Srila Prabhupada's First Talks in America (New York, March 1966)
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
tad viddhi pranipatena
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you, because he has seen the truth." [Bhagavad-gita 4.34]
Knowledge is the solution. And for knowledge we have to go to the right person, the tattva-darsi. Tattva-darsi means "one who has actually seen or experienced the Absolute Truth." Unless we find such a person—one who has actually seen the Absolute Truth or who has experienced what the Absolute Truth is—there is very little chance for our making spiritual advancement.
So we have to find a person who is experienced in the Absolute Truth and then follow the principles stated here: pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. Pranipatena means to surrender, pariprasnena means to inquire, and sevaya means to render service—three things. You should find a person who is self-realized, who has experience in the Absolute Truth, and then, on your part, you have to surrender to him, you have to inquire, and you have to render service. When these things are completed, there is no doubt about your spiritual salvation. If you have actually found a person who is self-realized, and if you have surrendered to him honestly, with inquiry and service, then you must know that your spiritual salvation is guaranteed. Guaranteed. There is no doubt about it.
Next Lord Krsna says,
yaj jnatva na punar moham
"And when you have thus learned the truth, you will never again come under delusion, for you will know that all living beings are but part of Me, and that they are in Me, and are Mine." [Bg. 4.35] Here Lord Krsna says that as soon as one gets knowledge from the right person, then he never again comes into the field of delusion. The whole thing is that in the present stage of our life, we are conditioned and deluded—we do not know things as they are, and that is the cause of all our miseries.
Otherwise, constitutionally we are anandamayo 'bhyasat—by nature we are jolly. In the Vedanta-sutra you'll find that the nature of Brahman, or spirit, is anandamaya, full of bliss. And in Brahma-samhita [5.1] it is said, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: "Krsna is the supreme controller, and His form is composed of eternity, knowledge, and bliss." Sat, cit, ananda. Sat means "eternity," cit means "full knowledge," and ananda means "pleasure." This is our constitution. We are all fragmental portions of Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Therefore, because He is eternal and full of knowledge and pleasure, we are also eternal and full of knowledge and pleasure.
Unfortunately, we have been put into contact with the material energy. Therefore, we are experiencing just the opposite. What is the opposite of sac-cid-ananda? Sat means "eternity." So we are now just the opposite: asat. Asat means "non-eternal." This body will cease to exist. We are put into such a condition that however hard we may try to keep our youthfulness—by so many medicines, injections, and so many other things which we have invented by our advancement of material science—death is sure. Antavanta ime dehah: the body must one day be finished. Therefore, there is no question of sat, eternity. And cit... cit means "knowledge." We have no knowledge. We have senses, but these are all imperfect senses. When somebody speaks about the Lord, we challenge, "Can you show me the Lord?" But we do not know that our senses are so imperfect that we can barely see even what we are daily seeing. If the light is turned off, then we cannot see each other, even in this room. So our seeing power is conditional. It is not perfect. Similarly, all our senses are imperfect. So by imperfect senses and by speculation with our imperfect mind, we cannot reach the Absolute Truth. It is not possible—not possible.
Therefore the Bhagavad-gita says, tad viddhi pranipatena: "If you are at all serious about understanding transcendental knowledge, then you must approach a person who has experience of the Absolute Truth." Otherwise, it is not possible for you to understand. If you think, "I shall realize the Absolute Truth by mental speculation," it is not possible, because you are fortified with only imperfections. Your senses cannot approach the Absolute Truth, or Brahman. Therefore it is said, avan-manasa-gocarah: "Brahman is beyond mental speculation." In fact, one name of the Supreme Lord is Adhoksaja. Adhoksaja means "the one by whom our material senses are defeated." Our material senses are defeated in every respect. So it is not possible to realize the Absolute Truth if we do not find a person who is a realized soul, who is absolute, who has understood.
In India, generally the brahmanas [saintly intellectuals) are expected to be the spiritual masters, because brahmana means "he who has sufficient knowledge in the transcendental science" (brahma janatiti brahmanah). That is a brahmana. Now, due to this modern age, Kali-yuga [the age of quarrel and hypocrisy], it is very difficult to find a qualified brahmana. Therefore, it is also very difficult to find a qualified spiritual master. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu [the incarnation of God for this age] has recommended,
kibra vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
"Never mind whether one is a brahmana or a sudra [a workingman] or a sannyasi [a renounced monk] or a householder. Never mind what he is, that doesn't matter. If he knows the science of Krsna, then he is a bona fide spiritual master." [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128]
So here in the Bhagavad-gita is the science of Krsna. Every one of you should study Bhagavad-gita very scrutinizingly, with all your arguments, with all your sense, with all your philosophical knowledge. As it is said here, tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena: it is not that you have to submit yourself blindly. Although your spiritual master may be self-realized and experienced in the Absolute Truth, still you have to question him. You have to understand from him all critical points by your intelligent questions. That is allowed.
So it doesn't matter where he's born or what he is—whether he's a brahmana or a sudra or an American or an Indian or whatever. Never mind. When you go to a doctor, a medical practitioner, you do not ask, "Well, Doctor, are you American or Indian? Are you a brahmana? Are you a Jew? Are you a Christian?" No. If he has the qualifications of a medical man, you surrender: "Doctor, treat me. I am suffering." There is no question. Similarly, if you find someone who has the qualifications of-a spiritual master, you can accept him as a spiritual master and surrender to him.
You'll be surprised that Lord Caitanya's principal disciples were all so-called fallen men in society. He appointed one Haridasa Thakura as namacarya. (Namacarya means "the prime minister, or the authority, in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.") This Haridasa Thakura was a Muhammadan. He happened to take his birth in a Muhammadan family, but he became a follower of Lord Caitanya. And after training him, Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave him the highest post in His spiritual mission.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in this world to introduce the system of chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And Haridasa Thakura, who happened to be a Muhammadan, became so enlightened that Caitanya Mahaprabhu appointed him the supreme minister for administering this Hare Krsna mantra. Haridasa was made the authority, the namacarya. So there is nothing barring anyone from becoming a spiritual master. Everyone can become a spiritual master, provided he knows the science of Krsna. And that is very reasonable. If you do not know the subject matter, how can you be a teacher? A teacher is he who knows the science.
So Krsna says to Arjuna and to all the human race, yaj jnatva na punar moham: "By understanding this science, you will not be illusioned." Because Arjuna was illusioned, he was not prepared to fight. So this Bhagavad-gita instruction was given to Arjuna. Here Krsna says, "If you actually undergo the training under an experienced, bona tide spiritual master, then you will not succumb to the illusory energy."
Then Krsna says,
api ced asi papebhyah
"Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries." [Bg. 4.36] Now, Lord Sri Krsna says we are in the midst of the ocean of ignorance. This life, this conditioned life in the material world, is just like an ocean of ignorance. Lord Caitanya therefore prays to Sri Krsna like this: ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram patitam mam visame bhavambudhau—"My dear Lord Krsna, I have fallen in the ocean of ignorance." So, we are in the ocean of ignorance. Now, if you have a very good ship, you can very easily cross the Atlantic Ocean without any difficulty. Similarly, if we have the ship or the boat of perfect knowledge, then there is no fear. We can cross the ocean of ignorance very easily.
Now, here Krsna says, api ced asi papebhyah sarvebhyah papa-krttamah: a person may be the most sinful man, the supermost sinful man, but if he gets this knowledge of the Krsna science, then he can cross over the ocean of ignorance very easily. This means that it does not matter what our past life was. Any Vedic literature, especially Bhagavad-gita, does not take into account what you were in the past—that doesn't matter. Because we are in ignorance, we might have done so many things which are not approved, which are not virtuous. That is quite possible. Every one of us is subjected to suffering, because due to ignorance we do so many sinful things. Nobody can say, "I am free from any sinful activities." Nobody can say that. But that doesn't matter, because Lord Sri Krsna says, api ced asi papebhyah sarvebhyah papa-krttamah: "Even if one is the most sinful man, when he understands the Krsna science, he's free." He's free, and he can cross over the material ocean of ignorance very easily.
How is it possible? In the next verse [Bg. 4.37], Krsna gives a very nice example:
yathaidhamsi samiddho 'gnir
"As the blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities." Whatever you put in a fire, the fire will go on burning. It will burn everything to ashes. Never mind whether it is wood or some dirty thing, the fire will turn it into ashes. Similarly, if you get this Krsna science, if you understand this Krsna science, then all your reactions to your sinful activities-whatever you might have done in the past—will all be burned to ashes. Burned to ashes.
In the next verse [Bg. 4.38], Krsna says,
na hi jnanena sadrsam
"In this world there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time."
Therefore, we must seek knowledge. And the perfection of knowledge, as we have several times explained in these meetings, is to understand Krsna. That's all. In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, you'll find, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After culturing knowledge for many, many births, one comes to Krsna, and he understands that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything." Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: "Vasudeva, Krsna, is everything, the cause of all causes." He's the cause of all causes. Always remember that when I speak of Krsna, I am speaking of God—God is the cause of all causes.
Now, these days the idea of communism is becoming very prominent. So, in the Krsna science there is a very nice conception of spiritual communism. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam you'll find that there was once a discussion between Narada [a great devotee-sage] and Yudhisthira [a great devotee-king]. Narada was explaining that in this inuinlyyteil material world—whether on the higher planets or on this planet or in outer space—whatever wonderful things and material resources there are, they are all manufactured by the Supreme Lord. Just try to understand. Nothing in this world is done by any human being. Everything is done by God. Nobody can deny it. Atmavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything in existence is owned and controlled by the Supreme Lord." Therefore, all living entities—from the ant on up to Brahma, the highest human being, or the highest demigod—all of them have the right to use the material resources.
Now, Narada says that you can use all these material resources, as much as you require, but if you want more- if you take more, men you'll become a thief, and you are punishable. Just see the idea of spiritual communism! Everything in the universe (on this planet or on other planets), belongs to God. Now people are trying to go to the moon. The Russians are trying to put their flag first on the moon, so that they'll conquer. It is just like when you Americans first came from Europe. You conquered this tract of land, America, and you put up your flag. So now people are trying to go to the moon. But this putting up a flag is ignorance. Why are you putting up your flag? It is not your property; it is God's property. This is knowledge. But if I think, "It is my property, so I must put my flag here," that is ignorance.
In this morning's lecture I gave another example. If you throw some bags of grain in the street, many pigeons will come, but each pigeon will pick up only four, five, six, eight, ten grains—and then go away. He will not take even one grain more than he needs. As soon as he's satisfied to his heart's content—"Oh, I am full"—he'll go away. He'll not stock any grain. And this is natural. But if we put a hundred bags of flour on the street, and if we ask people to come and take, then somebody will take ten bags, somebody will take fifteen bags, somebody will take thirty bags, and somebody will not take any bags, because he's weak and cannot. So the distribution will not be equal. That is our advancement of civilization. The knowledge which the pigeons, the cats, and the dogs have, we are lacking. What is that knowledge? That the whole thing belongs to the Supreme Lord and that we can accept whatever we need—but not more than that. This is knowledge.
