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 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
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
"We never would have lasted through the first winter," says Kirtanananda Swami (director of the New Vrindaban farm, West Virginia), "without faith in the instructions of our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada and a lot of chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. And before we built Srila Prabhupada's Palace [left], none of us had ever designed a building or worked with marble or anything like that. But we chanted Hare Krsna, and gradually Krsna revealed these skills."
Find out more about Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.
Kuladri dasa, president of the New Vrindaban farm community, with family (W.Va.): "What we're interested in here is simple living and high thinking. We work hard building, ploughing, and tending the cows, and it's all a pleasure because we're always reading our spiritual master's books and chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra,"
Bala-Krsna dasa, manager, Govinda's Mobile Kitchens (Berkeley): "Lots of people ask how the things we serve here can taste so good, and I always tell them it's because we offer everything to Lord Krsna. "You might find it a little amazing," I say,"but actually, if you're after yoga and self-realization, the best way to get started is with your tongue: you taste delicious foods offered to Krsna and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."
Paramananda dasa, president of the Gita-nagari farm community (Pa.): "Chanting Hare Krsna is a big part of our lives. By chanting we get a deeper and deeper understanding that all of us are really servants of God. Even these oxen are serving Krsna—they pull the ploughs, and the fruits of their labor nourish the whole community. For my part, I'm trying to serve Krsna by running the farm and seeing that everyone is working happily. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is so powerful that if everyone chanted it, they'd love God and everyone else, and we'd have a peaceful, God-centered world."
Part 2: How to Make the "Leap of Faith"
Soren Kierkegaard, "the father of existentialism," said we have to make the "leap of faith," and he saw the goal as God. He wrote, "There is a God—His will is made known to me in holy scripture and in my conscience." "That's all right," says His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, "but to know God's will you need more than that...."
Hayagriva dasa: Soren Kierkegaard lamented the disintegration of Christianity as an effective form of worship and considered modern Christendom to be a kind of sickness—a corruption of Christ's original message.
Srila Prabhupada: Christianity is Christianity. You cannot call it modern or ancient, nor can you say God is modern or ancient. Either a person is a Christian, or he is not. In other words, either he follows the orders of Christ, or he doesn't. If he does not follow the tenets of his religion, how can he claim to belong to that religion? This is applicable to all religions. For instance, there are many so-called Hindus who do not believe in anything, yet they consider themselves Hindus and brahmanas [priests]. This is insulting.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the purpose of prayer, Kierkegaard wrote in his Journals, "The true success in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he hears what God wills."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is very nice. Through prayer one becomes qualified to understand God, to talk with God, and to receive His directions. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita [10.10]:
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." Our ultimate goal is to give up this material world and go back to home, back to Godhead. Prayer is just one form of service. There are nine kinds of devotional service that we can perform, as explained by Prahlada Maharaja in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.23]:
sravanam kirtanam visnoh
"Hearing about the transcendental name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of the Lord, chanting about these things; remembering them; serving the lotus feet of the Lord; offering the Lord respectful worship with incense, flowers, water, and so on; offering prayers to the Lord; becoming His servant; considering the Lord one's best friend; and surrendering everything unto Him—these nine activities constitute pure devotional service."
Whether you perform all nine processes or some of them or only one of them, you can progress in spiritual life. For example, when a Christian or a Muhammadan offers prayers, his service is as good as the Hindu's service to the Deity in the temple. God is within, and when He sees that we are sincerely serving Him, He takes charge and gives us directions by which we can swiftly approach Him. God is complete in Himself;
He is not hankering after our service. But if we offer Him service, we can become purified. When we are completely purified, we can see God and talk with Him. We can receive His instructions personally, just as Arjuna did in the Bhagavad-gita.
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, faith in God develops when the soul is "willing to stand transparent before God in his full integrity."
Srila Prabhupada: Standing transparent before God means engaging in God's service. But to engage in God's service we must understand that we are His parts and parcels. Just as each part of the body engages in the service of the entire body, so every living entity is meant to engage in the service of God, Krsna. As soon as you engage in Krsna's service, you are self-realized. That is mukti, liberation from the miseries of material life. The karmis [fruitive workers], jnanis [mental speculators], and yogis are trying to realize the self, but because they are not engaged in rendering service to the Supreme Self, Krsna, they are not liberated. We are therefore teaching this Krsna consciousness for the ultimate self-realization of everyone.
Hayagriva dasa: But Kierkegaard sees self-realization arising out of the expression of the will. He thought that the more self-realized a person is, the more powerful is his will and the better he is able to make proper decisions.
Srila Prabhupada: But if you are part and parcel of the whole, you have to take decisions from the whole. You cannot make the decisions. The finger does not make decisions for the entire body. The only decision you have to make is the decision to serve Krsna—the orders come from Him. Krsna ordered Arjuna to fight, and at the end of the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna decided to abide by Krsna's will. This is the only choice we have: either to abide by Krsna's will or to defy His will. After we decide to obey Krsna, Krsna or His representative makes all the other decisions.
Hayagriva dasa: Then what is the meaning of full will?
Srila Prabhupada: Full will means to surrender to Krsna fully—to obey the orders of the Supreme absolutely.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning despair, Kierkegaard thought that despair can actually bear fruit in that it can lead one to desire a genuine life of self-realization. In other words, despair can be a springboard to higher consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit this is called nirasam paramam sukham: "When one despairs, that is a great happiness." When a person despairs, it means that everything is finished, all responsibility is gone, and he is relieved. Out of despair Arjuna was thinking of becoming a mendicant. When we despair of all happiness in material life, we may then turn to spiritual life. Sometimes Krsna smashes all of our material resources—so that, out of despair, we may fully engage in His devotional service. In other words, when we want to become God-conscious but at the same time, out of strong attachment, we want material enjoyment, Krsna will sometimes wreck us materially. At such times we often think that He is being unkind to us, and we despair. We don't realize that this is Krsna's mercy—that He is removing all impediments so that we can fully and absolutely surrender.
Once Indra, the Lord of heaven, was forced to take on the body of a hog, and he had to come down to earth as that lowly animal. As a hog, Indra had a hog wife, hog children, and so on. After some time Lord Brahma came down and told him, "My dear Indra, you have forgotten your position. You were once the Lord of heaven. You once possessed great opulence. Now that you are a hog, you have forgotten your previous exalted position. Please leave this filthy life and come with me." Yet despite Brahma's pleadings Indra was not convinced. He said, "Why should I go with you? I am very happy. I have my wife, children, and home." Seeing that Indra had become very much attached to his hog existence, Brahma began to kill all his hog children. Finally, Brahma killed Indra's hog wife. When Indra saw that his wife was killed, he despaired: "Oh, you have killed my whole family!" It was only then that Indra agreed to go back to the heavenly kingdom with Lord Brahma. Similarly, Krsna sometimes creates a situation in which the living entity will despair and, out of despair, turn to Him and fully surrender unto Him.
Hayagriva dasa: So faith grows out of despair?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to strengthen our faith in God, we have to give up all hope of happiness in this material life. We have to despair of material happiness.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning individuality, Kierkegaard wrote, "God is the origin and wellspring of all individuality. ... [This individuality] is the gift of God through which He permits me to be, and through which He permits everyone to be."
Srila Prabhupada: This idea is explained in the Katha Upanisad [2.2.13]: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. God is a living being, and we are also living beings. Just as He is eternal, we are also eternal. But the difference is that whereas qualitatively we are the same, quantitatively we are different. God is infinite, and the living entities are infinitesimal. Therefore, all the living entities are being maintained by God. We are all individual and eternal parts of God, so our natural position is to serve Him and to love Him.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard thought that each of us is in a constant state of becoming.
Srila Prabhupada: Becoming what? What is the goal? The goal is Krsna. Thus in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says,
mattah parataram nanyat
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread" [Bg. 7.7]. Krsna is the ultimate truth—the supreme goal—and completeness means coming to Krsna consciousness.
Hayagriva dasa: But even when one is fully Krsna-conscious and in association with Krsna, isn't there still a process of becoming?
Srila Prabhupada: No. The becoming process ends. There are, however, spiritual varieties. Everything is complete in the spiritual world, but the living entity enjoys varieties of service to Krsna. Sometimes he sees Krsna as a cowherd boy, sometimes as Yasoda's child, sometimes as Radharani's consort. Sometimes Krsna is in Mathura; sometimes He is in Vrndavana. There are many spiritual varieties, but everything is complete in itself—there is no question of becoming. One reaches the point where he is simply enjoying variety—that's all.
Hayagriva dasa: What is the difference between enjoying spiritual variety and enjoying material variety?
Srila Prabhupada: It is artificial to try to enjoy material variety. Material variety is like a plastic flower. A plastic flower has no aroma, so the enjoyment of a plastic flower cannot be the same as the enjoyment of a real flower. It is not satisfying. It is simply artificial, a bluff.
