Srila Prabhupada's First Talks in America
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Generally, a person with a philosophical mind is inquisitive to know what is the origin of all creations. At night he looks into the sky and naturally wonders what are the stars, how they are situated, who lives there, and so on. All these inquiries are quite natural for a human being, because he has a more developed consciousness than the animals. And to reply to such a sincere inquirer, the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that the Lord is the origin of" all creations. He is not only the creator, but also He is the maintainer of the cosmic situation, and He is also the destroyer of it. He is the supreme will behind all these activities.
There are atheists of various categories who do not believe in the conception of a creator, but that is due to their poor fund of knowledge only. Everything has its origin in the Supreme Lord. Everything. Whatever you see, it has originated from the Supreme Lord. And this is confirmed in other Vedic literature: yato va imani bhutani jayante. Imani bhutani—for all these things which are created, there is a source.
That source is Brahman [the Supreme]. The second code of Vedanta-sutra confirms this—janmady asya yatah: "The Supreme is that from which everything has come." In the first code, it is said, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Therefore one should inquire into Brahman, the Supreme." What is Brahman? This is explained in the second code: janmady asya yatah: "Brahman is that from whom" (or from which—whatever you like) "everything has emanated."
And that supreme source, or sum-mum bonum, of everything is further described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat. Now, what are the qualifications of that supreme source of everything? The Srimad-Bhagavatam says abhijnah: "He is conscious." The first qualification is that He is conscious. The supreme source cannot be unconscious. Why? Because we are conscious beings.
We, the living entities, are also emanations from the Supreme Lord. Some of the living entities are moving; some of the living entities do not move. The trees, the hills, the mountains—they also have life, but they are not moving. Human beings, cats, dogs, ants, and so many other species of life are moving. But moving or not moving, they are all conscious. So unless the Supreme Lord, the supreme source of all generation, is conscious, wherefrom has this consciousness come? How can you maintain the philosophy that the supreme source is void? Wherefrom has this consciousness come?
Some say that consciousness is generated by the combination of matter. But up till now no scientist has proved that by combining chemicals, physical things, one can produce consciousness. Rather, the Bhagavatam very nicely describes that the supreme source of everything is conscious. He is conscious. And in the Bhagavad-gita you'll find that Krsna says, vedaham samatitani vartamanani carjuna: "I know everything about atitani" (what the past is), "and I know what the present is, and I know what the future is." And, based on this understanding, Krsna says in the Second Chapter, "You, Me, and all these persons who have assembled here—we were individual persons in the past, we are individual persons now, and we will continue to be individual persons in the future."
The Lord is conscious in two ways: anvayad itaratas ca—directly and indirectly. God is the all-powerful supreme consciousness. Therefore He is directly conscious and indirectly conscious. The chief engineer of a complicated construction project does not personally take part in all aspects of the construction, but he knows every nook and corner, because everything is done under his direction. Similarly, the Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme engineer of the cosmic creation, knows every nook and corner of the creation. He is conscious of all minute details.
Now, wherefrom has He gotten this consciousness? We have gotten our consciousness from the Supreme Lord, the supreme source. But wherefrom has the Supreme, or God, gotten His consciousness? The Bhagavatam says He is svarat. Svarat means, "He is independent." His consciousness is not dependent on another's consciousness. In other words, God has all knowledge. Now, our experience is that we go to school, or college, and get knowledge. But if we ask wherefrom God gets knowledge, the Bhagavatam replies, svarat: "He's self-sufficient, full of knowledge." These are the differences between God and the ordinary living entities.
People may argue. "What about Brahma, the first-born living creature in the creation? He has given us the Vedic knowledge, and he's the first living creature, so he must also be svarat—he must also be independent. Why is only God independent? This first-born living creature is also independent. Otherwise, how could he give us the knowledge of the Vedas?"
The reply is "No." Tene brahma hrda: Brahma is also dependent, because he got his knowledge from the Supreme Lord. How is that? He's the first-born living creature—how did he get knowledge from God? Tene brahma hrda: the You cannot understand the Supreme Lord by any other means.
That Supreme Lord is dhamna svena sada. Sada means "always," or "eternally," and dhamna svena means "in His own abode." Dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam. Nirasta-kuhakam means "where there is no illusion." Here everything is kuhaka, illusory. Everything is made of earth, water, and so forth—temporary things. The things of this world are just like dolls. Sometimes, in the storefront of a big mercantile firm, you find a nice girl doll standing with a dress. So, that girl is kuhakam, an illusion. Those who know will think, "Oh, it is only a doll." And that is the difference between a man in knowledge and a man in ignorance: those in ignorance are accepting this material "doll," this material world, as reality. That is materialism. And those who are in knowledge—they think, "No—it is a 'doll,' an illusion, the reality is different." However, sada nirasta-kuhakam, that doll-illusion is not there in the Lord's abode. There the Supreme Truth exists (satyam param dhimahi).
So our aim should be to offer our obeisances unto the Supreme Lord along with His eternal abode. The impersonalists take it for granted that everything is God, so they think we can approach the Supreme Truth in any way. That is not accepted here in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Here it is clearly stated, satyam param dhimahi: the eternal, spiritual part of the Supreme Lord should be worshiped, not the temporary manifestation.
In our bodies, also, there is a spiritual part (the soul) and a material part (the gross body). But unfortunately the people in this modern civilization are taking more care of the material part of the body. They have no information of the spiritual part of the body. But actually, one should take more care of the spiritual part of the body. The material part of the body is secondary. We can maintain our body for spiritual realization, but we should not sacrifice our spiritual needs by becoming too much attracted to the bodily necessities of life.
That is the defect of modern civilization: they have no information from the proper authorities, so they don't care for the spiritual part of the body. Whenever we meet some gentlemen and begin to talk about the spiritual necessities of life, they at once think, "Oh, Swamiji's talking some nonsense; let us go away." But if you talk of politics and every worldly thing, they become very much interested.
Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke. In relationship with this body, we have manufactured so many things, so many bodily necessities. So the Bhagavatam says, tasya pramattah nidhanam pasyann api na pasyati. Pramattah: the people are mad, crazy. Although they are seeing that everything is being vanquished, that it is all being annihilated, still na pasyati—they do not see. Why? They are pramattah, crazy. The Bhagavatam has given a designation to these people who are materially interested: they are pramattah, crazy.
Tasya pramattah nidhanam pasyann api na pasyati. I see that my father has died, my father's father has died, his father has died, and I am going to die. Similarly, my son will die and my grandson will die. And never will we come back again. Once this body has vanished, there is no chance of its coming back. It has vanished forever, just like a bubble in the ocean. Still, people are interested in bodily activities. Therefore, they have been described as pramattah. Pra means "specifically." Mattah means "mad." They are specifically mad. And therefore, pasyann api na pasyati: although they see, they do not see. We have seen that everything is going to be vanquished. In the past we have seen so many empires, so many Napoleons, so many Subash Boses, so many Gandhis—they have come and gone. What is the use of becoming a Subash Bose or a Gandhi or a Napoleon or a Hitler or a great politician? Rather, let us in this life be engaged in spiritual realization so that we can make a complete solution to the problems of life.
A Personal Account
by Radha-Krsna Svami
When I was a young boy growing up in Mexico City, I would sometimes meditate on what comes after death and why we have to die. And I would pray for more years to live, because I didn't want to die. I could see that even the most well-off people were distressed, because everybody knows you can't get away from disease, old age, death, and so many other things that just come of their own accord. You can't get away from them at all. And I was seeing that whatever kind of happiness you could find, it was just here-today-gone-tomorrow. I have an uncle who's a philosopher and a theologian, and I would ask him who I was, what God is like, whether I could go back to the spiritual world after finishing this lifetime, and how to live in a spiritual way. But all he knew about was rituals and that kind of thing. When it came to everyday living, he had about as much information as I did. It all left me feeling really disappointed. I felt disgusted with the ordinary materialistic way of life, but the taste I got of spiritual life left me feeling pretty much the same way.
