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
God has an unlimited variety of names. Some of them—like Jehovah, Adonai, Buddha, and Allah—are familiar to us, while the names Krsna and Rama may be less so. However, whatever name of God we may accept, we are enjoined by all scriptures to chant it for spiritual purification.
Muhammed counseled, "Glorify the name of your Lord, the most high." (Koran 87.2) Saint Paul said, "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13) Lord Buddha declared, "All who sincerely call upon my name will come to me after death, and I will take them to Paradise." (Vows of Amida Buddha 18) King David preached, "From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised." (Psalms 113:3) And the world's oldest scriptures, the Vedas of India, emphatically state, "Chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of the Lord. In this age of quarrel there is no other way, no other way, no other way to attain spiritual enlightenment." (Brhan-naradiya Purana)
The special design of the Hare Krsna chant makes it easy to repeat and pleasant to hear. Spoken or sung, by yourself or in a group, Hare Krsna invariably produces a joyful state of spiritual awareness—Krsna consciousness.
Find out more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
The Name Is the Same
During a recent morning walk near ISKCON's center in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and several of his disciples were joined by Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen, a Benedictine monk from Niederalteich Monastery. Noticing that Srila Prabhupada was carrying meditation beads similar to the Catholic rosary, Father Emmanuel explained that he also chanted a constant prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful unto us." The following conversation ensued:
Srila Prabhupada: What is the meaning of the word Christ?
Father Emmanuel: Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning "the anointed one."
Srila Prabhupada: Christos is the Greek version of the word Krsna.
Father Emmanuel: This is very interesting.
Srila Prabhupada: When an Indian person calls on Krsna, he often says, "Krsta." Krsta is a Sanskrit word meaning "attraction." So when we address God as "Christ," "Krsta," or "Krsna," we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. When Jesus said, "Our Father, who art in heaven, sanctified be Thy name," that name of God was Krsta or Krsna. Do you agree?
Father Emmanuel: I think Jesus, as the Son of God, has revealed to us the actual name of God: Christ. We can call God "Father," but if we want to address Him by His actual name, we have to say "Christ."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. "Christ" is another way of saying Krsta, and "Krsta" is another way of pronouncing Krsna, the name of God. Jesus said that one should glorify the name of God, but yesterday I heard one theologian say that God has no name—that we can call him only "Father." A son may call his father "Father," but the father also has a specific name. Similarly, God is the general name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose specific name is Krsna. Therefore whether you call God "Christ," "Krsta," or "Krsna," ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, if we speak of God's actual name, then we must say, "Christos." In our religion, we have the Trinity: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe we can know the name of God only by revelation from the Son of God. Jesus Christ revealed the name of the father, and therefore we take the name Christ as the revealed name of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, it doesn't matter—Krsna or Christ—the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age. The easiest way is to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Rama and Krsna are names of God, and Hare is the energy of God. So when we chant the maha-mantra, we address God together with His energy. This energy is of two kinds, the spiritual and the material. At present we are in the clutches of the material energy. Therefore we pray to Krsna that He may kindly deliver us from the service of the material energy and accept us into the service of the spiritual energy. That is our whole philosophy. Hare Krsna means, "O energy of God, O God (Krsna), please engage me in Your service." It is our nature to render service. Somehow or other we have come to the service of material things, but when this service is transformed into the service of the spiritual energy, then our life is perfect. To practice bhakti-yoga [loving service to God] means to become free from designations like Hindu, Muslim, Christian, this or that, and simply to serve God. We have created Christian, Hindu, and Mohammedan religions, but when we come to a religion without designations, in which we don't think we are Hindus or Christians or Mohammedans, then we can speak of pure religion, or bhakti.
Father Emmanuel: Mukti? [liberation from material miseries]
Srila Prabhupada: No, bhakti. When we speak of bhakti, mukti is included. Without bhakti there is no mukti, but if we act on the platform of bhakti, then mukti is included. We learn this from the Bhagavad-gita (14.26)
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down under any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman."
Father Emmanuel: Is Brahman Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is Parabrahman. Brahman is realized in three aspects: as impersonal Brahman, as localized Paramatma, and as personal Brahman. Krsna is personal, and He is the Supreme Brahman, for God is ultimately a person. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11), this is confirmed:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
"Learned transcendentalists, who know the Absolute Truth, call this non-dual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." The feature of the Supreme Personality is the ultimate realization of God. He has all six opulences in full: He is the strongest, the richest, the most beautiful, the most famous, the wisest, and the most renounced.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, I agree.
Srila Prabhupada: Because God is absolute, His name, His form, and His qualities are also absolute, and they are non-different from Him. Therefore to chant God's holy name means to associate directly with Him. When one associates with God, one acquires godly qualities, and when one is completely purified, one becomes an associate of the Supreme Lord.
Father Emmanuel: But our understanding of the name of God is limited.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are limited, but God is unlimited. And because He is unlimited, or absolute, He has unlimited names, each of which is God. We can understand His names as much as our spiritual understanding is developed.
Father Emmanuel: May I ask a question? We Christians also preach love of God, and we try to realize love of God and render service to Him with all our heart and all our soul. Now, what is the difference between your movement and ours? Why do you send your disciples to the Western countries to preach love of God when the gospel of Jesus Christ is propounding the same message?
Srila Prabhupada: The problem is that the Christians do not follow the commandments of God. Do you agree?
Father Emmanuel: Yes, to a large extent you're right.
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the meaning of the Christians' love for God? If you do not follow the orders of God, then where is your love? Therefore we have come to teach what it means to love God: If you love Him, you cannot be disobedient to His orders. And if you're disobedient, your love is not true.
All over the world people do not love God, but their dogs. The Krsna consciousness movement is therefore necessary to teach people how to revive their forgotten love for God. Not only the Christians, but also the Hindus, the Mohammedans, and all others are guilty. They have rubber-stamped themselves as Christian, Hindu, or Mohammedan, but they do not obey God. That is the problem.
Visitor: Can you say in what way the Christians are disobedient?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The first point is that they violate the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" by maintaining slaughterhouses. Do you agree that this commandment is being violated?
Father Emmanuel: Personally, I agree.
Srila Prabhupada: Good. So if the Christians want to love God, they must stop killing animals.
Father Emmanuel: But isn't the most important point...
Srila Prabhupada: If you miss one point, there is a mistake in your calculation. Regardless of what you add or subtract after that, the mistake is already in the calculation, and everything that follows will also be faulty. We cannot simply accept that part of the scripture we like, and reject what we don't like, and still expect to get the result. For example, a hen lays eggs with its back part and eats with its beak. A farmer may consider, "The front part of the hen is very expensive because I have to feed it. Better to cut it off." But if the head is missing there will be no eggs anymore because the body is dead. Similarly, if we reject the difficult part of the scriptures and obey the part we like, such an interpretation will not help us. We have to accept all the injunctions of the scripture as they are given, not only those that suit us. If you do not follow the first order, "Thou shalt not kill," then where is the question of love of God?
Visitor: Christians take this commandment to be applicable to human beings, not to animals.
Srila Prabhupada: That would mean that Christ was not intelligent enough to use the right word: murder. There is killing, and there is murder. Murder refers to human beings. Do you think Jesus was not intelligent enough to use the right word—murder—instead of the word killing? Killing means any kind of killing, and especially animal killing. If Jesus had meant simply the killing of humans, he would have used the word murder.
