Srila Prabhupada's First Talks in America (New York, July 26,1966)
"I cannot be satisfied by serving something that is not me; I can be satisfied only by serving me. But that 'me' I do not know...."
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This chanting of Hare Krsna is the process of ceto-darpana-marjanam—to cleanse the material dust from the mirror of our mind. The whole process is to dust out the dirty things which we have accumulated by our material association, and thereby to revive our spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. From Bhagavad-gita we are studying about the process of life by which we can revive our Krsna consciousness. There is no need of external help for reviving Krsna consciousness. You have Krsna consciousness dormant in your self. In fact, it is the quality of the self. So, we simply need to invoke it by this process of chanting.
Nitya-siddha krsna-prema 'sadhya' kabhu naya: this Krsna consciousness is an eternal fact. It is not that by this ISKCON organization we are imposing something extra upon you. No. Krsna consciousness is within you. It is within every living entity—every living entity, never mind whether he's a human being or an animal. Once, when Lord Caitanya was passing through a jungle, He was singing Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and the tigers, the elephants, the stags, and other forest animals joined in. They joined in. This chanting is such an attractive thing. Of course, this attraction depends on pure-hearted chanting. As we become advanced in this chanting method, our heart becomes freed from all the dirty things of material contact. Then even the animals can be captivated by this chanting—what to speak of human beings.
So, in Bhagavad-gita [4.19] Krsna advises us how to invoke this Krsna consciousness in our practical life. He says,
yasya sarve samarambhah
"One whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification is said to be in full knowledge. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge."
Yasya sarve samarambhah. You are not forbidden to execute your duties. We are not for stopping the general process of material activities. That is not our mission. The whole thing is that we have to do everything in Krsna consciousness. It is very easy to understand. We all have some vocation in our life. But what is our consciousness Our consciousness is ... "I am engaged in this business because I have to maintain my family," or "I have to maintain myself," or "I have to satisfy the government," or "I have to satisfy somebody else." This is our consciousness. And nobody is free from such consciousness. So, we simply need to change the consciousness only. Now we are doing everything with the idea that "I want to satisfy myself," or "I want to satisfy somebody else." This consciousness has to be changed into Krsna consciousness, so that I think, "I want to satisfy Krsna." That's all.
Therefore, Lord Krsna says, yasya sarve samarambhah: "Whatever activities you may be doing, continue to do them, but kama-sankalpa-varjitah—don't be carried away by kama." Kama means desire for our own satisfaction. The Sanskrit word kama is used to mean "lust" or "desire for sense satisfaction." So, Lord Krsna recommends, "Don't act for the satisfaction of your senses, for the satisfaction of your lust, or for the satisfaction of your desires." That is the whole thing. The whole teaching of Bhagavad-gita is based on this principle. Arjuna wanted to satisfy his senses by not fighting with the opposite party, who were composed of his relatives-brothers and brothers-in-law and fathers-in-law and so many other relatives. Arjuna did not want to fight, and therefore he needed Krsna's instruction of Bhagavad-gita.
Now, materially it appears very nice that Arjuna wanted to satisfy his relatives by giving up his claim to the kingdom. "Oh, he's a very good man," we might think. But Krsna did not approve it. Why? Because the basic principle was that Arjuna decided to satisfy his own senses. Externally, it appears very nice. But anything which is done for the satisfaction of one's own senses—that is kama, lust, desire. Here in this verse of Bhagavad-gita it is prescribed that you can do anything. There is no harm. Whatever business, vocation, or occupation you are engaged in, that does not have to be changed. Simply your consciousness has to be changed. That's all.
Now, how can that consciousness be changed? Jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam. Transferring our present self-interested consciousness to Krsna consciousness requires knowledge. And what is that knowledge? That knowledge is knowing, "I am part and parcel of Krsna. I'm not different from Krsna. I am the superior energy of Krsna." This is knowledge. Real knowledge does not mean to understand how this tape recorder is manufactured. This kind of technical knowledge is not real knowledge. Of course, to execute our occupation we must have some technical knowledge, but that knowledge is temporary knowledge. Real knowledge comes when one understands, when one is convinced, that he is part and parcel of Krsna, or God. (When we say "Krsna," you should understand that we mean the Supreme Lord, the Absolute Truth. Krsna is a technical word which is meant to indicate "the Absolute Truth," "the Supreme Personality of Godhead," "the whole," "the whole pleasure," "the whole attraction." These are the meanings of Krsna.)
So, we are all part and parcel of the supreme pleasure—Krsna. And because I am part and parcel of Krsna, my pleasure, my happiness, is dependent on serving Krsna. It is just like my hand and my body. Now, my hand can take pleasure when it is attached to my body. My hand can take pleasure when it serves my body. It does not take pleasure by serving your body. My senses are satisfied when they are used for my purpose, not for your purpose. This is the whole philosophy: I cannot be satisfied by serving something that is not me; I can be satisfied only by serving me. But that "me" I do not know. That "me" is Krsna. That is Krsna—because we are part and parcel of Krsna. Always remember: we are part and parcel of Krsna. Mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. In the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, you'll find that Krsna says, "All these living entities—they are My eternal parts and parcels. Now, by material contact, they are detached from Me." [Bg. 15.7]
So, the whole purpose of Krsna consciousness is to attach ourselves again to Krsna. Now we are detached, so we have to attach ourselves again. That is Krsna consciousness. And that Krsna consciousness is within you, because you are originally, eternally, part and parcel of the Supreme. Artificially, we are trying to forget this; we are trying to live independently. But that is not possible. We are not independent. If we try to live independently of Krsna, that means we voluntarily become dependent on the influence of material nature. That's all.
For example, if I think that I am independent of government regulations, then I become dependent on the police force. My dependence is either in this way or that way. So, this is our mistake: everyone is trying to become independent. And this is called maya, or illusion. Nobody can be independent—individually, community-wise, society-wise, or nation-wise. Even universe-wise, nobody can be independent. We are all dependent. And when you come to know, "I am dependent; I am not independent," this is called knowledge.
In another place in Bhagavad-gita [5.29], you'll find that Krsna says,
"Knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, the sages attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." People are planning for peace in the world, but they do not know the peace formula. The United Nations has been trying for the last twenty years or more for peace, but there is no actual peace in the world, The Vietnam War is going on because they do not know the peace formula in the Bhagavad-gita.
Krsna says, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: "I am the proprietor of everything. Whatever you are doing, I am the ultimate beneficiary. I take the result." For example, a laborer may work in a factory, but who is the proprietor? The ultimate proprietor is the owner of the factory. Now we are thinking, "I am working, so I am the proprietor of this thing." That is a misconception. When we understand that whatever we are doing, the ultimate proprietor is Krsna, that is Krsna consciousness. That is the fire of perfect knowledge.
Or, take the example of many people working in an office. Hundreds of people may be working there, but everyone is conscious that whatever profit they are making belongs to the proprietor. Then there is peace. But as soon as the cashier thinks, "Oh, I have so much money; I am the proprietor," then the trouble begins. Similarly, if we think, "I am a very rich man. I have such a big bank balance, and I can use it for my sense gratification," that is kama, lust. But if I understand that whatever I have, it belongs to Krsna, then I am a liberated person, You'll have the same money under your custody. It doesn't matter. But as soon as you think, "I am the proprietor of this wealth," you are under the influence of maya. And as soon as you think, "Krsna is the proprietor of all these things," you are free. So, kama-sankalpa-varjitah/ jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam tam ahuh panditam budhah: one who knows that Krsna is the proprietor of everything, who is situated in that consciousness, is panditam—he is learned, he's actually a man of knowledge. This is the whole process.
Now, this consciousness has to be invoked not only individually, but also community-wide, society-wide, nationwide, all over the world. Then there will be peace. If you want real peace, you have to follow Krsna's instructions in Bhagavad-gita [see previous reference for English translation]:
Now we are trying to become the friend of our countrymen, of our society, of our family. But that is a wrong conception. The real friend is Krsna, and you should work on His behalf.
How? If you actually want to do something good for your family, then try to make all the members of your family Krsna conscious. Then your life will be successful. If you want to help them otherwise, without Krsna consciousness, then you will not be serving them; you will be rendering them a disservice. Why? Because no amount of material knowledge will help your wife or children. No amount of material knowledge will solve their real problem. What is their real problem? That is what we do not know. The real problem is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—birth, death, old age, and disease. The Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.18] says, pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat/ na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum: "One should not become a father, nor should one become a mother, unless one is able to save one's children from the grip of material nature." How? By Krsna consciousness. If you are a responsible father, and if you are completely in knowledge of Krsna consciousness, then your duty will be to think, "For these innocent creatures who are now playing in my home as my children, as my boys, this life should be the last installment of their transmigration from one body to another. I shall train these boys in such a way that after this life, they'll no more have to go into the cycle of birth and death." This is Krsna consciousness.