When everyone understands this knowledge, there will be no difficulty. The whole world is made by the Lord's arrangement, so that you will have no scarcity. Everything is sufficient. There will be no scarcity, provided you know the distribution process. Now there is a fallacy in the distribution process. One is taking more, and another is starving. Therefore, the starving people are making a protest: "Why shall we starve?" But their knowledge is also defective. Here is the perfect knowledge; atmavasyam idam sarvam—we have to understand that everything is God's property, not our property. Then we can use things which are available as nature's products. Suppose there is an iron ore mine. So, whatever iron ore one requires, he can take. But if somebody makes the iron ore mine his own property, then according to Srimad-Bhagavatam he becomes a thief. Then he's punishable, because the mine is God's property. Nobody can create the iron ore mine. We cannot create anything—we can simply transform things.
Suppose you are a worker or a laborer. You may manufacture a very nice table, but the ingredients—the wood, the iron, the instruments—they are supplied by God. You cannot manufacture iron. You cannot manufacture wood. So why do you claim that the table is yours'' This is ignorance. So by the culture of the Krsna science, when you understand the Krsna science, then you become free from this ignorance.
We are suffering due to ignorance. It is just as if we were in a law court. Ignorance is no excuse in the law court. Suppose you have done something wrong. If you say to the judge, "I did not know, sir, that this is the law," that is no excuse. You'll be punished, Now, in the sastra, in the Vedic literature, it is said that everything belongs to God, everything is manufactured by God. So everyone has a right—not only human beings, even the animals—everyone has a right to live and use things, as much as he requires. But if he stocks more, if he acquires more, he becomes a thief. And he's punishable. Now, suppose I say, "Oh, I do not know this law, therefore, I have accumulated so many things." That ignorance does not mean that you'll not be punished. You will be punished,
Therefore, we have to know the Krsna science. Now, people of the modern age are lacking this knowledge. That is why we have formed this international society, and we invite all sincere souls to take part in the society and teach this science all over the world.
The Soul in the Body
by Visakha-devi dasi
"....Overall, I don't remember too much from those days....I was always getting into things and talking in class. The teachers were strict, and we had to study hard. I played on the basketball team. And oh, those ugly high boots—how we hated them!"
Robert A. Griesser recalling his school days
Today Mr. Robert Griesser (he's my father-in-law) teaches history at California's Orange Coast College. Inexorable time has carried him far from his mischievous boyhood days; fashions and customs have changed, along with his thinking and, most noticeably, his physical form.
If you had known Mr. Griesser in 1920 and then were to see him again today, after a lapse of fifty-eight years, you probably wouldn't recognize him. That's how radically his appearance has changed. And, analytically speaking, the hands that once tied up those ugly high boots are not the same hands that today grade college term papers, although they belong to the same person. The bone, muscle, blood, and skin cells that made up young Robert's hands all died long ago and have been replaced several times over with new cells. Through the years, Mr. Griesser's whole body has completely changed. Yet he feels (more than feels—he knows) he's the same person, although you may not.
Sometimes the body is compared to a garment. Just as we "change our shirt and coat, so we change our body (and Robert Griesser has changed from a stoic-looking first-grader to a jolly lieutenant colonel to a thoughtful college professor). But the person wearing the garment (in this case, Mr. Griesser) doesn't change. So the question is, Who is that person that remains the same within the changing body? Or, to put it another way, "Who am I?"
Anyone who asks this question—"Who am I?"—shows considerable intelligence. After all, even animals spend time solving the food problem, finding somewhere to live, having sex, and protecting themselves from danger. But we humans alone can look beyond the body and mind and ask, "Who am I?"
Ancient India's Bhagavad-gita (2.13), gives this basic question a clear answer: "From childhood to youth to old age, the material body is always changing. But within the body is a spiritual soul. He never changes but always stays the same." What all this means is that right now we can't see who we really are. Mr. Griesser, for example, is a spiritual soul, but we don't see him (the soul) in any of these photographs—all we see is Mr. Griesser's body.
In other words, the body (which is material) and the soul (which is spiritual) are two totally different energies. Matter has no consciousness. Spirit, on the other hand, has consciousness. And what's more, the spiritual soul within the body remains the same—it doesn't change—while the body changes in six ways—birth, growth, reproduction, duration, dwindling, and finally, vanishing.
As the Bhagavad-gita goes on to explain, "Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal soul is subject to destruction.... For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval..." (Bg. 2.18, 2.20)
The body, then, is nothing more than dead matter. It's the soul's presence within it that makes the body appear alive. And it's the eternal soul's presence that gives a continuing identity to the changing body. That explains how Mr. Griesser knows that he's the same person, despite all the different bodies he's had over the past sixty-five years. He, the spiritual soul, hasn't changed. Just his body has.
So we have to center our interest not on the body but on the soul dwelling within the body. At present we've forgotten the soul, just as we forget about ourselves when we dream at night. When we're asleep we may think we're flying in the sky or seated on a royal chariot. We forget our name and responsibilities. In the same way, although we appear awake now, we're actually asleep to our identity beyond the mind and body. The goal of human life is to wake up to who we are and to act accordingly (as a spiritual being).
Recently, Orange Coast College honored my father-in-law with a plaque for "thirty years of leadership and service" in the teaching profession, and soon he'll be retiring. But when I meet him I always think to myself that he still has the spirit of a young man. And actually it's so. The soul never becomes old. He's always fresh and young. But now he's passing through one body after another, from childhood to youth to old age.
Once we know who we are (not this body or mind but a spiritual soul), then a whole new world awaits us. In the words of Bhagavad-gita, this new world is "characterized by the ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this, he understands there is no greater gain." (Bg. 6.20-23)
Some Personal Recollections by His Disciples
One summer evening at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, near London, Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room with his disciples, a few guests, and a woman reporter who was scantily dressed despite the chilly English weather. From the first, the reporter's questions betrayed her cynical view of Srila Prabhupada's Krsna consciousness movement, At last, clearly exasperated by his adroit and authoritative answers, she resorted to the old standby, "Why do you people have bald heads?"
"Why do you have bare legs?" said Srila Prabhupada.
She was speechless,
"Better to have warm legs and a cool head," he went on, "You must have a cool head to understand this Krsna consciousness philosophy."
Everyone, including the woman reporter, laughed with delight.
When Srila Prabhupada was visiting Detroit in 1976, he met with two clergymen. First he asked them if they believed that God is a person. "Yes," they agreed. Then he asked, "Aren't we also eternal persons meant to love God?" They agreed again. "And isn't the only thing separating us from enjoying ecstatic life with God sin?" Once again they agreed. Like a pouncing lion, Srila Prabhupada challenged, "Then why don't you teach people how to lead a sinless life!"
Srila Prabhupada went on to show that meal-eating, illicit sex, intoxicants, and gambling pollute people's consciousness, and that if the clergymen rose above these things, others would follow their example. Mundane welfare work or political agitation would be simply a waste of time.
As they left with flower garlands around their necks, packages of Bengali sweets in their hands, and Bhagavad-gitas under their arms, one of them turned to Srila Prabhupada. "Why, I feel like we've become your disciples."
Srila Prabhupada chuckled. After they'd gone he quoted a Sanskrit verse which confirmed that only a gosvami—someone who has gained complete control over his bodily senses—can give real spiritual life to his disciples. And we knew we had a gosvami for our spiritual master.
In 1969 Srila Prabhupada came back to America from his first speaking tour outside the country, and the devotees from the East Coast centers rushed to the Boston center to greet him. While Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room with all his disciples, one came forward with a gift-wrapped box. He wanted to offer something to Srila Prabhupada, but only had a sweater that his parents had sent as a birthday gift. Someone opened the box before Srila Prabhupada. It was an inexpensive synthetic sweater, but Srila Prabhupada said it was very nice. The devotee apologized to Srila Prabhupada, explaining that it was just a gift from his parents to himself. Then Srila Prabhupada pulled off his own sweater—a beautiful, silky Scottish cashmere sweater that he'd received in London, Srila Prabhupada held it out to the devotee in exhange for the one he had given. The devotee was so moved that he broke into tears. Srila Prabhupada always gave more to us than we were able to give him, because he had the greatest thing to give—Krsna.
The first time he went to Latin America, Srila Prabhupada stopped at our center in Mexico City, He also appeared on national television, lectured at universities, and gave a well-attended address at the town square in Cuernavaca. Then one of our life members invited Srila Prabhupada to visit his country villa in Puerto Vallarta, On the first night there, I was sitting next to Srila Prabhupada when I noticed an itching sensation. Sure enough, some big, ugly mosquitos were flying around, and I wondered whether he might be experiencing the same disturbance.
So I immediately asked, "Are the mosquitos biting you, Srila Prabhupada?"
"No," he said.
"It must be because you're a pure devotee of Lord Krsna," I said. "That must be the reason they're bothering me and not you."
"Yes," he said. "Here they are respectful. But in Calcutta they make no distinction."
I first met Srila Prabhupada in Dallas, in January of 1975. He came aboard our traveling bus-asrama around lunchtime, and the cook offered him a silver platter filled with assorted Indian delicacies-savories, fried vegetables, milk sweets, and tropical fruits. He ate a single slice of papaya and said briefly that a yogi requires very little food to maintain his body. Then he offered the rest of the fruit dish to a baby boy, who leaned forward from his mother's arms to snatch a big strawberry. "Children like red," said Srila Prabhupada, smiling.
Recently the child's father, one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, had left the Krsna consciousness movement and was encountering all sorts of personal problems. When Prabhupada spoke to the disciple's wife, the words seemed to come right from the core of his heart. "Tell him to come back. He is a very intelligent boy." He glanced at the child and said, "Now you become a pure devotee and rescue your father."
Tears welled up in Srila Prabhupada's eyes. His gravity affected the whole atmosphere. "It is like when I cut my finger—the pain is felt in the mind as well. Similarly, when my disciple has some difficulty, I feel the pain, also."
Scientific Views / The Bhaktivedanta Institute
by Richard L. Thompson, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard L. Thompson, a charter member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, is a formally initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. After studying at the Stale University of New York and Syracuse University, he received a National Science Fellowship and completed his Ph.D. -in mathematics at Cornell, specializing in probability theory and statistical mechanics. His dissertation—"Equilibrium States on Thin Energy Shells"—has been published as memoir number 150 of the American Mathematical Society.
