People chant Hare Krsna for lots of reasons. Some people are just curious. Some want material benefits, or relief from anxiety. But the best reason to chant Hare Krsna is to get to know Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Just as you can get acquainted with someone by associating with him, you can find out about Krsna by associating with His name because the sound "Krsna" is the same as Krsna Himself. It's called the sound incarnation of God. "Hare Krsna" is a call to the Lord to engage us in His service. The process is simple and sublime.
Find out more in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.
In each person Freud found an id, an ego,
Part of a forthcoming book, the following is a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciple, Syamasundara dasa.
Syamasundara: Sigmund Freud's idea was that many psychological problems originate with traumatic experiences in childhood or infancy. His method of cure was to have the patient try to recall these painful events and analyze them.
Prabhupada: But he did not know that one must again become an infant. After this life, one will be put into another womb, and the same things will happen again. Therefore it is the duty of the spiritual master and the parents to save the child from taking another birth. The opportunity of this human form of life is that we can understand the horrible experiences of birth, death, old age, and disease and act so that we shall not be forced to go through the same things again. Otherwise, after death we shall have to take birth in a womb and suffer repeated miseries.
Syamasundara: Freud treated many people suffering from neuroses. For instance, suppose a man is sexually impotent. By recalling his childhood, he may remember some harmful experience with his father or mother that caused him to be repelled by women. In this way he can resolve the conflict and lead a normal sex life.
Prabhupada: However, even in the so-called normal condition, the pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is simply frustrating and insignificant. For ordinary men attached to the materialistic way of life, their only pleasure is sexual intercourse. But the sastras [Vedic scriptures] say, yan maithunadi-grhamedhi-sukham hi tuccham: the pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is tenth class at best. Because they have no idea of the pleasure of Krsna consciousness, the materialists regard sex as the highest pleasure. And how is it actually experienced? We have an itch, and when we scratch it, we feel some pleasure. But the aftereffects of sexual pleasure are abominable. The mother has to undergo labor pains, and the father has to take responsibility for raising the children nicely and giving them an education. Of course, if one is irresponsible like cats and dogs, that is another thing. But for those who are actually gentlemen, is it not painful to bear and raise children? Certainly. Therefore everyone is avoiding children by contraceptive methods. But much better is to follow the injunction of the sastras: simply try to tolerate the itching sensation and avoid so much pain. This is real psychology. That itching sensation can be tolerated if one practices Krsna consciousness. Then one will not be very attracted by sex life.
Syamasundara: Freud's philosophy is that people have neuroses or disorders of their total personality—various conflicts and anxieties—and that all these originate with the sexual impulse.
Prabhupada: That we admit. An embodied living being must have hunger, and he must have the sex impulse. We find that even in the animals these impulses are there.
Syamasundara: Freud believed that the ego tries to restrain these primitive drives, and that all anxieties arise from this conflict.
Prabhupada: Our explanation is as follows: Materialistic life is no doubt very painful. As soon as one acquires a material body, he must always suffer three kinds of miseries: miseries caused by other living beings, miseries caused by the elements, and miseries caused by his own body and mind. So the whole problem is how to stop these miseries and attain permanent happiness. Unless one stops his materialistic way of life, with its threefold miseries and repeated birth and death, there is no question of happiness. The whole Vedic civilization is based on how one can cure this materialistic disease. If we can cure this disease, its symptoms will automatically vanish. Freud is simply dealing with the symptoms of the basic disease. When you have a disease, sometimes you have headaches, sometimes your leg aches, sometimes you have a pain in your stomach, and so on. But if your disease is cured, then all your symptoms disappear. That is our program.
Syamasundara: In his theory of psychoanalysis, Freud states that by remembering and reevaluating emotional shocks we've experienced in childhood, the tension we are feeling now can be released.
Prabhupada: But what is the guarantee that one will not get shocked again? He may cure the results of one shock, but there is no guarantee that the patient will not receive another shock. Therefore Freud's treatment is useless. Our program is total cure—no more shocks of any kind. If one is situated in real Krsna consciousness, he can face the most severe type of adversity and remain completely undisturbed. In our Krsna consciousness movement, we are giving people this ability. Freud tries to cure the reactions of one kind of shock, but other shocks will come one after another. This is how material nature works. If you solve one problem, another problem arises immediately. And if you solve that one, another one comes. As long as you are under the control of material nature, these repeated shocks will come. But if you become Krsna conscious, there are no more shocks. Syamasundara: Freud's idea is that the basic instinct in the human personality is the sexual drive or libido, and that if the expressions of a child's sexuality are inhibited, then his personality becomes disordered.
Prabhupada: Everyone has the sex appetite: this tendency is innate. But our brahmacarya system restricts a child's sex life from the earliest stages of his development and diverts his attention to Krsna consciousness. As a result there is very little chance that he will suffer such personality disorders. In the Vedic age the leaders of society knew that if a person engaged in unrestricted sex indulgence, then the duration of his materialistic life would increase. He would have to accept a material body birth after birth. Therefore the sastras enjoin that one may have sexual intercourse only if married. Otherwise it is illicit. In our Krsna consciousness society, we prohibit illicit sex, but not legal sex. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.11) Krsna says, dharma-viruddho bhutesu kamo 'smi bharatarsabha: "I am sexual intercourse that is not against religious principles." This means that sex must be regulated. Everyone has a tendency to have sex unrestrictedly—and in Western countries they are actually doing this—but according to the Vedic system, there must be restrictions. And not only must sex be restricted, but meat-eating, gambling and drinking as well. So in our Society we have eliminated all these things, and our Western students are becoming pure devotees of Krsna. The people at large, however, must at least restrict these sinful activities, as explained in the Vedic sastras. The Vedic system of varnasrama-dharma [four social orders and four spiritual orders] is so scientific that everything is automatically adjusted. Life becomes very peaceful, and everyone can make progress in Krsna consciousness. If the Vedic system is followed by human society, there will be no more of these mental disturbances.
Syamasundara: Freud says that sexual energy is not only expressed in sexual intercourse, but is associated with a wide variety of pleasurable bodily sensations such as pleasures of the mouth like eating and sucking.
Prabhupada: That is confirmed in the sastras: yan maithunadi-grhamedhi-sukham. The only pleasure in this material world is sex. The word adi indicates that the basic principle is maithuna, sexual intercourse. The whole system of materialistic life revolves around this sexual pleasure. But this pleasure is like one drop of water in the desert. The desert requires an ocean of water. If you find one drop of water in a desert, you can certainly say, "Here is some water." But what is its value? Similarly, there is certainly some pleasure in sex life, but what is the value of that pleasure? Compared to the unlimited pleasure of Krsna consciousness, it is like one drop of water in the desert. Everyone is seeking unlimited pleasure, but no one is becoming satisfied. They are having sex in so many different ways, and the young girls walking on the street are almost naked. The whole society has become degraded. Now the female population has increased everywhere, and every woman and girl is trying to attract a man. The men take advantage of the situation. There is a saying in Bengal: "When milk is available in the marketplace, what is the use of keeping a cow?" So men are declining to keep a wife because sex is so cheap. They are deserting their families. And the more that men become attached to women, the more the female population of the world will increase.
Syamasundara: How does that result in more women?
Prabhupada: When men have more sex, they lose the power to beget a male child. If the woman is sexually more powerful, a girl is born, and when the man is more powerful, a boy is born. This is Ayur-Vedic science. For instance, in the Punjab state of India, there are fewer women because the men are very stout and strong. So when women are very easily available, the men become weak and beget female children. Sometimes they become impotent. If sex life is not restricted, there are so many disasters. And now we are actually seeing them: impotency, no marriage, increased female population. But no one knows why these things are happening or how human psychology can be controlled to avoid them. For this they must look to the perfect system of Vedic civilization.
Syamasundara: Freud says that as the child grows up, he begins to learn that by giving up immediate sensual satisfaction, he can gain a greater benefit later on.
