Srila Prabhupada's First Talks in America (New York, October 1966)
How to reach the spiritual realm. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada speaks on Bhagavad-gita, India's time-honored source book of spiritual science.
avyakto 'ksara ity uktas
"My supreme abode is unmanifested and eternal, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there he never comes back [to this material world]." [Bg. 8.21]
In this verse the word avyaktah means "that which is not manifested." This material world is manifested before us, but the spiritual world is not manifested. Still, although not manifested, the spiritual world is eternal (aksarah). Aksarah means "that which has no annihilation." In the material world a thing is born, it stays for some time, it develops, it produces some by-products, it dwindles, and then it vanishes. These are the six changes of material things. But the spiritual world, which at present is not manifested before us, is aksarah, or eternal. It is not annihilated.
At the present moment, because we are covered by the material dress of material senses, the spiritual world—or anything spiritual—is not conceivable. But we can feel that there is something spiritual. That is possible. Although we are fully in ignorance of the spiritual reality, still we can feel it. If you analyze yourself silently—"What am I? Am I this finger? Am I this foot? Am I this hair? Am I this body?"—you'll deny: "No, I'm not this." So, what is beyond this body—that is spiritual, and that we can feel.
We cannot see the spirit within the body (although it is there), but we can distinguish a dead body from a living body. In a dead body something is lacking. Again, that "something" is spirit. So although we have no eyes to see, the spirit is there. This is the beginning point of Bhagavad-gita. Avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam [Bg. 2.17]: that spiritual existence is eternal, whereas this body is not eternal.
Now, here it is said that the spiritual atmosphere is avyaktah, unmanifested. So how can we have it manifested before us? We have a little feeling of it, but how can it be manifested? Yes, you can have it manifested—by practicing this Krsna consciousness, which we are preaching.
In the Vedic literature it is said, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhavet grahyam indriyaih. Indriyaih means "the senses." We perceive or we get knowledge through the instruments of different senses—the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. These are our five senses for gathering knowledge. And there are five senses for working—the voice, hands, legs, genital, and anus. So we have ten senses. And these ten senses are being conducted by the mind. Now, sri-krsna-namadi na bhavet grahyam indriyaih: "With these dull material senses and mind we cannot understand Krsna's name, form, and so forth." Why? Because Krsna is completely spiritual, and He's absolute; therefore His name is also spiritual. His form is spiritual. His qualities, His opulences. His paraphernalia—everything is spiritual. But at the present moment, due to our material bondage and conditioning, we cannot understand what is spiritual.
But this ignorance can be removed by this process: chanting Hare Krsna. How is this? I'll give you an example. When a man is sleeping, how can you awaken him? By the vibration of sound. "Mr. Such-and-such, just get up! Get up! The time is up!" Although he is practically unconscious and cannot see, still that hearing process is so prominent that a sleeping man can be awakened by the vibration of sound. Similarly, although the spirit soul is now overpowered by material bondage and material conditioning, his spiritual consciousness can be revived by this transcendental vibration: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Now, these are Sanskrit words, so some of you may not know the meaning of this Hare Krsna mantra. The meaning of Hare Krsna is, it is simply addressing the Supreme Lord and His energy. Hara is the energy, and Krsna is the Supreme Lord. So we are addressing, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna"—"O energy of the Lord, O Lord, please accept me." That's all—"Please accept me." We have no other prayer. "Please accept me." Lord Caitanya taught that we should simply cry for the Lord and that we should simply pray for Him to accept us. That's all. So this vibration is simply a cry for addressing the Supreme Lord, requesting Him, "Please accept me. Please accept me."
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
This prayer was offered by Lord Caitanya. He's praying, "O my dear Krsna, son of Nanda." Krsna played the part of a foster son of Nanda Maharaja. And Krsna is very delighted when He is connected with some of His devotees' names. So Lord Caitanya addresses Him, "O Krsna, son of Nanda, somehow or other I have now fallen into this ocean of nescience and ignorance. Please pick me up and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet." That's all. If a man falls into the ocean, his only chance for survival is if someone goes and saves him. If someone picks him up just one inch above the water, he feels immediately relieved. Immediately. So, as soon as we are fixed in Krsna consciousness, we feel immediate relief. There is no question about it. It is such a nice thing.
So, we cannot perceive the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord—His name. His fame, and so forth—with our materially conditioned senses and mind. By speculating about what the name of God is, you cannot understand what the name of God is. By speculating about what the form of God is, you cannot possibly understand His form. But as soon as you become situated in Krsna consciousness—sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: if you engage yourself in Krsna consciousness, then gradually God will reveal Himself before you. Oh, you cannot see God by your own endeavor. But if you qualify yourself, God will reveal Himself and you'll see. This is the process. You cannot order, "O God, please come before me and dance before me." No. He is not an order supplier. You have to act in such a way that He'll be pleased to reveal Himself before you, and then you'll see Him fully.
So here in this verse it is said, avyaktah, aksarah—there is a transcendental world. Because it is spoken in the Bhagavad-gita, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself is speaking, there is no cause for doubting. There is no cause for doubting this information. The only thing is how to feel it, how to understand it. That understanding will gradually be developed—and it will be shown, it will be revealed to you—if you take up this chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This is a simple process, a very simple process. Even children can take part in it. Even a child of six months took part in it. Perhaps in the last meeting you have seen: there was a small child sitting on the lap of his father, and he was also joining in. [Claps his hands in imitation of the child.] You see? Because it is automatic—a dog will dance, a cat will dance, a child will dance. There is no necessity of preliminary qualifications for understanding the Hare Krsna mantra, because it is from the spiritual platform. It is from the spiritual platform. So this simple process will reveal before you what the spiritual kingdom is, what God is, what you are, what this material world is, why you are conditioned, what the remedy is—everything will be revealed gradually, step by step, step by step.
Avyakto 'ksara ity uktah: in the Vedic literature it is said that the spiritual world is unmanifested. But still it is eternal. We have to see through the books of knowledge. We have to believe. And it will be revealed, if you follow the process. For example, suppose you purchase a ticket for India from Air India or Pan American Airlines. Why do you purchase? You can disbelieve: "What is the evidence that I shall go to India by purchasing the ticket?" But when you see that other people are going to India, the company's running, and so forth—under these circumstances you develop some faith: "Yes, the plane will take me to India." And actually, when you purchase the ticket and sit down on the plane, the next morning you arrive in India. Now, why did you have faith? Because Pan American is a company which is authorized, which is recognized. Therefore you are developing faith.
Faith you must have. Without faith you cannot go a step forward, even in your ordinary life. But faith in what? Ah, the belief and faith should be in the authorized thing. That is the process. You must have faith, for without faith you cannot make progress. But not blind faith. Rather, you should accept something which is recognized. So Bhagavad-gita is recognized. As far as India is concerned, Bhagavad-gita is recognized cent per cent. It doesn't matter whether they are theists or atheists—all classes of men in India accept Bhagavad-gita. And outside India all scholars, all religionists, all philosophers have accepted Bhagavad-gita as authority. So there is no doubt about Bhagavad-gita's being authority. Even Professor Einstein regularly read Bhagavad-gita—such a great scientist. And there is much more evidence.
So you should believe that there is a spiritual atmosphere, and that it is the kingdom of God. And here it is stated, yam prapya na nivartante: if somehow or other you can reach that spiritual atmosphere, then the result is na nivartante: you'll never have to take another material body. So tad dhama paramam mama: you'll become quietly and happily situated in your eternal life. Don't you think so? Now, suppose you are placed in some country where you can understand, "I'll have no more death, no more miseries, no more old age, no more disease." Will you not be happy? Suppose you are transferred to a country where these things are available.... "Yes, I shall, I must be happy! If I can go to some place where I'll not have to die again or become old or have any diseases—oh! Certainly I shall accept it. That is my desire, my heart's desire. I want that."
