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—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, all scriptures enjoin us 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.
Part of a forthcoming book, the following is a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciple Syamasundara dasa.
Syamasundara: Plato believed society can enjoy prosperity and harmony only if it places people in working categories or classes according to their natural abilities. He thought people should find out their natural abilities and use those abilities to their fullest capacity—as administrators, as military men, or as craftsmen. Most important, the head of state should not be an average or mediocre man. Instead, society should be led by a very wise and good man—a "philosopher king"—or a group of very wise and good men.
Srila Prabhupada: This idea appears to be taken from the Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna says that the ideal society has four divisions: brahmanas [intellectuals], ksatriyas [warriors and administrators], vaisyas [merchants and farmers], and sudras [laborers]. These divisions come about by the influence of the modes of nature. Everyone, both in human society and in animal society, is influenced by the modes of material nature [sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna, or goodness, passion, and ignorance]. By scientifically classifying men according to these qualities, society can become perfect. But if we place a man in the mode of ignorance in a philosopher's post, or put a philosopher to work as an ordinary laborer, havoc will result.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that the brahmanas—the most intelligent men, who are interested in transcendental knowledge and philosophy—should be given the topmost posts, and under their instructions the ksatriyas [administrators] should work. The administrators should see that there is law and order and that everyone is doing his duty. The next section is the productive class, the vaisyas, who engage in agriculture and cow protection. And finally there are the sudras, common laborers who help the other sections. This is Vedic civilization—people living simply, on agriculture and cow protection. If you have enough milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can live very nicely.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam compares the four divisions of society to the different parts of the body—the head, the arms, the belly, and the legs. Just as all parts of the body cooperate to keep the body fit, in the ideal state all sections of society cooperate under the leadership of the brahmanas. Comparatively, the head is the most important part of the body, for it gives directions to the other parts of the body. Similarly, the ideal state functions under the directions of the brahmanas, who are not personally interested in political affairs or administration because they have a higher duty. At present this Krsna consciousness movement is training brahmanas. If the administrators take our advice and conduct the state in a Krsna conscious way, there will be an ideal society throughout the world.
Syamasundara: How does modern society differ from the Vedic ideal?
Srila Prabhupada: Now there is large-scale industrialization, which means exploitation of one man by another. Such industry was unknown in Vedic civilization—it was unnecessary. In addition, modern civilization has taken to slaughtering and eating animals, which is barbarous. It is not even human.
In Vedic civilization, when a person was unfit to rule he was deposed. For instance, King Vena proved to be an unfit king. He was simply interested in hunting. Of course, ksatriyas are allowed to hunt, but not whimsically. They are not allowed to kill many birds and beasts unnecessarily, as King Vena was doing and as people do today. At that time the intelligent brahmanas objected and immediately killed him with a curse. Formerly, the brahmanas had so much power that they could kill simply by cursing; weapons were unnecessary.
At present, however—because the head of the social body is missing—it is a dead body. The head is very important, and our Krsna consciousness movement is attempting to create some brahmanas who will form the head of society. Then the administrators will be able to rule very nicely under the instructions of the philosophers and theologians—that is, under the instructions of God-conscious people. A God-conscious brahmana would never advise opening slaughterhouses. But now, the many rascals heading the government allow animal slaughter. When Maharaja Pariksit saw a degraded man trying to kill a cow, he immediately drew his sword and said, "Who are you?! Why are you trying to kill this cow?" He was a real king. Nowadays, unqualified men have taken the presidential post. And although they may pose themselves as very religious, they are simply rascals. Why?—because under their noses thousands of cows are being killed while they collect a good salary. Any leader who is at all religious should resign his post in protest if cow slaughter goes on under his rule. Since people do not know that these administrators are rascals, they are suffering. And the people are also rascals because they are voting for these bigger rascals. It is Plato's view that the government should be ideal, and this is the ideal: The saintly philosophers should be at the head of state; according to their advice the politicians should rule; under the protection of the politicians, the productive class should provide the necessities of life; and the laborer class should help. This is the scientific division of society that Krsna advocates in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: "According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me."
Syamasundara: Plato also observed social divisions. However, he advocated three divisions. One class consisted of the guardians, men of wisdom who governed society. Another class consisted of the warriors, who were courageous and who protected the rest of society. And the third class consisted of the artisans, who performed their services obediently and worked only to satisfy their appetites.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, human society does have this threefold division, also. The first-class man is in the mode of goodness, the second-class man is in the mode of passion, and the third-class man is in the mode of ignorance.
Syamasundara: Plato's understanding of the social order was based on his observation that man has a threefold division of intelligence, courage, and appetite. He said that the soul has these three qualities.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a mistake. The soul does not have any material qualities. The soul is pure, but because of his contact with the different qualities of material nature, he is dressed in various ways. This Krsna consciousness movement aims at removing this material dress. Our first instruction is: "You are not this body." It appears that in his practical understanding Plato identified the soul with the bodily dress, and that does not show very good intelligence.
Syamasundara: Plato believed that man's position is marginal—between matter and spirit—and therefore he also stressed the development of the body. He thought that everyone should be educated from an early age, and that part of that education should be gymnastics—to keep the body fit.
Srila Prabhupada: This means that in practice Plato very strongly identified the self as the body. What was Plato's idea of education?
Syamasundara: To awaken the student to his natural position—whatever his natural abilities or talents are.
Srila Prabhupada: And what is that natural position?
Syamasundara: The position of moral goodness. In other words, Plato thought everyone should be educated to work in whatever way is best suited to awaken his natural moral goodness.
Srila Prabhupada: But moral goodness is not enough, because simple morality will not satisfy the soul. One has to go above morality—to Krsna consciousness. Of course, in this material world morality is taken as the highest principle, but there is another platform, which is called the transcendental (vasudeva) platform. Man's highest perfection is on that platform, and this is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam. However, because Western philosophers have no information of the vasudeva platform, they consider the material mode of goodness to be the highest perfection and the end of morality. But in this world oven moral goodness is infected by the lower modes of ignorance and passion. You cannot find pure goodness (suddha-sattva) in this material world, for pure goodness is the transcendental platform. To come to the platform of pure goodness, which is the ideal, one has to undergo austerities (tapasa brahmacaryena samena ca damena ca). One to has to practice celibacy and control the mind and senses. If he has money, he should distribute it in charity. Also, one should always be very clean. In this way, one can rise to the platform of pure goodness.
