg the people to please chant Hare Krsna. He would open the door, fall prostrate on the floor and roll on the ground, begging them to chant the holy name of the Lord. How can you deny His request? The Supreme Personality o Godhead is at your feet, begging you rolling in the dust of your house. Will you deny Him? Can you refuse? No intelligent person can refuse Him Therefore, chant Hare Krsna and avoid these offenses. That is the perfection of human life.
by His Holiness Satsvarupa Gosvami
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami is one of the leaders of the Krsna consciousness movement. Until he returned to the United States in July to organize distribution of Krsna conscious hooks to schools and libraries, he was serving as the personal secretary of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has been extensively traveling to preach and oversee the progress of his disciples. As Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami traveled with Srila Prabhupada around the world—from New York to London, Paris, Hamburg, Geneva, Bombay, Melbourne and back to Los Angeles (with many other stops in between—he kept a personal diary, filled with accounts of Srila Prabhupada's activities and words,. These are excerpts from that diary.
Hyderabad, India. April 19
At the press conference in Hyderabad one reporter asked right away whether Srila Prabhupada was an advaita (monistic) or dvaita (dualist) philosopher. Srila Prabhupada scoffed at the question. "What is the point of discussing such things—whether one is dvaita or advaita. Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani: 'All living beings subsist on food grains' Annad means grains. The people have no grains. Grains are produced from rain, and the rain from yajna (sacrifice).' So perform yajna. Become Krsna conscious. Dvaita or advaita you may be, but you still need grains."
Srila Prabhupada was recalling the press conference. One newspaper reported that he had said that Bhagavad-gita contains all answers to all problems—social, political and otherwise—and should not be misinterpreted. He smiled when he heard that and said, "They have captured the main points of my talk." As for dvaita/advaita, he said, "Krsna never says we are all one. If a servant says, 'Yes, I am the same as the master,' that is his impudence. But the master never says it. Krsna says to Arjuna, 'Many births you and I have had, but you are not the same as Me. You forget; I do not. Therefore you should surrender to Me.' Where is the question of advaita if Krsna says 'Surrender to Me'? Our philosophy is both advaita and dvaita. We are one with Krsna in our qualities, but He is much greater than us."
After his lecture at the exhibition grounds, a crowd of about 1,000 presses forward, and with great difficulty, forming a human chain, we escort Srila Prabhupada back to his car. Many spectators dive forward to touch his feet. On the way back, Srila Prabhupada was appreciating that the big crowd was silent during his whole lecture. "The women and children," he said, "could not even understand English. This is a good field for Krsna consciousness." Later I commented that his lectures seemed planned out, although I see that he simply chooses a verse and speaks without preparation. "It appears that I prepare?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "there is such symmetry to each lecture." "Krsna is speaking," he said, "I am not speaking. I am His microphone. Let us depend on Krsna, and He will do everything."
On his early-morning walk, with three sannyasis [disciples in the renounced order] present, Srila Prabhupada took the role of a pious religionist and challenged us, saying we had nothing to teach him, since he already loved God. "But you don't know what God is," one of us said. "That's all right," he said. "Whatever idea I have, I am praying. If I didn't love God, I wouldn't go to church." We gave argument after argument, but he rejected them all, saying he was as good in his religion as we were in ours; he had his own love of God and scripture and world religion, and he was as good as we were. We couldn't catch him. Finally he revealed to us what we should have said: "If you love God, why do you disobey Him?"
