The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a worldwide community of devotees practicing bhakti-yoga, the eternal science of loving service to God. The Society was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a pure devotee of God representing an unbroken chain of spiritual masters originating with Lord Krsna Himself. The following eight principles are the basis of the Krsna consciousness movement. We invite all of our readers to consider them with an open mind and then visit one of the ISKCON center to see how they are being applied inevery day life.
1. By sincerely cultivating a bona fide spiritual science, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness in this lifetime.
2. We are not our bodies but eternal spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (Krsna). As such, we are all brothers, and Krsna is ultimately our common father.
3. Krsna is the eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive Personality of Godhead. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.
4. The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world. However, the oldest know revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words.
5. We should learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master—one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krsna.
6. Before we eat, we should offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krsna becomes the offering and purifies us.
7. We should perform all our actions as offerings to Krsna and do nothing for our own sense gratification.
8. The recommended means for achieving the mature stage of love of God in this age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Many people in our materialistic world are feeling a void in their lives—a lack of something that they can't quite put their finger on. To fill this void, many are taking up "consciousness-raising" or "meditational" techniques. Several individuals and groups have marketed various techniques to a largely innocent public, with some mention that most of their methods are "inspired by" or "adopted from" the spiritual disciplines of India. What these entrepreneurs have really done is to water down and exploit genuine spirituality.
However, one spiritual teacher has consistently refused to compromise. And from Harvard to Oxford to the Sorbonne, the world's leading scholars agree: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is delivering India's sacred devotional culture as it is.
The key to understanding this culture and elevating ourselves to clear consciousness—Krsna consciousness—is the simple, easy, yet sublime process of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Maha means "great," man means "mind," and tra means "release." Maha-mantra, then, means "the great chanting for releasing the mind from illusion." The maha-mantra consists of three names for God: Hare (God's pleasure energy), Krsna (God, the all-attractive Supreme Personality), and Rama (God, the reservoir of all pleasure). Srila Prabhupada explains that simply by chanting and hearing these sounds, "one can achieve all the benefits of spiritual life."
India's most respected spiritual books and teachers all bear out Srila Prabhupada's statement. For instance, six centuries ago Sridhara Swami said, "If one always chants the holy name of the Lord with great devotion in the morning and evening, one can become free from all material miseries."
If the process is so easy, can we learn it from anyone? The Padma Purana explains, "Unless one receives his mantra from a bona fide spiritual master in the authorized disciplic succession, his mantra will be without any effect." Srila Prabhupada, the foremost teacher in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic succession, freely offers the Hare Krsna maha-mantra to fill whatever void may exist in our lives.
Though today's scientist has devised a lofty technology, essentially he knows about as much as his dog: how to eat well, how to sleep peacefully, how to have an enjoyable sex life, and how to defend against enemies. But what about human technology-How is a living body different from a dead body? Who are we really? Where have we come from? Where are we going at death? We can find out all these things... from someone who knows.
An excerpt from Krsna Consciousness, the Matchless Gift, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The purpose of this Hare Krsna movement is to bring man back to his original consciousness, which is Krsna consciousness, clear consciousness. When water falls from the clouds, it is uncontaminated like distilled water, but as soon as it touches the ground it becomes muddy and discolored. Similarly, we are originally pure spirit soul, part and parcel of Krsna, and therefore our original constitutional position is as pure as God's. In Bhagavad-gita Sri Krsna says:
"The living entities in this conditioned world are My fragmental parts, and they are eternal. But due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind" (Bg. 15.7).
Thus all living entities are part and parcel of Krsna. By Krsna it should always be remembered that we are speaking of God, Krsna denoting the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. As a fragment of gold is qualitatively the same as a gold reservoir, so the minute particles of Krsna's body are therefore qualitatively as good as Krsna. The chemical composition of God's body and the eternal spiritual body of the living entity is the same—spiritual. Thus originally, in our uncontaminated condition, we possessed a form as good as God's, but just as rain falls to the ground, so we come in contact with this material world, which is manipulated by the external material energy of Krsna.
When we speak of external energy or material nature, the question may be raised, "Whose energy? Whose nature?" Material energy or nature is not active independently. Such a concept is foolish. In the Bhagavad-gita it is clearly stated that material nature does not work independently. When a foolish man sees a machine he may think that it is working automatically, but actually it is not-there is a driver, someone in control, although we sometimes cannot see the controller behind the machine due to our defective vision. There are many electronic mechanisms which work very wonderfully, but behind these intricate systems there is a scientist who pushes the button. This is very simple to understand: since a machine is matter, it cannot work on its own accord but must work under spiritual direction. A tape recorder works, but it works according to the plans and under the direction of a living entity, a human being. The machine is complete, but unless it is manipulated by a spirit soul, it cannot work. Similarly, we should understand that this cosmic manifestation which we call nature is a great machine, and that behind this machine there is God, Krsna. This is also affirmed in Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna says:
"This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all the moving and unmoving beings, and by its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again" (Bg. 9.10). So Krsna says that material nature is acting under His direction. Thus behind everything there is a supreme controller. Modern civilization does not understand this due to lack of knowledge. It is the purpose of this Society for Krishna Consciousness, therefore, to enlighten all people who have been maddened by the influence of the three modes of material nature. In other words, our aim is to awaken mankind to its normal condition.
There are many universities, especially in the United States, and many departments of knowledge, but they are not discussing these points. Where is the department for this knowledge that we find given by Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita? When I spoke before some students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first question I raised was: "Where is the technological department which is investigating the difference between a dead man and a living man?" When a man dies, something is lost. Where is the technology to replace it? Why don't scientists try to solve this problem? Because this is a very difficult subject matter, they set it aside and busily engage in the technology of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. However, Vedic literatures inform us that this is animal technology. Animals are also trying their best to eat well, to have an enjoyable sex life, to sleep peacefully, and to defend themselves. What, then, is the difference between man's knowledge and the animals' knowledge? The fact is that man's knowledge should be developed to explore that difference between a living body and a dead body.
That spiritual knowledge was imparted by Krsna to Arjuna in the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita. Being a friend of Krsna's, Arjuna was a very intelligent man, but his knowledge, as all men's, was limited. Krsna spoke, however, of subject matters which were beyond Arjuna's finite knowledge. These subjects are called adhoksaja because our direct perception, by which we acquire material knowledge, fails to approach them. For example, we have many powerful microscopes to see what we cannot see with our limited vision, but there is no microscope that can show us the soul within the body. Nevertheless, the soul is there.
"Where am I? What am I?"
Bhagavad-gita informs us that in this body there is a proprietor—the spirit soul. I am the proprietor of my body, and other souls are the proprietors of their bodies. I say, "my hand," but not "I hand." Since it is "my hand," I am different from the hand, being its owner. Similarly, we speak of "my eye," "my leg," "my this," "my that." In the midst of all of these objects which belong to me, where am I? The search for the answer to this question is the process of meditation. In real meditation, we ask, "Where am I? What am I?" We cannot find the answers to these questions by any material effort, and because of this all the universities are setting these questions aside. They say, "It is too difficult a subject." Or they brush it aside: "It is irrelevant."
