Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
It's natural to praise someone who does something wonderful, and God does the most wonderful things of all. He creates the entire cosmic manifestation, orbiting countless planets and stars with astonishing skill and artistry. He gives light to the sun and fragrance to a rose, and He invests life in all that lives. Whatever wealth, wisdom, beauty, strength, fame or renunciation we see in this world is merely a fragment of His opulence. He directs the wanderings of all living beings by expanding Himself into everyone's heart. Indeed, the entire universe is pervaded by His energy.
He gives humanity great scriptures revealing the eternal truth about Himself, which can liberate us from all suffering, and He sends His representatives to teach it. Moreover, He Himself descends into the material world and performs superhuman activities to attract and purify our minds.
He knows everything—past, present and future—and never forgets any service rendered to Him, no matter how small. His glorious qualities are unlimited, and He is known by millions of names, like Krsna and Rama. The Hare Krsna mantra is both a glorification of God and an appeal to be engaged in His service. Find out more in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.
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:
Criminals struck every three seconds in the United States as crime rose a dramatic eighteen percent in 1974. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada discusses the problem with Chicago Police Department media relations expert Lt. David Mozee.
Lieutenant Mozee: I understand you have some ideas that could help us in our efforts to prevent crime. I'd be very interested to hear them.
Srila Prabhupada: The difference between a pious man and a criminal is that one is pure in heart and the other is dirty. This dirt is like a disease in the form of uncontrollable lust and greed in the heart of the criminal. Today people in general are in this diseased condition, and thus crime is very widespread. When the people become purified of these dirty things, crime will disappear. The simplest process of purification is to assemble in congregation and chant the holy names of God. This is called sankirtana and is the basis of our Krsna consciousness movement. So, if you want to stop crime, then you must gather as many people as possible for mass sankirtana. This congregational chanting of the holy name of God will dissipate all the dirty things in everyone's heart. Then there will be no more crime.
Lieutenant Mozee: Do you have any feelings about crime here in the United States as opposed to the crime in your own country of India?
Srila Prabhupada: What is your definition of crime?
Lieutenant Mozee: Any trampling on the rights of one person by another person.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Our definition is the same. In the Upanisads it is said, isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything belongs to God." So, everyone has the right to utilize whatever is allotted to him by God, but he may not encroach upon others' property. If he does so, he becomes a criminal. Actually the first crime is that you Americans are thinking this land of America is yours. Although two hundred years ago it was not yours, you have come from other parts of the world and claimed it as your land. Actually it is God's land, and therefore it belongs to everyone, since everyone is a child of God. But the vast majority of people have no conception of God. Practically speaking, everyone is godless. Therefore they should be educated to love God. In America, your government has a slogan: "In God we trust." Is that correct?
Lieutenant Mozee: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: But where is the education about God? To trust is very good, but simple trust will not endure unless it is backed up with scientific knowledge of God. One may know that he has a father, but unless he knows who his father is, his knowledge is imperfect. And that education in the science of God is lacking.
Lieutenant Mozee: Do you feel that it's lacking only here in the United States?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Everywhere. The age we live in is called Kali-yuga, the age of forgetting God. It is an age of misunderstanding and quarrel, and the people's hearts are filled with dirty things. But God is so powerful that if we chant His holy name we become purified, just as my disciples have become purified of their bad habits. Our movement is based on this principle of chanting the holy name of God. We give everyone the opportunity, without any distinction. They can come to our temple, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, take a little prasada as refreshment, and gradually become purified. So if the governmental authorities give us some facilities, then we can hold mass sankirtana. Then, without a doubt, the whole society will change.
Lieutenant Mozee: If I understand you correctly, sir, you are saying that we should emphasize a return to religious principles.
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. Without religious principles what is the difference between a dog and a man? Man can understand religion, but a dog cannot. That is the difference. So if human society remains on the level of dogs and cats, how can you expect a peaceful society? If you bring a dozen dogs and put them together in a room, will it be possible to keep them peaceful? Similarly, if human society is filled with men whose mentality is on the level of dogs, how can you expect peace?
Lieutenant Mozee: If some of my questions sound disrespectful, it is only because I do not completely understand your religious beliefs. I mean no disrespect whatsoever.
Srila Prabhupada: No, it is not a question of my religious beliefs. I am simply pointing out the distinction between human life and animal life. Animals cannot possibly learn anything about God, but human beings can. However, if human beings are not given the facility to learn about God, then they remain on the level of cats and dogs. You cannot have peace in a society of cats and dogs. Therefore, it is the duty of the governmental authorities to see that people are taught how to become God conscious. Otherwise, there will be trouble, because without God consciousness there is no difference between a dog and a man: the dog eats, we eat; the dog sleeps, we sleep; a dog has sex, we have sex; a dog tries to defend itself, and we also try to defend ourselves. These are the common factors. The only difference is that a dog cannot be instructed about his relationship with God, but a man can.
Lieutenant Mozee: Wouldn't peace be a precursor to a return to religion? Must we not first have peace?
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, that is the difficulty. At the present moment, no one actually knows the meaning of religion. Religion means to abide by the laws of God, just as good citizenship means to abide by the laws of the government. Because no one has any understanding of God, no one knows the laws of God, or the meaning of religion. This is the present status of people in today's society. They are forgetting religion, taking it to be a kind of faith. Faith may be blind faith. Faith is not the real description of religion. Religion means the laws given by God, and anyone who follows those laws is religious, whether a Christian, a Hindu, or a Muslim.
Lieutenant Mozee: With all due respect, isn't it true that in India, where religious customs have been followed for centuries upon centuries, we are seeing not a return but a drawing away from spiritual life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but it is due only to bad leadership. Otherwise, the vast majority of the Indian people are fully conscious of God, and they try to follow the laws of God. Here in the West, even big college professors do not believe in God, or life after death. But in India, even the poorest man believes in God, and in a next life. He knows that if he commits sins he will suffer and if he acts piously he will enjoy. To this day, if there is a disagreement between two villagers, they will go to the temple to settle it, because everyone knows that the opposite parties will hesitate to speak lies before the Deities. So in most respects, India is still eighty percent religious. That is the special privilege of taking birth in India, and the special responsibility also. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said,
bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara
Anyone who has taken birth in India should make his life perfect by becoming Krsna conscious. Then he should distribute Krsna consciousness all over the world.
