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.
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The founder and original editor of Back to Godhead is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In September, 1965, Srila Prabhupada arrived in the United States. In July, 1966, in a storefront in New York City, he began the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. And from those beginning days, Back to Godhead has been an integral part of ISKCON.
In fact, since 1944, when he started writing, editing, printing, and istributing Back to Godhead, Srila Prabhupada has often called it "the backbone of the Krishna consciousness movement." Althgouh over the years it has changed in come ways, Back to Godhead remains, in Srila Prabhupada's words, "an instrument for training the mind and educating human nature to rise up to the plane of the soul spirit."
Many observers feel that with corruption so common and scandal nearly standard, society is in a bad way and getting worse. What's really happening, and what to do? India's Bhavans Journal interviews His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Interviewer: The first question is this: "Is the influence of religion on the wane? And if so, does this factor account for the increase in corruption and the widespread deterioration of moral values?"
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, religion is on the wane. This is predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [12.2.1]: tatas canudinam dharmah satyam saucam ksama dayal kalena balina rajan nanksyaty ayur balam smrtih "In the Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy] the following things will diminish: religiosity, truthfulness, cleanliness, mercifulness, duration of life, bodily strength, and memory."
These are human assets, which make the human being distinct from the animal. But these things will decline. There will be no mercifulness, there will be no truthfulness, memory will be short, and the duration of life will be cut short. Similarly, religion will vanish. That means that gradually we will come to the platform of animals.
Interviewer: Religion will vanish? We'll become animals?
Srila Prabhupada: Especially when there is no religion, it is simply animal life. Any common man can distinguish that the dog does not understand what religion is. The dog is also a living being, but he is not interested to understand the Bhagavad-gita or the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He is not interested. That is the distinction between man and dog: the animal is not interested.
So when the human beings become disinterested in religious things, then they are animals. And how can there be happiness or peace in animal society? They want to keep people as animals, and they are making a United Nations. How is it possible? United animals, society for united animals? These things are going on.
Interviewer: Do you see any hopeful signs?
Srila Prabhupada: At least they have detected that religion is declining. That is good. "Declining" means they are going to be animals. In logic it is said that man is a rational animal. When the rationality is minus, then he is simply an animal, not a human being. In the human society either you become Christian, Mohammedan, Hindu, or Buddhist; it doesn't matter. There must be some system of religion. Human society without religion is animal society. This is a plain fact. Why are people so unhappy now? Because there is no religion. They are neglecting religion.
One gentleman has written me that Tolstoy once said, "Unless dynamite is put underneath the church, there cannot be any peace." Even now the Russian government is very strictly against God consciousness, because they think that religion has spoiled the whole social atmosphere.
Interviewer: It seems there could be some truth in that.
Srila Prabhupada: The religious system might have been misused, but that does not mean that religion should be avoided. Real religion should be taken. It does not mean that because religion has not been properly executed by the so-called priests, religion should be rejected. If my eye is giving me some trouble on account of a cataract, it does not mean that the eye should be plucked out. The cataract should be removed. That is Krsna consciousness.
Interviewer: I think history shows that many people have misused religion. Isn't that a fact?
Srila Prabhupada: These people have no conception of God, and they are preaching religion. What is religion? Religion means dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: "The path of religion is directly enunciated by the Supreme Lord." God's order. They have no conception of God-they do not know what God is-and they are professing some religion. How long can it go on artificially? It will deteriorate.
That has become the present condition. They have no idea of God, so how will they know what is the order of God? Religion means the order of God. For example, law means the order of the state. If there is no state, then where is the order? We have got a clear conception of God—Krsna. And He is giving His order, and we accept it. It is clear religion. If there is no God, no conception of God, no order of God, then where is religion? If there is no government, then where is the law?
Interviewer: Well, there wouldn't be any law. It would be an outlaw society.
Srila Prabhupada: Outlaw—everyone is an outlaw, manufacturing his own concocted system of religion. That is going on.
Just ask—in any religious system, what is their conception of God? Can anybody tell clearly? Nobody can tell. But we shall immediately say,
venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His flute, whose blooming eyes are like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock's feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms millions of cupids" [Brahma-samhita 5.30]. Immediately, we can give a description of God.
If there is no idea of God, then what kind of religion is that?
Interviewer: I don't know.
Srila Prabhupada: It is bogus. They have no conception of God, and therefore there is no understanding of religion. That is the decline, and because religion is declining, the human beings are becoming more and more like animals.
"Animal" means one has no memory. A dog comes when there are some eatables; I say "Hut!" and he goes away. But again he comes—he has no memory. So when our memory of God is reducing, that means that our human qualities are reducing. In the Kali-yuga these human qualities will be reduced. That means that people are becoming like cats and dogs.
Interviewer: Here's the second question: "The traditional charge against Vedic (Indian] culture is that it is fatalistic, that it makes people slaves to the belief in predestination, and that it therefore inhibits progress. How far is this charge true?"
Srila Prabhupada: What is that progress? Is a dog's jumping progress? Is that progress? A dog is running here and there on four legs, and you are running here and there on the four wheels of the automobile. Is that progress? That is not the Vedic system. According to the Vedic system, the human being has a certain amount of energy, and since the human being has better consciousness than the animals, therefore the energy of the human being is more valuable than the energy of the animals.
Interviewer: Probably no one would dispute that the human being has more freedom or, I suppose, responsibility than the animals.
Srila Prabhupada: So human energy should be utilized for spiritual advancement, not that the energy should be employed to compete with the dog. The saintly person is not busy like the dog. Today people think that "dogness" is life, but actual life is spiritual progress. Therefore, the Vedic literature says,
tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
"Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet (Brahmaloka) down to the lowest planet (Patala). As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in the course of time, just as in the course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them" [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18].
Interviewer: Could you explain that a little further?
Srila Prabhupada: The human being should exert his energy for that thing which he did not get in many, many lives. In many, many lives the soul has been in the form of dogs, or demigods, or cats, birds, beasts, and many others. There are 8,400,000 different types of bodies. So this transmigration of the soul is going on. The business in every case is sense gratification.
Interviewer: Which means?
Srila Prabhupada: For example, the dog is busy for sense gratification: Where is food, where is shelter, where is a female, where is defense? The man is also doing the same business, in different ways. This business is going on life after life. Even a small insect is trying for the same thing. Birds, beasts, fish—everywhere the same struggle is going on. Where is food, where is sex, where is shelter, and how to defend. The Vedic literature says that these things we have done for many, many lives, and that if we don't get out of this struggle for existence, we will have to do them again for many, many lives.
