The International Society of 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 our readers to consider them with an open mind and then visit one of the ISKCON centers to see how they are being applied in everyday 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 known revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words.
5. We should learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master—one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krsna.
6. Before we eat, we should offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krsna becomes the offering and purifies us.
7. We should perform all our actions as offerings to Krsna and do nothing for our own sense gratification.
8. The recommended means for achieving the mature stage of love of God in this age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Laguna Beach—vacationers visit this southern California haven to enjoy the sun, surf and exotic shops. But the devotees at the Radha-Krsna temple there know a much better way you can enjoy yourself. Anytime you want to, and anywhere you happen to be, you can simply chant the Hare Krsna mantra and dive into an ocean of transcendental pleasure.
Find out more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of Back to Godhead magazine.
Pavamana dasa, cook (Laguna Beach): "I've been chanting Hare Krsna for five and a half years, and I've never found anything more pleasurable. A devotee once promised me,'If you chant Hare Krsna you'll be happy. Just try it for a week—you'll feel the difference if you chant just five minutes a day.' He pointed out that there would be no loss on my part, but if there was something to gain, why not give it a try? So I did. I chanted for a week and I had to admit that I felt a keen pleasure—very much different from anything I had felt before. The chanting didn't cost anything, and it was natural and easy to do. So now I know that there isn't anything better than chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, because it puts you in touch with the reservoir of all pleasure—Lord Krsna."
Tusti-devi dasi, teacher (Los Angeles): "I'd been teaching grammar school for eight years before I began chanting Hare Krsna. Until then I had really nothing to give my students, because I didn't know what the goal of life was. By chanting and practicing bhakti-yoga, I'm now able to give my students, and myself, the perfection of life—Krsna consciousness."
Ugresa dasa, book distributor (Toronto): "For over two years I've experienced the transcendental pleasure of chanting Hare Krsna. And this transcendental pleasure increases when I tell other people about the chanting—by giving them books on the science of Krsna consciousness. So every day I go to the places where the most people are and pass out as many of these books as I can. The more people that hear about chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the happier I feel."
Part 1: Dealing With the Existential Dilemma
Hayagriva dasa: Soren Kierkegaard was a mid-nineteenth-century Danish philosopher who is generally regarded as the father of existentialism. A devout Christian, he believed that religious truth is not innate within man, and that man must therefore receive this truth from God. According to Kierkegaard, God would overawe us if He Himself came to teach, so He comes instead as His own servant in human form. For a Christian, this teacher is Jesus Christ.
Srila Prabhupada: Generally men are on the animal platform. But when a man's consciousness becomes a little advanced, he can be educated in the understanding of God through the teachings of spiritual authorities. That is the Vedic system. In the human form the living entity is sometimes very inquisitive and wants to understand God. That inquisitiveness is technically called brahma-jijnasa, interest in the Absolute, which is possible only in the human form of life.
Now, if one is actually anxious to know about God, he has to approach a guru, who is God's servant and His representative. Unless one approaches a bona fide guru, he cannot understand the nature of God, or man's relationship with Him. So accepting a guru is not a fashion but a necessity. However, a guru is not a person who simply manufactures gold or juggles words just to attract foolish people and make money. An actual guru is one who is fully trained in the ocean of spiritual knowledge, or Vedic knowledge. Vedic words are not ordinary material sound vibrations. They are completely spiritual. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra, for instance, is a purely spiritual sound. Once a person is fully trained in the ocean of spiritual sound, he becomes a guru and is no longer interested in material life. In fact, the definition of guru is "one who is no longer interested in material things." He has taken shelter of the Supreme Lord, and his material desires have completely ceased. One should approach such a bona fide guru, surrender unto him, serve him, and then question him about God and our relationship with God.
Hayagriva dasa: Is Kierkegaard correct in maintaining that man would be overawed if God, as He is, came to teach? Didn't Krsna, as He is, come to teach the Bhagavad-gita?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna came as He is, but people misunderstood Him because He appeared as a human being. Consequently, they could not surrender to Him. Therefore Krsna came later as a devotee, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to teach men how to approach God. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught the very same philosophy that Krsna taught in the Bhagavad-gita. However, instead of coming as Krsna, Lord Caitanya came as Krsna's devotee. Rupa Gosvami [an exalted devotee who in the sixteenth century wrote some of the most important books on devotional yoga] appreciated Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the most munificent incarnation, because He gives not only Krsna but also pure love of Krsna (namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te). In exchange for Himself, Krsna demands full surrender from the devotee. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu, without making any demands, gave pure love of Krsna. Because we are all His sons, Krsna the Supreme Lord is affectionate towards us. He sees us rotting in this material world, and He comes Himself—or He comes as His devotee—and leaves His instructions. Krsna is always anxious to enlighten the human beings and show them how to return home, back to Godhead.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard thought that the ordinary man does not wish to have a personal relationship with God. Kierkegaard wrote, "The truth is that there are no longer men living who could bear the pressure and weight of having a personal God."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a personal God makes demands, just as Krsna demands in the Bhagavad-gita [9.34],
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
"Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." This is God's demand. And if we carry it out we attain perfection. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti: Krsna clearly states here that when a devotee gives up his material body, he does not accept another—he returns back to Godhead in his original spiritual body.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard observed three basic stages in life: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage. In the first stage—the aesthetic stage—a person may be either a hedonist in search of sensual pleasure or an intellectual interested in philosophical speculation. Kierkegaard says that both are uncommitted. Neither has any ultimate goal in life.
Srila Prabhupada: How can a philosopher have no ultimate goal?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard says that people on this platform are not really philosophers but simply mental speculators. They become bored with themselves, and their lives become empty of meaning and full of despair.
Srila Prabhupada: Despair is a result of impersonalism and voidism. Impersonalists and voidists must necessarily be overcome by despair—because they are always disgusted with their lives, and because they do not know the goal of life. When one has no goal he becomes disappointed, and that disappointment is the cause of despair.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard sees this despair as the first stepping-stone towards self-realization. Understanding that the aesthetic life ends in despair, in hopelessness, a person abandons this type of life for the next stage.
Srila Prabhupada: We agree with this. According to the Vedanta-sutra, people begin to inquire about self-realization after they have worked very hard and still have not attained life's goal. At this point people begin to think, "What is the purpose of life?" That is called brahma-jijnasa, inquiry into the ultimate truth of life. Such an inquiry is natural, and it is necessary for further development.
Hayagriva dasa: According to Kierkegaard, to attain self-realization we must confront certain choices—we must become aware that life is an "either/or" decision. Realizing this, we advance to the second stage—the ethical stage. At this point we take an active part in dealing with life rather than aimlessly taking pleasure from life. We may act piously or attempt humanitarian deeds.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is the ultimate goal of these decisions? Why should people become moral? Simply to feed the poor and open hospitals?
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, the important thing is not so much what one chooses, but how one makes the choice. Through choosing one discovers his own integrity.
Srila Prabhupada: But it is not clear how a person can make the right decision. One man may choose to slaughter, and another man may choose to help others. Or a man may give charity to others and yet at the same time encourage killing animals. For instance, on the one hand Vivekananda [an impersonalist yogi who came to America from India at the turn of the century and lectured widely here] was advocating feeding the poor, but on the other hand he was suggesting feeding them with Mother Kali's prasada—the flesh of bulls. So what kind of ethics is that? What is the value of ethics if it is based on imperfect knowledge?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard did not give so much importance to the basis of the decision.
Srila Prabhupada: But if one's decision is not based on truth, what is its value? You must go further than the mere making of decisions. You must know which is the proper decision to make.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard would say that by turning inward you would naturally make the proper decision. This "turning inward" entails self-knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: But of what value is that inwardness? You may simply think, "I will protect my brother by killing someone." What is the ethics involved? You must have some standard by which to make the right decision.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard's standard would be "choose yourself".
Srila Prabhupada: But without knowing yourself, how can you choose yourself? And how can you know yourself unless you go to one who knows the self and the Supreme Self perfectly? That means you must go to a bona fide spiritual master. Most people think that they are their body. What kind of self-knowledge is this? yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke: "If one thinks he is his body, he is no better than an ass." What is the value of an ass's philosophy?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard's philosophy emphasizes the act of deciding. The decision itself is not so important.
Srila Prabhupada: But unless we know the aim of life, how can we make the right decision? It is simply childish to say that by choosing either this or that we become enlightened. A child chooses this or that—sometimes he plays with one toy and sometimes with another—but where is his enlightenment? Animals also make their decisions. The ass decides to eat a morsel of grass and work all day carrying this or that. If the basis of our decision is not important, why not decide for unrestricted sense gratification?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard would say that unrestricted sense gratification leads to boredom, and ultimately to despair.
