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:
Krishan Bhalla, Los Angeles businessman: "When I visit the Hare Krsna temple and hear the devotees chanting so blissfully, I am very happy to see Americans deriving so much benefit from India's Krsna-conscious culture."
Dattatreya dasa, book distributor: "I've distributed books about the science of Krsna consciousness in the airports, the shopping malls, the downtown streets-and everywhere I've seen that people are simply trying to find pleasure through their senses. But they get about as much pleasure from that as a thirsty man gets from a drop of water in the desert. These Krsna-conscious books, though, show us how real pleasure comes from serving God, Krsna. And chanting Hare Krsna brings us in direct contact with Krsna, the reservoir of pleasure."
Mahasini-devi dasi, Head Cook, Los Angeles Temple: "Lord Krsna is never hungry. He's completely self-sufficient. But just as a father is pleased when his small child offers him a morsel from his plate, so Krsna, the Supreme Father, is pleased when we offer back to Him what He has given us. Everyone knows that God provides the sun, rain, fruits, vegetables, and grains; we can't manufacture any of these things in our factories. Krsna also gives us the intelligence to make nice combinations of foods.
"Here in Los Angeles we cook for Krsna and His hundreds of guests and devotees every day. It's a big job, so I chant Hare Krsna to stay in touch with the Supreme Energetic—the source of all strength and ability—Krsna."
New Yorkers will be the first to admit that "Fun City" is often a hard place to be happy in. But the devotees at ISKCON's center on Manhattan's West 55th Street know the secret. By chanting the Hare Krsna mantra they've opened their minds to a whole new dimension of consciousness—God consciousness, Krsna consciousness. In other words the pleasure they get from chanting doesn't come from their senses contacting something outside; it comes from their soul contacting the Supreme Soul, Krsna, within. Since Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure, by chanting Hare Krsna they enjoy being with Him at all times, everywhere, and they stay happy and peaceful in all circumstances.
Find out more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
Early Church father Augustine thought that God eternally abandons some souls to "soul-death." "This is not so," says His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. "Our consciousness can always be revived, and that is the conviction of this Krsna consciousness movement..."
Hayagriva dasa: Augustine considered the soul to be spiritual and different from the material body-but he also believed that the soul did not exist before the body's birth. He simply supposed that the soul is the superior part of the person and the body the inferior part. He also thought that the soul attains immortality only after God creates it only after God brings it into being. At death, Augustine said, the soul goes on to live eternally.
Srila Prabhupada: But if the soul is created, how is it immortal? How is it eternal? How can the soul sometimes not be eternal?
Hayagriva dasa: Well, first of all, Augustine considered that because of Adam's fall, all men are subject to the death of the body. In addition, Augustine believed that while God destines some men to enjoy everlasting happiness after death, He destines others to undergo everlasting suffering. In other words, Augustine said that some people endure both physical death when the soul abandons the body and "soul-death" when God abandons the soul. Thus, when one is damned he faces not only physical death but also "soul-death."
Srila Prabhupada: Figuratively speaking, when one forgets his identity as a servant of God, he undergoes a kind of death but actually the soul is eternal. So, what Augustine calls "soul-death" is actually forgetfulness of God. Of course, until one acquires his freedom from material existence, he is "spiritually dead," even though still existing in the material form. Forgetfulness of one's real identity is a kind of death, because only when one is alive to God consciousness is he actually alive. In any case, the soul is eternal and survives the annihilation of the body.
Hayagriva dasa: Augustine would consider that in some cases the forgetful stage is everlasting, that God eternally abandons the damned soul to eternal perdition.
Srila Prabhupada: This is not so. Our consciousness can always be revived, and that is the conviction of this Krsna consciousness movement. A man is unconscious when he is sleeping, but if you call him again and again, the sound of his name enters his ear, and he awakens. Similarly, this process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra awakens one to spiritual consciousness. Then one can return to his normal, spiritual life.
Of course, one may be "eternally abandoned" in the sense that one may remain forgetful for millions of years. It may seem eternal, but actually one's spiritual consciousness can be revived at any moment by good association, by the method of hearing and chanting about Krsna. Devotional service therefore begins with sravanam—hearing. In the beginning especially, hearing is very important. If one hears the truth from a self-realized soul, one can awaken to spiritual life and remain spiritually alive in devotional service.
Hayagriva dasa: Augustine rejected the idea that the various material bodies in this world are like prisons for the punishment of sin.
Srila Prabhupada: The soul is essentially part and parcel of God, but in this material world the soul is factually imprisoned in different types of bodies. In the Bhagavad-gita [14.4] Sri Krsna says:
"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." From material nature-the mother-different species are coming. The living entities are found in earth, water, air, and even fire. The individual souls, however, are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, who impregnates them within this material world. The living entity then comes out into the material world through the womb of some mother. It appears that the soul is coming out of matter, but the soul is not composed of matter. The soul, always part and parcel of God, simply assumes different types of bodies according to his pious or impious activities and desires. The desires of the soul actually determine higher or lower bodies. But in any case the soul is the same. It is therefore said that those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness see the same quality of soul in each and every body, whether it is the body of a dog or a brahmana [a saintly person].
Hayagriva dasa: Also, Srila Prabhupada, Augustine considered the soul to be created to inhabit only one particular body, which he felt was a gift from God. Augustine thus rejected reincarnation or transmigration. He wrote, "Let these Platonists stop threatening us with reincarnation as a punishment for our souls... Reincarnation is ridiculous... There is no such thing as a return to this life for the punishment of souls... If our creation, even as mortals, is due to God, how can the return to bodies, which are gifts of God, be punishment?" So if the body is a gift of God, Augustine would ask how it could also be a punishment.
Srila Prabhupada: Does he think that if someone takes the body of a hog or a similar lower creature, that is not punishment? Why does one person get the body of King Indra or Lord Brahma and another the body of a pig or insect? How does he explain the body of a pig? If the body is a gift from God, it can also be a punishment from God. When one is rewarded, he gets the body of a Brahma or an Indra, and if he is punished he gets the body of a pig.
Hayagriva dasa: So the degree of punishment or suffering is proportionate to the kind of body one has?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There are many men who are well situated, and there are others who are suffering. Suffering and enjoyment take place according to one's body. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita [2.14]:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
"O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed." A man may perceive cold very acutely, while a fish may not perceive it. So the perception is relative to the body. Thus the body is a source of suffering and enjoyment-or we may consider it as punishment and reward.
Hayagriva dasa: What about the human body? Is that a gift or a punishment?
Srila Prabhupada: It is both. In the human form of life, as in other forms, material nature punishes the living entity with so much suffering. But at the same time, you can consider human life a gift-because in the human form we can approach God. We should think that if God has given us this body for our punishment, it is His mercy; for by undergoing His punishment willingly and practicing Krsna consciousness, we may become purified and progress toward God. Devotees think in this way. Although the body is a form of punishment, they consider it a reward because by undergoing the punishment, they are progressing toward God-realization. Even when the body is given by God for our correction, it can thus be considered a gift.
Hayagriva dasa: According to Augustine, the physical body precedes the spiritual. He writes, "If there is a natural [physical] body, there is also a spiritual body... but it is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and then the spiritual..."
Srila Prabhupada: No. Every living entity has an eternal spiritual body, which exists before he takes on a material body. As we said, entering the material body is a kind of punishment. Every soul is eternally part and parcel of God, but because of some sinful activity, the living entity comes into this material world. In the Bible it is said that due to disobedience to God, Adam and Eve lost paradise and had to come into the material world. The soul belongs to the paradise in heaven—the planets of Krsna—but somehow or other he falls within this material world and takes on a material body. According to one's activities one is elevated or degraded—as a demigod, human being, animal, or plant. In any case, the soul is always aloof from the material body. This is confirmed by the Vedic literatures. Our actual, spiritual life is revived when we are freed from material contamination, or, in other words, from reincarnation.
Hayagriva dasa: Augustine conceived of a spiritual world in which all the souls would be in bliss, and would be eternally loving and glorifying God. They would still possess freedom of will, but sin would have no power to tempt them.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, sin cannot touch one who remains in contact with God. According to our desires, we associate with the modes of material nature and acquire different types of bodies. Nature, the agent of Krsna, affords us facilities by giving us a body which is like a machine. When a son insists, "Father, give me a bicycle," the affectionate father complies. This is similar to our relationship with Krsna, as He explains in the Bhagavad-gita [18.61]:
"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy." The Supreme Father, Krsna, is within the core of everyone's heart. As the living entity desires, the Father supplies a body manufactured by material nature. This body is destined to suffer, but the spiritual bodies in the Vaikunthas [spiritual planets] are not subject to birth, old age, disease, or death, or the threefold miseries.* The spiritual bodies are eternal and full of knowledge and bliss.
Hayagriva dasa: Augustine seems to admit the transcendence and omnipresence of God, but he seems at the same time to reject His existence as the localized Paramatma [Supersoul] accompanying each individual soul. He writes, "God is not the soul of all things but the maker of all souls."