* * *
A sympathetic Endowments Officer from the government was talking with Srila Prabhupada. He said that the government policy is that everyone should be God conscious, and it seems they have a branch that dispenses money to different temples for the propagation of Hindu culture. He said that "orthodox brahmanas" [religious intellectuals] object to ISKCON because we recruit men from the mleccha and yavana classes [meat-eaters, outcastes] and make them brahmanas. Srila Prabhupada opened his Sanskrit Bhagavatam and turned to a passage where Narada is talking to King Yudhisthira about the four orders of society [intellectuals, administrators, merchants and laborers]. Narada said that if you find in another country a person working as a brahmana, with the qualities of a brahmana, he must be accepted as a brahmana. Srila Prabhupada then read Sridhara Svami's comment on the verse also. If one gets a degree as an engineer but sits home and doesn't work, he's not an engineer. Krsna created the four social orders on the basis of guna and karma, one's qualities and his work. It's very scientific. One must acquire the qualities, and he must work. And the role of a secular government is to see that brahmanas are actually working as brahmanas. So the four castes must be maintained. This is called varnasrama. Prabhupada said that if the Indian government would finance him, he could rid India of godlessness in a year. "People are fed up with materialism and cheating yoga. Why not support this movement? Immediately we could open one hundred Varnasrama Colleges and start training. We wouldn't just rubber stamp a man 'brahmana' because he happens to be born in a brahmana family. That religion of the body won't do. One must actually become qualified."
That is just one sample of the practical discussions about Krsna and practical proposals that Srila Prabhupada talks about with respectable men hour after hour, day after day, untiringly, with 100% conviction and fresh enthusiasm.
Srila Prabhupada said that someone wanted to write a book about him, just like the big books people write about their gurus to call the gurus God. But he said, "No, write books about Krsna—hundreds of volumes about Krsna."
We flew to Tirupati. In the mountains nearby is Tirmula, where there is the richest temple in India, the Venkatesvara temple, with its Balaji Deity. Srila Prabhupada very much liked the cottage the temple managers provided for him. They were very respectful and let our party enter the temple, although (l) people usually have to wait on a long line, since 15,000 people enter daily, and (2) Westerners are usually not allowed in. Following behind Srila Prabhupada, however, we walked right in. In the cottage there was a picture of the Balaji Deity. Prabhupada said that the Deity's name means "child," Krsna as a cowherd boy, not in His Vaikuntha aspect [His majestic form in the spiritual planets]. "What do the rascal scientists know of Vaikuntha?" I said. "They haven't seen these planets through their telescopes."
He said, "That [telescope knowledge] is imaginary, defective. So many planets are glittering at night. What do the scientists know of these other planets? They cannot say that such a place [the spiritual sky] is not possible. The rascals can't get a vague idea of even this one planet." I said they are making progress because 500 years ago people thought the earth was flat. "Not in the Vedas," he said. "It is clearly stated: goloka, meaning 'round.' Maybe in your Bible," he laughed, "but although you didn't know, the Vedas knew."
About all the people going to see Balaji, Srila Prabhupada said, "This shows that the mass of people are still attracted to God, despite government propaganda. The people are coming and going, visiting the Deity. But an advanced devotee can capture God in his heart. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena: with the ointment of love of God spread over his eyes. Of course, Deity worship is good for the neophyte."
We went three or four times daily to receive darsana [association] of the Balaji Deity. One time we went at 2 in the morning. The Deity is very big, in a dark inner sanctum where the only light comes from the torches held by the pujaris [attendants]. Srila Prabhupada would regularly leave his cane on the rail before Balaji, and then, after we were walking out, he would call "Where is my stick?" and we would have to go back for it. As the general mass of people go into the temple for alleviation of material distress, they call out "Govinda!" When Srila Prabhupada started in (you have to go barefoot in the whole area around the temple, outside also) he would say "Govindam adi-purusam tarn aham bhajami" [I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord]. He said we should build temples like this Venkatesvara temple, which has a gold dome and wonderful facilities for visiting pilgrims. While he was there, Srila Prabhupada took Balaji's prasada [food offered to the Lord] and said it was tasteful. He said that Lord Caitanya had visited this and many other places all over south India. We were thinking that Srila Prabhupada, who says he hasn't visited any holy places in India except Mayapur and Vrndavana, was visiting them to purify them.