Srila Prabhupada: But if you think that sense gratification is the aim of life, then it is not boring to you. If you choose according to your whims, you can make any decision.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard would say that we should choose not by whim but by an inward, objective, passionate search. Then the truth will naturally emerge.
Srila Prabhupada: But a Bowery bum may make a passionate decision to purchase a bottle of whiskey as soon as he gets some money.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard would say that in his decision there is no commitment to a higher ethic. There is simply the desire for sense gratification. If his decision were made on the ethical level, he would take up a good cause and act on that basis.
Srila Prabhupada: But such "good causes" are relative. You may consider one thing to be a good cause, and I may consider another. Who will ultimately decide?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard believed that if we begin to anticipate death, we will make the right decisions. In other words, we should act in such a way that we consider each act to be our last. In this way, he believed, the truth will emerge.
Srila Prabhupada: Every man should think, "I do not wish to die, but death is overcoming me. What is the cause of this? What should I do?" No one wants to die, but death overcomes everyone. No one wants to be diseased, but diseases are inevitable. These are real human problems that cannot be solved by making some whimsical decision. We should decide, "I do not wish to suffer, but suffering is coming upon me. Now, I must find a solution to this problem." This is the real decision we have to make. We must decide to put a permanent end to suffering—to birth, old age, disease and death. We should understand that the body exists for a few years and then is doomed to perish. We should also understand that the body is external and that we should not make our decisions on the basis of the body. Rather, we should make our decisions on the basis of the soul.
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, the third and highest stage of life is the religious stage. On this platform a man submits himself to God and obeys God totally.
Srila Prabhupada: In other words, this is the stage of Krsna consciousness. We agree that Krsna consciousness is the topmost stage of life.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard thought that in the religious stage, there is intense suffering—suffering comparable to that of Job.
Srila Prabhupada: Why is this? If one is Krsna-conscious, why should he suffer?
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard was a Christian, and he emphasized the importance of suffering. The Bible says that Christ suffered for our sins, and Kierkegaard believed that the process of overcoming sin involves suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: But that is a wrong theory. If Christ is God or the son of God, why should he suffer? What kind of God is subjected to suffering? Why should either God or man suffer? The whole point is that if there is suffering, you must put an end to it.
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, religious commitment is epitomized by inward suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Suffering arises because we identify with the body. When a person's car is damaged in an automobile accident, he may not actually be injured, but because he identifies himself with matter—with his car—he suffers. Similarly, the spirit soul is riding within the car of the material body, and because the spirit soul identifies himself with the body, he suffers when the body is injured or becomes sick or dies. But because the Krsna-conscious man is always in full knowledge and is always transcendental to the material world, he never suffers. Whether we suffer or not depends on our knowledge.
Hayagriva dasa: But don't penance and austerity involve suffering?
Srila Prabhupada: No. For those who are advanced in knowledge, there is no suffering. Of course, there may be some bodily pain, but a person in knowledge understands that he is not the body. Therefore, why should he suffer? He thinks, "Let me do my duty. Hare Krsna." That is the advanced stage of Krsna consciousness. Suffering is due to ignorance.
Hayagriva dasa: But don't we have to give up bodily comforts to serve God?
Srila Prabhupada: Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis were high government ministers, but they abandoned their material opulence to bestow mercy upon the common people. So they wore only loincloths and slept under a different tree every night. Of course, foolish people might say that they were suffering, but actually they were merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss. They simply engaged their minds in thought of Krsna's pastimes with the gopis. And from day to day they wrote books about these pastimes. There was no question of their suffering, although a fool may think, "Oh, these men were ministers, high government officials, and they were so comfortable with their families and homes. Now they have no home, and they are going about in loincloths, eating very little." A materialist would think the Gosvamis were suffering. But they were not suffering—they were enjoying.
Hayagriva dasa: Many of the Christian monks and ascetics emphasized suffering. They thought to abandon worldly life means to abandon pleasure and take on suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: This shows that they have a poor fund of knowledge. They have developed this philosophy after the demise of Jesus Christ. It is more or less concocted.
Hayagriva dasa: Aside from suffering, Kierkegaard emphasized the importance of love in the religious life. In his book Works of Love, Kierkegaard considered God to be the hidden source of all love. He wrote: "A man must love God in unconditional obedience and in adoration. It would be ungodliness if any man dared to love himself in this way, or dared to permit another man to love him in this way.... You must love God in unconditional obedience even if that which He demands of you may seem injurious to you, . . . for God's wisdom is incomparable with respect to our own. . . ."
Srila Prabhupada: That is also the instruction of the Bhagavad-gita. God demands that we give up all our plans, as well as the plans of others, and accept His plan:
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear" [Bg. 18.66]. If we fully depend on Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He will guide us home.
Hayagriva dasa: In defining love, Kierkegaard said, "Love is a matter of conscience, and hence it is not a matter of impulse and inclination; nor is it a matter of emotion, nor a matter for intellectual calculation.... Christianity really knows only one kind of love: spiritual love."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, love in the material world is impossible, for in the material world, everyone is interested only in his own sense gratification. The love experienced between a man and a woman is not actually love but lust, because both parties are interested only in their own sense gratification. Love means that one does not think of his own sense gratification but of the sense gratification of his beloved. That is pure love. But that pure love is not possible in the material world. When we speak of love in the material world, we are actually misusing the word. Lustful desires take the place of real love.
However, we do see examples of pure love in the Vedic descriptions of Vrndavana village. There the men, women, animals, fruits, flowers, water, and everything else exist only for the sake of loving Krsna. They are not interested in any return from Krsna. Now, that is real love (anyabhilasita-sunyam). On the other hand, if we love God with some motive, that is material love. Pure love means that we are simply interested in satisfying the desires of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus real love—individual, collective, or any other kind—applies only to God. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the supreme object of love, and this love can be expressed through admiration, service, or friendship. Or we can love Him as our child or conjugal lover. There are five basic relationships expressing true love of Godhead.
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, love of God is the decisive factor, and from it stems love of our neighbor. He wrote, "If you love God above all else, then you also love your neighbor, and in your neighbor every man.... To help another man to love God is truly to love the other man; to be helped by another man to love God is truly to be loved."
Srila Prabhupada: This is the basis of our Krsna consciousness movement. We are learning how to love God, and we are teaching the same principle to the whole world. If love of God is taught by a religion, that religion should be considered first class—be it Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever. The test of a religion is this: "Have the followers learned how to love God?" God is the center of love, and since everything is God's expansion, the lover of God is a lover of everyone. A lover of God does not discriminate by thinking only man should be loved and given service. No. He is interested in all living entities, regardless of the forms in which they happen to be existing. A lover of God loves everyone, and his love reaches everyone. When you water the root of a tree, you are nourishing all the parts of the tree—the trunk, branches, twigs, and leaves. When you give food to the stomach, you are satisfying the entire body. And when you love God, you love everyone and everything. [To be continued]
Knowledge of Lord Krsna is a treasure that has come down through the ages—down through an unbroken chain of teachers and disciples that reaches back to Lord Krsna Himself. In this, the first in a series of articles on great Krsna-conscious teachers, we will look at one of the greatest of all—Madhvacarya.
Madhvacarya (acarya means "one who teaches by his life") lived in thirteenth-century India and appeared in the Brahma-GaudiyaVaisnava-sampradaya—the disciplic chain now represented by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In this long disciplic chain of pure teachers, Madhvacarya is a most important link.
As Lord Krsna stresses in the Bhagavad-gita, the essence of all Vedic knowledge is that God is a person: "By all the Vedas I am to be known." But the spread of the Buddhist doctrine of ultimate voidness eclipsed this knowledge for a time, until the great teacher Sankara (A.D. 788-820) drove Buddhism out of India. Instead of saying "All is nothing," Sankara said "All is one." In other words, he upheld an all-pervasive spiritual reality, but said it was ultimately impersonal. Madhvacarya (and other Krsna-conscious spiritual masters like Ramanuja) soundly defeated this impersonalist view and at last reestablished that the Absolute Truth is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Madhvacarya took his birth in a brahmana (priestly) family at Udupi, a South Indian town on the Arabian Sea. There are some amazing stories surrounding Madhva's early life. It is said that his father piled up many debts and that to pay them off, Madhva converted tamarind seeds into coins. It is also said that near Madhva's house a demon named Maniman lived in the form of a snake. Madhva killed him with the big toe of his left foot. We are further told that whenever Madhva's mother was feeling anxious, he would come before her in one jump—from wherever he happened to be playing.
