The International Society/or 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 our readers to consider them with an open mind and then visit one of the ISKCON centers to see how they are being applied in everyday 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 known 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.
Muhammad 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.
On October 3,1972, psychologist Dr. Gerald Frazer visited His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at ISKCON's world headquarters, in Los Angeles. Their conversation follows.
Dr. Frazer: I am curious to know what you do when one of your students has a problem on the physical or emotional platform. Do you help that person over his problem by getting him to transcend it, by rising above it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we speak only on the transcendental platform, not on the bodily or mental or intellectual platform. We recognize four platforms: the bodily or sensual platform; then, above that, the mental platform; above that, the intellectual platform; and above that, the spiritual platform.
First of all, our direct perception is on the sensual platform, by sense perception (indriyani parany ahuh). For example, now I am directly seeing your tape recorder—this is the sensual platform. But if you describe your tape recorder to me, then I see it on the mental platform. These two visions—sensual and mental—are different. And when an electronics expert thinks of how to improve the tape recorder, he is seeing on the intellectual platform. That is another vision. So, even in the material realm, there are three visions, three platforms: sensual, mental, and intellectual. And above all these is the spiritual platform. On this platform is the soul, who experiences the world through the material senses, mind, and intelligence.
So, we speak on the spiritual platform. We know that if someone is spiritually sound, then he will be intellectually, mentally, and physically sound as well. That is our proposition. When you have one hundred dollars, then you also have fifty dollars, twenty-five dollars, and ten dollars. So, we train our students spiritually. For spiritual understanding, they have to rise early in the morning, they have to take a bath, they can eat only krsna-prasada [vegetarian foods offered to Lord Krsna], and they refrain from certain things. In this way, their physical and hygienic problems are automatically solved. We don't spend very much in doctor's bills. In the last seven years, I have not had one doctor's bill. And most of our students are not troubled by physical disease.
Good health actually depends on the presence of the spirit soul within the body. Within your body is you, the spirit soul. And because the spirit soul is there, your body looks healthy. But as soon as the spirit soul is gone from your body, your body will immediately begin to decompose. This is the distinction between a living body and a dead body. When the spirit soul is within a body, it is called a living body, and as soon as the spirit soul is not there, it is called a dead body. Therefore, you should always keep yourself spiritually fit. Then you will keep mentally, intellectually, and physically fit.
Now, as far as the spirit soul is concerned, do you have any conception of it?
Dr. Frazer: Some conception.
Srila Prabhupada: And what is that?
Dr. Frazer: My words cannot describe it very well. It is the inexpressible, ineffable essence of both me and you.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is not an explanation. That is a negation. Unless we actually perceive and know the spirit soul, there is no question of spiritual knowledge.
Dr. Frazer: When you talk about the spirit soul, you seem to refer to that part of me I feel most when I am not using my physical senses.
Srila Prabhupada: Your physical senses are working due to the presence of the spirit soul. You are moving your hand because the spirit soul is within you. And as soon as the spirit soul is gone from your body, your body becomes simply a lump of matter.
Dr. Frazer: So, matter is separate from the spirit soul?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The soul is the vital force, the moving force, that is in you, that is in me, that is in the ant, that is in the elephant, that is everywhere.
Dr. Frazer: Is it in our bodies after we are dead?
Srila Prabhupada: Death means you are gone from your body. But other spirit souls are there in your body in so many germs, parasites, and so on. There are innumerable individual spirit souls in your body.
Dr. Frazer: Individual spirit souls?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You are an individual, I am an individual, everyone is an individual
Dr. Frazer: And what is there about all spirit souls that is the same?
Srila Prabhupada: The quality is the same. Just as (since you are a human being and I am a human being) you have two hands and I have two hands, you have two legs and I have two legs, and so on. But still, you and I are different. That is individuality. Understanding that is Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Frazer: What happens when someone comes to you, and he is caught up in a problem in, say, the physical or mental plane, and he can't understand the spiritual plane. Do you tie him into the spiritual plane so that he can transcend his problem?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. If someone comes to the Krsna conscious platform, then he has no more problems, either physical, mental, or intellectual.
Dr. Frazer: What I am especially curious about is how you bring someone to Krsna consciousness when he approaches you. Do you have a healing process?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just as you heal by some psychiatric process, so we also heal by this Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Frazer: Could you say a bit about that process?
Srila Prabhupada: It is the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. This chanting is just like the process for curing snakebite. Have you seen snake charmers in India? We have them there still. If someone is bitten by a snake and is lying unconscious, the snake charmer can gradually awaken him by chanting a certain mantra. This is a material process. Similarly, we are spirit souls, and everyone of us is either psychologically or physically diseased. So, by this chanting of Hare Krsna we awaken the consciousness that cures all our physical, mental, and intellectual diseases.
Dr. Frazer: It would seem that someone would have to have a certain kind of mentality for the chanting to be of assistance.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We create the healthy mentality simply by chanting. We chant, and we ask him to join us in chanting. Then he is cured intellectually, mentally, and physically.
Dr. Frazer: There are many people who would not do that. They seek healing from other individuals and not from themselves—not from what they can achieve through internal concentration or chanting. They are not used to looking within.
Srila Prabhupada: Nevertheless, we have so many students who have been cured of all mental, physical, and intellectual problems simply by chanting. There are so many students. You can talk to any of them.
Dr. Frazer: After they've gone through the process to get to Krsna consciousness, do your students stay in the temple, or do they go out into the community and work at regular jobs?
Srila Prabhupada: Some of them do that. This student [gestures toward a devotee} is a doctor of chemistry. He is doing his job, but he is in Krsna consciousness. And there are many professors and many workers in our movement. One doesn't have to live in the temple. No. He can live outside, but he keeps his Krsna consciousness. However, within the temple it is easier to remain Krsna conscious because of the association of devotees. Their association is an important influence.
Dr. Frazer: Do you teach control of the body?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. No meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling. These are some of the no's. And there are so many yeses. Do's and do nots; that is control of the body. Our students do not go to the cinema or restaurants. They do not even smoke, drink tea or coffee—nothing. We have no such expenditures, and almost no doctor's bills.
Dr. Frazer: You said no illicit sex. What is permissible sex?
Srila Prabhupada: Permissible sex means, first of all, sex only with one's wife. One must be married, and with his wife he can have sex once in a month after the menstrual period. And when his wife is pregnant, no more sex life. This is permissible sex.
Dr. Frazer: Do you impose any punishment for illicit sex?
Srila Prabhupada: Punishment will be there automatically, by nature's way. As soon as you violate nature's law, you will be punished. Suppose you are eating. If you eat a little more than you need, you will be punished. That is nature's law. If you have too much sex, then you become impotent. That is nature's punishment for too much sex indulgence. And if you indulge in all these prohibited things—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling—then you will never understand spiritual consciousness. That is the greatest punishment. If you do not understand spiritual life, you remain like an animal, in ignorance. So, in spite of getting the chance of a human body, if we remain like animals, is this not the greatest punishment?
Dr. Frazer: I suppose it is, but how can we end this ignorance?
