Fifty centuries ago a great sage looked
An address based on the Srimad-Bhagavatam of Krsna-Dvaipayana Vyasa, given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in Los Angeles during the summer of 1974.
tatas canu-dinam dharmah
"My dear King, with each day religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, forgiveness, mercy, duration of life, bodily strength, and memory will all decrease more and more by the mighty force of time." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.1)
This description of the Kali-yuga [the present Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy] is given in the Twelfth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam was written five thousand years ago, when the Kali-yuga was about to begin, and many things that would happen in the future are spoken of there. Therefore we accept Srimad-Bhagavatam as sastra [revealed scripture]. The compiler of sastra (the sastra-kara) must be a liberated person so that he can describe past, present, and future.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam you will find many things which are foretold. There is mention of Lord Buddha's appearance and Lord Kalki's appearance. [Lord Kalki will appear at the end of the Kali-yuga.] There is also mention of Lord Caitanya's appearance, although the Bhagavatam was written five thousand years ago. Tri-kala-jna: the writer knew past, present, and future.
So here Sukadeva Gosvami is describing the chief symptoms of this age. He says, tatas canudinam: with the progress of this age (Kali-yuga), dharma, religious principles; satyam, truthfulness; saucam, cleanliness; ksama, forgiveness; daya, mercifulness; ayur, duration of life; balam, bodily strength; smrti, memory—these eight things will gradually decrease to nil or almost nil.
Of course, there are other yugas besides Kali-yuga. During the Satya-yuga, which lasted eighteen hundred thousand years, human beings lived for one hundred thousand years. The duration of the next age, the Treta-yuga, was twelve hundred thousand years, and the people of that age used to live for ten thousand years. In other words, the duration of life was ten times reduced. In the next age, Dvapara-yuga, the life span was again ten times reduced—people used to live for one thousand years—and the duration of the Dvapara Age was eight hundred thousand years. Then, in the next age, this Kali-yuga, we can live up to one hundred years at the utmost: We are not living one hundred years, but still, the limit is one hundred years. So just see: from one hundred years the average duration of life has decreased to about seventy years. And it will eventually decrease to the point where if a man lives for twenty to thirty years, he will be considered a very old man.
Another symptom of the Kali-yuga predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the decrease in memory (smrti). We see nowadays that people do not have very sharp memories—they forget easily. They may hear something daily, yet still they forget it. Similarly, bodily strength (balam) is decreasing. You can all understand this, because you know that your father or grandfather was physically stronger than you are. So, bodily strength is decreasing, memory is decreasing, and the duration of life is decreasing—and all of this is predicted in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Another symptom of Kali-yuga is the decrease in religion. There is practically no question of religion in this age—it has almost decreased to nil. No one is interested in religion. The churches and temples are being closed, locked up. The building we are sitting in was once a church, but it was sold because no one was coming. Similarly, we are purchasing a very big church in Australia, and in London I have seen many hundred of vacant churches—no one is going there. And not only churches: in India also, except for a few important temples, the ordinary, small temples are being closed. They have become the habitation of the dogs. So dharma, religion, is decreasing.
Truthfulness, cleanliness, and forgiveness are also decreasing. Formerly, if someone did something wrong, the other party would forgive him. For example, Arjuna was tortured by his enemies, yet still, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra he said, "Krsna, let me leave. I don't want to kill them." This is forgiveness. But now, even for a small insult people will kill. This is going on. Also, there is now no mercifulness (daya). Even if you see someone being killed in front of you, you will not take interest. These things are happening already. So, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, forgiveness, mercifulness, duration of life, bodily strength, and memory—these eight things will decrease, decrease, decrease, decrease. When you see these symptoms, you should know the age of Kali is making progress.
Another symptom is vittam eva kalau nrnam janmacara-gunodayah "In Kali-yuga, a man's qualities and social position will be calculated according to the extent of his wealth." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.2] Formerly a man's position was calculated according to his spiritual understanding. For example, a brahmana was honored because he knew brahma—he was aware of the Supreme Spirit. But now in Kali-yuga there are actually no brahmanas, because people are taking the title of brahmana simply by janma, or birthright. Previously there was also birthright, but one was actually known according to his behavior. If a man was born in a brahmana family or a ksatriya, [administrative or military] family, he had to behave like a brahmana or ksatriya. And it was the king's duty to see that no one was falsely representing himself. In other words, respectability was awarded according to culture and education. But nowadays, vittam eva kalau nrnam: if you get money somehow or other, then everything is available. You may be a third-class or a fourth-class or a tenth-class man, but if you get money somehow or other, then you are very much respected. There is no question of your culture or education or knowledge. This is Kali-yuga.
Another symptom of Kali-yuga: dharma-nyaya-vyavasthayam karanam balam eva hi: "Religious principles and justice will be determined by a show of strength." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.2) If you have some influence, then everything will be decided in your favor. You may be the most irreligious person, but if you can bribe a priest he will certify that you are religious. So character will be decided by money, not by actual qualification. Next is dampatye 'bhirucir hetur mayaiva vyavaharike: "Marriages will be arranged according to temporary affection, and to be a successful businessman one will have to cheat." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.3] The relationship between husband and wife will depend on abhiruci, their liking each other. If a girl likes a boy and a boy likes a girl, then they think, "All right, now let the marriage take place." No one ever knows what the future of the girl and boy will be. Therefore everyone becomes unhappy. Six months after marriage—divorce. This is because the marriage took place simply on the basis of superficial liking, not deep understanding.
Formerly, at least in India during my time, marriages did not take place because the boy and girl liked each other. No. Marriages were decided by the parents. I married when I was a student, but I did not know who my wife would be; my parents arranged everything. Another example is Dr. Rajendra Prasada, the first president of India. In his biography he wrote that he married at the age of eight. Similarly, my father-in-law married when he was eleven years old, and my mother-in-law when she was seven. So the point is that formerly, in India, marriage took place only after an astrological calculation of past, present, and future had determined whether the couple would be happy in their life together. When marriage is thus sanctified, the man and the woman live peacefully and practice spiritual culture. Each one helps the other, so they live very happily and become advanced in spiritual life. And at last they go back home, back to Godhead. That is the system. Not that a grown-up girl and a grown-up boy mix together, and if he likes her and she likes him they get married, and then he leaves or she leaves .... This kind of marriage was not sanctioned. But of this Kali-yuga it is said, dampatye 'bhirucih: marriage will take place simply because of mutual liking, that's all. Liking one moment means disliking the next moment. That is a fact. So a marriage based on mutual liking has no value.
The next symptoms of this age are stritve pumstve ca hi ratir vipratve sutram eva hi: a husband and wife will stay together only as long as there is sex attraction, and brahmanas [saintly intellectuals], will be known only by their wearing a sacred thread." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.3] Brahmanas are offered a sacred thread. So now people are thinking, "Now I have a sacred thread, so I have become a brahmana. I may act like a candala [dog-eater], but it doesn't matter." This is going on. One doesn't understand that as a brahmana he has so much responsibility. Simply because he has the two-cent sacred thread, he thinks he has become a brahmana. And stritve pumstve ca hi ratih: a husband and wife will remain together because they like each other, but as soon as there will be some sex difficulty, their affection will slacken.
Another symptom of Kali-yuga is avrttya nyaya-daurbalyam panditye capalam vacah: "Those without money will be unable to get justice, and anyone who can cleverly juggle words will be considered a scholar." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.4] If you have no money, then you will never get justice in court. This is Kali-yuga. Nowadays even the high-court judges are taking bribes to give you a favorable judgment. But if you have no money, then don't go to court. And panditye capalam vacah. If a man can talk expertly—it doesn't matter what he says, and nobody has to understand it-then he is a pandita. He is a learned scholar. [Imitating gibberish:] "Aban gulakslena bugavad tugalad kulela gundulas, by the latricism of wife. . ." Like this, if you go on speaking, no one will understand you [laughter], yet people will say, "Ah, see how learned he is." [Laughter.] This is actually happening. There are so many rascals writing books, but if you ask one of them to explain what he has understood, he'll say, "Oh, it is inexplicable." These things are going on.
Next Srimad-Bhagavatam says,
"Lack of wealth will be looked on as dishonorable, while a proud person who can put on a show will be thought pious. Marriage will be based on arbitrary agreement, and simply taking a bath will be considered proper cleansing and decoration of the body." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.5]
First anadhyata: if you are a poor man, then you are dishonorable. People will think that a man is not honorable because he does not know how to earn money by hook or crook. And svikara eva codvahe: marriages will take place by agreement. This is being experienced in your country, and in my country also. The government appoints a marriage magistrate, and any boy and girl who want to can simply go to him and get married. Maybe there is some fee. "Yes, we agree to marry," they say, and he certifies that they are married. Formerly, the father and mother used to select the bride and bridegroom by consulting an astrologer who could see the future. Nowadays marriage is taking place according to svikara, agreement.