Even as a young boy Madhva was renowned as a scholar. When he was only five he received spiritual initiation, and when he was twelve he accepted sannyasa, the most renounced order of spiritual life. At that tender age Madhva gave up all family ties to travel the length and breadth of India in quest of spiritual knowledge.
In the course of his travels Madhva visited Badarikasrama, a place of pilgrimage high in the Himalayas. There he met the great sage Srila Vyasadeva—Lord Krsna's literary incarnation and the author of the Vedic literatures. By studying under Srila Vyasadeva, Madhva grew even greater in his scholarship.
After coming down from the Himalayas, Madhva at last returned to his birthplace, Udupi. Once, when he was sitting at the seashore and meditating on Lord Krsna, Madhva saw a huge merchant ship in danger and signaled the crew safely to shore. Since the boat's owners wanted to reward him, Madhva agreed to accept a chunk of gopi-candana, clay from Krsna's land of Vrndavana. As the crew members were bringing the big chunk before him, it broke apart and revealed a Deity form of Lord Krsna, with a stick in one hand and a lump of food in the other. At that moment Madhva composed a beautiful prayer to express his gratitude. Although the Deity was so heavy that not even thirty ordinary people could lift Him, Madhva carried Him back into town all alone. The people of Udupi still worship that Krsna Deity in the way Madhva established.
Madhva showed his overwhelming physical and spiritual strength on still other occasions. While he was walking on the road a band of thugs attacked him, but he killed them all. Another time a tiger attacked Madhva's companion Satya Tirtha, but Madhva pulled the fierce animal off with his bare hands. People began to say his strength had no limit.
Madhvacarya's learning and devotion to Krsna were famous throughout India. His life's mission was to defeat the views of the impersonalist philosophers. They say that God's form is simply illusion (maya), and thus they are called Mayavadis. "Even if God was a person in the beginning," these people say, "He has distributed Himself throughout the creation and thus lost His individual identity." Madhvacarya smashed this monistic ("all-is-one") idea with the philosophy of suddha-dvaita—pure dualism. He proved logically that God is always a person and is always distinct from His creation. As anyone can see, the sun is producing volumes of energy but remains the same sun. Similarly, a tree may produce many fruits, but it remains the same tree. Likewise, Lord Krsna produces the material world, but He Himself remains separate from it—He remains the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here is the real teaching of the Vedas. Thus, Madhvacarya 's teaching is called tattva-vada—tattva means "truth," and vada means "philosophy."
The Mayavadis go on to say that the soul's unique and individual identity is also an illusion—that in the end the soul will merge into an impersonal light. But Madhvacarya taught that the soul is actually the eternal servant of Krsna and that by practicing bhakti-yoga—devotional service—each of us can return to our original position in the spiritual world. Madhvacarya especially emphasized that even after the individual soul returns to the spiritual world, he and the Supreme Soul, Krsna, retain their separate identities. They do not become "one."
In many ways Madhvacarya set the stage for the Krsna consciousness movement. For instance, he stressed the chanting of the holy names of Krsna. Commenting on the Mundaka Upanisad, he wrote that in the present age one can satisfy and worship Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, simply by chanting His holy names. Madhvacarya also wrote, "There are many lands, fields, mountains, and oceans throughout the creation, and everywhere the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshiped by the chanting of His different names."
Specifically, Madhva prepared the way for Lord Caitanya, who appeared two centuries later in the same line of spiritual masters. Lord Caitanya is the incarnation of Krsna who spread the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra throughout India and ordered His followers to spread it to every town and village in the world. To fulfill this order, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to America in 1965 and founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Under his guidance we his disciples are carrying on this mission, but we must give all the credit to him and the other spiritual masters in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic chain—including, of course, Madhvacarya.
By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
If the religious "cult "phenomenon has proved anything, it's that the established religions aren't providing our young people with real spiritual life. Of course, this is not to say that the "cults" are. To be bona fide, any religion—new or old—must pass a rigorous nonsectarian test....
The infamous "anticult" groups, who have attempted by kidnapping and "deprogramming" to break members of the Krsna consciousness movement, have failed to enlist the support of either the government or the general public. But the issues raised by the "cult" controversy are still with us. Most importantly, the very cause of the "cult" phenomenon—the spiritual void plaguing human civilization, and especially young people—remains. Only bona fide religion can fill that void, so it is essential that we learn just what bona fide religion is and how to practice it. But who will say which religion is false and which genuine, which harmful and which beneficial? What we need is not someone's self-interested opinion but a reliable, nonsectarian standard for separating the bogus religions from the bona fide.
The problem of distinguishing true religion from false is not new. Some five thousand years ago the most learned sages in the world assembled in a sacred forest in India to solve just this problem. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is a record of their deliberations, which began with the question, "What is the essential or real religion?"
The chief sage in the assembly answered, "The essential religion for all people is that which brings a person to the point of pure, unalloyed devotional service to God. Such loving service, if it is to fully satisfy the self, must be both unmotivated and uninterrupted" (Bhag. 1.2.6). Clearly, this definition of religion is nonsectarian. What Hindu, Muslim, Jew, or Christian would dispute that religion means to follow the orders of God and become His servant?
But the Srimad-Bhagavatam sets a high standard for this service. If we want to practice genuine religion, we must serve God without any desire for personal material gain, and without interruption. This statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam finds support in the Bible, which commands us to "love God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind." So here is our practical standard by which we can test any purportedly religious group: Is it or is it not providing its members the opportunity to render pure loving service to the Lord?
Established Religions Fail The Test
Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether the new religions pass the test, we find that the established, mainline religions fail it miserably. Even the anticultists can see that the mainline religions must not be spiritually satisfying to their young people. Otherwise, why would so many be leaving to search out genuine spirituality elsewhere?
Louis Moore, religion writer for the Houston Chronicle, has observed that young people are joining these "cults" in reaction to "meaningless, dull sermons," "the impersonalized nature of too many churches," and "archaic depersonalized forms of evangelism and pompous, largely ceremonial church worship."
Marc Silver and Barbara Pash of the Baltimore Jewish Times wrote, "The cults' popularity is a reflection of the ills and failings of modern Western society and of that society's established religions. Those religions, including Judaism, have to a large degree become sterile, and, and very unspiritual. Over and over, Jewish cult members say that ... they never thought it possible to find holiness within Judaism. That statement presents a tremendous challenge to the Jewish community." The newspaper goes on to castigate contemporary Judaism for selling out to "secular humanism, Americanism, and modernism." Significantly, the paper finds the Krsna consciousness movement, unlike some other groups, to be neither exploitative nor corrupt.
Recently a concerned Christian group made this assessment of mainline Christianity: "The ultimate spiritual counterfeit is a Christianity which has been squeezed so far into the world's mold that all distinguishing authenticity has been squeezed out of it—a Christianity which is culturally co-opted, socially irrelevant, doctrinally correct, and spiritually dead."
In All God's Children, Caroll Stoner and JoAnne Parke discuss at length the established churches' failure to fulfill "man's search for transcendental experience." They also attack American society as a whole for failing to provide ultimate values that young people can live by.
And finally, in a recently published book on the "cults," Ronald Enroth writes, "The spiritual quest of hundreds of thousands of American youth indicts our society as a whole, but it raises urgent questions for the church in particular. Young people are highly idealistic; many have rejected the materialistic sham that passes for the 'good life' in America. Is the church speaking to the gross materialism of Western society, or has it been co-opted? Young people are asking the big questions—but are the churches providing more than fun-and-games youth programs in response?"
Thus, a consensus seems to be forming that there are serious deficiencies both in our modern materialistic culture and in the mainline religions that have sold out to it. That this truth is widely acknowledged, even by many anticultists, is perhaps the first step toward a reconciliation of the "cult" issue.
But precisely what is it that the mainline religions fail to provide? According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bible, it is the chance to render "pure, unalloyed, devotional service to God" the chance to love God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind." So secular society and its secularized religions ultimately fail because they cannot fulfill the natural, inborn need of the soul—the need to serve the Supreme unreservedly. Religion, as we have seen, means to obey and to serve and to love God. Yet the hallmark of most followers of contemporary, mainline religions is that rather than trying to serve God, they try to have God serve them. This is the antithesis of religion.
Real religion does not aim at increasing our sense pleasure, but the pleasure of the Lord. A sincere servant of the Lord knows full well that since God is already maintaining every living creature, there is no need to petition Him for personal necessities or desires. Instead, a truly religious person simply trusts in God and puts all his energy into serving God. It is only the pseudoreligionists who believe life is meant for sense enjoyment and God is our order supplier—the servant of our senses.
