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.
Jagat Sakha dasa (left) book distributor, Los Angeles:
Ramesh Lal (right), Toronto health spa proprietor:
Krrana Krrana-devi drsi (above, on right), book distributor, Chicago:
India's most sacred and joyful village is Vrndavana, where five thousand years ago Lord Krsna Himself played as a child. And to this day everybody here remembers Krsna. Everybody chants His names.
Including these children at the local Krsna-conscious academy. They come from all over the world just to live and learn in Vrndavana. After all, this is the village where Krsna's names have always been the most popular song.
Whether you live in a sacred village or a not-so-sacred village, chant Hare Krsna. Then your village will be as joyful as Vrndavana.
Find out more about Vrndavana and Krsna consciousness in this issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
Atheist-existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre writes that because man wants to be God but cannot, he is a "useless passion" in a universe that has no purpose—and thus, he is always in anxiety. "That is foolishness," says His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. "You are not God but God's servant.... Sartre believes the universe has no purpose because he is blind. He has no power to see that there is a plan. We are trying to introduce Krsna consciousness in order to make the world into a place where there is no anxiety."
Hayagriva dasa: Jean-Paul Sartre, perhaps the most famous philosopher of this century, calls himself an "atheistic existentialist." He sees man as having been thrown into the world and abandoned. For him. God is dead.
Srila Prabhupada: God is not dead, nor has He abandoned us. If you feel abandoned, it is because you have done something that has brought about this condition. If you rectify your position, you will again feel accepted. Now you are condemned to the material world. But just because you are condemned, you should not think that God is also condemned. God is always in Vaikuntha [the spiritual world]. God is not dead.
Hayagriva dasa: In any case, having defined himself as an atheistic existentialist, Sartre denies God's existence—particularly the existence of a personal God. Sartre wants to set aside the whole question of God's existence and place emphasis on man, on "human reality."
Srila Prabhupada: But the question of God's existence is the main question of philosophy. God has created everything—your mind, intelligence, and body, and the circumstances surrounding you. How can you deny His existence? In the Vedic literatures it is stated that in the beginning God existed, and the Bible also states that in the beginning there was God. In this material universe, existence is temporary. According to the laws of material nature, the body is created on a certain day, it exists for some time, and is then eventually finished. Similarly, the entire cosmic manifestation has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But before the creation of the cosmos, who existed? If God did not exist, how could the creation be possible?
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre would not admit the existence of an originator for the creation. He would say that man simply exists, he turns up, appears on the scene.
Srila Prabhupada: A person appears due to his father and mother. How can this be denied? Does Sartre mean to say, "I appeared all of a sudden—I dropped from the sky"? Only a fool would say that he appeared without parents. From our experience we can understand that all species of life are manifest from some mother. Taken as a whole, the mother is material nature. And as soon as the mother is accepted, the father, God, must also be accepted.
Why shouldn't God exist? If you believe in your existence, why not believe in the existence of God? There are 8,400,000 different species existing in multifarious forms. According to the Vedic understanding. God is also a living being, but He is different from all others in that He is the chief—the supreme living being. According to the Bhagavad-gita [7.7], mattah parataram nanyat: "There is no living being superior to God." We all experience that there are beings more intelligent than us. And God has the ultimate intelligence. Why can't a person who exceeds all others in intelligence exist? There is no question of "if God exists." God must exist. In the shastras [scriptures] He is described as the superlative personality, the super-powerful and super-intelligent being. We can see that everyone in the world is factually not on an equal level: there are varying degrees of perfection. This indicates that there is a superlative person, and if we go on searching for the person with the greatest wealth, intelligence, power, beauty, or whatever, we will find that God possesses all these qualities in the superlative degree and that every other living entity possesses them in degrees relative to Him. How, then, can we rationally deny God's existence? Actually, Sartre's proposal means that he does not want God to exist.
Hayagriva dasa: According to Sartre, because there is no God to conceive of human nature, the first principle of existentialism is that "man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.... Existentialism's first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him." It is this very responsibility—this freedom to change himself and the world—that overwhelms modern man with anguish and anxiety.
Srila Prabhupada: This means that modern man is in an awkward position. He wants peace, but he does not know how to attain it. Peace is not possible for a man in ignorance, but this does not mean that peace is impossible. You are certainly responsible for your own life, so why not take the responsibility to transfer yourself to a safe place where there is no anxiety? Now you do not know of such a place, but there might be such a place, so why not ask someone who knows? Why constantly remain disappointed and anxious? The safe place where there is no anxiety is called Vaikuntha. The very word Vaikuntha means "no anxiety."
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre believes that men could live together peacefully if they assumed responsibility not only for themselves but for others as well.
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose I want to benefit you and you are free. Your freedom means that you can accept or reject my good instructions. How can I be responsible for you if you don't obey me? Sartre claims that we are responsible for others, but if others do not follow our instructions, how can we be considered responsible for them? This is all contradictory. Unless there is some standard knowledge, there must be contradiction. According to the Vedic literatures, God is the supreme person, and we should all be His obedient servants. God gives us some duty, and we are responsible to carry out that duty. Our real responsibility is to God. If we reject God, society becomes chaotic. Religion means avoiding chaos and meeting our responsibility to God by fulfilling our duty. Responsibility rests on us, and it is given by God. If we make spiritual progress by fulfilling our duty, we can finally live with God personally in Vaikuntha.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre writes, "Since we have discarded God the father, there has to be someone to invent values.... Moreover, to say that we invent values means nothing else but this: life has no meaning a priori. Before you become alive, life is nothing; it's up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose."
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore everyone invents his own meaning? If this is the case, how will people live peacefully in society? Since everyone has his own idea of life, there can be no harmony. What kind of government would exist?
Hayagriva dasa: Recently Sartre has turned to Marxism.
Srila Prabhupada: But in communist countries there are very strong governments. It is not possible for people to avoid government or leadership.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre believes that regardless of the form of government under which men live, the structure of human consciousness is essentially free. What's more, Sartre maintains that man is condemned to be free—that freedom is a fate which man cannot escape.
Srila Prabhupada: If man is condemned, who has condemned him?
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre would say that man is condemned by accident.
Srila Prabhupada: In other words, it is simply an accident that one person is condemned and another is blessed. It is simply an accident that one person is in jail and another is not. What kind of philosophy is this? Such so-called philosophers simply mislead others. Actually, nothing is accidental. We agree that the living entity is condemned to this material world, but when we speak of condemnation we mean that man has lost his freedom. He is tightly under the control of the material nature. This material world is like a vast sea, and when you are placed into the sea you have no freedom. You move according to the waves. This means that there is a power controlling you. Because you have placed yourself under the control of material nature, you act according to the modes of material nature. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which in actuality are carried out by nature" [Bg. 3.27]. Because you are conditioned by the material nature, you are feeling its check—although you think that you are free. When you are thrown into the ocean of material existence, you lose your freedom. However, if you put yourself in better circumstances, you can regain your freedom. Therefore, it is your duty to get yourself liberated by becoming Krsna-conscious.
Hayagriva dasa: Because we are one thing today and something else tomorrow, Sartre says that our essential nature is "nothingness."
Srila Prabhupada: You are "nothing" in the sense that you are under the full control of a superior power. You are being carried away by the waves of maya [material nature]. In the ocean of maya you may say, "I am nothing," but actually you are something. Your "somethingness" will be very much exhibited to you when you are put on land, or, in other words, when you become Krsna-conscious. Out of despair you conclude that your nature is "nothingness." Sartre's philosophy is a philosophy of despair, and we say it is unintelligent. Despair is the result of ignorance.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre maintains that although the basis of our nature is nothingness, man chooses or creates his own nature.
Srila Prabhupada: Man's basic nature is not "nothingness," but "somethingness." That "somethingness" is to be an eternal servant of Krsna. Therefore, you should choose to be "something," not "nothing." But in order to do that you have to take lessons from a higher personality. Before philosophizing one should learn from a knowledgeable person. That is the Vedic injunction—tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: in order to learn the transcendental science, you must approach a bona fide spiritual master. A person can mold his nature by deciding to serve Krsna, not by dismissing the whole matter out of confusion and disappointment and claiming that man is nothing. The attempt to make life zero is due to a poor fund of knowledge.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre says that we are constantly choosing or making our life, but that everything ends at death.
Srila Prabhupada: Death simply means changing to another body. The soul, the active principle upon which the body stands, does not die. Death is simply like changing apartments. A sane man can understand this.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre believes that man's fundamental desire is the "desire to be." In other words, man seeks eternal existence rather than mere nothingness.