Another symptom is dure vary-ayanam tirtham lavanyam kesa-dharanam "Just going to some faraway river will be considered a proper pilgrimage, and a man will think he is beautiful if he has long hair." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.6] Just see how perfectly Srimad-Bhagavatam predicts the future. "In Kali-yuga a man will think he has become very beautiful by keeping long hair." You have very good experience of this in your country. Who could have known that people would be interested in keeping long hair? Yet that is stated in the Bhagavatam: kesa-dharanam. Kesa means "long hair" and dharanam means "keeping." Another symptom is dure vary-ayanam tirtham: people will think that a place of pilgrimage must be far away. For example, the Ganges flows through Calcutta, but no one cares to take a bath in the Calcutta Ganges; they'd rather go to Hardwar. It is the same Ganges. The Ganges is coming from Hardwar down to the Bay of Bengal. But people would rather suffer so much hardship to go to Hardwar and take a bath there, because that has become a tirtha, a place of pilgrimage. Every religion has a tirtha. The Muslims have Mecca and Medina and the Christians have Golgotha. Similarly, the Hindus also think they must travel very far to find a tirtha. But actually, tirthi-kurvanti tirthani: a tirtha is a place where there are saintly persons. That is a tirtha. Not that one goes ten thousand miles and simply takes a dip in the water and then comes back.
The next symptoms are:
"The purpose of life will consist simply of filling one's stomach, and audacity will become equivalent to conclusive truth. If a man can even maintain his own family members, he will be honored as very expert, and religiosity will be measured by a person's reputation for material accomplishments." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.6]
So, if somehow one can eat very sumptuously, then he will think all his interests are fulfilled. People will be very hungry, with nothing to eat, and therefore if they can eat very sumptuously on one day, that will be the fulfillment of all their desires. The next symptom is satyatva dharstyam eva hi: anyone who is expert at word jugglery will be considered very truthful. Another symptom: daksyam kutumba-bharanam: one shall be considered very expert if he can maintain his family—his wife and children. In other words, this will become very difficult. In fact, it has already become difficult. To maintain a wife and two children is now a great burden. Therefore no one wants to marry.
The next verse describes what will happen when all the people have been thus infected by the poison of Kali-yuga.
evam prajabhir dustabhir
It won't matter whether one is a brahmana [a learned and pure intellectual] or a ksatriya [an administrator or soldier] or a vaisya [a merchant or farmer] or a sudra [a laborer] or a candala [a dog-eater]. If one is powerful in getting votes, he will occupy the presidential or royal post. Formerly the system was that only a ksatriya could occupy the royal throne, not a brahmana, vaisya, or sudra. But now, in the Kali-yuga, there is no such thing as a ksatriya or a brahmana. Now we have democracy. Anyone who can get your votes by hook or crook can occupy the post of leader. He may be rascal number one, but he will be given the supreme, exalted, presidential post. The Bhagavatam describes these leaders in the next verse:
praja hi lubdhai rajanyair
"The citizens will be so oppressed by merciless rogues in the guise of rulers that they will give up their spouses and property and flee to the hills and forests." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.8] So, the men who acquire a government post by vote are mostly lubdhai rajanyaih, greedy government men. Nirghrnair dasyu: their business is plundering the public. And we actually see that every year the government men are exacting heavy taxes, and whatever money is received they divide among themselves, while the citizens' condition remains the same. Every government is doing that. Gradually, all people will feel so much harassed that acchinna-dara-dravinah: they will want to give up their family life (their wife and their money) and go to the forest. This we have also seen.
So, kalau dosa-nidhe rajan: the faults of this age are just like an ocean. If you were put into the Pacific Ocean, you would not know how to save your life. Even if you were a very expert swimmer, it would not be possible for you to cross the Pacific Ocean. Similarly, the Kali-yuga is described in the Bhagavatam as an ocean of faults. It is infected with so many anomalies that there seems to be no way out. But there is one medicine: kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet. The Bhagavatam explains that if you chant the name of Krsna—the Hare Krsna mantra—you will be relieved from the infection of this Kali-yuga. Thank you very much.
"What is that force without which a living body becomes a dead body? That's the one thing the experts can't quite put their finger on."
by Mandalesvara dasa
What is life? ... A child is born. You can see his natural luster, feel the warmth of his body, hear his crying. All his vital functions are in order. Sometimes he is awake, sometimes asleep; he drinks his mother's milk and digests it. For the past nine months he has been in the womb of his mother, developing his small body. And now he is born. He will continue to grow, day by day. He will become larger and heavier. His features will change. He will grow stronger, more proportioned and coordinated. And one day his mother will say, "Why, he's so big! He's not a baby any more."
Living beings are born, and they die. And in the interim they grow, stay for some time, produce offspring, then dwindle—and the whole process ends in death.
And what is death? ... Last night at 11:31 P.M., Mr. Gerald Smith died. His pulse and heartbeat stopped, his lungs collapsed, and his body temperature dropped. The on-duty physician did all he could. But, understanding that the patient's vital functions had ceased, he pronounced Mr. Smith dead.
"Living beings are born, and they die." What could be a more profound philosophical statement. Eleven years ago I was a college sophomore taking an introductory philosophy course. When I heard that statement from my professor, I was struck by its gravity and truth. For the first time in my life, I plainly saw: I am a living being, and I will soon die.
Some important questions came into my mind at that time—questions about death and about the purpose of life. Now, after studying Bhagavad-gita (the philosophy course taught by the original teacher, Lord Krsna), I'm finding the answers to these big questions. These questions and their answers must be just as important to you as they are to me, because they deal with something we have in common. We are all living beings destined to die.
I'd like to present here the essential facts about life and death as I have understood them from the Bhagavad-gita, under the guidance of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Of course there's been scientific research and philosophical inquiry about life and death, but apparently no one really knows very much.
Suppose we open a dictionary to find out what "life" is. According to Webster's, it's "the principle or force by which animals and plants are maintained in the performance of their functions and which distinguishes by its presence animate from inanimate matter." But just what is that "principle or force"? The encyclopedias offer all kinds of scholarly definitions, but most of these simply acknowledge that life is hard to define. "The chemical composition of protoplasm is known," notes one encyclopedia, "but what gives it the qualities of life is not known." Or sometimes the encyclopedias try to define life by listing its external symptoms: if a thing grows, reproduces, and so on, it's alive.
But again, what is that principle that brings about these characteristics like growth and reproduction? What is that force without which a living body becomes a dead body? That's the thing the experts can't quite put their finger on. They talk about life; they study its symptoms. But they can't figure out what it is. And if you or I were to ask a university professor, we would probably get the same sort of answer—one that hedges on the real issue. And we'd probably get lost in biochemical, metabolic, thermodynamic, or genetic jargon.
Sometimes the scientists claim that life is "a phenomenon that occurs in nature when exactly the right chemicals combine under exactly the right conditions." Actually, this is the gist of most scientific theories about life, but just how scientific is it? The scientists' own methodology requires that they support each theory by experimentation and observation. But no scientist has ever observed life being generated spontaneously from chemicals. When you don't know something, that's one thing. When you don't know but pretend to, that's something else—cheating. It's cheating for these so-called scientific authorities to claim that life originates from matter.
Still, the scientists go on telling their story: "Once upon a time, a long time ago, life arose from a random chemical soup." And we're supposed to believe them. But ask them to go into the laboratory and come up with some clinical proof, and they say that life came into being ages and ages ago—by accident. Hmm. That certainly seems odd, but at least it squares conveniently with their theories. Today, of course, things don't happen that way. Anyone can see that (nowadays, at least) living beings come from other living beings. Yet our learned scientists keep trying to show us that conscious life comes from dead matter. But when they make a facsimile of the conditions that may have existed on earth x millions of years ago and try to create life ... they fail. Sometimes they claim they've synthesized certain amino acids, "the building blocks of life." But that's not life. There's a big difference between an amino acid and a conscious living being.
"One day soon," they doggedly vow, "we'll create life from chemicals." But what we see every day is that life comes from life. Two bugs create more bugs, a scientist and his wife have children, and so on. But where do we see life coming from chemicals?
How can the scientists even try to prove by experimentation that life has arisen spontaneously from matter? Consider: they themselves are life—they're living beings—so all their attempts to show how life comes spontaneously from matter are self-contradictory, because the scientists themselves are conducting the experiments.
Who Plants the Seed?
Regardless how life may have begun within the universe, scientific evidence makes one thing clear: life could not have come about by accident, from chemical combination; an intelligent living being must have entered into the picture to conduct the experiment or combine the chemicals, to plant the seed or hatch the egg. So even if some scientist who wanted to prove that life comes from matter were to succeed in creating life (of course, this is impossible, but if, for the sake of argument, someone did it), he would actually be affirming that life is created by a very intelligent being under controlled conditions. In other words, he would be proving that life must come from life, not from matter. And that's just what Bhagavad-gita has been saying for thousands of years.
As Bhagavad-gita explains, the origin of life is life: the supreme life, Krsna. "I am the source of everything, material and spiritual," says Lord Krsna. "Both the living, spiritual energy and the inanimate, material energy emanate from Me."