Another kind of pseudoreligion says that each of us can become God. Especially today in the United States, many so-called gurus and swamis teach that they are God and that their disciples can also become God. Of course, to these pseudoreligionists the idea of becoming God's eternal servant is anathema.
Thus, a "cult" or bogus religion is one that aims at the practitioner's personal satisfaction—either by trying to make God the practitioner's servant or by trying to make the practitioner into God Himself. A religion is pure to the degree that it is free from such taints.
Some Suggestions for the Pseudoreligions
The mainline religions—which have now seriously deteriorated into full-fledged pseudoreligions—could conceivably revive their original purity. Unfortunately, so deeply rooted is their involvement with mundane concerns that their leaders cannot imagine how to return to real spiritual life. We would therefore like to offer a few suggestions. If the leaders of today's mainline religions take these suggestions to heart, then there is every chance that their groups will become pure religions.
First, stop killing.
Second, glorify God by chanting His names.
If the Christians and Jews take up these two practices, they can cleanse their minds and hearts of material desires and develop genuine love of God.
Lord Jesus Christ taught, "Thou shalt not kill." If the Christians actually love Lord Jesus, then they should obey his commandments and refrain from slaughtering innocent animals simply to gratify their own tongues.
Jewish scholars argue that the commandment not to kill is actually one not to murder—not to kill a human being. However, the Jewish scholars also admit that God originally instructed Adam to eat only vegetarian foods. People began eating meat only later (after the flood), because they had become corrupt. So, ultimately, the Jews agree that slaughtering animals for food is not good, and that God originally prohibited it.
In the Vedic literatures we learn that all living creatures—not just humans—have souls. Since every soul is a spiritual particle of God (the Supreme Soul), all living creatures are God's children. Thus we are not meant to inflict pain on animals by slaughtering them. Rather, we should protect animals as our brothers. This is one of God's basic laws—and if we break it we can have no real religion.
The second requirement for practicing genuine religion is to chant the names of God. The Vedic literatures teach that in this age the only means of reviving God consciousness is to chant His names. Certainly no Christian or Jew can find any reason to object to the congregational glorification of God. The Bible is full of exhortations to glorify and praise the name of God. In Psalm 113 King David sings,
Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. From the rising of the sun until the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised.
In the Krsna consciousness movement we chant the name Krsna. Krsna is not a sectarian name; it simply means "the all-attractive." By definition God must be all-attractive, since He surpasses all others in wealth, strength, beauty, knowledge, fame, and renunciation.
But we do not insist that everyone chant the name Krsna. Other names, such as Jesus Christ, Jehovah, and so on, can be chanted. The Torah forbids the Jews to pronounce the Tetragrammaton (Yahweh), but they may chant many other names, like Elochim or Addonai. The Supreme Lord has an infinite number of wonderful attributes and activities—and for each of them He has a name, which anyone can chant to purify his heart and attain the perfection of God consciousness.
So there is nothing in the scriptures of the Western religions that would prevent their adherents either from abstaining from killing or from chanting the names of God. And it is certain that if the mainline religions of the West take up these two practices, then currents of real spirituality will once again begin to flow within their congregations.
The failure of the mainline religions has indeed left a terrible void in the life of the American people. In desperation many young people have turned to drugs and sex. Others have joined the new religions. Unfortunately, almost none of these groups are bona fide religions, and some are extremely harmful to their followers. But the anticultists are too bewildered and too attached to their own rotting institutions to distinguish the true from the false. Thus they have quite mistakenly attacked the Krsna consciousness movement as a harmful "cult".
On the other hand, we have seen that even some of the harshest critics of the new religious groups (the Jewish Times, for instance) are acknowledging that the Krsna consciousness movement is authentic. Clearly, no parents should object to their son or daughter's joining the Krsna consciousness movement, for it is a fully authorized movement solidly based on the classical Vedic literatures and guided by a pure, selfless devotee of God—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Nonetheless, if you do not want your children to join the Krsna consciousness movement, we don't mind—as long as you teach them in your own religious tradition how to serve God without motivation or interruption. Then their spiritual needs will be fully satisfied, you will "keep" your children, and we in the Krsna consciousness movement will consider that our mission has been successful.
So the choice is simple. You can join us and learn to refrain from the sinful activities of meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling—and you can also learn how to chant the names of God recommended in the Vedic literature, namely Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Or, if you find some insurmountable impediment to joining the Krsna consciousness movement, then you can remain in your own faith—but begin following God's orders by becoming a vegetarian and chanting the names of God that appear in your own scripture. If you accept one of these alternatives, and if you engage your offspring in serving the Lord as well, then the problem of "pseudoreligious cults"—old or new—will be permanently solved.
One of Lord Krsna's most delightful pastimes occurred when Mother Yasoda caught Him stealing butter and took a rope to bind Him. We may wonder, "Is it possible to bind the unlimited Supreme Personality of Godhead?" Yes, but a rope alone is not enough.... (From the Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
Once, seeing that her maidservants were engaged in various household duties, Mother Yasoda personally took charge of churning butter. And while she churned, she sang the childhood pastimes of Krsna and enjoyed thinking of her son. Her saffron sari was tightly wrapped around her broad hips, and on account of her intense love for her son, milk moistened her shaking breasts. The bangles and bracelets on her wrists tinkled as they touched each other, and her earrings shook as she labored very hard, churning with two hands. Drops of perspiration appeared on her face, and the malati flowers in her hair scattered here and there.
Before this picturesque sight child Krsna appeared. He felt hungry, and just to increase Mother Yasoda's transcendental pleasure, He caught hold of the churning rod to stop her from churning. He indicated that her first business was to let Him suck her breast. She could churn butter later.
So Mother Yasoda took her son on her lap and pushed the nipple of her breast into His mouth. And while Krsna was sucking the milk, she was smiling, enjoying the beauty of her child's face. Suddenly the milk on the oven began to boil over. Just to stop the milk from spilling, Mother Yasoda at once put Krsna aside and went to the oven. Left like that by His mother, Krsna became very angry. His eyes red with rage, He bit His reddish lips, took up a stone, and broke the butter pot. With false tears in His eyes, Krsna took some butter out of the pot and went to a secluded place to eat it.
Meanwhile, Mother Yasoda had set the overflowing milk pan in order and returned to the churning spot. She saw the broken pot that had held the yogurt used for churning. Since she could not find her boy, she concluded that the broken pot was His work. She began to smile as she thought, "The child is very clever. After breaking the pot He has left this place, fearing punishment."
By following Krsna's tiny butter-smeared footprints, she finally found Him sitting upon a big upside-down grinding mortar. He was taking butter from a pot that hung from the ceiling on a swing, and He was feeding the butter to the monkeys. When Mother Yasoda saw Krsna looking anxiously this way and that, she could tell that He was afraid of her because He knew He had been naughty. With a stick in her hand, Mother Yasoda very silently and cautiously approached Krsna from behind. But Krsna saw her coming, and He quickly got down from the grinding mortar and fled in fear.
Mother Yasoda chased Krsna to all corners, trying to capture the Supreme Personality of Godhead—Him whom even great yogis never approach in their meditations. But Mother Yasoda could not easily catch her fast running child, because her heavy breasts overburdened her thin waist and slowed her down. Still, she tried to follow Him as quickly as possible, and as she ran her hair loosened and the malati flowers in her hair fell to the ground.
Although she was tired, she somehow reached her naughty child and captured Him. Krsna admitted to being an offender, and His eyes became restless from fear. He was just on the point of crying, and He rubbed His eyes, smearing His black eye ointment all over His face. Then, as Mother Yasoda looked upon Krsna with great love, she mildly chastised Him.
But Mother Yasoda saw that Krsna was unnecessarily afraid. Being the topmost well-wisher of her child, she thought, "If the child is too fearful of me, I don't know what will happen to Him." So Mother Yasoda threw away her stick.
Then she thought she would bind Krsna with a rope, to prevent Him from creating any more mischief. Of course, no one can actually bind the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has neither inside nor outside, nor beginning nor end. He is unlimited and all-pervading. Indeed, He is Himself the whole cosmic manifestation. Still, Mother Yasoda was thinking that Krsna was her tiny child; she did not know that He had no limitation. Thus, although Krsna is far beyond the reach of any restrictions, she endeavored to bind Him up to the wooden grinding mortar.
But when she tried to bind Him, she found that the rope she was using was too short—by two inches. Mother Yasoda gathered more ropes from the house and added them, but again she found the same shortage. In this way she connected all the ropes available in the house, but when the final knot was added, she saw that the rope was still two inches too short! Astonished, Mother Yasoda smiled and thought, "How is this happening!"