And this means you have to make yourself expert. Then you can help your children, also. Then you can help your nation, also. Then you can help your society, also. If you yourself are ignorant, then andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/ te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah [Bhag. 7.5.31]: if a person is tightly bound up, hands and feet, how can he free others? Suppose we are sitting here—some twenty-five gentlemen and ladies—and all our hands are tightly bound up by some ropes. Now, although I may want to make you free, if my hands are also tightly bound up, how is it possible? It is not possible. My hands must be free. Then I can untie your bindings. So, unless one is a free man, he cannot free others. And what is that freedom? One who is Krsna conscious—he is a free man. Nobody else is a free man.
In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita [7.14], Krsna says,
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." Everyone is under the spell of the material influence, maya. Nobody's free. But maya has nothing lo do with one who has surrendered unto Krsna, with one who has taken to Krsna consciousness. Maya cannot touch him. Maya is like darkness, but there is no question of darkness if you place yourself in the sunlight. (Not this artificial light; this artificial light may be extinguished at any time. But sunlight is not like that.) So Krsna is just like sunlight. As soon as you come in front of the sun, there is no darkness. And as soon as you become Krsna conscious, there is no ignorance, there is no maya, no illusion.
So, jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam tam ahuh panditam budhah. We have 10 become budha, or learned. And you'll find in the Tenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita [10.8] what Lord Krsna says are the symptoms of a man who is budha:
aham sarvasya prabhavo
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise, who know this perfectly, engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts."
Budhah: this very word is used again, So, one who is learned, one who actually has some sense, who is not nonsensical—he's called budha. And what are his symptoms? The symptoms of a man who is budha are that he knows that Krsna is the fountainhead of all emanations, of everything we see (aham sarvasya prabhavah). Take, for example, this material world. The most prominent thing here is the attraction between man and woman. Now, one may inquire, "Wherefrom has this attraction between male and female come?" Not only in the human society, but also in the animal society, the bird society—in any society, every living being has this attraction for the opposite sex. This is a fact. And where does this attraction come from? It comes from Krsna. So, somebody who does not actually understand Krsna may criticize, "Krsna had so many girlfriends." But unless the tendency is in Krsna, where do we get this idea of having girlfriends? You can have nothing here in this material world unless it is also in Krsna (janmady asya yatah). But here sex is perverted; it is polluted. In Krsna's world it is in pure consciousness, purely spiritual. That is the difference.
So, these things have to be studied very scientifically from books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. And when one is perfectly learned, then his symptom is that he becomes a pure devotee of Krsna. Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: "I am the source, the fountainhead," Krsna says. "I am the source and fountainhead of everything. One who understands this scientifically takes to Krsna consciousness." How? Budhah bhava-samanvitah—with full knowledge. He becomes a pure devotee of Krsna.
Krsna similarly describes a mahatma in Bhagavad-gita (mahatma means "great soul"):
mahatmanas tu mam partha
"O Arjuna, son of Prtha, the great souls are those who are not deluded by My illusory, material energy. They are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service, because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible." [Bg. 9.14]
Who is a mahatma? Who is a great soul? A great soul is he who is under the influence of the superior nature. There are two kinds of nature: the superior nature and the inferior nature. Now we are under the influence of the inferior, material nature. But by practicing Krsna consciousness we shall be transferred to the superior nature. Just try to understand by an example: one person is in prison, another person is outside the prison. The government's influence is present in both places—outside the prison and inside the prison. Outside the prison, the government's rules and regulations are considered superior. Inside, they are considered inferior. But in either case, the government's influence is there. Similarly, wherever you are—either in the material world or in the spiritual world—you are under Krsna's influence. Your position is marginal. You can remain under the influence of Krsna's inferior nature, or you can transfer yourself into the influence of His superior nature. Because Krsna is fully independent, and because you are part and parcel of Krsna, you have the quality of independence. You can make your choice; whether to be under the influence of His inferior nature, or to come under the influence of His superior nature. But because we do not know what that superior nature is, we have no other alternative than to remain in this inferior nature. This is the whole problem.
Many philosophies inform us that there is no other nature but this material nature, which we are now experiencing and which is so troublesome. "Make an end of it and become void," they say. But you cannot be void, because you are an eternal living entity. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: the end of your body does not mean that you are finished. No. You are continuing. Vasarmsi jirnani: that I change my dress does not mean that I am finished. So, I am eternal. And if I want to finish my suffering, if I want to get out of the influence of material nature, then I have to seek my place in the superior, spiritual nature. But if we do not know of the superior nature, then we say, "All right, however bad it may be, let me remain here and rot." So, Bhagavad-gita [15.6] gives you information of the superior nature:
na tad bhasayate suryo
"My abode is not illumined by the sun or moon, or by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world."
So, we have to become Krsna conscious by scrutinizingly studying this authoritative book, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, without creating a fashionable interpretation. We have to hear it as it is. What Krsna says, He says for all time. It does not change. Take the verse which we are just now discussing. He says that it does not matter what occupation you are in; you simply have to change your consciousness. You are now guided by the consciousness of self-interest, of sense gratification, Not exactly self-interest, because we do not know what our self-interest is. Rather, sense interest—not self-interest, but sense interest. Whatever we are doing we are doing to satisfy our senses. This consciousness has to change. We have to satisfy Krsna. If this Krsna consciousness is invoked, then our life will be successful. Thank you very much.
"My aversion to sentamentalism and blind faith went right to the core of my stonelike heart. Yet in Vrndavana we got our first inkling that there might be something higher than the mind, higher than arguments and speculation."
by Visakha-devi dasi
One evening in March of 1971, my husband John and I were sitting with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his airy room in Bombay. It overlooked the city's modern skyline on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other.
"We want to do a photo essay on an Indian village," John ventured, disclosing a dream we'd had after reading National Geographic articles about beautiful, quaint places in far-off lands.
Srila Prabhupada looked at us with what seemed a mixture of gravity and amusement. "Wherever you go," he said, "they will simply cheat you and steal your equipment. You don't even speak the language."
Somewhat stunned—no, crestfallen—we sat silent and still.
Srila Prabhupada paused and continued. "Best that you go to Vrndavana and take your photographs there."
There were other guests in the room, and Prabhupada turned his attention to them. After a short while we excused ourselves and left.
I don't think I had heard of Vrndavana at that time, although John had. Vrndavana is a small village, with a population of some thirty thousand, and it's located ninety miles southeast of Delhi. Ancient Indian histories say that when Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, comes to our universe (once every 8.64 billion years), He comes there with His friends and associates.
At first, we weren't exactly enchanted with the idea of going to Vrndavana. Instead, we went to Nepal for a couple of months and trekked around in the Himalayas. At twelve thousand feet we found a small cowshed where for three or four days we read Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Once back in India we wandered some more, meeting Prabhupada's disciples now and then and reading another book of his, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, as we went. When we finally reached New Delhi, we boarded the Taj Express, got off at Mathura Station, and late at night climbed into a typically rickety old bus that would take us to Vrndavana, seven miles to the south.
Fifty centuries ago Lord Krsna had made a somewhat similar journey. He took His birth in Mathura, and that night His father Vasudeva carried Him to Vrndavana through a raging storm. Of course, our journey between the towns was much less difficult. Normally the buses are packed with people, but because of the late hour we had plenty of room, even for our backpacks. It was July by now and the air was quite warm, though it was after midnight. I remember that the noisy bus roaring down the streets seemed incongruous in such a serene atmosphere. That first night we rested near the doorway of an asrama that was locked, and by the next day we had rented a small three-story house at fifty rupees (about six dollars) for one month.
If there was ever a turning point in our lives, this month in Vrndavana must have been it. John had always been neutral on spiritual matters, but I was an avid atheist, so much so that I had converted some of my friends to my way of thinking. My aversion to sentimentalism and blind faith went right to the core of my stonelike heart. Yet in Vrndavana we got our first inkling that there might be something higher than the mind, higher than arguments and speculation.
