Keep On Working—But with a Higher Desire
Ages ago, yoga ("linking up with the Supreme") meant giving up all work and all desire.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"The Blessed Lord said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic—not he who lights no fire and performs no work." [Bhagavad-gita 6.1]
In this Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the Lord explains that the eightfold yoga system is a means to control the mind and the senses. However, this process is very difficult for people in general to perform, especially in this age of Kali [quarrel and hypocrisy]. Although the eightfold yoga system is recommended in this chapter, the Lord emphasizes that the process of karma-yoga, or acting in Krsna consciousness, is better.
In this world everyone acts to maintain his family members and their paraphernalia, but no one is working without some self-interest-some desire for personal gratification-be it concentrated or extended. But this is not the perfection of work. The criterion of perfection is to act in Krsna consciousness, not with a view to enjoy the fruits of work.
To act in Krsna consciousness is the duty of every living entity, because we are constitutionally part and parcel of the Supreme. The parts of the body work for the satisfaction of the whole body. The limbs of the body do not act for self-satisfaction but for the satisfaction of the complete whole. Similarly, the living entity who acts for the satisfaction of the supreme whole and not for personal satisfaction is the perfect sannyasi [renunciant] and the perfect yogi.
In a past age, by strictly restraining his mind and senses a yogi saw the Lord in his heart. But we can attain the same result by working with devotion.
Impersonalistic sannyasis sometimes artificially think that they have become liberated from all material engagements, and therefore they cease to perform agnihotra yajnas (fire sacrifices). But actually, unless one comes to the standard platform of Krsna consciousness, there is no question of liberation. Liberation means to be free of all self-interest. But the impersonalists are self-interested, because their goal is to become one with the supreme, impersonal Brahman. So they have a demand.
But a devotee has no demand. He simply engages himself in the service of Krsna for the satisfaction of Krsna, and he does not want anything in return. That is pure devotion. As Lord Caitanya says, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye: "O Lord of the universe, I do not want any wealth, I do not want any number of followers, I do not want a nice wife. Simply let me be engaged in Your service, that's all." This is the bhakti-yoga system.
We see another example of this pure devotion when Lord Nrsimhadeva says to Prahlada Maharaja, "My dear boy, you have suffered for Me so much. Whatever you want, you can have." But Prahlada refuses the offer: "My dear master, I am not doing mercantile business with You, in which I will take some remuneration from You for my service." This is pure devotion.
So the impersonalistic yogis and jnanis demand that they become one with the Supreme. Why do they want to become one with the Supreme? Because, on account of separation from the Supreme, they have bitter experience of the material pangs. But a devotee has no such suffering. Although separate from the Lord, the devotee is fully enjoying in the service of the Lord.
Of course, the desire to become one with the Supreme is greater than any material desire, but it is not without self-interest. Similarly, the mystic yogi who ceases all material activities and practices the yoga system with half-closed eyes also desires some satisfaction for his personal self. He wants some material power. That is the result of mystic yoga practice. If you are actually practicing the regulative principles of mystic yoga, then you can get eight kinds of perfection. You can become lighter than a cotton swab. You can become heavier than a boulder. You can get anything-whatever you like—immediately. Such powerful yogis exist. Visvamitra Yogi, for example, wanted to get human beings from a palm tree. He thought, "Why should people be born only after living nine months within the womb of a mother? Let them be produced just like fruit." And he actually did it.
So sometimes yogis are so powerful that they can do wonderful things. But these are all material powers. In time such yogis are also vanquished. How long can one remain living on the strength of material power? But the bhakti-yogi does not want any such powers. A person acting in Krsna consciousness works for the satisfaction of the whole, without self-interest. He has no desire for self-satisfaction. His criterion is the satisfaction of Krsna, and thus he is the perfect sannyasi and the perfect yogi. As quoted before, Lord Caitanya's prayer shows that He is the highest perfectional symbol of Krsna consciousness:
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
"O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women, nor to have any number of followers. I want only the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth." [Siksastaka 4]
A devotee does not want even salvation. That is why Lord Caitanya says "birth after birth." The salvationists and the voidists want to stop this material way of life. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu says "birth after birth." This means He is prepared to undergo all kinds of material pangs, birth after birth. Then what does He want? He simply wants to be engaged in the service of the Lord. That is the perfection of yoga.
Are there any questions?
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, I've read that the spiritual soul is no bigger than one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair. In the spiritual sky is the spiritual soul still just that big?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is his constitutional position. Whether in the spiritual sky or the material sky, he's the same. But just as in the material world you develop a material body, so in the spiritual world you can develop a spiritual body. You follow? Your position is that of a small particle, but spirit can expand. In the material world this expansion is being done in contact with matter. And in the spiritual world, that expansion can be done in spirit. Here in the material world I am a spiritual soul, but I am different from my body-because the body is matter and I am living force. And in the spiritual world, everything is living force. There is no dead matter. Therefore, everyone's body is spiritual.
Entering the spiritual world is just like mixing oil with oil: there is nothing but oil, that's all. But the material world is like a mixture of oil and water: there is a distinction between the spiritual living entities and the material nature. So I am a spiritual soul, like a drop of oil. Now I am in the "water" of the material energy, and there is a distinction. But if I am put into the "oil" of the spiritual world, then everything's all right.
The impersonalists do not want to develop a spiritual body. They simply want to remain as spiritual particles. That is their idea. But we Vaisnavas [devotees] want to serve Krsna. Therefore we require hands, legs, a mouth, a tongue-everything. And in the spiritual world we are given a suitable body. Just as you get your present body from the womb of your mother, so you can get a spiritual body in the spiritual world-not from the womb of a mother, but by another process.
Devotee: How does that process work?
Srila Prabhupada: The practice of Krsna consciousness turns your material body into a spiritual body. It is something like putting an iron bar into a fire. The more the iron bar stays in the fire, the more it becomes like fire. When the iron bar is red-hot, it has acquired the qualities of fire. You can touch the iron bar anywhere, and it will act like fire. Another example is electrified metal. A copper wire is not electricity, but when it is electrified you will immediately get an electric shock if you touch it. Similarly, if your body is spiritualized, then material activity is ended.
By "material activity" I mean sense gratification. The more one becomes spiritualized, the more his material demands become nil. Finally, there are no more material activities. So how can you come to that platform? The first example is appropriate: you have to keep the iron bar constantly within the fire. In other words, you have to keep yourself constantly in Krsna consciousness. Then even your material body is spiritualized.
The Sanskrit word svarna-maya means "golden." Something can be called svarna-maya when it is made of pure gold or when it is made of something else but has a thick coating of gold. Similarly, when one's material body performs only spiritual activities, it is spiritual, although seemingly still composed of material elements. Therefore, in India saintly persons are not cremated after death. Of course, here in America everyone is put into the grave after passing away. But in India, in accordance with the Vedic system, only the bodies of very high personalities, especially the bodies of great devotees, are not burned. Their bodies are considered spiritual.
How have they become spiritual? When your body is no longer engaged in any material activities but simply in spiritual activities in Krsna consciousness, your body is spiritual. Similarly, if everyone in this world became fully Krsna conscious—if nobody worked for sense gratification but only for the satisfaction of Krsna—this world would immediately become the spiritual world.
This idea requires a little time to understand. The point is that anything used for Krsna-simply for Krsna's satisfaction-is spiritual. Because we are using this microphone for talking about Krsna, it is spiritual. Similarly, we are preparing food for Krsna and offering it to Him with love, and it is becoming prasada, "the Lord's mercy." Now, what is the difference between prasada and ordinary food? When we distribute prasada, people sometimes say, "Why is this prasada? We eat the same fruit—you have simply cut it into pieces, and it has become prasada?" They can say that, but factually it is prasada. If you go on eating prasada, you become spiritualized. Again, the example of the iron rod is appropriate. If I take that hot iron rod and I say, "It is fire," somebody may say, "Oh, why is it fire? It is iron." So I say, "Touch it...... You see? These are crude examples, but they give the idea.