While attempting to bind her son, Mother Yasoda became tired. Her whole body became covered with perspiration, and the remaining flowers in her hair fell to the ground. Seeing His mother's labor, and being compassionate toward her, Krsna then allowed Himself to be bound up by the ropes.
In this way Lord Krsna played as a human child in the land of Vrndavana, performing His own selected pastimes for the pleasure of His dear devotees like Mother Yasoda—and showing the whole world that He can be bound only by the rope of His dear devotees' love.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Fiji Welcomes A Dancing Krsna
There's a striking new landmark in Lautoka, the second largest city in the Fiji Islands. It's the Krsna-Kaliya temple, opened last August 28 by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. With three glittering, gold-plated spires atop huge white domes, the new building is the largest Krsna temple in the South Pacific—and the first in Fiji. The temple has three spacious altars, in which thirteen exquisite Deities receive worship. ISKCON craftsmen at the Los Angeles center designed and molded the Deities and then shipped them fifty-five hundred miles to the Fiji temple. The main Deity is Krsna, who dances upon the heads of a serpent named Kaliya.
The new temple will serve as a cultural and religious center for the three hundred thousand Fijians of Indian descent, who make up more than half the nation's population and play a prominent role in its social, economic, and political life. Of course, the temple will also attract many non-Indians as well. In fact, the Fiji Sun reported that Fijians of all races participated in the opening ceremonies in huge numbers.
About the new temple His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has written this: "Everyone in Fiji should take advantage of this human life by regularly visiting this temple and making his life perfect. Krsna consciousness is not at all difficult. Everyone can come and offer obeisances to Krsna, chant Hare Krsna, and take Krsna prasada [vegetarian food offered to Krsna]. The temple is open to all."
The temple's main sponsor is local businessman Deoji Punja (Vasudeva dasa), whom Srila Prabhupada initiated as his disciple in 1976. While visiting Australia early in 1974, Mr. Punja had dropped in at the ISKCON's Sydney temple and had come away deeply impressed with the devotees—especially with their authentic Deity worship, and their strict adherence to the Vedic way of life. Later in 1974 Mr. Punja had met Srila Prabhupada in Fiji and promised to organize the construction of an ISKCON temple there. Mr. Punja had long felt an urgent need to restore the fast-fading Vedic culture among Fiji's Indian population. He concluded that this would be possible only with the help of Srila Prabhupada—the world's foremost representative of India's Krsna conscious heritage. Recently Mr. Punja pointed out that in the past many unscrupulous so-called swamis and gurus "came from India and went so quicklyas soon as they had collected their money from our pockets they were gone, and no one was any better."
Mr. Punja donated a choice site in Lautoka, and the local Indians united to build the temple there. In May of 1976 Srila Prabhupada himself came to Lautoka to lay the foundation stone. Now completed, Fiji's first Krsna temple is already functioning as the focal point of the revival of Vedic culture in Fiji. The local ISKCON devotees are popularizing the reading of Krsna-conscious literatures such as the Bhagavad-gita in all of the island's major languages. The devotees are also building a school to train children of all races in the principles of God-conscious spiritual life, and they are organizing a Vedic farm community to counter the trend toward materialistic, over-urbanized civilization. In addition, the devotees are distributing thousands of strings of chanting beads—to make chanting Hare Krsna a national pastime.
The Krsna-Kaliya temple gets its name from a famous encounter between Lord Krsna and the hundred-headed serpent Kaliya, in Vrndavana, India. Kaliya once entered the waters of the River Yamuna and began to kill the people and cows with his poisonous fumes. Krsna defeated the serpent by dancing on his heads, and as history relates, He banished him to Ramanik—present-day Fiji. Interestingly, the natives of Fiji have long told of a huge multiheaded serpent hiding in a lake in the island's interior.
German Ph.D. Acclaims Bhagavad-gita As It Is
Dr. Parameshwara Aithal of the University of Heidelberg's Institute of South Asian Studies recently sent us this assessment of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
"For a proper understanding of India's spiritual heritage, the Bhagavad-gita has been well recognized as the authoritative and authentic source book. Although there exist innumerable editions of the Bhagavad-gita—in both Indian and Western languages—few of them satisfy the needs of a modern, seriously inquiring reader, particularly of the West. Most are too superficial, failing to impart the profound knowledge hidden in the text. Having taught the Bhagavad-gita over the last twenty years, I have always felt the necessity of a more satisfactory edition. I am glad to note that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's edition of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is completely fills this need. I am sure that this valuable edition will prove to be of great help in imparting to any reader the transcendental knowledge of Krsna consciousness and of India's past. I would recommend to it anyone who seeks truth and spiritual knowledge."
On Darwinian Evolution
What follows is a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and one of his disciples, Dr. Thoudam Singh. It took place during an early morning walk on Los Angeles's Venice Beach.
Dr. Singh: Your Divine Grace, are all the species of life created simultaneously?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The species already exist, and the living entity simply transfers himself from one womb to the next, just as a man transfers himself from one apartment to another. Suppose a person comes from a lower-class apartment to a first-class apartment. The person is the same, but now, according to his capacity for payment—according to his karma—he is able to occupy a higher-class apartment. Evolution does not mean physical development, but development of consciousness. Do you follow?
Dr. Singh: I think so. Do you mean that evolution is actually the soul's transmigration from the lower species of life up to the higher species?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. As you get more money you can move to a better apartment. Similarly, as your consciousness develops, you move up to a higher species of life. The species already exist, however. It is not that the lower species become higher species—that is Darwin's nonsensical theory.
Dr. Singh: And each living entity is made to live in a particular type of body according to his desires?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. God knows the various desires of all the living entities in the material world. Therefore, to accommodate all the conditioned souls, He creates the 8,400,000 species of life from the very beginning.
Dr. Singh: Srila Prabhupada; what is the difference between the transmigration of souls in animal bodies and the transmigration of human souls?
Srila Prabhupada: Animals transmigrate only in one direction—upward—but human beings can transmigrate to either a higher or a lower form of life. By nature's law, the lower species are coming up from animal forms to the higher, human forms. But once you come to the human form, if you don't cultivate Krsna consciousness, you may return to the body of a cat or dog.
Dr. Singh: The scientists have no information that evolution can operate in either direction.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, I say they are fools and rascals. They have no knowledge, yet they still claim to be scientists.
Dr. Singh: One of the prominent scientific arguments is that before Darwin's biophysical type of evolution could take place, there had to be something they call "prebiotic chemistry" or "chemical evolution."
Srila Prabhupada: But from what have the chemicals evolved? The term "chemical evolution" implies that chemicals have an origin. And we know from the Vedic science that the origin is spirit, or life. For example, a lemon tree produces citric acid. Also, our bodies produce many chemicals through our urine, blood, and bodily secretions. So there are many examples of how life produces chemicals, but there are no instances where chemicals have produced life.
Dr. Singh: A Russian biologist in 1920 developed the idea of chemical evolution. He demonstrated that before biochemical evolution, the earth's atmosphere was composed mostly of hydrogen, with very little oxygen. Then, in due course. . .
Srila Prabhupada: This is a side study. First of all, where did the hydrogen come from? The scientists simply study the middle of the process—they do not study the origin. You must know the beginning. There is an airplane [Srila Prabhupada points to an airplane appearing on the horizon]. Would you say the origin of that machine is the sea? A foolish person might say that all of a sudden a light appeared in the sea, and that's how the airplane was created. But is that a scientific explanation? The scientists' theories are just like that. They say, "This existed, and then all of a sudden, simply by chance, that occured." This is not real science. Real science must explain the original cause.
Dr. Singh: What you have been saying completely contradicts Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin and his supporters say that life started from matter and evolved from unicellular organisms to multicellular organisms. They believe higher species like animals and men didn't exist at the beginning of creation.
Srila Prabhupada: Darwin and his followers are rascals. If the higher species have evolved from the lower species, then why do the lower species still exist? At the present moment we see both the human species, with its advanced intelligence, and the foolish ass. Why do both these entities exist simultaneously? Why hasn't the ass form simply evolved into a higher species and thus become extinct? Darwin thought that human beings evolved from the monkeys. But why do we never see a monkey giving birth to a human being?