Why do you want that? Because you have the right to it. It is your prerogative. You are eternal, you are blissful, you are full of knowledge. But you are now covered by this material entanglement, so you have forgotten your self.
So here Krsna is giving you the chance to revive your original status of life. Here it is clearly said, yam prapya na nivartante: if you somehow or other can approach that spiritual atmosphere, then you haven't got to return to this land of miseries. Now we are trying to become happy by transferring ourselves to the moon planet. We are thinking that if we can transfer ourselves to the moon we shall be happy. But this is useless. Bhagavad-gita has already informed you, abrahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino 'rjuna: even if you go to the highest planet (of course you cannot go there, but suppose you could go by your sputnik or by aeronautic means), still you could not avoid the four principles of material miseries—namely birth, death, old age, and disease. So you should not desire a place anywhere within this material world. Either in this country or that country or this planet or that planet—you'll never be happy.
But here Krsna gives us valuable information. Avyakto 'ksara ity uktas tam ahuh paramam gatim: if you can reach the highest perfectional stage—if you can reach Krsna's supreme abode—then only will you no longer be required to come back again to this nonsensical material world. This is the information you get from the Bhagavad-gita. And what shall you do there? Some philosophers think that that spiritual atmosphere must be impersonal. Impersonal, void—some philosophers think like that. The impersonalist Sankarites and the Buddhists believe that there is voidness in the spiritual atmosphere. But the Bhagavad-gita does not disappoint you in that way.
That voidness philosophy has created atheism. Just try to understand clearly: I am a spiritual being, so I want enjoyment. That is my life. I want enjoyment. But as soon as I see that my spiritual future is void, I must feel inclined to enjoy this material life. Therefore the impersonalists simply discuss this voidness and impersonalism, but as much as possible, they enjoy material life. Simply armchair philosophical discussion. As soon as we look at their behavior, we see that they're too much attached to material enjoyment. So they may enjoy some speculation, that's all. But there is no benefit.
But really, if one has any spiritual sense he'll at once cease all this nonsensical enjoyment. That is the symptom of any real idea of spirituality. Bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra ca. The test is... if you have developed your Krsna consciousness, if you have developed your devotional spirit, your spiritual realization, the result will be that you'll be at once detached from all kinds of material enjoyment. How is this? It is just like when a hungry man is given nice food. As soon as he eats and feels satisfaction, he says, "No, I don't want any more. I am satisfied." Svamin krtartho 'smi varam na yace. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gita [18.54]. You'll find,
"One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me [Krsna]."
Oh. One who is spiritually realized—his symptom will be full satisfaction. He'll no longer be hankering after this nonsensical material enjoyment. That is spiritual realization. It is very clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gita—rasa-varjam raso 'py asya param drstva nivartate: "When one experiences a higher taste, he ceases sense enjoyment." For example, a doctor will forbid a diseased man: "Don't eat. Don't have sex life...." So many don'ts. The patient is forced to accept those don'ts, but inside he feels, "Oh, if I could eat I'd be happy." Inside he wants the forbidden things. But a spiritualist—he has inner strength. He's not impotent, but he doesn't like sexual intercourse. He doesn't like it. He hates it. That is spiritual life: inner strength. He can marry thrice, but he has detachment. That is spiritual life. Param drstva nivartate: if you get something superior, naturally you give up all inferior things.
So we want enjoyment. But this atheism, this voidness, and this impersonal-ism have created an atmosphere in which we are simply speculating but we remain addicted to this material enjoyment. This is not the process. The next verse in Bhagavad-gita [8.22] says, purusah sa parah partha bhaktya labhyas tv ananyaya: if you accept this principle of Krsna consciousness, the devotional path, and if you worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then you can have spiritual realization and become detached from material enjoyment. Then your life becomes sublime. Oh, that is the process of Krsna consciousness.
Here it is clearly said, purusa—the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Purusah sa parah partha: parah means supreme, and partha means Arjuna. So Krsna says, "O My dear Arjuna, in the spiritual atmosphere is the Supreme Personality of Godhead." He's a person just like you and me. Just as we are talking face to face, so when you reach the spiritual atmosphere you'll talk face to face with God. You'll play with Him, you'll eat with Him—everything.
How can you attain that state? Bhaktya: by devotion. Not by speculating, but by devotion. You have to submit. You have to render transcendental loving service to the Lord. That is the way. Bhaktyas tv ananyaya. Tv ananyaya means without any adulteration. What is that adulteration? "I love God for some material benefit." That is adulteration. "I love God to become one with Him." That is adulteration. This adulteration in devotional service will not help you. Unadulterated: tv ananyaya.
Yasyantah-sthani bhutani yena sarvam idam tatam. That Supreme Personality, although He's a person just like you and me, is still so widespread that everything is within Him and He's within everything. He's outside and inside. That is the full conception of God. God is everywhere, but still He has His kingdom. His abode, His associates, everything. Just like the sun. The sun's energy spreads all over the universe, but still the sun has his own planet, his own residence.
So God, or Krsna, is in the spiritual atmosphere. If we approach Him, then our life will be successful, our aims will be fulfilled, and we'll be happy and prosperous eternally. Not temporarily, but eternally. Thank you very much.
Intimations of a Festive World
by Jagajivana dasa
This Krsna culture," His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada used to say, "has so many festivals. We could have one every day. In the spiritual world, every day is a festival." And when you first see the chariots, you wonder whether that's just where they've come from. Three soaring, silk-covered peaks rumbling along on ten-foot wheels—you have a feeling they've come from somewhere you've been before, but haven't been back to for a long while.
"Yoga," as Srila Prabhupada said, "means 'link'—our link with the Supreme. At the present moment we have forgotten our link with Krsna. But He has not forgotten; He is always thinking of ways to take us back home." As you walk with the chariots, along the beachfront or through the park or down the avenue, it seems Krsna is making good at His end of the link.
During the afternoon you'll hear or remember hearing that fifty centuries ago. Lord Krsna visited this planet to help us revive our feeling for the spiritual world. Once Krsna and His brother and sister took a chariot ride like this one, and He was overjoyed to meet His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani. Radharani urged Krsna to come back to the rural northern Indian village of Vrndavana, where everyone has pure ecstatic love for Him—Vrndavana, the replica of the spiritual world.
"The place We are in now," Srimati Radharani told Krsna, "is crowded with people and always filled with the clatter and confusion of their coming and going. In Vrndavana, however, there are flower gardens, and the humming of the bees and chirping of the birds can be heard."
As you watch the big wheels carrying Krsna back to His Vrndavana world, you sense that maybe you've been spinning your wheels in this citified world. And now, perhaps with your arms tugging a little on the chariot ropes, you're helping to take Krsna back to Vrndavana. And you're thinking.
Escapism. This has got to be some kind of escapism. Otherwise, how could all these people leave everything behind like this and come out here to pull these chariots, play some hand cymbals and drums, and chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare? Somehow it doesn't seem right.
Then a young lady in a sari walks up with a cup of whipped yoghurt, orange juice, and raspberries, over ice.
"Take it," she says. "It's free. It's spiritual food—prasada, the Lord's mercy. We offered it to Krsna."
By now the chariots have gotten to the park or meadow where they were headed. Unusual to see so many people chanting Hare Krsna all at once. All these booths—where did all this food come from?
"From our farms, sir," says a young lady behind a counter marked "Indian Delicacies," as she hands you a plate filled with breaded potato-cauliflower chunks in a spicy tomato sauce, little triangular-shaped pastries with zesty green-pea fillings, and some fruit-nut-honey balls. "Srila Prabhupada our spiritual master says that most people are working so hard, simply for nothing. But actually, since the Supreme Lord is everyone's father... that makes us all a rich man's children. And a rich man's children don't have to work hard. They can spend their time the way we are here, with art and philosophy and drama and music."
Does this young American lady really believe all this?
"Sir, even the economists—they've known for a long time that it's human nature to work only when you actually have to, only when you need food or shelter. So like Srila Prabhupada says, every day can be a festival. If we keep some cows and a little land—and there's plenty of land for everyone in the world—then our economic problems, all our problems, are finished."