Hayagriva dasa: Whereas Hegel emphasized speculative thought, Kierkegaard emphasized action. Kierkegaard saw freedom in proper action.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, spiritual life means proper action. It is improper to think that when we attain the perfectional stage we become inactive. That is the impersonalistic, Mayavada theory. Mayavadis contend that the living entity is like a jug. A jug makes some sound only as long as it is not full of water. Similarly, the Mayavadis say, when we become spiritually "full," we are "silent," or inactive. But from the Bhagavad-gita we understand that the soul is never inactive. When inactivity is recommended, this simply means that we should not speak or act foolishly. If we cannot talk intelligently, we had better stop talking. But you cannot equate that inactivity with perfection.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard felt that truth is relative and subjective. He thought we could discover truth through personal, individual reflection, which he called "inward passion."
Srila Prabhupada: Truth is truth, and it is absolute. You may manufacture many relative truths, but the Absolute Truth is one. If you have no knowledge of the Absolute Truth, you emphasize relative truths. You may have "inward passion" or whatever, but if you do not know the ultimate goal, you may be misled. It is all right to say that passion leads to truth. But passion means activity. Where will your activity end? What is the purpose of your activity? You may drive your car, but if you do not know where to go, what is the point? You are simply wasting your energy. Of course you may say, "I do not know where to go, but that doesn't matter. Simply let me start my car and go." But is this a very good proposal?
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard it is not what is done that counts, but how it is done.
Srila Prabhupada: This is a dog's obstinacy.
Hayagriva dasa: This is the kind of subjectivity that is always uncertain. And uncertainty creates anxiety.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. One who does not know life's aim will always be in anxiety.
Hayagriva dasa: For Kierkegaard, this anxiety and uncertainty are dispelled by what he called the "leap of faith."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but you must make your leap toward a goal. Unless you know the goal, the fixed point, your action and energy may be misdirected.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard saw the goal as God. He felt that after passing through the aesthetic and ethical stages of life [see BTG 12/10], we should then use all our energy to reach God through Jesus Christ.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a good position. That is our process—to approach God through the bona fide spiritual master. But it is not necessary to pass through any lower stages. If you can reach God through Jesus Christ, why not take to God immediately? Our process is that you must surrender yourself to the spiritual master in order to understand the highest truth. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says,
tad viddhi pranipatena
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto Him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth" [Bg. 4.34]. This is the process. It is not that we continue on our own way, hoping to take the right path through experience. If you do not know the right direction, your endeavors will be frustrated. This material world is like the vast ocean, and in the middle of the vast ocean, you do not know where to direct your ship. If you simply have a ship without a captain, you will go one way and then another and simply waste your energy. A captain is needed to give direction. That captain is the guru. If Kierkegaard accepts Christ, then he is accepting some guidance.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard felt that the directions of God are expressed through scripture and the individual conscience. In his Journals he wrote, "There is a God—His will is made known to me in holy scripture and in my conscience."
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right, but to know God's will you need more than that. Besides following the holy scriptures and your conscience, you have to associate with saintly persons and follow the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master. Sadhu, sastra, guru vakya, cittete kariya aikya: "We can approach God by understanding a saintly person [sadhu], studying the Vedic scriptures [shastra], and following the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master [guru]." Sadhu, shastra, and guru corroborate one another. A sadhu is he who talks and acts in terms of the scriptures. And the guru is he who teaches according to the scriptures. A guru cannot manufacture words that are not in the scriptures. When we receive instructions from all three, we can progress perfectly in our understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard thought that because God sees "everything as equally important and equally insignificant, [He] can only be interested in one thing: obedience."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and God demands that full obedience (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja). Our primary obedience should be to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we should obey the spiritual master because he is the representative of God. If a person carries out the orders of God, he can become a bona fide spiritual master, or guru. A guru does not manufacture anything. He simply presents what God speaks in the scriptures. It is not that we accept just anyone's proclamations about God. Statements must be corroborated by the standard scriptures.
Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard said, "As an act of worship offered to God, we should renounce everything...."
Srila Prabhupada: Worship begins with the renunciation of ulterior motives. Our only business is to love God, and a first-class religious system teaches its followers to love God without ulterior motive. Such worship cannot be checked by material considerations. In any condition we can love God, and God will help us to love Him.
(Fifteenth Century A.D.)
Western religion usually teaches us that God is someone to fear and revere. In India, though, great spiritual masters have long taught that we can go beyond this limited conception and worship God as our master, friend, or child. And about five hundred years ago Madhavendra Puri taught that we can even worship God as our dear beloved.
Before Madhavendra Puri, most Indians worshiped Lord Krsna in a ritualistic fashion, according to strict rules and regulations. Such formal worship is necessary for those who have not awakened their natural desire to serve the Lord with love and devotion. But Madhavendra Puri was fully absorbed in spontaneous affection for Krsna, and therefore he was able to rise above the forms of worship prescribed for the neophytes.
Madhavendra Puri appeared almost mad in his love of God. He loudly chanted and sang the names and glories of the Lord without thinking of the time or place. Sometimes in his ecstasy he didn't know whether it was day or night. Sometimes he laughed and sometimes he wept. Sometimes he danced wildly and sometimes he fell to the ground unconscious. He took absolutely no interest in anything not connected with Krsna, and for fear of talking about anything other than the Lord, he always lived without a companion. He would eat only if someone offered him food—otherwise he would simply fast.
In many remarkable ways Krsna returned Madhavendra Puri's intense love. Once Madhavendra was fasting and meditating beneath a tree in the forest of Vrndavana, where thousands of years before Krsna had played as a child. Suddenly a beautiful cowherd boy (gopala) came with a pot of milk and placed it before Madhavendra. "Please drink the milk I have brought you," the boy said. Seeing the beauty of the boy, Madhavendra Puri became satisfied in his mind, and hearing these sweet words, he forgot all hunger and thirst. Then within an instant, the boy left the place and did not return. Madhavendra Puri's heart was filled with wonder. Later, he realized who the boy actually was and cried out in; great ecstatic love: "I saw Lord Krsna directly—but I could not recognize I Him!"
Soon afterwards, the same cowherd boy appeared to Madhavendra Puri in a dream and revealed to him the location of the Gopala Deity. A brahmana priest had tried to hide this Deity of Krsna from marauding Muhammadan soldiers and had buried Him nearby. In the dream Krsna told Madhavendra Puri, "For many days I have been observing you, and I have been wondering, 'When will Madhavendra Puri come to serve Me?' Now that you have come, please unearth the Gopala Deity, who is none other than My very self." So out of intense love Madhavendra Puri excavated the Gopala Deity, built an exquisite temple for Him, and arranged for lavish daily worship. "I have accepted your service," said Gopala, "because of your ecstatic love for Me."
To test Madhavendra Puri's love still further, in another dream Gopala asked him to bring a special kind of sandalwood pulp to cool His body. Gopala was still feeling hot from being buried in the jungle for so many years, and sandalwood pulp is well known for its soothing, cooling effect. "Bring sandalwood pulp from Jagannatha Puri," said Gopala. "Kindly go quickly. You must. No one else can do this for Me."
Delighted with this chance to serve his dear Lord, Madhavendra Puri set off on foot on the arduous eight-hundred-mile journey to Jagannatha Puri, on the Bay of Bengal. Along the way he stopped in Remuna at the temple of Gopinatha, and this Deity of Krsna showed him another loving favor. Every day the temple priests offered Gopinatha twelve pots of the most delicious sweet rice in the world. (Sweet rice is a preparation made with milk, rice, and sugar and served cold.) Madhavendra Puri wanted to taste a little of it so that he could prepare a similar sweet rice for his own Deity, Gopala. But Madhavendra immediately checked this thought and felt that he had committed a great sin by wanting to eat what was being offered to the Lord. Without saying a word to anyone, Madhavendra Puri left the temple and went to get some rest in a stall in the town marketplace.
Meanwhile, the Gopinatha Deity spoke to one of His brahmana priests in a dream: "Please get up and open the door to the temple. There you will find a pot of sweet rice I have kept for Madhavendra Puri. Take it to him. He is sleeping in the marketplace."
Dutifully the priest awoke, found the pot of sweet rice, and took it to the marketplace. Then he began to call out, "Madhavendra Puri! Madhavendra Puri! Please come and take this pot of sweet rice—Lord Gopinatha has stolen it for you! Please take it and enjoy it to your heart's content! You are the most fortunate person in the world!" On hearing this invitation, Madhavendra Puri came out, and with ecstatic love he ate the sweet rice the Lord had sent to him. To this day the Deity in the temple at Remuna is known as Ksiracora Gopinatha—the Deity who stole sweet rice for His pure devotee.
After this incident Madhavendra Puri pondered, "The Lord has given me a pot of sweet rice, and when the people hear of this tomorrow morning, there will be great crowds." Thinking in this way, Madhavendra Puri offered his obeisances to Gopinatha on the spot and left Remuna before the morning light.
After much walking he reached Jagannatha Puri and obtained eighty-two pounds of Malayan sandalwood—a valuable burden of love to bring back to his Gopala Deity. Even though he had to pass through provinces heavily patrolled by Muhammadan soldiers and infested with bands of thugs, Madhavendra Puri was not at all anxious. He was concerned only about carrying the sandalwood back to his beloved Gopala, and he didn't even take personal inconveniences or impediments into consideration. He just wanted to serve the Lord.