Lieutenant Mozee: Sir, there is a Christian parable that says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to come before the throne of God. Do you think the wealth of the United States and other Western countries is a block to spiritual faith?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Too much wealth is a block. Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (2.44):
If one is materially very opulent, he forgets God. Therefore too much material wealth is a disqualification for understanding God. Although there is no absolute law that only the poor man can understand God, generally if one is extraordinarily rich, his only ambition is to acquire money, and it is difficult for him to understand spiritual teachings.
Lieutenant Mozee: In America, those who belong to the Christian faith also believe these things. I don't see any vast differences between the spiritual beliefs of one religious group and another.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the essence of all religion is the same. Our proposal is that whatever religious system one follows, he should try to understand God and love Him. If you are a Christian, we do not say, "That is no good; you must become like us." Our proposition is that whether you are a Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, simply try to understand God and love Him.
Lieutenant Mozee: If I could return to my original purpose for coming, might I ask what advice you could give to assist us in reducing crime? I recognize that the first and foremost way would be a return to God, as you say—there's no doubt about that—but is there something that we could immediately do to diminish this spreading criminal mentality?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. As I've already outlined in the beginning of our talk, you should give us the facility to chant the holy name of God and distribute prasada. Then there will be a tremendous change in the population. I came alone from India, and now I have many followers. What did I do? I asked them to sit down and chant the Hare Krsna mantra, and afterwards I distributed a little prasada. If this is done on a mass scale, the entire society will become very pleasing. This is a fact.
Lieutenant Mozee: Would you want to start the program in an area of affluence or an area of poverty?
Srila Prabhupada: We do not draw such distinctions. Any place easily available to all kinds of men would be very suitable to hold sankirtana. There is no restriction that only the poor men need the benefit, but the rich do not. Everyone needs to be purified. Do you think criminality exists only in the poorer section of society?
Lieutenant Mozee: No. But I meant to ask whether there would be more of a beneficial influence—more of a strengthening of the community—if the program were held in a poorer area rather than an affluent area.
Srila Prabhupada: Our treatment is for the spiritually diseased person. When a person is afflicted with a disease, there are no distinctions between a poor man and a rich man. They are both admitted to the same hospital. Just as the hospital should be in a place where both the poor man and the rich man can easily come, similarly the location of the sankirtana facility should be easily accessible to all. Since everyone is materially infected, everyone should be able to take advantage.
The difficulty is that the rich man thinks he's perfectly healthy, although he's the most diseased of all. But as a policeman, you well know that there's criminality among rich men and poor men alike. So our chanting process is for everyone because it cleanses the heart, regardless of the man's opulence or poverty. The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal. As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail. Although they know that if they commit theft they will go to jail, still they are forced to steal because of their unclean hearts. Therefore without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement. The thief and the murderer already know the law, yet they still commit violent crimes due to their unclean hearts. So our process is to cleanse the heart. Then all the troubles of this material world will be solved.
Lieutenant Mozee: That's a very difficult task, sir.
Srila Prabhupada: It is not difficult. Simply invite everyone: "Come, chant Hare Krsna, dance and take sumptuous prasada!" What is the difficulty? We are doing this at our centers, and people are coming. But because we have very little money, we can hold sankirtana only on a small scale. We invite everyone, and gradually people are coming to our centers and becoming devotees. If the government would give us a large facility, however, we could expand unlimitedly. And the problem is big; otherwise why are there national news articles asking what to do? No civil state wants this criminality. That's a fact. But the leaders do not know how to stop it. If they listen to us, however, we can give them the answer: Why crime? Because people are godless. And what to do? Chant Hare Krsna and take prasada. If you like, you can adopt this process of sankirtana. Otherwise, we will continue conducting it on a small scale. We are just like a poor medical man with a small private practice who could open a big hospital if he's given the facility. The government is the executor. If they take our advice and adopt the process of sankirtana, then the problem of crime will be solved.
Lieutenant Mozee: There are many Christian organizations in the United States that give the holy communion. Why doesn't this work? Why is this not cleansing the heart?
Srila Prabhupada: To speak frankly, I find it difficult to find one real Christian. The so-called Christians do not abide by the Bible's order. One of the ten commandments in the Bible is, "Thou shalt not kill." But where is that Christian who does not kill by eating the flesh of the cow? The process of chanting the Lord's holy name and distributing prasada will be effective if carried out by persons who are actually practicing religion. My disciples are trained to strictly follow religious principles, and therefore their chanting of the holy name of God is different from others'. Theirs is not simply a rubber-stamped position. They have realized the purifying power of the holy name through practice.
Lieutenant Mozee: Sir, isn't the difficulty that although a small circle of priests and devotees may follow the religious principles, those on the fringe deviate and cause trouble? For example, assume that the Hare Krsna movement grows to gigantic proportions, as Christianity has. Wouldn't you then have a problem with people on the fringe of the movement who professed to be followers, but were actually not?
Srila Prabhupada: That possibility is always there, but all I am saying is that if you are not a true Christian, then your preaching will not be effective. And because we are strictly following religious principles, our preaching will be effective in spreading God consciousness and alleviating the problem of crime.
Lieutenant Mozee: Sir, let me thank you for your time. I will deliver this tape recording to my superiors. Hopefully, it will be effective, as you are effective.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you very much.
by Duhkhahanti-devi dasi
as told to Bibhavati-devi dasi
When I was a young girl in Bordentown, New Jersey, I went to a strict Catholic elementary school. The religious training I received there wasn't too satisfying, though. I remember asking questions like, "Is God old?" "What does He look like?" "What does He do all day?" Unfortunately, none of my teachers could answer these questions, so I began reading outside books to satisfy my curiosity.
