Mrs. Sally Rawley, merchandiser: "When I'm nervous I find chanting very calming. I don't get shaken up at little things."
Bruce Kleinberg, executive secretary: "Chanting helps you see things in perspective. My outlook is a lot brighter."
June Lahner, jewelry designer, with son Jason: "Chanting makes me more perceptive, more in harmony with everything and everyone around me."
Dr. Donald R. Tuck, associate professor, Western Kentucky University: "I've noticed that as chanted progress from level to deeper level, they become more realistic, more tolerant."
Paul Bleier, printing executive: "When there's pressure, I chant. It's the one thing that charges my batteries. It clears my mind and brings me back in focus."
Mrs. Grace Acqulstapace, housewife: "I'm more openminded. Chanting has opened my eyes to things I never noticed. It's like beautiful music—a very peaceful feeling, very stisfying."
Stephen Farmer, health food store owner: "If I start my day on a spiritual note by chanting Hare Krishna, I can make it through the day in a pleasant mood."
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Anyone can chant the Hare Krsna (Huh-ray Krish-na) mantra, anytime, anywhere. The main thing is to listen closely to the sound. Whether you sing it or say it, alone or with others, the Hare Krsna chant brings about joyful spiritual awareness.
Chanting can work for everyone, and there's no fee or initiation. If you'd like to meet other people who chant, visit any of the people who chant, visit any of the more than 120 centers worldwide (like the one in Melbourne, Australia, pictured at left). See last page for addresses.
"I can remember being a young man, a boy, a baby. What was I before that—what will I be next?" Mike Robinson of London Broadcasting Company interviews His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Mike Robinson: Can you tell me what you believe—what the philosophy of the Hare Krsna movement is?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna consciousness is not a question of belief; it is a science. The first step is to know the difference between a living body and a dead body. What is the difference? The difference is that when someone dies, the spirit soul, or the living force, leaves the body. And therefore the body is called "dead." So, there are two things: one, this body; and the other, the living force within the body. We speak of the living force within the body. That is the difference between the science of Krsna consciousness, which is spiritual, and ordinary material science. As such, in the beginning it is very, very difficult for an ordinary man to appreciate our movement. One must first understand that he is a soul, or something other than his body.
Mike Robinson: And when will we understand that?
Srila Prabhupada: You can understand at any moment, but it requires a little intelligence. For example, as a child grows, he becomes a boy, the boy becomes a young man, the young man becomes an adult, and the adult becomes an old man. Throughout all this time, although his body is changing from a child to an old man, he still feels himself to be the same person, with the same identity. Just see: the body is changing, but the occupier of the body, the soul, is remaining the same. So we should logically conclude that when our present body dies, we get another body. This is called transmigration of the soul.
Mike Robinson: So when people die it is just the physical body that dies?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is explained very elaborately in the Bhagavad-gita [9.20]: na jayate mriyate va kadacin. . . na hanyate hanyamane sarire.
Mike Robinson: Do you often quote references?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we quote many references. Krsna consciousness is a serious education, not an ordinary religion. [To a devotee:] Find that verse in the Bhagavad-gita.
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
"For the soul, there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."
Mike Robinson: Thank you very much for reading that. So can you explain to me just a bit more? If the soul is undying, does everybody's soul go to be with God when they die?
Srila Prabhupada: Not necessarily. If one is qualified—if he qualifies himself in this life to go back home, back to Godhead—then he can go. If he does not qualify himself, then he gets another material body. And there are 8,400,000 different bodily forms. According to his desires and karma, the laws of nature give him a suitable body. It is just like when a man contracts some disease and then develops that disease. Is that difficult to understand?
Mike Robinson: It's very difficult to understand all of it.
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose somebody has contracted smallpox. So, after seven days he develops the symptoms. What is that period called?
Mike Robinson: Incubation?
Srila Prabhupada: Incubation. So you cannot avoid it. If you have contracted some disease it will develop, by nature's law. Similarly, during this life you associate with various modes of material nature, and that association will decide what kind of body you are going to get in the next life. That is strictly under the laws of nature. Everyone is controlled by the laws of nature—they're completely dependent—but out of ignorance people think that they are free. They're not free; they're imagining that they're free, but they are completely under the laws of nature. So, your next birth will be decided according to your activities-sinful or pious, as the case may be.
Mike Robinson: Your Grace, could you go back over that just for a minute? You said that nobody is free. Are you saying that if we live a good life, we in some way determine a good future for ourselves?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mike Robinson: So we are free to choose what we believe to be important? Religion is important, because if we believe in God and lead a good life—
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a question of belief. Do not bring in this question of belief. It is law. For instance, there is a government. You may believe or not believe, but if you break the law, you'll be punished by the government. Similarly, whether you believe or don't believe, there is a God. If you don't believe in God, and independently do whatever you like, then you'll be punished by the laws of nature.
Mike Robinson: I see. Does it matter what religion you believe? Would it matter if one was a devotee of Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a question of religion. It is a question of science. You are a spiritual being, but because you are materially conditioned, you are under the laws of material nature. So you may believe in the Christian religion, and I may believe in the Hindu religion, but that does not mean that you are going to become an old man and I am not. We're talking of the science of growing old. This is natural law. It is not that because you are Christian you are becoming old, or because I am Hindu I am not becoming old. Everyone is becoming old. So, similarly, all the laws of nature are applicable to everyone. Whether you believe this religion or that religion, it doesn't matter.
Mike Robinson: So, you're saying that there's only one God controlling all of us?
Srila Prabhupada: There's one God, and one nature's law, and we are all under that nature's law. We are controlled by the Supreme. So if we think that we are free or that we can do anything, that is our foolishness.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can you explain to me what difference it makes, being a member of the Hare Krsna movement?
Srila Prabhupada: The Hare Krsna movement is meant for those who are serious about understanding this science. There's no question of our being some sectarian group. No. Anyone can join. Students in college can be admitted. You may be a Christian, you may be a Hindu, you may be a Muhammadan—it doesn't matter. The Krsna consciousness movement admits anyone who wants to understand the science of God.
Mike Robinson: And what difference would it make to someone—being taught how to be a Hare Krsna person?
Srila Prabhupada: His real education would begin. The first thing is to understand that you are a spirit soul. And because you are a spirit soul, you are changing your body. This is the ABC of spiritual understanding. So, when your body is finished, annihilated, you are not finished. You get another body, just as you may change your coat and shirt. If you come to see me tomorrow wearing a different shirt and a different coat, does that mean you are a different person? No. Similarly, each time you die you change bodies, but you, the spirit soul within the body, remain the same. This point has to be understood; then one can make further progress in the science of Krsna consciousness.
Mike Robinson: I am beginning to understand, but what I'm finding difficult is how this ties in with the large numbers of your people we see handing out Hare Krsna literature on Oxford Street.
Srila Prabhupada: This literature is meant to convince people about the need for spiritual life.
Mike Robinson: And you're really not concerned whether or not they join the Hare Krsna movement?
Srila Prabhupada: It doesn't matter. Our mission is to educate them. People are in ignorance; they are living in a fool's paradise, thinking that when their body is finished, everything is finished. That is foolishness.
Mike Robinson: And you are basically just concerned to tell them that there is a spiritual dimension to life?
Srila Prabhupada: Our first concern is to tell you that you are not this body, that the body is your covering (your shirt and coat) and that within the body you are living.
Mike Robinson: Yes, I think I've got that now. If we could go on from there—you said that how you lived made a difference in your life after death, that there are natural laws that determine your next life. How does the process of transmigration work?
Srila Prabhupada: The process is very subtle. The spirit soul is invisible to our material eyes. It is atomic in size. After the destruction of the gross body, which is made up of the senses, blood, bone, fat, and so forth, the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego goes on working. So at the time of death this subtle body carries the small spirit soul to another gross body. The process is just like air carrying a fragrance. Nobody can see where this rose fragrance is coming from, but we know that it is being carried by the air. You cannot see how, but it is being done. Similarly, the process of transmigration of the soul is very subtle. According to the condition of the mind at the time of death, the minute spirit soul enters into the womb of a particular mother through the semen of a father, and then the soul develops a particular type of body given by the mother. It may be a human being, it may be a cat, a dog, or anything.
