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:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Once you've heard it, you'll never forget it. You may not know what the words mean—nevertheless there's something captivating about the Hare Krsna chant. Is it the catchy tune, or the fascinating way in which the words are repeated and reversed? People who chant Hare Krsna say both contribute to its appeal. But they know that the secret of the chant's attraction is the quality of the sound itself.
Anyone can take three words and make a song out of them, combining them in a clever way. But can that concoction be meditated on all day and night? Would the chanters of those words report, as do the chanters of Hare Krsna, that the practice is freeing them from anxiety, opening up their minds to a liberated view of themselves, and investing them with blissfulness? No, of course not. The invented litany would only drive its creators to distraction.
But the sound of Hare Krsna is so enriching that a whole culture has been founded on it. Furthermore, the people who chant Hare Krsna are developing good character, gaining knowledge of both the material and spiritual worlds, and helping other people to be free from pain. There is, then, a special quality to the sound of Hare Krsna. What is it?
The words Hare, Krsna, and Rama have a special quality because they are seeds of pure spiritual consciousness. They are not a product of an earthbound language changing through the centuries. They are names of God, as ceaselessly energetic as God Himself. When you pronounce these sounds, you are propelled into your eternal position as a particle of spiritual energy, a person living in a transcendental nature. Hare Krsna reveals to you the person you really are.
Read more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
Can meditation solve our everyday problems? Is there life after death? Can drugs help us achieve self-realization? During a recent visit to South Africa, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada discussed these questions with Bill Faill, a reporter for the Durban Natal Mercury.
Srila Prabhupada: "Krsna" is a name for God which means all-attractive. Unless one is all-attractive he cannot be God. So this Krsna consciousness means God consciousness. All of us are small particles of God, equal in quality with Him. Our position as living entities is like that of a small particle of gold in relation to a large quantity of gold.
Bill Faill: Are we something like sparks in a fire?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Both the fire and the spark are fire, but one is big, and the other is very small. Unlike the relationship between the spark and the fire, however, our relationship with God is eternal, although at the present moment we have forgotten that relationship due to contact with the material energy. We are facing so many problems only because of this forgetfulness. If we can revive our original God consciousness, then we shall become happy. This is the sum and substance of Krsna consciousness. It is the best process to revive our original God consciousness. There are different processes of self-realization, but in the present age of Kali, people are very fallen, and they require the simple process of Krsna consciousness. Now they are thinking that so-called material advancement is the solution to their problems, but this is not a fact. The real solution is to get out of the material condition entirely by becoming Krsna conscious. Because God is eternal, we are also eternal, but in the material condition we are thinking, "I am this body," and therefore we must repeatedly change from body to body. This is due to ignorance. Actually we are not our bodies but spiritual sparks, parts and parcels of God.
Bill Faill: Then the body is just like a vehicle for the soul?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. It is just like a motorcar. Just as you go from one place to another in a car, similarly, due to mental concoction in the material condition of life, we are going from one position to another trying to become happy. But nothing will make us happy unless we come to our real position, which is that we are all parts and parcels of God and that our real business is to associate with God and help all living entities by cooperating with Him. Civilized human life is attained only after a long evolution through 8,400,000 species of life. So if we don't take advantage of this civilized human life to understand who God is, who we are, and what our relationship is, but instead simply waste our life like cats and dogs, going here and there looking for sense gratification, then we will have missed a great opportunity. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant to teach people how to take full advantage of the human form of life by trying to understand God and our relationship with Him.
Bill Faill: If we don't make the most of this life, do we get a second chance in another life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. According to your desires at the time of death, you get another body. That body is not guaranteed to be a human body, however. As I've already explained, there are 8,400,000 different forms of life. You can enter any of them, according to your mental condition at death. What we think of at the time of death depends on how we act during our life. As long as we are in material consciousness, our actions are under the control of the material nature, which is being conducted in three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. These modes are like the three basic colors—yellow, red, and blue. Just as one can mix red, yellow, and blue to produce millions of colors, similarly, the modes of nature are being mixed to produce many varieties of life. To stop the repetition of birth and death in different forms of life, we must transcend the covering of material nature and come to the platform of pure consciousness. But if we do not learn the transcendental science of Krsna consciousness, then at death we must transfer to another body, either better or worse than our present one. If we cultivate the mode of goodness, then we are promoted to the higher planetary system, where there is a better standard of life. If we cultivate the mode of passion, then we will remain at the present stage. But if out of ignorance we commit sinful activities and violate nature's laws, then we will be degraded to animal or plant life. Then again we must evolve to the human form, a process that may take millions of years. Therefore a human being must be responsible. He must take advantage of the rare opportunity of human life by understanding his relationship with God and acting accordingly. Then he can get out of the cycle of birth and death in different forms of life and go back to home, back to Godhead.
Bill Faill: Do you think transcendental meditation is helping people?
Srila Prabhupada: They do not know what real meditation is. Their meditation is simply a farce—another cheating process by the so-called svamis and yogis. You're asking me if meditation is helping people, but do you know what meditation is?
Bill Faill: A stilling of the mind—trying to sit in the center without swinging either way.
Srila Prabhupada: And what is the center?
Bill Faill: I don't know.
Srila Prabhupada: So everyone is talking very much about meditation, but no one knows what meditation actually is. These bluffers use the word "meditation," but they do not know the proper subject for meditation. They're simply talking bogus propaganda.
Bill Faill: Isn't meditation valuable just to get people thinking right?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Real meditation means to achieve a state in which the mind is saturated with God consciousness. But if you do not know what God is, how can you meditate? Besides, in this age people's minds are so agitated that they cannot concentrate. I have seen this so-called meditation; they are simply sleeping and snoring. Unfortunately, in the name of God consciousness or "self-realization," many bluffers are presenting non-standard methods of meditation without referring to the authorized books of Vedic knowledge. They are simply practicing another type of exploitation.
Bill Faill: What about some of the other teachers, like Ouspensky and Gurdjieff? In the past they brought to the West a message similar to yours.
Srila Prabhupada: We would have to study the particulars of their teachings to know whether they meet the Vedic standard. God consciousness is a science, just like medical science or any other science. It cannot be different because it is spoken by different men. Two plus two equals four everywhere, never five or three. That is science.
Bill Faill: Do you feel that others may have possibly taught the genuine method of God consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Unless I study their teachings in detail, it would be very difficult to say. There are so many bluffers.
Bill Faill: Just doing it for money.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all. They have no standard method. Therefore we are presenting Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any personal interpretation. This is standard.