People ask, What is Srila Prabhupada's day like? Srila Prabhupada rises about 1:30 a.m. Sometimes around 2 or 3 a.m. I awaken and hear him dictating. Once one man in Bombay said to Srila Prabhupada, "Today I rose at 2:30!"—to which Srila Prabhupada replied, "I rose at 1:30!" In Hyderabad Gargamuni Svami said to me, "What other sadhu in India gets up at 1:30 to write books?" It is great proof of his authenticity. In Bombay we set up a small house of mosquito netting for him to work in. He opens the big volume of Bengali Caitanya-caritamrta, and with a small desk lamp lit, he begins translating the synonyms one by one, clicking the dictaphone button as he pauses briefly for his thoughts.
The translation work usually goes on for two or three hours, sometimes less. From around 3 to 5 he sits and chants Hare Krsna on his beads. Srila Prabhupada chants beads almost silently, although the motion of the beads can sometimes be heard in the next room, and sometimes "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna."
His regular morning walk begins just before the sun comes up. In India, Srila Prabhupada says, clothing is artificial; India is so warm. In other countries sometimes he has to bundle up in big coats and a hat. He wears a pair of shoes that he saves only for the morning walks. As Krsna is known to appear in yellowish garments with a peacock feather in His hair, our spiritual master wears saffron, with a wrapper around his shoulders or over his head, and walks with his cane, followed by his devotees. In the Krsna book it says that a devotee is like a waterfall—sometimes he speaks, and sometimes he is silent. I asked what this means, and Srila Prabhupada said that the devotee speaks at his will; he is not obliged to speak. Devotees are eager to accompany Srila Prabhupada on his walks. Sometimes he speaks the whole time. He walks long, usually about an hour and a half. If it rains he says, "Today we will take our walk sitting down," and we ride in the car.
Geneva, Switzerland. May 30
Flying here, Srila Prabhupada said, "This is a very dangerous spot [amidst the Alps]. Many planes crash here." Later I asked if great sages still lived in the Himalayas. He said yes: Vyasadeva, Valmiki and Nara-Narayana. I mentioned to him that in the Bhagavatam he says that there's a gold peak in the Himalayas. "Yes," he said, "if they find that out, they will become mad to go there." This afternoon we were given an official reception by the governor of Geneva. Srila Prabhupada spoke on the verse sa vai pumsam. . . "The science of God must begin with knowledge that one is spirit soul, not the body." The governor asked, "If everyone becomes Krsna conscious, won't the economy be in trouble?" "No," Srila Prabhupada said, and he quoted the same verse he cited over a month ago in Hyderabad: annad bhavanti bhutani. "Everyone subsists on grains." So he proposed that if everyone cultivates his own land and keeps cows, there will be no economic problem. One should live simply and spend the saved time solving the problems of birth, death, old age and disease. Later Srila Prabhupada asked, "Were my answers all right?" I said that the governor asked about the economy being in trouble if everyone became a devotee because he thinks we are simply beggars. "Therefore," Prabhupada said, "I talked about tilling the land. We are not beggars. We are giving the highest knowledge. We gave him the book of highest knowledge [Bhagavad-gita], but he could not give us anything."
This morning on his walk, and again tonight with the Dean of Theology at Geneva, Srila Prabhupada gave this example: What is the important thing in the body? It is the spirit soul, the life force. That is what's making the body move. Just as in an airplane the important thing is the pilot. The living entity within the body, the life force, is making the hand move, the eye see, the mind think. . . So in the universe, there is a life, a Soul, which is moving everything. As the person within the body is the important thing, so the Supreme Person is the important element in the universe that is making everything move and sustaining everything. We are isvaras, or controllers, of our bodies, but He is the supreme controller, even of us. Each of us is controlled by God, the supreme controller, so to disobey His orders is sinful life. To agree to obey His direction is religion. Tonight after explaining this, he said, "I think this is perfect knowledge."