Father Emmanuel: But in the Old Testament the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" does refer to murder. And when Jesus said, "Thou shalt not kill," he extended this commandment to mean that a human being should not only refrain from killing another human being, but should also treat him with love. He never spoke about man's relationship with other living entities but only about his relationship with other human beings. When he said, "Thou shalt not kill," he also meant in the mental and emotional sense—that you should not insult anyone or hurt him, treat him badly, and so on.
Srila Prabhupada: We are not concerned with this or that testament but only with the words used in the commandments. If you want to interpret these words, that is something else. We understand the direct meaning. "Thou shalt not kill" means, "The Christians should not kill." You may put forth interpretations in order to continue the present way of action, but we understand very clearly that there is no need for interpretation. Interpretation is necessary if things are not clear. But here the meaning is clear. "Thou shalt not kill" is a clear instruction. Why should we interpret it?
Father Emmanuel: Isn't the eating of plants also killing?
Srila Prabhupada: The Vaisnava philosophy teaches that we should not even kill plants unnecessarily. In the Bhagavad-gita (9.26) Krsna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If someone offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or a little water, I will accept it." We offer Krsna only the kind of food He demands, and then we eat the remnants. If offering vegetarian food to Krsna were sinful, then it would be Krsna's sin, not ours. But God is apapa-vijna—sinful reactions are not applicable to Him. He is like the sun, which is so powerful that it can purify even urine—something impossible for us to do. Krsna is also like a king, who may order a murderer to be hanged, but who himself is not subjected to punishment because he is very powerful. Eating food first offered to the Lord is also something like a soldier's killing during wartime. In a war, when the commander orders a man to attack, the obedient soldier who kills the enemy will get a medal. But if the same soldier kills someone on his own, he will be punished. Similarly, when we eat only prasada [the remnants of food offered to Krsna], we do not commit any sin. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (3.13):
"The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food that is first offered for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin."
Father Emmanuel: Krsna cannot give permission to eat animals?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes—in the animal kingdom. But the civilized human being, the religious human being, is not meant to kill and eat animals. If you stop killing animals and chant the holy name Christ, everything will be perfect. I have not come to teach you, but only to request you to please chant the name of God. The Bible also demands this of you. So let's kindly cooperate and chant, and if you have a prejudice against chanting the name Krsna, then chant "Christo" or "Krsna"—there is no difference. Sri Caitanya said: namnam akari bahu-dha nija-sarva-saktis. "God has millions and millions of names, and because there is no difference between God's name and Himself, each one of these names has the same potency as God." Therefore, even if you accept designations like Hindu, Christian, or Mohammedan, if you simply chant the name of God found in your own scriptures, you will attain the spiritual platform. Human life is meant for self-realization—to learn how to love God. That is the actual beauty of man. Whether you discharge this duty as a Hindu, a Christian, or a Mohammedan, it doesn't matter—but discharge it!
Father Emmanuel: I agree.
Srila Prabhupada: [pointing to a string of 108 meditation beads] We always have these beads, just as you have your rosary. You are chanting, but why don't the other Christians also chant? Why should they miss this opportunity as human beings? Cats and dogs cannot chant, but we can because we have a human tongue. If we chant the holy names of God, we cannot lose anything; on the contrary, we gain greatly. My disciples practice chanting Hare Krsna constantly. They could also go to the cinema, or do so many other things, but they have given everything up. They eat neither fish nor meat nor eggs, they don't take intoxicants, they don't drink, they don't smoke, they don't partake in gambling, they don't speculate, and they don't maintain illicit sexual connections. But they do chant the holy name of God. If you would like to cooperate with us, then go to the churches and chant, "Christ," "Krsta," or "Krsna." What could be the objection?
Father Emmanuel: There is none. For my part, I would be glad to join you.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we are speaking with you as a representative of the Christian church. Instead of keeping the churches closed, why not give them to us? We would chant the holy name of God there twenty-four hours a day. In many places we have bought churches that were practically closed because no one was going there. In London I saw hundreds of churches that were closed or used for mundane purposes. We bought one such church in Los Angeles. It was sold because no one came there, but if you visit this same church today, you will see thousands of people. Any intelligent person can understand what God is in five minutes; it doesn't require five hours.
Father Emmanuel: I understand.
Srila Prabhupada: But the people do not. Their disease is that they don't want to understand.
Visitor: I think understanding God is not a question of intelligence, but a question of humility.
Srila Prabhupada: Humility means intelligence. "The humble and meek own the kingdom of God." This is stated in the Bible, is it not? But the philosophy of the rascals is that everyone is God, and today this idea has become popular. Therefore no one is humble and meek. If everyone thinks that he is God, why should he be humble and meek? Therefore I teach my disciples how to become humble and meek. They always offer their respectful obeisances in the temple and to the spiritual master, and in this way they make advancement. The qualities of humbleness and meekness lead very quickly to spiritual realization. In the Vedic scriptures it is said, "To those who have firm faith in God and the spiritual master, who is His representative, the meaning of the Vedic scriptures is revealed."
Father Emmanuel: But shouldn't this humility be offered to everyone else, also?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but there are two kinds of respect: special and ordinary. Sri Krsna Caitanya taught that we shouldn't expect honor for ourselves, but should always respect everyone else, even if he is disrespectful to us. But special respect should be given to God and His pure devotee.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, I agree.
Srila Prabhupada: I think the Christian priests should cooperate with the Krsna consciousness movement. They should chant the name Christ or Christos and should stop condoning the slaughter of animals. This program follows the teachings of the Bible; it is not my philosophy. Please act accordingly and you will see how the world situation will change.
Father Emmanuel: I thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna!
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 Srila 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 a pioneer in 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 his son's disciple, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Published in 1886, Sri Caitanya-siksamrta (The Nectarean Teachings of Sri Caitanya) systematically and. uncompromisingly establishes the basic principles of devotional practice. Its subject matter is based largely on the conversations between Sri Caitanya , Mahaprabhu and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, as recorded in Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja's classic biography, Caitanya-caritamrta. The present article comprises the second half of the first chapter.
The nature of love is that it accepts something as its subject and something as its object. Without a subject and an object, love is impossible. In pure spiritual love, the heart of the living entity is the subject, and Lord Krsna alone is the object. Since Krsna is the Supreme Absolute Truth, once pure, unadulterated love for Him awakens, all subordinate worshipable objects become summed up in His original form. Therefore only love for Krsna is actually pure love. While reading this book in its entirety, one will directly experience that pure love to the extent that he is actually searching for it. If, however, simply upon hearing the name of Krsna, the reader becomes argumentative, he will be cheated of any factual realization of the Absolute Truth. To argue about the holy name of the Lord is futile The object indicated by the holy name Krsna is the supreme goal of every living entity. The nectarean pastimes of Lord Krsna described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, the crown jewel of all Vedic literatures, were directly perceived in trance by Srila Vyasadeva, the best of sages. Following the advice of Sri Narada, Vyasadeva entered into devotional service to the Lord, the natural form of samadhi; and then was able to see the original form of Krsna. Later he described Lord Krsna's pastimes with His devotees, who exhibit devotion free from all material designations. This pure love destroys the living entity's distress, illusion, and fear.
According to their different qualifications, people who read or hear the pastimes of Krsna perceive them either intelligently or ignorantly. At the time of Lord Krsna's appearance, when His pastimes are manifested to material vision, they stimulate increased intelligent perception by the wise class of men, but only more foolish understanding by those whose intelligence is absorbed in matter. Perception arising under the influence of the Lord's knowledge potency is intelligent perception, but perception that develops in ignorance is unintelligent.