When he arrived at Remuna, Madhavendra Puri again visited the temple of Gopinatha, and the priest there again served him the famous sweet rice. Now Madhavendra still had the longest and most difficult part of the journey ahead of him. But as he slept that night his own Gopala Deity appeared in a dream and said, "O Madhavendra Puri, there is no difference between My body and Gopinatha's body. They are one and the same. Therefore, if you smear the sandalwood pulp on His body, you will also be smearing it on My body. Thus the temperature of My body will be reduced. You should not hesitate to act according to My order. Believe in Me and just do what is needed." In this way Gopala saved His devotee from possible injury at the hands of enemies. Madhavendra Puri had passed the Lord's test of his love and devotion. To this day people who travel to India can visit the Deities of Gopala and Ksiracora Gopinatha and experience some of the same devotional feelings that inspired Madhavendra Puri.
Madhavendra Puri's Love: The Pinnacle of Devotion
We can experience God in different ways. Some worshipers know Him as the formless, all-pervading spiritual effulgence. Others experience Him in their own hearts as the Supersoul (Paramatma)—the witness, guide, and well-wishing friend. But the most advanced worshipers, such as Madhavendra Puri, see God face to face in His original form as Krsna the cowherd boy, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To accept loving service from His pure devotee Madhavendra Puri, the Lord appeared personally before him, spoke to him, and gave him a pot of milk to drink.
In all religions there is some feeling of love of God, but such love varies in degrees of intensity. In his book The Nectar of Devotion, the great Krsna-conscious spiritual master Srila Rupa Gosvami has analyzed the different kinds of love of God. First we may passively appreciate the sublime qualities of the Lord, as did the Kumaras, the four celibate sons of Lord Brahma. Progressing further, we come to the stage of desiring to serve the Lord as the supreme master. Hanuman, the monkey servant of Lord Ramacandra, exemplifies this kind of love. In time, when the relationship of servant and master becomes more intimate, we may advance to the stage of friendship with the Supreme Lord. Krsna's cowherd boyfriends are examples. Still more advanced is the worship of Krsna as our child. At this stage Krsna allows the worshiper to take the superior role of His mother (like Yasoda) or father (like Nanda). The highest form of love of God is that displayed between lover and beloved. The gopis (milkmaids) of Vrndavana love Krsna in this way. And of all the gopis, the Lord's eternal consort Srimati Radharani displays this conjugal love of God to the highest degree.
At his life's end Madhavendra Puri was deeply absorbed in conjugal love for Krsna. In great ecstasy he repeatedly uttered a famous verse beginning with the lines "O my Lord! O most merciful master! When shall I see You again?" It is said that this verse was originally spoken by Srimati Radharani Herself. Before the time of Madhavendra Puri, nearly all devotees worshiped Krsna alone—without His female counterpart—but after Madhavendra Puri introduced conjugal love of God into India's spiritual life, more and more devotees began worshiping Krsna together with His eternal consort Radha.
Before Madhavendra Puri appeared, the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya (see BTG 12/10) had been full of ritualistic ceremonies—with hardly any sign of love of Godhead. Madhavendra Puri was the first successor of Madhvacarya to exhibit the symptoms of love of Godhead. In fact, it is said that the tree of devotional service to Lord Krsna sprouted in him and later grew tall and broad in Lord Caitanya, the incarnation of Krsna for this age of quarrel. Himself a disciple of Madhavendra Puri's disciple Isvara Puri, Lord Caitanya spread devotional service throughout India and ordered His own disciples to spread devotional service to every town and village in the world. Now, after years of careful cultivation by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the devotional tree that sprouted in Madhavendra Puri has produced a fast-growing branch called the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Can you imagine a more enjoyable way to learn to love God? Offer Him delicious preparations—like samosas (spicy vegetable-filled turnovers, deep-fried in clear butter), or lassi (whipped yogurt, fruit juice, and berries, over ice), or Gauranga potatoes in sour cream sauce. .. and eat the "leftovers " as His mercy!
by Yogesvara dasa
At first I was bewildered. The word "yoga" had always summoned up images of thin men with austere eating habits. Yet here we were, being encouraged to eat our fill. The scene was the Radha-Krsna temple in Rome; the occasion, a delicious ten-course feast in memory of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, a great Krsna-conscious saint. Our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, was there with us partaking of the feast, so I asked if he'd please clear up a doubt I'd been entertaining for some time.
"Srila Prabhupada," I said, "in all yoga practices control of the senses is of first importance. But how is that control possible when there are so many feasts in Krsna consciousness?"
"Why should you hesitate?" he replied. "This is not material food. You should take to your full satisfaction. But not too much—then you will be sick and have to fast for two days."
He went on to describe how all food comes from Lord Krsna and should therefore be prepared sumptuously, as an offering to Him.
"Eating is a very important function," he continued. "It should be done in a spiritual atmosphere and without disturbance. If you are disrupted while taking prasada [vegetarian food offered to Krsna with devotion], then there will be loss of appetite, and indigestion."
In his books and private instructions, Srila Prabhupada often stresses the significance of prasada in developing spiritual consciousness. Prasada is Sanskrit for "mercy." As mentioned above, vegetarian foods offered with devotion to Lord Krsna become prasada, "the mercy of the Lord," and the remnants of such offerings are highly prized by spiritualists of all kinds. For eleven years now, ISKCON centers throughout the world have held a free "Love Feast" every Sunday (see back cover), at which devotees distribute prasada to anyone and everyone. And at ISKCON's Mayapur center near Calcutta, devotees distribute simple but nourishing prasada free to more than ten thousand people every week.
Recently, at several Krsna temples around the world, devotees have established Govinda's Restaurants and made the health-giving, spiritually nourishing experience of prasada even more widely available. To comply with Srila Prabhupada's instruction that prasada be taken in a spiritual atmosphere, the devotees decorate each restaurant with paintings of Lord Krsna's pastimes, and they pipe in soft temple music called kirtana. As far as possible, the ingredients that go into the restaurants' fare are grown on farms run by devotees, and all the cooks are initiated brahmanas. (One of the main brahminical qualities is scrupulous cleanliness.)
Prasada is also available from a fleet of eighteen food carts in New York City and from a pair of "Govinda's Mobile Kitchens" in Berkeley, California. The most popular items are the samosa, lassi, and Gauranga potatoes (see above). Another favorite is the pakora, a bite-size chunk of vegetable dipped in spicy batter and deep-fried in clear butter. Bala-Krsna dasa, who heads up prasada distribution in Berkeley, explained the program this way: "If we distribute Krsna's prasada profusely, people's eating habits will gradually be purified, and they'll become more and more attracted to Krsna. So we have definite plans to make the samosa more popular than the hamburger—and Govinda's Kitchen more popular than McDonald's."
The Philosophy Behind Prasada
Meat eating is one of the greatest obstacles on the path of spiritual progress. Despite farfetched interpretations, no scripture in the world recommends meat eating—although some scriptures may make a concession for individuals who are unable to control their tongues. But even these authorities strictly forbid cow killing; they advise substituting some less important animal instead. Because we drink the cow's milk, the Vedic literatures consider her one of human society's mothers. Cow protection is thus imperative, for cow's milk stimulates the growth of healthy brain tissues required for understanding the principles and executing the practices of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to God. On the other hand, meat contains poisons and cholesterol that simply dull the mind and debilitate the body.
However, vegetarianism in itself is not spiritual. We must also offer our food to God with devotion. Then our eating becomes part of a loving exchange with the Lord. When devotees prepare food, they're aware that the preparation is for Krsna's pleasure, not their own. This is genuine spiritual feeling, or bhakti.
Bhakti-yoga aims at reawakening our lost sense of God consciousness. Thus the rules governing the preparation of prasada are very strict: the cook must bathe and put on fresh clothes before entering the kitchen; the kitchen itself must be spotless; the cook must never touch his mouth or any other part of his body while cooking; and most important, he must never taste the preparations before offering them to Lord Krsna—even to test them. Krsna must be the first to relish.
Actually, Krsna doesn't need to eat. He is atmarama, or completely self-sufficient. But He appreciates the devotion with which we prepare foods for Him. The more our consciousness is fixed on pleasing Krsna, the more successful is the offering.
This, then, is real yoga, or linking up with the Supreme. It is not a question of stopping eating, but rather of spiritualizing our food by first offering it to Krsna. This simple process gradually makes us aware of the essential teaching of the Vedas: that everything comes from Krsna, and that He is the real enjoyer of all our endeavors.
Lunch with a Friend
Whenever friends come to visit me at the New York temple, I take them to Govinda's Restaurant.
"This is very tasty," one old high-school friend told me recently. "What is it?"
"It's a sweet-and-sour preparation, made with pineapple, plantains, egg-plant, tamarind water, and spices."
"Is it Indian?"
"You would probably find similar dishes in India."
"I suppose if the food tastes this good, it isn't hard to be a vegetarian. But how do you compensate for the missing proteins?"
"There are great quantities of protein in cheese, milk, nuts, and that split-bean soup [I pointed to the dahl]—even more protein than in meat. But equally important is the proper blend of spices. Because the cooks prepare everything for Krsna's pleasure, they must learn how to select and properly balance spices. In that proper balance are many minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients needed for good health."
My friend appreciated the care and thoughtfulness with which Krsna's devotees prepare food.