Interviewer: I'm beginning to see.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, so these things should be stopped. Therefore, Prahlada Maharaja makes this statement:
sukham aindriyakam daitya
"My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life, according to one's past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress" [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3].
A dog has got a body and I have got a body. So, my sex pleasure and the dog's sex pleasure-there is no difference. The pleasure derived out of sex is the same. A dog is not afraid of having sex pleasure on the street before everyone, and we hide it. That's all. People are thinking that to have sex pleasure in a nice apartment is advanced. However, that is not advanced. And they are making a dog's race for this so-called advancement. People do not know that according to whatever kind of body one has acquired, the pleasure is already stored up.
Interviewer: What do you mean, "the pleasure is already stored up"?
Srila Prabhupada: That is called destiny. A pig has got a certain type of body, and his eatable is the stool, You cannot change it. The pig will not like to eat halvah [a sweetmeat made of wheat toasted in butter]. It is not possible. Because he has got a particular type of body, he must eat like that. Can any scientist improve the standard of living of the pig?
Interviewer: I doubt it.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, Prahlada Maharaja says that it is already stored up. The pleasure is basically the same, but a little different according to the body. The uncivilized man in the jungle is having the same thing.
Now people are thinking that civilization means constructing skyscraper buildings. But Vedic civilization says, No, that is not advancement. The real advancement of human life is self-realization, how much you have realized your self. Not that you have constructed skyscraper buildings.
Interviewer: But wouldn't what you're saying make sense to most people?
Srila Prabhupada: Sometimes people misunderstand. In a high court, a judge is sitting soberly, apparently doing nothing, and he is getting a high salary. Someone else is thinking, "I am working so hard in the same court, rubber stamping-and not getting one-tenth of the salary of the judge." He is thinking, "I am so busy, working so hard, and I am not getting as good a salary as the man who is just sitting on the bench." The situation is like that: the Vedic civilization is meant for self-realization, not for a dog's race.
Interviewer: Still, isn't it usually considered honorable to work hard, to struggle and eventually "get ahead" in life?
Srila Prabhupada: The karmis, fruitive workers, have been described in the Bhagavad-gita as mudhas, asses. Why are they compared to the asses? Because the ass works very hard with loads on his back, and in return his master gives him only a little morsel of grass. He stands at the door of the washerman and eats grass while again the washerman loads his back. He has no sense that if I go out of the cottage of the washerman I can get grass anywhere—why am I carrying so much?
Interviewer: That brings to mind some people I know.
Srila Prabhupada: The fruitive worker is like that. He is very busy in the office, and if you want to see him he will say, "I am very busy." So what is the result of your being so busy? He takes two pieces of toast and one cup of tea. And for this purpose you are so busy? He does not know why he is busy. In the account books he will find that the balance was one million dollars and now it has become two million. He is satisfied with that, but he will take only two pieces of toast and one cup of tea, and still he will work very hard. That is what is meant by karmi. Asses—work like asses, without any aim in life.
But Vedic civilization is different. The accusation is not correct—people in Vedic civilization are not at all lazy. They are busy for a higher subject matter. Prahlada Maharaja stresses that this busyness is so important that it should begin from the very childhood. Kaumara acaret prajnah one should not lose a second's time. That is Vedic civilization. The asses see, "These men are not working like I am"—like dogs and asses—and they consider that we are escaping. Yes, escaping your fruitless endeavor. The Vedic civilization is meant for self-realization.
Interviewer: Could you give us more of an idea what the Vedic civilization is like?
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic civilization begins from the varnasrama system. In the varnasrama system there is this arrangement: brahmanas [intellectuals, advisors], ksatriyas [administrators], vaisyas [merchants, farmers], sudras [workers], brahmacaris [students], grhasthas [householders], vanaprasthas [retired married people], and sannyasis [renounced monks].
The ultimate goal is that Krsna, the Supreme Lord, should be worshiped. So if you worship Krsna, then you fulfill all your occupational duties, either as a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmacari, anything. Take to it immediately—take to Krsna consciousness. This is so important.
Interviewer: If people really knew about a lifestyle that was more natural, more fulfilling, what would be the problem? They actually would, as you say, take to it.
Srila Prabhupada: But because they do not know, therefore there is no religion, simply a dog's race. The dog is running on four legs, and you are running on four wheels—that's all. And you think that the four-wheel race is advancement of civilization.
Therefore, modern civilization is practically said to do nothing. Whatever is obtainable by destiny, you will get it, wherever you are. Rather, take to Krsna consciousness. The example is given by Prahlada Maharaja, that you do not want anything distasteful and yet it comes upon you. Similarly, even if you do not want happiness which you are destined, it will come upon you. You should not waste your energy for material happiness. You cannot get more material happiness than you are destined.
Interviewer: How can you be so sure of that?
Srila Prabhupada: How shall I believe it? Because you get some distressful condition although you do not want it. For instance, President Kennedy died by the hand of his own countryman. Who wanted it, and why did it come? He was a great man, he was protected by so many, and still he was destined to be killed. Who can protect you?
So if the distressful condition comes upon me by destiny, then the other position, the opposite number—happiness—will also come. Why shall I waste my time for this rectification? Let me use . my energy for Krsna consciousness. That is intelligent. You cannot check your destiny. Everyone will experience a certain amount of happiness and a certain amount of distress. Nobody is enjoying uninterrupted happiness. That is not possible.
Just as you cannot check your distressed condition of life, so you cannot check your happy condition of life. It will come automatically. So don't waste your time for these things. Rather, you should utilize your time for advancing in Krsna consciousness.
Interviewer: Would a Krsna-conscious person not try for progress?
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is that if you try for progress vainly, then what is the use of that? If it is a fact that you cannot change your destiny, then what is the use of that? We will be satisfied with the amount of happiness and distress that we are destined.
Vedic civilization is meant for realization of God. That is the point. You'll still find in India that during important festivals many millions of people are coming to take bath in the Ganges, because they are interested how to become liberated. They are not lazy. They are going thousands of miles, two thousand miles away to take bath in the Ganges. They are not lazy, but they are not busy in the dog's race. Rather, they are busy right from their childhood trying to become self-realized. Kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha. They are so busy that they want to begin the business from their very childhood. So it is the wrong conception to think that they are lazy.
Interviewer: Then the question may be raised that if destiny cannot be checked, then why not let every newborn child simply run around like an animal, and whatever is destined to happen to him will happen?