Prabhupada: But even this so-called greater benefit is illusory because it is still based on the principle of material pleasure. The only way to entirely give up these lower pleasures is to take to Krsna consciousness. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita (2.59), param drstva nivartate: "By experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness." And as Yamunacarya said, "Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krsna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure, I spit at the thought, and my lips curl in distaste." That is Krsna consciousness. Our prescription is that in the beginning of life, the child should be taught self-restraint (brahmacarya) and when he is past twenty he can marry. In the beginning he should learn how to restrain his senses. If a child is taught to become saintly, his semen rises to his brain, and he is able to understand spiritual values. Wasting semen decreases intelligence. So from the beginning, if he is a brahmacari and does not misuse his semen, then he will become intelligent and strong and fully grown. For want of this education, everyone's brain and bodily growth is being stunted. After the boy has been trained as a brahmacari, if he still wants to have sex enjoyment, he may get married. But because he then has full strength of body and brain, he will immediately beget a male child. And because he has been trained from childhood to renounce materialistic enjoyment, when he is fifty years old he can retire from household life. At that time naturally his firstborn child will be twenty-five years old, and he can take responsibility for maintaining the household. Household life is simply a license for sex life—that is all. Sex is not required, but one who cannot restrain himself is given a license to get married and have sex. This is the real program that will save society. By speculating on some shock that may or may not have occurred in childhood, one will never discover the root disease. The sex impulse, as well as the impulse to become intoxicated and to eat meat, are present from the very beginning of life. Therefore one must restrain himself. Otherwise he will be implicated.
Syamasundara: So the Western system of bringing up children seems artificial because the parents either repress the child too severely or don't restrict him at all.
Prabhupada: That is not good. The Vedic system is to give the child direction for becoming Krsna conscious. There must be some repression, but our use of repression is different. We say the child must rise early in the morning, worship the Deity in the temple and chant Hare Krsna. In the beginning, force may be necessary. Otherwise the child will not become habituated. But the idea is to divert his attention to Krsna conscious activities. Then, when he realizes he is not his body, all difficulties will disappear. As one increases his Krsna consciousness, he becomes neglectful of all these material things. So Krsna consciousness is the prime remedy—the panacea for all diseases.
Syamasundara: Freud divided the personality into three departments: the ego, the superego and the id. The id is the irrational instinct for enjoyment. The ego is one's image of his own body, and is the instinct for self-preservation. The superego represents the moral restrictions of parents and other authorities.
Prabhupada: It is certainly true that everyone has some false egoism, or ahankara. For example, Freud thought he was Austrian. That is false ego, or identifying oneself with one's place of birth. We are giving everyone the information that this identification with a material body is ignorance. It is due to ignorance only that I think I am Indian, American, Hindu or Muslim. This is egoism of the inferior quality. The superior egoism is, "I am Brahman. I am an eternal servant of Krsna." If a child is taught this superior egoism from the beginning, then automatically his false egoism is stopped.
Syamasundara: Freud says that the ego tries to preserve the individual by organizing and controlling the irrational demands of the id. In other words, if the id sees something, like food, it automatically demands to eat it, and the ego controls that desire in order to preserve the individual. The superego reinforces this control. So these three systems are always conflicting in the personality.
Prabhupada: But the basic principle is false, since Freud has no conception of the soul existing beyond the body. He is considering the body only. Therefore he is a great fool. According to bhagavata philosophy, anyone in the bodily concept of life—who identifies this body, composed of mucus, bile and air, as his self—is no better than an ass.
Syamasundara: Then these interactions of the id, the ego and the superego are all bodily interactions?
Prabhupada: Yes, they are all subtle bodily interactions. The mind is the first element of the subtle body. The gross senses are controlled by the mind, which in turn is controlled by the intelligence. And the intelligence is controlled by the ego. So if the ego is false, then everything is false. If I falsely identify with this body because of false ego, then anything based on this false idea is also false. This is called maya, or illusion. The whole of Vedic education aims at getting off this false platform and coming to the real platform of spiritual knowledge, called brahma-jnana. When one comes to the knowledge that he is spirit soul, he immediately becomes happy. All his troubles are due to the false ego, and as soon as the individual realizes his true ego, the blazing fire of material existence is immediately extinguished. These philosophers are simply describing the blazing fire, but we are trying to get him out of the burning prison house of the material world altogether. They may attempt to make him happy within the fire, but how can they be successful? He must be saved from the fire. Then he will be happy. That is the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that is Lord Krsna's message in the Bhagavad-gita Freud identifies the body with the soul. He does not know the basic principle of spiritual understanding, which is that we are not this body. We are different from this body and are transmigrating from one body to another. Without this knowledge, all his theories are based on a misunderstanding.
Not only Freud, but everyone in this material world is under illusion. In Bengal a psychiatrist in the civil service was once called to give evidence in a case where the murderer was pleading insanity. The civil servant examined him to discover whether he actually was insane, or whether he was simply under intense stress. In the courtroom he said, "I have tested many persons, and I have concluded that everyone is insane to some degree. In the present case, if the defendant is pleading insanity, then you may acquit him if you like, but as far as I know, everyone is more or less insane." And that is our conclusion as well. Anyone who identifies with his material body must be crazy, for his life is based on a misconception.
Syamasundara: Freud also investigated the problem of anxiety, which he said was produced when the impulses of the id threaten to overpower the rational ego and the moral superego.
Prabhupada: Anxiety will continue as long as one is in the material condition. No one can be free from anxiety in conditioned life.
Syamasundara: Is it because our desires are always frustrated?
Prabhupada: Yes. Your desires must be frustrated because you desire something that is not permanent. Suppose I wish to live forever, but since I have accepted a material body, there is no question of living forever. Therefore I am always anxious that death will come. I am afraid of death, when the body will be destroyed. This is the cause of all anxiety: acceptance of something impermanent as permanent.
Syamasundara: Freud says that anxiety develops when the superego represses the primitive desires of the id to protect the ego. Is such repression of basic instincts very healthy?
Prabhupada: Yes. For us repression means restraining oneself from doing something which, in the long run, is against one's welfare. For example, suppose you are suffering from diabetes, and the doctor says, "Don't eat any sweet food." If you desire to eat sweets, you must repress that desire. Similarly, in our system of brahmacarya there is also repression. A brahmacari should not sit down with a young woman, or even see one. He may desire to see a young woman, but he must repress the desire. This is called tapasya, or voluntary repression.
Syamasundara: But aren't these desires given outlet in other ways? For instance, instead of looking at a beautiful woman, we look at the beautiful form of Krsna.
Prabhupada: Yes, that is our process: param drstva nivartate. If you have a better engagement, you can give up an inferior engagement. When you are captivated by seeing the beautiful form of Krsna, naturally you have no more desire to see the beautiful form of a young woman.
Syamasundara: What's the effect of childhood experiences on one's later development?
Prabhupada: Children imitate whomever they associate with. You all know the movie "Tarzan." He was brought up by monkeys, and he took on the habits of monkeys. If you keep children in good association, their psychological development will be very good—they will become like demigods. But if you keep them in bad association, they will turn out to be demons. Children are a blank slate. You can mold them as you like, and they are eager to learn.
Syamasundara: So a child's personality doesn't develop according to a fixed pattern?
Prabhupada: No. You can mold them in any way, like soft dough. However you put them into the mold, they will come out—like bharats, chapatis or kachoris [types of Indian pastries]. Therefore if you give children good association, they will develop nicely, and if you put them in bad association, they will develop poorly. They have no independent psychology.
Syamasundara: Actually, Freud had a rather pessimistic view of human nature: he believed that we are all beset with irrational and chaotic impulses that cannot be eliminated.
Prabhupada: This is not only pessimism, but evidence of his poor fund of knowledge. He did not have perfect knowledge, nor was he trained by a perfect man. Therefore his theories are all nonsense.