Seems a little too simplistic.
"Prabhupada usually gives the example of the ass. The ass thinks he has to carry a big heavy load all day so that at the end of the day his master will give him a few morsels of grass. What he doesn't realize is that he can get grass everywhere, all over the world, for free. And in our age people are acting just like asses. This industrial civilization is just a heavy load on everybody's back. Prabhupada says it's an ass civilization."
Sure enough: biting the hand that feeds them.
"This industrial civilization isn't supplying the food," the young lady comes back. "God is supplying it. He's the one that makes the rain fall, and the crops and cows come from Him. In the spiritual world no one has to do hard labor. And here—for anybody who's using his human intelligence to cultivate God consciousness, Krsna will make this world as good as the spiritual world. He promises that in the Bhagavad-gita: 'Don't work so hard. I'll give you everything if you just surrender to Me.' "
What if everybody did this kind of thing? Wouldn't it be the end of modern civilization?
"In a way, yes. Of course, that's sort of like asking, 'What would happen to the prison if all the prisoners left?' But what would be the harm? And a prison is exactly what this civilization is. Slaughterhouses, casinos, breweries. Everything here is calculated to keep you thinking you're just a highly evolved animal and make you forget that you're really spiritual.
"Now, if you'll check into the books and paintings and recordings at the booths over there, you'll see how modern technology can do something spiritual for you. And over here you'll find a diorama exhibit, Changing Bodies. It shows how your body keeps changing from babyhood to childhood to middle age and on and on until death, while you always stay the same person. That's the way Krsna explains it in the Bhagavad-gita: 'Just try to understand that you are not your body but a spirit soul, eternally related to Me. Then become My devotee, and you will come to Me in the spiritual world.' Krsna has given us a beautiful world to live in and become Krsna conscious, but this industrial civilization is making people work hard for nothing, just like asses. Who's escaping? They're escaping. They're escaping happiness."
But that statue on the chariot. The one with the smile and the big eyes. That's Krsna, no doubt.
"Yes, that's Krsna, in His special Deity form called Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe. In His original form Krsna never leaves the spiritual world, but we can't see that form while we're stuck here in this material world with these material bodies. So Krsna manifests Himself through matter. Actually, to Him it makes no difference, because both matter and spirit are His energies. The Vedic literatures say, 'You cannot see the Lord's spiritual qualities with your blunt material senses, but if you serve Him lovingly with your tongue and your ears and with eyes anointed with devotion, then you'll see Him face to face.' It's like Srila Prabhupada once said: 'I know you are all trained as atheists, but there really is a Krsna.' "
Maybe so. Otherwise, how could this spiritual food taste so unbelievably good? How could Krsna's words in the Bhagavad-gita—"You are not your body but a spirit soul, eternally related to Me"—make so much sense? How could those simple drums and little cymbals and the names "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" move so many people so deeply? "There really is a Krsna"—right, right. It's all starting to come back now.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought the ancient Indian Ratha-yatra, the Festival of the Chariots, to the West in 1967. That year Srila Prabhupada held the festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and it quickly caught on all over the world. In 1969, at the third San Francisco festival, Srila Prabhupada spoke these words:
"My dear American boys and girls, I thank you very much for your taking part in this great festival known as Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra. This festival has been held every year for the last two thousand years or more in India, and in your country perhaps this is the third year we have held this great Ratha-yatra festival. We are also holding this festival in Boston, London, New York, and Columbus. The purpose for this Krsna consciousness movement is to invoke your dormant love for Jagannatha, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Every one of us—not only human beings but every living entity including birds, beasts, and aquatics—is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And just like a son has the right to inherit the property of his father, so we have the prerogative to achieve the status of our father, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This status is called sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, Sat means 'eternal,' cit means 'complete in knowledge,' ananda means 'bliss,' and vigraha means 'person.' As we are all persons, so the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also a person, but He is very, very great. And He being the greatest, He supplies the needs of all other individual persons. We have a relationship with Lord Jagannatha, and we are meant to participate in His qualities of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
"This inauguration of the Ratha-yatra festival will bring a new chapter in the history of the world—it is that potent. It is stated in the Vedic literature that anyone who sees Lord Jagannatha seated on this chariot will never again have to take birth within this miserable material world."
On "Human Suffering and an Unjust God"
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and social worker Ashoka Chugani took place in Bombay, India.
Mr. Chugani: I feel that your Krsna consciousness movement is doing very valuable work here in India. Perhaps you know of our success, also. We are making arrangements for many villagers in the outlying areas around Bombay to receive greatly needed eye operations. We have facilities for 5,200 patients.
Srila Prabhupada: We are following Bhagavad-gita as it is. Bhagavad-gita doesn't teach that you help the people by taking care of their eyes. Krsna does not give us any such philosophy in Bhagavad-gita. That is your own idea. But we are applying Bhagavad-gita as it is. That is the difference between your work and ours. Our program is, instead of giving relief only to the eyes, we give people real relief. If you give a man Krsna consciousness, he won't have to take another birth in this material world. That means no more material bodies-no more eyes, no more disease. This is real relief from suffering.
Somebody's taking care of the eyes, somebody's taking care of the stomach, somebody the teeth, somebody something else, on and on. But this will not solve the problem. The real problem, Bhagavad-gita says, is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—birth, death, old age, and disease. Because you took birth, you have these eyes, so you're bound to have eye disease. Birth, death, old age, and disease: because you have accepted birth, you must accept old age, disease, and death. Hospitals may give some temporary relief, but that is not the solution. The solution is to stop birth, death, old age, and disease. If you are able to give that solution, then there will be no more eye trouble, ever.
Suppose a diseased man goes to a doctor for treatment. His symptoms are sometimes headache, sometimes eye-ache, sometimes stomachache. Now, if the doctor gives medicine only for the symptoms, is that the cure? No. This man has a disease, and if you cure the disease, the symptoms will be cured automatically. Similarly, everyone within this material world is suffering from repeated birth and death. But Bhagavad-gita is meant for giving the real cure—how not to take another birth in this material world.
Krsna's advice in the Bhagavad-gita is that we tolerate this temporary suffering. Just as your body is not permanent, so your diseases are also not permanent. You should tolerate the temporary suffering and solve the real problem—you must stop your repetition of birth and death. But people do not know that birth and death can be stopped, so they are simply busy with the temporary problems.
The Bhagavad-gita explains how, on leaving his body at the time of death, one can go back home, back to Godhead—tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti. No more birth in this material world—that is the real cure for all suffering.
Mr. Chugani: What about the problem of starvation? We are working to solve...
Srila Prabhupada: Starvation? This is not a problem. The Vedas say, nityo nityanam cetanas cetanana/ eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. God is perfectly providing food for all living beings. If someone is not getting any food, that is a blessing. It is God's arrangement to correct him.
Suppose a child is diseased and his father does not give him any food to eat. That is not starvation—it is his father's blessing. It is the cure. Why should the child complain? The so-called starvation problem is just a mental concoction. But we don't concoct anything; we get our knowledge from the scriptures. Tat te 'nukampam susamiksamano bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam: if a devotee of the Lord is starving, he doesn't complain. He takes it as God's blessing. "I did something wrong, so God has put me into this difficulty. It is His blessing." This is our view; this is scripture.
People often ask this question: "How can God be unkind to some people and kind to others? It's unjust." But this is foolishness. God is not unjust; God is good, but people do not understand God. Because you are unintelligent, when you see that people are starving you say that God is not good. But the fact is that you are not good. Each man's suffering is simply his own fault. So a devotee takes suffering as Krsna's blessing, and because a devotee is thinking like that, his liberation is guaranteed (mukti-pade sa daya-bhak).
Mr. Chugani: The ways of God in the world are difficult for us to understand. They do seem unjust.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, you don't believe in God. And this godlessness is the real problem. You only believe in God if God is your servant and order supplier. "God, if You don't help me, I won't serve You." People think of God as their servant and order supplier.