Thus engineers direct their attention to creating and attempting to perfect the horseless carriage and wingless bird. Formerly, horses were drawing carriages and there was no air pollution, but now there are cars and rockets, and the scientists are very proud. "We have invented horseless carriages and wingless birds," they boast. Although they invent imitation wings for the airplane or rocket they cannot invent a soulless body. When they are able to actually do this, they will deserve credit. But such an attempt would necessarily be frustrated, for we know that there is no machine that can work without a spirit soul behind it. Even the most complicated computers need trained men to handle them. Similarly, we should know that this great machine, which is known as the cosmic manifestation, is manipulated by a supreme spirit. That is Krsna.
Scientists are searching for the ultimate cause or the ultimate controller of this material universe and are postulating different theories and proposals, but the real means for knowledge is very easy and perfect: we need only hear from the perfect person, Krsna. By accepting the knowledge imparted in Bhagavad-gita, anyone can immediately know that this great cosmic machine, of which the earth is a part, is working so wonderfully because there is a driver behind it—Krsna.
Our process of knowledge is very easy. Krsna's instruction, Bhagavad-gita, is the principal book of knowledge given by the adi-purusa Himself, the Supreme Primeval Person, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is indeed the perfect person. It may be argued that although we have accepted Him as a perfect person, there are many others who do not. But one should not think that this acceptance is whimsical, He is accepted as the perfect person on the evidence of many authorities. We do not accept Krsna as perfect simply on the basis of our whims or sentiments. No—Krsna is accepted as God by many Vedic authorities like Vyasadeva, the author of all Vedic literatures. The treasurehouse of knowledge is contained in the Vedas, and their author, Vyasadeva, accepts Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Vyasadeva's spiritual master, Narada, also accepts Krsna as such. Narada's spiritual master, Brahma, accepts Krsna not only as the Supreme Person but the supreme controller as well—isvarah paramah krsnah: "The supreme controller is Krsna."
There is no one in the creation who can claim that he is not controlled. Everyone, regardless of how important or powerful, has a controller over his head. Krsna, however, has no controller; therefore He is God. He is the controller of everyone, but there is no one superior to Him, no one to control Him; nor is there anyone equal to Him, no one to share His platform of absolute control. This may sound very strange, for there are many so-called gods nowadays. Indeed, gods have become very cheap, being especially imported from India. People in other countries are fortunate that gods are not manufactured there, but in India gods are manufactured practically every day. We often hear that God is coming to Los Angeles or New York and that people are gathering to receive Him, etc. But Krsna is not the type of God created in a mystic factory. No. He was not made God, but He is God.
We should know, then, on the basis of authority, that behind this gigantic material nature, the cosmic manifestation, there is God—Krsna—and that He is accepted by all Vedic authorities. Acceptance of authority is not new for us; everyone accepts authority—in some form or another. For education we go to a teacher or to a school or simply learn from our father and mother. They are all authorities, and our nature is to learn from them. In our childhood we asked, "Father, what is this?" and father would say, "This is a pen," "These are spectacles," or "This is a table." In this way, from the very beginnings of life a child learns from his father and mother. A good father and mother never cheat when their son inquires from them; they give exact and correct information. Similarly, if we get spiritual information from an authority, and if the authority is not a cheater, then our knowledge is perfect. However, if we attempt to reach conclusions by dint of our own speculative powers, we are subject to fall into error. The process of induction, by which, reasoning from particular facts or individual cases, one can arrive at a general conclusion, is never a perfect process. Because we are limited and our experience is limited, the inductive process of acquiring knowledge will always remain imperfect.
Krsna, the Perfect Source of Knowledge
But if we receive information from the perfect source, Krsna, and if we repeat that information, then what we are speaking can also be accepted as perfect and authoritative. This process of parampara, or disciplic succession, means hearing from Krsna, or from authorities who have accepted Krsna, and repeating exactly what they have said. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna recommends this process of knowledge: evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh. "This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way" (Bg. 4.2).
Formerly, knowledge was passed down by great saintly kings, who were the authorities. In previous ages, however, these kings were rsis—great learned scholars and devotees—and because they were not ordinary men the government which they headed worked very nicely. There are many instances in Vedic civilization of kings who attained perfection as devotees of God. For example, Dhruva Maharaja went to the forest to search out God, and by practice of severe penance and austerity he found God within six months.
The Krsna consciousness process is also based on austerity, but it is not very difficult. There are restrictions governing eating and sex life (only prasada, food first offered to Krsna, is taken, and sex is restricted to married life), and there are other regulations which facilitate and foster spiritual realization. It is not possible in these days to imitate Dhruva Maharaja, but by following certain basic Vedic principles, we can make advancement in spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness. As we advance, we become perfect in knowledge. What is the use in becoming a scientist or a philosopher if we cannot say what our next life will be? A realized student of Krsna consciousness can very easily say what his next life is, what God is, what the living entity is, and what his relationship with God is. His knowledge is perfect because it is coming from perfect books of knowledge, such as the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
This, then, is the process of Krsna consciousness. It is very easy, and anyone can adopt it and make his life perfect. If someone says, "I'm not educated at all, and I cannot read books," he is still not disqualified. He can still perfect his life by simply chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krsna has given us a tongue and two ears, and we may be surprised to know that Krsna is realized through the ears and tongue, not through the eyes. By hearing His message, we learn to control the tongue, and after the tongue is controlled, the other senses follow. Of all the senses, the tongue is the most voracious and difficult to control, but it can be controlled simply by chanting Hare Krsna and tasting Krsna prasada, food offered to Krsna.
We cannot understand Krsna by sensual perception or by speculation. It is not possible, for Krsna is so great that He is beyond our sensual range. But He can be understood by surrender. Krsna therefore recommends this process:
"Give up all varieties of religiousness, and just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore, you have nothing to fear" (Bg. 18.66).
Unfortunately, our disease is that we are rebellious—we automatically resist authority. Yet although we say that we don't want authority, nature is so strong that it forces authority upon us. We are forced to accept the authority of nature. What can be more pathetic than a man who claims to answer to no authority but who follows his senses blindly wherever they lead him? Our false claim to independence is simply foolishness. We are all under authority, yet we say that we don't want authority. This is called maya, illusion. We do, however, have a certain independence—we can choose to be under the authority of our senses or the authority of Krsna. The best and ultimate authority is Krsna, for He is our eternal well-wisher, and He always speaks for our benefit. Since we have to accept some authority, why not accept His? Simply by hearing of His glories from the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam and by chanting His names—Hare Krsna—we can swiftly perfect our lives.
"The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk.