"What do you mean by 'spiritual food'?" he asked.
"The Bhagavad-gita explains the difference between proper and improper foods. According to our conditioning by material nature, we are attracted to food characterized by the quality of goodness, passion, or ignorance. We can offer to Krsna only foods having the quality of goodness. These are fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products (excluding eggs), which are conducive to long life, health, strength, and happiness."
"What about people who don't live in the temple? Do they have to get their prasada from the temple, or can they make it themselves?"
"Many people prepare prasada at home. In fact, there are thousands of people around the country who have altars in their homes and offer their food to Lord Krsna every day. If you write to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust [please see coupon on inside back cover], they'll send you a Radha-Krsna altar kit and a Hare Krsna Cookbook. The idea is that every day when you cook, you cook for Krsna and offer the food to Him. Before long, your home will start to feel like a temple—and you'll be well on your way back to Godhead."
On Christianity and Cow Killing
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Cardinal Jean Danielou took place at ISKCON's Paris center.
Srila Prabhupada: Jesus Christ said, "Thou shall not kill." So why is it that the Christian people are engaged in animal killing?
Cardinal Danielou: Certainly in Christianity it is forbidden to kill, but we believe that there is a difference between the life of a human being and the life of the beasts. The life of a human being is sacred because man is made in the image of God; therefore, to kill a human being is forbidden.
Srila Prabhupada: But the Bible does not simply say, "Do not kill the human being." It says broadly, "Thou shall not kill."
Cardinal Danielou: We believe that only human life is sacred.
Srila Prabhupada: That is your interpretation. The commandment is "Thou shalt not kill."
Cardinal Danielou: It is necessary for man to kill animals in order to have food to eat.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Man can eat grains, vegetables, fruits, and milk.
Cardinal Danielou: No flesh?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Human beings are meant to eat vegetarian food. The tiger does not come to eat your fruits. His prescribed food is animal flesh. But man's food is vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products. So how can you say that animal killing is not a sin?
Cardinal Danielou: We believe it is a question of motivation. If the killing of an animal is for giving food to the hungry, then it is justified.
Srila Prabhupada: But consider the cow: we drink her milk; therefore, she is our mother. Do you agree?
Cardinal Danielou: Yes, surely.
Srila Prabhupada: So if the cow is your mother, how can you support killing her? You take the milk from her, and when she's old and cannot give you milk, you cut her throat. Is that a very humane proposal? In India those who are meat eaters are advised to kill some lower animals like goats, pigs, or even buffalo. But cow killing is the greatest sin. In preaching Krsna consciousness we ask people not to eat any kind of meat, and my disciples strictly follow this principle. But if, under certain circumstances, others are obliged to eat meat, then they should eat the flesh of some lower animal. Don't kill cows. It is the greatest sin. And as long as a man is sinful, he cannot understand God. The human being's main business is to understand God and to love Him. But if you remain sinful, you will never be able to understand God—what to speak of loving Him.
Cardinal Danielou: I think that perhaps this is not an essential point. The important thing is to love God. The practical commandments can vary from one religion to the next.
Srila Prabhupada: So, in the Bible God's practical commandment is that you cannot kill; therefore killing cows is a sin for you.
Cardinal Danielou: God says to the Indians that killing is not good, and he says to the Jews that...
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Jesus Christ taught, "Thou shall not kill." Why do you interpret this to suit your own convenience?
Cardinal Danielou: But Jesus allowed the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb.
Srila Prabhupada: But he never maintained a slaughterhouse.
Cardinal Danielou: (laughs) No, but he did eat meat.
Srila Prabhupada: When there is no other food, someone may eat meat in order to keep from starving. That is another thing. But it is most sinful to regularly maintain slaughterhouses just to satisfy your tongue. Actually, you will not even have a human society until this cruel practice of maintaining slaughterhouses is stopped. And although animal killing may sometimes be necessary for survival, at least the mother animal, the cow, should not be killed. That is simply human decency. In the Krsna consciousness movement our practice is that we don't allow the killing of any animals. Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "Vegetables, fruits, milk, and grains should be offered to Me in devotion" [Bhagavad-gita 9.16]. We take only the remnants of Krsna's food (prasada). The trees offer us many varieties of fruits, but the trees are not killed. Of course, one living entity is food for another living entity, but that does not mean you can kill your mother for food. Cows are innocent; they give us milk. You take their milk—and then kill them in the slaughterhouse. This is sinful.
Student: Srila Prabhupada, Christianity's sanction of meat eating is based on the view that lower species of life do not have a soul like the human being's.
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. First of all, we have to understand the evidence of the soul's presence within the body. Then we can see whether the human being has a soul and the cow does not. What are the different characteristics of the cow and the man? If we find a difference in characteristics, then we can say that in the animal there is no soul. But if we see that the animal and the human being have the same characteristics, then how can you say that the animal has no soul? The general symptoms are that the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps, you sleep; the animal mates, you mate; the animal defends, and you defend. Where is the difference?
Cardinal Danielou: We admit that in the animal there may be the same type of biological existence as in men, but there is no soul. We believe that the soul is a human soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Our Bhagavad-gita says sarva-yonisu, "In all species of life the soul exists." The body is like a suit of clothes. You have black clothes; I am dressed in saffron clothes. But within the dress you are a human being, and I am also a human being. Similarly, the bodies of the different species are just like different types of dress. There are 8,400,000 species, or dresses, but within each one is a spirit soul, a part and parcel of God. Suppose a man has two sons, not equally meritorious. One may be a Supreme Court judge and the other may be a common laborer, but the father claims both as his sons. He does not make the distinction that the son who is a judge is very important, and the worker son is not important. And if the judge son says, "My dear father, your other son is useless; let me cut him up and eat him," will the father allow this?
Cardinal Danielou: Certainly not, but the idea that all life is part of the life of God is difficult for us to admit. There is a great difference between human life and animal life.
Srila Prabhupada: That difference is due to the development of consciousness. In the human body there is developed consciousness. Even a tree has a soul, but a tree's consciousness is not very developed. If you cut a tree it does not resist. Actually, it does resist, but only to a very small degree. There is a scientist named Jagadish Chandra Bose who has made a machine which shows that trees and plants are able to feel pain when they are cut. And we can see directly that when someone comes to kill an animal, it resists, it cries, it makes a horrible sound. So it is a matter of the development of consciousness. But the soul is there within all living beings.
Cardinal Danielou: But metaphysically, the life of man is sacred. Human beings think on a higher platform than the animals do.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that higher platform? The animal eats to maintain his body, and you also eat in order to maintain your body. The cow eats grass in the field, and the human being eats meat from a huge slaughterhouse full of modern machines. But just because you have big machines and a ghastly scene, while the animal simply eats grass, this does not mean that you are so advanced that only within your body is there a soul, and that there is not a soul within the body of the animal. That is illogical. We can see that the basic characteristics are the same in the animal and the human being.
Cardinal Danielou: But only in human beings do we find a metaphysical search for the meaning of life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So metaphysically search out why you believe that there is no soul within the animal—that is metaphysics. If you are thinking metaphysically, that's all right. But if you are thinking like an animal, then what is the use of your metaphysical study? "Metaphysical" means "above the physical" or, in other words, "spiritual." In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya: "In every living being there is a spirit soul." That is metaphysical understanding. Now either you accept Krsna's teachings as metaphysical, or you'll have to take a third-class fool's opinion as metaphysical. Which do you accept?
Cardinal Danielou: But why does God create some animals who eat other animals? There is a fault in the creation, it seems.
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a fault. God is very kind. If you want to eat animals, then He'll give you full facility. God will give you the body of a tiger in your next life so that you can eat flesh very freely. "Why are you maintaining slaughterhouses? I'll give you fangs and claws. Now eat." So the meat eaters are awaiting such punishment. The animal eaters become tigers, wolves, cats, and dogs in their next life—to get more facility.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
New Era Begins for ISKCON in India
Recently, a bullock cart filled with ISKCON devotees rumbled along the back roads of the east Indian province of Orissa. When they and their leader Lokanatha Swami reached Badrak, they led crowds of delighted townspeople in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and served out a feast of prasada (vegetarian food offered to Lord Krsna with devotion). Also, the devotees left many Badrak residents with inexpensive editions of the ancient Vedic literatures, as translated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Observing all these goings-on was Bhakti Vikash Maha-yogi Maharaja, the manager of the local Krsna temple. He felt so impressed with the devotees' enthusiasm for spreading Krsna consciousness that he asked them to take over the management of his temple and use it as a base for their missionary work.
This brief encounter marked a real breakthrough for Krsna consciousness in modern India. Now, the Badrak temple is part of the Gaudiya Matha, a multi-temple federation that dates back to the first part of the century, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami (Srila Prabhupada's own spiritual master) started a campaign for reviving Krsna consciousness throughout the world. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta opened sixty-four Gaudiya Matha temples in India and asked his disciples to open similar temples everywhere, especially in the United States and Western Europe. But after he passed away in 1936, his disciples split into factions and fought in the courts for property and power.