Bill Faill: Yes, if you begin dressing things up, you inevitably change them.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness is not a new process. It is very, very old—and standard. It cannot be changed. As soon as you try to change it, then the potency is lost. This potency is just like electricity. If you want to generate electricity, you must follow the standard regulations, arranging all the negative and positive poles properly. You cannot construct the generator whimsically and still produce electricity. Similarly, there is a standard method of understanding Krsna conscious philosophy from proper authorities. If we follow their instructions, then the process will act. Unfortunately, one of the dangerous diseases of modern man is that everyone wants to do things according to his own whims. No one wants to follow the standard way. Therefore everyone is failing, both spiritually and materially.
Bill Faill: Is the Krsna consciousness movement growing?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh yes, very much. You may be surprised to know that we are selling books in the tens of thousands. We have about fifty books, and many librarians and college professors are very appreciative of them because until their publication there was no such literature in existence. It is a new contribution to the world.
Bill Faill: Krsna consciousness seems to involve shaving the head and wearing saffron robes. How can an ordinary man caught up in family life practice Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: The saffron robes and the shaven head are not essential, although they create a good mental situation, just as when a military man is dressed properly, he gets energy—he feels like a military man. Does that mean that unless he is in uniform he cannot fight? No. In the same way, God consciousness cannot be checked—it can be revived in any circumstances—but certain conditions are helpful.
Therefore we prescribe that you live in a certain way, dress in a certain way, eat in a certain way, and so on. These things are helpful for practicing Krsna consciousness, but they are not essential.
Bill Faill: Then one can be a student of Krsna consciousness while going about normal daily life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bill Faill: How about drugs? Can they help in the process of God realization?
Srila Prabhupada: If drugs could help God realization, then drugs would be more powerful than God. How can we accept that? Drugs are chemical substances, which are material. How can something material help one realize God, who is all-spiritual? It is impossible. What one experiences from taking drugs is simply a kind of intoxication or hallucination; it is not God realization.
Bill Faill: Do you think the great mystics down through the ages have actually seen the spiritual spark you mentioned earlier?
Srila Prabhupada: What do you mean by mystic?
Bill Faill: It's just a name given to people who have had an experience of another level of reality.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't use the word "mystic." Our reality is God realization, which occurs when we come to the spiritual platform. As long as we have a bodily concept of life, our understanding is sense gratification because the body is made of senses. When we progress from the bodily platform and we see the mind as the center of sense activity, we take the mind as the final stage of realization. That is the mental platform. From the mental platform we may come to the intellectual platform, and from the intellectual platform we can rise to the transcendental platform. Finally we can rise above even the transcendental platform and come to the spiritual platform. These are the stages of God realization. However, in this age, because people are so fallen, the sastras [scriptures] give the special recommendation that people come directly to the spiritual platform by chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If we cultivate this practice on the spiritual platform, then immediately we can realize our spiritual identity. Then the process of God realization becomes successful very quickly.
Bill Faill: Today a lot of people are saying that we must look inward for the truth rather than outward into the world of the senses.
Srila Prabhupada: Looking inward means knowing that you are a spirit soul. Unless you understand that you are not the body but rather you are a soul, there is no question of looking inward.
First we have to study, "Am I this body, or am I something within this body?" Unfortunately, this subject is not taught in any school, college, or university. Everyone is thinking, "I am this body." For example, in this country people everywhere are thinking, "I am South African, they are Indian, they are Greek," and so on. Actually, everyone in the whole world is in the bodily conception of life. Krsna consciousness starts when one is above this bodily conception.
Bill Faill: So the recognition of the spiritual spark comes first?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Recognizing the existence of the spirit soul within the body is the first step. Unless one understands this simple fact, there is no question of spiritual advancement.
Bill Faill: Is it a question of just understanding it intellectually?
Srila Prabhupada: In the beginning, yes. There are two departments of knowledge: theoretical and practical. First one must learn spiritual science theoretically; then, by working on that spiritual platform, one comes to the point of practical realization.
Unfortunately, today almost everyone is in the darkness of the bodily conception of life. Therefore this movement is very important because it can lift civilized men out of that darkness. As long as they are in the bodily conception of life, they are no better than animals. "I am a dog," "I am a cat," "I am a cow." Animals think like this. As soon as someone passes, a dog will bark, thinking, "I am a dog. I have been appointed here as watchdog." Similarly, if I adopt the dog's mentality and challenge foreigners—"Why have you come to this country? Why have you come to my jurisdiction?"—then what is the difference between the dog and me?
Bill Faill: There is none. To change the subject a little, is it necessary to follow certain eating habits to practice spiritual life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the whole process is meant to purify us, and eating is part of that purification. I think you have a saying, "You are what you eat," and that's a fact. Our bodily constitution and mental atmosphere are determined according to how and what we eat. Therefore the sastras [scriptures] recommend that to become Krsna conscious, you should eat remnants of food left by Krsna. If a tuberculosis patient eats something and you eat the remnants, you will be infected with tuberculosis. Similarly, if you eat krsna-prasada, then you will be infected with Krsna consciousness. Thus our process is that we don't eat anything directly. First we offer the food to Krsna, then we eat it. This helps us advance in Krsna consciousness.
Bill Faill: You are all vegetarians?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because Krsna is a vegetarian. Krsna can eat anything because He is God, but in the Bhagavad-gita He says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." [Bg. 9.26] He never says, "Give Me meat and wine."
Bill Faill: How about the tobacco question?
Srila Prabhupada: Tobacco is also an intoxicant. We are already intoxicated by being in the bodily conception of life, and if we increase the intoxication, then we are lost.
Bill Faill: You mean things like meat, alcohol, and tobacco just reinforce bodily consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Suppose you have a disease and you want to be cured. You have to follow the instructions of a physician. If he says, "Don't eat this; eat only this," you have to follow his prescription. Similarly, we also have a prescription for being cured of the bodily conception of life: chanting Hare Krsna, hearing about Krsna's activities, and eating krsna-prasada. This treatment is the process of Krsna consciousness.
by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
(translated from the original Bengali by Sriman Gopiparanadhana dasa Brahmacari)
GOPIPARANADHANA DASA joined ISKCON soon after graduating from Columbia University in 1972 with a B. A. in linguistics. Now a member of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Sanskrit department, he is continuing his translation of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Sri Caitanya Siksamrta by the request of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) was well known during his time as a respectable family man, the father of twelve children, and as the local magistrate for the colonial British government of the district of Puri in Orissa, India. There he supervised the management of the temple of Lord Jagannatha, one of the largest and most famous temples in India. Less publicly, he was recognized by the community of Gaudiya Vaisnavas as their spiritual master in disciplic succession from Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda's special interest was pioneering the distribution of Krsna consciousness to the English-speaking world. He dedicated much of his life to this effort, writing and speaking extensively in English and encouraging other devotees to do the same. His mission has been continued and greatly expanded by his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciple, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Published in 1886, Sri Caitanya-siksamrta (The Nectarean Teachings of Sri Caitanya) was written in straightforward Bengali so that a general audience of devotees and interested laymen could readily appreciate its message. The book systematically and uncompromisingly establishes the basic principles of devotional research, carefully defeating the unsound philosophical positions of sentimental spiritualists, sectarian fanatics, and exploitative scientists. Its subject matter is based largely on the conversations between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, which are contained in Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja's classic biography, Caitanya-caritamrta. Caitanya-siksamrta, presented by the author as "a flood of nectar," is divided into eight sections called "Rainfalls." Each Rainfall is further subdivided into several "Downpours." The present article is taken from the first Downpour of the first Rainfall.