So actually, in a higher sense there is no matter. Everything is spiritual—because Krsna, the source of everything, is spiritual. Krsna is the whole spirit, and matter is one of the energies of Krsna. Therefore, matter is also spirit. But because the material energy is being misused—because it is not being used for the purpose of Krsna—we call it "matter." So our Krsna consciousness movement aims to respiritualize the whole thing-the whole social situation, political situation, and everything else. It is a very nice movement. People should try to understand it. Actually, we are trying to spiritualize the whole world. Of course, that may not be possible, but the ideal is like that. And at least if individually one tries this respiritualization method, his life becomes perfect.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says He will provide for His devotees. Then what is the meaning of the saying, "God helps those who help themselves"?
Srila Prabhupada: "Helping yourself" means that you put yourself under Krsna's direction. That is helping yourself. And if you think, "Oh, I can provide for myself," then you are not helping yourself.
For example, as long as my finger is connected to my hand, I will spend thousands of dollars to cure it if there is some trouble. But if my finger is cut off from my body, you can trample it down with your feet and I won't care about it. Similarly, to help oneself means to put oneself in the proper position, as part and parcel of Krsna. That is really helping yourself. Otherwise, how can you help yourself?
The finger can help itself by keeping itself in the proper position—as, part of the hand-and in that way working for the whole body. That is the finger's proper position. But if the finger thinks, "I shall remain separated from this body and help myself," it will die.
So as soon as you think, "I shall independently, without caring for Krsna," that is your death. And as soon as you engage yourself as part and parcel of Krsna, that is your life. Therefore, helping yourself means to know your position and to work in that way. That is helping yourself. But without knowing what your position is, how can you help yourself? It is not possible.
Guest: Can we also serve Krsna just by not doing anything bad? Wouldn't that also help Krsna—refraining from sinful acts?
Srila Prabhupada: If you want to serve Krsna, that means you must do something. Serving means doing. What do you mean by the word "serve"? When you actually serve somebody, are you not doing something? So you can serve Krsna by going to teach Krsna consciousness, by cooking for Him, by cleansing His temple—by doing so many things. Helping Krsna means doing something for Him. Helping Krsna does not mean that you sit down tightly, but that you act in Krsna consciousness.
Whatever assets you have, utilize them for Krsna. That is bhakti, or devotional service. Now, what assets do you have? You have your mind. All right—think of Krsna. You have hands—wash the temple or cook for Krsna. You have legs—go to the temple of Krsna. You have a nose—smell the flowers offered to Krsna. In this way you can engage everything in Krsna's service.
So Krsna consciousness means working, activity. On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra Arjuna was declining to act, and Krsna was enthusing him to act. This is the whole purport of Bhagavad-gita. Krsna consciousness does not mean that you give up work, but that you engage yourself in work-for Krsna.
Of course, in this Sixth Chapter Krsna will say something about meditation, but He never says to Arjuna, "My dear friend Arjuna, don't fight this way. Just sit down and meditate upon Me." Have you seen this anywhere in the Bhagavad-gita? No. In the beginning of meditation one may stop all nonsensical work and sit down tightly. But those who are advanced in Krsna consciousness should work for Krsna.
For example, suppose a child is creating some disturbance. The mother says, "My dear child, sit down here." But if the child can work nicely, the mother says, "Oh, my dear boy, you have to do this, you have to do that, you have to do that."
So you should sit down tightly and refrain from doing nonsense, but not from doing sensible things. Of course, when one sits down, at least he does not do any nonsense. But that is simply negation of nonsense, that's all. That is not positive activity. Krsna consciousness means doing positive activities for Krsna.
Negation of activity is not life. Positive activity is life. "Don't do this" is not life. "Do this" is life. The whole Bhagavad-gita is "do." "Do fight for Me," says Krsna. Arjuna pleaded, "Don't induce me to fight," but Krsna did not like that. "You are speaking like a non-Aryan. [anarya-justam]," He told Arjuna. Kutas tva kasmalam idam: "How have these impurities come upon you?"
So Krsna consciousness does not mean sitting idly. No. All the pastimes of Krsna are full of activities. When you go to the spiritual world, Krsna is always dancing. Twenty-four hours a day you have to dance there and eat there. Where is the sitting down? There is no question of sitting down. Have you heard anything about the gopis [Krsna's cowherd girlfriends] meditating? Sitting down? [Laughter.] Have you heard of this? And what were Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's activities? Simply dancing, chanting Hare Krsna. You see?
You are a spiritual soul, so how can you stop yourself from acting and simply remain silent? That is not possible. Arjuna refused to do this. You'll find in this chapter that when Krsna recommended, "My dear Arjuna, this is how one meditates," Arjuna immediately refused. "My dear Krsna, it is not possible for me."
And that was actually the fact. How could it have been possible for him? He was a householder, he wanted a kingdom, he wanted to rule over the country. Where was the time for his meditation? So he flatly refused: "My dear Krsna, it is not possible for me." He said:
cancalam hi manah krsna
"My dear Krsna, You are asking me to control the mind, but it is so powerful and restless that I think controlling the mind is as hard as controlling the wind." [Bg. 6.34]
If there is a high wind, can you control it? Yet it is a fact that the mind is as difficult to control as a high wind—Arjuna gives this example. But if you engage the mind in thinking of Krsna, then it is controlled.
Otherwise, artificially, you cannot control it. It is impossible. It was impossible for Arjuna—what to speak of others. Who was Arjuna? He was personally talking with Krsna. Do you think he was an ordinary man? No, he was a great man. And even he said that it is impossible to control the mind. So you can control the mind only when you fix the mind on Krsna's lotus feet. Then no nonsense can come within your mind, but simply Krsna. That is the perfection of meditation.
Here they tell us about their self-sufficient spiritual community in the Appalachian foothills.
by Mandalesvara dasa
In the southern Appalachian foothills, near Lynchburg, Tennessee, you'll find another kind of farming community.
"We started out in 1976," says Balavanta Dasa. "At first we figured we'd just plant corn or some other cash crop and make a lot of money for Krsna. But when I told our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada, he sat back thoughtfully and said, 'Making money on our farm? That is a material idea. We don't care about money—we just want to be self-sufficient.'
"Then it dawned on me. Srila Prabhupada didn't want just an ordinary farm, and he certainly didn't want an agribusiness. What he did want was a self-sufficient spiritual community where all kinds of people would want to live and work."
Nrsimhi-devi Dasi says she realizes most people think the community's life must be quite hard. "But when you move out here you get your own house and if you want you can plant a garden Pure spring water comes right out of the tap, and the air is so fresh—no blue exhaust smoke.
"One day last spring," she says, " was sitting up on the front porch mending clothes. And I could hear the birds and the cowbells from all across the valley. I could even hear the breeze. My mind felt so clear—this was just the kind of place Krsna lived in. And I remembered when I was back in Chicago, just before I came to Krsna consciousness. was sewing then, too—out on the first escape overlooking the alley. And all could see was garbage cans and people coming out and dumping trash. All could hear was cars and trucks going by, and machines running and jets roaring overhead. Now, that's what I call hard."
Says Balavanta, "Some people think we're just struggling along out here, while they're enjoying their high standard of living back in the city. But just what is that 'high standard of living'? A while back I was at a big political dinner in New York. John D. Rockefeller and his wife were there. But everybody was wearing synthetic suits. You know—the kind they make from petroleum by-products. And they were having frozen peas and cauliflower, coffee, brown-and-serve rolls, margarine ...
"Here on the farm we dress in pure cotton, wool, and silk. And we never have to eat any of that junk food. It's all fresh—cauliflower and green peas right out of the garden, with just-ground spices and real butter. And the milk products out here are so rich and creamy—we call storebought milk 'white water.' "
Assistant coordinator Vedaguhya Dasa spent several years touring Third World countries. "Wherever I went—Latin America, Asia, North Africa—people really wanted to live on the land and keep some cows and do some plain, honest work. But the propaganda pushers keep them thinking they'll be happier in the city, slaving in some factory or office building.