The Darwinists' theory that human life began in such-and-such an era is nonsense. The Bhagavad-gita says that on leaving this present body you can directly transmigrate to any species of life, according to your karma. Sometimes I travel to America, sometimes to Australia, and sometimes to Africa. The countries already exist; I am simply traveling through them. It is not that because I have come to America I have created or become America. And there are many countries I have not yet seen. Does that mean they do not exist? Any scientist who supports Darwin is unintelligent. The Bhagavad-gita clearly says that all the species of life exist simultaneously, and that you can go to any of them—that will depend on your consciousness at the time of death. If you become Krsna conscious, you can even go up to the kingdom of God. Lord Krsna explains all this very clearly in the Bhagavad-gita.
On Life After Death
To whom it may concern,
This letter is in reply to an article by Dr. Abraham Kovoor published recently in the Colombo Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). In this article (a reaction to a lecture I had given a week earlier in Colombo's Rama-Krsna Mission Hall) Dr. Kovoor argued against the existence of the soul, and against life after death. Surely Dr. Kovoor and other men of his stamp stand proudly on their platform of knowledge. But the innocent public, who are not so expert in sophistry and word jugglery, should know that these self-styled guardians of logic, reason, and the advancement of science are sailing on a sinking ship when they unceremoniously meddle in matters which lie beyond the purview of their limited senses—namely "life after death."
The very first line of Dr. Kovoor's article, "I do not hold the view that my life is located in a particular spot in my body," betrays the flimsiness of the platform upon which he stands. Throughout the article Dr. Kovoor gives his views, beliefs, and opinions about a subject completely beyond his power of observation, and he tries to pass these imaginative speculations off as scientific truths.
With all due respect to Dr. Kovoor, I beg to point out that the process of direct sense perception, the basis for his many statements about "life after death," is utterly limited and imperfect. Take, for example, our eyes. They function only under certain conditions. If there is no light, we cannot even see our hands in front of our face. We cannot see the nearest object, the eyelid; nor can we see what is farthest away, the outskirts of the universe. Clearly, the eyes are imperfect. And the senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing are likewise limited. The mind is also imperfect. If one is asked to remember what he was doing fifteen years earlier on a given date, he will surely fail the test—most people would be hard-pressed to recall exactly what they were doing even fifteen minutes previously. Therefore, since our mind and senses are imperfect, any knowledge based on mental speculation and sensual perception must also be imperfect.
Now the reader may ask, "If knowledge of the soul is beyond the limited reach of our mind and senses, then how can we acquire this knowledge?" The answer is that we must look to the revealed Vedic scriptures, which are not the product of imperfect human minds, but which are spoken by either God Himself or by perfectly self-realized souls, who are transcendental to our limitations. For example, in the Bhagavad-gita, which learned men all over the world accept as the essence of Vedic knowledge, Lord Krsna declares that there is the soul, and the rebirth of the soul, and there is the supreme soul, God. Krsna also describes the spiritual science by which we can perceive the soul and God. Just as we have a material science, which deals with material phenomena, so there is a spiritual science, which allows the practitioner to penetrate the wall of gross and subtle matter and directly experience and realize the soul, its rebirth, and its relationship with God, the supreme soul.
A true scientist would never prematurely declare, "I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit that survives my death." Rather, if he really wished to perceive the soul, or self, he would embrace the process of self-realization Lord Krsna outlines in the Bhagavad-gita—a process accepted as standard by men recognized in the field of spiritual science. Such a sincere seeker of truth (the true scientist) would then submit himself to that process, and only after perfectly applying all its techniques to himself, under the guidance of an authorized professor of spiritual science (the spiritual master), would he dare speak on the matter in question. Theory, practice, and observation—that is the true process of science, and it applies equally to both material and spiritual science.
We must know the right technique for probing into the subject matter. If I want to recognize diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or pearls, I have to be trained in the techniques for testing such gems; otherwise, I may accept glass for diamonds and be cheated. For want of the spiritual techniques described in the ancient Vedic scriptures, we are foolishly accepting the body as the self and missing the real point—the soul. Therefore, on the basis of revealed scriptures and under the guidance of an authorized teacher, anyone who wants to speak on spiritual subject matters should learn spiritual science and become qualified to distinguish matter from spirit.
All the Vedic scriptures teach that life is not generated from a combination of chemicals, as men like Dr. Kovoor would have us believe, but that life comes only from life. The living combination of man and woman in sexual intercourse generates a living child. A dead man and a dead woman have no power to generate a child. A living tree can bear fruit; a dead tree, however, has no such power. The difference between life and death is the soul, which the Bhagavad-gita describes as superior energy (para-prakrti). It is this superior energy which manifests all material phenomena within our experience.
If life were a product of chemical combination only, as material scientists suggest, then why don't they inject the "life-giving chemical" into dead bodies and make men live forever? Or if we give the scientists the chemical ingredients of the material body, can they combine them and bring them to life? When confronted with these questions, material scientists can only answer, "We are trying, we will do it in the future." But this is not science—this is bluffing.
So here is my challenge to Dr. Kovoor and his fellow scientists: Let them take a dead body and inject into it the appropriate chemical to bring it back to life. However, since they obviously find this task too difficult, perhaps they could just produce a simple form of life like a mosquito or a bedbug. Of course, it may well be that their so-called science is "not yet ready" to produce a finished product of life, so perhaps they could make a synthetic eggshell, inject yellow and white chemicals into it, incubate the whole business, and thereby produce a chicken. Still, this task may be a little too difficult for them. So, if they could just produce a drop of milk or a grain of rice by chemical combination, we could perhaps begin to take them a little seriously. But until they do, we must conclude that Dr. Kovoor and other men like him are simply ignorant bluffers, and that they are totally incompetent to speak on subjects like the nature of life, life after death, the soul, and God.
by Mandaleswara dasa
"Transmigration," "reincarnation," "astral travel," "life after death"—topics once hardly mentioned but now much talked about. Is there a soul? Can the soul live outside the body? What happens to the soul when the body dies? Many people have their theories, but ancient India's Vedic literatures have the facts.
Lesson One: Each of Us Is a Living Soul Within a Material Body.
At every moment our bodies are changing. The billions of cells that are the building blocks of our bodies are continuously dying and being replaced by new cells. In this way the body that each of us had a few years ago no longer exists—our present body has replaced it. In one lifetime we actually have many different bodies—baby, child, youth, adult, and so on—but we remain the same person. We do not change our identity as the body changes, because we are not the body.
But almost every one of us thinks that he is his body, Why is that? The Vedic literatures explain that there is a spark of life within the body that animates it. This spark of life—the spiritual soul—is the real self, the real person. When encased within, say, a white male body born in America, the self thinks, "I am a white American man." When in a black female body born in Europe, the self thinks, "I am a black European woman." And so on. This is illusion or (in Sanskrit) maya—"that which is not." This illusion is very strong—right from birth everyone identifies himself with his body—so we require education. We have to learn that science which comprehends not only the material body but also the soul within the body. Although such a science is not taught in any Western university, it is taught in the Vedic literatures especially in the Bhagavad-gita.
The Bhagavad-gita explains the first concept of Vedic science in this way: "As the embodied living soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, so the same soul passes into another body at death" (Bg. 2.13). Our bodies grow and change because the living soul is present within the heart—it's that spark of life, the soul, that makes the body alive. But when the soul leaves the body, then all physical activities cease, and the eternally living soul transmigrates to another body. This experience is known as death. In other words, even during the course of one lifetime the eternally living soul is imperceptibly moving from body to body, and "death" is simply another move—a "transmigration" to a totally new body—for the deathless, changeless soul. The Bhagavad-gita explains transmigration with an analogy: "As person puts on new garments, giving up the old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones" (Bg. 2.22).
Lesson Two: The Living Souls Are Evolving Through the Species.
The Vedic literatures describe 8,400, 000 species of life: aquatics, trees and plants, insects and reptiles, birds, four-legged beasts, and human beings. The spiritual soul transmigrates from one species to the next, evolving up through the 8,400,000 forms of life until he attains a human body. The human form of life has a special significance, for only in the human form is the soul's consciousness developed enough to understand that the body is just his encagement, and that there's a way to free himself from that encagement. Now let's examine how the spirit soul's consciousness evolves and how he manifests his consciousness in various bodies.
Consciousness, an often used but rarely understood term, is actually the symptom of the spiritual soul. Or, in other words, consciousness is spiritual energy radiating from the soul—just as sunshine is material energy (heat and light) emanating from the sun. Just as the sun's heat and light pervades the entire solar system, so the consciousness radiating from the spiritual soul within the heart pervades the entire material body. But until the soul evolves up to the human form, his consciousness is so covered that he has very little chance for self-realization—realization that the self is not the material body but the living soul within.