At the present time the life sciences are dominated by the idea that life can be completely understood within the framework of chemistry and physics. By this point of view, all features of life, from the metabolic functioning of cells to the mental phenomena of thinking, feeling, and willing, are to be explained as the consequences of underlying chemical processes. With the spectacular successes of modern molecular biology, this viewpoint has, indeed, become so pervasive that, in the words of James Watson, "Complete certainty now exists among essentially all biochemists that the ... characteristics of living organisms ... will all be completely understood in terms of the coordinative interactions of small and large molecules." * (Walson, J.D. Molecular Biology oj the Gene, 2nd ed. Menio Park, Calif; W.A. Benjamin, Inc., 1970, p. 67.)
Yet in spite of the popularity of this view, we can point to at least one feature of life—the phenomenon of conscious awareness—that is not amenable to this kind of explanation. By "conscious awareness" we mean the elemental experience of being aware of something. We are not referring to the particular sensations, thoughts, or feelings that one may be aware of, although these may always be associated with consciousness. Nor are we necessarily referring to self-awareness, although it may be said that consciousness must entail self-awareness to some degree.
Now, the basic assumption underlying modern science is that anything real can be described completely, at least in principle, by a system of numbers, and that all phenomena can be described by transformations of these numbers according to certain rules of calculation. This conception is epitomized by the science of chemistry, and by the attempt to make chemistry the basis of a complete understanding of life. According to this approach, a living organism consists of a combination of many atoms composed of electrons and nucleons, thought to be entities completely describable in terms of numerical variables such as mass, charge, momentum, spin, energy, and so forth. The organism is taken to be "nothing but" the sum total of these atoms in interaction with one another (by Coulomb's law of electrical attraction and repulsion, the van der Waal's forces, and other laws expressed in terms of changes in numerical variables with the passage of time).
Let us see how these considerations apply to understanding conscious awareness. The example is often given that describing yellow light as an electromagnetic oscillation with a wavelength of 6,000 Angstrom units does not tell us anything about our awareness of the sensation of yellow. What would constitute an explanation of this awareness? Suppose we were able to give a complete physical description of the interaction of light with photosensitive cells in the retina of the eye, the subsequent flows of ions through the cell walls of neurons in the optic nerve, the resulting discharge of certain chemicals in the synaptic clefts between neurons, and so forth. In its perfected state such a description would consist of a system of numbers and rules of calculation, and it might predict with great accuracy such things as the variation of different electrical potentials in the brain.
It might predict, for example, that when yellow light strikes the retina, a certain pattern of electrical oscillations will occur that can be described by several thousand numbers, beginning with 1.26345, 6.87535, 7.9987. . .. This prediction might then be verified by experimental measurements. Yet this would still tell us nothing about the awareness of seeing yellow light. By its very nature, such a description does not even make reference to conscious awareness, much less provide a clear understanding of it.
In modern scientific thinking, and especially in behavioral psychology, the paradigm of numerical describability has led people to confuse conscious awareness with the behavior of the physical body. Thus, awareness is falsely identified with the sequence of electrochemical reactions and physical movements which result in the body's emission of the sound pattern "I am conscious," Yet we can certainly conceive of a physical situation in which such sounds are produced but where we would have no reason to suppose that consciousness is present—a tape recorder, for example, running an appropriate tape. The measurable behavior of objects evidently tells us nothing about any experience of conscious awareness that may be associated with them. Clearly, conscious awareness is something qualitatively different from those aspects of reality that we can hope to describe in numerical terms.
Nonetheless, not only is my own consciousness very real—for it is the very foundation of all my specific experiences of reality—but I have every reason to suppose that other living beings, or at least human beings, are also conscious. Even though an automaton is conceivable that could respond systematically to a printed page without awareness, I am still convinced that you, the reader, are aware of these sentences as you read them. Even though the behavior of a material structure cannot be identified with consciousness, the similarity among human beings implies that they share the property of conscious awareness. Consciousness is thus a common feature of the world, being experienced at present by several billion beings, at the very least.
This brings us to the question of whether or not consciousness is associated with any violation of the laws of material phenomena studied in physics and chemistry, for consciousness is real and is affected by the behavior of matter, as we experience, then it stands to reason that the behavior of matter should also be affected by consciousness. This is certainly the general rule in physics, where if one entity or aspect of an entity (such as momentum) affects another, then it is affected in turn. If this rule applies to consciousness, then activities should be observable in conscious living beings that differ from the activities predicted by the physical laws.
It is interesting that in quantum mechanics, the fundamental theory of modern physics, we seem to find just such a situation. Since the development of this theory in the 1920's, one prominent school of thought, initiated by John von Neumann, has held that certain basic quantum mechanical principles imply that the consciousness of the observer influences the course of physical events. Here is a summary of this view taken from a standard textbook of physics:
If one accepts von Neumann's formulation of quantum mechanics, one is led to far-reaching and not entirely palatable conclusions. . . . The outcome of these considerations is that quantum mechanics cannot give a complete description of the physical world because there must exist systems (called "conscious" by Wigner) that are beyond the theory's powers of description. .. . * (Gottfhed, K. Quantum Mechanics, New York: W.A. Benjamin. Inc., 1966, p, 188.)
Unfortunately, the nature of the observer's influences are not made at all clear by the quantum theory. This is not surprising, for if consciousness is inherently not describable by numerical systems, we would expect that any mathematical theory of the interaction between consciousness and measurable variables could be only an approximation, at best.
Such methods cannot ultimately touch on the nature of consciousness itself. To actually understand consciousness, an approach is required that completely transcends the basic framework of modern scientific theory. This magazine is, of course, dedicated to the exposition of such a transcendental approach. Very briefly, this method is based on the study of consciousness through the medium of consciousness itself. It depends on the basic principle that our conscious awareness is not merely a passive receptor of material thoughts and sensations, but is the directly apparent symptom of a variegated realm of conscious entities predominated by the supreme Conscious Being. Through development of the relationship between the individual and supreme conscious entities, the true nature of consciousness can be known by direct conscious perception.
From the general point of view of the empiric scientific method, such an approach is as good as the results it produces when put into practice. As we have seen, it is certainly not ruled out by current scientific findings. On the contrary, it provides a challenge to the students of the life sciences. In Bhagavad-gita (7.5) the conscious entities are described as follows:
Besides the inferior nature [matter], O Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, made up of the conscious entities who are struggling with material nature and sustaining the world.
This indicates the extent of the interactions between consciousness and matter, many of which may be accessible to study in approximate form by the experimental methods of physics and chemistry. Far from limiting the scientific enterprise, the higher study of consciousness outlined in Bhagavad-gita suggests opportunities for scientists to make great advances over present theoretical conceptions.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q. I'm afraid I'm a rather materialistic person. I want a compatible mate, a reasonable amount of money, healthy children, and things like that. Can I still chant Hare Krsna?
A. Definitely. Whoever you are, whatever you do, and whatever it is you want out of life, just chant Hare Krsna, and your life will be sublime.
Q. I get the feeling that if I start chanting Hare Krsna, then sooner or later I'm going to have to give something up. What's the catch?
A. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting the maha-mantra. So you never have to give up anything. But if you're actually serious about achieving self-realization, the Vedic literature says there are four things you should avoid: intoxicants, meat-eating, illicit sex, and gambling. These four items are material contaminations—the soul doesn't need them at all—and if we want to become spiritually pure, we should try to get free from them. And chanting Hare Krsna makes it easy. By chanting Hare Krsna, you come directly in touch with Krsna, the supreme reservoir of pleasure. So the pleasure you taste by chanting Hare Krsna is more than enough to make the so-called pleasures of material life seem just completely insignificant.
Q. But what if I don't want to give up these things? What if I'm not ready?
A. Then chant Hare Krsna anyway. It's up to you. But if you're actually serious about spiritual life, why not become ready? Why keep doing things that just get you more materially entangled? It's common sense. If you're trying to build a fire, why pour water on it?
Q. I've heard about all kinds of mantras besides Hare Krsna. Is there any difference?
A. We don't even have to talk about so-called mantras like "VROOSH" and "ZING." But you may have come across some of the thousands of authentic mantras that appear in ancient India's Vedic literature. As this same literature explains, the Hare Krsna mantra is more powerful than all the rest combined, and in this age it's the best mantra for bringing you complete self-realization. So you can understand why it's called the maha-mantra, "the great mantra."
Q. I've read about plants responding to sound. If you chant Hare Krsna, does it have any effect on them?
A. Yes. A great spiritual master named Haridasa Thakura once said that the maha-mantra benefits even lower life-forms, like plants. All living beings (plants included) are actually spirit souls. It's just that they're wearing different kinds of bodily garments, depending on how much they've developed their consciousness in past lives. Plants have a comparatively undeveloped consciousness, but if you expose them to the sound of the maha-mantra, that will restimulate it. But mainly, the maha-mantra will develop your consciousness. It's already much more developed than the plants', and if you use it to chant Hare Krsna, then when this lifetime is over, you'll be ready to return to the spiritual world.
Q. Does the Hare Krsna mantra improve your self-awareness?
A. Yes. It acts much the way an alarm clock wakes you up from a dream. For instance, when you're asleep you might think you're a king living it up at your palace, or a skindiver being eaten alive by a shark—but when the clock goes off, "Wait. I'm really John So-and-so." And you know you were just dreaming, because it only lasted a few minutes and then it was over. Now, the thing is, the feeling of being "John So-and-so" is only going to last sixty or seventy years, at most, and then it will be over, too. So what is it but a long, drawn-out dream? People spend lifetime after lifetime as "John So-and-so," "Bill Such-and-such," and on and on. But the "self they're aware of is just a temporary body in a temporary situation—just a dream. If you want to enjoy complete self-awareness and wake up to your inner self, even within this lifetime, then you can chant the maha-mantra. The sound of Krsna's names keeps you aware of who you really are: a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, Krsna.
Q. Can chanting Hare Krsna help me to see God?
A. Yes. Actually, the only reason we can't see God now is that our hearts are covered over with "dust." This dust is our ignorance—the misconception that we are the body, and that we can be happy only by enjoying material pleasures. But when we chant Hare Krsna, we're in immediate contact with God, because He's nondifferent from His name. This spiritual contact thoroughly cleanses the dust from our hearts. We realize that we're not the body, and that only by associating with Krsna can we be truly happy. It is then—when we're fully purified—that Krsna reveals Himself to us, just as the sun reveals itself to us through a clean window.
On a Society Without Brains
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Raymonde van den Heuvel, of the International Labor Organization, took place in Geneva during the summer of 1974.
Van den Heuvel: I work for the International Labor Organization, which is a part of the United Nations family. We're concerned with the protection and welfare of all laborers in practically all nations in the world.
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic literature describes four social classes—intelligent, administrative, mercantile, laborer. The laborers act as the legs of the social body, but legs must be guided by a head. That "head" of the social body is the intelligent class. The United Nations is taking care of the social body's legs, but what are they doing for the brain—the intelligent class?