"When I came back to America," he says, "I tried to get into the ecology movement, but my heart just wasn't in it. To me, politics and legal maneuvers aren't the best way to deal with the environment. I figured it would take a grassroots movement, spreading out from the individual to the family to the community to the whole society. Finally, a friend and I opened a vegetarian restaurant. We thought we'd save our money and buy a farm.
"Then one day I met Balavanta, and he told me all about Srila Prabhupada's plan for starting Krsna conscious farms all over the world. So I gave whatever money I'd saved up, and that became the down payment for this place."
This is one farm community that treats the cow and bull with care. The reason: the cow provides milk and the bull plows the fields. "In a very real sense," says Balavanta, "they play the role of mother and father....
"A few days back, I was walking behind Mother Kalindi, one of our cows. Now, in two daily milkings she gives about seventy pounds, so I knew she had to be carrying about thirty-five. She could hardly walk—what to speak of running away or defending herself. And she doesn't drink a drop (even her calf can't drink very much)—she gives all that extra milk for us! I mean, what are we going to do with the grass? But God has arranged that the cow takes it and turns it into milk, the miracle food. So we protect our mother. We don't slaughter her."
Some people think that animals have no soul and so it's all right to slaughter them. Not true, says Sarvasiddhi-rat Dasa, who takes care of the herds.
"A while back one of our cows died. The vet and I were both standing there. So I said, 'What's the difference between a living cow and this dead cow? The body is still there—all the chemicals. But where's the life?'
"He couldn't answer. Then I told him, 'The life is in the soul, and when the soul leaves the body, so does the life. And it's just like that with us, too. The life is in the soul. So the cow has a soul, and you have a soul. I wouldn't kill you, and I wouldn't kill a cow, either.' He had to admit it made sense. We're famous all over the county for not killing our cows or bulls."
"You know," Balavanta points out, "oxen do the same work as tractors and trucks—without all the ruckus and headaches. Sure, we're still using a few machines, but before long we're going to replace them all with animal power: We're going to be totally self-sufficient. You might save a little time with a tractor, but you've got to spend a lot more time working to pay for it. Then the blasted thing breaks down—maybe right in the middle of spring planting—so you have to haul it into the shop, and they have to ship the part in from halfway across the country. Meanwhile, you're standing there twiddling your thumbs.
"Lots of cows and bulls and lots of grain—that's he sign of a healthy economy. But today most farmers lean so much on machines and oil products that when an energy crisis comes, they don't know what to do."
"I've talked a lot with our neighbors," says Janmanjaya Dasa, the community's president. "And they have some surprising things to say. Take Mr. Durham. He told me plenty of people are watching our community. Why? Because we're living a lot like they used to. Deep down inside, they all want to live on the land, be neighborly, and worship the Lord."
Just as in old India, the community's life centers on the temple. After spending the day in the fields and pastures, everyone comes together in the evening to hear narrations about Krsna, chant Krsna's names, and dance in ecstasy. "This farm belongs to Krsna," says Titiksa-devi Dasi, "and everybody here knows that. God is everywhere, and He owns everything, so we're all working to please Him. The cows are giving their milk, the cooks are preparing food, the gardeners are growing fruit, vegetables, and flowers—all of us are working to please Krsna."
Could this way of living be too old-fashioned for people today?
"Well," says Balavanta, "one time in India I was walking with Srila Prabhupada when a farmer came up the road. He was chanting Hare Krsna, and he bowed at Srila Prabhupada's feet. They exchanged a few words in Hindi, and later Srila Prabhupada told me that the farmers in India know more than the biggest philosophers in the West. This farmer knew there's a God. He knew he'd had past lives. He also knew that depending on his karma—what he did in this life—he'd get another body. And he knew that if he's thinking of Krsna when he passes away, he'll go to Krsna in the spiritual world. He was a farmer, that's all. Yet he understood such a deep thing—he knew why he was here."
How to Find Perfect Knowledge in an Imperfect World
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and physicist Gregory Benford took place in October, 1973, at the Los Angeles Krsna center.
Dr. Benford: You are probably familiar with what Western theology calls "the problem of evil": Why does evil exist?
Srila Prabhupada: Evil is the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of sunlight. If you keep yourself always in the light, where is the question of darkness? God is all-good. So if you keep yourself always in God consciousness, then there is no evil.
Dr. Benford: But why was the world created with evil men?
Srila Prabhupada: Why was the police department created? Because there is a necessity. Similarly, some living entities want to enjoy this material world; therefore God creates it. He is just like a father who gives a separate room to his mischievous children to play in. Otherwise, the naughty boys would always disturb him.
Dr. Benford: This world, then, is something like a prison?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is' a prison. Therefore, there is suffering here. In the prison house you cannot expect comfort, because unless there is suffering, there is no lesson for the prisoners. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita duhkhalayam asasvatam: Duhkhalayam means "the place for suffering." And asasvatam means "temporary." You cannot make a compromise and say, "All right, I am suffering, but I don't care about that—I shall remain here." You cannot remain here; you will be kicked out. Now you are thinking that you are an American, you are a great scientist, you are happy, you are getting a good salary.... That's all right, but you cannot stay in this post. The day will come when you will be kicked out. And you do not know whether you are going to be an American or a scientist or a cat or dog or demigod. You do not know.
Dr. Benford: I think that I will probably be nothing.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is another kind of ignorance. Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [2.12], dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara / tatha dehantara-praptih: first you are in the body of a boy, then a young man, and in the future you will be in the body of an old man—
Dr. Benford: But after I'm an old man I might be nothing.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Tatha dehantara-praptih: after death you will pass into another body. So. you cannot say, "I am going to be nothing." Of course, you may say anything, , but the laws are different. You may know the law, or you may not know the law.' It doesn't matter—the law will act. For example, if you think, "I will touch the fire—it will not burn me," that is not a fact. It will burn. Similarly, you may think there is nothing after death, but it is not a fact.
Dr. Benford: Why does a person like me—someone who's trying to understand the world rationally—seem to find no way in which to do it?
Srila Prabhupada: You are trying to know things rationally, but you are not going to the proper teacher.
Dr. Benford: But I feel that by studying the world I can acquire knowledge, and there is a way to check that knowledge. You formulate hypotheses, you perform experiments, you verify your ideas, and then you see if you can use these ideas in the practical world.
Srila Prabhupada: That is one more kind of ignorance—because you do not know that you are imperfect.
Dr. Benford: Oh, I know that I'm not perfect.
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the use of your trying to study the world this way and that way? If you are imperfect, the result will be imperfect.
Dr. Benford: That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: So why waste your time?
Dr. Benford: But there doesn't seem to be any other way of finding knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Even for material knowledge, you have to go to the university and consult a professor. Similarly, when you want to learn spiritual knowledge—perfect knowledge—you have to approach a perfect teacher. Then you will get perfect knowledge.
Dr. Benford: But how does one know when the teacher is perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not difficult. A perfect teacher is one who has learned from another perfect teacher.
Dr. Benford: But that merely removes the problem a step.
Srila Prabhupada: No, because there is one perfect teacher—Krsna—who is accepted by all classes of teachers. In India we still find the Vedic culture, which is taught by Vedic scholars. And all these Vedic teachers accept Krsna as the supreme teacher. They take lessons from Krsna and teach that.
Dr. Benford: So anyone I meet who accepts Krsna as the perfect teacher—he is a perfect teacher?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Anyone who is teaching the teachings, of Krsna—he is a perfect teacher.
Dr. Benford: Then all the devotees here are perfect teachers?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because they are teaching only Krsna's teachings, that's all. They may not be perfect. But whatever they are speaking is perfect, because it is taught by Krsna.
Dr. Benford: Then you are not perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: No, I am not perfect. None of us claim that we are perfect—we have so many defects. But because we don't speak anything beyond Krsna's teachings, our teaching is perfect. We are just like a postman who brings you a money order for one thousand dollars. He is not a rich man, but if he delivers to you the envelope as it is, you are benefited. He is not a rich man, but his perfect dealing—his honest dealing—is perfect. Similarly, we are not perfect; we are full of imperfections. But we don't go beyond the teachings of Krsna—that is our process—and therefore our teachings are perfect.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Gita "Very Valuable," Says Prime Minister
In July ISKCON devotees paid a visit to R. Premadasa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. They presented Mr. Premadasa with several books about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, including Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
"These books are very valuable," said the Prime Minister. "I've read the Gita before. I liked it very much."