Srila Prabhupada: That is so. Because man is eternal, he has the desire to exist eternally. He is seeking eternal, spiritual life. Unfortunately, he puts himself under certain material conditions that are not eternal, and he must suffer repeated birth and death. Nothing in the material world exists eternally. A tree may exist for ten thousand years, but eventually it will perish. In the material world, nothing abides. But in the Bhagavad-gita [8.20] Krsna speaks of another world, which is permanent (sanatana). After the annihilation of this material universe, that spiritual world will abide. Through the practice of Krsna consciousness one can attain his eternal position in that spiritual world.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre writes that man's fundamental desire is the desire to be God.
Srila Prabhupada: This is more or less impersonal, Mayavada philosophy. The Mayavadis believe that when they attain complete knowledge, they become God. Because man is part and parcel of God, he wants to be united with God. It is like a man who has been away from home for a long time. Naturally he wants to go home again.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre maintains that this attempt to be God is bound to fail.
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly, because man is not God. His very desire to be God means that he is not God at the present moment. And if he once was God, how has he become something else? No. If man could become God, there would be no question of his ever being something other than God. There would be no question of being ignorant. Another name for Krsna is Acyuta. The word acyuta means "He who never falls down." This means that God never becomes non-God. God is God always. So it is not that one can become God through some mystic practice. A man cannot become God, but he can become godly. When we are in darkness, we desire light and come into the sunshine. But this does not mean that we become the sun. Similarly, when we come to the platform of perfect knowledge, we become godly, but we do not become God.
Hayagriva dasa: Because Sartre knows that man's attempt to become God is futile, he calls man a "useless passion."
Srila Prabhupada: A man is not useless if he attempts to be Krsna-conscious. The attempt to be Krsna-conscious and the attempt to be Krsna are totally different. One is godly, and the other demonic.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre then reasons that because it is impossible to become God, everything else is useless.
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. You are not God but God's servant. You have chosen to attempt to become God, but you have found this to be impossible. Therefore you should give up this notion and decide to become God's servant. That is the proper decision.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre concludes that since things have no reason to exist, life has no essential purpose.
Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. Everything has a purpose. Nothing can exist without a purpose, because there is a supreme cause for everything. The defect in such philosophers is that they do not have sufficient brain substance to go further than what they superficially see. They are not capable of understanding God, the cause of all causes. Many modern scientists also maintain that nature, prakrti, is the sole cause of existence, but we do not subscribe to such a theory. We understand that God is behind nature and that nature is not acting independently. Nature is phenomena, but behind or beyond nature is noumena. God, Krsna.
In the Bhagavad-gita [16.8] philosophy like Sartre's is called demonic: "The demons say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation, and that there is no God in control. The world is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust." Demons do not believe in a superior cause. They consider that everything is accidental. They say that a man and a woman unite accidentally, and a child is simply the result of sex. They claim that there is no purpose to existence. This type of philosophy is called demonic because it is of the nature of darkness and ignorance, and because it denies the existence of God.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre writes that because man is free he is susceptible to what Sartre calls "bad faith." This bad faith is a kind of self-deception—a failure to take responsibility for one's life. Through bad faith one loses his freedom.
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly you have limited freedom to choose, but if you act irresponsibly you must suffer. Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. So we must use discrimination. Without discrimination our freedom is blind—we cannot understand right or wrong.
Hayagriva dasa: For Sartre, bad faith means to avoid making decisions. A man in bad faith simply drifts from day to day without being involved, without making responsible decisions.
Srila Prabhupada: That means he has decided to drift. His drifting is a decision.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre believes that bad faith must be replaced by a solid choosing and by faith in our choice. For instance, if one chooses a certain path of action, he must have the faith to carry out that action valiantly and heroically. Then he will be doing the right thing.
Srila Prabhupada: But if he makes the wrong decision, what is the value in his action? Moths fly very valiantly and courageously into the fire. Is that a very good decision? ... Sartre speaks of bad faith, but what about good faith?
Hayagriva dasa: If bad faith is the avoidance of decisions, then good faith would mean making decisions courageously and following them up, regardless of what the decisions are.
Srila Prabhupada: But what if your decision is wrong?
Hayagriva dasa: For Sartre, there is no question of right or wrong.
Srila Prabhupada: Then whatever decision I make is final and absolute? This means that the insect's decision to enter the fire is the proper decision. This is the philosophy of insects.
Hayagriva dasa: Sartre's philosophy has been called pessimistic because he maintains that man is a "useless passion" vainly striving in a universe without a purpose.
Srila Prabhupada: Sartre may be a useless passion, but we are not. No sane man is useless. A sane man will follow a superior authority. Tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If one approaches a bona fide spiritual master, he will not be bewildered." That is Vedic civilization. Sartre believes the universe is without a purpose because he is blind. He has no power to see that there is a plan. We are trying to introduce Krsna consciousness in order to make the world into Vai-kuntha, into a place where there is no anxiety. But our decision is not blind. It is the decision of a higher authority—Krsna—and therefore it is perfect.
At Christmas Mandalesvara dasa and an airman talk of peace
"This book will tell you about real peace on earth," I promised.
"All right, sir, I'll give it a look." The young airman smiled as he tucked the volume under his arm.
"Have a nice Christmas," I added. "Hare Krsna."
I'd been distributing my spiritual master's books to San Antonio servicemen since nine o'clock that morning. Now I had to catch the bus from the base back into the city to join the other members of my group. It was late afternoon, and the mid-December air was cold and still. With numbed fingers I fumbled for the exact fare (thirty-five cents) and shuffled up the narrow metal steps onto the bus, along with half a dozen young airmen. I tried to seem casual about slipping into the only available seat. Whew! It had been a busy day. I glanced at the airman beside me. He squinted back from beneath a blue service cap pulled low over his brow.
"Hi," I said. "How's everything going for you?"
"Fine, sir." Then relaxing his newly acquired military formality, he pushed his cap up. We recognized each other and smiled. On his lap he held the book I had handed him back at the bus stop: BHAGAVAD-GITA AS IT IS, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
"You're a Hare Krsna, aren't you?"
"That's right. My name's Mandaleswara dasa."
We shook hands. "Mine's Steve," he said. "Where are you headed?"
"I'm going downtown to meet some friends at the Alamo. I'm not quite sure which stop...."
"Easy. I'll let you know when we get there." He paused. "You religious groups talk a lot about peace this time of the year, huh?"
"You know. Back at the bus stop."
We both leaned back as the bus pulled away from the curb.
"The book I gave you—the Bhagavad-gita—contains the scientific formula for peace on earth. That's why I asked you to read it."
"I know, but this is an old scripture from India. I'm the type that likes to be involved with what's happening in the world today. You know what I mean? Practical things, like SALT talks, disarmament, the UN. Do Hare Krsnas believe in that?"
"Believe in what—peace through disarmament? But that's not really practical." Steve turned in his seat to face me. "Even if we got rid of every nuclear bomb and warhead in the world," I said, "that wouldn't solve the real problem. If we leave God out of our thinking, we'll just become more and more greedy and envious, and finally we'll start a third world war. America and Russia might sign an arms limitation treaty, but everyone knows that's a joke. The way it is now, both sides just try to get the advantage by finding loopholes in the treaty, right? And then one side comes up with a neutron bomb or something and swears that they haven't exactly broken the treaty. So even if, by some miracle, they did ban the bomb, what good would that do?"
"So you're a pessimist," he concluded. "You don't believe in disarmament or peace."
"A pessimist?" I thought about it. "No, I'm not a pessimist. I believe in peace, all right, but I know we'll never have peace as long as we hold on to our greed and envy. It's an impure mentality. That's what these books I distribute say."
"You said 'impure mentality'?" "Yes. The mentality of exploiting God's world as if it were ours and God didn't even exist—that's impure, don't you think?"
"Sure, but don't you think it's possible to negotiate peace? After all, most of our men in Washington do have the people's interest at heart."
"America's leaders? That reminds me of a story I once heard. There were these two brothers who were always getting into trouble. One day they started a fire in their basement, but they were able to put it out—after it had done a lot of damage to the house. Right after that they said, 'Maybe Mom and Dad will be pleased with us for putting out the fire.' "
With his thumb and index finger Steve was tracing the crease in his woolen military trousers. "So, what are you trying to say?"
"That our national leaders are just like those two brothers. But instead of one little fire, it's a worldwide nuclear threat. Now they're boasting about their 'non-proliferation treaty' and promising disarmament—and we're supposed to be pleased and keep them in office. But they're the ones who led us into this mess in the first place. They lit the fire. So whether they blow up the world or sign a new peace treaty, these guys are real rascals."
He looked down, and in the shifting light he began leafing through the gita in his lap. We sat thoughtfully, sharing the silence for a few moments. He turned to the portrait of Srila Prabhupada. "I never have talked with you people before. I guess I'm just curious." He frowned. "This is like your Bible, isn't it? All your beliefs are in this book?"