Every morning I would go to the market to get yogurt and fresh fruit for our breakfast. As I walked along snapping pictures in the sunny streets, people would greet me with jaya radhe ("All glories to Radha"; Srimati Radharani, I found out, is Krsna's dearmost consort). The two-block walk took me past two of Vrndavana's seven major temples:
Radha-Ramana and Radha-Gopinatha, each built by one of the renowned Six Gosvamis. At that hour the sound of temple bells filled the air, along with songs about Krsna. The people hurried from one temple to another for darsana (the opportunity to see Krsna's sculpted Deity form), white monkeys, famous as Krsna's pets, mischievously observed the goings-on and waited to steal any unguarded eatables.
In our daily walks John and I came upon thousands of temples—Vrndavana has no less than five thousand, and there's hardly a street without at least one. Krsna's Deity forms were all over, not only in the temples but in the shops, which also specialized in pictures, murals, and Deity clothing and ornaments. Everywhere I saw Bengali widows who were spending their last days in Vrndavana. I used to photograph them, several hundred sitting together in the morning and chanting the maha-mantra (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare).
We visited the places where Krsna once displayed His extraordinary pastimes: the bathing ghata where He killed the Kesi demon, the tree from which He pounced on the Kaliya serpent, the forest alcove where He met the cowherd girls in the dead of night and danced with them. Not that we accepted these accounts or the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, but Vrndavana definitely had a different atmosphere. There was no way to get around it.
All these impressions influenced us, no doubt, but what had an even greater influence was meeting Srila Prabhupada's disciples who had come to the holy land on pilgrimage, Here were young, educated Americans who were sure that God exists and that Krsna is God. I remember that John and I walked on the six-mile path around Vrndavana with Brahmananda Svami, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, who spoke lovingly about his spiritual master. A devotee named Giriraja (now Giriraja Svami) was always talking about Krsna's pastimes with great sensitivity and enthusiasm. And there was Yamuna-devi dasi, one of the warmest, most friendly persons I'd ever met. One especially hot day, she and I sat up to our necks in the Yamuna River (the water buffalo do likewise), and we talked about Krsna consciousness and the things Krsna had done right there some fifty centuries earlier. After a while, I started seeing that I was an atheist mainly because my parents were atheists and no one had convinced me to be anything else. What Yamuna said was surprisingly simple. No, I'd never experienced a living thing coming from nonliving matter. No, I'd never seen any machine or building or plan of any kind that didn't have someone behind it, some person who had thought it out.
Yamuna didn't really care much for debating, though. I noticed that she preferred serving Krsna and His devotees, and that she was very attracted to Deity worship. One day she humbly asked John if he would donate some money for purchasing beautiful brass Deities of Radha and Krsna that she had seen in a shop. I think she was as surprised as I when he smiled and said yes. She was overjoyed, she said now she could serve Krsna better. And she explained that for God there's no difference between spiritual energy and material energy, because both energies come from Him. So, she said, since people in this world can't see Krsna's original spiritual form, Krsna comes before them as the Deity. Then they can express their love for Him by bathing, dressing, and ornamenting Him and offering Him food, just as a parent cares for a child or a lover cares for the beloved. Yamuna had been personally taught by Srila Prabhupada in the art of Deity worship, and now she started caring for her Deities in that way.
There was something else about that first stay in Vrndavana that pushed John and me along in spiritual life—our suffering. We had contracted glaucoma, an infection of the eyes that makes them itch and tear continuously. At a devotee's suggestion John bathed his eyes in the Yamuna River and got rid of it, but I decided to slay home, flat on my back on the second floor of our house, underneath a mosquito net (to protect me from the flies). The heat was intense, the tearing of my eyes made me blind, my hayfever had started up, and my nose was running in between sneezes. What a mess. I recalled that Srila Prabhupada had written that this material world is miserable, and I could see clearly that it's hardly an ideal place to live in.
From April to October, 1971, Srila Prabhupada went on a speaking tour through Europe and America. When he returned to Vrndavana, we came back from a visit to Calcutta and stayed with him in a large house that someone had lent to his disciples.
Every morning we attended arati (a ceremony for greeting Krsna with singing, dancing, and offerings of food), and later Srila Prabhupada would lecture on the science of Krsna consciousness. After breakfast each day we would climb into a big bus, and Prabhupada would give all of us a tour of the holy places: Varsana, where Radha appeared; Govardhana, the hill that Krsna lifted to protect the townspeople from a torrential rain, Nanda-grama, where Krsna grew up; and Brahma-ghata, where Krsna opened His mouth to prove to His mother that He had not eaten dirt. When Mother Yasoda looked inside the Lord's mouth, she saw the entire creation, and when Prabhupada related this pastime, his eyes opened amazingly wide.
Prabhupada was so convinced: "If you accept God, then you have to accept the inconceivable potency of God, You can't make Him fit your limited ideas—if you do, that means you actually don't accept God. God can do as He likes, when He likes, and where He likes. Why can't Krsna lift a hill or display the creation in His mouth? Because you can't He can't?"
In every way Prabhupada made Vrndavana come alive. To be with him there made everything take on a new significance; his eyes were anointed with pure love for Krsna. We could see that Prabhupada worked eighteen or twenty hours a day for Krsna, not worked, exactly, but served with love and devotion—preaching, writing, instructing. It was obvious he didn't want fame or profit; he didn't want any material enjoyments. He simply never saw anything that didn't remind him of Krsna, so he was always enlivened and he always enlivened us, with his ready wit, his insight, his foresight, his profound realizations, his purity, his determination.
In October Srila Prabhupada initiated John as his disciple, but at that time I was still a little too doubtful. Yet on November 29th, 1971, my doubts ebbed enough for me to receive initiation, too. In front of Srila Prabhupada and the Deities of Radha and Krsna (the same ones John had given Yamuna a few months before), I promised to abstain from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxicants, and gambling, and I promised to chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra daily. (Devotees chant on wooden beads, and one "round" means once around the 108-bead string, with a mantra for each bead.) Prabhupada looked at me and said, "Sixteen rounds is the minimum." In other words, I should always try to remember Krsna by chanting His names, not forget Him after I'd finished the prescribed number of rounds.
For almost the entire next year, Srila Prabhupada was away on a world speaking tour, but by October 1972 he had come back to Vrndavana. This time the devotees lived in Kesi-ghata palace, right on the bank of the Yamuna. Every morning at 3 a.m. a few of the more hearty women would rise and slip out the back door of the palace, down some steps, and into the calm water for our morning bath. Then we went back to the palace and had time to chant some rounds before the drati celebration at 4 a m
By 4:30 the celebration was over, but our chanting and dancing continued. With karatalas (small cymbals) and mrdanga drums in hand, we spilled out into the dark winding streets. Acyutananda Svami, one of Prabhupada's older disciples, led our predawn procession, and at that hour it was a little treacherous—we couldn't even see where we were stepping. But soon the morning sun's first glimmer would light our path.
October-November in Vrndavana is harvest time, the most auspicious time of the year. It was during the month Karttika, as it's called, that mother Yasoda caught Lord Krsna stealing butter and tied Him to a grinding mortar to restrain Him. A few years after this, Krsna danced with the beautiful gopis, the cowherd girls whose pure devotion for Him knew no bounds. Once Krsna told a friend, "The most opportune time is the full-moon night in autumn, like tonight. The best place within the universe is Vrndavana, and the most beautiful girls are the gopis. So, I think I should now take advantage of all these circumstances and engage in the transcendental rasa dance."
We could appreciate why Krsna enjoyed this time of year. As we played our instruments and chanted along the streets, we practically floated through the cool morning air. With the monsoon rains just past, the foliage was lush and deep green, and all around us we saw freshness and new life.
Each day we went to Ramana-reti, on the outskirts of the town. Ramana means "pleasurable," and reti means "sands." Srila Prabhupada called Ramana-reti "the shimmering silver sands" where the Lord enjoyed His pastimes as a cowherd boy. In this area someone had given Prabhupada a plot of land, and construction was underway for the Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse. A few devotees were living there and overseeing the construction, and each morning they would greet our small party warmly and show us how the work had progressed since the day before. (At that time there were just giant holes in the ground.) Then we would start back toward town, chanting Hare Krsna quietly as we walked along. By now we could hear the calls of the peacocks, and we could often see them perched in the trees or running about on their long legs. There were many other less spectacular birds, also, each with its unique song. And there were donkeys hauling huge loads, monkeys frittering away their time, camels eating thorny twigs, hogs acting as sewage disposal units, dogs fighting and whining, horses pulling carts, and hundreds of white cows strolling peacefully to pasture.