While paging through the Gita, Mr. Premadasa, a Buddhist, found a verse he especially appreciated and read it aloud to those assembled in his office. "For one who is born, death is certain, and for one who is dead, birth is certain." As the Gita also explains, the prime duty of a head of state is to see that the citizens get free from this cycle of reincarnation by becoming spiritually realized.
Sri Lanka: ISKCON Feeds Citizens, Commemorates Lord Buddha
During a three-day festival commemorating the day Lord Buddha appeared in the world (and also the day he attained enlightenment), ISKCON Food Relief volunteers in Sri Lanka fed over six thousand people. Following instructions given in the ancient Vedic literatures, the volunteers offered vegetarian food to the Supreme Lord and then distributed it to the general public.
Since Lord Buddha is recognized as one of the many incarnations of Lord Krsna, the ISKCON devotees placed a statue of Lord Buddha upon an altar and worshiped it with incense and flowers, just as they worship the Deity of Krsna. Thousands of joyous Buddhists took part in the celebration, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. At the festival the devotees also released the first issue of a Krsna conscious newspaper printed in the local language, Singhalese.
Sri Lanka has fertile land and plentiful rainfall, yet food prices are twice as high as in neighboring India, and many staples, such as rice, are in short supply. So at their center in Colombo, the nation's capital, ISKCON devotees feed hundreds of people each week. Local merchants and ISKCON Food Relief headquarters in New York City provide funding for the free meals.
Director of India's Center for Performing Arts Reviews Bhagavatam
Bombay-Dr. Narayana Menon, executive director of the National Center for the Performing Arts, said this about Srila Prabhupada's English translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the narrative of Lord Krsna's pastimes on earth some fifty centuries ago:
"I have been familiar with Srimad-Bhagavatam since my childhood, hearing it regularly, as read by my grandmother or chanted by panditas in the temples of Kerala. But this is the first time that I have gone through it with care, attention, and an inquiring mind. My first and immediate reaction was one of humility, faced with such profound thought and intellectual sophistication. The translation is clear, with a kind of luminosity that only a poet can bring to it. This is a book to be read, reread, studied, and cherished. His Divine Grace deserves our gratitude for making available to us an English rendering of this great work. He conveys everything that is inherent in the original Sanskrit."
Back To Godhead Readers Donate Farm
Not long ago, Robert and Susan Pollard, of Shepard, Texas, read a copy of BACK TO GODHEAD, visited the Houston Krsna center, and gave a donation: a sixty-acre farm in the pine-forested hill country north of the city. Thanks to the Pollards, the devotees are now transforming the farm into a retreat for people who want to experience the Krsna conscious life in an ideal setting.
Each month the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (publisher of BACK TO GODHEAD) distributes well over one million magazines and books. Here are a few letters from readers.
Last night I had a most fortunate experience. I was approached by one of your devotees, and he gave me a copy of BACK TO GODHEAD. I found your magazine to be both highly inspiring and profoundly beautiful. It is because of this that I have enclosed a check for a subscription. Thanks.
I am a fourteen-year-old student at boarding school who felt an emptiness until I found Lord Krsna. A young man sold me one of your beautiful books for a very reasonable price, and so, being bored, I read it. I agree wholeheartedly with all I read in the book, and I wish I could learn more.
You may consider me too young to believe, but I truly find this a wonderful discovery.
Your advice concerning chanting the Krsna mantra seems very reasonable. After reading the latest issue of BACK TO GODHEAD, I have added the Krsna mantra to my other devotional activities. I work all night at my police department and have a fine opportunity to chant.
I think that meditation has added greatly to the benefits that I derive from attendance at daily Mass at my parish church. I have also visited the Miami branch of ISKCON and made friends with some wonderful devotees.
My daily duties had been a fight for me, especially because one of my children, Michael, is severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. The nectar that ISKCON offers has helped me greatly. BACK TO GODHEAD helps me face each new day with additional hope.
About six months ago a friend of mine gave me the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I was immediately drawn to it. I read it through rather quickly, and I was overwhelmed by its meaning in my life. I then started reading it thoroughly. I found that my life was indeed changing. I have never completely known this feeling before, this feeling of true peace and security. I can see things now as I never saw them before.
I wish I could tell you how Bhagavad-gita has filled the void in my life, but I would grow old writing.
I have just completed reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is and was deeply moved by it. My wife and I have been studying yoga for nearly two years now, and it was not until we read Swami Bhaktivedanta's translation of the Gita that we began to feel something happening in our lives.
I was raised through my childhood by the beliefs of the Catholic Church, but I never really understood and realized God as I have through the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The past few years I have been very confused in trying to find my purpose in life, but through meditation and reading the Bible I was beginning to feel a purpose in God realization. However, I was always backsliding to the materialistic world.
I believe the teachings of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and those of the Bible are striving for the same goal of teaching the path of spiritual realization through God, although I understand the Srimad-Bhagavatam because it is more clearly presented.
I have found out about Hare Krsna. I would like to know more. I know little English. You have books in Japanese. Please send me all you have. Krsna very beautiful. I would like to know more about Krsna.
Over a year ago, the book Srimad-Bhagavatam was given to me as a gift. In just the last two weeks, I have really sat down and studied this book, and I love it. As I read, a peaceful, good feeling seems to overtake me, and I can't concentrate on my everyday problems. I love it!
Mary Beth Tuerk
I feel I've been deluded most of my life, living for false ideals and impossible goals. I buy things and do things not because I want or need to, but because I've been pressured and conditioned to accept it. I as an individual have no real goal or purpose in life.
Sometimes I would mentally set myself apart from the world to observe it impartially. All I would see were people wandering aimlessly about, with as much purpose as rats in a maze. Then the question arises, why do I exist and what purpose do I serve? The Bible tells us man was meant to serve God, but doesn't explain who or what God is or even how to serve Him. I think Srila Prabhupada has answered these questions quite thoroughly and honestly, leaving absolutely no room for doubt in my mind—Krsna's the answer.
Sometimes I think of life as traveling through a dark tunnel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the light at the far end. Some people never see that light, but live and die in darkness. But, through the good fortune of meeting a devotee one afternoon and receiving from him a copy of, BACK TO GODHEAD magazine and the opportunity to read several of Srila Prabhupada's books, I feel I now have a chance to reach Krsna and achieve the real goal of life.
Although at present I am unable to participate in full devotional service, I would like to help propagate Krsna consciousness; please accept my check and enroll me as a life member. Thank you,
His Holiness Bhavananda Goswami addresses Christian divinity students at St. Paschal's Seminary, Yarra Theological College, in Melbourne, Australia.
HIS HOLINESS BHAVANANDA GOSWAMI is one of eleven spiritual masters that ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He is also ISKCON's co-director for East India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Bhagavad-gita means "The Song of God." Five thousand years ago Lord Krsna taught the Gita to His friend Arjuna. Krsna told Arjuna, bhakto 'si me sakha ceti: "Because you are My devotee as well as My friend, you are authorized to enter into the transcendental mystery of this science." So the basis of this science is bhakti, devotion. Jesus taught, "You should love God with all your heart and all your soul." That was the first lesson—to love God with all your heart and all your soul. That is the main purpose of life.
Other than developing our love for God, all other aims in life are useless, temporary. All of us are seeking some sort of satisfaction—all of us want to love and be loved. But we have forgotten where to place our love. We're trying to love something temporary, so we're always frustrated. And we always end up in distress, because even if we find some woman or man we love very much, finally one of us has to die, and then the whole relationship is finished. And what do we have left? Nothing, because the relationship was just based on the body, the external feature of the soul.