Syamasundara: He concluded that it was impossible to be happy in this material world, but that one can alleviate some of the conflicts through psychoanalysis. He thought one can try to make the path as smooth as possible, but it will always be troublesome.
Prabhupada: It is true that one cannot be happy in this material world. But if one becomes spiritually elevated—if his consciousness is changed to Krsna consciousness—then he will be happy.
The editors of BACK TO GODHEAD welcome correspondence pertaining to spiritual enlightenment. All letters will receive personal replies, and correspondence of general interest will be published regularly.
In the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me though they be of lower birth—women, merchants, as well as workers—can approach the supreme destination." (Bg. 9.32) Why are women designated as inferior? If she wishes, a woman can be an author, a scientist, or a theologian. I fail to see how this kind of discrimination can occur in a text of such high, holy wisdom. Can you explain it to me?
In the verse you've quoted, Lord Krsna is referring to the Vedic social system, which was organized to promote spiritual realization. In Vedic culture, persons who were inclined toward spiritual life and austerity were considered more advanced than those attached to material comforts. Generally, women, merchants and workers were in the second group, and therefore Krsna refers to them as "of lower birth."
In the present age, however, virtually no one is inclined to practice strict spiritual discipline, and thus no one is considered advanced by Vedic standards. Even highly acclaimed achievements such as becoming a great author, scientist or theologian are insignificant compared with the attainment of pure spiritual enlightenment. Self-realization is the highest goal of life, and as Lord Krsna explains, is available to all, regardless of sex or social position. The only qualification is that we adopt the principles of bhakti-yoga enunciated in the Bhagavad-gita In this way we can actually transcend all temporary designations, such as male and female, and realize our position as eternal loving servants of God. This understanding is the ultimate liberation and the essence of the holy wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita.
I would like to start practicing some form of spiritual discipline. How can I become adept at meditation?
John C. Gallamar
Columbia, South Carolina
Before taking up a system of meditation, you should first understand the real aim of spiritual practice. You're probably aware that there are many forms of "meditation" by which one can relax or improve his body or mind. But the Bhagavad-gita, the most comprehensive manual on spiritual life, states that the ultimate goal of meditation is to realize one's eternal relationship with God by absorbing the mind in thought of Him.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In the present age, the most effective means of meditating on the Lord is chanting and hearing His holy names. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of Lord Krsna who appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to propagate the chanting of the holy names, specifically recommended chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By vibrating these transcendental names, your heart will become cleansed of all material contamination, and you'll very rapidly realize your true spiritual identity as part and parcel of God.
Although there are no hard and fast rules for chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—you may chant it anywhere, anytime—you'll find the following procedure helpful in starting your own program of meditation. First, obtain a set of japa beads. (Chanting on the beads will help you concentrate.) Next, set up a regular schedule for meditating on the Hare Krsna mantra, and try your best to stick to it. When you chant, pronounce each word very carefully, and listen intently. Try to visit a Krsna consciousness center and consult with those who are also practicing this form of meditation. If you follow these simple guidelines, you will surely make rapid progress on the path of spiritual realization.
Two Public School Teachers Take a Look at Gurukula
Gurukula, in Dallas, Texas, is a school unlike any other in America. At a time when this country's schools are receiving much criticism, the alternative methods of Gurukula are attracting attention. Two public school teachers comment on Gurukula in a talk with BTG's senior editor, Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami.
Randy Gribbin is thirty-two. He teaches sixth grade in an academically advanced school in northern Texas.
Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami: How did you first become interested in Gurukula?
Mr. Gribbin: I'm preparing a master's thesis on variegated educational methods, so I was prompted to investigate Gurukula's controversial teachings. Frankly, I was negatively inclined to begin with, but I tried to approach the situation with an open mind. As a result, I learned a great deal about education and about myself—not only as a teacher, but as a human being as well.
The devotees who teach at Gurukula were very kind; they allowed me to come and go freely and to talk with the children. I observed a lot of effective teaching in Gurukula's classical Vedic setting. And I talked with many dedicated teachers motivated by love and concern for the children rather than by a paycheck or a higher position in bureaucratic hierarchy. I found that very enlightening.
Satsvarupa: How does Gurukula compare with the public school system?
Mr. Gribbin: For one thing, the children at Gurukula not only learn self-control, but they're also taught the reason for controlling themselves—to attain God consciousness. Many modern schools have moved toward an open concept, with very unstructured courses. For instance, one hundred students are divided into three classes, and they meet-with three teachers—in one big room. It's supposed to be conducive to interteacher communication, but the difficulty is that there's no emphasis on self-control. So in the schools we see a lot of chaotic movement. Children are going this way and that—it's very confusing.
But the Gurukula style is the one used many years ago. There is a classroom, there are rules, and the children obey the teacher strictly. I think it's nice to see. At Gurukula, I saw very well-mannered children, who were respectful to others.
Satsvarupa: Why do you think students disrespect teachers in the public schools?
Mr. Gribbin: Because, in many cases, the teachers don't actually care about the students, and the children can sense this.
In our school we spend most of our time disciplining the children. In fact, discipline is the number one problem. On the other hand, Gurukula is organized: the children come in, sit down and get ready for class. For the most part, public schools' experiments with unstructured "do your own thing" education have not been successful.
Satsvarupa: What about Gurukula's emphasis on spiritual teaching?
Mr. Gribbin: Well, in the public schools there is no mention of God anywhere. The children are not allowed to talk about God or to say prayers, and the teachers are forbidden to make any statement about God. At Gurukula, however, the main emphasis is God...
Satsvarupa: But is it a public school's responsibility to teach about God?
Mr. Gribbin: I feel it's a basic responsibility of the parents, the churches and the schools to teach the children the fundamental principles of religion. Unfortunately, they're not doing the job. I think the rise in crime in the schools is directly related to this complete neglect of spiritual values.
Satsvarupa: How does Gurukula compare with the public schools in its teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic?
Mr. Gribbin: In the public schools, there's been an emphasis on modern methods of teaching English and math. In English classes, the emphasis has been on creative writing—no sentences, no grammar, no diagramming—but the result is that now we have high school students who are illiterate. They can't even write a clear sentence. Actually, in teaching fads or methods, the pendulum swings from one extreme to another. Now they're seeing the failure of the unstructured programs and they're becoming more structured. Since the new math books were over the children's heads, now the books are becoming more basic. But there's no firm educational philosophy. At Gurukula the educational program has been a very structured program all along. In grammar they're teaching the parts of the sentence. As a result, the children can read and write very nicely. A young boy read a book to me, and he was able to pronounce long words.
Satsvarupa: What about learning Sanskrit?
Mr. Gribbin: Well, I've always been in favor of foreign languages for children. Sanskrit is a basic language, and most other languages are derived from it.
I think learning Sanskrit is good.
Satsvarupa: At Gurukula, all the children must rise very early in the morning, shower and attend the daily program of temple worship, prayer and meditation. What do you observe as the effect of such austerity?
Mr. Gribbin: I see strong children who'll be able to live anywhere, under any conditions. They're not lazy. On Saturdays they don't spend two or three hours watching Popeye on television. They're healthy and bright. If anyone goes to a recognized public school and then comes to Gurukula, he'll immediately see the difference. The children at Gurukula are all wide-eyed and alert, and they concentrate on their studies. Most public school kids are busy dressing up to attract the opposite sex, passing notes and smoking marijuana.
Satsvarupa: In a newspaper article, a New York psychologist said chanting Hare Krsna causes brain damage. What do you think of that?
Mr. Gribbin: Well, from what I've seen, there's nothing wrong with chanting Hare Krsna. What's wrong with praising God? It cleans my mind to hear it. It must clean the children's, too.
Satsvarupa: How do you think the Gurukula children will compare with their peers when they graduate?
Mr. Gribbin: They'll be the best educated children in society. Not only will they have knowledge of math and English and history, but they'll also know their relationship with God. They won't need material things to keep them happy. I think they'll be very strong.