Mike Robinson: Are you saying that we were something else before this life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mike Robinson: And we keep coming back as something else the next time?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because you are eternal. According to your work, you are simply changing bodies. Therefore, you should want to know how to stop this business, how you can remain in your original spiritual body. That is Krsna consciousness.
Mike Robinson: I see. So if I become Krsna conscious, I wouldn't risk coming back as a dog?
Srila Prabhupada: No. [To a devotee] Find this verse: janma karma ca me divyam. . .
janma karma ca me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna" [Bg. 4.9].
Srila Prabhupada: God is saying, "Anyone who understands Me is free from birth and death." But one cannot understand God by materialistic speculation. That is not possible. One must first come to the spiritual platform. Then he gets the intelligence required to understand God. And when he understands God, he does not get any more material bodies. He goes back home, back to Godhead. He lives eternally; no more change of body.
Mike Robinson: I see. Now, you've read twice from your scriptures. Where do these scriptures come from? Can you briefly explain that?
Srila Prabhupada: Our scriptures are coming from Vedic literature, which has existed from the beginning of creation. Whenever there is some new material creation—like this microphone, for instance—there is also some literature explaining how to deal with it. Isn't that so?
Mike Robinson: Yes, that's right, there is.
Srila Prabhupada: And that literature comes along with the creation of the microphone.
Mike Robinson: That's right, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So, similarly, the Vedic literature comes along with the cosmic creation, to explain how to deal with it.
Mike Robinson: I see. So, these scriptures have been in existence since the beginning of creation. Now, if we could move on to something I believe you feel very strongly about. What is the main difference between Krsna consciousness and the other Eastern disciplines being taught in the West?
Srila Prabhupada: The difference is that we are following the original literature, and they are manufacturing their own literature. That is the difference. When there is some question on spiritual matters, you must consult the original literature, not some literature issued by a bogus man.
Mike Robinson: What about the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna—
Srila Prabhupada: Chanting Hare Krsna is the easiest process to become purified, especially in this age, when people are so dull that they cannot very easily understand spiritual knowledge. If one chants Hare Krsna, then his brain becomes purified, and he can understand spiritual things.
Mike Robinson: Can you tell me how you are guided in what you do?
Srila Prabhupada: We take guidance from the Vedic literature.
Mike Robinson: From the scriptures you quoted?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it's all in the literatures. We're explaining them in English. But we're not manufacturing anything. If we were to manufacture knowledge, then everything would be spoiled. The Vedic literature is something like the literature that explains how to set up this microphone. It says, "Do it like this: some of the screws should be on this side, around the metal." You cannot make any change; then everything would be spoiled. Similarly, because we are not manufacturing anything, one simply has to read one of our books, and he receives real spiritual knowledge.
Mike Robinson: How can the philosophy of Krsna consciousness affect the way people live?
Srila Prabhupada: It can relieve people's suffering. People are suffering because they are misunderstanding themselves to be the body. If you think that you are your coat and shirt, and you very carefully wash the coat and shirt but you forget to eat, will you be happy?
Mike Robinson: No, I wouldn't.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, everyone is simply washing the "coat and shirt" of the body, but forgetting about the soul within the body. They have no information about what is within the "coat and shirt" of the body. Ask anybody what he is, and he will say, "Yes, I am an Englishman," or, "I am an Indian." And if we say, "I can see you have an English or an Indian body, but what are you?"—that he cannot say.
Mike Robinson: I see.
Srila Prabhupada: The whole modern civilization is operating on the misunderstanding that the body is the self (dehatma-buddhi). This is the mentality of the cats and dogs. Suppose I try to enter England, and you stop me at the border: "I am an Englishman," you say, "but you are Indian. Why have you come here?" and the dog barks, "Rau rau, why are you coming?" So what is the difference in mentality? The dog is thinking he's a dog and I'm a stranger, and you are thinking you are an Englishman and I am an Indian. There's no difference in mentality. So if you keep people in the darkness of a dog's mentality and declare that you are advancing in civilization, you are most misguided.
Mike Robinson: Now, moving on to another point, I gather the Hare Krsna movement has some concern for areas of the world where there is suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we have the only concern. Others are simply avoiding the main problems: birth, old age, disease, and death. Others have no solutions to these problems; they are simply talking all kinds of nonsense. People are being misguided. They are being kept in darkness. Let us start to give them some light.
Mike Robinson: Yes, but apart from giving spiritual enlightenment, are you also concerned for people's physical well-being?
Srila Prabhupada: Physical well-being automatically follows spiritual well-being.
Mike Robinson: And how does that work?
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose you have a car. So, naturally, you take care of the car as well as yourself. But you don't identify yourself as the car. You don't say, "I am this car." That is nonsense. But this is what people are doing. They are taking too much care of the bodily "car," thinking that the "car" is the self. They forget that they are different from the "car," that they are a spirit soul and have a different business. Just as no one can drink petrol and be satisfied, so no one can be satisfied with bodily activities. He must find out the proper food for the soul. If a man thinks, "I am a car, and I must drink this petrol," he is considered insane. Similarly, one who thinks that he is this body, and who tries to become happy with bodily pleasures, is also insane.
Mike Robinson: There's a quote here that I'd like you to comment on. I was given this literature by your people before I came, and one of the things you say here is that "Religion without a rational basis is just sentiment." Can you explain that?
Srila Prabhupada: Most religious people say, "We believe... " But what is the value of this belief? You may believe something which is not actually correct. For instance, some of the Christian people say, "We believe that animals have no soul." That is not correct. They believe animals have no soul because they want to eat the animals, but actually animals do have a soul.
Mike Robinson: How do you know that the animal has a soul?
Srila Prabhupada: You can know, also. Here is the scientific proof: the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps, you sleep; the animal has sex, you have sex; the animal also defends, you also defend. Then what is the difference between you and the animal? How can you say that you have a soul but the animal doesn't?
Mike Robinson: I can see that completely. But the Christian scriptures say—
Srila Prabhupada: Don't bring in any scriptures; this is a commonsense topic. Try to understand. The animal is eating, you are eating; the animal is sleeping, you are sleeping; the animal is defending, you are defending; the animal is having sex, you are having sex; the animals have children, you have children; they have a living place, you have a living place. If the animal's body is cut, there is blood; if your body is cut, there is blood. So, all these similarities are there. Now, why do you deny this one similarity, the presence of the soul? This is not logical. You have studied logic? In logic there is something called analogy. Analogy means drawing a conclusion by finding many points of similarity. If there are so many points of similarity between human beings and animals, why deny one similarity? That is not logic. That is not science.
Mike Robinson: But if you take that argument and use it the other way—
Srila Prabhupada: There is no other way. If you are not arguing on the basis of logic, then you are not rational.
Mike Robinson: Yes, OK, but let's start from another hypothesis. Suppose we assume that a human being has no soul—
Srila Prabhupada: Then you must explain the difference between a living body and a dead body. I have already explained this at the beginning. As soon as the living force, the soul, is gone from the body, even the most beautiful body has no value. No one cares for it; it's thrown away. But now, if I touch your hair, there will be a fight. That is the distinction between a living body and a dead body. In a living body the soul is there, and in a dead body the soul is not there. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the body has no value. It is useless. This is very simple to understand, but even the biggest so-called scientists and philosophers are too dull-headed to understand it. Modern society is in a very abominable condition. There is no man with a real brain.
Mike Robinson: Are you referring to all the scientists who fail to understand the spiritual dimension in life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Real science means full knowledge of everything material and spiritual.
Mike Robinson: But you were a chemist in secular life, were you not?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I was a chemist in my previous life. But it doesn't require any great intelligence to become a chemist. Any commonsense man can do it.
Mike Robinson: But presumably you think that material science is also important, even if today's scientists are dull-headed.
Srila Prabhupada: Material science is important just so far. It is not all-important.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can I come back to a question that I had from before? When we were differing a few minutes ago you were saying, "Don't bring the scriptures in; just use common sense." But what part do the scriptures play in your religion? How important are they?