"You have the key to world peace right there in your hands." I suddenly realized that my words must have sounded crazy to him. Sure they were true, but why should this airman think that some book that had just dropped out of the blue at a bus stop could do more for world peace than SALT talks or the UN? As I searched for a way to explain, Steve gave me a clue.
"Hmmm, I see. You're saying you believe in world peace, but not the way they're trying for it."
"Yes. And that's exactly where this book comes in. The Bhagavad-gita says you can't have peace on earth until you understand that everything belongs to God. You'll just fight over who gets which part of God's earth."
"You mean like the conflicts in the Middle East?"
"Yes, the Middle East. Or even the middle of San Antonio. The whole world belongs to God. You'll understand this when you read the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is the real proprietor of everything in the creation. But when you forget Krsna, you have chaos and war."
"Well, I'd say that's a pretty safe generalization."
"Sure it is, but it's true. Look at Russia and America—they're always competing for land, oil, money, influence. But neither side sees that the real owner is God. So you have dissension and the nuclear arms race."
He looked down at the Bhagavad-gita on his lap. The bus stopped rather roughly—bad driver—and the book slid forward, closing shut as he caught it between his knees. "I don't know," he said, "it seems impractical to me. If everything is God's ... if we're all stealing ... how could you tolerate living in a world where you can't own anything? If everything is God's ... then what about us? What do we get? See what I'm talking about?"
"Yes, I see your point." I watched him lean back and open the Gita again on his lap. "Everyone gets his quota," I said. "How many children were there in your family?"
"Seven. I have three brothers and three sisters."
"And every child was provided for, wasn't he? Your father earned all the money, paid all the bills, and owned all the property in the family. But you all got your necessities. Sometimes if the kids would get into little fights over whose toy or whose piece of candy was whose, your father would step in and settle things: 'This is yours, this is his, this is hers—now don't fight anymore.' So it's like that on a larger scale as well. Krsna is everyone's father, and everything in the universe is His. But since we're all Krsna's children. He gives each of us the right to enjoy our own little portion of His property."
"Yeah, I follow what you're saying."
"That's the way my spiritual master explained it to me. If the leaders of the world's nations would just admit that Lord Krsna is the rightful owner of everything, and if they would just see themselves as His children and try to follow His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita, then we'd have peace all over the world."
"Just one big happy family, I suppose."
"Yes, exactly. Everyone's got his quota: 'This is your America, this is your Russia—now don't fight anymore.' "
"But the Russians don't even believe in God—not officially, anyway. But a lot of Americans read the Bible and pray. You know, America—'In God We Trust.' "
"Sure, we stamp 'In God We Trust' on the currency and put the Bible on display in the White House."
"But when you get right down to it, most Americans really put their trust in exploiting the property of God. They just want to improve the economy—with or without God. Isn't it a fact? It's the American way of life: raise our standard of living, increase our gross national product, raise our average yearly income—and then build bigger and better bombs to protect all the loot. So now Americans are worried about crime, energy, morals, drought, nuclear weapons. But if we actually trusted in God, then we'd be at peace."
"So how can you Hare Krsnas really bring peace to the world?"
"Like I was saying, the key to world peace is in these books, and Srila Prabhupada's disciples are distributing them all over the world. The real enemy of peace is ignorance of Krsna. By distributing these books we're spreading Krsna consciousness, the scientific formula for peace. And as soon as the world's leaders start reading Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita and taking it to heart, then you'll know that the enemy of peace has been defeated—then we can have peace on earth."
"But you've got to admit the odds are really against you."
"I'm not saying I have any special power to bring world peace, Steve. But these books are powerful transcendental sound. My spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, says they're like a moon of transcendental knowledge. You know how the moon appears small at first—just a sliver in the sky—but it grows bigger every night until you see a beautiful full moon. So Srila Prabhupada says the light of transcendental knowledge will spread more and more as we distribute these spiritual books. Gradually the darkness of ignorance—and that's the real enemy of peace—will be destroyed, and then we can really have peace on earth."
"Sounds mystical," he mused. He had been leaning back, but suddenly he sat up and looked out the window. "The Alamo. I completely forgot." He reached up and pulled the cord to buzz the driver. An abrupt end to our talk, I thought.
"Okay, here's where I get off," I said. "I really enjoyed talking with you. Hare Krsna."
I stood up to leave and Steve smiled. "Hare Krsna." I walked up the aisle to the metal railing at the front of the bus. Then I remembered.
"Oh, Steve, here's our card. Why don't you keep in touch." I reached across two empty seats with the card in my outstretched hand, and he stood and leaned forward, holding the open Gita flat against his chest.
"Thanks, I think I'll do that." He took the card from my hand. I looked out from the open bus doorway and saw my friends in front of the Alamo, still distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. And as I stepped out I saw that night was coming but so was the moon.
What does God's abode look like? What does God Himself look like? "I have yet many things to say unto you," Christ told a world, filled with crudeness and ignorance, "but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). The son of a Baptist minister now looks to ancient India's Vedic literature—for the facts about God that Christ left unsaid.
An Interview with Kirtanananda Swami
Back to Godhead: Can you say a little bit about your background? I understand you were raised a Christian and that your father was a Baptist minister.
Kirtanananda Swami: Yes. I was a very devout child, and I used to gather my friends together and preach to them. My father was such a conservative minister that he considered all other Christian denominations to be somewhat pagan. In any case, as a child I used to try to convert my friends to the Baptist church.
BTG: So you were very much convinced at that time?
Kirtanananda Swami: Oh, yes.
BTG: Why did you give up that faith?
Kirtanananda Swami: In our American culture, when you become a teenager it is fashionable to reject everything. So as I grew up I gradually began to question my religion, and I was unable to get satisfactory answers. I wanted to know who I was and why I was here. I wanted to know why I should believe in God. I began asking questions like "What is God?" and "What is the relevance of God to modern man?" When I didn't get satisfactory answers, I rejected my religion. But when I met Srila Prabhupada some years later, he did give me satisfactory answers to these questions and I accepted him as my spiritual master.
I'm not condemning any bona fide religion, because the principles of bona fide religion are the same everywhere. When we speak of religion, we speak of the law of God, and anyone who abides by the law of God is religious. The law of God is stated in all scriptures, and it demands that the soul surrender to God. This surrender was taught by Lord Jesus Christ when the Pharisees asked him, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" Christ answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). In other words, the first religious principle is to surrender to God. Sri Krsna imparted the same message in the Bhagavad-gita: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me" (Bg. 18.66).
BTG: Has your understanding of Jesus Christ changed since you came to Krsna consciousness?
Kirtanananda Swami: Yes. For the first time I feel that I have a real understanding of Jesus Christ. Previously I had been taught that Jesus Christ was competing with all other religious teachers and that if I wanted to be a Christian, I would have to condemn all others. Krsna consciousness, on the other hand, condemns only those who deny God. In Krsna consciousness we consider Jesus Christ to be the perfect son of God. And as God's perfect son, he is doing the work of his father. Since this is the case, it is not surprising to see a similarity between the New Testament of Jesus Christ and the Bhagavad-gita of Lord Krsna. Indeed, we often hear the Bhagavad-gita being called "the New Testament of India." Also, there is an obvious similarity between the Greek word Christos and the Sanskrit word Krsna.
BTG: Then you don't find any basic difference between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of Krsna?
Kirtanananda Swami: No, not at all. Jesus Christ says to love God, and Krsna says the same. What is the difference? Jesus Christ says to love the father, and Krsna says,
"O son of Kunti, it should be understood that all species of life are made possible by birth in this material world, and that I am the seed-giving father" (Bg. 14.4). So there is no contradiction when Jesus Christ says, "Love the father," and Krsna says, "Love Me."
BTG: What of Christ's contention that no one can come to the father except through him?
Kirtanananda Swami: We say something similar—that we have to approach the Supreme Lord through the pure devotee, who is known as the jagad-guru, the "universal teacher." It is the jagad-guru who speaks the Word that Saint John referred to at the beginning of his gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Jesus Christ himself claimed to be this very Word, and this Word is one. Christ said that no one can approach God directly; one must approach Him through the Word. We also say that no one can approach God directly, but that one must approach Him through the Word—the spiritual master, or jagad-guru.
Christ's claim to be the only son of God is often misunderstood. This claim is meant not quantitatively, but qualitatively. When a devotee reaches the perfect position by rendering complete service to the Lord, the Lord reciprocates in a unique relationship. In this relationship it appears that the pure devotee is the only one in the entire universe. For example, each and every gopi [cowherd girl] who danced with Lord Krsna thought that He was dancing with her alone. Also, when Lord Caitanya [an incarnation of Krsna who appeared five centuries ago] danced before the Ratha-yatra cart. He appeared in each and every chanting party, and the chanters in each party thought that the Lord was dancing exclusively with them. Similarly, two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ taught his doctrine in the Middle East, he appeared to be God's only son, or pure devotee.
