Vedic Views on Western Thinkers
Carl Jung (1875 -1961)
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung sought a way out of the ocean of material suffering. Yet he felt, "I had to make do with my own truth......" (A discussion with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
Hayagriva dasa: Jung gave the following criticism of Sigmund Freud: "Sexuality evidently meant more to Freud than to other people. For him it was something to be religiously observed.... One thing was clear: Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma. Or rather, in the place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a fact. He has taken sexuality to be God. It is our natural tendency to accept a leader, and Freud simply abandoned the leadership of God and took up the leadership of sex. On the other hand, if we accept the leadership of Krsna, our life becomes perfect. All other leadership is the leadership of maya [illusion]. There is no doubt that we have to accept a leader. Although Freud would not admit it, he accepted sex as his leader, and consequently he was constantly speaking about sex. Those who have taken God as their leader will speak only of God, nothing else. Jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa.' According to Caitanya Mahaprabhu's philosophy, we are all eternal servants of God, but as soon as we give up God's service, we have to accept the service of maya.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung sees the mind as being composed of a balance of the conscious and the unconscious, or subconscious. It is the function of the personality to integrate these. For instance, if one has a strong sex drive, he can sublimate or channel it into art or religious activity.
Srila Prabhupada: That is our process. The sex impulse is natural for everyone in the material world. But if we think of Krsna embracing Radharani or dancing with the gopis, our sex impulse is sublimated and weakened. If one hears about the pastimes of Krsna and the gopis from the right source, lusty desire within the heart will be suppressed, and one will be able to develop devotional service.
Hayagriva dasa: This would be an example of what Jung would call integration or individuation, whereby the energies of the subconscious sex impulse are channeled into conscious, creative activity directed toward God-realization.
Srila Prabhupada: What we must understand is that Krsna is the only purusa, the only enjoyer. If we help Him in His enjoyment, we also receive enjoyment. We are predominated, and He is the predominator. On the material platform, if a husband wants to enjoy the wife, the wife must voluntarily help him in that enjoyment. By helping him, the wife also becomes an enjoyer. Similarly, the supreme predominator, the supreme enjoyer, is Krsna. And the predominated, the enjoyed, are the living entities. When the living entities agree to help Krsna's sex desire, they become enjoyers.
Hayagriva dasa: What is meant by Krsna's sex desire?
Srila Prabhupada: You might say "sense enjoyment." Krsna is the supreme proprietor of the senses, and when we help Krsna in His sense enjoyment, we also naturally partake of that enjoyment. The sweet rasagulla [a candy made from milk] is meant to be enjoyed, and therefore the hand puts it into the mouth so that it can be tasted and go to the stomach. The hand cannot enjoy the rasagulla directly. Krsna is the only direct enjoyer; all others are indirect enjoyers. By satisfying Krsna, others will be satisfied. Upon seeing the predominator happy, the predominated become happy.
Hayagriva dasa: Psychologists say that quite often the subconscious is acting through the conscious, but that we do not know it.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The subconscious is there, but it is not always manifest. Sometimes a thought suddenly becomes manifest, just as a bubble will suddenly emerge in a pond. You may not be able to understand why it emerges, but we may assume that it was in the subconscious state and suddenly became manifest. That subconscious thought which is manifest does not necessarily have any connection with one's present consciousness. It is like a stored impression, a shadow or a photograph. The mind takes many snapshots, and they are stored.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung could see that the soul is always longing for light, and he wrote of the urge within the soul to rise out of darkness. He noted the pent-up feeling in the eyes of primitive people and a certain sadness in the eyes of animals. He wrote: "There is a sadness in animals' eyes, and we never know whether that sadness is bound up with the soul. of the animal or is a poignant message which speaks to us out of that existence."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Every living entity, including man, is constitutionally a servant. Therefore everyone is seeking some master, and that is our natural propensity. You can often see a puppy attempt to take shelter of some boy or man, and that is his natural tendency. He is saying, "Give me shelter. Keep me as your friend." A child or a man also wants some shelter in order to be happy. That is our constitutional position. When we attain the human form, when our consciousness is developed, we should take Krsna as our shelter and our leader. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna tells us that if we want shelter and guidance, we should take His. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. This is the ultimate instruction of Bhagavad-gita.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung would say that our understanding of Krsna as the supreme father and the cause of all causes is an archetypal understanding shared by all humans. All people have the tendency to understand someone to be their supreme father and primal cause, and they will represent Him in different ways. The archetype, however, is the same.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is exactly the same. Krsna, or God, is the supreme father. A father has many sons, and all men are sons of God, born of their father. This is an experience common to everyone at all times.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung believed that because there are so many subconscious factors governing our personality, we must awaken to them. Unless we do so, we are more or less slaves to our subconscious life. The point of psychoanalysis is to reveal as many aspects of our subconscious life as possible and enable us to face them.
Srila Prabhupada: That is what we are teaching. We say that presently the soul is in a sleeping state, and we are telling the soul, "Please wake up! Please wake up! You are not this body! You are not this body!" It is possible to awaken the human being, but other living entities cannot be awakened. A tree, for instance, has consciousness, but he is so packed in matter that you cannot raise him to Krsna consciousness. A human being, on the other hand, has developed consciousness, which is manifest in different stages. Lower life forms are more or less in a dream state.
Hayagriva dasa: Whereas Freud was sexually oriented, Jung was more or less spiritually oriented. In his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes, "I find that all my thoughts circle around God like the planets around the sun, and are as irresistibly attracted by Him. I would feel it to be the grossest sin if I were to put up any resistance to this force." Jung sees all creatures as parts of God and at the same time unique in themselves. He writes, "Man cannot compare himself with any other creature; he is not a monkey, not a cow, not a tree. I am a man. But what is it to be that? Like every other being, I am a splinter of the infinite Deity......
Srila Prabhupada: It is also our philosophy that we are part and parcel of God, just as sparks are part of a fire.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung further writes in his autobiography, "It was obedience which brought me grace.... One must be utterly abandoned to God; nothing matters but fulfilling His will. Otherwise, all is folly and meaningless."
Srila Prabhupada: Very good. Surrender unto God is real spiritual life. Sarva-dharman parityajya. Surrender to God means accepting that which is favorable to God and rejecting that which is unfavorable. The devotee is always convinced that God will give him all protection. He remains humble and meek and thinks himself as one of the members of God's family. This is real spiritual communism. Communists think, "I am a member of a certain community," but it is a man's duty to think, "I am a member of God's family." God is the supreme father, material nature is the mother, and living entities are all sons of God. There are living entities everywhere—on land and in the air and water. There is no doubt that material nature is the mother, and according to our experience we can understand that a mother cannot produce a child without a father. It is absurd to think that a child can be born without a father. A father must be there, and the supreme father is God. In Krsna consciousness, a person understands that the creation is a spiritual family headed by one supreme father.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning God's personality, Jung writes this: "According to the Bible, God has a personality and is the ego of the universe, just as I myself am the ego of my psychic and physical being."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The individual is conscious of his own body, but not of the bodies of others. Besides the individual soul or consciousness in the body, there is the Paramatma, the Supersoul, the superconsciousness present in everyone's heart. This is discussed in Bhagavad-gita [13.3]:
ksetrajnam capi mam viddhi
"You should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge."
Hayagriva dasa: Recalling his difficulties in understanding God's personality, Jung writes, "Here I encountered a formidable obstacle. Personality, after all, surely signifies character. Now, character is one thing and not another; that is to say, it involves certain specific attributes. But if God is everything, how can He still possess a distinguishable character? ... What kind of character or what kind of personality does He have?"
Srila Prabhupada: God's character is transcendental, not material, and thus He has attributes. For instance, He is very kind to His devotee, and this kindness may be considered one of His characteristics or attributes. Whatever qualities or characteristics we have are but minute manifestations of God's. God is the origin of all attributes and characteristics. As indicated in the sastras [scriptures], He also has mind, senses, feelings, sense perception, sense gratification, and everything else. Everything is there unlimitedly, and since we are part and parcel of God, we possess His qualities in minute quantities. The original qualities are in God and are manifest minutely in ourselves.
According to the Vedas, God is a person just like us, but His personality is unlimited. Just as my consciousness is limited to this body and His consciousness is the superconsciousness within every body, so I am a person confined to this particular body, and He is the superperson living within all. As Krsna tells Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita [2.12], the personality of God and the personalities of the individual souls are eternally existing. Krsna tells Arjuna on the battlefield, "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Both God and the living entity are eternally persons, but God's personality is unlimited, and the individual's personality is limited. God has unlimited power, wealth, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. We have limited, finite power, knowledge, fame, and so on. That is the difference between the two personalities.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung found that philosophies and theologies could not give him a clear picture of God's personality. He writes this: "'What is wrong with these philosophers?' I wondered—evidently, they know of God only by hearsay."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is also our complaint. The philosophers we have studied have failed to give any clear idea of God. Because they are speculating, they cannot give concrete, clear information. As far as we are concerned, our understanding of God is clear because we simply receive the information given to the world by God Himself. Krsna is accepted as the Supreme Person by Vedic authorities; therefore we should have no reason not to accept Him as such. Narayana, Lord Siva, and Lord Brahma possess different percentages of God's attributes, but Krsna possesses all the attributes cent percent, in totality. Rupa Gosvami has analyzed this in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which we have translated as The Nectar of Devotion. In any case, God is a person, and if we study man's attributes, we can also know something of God's. Just as we enjoy ourselves with friends, parents, and others, God also enjoys Himself in various relationships. There are five primary and seven secondary relationships that the living entities can have with God. Since the living entities take pleasure in these relationships, God is described as akhila-rasamrta-sindhu, the reservoir of all pleasure. There is no need to speculate about God or try to imagine Him. The process for understanding is described in Bhagavad-gita [7.1]:
mayy asakta-manah partha
"The Lord said, 'Now hear, Arjuna, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt."' You can learn about God by always keeping yourself under His protection, or under the protection of His representative. Then without a doubt you can perfectly understand God; otherwise there is no question of understanding Him.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung goes on to point out the difference between theologians and philosophers. He writes, "At least they [the theologians] are sure that God exists, even though they make contradictory statements about Him.... God's existence does not depend on our proofs.... I understand that God was, for me at least, one of the most certain and immediate of experiences."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a transcendental conviction. One may not know God, but it is very easy to understand that God is there. One has to learn about God's nature, but there is no doubt about the fact that God is there. Any sane man can understand that he is being controlled. So who is that controller? The supreme controller is God. This is the conclusion of a sane man. Jung is right when he says that God's existence does not depend on our proof.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung continues to recall his early spiritual quests in this way: "In my darkness ... I could have wished for nothing better than a real, live guru, someone possessing superior knowledge and ability, who would have disentangled from me the involuntary creations of my imagination."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. According to the Vedic instructions, in order to acquire perfect knowledge, one must have a guru. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet. The guru must factually be a representative of God. He must have seen and experienced God in fact, not simply in theory. We have to approach such a guru, and by service, surrender, and sincere inquiry, we can come to understand God. The Vedas inform us that a person can understand God when he has received a little mercy from His Lordship; otherwise, one may speculate for millions and millions of years. As stated in Bhagavad-gita [18.55], bhaktya mam abhijanati: "One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by bhakti, devotional service." This process of bhakti includes sravanam kirtanam visnoh—hearing and chanting about Lord Visnu and always remembering Him. Satatam kirtayanto mam: the devotee is always glorifying the Lord. As Prahlada Maharaja says in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.9.43]:
naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaranyas
"O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay I am fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities." The devotee's consciousness is always drowned in the ocean of the pastimes and unlimited activities of the Supreme Lord. That is transcendental bliss. The spiritual master teaches his disciple how to always remain in the ocean of God consciousness. One who works under the directions of the acarya, the spiritual master, knows everything about God.