Srila Prabhupada: Our religion is a science. When we say that a child grows into a boy, it is science. It is not religion. Every child grows into a boy. What is the question of religion? Every man dies. What is the question of religion? And when a man dies, the body becomes useless. What is the question of religion? It is science. Whether you're Christian or Hindu or Muslim, when you die your body becomes useless. This is science. When your relative dies, you cannot say, "We are Christian; we believe he has not died." No, he has died. Whether you are Christian or Hindu or Muslim, he has died. So when we speak, we speak on this basis: that the body is important only as long as the soul is in the body. When the soul is not there, it is useless. This science is applicable to everyone, and we are trying to educate people on this basis.
Mike Robinson: But if I understand you correctly, you seem to be educating people on a purely scientific basis. Where does religion come into it at all?
Srila Prabhupada: Religion also means science. People have wrongly taken religion to mean faith—"I believe." [To a devotee:] Look up the word religion in the dictionary.
Disciple: Under religion the dictionary says, "recognition of superhuman control or power, and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience, and effecting such recognition with the proper mental attitude."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Religion means learning how to obey the supreme controller. So, you may be Christian and I may be Hindu; it doesn't matter. We must both accept that there is a supreme controller. Everyone has to accept that; that is real religion. Not this "We believe animals have no soul." That is not religion. That is most unscientific. Religion means scientific understanding of the supreme controller: to understand the supreme controller and obey Him—that's all. In the state, the good citizen is he who understands the government and obeys the laws of the government. He is a good citizen. And the bad citizen is the one who doesn't care for the government. That is the bad citizen. So, if you become a bad citizen by ignoring God's government, then you are irreligious. And if you are a good citizen, then you are religious.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can you tell me what you believe to be the meaning of life? Why do we exist in the first place?
Srila Prabhupada: The meaning of life is to enjoy. But now you are on a false platform of life, and therefore you are suffering instead of enjoying. Everywhere we see the struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling, but what is their enjoyment in the end? They are simply suffering and dying. Therefore, although life means enjoyment, at the present moment your life is not enjoyment. But if you come to the real spiritual platform of life, then you'll enjoy.
Mike Robinson: Can you explain to me, finally, some of the stages you go through in spiritual life? What are the spiritual stages a new devotee of Krsna goes through?
Srila Prabhupada: The first stage is that you are inquisitive. "So," you say, "what is this Krsna consciousness movement? Let me study it." This is called sraddha, or faith. This is the beginning. Then, if you are serious, you mix with those who are cultivating this knowledge. You try to understand how they are feeling. Then you'll feel, "Why not become one of them?" And when you become one of them, then all your misgivings soon go away. You become more faithful, and then you get a real taste for Krsna consciousness. Why aren't these boys going to see the cinema? Why don't they eat meat or go to the nightclub? Because their taste has changed. They hate all these things now. In this way, you make progress. First faith, then association with devotees, then removal of all misgivings, then firm faith, then taste, then God realization, and then love of God, the perfection. That is first-class religion. Not some ritualistic ceremony of "I believe, you believe." That is not religion. That is cheating. Real religion means to develop your love for God. That is the perfection of religion.
Mike Robinson: Thank you very much for talking with me. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
A former student of psychology traces his life, from childhood to now—from looking up to others to looking into himself.
by Dharmadhyaksa dasa
On June 17, 1959, with summer vacation just a few days away, I walked onto my grammar school playground in a lighthearted mood. Just then my best friend Billy rushed over to me with wide eyes. Did you hear the news?!"
"This morning Superman killed himself! He shot himself in the head with a luger!"
At first I thought Billy was kidding, but soon I noticed that everyone in the yard was talking about the story—George Reeves, TV's Superman, had committed suicide. II couldn't believe it. A hero—how could a hero do that? I couldn't believe it. A hero—how could a hero do that?
As Emerson said, "It is natural to believe in great men." And in his book, The Hero, American Style, Marshall William Fishwick remarks that "people are ineffective without leaders. The search for paragons is inherent in human nature." In an article in Today's Health magazine, social critic Marya Mannes goes a little further. She says, "Unless we have some image of human greatness, of human excellence, to build on, we shall find it difficult to be animated by great dreams. We will be only moles burrowing in the darkness."
For its part, modern psychology calls its equivalent of the hero or paragon the "ego ideal." A person forms his ego ideal by picking out traits of parents, friends, and others in the society at large. Researchers are quick to point out that healthy models make for healthy people, while sick models, like Hitlers and Stalins, make for sick people and a sick world.
Social commentators are concerned about today's shortage of inspiring, healthy models. "Where Have All the Heroes Gone?" asks Edward Hoagland in The New York Times Magazine, and U.S. News & World Report talks about "The Vanishing Hero." So perhaps I was right, back there on the school playground, in feeling I'd been let down.
By the time I'd entered high school, most fictional heroes struck me as cardboard characters. I had to pass them by. Now, political leaders, past and present, replaced them. Then, in my freshman year of college, in 1965, the Watergate mood hit me early.
On the afternoon when Georgetown University played host to some members of Congress, I was one of the first students to trot up the steps of Harlan Hall. My mind was filled with anticipation. I wanted to get involved in government; it seemed a good way to work with people. During my first few months at school, I'd absorbed as much as I could of the theory and history of government, and now came a bonus—the chance to talk with the people who were making the history I was studying.
As I stood on the thick red carpet, the university's past presidents stared down at me from their portraits on the old wood walls. Even their grave faces couldn't douse my enthusiasm. In less than forty minutes I'd be sharing the room with the country's leaders.
While I was thinking this way, a congressman dressed in a blue blazer bounded up the steps and walked hurriedly across the room. Several friends and I approached him and started asking questions, but he seemed totally intent on wherever he was going. He never slowed down.
"Boys," he said, "I'm a Johnson Democrat. That answers all your questions. Now, where's the bar?"
As we stood there openmouthed, the congressman glided past us and ordered a bourbon on the rocks,
My other brushes with politicians only reinforced this first bruised impression. With the world so much in need of unity and cooperation, I felt turned off by so much small-mindedness. It all seemed like a cheating, losing game, and I didn't want to play it. So after my sophomore year I opted for a change—psychology.
At least psychology could tell you something about what was going on inside people. What surprised me was that all this inside knowledge of human nature just seemed to turn psychologists into pessimists. I'll never forget the day when one of my best professors, Dr. M., compared human beings to lemmings.
"The lemming is a peculiar breed of rat that lives in Scandanavia," said Dr. M. in his usual intense way. "Every so often—it seems to happen without any rhyme or reason—one lemming starts running frantically across the countryside. This 'running fever' spreads to the other rats, and soon a kind of mass hysteria infects them. For months and months they migrate, only to reach the coastline and a dead end.
" 'Dead end'—that's really what it is. Without hesitating, the lead lemming leaps into the sea, and all the rest follow him. The few that survive produce some more, and then they go through the suicide sequence all over again.
"Maybe we're like the lemmings. World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the Middle East,... World War III—it's a frightening thought, but if you look at our record,... maybe that's the best we can do."
In his book Motivation and Personality, psychologist Abraham Maslow talked about this kind of thinking. He chided not only psychologists but also many others in the intellectual community for denying "the possibility of improving human nature and society, or of discovering intrinsic human values, or of being life-loving in general." During my college days I empathized with Maslow's criticisms. Yet even more appealing to me were his positive insights about human potential.
Early in his career, Maslow had become disgusted with modern psychology's obsession for studying mental disease. He felt that the study of sick and crippled persons could only produce a sick and crippled psychology. Maslow reversed this trend by researching the dynamics of health. He wrote,
If we want to know the possibilities for spiritual growth, or moral development in human beings, then I maintain that we can learn most by studying our most moral, ethical, or saintly people.
Maslow's research reached its height in his description of the fully healthy or "self-actualized" person. In Towards a Psychology of Being, he wrote, "In these healthy people we find duty and pleasure to be the same thing, as is also work and play, self-interest and altruism." In an earlier essay he had pointed out,
For such people virtue is its own reward.... They spontaneously tend to do right because that is what they want to do, what they need to do, what they enjoy, and what they will continue to enjoy.