I don't have to explain the existence of the soul. That you must already accept, or else why would you be in the theological seminary? So the soul is eternal and the body is temporary. And God is eternal; He has always been. And we are part and parcel of God. This is also stated in the Bible—man is created in the image of God. What can we understand from this? It's quite clear: man is created in God's image, so God has to be a person. He is not a nonentity. If God is the creator of heaven and earth and all things (I remember the words from my catechism), who is God? He is our creator, too, and He has created us in His image.
So just as we have arms, legs, eyes—a body—God also has arms, legs, eyes: He has a body. But there is a difference. Right now we're in these material bodies, but His body is spiritual. He is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. He has a form [vigraha] comprised of eternity [sat], knowledge [cit] , and bliss [ananda]—ecstatic consciousness.
And He's the source of everyone. Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: "I am the source of everything material and everything spiritual; everything is emanating from Me." [Bg. 10.8] Now, since you're part and parcel of God, you must have all the qualities of God, just as a drop from the ocean has all the qualities of the ocean. But the difference is in quantity. For instance, in Islam we find Allah bham "God is great." Yes, God is great, but how is God great? That is real theological study—to understand not just that God is great but how great God is. Religion without philosophy is simply sentiment, fanaticism. You may say God is great, but how great is He? That we want to know. That is the science of Krsna consciousness.
Anyway, we're part and parcel of God—we're all spirit souls. So we have all the qualities of God, though in minute quantity. But by associating with this material nature from time immemorial, we've forgotten our real position. And here we have the purpose of the priestly class of men—to enlighten all fallen, conditioned souls as to what their real position is. To do that, you yourself have to know your position: you're part and parcel of God—you have all the qualities of God—but as long as you relate to yourself on the platform of the body and think and act foolishly, then you must suffer. All our suffering is due to ignorance. We don't know how to act and how not to act. We don't know what to do and what not to do. We're bewildered. But God, Krsna, is so kind that He's given His lawbook, the revealed scripture. He's telling us what to do and what not to do. How kind He is. And that revealed scripture is delivered by Krsna's representatives.
Lord Jesus is a representative of Krsna; he is the son of God. Krsna says, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities." [Bg. 14.4] St. Francis also understood this.
Pandita means "learned man," and through his knowledge-realized knowledge-the learned man sees the cow, the elephant, the dog, and the dog-eater with equal vision. How does he see them as the same? He understands, aham bija-pradah pita: God is the seed-giving father of everyone, every living entity. If you have that understanding and realization from within your heart, then you can understand everyone—everyone is your brother.
Because no one has this understanding, the whole world is in chaos. We may say "brotherhood," but we don't accept the existence of a common father. How can we be brothers? We're simply juggling words. So we have the United Nations-disunited nations, simply groups of dogs barking at each other. No understanding. Every attempt that we make for world peace, for world brotherhood, ends in frustration, ends in chaos, because we have no knowledge. We're simply in ignorance. And the role of the priest is to enlighten us with real knowledge of who we all are, who God is, what this material universe is, and what our relationship with God is. These questions can be asked only by those who have come to the human platform of life. If you have not asked that question (I don't mean you specifically, because you are in the theological seminary—you must have asked that question), then you are not considered human.
So, what we have today is simply an animal society. Spending all their time just figuring out elaborate methods of eating, elaborate methods of sleeping, elaborate methods of defense, and elaborate methods of having sex. A dog eats; we eat—the principle is the same. We may eat in a fancy restaurant, but the principle of eating is the same. The dog sleeps in the street, and we sleep on a fancy waterbed, but the sleeping principle is the same. The dog defends with his teeth and his claws, and we defend with so many elaborate antiballistic missiles, but the defense principle is the same. And the dog has sex in the street, and we have sex in many fancy ways, but the sex principle remains the same. Fancy eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—that is not human civilization. It is just highly polished cat-and-dog civilization. This understanding you should have.
If you're going to disseminate knowledge, then you should have knowledge—real understanding. Then you can have compassion for all the fallen, conditioned souls and really enlighten them. They are suffering due to ignorance. Now, your duty is to dispel that ignorance with the shining lamp of knowledge. And knowledge means knowing who you are, who God is, what this material creation is, and what your relationship with God is. If you concentrate on those points, everything else will come—you will have full knowledge.
There's a story about a woman whose husband was drowning.
She was screaming, "My husband's drowning!"
Then a social worker came along and told her, "Don't worry, ma'am—I'll save him!"
So he swam out to her husband and tried to pull the man back to shore by the collar of his jacket. But somehow in the commotion the drowning man slipped out of his jacket, and the social worker just brought back the jacket, with nobody inside it.
"Here you are, lady," he said. "I've saved your husband!"
She was furious. "You haven't saved him—you've saved his jacket!"
This is the state of present-day society. Everyone is busy trying to save the external covering of the soul. So many hospitals, so many this, so many that ... all simply trying to save the person's external covering, his material body. No one sees that the spiritual person within is suffering simply because of ignorance—he doesn't know who he is. No matter how many hospitals you open, you're not going to stop anybody from dying. It is not possible. No matter how many medicines you may invent, you still cannot prevent disease. No matter how many surgeries you perform on a person's face, no matter how many exercises you have him do, you can't prevent him from growing old. And no matter how much contraception you use, you cannot prevent birth. As surely as people must meet their death, so they must surely take another birth. And as soon as they take birth, they must grow old, and they must suffer disease, and they must die again. Here are the problems of life. So real social work is to enlighten people with this knowledge—how, when you die, you'll be able to return to your original, eternal relationship with Krsna, with God.
But unless you know what your relationship with God is, then how can you teach anyone else? "Physician, heal thyself"—before you dare to teach others. That is the Krsna consciousness movement: how to heal yourself from the real disease—this material contamination. You have to enlighten yourself with real knowledge about your true identity and your relationship with God.
And you can do that very simply, very easily, and very joyfully by chanting the names of God. God has countless names, because His names refer to His countless qualities. Jehovah, Adonai, or Allah—God has countless qualities, and He has countless names. Any of these bona fide names of God that you chant can deliver you from this material contamination. Our hearts are filled with polluted desires. Those desires have been building up since time immemorial, due to our contact with this material nature. So we have to cleanse the heart. And we can cleanse the heart by chanting God's names, by praying. That is also in your scripture—to praise God—"All glories to God; praise Him with cymbals and drums." That is also written there.
And you should do it, because that is the instruction of your teacher, your guru. Guru means "teacher." It also means "heavy"—heavy with knowledge, and heavy with responsibility. You are here in this theological seminary to learn how to be gurus, to teach others. And the only process for realization of knowledge is to accept the authority, the higher authority. Take Jesus, for instance. He was a guru. He had knowledge of God, and his good disciples received that knowledge in a submissive mood—not challenging, but in a submissive mood. And he left them instructions, so many instructions. Moral instructions, so that they could rise from the modes of ignorance and passion to the platform of material goodness, and so that from that platform they could understand transcendental science. That is why he said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife"—so many instructions... "Thou shalt not kill."
One who does not follow the instructions of the guru is called guru-druha, the killer of the guru. If you do not follow the instruction of your spiritual teacher, then you are killing him. Jesus said, "Thou shalt not kill," but today so much killing is going on. St. Francis saw everyone equally. You are killing so many cows, and you are drinking the blood. You are not following the instruction of your guru.
The cow gives milk, the perfect form of food. And practically everyone in this room, I'm sure, was raised on cow's milk. Now, we'd have to say that whoever gives milk for raising the baby is a mother. So the cow is my mother—I was raised on her milk. Then, when I'm strong enough, let me cut my mother's throat and drink her blood. This is supposed to be advanced civilization.... Animal civilization! Why animal civilization? Because you're not following the instruction of your teacher. You are not following the instruction of your guru. Therefore, everything becomes chaotic. It must.... He is the representative of God. And God is the protector of he cow. [Pause.] Does anyone have any questions?
Q: You seem to think that we don't practice what we preach.
A: No, I didn't say that. I was just saying that we practice what we preach.
Q: In your talk you were saying that we don't follow our teacher.
A: I didn't say that you don't. If the shoe fits, wear it. [Laughter.]