Srila Prabhupada: Then how is God omnipresent? The Paramatma is indicated as the all-pervading Supersoul both in the Brahma-samhita and the Bhagavad-gita. Besides the verse I have just mentioned, elsewhere in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says:
"Yet in this body there is also a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord. He is the supreme proprietor, overseer, and permitter, and He is known as the Supersoul" [Bg. 13.23]. The Supersoul is also present within every atom: vistabhyaham idam krtsnam ekamsena sthito jagat: "With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe" [Bg. 10.42]. So God's all-pervading Paramatma feature cannot be denied.
Hayagriva dasa: For Augustine, the human mind and soul—he called it the "reasonable soul"—were one and the same.
Srila Prabhupada: No. These are different identities. The soul is placed in various bodies that have different ways of thinking, feeling, and willing—different minds. For instance, a dog's mind is not equal to that of a human being, but this is not to say that a dog does not have a soul. So the mind differs according to the body, but the soul always remains the same.
Hayagriva dasa: Well, because he lumped together the soul and the mind, Augustine held that the souls of animals are not the same as the eternal, "reasonable" souls of human beings. In this way he could justify animal killing. He wrote, "Indeed, some people try to stretch the prohibition 'Thou shalt not kill' to cover beasts and cattle, and make it unlawful to kill any such animal. But then, why not include plants and anything rooted in and feeding on the soil?... Putting this nonsense aside, we do not apply 'Thou shalt not kill' to plants, because they have no sensation; or to irrational animals that fly, swim, walk, or creep, because they are linked to us by no association or common bond. By the creator's wise ordinance they are meant for our use, dead or alive. It only remains for us to apply the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' to man alone—oneself and others."
Srila Prabhupada: The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill"—without qualification. Of course, our Vedic philosophy does admit that one living entity serves as food for another living entity. That is a natural law. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, those animals who have hands eat animals without hands. And the four-legged animals eat animals that cannot move, as well as vegetables. So the weak are food for the strong. One must eat an animal or a vegetable—whatever the case, one must inevitably eat some living entity. It thus becomes a question of selection. However, our Krsna consciousness philosophy does not teach us to select our foodstuff on the basis that plant life is less sensitive than animal life, or that animal life is less sensitive than human life. We consider all human beings, animals, and plants to be living entities, spirit souls.
So, apart from vegetarian or non-vegetarian diets, we are basically concerned with Krsna prasada ["Krsna's mercy," food offered to Krsna with love and devotion.] We simply take the remnants of whatever Krsna eats. In the Bhagavad-gita [9.26] Sri Krsna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." This is our philosophy. We are concerned with taking the remnants of Krsna's food, which we call prasada, mercy.
Since we want to act on the level of loving devotion to Krsna, we have to find out what He wants and offer Him only that. We cannot offer Him anything undesirable or unasked for. So meat, fish, and eggs cannot be offered to Krsna. If He desired such things He would have said so. Instead He clearly requests that a leaf, fruit, flower, and water be given to Him. Therefore we should understand that He will not accept meat, fish, or eggs. Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk, and water are the proper foods for human beings and are prescribed here by Lord Krsna Himself. Whatever else we might wish to eat cannot be offered to Him, since He will not accept it, and thus we cannot be acting on the level of loving devotion to Krsna if we eat such foods.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning peace, Augustine writes: "Peace between a mortal man and his Maker consists in ordered obedience, guided by faith, under God's eternal law..."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Peace means coming in contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A man in ignorance thinks that he is the enjoyer of this world, but when he contacts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller, he understands that God is the enjoyer. A servant supplies the needs of his master, and we are servants meant to supply enjoyment to God. Actually God has no needs to fulfill, yet He enjoys the company of His servants, who in turn enjoy His company. A servant is very happy when he receives a good master, and a master is happy to acquire a very faithful servant. This is the relationship between the individual soul and God, and when this relationship is destroyed, it is said that the individual soul exists in maya [illusion]. When the relationship is restored, the individual is situated in his spiritual consciousness—Krsna consciousness—by which he understands that the Supreme God is the actual enjoyer and that we are His servants. God is the actual enjoyer and proprietor as well as the Supreme Being. When we understand God's transcendental qualities, we become happy and attain peace.
Among the naive, of course, one may pass for a spiritual master by wearing robes and a beard, bearing a twinkle in one's eye, performing some magic tricks, or speaking riddles. But intelligent people won't settle for these outer trappings
A Special Article by the Back to Godhead Staff
A recent Gallup poll revealed that more than nineteen million American adults are now practicing some form of yoga, meditation, or other "self-renewal" process. To meet this great demand, many "gurus" have appeared on the scene, each teaching his version of spiritual truth. Some have attracted large followings, and every disciple undoubtedly feels that his guru is the best. But for the serious seeker of truth, choosing a spiritual master cannot be a matter of mere sentiment. Spiritual life is factual and scientific, and we have to test the qualifications of any spiritual teacher by referring to the standard authority. This authority is scripture, especially the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures, which throughout history have provided the philosophical basis for the guru-disciple relationship. By referring to Vedic scriptures we can know the criteria for a bona fide spiritual master. Then we can easily see who is actually a spiritual master, and who is a fraud.
Examining the Guru's Teachings
The first criterion, according to the Vedic scriptures, is the quality of the words the teacher speaks. (Even a fool may be highly esteemed—until he speaks.) In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Sri Krsna, the original spiritual master, tells his disciple Arjuna, "The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." In other words, a genuine guru must have realized the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, and he must be able to impart this truth to his disciple, thus freeing him (or her) from repeated birth and death.
We should therefore immediately reject as outright charlatans those so-called gurus who pretend to have some spiritual knowledge, but who teach their disciples only how to gain some material advantage—a slimmer body, better sex life, success in business, and so on. Real spiritual life means getting free from the agony of birth and death. How can a common man, unable to distinguish spirit from matter—and thus himself caught in the cycle of birth and death—claim to be a spiritual master? Such cheaters generally take up the "guru business" just to earn a living. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the essence of all Vedic scriptures, sternly warns, "No one should become a guru unless he can free his disciple from birth and death."
A true spiritual master must not only be able to distinguish spirit from matter; he must also be able to distinguish the minute, individual spirit (the soul) from the supreme spirit (the Supersoul, or God). Failure to make this important distinction disqualifies many of today's so-called spiritual masters. In fact, blurring the difference between God and the living entity is the most common philosophical flaw among modern gurus. Their reasoning goes something like this: "The eternal spirit soul within the body is Brahman, and the supreme spirit beyond the body is also Brahman. Therefore, we are all equal to the Supreme Brahman—or in other words, everyone is God."
But Lord Krsna Himself denies this idea in the Bhagavad-gita (15.7): "The living entities in this material world are eternally My fragmental parts." It is certainly true that the Vedic scriptures, especially the Upanisads, teach meditation on Brahman, the eternal spirit. And they also teach the realization that each one of us, as a spirit soul, is also Brahman, separate from our material body. But beyond this all the Vedic scriptures explain that although each of us is spirit, we are only minute sparks of the supreme spirit, God. In other words, God is supreme and infinite, and we are all His infinitesimal expansions; therefore, our duty is to serve Him. This simple axiom is the essence of theism, and all the world's religions loudly declare it. For a guru to omit or distort this teaching is a serious philosophical lapse. Behind his negligence we will usually find a cheating mentality—a strong aversion for surrendering to the mastership of God. So, when the teachings of a spiritual master are inimical to bhakti, or loving devotion to God—when he teaches that there is no personal God, or that God is only an energy, or that we can become God—then we should reject him.
Just as it is a fraud for a so-called guru to offer only gross material benefits, or to collect money from his disciples for selfish aims, or to teach the disciples that they are God or can become God—so it is an even greater fraud for the so-called guru to proclaim that he himself is an incarnation of God. The Vedic scriptures predict the incarnations of God and describe their extraordinary qualities and activities. So any ordinary person who poses as a guru and says he is an incarnation of God exposes himself as the greatest fool in human society. The truth is that everyone, including the spiritual master, is an eternal servant of God.
Since we are all servants of the Supreme Lord, a bona fide guru must be a devotee of the Supreme Lord and teach others how to become His devotees. In fact, unless the guru is a devotee of Lord Krsna, he cannot understand transcendental knowledge—what to speak of imparting it to others. An ideal example of a qualified recipient of transcendental knowledge is Arjuna, whom Lord Krsna empowered to understand the Bhagavad-gita because of his devotional attitude. Krsna explains in the fourth chapter, "O Arjuna, this very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science" (Bg. 4.3). Though Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago, His words still hold true today: only the Lord's devotees can understand transcendental knowledge.
Another important criterion for a guru is that he himself must be a disciple of a bona fide spiritual master—one who is part of a succession of spiritual masters coming from Lord Krsna Himself. A guru's teachings cannot be genuine unless he has received his knowledge by this process of disciplic succession, because one who is not part of a genuine disciplic chain can have no access to the Vedic knowledge. So we cannot overemphasize the importance of the disciplic succession in determining the credibility of a spiritual teacher. No matter how learned a scholar one may be, he cannot understand the import of Vedic knowledge by the speculative approach. In other words, no one can know the Transcendence by his imperfect sense perception. As the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.23) explains, "Only unto those great souls who simultaneously have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."