The self-actualized displayed clearer perception of reality, more openness to experience, greater spontaneity, and a firmer sense of identity. They also possessed greater creativity, treated different kinds of people equally, and had a greater ability to love. They valued justice, simplicity, beauty, individuality, joy, and honesty.
The more I read about self-actualization, the more I liked it. But there was one hitch. Maslow didn't know how the self-actualized got that way:
We simply do not have available today enough reliable knowledge to proceed to the construction of the One Good World. We do not even have enough knowledge to teach individuals how to love each other.
I still wanted self-actualization, but naturally I didn't know how to get there either.
By this time I was in my senior year. Most of my classmates (even those who shared my feelings) kept themselves busy by applying to graduate schools or jockeying for a job. I could have forgotten my predicament that way and buried myself in some institutional cubbyhole, but something inside me refused to allow it. "You can't fool yourself. You'll never be happy by doing that." With mixed emotions, I kept to that conclusion.
In other words, in so many ways this was a frightening decision to make. There were so many nagging questions. "Will I become an oddball and cut myself off from my family and friends?" "How will I support myself?" "Will I get into something worthwhile, or will I just wind up getting nowhere fast?"
At the same time, I knew that something was missing, from my life and from the lives of most people. I wanted to ferret out that "something."
I climbed the stairs out of the dungeonlike subway, not far from the West Village. It was October 16, 1969. After jogging four blocks, I arrived at 735 Spring Street. I tried to open the door, but it was bolted shut. I rang the bell, and soon someone was peering through the peephole. "What's your name?" said the muffled voice. I replied (as I'd been instructed), "Danny the Red." The door creaked open, and a smiling brunette with glasses and a collegiate sweater greeted me. Behind her stood three men with baseball bats. She continued the interrogation.
"Who sent you?"
"I met Mark Folsom up at Columbia, and he suggested that I come down and check things out."
At the mention of "Mark" the three men dispersed and the girl's smile widened.
"Good. My name's Andrea. Let me introduce you to Ted Gold."
Blotched mimeograph paper, crumpled coffee cups, pop bottles, and hundreds of crushed cigarette butts littered the brick floor of Ted Gold's office. The walls were plastered with posters of the revolutionary masses and the pantheon of armed struggle—Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara. Ted Gold himself had reddish hair, thick glasses, and an energetic though ruffled air about him.
"What do you know about communism?" he asked. No pleasantries.
"Just what I've learned in college and from a few books I've read."
Gold's line of vision sank to the floor, then honed back in on me.
"Communism means violent revolution," he said. "There's no redeeming value in this capitalistic society—none."
"None! Insurance, welfare, social security—these are all stopgap measures designed to tranquilize the masses and prevent them from rising up and smashing their oppressors. There's nothing of value in this society-NOTHING! Our job is clear. We must tear this rotten structure down—brick by brick—until nothing can stop the revolution."
Since the main purpose of my visit was to hear about the radical movement's vision of the perfect society, I asked, "After you've torn everything down, what will you replace it with?"
Gold fidgeted. It appeared I'd asked the wrong question.
"We don't have time to worry about things like that. All we have to do is rip this society apart. What happens after the revolution will take care of itself."
"That's all you can tell me?"
"So you'll help us tear it down?"
"I don't know. Let me think about it."
He didn't care for my answer, and I hadn't cared for his. Since he wouldn't or couldn't tell me any more, I left.
Almost five months later, on March 7, 1970, a headline in the New York Times read, "Townhouse Razed by Blast and Fire; Man's Body Found." The firemen theorized that a gas leak had triggered the blast, but the man's body was too disfigured for immediate identification. Then, two days later, the Times ran Ted Gold's picture and tagged him as the disaster's victim. Familiar with Gold's radical background, the police decided to keep sifting through the debris. Finally, on March 11, the Times front page said, "Bombs, Dynamite, and Woman's Body Found in Ruins of 11th St. Townhouse." According to Chief Inspector Albert Seedment, "The people in the house were obviously putting together the component parts of a bomb, and they did something wrong."
For two years I'd been searching for a workable solution to the problematic life I saw all around me—but without much success. I was beginning to sense that, though billed as a haven of peace and love, the so-called counterculture harbored about as much narrow-mindedness as there was anywhere else.
The first real light appeared in the spring of 1971, when I started investigating Eastern meditation. The descriptions of enlightened meditators closely matched Maslow's ideal of the self-actualized person, and there was a practical way to get there.
The cultural difference didn't really bother me much. Although I wasn't a very religious person, I'd sometimes thought, "I don't know what truth is, and I don't care if a red, white, black, yellow, or brown man speaks it—or if it comes from the north, south, east, or west. All I know is, I want it."
From the start, I sensed the power of turning inward, the power of meditation. At one and the same time, I was becoming more aware of my inner self and more aware of the people and events around me. Yet I noticed that many spiritualists, including big teachers, became not so much self-realized as self-serving.
For instance, after you had gained a little spiritual power, the next step—the "in" thing to do—was to admit that you were really God, posing for now as a mere mortal. It got to be sort of dizzying, meeting all these yogis who were actually God. Then gradually it began to make sense. If you were God you could pretty much get what you wanted. God doesn't have to ask twice. But, to be fair, these divine debauchees provided some of the best comedy I'd ever seen.
For example, one day during the summer of 1972, at a green-lawned country retreat, I was sitting in on a verbal meditation. The Great One said, in a sonorous voice, "Feel that you are that same power that has manifested innumerable suns, moons, and stars.... Feel yourself creating and maintaining innumerable ... owwwwWWWWW!!" All at once a severe toothache jolted the Great One's jaw. The meditation seemed to be ending a little sooner than the supreme will had ordained, but perhaps toothaches were just a divine entertainment. His other pastimes included phobias for mosquitoes, airplanes, and death. And, to make matters worse, the Great One was in constant anxiety about whether the United States government would grant him immigration status.
Nonetheless, I stayed convinced that meditation could awaken the self. All I had to do was find a way to practice it purely. I carried on as well as I could. Then, one day in the spring of 1973, I was walking through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, on 40th Street, to catch a Greyhound to the Catskill Mountains. The noise level at the terminal was high—hundreds of arriving and departing buses, honking taxicabs, and bustling travelers.
Suddenly, above the tumult, I heard a woman's voice call out, "Hey, yogi!"
I stopped dead in my tracks. You didn't have to be clairvoyant to tell that I was interested in yoga and meditation. My white pants and Indian shirt were giveaways. Still, I couldn't help thinking, "Who cares about yoga in the Port Authority?" I turned around and saw a smiling young American woman dressed in an Indian sari. She had a travel bag across her shoulder.
"Hare Krsna," she said, folding her hands together in a traditional, prayerlike greeting.
"Hare Krsna," I replied.
"My name's Daiva Sakti. What's yours?"
During our pleasant conversation, I told her that two years ago I'd married a girl who also meditated.
"Do you have any children?"
"Yes, a baby boy named Maitreya."
When Daiva Sakti heard that name, her face lit up in near ecstasy.
"Maitreya!" she said, reaching into her travel bag. "Have a look at this book. It's about the great Vedic sage Maitreya."
"Maitreya was a Vedic sage? But don't the Buddhists consider him to be the coming Buddha [enlightened one]?"
Daiva Sakti smiled. "Twenty-five hundred years before Lord Buddha appeared, the sage Maitreya lived in India, and this book has his teachings."
This revelation whetted my curiosity so much that I offered to buy the book. I handed her a ten-dollar bill, said "Thank you," and rushed off to catch my bus. As soon as I'd settled into my recliner, I absorbed myself in reading. This book was so attractive that it took me only three days to finish.
To my delight, the book told about the irrationality of trying to be God. "God is conscious of everything past, present, and future, and also of each and every corner of His manifestations, both material and spiritual." But as for the ordinary person, he "does not even know what is happening within his own personal body. He eats his food but does not know how this food is transformed into energy or how it sustains the body."
The author. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, recommended bhakti-yoga (unselfish loving service) as the sure cure for all forms of egotism. My college friends and I had joked that newspaper headlines should herald the big ego as public enemy number one. Now the idea of conquering the big ego by bhakti-yoga captivated my mind. Srila Prabhupada said that this service attitude was "dormant in everyone ... the natural inclination of every living being,... the highest perfection in life."