So I was caught in a dilemma, until my teens, when a friend handed me an old copy of the Bhagavad-gita. Every day I would read one chapter, and every few days I would read all eighteen chapters, and I also started doing the yoga postures that the Gita described. The postures gave me some relief, some peace of mind, and although the Sanskrit-to-Spanish translation seemed to leave something to be desired, I felt intrigued by the descriptions of good and bad karma, life after death, reincarnation, and the path to the transcendental world. The Gita said most people keep coming back to this world life after life, because they're too attached to its miragelike pleasures, and so they have to get old and diseased and die again and again. But the Gita also said there was a way to become a "great soul" (a mahatma) and go back to the eternal world. It seemed a little like the old saying, "A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but one," Yet for me all of this was quite far-off and theoretical. My anxiety was going away, but I had a vague sense that I wasn't going anywhere.
One day in 1971, I was watching a tv variety show when the host introduced two Hare Krsna devotees as his guests, and they answered his questions about who they were and what they were doing. One of them was a young man from Mexico, and the other was Citsukhananda dasa, a young North American of Latin descent. He said thai his spiritual master had asked him to explain the Bhagavad-gita to the people of Latin America and show them how to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Then the two of them chanted awhile. This was the first time I had heard about the Krsna consciousness movement, but I didn't take much interest in it.
A while later, on a Saturday afternoon, I was doing my yoga postures when a friend came over and said, "I've just gone to see the Hare Krsna people at their new center. A lot of local people are becoming members, and they have a big festival every Sunday. So why don't we go tomorrow?"
I still wasn't very interested, but we went anyway and tried some of the Krsna vegetarian feast, which I noticed had some dishes that were surprisingly pleasant-tasting. A few months later I went again, just to get some incense. Two months after that I paid another visit, and then the intervals between visits shortened from two months to one month to fifteen days to a week.
But when Srila Prabhupada, the spiritual master, stopped in Mexico City in 1972, that really decided things for me. From the moment I saw him I knew: "Here is a saintly person, a pure devotee of God." I figured that if this was the Krsna movement's founder, then I had to become a member, After that I started chanting the maha-mantra a lot and really getting to know the devotees and reading Srila Prabhupada's translations, like Nectar of Devotion and Srimad-Bhagavatam. When I read his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I knew I was seeing Lord Krsna's treatise on spiritual life with every word intact. It was a new world (a taste of the spiritual world, I sensed, because I felt totally satisfied without the usual materialistic "pleasures," like smoking and drinking, meat, gambling, and illicit sex). I was naturally satisfied, naturally happy from within.
That Mexico City Krsna center was the first in all of Latin America, and the only one at the time I became a devotee. I remember that wherever I went (with my freshly-shaven head and saffron robes), people would immediately start asking me questions. It might begin as a two-person conversation, but before I could turn around, perhaps fifty people would have gathered, and we'd have a discussion on the ABC's of self-realization and spiritual life.
"The first point to get clear," I would explain, "is that you're not really the material body that you're living in right now—it's only an outer covering, a garment. What you really are is the spirit living within your body. We may have so many different kinds of garments," I would say, "—Latin American, Chinese, French—but inside we're all very much the same. We're all spiritual, and we all come from the Supreme Spirit. If you want to have peace inside yourself and peace all around the world, that's the way you've got to see things."
Quite often someone would ask, "Do you believe in the theory of reincarnation?"
"It's not a theory," I would say. "It's a fact. Reincarnation is just like changing your garment at the end of the day. At the end of your life, you change your body—you get a new body. And what kind of body you get then depends on what kinds of things you're desiring now. To satisfy your desires you can transmigrate all over the world and all over the universe, from one body to another." And sometimes I would point out, "Here in Mexico City you see many signs that advertise, 'Fly to New York and Enjoy the Fun,' and if you fly to New York you'll see many signs that advertise, 'Fly to Mexico and Enjoy the Sun.' So your desires can carry you from one material situation to another—one body to another—all over the world and all over the universe, but you won't feel satisfied. Once a fish is out of the water, you can dress him in Levis or a tuxedo or a sequined jacket; it doesn't matter—he'll just be choking until you put him back in the water. And it's the same for us. Wherever we go in the material world, we'll just feel frustrated. We have to get back to the spiritual world."
It seemed that every day new people would come to the Mexico City Krsna center and become full-time devotees. In fact, we were getting letters from people in parts of the continent that we hadn't even been to as yet. Later we opened a second center, in Caracas, Venezuela, and people who had purchased one of Srila Prabhupada's books either there or in Mexico City would write to us. Usually they would tell us how interested they were, and they would ask whether the devotees were going to come to their town or city and open a center. They would also offer to cooperate with us in every possible way to get the new center established. So within a few years we had opened twenty-three centers, including ones in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Panama. It didn't seem to matter where we went; people from the area would come and join us. And if a person who had joined us happened to be from a place where we hadn't yet opened a center, quite often he would decide to go back there and do it himself.
Of course, not everybody felt so favorable. I remember that once when I was distributing Srila Prabhupada's books on a bus in Bogotá, a man sitting with his arm around a young woman said, "Why don't you get a job? You're doing nothing—you're just parasites."
"Sir," I said, "we're distributing books about self-realization and love of God—this is our job. Now, you might think you're supporting yourself, keeping yourself alive, but actually it's God who's doing all of that. And anyone who doesn't know it is a parasite. We all have to learn to love God, that's all."
"I don't need you and your books to tell me that," the man returned. "I already love God."
By now everyone in the bus was riveted to our conversation, and I went on. "Perhaps you do love God, sir, but in any case, there's a simple test you can give yourself—if you love God, are you following His laws?"
"Yes, of course."
"What about 'Thou shall not kill'? Almost everybody today is eating animal flesh and in that way sending so many innocent creatures to be slaughtered. Is this following God's laws?"
The man was staring down at the floor of the bus. Once I'd make that point, hardly anyone ever knew what to say.
"All of us are worried sick over poverty and natural disasters and epidemics and war, but if we don't follow God's simple laws, what can we expect? If we don't want to watch our culture, our heritage, go down the drain, we've got to follow God's laws, because love of God—real love of God—is the core of that heritage."
Another time, also on a bus, a young woman asked, "Are you trying to run away? What about addiction, corruption, terrorism—are you just trying to escape the world's problems?"
"The world's real problem," I said, "is that we're all trying to escape from our relationship with the Supreme Lord. That's at the root of all our problems. And trying to solve our problems without reviving our relationship with Him is like trying to water a tree leaf by leaf-without watering the root."
Once a tv emcee made a blunt challenge to Hrdayananda dasa Gosvami, the devotee Srila Prabhupada appointed to represent him in Latin America. "What contribution are you making to society?" the man wanted to know. "So many people are coming into your movement, and isn't their service being lost to society? What are they actually doing—why don't they work?"
"I think we work," Hrdayananda Maharaja replied. "In fact, we work harder than you."
The man was taken aback, and Maharaja continued.
"Even the best plans of the most intelligent leaders haven't made the world any better," he said. "Why are all our cities still pocked by crime, drug abuse, and prostitution, even after all the plan-makers have worked so hard? We have to see, finally, that the real problem is spiritual. We've forgotten all about God. We're dreaming that He doesn't have any part in our world, and now the dream has turned into a nightmare. Now, people like you might choose to deal with the nightmare by falling asleep and becoming part of it, but no—you have to help everybody wake up. That's the only solution.
"So the Krsna consciousness movement is working very hard to wake everybody up from this nightmare—this bad dream that there's no God in control and that it's simply 'man against nature' and 'man against man.' This movement is trying to wake the world up to reality: everything we see around us belongs to Krsna, the supreme controller and the supreme friend of everyone, and if we'll just stop hoarding things, He'll take care of everything we need."