Hayagriva dasa: In 1938 Jung was invited by the British government to participate in celebrations at the University of Calcutta. Of this Jung writes, "By that time, I had read a great deal about Indian philosophy and religious history and was deeply convinced of the value of Oriental wisdom." On this visit, Jung spoke with a celebrated guru, yet he avoided so-called holy men. He writes, "I did so because I had to make do with my own truth, not to accept from others what I could not attain on my own. I would have felt it as a theft had I attempted to learn from the holy men to accept their truth for myself."
Srila Prabhupada: On the one hand, he says he wants a guru, and then on the other, he doesn't want to accept one. Doubtlessly there were many so-called gurus in Calcutta, and Jung might have seen some bogus gurus he did not like. In any case, the principle of accepting a guru cannot be avoided. It is absolutely necessary.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning consciousness after death, Jung feels that after death the individual must pick up at the level of consciousness which he left.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and therefore, according to that consciousness, one has to accept a body. That is the process of the soul's transmigration. An ordinary person can see only the gross material body, but accompanying this body are the mind, intelligence, and ego. When the body is finished, these remain, although they cannot be seen. A foolish man thinks that everything is finished at death. But the soul carries with it the mind, intelligence, and ego—that is, the subtle body—into another body. This is confirmed by Bhagavad-gita, which clearly explains that although the body is destroyed, the consciousness continues. According to one's consciousness, one acquires another body, and again, in that body, the consciousness begins to mold its future lives. If a person was a devotee in his past life, he will again become a devotee after his death. Once the material body is destroyed, the same consciousness begins to work in another body. Consequently we find that some people quickly accept Krsna consciousness whereas others take a longer time. Bahunam janmanam ante. This indicates that the consciousness is continuing, although the body is changing. Bharata Maharaja, for instance, changed many bodies, but his consciousness continued, and he remained fully Krsna conscious.
We may see a person daily, but we cannot visualize his intelligence. We can understand that a person is intelligent, but we cannot see intelligence itself. When one talks, we can understand that there is intelligence at work. But why should we conclude that when the gross body is dead and no longer capable of talking, the intelligence is finished? The instrument for speech is the gross body, but we should not conclude that when the gross body is finished, intelligence is also finished. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: after the destruction of the gross body, the mind and intelligence continue. Because they require a body to function, they develop a body, and that is the process of the soul's transmigration.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung felt that the individual's level of consciousness could not supersede whatever knowledge is available on this planet.
Srila Prabhupada: No. One can supersede it, provided one can acquire knowledge from the proper authority. You may not have seen India, but a person who has seen India can describe it to you. We may not be able to see Krsna, but we can learn of Him from an authority who knows. In Bhagavad-gita [8.20] Krsna tells Arjuna that there is an eternal nature. On this earth we encounter temporary nature. Here things take birth, remain for some time, change, grow old, and are finally destroyed. There is dissolution in this material world, but there is another world, in which there is no dissolution. We have no personal experience of that world, but we can understand that it exists when we receive information from authority. It is not necessary to know it by personal experience. Paratah svato va. There are different stages of knowledge, and not all knowledge can be acquired by direct perception. That is not possible.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung sees earthly life to be of great significance, and what a man carries with him at the time of his death to be very important. He writes, "Only here, in life on earth, can the general level of consciousness be raised. That seems to be man's metaphysical task." Since consciousness survives death, it is important that a man's consciousness be elevated while he is on this earth.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, one's consciousness should be developed. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, if one's yoga practice is incomplete or if one dies prematurely, his consciousness accompanies him, and in the next life he begins at the point where he left off. His intelligence is revived. Tatra tam buddhi-samyogam labhate paurva-dehikam. [Bg. 6.43] In an ordinary class we can see that some students learn very quickly, while others cannot understand. This is evidence for the continuation of consciousness. If one is extraordinarily intelligent, the consciousness he developed in a previous life is being revived. The fact that we have undergone previous births is also evidence for the immortality of the soul.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung points out that there is a paradox surrounding death. From the point of view of the ego, death is a horrible catastrophe—"a fearful piece of brutality." Yet from the point of view of the psyche—the soul—death is "a joyful event. In the light of eternity, it is a wedding."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, death is horrible for one who is going to accept a lower form of life, and it is a pleasure for the devotee, because he is returning home, back to Godhead.
Hayagriva dasa: So death is not always joyful for the soul?
Srila Prabhupada: No. How can it be? If one has not developed his spiritual consciousness—Krsna consciousness—death is very horrible. The tendency in this life is to become very proud, and often people think, "I don't care for God. I am independent." Crazy people talk in this way, but after death they have to accept a body according to the dictations of nature. Nature says, "My dear sir, since you have worked like a dog, you can become a dog," or, "Since you have been surfing in the sea, you can now become a fish." These bodies are awarded according to a superior order. Karmana daiva-netrena. In whatever way we interact with the modes of material nature, in that way we are creating our next body. How can we stop this process? This is nature's way. If we are infected by some disease, we will necessarily get that disease. There are three modes of material nature—tamoguna, rajo-guna, and sattva-guna [the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance]—and our bodies are acquired according to our association with them. In general, the human form affords us a chance to make progress in Krsna consciousness, especially when we are born in an aristocratic family, a brahmana [intellectual] family, or a Vaisnava [devotee] family.
Hayagriva dasa: Despite his many interesting points, Jung seems to have had a limited understanding of Indian philosophy. He does not understand that samsara [the cycle of birth and death] has a goal, although it appears to be endless. Nor does he seem to know of Krsna's promise in Bhagavad-gita that man can overcome earthly existence by surrendering unto Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Overcoming earthly existence means entering into the spiritual world. The spirit soul is eternal, and it can enter from this atmosphere into another. That is clearly explained in Bhagavad-gita [4.9]:
janma karma ca me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode." Those who continue to revolve in the cycle of birth and death require another material body, but those who are Krsna conscious go to Krsna. They do not acquire another material body.
Hayagriva dasa: Sri Krsna says this repeatedly throughout Bhagavad-gita.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and those who are not envious of Krsna accept His instructions, surrender unto Him, and understand Him. For them, this is the last material birth. For those who are envious, however, transmigration is continuous.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning karma, Jung writes this: "The crucial question is whether a man's karma is personal or not. If it is, then the preordained destiny with which a man enters life presents an achievement of previous lives, and a personal continuity therefore exists. If, however, this is not so, and an impersonal karma is seized upon in the act of birth, then that karma is incarnated again without there being any personal continuity."
Srila Prabhupada: Karma is always personal.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung goes on to point out that Buddha was twice asked by his disciples whether man's karma is personal or not, and each time he fended off the question and did not discuss the matter. To know this, the Buddha said, "would not contribute to liberating oneself from the illusion of existence."
Srila Prabhupada: Buddha refused to answer because he did not teach about the soul or accept the personal soul. As soon as you deny the personal aspect of the soul, there is no question of a personal karma. Buddha wanted to avoid this
"At the new Bombay center, India's rich spiritual culture can express itself in a thoroughly modern setting......"
by Dravida dasa
HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had a genius for spreading Krsna consciousness in any situation he encountered. Srila Prabhupada applied this genius not only in the West but also in today's Westward-looking India—as we can see in the just-opened Radha-Rasavihariji Temple and Vedic Cultural Center in Bombay.
At the new Bombay center, India's rich spiritual culture can express itself in thoroughly modern setting. The center lies on four acres in Bombay's picturesque Juhu Beach and includes a spacious marble temple, a theater, a restaurant, a bank, a Vedic library, and a twin-towered seven-story hotel. The project cost more than $2 million and took nearly three years to build.
Now, people who are unfamiliar with the philosophy of Krsna consciousness might well ask, "Why would a spiritual group that prizes renunciation and detachment want to build a theater and a modern hotel?" For an answer, we may turn to one of the Krsna consciousness movement's spiritual giants and founders, Srila Rupa Gosvami. In his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (Nectar of Devotion, written in the sixteenth century) he provides many of the philosophical and practical guidelines for today's International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and here is what he writes about renunciation: "When one is not attached to anything but at the same time uses everything in Lord Krsna's service, one is situated in complete renunciation. On the other hand, one who rejects everything, not knowing how to use things in Krsna's service, is not as complete in his renunciation." So renunciation doesn't mean walking around in a loincloth or fasting for weeks on end. Rather, in the spirit of detachment we should use everything (including modern hotels and theaters) to glorify God.
There are several reasons why Srila Prabhupada chose Bombay for this ambitious project. First, Bombay is to India what New York or Los Angeles is to the United States—a leader in commerce and culture. (For instance, the main offices of Air India are in Bombay, as are the headquarters of India's burgeoning film industry.) Bombay is perhaps India's most modern and cosmopolitan city, and more important, it is a city whose people cherish their spiritual heritage. In fact, many of its leading citizens are great devotees of Lord Rama and Lord Krsna. So Srila Prabhupada knew that Bombay would welcome the kind of center he envisioned. And through their overwhelming encouragement and assistance, these people have borne out not only Srila Prabhupada's clarity of vision but also modern India's continuing spiritual vitality.
The heart of the Bombay center is the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Rasavihariji. (Radha is the name of Lord Krsna's eternal consort, and Rasa-vihari is a name for Krsna that means "the enjoyer of the transcendental rasa dance.") The temple is a majestic structure, replete with twenty-four domes of sculpted marble. The visitor passes through a finely carved red sandstone gate and up a short marble staircase. Then he enters a large courtyard bordered by marble pillars and floral-engraved arches. Graceful trees shade the courtyard's marble floor.
In alcoves on either side of the courtyard, fifteen colorful dioramas depict scenes from the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and Ramayana. (The Ramayana is a classic Vedic scripture recounting the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of Lord Krsna who appeared ages ago to show the world the behavior of an ideal ruler.) Another diorama shows Srila Prabhupada speaking in New York's Tompkins Square in the summer of 1966, when he was just starting the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
To the right of the courtyard, near the temple's front side, the visitor finds a darsana-mandapa (a roofed area from which to view the Deity) and a vyasasana (a massive marble chair used only by the spiritual master). In front of the three altars are huge teakwood doors with brass castings that depict Krsna's twenty-four main incarnations, and beyond the doors stand the Deities, on handsomely carved, silver-plated teakwood simhasanas (altar platforms). On the left altar are Lord Nityananda and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, two incarnations of Krsna who appeared in India five hundred years ago to spread the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. At Their feet, carved in marble, sit Srila Prabhupada and his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. On the center altar are Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Rasavihariji—Radha and Krsna - and Their companions Lalita and Visakha. And on the right altar are Sri Sri Sita-Ramacandra, Their servant Hanuman, and Rama's brother Laksmana.
The gifted young architect who designed the temple (and the entire Bombay project) is His Holiness Surabhir-abhipalayantam dasa Gosvami. Now thirty-one, Surabhi Svami graduated from Amsterdam's Institute for Applied Arts before coming to Bombay and joining the Krsna consciousness movement in March of 1972. It was then that he met Srila Prabhupada, who told him, "Krsna has sent you here for a special purpose. You should build temples for Him all over India. If you do this work for Krsna, that will be the perfection of your life." Inspired by Srila Prabhupada's words and his personal presence and further encouragement during the early days at Juhu Beach, Surabhi Svami began designing the Bombay project.
For the next three years the project ran into one problem after another, and Surabhi Svami had to devote much of his time to similar projects in Mayapur, Vrndavana, and Hyderabad. But the experience he gained, especially his two and-a-half-year stay in Vrndavana, proved invaluable. In Vrndavana he had a chance to examine the elegant temple architecture that developed during the Indian Renaissance of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth' centuries, and he later incorporated some of these Renaissance elements into the Radha-Rasavihariji temple.