Srila Prabhupada: As soon as you understand God, then your knowledge is perfect. If you do not understand God, then your knowledge is imperfect. The animals cannot be educated about God, but human beings can. Therefore, there are so many scriptures in the human society. But if you don't take advantage of this human life to understand God, then you remain an animal.
Dr. Frazer: Have you seen people who have understood God, who have been Krsna conscious, but who have regressed back to the bodily, mental, or intellectual platforms?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just as you may be cured of a disease but again become infected and have a relapse, so you may also become Krsna conscious but again fall down into material life. But if you always keep yourself spiritually fit, then there is no chance of downfall.
Dr. Frazer: Could you tell me what the essence of Krsna consciousness is?
Srila Prabhupada: To understand God.
Dr. Frazer: To understand God and to do what is most natural—to follow the natural laws?
Srila Prabhupada: The essence of Krsna consciousness is to know God and to love Him. That is our proposition. Human life is meant for understanding God and loving Him.
Dr. Frazer: I can easily follow what you are saying. Krsna consciousness seems to involve doing what's most natural. Overeating, overindulging in sex, overdoing anything is not natural.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, the basic principle of understanding is that you are a spirit soul—you are not your body. But because you have accepted a body, you have to suffer so many bodily troubles. All our troubles are due to this material body. Therefore, this material body itself is our problem.
Dr. Frazer: Since, as you mentioned before, the spirit soul and the body are always different, does the perfectly realized soul feel physical distress? In other words, can someone in Krsna consciousness get a physical disease?
Srila Prabhupada: The body is subject to physical disease. How can I avoid it? But if I do not identify with my body, then the disease will not bother me. For example, suppose two men are sitting in a very nice car. Somehow or other the car is damaged. The man who possesses the car is afflicted, but the other man is not, although they are both sitting in the same car. Why is this? Can you explain this psychologically? The owner is afflicted—he is concerned—but his friend is not concerned. What is the cause of the owner's distress?
Dr. Frazer: His possession.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The owner is absorbed in possession: "Oh, my car is ruined!" But because the friend has no sense of possession, he is not affected. In the same way, the body is different from the soul, and when you come to the consciousness of not possessing your body, then there is no trouble.
Dr. Frazer: So, someone in Krsna consciousness may come down with a bodily illness, but he won't be afflicted by it spiritually?
Srila Prabhupada: No, he won't be afflicted. He is just like the man who is perfectly detached from his car: "All right, the car is damaged. I will lose some money, but it doesn't matter." But another man, who is very much absorbed in possession, thinks, "Oh, my car is damaged!" In the same way, one who is absorbed in bodily identification is more afflicted, and one who is not absorbed, who knows that he is not his body, is not afflicted. It is a question of consciousness. A Krsna conscious person may become diseased, but he simply says, "Oh, it comes and goes. It doesn't matter. Let me do my duty. Hare Krsna." This is the difference. It is a question of development of consciousness.
Dr. Frazer: What do you do when someone preoccupied with bad thoughts comes to you?
Srila Prabhupada: When someone is absorbed in thoughts of Krsna, there is no scope for bad thoughts. You can think of only one subject matter at a time, so if you are absorbed twenty-four hours a day in thoughts of Krsna, then there is no question of bad thoughts.
Dr. Frazer: If I understand you correctly, Krsna conscious people are cured of bad thoughts just by getting away from them—not by expressing the thoughts and getting away from them, but by not expressing the thoughts and getting away from them.
Srila Prabhupada: The process is like this: a man comes to our society with bad thoughts, but by chanting, chanting, chanting, he becomes relieved of these bad thoughts.
Dr. Frazer: He doesn't talk about the bad thoughts to anyone?
Srila Prabhupada: He may talk or not talk; it doesn't matter. But the bad thoughts go away.
Dr. Frazer: One thing I don't quite understand. You and the people around you often seek to proselytize strangers, to involve new people. Why is that?
Srila Prabhupada: You also proselytize. When a madman goes to you, you turn him into a sane man. Is that not proselytizing?
Dr. Frazer: Yes, but he comes to me. Your people go out to other people.
Srila Prabhupada: So we are better friends to those who are suffering. You charge fees, but we canvass without any personal gain. Therefore, we are better friends than you.
Dr. Frazer: What if someone says no to you?
Srila Prabhupada: Then it is no. Suppose a fruit vendor is canvassing, "Here is a nice mango." That does not mean everyone will buy. The mango is good. Because someone does not buy it, that does not mean the mango is bad. It is his misfortune that he did not buy the nice mango.
Dr. Frazer: I was just thinking of what you said about charging a fee. How else could professional people make a living?
Srila Prabhupada: Of course. You are a professional, but we are not professionals. We distribute our knowledge without demanding a personal salary. We distribute such an exalted thing—Krsna consciousness—without any desire for our own profit.
Dr. Frazer: Yet it seems to me that when a person joins you he gives you his time, he gives you his energy—
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he gives everything. Take these devotees, for instance. They have given everything. Why do they give everything? We don't charge anything. Do you think they are all fools to give everything for Krsna? What is your idea?
Dr. Frazer: They may do whatever they wish. They want to give everything.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And that is natural—to give everything to Krsna. That is the sane condition. To withhold anything from Krsna is an insane condition. It is something like stealing from this temple. Suppose someone takes this box without my knowledge. He will be in tribulation: "Oh, I have taken this without Swamiji's knowledge! What will he think?" But he is cured of all this trouble when he returns the box. Similarly, everything belongs to Krsna. Everything belongs to God. Nothing belongs to me, not even this body. Therefore, to offer everything to Krsna is the sane condition of life. So, when someone comes to Krsna consciousness, he returns every thing that he has received from Krsna. This is sanity. Everyone else is a thief, enjoying another's property and claiming it to be his. For example, take your country, the United States of America. Do you think it is actually your country? Two hundred years ago it did not belong to you; it belonged to the red Indians. Now you are claiming it to be your country. Why? After another two hundred years it might belong to others. So, why is it your country now? Similarly, God has given us this life, God has given us this body. God has given us this mind, God has given us everything. Therefore, everything belongs to God, and to come to this understanding is called Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Frazer: What about other philosophical studies—
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, by philosophical study we have to understand that everything belongs to God. That is the original philosophy: isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything belongs to God." You, I, and everyone else belong to God, and since we are all children of God, we have the right to use God's property—but not more than what we require. Now, you are God's son, I am God's son, and everything is God's property. So, you may enjoy your father's property, and I may enjoy it, but when you encroach on my property so that I starve, that is illegal. If we accept that everything belongs to God, and that we are all sons of God—every one of us, even animals, insects, birds, bees, trees—then we all have the right to use God's property—but no more than what is required. That is God consciousness.
Dr. Frazer: Well, I certainly agree with that, but again, my own conflict is whether Krsna consciousness is the only consciousness for everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: Other consciousness is partial. Krsna consciousness is full. For instance, American national consciousness—that is partial. But when you speak of Krsna consciousness, that is complete.
Dr. Frazer: How is it more complete than Hinduism?