Anthony Stachursk has been teaching for nine years in Michigan in elementary, junior high and high schools.
Satsvarupa: What do you think of the discipline at Gurukula, compared with that in the public schools?
Mr. Stachursk: There's a great deal of dissatisfaction among both teachers and parents with today's public schools. Up until recently, there hadn't been enough discipline, but responsible parents demanded it, and now things are going in the opposite direction—away from permissiveness. In our school we have three teachers constantly prowling the cafeteria, yet it's still bedlam. The difficulty is that there's no accepted idea of what to do with a misbehaving child. Besides, attempts at discipline are useless it they are not backed up with exemplary behavior by the teachers. Too many teachers are simply concerned with what they'll do on vacation and how they'll save on income tax—not with the welfare of the students.
Somehow these problems don't exist at Gurukula. For example, all the children—even the four- and five-year olds—sit in the dining hall at Gurukula and eat with self-control. They don't throw their food around or perform other antics you commonly see in public schools. And the teachers are completely dedicated: they spend practically all their time with the children. In the public schools the motivation is mostly money. There's very little inspiration.
Satsvarupa: What is your feeling about spiritual instruction for young children?
Mr. Stachursk: Well, when I first became interested in Gurukula, I was what you'd call an atheist. I was teaching in a public school at that time, and I came to the conclusion that the public schools don't care whether the child is religious or atheistic: they simply don't want the issue brought up in the classroom. For example, a book I was teaching from said that life comes about by evolution, and I was criticized for teaching atheism. Later another teacher was criticized for reprimanding a child who took God's name in vain. They simply want you to give the information and not give any opinions.
At Gurukula spiritual instruction is given, but it's based on reason, and it's given with love by people who are actually leading an exemplary life. Whatever imperfections there may be in Gurukula can be worked out. As far as lack of facilities is concerned, whatever lack they have is only due to a shortage of money. But the public schools cannot be changed, no matter how much money they have, because they lack a spiritual foundation.
Satsvarupa: What do you think these Gurukula children can do for the United States when they grow up?
Mr. Stachursk: I'm sure they can serve society in a variety of ways, either as full-time devotees giving spiritual instruction, or in some other capacity. In any case, spiritual education should be encouraged. What's perfect about it is the positive direction. What's the point of education in the public schools? The cities pour so much money into the buildings and systems, but what is the sense of having a Cadillac if it is going in the wrong direction? I find that the teachers in the public schools are lost souls. They have no philosophy, and they admit it. Gurukula is just the opposite. It's a school with purpose and hope.
Gurukula's founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, talks with the school's administrators during a recent visit.
Prabhupada: Why should a child be taught Krsna consciousness? Why is Krsna consciousness better than material consciousness?
Jagadisa: Because I'm not this temporary material body; I'm an eternal spirit soul.
Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna consciousness is required to understand the distinction between the eternal spirit soul and the temporary body. Any kind of education that doesn't teach this simply continues the repetition of birth and death. Nobody wants to die, but nobody knows how to become free from the punishment of death. Krsna consciousness, however, stops this vicious cycle of birth and death.
Of course, devotees will also die, but after death they won't have to accept another material body. Therefore their next death will be their last. We are teaching that after annihilation of the present material body, if we are not forced to accept another material body, then there is no more death. When both the students and the teachers at Gurukula know this perfectly, then the school will be successful. Why should one be subjected to birth, death, old age and disease? How to conquer all these things—that is real knowledge. We are explaining this knowledge in our books, and our students should be elevated to a full understanding of it.
Once Lord Pennardbroker, who sits in the English House of Lords, came to see me. I asked him, "What is your philosophy of life?" He replied, "Well, I'm trying to live fully. That's all." But after death? He knew nothing of that. And that is the defect in modern education: nobody knows what is going to happen to him after death.
Jagadisa: Does Srimad-Bhagavatam have information about Gurukula?
Prabhupada: Yes. In the Seventh Canto, Narada says that a student living at a Gurukula should first learn to control his senses. Then he should learn to act for the benefit of his guru—not for his own benefit. He should be just like a servant: the master orders, and the servant carries out the order. A brahmacari (student) must be humble. Although he is not getting any money, he should accept many hardships out of love for the spiritual master. He should work just like you are working. I am not paying you, but you are working. Why? Out of love for me. This is the basic principle. A brahmacari should think, "My spiritual master is my best friend. Therefore I must render service to him."
So these are the basic principles of student life. Then, when one is fixed in devotion to Krsna and His representative, the spiritual master, everything is automatically revealed. A brahmacari especially is under the supervision and protection of the guru. In the beginning there should be no concern about how he has learned his ABC's. He should first learn sense control and the basic principle that all his activities are for the guru's benefit—not his own. Then, whatever the guru desires he do, he will execute.
Jagadisa: Srila Prabhupada, does this mean that the atmosphere here must be very strict?
Prabhupada: Not strict. Everything should be done on the basis of love. Strictness is not very good. The students should act automatically, out of love. That is wanted. Superficially, strictness may be necessary—some material laws or basic principles—and if they don't follow they'll be reprimanded. But they should develop the idea of love.
Teacher: Should we ever force the children to act in a Krsna conscious way?
Prabhupada: Sometimes you have to do that, but even so, the basic principle should be love. Sometimes, out of love, a father must force his son to do something; that does not mean the father is the enemy of the son.
Jagadisa: Yes. If we're permissive with the children, they'll take advantage of us.
Prabhupada: They shouldn't be allowed to do that. Children are innocent: as you teach them, they learn. Discipline must be there—sometimes force must be applied—but everything should be done on the basis of love.
Dayananda: It seems like it would take some time to develop the ability to always teach with love.
Prabhupada: Yes. In the meantime our regulated living will teach the children automatically. If they rise early, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, offer obeisances and engage in Deity worship, automatically they will develop spiritually.
Jagadisa: Sometimes, unless we encourage them very strongly. they will not chant.
Prabhupada: You should tell them, "Now sit down! Chant Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!" If you chant, they will chant. If you yourself observe very strict discipline, they will follow.
Dvarakanatha: It seems that we must become humble. We must be servants to the children in the sense that we do everything we can to facilitate their service to Krsna. When they see that we are surrendering to Krsna, they will surrender to us.
Prabhupada: Very good idea. Example is better than precept. You should all be personal examples. If you do not practice what you preach, but simply force the children, that will not be very good. If every one of you rises early in the morning, so will the children. You shouldn't think, "All this austerity is meant for the students, not for us. We are liberated now so we can sleep until 7:30." Both teachers and students must perform devotional service. Canakya Pandita once said. "If you are lenient with your children, they will acquire many faults, but if you are strict with them, they will develop good qualities." Either with your son, your disciple, or your student, you should always strictly enforce the rules. Don't be lenient. After all. they're children. If you are lenient with them, they will think the usual practice is to be undisciplined. No. They must rise early. That is discipline.
Jagadisa: We've seen that when children are given good discipline, they respond favorably.
Prabhupada: Yes. Why be lenient? Out of love, shall we let our disciples and sons go to hell? That is foolishness.
But when they are sixteen years old they should be treated as friends. From five years to fifteen years, all the students should be under strict disciplinary order. Then, as soon as they attain their sixteenth year, treat them as friends. If you try to force them after sixteen, they may rebel and leave altogether, as is happening in the Western countries.
Jagadisa: What about the girls?
Prabhupada: In Vedic civilization a girl is kept under the vigilance of her father up to her sixteenth year. Then she must be entrusted to a young man who takes charge as her husband.
Jagadisa: Srila Prabhupada, in our movement, the fathers send their daughters to Gurukula.
Prabhupada: So teach them especially how to be chaste and how to be expert in cooking. Then they will never be neglected by their husbands. They will be very happy.
Jagadisa: Some of our girls are intelligent Sanskrit students.