There is another process for coming to the platform of pure goodness—and that is Krsna consciousness. If one becomes Krsna conscious, all the good qualities automatically develop in him. Automatically he leads a life of celibacy, controls his mind and senses, and has a charitable disposition. In this age of Kali, people cannot possibly be trained to engage in austerity. Formerly, a brahmacari [celibate student] would undergo austere training. Even though he might be from a royal or learned family, a brahmacari would humble himself and serve the spiritual master as a menial servant. He would immediately do whatever the spiritual master ordered. The brahmacari would beg alms from door to door and bring them to the spiritual master, claiming nothing for himself. Whatever he earned he would give to the spiritual master, because the spiritual master would not spoil the money by spending it for sense gratification—he would use it for Krsna. This is austerity. The brahmacari would also observe celibacy, and because he followed the directions of the spiritual master, his mind and senses were controlled.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Today, however, this austerity is very difficult to follow, so Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given the process of taking to Krsna consciousness directly. In this case, one need simply chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare and follow the regulative principles given by the spiritual master. Then one immediately rises to the platform of pure goodness.
Syamasundara: Plato thought the state should train citizens to be virtuous. His system of education went like this: For the first three years of life, the child should play and strengthen his body. From three to six, the child should learn religious stories. From seven to ten, he should learn gymnastics; from ten to thirteen, reading and writing; from fourteen to sixteen, poetry and music; from sixteen to eighteen, mathematics. And from eighteen to twenty, he should undergo military drill. From twenty to thirty-five, those who are scientific and philosophical should remain in school and continue learning, and the warriors should engage in military exercises.
Srila Prabhupada: Is this educational program for all men, or are there different types of education for different men?
Syamasundara: No, this is for everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: This is not very good. If a boy is intelligent and inclined to philosophy and theology, why should he be forced to undergo military training?
Syamasundara: Well, Plato said that everyone should undergo two years of military drill.
Srila Prabhupada: But why should someone waste two years? No one should waste even two days. This is nonsense—imperfect ideas.
Syamasundara: Plato said this type of education reveals what category a person belongs to. He did have the right idea that one belongs to a particular class according to his qualification.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that we also say, but we disagree that everyone should go through the same training. The spiritual master should judge the tendency or disposition of the student at the start of his education. He should be able to see whether a boy is fit for military training, administration, or philosophy, and then he should fully train the boy according to his particular tendency. If one is naturally inclined to philosophical study, why should he waste his time in the military? And if one is naturally inclined to military training, why should he waste his time with other things? Arjuna belonged to a ksatriya [warrior] family. He and his brothers were never trained as philosophers. Dronacarya was their master and teacher, and although he was a brahmana, he taught them Dhanur Veda [military science], not brahma-vidya. Brahma-vidya is theistic philosophy. No one should be trained in everything; that is a waste of time. If one is inclined toward production, business, or agriculture, he should be trained in those fields. If one is philosophical, he should be trained as a philosopher. If one is militaristic, he should be trained as a warrior. And if one has ordinary ability, he should remain a sudra, or laborer. This is stated by Narada Muni, in Srimad-Bhagavatam: yasya yallaksanam proktam. The four classes of society are recognized by their symptoms and qualifications. Narada Muni also says that one should be selected for training according to his qualifications. Even if one is born in a brahmana family, he should be considered a sudra if his qualifications are those of a sudra. And if one is born in a sudra family, he should be taken as a brahmana if his symptoms are brahminical. The spiritual master should be expert enough to recognize the tendencies of the student and immediately train him in that line. This is perfect education.
Syamasundara: Plato believed that the student's natural tendency wouldn't come out unless he practiced everything.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is wrong—because the soul is continuous, and therefore everyone has some tendency from his previous birth. I think Plato didn't realize this continuity of the soul from body to body. According to the Vedic culture, immediately after a boy's birth astrologers calculated what category he belonged to. Astrology can help if there is a first-class astrologer. Such an astrologer can tell what line a boy is coming from and how he should be trained. Plato's method of education was imperfect because it was based on speculation.
Syamasundara: Plato observed that a particular combination of the three modes of nature is acting in each individual.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why did he say that everyone should be trained in the same way?
Syamasundara: Because he claimed that the person's natural abilities will not manifest unless he is given a chance to try everything. He saw that some people listen primarily to their intelligence, and he said they are governed by the head. He saw that some people have an aggressive disposition, and he said such courageous types are governed by the heart—by passion. And he saw that some people, who are inferior, simply want to feed their appetites. He said these people are animalistic, and he believed they are governed by the liver.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not a perfect description. Everyone has a liver, a heart, and all the bodily limbs. Whether one is in the mode of goodness, passion, or ignorance depends on one's training and on the qualities he acquired during his previous life. According to the Vedic process, at birth one is immediately given a classification. Psychological and physical symptoms are considered, and generally it is ascertained from birth that a child has a particular tendency. However, this tendency may change according to circumstances, and if one does not fulfill his assigned role, he can be transferred to another class. One may, have had brahminical training in a previous life, and he may exhibit brahminical symptoms in this life, but one should not think that because he has taken birth in a brahmana family he is automatically a brahmana. A person may be born in a brahmana family and be a sudra. It is a question not of birth but of qualification.
Syamasundara: Plato also believed that one must qualify for his post. His system of government was very democratic. He thought everyone should be given a chance to occupy the different posts.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, we are the most democratic, because we are giving everyone a chance to become a first-class brahmana. The Krsna consciousness movement is giving even the lowest member of society a chance to become a brahmana by becoming Krsna conscious. Candalo 'pi dvija-sresthah hari-bhakti-parayanah: Although one may be born in a family of candalas [dog eaters], as soon as he becomes God conscious, Krsna conscious, he can be elevated to the highest position. Krsna says that everyone can go back to home, back to Godhead. Samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu: "I am equal to everyone. Everyone can come to Me. There is no hindrance."
Syamasundara: What is the purpose of the social orders and the state government?
Srila Prabhupada: The ultimate purpose is to make everyone Krsna conscious. That is the perfection of life, and the entire social structure should be molded with this aim in view. Of course, not everyone can become fully Krsna conscious in one lifetime, just as not all students in a university can attain the M.A. degree in one attempt. But the idea of perfection is to pass the M.A. examination, and therefore the M.A. courses should be maintained. Similarly, an institution like this Krsna consciousness movement should be maintained, so that at least some people can attain and everyone can approach the goal-Krsna consciousness.
Syamasundara: So the goal of the state government is to help everyone become Krsna conscious?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna consciousness is the highest goal. Therefore, everyone should help this movement and take advantage of it. Regardless of his work, everyone can come to the temple. The instructions are for everyone, and prasada is distributed to everyone. Therefore, there is no difficulty. Everyone can contribute to this Krsna consciousness movement. The brahmanas can contribute their intelligence; the ksatriyas their charity; the vaisyas their grain, milk, fruits, and flowers; and the sudras their bodily service. By such joint effort, everyone can reach the same goal—Krsna consciousness, the perfection of life.
Is God a formless force, or the supreme eternal person ?
An analysis by Candidasa dasa.