Examining the Guru's Life
A genuine guru must not only speak the truth; he must also live it. In other words, his character must be perfect and his behavior exemplary. In the West we commonly see that a professor or philosopher achieves renown on the basis of his teachings alone, regardless of his personal life. But in Vedic society, if a man is a drunkard or in some other way violates the ideal principles he teaches, then he is considered not a teacher but a cheater. According to the Gita a real guru, who teaches by example, must have the qualities of peacefulness, sense control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, and faith in God. So-called gurus who indulge in abominable things like meat eating, cigarette smoking, and illicit sex, and who covet wealth for purchasing various other forms of sense gratification, are all disqualified. One who cannot control his senses cannot rightfully bear the title "guru."
Since renunciation is a criterion for a genuine guru, then what about yogis who remain alone in silent meditation, seeking to stay pure by avoiding all material contact? Are they the ideal gurus? No—because such withdrawal from the mass of people does not help those who are suffering without God consciousness. One of the greatest God-realized gurus, Srila Rupa Gosvami, states in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, "If one rejects material things which could be used in the service of Krsna [God], his renunciation is incomplete." Everything should be used to serve God. By not withdrawing from the world. but rather by using worldly things (including money, cars, public media, buildings, and so on) to spread God consciousness, a genuine guru can actually attain complete renunciation and also help humanity.
Sometimes a so-called guru seeks to help humanity by performing some social welfare mission, such as opening hospitals or uplifting the poor. Such a man is generally an atheist, devoid of any real spiritual knowledge. A true spiritual master engages wholeheartedly in glorifying the Supreme Lord, fully convinced that this alone will bring the highest happiness, even within the material sphere. Such a true guru has complete faith in Narada Muni's words in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: "As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs, and leaves; and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body; so simply worshiping Lord Krsna through devotional service automatically satisfies the Lord's parts and parcels, the demigods [who supply the rain, air, sunlight, and all other necessities for man]." So a bona fide spiritual master makes broadcasting the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead his only business. He never wastes time making materialistic plans or concocting dry philosophical speculations about God, for he knows full well that all people will be completely satisfied if they simply glorify God. Lord Krsna describes such genuine mahatmas (great souls) as follows: "Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion" (Bg. 9.14).
The perfect example of such a mahatma is Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of Krsna who appeared five hundred years ago in Bengal, India, to teach pure devotional service. Lord Caitanya taught that one should perfect his own life by practicing the science of Krsna consciousness, and that one should also teach others this science. In one sense, then, He taught that everyone could become a guru simply by telling others about the pastimes and teachings of Krsna. During His manifest existence on earth, Lord Caitanya acted as a devotee and always tried to engage others in chanting the glories of the Lord. Thus, He set the example of an ideal spiritual master.
To summarize, we can see that six chief criteria mentioned in the authoritative Vedic scriptures determine the authenticity of a guru. First, the guru's teachings must be fully spiritual: he must not cheat his disciples by promising them material benefits; rather, he must teach them how to become free from material life and obtain liberation from the miseries of repeated birth and death. Second, the guru must have attained the highest realization of the Absolute Truth—the personality of God—which is beyond the incomplete impersonal conception. In this way the guru will be competent to distinguish between the infinite Supreme Spirit (God) and the infinitesimal spirit souls. Fully aware of this distinction between God and the individual soul, he should engage himself as a devotee of the Supreme Lord and teach devotional service to his disciples. The third criterion is that the guru must have received his knowledge from a bona fide spiritual master through the authorized process of disciplic succession, as explained in the Vedic literature. The fourth is that the guru's character must be pure: he must rigidly follow all the religious principles governing saintly behavior. Fifth, he must engage himself and others in the glorification of the Lord as the ultimate activity for human society, and he should not divert his energies to material welfare work. And sixth, a guru of the highest order must spread the message of God (Krsna) consciousness throughout the world.
Now, let's apply these six criteria to the Founder-Acarya of the Krsna consciousness movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, so that we can see whether he is in fact a bona fide spiritual master.
First, are Srila Prabhupada's teachings purely spiritual—free of any material tinge—and can they liberate one from the misery of repeated birth and death? Yes. Srila Prabhupada bases all of his teachings on the Bhagavad-gita, and throughout the Bhagavad-gita Krsna declares that His devotee attains the highest perfection: "Devotional service is the highest activity... Only by devotional service can one achieve transcendental knowledge... One engaged in devotional service is already liberated from birth and death..." Again and again Lord Krsna declares that bhakti, devotional service, is the best method for spiritual realization. Although the Vedas teach many other paths besides bhakti (such paths as knowledge, severe austerities, karma-yoga, and mystic yoga) the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the final word in Vedic literature, refers to all these as kaitava-dharma, or "cheating religion." In truth only unalloyed devotional service (bhakti) can give satisfaction to the soul; other practices are of value only insofar as they lead to bhakti. Thus, at the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna declares, sarva-dharman parityajya: "Give up all other so-called religious activities and surrender unto Me alone" (Bg. 18.66). On Krsna's authority, Srila Prabhupada is teaching only bhakti-yoga, love of God.
Second, has Srila Prabhupada realized the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, and is he imparting that realization to his disciples? Yes. It is said that one can recognize the fully God-conscious spiritual master by his ability to raise many fallen souls to the level of god consciousness. Unquestionably, Srila Prabhupada exhibits this strength to a remarkable degree. Simply by coming into contact with Srila Prabhupada, thousands of people have devoted their lives to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada's disciples are popularly known as "Krsnas" and "Hare Krsna people"—evidence of how totally dedicated to God they have actually become. Also, Srila Prabhupada's disciples strictly avoid the four sinful activities: meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling. These four activities, the pillars of sinful life, are an integral part of our modern society. That so many young people have given them up so unreservedly is certainly revolutionary, and is but another tribute to the bona fide guru.
Third, has Srila Prabhupada received his knowledge from a bona fide spiritual master through the authorized process of disciplic succession? Yes. Srila Prabhupada is the present representative of the most authorized disciplic succession, the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, has blessed this disciplic succession by appearing first as its original preceptor and again, only five hundred years ago, as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In the beginning of creation, Lord Krsna taught the Vedas to Brahma, the "cosmic engineer," who in turn instructed his son and chief disciple, Narada Muni. Narada then passed down the transcendental knowledge to Vyasadeva (the literary incarnation of God), who compiled all the Vedic literature, including the Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, Puranas, and Mahabharata (which contains the Bhagavad-gita). During the twelfth century the great Madhvacarya, who defeated both Buddha's voidist philosophy and Sankara's impersonalist philosophy, also appeared in this disciplic succession. Srila Rupa Gosvami, the most renowned authority on krsna-bhakti, and Jiva Gosvami, India's greatest scholar, are two more links in this unbroken chain of spiritual masters. And today Srila Prabhupada represents the entire line as the disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Certainly no other genuine guru has such credentials—what to speak of the cheaters who concoct their own philosophies and deceive the public for their personal aggrandizement.
This brings us to the fourth point: the extraordinary purity of Srila Prabhupada's character. Unlike those pseudo gurus who preach one thing and practice another, Srila Prabhupada exemplifies all the qualities of a mahatma (great soul) described in the scriptures. He is peaceful, tolerant, merciful, austere, totally self-controlled, humble, perfectly clean (externally and within his heart), and friendly to everyone. Above all, he has perfect, unshakable faith in Lord Krsna. Anyone who has met him can testify that, without question, he is a modern saint in the most profound sense.
Fifth, does Srila Prabhupada teach glorification of God as the only means for self-realization, and does he shun materially motivated welfare work? Yes. In perfect accord with the scriptures and the preceding spiritual masters, Srila Prabhupada is exclusively propagating the sankirtana movement—the congregational chanting of God's names and engagement in His devotional service. Many parts of the Vedic literature proclaim that of all spiritual practices, sankirtana is the most effective for this materialistic age: the Brhan-naradiya Purana explains that no other method of God-realization is possible for the people of this age, the Kali-santarana Upanisad declares that the holy name will cure the chanter of the poisonous effects of the present materialistic age of Kali; and the Narada Pancaratra says that the Hare Krsna mantra (composed entirely of God's names) is equal to all other mantras and sacrifices combined. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu also taught glorification of God through sankirtana, and He particularly stressed the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As for material well-being, Lord Caitanya explains in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.62) that anyone who glorifies Lord Krsna through devotional service automatically performs all subsidiary activities. In other words, he attains both spiritual and material fulfillment. So what need is there for materialistic philanthropy?
Since Srila Prabhupada is teaching the conclusion of the scriptures and is supported by the past authorities, the knowledge he is giving is the purest and most authorized. None of today's gurus is even nearly as qualified in this respect. If a would-be guru is not teaching the message of the disciplic succession from Krsna, and if he does not put forward the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, and if he does not stress the glorification of God by chanting His holy names-then he cannot be accepted as genuine.