Srila Prabhupada: No, the advantage is that you can train him spiritually. Therefore it is said, tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovidah: You should engage your energy for self-realization. Ahaituky apratihata: Devotional service, Krsna consciousness, cannot be checked. Just as material destiny cannot be checked, your advancement in spiritual life cannot be checked if you endeavor for it.
Actually, Krsna will change destiny—but only for His devotee. He says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyomoksayisyami [Bhagavad-gita 18.66]: "I shall give you all protection from all reactions of sinful activities."
For instance, if one is condemned by the law court to be hanged, nobody can check it. Even the same judge who has given this verdict cannot check it. But if the defendant begs for the mercy of the king, who is above all the laws, then the king can check it.
Therefore, our business is to surrender to Krsna. And if we artificially want to be more happy by economic development, that is not possible. So many men are working so hard, but does it mean that everyone will become a Henry Ford or a Rockefeller? Everyone is trying his best. Mr. Ford's destiny was to become a rich man, but does it mean that every other man who has worked as hard as Ford will become a rich man like Ford also? No. This is practical. You cannot change your destiny simply by working hard like an ass or a dog. But you can utilize that energy for improving your Krsna consciousness.
Interviewer: Exactly what is Krsna consciousness? Could you tell us more?
Srila Prabhupada: How to love God—that is Krsna consciousness. If you have not learned to love God, then what is the meaning of your religion? When you are actually on the platform of love of God, you understand your relationship with God-that "I am part and parcel of God." Then you extend your love to the animal, also. If you actually love God, then your love for the insect is also there. You understand, "This insect has got a different body, but he is also part and parcel of my father; therefore, he is my brother." Then you cannot maintain a slaughterhouse. If you maintain a slaughterhouse and disobey the order of Christ, "Thou shalt not kill," and you proclaim yourself as Christian or Hindu, that is not religion. Then it is simply a waste of time—because you do not understand God, you have not got any love for God, and you are labeling yourself under some sect, but there is no real religion. That is going on all over the world.
Interviewer: How can we cure the situation?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If you do not accept that Krsna is the supreme entity, then try to understand. That is education: there is somebody supreme; Krsna is not Indian; He is God. Just like the sun rises first in India but that does not mean that the sun is Indian, similarly, although Krsna appeared in India, now He has come to the Western countries, through this Krsna consciousness movement.
Interviewer: Hare Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
By Damodara dasa
Everywhere you look there are so many names. Names for packages, names for signposts, names for places, names for plants, names for people. Names are convenient, and maybe a little confusing.
"History's first psychotherapy session, "on a battlefield, raises a question: "John," "Jane," "Black," "White," "Girl," "Boy," "Student," "Soldier"—what's in a name?
People hailed him as a great military hero. They said he was as strong as a lion. With bow and arrow he was beyond belief: he could hit a hundred-foot-high target obscured by the spokes of a chariot wheel—even if he had to take aim by looking at the target's rippling reflection in a water pail. More than once he'd fought off hundreds of soldiers without any help.
But today, as the time for his next battle drew near, Arjuna was shaking with anxiety. Looking over the two armies from a vantage point midway between them, Arjuna slumped down on his chariot, in despair.
His physical strength hadn't failed him. He was still the match of any soldier on the enemy side (with the exception of Bhisma, perhaps). But even Bhisma's skill and fortitude couldn't have driven Arjuna into this deep depression.
The renowned warrior had lost his courage because he was about to take part in a civil war—a war in which he would be pitted against his grandfather, his father-in-law, his cousins, his uncles, and the very teacher at whose feet he'd learned the art of war. Others, too, on both sides, were now poised to plunge arrows, swords, and lances into the bodies of their relatives and superiors. Arjuna's skin burned and his mouth dried up as he contemplated the horrible events to come.
"How can any good come from this?" he thought aloud. "What use would our victory be if we should ruin our whole society, our whole culture, in the process? We'll rip apart the fabric of family ties, and then our civilization will lie in shreds."
His only desire was to leave at once—to leave the battlefield and leave his profession. To go to the woods, perhaps, and take up the life of a beggar. "I'd rather live by other people's money than by my relatives' blood," he decided.
Uncles, cousins, teachers, grandfathers, fathers-in-law, sons, brothers-in-law—the very network of social relationships that before had given Arjuna so much pleasure, now had driven him to a nervous breakdown. How could he kill these people? He knew the enemy soldiers by name—names that sound strange to us (like Duryodhana, Bhurisrava, Drona), but names that signified intimate relationships to him. Meditating on those names and relationships, Arjuna wept out of compassion and hopelessness.
Arjuna's self-searching, recorded in the opening pages of the Bhagavad-gita, was a natural response to a terrifying situation. Caught in a web of conflicting social designations, he considered that his only way out was to change his own designation from "soldier" to "beggar." But soon Arjuna's trusted friend and teacher, Lord Krsna (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) was to show him that even as a beggar he would be unhappy. The answer, said Lord Krsna, was to stop thinking of himself as "soldier," "'beggar," "student," and start looking for his real identity on a level deeper than that. Otherwise, Krsna suggested, Arjuna's life would be full of anxiety.
The same is true for me. It's a commonsense fact of my life that if somebody approaches me at my job or on the street and asks me in an offhand way who I am, then I'll probably answer with my name. Names are convenient. They make social interaction possible. How could we ever finalize legal documents, sign checks, introduce ourselves at parties, reminisce about old friends, if we didn't use names? It would be nearly impossible.
But the name is not the same as the thing named. In this connection we usually think of Shakespeare: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." How much more true that is, then, of a human being. As convenient as names are, they're just superficial concepts of our personal identity.
Names are superficial, because, for one thing, each of us has little choice about the designations that fix us in this world, the world of names. For instance, take that triumphant cheer heard in hundreds of languages, in thousands of maternity rooms: "It's a boy!" Suddenly, that little human being who had been a mystery, an it, has been pinned down. It's a boy. For the parents, the relatives, the family's friends, and for the whole culture, that means a lot. A complex structure of obligations and expectations has been set up. Starting with blue (not pink) baby clothes, moving through baseball and Boy Scouts, on through high school to high finance, that little person's trajectory through life has to a great extent been determined for him just by the pronouncing of the word boy.
You may object that the word boy alone isn't determining the baby's future. It's the condition that the word denotes. If John Doe had a baby girl and yet insisted on calling her a boy, he wouldn't be able to make his dream come true simply on the authority of the name itself. Surely there's a real quality, the baby's sex, that the name is intended only to represent, and not to be. Am I stretching the point to call so much attention to a simple word?