Van den Heuvel: We want to see that the laborers have their proper share in society's economic rewards.
Srila Prabhupada: But my point was that if you neglect the head of society, then in spite of your attention to the legs, things will not go very nicely—because the brain will not be in order.
Van den Heuvel: But this is also an important aspect of society, don't you think? We aim to improve the lot of the workers of the world.
Srila Prabhupada: In America the laborer class is very highly paid, but because they are not directed by a brain, by an intelligent class, they simply spend their money on drinking.
Van den Heuvel: The fact that a good thing is abused doesn't make it bad.
Srila Prabhupada: The point is that everyone should be guided by the brain. That is the only way to organize society. What is the value in working hard like an ass, without any intelligence?
Van den Heuvel; You can't force a man to use his brain.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, the United Nations should support a class of ideal intelligent men who will act as the brain of society and guide the others so that everyone becomes happy.
Van den Heuvel: I think you'll find that in every society throughout the world there is a priestly class, a class of philosophical leaders.
Srila Prabhupada: Priestly class! The Bible says, "Thou shall not kill." But the priests have amended this to suit their own whims. They have sanctioned killing by allowing thousands of huge slaughterhouses for killing innocent animals. How can such so-called priests guide? I have asked so many Christian gentlemen and priests about this: "Your Bible teaches, 'Thou shall not kill.' Why are you violating this commandment?" They give me vague answers. They have not even taught the people what is sinful. That means a lack of brains in society.
Van den Heuvel: My organization is not directly concerned with people's brains.
Srila Prabhupada: Your organization may not be directly concerned, but if human society is brainless, then no matter what organizations you make, people will never become happy. If people are not taught by the intelligent class of society how to discriminate between pious and sinful activities, then they are no better than the animals.
Van den Heuvel: Of course, when you speak of the distinction between pious activities and sinful activities ...
Srila Prabhupada: They see no such distinction anymore. But in our Krsna consciousness society, I instruct my students from the very beginning to avoid sinful activities. They must give up completely all meat-eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. And now just compare their character and behavior with anyone else's. Even the Christian priests are surprised. They say, "These boys are our boys. How is it that before joining your movement, they never came to church, but now they are mad after God?" In the streets, people ask, "Are you Americans?" You see. Everything can be rectified by proper guidance. But if there is no brain in society, you can manufacture so many organizations, but people will go on suffering. Thai is nature's law: if the people are sinful, they have to suffer.
Van den Heuvel: I don't think that you can expect an international organization to indoctrinate people ...
Srila Prabhupada: Why not? It should be international—everyone. The United Nations is meant for international activity, so our proposal is that the United Nations maintain an international organization of first-class intelligent men to act as the brains of society. Then people can be happy. But if you want to keep the hands and legs working without direction, without a brain, then you will never be successful.
Van den Heuvel: You know, I think of myself as a servant of mankind, with a view toward helping people to understand one another and the world a little better, I'm trying now to organize workers' education programs . ..
Srila Prabhupada: But please try to understand, I'm stressing on the point of society's brain. If there is no ideal class of men, if the brain is not in order, then any amount of education or organization you do will be unsuccessful. The United Nations is an organization for all human society, but they have no department which can actually be called the brain organization.
Van den Heuvel: That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: That is my point.
Van den Heuvel: We are only servants of the leaders of our member states. If Mr. Nixon and all the other heads of slate don't have brains, then I'm afraid the United Nations can't do anything to give them brains.
Srila Prabhupada: Then your big organization is just decoration for a dead body. A body with no brain is a dead body. You may decorate a dead body to your full satisfaction, but what is the use? Without a brain-class of men in society to instruct the others what is right and what is wrong, then the social body is dead, or headless. And whatever work you do will simply be useless decoration for a dead body.
The Proposition 13 Jitters
by Drutakarma dasa
After California voters passed Proposition 13 and cut back state property taxes by seven billion dollars, the Los Angeles county government responded to the taxpayers' revolt by announcing plans to reduce spending on public services like libraries and schools. So when I went to the neighborhood branch library not long ago, I kept my ears open.
Usually, the librarians are a quiet crew. But today they were gathered in small groups and worrying quite audibly. The bespectacled older ladies in the circulation department, the high-school kids who shelve the books, and the intelligent-looking young professionals fresh out of library school—all were talking about their uncertain futures, and some were even daring to voice nervous criticisms of the "higher-ups."
A young lady with shoulder-length dark brown hair was sitting at the reference desk. I needed a book that didn't seem to be on the shelves and asked her if she could get it from another branch.
"Well, I just don't know," she said apologetically. "I can't even get stamps to mail out requests. But I'll try on the phone—if it's still connected."
"About how long will it take to get it if they have it there?" I asked.
"It's hard to say," she said as she dialed. "If they cut back on services, it might take forever. I don't even know if I'll be working here tomorrow. There might not even be a library." She was smiling wanly as she spoke, trying to carry on in the free-and-easy California way.
A short, balding man in his fifties was standing next to me, and he had something to add. "These politicians—you know they're getting a million dollars a year to run their own staffs, and you can be sure they aren't cutting back on them,"
Myself, I couldn't help remembering an old Vedic prediction. Five thousand years ago the great sage Vyasa said our age would be cursed with unbearable taxation. And I remembered that several years before the Jarvis-Gann initiative made the ballot, my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada made a point: "Every year the government men are exacting heavy taxes, and whatever money they receive they divide among themselves, while the citizens' condition remains the same—every government is doing that." And somehow, I couldn't really believe that Proposition 13 was going to change things very much.
"Well, I guess we're not indispensable," said a serious-looking reference librarian, about thirty or so, with a neatly-trimmed beard. Some of the patrons (who more than likely had voted "Yes on 13," as the bumper stickers had said) were standing around looking like they were having second thoughts. It seems no one likes to see someone else lose his job. You can never tell who'll be next.
I was feeling a little sympathetic toward the young library professionals. They were my own age, they probably came from the same middle-class background. All they wanted was a nice public service job, so that they could make a decent living, help people, and at the same time nurture their own intellectual and cultural interests.
I recalled that I had once worked as an assistant reference librarian in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a federally funded position, and since I was a veteran and had a few years of college, I got it. A nice job. I sat at a desk, and people would come up to me all day long with questions about anything from what was the address of their congressman to what were the latest do-it-yourself manuals on repairing motorcycle engines. It felt good knowing that I was helping them find the answers.
I imagined that my counseling, problem-solving role harked back a little to what the old-time brahmanas of India must have done. Of course, real brahmanas would never have taken a paycheck. People naturally appreciated their teachings and looked after their needs. So they couldn't be hired and fired by politicians and businessmen. And they didn't smoke marijuana, play poker, eat steakburgers, or chase women, as I was doing.
In the old Krsna conscious culture, the brahmanas taught not only the usual arts and sciences but also the science of self-realization and realization of God. And they taught not only by what they said but also by what they did, they were gentle, truthful, forgiving, austere, kind, and pure. When I was working at the library I sensed I was deficient on all these counts, though nobody ever put it to me like that and I didn't really think much about it.
And unfortunately, nobody has ever put it like that to the perplexed young librarians with the Proposition 13 jitters. They do know a lot about the Dewey decimal system, and they do try 10 be kind and helpful. But no one has ever trained them to be self-reliant, full of transcendental knowledge, and perfect in character. If someone were to come up and ask them, "What books will tell me how to get free from old age, disease, death, and rebirth, and can you explain them to me?" they wouldn't know what to say. The books are the Vedic literatures, and the only people that can explain them are qualified brahmanas.
So although in one sense I sympathized with the straight-haired young lady and her bearded co-worker, in another sense I didn't. They don't really deserve a privileged position in society.
But they could. They could become real brahmanas—lead pure lives, learn the science of self-realization, and help bring some sanity to this country and the world.
The social body is a lot like our own bodies. It needs legs (workingmen and craftsmen to provide essential services), a stomach (farmers and merchants to keep food and other necessities coming), arms (government and military men to organize and protect), and brains-brains, to guide and give direction. The social body needs brahmanas.
Happily, under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada and his disciples, now thousands are learning how to become brahmanas: they're studying how to solve life's real problems—however you feel about Proposition 13, you're still going to gel old and diseased and die. And like the brahmanas of old, they aren't becoming the salaried employees of business or government. They aren't trotting from door to door with degrees and resumes between their teeth and tails wagging, like dogs in search of a master, Through books, lectures, and personal guidance, they're giving the science of self-realization to people all over the country and the world, and people are giving whatever they can to keep the work going.
So while Proposition 13 is giving nightmares to many paid public servants around the country, real brahmanas aren't worried at all. A brahmana's service to mankind doesn't depend on a paycheck with cost-of-living increases. Instead, it's inspired by a sincere desire to help people become free from ignorance, free from death and rebirth. And if any out-of-work librarians, professors, social workers, or teachers want to find out how to become a brahmana, they can visit the Krsna center nearest them and ask about it—it's a great career.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bangalore: Spiritual Culture Going Strong
Bangalore, the capital of the South Indian state of Karnataka (formerly Mysore), is known for textiles, for a verdure that has made it the nation's "garden city," and for a prodigious spiritual heritage, notably in the realm of dance and music.
Since ISKCON opened a center there in 1977, people have responded warmly. In the metropolitan area alone, more than 350 have become life members, and recently a man in neighboring Gujarat state donated 100 choice acres.
This past July, the devotees gave Bangalore something—its first full-scale Festival of the Chariots, or Ratha-yatra. (The festival originated some twenty centuries ago in Puri, Orissa, and it is usually associated with that place.) At any rate, twenty-five thousand people came out to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and taste prasada, "the Lord's mercy," food offered to Krsna.
Keynoting the festival was Mr. Gundu Rao, Karnataka's Minister for Transport and Tourism. Sampatkumara Bhattacharya, the head priest of the Tirupati temple, spoke highly of ISKCON's founder and spiritual preceptor, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The head priest urged Bangalore residents to work with ISKCON and so keep their spiritual culture going at full strength.
For their own part, the devotees are making Srila Prabhupada's Vedic translations and commentaries available in three local languages. With the renewed interest in Krsna consciousness, they recall his words: "Books are the basis."
Food Relief in Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya: ISKCON Food Relief workers are providing meals for thousands. The food is called prasada, "the Lord's mercy," since it is offered to Lord Krsna. An international team of volunteers works from a pavilion adjacent to the local ISKCON center, and each evening people come for steaming bowls of a Kenyan staple: thick, boiled maize and maraguey beans (which are rather surprisingly similar to Boston baked beans). The cost per serving is half a Kenyan shilling, about five cents. Also, each copy of the Swahili edition of back to godhead contains a coupon entitling the bearer to a free meal,
His Holiness Brahmananda Svami, coordinator of ISKCON's African Mission, recently announced plans to open a second food distribution center in the Kenyan port city Mombasa, where a generous donation of land has been received.