The material scientists would like us to accept the unfounded notion that life comes from matter (although where matter has come from they can't say). But Bhagavad-gita tells us, "Lord Krsna is the original life, the source of everything, whether living or material." In other words, everything (living or material) is coming from one living source. Life and matter are simply two different energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as light and heat are two energies of the sun.
What Makes the Difference?
It was back in 1968 that my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada spoke to an assembly of faculty and students at M.I.T. "Although you have so many departments of knowledge," he pointed out, "you have not found out what makes the difference between a living body and a dead body."
As anyone can see, something essential is missing from a dead body-something that distinguishes it from a living body. "Where is your educational department for finding that essential thing?" Srila Prabhupada challenged. Unfortunately, despite their advanced knowledge of the physical body and its mechanical workings, our modern scientists have no knowledge of the living soul. Yet it is the soul that gives life to the body. Without the soul the wonderful material body becomes useless, fit for burning or burying.
Despite their claims and promises, today's scientists seem unable to tell us anything about life or birth or death. But ancient India's Vedic literatures are not so disappointing. In fact, they are perfectly scientific. Consider, for instance, the Vedic explanation of birth:
"Under the supervision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a living spirit soul enters a particle of semen and is then injected into the womb of the mother during sexual intercourse." If the conditions within the womb are favorable, the soul remains and there is an emulsification of the semen and the ovum. Then, due to the presence of the soul, the embryo develops. When the body is fully developed (after about nine months), the baby comes out of his mother's womb—and this is called birth. If there were no living soul, the embryo could not have grown and developed. To put it simply, matter can't grow and develop without the living energy of the soul.
And what about death? ... When Mr. Smith died last night at 11:31 P.M., all his vital functions stopped. His pulse, heartbeat, and breathing stopped, and his life luster suddenly vanished. What happened? What happens at death?
"Death is the absence of life." The scientists are in agreement about that. But what life is they have no inkling of. So a fitting "scientific" definition of death would be, "Death is the absence of life (whatever that is)."
Undoubtedly, death is the absence of life. And from Bhagavad-gita we get a clear understanding just what that means: "LIFE is the eternal soul. And when the soul leaves the body ... DEATH—the absence of life."
As I said, hardly anyone today knows the facts about life and death. But if we read Bhagavad-gita, we'll get all the facts.
A Sudden Lack of Luster
Some members of the scientific community do accept the existence of the eternal living soul. For example, Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow (a world-famous heart surgeon and chairman of cardiovascular surgery at the Toronto General Hospital) says, "My thirty-two years as a surgeon have left me no doubts that there is a soul."
Several years ago the Montreal Gazette quoted Dr. Bigelow as saying, "There are certain cases where you happen to be present at the moment when people pass from a living state to death, and some mysterious changes take place. One of the most noticeable is the sudden lack of luster to the eyes. They become opaque and literally lifeless. The central question is, Where is the soul and where does it come from?"
My spiritual master appreciated Dr. Bigelow's insight. In a letter to him, Srila Prabhupada wrote,
"Undoubtedly the soul is present in the heart of the living entity, and it is the source of all the energies for maintaining the body. The energy of the soul is spread all over the body, and this is known as consciousness.
"The undertaking of 'soul research' would certainly mark the advancement of science. But the advancement of science will not be able to find the soul. The soul's presence can simply be accepted on circumstantial understanding.
You will find in the Vedic literature that the dimension of the soul is one ten-thousandth the size of a point. The material scientist cannot measure the length and breadth of a point. Therefore it is not possible for the material scientist to capture the soul. You can simply accept the soul's existence by taking it from Vedic authority. What the greatest scientists are finding, we've explained long ago."
Modern scientists use circumstantial data to back up all sorts of theories about things they can't directly perceive (take atomic and subatomic particles, for instance). So why don't they accept the circumstantial evidence for the existence of the soul? We find a full explanation of the soul's existence in Bhagavad-gita, and a full verification in our own everyday experience.
The so-called scientists, who claim that life comes from matter, that it arose by chance, and that it dies along with the body, defy not only Vedic authority but even common sense and their own practical experience. Bhagavad-gita calls their philosophy demonic: "The demons say that there is no God in control, that everything in this world is a product of the random attraction of various material bodies." (Bg. 16.8) These demons in the guise of scientists want to undermine belief in God and the soul "There is no God. There is no soul. Science is God, and we are the high priests."
On account of this godless philosophy, people have become more and more materialistic and faithless. We're starting to think, "So, there's no God and no soul and no life after death. That means there's no sin and no karma. When your body is finished, everything's finished. So you can do anything you like."
But as Bhagavad-gita says, "Following such conclusions, the demonic engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety." (Bg. 16.9, 11)
We have another choice, of course. We can follow the Bhagavad-gita's teachings and understand the phenomenon of life and the process of birth and death. And at last we can become free from birth and death and enter into eternal life.
The choice is ours—whether we'll follow godless science or the science of the soul. So let's not make the wrong choice. It's a matter of life and death.
A talk given by Acyutananda Svami in Los Angeles, March 1978.
Translation of a Sanskrit Verse
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Supreme Soul, and He has no beginning. He is transcendental to the material modes of nature and beyond the existence of this material world. He is perceivable everywhere because He is self-effulgent, and by His self-effulgent luster the entire creation is maintained."
(by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described here. He is not a temporary person, nor does He have a beginning. He is without a cause, and He is the cause of all causes. Parah means transcendental, beyond the creative energy. The Lord is the creator of the creative energy. We can see that there is a creative energy in the material world, but He is not under this energy. He is prakrti-para, beyond this energy. He is not subjected to the threefold miseries created by the material energy because He is beyond it. The modes of material nature do not touch Him. It is explained here, svayam-jyoti: He Himself is luminous. We have experience in the material world of one light's being a reflection of another, just as moonlight is a reflection of the sunlight. Sunlight is also a reflection of the brahmajyoti, or spiritual effulgence. Similarly, the brahmajyoti is a reflection of the body of the Supreme Lord. This is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita: yasya prabha prabhavatah. 'The Brahman effulgence is the Lord's bodily luster.' "
Acyutananda Svami Explains
In the Bhagavad-gita (7.8) Lord Krsna says, "I am the light of the sun." Three times a day when we chant the brahma-gayatri mantra, we invoke the sun as the first expression of Krsna that we can perceive. So if we are Krsna conscious, we can understand that the sun is reflecting Krsna's effulgence.
But the materialistic scientists cannot explain the sun. I read in the newspaper that Russian scientists and American scientists recently had a conference. Their conclusion was, "We are no longer positive why the sun shines." So that implies that at one time they were positive. No—they were never positive. How can such a gigantic ball of fire burn without smoke, without any apparent source of fuel—no intake, no exhaust, no waste? The scientists' explanation is that the sun creates an ash and then "positivizes the neutrals." But ash cannot be made to burn again. The scientists do not understand how the sun shines.
The colors that we can see with our eyes are due to the diffraction of white light, as through a prism. White light is a combination of seven colors, and the source of that light is the sun. Within the sun is Vivasvan, the sun-god, who controls the sun. His world is made of colors that our eyes cannot understand. These colors are so intense that they glow as a pure white light that can be diffracted into the colors we can see. So just imagine the colors in the sun! And Vivasvan is nothing but a jiva—a single spiritual spark—one spark of the pure white light of Krsna. Beyond this universe is infinite pure white light—the brahmajyoti—which is nothing but the effulgence of Krsna. Imagine, then, the intense brilliance and color in Krsna's world—Krsna's pastimes, Krsna's peacock, Krsna's spiritual Goloka planet!
In the Brahma-samhita (5.40) it is said,
yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti-
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who possesses the greatest power. The glowing effulgence of His transcendental form is the impersonal Brahman, which is absolute, complete, and unlimited, and which displays the varieties of countless planets, with their various opulences, in millions and millions of universes."
So the brahmajyoti, or the Brahman effulgence, is due to Krsna's bodily luster. Therefore it is said here, in this verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, that the Lord is svayam-jyoti, self-effulgent. In all the Upanisads, the essential portion of the Vedas, God is described as jyoti, or luminous. The impersonal philosophers think that this effulgence is the ultimate truth. But simply by common sense we know that you never see a light without a source. Take the light in this room, for instance. It comes from a source, the light bulb (which has form). Then, too, the energy that produces the electricity that causes the light ultimately comes from the sun. So, in one sense, the light in this room is a "reflection" of the sun's light. Similarly, the sun reflects the light of the brahmajyoti, and the brahmajyoti is Krsna's bodily effulgence. In this way you can understand Krsna as the source of everything you see.
Also, the sun creates the cloud, which covers our vision of the sun itself—but you can see the cloud only because there is sunlight. Similarly, Krsna creates this material nature, which blocks Him from our vision—but the only reason you can even see the material nature is because Krsna is giving you consciousness to see it, and giving it the existence to be seen. So everything is ultimately spirit: sarvam khalv idam brahma. Everything is Brahman (spirit), but some things are the original Brahman and some things are the by-products of Brahman.