One of my Godbrothers—from Germany—told me that in the Second World War, when the men of Germany went to fight, all the women were left at home. So, they went to the church and prayed to God that their husbands, their fathers, and their sons would return home. But none of them returned home, and the people all became atheists. "Ah, it is useless to go to the church! I prayed so much for my husband, but he did not come. It is useless!"
So this is their understanding of God. When the war was declared, they didn't consult God. But when their husband is going to die, then they petition God. They order God to make their husbands return from the war unharmed. "God did not bring him back. He did not carry out my order. So God is unjust. We're not interested in God."
And this is the attitude here, also. When people act sinfully, God is never consulted. But when they suffer, then they cry to God. And if He doesn't supply their order, they become atheists. "God is unjust!" they say. This is their rascaldom.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Krsna's Town Gets Bhaktivedanta Gate
When pilgrims arrive in northern India's Vrndavana village, the place in India most sacred to Lord Krsna, they now pass through a gate dedicated to the memory of the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The gate rises forty-five feet above Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, the main road into the village. Local officials named the gate in Srila Prabhupada's honor, and ISKCON devotees funded, designed, and constructed it.
Vrndavana is especially sacred to Lord Krsna and His devotees because there the Lord performed His transcendental pastimes five thousand years ago. Since Srila Prabhupada glorified Vrndavana by making Krsna's glories known throughout the world, the residents feel it appropriate that visitors enter Vrndavana on Bhaktivedanta Swami Road, through Bhaktivedanta Swami Gate.
ISKCON Berkeley Starts New Country Asrama
ISKCON's Berkeley center has turned a secluded ranch in northern California into a haven for people who want to experience the Krsna conscious way of life in an ideal setting.
The four-hundred-acre ranch lies in a pine-forested mountain valley a hundred miles north of San Francisco. Guests take part in predawn meditations on the Hare Krsna mantra, classes in bhakti-yoga, and workshops in Vedic cooking and gardening. In keeping with the farm's name (New Hrsikesa, after the famed Himalayan yoga village), all who stay there refrain from meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxicants.
Srila Prabhupada's Successors Accept Disciples
Recently the International Society for Krishna Consciousness entered a new phase in its history, as eleven successor gurus appointed by ISKCON's founding spiritual master began initiating new disciples around the world.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada selected the eleven successor gurus in June 1977, five months before he passed away. According to the Vedic system, a spiritual student has to take initiation from a guru still physically present on earth. So Srila Prabhupada, who represents an unbroken chain of spiritual masters coming down through time from Lord Krsna Himself, chose some of his most advanced disciples to carry on the chain and initiate new devotees. These eleven gurus may also request other disciples of Srila Prabhupada to share this responsibility of initiating new devotees, so that the Krsna consciousness movement will continue its growth. But the future generations of gurus and disciples will always honor Srila Prabhupada as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON.
In Ancient India's Vedic literatures we find a cosmic calendar that shows the cycle of ages—and how to break out of it.
by Visakha-devi dasi
How long we live greatly depends on what kind of body we have. For example, an insect might stay around for only a month, while a human being sometimes lasts for 100 years. And as the time-honored Bhagavad-gita informs us, the inhabitants of planetary systems higher than ours have bodies of a still higher quality and so live much longer than we do here. In fact Lord Brahma, the administrative demigod who resides on the highest planet in the universe, lives not a moment less than 311 trillion 40 billion years.
Of course, modern scientists have some inkling that a single 24-hour span on some higher planets may equal an earth year or maybe more, but they have no idea just how much more. Bhagavad-gita (8.17) tells us this about the length of Lord Brahma's day and night:
"By human calculation, 1,000 great ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's day. And such also is the duration of his night."
Here's the calculation in detail. First, we add up the 4 yugas (ages) shown in the chart. This is 1 divya-yuga (great age), or 4.32 million years. Now, when we multiply by 1,000, what we come up with—and this is a mere 12 "hours" (1 daytime) in Lord Brahma's life—is 4.32 billion earth years. His daytime plus his nighttime comes to 8.64 billion years. What's more, 360 of these days and nights make 1 of Brahma's "years," and he lives for a full 100 of these "years."
All of this may seem fantastic to us, but as Einstein learned some years ago, time is relative. Take, for example, an amoeba, whose life span is less than an hour. If we could explain our life span to the amoeba, just think how flabbergasted he would be. In the same way, although we may be astounded by Brahma's life span, to him it seems quite normal and, if anything, rather short.
Understanding the Overseer
On a grand, cosmic scale, Lord Brahma is an overseer—he manages the process of creation within this universe. At the beginning of each of his days, all varieties of life-forms appear, and when his night comes there is a partial annihilation until the next day, when he sets everything in motion all over again. Although Brahma lives for such a vast span of time and has such awesome responsibilities, we can get a rough idea what his life is like.
Brahma starts his day by meditating on the Supreme Lord. He prays that he may "engage in the Lord's service in the creation of the material world," and that "I may not be materially affected by my works, for thus I may be able to give up the false prestige of being the creator." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.9.23)
Although he holds such an exalted place in our universe, Brahma acknowledges God's supremacy and does not want to become illusioned into thinking that he is independently powerful. He wants to remember always that the original cause of everything is Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just as a gardener doesn't create seeds but simply sows and waters them to make a garden grow, so Lord Brahma does not create life (the soul), but receives power from the Supreme Lord to place certain souls into certain types of bodies.
So at the beginning of his day, Brahma places each one of us—each individual spiritual soul—into a particular body. As Brahma's day wears on, we transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes to the upper planetary systems and sometimes to the lower ones; sometimes to the body of a pigeon and sometimes to that of a prince—until, after 4.32 billion earth years have passed, Lord Brahma's day ends. Then we go into a dormant state, until his next day begins and the whole cycle starts again.
We may take exception to all this information, since we can't recall any of it. But after all, what can we recall of even our present lifetime? For instance, we know for sure that we were once in our mother's womb, but can we remember that experience? And what to speak of past lifetimes in other bodies? Brahma, however, sees our futile wanderings and feels compassion. He sees us suffering from various types of miseries—anxiety, anger, disease, insomnia, natural disturbances—because of our forgetfulness. "The material miseries are without factual existence for the soul," he assures us. Still, many of us refuse to hear about our actual identity and our relationship with the Supreme Lord, and as a result, we keep on suffering in this material world.
Lord Brahma's Daytime (A Mere 12 of His Hours) Lasts 4.32 Billion of Our Years
Even when we consider 1 day in Lord Brahma's life, we have to talk in terms of divya-yugas (great ages). And although a divya-yuga lasts 4.32 million earth years, it takes 1,000 of them—4.32 billion of our years—to make Lord Brahma's daytime, a mere12 hours of his life. And Brahma lives for 100 "years" (311 trillion 40 billion of our years). As the chart below shows, each divya-yuga (each one-thousandth of Lord Brahma's daytime) contains 4 yugas (ages). Right now we are in the Kali-yuga of the 28th divya-yuga in the 1st day of Lord Brahma's 51st year.
A Look Inside 1 Divya-yuga (Great Age) in Lord Brahma's Day
In Bhagavad-gita (8.16) Lord Krsna tells us exactly what our situation is and what we can do about it: "From the highest planet in the material world-Lord Brahma's residence—down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated creation and annihilation take place. But one who attains to My abode never comes to this material world again."
As long as we live here in the material world, we can know that we face three times of bodily annihilation: (1) the moment of our death, (2) the end of each of Brahma's days (when there is a partial annihilation), and (3) the end of Brahma's lifetime (when the entire universe becomes unmanifest for thousands of aeons, until the Lord again manifests Brahma and the rest of the universe).
This has been going on in the past, and it is still going on. "Again and again this multitude of living entities become active; and again and again they are helplessly dissolved." (Bg. 8.19) No one can calculate how long we have been revolving in the cycle of creation and dissolution. But by using our intelligence properly, we can get out of this insane cycle and save ourselves from a bleak future.