One fascinating aspect of the Bombay project is that it represents a melding of traditional art forms from all over India. "There are two ways of designing," Surabhi Svami explained. "One way is that you sit down in an office somewhere and come up with a design, and you somehow have people execute it. No matter how difficult it is, you just tell them, 'I want it like this.' But, of course, this is very limited—especially for a Westerner like me, who naturally starts out knowing almost nothing about India. There are so many things I would never have thought of if I had just sat at my drawing table. But there's another way to design, and that is to first see what people can do—and then create the design. I always work the second way.
"For the Bombay project I went all over India and saw what people were doing. In India there's so much work going on already—it simply requires coordination. For the elements of the buildings—the furniture, the simhasanas, the silver work, the marble work, the stone work—I went myself to the places where these things are being done most expertly. Then I either brought the artisans here or had them do the work in their own locale. I simply had to coordinate and then bring everything to Bombay. So now in this project we have a combination of Indian cultural art forms, something which no one has done before in India, anywhere.... For instance, this furniture you see here is all manufactured in a small village named Sankheda, in Gujarat. One whole family has been working on it—the father, the wife, the children, everyone. They do all the carving, the paint work, the lacquering, and so on, and finally they bring everything here and put all the pieces together. That's how we get the furniture. Then there are the stone carvings. Most of the stone and marble carving is done in Rajasthan. Then there is the brass work from Benares, and the diorama craftsmen from Goa......"
The result of Surabhi Svami's resourcefulness is a structure that tastefully combines modern structural engineering with traditional Indian craftsmanship, all to glorify Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Unmistakably, the temple reflects Srila Prabhupada's inspired vision.
Adjoining the temple is the guesthouse, a non-profit hotel that offers both shelter and comfort to visitors from India and abroad. Under the expert management of Bali-mardana dasa, the guesthouse offers visitors a peaceful, spiritual environment, just a few steps from the temple, a two-minute walk from the ocean, and a ten-minute ride from Bombay's international airport (the first stop in India for many tourists).
The guesthouse consists of two seven-story towers finished in finely carved red and white sandstone. (The stone keeps the salty ocean air from penetrating the reinforced concrete and corroding the structural steel within.) Each of the fifty air-conditioned guest rooms has a balcony overlooking the palms of Juhu Beach. One tower has a branch of the Indian Overseas Bank on its ground floor and on its top floor Srila Prabhupada's former quarters (soon to be a museum in his memory).
Also included in the guesthouse will be an international library, with editions of Vedic literature in some thirty languages. The library will permit guests from around the world to learn of India's glorious Vedic culture in their own language, while at the same time they reside in a Vedic community that embodies the very principles they are reading about. In addition to books by Srila Prabhupada, the library will include an extensive collection of books by other important Vedic scholars.
The guesthouse also features the Bombay branch of Govinda's Restaurant, under the expert guidance of Mr. Michael Lord, who for a decade managed London's Carlton Club. Govinda's serves delicious continental and Indian-style vegetarian dishes, all offered to Radha-Rasavihariji before being relished as prasada, "the mercy of the Lord."
India's greatest artists are eager to perform in the devotional atmosphere of the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium (right). Famed architect Burjor Mistry spent long hours on the design.
The Book Trust and Research Institute
In separate buildings not far from the guesthouse, the Bombay project also serves as the Indian headquarters for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the world's largest publisher of books on the philosophy, religion, and culture of India. The director of the Indian branch of the Book Trust is Gopala Krsna dasa, son of a retired Indian naval commander and a disciple of Srila Prabhupada since 1968. In India, the Book Trust publishes India's great spiritual classics in thirteen Indian languages, as well as in English. It also publishes BACK TO GODHEAD in Hindi., Gujarati, and several other major languages.
Another integral part of the Bombay cultural center is the Bhaktivedanta Institute. The institute promotes advanced study and research into Vedic information on the nature of consciousness and the self. This advanced academic division of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is led by a team of Indian, European, and American scientists who have recognized the importance of Krsna consciousness. The Institute has published monographs on physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and related disciplines, and its speakers travel widely. "Despite great scientific and technological advancements, our civilization has somehow missed the real goal of life," says Dr. Thoudam D. Singh (Svarupa Damodara dasa), the Institute's director. "The Bhaktivedanta Institute provides a meaningful answer to this concern by proposing a new scientific paradigm—that life, not matter, is the basis of the world we perceive."
The Center for the Performing Arts
Finally, the Bombay center includes the new Bhaktivedanta Auditorium, where guests may enjoy performances by India's masters of dance, music, and drama. The theater—not large, but among India's most sophisticated and versatile—can seat 425. Every seat has headphones that provide simultaneous translation into any of three languages. Other features include the most advanced sound and lighting equipment, 16 and 35mm projectors, stage lifts for special effects, a recording studio, and comfortable green rooms and dressing rooms for the performers.
Actually, there was no provision for a theater in the original design for the Bombay center—it seemed too ambitious a venture. But Surabhi Svami, Jagat-purusa dasa, and other devotees felt inspired by Srila Prabhupada's desire for a full-fledged cultural center. They knew that the center should include a showcase for the best of India's devotional performers.
Of course, back in April of 1972, when Jagat-purusa arrived in Bombay, what was needed most was a head cook. Since he had always been something of a jack-of-all-trades, Jagat-purusa filled the post for nearly a year and a half and then spent another year managing the day-by-day worship in the temple. But all during this time he never forgot what was really closest, to his heart—Krsna conscious theater. He would regularly visit Surabhi Svami in his little corner of the devotees' shack, where the first sketches of the Bombay center were taking shape on a makeshift drafting table. On those occasions Jagat-purusa would remind the Svami that some sort of theater should definitely be included. Surabhi Svami was himself very much inclined toward the idea of Krsna conscious theater, and he was further encouraged by yet another theater lover, fellow architect Murti dasa. So Surabhi Svami included space for a theater in his design, and Srila Prabhupada approved it.
But who would actually work up the blueprints? Theater design is a highly specialized field and requires years of training, both in acoustical mathematics and the usual architectural disciplines. There was no way that Surabhi Svami could design it. Yet, fortunately, Burjor Mistry, the consulting architect for the city's National Center for the Performing Arts and the foremost theater builder in India, stepped forward to help. When he heard that the International Society, for Krishna Consciousness was planning a theater for Krsna conscious performing arts, and that it would be part of a project that would include a modern hotel and classical temple, he felt moved to donate his expert services. His long hours of selfless effort made the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium what it is today.
Now only two questions remained: with the theater built, who would perform and who would attend? When Jagat-purusa and others explored the possibilities of bringing some of India's top-flight musicians, dancers, and actors to the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium, they got a warm response. Artists like Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, M. S. Subalakshmi, Hari Om Sharan, Arvind Parikh, and Vyjayanthimala Bali—all devoted to Krsna and the Vedic culture—were eager to perform in the devotional atmosphere of the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium. Along with many of Bombay's leading industrialists, film personalities, and society figures, several of these artists also chose to join the congregation of the Radha-Rasavihariji Temple—and, as Jagat-purusa says, "to join the international family of devotees of Lord Krsna"—by becoming life members of ISKCON.
Jagat-purusa further explained, "The life membership program gives everyone the chance to take part in the Krsna consciousness movement in whatever way he can. Some people may want to express their devotion to Krsna by living here and working with the devotees in the temple. Others may choose to express their devotion in other ways—for instance, by offering financial and artistic contributions." As hundreds and hundreds of Bombay's leading citizens came forward to become life members, Jagat-purusa saw the opportunity to expand the movement's cultural influence even further-by creating the Bhaktikala-ksetra.
"The Bhaktikala-ksetra," Jagat-purusa says, "is an autonomous society dedicated to presenting the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita through the performing arts. It is an independent public trust, with its own constitution and its own executive committee. (Sri M. Deora, the mayor of Bombay, is a member of this committee.) The Bhaktikala-ksetra promotes theater, concerts, films, dance, and so on. And, of course, the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium is the medium through which the activities of the Bhaktikala-ksetra go on, at least for now. Ravi Shankar has offered to give a performance in April, and we have also invited the famous singer M. S. Subalakshmi, our life member in Madras, to give a concert. Vyjayanthimala Bali (India's foremost exponent of classical bharata-natyam dance), Hari Om Sharan (a popular devotional singer), and Arvind Parikh (a master of the sitar) performed at the grand opening of the theater on January 14."
So Srila Prabhupada's inspiration has provided a modern setting where everyone can delight in India's rich devotional culture. In fact, many people say that the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium heralds a renaissance of devotion in the performing arts.
A Word from the Coordinator
As coordinator for the project, Giriraja dasa has overseen the construction, the life membership program, the financing, and countless other matters. In the following conversation with a BACK TO GODHEAD staff reporter, Giriraja talks about some of the early events at Juhu Beach, Srila Prabhupada's original ideas for the project, and what the future holds.
BTG: Could you tell us how you got involved in the Bombay project?
Giriraja dasa: In March of 1972, Srila Prabhupada asked me to take charge. This was one month after we had gotten possession of this land at Juhu Beach. When the first few devotees came here, we were living in a hut. It was really difficult, but eventually we built an additional floor on top of some apartment buildings that were already on the land, and we moved up there. From the beginning Srila Prabhupada emphasized that this project is for spreading Krsna consciousness. Every time he would come to Bombay, he would ask us how the rooms were being used, and he was very critical if we were not making full use of each room. The point was that every available facility should be used for spreading Krsna consciousness.
BTG: What were some of the highlights of those early days?
Giriraja dasa: Well, as soon as we got possession of the land, which we named "Hare Krsna Land," Srila Prabhupada had us put up a pandal [a large platform shaded by decorative canvas] and hold a big Hare Krsna festival. We brought the Deities, Radha-Rasavihariji, from our temple in the city, and every night hundreds of people came to hear Srila Prabhupada speak and also to chant Hare Krsna with us and take in a Krsna conscious drama or musical performance. It was then that we started seeing how right Srila Prabhupada had been in making Juhu Beach the site for a temple and cultural center.
BTG: This was all in March of 1972?
Giriraja dasa: Yes, but because of legal difficulties, it wasn't until October of 1973 that we finally acquired full title to the land and could really begin planning the center.
BTG: Now, this project is amazingly unique—whose idea was it, and what are its main features?
Giriraja dasa: From the very beginning, the idea was completely Srila Prabhupada's. Although no one else could understand it at the time, Srila Prabhupada knew that this land at Juhu Beach would make for a perfect center for spreading Krsna consciousness: it was far enough from the city to have the peaceful, spiritual atmosphere of the country, but at the same time it was near enough to the city to be convenient for most people.
BTG: So the temple-hotel-theater complex was originally Srila Prabhupada's idea—to make it easy for people to come and experience Krsna consciousness?
Giriraja dasa: Yes, exactly. Srila Prabhupada has written that it is the duty of the acarya [a spiritual master who teaches by his very life] to engage everyone in serving Lord Krsna. So Srila Prabhupada's idea was that whatever people like to enjoy—a comfortable building, good food, beautiful art, music, drama, dance—whatever they want they should have in superlative form, with Krsna in the center. In other words, people should be able to experience what the Indian culture really is—glorification of the Lord. And above all, visitors should have the opportunity to chant the Lord's names and read Srila Prabhupada's books.
BTG: Have the people of Bombay responded favorably?