During my high school years, I became very interested in journalism—especially the technical aspects of graphics and printing. After I graduated, I got a job at Princeton University Press as an IBM type composer. They put me to work composing a thousand-page book on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the evenings I read books on Oriental religion and mysticism, looking for answers to the questions that had first occurred to me in grade school. But the books were all very vague. They talked about things like "the light" and "cosmic consciousness," but they never gave any concrete answers to my basic questions. One book told me that to meditate I must sit down and try to clear my mind of all thoughts. But when I sat down and tried to do this, all of a sudden I thought, "How can you possibly clear your mind of all thoughts if you're thinking about clearing your mind of all thoughts? That's a thought, and you always have to keep that thought in your mind in order to do it." So I just threw the book out. Meanwhile, I was becoming very bored with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
One day a friend of mine showed me a book she had gotten from a Hare Krsna devotee. It was called Sri Isopanisad, The book's introduction alone was so complete—it explained all the things I'd been wondering about! I didn't know anything about the Hare Krsna movement, but I was so impressed with the book's author, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, that I said to myself, "He must be my spiritual master." Following his instructions in Sri Isopanisad, I started chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.
A few months later, while browsing in a bookstore, I found another book by Srila Prabhupada: Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It was the most beautiful book I'd ever seen. I was very excited about it, so I bought it, took it home, and began to read it. I couldn't put it down. Everyday, I brought the book to work with me. That wonderful Bhagavad-gita changed my life. In fact, it convinced me to become a devotee of Krsna.
One day I was working at my desk when a young man walked into the office. I immediately noticed his saffron robes and shaven head, and then I saw that he was carrying a copy of the same Bhagavad-gita I had on my desk. He was a Hare Krsna devotee, and he'd come to Princeton Press to check on their book production methods. I'd never met a devotee before, but I'd been praying to Krsna to send someone, and I felt that this devotee had been sent by Krsna for my sake.
Later, when I had a chance to talk with him, my first question was, "Do you need any composers?" I'd noticed that Bhagavad-gita As It Is was published by ISKCON Press, and I'd daydreamed of working for them. "If I can compose books like the Bhagavad-gita," I told him, "I'll work for free." The devotee, whose name was Radhavallabha dasa, encouraged me to visit the Hare Krsna temple in New York. He told me about the four basic rules of spiritual life: no meat eating, gambling, illicit sex or intoxication. I immediately began following them because I saw how pure and happy he was, and I wanted to be like that.
Soon afterward I visited the temple in New York. Everyone was very friendly, especially one girl named Rukmini dasi, who went out of her way to be pleasant and encouraged me to move in with the devotees and take up their way of life.
Back in Princeton, I thought about everything that had happened, and I decided to become a full-time devotee. After moving into the temple I immediately began to compose my spiritual master's books at ISKCON Press, and I've been working there ever since. Sometimes, during a rush, I work up to sixteen hours a day, but because these books are sacred, I feel very fulfilled. Krsna consciousness is the practical yoga I'd been looking for all along.
Finding Krsna consciousness was like finding a rain cloud in the desert. It's revealing the truths I've always wanted to know. And I'm especially fortunate to be working on the books of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, for in this way I am helping others to also find out the truth.
By Damodara dasa
"I adopted the theory of reincarnation when I was twenty-six." Henry Ford said that in the San Francisco Examiner on August 26, 1928. This surprising announcement put him in the ranks of a select group of Americans—Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine, and of course Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman—who believed that the soul goes on to a new body when the present body dies. We tend to think of reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul, as a recent import from India, but actually the concept of reincarnation plays an important role in the philosophical and theological tradition of the West. Plato, who lived in Greece during the fourth century B.C. and who helped lay the foundations of Western philosophy, held that "a soul is allied with different bodies at different times." (Laws, 10.903) And in the third century A.D., Origen, one of the fathers of the Christian Church, wrote in his book First Principles:
By some inclination towards evil [certain] souls lose their wings and come into bodies, first of men; then through their association with the irrational passions, after the allotted span of human life they are changed into beasts, from which they sink to the level...of plants. From this condition they rise again to the same stages and are restored to their heavenly place.
However, as Christian theology solidified over the centuries, this view became decidedly heretical, and in A.D. 553, Emperor Justinian issued his Anathemas Against Origen: "If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls and the monstrous restoration which follows from it, let him be anathema [cursed]." This edict snuffed out almost all talk of transmigration throughout Christendom.
Was Justinian right to condemn the idea of reincarnation as "fabulous" and "monstrous," or is the soul actually "allied with different bodies at different times," as Plato thought? The best way to settle the matter is to go directly to the source—the earliest mention of reincarnation. Fortunately, the earliest records of transmigration are also the most philosophically complete. They're found in the Vedic Sanskrit literature written around 3,000 B.C. In India.
The Vedic view of reincarnation is clearly explained in the Bhagavad-gita, which is universally accepted as the essence of Vedic spiritual knowledge. In the Gita, the Supreme Lord Krsna enlightens His student and friend Arjuna in the science of self-realization, beginning with a lucid presentation of the process of reincarnation.
The Soul Within the Body
Right at the beginning of His instruction to Arjuna, Lord Krsna declares that transmigration of the soul is a fact: "As the embodied soul passes, in this body, from boyhood, to youth, to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death."(Bg. 2.13) The existence of the soul—an unchanging conscious principle within an ever-changing material body—is implied by the recent findings of modern science. In The Human Brain, Professor John Pfeiffer points out that "your body does not contain a single one of the molecules that it contained seven years ago." He compares the living body to a whirlpool. The form doesn't change, but all the ingredients stream through at a dizzying pace. In his Foundations of Biology, L. L. Woodruff gives another apt analogy:
...The old saying that the materials forming the human body change completely every seven years is a tacit recognition that lifeless material, in the form of food, is gradually transformed into similar living matter under the influence of the body. Indeed, just as a geyser retains its individuality from moment to moment, though it is at no two instants composed of the same two molecules of water identically placed, so the living individual is a focus into which materials enter, play a part for some time, and then emerge to become dissipated in the environment.