Very often the readers of BACK TO GODHEAD become puzzled when they see a picture of Lord Krsna. Usually they have been exposed only to Western religious philosophy, which hints that God is a person—the eternal father of every living entity—but gives scanty information about His form. For this reason many people think God is formless or void. But by using a little logic we can easily understand that if God is our eternal father, He must have form. Our fathers are persons with form. And if we count back thousands of generations we will find that our forefathers were also persons with form. Why should we think that the original, primeval, absolute father (God) is not a person, or that He is a formless person? The word person implies form; a formless person does not exist.
Nevertheless, many people think that since God is spirit, He must be formless. They consider spirit to be some transparent, ethereal "force." However, beyond this hazy conception of spirit, which is not upheld in any of the great scriptures of the world, is the scientific explanation of spirit—or, as modern science calls it, antimatter—found in the Vedic literatures.
The Vedic literatures do not deny the formless aspect of God. Rather, they explain that beyond the formless, impersonal realization of God is the highest understanding of the Absolute Truth as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedic literatures explain that God, Krsna, is a person. Just as we are all individual persons, so God is also an individual person. But He is not an ordinary, materially covered person like us. He is a transcendental person (nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam). And to realize His personality is to realize all His transcendental features—His name, His qualities, His activities, His associates, and His form.
God, who is complete, cannot be formless. Everything in His creation has form, so how can God have no form? This would mean that God is less than His creation—or in other words, that the complete is incomplete, which is simply illogical. The complete whole must contain everything within our experience and beyond our experience; otherwise He cannot be complete. In addition, all the great scriptures of the world instruct us to love God. How can we love something formless or void? It's impossible. We are all persons, and we desire to love other persons—not some dark oblivion in outer space. We desire personal relationships, and the ultimate relationship is with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The form of Krsna—with His bluish hue, lotus eyes, blooming youthfulness, and pearl-white smile—is not fanciful. It is not created by an artist, a philosopher, or a mundane poet after seeing the beautiful panorama of the material world. This anthropomorphic idea doesn't answer the question, "Where does the beauty of nature come from?" Actually, the beautiful things of nature are reflections of Krsna's original beauty. He is the prototype, as He explains in the Bhagavad-gita (10.41). Yad yad vibhutimat sattvam srimad urjitam eva va/tat tad evavagaccha tvam mama tejo-'msa-sambhavam: "Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor."
Now we might ask, "Why do you accept the statements in the Vedic literature about the form of God?" But if we reflect for a moment, we can understand that every day we accept the statements of superior authorities on subjects we know nothing about. For instance, few of us have ever actually visited mainland China, yet we believe that it exists and that almost a billion people live there. We believe the magazine, newspaper, radio, and television reports about China. These are the sources of our knowledge, and if we wish we can confirm them by going to China ourselves. In the same way, the Vedic literatures are the source of knowledge that reveals Krsna's form to us. And we can confirm that knowledge as well—by following the Vedic teachings in our everyday life and developing the vision to see Krsna directly.
However, to properly receive the Vedic teachings, we must approach a perfect authority, whose knowledge is coming from the Absolute through an unbroken line of spiritual masters. Then our knowledge will be perfect. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is such a spiritual master, and he is giving us authoritative knowledge of Krsna's form through books such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Brahma-samhita. These books have existed more than five thousand years, and by following them many learned men have attained perfect knowledge of Krsna's form. For example, Brahma-samhita is a detailed description of Krsna's form by one of the most exalted personalities in the universe, Lord Brahma. After thousands of years of meditation, Brahma actually met Krsna face to face. In his ecstasy he related what he saw:
venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, who has blooming eyes like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms millions of cupids" (Bs. 5.30).
angani yasya sakalendriya-vrttimanti
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental form is full of bliss, truth, and substantiality, and who is thus full of the most dazzling splendor. Each limb of that transcendental figure possesses in itself the full-fledged functions of all the other organs, and He eternally sees, maintains, and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and mundane" (Bs. 5.32).
Experts in the science of bhakti-yoga have related to us the knowledge of Krsna's form through an unbroken disciplic succession. They encourage us to test the methods they prescribe, and to experience unlimited pleasure by seeing Krsna's form ourselves.
By reading the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we can learn about Krsna's names, qualities, pastimes, and form. Then, with determination, we can practice the scientific process of Krsna consciousness and elevate ourselves to the perfectional stage of life—pure love of God.
Lord Krsna's beauty possesses mind-attracting splendor greater than emeralds. His lustrous body resembles a dark cloud newly appearing in the sky during the rainy season. Just as the rainfall glistens, His bodily features also glisten. Indeed, Krsna is the sum total of all beauty. He stands gracefully with His legs crossed. His body curved, and His head tilted to the side. His yellow garment is more attractive than newly arrived lightning. A peacock feather decorates His head, and on His neck hangs a lovely necklace of brilliant pearls. Lord Krsna's eyes defeat the beauty of white lotus flowers, and His eyebrows move slowly like bumblebees on His lotuslike face. As He takes His charming, flute to His lips and moves His fingers upon it here and there, His face looks as beautiful as the full autumn moon.
Candidasa dasa, who came to the Hare Krsna movement in late 1973, graduated from the State University of New York (at Buffalo) with a B.A. in history and later taught at Niagara University. At present, he teaches the science of Krsna consciousness at the ISKCON temple in Pittsburgh.
An excerpt from
"You cannot see Me with your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes, so that you can behold My mystic opulence" (Bhagavad-gita 11.8)
How can we get the eyes to see God? How can we become God conscious, Krsna conscious, in every step of our life? Actually, Krsna makes it very easy for us: "O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man" (Bg. 7.8).
In this verse Sri Krsna is describing how we can become Krsna conscious fully, in all stages of life. For instance, all living entities must drink water. The taste of water is so nice that when we are thirsty, nothing but water seems to do. No manufacturer can create the pure taste of water. We can thus remember Krsna when we drink water. No one can avoid drinking water every day of his life, so God consciousness is there—how can we forget?
There are nine different processes for associating with God, and the first method of association is sravanam-hearing. By reading Bhagavad-gita we hear the speeches of Sri Krsna, which means that we are actually associating with God. (We should always remember that when we speak of Krsna, we refer to God.) Inasmuch as we associate with God, and as we go on hearing the words of Krsna and His names, the contamination of material nature is reduced. If we understand that Krsna is sound, illumination, water, and so many other things, we cannot avoid Him. If we can remember Krsna in this way, our association with Him is permanent.
Association with Krsna is like association with sunshine. Where there is sunshine, there is no contamination. As long as one is out in the ultraviolet rays of the sun, he will not be diseased. Western medicine recommends sunshine for all kinds of diseases, and the Vedas say a diseased man should worship the sun to be cured. Similarly, if we associate with Krsna, our maladies are cured. By chanting Hare Krsna we can associate with Krsna—and we can see Krsna in the sun and the moon, and we can hear Krsna in sound and taste Him in water.