The different uses of electricity provide a good analogy. Although electricity itself is fiery hot, it can be made to run a refrigerator and produce a by-product—cold. Still, it's all part of the science of electricity. Similarly, when we speak of Krsna we generally mean Krsna's divine form in Goloka Vrndavana, where He is accompanied by His personal associates. But when Krsna is mentioned in the Upanisads as Brahman or tat, yat, iti, the words refer to Krsna and His various byproducts, down to even the material speck. So Krsna's energy includes everything.
Krsna and His energies are also something like the sun and the sunshine. The sun produces sunshine, which makes trees grow. When the trees die, they are compressed into coal. From coal smoke one can make paint. So if you have "The Complete Book of the Sun," you'll need to have a chapter about paint—which comes from coal, which comes from trees, which come from the sunshine, which comes from the sun. But paint is not the sun—I don't get a sunburn from paint. (In fact, it has the opposite effect: if I paint my body, I won't get a sunburn.) But still, paint should be included in "The Complete Book of the Sun." Similarly, "The Complete Book of Krsna"—the Srimad-Bhagavatam—describes everything about Him, including how we can perceive Him even in this material world. But how much we'll perceive Krsna depends on how much we have surrendered to Him.
Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham (Bg. 4.11): depending on how much you have surrendered to Krsna, that is how much you'll understand Him. If you have rebelled against Krsna and become an animal, you may understand Krsna only up to the point of appreciating the moonlight: night prowlers—they have understood Krsna only to the point of coming out at night. Or, if you're a moth, you'll understand Krsna in a flame or electric light.
Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham means that according to your devotion, that is how Krsna will face you. So those who are bugs can understand Krsna in light—material light. Those who practice the Vedic rituals for elevation to the heavenly planets can live on the moon or the sun. Those who are jnanis (impersonalists) can appreciate Krsna's spiritual light. But those who are devotees can enter into Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's own planet, where Krsna displays His full personality. There the devotees enjoy eternal association with Krsna.
What the materialists cannot understand is that Krsna exists simultaneously in the spiritual and material worlds. The Brahma-samhita (5.37) confirms this: goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah: "He is living in Goloka, but He is still present all over the creation. He is the Supersoul of everything." When we forget Krsna, we experience a limitation—there is no center to our lives. Everywhere we find limitation and purposelessness. But when we remember Krsna, we find that His existence has no circumference and that the center of our lives—Krsna—is everywhere. We feel no limitation. Even impersonalists can understand that there is no end to the existence of the brahmajyoti, the spiritual effulgence. But how can the center be everywhere? Again, ye yatha mam prapadyante: in proportion to our devotion, Krsna will show Himself to us. But when and how He shows Himself is completely up to Him. He can appear to us in any way he likes—even from within a pillar, as He did for the great devotee Prahlada. Prahlada was praying to Krsna in Goloka, but at one intense point of his devotion, he forgot about Goloka and prayed that the Lord appear from a pillar. The Lord is on His own planet, but when someone expresses supreme devotion for Him, then He can manifest His original form anywhere.
Later in his purport Srila Prabhupada explains, "The Lord is the Supersoul of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He has innumerable transcendental qualities. It is also concluded that although He is undoubtedly a person, He is not a person of this material world. Impersonal philosophers cannot understand that beyond this material world there can be a person; therefore they are incomplete in knowledge. But it is explained nicely here that the Personality of Godhead is beyond material existence."
Those who have had a bad experience with variety and personality in this material world are afraid of the variety and personality in Krsna's spiritual world. These people are like the cow that escaped from a burning barn. After that, every time the cow saw red she would think, "Here is fire again!" and she would run away. Similarly, when the impersonalists see that in Krsna consciousness there are form, sound, smell, taste, and touch—in short, personality—they think, "Oh! Here is the material world again!" and they run away. They don't understand Krsna's actual position, because they don't have a proper guru to explain the scriptures.
Here the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Krsna as nirguna prakrteh, above the material nature. So Krsna's form, sounds, and so forth are not material but spiritual. If you worship a "material Krsna," that's not really Krsna. But that's just what the impersonalists do. They say that God is formless, but that He takes a material form when He appears in the material world. This is self-contradictory. How can "He" be formless? The pronoun He implies a person, and where is there a formless person? Besides, in Bhagavad-gita (4.8) Krsna says, paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam: "To save the devotees and to destroy the miscreants, I come to the material world." So God sees when His devotees are suffering at the hands of the demons, and then He incarnates. But how can something formless or impersonal feel the compassion to want to take form? An impersonal nonentity cannot feel anything. The impersonalists' idea is self-contradictory.
The main point, though, of this conception of a formless God is that it allows the impersonalists to neglect the form of Krsna. "If God is formless," they think, "then why should I worship Krsna, who is less than God? If Krsna's form is only a temporary, material expression of the impersonal Absolute, why should I worship Him?" Because of these ideas, sometimes you will see rich people coming to a temple in India and throwing two cents at the Deity's feet... because they don't really believe in Krsna. They don't believe that He is God. They think, "God is formless, and the self is God, so I am greater than Krsna."
This impersonal concept kills bhakti, or devotional service to the Lord. Also, in the West there are many impersonalistic yoga groups that chant Hare Krsna. The "gurus" say, "See'' I also chant Hare Krsna. We are doing the same thing." No. Their chanting of Hare Krsna is not the same as ours. Theirs is not devotional service; it is a counterfeit.
Suppose we have a big meeting and invite Governor Jerry Brown. If I introduce him as "Mr. Jerry Brown, the chief of police," he'll be insulted. He'll walk out. I may protest, "But the chief of police is very powerful. He can arrest anybody. Why are you insulted?"
"Because I am the Governor! Why are you calling me less than what I am?"
So the impersonalists may stand in front of Krsna and pray, "O Krsna this, Krsna that," but all the time they're thinking, "Actually, You're material." With every word they're insulting Krsna more than if they'd simply ignored Him.
You can see how cunning the impersonal philosophy can get—and how deadly. It is atheism in its most deadly form. That is why we cannot tolerate impersonalism, and take such great pains to convince everyone of its dangers.
Houston: The Roofs Not All That's Sliding
by Jayadvaita Svami
A short time back I spent a few days in Houston, Texas, and while there I visited a friend who lives near the Astrodome, Houston's multi-million-dollar ultra-sophisticated sliding-roofed stadium. Certainly impressive. But more striking than the Astrodome, I thought, were the places people went for entertainment nearby—a shining galaxy of bars, clubs, shops, and restaurants, all advertising one main attraction: naked human flesh.
They had it in all varieties—male, female, topless, bottomless, and best of all, the signs informed us, "Live Onstage, Completely Naked." All this, of course, in addition to the "massage parlors" and "executive clubs" that seem to have become standard features of large cities throughout the nation.
Now, what's interesting about this, first of all, is that say ten years ago, before I joined the Krsna consciousness movement, such places didn't exist—at 'least not so openly and boldly. Of course, there have always been places where vulgar entertainment has been available, but what's relatively new is that now these places seem to have gained an apparent respectability and found a niche as a legitimate part of modern American culture.
What does this say about American culture? Nothing good. Putting aside various intriguing but peripheral issues and getting down to the nitty-gritty, what this trend obviously tells us is that Americans are becoming more openly and boldly intent upon crude bodily pleasures. They are growing less concerned with noble pursuits and are turning instead to the pursuit of raw sensual enjoyment.
Now, our purpose here is not to work up a frenzy of prudish self-righteousness and call for a citizens' campaign to clean up America's morals. That would be to miss the point.
The point is that human life is meant for self-realization, because such realization is the special prerogative of human beings that sets them apart from lower animals. After all, sex is easily available even in the lower species of life. Don't even common dogs and hogs enjoy the pleasures of sex?
But dogs and hogs don't have the intelligence to ask themselves what life is all about. The dog doesn't ask itself, "Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?" On the contrary, the dog is satisfied merely if it has enough food to eat, a place to sleep, protection from fear, and a good share of sexual enjoyment.
But modern men are so bewildered that although endowed with the ability to try to understand who they are and what life is really for, they waste their valuable time and energy by doing something that can only agitate their minds, distract them from self-inquiry, and leave them feeling empty, frustrated, cheated.
Although our modern civilization is supposedly becoming more advanced and progressive, in fact we are losing sight of the higher aim of human life—the pursuit of self-realization—and are developing a kind of sophisticated degradation, in which men become hardly better than polished animals.
Why is this so? According to the Vedic literature, one's individual temperament—and the temperament of society as a whole—is governed by three qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. When one is situated in goodness, he develops purity and knowledge and feels a natural sense of happiness. In passion, one develops strong, practically uncontrollable desires and attachments; in passion, one endeavors intensely for success, but inwardly feels unhappy. And in ignorance one becomes foolish, lazy, and mentally deranged. The problem, then, is that we have lost touch with how to live in goodness and pursue real knowledge, and therefore passion and ignorance are gradually taking over our society, our cities, towns, and neighborhoods, and our very lives.