Giriraja dasa: Well, Srila Prabhupada was so farsighted that at first the people here couldn't appreciate his vision. But now that Juhu has developed into the most important section of Bombay, and now that the people have seen the project take shape, they're very enthusiastic about it. Many of them want to take an active part.
BTG: What does the future hold for the new cultural center? Do you have plans for more construction?
Giriraja dasa: Yes. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to construct one more large building—six stories—that would include a children's school, a diorama museum, a retirement home, and a book warehouse. Srila Prabhupada felt that many of Bombay's pious and aristocratic families would want to send their children to our school to cultivate character and self-realization—in other words, Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada also said that we should include a section for older people. He said there are many old people who want to give everything up, surrender to Krsna, pass their last days in a Krsna conscious community, and then go back home, back to Godhead. So we should provide a facility for them.
BTG: Now, when people come to stay here—at either the guesthouse or the retirement home—will there be guidelines for them to follow?
Giriraja dasa: Yes. To preserve the spiritual atmosphere here, Srila Prabhupada said we should begin by requesting every visitor to follow our four regulative principles—no gambling, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no meat, fish, or eggs.
BTG: And this would keep the atmosphere pure.
Giriraja dasa: Yes. "Purity is the force," Srila Prabhupada always said. He told us never to concoct some materialistic scheme for becoming successful. He just wanted us to stay Krsna conscious, do our best, and leave the rest to Krsna.
Governor Patwari Hails the New Cultural Center
As governor of the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Sri Prabhudas B. Patwari is understandably appreciative of India's devotional culture: his state of forty million people is the home of India's classical bharata-natyam dance, Karnatic music, and some of the most ancient and striking temples in all of the subcontinent. The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness felt honored when he gave the following inaugural address for the Radha-Rasavihariji Temple and Vedic Cultural Center.
Sisters and brothers,
I deem it a blessing to be associated with this solemn function. The Krsna consciousness movement is a divine spark, a movement which is meant to give peace and happiness to millions of people all over the world. So I welcome the construction of this temple and the opening of the Bhaktivedanta Center of Vedic Culture in this great cosmopolitan city of Bombay, where people of all races, nationalities, castes and communities, high and low, live in amity. I have no doubt that this Vedic institution will proclaim to the world that here flourishes a great movement, which has become the symbol of eternal religion (sanatana-dharma) .
Krsna appeared like a common cowherd boy, and therefore He is attractive to the common man. Numerous incidents of His life, from childhood onward, reveal how easily He destroyed evil forces and brought success for the good. Now the Krsna consciousness movement has become an international movement, and this is due to the spiritual stature of Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who, with single-minded devotion, dedication, and love for humanity, spread the gospel of Sri Krsna from continent to continent. Through the exalted mission of Svamiji, the life and teachings of Lord Krsna have inspired millions of men and women throughout the world. The departure of this great world-teacher of God consciousness is a severe loss for the whole world, but I am sure he will continue to guide the Krsna consciousness movement through his teachings, as he was guided by Lord Krsna.
What is Krsna consciousness? It is an eternal awareness of Lord Krsna's greatness and glory as revealed by Him in His avatara [His descent on earth]. Krsna consciousness teaches us that prema-bhakti and nama-sankirtana [loving devotion and the chanting of the Lord's holy name] constitute the best and easiest pathway to God for all people—a pathway free from perils and pitfalls. Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada added new dimensions to this divine mission.
No one in this world can call himself happy at all times, because trials and tribulations sometimes shake a man's faith, and life itself becomes a burden. Material prosperity alone cannot give us genuine peace. For that we need spiritual wisdom. Turn the pages of Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam Maha-purana. Each verse in each chapter contains the quintessence of spiritual wisdom. Those scriptures have through the centuries inspired saints and sages in India. Mahatma Gandhi used to consult the Gita whenever he was in doubt or difficulty. He once said, "The Gita is the universal mother: she turns away nobody; her door is wide open to anyone who knocks. A true votary of the Gita does not know what disappointment is. He ever dwells in perennial joy and peace that passeth understanding, which are reserved only for the humble in spirit. When disappointment stares me in the face, and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad-gita. I find a verse here and a verse there, and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies. My life has been full of external tragedies, and if they have left no visible mark, no indelible scar, on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita."
In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says:
"For the protection of the good, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness, I appear in every age." The greatest savants of the world have been moved by the Lord's teachings. Out of great concern for us the Lord, the supreme benefactor of mankind, teaches us through His Gita to do every act as a yajna [sacrifice], without attachment to the fruit of our actions. It is only by a detached outlook in life that we can overcome sorrows and get peace of mind. Attachment takes us away from God, and detachment takes us nearer to Him. By doing everything as a sacrifice to Him, for His sake, we remove false egoism from ourselves and free ourselves from such ideas as "I," "my," and "mine." Lord Krsna says:
"Abandoning all other duties of the body, mind, and intellect, ending the false ego and developing introspection, come to Me alone for shelter. I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not." What Lord Krsna teaches Arjuna in the Gita, or what He teaches Uddhava in the Bhagavatam, is the highest and most sublime philosophy, which offers wise guidance to us in day-to-day life. The merciful Lord says that He expects nothing from His devotees except single-minded devotion. The devotee can offer Him even a leaf, a flower, or a drop of water, but it is the devotee's love for Him that matters. The Lord's love for us has to be matched by our love for Him.
Srimad-Bhagavatam enjoys universal popularity as the bhakti scripture par excellence. It has inspired the writing of extensive devotional literature, not only in Sanskrit but also in many other Indian as well as foreign languages. The Bhagavatam holds out hope even for the chronic sinner—if only he will open his heart to the gentle influence of the love and charm of Lord Krsna. Like the Gita, it presents a program of practical spiritual training through a harmonious combination of jnana, bhakti, and karma, (knowledge, devotion, and action) suited to the temperament and limitations of the aspirant. Let us, on this occasion, make a solemn resolve to strengthen the Krsna consciousness movement by untiringly spreading the teachings of Lord Krsna through many languages, to all people in all the nooks and corners of the world. In this way, by our genuine devotion to Krsna and by our austerities, we may create an international climate of peace and happiness and lay the foundation for a religious order acceptable to all on the basis of universal love and brotherhood. May we chant "Hare Krsna! Jaya Sri Krsna!" to purify our hearts and minds, and may Lord Krsna shower His blessings on humanity and make our humble endeavors a success.
On Seeing God
This discussion between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a reporter took place at ISKCON's center in Melbourne, Australia.
Interviewer: Your Divine Grace, is the purpose of human life to realize God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes—that is the only purpose.
Interviewer: Srila Prabhupada, have you realized God?
Srila Prabhupada: What do you think? What is your opinion?
Interviewer: I can't say.
Srila Prabhupada: Then if I say yes, what will you have understood? If you are not expert, then even if I say, "Yes, I am God-realized," how will you take it? If you do not know what God-realization is, then how can you ask this question, and how will you be satisfied by the answer? Therefore, you should not ask this question. It has no value—unless, of course, you are prepared to accept whatever answer I give. Are you prepared?
Srila Prabhupada: Then it is all right. I am seeing God every moment. [Pause] But unless you are prepared to take the answer, you should not ask such questions.
Interviewer: Your Divine Grace, is meditation a means to realize God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Meditation is one means, but you cannot meditate now, because you do not know what God is. So how will you meditate? If you do not know what God is, upon whom will you meditate? First of all, you must know. We know God—Krsna and Krsna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhaktah: "Always think of Me." So we meditate upon Krsna. That is perfect meditation, because meditation means to think of God. But if you do not know what God is, how can you think of Him?
Interviewer: It is written in many scriptures that God is light.
Srila Prabhupada: God is everything. God is darkness, also. We say that God is that person from whom everything comes. So light comes from God, and darkness also comes from God.
Interviewer: Do you think that meditation is a way to see God inside yourself?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the description of meditation. Dhyanavasthita tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah: by concentrating his mind, the yogi tries to see God within. So you must know what God is. Consider our ISKCON institution, for example. My disciples know what God is, so they can think of God. But if you have no idea of God, how will you think of Him?
Interviewer: This path of devotional yoga, bhakti-yoga—is this the path for the present age?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, bhakti-yoga is the real yoga. You'll find that when the yoga system is described in Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says, "The first-class yogi is he who is always thinking of Me, Krsna, within himself." So our students are being taught to think of Krsna always, twenty-four hours a day, without stopping. That is first-class yoga.
Interviewer: If you are to think about something, you first have to see it. Do you show your devotees Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Certainly.
Interviewer: Then what ... well ... what is Krsna? What does He look like?
Srila Prabhupada: See—here is Krsna.
Interviewer: But that's a painting.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is a painting. But suppose a painting of you were there. Could I not say, "Here is Mr. such-and-such"?
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the wrong there? Is your picture not yourself?
Interviewer: Yes, it is.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, this is Krsna's painting. But the difference is that we cannot talk with your picture but we can talk with Krsna's picture. That is the difference.
Interviewer: But still, somebody must have seen Krsna to actually paint Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. When Krsna was present on this earth, so many people saw Him. And since then, there have been so many temples of Krsna's Deity, Krsna's form. The same form described in the Vedic literature appeared personally, and the devotees made statues. These forms of Krsna are being worshiped regularly. There are thousands and thousands of Krsna temples.
Interviewer: But has anybody actually seen Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes—just as your father has seen your grandfather. You may not have seen him, but your father can describe him—"My father was like this." What is the difficulty?
Devotee: He asked if anyone now has seen Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: How can one see Him now? One has to see through the parampara, the disciplic succession. You have not seen your grandfather, so how do you know who he was?
Interviewer: Your parents tell you.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So you have to receive knowledge about God from the authorities, from the parampara.
Interviewer: But supposedly Krsna is eternal, so surely He exists today.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna is existing. At night the sun is existing, but you have no eyes to see it. That does not mean the sun does not exist. It is your deficiency—you cannot see.
Interviewer: So we need divine sight?
Srila Prabhupada: You require qualification. Krsna is always existing, but you require the qualification to see Him. That is described in the Vedic scriptures. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti: those who are saintly persons in ecstatic love with Krsna can see Him always, twenty-four hours a day. That is not very difficult to understand. If you love someone, you see him always. Is it not so? You need the qualification of love. Then Krsna will be visible twenty-four hours a day and talk with you. So you have to qualify yourself to hear Krsna, to see Krsna. But Krsna is always present.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
New Cultural Center Opens in Bombay
In January some of India's foremost political and cultural figures took part in the inaugural ceremonies for ISKCON's new Sri Sri Radha-Rasavihariji Temple and Vedic Cultural Center in Bombay.
Two provincial chief executives and a member of the Indian Cabinet delivered speeches to an audience that included hundreds of Bombay's leading citizens, representatives of the international news media, and guests from around the world. The officials stressed the center's future role in spreading the ideals of India's ancient Vedic culture worldwide.
Sri Prabhudas Patwari, governor of the Tamil Nadu province, said he hopes to help spread the teachings of Krsna "through many languages, to all people in all the nooks and corners of the world. In this way ... we may create an international climate of peace and happiness. . . ."
Mr. Vasantrao Patil, the chief minister of Maharashtra (the province in which Bombay is located), said that all people should follow Lord Krsna's advice in the Bhagavad-gita for eternal peace and happiness.
Indian Health Minister Raj Narain remarked, "It is amazing to me that now Westerners have taken to the Indian culture just when we are losing it." Yet at the opening of the Bombay center's Bhaktivedanta Auditorium, well-known Indian classical dancers and dramatists proved that Krsna conscious culture is still going strong in its homeland. After an opening address by Sri D.T. Rupavate (the cultural minister of Maharashtra), Srimati Vyjayanthimala Bali, one of India's foremost classical dancers, delighted the audience with dances based on the pastimes of Krsna. Vocalist Sri Hari Om Sharan presented a special song he had composed in honor of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as well as traditional Indian songs in praise of Krsna. Then Arvind Parikh, who ranks high among India's masters of the sitar, played morning ragas.