When one tries to understand the nectarean pastimes of Lord Krsna foolishly, one may present many argumentative objections. No such objections are raised, however, if one perceives the Lord's pastimes with intelligence. If one hopes to achieve the supreme goal of life, he should quickly develop this intelligent perception. Why should one choose to understand things in a foolish way and thus, by creating arguments, allow one's best interest to be ruined?
Intelligent perception of Lord Krsna's pastimes is briefly summarized as follows. Those who can rise above thinking of material things, and who can thus become actually thoughtful, can see things intelligently. They see the form of Krsna with spiritual vision, hear the pastimes of Krsna with spiritual hearing, and fully relish Krsna with their spiritual sense of taste. All the pastimes of Krsna are nonmaterial—i.e., they are transcendental to this material world. Therefore, by themselves, one's material eyes and other material senses cannot perceive their presence. Only by the inconceivable potency of Krsna can these pastimes be perceived with material senses. When, at the time of His appearance the Lord makes His pastimes accessible to gross senses, He grants direct participation in them only to those with intelligent perception. Thus the general mass of people perceive His pastimes unintelligently. They foolishly consider Krsna to be something impermanent, thinking that His body, like ours, is born, grows old, and dies. Because of unintelligent perception, some people also believe that formlessness is the ultimate reality and that form can exist only in the material sphere. Therefore, since Krsna has a form, they conclude that He is material.
No one can ascertain the nature of the Absolute Truth by argument. How can human reason, which is limited, deal with the unlimited subject of the Absolute Truth? If one wishes to understand and directly experience the Absolute Truth, he must engage in devotional service to the Lord. This process of devotional service, which is called bhakti, is the preliminary stage of what we have previously referred to as pure love of God. One can develop intelligent perception only by receiving the mercy of Krsna, and one can receive the mercy of Krsna only by acting in devotional service, not simply by acquiring knowledge.
Many kinds of sentiment for the Supreme Truth are seen in the world, but apart from all of them, the affection for the original form of Krsna is the only sentiment that meets the standard of pure, unalloyed love. For example, one cannot apply the term pure love to the feeling for Lord Allah presented in the Islamic scriptures. Even the prophet who was Lord Allah's dearmost friend was unable to directly see His transcendental body, for although he entered into a relationship of friendship with the Lord, he was kept at a distance under the spell of His opulence. Likewise, the Christian conception of "God" is a very aloof phenomenon, and there are certainly no discussions of the pastimes of the impersonal Brahman. Nor is the magnificent form of Lord Narayana the most natural object for the soul's ecstatic love. Therefore the only immediate object of pure ecstatic love is Krsna, whose original form is found in its eternal splendor in the transcendental abode of Vrndavana.
Krsna's Vrndavana is by nature eternally full of sweetness and bliss. Although spiritual opulence is fully present there, its predominating aspect is not felt. Fruits, flowers, and young sprouts—these are the riches of Vrndavana. The domain's subjects are the herds of cows, the friends are the cowherd boys, the consorts are the gopis, and the food is the milk products such as butter and yogurt. The River Yamuna and all the forests and gardens are full of love for Krsna. In fact, in Vrndavana all of nature acts in Krsna's service. Krsna, who elsewhere receives the worship and reverence of everyone as the Supreme Absolute Truth, is in Vrndavana the sole treasure of life, sometimes known familiarly to the worshiper as his equal, and sometimes as his inferior.
How else could the insignificant living entity ecstatically love the Absolute Truth? The Supreme Truth has His own pastimes and His own desires, and He is anxious to have the living entity's pure love. How can He who is by His nature supreme, who, like common men, hankers for worship but can never be fully satisfied by such worship, obtain His own happiness? By covering His opulences with the quality of sweetness and evoking the love of His devotees. Thus Lord Sri Krsna, the reservoir of the most wonderfully relishable pastimes, accepts equality with and inferiority to those living entities fit to relish the transcendental relationships of Vrndavana, and in this way He obtains His own pleasure.
For those who accept pure and complete love of God as the only goal in life, who else but Krsna could they choose as the object of that love? Furthermore, if the language were changed so that words such as krsna, Vrndavana, gopa, gopi, go-dhana, govardhana, yamuna, kadamba, and so on could not be found anywhere, then devotees trying to develop pure ecstatic love would simply have to somehow pick other words for all the holy names, abodes, paraphernalia, forms, and pastimes of Krsna. Therefore, there is no object of pure love except Krsna.
After careful consideration, we can see that there are just two ways of achieving love for Krsna, namely, regulated devotional service and spontaneous service. Spontaneous devotion is rare. Regulations have no more power over a person whose spontaneous attraction for Krsna has developed, but as long as it has not developed, his prime business is to follow the rules of regulated devotional service. Until uncontaminated, spontaneous attraction becomes prominent, a candidate must accept as his duty both the essential and minor regulative principles of devotional service to Krsna. Thus the Vedic sastras mention two paths, known as vidhi-marga (regulated devotional service) and raga-marga (spontaneous devotional service). Since raga-marga is completely voluntary, it does not have specifically prescribed regulations. Only one who is especially fortunate and highly qualified can enter onto this path. I have consequently written here only about the process of devotional service on the platform of vidhi-marga.
Unfortunate persons cannot recognize the Supreme Lord. For the sake of carrying out their livelihood, they are forced to establish many rules of conduct known as niti, or morality. However, regardless of how excellent a code of morality may be, if it does not further the development of God consciousness, it cannot bring about the perfection of human life. Such morality is simply renegade morality. On the other hand, a set of moral codes that encourages belief in God and prescribes authorized activity on His behalf should be respected as a proper system of guidelines (vidhi) for the behavior of human beings.
There are two types of this vidhi: major and minor. When one accepts the satisfaction of the Lord as the only goal in life, then the process that immediately fulfills this purpose is called mukhya (major) vidhi. In contrast, a process that more or less indirectly indicates the final goal of satisfying the Lord is known as gauna (minor) vidhi. For example, bathing early in the morning is one guideline of behavior. By bathing in the morning, the body is cleansed and made free from disease. Thus the mind becomes steady, and when the mind is steady, one is fit to worship the Lord. In this case, then, the goal of life (to worship the Supreme) is not realized directly, since the immediate result of bathing is merely a clean body. If one takes bodily cleanliness to be the ultimate goal of bathing, he will not get the fruit of devotional service. Therefore, except for the worship of the Lord, all other results of the moral principle of bathing are intermediate benefits, and when such secondary results are involved, interference with the final goal is always a possibility.
On the other hand, the immediate goal of mukhya-vidhi is service to the Supreme Lord. In this major process of activity, there is no intermediate result standing between the means of the regulative principles and the end of devotional service. Chanting the glories of Lord Krsna and hearing topics about Him are aspects of mukhya-vidhi, since the direct consequence of both is pure devotion. However, if one simply executes the main process of devotional practice in relation to Krsna but neglects secondary regulations, he will not be able to fulfill the needs of the body, and thus it will be impossible for him to maintain his life. How can one adopt the mukhya-vidhi (direct devotional service to the Lord) if he cannot even keep his body and soul together? The gist of gauna-vidhi, then, is that by diligent application of all types of education, art, industry, etiquette, and orderliness, which are prime assets of human life, and by also taking to heart bodily, mental, and social regulations, one can honestly maintain his livelihood and thus facilitate his service to the Lord's lotus feet. When gauna-vidhi is actually carried to its complete fructification, it becomes the assistant of mukhya-vidhi and helps make human existence fully ecstatic with the nectar found at the Lord's lotus feet.