Prabhupada: That's all right. They can teach, and they can preach. All the Gurukula students should be treated in such a way that they become good citizens and good devotees. And they should know the value of life. At other schools the students are like cats and dogs because they do not know the value of life. Therefore the whole world is in a chaotic condition. In other educational institutions, the students are educated to become polished dogs. That's all. But at our Gurukula, students are educated to become human beings. That is the difference: our business is self-realization.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Courts Rule In Favor Of Krsna
Two recent court decisions confirming ISKCON's right to conduct its public programs have increased the scope of the Society's activities. In California, Los Angeles County Fair officials failed in their attempt to bar devotees from the Pomona fairgrounds. Pomona City Court Judge Howard D. McClain ruled that ISKCON members have a legal right to perform sankirtana (chanting Hare Krsna, dancing and distributing literature) at the fair. After seeing pictures of the wide streets at the site, the judge declared that the thirty devotees going to the fair would not inhibit the flow of the 1.5 million visitors expected, as officials had contended.
In Denver, Colorado, another important victory was won when U.S. District Court Judge Fred M. Winner ruled that city ordinances restricting sankirtana at Stapleton International Airport were unconstitutional. His decision specifically confirmed the legality of "such activities as chanting, dancing, disseminating literature, or wearing the common attire of their sect." The victory marks a successful culmination of a three-year battle between Denver ISKCON and the Denver City Council, which had issued two ordinances prohibiting the Society's activities at the airport.
These recent victories highlight a growing legal consensus supporting the public programs of the Krsna consciousness movement. Since the late 1960's, ISKCON has won dozens of court contests in cities around the world, confirming the right to conduct sankirtana on city streets and parks.
New York ISKCON Moves to Manhattan
A long-awaited move across the East River is taking Lord Krsna's New York devotees from two Brooklyn Heights brownstones to a twelve-story temple near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The center at 340 West Fifty-fifth Street has 300 rooms (including offices), an exhibition hall, a restaurant, and a 250-seat theater. On one floor is a magnificent temple room with a beautiful altar of marble and onyx.
Steady growth over the past nine years has gradually taken the New York center, ISKCON's first, from a one-room storefront on the Lower East Side to this location within walking distance of Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Fifth Avenue.
Public relations director Pancaratna dasa said, "Being located in the communications hub of the world is a great advantage for broadcasting the Lord's message more effectively." Official opening day is set for Sunday, November 9 (the festival of Govardhana Puja.)
Janmastami Celebration Draws Thousands
Over fourteen thousand devotees of Krsna, many from London's large Indian community, gathered at Bhaktivedanta Manor to celebrate the Lord's birthday, Janmastami. The manor, ISKCON's British headquarters, is a country estate located in the village of Letchmore Heath, a tiny London suburb.
Local residents were apprehensive at the prospect of such a huge influx of people, and the town's small police force braced itself the day before the August weekend festival. But their fears proved unfounded. Indeed, the Watford Observer described the celebration as a "model of peacefulness."
A colorful wedding, complete with a Vedic fire ceremony, began the two-day program, which continued with movies, slide shows, an art show and lavish vegetarian feasting. The forty devotees who live at the manor also staged an elaborate play depicting a pastime of Lord Krsna and led the guests in chanting the Lord's holy names.
The story of the celebration was carried in England's leading newspapers, the London Times and the London Telegraph, both of which ran pictures of the wedding ceremony. Also on hand to cover the event were the Evening Echo, the Watford Observer and the District Post.
Over the past eight years, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has established fourteen successful farming communities in various parts of the world. As national economies flounder and cities go bankrupt, ISKCON's farms flourish and grow, proving that the Krsna consciousness movement is providing not only potent spiritual knowledge, but a viable alternative lifestyle as well. There's full employment for everyone and natural prosperity when everything's done for Lord Krsna. For more information please write ISKCON's Secretary at 3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, Ca. 90034.
Fraction of Yield Supplies N.Y. Temple
NEW VARSANA (Port Royal, Pa.) From our experience over the past year, we're clearly seeing that Krsna's arrangement for "simple living and high thinking" is easily available for anyone who wants it. By Krsna's grace we were able to feed the entire New York temple of over one hundred devotees throughout the summer with only a fraction of the yield from our garden (two acres of assorted vegetables), one acre of potatoes, and our small herd of cows. And there's plenty left to last the rest of the year, too. In fact, the potatoes we harvested from that one acre could supply the New York devotees for five years! It took six devotees only two days to cut and hand-plant one ton of seed potatoes, and when the potatoes were ready, we dug them up with a simple horse-drawn potato digger that worked very well.
Krsna's six hives of honeybees are still busily gathering what will be our third crop of honey. The honey collected so far has been offered to Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Govinda at the New York temple, sold at the temple store, and given as gifts to the Deities of other temples. The careful management of Adipati has strengthened the hives, and they should produce twice as much honey next year.
Under the management of Devakinandana dasa, our milking operation is also flourishing. Nineteen Brown Swiss cows give about eight hundred fifty gallons of milk weekly, of which two hundred goes to the New York temple. The rest is sold to a nearby dairy, and the income from these sales helps to cover our farm expenses. Our oxen-training program is also off to a good start. One bull has reached training age and will soon be hauling firewood to heat the new building.
Over five hundred neighbors from around the county came to an open house we recently held. Our guests dined on a vegetarian feast offered to Lord Krsna, saw the Hare Krsna movie, talked with the devotees, and appreciated our cows. Generally they seemed quite pleased with their new neighbors. We've also started a program at nearby Penn State University. It seems that Krsna is providing everything we could ask for to advance in His service.
British Columbia Farm Flourishing
NEW GOKULA (Bridesville, British Columbia) In the crisp Canadian morning air, the sound of a drum echoes off the surrounding hills, hand cymbals ring, and voices rise in song as the devotees of Krsna begin another day of devotional service. This is New Gokula, the 320-acre ISKCON farm-asrama in the interior of Canada's westernmost province, British Columbia. Just five miles from Bridesville in the district of Rock Creek, it lies on the rolling land that ends at the United States border.
One of our main projects this summer was transforming the seventy-year-old farmhouse originally on the property into a shining new temple for Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Madana-mohana (the presiding Deities of the community). We doubled the area of the old house by adding a kitchen, a serving room, a guest area, workrooms, and offices. Since Canadian winters are long and snowy, we insulated the entire house and built a special sun-room with double insulating glass for Srimati Tulasidevi (a sacred plant dear to Krsna). The neighbors are amazed at the transformation of the house and farm. All of them are helpful and encouraging: they teach us things like how to get a tractor out of the mud, and we teach them about Krsna.
Rabbits, deer, and squirrels are a few of the many kinds of creatures who share the land with us, but the main animals are the cows. We have nineteen of them (eight of which are milk cows), six calves, a collection of heifers, and four oxen. During the day, they can all be seen grazing on the hills. For several weeks this summer we fenced off one rather wild pasture area, only to find that the cows were too spoiled to eat such rough grasses. They are accustomed to highly cultivated fields. In the spring they loved to get into the budding crop of winter wheat and nibble on the tasty grains. Now, however, they are settling down in a rich pasture of oats.
The cows are giving over three hundred pounds of milk a day, keeping the devotees well nourished. We especially delight in offering Lord Krsna fancy preparations made with yogurt, ghee (clarified butter), cream and curd. All the devotees here at New Gokula are realizing the vital importance of the cow to human life.
New Gokula is especially suited for growing alfalfa. This crop is quite wonderful: not only is it very high protein and the best of all feeds (the cows love it), but it also enriches the soil with nitrogen. It has long roots that absorb minerals and water, and after it's planted, it grows for more than ten years without reseeding.
Weatherwise, it's been a strange year: very cool and dry in the spring, and then cool and wet in summer. Because of this the vegetables did poorly this year, but the grains are doing great. We expect to harvest them soon and fill our granaries to the brim with almost 150 tons of Krsna's mercy.