It is especially useless to speculate about God. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam recommends that one give up all sorts of speculation. Instead, one should become submissive, realizing not only that he is an insignificant creature, but also that this earth is only one small point in the great universe. New York City may seem very large, but when one realizes that the earth is such a small spot, and that on the earth the United States is just another small spot, and that in the United States New York City is but a small spot, and that in New York the individual is only one out of millions, then one can understand that he is not so very important after all. Realizing our insignificance in the face of the universe and God, we should not be artificially puffed up but should be submissive.
We should be very careful not to fall prey to frog philosophy. Once there was a frog in a well, and upon hearing of the Atlantic Ocean from a friend, he asked, "Oh, what is this Atlantic Ocean?"
"It is a vast body of water," his friend replied.
"How vast? Is it double the size of this well?"
"Oh no-much, much larger."
"How much larger? Ten times the size?" In this way the frog went on calculating. But how could he ever understand the depths and far reaches of the great ocean? Our faculties, experience, and powers of speculation are always limited. We can give rise only to such frog philosophy.
After giving up speculation, what should we do? Bhagavatam recommends that we become humble and hear God's message submissively. We may hear His message also from the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures. The only qualification is that we receive the transcendental message from a realized soul—a pure devotee of God.
In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krsna gives additional ways to perceive Him in every step of life: "I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics" (Bg. 7.9).
Only Krsna can create flavors and fragrances. We may synthetically create some scents or fragrances, but these are not as good as the originals that occur in nature. When we smell a good natural fragrance, we can think, "Oh, here is God. Here is Krsna." Or when we see some natural beauty, we can think, "Oh, here is Krsna." Or when we see something uncommon, powerful, or wonderful, we can think, "Here is Krsna." Or when we see any form of life, whether it be in a tree, in a plant or an animal, or in a human being, we should understand that this life is part and parcel of Krsna, for as soon as the spiritual spark, which is part and parcel of Krsna, is taken away from the body, the body disintegrates. "O son of Prtha, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men" (Bg. 7.10).
Here again it is obvious that Krsna is the life of all that lives. Thus at every step we can see God. People may ask, "Can you show me God?" Yes, of course. We can see God in so many ways. But if one closes his eyes and says, "I shall not see God," then how can he be shown?
The easiest way to see God is to chant Hare Krsna always. Never mind whether you are in a factory or in a hell, in a shack or in a skyscraper—it doesn't matter. Just go on chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There is no expense, there is no impediment, there is no caste, there is no creed, there is no color—anyone can do it. Just chant and hear. Then, by Krsna's grace, you will have the eyes to see Him everywhere and always.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Relieving the "Religious" War
Years of bitter fighting, terrorist bombings, armored cars, and patrolling troops have made residents of Belfast, Northern Ireland, rather grim. But as visiting devotees have noted, Belfasters brighten when they hear the chanting of Hare Krsna. "The people here in Belfast are naturally pious, so they're curious about Krsna consciousness," reported Vrajendra Kumara dasa, one of the devotees from ISKCON's London center. Even though shooting and bombing sometimes flare up nearby, the devotees are following Lord Caitanya's instructions to spread Krsna consciousness "wherever you go, to whomever you meet." To Catholics, Protestants, soldiers—anyone and everyone—the devotees are distributing spiritual food, Krsna conscious literature, and the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In February the devotees ventured to Coleraine, a town of fourteen thousand, also in Northern Ireland. Despite snow and gale-force winds they distributed books entitled Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Soon the danger of frostbite forced the devotees off the street, but by that time one in every four families had received a Krsna book.
ISKCON Miami's "Heavenly Forest"
Swarms of bumblebees humming around newly-grown mango buds, peacocks strutting beneath flower-laden trees, cows munching happily in the fields—ISKCON's new eight-and-a-half-acre farm on the western outskirts of Miami, Florida, resembles Lord Krsna's spiritual abode, Goloka Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada has requested that the land be developed into "a tropical paradise full of fruits and flowers," and Temple President Narahari dasa and the other devotees are fulfilling that request. They recently installed a marble floor in the seventy-by-twenty-foot temple room and built a new barn.
But there's still plenty of devotional work for the fifty devotees on the farm, which is named New Naimisaranya (after a sacred forest in India). Some go out daily to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books and magazines. Others are busy putting the finishing touches on the temple. And still others take care of the bees, cows, and peacocks.
"We have fourteen working beehives right now," Narahari said, "and we've built an additional twenty hives that we plan to set up over the next year. We expect at least one hundred fifty pounds of honey a year from each hive, which should fully supply our temple's needs—and then some."
Meanwhile, the herd of five cows (two Jerseys, two Brown Swiss, and a Guernsey) produces more than enough milk to provide a sumptuous variety of milk sweets and other dishes for the temple's Deities—Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai.
Narahari seems confident that the paradisal environment, the beautiful Deities, and the natural joy of Krsna consciousness will attract many spiritually-minded people to New Naimisaranaya.
On-Campus Chaplaincy Approved
The University of Maryland, one of America's largest (with an enrollment of over forty thousand), recently granted ISKCON permanent facilities to offer Krsna consciousness on campus. Located in College Park, Maryland, eight miles from Washington, D.C., the university will provide ISKCON with an office in its interdenominational chapel.
The formal confirmation of ISKCON's on-campus ministry stemmed from increasing student interest in Krsna conscious programs at the university. A committee of students, faculty, and administrators examined the Krsna consciousness movement and agreed that ISKCON fulfilled the requirements of the Board of Regents for appointment to a chaplaincy. The committee then voted unanimously to grant ISKCON facilities for its programs on campus.
In a typical week, Gabhira dasa, ISKCON's on-campus representative, gives lectures to various classes, meets with individual students and professors, and organizes seminars on the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. One of his most popular programs is a class in Vedic cooking, held in campus dormitories. Devotees teach the students how to prepare Indian vegetarian food and how to offer the tasty dishes to Lord Krsna with devotion. The classes culminate in feasting for all. "By increasing our lectures, seminars, and free vegetarian feasts," says Gabhira dasa, "we hope to share even more of the Krsna conscious philosophy and way of life with the community."
A Peace Corps veteran tells how on his first
by Yadubara dasa
I was staying with some friends on Long Island, in July, 1970, when Asia Magazine called and gave me my first professional assignment—a photo-essay on the Hare Krsna people. I knew that they chanted on the streets of Manhattan, so I rode in on the Long Island Railroad to find them. But when the train pulled in at Penn Station, I had no idea where to look. I surfaced at Thirty-fourth Street—and there they were. Just down the street they were dancing and singing, their robes flapping like orange flags against the bright blue sky. I walked up to one young man and asked him if I might take some pictures. "Sure," he said. Later on, I rode with the group to their temple, on Second Avenue, in the East Village. That summer I did two articles on the devotees of Krsna. In the fall I chose them as the subject of my M.A. thesis. With the consent of my professors, I booked a flight to India, where I planned to photograph the spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement as he toured with a group of his American disciples. I heard later that one of my professors had remarked, "John will probably go to India and become a yogi and never come back."