Having reached an end, in Krsna's devotional service, to all theories born out of inconclusive and argumentative illusion, and offering my obeisances to the giver of that devotion, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am now undertaking the compilation of this book, entitled Sri Caitanya-siksamrta.
In this world there are three basic phenomena: the Supreme Controller (God), conscious living entities, and dead matter. Dead material things are those that have no capacity to desire, i.e., that are devoid of willpower. We thus designate as material such objects as earth, stone, water, fire, air, space, houses, clothing, , and the bodies of living beings. On the other hand, such entities as humans, animals, birds, worms, and insects are types of living beings, each of which possesses the potencies of thinking and desiring. Among all forms of conscious life, the particular cognitive ability of the human species is unique, and therefore the human form is declared by many authorities to be the chief among all sentient and dull beings.
The Supreme Controller
The supreme controller is by His own nature complete and purely conscious. He creates everything, living and nonliving, and He is everyone's protector and regulator. By His desire our benefit can arise, and by His desire our complete failure can occur. In His identity as the Supreme Lord, He dominates over the spiritual universe, Vaikuntha, which is eternal and free from anxiety. He is the ruler of all rulers, and thus all activities in every world are going on according to His desire.
Whereas an object of the material world assumes some gross form, the Supreme Lord is without any such form. For this reason, the Vedas describe Him as "formless", meaning that we cannot perceive Him with our gross senses. But all things have some innate form, and the Lord is no exception. As the supremely conscious living entity, He has a living, conscious form, as opposed to the unconscious form of dead matter. We too are conscious living entities, but we experience our consciousness through gross material bodies. Thus our naturally conscious identities have become hidden within material identifications. The Lord, on the other hand, is a purely conscious being, and therefore His natural, vital form, full of consciousness, is His complete identity. We can see His form, however, only with fully conscious vision steeped in devotion. We cannot see God with material eyes.
Some unfortunate people have no faith in the Supreme Lord. Their eyes of knowledge have been stamped shut. Having been unable to perceive the form of the Lord with material vision, they have decided that He does not exist. Just as persons who are blind from birth cannot see the sun, similarly, atheists cannot possibly believe in the Supreme Lord. By nature, any human will believe in God. It is only those who from birth have been given false instruction in impure association, and who have gradually come under the influence of bad conditioning, who do not accept the existence of God. In their case, apart from their own loss, what loss is there for the Lord?
We should not consider the Lord's abode, Vaikuntha, to be a material place. Madras, Bombay, Kashmir, Calcutta, London, Paris—these are all gross material places. To go to them we must transport our gross body across various material countries and provinces by foot, rail, or ship. Vaikuntha, however, is not this type of region. Eternal, full of life, and faultless, Vaikuntha has a special location beyond all the material worlds. It cannot be seen by the eyes or contemplated with the mind. The only way we can go to this inconceivable abode is to satisfy the Supreme Lord, who is manifested there. At that time we will be able to engage in the service of the Supreme Lord eternally.
A Problematic World
In this material world, happiness is temporary. It is soon lost. In addition, everything here is full of misery: taking birth involves much hardship and distress, and after birth one must care for his body by eating, sleeping, and so forth. Any interference with these functions, beginning with eating, causes great difficulty. Disease is always a danger, along with such miseries as cold and heat. To mitigate these distresses, one must earn money and accept many bodily inconveniences, such as constructing and maintaining a home. After a few years of marriage and raising children, one eventually grows old and loses his good intelligence. During the course of all these developments, one may arrive at some concocted conceptions of life by discussion and argument with other people. In conclusion, the cycle of birth and death is certainly not an experience of unmixed happiness. People in general think of the temporary cessation of pain as "happiness," but real happiness means to escape from this distressful cycle of material life. If we could attain Vaikuntha, the abode of the Supreme Lord, we would no longer be compelled to endure temporary happiness and distress. Rather we could obtain uninterrupted, eternal bliss. Therefore our ambition should be to satisfy the Lord and be promoted to His eternal abode.
As soon as a person awakens to his real self-interest, which is devotional service to the Lord, he should begin practicing it. Thinking, "Now we can enjoy pleasure in the material world, and later, when we grow old, we will work for the satisfaction of the Lord," is a fruitless attitude. Time is very valuable. From the very day one knows what is to be done, he must make the effort to do it. The human form of life is especially rare, and no one can say when death will occur. Therefore, even children should be taught how to practice devotional service to God. The Vedic histories tell of the great devotees Dhruva and Prahlada, who achieved the mercy of the Lord at an extremely young age. If they were capable of performing devotional service in childhood, why should we doubt that any child can? Actually, anyone who practices serving the Lord from early childhood is sure to gradually reach his natural spiritual position.
Motivations for Service
There are four basic causes why persons in different conditions of life try to achieve the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord: fear, hope, a sense of obligation, and spontaneous attraction. Some people are impelled to worship the Lord out of fear of hell, poverty, disease or death. Others worship Him in hopes of achieving sense gratification or success in the material world. However, neither of these groups can find unadulterated happiness in their worship of the Lord unless they ultimately renounce all fear and hope and instead become attached to pure devotional service. The third group of devotees, driven by a sense of duty or obligation, pray to God with gratitude for His being the creator of the universe. And the last group are those who are motivated by neither fear, hope, nor obligation, but who automatically achieve love for the Lord by worshiping Him, and who thus serve Him out of spontaneous attraction. Just as in the material world, simply by seeing something, we may immediately develop a desire for it and then strive for it, similarly, persons in whose hearts this inclination arises simply by thinking of the Supreme Lord act in His devotional service because of spontaneous attraction. Their devotional service is known as raga-bhakti.
Worshipers engaged in serving God out of fear, hope, or a sense of duty are not as pure as those who serve Him spontaneously. The actual devotees are those who serve the Supreme Lord in raga-marga, the path of spontaneous worship. Only after spontaneous attraction has developed can one enter into the intimacy of the deep relationship existing between the living entity and the Lord. This relationship is eternal, but for the living entity bound to material nature, it remains hidden unless he finds the right process to uncover it. Just as fire can be manifested by rubbing a flint stone, so one's relationship with God can be revealed by following one of the various paths of devotional service. For many people, their spiritual relationship is manifested by constant worship motivated by fear, hope, or obligation. For example, first Dhruva Maharaja worshiped Lord Visnu in the hope of attaining a kingdom. But in the course of his devotional practice, he developed spontaneous attraction in knowledge of his pure relationship with the Lord and rejected any material benediction for sense gratification.