There are many styles of human life: nomadic life, barely civilized life, civilized life enriched by material science, atheistic moral life, theistic moral life, devotional life in practice, and the life of a devotee in ecstatic love of God. Actually, human existence as such begins with religious morality. As long as one's way of life is not centered around God (and by extension, as long as it remains uncivilized, unscientific, and immoral), it cannot be considered any better than animal life. Real human life must be governed by the rules and restrictions of theistic morality. Therefore the considerations of this discussion begin with God-conscious moral life.
Among the chief ornaments of a God-conscious way of life are material science, culture, and ethics. And when, along with these features, religious morality matures into devotional life, all one's desires are satisfied.
The activities of the jiva (living entity) are known as jaiva-dharma, and on the human level, as human dharma. Human dharma has two aspects, gauna and mukhya, which are concerned with conditioned and purely spiritual activities respectively. Gauna, or conditional, dharma deals with the world of matter, its material modes, and the conditioned living entity's relationship with them. Mukhya, or spiritual, dharma has as its subject the pure spirit soul and is therefore the actual jaiva-dharma. Gauna-dharma is in fact nothing more than mukhya-dharma affected by material nature and transformed according to the modes of matter—goodness, passion, and ignorance. As the living entity's activities rise above these three modes and again become fully spiritual, gauna-dharma changes into mukhya-dharma. In other words, gauna-dharma is the soul's natural propensities covered and perverted by material designations. When all false designations are eliminated from gauna-dharma, it becomes mukhya-dharma.
Gauna-dharma includes both the conditioned activities prescribed by the regulations of gauna-vidhi and those forbidden by its restrictions, or in other words, both pious and sinful activities. A person should not artificially renounce his conditioned activities; rather, in the advanced stage of his liberation from the material modes, these activities will automatically be transformed back into spiritual activities. Gauna-dharma comes about when the conditioned soul allows his spiritual activities to become perverted. These material activities can again become spiritualized if reconverted by the proper means. Therefore, in future chapters, we shall first discuss the rules and restrictions of gauna-vidhi, then those of mukhya-vidhi, and finally the perfection of jaiva-dharma: devotional service in ecstatic love of God.
by His Holiness Acyutananda Swami
In 1886, when Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was stationed in Jagannatha Puri, India, as a government minister, he became so anxious to see the land of Lord Caitanya that he applied many times for a transfer to any town nearby. Upon not receiving the desired transfer, he formally submitted a resignation from public service, but it was refused. Then, to his great rejoicing, he obtained a transfer to Krsna-nagara, twenty-five miles from Navadvipa, Mayapur, the birthplace of the Lord. Once stationed there, he did not let a single free moment pass without visiting the land of Navadvipa. He made inquiries about the exact whereabouts of the different places of Lord Caitanya's pastimes and soon discovered that the then city of Navadvipa was a town of only one hundred years' standing. Convinced that Navadvipa was not the actual birthplace of Lord Caitanya, Srila Bhaktivinoda became curious to locate the authentic spot. He at once commenced a vigorous inquiry to find the truth of the matter. Finally, after persistent inquiry, he was told that the actual site was lost under the shifting course of the Ganges. Not satisfied with even this explanation, he himself set out to discover the yoga-pitha (birthplace). After great difficulties, he came to know of a place then in the possession of the Mohammedans that was being adored by many realized souls as the true birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Local inquiry and corroborative evidence from ancient maps of the latter part of the eighteenth century that showed the name "Sri Mayapur" at last helped him discover the actual site. As a final proof, Srila Bhaktivinoda showed the site to Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the foremost devotee of Lord Caitanya at that time, who confirmed that it was definitely the site where the Lord had appeared. Although Jagannatha dasa Babaji was old and disabled, when he was brought to that holy place and found it genuine, he immediately jumped up and began to dance in ecstasy.
Soon afterward, Srila Bhaktivinoda retired from his government position and personally went door-to-door in Calcutta to raise funds for the construction of a temple memorializing Lord Caitanya's birthplace. Today, pilgrims from every part of the world congregate there to pay their respects to the Lord and His pure devotees.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
ISKCON Joins "Mummers' Parade"
With roots in pre-colonial America, Philadelphia's New Year's Day Mummers' Parade of elaborately costumed string bands and colorful floats has been a city-sponsored classic since 1901. This year's parade was certainly unique for Krsna and Arjuna were there, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself along with His most heroic devotee, riding on their chariot surrounded by chanting, dancing Hare Krsna devotees. Televised live during the parade and highlighted on the evening news, the prizewinning Krsna chariot and marchers were the result of a joint effort by ISKCON and the Charles Klein New Year's Association, a famous Mummers' Parade marching club of over sixty years' standing.
When the members of the Klein club saw ISKCON's Ratha-yatra parade in Philadelphia last year, they marveled at the spontaneous joy and enthusiasm it generated. They immediately called ISKCON's Philadelphia temple to find out how they could create at the Mummers' Parade the same surcharged atmosphere and spirit they felt at Ratha-yatra. "They contacted me, wanting to make their Mummers' Parade theme 'Hare Krsna,' " explained Philadelphia temple president Rabindra Svarupa dasa Adhikari. "They asked our advice and participation in the parade."
The Klein Club then designed and built a dazzling sixteen-foot yellow and red chariot, complete with canopy and "drawn" by three life-size white horses. The chariot was designed and decorated according to the famous Krsna and Arjuna painting on the cover of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In addition, the Republican party donated a large white elephant mounted on wheels, which was later draped with a crimson Hare Krsna banner.
On the day of the parade, the magnificent chariot, carrying a beautifully dressed Krsna and Arjuna, preceded by the elephant, and surrounded by a jubilant mass of singing and dancing devotees, rolled up Broad Street in central Philadelphia. The transcendental spectacle won a parade prize as well as live television coverage. In addition, the official program magazine of the Mummers' Parade featured a three-hundred-word description of Lord Krsna's appearance in this material world five thousand years ago. Explaining how Krsna carried out His divine mission of protecting the pious and annihilating the unrighteous on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, the official statement, which was later read on television, concluded: "So chant along with us Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare as this great moment in ancient India is relived today here on Broad Street. Hare Krsna!"
Farm News - Mississippi Farm Flourishing
"Everything in Krsna consciousness is always increasing," goes a favorite ISKCON saying, and the New Orleans temple farm in Carriere, Mississippi, proves the point. Temple leaders are negotiating the purchase of an additional two hundred fifty acres of land, which will expand the Deep South farm community to well over four hundred acres.
Lots of hard work in the spirit of devotion to Krsna has produced bountiful results from the fertile Gulf Coast soil. For example, last fall the farm's three acres of sugarcane provided one hundred gallons of syrup. Right now, thirteen hundred strawberry plants are sitting in a one-acre garden, and, in a poor year for pecans, devotees still harvested over two hundred gallons of the nutritious nuts from twenty trees.
In addition, forty acres of winter rye grass is helping to nurture a herd of forty-one cows, calves, and bulls. "Here at the farm we produce all the milk, curd, butter, ghee, and cream our temple in New Orleans needs—and then some!" said temple and farm president Nityananda dasa Adhikari. Having just constructed a milking house adjacent to the farm's twin seventy-foot silos, the New Orleans devotees are presently getting thirty-five gallons of milk a day from sixteen cows.