Srila Prabhupada: We are talking of God, not Hinduism or Christianity. God is for everyone. God is neither Hindu nor Christian; He is for everyone. Simply love God. It doesn't matter whether you are Hindu or Christian or Muslim or whatever.
Dr. Frazer: Thank you for seeing me and talking with me.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Krsna was very pleased with the atmosphere of the Vrndavana forest, where flowers bloomed and bees and drones hummed jubilantly. While the birds, trees, and branches were all looking very happy, Krsna, tending the cows and accompanied by Sri Balarama and the cowherd boys, began to vibrate His transcendental flute. When the cowherd girls of Vrndavana heard the sweet vibration, they began to talk among themselves about how nicely Krsna was playing His flute. They also described how Krsna dressed, decorated with a peacock feather on His head (just like a dancing actor) and with blue flowers pushed over His ear. His garment glowed yellow-gold, and He wore a vaijayanti garland around His neck. Dressed in such an attractive way, Krsna filled up the holes of His flute with the nectar emanating from His lips. So the cowherd girls remembered Him entering the Vrndavana forest, which is always glorified by the footprints of Krsna and His companions.
One of the reasons why Lord Krsna appeared five thousand years ago was to give us subject matter for meditation. This description of Krsna entering the forest of Vrndavana is taken from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
With theories being established, taught, and discarded like disposable napkins, a father wonders whether his child will get a real education.
by Ravindra Svarupa dasa
In the summer of 1970, I felt for the first time the fear that parents know when their child ventures out into the world. My daughter Emily wasn't even three years old, a toddler. Yet one morning, as I watched her walking down the street to play, I suddenly saw her facing the whole sweep other future.
At moments like this, a person really comes face-to-face with the question of education. I started to think of what I could teach her to help her through the assorted puzzles of this world. And, much to my dismay, I realized that I had nothing to say.
Not that I was uneducated, by ordinary standards. I had majored in philosophy in college, studied literature for a year in graduate school, and had gone on to two years' study in religion, also in graduate school. Yet, though I'd pondered for some seven years the greatest works of human thought (and in prestigious universities, under the tutelage of the best professors), all that came to mind as I watched my daughter playing were the hollow slogans of the day: "Be cool," "Don't get hung up."
I marveled. Was this all I had gotten from my education? Surely I had studied many sides of many issues, explored the world-views of many cultures and the Zeitgeists of many ages, traced out the thought waves of many geniuses. Still, for certain, I knew nothing. There was nothing I could give my child. And who could say she would learn anything more from her years of schooling than I had learned from mine?
Now, as I look back, I am amazed at my gullibility. I remember being a college freshman, tremulously but hopefully taking my seat in the old high-ceilinged lecture room where shining dust slowly swirled in the bars of sunlight. "Introduction to Philosophy," read my schedule card. Now, I thought, I would really find the answers to the questions that persistently troubled me: "Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" "Where am I going?"
"What is philosophy?" asked the instructor, a thin young Englishman with blond (almost whitish) hair and a very confident manner. He began writing our answers on the blackboard.
I raised my hand. "Philosophy means trying to find out who you are, where you've come from, and where you're going."
He wrote it down.
"Yes," said the instructor, slowly and carefully, "there is a person in this department who goes around asking those questions"—he paused—"and I reply, 'My name is Kevin Wright, I am coming from College Hall, and I am going to Bennett Hall!' " He stood grinning at me.
I was dumbstruck—and ashamed of my naivete. Here was philosophy! The great professional thinkers of the day had concluded that real philosophers don't bother with the kind of childish questions that bothered me.
But I remained bothered, nonetheless. By my senior year I knew well what the inquirer in The Rubaiiyat of Omar Khayyam had meant when he said:
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
"Why are you in philosophy?" I asked one up-and-coming young professor.
"To win arguments," he replied.
Another advised me, "Success in philosophy is understanding clearly what you're confused about."
I still didn't know anything after several years of graduate school, but by then I had devised a practical test by which to judge competing philosophies. This test had nothing to do with the process of argument and speculation—from that I derived only frustration. The arguments, counterarguments, and counter-counterarguments were interminable. Besides that, to be famous as a philosopher, you had to put forth a new position; mere agreement would put an early end to your career. Therefore, since I was awash in an endless, stormy sea of differing philosophies, and since there was no hope of establishing once and for all any single philosophy as true, when various teachers would argue their positions I would just think to myself, "If I accept your philosophy, I'll at best become the same kind of person as you. Is that what I want to be?" This was my practical test, and on that basis I never found any philosophy I could accept.
It was in that same year, 1970, after twenty years of schooling, that I finally found my first real teacher: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Here was a man I could follow. Perfectly calm and self-assured, he radiated a personal warmth and a sincerity of purpose that were completely lacking in my previous teachers. And when he spoke the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, every syllable seemed to carry the weight of eternal truth. No tinge of doubt or cynicism or flippancy marred his words.
I was with him a few years later when he dramatically demonstrated why my so-called education had been such a disaster. Sitting behind his desk in a room filled with his students, Srila Prabhupada had just been introduced to a professor from a large university who had brought along several students of his own.
"What do you teach?" Srila Prabhupada inquired.
"Hinduism," answered the professor.
"And what is that Hinduism?"
"I don't know," came the immediate response.
"You don't know?" repeated Srila Prabhupada, his eyebrows raised in astonishment. Then he asked the question that went with Socratic directness to the basic defect of Western education:
"If you don't know, how can you teach?"
The professor was caught by surprise; evidently, this idea had never occurred to him. He tried to evade the question by giving many reasons why he didn't know, but Srila Prabhupada pressed his point. The logic of it was inescapable: If you don't know something, how can you possibly teach it?
Srila Prabhupada made a further point. A person who does not know something, but who teaches it anyway, is a cheater. Again the logic was inescapable: the professor was constrained to admit, in front of Srila Prabhupada's students and his own, that he himself was indeed a cheater.
So, I had been cheated, and what was to prevent my children from being cheated also? Education means to acquire knowledge from a teacher, but if the so-called teacher has no knowledge, how is education possible? Of course, he may instruct us in a technical skill or practical craft, but Srila Prabhupada, like the ancient Greeks, doesn't count that as actual knowledge; it is techne, "know-how," the mere mastery of a trade.
But the educators are keeping up the bluff. Finding themselves unable to know the truth, they fashion their own ignorance into philosophical doctrine and teach that as the truth. Their thinking seems to go something like this: "If we can't find out who we are or where we've come from, then such questions are meaningless. If we can't discover a standard of knowledge free from cultural or historical bias, then there is no such standard." At least in this way they can give courses in ignorance and award doctorates to the most distinguished. And, they hope, perhaps no one will notice—the emperor has no clothes.
But a few of us are noticing, under the tutelage of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. I can remember the very moment when the root of Western education's problem became clear to me....
It was still and quiet, just past dawn, and a mist hung over Philadelphia's Schuylkill River. An occasional motorist speeding along the river road could observe (with some surprise, no doubt) a small band of people walking slowly along the bank. Srila Prabhupada and a group of his disciples were taking a morning walk. The steady tapping of his cane on the pavement underscored the cadence of his soft, low voice.