The African food distribution program receives backing from ISKCON Food Relief's international headquarters in New York City.
Graphics Awards for Back To Godhead
In its recent DESI competition, Graphics: USA conferred two awards on back to godhead's designer, one for editorial design and the other for a cover. Additional awards went to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for its 1978 calendar and the cover of a recent book, Teachings of Lord Kapila.
Arts Dean Appreciates Srila Prabhupada's Books
Not long ago. Dr. V. P. Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at North India's Benares Hindu University, made this assessment of Srila Prabhupada's books: "The author has shown vast erudition and unparalleled genius in his unique presentation of pure philosophy and transcendental science. I especially appreciate his translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. After carefully going over the deep and inspiring thoughts of the author, I feel that I have discovered an unequaled body of literature which has both scholastic quality and devotional impact. I can think of no more qualified person than Srila Prabhupada to have given us such a clear picture of the message of the Vedic literature, for he himself is a true follower of that very message. The evidence of Srila Prabhupada's sincerity of purpose is found in his great success in spreading Vedic culture here and abroad. His writings have created such an impact that they now appear in thirty languages in over one hundred countries. I hope that every sincere seeker of truth and higher knowledge will find repose in the books of His Divine Grace."
Religious Persecution In West Germany
The raid . . . the media barrage . . . the courtroom encounter.
The searchlights flickering on the refectory walls didn't phase anyone very much. It was just after 8 a.m on Sunday, December 14, 1974, and the hot cereal with fruit and milk had top priority for the roughly seventy devotees at the hilltop Krsna center in the south German countryside. But soon one of them asked, "What's going on?" and another went to the window.
"The whole driveway is filled with police cars," the young man said, "—all the way down, as far as you can see."
Most of the devotees kept focused on their breakfast, though a few more went to the windows. More policemen were getting out of their green and white cars and making their way up the hill. They had guns, shields, gas masks, and helmets with face guards, and in a moment they had the place surrounded.
Blond, blue-eyed Maharathi dasa opened a window and asked, "Why have you come?"
One of the officers shot some tear gas his way. Before anyone could open the doors, they had broken in and were storming through the halls with their boots and machine guns, looking into open cabinets and closets and breaking open the locked ones.
When Maharathi had washed his eyes, he asked the policemen not to smoke inside the temple.
"If you don't be quiet," one of them offered, "we'll knock out your teeth."
When the police reached the women's quarters, they threw saris on the floor and laced them with oil. One policeman announced, "This is my harem," and another addressed the celibate girls as "beautiful prostitutes." When one of the girls objected, a policeman warned, "Be careful, you cow. Otherwise, I'll hit you in the face so hard you'll think a horse has kicked you."
Searching the house, the police came upon two shotguns and a Colt pistol and confiscated them. Then they broke into the treasury and confiscated the donations collected in past weeks. Soon they started smashing everything in sight—walls, doors, chairs, windows.
After an hour or so, they marched the devotees out through the snow and into vans. One devotee didn't even get time to grab his shoes.
"My wife is seven months pregnant," another devotee explained. "Couldn't she just stay here?"
Four policemen locked his arms behind his back, pushed him outside, smashed his head several times into the side of a police car, and threw him inside. They put his wife into another car.
Standing outside with his arms folded, supervising the proceedings, was Mr. Hans-Gero Schomberg, the local Staatsanwalt (state attorney). He was a tall, good-looking young man, and at his invitation about a dozen reporters and photographers were on hand to cover the story for the next day's front pages.
An hour later, when the police vans unloaded the devotees at the Frankfurt jail, the reporters were waiting for them again. One by one, the devotees went through fingerprinting, mug shots, and interrogation. Then the police let them go—except for the leaders. These two devotees they kept in jail for six weeks.
That evening, while the Krsna leaders held on to their cell bars, the Staatsanwalt held a press conference, and within hours the whole country knew—"Hare Krsna Criminals," "Frauds," "Kidnappers," "Gangsters."
History of Harassment
Not that they'd ever gotten great press. Since back in 1968, when the Krsna movement first appeared on German soil, the devotees had always been portrayed as a little kooky at best. And now that their members and their distribution of books and their collections had increased, so had a sense of alarm, particularly among certain churchmen (the local counterparts of America's waning "anti-cult" crusaders).
Chief among these men was Father Friedrich-Wilhelm Haack, the "Commissioner for Questions on Sects and Ideologies" for one of the country's largest denominations. He and the others kept the press well supplied with pronouncements on how the apparently innocent Hare Krsna devotees were in fact brainwashers, frauds, and criminals. With Father Haack's encouragement, a Berlin police inspector whose son had joined the movement wrote an article depicting the devotees as fanatics more crazed and dangerous than the Baader-Meinhof gang. The article ran first in the Kriminalist, a periodical for law-enforcement officials, and soon it was picked up by newspapers all over the country.
Not long after, the illustrated weekly Stern ran a sensationalistic story about life in a Hare Krsna temple.
"This young fellow had come to visit," explains Dutch-born Prthu dasa, thirty-two. "He said he used to live in a monastery, and he asked to join us. But after some days he left, and then we saw his name on a really nasty 'inside' story. It made us look like some kind of Manson-styled loonies. Really outrageous nonsense.
"Those two articles created a small frenzy. And finally some village mayor wrote to the Frankfurt District Attorney and demanded that something be done. That's what eventually led to the raid on our temple."
At the time of the raid, the coordinator for the Krsna movement in Germany was Hamsaduta Svami, thirty-seven, who happened to be visiting America. "The temple leaders were in jail," he said, "I was out of the country, and Prthu was in Amsterdam. So the devotees had no leader. It was like a ship without a captain in a stormy sea. I mean, overnight our reputation was shattered. And anyone who had any connection with us—the milkman, the gas man, the garbage man—they just cut us off. The gas man came in the middle of the night and took all the gas bottles. The milkman took his milk cans, and we were just cut off from everything."
"Our treasurer went to the bank to withdraw some money so we could keep functioning," another devotee related. "But armed guards blocked him at the door—illegally, we later found out—and there was nothing we could do. And then two days later the authorities got a restraining order that froze our account."
The temple leaders had to stay in jail for six weeks. Wasn't there any bail? "Fifty thousand marks apiece," says Sucandra, thirty-one, who was one of the two devotees held. "That's about twenty-five thousand dollars each—more than they ask even for murderers." And the other devotees didn't know how to get their leaders out. Lawyers asked for hefty fees in advance and then said that nothing could be done.
"But after six weeks," says Sucandra, "they were really anxious to get us out of there. They didn't have any real grounds for holding us, and it was stretching on and on and beginning to look ridiculous—keeping us separate and so on. So one day they just accepted the bail and let us go."
Must a Monk Be a Blithering Idiot?
What were the devotees accused of? No one actually knew. Says Prthu, "We didn't get the indictment until the end of November 1976—two years later. For two full years, they just kept us guessing. 'When is this case going to come to court?' we'd ask. And they'd say, 'Oh, maybe next month. We're still working on the investigation.' And during this whole time, all our funds were frozen, and we'd always be getting blasted in the press. And everyone on the streets would simply echo whatever the newspapers said."
Another devotee explains, "For two years we never went out with robes or shaven heads. We were always fearful. ... People on the street would come up and spit on us or smash our cars. Or after we'd been distributing books, a policeman would come and take away all the donations. In Berlin someone even sprayed our temple with a machine gun. It was only by the mercy of Krsna that the temple president bent down and the shots went over his head."
(A few years earlier, a gang of Rockers had stormed the Krsna temple in Hamburg with knives, bats, and brass knuckles. The devotees; warned of the attack, had called the police for help-the police station was just around the corner—but as Hamsaduta put it, "The police would say, 'Well, you know, we can't answer every little call.' " The devotees somehow fought off the Rockers by themselves and then applied for a gun permit. When the authorities without explanation refused the permit, the temple president decided that his first duty was to protect the devotees, so he purchased some light arms anyway. These were the guns the police later found when they raided the temple near Frankfurt.)
Rockers weren't the only ones who gave the devotees trouble. "Even the police would harass us," Prthu says. "They seemed to think it was their sacred duty to beat the devotees—physically beat them and throw them in jail."
Finally, the devotees received the indictment. "They charged us with everything they could think of," says Hamsaduta Svami. "Theft, kidnapping, fraud—they threw in as much as they could. The main thing was that they tried to make Krsna consciousness look like some sort of underworld business empire. But their indictment hardly seemed like something they'd been cooking up for two years. It was all kind of thrown together. And much of it was just copied almost verbatim from thai original slanderous article in the Kriminalist."
Their main target, though, was money. Not just a little money, either. "They took about 700,000 marks," says Prthu. "That's about 340,000 dollars. The money was there to print books, to purchase food for our relief programs in India, and to support our other programs for spreading Krsna consciousness. But the government was monitoring the accounts, and they saw all this money going in and out. So they said, 'Now we've got to take away this money.'
"That's the main focus, the main emphasis—this money. They were simply envious because we had this money, even though we don't use it for ourselves. They think a God conscious person should have no money. But must a monk or a holy person be just some blithering idiot who can't do anything? Is it a crime that we're intelligent, that we're successful in distributing our books, collecting funds, and spreading Krsna consciousness?
"The whole case is centered on taking the money, not on any criminality. The criminality was simply their excuse. They made up all the accusations just to keep the money. So it's actually a case of simple theft. They didn't even care if they were right or wrong—they simply took the money first, and then it took them two years to figure out what to charge us with. They didn't like the fact that we had collected so much money, and they wanted to keep it—that's all. Plain and simple."
Dancing Into Court
When it finally came time for the trial, the devotees had managed to find lawyers who it seemed wouldn't cheat them, and so they were ready to go. Now it was December of 1977.
Says Hamsaduta Svami, "The Staatsanwalt was telling everybody, 'They won't even show up. They won't even come to court.' Everyone was already there—the lawyers, the judges, the visitors, the Staatsanwalt. We were the only ones who weren't there. So everyone was a little on edge.
"Then about twenty-five or thirty of us came up to those somber old court buildings chanting Hare Krsna full blast, with drums and cymbals. They'd never seen anything like it—the defendants coming to court singing and dancing and wearing flower garlands. All the windows opened, and the curtains went back. People were sticking their heads out, and we were waving like soldiers just back from a victory.
"After maybe ten minutes of chanting, we went into the courtroom, and everybody seemed to be smiling. They also seemed pleasantly surprised when the ten of us who were actual defendants sat down in our places, put pictures of Krsna and Srila Prabhupada on the bench before us, and made little altars with flowers. Otherwise, it looked a lot like the Nuremberg trials... two lawyers and a microphone behind each defendant—the whole works."