Hrdayananda Maharaja went on to say that the world needs a group of people who understand the science of God-realization and self-realization—people who can deal with the world's actual, spiritual problem. As Srila Prabhupada wrote to me in April of 1977, "This is the success of our movement—that our devotees are becoming learned brahmanas, spiritual teachers. By your own personal example you have to teach others to become brahmanas. Now all of you work together and very vigorously spread Krsna consciousness throughout Latin America." Many times he has remarked that if just one percent of the population became well-versed in spiritual science and really pure in their everyday living, then the rest of the world would say, "These men have ideal character," and they would follow their example. "It takes so many stars to fill the sky," Srila Prabhupada has said, "but it takes only one moon to light it."
When we give seminars in colleges and universities, sometimes we talk about this urgent need for spiritually learned teachers, or brahmanas. On one occasion a student asked Hrdayananda Maharaja, "You're trying to make a caste system, aren't you?"
"Take any social body anywhere in the world," Maharaja explained, "and you'll find it has its natural subdivisions, the same way your own body has its subdivisions: head, arms, belly, and legs. Everywhere you go you'll find some people who feel inclined to study and teach, others who want to administrate and protect, another group who do best in agriculture and trade, and still others who take an interest in assisting the rest of the people as workingmen. All over the world you'll find that these subdivisions are already there. The problem is, right now there's no system for training spiritual teachers or spiritually qualified administrators. So today's social body has no head and no arms, just a belly and legs. And that's why the whole world is in such complete chaos.
"Now, in a Krsna conscious society anyone can get as much spiritual training as he can absorb. It doesn't depend on what family you were born in—that would be a caste system, a perversion of the real Krsna conscious social system. No, everything depends on you and the way you want to live your life. For instance, many years ago in India a prostitute's son asked a great spiritual master to accept him as a student. Generally, a child's family background gives some hints about his aptitudes, so the master asked the boy who his father was. The boy said he didn't know, and when he went home and asked his mother, she said she didn't know, either. Finally he returned and told the master, 'Sir, my mother doesn't know who my father is.' The master felt heartened that even in such an embarassing situation the boy was so pure and honest. "That's all right,' he said. 'You are a brahmana."
And even in the embarrassing, downright maddening situation called the modern city, the people of Latin America are learning the science of Krsna consciousness, and many are becoming brahmanas and teaching the science to others. Every Sunday hundreds of people come to each of our centers for the Krsna festival, and every summer they come to the Festival of the Chariots. (Last summer in Guadalajara, Mexico, five thousand came out, and this year the government has given us a parade route right through the center of the city.) Wherever they happen to be, we want people to chant and experience the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Maha means "great," man means "mind," and tra means "release." So the maha-mantra releases the mind from all anxieties and helps the chanter revive his eternal loving relationship with Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada has also asked us to introduce the Latin American people to prasada ("the Lord's mercy," spiritual food offered to Krsna). So much devotion goes into these vegetarian dishes that anyone who tastes prasada feels an instant uplift in consciousness. As Srila Prabhupada has always said, "Krsna consciousness is practical."
Of course, urban-industrial society is little more than a scheme for fetching food from the nearly uninhabited farmlands, so to be totally practical, people can just live on the land, grow their own fruit and vegetables and grain, and keep cows for milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese. This is the ideal Krsna conscious social setting. Farms provide the perfect economic base and the perfect atmosphere, where workingmen, agriculturalists, administrators, and spiritual teachers can live simply and peacefully. It's what Srila Prabhupada calls "simple living and high thinking."
Recently, a man in Guatemala donated seven hundred acres so that we could start a Krsna conscious farm community there, and we've just started another farm community in Brazil. Not long ago a Costa Rican gentleman arranged meetings for us with that country's vice-president and president. And the same man has arranged for several meetings of the national religious council at our center. The religious leaders have become fond of prasada (especially pakoras, breaded cauliflower chunks deep-fried in pure butter), and they visit often. In Lima, Peru, we stop at the correctional institutions each week and distribute prasada to the inmates. The government has written us several letters of appreciation.
In Mexico we've also opened a gurukula ("school of the spiritual master"), so that from their earliest years the devotees' children can learn the science of the soul. As Srila Prabhupada has so often said, ours is an educational movement, and we're convinced that every student has a right to learn this most essential of all sciences. Many educators are beginning to feel the same way. A short while back, for instance, a large parochial school in Costa Rica invited us to talk about the Bhagavad-gita at an assembly, and the students and teachers just kept asking more and more questions. They wouldn't let us go. Whether you present it in Spanish or Portuguese or English or German or the ancient Sanskrit, India's Vedic literature offers the same original science—the science of the soul, the science of self-realization and realization of God. I recall many times when people have seen us distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and they have come over to shake our hands and thank us.
The gratitude all goes to Srila Prabhupada, actually, for books that are literally blueprints for the respiritualization of the world. In January of 1977, he wrote a glowing letter to Pancadravida Svami, who along with Hrdayananda Maharaja Gosvami directs the movement's Latin American activities. "I am very pleased to note your book distribution figures in Latin America," Srila Prabhupada said. "The seed is already there. Now water it and let it grow, and fruit will come out, the fruit of love of Godhead."
On "Slave Mentality"
What follows is a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, one of his disciples, and a reporter from a leading Paris newsweekly.
Interviewer: To me, God means freedom.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes—God means freedom, provided you surrender to God. That is real freedom.
Interviewer: But I may not accept your idea of God. I may want to worship God, or I may not want to worship God. That is my freedom, and that's the most important thing to me.
Srila Prabhupada: A child's freedom, for instance, is to live completely under the protection of his parents—then he has freedom. But without their protection, he'll have no freedom, only suffering. If the child is very rebellious, he may think he doesn't need his parents—he wants to be free. But he is just a rascal. He does not really know what freedom is. Similarly, if you don't surrender to God, then you are misusing your freedom. And you'll lose your freedom. The Bhagavad-gita says, daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya: "Material nature is so strong that she will not allow you to get free." But, mam eva ye prapadyante: "If you surrender to Krsna instead of Krsna's maya, then you'll become free." If you don't agree to accept the control of Krsna, you'll be forced by Krsna's material energy. So what is this so-called freedom? You have to surrender.
Interviewer: But isn't that a rather stifling kind of slave mentality?
Srila Prabhupada: We want to become the slave of Krsna, and you want so-called freedom. But you do not know that if you don't become a slave of Krsna, then you must become a slave of maya. The nature of the soul is to be a slave—that is your natural position. And we can see this practically: if people are not slaves of this material nature, then why are they dying? You don't want to die, but you'll be forced to die. So how are you free? But because people are rascals, they don't understand this. They are imagining themselves free.
Interviewer: But throughout history people have fought valiantly for the freedom to enjoy life to the fullest—the pursuit of happiness.
Srila Prabhupada: That means that they're thinking that freedom means to become the servant of the senses. Our Krsna consciousness philosophy teaches, "Don't become the servant of your senses." And people think, "Oh, but this is our freedom." They do not know that by trying to become free, they are becoming servants of their senses. Where is your freedom? To freely enjoy sense gratification means to become the servant of your senses. This is maya's illusion. You are voluntarily accepting maya's slavery and thinking, "Now I'm free." This is illusion. Your senses are pulling you by the ear—"Come here. Do this and you'll be happy." Just like a dog: as soon as his master pulls the leash—"Come on! Come on!"—he has to follow. So people are becoming just like dogs, and they are thinking "free." Because they are unintelligent rascals, they cannot understand what real freedom is. But we are teaching that real freedom comes when you surrender to God.
Interviewer: But how can you surrender to something you don't know? You can't really know God. You can't even speak about Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Our position is that we know God from God's explanation of Himself. We don't try to speculate about God like you. We're not such rascals. I agree that I cannot know God, but in the Bhagavad-gita God Himself says, "I am like this," and I accept it. That's all. That is my position—this is my full surrender to God. I may not know what He is, but when He says, "I am like this," I accept it. I never say, "I have understood God." How can I know God? I am limited, and God is unlimited. But He says, mattah parataram nanyat: "There is no greater truth than Me." And I accept this. You can call it "slave mentality" or whatever you like, but I accept the words of Krsna. Instead of endeavoring foolishly to know God by mental speculation, I submit to the statement of God that He is the Supreme Person. So which way is better: to speculate on God foolishly, or to accept the statements of God? Which is better?