He talked often with the Christians about why they disobey God by killing other living entities. Finally one of them complained that we were just talking the whole time about meat-eating. "Why can't we talk of higher principles?" they asked. Srila Prabhupada said, "So long as one is sinful, there is no question of understanding higher principles."
Paris, France. June 9
He said that Paris attracts so many tourists. His hosts drove him around to see the Louvre buildings, the Arc de Triomphe, and other sites. He said that in India (for example at Tirupati, where Balaji temple is) the same tourist urge is there, common people are visiting daily by the thousands, and the statues are there, but in India it is for God. While driving they pointed out where embassies are, and one devotee quipped, "So we have opened a Krsna embassy." "Why one embassy?" he said. "Every house should be an embassy. Everywhere, a Krsna embassy."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." This means that the word preceded the creation. Therefore it was transcendental. We have to inquire, "What is a transcendental Word?" The poet Narottama dasa Thakura says, golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana: "Hare Krsna comes from Krsnaloka." This means it is a transcendental, not a material, sound or word. The creation comes from the word of God. For example, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada has started what is now a very large spiritual movement. In the beginning of the movement there were no buildings and students; he came to this country without money, only with the word. But by preaching the transcendental word, all of ISKCON has become manifested. That's an example of the creative power of the word. The transcendental word of God, existing before the creation, is eternal, above the material creation—and it is the cause of the whole creation. Therefore by transcendental sound we are chanting Hare Krsna and becoming God conscious.
Germany. June 18
Hamsaduta arranged a procession of 20 vehicles from the airport to the castle where the devotees are staying. Srila Prabhupada was pleased: "My heart becomes engladdened when I hear a mrdanga in a German village." [A mrdanga is a drum for chanting Hare Krsna.] He quoted Lord Caitanya's verse that in every village the chanting will be heard. He said, "We should be aware that our goal is a worldwide movement. Actually, we have communities all over the world, but the movement is still very, very small. It will expand, however, and the whole world can be united under Krsna for peace." But then, he said, people's only objection to us is that we are trying to prevent them from going to hell; therefore they misunderstand us. It's like when a man flies a kite on a roof and you see that he's in great danger, about to walk off the roof. But when you tell him, "Look out! You're in danger!" he becomes angry. "What! You have checked my movement." Any gentleman will speak out if he sees another plunging into danger. But they object. One world under Krsna—we are not after domination, but we want to free people from death, old age and disease.
Srila Prabhupada has been pointing out that the wars which are starting every few years in the West can be traced to karma from cow killing. It has very disastrous effects, the slaughterhouse. He says, "People should live in peace, eating the food they raise themselves from the land, and chanting Hare Krsna. Why artificially start these wars? They do not recognize that everything belongs to God. You can have the land to work; He has given you enough of everything to live peacefully. It is the fault of the so-called leaders. The mass of people are good."
He said that the idea of transmigration of the soul is very important—the beginning of transcendental philosophy—but no one in the West understands it. I brought up the argument that although the materialist will accept that we are changing bodies in this lifetime, and also that he is experiencing the change of bodies in dreams, these things are still within one lifetime, so he does not experience changing bodies at the time of death. Srila Prabhupada said, "But in the dream one doesn't remember everything; so much of it is a hodge-podge mixture of different things. Our nature is to forget. Also, do you remember every-hing of your childhood? We have forgotten so many things. We do not remember being in the womb of the mother and suffering under those conditions, but we were there. The fact that we do not remember something does not mean it did not exist. So, we are forgetful and do not remember our past lives. The most important thing is the authority of Krsna; He is the perfect authority, and He logically presents transmigration in Bhagavad-gita." I said, "If we simply say you must believe it because Krsna says so, they will take it as dogmatic." "No," he said, "the reasoning is given there, but the authority is final. For example, if you want to know who your father is, you can investigate in different ways your genealogy, your natural attraction to both parents, or your similarity to them in character—but finally the mother is the authority without flaw."