Yes, I would be stretching the point if all we had to contend with was one or two names—"boy," "girl" "man," "woman" "Me Tarzan, you Jane." Then life, and self-awareness, would be an easy job. But we don't live in that kind of world. Like Arjuna, we live in a world of millions of names. And to make things worse, even the names we call our own are usually assigned to us before we have any choice. Somebody's waiting for us, before we emerge, with a complete outfit of names ready to put on us. We don't have any say in the matter. We're controlled.
That American slang expression "handle" is a good one. In some parts of the country they'll ask you, "What's your handle?" if they want to know your name. That says a lot. A name is a way to control another person, to handle him. As the baby squeezes out of the womb into the world of social realities, he's assigned all kinds of handles: "boy," "John," "American," "white," "Presbyterian," "middle class," "midwesterner," "middletowner." Before he even knows what hit him, he's spinning in the social whirl. And by the time he's old enough to do something about it, old enough to take control of his life, "John" is too bewildered by his designated names, and by the superficial qualities they represent, to be able to sense his deeper, personal qualities.
Psychologist Rollo May quotes one of his patients as saying, "I'm just a collection of mirrors, reflecting what everyone else expects of me." In a well-known survey of the 1950's, a distraught American housewife made this disclosure:
I've tried everything women are supposed to do-hobbies, gardening, pickling, canning, being very social with my neighbors, joining committees, running PTA teas. I can do it all, and I like it, but it doesn't leave you time to think about-any feeling of who you are. There's no problem you can even put a name to. But I'm desperate. Who am I?
"There's no problem you can even put a name to," the lady laments. But names are her problem. She's been assigned too many names, none of them getting to the heart of her personal identity. Today's foremost scholar of the Bhagavad-gita, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, suggests a cure for the problem of names:
American, or Indian, or German, or Englishman; cat or dog, or bee or bat, man or wife: all of these are designations. In spiritual consciousness we become free from all such designations.
Many people have fought against the false limitations imposed on them by superficial designations, many have tried to become free. In the 1960s Theodore Roszak wrote, "The bohemian fringe of our youth culture... is grounded in an intensive examination of the self, of the buried wealth of personal consciousness." Today the beat goes on in a more respectable way. In a September 13, 1976, Newsweek article on genealogy ("perhaps the fastest-growing hobby in America"), the writers noted,
Although genealogy's uses range from investigating possible hereditary causes of cancer to settling estate disputes, the single most compelling reason for its new popularity comes down to the question "Who am I?"
And the problem of identity is deeply enmeshed in one of the longest standing, most divisive issues in American culture-the racial problem. The names "black" and "white" have stirred destructive emotions since the 1600s. In his autobiographical novel of 1937, Black Boy, Richard Wright told of his struggle to get free from designations:
The white South said it knew "niggers," and I was what the white South called a "nigger."
Having decided "that the South could recognize but part of a man," Wright moved north to Chicago in his search for freedom. Some people move north, some take drugs, some hire genealogists or psychologists. They want to leave, as Arjuna did, the artificial conflicts brought upon them by designations assigned to them by others.
How superficial those conflicts are! Because others have assigned me certain names, or because circumstances have put me in a certain position, I'm forced into conflicts I can't avoid-simply because of the social commitments my name implies. If I'm a Hatfield, then I must be against the McCoys. If I'm a fifth-century-B.C. Athenian, then I must fight against the Spartans. If today I'm a Northern Irish Catholic, then I must fight the Protestants. Owners vs. Workers. Black vs. White. Men vs. Women. Town vs. Gown. "Anybody over thirty can't be trusted." This is very frustrating for me because I'm not really fighting for my rights, or perhaps not even for anything I believe in if given a chance to think about it. I'm defending something superficial, which somebody else most likely assigned to me without my asking for it.
To be sure, we can change some of our designations. Age, of course, changes anyway, of its own accord. Then, I can change my educational status, my occupation, my social class, or perhaps my given name, if I'm determined. And some people in extreme circumstances even decide to change their sex (the 1975 Obstetrics and Gynecology Annual reports that "it is apparent that several thousand transsexuals of both sexes live in the U.S. today"). Or, in protest, like many draft evaders during the Vietnam War, I could emigrate to Canada or Sweden and change my citizenship. On the other hand, as a last resort, I might try to shed all my names, escape from all my qualities, to become "one with the void," as some Buddhists do.
But these reactions to discontent are probably as meaningless as the conflicts that caused the discontent. Without a look deeper within, a mere shuffling around of names or superficial qualities isn't going to help. As Lord Krsna told Arjuna, "of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation." In other words, things that change aren't real, and things that are real don't change. Changing names isn't going to free us from the tyranny of names.
That could leave us in a pretty desperate place, were it not for a simple feeling that we've all had. It comes out in your life in a natural way, because it's a natural thing to feel. It's almost like changing names, but it isn't really, because it's just a matter of discovering the identity you already have but just aren't aware of. It's a matter of finding your permanent name.
With proper direction, this feeling of permanent identity, or permanent consciousness, can lead to great things. And the first step is very simple. We ask, "What is the identity that I have throughout life, that I can't change even by the most drastic measures?" Let's not think of changing. Let's think of that which we cannot change. Now, there may be many answers to this question. But it seems the most meaningful answer for us right now would be something like this: "I am a human being." Yes, "human being" is a name. But at least for this lifetime it's a permanent name. With this understanding, we jump the first hurdle—the most difficult hurdle—on the path of liberation from the tyranny of names.
Still, that name "human being" can easily turn into a cliche, a sentimental catchword as bad as any other. It might go no further than sending UNESCO Christmas cards to the people on your mailing list. So we need to know the implications of this label "human being." What is the essence of a human being? What makes man so different from the other animals? So many philosophers and anthropologists have spoken and written so many words on this subject that it may seem impossible to come to a final definition.
But with a little careful study, we can make out a clear pattern in most of the attempts. I don't have the space to indulge in full-scale analysis, but I hope a few examples will suffice. For instance, Kierkegaard said that man is unique because "he can concentrate his entire energy upon the fact that he is an existing individual." Again, Rollo May has noted, "man is very different from the rest of nature. He possesses consciousness of himself; his sense of personal identity distinguishes him from the rest of living or nonliving things." We hardly need to go on, except perhaps to hark back to that classic statement of Plato's:
Self-knowledge would certainly be maintained by me to be the very essence of knowledge, and in this I agree with him who dedicated the inscription "Know Thyself!" at Delphi.