Q: You referred earlier to some knowledge of the catechism. Were you at one time a Catholic?
Q: Would you be able to disclose information about your change or conversion or whatever word you like to use?
A: Actually, I haven't changed or converted. I have simply increased my knowledge and understanding of God. Actually, Christ taught Krsna consciousness, but due to the time and place in which he taught, he wasn't able to give complete instruction. After all, he was speaking to barbarians. That is his glory—that he went among the barbarians to preach love of God. But they attempted to kill their own teacher. So he couldn't give full information about Krsna. But he was teaching love of God, no doubt. We accept Christ as a pure devotee, the son of God.
Q: Do you accept him as God Himself?
A: No, we do not accept him as God, and nowhere does he say he is God. Always Jesus said, "I am the son of God, and my Father and I are one." You are also one with Krsna, as I was explaining earlier. Everyone is spirit. All of us are souls, spiritual souls. We have the same quality as God. But now we're just covered over by this powerful material nature—because we don't have the same quantity or magnitude as God. He's great; we're tiny. Jesus never said he was God. He is the son of God, and we accept him as that, and we give him all respect as a pure devotee of the Lord.
Q: Why do you talk as if you have greater knowledge than we do?
A: Do you really want to know? By the mercy of our spiritual master, we have some grater knowledge than you. But that is not a statement of pride, because I was a dog until I met my guru. I was a dog. But by his mercy he has elevated me, though I am totally unqualified for the position of a teacher. It's all by his mercy. You can't amount to anything without the mercy of your guru. For instance, Jesus took fishermen and farmers, and he taught them God consciousness and turned them into great devotees of the Lord.
Q: How do you feel about women's lib?
A: Women's lib is actually a big trick by the men to exploit the women. The women can't admit that, but it is. "Let me exploit the women, have sex with them, and if they get pregnant, I'll give them the choice: 'Either you go on the dole, or you can kill your child in the womb—you can become a murderer.' " This is women's liberation—murder the child in the womb, liberation to murder. It's all a trick by the men, and the women can't admit it. They cannot face that. They are simply being deceived by men who want to utilize them and exploit them for their own sense gratification—and all in the name of women's liberation. And then the men leave them to beg from the government or become murderers. Nonsense.
Q: For Catholics there is love of God, but there is also action toward one's neighbor. Do you—
A: Yes. If you develop your love for God, for Krsna, then naturally you love everything about Him, including His creation. But aren't the animals your neighbors? Don't they have rights? True, they're not so intelligent. But just because they're less intelligent, that doesn't mean you should use your higher intelligence to think up so many different ways to kill them. If you have a neighbor (if you're regarding everyone as your neighbor), perhaps your neighbor is not so intelligent—maybe he's a little retarded—so does society stand for it if you go up and smash him in the head with a hammer? "He's my neighbor, but he's not so intelligent, a little retarded. So let me kill him." We don't allow that. We're suffering because we're breaking the law of Krsna, we're breaking the law of God. You may not have to answer to the state, but you cannot escape the law of God. There is no moment when we're away from God. Krsna says, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: "I am within the heart of every living entity." He's within our hearts, so no one can keep anything hidden from Krsna.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Q. Can I chant Hare Krsna while I'm doing yoga?
A: Chanting Hare Krsna is yoga. Yoga means "linking up with the Supreme," or Krsna—and Krsna is present in His name—so if you chant Hare Krsna, you're doing the ultimate yoga. You're in direct touch with Krsna.
Actually, the original purpose of yoga exercises was simply to quiet the mind and senses so that the yogi could meditate on Krsna in his heart: Now opportunists have watered yoga down and turned it into a health fad.
So ... yes, chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra while you're doing your yoga exercises. And chant it anytime and anywhere. Stay "linked up" with Krsna. That's real yoga.
Q. I don't understand Sanskrit. Will the Hare Krsna mantra work for me?
A. Absolutely. The maha-mantra is like fire: it will bring you warmth and light, whether or not you understand it.
Q. What if I'm tired of formulas for spiritual enlightenment? What !f I just want to relate to people?
A., That's fine, If you chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, you'll enter the ultimate interpersonal relationship. Krsna, the Supreme, is present in His name. So by chanting His name purely, you'll rediscover your unique relationship with Him.
In the spiritual world, some liberated souls relate to Krsna as the Absolute and meditate on Him with awe and reverence. Others relate to Him as master and serve Him with a sense of duty and respect. And still others relate to Him as a friend and joke and play with Him. Some even relate to Him as their child and take care of Him. And others relate to Him as their lover.
If you think about it, you'll begin to see that whatever relationships you've experienced in this material world are feeble, short-lived imitations of the lasting relationships that the residents of the spiritual world enjoy with Krsna. The way to revive your own relationship with Krsna is to chant His names.
Q. Why should I start chanting Hare Krsna?
A. For starters, here are four good reasons: birth, old age, disease, and death.
Sooner or later, we all have to face old age, disease, death, and birth (or shall we say rebirth). Of course, in our modern world we've managed to push these miseries fairly well out of sight. We've isolated the old people in the nursing homes and the diseased, dying, and newborn in the hospitals. And our TV screens, feature films, newspapers, and billboards bombard us with images of youth, beauty, and health.
But we can fool ourselves only so long. Our turn will come. And then we'll have to trade in our present body and get another, and on it will go, life after life. India's Vedic literatures call this phenomenon the cycle of birth and death.
But if we chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, we'll revive our long-forgotten relationship with Lord Krsna. And Krsna promises He'll be our swift deliverer.
Q. Would it be a good idea to tell a dying person to chant Hare Krsna ?
A. It would be a great idea. The Vedic literatures say, ante narayana-smrtih: remember Krsna at the end. of your life and you'll go to live with Him in the spiritual world. And the best way to remember Krsna is to chant His names.
What you're thinking about when you pass away will determine what happens to you in your next life. If you're thinking about your pet dog, you might come back with four legs instead of two. But whatever you come back as, you're sure to get old and diseased and die, and, you're sure to get another material body-unless you remember Krsna.
If you chant Krsna's names, you'll return to' the spiritual world and live there forever.
Q. I'm aware that chanting is the best way to get ready for death. But why rush it—why not just wait until we get old?
A. How do you know, you're not old already? Actually, "old" just refers to someone who's about to die, and who can be sure the "someone" isn't him? You don't have any guarantees that you'll live to be ninety. Better to start chanting the maha-mantra now.
Another thing to consider: when you die, your mind and body will be going through all kinds of changes, and it will be impossible to chant unless you've been practicing.
Q. Why so much talk about death? What about happiness here and now?
A. You're right. W e all want happiness here and now. But we have to know where to look for it
Trying to find happiness in satisfying your body is like trying to eat pudding that has sand in it.
Whatever bodily happiness you experience is temporary; it won't last. And besides, it comes mixed with old age, disease, death, and rebirth. So when you opt for bodily happiness, you get a huge quotient of sand.
But the spiritual happiness you'll find in your relationship with Krsna is one-hundred-percent pure, and it lasts forever. And if you chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, you can experience this lasting spiritual happiness for yourself, here and now.
Q. How can just a sound give you so much happiness?
A. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra isn't an ordinary sound. Krsna is present in His names, and because Krsna is the reservoir of all spiritual pleasure, His names are also full of pleasure. That's why a great spiritual master once said he wanted millions of ears to hear Krsna's names and millions of tongues to chant them.
[Excerpts from the Twelfth Chapter "Devotional Service"]
Lord Krsna said: Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.
My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way you will develop a desire to attain to Me.
If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.
If, however, you are unable to work in Krsna consciousness, then try to act giving up all the results of your work, and be self-situated.
If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one may have peace of mind.
One who is not envious but is a kindly friend to all creatures, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination, and whose mind and intelligence are fixed upon Me—he is very dear to Me.
He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.
A devotee who is not dependent on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains and not striving for some result is very dear to Me.
One who does not grasp either pleasure or grief, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things, is very dear to Me.
One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent, and satisfied with anything, who doesn't care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.
