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
—the chanting rolls through the crowd in waves as the huge cars, with their towering canopies and colorful garlands, rumble along the city streets into the park. This is Ratha-yatra, the ancient Festival of the Chariots, glorifying Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. People have celebrated Ratha-yatra for thousands of years in Puri, India, and since 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has made this joyous festival an international event. United by the chanting of the holy names of God, people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds now celebrate Ratha-yatra in cities all over the world. Experience the spiritual excitement of Ratha-yatra in the festival city nearest you and read more about the transcendental science of Krsna consciousness in the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD.
Today, it seems, there are more spiritual groups than ever before competing for public attention and allegiance. Freelance reporter Sandy Nixon finds out what makes Krsna consciousness unique in an interview with His Divine Grace A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Ms. Nixon: My first question is very basic. What is Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: "Krsna" means God. We are all intimately connected with Him because He is our original father. But we have forgotten this connection. When we become interested to know, "What is my connection with God? What is the aim of life?" then we are called Krsna conscious.
Ms. Nixon: How does Krsna consciousness develop in the practitioner?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness is already there in the core of everyone's heart. But because of our materially conditioned life, we have forgotten it. The process of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—revives the Krsna consciousness we already have. For example, a few months ago these American and European boys and girls did not know about Krsna, but just yesterday we saw how they were chanting Hare Krsna and dancing in ecstasy throughout the whole Ratha-yatra procession. Do you think that was artificial? No. Artificially, nobody can chant and dance for hours together. They have actually awakened their Krsna consciousness by following a bona fide process. This is explained in Caitanya-caritamrta [Madhya 22.107]:
nitya-siddha-krsna-prema 'sadhya' kabhu naya
Krsna consciousness is dormant in everyone's heart, and when one comes in contact with devotees, it is awakened. Krsna consciousness is not artificial. Just as a young boy awakens his natural attraction for a young girl in her association, similarly, if one hears about Krsna in the association of devotees, he awakens his dormant Krsna consciousness.
Ms. Nixon: What is the difference between Krsna consciousness and Christ consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Christ consciousness is also Krsna consciousness, but because at present people do not follow the rules and regulations of Christianity—the commandments of Jesus Christ—they do not come to the standard of God consciousness.
Ms. Nixon: What is unique about Krsna consciousness among all religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Primarily, religion means to know God and to love Him. That is religion. Nowadays, because of a lack of training, nobody knows God, what to speak of loving Him. People are satisfied simply going to church and praying, "O God, give us our daily bread." In the Srimad-Bhagavatam this is called a cheating religion, because the aim is not to know and love God but to gain some personal profit. In other words, if I profess to follow some religion, but I do not know who God is or how to love Him, I am practicing a cheating religion. As far as the Christian religion is concerned, ample opportunity is given to understand God, but no one is taking it. For example, the Bible contains the commandment, "Thou shall not kill," but Christians have built the world's best slaughterhouses. How can they become God conscious if they disobey the commandments of Lord Jesus Christ? And this is going on not just in the Christian religion, but in every religion. The title of Hindu, Muslim, or Christian is simply a rubber stamp. None of them knows who God is and how to love Him.
Ms. Nixon: How can one tell a bona fide spiritual master from a fake?
Srila Prabhupada: Whoever teaches how to know God and how to love Him-he is a spiritual master. Sometimes bogus rascals mislead people. "I am God," they claim, and people who do not know what God is believe them. You must be a serious student to understand who God is and how to love Him. Otherwise, you will simply waste your time. So the difference between others and us is that we are the only movement that can actually teach one how to know God and how to love Him. We are presenting the science of how one can know Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by practicing the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. They teach us that our only business is to love God. Our business is not to ask God for our necessities. God gives necessities to everyone—even to one who has no religion. For example, cats and dogs have no religion, yet Krsna supplies them with the necessities of life. So why should we bother Krsna for our daily bread? He is already supplying it. Real religion means to learn how to love Him. The Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6] says,
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
"First-class religion teaches one how to love God without any motive." If I serve God for some profit, that is business—not love. Real love of God is ahaituky apratihata: it cannot be checked by any material cause. It is unconditional. If one actually wants to love God there is no impediment. He can love Him whether he's poor or rich, young or old, black or white.
Ms. Nixon: Do all paths lead to the same end?
Srila Prabhupada: No. There are four classes of men—the karmis, the jnanis, the yogis, and the bhaktas—and each achieves a different goal. The karmis work for some material profit. For example, in the city, many people work hard day and night, and their purpose is to get some money. Thus, they are fruitive workers, or karmis. A jnani is a person who thinks, "Why am I working so hard? The birds, bees, elephants, and other creatures have no profession, yet they are also eating. So why should I unnecessarily work so hard? Rather, let me try to solve the problems of life—birth, death, old age, and disease." Jnanis try to become immortal. They think that if they merge into God's existence, then they will become immune to birth, death, old age, and disease. And yogis try to acquire some mystic power to exhibit a wonderful show. For instance, a yogi can become very small: if you put him into a locked room, he can come out through any little space. By showing this kind of magic, the yogi is immediately accepted as a very wonderful man. Of course, modern yogis simply show some gymnastics—they have no real power. But a real yogi has some power, which is not spiritual but material. So the yogi wants mystic power, the jnani wants salvation from the miseries of life, and the karmi wants material profit. But the bhakta—the devotee—doesn't want anything for himself. He simply wants to serve God out of love, just like a mother serves her child. There is no question of profit in a mother's service to her child. Out of pure affection and love, she cares for him.
When you come to this stage of loving God, that is perfection. Neither the karmi, the jnani, nor the yogi can know God—only the bhakta. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [18.55], bhaktya mam abhijanati: "Only through the process of bhakti can one understand God." Krsna never says one can understand Him by other processes. No. Only through bhakti. If you are interested to know God and love Him, then you must accept the devotional process. No other process will help you.
Ms. Nixon: What transformation does one undergo on the path?
Srila Prabhupada: No transformation—your original consciousness is Krsna consciousness. Now your consciousness is covered with so much rubbish. You have to cleanse it, and then—Krsna consciousness. Our consciousness is like water. Water is by nature clear and transparent, but sometimes it becomes muddy. If you filter all the mud out of the water, it again comes to its original clear, transparent state.
Ms. Nixon: Can one function better in society by becoming Krsna conscious?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you can see that my disciples are not drunkards or meat-eaters, and from a physiological point of view they are very clean—they'll never be attacked by serious diseases. Actually, giving up meat-eating is not a question of Krsna consciousness, but of civilized human life. God has given human society so many things to eat—nice fruits, vegetables, grain, and first-class milk. From milk one can prepare hundreds of nutritious foods, but no one knows the art. Instead, people maintain big slaughterhouses and eat meat. They are not even civilized. When man is uncivilized, he kills poor animals and eats them.
Civilized men know the art of preparing nutritious foods from milk. For instance, on our New Vrndavana farm in West Virginia, we make hundreds of first-class preparations from milk. Whenever visitors come, they are astonished that from milk such nice foods can be prepared. The blood of the cow is very nutritious, but civilized men utilize it in the form of milk. Milk is nothing but cow's blood transformed. You can make milk into so many things—yogurt, curd, ghee (clarified butter), and so on—and by combining these milk products with grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can make hundreds of preparations. This is civilized life—not directly killing an animal and eating its flesh. The innocent cow is simply eating grass given by God and supplying milk, which you can live on. Do you think cutting the cow's throat and eating its flesh is civilized?