This petty legal wrangling has carried on through the years, but Srila Prabhupada has stayed clear of it and mindful of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's plan to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world. In 1965, at age seventy, Srila Prabhupada journeyed to America to found the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In a dozen years he has opened more than one hundred Krsna-conscious centers worldwide, but the members of the Gaudiya Matha have been slow in acknowledging his achievements. Now, at long last, this acknowledgment is coming—at least in Badrak.
When Bhakti Vikash Maha-yogi Maharaja saw the vigorous missionary work of the ISKCON devotees, he knew that they and their spiritual master Srila Prabhupada are bona fide followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. At that moment he determined to place the Gaudiya Matha temple in Badrak in their charge, and not long afterward, he and the ISKCON devotees approached the temple's board of trustees to see whether they would agree to the proposal. After interviewing the devotees, the trustees concluded, "These ISKCON members are devotees of the highest order." And without hesitation the trustees pledged their support.
ISKCON leaders hope that other Gaudiya Matha temples will follow after their sister temple in Badrak and fully support the nonsectarian mission of spreading Krsna consciousness to every town and village in the world.
A Godbrother Hails Srila Prabhupada's Work
To fulfill the plan of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has not only started many temples but has also translated the primary works of ancient India's Vedic literatures into English. Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, Emeritus Chairman of the Philosophy Department in Benares's Government Postgraduate College and himself a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, has this to say about Srila Prabhupada's translation of the Sri Caitanya -caritamrta:
"Sri Caitanya is the pioneer of a great social and religious movement that began in India a little less than five hundred years ago. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is the most authoritative biography of this great saint and social reformer. But the work is more than a biography. Its greatness consists not so much in the literary skill with which the story of Caitanya's life is told, but in its complete exposition of the profound tenets of the philosophy and religion of Sri Caitanya as exemplified in His life. Thus, it is a remarkable document of great historical and sociological importance.
"This English edition translated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is superb. It contains the original Sanskrit and Bengali verses with their English transliterations, word-for-word synonyms, translations, and elaborate purports, easily bearing testimony to the author's profound knowledge of the subject."
"Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts, and not by gigantic industrial enterprises, "says His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who has founded many Krsna-conscious farming communities all over the world. "The gigantic industrial enterprises are products of a godless civilization, and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life.... What we need, therefore, is to be obedient to the laws of the Lord and achieve the perfection of human life by devotional service to Him. "Here's a look at two ' ISKCON farms in action.
Krsna's Village In West Virginia
by Taru dasa
About the last thing anyone would expect to find tucked away in the rolling hills of West Virginia is a community of shaven-headed, saffron-robed Hare Krsna devotees. Yet, about ten miles south of Wheeling, near Route 250, just such a community is flourishing.
Begun in 1968, New Vrindaban embodies the ancient way of life that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada calls "simple living and high thinking." In 1966, when Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York City, he stated that one of ISKCON's primary purposes would be "to erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna." Just two years later Kirtanananda Swami, one of Prabhupada's original disciples, came to West Virginia to carry out this mission.
New Vrindaban began as a 133-acre, inaccessible hill farm with one rundown shack, but in nine short years it has grown to more than one thousand acres with dozens of houses, barns, temples, and workshops spread over six well-developed farms. The community even has its own monthly magazine, The Brijbasi Spirit. Yet with all this economic growth the residents have never strayed from Srila Prabhupada's original instructions on the nature of New Vrindaban: "The Vrindaban conception is that of a transcendental village without the botherations of the modern industrial atmosphere. In Krsna's Vrindaban the people can fully depend on nature's beauty and the cows, and this New Vrindaban should be such an ideal village—where the residents will have simple living and high thinking." So the aim of New Vrindaban is not to provide a comfortable material situation for those who live there, but rather to establish a transcendental land where the atmosphere automatically reminds everyone of Krsna.
Kirtanananda Swami, New Vrindaban's director and a former history instructor at Columbia University, points out how important it is that the devotees see Krsna as the center of all they do:
"The most successful communities throughout history have tended to be those that were strongly religious—those that could unify on the common worship of God. And obviously, when the concept of God is most agreed upon, the community will be most united and harmonious. All our activities center upon Krsna and His eternal consort Radharani, who reside here in Their Deity forms of Sri Sri Radha-Vrndavana Candra [Vrndavana Candra means "Krsna, the moonlike Lord of Vrndavana"]. We assemble in the temple every morning and evening for worship, and this gives meaning and direction to all our diverse activities. In other words, this temple is our spiritual center. We come early in the morning and see Krsna and Radharani and glorify Them by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In this way our minds remain peaceful and fixed on Krsna all day."
The 165 devotees live in several dormitories and small houses near the temple. While they eat and dress and live very simply, they accord the Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Vrndavana Candra, the most regal opulence. The temple floor and altar are made of marble that devotees cut and polished at the community marble shop. On the altar rests a beautifully carved teakwood Deity platform called a srngasana (complete with gold and silver decorations), and the Deities Themselves wear bejeweled silk garments and pearl necklaces. Although the devotees desire no opulence for themselves, they realize that nothing is too nice for Krsna. Krsna is the center of their lives, and simply by giving something nice to Krsna, they satisfy everyone—just as by pouring water on the root of a tree, one simultaneously nourishes all the leaves and branches.
Across from the temple we find a new four-story building called a dharmasala (roughly, dharmasala means "lodge"). The upper floor contains guest rooms, while the entire second floor serves as a prasada room, a room where the devotees eat. (Prasada is vegetarian food offered to Krsna with devotion.) The walls and floor of the prasada room are set in marble. Although it's as big as a basketball court, during the recent festival on Krsna's birthday it overflowed with devotees and guests. On the first floor of the dharmasala is a spacious kitchen area containing five large stoves, each big enough to hold a sixty-gallon pot. New Vrindaban boasts the best prasada in the world, with over seventy-five preparations cooked daily.
All the community's early-morning activities are centered in these two buildings, the temple and the dharmasala. The devotees rise early—2:30 or 3:00 a.m.—and go to the temple for two hours of individual chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, an arati celebration (which resembles the Christian mass), and classes on the Srimad-Bhagavatam ("The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead") and the Bhagavad-gita ("The Song of God"), two ancient Vedic texts that explain the science of Krsna consciousness. At 6:30 everyone goes to the dharmasala for breakfast. The rest of the day the devotees engage in a flurry of activities all around the farm.
Directly beside the dharmasala stands the old Bahulaban barn, now divided into two halves—one for woodwork (with table saws, routers, band saws, and the like) and the other for black-smithing, ironworking, and so forth. Also, the devotees plan to expand the operation into a foundry for casting ornamental metals and Deities.
Across the road we find a seemingly inexhaustible supply of firewood, neatly cut and stacked in cords. But surprisingly, the wood will last no more than half the winter. Woodcutting and land clearing are year-round jobs. Bahulaban farm alone has five large buildings, whose boilers need wood all through the winter. Fully sixty percent of New Vrindaban 's thousand acres is woodland, and all summer and winter devotees thin the forests to secure firewood and lumber.
About two blocks down the road from the dharmasala we find the gosala ("the cow shelter"), where Krsna's cows live. New Vrindaban's cow population has grown to 150, mostly Holsteins and also some Brown Swiss and Jerseys. From the very start, one of the community's main purposes has been to demonstrate the humaneness and practicality of cow protection. Srila Prabhupada writes, "In New Vrindaban people should live an ideal spiritual life, completely depending upon agricultural produce and milk from the cows. If there are sufficient grains and milk, the whole economic problem is solved. However, we have to maintain the animals throughout their lives. We must not sell them to the slaughterhouses. Krsna, through His practical example, taught us to give all protection to the cows, and cow protection should be the main business of New Vrindaban."
Cows graze all around the Bahulaban area. The gosala itself holds forty cows at a time for milking. "Last spring we were getting almost sixteen hundred pounds of milk a day," Kirtanananda Swami explained. "And one cow hit just under 120 pounds per day for several months. From this ocean of milk we produce about six gallons of butter every day, most of which we turn into ghee [clarified butter] and use here or send to the Society's restaurants. We consider ghee very important, because Srila Prabhupada has said that once people develop a taste for foods cooked in ghee, they will give up meat eating.
"When Krsna Himself appeared on this planet, He lived among the cowherds, and cows are very dear to Him," says Kirtanananda Swami. "Consequently, Sri Krsna is celebrated as go-brahmana-hitaya ca, the protector of cows and brahmanas (saintly intellectuals]. In a God-conscious, Vedic civilization the cow is fundamental both economically and spiritually, and by protecting the cows and the brahmanas, people are guaranteed both material and spiritual success. Conversely, when people slaughter the cow and disrespect the brahmanas, their so-called civilization becomes hellish.
"Naturally, cow protection includes bull protection. The bull is our father and the symbol of religion. At present a few boys are working the oxen and hauling wood, plowing fields, and cutting hay. Of course, we do have tractors, but we want to develop skill working the oxen. They are our future."
Beside the gosala stand two steel-and-glass Harvestore silos, the first twenty by fifty feet and the second twenty by thirty-five feet. The larger silo holds hay, and the smaller one holds ground ear corn. A third silo, erected this fall, holds three hundred tons of corn silage.