This mantra is from the Isopanisad, the oldest of the famed Upanisads, which are the philosophic heart of the sacred scriptures of India. The mantra presents contradictions—by way of proving the inconceivable potencies of God. In India, as well as throughout the world, those who admit God's existence have always disputed whether God is impersonal or personal. The Mayavada school accepts only an impersonal aspect of the Lord and rejects His personal feature. The Bhagavata school (devoted to Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and represented today by the Krsna consciousness movement) accepts the Lord as both impersonal and personal.
We should not take it for granted that just because we cannot see God with our eyes, the Lord does not have a personal existence. The Isopanisad mantra refutes this argument by warning us that the Lord is "far away but very near as well." The abode of the Supreme Lord is far, far beyond the material sky, and its distance cannot even be measured. But despite the Lord's being so far away, He can at once, within less than a second, descend before us with a speed swifter than the mind or wind.
And there is no power to prevent the primeval Supreme Being from coming before us in the material world in His supreme personal form. For example, the Lord can appear in the form of Deities supposedly made of earth, stone, or wood. Although engraved from wood, stone, or other matter, these forms are not idols (as the iconoclasts contend). In our present state of imperfect material existence, we cannot see the Supreme Lord because of our imperfect senses. Yet those devotees who want to see Him by means of material vision are favored by the Lord, who appears in a so-called material form to accept His devotees' service. One should not think that such devotees are worshiping an idol. They are factually worshiping the Lord, who has agreed to appear before them in an approachable way. Nor is the Deity form fashioned to the whims of the worshiper. (This is the actual meaning of the Biblical injunction, "Thou shalt not worship a graven image"—one is forbidden to imagine a form and worship it as God.) The Deity form is authorized by scripture and exists eternally with all His paraphernalia. This can be actually felt by a sincere devotee, but not by an atheist. For the surrendered soul the Lord is always within reach, whereas for the unsurrendered soul He is far, far away and cannot be approached.
A case of mass brainwashing
By now it's no secret that the space scientists have cheated us out of billions of dollars. But the hoax is even more colossal than we could have imagined.
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, once described materialistic civilization as "a society of the cheaters and the cheated." Looking at our modern world, we can easily see why: massive advertising campaigns for cigarettes and liquor that promise pleasure but deliver disease; widespread gambling rackets of all kinds, some government-sponsored, that bilk the public of billions each year; high-level corruption of many leaders in industry and government that reveals a nearly total disregard for the public's welfare. From all this, and much more, the only conclusion to draw is that the vast majority of people, out of ignorance of a meaningful goal of life, actually desire to be cheated—actually feel the need for the false promises and outright lies of the hucksters to provide some hope of happiness from day to day. Thus a few clever, aggressive professionals take advantage of the ignorant masses and engage in large-scale cheating for their own selfish interests.
While cheating goes on in all fields of endeavor, one of the most outstanding is modern science. Scientists can make useful contributions to material life, but they become cheaters when they claim that science is (or someday will be) independent of the laws of nature. Theories such as "Life originates from matter and can be created in the laboratory," or "Since there is no supreme intelligence directing the universe, we [the scientists] are the only ones who can explain existence," are all bluffs perpetrated without a shred of scientific proof. Their only purpose is to advance the prestige of the scientists and net them billion-dollar government grants for endless research. Recent efforts to travel to the moon provide a prime example of this kind of lucrative mass "brainwashing," which is still succeeding with a large portion of the gullible public. Despite the tremendous volume of propaganda proclaiming the "conquest of outer space," we have information from a very reliable source, the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures, that the so-called "astronauts" never actually went to the moon. Although most people hold it as an article of absolute faith that man first reached the moon in July, 1969, the manned moon landing is actually a colossal hoax.
We realize that this is very difficult for you to accept, since it directly contradicts your established beliefs. But since you yourself have not actually gone to the moon, you owe it to yourself to consider why you are so confident that the "astronauts" actually have gone there. Why do you accept the popular version of the manned moon landing? Because you believe the authority of the scientists, the journalists, and the politicians who propagate that version. When we cite the Vedic scriptures, which state that the "astronauts" could not have gone to the moon, we are simply favoring another authority. In both cases, it is a matter of accepting an authority and believing what it says.
Now, why do we believe the Vedic scriptures rather than the material scientists? Because the Vedic scriptures differ from the conclusions of material science in that they are not based on imperfect sensory investigation, but are apaurusa, i.e., they emanate from God, who is beyond the material world. In other words, Vedic evidence stands above the defects of conditioned souls within the material world. Thus, when it comes to real scientific knowledge, the standard of Vedic authority is perfect because it originates directly from the all-perfect, omniscient Personality of Godhead.
The Vedic account of our planetary system is already researched, concluded, and perfect. The Vedas state that the moon is 800,000 miles farther from the earth than the sun. Therefore, even if we accept the modern calculation of 93 million miles as the distance from the earth to the sun, how could the "astronauts" have traveled to the moon—a distance of almost 94 million miles—in only 91 hours (the alleged elapsed time of the Apollo 11 moon trip)? This would require an average speed of more than one million miles per hour for the spacecraft, a patently impossible feat by even the space scientists' calculations.
Another important reason why the manned moon landing must be a hoax is that, according to the Vedas, each planet has its particular standard of living and atmosphere, and no one can transfer from one planet to another without becoming properly qualified. This means that if someone wants to go to Mars, for instance, he has to give up his present gross material body and acquire another one suitable for life on that particular planet. Vedic knowledge teaches that the living being doesn't die with the death of the body, but that he is an eternal spirit soul. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death" (Bhagavad-gita, 2.13). At the time of death the human being transfers to another material body according to the desires he cultivated and the work he performed during his lifetime. Therefore, since the moon has a particular standard of life and atmosphere, if one wants to travel there he has to adapt his material body to the conditions of that planet.
Even on the earth planet these restrictions hold true. For example, a human being cannot possibly live in the water, nor can a fish live on land. These are the rigid conditions of life, and any attempt to defy them is artificial and will fail. Similarly, just as you have to change your dress if you want to go from India to Europe, where the climatic conditions are different, so you also have to change your physical "dress" if you want to go to the specialized atmosphere of the moon. In other words, if you want to go to the moon or the sun or any other higher planet, you can keep your finer dress of mind, intelligence, and ego, but you have to leave behind your gross dress (your physical body) made of earth, water, fire, and other material elements, and acquire a body suitable for your destination.
Of course, none of this will help you solve the real problem of life—entrapment in the vicious cycle of birth and death. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita, even if one transfers in his next life to a very elevated position in the highest planet in the universe, Brahmaloka, he will still have to experience birth and death. The goal of human life is to free the soul from its continuous transmigration among different species of life on various planets, and to transfer to the spiritual planets, where life is eternal. To reach these planets, a complete change of both gross and subtle bodies is necessary, for one can reach the spiritual sky only in a spiritual form. We will elaborate on this a little later, but our point here is that you cannot simply force yourself onto another planet without the proper qualification.