Finally, the conclusive evidence that Srila Prabhupada is the only real guru today is that he is effectively spreading God (Krsna) consciousness throughout the world. Some persons object when we praise Srila Prabhupada so highly. They think we are saying no one can become a guru except our guru. But actually Lord Caitanya says that everyone—especially those born in India—should make his life perfect by practicing Krsna consciousness and then teach Krsna consciousness to others. Only Srila Prabhupada, however, has taken up the Lord's order with so much determination and so much success. Twelve years ago, while living in Vrndavana, the land of Krsna, Srila Prabhupada saw that his elder Godbrothers were not carrying out the order of Lord Caitanya and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to spread the message of Krsna consciousness. Now that Srila Prabhupada has taken up that order, he deserves not criticism but praise. Indeed, the entire world should cooperate with such a selfless universal teacher.
The Miracle of Srila Prabhupada's Books
Certainly there is abundant evidence of Srila Prabhupada's greatness, but the most conclusive of all is his books. First, Srila Prabhupada is the only guru who has presented the Bhagavad-gita purely, without misleading commentary. As long ago as the end of the nineteenth century, many Hindu gurus came to the United States claiming to be great saints and scholars of the Bhagavad-gita. They presented the Gita in many versions—nearly one hundred—but not one produced even a single devotee of Krsna. In other words, these false gurus put forth the Bhagavad-gita with self-interested interpretations, simply to popularize their own philosophies. Thus they ignored the Gita's real philosophy of surrender to Krsna. And the result? Although many people admired the Bhagavad-gita, no one could understand it, and no one cared to become a devotee of Krsna. However, since Srila Prabhupada's publication of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, thousands of people have become purified by this knowledge and have taken up devotional service to Lord Krsna.
Among Srila Prabhupada's other books are the Srimad-Bhagavatam (a work in progress) and the Caitanya-caritamrta, two of the most important Vedic scriptures. To date Srila Prabhupada has written more than sixty volumes, and he is currently producing one complete book nearly every month. These publications (and their author) have won the praise of leading scholars throughout the world, as the following comments will attest.
Professor Garry Gelade of Oxford University writes, "This [Srimad-Bhagavatam] is a book to be treasured... The clarity and precision of Srila Prabhupada's commentaries on the text can rarely have been equaled. No one of whatever faith or philosophical persuasion who reads this book with an open mind can fail to be moved and impressed."
Dr. Shaligram Shukla, Professor of Sanskrit at Georgetown University, praises Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. "It is a deeply felt, powerfully conceived, and beautifully explained work...I have never seen any other work on the Gita with such an ardent voice and style."
And Dr. Kailash Vajpeye, Visiting Professor of Indian Studies at the University of Mexico, expresses himself in this way: "Of all commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita that have appeared until now in the West, this present edition by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the best... Srila Prabhupada's Sanskrit scholarship is without parallel. His penetration into the meaning of the text indicates the deepest realization and understanding of the profound meaning of the Gita.''
From every angle of vision and on every count, it is clear that Srila Prabhupada is jagad-guru—a pure devotee empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to teach Krsna consciousness to the entire world. Indeed, more than a century ago Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura one of the great spiritual masters in the line of disciplic succession, predicted the advent of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Bhaktivinoda wrote, "A personality will soon appear to preach the teachings of Lord Caitanya and move unrestrictedly over the whole world with His message."
In 1965, at the advanced age of seventy, with no companion and practically no money (about five dollars)—but with the ardent desire to execute the instruction of his guru—Srila Prabhupada left his home in Vrndavana, India, and sailed to America. On his arrival in Boston Harbor, Srila Prabhupada wrote, "I do not know, Krsna, why You have sent me here. These people are all demonic, engaged in meat eating and illicit sex. How will they be able to hear the message of Krsna?" Srila Prabhupada wasn't patronized by any organization in the United States, nor was he helped by His Godbrothers in India. Yet as a surrendered servant of his spiritual master, he tried to spread Krsna consciousness, beginning from a humble storefront on New York's Lower East Side. The success of the worldwide Krsna consciousness movement today is a testimony to Krsna's favor upon His pure devotee.
Srila Prabhupada started the Krsna consciousness movement single-handedly, and in only eleven years he has laid the foundation, organized the framework, and imparted the philosophy for a universal movement to establish God consciousness throughout human society. In only eleven years Srila Prabhupada has circled the globe more than a dozen times—preaching, translating, opening more than one hundred centers, managing worldwide affairs, and accepting thousands of disciples—all at a pace that none of his youthful followers has been able to match. His sixty-plus books have been translated into fifteen major languages, and they are standard texts in colleges and universities throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia.
Srila Prabhupada has taught businessmen to do business for Krsna, artists to paint and sculpt for Krsna, and scientists to use their brainpower and know-how for Krsna. He has taught mothers to raise Krsna-conscious children, actors to perform dramas depicting the pastimes of Krsna, and anyone and everyone to chant Hare Krsna and eat prasada, food offered to Krsna. He has transformed his fortunate disciples (who had formerly been brainwashed by today's demonic propaganda of sense gratification) into peaceful, self-controlled brahmanas, the most intelligent members of human society. Srila Prabhupada is jagad-guru, the spiritual master of all of us (all of us who agree to hear him submissively), and he is teaching the world how to have peace, both individually and internationally, by using everything in the service of its rightful owner—Krsna—and by chanting Krsna's holy names.
The glory of Srila Prabhupada as the representative of God surpasses any attempt to define his greatness. Beyond the proofs cited in these few pages, a closer study of Srila Prabhupada's life and teachings will reveal many more unprecedented achievements and afford further transcendental enlightenment. The reader of this humble attempt to praise a great soul has been very kind to consider our presentation. To you our concluding words are these: we respectfully request you to read the books of this highly exalted bona fide spiritual master. If you submissively hear his message, certainly it will touch your heart and benefit you eternally.
On a recent tour of India, Srila Prabhupada became ill and returned home to Vrndavana. Deeply concerned, many of his elder disciples went there to be with him. When they asked how they could assist him, Srila Prabhupada said his recovery depended on Krsna. Rupanuga dasa, one of Srila Prabhupada's eldest disciples, wrote this prayer:
O superior Vaisnavas!
Sastra teaches that because of disciples' bad behavior, or to allow some personal service, or to exhibit ecstatic symptoms, the spiritual master may display bad health (although he so kindly says it is simply due to old age and personal neglect of his health—meaning that he has worked too hard to save us).
But we may not speculate upon the mind of the Acaryas.
Please hear our petition!
We pray; for the kindness of our Grandfather, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura who is by nature merciful upon his spiritual grandchildren.
We pray for the continued compassion of the Six Gosvamis, who are already famous in all the three worlds for saving conditioned souls.
We pray. for the benediction of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most magnanimous Supreme Personality of Godhead.
We pray to Radharani Queen of Vrndavana, protector of our neophyte bhakti (devotional service].
And we pray to Lord Krsna Himself, whom we cannot even approach without the guidance of our Srila Prabhupada.
We, the fallen servants of His Divine Grace; beseech all of our Masters—Please give Srila Prabhupada more time! Time to insure the strength of this movement. Time to finish the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And a little more time for us to spend at the lotus feet of His Divine Grace-that we may become pure devotees by his mercy.
We implore you—these ten years have passed so quickly, and we are caught far too short of perfection (You know that actually only ten milliseconds have passed in eternal time). Therefore kindly extend his stay, lest we fall from the spiritual path.
O Vaisnava saints!
Your most fallen servant, Rupanuga dasa
Note: Srila Prabhupada has since gradually recovered from his illness and is again engaging in his regular activities, including his translation of and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
College Students Discover Higher Taste—Krsna
College students on two American campuses have discovered that they can add Krsna consciousness to their college life by studying the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and eating prasada (vegetarian food offered to Krsna with devotion).
Every week at the University of Maryland, in College Park, sixty to ninety students attend a prasada-cooking class taught by Gabhira dasa, who is an authorized chaplain there. While deftly demonstrating how to whip up some curried rice or milk sweets, Gabhira expounds the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. He also teaches yoga meditation through the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and four days a week he distributes prasada and Krsna-conscious literature outside the Student Union. In addition, Gabhira has been a guest lecturer in history, American studies, anthropology, and health education courses.
Some of the other university-recognized chaplains (there are ten in all) take a dim view of Gabhira's enthusiastic preaching. Rabbi Robert Saks, Hillel chaplain, disagrees with Gabhira's idea that a chaplain's role is to elevate the spiritual climate of the campus. "We're not university chaplains," Rabbi Saks said. "We're here to serve our denominations as guests of the university... I'm scared of opening the door to proselytizing."
Gabhira responds, "Krsna consciousness is non-sectarian: we want to elevate everyone's consciousness. We're basically teaching surrender to God... something like a spiritual peace corps. We're showing that there is another way of life, a spiritual way."