Material fear and hope are extremely contemptible. Thus, when a practicing devotee's intelligence becomes strong, he abandons fear and hope, and his sense of duty becomes his only impetus for service. Until spontaneous attraction for the Supreme Lord develops, he maintains this sense of duty, which encompasses two broad categories: observance of the various functions of devotional service and avoidance of what is against the regulative principles of devotional service. He carefully follows the methods of realizing God consciousness that were determined with careful consideration by great authorities in the distant past and then recorded in books. This is known as vidhi-marga, the path of regulated devotional service. By becoming regulated by the concept of duty, the devotee develops respect for the authority of the revealed scriptures and for the regulations of devotional service in practice.
If we look at the historical accounts of different peoples throughout the world, we can easily see that faith in God is a common characteristic of all humankind. Even uncivilized, animalistic nomads, whose occupation is hunting for animal flesh, still offer obeisances to the sun and moon, huge mountains, great rivers and even large trees, worshiping them as creators and controllers. Why is this? Because the belief in a Supreme Lord is a natural and essential function of human life, and thus even when a human being is heavily conditioned, as long as his consciousness is not completely covered, his belief in God will be manifested to a certain extent. However, after he attains some status of civilization and begins to study various kinds of material knowledge, his natural faith in God becomes more or less covered by false arguments; and direct atheism, or else the monistic idea that the ultimate truth is void, may take root in his mind. We should understand that such miserly attitudes simply indicate an unhealthy consciousness devoid of spiritual strength.
Whether he be totally uncivilized or well suited for developing faith in the Supreme Lord, a human being can have his progress suspended and his life made wretched by the three atheistic diseases of materialism, agnosticism, and voidism. Although not everyone is attacked by these diseases, some do fall prey to them and become attached to their own situations, thus remaining unqualified to reach any higher position in life. On the other hand, even uncultured forest dwellers, by virtue of becoming civilized and expert in morality and education, and then further adopting the social and spiritual organization of the Vedic varnasrama-dharma, can very quickly come to the platform of devotees qualified to engage in the service of the Supreme Lord. This is the natural course of a human being's spiritual growth. But if obstructions in the form of spiritual disease arise, one's way of life becomes perverted.
Although human nature is the same everywhere, people living in different nations and on different continents acquire different secondary characteristics. It is impossible to find two people living in the world who have exactly the same secondary nature. Even two brothers born from the same womb will differ in appearance and personality, what to speak of people born in separate countries. In different regions, things such as the locations of bodies of water, air currents, mountains and forests, and the availability of foodstuffs and clothing all vary. Consequently, differences naturally occur in people's appearance, social status, occupation, and style of dressing and eating. Each nationality has a peculiar disposition of mind, and thus various conceptions of the Supreme Lord, although the same in essence, appear superficially dissimilar. As people in different places rise above their aboriginal condition and gradually develop culture, science, law, and devotion to God, their means of worship also diverge in terms of language, costume, kinds of offerings, and mental attitudes. Considering all these secondary differences impartially, however, we find no discrepancy. As long as the object of worship is the same, there is no harm. Therefore Lord Caitanya has specifically ordered that we should execute our own service to the Supreme Lord in the mode of pure goodness and at the same time refrain from ridiculing the religious codes of others.
Under the influence of the above-mentioned factors, the religious systems proclaimed by different nationalities vary in the following ways:
(1) different spiritual masters
(2) differences in mental and emotional attitudes toward worship
(3) different prescribed rituals of worship
(4) different types of affection for and activities in relation to the object of worship
(5) different names and terminologies resulting from differences in language.
Because of the variety of spiritual authorities, in some places people honor the Vedic sages, in others they revere the prophets led by Muhammed, and in still other regions they esteem the religious personalities who follow Jesus. Similarly, in each locality many different men of knowledge are shown particular respect. Each community should, of course, properly honor its own spiritual masters, but simply for the sake of gaining followers, no one should try to establish that the instructions given by one's own local spiritual master are better than the instructions of spiritual masters everywhere else. The propagation of such an antagonistic position would certainly be inauspicious for the world.
A devotee's prescribed ritual of worship varies according to his mentality and devotional feeling. In some places the mode of worship is to seat oneself in a sacred place and practice renunciation and breath control. In another place worship is performed by falling down five times during the day and evening—even if caught unprepared—to offer obeisances facing the direction of the chief shrine. And elsewhere worshipers kneel down, either in the temple or at home, and with folded hands declare their own fallen condition and the glories of the Lord. Each of these types of worship also differs in the matter of what to wear, whether and how to eat, what is clean or unclean, and so forth. Furthermore, the sentiment and behavior toward the worshipable object vary among religions. Some worshipers, whose consciousness is saturated with devotion, set up a Deity of the Supreme Lord in their heart, in their mind, or in the outside world, with the understanding that it is non-different from the Lord. In other processes, which are inclined more toward logical argument, a conception of the Lord is formed within the mind and worshiped; external images are not accepted. Actually, however, all of these Deities are factual representations.
In accordance with language differences, the Lord is called by various names. Different names are also given to the religious systems, and there are different terminologies for use during worship.
The many religions of the world have naturally grown very distinct from each other due to these five kinds of differences. However, to create mutual discord because of these differences would be disastrous. If one happens to be in another's temple at the time of his worship, one should think, "Here my Lord is being worshiped in a different form. Since I am committed to my particular practice, I cannot take part in this ritual, but as I watch it, I am developing a greater feeling for my own method of worship. The Supreme Absolute Truth is one without a second. Therefore, as I offer my obeisances to the form which I see here, I pray to my Lord, from whom this form comes, that this Deity will help me expand my love for Him."
Those who do not behave in this way, but who exhibit malice, envy, or ridicule toward other religious processes, certainly deviate from true religion due to a lack of intelligence. If such people actually loved their own Supreme Lord, they would not be attracted to such useless disputes.
On the other hand, although it is nonsensical to ridicule other religious practices, if we notice some genuine fault, we should never tolerate it. Rather, we should make every effort to uproot it by proper means and thus benefit the deluded practitioners. For this reason, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu argued with the Buddhists, Jains, and Mayavadis and brought them to the true path. All devotees of the Lord should follow the example of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and reject all so-called religious systems containing the unwanted elements of atheism, agnosticism, materialism, disbelief in the existence of the spirit soul (which amounts to the idea that working for the body is all in all), hedonism, and impersonalism. Devotees should know that these systems are unauthorized, deceptive, and only dim reflections of—and sometimes completely against—the principles of real religion. Actually, followers of these fraudulent processes are pitiable. According to their ability, devotees should make every effort to protect people in general from all these evils.