By His inconceivable energy the Supreme Lord can expand Himself into the hearts of His devotees in such a unique way that each one seems to be His only devotee, or "son." Indeed, St. John instructs us that anyone can become a son of God by "believing in His name" (John 1:12). Why should God have only one son? Even a mere human being can have dozens of sons. Being infinite. God can have billions and trillions of sons, and by His inconceivable energy each and every one can be His "only" son. That is the mystery of the relationship with Krsna, which we can awaken only by pure devotional service.
BTG: The Bible condemns "strange gods and graven images" (Deuteronomy 5:7-8). Don't the Hare Krsna devotees worship idols of God?
Kirtanananda Swami: If an imperfect human being manufactures an idol of God, that is certainly a "strange" god, or graven image. God certainly cannot be manufactured by a finite creature. Therefore, in Krsna consciousness mental speculation is condemned. We cannot hope to figure out God simply by using our tiny brain power.
However, God can reveal Himself to His pure devotee. If we accept the form of the Lord as it is revealed by the Lord Himself, that form cannot be considered an idol. It is a form given directly by the Lord out of His causeless mercy. No one can say that God cannot appear before man or that God cannot appear in a form made of wood, stone, jewels, or anything else. In the shastras [Vedic scriptures] it is stated that God can incarnate in wood, stone, paint, and so forth, because all these are part of His energy. Since everything comes from God, God can reveal Himself through anything He desires. But the initiative comes from God, not from man. We can't make some statue and say, "Here is God." That is called idolatry. Rather, we must worship in the authorized way.
The Krsna consciousness movement is not manufactured by any individual. It is not something that Srila Prabhupada has made up. No. It is an authorized process, enunciated in the Vedic literatures and handed down by all the acaryas [spiritual teachers]. The Vedic literatures were written down by Srila Vyasadeva, "the literary incarnation of God," and they are older and more detailed than the Bible.
BTG: You say there are no essential differences between Christianity and Krsna consciousness, but obviously there are some differences.
Kirtanananda Swami: There are differences in degree, but the basic principle is the same. Both Christ and Lord Caitanya taught surrender to God, but Lord Caitanya taught surrender up to the very point of conjugal love. This was never taught before. In Christianity we are taught to love God in the father-son relationship. God is worshiped as a father, and the father's duty is to provide for his children. In this relationship the duty of the children to provide for the father is only secondary. Krsna-conscious philosophy calls this relationship the master-servant relationship, in which God is viewed as the supreme master or father, and all living entities are seen as His servants or sons. It is certainly possible for a loving relationship to develop between a master and his servant, but that love is not as intimate as the love between friends. When two friends love and serve each other, their relationship is very intimate. Krsna consciousness teaches that we can even enter into this intimate friendship with God. And even higher than this fraternal love is the love that parents feel for their child. When Krsna appeared in Vrndavana, Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja took the role of His parents. Mother Yasoda would think, "If I do not feed Krsna, He will die." Here we find the same principle of love as in the other relationships, but the love is more intense. And even higher than parental love is the love between lovers, which we call conjugal love. Krsna became the lover of Radharani and the other gopis, and this most intimate loving relationship is explained only in Krsna consciousness. It is the unique contribution of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
BTG: But what is the test for love of God? Many people say, "Well, I love God very much." How can we tell if their love is genuine?
Kirtanananda Swami: When we speak of love of God, there is no question of "very much." Divine love means "all." Bhismadeva, one of the twelve great authorities on Krsna consciousness, defined love of God as "reposing one's complete affection in the Lord." As long as our affection is divided between matter and spirit, there is no love of God.
Love is actually impossible in the material world, because no one can "repose his complete affection" in another imperfect soul. Actually, Krsna is the only lovable object in the universe, because He possesses all lovable qualities—beauty, strength, wealth, knowledge, fame, and renunciation. He is the complete reservoir of all attractive, lovable qualities. Only He can accept all of our love, and therefore love of God is the only real love possible. So-called loving feelings in the material world are actually manifestations of lust—the desire for personal sense gratification.
BTG: How can Krsna consciousness claim to be nonsectarian? The movement has its own books and spiritual master, which differ from those of other religions.
Kirtanananda Swami: In mathematics two plus two equals four, and this equation is true regardless of which mathematics book it is found in, and regardless of who reads or does not read the mathematics book. So "two plus two equals four" can be called a nonsectarian fact. Similarly, a religion is nonsectarian when it is factual. It is a fact that God is the Supreme Being and that all living entities are His servants. This basic philosophy of the Krsna consciousness movement makes it nonsectarian. We do not propose that people worship a new God. There is only one God, one Supreme Lord, regardless of what we call Him. God has millions of names, which was pointed out by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka [Eight Instructions on the Holy Name of God]: "O My Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have millions of names, such as Krsna, Govinda, and so forth."
So the Krsna consciousness movement is not restricted to a particular name of God. The main principle is God consciousness, surrender to God. It is not that one simply says, "Oh, I love God," and then goes on to act as he likes. This type of lip service was condemned by Jesus Christ when he said, "Not everyone that sayeth to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of God, but he that doeth the will of my father" (Matthew 7:21).
BTG: Why not be content to follow Christ? Why introduce something new?
Kirtanananda Swami: We are following the teachings of Christ. Why distinguish between Christ and Krsna?
BTG: Do you mean to say that Christ didn't say anything different from what Krsna said?
Kirtanananda Swami: As I have explained, it is not a difference in kind but in quantity. Jesus Christ himself told his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). In the Old Testament God appears as a burning bush, a dove, a pillar of fire by night, a cloud by day, and so forth—but He does not appear as He is. God the father remains a voice on high. Christ himself said, "Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.... No man hath seen the father save he which is of God; he hath seen the father" (John 5:37, 6:46). In the Bible we find God described as great, angry, terrible, greatly to be feared, almighty, the everlasting father, the alpha and omega, and so forth. But God's all-attractive personality remains unexplained. What are God's opulences? His activities? What does His abode look like? What does He Himself look like? What are His various manifestations? Specifically, how does He create? How does He pervade His creation? These and many other questions are neither raised nor answered in the Bible because of the time, culture, and circumstances in which the Bible was recorded.
Nonetheless, the essential meaning in Christianity and Krsna consciousness is the same. The difference is in quantity. Is an abridged dictionary different from an unabridged one? Yes and no. The basic definitions are there in the abridged dictionary, but only one or two definitions may be given, whereas in the unabridged dictionary dozens of definitions and nuances are described. The Vedic literatures contain the most complete information about God available. From Genesis we understand that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and we receive a description of the creation. But exactly how God created is not explained. In the Vedic literature the complete process of creation, maintenance, and annihilation of the cosmos is described. For instance, the Vedic literatures state that in the beginning everything was generated from sound.
BTG: St. John states that in the beginning there was the Word, or Logos. Does this indicate sound?
Kirtanananda Swami: Yes. The Supreme Lord creates everything from sound. And by the transcendental sound of Hare Krsna, we can reverse the process and return to the Supreme Absolute. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is a transcendental sound because it is composed purely of God's names. Since God is absolute, everything about Him—His name. His form. His abode—is also absolute. Therefore God and His name are not different. They are both spiritual. This is acknowledged in the Old Testament, where Moses says, "Thou shall fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name" (Deuteronomy 10:20). Also, "I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God" (Deuteronomy 32:3). There are also many examples in David: "Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing ye psalms unto Him, talk ye of all His wondrous works. Glory ye in His holy name" (I. Chronicles 16.8).
We do not say that one has to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Any bona fide name of God is spiritual, and by chanting it we become spiritualized. When we contact electricity, we become electrified, regardless of the appliance carrying the electricity. Similarly, by associating with God through His bona fide names, we become spiritualized.
BTG: Why didn't Jesus Christ mention chanting Hare Krsna? Why didn't he mention the discipline followed by the Hare Krsna devotees? Why didn't he specifically condemn meat eating and wine drinking?
Kirtanananda Swami: As I stated before, Christ said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16.12). We have to consider the circumstances and the culture at the time Christ taught. After all, one can only speak according to the understanding of the audience. In the beginning arithmetic class we cannot mention the principles of higher mathematics like calculus and trigonometry. We have to teach according to time and place. So Christ taught only the basics. He instructed his disciples to go forth and preach among all men that "the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Luke 10:9). This kind of preaching is also kirtana, God-praise. Therefore, whether one says, "Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand," or chants Hare Krsna, the message is basically the same.
The masses of people Christ was speaking to had to be taught very basic principles of morality, such as "Thou shalt not kill." This means that the people had to be educated from the ground up. On the other hand, the Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken by the great sage Suta Gosvami to other great sages in the sacred forest of Naimisaranya. So we can be sure that Suta Gosvami would not waste time telling his audience not to kill one another. Nor do we find this type of moral prohibition in the Bhagavad-gita, because mundane morality is taken for granted. Rather, the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam immediately come to the point of love of God.