Nothing could have been farther from my mind. I was determined to get my M.A. in photography. During my three years with the Peace Corps in Malaysia, just as a hobby I had taken photos of the Malaysian people. The result had been a successful photo show for the American ambassador. Encouraged, I had decided to study photography at Rochester Institute of Technology.
At R.I.T. I had met my wife, Jean, who was a promising young photographer. At nineteen, she had just published her first book, Macrophotography. When I was leaving for India in December, Jean was having an exhibition of her photographs in New York City. We decided that she would stay in New York and join me in a few months.
As the plane took off, I knew that something very exciting lay ahead. Imagine—I was going off alone to India to meet some American Hare Krsna devotees, and I barely knew their whereabouts.
I settled back in my reclining chair and opened Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the basic scripture of Krsna consciousness. A devotee named Guru dasa had told me that if I wanted to write a good thesis on the Hare Krsna movement, I should study this book carefully. I began with the Ninth Chapter, "The Most Confidential Knowledge," in which Lord Krsna says, "This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets." I felt I knew nothing about spiritual life. Although I couldn't understand the Gita very well, at the same time I thought, "Here's something very profound."
After landing in Bombay, I looked up an Indian gentleman at an address the New York devotees had given me. He told me the Hare Krsna people were in Surat, a town two hundred miles north of Bombay. Immediately I booked a third-class ticket and caught a train for Surat. It was evening when the train pulled in. Someone showed me the ricksha stand, where rows of lean men stood smoking cigarettes beside their three-wheeled vehicles. "Hare Krsna? Hare Krsna?" I said hopefully. "Yes! I know! I know!" one man shouted and grinned.
I got into his ricksha, and we raced off through the noisy streets into the dusk. The whole town was out strolling. Ricksha bells rang constantly as my driver threaded his way through the crowd of people, bicycles, and white cows. He stopped before a modern stucco house. As I jumped from the ricksha, I noted that standing on the steps was a fair-skinned sadhu in saffron robes.
Inside I found an old friend from the New York temple whose beaming face told me what I wanted to know—"Welcome to India!" That night I entered another world. First, my host Mr. Jariwallah gave me a garland of flowers and a silver tray filled with Indian cooked foods and fruits. When I had finished, my devotee friend took me in to meet his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada sat on a pillow, and he looked very stately. A devotee handed him a copy of Asia Magazine and told him I had done an article on the devotees. After looking through the article, he smiled and said, "Yes, that is very nice." I explained to Srila Prabhupada that I wanted to take more photographs, and he agreed. So, thanks to my picture-taking, I got to spend several hours in his room. He kindly introduced me to all his visitors: "This is John Griesser. He is an expert photographer."
At 4:20 A.M. the next day, about twenty of us gathered in Srila Prabhupada's room for the morning service. A devotee named Dinanatha dasa sat on the floor and chanted, the drum in his hands exploding with rhythm. Another devotee performed the ceremony. He offered incense, ghee lamps, flowers, and a peacock fan to the Deities—Lord Krsna and His consort Srimati Radharani, who stood together on a small marble altar. Everyone sang Hare Krsna to a melodious tune I hadn't heard before.
Then Srila Prabhupada gave a lecture. I admired his scientific descriptions of how the body is formed and the soul enters into it. His talks revealed a keen philosophical intelligence. My mind was satisfied when I heard his version of the mystery of birth, death, disease, and old age. He also explained that whatever insures people's spiritual happiness is the highest welfare work. I understood that the desire to alleviate suffering is the basic motive of a genuine guru.
I've often thought how lucky I was on my visit to India. Some Westerners wander around India for years—meeting various yogis and so-called gurus, shopping in bazaars, contracting diseases, and generally getting lost. I didn't even go to India with a spiritual aim. I simply wanted to finish an M.A. thesis and increase my photographic skill. Yet what a stroke of luck—on my first night in India, I met a pure devotee of Lord Krsna.
In Surat every day was a huge festival. I had a rare vision of an older, more spiritual India than I'd seen in Bombay. Around nine o'clock every morning, the devotees went out chanting in the streets, and I followed them with my camera. The welcome they received is one of my best memories of India. At each house someone would come out to garland the devotees, and after a few minutes the devotees' ecstatic faces would be hardly visible behind the flowers. Bolts of colorful cloth hung across the narrow streets, from balcony to balcony. Ladies showered flowers down on us from their windows. Indians naturally respect devotees of the Lord, and when the devotees happen to be young Westerners, they are even more popular.
I was glad to see the devotees in their glory, because I respected them as people and as friends. There was Guru dasa, a large and jolly person who himself took photographs of everything. There was Yamuna, his wife, a gifted singer who had introduced radio audiences to the Hare Krsna mantra when she recorded it with George Harrison on Apple Records. There was Tamala Krsna, the group's leader, whose determination I admired. And there was Giriraja dasa, who offered me his cheerful friendship. These special people helped me to appreciate Krsna consciousness.
After the festival in Surat, the whole party moved on to Allahabad, about three or four hundred miles west of Benares. I went to Bombay to develop my film. After a few days I took a train to Allahabad and joined the devotees.
At Allahabad it was the time of the Kumbha Mela, a festival that happens every six, years. The Kumbha Mela draws some six million people to the meeting point of three sacred rivers. Pilgrims come by foot, by camel, and by train. Prominent yogis even come on the backs of elephants. Somehow six million people crowd together at the meeting of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sarasvati rivers to take their bath at that astrologically correct time.
The night I arrived, the Allahabad train station was packed. I hailed a ricksha driver and said, "Take me to the Ganges." After he'd peddled through the blackness for about half an hour, I wondered whether he was taking me to a secluded place to rob me. I asked, "Where is it? Where is the Ganges?" He motioned with his hand, "Wait—just wait!" in the bossy way that ricksha drivers have. Suddenly he stopped. The night was so dark that I couldn't see anything, but he was signaling, "We're here." I got out, paid him, and started walking along what turned out to be a high cliff. As far as I could see below me, there were twinkling lights. I now realized that the dark strip running between the two fields of light was the Ganges—and that the lights were millions of torches, candles, ghee lamps, and small hurricane lamps dotting the campsite of the Kumbha Mela. The smell of cow-dung fires floated up to my nostrils, and I heard a great hum coming from below. It was the mingling of many mantras and prayers. I was awestruck.
Carefully yet quickly, I climbed down the side of the cliff to the maze of tents below. At the bottom I spotted a policeman and asked him to help me find the American devotees. He led me to the nearest cluster of tents, which stood facing the dirt road. Once again I'd caught up with the Hare Krsna people.