"Yet," Lord Krsna promises, "there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to the manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That supreme abode is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode." (Bg. 8.20-21)
As we've seen, the soul's sojourn from body to body throughout Brahma's lifetime is pitiable and pointless. Now that we have the human form of life, we have a rare chance to understand our real situation—a chance to see that with each rising and setting of the sun, our inevitable demise is coming closer, and that all the wealth in the world can't stop it. Lower life forms don't have enough brain substance to understand this process, but human beings can read Vedic literature and take its advice: "Do not spend your time uselessly in mundane affairs; all these things will be finished at the time of annihilation. Instead, look toward the eternal world. Learn how to go back home, back to Godhead."
As we can see on the chart, the age that we're living in (the Kali-yuga) is an ocean of faults. But we have one exceptional opportunity: simply by chanting the names of God, we can become freed from Lord Brahma's cycle of creations and then return home, back to Godhead. Five centuries ago the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and personally taught this sublime process of God realization. At that time even Lord Brahma came to this planet to take part in the Lord's mission. And Brahma—along with Lord Caitanya's other followers to the present day—always chants the names of God recommended in the Vedic literature: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Some personal recollections by his disciples.
I remember being with Srila Prabhupada once when a cynical reporter interviewed him. The man challenged, "You claim God is speaking to you directly, telling you what to do?"
"Yes," Srila Prabhupada said.
Sitting there beside Srila Prabhupada, I could feel the reporter's skepticism. "How can God speak to any man?" he pressed on. "How can any man see and hear God?"
Looking for words that his materialistic mind could accept, I spoke up. "Lord Krsna is in everyone's heart, and He gives you the intelligence to see exactly what to do and how to make the right decision. In that way Krsna can guide you from within."
Srila Prabhupada looked at me and shook his head. "Why are you saying this nonsense?" he said. "Krsna will speak to you directly. You will see Him and hear Him. Every decision I make—Krsna is telling me to do it directly."
That was one of the few times I saw Srila Prabhupada reveal his position so openly. He was actually seeing Krsna, and Krsna was telling him everything.
One day about twenty of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, including my husband and me, were walking with him at Venice Beach, in Los Angeles. After a while Srila Prabhupada started talking about women—how they tend to be less spiritually intelligent than men and more inclined toward sense gratification. He spoke in this way for several minutes. Then he looked right at me with his special radiant look and said "Don't you mind." Everyone laughed. Srila Prabhupada was talking frankly about women, but he didn't want me to feel personally discouraged. I was laughing inside, too, because I was remembering something he had told us hundreds of times. "You are not your body. You are not a man or a woman but a spirit soul, a servant of God." I saw it that day more clearly than ever before. Srila Prabhupada was teasing me into understanding the first point of spiritual life: aham brahmasmi—"I am spirit."
One evening in 1969, while Srila Prabhupada was visiting London, he spoke at a well-attended gathering and rebutted all sorts of challenging questions. In his usual, magnificent way, Srila Prabhupada defeated one critic after another and established the eternal truths of Vedic knowledge. He even dismissed one overly fervent opponent by calling him a fool and telling him to sit down.
The next day I was giving Srila Prabhupada his daily massage. He was due to speak again that evening, and I felt like a trainer getting a prizefighter ready for his next bout. I was talking glowingly of his triumph the evening before, and I went on in this way for several minutes, praising him more and more. Suddenly he stopped me with a thunderous "No!" And then, with a voice so small—a voice that seemed to come from deep within—he said, "I am just a humble servant." He didn't think himself a great speaker. He had simply repeated Krsna's words from Bhagavad-gita. And immediately I felt unworthy of being in the same room with him.
In 1967, on December 17, His Divine Grace kindly accepted me as his disciple. For a while afterward I still lived at home, since I was underage and was attending high school. Along with his many other unique qualities, Srila Prabhupada often revealed compassion and patience of the highest degree. I remember once I wrote him a six-page letter about my Krsna conscious activities while living back at home.
It was a really inconsequential letter. I related to Srila Prabhupada that I'd made an altar for him and that each day I was making an offering to Krsna. The offering consisted of cattails, moss, acorns, and bark, which at that time I thought were nice. Of course, as time went on I learned through experience and reading Srila Prabhupada's books that actually these things were rather strange and unconventional, to say the least.
Nonetheless, out of his fatherly kindness Srila Prabhupada wrote back:
"My blessings are upon you for your nice prosecution of Krsna consciousness. Whatever you are doing at the present moment is approved by me, and I think, on account of your becoming a sincere soul, Krsna is dictating from within and you are doing things very nicely."
One morning some of Srila Prabhupada's students were walking with him in London's Regents Park. All kinds of flowers grew there, and I was remembering that each day we offered lovely flowers like these to the Krsna Deity back at the temple.
Before long I asked Srila Prabhupada, "When we offer flowers to Krsna, do their spirit souls go back to the spiritual world?"
Srila Prabhupada remained silent awhile and then answered, "Yes. But factually they are already in the kingdom of God." He stopped, waved his cane over the cranes, ducks, people, and flowers in the park, and said, "They are all in the kingdom of God."
Starting to see from his point of view, I said, "Yes, Srila Prabhupada, but they are not aware that they are in the kingdom of God."
He replied, "That is the duty of a spiritual master—to make them aware."
Another time I was with several devotees in Srila Prabhupada's room at our small temple in Edinburgh, Scotland. As he was sitting, a shaft of sunlight entered the window and lit up the whole room. Srila Prabhupada remarked with a wave of his hand, "When you become Krsna conscious, it is just like that."
Cooling the Nuclear Vesuvius
by Balavanta dasa
After the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy estimated that the possibility of a nuclear holocaust had been "somewhere around one out of three.... Everything the U.S. has built in three centuries would have disappeared within eighteen hours. Even the fruits of victory would have been ashes in our mouths." At that time everyone hoped the near-disaster would spur world leaders toward an effective disarmament treaty. But just the opposite has happened. Envoys have met thousands of times to discuss disarmament, but no one has destroyed a single warhead. In fact, since 1965 the world's nuclear stockpile has multiplied more than tenfold, and now both the U.S. and the Soviet Union are daily building three hydrogen bombs, each one powerful enough to wipe out greater Paris and its ten million inhabitants. Far from taking the Cuban missile crisis as a warning to disarm, the world's major nations have created a nuclear Vesuvius primed to erupt at any moment.
If you doubt that our leaders consider nuclear war an essential (and even convenient) option, the remarks that follow should convince you. During the summer of 1974, President Nixon told California Senator Alan Cranston, "At any moment I could go into the next room, push a button, and, twenty minutes later, sixty million people would be dead." And the 1974 Senate Hearings on Nuclear War and Foreign Policy included this statement: "The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional forces until we are losing, and then fight with tactical nuclear weapons until we are losing, and then we will blow up the whole world." Of course, we've all heard the theory that with nuclear weapons war is out of the question. Alfred Nobel said the same thing when he invented dynamite. So to think that our fleets of missiles and bombs will never see action is to think that history won't repeat itself. The world's great fighting forces have always seen action. The Roman legions, the Spanish Armada, the Wehrmacht—all were meant for war, and all went to war.
"But," you may ask, "if world history has been a history of wars, and if history repeats itself, then what chance do we have now for peace? Was there ever a time of peace?" The answer is yes. The Puranas, the Koran, the Bible, and the teachings of Confucius tell of an ultracivilized age when wise, saintly monarchs (similar to Plato's philosopher kings) ruled a world totally at peace. This peace resulted not from repression but from the wisdom of rulers and citizens who knew God's laws and followed them.