He who follows this imperishable path of devotional service and fully engages himself with faith, making Me the supreme goal, is very, very dear to Me.
A Personal Recollection
In December of 1971, I arranged speaking program for Srila Prabhupada in Madras, India. Thousands of people came to hear him, and the leading newspaper carried a summary of his lecture every day. Then the Chief Justice of Madras invited him to speak before a large gathering of High Court judges, advocates, and other leading citizens. Srila Prabhupada appealed to the audience to follow the examples of Sri Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami, who in the sixteenth century had given up their exalted posts as prime minister and finance minister in the Bengal government to help Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spread the Krsna consciousness movement.
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvamis, namely Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Sri Jiva Gosvami, and Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who kicked off all association of aristocracy as insignificant. In order to deliver the poor conditioned souls, they accepted the garments of mendicants, but they are always merged in the ecstatic ocean of intimate love for Krsna and bathe always and repeatedly in the waves of that ocean." (Sad-gosvamy-astaka 4)
After the program the Chief Justice invited Srila Prabhupada and his disciples to dinner at his home, and he disclosed that he wanted to join our movement as soon as possible. Srila Prabhupada again began to glorify the six Gosvamis, but this time in a different way. He explained how after going to Vrndavana, the Gosvamis were always longing for Lord Krsna and His eternal consort Srimati Radharani. "They never said, 'Now I have seen God! Now I am satisfied!' No! Rather, they were saying, 'Where is Radha? Where is Krsna?' "
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvamis, who were chanting very loudly everywhere in Vrndavana and shouting, 'Queen of Vrndavana, Radharani! O Lalita! O Krsna, son of Nanda Maharaja! Where are you all now? Are you just on the hill of Govardhana, or are you under the trees on the bank of the Yamuna? Where are you?' These were their moods in executing Krsna consciousness."
The Chief Justice respectfully presented Srila Prabhupada with a sandalwood garland and a small statue of Krsna. Then, to demonstrate the ecstasy the Gosvamis felt when they were bereft of Krsna, Srila Prabhupada did something truly wonderful. He held the statue of Krsna in front of Sarasvati, his personal secretary's three-year-old daughter, and he said, "Who is this, Sarasvati?"
"Krsna!" Sarasvati exclaimed.
Srila Prabhupada held the statue in front of Sarasvati's eyes and then slowly moved it around to the side, until he had hidden it behind his back. Then Srila Prabhupada said, "Sarasvati, where is Krsna?"
When Sarasvati realized that Krsna was gone, a startled look of anxiety crossed her face. Her eyes darted in all directions—"Where is Krsna?"
But Krsna was nowhere to be found. She appealed to the faces of the devotees, glanced at their hands, and looked around behind their backs, searching everywhere. Unable to find Krsna, she became stunned.
Srila Prabhupada's grave voice broke the silence. "Sarasvati, where is Krsna?"
Sarasvati began again to look anxiously all over the room, but still she could not find Him.
Then a devotee said, "Sarasvati, where is Krsna? Who has Krsna?" Sarasvati's mind awakened with a realization. She opened her eyes wide, raised her eyebrows, and exclaimed,
"Prabhupada has Krsna!" She immediately turned to Srila Prabhupada and rushed to his lotus feet. "Prabhupada has Krsna!"
Srila Prabhupada carefully brought the statue of Krsna from behind his back and gradually moved it before the expectant eyes of Sarasvati.
"Prabhupada has Krsna!"
Suddenly, Srila Prabhupada removed the statue from Sarasvati's vision and again said, "Sarasvati, where is Krsna?" Thus he repeated the same procedure. As we observed this touching exchange, we all gained the clear realization that Srila Prabhupada held Krsna within his hand and that he could deliver Krsna to us whenever he felt our desire for Krsna was sufficiently intense. We could also understand that Srila Prabhupada knew our inner feelings. He perfectly knew the heart of everyone. Although Sarasvati was only three years old, Srila Prabhupada could understand her heart. He knew just how to engage her in Krsna consciousness.
And finally, we could witness Srila Prabhupada as the supreme preacher, engaging everything and everybody in spreading Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada had wanted to demonstrate transcendental anxiety in separation from Krsna, and thus he had created a situation wherein a three-year-old-girl could instruct a Chief Justice. As a result of Srila Prabhupada's grace, everyone—from little Sarasvati to the Chief Justice of Madras—became fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness and completely attached to the lotus feet of Krsna's dearmost servant, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
All this brought to mind an old devotional song about the special glories of the Krsna conscious spiritual master.
krsna se tomara,—krsna dite para
"Krsna is yours; you have the power to give Him to me."
ami ta' kangala—'krsna krsna' bali
"I am simply running behind you, shouting, 'Krsna! Krsna!' "
On the bank of the Ganges,
King Pariksit was cursed to die within seven days. Yet he took it all as Krsna's will, and at once he went to the Ganges to fast till the fatal moment. On hearing the news, great sages came from all over the universe to witness his passing.
"Please tell me," the king asked, "—what is the duty of one who is about to die?"
Before the sages came to any consensus, a sixteen-year-old boy arrived, along with a noisy crowd of street urchins and women who had been following him for days as if he were a madman. Sukadeva had long arms and curly hair that lay strewn over his shoulders. He was naked, and his bluish bodily hue was reminiscent of Lord Krsna's. His eyes were gentle and wide, his ears and nose were raised, and because of his fair form and enchanting smiles, he was attractive to ladies.
The sages at the bank of the Ganges could tell that Sukadeva was a self-realized soul. So even though his body looked young and unkempt, they rose from their seats to honor him....
Most of the sages knew that Sukadeva was the son of Vyasadeva, the great spiritual master who had put the Vedas into writing. After performing lengthy penances, Vyasadeva and his wife had conceived Sukadeva. But strangely, for twelve years he refused to leave his mother's womb. During that time his father instructed him about Lord Krsna and repeatedly asked him to come out. But Sukadeva told his father he was afraid he would waste his life by falling into worldly illusion. Vyasadeva kept reassuring his son, but Sukadeva never believed him. From within the womb he pointed out how attached Vyasadeva himself was to wife, children, home, and the rest.
Finally, Vyasadeva went to Dvaraka city and told Lord Krsna about his dilemma. So Krsna accompanied him back to his cottage and promised Sukadeva he would never fall into worldly illusion. His fears gone Sukadeva came out of the womb, but instantly he left to teach the world what his father had taught him about the pastimes of Krsna.
Afraid he had lost his child, Vyasadeva cried out after him, "Oh, my son!' But only the trees echoed in response, so the griefstricken Vyasadeva followed Sukadeva into the forest. Far into the distance, he saw his son passing a lake where some young girls were bathing. When the young boy went by, the girls didn't cover their bodies, but when Vyasadeva came near, they covered themselves at once. He asked the girls about this, and they replied that his son's heart was pure. Vyasadeva was a married man, and had to observe distinctions between male and female, but Sukadeva did not. Instead, he saw spiritual souls in different kinds of dress. He was transcendental to sex relations, and that is why the girls weren't very concerned about him.
In any case, Vyasadeva kept after his son. But through his mystic power Sukadeva projected a double of himself. The double returned home with the pacified father and led a normal family life. He even fathered a child.
Meanwhile, the real Sukadeva wandered about the provinces of Kuru and Jangala as though dumb and retarded. He looked like a madman, but actually he was the most elevated transcendental personality, completely self-satisfied and independent. The glamor of worldly possessions never attracted him, nor did he ever become a lackey for worldly men—Sukadeva thought such a fate worse than drinking poison.
As far as Sukadeva was concerned, the whole world was a mere jugglery of names. It made no more sense than the babble of sea waves, and it was full of phantom forms that were doomed to disappear. Fools call these forms "wife," "children," "family," "home," "country," "society," and so forth, and struggle to maintain them. But Sukadeva didn't care for such false things and wasted effort. All his life he searched for spiritual truth and urged everyone else to do the same.