Rene Descartes was one who undertook to know himself. After formulating his famous statement, "I think, therefore I am," he said,
I thence concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist, has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing; so that "I," that is to say, the mind [soul] by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the body, and is even more easily known than the latter.
This ability of ours to inquire about our identity—the very size and sophistication of the human brain underscores this ability—receives much clearer definition in the Vedic literature of India. There we read that self-realization is the law of human life, just as swimming is the law of fish life, and flying is the law of bird life. Each kind of body is meant for a particular purpose, and if that purpose isn't fulfilled, then that animal has wasted its life. So if the human animal doesn't spend his time seriously inquiring into the quality of the self, then he is, so to speak, breaking the law of human life.
Our life in these human bodies isn't something neutral. The body may be a machine, but still we have feelings, and we can't deny that for much of life our feelings are painful. Arjuna on the battlefield, the confused housewife at her PTA teas, Richard Wright in the South—they all were suffering. In his introduction to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada writes about this point:
Every man is in difficulty in so many ways, as Arjuna was also in difficulty in having to fight the Battle of Kuruksetra. Arjuna surrendered unto Lord Krsna, and consequently this Bhagavad-gita was spoken. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. Our existence is eternal...
Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are put into this awkward position, and so on. Unless one is awakened to this position of questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn't want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all sufferings, then one is not considered to be a perfect human being. Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one's mind.
The message, then, coming to us from those who've researched the problems of living, is that human life is meant for self-knowledge. Of all life forms, only man can understand the purpose of existence—to break free from the suffering brought on by illusory names, and to gain happiness in real selfhood.
On the battlefield, Lord Krsna and Arjuna discussed the science of self-knowledge at length. Krsna told His friend that the self is spiritual: "For the self there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be... He is not slain when the body is slain... As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."
Krsna appealed to Arjuna's reason and direct perception and brought him from a fragmented, name-bound concept of self to a higher awareness of his personal existence, beyond material conflicts. Secure in self-knowledge, Arjuna could then choose a role for himself that fully satisfied his spiritual nature. In other words, he could see his real spiritual identity—neither warrior nor beggar but an eternal servant of God.
By the end of Arjuna and Krsna's dialogue (the end of the Bhagavad-gita), Arjuna was cured of his anxiety. A person who studies their conversation today can get the same benefit. One scholar has termed it "history's first psychotherapy session," and for countless people the first is still the best.
A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Kidnapped Devotee's Ordeal Ends
She Returns to Fiance for Gala Wedding
Los Angeles—On November 7, more than one thousand guests attended the wedding of Madonna Slavin and Edward Watford, at the Sri Sri Radha-Krsna Temple. Madonna and Ed are known to friends by their Sanskrit names, Kulapriya and Srikanta. After the wedding ceremony they were the guests of honor at a reception and dinner. "I last saw such a beautiful wedding at the Raj Bhavan in Bombay, thirty years ago," said Mr. Kantilal Khetani, president of a large Indian cultural society.
Only a few short weeks before their marriage, the mood had been different. Professional "deprogrammers" hired by the parents of the bride-to-be had forcibly abducted her. For five days the "deprogrammers" mistreated her and shifted her to different locations on the California coast. The kidnappers threatened her with physical torture, confiscated her sacred prayer beads, and derided the Bhagavad-gita. On the sixth day Kulapriya escaped, and police flew her back to Los Angeles. She asked her parents to apologize and sign a statement that they would not again have her abducted; they refused. Still, she invited them to her wedding. "I want to continue our relationship," she said, "but they must respect my right to live by the religion of my choice."
English Professor Praises Bhagavad-gita As It Is
Dr. Ann Stanford, Professor of English at the Northridge campus of California State University, recently made this learned assessment of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita: "Bhagavad-gita As It Is is an excellent translation of this important religious work. Swami Prabhupada renders the words of the master creator of the Gita as only a person intimately familiar with the culture and language of ancient India as well as the full religious purport of its message can. Being myself a translator of the Gita, I know he has been faithful to the tremendous task of bringing this work fully into the present."
"Deprogramming" Denounced at Scholars' Convention
At the annual joint meetings of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American School of Oriental Research, some two hundred scholars signed a petition supporting religious freedom for the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The St. Louis meeting of religion professors, theologians, archeologists, and graduate students took action on an appeal from a group of devotees and professors who felt that "deprogrammers" were threatening religious freedom.
The issue is a significant one on today's religious scene, with small parents' organizations claiming that American youth are being "psychologically kidnapped" by religious groups. The parents advocate and practice forcible abductions and "deprogrammings" of individuals who have chosen religions different from their own.
The Krsna conscious devotees hold that their religious practices have been part of the mainstream of Indian culture for thousands of years. In support of the movement, scores of Indian government and business leaders have sent letters to U.S. government authorities in New Delhi and Washington.
"We would attest to the fact that this is a bona fide Hindu religion," Professor J. Frank Kenney of the University of Arkansas said at the St. Louis meeting. Then he delivered a paper on His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Krsna consciousness movement.
A concluding note of support came from Professor Shaligram Shukla of Georgetown University. "I am one who has practiced the same precepts of the Hindu faith, and therefore the activities of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are most dear to me. We people of India are most grateful to the Krsna conscious society; we frequent their temples regularly... Their methods of worship are the same as are used in India... To call them by unkind names is to insult the most precious tradition of the ancient Indian culture. This is my personal feeling and that of my whole family as well as millions of individual Indians."
by Dharmadhyaksa dasa
If air and noise pollution, commuting, traffic jams, inflation, crime, overcrowding, and speed mania make you hunger for a saner lifestyle, then you're not alone. Already, a growing number of concerned citizens (including intellectuals and scientists) are asking serious questions about where modern society is going.
In the thought-provoking book Small Is Beautiful (which government officials around the world are reading carefully), E.F. Schumacher airs some of this new movement's views. As he sees it, today's society is based on "greed and envy." Thus, cities and nations have developed an almost exclusive eye for material (mostly economic) gain and have tragically neglected humanity's personal and spiritual needs. In other words, money—not mankind—matters. The remedy, Schumacher says, is to return to a simpler, smaller-scale, and more spiritual lifestyle.
In 1965, before these ideas were popular, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada traveled from India to the West and appealed for "simple living and high thinking"—the motto of the ancient Vedic culture. In general, people responded sympathetically, and many wanted to learn about the Vedic cultural experience, more than five thousand years of natural, spiritual living.