Pure, unalloyed love of God is the actual eternal religion of the spirit soul. Thus, in spite of the above-mentioned five kinds of distinctions among religious systems, we should recognize as genuine any religious process whose goal is the realization of pure love of God. It is useless to quarrel over superficial differences. If the goal of a process is pure, then the system is fully auspicious.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Book Distribution Climbs 34.5% in 1975.
Defying the serious recession that slowed the world economy in 1975, ISKCON devotees increased their sale of Krsna conscious literature last year by more than one third over 1974. The grand total topped nine million books and magazines, not including the Spanish, German, French, and Japanese literature sold abroad. Of two million books distributed, over a half million were fully illustrated 300-400 page volumes, and the seven million BACK TO GODHEAD magazines almost doubled the previous year's total.
Why the vast increase? "It's all due to the dedication of the devotees as well as a growing receptivity of the public to Krsna consciousness," explained Ramesvara dasa, a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which publishes the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. With renewed commitment to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's request to "distribute my books profusely," the members of ISKCON spent more time and energy than ever before doing just that. In the process they showed impressive determination and steadfast faith. For example, the hundred-man Radha-Damodara traveling party crisscrossed North America in six new Greyhound-type buses and ten vans, breaking sales records and simultaneously putting on full-scale lecture and festival programs on dozens of campuses.
The public's increasing receptivity to Krsna conscious literature is also a key factor in the remarkable sales record. In a recent letter to His Holiness Tamal Krsna Gosvami, leader of the Radha-Damodara traveling party, Srila Prabhupada observed, "There is no other instance in history where religious books were sold with such enthusiasm and success."
New Preaching Centers Acquired
To accommodate expanding book distribution and festival programs, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is busily acquiring new preaching bases in major American cities.
The new Detroit temple is a Spanish-mission style stucco and marble mansion that originally housed the wealthy Lawrence B. Fisher, of "body by Fisher" fame, when he was the first president of Cadillac Motors in 1929. Replete with formal gardens, fountains, and even a waterfall, the estate lies on the Detroit River and features an ornate boathouse with indoor boat well. The temple was purchased with donations from local supporters and others sympathetic to the cause of Krsna consciousness.
Ninety percent of the residents of the district in which the temple is located expressed approval of their new neighbors in a poll conducted by local authorities. Many residents asked if the new Hare Krsna temple would provide recreational facilities for their children. Govardhana dasa Adhikari, president of the Detroit temple, replied, "Yes, your children may come over and sing with us anytime. We also have puppet shows, plays, and lots of free food!"
In Maryland, ISKCON devotees have recently purchased a striking fifteen-acre estate within an easy half-hour's drive from Washington, D. C. Constructed a few years ago as a day camp and riding stable, the estate sports a gymnasium, barn, and swimming pool. Residents of Potomac, the affluent suburb that surrounds the estate, will greet the devotees on March 1st, 1976, the official opening date.
Plans for the estate reveal that it will be a thriving center for Krsna consciousness. One of its functions will be to serve as a base for groups of devotees to regularly tour the Washington area, chanting Hare Krsna and distributing literature. In addition, the gymnasium on the property will be converted into a temple for worshiping the Deities of Radha and Krsna. In a kitchen designed to meet rigorous government health code standards, devotees will prepare elaborate prasada feasts for hundreds. And by developing the guesthouse facilities (including a swimming pool), the devotees hope to attract members of Washington's diplomatic circles, among others, for Sunday festivals and life membership programs.
Introducing people to Krsna is a full-time job for the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. They chant Hare Krsna on San Francisco Bay and on Parisian boulevards, give out free pineapples—offered first to Lord Krsna—in the old section of San Juan, and distribute literature at Los Angeles International Airport. On the go a steady eighteen hours a day, the devotees attribute their enthusiasm to Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna's their secret, and they want Him to be everyone else's, too. Hearing the music, tasting the food, and looking over the books, people the world around are meeting Krsna for the first time, the beginning of a beautiful—and permanent—relationship.
A point-by-point analysis of the problem and a positive program for change.
(edited from a pamphlet by His Holiness Siddhasvarupa Ananda Gosvami)
To say that most politicians are incompetent, and in many cases downright dishonest, isn't very controversial. We've all read about their blunders, their tricks, and their schemes. So the aim of this article is not to give proof of their failure to bring about world peace and prosperity; it is rather to show that the root cause of their incompetence is selfish materialism, and that the remedy is the re-spiritualization of society through the worldwide propagation of Krsna consciousness.
The following are some of the reasons why a self-centered materialist is incapable of bringing about a peaceful and harmonious world society:
He has no sense of spiritual brotherhood.
The materialistic leader can never bring harmony to society because he fails to see the spiritual unity of all mankind. Preoccupied with superficial distinctions such as race, class, or nationality, he cannot understand that all living beings are his brothers, being children of God, the Supreme Father. As Lord Krsna puts it in the Bhagavad-gita (4.35)
And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me, and that they are in Me and are Mine.
He has a one-sided view of life.
Instead of using his influence to bring about social conditions favorable for both spiritual as well as economic development, the materialist considers economic development to be the all in all. Thus he promotes the creation of an artificial environment that is far from peaceful, contemplative, or healthful. Devoid of spiritual culture, the people become alienated from God, nature, and each other. And the more alienated and materialistic the people get, the more frustrated, angry, and bewildered they become. Thus a materialistic leader takes the people on a "progressive" march to a hellish existence.
He's ambitious and self-serving.
The materialistic politico, having neglected the spiritual side of life, is never satiated in his drive for power and position. Since his number one consideration is his own political advancement, he continually campaigns for office, and after winning the election, he's afraid of being removed from his seat. He is so preoccupied with the fear of losing his job, status, power, and wealth that this fear itself—not love, or actual concern for the people—is the primary motivation for his activities. Materialistic leaders are merely merchants, trading empty promises for votes, and the people naturally distrust them. Everyone knows that a sly merchant must be watched very carefully: even when offering a "good bargain," he ultimately has his own bank balance in mind.
He's always disturbed and often irrational.
Because the materialistic politician is not at peace with himself, he cannot help others find peace, either individually or collectively. Unable to realize all his political ambitions, he is often subject to deep inner frustration, which may cause him to behave irrationally. A person in such a disturbed state of mind cannot have the clear intelligence needed to solve today's complex problems. Even if his mind is razor-sharp, his decisions will never be clear if his heart is infected with selfish desires. A crooked politician may be intellectually astute, but an envious person with a sharp mind is like a poisonous snake with a beautiful jewel on its forehead. The snake is still dangerous, despite its fancy ornaments.
His perception is blurred.
Due to the pressures of power, many of today's leaders try to forget their miseries by dimming their awareness with intoxicants like alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times revealed that the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States is in Washington, D. C., and in Washington, D. C., the area most affected is Georgetown, the suburb where most U. S. senators and congressmen live. A true leader sharpens his awareness; he doesn't blur it with a haze of intoxication.