Just as federal laws govern a nation, so God's laws govern the universe. And just as the state punishes a thief or a murderer, so God punishes a nation that transgresses His laws. This punishment takes such forms as natural disaster, social disorder, economic hardship—and war. Ancient India's Vedic literatures give us this basic law for a peaceful world: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself—those things set aside as his quota—and one must not take other things, knowing well to whom they belong." (Isa Upanisad, mantra 1)
In former ages people knew that encroaching upon others' property violates not only civil laws but God's laws. Unlike modern materialists, who know only how to grab and keep grabbing, the ancients knew that everyone gets his quota of life's necessities from God—and that if someone takes more than his quota, he is in effect stealing from God.
In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna affirms, aham sarvasya prabhavah: "I am the source of everything." In other words, everything in existence comes from Him. Clearly, we have not created the material energy—the land, water, sunlight, and so on—so how can we say we own it? After a carpenter takes some bricks, wood, and cement and builds a house, can he claim that he owns it? Not unless he wants to see the inside of a jail. The house belongs to the person who supplied the carpenter with the building materials. And it's the same way on the cosmic scale. God supplies us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we live on. Even our bodies and minds come from Him. It's all His property—but still we're claiming it as our own. This is thievery, and how can a bunch of thieves ever be peaceful or happy? They'll just fight over the loot. And this is exactly what's happening in the world today.
Take the U.S. Did we create these fifty states? If we've become the rightful owners just by living on the land, then what about the people who were here before we came on the scene? Didn't we, in one way or another, steal the land from them? But now, of course, we've outlawed stealing. What kind of hypocrisy is this? Do we think the laws of nature will let us go on this way?
The Middle East conflict is another classic case of thieves fighting over stolen goods. The Jews, the Palestinians, the Syrians—all fighting over the same piece of desert land. But how can any of them claim the land as their own? We come into this world naked and empty-handed, and we leave the same way. Whatever we "own" while we're here is only ours on loan. If I visit New York for two weeks, can I claim, "Now that I've been in New York for two weeks, the city belongs to me"? This is madness. Yet in the same way we are visiting this planet for a few years, and soon we'll have to leave. How, then, can the Jews or the Arabs or anyone else claim that a certain piece of land belongs to them?
Actually, everything belongs to God, the supreme creator and supreme father. When the people of the world understand this idea, then their territorial claims and counterclaims will disappear like so many mirages. Just as two brothers can live together peacefully on their father's estate, so a God conscious Arab and a God conscious Jew can live together peacefully on God's land. In God's mind is there any line of demarcation between Israel and Lebanon or the United States and Cuba? This nation against that, black against white, Jew against Arab, Catholic against Protestant—all these conflicts are due simply to our lack of God consciousness. The only solution for us is to recognize the real owner: God. This doesn't mean we have to give up everything and live like ascetics. Actually, as God's family we have a right to live on His property. But now we have forgotten our bond with the supreme father, which means we have also forgotten our bond with one another. That's why we're having so much trouble living and working together.
Imagine some people standing on a bridge over a small pond. If each of them starts tossing stones in at random, the ripples will clash, and in no time the water will become choppy. But if the people could toss the stones at the same central point, then the ripples would never clash; they'd harmonize. In the same way, if our nation has its center of interest and another nation has its center of interest, our interests will clash. But when we see that Lord Krsna is the perfect center of interest, then we won't clash. We'll have peace.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q; Does chanting Hare Krsna have anything to do with reincarnation?
A. Definitely. The whole process of reincarnation depends on what you're thinking about at the time of death. If you're thinking about a dog, you could become a dog in your next life. If a husband is thinking about his wife, he could become a woman. Similarly, if the wife is thinking about her husband, she could become a man. But if you are thinking about Krsna, you will go to the spiritual world. There you'll have a spiritual body, so that you can associate with Krsna. If you are not thinking of Krsna, you're sure to take birth again in this material world—perhaps as a human being, perhaps as an animal or a plant. This is not desirable of course, because everyone who takes birth in the material world must undergo the miseries of disease, old age, death, and rebirth. So, as the Vedas explain, we should remember Krsna at the time of death. And the easiest way to do this is to chant His holy names, the Hare Krsna mantra.
Q. Does chanting Hare Krsna give you good karma?
A. No. The. Hare Krsna mantra gives you no karma whatsoever. Good karma means you will get riches, aristocratic birth, advanced education, and beautiful bodily features. But in order to enjoy these opulences you have to take on another material body. This is a bad bargain, because no matter how good your karma is, you will still have to get old, get sick, die, and take birth again—perhaps as a poor, ignorant, ugly, or lowborn person, or even as a plant or an animal. This is called the cycle of birth and death. So whether you have good karma or bad karma, it is all actually bad. It is like being on a ferris wheel. Sometimes you're going up, but the next moment you're headed back down. You take birth, die, and take birth again endlessly.
But by chanting Hare Krsna you free yourself from both good and bad karma. You don't have to take on a material body to enjoy the results of good karma or suffer the results of bad karma. You attain to your svarupa-siddha, your original spiritual identity. Actually, everyone has a unique, timeless relationship with Krsna in the spiritual world. You may become one of Krsna's servants or friends. As such, your body will be free from karma, and full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
Q. Is chanting Hare Krsna a form of yoga?
A. Yes. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna affirms that of all forms of yoga, bhakti-yoga (devotional service to Him) is the highest. And the best way to perform bhakti-yoga is to chant Krsna's names. In Sanskrit yoga means "to link up" with the Supreme Person, and the Hare Krsna mantra is a transcendental sound vibration that puts you directly in touch with Lord Krsna Just as the sound vibration of a telephone puts you in touch with friends in distant places.
Q. Where does the Hare Krsna mantra come from?
A. Sometimes people say that it's from India, but really the Hare Krsna mantra is like the sun: it may appear first in the East and only later appear in the West, but that doesn't make it Indian. As an old Bengali song informs us, "The sound of the Hare Krsna mantra is coming from Krsna's planet in the spiritual sky."
Q. What's the history of the Hare Krsna mantra?
A. Great sages were chanting the Hare Krsna mantra millions of years ago, in fact, the Vedic literatures say that the Hare Krsna mantra is nitya, timeless. Five hundred years ago Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya taught that chanting Hare Krsna is the best way for everyone to become self-realized in the present age. He predicted that the Hare Krsna mantra would reach every town and village in the world. In 1965 His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to America and began fulfilling that prediction, and his disciples are carrying on his work.
Q. What is a mantra?
A. The word mantra comes from the ancient Sanskrit language. Man means "mind," and tra means "release." So a mantra is a combination of transcendental sounds meant to release the mind from all the anxieties of material life. The Hare Krsna mantra is known as the maha-mantra, or great mantra. It is the essence of all mantras.
Q. What does the Hare Krsna mantra mean?
A. The Hare Krsna mantra is the sound representation of Krsna Himself. So it is impossible to talk about the meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra in the same way we would discuss the meaning of an ordinary word. The meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra is self-contained.
This is not true of ordinary words. For instance, the word "water" is different from the substance water. If you are thirsty and say "water, water, water," you will remain thirsty. But Krsna is not different from His name. So when we say "Krsna," He is actually present. We can experience His Qualities of eternity, knowledge, and bliss in the sound vibration of His name. That is the meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra. But you can't understand it intellectually—you'll have to chant the Hare Krsna mantra and experience its transcendental meaning for yourself.
Q. How will I know if the chanting is working for me?
A. It will be self-evident. If you eat a good meal, you know when you're satisfied. You don't need to be told. In the same way, when you chant the Hare Krsna mantra, you'll know beyond a doubt that it's working for you. The Vedas say that by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, you will experience transcendental pleasure—a spiritual pleasure much more satisfying than the pleasures of the bodily senses. So one of the first signs that the mantra is working for you will be that you'll lose interest in gross pleasures like gambling, intoxication, illicit sex, and meat-eating. By experiencing a higher pleasure, you'll forget about lower pleasures. That's how you'll know the chanting is working.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
When child Krsna crawled through the courtyard, a 36,000-year curse turned into a blessing.