The massage parlors and naked clubs now doing a flourishing business in our cities are sure signs that the quality of passion is rapidly gaining ground. And passion quickly gives way to ignorance. Bewildered by passion and ignorance, men think that although they have their wives at home, by going to a naked club they will enjoy something more. So they spend their hard-earned money to drink liquor and see someone's daughter earn a living by revealing what they could have seen at home for free—and all they get more of is unsatisfied desire. How long can we expect people to go on this way before they become desperate, angry, wild, and violent? The Vedic literature warns us that if passion and ignorance grow too strong, men become less than animals, and the world becomes less than a jungle. As we sit in our homes with violence at our doorsteps and the leaders of the world snarling and barking at one another over our tv's, can we deny that this is true?
American culture—and human culture throughout the world—is sinking because it is increasingly dominated by passion and ignorance, and therefore by superficiality, unhappiness, greed, madness, and illusion, with no clear aim toward knowledge and self-realization. Without progress toward self-realization, what is the value of human society, or even human life itself? What is the use of a multi-million-dollar Astrodome full of men more interested in beer, football, and naked bodies than in understanding who they are?
Unless we change our priorities and turn our attention toward spiritual understanding, we can only expect the qualities of passion and ignorance to gain further ground for a world of anxiety, frustration, bewilderment, and violence.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q. What's so special about the Hare Krsna mantra? Couldn't you get the same effect by chanting Coca-cola Coca-cola, or any other sound, over and over again?
A. No. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of God who inaugurated mass public chanting of Hare Krsna five hundred years ago in India, said this about the chanting of God's names: "My dear Lord, You have innumerable names, and in each name You have invested all Your transcendental energies." In other words, by chanting and hearing God's holy names we're in the presence of God Himself. And since Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure and purity, the more we chant Hare Krsna the more we feel spiritual pleasure and cleanse our minds of material misconceptions. Could you chant Coca-cola Coca-cola for very long without becoming bored and disgusted? Hardly. But from morning till night you can chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and you'll feel new and new spiritual pleasure every moment. How can this be?—the Hare Krsna mantra is a unique kind of sound vibration: the namavatara, or God's incarnation in His holy names.
Q. I've been to several yoga groups that chant Hare Krsna. Is there any difference between their chanting and yours?
A. Yes. Many so-called gurus include the chanting of Hare Krsna in a veritable smorgasbord of meditation techniques, all of which supposedly lead the meditator to a realization of God as Brahman, the impersonal "white light." But in the Bhagavad-gita God Himself emphatically denies this idea: "There is no truth superior to Me," says Lord Krsna. "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman.... Those who worship My personal form are the most perfect." So nondevotional chanting of Hare Krsna is not really the way to reach life's ultimate goal—pure loving devotion to Krsna, or God. There is an old saying: "Milk touched by the lips of a snake becomes poison." Beware of snakelike "gurus" who would use the Hare Krsna mantra for their own ends. The chanting should be heard from the lips of a devotee of the Lord.
The Hare Krsna mantra is actually a spiritual call for the Lord to engage us in His devotional service. The work Hare addresses God's spiritual energy, Krsna means "the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead," and Rama, another name of God, means "the reservoir of the highest pleasure." In essence, when we chant Hare Krsna we're saying, "O Lord, O Energy of the Lord, please let me serve You." So unless we hear the Hare Krsna mantra from the Lord's pure devotee, whose only motive is to serve Him with love, then the sound vibration will not have the desired effect.
Q. How does chanting Hare Krsna make you self-realized?
A. Self-realization means finding out who we rally are and acting accordingly. Now we're thinking "I'm an American" or "I'm an Englishman" or "I'm a white male ornithologist" or "I'm a black woman poet." All these physical and mental designations just cover our real identity as spiritual emanations form the Supreme Spirit, God. By chanting Hare Krsna we lift away these coverings and begins to experience ourselves as pure spirit, or consciousness—transcendental to our body and mind and free from all material designations. The more we chant, the more we become attracted to Krsna, and eventually we realize our eternal identity as His loving servant. This realization is self-realization in the highest sense.
Q. Is chanting Hare Krsna a kind of meditation? I thought meditation was something you did silently, sitting still in a quiet place.
A. Yes, chanting Hare Krsna is a kind of meditation—the easiest and most effective kind for the modern age. The Vedic scriptures advise, "Chant the holy name, chant the holy, chant the holy name of God! There is no other way, no other way, no other way to achieve spiritual perfection in the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy." Of course, silent meditation was possible thousands of years ago, when people lived much longer than we do and had much stronger bodies and keener minds than we do. But it's not at all possible today. Today we need the easy yet powerful meditation of chanting Hare Krsna—anytime, anyplace. Simply say the mantra over and over again, pronouncing it very distinctly and hearing it very attentively.
Q. What about the Hare Krsna devotees I see chanting and dancing on the street? Is that also meditation?
A. Yes. This public chanting is a special type of meditation called sankirtana—the mass public chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Of al kinds of meditation, chanting Hare Krsna is the best, and of all ways to chant Hare Krsna, sankirtana is the most joyous, easy, and quickly effective. "All glories to sankirtana!" declared Lord Caitanya, and He encouraged His followers to chant together publicly as much as possible. Since the International Society for Krsna Consciousness is following directly in the disciplic succession form Lord Caitanya, sankirtana is an important part of our activities. From such enthusiastic glorification of the Lord's holy names, both the chanters and the passersby derive immense spiritual benefit.
Q. How did so many Americans take up the chanting of Hare Krsna?
A. Twelve years ago His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada journeyed from India to give Americans the teachings of Lord Caitanya. The Lord's essential teaching is that simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, anyone can reach the highest perfection of life—love of God, or Krsna. With complete faith in the ultimate success of his mission, Srila Prabhupada began chanting Hare Krsna regularly in a small park on New York's Lower East Side. Gradually he attracted some young disciples and taught them how to chant Hare Krsna and perform other devotional services for the Lord. Form this small beginning, the chanting has gradually spread to many millions of people both her and abroad.
Q. What's the best way to start chanting Hare Krsna?
A. As Lord Caitanya said, "There are no restrictions of time and place for chanting Hare Krsna." Just say the mantra over and over and listen carefully. You can chant alone or with your family or friends—or you can visit the nearest Hare Krsna center and chant with the devotees there. Each morning and evening the devotees get together and chant, and you're welcome to join in. But whatever way you do it, simply chant Hare Krsna and your life will be sublime.
On the "Scientific" Theory of Creation
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place during an early-morning walk at Venice Beach, Los Angeles.
Srila Prabhupada: Everything that we see has been created—how can these scientists claim there is no creator? They are also created. How can they say that there is no creator?
Devotee: They are trying to avoid their responsibility to the creator, so they say He doesn't exist.
Srila Prabhupada: You can avoid the creator, but you cannot say He doesn't exist. Whether or not you accept the creator's authority is your business; but you cannot say there is no creator. For example, there are so many outlaws who say, "We don't want to obey the government." If you don't like the government, that is your business. But there is a government—you can't deny that.
Devotee: It is just in the last few generations that the material scientists have received so much prestige and have been able to influence so many people with their propaganda.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore we have to challenge all these rascal scientists. Devotee: You are giving us the weapon—the transcendental knowledge in your books.
Srila Prabhupada: If people are after real scientific knowledge, they have to accept Krsna consciousness. They have been cheated by these so-called scientists. Now, if people are actually serious to know the truth, they'll accept this knowledge.
Devotee: The scientists say that the atom is the source of everything.
Srila Prabhupada: And our reply is, "You rascal. You are not coming from an atom—you are coming from your father."
Devotee: "Originally," they say, "everything has come about from chance atomic—"
Srila Prabhupada: "Originally!" You do not even know where you have come from. Why are you making theories about the origin? There is a story about a snake charmer. He couldn't even catch a harmless water snake, but he was trying to catch a cobra. This is the scientists' defect. The scientists are tiny, insignificant creatures, but they are saying such big things. This is the defect of modern science. They have no importance; still they are saying big things. Just like the story: the snake charmer cannot catch even a nonpoisonous snake, and he says, "I'll catch a cobra." You have not even understood that you are created by your mother and father, so why do you try to understand the original creation? These scientists and philosophers—their only business is to defy God. All of them are demons.
Devotee: But they say that before the scientific revolution—
Srila Prabhupada: It is not scientific—it is all a rascal revolution. The scientists cannot even answer this question: "You are created by your father, so why shouldn't there be an original creator? You have not dropped from the sky."
Devotee: They say man came from the monkey, the monkey came from another animal, and originally everything came from an atom.
Srila Prabhupada [addressing the scientists]: That's all right, but now come to the practical issue. You are created by your father—that you have to accept. Similarly, everything we see—these cars, the houses—everything was created by someone. So how can you say there is no creator? Everything within your experience is created by someone.
Devotee: But then who created the creator?
Srila Prabhupada: That is something we can discuss later—but at least you have to accept that there is a creator.