All living entities are certainly equal in the eyes of God because they are all His sons, but this does not mean that everyone is equal in the sense of being on the same level. There is kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college, and graduate school. Although the soul within all living entities has the same qualities, there are nonetheless 8,400,000 species of life, and each species represents a different level of the soul's consciousness. Therefore Krsna, or God, is understood differently by different types of men.
In the Vedic literatures it is stated that there are four hundred thousand different types of human beings throughout the universe. In terms of God consciousness, who is the highest? In the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krsna tells Arjuna that the yogi is the highest:
"A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances be a yogi" (Bg. 6.46). And since there are many different types of yogis, Sri Krsna specifically states in the next verse, "And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all" (Bg. 6.47). Thus the topmost teaching of the Bhagavad-gita is surrender to God.
BTG: Around Christmastime people are always curious to know whether Christmas has any particular meaning for people in Krsna consciousness. What is the significance of Christmas for you?
Kirtanananda Swami: Christmas is meant to celebrate the appearance of God's pure devotee on the earth. Unfortunately, this meaning is almost lost today. Most people will tell you that Christmas means getting too many bills,' giving too many presents, eating too much turkey, or going on vacation. Hardly anyone thinks about the real meaning of Christmas—how God's son has descended just to reclaim the fallen, conditioned souls.
BTG: Do the devotees of Krsna celebrate Christmas?
Kirtanananda Swami: Actually we celebrate Christmas every day of the year—because our whole lives are dedicated to glorifying the Lord and His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada. We should not think of Christmas as simply one day when we receive presents. Rather, we should think of it as a time to give presents to the Lord and His pure devotee. After all, the Magi came and gave presents to Christ. It was not the other way around. Christ's present was his very presence, his appearance in the world. Therefore we should celebrate his appearance in the world every day, and this means giving to God every day. This means giving Him our whole lives and everything we have. If we do this, we will not be losers. This is also Christ's teaching to the rich young man: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me" (Matthew 19:21). When we give up everything for God, we are not the losers. Rather, we become gainers millions of times over.
BTG: Sometimes devotees are criticized for dressing up as Santa Claus. Since this isn't part of your tradition, isn't this cheating?
Kirtanananda Swami: No. This isn't cheating, because the books we are selling are worth millions of times more than what we get for them. Why? Because they contain instructions on how to achieve eternal, blissful life. They are the greatest Christmas presents of all. If necessary, we will wear any kind of suit to distribute this transcendental knowledge. Our business is simply distributing Krsna consciousness. If we were dressing up like Santa Claus to extract money for our own sense gratification, that would certainly be cheating. But we are simply interested in spreading this transcendental information about God and His abode. When a devotee hands someone on the street a book by Srila Prabhupada, the devotee is essentially saying, "The kingdom of God is at hand." After all, this is the essential message not only of Christmas but of Christianity and every other bona fide religion.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Scientists Disclose Life's Origin
In mid-October, as the world's attention turned to the 1977 Nobel Prize science awards in Stockholm, a group of scientists met in the holy town of Vrndavana, India, to begin changing the direction of modern scientific research. The First International "Life Comes From Life" Conference, sponsored by ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta Institute, drew government and academic scientists from around the world. Also present was His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder- acarya of both ISKCON and the Institute.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm, Russian-born Ilya Prigogine was receiving an award for his thermodynamic mathematical models, which other scientists have tried to use in their as yet fruitless attempts to prove that life comes from chemical combinations. (Despite Prigogine's models, no scientist has ever observed life coming from chemical combinations, either in nature or in the laboratory. Nevertheless, Prigogine received $145,000 for his work.) On the other hand, the Bhaktivedanta Institute members at the "Life Comes From Life" Conference in Vrndavana conclusively proved that life can't possibly come from chemicals and that—as we see daily—life comes from life.
The members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute describe themselves as "a body of scientists and scholars who have recognized the unique value of the teachings of Krsna consciousness brought to the West by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada." "One reason for the increasing interest of modern intellectuals in Srila Prabhupada's teachings," they explain, "is doubtlessly the growing awareness that despite great scientific and technological advancement, the real goal of human life has somehow been missed. The philosophy of the Bhaktivedanta Institute provides a meaningful answer to this concern by proposing that life—not matter—is the basis of the world we perceive." The members add, "The Institute is clearly demonstrating that the Vedic philosophy is not a matter simply of 'faith' or 'belief' but is scientific in the strict sense of the term."
The "Life Comes From Life" Conference took place in the pleasant surroundings of ISKCON's modern Krsna-Balarama temple complex, with its blend of traditional Indian architecture and Western conveniences. Guests stayed at the temple's International Guest House and dined on delicious vegetarian fare from the guest house restaurant, all free of charge. Mild sunshine during the day and cool breezes at night made for a serene atmosphere.
The main speakers at the conference were Dr. Thoudam Damodar Singh (Svarupa Damodara dasa) and Dr. Richard Thompson (Sadaputa dasa), both of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. Dr. Singh, the Institute's director, was born in Manipur, India, in 1941 and became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1970. He has written a book entitled The Scientific Basis of Krsna Consciousness and holds a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from the University of California.
To support the conclusion that life comes from life. Dr. Singh presented his findings in the field of molecular biology. Modern science is based on quantum mechanics, which reduces physical phenomena to pushes and pulls among certain particles. Having made these assumptions, scientists go on to say that life and life symptoms result from complex combinations of molecules. But Dr. Singh showed clearly that such theories do not adequately explain the varied phenomena of life (including thought, emotions, and will). Life is based on consciousness, he proposed, and this consciousness obeys higher-order non-physical laws imposed by the supreme consciousness described in the Vedas.
Born in 1947 in Binghamton, New York, Dr. Thompson received his Ph.D. in probability theory from Cornell University in 1974. In 1975 he became an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada. At the conference he delivered a well-received address called "Demonstration by Information Theory that Life Cannot Arise from Matter." A fundamental proposition of information theory states that the information content of a closed mathematical system cannot increase. Now, modern science describes physical nature in terms of mathematical models of low information content, and yet the physical structures of living organisms are so complex that they indicate a very high information content. So, according to information theory, it is impossible to suppose that life's high-information structures can arise from physical nature's low-information structures. On this basis Dr. Thompson discredited the now widely accepted theory that life forms do in fact evolve spontaneously from the ingredients of physical nature. Such evolution requires an outside source of information—namely, the supremely conscious controller of matter described in the Vedas.
Among other Bhaktivedanta Institute members who spoke was Dr. Michael Marchetti (Madhava dasa), who lectured on the philosophical foundations of science. Geologist Robert S. Cohen (Brahmatirtha dasa) demonstrated that fossil records actually give little support to Darwin's theory of evolution. Finally, Oxford's D.J. Webb (Jnana dasa) demonstrated how the laws of thermodynamics contradict current theories of chemical evolution.
At the end of the Vrndavana conference Dr. Singh announced that similar conferences will take place soon in Europe and North America. For further information about the Bhaktivedanta Institute, readers may write to 70 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02116, or Hare Krsna Land, Gandhi Gram Road, Juhu, Bombay 400 054, India.
On Christ, Christians and Krsna
The Tolerance And Compassion of Christ
The Srimad-Bhagavatam states that any bona fide preacher of God consciousness must have the qualities of titiksa (tolerance) and karuna (compassion). In the character of Lord Jesus Christ we find both these qualities. He was so tolerant that even while he was being crucified, he didn't condemn anyone. And he was so compassionate that he prayed to God to forgive the very persons who were trying to kill him. (Of course, they could not actually kill him. But they were thinking that he could be killed, so they were committing a great offense.) As Christ was being crucified he prayed, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing."
Christ, the Friend Of All Living Beings
A preacher of God consciousness is a friend to all living beings. Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this by teaching, "Thou shall not kill." But the Christians like to misinterpret this instruction. They think the animals have no soul, and therefore they think they can freely kill billions of innocent animals in the slaughterhouses. So although there are many persons who profess to be Christians, it would be very difficult to find one who strictly follows the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ Goes On Suffering for Your Sins?
A Vaisnava [a pure devotee of the Lord] is unhappy to see the suffering of others. Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified—to free others from their suffering. But his followers are so unfaithful that they have decided, "Let Christ suffer for us, and we'll go on committing sin." They love Christ so much that they think, "My dear Christ, we are very weak. We cannot give up our sinful activities. So you please suffer for us."
Jesus Christ taught, "Thou shalt not kill." But his followers have now decided, "Let us kill anyway," and they open big, modern, scientific slaughterhouses. "If there is any sin, Christ will suffer for us." This is a most abominable conclusion.