"When there is enough ground to lie on," he said, "what is the use of cots and beds? When one can use his own arms, what is the need for a pillow? When one can use the palms of his hands, what need is there for all kinds of utensils? Are there no torn clothes lying on the common road? Do the trees no longer give their -fruit? Are the rivers dried up? Do they no longer supply water to the thirsty? Are the mountain caves now closed? Or above all, does the Almighty Lord no longer protect the fully surrendered souls who spread His glories? Why, then, should anyone flatter those who are intoxicated by hard-earned wealth? As his ultimate goal in life, one should simply worship the Supreme Lord.
"Both by rising and by setting," said Sukadeva, "the sun brings death nearer for everyone—except him who uses his valuable time to discuss the pastimes of the Lord. Do the trees not live a long life? What good is it? Do the bellows of the blacksmith not breathe? All around us, do the beasts not eat and discharge semen? Are we any different if we will not hear the glories of the Lord?
"One who has not heard and chanted such messages has ears like snake holes and a tongue like that of a frog. By croaking, the frog simply calls the serpents to swallow him up—and by talking of worldly things, men are simply calling death. Let them sing the eternal songs of the Lord and make themselves eternal.
"Your head may be covered with a silken turban or golden crown," he warned, "but if you won't bow your head to the Lord, then your turban or crown is just a useless weight. Your hands may be decorated with glittering bangles, but if you won't use your hands to clean the temple of the Lord, then they are no better than the hands of a corpse. The eyes that will not look at the beautiful form of Krsna are like the eyes on the plumes of peacocks, and the legs that don't move to the holy places where Krsna is remembered are no better than tree trunks. The person who has never served a pure devotee of Krsna is certainly a dead body, though he may be breathing."
At any rate, when Sukadeva arrived on the bank of the Ganges, King Pariksit bowed his head, and all the sages offered their greetings. Sukadeva exchanged embraces, handshakes, and nods, and he bowed down to his father Vyasadeva, who was also at the gathering. At this the street urchins and women who had followed the boy sage were struck with wonder and fear. They stopped their frivolous activities, and everything was full of gravity and calm.
Sukadeva was surrounded by saintly sages and demigods, just as the effulgent moon is surrounded by brilliant stars, glowing planets, and other radiant heavenly bodies. He was full of beauty, and all respected him for his pure devotion to Krsna. Now Sukadeva sat down—perfectly pacified, intelligent, and ready to answer any questions without hesitation.
King Pariksit bowed down before him and inquired with sweet words and folded hands: "You are the spiritual master of great saints and sages. So I am begging you—show me the path of perfection for one who is to die."
Sukadeva answered, "My dear King, your question is glorious, because it is very beneficial for all kinds of people.
"My dear King, you have only seven days to live. But don't lament—what is the value of a long life that is wasted? Better one moment of full consciousness, because that will start you on the path to eternity. O King, one who desires freedom from death must always hear about, glorify, and remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead,. Sri Krsna. Chanting His names and pastimes constantly—great authorities tell us that this is the way to success. Drink deeply of this deathless nectar—the Lord's eternal pastimes—and surely you will reach His eternal abode. O King, the highest success in life is to remember Krsna at death."
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Not long ago, the father of Daniel Garland
I have probably said this before, but if so, pardon the repetition. My visit with you there was a very moving, total experience, and I know I will never be the same again after that visit. I think you are all a tremendously impressive and dedicated group of young men and women, who have dedicated your lives in as total, beautiful, and significant a way as anyone possibly could. Also—I am certain the world is helped more by the kind of dedication you are giving each day to the world around you than it is helped by almost any other human efforts. There must be times when your own inner struggles are extreme and when the behavior of others on the outside—like me—is very disheartening and frustrating to all of you.
It is hard for me to imagine what a totally transformed human being you have become and what your own inner life and value system—your whole world of meaning—must be.
Please don't be too harsh on those of us who for one reason or another have not been able to make the total transformation that I am certain you would like to see come about.
It has been nice writing you—thinking about you—and may all the very best be with you.
Much love, Dad
CORRECTION. A chart in Our Place in Lord Brahma's Lifetime (BTG Vol. 13, No. 6) mistakenly listed the White Incarnation of Krsna as Lord Kapila and the Red Incarnation as Lord Yajna. In fact, the white and red incarnations are known simply as Sukla and Rakta respectively.
Living Simpleminded / Dying Ignorant
The poet's vision is "to see infinity in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour." In much the same way, a person who ponders Lord Krsna's words in Bhagavad-gita can see the Transcendence even in the daily affairs of this material world.
Case in point: a recent article reported that each year, 20 million Americans suffer sports injuries. It seems a large percentage of these mishaps occur to people thirty-five and older who refuse to recognize that their bodies are aging. One prominent doctor quipped that these people are suffering from "an acute case of simplemindedness."
Now, the good doctor may well claim that anyone who thinks his fifty-year-old body can cavort around the tennis court the way it did at twenty is simpleminded. But in the Gita Lord Krsna tells us that the so-called old man is still young—inside—and that anyone who can't appreciate his inner psychology is simpleminded.
In other words, Krsna points to an enduring, ever-youthful self within the aging outer body. And He describes that while the outer body is changing from boyhood to youth to old age, the inner self stays the same. (Every day we see mothers recognize full-grown men as the same sons they once burped on their shoulders, even though the sons' bodies have completely. changed.)
As Krsna goes on to explain, the inner self (the atma) will live for eternity—but the body has to grow old and diseased and die, and until we become self-realized, we'll go on getting more and more bodies that have to grow old and diseased and die. So why don't our knowledgeable doctors tell us how we can deal with this most critical injury—death? Could the answer be they don't know how to treat it? Actually, both patients and doctors show an acute case of simplemindedness when they don't see that the body has to grow old and decrepit and die. If they completely forget the inner self and fail to get the self in shape for death and the next life, then there's no word for it but simplemindedness.
In our human life we're supposed to be preparing ourselves. But not so much by exercising our bodies or giving them extra rest. Rather, we have to analyze our situation—discover the difference between the body and the self, find out about Krsna's cure for death. Though the rage today is simplemindedness, we have to gain the presence of mind to see ahead, to our death and beyond.
For most of us, the real disease is that we're ignoring the self and the next life. Old age means a bit more than having to cut out baseball and tennis. It means we're going to die. So before we get too far along in years, we have to start a spiritual fitness program. We have to exert ourselves strenuously for self-realization.
* * *
This brings us to another "grain of sand." In the past decade, death has become a fashionable topic. It's no longer taboo, and in fact, people talk about it as if they were quite unafraid and thoroughly enlightened about its meaning. They read bestsellers like Life After Life, and they flock to courses on death and dying. But what does all this amount to? Has anyone come to understand what his death will actually be like? It doesn't seem so. Death dilettantes may record volumes of scientific data about the physiological and mental experiences dying people go through, and they may try to help the patient die "easier," but they can't tell us what death really is.
Yet Bhagavad-gita tells us: death means the soul leaves the body. If that simple explanation isn't enough, we can observe the fact in everyday life. At a funeral someone laments, "My husband is gone!" In other words—and we all know it—the self has left the body. The corpse may be lying in the coffin, but the actual living person has left.
Unfortunately, we soon forget this lesson, perhaps after seeing a psychologist who specializes in "grief therapy." But our so-called experts can't explain death away just by saying, "It happens to everybody," or, "You still have your own life left to live."
What, after all, has happened to the person who left his body? The Gita says, "For the soul there is never birth or death, nor having been, does he ever cease to exist. He is original, unborn, eternal, and undying. He is not slain when the body is slain." After he leaves one body he simply gets another.
What kind of body will we get? That will depend on our mental state when we leave this body. India's Vedic literatures describe 8.4 million different species, from the lowest aquatics and plants up through insects and reptiles and birds and beasts to human beings. After death we may have to take a body in any one of these species. And if we do things that are great wrongs in the eyes of God—say, needlessly killing other living beings or neglecting self-realization—we'll certainly not attain a higher body.
So we can't just ignore the signs of old age and death we daily see around us. And we have to see beyond the facile, faddish investigations. If we want to see things as they really are, we have to look to Bhagavad-gita and get transcendental vision.—SDG