Seven o'clock found us seated in the courtyard of Radha-Damodara temple, which was founded by Srila Jiva Gosvami. A great scholar and philosopher, he proved through his brilliant writings that ancient India's Vedic literatures point to Krsna consciousness as life's ultimate goal. The Gosvamis used to sit together in the temple's courtyard to study and discuss the science of Krsna consciousness. Rupa, the foremost Gosvami, had his bhajana-kutira (place of worship), in this courtyard, and his samadhi (tomb) is there as well. Perhaps more significant for us, Srila Prabhupada had made this temple his headquarters from 1956 to 1965, before he left India to teach Krsna consciousness in America. It was here that he started his masterpiece, his English translation and commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada's room overlooked the courtyard where the Gosvamis used to sit, and he derived great inspiration from this sacred place.
Now, in 1972, Prabhupada was again occupying his old rooms, and at 7 a.m. he would sit with us in the courtyard and lecture from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, Second Chapter: "Divinity and Divine Service." This chapter summarizes the whole range of spiritual and material knowledge, and in a poetic way it presents all one needs to know to become fully happy and successful in this life. Prabhupada would speak for forty-five minutes to an hour. The words that flowed from his lips were filled with devotion and wisdom and held us in rapt attention.
Afterward, there was a light breakfast (yogurt, puffed rice, and fruit), and then we set about our daily activities. Usually, I went with some other devotees to photograph the local temples. By one o'clock we returned to Kesi-ghata palace for a substantial meal: sabji (spicy vegetable preperations), dahl (bean soup), rice, and milk sweets. Then there was time for some reading and discussions, and a nap. By five we had the transcendental emotions devotees experience in relation to their Lord, Sri Krsna.
After this lecture, whoever wanted to could squeeze into Prabhupada's small room to hear further discussions and ask questions. There was so much to learn. Prabhupada could speak for hours, and we could listen for hours without feeling fatigued. "Krsna is a person, the Supreme Person, and you are a spirit soul, part and parcel of Him. This material world is not our real home. Our real home is Vrndavana—the original Vrndavana, in the spiritual world. There we can eternally pass our time with Krsna and His associates in a blissful, loving relationship." This was the essence of the philosophy, and there were innumerable ramifications.
Logic, we found, is like a cake which has been left out to become thoroughly dry and stale. My husband and I had passed our lives eating such dry cakes, but Prabhupada made us drink the nectar of Krsna's transcendental pastimes. By sending us to Vrndavana in 1971, Srila Prabhupada had prepared us for entering a new life. And when we took initiation from him, our new life began. Now he was showing us how to extricate ourselves from our material attachments. He was gently bringing us into an ever-fresh, ever-personal world where we had a fulfilling role to play, a world where all our desires were satisfied just by our cooperating with the Supreme Person who resided there, a world based on pure love.
And it worked—it was practical and immediate. Our small group in Vrndavana felt great harmony and unity of purpose. We simply let Krsna be the center of our lives. We sang for Him, we heard about Him, we offered Him our food, we visited the places of His pastimes and remembered His activities. We felt united in serving Him, and very happy. Krsna consciousness was not a Utopian dream, not mythology, but something real and tangible.
The year 1975 found my husband and me in Vrndavana again, this time for the grand opening ceremony of the Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse. When we'd come to Vrndavana four years earlier, we'd had no place to stay, no knowledge of the area, and no friends. Now Prabhupada had provided all of that. And through his temples, his disciples, and his transcendental books, Srila Prabhupada is introducing everyone to Vrndavana, just as he introduced us.
On "Might Makes Right"
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and one of his disciples took place in Paris during the summer of 1974.
Disciple: Last night in your lecture you made the analogy that if people don't follow God's laws, they'll be punished by God, just as they're punished for disobeying the state laws. So the young people thought you must be a fascist.
Srila Prabhupada: But this is actually happening all over the world. How can they deny it? Government today means, "Might makes right." Somehow you take power, and then you are right. It is a question of which group gets the power.
Disciple: But they want to give the power to the people.
Srila Prabhupada: How will it be possible? There are so many people and so many different opinions—you have your people, and someone else has his people. As soon as you want to give the power to your people, the others will oppose. This is human nature; you cannot change it. They're thinking that the power should be given to the people, but there are many other people who will disagree. This is the nature of the material world: everyone is envious of everyone else. But these rascals don't have the intelligence to understand this. In India there was Gandhi—a gentleman, a very nice politician—but he was killed. So you cannot stop this. It is the nature of the material world—everyone is envious of others. You'll never be able to find a group of materialistic men who are perfect. So why do they say, "Give the power to the people"? They are simply rascals. Therefore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, paramo nirmatsaranam satam: Krsna consciousness is for the perfect, nonenvious person. Those who are not Krsna conscious must be envious. Everywhere you'll find competition, Krsna had enemies. Jesus Christ had enemies, or else why was he crucified? He had no fault, he was preaching God consciousness. Yet he was crucified. This is the material world. Even though one is perfect, still he'll have enemies. How can you stop it? They say, "Give the power to the people," but as soon as there is one good group of people governing, another group will stand against it. They will say, "Give the power to us." So where is your perfection? This is not perfection. Therefore, we have to give up all connection with this material world—that is perfection.
Disciple: But how can you avoid anarchy and have good government if you give up all connection with this world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is the point—you have to follow the perfect authority.
Disciple: And this was their contention—you advocate following a superior authority,
Srila Prabhupada: If you want a perfect society, you must follow the perfect authority. You cannot Find perfection through mundane politics. You have to follow the real, recognized authorities—the perfect, liberated souls. This was the system in the Vedic culture. The authority was Lord Krsna and the Vedic literature, and society was directed by Manu [the forefather and lawgiver of mankind] and the Manu-samhita. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: to attain perfection, we must follow the mahajanas—perfect, self-realized authorities.
Disciple: But these young people said even spiritual authorities are imperfect.
Srila Prabhupada: They may say that, but why should we accept their opinion—the opinion of imperfect rascals? Their only idea of authority is, "Might makes right." For instance, that group yesterday was advocating "Power to the people." So they have got some might, and they are pressuring, "You must accept this idea." And this is going on all over the world—"Might makes right." All the rascals are fighting with one another, and the one who is a little mightier becomes prominent. Thai's all.
Disciple: They say this is always the case—with any authority, it's just some leader who's pushed himself forward. So they've rejected all authorities.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because all their so-called authorities have been imperfect. But there is a perfect authority also: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And any authority who follows and teaches according to the instructions of Krsna is also perfect. That is authority. We Krsna conscious devotees are exactly following the authority of Krsna. In presenting Krsna consciousness, we are simply presenting the words of Krsna and trying to convince people, "Here is the real authority; if you follow you'll be happy." Krsna says, "You surrender unto Me." And we are saying, "Surrender to Krsna." We know that Krsna is perfect and that to surrender unto Him is perfection. And whenever we speak, we always Quote Krsna and Krsna's representatives.
Disciple: But in order for someone to surrender, doesn't he have to have faith in whoever is asking him to surrender?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, faith must be there. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna first of all proves that He is the Absolute Truth; then He asks for you to surrender. But you need to have the intelligence to understand—"This is Krsna"—then you surrender. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna does not say in the beginning, "You must surrender." First He explains everything—the body, the soul, all forms of yoga, all different kinds of knowledge. Then He gives the most confidential knowledge: "Give up everything else, and just surrender unto Me."
Everyone in this material world is imperfect. Without voluntary submission to a perfect person, everyone is imperfect. But one who has completely surrendered to Krsna or His representative-he is perfect. But if you do not surrender to the perfect authority, then you remain an imperfect rascal. You may be Napoleon, or you may be a small ant, but we want to see whether you have surrendered to Krsna or not. If not, then you're a rascal, that's all.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
New Zealand: Spiritual Cure for Addiction
Dr. Fraser McDonald, Medical Superintendent of the Parnell Drug Clinic in Auckland, New Zealand, noted recently that "the combination of our medical care and the spiritual care from the Hare Krsna philosophy has resulted in a very powerful tool indeed for the treatment of drug addiction, and for this we are very grateful."
As Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, a person can give up bad habits only if he develops a higher, spiritual taste. When he experiences the superior pleasure that comes from within, he can easily give up the inferior pleasure that comes from external sources like drugs.