I recalled how I'd enrolled in college with the idea of landing a job in public service. All my life I'd been serving someone or something—my parents, my teachers, my friends (even my car). Srila Prabhupada pointed out how big businessmen had to serve their customers and the president had to serve his country. It seemed that no matter what I did, it would be some sort of service. And, as Srila Prabhupada said, you could reach the ultimate state of consciousness by directing your service toward the complete whole, or Krsna.
I was able to pick up the logic of practically everything Srila Prabhupada wrote. His students, who were making Krsna consciousness available in such hectic places as the bus terminal, also impressed me. Nonetheless, my experiences with counterfeit groups made me reluctant to get involved. It was only after several months of thinking and reading Krsna conscious books that I decided, in the winter of 1973, to check into this process more closely.
Practicing Krsna Consciousness
According to the ancient Vedic literature (which the Krsna consciousness movement publishes, in English) your personality depends on the kind of sound you hear. Loving, truthful, spiritual sound creates a loving, truthful, spiritual personality; self-motivated, materialistic sound creates a self-motivated, materialistic personality. When I thought about it, I realized that perhaps I'd never heard a spiritual sound in my life.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Generally, spiritual sound is called mantra. Man means "mind," and tra means "release." A mantra, then, is a sound vibration that can release the mind from self-centered, material thought processes. Chanting mantras was nothing new to me; for more than four years I had chanted all kinds of mantras. Yet chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-gave me astonishing results. I wanted to cleanse and refresh my mind and heart, and chanting Hare Krsna was like taking a shower on the inside.
Also, I observed how the benefits of chanting Hare Krsna carried over into the everyday lives of other chanters. And my own experience was similar to that of my friend Howard Resnick, who said, "I didn't follow any particular leader. I just saw that chanting Hare Krsna was a bona fide process, and that people who practiced it were becoming happy."
After I started chanting, my personality started developing rapidly. Having chanters as friends helped. Instead of wasting time in small talk, they were thinking about "Who am I?" and "What's the best thing I can do with my life?" The all-embracing scope of Krsna consciousness especially pleased me.
At least seven years earlier, I'd seen how pettiness and the party spirit cause most of the world's conflicts. Now, by chanting I experienced each person as part of a harmonious whole (God). Deep inside I felt the same as everyone else, and at the same time completely unique. I felt more united with other people, and, paradoxically, more of an individual. Instead of being at loggerheads, in Krsna consciousness the group and individual enhanced each other. And I saw that simply by chanting, thousands of people were realizing this ideal in their own lives.
Already, I'd found that almost every theme sounded by progressive thinkers (like Maslow) came in for full development in the techniques and literature of Krsna consciousness. I wanted to share my realizations, so I started lecturing about Krsna consciousness in grammar schools, high schools, and colleges. At first, many of the listeners had their doubts, but after an explanation, the majority found Krsna conscious methods and goals agreeable. Many teachers told me that their students had reacted with more interest to my presentation than to any other class in the semester. Gradually I realized that I was touching upon that missing "something" I'd felt the need for during my own college years.
I asked many teachers to assess the current student mood. They said, almost without exception, that the students of the mid-1970s had turned apathetic. Apparently the questioning, questing spirit of the '60s had gone away. But how could anyone blame the students? Who could they look to—unstable movie and TV stars, unprincipled politicians, unsure teachers, self-destructive revolutionaries, self-indulgent saviors? Old or new, the heroes were tarnished. Still, when I talked with the students about the pleasure of spiritual living, glimmers of excitement played on their faces.
By 1975 I was ready to fill out my personal observations about Krsna consciousness with scientific evidence. Psychology seemed like a natural approach to take, so I invited several psychologists with no prior experience of Krsna consciousness to study the effects of chanting Hare Krsna. The findings of Drs. Allen Gerson and Ronald Huff, along with interviews I conducted, confirmed my impression that chanting produces a state of human health that modern psychology is just beginning to imagine.
Here are some highlights of the research. Dr. Gerson, a practicing clinical psychologist who also specializes in psychological testing, reports that chanters "are more keenly aware and have sharper mental cognitions." Richard Arthur, an instructor of English at Rutgers University, brought to mind Maslow's self-actualized person when he told me, "Chanting makes me more aware of what to do and what not to do. And now, I naturally feel happy about doing the right thing."
In addition, the psychologists found chanters brimming with self-confidence. Art director Nathan Zakheim affirmed to me, "After years of being a closed-in person and trying to protect myself from experiences, now I'm really different. Chanting makes me so exuberant that I sail through situations that used to stymie me." Dr. Gerson notes that chanters are seldom if ever bored, but "are always in a state of discovery that allows them to see things more vividly."
Also, Dr. Gerson detected that chanting promotes creativity in all spheres of life. "I'm astounded," he said, "with the percentage of creative people among chanters." Daniel Clark, a thirty-five-year old filmmaker who has been chanting Hare Krsna for ten years, told me how chanting affected his creativity. Clark said, "Before I started chanting, I thought myself limited to films, but now I see that I have a talent for writing, lecturing, acting. You can do anything, in a sense. You don't become a superman, but all your hang-ups go away. Then you find that your capabilities as a spiritual person are very great."
Robert Grant, a successful young publishing executive, says that chanting even improves business aptitude. "Now I'm doing all kinds of things—management, publishing, working with artists—things I've never done or displayed any skill for. I find that chanting Hare Krsna gives me the insight on how to do it."
As housewives like Mrs. Stephanie Lindberg have found, chanting inspires people to give their daily routines a creative touch. Mrs. Lindberg related to me, "Now my mind is bubbling with new ideas. By chanting I experience a freedom that makes my life more creative and stimulates me to use my talents in ways I never thought of before." Mr. Grant reported a similar feeling to me when he said, "I feel some connection with God that makes me do things in a spontaneous, joyful, uninhibited way." It's interesting to note how these experiences recall those of the ancient sages. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam Dhruva Maharaja delights, "Krsna, You have enlivened all my sleeping senses—my hands, legs, ears, touch sensation, life force, and especially my speech."
The psychologists verify that chanters enjoy a strong sense of identity and uniqueness. Dr. Ronald Huff (a clinician with an extensive background in bio-feedback) notes "greater individuality in the way chanters relate to the external experience, indicating greater uniqueness." After more than fifty case studies, Dr. Gerson concludes, "Chanters have a clear sense of identity. They know who they are in relationship to the universe, where they're going, and how they can improve themselves and the world around them."
A secretary, Heather Payne, disclosed to me that chanting allows her "to overcome any prejudices I may have felt toward people." Here, both psychologists score the Krsna conscious process highly. Says Dr. Gerson, "The democratic character structure [the ability to treat people fairly] comes through strongly in chanters."
With this greater tolerance, chanters naturally have more ability to love. Richard Arthur told me that in his better moments of chanting, "I relate to people on the basis of love, and I can feel them pick up on it." Judy Guarino, an illustrator in her early thirties, remarked, "I experience affection for people I've never known before. Now I'm able to be a better friend." According to Dr. Huff, "Parents who chant enjoy more expressions of mature and meaningful affection with their children." Dr. Gerson describes chanters as "open, friendly, warm, and outgoing as a group, as well as individually."
In fact, chanters report that their love approaches what Daniel Clark called "cosmic—a love of the whole world with all its human beings, animals, and plants, and ultimately for God."
So research shows chanting the Hare Krsna mantra to be a scientific, effective means for liberating human potential. Chanting works for men and women, young and old, rich and poor, black and white. Oriental and Westerner. Also, as the record demonstrates, chanting has brought people self-realization for thousands of years.
What's been so convincing for me is that whereas other processes always turned stale, the Krsna conscious experience keeps getting fresher and fresher. Every other process I tried seemed to yield results at first, but I always reached a point where I couldn't or wouldn't go any further.
In Krsna consciousness the progress has been steady without any signs of stopping. Krsna consciousness has given me a deep feeling of self-satisfaction and contentment. Often I check my progress, and it always amazes me how well my body, my emotions, my mind, my intelligence, my soul, all of me—feels about chanting Hare Krsna.