The next morning, the devotees formed their usual chanting party along the road beside the Ganges. The sight of these twenty young men and women dancing along the road with drums and cymbals was a joy to the other pilgrims. They were very friendly toward us. Apparently, they had never seen foreigners who sang and danced like that.
From morning till night, thousands of people streamed into our large tent. They saw our large Radha-Krsna Deities and then took prasada (spiritual food). All the while, they listened to the chanting of Hare Krsna.
I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I could feel that the holy Ganges was purifying me. After bathing in her waters, I felt lighter in body and spirit. An Indian health official there told me, "Science cannot explain why, but the Ganges never becomes stagnant or polluted."
My life at the Kumbha Mela festival settled into a pleasant pattern. At night I slept on a rug in a tent. In the morning I joined the chanting party, and afterward I helped with the cooking. I was learning how to roll chapatis [flat whole-wheat bread]. There were also opportunities to photograph the yogis. Sometimes they paraded on elephants—their naked bodies smeared with ashes, their foreheads lined with red and yellow clay. Others wore long hair and beards and filmy white robes. I got some good pictures of the yogis, but they seemed indifferent to me as a person. One actually laughed at me, as if being a Westerner somehow disqualified me from being there. I could sense that many of the yogis had unusual mystic powers, but I felt that they didn't have much compassion for other people.
On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada was averse to riding proudly on elephants, but he took an interest in someone like me. At all hours, he kindly discussed spiritual matters with the people who visited him in his red tent. With a small light hanging from above, Srila Prabhupada sat on a raised seat, and his visitors sat on carpets.
He roared like a lion at those who challenged the existence of God, but he was soft as a rose with those who were open-minded. Most often he was simply friendly and charming to everyone. Sometimes when he saw me he would ask, "is everything all right?" About that time, I shaved off my mustache. When Srila Prabhupada noticed, he said, "Oh, that's very good. You look very nice."
In Allahabad I also met an American student. He was from the University of Benares, and he invited me to visit him there. A few weeks later I went to see him. I think I wanted to talk to someone removed from Krsna consciousness, to give myself another angle on what I was experiencing. Or perhaps I was just restless. Anyway, in late February I went to the holy city of Benares, or Varanasi.
At my friend's place were students from Australia, New Zealand, America, and India. One evening I cooked a vegetarian dinner and offered it with prayers before a picture of Lord Krsna. Everyone enjoyed the time-honored Indian dishes I'd learned to prepare in Allahabad. I mentioned that the devotees would soon be in town for a festival, but the students weren't very interested. At the same time, their talk about their new courses and old acquaintances seemed rather trivial. Krsna consciousness was making more sense than anything else I had come across.
The festival at Benares was to commemorate the appearance day of Lord Caitanya, the sixteenth-century avatar who founded the Hare Krsna movement. The devotees were eager to go to Benares, because there—within a few hours—Lord Caitanya convinced several thousand scholars to become His disciples. When Srila Prabhupada arrived in Benares, the townspeople honored him as the foremost teacher of Lord Caitanya's philosophy, and they took him through the town in an ornate coach drawn by four white horses. He seemed to be going from victory to victory on his Indian tour.
That afternoon I went to see Srila Prabhupada at the house where he was staying. He sat under a tree in a sun-splashed courtyard, eating some guda [solidified molasses]. His expressive features lit up with a smile of welcome when he saw me. He was talking in his accented, rhythmic English about his boyhood days in Calcutta, and he described a gracious city, before the crowding and squalor of today. As a schoolboy he had seen splendid Victorian buildings of white marble, surrounded by stately lawns and trees.
Serene and lighthearted, Srila Prabhupada looked at me and remarked, "John, I think that Krsna has captured you." I agreed. I had known it for quite a while, but now Srila Prabhupada had confirmed it.
After the festival in Benares, we all took a train back to Bombay, on the western coast. By this time I was wondering what had happened to Jean. Krsna had captured me, and I hoped He would capture her also. I expected her to come to India soon, but she'd been delayed. In April I got a letter from her.
She wrote, "I expect to be leaving New York in two weeks, if there are no more complications. Personally, I'm feeling very restless. I've learned to be technically competent, but I find myself searching for something worth saying in my photographs. I want to do something positive with my camera—something that will make people happier, or better in some way. I have a medium, but no message."
While reading Jean's letter, I remembered what Srila Prabhupada had once said: "If one is not in Krsna consciousness, he must be disturbed, because there cannot be a final goal for the mind." When she finally arrived, I tried to be patient with her and to help her have the same pleasing exposure to Krsna consciousness that I'd had. She went in to visit Srila Prabhupada with the book she had written. He praised her technical know-how and gave her a big garland to wear. She was speechless.
At this time, in the heart of Bombay, Srila Prabhupada and his disciples were presenting one of the biggest spiritual festivals the city had seen in many years. Radha and Krsna Deities stood on a stage inside a huge tent. In this canvas pavilion Srila Prabhupada would lecture to twenty or thirty thousand people every night. White-shirted Indian businessmen and their well-groomed wives took part in the chanting. Everywhere the people welcomed Srila Prabhupada and his disciples. Also, many people invited them to their homes to chant in front of the family Deities and to take some prasada (which might include spicy vegetables, sweet rice, fruit, and sweets, all in little stainless-steel cups).
When the festival ended, Jean and I decided to leave Bombay. Exotic India still attracted our photographic propensities, so we asked Srila Prabhupada's advice about going off to photograph a country village. He suggested that we go to Vrndavana—the small village (ninety miles north of Delhi) where Lord Krsna grew up. It seemed a good way to quench our thirst for the picturesque. I had come to India to photograph the faces of devotion, and Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada told us, is full of devotees of Krsna.
We took a train to the town of Mathura, Krsna's actual birth site. From there we rode a horse-drawn cart to Vrndavana. As we entered Vrndavana, sunset was approaching. So we searched for the home of our host, a seventy-five-year-old Indian medical doctor who was a devotee of Lord Krsna. As we drove on, the temples facing the road offered us glimpses of Krsna Deities, and melodious chants rose and fell away. The air smelled of incense and the smoke from cow-dung fires. The streets of the bazaar were jammed with people who had come to see the home of Lord Krsna. When we reached our destination, darkness had set in.
The next day we went out to explore. It was the rainy season, and the greenery was thriving. There seemed to be peacocks in every tree, and small, colorful birds hopped toward us with inquisitive glances. We took photographs of the cows wandering across the gentle green hills or standing on the orange earth. Holy men with wooly hair and simple clothes grinned amiably at us as we snapped their pictures. Then Jean went to photograph the Bengali widows in the temple, and for an hour she joined them in their chanting. There are hundreds of well-known tourist spots all over the world, we thought—but the most beautiful of all, unknown in the West, is the land of Vrndavana.