William Ehrlichman was one of the studious ones. While earning his Bachelor of Science degree at the State University of New York (Buffalo), he took a course in Krsna consciousness and read some of Srila Prabhupada's English renderings of the Vedic literature. Before long, Ehrlichman asked Srila Prabhupada for formal initiation. He received the Sanskrit name Bhagavan dasa, which means "one who serves the all-opulent Supreme Lord," and his clear-sightedness and devotion quickly earned him a role of leadership in the Krsna consciousness movement.
In 1973, after Bhagavan dasa had successfully managed the Krsna consciousness center in Detroit for several years, Srila Prabhupada asked him to go to France and help the Paris center. By 1975 he was directing a thriving community of more than one hundred fifty people.
"Success brought its problems," Bhagavan dasa says. "People felt attracted to the Vedic lifestyle, but the big-city atmosphere made things difficult. Of course, we'd been educating people with Prabhupada's books. But still, I was feeling that the time had come to demonstrate the practicality of Krsna consciousness by setting up a model Vedic community."
After months of searching, Bhagavan dasa found an ideal location in the Loire Valley—two hundred acres of gently rolling hills, with forests, fields, a large chateau, and five other buildings. The owner, a World War II resistance hero now engaged in philanthropic work, sympathized with the Krsna community's goals. So he sold the property for a low down-payment and financed the rest at excellent terms.
The farm project's name is New Mayapur (after the birthsite of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who five hundred years ago revived Krsna consciousness for the modern age). The project's thirty-three-year-old coordinator, Visnuma dasa, graduated from Middlebury College, in Vermont, and taught school in Ontario, Canada. He says, "New Mayapur has had instant appeal, both for our members and for our guests. In big cities, when we talk about spiritual life it's hard for people to get more than an intellectual grasp of it. But here the atmosphere is so peaceful and alive that spiritual living comes naturally. At a place like this, people can feel themselves becoming spiritually transformed."
"There are no special qualifications for living at New Mayapur," says Bhagavan dasa. "Anybody with any kind of skill is welcome. And anybody can work the fields and provide his family with a good, wholesome life. Most people are looking for a really peaceful community, so it's important for us to supply what they want." He adds, "People are tired of struggling for the privilege of living in a pressure cooker. We see smaller, spiritual communities as the trend of the future, and we want to accommodate anyone who feels interested in this kind of living."
Srila Prabhupada, who inspired the New Mayapur project, has written, "Human energy should be utilized in developing the finer senses for spiritual understanding, in which lies the solution of life. Fruits, flowers, beautiful gardens, parks, reservoirs of water with ducks and swans playing in the midst of lotus flowers, and cows giving sufficient milk and butter are essential for developing the finer tissues of the human body."
New Mayapur's chief gardener and farmer, twenty-seven-year-old Haribolananda dasa, is in charge of actualizing this Vedic vision on the fields of France. "I come from an English industrial town, Sheffield," he says. "I left school quite young, when I was fifteen, and immediately I got a job growing tomatoes in a nursery for two years. After that I worked as a landscape gardener for two and a half more years. Then, I just dropped out into the youth culture. Eventually, I ran into the Krsna devotees in Amsterdam. They had a rare feeling about them, like pioneers. That aroused my curiosity, and I soon discovered that they were pioneers. They were bringing forward a higher consciousness, and at the same time they had their feet on the ground. So I joined them."
Although ordinarily it takes several years to switch a farm over to organic methods, Haribolananda got some good results from his first organic crop. "We worked a lot of manure and compost into the soil," he says, "and we've been getting yields, for instance in the tomato patch, that would have required almost a ton of chemical fertilizers. And everyone says that our tomatoes taste better than the chemical ones."
Tomatoes aren't the only thing Haribolananda cultivates. "We also raise cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, green peas, green beans, lima beans, lettuce, corn, carrots, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and melons.
"Krsna [God] and Krsna's creations are abundant, you know? People today feel out of touch with God and nature, so they don't realize the bounty that's theirs just for the asking (and a little planting and hoeing). If people all over the world raised gardens like this, they'd have no food shortages, and the out-of-doors work would make everyone a lot healthier."
As Srila Prabhupada has said, flower gardens are conducive to physical and mental health. So the devotees have dedicated a full two acres to three thousand carnation plants and five hundred rose bushes, as well as marigolds, chrysanthemums, African gladiolas, and zinnias. Along with some other women, Bhagavan dasa's wife Krsna-bhamini-devi dasi likes to gather flowers and string garlands. "Flowers give the temple a festive feeling," she says. "You naturally think of Krsna."
Haribolananda has added even more variety to what was already a sizable tree population. "There were walnut, chestnut, hazelnut, and cherry trees here when we arrived," he says. "And we've planted a hundred fifty new fruit trees—apple, pear, peach, nectarine, red currant, and black currant. The land is also teeming with sixty or seventy kinds of medicinal herbs—peppermints, pines, rosemary, comfrey, and on and on. And everywhere you go there are plenty of wild blackberries. We've picked a two-and-a-half-months' supply for making jams, chutneys, and pies.
"Only four people, including my wife and me, work the fields full-time. Of course, sometimes other devotees give a little help—maybe an hour of weeding or hoeing or whatever else needs doing." Haribolananda feels that farming in Krsna consciousness has made his life ecstatic.
"I've always enjoyed raising plants, but the satisfaction is a thousand times better when you do it to please Krsna. If you farm out of a spiritual motive, the harvest is a lot more than you can imagine. It's devotion for Krsna. There's pure love involved."
New Mayapur's forty children have a mellowing effect on the whole community. "We're sure they'll grow up to be strong, saintly people," says Bhagavan dasa, "So everyone really tries to keep their environment peaceful and full of devotion to Krsna. These children are so bright and pure, and, fortunately for us, they're always around." The French public appreciates the Krsna community's efforts to raise their children in a natural, uplifting setting rather than in the cities. "People see that the children here are healthy and happy," says Bhagavan dasa. "It's something they want for their own children."
French-born Jyotirmayi-devi dasi studied ethnology at the Sorbonne, in Paris. Also, she helped to translate Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is into a popular French edition, and she now heads the unique school system at New Mayapur. She says, "We follow the traditional Vedic method of education, including subjects like history, geography, reading, writing, and math. The children really like the idea of self-discipline and higher wisdom. The God-centered feeling of Vedic culture is as natural to them as breathing.
"More and more, parents and students are feeling cheated by the modern educational system," says Jyotirmayi, "because it fails to develop a child's character and sense of purpose in life. When you emphasize these things from the very beginning, the child is a lot happier. Many people underestimate children's potential. Children have minds that are yearning for meaning; that's why they're always asking questions. They want to do something meaningful with their lives, and the longer you wait to guide them, the harder it is for them to mature. And, of course, if the child is left without guidance, he usually develops in an unruly ,way and makes headaches for himself and society."