If you find something good, you want to share it. And Krsna consciousness is the best thing I've found. Of course, as Srila Prabhupada says, it's inevitable for mankind to evolve to higher consciousness. Yet, as he also says,
Why do others have to wait for thousands and thousands of years to attain these heights? Why not give them the information immediately in a systematic way, so that they may save time and energy?
That makes sense to me. And, as progressive thinkers past and present have discovered, giving yourself to this kind of work is sheer pleasure.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Floridians Feel Good About ISKCON's Farm
Even me residents of South Honda, who are long familiar with exotic tropical vegetation, have never heard of the Jobaticaba tree (which produces grapes directly from its bark) or the star apple tree (whose fruit tastes just like a blue-berry sundae). Yet there they are, right on an 8.5-acre estate that fifty hardworking devotees have transformed into a tropical paradise.
And there is much more at New Naimisaranya Forest (named after a pilgrimage site in India) to delight the people of semisuburban Coral Way, near the Everglades. The devotees have put in over five hundred banana trees (including special Mysores and Raja-puris imported from India), three hundred rose bushes, fifty dwarf Puerto Rican plantain trees, a full three acres of stunning yellow and orange marigolds, plus pink and yellow frangipani, super-fragrant night-blooming jasmine, gardenias, and hibiscus. They have also planted stands of litchi nut, lime, and pineapple trees, as well as papaya, fig, eucalyptus, tamarind, and others too numerous to mention.
Perhaps the most popular features, though, are the thirty-eight beehives and the mango orchard. With an abundance of flowers to choose from, the bees are busy all year round. The devotees bottle the flood of honey, put their own New Naimisaranya Forest label on the bottles, and sell or give most of the bounty to neighbors or guests. Even more popular are the delicious mangoes, which the devotees harvested by the hundreds this year.
When devotees first began developing the farm, under the guidance of temple president Narahari dasa, the neighbors were pleased to see the wonderful transformation of the abandoned estate. They eagerly offered various kinds of help, such as plowing up the future marigold field with a tractor-pulled disker and advising the devotees on planting techniques. Now many local children love to visit "the Hare Krsna farm." They come, mostly on horses or ponies, to swim in the lake and get refreshments.
The neighbors also appreciated that the devotees helped to keep a proposed shopping center out of the area. At a critical meeting of the local civic association, of which New Naimisaranya Forest is now an honorary member, a representative of the prospective developer contended that not a single landowner on Coral Way opposed the shopping center. At that point the neighborhood representative literally jumped out of her seat with a letter from the devotees saying that they were one of the biggest landholders on Coral Way, and that they were strongly opposed to the shopping center.
The plans were shelved, to the great glee of the neighbors, and now they're supporting the devotees' effort to get a rezoning for widening the farm's programs. Said Terry Skinner, president of the civic association, "The devotees are doing a wonderful job developing and beautifying their property, which is becoming a great asset to the community."
Historian Hails Sri Isopanisad
Dr. Thomas N. Pappas, professor of history at Anderson College, has this to say about the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust edition of Sri Isopanisad:
"The first available English edition of Sri Isopanisad makes this most significant publication accessible to a broader public of students and scholars. This spiritual lawbook, with a most useful introduction by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is a necessary supplement to any serious study of Vedic culture. The Sanskrit diacritical equivalents and the glossary are most useful guides to further study and deeper understanding of ancient spiritual law and Vedic culture.
"I recommend this volume to any student or scholar of Vedic thought. To the generalist and specialist alike it will generate considerable provocation and understanding. It is an indispensable addition to any serious library collection."
Now that scientists like Jacques Monod have helped us toward "an anxious quest in a frozen universe of solitude," here are some time-tested secrets for rediscovering the warm and wonderful.
"Alienation," social scientists say, is our inability to relate meaningfully to others, to nature, and to ourselves. As Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner reports in Scientific American, alienation is growing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. This trend appears to result from a radically different life view imposed upon the past few generations.
Not so many years ago, most people saw in human events and the things of nature the hand of a purposeful God. But today, many scientists, such as the late Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod, regard God, meaning, and an intelligence behind the universe as childish concepts. In Monod's words, man must awaken to
his fundamental isolation. Now does he at last realize that, like a gypsy, he lives on the boundary of an alien world. A world that is deaf to his music, just as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering or his crimes.
God no longer holds "the whole world in His hands." Now emptiness, the void, accounts for everything, and mankind-long accustomed to living in a world full of meaning—grapples with how to adjust to this revolutionary change.
It hasn't been easy, nor the results encouraging. As historian Theodore Roszak observes, twentieth century society has projected "a nihilistic imagery unparalleled in human history." The main themes of the century stand out as disillusionment, pessimism, and the lure of destruction.
Clearly, Monod was no maverick. Nobel laureate Francis Crick (co-unraveller of the DNA code) has said, "I myself, like many scientists, believe that the soul is imaginary." In schools all over the world, students learn that man is a "naked ape," or, as one textbook puts it, "nothing but a complex biochemical mechanism powered by a combustion system which energizes computers with prodigious storage facilities for retaining encoded information."
This main theme in modern science—"reductionism"—has drawn much criticism. Dr. Roszak, for instance, depicts reductionism as "the effort to turn what is alive into a mere thing." Psychiatrists and social commentators like Dr. Viktor E. Franki feel that the society spawned by reductionism is wearing away humanity's psychological health. Recently, an international congress of psychoanalysis concluded that "ever more patients are suffering from a lack of life content."
In the layman's language, "lack of life content" means anxiety, stress, boredom, apathy, despair, meaninglessness, cynicism—in a word, alienation. As playwright Eugene Ionesco writes, "Cut off from religion, metaphysics, and roots, man is lost. His actions become senseless, useless, absurd."
By defining man as a machine and affording him no more dignity than a stone or a piece of broken glass, reductionism has cut deep. Our sense of wonder, our ability to appreciate life's everyday beauties—the sun, the moon, the fragrance of the earth—has comes into question and grown dull.
A Return to the Root
The effects of reductionism are prompting many people to reexplore the spiritual dimension. English novelist J.B, Priestly, for one, visited the Colorado River and observed how it had carved out the Grand Canyon. He said, "You feel when you are there that God gave the river its instructions."
Dr. Roszak asks, "Why, one wonders, should it be thought crude or rudimentary to find divinity brightly present in the world where others find only dead matter or an inferior order of being?"
In their textbook Psychology, Lindzey, Hall, and Thompson confirm, "All human cultures from the dawn of history have valued the mystical or religious experience. Man always seems to be searching for some higher form of consciousness or awareness." This statement returns us to the crux of the problem: twentieth century man has deviated from this search and is paying the price—alienation.
In the past, people solved alienation by experiencing what we might call "the divine presence," both within themselves and in the people and things around them. But simply wiping the dust off old catechisms and relearning their formulas by rote won't help us. The emphasis of numerous religious groups on memorizing doctrines rather than on experiencing God has only weakened people's convictions—and has helped (or even started) the process of alienation.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, modern science has taught us at least one thing: we should test a truth before we accept it. And thousands of years ago, sages and yogis had the same idea. They advised their students not to dwell in doctrines but to link themselves with the living world around them. By following the sages' directions for meditating on nature, the students experienced truth for themselves.
Appropriately, the handbook of spiritual education, the Bhagavad-gita, deals extensively with alienation and its cure. At the beginning, Arjuna suffers from intense alienation. "My mind is reeling.... Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness.... I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses." The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, instructs Arjuna on how to rediscover his ability to live in a meaningful. God-conscious way.
About halfway through the work, Arjuna asks, "How should I meditate on You? In what various forms are You to be contemplated, O Blessed Lord?" (Bg. 10.17). In reply, the Lord suggests ways to realize His presence in the happenings of this world. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments that since it is difficult to perceive God directly, "One is advised to concentrate the mind on physical things in order to see how Krsna [God] is manifested by physical representations."
This process is like appreciating an artist through his art. When we see a masterpiece, we naturally admire the talent and skill of its creator. The yogis and sages report that by looking upon the universe with this same sense of wonder, we can experience samadhi (blissful immersion in God consciousness), or what today's psychologists call a "peak experience." Alienation vanishes, and we feel reconnected to the root of existence—Krsna.