Interviewer: To accept the statements of God.
Srila Prabhupada: So, you are more intelligent than the rascals. The rascals will remain fools by speculating on God for many, many lives. And when they become actually wise, they'll surrender to God. This is also stated by the Lord in Bhagavad-gita—bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After many, many births of mental speculation, when one actually becomes wise he surrenders unto Krsna." I have already surrendered to Krsna. Why should you wait?
Devotee: One problem is that they never had authorities they could surrender to. Even their parents have cheated them.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a fact. The parents are also rascals. Unless you approach a person who is the representative of Krsna, who has understood Krsna, then the rascaldom continues. You have to find out a person who has understood the Supreme Truth—otherwise, you'll simply find another rascal, another rascal, another, another.
But you should not think that just because you have been cheated, there is no genuine authority. That's simply another kind of rascaldom. If someone has been cheated with counterfeit money, he should not conclude that there is no real money. So, don't become illusioned just because you were cheated by counterfeit authorities in the past. Unfortunately, people are so unintelligent that they cannot judge what is the real authority and what is unreal. They take the real to be counterfeit and then follow the blind rascals.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Guru to Islanders: Protect the Cows
On a recent journey to the South Pacific, His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami (one of ISKCON's eleven initiating spiritual masters) visited the island nation of New Zealand. While there he met with the mayor of Auckland, addressed a large gathering at the Auckland Town Hall, and stopped at ISKCON's new farm community just north of the capital.
Throughout his visit, Tamala Krsna Gosvami urged the people of New Zealand (one of the world's largest meat-producing nations) to "work the land and protect the cows."' In front-page coverage the national press quoted him as saying, "Why don't New Zealanders show the world that people can live off the land without anxiety? By protecting the cow, rather than killing it, we can be very happy."
Later, Tamala Krsna Gosvami presented Auckland mayor Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson with Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which affirms that the basis for a peaceful. God conscious society is agriculture and the protection of cows. Mayor Robinson related that when his hosts had offered him meat at a business luncheon earlier that day, he had replied, "No, thank you. I'm not a cannibal—I don't eat my relatives."
At ISKCON's newly acquired farmlands on Auckland Harbor, Tamala Krsna Gosvami asked the New Zealand devotees to demonstrate to their countrymen the practical advantages of the Krsna conscious life-style of simple living and high thinking.
Bombay Mayor Tours New Cultural Center
The mayor of Bombay recently joined ten thousand of his fellow citizens at ISKCON's new cultural center on Juhu Beach to celebrate one of India's main national holidays.
Mayor Sri Wamanrao Mahadik was the chief guest at the festival marking the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of Krsna who long ago ruled India as the perfect monarch. Regarding the work of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the mayor said, "We feel very proud today to see how you are propagating Indian culture. This is a great day in our lives. We want to extend all facilities to help this great cause."
After touring the ultramodern International Guesthouse at the Juhu Beach complex, the mayor remarked, "This place is so nice that I am sure Lord Krsna and Lord Rama will personally come here to take rest."
by Acyutananda Svami
Ever since Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha first captured the fancy of Westerners, it has indeed caused a wave of thought and action, especially among young people. Though the book says nothing new, it seems to offer the best of both worlds. In essence, it promises that one can indulge his senses to the highest (and mostly the lowest) limit of enjoyment, and that in this way one can come to superconsciousness.
Of course, the ultimate material pleasure is sex, and genuine spiritual methods prescribe substantial if not total abstinence. So this new wave may seem like a pleasant alternative for people who take things superficially and want only profit with no loss—or, as a Bengali proverb says, for people who want only the back half of the cow, the part that gives milk, and not the front half, the part that must be fed.
Many so-called spiritual leaders who have ridden in on this wave call themselves "tantrics" and call their dubious process "Tantra Yoga." They teach what they claim is a genuine process of "burning out the mind" through sensual exhaustion—a sexual exercise called "tantra" that is supposedly found in the Vedic literature. As we might expect, in this way they meet a lot of women.
As followers of the Vedic literature, the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness want to expose this erroneous and abominable practice and save the naive from being exploited by cunning cheats.
First, let's take a look at the word tantra itself. Tantra means "a strict yoga system of injunctions, rules, and regulations." There are four progressive levels of tantras: (1) tantras for people who are in nature's mode of darkness or ignorance, (2) tantras for people in the mode of passion, (3) tantras for people in the mode of goodness, and (4) Vaisnava tantras, those for people who are devotees of the Lord and are thus transcending the modes of this world.
The Western seeker finds all this Vedic literature shrouded in mystery, and until he finds a bona fide guru, a genuine spiritual preceptor, he will remain in illusion. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has dispelled this mystery by teaching the Vedic literature purely and without divergent commentaries. "I have no secrets," said Srila Prabhupada. "I will give you everything as it is." Usually, the so-called gurus maintain a secluded mystery about themselves, a sort of "I-know-some-thing-I-won't-tell" attitude that keeps the followers always groping for answers. Srila Prabhupada was never like that. He broke open the treasure-house that is the Vedic literature.
There are three Vaisnava tantras: Narada-pancaratra, Pancaratra, and Vaikhanasa. These offer rules and regulations that free the mind from material attachments and fix the consciousness on the forms, names, qualities, and pastimes of Lord Krsna. These tantras describe how a Vaisnava (a yogi who is devoted to the Lord) should regulate his life: how he should use beads for chanting spiritual mantras, how he should worship the Lord's revealed Deity forms, and many other techniques of God realization. The Vaikhanasa and other pancaratric tantras are very rigorous, and to make spiritual progress one must follow their regulations flawlessly. So the members of ISKCON follow the Narada-pancaratra.
Basically, all the rules and regulations of the Narada-pancaratra are explained by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his book The Nectar of Devotion. There are sixty-four main guidelines, of which five are very important: (1) accepting a spiritual master, (2) worshiping the Deity, (3) studying the Srimad-Bhagavatam, (4) chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, both congregationally and individually (that is, softly, on chanting beads), and (5) living in a holy place like Mathura-Vrndavana (the area of Lord Krsna's birth and childhood pastimes). To follow these guidelines properly, one must receive formal initiation from a spiritual master and observe four basic prohibitive principles: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, and no meat, fish, or eggs.
The Vaisnava tantras quickly remove the illusory sense that the physical body is the self. In a short time the devotional yogi realizes that he is a pure, blissful, eternal spiritual soul, and he engages in the loving service of Lord Krsna with full enthusiasm. Soon obstacles vanish, and he experiences a taste for hearing and chanting Krsna's names. This higher taste surpasses all material pleasures, and physical or mental circumstances cannot spoil it. The taste develops into pure devotion (bhava-bhakti), in which the yogi experiences every emotion at its peak in relationship with Krsna. When the waves of bhava crash together in the heart, the devotional yogi experiences full love of Godhead, and this is the highest perfection of life.
The tantras for people who are attached to the mundane mode of goodness describe the process of karma-kanda, or sense gratification combined with some opportunity for spiritual advancement. This branch of the Vedic literature offers marriage ceremonies, birth ceremonies, funeral ceremonies, and ceremonies for worshiping various demigods and gaining material success. According to these tantras, if one engages himself in family life, obeys all scriptural regulations, and commits no sin for one hundred human births, he will go back to the spiritual world, back to Godhead. Clearly, it is a slow process—and to risk even one more birth in the material world is foolish, since the senses are so strong that at any time one could commit sins and ruin his chances for liberation.
The tantras for people in the mode of passion offer methods of rectifying past sins through difficult and costly sacrifices or through long' pilgrimages to holy places. But even after one performs all these rites, he may still have the desire in his heart to go on sinning. And although this process of worshiping minor deities can promote one to higher, superhuman planets, one quickly uses up his good karma and must soon fall down to lower planets and start all over again. It is a slow process without any lasting benefit.