He neglects God's laws.
Today's politicians are too busy wheeling and dealing to pay much attention to the laws of God. As Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita (3.21):
Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."
A good leader must be an ideal example for the people to admire and try to follow. If he is able to set the standard of perfect behavior, then the people will naturally be inclined to follow. Therefore he must obey God's laws and possess godly qualities himself. Of course, many politicians go to church and publicly declare their piety. A person is known, however, not by his words, but by his deeds. Certain qualities must be present in a worthy leader, and certain ones must be absent. For instance, a spiritually enlightened leader is free from lust, anger, and greed. Although strong in his determination, he is gentle, compassionate, and ready to respect others. Above all, he actually follows God's laws; he doesn't simply proclaim himself to be pious and then act sinfully beyond the range of the TV cameras.
These are just a few reasons why a materialistic person is unqualified to be a leader of society. The list is endless, but they all point to the same conclusion: a materialistic politician, devoid of spiritual knowledge and ignorant of the goal of life, can never help bring about world peace and prosperity. Since the problem stems from ignorance, the obvious solution is education. Unfortunately, present-day educational institutions provide no information about our spiritual nature and our relationship with God. In a recent conversation with Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins of Franklin and Marshall College, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada expanded on this theme:
"People want material gain because they have no spiritual information. If I take care of my shirt very nicely, but I do not care for the person inside the shirt, then what is my position? Similarly, this whole material world is busy taking care of the body, not the soul inside the body. Therefore all these so-called educational institutions are blind. It is a society of the blind leading the blind. The solution is first of all to understand that you are spirit. Then find out what is your relationship with God and act accordingly."
This, then, is the goal of human life. As long as we ignore our relationship with God and remain caught up in the pursuit of material wealth and physical comforts alone, we will always find ourselves alienated, confused, and anxious about the future. World peace and prosperity do not depend upon more sophisticated weaponry or increased productivity, but on the widespread propagation of genuine spiritual knowledge.
This knowledge can be easily acquired through the practice of bhakti-yoga, especially the hearing and chanting of the holy names of God. The result of chanting the name of the Lord is that the heart of the chanter becomes cleansed, and he sees his true spiritual identity as an eternal servant of God. God has many names, and they are given in the various scriptures of the world. Different names refer to His different attractive features: Jehovah means all-powerful, Allah means all-compassionate, and so on. The name Krsna, however, means all-attractive and thus contains all other names of God within it. Therefore the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is especially purifying and can rapidly awaken our consciousness of God.
Of course, it is not possible to present even an adequate summary of the sublime process of bhakti-yoga in a few short pages. The inquisitive reader is referred to the works of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In his books, especially the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, he has presented a crystal-clear picture of the bhakti-yoga process.
By reading these books and chanting the holy names of God, the people of the world can become spiritually strengthened and convinced of the need for genuine spiritual leadership. Then, when the time comes to choose their leaders, they will naturally select a person with the qualities necessary to guide human society on the path back to home, back to Godhead.
Even armies of bodyguards can't protect today's political leaders, but King Pariksit was such an exalted personality that he was always perfectly protected by Lord Krsna Himself. Even as a child in his mother's womb, Lord Krsna shielded him from the searing heat of a nuclear weapon hurled by his father's enemy. Later Pariksit was trained and finally enthroned by his grandfather, King Yudhisthira.
King Pariksit followed the Vedic system of consulting a council of brahmanas (learned and saintly philosophers) on state affairs. While today's "think tank" experts sell themselves to the highest bidder, the self-realized sages who advised Maharaja Pariksit gave their services freely, without salary. Thus they were above suspicion of any special interest, and they guided the king purely and flawlessly in his administration.
Maharaja Pariksit was very vigilant in protecting the citizens. When the four symptoms of sinful life so prominent in modern times—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling—began to appear, he undertook a tour of the world to vanquish them from his kingdom. He came across an abominable low-class man torturing a cow and severely chastised him with the following words: "Whoever causes offenseless living beings to suffer must fear me anywhere and everywhere in the world. Any upstart who tortures the innocent shall be immediately uprooted by me, no matter who he may be." Foreseeing the future degradation of human society, Pariksit then said that if an unqualified, sinful man is allowed to act as an executive head, "certainly irreligious principles like greed, falsehood, robbery, incivility, treachery, misfortune, cheating, quarrel, and vanity will abound."
Although King Pariksit was certainly famous for his impeccable administration, he is better known for his spiritual activity after leaving the post of king. Early in his reign he was cursed to die by a young brahmana boy due to a misunderstanding. Although he could have nullified the curse, King Pariksit accepted it as God's will, and decided to fast until death. He seated himself on the bank of the Ganges River, and an assembly of the greatest personalities of the day soon gathered to witness the wonderful event. During the seven days of life remaining to him, King Pariksit neither ate nor slept nor moved from his seat. His only activity was to ask Srila Sukadeva Gosvami questions about transcendental subjects and to listen intently to his answers in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the culmination of all Vedic knowledge and simply by hearing it, the king achieved the highest goal of life—ecstatic love for Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Unlike today's leaders, Maharaja Prthu considered it his primary duty to enlighten the citizens with spiritual knowledge. He knew that any leader who simply exacts taxes from the people, but does not inform them of the mission of human life, is thoroughly condemned. Indeed, he is liable to suffer for the impious activities they perform out of ignorance. King Prthu advised the citizens: "Dedicate your minds, your words, your bodies, and the fruits of your labor for the service of the Supreme Lord. Then you will surely achieve the final objective of life [love of God]."
In addition, under the king's firm hand all law-abiding citizens were perfectly protected from both internal and external dangers. Everyone was pleased by his practical activities, and all the citizens were very satisfied to have him as their ruler. When he traveled through the world on his victorious chariot, appearing as brilliant as the sun, all thieves and rogues hid themselves, and all other kings recognized his supremacy.
However, King Prthu did not present himself as a royal authority empowered to command everyone. In fact, he was renowned for his humility and impartiality. He ruled so impartially that if the son of his enemy was innocent, he would not punish him, but if his own son was punishable, he would not hesitate to punish him. Even though he was very opulent due to the prosperity of his entire empire, King Prthu was never inclined to utilize his opulences for the gratification of his senses. He remained unattached, exactly like the sun, which remains unaffected in all circumstances.
Like all saintly kings of the Vedic age, King Prthu voluntarily gave up his rule before death or infirmity overtook him, and he retired to the forest to completely immerse himself in God consciousness.
King Yudhisthira was famous as "the king whose enemy was never born" because he was so pious that no one hated him. Indeed, his qualifications were so glorious that his fame spread all over the universe and his pure devotional service induced the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself to become his intimate friend.