Kuvera the treasurer of the demigods had two boys. As often happens with rich men's sons, young Nalakuvara and Manigriva became addicted to intoxication and sex. One day they went searching for their favorite pleasures in a splendid garden on the bank of the Ganges. There they got themselves drunk on a liquor called Varuni, and singing noisily, they wandered through fragrant flowers with beautiful young girls. Soon the young demigods and their companions plunged into the lotus-filled Ganges waters. Nalakuvara and Manigriva were enjoying the company of the young girls just the way male elephants enjoy splashing and sporting with female elephants.
But then the great sage Narada passed nearby, and at once the young girls felt ashamed and covered themselves with their dresses. Yet Nalakuvara and Manigriva were blinded with drink and false pride. They remained naked. When Narada saw how degraded the two young demigods had become, he felt compassionate and wanted to free them from their false enjoyment. So he decided to curse the boys in a way that would in the end prove a blessing.
"Through their pious activities in past lives," Narada reflected, "these two souls have become the sons of the great demigod Kuvera. But now false pride and liquor have driven them mad, and they cannot even understand that their bodies are uncovered. So if they want so much to be naked, they should get direct experience by living in the bodies of trees. This will be a proper lesson for them. I will arrange that despite their being in tree bodies, they will be able to remember their past sins. Not only that, but by my special favor, after thirty-six thousand years they will see Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, face to face. At that time they will come back to their real position as His devotees."
Then Narada went back to his asrama, and Nalakuvara and Manigriva turned into twin arjuna trees. By Narada's mystic power the trees grew at the very spot in Vrndavana village where the courtyard of Krsna's childhood home was to be.
One day thirty-six thousand years later, mother Yasoda was breastfeeding her baby Krsna. Suddenly she noticed that the pot of milk she had been heating up was boiling over on the stove. So she put Krsna down and rushed to set things aright. Angered at being left alone, Krsna broke a pot of butter, ate part of the contents in a secluded place, and started feeding the rest to the monkeys. When mother Yasoda found Krsna, she punished Him by tying Him to a large wooden mortar she sometimes used for grinding spices.
"First of all," Lord Krsna thought to Himself, "Mother left without feeding Me enough milk. That's why I broke the butter pot and gave the butter in charity to the monkeys. Now she has tied Me to this mortar. So now I shall do something even more mischievous than before." He decided He would pull down the tall pair of arjuna trees in the yard.
To fulfill the blessing-curse of His great devotee Narada, little Krsna crawled toward the trees, well aware who they really were. "Narada is My dear and affectionate devotee," Krsna thought to Himself. "Since he wanted Me to come face to face with Nalakuvara and Manigriva, I must surely do so."
Of course, no one—not even the sons of the treasurer of the demigods—can see the Supreme Personality of Godhead on the strength of his prestige or high position. But Narada was Krsna's pure devotee and he wanted the boys to see Him; so Krsna also wanted it.
Soon Krsna passed between the two arjuna trees, and the big mortar that He was tied to turned crosswise somehow and stuck between them. Then Krsna pulled on the rope with great strength, and the two trees, limbs and branches shaking, crashed to the ground.
Out of the broken, fallen trees came Nalakuvara and Manigriva, their purified bodies shining like fire and illuminating all directions. At once they came before child Krsna and bowed respectfully.
"That Narada should deliver us by his curse was all Your plan," they said. "You are the supreme mystic, and everything—past, present, and future—is known to You. Although we have stayed here for so long a time in the bodies of trees, at last You have come as a small boy to deliver us."
"O Lord," the brothers went on, "let us always simply serve Your servants, especially Narada. It is by his grace and mercy that we have been able to see You face to face. From now on, may our words describe Your pastimes, may our ears hear Your glories, may our bodies work to please You, may our minds think of Your lotus feet, and may our eyes gaze upon Your devotees."
Child Krsna smiled broadly. He said, "I know that My pure devotee Narada has given you his causeless mercy, that he has saved you from false pride in your wealth and beauty. You are very fortunate, not only because you were cursed by him, but also because you had the great opportunity just to see him. When one is face to face with the sun, he is no longer in darkness. Similarly, if one is fortunate enough to see a great devotee like Narada, then he is no longer in the darkness of ignorance.
"O Nalakuvara and Manigriva, because you have reawakened transcendental love for Me, your lives have now become successful. This is your last lifetime in the material world. Never again will you fall away from your loving devotional service to Me."
Nalakuvara and Manigriva circumambulated Lord Krsna and bowed down before Him again and again. Then they departed, and child Krsna sat there, still bound to the grinding mortar.
Soon Krsna's father Nanda Maharaja and all the neighborhood cowherd men and women arrived on the scene. They were astonished to see Krsna sitting between the fallen trees. What had happened? Had Krsna done this? But how could He have pulled down two gigantic trees? Who had actually done it? While the cowherd men were puzzling over the matter, the children who had been playing nearby said, " Krsna crawled between the two trees, and the wooden mortar topsy-turvied and stuck there. Then Krsna pulled the rope, and the trees fell down. Finally two shining men came out and talked with Krsna. We saw all of this with our own eyes."
Most of the cowherd men found it impossible to accept that Krsna had uprooted the trees in such a wonderful way. But some of them believed the children and told Nanda Maharaja, "Your little Krsna is different from the other children. He just might have done it." Smiling, Nanda Maharaja untied the rope and freed his wonderful son from the grinding mortar.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Without Making Yourself Miserable
by Sita devi dasi
In college I was a would-be humanitarian, always getting myself into one altruistic group or another. I leafleted with grape and lettuce workers, read books to blind people, demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, and quit jobs when it became clear my employers were discriminating against minorities.
Later I wanted to go into humanitarian work full-time, and I looked into the Peace Corps and VISTA. "Who's the most needy?" I thought. "The Appalachian poor? The hungry children in Peru? Or maybe the Bangladesh refugees, or the handicapped?" With so many problems that needed solving—addiction, racism, crime, unemployment, poverty, war—it was a real mind-boggler deciding where to put my energy.
In the fall of 1970, my search took me to the Krsna center in Buffalo, New York, where I talked awhile with the coordinator, Gunagrahi dasa. I told him I wanted to work with people and help solve problems, and he told me I was going about it the wrong way.
"You're like a mother putting drops in her child's ear," he said. "The thing is, the infection has probably traveled there from some other part of the body. So even though the drops stop the pain for a while, it's going to start again. You've got to treat the real cause of the pain, not just the symptoms, you know? So the world's problems are just symptoms of the real disease—that we've forgotten our link with the Supreme—and welfare work is only patchwork."
These sounded like sweeping statements, and I wasn't sure which way I was being swept, but I kept listening.
"See," Gunagrahi went on, "in one part of the world you might solve the hunger problem, but a war or an epidemic is going to crop up somewhere else. It's kind of like stepping down on an air bubble in your carpet. You keep stepping down, and it keeps popping up in some new spot. Finally you've got to lift the carpet and get rid of the bubble altogether. So ordinary welfare work doesn't get to the real problem—it doesn't help people revive their God consciousness, their love for Krsna."
I picked up some of what he was saying, but there was still something bothering me. "You're talking about love for Him, but if He's so loving, what are we doing with all these problems? Why so much suffering?"
He didn't seem to mind the question. "He's like a father who asks his kids not to fool around with matches. If they do it anyway and get burned, whose fault is that? In Bhagavad-gita and other spiritual texts, like the Bible or the Koran, the Lord explains that we should use all the world's resources not just for surviving but for reviving—our God consciousness. Then there'd be no shortage of anything. The only thing we're short of now is God consciousness. Take paper, for instance. All over the world we cut down so many trees and print so many magazines and novels that are only good for lining wastebaskets—stuff that tells you zero about God consciousness and if anything, brings you down to dog consciousness. So now there's a paper shortage, and young people who've read all this trash literature are committing all sorts of crimes. And whose fault is that? We've misused what God has given us."
"Wait, though," I said. "Why has He put us into this situation? Hasn't He more or less abandoned us?"