For those in the mode of ignorance—those who are envious of Krsna or too impatient to follow a spiritual path, or those who want magical powers, wealth, and quick liberation—there is the process called sri-vidya. (This is the yogic code that bogus gurus have perverted to the level of gross sensuality; it is what Westerners have come to know as "Tantra.") If one fails to follow sri-vidya's rules and regulations flawlessly, he will experience not a quick attainment of mystical powers but a quick downfall and utter ruination. In many cases severe and incurable disease, madness, or sudden death has resulted from tampering with this path.
(As I describe the items in this tantric process, I hope the reader will be able to catch the thread of how each point has been misrepresented to appear fascinating, easy, and enjoyable.)
For success on the tantric path, the yogi tries to please the deity of destructive illusory energy, Kali (or Durga). And the process is rarely carried out to the end. The aspirant must completely control his physical organs by practicing the sitting postures and fasts of the hatha-yoga process, and this is simply the beginning. The yogi must meditate according to strict rules. He must sit atop a deer skin, kusa grass, and a cotton cloth, and must fix his eyes on the tip of his nose. Further, he must renounce all intoxication, gambling, and animal foods, and he must practice celibacy. Yes, restraining the sex urge is most important if one is to perfect the so-called yoga of sex. Contrary to much of today's advertising, physical pleasure is not the true point of hatha-yoga.
When the yogi has complete and utter control of all his external and internal organs, then he must gradually clear his mind of all attractions and repulsions toward material things. He must neither love nor hate anything. Now the guru will advise terrible austerities that test the yogi's tolerance of heat and cold. If the yogi passes through these calmly, then he begins a still more grueling process.
First, the yogi must cook meat and eat it without relish and also without disgust (since, more than likely, he has been a vegetarian). Then he goes to a cremation ground, where he searches through the ashes until he finds the one part of the human body that does not burn. This is a cylindrical piece of tissue about two inches long and one-half inch thick that is situated behind the navel. It does not get consumed in the flames, but glows with an eerie green light. The yogi must say the appropriate mantras and, without cringing, eat it. Then, at a time prescribed by the guru, he must cook a dead fish in a skull and similarly eat it without disgust. Then he must drink wine without being influenced by its effect. All of this prepares his nerves and emotions and makes him totally indifferent to the urges of the body. Then he kills five animals and makes their heads into a kind of seat. After the yogi sits down, the guru invokes the spirits of the animals, and they attack the yogi's mind. If he remains sane, he can go on to the next stage—sex.
A yogini (female yogi) who has been trained in the arts of the flesh is called, and under the guidance of the spiritual master, a kind of sex act is performed. During intercourse the yogi must control his mind and constrict his stomach muscles so that he doesn't lose his seminal fluid but instead removes the woman's fluid. The yogi keeps the mixture of these two fluids in the base of his spine. There it will eventually enkindle the kundalini (or "serpent power"), which will rise up the spine through the susumna nerve and actually rip the yogi's soul out of its situation in the heart and then out of the body and into the clear white light. (With their crippled minds, today's cheaters have misconstrued this severe discipline into a license for orgies.)
Now the yogi sits for meditation and begins raja-yoga. He raises the kundalinii force in the spine to the six centers of psychic power. At each of the six cakras, or psychic centers, deities who reside there offer him material powers and pleasures of inconceivable dimension. These are all tricks of Kali (Durga) to divert the yogi from success. When and if his kundalini force reaches the center located at his eyes, the yogi may then prepare for leaving his body. He must now make "the long tongue."
With a sharpened goat's tooth, the yogi cuts the septum, or cord of flesh, under his tongue. Day after day he cuts the septum again, so that the tongue can extend higher and higher. As it heals, the yogi cuts further. At last, he can stretch his tongue up to the middle of his nose, then to his eyes. When he can stretch his tongue to his forehead, he is ready. Then by the kundalini force the yogi raises the living soul up to the throat and inserts the "long tongue" in the postnasal passage. This keeps the soul from passing out the mouth, nose, eyes, or ears. Through mystic fire a channel opens, the top of the skull fractures, and the soul enters the clear white light. Once in this light, the yogi will probably make the mistake of thinking that he has become God. Completely forgetting his whole struggle with his body, he will fall immediately into a low form of life like that of a germ or stone. As Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32) informs us, "Because of his impure intelligence, the yogi who would become one with God ultimately falls back down to the material world—no matter how severe the austerities he has performed."
Now we have viewed the real path of tantra in detail. The followers of the Vaisnava tantras suggest that for genuine spiritual progress, you don't have to go to all this trouble. Instead you can chant Hare Krsna, and your life will be sublime.
An intimate disciple of Srila Prabhupada's since 1967, His Holiness Acyutananda Svami spent the last eleven years studying and teaching Krsna consciousness in India. From 1967 to 1972 he resided in asramas in both Bengal and South India. There he became proficient in Bengali, and he made an extensive study of the Vedic scriptures underlying the various schools of Indian thought. After 1972 he taught the science of Krsna consciousness throughout the subcontinent, consistently receiving warm welcomes at important devotional centers. Not long ago, he returned to the West for an extended visit and lecture tour.
Exploding the Big Bang Theory
by Drutakarma dasa
Like an AM radio song or a first-run movie, a scientific theory has to be catchy if it's going to get anywhere. To begin with, it has to have a name that people will remember. Bright high school students should be able to make science fair displays out of it. Time and Newsweek readers should want to tell their friends about it. Members of key congressional committees should be able to get the drift of it at the first or second briefing.
Take the big bang theory, for instance; the scientists have reason to be proud of this one. It goes something like this.... Sixteen or twenty billion years ago, when the only thing in existence was a super-dense cosmic chunk, a big bang took place and set in motion a random evolution that has led to today's living world (with its plants and animals and government appropriations for scientific theories).
As we might expect, in their 1977 report to NASA the leading men at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory had fond words for the big bang:
A concept of cosmic evolution ... is receiving considerable attention today. This does not mean that it has been proven, nor that all scientists concerned with the broad range of studies involved with this theory agree with it—either in its detail or its overall structure. Yet it serves as a useful framework within which to define general themes of extraterrestrial investigation and. . . to help guide the planning of specific programs in Space Sciences. (Report to the NASA Administrator by the Outlook for Space Study Group)
In other words, the big bang theory may not be true, "but," say the scientists, "we're using it anyway, to plan out the next stage of our multibillion-dollar space program." They're using the big bang to get the big buck.
Shortly after the statement we've just read, the scientists offer a modest summary, in the form of an easy-to-digest table:
Steps in Cosmic Evolution
A little puzzling, perhaps, but a clear sign that the scientists are attuned to the American psyche. For one thing, we don't like know-it-alls, and the scientists do everything they can to avoid seeming dogmatic. They couch their theory in question marks, and sure enough, it catches our fancy all the more. As the table reveals so unabashedly, the big bang theory is a doubt on top and a doubt on the bottom, with a few slices of guesswork sandwiched in between. But somehow it's irresistible.
Well, not quite irresistible, at least not anymore. It's starting to look more and more like what my Webster's New Collegiate calls a "myth": "an ill-founded belief held uncritically, especially by an interested group."
Mainly, though, the big bang theory just doesn't make sense. After all, how could all the complex life-forms in our world have come from an exploding chunk? As far as I can see, explosions cause death and disintegration, not life and ongoing creation. Explosions make piles of rubble, not plants and flowers and butterflies and human beings.
Happily, many scientists are starting to see things the same way. Richard L. Thompson, Ph.D. (American Mathematical Society) has shown that it's statistically impossible for complex life-forms to evolve from simpler inorganic forms—explosions or other "natural" processes notwithstanding. (See his Demonstration by Information Theory That Life Cannot Arise from Matter, 1977.) Dr. Thompson finds that the laws of mathematics point to a universal controlling intelligence.
And this is just what the Vedic literature tells us: "In the beginning of the creation there was only the Supreme Personality. There was no sun, no moon, no stars. There was only Krsna, who creates and enjoys all." And when He desired. He manifested the universe, in an orderly way. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, "The whole process of creation is a gradual development from one element to another, reaching up to the variegatedness of the earth as so many plants, mountains, reptiles, birds, animals, and varieties of human beings."