Meanwhile, Amarendra dasa has established a similar prasada-oriented program at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. But he had to win the right to hold his transcendental picnics on campus. Last April campus police arrested him and another devotee on three occasions and charged them with various violations of civil codes. The third incident drew a crowd of students, who cheered Amarendra and booed the police. The overwhelming majority of the students saw the incident as a clear-cut case of religious persecution, and they came out for the devotees in the school newspaper, the Alligator. Finally the local circuit court lifted its injunction banning the prasada distribution, and now Amarendra is back on campus to stay—dispensing rich, creamy Gauranga potatoes; buttery, flat-bread chapatis; fruit nectar; and generous helpings of Krsna-conscious philosophy.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is Breaks Records, Draws Praise
Through the efforts of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Bhagavad-gita is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the West. In fact, each of the last three years has seen Srila Prabhupada's disciples double their sales of his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. (To meet the great demand in 1977, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Coordinator Rameswara Swami ordered one and one-half million copies—one of the largest single-title book orders ever placed!) What accounts for so much interest in Srila Prabhupada's unique edition of the Gita? A few of the hundreds of scholarly testimonials tell the story:
Back in 1968, just after the first printing of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the well-known clergyman and author Thomas Merton became one of the first to praise it. He wrote at that time, "The Gita can be seen as the main literary support for the great religious civilization of India, the oldest surviving culture in the world. The present translation and commentary is another manifestation of the permanent living importance of the Gita. Swami Bhaktivedanta brings to the West a salutary reminder that our highly activistic and one-sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self-destruction because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness. Without such depth, our moral and political protestations are just so much verbiage."
More recently, Dr. Davis Herron, Professor of Religion at Manhattan College, had this to say: "This definitive edition of the Gita is, due to its extensive purports, a storehouse of ancient Vedic wisdom, poetry, politics, and history. It should serve as a useful textbook for students and as a reference book for scholars of religion, as well as a general introduction to Vedic culture and practical philosophy for the layman. It is written for serious readers in general, not only from a scholar's point of view, but from that of a life-long practitioner of the yoga of devotion. It is this sense of devotion that Srila Prabhupada has captured in his discussion of the verses, and which other commentators have failed to reveal."
On Illicit Sex and Public Opinion
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a social worker took place in Melbourne, Australia.
Social worker: I deal with divorce cases and adoption. Nowadays it has become very easy to get a divorce.
Srila Prabhupada: So, the first defect of today's leaders is that they allow divorce. That is very dangerous for society, because it encourages illicit sex.
Social worker: Society wants it that way.
Srila Prabhupada: Society is just like a child. If a child wants to go to hell, should the father allow it? Society may want so many nonsensical things, but it is the duty of the government to know how to uplift the citizens.
Social worker: It would be impossible for my department to teach...
Srila Prabhupada: It's not impossible. Simply the government does not know how to do it. That is another defect—there is no method for training first-class members of society. But the ideal man is described in the Bhagavad-gita, and. we are training our men to that standard. That is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. Now there are no ideal men in the society, because you allow the young people to commit all kinds of sinful activities. Yesterday I was talking with a priest about illicit sex life. He said, "What is the harm? It is a great pleasure." But my first condition before accepting a disciple is that he must give up illicit sex, meat eating, intoxication, and gambling.
Social worker: But the people you can train will be only a tiny percentage of the population.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but example is better than precept. If even one percent of the population is trained as ideal men, the other ninety-nine percent will see and follow. But that example is lacking in society today. Even the priests have become licentious, and thousands of priests are going to the hospital to cure their drinking habit. They are sanctioning homosexuality. In a Christian newspaper I read about a priest even performing marriage between two men. So outside of this Krsna consciousness movement, I don't find any group of ideal men. Therefore, if you want to help society, you must learn from us how to train men of ideal character.
Social worker: What you call "ideal character" is only your opinion. It may not be ideal to someone else.
Srila Prabhupada: No, it is not my opinion—it is the verdict of the sastra[scripture]. Opinion—what is the value of opinion when the people are like dogs and asses? What is the use of taking the opinion of an ass? This vox populi—taking the opinion of the public—is degrading modern society. If the public is composed of drunkards, smokers, meat eaters, gamblers, and woman hunters, then what is the value of their opinion? Why take the opinion of fourth-class men? What Krsna says—that is the standard. Krsna is the supreme, and His version is final. No other opinion is allowed. When I introduced the principle "No illicit sex life," I didn't ask for opinions—"It must be done."
Social worker: You don't think the people have any mind of their own?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, they have a mind, just like a madman has a mind. But what is the value of his mind? Are you going to take the opinion of a madman? The Bhagavad-gita says, mayayapahrta-jnana: "The miscreant's knowledge has been taken away by maya [illusion]; therefore, his mind is distorted." So a madman's opinions have no value.
Social worker: Our business is to look after those who are in trouble.
Srila Prabhupada: At the present moment even the government leaders are in trouble.
Social worker: Well—that is not part of our public...
Srila Prabhupada: Why don't you send your supervisor to us for training? These leaders are also drunkards, woman hunters, meat eaters, and gamblers.
Social worker: You want to change the whole society!
Srila Prabhupada: Unless you change the society, how can you do social welfare? If you keep society in the same condition it is in now, then where is the question of social welfare? You are working with the public, and we are also working with the same people. We take the same people—those addicted to drinking, addicted to prostitution, addicted to meat eating—and we make them into saintly persons. So our method is practical. You can see what their previous history was, and what they are now. You must train up one class of men like them—men of ideal character.
Social worker: Well, I'm a public servant, and we just try to follow public opinion.
Srila Prabhupada: So the public elects a President Nixon, and then they drag him out of office. This is your public opinion.
Social worker: Yes, that is how the society works. If you change society, then we must change. I do what I'm asked; otherwise, I'll lose my job.
Srila Prabhupada: Our program is not vox populi. We are saying only what the authoritative scriptures say. If you actually want to do social welfare, then you must take to the standard formula as given in the scriptures. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains how one can become peaceful—a first-class man. But if you don't accept His authority—if you'd rather follow public opinion—you will never be successful. You want to make a peaceful society, but you do not know how. Therefore you must adopt this process of Krsna consciousness. If anyone—even a madman—agrees to follow our principles, then he can become peaceful. He can become a first-class man.
Social worker: How do you explain the fact that you are such a small percentage of the population?
Srila Prabhupada: In the sky there are so many stars, but there is only one moon. In terms of percentage, the moon is nothing. But in terms of its value, the moon is far more important than all the stars combined. So in our Krsna consciousness movement, our aim is to educate a few men of ideal character. If you and other leaders of society support this movement, you will be performing the highest social welfare.
Social worker: The head of the Social Welfare Bureau is also a servant of the people.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the defect: the people are rascals, and they elect another rascal. But the Krsna consciousness movement will go on without depending on these rascals. We are publishing our books, we are spreading our movement, and we are training first-class men. For example, we don't prohibit sex, but we say, "No illicit sex." Have you any objection?
Social worker: Yes, a private one.
Srila Prabhupada: You have illicit sex?
Social worker: Yes, I couldn't live without it.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see! This is the defect in society. You are like a patient who wants treatment from a physician, but who at the same time wants to continue with his diseased activities. You have failed to help society, therefore you have come to me for help with your social welfare work. So why do you reject my advice? If you reject the medicine prescribed by the physician, you will not be cured. But when I give you the prescription, you want the other patients to vote on it first. Daily one or two gentlemen like you visit me. They also find our prescription very strict. But we are not going to change it.
Social worker: Well, I do believe you should maintain a standard.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and that is making us successful. We do not make any compromise. This is our method. If you like it, you can take it; if you don't like it, you can reject it. We don't mind. We are not interested in vox populi.
Dear Satsvarupa Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada:
I am the Indian boy who talked with you at the Krsna temple in Los Angeles during the Sunday festival. I also spoke to you once over the phone in Dallas. Now I am staying here at the temple in Atlanta, and this has upset my parents very much. They started crying on the phone, and my mother even fainted once. Now I see what you meant when you told me that the family ties are much stronger in Indian families than in American families.
My parents are going to come Sunday to take me home for a week. They want me to show them that my staying at the temple for the summer is really my own choice. They think I've been brainwashed by the devotees. Mainly they are worried about the future—who will take care of them in old age—because their only children are my sister and I.
I would deeply appreciate your writing to them. They think being a devotee means never seeing one's parents anymore. They also think that the Krsna consciousness movement somehow brainwashes the devotee to make him accept what, in my parents' opinion, is an impractical life of serving Krsna all the time.
I want to serve Krsna, and in my heart I know this will give the greatest benefit to my family, myself, and all people. But when I talk to my parents on the phone, sometimes I am overcome with grief because of their attachment to me. So again I humbly request you: please write to my father and mother. Thank you very much.
Dear Mr. Sharma,
Recently I met your son Rakesh when you and your family visited our Hare Krsna center in Los Angeles. Since then I've corresponded with him and learned that he sincerely wants to be a full-time devotee of Lord Krsna at our Atlanta temple. But he also is very concerned that you and your wife not think his taking up spiritual life is something bad. So he asked me to write you on his behalf.