Ms. Nixon: No, I agree with you one hundred percent...One thing I'm very curious about: can the Vedas be taken symbolically as well as literally?
Srila Prabhupada: No. They must be taken as they are, not symbolically. That is why we are presenting Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Ms. Nixon: Are you attempting to revive the ancient Indian caste system in the West? The Gita mentions the caste system—
Srila Prabhupada: Where does the Bhagavad-gita mention the caste system? Krsna says, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: "I created four divisions of men according to their quality and work" [Bg. 4.13]. For instance, you can understand that there are engineers as well as medical practitioners in society. Do you say they belong to different castes—that one is in the engineer caste, and the other is in the medical caste? No. If a man has qualified himself in medical school, you accept him as a doctor; and if another man has a degree in engineering, you accept him as an engineer. Similarly, the Bhagavad-gita defines four classes of men in society: a class of highly intelligent men, a class of administrators, a class of productive men, and ordinary workers. These divisions are natural. For example, one class of men is very intelligent. But to actually meet the qualifications of first-class men as described in the Bhagavad-gita, they need to train, just as an intelligent boy requires training in a college to become a qualified doctor. So in the Krsna consciousness movement we are training the intelligent men how to control their minds, how to control their senses, how to become truthful, how to become clean internally and externally, how to become wise, how to apply their knowledge in practical life, and how to become God conscious. All these boys [gestures toward seated disciples] have first-class intelligence, and now we are training them to use it properly.
We are not introducing the caste system, in which any rascal born in a brahmana family is automatically a brahmana. He may have the habits of a fifth-class man, but he is accepted as first-class because of his birth in a brahmana family. We don't accept that. We recognize a man as first-class who is trained as a brahmana. It doesn't matter whether he is Indian, European, or American; lowborn or highborn—it doesn't matter. Any intelligent man can be trained to adopt first-class habits. We want to stop the nonsensical idea that we are imposing the Indian caste system on our disciples. We are simply picking out men with first-class intelligence and training them how to become first-class in every respect.
Ms. Nixon: How do you feel about women's liberation?
Srila Prabhupada: So-called equal rights for women means that the men cheat the women. Suppose a woman and a man meet, they become lovers, they have sex, the woman becomes pregnant, and the man goes away. The woman has to take charge of the child and beg alms from the government, or else she kills the child by having an abortion. This is the woman's independence. In India, although a woman may be poverty-stricken, she stays under the care of her husband, and he takes responsibility for her. When she becomes pregnant, she is not forced to kill the child or maintain him by begging. So, which is real independence—to remain under the care of the husband or to be enjoyed by everyone?
Ms. Nixon: How about in spiritual life—can women also succeed in Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: We make no distinction on the basis of sex. We give Krsna consciousness to both men and women equally. We welcome women, men, the poor, the rich—everyone. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater" [Bg. 5.18].
Ms. Nixon: Could you explain the meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra?
Srila Prabhupada: It is very simple. Hare means, "O energy of the Lord," and Krsna means, "O Lord Krsna." Just as there are males and females in the material world, similarly, God is the original male (purusa), and His energy (prakrti) is the original female. So, when we chant Hare Krsna, we are saying, "O Lord Krsna, O energy of Krsna, kindly engage me in Your service."
Ms. Nixon: Could you please tell me a little bit about your life and how you knew that you were the spiritual master of the Krsna consciousness movement?
Srila Prabhupada: My life is simple. I was a householder with a wife and children—now I have grandsons—when my spiritual master ordered me to go to the Western countries and preach the cult of Krsna consciousness. So I left everything on the order of my spiritual master, and now I am trying to execute his order and the orders of Krsna.
Ms. Nixon: How old were you when he told you to go to the West?
Srila Prabhupada: At our first meeting, he ordered me to preach Krsna consciousness in the West. I was then twenty-five years old, a married man with two children. I tried my best to carry out his orders and started managing BACK TO GODHEAD magazine in 1944, when I was still in household life. I started writing books in 1959 after retiring from family life, and in 1965 I came to the United States.
Ms. Nixon: You have said that you are not God, and yet it appears to me, as an outsider, that your devotees treat you as if you were God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is their duty. Because the spiritual master is executing God's order, he should be respected as much as God, just as a government officer should be respected as much as the government because he executes the government's order. Even if an ordinary policeman comes, you have to respect him because he is a government man. But that does not mean he is the government. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair, uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih: "The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities."
Ms. Nixon: I also wonder about the many beautiful material things that the devotees bring you. For instance, you left the airport in a beautiful, fancy car. I wonder about this because—
Srila Prabhupada: That teaches the disciples how to regard the spiritual master as good as God. If you respect the government representative as much as the government, then you must treat him opulently. If you respect the spiritual master as much as God, then you must offer him the same facilities you would offer to God. God travels in a golden car. If the disciples offer the spiritual master an ordinary motorcar, it would not be sufficient because the spiritual master has to be treated like God. If God comes to your home, will you bring him an ordinary motorcar—or will you arrange for a golden car?
Ms. Nixon: One of the most difficult aspects of Krsna consciousness for an outsider to accept is the Deity in the temple—how it represents Krsna. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. At the present moment, because you have not been trained to see Krsna, He kindly appears before you so you can see Him. You can see wood and stone, but you cannot see what is spiritual. Suppose your father is in the hospital, and he dies. You are crying by his bedside, "Now my father is gone!" But why do you say he is gone? What is that thing which is gone?
Ms. Nixon: Well, his spirit is gone.
Srila Prabhupada: And have you seen that spirit?
Ms. Nixon: No.
Srila Prabhupada: So you cannot see spirit, and God is the Supreme Spirit. Actually, He is everything—spirit and matter—but you cannot see Him in His spiritual identity. Therefore, to show kindness toward you, He appears out of His unbounded mercy in the form of a wooden or stone Deity so that you can see Him.
Ms. Nixon: Thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna!
A challenge to the prevailing scientific view
Edited from an original paper by Madhava dasa, Sadaputa dasa, and Svarupa Damodara dasa:
Although scientists would like to assume that in the past, inert chemicals combined to produce life, as yet no one has ever observed such an event. In addition, although scientists have many theories about how life is working inside the cell, they have not been able to combine the constituent chemicals to form living cells, even in controlled laboratory settings. Thus, the claim of molecular biologists that life has come about by evolutionary development—beginning from a primordial environment of methane, ammonia, and water sparked by an electromagnetic or thermal stimulus—has never been substantiated by experimental evidence. Although scientists have found traces of amino acids (the building blocks of biological molecules) in reaction chambers filled with ammonia, methane, and water, the formation of these simple amino acids does not prove that life evolved by a chance combination of chemicals. Amino acids are a very long way from a living organism, so there is really no substantial justification for concluding that this common laboratory experiment proves life originated by chance in a "primordial chemical soup."
Nor have the biologists found a chemical which, when injected into a dead organism, will restore life. In fact, they are having a difficult time explaining the activities of the living cell by chemical equations. Physicist Louis de Broglie has commented, "It is premature to reduce the vital processes to the quite insufficiently developed conceptions of nineteenth and twentieth century physics and chemistry." And even if the microbiologist does try to analyze a living cell in the detail necessary to discover its exact chemical activity, he would have to kill it, obliterating with his instruments the very principle of "life" he was seeking in the first place. Consequently, many scientists are now looking for new concepts beyond chemistry and physics to explain how life works. These new attempts are called holistic approaches, which consider the living organism as a whole and view life as complementary to matter.