"This year Krsna has given us very good weather," Kirtanananda Swami says, "and the harvest has been wonderful. We're bringing in practically twice as much as usual, and it looks as though for the first time in our history we'll have a surplus for sale. We generally get three good cuttings of hay, but this year we may get four. In addition, we're constantly planting new crops. We planted twenty-five new acres of alfalfa this year, and we'll seed another twenty-five acres with red clover in the spring. Both improve the quality of the hay. Offhand I'd say that each year we cut about 125 acres of meadowland and bring in about ten thousand bales of hay."
The devotees also grow grains for human consumption—buckwheat and wheat, for instance. This year they are also growing mung beans for dahl (soup). The community's mill grinds the wheat into flour for chapatis (flat, puffed bread patties) during the week and buckwheat pancakes on Sundays. Of course, the bulk of the grain harvest goes to the cows and comes to the devotees as milk, cheese, and butter.
Vegetables grow luxuriantly in the main garden, located next to Radha Vrndavana Candra's temple. Generally, the vegetable garden supplies the community all summer and part of the winter, and this year the crop was better than ever.
Although most of the community's activities take place at Bahulaban, the main construction is going on at another farm about two miles away. At this hundred-acre farm (called Guruban, in honor of Srila Prabhupada) we find what a major newpaper calls "a masterwork of design and painstaking effort." Now nearly completed, "Srila Prabhupada's Palace" sits atop the highest hill for miles around and has a view that is truly celestial. In fact, the Palace itself appears to have descended from another world. Its concrete dome, intricately cut marble floors, hand-molded concrete work, and portico entrances recall the temples of ancient India. Actually, the Palace beautifully combines Eastern and Western styles, thanks to the sincere dedication of Bhagavatananda dasa, a seven-year devotee who designed and helped build the entire structure. The main dome is flanked by two smaller domes, and the facing of the building is of Italian marble. Around the perimeter we find a walkway enclosed with lotus arches. The walkway is a checkerboard of red and green marble, and the columns have facings of geometrically carved marble. Throughout the interior are finely sculptured doorjams, windowsills, cornices, railings, and so on.
Inside the Palace's main room, Italian white Cremo marble covers the walls above a finely carved wainscot. Kirtanananda Swami points out that the devotees are also fashioning stained-glass windows and crystal chandeliers. Large paintings of Krsna-conscious spiritual masters throughout history will complete the temple.
Kirtanananda Swami says that the major event in New Vrindaban's history has been the building of the Palace. "Originally we were planning Govindaji Temple to be our first major construction effort. But after a while I began to think this was not exactly right. The sastras [revealed scriptures] say that one has to approach Krsna through the spiritual master. So we decided first of all to construct a residence for Srila Prabhupada. Actually, we can see that everything that has happened has been simply by Krsna's plan. After all, before this none of us had ever designed a building or worked with crystal chandeliers or marble or anything like that. But gradually, Krsna has revealed these skills, up to the point that now we have become convinced that whatever we think of we can actually execute. Simply because we wanted to give something wonderful to Srila Prabhupada, Krsna has brought all of this here. It has certainly not developed from our skill.
"We hope to attract many people to the Palace," Kirtanananda Swami says. "We don't shun publicity—our mission is to spread Krsna consciousness. The Palace is devotion; it's Krsna consciousness in action. People may come here simply because they are attracted by a beautiful building, but when they come we can instruct them on the importance of accepting the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master."
Connected to the Palace and Guruban is Madhuban, which consists of eighty-eight acres of pine trees and corn and wheat fields. The center of Madhuban is Lord Jagannatha's temple, and apart from Jagannatha Puri in India, the Jagannatha Deities here are the largest in the world. They are five feet tall and are carved out of an old elm that once fell down on the Vrindaban Road.
Behind the main house at Madhuban are a number of individual residences shaped like aboriginal huts and composed of a mixture of cement and clay. These are called "Prabhupada houses," because Srila Prabhupada himself designed them back in 1969. They take only a couple of days to build, and they provide an economical dwelling for devotees who like more privacy.
But anyone looking for a really quiet, meditative atmosphere will discover that the original Vrindaban Farm is the best. Though visible from across the valley at Madhuban, the old Vrindaban farm is virtually inaccessible. Its 133 acres connect to Madhuban along a peaked ravine that's impossible to climb during winter. The only practical access to Vrindaban is a muddy two-mile road starting at Bahulaban. Vrindaban Farm is the place where Srila Prabhupada first visited in 1969, and now it is the home of thirty-six brahmacaris [celibate students] and the Deities Sri Sri Radha-Vrndavana-natha. The devotees have converted the 150-year-old farmhouse into a small temple to shelter the Deities. And nearby are a number of individual dwellings, including two A-frames and a geodesic dome.
"Only two or three boys stay at Vrindaban Farm during the day," explains Kirtanananda Swami. "Everyone else leaves to work at Bahulaban or the Palace. Vrindaban is more like a retreat, and its atmosphere is one of special seclusion. It is not our goal, however, to become recluses. Srila Prabhupada has warned us that it's not a good idea for a conditioned soul to try to retire from his normal activities. Our main concern here is rendering service to Krsna and in that way advancing in Krsna consciousness."
On a ridge to the west of Vrindaban Farm lies a 208-acre tract of land called Nandagrama. This farm is accessible by a half-mile gravel road. Like the Vrindaban farm, Nandagrama is very isolated. It consists mostly of corn and alfalfa fields, magnificent hardwood forests, and pastureland for about forty calves and heifers. The creeks running between the ridges have many waterfalls where the devotees sometimes bathe during the summer. Also, the Gurukula school is located at Nandagrama, and three teachers and fourteen little brahmacaris now live there year-round. The boys spend much of their recreation time playing with the calves and heifers.
Kirtanananda Swami has this advice for new communities: "Don't try to start one without Krsna at the center. We never would have lasted through the first winter without faith in the instructions of Srila Prabhupada and a lot of chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. In the beginning, real community living isn't all milk and honey, although there is plenty of both.
"Here at New Vrindaban we hope to show that regardless of occupation or skill, everyone can serve Krsna by applying his energy to help us establish a transcendental village devoted to Him. People are always coming here with new skills, new devotion, and new help. The only requirement for living here is the desire to serve Krsna. Of course, one has to be willing to purify his life and give up sense gratification, especially gambling, illicit sex, intoxication, and meat eating. By chanting Hare Krsna we can come to realize that all of Krsna's creation is holy and that Krsna deserves our eternal service. And through this service we can ultimately attain the sweetest relationship and the goal of life—deep love of Krsna."
The son of a Baptist minister, Kirtanananda Swami was born in 1937 and came to the Krsna consciousness movement in 1966. In 1967, at the famed Radha-Damodara temple in India's Vrndavana, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada conferred on him the sannyasa, or renounced, order (and hence the title "swami"), a first in ISKCON's history. Under Srila Prabhupada's guidance, he started New Vrindaban in 1968.
by Dhrstadyumna Swami
Near Port Royal in central Pennsylvania is a spiritual farming community called Gita-nagari, literally "a transcendental village where the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita are lived and sung." Like every other ISKCON farm, Gita-nagari has two purposes: first, to provide a working model of ancient India's Vedic culture as a positive alternative to today's technological culture; and, second, to provide a perfect setting where anyone can attain the highest perfection of life—unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
The wisdom of the Vedic culture is that it recognizes the ultimate authority of the Supreme Lord in all matters. Thus the Vedic culture directs its members to serve the eternal Personality of Godhead rather than the things of this temporary and miserable material world. (Sri Isopanisad, Mantras One and Two) "Why serve at all; I'll simply remain independent," you might say. But if you think about it, you'll agree that every living entity, in whatever species of life, is rendering service to someone or something. A man serves his wife and children, his boss, his car, his city and nation, and (most basically) the demands of his body for food, rest, pleasure, safety, and so on. Animals also have their "families" and their bodies' demands to serve, and the plant kingdom serves man by supplying fruits, flowers, grains, herbs, and so forth. Through reincarnation one's body or object of service may change, but the mentality of service remains. This mentality of service is called sanatana-dharma, our eternal occupation.
As mentioned above, Vedic culture directs everyone's service toward the Supreme Lord. By the institution of varnasrama, the leaders of a Vedic society scientifically divide the citizens into four social orders (varnas) and four spiritual orders (asramas). Without this systematic division, everyone's service is misdirected and society degenerates into chaos.
The four social orders function together much as the various limbs of our body cooperate for the well-being of the whole body. Just as our body must have a brain for thinking, arms for defending, a stomach for digesting, and legs for giving support, so the social body must also have an intelligent class (brahmanas) for giving spiritual direction, an administrative and military class (ksatriyas) for managing and defending, a mercantile class (vaisyas) for providing the economic base, and a laboring class (sudras) for giving manual assistance to the other classes. If we think carefully about this analogy, we can see that these divisions of labor have existed in all civilizations at all times, no matter what the political or economic system.