"Your Western knowledge is defective," Srila Prabhupada said. He stopped and stood firm. "It is like this: 1 see that one man has died, and another, and another, and so on." He checked off the deaths in the air with small strokes of his cane. "Still, I think that I might not die. Just because so many have died, does it follow that I must also die? Don't your scientists believe like that—that even though so many have died, they themselves might not? This is the defect. Your process of knowledge is 'the ascending process.' That process is defective, because it always leaves some doubt. All your so-called knowledge is based on this defective principle."
I felt elated. Of course! I recalled the philosophy texts. It was the "Problem of Induction"! Suppose I want to find out whether all robins are red-breasted, and I examine n number of robins (n can be any great number, even a million). My premises and conclusions proceed something like this:
1. Robin 1 has a red breast.
Therefore, all robins are red-breasted. Yet, although all my premises are true, the conclusion can still be false, for there is no guarantee that "robin n + 1" won't have a blue or green breast. Only if I examine every single robin can my conclusion be guaranteed. Of course, this test is impossible; the inductive process can never give me absolute certainty that all robins have a red breast. And, consequently, all experimental generalizations, all scientific "laws"—indeed, the entire body of mundane knowledge, which rests inevitably on the inductive process—is doubtful.
"But we know we shall die," Prabhupada was continuing. "How? Not by speculation, but because Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [2.27], jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur: 'For one who has taken birth, death is certain.' Therefore, because God says I must die, and He has perfect knowledge—is that not the definition of God, that He has no defect?—because He says it, therefore we can accept it as true."
"But, Srila Prabhupada," I interjected, "Western philosophers like John Stuart Mill, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell have also noticed this difficulty with induction. But their reaction was to become skeptics."
"Skeptics!" exclaimed Srila Prabhupada. "Skepticism is not allowed! That is another speculation!"
"Yes! 'Because I cannot know; therefore, no one can know.' Just see what rascaldom this is! 'I am ignorant, so everyone must be ignorant.' "
In other words, the skeptic understands that because of the defect in induction, he can have no knowledge. But then, on the basis of that same faulty inductive process, he claims that no one can have any knowledge. This is "another speculation," and thus completely unacceptable.
"This is my challenge," said Srila Prabhupada. "I am challenging that all your Western knowledge is defective. You have no knowledge. I have come here to give you actual knowledge and defeat these rascal speculators!" Prabhupada's fiery eyes darted at us. His words carried real authority. After all, he had behind him a five-thousand-year line of spiritual masters coming from Lord Krsna Himself.
In the car driving back to the temple, Srila Prabhupada added, "I could understand if they would simply say, 'I don't know.' But instead they say, 'Maybe,'... 'perhaps,'... 'it could be,'... 'it might be.' You are a resident of this city," Srila Prabhupada continued, turning to me, "and a visitor here may ask you directions. Is it very good, if you don't know, still to say, 'Go this way'; 'try going that way'? Better just to tell him, 'I don't know.' Similarly, the so-called educators speculate, put forth big theories, and thus mislead everyone."
I remembered that when I was in college, mankind had supposedly emerged five million years ago, and civilization had spread into Europe from Mesopotamia. But these days, humans seem to have appeared three million years ago, and European ruins predate Mesopotamian ones. The old teaching, being false, never was knowledge, and the new teaching is equally liable to change any day. In fact, a revision in the theories of human prehistory occurs practically every week.
Someone digs a hole, discovers a few bones, and constructs a theory that supposedly explains all the evidence. Then "those in the know" teach this theory as fact. Meanwhile the digging continues, fresh evidence contradicts the established theory, and a new theory emerges to become the new teaching. Then another hole... and another... and another.... The "learned sector" establishes, teaches, and discards theories like disposable napkins. At no point is there even the remote approximation of knowledge, since all these theories about the distant human past are based on diggings covering only an infinitesimal fraction of the earth's surface. Nevertheless, so-called scientists disseminate so many "facts" about human prehistory, which the innocent public then accepts.
But can real knowledge and truth change on a week-to-week basis? If the authorities or experts keep changing their teachings, can we call such teachings knowledge? And if the experts are not transmitting knowledge, can we say that they are educating us? We're seeing our great expert leaders are blind, and when the blind lead the blind, everyone falls into the ditch.
In The Underachieving School, educational critic and teacher John Holt vividly describes his frustrating experiences with obsolescent and amorphous knowledge. He argues that teachers and students are wasting their time and may as well "abandon the panicky quest for certainty and understanding and order and... be willing to swim, to suspend themselves—I think of a bird in air or a fish in water—in the uncertainty and confusion and bafflement in which it is our fate to live for the rest of our lives."
Here is the cop-out of today's educator. Confusion is king. But, just as the word hot implies that somewhere there is something that's cold, the very word blind implies that somewhere there is someone who can see. Should we really "abandon ... certainty and understanding and order" and so readily embrace "uncertainty and confusion and bafflement"? Srila Prabhupada gives us good reason to think otherwise.
The son of a career military officer, Ravindra Svarupa dasa was born in 1944. He, his wife Saudamani-devi dasi, their six-year-old son Yudhisthira, and their nine-year-old daughter Lalita (Emily) came to the Krsna consciousness movement in 1971. Since then, Ravindra Svarupa has coordinated ISKCON's Philadelphia center. After receiving his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1966, he went on to graduate work, first at the University of Massachusetts and now at Philadelphia's Temple University. He will submit his Ph.D. dissertation in April, 1977.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
UN Conference Welcomes Vedic Alternative
This June, in Vancouver, Canada, 4,500 delegates from 135 countries met in an atmosphere of emergency. Their goal: to improve human living conditions worldwide. This gathering, called the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements—"Habitat," for short—included both governmental meetings and (for the first time in UN history) a meeting of authorized nongovernmental organizations ("NGO's").
ISKCON representatives, including Gurudasa Svami, Revatinandana Svami, and Dharmadhyaksa dasa, addressed many assemblies and seminars during the two weeks of NGO meetings. ISKCON's outdoor tent-exhibit, entitled "Simple Living, High Thinking," drew rousing applause from thousands of visitors. According to the New York Times, most countries wanted to "free themselves from Western ideas on planning and from dependence on Western technology." As a result, considerable praise went to ISKCON's plans for a model city in Mayapura, India (based on both classical Vedic town planning and the latest natural technology, such as windmill power units and methane gas converters).
Besides Indian delegates who pledged their support, Ronald Seigal, head of the International Assistance Division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, invited the devotees to Washington for further discussions on the Mayapura project.
Anthropologist Applauds Srimad-Bhagavatam
How did the ancients live, and what could they teach us about living? With so much interest today in the cultural riches of "lost" civilizations. Doctor Thomas J. Maloney, Professor of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University, has this to say about Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
"As a text to be studied by anthropology students, this work has some very attractive points. It is always difficult to see things from the cultural viewpoint of others, but this work makes this empathetic view much easier. The vivid illustrations add to the easy transference from one culture to the other.... The 'working' translation and the more poetic English version are, of course, invaluable, and the purports are of great value...."