First, I would like to call your attention to an article we published in BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol. 12, No. 6. It is an excerpt from the scripture Caitanya-caritamrta and is called "Lord Caitanya, the Joy of Mother Saci." It tells how the great devotee Lord Caitanya took up the renounced order of spiritual life: He did not neglect His mother (His father had passed away), nor did she try to dissuade Him from leaving home. Rather; Lord Caitanya and His mother maintained a sweet spiritual relationship even after He entered the renounced order.
Certainly you and Rakesh should also be able to maintain such a loving relationship-so that he will be allowed to perform his duties in service to Lord Krsna (as his conscience dictates) and you may visit, write, or phone him as often as you like. On the other hand, if overly possessive affection causes you to obstruct your' son's entry into spiritual life, then, according to the Caitanya-caritamrta, you are open to criticism.
I humbly pray that these words from a stranger do not offend you. I know how you feel toward Rakesh, but all scriptures declare that service to the Lord takes precedence, even over close family ties.
Another thing concerns me. Rakesh wrote me that you suspect Krsna consciousness to be some kind of "brainwashing." I can see that the demonic propaganda prevalent in the West has affected your judgment. Certainly no one in India regards worshiping Lord Krsna as "brainwashing." "Brainwashing" refers to a form of extreme coercion that convinces a person, against his will, to do something completely contrary to his nature. I would not expect you, an Indian and a Hindu, to think that if someone worships Krsna with his heart and soul, he must be a victim of some kind of devious control by Krsna-conscious devotees.
Of course, we were not born Hindus, so you might find some shortcomings in our practice. But we are all sincerely trying to follow our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who is a bona fide guru coming in the line of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna. You can know that our movement is authentic, because we have all given up meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling, and we have taken up chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, which all the Indian Vedic scriptures strongly recommend for the troubled age we live in.
Finally, I beg you to please look upon us kindly. Talk things over with Rakesh and the Krsna devotees at the Atlanta temple. I'm sure you will then be able to understand how Krsna consciousness is beneficial not only for your son, but for yourself as well.
Yours in the service of Lord Krsna,
Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
An Excerpt from Srila Prabhupada's Work-in-Progress
Fifty centuries ago Lord Krsna came, to protect His devotees and id the world of demonic politicians. Now Krsna comes again in another form—the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam ("The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead"), translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
For many years His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has been preparing a multivolume English translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam ("The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead")—a monumental Sanskrit work known as "the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic literature." Recently, Srila Prabhupada reached a milestone as he began translating the Bhagavatam's Tenth Canto, the essence of this five-thousand-year-old classic.
The imminent publication of the Tenth Canto is momentous not only for the Krsna consciousness movement but for the entire world Scholars, theologians, and librarians throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and India have already placed more than two thousand orders for all sixty volumes of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavatam—even before many of the books have been translated and printed! Many scholars, aware of the exalted place the Bhagavatam holds in Vedic literature, have personally expressed their appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's unequaled English rendering. For these scholars (and, even more, for Srila Prabhupada's thousands of disciples), the appearance of the Tenth Canto marks a spiritual and literary event of the highest magnitude.
The reason the Tenth Canto has such special significance is that it describes Lord Krsna in His original and most attractive feature—as a cowherd boy in the village of Vrndavana. There He plays on His flute, steals butter from His mother's churning pot, and charms His dear friends with His irresistible personality. With eyes like lotus petals and a complexion like a dark bluish cloud, He possesses an ever-fresh beauty that defies description. Other Vedic literatures give only a small hint of Lord Krsna's own intimate, spiritual abode, but in the Srimad-Bhagavatam—and especially in the Tenth Canto—Krsna personally appears and reveals His supremely attractive and most confidential pastimes.
There is one great advantage that Srila Prabhupada's long-awaited translation of the Tenth Canto holds over previous translations. Because Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee of the Lord, one who submissively hears Krsna's pastimes from him experiences a change of heart, and the hearer's self-defeating disposition to enjoy the material world slackens. Thus his long-forgotten natural love for Krsna awakens and he develops an attraction for hearing more and more about the Lord.
Unfortunately, those who receive the message of the Bhagavatam from someone other than an expert spiritual master—a pure devotee of Krsna in the disciplic succession coming down from Krsna Himself—generally misinterpret the Lord's pastimes described in the Tenth Canto. Instead of becoming purified by hearing of the Lord's loving affairs with His devotees, such careless interpreters, casual readers, and mental speculators offend the Lord, and their spiritual advancement is checked.
The conclusion, therefore, is that one must learn the book Bhagavata from the person bhagavata, one whose very life embodies the teachings of the Bhagavatam. If one hears about the Lord in this authorized way, his feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, awakens within his heart and extinguishes the. fire of material suffering. Ultimately, the sincere student of the Srimad-Bhagavatam realizes his original, transcendental relationship with the Lord and, upon giving up his body at death enters into Lord Krsna's eternal pastimes in the spiritual world.
What follows is an excerpt from the completed third chapter of the Tenth Canto, prepared by Srila Prabhupada at ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana, India.
The Advent of Lord Krsna
At the auspicious time for the appearance of the Lord, the entire universe was surcharged with all the qualities of goodness, beauty, and peace. The constellation Rohini appeared, as did stars like Asvini. The sun, the moon, and the other stars and planets were very peaceful. All directions appeared extremely pleasing, and the beautiful stars twinkled in the cloudless sky.
Decorated with towns, villages, mines, and pasturing grounds, the earth seemed all-auspicious. The rivers flowed with clear water, and the lakes and vast reservoirs, full of lilies and lotuses, were extraordinarily beautiful. In the trees and green plants, which were full of flowers and leaves, pleasing to the eyes, birds like cuckoos and swarms of been began chanting with sweet voices for the sake of the demigods. A pure breeze began to blow, pleasing the sense of the hearer's touch and bearing the aroma of flowers, and when the brahmanas who were engaged in ritualistic ceremonies ignited their fires according to Vedic principles, the fires burned steadily, undisturbed by, the breeze.
Thus when the birthless Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was about to appear, the saints and brahmanas, who had always been disturbed by demons like Kamsa and his men, felt peace within the core of their hearts, and kettledrums simultaneously vibrated from the upper planetary system. The Kinnaras and Gandharvas, inhabitants of the heavenly planets, began to sing auspicious songs; the Siddhas and Caranas offered auspicious prayers; and the Vidyadharis, along with the Apsaras, began to dance in jubilation.
The demigods and great saintly persons showered flowers in a joyous mood, and clouds gathered in the sky and very mildly thundered, making sounds like those of the ocean's waves. Then the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, who is situated in the core of everyone's heart, appeared from the heart of Devaki in the dense darkness of night, like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon, because Devaki was of the same category as Sri Krsna
[As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.37):
This verse indicates that Krsna and His entourage are of the same spiritual potency (ananda-cinmaya-rasa). Krsna's father, His mother. His friends the cowherd boys, and the cows are all expansions of Krsna, as will be explained in the brahma-vimohana-lila. When Brahma took away Krsna's associates to test the supremacy of Lord Krsna, the Lord expanded Himself again in the forms of the many cowherd boys and calves, all of whom, as Brahma saw, were visnu-murtis [forms of Krsna]. Devaki is also an expansion of Krsna, and thus the Bhagavatam says, devakyam deva-rupinyam visnuh sarva-guha-sayah.
The objection may be raised that since Lord Krsna appeared on the eighth day of the waning moon, there could be no rising of the full moon. In answer to this it may be said that Lord Krsna appeared in the dynasty which is in the hierarchy of the moon; therefore, although the moon was incomplete on that night, because of the Lord's appearance in the dynasty wherein the moon is himself the original person, the moon was in an overjoyous condition, so by the grace of Krsna he could appear just as a full moon. To welcome the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the waning moon became a full moon in jubilation.
Those who are not in full knowledge that the appearance and disappearance of the Lord are transcendental (janma karma ca me divyam) are sometimes surprised that the Supreme Personality of Godhead can take birth like an ordinary child. Actually, however, the Lord's birth is never ordinary. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is already situated within the core of everyone's heart as antaryami, the Supersoul. Thus because He was present in full potency in Devaki's heart, He was also able to appear outside her body.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.9.42), Bhisma, a great authority to be followed by devotees, says that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated in the core of everyone's heart, just as the sun may be on everyone's head. Yet although the sun may be on the heads of millions and millions of people, this does not mean that the sun is variously situated. Similarly, because the Supreme Personality of Godhead has inconceivable potencies, He can be within everyone's heart and yet not be variously situated. Ekatvam anupasyatah (Isopanisad 7). The Lord is one, but He can appear in everyone's heart by His inconceivable potency. Thus although the Lord was within the heart of Devaki, He appeared as her child. According to the Visnu Purana, therefore, the Lord appeared like the sun (anugrahasya). The Brahma-samhita (5.35) confirms. that the Lord is situated even within the atom (andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara stham). He is situated in Mathura, in Vaikuntha; and in the core of the heart. Therefore one should clearly understand that He did not live like an ordinary child in the heart or the womb of Devaki. Nor did He appear like an ordinary human child, although He seemed to do so in order to bewilder asuras (demons) like Kamsa. The asuras wrongly think that Krsna took birth like an ordinary child and passed away from this world like an ordinary man. Such asuric conceptions are rejected by persons in knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san (Bg. 4.6). As stated in Bhagavad-gita, the Lord is aja, unborn, and He is the supreme controller of everything. Nonetheless, He appeared as the child of Devaki. This verse describes the inconceivable potency of the Lord, who appeared like the full moon. Understanding the special significance of the appearance of the Supreme Godhead, one should never regard Him as having taken birth like an ordinary child.]