An estimated twenty thousand visitors attended the two days of ceremonies.
ISKCON Food Relief in Action
Last November a cyclone devastated coastal areas of India's Andhra province. It killed tens of thousands of villagers and left millions homeless and hungry. In the cyclone's wake, a team of ISKCON Food Relief workers took part in emergency food distribution.
The food relief team, based at ISKCON's Hyderabad farm community, is supported by monthly contributions of funds from ISKCON centers worldwide. Soon after the cyclone struck, leaders of the team contacted the agriculture minister of Andhra Pradesh and quickly received clearance to enter the disaster area.
A convoy of vehicles carrying tons of food and cooking equipment departed at once for the town of Guntur, in the coastal lowlands. There, at a jute mill, the team set up an emergency food preparation center and began their work. For the next few days they stayed in the disaster area and fed the hungry.
The ISKCON Food Relief program had a spiritual focus that set it apart from similar efforts by other international agencies. "Come and take Krsna's prasada!" the team members shouted as they entered demolished villages. Prasada ("mercy") is the name for food offered to Krsna, God.
In the Bhagavad-gita, India's most widely-read scripture, Krsna states that by eating prasada, people are released from the bad effects of their karma. According to the law of karma, miseries result from past misdeeds, including those committed in previous lifetimes. Unfavorable karmic reactions may occur in the form of war, disease, famine, or natural disasters.
ISKCON, Red Cross Supply Food, Shelter in Blizzard
During the worst blizzard in Cleveland's history, the local branch of Govinda's restaurant became an emergency kitchen. While the late-January storm was still raging, ISKCON leaders conferred with Red Cross officials at the local disaster headquarters and learned that most of the Red Cross manpower was already tied up. Workers were sorely needed to prepare hot meals.
So ISKCON volunteers quickly converted Govinda's restaurant in downtown Cleveland into a Red Cross shelter and started giving out piping hot prasada. They also fed people at the main Red Cross shelter in city hall, at the Greyhound bus station shelter, and at a senior citizens home in East Cleveland. When a radio operator at a CB base station got a call from a group of truckers stranded on an outlying highway, she dispatched a driver with hot prasada and Copies Of BACK TO GODHEAD. And so it went, on through the night.
The next morning, Red Cross disaster chief Bill Lentz thanked Arjita dasa, the president of ISKCON's Cleveland center, and he asked the devotees to stay on the ready for future emergencies. "One more thing," he added—"could you give us all a hot breakfast?"
Thank You, Mr. Carter
During the 1976 election campaign, candidate Jimmy Carter received some literature from an ISKCON devotee and wrote him a polite thank-you note. "We have received your gift, Bhagavad-gita As It Is [by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada] and two copies Of BACK TO GODHEAD. Rosalyn and I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
But that wasn't all. When President Carter arrived in India for a state visit this past January, he was carrying the Gita with him. He had studied the book in preparation for his trip, and while in India he discussed it with Prime Minister Desai.
Mr. Carter told Mr. Desai, "I woke up early this morning and read the Bhagavad-gita for a couple of hours. It is a very beautiful work, very exciting too. It was quite interesting in that it demonstrated the unimportance of the length of physical life.... I am going to do some more study."
In the Gita, Lord Krsna stresses the importance of the soul over the body. At another point during his visit President Carter also remarked, "The most important bond between India and the United States is our emphasis on the questions and commitments of the spirit."
Devotees of Lord Krsna challenge a skeptic scientist to back up his claim that life comes from matter.
Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor is president of the Sri Lanka branch of the Rationalist Association, an organization especially dedicated to disproving the existence of God and the soul. On August 14, 1977, the Colombo (Sri Lanka) Sunday Times published an article by Dr. Kovoor entitled, "Is There Life After Death?" In this article, Dr. Kovoor maintained that life is merely a complex chemical activity and that the soul cannot survive death, since there is actually no such thing as the soul. This article led to a heated debate, both in the Sunday Times and in correspondence, between Dr. Kovoor and members of the Sri Lanka branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The Sunday Times articles and a portion of the correspondence are reproduced here.
Sunday Times August 21, 1977
It's Beyond Kovoor'S Power Of Observation
[by Hamsaduta Swami and Mahakanta dasa]
Although Dr. Kovoor and men of his stamp stand proudly on their platform of knowledge, it should be pointed out for the benefit of members of the public not expert in sophistry that men like Dr. Kovoor, who pose as the guardians of logic, reason, and the advancement of science, are sailing on a sinking ship when they meddle in matters that lie beyond the purview of their limited senses. This particularly applies to the question of life after death.
The very first line of Dr. Kovoor's article is, "I do not hold the view that my life is located in a particular spot in my body." This statement as well as a later one—"I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit to survive my death"—betrays the flimsy platform upon which he has chosen to make his stand. Throughout the article Dr. Kovoor gives his views, beliefs, and opinions regarding a subject completely beyond his power of observation, and he tries to pass these imaginative speculations off as infallible scientific truths.
With all due respect to Dr. Kovoor, I beg to point out that the process of direct sensory perception, on the strength of which he has made so many statements regarding life after death, is completely limited and imperfect.
Consider, for example, the eyes. They function only under certain conditions: if there is no light, I cannot even see my hand in front of my face. We cannot see the nearest object to the eye—the eyelid—nor can we see that which is farthest away, the outer limits of the universe. Indeed, the eyes are imperfect. Similarly, the senses of touch, taste, and smell are limited, and the mind, too, is imperfect. Therefore any conclusions based on imperfect sensory perception must necessarily be imperfect.
Research, experimentation, and speculation conducted on the basis of imperfect sensory perception are meaningless when applied to matters that do not come within their purview.
Attempting to apply sensory perception to such matters would be like a child's trying to find who his father is by asking every man in the world—a preposterous idea, to say the least. To understand the identity of one's father, one must accept the authority of one's mother—there is no other way. Since no one is able to see his father at the time of conception, one must accept the version of one's mother. Any sane man must accept this.
Regarding souls and rebirth, Dr. Kovoor writes, "I have not any valid reason or evidence to believe it." This statement only goes to show that the process of direct sensory perception is limited and imperfect and that it therefore yields no result when applied to matters beyond its jurisdiction. Rather than foolishly declaring, "I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit to survive my death," Dr. Kovoor would be much safer and more faithful to his professional ethic if he were simply to admit his inability or incompetence to deal with the subject matter in question. There is the soul, there is rebirth of the soul, and there is a Supreme Soul—God. However, we should point out that because the soul is categorically different from matter, the techniques of material science must fail when applied to understanding the soul's existence and nature.
This does not mean, however, that the subject is open to the random speculation and opinion-making so fashionable today. Just as we have a material science to deal with material phenomena, so also we have a spiritual scientific process which allows its practitioner to penetrate the walls of gross and subtle matter and directly experience the truths of the soul, its rebirth, and its relationship with God, the Supreme Soul.
A true scientist would never prematurely declare, "I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit to survive my death." Rather, he would enthusiastically embrace a standard technique accepted by respected and recognized men of spiritual science. Such a scientist and sincere seeker of truth would then, in the interests of science, submit himself to that process and make himself the object of experimentation. Only after he had perfectly applied all the practices and techniques to himself, under the guidance of an authorized professor of spiritual science, would he dare make judgmental remarks about the subject in question. Theory, observation, and experimentation are the true methods of science, and they apply equally to spiritual science.
Generation of Life
Life is not generated from a combination of chemicals, as some scientists would have us believe. Rather, it is life which generates matter. A living man and a living woman combined in sexual intercourse are the cause for generating a living child. A dead man and a dead woman have no power to generate living offspring. A living tree has the power to generate fruit; a dead tree, however, has no such power. The difference between life and death is the soul, which is described in Bhagavad-gita as superior energy (para prakriti). It is this superior energy which manifests all phenomena within our experience.
If life is a display of chemical combinations only, as some scientists suggest, why can't science inject a life-giving chemical into a dead body and make a man live forever? If we give a scientist the chemical ingredients of the material body, why can't he combine the chemicals and bring them to life?
When confronted with these questions, materialistic scientists will answer, "We are trying. We will do it in the future." But this is not science. This is a bluff.
These scientists proudly declare, "There is no soul. There is no God. Everything has come about by chance." But when asked to do something substantial to back up their claim, they can offer us only a postdated check: "We are trying. We shall do it in the future." Dr. Kovoor, being a typical materialistic scientist, resorts to this same bluff when he says, "The time will not be far off when man will be using his advanced knowledge in genetics to improve the quality of his own species."
Here is my challenge to Dr. Kovoor. Let him inject the appropriate chemicals into a dead body to bring it back to life. Or let him inject the appropriate chemicals into himself to check his own death and restore his old and worn out body to its youthful luster and beauty.
If he finds this task too difficult, perhaps he could just produce a simple form of life, such as a mosquito or a bedbug. Better still, let him recombine the chemicals of the praying mantis he decapitated (as described in his article) and bring it back to life. Or is the science of Dr. Kovoor only a one-way road to the destruction of life?
It may be that science is not yet ready with a one-step process by which to produce life as a finished product. If this be so, let Dr. Kovoor merely make a plastic egg, inject it with yellow and white chemicals, incubate his artificial egg, and thereby produce even one chicken that could go on laying eggs and produce more and more chickens.
Even this task may be a little too difficult for Dr. Kovoor. Perhaps, then, he could simply produce a drop of milk or a grain of rice by chemical combination. Then we could start taking him seriously.
Of course, everyone knows that these are impossible tasks for even the most powerful so-called scientist. Dr. Kovoor, in his next exposition, will undoubtedly give the reader a long-winded barrage of words to cover up his bluff. The sum and substance of it will be "We will do it in the future. We are trying." In any language, this is merely a bluff.
Sunday Times August 28, 1977
It's Not Beyond Kovoor's Power Of Observation
[by Dr. Abraham Kovoor]
In the article titled "It's Beyond Kovoor's Power of Observation," in the Sunday Times of August 21st, Messrs. Mahakanta dasa and Hamsaduta Swami of the "Hare Krishna" cult betray their appalling ignorance of modern branches of biological science such as biochemistry, molecular biology, neurobiology, eugenics, genetic engineering, extra-uterine insemination, parthenogenesis, and so on.
It is clear from what they have written that they are equating life with mind and the nonexisting spirit or soul. They do not seem to know that while all organisms have life, only those animals which possess nervous systems have mind, and that mental faculties in animals vary in direct proportion to the development of their nervous systems. Despite the beliefs of millions of religionists for thousands of years, there is absolutely no biological evidence for the existence of souls in organisms. Messrs. Dasa and Swami say that according to the "professors of spiritual science," there is the soul, there is rebirth of the soul, and there is the Supreme Soul—God.
I should like to know on what objective evidence these so-called professors make this fantastic statement. According to the two writers, life is prior to matter. They say, "Life is not generated from a combination of chemicals, as some scientists would have us believe. Rather, it is life that generates matter."
The prime source of life on the planet earth is the sun. Solar energy is fixed in green plants when sunlight is converted into chemical energy by the reaction sequence known as photosynthesis. Organisms other than plants obtain their energy by eating green plants or some of the eaters of green plants. These food substances serve as fuel for supplying vital energy to organisms. The energy in the food is liberated as vital energy by slow oxidation during respiration.
Dasa and Swami say that scientists, with their imperfect sensory powers, are incapable of understanding the reality of things as "spiritual scientists" do. Are the sensory powers of these pseudoscientists more efficient than those of real scientists? Or do the so-called spiritual scientists possess any form of perception other than sensory perception?