Said Dr. McDonald, "Medicine as it has been practiced in the West has concentrated far too much on the purely mechanical, physical aspects of medicine and has given ... absolutely nothing to the religious or spiritual part of a person's being.... We at the Drug Clinic have had to look around for people with expertise in a spiritual way of life, so that we could offer this to our recovering drug addicts, and the Hare Krsna people gave us a very warm welcome, offering us facilities for long-term rehabilitation of patients in a spiritually harmonious atmosphere."
North India: The Budding of A Krsna Conscious State
Recently ISKCON opened a center in the north Indian state of Manipur, at the eastern end of the Himalayas. Manipur has a population of 1.5 million, a total area of 8,800 square miles, and world-renowned scenery (including hillsides covered with tropical fruit trees and waterways filled with lotuses and lilies that blossom after the monsoons).
Actually, Krsna consciousness is nothing new to the citizens of Manipur. The fifty-centuries-old Vedic literatures recount that the royal family are descendants of Arjuna, Lord Krsna's famous friend and disciple. After all these years, daily life still centers on Lord Krsna. The radio stations regularly broadcast Vedic narrations of Krsna's activities, and people often come together and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, to the accompaniment of traditional hand cymbals and drums.
Coordinating ISKCON's new center in Manipur is Svarupa Damodara dasa, Ph.D., an American-educated chemist who is a native of the area. The local people have warmly welcomed him (as well as devotees from Italy, Brazil, and the U.S.), and they have been coming by the thousands to Krsna conscious festivals and seminars.
"This is a very old and aristocratic Krsna conscious kingdom," wrote His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. "If this kingdom is organized as a Krsna conscious state, this revitalization will be a great success, because for five thousand years this state has maintained its identity. If the spirit of Krsna consciousness is revived here, it will be a wonderful place, renowned throughout the world."
Offerings to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, On the Day He Appeared in This World
In the fall of 1896, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada made his appearance in this world, and each year at this time Srila Prabhupada's disciples offer their appreciation to him. The celebration is called Vyasa-puja and gets its name from the great spiritual master Vyasa, who fifty centuries ago put Lord Krsna's teachings into writing. Srila Prabhupada in his turn translated some seventy volumes of these Vedic literatures into English, and through his international movement he spread the science of self-realization and God consciousness throughout the world. Clearly, then, he is a supereminent successor to Vyasa in the line of gurus that has come down through the centuries from Lord Krsna. The offerings on these pages are from the eleven disciples Srila Prabhupada chose to become gurus after him and so assist him in carrying forward his life's work.
Bhagavan dasa Maharaja
Srila Prabhupada, you would always tell us, "Just do as I am doing," but just like children, we were very satisfied just to witness with awe how you were tirelessly pushing and expanding Lord Caitanya's movement all over the world. But time being the mind of the Lord, we also witnessed Sri Krsna's supreme desire to enjoy your loving association together with His other eternal associates in Goloka [the spiritual world]. Thus, along with the heavy weight of separation, the awesome responsibility of continuing the Krsna consciousness movement of Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come to rest upon us. Now, like a song which has captured the mind, your words resound day and night in my heart: "Just do as I am doing." But how is it possible to be like you—you who are the embodiment of truth, knowledge, and purity; the visible conclusion of the Vedic scriptures; the swan amongst men; the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead? As Lord Caitanya's confidential associate, you have delivered to us His supreme order—amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa: "Become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land!" This command, which we had always felt that only you could carry, has now been given by you to us. And because you have given us this order, it can be fulfilled by your mercy alone.
Some people may scorn and laugh at how the new guru is amusingly trying to imitate his father, just as a foolish child puts on his father's hat, coat, and shoes and tries to feel important. But such cynics do not believe in your inconceivable and causeless mercy upon the fallen souls. Therefore, I pray at your lotus feet that just as Krsna Himself agrees to manifest in the Deity and thus give pleasure and strength to His devotees, you may also manifest yourself in my stonelike heart, so that I may give your disciples faith and encouragement to carry on the mission you have started.
The power of your separation is uprooting my attachments to this world, just as the hurricane uproots trees that have been standing for hundreds and thousands of years. I fall down at your lotus feet and beg again and again that you please continue to guide me to speak as you would speak, teach as you would teach, be bold as you were bold, and merciful as you were merciful. Due to my fallen condition I am feeling low in love of Godhead and remorseful at having hardly appreciated your association. In such a condition I am slowly crawling back to your lotus feet and have given up everything for you. Please, Srila Prabhupada, give me your shelter.
In 1977 in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada was translating Srimad-Bhagavatam when he called me to his desk and related to me that the years 1959 to 1968 were very, very difficult. There were so many obstacles in his path and so many materially difficult situations to face in establishing and founding his ISKCON society. Then he paused. Looking at me, he said, "Though I thought that those were difficult years then, now I realize that it was all Krsna's asset. It was all Krsna's gift to me."
There is no political leader, there is no social reformer, there is not even a modern religious leader who has done or could do what Srila Prabhupada has accomplished in just a few years. He underwent so many difficulties in setting the guidelines and goals for the entire human society to become sane and peaceful. Not only could no other so-called big personality do it—no other big personality in this world would even care to do it. No one else ever really cared for me; no one else ever spoke the truth to me; no one else even knew what the truth was. History will show that Srila Prabhupada is just like the rising moon. And as the moon rises, all the glowworms (the so-called big, modern personalities) will diminish and disappear under the full shining light of Srila Prabhupada's love for Lord Krsna. He has changed the course of history. He has changed the course of science. He has altered the insane path of this modern civilization. And me: he has changed my life from one of despair and suffering into a full life of bliss and knowledge, and that is why I love him.
We stood by in helpless awe
Up, down, east, west, north, and south,
This my offering, my prayer is done;
Human beings are factually insignificant in numbers when compared to the other living entities. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and only 400,000 of them are human species. The others are vast numbers of aquatics, reptiles, insects, birds, beasts, and plants. Rarely do we find human beings who are civilized to the degree that they can understand higher states of consciousness beyond the everyday affairs of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending and whatever so-called recreations one wastes his time in. Fewer still have understood that they are not their bodies. It is very difficult to be unattached to this material body, but even more difficult is understanding one's actual position as an eternal servant of Krsna. After many years of cultivating such understanding, a small handful become perfectly pure devotees, and of these only the most fortunate may receive a full dose of transcendental energy from the Supreme Lord. Krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana: those who are spreading this Krsna consciousness movement all over the world are not only pure devotees of the Supreme Lord, but are directly empowered by Him to create other devotees. Therefore Srila Prabhupada is such a perfectly empowered preacher. Being completely controlled by Krsna, he is completely free from the control of maya [the Lord's illusory, material energy]. Because he is the greatest proponent of Krsna consciousness in the Western world, he has not only spread Krsna's name and words throughout human society, but he has empowered others to do so on his behalf. Therefore his opulences are expanding unlimitedly. One cannot properly offer him praise. It is said that Ananta-sesa has not been able to fully describe the glories of the Lord with his thousand mouths vibrating them since the creation of the universe, since the opulences of the Lord are ever expanding. We have also not seen the limits of Srila Prabhupada's mercy. Rather, we are just beginning to understand its depth and magnitude, exactly as one cannot understand the greatness of the iceburg by seeing its tip protruding from the water. Therefore we can simply stand before him, humbly offering our praise and praying for his mercy upon us, since we have no other shelter than his lotus feet; they are offering shelter to the whole universe. We have fully surrendered unto those lotus feet, and we are firmly holding on to them. We pray that we may be worthy of expanding his glories more and more throughout the world.
Hrdayananda dasa Goswami
Dear Srila Prabhupada, Please accept my most respectful obeisances at your lotus feet.
You have made me a Vaisnava guru. And how much more I now appreciate your vast and wonderful Krsna consciousness! I have accepted many disciples, and the weight of this burden of love has broken my youthful energy. The weight has crushed, like helpless birds, my power to enjoy this world.
Guru means "heavy." The weight of the responsibility you have given me is like a colossal anchor dragging my mind inward to Krsna.
As I struggle, with tears in my eyes, to serve you, how I marvel at what you did, at what you are!
How perfect was your life on earth! How powerfully you preached Krsna's message! How enchanting were the depths of your singing voice! And how awesome and brilliant was your voice as you revealed the inescapable network of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam!
How gracefully you devastated the enemies of God! How mercifully you cared for us as we huddled under your tender wing!