Nevertheless, most materialistic scientists reject this idea. They ignore the fact that living systems defy the second law of thermodynamics, which strictly governs inert matter. According to this law, no complex system of chemical reactions can maintain itself indefinitely. Yet living systems do maintain themselves, generation after generation, without any loss of complex order. Therefore we can safely say that life does not act according to the laws of chemistry and physics, and that it is perfectly scientific to talk of life as a principle separate from matter.
Also, from the point of view of mathematics and logic, we can see that complex living organisms cannot arise spontaneously from unorganized matter; there must be the touch of higher intelligence. Suppose we have a collection of short rods (A). If we then pass them through a box that combines the rods two at a time, at right angles to each other, we shall arrive at B. Then suppose we join the L's together at random. We can see that the final configuration C has no greater form than that which was explicitly specified in the system going from A to B to C. In other words, for C to have a specific, complex structure, we have to supply specific, complex information to create that structure. A random pairing of L's cannot produce a complex, organized pattern. For example, if we wanted to generate the structure below, (D) we would have to supply explicit information at each step of the operation. In other words, all the information specifying the final structure must be available throughout the development of the structure. The basic mathematical theorems of Kolmogorov and Chaitin ** (1. G.J. Chaitin, "Information-Theoretic Computational Complexity," IEEE Transactions, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, IT-20 (1974), pp. 10-15.) governing so-called complexities of formal systems confirm this argument. In general, all of this proves that something simple cannot create something complex by a random process. And when we apply this conclusion to the current theory of evolution, we see that random atoms and molecules couldn't possibly have developed into complex living forms without an outside source of information.
As we have seen, known scientific principles such as those of thermodynamics, mathematics, and logic confirm that life comes from life, not from matter. Also, it is a fact of experience that a living plant comes from another living plant, an amoeba comes from an amoeba, a dog from a dog, and a human being from another human being. On the other hand, no one has ever observed a living entity coming from dead matter. Despite all this evidence, however, most scientists still cling to the theory that life comes from matter. Why?
The strongest arguments of the evolutionists are based on the fossil record. However, objective analysis of the fossil record reveals a different story than the one the evolutionists would have us believe. First, it is an admitted fact that after one hundred years of digging, practically no fossils of intermediate species (the famous "missing links") have ever been found to confirm the Darwinian evolution-of-species theory. Second, fossil records do show that an entire system of highly evolved marine life-forms appeared abruptly at the beginning of the Cambrian age. There are thousands of feet of fossil-free sedimentary rock below the Cambrian stratum. Indeed, no undisputable pre-Cambrian fossils have been found anywhere in the world. Although evolutionists have many imaginative explanations for this sudden appearance of complex marine life, available evidence clearly does not confirm their theory that life originated from matter and gradually evolved into more and more complex forms.
In addition to the insufficient evidence upon which the evolutionists base their theories, their methods are suspect. Foremost among these are the conflicting dating processes used by archaeologists—especially the use of radioactive isotopes such as carbon 14. ** (2. Colin Renfrew, "Carbon 14 and the Prehistory of Europe," Scientific American. Vol. 225 (October 1971), pp. 63-72.) Besides this, there are a great number of false claims of various evolutionists that point up the highly speculative nature of their whole theory. For example, Haeckel's "primordial muck," supposedly the stuff that first generated life, turned out to be no more than a combination of inorganic salts. His error was discovered only after the idea had been widely circulated and had created a stir in scientific circles. Another embarrassment for evolutionists was the story of "Piltdown man." After being accepted for forty years, Piltdown man proved to be a hoax—a "fossil" planted by someone seeking name and fame and interested in supporting evolution. Yet the evolutionists are no more certain now about the age of man than in the heyday of Piltdown man. Their constantly changing dating schemes regularly push the "original" man farther and farther back into the past. Finally, even the most well known evidence supporting the evolutionists' theories has recently been called into question. For instance, several investigators have pointed out that the famous series showing how the horse evolved, which still appears in many young people's textbooks, is erroneous and misleading ** (3. Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried; an Appeal to Reason (Boston: Gambit, 1971), p. 15.): the actual fossils betray abrupt and unchronological changes.
How can the scientific community continue to ignore all the evidence presented against Darwinian evolution? Because they've been conditioned to accept it as fact. Psychologists have discovered that this conditioning, or expectancy, plays a very important role in perception. For example, if you place a thermometer in some hot water, you expect the mercury to rise in the tube, and that's what you see. But actually the mercury in the column first drops and then rises—because the glass of the thermometer expands more rapidly than the mercury at first. So our expectation has colored our perception. Similarly, scientists expect archaeological and other evidence to confirm Darwinian evolution, and this is what they perceive, despite insufficient evidence.
An even more deep-rooted reason for adherence to the Darwinian theory of evolution is that it provides a very convenient basis for hedonism, a life view free of concern for future consequences or morality. Aldous Huxley once said, "I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning... For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom." ** (4. Aldous Huxley, "Confession of a Professed Atheist," Report, Vol. 111, No. 9 (June 1966), p. 19.) When someone believes that life comes from matter rather than from spirit, his concern for morality diminishes considerably. If all life is merely a complex combination of chemical reactions, and if there is thus no supreme creator and controller, what need is there for moral restraint? This is not a new philosophy. In ancient Greece, Epicurus postulated that everything was simply a combination of atoms and the void—nothing more. Today the word epicurean describes a person whose main activity is enjoying fine food and drink. The conclusion is that Darwinian evolutionary theory, with its implication that life comes from matter, is a philosophy that justifies unrestricted sense gratification, but it is by no means scientific.
Thus we have seen how the theory that life originated from matter is dubious on many grounds. First, no one has ever actually observed such an event. On the contrary, every day we see living organisms producing other living organisms—trees produce trees, dogs produce dogs, and so on. Second, living systems defy the laws of thermodynamics, proving that life is a principle separate from matter. Third, by the laws of mathematics and logic we concluded that a random combination of chemicals could not have produced complex living organisms without an outside source of information. In addition, we noted some of the more flagrant discrepancies in the evolutionists' argument: the virtual absence of both pre-Cambrian fossils and "missing links" between species, and Piltdown man, Haeckel's muck, and the misleading diagrams showing how the horse evolved. Finally, we noted how the scientists' expectations and their deep-rooted hedonistic motives make their observations and conclusions less than impartial.
Although materialistic science has spread throughout the world, recently it has been challenged by thoughtful scientists, philosophers, and other intelligent people. Notably, the famous psychologist Carl Jung investigated the Western philosophical concept of matter and found that there is no clear definition of the term. Jung concluded that the term matter is no more than a symbol we attach to our observations of reality, and he saw no reason why we couldn't see reality as spiritual (that is, conscious) rather than material. Further, many researchers are discovering phenomena that simply defy explanation by the standard laws of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. For instance, the newly recognized field of parapsychology concerns psychic phenomena such as ESP (mental telepathy), psychokinesis ("mind-over-matter"), and reincarnation. These phenomena suggest the need for a new understanding of nature—one that will explain the things around us in terms of a conscious cause.