Just as in the United States there are laws controlling the entry of foreigners through the issuance of visas, so in the universe there are also laws controlling the movement of all living beings—even astronauts and scientists—and unless one's karma is such that he deserves to take birth on the moon or the sun or the earth or wherever, he cannot defy the laws of nature and go there by force. The scientists are always claiming they are independent of nature's law, but even they have to submit to death and rebirth; they cannot check them. Similarly, they cannot go to the moon planet, which the Vedas describe not as a lifeless desert but as a heavenly planet of extraordinary material pleasures. Where the astronauts actually went, or how this fabrication of lunar visitation will one day be exposed to people in general, are not part of our present discussion. But the Vedic teachings warn us that the manned moon landing is certainly an empty bluff.
When we contradict the revered scientists like this and warn people that, through the use of brainwashing propaganda, they are being cheated out of billions of hard-earned tax dollars—we ourselves are accused of brainwashing. But which is better: a sober warning or a colossal multi-billion-dollar hoax? Furthermore, even if, for argument's sake, we accept that the "astronauts" did go to the moon, our main contention still holds: the moon excursion is a hoax, a mass brainwashing job. Why? Because it has no value. Even the scientists now admit its uselessness, and their interest in going to the moon has subsided. After many years of concentrated effort and billions of dollars of public money spent, the scientists have concluded that the moon is uninhabitable and have stopped trying to go there. But the public is encouraged to regard this failure as a wonderful achievement! "Just see! They have come back with some moon dust!" Long ago the Vedic literatures said the moon was uninhabitable by man, before going there the scientists themselves predicted they could not live in that atmosphere, and upon reaching the moon they discovered the same thing—that they could not live there. So what is the value of this kind of billion-dollar excursion, which has produced only a few rocks?
The scientists' stubbornness is like that of a boy who is repeatedly warned by his father not to stick his finger in the revolving blades of a fan, but who goes ahead and does it anyway, and is hurt. The scientists insisted that a lunar landing would prove the United States to be the most advanced nation. Never mind that it cost billions, which could have been spent on worthwhile projects, such as feeding the starving. The brainwashing was so extreme that at one point Pan American Airlines was even selling tickets to the moon, and there was talk of colonizing it, although everyone acknowledged that it is impossible to live there. And yet if we speak out strongly against this nonsense, people say we are brainwashed—for not believing in the bluff of the moon excursion. Now, having squeezed as much prestige as possible out of their great "success" in reaching the moon, the scientists have become disappointed and set their sights on Mars—and the huge expenditure of public funds goes on.
Again, we do not say that man should neglect science, but rather that he should practice science according to the authorized knowledge of the laws of nature. The scientists should not attempt to defy the laws of nature, or those of God, but should work humbly in harmony with the real purpose of human life—liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Despite all scientific theorizing, research, and technology, the scientists do not even know the nature of the life within the body, how life enters the body, and where life goes after death. Not being able to produce even the smallest living creature, and being unable to stop death, the modern scientists should not consider themselves the all-in-all.
If we desire to praise someone for scientific achievements, let us praise the Great Brain who is actually controlling all living beings by directing His material energy, and who regulates the immense machinery of the universe. Let us follow Lord Brahma, who sings in the Vedic scripture Brahma-samhita (5.52): "I worship Govinda [Krsna], the primeval Lord, by whose order the sun assumes immense power and heat and traverses its orbit." The sun is a creation of God; it is not a creation of the scientists. So also are the oceans and the great mountains, the resources of nature, and outer space—all are works of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As for machine-making, the material energy of Krsna, the Supreme Energetic, has expertly fashioned male and female forms that go on reproducing themselves without further assistance from Him. And this happens over and over in millions of species. Can the scientists create such replicating machines? Can they create a sun and keep it floating perpetually in space? Can they create the oceans, the brain of a great scientist like Einstein, or even an ant or an amoeba? No. All these scientific achievements are the works of God. And when God Himself speaks through authorized scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, He explicitly says, "Do not waste your time trying to go to the moon; that is not your place." If the godless human scientists defy this Supreme Scientist and Supreme Controller, then disaster will befall them and whoever follows them. Therefore we are protesting a godless science that defies God's laws.
In Easy Journey to Other Planets, written back in 1959, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada warned us that attempting to reach the moon by materialistic methods is a waste of time. In a speech ten years later he further explained:
If we go to live on the moon-assuming that it is possible—even with an oxygen mask, how long could we stay? Furthermore, even if we had the opportunity to stay there, what would we gain? We might gain a little longer life perhaps, but we could not live there forever. That is impossible. And what would we gain by a longer life?... Near San Francisco I have seen a forest where there is a tree 7,000 years old. But what is the benefit? If one is proud of standing in one place for 7,000 years, that is not a very great credit.
Of course, scientists, journalists, and politicians are not known for considering things in the philosophical light of transcendental knowledge, but a sober fact to consider is this: if, even after all the scientists' achievements, we must still die and suffer the miseries of repeated birth and death, then what is the benefit of that science? Krsna tells us not to waste our valuable time with things that are only temporary and do not lead to liberation from birth and death. "Don't waste your time going from this planet to that planet," He says in the Bhagavad-gita. "Your material miseries will only follow you." So the moon excursion is a hoax in yet another, all-important sense: the scientists are leading people to believe they will be happy if they go to the moon, but when considered in the context of the eternal soul's welfare, going to the moon and living there for many, many years still won't solve the problems of life. It is a hoax to claim that the endeavor to travel to other planets will bring happiness. A person can be happy only if he receives information from authorized scriptures about the nature of the soul and the method of liberating the soul from his suffering condition. This liberation is the goal of Krsna consciousness.
And yet, when we warn people not to waste their lives in temporary achievements, when we warn them not to engage in sinful activities that will force them to transmigrate to lower planets and lower forms of life—they accuse us of being duped and spreading false propaganda. But we will not be quieted by their accusations. As devotees of Krsna, we must go on repeating His instructions for everyone's benefit. As Krsna tells us in His incarnation as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, "Instruct everyone to follow the teachings of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in the world."
So you have to decide who is actually cheating: the materialist, who promises happiness in the context of temporary advancement and enjoyment, and who thereby ignores the eternal soul, or the spiritualist, the Krsna conscious person, who says, "Always think of Krsna and become His devotee. Worship Him and bow down before Him. If you practice in this way, at the end of life you will certainly return to the supreme spiritual planet, which is eternal and free from all miseries, because of your full absorption in and devotion to the Lord."
When we state that the material scientists are mistaken about where the planets are situated in space, we go against the deep faith of most people. The common man thinks, "But they have figured everything out mathematically. They have Ph.D.'s and Nobel Prizes, and they are using gigantic telescopes to measure the heavens with great accuracy." In fact, however, the scientists themselves are the first to admit that they constantly make mistakes and have to revise their theories.
The real point is that no matter how huge a telescope is, or how precisely the data it reports is handled by a computer, the scientists themselves, being ordinary conditioned souls, suffer from four basic defects that completely invalidate their conclusions. These defects are stated in the Vedic scriptures to be bhrama, pramada, vipralipsa, and karanapatava.
The first defect (bhrama) is the tendency to make mistakes. For example, Columbus discovered America, but he thought it was India. Similarly, the so-called "astronauts" may have gone somewhere, but it wasn't to the moon, as they believe.
The second defect (pramada) is the tendency to become illusioned. A good example of mass illusion is that almost everyone identifies himself as his body rather than as his real self, the soul within the body. This indicates a nearly universal lack of the most basic knowledge.
The third defect (vipralipsa) is the tendency to cheat. There are many cases on record of researchers attempting to prove a pet theory by doctoring up their laboratory findings. But doubtless the most harmful deception occurs when the scientists, knowing themselves prone to error and illusion, still put forward their jerry-built theories as gospel truth before an innocent public.
The fourth defect (karanapatava) is the imperfection of our gross senses. For instance, regardless of how perfect a telescopic lens may be, it is the defective eyes and brain of a human being (the scientist) that have to perceive and interpret the data. Therefore his conclusions are bound to contain some error.
These are some serious reasons to reject the material scientists' contention that they possess real, factual knowledge. We should not give them much credit, nor should we accept what they say about the nature of the universe. Rather, we should realize that they are fallible men, subject to great imperfection. Perfect knowledge is beyond them.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
"Deprogramming" Smashed in NY Court
The Krsna consciousness movement has defeated a highly publicized challenge to the authority and value of its spiritual teachings. On March 17, New York State Supreme Court Justice John J. Leahy threw out indictments charging two leaders of the Society's New York chapter with attempted extortion and illegal imprisonment of members through "brainwashing."
Last October, Queens District Attorney Michael Schwed had raised many eyebrows—and spurred scholars, lawyers, Hindus, devotees, and many others to protest—when he jailed Trai dasa and Adi-Kesava Swami on the "brainwashing" and extortion charges. At that time Schwed had spoken of the Krsna consciousness movement as a "frightening group that uses mind control to create an army of zombies, or robots, who could undermine the government and law enforcement."
But the District Attorney fled the courtroom in embarrassment on March 17 when Justice Leahy handed down his decision. "The entire and basic issue before this court," said the judge, "is whether or not the two alleged victims in this case [Merylee Kreshower and Edward Shapiro] and the defendants will be allowed to practice the religion of their choice—and this must be answered with a resounding affirmative.
"The Hare Krsna religion is a bona fide religion, with roots in India that go back thousands of years. It behooved Merylee Kreshower and Edward Shapiro to follow the tenets of that faith, and their inalienable right to do so will not be trammeled upon... The presentment and indictment by the grand jury was in direct and blatant violation of the defendants' constitutional rights.
"It appears to the court that the people rest their case on an erroneous minor premise to arrive at a fallacious conclusion. The record is completely devoid of one specific allegation of a misrepresentation or an act of deception on the part of any defendant."
Justice Leahy stressed that his decision was a "dire caveat to prosecutional agencies throughout the length and breadth of the land." Citing the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, he said:
"The freedom to practice a religion is not to be abridged because the religion is unconventional in its beliefs and practices or because it is approved or disapproved by the mainstream of society or more conventional religions. Without this proliferation and freedom to follow the dictates of one's own conscience in one's search for and approach to God, the freedom of religion will be a meaningless right as provided for in the Constitution.
"Any attempt, be it circuitous, direct, well-intentioned or not, presents a clear and present danger to this most fundamental, basic and eternally needed right of all American citizens—freedom of religion."
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has commented in this connection that "by false propaganda you cannot suppress the truth." Certainly those interested in God consciousness may have to tolerate criticism, or even persecution, for that is the way of history. But we are sure that in due course of time all sincere, intelligent persons will appreciate Srila Prabhupada's great benediction to humanity: devotional service to the Lord, Sri Krsna.
Scholars Shed Light On "Cult" Controversy
An increasing number of academicians are taking strong objection to the accusation of a few self-proclaimed "deprogrammers" that the Hare Krsna movement is a type of "brainwashing cult." Protesting the charge that Krsna consciousness robs an individual of his freedom of thought, dozens of members of the New England Psychological Association recently signed a petition decrying "the use of colloquial terms [like 'brainwashing' or 'mind control'] as legal weapons against a legitimate religious minority." And in St. Louis, at a joint convention of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American School of Oriental Literature, over two hundred scholars declared the Hare Krsna movement to be a bona fide spiritual organization in the Indian tradition. Indeed, scholars all over the world have expressed their deep appreciation of ISKCON's work, particularly the publication of many volumes of classic Vedic texts in English, French, German, Spanish, and other languages.
One of ISKCON's most outspoken supporters has been Dr. Joseph T. O'Connell, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at St. Michael's College and Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Studies at the University of Toronto. He recently wrote as follows:
"The Hare Krsna movement is but the most recent phase of an ancient tradition of religious piety known in India as Vaishnavism. The devotees in the Hare Krsna temples live a full and active life of study, prayer, singing, and day-to-day management of the temple's activities. Many are also active in a variety of more practical tasks, such as the publishing and sale of books, the manufacture of incense, the operation of vegetarian restaurants, and the launching of a small dance-drama company. All observe abstention from meat, intoxicants, and drugs. Only between married couples is sexual union permitted. In my judgement, it is indeed fortunate for these individuals and for the society in which they live that there has been available this outwardly exotic but inwardly authentic and well-rounded way of religious communal life.
"Accordingly, it is deeply disturbing to me to find young men and women who are finding personal religious authenticity in the Hare Krsna movement being subjected to gross misrepresentation, kidnapping, and other harassment of their personal integrity and religious convictions. I can well appreciate that many parents are baffled and disappointed to find their children alienated from their former way of life. To such parents I would say, 'Please try to be calm and talk with persons who have some understanding of young adults and of the new communities into which they have gone. But please, do not be misled by the professional "deprogrammers." They are engaged in a parasitic business that feeds upon fear and misunderstanding and uses illegal and brutal means. Whatever may be the mixture of misguided zeal and pecuniary interest motivating the "deprogrammers;" what they are doing is wrong and should be stopped.' "
Thousands Attend ISKCON Festival in Bengal
Each spring hundreds of ISKCON devotees from all corners of the world assemble in the sacred Indian villages of Mayapur and Vrndavana for a joyous celebration. The occasion is the anniversary of the appearance of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krsna who inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement some five hundred years ago.
This year more than four hundred devotees undertook the pilgrimage. For many it meant over twenty-five straight hours of travel by chartered 747 jet. After the flight from New York City landed in Calcutta, the devotees boarded buses for the short ride to ISKCON temple grounds in Mayapur, on the bank of the Ganges in West Bengal. Finally, the weary but joyful pilgrims settled into newly-built quarters just a few minutes' walk from Lord Caitanya's birthplace.
Each day of the two-week Mayapur festival was packed with a variety of Krsna-conscious activities. The devotees toured local holy spots, attended classes on bhakti-yoga, and saw the Vaikuntha Players of New York perform dance and drama from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, traditional Indian histories. The highlight of the program was the evening lectures on Krsna-conscious culture given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of ISKCON, and prominent Indian citizens like M. Bannerjee, Minister of Education for West Bengal. And, of course, prasada (spiritual food) was freely distributed, both to the devotees and to the hundreds of thousands of Indian guests who visited the center during the festival. The climax was a ten-course feast for ten thousand on the full-moon night of Lord Caitanya's appearance.
From Mayapur, the devotees traveled 750 miles to Vrndavana, the rural village ninety miles south of Delhi where Lord Krsna displayed His childhood pastimes five thousand years ago. The Vrndavana festival featured daily workshops in such arts as Deity worship and Vedic cooking. And in nearby Mathura, the actual birthplace of Lord Krsna, the devotees put on a lavish exhibition of chanting, lectures, plays, and ISKCON art and books-as well as prasada distribution to thousands.
Chief Justice Praises Book That "Breathes Devotion on Every Page"
Dr. P.B. Mukharji, the eminent former Chief Justice of the province of West Bengal, India, recently expressed his great delight with the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (The Character of the Living Force in Immortality), by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
"I was delighted to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It is an account of the life of Lord Caitanya, the central themes of whose life were love for God, love for humanity, and love for the entire creation. This book breathes divinity and devotion on every page, and it brings an eternal message for the temporal world."
"Although He lived five hundred years ago, Sri Krsna Caitanya is relevant to every aspect of modern life. Intellectually, He was the most supreme and superb scholar, learned in all the scriptures and an adept in all the yogic disciplines. Philosophically, His profoundly penetrating intellect cut through all the cobwebs of human thinking and pointed to the sure and final goal. In religion He is relevant today because He was cosmopolitan and universal, and socially He is relevant today because for Him there was no division, no difference, no castes, no priests, and no sects. In fact, all wealth, privilege, birth, and even tradition lost all validity before Him. From that point of view He was a great revolutionary. But His revolution did not hurt or defeat; it transformed human nature. Politically He is relevant today because He showed the way to passive resistance against evil."
"This book, with the commentaries, is an intellectual, cultural, and spiritual landmark in the world. It is a book which should be in the library of every reader who values the essential glories of human life and the ultimate destiny of he universe."
Last October a Queens, New York, grand jury leveled charges of extortion and "imprisonment through brainwashing" against New York ISKCON Temple President Adi-Kesava Swami. In mid-February of this year, one month before State Supreme Court Justice John J. Leahy threw the case out of court, Adi-Kesava traveled to ISKCON's temple in Mayapur, India, to take advice from his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The following excerpts from their conversations on the subject of "brainwashing" are reproduced from the journal of Srila Prabhupada's secretary.
February 17, 1977: Srila Prabhupada said, "The whole world is under a misconception, and we are giving them knowledge. And yet they say we are brainwashing. People in general do not know that the body is valuable only as long as the soul is there. Therefore, their brain is rubbish and must be washed, or human civilization is lost."
Later Srila Prabhupada gave this argument: "We are not brainwashing, but brain-giving. Where is your brain? You must first have a brain; then we can talk of washing it. You don't know who you are. Take a dead man and a living man—what is the difference? Because you do not know, you have no brain, and therefore you misunderstand. We can give evidence in court from the Bhagavad-gita to show this. We can prove that you have no brain. You are like the cats and dogs, even if you pose as a philosopher. For centuries this information has been missing: tatha dehantara praptih, 'The soul is changing, one body after another.' A person who has a brain will understand this simple logic. The body is changing from childhood to youth. When the important thing, the soul, is missing, it is a dead body. Where is your brain to understand it? Arjuna was chastised for this by Krsna, who said, 'You have no brain, and you are lamenting about the body.' They don't know the real thing, despite their big talk. They say life is a combination of chemicals; but then mix them and let life come. You can't do it. You are cheating people. You have no brain at all."
Adi-Kesava Swami [playing the part of an opponent]: "But I have a brain; therefore, I am able to talk with you."
Srila Prabhupada: What is the difference between that talking and the barking of a dog? A dog is alert to someone coming from a distance, even more than a man. Your talking is not proof of a brain.
Adi-Kesava Swami: "But we have art and science."
Srila Prabhupada: Whatever you have, you cannot answer the ultimate question. Within the body is the real power. Because he is there, the body is changing. The body is like a dress. You should quote the Bhagavad-gita.
Adi-Kesava Swami: Another complaint is that they say we make a person lose his identity by brainwashing him.
Srila Prabhupada: But who are they? They do not know who they are. They are identifying the self with the body. That is brainwashing.
Adi-Kesava Swami: Well, they may say that "all this discussion of the soul is beyond our knowledge."
Srila Prabhupada: "It is beyond our knowledge" means you can't understand.
February 19, 1977: This morning Srila Prabhupada called for all the sannyasis [fully renounced preachers of Krsna consciousness]. "Be convinced of this," he said. "I am saying that everyone in the world has no brain, and we only are brain-giving. Why do I say this? Because I challenge the world's scientists and great thinkers: 'You just produce a machine like the body.' But they cannot. This machine is produced by God. Actually, God Himself does not make this machine. His servant, the material energy, makes the machine: Just see His intelligence. 'The Supreme Lord is seated in everyone's heart,' says the Bhagavad-gita. I am an ordinary man, and yet I can get things done—not directly, but by asking my disciples. So why can't God do this? The machine of the body is made by His material nature. How is it made? They don't know. If I challenge them to produce such a machine, they cannot. How this machine is being made by maya, or the material energy, we shall give them the brain to know. We should not be dull and simply accept whatever the scientists say, by noting, 'Yes, you are right.' No. At every step we must say, 'You are wrong. You have no brain.' "
Adi-Kesava Swami: Well, they say they have actually created a machine which is more complex than a man.
Srila Prabhupada: But that machine is worked by another man. And who made that man? They cannot even understand God's material nature, what to speak of the Supreme.
Adi-Kesava Swami: When we argue like this, they just change the subject.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you let them? Capture them.
Adi-Kesava Swami: Well, they will say, "You are talking of religion...
Srila Prabhupada: We are not talking of religion! You don't know religion. We are talking of machines. An animal has no religion. Later we can talk of that. Now talk of machines. Religion is far away from you. And even if you could manufacture one living machine, these machines are now being created in such numbers that you are trying to stop their creation by abortion. So, so many are already being produced by nature. If you can create one, what will be your credit?
Adi-Kesava Swami: They will say, "We will make a better machine than God has made."
Srila Prabhupada: Oh. You cannot capture a garter snake, and now you are saying you will catch a cobra.
Adi-Kesava Swami: "Well, you can't make a brain either."
Srila Prabhupada: We don't say that we have a great brain. We are a servant. Our Master will show the brain. But you are a godless rascal. You have the onus of proof on you.
A Report from France
Now that they've seen everything from bad priests to bogey yogis, the French are more than a little embittered. But when they see people living the authentic life of devotion to God, they feel enlivened.
Text by Yogesvara dasa
By 6:00 P.M. on a chilly September day, rural France has already slipped into darkness. Passing swiftly through villages and towns in our Citroen van, we look out at row upon row of churches silhouetted against the moonlit evening sky—flimsy bastions against the forces of evil. We ride quickly down cobblestone streets, past small shops where old ladies in long black dresses weave precious dentelles for altars and parlors. The typical smell of French bread and cheese pervades the air.
For a few weeks I have put aside my work of translating Krsna-conscious books into French and joined the devotees in the field for book distribution. It has been three years since I went on traveling sankirtana, but I seem to be making the adjustment well. We are five in the van and the hardy mood of spiritual pioneering predominates. There is a distinct sense of mission, devoid of false prestige. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the munificent incarnation of Lord Krsna who appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago, once predicted, "In every town and village My name will be chanted." Now, as we travel to the remotest corners of France to distribute the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I am seeing the fulfillment of that prophecy.
The other devotees in our party (Pitavasa, Jagadvasi, Sahasramurdhan, and Prasannatma) are enthusiastic to interest the French people in the life of Krsna consciousness. And the French are a receptive audience. Every month more than forty thousand French BACK TO GODHEADS circulate in France and French-speaking Switzerland. The French edition of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is (La Bhagavad-gita Telle Qu'Elle Est) has already sold out two printings of twenty-five thousand copies in one year. In addition, despite recent controversy over the tactics and political ambitions of certain pseudoreligious sects in France, the Krsna consciousness movement has emerged with a unique reputation for integrity and authenticity.
On the road, our party's daily routine is rigorous. Up at 4:00 A.M., we are more often than not parked in an open field, by a running stream if possible. We shower from jerry cans of fresh water, dress by candlelight. The resilience of sankirtana devotees comes from a combination of youthful exuberance and a strong faith in the potency of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. Simply by giving out books and magazines on the science of bhakti-yoga, the devotees are helping people all over the world lend spiritual strength to their lives. Unlike communism, which is also popular among French youth, Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement accomplishes with a few regulative principles and the chanting of the holy names what no political or social revolution could do: it cleanses the heart of lust, anger, and greed, and plants the seed of love of God.
Often the devotees speak with priests in charge of particularly historic cathedrals, but these structures are mere vestiges of a Church once awesome in its political power and wealth. Today the youth of France are openly hostile to religion or anything reminiscent of Divine Right, because Church leaders have failed both to present God consciousness on a platform of intelligent dialogue and to practice what they preach. Thus, spiritualism in contemporary France has atrophied for lack of substance. The pages of Marxist-Leninist publications ("Bibles" for a large section of French youth) are best read between the lines. They reveal a bitterness toward Christian dogma and the threat of damnation, and a defiant affirmation of man's absolute independence, without need of any God to help him. This hubris finds its expression in popular French songs, such as "Ni Dieu Ni Maitre" ("No God, No Master").
On the other hand, the majority of French people, both young and old, have had a Catholic training early in life. There are relatively few political activists outside hot spots like Paris and Marseilles, and despite the prominence of communist sentiment (the President defeated his communist-supported opponent by less than one percentage point in the last national election), interest in Krsna consciousness is strong. Two years ago over twenty-five hundred people turned out to hear Srila Prabhupada lecture at the Salle Pleyel in Paris; every Sunday 150 to 200 guests attend the festival at the Paris temple; and every week hundreds of letters stream into our New Mayapur farm in central France, requesting information, books, and membership.
So, with full faith in the impact our preaching is having in France, we are now traveling from town to town and introducing hundreds of people to Krsna consciousness each day. A typical encounter might go like this:
"Bonjour, we are from the Krsna movement. We have an album of traditional Indian songs [recorded by the Paris temple music group, "Vrindavan"] and books on the philosophy of Vedic culture. People make donations for our publications, and the money goes to maintain our programs in France. We have a farm near Valencay and a school for children."
After some discussion people often ask, "Do you work?"
"Oh yes, not only do we work the land on our farm, but many of us work outside the community as well. The President of our association, Monsieur Dilhaire, is a professional architect. In addition, apart from our own studies, we have lecture programs at the high schools and universities, a publications bureau that produces French translations of ancient Sanskrit texts..."
On rare occasions, someone in a shop or office will ask, "What is your philosophy?" This is an opportunity for us to explain how the living being is not the material body but an eternal spirit soul, how each spirit soul is part and parcel of God, how Krsna is the name of God given in the Vedic scriptures, how He is the cause of all causes, and how He can be known by serving Him with devotion under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master.
As we talk with people, two topics appear foremost in their minds: the failing economy and the incompetence of organized religion to offer any viable solutions. Having so often had their confidence betrayed and their hopes for miracles shattered, people have become disillusioned with religion or anything related to it. In addition, outsiders masquerading as spiritual mentors have encouraged cynicism by creating an aura of politics and money around the search for truth. And rumors of nefarious tactics ("mind control," "brainwashing") have simply added fuel to the fire. Still, people are anxious to voice their concern to us.
Regarding the miserable economy, one merchant in the Massif Central remarks, "What's happening today reminds me exactly of the conditions preceding World War II. Things are going down so fast, I expect a revolution of some kind."
"So what to do?" I ask.
"I thought you were the ones with all the answers. Maybe one day I'll join your movement. One never knows. What do I have to do—shave my head?"
The combination of his friendly derision and frank helplessness strikes me as ironic, and many others echo his sentiments. Here are people who have seen Nazi occupation. They have known fanaticism. So naturally they are extremely cautious when approached by someone presenting an unfamiliar philosophy. Nonetheless, their desire to know an alternative to the present difficult conditions is unmistakably real. Thus, despite their reluctance and doubts, these people of rural France commonly establish a unique rapport with the devotees, as if the devotees were gradually replacing the village chaplains in their role of confidante and spiritual advisor. But suddenly the "chaplain" is no longer an agent of ecclesiastical manipulation ("Mr. Dupuy, we didn't see you in Mass last Sunday"), but a student of spiritual science, qualified to answer questions on practical spiritual life.
"No, you don't have to shave your head," I reply. "You can keep your usual dress. The only necessity is to read the Bhagavad-gita regularly, offer your food in devotion to Lord Krsna, and not do anything to hinder your spiritual progress. We are having a conference next month at the Saint Etienne Cultural Center. Why don't you come? We're going to show slides of our farm community and discuss programs for this part of the country."
"Perhaps," replies the merchant, "if I have the time. Not much time for anything these days. Business is so bad. But you're very nice. Here's a donation for your farm, and sure, I'll read your magazine."
As I leave his shop, I can see several people in the street with Bhagavad-gitas under their arms. (They obviously have met my Godbrothers down the street.) By the end of the week, people are stopping us to ask for another book or record for a friend or relative.
Pitavasa remarks later in the van, "They're really interested. In one shop I met the head librarian and showed her the Srimad-Bhagavatam. She said, 'Oh, un autre petit bijou! [Oh, another little gem!]' and gave me seventy francs. She has all the other French editions of Srila Prabhupada's books, from the time devotees were here last year."
Jagadvasi recalls an evening we spent with some interested people from Firminy. "There were about a dozen people. They had heard about the meeting from the lady who owns the health food shop. So when we arrived, cars were parked all up and down the road. We prepared a feast of pakoras, samosas, subji, lassi, and sweet rice and offered it to Krsna with kirtana, and we talked with everyone during the feast. They appreciated that we offered our food to God. They were already interested in yoga, so they had a lot of questions about different spiritual masters, exercises, and so on."
"What do you tell people," asks Sahasramurdhan, "when they want to know our opinion of such-and-such swami or guru?"
"I cite those verses from the Bhagavad-gita:
imam vivasvate yoga
A real spiritual master is coming in disciplic succession from the Lord, therefore, whatever he presents is authentic spiritual knowledge. And it can be verified by reference to scripture. Also, he must practice the teachings of scripture in his own life."
"But they always say, 'Yes, so-and-so was the disciple of so-and-so, and he was always in trance.' "
"Then I would explain that you must judge a guru by the results of his teachings. If his teachings are authentic, then his followers will develop love of God. And the proof will be that they obey the orders of God, such as 'Thou shalt not kill.' And there are other indications of a true spiritual master given in the scriptures. One is that he never claims to be God, but rather the humble servant of God, and he petitions people to become God's devotees."
"But then they argue..."
"If they are looking to argue, then what can you do?" interjects Sahasramurdhan. "If they are sincerely interested, they will be sensitive to what is real and what is bogus. But if they are just trying to haggle with us, how do you expect them to understand? The best reply I have heard was the one Srila Prabhupada gave the Theosophists who came to see him in Geneva. He said that only one who is in knowledge of Krsna can speak about Krsna. If people want to know about something else, they can go elsewhere. That is their own concern. But in our movement we speak of Krsna on the basis of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the predecessor acaryas [spiritual masters]. If someone wants to know about Krsna, he can come to us.' "
Everyone agrees that Srila Prabhupada's approach would be better than trying to argue the pros and cons of various other practices and teachers.
The discussion returns to the sankirtana program and its great success in France. "Sometimes," says Prasannatma, "I have to walk for half an hour in these small towns before coming to a house. But then someone will open the door and say, 'Oh, I have been hoping you would pass by this way. Do you have the Bhagavad-gita?' It's incredible, but many people greet us as if they'd been waiting patiently at the door."
Jagadvasi responds, "That's happened to me, too. Even in the poorest sections of town, people show such real interest."
"That proves real religion is not something dependent on economic or political factors," remarks Prasannatma. "The old lady in the pastry shop or the big boss from the local textile factory—you meet people in all kinds of social conditions, people frustrated by materialistic life and looking for spiritual knowledge. Their questions are often very elevated, about the nature of the soul or the purpose of yoga..."
This is an important point. George Hegel, the German historian (much read in France), hypothesized that religion was a by-product of social necessity. He saw the function of religion as being what French youth call "white communism," the class struggle hidden behind a mask of self-righteousness and piety. The brahmanas of Vedic times, said Hegel, were like today's bourgeoisie, feeding off the labor of the lower classes, the proletariat. Thus, according to Hegel, the ultimate issue in human society—that of the haves versus the have-nots, the exploiters versus the exploited—was found even in the Vedic culture.
There are numerous fallacies in Hegel's arguments, but the most outstanding is simply that he has taken the India of recent history, a country twisted by colonialism and the influences of Western materialism, and drawn general conclusions about the intrinsic value of a God-conscious culture. The Krsna conscious sankirtana devotees, however, are living proof of a contrary conclusion. Their example of active devotion to God, decorated with the rare qualities of austerity, compassion, cleanliness, and honesty, disproves the theory that Krsna consciousness is another brand of religious hypocrisy. The devotees are offering the greatest service to mankind by distributing God consciousness and introducing practical programs for the spiritual upliftment of society. In exchange for publications on the science of Krsna consciousness, they ask people to make some contribution. This should not be seen as charity, but rather as an insignificant price to pay for the most invaluable knowledge.
After several weeks of distributing books with the sankirtana party, I have now returned to the New Mayapur farm. I see many new faces, and the farm is buzzing with activity: publishing work at the press, teaching at the Gurukula (the children's school), construction of houses and beehives, planting and harvesting, classes and kirtanas. It is at moments like these that I feel closest to Srila Prabhupada, seeing how, by his mercy, people everywhere are becoming happy in Krsna consciousness.
The Song of God in English Verse
by Hiranyagarbha dasa
(Based on the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
The Bhagavad-gita, originally composed in Sanskrit five thousand years ago, is the literal record of the words of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The essence of all Vedic scriptures, it contains the most advanced science of God consciousness in the world.
There have been many translations of the Gita, but the translation of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the only one that imparts the Gita's original spirit and not the commentator's self-interested opinions. In essence, the Gita tells us that we should accept Sri Krsna as the Supreme Lord and surrender to Him—this is the very purpose of human life. Hiranyagarbha dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has carefully followed the authorized teachings without attempting to change the message. He has simply rendered it in his own poetic style. Here are a few excerpts from the second and fourth chapters, prefaced by a dedication and a glorification of the Gita.
In Praise Of The Gita
O Bhagavad-gita, song of God,
You shower spiritual nectar
As one takes bath to cleanse himself
By your words alone we'll be freed
So let there be just one scripture—
And let Sri Krsna's holy names
From Chapter Two: "The Gita Summarized"
Seeing intimate relatives and teachers on the enemy side, Arjuna loses his resolve to fight and sits down on his chariot in great fear and confusion. Krsna then teaches him not to fear the outcome of the fight, because the soul is eternal and can never be killed.
The Supreme Lord said:
In matters for which learned men
Those who don't know the scriptures' truths
Neither you nor I nor all these kings
Just as we pass from child to youth
Although we all must go through this,
The higher truth, which never dies,
The body meets destruction,
So therefore you should fight, Arjuna,
From Chapter Four: "Transcendental Knowledge"
Here Lord Krsna personally describes His own transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord and His purpose in coming to the material world.
The Supreme Lord said:
Through many births we both have passed
Arjuna, My friend, you too were there,
But Arjuna, I am never born,
I have no need to come to earth;
When irreligion dominates
When no one else but I could do
I annihilate the miscreants
My birth and My activities,
(to be continued)
O Prabhupada! You hold the torch
You are the only preacher here,
But my purpose is to please you;