O limitless Jagad-guru! O most perfect spiritual master! Be even more kind to me now. I am a broken animal who lovingly yet pathetically struggles to pull his master's carriage. Pull me into the world of Krsna! And place me as an atom at your lotus feet.
Your fallen servant,
The great tidal wave of love of Krsna (started by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda Prabhu nearly 492 years ago in Sri Mayapur) was kept in a reservoir within India waiting for you, Srila Prabhupada, to break the dam! Now that you've released the divine flood-waters, there is no restraining their forward progress. Just as in the great universal inundation gradually everything is submerged, so the ocean of ecstatic chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is swelling, and already the creatures of the dry land are being drowned. Only a few birdlike persons are hovering stranded on the mental plane, but soon they will also have no place to land except within these ecstatic waters. Your Divine Grace has brought to this dark, cold, and misdirected world unparalleled good fortune, eternal knowledge, and transcendental bliss. Your sacred message and divine personality are self-illuminating and "brilliant as the sun"! Therefore, I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto your divine lotus feet on this holy Vyasa-puja day.
Queen Rukmini of Dvaraka, while talking with her female confidantes, appreciated her great fortune. Unlike other women, who have ordinary husbands with bodies made of skin, bone, blood, stool, mucus, hair, and pus, Rukminidevi had as her eternal husband Lord Krsna, who has a transcendental body of eternal blissful knowledge and beauty. Srila Prabhupada, how will we ever be able to repay you for bringing us under the shelter of our real and eternal friends: Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and Their eternal associates?
The Golden Avatara, Lord Caitanya, has manifested Himself as a gigantic tree; this tree is the tree of love of God. Simultaneously, Lord Caitanya has also become the gardener. ISKCON is one of the massive branches of this divine tree. Srila Prabhupada, you have revealed that ISKCON is non-different from your body. As gardener. Lord Caitanya wanted to distribute the fruits to everyone, but single-handedly how many fruits could He give? Seeing Lord Caitanya's anxiety and wanting to relieve it, Your Divine Grace has profusely distributed the fruits of the tree of love of God. And you have enjoined everyone to eat those fruits of love of Krsna to their full satisfaction and to also distribute them to everyone they meet. These fruits have neither skin nor pit; rather, they are pure nectar! Being handed down intact in disciplic succession by the devotees of Lord Caitanya, their sweetness is ever-increasing. These fruits are coming along with the Hare Krsna mantra from Goloka Vrndavana, the highest planet in the spiritual sky, which is far, far beyond this material universe. Those who are tasting these fruits of love of God are recognizable because they are always chanting Hare Krsna and trying to help others. Thus, Srila Prabhupada, in offering you respects we worship ISKCON and your devotees as your divine extensions. Your Divine Grace has proven yourself the greatest benefactor to the fallen and deluded souls in this modern age. We love you for what you are, and hankering for your eternal service and association, we bow our heads down at your divine lotus feet. All glories to you Srila Prabhupada!
Jayatirtha dasa Maharaja
Submitted with an attitude of great awe and reverence to the lotus feet of my eternal spiritual guide and preceptor, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, on his most glorious appearance day.
O spiritual master, all living entities are born into this material world in dark ignorance and are overcome by desire and hate. They do not know from where they have come or for what reason they have taken birth. Neither do they see the purpose of life, and they are in fear of what will become of them at death. Wanting to find happiness and avoid distress, they labor hard, but with no good result. Seeking help, they attach themselves to leaders who promise salvation but are themselves in delusion. Thus the blind follow the blind, and all of them fall deeper into the dark well of material existence.
You, O spiritual master, are an eternal resident of the spiritual universe, which is filled with bliss and knowledge. Out of mercy for us fallen souls you descended to deliver the message of Lord Krsna, to ignite the torchlight of knowledge in the hearts of everyone so that they could see the truth and understand themselves to be eternal spiritual souls, the wayward sons of God. On coming to the Western world, you found us technologically advanced but spiritually dead. You taught us to call out the names of God with devotion and to reform our sinful habits. You breathed life into our hearts and engladdened us. You began a revolution in consciousness, and you trained us how to carry it forward. And then one day last November you departed.
O spiritual master, overwhelmed with grief out of separation from you, we took solace in your instructions, and in your words we found the strength to continue. Although the materialists will not understand this, we feel your presence with us now even more than before, and we hear you giving us guidance from within our hearts. Your mission was a mission of kindness, and now we want to show to others the kindness that you showed to us. It was a mission of enlightenment, and now we wish to enlighten others with the knowledge that you have given us. Your mission was authorized by Lord Krsna Himself, and now you have authorized us to continue it.
O Srila Prabhupada, on this, the first anniversary of your appearance to be celebrated after your departure, we pause; and with a great seriousness and depth of commitment we pledge ourselves to continue with your work. The light which came into the world with your birth has not departed. With it you have lighted tens of thousands of others, and you have left us the secret of how to light more and more. And by your grace we will do so, until the darkness of this age is just a bitter memory and the pain of ignorance is felt no more.
Praying for your mercy, I remain,
When a person receives a very nice present, he sometimes says, "I don't know how I can thank you enough." Who, then, can even estimate the debt of gratitude we owe to you? You have given us Krsna—the beginning, middle, and end of everything there is. How can we repay you for this matchless gift?
Materialists are amazed that we have "given up" everything. They don't know that we have actually gained everything by obtaining Krsna. No one in the material world can possess anything. It is all controlled by Krsna. It is all taken away at the time of death. But all the nice engagements you have given us—chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy—cannot be diminished by time or stolen by death.
You have made us immortal. Although the greatest materialists—big scientific brains and sovereign kings—try to escape death, they are always defeated. But we who are most insignificant have been blessed with eternity, knowledge, and unlimited happiness, all due to Your Divine Grace.
No, we can never repay you. But we can always continue to glorify you, broadcast your mission, and hold your remembrance within the core of our hearts. As long as we do so, you will be pleased with us and we will also be happy. This type of debt, in which both parties remain satisfied, is truly very nice. Please continue to accept our obeisances again and again.
Before I met you, Srila Prabhupada, I had no life. My heart was like stone, covered by dust accumulated over many, many births. Without awakening my original consciousness of love of Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I remained asleep in the darkness of conditional life, suffering repeated birth and death. When I began to follow your instructions, I found them to be like a torch which caused the stonelike dirt in my consciousness to melt, and I began to feel real life.
Now you have left us to carry out your instructions, but I know that you are still with us. You reside eternally in the hearts of all your disciples. If we go on following your instructions carefully, we will certainly see you protecting us and showing us how to distribute your mercy and love all over the world. Thus, all living entities will float in the ocean of love of Krsna that you have brought to the Western world.
Therefore, my humble offering on your appearance day is that you take complete charge of me and let your mission be my entire life and soul. You specifically instructed me as follows: "We are the only hope for the human society to receive real knowledge. And our books are the only real thing. So it may take some time, but one day all this rubbish culture of slaughterhouses and brothels and this rubbish philosophy that God is dead and life comes from matter can be replaced."
You said your only ambition is that everyone may become enlightened, though they are now deprived of that chance. You assured me, "In the future there will be a history of how Vedic culture was brought to America. We are introducing a new style of life and civilization. Everything should be ideal. Others have never dreamt of such a civilization: free life, happy life, no anxiety, and hope—great hope, that we are going back home, back to Godhead. Through increased distribution of our books, America and then the whole world will become Krsna conscious. All the world is in darkness. The scientists like Darwin and Freud are all in darkness. One day the whole world will appreciate how we have changed the face of the world from darkness to light."
Kindly allow this transcendental message to be firmly fixed in my mind and heart, and engage me in helping you spread Lord Caitanya's movement to every town and village throughout the world.
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
The spiritual master is the sum total of all the demigods. The whole world pays homage unto you, Srila Prabhupada.
When I first met Your Divine Grace in 1966, I was lost and fallen. It was my inestimable good fortune that I became your disciple. I did your typing tasks, donated my salary, and brought you a daily mango. You preached in the park and in your room and in the temple. Before long, I knew you were the representative of Krsna. You dealt with us with so much affection. Love—the kind not given by any mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, or so-called lover. But you gave it—because you gave us back our lost relationship with the Supreme Beloved of all living beings, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
And not just to me or just to a few, but you gave it to millions—pure love of God. Krsna empowered you to deliver the whole world. You traveled all over the world, so humbly arriving at each place, grave and simple—but always carrying in your heart and voice the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The world desperately needs obedience to God, service to God, love of God. When you were here it was clear that only you in the entire world were delivering unalloyed love of God. This isn't said whimsically, but after examining the evidence. You severely chastised atheists, whether they were Nobel-Prize-winning scientists, powerful politicians, or world-esteemed humanitarians. "Whoever denies God is a fool and a rascal." In your books you have given the foundation for a Krsna conscious world order.