So, during the seventy-year lifetime of an average American, he has "died" and been "reborn" ten times. Of course, unlike the body's ultimate demise, when personal identity seems to end, these intermediate "deaths" don't destroy the body's structure and personal characteristics. Be that as it may, however, the physical substances of a seventy-year-old person's body have actually changed ten times over. Has he been ten different people? Of course not. But then what exactly do we mean by the word "person"?
The best way to answer this question is to contemplate the person we know best—ourselves—through a simple exercise in memory. For instance, the farthest back I can remember is a day when I was about one-and-a-half years old. I was asking my mother if she could understand what I had been saying to her. I didn't know the right words, though, and I became very frustrated. In my mind this incident sticks out vividly—what it was like physically and psychologically. Through such memories I can directly experience the continuity of my existence over the years. I can recall millions of things I did, saw, heard and felt. No one else enjoyed or suffered all these things—only I did. Thus I as a person am continuous, despite the discontinuity of my body.
Going further, I can become aware that my emotions, thoughts and memories are also ever-changing. I'm actually an observer of even these mental phenomena. They are flowing by me in the same way that the molecules of my physical body are flowing by me. My body is a gross form made of gross particles, and my mind is a subtle form made of subtle particles. But I'm neither one of them. The person I call myself is in reality a continuity of consciousness—an eternal spiritual soul.
The question now arises, "Why haven't the scientists found the soul?" The simple answer is that an empirical scientist observes everything through his material senses and mind, which are too gross to perceive the subtle spiritual soul. There are some scientists, however, who do understand something of the existence of the person beyond the mind and body. For example, physicist Irwin Schroedinger, who in 1933 won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work in wave mechanics, wrote in What Is Life?: "Even if a skilled hypnotist succeeded in blotting out all your earlier reminiscences, you would not find that he had killed you. In no case is there a loss of personal existence to deplore. Nor will there ever be." Of course, the most definitive statement on this subject is given by Lord Krsna Himself: "For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (Bg. 2.20)
The Sojourn of the Soul
How you (the soul) pass from one body to another is explained by Lord Krsna through a striking analogy: "Just as a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." (Bg. 2.22) Lord Krsna explains that the mind is the mechanism behind these transmigrations: "Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail [in his next life]." (Bg. 8.6) Everything we've thought and done during our life makes an impression on our mind, and the sum total of all these impressions determines our final thoughts at death, According to the quality of these thoughts, we are awarded a suitable new body after death.
I remember that when I was ten or twelve, back in the early fifties, we used to jokingly say things like "Don't kill that fly! It may be your great-grandfather!" That wasn't too far off, but we missed the real point of transmigration, which is that our next body after this one is better or worse according to the quality of our activities in this life. If we're saintly, we'll get a saintly body next time, but if we're doggish, we'd better prepare ourselves for a dog's life after this one. This is the law of karma, which states that for every action we perform, either good or bad, there is an appropriate reaction to be reaped either in this life or in a future life.
So the millionaire and the genius are reaping the benefits of good karma, and the pauper and the dunce, having committed sinful activities, are getting their just deserts. Perhaps we would like the system better if everyone became a millionaire or a genius, but the purpose of the law of karma is not to provide us a cozy homestead in the material world. The purpose is to bring us to the point of asking the all-important question: "How can I escape from the painful cycle of birth and death?"
And a tediously painful cycle it is. According to the Vedas, the vast cosmic wheel of birth and death rolls through 8,400,000 species of life: 900,000 aquatics, 2,000,000 plants, 1,100,000 insects, 1,000,000 birds, 3,000,000 quadrupeds, and 400,000 humans. If you start at the lowest level, you first have to pass through the very simplest one-celled organisms before reaching those with sense perception. Finally, you evolve through all the mammals up to the human stage. Krsna explains that after death "the living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of eye, ear, tongue, nose, and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects." (Bg. 15.9) Therefore the type of body we have now is an expression of our consciousness at the time of our last death.
As Origen guessed back in the third century, the path of karma doesn't always lead uphill. Once having reached the human stage, we can fall back down into lower forms of life if we misuse the facilities of the human body. The human form is special because only human beings have sufficient intelligence to inquire into the means for getting out of the cycle of birth and death. Only in the human form can we stop identifying ourselves with the bodies we are passing through and learn to see our spiritual identity within. Once we realize our eternal, indestructible spiritual nature, we are free from the vicious cycle of birth and death.
The Soul and the Supersoul
To actually establish ourselves on the spiritual platform, not only must we know ourselves (spirit) and matter (our bodies, minds and the world around us), but we must know the controller of both (God) as well. We know that God exists because there's no other sensible explanation for the design of the universe. A story about Isaac Newton illustrates this point well. The famous British scientist once made an intricate model of the solar system. Somehow he'd figured out how to gear miniature planets to revolve around a miniature sun in a facsimile of their observed orbits. One day an acquaintance, an atheist, dropped by his house and was astonished by the ingenious machine.
"Who made this wonderful machine?" he asked. "Nobody," Newton replied. "It just happened." "Oh come now, stop teasing me. Who put together this machine?"
"Well," said Newton, "you're convinced that some person constructed this machine. But when you confront the entire universe, which is manufactured with a degree of precision far beyond that of this model, and on a scale infinitely greater, then you say it just happened by chance. Why is that? Only because you don't want to admit there's a person so great he could do such a thing. But there is, and He is God."
What role God plays in our sojourn throughout the many species of life in the material world is explained by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita: "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart...and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine made of the material energy." (Bg. 18.61) When we transmigrate from one body to another, we forget all our past activities and unfulfilled desires. But the omniscient Lord, the eternal witness within our heart, knows all these things, and He fashions another body just suitable for us to try to satisfy our unfulfilled desires.
Thus the only way to escape from the chained victimization of repeated birth and death in this material world is to transform our mentality in such a way that at the moment of death we'll be completely free of all material desires. It's not necessary, or even possible, to stop desiring altogether; rather, it is the quality of our desires that must change—from material to spiritual. Material desires we're familiar with—we've been cultivating them all our lives. But what are spiritual desires, and how can we cultivate them? Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me and become My devotee. Offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." (Bg. 9.34)
At present we are always absorbed in thoughts of material well-being. As we have seen, however, this mentality inevitably leads to the misery and frustration of repeated birth and death. To be released from this painful wheel of karma, we need only transfer our thoughts to the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Then, at the time of death, He will award us a spiritual body to enjoy eternal, blissful association with Him.