We find such an explanation in India's ancient Vedas. These books, which are about five thousand years old in written form and still older in oral tradition, describe that the underlying principle and source of life is personal consciousness, or spirit. Today, our tendency is to accept that everything is simply impersonal energy, and therefore that is all we see. But if we accept a personal, conscious background of existence, then we can understand that there must also be a Supreme Person, God. God explains Himself through the Vedas, and the Vedas come to us through the spiritual master, who, as part of a line of spiritual masters, delivers the Vedic message unchanged (Bg. 4.2).
Because our mind and senses are imperfect and cannot perceive spirit, we cannot know God, the Supreme Absolute Truth, by induction or mental speculation. The only way to overcome such difficulties is to approach a bona fide Vedic authority (one who has himself transcended the limitations of the senses and mind) and begin practicing real science—practical realization of the Vedic wisdom as taught by the spiritual master. In other words, in the Vedic sense, scientific method means to approach the spiritual master and follow his instructions.
This process is actually very practical. The spiritual master prescribes a process of spiritual discipline, and the student carries it out according to the directions given. If he experiences the predicted result, then the student draws the conclusion that the spiritual master was right. If the spiritual master is actually bona fide, then the result will be positive. This procedure is quite similar to an honest scientist's reporting his results along with his experimental method. Anyone who wants to verify the result can perform the same experiment himself. When the same result is reproduced by several scientists, it is called scientific. However, there is one very basic difference between the methods of materialistic and Vedic science: the materialistic scientist relies totally on speculation and data coming through his imperfect senses to arrive at his conclusions, while the spiritual master relies on a perfect, divine source of knowledge. The bona fide spiritual master receives his knowledge directly from the supreme knower, God, or through the disciplic succession from God Himself.
But how can we know whether someone who claims to be a spiritual master is bona fide or not? According to the Vedic literatures, a genuine spiritual master must meet the following three qualifications: (1) He must teach according to the system of parampara, or disciplic succession. In other words, he must have received instruction from a bona fide teacher, who also received instruction from a bona fide teacher, etc. He must be able to trace his disciplic succession back to God Himself. A bona fide teacher will therefore never present anything that has not been presented by his predecessor teachers. (2) He must teach according to the authorized Vedic literature. All his conclusions must be supported by the Vedic scriptures. (3) His arguments and conclusions must agree with those of other teachers of spiritual knowledge already accepted as authoritative. So we find that the teachings of a bona fide spiritual master are in accord with the teachings of great saintly personalities like Jesus, Muhammad, Ramanuja, or Moses.
All of these qualifications are met by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He is scientifically presenting the Vedic description of the origin of life and matter. According to the Bhagavad-gita, which Srila Prabhupada has presented in an English translation with extensive commentary, life is eternal—it is never created or destroyed (Bg. 2.12). In addition, the Katha Upanisad (2.2.13) explains that there is a supreme eternal living force who is supporting the infinitesimal living forces. The Brahma-samhita (5.1) describes Him as Krsna, the supreme controller, who possesses a purely spiritual body composed of sac-cid-ananda (eternity, knowledge, and bliss). And what is matter? Again from the Bhagavad-gita (7.4) we learn that Krsna is the source of the eight separated energies that make up what we call the material energy, or matter. These eight energies are developed by a gradual process from pure consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, into (1) false ego (based on our desire to be separated from Krsna), (2) intelligence, (3) mind, (4) ether, (5) air, (6) fire, (7) water, and (8) earth. Everything that we experience is a combination of these two kinds of energy—the superior, conscious living entities and the inferior, inanimate material elements. And above both of them is God, Krsna, guiding and controlling all.
In the Thirteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, God explains how He has expanded Himself into every atom of the world as the Parabrahman, or Supersoul (Bg. 13.16). Material nature works under the directions of the Supersoul, who is omniscient and thus perfectly aware of the desires and activities of every living being. According to how we act during our lifetime, we create a certain state of mind, or consciousness. This consciousness is understood in detail by the Supersoul, and He awards us a suitable body in our next life. There are 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies (species) to accommodate the different mentalities of the living beings. So evolution is not a process of physical development, but of conscious development-from almost unconscious stages like trees or fungi, up through simple moving creatures like insects, up through birds, then four-legged animals, and finally to man.
When we reach the human form, we are at a juncture, for it is only in the human form that we have an intelligence keen enough to understand how to get free of the vicious cycle of birth and death. Human intelligence is meant for inquiring into this most important subject, not for developing extravagant means for sensual enjoyment. The method for liberation is one of purification—purification of our mind by hearing the sacred message from a bona fide source, and purification of our heart by rendering service to God. Anyone truly interested in finding the ultimate limit of knowledge, as well as attaining an eternally blissful life, must take up this process of devotional service to God.
About the Authors
Madhava dasa (Dr. Michael Marchetti, Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry, Georgetown University, 1971) has worked as a National Science Foundation fellow at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D. C.
Sadaputa dasa (Dr. Richard Thompson, Ph.D. in Mathematics, Cornell University, 1973) has written a monograph on statistical mechanics published by the American Mathematical Society in 1974.
Svarupa Damodara dasa (Dr. Thoudam Damodar Singh, Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry, University of California, 1974) has worked as a post-doctorate research associate at Emory University in Atlanta.
All three men are now coauthoring a book on the origins of life and matter to be published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
BTG: You were both working scientists with Ph.D.'s when you joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Madhava, you were a chemist at the National Bureau of Standards, Sadaputa, your doctoral dissertation had just been accepted for publication by the American Mathematical Society. These days we don't usually see scientists like you advocating spiritual ideas. How did you come to accept the philosophy of Krsna consciousness as scientifically sound?
Madhava dasa: When I first came into contact with Krsna consciousness, I heard Srila Prabhupada say something I'd never considered before. He said that everything could be understood in terms of a personal basis, rather than an impersonal basis. I began to understand that personalism was superior to impersonalism, because personality could include impersonality, but impersonality could not include personality. Srila Prabhupada's concept was more all-encompassing, consistent, and rational. So I accepted it.
Sadaputa dasa: I pursued science for many years. The object of science, I felt, was to find out what the absolute truth is. Otherwise, what's the use of research? So I primarily studied mathematics, which I saw as the basis of the other sciences. But by graduate school I had come to the conclusion that mathematics was not leading me to the truth, but to the void. It seemed to be only an arbitrary game of operations played with symbols on pieces of paper. I became frustrated because I realized there had to be something beyond mathematics, which didn't make sense according to my scientific training, but which was nevertheless very important. So I investigated various sources of information outside the scientific realm—yoga, spiritual groups, and so forth—and then I came to Krsna consciousness. It was what I'd been looking for.
BTG: Do you think other scientists will be able to accept Krsna consciousness as you have?
Sadaputa dasa: Yes, if they consider it with an open mind.
BTG: What impact do you want your present work to have?