Srila Prabhupada, I know you are still preaching and living, and I'm praying that you will always protect and guide us and continuously manifest your mercy in the world. Let us continue working on your behalf in this kingdom of maya (illusion), saving the lost souls from repeated sufferings of birth and death. Let us bring them love of Krsna, as you so kindly brought it to us.
Tamala Krsna Goswami
O most merciful master
Enter a minister
Powerful those forces
But not so powerful
Stripped of illusions,
The sastra proclaims you
To heaven or hell,
Tamala Krsna Goswami
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q. I want to get back in harmony with nature. Can chanting Hare Krsna help me do that?
A. For sure. Say you're walking along a forest path at 6 a.m. As you notice the sandy floor under your feet, the stream flowing nearby, the sun on the horizon, the cool breeze, and the sounds of the birds, you're experiencing what the Bhagavad-gita singles out as the five basic natural elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Beyond these five are subtler elements like your mind (which takes in all these experiences) and your intelligence (which sorts them out). As the Gita also explains, the source of all these natural elements is Lord Krsna. So when you chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, you're in harmony with nature, because you're in harmony with nature's source.
Q. Can't I harmonize with nature by backpacking, jogging, or surfing?
A. Perhaps, in some limited sense. But we also have to realize that no matter how much we harmonize with nature, she'll finally stop the music. We'll all have to get old and diseased and die, and then our backpacking, jogging, and surfing days will be over. But in Lord Krsna's transcendental world everyone lives in lasting harmony, and by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra we can go there. That way we'll never have to come back to this world of birth and death. (Otherwise, by the law of karma, a backpacker might come back as a mountain goat, a jogger as a terrier, a surfer as a shark.)
Q. Can chanting Hare Krsna help me to see God in nature?
A. Yes. Of course, even without chanting, you can still get something of a glimpse of Him. For instance, in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "Of bodies of water, I am the ocean.... I am the light of the sun and moon.... I am the pure taste of water." So whether you chant or not, the ocean shows you something about His greatness; the sun and moon. His brilliance; and the taste of water, His purity. And when you chant the maha-mantra, the more you'll see Krsna's presence in all these things. And what's more, when you chant you'll experience Krsna's full personality, because the Lord is fully present in His names.
Q. Can chanting help me get in harmony with my inner self? If so, how?
A. Yes, chanting Hare Krsna can also help you do that. As we were saying earlier, all the basic natural elements (the elements that make up our surroundings and our bodies) come from Lord Krsna. And so does the spiritual or conscious element—the inner self. The inner self is the soul, which animates the body with consciousness. Most people aren't aware of the inner self. They think the self is the body, and they try to satisfy the body instead of the real self within. But when you chant Hare Krsna, you feel harmony with your inner self, because your inner self is in harmony with Krsna, the Supreme Self.
Q. I've read that if I chant Hare Krsna, I'll become self-realized. But I've also read that if I chant Hare Krsna, I'll become God-realized. Which is it?
A. It's both. Say you want to look at yourself, but you're out in the countryside on a pitch-black night; you'll have to wait till you see the sun coming up. In the same way, if you want to realize your self, you'll have to realize Krsna, the Supreme Self: when the Krsna sun comes up, your darkness about self-realization will disappear. When you chant Hare Krsna, you're becoming both God-realized and self-realized.
Q. How long will it take me to become self-realized by chanting Hare Krsna?
A. Why not right away? The Vedic literatures give many examples of people who have taken up the chanting of Hare Krsna and have quickly achieved the highest level of self-realization. Generally, of course, self-realization is a gradual process. It may not happen all at once. But if you chant sincerely and patiently, then Krsna will disclose everything to you, even in this one lifetime.
Q. What if you chant Hare Krsna but don't achieve full realization in this life?
A. In case you don't complete the process in this lifetime, you'll get a chance in your next lifetime to take up where you left off. As the Bhagavad-gita assures, you'll be born in a rich or scholarly family, so that you'll have facility for completing your self-realization. This is one of the great benefits of chanting Hare Krsna even a little bit, because if someone doesn't chant at all, his karma will likely carry him to a lifetime as a plant or animal.
Q. To chant Hare Krsna, do I have to be a vegetarian?
A. No, but it helps. If you're eating flesh, it's not possible to experience the full benefit of chanting Krsna's names. It's best to eat prasada, "the Lord's mercy," vegetarian foods that have been offered to Krsna with love. By eating this spiritual food you'll purify your body and mind, and then the chanting will act more powerfully for you. Amazingly, self-realization begins with the tongue: you taste spiritual food and chant Krsna's names. If you do these two things as often as you can, you'll experience an ever-increasing spiritual pleasure.
Q. How can I be sure I'll see Krsna just by chanting His name?
A. As with practically everything else you do, you have to start out with a little faith. Suppose you go to a travel agent, and he says he can give you a ticket to fly to Paris. Now, if you're not going to believe him, then what's the sense in going to him? You have to have a little faith that if you get the ticket and board the plane, you'll get to Paris. In the same way, you'll need a little faith to take up the process of chanting Hare Krsna. But if you do take it up, you're sure to see Krsna in the end.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
With His friends well on their way into the mouth of the python, Krsna wondered how He could kill him yet save them.
Five thousand years ago Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, played as a cowherd boy in the north Indian village of Vrndavana. One day Krsna wanted to go to the forest with all His cowherd boyfriends and have a picnic. As soon as He got up from bed, Krsna blew His buffalo horn and called all His friends together. Then, keeping their calves just ahead of them, all the boys started for the forest.
Krsna had thousands of cowherd boyfriends, and each one was taking care of thousands of calves. Krsna's own calves were innumerable. We may talk of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions, billions, trillions, and tens of trillions of calves, but Krsna had inconceivably more calves than that. Our tiny brains may not be able to comprehend this, but the Supreme Lord is never limited by our conceptions. Nothing is impossible for Him.
For ornaments all the boys were wearing quartz crystals, small conchshells, pearls, and gold, And when they went into the forest, they also playfully decorated themselves with green leaves, bunches of beautiful flowers, peacock feathers, and colorful minerals such as red clay. Each boy also carried a stick, a flute, a buffalo horn, and a lunch bag.
While the boys were walking through the forest, one of them would steal another's lunch bag and pass it to a third. And when the boy whose lunch was stolen tried to get it back, the boy who had it would throw it to someone else. All the other boys would laugh, but when the owner became disheartened and started to cry, they would give his lunch bag back to him.
Sometimes Krsna went ahead to a distant place to view an especially beautiful part of the forest. Then all the cowherd boys tried to run and catch up and be the first to touch Him. One boy would shout, "I'll be the first to touch Krsna!" And another boy would say, "Oh no, you won't! I'll touch Krsna first!"
The cowherd boys would play in all sorts of ways. Some played their flutes or blew their buffalo horns, others imitated the buzzing of the bees, and still others imitated the sound of the cuckoos. The boys danced along after the peacocks or imitated the graceful movements of the swans or sat silently with the ducks. They also ran after birds' shadows along the ground and tried to follow their exact courses. Some of the boys caught monkeys by the tail and played with them, and when the monkeys jumped up into the trees, the boys followed them. If a monkey made a face and showed its teeth, the boys would do the same. A number of boys went to the waterfalls and crossed the river Yamuna. Often they played with the frogs on the bank, and when the frogs jumped in the water, the boys dove in after them. When the boys came out, they would look at their own reflections in the water and stand mimicking and laughing. They would also go to an empty well and make loud sounds. Then when the echo came back, they would call it names and make fun of it.... After stocking up pious activities in many previous lives, the cowherd boys were seeing Krsna face to face and playing with Him as a friend.
Just then the demon Aghasura appeared before Krsna and the cowherd boys. Aghasura happened to be the younger brother of Putana and Bakasura, two demons who had previously tried to harm Krsna. Aghasura thought, "This Krsna has killed my brother and sister—now I shall kill Him and His friends and calves. That way all their mothers and fathers will also die, because these children are their life and soul. When the children die, their parents will die of grief."
Through his mystic power Aghasura took the form of an eight-mile-long python. At first, the boys thought the demon was just a statue. But then one boy said, "Just see—isn't this more like a big serpent lying down in the road and widening his mouth to eat all of us?"