The Accuser Becomes the Accused
From the beginning, the devotees wanted to avoid complex legal arguments and instead speak out about Krsna and the authenticity of the Krsna consciousness movement. In that way, they reasoned, even if they lost the case, the public would get a chance to hear what they really wanted to say.
"I'd felt all along," says Hamsaduta Svami, "that this whole affair was Krsna's arrangement. He hadn't forgotten about us. He'd actually been making an arrangement to glorify His devotees and push His movement forward. Otherwise, people might not have been interested. But this big raid and the slander in the press had fascinated them, and now we wanted them to find out just what our movement is all about, to find out that the devotees are actually following an ancient culture of spiritual science and philosophy. And that's exactly what we wanted the judges to find out, too."
Accordingly, the defense lawyers made a prompt motion that the judges (who for three years had read only the press reports) should now examine at least portions of the books upon which the movement is based—ancient India's Vedic scriptures. The judges accepted the motion, and the lawyers handed them German translations of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam. After that the judges would often be seen reading while the case was going on.
In German courts the defense presents its case first, and then the prosecution. So one after another, the devotees got up and presented their statements. Hamsaduta Svami began.
"The thing that distinguishes a human being from an animal," he said, "is religion. Religion is the basis of law, which is the foundation of civilization. Without religion there is no duty, no standard of behavior, and no purpose or direction for human civilization.
"The greatest men in history were not businessmen, politicians, scientists, Stalins, Hitlers, or Napoleons. They were men dedicated to God—Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Caitanya. Great men are those who have dedicated their lives to the service of God by preaching His message in the world.
"In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that great souls live not for their own satisfaction but for the welfare of others. It is because of such pure devotees that there is light and hope in the world. Such pure devotees are called mahatmas, broadminded souls. Now, I ask you whether the Staatsanwalt is a mahatma, a pure devotee of the Lord."
At this the audience—perhaps a hundred reporters and other onlookers—burst into laughter. The Staatsanwalt turned red.
Hamsaduta Svami continued, "What is the character of this man? How can he dare impugn the integrity of Hare Krsna monks who have dedicated life and soul to spreading God consciousness? They daily accept insult and even risk personal injury in their attempt to uplift human society by distributing books on the science of love of God. Does it matter, then, if they collect two thousand or two million or even two hundred million marks to carry on their mission?
"If collecting money were our purpose, distributing God consciousness would be the wrong line. Better that we had gone in for distributing pornography or heroin. We could have offered anything other than love of God and spared ourselves a lot of trouble.
"It is the duty of the government not to suppress but to protect and uphold the principles of religion—cleanliness, truthfulness, austerity, and mercy—for human society without religion is no better than animal society."
Then Hamsaduta Svami directly countered the charges and their author, the Staatsanwalt. (A portion of his statement appears at below.)
Now Prthu spoke.
"This is the same thing that happened thirty-five years ago," he said. "The same injustice, the same closing of the eyes. The same blind following, the same abuse of freedom.
"The Jews were involved with money, and Hitler wanted to control it. So first he called them criminals, and then he sent them off to concentration camps.
"When Hitler came to power, the Church made an agreement with the government that the churches wouldn't work against the government and the government wouldn't bother the churches. This was the Concordat. And immediately afterward, the Nazis stamped down upon so many sects. The Jehovah's Witnesses—they went into the concentration camps. The Jews went into concentration camps. Even church members who stood up against the government were harassed—and the church didn't do anything about it.
"My father..." Prthu's voice shook with feeling. "My father was a Dutchman. . . . We were living in Germany in a little village, and Hitler was coming the next day, so everyone was ordered to hang out a flag. The only person who didn't do it was my father. That night they came and look him away—put him into a concentration camp.
"And now for three years this rascal, this rogue, this liar..." Prthu pointed at the Staatsanwalt, who stood up and objected. The judge overruled him. "It's the same thing," Prthu continued. "In the 1930's they ran so much propaganda against the Jews that people smashed the synagogues. And now again there's so much lying propaganda that people raid our Krsna temples and assault our devotees in the street. People from the churches have asked the government to help stifle our Krsna conscious activities, and that's just what's happening. Now the state has branded our monks criminals, so that they can seize our funds and drive us out. It's the same thing, the same style. Who can mistake it?
Hamsaduta Svami had spoken two hours, and Prthu spoke four. Then court adjourned for the day.
For the first time, the devotees had created a favorable impression in the press. The newspapers described them as relaxed, peaceful, cheerful, and clean. Said the Frankfurter Rundschau, "The impact of the defense of the Hare Krsna monks was so overwhelming that it dominated the whole atmosphere of the courtroom. It appeared that the state attorney was standing quite alone and helpless with his accusation files in hand."
"They turned the court into a tribunal," said the Frankfurter Allgemeine, "and suddenly the accuser became the accused."
"Preaching Is Our Life"
The next day of the trial began with the devotees' children distributing cookies around the courtroom. After that they did it every day. Says Hamsaduta Svami, "One little boy would walk around fearlessly and offer cookies to the prosecutor and the judges, and they couldn't refuse. The defense lawyers would pass the cookies around among themselves. One day the prosecutor complained to the judge that I was eating cookies, so all the lawyers made mock-choking sounds, and my lawyer said, 'I cannot tell a lie. I, too, am eating a cookie.' "
When court went into session, Sucandra spoke again about what many people cared about most—the money. Now, the German states have laws that tightly rein the soliciting of funds. But one section of the national collection laws says, "Churches, religious societies, and ideological societies are exempted" from these laws, "and also exempt are religious orders and religious congregations that use the funds collected for maintaining their livelihood."
The Staatsanwalt, however, had contended that the Hare Krsna movement was not a religion at all, but a kind of shrewd business organization.
"When our devotees go out," Sucandra countered, "they never think, 'I am collecting money.' Instead, they think, 'I am distributing love of God.' What we do is completely different from ordinary collecting—because when we go out our purpose is to give people something (a book or record) that will inspire their love for God. And if we're going to keep printing books and making records, people have to give some donations. Otherwise, if we just gave all these things away, we'd eventually go broke. That's only common sense.
"So we're going out and giving people something beneficial, and naturally they're giving whatever they can. That way we can print more books and keep our mission going.
"We see that materialistic life is making people suffer. So our mission is to print these books in the German language so that people can learn how to become free from suffering and attain the highest perfection of human life.
"What do we do with the money? We don't try to gratify our senses. We just use it to spread God consciousness to people all over the world.
"We sent fifteen thousand marks to India for food distribution, and we also sponsor the distribution of food and books in Africa and the Middle East. And then we also take a little money to live on—five percent. The police who dug into our finances were amazed. Five percent—practically nothing,
"But the Staatsanwalt wants to twist the laws to say that a religion may collect only for its livelihood, and nothing more. If we'd spent ninety-five percent for eating, sleeping and having a nice time for ourselves—for our 'livelihood'—that would presumably have been all right.
"But we don't do that. Every one of us sleeps on the floor. It's very simple—a Krsna conscious life. And we like it. We do it voluntarily. But we're being penalized for being so austere!
"Our livelihood—our life—is preaching. Unless we're preaching—unless we're printing and distributing books—we can't live, because that's our whole purpose, our whole mission.
"To perform sankirtana—to give people our books and accept some contribution—is our constitutional right. If you don't allow it, we're ready to die doing sankirtana, but we will not stop, no matter what you do. Whether we win this case or lose it, we'll continue to distribute our books and help people find out about Krsna, because this is our religious right. It's our right, and we will not stop. It's not a part of our religion; it is our religion. In all the Vedic scriptures you'll find this confirmed."
Emphasizing the scriptural authenticity of the Hare Krsna movement was Vedavyasa dasa, twenty-six, the final defendant to testify. It was he who had translated the scriptures of the Krsna consciousness movement into German, and now he gave a careful, scholarly explanation of their history and purpose.
But he, too, was indignant. "The Staatsanwalt has gotten a statement from my mother saying that I'm a demented, demoralized robot, a moron," he began. "But I've translated these books"—he pointed to a full set of Vedic writings, lined up on a table before him—"and they've won the praise of scholars and professors throughout Germany. Do you think this is the work of a moron?" Judge Franz answered by spending the better part of the afternoon reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, and at the end of the day he took a full set with him. Chief Judge Maul took a copy of Bhagavad-gita.
Later the judges requested to see a film about the movement, and the defense rested its case.
"A Cow on Ice"
Now the Staatsanwalt faced a difficult task. He had to shake apart the credibility the devotees had so quickly established. "I just want to show you," he said, "that these people are not the angels they've impressed you as being." He had 131 witnesses, and so he began his case.
"During the time you worked for these people," he asked a man who had been the devotees' bookkeeper, "did you feel they were purposely conducting fraudulent activities?"
"No," the man answered. "I never had any idea like that. That was the furthest thing from my mind. Why, they're the most friendly, warmhearted people. Anyone who comes to them immediately gets a meal. ..."
The Staatsanwalt called another man.
"I was on the street," the man testified, "and a young man approached me. We talked for awhile, he gave me a book, and I gave him a donation."
"Did you feel like you were being cheated?" the Staatsanwalt asked.
"Why did you give a contribution?"
"Well, I thought he was giving me something nice, so I should also give him something."
The Staatsanwalt called another witness. Apparently he hadn't screened them beforehand.
"I was very interested in the book," the witness said. "Later I got more of them. And you know, I still read them today."
Says Hamsaduta Svami, "It was as if Krsna were putting the words into their mouths. They would speak in such a way as to support everything we had already said in our defense."
The Staatsanwalt's case was beginning to crumble. As the Nord Stuttgarter Rundschau put it, "What had appeared to be a band of criminal monsters had turned out, to the amazement of everyone, to be nothing more than a band of cookie monsters whose only crime appeared to be distributing and eating cookies in the courtroom."
Another incident concerned a fourteen-year-old boy the devotees had supposedly kidnapped and hidden away in America. By now he was eighteen, and the Staatsanwalt called him as a witness. But the boy asserted that he had actually slipped away from his drunken mother and had run off by himself to Amsterdam. "And right there on the spot," says Hamsaduta Svami, "the Staatsanwalt had the boy handcuffed and arrested for suspicion of perjury, and he hauled him out of court. It was unprecedented. Even if a man is flat-out lying you don't do that. The judges were furious. But they couldn't do anything, because technically it was legal."
By now the Staatsanwalt's colleagues were calling him "a cow on ice" and wondering how to get him off. The devotees compared him with the hapless Michael Schwed, an assistant district attorney in Queens, New York. In 1977, amid great fanfare in the media, Mr. Schwed had prosecuted two Hare Krsna devotees on unprecedented charges of "kidnapping through mind control and brainwashing." (Mr. Schwed's colleagues berated him for making "a laughingstock" of the D.A.'s office, the State Supreme Court threw out his indictments and said he had garnered "not a scintilla of evidence," and the judge certified the Hare Krsna movement as "a bona fide religion with roots in India that go back thousands of years.")