Knowledge and enlightenment cannot be had through meditation, which is only a form of self-hypnosis.
Dasa and Swami ask whether scientists can make a chicken come out of a plastic egg.
I do not know whether they are aware that scientists have made over ten elements, such as fermium, plutonium, and einsteinium, which God could not create because he did not know the technology involved in making them. Are these two men aware of the success of the Sri Lankan scientist Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma and the Indian scientist Dr. Bat Gobind Khorana, the Nobel Prize winner, in synthesizing amino acids, the building blocks of living protoplasm, from inert substances, simulating the conditions that prevailed in the primitive atmosphere of the earth? Do they know that human egg and sperm cells could be fertilized in test tubes, and the fetus developed in an artificial womb or in the womb of a hired woman?
Among animals that have evolved on this planet, man is the only animal that has progressed in all his activities. This he has achieved through his knowledge and science. While all organisms continue to live even today as their forebears did millions of years ago, man alone has progressed from the caveman state to the present spaceman state by using science and technology, and not by the help of any God or knowledge obtained from any scripture!
Advancements in medical science and social welfare services are helping more and more misfits survive to procreate more and more misfits as future citizens. While the short-term goal is achieved, the long-term goal is jeopardized. Future governments are not going to allow the misfits to procreate misfit children on the ground that "life originates from the Supreme Soul."
It is the unique ability of man to engage in creative thinking that has made him succeed in his fight against the laws of nature. The highly developed forebrain and the deeply convoluted cortex have helped him to think creatively. Scientists, as a general rule, are objective thinkers because they base their thoughts on empirical knowledge. Mystics and visionaries, the so-called spiritual scientists of Dasa and Swami, on the other hand, build up their thoughts on their subjective perceptions. Books on chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography, history, geology, anthropology, paleontology, engineering, medical science, astronomy, etc., are the products of objective thinkers. On the other hand, books like Arabian Nights, Gulliver's Travels, fairy stories, Mahabharata, Ramayana, the Bible, the Koran, Pilgrim's Progress, Jataka stories astrology, palmistry, numerology, theology, demonology, etc., are the products of subjective thinkers. While the former are factual, the latter are fictitious.
Some of the marvelous achievements of mankind in recent years have been the liberation of atomic energy, space flight, landing on the moon, organ transplantation, satellite communication, etc. All these were achieved through science. Mentally deranged intellectuals are capable of expatiating on their hallucinations and often become founders and preachers of diverse types of religious cults.
Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor
Sunday Times September 4, 1977
The Challenge Still Stands
[by Hamsaduta Swami]
First of all, it should be noted that Dr. Kovoor has done exactly what I predicted in my last article he would do—namely, he has swamped the reader with a deluge of word jugglery in order to avoid the main issue, which is this: if life is generated by chance biochemical combinations, as some scientists claim, can the scientist Kovoor, given the proper chemicals, make the chemicals come to life?
Instead of answering this point. he has cleverly written, "Scientists have created over ten elements, such as fermium, plutonium, and einsteinium."
But elements are a far cry from living beings. Dr. Kovoor says that Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma and Dr. Bat Gobind Khorana, the Nobel Prize winner, have synthesized the building blocks of living protoplasm. If this is a fact, why hasn't Dr. Kovoor met the challenge by creating life with these building blocks? My challenge still stands.
As for incubating a baby in the test tube, this can be done only if you take the sperm and ovum of a living man and woman. In other words, the seed of life required to produce the baby in the test tube cannot be created by so-called scientists. What is their credit if they produce a baby in a test tube? God is already producing millions of babies daily in nature's test tube, the womb. On the other hand, scientists are killing thousands of babies in the womb by abortion and calling it "scientific advancement."
Dr. Kovoor's statement that scientists are "objective thinkers because they base their thoughts on empirical knowledge" only goes to emphasize our point that the soul lies beyond the jurisdiction of the limited senses. Therefore, a completely different process of approach has to be adopted. The definition of empirical is "that which is based on observation and experiment." Observation and experiment are conducted with limited senses, and therefore the conclusions thus derived are naturally limited and imperfect. Thus, the soul and the existence of God are in fact quite beyond Dr. Kovoor's power of observation. Why should he be so obstinate? This is a commonsense point that anyone can understand.
Dr. Kovoor says, "It is the unique ability of man to engage in creative thinking that has made him succeed in his fight against the laws of nature." This is a preposterous claim that only a fool would make. Nature forces everyone to undergo old age, disease, and finally death. Even the world's most powerful conquerors are helplessly dragged off the stage of life by nature in the shape of all-devouring death. Will Dr. Kovoor be the first living being in history who will not die? That remains to be seen.
Finally, Dr. Kovoor says, "Some of the marvelous achievements of mankind in recent years have been the liberation of atomic energy, space flight, landing on the moon," etc. Everyone knows that the first thing scientists did after discovering atomic energy was to manufacture the atomic bomb and promptly drop it on Japan, thus annihilating tens of thousands of innocent victims in a flash. Marvelous, indeed.
At the expense of untold billions of dollars and years of research and hard labor, scientists have supposedly gone to the moon. Of course, all they have "brought back" is a few blurry photos, a handful of rocks, and the revelation that the moon is barren. And now they want more money to go to Mars. What is so marvelous about this? It is complete lunacy. On our own planet earth, millions of people are without food, shelter, and basic education. Scientists would be more credible if instead of spending billions of dollars to bring rocks from the moon, they would spend the taxpayer's hard-earned money to improve his own lot on earth. Rocks are rocks, whether from China, from the moon, or from Mars. Or is it that science can turn the rocks into bread and cheese by applying some chemicals?
Now, to get to the main point, Dr. Kovoor asks on what objective evidence we have made the fantastic statements that life and matter both come from life, that there is a soul, that there is rebirth of the soul, and that there is a supreme soul, or God. It is said, "Fight fire with fire." Therefore, I may simply refer Dr. Kovoor to the authoritative, rational, and thoroughly scientific findings of three researchers, all with doctorates, who are members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. After examining the evidence they have presented, * (Bhaktivedanta Institute monograph number one: What Is Matter and What is Life? Monograph two: Demonstration by Information Theory That Life Cannot Arise From Matter. Monograph three: Consciousness and the Laws of Nature.) one who is truly a rationalist should agree with their conclusion that life never comes from matter, but only from life.
After the Sunday Times had printed this exchange of articles, the Hare Krishna movement publicly challenged Dr. Kovoor to prove his statement that life originates from chance biochemical combinations. ISKCON publicly offered Dr. Kovoor five hundred thousand rupees (sixty thousand dollars) if he could create any form of life—a mouse, a cat, a mosquito, or any other plainly visible creature-from inert chemicals. The Sunday Times ran this story:
"The high priest of Sri Lanka rationalists, Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor, who has been challenging people for decades to prove the existence of God, the soul, and rebirth, is now on the receiving end.
"ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) has now challenged Dr. Kovoor to prove his contention that life originated from matter.
"'We, the members of the Hare Krishna movement, are openly challenging him to produce any form of life, even a mosquito, by mixing chemicals together. If he cannot substantiate his theory, he should remain silent forever,' say the ISKCON members.
"They will be waiting for Dr. Kovoor at the Rama-Krishna Mission Hall on September 20, at 6:30 P.M. Admission will be free to the public."
While the issues were thus drawn in the press, Hamsaduta Swami and Dr. Kovoor crossed swords on their own in a continuing exchange of letters. Part of that exchange is reproduced here.
Dr. Abraham T Kovoor
Sri Lanka Rationalist Association
Dear Dr. Kovoor,
I have further deliberated and have decided to write you a few more words on the existence of God, the soul, and the rebirth of the soul. I trust they may be of interest to you.
The greatest disease in the minds of the scientists is that they do not believe that something is a fact unless it is proved by scientific experiments. When a scientist makes a statement and he supports that statement with scientific experiments, everyone is completely convinced, and no questions are asked. When we talk about the spirit soul to these scientists, their usual response is, "How can one detect the presence of the soul?" Because they have been conditioned to working with machines, they wonder whether the soul can be detected by scientific experiments. However, scientists have to agree that even in their own scientific realm there are many facts that cannot be proved by experiments. The fact is that the soul is there, but in order to understand its existence we have to accept knowledge from the right person—Sri Krishna (God) or His representative in disciplic succession, the spiritual master.
Everyone in the scientific community knows that mathematicians work with an imaginary number called "i," which is the square root of minus one (v-1 = i). This number does not figure among the natural numbers (1,2,3, etc.). However, important branches of mathematics—for example, the theory of analytical functions—are based on this imaginary unit. Without the help of this branch of mathematics, various complex theories and problems cannot be solved. Thus the existence of this number cannot be denied; yet there is no experiment to prove it. In a similar manner, scientists in the field of statistical mechanics also utilize various conceptual models—ensembles, for example—to explain their theories and arguments. These are all beyond the realm of experimental science. If scientists are willing to accept these imaginary and conceptual models, what is the difficulty in accepting the perfect knowledge given by Lord Krishna, the supreme scientist?
Another scientific theory that is beyond the limit of experimental science is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The statement of this principle is that it is impossible to simultaneously determine the position and momentum of any object. In mathematical language, it is stated that the product of the uncertainties in the measured values of the position and momentum (product of mass and velocity) cannot be smaller than Planck's constant. No existing experimental technique can prove this principle. However, scientists all over the world accept this statement as a fact, knowing that the experimental proof is beyond their ability. Similarly, there is no scientific experiment to prove the Third Law of Thermodynamics. This law, as formulated by Planck, states that the entropy of a perfect crystal at absolute zero degrees is equal to zero. Factually, there is no way to directly measure the absolute entropies. Therefore the proof of this law is beyond the realm of experimental science.
It is also to be noted that so-called scientific theories are changing constantly. For example, at the beginning of the nineteenth century (1808), John Dalton, in developing his atomic theory, stated that atoms could not be further divided. However, toward the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, it was found that Dalton's atomic theory could no longer be considered correct. It was observed that atoms could be further divided into fundamental particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons. It was also found that some atoms could emit alpha and beta particles, thereby producing new atoms, and so on. As a matter of fact, the so-called nuclear bombs are a result of these findings. In a similar manner, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Newton's mechanics had a tremendous influence on the minds of scientists, since they could be applied to gross material objects. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the discoveries of the fundamental particles, it was realized that Newton's mechanics failed in describing the motions of these particles. Thus quantum mechanics has been developed to explain the phenomena they exhibit. These theories are filled with speculation, and they are also changing. Just as past and present scientific theories are changing, so we can understand that future scientific theories will also change.
All of this simply shows that the brains of the highly honored scientists are imperfect, and as a result the theories proposed by these brains will always remain imperfect. Actually, perfect knowledge cannot be changed, but in order to get perfect knowledge one has to approach a perfect source. That source is Krishna and the Vedic literature. Of course, this may seem like an incredible statement to a scientific brain like yours, which is accustomed to testing everything with scientific instruments and so-called logic, reason, deduction, hypothesis, and theory, but it is nonetheless a fact. This can be understood by anyone who is scientific enough to experiment on himself by following the practices recommended in the Vedas, under the guidance of a self-realized soul.