Melbourne, Australia. June 21
I mentioned to Srila Prabhupada that now that India has the nuclear bomb, other small nations are rushing to get it. He said, "What is this nuclear bomb? I will drop it on you and in turn you will drop it on me. What is the advancement over the dogs? This tearfulness of one nation for another with nuclear bombs is the dogs' mentality. Sometimes, even when chained by their respective masters, two dogs will fight as soon as they meet. Have you seen it? It's no better than that. "But," I pursued a vague anxiety, "devotees sometimes think we are planning for the long-term future when we distribute books to schools and libraries, but if everything is going to end in nuclear war. . ." "Assure them," said Srila Prabhupada, "that there will be no nuclear war if they take to Krsna consciousness. And even if there is nuclear war, that is not going to end everything. Formerly there was the brahmastra [a weapon of Vedic times similar to today's nuclear bomb]. Everything is under the control of the Supreme Lord. We are not afraid of the nuclear bomb, because the soul cannot be killed by the atom bomb. Do you know that? Have you read it? So what do they want to do in fear of the nuclear bomb—to sit down and do nothing and cry?" I said, "Well, we are asking people to invest in 60 volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, but they might say, 'I don't want to make such a long-term investment in the future because there is nuclear war ahead.' " "Then why are they going to the university? Why don't they stop eating? Do they mean one should not go for an education and should not have any hope and should stop everything?" "Yes," I said, "some think like that—that it is doom." Srila Prabhupada expressed concern that people have been put into such a consciousness. Then he repeated that I should assure people that there will not be such a war if they can become Krsna conscious. "In fact, because of our Krsna consciousness movement, there will be no nuclear war. But even if there is, the soul cannot be killed, so we are not afraid the bomb will kill the soul."
In Melbourne, Srila Prabhupada has been getting lots of news coverage. One article misrepresented him, saying, "His Divine Grace is resigned to dying soon and returning to earth as an animal." Amogha prepared a letter to the editor asking him to print what Srila Prabhupada actually said. Amogha wrote that a pure devotee's condition is just the opposite: he goes to the kingdom of God after leaving this body. The next morning in class, Srila Prabhupada commented on the news article. He explained how the reporter, being against us, was really saying, "Let the svami come back as a dog." (Actually all the miscreants will come back in the lower forms of life, not the devotees.) Prabhupada had actually said, "The devotee doesn't mind how he comes back, so long as he is with Krsna. To become Krsna's animal is a great thing. In Krsnaloka the cows embraced by Krsna, and the other animals—or even the plants—are very exalted to be with Krsna." So there is no objection if he becomes Krsna's animal in his next life.
June 29, 1974
On his morning walks through the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Prabhupada would ask how many varieties of plants they have. On several occasions he asked, "Do they have two million varieties? Krsna has produced two million varieties of plants, but I think maybe they have two thousand." He said, "The plants are standing still while we are able to walk because they are being punished. But although it is punishment, Krsna's intelligence is so nice that it has become a beautiful arrangement." Madhudvisa Maharaja asked, "If one gets a body according to his desire, so that one who wants to eat flesh can become a tiger—well, who would want to become a tree?" (We understand that tree life is the result of too much lust.) Srila Prabhupada said, "The students in America like to stand naked. So Krsna says, 'Here, take the body of a tree. Stand naked for a hundred years.' " I could suddenly understand better Prabhupada's position as our savior. He can save us from coming back in the lower species. If we follow the regulations of devotional life he has taught us, if we don't fall down from this, we can go to Krsna at the end of this life. Those bewildered by material desires have to go on in the material world.
Prabhupada is very interested in the excellent response from high church officials here in Melbourne. He wants to make a united effort with the Christians. The preaching platform is that they should chant the name of Christ, which is the same philologically as Krsna, coming from the Greek "Christos," and stop the animal slaughter. The clergy is appreciating this approach.