All in all, though we've had some difficulties, we here in New Gokula are very happy and content. We're confident that if we just follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions and worship Krsna wholeheartedly, He will provide us with everything we need—both materially and spiritually.
By His Holiness Brahmananda Svami
I once visited Vrndavana, India with His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. As I accompanied him on his daily walk one morning we suddenly came upon a particularly beautiful spot. The cool sands were thick with foliage; the tall trees full of singing birds. As the sun brightened the clear morning sky, peacocks filled the air with their peculiar call.
Srila Prabhupada looked over his shoulder and said to me, "So, Brahmananda, this is Vrndavana. How do you like it?"
"It's wonderful, Srila Prabhupada," was all I could reply. I felt that he was actually revealing the glories of Vrndavana to me even though I had no particular spiritual qualification.
Vrndavana is the place where the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna appeared five thousand years ago. Lord Krsna descended there from His own spiritual planet, Goloka Vrndavana to attract us by displaying His supernatural pastimes. Srila Prabhupada has explained that when Krsna descends to the material world, this same Vrndavana descends with Him just as an entourage accompanies an important personage. Because when Krsna comes His land also comes, Vrndavana is not considered to exist in the material world. Therefore devotees take shelter of the Vrndavana in India, for it is considered to be a replica of the original Goloka Vrndavana.
In the spiritual land of Vrndavana, everyone loves Krsna—even the animals and plants. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.15.7) describes how the peacocks greeted Lord Krsna and His brother Balarama: "O worshipable one, just see how the peacocks returning to their nests are greeting You with full pleasure! The cuckoos on the branches of the trees are also greeting You in their own way. All the residents of Vrndavana are glorious because everyone is prepared to render devotional service to You." And later in the same work: "Just see how the cranes and swans on the water are singing the glories of the Lord! While standing in the water they are meditating and worshiping him!"
Even today one can see many different kinds of wildlife in Vrndavana. Indeed, the are appears to be a kind of sanctuary where all living entities can take shelter. For example, Vrndavana is a haven for cows. Hundreds of them in herds go out into the pastures in the morning and dutifully return at sundown. Some venture through the town streets and are fed, patted and offered respect and worship, for everyone knows they are Krsna's favorite pets. Once, on my first visit to Vrndavana, I bathed in the Yamuna and then began walking through one of the outlying forests. I was marveling at how the forest floor had been transformed into a neatly clipped grass carpet by the feeding cows, when suddenly a stream of them came through the trees. Soon hundreds of white cows were all around me, sometimes eating the grass, sometimes nibbling at the leaves on the low-hanging tree branches, sometimes frolicking and running like playful friends. As the passing herd started to thin out, I saw a cowherd boy in the rear, chiding some of the stragglers. He was about nine years old, dark and frail, clad in a simple cloth and carrying a small stick. He ran behind the white heads of the cows, fully absorbed in his occupation. Upon seeing such a sight as this in Vrndavana, how could one possibly not remember Krsna, who is renowned for His role as a transcendental cowherd boy?
Many elderly Bengali widows have also made Vrndavana their haven. Their backs bent with old age, they crowd the city's streets while intently going to the temples. They are especially seen in the early morning on the banks of the river Yamuna, where, draped in their white widows' saris, they look like a flock of white ducks, dipping and bathing and offering their oblations. It is said that half of Vrndavana's twenty-five thousand residents are these Bengali widows. They have come to Vrndavana to die. Having brought whatever life savings they had and deposited it with one of the temples, they receive a room and bare necessities, and in this way they count their days and their prayer beads until they pass away. Although to die in Vrndavana is certainly auspicious, Krsna recommends in the Bhagavad-gita that wherever one may die, if he can at that time remember Krsna or His activities, name, form, or abode, then he is immediately transferred to the transcendental planet of Krsna.
Other inhabitants of Vrndavana are the artisans, the silver craftsmen, the doll makers, the bead carvers, the carpenters, and the shopkeepers. They are all Vrajavasis (people born in Vrndavana) who can trace their families far, far back, and who themselves will never care to leave Vrndavana. There are also the caste gosvamis, who by birthright are the mentors of the temples. They are the town's brahminical aristocrats and are given all respect. Finally, there are the pujaris or temple priests and the numerous babajis. The latter are simply humble beggars, frail and nearly naked, who wear broad clay marks called tilaka on their dark bodies. They eat at the free kitchens called chatras and have no fixed address.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam recommends that when one visits a holy place like Vrndavana, he should take spiritual instructions from the holy persons residing there. Unfortunately, most visitors to Vrndavana fail to do this, and they leave Vrndavana having done little more than take a bath there. Even so, anyone who goes to Vrndavana will be benefited. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada explains in his Srimad-Bhagavatam: "Any person may go [to Vrndavana], and even if he is sinful, he will at once contact an atmosphere of spiritual life and will automatically chant the names of Radha and Krsna. This we have actually seen and experienced." In the Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada further comments: "The places in the eighty-four square-mile district of Mathura, [in which Vrndavana is located] are so beautifully situated on the banks of the river Yamuna that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world." Srila Rupa Gosvami has confirmed in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that even non-devotees who come to Vrndavana can experience transcendental emotions.
But to fully appreciate the transcendental quality of Vrndavana, you must be transcendentally qualified. Krsna and His abode are visible only to His devotees; to others they remain a mystery. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his Srimad-Bhagavatam, "The mystery [of God] is unfolded before the eyes of His pure devotees because their eyes are anointed with love for Him. And this love of Godhead can be attained only by the practice of transcendental service to the Lord, and nothing else. Factually, the spiritually developed person is able to have the vision of the kingdom of God always reflected within his heart..."
The best way to experience Vrndavana is to humbly approach a pure devotee of Krsna and try to receive his mercy. Because he has seen the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can open our eyes and anoint them with love so that we can also get a glimpse. In the same way that a pair of eyeglasses enables a person with poor vision to see everything clearly, the pure devotee is the transparent via medium through which we can clearly perceive God. Therefore to fully appreciate Vrndavana, one should become a devotee of Krsna and become Krsna conscious.
What does it mean to become a devotee? A devotee is one who has purified himself of all material lust by performing devotional service under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. In that pure state of mind and heart, he can devote himself to the Lord and experience transcendental love for God. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his Teachings of Lord Caitanya: "Vrndavana is actually experienced as it is by persons who have stopped trying to derive pleasure from material enjoyment. 'When will my mind become cleansed of all hankering for material enjoyment so I will be able to see Vrndavana?' one great devotee asks. The more Krsna conscious we become and the more we advance, the more everything is revealed as spiritual."
Anyone who goes to Vrndavana should carefully avoid committing any offense there. Vrndavana is the sacred abode of the Lord, and to act sinfully there is equivalent to offending Lord Krsna Himself. A sin committed in the Lord's abode is called dhama-aparadha, and is severely punishable—one hundred times more so than if committed outside Vrndavana. Conversely, a pious act performed in Vrndavana yields one hundred times greater benefit than one performed outside. The numerous hogs, dogs, monkeys and turtles who inhabit Vrndavana attest to many impure devotees who in their last life committed sins in Vrndavana. They've taken birth in one of these lower species, but in their next life, due to developing an attachment for the sacred dust of Vrndavana, they will be promoted back to Godhead by the Lord's mercy.
One should not make the mistake of prematurely retiring in Vrndavana. If one is not advanced in Krsna consciousness and goes there to retire from material activities, he is quite likely to perform material activities in Vrndavana. To prevent this, the Vedic system of varnasrama-dharma provides for a gradual disentanglement from material life. Before taking sannyasa, or complete renouncement, one may enter the order of vanaprastha, in which all family and business responsibilities are handed over to the elder sons. Thus one can travel to various places of pilgrimage with his wife, always, however, maintaining strict celibacy.