(To order any or all of the volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, please use the coupon on last page.)
New York Celebrates Festival of the Chariots
"In 1966, Srila Prabhupada, when you had just arrived here in New York from India, you would go alone to Tompkins Square Park and chant Hare Krsna. Now, ten years later, thousands of people have come here to Washington Square Park to hear you." It was Sunday, July 18. Kirtanananda Svami, an early disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was speaking to his spiritual master at the climax of an event that Srila Prabhupada had made possible. "Actually," Prabhupada explained, "it is Lord Krsna who has made this festival possible. He wants everyone, all over the world, to chant Hare Krsna and be happy."
An estimated ninety thousand people saw the Festival of the Chariots (Ratha-yatra), a transcendental parade that moved down Fifth Avenue from Central Park to the West Village. Many helped pull the three mammoth chariots, with their bright red and yellow canopies and huge wooden wheels. Along with the chanting and dancing devotees there were young people, housewives, and businessmen—all taking part in this commemoration of Lord Krsna's return journey to His beloved Vrndavana.
One business executive who watched the festivities from his office in the World Trade Center commented, "It looked like the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen." At the park, everyone enjoyed Srila Prabhupada's talk and a feast of krsna-prasada, spiritual food.
All three major television networks and the New York Times and Daily News confirmed the festival's success. Ratha-yatra celebrations in eleven other cities (including San Francisco, London, and Paris) met with similar response.
A young teacher talks about what it's like to work with the children at ISKCON's primary school in Los Angeles.
—by Dvarakanatha dasa
Born thirty-one years ago, in Cleveland, Ohio, Dvarakanatha dasa graduated from the University of Florida. In 1972 he began work at ISKCON's Gurukula in Dallas as a math and English teacher, and the following year he served as the school's assistant headmaster. In 1974 Dvarakanatha took his present post as a children's counselor in Dallas and continues in this capacity at ISKCON's Los Angeles center, where he lives with his wife Krsnapriya-devi dasi and their three children (Kamesi-devi dasi, eleven; Sammohini-devi dasi, seven; and Uddhava dasa, three).
When I started working as a counselor, I began spending more time with the children. I was surprised to find out how difficult it was, and how much responsibility I'd taken on. Before, I'd taken care of the children on an academic level, and then on an executive level, but now I had to tend to their more personal spiritual and material needs. The boys I worked with were between four and eight years old, and I had to see that they stayed orderly and clean, that they learned how to take care of themselves physically, and that they also took care of their belongings (clothing, crayons, books, and so on). And their living space had to be kept up, too. Also, because Gurukula's standard of personal behavior is very demanding—in a sense, higher than what most adults are accustomed to—I had to set a good example of behavior for the children to follow.
After a short time, though, working so closely with the children got to be very wonderful, because I could see them spontaneously growing more and more Krsna conscious in their daily activities. Inside the classroom they were a bit formal, but outside the classroom they showed their advancement spontaneously. I could tell that they were naturally becoming devotional: they wanted to serve, and they were very friendly. Sometimes I felt personally very moved by this. They'd give me presents (whatever little things they had), and when a new boy would move in, the others would treat him like an old friend and help him out by teaching him the ropes.
Once, when I told the children that Krsna consciousness is practical, they asked what I meant by that. I explained that just as they have many chores and duties to perform (folding their clothes, cleaning their rooms, going to school, and so on), other children all over the world have the same kinds of chores to do. So, I told them, whether they were at Gurukula or not, they'd be doing these things anyway. But at Gurukula, because they're doing these simple things for Krsna, they're advancing spiritually. Right away they understood, and they appreciated this idea very much. I was surprised that they caught on so quickly, but Srila Prabhupada has said that these children, for the most part, have taken birth in ISKCON especially to finish up their devotional service. In their last life they didn't quite perfect it, so this time they've been given the association of devotees from an early age. It is because of this previous experience that they so much appreciate being engaged in Krsna's service.
Another thing the children appreciate a lot is their schedule. Aft all, human beings are creatures of habit. We like to have our activities regulated. If we have no plan in on daily lives, then we're always in anxiety, wondering what's going to happen next. So, having a schedule makes life simple for the children at Gurukula, because they know what they're going to be doing during the day. We feel they need this sense of security. But their schedule isn't so regimented that they lose their personal identity. There's still variety—some days we alter the usual schedule. By contrast, a very common situation in America today is that both the parents work and the children have to come home to an empty house. They have to get their own food, don't know what to do, watch tv. Very often they end up getting into trouble. But the Gurukula children are very well taken care of. I think you'll find that when a child is well taken care of, his day is well structured. His parents don't want him to run wild. So, some people think our children are forced to behave in a way we impose on them, but in reality we're just giving them the care they want and need.
True, by usual American standards, their life is austere. But isn't this good? Haven't so many of us, children of the affluent society, complained that our upbringing was too soft? Our parents handed us everything on a silver platter; we didn't have to work for it. That was bad for our character. A lot of times we had to invent obstacles to overcome, just to develop some moral fiber. We had a lot of pleasures, maybe, but they were all meaningless, purposeless. At Gurukula, though, the children are getting pleasure from something different—purposeful service to the Lord, and to humanity. They don't just agitate their senses by watching tv or playing with more toys than they need.
For most kids toys are a very important part of life. But not for our children. They have just a few simple things, like blocks, balls, things for digging in the sand. Beyond these, they use their imagination to make toys. They're more self-reliant than the usual, pampered child. They use sticks and things—whatever they can find. They're naturally happy by just using their imagination and creativity. Also, rather than solving their problems for them, I try to get our children to figure things out for themselves. I could take the easy way out by just giving them something else to distract them, or by just buying another toy. But when they have to solve their problems in their own way, the result is much more satisfactory.
One thing the children like very much is to reenact Krsna's pastimes. While I was with the four- and five-year-olds in Dallas, every day after the morning services we used to play in a sunny upstairs hallway. I would let the children play freely while I chanted Hare Krsna on my beads. The whole time they'd put on plays of Krsna's adventures. One boy was a good leader, and, using me as the audience, he'd organize the others in some pretty good dramatic performances. They were simple skits—one day a cardboard box became Matsya, the fish incarnation. A couple of boys climbed in as the personified Vedas, and they went swimming around the hallway. For another play, the boys used two steps leading up to the bathroom as a chariot. Four boys got in front as horses, and Krsna and Arjuna rode their chariot on the Kuruksetra battlefield.
Of course, when there is a toy around, they'll play with it, because toys are designed to attract children. So they play with it for a while. But they usually get little satisfaction from it and end up fighting over it. That's the general fate of toys. But when there aren't so many toys around, or when they get bored with them, they go back to reenacting stories they've heard about Krsna. Children are imaginative, and they live well in a simple setting. Toys tend to complicate life.