Here we have the actual explanation of evolution. God creates the 8,400,000 species simultaneously, and as each spiritual soul transmigrates from lower to higher species, his consciousness progressively develops. Finally he attains a human body, with keen human intelligence. So evolution does exist, but it's an evolution of consciousness—not of species, as the Darwinists theorize.
However, just as there is evolution of consciousness, there is also devolution of consciousness. If, having evolved up to the human species, a spiritual soul misuses his human faculties, he must descend again into the lower species. Although the soul in the human form of life still identifies with his body, he can also glimpse his spiritual identity. This spiritual consciousness is like a small flame covered by a cloud of smoke. If we fan that flame by cultivating spiritual knowledge, we can rekindle the fire of pure consciousness—Krsna consciousness. To put it simply, the human form of life is a crossroads for the spiritual soul: he is free either to descend again into the darkness of lower species, or to end his torturous sojourn through repeated births and deaths by rekindling the full fire of his Krsna consciousness.
Lesson Three: Actions We Perform in the Human Body Determine Our Future Bodies.
This vast universe is filled with untold billions of eternally living spiritual souls, or sparks of life, and all of them are transmigrating from one body to the next. From the tiny one-celled amoeba to the great blue whale, from the smallest bacillus to the giant sequoia—all living organisms within our vast universe consist of two basic components the material body and the spiritual soul. The material body is a lifeless yet complex arrangement of physical elements, and the spiritual soul is actually a spark of life—a spark of the supreme life, God. Though only one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair in size, the soul animates one body after another. In some species he remains for only a few seconds, in others for as long as several thousand years. When a particular body is no longer fit for habitation, the soul leaves it and enters a seed, egg, or womb to begin developing his next body.
Does the soul's transmigration from body to body take place in a random way, or does some higher authority supervise? In one lifetime the spiritual soul may enjoy as the lusty rogue, and in the next lifetime he may be kicked as the neighborhood dog. What determines a particular soul's next body?
One answer given in the Bhagavad-gita is that each soul receives punishment or reward for the sinful or pious acts he performs during his human lifetime. This is known as the law of karma. Every act a human being performs is either in accord with the universal laws that God gives in the revealed scriptures, or it is contrary to those laws. God's scriptural laws govern only those souls in the human form, because unlike the dull creatures in the lower species, the human being has sufficient intelligence to freely obey—or reject—the Lord's scriptural instructions. However, along with that freedom comes accountability. Thus a sinful soul—one who breaks God's laws—may be born as a dog in his next life, a pious soul may take his next birth as an aristocrat, and a self-realized soul may break free from the bonds of karma altogether and enter into the deathless spiritual world.
The Bhagavad-gita further explains that a living soul receives a particular kind of body according to his particular desires. For example, if my heart is filled with animalistic desires, then although I now possess a human body, my next body will be an animal body.
So we may think of the body either as the soul's vehicle for expressing his material desires, or as the end result of good or bad acts the soul performed in his last human birth. Both concepts are correct. But in either case, we see that there must be a witness and controller who fulfills the particular desires of each spiritual soul, and who rewards or punishes each soul as he deserves. That witness, controller, and judge is the Supersoul.
Lesson Four: In the Human Body the Soul Can Discover the Supersoul.
Who is the Supersoul? The Bhagavad-gita says, "Besides the atomic spiritual soul, in this body there is another enjoyer—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). In other words, within each body there are two souls—the atomic soul (the individual spark of life) and the Supersoul (the supreme source of all life). The atomic soul and the Supersoul reside together within the heart of each and every body throughout the universe, and at the time of death the Supersoul accompanies the atomic soul to his next body. But the Supersoul is not an ordinary living entity. Only by the Supersoul's arrangement does each atomic soul receive his proper body; only by the Supersoul's sanction can the atomic soul fulfill his desires for happiness; and only by the Supersoul's grace can the atomic soul think, feel, and act.
The Supersoul is the personal expansion of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Whereas the atomic souls are expansions of Krsna's spiritual energy, the Supersoul is an expansion of Krsna Himself. The atomic soul dwells within the material body, and he suffers and enjoys the various pains and pleasures arising from his particular body. But the Supersoul, although fully aware of these pains and pleasures, is aloof from them. And because He is always aloof from the changing body, the Supersoul always stays in the same situation—transcendence par excellence—whether He accompanies the atomic soul within his insect body, his dog body, or his human body.
Now, when we hear that the Supersoul is present along with the atomic soul in each body, we should not assume that there must be many millions of Supersouls. There are an unlimited number of atomic souls, but there is only one Supersoul. The Bhagavad-gita explains: "Although the Supersoul appears to be divided, He is never divided. He is situated as one" (Bg. 13.17). A good analogy is the sun with its reflections: there is one sun in the sky, but if we place thousands of waterpots on the ground, the sun will at once appear within each waterpot. Similarly, the Supersoul is a single transcendental entity, but He can expand Himself into the hearts of all living creatures.
As the constant companion of each individual atomic soul, the Supersoul fulfills the desires and awards the particular material bodies of every living entity. And He accompanies them on their course of birth, old age, disease, and death—life after life. Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita: "One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is every destroyed—he actually sees" (Bg. 13.28).
Now, this may seem surprising: the Supersoul—God—is always with the individual atomic souls, yet they are suffering. Why doesn't the Lord in the heart divert the atomic souls from their suicidal course of repeated birth and death? If the Supersoul is actually our well-wisher, why doesn't He end our suffering? The Upanisads answer with the analogy of the two birds in the tree.
Lesson Five: The Soul and the Supersoul Are like Two Birds in the Tree of the Body.
The Upanisads compare the body to a tree and the soul and Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting within the tree. The first bird (representing the atomic soul) is eating the tree's fruits, which are of two kinds—happiness and distress. The second bird (representing the Supersoul) is self-satisfied, so He doesn't bother with the fruits. He simply watches His friend, the first bird. Although these two birds have similar qualities and could enjoy the most pleasurable spiritual friendship, the first bird is captivated by the fruits of the tree, so he ignores the second bird. Meanwhile, the second bird is simply witnessing the activities of His friend. Though they are friends, still one is the master and the other is the servant. Because of forgetfulness of this relationship, the first bird (the atomic soul) must change from one tree to another, or from one body to another. The atomic soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to accept the guidance of the Supersoul (represented by the friendly witnessing bird), he becomes fulfilled and free from suffering.
Unfortunately, very few souls within this material universe desire to serve the Supersoul, break free from the bonds of karma, and return home, back to the spiritual world. Although this material world is always miserable and dangerous, most people's hearts are filled with so many desires to enjoy this world that they doom themselves to stay here. Everyone has this freedom, and the Supersoul within the heart, perceiving each spiritual soul's desires, helps him try to enjoy the material world as he wishes, birth after birth.
Lesson Six: The Evolution of the Soul Culminates in Krsna Consciousness
As we can clearly see, the Supersoul is our dearest friend. And since the Supersoul is but an expansion of Lord Krsna, that means Krsna is our dearest friend. However, although Krsna always wants us to return to Him—to get free from the suffering we've been going through in one material body after anothee—He will not interfere with our minute free will. Without that freedom, we can't develop any real love for Krsna, and without developing love for Krsna, we can't break our attachment to things of this world and go back to the spiritual world.
It is only by surrendering to Lord Krsna and accepting His instructions that the spiritual soul can evolve to the highest state of existence—pure Krsna consciousness, pure love of God. The Bhagavad-gita explains that the soul who has attained love for Krsna does not again take birth in this material world after leaving his present body. Such a pure soul attains a spiritual body in the spiritual world.
Covered by illusion, we have been desiring and obtaining body after body in this miserable material world. Now, if we awaken our spiritual desires, our love for Krsna, He will award us an eternal spiritual body in the spiritual world. The spiritual world has none of the disappointment, despair, fear, and pain that plague this world. That's because in the spiritual world every soul is engaged in his eternal, natural activity—rendering loving devotional service to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unlike the so-called loving relationships of this material world, which are mere shadow relationships, our loving relationship with Krsna in the spiritual world is our original, eternal relationship, and it is the only real satisfaction and solace for the soul. Having now attained a human body, we should all take up the process of developing our love for Krsna as our most important task—and reach the pinnacle of evolution within this lifetime.
Pure Devotion Versus Mystic Magic
From the Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Adapted by Navayauvana dasa)
King Ambarisa was famous as a pure devotee of Lord Krsna. "But why," Durvasa Muni wondered, "should people respect him more than a great mystic yogi like me? I will teach him a lesson. . . ."