NASA's own latest findings support this conclusion, if only unintentionally. Not long ago, a team of scientists sent ultrasensitive radio equipment aloft in a NASA U-2 jet and measured "the cosmic microwave background"—the radiation they think the big bang left behind. Dr. Richard Muller, Dr. George Smooty, and graduate student Marc Gorenstein reported, "Our measurements give a picture of an extremely smooth process. The big bang, the most cataclysmic event we can imagine, on closer inspection appears finely orchestrated." Then might there be an orchestrator?
The U-2 data report (NASA Activities, February 1978) goes on to say that the expansion of the universe was "serene, highly controlled, and completely uniform"—not explosive, but more like "the blossoming of a plant or flower."
We may be a little amazed to discover that the five-thousand-year-old Srimad-Bhagavatam offers the same description:
"The bud of a lotus flower generated from the Personality of Visnu, and by His supreme will it illuminated everything, like the sun...." Then Brahma, the first living being, was born atop the lotus flower and "saw that the lotus was spread throughout the universe."
Of course, if we go to Mt. Palomar we might not be able to see Lord Visnu or the universal lotus, just as when we watch a TV show we probably won't be able to see the producer or director. The Vedic literature informs us, "No one can grasp the universal controlling intelligence with his blunt material senses." Yet from this controlling intelligence the whole universe has sprung (as NASA says) just like a blossoming flower.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q. What are the instruments I see the Krsna people playing when they chant in the streets?
A. When the chanters go out into the streets, they play the mrdanga (which in Bengali means "the drum you can walk with") and karatalas, small hand cymbals. Five centuries ago Lord Caitanya and His followers traveled through India's towns and villages and chanted to the accompaniment of these same instruments. The traditional drums are made of clay and break quite easily, so it has proven a wise idea to manufacture them out of fiberglass. In quieter settings chanters may also play the harmonium (a hand-pumped organlike instrument) and the tamboura (a stringed drone instrument).
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was especially fond of the mrdanga and karatalas, and he personally taught his disciples how to play them. As the famed poet Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote three centuries ago, "The spiritual master is always happy to chant the Lord's names, dance in ecstasy, and play musical instruments for the Lord's pleasure."
Q. When I meditate I want to experience higher energy levels. Does chanting Hare Krsna help you do this?
A. Yes. Actually, everything we experience is simply a combination of the Supreme Lord's energies. Krsna has three principal energies. First there's the spiritual energy, which is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss. Then there's the material energy, which is temporary and full of ignorance and distress. Between these two is the Lord's marginal energy, which is made up of the living beings (ourselves) who emanate from Him. Our situation is that we can be in contact with either the material energy or, the spiritual energy, and according to the choice we make, we experience either recurring material discomforts (like disease, old age, and rebirth) or eternal spiritual pleasure. By chanting Hare Krsna we can again experience the eternal knowledge and bliss of the spiritual energy, actually, Lord Krsna has invested all His spiritual energy in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.
Q. What's the best time of day to chant Hare Krsna?
A. Lord Caitanya said we should always chant Krsna's names—twenty-four hours a day. If that's not possible, then chant whenever you can; there are no hard and fast rules.
Q. Why chant "Krsna"? Why not just say "God, God"?
A. The word "president" describes the highest post in a country or company, but don't we want to know the name of the person who occupies the post? In the same way, the word "God" describes the highest of all posts, that of the supreme controller, but don't we want to know His name? The Vedic literatures tell us that God's original name is Krsna. Of course, God has many other names—such as Govinda, Yahweh, Jehovah, and Allah—but Lord Caitanya (the incarnation of God for this age, who appeared in India in 1486) recommended the chanting of Hare Krsna.
Q. Isn't it limiting God to call Him by a name?
A. Actually, isn't it limiting God not to call Him by a name? All of us have names, so why shouldn't He? As the Vedic literatures explain, God has millions of names, but Krsna ("the all-attractive one") is the most universal.
Q. Will chanting Hare Krsna put you in samadhi?
A. First of all we might ask, "Just what is samadhi" As the Bhagavad-gita explains, "Samadhi, or trance, is the state in which one completely restrains his mind from material mental activities by practice of yoga. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses, in his relationship with the Supreme."
The yoga of chanting Hare Krsna is the easiest and most practical way to attain samadhi in the present age. Anyone, even a child, can chant Hare Krsna. All you have to do is focus your mind on the transcendental sound vibration of the maha-mantra, and you'll absorb your consciousness in the Supreme, which is the same result that hatha-yogis formerly achieved after much difficulty,
In ages gone by, a hatha-yogi would go to the forest and hold difficult postures for many years so that he could focus his attention on the Lord in his heart. Of course, this is hardly possible for us today; a lotus posture makes us uncomfortable after only a few minutes. But you can chant Hare Krsna for hours, whether you're standing, walking, sitting, dancing, or whatever.
No matter what you're doing, the maha-mantra keeps your mind in spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness. And this is samadhi.
In my opinion, the name "Rama" is a symbol of standard ethics and principles. When Lord Rama ruled the earth. His life was an excellent example of human behavior toward parents, family, public, friends, and subjects. He revealed the best possible integration of human virtues. His universal affection, prideless sacrifice, and matchless humane nature attracted millions of people to preserve their faith in humanity. Respectfulness toward those of pious intellect was another outstanding quality of His life.
To follow goodness it is not essential to be great, but to remain human is the best qualification. Saint Mohandas Gandhi is the foremost exponent of the holy name of Rama in the modern era. I believe that the second part of the maha-mantra (Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare) should promote humanism and secularism.
Shashi O. Bhatnagar
Dear Mr. Bhatnagar,
The name Rama is not a symbol of ethics and principles; rather, it is a transcendental name of God. To try to justify one's own philosophical views by speculative interpretation of the name Rama is an offense to the name itself, as mentioned in the Padma Purana (tathartha-vadah).
Lord Rama's life was not at all an example of human behavior, excellent or otherwise. Rather, it was an example of the behavior of the Supreme Lord Himself. By His mere desire, Lord Ramacandra floated huge boulders in the Indian Ocean to form a bridge to Sri Lanka. Is this an example of human behavior? Even by the best possible integration of human virtues, it is not possible to match the transcendental prowess of the Supreme Lord. Those who try to bring the Supreme Lord down to the level of a mere virtuous human are not very much appreciated in Bhagavad-gita (9.11), which distinctly tells us that such mental speculators are unaware of the transcendental supremacy of the Lord.
The word secularism means "indifference to or exclusion of religion," and humanism refers to a system of thought that asserts the paramount importance of man and generally minimizes the idea of a transcendental Absolute Truth. Both these ideas are utterly antithetical to the Vedic teachings. Lord Ramacandra taught the world by playing the role of an ideal king completely obedient to religious principles. So He could never approve of such useless doctrines as secularism and humanism. Lord Ramacandra appeared in this world to reestablish religious principles (dharma-samsthapanarthaya}, and the kingdom He guided was one of unalloyed devotion to the Supreme Lord. What does this have to do with secularism and humanism? Those who are genuinely attracted to Lord Ramacandra with true understanding place their faith in Him, the Lord, the Personality of Godhead—not in humanity, as you have wrongly suggested.
The ideals of humanism and secularism were better represented by Ravana, who sought to promote his own human interests and those of his human followers in a secular state that ignored the superhuman power of the Godhead. Lord Ramacandra killed Ravana and lived the life of an ideal religious king to teach the world that pious intellect, ethical behavior, and all the best human qualities culminate in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Without such devotion, these pious qualities have no substantial value. One should therefore chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare to develop and promote this unalloyed devotion, and nothing else.
Some Personal Recollections by His Disciples.
In October of 1971, my parents came to see me in Calcutta. Srila Prabhupada was talking with some of his disciples in his quarters. As soon as my parents entered, Srila Prabhupada greeted them. After hearing him speak for some time, they finally came to the point—they wanted me back.
Srila Prabhupada said, "I have no objection; ask your son."
I said, "I want to stay with Srila Prabhupada."