If someone hears about Gurukula second- or third-hand, he might think the children are deprived. But anybody who's actually visited Gurukula can attest to the fact that the students are very happy. Our critics are always trying to find reasons why the children shouldn't be happy, but the fact is that they are happy. In Dallas, I once had to do jury duty, and I got into a conversation about Gurukula with a woman waiting next to me. She accused us of brainwashing the children, and her main gripe was that we "don't let them watch tv." But I pointed out that tv is filled with violence, sex, commercials that induce us to act in certain ways, and stories that portray certain life-styles and activities as ideal. I turned her argument around by pointing out that she was brainwashing her children to be violent, sex-hungry, and so on. Well, she couldn't say anything to that. The fact is that every parent and every teacher conditions the minds of the children in their care. The issue is not "brainwashing," but rather the intrinsic value of what's being taught. Everybody's conditioned. But how we are conditioned; that's the point. Is it harmful conditioning or beneficial conditioning?
Common sense tells us that a child has to be protected. A child crossing the street has to be protected. We may be restrictive, but it's a good thing for the child. Anyway, when a child reaches a certain age he can be allowed to cross the street by himself. So, when our students are older and can understand the intricacies of society for themselves, then their exposure to these things won't be harmful. But when they're young, they're very easily molded, and they have to be carefully protected.
We have to remember that the Gurukula children are acquiring not only an education but also a simple and pure culture: they're learning devotion. Their education has a purpose. Srila Prabhupada has said the Gurukula students should grow up to be the leaders of our country. They won't be recluses. They'll be serving American society, and world society. Sometimes it may seem that we're trying to build a kind of isolationist religious community, like the Amish have. But our students won't be restricted in that way. They'll be able to perform any activity in society. Of course, we're mostly interested in producing teachers and advisors, because we feel this is the most critical need of society. The main problem in the world today is that there aren't enough intellectual leaders who are devotees of God; this affects all the other social classes very much. So, our general principle is that if a student has a strong character and a good working understanding of Krsna consciousness, he can apply his Krsna consciousness to whatever he does in life and be an ideal example in society. That's the kind of person we want to graduate from Gurukula.
The school's director, Jagadisa dasa, replies to some often-asked questions.
BTG: How does Gurukula fit in with today's society?
Jagadisa dasa: Today many people, especially the leaders, have given up the idea of good character and God consciousness. But with that mentality, no one can be peaceful or happy.
All of us in this world—we're connected with one another; we're like the limbs and branches of a tree. And we're connected with God; He's like the tree's root. So if we all water the root, if we serve the Lord, then the tree—our whole world—will flourish. So we want the students at Gurukula to develop ideal character. They'll have one aim in life: to serve the Lord and all living beings.
BTG: But how will these children function in society? They may develop "ideal character," but how will they live in the everyday world twenty years from now?
Jagadisa dasa: In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains that according to the qualities of an individual's work, he can serve in society in any one of four ways. The Bhagavad-gita describes the intellectual like this: "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work" (Bg. 18.42). Brahmanas are especially meant to teach the other classes and guide society along the spiritual path. So, when a child shows intellectual traits, we train him accordingly.
Then Krsna describes the administrators: "Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the ksatriyas" (Bg. 18.43).
The brahmanas are men of first-class intelligence, the ksatriyas are men of second-class intelligence, and below the ksatriyas are vaisyas and sudras. So for the two other divisions of society, "farming, cow protection, and business are the kinds of work suitable for the vaisyas, and for the sudras there is labor and service to others" (Bg. 18.44).
Gurukula is especially meant to develop progressive persons who understand the spiritual values of life and make a contribution to human society. We are educating these boys and girls how to live a proper human life, whatever the social conditions. Then, wherever they may live and whatever they may do, if they remain Krsna conscious they will be happy and successful. This is the real point of Gurukula.
BTG: Could you tell us a little bit about what the children learn in terms of traditional subjects like math, science, social studies, history, and geography?
Jagadisa dasa: They learn English, math, geography, history, and so on, so that they can understand the modern world and be able to relate with people in an intelligent way. But the main thing is that the child learns the principles of Krsna consciousness.
BTG: How do you determine your teachers' qualifications?
Jagadisa dasa: Our teachers are all good devotees. That's the first prerequisite. They must carefully follow the regulative principles: no meat-eating, no gambling, no illicit sex, no intoxication. They must also be exemplary in their behavior: chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, attending temple functions, always keeping clean, and so forth. Basically they have to exhibit the characteristics of brahmanas (as I mentioned before, cleanliness, truthfulness, austerity, self-control, and so on). And if they have some material qualifications, so much the better. Most of our academic teachers do have teaching certificates, and they've had some teaching experience before coming to the movement.
BTG: Could you describe a typical day for a child in Gurukula?
Jagadisa dasa: The children rise early (along with their parents and teachers) and attend the temple functions from four-thirty till eight o'clock in the morning. This morning program provides the children with a firm Krsna conscious foundation for the rest of the day. At eight o'clock the children take breakfast, and by nine-thirty they're in class. The first class period of the day stresses English and lasts until lunch, with a break in the middle to attend services in the temple. After lunch the older children chant the verses of Bhagavad-gita in the original Sanskrit language, and they learn the Sanskrit alphabet and grammar. This afternoon session lasts an hour to an hour and a half; then there's math, geography, and history. After three-thirty the older children have free time, and the younger children have free time after two o'clock.
BTG: How does discipline fit into Gurukula's educational picture?
Jagadisa dasa: In his letters to us, Srila Prabhupada has said that the children need two things: learning and love. As far as discipline, there should be no permissiveness, but at the same time there should be no strong punishment. Our teachers can help the children to become self-disciplined because they themselves are self-disciplined. That's the Krsna conscious way to teach: not just by precept, but by example.
"Like father like son,"
Adapted from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
A vicious storm raged through the darkness. Pierce winds hissed again and again and uprooted gigantic trees. Thick clouds covered the sky, and lightning flashed as though laughing. The ocean with its high waves wailed as if stricken with sorrow. Jackals and dogs howled ominously, and birds flew shrieking from their nests. The twin demons Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa were being born.
Day by day, year after year, they grew more powerful, more evil, and more dominant over all the other demons, who made alliances with them. Then, under the direction of Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu, the demons set out to conquer the demigods, their archenemies and the administrators of the universe. In their war for universal power, the demons enjoyed many victories, but at last Lord Visnu [Krsna] Himself killed Hiranyaksa. His brother's death overwhelmed Hiranyakasipu with grief and rage. He bit his lips and gazed upward with eyes whose blazing anger filled the sky with smoke. He took up his trident, glanced around fiercely, bared his terrible teeth, and began to speak to his demon friends.
"O my friends," he roared, "Lord Visnu is supposed to behave equally toward the demigods and the demons, but now He has taken the demigods' side and killed my very dear brother Hiranyaksa. For this I shall sever His head from His body! And with His profuse blood I shall please my dead brother Hiranyaksa, who was so fond of sucking blood. Only then shall I be pacified!"