Christ can take the sufferings for the previous sins of his devotees. But first they have to be sane: "Why should I put Jesus Christ into suffering for my sins? Let me slop my sinful activities."
Suppose a man—the favorite son of his father—commits a murder. And suppose he thinks, "If there is any punishment coming, my father can suffer for me." Will the law allow it? When the murderer is arrested and says, "No, no. You can release me and arrest my father; I am his pet son," will the police officials comply with that fool's request? He committed the murder, but he thinks his father should suffer the punishment! Is that a sane proposal? "No. You have committed the murder; you must be hanged." Similarly, when you commit sinful activities, you must suffer—not Jesus Christ. This is God's law.
We Adore Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ was such a great personality—the son of God, the representative of God. He had no fault. Still, he was crucified. He wanted to deliver God consciousness, but in return they crucified him—they were so thankless. They could not appreciate his preaching. But we appreciate him and give him all honor as the representative of God.
Of course, the message that Christ preached was just according to his particular time, place, and country, and just suited for a particular group of people. But certainly he is the representative of God. Therefore we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him.
Jesus Is Our Guru
Once, in Melbourne, a group of Christian ministers came to visit me. They asked, "What is your idea of Jesus Christ?" I told them, "He is our guru. He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual master." The ministers very much appreciated that.
Actually, anyone who is preaching God's glories must be accepted as a guru, Jesus Christ is one such great personality. We should not think of him as an ordinary human being. The scriptures say that anyone who considers the spiritual master to be an ordinary man has a hellish mentality. If Jesus Christ were an ordinary man, then he could not have delivered God consciousness.
Krsna or Christ, The Name Is the Same
Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, and Christos is the Greek version of the word Krsta. When an Indian person calls on Krsna, he often says "Krsta." Krsta is a Sanskrit word meaning "the object of attraction." So when we address God as "Christ," "Krsta," or "Krsna," we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. When Jesus said, "Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name," that name of God was Krsta or Krsna. "Christ" is simply another way of saying "Krsta," and "Krsta" is another way of pronouncing Krsna.
Therefore, the Christian clergymen should cooperate with the Krsna consciousness movement. They should chant the name Christ or Christos and should stop condoning the slaughter of animals. This is not some philosophy that I have fabricated; it is taught in the Bible. If the Christians follow these principles, the world situation will improve. If they simply stop killing animals and chant the holy name of Christ, everything will be perfect. The Bible also demands this. So the Christians should cooperate with us and chant.
Actually, it doesn't matter—Krsna or Christ—the name is the same. The main point is to chant the name of God. The easiest way is to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare /Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Human Rights Crusade
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Freedom of thought, of religion, of assembly; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of movement both within and outside one's own country; freedom to take part in government: these are basic human rights that we Americans freely exercise and perhaps even take for granted. But oppressive governments throughout the world are presently denying their citizens even these basic human rights.
It is this grievance which has become the centerpiece in President Carter's foreign policy. The Carter administration wants to dissuade the Communist states and the Latin American rightist regimes, among others, from all unwarranted denial of their people's rights. In his March address before the United Nations, the President affirmed, "Because we are free, we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom."
Now, for America to fly the banner of "human rights for the world" presupposes that human rights flourish in our own land. True, we have a representative government and the Bill of Rights, and we enjoy many civil liberties not found in other countries. But if we could lift our sights for a moment beyond the Carter administration and beyond the Bill of Rights—to the ageless and unchanging standard of ancient India's Vedic civilization—we would discover that we are still missing out on the most important human right of all. President Carter may plead for the rights of others, but the time-honored Vedic literatures say, "What are you doing about your human rights—your right to become self-realized and God-realized? You are still a prisoner. Wake up!" The Vedic literatures assert that the rights and freedoms that we Americans hold so dear today are actually not very important. The most important human right is the right to become self- and God-realized and thus gain freedom from all miseries.
Let's look closely at this most important human right. According to the Vedic literatures, the eternal soul transmigrates through millions of lower species of life before he gets a human body. Of all the varieties of species, the human form of life is the most developed—because only the human being can inquire into his ultimate spiritual identity. Of course, in our human life we still engage in the animal functions of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending; but we have the added opportunity—the human right—to achieve perfection by becoming a self-realized soul. We can utilize the highly developed rational faculties of the human form of life to discover our eternal spiritual relationship with God. This is the ultimate human right, and with proper guidance we can easily take full advantage of it.
"I am not this body; I'm the soul within the body." Once we understand this simple fact, we become self-realized—and free from the miseries of transmigrating to another body at death. On the other hand, if we do not achieve self-realization, we will be forced at the time of death to take another birth and to go on transmigrating from one species of life to another, birth after birth. After all, no nation is so strong and no citizen so free as to be able to overcome the laws of nature.
Like many statesmen before him, President Carter contends that America is a free nation, but the Vedic literatures answer "No"—no one is free until he becomes liberated from the cycle of repeated birth and death. Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Bill of Rights nor our awesome national defense force can protect us from the miseries of birth, death, disease, and old age. Even we Americans have to die, and we may die at any moment. It may be our karma to die in an auto or plane accident with more pain than can be inflicted by any political dictator. Or our karma may be to die of cancer, to be murdered, or to be burned alive in the sanctity of our own home. Even John F. Kennedy, in the topmost position in America, was not free to prevent his death.
"That's rather grim," we may say. "Sure, life has its share of miseries, but the rights and freedoms we Americans enjoy are real and satisfying."
Not really. If we think that way, we're overlooking some basic facts of life. For example, how long can we remain in our materially superior position as Americans? And who among us can guarantee that after death his good fortune will continue and he'll again be born as an American?
Here's what happens when somebody gets too attached to the idea of being an American and fails to become self-realized. According to the laws of transmigration, in his next life such a person may again be awarded an American body, but perhaps not a human body. In his last life he didn't use his advanced human intelligence to inquire into his true, spiritual nature; he didn't take advantage of his most important human right. Instead of realizing that "I'm not this body—I'm a spirit soul, an eternal servant of God," he's figured that "I'm an American, and America is my beloved homeland." As a result, he may be born as an American cow or pig and suffer in the stockyards until he is slaughtered.
In other words, right now it's foolish for us to say, "Our national pride is that we exercise our human rights and we're free." After all, this world—with its stringent law of repeated birth and death—is a prison. So maybe we're privileged prisoners, because we exercise certain relative rights (the right to vote as we please and to have a fair trial, for instance) that lots of other people don't have. But we will not be really free until we exercise our fundamental human right to become Krsna-conscious—only then can we escape nature's law of repeated birth and death.
Our position is exactly like that of a prisoner shackled in gold chains who looks at another prisoner's iron chains and says, "You are imprisoned, and I am free." Chains of gold are as binding as chains of iron. And since one who is bound cannot free anyone else, America's current crusade for human rights has no meaning.
Again, we all should feel concerned about human rights, but the problem is that very few of us today know what our real human rights are. So the Krsna consciousness movement is urging that all people throughout the world exercise the priceless human right to become self-realized and free from all suffering—the right to revive our loving devotion to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To ignore this most important human right is the worst misuse of our human life.
As the Vedic literatures explain, human life is very precious and rare—because if we use it properly we can attain self- and God-realization, the perfection of our existence. The Krsna consciousness movement exists for the sole purpose of offering everyone nonsectarian, nonpolitical information about our most important human right.
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
We all know that education is for training tomorrow's leaders. But today's schools are little more than training grounds for criminals. Last year's U.S. statistics bear witness to the horror: 100 school murders, 17,000 armed robberies, 200,000 aggravated assaults against teachers, 2 70,000 school burglaries, and $600 million lost to vandalism. So where are we going to get tomorrow's leaders? From among these students at ISKCON's new academy in Vrndavana, India.
So many of today's social ills persist simply because we lack qualified leaders. Recently, of course, we have even seen many highly-posted political leaders exposed as complete incompetents. But then, if our society is materialistic and our education is materialistic and our leaders and teachers are all materialistic, how can we expect to produce a generation of spiritually strong adults—people competent to solve today's crises? True, we may hold technological know-how and university degrees in high esteem. But these things can't take the place of spiritual strength and purity of character.
If a young boy has no spiritual training, how can he have a sense of morals or know anything about God? And if such a spiritually ignorant person gets to be a leader, how can we expect anything but a criminal? So when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to the West, he brought the gurukula, "the school of the spiritual master"—the school for real leaders.
Srila Prabhupada's first American disciples were eager to help him start the gurukula: we wanted our own children to get training in spiritual life from the very beginning. Most of us had come to Krsna consciousness only after twenty years of being misled. We didn't want our children to follow us in watching all kinds of nonsense on television, or in being chronically addicted to liquor, drugs, and cigarettes, or in growing up with a taste for mere temporary happiness and no knowledge of the next life. Also, we wanted our children to escape the disgust that cheating religious and political leaders had produced in us. So under Srila Prabhupada's guidance we started a school whose enrollment grew in a few years to more than a hundred students. Recently, I visited this school (in Vrndavana, India, its new location) and spoke with the teachers and students.