Another epithet for King Yudhisthira was "the personification of goodness," for by continuous service to Lord Krsna, he was freed from all desire for sense gratification and personal wealth, fame, or power. This complete selflessness made him a worthy emperor of the world. "All good for the citizens!" was his motto, and he lived up to it by always seeing to the social, political, economic, and spiritual upliftment of the citizens of his kingdom. Due to his perfect administration and his pure devotion to God, even the rivers, oceans, hills, forests, etc., were all pleased with him, and they supplied their bounty profusely. Thus during the reign of King Yudhisthira the citizens of the world were never troubled by a lack of any necessity, or by mental agonies, diseases, excessive heat or cold, or any other disturbance.
Like all saintly kings of the Vedic age, Yudhisthira renounced his kingdom at the end of life to devote himself exclusively to spiritual practice. After enthroning Pariksit as emperor of the world, Yudhisthira gave up his regal dress and left for the North. His devotion to Lord Krsna was so pure that even before relinquishing his body he achieved the highest spiritual abode.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Just as a national state is protected by the department of law and order, so the state of the universe, of which this earth is only an insignificant fragment, is protected by the laws of nature. This material nature is one of the potencies of God, who is the ultimate proprietor of everything that be. This earth is, therefore, the property of God, but we living entities, especially the so-called civilized human beings, are claiming God's property as our own under an individual and collective false conception. If you want peace, you have to remove this false conception from your mind and from the world. This false claim of proprietorship by the human race is the cause of all disturbances of peace on earth.
Foolish, so-called civilized men are claiming proprietary rights on God's property because they have now become godless. You cannot be happy and peaceful in a godless society. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He is the factual enjoyer of all the living entities' activities, that He is the Supreme Lord of all universes, and that He is the well-wishing friend of all beings. When the people of the world know this as the formula for peace, it is then that peace will prevail.
Therefore, if you want peace at all, you will have to change your consciousness into Krsna consciousness, both individually and collectively, by the simple process of chanting the holy name of God. This is the standard and recognized process for achieving peace in the world. We therefore recommend that everyone become Krsna conscious by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This is practical, simple, and sublime. Four hundred and eighty years ago this formula was introduced in India by Lord Sri Caitanya, and now it is available in your country. Take to this simple process of chanting as above mentioned, realize your factual position by reading the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and reestablish your lost relationship with Krsna, God. Peace and prosperity will be the immediate worldwide result.
A story from Krsna,
The King of Vidarbha, Maharaja Bhismaka, had five sons and a young daughter known as Rukmini. Many saintly persons used to visit the King's palace, and from them Rukmini obtained information about Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Simply by hearing about the opulences of Krsna, she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife. All the relatives of King Bhismaka agreed that Rukmini should be given in marriage to Krsna, and after hearing how Rukmini was a reservoir of all transcendental qualities—intelligence, liberality, exquisite beauty, and righteous behavior—Krsna Himself decided that she was fit to be His wife.
However, Rukmini's brother Rukmi arranged for her to be married to Sisupala, a determined enemy of Krsna. When the black-eyed, beautiful Rukmini heard of this settlement, she became very morose. But, being a king's daughter, she could understand political diplomacy, and therefore she decided to take immediate steps to acquire Krsna as her husband. After some deliberation, she wrote a letter to Krsna and entrusted it to a brahmana messenger. Without delay, she sent him with her letter to Krsna's capital city of Dvaraka.
Reaching the gate of Dvaraka, the brahmana informed the doorkeeper of his mission. and the doorkeeper led him to Lord Krsna, who was sitting on a golden throne. After the messenger was duly greeted according to his brahminical status, he carefully read Rukmini's letter to the Supreme Lord:
"My dear Krsna, O infallible and most beautiful one, I have heard of Your transcendental qualities. I may be shameless in expressing myself so directly, but You have captivated me and taken my heart. I am an unmarried girl, young in age, and You may doubt the steadiness of my character. But my dear Krsna, since You are the supreme lion among human beings, the supreme person among persons, any girl not yet out of her home, or any woman of the highest chastity, would desire to marry You, being captivated by Your unprecedented character, knowledge, opulence and position."
"I know that You are very kind toward Your devotees. Therefore I have decided to become Your eternal maidservant. My dear Lord, I dedicate my life and soul unto Your lotus feet. I have selected Your Lordship as my husband, and I request You to accept me as Your wife. You are supremely powerful, O lotus-eyed one. Now I belong to You. It would be ludicrous if what is enjoyable for the lion is taken away by the jackal. Therefore I request You to immediately take care of me before I am taken away by Sisupala. Please come here and catch hold of my hand so that I may not be touched by Sisupala and his men."
Lord Krsna was very pleased to hear Rukmini's statement. He shook hands with the messenger and said, "My dear brahmana, I am very glad to hear that Rukmini is anxious to marry Me, since I am also anxious to get her hand. I can understand that Rukmini's brother has arranged her marriage with Sisupala in a spirit of animosity toward Me. So I am determined to give him a good lesson. Just as one can bring forth fire from ordinary wood by proper manipulation, similarly, after dealing with the demoniac princes, I shall bring forth Rukmini like fire from their midst."
When Krsna heard that Rukmini's marriage was scheduled for the following day, He decided to leave for the kingdom of Vidarbha immediately. He ordered His driver to harness the horses to His chariot and prepare for the journey, and they started at once. Within a single night they rode one thousand miles to their destination, the town of Kundina.
Krsna's elder brother, Lord Balarama, soon received the news that Krsna had left for Kundina accompanied only by a brahmana, and that Sisupala was there with his ally Jarasandha and a large number of soldiers. Suspecting that they would attack Krsna, Balarama took strong military divisions of chariots, infantry, horses and elephants and rode to the precinct of Kundina.
Meanwhile, inside the palace, Rukmini was expecting Krsna to arrive. But when neither He nor the brahmana messenger appeared, she became full of anxiety and began to think how unfortunate she was. She thought, "There is only one night before my marriage day, and still neither the brahmana nor Krsna has returned. I cannot understand this."
Being the Supersoul of all living beings, Krsna could understand Rukmini's anxiety, so He sent the brahmana inside the palace to let her know that He had arrived. When Rukmini saw the brahmana, she was elated. She smiled and asked him whether or not Krsna had come. The brahmana replied, "The son of the Yadu dynasty, Sri Krsna, has arrived!" He further encouraged her by saying that Krsna had promised to carry her away without fail. Rukmini was so thrilled by the brahmana's message that she wanted to give him in charity everything she possessed. However, finding nothing at hand suitable for presentation, she simply bowed down and offered him her humble respects.
When King Bhismaka heard that Krsna and Balarama had come, he invited Them to see the marriage ceremony of his daughter. He arranged to receive Them and Their soldiers in a garden house. As was the Vedic custom, the King offered Krsna and Balarama honey and fresh washed cloth.