But the heavy construction begins in the spring, when a hilltop temple overlooking all the surrounding countryside is due to be built. The worship room will be seventy by fifty feet, with a split-level floor and a balcony, and above this will be a large feasting hall. Nityananda dasa invites other ISKCON devotees as well as interested visitors to come to Carriere and take advantage of Krsna consciousness in a rural setting.
A conversation between BTG editor Damodara dasa and Krsna-Balarama Temple president Dhananjaya dasa.
Damodara dasa: Why has the International Society for Krishna Consciousness spent so much time and effort constructing such a large temple in a small Indian village like Vrndavana?
Dhananjaya dasa: The first reason is that we want to attract people from all over the world to visit the holy land of Lord Krsna's birth—and to provide nice facilities for them when they come. Vrndavana is a land of great spiritual potency. In fact, it's said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that anyone who visits Vrndavana, even if he's sinful, will at once contact a spiritual atmosphere and automatically chant the holy names of the Lord. Of course it may appear to an outsider that for us to build a big temple in a small village is a waste of energy. But the Krsna-Balarama Temple in Vrndavana is not only a place to worship God. It is the hub of a long-range social reform project. Vrndavana is the center of religion in India—the birthplace of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Starting from this point, we want to re-institute a culture based on God consciousness, strictly according to the design of the Vedic literature. We plan to make it a success in every way—economically, agriculturally, socially.
When Vedic culture flourished in India the temple was the center of life—the center of all community activities. The temple's school educated the children; its religious services provided inspiration and purpose; and the temple priests counseled the townspeople on family and economic problems as well as their spiritual life. On the whole, the temple provided a common focus of life that gave solidarity to the community and fostered friendship and purposefulness. Constructing the Krsna-Balarama Temple is a very practical first step in reinstating that strength into Indian culture. The temple can provide the material and spiritual necessities of life when the rest of society is failing.
Damodara dasa: But why should Westerners like yourself and so many others in ISKCON feel they have the right or the responsibility to educate Indians in their own culture?
Dhananjaya dasa: True, for centuries Westerners have come to India to teach that economic development is the path to success. But we're teaching Indians a different lesson—that materialism isn't what human life is all about, and therefore that industrialization isn't the answer to their problems. Only Westerners can teach this lesson to India because only Westerners have experienced the emptiness and frustrations of gross materialism. The present generation of Indians hasn't been through this yet so they're easily led to believe that large-scale industry will solve all their problems.
But before the present era, before the English and the Moguls occupied the subcontinent, the people of India understood that a social structure without God at the center is doomed to failure. Now, by and large, they've forgotten this. In the villages, the people are still religious, but their practice rarely goes beyond ritualism. They have little knowledge of the philosophy and scriptural basis of their own Vedic culture.
Our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, is very concerned about India's condition. He's a rare soul who is fully conversant with the Vedic basis of Indian society. Taking direction and inspiration from his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he sees that if India is to prosper once again, it must reawaken its own unique spiritual heritage, which once made India the most opulent country on earth. In fact, the Vedas say that India was once the capital of the whole planet.
Since the past greatness of India was due to its spiritual strength, to try to rebuild India on a materialistic, Western model is foolish. The solution is rather to reconstruct Indian society on the basis of the ancient Vedic tradition. This tradition is much more than just a collection of rites and customs; it's a living, integrated, scientific philosophy and life-style that can solve India's problems if applied as it was meant to be applied. The Krsna-Balarama Temple is going to be a center for Vedic studies where people can learn the original solutions to all spiritual and material problems, practically apply them, and then teach them to others.
Damodara dasa: Besides the long-range plans for Indian society, what has the Krsna-Balarama Temple done concretely for the Vrndavana community?
Dhananjaya dasa: Right now we're distributing food to hundreds of people daily. Fresh, sweet water—hard to come by in the area—is available for everyone. At the well, residents and pilgrims can drink and use the water for bathing. We have many tubs for poor people to wash in. And on the roadside, our trough provides fresh water for oxen, buffalo, and cows.
But we provide more than handouts: we employ people. In building the temple, we employed hundreds of local men. We kept alive traditional crafts by giving work to sculptors, woodworkers, and many other craftsmen living in Vrndavana. Now, to continue their work, we're developing cottage industries to supply the temple.
In addition, construction has begun on the temple school. We're filling up an acre of land next to the main plot, and planning to start off with facilities for 250 students. It will be the only school in Vrndavana where both Hindi and English are taught. Both Indian and Western children will learn there, and teachers will be drawn from both ISKCON's worldwide staff and the local residents. We plan to affiliate the school with Agra University. Another benefit for the neighborhood will be the branch offices of the post office and the Punjab National Bank that will occupy two of the storefronts on the roadside concourse of the school's land.
Also in the works is a dairy farm about three miles from the temple. It has about 500 acres of pastureland and 150 acres for growing wheat, vegetables, and other crops. The present owners of the farm want us to manage it for them. They've seen how well we're doing with our farms in other countries, and more important, they have faith that we can maintain a devotional atmosphere at the farm, which will give the workers there a fulfilling life centered around service to God.
by His Holiness Guru dasa Swami
(as told to Damodara dasa)
I first learned of Srila Prabhupada's plan for a "heaven on earth" in Vrndavana, India in May of 1970. Vrndavana is the birthplace of Lord Krsna, which lies some ninety miles southeast of Delhi. I was in Delhi when Srila Prabhupada wrote me a letter explaining his plan. He asked me to investigate a report that the king of Bharatpur wanted to give us one of his many Vrndavana palaces. Of the many palaces the Maharaja of Bharatpur owned around Vrndavana, the Laksmirani Kunj palace was especially beautiful. In his letter, Srila Prabhupada said it would be excellent as an ISKCON center. So we looked into it.
By Krsna's arrangement, however, the Laksmirani Kunj palace was not to be our ISKCON, Vrndavana, center. At our first meeting and later on, the king made various offers, but it soon became clear to us that he was more interested in getting money than in giving charity.
When Srila Prabhupada found out that no palace was available, he reluctantly turned his attention to construction. Construction work is a big endeavor, particularly in India, but now it was our only recourse.
The first step in actually constructing our temple was to find a good location. I liked best a one-acre site in the Raman Reti district, about five miles west of the center of town. I sent Srila Prabhupada a map and told him that the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Saraf, wanted to donate the land to us. The Sarafs had become familiar with some ISKCON devotees who were living in Vrndavana at a place known as Brahma-kunda, and they liked them very much. Srila Prabhupada accepted the donation and told us to go on with the work of making an ISKCON, Vrndavana, center. He really catalyzed things with a letter to us in June of 1972: "We have fenced the land, but otherwise we have done nothing. So immediately bricks must be brought so they can sit during the rainy season and become soaked. A tube well must be dug immediately. I don't know why this has not been done. If needed, we can draw the water up by pump and store it in a tank, just as at the Vrndavana train station. We shall require much water for construction and for the vegetation, so a water supply must be there. We must have our own well. Sweet or salty, it does not matter."
Water is scarce throughout Vrndavana. Besides, the Vrndavana municipal pipeline had not yet reached the Raman Reti area. And even if it had, it couldn't have provided us with sufficient water, for it only runs in the morning and the evening. So for such a large construction project, the pipeline would have been both costly and impractical.