Why are these divisions of labor always present in society? Because they are created by God. As Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita: "According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me" (Bg. 4.13). So you can't artificially create a classless society, any more than you can make a dog the king. You can put a dog on the throne, adorn him with all the finest raiment, and place the royal scepter in his paw, but when you throw a bone on the ground he'll jump down and gnaw it. Similarly, if unqualified men occupy intellectual and administrative posts, then society is doomed to chaos, confusion, and decline. The Vedic literatures explain that one proves himself by his qualities and his work (not by his birth in a good family!) (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 7.11.35) and that everyone should find satisfaction in his particular occupation by offering all the results of his work to God. (Bhagavad-gita 18.47, 48)
The Bhagavad-gita first describes the qualities for the intellectual class: peace-fulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness. Next, the Gita lists the qualities of work for the administrators and warriors: heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership. In addition, the Gita explains that the kinds of work proper for the merchants and farmers are agriculture, cow protection, and trade, and that the laborers assist the three other classes. (Bg. 18.41-44)
Interwoven into the social fabric are the four spiritual orders—student life (brahmacari), married life (grhastha), retired life (vanaprastha), and renounced life (sannyasa). These orders provide the necessary spiritual discipline to keep society from descending to the animal platform—simply worrying about the problems of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. No matter how sophisticated their technology, men who concern themselves only with these four problems are no better than polished animals. And any amount of philosophy which does not solve life's real problems—birth, death, disease, and old age—is merely intellectual animalism. So the four spiritual orders insure that the primary goal of human life—self- and God-realization—is not lost in the day-to-day struggle for existence.
In student life (brahmacari) one learns to control his senses and humbly serve a bona-fide spiritual master. Generally, a brahmana remains celibate throughout his life. Although some brahmanas get married and enter household life, they indulge in sex only under the guidance of the spiritual master and only for begetting God-conscious children. (Srimad-Bhag. 7.12.11, Purport) Because the child's consciousness will reflect the parents' consciousness at the time of conception, the Vedic system stresses the chastity of women and prohibits free mixing between the sexes. Marriage is a solemn, life-long vow, and there is no such thing as divorce. (Srimad-Bhag. 9.20.22, Purport) As the First Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita describes, unrestricted association of men and women leads to unwanted progeny—which creates a hellish situation in society. (Bg. 1.39-43) Just witness today's social scene: broken homes, illegitimate children, abortions, and urban decay all bear out these age-old truths.
After their children are grown, the parents should retire from worldly pursuits and family affairs and travel to holy places of pilgrimage. This vanaprastha stage prepares the parents for leaving this world behind at death and attaining the eternal spiritual world. When the husband is sufficiently detached, he leaves his wife in the care of his eldest son and takes sannyasa, the renounced order. Then he travels and preaches the message of God from village to village.
Of course, from all this you shouldn't get the idea that devotees compete for better positions in a social or spiritual hierarchy. Whatever their status of life, devotees of the Lord are above ordinary material designations. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna clearly states that if someone offers Him all the fruits of his activities and takes shelter exclusively of Him, then he is above the actions and reactions of nature and attains the supreme goal—an eternal, blissful life of knowledge in Lord Krsna's direct association. (Bg. 18.56-58) So devotees of the Lord have nothing to gain through mundane "social climbing." However, to provide an example for the world at large, devotees may take up any position in society, whether seemingly inferior or superior. In this way the devotees follow the Lord's instructions in the Bhagavad-gita:
"As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, similarly the learned may also act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path" (Bg. 3.25).
Therefore, here at Gita-nagari we live and work according to the divine Vedic institution called varnasrama. This way we facilitate our own journey back to Godhead and show the proper social and spiritual system to a lost world floundering in the darkness of various "isms"—communism, capitalism, altruism, egotism, and so on—which can never bring the peace and prosperity everyone hankers for.
Another purpose of farms like Gita-nagari is to provide the International Society for Krishna Consciousness with economic self-sufficiency. The responsibility for economic development rests on the farmers and mercantile men (vaisyas), most of whom are married, and the economy itself centers upon the land and cows. If there are sufficient grains and milk, then there is no economic scarcity. This year we harvested twelve tons of wheat, twelve tons of potatoes, thirteen tons of barley, twenty-five acres of corn, twelve acres of oats, five acres of soybeans, and ten thousand bales of hay and alfalfa. The Brown Swiss cows are delivering more than eight hundred pounds of milk a day, and to minimize our dependency on machines and come closer to that ideal of "simple living and high thinking," we're training the oxen to till the fields.
The idea of simple living and high thinking is so essential that one of America's founding fathers considered it paramount. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote this:
" Those who labor on the land are the chosen people of God. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators of the land is a phenomenon of which no age or nation has furnished an example. Corruption is a mark set on those who, not looking up to the heavens for their subsistence (as does the husbandman), depend on workshops and selling to the caprice of customers. While we have land to labor, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at workshops. Carpenters, masons, smiths [simple technology] are needed in husbandry, but for general operations of manufacture let the workshops remain in Europe. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the body." (Jefferson, Thomas. Query XIX on Farming and Manufacturing)
Just see how far our nation has strayed from the vision of the founding fathers! The more we go on expanding our huge and troublesome industries and squeezing out our vital human energy, the more we'll feel unrest and dissatisfaction, though the few cunning exploiters among us may live lavishly for a time. We already have more than enough grain, fruit, vegetables, minerals, water, fresh air, and milk to live comfortably and cultivate spiritual life. So why should we hanker after terrible industrial enterprises that prey on the masses of unfortunate men? Better an honest living in the fields than a false standard of living that can never lead to lasting happiness.
As its main purpose the varnasrama system trains everyone to become the Lord's pure devotees—eligible to return at death to the spiritual kingdom and thus escape repeated birth in this material world. So all the residents of Gita-nagari strictly follow the rules and regulations of bhakti-yoga, as prescribed by our beloved spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. For instance, we rise before sunrise, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, worship the Radha-Krsna Deities, attend classes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita, avoid the four sinful activities (meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling), and offer all the results of our day's work for the Lord's pleasure. This reciprocation of service and love between the devotees and the Lord—always under the guidance of the expert spiritual master—is the secret of success at Gita-nagari and other ISKCON centers around the world. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.13) confirms, "The highest perfection anyone can achieve by discharging his occupational duties is to please Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Dhrstadyumna Swami, director of ISKCON's Gita-nagari farm, was born in 1950 in White Plains, New York. He attended Dartmouth University before coming to the Krsna consciousness movement in 1970. Since that time he has helped coordinate the nationwide distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books and has spoken on Krsna consciousness in numerous schools and colleges. He received the sannyasa order in Mayapur, India, in 1976.
On Vedic Society Versus Modern Society
"The prosperity of humanity does not depend on a demoniac civilization that has no culture and no knowledge but has only gigantic skyscrapers, and huge automobiles always rushing down the highways. The products of nature are sufficient" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.16.24).
"If there is enough milk, enough grains, enough fruit, enough cotton, enough silk, and enough jewels, then why do the people need cinemas, houses of prostitution, slaughterhouses, etc.? What is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinema, cars, radio, flesh, and hotels?" (Srimad-Bhag. 1.10.4).
"Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead" (Srimad-Bhag. 1.11.12).
On Cow Protection
"Krsna advises go-raksya, the protection of cows. This is essential, because if cows are cared for properly they will surely supply sufficient milk. We have practical experience in America that in our various ISKCON farms we are giving proper protection to the cows and receiving more than enough milk. In other farms the cows do not deliver as much milk as in our farms; because our cows know very well that we are not going to kill them, they are happy, and they give ample milk" (Srimad-Bhag. 9.15.25).
"... they are killing cows in the thousands. Therefore they are unfortunate in spiritual consciousness, and nature disturbs them in so many ways, especially through incurable diseases like cancer and through frequent wars... among nations. As long as human society continues to allow cows to be regularly killed in slaughterhouses, there cannot be any question of peace and prosperity" (Srimad-Bhag. 8.8.11).
On the Distribution of Grains
"... the earth produces sufficient grain to feed the entire population, hut the distribution of this grain is restricted due to trade regulations and a desire for profit. Consequently in some places there is a scarcity of grain and in others profuse production. If there were one [Krsna conscious] government on the surface of the earth to handle the distribution of grain, there would be no question of scarcity, no necessity to open slaughterhouses, and no need to present false theories about overpopulation" (Srimad-Bhag. 4.17.25).
On the Need for Sacrifice to God
"One is mistaken if he thinks that by applying modern machines such as tractors, grains can be produced. If one goes to a desert and uses a tractor, there is still no possibility of producing grains. We may adopt various means, but it is essential to know that the planet earth will stop producing grains if sacrifices are not performed" (Srimad-Bhag. 4.19.1).
"If sankirtana sacrifice [the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra] is performed, there will be no difficulty, not even in industrial enterprises. Therefore this system should be introduced in all spheres of life—social, political, industrial, commercial, etc. Then everything will run very peacefully and smoothly" (Srimad-Bhag. 4.19.7).
"Because people are without Krsna consciousness, they have become thieves, and consequently they are being punished by the laws of material nature. No one can check this, not even by introducing so many relief funds and humanitarian institutions. Unless the people of the world take to Krsna consciousness, there will be a scarcity of food and much suffering" (Srimad-Bhag. 4.18.8).
"Being assured by Lord Krsna, all the inhabitants of the village—men, women, children, and animals—entered beneath the great hill and remained there for a whole week. They were simply astonished to see Krsna holding up Govardhana Hill with the little finger of His left hand. ..."