Devotee: Some scientists will agree that there is a creative energy, but they do not give one creator, one person, the credit.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. For instance, Mr. Ford manufactures a car, but he does not fashion it by his own hand. He has money—that's his energy—and he has to pay so many mechanics and supervisors to create the car. But ultimately Ford is the creator. Ford is not personally creating all his cars, but Ford's money, Ford's employees, and Ford's workers are creating them. Similarly, everything is being created by God. In Bhagavad-gita (9.10) Krsna says,
"This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all the moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again." Like Mr. Ford, Krsna has so many working energies and assistants. The Vedic literatures say, parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate: God's multi-energies are doing everything automatically. But the creator is supervising. A child may not understand how this car is created, but we know it is created by a person. Everything is created by a person.
Devotee: So these scientists who don't accept the creator are like ignorant children.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all. They cannot imagine that the sky is created by a person, the water is created by a person. The scientists cannot do it, but that does not mean no one can do it. I cannot manufacture an automobile, but someone can. Similarly, the whole gigantic cosmic manifestation—you cannot imagine how it was created, but someone has created it. We see in our practical experience that someone has less intelligence and someone else has more intelligence. So we can understand that God, the creator, has the ultimate intelligence—and that He has created everything.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
India's Desai Confers with ISKCON Leaders
In March three members of ISKCON's governing board met with India's Prime Minister Morarji Desai at his official residence in New Delhi.
The 1SKCON leaders and Mr. Desai agreed that there are many problems facing the world now that spiritual life and God consciousness have declined, and they discussed how 1SKCON is trying to turn back this trend by disseminating the practical wisdom found in ancient India's Vedic literatures. The prime minister noted the popularity of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is (over three million copies sold since 1976) and said that he had obtained his personal copy at the recent Third World Book Fair, in New Delhi. Mr. Desai suggested that people are developing a fondness for Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita because they now understand that progress should be not only material but also spiritual.
Prime Minister Desai was also glad to receive a copy of the latest Bhaktivedanta Book Trust publication, Srila Prabhupada's Science of Self-Realization. In addition, he was interested to note that a leading Indian economist had urged the government to study ISKCON's programs for worldwide rural development and food relief.
Stately New Home For 1SKCON Philadelphia
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has moved its Philadelphia center to a recently-acquired wooded estate in the city's historic Mt. Airy district. Four stately buildings provide ample space for a temple, offices, and living quarters. Remarked a television commentator at the grand opening, "It looks like the Hare Krsna movement is here to stay...."
Since 1971 Ravindra Svarupa dasa, a Ph.D. candidate at Temple University, has coordinated ISKCON's work in the area, including yoga classes and discussion groups at Temple, the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford. "Srila Prabhupada was always encouraging us to teach the science of Krsna consciousness on the nation's campuses," said Ravindra Svarupa, "and now, with our expanded facilities, we'll be able to increase our college programs."
Among other things, the new Philadelphia headquarters also serves as a cultural and religious center for the city's fifteen thousand Indian residents.
I can see my body, and in a way I can see my mind and intelligence. Now then, what about the "I" who's doing all this seeing? Can I see the "I"?
by Amogha Dasa
As we all know, the organ for seeing is the eye. The eye catches the light rays reflected by whatever is around us and focuses these rays on its retina. Then it sends images to the brain via the optic nerves. And that, pretty much, is how we see things.
Of course, there are some things we can't see with our unaided eyes. Some things are too small, so we have to use a microscope. Other thirds are too far away so we have to use a telescope. Still other things (like ultraviolet, infrared, or television waves) are too subtle, but we can see them if we have the right instruments.
So despite our limited seeing power, in one way or another we can perceive the world's gross and subtle elements. Ancient India's Vedic literatures catalog these elements for us as solid matter, liquid, radiant energy, gas, ether, mind, intelligence, and ego. Each element is progressively subtler. Liquid is subtler than solid matter, radiant energy subtler than liquid, gas subtler than radiant energy, and so on. We can see solid matter, of course, and liquid and radiant energy as well, but we can't see gas or ether. Yet we can perceive gas in inflated balloons and ether in radio and television transmissions. Then, too, we can't see the subtler elements mind and intelligence. Yet we can perceive mind in thought patterns and intelligence in astute judgments.
Now then, just who or what is doing all this perceiving?
You are—the living soul within your body. All of us are spiritual souls-subtler than the subtlest material element. Naturally we can't see the soul with our gross material eyes. But just because we can't see it, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If someone argued, "I can't see the atom, so I don't think it exists," that wouldn't sway anyone who knew how tiny the atom actually is.
And the soul is tinier than the atom. As the Vedic literatures inform us, its size is one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair. No wonder we can't see the soul. Yet there is a way to perceive it. Just as a physicist perceives the atom through a certain process, so we can perceive the soul through the process of transcendental knowledge. And what is transcendental knowledge? Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that transcendental knowledge means understanding the difference between the soul and matter.
As Krsna explains, the soul is conscious but matter is unconscious. Each of us can understand that "I am a conscious living being," yet if any part of our body were amputated, that part would not be conscious. So we can understand that the body itself has no consciousness; it gets its consciousness from the soul. Nor can we generate consciousness by combining unconscious elements. Consciousness is the symptom of the soul, and the soul is the subtlest of the elements.
Krsna also points out that the soul stays the same but matter changes: "As the embodied soul continually passes from boyhood to youth and from youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change." (Bg. 2.13) Now that I'm a young man, I can remember when I was a small boy and when I was a teenager. And when I'm an old man, I'll remember when I was a middle-aged man. My material body is constantly changing. But somehow I'm still the same person—so I see that I am not the body but the soul within the body. And after I've passed away, the body will go right on changing, but I—the soul—will remain the same. As Lord Krsna explains, a person who has transcendental knowledge is not at all puzzled by this transmigration of the soul. Because he has perfect knowledge of the soul and matter and the difference between them, he sees everything perfectly.
Even a person who just has material knowledge can see better than someone whose eyes are clouded over by ignorance. For instance, when a watchmaker looks inside your watch, he can see what's wrong with it. But you can't see, because you don't have the knowledge. A harbor pilot looks at the harbor, and you look at the harbor. But the pilot knows how to take the ship into the harbor safely; you don't. Both of you are looking at the harbor, but one has knowledge and the other doesn't. So the one who has knowledge can actually see. We have to learn from a person who has knowledge if we want to expand our vision and see perfectly.
One morning in Perth, Australia, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was walking along the beach. "You want to judge everything by what you can see with your eyes," he said. "But can you see India? I have just come from India. It is across this ocean, but you cannot see it. Does that mean there is no India? No. If you want knowledge, you have to learn from someone who has already seen."
Bhagavad-gita puts it very simply: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a bona fide spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The spiritual master can impart transcendental knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." In Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada shows us how to gain transcendental knowledge and see the soul perfectly. Just as we can see microbes through a microscope and stars through a telescope, so we can see the soul through Bhagavad-gita—the "soul scope."
A Quick Look at the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
The World's Largest Publisher of Books on Indian Philosophy, Religion, and Culture
Books. Sixty-six million of them in print—all designed to meet the highest professional standards, and all filled with the essential science of self-realization and realization of God. This is what the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust is all about.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada started the BBT—a strictly nonprofit publishing house—to make known to the world the teachings of India's vast and ancient Vedic literatures. Srila Prabhupada knew that Philosophers and intellectuals around the world had long admired the spiritual wisdom of Vedic writings like the Upanisads and Bhagavad-gita. But he could also see that in practically every case the commentator had used the Vedic writings to present his own philosophy without touching the original spirit of the texts. In other words, the Vedic writings had never really gotten a chance to speak for themselves, so we readers had never gotten a chance to know what they have to tell us. That's why Srila Prabhupada decided to present the Vedic literature "as it is."
To get the Vedic message across, Srila Prabhupada translated original texts like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam into clearly understandable English, and he wrote scholarly explanations for each verse. Thus, for the first time, the real meaning of the Vedic literature came through. What's more, once the BBT got started, these English translations (and the BBT foreign editions that followed them) generated unprecedented interest in scholarly circles and soon gained tens of millions of readers. Since 1966 the BBT has printed sixty-six million copies of Srila Prabhupada's books. Thus it has started a renaissance of Vedic culture all over the world.
The first to appreciate BBT books were scholars, professors, and librarians. They became genuinely enthusiastic. Dr. John L. Mish, chief of the Oriental Division of the New York Public Library, said this: "The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust editions of the famous religious classics of India with new translations and commentaries are an important addition to our expanding knowledge of spiritual India." Dr. Garry Gelade of Oxford University gave another tribute: "These books are to be treasured. No one of whatever faith or philosophical persuasion who reads these books with an open mind can fail to be moved and impressed." Hundreds of reviews like these have come in from scholars all around the world. In fact, in America and Europe it's nearly impossible to find a college or university library that hasn't purchased at least one BBT book. And more than twenty-five hundred scholars and librarians have ordered complete sets.
Aside from libraries and bookstores, the BBT's largest customer is ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which sells the books to the public at a nominal cost. Since ISKCON members are disciples of Srila Prabhupada, they study his books daily, and thus they are particularly well-qualified to approach people and convince them that these books are worth having and reading. Because of the sincerity and dedication of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, BBT books have won places in millions of homes throughout the world. In America alone, someone buys a BBT book every five seconds.