Srila Prabhupada had guided us to a place where his devotees were staying, and we were glad to be with them. Their friendship helped us appreciate Krsna. Giriraja was always telling us stories about Krsna and His brother Balarama as we traced Their steps through the white, sandy roads of the Raman Reti district. Our next-door neighbor was Doctor Kapoor, a retired physics professor whose admiration for Srila Prabhupada was boundless. He often told us how Lord Krsna dwelled within everyone's heart, and he encouraged us to chant Hare Krsna.
Everything in Vrndavana demanded to have its picture taken—from the tiny donkey with his burden to the ancient shops, dwellings, and temples that lined the main streets of the bazaar. Old Bengali widows in white saris greeted us with a friendly "Hare Krsna." Monkeys leered and threatened from the rooftops of the market. At dusk the bells of a thousand little temples began to ring, mingling with the cowbells of returning herds. In the evening everyone visited the temples to see the Deities.
I thought Krsna must have brought us to Vrndavana on purpose. The land of His pastimes was helping Jean to experience the beauty of Krsna consciousness. I hoped she would be receptive to Srila Prabhupada. Being with him had cleared up my doubts and I was sure that his was the best message Jean and I could convey through our photography.
After a month in Vrndavana, we got a call from Guru dasa, in Calcutta. At his invitation we went to Calcutta and helped publish a special book for Srila Prabhupada's birthday. The book contained beautiful photographs of Srila Prabhupada and tributes from his disciples.
About two months later, Srila Prabhupada came to Calcutta. After being with him for many months and studying his teachings, I was sure that Srila Prabhupada was a pure devotee of Krsna and that I should accept him as my spiritual master. When I read Krsna's words in Bhagavad-gita about the qualities of a pure soul, I found that Srila Prabhupada fit the description. He was always glorifying Krsna, he was humble, and he was always trying to enlighten people with Krsna consciousness.
On October 10, 1971, Srila Prabhupada formally accepted me as his disciple. We prepared a fire sacrifice and purchased garlands for him and all the devotees who were to receive initiation. During the ceremony Srila Prabhupada chanted gravely on our prayer beads and then gave them to each of us. He handed me my beads, sanctified by his touch, and said, "Your name is Yadubara dasa." Thus my spiritual life officially began.
Since Jean was not quite ready, she did not take initiation at this time. One day Srila Prabhupada asked her about her family. "They're all atheists, Srila Prabhupada," she said.
"Do you have a brother?" he asked.
"Yes, he's an atheist too, and a communist."
"How did you get here?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"By your mercy," she said.
"No," said Srila Prabhupada, "It was by Krsna's mercy that you came here."
Later in October, we all went to another festival—this time in Delhi. Jean and I got the chance to do publicity and to photograph the important men who visited Srila Prabhupada. Every night we sat onstage and heard him confirm that the most important duty of the human being is to reestablish his connection with God. Many important men came to listen, including the Canadian High Commissioner and the Indian Minister or Education.
I prepared a photographic exhibit by enlarging my eleven-by-fourteen prints at a photography shop in Delhi. After mounting them, I placed them on exhibit stands borrowed from a government office. There were pictures of our joyful dancing and chanting in Surat, Allahabad, Benares, and Bombay.
Another popular feature of the festival was our "Question-and-Answer Booth." A devotee would sit and answer questions from the visitors. Each day the booth had to stay open until midnight or later, to satisfy all the curious people.
After the festival had ended, Srila Prabhupada took us all on a journey to Vrndavana. We traveled together in buses to visit the places where Krsna danced and swam and performed heroic feats. We went to the Yamuna River, specifically to the place where Krsna showed His mother all the universes within His mouth. Srila Prabhupada felt the water and said, "It is too cold for an old man like me. But you all take a bath. I'll put a few drops on my head." The ladies went farther along the river, and the men went splashing into the water. We were very delighted when, a short while later, Srila Prabhupada decided to join us.
One day a question prompted Jean and me to visit Srila Prabhupada in his quarters. He looked magnificent, striding briskly back and forth and chanting, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
"Srila Prabhupada, shouldn't we have a spiritual marriage?"
"Yes, that is my desire," he answered at once, looking pleased with us for having thought of this idea. "Yes, that is my desire," he said again—"that you live happily together in Krsna consciousness." His confident voice made the whole plan very pleasing.
Afterward, Jean said to me, "Srila Prabhupada's purity is so attractive that he can convince even a hard-core atheist like me to believe in God."
Her initiation and our spiritual marriage came on November 29, 1971. Guru dasa performed the ceremony, and Jean received her new name—Visakha-devi dasi. Srila Prabhupada remarked that it had been "a very transcendental ceremony."
Since that time we've tried to follow our spiritual master's advice on marriage. "Marriage in Krsna consciousness is the perfection of married life, because the basic principle is that the wife will help the husband so that he may pursue Krsna consciousness, and the husband will also help the wife to advance in Krsna consciousness. In this way, both husband and wife are happy, and their lives are sublime."
For the next year or so, we lived in the temple in Bombay, where I acted as secretary. We made a few small films and sent them back to the devotees in America.
In 1973 Visakha and I flew to New York to start work on "The Hare Krishna People." We heard we would need six or seven people to make the film, but we ended up doing everything ourselves. I bought a manual of movie-making, and Visakha and I planned out our work. With her doing the sound and me doing the photography, the documentary took ten months. We spent five months shooting in Europe, Mexico, and the United States. Then we settled in New York for five more months to edit. Srila Prabhupada likes "The Hare Krishna People" very much. He's seen it at least a dozen times and has urged me, "Make more films about Krsna consciousness."
I'm grateful that my first photo-essay back in 1970 took me to my spiritual master, and that Srila Prabhupada turned that small assignment into a full-time and fulfilling engagement in the service of Lord Krsna. There's an old Bengali proverb that seems to explain my good fortune very nicely: "By the grace of Krsna, you get your spiritual master. And by the grace of your spiritual master, you get Krsna."
He enjoyed half-killing animals and watching them writhe in pain.
Once, as the holy sage Narada was making his way to Allahabad, India, he came upon a deer writhing in pain on the forest floor. It was pierced with an arrow, and its legs were broken. Farther along, Narada saw a boar twisting in agony—it, too, pierced with an arrow, its legs broken. Still farther, a rabbit was going through the same torment. All this suffering pained Narada's heart, for devotees of the Lord always feel sympathy for others. So Narada wondered, "What fool has done such gruesome things to all these helpless creatures?" Deeper into the forest, Narada saw the culprit—a hunter, lurking behind a tree. With his reddish eyes, dingy complexion, and dangerous expression, he looked like the lord of death, Yamaraja, standing with a bow and arrows in his hands. Seeing the hunter bracing to kill more animals, Narada approached him. As Narada brushed through the foliage, all the animals fled. Enraged, the hunter was about to attack Narada with foul language. But the saint radiated such goodness and kindness that the hunter's temper cooled. Amazingly meek, he put a question to Narada.