"He didn't ask us to come here," Gunagrahi answered. "We wanted to come. We've abandoned Him. So the best welfare work you can do is to teach people how to link up again with God. That's what yoga means—'linking up.' It's the greatest art and the greatest science, the greatest welfare work."
"But if I did that," I objected, "how would I be helping with starvation, crime, poverty, racism, drug addiction. ... These are the things millions of people have to live with day in and day out. Are you asking me to look the other way, to forget about all these things?"
"Did you ever try to water a tree leaf by leaf?" he said. "It would take you forever, and the tree wouldn't get any water. It would start shriveling up ... until you started watering the root. The world is just like that: a big tree with so many leaves—all of us. And the root is the Supreme Lord. He's the source. So if we satisfy Him, we can satisfy everyone in the world. Everything's coming from Him anyway, so why not give everything back to Him? Satisfy Krsna, learn to love Him again. And He'll take care of all our needs—material and spiritual-without our even asking. But our leaders have so many independent schemes that can only fail."
My mind was straining for a more complex answer. He seemed to notice but kept going.
"Or say your eyes are getting a little sore," he said, "and you get some carrots to heal them. Now, you don't want to stick the carrots right into your eyes. That would really make them sore, You put the carrots into your stomach, and then your eyes get the benefit. So all of us are like a huge body, and the Lord is like the stomach. If we satisfy Krsna, then we automatically satisfy everyone."
What could I say?
"In the Krsna consciousness movement," Gunagrahi went on, "we're trying to help people see that our real problem is spiritual: we've forgotten our link with the Supreme. All those problems you mentioned—addiction, crime, war—we've got all those problems because we've lost sight of who we really are: the family members of the Supreme Spirit. What the addict or the criminal or the warmonger is craving is really spiritual happiness—the lasting peace and satisfaction that Krsna will give us when we devote ourselves to Him."
Gradually Gunagrahi convinced me that I shouldn't dedicate my life to an ordinary welfare cause. He capped things with a story about a sick boy and his well-meaning brother. It seems their mother had left word that her sick son should stay away from solid foods, but still the boy asked his brother to bring him some cake. So the brother brought the cake, figuring that he was being terribly kind, and of course, the sick boy got sicker. When their mother found out what had happened, she gave the well-meaning brother a beating. In other words, if you don't know the prescription for the problem, then don't try to treat it. You'll just make the problem worse and get yourself into trouble. Again, the world's real problem is spiritual, and the prescription has to be spiritual.
By the end of my talk with Gunagrahi, I felt sure that the best thing I could do was to work with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I moved to the Buffalo center, and I've spent the past few years in Los Angeles at the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, where I operate a type-composing computer. It's direct involvement with the publishing of my spiritual master's translations of the Vedic literatures, the books that fully explain the science of spiritual welfare work. Srila Prabhupada once wrote me, "Just go on in this way, trying to please Krsna, and you will find yourself becoming happier and happier." He was right, and if you come and help us, you'll find out just how right.
More Than Meals: Solving the Food Shortage
Some people take a quick glance at the Krsna consciousness movement and conclude that its members are not working to solve humanity's day-to-day crises. These people tend to think that by chanting the names of God (Hare Krsna), the devotees have become "otherworldly," "out of touch with reality." Or, if they stop a moment and hear what the devotees have to say about the world's problems, they may think, "Spiritual solutions can't really help anyone." Neither of these misgivings holds true. Let us consider, for example, the Krsna conscious approach to one of the worst problems facing the world today-food shortage.
Experts often tell us that the world is in danger: we can expect more and more people and less and less food, with little hope that the supply will increase. But no one who's read Bhagavad-gita or has his fair share of common sense will go along with the idea that the earth is incapable of producing more food. After all, food is ultimately coming from nature's bounty, or, simply, from God. As anyone knows, grain (the main food substance for all living beings) is not manufactured in the scientist's laboratory but results from the Lord's mercy in the form of rainfall and fertile fields.
So we should accept God's arrangement and make the most of the natural source of food He has given us. All we have to do is increase our agricultural development all over the world. But thanks to the artificial values of industrialized society, the world's population has swung away from the farms and into the cities. And as a consequence, countries like Africa, India, America, and Australia have vast tracts of uncultivated—wasted—land.
To set an example on a small scale, the Krsna consciousness society is developing self-sufficient farms based on the principle of "simple living and high thinking." Already, devotees have started some twenty of these farms around the world. By raising their own grains and vegetables, and by protecting the cows and drawing milk from them, the devotees are proving that a life based on cultivating God consciousness and accepting the mercy of God in the form of grain and milk products is a plain and simple solution to the starvation problem. (It's, as well, a solution to almost all other problems.) These self-sufficient farm communities are totally beyond comparison—either spiritually or materially—with the crime- and crisis-filled cities.
Of course, if all the people in the world are going to move to God conscious, agricultural communities, that will require a complete cultural revolution. The Krsna consciousness movement is advocating just this kind of overhaul in consciousness, but admittedly today's propaganda for industrialization and consumption is making things difficult. Even though the Krsna conscious village plan is sound, economically and in every other way, people tend to dismiss it with remarks like, "Your plan may work for you, but what if some people don't go along with it? We'll still have our big cities, our vast tracts of uncultivated land, and our food shortage."
Yet even if people don't move en masse to God conscious farm communities, and even if, as the experts promise, the population keeps growing, there's still enough food being produced around the world to feed everyone. Our only real shortage is a shortage of Krsna (God) consciousness. What makes one group of people in one part of the world think they can throw away thousands of tons of grain and pay farmers not to produce while people in other parts of the world starve? Simple. A shortage of God consciousness. The various "isms" such as nationalism, capitalism, and communism are all based on the bodily concept of life, and do not permit the spiritual vision which would enable people to share the fruits of the earth. As long as we are thinking black-vs.-white, American-vs.-Russian, Palestinian-vs.-Israeli, this-vs.-that, we cannot share the bounty of the earth. This problem can be alleviated only by spiritual understanding. We have to become God conscious and realize that we're all part and parcel of God—that's how we're all alike, and that's how we can share and share alike.
The critics may still object: "It seems you'll help the starving only if they become devotees of God; otherwise, you'll let them go on starving." Not so. Even now, near eastern India's Bangladesh, ISKCON Food Relief is feeding an average of twenty thousand people each month. (CARE has offered additional supplies.) And not long ago, when a cyclone killed tens of thousands in southern India's Andhra Pradesh province, ISKCON Food Relief came through for the survivors with emergency food distribution.
But more important than the immediate meals that ISKCON makes available is the dissemination of Krsna consciousness, which alone can put an end to food shortage and starvation. As Bhagavad-gita informs us, the suffering conditions around the world are simply karma, nature's reactions to our sinful actions, and we cannot avoid these reactions through altruism or political maneuvering. We have witnessed repeatedly that human efforts make almost no dent in drought and famine conditions. Who can control nature but the Supreme? Only with His blessing will nature provide us with rain and crops. True, in times of famine wealthy men may come forward and offer huge donations, but if there is no grain available, then their money is totally useless.
After all, whatever sufferings people are undergoing are prescribed by God's natural law. And these laws aren't subject to change by presumptuous meddlers who think they know more than God. In a hospital, for instance, the doctor may give orders that some of his patients should fast. Now, if some do-gooder wants to ignore the doctor's orders and provide the starving patients with full meals, the hospital authorities will take his so-called compassion as meddling. In the same way, when welfare workers ignore the law of karma they are just wasting their time. For anyone who has gone against God's natural law, suffering is inevitable.
One final note about the charge that devotees are "otherworldly." In one sense, it's true. As Bhagavad-gita explains, this temporary material world will always have its quota of suffering; that is its nature. The eternal soul can be perfectly happy only when he returns to the eternal, blissful, spiritual world. Of course, we can go back to Godhead only if we have developed our love for God in this world. And if we'll just do that, then all our worries about a food shortage are over.