The easiest way to absorb our mind in thoughts of Krsna is to hear and chant His glories, beginning with the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In addition, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has written many books describing the activities, qualities and words of Lord Krsna. By sincerely trying to follow the instructions found in these books, all of which contain the highest Vedic wisdom, one can cultivate loving devotion to Krsna and go back home, back to Godhead at the end of this lifetime.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Srila Prabhupada Visits Mauritius
A recent tour of Africa took His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada through East and South Africa, and to the island state of Mauritius, six hundred miles off the coast of Madagascar. There he spoke with many people, among them Mr. Khemraj Gungah, president of the Narmadesvara Sivalaya temple in Rose Bell, and Mr. Gautum Teelock, exParliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture. Contrasting ancient Vedic culture with modern civilization, His Divine Grace noted:
"Vedic society is based on the principle of love—between husband and wife, father and son, the king and the citizens, and so on. Civilization must be founded on love, not law. By law you cannot make a person love you. First he must love you, then he will gladly follow your law.
"Modern civilization lacks this basis of love, so everything is superficial and false. But if devotion to Krsna [God] is made the basic principle, then people will be happy."
Knowing of local plans to reorganize social and political structures, Srila Prabhupada then proposed that an ideal state based on the instructions of Bhagavad-gita be set up in Mauritius. "People will be very inclined to it," he said. "In a big state—especially a highly industrialized one—it would not be possible, but in a small state like Mauritius you can make it happen. You wouldn't be making a new experiment. This experiment has already been made and proven successful. In Vedic days, people lived strictly according to the principles summarized by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. They made the test and proved that the principles are true. So you just have to follow what is already there. You simply have to accept the Vedic authority."
ISKCON Flourishing in Latin America
Returning from a ten-week tour of Latin America, His Holiness Hrdayananda dasa Gosvami, director of ISKCON's activities in that part of the world, reported that the Krsna consciousness movement is flourishing there. "We're even distributing Srila Prabhupada's books in the middle of the Amazon jungle," he said. He went on to describe how a small party of devotees rode a jungle boat up the Amazon river to the city of Manaus in the interior of Brazil. They stayed there for one week, distributing literature and giving talks on Krsna consciousness.
Elsewhere in Brazil, thirty devotees transformed a large house in the modern city of Sao Paulo into a gracious temple. They're looking forward to touring the country in a newly acquired bus to distribute the forthcoming Portuguese-language Sri Isopanisad, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Bhagavad-gita. Another new facility is a beautiful fifty-acre farm about one hundred miles north of Rio de Janeiro.
In San Jose, Costa Rica, His Holiness met with acting President Jose Guzman and later made two one-hour guest appearances on Costa Rica's most popular TV talk show.
And in Trinidad, the devotees went to court after the police tried to stop their public chanting of Hare Krsna. The verdict? "Why are you bothering these respectable young men and women?" the judge asked the police. "Let them go on with their work. They're doing good."
by Visakha-devi dasi
Speaking on the troubled condition of our modern world, the late historian Arnold Toynbee once said, "The cause of it [the world's malady] is spiritual. We are suffering from having sold our souls to the pursuit of an objective which is both spiritually wrong and practically unobtainable. We have to reconsider our objective and change it. And until we do this, we shall not have peace, either amongst ourselves or within each of us."
The conditions of our urbanized, technology-oriented society that prompted Dr. Toynbee's remarks are no mystery to us. Especially in the West, and increasingly in the rest of the world, the mad quest for artificial luxuries has created a chaotic atmosphere pervaded by greed and power-seeking. The goal of life? "How many ways can I make money?" and "How many ways can I spend it?" The results of such a philosophy are painfully evident: internationally, we face the risk of nuclear destruction; nationally, crime waves and political corruption rule the land; and individually, we are plagued with anxiety, frustration and despair. This is the unfortunate result of a society without spiritual direction. According to the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, a truly peaceful, progressive society must be based on service to God. Such a spiritually evolved civilization actually flourished on this planet five thousand years ago and the people were rich in both spiritual and material assets. The Supreme Lord was pleased with the service rendered by the citizens, and thus He profusely supplied the necessities of life—milk, food grains, fruits, vegetables, silk, cotton, minerals and jewels. Being fully satisfied spiritually, people did not look for pleasure in artificial sensual stimulation indulged in at the cost of health and sanity. People lived simply, close to nature and close to God—free of the encumbrances of a modern mechanistic civilization. Dwelling on tracts of land suitable for complete self-sufficiency, Vedic agricultural families used all the resources at hand. Because the cows were treated very affectionately and protected from any harm, they were very joyful and secure. Thus, they contributed much greater amounts of milk than today's animals. The very valuable cow dung was used not only as a fertilizer but also as a heating and cooking fuel, and even as a cleanser. (Modern science has confirmed the disinfectant properties of cow dung.) And bulls provided the muscle for plowing and harvesting the fields, milling the grain, and pulling oxcarts full of people and commodities.
Accustomed as we are to modern conveniences, we may regard such a life as primitive and far from ideal. However, when the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna appeared on this planet five thousand years ago, He showed by His own example that for both material prosperity and spiritual advancement, human civilization must maintain the cow and bull very carefully.
At New Vrndavana, ISKCON's Vedic village near Moundsville, West Virginia, Lord Krsna's example is being put into practice. Established by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada nine years ago, New Vrndavana now spreads over one thousand acres of hilly farmland and is a perfect example of the benefits derived from organizing society according to the principles of cow protection and service to Krsna. His Holiness Kirtanananda Svami, leader of the New Vrndavana community, describes the project's purpose: "It is a great vision of presenting to everyone, not only in this country but in the whole world, how one can become Krsna conscious living just as Krsna lived in Vrndavana, depending on nature and the cows."