"We want to set up a big trust for Giriraja," my father said. "And we want him to come home to sign the papers."
"Yes, you can send the papers," Srila Prabhupada replied. "He can sign."
My parents said that they had no objection to my remaining in the movement, but they did not want my health to deteriorate. So they wanted me to be stationed near home.
Srila Prabhupada said, "Do not worry. I will take personal care of him."
My parents were still apprehensive, so Srila Prabhupada added, "Let him stay with me in India for some more months, and I will take personal care of him. Then, when I return to America in April, he can come with me."
With my parents somewhat relieved, I said, "Just see how intelligent Srila Prabhupada is. In the winter, when the Western countries are cold and dark, Srila Prabhupada stays in India. And in the summer, when the West is warm and sunny, Srila Prabhupada goes there."
My father was becoming enlivened by Srila Prabhupada, and he affirmed, "Yes, he is very intelligent."
Srila Prabhupada said, "No, your son is—he has understood my strategy."
My father said, "No! You are intelligent, actually."
Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes, I have to be intelligent; otherwise how could I attract so many intelligent young men like your son?"
My mother was still thinking of my poor health and long absence from home, and she began to cry.
To cheer her, Srila Prabhupada gave her a sandesa (a milk sweet). At first my mother wouldn't accept, but Srila Prabhupada's kind and gentle persistence prevailed. Then he declared, "Giriraja, you must take at least two dozen of these sweets daily. Then you will become strong and healthy."
Srila Prabhupada assured my parents, "I will personally see that he is supplied with sufficient sandesa. Do not worry."
Everyone was thoroughly pleased and satisfied by Srila Prabhupada's loving dealings. As my father was leaving the temple he remarked, "Your spiritual master certainly knows how to deal with people."
Meanwhile Srila Prabhupada's secretary marveled, "Srila Prabhupada, everybody likes you so much!"
"Yes," he said, "because I like everybody."
Among many other things, Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples how to worship the Deity forms of Lord Krsna and His eternal consort Srimati Radharani. For instance, he told us that we should dress the Deities very opulently, which meant that we had to make special garments for Them. I was in Bombay in 1972 when I made my first attempt at sewing outfits.
When Srila Prabhupada walked into the temple one day to see the Deities, he smiled broadly. Even as he was prostrating himself before Radha and Krsna, he looked up at Them repeatedly and smiled. Then he arose, and he said to me, "Thank you very much. Make thousands of outfits like this. And always make Radharani more beautiful than Krsna—then Krsna will never leave."
One other time, while Srila Prabhupada was in Los Angeles in July of 1974, he remarked how nicely the Deities were dressed and asked who had done it. The other devotees told him that it was Manjuali dasi and I. That afternoon Srila Prabhupada's secretary told us that Srila Prabhupada wanted to speak to us in his quarters. When we got there he gave us twenty dollars for the Deities, and we said we'd buy more cloth and make more garments for Them. Srila Prabhupada was smiling beautifully. "So always engage in this way," he told us. "Then your present life will be perfect, and your next life will be perfect. You'll go back home, back to Godhead."
One day at our Los Angeles center, Srila Prabhupada was walking behind the temple and down the narrow, sandy pathway that led to his garden. As he passed through the gateway, he glanced lovingly at every plant and flower. Then he slipped his shoes off and took his place on the cushioned platform we had made for him. Along with some other devotees, I followed him in through the gateway. Just then an older disciple told him, "Here's Jalasayi. She's the gardener." And although I'd done really nothing, Srila Prabhupada folded his hands and bowed his head toward me. When he said "Thank you very much," I realized he knew just how to encourage each of us.
Meanwhile, some of the temple pujaris (the devotees who are in charge of Deity worship) began asking Srila Prabhupada detailed questions, and he gave thoughtful, detailed answers. I simply sat there listening and watching every gracious move he made. When there were pauses between questions, Srila Prabhupada would softly chant the Hare Krsna mantra, his right hand fingering the beads in his saffron-colored bead bag. I could see his eyes still moving around the garden and taking in all the plants and flowers. Suddenly he stopped, and said, "This is just like the spiritual world."
Jalasayi- devi dasi
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
To His mother and father, Lord Krsna was an endearing child. To the demons, He was death personified.
Playing like an ordinary child. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was a constant source of pleasure to His parents. His mother Yasoda would say, "My dear Krsna, please bring my wooden measuring pot," and somehow little Krsna would bring it to her. Or Krsna's father Nanda Maharaja would say, "Please bring me my wooden slippers." And with great difficulty Krsna would put the slippers on His head and bring them. Every so often Nanda and Yasoda would ask Krsna to lift some heavy object, and He would simply stand and touch it, as if He were at a loss what to do.
At times the neighboring cowherd women (the gopis), would clap their hands and promise, "If You dance for us, dear Krsna, we shall give You half a sweetmeat." Krsna would smile and dance as if He were a wooden doll in their hands. Sometimes at their bidding, He would sing very loudly. In this way He became submissive to the gopis. Through these pastimes Krsna wanted to show great philosophers and sages that although He controls the universe. His pure devotees control Him.
One day an elderly woman came near Krsna's house to sell fruit. She called out, "If anyone wants fruit, please come to me and get it!" Krsna immediately took some grain in His hands and went to barter for fruit, just as He had seen the older people do. But He was not very careful to hold His hands tight, and He was dropping all the grain as He walked. Still, being captivated by Krsna's beauty, the fruit vendor accepted whatever few grains were left in His palm. Then she affectionately filled His hands with fruit. At that moment, through His mystic power Krsna filled the woman's basket with jewels and gold. Whoever gives something to the Lord is never the loser; he is the gainer millions of times over.
Some time later, Krsna was playing with His older brother Balarama and some other children on the bank of the River Yamuna. When Yasoda went to call Krsna and Balarama for lunch, They were so busy playing that They didn't come. "Krsna!" she called. "Please come home! It's already past time for Your lunch! Balarama, please come back. You boys have been playing all morning, and now You must be very tired and hungry. Please come home and take Your lunch. Your father Nanda Maharaja is waiting for You. He won't eat until You come back, so please hurry."
As soon as Krsna and Balarama heard that Nanda Maharaja was waiting for Them, They started to return. But just then Krsna's playmates complained, "Krsna, You're leaving just when we're having the most fun. Next time we won't let You leave. Or maybe we won't even let You play with us at all."
Little Krsna became afraid, and instead of going back home for lunch. He went back again to play with the boys. Mother Yasoda scolded Him. "My dear Krsna, do You think You are just a street boy? You have no home? Please come home right this minute. Besides, today is Your birthday. You can't just play all day—You have some important things to do. Every little boy that has a birthday must give some cows in charity to the good brahmana priests. And just look at Yourself! You're all covered with dust and sand, so come home and let me give You a bath. Don't You know that all Your friends at home are very clean?" Finally Krsna and Balarama came home. There mother Yasoda bathed and dressed Them very nicely and decorated Them with ornaments. Then she called for the brahmanas and held a birthday celebration for her wonderful child.
After all of this, the elder cowherd men met with Nanda Maharaja to consider how to deal with some recent disturbances in their village. Nanda's brother Upananda, who was very learned and experienced, began to speak. "My dear friends," he said gravely, "now we should leave this place, because great demons are always coming here to disturb our peaceful lives. Mostly, they are trying to kill the small children. Just consider the witch Putana—it is simply the Lord's mercy that Krsna escaped her hands. Next the whirlwind demon took Krsna into the sky to kill Him, but by the grace of the Lord, this demon fell down on a stone slab and died, More recently. Krsna was playing between two trees, and they almost fell down right on top of Him. Just imagine the calamity if He or any of the other children had been crushed by the falling trees! This place is no longer safe. I think that all of us should go to the forest called Vrndavana. That place is very suitable for us, because it is lush with grass, herbs, and creepers for our cows. Also, it has nice gardens and tall mountains. We can all be happy there—let us go today."