From the Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. (Adapted by Drutakarma dasa.)
One day, in the village of Vrndavana, child Krsna saw His father Nanda Maharaja and the other cowherd men preparing a big sacrifice. "My dear father," Krsna said, "who is this sacrifice for? What is it all about? Please tell Me—I want to know."
Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so He actually knew that the sacrifice was for Indra, the Lord of heaven. But because He was playing the part of Nanda's child, He questioned His father just like a curious boy. Nanda remained grave and silent and went on with his business. "Krsna is too young to understand such complicated rituals," he mused. Under the spell of Krsna's divine energy, Nanda thought that the all-knowing Personality of Godhead was just his little boy.
But Krsna persisted with His questions. "My dear father," He protested, "it's not very nice for you to keep secrets from your own family members. You may keep secrets from people who wish you ill, but you shouldn't keep secrets from Me. Please tell Me. Who is this sacrifice for?"
Nanda turned to his child and said, "My dear boy, if You must know, this sacrifice is for Indra, the Lord of heaven. Indra controls the clouds that bring rain. Without rain we can't grow nice grains, fruits, and vegetables, or grasses for our cows to graze on. So we're holding this sacrifice to show our gratitude to King Indra."
In reality, demigods like Indra are simply servants of Krsna, the Supreme Lord. The Bhagavad-gita clearly says that whatever benefits the demigods can bestow actually come from Krsna, and that instead of worshiping these lesser personalities, we should just worship Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To teach Nanda and the other inhabitants of Vrndavana this lesson, Krsna said, "My dear father, I don't think you have to offer this sacrifice to Indra. Even if you don't please Indra, what can he do? He must pour water everywhere, whether anyone worships him or not. That's his duty. Let's have nothing to do with Indra, father. Instead, let's hold a big sacrifice to honor Govardhana Hill."
Govardhana Hill already occupied a special place in the hearts of Vrndavana's residents, who cared very little about what went on in the wide world outside their forest village. The gopis (cowherd girls) would praise Govardhana Hill in this way: "Govardhana Hill is most fortunate—Krsna and Balarama always take Their cows and walk on its slopes, so Govardhana always enjoys the touch of Krsna's lotus feet. In joyful gratitude Govardhana Hill supplies nice fruits and cool water to Krsna and the cowherd boys, and newly-grown grass to the cows. So we can understand that Krsna finds this hill very pleasing."
Understanding how dearly Krsna loved Govardhana Hill, Nanda replied, "All right, my dear boy, since You are asking, we shall hold another sacrifice for Govardhana Hill. But for now just let me finish this sacrifice for Indra."
"Oh no, father," said child Krsna. "Please don't wait! Making another sacrifice for Govardhana Hill will take too much time! Just please take all the things you were going to offer to Indra and take them to Govardhana Hill as quickly as you can."
Krsna insisted, very politely and gently, and finally Nanda Maharaja relented. "All right. You just tell us what You want us to do." Then Nanda and the other simple-hearted cowherd men did exactly what Krsna said. First they cooked all kinds of delicious foods in great quantity. They cooked first-class rice and spicy split-bean soup (dahl). They made zesty pakoras by dipping vegetable chunks in spiced batter and frying them in clear butter. They also prepared puris (flaky, puffed flat-breads), sweet rice (a thick drink made with milk, rice, and sugar), and many kinds of traditional Indian milk sweets, such as sandesa, rasagulla, and amrtakeli.
After preparing this feast, the cowherd men decorated their cows with silk hangings, gilded their horns, and fed them fresh, green grass. Then they dressed themselves very beautifully and helped the cowherd women climb into the gaily decorated bullock carts. Keeping the cows in front, everyone then circled Govardhana Hill and sang songs in praise of Krsna. Finally the village brahmanas chanted Vedic hymns and offered the feast—a huge mountain of food—to Govardhana Hill.
Suddenly, to the amazement of all, Krsna expanded Himself into a colossal transcendental form. Child Krsna (who remained as He was) and all the residents of Vrndavana fell to the ground and began to offer prayers. The giant figure of Krsna spoke for all to hear: "I am Govardhana Hill." Then the mammoth form began to eat the mountain of food with great satisfaction. Everyone could clearly see that Lord Krsna and Govardhana Hill were one and the same. To this very day, pilgrims take stones and pebbles from Govardhana Hill and worship them in the same way that brahmana priests worship the Deity form of Krsna in the temples. Out of reverence for Govardhana Hill, devotees of Krsna will not even set foot on its sacred slopes. Instead they walk around the twelve-mile path circling its base—such is their devotion.
Afterwards, Krsna ordered the cowherd men to worship Govardhana Hill every year. And to this day, each October or November the inhabitants of Vrndavana gather around Govardhana Hill to observe this festival. They drive their cows around the hill and offer a huge feast. ISKCON temples worldwide also celebrate the festival of Govardhana Hill.
When King Indra saw Krsna stop the sacrifice meant for him, he became very angry. "These cowherd men shall suffer," he said. "I'll teach them to defy the demigods! Just because that boy Krsna told them to worship Govardhana Hill, they stopped my sacrifice. That boy talks too much. He's just a child. What does He know about the cosmic situation? I will punish Him for being such an upstart."
Indra called his most powerful clouds, including the deadly samvartaka, which usually comes to destroy the world at the time of devastation. Indra told the clouds, "Go to Vrndavana and flood that village! Destroy Vrndavana! Drown all the cowherd men and all their cows with them. Don't be afraid. I shall be flying behind you on my elephant. I shall attack Vrndavana with furious storms. Together we shall punish those impudent residents."
Soon the dark, threatening clouds appeared over Vrndavana and began hurling down streams of rain and chunks of ice. Lightning crashed. Thunder roared. The wind howled and shrieked, driving the rain like piercing arrows. Floods covered all of Vrndavana's fields and pastures. The men and animals shivered and trembled, and the cows bowed their heads and sheltered their calves beneath them.
In complete helplessness all the residents of Vrndavana came to take refuge at Krsna's lotus feet. They prayed, "O Krsna, You are all-powerful and You are very kind to Your devotees. Please protect us from Indra's wrath."
"Don't be afraid," Krsna said. "You are all My pure devotees and have no shelter but Me. I shall protect you. Indra is trying to prove his supremacy, but I shall take care of him. Actually, Indra is My devotee, but somehow he has become puffed up and mad with power. I'll take away his false prestige and bring him back to his senses."
Then, with one hand. Lord Krsna picked up Govardhana Hill, just as an ordinary child picks up a mushroom. "My dear brothers. My dear father, My dear friends, now you can safely enter under the umbrella of Govardhana Hill. Don't be afraid. I will not let the hill fall from My hand."
Being assured by Lord Krsna, all the inhabitants of Vrndavana—men, women, children, and animals—entered beneath the great hill. They remained there for a whole week and yet did not feel hungry, thirsty, or at all uncomfortable. They were simply astonished to see Krsna holding up Govardhana Hill with the little finger of His left hand.
When King Indra saw Krsna's mystic power, he was thunderstruck and baffled. He called off all the clouds and made the strong winds stop. In a short time the sky over Vrndavana became completely clear and the sun shone brightly.
Krsna said, "My dear cowherd men, now you can return to your homes along with your wives, children, cows, and valuables. The danger is over. The rain has stopped and the floodwaters are going down." The cowherd men loaded up their carts and slowly departed with their cows and families. After they had gone, Krsna carefully put down Govardhana Hill, exactly where it had been before and where it remains to this day.
All the inhabitants of Vrndavana came to Krsna and embraced Him in great ecstasy. The gopis, Mother Yasoda, Nanda, and Krsna's elder brother Balarama blessed Him over and over again. From the heavens the demigods beat their drums, played their tambouras, sounded their conchshells, and poured down showers of flowers.
Now that Krsna had saved the inhabitants of Vrndavana, King Indra appeared before Him in a secluded forest glade. Indra's golden crown was dazzling like the sun, but still he fell down at Krsna's lotus feet. "My dear Lord," he said, "I am very sorry I sent floods and hailstorms to Vrndavana. I became angry because You stopped the sacrifice that the cowherd men were going to hold for me. I was puffed up with false pride and behaved like an ignorant fool. But now, by Your grace, I can see that You are the Supreme Lord. I beg You to forgive me. I am Your eternal servant."
Krsna accepted Indra's sincere apology and said, "My dear Indra, please return to your kingdom, but always remember this: no one is superior to Me."
Before departing. King Indra and all the other demigods bathed Krsna with the milk of cows from the spiritual world and with Ganges water from the trunk of Indra's elephant. The wives of the demigods danced with joy and satisfied the Lord by pouring showers of flowers from the sky. Krsna was very pleased with this worship, and therefore the earth became bountiful with natural gifts. The happy cows overflooded the land with their milk. The water of the rivers nourished the trees, which put forth all sorts of delicious fruits and fragrant flowers. Also, the trees began pouring drops of honey, and the hills and mountains produced potent medicinal herbs and valuable jewels. Because of Krsna's presence, all these things happened very nicely, and the lower animals, who are generally envious, were envious no longer. At last, King Indra and the other demigods took Krsna's permission and went back through cosmic space to the heavenly kingdom.