But one who is pure enough to actually reside in Vrndavana can develop love of Godhead by following in the footsteps of one of the eternal residents of that land. He should try to emulate the deep devotion of Krsna's friends, parents, or conjugal lovers. Consider Krsna's uncle Akrura: when he entered the outskirts of Vrndavana and saw Krsna's footprints in the dust, his ecstatic love for Him increased so much that the hairs on his body stood up. His eyes were flooded with tears, and in ecstasy he jumped from his chariot and fell down on the ground, calling out, "How wonderful this is! How wonderful this is!" Such pure devotion is the ideal way of seeing Vrndavana. When one loves Krsna this intensely, he also loves Vrndavana in the same way, for one cannot separate Vrndavana from Krsna. Indeed, Krsna is eternally present there, inviting us back to His wonderful abode.
An excerpt from Sri-Caitanya-caritamrta, translation and commentary
At Vidyanagara in South India there were once two brahmanas who decided to make a long tour to see different places of pilgrimage. First they visited Gaya, then Kasi, then Prayaga. Finally, with great pleasure, they came to Mathura. There they visited all twelve forests of Vrndavana, saw Govardhana Hill and at last came to the town of Vrndavana itself.
In Vrndavana, at the site where the Govinda temple is now situated, there was at that time another great temple where gorgeous worship of Lord Gopala was performed. When the pilgrims visited this temple, the beauty of the Gopala Deity stole away their minds, and feeling great happiness, they remained there for a few days.
One of the two brahmanas was an old man, and the other was young. Because the young brahmana always rendered service to the older one, the old man was very pleased with him.
After their stay in the Gopala temple, the older man told the younger, "You have rendered various types of service to me. You have assisted me in traveling to all these places of pilgrimage. Even my own son does not render me such service. By your mercy, I did not become fatigued while on this tour. If I do not show you any respect, I would be ungrateful. Therefore, I promise to give you my daughter in charity."
The younger brahmana replied, "My dear sir, please hear me. You are saying something very unusual; such a thing never happens. While you are a most aristocratic family man, well educated and very rich, I am not at all aristocratic. Indeed, I am without a decent education and have no wealth. Sir, I am not a suitable bridegroom for your daughter. I render service to you only for the satisfaction of Krsna. Lord Krsna is very pleased by service rendered to brahmanas, and when the Lord is pleased, the opulence of one's devotional service increases."
The older brahmana replied, "My dear boy, do not doubt me. I shall give you my daughter in charity, for I have already decided this."
The young brahmana said, "You have a wife and sons, and you have a large circle of relatives and friends. Without their consent, you cannot possibly give me your daughter in charity."
"My daughter is my own property," said the elderly brahmana. "If I choose to give my property to someone, who has the power to stop me? My dear boy, I shall give my daughter to you in charity, and I shall ignore the position of all others. Don't doubt me in this regard; just accept my proposal."
The younger brahmana replied, "If you have actually decided to give your young daughter to me, then say so before the Gopala Deity."
Coming before Gopala, the elderly brahmana said, "My dear Lord, please witness that I have given my daughter to this boy."
In India the custom is to honor any promise made before the Deity. Such a promise cannot be canceled. In Indian villages, whenever there is a quarrel between two parties, they go to a temple to settle it. Whatever is spoken in front of the Deity is taken to be true, for no one would dare lie before the Deity.
Then the younger brahmana addressed the Deity, saying, "My dear Lord, You are my witness. If necessary, I shall call for You to testify later on."
After these talks, the two brahmanas started for home. As usual, the young brahmana accompanied the elderly brahmana as if the older man were his guru (spiritual master) and rendered service to him in various ways.
Upon arriving in Vidyanagara, each brahmana went to his respective home. After some time, the elderly brahmana became very anxious. He began to think, "I have given my word to a brahmana in a holy place, and what I promised will certainly come to pass. I must now disclose this to my wife, sons, other relatives and friends."
Thus the elderly brahmana called for a meeting of all his relatives and friends, and before them he narrated what had taken place in front of Gopala. When those who belonged to the family circle heard the narration of the old brahmana, they made exclamations showing their disappointment, and requested that he not make such a proposal again. They unanimously agreed: "If you offer your daughter to a degraded family, your aristocracy will be lost. When people hear of this, they will make jokes and laugh at you."
The elderly brahmana said, "How can I undo the promise I made in a holy place while on pilgrimage? Whatever may happen, I must give my daughter to the young brahmana."
Once again, the relatives were unanimous. "If you give your daughter to that boy, we shall give up all connection with you." Indeed, his wife and sons declared, "If such a thing happens, we shall take poison and die."
The elderly brahmana said, "If I do not give my daughter to the young brahmana, he will call Sri Gopalaji as a witness. Thus he will take my daughter by force, and in that case my religious principles will become meaningless."
The old man's son replied, "The Deity may be a witness, but He is in a distant country. How can He come to bear witness against you? Why are you so anxious over this? Besides, you do not have to flatly deny you spoke such a thing. There is no need to make a false statement. Simply say that you do not remember what you said, and I shall take care of the rest. By argument, I shall defeat the young brahmana."
The son of the elderly brahmana was an atheist. Consequently, he did not believe in the spiritual position of the Deity, nor did he have any faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As a typical idol worshiper, he considered the form of the Lord to be made of stone or wood. Thus he assured his father that the witness was only a stone Deity and was not capable of speaking. Besides that, he assured his father that the Deity was situated far away and consequently could not come to bear witness.
When he heard his son's statement, the mind of the elderly brahmana became very agitated. Feeling helpless, he simply turned his attention to the lotus feet of Gopala and prayed, "My dear Lord Gopala, I have taken shelter of Your lotus feet, and therefore I request You to please protect my religious principles from disturbance and at the same time save my kinsmen from dying."
The next day, while the elderly brahmana was thinking deeply about this matter, the young brahmana came to his house. After coming before the old man and offering respectful obeisances, he very humbly folded his hands and spoke as follows: "You have promised to give your daughter to me, but now you do not say anything. What is your conclusion?"
The elderly brahmana remained silent. Taking this opportunity, his son immediately came out of the house with a stick to strike the younger man. The son said, "Oh, you are most degraded! You want to marry my sister, just like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon!"
Seeing the stick in the hand of the son, the younger brahmana fled. The next day, however, he gathered together all the people of the village. They called for the elderly brahmana and brought him to their meeting place. The young brahmana then began to speak before them as follows: "This gentleman has promised to give his daughter to me, yet now he does not keep his promise. Please ask him about his behavior."
All the people gathered there addressed the elderly brahmana: "Why are you not fulfilling your promise? You have given your word of honor."
The elderly brahmana said, "My dear friends, I do not exactly remember making a promise like that."
When the old man's son heard this, he took the opportunity to juggle some words. Becoming very impudent, he stood before the assembly and said, "While touring various holy places of pilgrimage, my father carried much money. Seeing the money, this rogue decided to steal it. There was no one besides this man with my father. Giving him an intoxicant known as dhutura to eat, this rogue made my father mad. Then he took all my father's money and claimed that it had been taken by some thief. Now he is claiming that my father has promised to give him my sister in charity. All of you assembled here are gentlemen. Please judge whether it is befitting to offer this poor brahmana my father's daughter."
Hearing these statements, all the people gathered there became a little doubtful. They thought it was quite possible that because of attraction for riches, one might give up his religious principles.
At that time, the young brahmana said, "My dear gentlemen, please hear. Just to gain victory in an argument, this man is lying. Being very satisfied with my service, this brahmana said to me of his own accord, 'I promise to give my daughter to you.' At that time, I forbade him to do this, telling him, 'O best of the brahmanas, I am not a fit husband for your daughter. Whereas you are a learned scholar, a rich man belonging to an aristocratic family, I am a poor man, uneducated and with no claim to aristocracy.'
"Still, this brahmana insisted. Again and again he asked me to accept his proposal, saying, 'I have given you my daughter. Please accept her.' I then said, 'Please hear me. You are a learned brahmana. Your wife, friends and relatives will never agree to this proposal. My dear sir, you will not be able to fulfill your promise. Your promise will be broken.'