The rest of the cowherd men agreed, and they began loading their household belongings onto their bullock carts. The women, children, and old men of the village sat in the carts, while the cowherd men, who carried bows and arrows, walked in front and looked after the cows, bulls, and calves. With horns and bugles sounding, the caravan set off for Vrndavana. Along the way, mother Yasoda sat with Krsna on her lap, and she enjoyed talking with Him.
Soon the caravan reached Vrndavana, where all the seasons are pleasing. When Krsna and Balarama saw Govardhana Hill and the River Yamuna, They were very happy. The cowherd men made a camp by drawing their bullock carts around them in the shape of a half-moon, and later they built permanent houses.
Before long the cowherd men placed Krsna and Balarama in charge of the calves, and every day the brothers would go along with the other cowherd boys into the pasturing ground. Sometimes all the boys played football with amalaki and bael fruits, and their ankle bells jingled as they ran. Sometimes they made themselves into cows and bulls by covering themselves with blankets. Then they roared and fought with one another. They also imitated the sounds of swans, peacocks, cranes, and monkeys.
Once, while Krsna and Balarama were playing on the bank of the Yamuna, a demon named Vatsasura took the shape of a calf and came to kill Them. Vatsasura mingled with the other calves, but Krsna noticed this and signaled to Balarama. Although Krsna is the Supreme Lord and knows everything, He pretended He didn't understand what the demon was up to. Both brothers followed Vatsasura and sneaked up on him. Suddenly Krsna caught the demon-calf by his hind legs and tail, whipped him around, and threw him into a kappitha tree. The demon lost his life and fell down to the ground along with many kappitha fruits. (This fruit is sweet and sour, and all the cowherd boys liked to eat it.) Krsna's playmates gathered around Him and said, "Well done!" And the demigods in the sky showered flowers. With the trouble past, Krsna and Balarama ate Their breakfast. In this way Krsna, who maintains the whole creation, used to take care of the calves.
Every day the cowherd boys would go to the bank of the Yamuna to water their calves, and the boys would also drink. One day they had taken a drink and were sitting on the riverbank when they saw a huge ducklike animal. It was as big as a hill, and the boys were afraid. Suddenly the demon, who was called Bakasura, came at Krsna with his sharp beak and swallowed Him up. All the cowherd boys were stunned and breathless, as if they had died. But Krsna became like a fire and burned the demon's throat. Then Bakasura threw Krsna up and tried to kill Him by pinching Him with his beak. But Krsna caught hold of the gigantic duck's beak and pulled it apart. He split Bakasura down the middle, just as an ordinary child splits a blade of grass. From the sky the demigods showered mallika flowers and sounded celestial kettledrums and conchshells. Now that Krsna had come out victorious, the boys felt as if they had regained the very source of their life. One after another, they embraced Krsna. After this they rounded up all their calves and headed home.
When the boys arrived in the village, they told everyone what had happened. On hearing how Krsna had done away with Bakasura, all the cowherd men and women felt deeply moved, because they loved Krsna very much. "It is astonishing that this boy Krsna has faced so many causes of death," they thought. "But the demons have not harmed Him at all. They themselves have died, like flies rushing into a fire."
The residents of Vrndavana always talked about the wonderful activities of Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama. They were so absorbed in these discussions that they forgot about the miseries of material life. And what they enjoyed five thousand years ago is open today to anyone who hears or speaks about the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Humanism: Giving Credit Where Credit Isn't Due
Now that I'm preparing a book on the life of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I have been researching the centuries-old biographical tradition. In one collection of biographies, I came upon an editor's introduction that riled me:
That from the ranks of humanity there can emerge a Socrates, a Cato, a Jesus, a More, a Newton, a Mozart, a Balzac, a Deburau, a Napoleon, is in my eyes a thing more wonderful than all the miracles ever imagined by the makers of religions.... Our desire for an immortality of the soul shall be dedicated to the belief that the great wonder of creation is man and the infinite possibilities that lie not within the theologies of religious leaders, but within ourselves.
Why does this man feel that to praise great men he has to decry God? This kind of humanism is nothing new, of course, but it is surely misplaced and misinformed and does justice neither to God nor to man.
For the sake of argument, let us accept that the extraordinary human being is the most wonderful thing in the world. Still we have to inquire, "Where does the extraordinary greatness of a particular man or woman come from?" In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead affirms, "It is I who am the ability in man." And the transcendentalist reasons that intelligence has to come from an original source of intelligence—an original, supreme consciousness. The skeptic may deny this, but he cannot offer any explanation why someone like Socrates suddenly arises. The appearance of a great personality may seem like a unique combination of historical exigency and individual merit, but a great man cannot be explained merely by historical, economic, sociological, genealogical, or psychological factors. What's more, there is no scientific method for producing such a great personality. The intellectual community cannot produce an Einstein, the art schools cannot produce a poet or musician, nor can politicians or historians produce a great man of action. We may take pride in the achievements of great men, but these achievements are hardly the independent creation of humanity.
Even the "great man" cannot understand how he has come by his uncommon powers. Why, when his contemporaries appear to work just as hard and to have just as good an education, does he rise above all of them? If there really is no explanation, if greatness is simply an accident, why should we praise an accident? If Mozart's music is superior by accident, then why give Mozart so much credit? Those who thoughtfully study the life of a great man usually conclude that "destiny" or "genius" or "inspiration" or "special power"—not accident—accounts for his high achievement. Of course, the Bhagavad-gita explains in detail that one's karma, his activity in past lives, accounts for his abilities in this life. At any rate, everyone appreciates a person who makes a great contribution to humanity. But while most people wonder at the greatness of the man, a Krsna conscious person inquires even further—into the cause, the source of the greatness of all men and women and indeed of all life.
Thus far, for the sake of argument we have assumed that mankind's ultimate object of study is mankind. But let's think for a moment. Is man really the ultimate? No, he cannot be. As great as any man may be, he is still a tiny creature subject to the miseries of old age, disease, and death. This is true not just for the average man but even for a Napoleon, a Socrates, a Shakespeare, or an Einstein. So anyone who is actually advanced will acknowledge his frailty with all humility. He will acknowledge that he is actually a tiny creature in a vast universe, that he must bow to time and the control of the Supreme. In other words, a man's relative greatness does not make him the supreme great.
As the Vedic literature explains, the supreme great is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan—"the one who possesses all the opulences: wealth, power, beauty, strength, knowledge, fame, and renunciation." In this world a great man may have one or two of these qualities to some degree. But no human being possesses all these qualities to a greater degree than his contemporaries. The person who possesses all the opulences to an infinite degree, eternally, can be defined as God, and whatever greatness we see in man or in nature is but an infinitesimal spark of His greatness. As Lord Krsna informs us in the Bhagavad-gita, "I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being, moving or unmoving, that can exist without Me. There is no end to My divine manifestations. Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor." (Bg. 10.39-41)
Man is surely great, and his real greatness lies in his ability to understand God's message: that he is made in God's image; that he is an eternal soul, part and parcel of God; and that God is the supreme. Any man who doesn't help other people recognize their identity as eternal souls, any man who doesn't acknowledge that we are now in a state of ignorance that forces us to undergo repeated births and deaths, is not really a great man. Any man who cannot help his fellow beings become liberated from the sufferings of this material world cannot be considered a great contributor, even though he may have made a longlasting impression on his contemporaries. (How longlasting is this world's fame, anyway? We may call Shakespeare or Socrates "immortal" for a few hundred or a few thousand years after their passing, but what is this compared to eternity?) Men who are actually great are quick to acknowledge the greatness of God, who out-dramatizes Shakespeare and out-thinks Socrates.
As I begin my study of the life of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I see that he did everything in the pure consciousness of glorifying God. And he helped others see that devotional service to Krsna is the very purpose of life. I can understand, that I won't be able to do full justice to his life, but at least I can see that here is true greatness. As Srila Prabhupada showed us, a great person does not claim that he is dominating events or that he has created the greatest wonder, nor does he leave a legacy that does nothing to free mankind from birth and death. No, A great person is he who realizes that Krsna, the Supreme Being, is everything. A great person surrenders to Him, and he shares this enlightenment with others.—SDG