Another boy said, "Yes, what you say is true. The mouth of this animal appears to be like a big dark cave; his teeth are like mountain peaks, and his tongue is like a long highway. This hot fiery wind is his breath, and because of all the dead bodies he has eaten, it smells like burning flesh."
After talking about him this way and that way, the cowherd boys decided to walk right into the demon's mouth. "How can he swallow us all at once?" they reasoned. "And even if this python did swallow us all, he could not swallow Krsna. Krsna would kill him, just as He killed Bakasura." All the boys looked at the beautiful lotuslike face of Krsna and began to clap and smile. Now they marched along with their calves toward the gigantic serpent's open jaws.
Krsna could see that the big snake was actually a great demon, but while He was planning how to save His friends, they entered Aghasura's mouth and walked right into his cavernous belly. Yet Aghasura didn't devour them. He was thinking, "Everyone has entered except Krsna, who has killed my brother and sister."
When Krsna saw that His dearmost friends were out of His hands and were within the belly of Aghasura, He wondered for a moment just what He would do—how He could kill the demon and at the same time save the cowherd boys and calves. Finally, Krsna went into the demon's mouth.
All the demigods had gathered in the clouds to watch, and they cried, "Alas! Alas!" At the same time, Aghasura's friends, who were all eaters of flesh and blood, became very happy.
While Aghasura was trying to smash Krsna and His companions, the Lord expanded Himself within the demon's throat. To counter, Aghasura expanded his own body, but still he found himself choking. His big eyes rolled violently, and he quickly suffocated. His life air could not come out, but finally it burst out of a hole in the upper part of his skull. Aghasura's spirit soul came out like a dazzling light, illuminating all directions, and it hovered in the sky.
After the demon's body had dropped dead, Krsna brought all the cowherd boys and calves back to consciousness with His transcendental glance, and then He led them out of the demon's mouth. At that moment Aghasura's glittering soul merged into Krsna's body. Aghasura was certainly very sinful, and generally it is impossible for the sinful to merge into the existence of the Absolute Truth. But in this particular case, because the all-pure Lord Himself had entered Aghasura's body, the demon became fully cleansed of all sinful contamination. Aghasura received a spiritual body and returned to the spiritual world. Here is proof that the Supreme Lord always does good to everyone. Even when Krsna kills someone, that person is liberated.
On seeing Lord Krsna and the cowherd boys and calves coming out of Aghasura's mouth, the demigods in the sky felt overwhelmed with joy and at once showered flowers. The celestial dancing girls began to dance, and the Gandharvas, who are famed for their singing, offered songs of prayer. Drummers beat their kettledrums, the brahmana priests recited Vedic hymns, and all Lord Krsna's devotees chanted, "Jaya! Jaya! All glories to the Supreme Personality of Godhead!"
The gigantic mouth of Aghasura stayed open for some time before gradually drying up. For many days it remained a favorite place where Krsna and His cowherd boyfriends enjoyed their pleasure pastimes.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada]
a poem by Citraketu dasa
The faithful man
The doubting soul
Thus armed with knowledge
How To Tell the Difference Between the Cheaters and the Teachers
There have always been cheaters posing as gurus. Many thousands of years ago, the demon Ravana dressed himself as a svami to win an audience with Sita, the wife of Lord Ramacandra (an incarnation of Lord Krsna). Ravana kidnapped Sita, but Lord Ramacandra killed him. Five thousand years ago, when the Lord appeared in the world in His original form as Krsna, He dealt with another cheater: King Paundraka donned an extra set of arms, in imitation of Lord Krsna's four-armed Visnu form, and demanded that Krsna worship him. Again, the Lord did away with the cheater personally.
The current age presents a special dilemma. To begin with, as the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam predicts, most people are spiritually lazy and ignorant. And what's more, when they finally bring themselves to search for a guru, they find thousands of latter-day Ravanas and Paundrakas. Granted, today's cheaters are insignificant next to those personally dispatched by Lord Krsna, but they're running unchecked. There are no laws against pretending to be a great guru or even God Himself. So it's extremely difficult to stop the cheating "gurus" and "incarnations." But Vaisnavas (devotees of the Lord) have to try, at least, to expose them.
Nowadays, the cheaters are so brazen that even when caught in the most scandalous behavior, they matter-of-factly admit they're cheating—because they know their followers will go on worshiping them anyway. One famous "guru" had an affair and tried to pass his consort off as the divine mother of the universe. After the divine union broke up, he simply said his mate was no longer the divine mother, and the "disciples" went along with it. Other so-called gurus make drastic doctrinal shifts whenever it seems their popularity is slipping. After all, next year's meditational techniques may make this year's eternal truths look passe. So the cheater may have to change his act, much like a popular entertainer. And how many times have thousands of people paid millions of dollars, only to discover that they all received the same "secret" manual But still the cheated come forward and pay even higher fees for new "secrets," like levitation. It makes you wonder; what's the use of telling people they're being cheated when they already know?
One positive note—the recent wide distribution of authentic translations of ancient India's Vedic literatures. Though the cheaters often say they base their teachings on these books, the books themselves draw a clear line between the cheaters and the genuine teachers:
The pseudo svamis and yogis and man-made gods do not believe in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus they are known as pasandis, offenders. They themselves are fallen and cheated, because they do not know the real path of spiritual advancement, and whoever goes to them is certainly cheated in his turn. When one is thus cheated, he sometimes lakes shelter of the real followers of Vedic principles, who teach everyone to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the directions of the Vedic literatures. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.14.30)
In other words, if you want to find a bona fide guru, you have to consult the standard literatures (the Vedic literatures) and the standard spiritual masters, who come in disciplic succession (parampara) from Lord Krsna. Five thousand years ago the Vedic literatures were put into written form by an incarnation of Krsna named Vyasadeva, and even today the spiritual master's chair is called a vydsdsana. To sit there, a guru has to teach exactly what Vyasa did, and he has to be a disciple of a spiritual master who comes in succession from Vyasa. Another symptom; the guru's life must show that he is personally convinced of the message the Vedic literatures set forth—namely, "Worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
It's much in vogue today to say that all teachings are the same, "Take any path you want," the cheaters say. "They all lead to the same place." But common sense says that if you buy an airline ticket to New York, you'd better not try to hop a plane to L.A. And the Upanisads say, "One result is obtained by worshiping the supreme cause of all causes, and another is obtained by worshiping that which is not supreme." Different forms of worship or meditation will lead you to different goals, and only through devotional service to the Supreme Godhead can you transcend the cycle of repeated birth and death and attain eternity, bliss, and knowledge in the kingdom of God.
Nor can a genuine guru be a debauchee or a "New Age" hero given to mundane psychology, frivolous sports, rock music, or other whimsical games and speculations. Even self-realized persons have to follow basic standards of morality. Avoidance of illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication is prerequisite not just for some people but for anyone interested in actual spiritual life. Anyone who claims to be above these standards is following in the footsteps of Ravana, and his followers will join him in ruin. A real guru has to be a humble representative of the Supreme, a servant of God.
We have attempted to give a public warning about the cheaters who lake the name of svamis and "god-men." The whole purpose for going to a spiritual teacher is to find the genuine path of God-realization and self-realization. But if we go to a cheater, we're only cheating ourselves; we'll have to stay within the cycle of repeated birth and death. Yet even as we issue this warning, we know that it won't stop the moths from entering the fire of the false gurus. So we're interested more in the innocent—and in the cynics. Anyone who is actually sincere about finding the genuine path shouldn't conclude that all spiritual life is a fraud, even in the midst of this bad age. There's an old story about a man whose dishes were stolen—he decided that from then on, he'd eat off the floor. No, even though one may have been cheated once—or twice—he has to go on with the business of life, striving to find the truth.
The human form of life is meant for self-realization, so we have to take guidance from a genuine spiritual master. As the Vedic literatures inform us, God is within each person's heart, and when someone is actually sincere about finding the genuine path back to Godhead, the Lord will guide him from within. When he meets a pure devotee of the Lord, the Lord will confirm it from within: "Yes, you can inquire from this guru." By sincerely inquiring and hearing from a bona fide spiritual master, we will reawaken our natural, eternal, joyous relationship with God. What we need first of all is sincerity. That will help us avoid sensational, concocted paths, and it will lead us to real knowledge and advancement in spiritual life, no matter how bizarrely the fools carry on in their caricature of spirituality.