King Ambarisa was a greatly celebrated rajarsi (saintly monarch) who lived millions of years ago, during the Age of Truth. He presided over a royal household with many wives, children, friends, and relatives. He also possessed many elephants, chariots, horses, jewels, ornaments, garments, and an inexhaustible treasury. Yet amazingly, he was not the least bit attached to all these opulences—because he had completely given up the desire to use temporary material things for flickering sense enjoyment. So rather than abandon his opulences, he accepted everything for serving Lord Krsna in devotion.
For generations devotees have celebrated how King Ambarisa absorbed all the activities of his body and mind in Krsna's service. He always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Krsna, his words in describing the glories of Krsna, his hands in cleaning the temple of Krsna, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Krsna or about Krsna. He engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Krsna, the temple of Krsna, and places connected with Krsna, like Vrndavana. He engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the devotees of Krsna, his sense of smell in smelling the flowers offered to Krsna, and his tongue in tasting the spiritual food offered to Krsna. He engaged his legs in walking to holy places and temples of Krsna, his head in bowing down to Krsna, and all his desires in serving Krsna, twenty-four hours a day.
Yet despite his full absorption in transcendence, King Ambarisa did not neglect his worldly royal duties. Rather, he acted as an ideal God-conscious head of state and never issued a single order for his own selfish enjoyment. He saw Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as he ultimate enjoyer of all his endeavors—political, social, economic, cultural, and religious—and he always offered the results of his activities to Krsna. A perfect devotee, the king acted with full knowledge of Lord Krsna's words—and full faith in them. And since King Ambarisa's subjects followed his example of hearing and chanting about Krsna, everyone was naturally peaceful and prosperous. To satisfy the Lord even further, the king organized huge Vedic sacrifices and offered Him the best of everything. As a result, climatic conditions were ideal. Rain was plentiful, and even desert areas flourished.
Just to satisfy the Lord, King Ambarisa and one of his queens once observed a year-long vow of austerity. After observing that vow for the prescribed year, King Ambarisa fasted for three days and bathed in the River Yamuna. Then, with great attention and care, he worshiped the Deity of Krsna with fine incense, flowers, flaming lamps, and other items. Finally, he gave gifts in charity to satisfy all the guests who arrived at his palace. To the brahmanas he gave innumerable cows with gold-plated horns and silver-plated hooves. Afterward the king sumptuously fed all the brahmanas, and when they were fully satisfied, he prepared himself to end his year of austerities by breaking his fast.
Just then the great and powerful mystic Durvasa Muni unexpectedly appeared on the scene. After standing up to receive him, King Ambarisa offered him a nice seat and humbly requested him to dine. Durvasa gladly accepted, but he first wanted to bathe in the River Yamuna. There he waded into the water and became absorbed in trance.
Meanwhile, only a few minutes remained before the auspicious time for King Ambarisa to break his fast would elapse. The king became anxious. On the one hand, he knew that if he didn't break his fast during the prescribed period, the vow's effects would be lost. But on the other hand, he also knew he would commit a great offense if he ate before Durvasa returned. To resolve this dilemma, King Ambarisa quickly consulted his learned brahmana advisors and reached a decision: he would break his fast by drinking a little water only since drinking water may be accepted as both eating and not eating.
After sipping some water, the king meditated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart and awaited Durvasa Muni's return. When Durvasa returned from the river he could understand by his mystic powers that King Ambarisa had drunk water without his permission. Hungry and trembling in anger, Durvasa Muni chastised the king, who stood before him with folded hands. "Alas, just see the behavior of this cruel man—considering himself God, he has transgressed the laws of religion! King Ambarisa, you have invited me to eat as a guest, but instead of feeding me, you yourself have eaten first! Because of your misbehavior, I shall create something to punish you!"
Suddenly, with his face flushed and fiercely twisted, Durvasa uprooted a tuft of hair from his head and created a demon resembling the blazing fire of devastation. That frightful creature carried a trident in his hand and shook the surface of the earth with his footsteps, and now he was coming before the king to kill him! But King Ambarisa remained supremely placid and did not move even slightly. He was totally unafraid of death, for he was simply absorbed in thinking of Krsna in the core of his heart. The king didn't even consider asking the Lord for protection. But Lord Krsna well knows how to protect his devotees. Immediately He sent His personal weapon, the Sudarsana disc, to rescue the king. And as a forest fire quickly burns an angry snake to ashes, so the blazing Sudarsana disc did away with the demon.
Upon seeing that his attempt to kill King Ambarisa had failed—and that the Lord's Sudarsana disc was rapidly moving toward him—Durvasa Muni became very frightened and fled. By his mystic powers he fled everywhere—to the sky, to caves, to the ocean, even to the heavenly planets—but wherever he went he felt the unbearably hot Sudarsana disc following close behind him. Finally, by an inconceivable yogic perfection he crossed beyond the covering of the material universe and entered one of the planets in the self-effulgent spiritual sky. Still feeling the Sudarsana disc's scorching heat, Durvasa Muni fell at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, Narayana (Narayana means "Krsna, the shelter of all living beings").
As he spoke Durvasa once again trembled—this time in great fear: "O infallible, unlimited Lord! O protector of the universe, I am a great offender. Please give me protection."
However, Lord Narayana told him, "O brahmana, I cannot act independently, for I am completely under the control of my pure devotees. Since they give up their homes, wives, children, relatives, riches, and even their very lives simply to serve Me, how can I ever give them up? The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the core of My pure devotee's heart. Indeed, My devotees do not know anything but Me, and I do not know anyone but them.
"O brahmana," the Lord continued, "now let Me advise you what to do to escape danger. Please listen closely. When employed against My devotee, one's so-called prowess inevitably harms him who employs it—so by offending King Ambarisa you have acted against your own best interest. Therefore, you should immediately go to the king and beg his forgiveness. Do not delay even a second! If you can pacify him, then there will be peace for you."
Still feeling very much harassed by the Sudarsana disc, Durvasa Muni immediately left Lord Narayana and retraced his flight back to earth. Upon reaching King Ambarisa's palace, he quickly entered the main hall, fell down, and clasped the king's lotus feet. When Durvasa touched his feet, King Ambarisa felt ashamed and aggrieved, and out of deep compassion for the sage he began praying to the great weapon of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"O Sudarsana disc, I offer my obeisances unto you. You are fire, you are the most powerful sun, and you are the moon, the master of all luminaries. You are religion, you are truth, you are the maintainer of the entire universe, and you are the supreme transcendental prowess in the hands of Lord Krsna. Your very name—Sudarsana—indicates that you serve as the Lord's auspicious vision. You have created everything by your activities, and therefore you are all-pervasive. O protector of the universe, the Lord has engaged you as His allpowerful weapon in killing the envious enemies. Yet, for the benefit of our entire dynasty, I pray that you kindly favor this poor brahmana. If the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second, who is the reservoir of all transcendental qualities, and who is the life and soul of all living entities—if that Supreme Lord Krsna be pleased with us, we wish that you free the suffering Durvasa Muni from your searing heat."
The king's humble prayer pacified the Sudarsana disc, and he stopped burning Durvasa Muni. Deeply grateful, Durvasa began to praise King Ambarisa: "My dear king, today I have experienced the greatness of Lord Krsna's devotees—for although I greatly offended you, out of mercy you have overlooked my offense and prayed for my good fortune. O king, I am very much obliged to you."
While awaiting the return of Durvasa Muni, the king had not taken any food, but had maintained himself simply by drinking water for one whole year. Now the king still did not eat. Instead, he fell at Durvasa's feet and fed him all varieties of delicious food. After eating, Durvasa Muni was so satisfied that with great affection he requested the king to eat also. "Please take your meal," said Durvasa. "I am very pleased with you, my dear king. At first I thought of you as an ordinary human being and accepted your hospitality, but now I see that you are the most exalted devotee of the Lord. Therefore, simply by seeing you, touching your feet, and talking with you, I have been pleased and have become obliged to you. All the people of this world will continuously chant the glories of your spotless character."
In this way Durvasa redeemed himself. True, his mystic perfection was like a valuable jewel, but he had misjudged the position of Krsna's devotee and had acted enviously. Durvasa Muni was like a snake—and a snake with a valuable jewel on its head is just as dangerous as one without such a jewel. But in the end Durvasa came to realize the true position of the Lord's devotees and praised both them and Lord Krsna Himself. Thus he became fortunate.
Like Durvasa Muni, many of the present-day opponents and critics of the Krsna consciousness movement have high qualifications (learning, beauty, wealth, influence). But they are just like serpents with jewels on their heads—because they misjudge the position of Krsna and His devotees and act enviously. Yet if, like Durvasa, these people at last use their high qualifications in Krsna's service, they too will become glorious. If they refuse, no power on earth will be able to save them from ultimate destruction.