Vasudeva then saw the newborn child, who had very wonderful lotuslike eyes and who bore in His four hands the four weapons sankha, cakra, gada and padma [conchshell, disc, club, and lotus]. On His chest was the mark of Srivatsa and on His neck the brilliant Kaustubha gem. Dressed in yellow, His body blackish like a dense cloud, His scattered hair fully grown, and His helmet and earrings sparkling uncommonly with the valuable gem Vaidurya, the child, decorated with a brilliant belt, armlets, bangles, and other ornaments, appeared very wonderful.
When Vasudeva saw his extraordinary son, his eyes were struck with wonder. In transcendental jubilation, he mentally collected ten thousand cows and distributed them among the brahmanas as a transcendental festival.
Vasudeva could understand that this child was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana. Having concluded this without a doubt, he became fearless. Bowing down with folded hands and concentrated attention, he began to offer prayers to the child, who was illuminating His birthplace by His natural influence.
Vasudeva prayed, "O my Lord, proprietor of all creation, You have now appeared in my house, desiring to give protection to this world. I am sure that You will kill all the armies that are moving all over the world under the leadership of politicians who are dressed as ksatriya rulers but who are factually all demons. They must be killed by You for the protection of the innocent public."
[Krsna appears in this world for two purposes, paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam: to protect the innocent, religious devotees of the Lord and to annihilate all the uneducated, uncultured asuras who unnecessarily bark like dogs and fight among themselves for political power. It is said, kali-kale nama-rupe krsna-avatara. The Hare Krsna movement is also an incarnation of Krsna in the form of the holy name (nama-rupe). Every one of us who is actually afraid of the asuric rulers and politicians must welcome this incarnation of Krsna: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then we will surely be protected from the harassment of asuric rulers. At the present moment these rulers are so powerful that by hook or by crook they capture the highest posts in government and harass countless numbers of people on the plea of national security or some emergency. Then again, one asura defeats another asura, but the public continues to suffer. Therefore the entire world is in a precarious condition, and the only hope is this Hare Krsna movement.
Lord Nrsimhadeva appeared when Prahlada was excessively harassed by his asuric father. Because of such asuric fathers—that is, the ruling politicians—it is very difficult to press forward the Hare Krsna movement, but because Krsna has now appeared in His holy name through this movement, we can hope that these asuric fathers will be annihilated and the kingdom of God will be established all over the world. The entire world is now full of many asuras in the guise of politicians, gurus, sadhus, yogis, and incarnations, who are misleading the general public away from Krsna consciousness, which can offer true benefit to human society.]
Vasudeva continued, "O my Lord, Lord of the demigods, after hearing the prophecy that You would take birth in our home and kill him, this uncivilized Kamsa killed so many of Your elder brothers. As soon as he hears from his lieutenants that You have appeared, he will immediately come with weapons to kill You."
[Kamsa has here been described as asabhya, meaning "uncivilized" or "most heinous," because he killed the many children of his sister. When he heard the prophecy that he would be killed by her eighth son, this uncivilized man, Kamsa, was immediately ready to kill his innocent sister on the occasion of her marriage. An uncivilized man can do anything for the satisfaction of his senses. He can kill children, he can kill cows, he can kill brahmanas, he can kill old men; he has no mercy for anyone. According to the Vedic civilization, cows, women, children, old men, and brahmanas should be excused even if they are at fault But asuras, uncivilized men, do not care about that. At the present moment, the killing of cows and the killing of children are going on unrestrictedly, and therefore this civilization is not at all human, and those who are conducting this condemned civilization are uncivilized asuras.
Such uncivilized men are not in favor of the Krsna consciousness movement. As public officers, they declare without hesitation that the chanting of the Hare Krsna movement is a nuisance, although the Bhagavad-gita clearly says, satatam kirtayanto mam yatantas ca drdha-vratah. According to this verse, it is the duty of the mahatmas to chant the Hare Krsna mantra and try to spread it all over the world to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, society is in such an uncivilized state that there are so-called mahatmas who are prepared to kill cows and children and stop the Hare Krsna movement. Such uncivilized activities, like those of history, were actually demonstrated in connection with the Hare Krsna movement's Bombay center, Hare Krsna Land. As Kamsa was not expected to kill the beautiful child of Devaki and Vasudeva, the uncivilized society, although unhappy about the advancement of the Krsna consciousness movement, cannot be expected to stop it. Yet we must face many difficulties in many different ways. Although Krsna cannot be killed, Vasudeva, as the father of Krsna, was trembling because in affection he thought that Kamsa would immediately come and kill his son. Similarly, although the Krsna consciousness movement and Krsna are not different and no asuras can check it, we are afraid that at any moment the asuras can stop it in any part of the world.]
Thereafter, exactly when Vasudeva, being inspired by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was about to take the newborn child from the delivery room, Yogamaya, the Lord's spiritual energy, took birth as the daughter of Yasoda, the wife of Maharaja Nanda.
By the influence of Yogamaya, all the doorkeepers fell fast asleep, their senses unable to work, and the other inhabitants of the house also fell deeply asleep. When the sun rises, the darkness automatically disappears; similarly, when Vasudeva approached the closed doors, which were strongly pinned with iron and locked with iron chains, they opened automatically. Since the clouds in the sky were mildly thundering and showering, Ananta-naga, an expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, followed Vasudeva, beginning from the door, with hoods expanded to protect Vasudeva and the transcendental child.
Because of constant rain sent by the demigod Indra, the River Yamuna was filled with deep water, foaming about with fiercely whirling waves. But as the great Indian Ocean had formerly given way to Lord Ramacandra by allowing Him to construct a bridge, so the River Yamuna gave way to Vasudeva and allowed him to cross.
When Vasudeva reached the house of Nanda Maharaja, he saw that all the cowherd men were fast asleep. Thus he placed his son on Yasoda's bed, picked up her daughter (an expansion of Yogamaya) and then returned to the prisonhouse of Kamsa. Vasudeva then placed the female child on the bed of Devaki, bound his legs with the iron shackles, and thus remained there as before. Exhausted by the labor of childbirth, Yasoda was overwhelmed with sleep and unable to understand what kind of child had been born.
A true story from London—by Saksi Gopala dasa
It was the Thursday before Christmas, and London's Oxford Street (the longest shopping street in the world) was brimming over with Christmas shoppers. Twice already that week plainclothes police had arrested devotees chanting Hare Krsna there, but today we were intending to avoid any trouble. The five of us took a new route, profusely distributing the holy name to everyone within earshot. As we made our way through Piccadilly Circus (London's "Times Square") and then along crowded Regent Street, we brought smiles to many faces and raised eyebrows on many others. Finally we reached Oxford Circus, where we reluctantly stopped chanting and started back along Oxford Street toward the temple.
But all the shops were staying open late, so the street was still filled with pedestrians, though traffic had died down. The rustle of hundreds of footsteps filled the air. With so many materially conditioned souls surrounding us, there we were, chanting quietly to ourselves on our beads, and just holding our karatalas (hand cymbals) and mrdanga drums! It was hard to restrain ourselves from the loud glorification of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. In fact, it was impossible! Casting aside any thoughts of our inevitable arrest, we launched into the most ecstatic chant ever! The tall buildings echoed to the sounds of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana party while dumbfounded shoppers stood open-mouthed and bus lines of bewildered souls turned their heads to see the source of the transcendental sound vibrations. Single file, we chanted and danced along the clear space at the edge of the pavement, which widened as the crowds thinned out. Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, the end of the gauntlet, loomed up ahead. We were almost there, with no police trouble, when three highly suspicious figures suddenly appeared, blocking our path a few yards ahead.
"All right, lads, yer nicked!" said the young "student," flashing his police I.D. card with immense relish.
"What! How can you arrest us? We're not doing anything illegal."
His two hard-faced confederates, similarly disguised, moved in closer.
"Come on! You know as well as I do you're causing an obstruction. Down to the station; you're all under arrest!"
"Obstruction? The pavement's fifteen feet wide, we're walking in the gutter, and there's hardly anybody to obstruct'!" we protested. "All around you there's drug addiction, prostitution, crime, and violence, and you can't find anything better to do than arrest us for chanting the names of God! What kind of policemen are you?"
The retort seemed to catch him by surprise, but he quickly regained his composure and barked, "Look lad, you're under arrest. Anything you say may be used as evidence. Now move!" Then, adding a liberal quantity of unsavory words (quite unbefitting a constable of Her Majesty's Police Force), he joined his two colleagues in forming a rear guard, and the three of them escorted us toward the police station.