Talking with the Teachers
First, I interviewed Jagadisa dasa, ISKCON's minister of education.
Back To Godhead: What is the purpose of gurukula, the school of the guru?
Jagadisa dasa: Srila Prabhupada explains that in the Vedic culture, when a boy turns five he should go to the ashrama of the guru and gets training. Then when he's an adult he'll have a solid spiritual background.
The Vedic scriptures state that human life is not meant for working hard like the animals, just to satisfy the senses. Human life is meant for practicing austerity, by which we can escape the miseries of material existence. The Vedic scriptures emphatically state that no one should become a teacher, mother, father, or government leader unless he can free those under his charge from birth and death. So here in our Gurukula we are fulfilling our responsibility as teachers and parents: by training our Society's children in the principles of Krsna consciousness given to us by Srila Prabhupada, we're not only freeing the children from birth and death, but we're also helping them reach the ultimate goal of life—love of God.
BTG: Is your moving to India a rejection of Western civilization? And if so, what is superior in Indian civilization?
Jagadisa dasa: As in all of ISKCON, ours is a rejection not of Western civilization but of materialistic civilization. We are certainly not opting in favor of modern Indian culture. We aren't interested in any materialistic culture-Western or Eastern. We live according to the Vedic scriptures, which recommend simple living and high thinking.
Of course, India is the home of the ancient Vedic culture, which is founded on spiritual values. Although that heritage has been abandoned now (chiefly because of the British influence), India is still the best place in the world for spiritual life. Here in Vrndavana no one will complain that we are chanting Hare Krsna or wearing traditional garb.
BTG: Since India is the home of your culture, will the children stay here after growing up?
Jagadisa dasa: Not necessarily. The Krsna consciousness movement is also known as the sankirtana movement, which means that our mission is to spread the chanting of the holy name of Krsna to every town and village in the world. This is the order of Lord Caitanya, an incarnation of Krsna who appeared five hundred years ago in Bengal, and our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada is part of the disciplic succession of pure devotees coming from Him. Lord Caitanya introduced the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and He ordered His followers to chant it publicly to give everyone a chance to come to God consciousness. So our missionary work—especially the chanting of Hare Krsna and the distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books—must go on in both the Western and Eastern countries. But as far as educating our children goes, we are doing that wherever we find it most safe. After the children are trained, they can join in the missionary work.
BTG: How did you get this new place?
Jagadisa dasa: The land was donated by a good friend, Bishangar Dayal, who wanted to see a gurukula in Vrndavana. And the construction was funded by our Society and private donations. We now have facilities for five hundred students. We also have a qualified staff, headed by our principal Dr. Onkar Sharma, who is very experienced in education. All our teachers have teaching certificates and several years of practical experience.
Next, I interviewed Dr. Onkar Sharma, the principal of the Gurukula.
BTG: Dr. Sharma, you'd had a lot of experience in the educational field, both in America and in India, before you began teaching at our Gurukula here in Vrndavana. Can you tell us how you came to be associated with ISKCON?
Dr. Sharma: In 1973 I retired and came to Vrndavana to stay. One day I saw some very handsome devotees from the West chanting Hare Krsna in the market. I was much impressed. Then I visited the devotees and one brought me to see the foundation for the present Krsna-Balarama temple and Gurukula school.
At that time I had plans to build my own ashrama. So I left Vrndavana and started an ashrama in Hardwar [a holy city at the foot of the Himalayas]. But I wasn't satisfied with the atmosphere there—it was not very spiritual. So, in 1975 I returned to Vrndavana. It was in April of that year that I saw the opening of the Krsna-Balarama temple.
After the ceremony I requested to see Srila Prabhupada, and I was brought into his presence. We talked for some time, and when he heard that I had been a principal for many years, he asked me what my thinking was on gurukula. I said, "A gurukula should be run on the old pattern, not the modern one. It should be based on the original Indian model."
As I spoke with him, Srila Prabhupada listened to me very calmly and quietly. He was very pleased at my description of the old educational system. Then he asked me, "Why don't you become the principal of our Vrndavana Gurukula? You be the principal," he said, "I'll give you full charge." He also gave me a personal copy of his Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
BTG: How does an old-style gurukula education differ from a Western one?
Dr. Sharma: The main purpose of a gurukula is not, as in your colleges in the West, to obtain a degree and employment. The goal is more religious. Actually, a boy is allowed to stay in school up to his twenty-fifth year, studying the Vedas and Upanisads. In this way he becomes a first-class Vaisnava [devotee of Krsna].
BTG: How does this Vrndavana Gurukula compare with other gurukulas in India?
Dr. Sharma: This is the most authentic gurukula because it is the most Vaisnava. It emphasizes Vaisnava programs, and it devotees more than six hours a day to religious studies.
BTG: How are the Western boys adjusting to this old-style gurukula?
Dr. Sharma: Oh, they have adjusted nicely. They are happy. They are always inquiring. They are fully adjusted—to the Indian climate, to the customs of the local people—to everything.
Finally, I had a talk with Rupa Vilasa dasa, who holds a masters degree in education from the University of Florida. He has been with the Gurukula since it began in America, and his experience is particularly valuable, since it includes living with the boys in their dormitory and guiding them both in their classroom activities and in every aspect of their daily lives, including cleaning, duties, recreation, worship, and meditation.
BTG: Rupa Vilasa, how do you feel the Gurukula here in Vrndavana compares to the way it was when it was in the West?
Rupa Vilasa: It's much nicer here. Here in Vrndavana Krsna consciousness is the rule—there is no opposition—while in the West the whole culture is opposed to Krsna consciousness. Western culture is sinful—the people engage in animal slaughter, intoxication, and other such degrading activities. Of course, India has fallen far from her original Vedic standard, but there is still a favorable atmosphere here.
I'll give you an example. In the West, when we went out on a walk we ran the risk of being spit at and jeered. But here in Vrndavana, when we go out on our daily excursion all the people encourage us. Everyone is favorable. There is nothing odd in having a shaved head here. In fact, many of the people look just like us. In India, and especially in Vrndavana, our Vaisnava style of living is still accepted as the purest way of life.
BTG: What change do you see in the boys that came with you from the West?
Rupa Vilasa: Well, they're more satisfied and peaceful, and their lives are simpler. For example, in America we used the laundromat, but here the boys wash their own clothes. This simple responsibility helps build their character.
Their health is better, too. For most illnesses they simply fast one or two days and drink water—and they get well. But in the West I was always taking them to the hospital or giving them medicine.
But the main improvement I see is spiritual. The boys have become spiritually strong. If something goes wrong, they don't take it as an emergency. They're more enthusiastic to chant Hare Krsna. That's because in Vrndavana everyone is chanting. Here we may have fewer material conveniences, but on the whole the boys are more peaceful without the hectic atmosphere they had in the West. In the West you have so many distractions, but here it's easier for the boys to be peaceful and chant Hare Krsna.
BTG: Can you tell me something about why Vrndavana is such a special land for devotees?
Rupa Vilasa: Yes. Vrndavana is the land where Lord Krsna displayed His most attractive pastimes. Most of our boys have been hearing about Krsna since they were three or four years old. So now that they've come to Vrndavana, they can see the very things they've heard about from the scriptures: the Yamuna River, the groves, the cows and peacocks. In fact, for a devotee, Krsna and the spiritual world actually become manifest here in Vrndavana. So it's not surprising that all the boys have become much more attached to Vrndavana than they were to their old home. The scriptures confirm that anyone who becomes attracted to the beauty of Vrndavana loses all interest in ordinary landscapes within the material world.
BTG: People in the West sometimes object to our sending our children here to an exclusive training center. These critics claim that we want to make the children just like us—and that we neglect to put them in touch with reality.
Rupa Vilasa: Actually, the children are more in touch with reality here than in the West. Take death, for example; that's certainly a reality. Several times the boys have seen dead bodies taken on procession and cremated. When I ask them to explain what they're seeing, they say, "The body is being burned because the eternal soul is no longer there. The soul is the real person, and he has already gone back to Godhead."
I can give you another example. Srila Prabhupada often compares particularly lusty people to stool-eating hogs. Here in Vrndavana the boys see stool-eating hogs daily, and the boys understand that they are the epitome of degradation. They understand that within that abominable hog body is a spirit soul who thinks he is enjoying the most, while in reality he is suffering the most. So they see the pitfalls of materialistic life.
Another example Srila Prabhupada gives is the ass loaded down with huge bundles by the washerman. He works hard all day so that in the evening his master will feed him some grass. He can't see that he doesn't have to work for his master and that there is an endless supply of grass growing all along the roadside. That's the way it is with people who don't know that their real master is Krsna: they work hard day and night for material necessities—just like the ass. So it seems to me that if anyone says these Gurukula boys are not in touch with reality, that is a fantasy.