The process is actually very practical. The spiritual master prescribes the process of spiritual discipline, and the student carries it out according to the directions given. If the student experiences the predicted result, then he concludes that the spiritual master was right. If the spiritual master is actually bona fide, the result will be positive. This procedure is quite similar to an honest scientist's reporting his results along with his experimental method. One who wants to verify the result can perform the same experiment himself. When the same result is reproduced by several scientists, it is accepted as a scientific fact.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that when someone believes that life comes from matter rather than from spirit, his concern for morality diminishes considerably. If all life is merely a complex combination of chance chemical reactions and if there is no supreme consciousness, no creator and controller, what need is there for moral restraint? This is not a new philosophy. In ancient Greece, Epicurus postulated that everything is simply a combination of atoms and void, nothing more. Today the word "epicure" describes a person whose main activity is to enjoy fine food and drink. The conclusion is that the philosophy that chance biochemical combinations are the origin of life is a philosophy that leads to unrestricted sense gratification, but it is by no means scientific. We can see one vivid example of how demoralizing and vicious this philosophy is in the present worldwide practice of abortion. Because of being taught that the embryo is not actually a living being but only a mass of inanimate chemicals, people have been convinced to kill their unborn children mercilessly within the womb.
I will be very interested in receiving your thoughts on these points and am prepared to discuss the matter further if you have any doubts about them.
I hope this letter meets you well.
Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor
Sri Lanka Rationalist Association
September 10, 1977
Mr. Hamsaduta Swami
ISKCON Sri Lanka
From [your] letters it is clear that it is futile for me, who base my philosophy on available scientific evidence, and you, who base your faith on dubious scriptures called Vedas, to try to convince each other.
If you insist that I should substantiate, by a demonstration before the public eye, my view that life originated from inert substances by chemical evolution under suitable conditions, I too have an equal right to ask you to substantiate your statement that "whatever we see in existence is the creation of the Lord, and that creation is going on at every moment" by demonstrating it before the public eye. As long as you are not going to get your "Lord" to demonstrate this, you need not expect me to conduct a one-sided show.
As far as I am concerned, the universe is only matter and energy in time and space. The question of a creator does not come in, because matter, energy, space, and time have neither beginning nor end. The various forms of terrestrial organisms, extinct as well as extant, are the products of millions of years of biological evolution of macromolecules of protein that were formed on earth as a result of chemical evolution under suitable conditions.
Can you tell me who created your "Lord," and where he was before the universe was created?
Yours in search of truth,
ISKCON Sri Lanka
September 15, 1977
Dr. Abraham T Kovoor
Sri Lanka Rationalist Association
Dear Dr. Kovoor,
I am in due receipt of your letter dated September 10, 1977, and have noted the contents carefully.
If it is futile to try to convince each other of our respective points of view, then what is the meaning of your science, rationalism, and search for truth? The close of your letter—"Yours in search of truth"—suggests that you have not yet found the truth. That is your defect: you have not yet found truth, yet you pose and speak as if you were in knowledge of truth.
The first aphorism of the Vedanta-sutra is athato brahma-jijnasa: "In the human form of life, one should inquire about the Absolute Truth, or God." You do not know what God is, yet still you have written, "The question of the creator does not come in.... The various forms of terrestrial organisms, extinct as well as extant, are products of millions of years of biological evolution of macro-molecules of protein that were formed on earth as a result of chemical evolution under suitable circumstances." In simple English, you mean to say that life is a result of chance biochemical combinations. So if this is a fact—and if by this statement you wish to establish your credibility as a rationalist, scientist, and seeker of truth—then why do you repeatedly fail to combine some chemicals and bring them to life, as I have challenged you so many times to do?
You say your philosophy is based on "existing scientific evidence." So where is the scientific evidence that life comes from chemicals? Mix the chemicals and prove it! You say, "As far as I am concerned, the universe is only matter and energy in time and space." Where did this matter and energy and time and space come from? Without giving any reason or evidence, you state, "The question of a creator does not come in, because matter, energy, time, and space have neither beginning nor end." Then again you ask me, "Who created your 'Lord', and where was he before the universe was created?" Your statements are inconsistent. First you say that matter, energy, time, and space have neither beginning nor end, and then you ask where the Lord was before the creation of the universe. This is clearly contradictory. This shows that you still have a long way to go in your search for truth.
Research reaches its conclusion when one accepts knowledge from the Vedas. Indeed, Vedanta means "the end of knowledge."
Instead of providing evidence to support your fantastic statements, you try to cloud the real issue by counterchallenging God to create life. This kind of tactic is like that of a penniless beggar who, when brought before the judge to show his means of income, challenges the government to show its source of income first. Such a challenge would hardly be entertained.
According to Roman, Greek, British, American, or international law, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, he who accuses, not with the defendant. You accuse the Vedas of being dubious, God of being fictitious, and those who follow God and the Vedas of being mentally deranged, foolish, gullible, dogmatic fanatics. But the burden of proof is on you. Without giving reason or evidence, you say, "The question of a creator does not come in ... everything is a matter of chance biochemical combination." Do I have to accept this blindly? The onus is on you. Mix the chemicals and produce life. That is science. But no scientist can create even an insignificant mosquito from chemicals. Therefore, under the circumstances, it appears that it is you, and not we, who may be mentally deranged, foolish, gullible, dogmatic, and totally fanatic.
Scientists like to discredit the Vedas by saying that they are the writings of superstitious aborigines. But what kind of aborigines were they who wrote in a language so perfect in grammar, composition, poetry, and meter that a scholar needs twelve years to master the grammar alone? What kind of aborigines were they who thousands of years ago formulated divisions of time beginning with one ten-thousandth of a second up to the complete duration of universal time? What kind of aborigines were they who could describe, thousands of years ago, all the planets that modern scientists have only recently discovered? Where is the scientist today who can perfectly describe the process of conception taking place in the womb, as the Vedic so-called aborigines did thousands of years ago? How could these uncivilized aborigines categorize and enumerate in the Vedas all the different species of life, numbering 8,400,000? How is it that the Vedas, which are supposed to be the dubious writings of uncivilized aborigines, contain systematic information on subjects such as music, medicine, art, politics, architecture, warfare, and psychology? How could uncivilized aborigines even know the arts of reading and writing, much less describe the atom and atomic energy? How could they give descriptions of the orbits of the planets, their size, their eclipses, and the size of the universe, and how could they describe the soul and the Supersoul, God?
If Krishna is the Hindu aboriginal God, why did such a scientist as Oppenheimer pay Him heed by studying the Bhagavad-gita spoken by Him? Why did Einstein, Schopenhauer, Kant, Hegel, Emerson, Thoreau, Schweitzer, and scores of scientists more important and brilliant than you read Vedic literature—especially Bhagavad-gita—if these are books full of superstitions and the deranged ideas of uncivilized aborigines? What is your authority? Are you greater than God? Do you think that these highly learned and honored men were all fools and rascals who had nothing better to do than spend their valuable time reading the writings of uncivilized aborigines? Or could it be that the Vedas are books of knowledge originally given by God at the beginning of the creation, and that they are preserved by being handed down in a Vedic tradition of disciplic succession about which you unfortunately know nothing?
As a scientist, you would do well to take out some time and sincerely examine the Vedas on their own merit, not in terms of preconceived notions resulting from limited, imperfect speculations and experiments.
Whether one speaks for or against the existence of God, the central point is God. You say, "I hope you understand that it is not the way with science to provide proof for things that do not exist." But we see that the so-called scientist is very busy trying to prove the nonexistence of God. If God has no existence, why bother about Him? According to logic, one cannot conceive of a thing that does not exist. And if a nonexistent entity is inconceivable, where is the question of even discussing it, whether positively or negatively?
It is the peculiar madness of many socalled scientists that they cannot seem to get off the subject of God, who according to them has no existence. We see that the whole aim of their scientific research is to justify their rebellion against the authority of God and the scriptures by trying to find an alternative cause and reason for life and creation. Although these scientists would like to believe that life originated from inert chemicals, no one has ever observed such an event. Therefore, a science based on such beliefs can only be a science of rascals and fools.
My challenge to you, or to any scientist who claims that life originates from chemicals, still stands: mix the chemicals and produce life. Why can't you do it?
You say, "It is like this. It is like that," so then why can't you produce life? Sunshine is available, the earth is present, the water, air, fire, and all other ingredients are present, and life is being produced by God. If you are greater than God, why can't you produce something? What is the use of your talk if you cannot produce life? Nor can you stop old age, disease, or death. Your talk is simply empty nonsense. You cannot do anything, yet still you are talking, saying that life comes from chemicals. You are a talking scientist, and I am a practical scientist. Take some chemicals and save yourself from old age, disease, and death. I asked you to produce an eggwhere is it? The chicken is a better scientist than you, because it lays an egg and within a month produces another chicken. Therefore you are less important than a chicken. Chickens are producing life, but you cannot produce anything but empty sounds.
In the service of Krishna,
Having been challenged to demonstrate that he could create life at a public meeting, Dr. Kovoor declined to attend, saying that he would not feel obliged to demonstrate that he could create life unless God Himself were to appear in person to demonstrate the same thing. The Times reported this with the headline "Flummoxed Kovoor Passes the Buck." Then Hamsaduta Swami sent Dr. Kovoor this final letter.
Dr. Abraham T Kovoor
Sri Lanka Rationalist Association
Dear Dr. Kovoor,
You wanted to place yourself above God, but God's devotees defeated you, as the newspaper correctly noted. I'm sure that the readers were also enlightened regarding the theory that life comes from chemicals.
You may be interested to know that you are the first so-called scientist in the world to be officially challenged by ISKCON, and you are also the first to be totally exposed in the public press. Your case is a landmark in history. Because the spiritual life in most religious communities has long ago died out, practically no one has been able to properly put forward the theistic point of view in the modern age. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, however, is presenting the yuga-dharma, the truly scientific method of religion for this age: it is perfectly teaching and following the Vedic religion. Of course, every religious movement claims to be genuine, but we have to distinguish the genuine from the fraudulent. Your defect is that because you have been repeatedly frustrated by encountering spiritual frauds, you have prematurely concluded that all religions are bogus. You want to brand God and religion fraudulent, but fraud can be understood only in relation to its genuine counterpart. That you fail to know. You do not know what is genuine.
I don't say that all scientists are frauds, but I do say that you or anyone claiming that life is generated from inert matter is definitely a fool or a fraud. In fact, you are both—because you obstinately cling to the foolish notion that life comes from chemicals. What is the difference between your theory and that of the alchemists, who attempted (and failed) to produce gold from chemicals? A modern scientist scoffs at the alchemists—yet he proposes to create life from chemicals. Isn't this the height of folly? I'm still open to be convinced that life comes from chemicals, if you can provide evidence by creating life from chemicals.
Now your life is nearly at an end, and at the time of death, when the messengers of death come for your soul, perhaps you will remember all this and understand everything. But then it will be too late, for you will be helplessly dragged off to repeat another life of material struggle in the shape of birth, death, old age, and disease. But if one simply chants Hare Krsna, he can be saved from this great struggle. I hope you will do that.
From the start of his Krishna conscious career eleven years ago, His Holiness Hamsaduta das Goswami has shown his fiery missionary spirit. After joining ISKCON in New York City, he helped establish centers in Montreal, Boston, Vancouver, and Berkeley. In 1969, Srila Prabhupada asked him to go to Germany, and for five years he traveled throughout that country, teaching the science of Krishna consciousness, opening centers, and overseeing the German translation and publication of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and other books. In 1976 Srila Prabhupada gave Hamsaduta the renounced (sannyasa) order, and today, as a member of the Governing Body Commission and a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, he directs ISKCON's activities in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and spreads Krishna consciousness throughout South India.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
Even five thousand years ago, Lord Krsna had His enemies. One was Putana, the great witch....
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
In the present age it is fashionable for aspiring intellectuals to discount the existence of God and eternal life. They say that there are no "hard facts" to prove God's existence. Actually, one who is trained in the science of God knows that there is a great wealth of data about the Absolute Truth, but this information is simply closed to the atheist's untrained, material vision.