We were thinking of how unfortunate they were. Not only were they obstructing Lord Caitanya's sankirtana party and harassing devotees, but these were the same policemen who had arrested the chanting party twice earlier that week! What demons! For protection we started chanting the glories of Lord Nrsimhadeva—Krsna's half-man-half-lion incarnation—very softly at first, and then a little louder. The mrdanga crept in, marking the rhythm, and the karatalas soon followed. With no complaints from our police escort as yet, we chanted louder and louder until the street once more resounded with the holy names. Amazed that they made no objection, we turned and saw that the three policemen were grinning from ear to ear! We were incredulous. Here was the mercy of Lord Caitanya! By repeatedly arresting the chanting party, these previously offensive policemen had become purified by associating with devotees, and now they were taking great pleasure in the chanting of the holy names!
"Now stop or you'll cause an obstruction," directed our police guide as we approached a large bus line, which engulfed the pavement. We obediently stopped, considering it our good fortune that we had been allowed to chant at all.
Then something totally unexpected happened. After we had passed the bus line, our captor definitely proved himself to be no ordinary police constable when he ordered, "Okay, start chanting again."!!
So we did, all the way to the police station, accompanied by the three blissful police constables, who, grinning from ear to ear, made no objection as the ecstatic sankirtana party passed right into the police station, past the main doors, through the hallway, and into the charging room itself!!!
Everyone was thunderstruck. Arrestors and arrested alike couldn't believe it. Shaven-headed Hare Krsnas chanting their way into the cop shop. With drums and cymbals? It was unthinkable! The sergeant on duty turned a vivid scarlet and exploded in a fit of anger, threatening to "throw the book" at us and charge us with all manner of subversive criminal activities. We apologized profusely, pleading that we didn't quite realize where we were, and he became somewhat pacified. As we answered philosophical questions from some of the interested constables, the sergeant charged us with obstruction, one by one, and we had to wait as he filled in numerous forms.
"All right, boys, tomorrow morning at ten o'clock you'll be appearing in the Magistrates Court," said the sergeant, now quite amiable. And with that he allowed us to go. Feeling very blissful at the way things had turned out, we filed into the hallway and prepared to return to the temple for the evening arati (temple worship) of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara. (Londonisvara means "Krsna, the Lord of London.") On our way out of the station, we passed a high-ranking plainclothes detective-inspector. He paused and turned in our direction. Not knowing what to expect, we were surprised when he glanced over us in an almost fatherly way and said in a concerned voice, "Don't be discouraged, lads; keep up the good work!"
Next morning in court we pleaded "not guilty" to the charges against us, and the judge deferred our case to February 2. At the time, we were unaware of the significance of the appointed date. Our trial was to be on the appearance day of Lord Nityananda—the incarnation of God who helped spread Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement, and who personifies His mercy.
As is customary on such holy days, the five of us fasted through the morning of Lord Nityananda's appearance day and chanted His glories. At noon we attended a blissful arati and then broke our fast with a splendid feast. Afterward, we set off for Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, confident that Lord Nityananda would protect us. We were accompanied by a new and enthusiastic visitor to the temple, the Reverend Norman Morehouse (second only to the Bishop of Norwich), who came along to observe the court proceedings.
We arrived at the courthouse a few minutes before our appointed time of 2:00 P.M. and waited in the big hallway while the Reverend went through to the public gallery. The plainclothesmen who arrested us soon turned up, now in uniform, and waited with us. (It took a little persuasion before they cautiously took some of the hazelnut cookies we had earlier offered to Lord Nityananda.) At last we were beckoned into the courtroom itself and ushered into the dock. A stir went through the assembly. Shaven heads and saffron robes were the last things anyone expected to see in Magistrates Court on a Tuesday afternoon. The Magistrate (a balding, portly man in his late middle age, sporting a red rose in the lapel of his dark gray suit) surveyed us over the top of his gold-rimmed spectacles. After we reaffirmed our plea of "not guilty" to the court clerk, one of the constables, who had been sworn in at the witness box, proceeded to report the alleged conditions of our arrest.
In the constable's version of the story, the chanting party miraculously grew from the original five members to seven—and later to eight when he described how three devotees "ran off and escaped arrest." According to his description, it seemed that there were many more people on Oxford Street than we had been aware of. Indeed, we had supposedly forced unlimited numbers of pedestrians into the road and had exposed them to the grave risk of being run over by the almost nonexistent traffic! The judge listened impartially and then, since we had no lawyer to speak on our behalf, he asked us if we would like to comment on the policeman's evidence. We humbly pointed out that the constable, like everyone else, had imperfect senses, and that he had contradicted himself in assessing the number of devotees on the chanting party. The judge politely suggested the constable had made "a mathematical error." At this a titter of laughter rippled through the courtroom, while the constable shuffled his feet and looked embarrassed.
The magistrate then asked if we would like to speak in our own defense. Having been previously chosen as spokesman, I stepped forward to be sworn in at the witness box—and was taken aback when the usher asked me to hold a copy of the Bhagavad-gita in my right hand. He handed me a card, and I read out the words: "I swear by almighty Sri Krsna that the evidence I give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Heartened by smiles from the devotees in the dock, I began to describe the circumstances of our arrest—this time as they actually had happened. The magistrate listened as I went on to say, "We understand that the police have a duty to perform, sir; but we also have a duty. We have been instructed by our spiritual master—indeed, we are instructed by all the principle scriptures of the world—the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, and the Vedas—that we should glorify God by chanting His holy names. Whether you know the Lord by the name of Allah, Jehovah, Rama, Govinda, or Krsna, God is one."
"Oh, quite so, quite so," affirmed the magistrate.
Encouraged, I went on: "In the Vedic scriptures, in the Brhan-Naradiya Purana, it is said, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam—"
"In English—but what does it mean in English, please?" he interjected.
"—Kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. This was written in the Sanskrit language five thousand years ago. It means, 'In this age of Kali [the present age of materialism and quarrel] there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative for making positive spiritual advancement but the chanting of the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.' "
The judge—in fact the whole courtroom—sat there fascinated. I remembered Srila Prabhupada's introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and began to speak further.
"Although mankind has made great material advancement in so many spheres, we can see that factually there is a fault in the social body at large. People are not happy with their day-to-day activities, and there is an increasing disturbance of drug addiction, prostitution, violence, and crime. The root of the problem is lack of God consciousness. People are unaware of the actual purpose of life."
Intrigued by this sound philosophy coming from the witness box, the judge relaxed his judicial appearance, sat back, and took a sip of water from his glass.
Even more encouraged, I asked, "Sir, with your permission, I would like to read a short passage that appeared in the London Observer in October 1972. It is an excerpt from an article written by that eminent English historian, Arnold Toynbee."
Upon hearing the name of such a distinguished personality, the judge smiled slightly, and nodding his head in approval, he asked that I continue.
" 'The cause of it [the world's malady] is spiritual. We are suffering from having sold our souls to the pursuit of an objective which is both spiritually wrong and practically unobtainable. We have to reconsider our objective and change it. And until we do this, we shall not have peace, either amongst ourselves or within each of us.' "
I continued, "As devotees of the Lord we strictly follow four principles: mercifulness, truthfulness, cleanliness, and austerity. These are the higher qualities of human life, and the absence of these qualities means the degradation of society. So the spreading of spiritual understanding among humanity at large is the highest welfare work. And an essential part of this program is the distribution of literature, and the congregational chanting—in the street—of the holy names of God."
"Is that all?" inquired the judge.
"Yes, sir," I replied.
"Then you may step down." Adjusting his spectacles and regarding the devotees, who were once more assembled in the dock, the judge then said in a very firm yet amicable manner, "In legal terms you are guilty of obstruction, although it is of a very minor degree. Taking this into consideration, and seeing your obvious sincerity, I have decided to dismiss the case."
We smiled jubilantly, thanked the magistrate, and were about to step down, when Krsna prompted me to add, "Sir, we were wondering if you had a court library here, in which case we would like to present a book for addition to the collection."
"Thank you," he replied. "I am quite sure we can accommodate it."
I gave a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Sri Isopanisad to one of the clerks, who promised to pass it on to the judge. Then we left the courtroom, thanking Lord Nityananda for His mercy.
Outside, our friend Reverend Morehouse greeted us with an ecstatic "Hare Krsna!" Beaming from ear to ear, he shook each of us warmly by the hand. "Congratulations!" he exclaimed. "It was wonderful! I am so proud of you all. I must say, though, I was somewhat surprised at the decision of the judge. In the cases before yours he had been quite severe. I'm sure that the Lord must have had a hand in the matter."
And so were we. Sankirtana is always successful, but it is especially so on Lord Nityananda's appearance day: even a judge will take a book!
On the way back to the temple, I read one verse in Srila Prabhupada's Caitanya-caritamrta that summed up our whole wonderful experience:
aparadha ksamaila, dubila prema-jale
"Lord Caitanya excused all the offenders, and they merged into the ocean of love of God, for no one can escape the unique loving network of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu" (Cc. Adi-lila, 7.37).