On the pages that follow, the reader will find some of Lord Krsna's suggestions, accompanied by short meditations—all in all, "enough to make you wonder." As Srila Prabhupada has remarked, by reawakening this sense of wonder "one becomes increasingly enlightened, and he enjoys life with a thrill, not only for some time, but at every moment."
"Of lights I am the radiant sun."
As scientists have discovered, the sun gives out more energy in one second than all the earth's people could use in millions of years. Also, the sun is the light of our lives; without it the entire world would be dark. Even our light bulbs are simply reservoirs of the sun's rays. And, as we learn from the Vedic literature, the sun itself is but a tiny reservoir of the Lord's glowing effulgence.
"Of purifiers I am the wind."
Most people have experienced the zestfulness of a breezy day, or, in winter, those gusts that simply "go right through you." The wind, whooshing all around, seems to wash us even more smoothly and swiftly than water (and it even sounds clean). The wind, then, suggests the all-pervasive, all-purifying Lord.
"Of bodies of water I am the ocean."
Of all bodies of water, the ocean runs the deepest and stretches the farthest. In fact, for sheer greatness, practically nothing else in the world can compare to it. So the ocean reminds us of the Lord's greatness.
"I am the original fragrance of the earth."
Everything in this world has a certain flavor or fragrance, as the fragrance of a pine tree, a lemon, or a rose. This pure, original flavor in everything is Krsna.
"I am the taste of water."
Most of us have had the experience (say, after driving through a desert) of walking right past the soft drink dispenser to the water fountain. When you're really thirsty, nothing satisfies like water—the pure taste of water, which is one of the energies of the Lord.
"I am the heat in fire."
We need fire for our factories, our furnaces, and our frying pans. As we've already seen, fire comes from the sun, and the sun comes from Krsna. So the fire and the heat of the fire are Krsna.
"I am the healing herb."
How could it be that things that grow in the ground provide just the right remedies for worrisome diseases? When man-made "wonder drugs" come about only after much care and concentration, do these natural wonder drugs come about, as scientists say, by chance—or by the Lord's kindness?
"I am the ability in man."
How can a master musician or artist do with ease what most of us couldn't do with the greatest effort? What makes the difference between "all thumbs" and "all-star"? The answer is Krsna.
"I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong."
Conquest and the questing spirit, even the questing capacity—all come from Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"Among the stars I am the moon."
When the moon fills the night with its cool light, people feel refreshed. And the moon's light makes vegetables grow and become succulent. Thus, the moon brings to mind the cooling and soothing face of the Lord.
"Among subduers I am time."
"The glory that was Rome"-and the glory that was anything else—just couldn't outlast eternal time, by which Lord Krsna gets the best of everything and everyone.
"Of secret things I am silence."
Our ability to hold forth on some topic, or to hear about it, or to hush up about it, comes from the Lord.
"Of weapons I am the thunderbolt."
The thunderbolt, the ultimate shocker, gives us some idea of the Lord's power.
"Of seasons I am the flower-bearing spring."
Everyone likes spring. It's neither too hot nor too cold, the flowers and trees blossom, the grass comes alive, and everything flourishes. The greens and pinks and blues and yellows, the fresh-smelling breezes, the sun-filled evenings—as with any other work of art, these masterstrokes tell us something about the artist. The most joyful of all seasons, spring reminds us of the most joyful of all persons, Krsna.
"Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names (japa)."
Everybody is giving his time and energy to get something he can enjoy. The father works hard all day so that he can enjoy the happiness of his wife and children. The politician spends long hours in meetings and masterminding sessions so that he can have a satisfied constituency. Everybody is taking pains to please somebody. Yet there's a way to please everybody, and it's pleasing in itself—chanting the Lord's holy names.
The king had many wives, but,
There's a saying that parents live on through their children. How often we hear, for instance, about a father telling his son, "You'll be greater than I was," or, "You should finish what I started." But, ages ago, the great King Citraketu felt like dying—he could not have a son.
Otherwise, while King Citraketu ruled the earth everything went beautifully. Fruit trees hung low with their juicy yield, luscious vegetables crowded the fields, the mountains were generous with their gems and minerals, and the seas provided pearls. For his own part, the king seemed to have everything that anybody could want: youth, good looks, intelligence, wealth. And he had many Queens, all of them with lovely faces and enchanting eyes—and all of them barren.
Yes, Citraketu had everything, except what he wanted most. A son would not only carry on the dynasty but also offer sacrifices to the demigods and insure his parents' heavenly reward. As Citraketu looked to the future, he was brokenhearted. Not one of his other blessings could make him happy.
Then, one day, the king's life took a strange turn. The great sage Angira was traveling through the universe, and by his sweet will he came to the royal palace.
When Angira walked into the throne room, Citraketu got up from his throne and bowed. The king knew that his visitor was a great guru. He praised Angira with well-chosen words, washed his feet, and fed him with the finest foods. Citraketu served the holy man personally, performing his duty as a humble host to a guest of the highest spiritual wisdom. When Angira had finished eating and was relaxing on a richly decorated seat, the king humbly sat at his feet. Then Angira began to speak.
"My dear king," he said, "I hope that your kingdom is peaceful and that all your people are feeling well. But I can see that you are not happy yourself. Your face tells me that you are not satisfied with your life; there is a goal that you desire but have not yet reached. Who is to blame? Are you at fault, or have others kept you from success? Please tell me—your pale face reflects a deep anxiety in your heart."
"O Angira, great master," King Citraketu answered, "you can understand everything about people who are bound by the laws of this material world. So you must also know why I am brokenhearted. You have perfect vision because you are so determined and pure. Still, you have asked me to tell you why I am anxious. Since you have asked, I will answer.
"Yes, I have fallen short of my life's goal. Just as a hungry person cannot feel satisfied by being garlanded with flowers, I cannot feel satisfied by having a great empire and many possessions. My misery is this: I have no son. Please, O high-minded sage, save me and save my family. Please do something so that I may have a son."
The transcendentalist Angira had no business fulfilling ordinary material desires, but out of his kindness he did not turn the king away. Drawing on his mystic power, he took some rice boiled in milk and sugar, offered it in a ritual to a demigod named Tvasta, and then gave it to Citraketu's favorite queen—Krtadyuti.
"Now," the sage told the king, "you will have a son—a son who will bring you both joy and sadness." Without waiting for an answer, Angira left the palace.
Trusting the sage's word, Citraketu conceived a child in the womb of Krtadyuti. And, to everyone's amazement, in time she gave birth to a son. When they heard the news, all the citizens were overjoyed for their king.
After bathing and dressing himself in gorgeously ornamented robes, Citraketu asked the royal priests to bless the newborn child and perform the birth ceremony as the holy scriptures directed. Then, rejoicing, he gave gifts to the priests—gold, silver, clothing, jewels, villages, horses, elephants, and cows. Finally, just as a rain cloud freely waters everything (even the mountains and the oceans), the king lavished his riches upon everyone present. In that way he hoped to spread the good name of the new prince.
With the king's hopes now fulfilled after so much frustration, his love for the little child grew day by day. And, naturally, his love for the boy's mother Queen Krtadyuti also grew.
Not surprisingly, as Krtadyuti became more and more happy, the other queens became more and more hateful. As time went by, the king hardly cared about them, and they burned with envy. They, too, wanted to have sons, but they couldn't. Only Krtadyuti had gotten the sage's blessing, and the other queens cried bitterly to each other.
"If a wife has no sons, she has nothing but sadness."
"Her husband neglects her."
"Her co-wives insult her and treat her like a maidservant."
"Such a woman is condemned in every way."
"Even the husband's maidservants receive his compliments; they have nothing to regret. But we are now the maidservants of the maidservants—we are the most wretched."
Unable to stand their pain, the queens lost all common sense. They went mad, and at last they plotted to murder the baby. One day, when the mother and the nurse were both out of the baby's room, some of the queens entered silently and put poison into his mouth.
In another wing of the palace. Queen Krtadyuti called out, "Nurse, bring the young prince to me. I think he's been sleeping long enough."