A friend of mine—a water expert—came to help us. We tried to ascertain how we could get sweet water in an area that had up till then yielded only salty. Sweet water was much preferred, for then we would not have to depend on any other source for drinking and cooking water. But a sweet-water well was almost unheard of in that part of the district, because the ground was full of minerals. In fact, our plot was surrounded by tracts with only saltwater wells on them. By Krsna's grace, however, when we finally dug our well we hit pure, sweet water. Everyone in Vrndavana was amazed. They thought that perhaps we were mystics, and that certainly Krsna was blessing us. In either case, they reasoned, it made our temple very special.
When the sweet well got started, everyone in the area came, not only to ask for water, but also to see the project that had been so blessed by Lord Krsna. As a result, the public opinion forming around us was becoming very positive.
The next step in the project was to employ an architect to draw up plans for the building itself. Two architects from India submitted one plan each—very grandiose schemes—and Saurabha dasa, a devotee of Srila Prabhupada's from Holland, submitted two plans. We chose one of his. He didn't have as many years of experience as the professional architects, but still his design outclassed theirs. As a devotee, he knew exactly how to arrange things for the pleasure of the Deities on the altar. He designed four Deity workrooms directly underneath the altar—one for sewing, one for storing decorations, one for storing big items such as swings, thrones, and hanging backdrops, and one room with a safe where the Deities' jewelry could be kept. No ordinary architect could have thought of these things.
In July, 1972 Srila Prabhupada wrote me, "You have told me that the water from the well is sweet. That is very good news. Water in Vrndavana, if it is sweet, is very digestive. Simply by drinking that water one becomes healthy. As far as the name of the temple is concerned, you can call our place the ISKCON Krsna-Balarama Temple."
That was the first mention of a Krsna-Balarama temple. Srila Prabhupada told us that it would be the only such temple in Vrndavana. He wanted to feature Krsna and Balarama because the area of Raman Reti where the temple was to stand was where Krsna and Balarama played as cowherd boys with Their friends. Raman Reti means "enjoyable sands." There's a nice park near the temple dedicated to Their dancing. It has an overwhelming feeling and is a wonderful place to chant Hare Krsna. Meanwhile, several factors were holding up progress. First was a lack of money. The funds for the project were coming from our collections in Delhi, Calcutta, and Hyderabad. Every day two or three devotees would visit businessmen in their offices and appeal to them for donations as part of our membership drive. But the money was coming in slowly. In addition, we had little in the way of building materials because of government shortages. Rather than allot goods to religious groups, they preferred to support the army and movie theaters.
To try to remedy this situation, I regularly went to Delhi to talk with officials such as the Minister of Mining and the man who controlled allotments of cement. I'd go to their homes early in the morning, sometimes while they were still in their pajamas so they couldn't escape, and impress upon them the need for a center of Krsna consciousness in Vrndavana. This approach finally struck a sympathetic note, and they began to sanction the amounts of cement and steel we needed. But still we experienced shortages. We could get only little bits and pieces here and there, either because we didn't have much money or because the government would only give us small amounts at one time. During this difficult period, Srila Prabhupada wrote me, "Now go on and develop the Vrndavana center with full enthusiasm and do not be discouraged by any temporary setbacks. Always work in the spirit of being completely dependent on Krsna for everything." And indeed, Krsna always made it possible for the work to go on.
Miraculous things would happen. When hundreds of people had been denied their supplies, we'd get our order approved. When there was a flood in the river our sand came from, new sand from another location came through right on time to be mixed with the cement that had just come in from another place. In this way we were being trained to depend on Krsna, especially since we were building His temple in Vrndavana itself. We didn't consider these obstacles to be unpleasant incidents. They seemed to be Krsna's test—to see how much love we were willing to put into His temple.
Over the next two years, the temple building went up gradually while the guesthouse, which did not require such fine workmanship, shot up suddenly. We planted fruit trees for future gardens and built other shelters for the storage of as many as three thousands bags of cement at one time. Trucks rolled onto the property day and night, and each time a truck arrived, the peacocks would trumpet their joy. It was great. An interesting fact is that the whole temple was built by hand. Our only machine was a little cement mixer. The scaffolding was simply bamboo tied together. The ornamental work—peacocks, elephants, scrolls—was done by skilled masons who chipped bricks by hand. We didn't buy anything prefabricated. We cut it ourselves out of brick or red sandstone.
After plans for the triple altars had been finalized, we went to Jaipur to arrange for the carving of the Deities. Baradraja Prabhu went there three times, very kindly staying there at great sacrifice to oversee the work.
As the completion date drew near, we traveled all over India getting Deity paraphernalia—marble plates, silver staffs, six-foot brass lamps, clothing, a special type of jewelry from jodhpur, and so on. Then Srila Prabhupada told us how to set up a festival for the temple opening. He told us to invite our life members, religious and government leaders, and dramatic troupes (including ISKCON's dancers).
The festival for the opening of the temple was held in April, 1975. Dozens of government officials attended from all around the country (including the governor of the state of Uttar Pradesh). There were concerts, dances, plays, guest speakers, feasts for thousands, a three-day ancient Vedic bathing ceremony to install the Deities, and a gigantic parade through the town of Vrndavana featuring elephants and gaily costumed marching bands.
Now, a year later, the Krsna-Balarama temple is just as Srila Prabhupada wanted it: a living, exciting temple. Classes are held throughout the day in both English and Hindi. Devotees chant before the Deities twenty-four hours a day. The guest house, Vrndavana's only modern accommodation, has eighty beautiful rooms, each with separate bath and balcony—comfortable living by any standards, East or West—and two first-class restaurants. Today the Krsna-Balarama Temple receives more visitors than any other temple in Vrndavana, proving what Srila Prabhupada has always advised us: with enthusiasm, patience, and complete faith in Krsna, all obstacles can be overcome and all endeavors can meet with success.
by Baradraja dasa
(as told to Damodara dasa)
I was in Mayapur, in what is now West Bengal, when I received a letter from His Holiness Gurudasa Swami asking me to go to Jaipur to see how the carving of the twelve Deities for the Krsna-Balarama Temple was coming along. When I arrived in Jaipur, the sculptor let me stay at his home along with the twenty-five members of his household—three generations—all of whom helped with the carving.
My first look at the Deities was inspiring. The two that were almost finished were good, and I suggested only a few small changes—a slight enlargement of the eyes and a change in the cheek structure. I was going by my personal experience. Indian sculptors have their own tradition, but much of it has been spoiled by years of catering to modern tastes. I was trying to stick to the old tradition, where the image is considered beautiful only when it reflects the meditative mood of the, sculptor and evokes that same mood in the onlooker. There are also strict rules about proportion, but they are secondary. A small deviation in the rules can remain as long as the Deity has the proper mood.
After instructing the sculptor on the few changes I wanted made, I saw two rough chunks of marble—one white and the other black—that were to become the Deities of Balarama and Krsna. I was spellbound. The two brothers were being carved in Their characteristic shapes, and just for fun the sculptors had put Them together the way They would appear on the altar with Balarama's elbow raised up to lean on Krsna's shoulder and Krsna's arms positioned to hold His flute. Enchanted, I felt I could see right through the white and black marble to the finished Deities inside.
A few months later, after a short visit to our clay-modeling workshop in Bengal, I returned to Jaipur. This time I watched the sculptors finish all the Deities except the one of Srila Prabhupada. The first attempt wasn't turning out too well, so I asked them to start over again. Then I took a train up to Vrndavana to be there when Krsna, Balarama, and the other completed Deities arrived. They were being driven up on a Golden Jaipur Co. truck named "Krishna," which I thought very auspicious.