First, Hiranyakasipu sent his demoniac friends throughout the world to wreak havoc on the innocent and the pious, and then he set out to fulfill his own evil plans. Hiranyakasipu not only wanted to rule the universe and possess all mystic perfections but also, and most important, he wanted to become immortal. To achieve these seemingly impossible ends, he went to the valley of the Mandara Hill and began performing severe austerities: he stood on his tiptoes and kept his arms held upward and his eyes fixed on the sky.
By the intensity of Hiranyakasipu's exertion, the hair on his head began shedding a light as brilliant as a supernova. All the rivers and oceans seethed, and all the mountains and islands on the surface of the globe began trembling. Stars and planets fell from the heavens, and fires blazed in all directions. So long did Hiranyakasipu remain in his painful position that grass, bamboo sticks, and finally a huge anthill covered his body. The ants devoured his skin, fat, flesh, and blood, until only his skeleton remained.
Seeing his ghastly condition, the demigods said, "The malicious Hiranyakasipu has been devoured by his own sins, just as a serpent is eaten by small ants." Thus encouraged, the demigods, headed by Indra, launched a fierce attack upon the demons. Showing unprecedented strength, the demigods massacred the demons, and to save their own lives the demon generals scattered in all directions. They fled from their homes in great haste, forgetting their wives, animals, and household belongings. Finally, the victorious demigods plundered the palace of Hiranyakasipu and arrested the pregnant Queen Kayadhu, one of Hiranyakasipu's wives.
As King Indra, the leader of the demigods, led Kayadhu away, the great sage Narada appeared on the scene. "O king of the demigods," Narada said, "you should not so mercilessly drag away this chaste wife of another man. Release her immediately!
"But King Indra said, "Within this woman's womb is the seed of the great demon Hiranyakasipu. Therefore, let her remain in our custody until she gives birth to the child; then we shall release her."
Narada replied, "The child within her womb, who will be known as Prahlada, is completely sinless. In fact, he is a great devotee—a powerful servant of Lord Visnu, the Personality of Godhead. You will not be able to kill him."
Upon hearing this. King Indra honored the words of the exalted saint Narada and released Queen Kayadhu. Then, having defeated the demons' armies, the demigods returned to their celestial kingdom.
Narada brought the queen to his hermitage and, assuring her all protection, he requested, "My dear child, please remain here until your husband returns." Kayadhu desired the safety of her unborn child, so she stayed in the care of Narada, serving the sage with great devotion. Because Narada is naturally very kind to all fallen souls, he instructed her on religion and transcendental knowledge, and his words were free of any material contamination. While the queen heard his teachings, the child within her womb also listened attentively to Narada's spiritual message. Thus, even before his birth, Prahlada received his spiritual education.
Meanwhile, other residents of heaven approached Brahma, the foremost demigod, to complain to him that the scorching light still emanating from Hiranyakasipu's head had made their planets uninhabitable. Thus informed, Brahma and the other demigods went to see Hiranyakasipu to pacify him and end his severe austerities. "I am astonished to see your endurance!" exclaimed Brahma upon seeing Hiranyakasipu. "Despite being bitten and eaten by worms and ants, you are still keeping your life air circulating within your bones. This is certainly wonderful! By your severe austerities you have won my favor, and I am prepared to give you whatever benedictions you desire." After speaking these words, Brahma sprinkled spiritual water on the skeleton of Hiranyakasipu. The demon now blossomed forth in a youthful body whose lustrous, golden limbs could withstand the striking of thunderbolts.
At once Hiranyakasipu addressed Brahma. "Please grant that I not be killed by any created living being; that I not die inside or outside any residence, during daytime or night, nor on the ground or in the sky; that I not be killed by any being created by you, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal—indeed, that I not meet death from any entity, either living or nonliving; that I have no competitor; that I have sole lordship over all living beings and presiding deities; and that I acquire all mystic powers."
After Brahma had granted him all these requests, Hiranyakasipu exclaimed, "At last, now I am immortal and invincible! Now I shall challenge Visnu and avenge the death of my brother!"
Very swiftly, Hiranyakasipu conquered all the planets in the universe, took up residence in the lavish palace of King Indra, and forced the demigods to bow down at his feet. He even stole the sacrificial oblations meant for the demigods. Hiranyakasipu ruled severely, and he was always drunk on strong-smelling wines and liquors.
During this time Queen Kayadhu returned to the palace of her husband and bore him a son—Prahlada. He was a reservoir of all transcendental qualities because he was an unalloyed devotee of God. Determined to understand the Absolute Truth, he had full control over his senses and mind. He was kind to all living creatures and the best friend of everyone. Toward respectable per- sons he behaved just like a menial servant, to the poor he was like a father, and to his equals he was like a sympathetic brother. Always very humble, he considered his teachers, spiritual masters, and older Godbrothers to be as good as the Lord Himself. Indeed, he was completely free of any pride that might have arisen from his good education, riches, beauty, and aristocratic birth.
Hiranyakasipu did not know that Prahlada had already learned devotional service while in the womb of his mother. So, when Prahlada turned five, Hiranyakasipu sent him to school to acquire a materialistic education. Prahlada studied along with the sons of other demons. At school he heard and recited lessons on politics and economics, but he did not like them because they required that he consider one person a friend and another person an enemy.
After Prahlada had attended school for some time, Hiranyakasipu took him on his lap and affectionately inquired, "My dear son, please tell me about your favorite subject in school."
Prahlada replied, "O king of the demons, as far as I have learned from my spiritual master, any person who accepts his temporary body and temporary household life as real is certainly embarassed by anxiety, having fallen into a dark, dry well filled only with suffering. He should leave home at once, go to the forest, and take shelter of God."
Startled, Hiranyakasipu laughed sardonically and said, "Thus is the intelligence of children spoiled by the words of the enemy!" He told his assistants, "Give this boy complete protection at school. Devotees of the Lord may go there in disguise, so take care that his intelligence is not further influenced by them."
After taking Prahlada back to school, Prahlada's teachers (Sanda and Amarka) said to him, "Dear son Prahlada, all peace and good fortune unto you. Now, we are going to ask you a few questions, so please do not speak lies; just reply with the truth. The other boys here are not like you; they do not speak in a deviant way about 'God.' How have you learned these instructions? How has your intelligence been spoiled? Have our enemies polluted you?"
Prahlada answered, "Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Personality of Godhead, who deludes those in the material world and thus creates in their minds distinctions such as 'friend' and 'enemy.' Now I am actually seeing this delusion, which I previously heard about from learned authorities.
"Since every one of us is an eternal servant of God, we are not different from one another, but persons who are unable to ascertain the existence of the Lord within themselves always think in terms of 'friend' and 'enemy.' The same Personality of Godhead who has created this situation has given me the intelligence to take the side of your so-called enemy. As iron is attracted by a magnet, I am attracted by the Lord."
Prahlada's teachers were furious.
"Bring me a stick!"
"This Prahlada is damaging our good name!"
"He must be punished!"
Continuously threatening him, Sanda and Amarka started to teach Prahlada about worldly pseudo-religion, money-making, and sense pleasure. After some time, they again presented him to his father. When Hiranyakasipu saw Prahlada bowing down before him, he affectionately showered the child with his blessings and jubilantly embraced him with both his arms. He sat Prahlada on his lap and, with tears gliding down from his eyes onto the child's smiling face, he spoke to his son.