Soon the press handed the Staatsanwalt his share of criticism. "The prosecution could not avoid the impression of religious persecution," said the Frankfurter Rundschau. "Too often, as the defense rightly mentioned, the prosecution has called something humbug that is in fact holy to these monks."
But the bad notices really started coming in when newsmen realized how much the trial of the Hare Krsna people was going to cost. "One million marks," says Prthu. "It cost one million marks—nearly half a million dollars—for them to prosecute us. Which means their raid hadn't even gotten them enough money to pay the court costs.
"It was a big scandal all over the newspapers. The newsmen figured it out. Our lawyers were court-appointed, and the state had to pay five hundred marks a day for each of them. There were ten defendants, and according to German law, each defendant had to have two lawyers. And there was the salary for the Staalsanwalt and his assistant, the guards at the door, five judges, the P.A. system, and the guy who wrote everything down. Then there was the cost of the police raid—all those policemen working overtime. Huge expense! They paid one million marks to prosecute us for 'illegal collection,' an offense that's really on the same level as illegal parking. And that's why they had to have the money—to pay for the court case."
Finally the Staatsanwalt called his star witness, the same Father Haack who had gotten the case going in the first place.
"That was a big day," recalls Hamsaduta Svami. "All the newspapers were there. Everyone was expecting that he was really going to let the cat out of the bag and tell everyone the real dirt about the Hare Krsna people."
The Father, it seemed, had a large collection of file cards recording his encounters with devotees on the streets. The cards gave the date, the time, and what had actually happened. "Whenever I would meet one of them," the Father said, "I would note it down." Then he proceeded to detail various nasty charges against the devotees.
"It looked really bad for us," says Hamsaduta Svami. "But before he left the courtroom, one of my lawyers—it was just Krsna's mercy—remembered something."
"I have a few questions," the lawyer said. "I find your statements very peculiar in light of the statements you made to the police three years ago. After the investigating officer interviewed you, he wrote down in his report that you could give no substantial information. According to his report, everything you said was from hearsay. And there was no mention of any cards. How is that?"
The witness became flustered. Perhaps the policeman hadn't asked the right questions, he suggested.
"Do you remember that policeman?" the lawyer asked,
The witness didn't really remember. After all, policemen came to him often. If he had come, it might have been for only a few minutes, ten or fifteen.
"Try to remember," the lawyer kept saying. "Such a big case, you were so concerned, and you'd been keeping the file cards. Surely you must remember."
But the witness didn't remember, and finally he was excused.
Then the policeman was called to the stand. "Now, we want to know what connection you had with this priest," the lawyer said.
"Oh, yes. I remember him well. We often spoke together on the telephone."
"When you visited him, how much time did you spend with him—five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour?"
"Oh, we spent at least three or four hours together."
"And why did you write that he couldn't offer anything but hearsay?"
"Because it was a fact. He was just relating incidents he'd heard from other people."
Then the lawyer asked, "If this man had kept file cards, let's say, with information of meetings at definite times, would you have noted that in your report?"
"Definitely! That would have been something, at last. But he had nothing. He was just talking about things he'd read or heard."
Hot Air and Superior Forces
"Since the evidence showed that the Staatsanwalt had produced an excess of hot air," reported the Frankfurter Allgemeine, "Judge Maul finally proposed to put an end to the case because of its disproportionate insignificance."
Yet on the last day of the proceedings, just before the judges retired to consider their verdict, they heard the testimony of Professor Klaus Finkelburg, one of Germany's leading constitutional lawyers. The State had pointed out all along that when the Hare Krsna movement registered ten years ago, it was as a charitable organization, not as a religion. But, asked Dr. Finkelburg, did this mean the Hare Krsna movement had forfeited the constitutional rights guaranteed to every other religion? Registration was such a fine technical procedure that even Dr. Finkelburg and his colleagues had no idea how to go about it.
If the court actually wanted to reach a decision, Dr. Finkelburg submitted, it must first send the case to the constitutional court. They would determine whether Krsna consciousness is a genuine religion and whether sankirtana, the movement's preaching work, comes within the scope of religious activity. Only then, he said, might the lower court resolve this case.
Still, on April 28, 1978, the court announced its verdict.
To the Staatsanwalt's chagrin, the judges absolved the devotees of all criminal charges. (The only exception: for illegal possession of weapons they gave the president of the Frankfurt temple a six-month sentence—and then suspended it.)
The judges noted that the only charge with possible substance was violation of the collection laws, and here they did not hold back their criticism of the prosecution. "Violations of the collection laws," said Chief Judge Helmut Maul, "should have been dealt with in a less extravagant way—for example, by fines—and not by the use of a four-month trial with more than thirty days in court.
"But higher-ups," Judge Maul said, "insisted that the trial take place."
The Hare Krsna movement, the judges agreed, was a bona fide religion—yet it was not a religion in the usual Western sense of the word and thus was not in the same category as the established churches.
Accordingly, the judges fined three devotees five thousand marks each and one devotee twenty-five hundred marks. Also, the court ruled, the confiscated donations would not be returned.
Although it wasn't in the written verdict, Judge Maul said one thing more: "Superior forces from outside this court have played a role in the finding of this verdict,"
The judges seemed depressed. "They didn't want to look us in the eye," says Prthu.
"I don't like this decision at all," one judge said later. "We were forced to do this. We didn't make that decision."
On basic constitutional grounds the Hare Krsna devotees have appealed to a higher court. There they expect at least two years' delay, and then, eventually, vindication.
Hamsaduta Svami addresses the court.
The preamble to the West German constitution contains these words: "The law is hereby formulated in responsibility before God and man." And in the dictionary God is defined as "the supreme being, the creator, and the ruler of the universe.'' So any state government is simply an insignificant part of the greater government of God. A state government that poses itself as a democracy but whose actual policy is to persecute and harass religious communities—such as ours—can hardly be civilized, cultured, or lawful. Such a society is barbaric and animalistic. It must of necessity destroy itself—and this is actually happening at the present moment here in West Germany.
If there is anything Germany is famous for, it is religious persecution. Today in West Germany, distributing Hitler literature or Hitler recordings or Hitler movies is very much appreciated, and the government never interferes. But distributing Krsna conscious literature is treated as tantamount to the terrorism of the Baader-Meinhof gang!
At the cost of thousands of marks, the State has made a huge arrangement for a trial to persecute a handful of harmless monks whose only crime is distributing knowledge and love of God in the form of literature and records. I fail to see how the public will be able to accept the shameless attempt by their state government to gag the Hare Krsna movement through extended three-year legal maneuvers and slander campaigns in the press.
It is a well-known fact that exactly three years ago, agents of this government raided our temple in Frankfurt with a mob of seventy armed police. They tear-gassed and roughed up innocent and harmless devotees. They smashed furniture and defiled the temple. They rounded up the women in a room and attempted to proposition them as if they were common prostitutes.
The Staatsanwalt arranged that the press be there, so that the newspaper propaganda to slander our name would be one-hundred-percent effective. Some twenty-five hundred newspaper articles in Germany and around the world denounced the Hare Krsna devotees as demented, brainwashed criminals engaged in defrauding the public in the name of religion. The government fabricated charges such as kidnapping, falsifying papers, and so on. Recently, the Staatsanwalt set the same lying propaganda machine in motion again to sway public opinion in his favor for the court case.
At the time of the raid three years ago, two of our leading monks were arrested and unduly detained for six weeks. They were released only when an unheard-of bail bond of 100,000 marks was put up by the Hare Krsna society. All this came about as a result of our sankirtana, or book distribution, which was supposedly conducted without the proper permission—an offense comparable to parking a car in a no-parking zone. All the society's funds (about 700,000 marks) were frozen, and all our business connections (which were necessary for our normal functioning) were ruined by slanderous and malicious newspaper articles.
The Staatsanwalt and the criminal police kept us hanging on for two years without any information as to the future of our money and our movement. Now, three years later, the matter is coming before the court, and again the Staatsanwalt has initiated a slander campaign and filled the newspapers full of lies. The whole affair smacks of religious persecution, Nazi-style.
This Hare Krsna movement is a bona fide religious movement representing the original culture and religion of India. It will be proved in this court by documented evidence and personal testimonies of some of the world's most respected religious and academic authorities that ISKCON is a genuine religious movement. With that evidence, the case of the prosecution will naturally collapse, because the basis for confiscating the 700,000 marks and leveling the fraud charges against members of ISKCON has all along been the unproven assumption that ISKCON is running a business for personal gain and profit.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Before being accepted as an initiated disciple, each member of ISKCON must be completely free from all addiction to sense gratification, such as meat-eating, intoxicants (including tea, coffee, cigarettes, and so on), illicit sex, and gambling. Where is the scope for personal gain?
If I ask any man in this courtroom whether he smokes, drinks, reads pornography, or eats meat, he will be found guilty on every count. These Hare Krsna boys, however, do not smoke, go to the cinema, eat meat or fish or eggs, or keep illicit connections with women. And they do not gamble. Then what do they do? From morning till night in every town and village, they preach about the holy names of the Lord. I ask you, where is the scope for criminal intent? Are you not ashamed that you are persecuting religious monks whose only intent is to teach love of God in every town and village?
The preamble to your Constitution begins, "The law is hereby formulated in responsibility before God and man." So you, the Staatsanwalt, are a lawyer, a defender of the law. Can you say what God is? Do you abide by the orders of God? Do you even know what these orders are? If not, then what are you doing pushing forward a case in which the only issue in question is the authenticity of this religious movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness?
It is you who are the fraud. You pose as an upholder of laws "formulated in responsibility before God and man," but you do not know what God is, or what His laws are. The State tries to persecute those who are actually doing God's work and observing His laws. And it openly supports everything godless and sinful. The liquor industry, the meat industry, the gambling casinos, the lottery, Dr. Mutter's Sex Shops—all enjoy full protection from the government, which realizes millions of marks daily in the shape of tax revenues from such sinful and degrading activities. Isn't this fraud?
You have accused us of fraud. But only five percent of all the funds collected by ISKCON were spent for personal maintenance. How does this compare to the Red Cross, the Catholic Church, or the Protestant Church? Where is your evidence of fraud? All the money collected is still there in the bank, accounted for in the books. We are being held under false arrest! There is no evidence to support the charges.
When someone attempted to murder one of our devotees in the Berlin temple and we reported the incident to the local police, they dropped the case without any investigation. Isn't this fraud? The same thing happened in Mainz, where someone attempted to kill one of our devotees by shooting at him from a rooftop. Nothing was done by the police. Isn't this fraud? The same thing happened in Hamburg, where fifteen Rockers attacked our temple in the middle of the night. The local police were so busy that they couldn't send even one officer to give us protection. But when there is an opportunity for harassment and persecution, seventy policemen with machine guns can be spared and sent to the Hare Krsna temple in the mountains outside Frankfurt, where they can mercilessly beat devotees, manhandle pregnant women, and steal our money. Isn't this fraud? You have no idea what religion is and what religion isn't. You don't know the first thing about the Hare Krsna movement.