Even though armed with "hard facts," the atheist cannot adequately explain the cause of the cosmos. To say that everything has happened by chance is not an explanation but an admission of ignorance. "It all happened by chance" does not mean that there isn't any cause, but that one doesn't know the cause. Because the atheist has taken such an obstinate position, he cannot accept the obvious fact that an intelligence beyond man has created and is controlling everything in existence.
Yet the control of the Supreme is so overwhelming that even the atheist must submit to it. Unlike the theist, the atheist doesn't worship God by faithfully hearing the authorized version of saints and scriptures, nor does he worship God with prayers, but he, too, is forced to submit to the will of the Supreme. Whereas the devotee sees God in His beautiful form as Krsna and enjoys hearing of His pastimes, the atheist denies this personal aspect of the Supreme—but still he has to face God in the form of inevitable death.
Happily, there is strong evidence that the influence of hard-core atheism is waning. For example, ninety-four percent of the people interviewed in a recent Gallup poll said they believe in the existence of God. There is, however, a great deal more to theism than vaguely believing in God. Too often, a person accepts that "God is great," but does not know anything about His greatness. So the unique contribution of ancient India's Vedic literatures is that not only do they give the full scientific description of the eternal soul and God, but also they reveal everything about God's intimate pastimes. Bhagavad-gita, the most widely read of all the Vedic literatures, describes the essential science of the soul and its transmigration. Anyone sincerely eager to receive knowledge from beyond the cramped perimeters of this temporary material life will find all the answers in Bhagavad-gita.
Further, in Srimad-Bhagavatam we find the postgraduate curriculum on the science of God. The Bhagavatam reveals intimate pastimes of Lord Krsna and answers the questions that naturally occur to a God-seeking person—What does God look like? Where does He live? What are His activities? None of the world's other scriptures answer these questions as thoroughly as do the Vedic literatures, especially Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, we get full descriptions of the personal features and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Bhagavad-gita discloses, God is known by many names, but the name Krsna (which means "all-attractive") is supreme. In Srimad-Bhagavatam Krsna's personal activities with His pure devotees are fully described.
Five thousand years ago, when the Vedic king Pariksit first heard the account of Srimad-Bhagavatam from the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami, he said that hearing about Krsna will benefit all classes of people. First of all, those who are already liberated from all material miseries will certainly be interested in hearing about Krsna, since they have attained the exalted state of love of God. Similarly, those who are not yet liberated but are following religious principles and striving for liberation will be purified by hearing about Krsna. And even those who are not spiritually inclined will be captivated if they simply hear about Krsna's pastimes, because Krsna's pastimes are naturally appealing to everyone.
When Krsna appeared on this earth five thousand years ago, His adventures resembled the affairs between ordinary boys and girls and heroes and villains. But advanced devotees understand that since Krsna is transcendental, so also are His activities. At any rate, even a person in mundane consciousness will be drawn to hearing about Krsna. Therefore Sukadeva Gosvami, the speaker of Srimad-Bhagavatam, says that the pastimes of Krsna will purify not only the person who inquires about them but also the person who hears the answers—and even the place where the discussion occurs. Upon the recommendation of the great authorities, let us therefore give a submissive hearing to Krsna's pastimes.
Krsna appeared in this world when it was overburdened by demoniac forces. According to the Vedas, Lord Brahma, the overseer of universal affairs, was approached by the earth's presiding deity, Mother Bhumi. Bhumi lamented that demoniac leaders had overburdened the planet, and she convinced him that only the Supreme Lord could bring relief. So Brahma communicated with the Supreme Lord by meditation, and the Lord assured him that He and His associates would soon come to the earth.
At that time the leader of the demoniac forces was the tyrannical King Kamsa, who was trying to bring the world under his dictatorship. Kamsa, particularly, was fearful of Krsna's advent, because he had heard an omen that Krsna would kill him. Kamsa was so terrified that he attempted to kill all the children born at the supposed time of Krsna's appearance. But Krsna, by His unlimited mystic power, escaped Kamsa's notice. Krsna appeared as the son of a king named Vasudeva, but Vasudeva hid Him away in the village of Vrndavana, where He lived with the devoted cowherd man Nanda and his wife Yasoda. Afraid that any small child of that time might grow up to be Krsna, Kamsa enlisted various witches and practitioners of the black arts to travel through the countryside and kill all small children. The first demon who came to Vrndavana and made an attempt on Krsna's life was Putana.
When Putana came to Vrndavana, Krsna was still a small baby. Although she was a gigantic and fierce witch who drank children's blood, Putana was able to assume the form of a beautiful woman. When she arrived in the village, she boldly entered Krsna's bedroom without asking anyone's permission, and since her bodily features were quite beautiful and she approached Krsna in a motherly way, Krsna's actual guardians, Yasoda and Rohini, did not object. When this beautiful woman asked Krsna's mother and nurses whether she could pick up the beautiful child and feed Him milk from her breast, they trusted her. But when Putana picked up Krsna, He closed His eyes and would not even look at her. Putana became a little perplexed. She was getting an intimation that Krsna was not an ordinary child—that in fact He could destroy the entire universe—but still she went ahead with her plot to kill Him.
Putana had smeared a deadly poison on the nipples of her breasts, and she hoped that when Krsna took her milk He would die instantly. But though Krsna looked like a small, helpless child, actually He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When she took Krsna to her poisonous breast, He became very angry. Taking hold of the breast, He squeezed it very hard with both hands. Then He sucked out the poison—and her life. Srimad-Bhagavatam narrates:
"Unbearably pressed in every vital point, the demon Putana began to cry, 'Please leave me, leave me! Suck my breast no longer!' Perspiring, her eyes wide open and her arms and legs flailing, she cried very loudly again and again.
"As Putana screamed loudly and forcefully, the earth with its mountains, and outer space with its planets, trembled.... She ran out of the room. . . ." Putana ran out of the room and out of the village, into the pasturing ground. There, screaming and spreading her arms and legs and hair, she fell down and assumed her original form as a gigantic witch. Though just a few moments earlier she had looked like a normal-sized and extremely attractive woman, now she was a dead witch with a body some twelve miles long. Her fall had toppled trees in every direction, and her dead body was so gigantic that no one could reckon its actual size.
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, "The mouth of the raksasi [demoness] was full of teeth, each resembling the front of a plow. Her nostrils were deep like mountain caves, and her breasts resembled big slabs of stone fallen from a hill. Her scattered hair was the color of copper. The sockets of her eyes appeared like deep blind wells. Her thighs resembled the banks of a river." Putana's screaming had shocked all the inhabitants of Vrndavana, and now the horrible sight of her body frightened them even more.
But Krsna was unafraid, although He continued to act like an infant. He climbed upon the gigantic body of the witch and crawled across her breast. To kill Putana, Krsna had not needed to assume any especially gigantic form of His own, because even as a child He had all the potency of the Supreme.
The residents of Vrndavana have such intense devotion to Krsna that they treat Him not as the Supreme but as their most lovable object—as their child, their friend, or their lover. Usually they do not offer Krsna the distant awe and reverence accorded Him by His ordinary religious worshipers. As the Vedic literatures explain, Vrndavana is a spiritual abode and is accessible only to those who have intense and spontaneous attraction to the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, the cowherd women did not offer reverential prayers to Krsna, though clearly He was all-powerful. On the contrary, the women were deeply grateful that their dear Krsna had not been hurt by the demon. They assumed that Krsna was simply blessed by God, and they proceeded to wash Him and chant mantras they hoped would protect Him from further danger. In this way they showed their faith in the Vedic rituals and their love for Krsna.
The Vrndavana residents' chanting of mantras to assure Krsna's protection is instructive for all people living in the material world. Obviously, this world is a catastrophic place; there is danger at every step. So the simple system of protecting ourselves by chanting the name of God is recommended here. The material world's greatest danger is that one may suddenly meet his death before he has established himself in God consciousness. One who dies in forgetfulness of his real, spiritual self may have to take a lower birth in the next life—even among the animal species. In the human form of life, we have to overcome this great danger by taking shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And the recommended method for seeking this shelter is to chant the names of Krsna. Everyone is seeking shelter, either in his own prowess or in medicine or insurance policies or the national defense force, but ultimately no one can avoid the dangers of nature. One can be saved only by taking constant shelter of the Lord's names—as in the Hare Krsna mantra—because only one who dies absorbed in thoughts of Krsna can go to Krsna's eternal abode. Therefore, the inhabitants of Vrndavana chanted mantras to give Krsna all protection. In this way Krsna became pacified, and He lay down on His bed and sucked the milk from His mother's breast.
When Putana attacked Krsna, Krsna's foster father Nanda and the other cowherd men had been away from Vrndavana. When they returned they were shocked to see Putana's gigantic body. Although she was dead, they took the precaution of cutting her body to pieces with their axes. Then they set it aflame, and strangely enough, the smoke was fragrant, like aguru incense. Apparently, Krsna's touch had purified Putana's body of all material contamination.
Finally, the Bhagavatam describes the spiritual significance of Putana's attempt to kill Krsna: "Putana was always hankering for the blood of human children, and with that desire she came to kill Krsna; but because she offered her breast to the Lord, she attained the greatest achievement. What, then, is to be said of those who had natural devotion and affection for Krsna as mothers, and who offered Him their breasts to suck or offered something very dear, as a mother offers something to a child? ... Because Krsna embraced Putana's body with great pleasure and sucked her breast, although she was a great witch she attained the position of a mother in the transcendental world, and thus she achieved the highest perfection."
Krsna is such a well-wisher and His association is so purifying that even the demons who came to kill Him were liberated. Putana did not care for Krsna; out of envy she wanted to kill Him. But Krsna considered only the favorable aspect of her activity—that she had offered her breast—and He accepted her as His mother. In the Vedic culture there are seven mothers: the earth, the natural mother, the guru's wife, the king's wife, the brahmana's wife, the nurse, and the cow. Since Putana had acted as a nurse, Krsna accepted her as His mother, and she achieved the highest perfection in the next life. This fact suggests the unimaginably glorious place of those people who relate with Krsna in intimacy and love. If a woman who goes to Krsna to kill Him is liberated from birth and death, then what place is awarded to a devotee—someone who loves Krsna as all in all and offers Him everything for His satisfaction? This is the position of the cowherd men and women who associate with Krsna in Vrndavana.
After the killing of Putana, many other demons came to attack Krsna, and the residents of Vrndavana encountered many other dangers. No matter what happened, however, these people trusted Krsna with all their hearts, and He remained the object of their love.
It is practically impossible for atheists to appreciate these transcendental affairs. And since atheists simply cannot understand, one should not listen to their interpretations of Krsna's pastimes. Just as one who is ignorant of medicine or nuclear science has no right to speak in the company of experts, so one who does not even know of God's existence can say nothing valid about Krsna's pastimes as Srimad-Bhagavatam describes them. We should hear about these pastimes only from authorized representatives of the disciplic chain of spiritual masters. If we hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from such pure devotees, we will surely attain the highest standard of God consciousness.
The atheistic attitude so common in our time cannot satisfy the human being's innate spiritual consciousness and intelligence. Since human beings inevitably want to know about God—the conscious intelligence behind the workings of nature—they will be very fortunate if they can hear the Vedic explanation of the science of God. There is no possibility that any human being can know everything about God, but if one is attracted to Him and understands that He has to be approached through devotional service, and if one submissively hears Krsna's pastimes, one can quickly understand the principles of God consciousness. Srimad-Bhagavatam contains countless other pastimes of Krsna, and we shall go on relating them in the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD. According to the Vedic saints, such dissemination of transcendental knowledge is the highest welfare activity for the world.