BTG: You and Jagadisa both mentioned austerity. Could it be fairly said that there's too much austerity here in India—that by coming to India you've overdone it in your attempt to impose austerity upon the children?
Rupa Vilasa: No. We don't force the boys to undergo harsh austerities. Of course, by the artificial Western standards their lives do seem simple and austere, but the boys are all very healthy and happy.
Actually, the building here is nicer than the one in the West; it's a new three-storey complex with spacious living quarters. We have modern showers and toilets. And the prasada [vegetarian food offered to Lord Krsna] is excellent.
BTG: What about general cleanliness and personal hygiene?
Rupa Vilasa: We do our own cleaning; that's a brahminical quality. Srila Prabhupada said that the boys should clean their own clothes and eating utensils. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
Here the boys are more physically active than they were in the West, and they get sick less. They swim and wrestle every day. They're just happier. In the West we used to go to a nearby lake, and we'd see people floating in life rafts and drinking beer. Sometimes someone would speed by in a motorboat and shout at us or throw something. But here I take the boys to the Yamuna River every day. And what do they see? They may see some old lady chanting Hare Krsna on her beads, or they may see a ricksha driver. But in Vrndavana even a ricksha driver is more pious than some big Western aristocrat.
BTG: What about the children's relationships with their parents? Are they completely cut off here in India?
Rupa Vilasa: No. They often get packages from their parents. They like to get letters and hear what's going on in the West. But they're not preoccupied with their families. They have a full life and a full schedule here, though they're very glad to see their parents when they come.
A Leader To Look Up To
The boys have a day-to-day guide and friend in headmaster Yasodanandana Swami. In his extensive travels throughout India, Yasodanandana has addressed large gatherings and talked with local scholars on the science of Krsna consciousness. And though an American, Yasodanandana has won wide respect for his erudition and strict spiritual discipline. As the title "Swami" signifies, he is one of a select number of disciples to whom Srila Prabhupada has given sannyasa, the highest order of spiritual life—awarded for scholarship and purity. In other words, Yasodanandana Swami teaches both by what he says and by what he does.
Although a sannyasi usually spends his time traveling and preaching, Srila Prabhupada specifically asked Yasodanandana Swami to live with the Gurukula boys and tutor them. This way they benefit from both his academic instruction and his personal example. So while their counterparts in the West are idolizing some sports hero, rock star, or local gang leader, the Gurukula boys look up to Yasodanandana and hope to be like him some day.
A sannyasi stays free of family life just to devote all his energy to preaching Krsna consciousness to the larger family of mankind. Yasodanandana Swami hopes that in this respect some of the boys will follow his lead. But thanks to the spiritual background they gain at the Gurukula, even the students who marry will go on learning and speaking about the science of Krsna consciousness.
Yasodanandana Swami says that one of the most important qualifications of a spiritual leader is conviction, and that the Vrndavana Gurukula is the best place in the world to develop it. "In India it's very easy for these children to become convinced that Krsna consciousness is genuine. In the West, where Krsna consciousness seems to be something new, this conviction doesn't come so easily. But here in India, where the roots of Krsna-conscious culture go back thousands of years—and especially here in Vrndavana, where everyone is practicing (to some extent) the devotional principles—this conviction becomes strong. With this strong conviction these children will make solid spiritual leaders and benefit all humanity."
From the Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. (Adapted by Drutakarma dasa.)
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Yet even a king—the richest man—can enter into God's kingdom if he knows the science...
The Generosity of King Rantideva
For himself, King Rantideva was always satisfied and depended completely on the Lord's providence. At the same time, when guests came to his palace the generous king would personally look after their every comfort, as if it all depended not on providence but on him. Once King Rantideva fasted for forty-eight days, but he never complained or made any attempt to get food. On the morning of the forty-ninth day, he received a sizeable quantity of well-prepared food. But just as he was about to take his meal, a learned brahmana priest arrived as a guest.
King Rantideva was very advanced in spiritual knowledge, so he could see that the Supreme Lord Krsna dwells in the heart of every living being. As a result, he received his guest with faith and respect and gave him a share of the food. The brahmana ate to his satisfaction and went away.
Now King Rantideva again prepared to break his long fast, but just as he was about to take his first bite, a low-class laborer entered the palace. King Rantideva could also see Krsna dwelling in the heart of this sudra, so he gave him a portion of the food as well.
After the sudra had gone away, a bearded and bedraggled man surrounded by a pack of dogs arrived before King Rantideva. "O King," he said, "my company of dogs and I are very hungry. Please give us something to eat." With great respect King Rantideva gave what was left of his food to the dogs and their master.
Now only some drinking water remained, and there was only enough for one person. When the king was just about to drink it, a candala (a dog-eater, the lowest of men) appeared before him and said, "O King, although I am lowborn, kindly give me some drinking water."
Touched by these pitiable words, the good-hearted King Rantideva said, "By offering water to maintain the life of this poor candala, I shall not be the loser—by this act of charity I shall free myself from all hunger, thirst, fatigue, and illusion.
"I do not pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna for the powers of mystic yoga, nor for salvation from repeated birth and death in the material world. I want only to stay on this earth among all the living creatures and suffer all their pains for them. In that way they may be freed from all distress."
The ravages of hunger and thirst had brought King Rantideva to the verge of death, and yet he gladly gave even his last drop of water to the wretched candala. Just then Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, and other great demigods appeared before the king and revealed that it was they who had presented themselves as the brahmana, the sudra, the candala, and the man with the dogs.
The demigods were very pleased with King Rantideva and wanted to bestow great wealth and opulence upon him. But the king had no desire to enjoy such things. He simply wanted to keep his mind focused on the lotus feet of Lord Krsna and render devotional service unto Him. Rantideva knew that Krsna is the eternal master of all the demigods and that the demigods' gifts are temporary—they pass away with the passing of time. A pure devotee, King Rantideva cared only about his eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Lord.
King Yayati Regains His Youth
King Yayati was much inclined to sex and once had a child by his wife's maidservant. His wife, Devayani, was frenzied with anger and returned to the house of her father, Sukracarya. Sukracarya possessed great mystic powers, and when he saw Yayati tagging along pathetically after Devayani, he cursed him to immediately become an old man. But he also gave the king a way out. "You may get back your youth," said Sukracarya, "if you find someone who will agree to take your old age and transfer his youth to you."
King Yayati wanted desperately to regain his youth, so that he could enjoy many more years of sex indulgence with young women. So he went to his eldest son Yadu and asked him to make the trade of youth for old age. But Yadu replied, "I do not welcome your old age and invalidity now, father, for unless I properly fulfill my material desires in my youth, I will not be ready to devote myself fully to spiritual life in later years." King Yayati similarly requested his sons Turvasu, Druhyu, and Anu to exchange their youth for his old age, but their response was not as admirable as Yadu's. They refused to carry out their father's order because they thought their fleeting youth was eternal. King Yayati then approached Puru, his youngest son.
Puru replied, "O your majesty, who in this world can repay his debt to his father? By the mercy of one's father one gets this human body instead of an animal body. Thus one gets the chance to become a devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Lord." Puru was more than pleased to accept his father's old age. So King Yayati took his son's youth and began to enjoy life once again. He became emperor of the entire world and enjoyed as much material happiness as he desired. Especially, he enjoyed the company of his young and beautiful wife, Devayani.
For some years King Yayati enjoyed himself in this way, but somehow he never felt satisfied. Finally, he became completely disgusted with sex life and everything connected with it—power, prestige, wealth, and so forth. One day he told Devayani, "O my dear wife with beautiful eyebrows—I am so poor in intelligence that I am no better than a lusty goat. I was bewildered by your beauty and forgot my real task of realizing my eternal spiritual identity. I never succeeded in satisfying my lusty desires, no matter how much so-called enjoyment I had. Pouring butter on a fire does not put the fire out—it blazes higher and higher. Sexual desires are difficult to give up, but I must and will learn to give them up. Henceforward I shall not even sit in the same room with my mother, sister, or daughter. Sex desire is so relentless that even the greatest sages become disturbed by the slightest sexual stimulus. For years I have tried in vain to satisfy my desires, but now I shall give them all up. I will go alone to the forest and meditate upon the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna."
Having given up all his lusty material desires (and having inspired Devayani to give hers up, also). King Yayati called for his son Puru, returned Puru's youth, and took back his own old age. Then, although Puru was younger than all his brothers, Yayati enthroned him as emperor of the world. The king and his wife Devayani had enjoyed sense pleasure to the fullest extent, but now they gave it all up in an instant. At last, Yayati and Devayani became great devotees of Lord Krsna.