Madhava dasa: First, we want to expose other scientists to Krsna conscious ideas. Also, we think that people in general will also be interested in how two former academic scientists view Krsna consciousness. There's a lot of interest now in the limits of science. More and more people are questioning science's ability to solve the world's problems. We've seen science's ability to create problems. Now many people doubt it will be able to get us out of that situation. They feel that science has been overrated and they're beginning to look at wider and wider perspectives to understand what's going on. In psychology, the Gestalt movement has become popular because it doesn't try to analyze consciousness in terms of behaviorism or atomism. In scientific theory we're seeing a lot of emphasis on how the observer influences what he's observing. In every scientific experiment, the consciousness of the observer has to be accounted for, but present theories don't explain how. In addition, there are problems now in understanding the fundamentals of mathematics and of reason itself. There's also a general trend toward trying to understand consciousness and the higher psychology of living beings. A recent study conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science showed a great deal of public interest in phenomena that can't be explained by the known laws of science, such as psychokinesis, telepathy, Kirlian photography, and so on.
BTG: Could you tell us something about your present scientific work?
Madhava dasa: We're trying to solve a fundamental problem—the problem of the origin of life. Today, most scientists say that matter creates life. But from our point of view—from the spiritual scientists' point of view—it's the other way around: life creates matter. We feel we have the advantage because we can observe life creating matter. For instance, a lemon tree can manufacture a drop of lemon juice. But of course a drop of lemon juice can't create a tree. So we're collecting the necessary scientific evidence to verify our everyday observation. On the other hand, the materialists' theory that matter is the source of life isn't based on any observed data. It's simply a mental construct, a theory with no hard evidence to support it.
BTG: But doesn't quantum mechanics support the theory that matter produces life?
Sadaputa dasa: No. Some people say it does, but we disagree. Quantum mechanics is the most widely accepted theory on the structure of matter. It was developed in the period from 1900 to about 1930. If you look in the library, you'll see that all the science books published today claim that quantum mechanics applies in every material situation. Most scientists say it's universal, But actually, quantum theory has been empirically verified by only very limited laboratory experiments. Although quantum theory is great for simple situations like that, it's not mathematically feasible to apply it to anything more complex. For instance, theoretical chemists admit that they can't apply quantum mechanics exactly to any molecule more complex than the diatomic hydrogen molecule, which is a very simple molecule. All they can do is assume it will work with bigger molecules. But a law that applies to one molecule won't necessarily apply to another. Still, they're gambling that quantum mechanics will. And to make matters worse, they're assuming that the human body, which is inconceivably complicated, functions according to the theories of quantum mechanics. Such an assumption is irresponsible. No one can say that the nerve cells of the brain, for example, work in that way. Well, no one should say it—but they do anyway. Many scientists even say there can't be a soul because the presence of a soul would violate some "well-established" physical laws. But when you get right down to it, no one can tell if those laws really do apply to living organisms or not.
BTG: You've brought up an interesting question. Why do so many scientists take it upon themselves to defeat religion? They say that as mankind progresses in scientific knowledge, he no longer has any reason to believe in God or the soul. But you're saying there's nothing inherent in science to prove this.
Madhava dasa: That's right. The materialists' attitude is based on an error in judgment. They base all their work on the unspoken assumption that everything has an impersonal basis. In other words, their belief that we can explain everything in terms of matter is just that—only a belief, not the result of an experiment. When we analyze, a materialistic scientist's statements, we find that his concept of matter is not empirical, as he claims, but metaphysical. So it seems that the materialists are simply trying to replace a spiritual religion with a material one, of which they will of course be the new high priests.
BTG: But haven't the material scientists created life in the laboratory?
Sadaputa dasa: To my knowledge, the farthest they've gone, so far is to take apart a virus, put the parts into a test tube, and watch them recombine. Is this creating life? First of all, whether or not you can call a virus "life" is a difficult question. To many people, viruses seem more like chemicals than living organisms. Second, the scientists didn't create the virus anyway. They took it apart, and when they juxtaposed the molecules. they recombined. Their accomplishment wasn't so remarkable, really, although it took a lot of work.
BTG: Can you demonstrate in the laboratory how life creates matter?
Madhava dasa: Yes. Several investigators have observed a remarkable phenomenon called biological transmutation that is experimentally verifiable and that can't be explained in terms of our present physical and chemical theories. It occurs every day, in animals and plants. Most scientists in modern textbooks don't discuss biological transmutation because it doesn't conform to their present theories. What happens is this: when you put a seed into soil and add water and nutrients, the seed begins to grow. Now, after a certain amount of time, the chemical composition of the germinated seed will be different from an ungerminated one. But after you analyze them, you see that this difference can't be explained by any additions of water or nutrients, or by any chemical reactions we can infer. The chemical difference between the growing and nongrowing seeds has to be explained in some other way. And no one knows what that explanation might be. Somehow the living seed actually creates not only compounds, but also basic elements, out of other elements. This is comparable to what happens inside a nuclear reactor or a hydrogen bomb! To think that a tiny seed does this as a matter of course, by its life energy alone, is inconceivable to the materialistic mind. But anyone with an, open mind will admit that the process of life is a mystery to us; It's beyond our present understanding. Life doesn't obey the laws of chemistry or physics.
Furthermore, Heisenberg discovered in 1927 that beyond a certain minuteness of atomic structure, we can't be certain of both the position and the velocity of particles. In other words, our ability to investigate the ultimate nature of things with our present methods is limited. Beyond that limited range, we have to say that the world is inconceivable. Besides that, especially at the atomic level, the instruments we use always disturb whatever we're looking at. So we can't really talk about the structure of nature as it is. All we can talk about is the structure of our investigations, which is a different thing entirely.
Sadaputa dasa: Yes. For instance, in Newton's study of gravitation, he spoke of an attraction between two bodies separated by space. But what is it that goes through space to hold the two bodies together? No one has ever answered this question. When Newton first presented his theory of gravitation, scientists and philosophers rejected it as mysticism.
Madhava dasa: The conclusion is that within the universe there's an energy at work, a life energy. We can't see it, but it must be there. Many great scientists have concluded that the energy which moves the universe is spiritual. And they have accepted that there is a supreme controller behind the universe. Einstein thought that way. And so did Galileo.
BTG: But most scientists don't think that way.
Madhava dasa: Right. They exclude God by assuming that the material energy is working on its own without any outside help. However, by analyzing the activity of the material energy, we can see that it doesn't perform according to materialistic theories. Other elements must be considered.
BTG: Doesn't the theory of evolution do away with the necessity for God, or any spiritual purpose, in the development of nature?
Sadaputa dasa: Evolutionists justify their views by saying, more or less, "if it didn't happen our way, we'd be forced to accept a supernatural explanation, and that we refuse to do." That's their best argument. But how did the eye evolve? They say, "It had to evolve by chance mutations, because otherwise we'd have to suppose divine creation." They have faith in chance, and we have faith in God. That's what it comes down to.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Vedic Psychology Explained at Los Angeles Convention
Last April 9 in Los Angeles, an overflow crowd of two hundred psychologists attended a symposium on Krsna consciousness at the Western Psychology Association convention. The featured speaker at the symposium was Bahulasva dasa, a college program coordinator for ISKCON's Berkeley center, who set the theme as a comparison of Eastern and Western approaches to psychology.
Noting that in childhood we all start at an animalistic level of behavior, Bahulasva proposed that the goal of individual growth should be "to reach a point of consciousness—we call it Krsna consciousness—where one becomes the master of his biological urges." Being careful to distinguish this kind of sense control from repression, he advocated it as a necessary part of "our ability to refine ourselves, to rise up to the level of spiritual existence."
Describing ISKCON members as "people who are serious about helping suffering humanity," he concluded by asking his audience to read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bahulasva's speech received warm applause.