In Jyotirmayi's view, the students develop their spiritual qualities not so much from theoretical learning as from the living example of their teachers (inside and outside the classroom). "The students and teachers have a very warm, personal relationship. The teachers care not just for the children's academic progress but also for their spiritual development. So the children feel a real sense of security."
A special forest is reserved for the children to play in and, as cottages are built, to live in. Jyotirmayi's face brightens whenever she discusses the forest and her plans for it. "It's a beautiful piece of land with tall trees," she says. "We're clearing out the old trees so we can plant lots of forest flowers. We'll have our own garden, and the children will help the teachers to grow all the fruits and vegetables that the school needs. It'll be like a heaven-on-earth for the children. They'll live naturally, just like in Vedic times." Right now the children go to the forest for gathering wood, learning arts and crafts, gardening, eating their meals, and romping around. Jyotirmayi adds, "We like to get together and put on plays about the childhood pastimes of Krsna. That way we think about Him and remember Him."
Jyotirmayi measures the school's success by "how happy the children are with their teachers and with themselves. Because the people who teach have a sense of spiritual vision, the children spontaneously share in it. This is the real Krsna conscious way to teach and live."
As E. F. Schumacher points out in a recent issue of East-West Journal, "Congestion makes city life intolerable, and the emptiness—the mental starvation—makes rural life intolerable." Fortunately, New Mayapur transcends these two extremes and combines the best of both worlds. Sophisticated yet simple, this Vedic community is proving in the West what has long been known in the East: intellectual and spiritual interests flourish when nourished by the peace and energy of nature.
New Mayapur serves as the French headquarters of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT). Formerly, the Vedic classics were known only to the cream of French society (Victor Hugo, Romain Rolland, and Andre Malraux, for instance). Now the devotees are translating Srila Prabhupada's acclaimed English renderings into deluxe French editions and distributing them throughout the French-speaking world.
French scholars have lavished praise upon both Srila Prabhupada and the BBT for the translations of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, among other works. Dr. Olivier Lacombe of the Sorbonne praises what he terms their "authenticity." Dr. Francois Chenique of the Institute of Political Studies, Paris, says that La Bhagavad-gita tell qu'elle est offers his countrymen "their first contact with the true India, the ancient India, the eternal India." Paul Lesourd, writer and honorary professor at the Catholic University of Paris, vows that if the Gita's message "were wider spread and more respected, it would transform the world in which we live into a better, more fraternal place."
The devotees make a thorough study of the Vedic culture (through formal classes, informal discussions, and tests) and that's what distinguishes New Mayapur from a host of other back-to-the-land projects. Visn uma says, "Spiritual life, developing a relationship with the supreme person, is what gives New Mayapur so much harmony and joy. We not only till the land; we also till our minds to come up with ideas that'll please Krsna. That's the real source of our happiness."
New Mayapur also acts as a melting pot. People from more than twenty countries—including France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam—live there. "So many individuals from so many backgrounds are working together happily and communicating with ease. Krsna consciousness is universal," Bhagavan dasa says. New Mayapur's everyday scenes of international cooperation bear out Paul Lesourd's statement that the Bhagavad-gita As It Is offers a key to world peace.
New Mayapur's ambitious social experiment offers us much hope. In a time when the world's secular institutions are hard-pressed to meet even the minimal needs of civilized living—clean water and air, decent schools, parks, and so forth—New Mayapur's achievements are notable. Organic farming, horticultural innovations, ecological planning, natural medicine, book publishing, spiritual education, community cultural life, personal fulfillment-all spring from the community's God consciousness.
"The environmental crisis," one ecologist has noted, "is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit." So we can understand why New Mayapur has no crisis: the Vedic culture has always given first priority to spiritual development. Bhagavan dasa says, "We've had no losses by doing that—only gains, in every way."
"Dear friends," said Lord Krsna to the other cowherd boys, "Look at this wonderful place!" He'd brought them to the sun-dappled bank of the Yamuna River, after an adventurous morning in the pastures outside Vrndavana town. "This is an ideal place to eat our lunch. Afterward, we can play on the soft, sandy river bank."
Krsna turned to the sparkling river and glorified its beauty. "See those lotus flowers in the water, their petals opened wide; and smell their fragrance drifting all around us. And listen—nearby in the trees the peacocks are calling out to one another, and their calls are mingling with the songs of other birds and the whispers of the leaves. This is clearly the best place for us to have our lunch. The calves can stay close to us, drink water from the Yamuna, and graze on the tasty grass."
Krsna's friends were glad to hear what sounded to them like a brilliant suggestion. It was late and they were feeling hungry, what's more, they all agreed that Lord Krsna had found a perfect place for them to sit and eat. So they let loose the calves and arranged themselves in a big circle. Krsna sat in the center, and all the boys turned toward Him, so that while they ate they could see Him face to face. Krsna was like the whorl of a big lotus flower, and the other boys were like the petals. Together, they opened up the lunch boxes their mothers had given them early that morning. Then they began to eat and joke with one another.
But as the boys ate, their attention given completely to Krsna and the delicious food, they failed to notice that the calves had wandered away, allured by the fresh new grass of the deep forest. Soon the calves were out of sight entirely. When the boys discovered this, they became scared and called to Krsna for help, as they always did when they were in distress.
"Oh, Krsna!" they cried out. "The calves have disappeared! What should we do?"
"Don't worry," Lord Krsna answered. "And don't interrupt your lunch. Go on enjoying. I'll look for them Myself." So, sparing His friends the trouble, the Lord got up and walked away to search for the lost calves. He spent much time in His search, looking in the thickets and the forests and in the nearby caves and mountain crevices. The calves were nowhere to be found.
But Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knew what was happening. He didn't really have to look for the calves, because He knows everything. Still, He was playing the part of an ordinary human being—just to please His friends. So He knew exactly where the calves were, and He also knew they hadn't left the river bank on their own. They'd been lured away by none other than four-headed Brahma, the demigod who directs universal affairs. And, as Krsna was enjoying climbing around the hills and looking in the caves, back at the lunch site Brahma was now using his mystic powers to steal the cowherd boys. Then he hid the boys and the calves in a secret place and put them into a long, deep steep.