"My dear Prahlada—" he began. "My dear son, for a long time you have heard so many things from your teachers. Now please repeat to me whatever you think is the best of that knowledge."
Fearlessly, Prahlada said, "Hearing and chanting about the holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord; remembering them; serving the lotus feet of the Lord; offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia; offering prayers to the Lord; becoming His servant; considering the Lord one's best friend; and surrendering to Him (in other words, serving Him with body, mind, and words)—these nine processes are known as pure devotional service, and I consider anyone who has dedicated his life to the service of Lord Visnu through these nine methods to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge."
His lips trembling in rage, Hiranyakasipu turned to Sanda. "What is this nonsense! Some 'brahmana' you are! You have disobeyed my order! You have taken shelter of my enemies! You have taught this poor boy about devotional service!"
Sanda quickly replied, "O King, O enemy of Indra! Whatever your son has said was not taught to him by me or by anyone else. His devotional service has developed spontaneously. Please, give up your anger. Do not unnecessarily accuse us!"
Hiranyakasipu turned to his son and said, "You rascal! Most fallen member of our family! If your teachers did not teach you this, who did?!"
Prahlada answered, "Persons who have accepted as their leader a blind man attached to external sense objects cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, to engage in the devotional service of Lord Visnu. Only if such persons take shelter of the lotus feet of a devotee of Lord Visnu can they be freed from material contamination."
Blinded by anger, Hiranyakasipu threw Prahlada from his lap onto the ground. "Servants! Take him away and kill him at once!" he screamed. "By becoming a devotee of Visnu, Prahlada has become my brother's murderer! He is a traitor, a poisoned limb of the family, and he must be amputated immediately! Kill him without delay!"
The demoniac servants of Hiranyakasipu, who had fearful faces, sharp teeth, and reddish beards, then started to strike Prahlada's tender body with their tridents. They shouted, "Chop him up! Pierce him!"
However, Prahlada just sat silently and meditated on the Personality of Godhead, and the demons' weapons had no effect on him. Seeing this, Hiranyakasipu became fearful and contrived various ways to kill his son. He threw him beneath elephants' feet; he cast him into the midst of huge, fearful snakes; he cursed him with destructive spells; he hurled him from a hilltop; he conjured up frightening apparitions; he gave him poison; he starved him; he exposed him to severe cold, winds, fire, and water; he even threw heavy stones to crush him. But throughout these trials Prahlada simply meditated on Lord Visnu, and thus he remained unharmed. Hiranyakasipu became very anxious about what to do next.
But Sanda and Amarka were still very hopeful that they could change the boy by the force of their teaching. So once again Hiranyakasipu put Prahlada under their care, and once again they systematically and unceasingly taught Prahlada about worldly pseudo-religion, business, and sensual satisfaction. But whenever the teachers left the classroom to attend to household affairs, Prahlada would speak to his classmates about the uselessness of materialism. His friends loved and respected him, and because of their tender age, they had not yet been polluted by their teachers' instructions. Thus they listened attentively to Prahlada's words.
"A person who is sufficiently intelligent," he told them, "should practice devotional service from the very beginning of life, giving up all other engagements. This human body is rarely achieved, although it is temporary like other bodies. In the human body we can perform devotional service to God, and even a slight amount of sincere devotional service can give us complete perfection.
"The human form of life affords us a chance to return home, back to Godhead. Therefore, all living beings, especially human beings, must serve the lotus feet of Lord Visnu. This devotional service is natural because Lord Visnu, the Personality of Godhead, is the most beloved friend, master, and well-wisher of everyone.
"We should not try merely for sensual pleasure, for it results only in a loss of time and energy, but no actual spiritual profit. But if we try to serve Lord Visnu, then surely we can attain the spiritual platform of self-realization."
All the sons of the demons appreciated the transcendental instructions of Prahlada, and they took them very seriously. But Sanda and Amarka became afraid. They saw that by associating with Prahlada their students were becoming devotees of Lord Visnu. When the teachers approached Hiranyakasipu and described the situation, he went into a great rage. Trembling in fury and hissing like a snake trampled underfoot, Hiranyakasipu called for his son.
When Prahlada came before his father, his hands were folded, and he looked peaceful, mild, and gentle. Hiranyakasipu stared at him with crooked eyes and rebuked him harshly: "O most impudent, stupid troublemaker! O scum of the earth, you have violated my power, and therefore you are an obstinate fool! Today I shall send you to your death! Prahlada, you rascal, you know that when I am angry all the planets in the universe tremble! Tell me—by whose power have you become so impudent and fearless?!"
Calmly, Prahlada replied, "My dear king, the source of my strength is the source of yours also, and the source of everyone's. Whether moving or stationary, superior or inferior, every living being is under the control of the all-powerful Personality of Godhead."
"You say there is a being superior to me," said Hiranyakasipu, "but where is He? If He is everywhere, then why is He not present in this pillar you see before you? Do you think He is in this pillar?"
"Yes," Prahlada answered, "He is there."
Hiranyakasipu's rage flared more and more. "Because you are speaking such nonsense," he said, "I shall now sever your head from your body! Now let me see your most worshipable God come to protect you!"
Then, exactly at that moment, out of the very pillar that Hiranyakasipu had singled out, a wonderful and terrifying form appeared, a form never before seen—half man and half lion, with angry eyes like molten gold, a shining mane that expanded the dimensions of His fearful face, and a razor-sharp tongue that moved about like a dueling sword. The Supreme Personality of Godhead had incarnated in His wrathful form of Nrsimhadeva.
Shocked and bewildered, Hiranyakasipu gazed at the Lord, then picked up his club and attacked him boldly. Nrsimhadeva played with him just as an eagle plays with a snake, allowing him time and again to escape the long, threatening nails of His lotus hands. Finally, the Lord grabbed him and placed him on His lap. Then, in the doorway of the assembly hall, He very easily tore the demon Hiranyakasipu to pieces.
By His transcendental cleverness, Lord Nrsimhadeva was able to kill Hiranyakasipu without contradicting any of Brahma's benedictions. The execution took place neither inside nor outside, but in the doorway; neither on land nor in the sky, but on the Lord's lap; neither during the day nor during the night, but at twilight; neither by man, beast, or demigod nor by any created being, but by the Personality of Godhead; and not by any weapon, but by the Lord's own lotus hands.
The demigods showered Lord Nrsimhadeva with flowers and then offered Him respectful prayers, glorifying Him and thanking Him for saving the universe from the oppressive reign of Hiranyakasipu. Prahlada, also, offered the Lord very beautiful prayers, asking Him only for the strength to serve Him and to love Him. When Nrsimhadeva encouraged Prahlada to request some favor, the boy simply asked the Lord to save all people, including his demoniac father, from repeated birth and death in this world. Thanks to the devotional training he received from the pure devotee Narada, Prahlada made his life successful—he remembered the Lord always and pleased Him with his loving service.