Preceding Bahulasva at the podium were Dr. Alan Gerson, a clinical psychologist from the Los Angeles area, and Dr. J. Stillson Judah, a professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Dr. Gerson presented the results of his extensive psychological tests of devotees. Titled "Hare Krsna: Insane Dropouts or Vanguard of a Saner Society?" his paper opted for the latter idea.
Dr. Judah, whose book Hare Krishna and the Counterculture was published two years ago by Wiley & Sons, praised the work of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in giving young Americans "a meaningful way to love God."
The program opened and closed with refreshments and musical offerings of the Hare Krsna chant. As devotees passed around silver trays of food offered to Krsna, one appreciative Ph.D. commented, "I've been to a lot of symposiums at conventions, but this is the first time they served hors d'oeuvres."
Hare Krsna Restaurant Opens in Atlanta
Delicious food, unusually personable waiters, and a soothing atmosphere of devotional art and music have made the newly-opened Hare Krsna Natural Vegetarian Foods Restaurant, at 1451 Oxford Road, Atlanta, a popular dining spot with local Emory University students. Located just one block from the school's main entrance, the restaurant specializes in serving the college community with exquisite Indian cuisine at low prices. Only $1.50 buys a customer as much as he likes of the basic fare, and $3.00 buys that plus fancy pastries, entrees, salads, and sweets. Since all the food is offered to Krsna, it bestows great spiritual benefit on those who eat it.
One very popular feature is the strict hygienic standard maintained at all times. Restaurant manager Maradaraja dasa stated unequivocally, "Everything must be spotlessly clean. Cleanliness is an essential of Krsna consciousness. We want this to be the cleanest place anyone's walked into."
Much of the produce for the kitchen comes from ISKCON's 250-acre farm in Tennessee. This keeps prices down and quality up. The new Atlanta restaurant joins established or soon-to-be-opened ISKCON restaurants in Honolulu, New York, Boston, and Laguna Beach, California.
by Jagannatha Suta dasa
The sacred city of Puri is one of India's most popular attractions for pilgrims and tourists. Situated on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, this city of 80,000 is most famous for its colossal temple of Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. Overlooking Puri from atop Nila Hill, the temple's 215-foot solid-stone tower is visible for miles around. The original structure disappeared long ago through a series of reconstructions, the present design dating from the first century A.D. The location of the temple, however, has always stayed the same. (The most recent reconstruction took place in A.D. 1200 under King Chodaganga and his successor, Anangabhima.) One of the most striking features of the temple is that it rests atop an immense platform in the heart of the city. Also, Lord Jagannatha's altar room, beneath the central spire, is the nucleus of some thirty smaller temples added in later periods by various rulers. A twenty-one-foot wall encloses the entire complex, where two thousand people work daily in the service of the Lord. Men, women, and children, residents of Puri, and pilgrims from all over India crowd the temple year round. For a glimpse of Lord Jagannatha, they enter here, where two large stone lions flank the East Gate. The sign on the left announces that no foreigners are allowed inside, an age-old custom legalized by the Temple Act of 1803. Within the Puri temple, beyond the reach of Westerners' cameras, brahmans and astrologers read beautiful prayers to Lord Jagannatha who stands on a six-foot altar. The Lord's servants bathe Him, dress Him in exquisite hand-tailored garments, decorate Him with flowers and perfumes, put Him to rest, and gently awaken Him. In addition, dancers perform for the Lord's pleasure, a devoted crew cleans His quarters eight times a day, and His devotees hold many festivals to honor Him. In the Sandalwood Festival, devotees take a small set of Jagannatha Deities to a large bathing pool and set Them in a boat. The Deities then sail around a manmade island, on which sits an exquisite little temple. Every day during the festival, the Deities' servants anoint Them with large quantities of fragrant sandalwood paste. Many of the Lord's present-day servants claim to be in the line of His first attendants, who lived thousands of years ago.
Oxcart filled with handmade clay pots makes its way to the temple's main kitchen. Catering to an average of ten thousand every day, and on some festival days ten times that number, the kitchen feeds a large part of Puri's townspeople. The kitchen's five hundred employees—cooks, servers, carriers, and sellers—can be mobilized to feed twice as many people as usual on only four hours' notice.
To insure maximum cleanliness and efficiency, the cooks wear surgical-like masks and stay silent while they work. All the food served is spiritual food: Lord Jagannatha first accepts it at one of eight daily offerings. Typical offerings include curried vegetables, cheeses, coconut juice, sweet paddy, soup, and endless varieties of cakes, pastries, and candies. A pavilion outside the Lion Gate sells the tasty preparations to those who aren't allowed in but still want to benefit by eating spiritual food. The bearded brahman carries on his head a "half-pot" of rice. Half-pots are made by splitting whole pots in half and filling up each half separately—a quick and accurate measuring system from the land of simple living and high thinking.
Streets filled with transcendental music greet nighttime strollers in Puri. Among the shops selling food, clothing, and souvenirs on Puri's Grand Route are many sidewalk temples like this one. Devotees at this beautiful little temple, about a block away from the Jagannatha temple wall, welcome everyone to view their Deities and hear their chanting of the Lord's holy names. The singing at some temples goes on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Every night, through the main temple's huge loudspeakers, singers send out the seven hundred verses of Bhagavad-gita to saturate the city's atmosphere with transcendental sound.
Carving and painting Jagannatha Deities is a long-standing tradition for the craftsmen of the Mahapatra family. They say this work has been going on in their family for "uncountable generations." Here Sridhara Mahapatra carves Lord Jagannatha out of wood from the medicinal nima tree. His uncle, Gopinatha Mahapatra, applies finishing touches. Gopinatha's son, Krsna-candra Mahapatra, is a twenty-year old college student who helps with the business transactions. At their shop, about a quarter of a mile from the main temple, the Mahapatra family sells Deities to pilgrims and local residents, who take Them home to worship. Almost everyone in Puri has Jagannatha Deities in his home, and most children grow up with their own set. Every year, Sridhara helps carve the decorations on the gigantic Ratha-yatra cars. He proudly shows visitors the Certificate of Excellence the government has awarded him for his carving of the cars' decorative horses, drivers, and other figures.
Like a king on a pleasure excursion, Lord Jagannatha goes out for a ride every summer in one of India's biggest religious festivals—Ratha-yatra ("The Festival of the Chariots"). One of the most important holidays for devotees of Krsna, Ratha-yatra originated here in Puri, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims jam the city to join the parade. They pack the Grand Route, a street as wide as an eight-lane highway, and fill the nearby buildings and rooftops to get a good look at the three colossal chariots carrying, in order, Balarama, Subhadra, and Jagannatha. For a month before the celebration, over a hundred craftsmen—forty-two woodcarvers, thirty laborers, fifteen painters, ten tailors, and nine nailsmiths—work long and hard to build the chariots. On the festival day the heavy, six-foot Deities are taken out of the temple and carried toward the cars. Broad-shouldered devotees swing the Deities back and forth gracefully for Their pleasure as the Raj of Puri, observing a time-honored tradition sweeps Their path with a gold-handled broom. An official tourist handbook explains that "this practice brings home the idea to everybody that the highest political head of the State is not superior to a sweeper in the eyes of God, who is the Supreme Object of Worship by everyone on the face of the earth." At last, the carriers hoist the Deities up onto Their colorful vehicles with strong silken ropes. Canopies of red, yellow, green, and black billow and sway as Their Lordships settle in for the ride. Now the two mile journey begins. Pilgrims tug the huge cars , speeding them up and slowing them down with big ropes tied fore and aft. All afternoon the procession plows through the sea of worshipers chanting "Jaya Jagannatha! Jaya Jagannatha!" ("Victory to the Lord of the universe!") After several hours They reach Their goal: the Gundica temple, where the Deities will stay for nine days to "freshen up." During this time Their servants repaint Their features; then the Deities emerge and go back to the big temple even more bright-faced than before. The return journey is another occasion for celebration. After the festival, attendants reinstall the Deities in Their former places on the temple's main altar. There They will remain until next year's Ratha-yatra, the most spectacular offering to the Lord of the universe.