Krsna was aware, too, of the reason why Brahma was playing these tricks on Him. Somebody had told Brahma that the Supreme Personality of Godhead was living in the little town of Vrndavana as a five-year-old boy named Krsna, the son of Nanda. On hearing this, Brahma was skeptical. So he hit upon a plan to test Krsna's powers for himself. He thought, "After His friends and calves have mysteriously disappeared, what will this little boy Krsna do?"
Now, by Brahma's magic, the picnic spot was deserted. Lord Krsna thought, "Brahma has taken away the boys and the calves. How can I go back to Vrndavana alone? The boys' mothers will cry in despair, and the calves' mothers will feel sick with grief."
The Lord asked Himself this question, but He was hardly at a loss for an answer. At once He manifested Himself in multiple forms—boys and calves who looked and acted precisely like the very boys and calves Lord Brahma had hidden. Each new boy was in fact Krsna, but had the bodily features and behavior of one of the original boys; and the same was true of each of the new calves. Appearances thus restored, soon the happy boys and calves were making their way back to town.
None of the townspeople in Vrndavana knew what had transpired that afternoon out in the pasture. They simply saw Krsna and His friends strolling into the village, casually tapping the calves with sticks to keep them in order, and raising up a cloud of golden dust in the late afternoon sun. There seemed to be nothing unusual. And, as always, the boys put the calves into their cowsheds and then went home.
Long before the boys arrived, the mothers had heard the sound of their flutes. Now the mothers ran out of their homes and embraced the boys. On account of their maternal affection, milk flowed from their breasts, and they allowed the boys to drink it. Although they didn't know it, their offering was not to their sons but to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then the boys played at home, as usual. Also, during the evening the mothers bathed the children, decorated them with ornaments, and gave them the food they needed after a hard day's work. In the cowsheds the mother cows, who had been away in the pasture during the day, now called the calves. The calves came joyfully, and the mothers licked their bodies.
Thus, family relations for the cows and the cowherds remained unchanged, except that the mothers' affection for the children grew and continued to grow day after day. Clearly, the cows and women of Vrndavana had even greater love for Krsna than for their own offspring. And for many months Krsna maintained Himself as the boys and calves of Vrndavana.
One day, after a full year had elapsed, Krsna and His brother Balarama were in the forest tending some calves. All at once, they noticed that the cows grazing atop Govardhana Hill were looking down upon the boys and calves in the valley. On sighting the calves, the cows started running toward them and leaping down the hill. Practically melting with love for the calves, the cows didn't care about the roughness of the path down to the pasture. With their milk bags full and their tails raised, they sped toward the calves, pouring milk on the ground as they ran.
The calves in the valley were older than the cows' own calves—they weren't expected to drink milk directly from the milk bag, but were ordinarily satisfied with grass. Yet the cows came running down to them anyway. When the cows reached the bottom, they licked the calves' bodies, and the calves drank the cows' milk. There appeared to be an extraordinary bond of love.
While the cows had been running down the hill, the men taking care of them had tried to stop them but had failed. Now the men felt baffled, ashamed, and angry. Yet as they came down the hill and into the valley, they saw the boys taking care of the calves and felt overwhelming paternal affection. At once, the fathers' anger and shame disappeared, and they lovingly lifted the boys up into their arms. After embracing the boys, the fathers went about the business of bringing the cows up the hill. Along the way, they thought of the children, and tears fell from their eyes.
As Balarama gazed upon this remarkable exchange of love between the cows and calves and fathers and boys—when neither calves nor boys needed so much care—He began to wonder how it all had come about. Before long He concluded, "It was arranged by Krsna, and even I couldn't perceive His mystic power." In other words, Balarama understood that all the boys and calves were really Lord Krsna's expansions.
Balarama quizzed Krsna about the incident. "My dear Krsna," He said, "at first I thought the boys and the calves were great sages or demigods in disguise. But now I think they are actually Your expansions. They are all You! You Yourself are playing as the boys and calves. Please, clear up this mystery for Me. Where have Our friends, the original boys and calves, gone to?"
Now Lord Krsna briefly explained how Brahma had stolen the boys and calves, and how He had concealed the theft so that the families wouldn't be distressed. While They were talking, Brahma returned to Vrndavana. Only a moment had passed—by his reckoning of time. By human reckoning, a whole year had come and gone. At any rate, Brahma wanted to see the fun caused by his kidnapping. But he was dumbfounded to see that the boys and calves were still playing with Krsna, just as they had been a year earlier! How could this be? He was confident that he'd put them to sleep by his mystic spell. "How is it," he marveled, "that they appear to be here, playing with Krsna?!"
As Brahma stared at the scene, something even more wonderful happened. To convince Brahma that these weren't the original boys and calves, Krsna transformed His expansions into four-armed Visnu forms. Besides a bluish complexion and yellow garments, They all had four hands and held a club, a disk, a lotus flower, and a conchshell. On Their heads They wore golden, jeweled helmets that glittered. Pearls, earrings, armlets, and flower garlands also bedecked Their beautiful bodies, and there were golden bells around Their waists and legs, splendid rings on Their fingers, and strings of gems around Their smooth necks. This display of divine potency left Brahma utterly confounded.
At that time Krsna took compassion upon the demigod. He saw that Brahma's mind was reeling, so He decided to change things back to the way they'd been before He had expanded Himself as calves and cowherd boys.
Relieved from his confusion, Brahma felt that he was waking up from a state near death. Before him he saw Lord Krsna playing the part of a small cowherd boy—holding a lump of fruit salad in His left hand and searching for His lost calves and friends, just as He'd been doing a year earlier.
With great devotion, Brahma bowed down on the ground before the Lord, his four helmets touching Krsna's lotus feet. Joyfully, Brahma washed Lord Krsna's feet with his tears. He repeatedly fell and rose, praying to Krsna and recalling His wonderful activities. Having emptied his heart, Brahma stood up, smeared his hands over his eyes, and with the Lord's permission returned to his abode. He was convinced, at last, of Krsna's identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Krsna had left His cowherd boyfriends eating lunch on the bank of the Yamuna—a year before. Then Brahma had put the boys to sleep and had hidden them away, but the boys knew nothing of that. Now Krsna brought them back, woke them up, and walked onto the picnic site as if nothing had happened. It was a whole year later, but the cowherd boys thought He'd returned after being away for just a moment. They laughed: Krsna could never leave them for any longer than a little while. Overjoyed, they greeted Him. "Dear Krsna, You've returned so quickly! Please, come and join us. Let's eat together." Krsna smiled and accepted their invitation. Once again He enjoyed the lunchtime company of His friends, the cowherd boys.
Adapted from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.