"Yet, again and again the brahmana emphasized his promise. 'I have offered you my daughter,' he said. 'Do not hesitate. She is my daughter, and I shall give her to you. Who can forbid me?'
"At that time I concentrated my mind and requested the brahmana to make the promise before the Gopala Deity. When we came before the Deity, this gentleman said, 'My dear Lord, please witness that I have offered my daughter to this brahmana in charity.'
"Accepting the Gopala Deity as my witness, I then submitted the following at His lotus feet: 'My dear Lord, if this brahmana later hesitates to give me his daughter, I shall call on You as a witness. Please note this with care and attention.' Thus I have called upon a great personality in this transaction. I have asked the Supreme Godhead to be my witness. The entire world accepts the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Although the young brahmana described himself as having no claims to aristocracy and as being an uneducated common man, still he had some good qualifications: he believed that the Supreme Personality of Godhead was the topmost authority, he accepted the words of Lord Krsna without hesitation, and he had firm faith in the Lord's consistency. When the young brahmana was finished speaking, the elderly brahmana immediately agreed to his statement. He said, "If Gopala personally comes here to serve as a witness, I shall surely give my daughter to the young brahmana." The elderly brahmana's son also immediately agreed, saying, "Yes, this is a very nice settlement."
As the Supersoul within the heart of all living entities, Krsna knows everyone's desire, everyone's request and everyone's prayer. The father and son were thinking in a contradictory way, yet Krsna created a situation wherein they both agreed.
The elderly brahmana thought, "Since Lord Krsna is very merciful, He will certainly come to prove my statement."
The atheistic son thought, "It is not possible for Gopala to come and bear witness." Thinking like this, both father and son agreed.
The young brahmana took this opportunity to speak: "Please write this down so that you may not again change your word of honor." All the assembled people got this statement down in black and white and, taking the signatures of agreement from both of them, served as the mediators.
The young brahmana then said, "Will all you gentlemen present please hear me? This elderly brahmana is certainly truthful and is following religious principles. He has no desire to break his promise, but fearing that his kinsmen will commit suicide, he is deviating from the truth. By the piety of the elderly brahmana, I shall call the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a witness. Thus I shall keep his truthful promise intact."
The young brahmana immediately started for Vrndavana. Upon arriving there, he first offered his respectful obeisances to the Deity and then narrated everything in full detail. "My Lord," he said, "You are the protector of brahminical culture, and You are also very merciful. Therefore, kindly show your great mercy by protecting the religious principles of us two brahmanas. My dear Lord, I am not thinking to become happy by getting the daughter as a bride. I am simply thinking that the old brahmana has broken his promise, and that is giving me great pain."
It was not at all the intention of the young brahmana to get the daughter of the elderly brahmana in marriage and thus enjoy material happiness and sense gratification. His only concern was that the elderly brahmana had promised something, and if Gopala did not bear witness to that transaction, then the older brahmana would incur a spiritual blemish. That is why the young man went to Vrndavana to ask the Deity for protection and help. The young brahmana was a pure Vaisnava (devotee of the Lord), and his only desire was to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the older brahmana, who was also very devoted to the Lord.
The young brahmana continued, "My dear Sir, You are very merciful and You know everything. Therefore, kindly be a witness in this case. A person who knows things as they are and still does not bear witness becomes involved in sinful activities."
The dealings between a devotee and the Lord are very simple. The young brahmana said to the Lord, "You know everything, but if You do not bear witness, You will be involved in sinful activities." There is no possibility, however, of the Lord's being involved in sinful activities. A pure devotee, even though he knows everything of the Supreme Lord, can speak with the Lord exactly as if He were a common man.
Lord Krsna replied, "My dear brahmana, go back to your home and call a meeting of all the men. In that meeting, just try to remember Me. I shall certainly appear there, and at that time I shall protect the honor of both you brahmanas by bearing witness to the promise."
"My dear Sir," said the young brahmana, "even if You appear there as a four-handed Visnu Deity, still, none of those people will believe in Your words. Only if You go there in this form of Gopala and speak the words from Your beautiful face will Your testimony be accepted by all the people."
Lord Krsna said, "I've never heard of a Deity's walking from one place to another."
The brahmana replied, "That is true, but how is it that You are speaking to me, although You are a Deity? My dear Lord, You are not a statue; You are actually Krsna, the son of Maharaja Nanda. Now, for the sake of the old brahmana, You can do something You have never done before."
Sri Gopalaji then smiled and said, "My dear brahmana, just listen to Me. I shall walk behind you, and in this way I shall go with you."
Those who have understood the science of Krsna—Krsna's name, form, quality and so forth—can also talk with the Deity. To an ordinary person, however, the Deity will appear to be made of stone, wood or some other material. In the higher sense, since all material elements ultimately emanate from the supreme spiritual entity, nothing is really material. Being omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, Krsna can deal with His devotees in any form without difficulty. By the mercy of the Lord, the devotee knows perfectly well about the Lord's dealings. Indeed, he can talk face to face with Him.
The Lord continued, "Do not try to see Me by turning around. As soon as you see Me, I shall remain stationary in that very place. You will know that I am walking behind you by the sound of My ankle bells. Cook one kilo of rice daily and offer it to Me. I shall eat that rice and follow behind you."
The next day, the brahmana started for home, and Gopala followed him, step by step. While he walked, the young brahmana could hear the tinkling sound of the Lord's ankle bells. The brahmana became very pleased, and he cooked first-class rice for Gopala to eat. When he neared his own village, the young man began to think as follows:
"Having now come to my own village, I shall go home and tell all the people that the witness has arrived." Then the brahmana turned to look back, and he saw that Gopala, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was standing there smiling.
The Lord told the brahmana, "Now you can go home. I shall stay here. Do not fear."
The young brahmana then went to the town and informed everyone of Gopala's arrival. They were struck with wonder. All the townspeople went to see the witness Gopala, and when they saw Him actually standing there, they all offered their respectful obeisances. They were very pleased to see the beauty of Gopala, and when they heard He had actually walked there, they were all amazed.
Then the elderly brahmana, being very pleased, came forward and immediately fell like a stick in front of Gopala. Thus in the presence of all the townspeople, Lord Gopala bore witness that the elderly brahmana had offered his daughter in charity to the young brahmana.
After the marriage ceremony was performed, the Lord informed both brahmanas, "You two brahmanas are My eternal servants birth after birth. I have become very pleased by the truthfulness of you both. Now you can ask for a benediction."
With great pleasure, the brahmanas said, "Please remain here so that people all over the world will know how merciful You are to Your servants." Thus Lord Gopala stayed, and the two brahmanas engaged in His service. After hearing of the incident, many people from different provinces began to come to see Gopala. Eventually the king of the province in which Vidyanagara is located heard this wonderful story, and he also came to see Gopala. Being very satisfied, the king constructed a nice temple, and regular service was executed. Thus, the Deity became very famous as Saksi-Gopala, the Gopala who bore witness to the marriage vow.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a worldwide community of devotees practicing bhakti-yoga, the eternal science of loving service to God. The Society was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a pure devotee of God representing an unbroken chain of spiritual masters originating with Lord Krsna Himself.
The following eight principles are the basis of the Krsna consciousness movement. We invite all of our readers to consider them with an open mind and then visit one of the ISKCON center to see how they are being applied inevery day life.
1. By sincerely cultivating a bona fide spiritual science, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness in this lifetime.
2. We are not our bodies but eternal spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (Krsna). As such, we are all brothers, and Krsna is ultimately our common father.
3. Krsna is the eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive Personality of Godhead. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.
4. The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world. However, the oldest know revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words.
5. We should learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master—one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krsna.
6. Before we eat, we should offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krsna becomes the offering and purifies us.
7. We should perform all our actions as offerings to Krsna and do nothing for our own sense gratification.
8. The recommended means for achieving the mature stage of love of God in this age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra: