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Volume 12, Number 07, 1977


A short statement on the philosophy of Krsna...
Chant and be happy...
What Thomas Aquinas Knew and Didn't Know...
How to Uplift the Unfortunate
The Demons Among Us
A Hopeful Note
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
F.A.T.E. - the First American Theistic Exibition
The Advent, Exile, and Triumph of Lord Ramacandra

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

A short statement on the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness

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
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

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Chant and be happy...

Mahadeva dasa, book distributor: "I've been chanting Hare Krsna for over three years, and the more I chant the more I can see that this chanting is an ever-fresh experience. By absorbing my mind in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, I feel the spiritual strength and conviction to offer this chanting process to everyone. I feel this is the highest welfare work. People are suffering, because they're ignorant of their real, spiritual self. But as the scriptures say, 'if one simply chants the holy name of Krsna, this holy name will rise within his heart like the powerful sun and immediately dissipate all the darkness of ignorance.'"

Dvarakanatha dasa, schoolteacher, with family: "We knew that family life would be most successful if it had a central purpose. So we tried country living, gardening, a VW bus, a good-paying job, and natural foods. But none of these satisfied us. Now, by chanting Hare Krsna, we've made Lord Krsna the center of our lives. We chant together every day and read about Krsna in the books of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. More and more we're feeling unselfish in our family relationships and happy just being together to glorify Krsna and His pure devotees."

Mike Gabbard, Dean of Students, American Samoa Community College: "Like most people, I often get caught up in the rush of events that go on around me. Chanting Hare Krsna helps me remember the real purpose in my life—loving service to God."

Here at ISKCON's center in Montreal, Quebec, everyone chants the Hare Krsna mantra, including the children. Chanting is simple to understand. It isn't anything artificial to be imposed on the mind—it's something sublime to purify our hearts. We're all originally Krsna-conscious spiritual entities, and chanting Hare Krsna is the easiest method for reviving our dormant, pure state of God consciousness.

Find out more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.

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What Thomas Aquinas Knew and Didn't Know About the Kingdom of God

Thomas Aquinas saw through the eyes of logic and gave us a logical but incomplete picture of God and His kingdom. The Krsna-conscious spiritual master sees through the eyes of his own spiritual master and the Vedic literatures-and gives us the complete picture.

Hayagriva dasa: Thomas Aquinas compiled the entire Church doctrine in Summa Theologica, which constitutes the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. He also systematized a good deal of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. Aquinas believed that religious truths are attained through both reason and revelation. He also agreed with Augustine, who said: "I believe in order that I may understand" and "I understand in order that I may believe." Thus reason and revelation complement one another as means to truth.

Srila Prabhupada: Since human reason is not perfect, revelation is also needed. As Srila Rupa Goswami has stated, sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: "When we engage our senses in the Lord's service, the Lord reveals Himself to us." The truth is attained through logic, philosophy, and revelation. According to the Vaisnava tradition, we arrive at the truth through the guru, the spiritual master, who is accepted as the representative of the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. The guru can transmit the message of the truth because he has seen the Absolute Truth through the disciplic succession [the chain of authorized spiritual masters]. If we accept the bona fide spiritual master and please him by submissive service, by virtue of his mercy and pleasure we can understand God and the spiritual world by revelation. We therefore offer our respects to the spiritual master in the prayer yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: "By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krsna."

Hayagriva dasa: In the thirteenth century, Church scholars considered logical proof for God's existence important, and Aquinas set forth five basic arguments. The first maintains that God necessarily exists as the first cause. The second states that the material world cannot create itself but needs something external, or spiritual, to bring it into existence. The third argument claims that because the world exists, there must necessarily be a creator capable of creating it. Fourth, since there is relative perfection in the world, there must be an absolute perfection underlying it. Fifth, since the creation has design and purpose, there must be a designer who has planned it.

Srila Prabhupada: We also honor these arguments. Without a father and mother, children cannot be brought into existence. Modern philosophers do not consider this strongest argument for the existence of God. According to the Brahma-samhita Krsna is sarva-karana-karanam, the cause of all causes. Everything has a cause, and God is the ultimate cause.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas also states that the relative perfection we find in this material world necessitates an absolute perfection.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the spiritual world is absolute perfection, and this temporary material world is but a reflection of that spiritual world. Whatever perfection we find in this material world is derived from the spiritual world. According to the Vedanta-sutra, janmady asya yatah: "Whatever is generated comes from the Absolute Truth."

Hayagriva dasa: There are some scientists today who acknowledge Aquinas's argument that since we can see nothing that can create itself in the material world, something external, or spiritual, is required to bring the material world into existence.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a mountain cannot create anything, but a human being can give form to a stone. A mountain may be very large, but it remains a stone incapable of giving shape to anything.

Hayagriva dasa: Unlike Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas maintained that God created the universe out of nothing.

Srila Prabhupada: No. God created the universe by His various energies, but God and his energies are always there. You cannot logically say that the universe was created out of nothing.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas would say that since the material universe could not have arisen out of God's spiritual nature, it had to be created out of nothing.

Srila Prabhupada: Material nature is also an energy of God's. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita (7.4):

bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha

"Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego-all together these eight comprise My separated material energies." All of these emanate from God, and consequently they are not unreal. They are considered inferior because they are God's separated material energies. They are like the sound that comes from a tape recorder, which may sound exactly like a person's original voice. The recorded sound is not the person's voice itself, but it has come from the person and is now separated from him. If one cannot see where the sound is coming from, one may suppose that the person is actually speaking, although the person may be far away. Similarly, the material world is an expansion of the Supreme Lord's energy, and we should not think that it has been brought into existence out of nothing. It has emanated from the Supreme Truth, but it is His inferior, separated energy. The superior energy is found in the spiritual world, which is the world of reality. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate: God has multienergies, and the material energy is but one. Since God is everything, you cannot say that the material universe comes from nothing.

Hayagriva dasa: Like Augustine, Aquinas believed that sin and man are concomitant. Due to Adam's original sin, all men require salvation, and salvation can only be obtained through God's grace. The individual living entity has to assent by his free will in order for God's grace to function.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we call that assent bhakti, devotional service to the Lord. Bhakti is our eternal engagement, and when we engage in our eternal activities, we attain salvation, or liberation. When we engage in false activities, we are in illusion (maya). Mukti (liberation) means remaining in our constitutional position as an eternal servant of God. In the material world we engage in many different activities, but they all refer to the material body, In the spiritual world we engage in the Lord's service, and that is liberation, or salvation.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas considered sins to be of two kinds: venial and mortal. A mortal sin is one that will send a person to eternal damnation unless it is forgiven. But a venial sin will not. In other words, according to Aquinas a mortal sin stains the soul.

Srila Prabhupada: When a living entity disobeys the orders of God, he is put into this material world, and that is his punishment. If he does not rectify himself by good association and once again surrender to the Lord, he must undergo repeated transmigration. By taking on one body after another, he is subjected to the tribulations of material existence.

Hayagriva dasa: In any case, how can any sin be said to "stain" the soul?

Srila Prabhupada: The soul is not stained, but he can participate in sinful activity. Although you cannot mix oil and water, oil floating on water is carried away by the water. Similarly, as soon as we are in contact with material nature, we come under the clutches of the material world (prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah). As soon as the living entity enters the material world, he loses his own power. He is then completely under the clutches of material nature. Oil never mixes with water, but it may be carried away by the waves.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas did not believe in a soul divorced from a particular form. According to Aquinas, God did not simply create a soul capable of inhabiting any body or form; rather, He created an angelic soul, a human soul, an animal soul, or a plant soul. Aquinas felt that the creation of a pure soul would be tantamount to God's creating Himself.

Srila Prabhupada: The soul is not created, but is eternally existing along with God. The soul has the independence to turn from God, in which case he becomes like a spark falling from a great fire. When the spark is separated, it loses its illumination. In any case, the individual soul always exists. The master and His servants exist eternally. We cannot say that the parts of a body are separately created. As soon as the body is present, all the parts are there with it. The soul is never created, and it never dies. This is confirmed by the Bhagavad-gita (2.20):

na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"For the soul there is never birth or death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." It may appear that the soul comes into existence and dies, but this is because he has accepted the material body. When the material body dies, the soul simply transfers to another body. When the soul is liberated, he doesn't have to accept another material body. He can return home, back to Godhead, in his original spiritual body. The soul was never created but is always existing with God. If we say that the soul was created, the question may be raised whether or not God, the Supreme Soul, was also created. Of course, this is not the case. God is eternal, and His parts and parcels are also eternal. The difference is that God never accepts a material body, whereas the individual soul, being but a small particle of spirit, sometimes succumbs to the material energy.

Hayagriva dasa: What is the relationship between the soul's original, spiritual form and the form of the material body?

Srila Prabhupada: The material body is an imitation. It is false. Because the spiritual body has form, the material body takes on form. The material body is like a coat. The cloth originally has no form, but a tailor can cut the cloth and make a coat to fit you. Similarly, in actuality this bodily form made of material elements is illusory. The material elements originally had no form, but they take on form for a while, and when the body becomes old and dies, they return to their original position. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.61), the physical body is compared to a machine. The soul has its own form, but he is given a machine, the body, which he uses to wander throughout the universe, attempting to enjoy himself.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas thought that one should not try to restrict scriptures to one meaning, that it belongs to the dignity of divine scripture to contain many meanings in one text so that, in this way, the scripture may be appropriate to the various understandings of men.

Srila Prabhupada: The meaning of scripture is one. It is the interpretations that are different. In the Bible it is stated that God created the universe, and that is a fact. One may conjecture that the universe was created out of some chunk or whatever, but we should not interpret scripture in this way. We present Bhagavad-gita As It Is, without interpretation or motive. We cannot change the words of God. Unfortunately, many interpreters have spoiled the God consciousness of society.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas says that the scriptures may contain many meanings according to one's degree of realization.

Srila Prabhupada: No. No one should interpret the words of scripture. "Interpretation" means "change." Man is imperfect, so how can he change the words of God? If the words are changed, there will be doubt whether they are spoken by God or by an imperfect person. As soon as you interpret or change the scripture, the scripture loses its authority. Then another man will come and interpret things in his own way. Another will come and then another, and in this way the original purport of the scripture is lost.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas believed that it is not possible to see God in this life. He writes, "God cannot be seen in His essence by one who is merely man, except he be separated from this mortal life... The divine essence cannot be known through the nature of material things."

Srila Prabhupada: What does he mean by "divine essence"? For us, God's divine essence is personal. When one cannot conceive of the Personality of Godhead, he sees the impersonal feature everywhere. When one advances further, he sees God as the Paramatma [Supersoul] within his heart. That is the result of yogic meditation. Finally, if one is truly advanced, he can see God face to face. When Krsna came, people saw Him face to face. Christians accept Christ as the son of God, and when he came, people saw him face to face. Does Aquinas think that Christ is not the divine essence of God?

Hayagriva dasa: For a Christian, Christ must be the divine essence incarnate.

Srila Prabhupada: And didn't many people see him? Then how can Aquinas say that God cannot be seen?

Hayagriva dasa: This seems to be contradictory. It's difficult to tell whether or not Aquinas is basically an impersonalist or a personalist.

Srila Prabhupada: That means he is speculating.

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas writes about the personal feature of God in this way: "Because God's nature has all perfection, every kind of perfection should be attributed to Him. Every individual with rational nature is spoken of as a person, and since the dignity of divine nature certainly surpasses every other nature, it is entirely suitable to speak of God as a person." Aquinas is no more specific than this. Concerning the nature of the personality of God, the Church fathers have never been more specific.

Srila Prabhupada: Christ is accepted as the son of God, and if the son can be seen, why can't God the father be seen? If Christ is the son of God, who is God? In the Bhagavad-gita (10.8) Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavah: "Everything is emanating from Me." Christ says that he is the son of God, and this means that he emanates from God. Just as he has his personality, God also has His personality. Thus we refer to Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning God's names, Aquinas felt that the less determinate God's name, the more universal and absolute it is. He therefore believed that the most proper name for God is "He who is."

Srila Prabhupada: Why? If God is active and has created the entire universe, what is wrong with addressing Him according to His activities and attributes?

Hayagriva dasa: Aquinas claims that the very essence of God is the sheer fact of His being, the fact that He is.

Srila Prabhupada: He is, certainly, but "He is" means that He is existing in His abode with His servants, playmates, hobbies, and paraphernalia. Everything is there. We must ask what is the meaning or nature of His being. One of God's attributes is being. Similarly, one of His attributes is attraction. God attracts everything. The word Krsna means "all-attractive." What, then, is wrong with addressing God as Krsna? Because Krsna is the enjoyer of Radharani, His name is Radhika-ramana. Because He exists, He is called the Supreme Being. In one sense God has no name, but in another sense He has millions of names according to His activities.

Hayagriva dasa: It seems that Thomas Aquinas basically took an impersonalistic stand.

Srila Prabhupada: No. He could not determine whether God is personal or impersonal. His inclination was to serve God as a person, but he had no clear conception of His personality. Therefore he speculated.

Hayagriva dasa: In the Vedas, is there an equivalent to "He who is"?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Om tat sat, which is impersonal. This mantra, however, can also be extended to om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. The word vasudeva means "one who lives everywhere" and refers to Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is both personal and impersonal, but the impersonal feature is secondary. According to Bhagavan Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (14.27):

brahmano hi pratisthaham
amrtasyavyayasya ca
sasvatasya ca dharmasya
sukhasyaikantikasya ca

"And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable, and eternal." What purport did I write to that verse?

Hayagriva dasa: "The constitution of Brahman is immortality, imperishability, eternity, and happiness. Brahman is the beginning of transcendental realization. Paramatma, the Supersoul, is the second stage in transcendental realization, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate realization of the Absolute Truth" [Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 14.27 purport].

Srila Prabhupada: That is the divine essence in full.

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How to Uplift the Unfortunate

Wherever you go—India, America, and points between—you find certain people who seem to be getting less of life's pleasures and more of its pains. What's the solution? Increase public aid? Provide better job opportunities? Demand equal rights? After reading an article on the plight of India's "untouchables" (Harijans), Tamal Krsna Gosvami wrote to the author about the real solution. It's education—but not just any education ...

14 April 1977

Dear Professor Parmar,

I read with keen interest your article "100 Million Harijans * (India's "untouchables": the poorest, least educated members of society.) Seek A New Messiah" in the Bombay Sunday Standard, April 10, 1977. I can certainly appreciate your compassion for the suffering of so many unfortunate people. In view of the new government's interest in taking knowledge from the Vedas to help find solutions to the many problems India faces, I thought you might find the following illuminating as well as helpful.

The Harijan movement was started by Mohandas Gandhi. Seeing the suffering of millions of "untouchables," Gandhi thought to elevate them in their own eyes and in the eyes of others by designating them "Harijans." The actual definition of Harijan is "a person (jana) who has been elevated to the position of associating with the Supreme (Hari)." An actual Harijan, therefore, is a saint, a great personality. But since Gandhi has popularized the term to indicate the "untouchable" class, and since you have used it in the same sense, I will also use it in that way.

Unfortunately, Gandhi's rubberstamping has not actually improved the Harijans' condition, as you have so thoroughly pointed out in your article: "The Indian government has launched numerous projects and schemes, allocating more than Rs. 3,200 crores [about $3.5 billion] in Five-year Plans, for the welfare and amelioration of Harijans. However, all efforts to raise their status and improve their living conditions by granting special rights—social, economic, political—have not made any significant impact on their condition of life."

Thus neither Gandhiji, Dr. Ambedkar, nor any other leader has succeeded in uplifting the Harijans: Why? Because they have not properly understood the real cause for man's suffering. On this point we can get insight from the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna explains to Arjuna, "While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead... 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. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change" (Bhagavad-gita, 2.11, 13).

We have to understand that the self is not the outer body but the soul within and that at death the self transmigrates to another body, according to the way he has lived his life. This understanding is the beginning of the solution to India's Harijan problem. The government leaders and all their planning commissions have applied themselves only to the outward body, not to the soul within the body. Therefore, measures meant for the upliftment of the Harijans have fallen short of the mark; they have aimed at adjusting some physical or mental situation, but they have ignored the needs of the self. All the land grants, work plans, and defense forces (as well as the other economic, social, and political arrangements that you have suggested) will be of no use until India's leaders concern themselves with not only the body but also the soul within the body.

In your article you have asked, "Who are these Harijans? What is their origin? What sins did they commit so that they should be permanently 'persecuted? There are no authentic answers to these basic questions." If you don't know the answers to these questions about the Harijans, then how can you expect the solutions which you have suggested to work?

Actually, there are authentic answers to these questions, and they have been known to authorities like Svayambhuva Manu, Narada Muni, Lord Siva, the Kumaras, Sri Kapiladeva, Prahlada, and so many others. All of these great personalities have themselves taken instruction from Lord Krsna (Hari), and therefore they are the real Harijans. This instruction is still available in the Bhagavad-gita, and if you take it exactly as Lord Krsna spoke it, then you too can become a genuine Harijan and help to elevate the one hundred million so-called Harijans.

You have asked about the origin of these "untouchable" Harijans. For the answer we need merely turn to the Bhagavad-gita: "The living entity in material nature follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species" (Bg. 13.22). This verse describes how one is forced by the laws of nature to take birth in a particular species of life. One's birth is not a matter of chance. As Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita (2.22), the soul changes bodies just as a man changes his dress, and this change is due to one's attachment to a particular mode of material nature. As long as one is captivated by the allurements of material nature, he has to change bodies. And at the time of death, the extent of his desire to lord it over matter determines what kind of body he will have in his next life, and how much he will suffer or enjoy. This is nature's law. Whether we believe in it or not, we still are controlled by it. We also may not believe in the laws of the government, but if we violate them we have to suffer. How much more stringent, then, are the laws of God.

If India's government leaders are ignorant of God's laws, how can they uplift the citizens? A government may be powerful, but it is not so powerful that it can protect its citizens from the results of sinful activities performed in previous lives. Though you may award all kinds of privileges to the Harijans in an effort to counteract their sufferings, those benefits will be of little avail. Lord Krsna says, "This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is very difficult to overcome" (Bg. 7.14). This verse explains why the position of the Harijan community as a whole has not significantly changed. Who is checking them from improving? Neither the government, nor social pressures, nor economic impediments. (No one prevented Dr. Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram from rising to leadership.) No. The checking is from within, and from the modes of material nature. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, in a verse I have already quoted: "The living entity in material nature follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of material nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species" (Bg. 13.22). In the fourteenth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna further explains: "Material nature consists of the three modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance. When the living entity comes into contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes." Association is very strong. It is just like an infection: when you contact germs, you must suffer disease. Similarly, if you associate with the lower qualities of material nature (passion and ignorance), then you must suffer accordingly.

To the civil libertarian all this may seem very unjust—that one man is condemned to sweep the latrines, while another sits comfortably in his white-collar job, working in the government offices. And out of sentiment, suppose you enact some legislation to adjust this imbalance. By your legislation you may arbitrarily elevate ten percent of all the sweepers to jobs in the government offices, but the result will be chaos. A dog may be placed on the king's throne, but toss him an old shoe and he'll jump down to chew it. Similarly, by legislation you may appoint anyone to a high position, but if he is not qualified, his nature will betray him and he will do only nonsense. The current world political scene sufficiently demonstrates this.

Actually, the kind of work a person does is directly related to the modes of nature affecting him. As Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita, "According to the modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me" (Bg. 4.13). And in the eighteenth chapter: "Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras (intellectuals, administrators, merchants or agriculturalists, and laborers) are distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with the modes of nature" (Bg. 18.41).

Thus the tendency of a particular man towards a particular type of work is determined solely by the modes of material nature which he has acquired—not by political, social, or economic pressures. This statement by Lord Krsna may bring rancor to the hearts of the modern-day libertarians, who are demanding equality for all. But we must discern whether everyone actually deserves equality. No one can be more fair than Krsna: He is equally disposed to all creatures (Bg. 9.24) and He claims all living entities as His children (Bg. 14.4). So when Krsna designates one person as an intellectual (brahmana) and another as a laborer (sudra), He is not doing so out of prejudice; He is simply describing their karma and guna—their work and the particular modes of nature that affect them. Krsna never mentions birth as a consideration, though some selfishly motivated individuals have used this argument of birth to justify their falsely elevated position above those of supposedly lower birth. Undeniably, this misconception has caused hatred for the caste system, or varnasrama system, and cries for abolishment are now being heard from all sides. But if the eyes are diseased, they should be cured, not plucked out. Similarly, the caste system should be properly established on the basis of the Bhagavad-gita's teachings; it should not be abolished.

Actually, in this age everyone is born a sudra (kalau sudra sambhavah). It is only by proper education that someone may rise to the position of a brahmana. For as we have already seen, a brahmana is known by his qualification, not by his birth. (My father may be a high-court judge, but that does not qualify me to be a high-court judge.) Though everyone is born a sudra in this age, everyone is also free to cultivate the qualities of a brahmana. These qualities are listed in the Bhagavad-gita as peacefulness, self control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness. But to call someone who has not developed these qualities a brahmana or a Harijan is simply rubberstamping.

Krsna, the original Messiah of all Harijans, openly invites everyone: "O son of Prtha, those who take shelter of Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaisyas (merchants), as well as sudras (workers)—can approach the supreme destination" (Bg. 9.32). By proper education and association, anyone—no matter how degraded his birth—can attain to the highest position. Krsna also says,

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

"One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments, nor does he desire to have anything. He is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me" (Bg. 18.54). Since God is full, a living entity engaged in God's service (in Krsna consciousness) also becomes fully satisfied by self-realization.

There is no doubt that the one hundred million Harijans deserve to become happy. They are feeling frustration because they lack a qualified leader. We of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (a society dedicated to living by the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita) are prepared to take responsibility for all one hundred million Harijans and guide them to the highest perfection of life. The founder and acarya of our movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has in the last eleven years successfully uplifted hundreds of thousands of unfortunate souls worldwide to the platform of Krsna consciousness. By Krsna's grace, I happen to be Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary, and it is by his direction that I write this letter. He read your article, and feeling great concern for the welfare of the Harijan community, he requested me to write to you and invite you to meet with us at our headquarters at Juhu, Bombay, for practical discussions. If you are actually sincere in your desire to uplift the Harijans, please do not miss this opportunity.

Yours faithfully,
Tamal Krsna Gosvami
(Personal Secretary to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

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The Demons Among Us

"There are always two kinds of living beings in the creation—the divine and demonic. But a demon need not be a huge monster with ten heads and a thousand arms, nor a little red fiend with a pitchfork. In fact, the demons who live among us generally appear quite ordinary."

By Jayadvaita dasa

Demons exist—millions of them. And they live among us, mostly unrecognized, wherever we go. Who are they? What are they like? How do they exhibit their powers, and how can we be safe from their influence? These are the questions we shall deal with in this article.

The answers will not be invented fictions, the products of fanciful philosophical speculations conjured up out of the mind. Nor shall we waste our time recounting tales of chain-clanking ghosts and spirits. The analysis you are about to read will be a scientific presentation based on the words of Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as spoken thousands of years ago and recorded in the Sanskrit language in the book known as the Bhagavad-gita. You may find this analysis enlightening, or, indeed, depending on your sympathies, you may find it offensive. You may accept it or reject it. Our only request is that you open the gates of your mind and allow these ancient ideas to enter for your thoughtful consideration.

The Divine and the Demonic

There are always two kinds of living beings in the creation—the divine and the demonic. Just as every state has two kinds of citizens—those who abide by the laws and those who do not—the state of the universe is filled with two kinds of living beings: those who abide by its natural laws and those who try to defy them. The former are called divine; the latter, demonic.

In other words, a demon need not be a huge monster with ten heads and a thousand arms, nor a little red fiend with a pitchfork. Of course, there may very well be demons with grotesque features and supernatural powers, but the demons who live among us generally appear quite ordinary. Your mailman might be a demon. So might your grocer, your congressman, or anyone else you know. For that matter, so might you.

How, then, can we tell whether a person is divine or demonic? By observing his qualities. The Bhagavad-gita clearly explains which qualities are divine and which demonic. The good qualities include truthfulness, fearlessness, charity, self-control, austerity, and simplicity. They also include nonviolence, cleanliness, gentleness, modesty, and steady determination. These are all spiritual qualities that anyone can appreciate. Other good qualities are compassion, tranquility, renunciation, vigor, forgiveness, and fortitude. A good person should also be free from anger, greed, envy, and the passion for honor. Purification of one's existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, aversion to faultfinding, and study of the revealed scriptures are also good qualities. According to the Bhagavad-gita, these are the best human qualities. Anyone decorated with even a few of them could well be considered saintly or godly, therefore they are called divine qualities.

The demonic qualities are just the opposite. Arrogance, pride, anger, conceit, harshness, ignorance—these qualities indicate a demonic person. Such persons are averse to the principles of religion and to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. They are lustful, and they think that life's only aim is to gratify the senses. They are unclean, dishonest, envious, and mischievous. Such are the qualities that degrade the demons.

The Killers of the Soul

The lsopanisad further explains the demon's nature—and his fate—as follows:

asurya nama te loka
andhena tamasavrtah
tams te pretyabhigacchanti
ye ke catma-hano janah

"The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance" (Sri Isopanisad 3).

This verse describes the demons as atma-hana, killers of the soul. How is that? According to the Bhagavad-gita, the soul is eternal and can never be killed. Even when the temporary body dies, the soul continues to exist (na hanyate hanyamane sarire). So how can anyone be a "killer of the soul"? The answer is also in the Bhagavad-gita: when the eternal soul identifies himself with the temporary body, he becomes subject to repeated birth and death. Therefore, when one does not cultivate spiritual understanding, when he does not try to free the eternal soul—himself—from the cycle of repeated birth and death, he becomes a killer of the soul. He is killing himself by refusing to accept spiritual instruction about the soul and how it can be liberated from material bondage.

Achieving liberation from birth and death is not difficult, but one must take guidance from a bona fide, self-realized spiritual master who has understood the Absolute Truth. This Truth is conveyed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself in the Bhagavad-gita and other revealed Vedic scriptures, and the bona fide spiritual master presents this Truth without any change or interpretation. Any deviation from the literal meaning of the scriptures makes a so-called spiritual master disqualified. If one learns the science of spiritual understanding from the Vedic scriptures with the help of a bona fide, Krsna-conscious spiritual master, one can cease identifying himself with his material body and make swift progress on the path of self-realization.

Identifying oneself (the soul) with the body is the great mistake of modern civilization, and it represents the grossest ignorance—ignorance of one's real identity as a spiritual being. The root cause of this ignorance is the demonic mentality—or, in other words, the refusal to accept the principles of spiritual consciousness found in the revealed Vedic scriptures. These scriptures explain that the spirit soul receives the gift of a human body only after passing through 8,400,000 species of life in the evolutionary cycle. In lower forms of life, our consciousness is undeveloped, and we are therefore unable to inquire about spiritual realization. In the human form, however, we have sufficient intelligence to understand our spiritual identity, and this is our primary responsibility. But one who adamantly refuses to accept this responsibility must be termed a killer of the soul and a demon.

The Blind Leaders

Unfortunately, our modern materialistic civilization is filled with so-called leaders who are devoid of spiritual knowledge and who refuse to take guidance from genuine spiritual authorities. Such leaders are blind in the truest sense, and therefore both they and their blind followers waste their time in a hopeless, meaningless struggle to be happy by gratifying the senses of the temporary material body. In defiance of God's laws for spiritual life in harmony with the laws of nature, such leaders encourage all sorts of sinful activities, such as gambling, intoxication, meat eating, and illicit sex. As a result they make civilization hellish, and in their next lives both they and their followers are thrown into hellish planets. Such leaders should certainly be known as demons.

The Bhagavad-gita further explains:

pravrttim ca nivrttim ca
jana na vidur asurah
na saucam napi cacaro
na satyam tesu vidyate

"Those who are demonic do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them" (Bhagavad-gita 16.7).

Because demons do not know what to do and what not to do, they become involved in unclean dealings. For example, the highest elected official in the world's most influential country was recently implicated in all sorts of dirty dealings intended to increase his own wealth and power. And even after his dirty tricks were brought to light, he refused to admit the truth. As clearly indicated in the Bhagavad-gita, these are classic symptoms of a demonic personality. As long as such demons falsely occupy responsible government posts, the people in general will not be peaceful, prosperous, or happy.

Cleanliness and truthfulness are basic principles of proper behavior. Unless one is clean and truthful, how can he qualify as a political, religious, or intellectual leader? And this purity must be more than just skin deep. Anyone who bathes regularly with soap and water may be considered superficially clean, but one must also be clean within. In other words, one's heart must be free from the dirt of lust, greed, envy, false pride, anger, and so on. Because of these material contaminations, one thinks that his body is his self and that temporary material possessions and arrangements for bodily comfort will actually satisfy him. This spiritual blindness disqualifies one for leadership of any kind.

To cleanse the heart of all misconceptions, the Vedic authorities recommend that one chant the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, especially as found in the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Also, one should live in accordance with Lord Krsna's instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Absolute Truth, and therefore one who follows His instructions is truthful in the deepest sense. Thus, by avoiding the four great sins (meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling), by chanting God's names, and by following the Bhagavad-gita's instructions, a God conscious leader can fulfill his responsibility to the general mass of people, who are his wards.

The real duty of a government leader is to govern in such a way that everyone has both proper employment and the opportunity to advance spiritually. Without favoring one religious sect over another, the government must nevertheless foster God consciousness as vigorously as possible. That will make for a happy and contented citizenry, free from the degrading activities of meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling. Unfortunately, because demonic leaders reject the principles of God consciousness put forth in the revealed scriptures, the world must bear the burden of corrupt governments in which self-interested politicians exploit the populace.

The Godless Scientists

Demons oppose God consciousness in all respects—even to the extent of concocting their own atheistic philosophies. The Bhagavad-gita explains:

asatyam apratistham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam

"The demons say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation, and that there is no God in control. They believe it is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust" (Bg. 16.8).

This material world, with all its complex details, is itself irrefutable evidence of the existence of God. From the grand arrangement of the stars and planets down to the intricate workings of the atom, the affairs of the material world are so perfectly planned that they couldn't possibly exist without the supervision of a higher intelligence. Unwilling to acknowledge that supreme intelligence, however, the demons conjure up various philosophical theories to deny the obvious.

The chief offenders in this respect are the materialistic scientists, who misuse their God-given intelligence to contend that there is no God in control of the cosmic manifestation. They have many theories about the creation of the universe—all of them fantastic, and all of them foolish and implausible. According to one such theory, everything began from a concentrated mass of gases. According to another, everything began from atomic interactions. Other theories postulate that vast clouds of cosmic dust coagulated to form planets. But where have the gases, the atoms, or the cosmic dust come from? The demons cannot answer. And no wonder! As the Encyclopedia Britannica admits, "It should be emphasized that no theory of the origin of the solar system has as yet won general acceptance. All involve highly improbable assumptions. But the difficulty is in trying to find a theory with any degree of probability at all." Thus, with such "highly improbable" theories the demons try to deny God as the origin and controller of the universe.

The Bhagavad-gita emphasizes not only that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, has generated the material elements, but also that He controls the material nature in all phases of creation, maintenance, and dissolution. But despite their sharp, inquisitive minds, the materialistic scientists cannot understand this fact, because their so-called intelligence has been stolen by illusion. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "The foolish demons, who are the lowest among men, do not surrender to Me, for their intelligence has been plundered by My illusory energy" (Bg. 7.15).

Having failed to concoct any plausible theory to discredit the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the origin of the universe, the demonic scientists (as if to add insult to injury) also put forward godless propaganda about the origin of life. Abandoning logic and good sense, the demons say that order, by chance, arises from disorder, and that life springs spontaneously from matter. For example, according to one scenario for the creation of life, billions of years ago the earth spun off from the sun. Over many millions of years, the earth gradually cooled, and various elements interacted to create the earth's atmosphere and oceans. By chance some of these elements formed a "primordial chemical broth" of amino acids. Then, again by chance, various kinds of radiation stimulated this broth to give rise to organic chemicals, such as proteins. As a result of further coincidences too complicated to explain here, these proteins (with a little help from some accidental thunderbolts, or some other unknown cause) finally changed into living organisms.

This is supposed to be a highly evolved, sophisticated theory—made possible by the latest advances in scientific knowledge—but in fact it is the same demonic philosophy described in the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago: aparaspara-sambhutam kim anyat kama-haitukam: "The demons believe that everything in this world is a product of the random attraction of various material bodies" (Bg. 16.8). Foolish demons, although sometimes honored as great scientists and philosophers, do not properly understand the workings of the material world because they do not know the difference between matter and spirit. They try to explain everything in terms of matter, and therefore they are materialists of the most blatant sort.

Even an ordinary person, however, if he uses his common sense, can see the difference between matter and spirit. For example, he need only consider the difference between a living body and a dead body. Once our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, addressed a meeting of students and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began by saying, "This is a great university, and you have many different departments for study and research—engineering, chemistry, and so on. But do you know the difference between a living body and a dead body?" No answer. That was something their technology hadn't gotten around to. They had only the haziest notions: in a dead body the heart isn't beating, the dead body has stopped breathing, and so on. Huge buildings, thousands of students, millions of dollars—but no common sense.

The difference between a living body and a dead body, His Divine Grace explained, is that the living body has consciousness. When a child is born dead, what's missing? All the organs are intact. All the necessary organic chemicals are present in abundance. Nothing has been ruptured or destroyed. The cells have not yet begun to deteriorate. Why, then, can't the dead child be brought back to life? The answer is that consciousness is not a product of matter and is therefore beyond the purview of material science.

This consciousness, which is the essential, nonmaterial element within the body, can never be understood by a demon. A doctor may artificially make the heart beat or the lungs pump air, but he cannot artificially create consciousness. There is no way that he can inject consciousness into a body which has died. Consciousness is spiritual, and no one can ever create it by any combination of material elements.

Of course, the demons may boast that they are "just on the verge" of creating life, but these are empty words, like the promise of a bankrupt man to pay a huge sum of money with a post-dated check. Suppose someone says, "Right now I have no money, but in a few days I'll be rich, so let me pay you with a post-dated check." Will any intelligent person accept it? Of course not. First get the money, then come back and purchase what you want. Similarly, why should we believe the so-called scientists who boast that they can create life? So far, they haven't been able to create even an ant or a tiny germ, nor can they point to even a single instance in which a living organism has been spontaneously created from matter. Yet they are proud of their hypothetical explanations of how life came from matter, and they have the unscientific brashness to boast that they can create life in their laboratories. It's time for us to stop accepting these sophisticated braggarts as scientists and recognize them for what they are—demonic rascals who are squandering their God-given intelligence and public-given funds to fight God consciousness and promote utter materialism as the Absolute Truth.

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A Hopeful Note

by Jagajivana dasa

If scientists and political leaders become God-conscious, they can do tremendous good for all of society. So what we are bemoaning is simply the sickness that today's scientists and political leaders are suffering from. We might call it "demon disease"—the compulsion to deny and decry the existence and superintendence of the Supreme Lord.

In reality, as Lord Krsna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita, all living beings are part and parcel of Him. The reason we're here in this material world in the first place is that we have forgotten our intimate relationship with the Lord. So in the strict philosophical sense of the Bhagavad-gita, all of us are demons—unless and until we reconcile ourselves with Krsna by again taking up our devotional service to Him. In other words, all of us are really the Lord's devotees, but for now we're playing the role of demons. Many people are open to reconciling themselves with Krsna and giving up the demonic role, but sad to say, at the present moment our scientists, philosophers, and political leaders are not only holding on to the role but also playing it quite convincingly—and as a result the whole world is in chaos.

Actually, our cultural and political leaders can end the chaos and use their professions for everyone's benefit, if they learn the secret. In his English rendering of ancient India's Srimad-Bhagavatam, His Divine Grace A'. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada makes it an open secret:

"Human intellect is developed for advancement of learning in art, science, philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology, economics, politics, and so forth. By culture of such knowledge the human society can attain perfection of life. This perfection of life culminates in the realization of the Supreme Being, Visnu [Krsna]... (Bhag. 1.5.22 purport).

How can our cultural and political leaders help us all to come to the perfection of life?

"Philosophy and science should be engaged to establish the glory of the Lord. Advanced people are eager to understand the Absolute Truth through the medium of science, and therefore a great scientist should endeavor to prove the existence of the Lord on a scientific basis. Similarly, philosophical speculations should be utilized to establish the Supreme Truth as sentient and all-powerful. Similarly, all other branches of knowledge should always be engaged in the service of the Lord...(Bhag. 1.5.22 purport),

"The political leader is the representative of the Supreme Lord, and therefore his interest must be identical with that of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord wants all living beings to be obedient to Him and thereby become happy. Therefore the political leader's interest is to guide all citizens back to the kingdom of God. Hence the activities of the citizens should be so coordinated that they can at the end go back home, back to Godhead..." (Bhag. 1.4.13 purport).

In practical terms, scientists and philosophers as well as writers, dramatists, poets, artists, and musicians should keep themselves and the rest of the populace merged in the ecstasy of hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord-through learned dissertations, narratives, plays, poems, paintings, and songs. After all, the one special quality that makes human culture different from animal culture is that human culture can be filled with God consciousness, with remembrance of Krsna. Whereas animals can remember only their bodily demands (eating, sleeping, mating, and defending), human beings can remember the Lord and thus go back to Him at the time of death. So scientists, philosophers, and men of the arts should help us to remember Krsna during life and, at life's end, go back to Godhead.

For their part, political leaders should knock away the four pillars of sinful life—meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling—and such attendant atrocities as cow killing and abortion. In that way they will free the populace from the terrible karmic reactions to these sinful activities-namely epidemics, droughts, famines, and wars. On the positive side, political leaders should see to it that the citizens live in harmony with nature—each person taking only his quota and thus being assured of both receiving his quota and going back to Godhead. To put it simply, our cultural and political leaders should be Krsna conscious—then they can make all of our lives both peaceful and successful.

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Dear Brothers,

I salute you for trying to spread dharma [spiritual practice], and I'll agree that bhakti-yoga [devotional service to God] is the most effective means in this age. But it saddens me to see you butchering the concepts of the yogic systems so much. This is not ancient India (thank God) and it is fruitless to try to make it so.

The Vedas don't really disagree with modern science. Most real scientists are searching for truth, and they will agree that our present science is not perfect or complete. Those who say they know it all are just as pigheaded as those who say that some ten-thousand-year-old, incomplete book is the Absolute Truth. Mind you, I'm not running down your beliefs, because they're based on fact. But the modern sciences are also gifts of God and are based on truth. We don't need to fight or argue; let's just share the love.


Dear Chandresvar,

How in the world can you say that the Vedas don't really disagree with modern science? First of all, modern science says the moon is closer to the earth than the sun is, whereas the Vedas clearly say that the sun is closer (please see the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Fifth Canto, Chapter 22). Similarly, modern science generally holds that life arises from the interactions of material chemicals, whereas the Vedas say that life is eternal—that it is never destroyed or created—and that it emanates from the Supreme Life, the Personality of Godhead. Also, modern scientists almost universally believe in Darwin's theory of evolution, which the Vedas unequivocally reject. If these aren't disagreements, we don't know what are.

We would agree with you that real scientists are searching for truth. However, we must point out that the supreme truth is spiritual. With our material vision we cannot see the truth, even if we look through the most powerful microscopes and telescopes for millions and billions of years. One can't find spiritual truth through material science, any more than one can find the stars by digging in the ground. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, pasyanti jnana-caksusa: one can see the truth only by developing eyes of knowledge, or spiritual vision. As you have correctly stated, bhakti-yoga is the most effective means in this age (and, the Vedas say, in any age) for developing this spiritual vision. Therefore bhakti-yoga is the real science, and one who is following the path of bhakti is the real scientist.

The Krsna consciousness movement is presenting the science of bhakti-yoga exactly as it is found in the Vedic literature. (If common misconceptions about yoga get butchered along the way, so much the better.) This is the actual method of spreading dharma. That we are not in ancient India doesn't matter: the truth is the truth. In India or America, millions of years ago or today, the truth is the same.

In one sense every living being is searching for truth. The philosopher searches for truth in books and in the mind; the drunkard searches for truth in the barroom; the hog searches for truth in the garbage. But if one wants to know the highest truth (param satyam), one must look for it by following the highest method of inquiry. Since you have already accepted that the highest, most effective method is bhakti-yoga, you need only follow this method as it is, with the help of a bona fide spiritual master, and your success is assured. Bhakti-yoga is the yoga of love—love for God, or Krsna. Unlike modern scientists, God is perfect and complete, and whatever He says is also perfect and complete. Therefore, if we accept the process of bhakti-yoga as explained by God Himself in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, we will surely be able to understand the highest truth and share the highest love.

Sincerely yours,
The Editors

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

On "Science" and "Belief"

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in March 1974 on an early-morning walk in Perth, Australia.

Devotee: [Taking the part of a materialistic scientist] Why do you call Krsna consciousness a science? It seems like it's only a belief.

Srila Prabhupada: Your so-called science is also belief. If you call your way science, then our way is also science.

Devotee: But with our science we can prove our beliefs.

Srila Prabhupada: Then prove that chemicals make life. Your belief is that life is made from chemicals. So prove it; then it is science. But you cannot prove it; therefore it remains a belief.

Devotee: Well, you believe in the soul, but you can't prove that it exists. Since we cannot see the soul, we have to conclude that life comes from matter.

Srila Prabhupada: You cannot see the soul with your gross senses, but it can be perceived. Consciousness can be perceived, and consciousness is the symptom of the soul. But if, as you say, life comes from matter, then you must demonstrate it by supplying the missing chemicals to make a dead body live again. This is my challenge.

Devotee: We will require some time to find the right chemicals.

Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. Your belief is that life comes from chemicals, but you cannot prove it. Therefore you prove yourself to be a rascal.

Devotee: But you accept the Bhagavad-gita on faith. How is that scientific? It's only your belief, isn't that correct?

Srila Prabhupada: Why isn't the Bhagavad-gita scientific? The Bhagavad-gita says, annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah: "All living entities subsist by eating food grains, and grains are produced from rain." Is that belief?

Devotee: That must be true.

Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, everything in the Bhagavad-gita is true. If you think carefully about what Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, you will find that it is all true. For example, Krsna says that in society there must be an intelligent class of men, the brahmanas, who know the soul and God. They are civilized men. But where is such a class of men in today's society?

Devotee: Throughout the world there are many priests, ministers, and rabbis.

Srila Prabhupada: But what do they actually know about God? They speculate about God as much as the scientists speculate about material nature.

Just try to see this one point clearly: You are not independent; therefore, there must be some authority over you. And ultimately you have to accept that a supreme authority exists. So if you claim to have knowledge of the supreme truth but you do not know the supreme authority, what is the value of your knowledge?

Suppose a man does not know about the government of his country. What kind of man is he? He is simply a third-class man, a rascal. A civilized man knows about his country's government. Similarly, there is a government of the whole universe, but it" you do not know it you are a third-class, uncivilized man. That is why Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that there must be an intelligent class of men who know God and who understand the whole universal management—how it is running under the order of God. Krsna devotees know these things. Therefore they are the real brahmanas and the real scientists.

Devotee: But the Bhagavad-gita is five thousand years old, so it doesn't pertain to our modern world.

Srila Prabhupada: The Bhagavad-gita is not five thousand years old; it has always existed. Have you read the Bhagavad-gita?

Devotee: Yes, several times.

Srila Prabhupada: Then where do you find in the Bhagavad-gita that it is five thousand years old? Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam:

"I spoke this imperishable science of Bhagavad-gita to Vivasvan more than 120 million years ago." You do not know this? What kind of reader of the Bhagavad-gita are you? The Bhagavad-gita is avyayam, eternal. So how can you say it is five thousand years old?

[Pointing to the rising sun with his cane] Here we see the sun just rising. But it is always there, in space. The Bhagavad-gita is like that: it is eternal truth. When the sun rises we don't say, "Oh, the sun is just now coming into existence." It is always there, but we can't see it until it rises. Men used to think that at night the sun died and in the morning a new sun was created. They also used to believe the earth was flat. This is your scientific knowledge: every day a new opinion.

Devotee: This means that we are discovering the truth.

Srila Prabhupada: No. It means you do not know what the truth is. You are only speculating. Now you accept something as true, but after a few days you say it is not true. And you call this science!

Devotee: Yes, you're right. Many of the scientific textbooks that were written just a few years ago are outdated now.

Srila Prabhupada: And the scientific books you are now using will be useless in a few years. This is your science.

Devotee: But at least what we know now is more true than what we knew before, and if we keep trying we will know more.

Srila Prabhupada: This means you are always in ignorance. But the Bhagavad-gita is not like that. Krsna says to Arjuna, "I first instructed this science 120 million years ago, and today I am teaching you the same thing." That is scientific knowledge: the truth is always the same. But you scientists are always changing—"discovering the truth," you call it. That means you do not know what the truth is.

Devotee: [As himself] The problem is, everyone is a cheater. Everyone is speculating and presenting his own knowledge as the truth.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore we accept Krsna, who does not cheat. And since I am presenting only what Krsna has said, I am also not a cheater. That is the difference between the scientists and us.

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Every Town and Village

A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Breakthrough for Book Distribution

An important breakthrough has occurred in ISKCON's efforts to open all U.S. airports to unhampered book distribution. For years devotees have gone out to the crowded airports and sold the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to literally millions of travelers—and for years the devotees have met opposition from angered airport managers. Now, finally, a meeting of minds seems at hand.

In the May issue of Airport Services Management magazine, editor Richard Coffey calls for an open dialogue between ISKCON and airport officials: "The Hare Krishna [people] are in the airports—protected by the First Amendment—and they will remain in the airports. So what do we do about it? Manage it. We'd make a stupid mistake underestimating the ability of the Krishna movement to meet us on every level of confrontation... So it appears someone will have to open a dialogue. The Krishna [people] are willing; so should we be."

Another article by Mr. Coffey in the same magazine describes his visit to the Minneapolis Radha-Krsna temple. He comes away impressed with the sincerity of the devotees and the seriousness of their mission to spread Krsna consciousness. He also confirms ISKCON's longstanding claim that all collections are used only to support the temples and book publication and distribution—"not for individual gratification."

Since every airport official reads Airport Services Management magazine, Mr. Coffey's advice and observations should go a long way toward creating a more liberal atmosphere for book distribution at the nation's airports.

Srila Prabhupada's Books Draw Flood of Praise

Plaudits for the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada continue to pour into our offices from professors throughout the world. Dr. Geddes MacGregor, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, recently sent us this comment on Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is:

"In the West, no work in all Indian literature is more quoted (because none is better loved) than the Bhagavad-gita. Translation of such a work demands more than just knowledge of Sanskrit; it demands an inward sympathy with the theme of the Gita as well as verbal artistry, for the poem is a symphony in which God is seen in all things.

"His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is, of course, profoundly sympathetic to the theme. He brings to it, moreover, a special interpretative insight, a powerful and persuasive presentation in the bhakti tradition... The swami does a real service for students and laymen by investing the beloved Indian epic with fresh meaning. Whatever our outlook may be, we should all be grateful for the labor that has led to this illuminating work."

And from Dr. V. N. Shukla, Professor of Sanskrit and Hindi at Aligarh University in India, we received this appreciation:

"Before I met Srila Prabhupada about a year ago, I had known him through his enormous works on Krsna bhakti—works which comprise the nucleus of all Indian-Vedic spiritual literature. To name a few of these works: The Bhagavad-gita As It Is; The Nectar of Devotion; Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; Teachings of Lord Caitanya; Srimad-Bhagavatam; Sri Caitanya-caritamrta; and Sri Isopanisad. All of these works are with commentary, and it is noteworthy to mention that the commentary on the Sri Isopanisad is one of SrIla Prabhupada's greatest contributions, for it completely refutes the impersonalist arguments of Sankaracarya. Sri Isopanisad is a book to be possessed by every Western scholar.

"Words fail me as I attempt to describe the height of scholarship and devotion manifested in the volumes mentioned above. Future generations will definitely find a better world to live in through the efforts of Srila Prabhupada, for he stands for the feelings of international brotherhood and the spiritual integration of all mankind—sentiments which are the very backbone of India's Vedic sanatana-dharma [eternal religion]. Members of the literary world outside India, particularly in the West, should feel highly indebted to Srila Prabhupada, who has so scientifically acquainted them with what is best in Krsna-conscious India. I heartily call to the attention of all scholars, professors, and religious teachers the great importance and contribution of the books of Sri Swami Prabhupada."

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F.A.T.E. - the First American Theistic Exibition

Combine India's ancient Medic wisdom and doll-making artistry with America's multimedia technology... and you get an unforgettable spiritual experience.

The inspirational seed for the First American Theistic Exhibition (just opened at the Los Angeles Radha-Krsna temple) was planted in India more than forty years ago by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the grand-spiritual-master of the Krsna consciousness movement. It was then that he developed an impressive diorama exhibit to present the philosophy of Krsna consciousness clearly and convincingly to all classes of people. That original theistic exhibition, consisting of dozens of dioramas, still draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on its annual tour of India.

When His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to America in 1965, he brought with him his spiritual master's dream of an American theistic exhibition. To fulfill that dream, Srila Prabhupada asked some of his own disciples to go to India and learn the art of making "dolls," the figures displayed in a diorama. Now, by the grace of Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, those disciples have returned to America and developed a unique and fascinating multimedia presentation of Krsna consciousness: the First American Theistic Exhibition.

The director of F.A.T.E. is Baradraja dasa, one of the first devotees Srila Prabhupada sent to India to learn the doll-making art. After becoming proficient, Baradraja has spent most of the last three years making dioramas and training others in the technique. He sees his assignment as a special favor from his spiritual master...

"I was working as an artist," Baradraja relates, "doing paintings for Srila Prabhupada's books at ISKCON's press in New York. As a devotee I had been painting for three years, and I was also doing art editing for BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. Then, in March of 1973, Srila Prabhupada came to New York. At that time I told him, 'Srila Prabhupada, I want to preach.' He looked at me like I was a lunatic. 'What are you doing now?' he said. 'You are not preaching? This painting is not preaching? Please understand, this is preaching. If you do not do this painting, then who will? No, this is very important preaching.' So that was the end of that—painting illustrations for SrIla Prabhupada's books was preaching.

"A few days later, all the artists were talking with Srila Prabhupada in his quarters. (This was at the old Brooklyn temple.) He was asking about the various paintings we were working on, and there was a lot of discussion. Then suddenly he said something that surprised everyone; no one knew what to say. 'I want someone to learn how to make dolls,' he said. What did he mean? Of course, none of us actually knew what he was talking about. He just kept speaking of 'dolls.' He told us that these dolls were made in India. 'These doll makers are very expert. I want one of you to learn from them.' It was a complete mystery. What were these dolls? SrIla Prabhupada looked around the room. He looked at all the artists. Then he turned to me and said, 'Baradraja, you will go.'

"Well, I began to feel a very strange combination of emotions. In my heart there was both horror and joy: joy at having a chance to go to India, horror at the idea of having to make dolls. At the time, I thought of myself in quite a vain fashion—as an artiste, one of good taste and aesthetic judgments. The idea of making dolls seemed really outlandish. But aside from my feelings, I knew the importance of the spiritual master's order. Here was an opportunity for spiritual advancement, and my wife and I were both eager and thankful for our new service to Srila Prabhupada. Practically speaking, this order to make dolls was the first real spiritual challenge in my whole life as a devotee. It was the first time that Srila Prabhupada had actually asked me to do something I didn't want to do. It was a very exciting time."

About this time Srila Prabhupada began to inspire other disciples to take up the mission of preaching Krsna consciousness through dioramas. He wanted these disciples to go to India, learn the art of doll making, and then return to the West and assemble an American theistic exhibit. In a letter to Adi-deva dasa, Srila Prabhupada wrote: "In London there is a museum—Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum—and people are lining up for blocks just to see some mundane dead bodies. You should go to India and learn how to make dolls. Then we will have our own museum, and simply by seeing our exhibits people will make spiritual advancement."

Training in India

In the summer of 1973, the small group of devotees chosen by Srila Prabhupada to pioneer the diorama project arrived in India. Their destination was Sri Mayapur, the holy birthsite of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He appeared five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.) "Srila Prabhupada was staying at our ISKCON headquarters in Mayapur," Baradraja continued, "so of course I went there as soon as my plane landed in Calcutta. When I arrived in Mayapur, I immediately went upstairs to Srila Prabhupada's quarters. It was wonderful to see him there in Mayapur. He was relaxed and very much at home.

"As we talked he began to outline my new work. I was immediately to begin learning all about making dolls. Srila Prabhupada had already chosen a teacher, and I was to attend his classes. As I was leaving Srila Prabhupada's quarters, I ran into a Godbrother I hadn't seen in about four years. I told him what Srila Prabhupada had asked me to do—why I had come to Mayapur—and he started telling me a few things about India. We had stood there maybe five minutes at the most when Srila Prabhupada's secretary ran out and called to me, 'Baradraja, Srila Prabhupada wants to speak with you.' I couldn't imagine why. I had just finished talking with him. I ran back upstairs to his room and offered obeisances. I looked up. Srila Prabhupada was looking at me very sternly. He said, 'So, you can immediately begin this training program. There is so much to do; there will be no time for talking.' I don't know how he could have heard us talking, but from that moment on I knew: I had a lot of work to do, and Srila Prabhupada expected me to get a lot accomplished."

Adi-deva, another pioneer of F.A.T.E., recalls his early experiences in Mayapur—learning the art of doll-making from his teacher and imbibing devotion to Krsna from Srila Prabhupada. "I remember the first thing we made in our class. The teacher had us sit down and make a clay mango. We showed it to him, and he rejected it and had us make another one, and another, and another. I must have made a dozen mangos, but he wanted us to make it exactly like the one he made.

"Once we got over the mango, he had us make a banana. Then an eggplant. Then a squash, and so on. Finally we graduated to making animals. We made monkeys and peacocks—all quite small. It was really tedious, and we sometimes felt like quitting. But the thing that kept us all going was that we knew that one day this work would give pleasure to Srila Prabhupada. Of course, at this time none of us could begin to understand the scope of this project, the vision of our spiritual master.

"In the scriptures it is said that the disciple has to pass the test of the spiritual master. So this was my test: to stay in Mayapur and work only because my spiritual master wanted me to. Srila Prabhupada once told us, 'You should simply make and break.' We'd make a doll very carefully and exactly, and then wes the way he wanted us to learn. I can see now it was just like tearing off layer after layer of false egotism. Srila Prabhupada used to come up every morning after his lecture in the temple to see what wed broken any."

Dispelling Doubts

The dearest thing to a sincere disciple is the order of his spiritual master. Baradraja explains, "We had our order, and through the whole thing Srila Prabhupada confirmed that order and again and again enlivened all of us with his kindness. Then Srila Prabhupada went to Bombay on a visit. Without his daily encouragement I gradually began having some doubts about the whole idea of making dolls. So finally I flew to Bombay to see Srila Prabhupada. I had been in the hospital in Mayapur, and when I arrived in Bombay Srila Prabhupada had heard of my illness. He asked, How is your health?—he was very kind—and I said, 'Now that I am with you I'm perfectly all right.

"Early that same morning, as the sun was coming up, I went with him on his walk along Juhu Beach. What he said to me that morning has become my life and soul. These words are what make me tick right now. Srila Prabhupada instructed me that morning on Juhu Beach: 'Learn this art of doll making. Become expert. If you take this to the West, then my preaching mission will become successful all over the world. So these words actually changed my life. From that day on. making dolls was a lot more than just a job or a task. It became my life's mission.

I learned another important lesson, you might say, when Srila Prabhupada asked us to make an exhibit in Mayapur for Lord Caitanya's appearance day. It was our first real project, and there wasn't really enough time to finish it all. I amde a doll of Lord Caitanya in His six-handed form, and one of Lord Nrsimhadeva [the half man, half-lion incarnation of Krsna], We finished on time, barely, and everyone who came was impressed. When Srila Prabhupada came to the doll of Lord Caitanya he asked, "Who has made this?" Someone said, "Baradraja did it." Srila Prabhupada thought for a minute as he looked at it. Then he turned to me and said, 'The hands are not yet perfect; you must study further. That was the first time I had noticed how very perceptive and critical Srila Prabhupada was of this diorama art. He actually wanted going to overlook anything.

"After that I began to feel a bit humble. When he came to the diorama of Lord Nrsimhadeva and asked, 'Who made this?' I replied that I had. 'Very good,' he said. 'Now you can teach others.' From these two incidents I could understand that, yes, he wanted me to teach, but on the other hand I had much more to learn. So I decided to remain in India and continue with my training.

"Finally, Adi-deva and I had the opportunity to go to Vrndavana [the small village (ninety miles from Delhi) where Lord Krsna appeared five thousand years ago]. We lived and worked in a little shed right next to Srila Prabhupada's quarters. Every day he would visit us during our work and point something out: 'This is too big. That is too small. Do this.' Whenever he was out he would almost always come over to the shop and see what we were doing. Then Srila Prabhupada became very sick. For almost two weeks we didn't see him at all. We just kept working on the dolls. When we had finished them, Srila Prabhupada's health was a little better, but he was till feeling very ill. One morning, after he had left his quarters for a short walk, we hurried in and put the newly finished dolls in his room as a surprise. And were we surprised! When Srila Prabhupada saw the dolls he became very happy. That morning his whole disposition changed and he felt in good health again. The significance, I think, was that by our work we were showing him we had learned what he had brought us to India to learn and that we were enthusiastic to go and begin theistic exhibitions in the West.

"A few days later I went with Srila Prabhupada on his morning walk and he told me, 'Yes, I have often thought that I have brought you here and given you so much trouble just so you would learn to do this important work. And now I see it was not in vain.' "

This marked the conclusion of fifteen months' training in India. Looking back over this period of preparation, Adi-deva recalls that the real motivation for all the devotees involved was the desire to please their spiritual master (which is actually the basic principle of spiritual life). "Going through that whole experience together helped everybody sense the importance that Srila Prabhupada was putting on this work. All the way through, whenever we would become discouraged or unsure, we'd either write to Srila Prabhupada, or Baradraja would go see him, or Prabhupada would come to visit us. And he just kept encouraging, always encouraging."

F.A.T.E. Comes to America

After returning from India, Baradraja, Adi-deva, and many other devotees (some who received training in India and others who simply felt attracted to F.A.T.E.) met at ISKCON's Western world-headquarters, in Los Angeles. Here they began the second phase in the development of theistic exhibitions in America.

"Before we constructed the present exhibit in Los Angeles," Baradraja explains, "we presented the whole idea to Srila Prabhupada, with models of all the dioramas. We marked off a corridor in the exhibit hall and set up models of the proposed dioramas all along the way. Srila Prabhupada toured the whole display and approved all our proposed exhibits. 'Very good,' he said, 'This is buddhi-yoga: you are utilizing your intelligence to preach Krsna consciousness. This is very nice.' "

"F.A.T.E. is a far-reaching project," says Baradraja. "Making dioramas incorporates every facet of the arts and crafts. Someone is a potter; someone is a jeweler; someone a carpenter, an architect, an engineer. We are engaging tailors, painters, photographers, stained-glass artisans. There is no field of art that the diorama construction doesn't touch. It opens up a whole new scope of activities for people in every field."

Devotees make the dolls at F.A.T.E.'s Los Angeles studio, using methods essentially the same as those used in India. The basic materials—bamboo, rice straw, various clays, and rice husk—are the same, as are the processes of finishing, painting, and dressing the dolls. But if you closely observe the doll makers at their daily work, you'll find many arts, crafts, and sciences—and a lot of paraphernalia and equipment—that definitely are not imported from India. For example, to make lighter, stronger, more portable exhibits, the devotees have developed a system of making rubber molds of the original dolls. From each mold a devotee can cast dozens of replicas much quicker than he could construct another clay doll. The cast forms are made of polyester resin, a light, strong material that can hold up under frequent shipping and handling.

F.A.T.E. even has its own electronics department, a vital part of the multifaceted project. At the new museum in Los Angeles, one specially designed computer synchronizes the entire exhibition, including varieties of lighting, a sixteen-track sound system, numerous film and slide projectors, and special visual effects. "We built our own computer," says F.A.T.E.'s electronics engineer Ameyatma dasa, "because we just couldn't find anything on the market that could handle such sophisticated programming."

The Significance of F.A.T.E.

The development of F.A.T.E. points up the essence of Krsna conscious philosophy: we achieve our natural and happy condition when we employ our intelligence, our talents, our possessions—everything—in the service of Lord Krsna, the source and proprietor of all that is. Thus, Srila Prabhupada has taught his disciples how to become expert in using everything in the service of the Lord. Cars, printing presses, electronics, the technical and fine arts—all can help spread Krsna consciousness, and devotees should use them. Actually, these things are meant solely for serving Krsna. But unfortunately our technological society does not know the eternal science of devotional service to Lord Krsna and therefore misuses everything for temporary sense gratification. Srila Prabhupada explains that without dedicating everything to Krsna, we waste our opulence and our technological advancement, and they become so many worthless zeros. Only by adding "one"—Krsna—can we turn all our zeros into millions and billions.

To give everyone a chance to add Krsna to his life is Srila Prabhupada's mission—a mission given him by his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and the mission of a long line of spiritual masters dating back five hundred years to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. The First American Theistic Exhibition is an important step toward fulfilling that mission. Srila Prabhupada explains that people in this age aren't interested in reading philosophical books, and those who do read hardly understand. People aren't patient. They want to use their eyes and ears; they want an experience. So for such people, seeing a diorama that makes a profound, clear philosophical statement is equivalent to many weeks of reading. Even if they see these dioramas only once, they will never forget the experience.

Says Baradraja, "Srila Prabhupada told me that these dioramas are 'living books.' People say that pictures are worth a thousand words. Well, we have another saying: 'A diorama is worth a thousand pictures.' "

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The Advent, Exile, and Triumph of Lord Ramacandra

Just to attract us to His service, God appeared on earth more than one million years ago as Lord Ramacandra—the most benevolent ruler and valiant hero the world has ever known.

The incarnations of Godhead are as numerous as the waves of the sea, yet Krsna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the source of them all. Just as from one original candle we may light many other candles equal in potency, so Krsna expands Himself in many incarnations, each as powerful as Himself. Each incarnation has the same objective in human society—namely, to establish the principles of religion and to destroy demonic, irreligious influences. To accomplish this mission, the Lord once appeared as Sri Ramacandra, the ideal God-conscious king. The poet Valmiki tells the full history of Lord Ramacandra in the Ramayana, and the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami summarizes the Ramayana in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. To this day people in India worship Lord Ramacandra in thousands of temples and regard His reign—the famous "Rama-rajya"—as the model of God-conscious government.

Lord Ramacandra appeared in India more than one million years ago as the son of the great saintly king Maharaja Dasaratha. Early in His life the Lord began ridding the world of unwanted, irreligious elements. In the sacrificial arena of the sage Visvamitra, He killed many Raksasas (demons). Later He married Sita, who is actually the Goddess of Fortune (His eternal consort) and the universal mother. Lord Ramacandra entered the assembly of kings and heroes from whom Sita was to choose her husband. Sita's father, King Janaka, had declared that whoever could break the bow of Lord Siva would win Sita's hand in marriage. This bow was so heavy that it took three hundred men to carry, but Lord Ramacandra bent it and strung it and broke it in the middle, just as a baby elephant breaks a stick of sugar cane. In that way He achieved the hand of Sita, who was equal to Him in the transcendental opulences of beauty, behavior, age, and nature.

In Vedic times it was the custom that a man could have more than one wife, and Lord Ramacandra's father, Maharaja Dasaratha, had three. Since the one named Kaikeyi had served him very pleasingly, King Dasaratha had granted her a benediction. However, the prudent Kaikeyi had said she would ask for this benediction later, and the king had agreed. When the time came for the coronation of Prince Ramacandra, who was the son of one of Kaikeyi's co-wives, Kaikeyi requested her husband to enthrone her own son, Bharata, instead—and to send Ramacandra to the forest. Aggrieved but nonetheless bound by his promise, Maharaja Dasaratha ordered Ramacandra to go to Dandakaranya Forest for fourteen years, and the Lord, as an obedient son, followed the order immediately. He gave up His kingdom, palace, opulence, friends, and everything else. Then He went to the forest with Sita and His brother Laksmana.

While wandering in Dandakaranya Forest, Lord Rama and His companions faced many dangers. On one occasion they encountered Surpanakha, the sister of the ten-headed demon Ravana. Because Surpanakha approached Him with lust, Lord Ramacandra cut off her ears and nose. Then he annihilated her fourteen thousand demonic friends with His invincible bow and arrows.

When Ravana heard about the beautiful features of Lord Ramacandra's wife, Sita, he also became agitated with lust-and he formulated a plan to kidnap her. Ravana ordered the mystic yogi Marica to assume the form of a golden deer, approach Ramacandra's forest campsite, and in that way distract the Lord. By the Lord's own arrangement, the ruse worked. When Lord Ramacandra saw that wonderful deer, He followed it for a great distance and finally killed it. Meanwhile, seeing that both Laksmana and Ramacandra were out of the way, Ravana swiftly kidnapped Sita, just as a tiger seizes unprotected sheep when the shepherd is absent.

(In this connection His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments, "A woman, however powerful she may be in the material world, must be given protection, for as soon as she is unprotected she will be exploited by Raksasas like Ravana." According to the Vedic system, a woman must be protected at every stage of life—first by her father, then by her husband, and finally by her grown-up sons.)

Although a large bird named Jatayu tried bravely to stop Ravana's attack, Ravana defeated him and cut one of his wings. When Lord Ramacandra returned and found Sita missing, He behaved as if very much distressed, and He and Laksmana began to search for her. They came upon the dying Jatayu, who told Ramacandra how Ravana had taken Sita Then Lord Ramacandra went on to kill a demon named Kabandha, and afterward He made an alliance with Sugriva, Nila, and Hanuman, the chiefs of the monkeys. They promised to help Him save Sita from Ravana, who had removed her to his island kingdom of Lanka, present-day Ceylon.

Lord Ramacandra proceeded with His monkey allies to the shore of the Indian Ocean, where He fasted for three days, awaiting the appearance of the personified ocean. When the ocean did not come, Lord Ramacandra glanced angrily over the waters with red-hot eyes, and the ocean became so hot that all the sharks, crocodiles, and other aquatic creatures were in great distress. Finally, the personified ocean fearfully approached the Lord, fell at His lotus feet, and began to pray: "O all-pervading Supreme Person, I am dull-minded and did not understand who You were, but now I understand that You are the Supreme Person, the master of the universe, the unchanging and original Personality of Godhead. My Lord, You may use my water as You like. You may cross it and go to the abode of Ravana. Please go kill him and thus regain Your wife, Sita. Please construct a bridge over my waters. Upon seeing this great deed, all the exalted heroes and kings in the future will glorify You."

Lord Ramacandra thus ordered His mighty monkey soldiers to lop off mountain peaks—trees and all—and throw them into the water. By the Lord's supreme will, they began to float. (This is not very remarkable. By the same supreme will, countless planets are floating in the vast ocean of space. The Lord is never limited by the laws of nature, because nature is under His complete control.) Then, to rescue Mother Sita, Lord Ramacandra and the monkey armies headed by Sugriva, Nila, and Hanuman marched across the Indian Ocean on the bridge of floating stones and launched an assault on Lanka, Ravana's capital. The monkey soldiers immediately occupied all the strategic points, such as the city gates, granaries, treasuries, and assembly houses. The attack was so devastating that the entire city of Lanka appeared like a river disturbed by a herd of elephants.

When Ravana saw what was happening, he summoned his army of Raksasas and led them into a fierce battle with the forces led by Lord Ramacandra. The Raksasas had all kinds of sophisticated weapons and rode proudly on elephants, horses, and chariots. However, condemned by the curse of Mother Sita, the Raksasas had lost all good fortune. Thus, even though Lord Ramacandra's devoted monkey soldiers were armed with little more than tree trunks, huge boulders, and crude clubs, they were able to kill all of Ravana's henchmen. Transcendental, spiritual power always defeats the power of materialistic demons. Although the monkeys' weapons were primitive, the Lord fought on the monkeys' side-that was the decisive factor.

When Ravana saw that his soldiers had all been killed, he became furious. The ten-headed demon boarded his mystic flower-decorated airplane and steered it toward Lord Ramacandra, who sat on an effulgent chariot. When Ravana began shooting razor-sharp arrows at Ramacandra, the Lord loudly rebuked him: "Ravana, you are an abominable, sinful, and shameless dog, for just as a dog steals food from the kitchen when his master is gone, so in My absence you kidnapped My wife, Sita. Today I shall punish you without fail."

After rebuking Ravana, Lord Ramacandra shot an arrow that pierced his heart like a thunderbolt. Vomiting blood from each of his ten mouths, Ravana fell down dead from his airplane. Seeing their leader so ignominiously slain, all of Ravana's followers cried tumultuously, "Alas! Alas! What has happened!" Then Ravana's wife Mandodari and the other slain Raksasas' wives came out of Lanka, striking their breasts and crying piteously. Seeing her husband's corpse, Mandodari said, "My husband, you were always causing others to weep, and thus you were called Ravana. Driven by lust, you could not know Mother Sita's influence. But now, because of her curse, you have been destroyed by Lord Rama. O delight of the demons, you have made your body fit to be eaten by vultures and your soul fit to go to hell!"

Thereafter, Lord Ramacandra found Sita sitting inside a small cottage deep within a forest of Asoka trees. Seeing how lean and thin she had grown due to her captivity and separation from Him, the Lord felt great compassion for her and came before her. When she saw her beloved husband, her joy knew no bounds. Then Lord Ramacandra raised Sita onto a flower-bedecked airplane and boarded the plane Himself, along with Laksmana, Hanuman, and Sugriva. Together they flew back to Lord Ramacandra's capital, Ayodhya. The Lord's fourteen-year exile had ended.

As Lord Ramacandra approached Ayodhya, the princely order greeted Him with showers of beautiful, fragrant flowers, and common citizens offered Him garlands and danced in great jubilation. Women sung poetic prayers and professional reciters chanted His glories. Seated beside Mother Sita on His airplane of flowers, Lord Ramacandra appeared like a beautiful full moon rising amidst glowing stars and planets.

Lord Bharata had been ruling Ayodhya in His brother Ramacandra's absence. When Bharata heard the news of Ramacandra's return to the capital, He immediately took Ramacandra's wooden shoes upon His own head and came forth with His retinue to receive Him. Ministers, musicians, priests, and learned brahmanas joined the royal reception party. The musicians vibrated pleasing music while the brahmanas loudly chanted the Vedic hymns, and beautiful horses with golden harnesses drew gaily decorated chariots. Many soldiers and servants bearing precious gifts followed in the procession. His heart melting with affection and His eyes overflowing with tears, Lord Bharata approached His brother and fell at His feet in deep ecstatic love.

After offering the wooden shoes before Lord Ramacandra, Lord Bharata stood before Him with folded hands. Then Ramacandra embraced Bharata for a long time, all the while bathing Him with tears of joy. Finally, Bharata fervently requested His elder brother to accept the throne, and Ramacandra agreed.

Lord Ramacandra began His reign as emperor by sending His brothers out to conquer the world and establish His authority. Meanwhile, He personally supervised the affairs of His kingdom for the benefit of all the citizens. In fact, He cared for the citizens exactly like a father. He saw to it that everyone observed religious principles, and as a result everyone was completely happy. During the reign of Lord Ramacandra, the bountiful earth freely supplied the necessities of life for all living beings, and all physical and mental suffering—disease, old age, bereavement, lamentation, distress, fear, fatigue—were completely absent. For those who did not want it, there was even no death.

Lord Ramacandra vowed to accept only one wife and to have no connection with any other woman. He was a rajarsi (saintly king) and everything in His character was perfect. Thus He taught the general public by His personal example. Especially exemplary was His behavior towards the brahmanas, the spiritual teachers of society, who in Vedic times held a higher social position than even the ruling kings and princes. Thinking that the brahmanas' unselfishness entitled them to possess the entire world, Lord Ramacandra gave them all the land and wealth in His kingdom—east, west, north, and south. Upon receiving the gift, the brahmanas were very pleased and spoke to the Lord with great affection: "O Lord, You are the master of the entire universe. What have You not given us? You have entered the core of our hearts and dissipated the darkness of our ignorance by Your effulgence. This is the supreme gift. We do not need anything else." So the brahmanas remained satisfied with only the bare necessities of life and returned all the land to Lord Ramacandra for Him to rule, with their blessings.

To ascertain what the citizens of Ayodhya thought of Him, Lord Ramacandra would sometimes walk among them incognito. One night while He was walking about in disguise, He happened to hear a foolish man of heinous character criticize Mother Sita. To his own unchaste wife the man said, "You go to another man's house, and therefore you are unchaste and polluted. I shall not maintain you anymore. A henpecked husband like Lord Rama may accept a wife like Sita, who went to another man's house; but I am not henpecked like Him, and therefore I shall not accept you again." Although such talk was sheer nonsense, Lord Ramacandra nonetheless feared that it might ruin His reputation as a religious ruler. Thus He parted from His wife, who was then with child, and she retired to the hermitage of Valmiki Muni. After giving birth to two sons, Sita absorbed herself in meditation upon the lotus feet of Lord Ramacandra and then entered into the earth, unable to bear the separation from her beloved husband.

Upon hearing of Sita's fate, Lord Ramacandra was apparently overcome with grief. (Actually, the Lord can never be disturbed by any mundane emotion. In reality He felt the intense spiritual bliss of separation from the beloved, which can be experienced only on the highest transcendental platform.) Thereafter, Lord Ramacandra observed complete celibacy and performed an uninterrupted fire sacrifice for thirteen thousand years. After completing the sacrifice, He returned to His eternal abode in Vaikuntha, the spiritual sky—though He remains in the hearts of those who always think of Him. All the citizens of Ayodhya accompanied Lord Ramacandra to His planet, where He reigns eternally with Mother Sita (the Goddess of Fortune), His brother Laksmana, and His faithful monkey servant Hanuman.


Whereas in an age long ago Krsna descended in the form of Ramacandra, in the present age He has descended in the form of His holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When we chant these transcendental names according to the directions of the bona fide spiritual master, Rama and Krsna are still present in this age. This is because the names of Krsna and Rama are absolute and thus non-different from Krsna and Rama Themselves. So the holy name of Rama has the same power as Rama Himself to defeat the modern Ravanas. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says, "The kingdom of Rama was immensely popular and beneficial, and the spreading of this Hare Krsna movement can immediately introduce a similar situation, even in this Kali-yuga [Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy]."

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