Therefore, the judges and the Staatsanwalt should be dismissed for some time with a sufficient supply of the Vedic literatures. They should study them carefully—and then reconvene and judge just what the Hare Krsna movement is.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
It was a sweet-smelling, fruit-filled forest,
Fifty centuries ago, in the north Indian village of Vrndavana, Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead played just like a cowherd boy. Yet there were times when He performed wonderful, superhuman activities.
One day, as usual, Krsna went into the forest with His elder brother Balarama and His cowherd boyfriends, and on the way He played His flute. Vrndavana forest was full of buzzing bees, blooming flowers, and well-laden fruit trees. There were songbirds and clear lakes with waters that could relieve any kind of fatigue. Sweet-flavored breezes refreshed body and mind. When Krsna saw all the trees overloaded with fruit and bending down toward the ground as if to welcome Him, He was pleased and started smiling. At times, for Krsna's pleasure, the boys imitated the sound of the swans or the dancing of the peacocks, and Krsna also imitated the dancing and made His friends laugh.
When the boys got tired, they would sit down and rest. Balarama would place His head on the lap of one of the boys and take a nap, and Krsna would massage Balarama's legs or fan Him with a palm frond. While Balarama was resting, the other boys would dance or sing or wrestle among themselves, Instantly Krsna would join in the fun, and He would laugh and compliment His friends on their prowess. When Krsna fell tired, He would lie down with His head pillowed on the root of a big tree or the lap of a cowherd boy. Then some of the boys would massage His legs, others would fan Him with large leaves, and a few of the more sweet-voiced boys would comfort Him with beautiful songs. It didn't lake long for Krsna's fatigue to go away.
But as it happened, on this particular day a problem emerged, and some of the boys came to Krsna and Balarama to tell Them about it.
"Dear Balarama," they began, "You are very powerful; Your arms are very strong. Dear Krsna, You are very expert in killing all kinds of disturbing demons. Will You kindly note that just near this place there is a big forest called Talavana. This forest is full of palm trees, and all the trees are filled with sweet, ripe fruit. Some of the fruit is already falling, and some is still in the trees. It is a very nice place, but because of a great demon named Dhenukasura, it is very difficult to go there. No one can reach the trees to gather the fruit.
"Dear Krsna and Balarama, this demon is present there in the form of an ass, and he is surrounded by similar demon friends who have assumed the same shape. All of them are very strong, so it is very difficult to get near this place. Dear brothers, You are the only persons who can kill demons like these. Other than You, no one can go there, for fear of being killed. Not even animals go there, and no birds are sleeping there; they have all left. Only from a distance can we appreciate the sweet aroma that is coming from the Talavana forest. It appears that up until now, no one has tasted the sweet fruit there.
"Dear Krsna, to tell You frankly, we are very attracted by this sweet aroma. Dear Balarama, let us all go there and enjoy the fruit. The aroma of the fruit has spread everywhere. Don't You smell it from here?"
Desiring to please Their smiling friends, Krsna and Balarama walked toward the Talavana forest. When They arrived, Balarama yanked the trees with the strength of an elephant and shook all the ripe fruit to the ground.
Upon hearing the sound of the falling fruit, the demon Dhenukasura rushed toward Balarama with great force. The whole forest trembled, and the trees quivered as if there were an earthquake. With his hind legs Dhenukasura started kicking Balarama in the chest. At first Balarama didn't say anything, but the angry demon kept kicking Him harder and harder. Suddenly Balarama grabbed the demon's hind legs with one hand and whirled him around and around so fast that he lost his life.
Then Balarama threw Dhenukasura into the biggest palm tree in the forest, and the demon's heavy body toppled it down onto the trees nearby. It looked as if a powerful hurricane had struck. All the trees were crashing down, one after another. Yet this extraordinary show of strength wasn't particularly astonishing, since Balarama is Lord Krsna's primary expansion.
Now all Dhenukasura's friends came together and attacked Balarama and Krsna. The asses were set on avenging their cohort's death, but Krsna and Balarama grabbed all of them by the hind legs, whirled them around, and threw them into the palm trees. The asses' dead bodies made a panoramic scene; it appeared that clouds of various colors were floating in the treetops. At once the demigods from the higher planets showered flowers on Krsna and Balarama, beat their drums, and offered devotional prayers. A few days after the killing of Dhenukasura, people began coming into the Talavana forest to gather the fruit. Animals returned without fear and started feeding on, the lush grasses that grew there.
On arriving back in Vrndavana village, the cowherd boys told everyone how Krsna and Balarama had killed the demons. When the gopis (the young cowherd girls) saw Krsna coming home—a peacock feather on His head, His face smeared with the dust of the cows—they were. overjoyed. Whenever He was away, they were morose. All day they would think of Him playing in the forest or herding His cows in the pasture. But now that they saw Him coming home, their moroseness vanished, and they looked at His face the way bees hover over the honey of the lotus flower. The young gopis smiled and laughed, and Krsna played His flute and enjoyed their lovely, smiling faces.
In a moment Krsna and Balarama were back at home with Their mothers, Yasoda and Rohini, who cared for their beloved children by bathing and dressing Them. Krsna received yellowish garments, and Balarama bluish garments, and both wore all sorts of ornaments and flower garlands. After a hard day's work in the pasturing ground, They looked refreshed and beautiful. Now Their mothers set a number of delectable dishes before Them, and They were pleased to finish everything. Afterward. Krsna and Balarama lay down on fresh, clean bedding, and with Their mothers singing sweetly about Their pastimes, They fell asleep. In this way, Krsna and Balarama used to enjoy life in Vrndavana as cowherd boys.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Two Reflections: Healer, Heal Thyself
In recent years thousands of religious figures have taken up faith healing. They use all kinds of approaches, but basically they claim that through their charismatic prayer and laying on of hands, God acts: He cures everything from cavities to brain tumors, releases sexual inhibitions, and even increases earning capacity. The faith healers have gained so much influence that many believe their craft should be recognized as one of religion's essential components. Says one elder healer, "People are putting healing back into the mainline churches, where it belongs."
But like psychiatrists, faith healers offer cures for the body, not the soul. Calling on God to fix up my finances or arthritis or my relationship with my wife is very poor religion, and not even good sense. It recalls a story about a pious washerwoman who tripped and fell and dropped her bundle off her head. She prayed to God, and after He appeared and asked her, "What do you want?" she answered, "O dear Lord! Please lift this load back on my head!"
In their attempt to improve people's lot in this temporary world, faith healers demonstrate precious little understanding of the nature of the soul or the soul's relationship with God. As the Vedic literatures inform us, the real self, the eternal soul, will never be satisfied by any adjustment or improvement we can make here, any more than a starving man will feel happy if we simply offer him entertainment or counseling. A starving man has 10 have food, and the soul has to reawaken his eternal relationship with Krsna, God. However much we comfort our bodies—through faith healing or this or that—until we achieve pure love of God we'll undergo reincarnation and get more bodies and more misery, on and on. But if we revive our devotion for the Lord, then when we pass away we'll go to His abode for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
What if a Krsna conscious devotee finds himself with some bodily trouble? He understands that it's the result of his own past sinful acts, his own karma. Of course, he'll seek standard medical treatment, but he won't chant God's name as though it were merely a medical formula, a sure cure for all that ails. He'll chant just to glorify the Lord, as always, and the rest he'll leave to Him. In the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam a devotee expresses these same sentiments: "My dear Lord, one who constantly waits for Your causeless mercy and goes on suffering the reactions to his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible for spiritual liberation."
So faith healing is mundane; it's pseudoreligion, at best. Actual religion is pure devotional service to the Lord, and somewhat paradoxically, it's only when nothing else matters to us but this pure devotion that we'll be completely healed. Pure devotees who teach this secret are the only faith healers worthy of the name.
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Though various religious groups claim millions of followers, the present age is irreligious. Despite nominal allegiance, the so-called followers disobey even basic religious laws and have little or no knowledge of the God they profess to worship. If one neither knows God nor obeys His laws, there is little meaning in claiming to be a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist.
For instance, in every scripture we find an injunction comparable to the Biblical commandment "Thou shall not kill." And yet we see that the so-called followers of these scriptures are themselves the most expert killers. They fight doggedly in political wars and kill millions of helpless animals in slaughterhouses. They may try to justify their atrocities through theological word jugglery, but if God Himself has outlawed killing, then how can they be constantly engaged in it?
Then, too, in every scripture we find the equivalent of the commandment "Thou shall not commit adultery." It's a simple idea, really: if a person is actually religious, he'll have sex only within a God conscious marriage, and only to beget God conscious children. But how often do we see this standard upheld—even theoretically—by today's religious leaders? Under the pressures of mass promiscuity and licentiousness, the leaders endorse contraception and abortion and take part in the "normal" promiscuity of modern life. But as long as they're disobeying God's basic laws, then how can they be religious?
If I love someone, then the first symptom will be that I do what he asks. If I won't do what God asks, then how can I say I love Him? And if I don't love Him, how can I say I know Him'? Today's so-called religionists may pay lip service to adages like "God is great," "God is love," and so on, but they have little or no knowledge of God. Otherwise, they wouldn't act the way they do.
All of this brings us back to the faith healers and charismatics. If these people are actually seeing God and speaking with Him, as they claim, then why can't they give up such obvious transgressions as killing and adultery? If God is actually appearing to them in visions, then why hasn't He been able to convince them to clean up their own act? This disparity between the healers' "divinity" and their day-to-day lives makes us wonder whether their mystical experiences could be as intense or as genuine as they claim
Fortunately, the Vedic literatures detail the symptoms of God's authentic representatives. First, a representative of God is a member of a disciplic succession that originates from God. And he teaches the same information his predecessors taught—he doesn't concoct some new interpretation—he teaches what appears in the scriptures. So from time immemorial there is a system of checks and balances: the representative of God describes what is in the scriptures, and the scriptures describe what is in him—the symptoms or characteristics of an actual spiritual master. For instance, the spiritual master is in control of his mind and senses and is free from sinful habits. He knows that material pleasure is temporary and illusory, and he never compromises with modern standards of promiscuity and consumption. If someone claims to be a spiritual master and yet lives a life no different from that of any other materialist, what is the value of his oratory, his visions, his speaking in tongues? Of course, people who are sincere will never deride an authentic spiritual master, regardless of the scripture he follows, But neither will they tolerate the hypocrisy of those who claim to know and love God and yet cannot save anyone—even themselves—from the common vices of a sinful age.—SDG