The following is a conversation between BTG staff photographer Visakha-devi dasi and two cowherd men of New Vrndavana.
Visakha dasi: You seem to enjoy working with cows very much. Can you tell us why?
Ambarisa dasa: The cows here at New Vrndavana are special. You can sense this immediately when you come in contact with them. They're Krsna's cows. They're very dear to Krsna, and when you work with them it's easy to remember Him. They're mellow and their temperament reflects on you.
You have to approach them with an attitude of service. By relating to them on a personal basis and serving them with a humble attitude, you can see them as living beings with feelings and personalities. Most farmers raise cows with a dollar sign in their mind. It's very impersonal. Regular dairy farmers or ranchers use the cow as a machine or a tool for their own selfish ends. It's very gross. But when we serve Krsna's cows, we realize that each one has a specific personality.
Visakha dasi: Why do you say that these cows at New Vrndavana are Krsna's cows? Aren't all the cows everywhere Krsna's cows?
Ambarisa dasa: Yes, but these cows are special. They belong to Krsna even more because they're serving Krsna more. That is, their milk is being offered to Krsna in the temple here. That's why we take so much trouble with them. Because the milk they give is for the pleasure of Lord Krsna. Also, these cows are happier than cows on other farms. Most farmers send their cows to the slaughterhouse when they get to be a certain age. The cows know they're going to be slaughtered—they can sense it. They seem very sad, so they're less attractive. But our cows know they're not going to be slaughtered—they know they're being protected. They're a lot happier, and they give lots of milk.
Visakha dasi: What's your daily routine?
Ganendra dasa: One of the best things about working with cows is that your life becomes well regulated. We get up at two in the morning to milk the cows. It's very nice because we know we're doing it just to please Lord Krsna. It puts us right on the transcendental plane first thing in the day.
The schedule fits in nicely with our temple routine. We milk the cows at two o'clock, and as soon as we're done milking, we go into the temple and attend the morning functions. We're busy all the time this way, and we don't fall down to a mundane level. The early morning hours are the best time for spiritual practice.
Ambarisa dasa: Cows are the most regulated animals I know. They eat at a certain time, are milked at a certain time, go out to the fields at a certain time, walk so many hours a day, chew their cud for so many hours a day. Their bodies function on a tight schedule, and whenever this schedule is upset even a little bit, they immediately let you know. So you have to be really fixed in your duty. You have to think, "If I don't milk the cows, they'll get sick, and then they won't give any milk." The devotees who are cooking the food that gets offered to Krsna are thinking the same thing—"If I don't cook this offering for Krsna, then He won't get anything to eat." The consciousness is very personal, very nice.
Ganendra dasa: It's just like with people. There's always an exchange of feelings. Since the cow is a person too, when we become friendly toward them, each cow responds personally. That's how cows are—the more affectionate you are to them, the more affectionate they are to you. They give more milk and are happier.
Ambarisa dasa: That's one thing about New Vrndavana. All the animals here are free from anxiety, and anyone who comes here feels that and also becomes free from anxiety. Recently a newspaper reporter visited us, and he wrote in his article that when you're at New Vrndavana you may not realize how free from the mundane rat race you are, but as soon as you go back you understand that you've been in a transcendental place.
Visakha dasi: Do you think it's practical to put so much emphasis on the cow?
Ganendra dasa: Well, we've seen here that cows actually can support human society materially and spiritually. In fact, that's the purpose of the cow. They give more milk than their calves can drink. So the extra milk is meant for us—it helps us develop a good brain for understanding spiritual life. Also, she supplies pure cow dung that can be recycled into the fields to cultivate the grains and the pastures. And the bull helps till the fields. In this way a perfect cycle is maintained. We cultivate crops on land fertilized with manure; then we offer the food to Lord Krsna: Krsna eats sumptuously, we eat sumptuously, the cows eat sumptuously, and everyone is satisfied.
On the other hand, slaughtering the cow is detrimental to everyone. The meat is harmful to your body and your brain. And the cow has been caused much pain, so there are great sinful reactions to suffer. If you protect the cows, give them what they want, and derive the benefits in the way Krsna intended, then when they die of their own accord you can use the skin for leather, if necessary. But you don't have to kill cows.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam says the cow is an offenseless living being. It's Krsna's arrangement that the cow takes so little and gives so much. From her milk you can make hundreds of delicious preparations. She simply performs her service very peacefully without any bother to anyone. These are the qualities of an ideal devotee, and they're reflected on those who work with the cows.
From the standpoints of health,
Although meat is certainly a source of concentrated protein it is a very poor source of other food elements like minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates. In addition, eating flesh from the cow or any other animal is detrimental to the health of human beings for many reasons. For example, if a human, who has a much longer colon than the carnivorous animals, eats flesh, the following problems will ensue:
1. Intestinal bacteria in the long bowel will change from fermentative to putrefactive, thus causing poisons to be absorbed into the bloodstream. These poisons need to be eliminated, so energy is diverted from other essential bodily functions, including thinking.
2. The natural synthesis of vitamin B12 will be inhibited, possibly leading to anemia.
3. Animal toxins will tend to disrupt the proper metabolism of carbohydrates. This can cause diabetes.
4. Nonnutritive substances resulting from the digestion of animal flesh tend to be carcinogenic (cancer-inducing) irritants.
The minimum daily requirement of protein, which nutritional experts calculate to be between seventy and ninety grams, is easily achieved with dairy products and foods from the vegetable kingdom. Protein, is found in ample quantity in milk, cheese, yogurt, whole wheat, corn, many varieties of nuts and beans, and some vegetables. Thus vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products provide a perfectly balanced diet. Consuming animal flesh, on the other hand, results in excess protein, which produces liver ailments, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries.
In addition, dead animal flesh contains many toxic elements, such as:
1. Wastes from the dead animal's bloodstream, germs, and drugs injected to offset animal disease.
2. Fear poisons released into the bloodstream at the time of slaughter.
3. Bacteria from putrefactive decomposition, which commences as soon as the animal dies. Because flesh is an excellent insulator, not all of these bacteria are killed by cooking.