About two A.M. on the night the Deities were scheduled to arrive, I was awakened by a terrific uproar. All the peacocks in Vrndavana seemed to be trumpeting their piercing cries, producing waves of sound that started far off and then swept across miles of holy land to the other side of town, echoing, back and forth. I rose, dressed, and went outside to see what was going on. Lo and behold, the truck with Krsna and Balarama had pulled in!
The workmen who unloaded the truck, the next morning were very nice. All day long, every day, they'd chant Hare Krsna as they worked, and when some extra service turned up, they'd do it for nothing, And although their supervisor was a Muslim, he was very concerned about the Deities. "Be careful, be careful! Don't break Krsna!" he would shout, perspiring heavily. The crew of Muslims and Hindus labored side by side, loudly chanting as they carried Krsna; and whenever they put a box down, they would cry out in unison, "All glory to Krsna and Balarama!"
Next I spent about a month painting the Deities. The residents of Vrndavana soon learned about the new Krsna and Balarama, and they would come to the window of the room I was working in to catch a glimpse of Them. But the Deities were always turned away from the window when I was painting, so the eager Vrndavanites would bang on the window grating with their sticks, saying, "I want to see Krsna and Balarama!" But they had to wait.
When the painting was finished, I returned to Bengal for another short visit and then went back to Jaipur a third and final time to supervise the carving of the last Deity—Srila Prabhupada. The work should have taken four days, but it stretched out to a full month. Not only was the sculptor very temperamental, but on top of that he spoke only Hindi, which I can't speak. Although communication was difficult, however, by Krsna's mercy the work turned out nicely.
Later on, in Vrndavana; I was painting the final touches on the Deity of Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, when Srila Prabhupada walked into the room to inspect the work. "Thank you very much," he said to me. "But one thing,'" he added in his gentle yet uncompromising way, "the lips should be a little more pink." I gladly changed the color. After so many months of giving orders to sculptors, it was refreshing to take orders from a pure devotee of the Lord.
Since the beginning of time, avataras have descended from the spiritual world to impart transcendental knowledge. But none have ever distributed knowledge or love of God as freely as the golden avatara—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
(Taken from "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts," a short work by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura first published in 1896.)
In the district of Mayapur, in the town of Nadia, just after sunset on the evening of February 18, 1486, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, advented Himself in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The moon was eclipsed at the time of His birth, and the people of Nadia, as was usual on such occasions, were bathing in the Ganges and loudly crying, "Hari bol! Hari bol!" His father, Jagannatha Misra, was a poor brahmana of the Vedic order, and his mother, Sacidevi, was a model good woman.
Lord Caitanya was a beautiful child, and the ladies of the town came to see Him with presents. They named Him Gaurahari on account of His golden complexion, and His mother called Him Nimai on account of the nim tree near which He was born.
When Lord Caitanya was an infant in His mother's arms, He wept continually, and when the neighboring ladies cried, "Hari boll" He would stop. Thus the words hari bol were always being uttered in the house, indicating the future mission of the Lord: to spread the chanting of the holy names of God throughout the world.
Once a brahmana on pilgrimage was taken in as a guest in the house of Jagannatha Misra. The brahmana cooked some rice and was reading grace with meditation upon Krsna when the infant Nimai came and ate the offering. The brahmana, astonished at the child's act, cooked again at the request of Jagannatha Misra. Again Nimai ate the cooked rice while the brahmana was offering it to Krsna with meditation. Although thoroughly discouraged, the brahmana was persuaded that he should cook for a third time after everyone had gone to sleep. This time Nimai showed the traveler His form of Krsna and blessed him, and the brahmana became overwhelmed with ecstasy at the appearance of the object of his worship.
Beautiful as the child Nimai was, everyone heartily loved to see Him every day. As He grew up He became a whimsical and frolicsome lad, and after His fifth year, He was admitted into a primary school where He picked up Bengali in a very short time. In His eighth year, He was admitted into the school of Gangadasa in Ganganagara, close to the village of Mayapur. In just two years he became well read in Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric, as well as scriptural studies and logic.
At the age of fourteen or fifteen, Caitanya married Laksmidevi, the daughter of Vallabhacarya, also of Nadia. At this age Caitanya was considered one of the best scholars of Nadia, the renowned seat of logic and Sanskrit learning. All the scholars and logicians were afraid of confronting Him in literary discussions. At this time he would preach devotional service at intervals. During Caitanya's residence in East Bengal, His wife, Laksmidevi, left this world from the effects of snakebite. On returning home, He found His mother in a mourning state. This time He consoled her with a lecture on the uncertainty of human affairs. Later, at His mother's request, He married Visnupriya, the daughter of Sanatana Misra.
Caitanya was now so renowned that He was considered to be the best scholar in Nadia. At this time Kesava of Kashmir came to Nadia to discuss philosophy with the scholars there. Afraid of this scholar, the professors of Nadia left town on the pretense of an urgent invitation. Thus Kesava met Lord Caitanya on the banks of the Ganges in Mayapur, but after a very short discussion he was defeated by the boy and obliged to decamp out of shame. Nimai was now the most important scholar of His time.
At the age of sixteen or seventeen Caitanya traveled to Gaya with a host of His students, and there He took spiritual initiation from Isvara Puri, a renounced devotee and a disciple of the renowned Madhavendra Puri. Upon His return to Nadia, Nimai turned religious preacher. Indeed, His religious nature became so strongly represented that Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa, and others, who had before the birth of Caitanya already accepted the path of devotion were astonished at the change of the young man. He was now no longer a contending logician, a wrangling debater, and a criticizing rhetorician. Now He swooned at the name of Krsna and behaved as an inspired man under the influence of His religious sentiment. His secretary Murari Gupta has given an eyewitness account of how He showed His heavenly powers in the house of Srivasa in the presence of hundreds of His followers, who were mostly well-read scholars.
At this time He and His sincere followers opened a nocturnal school of chanting in the compound of Srivasa. There the Lord preached, there He sang, there He danced, and there He expressed all sorts of religious feelings. Nityananda Prabhu, a renowned preacher of devotional service who had just completed His travels all over India, joined Caitanya at that time. In fact, a host of preachers of devotion, all sincere at heart, came and joined Him from different parts of Bengal. Nadia now became the regular seat of many exalted devotees of Krsna, whose mission was to spiritualize mankind with the highest influence of the devotional creed.
The first mandate that Caitanya Mahaprabhu issued to Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa, another of His intimate disciples, was this: "Go, friends, go through the streets of the town, meet every man at his door and ask him to sing the name of Hari and lead a holy life. Then come to Me every evening and report the results of your preaching." Thus ordered, the two preachers went out and met Jagai and Madhai, two most abominable characters, who insulted them upon hearing Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mandate. Soon, however, the two rogues were converted by the influence of devotion inculcated by their Lord. The people of Nadia were now surprised. They said, "Nimai is not only a gigantic genius, but He is certainly a missionary from God almighty."
From this time to His twenty-third year, Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached His principles not only in Nadia but in all important towns and villages around that city. In the houses of His followers He showed miracles, taught the esoteric principles of devotion, and sang the holy names of God with other devotees. His followers in the town of Nadia commenced to sing the holy name of Hari in the streets and bazaars. This created a sensation and roused different feelings in different quarters. The devotees were highly pleased. But some brahmanas became jealous of Nimai's success and complained to Chand Kazi, the ruling magistrate of the district, that Caitanya was violating Hindu principles. The Kazi then went to Srivasa's house and broke a drum, declaring that unless Nimai ceased making noise about His strange religion, the Kazi would be obliged to enforce Mohammedanism on Him and His followers.