A powerful king's humble service
Taken from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
About five hundred years ago, the Indian province of Orissa was ruled by a great king named Prataparudra. Maharaja Prataparudra was a sincere devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he worshiped Him in the form of the Jagannatha Deity, at the great Jagannatha temple in Puri. One day the king heard that a famous Krsna conscious saint, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, had come to live in Puri. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was an avatar (an incarnation of God) and Maharaja Prataparudra was very eager to talk with Him. However, Lord Caitanya had adopted the role of a monk (sannyasi) to teach pure devotion to Krsna, and He strictly followed the injunctions forbidding a sannyasi to meet people absorbed in material affairs. Therefore, He was reluctant to meet such a worldly person as Maharaja Prataparudra.
When the king found out that Lord Caitanya had come to Puri, he called the scholar Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya to his palace. "I have heard that a great personality has come from Bengal and is staying at your home," the king explained. "I have also heard that He is very merciful. Please do me the favor of arranging an interview with Him."
The Bhattacarya replied, "All that you have heard is true, but the interview will be very difficult to arrange. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is in the renounced order. Consequently, He is very detached from worldly affairs. He stays in solitary places—even in dreams He would not grant an interview to a king. Still, in spite of these things, I would try to arrange a meeting with Him, but He has just left to tour South India."
On hearing this, the king asked, "Why did you let Him leave? Why didn't you fall at His feet and keep Him here?"
"Lord Caitanya is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He is completely independent," answered the Bhattacarya. "I tried very hard to keep Him here, but I could not."
"You are the most learned and experienced man I know," the king said. "Since you accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as Krsna, then I also accept Him as Krsna. When He returns, I wish to see Him just once—to make my eyes perfect."
When the Lord at last returned to Puri, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya humbly informed Him, "Maharaja Prataparudra is very anxious to meet You. He wanted me to ask You if You would see him."
As soon as He heard this proposal, Lord Caitanya covered His ears with His hands and said, "My dear Bhattacarya, why are you making such an undesirable request? I am in the renounced order of life, and for Me to meet a king is just as dangerous as meeting a woman. To meet either would be just like drinking poison." Sorrowfully, the Lord said, "For a person seriously desiring to cross the ocean of material miseries and obtain the Lord's mercy, seeing either a materialist or a lusty woman is more abominable than drinking poison."
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya replied, "My dear Lord, what you have said is correct, but this king is not ordinary. He is a great devotee and servant of Lord Jagannatha."
"Although the king is certainly a great devotee," said Lord Caitanya, "as a sannyasi I must still consider him a venomous snake. Bhattacarya, if you continue to speak like this you will never see Me here again." Afraid of further angering the Lord, the Bhattacarya returned home and began to meditate on the matter.
Meanwhile, Maharaja Prataparudra, who had gone to his capital city of Kataka, sent a letter to the Bhattacarya begging him to get the Lord's consent for a meeting. The Bhattacarya wrote the king that Lord Caitanya had not given His permission. The king immediately wrote another letter: "Please appeal to all the devotees associated with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to submit my petition at the lotus feet of the Lord. By the mercy of the devotees, one can attain the shelter of the Lord's lotus feet. If Lord Caitanya does not show mercy to me, I shall give up my kingdom, become a mendicant, and beg from door to door."
This letter disturbed Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. He met with all the devotees and described the king's wishes, showing the letter to all of them. Everyone was astonished that Maharaja Prataparudra had so much devotion for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One devotee said, "The Lord will never consent to meet the king, and if we ask Him to do so, He will feel very unhappy."
"We shall go once again to the Lord," the Bhattacarya suggested, "but we shall not request Him to meet the king. Rather, we shall simply describe the good behavior of the king." Having reached a decision, they all went to the place where Lord Caitanya was staying. When the Lord saw them, He said, "Why have you all come here?" Although they had intended to speak, they could not utter a word. "I see that you want to say something," said Caitanya Mahaprabhu, "but you do not speak. What is the reason?"
Nityananda Prabhu, the Lord's closest associate, answered, "We want to tell You something, but we are afraid to speak on such a delicate matter. Nevertheless, we must inform You that unless he sees You, the king of Orissa will become a beggar. It is the nature of an attached man to give up his life if he does not attain his desired object." Knowing the king's seriousness, the devotees were trying to save him from suicide. Nityananda Prabhu then suggested, "There is a way by which You need not meet the king, but which would enable him to continue living. If You would mercifully send one of Your garments to him, he would remain alive, hoping to see You sometime in the future."
Lord Caitanya agreed to this proposal, and Nityananda Prabhu then obtained a garment used by Him and delivered it to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, who sent it to the king. When the king received the old cloth, he began to worship it exactly as he would have worshiped the Lord directly.
Soon, Maharaja Prataparudra came to Jagannatha Puri from Kataka, along with his band of secretaries, ministers, and military officers. Also with him was one of his governors, Ramananda Raya. Ramananda had met Lord Caitanya on the Lord's tour of South India, and they had become close friends. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had asked Ramananda Raya to resign his post and join Him at Jagannatha Puri so that they could talk together every day about the activities of Lord Krsna and share their understanding. When Ramananda Raya arrived in Jagannatha Puri, he hurried with great anticipation to see Lord Caitanya. After they greeted each other, he said to the Lord, "I informed Maharaja Prataparudra of Your order. I said, 'Your majesty, I cannot continue my political activities. I desire only to stay at the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Kindly give me permission.' Upon hearing Your name, he immediately rose from his throne and embraced me. My dear Lord, as soon as the king heard Your holy name, he was overwhelmed by great ecstatic love. He granted me a full salary as a pension, and requested me to engage in Your service without anxiety. Then he humbly said, 'Because I am most fallen and abominable, I am unfit to receive an interview with the Lord. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself, and service to Him makes life successful. He is very merciful, and I hope that he will allow me an interview in one of my future lives.' My Lord," said Ramananda Raya, "I don't think I have even a fraction of Maharaja Prataparudra's ecstatic love for You."
"My dear Ramananda," the Lord replied, "you are the foremost of Krsna's devotees, and whoever serves you is blessed by Krsna. The king has shown so much devotion for you that Krsna will certainly accept him."
In the days that followed, the Lord enjoyed the company of Ramananda Raya, talking with him about Lord Krsna and His pastimes. While they were absorbed in these conversations, Maharaja Prataparudra called for Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. The king made him sit on an elegant chair and offered him respectful greetings. Then he began lamenting, "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has descended just to deliver all kinds of sinful, lowborn persons. But has Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu incarnated to deliver all kinds of sinners except a king named Prataparudra? If Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is determined to avoid me," cried the king, "then I am determined to give up my life."