Due to forced feeding, penning, and other unnatural practices, animals raised for slaughter suffer from dozens of diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, fevers, catarrhal conditions, cancer, tuberculosis, and mastitis. In addition, poultry are often impregnated with estrogens, which can cause cancer. Many studies in cancer research reveal that areas in which meat-eating is highest tend to have the highest cancer rate, while vegetarian areas generally have a far lower rate.
Immediately after an animal is slaughtered, rigor mortis sets in, and then the process of decay takes over. Thus meat-eating always involves consumption of decayed flesh together with its incumbent dangers to health.
The implementation of cow protection at the international level would be a massive step forward in solving the world food crisis. Some economic advantages of cow protection are as follows:
1. Flesh foods are more than fifty percent water and therefore extremely costly to buy as a source of protein.
2. Land that will produce one ton of beef will produce ten to twenty tons of highly nutritive vegetable food.
3. For every hundred pounds of dry substances eaten by cattle, only four to sixteen pounds comes back as flesh foods.
Some Ethical Considerations
1. Slaughtering animals causes extreme suffering. Animals are sentient creatures with feelings like humans. Cows especially can sense that they are going to be slaughtered, and they live in constant fear.
2. We have no right to artificially end the life of any creature, especially that of a cow, who nurses her own offspring and the whole human society with her milk.
3. Killing animals breeds insensitivity toward all beings, sadism and general irreverence. Pythagoras taught, "Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men."
The strict law of karma deals measure for measure with anyone who violates the laws of nature. As long as the people of the world continue to murder and eat their two most benign friends, the cow and bull, they will perpetually suffer the sinful reactions of criminal violence and catastrophic wars.
1. The Case for Vegetarianism, Geoffrey L. Rudd
2. Man's Place in Nature, T.H. Huxley
3. H.M.S.O. Manual of Nutrition (British Gov't.)
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.
I read in BTG, Vol. 10, No. 11, that your society recently acquired a twelve-story temple building near Columbus Circle in New York City. Isn't using a facility like this somewhat hypocritical for an organization that professes detachment from material things?
Dear Mr. Schaefer,
As far as renunciation of material things is concerned, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has commented in The Nectar of Devotion:
"One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord. For instance, we are using many machines for the advancement of our present Krsna consciousness movement, machines like typewriters, dictaphones, tape recorders, microphones and airplanes. Sometimes people ask us, 'Why are you utilizing material products if you condemn the advancement of material civilization?' But actually we do not condemn. We simply ask people to do whatever they are doing in Krsna consciousness. If the typewriter can be utilized for advancing our Krsna consciousness movement, we must accept it. Similarly, the dictaphone or any other machine must be used. Our vision is that Krsna is everything. Krsna is the cause and effect, and nothing belongs to us. Krsna's things must be used in the service of Krsna."
I have read in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is that to progress on the path of devotion to Krsna, one must be in the association of other devotees and under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. Must this association and guidance be in person, or does studying the writings of the spiritual master amount to the same thing?
Dear Mr. Payne,
There are two kinds of association with the spiritual master—by his physical presence and through his words. Srila Prabhupada has emphasized that associating with him by hearing his words or reading his books is more important than being in his physical presence. In a letter to one of his disciples, he wrote: "It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that maya [illusion] is very strong—insurmountable—but that one who surrenders to Krsna is not touched by maya. So, all our books are as good as Krsna because in them we deal only with the topic of Krsna. Therefore taking shelter of these books means taking shelter of Krsna—there is no doubt about it. If you stick to this principle, maya will not attack you."
As far as association with devotees is concerned, Lord Caitanya has declared that giving up the company of worldly-minded persons and associating only with devotees is the first principle of bhakti-yoga. Srila Prabhupada has established numerous Krsna consciousness centers throughout the world expressly for this purpose. Anyone can come and live at one of these centers, cultivate Krsna consciousness according to the rules and regulations prescribed by the spiritual master, and be completely free from the influence of mundane persons. Of course, such total involvement is often out of the question for a person with deep family and business commitments, but as far as possible anyone serious about advancing in Krsna consciousness should deal with non-devotees as little as possible and cultivate friendships with devotees through correspondence and personal visits to nearby Krsna consciousness centers. In this way any sincere person, regardless of his circumstances, can advance on the path back to Godhead.
A story from Srimad-Bhagavatam.
There was once a young brahmana named Ajamila, who was a reservoir of good character and conduct. He was mild and gentle, always truthful, well versed in the Vedic scriptures, and very pure.
One day, on the request of his father, Ajamila went to the forest to collect fruit, flowers and grasses. On the way home, he came upon a very lusty low-class man embracing and kissing a prostitute. Both of them were drunk, and the man was smiling, singing and enjoying himself without shame. The prostitute's eyes were rolling in intoxication, and her dress had become loose. When Ajamila saw her, the lusty desires in his heart awakened, and in illusion he fell under their control.
Remembering the instructions of the scriptures, Ajamila tried not to gaze at the woman. He strained to control his lusty desires with the help of his knowledge and intellect, but he failed and as a result lost all his good sense. In the days that followed he always thought about the prostitute, and within a short time he took her as a servant in his house and abandoned all the brahminical principles.
Ajamila began spending the money he had inherited from his father on various gifts to satisfy the prostitute. He even abandoned his beautiful young wife, who came from a very respectable family. Thus Ajamila spent his long life irresponsibly breaking all the rules and regulations of the holy scriptures. He was unclean and addicted to forbidden activities. Living extravagantly, he maintained his family by harassing others, cheating, gambling and theft.
Over the eighty-eight years of Ajamila's life, he fathered ten sons by the prostitute. Ajamila's youngest son, a baby named Narayana, was naturally very dear to both his father and mother. The child's broken language and awkward movements greatly endeared him to old Ajamila, who always took care of him and enjoyed his activities.
Narayana is a name for God, and thus unintentionally the old man was always chanting the holy name of the Lord. Although he was referring to his son and not the original Narayana, Ajamila was becoming purified because the holy name of Narayana is very powerful. Always taking care of his son and calling his name, Ajamila was not aware that his own life was now exhausted. As the time of death approached for the foolish Ajamila, he began thinking exclusively of his son Narayana.