When this declaration was brought to Caitanya Mahaprabhu's notice, He ordered all the townspeople to return in the evening carrying torches. This they did, and Nimai marched out with His chanting party divided into fourteen groups. Upon His arrival at the Kazi's house, He held a long conversation with the Kazi and in the end communicated into his heart His devotional influence by touching his body. The Kazi wept, admitting that the keen spiritual influence he had felt had cleared up his doubts and produced in him the highest ecstasy. The Kazi then joined the chanting party.
The world was astonished at the spiritual power of the great Lord, and hundreds and hundreds of heretics converted and joined His banner after this affair. But some of the jealous and low-minded brahmanas of Kuliya picked a quarrel with Caitanya and collected a party to oppose Him. The Lord was naturally softhearted, though strong in His principles. He declared that party feelings and sectarianism were the two great enemies of progress, and that as long as He should continue to inhabit Nadia as a member of a certain family, His mission would not meet with complete success. He then resolved to become a citizen of the .world by cutting His connection with His particular family, caste, and creed, and with this resolution He embraced the position of sannyasa at Katwa, under the guidance of Kesava Bharati of that town, in His twenty-fourth year. After taking the renounced order, Krsna Caitanya, as He was now named, wished to go to Vrndavana and reside there. However, on the request of His dear mother, Sacidevi, He consented to live at Jagannatha Puri so that she could easily hear news of Him.
Upon His arrival at Puri, Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw Lord Jagannatha in the temple and then resided with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya at the latter's request. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya was a gigantic scholar of the day. He was the best logician of the time and was known as the most erudite scholar in the Vedanta philosophy of the school of Sankaracarya. His brother-in-law Gopinatha Misra, who had known Mahaprabhu from Nadia, held Him in great reverence and declared that the renunciate was not a common human being. On this point Gopinatha and Sarvabhauma had a hot discussion. Sarvabhauma then requested Mahaprabhu to hear his recitation of the Vedanta-sutra, and the latter tacitly submitted. Caitanya heard with silence what the great Sarvabhauma uttered with gravity for seven days, at the end of which the latter said, "Krsna Caitanya! I think you do not understand the Vedanta, for you have not said anything after hearing my recitation and explanations." Caitanya replied that while He understood the verses very well, He could not make out what Sankaracarya meant by his commentaries. Astonished at this, Sarvabhauma said, "How is it that You understand the meanings of the verses but do not understand the commentaries which explain the verses? Ahh, well! If You understand the verses, please let me have Your interpretations." Mahaprabhu thereupon explained all the verses in His own way, without touching the pantheistic commentary of Sankara. The keen understanding of Sarvabhauma saw the truth, beauty, and harmony of Caitanya's explanations. Sarvabhauma was then obliged to utter that it was the first time he had found someone who could explain the Vedanta in such a simple manner. He then submitted himself as a follower of Lord Caitanya.
In a few days Sarvabhauma turned out to be one of the best devotees of the time. When reports of this were circulated, the whole of Orissa sang the praise of Krsna Caitanya, and hundreds and hundreds came to Him and became His followers. In the meantime Caitanya Mahaprabhu thought of visiting Southern India, and He started with one Krsnadasa on the journey.
Touring the South
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's biographers have given us many details of His journey to South India. First He went to Kurmaksetra, where He performed a miracle by curing a leper named Vasudeva. He then met Ramananda Raya, the governor of Vidyanagara, on the banks of the Godavari and had a philosophical conversation with him on the subject of love of God. He worked another miracle by touching (making them immediately disappear) the seven trees through which Ramacandra, the son of Dasaratha, had shot His arrow and killed the great Vali Raja. He preached devotional service and chanting the names of God throughout the journey. At Rangaksetra He stayed for the four months of the rainy season in the house of Vyenkata Bhatta. There He converted the whole family of Vyenkata to devotional service of Krsna, along with the son of Vyenkata, a boy of ten years named Gopala, who afterward went to Vrndavana and became one of the Six Gosvamis or prophets serving under their leader, Sri Krsna Caitanya.
Upon the Lord's return to Puri, King Prataparudra and several brahmanas joined the banner of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He was now twenty-seven years of age. In His twenty-eighth year He went to Bengal as far as Gauda in Malda. There He picked up two great personages named Rupa and Sanatana. Though descended from the lines of brahmanas, these two brothers had become demi-Muslims by their continual contact with Hussain Shah, then the emperor of Gauda. Their names had been changed by the emperor into Dabir Khas and Sakara Mallik, and the Shah loved them heartily, for they were both learned in Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit and were loyal servants of the state. The two gentlemen had found no way to come back as regular Hindus and had written to Lord Caitanya for spiritual help while He was at Puri. Caitanya had written in reply that He would come to them and extricate them from their spiritual difficulties. Now that Caitanya had come to Gauda, both the brothers appeared before Him with their long-standing prayer. Caitanya ordered them to go to Vrndavana and meet Him there.
"Revive the Holy Places"
When Rupa Gosvami finally met Lord Caitanya at Allahabad, the Lord trained him in spirituality for ten continuous days. Then the Lord directed him to go to Vrndavana to write theological works scientifically explaining pure devotion and to revive the places where Lord Krsna had at the end of Dvapara-yuga exhibited His spiritual pastimes for the benefit of the religious world.
After Rupa Gosvami left Allahabad for Vrndavana, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came down to Benares. Sanatana Gosvami joined Him there and took instruction for two months on spiritual matters.
While at Benares, Caitanya had an interview with the learned sannyasis of that town in the house of a brahmana who had invited them all. The sannyasis were headed by their most learned leader, Prakasananda Sarasvati. But after a short controversy, they submitted to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, admitting that they had been misled by the commentaries of Sankaracarya. It was impossible even for learned scholars to oppose Caitanya for long, for there was some spell in Him that touched their hearts and made them weep for their spiritual improvement. The sannyasis of Benares soon fell at the feet of Caitanya and asked for His grace. Caitanya then preached pure devotion and instilled into their hearts spiritual love for Krsna, which obliged them to give up sectarian feelings. The whole population of Benares became devotees after this wonderful conversion of the sannyasis and they performed a mass chanting of the holy names with their new Lord. After sending Sanatana to Vrndavana, Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Puri again through the jungles with His comrade Balabhadra, who reported that the Lord performed many miracles on the way, such as making tigers and elephants dance upon hearing the name of Krsna.
From His thirty-first year, Caitanya Mahaprabhu continually lived in the house of Kasi Misra. During His last eighteen years, in this world, Lord Caitanya's life was one of settled love and piety. He was surrounded by numerous followers, all of whom were exalted devotees distinguished from the common people by their pure character, deep learning, firm religious principles, and spiritual love of Radha-Krsna.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu slept short. His ecstatic sentiments carried Him far and wide in the firmament of spirituality every day and night, and all His admirers and followers watched Him throughout. He worshiped, communicated with His missionaries at Vrndavana, and conversed with those religious men who daily came to visit Him. He sang and danced, and oft times lost Himself in religious beatitude. He was most amiable in nature, and He was humility personified. His sweet appearance gave cheer to all who came in contact with Him. All who came to Him recognized Him as the all-beautiful God appearing in this world for the benefit of mankind.