If the BBT sold all its books through stores, the sales figures would easily place them on the best-seller list. Sales are so brisk, in fact, that last year the BBT ordered one and one-half million hardbound copies of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. (The company that prints the books—Tennessee's Kingsport Press—checked their records, spoke to old-timers on their staff, and called other printers also, but they were unable to Find anyone who could remember ever having printed such a large run of a single hardbound book. Yet BBT trustees estimate that the books will soon be gone and that the Gita will have to be reprinted by the end of this year.)
The BBT has made history by publishing scholarly books in award-winning formats and distributing them profusely at a minimal cost. Comparable books usually sell for two or three times as much. By making these books available to professors, libraries, and general readers, the BBT is doing a genuine service to the literary world.
The BBT also publishes a unique line of paperbacks—concise books through which people may gain an introduction to the Vedic literature. And all of them—right down to fifty-page pocket-size books—are illustrated with at least eight full-color plates. In the softbound publishing industry, such a high standard is practically unheard of. Recently, the BBT has also produced a wide range of audiovisual materials meant to increase the academic community's appreciation of ancient India's great spiritual culture.
The spreading of the Krsna consciousness movement has sparked a worldwide interest in Vedic literature. A short while after BBT books appeared in English, they began to appear in French, German, and Spanish. Portuguese, Italian, and Swedish followed, and today BBT books are available in twenty-eight languages, including Arabic, Japanese, Russian, and Swahili.
Especially noteworthy is the appearance of BBT books in the languages of India. Of course, the classical Vedic scriptures published by the BBT are already available and universally known in every Indian language. But the depth and clarity of Srila Prabhupada's commentary—and his ability to relate the ancient writings to modern times—have made his books tremendously popular throughout India. Like their American and European counterparts, Indian scholars, professors, and librarians deeply appreciate Srila Prabhupada's books.
In India, as in other parts of the world, general readers are purchasing Srila Prabhupada's books in great numbers. For example, many years ago Srila Prabhupada wrote a long Bengali poem called Geetar-gan. This small book presents the gist of Bhagavad-gita. Of course, the people of Bengal learn Bhagavad-gita from an early age as a natural part of their religious and cultural life. Yet somehow Prabhupada's Geetar-gan is extraordinarily popular. Everyone appreciates its spiritual clarity. In fact, the managers of ISKCON's headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal, say that villagers come from miles away just to get a copy.
So, in a sense, the BBT has come full circle. Having introduced India's ancient books of spiritual wisdom to the people of the West, it has now returned to India to re-enliven the people of that ancient land with the literature of their Own original spiritual culture.
In this way, through the book trust he started. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada continues to spread the Vedic science of self-realization—and to benefit the people of India and the world.
"The philosophical and religious works published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust provide a golden opportunity to Western philosophers, scholars, and people in general to drink deep at the celestial fountain of ancient Indian philosophical and spiritual wisdom."
Dr. L. S. Varshneya Chairman, Department of Hindi
"We are well aware of the scholarly reputation of the works on Vedic and Bhaktic literature published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, particularly the translations and commentaries, and feel that they meet, without doubt, the requirements of our Academy library, which have to do, above all, with authenticity. Our students are all deeply involved in comparative philosophical and religious studies, and have need of works which are not only of the highest scholarly standards, but also represent the traditions themselves, rather than only scholarly opinion about traditions. From this point of view, we ... find the Bhaktivedanta publications of great value."
Peter Lamborn Wilson
"The books of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are not only beautiful, but also relevant to our times, as we as a nation search for new cultural patterns for our way of life."
Dr. C. L. Spreadbury
"The appearance of an English translation of Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Sri Caitanya-caritamrta by Swami Prabhupada is a cause for celebration among both scholars in Indian studies and lay people seeking to enrich their knowledge of Indian spirituality.
" . . . Anyone who gives a close reading to the commentary will sense that here, as in his other works, Sri Bhaktivedanta has combined a healthy mixture of the fervent devotion and aesthetic sensitivity of a devotee and the intellectual rigor of a textual scholar.
" . . .These exquisitely wrought volumes will be a welcome addition to the libraries of all persons who are committed to the study of Indian spirituality and religious literature, whether their interests are sparked by the motivations of the scholar, the devotee, or the general reader."
Dr. J. Bruce Long
"It is a great honor for me to have the pleasure of examining the publications of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which I find to be of exceptional value for use in educational institutions and libraries. I particularly recommend the ancient classic Srimad-Bhagavatam to all students and professors of Indian philosophy and culture. The learned author, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, is a world-renowned saint and savant in the field of Vedic philosophy and its practical application in the modern world.... Certainly, I am grateful that this message of the Bhagavata is being spread for the benefit of the world by such a qualified personality. ..."
Dr. R. Kalia
"Words fail me to describe the height of scholarship and devotion manifest in Srila Prabhupada's vast writings. Our future generations will definitely find a better world to live in through the efforts of Srila Prabhupada. He stands for international brotherhood and the spiritual integration of all mankind. The literary world outside India, particularly of the West, is indebted to Srila Prabhupada, who has so scientifically acquainted them with what is best in Krsna conscious India."
Sri Viswanath Shukla. Ph.D
"The monumental Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, brought out by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, will go a long way to bring the philosophy of bhakti to numerous readers, particularly to those who are not familiar with Indian philosophical tradition."
R. C. Pandeya
"Swami Bhaktivedanta has offered to devotees of God a blessed service with his English translations and commentaries. The universal application of these truths is shown to be a promised blessing in these times of challenge when light is illumining darkness. Truly, this is a holy, inspired writing for all aspiring souls seeking the why, whence, and whither of life!"
Dr. Judith M. Tyberg
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
Had little Krsna really put dirt in His mouth? Mother Yasoda decided she'd find out for herself.
by Drutakarma dasa
Mother Yasoda loved Krsna intensely—so much so that she would feed and dress Him and send Him out to play with His friends just as though He were an ordinary boy. Yasoda couldn't see that Krsna was really the Supreme Personality of Godhead. She saw Him only as her beloved son.
One day some of Krsna's playmates came to mother Yasoda and told her, "Krsna has eaten dirt!" On hearing this, she went and found Him and picked Him up in her arms. She wanted to inspect His mouth and see whether He had eaten anything dangerous.
"My dear Krsna," Yasoda scolded, "why have You eaten dirt in a solitary place?" She couldn't understand why He would do such a thing when their home was full of sweetmeats. "Just see—all Your friends are complaining about You."
"My dear mother," Krsna replied, "all these boys are telling lies about Me. I have never eaten dirt. While we were playing, My brother Balarama became upset with Me. He got together with all My friends to tell you these stories, just so that you would be angry and punish Me. Actually, I have not done this—take My words as true. But if you think that they are telling the truth, then look inside My mouth and see for yourself whether I have eaten dirt."
When Krsna opened His mouth, mother Yasoda looked inside and saw outer space spreading before her in all directions, with all its stars and planets. She saw the oceans, mountains, islands, and seas that cover the earth's surface. She saw fire, light, and the blowing wind. She saw the bodies of all kinds of living things. She could even see universal time. And in the midst of everything, Yasoda also saw herself taking little Krsna on her lap and letting Him suck her breast very peacefully.
Yasoda was awestruck that these things could be appearing within her son's mouth. "Is this a dream?" she wondered. "Oh, but my eyes are wide open. I'm not dreaming. I'm actually seeing all of this." Then she thought she had gone mad, but soon she reconsidered. "I'm in good health; I'm not diseased. I don't think my brain is deranged, for ordinarily I think quite clearly. My child must have attained some cosmic mystic power," she concluded. "That's why I'm so perplexed by these visions within His mouth."
Although mother Yasoda didn't know it, Krsna is the source of everything, and it was easy for Him to make the whole creation appear within His mouth. But mother Yasoda was simplehearted. She couldn't understand what was really going on; she became afraid out of maternal affection and prayed, "Let me offer obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, for He is beyond my contemplation, speculation, and meditation. It is only by the influence of His illusory energy that I am wrongly thinking that Nanda Maharaja is my husband and Krsna is my child. Just because I am Nanda's queen, I also falsely think that his wealth, cows, and calves all belong to me and that all the cowherd men and women in Vrndavana are my subjects."
Like a self-realized sage, mother Yasoda could see that whatever she possessed had actually come from the Supreme Lord. She wanted to give up her attachment to "my house," "my husband," "my son." The Lord had given all these things to her, she reflected, and He could also take them away.
While mother Yasoda was thinking in this high, philosophical way, Krsna suddenly expanded His spiritual energy. Instantly Yasoda forgot the mystifying vision she had seen within her child's mouth. Once again she felt her natural motherly affection for Krsna and took Him on her lap. "Here is my son," she thought. "Let me kiss Him."
Mother Yasoda displayed the highest spiritual realization—personal love for Krsna. Great sages have long studied the Vedas to get an intellectual grasp of the Supreme, but mother Yasoda surpassed them all—she held the Supreme on her lap.