Meanwhile, Rukmini came out of the palace to visit the temple of the goddess Durga. Rukmini was dressed very beautifully, and as she proceeded toward the temple, she was very silent and grave. Her mother and girl friends were by her side, and she was surrounded by royal bodyguards. In this way she entered the temple and offered her prayers to the deity. Ordinary people pray to Durga for material wealth, fame, strength and so on. Rukmini, however, desired to have Krsna for her husband, and therefore she prayed to the deity to be pleased with her and bless her. Then she caught hold of the hand of one of her girl friends and left the temple, accompanied by the others.
All the princes and visitors who had come to Kundina for the marriage were assembled outside the temple to see Rukmini. When the princes, who were especially eager to see her, caught sight of Rukmini leaving the temple, they were struck with wonder. Indeed, they thought she had been especially manufactured by the Creator to bewilder them! She appeared to be just a youth not more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Her body was well constructed, the middle portion being thin. The beauty of her green eyes and pink lips was enhanced by her scattered hair and different kinds of earrings, and around her feet she wore jeweled lockets. All in all, the bodily luster and beauty of Rukmini, which was specifically intended to attract the attention of Krsna, appeared as if painted by an artist perfectly presenting beauty following the description of great poets.
Although the princes gazed upon her beautiful features, she was not at all proud. Her eyes moved restlessly, and when she smiled very innocently, her teeth appeared just like lotus flowers. Expecting Krsna to take her away at any moment, she proceeded very slowly toward her home. The motion of her legs was just like that of a full-grown swan's body, and her ankle bells tinkled very mildly.
The princes assembled there were so overwhelmed by Rukmini's beauty that they almost became unconscious, and they fell from the backs of their horses and elephants. Full of lust, they hopelessly desired Rukmini's hand, comparing their own beauty to hers. Srimati Rukmini, however, was not interested in any of them. In her heart she was simply expecting Krsna to come and carry her away. As she adjusted the ornaments on the fingers of her left hand, she happened to look upon the princes. Suddenly she saw that Krsna was among them. Although Rukmini had never seen Krsna before, she was always thinking of Him, and thus she had no difficulty recognizing Him.
Ignoring the other princes, Krsna immediately took Rukmini and placed her on His chariot. He then proceeded slowly, without fear, taking Rukmini away exactly as a lion takes a deer from the midst of jackals. Meanwhile, Balarama appeared on the scene with the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty.
Jarasandha, who had previously been defeated many times by Krsna, began to roar, "How is this? Krsna is taking Rukmini away from us without any opposition! What is the use of our being chivalrous fighters? My dear princes, just look! We are losing our reputation by this action! It is just like a jackal's taking booty from a lion!"
All the princes, led by Jarasandha, then became very angry at Krsna for kidnapping Rukmini. They stood up and properly armed themselves with their bows and arrows. However, as they began to chase after Krsna on their chariots, horses and elephants, the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty turned and faced them. Terrible fighting between the two belligerent groups ensued. The princes opposing Krsna were all very expert fighters, and they shot their arrows at the Yadu soldiers just as a cloud splashes the face of a mountain with torrents of rain. Determined to defeat Krsna and recapture Rukmini from His custody, Jarasandha and his companions fought with Krsna's army as severely as possible. Rukmini was seated by Krsna's side on His chariot. She became fearful when she saw the arrows of the opposing party raining onto the faces of the soldiers of Yadu, and she looked at Krsna, grateful that He had taken such a great risk alone. She felt very sorry. Krsna understood, and He encouraged her with these words: "My dear Rukmini, don't worry. Please rest assured that the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty will kill all their opponents without delay."
Lord Balarama and the commanders of the Yadu soldiers did not tolerate the defiant attitude of Jarasandha's army. They started to strike them with their arrows. As the fighting progressed, the princes and soldiers of the enemy began to fall from their horses, elephants and chariots.
When the enemy found that they were gradually being defeated, they thought it unwise to risk losing men for the sake of Sisupala. They felt that Sisupala himself should have fought to rescue Rukmini from the hands of Krsna, but when they saw that Sisupala was not competent enough to fight with Krsna, they decided not to lose their strength unnecessarily. Therefore they ceased fighting and dispersed.
Rukmini's brother Rukmi, however, was very agitated. He was determined to personally teach Krsna a lesson. He drew his bow and forcefully shot three arrows directly against Krsna's body. Then he condemned Krsna, saying, "You are the most abominable descendant of the Yadu dynasty. Stand before me for a minute so I can teach You a good lesson! You are carrying away my sister just like a crow stealing clarified butter meant for use in a sacrifice. You are proud of Your military strength, but You cannot fight according to regulative principles. You have stolen my sister, so now I shall relieve You of Your false prestige. You can keep my sister in Your possession only as long as I do not pin You to the ground with my arrows."
Upon hearing all these crazy words from Rukmi, Lord Krsna immediately shot an arrow and severed Rukmi's bowstring. Rukmi then took up another bow and shot another five arrows at Krsna. Attacked for a second time by Rukmi, Krsna again severed his bowstring. Again Rukmi took up a bow, and yet again Krsna cut its string. Having run out of bows, Rukmi took the assistance of swords, shields, tridents, lances, and similar other weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. But Krsna destroyed them all in the same way as before. Repeatedly baffled in his attempts, Rukmi finally took his sword and ran very swiftly toward Krsna, just as a fly hurtles toward a fire. As soon as Rukmi reached Him, Krsna cut his weapon to pieces, took out His own sharp sword, and prepared to kill him. But Rukmini, understanding that Krsna was not going to excuse her brother, fell down at the Lord's lotus feet. In a very grievous tone, trembling with great fear, she began to plead with Him: "Please do not kill my brother just before the auspicious time of our marriage. I am happy to get You as my husband right at the last moment before my marriage to Sisupala, but I do not want our marriage to cost my elder brother's life. After all, he loves me, and he simply wants me to marry someone who, according to his calculations, is a better man than You."
At Rukmini's request, Lord Krsna grew compassionate and agreed not to kill the foolish Rukmi. At the same time, He wanted to give him some slight punishment. So He tied Rukmi up with a piece of cloth and snipped at his mustache, beard, and hair, leaving some spots here and there.
Krsna then brought Rukmini to Dvaraka and married her according to the Vedic rituals. All the inhabitants were happy on this occasion, and in every house there were great ceremonies. The citizens of Dvaraka were so pleased that they dressed themselves with the nicest possible ornaments and garments and presented gifts to the newly married couple. The story of how Krsna kidnapped Rukmini was poeticized, and the professional readers recited it everywhere. In this way, all the inhabitants of Dvaraka were extremely jubilant, seeing Krsna, the Supreme Lord, and Rukmini, the goddess of fortune, peacefully united.