When the nurse went to the child's room and approached his bed, she saw that his eyes were turned upward. Shocked, she looked closer and saw that he wasn't breathing, that his heartbeat had stopped, that he was dead. "I am doomed!" she cried, striking her bosom with both hands and sobbing loudly.
When the queen heard the shrieking, she ran in. The nurse, struck with grief, was lying by the bed. As Krtadyuti neared her child, her dress and hair and mind were in disarray. On seeing the upturned eyes and the lifeless limbs, she fainted and fell next to the nurse.
Many others in the palace heard the screams, and they came to the prince's bedroom—some hastily, others hesitantly. At the sight of the dead baby, none of them could hold back their tears. Even the murderous queens made their way through the door; they made a show of weeping along with the others.
When someone told the king what had happened, he nearly went blind. Grief set his mind aflame, and he stumbled through the palace hallways toward his son's room, slipping and falling countless times along the way. Half-delirious, he lurched through the crowded doorway to the tragic scene. Surrounded by his ministers, royal officers, and priests, he got a glimpse of his dead boy and could not contain himself any longer. Shaking and disheveled, he fell unconscious at the child's feet.
Shortly, Citraketu regained his senses. He tried to speak, but he was breathing too heavily for the words to come out. Through his tears he saw Queen Krtadyuti next to him, leaning against the bed. The garland of flowers that had decorated her hair was slipping down to the floor. Tears mixed with mascara traced gray lines down her face and stained her dress. She refused to leave her dead child, and as she looked at the baby's body she cried like a sad songbird. Then, growing bitter, she raised her eyes upward and screamed.
"O God! You are useless! You have a law that a son can die only after his father dies. Yet You have let my son die while his father is still living. You may say that You don't remember that law, and You may say that birth and death take place on account of our own activities. But I say that out of cruelty You have broken Your own law! If we are so powerful that we can bring on birth and death, then who needs God?!
"Or if You say that there must be a God because there must be someone to run things, I am not impressed. You may be God, but You are not intelligent—You make parents love their child so that they will raise him nicely, but then You take away the child. Now everyone will neglect their children. You are not very smart!"
Trembling, the queen turned again to her son's bed and spoke to the corpse in a heartrending way.
"Little one! I am helpless and full of grief. Please don't go away. Just look at your father. We are helpless now. You are our only hope. Please don't go away with Death any farther. Come back to us."
Giving up all sanity, she indulged herself in impossibilities.
"My baby, you have slept a long time. Now please get up. You must be very hungry, so get up and suck my breast. Please dry our tears."
"My dear son, I am the most unlucky person. I can no longer see your gentle smile. You have closed your eyes forever. You've been taken away from this planet, and you will never return. I shall never hear your voice again."
Hearing Krtadyuti carrying on so pathetically, the king poured out his despair in long, loud wails. All the king's followers gave in to the deepest depression; crying unashamedly, they all but passed out.
Far away, Angira heard of the tragedy. Along with the sage Narada, he traveled at once to the palace of Citraketu and made his way to the prince's fateful bedroom. There he saw the king lying on the floor like another dead body. Forgetting formalities, Angira addressed the king—not with sentimental words of pity, but with the uncompromising words of transcendental wisdom.
"O King," Angira said, "what kinship does that dead body have with you? Or you with it? As for the soul who lived inside it, you may say he is your son, but was he your son before he lived there? Or will he be your son tomorrow? Just as the waves of the ocean push together and pull apart grains of sand, so the waves of time cause people to meet and separate. It is nature's law, and no amount of lamentation can stop it.
"Seeds sown in the ground sometimes grow and sometimes do not. That is natural. Fathers sometimes get sons, and sometimes they do not. That is also natural. So you should not weep or suffer so much over the death of your son. What we think of as 'kinship' comes about only because the Supreme Lord arranges it for us.
"From the father's body and the mother's body comes a child's body. The atoms of those bodies are eternal, and the souls who manifest themselves through the atoms are also eternal. The distinctions we make between people on the basis of family or country are imaginary. We make these distinctions only out of a lack of knowledge."
Enlightened by these instructions, King Citraketu regained his hope in life. Wiping his haggard face with his hand, he spoke to Angira.
"Of all men, you are the most praiseworthy. You know everything. You wander all over the world just to do good to materialists like us, who are always attached to sense gratification. I am as foolish as a village animal like a pig or a dog. Please ignite the torch of knowledge. Save me."
Angira replied, "My dear King, when you wanted to have a son, I came to you. I could have given you the supreme transcendental knowledge at that time. But when I saw that your mind was absorbed in material things, I gave you a son—who, as I had warned you, caused you both happiness and misery. Now you are experiencing the sadness of family life. Your family, and indeed your whole kingdom, are all causes of distress. Because they are not permanent, they are no better than dreams for you.
"O King Citraketu, try to understand whether you are body, mind, or soul. Consider where you have come from, where you are going after you give up this body, and why you are under the control of the material nature. If you come to understand your real position, you will be able to give up your attachment to illusory things, such as these material forms. And you will also be able to give up your belief that material kinship lasts forever."
When Angira had finished speaking to the king, the great sage Narada exercised his mystic power and brought the dead son into the vision of all the lamenting relatives. "O soul," Narada said, "all good fortune unto you! Look—your father and mother and all your friends and relatives are stricken because you have passed away. You died at such an early age, and the rest of your life still remains. So go back into your body. Enjoy the rest of your life with your friends and relatives. Take the royal throne—and all the wealth your father will give you."
By Narada's mystic power, the soul returned to the dead body. Then he spoke, as everyone gaped.
"I transmigrate," he said, "from one body to another, according to the quality of my past activities. Sometimes I go to the species of the demigods, sometimes to the lower animals, sometimes to the plants, and sometimes to the humans.
"In which birth were these people my mother and father? Actually, no one is my mother and no one is my father. How can I accept these two people as my parents?
"Just as gold and other commodities travel from one place to another in the course of purchase and sale, so, as a result of his activities, the living soul wanders throughout the entire universe, being injected into one kind of body after another by one kind of father after another.
"The spirit soul is eternal and imperishable. He has no beginning or end. He never takes birth and he never dies. Being part and parcel of the Lord, he possesses the Lord's qualities in a minute quantity. So you should not lament for him."
Having finished speaking, the soul left the infant body and disappeared from the palace.
Citraketu and all the other relatives of the dead son were amazed. The words of the spirit soul had wiped away their grief. They felt free of the dilemmas of material attachment. In this mood, they performed their duties of holding the proper funeral ceremonies and burning the body.
The queens who had poisoned the boy felt disgusted at what they had done, and they had lost all their bodily luster. They gave up their ambition to bear children and went to the holy River Yamuna to bathe and do penance for their sinful activities.
Leaving his palace and his royal position, Citraketu also went to the Yamuna River, bathed there, and offered water to the demigods and his forefathers. Angira and Narada accompanied him, and he offered them his respects. The king had decided to dedicate the rest of his life to gaining spiritual awareness. Narada then accepted Citraketu as his disciple and gave him a prayer for reaching the stage of perfection. After Narada and Angira had left, Citraketu fasted, drank only water, and chanted the prayer. Within several days he saw, face to face, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.
The Lord was as white as the white fibers of a lotus flower and dressed in bluish garments. Surrounded by saintly persons and adorned with a sparkling helmet, armlets, and belt. He was smiling. As soon as Citraketu saw the Lord, tears of love flowed from his eyes, and he bowed down at the Lord's lotus feet. On account of his ecstasy, Citraketu's voice choked up, and at first he had difficulty saying anything. But soon he was able to offer the Lord prayers that came from deep within his heart.
Thoroughly pleased, Lord Krsna told Citraketu how he could make his devotion perfect. Since he had followed the sages' instructions so well, Krsna asked him to rule Vidyadhara-loka, a heavenly planet. There, in the valleys of Sumeru Mountain, his body and senses stayed fresh, and for millions of years he enjoyed chanting the Lord's glories.
Citraketu had seen his way past the short-lived kinship of this world. Finally, he went back to the spiritual world—to his lasting kinship, with Krsna.