How did Yasoda achieve her exalted position? In a previous life she was known as Dhara, and her husband Nanda was known as Drona. Brahma (the demigod who oversees this universe) requested these great devotees to beget children and increase the population. They agreed, but also asked for a benediction—that they would be born again on earth and have Lord Krsna as their child. "Let it be so," said Brahma, and as a result Drona reappeared as Nanda, Dhara reappeared as Yasoda, and Krsna became their child. Of course, mother Yasoda is incomparably blessed, and that's why to this day, devotees of Krsna pray for her blessings.
Some personal recollections by his disciples.
In January or February of 1971, Srila Prabhupada wrote us from India. He said that in April he would be coming back to America and would visit our Boston temple, where I was president. So we booked a beautiful suite for him in the Sheraton-Boston Hotel and cleaned the place ourselves. We had rented the hotel suite because we didn't think the temple was very suitable. In that old building we did have two rooms Srila Prabhupada could use, but in many ways they weren't adequate.
Surprisingly, when Srila Prabhupada arrived and heard that we wanted him to stay in a hotel he refused. "I would rather stay in the temple," he said. "A hotel is like a brothel." And he explained, "If you live in such a place, you are living in the mode of ignorance. Generally, though, living in the city is in the mode of passion, and living in the country is in the mode of goodness—but if you live in the temple of the Lord, you are living in the spiritual world."
Srila Prabhupada accepted his quarters in our old place and assured us he didn't find them inconvenient. He was glad, he said, to be in the temple. Of course, he made us glad, too—by gracing our temple with his presence and giving it more prestige than the Sheraton-Boston.
Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
In the early days of our movement—in the little storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue in the East Village—Srila Prabhupada would lecture in the evening and then retire to his upstairs apartment, All of us would be very eager to accompany him, in hopes of getting some personal advice or just hearing him talk more informally. As an excuse to go upstairs, each of us would carry up one of the things Srila Prabhupada had used during the lecture—the watch he'd kept before him on the dais, the Sanskrit Bhagavatam volume he'd read from, or the mrdanga drum he'd played during the chanting of Hare Krsna.
I would bring the mrdanga drum upstairs to the outer room of Srila Prabhupada's apartment and wait before his door, hoping he would see me and call me in. Sometimes he could call my name: "Madhusudana...." Then, my desire fulfilled, I would enter his room. He was always concerned in a very personal way about me, and he would ask me how my parents were. (At that time I was rather young, just eighteen, and although I was already his disciple, I was still living at home.) "They're all right," I would tell him.
Then one night Srila Prabhupada said something that took me a while to comprehend. "Actually," he said, "you are the parent of your parents. The parent is the one who brings the child to life, the one who gives birth to the child. So you have come to Krsna consciousness first, and therefore you are giving your parents birth into spiritual life, which means eternal life. Actually, you are the real parent." Around that time, as if to help me understand what he had said that night, Srila Prabhupada would often mention in his lectures that if a person becomes a pure devotee of Krsna, then the Lord will give spiritual liberation to his relatives for ten generations before and ten generations to come.
This story still amazes me. It happened in England in 1969, when we were just opening the London temple (in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum). Srila Prabhupada had come, and he was talking with the more experienced devotees and confirming their projects. "Yes," he would say—"do it very nicely," and "Very good—make it first class." For instance, Mukunda was to continue his efforts in public relations and another devotee was to carry on his work in renovating the building.
So I said, "Srila Prabhupada, everyone seems to have something to do—can you give me something to do?"
"No," he said, gently but firmly. "What would you like to do for Krsna?"
"I don't know, Srila Prabhupada," I said. "I've never thought about it. But can't you give me something to do anyway?"
"No," he told me again. "Just try to understand our Krsna conscious philosophy: you should decide what you want to do for Krsna."
I felt really thickheaded. All my life I'd been taught not to think about God at all, or to think about what I wanted Him to do for me. But somehow, a long while later, I got an idea.
"Srila Prabhupada, I was thinking that I'd like to make a synthetic version of the clay drums we play when we're chanting Hare Krsna. We could even mass-produce them."
He smiled at me warmly and chuckled, "Yes. That is a good idea. But you must make them unbreakable. Otherwise these Western devotees will simply throw them down like clay pots."
Srila Prabhupada advised that I go to West Bengal, India, and learn the traditional drum-making art firsthand. Then I could return to the West and develop my manufacturing plan.
Several years later, after I had made several hundred of these drums, I realized, "Srila Prabhupada has helped me discover what I always wanted to do for Krsna."
I had the good fortune to be in Srila Prabhupada's room when he was visiting the Mexico City temple in 1974. At that time a disciple who had strayed away had returned and was asking Srila Prabhupada to forgive him. He said he was afraid that Srila Prabhupada might have rejected him forever. The entire room fell silent. Srila Prabhupada lowered his head thoughtfully for a moment. Then he looked up and said, "Krsna is God, and if He likes He can spread Krsna consciousness all over the world in a second, without the help of anyone. But I am not God. I am simply a servant of God, so I require assistance. If someone helps me even a little, I am eternally indebted to him. You have helped me very much, so how can I reject you?" We were all moved by Srila Prabhupada's humility and forgiveness.
India and America: the Lame and the Blind and the Ties That Bind
This year we have witnessed a strengthening of diplomatic ties between India and America. And as the leaders of both nations have pointed out, this closeness reflects even deeper spiritual ties.
Said President Carter during his recent tour, "At the heart of the friendship between India and the U. S. is our determination that the moral values of our people must guide the actions of our states.... Neither the rich nor the poor will feel satisfied without being fed in body and spirit.... There is a sense in the world that moral leadership derives from the Indian people in a direct and continuing fashion."
And at a recent meeting with leaders of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Prime Minister Morarji Desai asserted that spiritual India and technological America can help each other and the world. (See "Every Town and Village," page 23.)
President Carter also said during his tour that he felt particularly impressed with Bhagavad-gita, India's source book on self-realization and realization of God. After one of his many early-morning reading sessions he noted, "One passage from that great book stood out in my mind. I can't quite quote it exactly and I can't interpret it well, but it said when a country is flooded, the reservoirs become superfluous. Krsna went on to explain what He meant in this passage: that when one's heart is filled completely with an awareness or love of God, the other considerations in life seem incidental and one need not worry about the outcome of an action, but one should worry on a momentary basis about the purposes and the attitudes in one's relation to the eternal. . . ."
This, in a nutshell, is India's spiritual vision: we can have peace and prosperity only when we see God as the real owner of all lands and wealth, and when we see "the other considerations in life" as secondary to self-realization and realization of God. Actually, Bhagavad-gita is meant for the Carters and Desais of the world, because as Krsna explains, whatever the leaders do the rest of the people will follow. So if Mr. Carter and Mr. Desai work together to balance the "other considerations" and the eternal—the technological and the spiritual—the whole world will follow and the whole world will benefit.
It's only common sense, really, that when India the spiritual leader and America the technological leader share their assets, everybody will come out ahead. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada used to say, India is like a lame man and America is like a blind man—so they should help each other. India is blessed with spiritual vision but cursed with technological lameness. America, on the other hand, is blessed with technological vigor but cursed with spiritual blindness. (After barely two centuries, "In God We Trust" and the Golden Rule have given way to abortion, slaughterhouses, pornography, and other vision-robbing disorders.) How can the lame man and the blind man live full, happy lives? By working together. The blind man should take the lame man on his shoulders. That way the lame man can do the seeing and keep the pair on a safe path, and the blind man can do the walking and get them where they have to go.
So there are ties that bind the lame and the blind, India and America. The problem is that neither Prime Minister Desai nor President Carter seems ready to do much about it, at least for now. And this is where the International Society for Krishna Consciousness comes in. ISKCON is following directly in disciplic succession from India's most far-sighted saint, who five hundred years ago introduced an ingenious way for India to share her spiritual vision with the West. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed from Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures that the whole world can become peaceful and prosperous and self-realized and God-realized through sankirtana—mass public chanting of God's names. This simple process of chanting God's names and hearing about the science of God from Bhagavad-gita is what Srila Prabhupada gave America when he founded ISKCON a dozen years ago.
And the next dozen years can be even brighter, if our leaders will just take the lead. Mr. P. N. Luthra, formerly of UNESCO and now a minister of India's central government, makes this assessment of the situation: "The very fact that you have established ISKCON in the U.S.A. within the last decade is in itself indicative of America's open mind to receive new ideas. America is realizing that it does not hold the ultimate key to all problems. Insofar as spiritual matters are concerned, I think that America also appreciates that something can be gained from others. ISKCON itself is a living, convincing example that spiritual values prevail and that these alone can give ultimate happiness. We must consider the question of why we've taken birth here on this earth. I think that your organization is a very powerful force, and that it will play an important role in the years to come in transmitting the spiritual message of India."
For our part, we in ISKCON are not taking these words of India's and America's leaders lightly. We hope these people will come forward to work with us—because both they and we know that American vigor and Indian vision can uplift and enlighten the whole world.