"O great saint, why have you strayed from the common path through the forest to come here? Just by seeing you, all the animals I was stalking have gotten away."
"Yes," Narada replied, "please forgive me. I have come here to ask you about something that's troubling me. I've seen many boars, deer, and rabbits on the path—half-killed and writhing in agony—and I suspect you have done this."
"Yes, that's a fact," the hunter said.
"But you are committing great sins!" Narada protested. "If you must kill animals for a living, why not kill them and be done with it? Why do you leave them half-killed and dying in anguish?"
"My dear sir," replied the hunter, "my father named me Mrgari, 'the enemy of the animals.' He taught me to half-kill animals and leave them flopping around in pain. When I see half-killed animals suffer, I feel great pleasure."
"Please grant me one thing," implored Narada.
"Of course, my dear sage. Take whatever animals or anything else you'd like. If you want some animal skins, come to my house. I'll give you either a deerskin or a tiger skin."
"I do not want any animal skins, but I do want something else. Just promise me one thing—that from now on, whenever you kill an animal, you will kill it completely—you will not leave it half-killed."
"My dear sir," said the hunter, "what kind of request is that? What's the difference between half-killing animals and completely killing them? What's wrong with leaving the animals lying half-killed?"
Narada explained, "If you leave the animals half-killed, you are purposely giving them pain. And by the law of God and nature, whatever pain you give to others you must suffer in return. My dear Mrgari, you kill animals for your living. Now, when you kill animals you certainly commit horrible sins, but when you half-kill them, your sins are much worse. All the animals you have tortured and killed will return the pain to you. One after another, they will torture and kill you—in your next life and in life after life."
Although he was grossly sinful, by associating with the saintly Narada Muni Mrgari realized his sins, repented, and became purified. "My dear sir," the hunter pleaded, "when I was very little my father taught me to half-kill animals. Please tell me how I can get rid of all the sinful reactions I've been piling up over the years. Now I give myself up to you and fall down at your holy feet. Please save me from my sinful reactions. Please show me the path to freedom."
Narada told the hunter, "If you actually hear and follow my instructions, I can show you the real path to freedom."
"My dear sir, I'll do whatever you say. "
"All right...First of all, break your bow. Then I will show you how you can be free."
"What? Break my bow? But if I break it, how will I make a living?"
Narada assured the hunter, "There is no need to worry. Just follow my instructions. You won't have to kill animals. I'll send you enough food to feed both you and your wife. I'll make sure you have all you need. When you surrender to the Lord, He takes special care of you."
Trusting the saintly Narada, the hunter broke his bow and fell at his feet, and he surrendered himself totally. With a kind hand Narada raised the hunter and began instructing him.
"Just go back to your home and give away whatever you have to the Lord's devotees. Then, wearing only simple clothing, you and your wife should leave home. On the riverbank build a small thatched house, and in front of it grow the sacred tulasi plant on a raised platform. The tulasi plant is a pure devotee of the Lord and adorns His lotuslike feet. The Lord will be very pleased with you if you always serve His pure devotee with water and other things, and if you always chant His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As for your living, perform your daily duties, and every day I'll send enough food for both of you. You can take as much as you need."
Then Narada restored the half-dead animals. Saved from their ordeal, the animals fled. When he saw the pure devotee Narada work this miracle, Mrgari marveled. Humbly he bowed to Narada. At last, Mrgari returned home to carry out Narada's instructions, and Narada himself proceeded to Allahabad.
Once we understand the dangers of sinful life, we should give it up with sincerity and sorrow—just as Mrgari did. We should surrender to the Supreme Lord—that is, we should follow the instructions of His pure devotee. Only then can we be free from our sinful reactions and start to serve the Lord. Sometimes people make some atonement and then knowingly commit the same sins again. The scriptures compare such atonement to an elephant's bathing. An elephant takes a thorough bath, but as soon as it comes out of the water, it throws dirt all over its body. To become free from all sinful reactions, we must follow the instructions of an authentic spiritual master. As Jesus Christ said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." The Supreme Lord gives His pure devotee the power to deliver anyone who follows the principles of devotional service—avoid intoxication, gambling, illicit sex, and meat-eating; and chant the holy names of the Lord.
So Mrgari exactly followed the instructions of Narada, his spiritual master. The news spread that the pure devotee Narada had changed Mrgari from sadist to saint. The villagers were astonished when they came to see the new devotee. According to spiritual custom, whenever people go to see a saintly person they should bring grains and fruit. And since all the villagers saw that Mrgari had turned into a great devotee, they brought such eatables with them. Each day the people brought the former hunter so much grains and fruit that ten or twenty people could have eaten their fill. Yet, following Narada's instructions, Mrgari took only what he and his wife needed.
After some days had passed, Narada was talking with his friend, the sage Parvata. Narada told him, "I have a disciple who was formerly a hunter. Let's go to see him." The two sages journeyed to the hunter's home. When Mrgari saw his spiritual master coming in the distance, he began running quickly toward him. On the way the hunter caught sight of many ants scurrying around his own feet. He wanted to bow down before Narada and Parvata, but he saw that if he did so he would crush some of the ants. So, slowly and gently, Mrgari cleared the ants away with a cloth. At last he fell down flat to honor his spiritual master.
"My dear hunter," Narada beamed, "your new-found nonviolence doesn't surprise me. People who perform devotional service to the Blessed Lord are naturally nonviolent. They see the Lord living within the heart of everyone—even the tiny ant—so they never hurt any living being out of envy."
Mrgari received both great sages in the courtyard of his home. He spread out a straw mat for them to sit on, and with great devotion he made them comfortable. Then he fetched water, and with deep affection he washed the sages' feet. Both the hunter and his wife sprinkled the wash water over their heads. Filled with love for the Lord, Mrgari began chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. His body trembled, and tears welled in his eyes. He raised his hands and danced in ecstasy.
After seeing the hunter's ecstasy, Parvata told Narada, "You are a touchstone—you have turned iron into gold. My dear Narada, you are really glorious. How pleased Krsna must be with you! By following your instructions, even the lowest person—a hunter of animals—can quickly come to the path of devotion to the Blessed Lord."
Narada then asked the hunter, "My dear Mrgari, are you getting enough food every day?"
The hunter replied, "My dear teacher, everyone you send gives me something when he comes to see me. You send many people, and they bring so much that we don't know what to do with all the food. Do you think you could tell the people to bring enough only for two?"
The hunter was following his spiritual master's instructions with utter sincerity, and Narada showered him with well-wishes.
"May Krsna always bless you. And may you always please the Lord with your sincere devotional service."