The Bhattacarya was astonished at the king's strength of purpose. He thought such determination to be impossible for a worldly man. Maharaja Prataparudra continued, "If I do not receive Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy, both my body and my kingdom are useless."
At last, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya said, "My dear king, don't worry. Your firm determination will surely inspire Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to bestow His mercy upon you. Only pure love can attract the Supreme Lord, and since your love for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very deep, He will undoubtedly be merciful to you."
The Bhattacarya felt great compassion for the king and wanted to help him as much as he could. He blessed the king that he might receive the mercy of the Lord by making this suggestion: "There is one way to see Lord Caitanya directly. On the day of the Ratha-yatra festival, He will dance before the Deity in great ecstatic love. Afterward He will enter the Gundica garden. At that time you should go there alone, in plain dress, and read the five chapters from the Srimad-Bhagavatam about Krsna's dancing with the gopis [cowherd girls]. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will be in a mood of ecstatic love, and He will embrace you, knowing you to be a pure devotee. Do not worry: the Lord has already changed His mind about you due to Ramananda Raya's description of your pure love for Him." After thus encouraging the king, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya returned home. In the days that followed, Ramananda Raya would remind the Lord of the king's desire to see Him. Using expert diplomacy, Ramananda Raya gradually softened the Lord's heart.
"My Lord," Ramananda Raya said, "You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You have nothing to fear from anyone."
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu objected, "I am not the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am just an ordinary human being, and I fear public opinion. As soon as the general public finds a little fault in a sannyasi, they advertise it like wildfire. A black spot of ink on a white cloth cannot be hidden; it is always very prominent." (Actually, of course, Lord Caitanya was the Supreme Personality of Godhead and couldn't be harmed in the least by public opinion. Yet He knew that if people found any discrepancy in His behavior—such as associating with a worldly-minded king—their criticism would hamper His mission of preaching Krsna consciousness.)
"My dear Lord, You have delivered so many sinful people. King Prataparudra is actually the Lord's servant and devotee."
"There may be much milk in a big pot," Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "but if it is contaminated by one drop of liquor, it is untouchable. The king certainly possesses many good qualities, but simply by taking the title of 'King,' he has infected everything. However, if you are still very eager for Me to meet the king, please bring his son to Me first. The Vedas say the son represents the father. So meeting Maharaja Prataparudra's son would be just as good as meeting the king himself."
Ramananda Raya then went to tell the king about his talk with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and following the Lord's order, he brought back the king's son to see Him. The young prince's blackish complexion, large lotus eyes, yellow garments, and jeweled ornaments reminded everyone of Lord Krsna.
"Here is a great devotee," Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "for anyone who sees him remembers the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Just by sending Me this boy, the king has put Me very much in his debt." Seeing all this, the devotees praised the boy for his great spiritual fortune. Ramananda took him back to the king's palace. The king was very glad to hear of his son's experience, and when he embraced him, he also felt ecstatic love—just as if he had touched Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu directly.
At last the day came for Lord Jagannatha's annual Ratha-yatra festival. After bathing early in the morning, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw Lord Jagannatha transferred from His throne to the car, while musicians created a tumult and thousands looked on. Although King Prataparudra was the exalted owner of the royal throne, he wanted to do some menial service for Lord Jagannatha. Therefore, he personally swept the road with a gold-handled broom and sprinkled the road with sandalwood-scented water. Seeing the king sweeping the street and sprinkling it with water, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu became very happy.
As the huge cars moved along the road toward the Gundica temple, the devotees danced and chanted Hare Krsna with great enthusiasm. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu divided the devotees into seven parties, with two drums in each group. Maharaja Prataparudra was astonished by the sankirtana (congregational chanting of the Lord's holy names). All the devotees chanted the holy names in great ecstasy, with tears falling from their eyes, and Lord Caitanya wandered through all seven groups chanting, "Hari! Hari!" Raising His arms, He shouted, "All glories to Lord Jagannatha!"
King Prataparudra could hardly believe his eyes when he saw Lord Caitanya appear simultaneously in all seven sankirtana groups. The king became stunned with ecstatic love. Although the Lord had previously rebuffed the king, He now showered His favor upon him by revealing His mystic power.
Although the other devotees could not see the Lord appearing in seven places, they were also overwhelmed with transcendental ecstasy just to see His dancing. Everyone was dancing and chanting, and the sound echoed all around as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced and wandered through the crowd.
When the servants of Lord Jagannatha had pulled the cars as far as the Gundica garden, they stopped, and all the devotees offered the Deities some simple food they had prepared. The king with his queens, the ministers, and all other residents of Jagannatha Puri offered preparations to the Lord, and a large crowd gathered to watch.
At that time Lord Caitanya stopped His dancing and went into the garden to rest. The Lord was covered with perspiration, and He enjoyed the cool, fragrant breezes in the garden. All the devotees who were chanting and dancing with Him also went there and rested under each and every tree.
While Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was resting in ecstasy, Maharaja Prataparudra entered the garden. Following Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya's instructions, the king had replaced his royal garments with the simple clothes of a devotee. He was so humble that he first offered respects with folded hands to all the devotees in the garden. Then, taking courage, he fell down and touched the lotus feet of the Lord. Then the king started to recite the verses about Krsna's dancing with the gopis. When Lord Caitanya heard these verses, He was pleased beyond limit and said again and again, "Go on reciting! Go on reciting!"
Then Maharaja Prataparudra recited a very special verse:
My Lord, the nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those who are always aggrieved in this material world. These narrations are transmitted by exalted personalities who can eradicate all sinful reactions. Whoever hears these narrations attains all good fortune. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and they are filled with spiritual power. Those who spread the message of Godhead are certainly the most munificent welfare workers (Bhag. 10.31.9).
As soon as the king recited this verse, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu embraced him and cried, "You are the most munificent! You are the most munificent!" The Lord rose in ecstatic love and embraced the king, exclaiming, "You have given me invaluable gems, but I have nothing to give you in return!" Saying this, the Lord began to recite the same verse again and again. Both the king and Lord Caitanya were trembling, and tears were flowing from their eyes. Finally the Lord asked, "Who are you? You have done so much for Me. All of a sudden you have come here and made Me drink the nectar of Lord Krsna's pastimes."
The king replied, "My Lord, I am most obedient to You. It is my ambition that You accept me as the servant of Your servants." Then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu displayed some of His divine opulences to the king, but forbade him to disclose these secrets to anyone. Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu knew who the king was, He pretended not to know.
Seeing that the king had received the Lord's special mercy, the devotees became blissful and praised his good fortune. After submissively offering prayers to the devotees and obeisances to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the king left the garden.
In this way, Maharaja Prataparudra received the mercy of Lord Caitanya. Ordinarily, the king would not have had a chance to meet the Lord, but when the Lord saw that he was serving Lord Jagannatha as a menial sweeper, He bestowed His full mercy upon him. In the years that followed, Maharaja Prataparudra had many more opportunities to render service to Lord Jagannatha, and he maintained his humble attitude in spite of his wealth and power. Even to this day, Maharaja Prataparudra's descendants remember his example. At the Ratha-yatra festival each year, the present king of Orissa takes a gold-handled broom and sweeps the road in front of Lord Jagannatha's car.