At the moment of death, Ajamila saw three awkward persons with deformed bodily features, fierce and twisted faces, and hair standing erect on their bodies. They were the Yamadutas (the servants of Yamaraja, the lord of death), and they had come to take Ajamila away to their master's abode. When Ajamila saw them, he became extremely bewildered, and because of his attachment to his child, who was playing a short distance away, he loudly and tearfully called the child's name: "Narayana!"
Immediately the Visnudutas, the servants of the Supreme Lord Visnu (Narayana), arrived on the spot. They had heard the holy name of their master from the mouth of the dying Ajamila, who had chanted without offense because he had chanted in complete anxiety. As the Visnudutas arrived, the Yamadutas were snatching the soul from the body of the dying Ajamila. With resounding voices, the messengers of Lord Visnu ordered them to stop and thus saved Ajamila from death. Although the servants of Yamaraja have jurisdiction over all sinful living beings, the messengers of Visnu are capable of punishing even Yamaraja himself if he wrongs a devotee of Visnu, the Supreme Lord.
When the Yamadutas were thus forbidden from carrying out their mission, they exclaimed, "Who are you, sirs, that you dare challenge the jurisdiction of Yamaraja? Whose servants are you, where have you come from, and why are you forbidding us to touch Ajamila? You may know that this man Ajamila did not undergo atonement for his sins. Because of his sinful life, we must take him to the court of Yamaraja for punishment. According to the extent of his sinful acts, he will be punished and thus purified."
The Visnudutas replied, "Ajamila has already atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those performed in millions of lives, for in a helpless condition he chanted the holy name of Narayana. Although he was calling his son's name, he nevertheless uttered the four syllables na-ra-ya-na. Simply by chanting the name of Narayana in this way, he sufficiently atoned for the sinful reactions of millions of lives.
"Chanting the holy name of the Lord is the best process of atonement for a thief, for a drunkard, for one who betrays a friend or relative, for one who kills a brahmana, for one who indulges in sex with the wife of his guru or another superior, for one who murders women, the king or his father, for one who slaughters cows and for all other sinful men. Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, such sinful persons can attract His attention.
At the time of death, Ajamila helplessly and very loudly chanted the holy name of the Lord. That chanting alone has already freed him from the reactions of all sinful life. Therefore, O servants of Yamaraja, do not try to take him to your master for punishment. One who chants the holy name is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly to indicate something else, jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures. If one chants the holy name of Hari and then dies because of an accidental misfortune, one is immediately absolved from having to enter hellish life, even though he is sinful.
"Although one may neutralize the reactions of sinful life through austerity, charity, vows and other such methods, these pious activities cannot uproot the material desires in one's heart. However, if one serves the Personality of Godhead, he is immediately freed from all such contaminations. If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine, it will act even without his knowledge because the medicine's potency does not depend on the patient's understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective."
The Visnudutas released the brahmana Ajamila from the bondage of the Yamadutas and thus saved him from death. Ajamila, now free from fear, came to his senses and immediately offered respects to the Visnudutas by bowing his head at their feet. He was extremely pleased by their presence, for they had saved him from the Yamadutas. When the Visnudutas saw that Ajamila was attempting to say something, they suddenly disappeared.
Having heard the discourse between the Yamadutas and the Visnudutas, Ajamila could now understand the transcendental religious principles concerning the relationship between the living being and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Furthermore, since Ajamila had heard their glorification of God, he was now a perfectly pure devotee and could thus remember all his past sinful activities, which he greatly regretted having performed.
I am such a sinful person," he said. "But now since I have this opportunity, I must completely control my mind, life and senses and always engage in devotional service so that I may not again fall into the deep darkness and ignorance of material life. Because I identified myself with my body, I was subjected to desires for sense gratification and thus performed many pious and impious acts. That was my material bondage.
But now I shall disentangle myself from that bondage. Being a most fallen soul, I was victimized by illusions and was like a dancing dog led around by a woman's hand. Now I shall give up these lusty desires and free myself from these illusions. I shall become a merciful, well-wishing friend to all living entities and always absorb myself in Krsna consciousness."
Because of a moment's association with devotees of the Supreme Lord, Ajamila was able to detach himself with determination from the material conception of life. Freed from all material attraction, he immediately started for the city of Hardwar on the Ganges River. In Hardwar, Ajamila stayed at a Visnu temple, where he executed bhakti-yoga, the process of devotional service. He controlled his senses and fully applied his mind in the service of the Lord. When his intelligence and mind were fixed on the form of the Lord, Ajamila once again saw before him the four celestial messengers of Visnu. Recognizing them as the ones he had seen previously, he offered his respects by bowing down before them.
The Visnudutas had gone away for some time to allow Ajamila to become firmly fixed in meditation on the Lord. Now that his devotion had matured, they returned to take him back to the spiritual world. Upon seeing the Visnudutas, Ajamila gave up his material body and regained his original spiritual body, which was just suitable for an associate of the Lord. This is the result of perfection in Krsna consciousness: after giving up the material body, one is immediately transferred to the spiritual world in one's original spiritual body to become an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Accompanied by the Visnudutas, Ajamila then boarded a golden airplane that took him through the airways, directly to the abode of the Supreme Lord Visnu, the husband of the goddess of fortune. Although he had been destined to be carried away to hell by the Yamadutas, Ajamila was saved by the Visnudutas and was able to go back home, back to Godhead, because he chanted the holy name of the Lord at the time of his death. Therefore if a person faithfully and inoffensively chants the holy name of the Lord, who can doubt that he will return to Godhead?
At the time of death one is certainly bewildered because his bodily functions are in disorder. At that time, even one who throughout his life has practiced chanting the holy name of the Lord may not be able to chant the Hare Krsna mantra very distinctly. Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit, therefore, we should chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly. If one does so, it is quite possible that even at the time of death he will be able to properly chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith and return home, back to Godhead, without a doubt.